Needing Help

The dog was barking again. It was another beggar outside. She’s cripple and a widow with six kids and her elderly mother to care for. She’s the third one in the last hour.

As I’m talking to her my phone is franticly buzzing in my pocket. It’s someone else calling for financial assistance. I’ve already gotten calls about five other calls this morning from other people with problems. There’s the guy who lost his job, the farmers who don’t have seed to plant, the in-debt mom trying to pay for her kids’ schooling, the twins whose mom died, the guy who lost three family members in one week, and a seemingly never-ending stream of people who are sick. They all need my help.

And do you know what I’m feeling at this moment? Annoyance! Oh sure, there’s a lot of pity. I have shed my fair share of tears over people here. And only due to the Spirit of the Living God bound to my own is there a “but for the grace of God go I” conviction that I should help.

So I help. But do you know what? Only a few minutes after I finish with the crippled, widowed mother of six, the dog starts barking again . . . only this time I don’t go out. I’ve had enough. “I cannot do this,” I think. “I cannot help everyone.”

It reminds me of a story Jesus told in Luke 11. . . Let’s say you’re in bed one night. You’ve had a hard day, you’ve finally got the kids down and you’re finally asleep in bed. Then, around midnight, the dog starts barking and someone starts pounding at your gate. You look out the door and you see your friend. He calls to you and says, “Hey man, I just had some family stop in unexpectedly. Everything’s closed, do you mind if I borrow some food from you to host them with?”

What are you going to do? asks Jesus. Nothing! The kids are in bed. You were asleep! You will say, “Get out of here, man! I can’t help you right now!”

But you know what? says Jesus. Even though you won’t help him just because he is your friend, if he keeps knocking on the gate and making that dog bark, you’ll help him with anything he needs just to get him out of there!

Man, Jesus knew people well!

Then, Jesus says the famous words, “I’m telling you, ask and you’ll get something, look for it and you’ll find it, knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives, everyone who looks finds and everyone you knocks will have to door opened to them. Dads, if one of your kids asks you for a sandwich, are you gonna give them a scorpion instead? If they ask for a cookie are you gonna give them a copperhead? No! And you guys are terrible fathers! But even so you know how to give gifts to your kids. So how much better do you think the God who created and keeps the world running is at giving you what you need, especially his own, life-giving, empowering, Holy Spirit?” (Luke 11:5-13)

Let me just confess. Most days, I am not a very good father. I am one-hundred percent more like the guy who won’t be inconvenienced until you annoy the living daylights out of him. Again, one of my primary emotions these days is either exasperation or annoyance. Thank God he is not like that. He has the audacity to say, “Eh, bother me whenever you like. Everyone . . . EVERYONE is welcome. I’ll always give, always find you, and always open the door to you.”

Me writing this and most of you reading this have so much historically unprecedented wealth and security that it has taken a year like 2020 to make me realize that every single one of us wake up every single day vitally in need of God’s help.

In years past, even when things were bad here, I could review the people in my life and unconsciously think, “Whew! Everyone else is doing ok.” Well, not so this year. Literally, there is only one person I know right now that it does not weigh me down with grief to pray for them. This year has been hard for everyone. And these words literally came out of my mouth yesterday. “It’s like everyone I know needs God to help them in some major way.”

Me writing this, and most of you reading this, have so much historically unprecedented wealth and security that it has taken a year like 2020 to make me realize that every single one of us wake up every day vitally in need of God’s help. The fact that one of my primary responses to the suffering around me is annoyance and self-pity is proof positive that I need Jesus’ help (or I will continue as a pretty terrible person). We will never know the pain and suffering that people in a place like Madagascar deal with day to day. Yet still, if God does not help each one of us, we will die without his life-giving Spirit in us. We think social distancing is bad; we’re all in danger of being separated from those we love and the One loves us Himself, if we do not ask God to help us.

It’s true, I get overwhelmed with all the people who need my help. Especially because, as Jesus points out, I’m not all that special. But he is. And I need his help. We all need his help. And thankfully, because he’s not like you or me, he’s never annoyed by that.

Recipe Thursday: “Greek Tacos”

Mmmm, this is a favorite!! This is a whole meal with several elements: garlic naan, sautéed chicken, cucumber-dill yogurt, and lemon rice

First, the naan. Here’s the naan recipe I use. This one took me a little while to get the hang of—especially how to gently flatten and stretch the dough balls—but it’s worth trying a few times to get the feel of it in your hand. And don’t forget about kneading some crushed garlic into the balls and putting butter in the pan and on top of the cooking naan (so on both sides). Delicious!

Next, I make cucumber-dill yogurt. I use the recipe at this link—I’ll also copy it below because there are some other recipes on the link as well. 


  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup plain low-fat or whole milk Greek yogurt (do not use non-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.”

Next, we also cut up a chicken breast and marinate it with (loosely): 

2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp turmeric
2 cloves fresh chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh dill

I put the cut chicken in a bag, add the above ingredients, and shake it around, then store it in the fridge until later. When I’m nearly done cooking all the naan, I put this oil, spice, chicken mixture into a pan and sauté it. 

Finally, we make lemon rice, according to this recipe. I usually leave off the last three ingredients because I often can’t find them.

Once everything is done, we put a naan on our plate, spoon some yogurt on top, and add rice and chicken. Then we roll it up and enjoy!! If you can find feta cheese, this is also delicious to add. 

This is one of our favorite meals! Enjoy!

Friday Family Update – October

We’ve had a great month here! We made a quick trip to the capital to work on renewing our visas. This trip was a huge emotional encouragement for us—it coincided with the opening of domestic flights (suspended since March) and the lifting of some additional travel restrictions of the past few months. We also had the opportunity to visit some of our coworkers there—such a blessing! 

Chyella bravely faced a COVID test and 4-year vaccines on our trip—what a plucky girl! And Jairus enjoyed exploring a new place! 

With the start of October, we were able to put Chyella back in preschool. She is soooo happy. She loves the time at school and all her friends. We’re so grateful for this opportunity for her to play with other kids. Churches has begun to open as well, so we’ve been enjoying finally worshiping together with local believers again.  

Jairus continues to be a smiley, happy boy! At 9.5 months, he’s still cruising around, and we’ve caught him standing on his own for brief moments . . . I think he’ll be walking pretty soon! 

Nathan and the local team here wrapped up a radio drama from the book of Job—20 minutes, four voices, and sound effects! They had a great time working together to create a story to encourage people here during these challenging days. Nathan has also been able to visit the rural churches to the north and south with the local pastors, to hear how God continues to sustain and use them, and to encourage them during this time.

I’ve had the opportunity this month to interview many of the local leaders here about how they disciple people in their churches to spiritual maturity. What a rich example of self-sacrificing, dedicated, humble care for the health of their people. I’m learning so much about the personal integrity and everyday obedience to God’s Word that characterizes the spiritual maturity of Malagasy people. Very thankful for this opportunity.  

Recipe Thursdays: Curry Vert

One of our favorite restaurants here in Toliara—the Blue—is owned by a German man. He and his team serve a delicious meal called Curry Vert, French for Green Curry. It’s yummy!! It’s a favorite for sure. 

When we were staying in due to COVID, we really missed this meal! I decided to tackle it myself! I needed green curry paste—you may be able to find some at your local grocery store! Here’s the paste recipe I found to make it from scratch. We were able to find most of these spices here, though not the galangal and not the kaffir lime. What is galangal, anyone? 

Then, this is the Thai green curry recipe I found to use for the whole meal—the green curry chicken with veggies and over rice. I love this recipe. The only thing I do differently is that I really don’t like touching raw chicken—even cutting it up! So I put the chicken in right after the oil, garlic, and paste and let it pan fry. I usually have to add more oil and some water, and keep turning it over. Small tenders works great for this. Then once the chicken is pan-fried I go on with the coconut milk and the rest of the recipe.


Faithful Friends: Pastor Edia

This month, we want to introduce you to Pastor Edia. I (Tessa) first met Pastor Edia in 2010. He was a part of one of the first three story-crafting groups. He is Tanalana, one of the people groups of the southwest, and he was enthusiastic about studying God’s Word. At this time, Edia was not yet a pastor. Very quickly, he became the story-teller of that group. The group would work together to create Bible stories in their dialect, and once all were satisfied, Edia would tell the story for the recording. 

Edia and I worked together for three years, meeting with the group weekly to craft stories. Week after week, the group would debate specific words choices, meanings of words and concepts in Scripture. Sometimes Edia found himself surprised by what he found in Scripture—but whenever God’s Word was different than what he had believed, he submitted his heart to God’s Word. 

The group crafted over 45 stories, which God has used all over the southwest of the island. Edia answered God’s call to obedience in believer’s baptism. He answered God’s call to serve the Baptist church as a pastor. He has followed God’s call to seminary. He also has had the opportunity to teach around the island about the helpfulness of creating oral Bible stories in each dialect. Edia continues to be instrumental in God’s work all over the island. 

Pray for Edia. Pray that the seminary will be able to reopen and he’ll be able to complete his studies. Pray for the church and cell groups he serves here in Toliara, as he continues to disciple their leaders for when he’s gone. Pray for his ever-growing depth of knowledge of God’s Word. Pray for God’s guidance, protection, and provision on his life as he continues to follow God’s call. 

Recipe Thursday: Meatball Subs

This recipe comes from one of my pregnancy cravings with Baby Jairus. Nathan and I had just moved back to Toliara, and we were watching Brooklyn 99 at night. Throughout the season, one of the characters was trying to open up a food truck serving meatball subs. Every night, the characters on the show would start talking about meatball subs, and I would get a super intense craving for this deli delight!

Nathan decided to take on the challenge! He found a meatball sandwich recipe, bought some delicious fresh bread at the bakery, and gave it a try one night for dinner. And it was delicious!! This has become one of our favorite meals. It’s now improved by doing the bread at home using a French bread recipe I wrote about last month. The crowning touch, though, was that our local grocery store started carrying sliced gouda cheese, which we melt over the top of the sandwich. Amazing! 

Recipe Thursdays: Spanish Tortilla

A few years ago we had the fun of attending a big meeting in Spain! We had a great time—we got to see a bit of both Madrid and Barcelona. Some highlights of the trip:

  • the Basílica de la Sagrada Família—This is the most incredible cathedral I’ve ever seen! I wish we could have spent much more time there. 
  • Delicious hot chocolate with churros—a must-try if you’re in Spain, in my opinion!
  • the Spanish tortilla—this filling and tasty potato dish became an immediate favorite. I thought we would never be able to reproduce it at home, but this easy Spanish tortilla recipe has made it a regular part of our monthly meal plan. We also do the tomato mixture and fresh bread with it—using that French bread recipe again! 

Now we’ve got some dear friends in Spain, so I hope we can eventually visit again! At least we can enjoy some treats from there even if not there in person! 

the beautiful Sagrada Família
Enjoying some hot chocolate and churros!

Remember the Poor . . . even in a Pandemic

Just recently, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of resources by Lausanne Conference (evangelical group for world missions) for leading through COVID-19. I was struck and convicted by what I heard from these global leaders. This webinar was put on by Lausanne to discuss the global impact of COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable–especially majority or 3rd world contexts.

Ivan in the above video taken from that webinar, said . . .

“For those for whom survival is an issue, ya know, they don’t mind the possibility of contracting the disease [COVID-19] if that means . . . when the option is to die of hunger. And that’s what it boils down to. I think, ya know, what several speakers have pointed out this . . . The irony is, an estimated 200 to 250 people die every day in India of poor man’s diseases: diarrhea, dysentery, water-borne diseases. And that happens as a matter-of-course. So, to some extent, yes, it [government mandated social-distancing measures] is something that is protecting the middle-class, people of power and wealth, at the expense of not just inconvenience but life-threatening, existential problems that the poor are facing. And I think it’s not just a question of India, metropolitans in India, but it’s across the globe, I would imagine, it’s the same issue.”

Ivan Satyavrata

For those who are interested in this webinar, it’s linked above and I’ve also attached my Brief of the 90 minute conversation with appropriate info and quotes.

As a disclaimer, I’m really not weighing in on the Open vs. Reopen debate in America (or elsewhere for that matter). Listening to this, I was blown away by my inability to understand what poor, vulnerable communities need right now–and I live in and near  vulnerable communities in one of the poorest economies on earth!

I’m not sure exactly what to do with this either. First, we pray. Christian prayer and reflection leads us to compassion and social action. How can we join into the grief of our local and international communities who are more at risk? Reach out to those near you and those in or near at-risk places internationally, just to listen.

I am meeting with friends here locally to listen and pray. So many have already asked us for money, jobs, food . . . hope. I know I can’t just tell them God has them and hope for the best. We will have to figure out together what we can do to provide physical relief now and moving forward. It’s long overdue.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Coming away from this webinar, I was reminded how we have to risk coming alongside the poor and hurting communities–just as God did for us. It is how, as MLK said, the church is able to fulfill its role as the conscience of the city. I don’t know what that means for you. If we were in America, I think in some ways it’s more obvious where the pressure points are . . . even if it’s not clear what to do about it. Honestly, I don’t know what it means for us here either. But let’s not use that as an excuse for doing nothing.



Pentecost Now!

The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of the Universe,”

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 3.

Read: Acts 2

What’s changed? If we’re looking at the world around us, maybe nothing. But that’s not where Pentecost starts. As the world-wise Solzhenitsyn wrote, any one of us is the center of the Universe. A crime against another is a crime against the universe; on the other hand, change the hearts of a few and you have started a universal revolution.

That’s what happened at Pentecost. Jesus started a heart renovation project in a few that in short order up-ended the entire world. I believe that’s what is happening today if we allow God to let his Spirit run rampant in us.


If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror



Waiting – Day 10

“But it is exactly in common searches and shared risks that new ideas are born, that new visions reveal themselves and that new roads become visible.

We do not know where we will be two, ten or twenty years from now. What we can know, however, is that man suffers and that a sharing of suffering can make us move forward.

The minister is called to make this forward thrust credible to his many guests, so that they do not stay but have a growing desire to move on, in the conviction that the full liberation of man and his world is still to come”

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, 100.

Read: Habakkuk 3:12-19

When Habakkuk asks God what’s going to happen to his nation, God tells him he wouldn’t believe him if he told him—it’s going to be that bad! But after back and forth questioning, Habakkuk sees that even in the face of disaster—even if the economy absolutely fails (v. 17)—God can still be trusted. In fact, he rejoices that God is a God who can not only save us in the midst of a broken economy, but he will actually transform us so we can walk through the hard times (vv. 18 – 19)! What’s God doing in our nation? Let’s ask and trust God to steel us and transform us—whatever happens next.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”


For help understanding what’s going on in Habakkuk’s story, check out Bible Project’s Overview of the story. Plus they have a video on Hope as well.