Editor’s note: The following is shared from ICOC HotNews For many years, the small group of disciples in the church in Antananarivo, Madagascar, felt isolated — forgotten by God and by man. At least 1193 km (743 miles) separate them from the rest of the African continent; they are situated east of Mozambique, their closest neighbours. But God never forgets his children, and this year, the church celebrated two baptisms and two restorations — blessings that have encouraged their hearts and faith in a tremendous way. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world but one of the poorest African countries. And, like so many other nations on the continent, plagued by political instability. Last year the church marked their 20th anniversary and the rebuilding of their belief that God wants to do great things through them. Planted in 1997, the church grew to 80 disciples in six years. But when the last full-time leaders left in 2005, their faith eroded and their number dwindled down to just 15 adults in 2016. It was the worst of times for the church, as the current voluntary leaders, Roma and Hanta Randrianavelona, recall. ”With the help of the church in Johannesburg (South Africa), we remembered the ‘height from which we’ve fallen’ (Revelation 2:5) and started doing the things we did at first. This call from the scriptures reminded us that we still have hope and that the twenty years was a testimony of God’s grace, we just had to rediscover our faith and courage,” Roma shares. Like the apostle, Paul, reminded the Philippian church “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, KJV), the disciples realised God had always been right by their side and wants them to succeed. “We firmed up our convictions about discipleship, loving and serving one another, building the family and reaching out to our neighbours. The Lord heard our cry for healing and revival,” Hanta says.
Bendere is one of the men restored. He was the first man baptised in the church in 1997, but he left the church eight years ago, while his wife and children kept going. Faly is the other man who was restored. Now, despite the fact that they live far from where the church meets, these families often take some of their friends along with them to the service. The church loves to sing and dance, and social activities are often marked by the teens and children showing off their vocal talents and teaching their parents some funky dance moves. In the last couple of years, seven of the teens studied the bible and three were baptised. Two are now on campus and reaching out to their peers. The group also loves to arrange retreats for the whole group to connect with God and one another in an outdoor setting. This last month, a small group travelled 10 hours on a bus to one of the coastal towns for a week-long visit. They had eight locals at their Sunday service and one person is currently studying the Bible. “We’ve learnt to persevere in love in the family of God. As the scripture says ‘love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ (1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV) Roma continues. “With our heart full of gratitude, we appreciate the generous support from everyone who’s helped us these last twenty years. With your liberal help, we’re experiencing the power of God’s grace. May our eternal Father bless you,” he adds. With their hope restored, the church dreams once more about teaching their children about God, building a strong campus ministry and spreading the gospel to the six other provinces in the country. The poet John Donne once wrote, “No man’s an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” to show man’s inter-dependence and need to support one another. The church in Antananarivo only meets disciples visiting from outside the island about twice a year. Please keep them in your prayers, and if the Spirit moves you, pay them a visit. They will welcome you with open arms.