Dear Friends and Family,
Prov 16:9 was on display today. The NASU version reads: “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” I started the day with a general agenda and many questions in my mind about the ITEM ministry in Madagascar and the best use of my intended return in July. It’s fun to see God at work in quiet ways, unnoticed by some but observed by others. The meeting turned out to be very productive.
MAN PLANNING HIS WAY…PROV 16:9a
I had intended to gather the team, review the past (ITEM in Madagascar), explain the future (better long range planning and record keeping, which has been a theme when I’ve met with teams in other countries this year), talk about meeting key Christian leaders in July and trying to squeeze in a seminar at the same time. But once we got started, God took over the agenda and we ended up in a better place than I had hoped for when we began.
THE LORD DIRECTING HIS STEPS…PROV 16:9b
As we began, I explained the importance of long-range planning, keeping records, and focusing on bringing each seminar attendee back for a second seminar then into a mentoring group. OK…I am on course! Then something happened.
Julien, ITEM Coordinator, pointed out that it’s not that easy. He gave the illustration that years ago we tried that and had 98 at the first seminar (Bible and theology) and only 14 came back for the second (ministry and preaching).
Faly, a key team member, added that pastors here avoid seminars that include “theology.” I asked why? I could predict at least the first part of the answer. Faly gave two reasons: Many pastors don’t believe they need training. All they need is the Holy Spirit to lead them. Second, there are many false teachings and sects, and that leads pastors to be suspicious of groups coming in from outside.
I asked for an answer and the three men talked about it in French and then Faly told me that denominational and other large Christian organizational leaders restrict their members from attending training they (the leaders) do not know anything about. That led to a decision to use the July trip to meet as many key denominational and organizational leaders as possible to gain their endorsements. If that happens, the door will be wide open.
BINGO! That is where I had hoped to end up and God took us there without me pushing it!
WHAT ABOUT THE SEMINAR?
Julien and I had previously agreed to a seminar a day’s drive from the capital (Prov 16:9a…man planning his way). Now, I wasn’t sure how we could do both with a limited number of days that I will be here in July.
As the discussion progressed, there was agreement that meeting the leaders was priority and Julien would reschedule the seminar and he would do it with team help (Prov 16:9b…the Lord directing the steps).
By the end of the meeting I was confident that we ended up in the right spot, the Lord’s spot!
ENCOURAGING REPORT FROM UTAWALA SEMINAR
Recently, Nathan and I did a seminar in Mombasa. Nathan sent me a text to tell me that one mature pastor in the group had written to him and said our ministry had made a huge difference in his life and he is committed to praying for us and the ministry. Since then he has asked Nathan these three questions:
1. He asked about an African practice of Female Genital Mutilation and Scripture
2. He called to seek for counsel regarding a deacon who is accusing his wife of infidelity and there is no proof
3. He asked about eternal security and erring pastors
We are often asked, “What difference is the training making?” And it is hard to give strong, definite answers because we don’t know how often this same result occurs that we do not hear about. For instance, today during out meeting Julien (ITEM Coordinator) said he knows of changes pastors have made as a result of attending our training. I asked him to relate them to us and we’d pass them on.
The planned ministry for this trip is over. I leave Madagascar at 4:30PM Tuesday (6:30AM PDT), transition through Nairobi and Amsterdam, and hope to touch down around 11:15AM Wednesday morning in Portland. It will be good to be home. Thanks for joining me on this trip and for praying.
By His grace,
Today’s pics: Antananrivo is not like any other city I visit. Narrow, winding roads, with hills covered with buildings. I’ve included several pics that show what I am talking about.