Dear ITEM Friends,

Today’s meeting in Antananarivo, Madagascar was the fourth restart of our ministry here, but this was different. The first two ended when team members proved either incapable of doing the ministry or didn’t follow through on assignments. The third was shut down by Covid and the untimely death of our coordinator here, last July. This was my first visit in 3 years.

As I was introduced or in some cases, reintroduced to the team I was overwhelmed by the qualifications of each team member. The new coordinator is the current president of the Baptist Convention in the country. Another is a key part of the Pastor’s Federation in his region. Two or three teach at either the Baptist or Brethren Seminary. And another is the head of his own ministry that focuses on raising up expositors. I felt like I was sitting at a table with a group of All Stars.

I began the meeting by reviewing ITEM’s history, vision, philosophy, and strategy. The young man who heads up his own ministry was taking notes on his laptop. When I finished, he translated into the local language.

Then it happened! The group started talking back and forth among themselves. Back and forth, back and forth….. There was feeling, expression, and energy in the room. That went on for quite a while. When it was done, the young interpreter interpreted back to me what had been discussed and the questions that had been asked. This pattern lasted throughout the day.

These team meetings customarily last about 2.5 hours and 30 minutes of that is usually lunch. This meeting started at 9:30 and went to 3:30 with two breaks. And they were six energetic hours with a lot of creative, critical (in a good sense), strategic questions. They were all engaged. I spent a lot of time just watching and listening to their back-and-forth in their local language with laughing and serious talk mixed in.

The kinds of thing we discussed:

  • How to deal with minor differences between ITEM’s doctrinal statement and ITEM team members or mentees.
  • How to work with other organizations
  • How to contextualize ITEM’s timetable for completing the seminars and mentoring with each pastor.
  • How to best utilize funds available.
  • How to utilize pastors who are ready to mentor others even though their mentoring is not completed.
  • Training men who want to someday be pastors who are not now. This included prisoners who have had their lives turned around by Jesus who want to serve him but are still in prison.
  • The importance of keeping good records.
  • The importance of asking pastors to contribute to their training by paying for their own transportation or bringing food to share.

NOTE: THEY brought all of these up.

I felt an immediate emotional attachment to this team and the thought of turning the ministry over to Chris (which will be complete by the end of this year) and losing contact with these men in the process tugged at my heart and I told them I wanted to be a part of this ministry re-start.

This meeting was the last of this trip. I depart Madagascar at 4:20pm Friday (5:20AM PT). I will transit through Nairobi, then Amsterdam, on to Portland. I am scheduled to land in Portland around 1:30PM Saturday.

Pray for this team. They are all busy men and can easily be pulled in many directions.

Pray for my flights coming home.

Thanks for joining me on this trip.

By His grace,

Team pictures added to the photo album. HERE IS THE LINK