FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – In a vivid passage from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus heals a demon-possessed man, who “was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles.” For some students and staff from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, this biblical story may be all the more vivid because of their interaction with one man in Madagascar, who was reportedly demoned possessed and also bound in chains.
A mission team from Southwestern traveled to Madagascar in June. They flew to Fort Dauphin on the south-eastern coast of the island, and drove from the lush seaside, through the rain forest and to the arid city of Ambovombe—a city that missionaries often call the “wild west” of Madagascar. Southwestern students, faculty and staff members proclaimed the Gospel to the Antandroy, a people group that the seminary began to work with after International Mission Board President Tom Elliff called Southern Baptists to “Embrace” the world’s unreached, unengaged people groups.
To reach the largely illiterate Antandroy people group, seminary students shared Bible stories. According to Art Savage, associate director of global mission engagement, this not only allowed students to share the Gospel, but it also enabled the Antandroy to memorize and retell this truth from God’s Word. Students shared stories of creation, the fall, the promise of redemption, and the coming of the Savior. They also shared how Jesus once healed a demon-possessed man, a story that some Antandroy people could relate to directly.
One woman approached the Southwestern team, explaining that she had a son who was demoned possessed. Often, she said, other people would offer to exorcize the demon for a fee, but their efforts were in vain.
“They brought out her son, and he was in chains,” said College at Southwestern student Justin Palmer, who went with a few others to the woman’s home. “That was a little unsettling because he was a big guy and we were sitting in a confined area.”
The man in chains sat in the middle of the floor, and the Southwestern team learned that he had used drugs and alcohol. At times, he would break free from his chains, and his family would find him drunk in other villages. Although his parents believed that he was demon-possessed, Savage and Palmer thought that drugs may have caused some of his mental and behavorial problems.
“He said he was tired of being in chains to sin,” Palmer recalled, describing how after hearing the Gospel the man prayed and confessed his sins.
In the Gospel account, after the healing of the demon-possessed man, the people urged Christ to leave and refused to hear his message. In Madagascar, however, the Antandroy people were “hungry for the Gospel,” Palmer said. During showings of the Jesus Film, hundreds of people packed themselves into a small room to learn about the Gospel. And, according to Savage, nearly 400 people responded positively to the Gospel in some way during the two-week mission trip.
Despite this positive response to the Southwestern team’s message, many have yet to hear and respond to the Gospel.
“You could just see lostness there,” College at Southwestern student Cody Meuer said, adding that many people in Madagascar are wracked with sickness, sadness and fear. For this reason, another team from Southwestern will return to Madagascar, Dec. 27, 2013–Jan. 10, 2014, to reach the Antandroy for Christ. To volunteer for the trip or to learn more, call 817.923.1921, ext. 7500, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.