The little brick church in Mandoto, Madagascar, is bursting with people as we step inside. They even crowd outside the building, peering in the windows. It’s a workday, but the members have waited hours for us to make our way over the windy road that leads to their mountain village. Wearing their Sabbath best, they greet us with radiant smiles and place traditional hand-woven hats on our heads.
Once we’re seated, all eyes turn expectantly to 14 people standing along the wall. It’s their special day for in a few moments they will take their stand for Jesus. All that remains is for the baptismal tank to be filled with a little more water.
As the congregation sings, several people slip outside. They return carrying bright yellow plastic jugs filled from a nearby tap that morning.
As the sun-warmed water chugs into the tank, a hot breeze whisks the perspiration from my face and ruffles the hair of a small boy sitting crossed legged by my feet.
Jean-Luc, the young Global Mission pioneer who pastors at Mandoto, carefully descends the steps of the tank. He beckons a young girl to join him. Her name is Solo. She met Jesus at the Mandoto Adventist elementary school where she and many other non-Christian children are studying. When Jean-Luc conducted an evangelistic series, Solo chose to attend.
Wearing a white silk robe, Solo clutches Jean-Luc’s arm tightly and closes her eyes as he prays. I do not realize as I watch her sink beneath the water that her decision to follow Jesus will mean she will no longer be allowed to live with her family.
One by one, Jean-Luc baptizes those who attended his meetings and with whom he has studied the Bible and prayed. He has had a passion for evangelism as long as he can remember. “It was my dream when I was a little boy to save souls for God,” he says. “That’s why I became a Global Mission pioneer.”
To prepare for his ministry, Jean-Luc attended Adventist University Zurcher in Madagascar where he earned a bachelor of theology in 2009. His ministry has made a tremendous difference in Mandoto where in two years he has baptized 58 people.
Located in central Madagascar, Mandoto is a town of about 7,500 people. The one and only access road winds through colorful markets and stunning mountain vistas. Life is hard here. Most people are farmers who barely make a living. Men, women, and children work long hours and walk many miles to and from their jobs. Even at 11 o’clock at night whole families can be seen walking along the road. With crippling poverty, malnutrition, disease, and hard labor, the average person hopes to live into his or her early sixties.
When the baptismal service ends we stream into the courtyard and blazing sunlight. Members congratulate the newly baptized with warm handshakes and hugs. Little girls in bright dresses, sitting on a bench amongst the empty jugs, smile and giggle at me.
I find Jean-Luc in the crowd and ask him about the challenges he faces as a Global Mission pioneer. “My biggest challenge is the cult of the dead or ancestor worship,” he explains. “Many people don’t want to give it up even when they become Christians.” Yet Jean-Luc has seen many lives transformed by the power of Jesus, such as 60-year-old Joseph’s.
“Joseph was a cattle thief who practiced the cult of the dead,” says Jean-Luc. “He was mean. He smoked and drank and robbed and killed people.” But when Joseph attended Jean-Luc’s meetings and heard the word of God, he accepted Jesus as his savior.
Joseph is peaceful and kind now. “Just today Joseph asked me to buy some Bible study guides,” Jean-Luc says. “He’s going to give Bible studies to his family! My greatest joy is when people accept God into their lives and are baptized.”
During his two-year ministry as a pioneer, Jean-Luc has helped the Mandoto church start an Adventist elementary school. It is attended by 60 students, many of whom come from non-Christian families. He’s also helped the church start a branch Sabbath School in a nearby town where 120 people attend, 44 people have been baptized, and 23 more are preparing for baptism.
The Mandoto congregation shares Jean-Luc’s passion for evangelism and their church continues to grow steadily. But they face many challenges.
“There is so much need here,” says Jean-Luc. “So much poverty and sickness. The people don’t know how to eat healthfully. They need instruction. They need the gospel. They need God.”
Your support of Global Mission is helping Jean-Luc and his church members reach hearts for Jesus in Mandoto. “It’s so important to support this mission work,” says Jean Luc. “I want to thank everyone in our world-wide church who supports us through their prayer and donations. You’re making a big difference. We could not do this work without you.”
As we were leaving the Global Mission pioneers in Madagascar, Jean-Luc called out to me, “Miss Laurie, don’t forget us! Don’t forget Mandoto!” His face was so earnest. “I won’t forget you,” I assured him. “In fact, I’ll share your story with the world-wide Church so all our members can pray for you.”
I wish you could have seen the smile that lit up Jean-Luc’s face upon hearing those words.
This little girl in Madagascar is thrilled about the new church in her village of Ankarimbelo. Your donations to Global Mission helped to provide some of the building materials, but the church members built the house of worship themselves. Photo by Laurie Falvo, Adventist Mission
The next thing I knew, the door flew open, and I was staring down at a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun.
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