Love of Christ spoken through Madagascar Teen

I went to Madagascar this summer with the anticipation to give. Yet I returned from Madagascar having received. What I received was the love of God, and it was given to me by the people we ministered to.

Let me illustrate this by sharing with you two experiences that capture and embody our ministry this summer with Youth In Mission:

First, I would like to introduce you to my dear friend Patrick. Patrick is 17 years old and has a joy that is genuinely contagious. The first time I met him he shared with me the words that led him to salvation, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Patrick lives these words out with an unwavering faith that is deeply rooted in a passionate love for his Savior. His entire family is Muslim and very poor, however, Patrick is entirely committed to Christ’s church and the furthering of his kingdom.

One Sunday afternoon Patrick graciously invited our team to come to his home. We accepted the offer and took the long hike through the village. After entering a small wooden shanty, probably no larger than my dorm room, we slipped off our dusty sandals and stepped into a tiny room. There was a table with seven chairs carefully spaced around it and barely enough room for all of us.

The air in the room was warm as the branches on the shack soaked the hot African sun. Yet none of that seemed to matter. With a radiant smile of delight Patrick said to us, “Welcome to my home.”

He was unassumingly honored in the midst of his joy, for our presence with him was an invaluable gift. He then brought out a tray with a bottle of soda and a small bag of crackers, a snack that probably cost him a great deal. I sat silently as he served each one of us, trying mostly to suppress the tears that flooded my eyes.

Patrick was quiet that day we went to his house, but his joy in serving us spoke louder than a thousand words. All Patrick had to give to us was a small glass of soda and a few crackers. He gave me so much more than that. He gave me the privilege of entering into solidarity with him.

Our ministry to Patrick that day was not us giving to him; it was us receiving from him. Our ministry was us entering into his life for a brief moment. In that treasured moment, the love of Christ was demonstrated to me in a wonderful way.

I wish that I could be more like Patrick. I wish that I could give as he gives and serve as he serves. Christ’s love was given to me by his beloved child Patrick, and I will cherish his true friendship forever.

The second experience that I would like to share with you is one that I hold dear to my heart. Our last days in Madagascar were spent in the capital city, Antananarivo (Tana).

While in the city we visited a street kid’s center, a Nazarene Compassionate ministry to orphaned children in Tana. The ministry provides meals, education, and health care for around 200 street orphans. Their weary faces and spirits were beautiful and upon gazing at them the words of Christ resounded in my heart: “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

During our time at the center, I had the opportunity to eat a meal with 30 Malagasy children. They earnestly clustered around wooden tables as the cooks brought in a heaping plate of rice and a sloshing bucket of potato soup. I took some plates and began to evenly distribute the rice and soup to the children.

They were kindly grateful of my service and time with them. When I finished serving the children, I noticed two young boys who had taken the rice and soup and piled it high on another plate. They smiled at me and motioned for me to sit and eat, implying that the plate was for me.

I returned a smile and motioned in a way that they understood that I wanted them to eat all of the food. It was most likely the only meal they would have that day.

About that time the director of the center walked by and one boy said something to him. The director translated what the boy said: “We would be very sad if you served us and did not eat with us.”

In that moment, God showed his great love to me. The children wanted me to eat with them. I sat at the table and began to eat the rice and soup as tears began to unavoidably form in my eyes. The following is an exert from my journal about the experience:

I realized in that precious moment that serving those children was not about me giving them rice and soup; serving them was eating with them. I realized what it might mean to serve the poor, what it might mean to enter into solidarity with the poor. To give myself to these kids was to enter into their life for a brief moment; to eat with them, to smile with them, to be human with them. It was then that I realized what Christ did for us.

God reveals his love through his creation. This summer he revealed his love to me through Patrick. He revealed his love to me through orphaned children. He revealed his love to me through the poor. I went to Madagascar to give the love of God. Yet my life is forever changed because of the love I received.