For most people today, say “Madagascar” and they think of the movie, not the people. They think of King Julian the lemur, not King Jesus and what he is doing on a real island, the fourth largest island in the world, with over twenty-three million souls.
Over the past five years, our church has had the great privilege of an annual mission trip there. Through having Malagasy members and interns in our church for many years, God has given us a love for this island and its people and has taught us much. Let me share with you a few encouragements of what Christ is doing in his church in Madagascar and of how you can pray for this vast island.
A Church Birthed in Prayer and Suffering
When William Carey went to India in 1793, he wrote this while sailing past Madagascar, he wrote: “I hope … that the multitudes of heathen in the world may hear the glorious words of truth. Africa is but a little way from England; Madagascar but a little way farther…. A large field opens on every side, and millions of perishing heathens, tormented in this life by idolatry, superstition, and ignorance, and exposed to eternal miseries in the world to come, are pleading.” Soon after this, a Bible school teacher in Wales also had a great burden for Madagascar and was praying and challenging his students to go there.
These cries were soon heard by two young Welshmen who arrived in 1818 with the gospel in Madagascar. But only David Jones survived, after losing his wife and family and coworkers all to malaria. Yet by 1830, Jones had finished translating the New Testament, just before the outbreak of fierce persecution and the expulsion of missionaries.
An evil queen sought to rid her kingdom of all threats to their animism and superstition. If believers would not renounce their faith, they were hurled to their death from high cliffs in the capital city (where martyr monuments still stand today). Yet the Malagasy church now had the New Testament, so portions of Scripture were hidden and smuggled by believers from village to village. In this way they stood firm and grew during these fiery trials over the next three decades, until religious freedom returned.
A Church Withstanding Liberalism and Pragmatism
Today, nearly 200 years later, the original missionary church plants have gone liberal, plus there is a large Roman Catholic presence. Yet one group of churches that has stood firm is the FFBBM (French acronym for “Association of Biblical Baptist Churches in Madagascar”). They began when another Welsh missionary, Brynlee Evans, came in the 1930s and established a faithful, Bible-teaching church in Antanarivo, the capital city.