Madagascar - 2005

Our dear All,

We have just completed the Convention clean up so will try to give you some of our impressions that have been made on our hearts these rich days.  A nice number of friends stayed for the clean up and some came out this morning.

As many expressed at the convention that our cups are overflowing and we feel this way too, as we feel that we have heard our Father's voice.  Ann and I both feel that we have been greatly encouraged by seeing the evidence of spiritual fruit in this land, the spirit of humility, the spirit of service, and the spirit of sacrifice.  Jack says that these folk all bring something; they are so sacrificial and give what they can to contribute.  We have had so many glimpses of Jesus in so many various forms and the one that has meant a lot is Jesus as the Branch.  Five times in the OT is he mentioned as the Branch.  Was there ever a more fruitful branch in this world than Jesus, He always manifested the fruit of the spirit as He moved amongst men.  Have been thinking of the secret of His fruitfulness and believe it is that He knew how to abide in His Father, lived in total obedience, and never acted independently of His Father.  This enabled the Father to abide in Him and produce such abundant fruit in Him.  All that Jesus said and did manifested the character of the Father.  This is the key to us becoming fruitful, in that we also know how to abide in Christ the true vine and live in complete obedience to Christ in all things, not acting independently to do our own thing.  This will enable Christ to dwell in us and produce the fruitfulness that we so desire for the glory of our Father.

There are 16 local Malagasy workers on the staff and a new brother is going out now which is encouraging.  There is good interest in the villages and also in town here.

One of the things that has impressed us also is the simplicity with which these people live.  They are not bound up in the information age by being on email, etc., so do not know what is going on and has gone on in the past in so many other countries, a knowledge that has destroyed simple faith in some.

Also there is an evidence that these people have a love for God, the workers, and the way.  Jack told us that this is the key, having a love for these things.  He mentioned that the Disciples did not believe Jesus when He spoke of His resurrection, but the Pharisees did believe in it, for they paid the soldiers money to cover it up.  They did not love Jesus and so were not saved, but the disciples did love Him and were saved.

It was quite an exodus last night, as about 400 gathered.  The friends who live in villages have a bus that they hire so they can all get home together.  Others go to the bus station in town where the workers bring all their bags in the jeep and trailer, which saves them carrying them to the bus, as they have to walk to the main road which takes about an hour to get to the bus station.  Others have hired a taxi, some have their own cars.  I counted about 8 in all, even had two come on bicycles.  The furthest folk have to go to the Port which is 375 kms away and would take 9 hours traveling.

 We had early morning tea to say goodbye to Simeon and Esther, who are flying back to Bangkok today.  They have a couple of days there, then a couple in KL before returning to Indonesia.  Has been lovely to be here with them.  Simeon has enjoyed it to the full, and he is so like a Malagasy that they have given him a Malagasy name!!  The other visitors leave tomorrow morning, and we are the last to go, on Wednesday morning.  Then we start our Kenya adventure which will be interesting also.


Brotherly best wishes from us both, 

Ann & Bram


Antananarivo Convention

Mark 4 verses 37 – 40.  In these verses we read of a ship, and that’s a picture of our life.  We’re making a voyage of life and time.  Convention is like coming into port.   The cargo is unloaded.  God would say, “Why are you carrying this around when you don’t need to?  Leave it behind.”  The ship takes on new cargo.  It comes in for cleaning.  Barnacles grow on it as it goes through the ocean.  A hammer and chisel has to be used to clean it.  Is Jesus going to be in the hinder part of our life?  When we leave convention, if Jesus is in control, we’ll be safe.  Every ship needs power.  I like to think of the love of God, when we have it in our hearts it motivates us.  The ship needs a rudder.  Faith is like a rudder, it can help us keep on course.  Jesus commended people for their faith.  When a ship leaves port, it has a destination.  The ship needs an anchor.  Hope is an anchor to the soul.  The anchor is a source of security.  The ship needs a compass.  The compass may be only a simple thing, such as watching the stars.  Conscience is like a compass.  It doesn’t guide the ship, but is a point of direction.  Paul wrote about a pure conscience, good conscience.  A pure conscience would afflict us before we do something wrong.  A safe conscience is Godly-trained - conscience void of offence; sensitive towards others.


Jacob fought with God for His presence.  He knew he had to bow to have the help of God.  Jacob was a great man. The greater we are, the harder it is to bow.  There’s no disadvantage in bowing.  It might bring reproach, disdain to bow, but Jacob had eternal advantage by bowing.  Rachel and Joseph also bowed, following the example of Jacob.  This may have been the day when it dawned on Joseph that he would have to bow.  James 3 verse 18, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”  When Joseph’s brethren came before him later, he knew how to make peace.


The Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet he would know that this woman is a sinner.”  Jesus said “I have somewhat to say to THEE.”  Luke 12 verse 13, “Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance.”  We could feel that the world would be better, or our church would be better, if the Lord would speak to my brother, but I want him to speak to ME.


Testimonies:   The mother of Herodias told her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.  She could have asked for anything, up to the half of the kingdom, she could have been set up for the rest of her life.  She asked for something she couldn’t use, an unwise choice.

When babies are small, you can do anything to them and they don’t resist.  When they get older it’s not so easy.  God plans only what is good for us, I need to keep like a little child.

Jeremiah 29 verse 11, “'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' saith the Lord. 'Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.'”  In Malagasy it says, “To give you hope at the end.”  God has thoughts and intentions for us, that we would have hope.  Jeremiah said, “I’m only a child.”  His thoughts were not the same as God’s.  He had fear, he was worried, and that is normal for us.  God said “Don’t worry.”  He wants to give us hope at the end.  We should think of the end in the situation.  Daniel's three companions went through the fire; it wasn’t hard, because they had an expected end.  They had hope.  Even if God wouldn’t save them, they wouldn’t bow to the image.  The breath of fire wasn’t on them, but the breath of God’s grace WAS on them.  Isaiah 53 verse 10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.”  It’s difficult to understand the thoughts of God, but after that, Jesus was blessed by God.  He just had to fit into God’s will.  No king would ever allow his son to go through what Jesus went through, but it was to bring an expected end.


The Book of James is like a doctor’s manual.  The affliction of being double-minded.  It’s caused by weak faith.  The remedy:  to listen to the counsel of Christ.  The affliction of lusting.  The children of Israel lusted for what they had left behind in Egypt.  It can lead to serious consequences.  They were weary of the manna provided by God.  The things they left behind wouldn’t give much strength.  Cucumbers are mostly water.  Onions, garlic make food taste better but don’t sustain life.  The manna that God provided sustained life for 40 years.  The remedy:  self-denial, be content with what God provides us.  Affliction: hearing only, not doing.  When God gives us good things, He expects us to make them part of our lives.  Doing them makes them part of us.  If we do them, He will give us more.  Affliction:  respect of persons.  We can be cured of this, by loving those who despitefully use you.  We can be set free of this affliction if we think of where the Lord found us, and His patience all our years.   Affliction:  uncontrolled tongue.  There are some things in life that we can’t undo.  Like an arrow shot, it can’t be taken back.  We might apologize to the person, but it leaves a mark.  The remedy is in chapter 1 verse 19, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  The Holy Spirit will teach us what to say at the right time.  There’s another side to the tongue, when it’s under the control of God, it can bring blessing.  When we heard the gospel, or when we’re helped in a meeting, it’s by people whose tongues are under God’s control.  Affliction: planning without consulting God.  When making plans, say from the heart, “If the Lord wills.”  If it’s not, we have to have the spirit of submission.  I like to involve the Lord in all things that I have in mind to do.


Abba Father, please help me, there’s no strength in me.  The gospel is your life, that is what people are going to read.  Even the Son of God came just as a servant.  He was ready to serve.  If we have the spirit of a servant, we’ll always follow the one we’re serving.  The body is many members.  If we’re willing to serve our brothers and sisters, there will be progress in the body.  


Matthew 18 verse 4, “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child ….”  One way we can humble ourselves is to obey.  When Jesus washed the disciples feet, he took the place of the youngest servant.  It takes humility to serve in a place that others despise.  We can humble ourselves by being quiet when falsely accused, be slow to speak.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”  It’s human to take revenge, but we humble ourselves to ask for forgiveness for those who hurt us.  We humble ourselves when we admit wrong and ask for forgiveness.  The widow with two mites – it takes humility to give what we have when it’s small.  We may feel that the testimony we take to the meeting is very small, but with all the other testimonies, our hearts are fed.


The parable of the prodigal son tells us about the heart of the father.  The older brother had served many years and never done anything wrong, but it was without joy.  “Thou never gavest me a kid so that I could make merry etc.”  “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”  This is a picture of what God wants to be to us.  God desires us to be with him, to know Him.  The son never knew the father.  The lesson for me in this is that I could be serving God in a sense, but with no care for the brother beside me, and without joy.  The father said “ALL that I have…”  He could have had fullness of joy.


“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philemon 2 verse 5)  This is the mind that I want to have as I think of the future.  Jesus expected suffering, He knew there wouldn’t be rest for His body.  How was Jesus acquainted with grief?  (In Malagasy, it says He was used to it.)  It was always there, He got used to it, He just fitted in.  When we think of the future we don’t expect it to be easy, but we want to go forward.  The women who went to the tomb knew that the stone would be there, but they went anyway.  We may feel we can’t do God’s will, but if we just keep going, He will hold us up and help us.


Someone said that it’s a pity there wasn’t more written about Jesus’ childhood.  The answer was given that He was subject to His parents, and that’s all we need to know.  He is an example for children, to be obedient to their parents.  When He said, “I must be about My Father’s business,” He was an example to young people.  “I must work while it is day” - an example of how to use time, to seize every opportunity.  Jesus put first the will of His Father, that the world would know that He loves Him.  “Arise, let us go hence.”  He didn’t put off what He knew was ahead of Him.  We can be an example as we go back among worldly people, that they would see that we love God and obey Him.  In the garden, when Jesus was praying, God sent help.  He didn’t get up from His knees straight away, but He prayed MORE earnestly.  He used the power of God to pray more earnestly.  That’s our example of how to handle human desires, human nature.  The way to God was opened by Jesus and when I go to pray, I try to remember the price that was paid.


When Jesus had the last meeting with His disciples and washed their feet, He wanted to teach them to be humble.  If He had just SAID to them, "Just try and be humble," they might have thought they had heard it before, but they would never forget the example of their Master.


We come to convention through one gate, and leave through a different gate.  We have another aim, something new we’d like to doIn Hannah’s life, the time came when there was a change.  She prayed to God, she pleaded.  She left by a different gate, her heart was happy.  She left her sadness with God.  She’d been accused of drinking; finding temporary peace, but she had found lasting peace and joy.  She had a desire to accomplish the vow she had made.  May we find a way to pay our vow when we leave, not a way to get out of it.


Our little while in port is finished and now we leave again.  When we’ve taken on board everything from here, we need to close the hatches, and seal them.  We need to be sealed with the name of Jesus, who is sending us out again.   What are the most important things I need in my ship on the sea of life?  A good conscience, living faith, time to separate ourselves and draw near to God.  These things can renew us daily.


Victory is won in the secret place and finalized in the battle field.  We may have lost some battles but it doesn’t mean the war is lost.  Never retreat.  It’s harder to move forward after retreat.  Never entertain the thought of surrender.  We have the power of Heaven behind us, keep faith and trust Him.  Continue walking in wisdom.  There’s a lot of foolishness in the world and we need to act in wisdom to those who don’t know God, and to those who do.  We need to keep a right spirit.  We can reach the destination if we take each step carefully.


The convention finished with Hymn 373, “Clad in your armor, firmly you stand.”