Madagascar is one of God’s best-kept secrets. I was overwhelmed by its beauty, its colorful culture and people, and by its church’s passion for Jesus Christ. I arrived not really knowing what to expect, only that God would do a mighty work in our lives while visiting and ministering in Madagascar. Missionary Chris Richardson and his wife Paula and their children were so kind and welcoming to me. They made me feel like, not only a part of the ministry they were doing, but also a part of their own family. Brother Richardson gave me the freedom to minister however the Lord was leading me. I was very honored to preach a message during the National Youth Conference. On several occasions I was asked to testify and lead praise and worship songs. I felt like it was a good balance of ministering in ways I already had experience, as well as being challenged to minister in ways that were out of my comfort zone.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Madagascar were so hospitable and friendly and kind. I was so deeply touched by their wholehearted passion for Christ and affection towards their American brethren. They have a hunger and thirst for God that is unparalleled by Christians in the United States. Prayer is the staple activity of every corporate gathering and worship experience. The Malagasy people approach prayer with a reckless abandon. Equally characteristic of the saints in Madagascar is their very energetic cultural expression of praise unto our Lord Jesus Christ. They sing as well as dance in harmony—I imagine with as much joyful celebration as King David when he danced before the Lord without shame or self-consciousness. To participate in that form of praise was so liberating. Because of my willingness to embrace their culture and submerse myself in their style of worship, it was hard for them to believe I was a foreigner and not Malagasy just like one of them. Being African-American, I naturally blended in with the appearance of the locals. The people are a beautiful mixture of Asian and African ethnic groups. I was blessed to meet young people my age that could speak English fairly well. In such a short time I believe we established lifetime friendships. I was inspired to hear and witness the testimonies of genuine conversion experiences—especially of one English-speaking man that I was able to spend time getting to know. The reality is that our Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord, is saving souls and filling people with His Holy Spirit all over the world; just as He was in the first generation church, so He ‘is’ today, in our generation, and in the generations to come. That affirmation of Truth—above all else—to know and personally witness, had such a powerful impact upon my life.
The people of Madagascar made it easy for me to step out of the box. Everything they did was done with their whole hearts, with all their might. So I couldn’t help but act on that same level of intensity. Although I sing in the choir and youth praise team, song leading from the platform in front of over two thousand people was extraordinary. I enjoy teaching; it comes naturally to me and I know the Holy Spirit anoints me to teach the Word of God. But during the National Youth Conference I received an unction of the Holy Spirit to preach! Originally I just wanted to teach the thoughts and notes I had prepared, but in the heat of the moment I couldn’t help but get excited about the messages and its impact on those young people. So my elaborate teaching lesson turned into an enthusiastic sermon. I found each new experience of ministering there challenging and rewarding.
It has always been a dream of mine to go on a mission trip, and Africa was definitely a premier destination. I personally feel, as an African-American, that there is an inherent desire to return to the place of our heritage—especially to carry the most valuable treasure and supernatural resource there is, the power of the Holy Ghost. What a joy to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. The funny thing is, while I was there the locals thought I was a Malagasy native. Everywhere I went, people were surprised to know I didn’t speak the language and would tell the missionaries that I looked so much like a Malagasy. So that was the standing joke even during the services. My very last day in Madagascar, the most amazing thing happened. At the Headquarters church, one of the pastors—in front of the entire congregation of hundreds of Malagasies—gave me an honorary Malagasy name, “Ranaivo.” I was so honored and touched. Now I feel like I have been made complete by returning to Africa and being so welcomed, adopted by the people—my people—and affectionately given a Malagasy name as a celebrated member of their church family. I can’t express how fulfilling the experience has been.
The dual reason I ventured on this mission trip was not only to be used of God there in Madagascar; but also to be empowered of God—to return home with revival in my heart and win souls for the Kingdom of Christ our Lord right here in my own country, the United States. There are so many people that I encounter daily, without language barriers and with very few—if any—cultural differences. These souls are a ripe field for the Lord of the Harvest. Knowing the joy and satisfaction of sowing and reaping on foreign soil, now is the time for me to be a relentless laborer in my own backyard.