The Two Big Events

National Conference. I am not even sure it is possible to sum it up in a blog, but we are going to give it a try. Much of the conference was….normal conference stuff. Great speakers, great sessions, meeting new people, and of course lots of rice. Three times a day. But two events overshadowed the conference. Big events. Events that rank right up there with the day I was told I had been accepted at a missionary to Madagascar. Two events that I will never forget.

The first took place on Friday afternoon. Each morning and afternoon, different regions taught a Good News Club for the kids of the CEF workers. Friday, Southern Antananarivo, which is where I am from, had the floor. After playing a game with the kids, I sat down with them as club started, all the while my heart pounding. Partly from excitement, partly from fear. My part was the Bible lesson. My first time teaching a Bible lesson in Malagasy. On the one hand, I couldn’t wait to teach again, I love teaching Bible lessons in the States. But on the other hand….in Malagasy?? What if I got up there to teach and forgot everything?? I sat there reminding myself that THIS is what I love to do. Plus, thankfully it was only for the kids. Messing up in front of the kids and some of my friends was better than in front of all the adults. Just as it was my turn, the adults started flowing out of the building. Break time. I turned my back on the growing crowd of adults who quickly realized what was about to happen, and began to teach the children. As one of the guest speakers from Poland, ran around snapping pictures, the story of Jesus’ resurrection somehow came out of my mouth. How fitting that the first Bible lesson was all about God’s power. Victory in Him. Sitting down afterwards, I knew that God had carried me.

The second event took place during the last session of the conference. Saturday evening. We had free time that afternoon, then the last session at 5. The teens and I wandered around the city, and were careful to be back by 4:30. The girls and I returned to our room where I carefully gathered my notes and Bible and changed out of my jeans. Mama’i Volana (Pastor D’s wife), was making sure my hair was just right and the girls kept making sure I had everything. Nirina decided I definitely needed to reapply chapstick even though I insisted I had just put some on. After everyone took their turn telling me I’d do great, we headed to the conference room. My heart was pounding as I took my seat. Partly in excitement and partly in fear. On the one hand, THIS is what I love to do. I love to teach, even adults, and THIS, Christian Youth in Action, is my passion. One of the CEF directors was teaching everyone a catchy song and I joined in, hoping that the words of the new song wouldn’t crowd out the ones I would need later. Then it happened. The floor was mine. The mic in my hand, the eyes of everyone at the conference on me. I began by telling one of my ‘language learning stories’ and succeeded to make everyone laugh then began sharing with them about Christian Youth in Action, the impact it has on teens and the plan for how it will work here. Somehow everything I had carefully planned, came out of my mouth with only a few glances at my notes. Sitting down afterwards, I knew that God carried me.

As I talked to people afterwards, gave out my number, and even began making plans for the first Christian Youth in Action to take place during the two week Easter break (three months before I was thinking of doing the first one), my excitement to see CYIA here in Madagascar began to grow. I learned a lot of great stuff at the conference, but the one that will stay in the back of my mind for a good long time, is the one I experienced firsthand. God carried me. And as I work on planning CYIA, I know He is carrying me.
During the opening ceremony, children dressed to represent each region of Madagascar, sang, danced, and shared the gospel message with picture flash cards.

Some of the children who were dancing at the opening ceremony.

The was an exhibit on the first day. Here Southern Antananarivo, where I am from, is working on setting up our exhibit. The things on table are hand made song and verse visuals. We sold them and the baskets to raise money.

These are the CEF workers from the west cost, dressed in traditional clothing.

Everyone who came from Southern Antananarivo.

Pastor D speaking at the conference

The teachers were all given teaching materials from CEF Press through the Boxes of Books program. Thank you so much everyone who has a part in that ministy!

Teaching the Bible lesson at club on Friday


The girls and I had a great time. We shared a room and managed to take a ton of pictures of each other over the course of the week.


It's National Conference Week!!

I can’t forget the last time I was in Antsirabe just over a year ago. I had just arrived and spoke pretty much no Malagasy whatsoever. I remember on the bus ride there, I was go over one of my first Malagasy lessons, turning things on and off. I remember sitting by the women cooking rice in the mornings and wishing I could talk to them. And then there was walking through the streets with the girls as they taught me names of buildings such as church, market, school and so on. They still tease me about that and laugh over how I said certain things. Then there was sitting on the edge of the lake with the teens. Renoh gave me a lesson on ‘there is’ and the difference between ‘can’ as in, ‘I can speak English.” And ‘can’ as in, ‘I can go to the store.’ These are lessons I will never forget, though I am not sure how I remember them so well in the craziness of my first few months here. It makes me super happy that when we arrive in Antsirabe tomorrow (Monday) for the week, I am able to communicate, ok….for the most part anyway.

This week is the National CEF Conference. About 100 CEF staff, volunteers, and committee members will be there. I will have time to share about the Christian Youth in Action program we are excited to see started here. Please be praying that the staff here will be excited about CYIA and that God will give me the right words as I present.  I also get the opportunity to help the CEF chapter I am from teach a Good News Club. I will be teaching the Bible lesson about Jesus’ Resurrection.

We are heading out tomorrow at 5am. I look forward to what new lessons Antsirabe holds for me this year!


Around the Palaces and to the Zoo

Ezra, Hasina, Seheno, her little brother and I walked around the two palaces that are here in Antananarivo and went to the zoo. It was a gorgeous day and so much fun to learn a little of the history of the place from our tour guide.
This is a giant catholic church that is below the palaces.

Hasina, Seheno's little brother, Seheno, and Ezra
The girls grew up going to Good News Club and now teach GNCs. I love hanging out with them and can't wait to teach together soon!

The view of the city was stunning! I live out by the hills to the far left. The lake is man made and in the shape of a heart. 

This is one of the two old palaces up at the top of the hill. When Janet was here in October, it was open and we were able to go inside and look at the artifacts, on this day it was closed.

Our tour guide took a picture of us here on the stairs of the palace.

These are some old houses from the time of the palace. They are just below the palace. Aren't they cute?

This is the old court 'house.' They made it without walls to that anyone could watch the precedings, even the death sentences which was administered here.

The body of water here is the water reservoir for all of Antananarivo. The crops that look like rice is actually not rice but a lettuce type plant that is eaten here called anana.

Our guide showed us many flowers and plants around the area that can be used as medicines. This flower is used as a medicine for a certain disease by first drying it, then crumbling it up, rolling it in cigarette paper and smoking it.

This is an old church near the palace. The flower on the tower is also on the old 1 ariary coin.

The second palace was burned out on the inside a while back. No one can go in this one and there are guards outside the gate. Even people taking pictures from the gate need to do it quickly and not linger.

These are some of my favorite trees that we saw at the zoo that day. The palaces are on the top of the hill that is in the background.
We ended up spending all day around the palaces and at the zoo which involved climbing more stair cases then I have had to in a long time. We decided it would be a good idea to live at the top of the hill and have to climb these everyday. :) We started out at 8am and got back home around 6pm. It was a great opportunity to spend ten hours straight listening to and speaking Malagasy. I was thrilled that I could understand alot of what the tour guide was explaining and even able to ask some questions about what he was explaining. Next time you are passing through Madagascar, be sure to take a tour of the area. Pictures just don't do it justice. :)


Crossing the Street. It's an Art.

I can’t tell you how many times I have almost gotten run over this year because traffic rules are not the same here as they are in the States. For example, cars do not stop for pedestrians. Also, motor cycles, bikes and ox carts drive on the sides of the rode and between lanes. So you may think that since both lanes of traffic are stopped, you are home free, until you almost get run over by a motor cycles driving between lanes or an ox cart coming down the side of the road. Thus, you need to be careful but the problem is, if you are too careful, you will never cross the road. If you aren’t careful enough you get run over. Both cases being undesirable seeing as how you never actually arrive at your destination. Thus, I have decided that crossing the road here is an art form. There are several strategies I have found that can be put to use in mastering this art.

·         When you see an opening in the closest lane, you can cross that lane and then wait between lanes for the other lane to clear as long as there are no motor cycles. If you are good, you can time it so you just pause in between lanes for a second and then cross the second lane.

·         You can also wait until there seems to be an opening in both lanes that seems big enough to give you time to cross, though it can be hard to judge how fast the cars are going since there are no speed limits.

·         The other option is to wait until the traffic is at a standstill and then cross, this strategy however, involves checking for motorcycles between lanes before just stepping out from around a car.

·         If all else fails, the best strategy, and one I use most often, is to cross the road when you see a person near you starting to cross.

I have noticed, that if you do this right (like all the Malagasy people do), you do it smoothly with your dignity intact; as opposed to my halting/desperate attempts. This is an art form that I have been working on all year. Last week, I executed the perfect crossing. I did the ‘ambling carelessly’ alone the side of the road until the nearest lane had an opening that I thought I could make it across and then if I paused just briefly in the middle, there was an opening to cross the next lane. It was a perfect execution. Walking the whole time at a leisurely pace, no fear or desperation written on my face, and the ‘pause’ in between lanes was smooth and almost unnoticeable. At least that’s how it went in my imagination, if nothing else. I found myself glancing around upon arriving on the other side of the street to see if anyone else had noticed how smoothly I had crossed the street, until reminding myself that I am the only one who would notice this mastery of an art form since everyone else, even the little kids, are already highly skilled. Oh well, at least I think have mastered this skill before loosing all nine lives.