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Last year, when we were home in the U.S. sharing in churches, you may recall that we often shared from Proverbs 16:9, which says, “in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” It was true then and is true now, as the Lord is once again directing our steps in a way that we did not plan, but that He knew about all along.

Sharing the gospel in a remote Malagasy village recently.

Sharing the gospel in a remote Malagasy village recently.

Recently there has been some restructuring in the AGWM leadership team in East Africa, and with that, we have been asked to provide oversight of the newly created Swahili Zone (Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). We have been asked to work with the various missionary teams focusing on pastoral care, leadership development, team life, the implementation of strategic plans, administration and staying in communication with the National Church leadership of each country.

Our family upon arriving in Madagascar back in 2004.

Our family upon arriving in Madagascar in 2004.

Accepting this new position means that we will be leaving Madagascar, where we have served for 12 years and relocating to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in April. We will spend the first three months in language school learning yet another language, Swahili (eek!).

The Swahili language is spoken throughout this region.

The Swahili language is spoken throughout this region of East Africa.

We covet your prayers during this transition. It has been a very difficult process to leave Madagascar, saying good-bye not only to the Malagasy people whom we love but also a great mission team and wider mission community. During this process, we have faced the reality that we love and serve Christ first and want to continue to walk in obedience to Him, regardless of the cost. Once again, we find ourselves letting go of the familiar and known for the unfamiliar and unknown.

Saying goodbyes to longtime Malagasy friends is hard.

Saying goodbyes to longtime Malagasy friends is hard.

We remember the difficulty in sharing with close friends and family that we were leaving the USA to go to Madagascar, knowing that they too were paying the price of our obedience. Now we see the same pain reflected in the faces of our Malagasy friends, as they too are paying part of the price for our obedience. It isn’t because we are so wonderful, but that the relationship we have shared with them has been very special and it hurts everyone when it is torn apart by miles.

But in the face of difficult goodbyes, we are excited to be partnering with some great missionaries and African churches. Some of the countries in the Swahili Zone have strong national churches while others have no missionaries at all and have huge needs. We look forward to sharing with you more in future communications.

Team Rwanda during a recent visit to Kigali.

Team Rwanda during a recent visit to Kigali.

An international move is always stressful! Here are some areas that you can pray for us:

-Saying good-byes well and showing honor to those who have so greatly impacted our lives
-Wrapping up all the loose ends, closing bank accounts, phone contracts, house issues, etc.
-Shipping our household goods to Dar es Salaam
-Selling our old STL vehicle and buying a new one in Tanzania
-Wisdom and favor for our great missionary team in Madagascar
-An increase our ability and capacity to learn yet another language and culture
-Favor with the missionaries and National Church leadership across the Swahili Zone

Leaving Madagascar means saying goodbye to our great team here. Several mission families are in the USA right now , so we must say goodbye from afar.

Leaving Madagascar means saying goodbye to our great team here. Several mission families are in the USA right now, so we must say goodbye from afar.

Thank you for your partnership, we appreciate each one of you greatly. We are excited about the next adventure that God has for us!

This is our last post on http://www.madmissionaries.wordpress.com please feel free to follow our future work in missions on our new blog http://www.TheSwahiliZone.wordpress.com

God Showed Up!

A road trip to the southwest town of Tulear is an 18+ hour ordeal along some very desolate stretches of road.

A road trip to the southwest town of Tulear is an 18+ hour ordeal along some very long stretches of road.

Over the past few weeks we have taken several trips to various parts of the island to visit and encourage pastors. As this year draws to a close, we would like to share with you one story from these recent journeys that illustrate God’s provision for his people in difficult places.

During a recent road trip with several church leaders, to the southwest coast, we stopped in the small town of Ilakaka (Ee lack a ka) to hear from our pastor there. Ilakaka is the center of the sapphire mining industry in Madagascar. It is as close to a wild-west gold mining town as you can get here. Everywhere around the town are holes and pits from some eager miner who was hoping to find that big stone. In fact the ground around the town is like Swiss cheese with interconnecting holes every few feet, going down for hundreds of feet at times.

Thousands of very deep holes like this are scattered all around the town of Ilakaka.

Thousands of incredibly deep holes like this are scattered all around the town of Ilakaka.

In this very difficult and transient society, Pastor Noeline has worked for more than 7 years. In fact, she is the only pastor who has ever been able to persevere more than 2 years in this place. During our visit, I noticed her beautiful new church building, and had to ask her about the story behind it.

The newly constructed church building in Ilakaka.

The newly constructed church building in Ilakaka.

She explained that she has worked in Ilakaka for more than 7 years and baptized more than 300 people in the church, but the transient nature of the miner’s life is very disheartening. People come and give their heart to the Lord, then find a few stones, make a little money, and then leave the shanty town life to return to their home villages to share their small wages with their extended families. No one seems to stay very long in a place like this.

Thousands of sapphire miner's and their families live in a shacks like this one.

Thousands of sapphire miners and their families live in small shacks like this one.

Last year, very discouraged, she told the Lord she couldn’t take it any longer and needed a sign to know that she was supposed to stay there and keep up the work. She asked the Lord to show up in a mighty way. A short time later, God showed up powerfully. An anonymous donor from outside Madagascar, gave money through a third party for her to build a respectable building, replacing the old wooden structure that had been there for so many years.

A very happy pastor Noeline shares with us her vision for the future. God is good!

A very happy Pastor Noeline shares with us her vision for the future. God is good!

Pastor Noeline explained that she was so overjoyed to see this miracle take place. She proudly showed us around the building with a smile on her face. Her spirit is truly revitalized and the church has a new respect in town. As we talked to Noeline, we could see a twinkle in her eye and hear a new determination in her voice, “I know the Lord is with me and together we can do more for the kingdom! Thanks for coming by to pray for me out here.”

Pastor Noeline knows that God has a plan for the people of Ilakaka.

Pastor Noeline knows that God has a plan for the people of Ilakaka.

Tammy and I count it a privilege to work with and encourage pastors like Noeline and many others like her. Thank you for your constant and faithful prayers and support of our work in Madagascar. We wish you and yours a wonderful and blessed 2016!

Happy New Year!

Getting moved back into our home in late August.

Getting moved back into our home in late August.

Tammy and I are so glad to be back in Madagascar and are getting settled. Thanks for all your prayers during this transition back to the island. These past few weeks, the Bible School has been hosting one of our visiting professors from West Africa as they teach another three-week session for our BA level education program in conjunction with the West Africa Advanced School of Theology in Lome, Togo.

The current WAAST extension school class in Madagascar with professor Gnanchou.

The current WAAST extension school class in Madagascar with professor Gnanchou.

One evening, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Désiré Gnanchou of Ivory Coast for dinner in our home. During our meal, I asked him how he became a Christian and he told me this fascinating story.

When Désiré was a school boy, he was handed a simple Billy Graham tract as he walked down the street. The young Désiré was a voracious reader and he devoured the free tract, and was struck by what it said. Having grown up in a strong Catholic family, he was familiar with church, but had no idea what the Bible actually said.

Finding a place to read the tract alone, he immediately came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and prayed to accept Jesus into his life, experiencing a radical change in his heart. He went home and recounted to his family what had happened and he was immediately thrown out of his home for abandoning the Catholic Church. Even with such dire consequences, his desire to read could not be quenched and he set about to find a Bible.

There is power in the Word of God!

There is power in the Word of God!

Since he could not go home, he stayed with an uncle in Abadjan, the capital city. His uncle had a huge Bible in the middle of the table as a decoration. Once when his uncle left the house the young Désiré snuck over and opened the massive Bible and began to read some of the stories it contained. As he read, his uncle came home, unannounced, and took the Bible away from him and told him he must never touch his Bible again.

Desiring to have a Bible of his own, he began saving every small coin he could until he had enough to go into the local Bible bookstore and buy a Bible for himself. While in the bookstore, he saw a sign outside that said, “Read the Bible”, he asked the person behind the counter if there was a place nearby where he could read his Bible and have someone help him understand what he read. The bookstore clerk told him to wait until he closed the store.

So blessed to have Dr. Bêchié Gnanchou here in Madagascar with us!

So blessed to have Dr. Gnanchou here in Madagascar with us!

Désiré hung around the store paging through his Bible until the clerk locked the store and then took him down the street where they entered an Assembly of God church. Désiré did not realize they were going to a church, but thought they were going to a reading room. That evening there were only a few people praying in the building but the pastor kindly help Désiré read and understand what he read.

Over the years Désiré grew in his faith and eventually became an Assemblies of God pastor, during that time he continued to witness to his family who, one by one, came to a saving faith in Christ. Because of his love for reading and learning, Désiré attended Bible School and eventually earned both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Theology.

For more than 20 years, he has served as the Director of one of the main Bible Schools for the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast. In addition to his work in Bible training, He was elected at the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast in 2004 and served in that post for 10 years.

Dr. Bêchié Désiré Gnanchou the General Superintendent the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast 2004-2014.

Dr. Désiré Gnanchou the General Superintendent the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast 2004-2014.

From a simple printed tract, this young teenager has developed into one of the most influential leaders and educators in the Assemblies of God of West Africa. As you give to programs in the U.S. like Light for the Lost (LFTL) and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC), never under estimate the power of the printed Word. A simple tract in the hands of a young school boy has had a profound influence across West Africa. There truly is power in the printed Word!

We shared in our last missions service this past Sunday in Plains, MT!

We shared in our last missions service this past Sunday in Plains, MT!

This past Sunday we preached our last missions service, thus completing a crazy, hectic furlough. God has been so faithful. We were just recounting today that in all our travels and speaking, we maintained our health throughout the entire year. God is so awesome! Here are some numbers: 103 services, 91 lunches and coffees with pastors and supporters, logged over 30,000 miles while driving through 28 states (not counting flights), slept in 177 different beds, collected more than 50 little bottles of shampoo, and an amazing assortment of hotel room key cards, celebrated our 25th Anniversary on June 30th while driving 500 miles from Rapid City to Helena, and most importantly, we still like each other at the end.

We have accumulated an amazing assortment of hotel room key cards!

We have accumulated an amazing assortment of hotel room key cards!

This coming weekend we will have a special family weekend with Becca, Caleb, and our new daughter-in-law Alyssa. This will be one last time to all be together to hike, play games, talk, and share quality time as a family before we leave for Africa. During the last few days of July Tammy and I will return to Deer Lodge and begin our final packing and spend some time with Tammy’s parents.

Our family as of July 2015! We can't wait to get them together this weekend!

Our family as of July 2015! We can’t wait to get them together this weekend!

In early August we will travel to Orlando, Florida for the Assemblies of God General Council where we will be involved in several meetings and gatherings before taking a few extra days of family time to see Nate’s parents where they are retired in nearby Venice, Florida.

Following our return to Montana, we will do a little last minute packing and then send Becca off to college on August 16th. Then the following day, after giving one last hug to Caleb and Alyssa, we will head out of Missoula, MT, bound for our home in Madagascar!

We have hiked and soaked up as much of Montana as we can before we head back to Madagascar.

We have hiked and soaked up as much of Montana as we can before we head back to Madagascar.

It was so great to have this year to see all our family members scattered across the country, and reconnect with so many of our friends. Thanks to all of you who have sacrificed so much on our behalf through your financial partnership, spending time with us in our travels, and praying for us. God has been faithful this past year and we look forward to what God will do during this coming term.

Becca’s Summer

Greetings from the road with my parents!

Having just completed my first year at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, my summer plans are shaping up to be anything but ordinary. After moving out of the dorms, I joined my parents in Billings, Montana to spend three weeks with them on itineration. We traveled back and forth between Montana and North Dakota for nearly two weeks. We stayed in Montana just long enough for me to finally acquire an official Montana driver’s license! Since I was in Madagascar during the past seven years, there was no way for me to get a permit or license until now. I am so happy that I finally have it! Though we have spent several weeks together traveling, my time with my parents has come to an end. On May 31st I will return to Springfield, Missouri to begin part two of my summer life at Missionary Training and Renewal.

So glad to have my Montana driver's license!

So glad to have my Montana driver’s license!

Back in 2002, my family went through missionary training in preparation for the mission field. Essentially my brother and I went to “camp” while my parents sat through training seminars. It is at this “camp” that I will be spending the month of June as a chief. Missionary Kids are split into different groups based on age, and I will be working with the older kids as they go through “boot camp.”

My original MK group from 2002!

My original MK group from 2002!

Boot camp is an intensive MK immersion experience. Over the next few weeks, our goal is to mentally and spiritually prepare kids from 4th -12th grade for whatever the mission field might entail. We do this by breaking up in groups and sharing with them our personal experiences as MKs on the field, but also by praying over them and speaking into their lives. As far as the mental preparations go, there are a few traditions including: Eating Ministry, simulated Security/Border control checks, and MuKappa (camp)… Each of these activities is planned to prepare MKs for whatever may come their way while maintaining an element of fun. In eating ministry the kids must live by the motto, eat whatever is served with a smile on your face so as to not offend. We as MKs live by it, eating every strange food served. In the security checks, they are taught both patience and that life is not fair as we may confiscate their “contraband” or send them to the back of the line for some unknown reason. During the MuKappa phase, we go camping for a few days, living the bush life. Basically, because I, and fellow college-age MKs, suffered through it when we were kids, we are excited to put others through it as well.

Caleb and me at MuKappa camp back in the day!

Caleb and me at MuKappa camp!

I am so excited to pour my experience and love as an MK into the kids that we will be sending out this year. I remember how much I cherished my missionary training memories and I am still friends with most of the MKs I met during those weeks. I gained so much from my experience 13 years ago, and I can’t wait to give back this year!

I am still friends with the MK girls after all these years!

I am still friends with the MK girls after all these years!

After I finish MK training in Springfield, I will be returning to Montana where I will be an intern at Glacier Bible Camp helping with Family Camp, Teen Camp, Jr. High Camp, and Kid’s Camp. Then in August, once camps have ended, I will be saying goodbye to my parents as they head back to Madagascar for their next term and I head back to Springfield to be a launch leader for the new incoming freshmen at Evangel University this fall. Having my parents back in Madagascar without me will be a bit weird, but it will be exciting to see what God will do in my life here in America. I am used to being away from my parents but having them 10 time zones away will take some getting used to.

Me and my gal on the road again!

Me and my gal on the road again!

April is flying by, Tammy and I continue our travels. We have had numerous services, coffees, and lunches with friends and supporters here in our home District of Montana. It has been so great to see old friends and faces again. This past week we celebrated our annual Network Council by re-electing our superintendent Alan Warneke. During the council, I was asked to speak at the missions banquet on the value of Light for the Lost from the perspective of a missionary. It was a wonderful banquet and such an honor to share story after story of the value of Light for the Lost’s impact on our work in Madagascar. LFTL is the men’s ministries arm of missions and provides funds for Bibles and other evangelistic materials to spread the gospel. If your church does not already give to LFTL, let me encourage you to get involved.

What a privilege to speak at the Montana Ministry Network missions banquet!

What a privilege to speak at the Montana Ministry Network missions banquet!

Being asked to speak for this banquet got me thinking about the value of all the various missions programs that we have in the Assemblies of God. Not only is Light for the Lost a great support for missionaries like me, but so is Speed the Light and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge.

Speed the Light is the youth ministries arm of A/G missions and it helps us greatly by providing essential transportation and communication to be as effective as possible on our field of service. Getting us where we need to go and equipping us to share once we do get there with PA systems, video projectors, and so much more! There is not a week that goes by that I do not thank God for the youth of America and STL as I crank up my Land Cruiser.

So blessed to have this great STL vehicle!

So blessed to have this great STL vehicle!

Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade (BGMC) is also a huge blessing. The BGMC program provides money to missions projects which are funded by the children of America’s A/G churches. We have had thousands of dollars given to Madagascar for various projects from translation and printing of Bible School curriculum to portable sound systems for the bush, and much more.

BGMC helps boys and girls learn about and give to missions.

BGMC helps boys and girls learn about and give to missions.

Recently BGMC made a promotional video based on one of our stories from Madagascar. It is entitled the End of the Road and it encourages children to be more Spirit led in their daily lives. You can download the story at this link THE END OF THE ROAD.

Tammy and I just cannot express our gratitude enough for the support that we receive as missionaries, not only in the great monthly giving that we receive from our partnering churches, but from the other great programs like Light for the Lost, Speed the Light and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge. Together we are making a difference in the Kingdom! It’s a team effort!

Our partnering churches are so vital to our work!

Our partnering churches are so vital to our work!

Continue to pray for us, as we are just a few hundred dollars short of our goal for monthly support.

Our Upcoming Schedule
Sun. May 10 AM- Sidney Assembly of God, Montana
Wed. May 13 PM- Watford City A/G, North Dakota
Thus. May 14 PM- Scobey A/G, Montana
Sun. May 17 AM- Glendive A/G, Montana
Sun. May 17 PM- Faith A/G Circle, Montana
Wed. May 20 PM- First A/G Minot, North Dakota
Sun. May 24 AM- Freedom Church, Grand Forks, ND
Sun. May 31 AM- Christian Life Church Plymouth, WI

March Madness

DSC_0269

As many of you across America prepare to watch the college basketball playoffs known as March Madness, we are in the middle of a little craziness of our own this month.

Sharing about Madagascar at a recent missions banquet.

Sharing about Madagascar at a recent missions banquet.

March began with us speaking at Christian Life Center in Missoula for their missions convention. Being back in Missoula was special because we were able to spend a little more time with Caleb, our son, and our new daughter-in-law Alyssa before we hit the road again for good. The following morning, we left Missoula headed for Washington State, leaving behind the great little house we had called home since November. From here on out we will be living on the road as we journey across the northern United States, from March through June, making our way slowly east from Washington towards Wisconsin.

This house in Missoula has been such a blessing this winter.

This house in Missoula has been such a blessing this winter.

Our own personal March Madness finds us criss-crossing the state of Washington visiting friends, meeting with supporters, speaking in churches, and zigzagging our way back and forth across the Cascade Mountains from western Washington to eastern Washington and back again, even making a foray into Oregon to speak at People’s Church in Salem one Sunday evening. At last count, we have over 26 services or individual meetings on the schedule for this month.

Becca flew to Seattle during her Spring Break to spend some time with us.

Becca flew to Seattle during her Spring Break to spend some time with us.

Please keep us in your prayers for our constant travels. Our desire is to reconnect with as many of our individual supporters and partnering churches as possible, while praying to find favor with new churches and individuals who may feel led to invest in us through monthly support or prayer. Continue to pray for Becca, Caleb and our daughter-in-law, Alyssa. They are all doing well, but could use your prayers as they continue their college studies. Tammy also could use your prayers as she continues to work toward her Master’s degree online in various hotel rooms and houses along the route. Please pray for Madagascar which has been hit by severe rains and flooding this past month which has caused terrible damage to many homes and villages. We are so grateful for our mission team members back in Madagascar who carry on the work.

So fun to be able to visit one of Tammy's former college roommates during our travels.

So fun to be able to visit one of Tammy’s former college roommates during our travels.

It is a pretty crazy month, but it has been very rewarding to connect with many old friends and visit many faithful supporting churches. God is so good!