In 1999, Jamie and long-time friend and ministry partner, Josy, traveled to Mahabana to live and fish for three months. During this time, a small group gathered by candlelight to read the book of John. This small group became a regular Bible Study which then became a small church in a village that was taboo Jesus and the Bible.
Born and raised in the remote village of Mahabana, Farida is a zanantany– a child of the land. Farida is one of 18 children and the daughter of the village elder, Jokany, who until his death, was adamantly against Christ. Similar to her father, Farida was steeped in the tromba– the ancestral spirit used to channel Zanahary– the Creator God.
Before coming to Christ, Farida was trapped in extreme poverty, indentured servanthood and experienced multiple miscarriages unable to have another child. After years of going to the witch doctor seeking treatment and blessing, Farida accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was the first zanantany to come to Christ and be baptized in Mahabana. Soon after, Farida and Ravelo had a son, Derik and then another daughter, Marinet. In 2006, Farida was one of the first planters with Eden Projects in Mahabana. Today, Farida exudes hope and peace as she loves and provides for her three children.
Bringing the Hope of Christ to the Malagasy people is the greatest desire of Red Island Restoration. We have both personally experienced the peace that comes with having a deep relationship with Christ and long to see the Malagasy, like Farida, experience the same redemptive hope.
Traditionally, the predominant religion of Madagascar is ancestral worship. Today 52% of Malagasy people still follow their traditional beliefs while 41% embrace Christianity and 7% claim Islam (CIA World Factbook). Despite the high number of Christ followers, many Malagasy still retain their traditional practices such as sacrificing cows, unearthing and turning their ancestor’s bones, and following taboos to please and seek blessing from their ancestors. These taboos range from not eating certain foods such as chicken, to not giving birth to twins, to following Jesus and the Bible. We have seen first-hand how these taboos further entrap people into deeper levels of poverty and literally steal life from the Malagasy people and this beautiful nation. In contrast, we’ve seen as men and women commit their lives to Christ, the bonds of taboos are broken and true freedom, hope and peace are found.
In a country where ancestral worship is prevalent, we are deeply aware that Jesus is the ONE living ancestor and only He restores true hope and gives eternal life. God is at work on the red island of Madagascar, He is pouring out His blessings upon this work and people are hearing about Christ– Muslims, witchdoctors, animists, and nominal Christians. He is drawing men, women and children to himself, He is speaking Truth, He is restoring broken relationships, He is transforming lives and He is reigning within hearts!