Across the Generations…

Posted by on May 5, 2021 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Maman’i Pao and her family are one of the longer standing families in our community. Historically, they’ve also been one of the most materially poor families in our community. Mother to 14 children, only 7 babies survived birth, infancy and early childhood!! The 7 that did survive all have families of their own now.  

Over three decades ago, Maman’i Pao worked with Jamie’s mom, Bonnie, to do some odd jobs around the house while her husband worked as a guard. Bonnie would often go for late afternoon walks and occasionally stop to talk with Maman’i Pao– over the years, a friendship developed between the two. Maman’i Pao and her husband went to the church that Jamie’s folks helped start.     

When Jamie and his 3 sisters were in late elementary, jr. high and high school respectively, the four of them gathered their money together and bought the piece of land where Maman’i Pao and her family of 9 were living but didn’t yet own. No one in the family knew that this came from the Shattenberg kids.    

Maman’i Pao suspects she is now in her early 70’s, though she’s not quite sure. She’s sharp, she’s talkative, she’s strong and she’s still eager to work.  

Enter Eden Reforestation Projects. The team here is creatively looking for ways to help combat the harsh heat and lack of rain that occurs in our region 8 months of the year. One of these ways is to place a thick layer of dry leaves covering the entirety of the planting sites thereby nurturing the soil, holding moisture, preventing erosion, providing protection from the harsh elements and creating a natural compost effect. A few weeks ago, an announcement was made that anyone in the community was welcome to gather dry leaf litter for Eden Projects as a source of income. In total, 58 tons (over 127,000lbs) of leaves were collected and delivered, weighed and recorded and income dispersed to hundreds within the community. Maman’i Pao was one of these people.  

This past weekend, Maman’i Pao’s son and daughter-in-law, welcomed a baby boy into the world at the Sarobidy Maternity Center. This baby makes grand-baby number 30 for Maman’i Pao– 12 of which have been born at the Sarobidy Maternity Center as well as 1 great-grand-baby born at the center! As with many of the others, Maman’i Pao was present in the birth room– the room that was once Jamie’s parent’s bedroom.

As we visited the family in the postpartum room at the maternity center this weekend, we sat and marveled at this sweet new life, grand-baby #30.

We listened to Maman’i Pao share stories– how Jamie as a young boy, would sit down on the mat on the ground and join the family for dinner of rice and sweet potato leaves and how he would then race home as he heard his dad’s whistle. 

And for the first time, Jamie shared with Maman’i Pao how he and his 3 sisters were the ones that gathered their money together to purchase the family land. Now, more than three decades later, Maman’i Pao and her husband share this plot of land with four of their grown children and their families.      

As we said goodbye, we prayed together with Maman’i Pao and her family- we praised God for His goodness and mercy to each of us, we thanked God for this shared history that has spanned across generations and we asked for the Lord’s protection over this new baby, Mahazora, that he would grow in health and strength and in the knowledge of the Lord. 

The Agony and Urgency of Waiting…

If you recall from our newsletter last month, it was quite the ordeal to get Isabella and Jamie back to Madagascar from her school in Kenya amongst crazy last minute lockdown orders in Kenya, last flights coming into the country and required authorization from the Secretary General of the President of Madagascar to land. If you haven’t read it yet…. seriously, you should! Here’s a direct link. 

We’ve been waiting and wondering and praying about RVA (Rift Valley Academy) being able to restart for third term and if and how we’ll be able to get Isabella back to Kenya to finish off the school year. Our borders remain strictly closed- no passengers, even Malagasy citizens, allowed to enter into Madagascar and only one repatriation flight a week leaving Madagascar. The questions and scenarios have swirled through our minds daily and we have experienced the agony and the urgency of waiting.The agony of waiting when we are powerless, when time is limited, when the days before us are uncertain, when our kids education is looming, when borders are closed, when Covid is spreading like a rampant wildfire through our immediate community and when decisions are urgent. I was reminded recently that Jesus also waited, He knows the agony of this, He knows our agony in this.     

After lengthy discussions, listing pros and cons of various situations with our high schooler and seeking the Lord in prayer, we decided it best for all of us to leave Madagascar two months earlier than planned for our regularly scheduled home assignment. This would allow Isabella to get back to RVA to complete third term, ensure that we wouldn’t be separated because of closed borders and would allow us extra time in the USA to take care of some complicated medical concerns– and give the kids the gift of a “summer in America”, something they have requested for years!    

Next week, we’ll all fly to Paris on the repatriation flight. Jamie and Isabella will return to Kenya while Eliana, Gavin and I return to California. Jamie will join us a few days later. However, all of this can change in an instant, already the flights from Paris to Kenya have been cancelled twice in as many weeks. We’re currently unsure of the flight path that will be required to get Isabella to Kenya and there is a new level of urgency as we navigate the possibilities amidst Covid testing deadlines, the exclusion of Americans entering European countries, lack of flights, etc.    

We ask that you would join us in prayer– for the hundreds of details we’re attempting to complete before leaving two months earlier than planned, for protection from Covid so that we can receive negative PCR tests before travel, for clear direction for travel routes and finally, for seamless travel. 

 ** For our Santa Barbara friends, we’re currently looking for a place to stay for the month of August. If you know of any possibilities, please contact us! ** 

There is no doubt, this life split between worlds amongst a global pandemic is weary-making in ways that we haven’t experienced before. Thank you for your prayers that have been spoken for our family, teammates and our community, thank you for your generous partnership that sustains the ministries, and thank you for journeying with us as we long to see health, forests and Hope in Christ restored in Madagascar! 


With love and gratitude, Alissa, Jamie, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin

To view this newsletter in it’s original form, click here.

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