Newsletter: September 2013

A Future Generation
    What will God do with the lives of the teens who come to Christian Youth in Action? That is a question I have been asking myself since God called me to the ministry of CYIA here in Madagascar. I had always felt that the teens who would come to camp would be the future of Madagascar—the pastors, leaders and missionaries of the next generation. How exciting it has been to see God bring that dream into reality. Let me introduce you to just a few of the many teens who came to CYIA in Ranomafana and in Antananarivo.

Setra: The other teens occasionally called Setra, “Pastor.” He is 15 and was the only older boy who came to CYIA in Ranomafana, and to be honest, I was shocked to hear that he was coming since all the other boys were 11 or 12. We asked them why they called him that, and they said, “When the teacher at school asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, Setra said he wanted to be a pastor.” And all week, as I watched him learn and grow, I could see that God had already called him, and he knew it.

Aina: Aina sat beside me after club one evening and said, ‘Tara, I want to be a missionary. When I teach the kids at club, I know that’s what I want to do with my life.”

Avotra: Avotra is 17. He couldn’t come to the first three days of training because he was taking what is the equivalent of a GED. But on his lunch breaks, he would come running down to spend lunch time with us then hurry back to the testing location. He caught himself up on everything he missed and was ready to teach with his team when we got to Tamatave. He was sitting by me one day as I watched my team do a demo of their club. When one of the boys was having a hard time reading something out of the missionary story, Avotra told him what it was supposed to say, word for word, from memory. I looked at him in shock since that wasn’t even the part he was teaching that day. He was the Bible lesson teacher that day on his team and that is usually plenty enough to keep someone busy during practice time. He said, “Hey, every part of club is connected and goes together. You have to know all the parts to teach well.” And you should see this kid teach. I had seen his passion since pre-training and knew God already had special plans for him. Avotra only confirmed those suspicions. He knew God had already called him to be a missionary.
   God is working through CYIA and I can’t wait to see what He has planned for these kids’ lives. Thank you for playing a key role in CYIA here in Madagascar through your prayers and support!

CYIA, Malagasy Style
We crowded around the open fire that our giant pot of rice was suspended over, sitting on stones and blowing on the fire in an attempt to get the rice to cook faster. The pitch black sky over us was filled with more stars than I had ever seen. Everything was quiet, except us. The first four days of training were over and we had just arrived in a little town way out in the middle of nowhere to teach 5-Day Clubs. The 12 kids who crowded around the fire with me continually blew my mind. They ranged in age from 11 to 15, most being about 12. They worked so hard and put everything they had into their clubs. If they practiced their lessons in front of rocks and trees, they did so loudly and passionately. And when they were at club, it was no different. They would point out areas they thought would be perfect for open-air ministry and invited everyone in sight to the afternoon clubs. The Child Evangelism Fellowship® worker in Ranomafana, Henriette, was one of the sweetest, most humble people I had ever met. She did nothing halfway. She went above and beyond with everything and poured her heart into these teens whom she saw as the future of CEF® in Ranomafana. Seeing all this, I felt so very, very small. I wondered how it was that God had orchestrated this whole thing and had His hand in every part of it. I watched in awe as I saw a passion grow in the hearts of the teens to spread the Gospel. I watched as the club my teens taught, way out in a little village in the rainforest, filled with adults. The adults played the games and participated along with the children and while many children accepted Jesus that week, most of those who accepted Jesus were adults. I talked with the excited host about continuing the club each week during the school year and knew God had plans for that little village. Only God could have brought it all together. And that one sentence sums up everything that has happened at each of the three CYIAs this year. After each one, you can only shake your head in wonder and say, “Only God could have done that!”
The first four days of CYIA, the teens learned everything they would need to go out and teach 5-Day Clubs the next week. Here, Henriette is teaching a session during the CYIA in Ranomafana.
Each morning they watched demonstrations of what their part of club should look like before going to practice by themselves.

Practice time involved finding a quiet place and practicing out loud.

In the afternoons, they went out and taught clubs, putting into practice all they had learned. 
A total of eight clubs where taught during both the CYIA in Antananarivo and Ranomafana.

They led children to the Lord who responded to the invitation that was given during the Bible lesson.

This was my amazing team during CYIA in Antananarivo. The teens where split into two teaching groups at the CYIA in Ranomafana where 13 teens attended and five groups at the CYIA in Antananarivo where 31 teens attended.
Prayer Requests:
Pray for the students who attended Christian Youth in Action®—that they will continue to grow in their walk with the Lord.
Pray for me as I plan for CYIA next year and most importantly, put together a teaching team who can travel with me and eventually be in charge of CYIA.
Praise Reports:
Praise God for each of the 31 teens who attended CYIA in Antananarivo and the 13 teens who attended CYIA in Ranomafana, for the work He did in their lives and the many children who accepted Him through 5-Day Clubs.
Praise God for the teens He has called to serve Him!





Two Worlds Collide

A little over two weeks ago, I sat in the airport, waiting for my sister’s plane to arrive. Waiting for my two worlds to collide. My heart pounded. I was more nervous than excited. Questions kept popping into my mind. How would this work out? Would she be the same girl who said goodbye to me at an airport on the other side of the world over two years ago? I knew I wasn’t who I was then. Would we still be friends? Would it be awkward? And worst of all, what would she think of my world? Would she love my friends and my CYIA teens as much as I do? After falling in love with Kenya, would she have room in her heart for Madagascar? For my world?
Then, there she was. Standing in the doorway as her passport was checked. But, was it her? She looked so different. I walked toward her, heart still pounding like crazy. What was I suppose to do? For two and a half years, I have greeted people with handshakes no matter how excited I am to see them. Running toward someone and wrapping my arms around them was something the old Tara would do. After a moments hesitation, I walked toward her and gave her a hug. It’s what she would expect. What is expected in the world I used to be a part of. I watched her as we got in the car and wondered, was this really my little sister? The one I have always loved to death and so enjoy talking to? What was I suppose to talk to her about now that we were together for more than two whole week after being apart for more than two whole years? 
A little over two weeks later, I walked into the airport with her and a bunch of my friends, my Malagasy family. I couldn’t believe it was already time for her to go. She had loved my friends and my CYIA teens like I do. She laughed with them, talked with them, walked arm and arm with them, and despite language barriers, she was a fast favorite among them all. And when we were alone, it was even better then it used to be. No, she wasn’t the same girl I left behind over two years ago. Neither was I. But we started right where we left off. The laughing, teasing, and fun was never ending. But even more importantly, we could talk about anything. I gained new perspective on ministry and areas I need to be doing a better job in. I heard what she thought about things I am struggling with. She knows me better than pretty much anyone, completely understands my weaknesses, where I have been, and the things I struggle with. As I watched her walk alone, toward the ticket counter, Rinoh standing by me and talking to me, doing what he always does, making sure everyone is ok, I couldn’t believe what a blessing the last two weeks had been, not only in the sense of how much fun we had had and the adventures, but how much I learned about myself and the direction I need to go with CYIA and how to better deal with certain challenges. While my goal was to make her stay here a blessing to her, I knew she had turned the tables. While I was sad to see her disappear past the security gate, I was more happy than anything. Yeah, I’d miss her sooo much, but….. the last few weeks had been so perfect, how could I be sad? And I was sending her to see her family in Kenya for one more day, and then back to the States where her world is, at least for now anyway.
We turned and walked out of the airport, back to my purely Malagasy world. No more English. The girls and I walked arm in arm as usual, everyone laughing and teasing each other as we went to find rice for lunch. We sat in a very Malagasy roadside ‘restaurant’ and ate rice. We talked. Reminisced. They started talking to my about my furlough, and as much as I didn’t want to talk about it, I knew I needed to, for them. They talked to me about how they were going to ask me if we could hang out at my house for independence day next year, since they wouldn't have anywhere else to go, and then realized I wouldn’t be there. They talked about how they wouldn’t be able to stop by my house. Wondered if I would still speak Malagasy when I got back, and how they thought we would all need to wear sunglasses when we went to the airport so no one would see us cry. And then we climbed into the bus to head home. As we road away from the airport, my eyes filled with tears. Not because my sister had left, but because I knew the next time we all traipsed to the airport would be the day I have been dreading. I knew I would be the next one to leave. Furlough loomed just ahead, way closer than I wanted it to be. As Rinoh, Lanto and I discussed the spacing of the hills between the road we were on and the mountain we went to the other day, why we couldn’t see the mountain from where we where and what the distance and height of the hills, the road, and the mountain had to do with it, I wanted to cry. How I wanted to never leave them, to always be there for them, to never hurt them. But I knew, from the perspective Christa had given me about furlough and our faithful loving God, that He and He alone can be their everything and do what I can’t do for them. And I knew I would treasure every minute with them all the more and pray for them even harder and do my best to make the transition easy for everyone.
As we planned for a photo viewing party at my house to look at all the pictures from CYIA and hanging out with Christa, I once again couldn’t believe how perfectly she had collided with my world, how much they all loved her and had so readily accepted her as one of us. What a perfectly wonderful time it was, a beautiful collision.


CYIA Ranomafana

I am not even sure where to begin. Christian Youth in Action in Ranomafana was amazing. The ‘teens’ were between 11 and 15 years old and they worked so hard during the training. As we were out wandering around they would point out places they thought would be perfect for doing open air ministry. As we went to the market in the morning they would invite any child in sight (and adults) to their afternoon 5 Day Clubs. During lunch break they would rush to practice their Reader’s Theater missionary story, all talking excitedly and figuring out what characters they would be. The mornings during the week of 5 Day Clubs, they had time to practice what they would be teaching by themselves. I explained they needed to practice out loud, but not just read or go over things in their head. Each morning they would spread out over the grounds and enthusiastically begin teaching trees, rocks, grass, and any number of things. After practicing for a certain tree, they would announce that they were pretty sure the tree was saved and went to find a new tree. And they didn’t just whisper, they taught loudly and I wasn’t sure how anyone was able to concentrate, but it seemed to work for everyone. One of the boys, after excitedly and loudly teaching a tree that wasn’t too far from the road, goes, “Tara, I think the people walking by think I am crazy...” Not that this stopped him I noticed… J  Then one evening we had a practice time and since it was dark, I explained that they needed to find a place inside the church and go over their lessons IN THEIR HEADS but not out loud because they couldn’t spread out. Yeah…..everyone just begin teaching out loud to windows and benches. That church was so loud, I could hardly answer questions and help, but hey, it seemed to work for them.

As I watched the little 11 year old on my team (who was so tiny and seriously came up to like my elbow) teach her Bible lesson at club, I couldn’t help but wonder what God has planned for these enthusiastic kids. The kids would occasionally tease the only 15 year old boy (the rest of the boys were around 12 years old) and call him ‘pastor’ which he was just fine with. Henriette asked them why they called him ‘pastor’ and they were like because when the teacher at school asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said he wanted to be a pastor. When the Bible teacher spoke one morning, she explained that what you become when you grow up is something that God chooses for you and gifts you for. And by the look on his face, I knew God had already called him. During the week I watched him grow as he taught the kids. And I couldn’t help but wonder what plans God had for this boy’s life. These were the kids I have been praying for. A new generation of leaders who love the Lord with all their hearts, are true believers, and who know their Bibles and won’t just follow whatever they hear from others.

The club my team taught was a good walk away and our club consisted of many, many adults. The adults would play all the games with the kids, laughing as they used a magnet fishing pole to catch a fish with points on it for their teams or being blind folded to pin the tail on the sheep. And after club when the kids who had responded to the invitation stayed to be counseled for salvation, many of the adults also responded to the invitation and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It was amazing to see not just children or ladies but the men also being counseled by the teens and accepting Jesus. Each day, the teens left club so excited about what God had done.

Friday evening, we arrived back in Ranomafana where the teens are from, and Henriette and I were soooo tired!!! Not only was there only the two of us teaching and doing club demonstrations, but as a group we all pitched in to cook meals (over a fire none the less), clean, and fetch water. I had a few hours before I needed to get on the bus back to Tana, so Henriette and I were sitting at her house talking over the week and two of the girls come running up the path to her house (where do they get all this energy???) And Raozy excitedly asks Henriette what time she is leaving the next morning to teach a Good News Club and meet with a pastor (this as I am imagining a day of sleep….). Henriette says she will probably leave and 7:30am. Both girls, with their eyes shining go, ‘can we go with you??’ I sat their watching the three of them planning who was teaching what the next day and once again I couldn’t help but praise God for the work He was doing in these girls’ lives. When they left, Henriette said, ‘these kids are the hope for the work of CEF here. I am getting old and can’t do what I used to do, but now I can with them.’ And for like the millionth time over those two weeks, I was completely in awe of what God was doing.

I wish you could experience it first hand. A blog post just can’t describe it. Cooking over camp fires, bathing in the little rivers that run between the rice patties, no internet or phone service, a night sky so jam packed with stars it isn’t even funny, sitting around talking and laughing with the teens, how it takes all 12 of them to go with me to make photocopies, rice three times a day, how my mattress somehow mysteriously  got pushed up against the line of girls’ mattresses and after the first night you could not longer tell where my mattress supposedly began or ended, the teens giving me little barrettes for my hair (and being totally thrilled when I wore them) or giving me part of the snack they had just bought, walking out to club each day with my team, never ever being alone, and best of all, having a front row seat watching God work.
Thank you so much for the huge part you played in CYIA through your prayers and financial support! I am so thankful for you!



Zoky Tara, the ground in America is white and not brown, like here, right? Zoky Tara, are there bad people living in America? Zoky Tara, he (talking about the kid sitting next to me) is really good at pick pocketing. Zoky Tara, I want to accept Jesus as my Savior.

Teaching these precious kids, my Good News Club kids, is truly the highlight of every week. The cutest and often funniest things come out of their mouths, and hearing the words, “Zoky Tara, I want to accept Jesus as my Savior,” is something that I could never get tired of. Each Tuesday morning, I prepare the Bible lesson, memory verse and review game for the week, and then meet with my language helper, Haja in the afternoon to make sure I am on the right track and learn any new words I want to use. Then on Wednesday, I usually just teach the memory verse and teach the Bible lesson on Thursday, Friday and Monday. I try to have the lesson ready by Wednesday, but this week, that didn’t happen. Let’s just say, by Tuesday afternoon, I felt like it should be Friday already. The electricity mysteriously went out in my house on Monday, so the laptop died, meaning I couldn’t get any CYIA stuff done. Tuesday, after a trip down to the electricity place to get them to go check things out, I hurried off to town to meet with my landlord, ended up with an hour to lesson plan, which got scrawled on a piece of paper instead of typed up on the computer, and then went to meet with Haja, still not really knowing what I wanted to ask him about or new words I might want to use. So this morning, Wednesday, with still no electricity in my house, I was running late, and grabbed the memory verse visual, but not the Bible lesson book because while I sort of had outlined the story in English, ok, the first half anyway, I knew there was no way I was ready to teach it, which wasn’t a problem because the others always do the lesson on Wednesday anyway. So I get to our morning club, still thinking about the electricity issue and how I was even going to manage the memory verse that hadn’t gotten completely prepared. My teaching partner tells me she can’t figure out this Bible lesson, and has no idea how to teach it and asks if I can do it. *deer in headlights* Um………..Suurrrreeee….BUT, this could be one interesting lesson that is for sure…. So as she gets club started, I am searching through my Bible to get the story straight, who kills who, who gets back at who, who ends up dead, what exactly happens to Isboseta…where to put applications in…. You get the idea. And to top it off, the boys in the back row wanted me to sit with them, which, while there is never a dull moment sitting with them, it means it’s kinda hard to makes heads or tails of the lesson you are about to teach. Though, when a boy in a different row asked if he could use my Bible to find the memory verse, the boy sitting next to me goes, ‘Can’t you see she’s busy?? Stop distracting her!!’ I decided not to point out that that is exactly what he and his friends had been doing.  As I sat there, I explain to God that I was not ready. I couldn’t do this. It was gonna have to be all Him. Somehow, I delivered the lesson. I think the right people killed who they were suppose to, the right people got revenge on the right people, and the right people ended up dead, I think. And I have nooooo idea what happened to Isboseth. He kinda disappeared somewhere in the story and never reappeared. Thank goodness he wasn’t a main character… I did manage to get in the applications and the invitation, which is totally a God thing. I told the kids that when the kids left for recess, they could come sit in the front row if they wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior. Club ended, the kids filed out. I began gathering my things, and notice two little girls sitting in the front row, watching me. I was totally caught off guard, and was like, um…..did you want to talk to me? The one says, ‘yes, we want to accept Jesus as our Savior.’ I hesitate for an instant, completely caught off guard, wondering how anything could have come for that ill prepared lesson I just taught, but then remembered that I had asked God to teach through me. Grabbing my Bible, I sat down beside them, and we talked about God’s amazing plan to save them and make them His very own children. They took turns praying, and we got to my favorite part. They said amen and I asked, ‘Whose child are you now?’ Smiling, they both answered, ‘I am God’s child.’ And as I walked out of there, I couldn’t believe what God had done, despite my complete insufficiency. But, especially after these last two years, I have this funny feeling that that is what He loves to do, it’s what He is all about.  He takes what I have, which always seems so insufficient, and somehow makes something beautiful. I have often asked Him why He sent me here, not that I don’t love being here, but wouldn’t it have been easier if he had called to reach children in my own country? Children whose language I speak, whose culture I know? Why did He send me to children who speak a language that is not my own and a culture I sometimes can’t even seem to figure out? I still don’t know. But, I taught the children today that God always works for our good out of His great love for us, and we can trust Him even when He doesn’t answer our prayers how we want or do what we want Him to do in our lives. And that is exactly what God reminded me of today. No matter His reason for sending me here, I somehow ended up with a ton of precious kids that I get the privilege of teaching and build relationships with every week. Somehow, even as I stumble through a lesson, or an invitation, things I could so easily do in English, He speaks to the children’s hearts and draws them to Himself. Today, I am so excited that I have two new little sisters, Tsiky and Mandrindra. And I am thrilled that somehow, God chose to use me in His often mysterious plan to save the world.

And, as I walked into the house today, still marveling at what an amazing God I serve, I went to flip on the lights with out even thinking, and they came on!!! My two day electricity outage taught me an awful lot, but I am ever so happy to have it back! :)


I would like to introduce you to......

I would like you to meet….a very special summer missionary. My little sister!! I have always enjoyed seeing her amazing walk with God and her willing heart to serve others in anyway she can and I have always known she would eventually show up on my continent, and now, in just a few short months she will do just that! She is going to Kenya with the organization, Empower a Child during the month of August. She will be doing outreaches in the slums of Kibera and outlaying villages with a group of volunteers, they will also volunteering at orphanages, and helping tutor during after school programs. I am so excited to say the least! This will be her first overseas trip. The first time I went on an overseas missions trip, it completely turned my world upside down and changed me in more ways than I can tell you, so I can’t wait for her to have the same experience. But there is even more exciting news, after Kenya, she will be flying to…..Madagascar!!! She is going to stay with me for two weeks and help out with CYIAs, 5-Day Clubs or whatever we happened to be doing over those two weeks. I am looking forward to seeing her and even more excited to introduce her to my world and the beautiful country that has changed me. Right now my little sis, um…her name is Christa, is working on raising support. So, if you are in need of a summer missionary, and who doesn’t need at least one of them every year, I would love to give you the opportunity to consider adopting her, whether through financial support and/or praying for her. She has about half of her support right now and needs about an additional $2600. If you would like to think about making her your summer missionary for this year, check out her website or shoot me an email with any questions. You can find all the info you need at, christadawn7.wordpress.com. I can’t wait to see how God will use her this summer, how He will work in her life, and of course, I can’t wait to hang out with her. For those of you who don’t know her, let me introduce you with a few pictures. :)
Sometimes she color coordinates her clothes with mine or ends up with the same hair cut. Ok, she would tell you this is just an accident, but I am not letting her off that easy.
She goes shopping with me and we gawk at prices together. The best shopping trip of the year is around Christmas time when we make a day of it.
Or there is our shared love of icecream and rootbeer floats that has sent us on emergency grocery store trips and has brought us together in the kitchen for late night snacks.
            This is the look I always strive to get from her. On Facebook, that look, looks like this, -_-                    It doesn't get much better then that.
                          There are more trips to the lake than I can count, and these are always                            filled with adventure when you are with Christa.
                               Our times together seem to always involve taking pictures.                               Probably since she almost always has a camera in hand.
This is the infamous photo shoot, we hung the camera in the tree and set it on automatic. Only to learn it was set to take like thirty pictures in a row. Yeah, we have a ton of photos just like this, but were are many where we are completely confused as to why it is still taking pictures... :)
                                       Somehow, she doesn't share my mountaindew obsession.                                   But that is ok, it just means I don't have to share.
We can end up looking a lot alike at times which explains the excited hugs from strangers I sometimes get at church when they think I am her. Or when people would ask her when she will be heading out to Madagascar.
So there you have it, you have now met my cute little sister. And, Christa, I can't wait to see how God uses you this summer and I will be sure to be waiting for you at the airport hold a huge sign with your name on it and jumping up and down screaming, no matter how culturally inappropriate that will be. ;) 


The Week in Pictures

I think the best way to tell you about Christian Youth in Action is by showing you some pictures. We had an amazing week and learned a lot!
The first three days, the teens learned the 5-Day Club songs, complete with motions.

They learned everything they would need to know to prepare and teach a club.
And they learned the games they would play with the children. 

We spent time prepare for clubs in teaching teams and individually.

The first day, we thought having five teens across the backseat was a lot.
Then after getting 19 people in the back of a small pick up truck, we realized we were wrong.
Then we went out in teams and the teens put everything they had learned into practice.

There were songs

Bible Lessons,

Time for the kids to learn about missionaries,

More songs,

Memory Verses,



the teens did a readers theater version of the missionary story about John Paton.
And of course games.
Each day, the teens counseled many children who accepted Jesus as their Savior.

On the last day of club, there were some very happy children who had
had a great time that week during club.


God did so many amazing things through out the training, we had great weather, hard working students, great club locations, and everyone made it to and from club everyday even with some transportation problems. Best of all, even though it was the first one that we have done here in Madagascar and there are definitely things that we will change for next time, God was right there helping us make changes as we went and bringing everything together. Thank you so much for praying for us during CYIA! We appreciate you!



And Then The Cyclone Hits

That paper tornado I posted about a while back while I was getting ready for pre-training? I didn't know what I was talking about. Forget tornados. There has been a full blown paper cyclone in my house lately. That is because Christian Youth in Action is coming!!
Seheno came over to help color song visuals that the teens at
Christian Youth in Action will use when teaching 5-Day Clubs.

Hasina also, helped. I am so thankful for them!

Stacks of paper covered not only the table but lined the floor.

After the pages were colored, we assembled them into books.

And finally, after 8 hours straight, the paper cyclone was neatly organized in books. There are books with song visuals for each teaching team, books with memory verse visuals and books with pictures of the missionary the teens will be teaching the kids about at 5-Day Club.
Even though the cyclone appears to have moved on, we are really only in the eye of the storm. The other half is expected to hit somewhere around Tuesday morning. :)