Christmas Party Club 2014

Saturday was the big day. The Christmas Party Club that 2500 Good News Club kids were coming to from all over Madagascar. Many government officials, pastors, and principals had also been invited to this event that was kicking off the 20 year anniversary of CEF in Madagascar. Everything that you can possibly imagine went wrong. It all started with my hair straightner dying and seeing that my kittens had covered my entire kitchen in a bag of sugar as I walked out the door. While I thought these things were about as bad as it could get, I was wrong. I arrive at the school that I was going to the party with. Our bus filled with excited children and took off toward the party. Only to get stuck in traffic. For two hours. Our fed up bus driver stopped about a 20 minute walk from the party and told us we could walk the rest of the way. He was done and had an appointment he was already late for. We walked the rest of the way and arrived only to find that we weren’t the only ones who were late. The entire chapter that I work with was late because the road was closed. The school I went with didn’t know about the closed road and was on the detour route that everyone else had to take. J  How the main road heading into town gets closed the last Saturday before Christmas is beyond me, but it happened. One school walked the entire way. Other schools took long detours.

Hasina showed up at one of our schools only to find that both buses they had counted on where stuck in traffic and couldn’t make it because of the closed road. With excited children and parents waiting in the school yard, Hasina and a teacher went out to try to locate another bus. All the drivers refused, hoping for a day off because of the closed road. Finally, one driver agreed.

Hours after the kids were suppose to arrive, kids from our chapter finally began to trickle in. Thankfully, the kids were asked to arrive early, so even this delay wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My job during the club was to stand at the bottom of the bleachers and hold visuals. I stood there, holding visuals and looking that the kids that had come from three of the schools Hasina and I teach at. All three schools we had just started a little over a month ago. The teachers, principals, and parents knew nothing about CEF other than that Hasina and I showed up each week to teach the Bible to their kids. I couldn’t help but praise God for each of our students.

The room was filled with about 2500 kids. Each of the five chapters here in Tana had their kids wearing a different color of ribbon from the wordless book around their neck. Hasina’s and my kids were wearing black ribbons. CEF workers lined the bottom of the bleachers, holding visuals. We got to the invitation at the end of the Bible lesson and they were asked to raise their hands if they were ready to accept Jesus, then led in a prayer. I watched as a parents who had come with one of our schools raised her hand, along with many other hands all over the gym. Her lips moved as she prayed, accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Right then and there I wanted to cry as I realized that all the traffic and bus issues didn’t matter at all. God was still at work. This was worth everything.


Not only was there a club for the kids, but people stood up and shared their stories of how God was using CEF in their schools, in their lives and in the lives of their children. To wrap up, the children who traveled from regions outside of Tana put on a short program.

Here are some of the CYIA students from Ranomafana along with some GNC kids!

Afterwards, as the children filed out, the teachers and principals of our schools stopped to talk to me. They were all smiles. They went on and on about how wonderful it had all been, and about how excited they were about CEF. Two of them said excitedly, “this is amazing! Whenever you put on anything we will be here. And if we can’t be here to support you, we will send others to go for us.” Then today, Monday, we went to their school Christmas party. One of the teachers stood up infront of the parents and explained how excited she was about CEF and how amazing Saturday had been. She retold a testimony from a principal who had shared, saying she couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said.

After the Chrismas Party Club wrapped up, the kids had left and we had cleaned up, we were all starting to think of going home, but there weren’t any buses heading back toward the south where my friends and I live. But we didn’t walk home. We hitched a ride in the back of a covered pick-up truck that was taking supplies back to Pastor D’s house and just happened to have room for the seven of us. Isn’t God amazing??

Today, as I walked home, I knew that despite all that had happened with traffic, buses, and road closures, God had worked in the lives of those who had come. And isn’t that what the day was all about anyway? Best of all, there is no way to explain this event other than that it was truly a God thing! Only He could have brought it all together!


October Newsletter

Meet the Teens

Veronique: Last year, Veronique attended Christian Youth in Action® for the first time. She struggled and was scared to teach the kids. But after CYIA, she told me she wanted to be a missionary like me. This year, she was back but things were very different. She did an amazing job teaching, she spoke with enthusiasm and was very animated as she taught. She stayed up late the night before she was to teach the missionary story working on the story and all during practice time the next morning, she prepared diligently. But when she got up to do a demo for her team, she couldn’t get through the story and ended up crying. During lunch I worked with her on the story. After talking to her supervisor, we decided to give her a choice whether or not she would teach or let her supervisor do it. We saw she had worked very hard and we didn’t want it to be a bad experience at club. She chose to do it. The reason she had worked so hard was because of how much she wanted to teach and she wasn’t looking for a way out. Her supervisor excitedly shared with me after club that she had told the story so well, she got the children involved, told the story in an engaging way and even would put down the book to act things out. She learned that day that as she worked hard, God would help her and speak through her. The CEF director told me later she had seen that Veronique had written in a school paper that she wanted to be a missionary.

Ismael and Setra: Both of these boys’ mothers’ told us that since CYIA last year, they were different. They are now good examples to their younger sisters and brothers and help around the house. That is what CYIA is all about. It’s not just about training teens teach 5-Day Clubs, it’s also about helping them grow in their walk with God and become good examples to the kids they teach.

Malala: Although Malala is quiet and reserved, she doesn’t let that stop her from teaching 5-Day Clubs. One day after clubs, we all walked up to her house because she lives up on one of the mountains surrounding the village and from her house you can see for forever. The front of the house was hardly wider than my arm span and the peak of the roof was hardly taller than me. Nine people live in her house. She literally has nothing, and yet has everything because she loves God’s and is ready to serve Him, even if it means doing things that are outside of her comfort zone. The next morning, she came to Henriette’s house carrying an arm load of gifts: A tall stalk of sugar cane and a backpack full of mangahazo. As she shyly presented her gifts to us, I wanted to cry. How could she, having seemingly nothing, still give us so much? Then and there I thanked God for her and the example she had given me of true generosity, and asked Him to give me a  heart like hers.

The Staff Behind the Teens 
      One by one, the teens stood up and introduced themselves on the first day of Christian Youth in Action. Each of them stated their name and who their Good News Club® teacher was. Behind each teen who comes to CYIA, there is a GNC teacher who has been pouring into their life.
Harline: Harline is our CEF education director and also works with the Northern Antananarivo chapter. After the first day of CYIA, she was telling me how excited she was because the teens had been coming to her Good News Clubs since they were small, and now here they were, learning to teach kids themselves. Harline’s daughter was one of the CYIA students. She is only 13, but does an outstanding job teaching. I know that the fact that this amazing 13 year old loves and serves God, following in her mother’s footsteps, is a testimony of Harline’s love for God and how well she has served Him, not just in being busy with the work of CEF, but in raising her children to love and serve God too.
Henriette: Henriette lives in Ranomafana, a small town in the middle of the rainforest. Last year she told me how excited she was about CYIA because she was getting older and knew she wouldn’t be able to continue reaching the children forever, but in her words, the teens are the hope of CEF in Ranomafana. Last year during CYIA, I watched as she poured into those teens. She did nothing half way. She raised all the money needed for CYIA and wouldn’t accept any money from me. She did fun things with the teens after clubs, like showing them how to make bread wrapped in leaves. She told me she was happy I was there because the teens needed someone to look up to; someone young. But after just the first day I knew the teens looked up to her and loved her, it didn’t matter how old she was. They saw how much she loved them and they loved her right back. Those teens work so hard, love God with all their hearts and passionately serve Him. It’s not because of CYIA or the white girl who comes once a year It’s because of Henriette, her deep love for God, and how much she has poured into their lives. This year, every single one of the students from last year was back, including three new students.
The reason there is such a great group of CYIA students here in Madagascar is the many CEF workers here, who like Harline and Henriette, pour into the lives of their GNC kids.
Miarinzato may only be 11, but she is an amazing teacher. Her enthusiasm during training, prep time, club and whatever it is that she is doing is contagious.

Landry, Rinoh and I were blessed to get to spend a week and half in Ranomafana for CYIA, serving alongside Henriette.

Harline, Seheno and Lalasoa prepared lunch for all of us each day and even prepared a huge feast on the last day of CYIA to celebrate.

24 teens attended the Southern/Western Antananarivo CYIA, 15 in Ranomafana, and 6 for the Northern Antananarvio CYIA.

This club had  about 100 kids, and even the supervisors said they had never seen such a rowdy group of kids with fist fights breaking out randomly among other distractions. The teens did a great job dealing with it and where thrilled to see the children who accepted Jesus change and begin trying to get their friends to be quiet so they could hear the lesson.
Fun Fact:  Almost half of the world's chameleons (about 60 different species) are found only in Madagascar.
Prayer Requests:
Pray that the Christian Youth in Action® teens will continue growing in their walk with God during the school year.
Pray for the Good News Clubs that are starting up and for the children who will be attending.
Pray that me and the CEF workers here will serve God whole heartedly out of our love for Him and grow to become more like Him each day.
Praise Reports:
Praise God for the teens who attended Christian Youth in Action this year, and the new CYIA that started in Northern Antananarivo.
Praise God for each of the children who attended 5-Day Club and those who accepted Jesus.


Back Home

I remember that Sunday well. The only time I can remember that I got up and walked out of church. It was my second Sunday back in the States going to my home church. I had been looking forward to being back for the last two and a half years. I stood and watched everyone around me singing. I couldn’t. Tears filled my eyes as I watched them. I knew I was completely alone. They had no idea the things I had seen and experienced in the last few years. The overwhelming poverty and suffering that I was surrounded with on a daily basis. Things that I could never tell anyone about. I couldn’t do it. I walked out, got into my car and drove. Just drove, and cried. I was so desperately homesick. What I would have given to be home, to hang out with my friends, to not be alone, especially on that day, my birthday. When I finally drove up to my parents’ house, I stopped only long enough to change into running clothes. As I ran, I asked God why. Why did this have to be my life? Why would my life continue to be a cycle of hellos and good byes for as long as I could see? As I started in on the third mile, God gently spoke to my heart. He explained that my homesickness and tears where a good thing. They were a testimony to the work He had done in my heart over the last two and a half years. Somehow, He had changed my heart completely. He had given me a deep love for the country and people he had called me to, something I would have told you was impossible during my first year overseas as I struggled to adjust. He told me that what I was feeling was ok and actually a blessing, something I could prasie Him for. This conversation with God gave me perspecitve during the rest of my time in the States. No, it didn’t help with the homesick thing, but it gave me peace knowing that I was right where God wanted me, no matter how hard it might be. While it was fun to see family and friends, it took three months for me to get to the point where I didn’t cry when thinking of home.

Six months later, as I boarded the plane to finally go home, my heart was fearful that Madagascar, my friends, and my life wouldn’t be the same as how I had left it, that maybe what my heart had been longing for would be no more. I arrived late at night, and the next morning my phone rang. It was my best friends, they passed the phone from one to another and I am pretty sure that we did nothing on that phone call except laugh with joy that we could talk on the phone again and exclaim how amazing it was to hear each others’ voices. I was finally home.  

Every single day I absolutely enjoy everything about life Madagascar. Public transportation. The smell of rice cooking over charcoal fires and bricks being made in the fields. Eating rice. Speaking Malagasy. Every thing is such a joy. Last week during CYIA, my teaching team and I would make our escape each evening and walk to a nearby town and drink coffee and eat fried bread. Walking slowly (and I do mean slooooowly) down the road, talking about everything under the sun and yet nothing at all, and crowding onto a bench at a roadside store front to eat our snack, I couldn’t have been happier. We meandered back to our kids, singing and looking at the stars. My heart overflowed with thanksgiving for the amazing things God had done in my heart over the last three years. I knew Him in a whole new way and He had changed my heart in ways I could have never imagined. Not only that, but He had blessed me above and beyond any thing that I had ever hoped for with my amazing friends, teens, kids and ministry here in Madagascar. I even praised Him for my time in the States and all He had taught me through that storm. It was only in being away that I could truly appreciate on a whole new level what He was doing in me and what amazing gifts He had blessed me with. What a good, loving, and amazing God we serve!


Christian Youth in Action: Antananarivo

A little before 5am, I was awoken by the sounds of someone moving around. I opened my eyes and smiled to see that it was two of the older boys studying the Bible lessons they would be teaching at 5-Day Club that day by the light of a candle. These were just two of the amazing kids that God had brought to CYIA Antananarivo, they were focused and so eager to teach and to teach well.

One of the older boys in particular, Orluce, was constantly studying. He had to be pulled away from his work to stop and eat lunch. He woke up early to study and usually had his outlines in his hand whenever I saw him. It was great to see him grinning after he taught the Bible lesson, explaining to me that he had gotten everything into the lesson and many children had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Today, I stopped by the Teaching Children Effectively 1 training here in Tana that started today, only to see that two of the students were Orluce and his friend Febrice (Febrice was a second year student at CYIA). I can’t wait to see what God has in store for these two boys.

Sarah studied hard every morning and used every minute of study time to go over what she would be teaching that day. She faithfully taught one certain plant in the yard each morning, even shaking the plant’s “hand” and saying hello to start out. Her supervisor told me, while laughing, that on the first day of club, Sarah was so used to teaching her little plant that when she got up in front of the kids she turned away from the kids and toward one of the trees and began to teach.

Hery was on my team. He told me on the first day that he liked to make people smile and laugh. I was a little concerned that he had just come to CYIA to hang out and have fun, but quickly realized that wasn’t his purpose in coming. Yes, he was constantly making my team laugh and there was never a dull moment, but he studied hard, even getting up early to do so, and would carefully listen to anything I said and apply it. On the first day of club, we walked into the neighborhood that we would be teaching in and there were some adults sitting there. All the kids looked at me wondering what to do, and Hery announced, “don’t you remember what they taught us during training?? We are suppose to go say hello to the adults!!” It’s good to know someone was listening! J Watching him teach, I knew he had it. He had that natural ability to teach kids and have fun doing so. The kids hung on his every word.

Orellie went home each evening because she lived close by. After getting home later than her mother expected the first evening, her mother decided that she couldn’t come anymore. She showed up late the next morning, with out the smile that I had never seen her without. She cried as she explained what her mother had decided and how she had finally changed her mind and let her come. Her enthusiasm for teaching and her obvious love for the kids at 5-day club was amazing. Whenever I saw her after club, she was surrounded by a crowd of happy children.

I wish there was space here to tell you about each of these precious teens and the wonderful time we had at CYIA. There was no electricity, no running water, no one to cook the food, and only enough straw filled mattresses for the girls, the boys, instructors and some of the girls slept on the cement floor. But everyone pitched in, getting water from the well, cooking the food, washing dishes, and keeping everything in order. No one complained, ever. By the time Saturday rolled around, they were pleading to stay at least one more day. Not only did God bring an amazing group to camp, He provided for us in every other way to, especially when it came to the weather. It has been unseasonably cold and rainy (even for winter) here this year. But Tuesday morning, as we headed out to a little village outside of Tana, the sun came out and stayed out through Friday. Saturday, our last day of clubs, it began to get cloudy, it rained while we ate lunch but cleared off for our clubs. Sunday we were back to cold, gray, windy, rainy weather. Today it is absolutely freezing! All that happened last week is a reminder of what a great God we serve. When I think of CYIA Tana, I can’t help but smile and thank Him for the amazing things He did. Thank you so much for being such an important part of our team by praying for us!


Alien Tales

Let me attempt to explain what it means to use your horn while driving in Madagascar versus here in the States.

 Honking at someone in Madagascar usually means move over, I’m trying to get by. Let me in. Hello. Do you need a ride? But honking your horn at someone isn’t usually bad. It is simply a form of communication on the road and usually gets you want you want. Then you pass by, or get in, or whatever with a wave or a friendly shout out as you go by the person you just honked at. You see, a horn is used, not out of anger, but just to get where you need to go.

But here in the States, honking your horn at someone isn’t something you do. It’s rude and often done in frustration, impatience or anger. You don’t honk at someone just because you want them to move over for you or to let you in. I am pretty sure doing so would only make the situation worse.

How many times have I almost used my horn while driving here in the States these last two months? More than I would like to admit. It often looks something like this. I am driving along in the left lane and come upon someone driving slowly. This is the passing lane. You don’t drive in it unless you are passing or driving fast enough. So I want to honk. I am not angry or even frustrated. I simply want to let them know I want to get by. And in Madagascar, they would move over for me and then we would smile and wave as I passed by. I constantly have to remind myself that honking my horn here will not have the same effect and will be taken completely differently.

Each time I am out on the road, I am reminded that I am an alien here. I don’t fit in. I don’t think the same. My reactions to things aren’t the same as everyone else. And yet, aren’t all of us Christ followers in the same boat? Living in this world that we are called to be “in but not of”, we are aliens. We are followers of Jesus. And that radical life we are called to live that involves such things as loving enemies and forgiving all offences makes us aliens. But one day, we will go Home. And then the tales of our alien lives will come to a close as we spend eternity worshiping our Lord. I can’t wait! And in the mean time, I can’t help but laugh at my alien ways, especially when it comes to things like using my horn. So if you happen to see a black car come up behind you in the left lane and honk rudely to get by, it’s probably me. And that will be your cue to let me by and of course return my wave. At which point you would be allowed to laugh and shake your head at my alien ways.


Winter Newsletter: Toilet Paper and Ponchos

Toilet Paper and Ponchos
    Knowing that I would be back in the States in mid-December through the beginning of July for furlough, I used the last few months to try to prepare myself for the culture shock that was sure to come. And while the change has been going fairly well these last two weeks, there have been a few bumps in the road. Seeing toilet paper in a public restroom still totally throws me off. That is definitely a luxury we don’t have in Madagascar. Or there was the time I went shopping with my sisters and we walked by a display of Christmas tree skirts that, in my defense, looked an awful lot like ponchos and I said, “Aw, can’t you see Kelsie wearing that?” And Christa looked at me funny and replied, “Tara, we are in America; those are Christmas tree skirts, not ponchos” then burst into laughter. And while I already can’t wait to go back home, I am totally enjoying the time with my family and can’t wait to see all of you! Be sure to give me a call or send an email so we can find a time to see each other and catch up! I am also available to speak at small groups and churches.
One of my favorite parts about being back in the States so far has been hanging out with all of my siblings and meeting my new sister and brother. Six is just so much more fun than four!
Followers of Jesus
    Princia and her friends skipped along beside me as we left Good News Club. They chattered excitedly as we walked. “So, we get to do that EVERY Wednesday? It is so much fun learning about God! Why is it just an hour? That is too short, we should make it two hours.” As I listened to their chatter, I couldn’t help but smile. They were new to the school and it had been their first-ever Good News Club. When I gave the invitation, their hands had shot up and stayed up, waving excitedly, even after I told the kids to put their hands down and look up. Then, after explaining that if they had raised their hand to show they wanted to believe in Jesus, that they could stay after club, they reminded me about it the rest of the club. “Zoky Tara, we stay after club, right? Where did you say we should meet you after club? Don’t forget, I want to believe in Jesus afterwards.” And when the end of club rolled around that day, they accepted Jesus as their Savior. And every Wednesday for one hour, in that public school in Madagascar, these precious girls and their classmates learn how to become whole-hearted followers of Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that!
  Students lining up outside their classrooms at the beginning of the day. At this school, we have    
        Good News Clubs in every grade, preschool through eighth grade over a two-day period.

  It used to be that I could either teach my class or manage it, but not both. Then a few months ago, I realized that I was doing both. It is amazing to have language skills that allow you to teach the class and simultaneously be moving around the room, giving certain little guys the “teacher eye,” putting your hand on them or making eye contact and shaking your head no. Who knew that requires multi-tasking skills??

Even though we didn’t get a white Christmas, it was great going to the Christmas Eve service at my church and spending time with family.


My parents, all the siblings and I went on a tour of the Christmas lights at the Coeur D’ Alene Resort. It was very, very cold, especially coming off a tropical island, but lots of fun!


I Would Like to Introduce You to...
     The big question that has been running through my mind lately is, How do I structure the Christian Youth in Action program in Madagascar so that it lives on long after I am gone? As I have prayed about this issue, the answer seems to be creating not only a leadership team among the CYIA students—students who have the potential to eventually help with training—but also getting together a teaching team who will travel with me and train the students. The idea is that they will eventually take over the leadership of Christian Youth in Action. After praying and searching for a teaching team who is passionate about working with teens and has a heart to reach the children of Madagascar, God pointed out Nirina, Rinoh, Landry and Hasina. And while they are all young, their passion for the ministry and heart for God makes them the perfect team. I met three of the four in 2006 when I went to Madagascar on a summer mission trip. It is crazy to think that even as we were teaching 5-Day Clubs together seven years ago, God was placing us together for a reason. Each of them has grown up in Pastor Diavolana’s Good News Club, has taught 5-Day Clubs for years and loves God with all his/her heart.
I can’t wait to see how God uses the CYIA teaching team to train teens and reach children throughout Madagascar! Please be praying that their passion for the ministry of CYIA will continue to grow and that they will be whole-hearted followers of Jesus!

Prayer Requests:
Pray for me as I work on raising support during furlough.
Pray for the Christian Youth In Action® teaching team, that they will follow God whole- heartedly and be diligent in preparing for CYIA.
Pray for the children who have accepted Jesus at Good News Clubs this year—that they will become whole-hearted followers of Jesus.

Praise Reports:
Praise God for each of the Good News Club® children who have accepted Jesus as their Savior so far this school year.
Praise God for the CYIA teaching team and how He is and will use them to reach children in Madagascar.