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The 30 Day Whirlwind

The past thirty days have been pretty much a blur as we have returned from overseas and begun this season of itineration, visiting churches this year and sharing about all the great things that God is doing in Madagascar.

We returned near the end of July and jumped immediately into wedding preparations for our son Caleb who married his fiancée, Alyssa Smith, in a beautiful ceremony on August 9th in Lolo, MT. The two of them met through the Chi Alpha student ministry at the University of Montana. Alyssa is a wonderful young lady and we are so happy to have a daughter–in-law in the family.

Our son, Caleb, married his fiancee, Alyssa Smith, in Lolo, MT on August 9th.

Our son, Caleb, married his fiancee, Alyssa Smith, in Lolo, MT on August 9th.

During those first two weeks in the States, we were also able to find a great vehicle to drive this year, a 2009 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van that is big enough to carry all of our stuff as we travel the country, but also dependable enough to handle the roads.

God has provided for us with housing and a great dependable mini-van for the year.

God has provided for us with some temporary housing for a few weeks and a great dependable mini-van for the year.

The Lord also faithfully provided a great house for us to live in for the first three weeks of our return to America. We were able to house sit for some friends who were out of town and offered to let us stay there for free. The house was plenty big enough for us and for my parents when they flew out for the wedding. God is so good. God has also provided another house for us in Missoula from November through March that will allow us to be near the newlyweds while we tour the central and western parts of Montana later this year.

Becca on the campus of Evangel University in Springfield, MO.

Becca on the campus of Evangel University in Springfield, MO.

This month our daughter, Becca, has also begun a new stage in her life as a college student. A week after the wedding, we loaded up the mini-van and headed out from Montana to Springfield, MO to get Becca set up at Evangel University. It was nice for us to be able to travel with her and stay down in the area for a few days as she moved in and got adjusted to life in college on her own.

Becca and her new roommate!

Becca and her new roommate!

On August 27th, we left Springfield and headed out to visit several churches in Arkansas and Alabama. Being in the south at the moment has allowed us to drive down to spend three or four days with Nate’s parents who live in Venice, Florida. We are so thankful to spend whatever opportunity possible with family as we crisscross the country this year. In the September we will have several weeks of services in the Houston, TX area before we begin our trek back to Montana, where we will devote most of the month of October to visiting many of our south eastern Montana churches.

It has been so great to spend a few days with Nate's parents in Venice, FL. Madagascar is a long way from family.

It has been so great to spend a few days with Nate’s parents in Venice, FL. Madagascar is a long way from family.

It has been quite a whirlwind of activity these past 30 days and we have already traveled over 3500 miles with many more to come. Please continue to pray for us that God would grant us favor as we share with churches and pastors about the work in Madagascar and that many new churches and individuals would feel lead to partner with us on a monthly basis to send us back to Madagascar to continue our work there. Thanks to all of you for your faithful prayers and support,

This Is It!

When I was about four years old my dad went on a mission’s trip to Tanzania. Upon returning from that trip, and after discussing it with my mom of course, my daddy announced, “Guys, Your mom and I have been praying about this and we are moving to Africa!” He then filled my brother and me in on all the details of how we would soon be moving to Madagascar.

Our first prayer card in 2002.

Our first prayer card in 2002.

My Dad said that in Africa we would have: guards, a wall around our house, and maybe even lemurs. The gears in my head began to turn as I imagined what this could mean. Guards? The only guards I knew of were the ones that guarded the queen of England. Those Buckingham Palace guards, that dressed in red coats with big furry hats. Our house would have walls he had said? Maybe we would live in a hut inside a conservatory like the one at butterfly enclosures. Lemurs are like monkeys aren’t they? So that’s what my life would be? My family would be living in a hut in a conservatory with monkeys, and Buckingham Palace guards. What better adventure could there be?

Would we have guards like at Buckingham Palace?

Would we have guards like at Buckingham Palace?

Though the dreams I had of my future were a bit out of perspective, my actual life was filled with plenty of adventure. God has given me an abundance of opportunities to spread his glory as well as witness it. I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life in Madagascar and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Being an MK growing up in Madagascar has been so awesome!

Being an MK growing up in Madagascar has been so awesome!

Leading a double life is often associated with the idea of spy life, civilian by day, spy by night. Though I am not a spy, the life I live is most certainly double. That is the way of it in the life of a missionary kid as well as the life of a boarding school student.

Being a missionary kid is a bit like being a spy. You have sort of a double life.

Being a missionary kid is a bit like being a spy. You have sort of a double life.

I began my double life when I first left America. I began to live a new sort of life that was entirely different than the one I’d come to know back in the U.S. However, I soon became flexible enough to jump back and forth between these two lives. When in America do as the Americans do. When in Madagascar, I do as the Vazaha do (Vazaha is the Malagasy word for foreigner pronounced VAH-ZAH). In America, I had blood relatives and ate “American” food, which in my mind consisted of fast food, Grandma’s cooking, and Reese’s peanut butter cups. In Madagascar, I had lots of missionary aunts, uncles, and cousins and ate “Malagasy food” which included rice and some sort of sauce. I became comfortable switching between my lives.

At the airport heading off to boarding school for the first time.

At the airport heading off to boarding school for the first time.

My second double life started at age 15 when I became a boarding student at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya. Once again I created a new life for myself, one in which 9 months of my year would be spent in Kenya. There I was a student at an American school, and 3 times a year, at term breaks, I would spend a month with my parents back at home in Madagascar. This was a pretty simple transition for me. At school I was Becca, the girl from Madagascar who likes Doctor Who and whistling. In Madagascar, I was the missionary’s daughter who smiled and politely shook everybody’s hand at church. It wasn’t long before I discovered my niche and was just as comfortable with this new double life as I was with the last.

However, it is time for me to leave all these double lives behind now to begin an entirely new one, the life of an American college student. This could prove to be one of the most interesting adventures of all.

This girl is an RVA graduate!

This girl is an RVA graduate!

This August, I will begin my new life in Springfield, Missouri at Evangel University. Though I will be leaving my big red island home in Madagascar, I trust that God is in control. The ISMK (International Society of Missionary Kids) symbol is a chameleon because they can change their colors to adapt to their environment. I believe that with God’s help that is exactly what I’ll do once again this summer. I will adapt again, because “This is it!” Now this week, my family and I are back in America once again and I can’t wait to see what God has in store in this new adventure.

Ending Well

These last few weeks have been a blur of activities as we come to the end of our current term in Madagascar. In this post we want to highlight several of these latest events for you.

Anchor Education Retreat

The top reason why missionaries leave the field is their children’s educational needs. With that in mind, Anchor Education, a multi- mission agency organization, was established to support missionary families in Africa. Last year, Tammy was asked to represent AGWM on the board of this organization. In order to see just how Anchor might best serve our AGWM families, we decided to host a retreat for the missionary families in Madagascar.

Tammy talking to the MKs about their being a little bit of their home country and a little bit Malagasy.

Tammy talking to the MKs about their being a little bit of their home country and a little bit Malagasy.

Along with a fantastic committee of other missionary friends, we hosted 4 Anchor Education Specialists from Europe for a 3-day MK education retreat. Seminar topics included Third Culture Kid issues, transition, schooling and resources options in Madagascar, math, reading and writing support, preschool curriculum, as well as preparations for university and much more.

A parallel program was offered to the missionary kids. Their topics included Third Culture Kid Issues, science and art activities, games, and making and presenting puppet plays. A broad range of testing (like the IOWA Basic) was offered for students as well.

Tammy holding a workshop for parents on education options in Madagascar.

Tammy holding a workshop for parents on education options in Madagascar.

We had eight 68 people from 9 nationalities and 11 different missionary agencies. The feedback was very positive. One of the greatest benefits was getting to know each other—both for the parents and kids. We have great resources within the country that we didn’t even know about.

FIRE Bible Training

The Full Life Study Bible/ Fire Bible has been available in Malagasy since 2007. It is the only study Bible in the Malagasy language, making it a Bible very much in demand across all denominations. But we have discovered that having the Study Bible doesn’t mean that our pastors and believers know how to use it.

The Fire Bible is such a great tool for understanding the Word of God!

The Fire Bible is such a great tool for understanding the Word of God!

Using a Malagasy translation of “Experiencing your Fire Bible,” we taught 95 pastors how to better use the tools within their Study Bible. It isn’t enough to know the Word of God. We want to live it!

Nearly 100 pastors and wives attended the training.

Nearly 100 pastors and wives attended the training.

25th Graduation of the Madagascar Assemblies of God Bible School

This year’s Bible School was a landmark year for several reasons. First of all, it marked the 25th graduating class. The school has grown and changed a great deal since its early days when it met in a tent!

The graduates together with the first and second year students sang and danced during the ceremony!

The graduates together with the first and second year students sang and danced during the ceremony!

We also had 30 teachers receive their official Level 1 Teacher’s Certification through The Association for Pentecostal Theological Education in Africa (APTEA). We are so proud of each teacher who took the training and submitted his or her project.

Once again this year the Bible School chapel was packed out!

Once again this year the Bible School chapel was packed out!

After two years of hard work, our Bible School is now an official APTEA recognized Pentecostal training institution. WE DID IT! We now have a 5-year action plan to continue making improvements at the school to better train future leaders for the Madagascar Assemblies of God.

Professor Douti Flindja from Togo presented the certificate of endorsement on behalf of APTEA to our church leadership.

Professor Douti Flindja from Togo presented the certificate of endorsement on behalf of APTEA to our church leadership.

What’s next? Pack the house! We’re looking forward to seeing you on the itineration trail!

Life Changes

Who Moved My Cheese? Remember that book from a few years ago? We feel like life is moving more than just our cheese! Changes in life are normal and to be expected. Some changes are exciting, while others cause sadness. Sometimes a change can be both exciting and sad at the same time. Some changes are within our control and some changes happen to us whether we are ready or not.

Ready or not here come changes!

Ready or not here come changes!

One big change in our life is that Becca will be graduating from Rift Valley Academy in Kenya in July and beginning at Evangel University in August. That is a very exciting change, although Dad and Mom are feeling a bit sad at the prospect of a REAL empty nest where she doesn’t come home every fourth month (like she did at RVA).

Another big change is that our son Caleb will be getting married to Alyssa Smith on August 9th in Missoula. Caleb and Alyssa met in Chi Alpha student leadership at the University of Montana. We met Alyssa and her family last October when we returned to the States for a missions convention. In January, Caleb and Alyssa came to Madagascar with a Chi Alpha team and were able to stay an extra few days with us. We are very happy to welcome Alyssa to our family!

Caleb and Alyssa visited Madagascar in January.

Caleb and Alyssa visited Madagascar in January.

For various reasons, rather than do a normal four-year missions term, we have served a rather long seven years in Madagascar. With Becca finally graduating, it is time to go furlough! We are excited to return to the USA for a year to visit our supporting churches, reconnect with friends and spend time with family. Yet, at the same time we are feeling quite out of practice at how to do this!

Every furlough, we have done it differently. The first furlough, in 2002, we traveled as a family, moving in and out of hotels and homes with 4 suitcases and 2 boxes of homeschool books. The second furlough, in 2006, the kids were in middle school. We decided that we wanted them to connect to with the American Assemblies of God church. We wanted them to be in Missionettes, Bible Quiz and Youth Group. So we rented an apartment in Polson, MT. Tammy and the kids stayed home most of the time, while Nate traveled and came home for quick visits throughout the year.

Becca and her favorite East African soda pop Krest Bitter Lemon.

Our graduate Becca and her favorite East African soda pop Krest Bitter Lemon.

Now with both kids in college, Tammy is looking forward to traveling with Nate to visit our supporting churches. Due to the size of Montana and the fact that almost half of our support comes from churches outside of Montana; we will be on the road most of the time this year. It doesn’t really seem to make financial sense to rent and furnish an apartment when we will on the road so often.

We are looking for solutions on where to stay when we do have some spare time, whether on the road or in Montana. We would really like to have a home base when Becca is home for school holidays, and we would especially like a place near Missoula, so that we could spend time with Caleb and Alyssa, in order to get to know her better!

One of Caleb & Alyssa's engagement photos.

One of Caleb & Alyssa’s engagement photos.

We really need a place to stay/rent in Missoula from July 26-Aug 17 for the wedding. Then as we travel Montana and have spare time we will need a place to call home from November 1-January 10. Then again in the month of April 2015 we will be in Montana again. During the rest of our itineration we will be visiting our supporting churches in Washington, Idaho, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Texas, and many other far flung places around the country.

Perhaps there is a snowbird that would be willing to rent to us? Or someone who has a summer home that isn’t being used? We don’t have all the answers yet, but we know that God has a plan! God has been faithful to us these past seven years with strong financial support and awesome prayer partners. We can’t wait to see so many of you and thank you personally.

Yes, quite a number of big changes are heading our way soon, but we know that God can handle it. As one of my friends wisely suggested, make a list of all the things you can’t figure out and cross them off as God takes care of them! Thank you for praying for our family throughout these numerous transitions.

The Long Road

This past month on a recent road trip to the west coast, I had a little problem with a big pothole, which resulted in my Toyota Land Cruiser being sidelined for a month while we wait for a new differential case and rear axle to be shipped in.

My Speed The Light Toyota Land Cruiser had an unfortunate encounter with a rather large pothole at a high rate of speed.

My Speed The Light Toyota Land Cruiser had an unfortunate encounter with a rather large pothole at a high rate of speed.

In the meantime, the work of a missionary doesn’t slow down. One aspect of missionary life that has been hampered by this unexpected car problem is travel. I really needed to go to the southeast coastal town of Manakara to meet with our missionaries Billy and Jo Wilson and our Tanzanian missionary Paul Balela. God has been doing some great things in the region and our church planting school there is quite successful. I really needed to sit down with them and talk through some things and plan for the future.

I decided to travel 12 hours each way by bush taxi since it is the most common form of transportation in the country. I figured if the Malagasies could do it, so could I. I arrived at the bush taxi station two hours early so that I could find the right taxi going the right direction and get the front seat for my long legs. After being led to wait on the wrong bus for an hour and a half by the baggage porters, I finally got on a bush taxi heading the right direction, just a few hours later than I had planned.

Our bush taxi in the early morning light during one of numerous potty breaks on the side of the road.

Our bush taxi in the early morning light during one of numerous potty breaks on the side of the road.

It turns out that this taxi was overloaded and was 15 cms over height limit on the roof rack. This resulted in our taxi rocking back and forth more than normal around the corners and a small payoff to the police at each random traffic stop. It also poured rain for the first 8 hours of our trip through the night. The gasket in the passenger side door was pretty bad and soon my right arm and leg were quite wet.

A few kilometers of the long and winding road south through the rainforest as seen in Google Earth.

A few kilometers of the long and winding road south through the rainforest as seen in Google Earth.

We drove on through the night and sleep was evasive. This severely overloaded 15-passenger van, which serves as a bush taxi, was slower than most and completed the serpentine 1000 kilometer trip in just under 18 hours. Surprisingly, that included an hour stop to change out the front brake pads halfway down the steep escarpment. Needless to say, I was very happy to climb out of that van and hug my missionary colleagues once I arrived in Manakara.

Our driver installing new brake pads on the disc brakes in the middle of the road.

Our driver installing new brake pads on the disc brakes in the middle of the road.

After great meetings, good food, and catching up on each other’s lives and the ongoing work, I was obliged to head back to the taxi station just 24 hours after having arrived. This time I chose the faster taxi, a Mercedes Sprinter, for the leg home. While on the way down to Manakara the roof rack was loaded mostly with plastic buckets, cooking pots, and thousands of flip flops for sale on the coast, the roof rack on the way back up to the capital was loaded with pineapples, coconuts, honey, and more than 6 dozen chickens in large woven baskets.

True to their word, the way home was much faster in the Sprinter. Arriving back home at 5 AM after only a 12 ½ hour drive, I was very glad to finally be back home where I could stretch my legs and get some sleep.

My ride for the long road home, A Mercedes Sprinter, loaded with coconuts, chickens. and cases of honey.

My ride for the long road home, A Mercedes Sprinter, loaded with coconuts, chickens. and cases of honey.

While I have traveled by bush taxi numerous times before, this longer journey was truly an eye-opening trip for me. I gained a much greater appreciation for all my Malagasy pastor friends who crisscross this massive island doing seminars, training leaders, opening churches, and visiting isolated places. These pastors do not get paid extra money and get no accolades for their travels. They have a burning passion to train others, and to see the church advance. Many of them travel thousands of kilometers a year in just such a bush taxi. I hold these pastors and their work in high esteem and I realize just how blessed I am to be able to travel with a Speed The Light vehicle. Can’t wait to get mine out of the shop!

Mary B. & Me

One of the funny things that people say to us when we are home in the USA is, “Oh, you live in Madagascar? You must know my cousin, Bernie, who lives in Nigeria.” Maybe people just don’t realize how big Africa is! It’s huge!

Churches in Montana and in the Northwest connect Africa with Mary Ballenger. We do too! When I, Tammy, was a child, I would listen to Mary tell stories of her work in Senegal and I wanted to do what she did.

Mary Ballenger in our home in Madagascar!

Mary Ballenger in our home in Madagascar!

Finally, this year, we saw her in Africa! Mary came to Madagascar as one of the site inspectors for our Bible School as part of our endorsement process with the Association for Pentecostal Theological Education in Africa (APTEA).

Mary has been one of my life-long heroes; although I think I admire her humble spirit and quick intelligence more now then I did then. Africa has rubbed off on Mary, she understands Africa and Africans in a way that I can only hope to do one day. Don’t tell anyone, but she might be more African than American these days.

Many of you have had the privilege of having Mary share a meal or stay in your home while she has been on furlough. Now we have had that same privilege on this side of the world!

Dr. Marcel Bomboko from the DRC, Mary Ballenger, and Nate on the Bible School campus during our site inspection.

Dr. Marcel Bomboko from the DRC, Mary Ballenger, and Nate on the Bible School campus during our site inspection.

Although Mary serves as the director of the West Africa Advanced School of Theology (WAAST) in Lome, Togo, which is 3600 miles from Antananarivo, Madagascar (keep in mind that the distance between Seattle and New York City is 2,400 miles), across all those miles these two Montana girls finally met up in Africa!

Please continue to pray with us as we wrap up this endorsement process. We have come a long ways and have just a few more steps to go. We hope to receive endorsement in time for graduation in June!

One of the highlights of being a missionary is hosting teams from home. We host many teams each year. Each team has a specific purpose. Some come to build a church building, or to do a medical, evangelical or children’s outreach. Some come to do seminars, trainings or teaching. It is always most exciting for us to host a team that comes from one of our supporting churches. It is a way for us to connect our two worlds. It is wonderful to have friends, family and supporters who have been to Madagascar, who can better understand and relate to our stories.

The U of M Chi Alpha Team at a leadership retreat with some of YCA's university ministry leadership.

The U of M Chi Alpha Team at a leadership retreat with some of YCA’s university ministry leadership.

This last month we had the joy of hosting two teams of special people in our lives. The first team was lead by the Chi Alpha missionary to the University of Montana, Scott Barnett and our own son, Caleb! Caleb has grown and matured in Christian leadership through the ministry of Chi Alpha. Caleb and his team came to work with a group in Antananarivo called Young Christians in Action, a growing group of Christian university students here in Madagascar. Chi Alpha shared and practiced strategies in discipleship, including small groups and one-on-one accountability and Bible study.

Malagasy students and Americans visiting a huge lecture hall together at the University of Antananarivo.

Malagasy students and Americans visiting a huge lecture hall together at the University of Antananarivo.

It was thrilling for us to see Caleb building a bridge between his new life at the University and the life of his childhood in Madagascar. It was also awesome to see God work through the students, as well as expand their worldview and ministry experience. Here are a few thoughts in their own words…

“I never imagined that God would call me on a missions trip, let alone across the world when I prayed to God to take our relationship out of my comfort zone, I didn’t think he would put me in situations where I had to completely rely on Him.” McKennah Andrews

Lots of fun as the Americans taught the Malagasy students how to play flag football.

Lots of fun as the Americans taught the Malagasy students how to play flag football.

“This trip was definitely life altering and I mean that sincerely. I learned more about life, love and God in one week than I have in six months. I got to see God’s love in action via the YCA students as well as the various churches. I also got to see how much God’s hand is over Madagascar and I am so thankful for each missionary He sends here. I can’t wait to see how much more YCA builds God’s Kingdom as well as the things He is doing in the individual students.” Crystal Hargiss

“Through this trip God has given me a greater passion to reach students on my own campus. I grew stronger in faith, openness to the Holy Spirit and people. I have never had to rely on God like this before and I will truly miss it.” Anna Managhan

Members of the American Chi Alpha team participated in a debate type inter-cultural exchange at the university campus open to all students.

Members of the American Chi Alpha team participated in a debate type inter-cultural exchange at the university campus open to all students.

The second team that joined us was a dear couple in our lives. When we were newlyweds at our first church staff position in Seattle, Dr. John and Joann Coppes led a weekly Bible Study for young married couples. We grew in our understanding of both prayer and the Word of God. But most of all we watched John and Joann relate to each other, parent their teenage children, and serve the Lord together. They were great mentors to us as a young couple.

Dr. John and Joann Coppes were such a blessing in our home and with our Chi Alpha team.

Dr. John and Joann Coppes were such a blessing in our home and with our Chi Alpha team.

John is an OB/GYN, and has a great spirit of adventure and curiosity to learn new things. Outside of his medical practice, he ministers with the Christian Medical and Dental Association, visiting many countries around the world doing medical training. He spent one week teaching at the medical university in Antananarivo. Joann, with her positive attitude and prayerful spirit came along to help wherever needed. John and Joann joined the Chi Alpha team whenever they could, listening, encouraging and praying with the students.

The Montana Chi Alpha team had such a great impact among our Malagasy university students.

The Montana Chi Alpha team had such a great impact among our Malagasy university students.

Serving God is ever rewarding! Our lives constantly connect and reconnect with believers from around the globe. Visiting teams come from as far away as 10,000 miles at times to strengthen and to encourage the Malagasy church, but they always bless us as well.

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