For decades, a Malagasy pastor named Jonoro has been engaging people groups in southwest Madagascar with the Gospel. Jonoro has modeled personal sacrifice and a commitment to indigenous leadership, language and culture study, and advocacy for the most unreached. His example has inspired Malagasy Baptists as well as IMB missionaries working in the area.
Since January, Pastor Jonoro, with funding from Child Evangelism Fellowship, has hosted a group of 15 Baptist leaders from around the island—representing 8 different people groups—all passionate to learn to be Malagasy missionaries. Jonoro has worked with other Baptist pastors to put together this residential school for missionaries. These Malagasy missionaries-in-training have been immersed in the life and ministry of four local Baptist churches.
Because of the longstanding relationship between IMB and these local leaders, we as IMB personnel were able to enter into this training as learners and co-laborers. We literally walked alongside the students as they practiced what they had learned about the missionary task (entering into a new area to evangelize, make disciples who then form a church, and investing in local leaders until such a time as the missionary can exit leaving behind new partners). We were not trainers only but students as well, learning from our Malagasy brothers and sisters, asking them how they did things and why, as all of us together learn how to make Malagasy disciples.
IMB Ministry Gifts of $150 were used to send these students to conduct an M-Task practicum among two local people groups (Masikoro and Mikea), one of which is still a UUPG. These students themselves represent 8 very different tribes from around the island. As they returned from 10 days of immersive hands on experience as missionaries, listen to what they were saying:
“I’ve never understood what Jesus meant when he said, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ Now I understand. There are so many people out there who are thirsty for Jesus. They are just waiting for someone to come and lead them. We have to send more leaders!”Gaston, Sakalava tribe from Morondava
“It was very stressful to me the way the people lived. For 10 days we did not shower. I’m not used to that. But we were taught to enter into the life of the people, live as they live. So I think if we are missionaries we would not shower if we were working with them. That’s how we would show them God’s love.”Lande, Bezanozano tribe from Moramanga
“We met with a young man who was ready to give up his charms. I told him the story of Legion about the demon possessed man. We asked him if he was ready to follow Jesus, and he said yes. We prayed for him and his stomach and legs were healed, no longer swollen. He said he wanted to follow us. But I told him what Jesus said to the man whom he healed. ‘No. Go back home and tell your family what God has done for you.’ So, the young man went back home and led his mother to turn away from her charms.”Madera, Mahafaly tribe from Betioky
“I cried myself to sleep the first night after meeting these people and seeing the way that they live, the way that they eat, the way other tribes treat them. My heart is burdened for the Mikea people.”Alex, Antanosy tribe from Tongobory
“It was hard for me to understand people and for them to understand me. Even though we are all Malagasy, I finally understood that we have to work very hard to understand one another. If we are going to take the gospel to other tribes, there is still a lot I need to learn about language and culture.”Stephan, Betsimisarika tribe from Mahatsara
“I thought because I was a woman, I didn’t have much to offer on the trip other than to cook and to clean. But when I arrived in the village there were so many eager women. I asked them if they knew the story of Esther. They didn’t. So, I taught them the story of Esther, how we women must be like queens speaking wisely and protecting our family instead of protecting ourselves and leaving them to ruin. I told them we are to be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, bringing blessing to the world by raising our children well. I thought I didn’t know anything. But it turns out as I went to the mission field, I became a teacher.”Tina, Tanalana tribe from Toliara
Many of the students returned with a vision for reaching the tribes in their own backyard. The students from the east now have a plan to work together to reach the outlying tribes in their area. They will be casting vision with their local churches in the East. Two men from the Southern region have a plan for starting with their local church and cell groups to expand outward. They now have a plan for how to work through the missionary task with the goal of raising up more indigenous leaders. The impact of this practicum will continue to reverberate around the island. And it would not have been possible without the trust and relationship with indigenous, local churches founded by the gifts of Southern Baptists, who have now not only sent out American missionaries to cross cultures to fulfill God’s mission but now indigenous, Malagasy missionaries as well.