Madagascar mission team equips local leaders for Gospel ministry

Eunsun Han


On May 26, a team of 19 Southwestern students and faculty launched out on an 18-day journey to Madagascar. Now in its fifth year, Southwestern Seminary’s Madagascar Embrace program began as an initiative to evangelize the Antandroy, an unreached, unengaged people group (UUPG) in Madagascar. This year, in the city of Fort Dauphin, the mission team once again saw God bless their humble labor and joyful sacrifice as local leaders came to learn the Word of God and share the Gospel with the lost.

The work of the Southwestern team this year involved teaching national leaders discipleship, doctrine and evangelism. In daily training sessions held in Fort Dauphin, approximately 31 male and 40 female national leaders came to learn the Word of God from male and female Southwestern teachers, respectively. In the afternoons, the mission team and the nationals went out together to visit friends and relatives in order to share the Good News. The team also devoted one weekend to evangelizing the neighborhoods around Fort Dauphin.

During the two-week training program, national leaders and the mission team saw a total of 99 professions of faith as unbelieving friends and relatives embraced the cross of Christ. Six of the new believers were baptized after Sunday morning worship on June 5.

In the male classes, eager students, many of whom had traveled a long distance from rural areas surrounded by thorny thickets, studied biblical stories under broader themes such as God, the Holy Spirit, family, the Great Commission and the New Testament church. The aim of the seminars was to deepen the doctrinal development of the national leaders and equip them to work for the Gospel and the church.

In the female classes, meanwhile, students were taught biblical principles through stories from the Bible and trained to disciple other women. Special emphases were placed on the character of God, the redemptive work of Christ, and the importance of prayer and Bible study. In addition, students also discussed practical applications of following Christ in their daily lives under topics such as motherhood, being a godly wife, gossip and nutrition.

“The women who came from the ‘bush’ (rural forested regions) slept with their children, mostly infants, in the small one-room church on the floor,” recalls Patricia Nason, professor of foundations of education at Southwestern, who taught the female sessions. “It rained the first few days, so it was cold and damp. They didn’t complain because they wanted to become intimately acquainted with this God who had died for them and what it means to be a Christian.”

On June 9, 66 men and women received certificates for completing the program. At the end of the graduation ceremony, participants washed each others’ feet in the spirit of servant leadership demonstrated by the Lord Jesus—husbands and wives, those from the city and those from the bush, missionaries and nationals. Those who came from outside Fort Dauphin promised to win at least one more soul for Christ as they made their way back home, committing to make the number of professions a full 100.

“When we announced that there were 99 professions of faith [during the two-week program], those leaving said they would make sure to win one more, at least, as they trekked home,” recalls Keith Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. “Some of them had to walk 32 kilometers home.” Multiple reports of soul-winning evangelism have been made since.

Nirintsoa Mamitiana, an Antandroy national and a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Seminary, who participated in the mission trip, says, “God is at work in Madagascar. It is so challenging to see how hungry they are for the Gospel, how they love to worship, and how they have welcomed us. … People are hearing the Gospel and desiring for Jesus to save them.”

Although the trip was not without challenges—including delayed and misconnected flights and torrential rain in Fort Dauphin during the first few days of the program—Southwestern team members who overcame the difficulties witnessed the Holy Spirit working wonders among the people of Madagascar. Eitel reports that in five short years of the Madagascar Embrace program, “genuinely biblical” churches have sprung up in the region.

“There are eight Antandroy and eight Antanosy (another UUPG) groups that actually meet the standards of a New Testament church,” Eitel explains. In addition to these 16 churches, “there are 80 groups meeting throughout the area.”

“All the students from Southwestern Seminary learned a lot about trusting God in all circumstances,” says Nason concerning the 2016 Madagascar mission trip. “They learned the value of the Gospel to a nation of people who do not know Him. … They were bold in their approach to teaching the truth in Scripture as well as joyous and loving among the people. Their lives are changed forever—to God be the glory.”