Yesterday, my readings were in Psalms 97–98. How appropriate while here ministering in Madagascar: “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad! … For you are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods…. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God!”

It is hard to describe my joy returning to this island and seeing the fruition of our prayers, plans and labours over the past decade, along with many others who’ve shared our burden for this place and these precious people. It all began long before that in the eternal counsels of our triune God who has his elect among the many Malagasy peoples and wants his fame to spread here as Christ builds his church.

But our little part in God’s big plan began in 2008 with discipling Faly and Lily as church members in Johannesburg, and then in 2011 seeing the Lord send them back home here to burden them for this land and to invite Antioch to be involved annually. That also began our close relationship with Ankadivato Baptist Church and Haja and Ianja, in the capital city of Tana, in the mother church of their Baptist association of some 100 churches across the island. (Read more about that story here.)

Here on this forgotten island of 23 million souls, many are still unreached. Those who are reached rarely have access to a gospel church. Very few pastors have any training, and even the trained ones only know how to preach topically, so their churches are malnourished instead of being well-fed from God’s word. For many years, Faly & Haja have had a great burden for training pastors and strengthening churches in their beloved country. In 2014, the Lord provided for Faly to study at TMS in California and at Grace Church, and for Haja to study in Polokwane and do pastoral internship at Antioch. Each year in 2014–16, in Faly and Haja’s absence, we came here at the invitation of the Baptists to preach and train pastors. Now, Faly and Haja are equipped, back home, and the real work of a lifetime has begun.

For years, we’ve all dreamed of a Shepherd’s Conference for Madagascar on expository preaching. That day has come! Faly and his team of thirty-plus volunteers from his church (pastored by Haja) are doing an amazing job this week! This is unlike any of the previous conferences we’ve ever had here. It is now attracting pastors and church leaders not only from the Baptists, but from many groupings—some two hundred-plus pastors and church leaders, hungry for sound doctrine and rich exposition.

From the media and publicity involved, to the superb venue, music, line-up of eight preachers (from Madagascar, France, USA, and South Africa), and everything else done with such God-honouring excellence, it is a humbling privilege for me to be part of this potentially historic event. All four days of sermons and workshops are centred around the theme of Scripture’s authority and sufficiency, and it has been a feast for all our souls! Please realise: For many of the attendees, this is their first taste, ever, of the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s word. The very thing many of us have been spoiled with for so long is that for which so many of Christ’s dear sheep are still starving around the world!

Faly’s parachurch ministry, which seeks to serve many churches, is called Madagascar 3M, named after three Malagasy words that capture Faly’s burden for training pastors here: “Preacher, Shepherd, Slave.” It is still early days, and will of course take many years for Faly and Haja to earn trust and build rapport with local churches and pastors here. Already, the obstacles are many and the opposition is real. They need our most earnest, ongoing prayers and encouragement.

You can learn more here about how to pray for Faly.

Faly has asked me to preach the closing sermon for the conference tomorrow on Josiah’s biblical reformation (2 Chronicles 34–35). Oh that God would use the mighty fire of his word to spark a true reformation on this island, one that would even spread onto our African continent the glory of his great name!

In his first year, amidst all else that he does, Faly has also started a for-profit farming company in partnership with a ministry in the USA, with the goal that, in five years, Madagascar 3M would be self-supporting, independent of foreign funding, and able to assist local pastors to be tentmakers. See more here.