As I sat on the beautiful Dreamliner jet flying from Germany to Canada, I looked out the window at the majestic Rocky Mountains and breathed a prayer of gratitude to God for His many blessings. Then I made a request. “Lord,” I prayed, “we’ve had a good rest since our last volunteer missionary assignment. Now we’re on our way to Canada where we’ll enjoy a good holiday. When it’s over, I think we’ll be ready for our next assignment, if You can still use us to Your honor and glory.”
Less than two weeks later, we received a call and committed to going to Madagascar as volunteers! I was asked to mentor and train the cafeteria staff at the Adventist University Zurcher (AUZ) while my husband would teach in the language school. God in His graciousness had heard and answered our request.
So five weeks after our return to South Africa from a very blessed 12-week vacation in Canada and the United States (US), we were winging our way to Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world and one of the poorest countries.
In many ways, being in Madagascar is like stepping back in time, and yet, here at the university, we live in a kind of bubble. Situated in a pine forest on a mountain, we’re blessed with running water and electricity, which is lacking in the surrounding villages. We even have internet and an information technology department. However, the kitchen in which I work still uses a wood-burning stove and oven!
The beginning of the 2017/2018 school year was delayed due to the plague ravaging the country before our arrival. It was suggested to us that we postpone our coming until the plague had passed. However, I firmly believe that the safest place in the world is where God sends you. So we started the school year but with many precautions in place.
As soon as registration began, the first several students approached me to request financial help. Honore is a final year theology student who has been working his way through college. I had met him on my arrival because he works in the kitchen. I explained that the only way I’d be able to help is by trying to find him a sponsor. After we prayed about this, I put the request on Facebook, and we were so blessed. Not only did Honore get a sponsor but enough friends sent money that we were able to help students Dieu-Donne, Jean-Pierre, Safidy, Karina, and Nathalie.
And then there was Fabienne. The first in her family to finish high school, she arrived on campus with the dream of becoming a nurse. Before she came to AUZ, the district pastor had asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She told him of her dream of going to college, so he suggested that she come to AUZ and offered to find her a sponsor. He gave her taxi fare, and she took the nearly two-day journey from the northwest to the center of Madagascar, where the university is located. She passed the entrance exam but was informed that the pastor wouldn’t be able to help her. She was brought to see me. Once again, Facebook and kind, generous friends ensured that Fabienne would be able to study and, God willing, become a nurse in His service!
Although sponsors help the students, the students are still required to work. So the 13 students whom we helped during our first five months in Madagascar work in the kitchen, the garden, the store, the library, and on the farm.
As part of the training and mentoring program, I’ve implemented a food handlers training course for the kitchen and cafeteria staff, and they’re looking forward to graduating with a certificate in the near future.
As a little girl in Sabbath School, I loved the mission stories, and I prayed that one day I could also be a missionary. Then I grew up and got caught up in life, but God never forgot that desire from a child’s pure heart. More than 40 years later, I found myself a missionary teacher in the Republic of Korea, and God reminded me of that prayer. It may have taken a long time, but I’m so thankful for the God of second chances. It’s such an honor and privilege to experience what the gospel looks like in work clothes!
So trust me, if He can find a place in His work for me, He can definitely use you too.
Adventist Volunteer Service facilitates church members’ volunteer missionary service around the world. Volunteers ages 18 to 80 may serve as pastors, teachers, medical professionals, computer technicians, orphanage workers, farmers, and more. To learn more, visit AdventistVolunteers.org.