Sometimes the smallest moments have huge implications. As we sat in a room of representatives from almost a hundred Malagasy Baptist churches, the Mahafaly ministry changed–and a chapter of the ministry closed, opening a new one.
We sat in the back of that room in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, watching as Kilimary, Besatra, and Andremba (the first three churches planted by Grant and Jodie Waller) were officially entered into the Baptist Association here in Madagascar (FBBM). Tears were shed as, one by one, hands went. Those hands were affirming Grant and Jodie’s work over the nearly 10 years it has taken to get to this moment. But those hands were also taking responsibility. The Baptist association has now officially recognized the Mahafaly churches as part of their family. Four Mahafaly men, some of whom traveled as far as they ever have in their lives, stood before the room and introduced themselves. They were all extremely humbled and grateful for the welcome they received from family they often forgot they had.
So many things happened in those moments that it’s hard to explain. Imagine some Hispanic farmers from California standing before and being accepted into a Baptist church in Nashville. And imagine the Baptists being ready to humble themselves to relate to and learn from those farmers as equals. That is what was happening as we watched: unity of the body of Christ across socioeconomic, linguistic, world-view, cultural, and historical barriers.
In so many ways we see God’s hand guiding everything to this moment and beyond: the Baptist association has planted 80 churches in 200 years; the Mahafaly have planted nearly 200 churches in less than 5. In the context of Madagascar, most Baptist churches are based out of the most prosperous places on the island; the Mahafaly are in the poorest, drought and famine stricken area. The Baptists are more progressive; the Mahafaly are rooted in the past.
The work is far from over. This new relationship will create new possibilities and new problems for both the FBBM and our Mahafaly churches. Our Mahafaly brothers and sisters are now connected to non-Mahafaly in a way they never have been before; the FBBM now has responsibility for fellow believers very different from them yet who in many ways surpass them.
Our joy will be to walk with both these groups, helping them to work together to reshape systems, ways of thinking, minds and, ultimately, to help these groups reach their island with the gospel . . . together.