Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Mitchells 2013

What a unique year 2013 was! We had so many different experiences and enjoyed time with friends new and old across Madagascar, South Africa, and the U.S. It is such a blessing to have so many people that will always be dear to our hearts scattered throughout the world. But, it can be difficult as we miss the ones we are away from and unable to communicate with as regularly as we'd like to. We are very thankful for all the friendships God has blessed us with.

The first half of the year, we finished up our time in Madagascar. Even though there were ups and downs, we saw God faithful through it all. We led several Bible studies, and as inadequate as we felt at times doing that in Malagasy, it was such a blessing to get to encourage others and be encouraged ourselves in the Word of our Lord. It was awesome to see people motivated to grow in Him.

We were so blessed to return to the U.S. in July and see our family and some friends after not having seen most of them for nearly two years. We enjoyed two months of reconnecting with family and friends in Alabama and Texas, as well as sharing the journey we were on serving the Lord in Madagascar.

In September, we moved to Kansas City, MO, to serve at Wornall Road Baptist Church. Adam got a job working with the North American Mission Board and the church to develop a program to train interns to replant dying churches. He also is serving as associate pastor and has had plenty of opportunities to preach, which he enjoys greatly. We are so thankful to be here serving with the people of Wornall Road Baptist.

We are renting a home here in a neighborhood about 1.5 miles from the churh. It is perfect for us with a little space for visitors, a good neighborhood with two parks within walking distance, a tree we put two swings on, and enough yard for the girls to play in.

We have been very blessed with new friends here who love the Lord. We have joined a small group that we study the Word in and grow closer to each other by sharing the vulnerable parts of our lives together.

We are still homeschooling and enjoying it (most days). The girls and I (April) joined Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschool program based on the classical education model. We meet with them once a week and the girls really enjoy their classes and new friends. They are learning so much. We do this in addition to their other Math and English curriculum and read books from the library to go with the Science and History memory work. They do presentations each week on a given topic, which they've both done well in. They have also learned to play the tin whistle some as well. They did a program at Christmas and played in front of all the students and parents.

We have gotten to do many fun things since we returned to the states. The girls both learned to rollerskate and rollerblade. Corinne learned to swim well at Mimi's pool before we moved to KC. They both enjoy riding their bikes to the park nearby. We've made a few visits to the zoo, thanks to several friends with passes. We visited Kaleidescope, a free place sponsored by Hallmark where kids can make art and take it home. We have visited a couple of museums and enjoyed playing in the kids' areas. The girls are also doing a tap and ballet class together, which they really enjoy.

In mid-December, we made a short visit to Fort Worth for Adam's graduation ceremony. He finished his MDIV requirements during our time in Madagascar, but we wanted to be able to visit and have that closing moment. We really enjoyed the time there and got to see many of our friends from seminary, church, and Emma's school.

After our time in Fort Worth, we drove to Alabama, where we celebrated Christmas with our family for the first time since 2010. It was a wonderful blessing for us and we really enjoyed the time. We spent a few days with Adam's family in Foley, AL, and even got to go to the beach one day. Then, we enjoyed the rest of the time at my mom and Alex's house, seeing many family and some friends.

We are so thankful to the Lord for the many blessings he has given this year. We pray for His continued guidance in our lives and ministry, that He will use us each day for His glory and help us  abide in Him and His Word continually. We continue to pray for Madagascar as all our friends there will always be dear to us. We are so thankful to have served there, but we are also thankful for this new opportunity to serve the Lord in KC.

We pray God will bless your new year and grow you closer to Him during 2014.

The Mitchells

Here is a video of our time in Madagascar; we would love for you to watch.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Update Time: Vacation and Continued Work

Vacationing in Andasibe

We have just had some much needed vacation time with dear friends, getting to see lemurs and crocodiles and some beautiful rain forest. We celebrated our Risen Savior on Easter with our friends in a small chapel at the lodge in the rainforest where we stayed. We also got to go to our annual meeting and see all of our fellow missionaries from nearby places. This was much needed fellowship and sharing time for us. We relished the preaching and worship in English with a large group. We also have enjoyed cooler temperatures.Currently, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa taking care of some medical appointments. All of this has been very helpful and refreshing as Diego is VERY HOT most of the time and many times feels very lonely.

Ring-tail lemurs

We just celebrated Adam's birthday on April 10th and  Emma's 9th birthday on April 14th. Since we are in Johannesburg right now, we have been able to eat at McDonald's and go to the mall, among other things that give us a little taste of our home culture. It was a very fun day getting to do things we haven't done in a long time to celebrate Emma's birthday. We are really enjoying our down time here, but at the same time we are continuing to homeschool here so we can get done in time to prepare to head back to America in July. Friday is a favorite homeschooling day lately as we have begun our weekly review with individual questions suited to Emma and Corinne individually. For each two correct answers, they get one M&M. This helps Friday be an extra fun day.

 Corinne learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, so the girls have enjoyed riding bikes with the neighbors.

Saying goodbye to some dear friends who live in Antsirabe

We have experienced challenges in the last months including slow progress in seeing people ready to surrender to the Lord, experiencing spiritual and emotional attacks, and having our home broken into. We had someone cut through the burglar bars, ransack our home and steal things including most of our electronics, bags, and money. While the things lost were inconvenient, it was more the emotional weight of feeling attacked, vulnerable, and not knowing who we can trust afterward that was the hardest. Also, we lost many irreplaceable pictures and videos. We thank the Lord for giving us strength during this trying time. Thankfully, we were able to replace our things through our insurance.

April has continued to meet with Florene and Giselle. They continue to desire to study God's word, which is encouraging. They learn the memory verses most weeks, as well as ask and answer questions. Both have begun to have personal time with the Lord and to read His Word each day. Florene has depended on her daughter, who is married to an Italian man, to send money for her, her four grandchildren and her grown son. They have also asked us for money on numerous occasions. We have given them much, but I recently taught them about God making them and giving them the ability to work. I spoke much more strongly than I would have to people I didn't know, but she received it well. Praise the Lord, she has begun to seek work and wash clothes for neighbors. Her son has begun to make and sell yogurt. Giselle and her husband also have opened a small convenient store to make money, which is an answer to prayer as they have been without consistent work as well. Praise the Lord for His work in their lives. Please continue to pray for Florene and Giselle's families to know the Lord.

April also continues to study the Bible with a group of nursing students she began meeting with several months ago. They are able to read, understand and ask many questions, which is refreshing. (They are from many different faiths.) April shared the gospel very plainly with them on the last meeting...that we are saved by repenting of our sin and asking Jesus to be our savior, not by good works. Many faiths here are based on salvation by good works, so this was new to some of them. They didn't understand that Jesus fully paid our penalty and it is only by His grace we are saved, not by going to church, communion, good works, etc. Please pray for God to continue to speak to their hearts with His truth.

April hosted the ladies from the Baptist Church, as well as some other friends, one Sunday in March. She shared her testimony and discussed how we are called to love God and people. In their culture, many times, the ladies have much jealousy of each other and don't love each other or welcome new people. They also made sugar cookies together and April shared simple recipes with them. It was a very fun time of fellowship and worship. Please pray that God will move in the believers here and help them to love each other better.

Charlene and Augustine at the ladies' time.
Adam and Andy continue to go to Mahamasina to encourage the leaders of the Bible study there. The guys are seeking to encourage Jocelyn and Teofil, the leaders, to be more independent so this can be a truly Malagasy led group. Attendance has really struggled there, but Jocelyn and Teofil remain faithful to going out and sharing. Please pray for them as they seek to gather more people to hear the Word. Please pray for wisdom for Adam and Andy in how best to help them.

Adam and Andy also continue to go to Tanambao 5, a really rough part of Diego. They have some faithful people who desire to study, but many just don't care. One guy they shared with said he knew he was going to hell, but did not care. There is much debauchery and apathy there. Please pray for Francisca and Luis, the faithful believers who live there, to be bold in sharing daily. Please pray for guidance for Adam and Andy in this area of town as well. Pray for God to break people's hearts for Him.

Adam also preached at the local Baptist church in March; he does very well communicating in Malagasy. He preached on Romans 8:28 about how God is working ALL things for the good of those who love the Lord, no matter how hard or sad these things are. This is a promise for us all to cling to in the struggles in this life, which we all have. Thank the Lord for His promises. He is working all things for our good and all will be made right in the end.

We thank the Lord that even when we don't see great fruit as a result of our labor, we have God's promise about His Word that never changes. "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11

We return shortly to Diego and then will return to the U.S. July 26th. We look forward to seeing many of you and hugging you then!  Please pray that we will have wisdom in finishing our time well there. Please pray that God will prepare the hearts of people and guide us to them who are ready to hear about His love. Please pray for wisdom for us as we feel God is leading us back to the States to serve Him there, but are still seeking opportunities to do that.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rejoicing in the Lord

We praise the Lord for the opportunities November and the beginning of December have brought.

Corinne, Emma, Thanksgiving crafts, and turkey cupcakes
During the month of November, we made a point to reflect specifically on the things we are thankful for. We are so very blessed with God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. We thank Him that He loves us always in spite of our shortcomings; He has covered our sins. We thank Him for our family, both our immediate family and our brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. We thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve Him here in Madagascar and for the work He's doing IN us and, prayerfully, through us here.

During school in November, the girls and I enjoyed making a thankfulness book and writing one thing a day we were thankful for. We also enjoyed learning about the first Thanksgiving feast and making Pilgrim, Native American, and turkey crafts.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends and fellow missionaries, the Berry family (the only other American family here in Diego right now). We ate many traditional American foods, such as chicken (turkey is too expensive here), dressing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie and turkey cupcakes. Even though we missed our family and friends back hone, we enjoyed the day thanking our Lord together.

Adam and I both had an opportunity to teach ESL at a temporary American cultural center set up in town. We both really enjoyed being able to work in English as I taught a kids' class and Adam taught an adult class. While very few people in Diego speak English, we've run into a good number of people interested in learning.

April teaching English at the American Cultural Center
In early November, Adam preached at the Baptist church here. Teaching and preaching in Malagasy always proves to be both fun and frustrating at time. However, we are thankful to be at the point of communicating at least somewhat clearly in Malagasy. Adam and Andy (a fellow IMB missionary) have continued their teaching in Mahamasina each week and are trying to equip the believers there to become more independent in their study.

In addition to their regular work in Mahamasina, Adam and Andy go each Thursday to teach the Bible in an area of town, called Tanambao 5, that is very poor and trapped in sin. The work has been slow and frustrating at times. People seem interested and say they want to study and don't show up at the scheduled time. (This lack of commitment is pretty common in our work here.) We know that God is in control and we can only pray that He works through us as we seek to be faithful. There is one lady, Francisca, whom they have been teaching. Her family has expressed interest in learning more about Jesus, but haven't been faithful to show up. Please pray for God's Spirit to move in this area, and to keep Adam and Andy passionate and encouraged.

April's ladies' Bible study continues to meet every Sunday. Florene and Giselle are the "regulars" and the most motivated to study. Please pray for God to grow this study and move mightily in Florene and Giselle and to use them as missionaries in their families and friends' lives.

Kristine (mom) and Florentine
I also had the opportunity to help in caring for a friend's wife, who delivered her baby November 19th at a midwife's home. It was a blessing to be there and to help get needed things, but it was also frustrating. I mainly went as a learner to show respect to the midwife, but saw several things that aren't as "up to standard" they should be. The midwife has been doing this 30 years, so it is hard to approach her about this when this is their custom. We praise the Lord the mom and baby are both healthy, despite the lack of cleanliness.

Pastor Elyse (standing) and Adam in Tsarahitra, the village were Sleve lives
Adam, Andy and Pastor Elyse (from the Baptist church here), just recently returned from a trip to Sambava, a city  on the northeast coast about 11 hours away. The guys made this trip because there is a new believer there named Sleve who was converted to Christianity only a few months ago. He's very passionate and has walked up to 30 miles to different villages to share the gospel. He is doing great work for the kingdom, but still needs discipleship. They were able to train Sleve as well as share the gospel with around 200 adults in 6 villages. God's spirit is moving there and there are several villages wanting to hear more. The drive to and from Sambava is a brutal one since about 9 hours of it is what Adam said was like "white water rafting in a truck" because of all the ruts and holes in the road. But, we praise the Lord! He is at work there. He kept the guys safe on their journey as well as April, the girls, and Christina, Walker and Delaney while they were away. We also thank the Lord for answered prayer that a new missionary couple, Kurtis and Holly, who are in language training now, will be joining the work already begun in Sambava in January or February.

We are already focusing and reflecting on Jesus coming to earth as we celebrate this Christmas season. We pray God is bringing peace to your hearts as this time of year in America can be especially hectic. We thank the Lord for time to focus on Him and his coming to earth in such a humble way to save us. We are missing our biological families during this holiday time especially, but thank the Lord He is sustaining them as well as us.

We rejoice in this news: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."Luke 2:10-11

Please pray for:
- Us as we are all feeling a little more "homesick" with the holidays near, especially the girls
- The people in Mahamasina to be passionate about Jesus and be motivated to lead their own group.
- The people of Tanambao 5 to be ready to hear the gospel and desire a relationship with Jesus
- Florene and Giselle to grow in their understanding of salvation, as well as be motivated to share with their families and friends.
- More ladies for the women's bible study on Sundays
- A new study April will begin leading with nursing students this week
- Sleve and the new believers in Sambava to continue sharing the good news.
- Other people in Sambava to come to know Jesus and a church planting movement to begin there.
- Us to abide continually in Christ and be filled with his power and direction for the work here in Diego.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Our Long Awaited Visit...and Other Stuff

We were thrilled to have my mom and stepdad (Ruby and Alex) visit us in September. Having been nearly a year since we had seen any of our family from the States, we were all ecstatic as we picked them up at the airport. Praise the Lord for safe travels for them as they had come such a long way. How thankful we were to give hugs and catch up in person! (Skyping can only go so far, especially when the girls don't really like to talk on skype for any length of time. The eight hour time difference, as well as internet make it difficult to keep up as well as we'd like.)

One little bonus to their coming was the treats stowed away in their luggage. Thanks to all our family and friends who provided those. They also brought toothpaste, toothbrushes, clothes, crayons, coloring books, etc. to share with people here. These things have been a huge blessing to many. With all those goodies, it's amazing Mom and Alex had enough room for their own things.

During their visit we tried to show them as much of Diego and other parts of northern Mada as possible. Some of the things we saw were the beaches, lemurs, the rainforest, the roads packed with people, the many animals, such as omby (cows), goats, chickens, geese, etc., that love to cross the road when we're driving. We visited the market, which is packed with things like people, all types of vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood, not to mention the many available household items for sale. The market was a little overwhelming for them at times, I believe, as it still can be to us.

They were also able to meet many of our friends who live nearby; we even had a Malagasy party with them. I went with my friend Charlene and bought all the food we'd need and they cooked, since we wanted them to try authentic Malagasy food. I  made cupcakes. We all really enjoyed the time sitting on the grass mats talking and eating our fish (around the bones), rice, red beans, mango slaw, and pasta. They were very nervous to host white people, but we all enjoyed the time of hanging out and eating. They brought in a table and chairs from a neighbors' for Mom and Alex, but they told them they'd love to sit with everyone else. 
Our Malagasy Party

 We are thankful that we had power most of the time they were here because it had been a real problem in the weeks before they arrived. But, we went nearly a full month without receiving any water from the water company, which means Adam must take large plastic jugs to get water at Michael and Michelle's house. While they were visiting, Alex helped Adam get water several days. It is quite a workout to do this and shows us how precious water is. Of course, many people here have to do this everyday anyway and have no running water, so it has been a lesson in how they live (although we do have a truck to haul it).

Alex went with Adam to the Bible study in Mahamasina two different weeks. Also, Mom and Alex got to visit the Baptist church one Sunday; they enjoyed getting to hear the music and meet the people. Seeing others worship in a different language is a blessing, but it also makes us appreciate the opportunities to worship in our own heart language even more.

After much quality time with Mom and Alex, we drove them to the capital city (Antananarivo, or more simply, Tana) for their return flight to the States. Making the drive to Tana is long and grueling, but we wanted them to see as much of this beautiful country as possible, and it turned out to be a little more adventurous than we anticipated.

The trip was quite enjoyably for the six of us in a truck until we got some bad diesel (contaminated diesel is becoming a problem here). Our truck ended up going much slower than normal as we went through the mountains and climbed ever so slowly up each one. We had no phone reception and were beginning to wonder what a night out here would be like, and just praying for God to get us to the capital.

With a little over 60 miles left to Tana we picked up a passenger who had been in a minor car accident; he rode in the back of truck, which was already loaded full with our luggage. Then, just after dark, when we should've already been in Tana, we came upon a young man lying in the road, unconscious and bleeding. He'd been in a bicycle accident, and, since there were no ambulances or anyone else nearby to take him to the hospital, we somehow got him and his friend loaded in the back of our truck as well. (So there we are, nine of us in a truck that's barely running, 11 hours into a drive that should have been completed by this point.) We got him to a nearby "hospital," spent some time making sure the doctor understood what was going on, prayed for him, and left him with money to take care of his hospital bills. Thankfully, he was conscious and talking by the time we left. After sweating out the truck issues and accidents, we made it to Tana around 9p.m.

In other news, we will be one of two families here after Michael and Michelle leave for stateside on Saturday. The remoteness of where we live already makes life pretty lonely at times, we will miss our friends/supervisors a lot while they're in the States. We are thankful to have our friends, the Berrys, to work with and hang out with until they go on stateside in May 2013.

The ladies' Bible study I lead is going well. I thank the Lord the ladies have a desire to learn His Word.  The ladies and I are studying Colossians together, and it has been awesome to look at the inheritance we have in Christ.

Adam will be beginning a Bible study on Saturday (Nov. 3) with Andy and some Malagasy men in Diego. The study in Mahamasina continues each Tuesday.

The girls truly enjoyed setting up and cleaning the church for the kids' club last week at the Baptist church. Then, we enjoyed the kids' club together, where they have a Bible study, songs, and a craft. Our neighbors also go with us. The girls enjoy playing with the kids, but it is challenging since they don't understand the lessons, however, at least they know enough Malagasy to play with friends, though. Praise the Lord for friends.

-Corinne asked Jesus to be her Savior!!
-The schools are going again this year! (No more strike)
-The doctors and nurses are all working as well.
-The water company has sent water to our house the last couple of days.
-The ladies' Bible study is going well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Update...Finally!

Oh man, are we ever late on this update. I don't know if it's the southern hemisphere or living so close to the equator, but the time sure does seem to pass by quicker here.

The Work

Having lived in Diego for six months now, we are now fully settled into a good routine. Adam is still going to the village (Mahamasina) on Tuesdays, while April, Emma, and Corinne are still hard at work with homeschool. Along with that, April has a few women she meets with for Bible study on a weekly basis and Adam will begin studying with a young man this week.
April and a couple of the ladies in her Bible study

We have kicked up our evangelistic efforts in the city. We both go out at least once a week now to share the gospel with the people of Diego. Adam usually goes to a park in the center of town; there are always guys hanging out who are almost always willing to share a bench and talk. April takes to the streets closer to our home or our teammates' home. Our hope in all of this, of course, is to make disciples which in turn results in the starting of new churches.
Adam teaching in Mahamasina

To be honest, sharing the gospel here is actually not that difficult since most people we talk to are willing to listen to what we believe; as we may have mentioned before, most Malagasy people are surprised that a white person speaks their language, so for the most part that gains us instant credibility with them. As it relates to gospel conversations, the most striking thing of all is most of them already have some mental framework for Christianity or at least religion in general; only one person so far has stated that he has no religion. While this is tiring work, especially doing it in another language, we find fulfillment in it as we seek to be faithful to the Lord's call.

The Girls
Emma and Corinne are doing well. They now have Malagasy friends who come over to play several times a week. They are both progressing well through school, although as all of you teachers out there know, some days are better than others. A few things they've studied recently are how God made everything, which involved learning some really amazing facts about sea animals. Did you know that in order to eat, a starfish will pry open a mollusk, and push its stomach out of its body into the mollusk? It's like it turns itself inside out for a good meal. We recently took a field trip to the beach to see in person some of the things we studied. When we see the awesome details of His creation, it causes us to praise Him even more.

Emma is really taking some solid steps on her spiritual journey (even as she proves from time to time that her flesh is not going down without a fight). Adam writes a short devotional for her everyday with verses to read and questions to answer; she spent most of her time recently learning what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Her "Bible Time" is one of the first things she does everyday. Emma and April have been reading through the Little House on the Prairie book series, and we've started watching some of the episodes from the television show (it's surprising how much that era reminds us of Madagascar today).

Corinne is beginning to enjoy school more and more. She's learning to read and seems to have a natural gift for math. One of Corinne's favorite activities is figuring out ways to get as dirty as possible; she could give any American boy a run for his money. We continue to teach Corinne about God's love, and just this morning (Oct 23) after talking with us she expressed her desire to put her trust in Jesus for salvation. We praise the Lord that both of our young daughters have now received God's free gift of salvation.

The Learning
While the above gives a snapshsot of what we've been doing, we'd also like to share briefly what we've been learning. The Lord has really been shaping and molding us in our time here. In a lot of ways, we feel like different people now; guess that's just part of learning to live in another culture/country. Our trust in God has deepened as He has led us through the frustration that arises from language and culture acquisition (those two things are no easy tasks, nor are they complete).

Additionally, we are learning what it means to abide in the Lord. This has been impressed upon our hearts through life in general and through our work here. While it doesn't take moving to another country and preaching/teaching in another language to shed light on the utter necessity of abiding in Christ, at the very least it shines a light on that necessity in a different way. We do not doubt at all that apart from Christ we truly could do nothing. Furthermore, the more we abide in Christ and seek to follow the leadership of the Spirit, the less fear we have in proclaiming the gospel.

Prayer Requests
Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us; we need your prayers more than you know. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to work faithfully here.


1. For our family--that we love each other well and provide a godly example to the Malagasy people.
2. For our team here in northern Madagascar--our supervisors Michael and Michelle are heading to the States soon for their stateside assignment. Pray for rest and good visits with family and friends. Our other teammates the Berrys, like us, are still learning language and seeking to develop relationships with Malagasy people. Pray we would be effective in our work.
3. For Emma--that she would continue to grow in her faith and that she would keep working hard in school.
4. For Corinne--that she would grow strong in her new faith and that she would continue to do well in school.
5. For our work--for April's Bible study with the ladies. Adam is beginning to study with a young man on Sundays. Also, please pray for our evangelistic efforts and for new works to begin.
6. For the Malagasy people--that many would see their need for Christ and put their trust in him.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Oh, The Time is Flying By

On July 25, 2011, we started our work as missionaries with the IMB, meaning we just passed the one year mark. In some ways, we are at a loss to describe exactly what the experiences of this past year have meant to us. Even in what is usually a fairly benign exercise, that is, writing a blog update, the emotional weight of this past year's events rush back in like it all happened yesterday. So while this post is specifically our update for July 2012, we hope you won't mind us throwing in a short reflection on this past year as well.

Undoubtedly, what stands out most is God's faithfulness to us. What we've experienced since this time last year has served to deepen our trust in Christ and give us a perspective we wouldn't and couldn't have otherwise. In all of the emotional up and downs -- stemming from an unexpected pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage, uncertainty about our deployment to Madagascar, leaving family and friends to move to foreign soil, culture shock, occasional homesickness, the joy of making new friends, learning a new language, etc. -- God has been the constant. One day we will understand the fullness of God working all things into good ends for us, but in the meantime we can testify of God working this past year, all of it, for our good. There is not a second of our lives that has slipped past His supervision. We are witnesses of God keeping His promises. We are recipients of His grace. To God be the glory.

Now here we are, nearing the end of another month; we have been busy since our last update with language study, preaching/teaching, homeschooling, traveling, and just living day-to-day life in Diego, and below you'll find a little taste of that.

Emma and Corinne are continuing school this summer to build up some time off when the grandparents make their visits later this year. While she sometimes gets frustrated with some of the work required of her, Emma is (almost ridiculously) smart and if she's not playing with Corinne or some of the neighborhood girls, more than likely she is reading a book. Corinne is settling into her school schedule now and beginning to enjoy kindergarten more, but she's as curious as ever. Emma is a thinker and highly organized while Corinne is more free-spirited and as affectionate as she can be. Watching the personalities of our girls develop is such a blessing. These two girls of ours are different in so many ways, similar in others, yet we marvel at God's handiwork in making them who they are.

April has been staying busy with homeschooling, which can be quite a task with a 3rd-grader and kindergartner. While presenting its own set of challenges, homeschooling has been a good experience and we are thankful for the opportunities it brings to lead our children in their education and spiritual growth. On top of that, April has helped with a Kid's Club at the Baptist church on several Saturdays. Along with some other teammates here, Michelle and Christina, they have taught the kids that they are made in the image of God, led them in singing and playing games, and even taught them how to wash their hands and brush their teeth properly. April has also had the opportunity to share with several women that she's met near our home, and she just recently started studying the Bible with two of them. We praise the Lord for the relationships He is giving us.

The first three believers to be baptised in Mahamasina

Adam has continued to help with the work in a village called Mahamasina. If you've read our updates before, you know Mahamasina is where we have a new church beginning (our supervisor began working there about 18 months ago); just a couple of weeks ago three new believers were baptized in a creek there. We praise the Lord for His work in this village. The next Tuesday after the baptisms, Adam had the opportunity to lead the Bible study in Mahamasina for the first time. Then, just a few days after that, Adam preached in the Baptist church for the Sunday morning service. These teaching/preaching experiences are still a little nerve-wracking and can have their awkward moments because of language, but God has been faithful to accomplish His work in spite of our shortcomings.

Once again, we celebrate the Lord's goodness and faithfulness through this update, and we thank you for your work in prayer on our behalf. We would love to hear about how you are doing as well as some things we can pray about for you. Here are some things we'd love for you to pray about until our next update:

1. Our continued learning of the dialect here. We praise God for how far He has brought us, but ask for further ability to speak and understand.

2. The people of Madagascar to be prepared to hear God's Word and surrender their lives to him.

3. Opportunities to meet more people and share God's Word with the goal of forming new groups to study His Word.

4. Emma and Corinne's continued adjustment and for them to have a desire to play with and even try to speak with Malagasy kids. The Lord has brought them a long way, but it has been more of a struggle for them here in Diego than it was in Antsirabe.

5. The strikes at the schools and hospitals are resolving some. We praise God for that, but there are still a number of teachers, doctors, and nurses on strike.

6. Wisdom as we seek to use our time wisely. There are so many things to do, and not near enough time to do them all.

7. Our other team members here in northern Madagascar: Michael and Michelle Allen; Andy and Christina Berry, and their kids Walker and Delaney.

P.S. Guess we can't let this update pass by without introducing the newest members of our family: Chloe and Little Jerry Seinfeld.

Chloe (left) and Little Jerry Seinfeld (right)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June Update

Corinne and Emma learning how to scrape out the insides of a coconut with their new friend, Le Pa.

Adeline teaching me how to pound "ravitoto"...hard work
Adeline had to take over after a while. =)

Wow! It has been a busy, exciting, and challenging last month and a half here in Madagascar. We had our "cultural training experience" during the middle of May. The first few days were in a village called Mahamasina; we stayed in a hut and while we saw a few foreigners, most of our time was spent with Malagasy people. The last few days of our training were at a Malagasy pastor's house here in Diego, which is basically an extension of their church building. God used this time of training to teach us more about Malagasy culture and give us more of a burden for the people here. April and the girls also had several opportunities to help with cooking Malagasy food, which included pounding leaves into mush and shredding coconut. None of this was easy, and every meal took several hours to prepare.

We got to ask many questions about culture here and how they do things. Many people here still practice the "fomban' drazana", which essentially equates to ancestor worship. Each year, they go in to the tombs of their deceased family members and  rewrap the bones in a clean cloth. They do this as an act of worship and a time of prayer to their ancestors. There are also ceremonies that are held to evoke the spirit of the ancestor and have them come into a person to speak to them about how to handle a certain problem. Many people have heard of Jesus, but still believe their salvation depends on good works and praying all the time. We also had a very long discussion with a Muslim man who simply could not wrap his mind around the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and at the same time He is God. That is just a small picture of the work we have before us in our time here.

The girls really enjoyed getting water from the well and Emma loved washing dishes in a bucket and helping wash clothes by hand.
We also were very burdened for Diego as we got to visit a hospital here. There was one large room with all kinds of patients, even ones who probably needed to be in isolation. The patients' families usually come and bring their food. While we were there, we didn't see one doctor or nurse (side note: all the doctors and nurses of  the government-funded hospitals are now on strike because the government can't afford to pay them). We had the opportunity to share the gospel and pray with the people there.

Since our training, we have started language here, which has been a challenge. Much of the northern dialect is different from the official Malagasy, not to mention the fact that the Malagasy people here in the north use a lot of French. We have a pretty grasp on the Malagasy grammar, so we spend nearly all of our language time studying vocabulary.

Our team here in the north has teamed up with the Baptist church here in Diego for the month of June to share the good news of Jesus and information about the church. This month is the 80th celebration of the Baptist church being in Madagascar. Each Saturday, they set up a booth and share with as many people as possible. Also, this week, the Jesus film will be shown for the second time. Through these things, several people have given their lives to the Lord. April had the opportunity to go out with the Baptist pastor's wife and visit several contacts we made through hospital visitation and the showing of the Jesus film. During that visit two young ladies put their trust in Jesus for salvation. We are very excited about the work of the Holy Spirit here.

We have started kindergarten curriculum with Corinne and third grade with Emma. We are enjoying most of our school time together, although it does provide its own set of challenges. I am enjoying teaching them basic Bible truths through every day illustrations like the idea that Jesus is the sun (the light of the world) and we the moon (also a light to the world), but only because of the "light" we receive from the sun. They are learning and growing a lot these days.

Corinne and Emma in our school room

In the midst of all the busy-ness we have had our share of challenges. Adam was sick with a bad throat infection that kept him down for several weeks. We were without running water for over a week because of issues at the water company. This proved to be a good cultural learning experience as we had to make numerous trips to fill up water jugs. Also, we typically have multiple power outages each day. All this to say, it has been time of stretching for us. At the same time, even as we "struggle" in these small ways, it doesn't compare to the hardship of most of the people here. So we are thankful for what we have, but above all, we desire to grow closer to our Lord in the trials of life, knowing He is able to sustain us and give us the strength we need. 

On a much more disturbing note, we had heard that there are people here who sell or "rent" their children to visitors for their pleasure, which, of course, bothers us greatly. The present administration--in place because of a coup back in 2009--has done very little to police the problem (you can read the latest US Embassy report concerning this issue here: Report on Human Trafficking in Mada). We aren't sure exactly what we can do about the problem at this point, but we are praying about how we might be involved and follow the biblical mandate to "do justice."

We can't thank you enough for your prayers!! God is surely honoring them. It was awesome to hear from a friend that at the end of a particularly challenging week, their VBS had prayed for us that day. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to be faithful in the work to which God has called us here in Madagascar.

Praise the Lord for:
-2 new believers in the Lord...Jenny and Epiphane
-new friends
-restored physical health
-running water again!

Please pray for:
-The Malagasy peoples'  hearts to be ready to hear the gospel and to surrender their lives to Christ.
-Our team here in the north as we share the gospel and seek to start new churches.
-Us to have strength, boldness, and opportunities to share Jesus' love.
-Us to learn the new dialect quickly.
-The girls to adjust well and make more friends.
-The government teachers, doctors, and nurses are almost all on strike now, as they aren't receiving all the money they should. Please pray for the many people this affects. The teachers have been on strike for at least a couple of months now and the doctors and nurses just went on strike.
-Jenny and Epiphane to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
-The human trafficking problem to which the current government is paying little attention at this point. Something must be done.