30 July 2015 // Articles & Stories Films

Into the royal ancestral cave

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Adam & Lora Willard are leading a Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) team on the small island of Nosy Mitsio, Madagascar amongst the Antakarana people. This is the first gospel witness that the island has ever received. The Antakarana people are one of the least-reached people groups of Madagascar and have historically been resistant to outside influence. The team’s goal is to learn from them and to work alongside them with sustainable small-scale community development, sharing Jesus’s love with them when they’re ready to receive it. Then, once received, we want to see the Antakarana people take ownership of the work of Christ among themselves and we want to be catalysts to a self-sustaining movement that will continue to multiply throughout Nosy Mitsio and northern Madagascar.

Into the royal ancestral cave


In the early 19th century, during the Madagascar wars of the conquering Merina tribe, the Antakarana people hid in caves near the ‘harana’ rock formations. They still return to these caves to sacrifice animals and hold ceremonies. This path into the royal ancestral cave is about a mile long. All the men enter first, with the women behind.

In the mouth of the cave

“…Pray for open ears and receptive hearts to the gospel.”


At the mouth of the cave, the Antakarana re-enact their ancient tribal war through dance and play. The money in the mouths of the dancers is their reward from the audience for performing well.

Into the darkness


Palm leaves are used for lighting as the Antakarana ancestors apparently wouldn’t approve of modern lighting. Everyone needs to get through quickly before all the torches burn up. People have been know to wander into side passages without a light, never to be found again.

Still Living in darkness


When the Antakarana were hiding in caves, they prayed that if they survived, they would embrace Islam. They later found refuge on the island of Nosy Mitsio and converted to Islam in the 1840s. They now believe a mix of folk Islam and animistic beliefs where deities and elements of nature play a significant role.