Malagasy Missionary Internship

Jonoro seeing the fruit of his ministry

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.

New LMCO Video

Since Christmas will be here before you know it, we have our yearly Lottie Moon update:

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is the yearly offering that Southern Baptist churches take up every year to support thousands of IMB missionaries (like us).

Thank you to all of you who support us and others like us!

Connecting to churches in America

Our new prayer card photo, complete with new baby, Tyndale Baker.

We’re here in the good ole U.S. of A and connecting with churches throughout the Southeast. Last week we were glad to be able to share what God is doing in Madagascar with First Baptist Fernandina. They asked us some questions about the work in an interview format, our first experience doing that and very cool.

Let us know if you’re interested in having us come visit your church and hear what God is doing in Madagascar! Our calendar is pretty full for the time being. We’re trying to get back to Mada sometime after the New Year, Lord willing and all the processes go smoothly. But feel free to let us know and we can start planning now for the next time we’re on this side of the world.

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.

120 | Stephen Chandler on Responding to Voices of Opposition in Ministry and How Selfishness Has Affected Church Culture ChurchPulse Weekly

Stephen Chandler (senior pastor of Union Church) sits down with Carey Nieuwhof to talk about how he responds to pushback as a leader, finding rest amidst the busyness of ministry and redefining success within your church.   –   Barna’s Resilient Pastor Cohort: Sign up at Barna.com/pastorcohort, and use the code CPW15 for a listener discount!   Follow Barna at: Instagram: @barnagroup Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @barnagroup Facebook: Barna Group Youtube: Barna Group   Relevant Links: Barna Access Plus The Union Church Connect with Stephen at stephenrchandler.com Stop Waiting for Permission by Stephen Chandler
  1. 120 | Stephen Chandler on Responding to Voices of Opposition in Ministry and How Selfishness Has Affected Church Culture
  2. 119 | Lisa Bevere on the Crisis in Discipleship, the Pressure on Leaders, and Deconstructing Versus Destroying
  3. 118 | Bryan Loritts on the Challenges of Fatherhood and Why Juneteenth Matters for the Whole Church
  4. 117 | Next Generation Discipleship: The Differences Between Millennials and Gen Z, and the Key Questions Younger Generations are Asking with Grant Skeldon and Luke LeFevre
  5. 116 | John Eldredge on Resiliency and Ways to Replenish Your Soul After Emotional Impact

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.