McReynolds in Madagascar
Recently All Saints sent a team to visit our missions partners, the McReynolds on the island of Nosy Be off the coast of Madagascar. The McReynolds are involved in some amazing work there. Below are some observations from All Saints Missions Director, Matt Ziehr, on some tangible ways we can help.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for ways you can contribute to these efforts!
Mama Vao Vao
PROBLEM: Better shelter and location
- Since there is no way to lock up their shelter (effectively composed of four sticks with a palm branch roof) they have to spend hours every day putting up and taking down all of their merchandise so that it won’t get taken in the night. I watched the take-down process and it alone took about two hours. And many of these women also have children to care for and dinner to make for their family at home.
- They don't have an adequate work area for the women to store things or to sew. They have some shelter but it fills up quickly and many end up sewing in the broad day sun. They also have one table they use to put out merchandise which means they end up sitting on the dirt and sewing. Because they don't have any room to store things at the shelter, the McReynolds end up sacrificing portions of their house to storage. This is a problem since they use pretty much every inch of their little house.
- They are near the water, right by the McReynolds house. However, many of the tourist they would otherwise get business from leave from just right outside of the village square. On a busy days they will miss more than half of the tourist traffic.
- Rebe has two great ideas. (1) She has considered trying to make a few mobile boutiques in order to allow them to sell from where the tourist come in and leave, as well as on another beach on the other side of the island. (2) There is a building that has been half built right next to the village square and it's the area all the tourist go by on their excursions. This building is owned by the same lady from whom they rent their house. While I was there they had a conversation about how much it would cost to buy this building, but she didn’t have any solid number because she needed to talk with the rest of her family. Hopefully, Bryan will be able to get a number from her in the near future. The great thing about this building is the construction is good and the bottom floor is mostly finished. It would make for a good store front for Mama Vao Vao The upstairs (once completed) could serve as storage and workspace. I also think that it could potentially function as a temporary living space for some of the women. Many of them are teenagers and have no families, no bed, nothing. They could temporarily put them up until they raised enough money through Mama Vao Vao to find a place to stay.
PROBLEM: No playground
- The women of Mama Vao Vao often have to watch their kids and work at the same time. This is a tough task to do, as I’m sure mothers anywhere can attest to. A playground would help more than just the women of Mama Vao Vao - there are so many kids in this village who often have to entertain themselves for hours on end. This would bring a safe environment for kids to play, instead of wondering the village. To the best of Bryan’s knowledge this would be the only playground on the the entire island. I saw an attempt at one in the city. It was a slide with no way to climb up and a swing set with no swings. Bryan and his kids got to experience a community playground while on a trip recently and it gave him the idea for building one in Nosy Be. He saw how it brought people together and gave a possible means to share the gospel with surrounding villagers who might travel to play on it.
- Bryan and I discussed two possible solutions. (1) Build the playground completely in the village and allow them to design it themselves. They do have some fantastic builders. However, their supplies would be limited to sticks and cement blocks. They also don't really know what a playground is since this would probably be the first and only one on the island. (2) The second option would be for us to design the playground and bring over some essential pieces they may not have on the island - hinges for swings, swing seats, etc. This way we would still partner with the skilled builders of the village, but give them an outline for what it would look like.
Sarah is a social out cast of the village. She is literally the low of the low, I imagine the way she is treated is similar to how lepers would have been treated in biblical times. Sarah has seizures and paralysis of her left hand and foot. She has no place to live; her family has cast her out; she has been mistreated since she was a child, and now she knows very little of how to communicate to people without being upset and yelling. Sarah was recently taken in by the McReynolds in an attempt to love her, keep her safe, and show the people of the village what it means to love your enemy. In the time I was there Sarah went from yelling at almost everyone, McReynolds included, to having a much softer demeanor. The love of God through the McReynolds is changing this women. Rebe has been able to give her medicine that helps control her seizures and has given her small tasks to help out with Mama Vao Vao. The people of the village are starting to come around although this will be a long process. Because of Sarah’s attitude people will walk by and make fun of her and rile her up. People are afraid to touch her in fear they will get what she has. Currently Bryan has paid for a house to be built for her right next to theirs. The reason they started giving her shelter was because people were raping her during the night and throwing rocks at her in the morning. This house was mostly finished by the time I left.
This is the gospel. Plain and simple Jesus came to save people like Sarah and the McReynolds have taken her in as one of their own when nobody else wanted to care for her. It hasn’t been easy, its hard on the whole family when Sarah has her outbursts, but they continue to love her, talk with her, feed her, and protect her.
The biggest need here would be making sure Rebe has medicine to help with Sarah’s seizures.
Music & Worship
Music and Worship - This is headed up by two members of the community, Rosina and Ladice. Rosina does the children’s message and Ladice leads the worship. Bryan does the main message most days but is also training up Ladice and a few other guys to do the main message. There are two villages that worship together every Sunday. One is in the jungle. They are very rural and have had some amazing conversations. About 20 to 30 people gather to worship on Sundays - most of these being small children. The other service is held at Rosina’s house in the evening. This is in the same village that Bryan and Ladice live in. This service usually has about 10-20 people. As of right now they only have the books of Matthew, Genesis, and Ephesians translated into the local language. They have a few psalms and random verses translated as well. This is probably the biggest need and limitation for Bryan right now. The problem is he and a few people have to do the translations themselves since the Sakalava language is so unique to their location. Big companies have translated the Bible into Malagasie but that is only similar at best to what is spoken on Nosy Be.
Ladice and Bryan have built a music studio in their village, it is a very impressive studio for being in the middle of a third-world country. All of the music they sing was written and composed by Ladice. There are some very catchy songs, the only problem is I have no idea what they are saying. Bryan tells me they are based off of the psalms and some from Genesis. Their next goal is to make the production level of these songs better and hopefully get them on iTunes. There are more missionaries coming to the island soon and they have great expertise in this area so hopefully they can help this become a reality.
One of the most powerful things that I witnessed in my time there was seeing these two villages come together and travel to another village to share the gospel. They are so excited to hear and share the gospel they literally gave up a day of work to all pile in a boat and share the gospel. The boat ride took about 45 minutes each way. Then we had to walk about 2 to 3 miles to the village. They played songs, Ladice gave a great message about his life and the gospel, Bryan told the story of creation, Rosina delivered a children's message. It was truly powerful stuff.
The biggest need here is getting the entire bible translated into Sakalava.