Tuesday, August 23, 2011

3rd entry for OM

Me Giggin' em in Tana!
Here is my 3rd post for the OM news website, where I'm writing a series of posts. Life is crazy here in Madagascar! One of our outreach teams returned yesterday from a city in the south called Bekily where they did a short outreach. The Lord really moved in that place and they have some great stories, hopefully I'll be able to write a few. Just one interesting tidbit on life here in Madagascar...if you think the bus is full, they'll probably cram 50 more people in there, and not only tie their luggage to the top of the bus, but also their goats and sheep :] not something you see everyday in the U.S....
My fearless tour guides/new friends
that's one way to transport a bathtub...

I've also been listening to this song every single day.

Thanks for all your prayers, I really feel God giving me peace and strength because of them. Much love, Caitlin


When I was a little girl, I learned a song - in fact it's the first song I remember learning. Most likely, you've also sung it, it's called "Jesus Loves Me". The words go like this: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong...followed by a plethora of "Yes Jesus loves me!"s. Now as many times as I've heard this simple song, I've never realized the profundity of the phrase "they are weak but He is strong". There's nothing like experiencing a new culture to make you realize how weak humankind is. We're all vulnerable, broken and completely dependent on the grace of God. Some countries in our world are more developed; they're cleaner, maybe even safer - yet the people in our world are all the same - weak. This probably sounds like a very negative and pessimistic thing for a missionary to say. I should maybe be saying "all God's children are special!" or "there's only one you, so be the best YOU, you can be!". But the reality is this - none of us have anything valuable to offer this broken world apart from the strength of Jesus. His strength is what runs in our veins, fills our lungs, and gives us the ability to live and love effectively. 
I have been in Antananarivo (Madagascar) for only one week, and several times already I've been approached by fellow believers telling me that my presence here has encouraged them. Encouragement is a word often thrown around in Christian circles, but sometimes I find that the true depth of the word has been lost. One dictionary defines "encourage" as: to give active help or to raise confidence to the point where one dares to do what is difficult. One new friend here in Madagascar told me, "Just your being here gives me strength to carry on in ministry, because I know that someone across the world cares." I'm humbled that in the same way Jesus encouraged me to come to Madagascar and "do what is difficult", my presence here has also encouraged some to do what is difficult - carry the name of Jesus to the unreached. 
All this to say, I am no one extraordinary. I don't have superior intellect, an uncanny sense of humor or even a vast amount of wealth. I don't have it "all together", I'm sure I'm not as compassionate or gentle as some, and I'm as selfish as the next person.   I am weak. But He is strong. We often pray for God to rise up workers to go into the mission field; I would urge you today, be willing to be the answer to that prayer. God is ready to use weak vessels, with lots of cracks and holes, so that His strength will shine through to the nations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You prayed me here!

Well, you prayed me here -- all the way to Madagascar! And here I am, alive and well. I prayed that I would have internet access (yes...that might be very materialistic of me...) and (despite my materialistic American mindset) the Lord provided it (most of the time)! Miracle #1. 

Today is a good day! Woke up, had some time in the Word, then had breakfast with Yant and her niece, whose name I cannot remember/pronounce properly. We talked all about Madagascar and it's different regions. She told me that in the south it's a big cattle economy, but they don't drink milk -- it's a source of shame to drink milk. Yet they're starving and experiencing a famine, and they have all this milk that they don't drink. But the pastor there is trying to teach people how to make cheese from the milk so that they can use it in some respect, very creative. Makes me think about my own life, what are things that the Lord has provided that I refuse to acknowledge, that I think are beneath me? Also, she said the hierarchy is: men, cows, women. They even have a market for women, where they're just sold like any other item. Men can come and barter over women, and when they're done with them just sell them back. Also it's a polygamous society. They need Jesus so desperately. Please be in prayer for this area of the world, especially for the women to find freedom from their oppression. 

Also, next door to the house where I'm staying, there is a church/center where they meet 3 times a day to cast out demons. It's unbelievably loud. The people are so involved in witchcraft and ancestor worship, I don't doubt that they have lots of demons to cast out. Also Yant said sometimes they're demon possessed because of unforgiveness they have in their families. When a family came and they all forgave each other the demon left. So there's definitely a lot of spiritual darkness here, but Jesus is also present. I hear them all yelling and screaming and casting out demons right now, it's probably one of the strangest experiences I've had. Just two minutes ago they were all singing in worship, what a contrast to the yelling and shouting I hear now. Meanwhile the song "God of this City" is playing on my itunes. You're the God of this city, You're the King of these people, You're the Lord of this nation - has a whole new meaning to me. 

One lessons I've been learning lately is about trust. So easy to talk about and SO difficult to practice in my life. I've been thinking about when Peter stepped out of the boat and started to walk on the water, the moment he looked down he started to drown. In my life it's no different, when I trust in the Lord, it's like I'm walking on the water - but the moment I start thinking about the future, and all the days to come I start to drown. All the doubts seep in and I wonder "What if there's no water for me to drink? What if I'm unbearably lonely? What if I get really sick?" But Jesus is saying to me "don't look down at the water" or "don't look to the future and worry about tomorrow. I'm here now, I'm carrying you right now." 

Love from Madagascar, Caitlin

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mambo Sawa Sawa!

Hello y'all :] (I need to say y'all somewhere...)

This is my second writing for the OM news website. You can find the first one posted here if you're interested!

Pray for me tomorrow as I travel to Madagascar, I know the Lord is doing mighty things in my life through your prayers. Thanks so much, I love you!


You might be wondering, what exactly does an OM intern do during orientation? For me, it has involved some traveling, some eating, and lots and lots of learning. I'm so grateful that I was given the opportunity to travel to Kabwe, Zambia for the annual "Love Africa" conference hosted by OM; missionaries from all over Africa and all over the world meet in Zambia once a year to recount the incredible ways God is moving on this continent. However, when 4 a.m. rolled around and it was time to head to the airport - I was less than enthusiastic. Despite the early departure, the conference was an amazing experience and I felt privileged to glean some knowledge from these men and women who are following Jesus. The main hall at the conference center was practically shaking with the voices lifted in worship singing, "Mambo sawa sawa! Mambo sawa sawa! Yesu akiwa enzini, Mambo sawa sawa!" (Translation: Things are getting better! Things are getting better! When the Lord is on the throne, things are getting better!). 

Another learning opportunity presented itself after the conference. I arrived back in South Africa, and the very next day began learning important communications skills at a communications seminar led by OMer Greg Kernaghan. Lessons like "less is more" and "remember your audience" were drilled into me and the other members of the OM communications team. I gained a new perspective on effective communication and a new desire to utilize these skills in Madagascar! 

So here I am, on my last day at the OM Africa office in Pretoria, where the rain is steadily falling and the temperature steadily dropping. I'm staring out the window thinking about what adventures tomorrow will hold for me. "Will my luggage arrive? Will I forget all the French I used to be able to speak? What if I catch some tropical disease?" The questions keep flowing. Nevertheless, after months of preparation and praying, tomorrow is the day I will finally set foot in Antananarivo, Madagascar. One question I need not ask is "Will my God be with me?" - He is always there. Whatever tomorrow brings, He is faithful and will never leave me. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Kingdom go...

Well it's about time for an update, now that I finally have a little while to write one! I spent 5 days last week in Zambia at the Love Africa conference, and this past week I've been attending the Communications Training seminar hosted by OMer Greg Kernaghan. There were 650 people in attendance at the Love Africa conference and it was amazing! The schedule went something like this: 6 am - wake up, music, sermon, music, sermon, tea, music, sermon, lunch, workshop, workshop, music, sermon, music, sermon, music, sermon..in case you didn't catch my drift, it was a VERY full conference. But it was really inspiring to hear all the stories about how God is moving in Africa, about all the lives being turned to Christ and the miracles He's doing!  There were missionaries from all over Africa and all over the world. Two men, one from South Africa and one from Zimbabwe, started walking from Zimbabwe on June 13 to make it to the conference in Zambia - and they were stopping in villages and cities along the way to share the Gospel. They said they plan to keep walking until the end of the year, and then walk the whole year next year. Talk about dedication to spreading the Gospel. The communications conference was also a great experience for me. It was really in-depth about how to be the most effective communicator for a missions organization, I learned SO much and I'm getting excited to see how I can put these skills to use in Madagascar. Speaking of Madagascar, I'm leaving for Tana in 3 days! Ahhh. 

I went this morning with a couple of friends to work at Mamelodi AIDS Hope center. Some OM missionaries run the center, and kids come from all over Mamelodi (a township outside of Pretoria) come for the after school program or on Saturdays for the Kids Club. It's mostly kids who have been either infected or affected by AIDS. They were adorable and had a great time playing soccer, on the playground, or coloring. I asked one girl what her favorite thing to do is, and she responded "play princess" and her friend said "play house" -- I guess kids are really the same no matter where you go!

To sum things up I think I'll go ahead and write 5 lessons I've learned since I've been in Africa:
1. You'll feel much better if you learn to laugh at the small things and especially at your own mistakes.
2. Learning to use the metric system and celsius temperature scale would've been extremely helpful. C'mon America, fahrenheit really?
3. I sleep better with ear plugs in no matter how quiet it is.
4. Carry toilet paper with you wherever you go.
5. Before I can pray "Thy Kingdom come", I must pray "My Kingdom go..."

Here's a couple pictures from the Love Africa conference:

                                             Dinner time!

                                                     a cute little girl

Thanks for all your prayers! I love you all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Writing for OM

Here is my first post to appear on the OM website! The first part I had to write in 3rd person which is a little strange :] but enjoy! Also, tomorrow I leave for Zambia, so please be praying for that.

Caitlin is a university student from Texas who is currently spending a semester interning with OM in Madagascar. From August 1 - November 1 Caitlin will be learning how to do communications with OM. During this time, she is an assistant communications facilitator for the OM Madagascar team, helping to write stories and gather photos. The following post is written by Caitlin; her thoughts and insights into what it is like for a young woman from the USA to be on the mission field in Madagascar. 

It feels like just yesterday that I heard direction from the Lord telling me to pursue a position with OM in Madagascar! I had never heard of Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar), and now I will be living there in just a few short days. Preparing for this trip was exciting and nerve-racking all at once; exciting because I was preparing to go to a new land and nerve-racking because for three months I will be apart from everything and everyone with whom I am comfortable. However, the Lord made it clear to me that this was His plan. I obtained my new passport, visa to Madagascar, and all my vaccinations with no problems. Yet, as I said goodbye to my family in Texas and boarded my plane, I wondered if I was making a huge mistake or embarking on one of my life's greatest adventures. 

It was certainly a long flight to South Africa, but when I landed there I had a great sense of peace and realized that when following the Lord's direction there is never any reason to fear. Everything I am experiencing here in South Africa is new and unfamiliar and, while struggling with jetlag, it is easy to feel slightly overwhelmed; but I can feel the Lord reassuring me everyday that He is in control. He will complete in me the good work which He began - part of that completion might be bringing me here, to Africa. Before I left the USA, my mother encouraged me with these words from 1 Chronicles 28:20, "...Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished." 

Some people have asked me if I feel as though I'm wasting a semester of college, while others have told me how great I am for sacrificing my time in college to go to Africa. In those times, I'm reminded of a quote by the missionary David Livingstone, "If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" I feel so honored and blessed beyond words to be chosen by God for this task. I'm looking forward to arriving in Madagascar!

To God Be the Glory,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here I Am!

Well, it's my first day in Africa! It is definitely winter here. I'm glad I brought winter clothes because there's no indoor heating, but it's only morning so hopefully the day will warm up. There was a box of "Jungle Crunch" waiting for me on the counter for breakfast this morning. Yep...I'm definitely in Africa :]

Today Thelma is showing me how to communicate from Madagascar. She's asked me to keep a blog also that they will be sharing on the OM website, and also I'll be writing stories about Madagascar for their OM News website. I'll be reporting on the 3 week outreach we'll be doing, and also sharing stories about how people's lives have been impacted. I'm really excited, feels like something I can definitely do! 

 My flights were all pretty uneventful, except for the fact that I didn't realize we had a layover in Dakar, Senegal until the plane stopped there. But it was fine, I never even got off the plane. We just refueled and picked up a few passengers. I can already tell that God is going to stretch me on this trip. I'm feeling sort of lonely and homesick already, but I know the Lord is going to give me strength for each day. I'm reminded of Psalm 139:7-10 

"Where can I go from your Spirit? 
   Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
   if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me, 

   your right hand will hold me fast." 

So even though I'm thousands of miles away the Lord is still right by my side. I love you all, thanks for checking in!