Hervé is Malagasy and lived in Madagascar until he was 24, when he joined Nathalia, who is Swiss, in Geneva. They got married and have three children, Rija (11), Andry (9) and Mialy (5). They are just starting ministry in Nosy Be, an island off Madagascar. We asked them how God led them to the mission field.
How did you become Christians?
Nathalia: My father pastored a Protestant church. I grew up in a Christian environment and I followed my parents to church all my childhood. I gave my heart to Christ during a camp when I was nine. I then confirmed this choice at 18, being baptised. I’ve always been involved in church, serving with Sunday school or music.
Hervé: I grew up in Madagascar and I went to a Catholic school, but I attended a reformed church. Later on, I also discovered a Scripture Union youth group that helped me to get to know the Bible and then to follow Jesus. I’ve always been worried by the situation in my country and I have dreamt about finding a way to help.
What made you decide that the way to help was through mission?
When I (Nathalia) was a child, I was affected by missionaries sharing their stories at summer camps. Then, after I graduated from high school, I served for a year in Burkina Faso with Wycliffe. That year had a really powerful effect on me. After that, I met Hervé in Madagascar during a three week trip with the youth group from my church.
When we started our relationship we thought about mission, but first we wanted to gain professional experience. God’s plans for us in mission remained hidden for a long while.
Then, in April 2018, after hearing three sermons in a row which made us think about going out of our comfort zone and making disciples from all nations, we considered again whether God was calling us to mission. We talked to Gilles and Myriam Bonvallat (AIM France) and asked close friends to pray for us. Slowly, the thought of mission grew stronger. We clearly felt God calling us to share our lives and serve him overseas, to share what we have received from him. He was calling us to come out of our comfort zone, to look to him and think again about the ideas he had given Hervé about returning to Madagascar to help his people.
Where will you be serving?
Together with AIM we discussed where it would be best for us to get involved. After looking at a few options and praying through God’s plan for us, we chose a project in the north of Madagascar. We are now serving among the Sakalava and Antakarana peoples. With the AIM team, we decided to come and live in Ambatozavavy, a small village on the east coast of Nosy Be (a tourist island near the main island). Another American family from AIM and the Unit Leader of AIM Madagascar also live there. They have started a church and a music group who compose songs in Sakalava for the church. They are also working with local women, sewing and making products to sell, so they can earn money. At the moment we’re not sure which element of ministry we’ll be involved in. First of all, we have to learn the language and culture, and get used to life in the village. Then, we’ll see if we stay in Ambatozavavy or if we move to Ambilobe (in the Antakarana area). We are wondering whether to offer a children’s ministry, but we are open to see what God’s plans are for us.
Has Covid-19 affected your plans?
Throughout this process we have really felt God’s hand on us, guiding and helping us. Covid-19 meant that there was a lot of uncertainty around whether we could take our planned flights at the end of August 2020. We decided to keep pressing ahead, and finished our jobs even though we didn’t know when Madagascar’s border would open. At the end of August we had to leave our apartment in Geneva without any definite plans. We moved to France for a while, staying in a chalet that someone lent us. During this time, we had to start home schooling our children and Hervé tried to get a repatriation flight (the only way to enter Madagascar at this time). The Malagasy embassy firstly said no, then yes but only for Hervé. But, against all hope, they finally called us to say we could have the next flight for the whole family. We just had a few days to sort all the administration and pack again. On September 19th, we were able to take the repatriation flight to the capital of Madagascar. We stayed there for a month, with Hervé’s family. It was great to be with them! We also managed to complete the necessary paperwork and received our visas.
On October 21st, we took a bush-taxi which we rented to ourselves, so we could take all our luggage and items that we’d bought in the capital to Nosy Be. The ride was long, 26 hours on a not very smooth road, but we arrived without a problem, thanks be to God.
Since we’ve been in the village we have had a homestay for one week with a Sakalavan family. Now we are in our little house, getting settled and used to the heat, the insects, the people, and the language.
In all this process, we were amazed to see how this word from Josuha 1:9, which has followed us through all our preparation, has been true: ‘Strengthen yourself and take courage. Do not be afraid or frightened, for the LORD your God is with you in all that you do.’ We have really felt that God is in control. There were so many uncertainties, but God always led us in the way that he had chosen, and even now, we can rely on these experiences to keep faith that he will guide us in our choices and life here.