July 2014 was the first time I lead a mission trip and profound experience it was. there's probably a thousand things we could say about this mission trip and it all starts with the lead up to it. a bunch of great people ranging from photographers to students to ministry workers all coming together for one goal that was to preach the gospel in Madagascar.
It's amazing to think how it works. We a couple of youngsters taking up the work that people many years before us started and building from that. It's always a privileged to be able to build on what God has told many people before us. So I remember starting to speak to some of the members of previous teams people that went there probably 20 years before us and it's amazing how you get to see that the heart never changes for what the purpose is. The purpose will always be first and foremost to tell people about Jesus Christ. Coming there you see that there is a lot of the people that have been labouring in that nation for many many years before us. I remember speaking to Joyce our translator at that stage; she showed such thankfulness that we once again came to visit them and help them with the work that they are doing. Because you see we go to nations not to bring something new something better something I don't know what, but we come there to help the people that have been working hard in the Nation's for many years before we could ever think of coming there.
I remember looking at the map of Madagascar and seeing all the places that are still very untouched and isolated from civilization as we know it, though not necessarily the correct term because civilization can be any set-up but as we know it. We saw a part of Madagascar on the north-eastern coast and we decided we’re gonna try and get to that place. Not knowing much about the route as not many people have been there before we made plans to go there and to see if there's any churches or organizations that we can partner with in these regions to learn from them and how they do the work they are busy with.
So we broke up the team into 2 groups, one going to the established places where we do have a relationship and trust for more opportunities to spread the gospel in those towns. The other group we decided that we’re going to take a small group of two people to the north Eastern part of the country and look for opportunities. so we greeted everybody in Antananarivo and prayed together and said let us do this.
So myself and George went off to the seaside or Madagascar on the eastern coast to see what are the options to get to that part of Madagascar. Madagascar only has about 2000 km of tarred road the rest is Gravel Road and jungle single tracks etc. We thought maybe we could get to our destination by boat but that was not an option because the waves were massive and and none of the people wanted to take on the journey by boat so we decided that we would go with 4x4 vehicles. This was probably one of the most interesting parts of the journey. Firstly we saw these old Hilux bakkies(as we call the in SA) probably done this route hundreds of times. As we were about to embark on a journey we saw that there are numerous people with us on this journey to the different towns alongside the coast of Madagascar. If you have been to Africa you come to realise that there is always space for one more person or one piece of luggage or anything for that matter. Sitting in the double cab with 16 people at the back and 7 people in the front we come to realise that this is probably going to be one of the exciting journeys of our lives; and yes it was one of the most amazing journeys I have ever been on. One of my fondest memories of that mission was when we were at this place in middle of the Jungle with just dense forest next to us so dense that you can not see into the jungle. It was so amazing to be on this single Jeep track and if you move a metre from the track you are in this dense forest that stretches for hundreds of kilometres. The sound of birds and animals all around that and the absence of any man-made thing(Apart from cars and things we had with us) it was absolutely spectacular to witness the beauty that is still around us. I came to realize the importance to sometimes take yourself out of the circumstances and the situations around you and get yourself into nature to gather some perspective on the finer things in life and as we journeyed on into the jungle all of a sudden our car broke down. I once again appreciated growing up and living in a third world country, the lessons that we learn here is to be resourceful with the things that we have. As we stood there in the middle of this jungle; 3 days journey by car in either direction to some sort of civilization they took out the diff lock, open it up looked at what might be wrong, saw that some of the gears that makes the diff lock work was worn out and so in the middle of the jungle they took out a hammer and a long piece of metal tuning the gears into the correct position.The duration of this so-called surgery took about 2 hours and putting everything back together off we went and we finished the journey to the town called Maroantsetra
It was amazing being in the jungle with so many people that constantly make this journey to survive. Getting to Pastor Alfred and his small congregation in Madagascar, it was a privilege to meet these amazing people and have some perspective on the hardships of their day-to-day lives. That experience of travelling like the locals made all the difference in spending time with Pastor Alfred and the congregation in Maroantsetra.
One of the saddest things we saw while in Maroantsetra was; this lady, she had some problems and and it got too much for her so she said to self on fire with fuel. She was burnt so severely that she ended up in the hospital. We were then asked to go and pray for this lady at the hospital that looked worse than our garage area at home. The sobering reality hit me that this is the norm for people not just in Madagascar but for most third world countries that actually have poverty, not the fake reality because of laziness we experience in some countries but true and utter despair of poverty. We got into the room and there was this smell of burnt flesh hanging in the room, as we got closer it almost became unbearable but it broke my heart to know that there's not much that the doctors can do for her. She was unresponsive and we prayed for her and the next day she passed away. I was confronted with how it's possible in this day and age that we can live a life so far removed from the reality that people face everyday. This experience changed so much of my view of this world and the people that live in it. We take for granted the things that we have and we desire more than we would ever use in our lifetime. This is not to say that we must give all our stuff to people in need we must just realised that we do not need all the things that we are hoarding in our lives. I came to appreciate the simplicity of life with family friends and people that share the same vision as as I do.
I'm thankful beyond words for my time in Madagascar and for the lessons that I've learnt. Our time Madagascar will always have a special place in my heart and I will always go back to invest in a nation that has a lot of potential but not many opportunities!