It was only a month ago that we arrived back home from our visit to Madagascar.
The temperatures here today are in the single digits, with a wind chill below 0 degrees. Toliara, Madagascar is just a little warmer…
In past posts, I’ve shared how traveling to third world countries has changed my perspective on the world, and so, while the trip to Madagascar is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to note some of the things I’ve gleaned…
1.) I AM BLESSED. You might expect this to be at the top of my list after traveling to a country where the average income is $400 a year, but when I say I am blessed, it’s more than just a statement about monetary wealth. Yes, I have everything I need and more. Being an American citizen not only means that I’m wealthy compared to many places in our modern world, but I also have access to clean water, a comfortable home, an abundance of food, and world-class medical care–AND a clothes dryer! “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10
2.) LIFE IS HARD. We all have struggles in this life. The things that we often face are no less painful just because we live a comfortable life, but life in a third world country is often hard on a daily basis. The residents of this city are poorer than the poorest among us. They’re the ones giving us rides in a pousse-pousse. They go through the trash we’ve thrown away looking for anything reusable–always looking for and hoping for something that could be of use. HOPE is what sustains us–no matter where we live or what our problem is, hope is what keeps us going. “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15
3.) GOD IS GOOD. Even in the hard places you can see the handiwork of the Almighty… the smile on a child’s face, the sun setting on the horizon, and blessing of a cool breeze on a hot day. He meets us where we are and often greets us with joy despite our circumstances. Contentment is not found in a location–it’s found in a Person (His name is Jesus!). Hearing those children worship in their heart language meant that I didn’t understand a word they said, but I worshipped. [See A Different Way to Worship: Madagascar 2014] Their praises warmed my heart, and I sure blessed the heart of God. “Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.” Hebrews 13:15
4.) PEOPLE ARE NEEDY. It really isn’t determined by wealth or position. Even in Madagascar there are those who live with very little and those who seem to have it all. The extremes are there, along with prejudices, the injustices and segregation. In this country they are not separated by their skin color, but their social standing and tribe, and so there is racism. The ultimate need of this country is not a physical one, it’s a spiritual one. They need to hear the Truth of how God loves all of them so much that He sent His Son into this world to bring them the promise of forgiveness and the gift of salvation. They need to know the Person of HOPE. “In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10
5.) SAYING “YES” TO GOD IS COSTLY. I cannot and will not deny the hardship. Sacrifice and submission are easy words to speak of–another thing to live out. When you’re a missionary, the price you pay is high and the reward is heavenly–meaning you might not see the fruit of your work on this side of eternity. Being willing to obey, no matter the cost, is the true test of discipleship. It very well might be that the hardest thing you may ever be asked to do would be to help out your widowed neighbor, or babysit for a single mom. The benefits far out way the cost of obedience. I’ll say it again–contentment isn’t dependent upon where you reside, and neither is obedience–but when you choose obedience you find contentment. “I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel, who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
6.) THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. It was a difficult place to get to and a difficult place to leave, with a new realization of the type of life my children and grandchildren face. My husband and I decided a long time ago that it wouldn’t be a problem for us to live anywhere in the world that God might call us–as long as we had our family with us, and we are quickly finding out that it will not always be possible. Truth is, God wants to take up residence in our lives. His desire is to be “at home” wherever it is that He places us. They say, “home is where the heart is”, and now my heart is divided. I loved Madagascar, but mostly because my loved ones are there. It’s their home now, and a place that has taken up residence in my heart. I’m glad my feet reside on American soil, but I plan to keep my passport up to date, and ready to leave on a moment’s notice!
“Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
“For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21