Deep in the rainforests of Madagascar, a number of people groups go about their daily village life as craftsmen, farmers and hunters. Many of these villages do not appear on any maps and are only accessible by helicopter or long days of walking. There are no schools, hospitals, or other basic services and the majority of the people have never had the opportunity to hear the good news of the gospel.
A stone’s throw from Madagascar, Mauritius has a renowned reputation as a luxury holiday destination and a growing innovation hub for tech companies. Its parallel narrative, however, is quite the opposite. Mauritius is one of the African countries with the highest opioid abuse – primarily among young people. On top of this, there are still so many people who do not know Christ, which makes the need for sharing the gospel in this nation great.
These realities are not unique to Madagascar and Mauritius, but also evident in the surrounding smaller Indian Ocean Islands such as the Comoros, Reunion, Rodriguez and Seychelles. Of those who profess to be Christian, many often mix their faith with animistic beliefs and ancestral worship, whist true followers of Jesus are the minority and are, in some areas, persecuted or have very little religious freedom.
The Mergon Foundation’s sub-Saharan team has a vision to see a healthy and growing expression of the body of Christ that is both deep and wide. The Indian Ocean Islands form part of this vision. The Foundation currently partners with three indigenous organisations in Madagascar and is exploring a few other high-impact opportunities in the region.
Apart from sharing Jesus and initiating disciple making movements (DMM), many of the ministries are addressing real, everyday challenges that people in the Indian Ocean Islands face. This includes issues like basic sanitation, clean water supply, primary healthcare and education, among others. As Christ comes to bring the spiritual transformation and healing in people’s hearts, we have the opportunity to serve and make a physical difference in the everyday lives of people. We have the opportunity to bring a physical expression of His Kingdom to earth.
Feedback from the field: Madagascar & Mauritius
De Wet Spies, relationship manager for the Mergon Foundation’s sub-Saharan region, recently travelled to the Indian Oceans Islands to connect with ministry partners. Some of the stories from the region were deeply encouraging and it was once again a reminder of the bigger picture that the Foundation is a part of.
Poverty is rife in Madagascar and access to primary healthcare and nutrition is limited – especially in the rainforests. There is a big percentage of orphans and few of the children who enrolled in the first grade of primary school finished their primary education.
While Mercy Ministries mainly focusses on DMM and church planting training, their bush clinics, children and youth programmes, and agricultural projects address the need for primary healthcare, nutrition & food security and safe environments for children, among other things. They run an English and a soccer club as well as a children’s home and use their agricultural programme to teach young people gardening and farming skills, whilst training them to plant churches.
Both Islands Mission and Jesus Family Kingdom Mission have a passion to reach the unreached in the rainforests of Madagascar with the hope of the gospel. Over 15,000 villages are hidden in dense rainforests, crisscrossed with rivers and have never been added to any maps. Islands Mission, focussed on creating DMMs amongst these invisible people groups, have reached an estimated 12,000 people with the gospel since 2008 and have multiplied up to 12 generations of churches! In addition, they are passionate about translating the Bible into all eighteen languages that are spoken in Madagascar.
Sedera’s story from Jesus Family Kingdom Mission is a reminder of the transformational ripple effect that one person can have. When he was nine, Sedera visited the rainforest for the first time with his grandfather on a missions trip and was moved by the overwhelming need. As he got older, the Lord reminded him of the calling to the rainforest he had felt as a young man. Since starting the ministry, they have planted 350+ churches amongst unreached villages in Madagascar and opened a school to educate the youth and simultaneously train them as next generation church planters. They are also in the process of completing the construction of a hospital to provide better medical care to the surrounding communities.
In Mauritius, De Wet had the opportunity to join a large group of pastors and leaders who were being trained as part of Campus Crusade’s Global Church Movement strategy to help grow and develop churches and faith communities.
Mauritius aims to be a hub from which to reach the surrounding Indian Ocean Islands and is taking the lead to form a coalition of missional-minded churches. This gathering was the second training session, and it was inspiring to see the alignment, collaboration and momentum that is starting to happen.
‘It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the tremendous needs in the Indian Ocean Islands, yet we have an Everlasting Hope. Even amidst the many challenges, we are seeing a growing desire for the gospel in these nations, a collective effort by churches and missions organisations to see the great commission fulfilled and, as a result, lives and communities being transformed,’ says De Wet.