What’s to fear in paradise?

Barbara Skerry and her daughter, Pippa, have recently come back from a short term trip to Madagascar, where they joined the Antakarana Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) team on the island of Nosy Mitsio.

I had been looking for a mission trip for me and my daughter. I wanted her to understand that there are still places where people are hearing the gospel for the first time. After exploring options, I came across AIM and the team living in Madagascar, among the Antakarana people. They agreed to us going out to spend our short term mission trip with them.

What you want to hear

The Antakarana are a very proud people group and reserved in their ways. Rather than disagreeing, disappointing you, or saying “No”, they will tell you what they think you want to hear. This made life very complicated for the team, leaving them with the daily guesswork of trying to understand where they really stood with their progress in explaining the gospel. The team was made up of three missionary families and a single lady, living in four different villages, which spread their work over a large area of the island. Once a week they would all gather for a morning of worship and fellowship, which was desperately needed as the locations can be quite isolated. The families had to walk for hours over the island to reach each other.

Fear and paradise

On first sight, Nosy Mitsio looks like a paradise. It’s beautiful and the people seem very friendly, content in their simple lifestyle and animistic and folk Islamic beliefs. But the Antakarana’s fear of their ancestors’ wrath dictates their lives. They mark themselves with mud for protection against evil spirits and have numerous taboos, including food they can’t eat and things they can’t do because it would cause them to be possessed by evil spirits.

It was inspiring to witness the team’s persistence in praying for a breakthrough of the gospel among the Antakarana. We were able to share their hopes and disappointments on a daily basis, and we are very thankful to have had that opportunity to be so involved and close to where Jesus is at work!

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