The Famine in Madagascar

For those who haven’t yet seen it, David Muir from ABC did a special on the famine in Madagascar. We can personally attest from our own experience the situation in Southern Madagascar has worsened throughout the last ten years. To hear it from the locals, rains were more frequent, dried-up rivers still running, and fields much more productive 20 to 30 years ago. Something has changed. What ABC captured is not just “political.” It also isn’t recent. Obviously it’s getting publicity because of the recent UN summit, but because this situation has been building for a while, the solution will also not be solved by bandaid aide or ideas.

In 2018, we had two days of rain in the South. Two days! Crops have failed year after year when the Malagasy plant their fields after the first rain only for them to burn up in the withering sun with no follow-up rains. COVID-19 just made things worse. The villages we know in the South had already come to depend on the supplemental food handed out by World Food Program, USAid, Red Cross, and many others working in Southern Madagascar. But as soon as COVID-19 hit, those Non-Profits pulled out. Only one or two returned. So, at the same time COVID-19 lockdowns restricted access to shipped-in food, the organizations who have been handing it out haven’t been handing out as much, leaving many, many villages to flounder.

We are not in any way experts in weather or climate change. From what we’ve seen, this is absolutely driven by deforestation and sudden weather changes in the past 10 years. The foreign food aide has helped, but it misses the need for water that only massive infrastructure development could help offset. Unfortunately, the reality of this drastic situation is that any solution will only be a drop in the bucket.

People are suffering and dying in Southern Madagascar, and no matter which way you slice it, we have a responsibility as humans, first, and especially as Christians, to do something about it.

Please pray for the Malagasy, especially the Mahafaly and Tandroy tribes that are most heavily affected by the drought and famine. Learn more about what caused this famine and how to help. Pray for the efforts of local, Malagasy churches who are working to get food to their churches in the middle of all this (one trip is scheduled for next week). And let’s ask God what our drop in the bucket should be.

Extra! Extra!

Some timely resources with some explanation . . .

  • The future of post COVID-19 missions
  • How statistics can be helpful (or not)!
  • Podcasts and leaders in digital ministry

COVID-19 and Missions

You may be familiar with Operation World for the global prayer resources they provide. This little book is really no different. Mandryk, in concert with voices of leaders from around the world, has compiled some, self-admitted, speculations about the mid to post Covid-19 World, especially when in comes to missions. Some of the more helpful bits to me were his reflections on how sending, training, and organizing missionaries will have to change.

I first came across this at lausanne.org and you can download it below.

I have found lausanne.org a natural place to peruse for resources on global mission during this time. Lausanne is an evangelical coalition of Christians (first founded by, among others, Billy Graham and John Stott). Take some time to explore all of their content, the variety of voices from around the world has made me wiser about our current moment.

Also, as you think about missions, here’s an infographic from our organization to help you think about missions in your context. Breaking down the goal of missions into these categories has aided us as we follow along this progression with our church plants here in Madagascar.

As churches continues to decentralize their more and more, it becomes even more important for each of us as Christians to find our place in the Task picture above. No one Christian can complete the Missionary Task. It is actually a Church effort where everyone, whether accountant, artist or theologian, has a part to play in one or multiple sectors of this task.

Statistics

We’ve been working recently to learn better ways of gathering and reporting data for our mission here and I’ve been reminded many times of Kahneman’s warnings in Thinking Fast and Slow. A respected expert, Kahneman’s dense book walks through multiple ways we misunderstand and misapply statistics on a daily basis, especially because of media.

Kahneman worked as a researcher in the field of psychology, and is especially interested in decision theory. His thesis, over a lifetime of research, is that we are not rational thinkers. Instead, we resort to a plethora of what Kahneman calls heuristics (cognitive traps or biased ways of thinking). As he himself explains, “This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution” (12-13). 

The novel corona virus has made everything more complex. But sometimes it looks like we’re replacing these complex questions with easier ones. Especially in the current onslaught of statistics in the media, you may find this book helpful. Kahneman winds through example after example of particular traps (heuristics) we use unaware: we are highly suggestible, we are naturally lazy thinkers, we abhor loss, we are overly optimistic, we don’t learn inductively, our intuitions suspect, our memory trumps experience, etc.

Throughout his book, Kahneman challenges the notion that we are rational thinkers. We need tools, strategies, and even better language to help us think things through. The best application, most likely, is to slow down in situations you recognize may incite cognitive traps instead of accepting the first answers that present themselves. So, instead of immediately sharing that scintillating new graph, we should think through whether something means what we think it does.

Digital Ministry

Speaking of statistics . . . a new podcast from Barna. For years, Barna has sought to equip church leaders with real time data. Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly podcast is now what I listen to every week as I race around for groceries. Every week they seem to improve upon the last, digging deeper into data about church attendance, race, cultural trends, and digital ministry. They’ve also hosted a range of voices who have helped me think through our changing context here (even when the contexts are vastly different!) The most recent one was again on digital ministry.

097 | Jenni Catron on the Importance of Strategic Leadership and Being Proactive During Times of Crisis ChurchPulse Weekly

Jenni Catron (Founder of the 4Sight Group) sits down with David Kinnaman to discuss why strategic leadership matters for the church, leadership lessons from The Great Commission and how to take a proactive approach with your vision in times of crisis.    – State of Your Church: This 2022 initiative kicks off with a free 90 minute webcast on Tuesday, March 1st at 1:00pm ET. Join Barna president David Kinnaman and hosts Carey Nieuwhof and Nona Jones by registering for free at Barna.com/stateofyourchurch
  1. 097 | Jenni Catron on the Importance of Strategic Leadership and Being Proactive During Times of Crisis
  2. 096 | Ashlee Eiland on Leading Your Church Through Transitions, During a Pandemic and With Your Spouse
  3. 095 | Mark Batterson on Setting Habits and Goals That Will Actually Last
  4. 094 | Dave Lomas on Reimagining Preaching in a Hybrid Church Era and Building Life-Long Friendships as a Pastor
  5. 093 | Hybrid Christmas Services: Practical Ideas for Online Worship with DK Kim and Abby Burley

This is the second time they’ve hosted Nona Jones. She does a great job helping leaders on social media think not about mere “reaches” or “likes” but actual engagement for discipleship. I’ve dropped a more extended talk by her below if anyone is interested. She also has a book, From Social Media to Social Ministry, that I have not yet read, though I’m sure it’s also helpful based on what I’ve heard from her.

An extended sessions from Nona Jones on digital discipleship.

Manuely

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been meeting with a couple young guys here in Toliara. We’re studying through the book of James as well as planning how to help the community in this crisis. I wanted to give them a chance to encourage you as well with what we’re learning. Here’s Manuely . . .

Transcript: Good morning, everyone! We thank God for this wonderful day he has given us, so that I can share with you what I have learned from God’s Word. I have been studying with Nathan Baker. Thanks to Nathan Baker for teaching me in English. If it wasn’t for God’s Spirit using Nathan, I wouldn’t be speaking English. I hope that you can understand me now.

The one thing I want to share with you today is about temptation. You know that we have a problem around the word because of this COVID-19, right? But that doesn’t mean we should stop preaching the gospel. Instead, we should communicate with our family and take advantage of this time to share God’s Word. Especially, we have a lot of churches not open because of this virus. Worshippers of God are discouraged, because you do not understand what has happened. People are asking, “Is this from God, or from evil?” But if you worship God, don’t be afraid.

James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil. And he himself does not tempt anyone.” What does that mean? That means, He is not testing you. Instead, he gives you a choice, to trust him or to blame him. But you should know, like James says, the good things you have are from God. Even if you blame him, he is good and he does not change.

For proof of that, you can read 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can do. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way so that you can stand up under it.”

So for us, we should have courage and remember, God has given us a way out in Jesus. And even in COVID-19, we can stand strong in him. I guess, that’s all today. Thank you for listening and watching me. God bless you wherever you go and whatever you do. Bye!