God touches many lives on Sainte Marie Island during OM Madagascar's annual outreach, "Listen to Me, Islands".
The OM outreach team knew from the start that the 12-day trip to Sainte Marie, an island off the northeast coast of mainland Madagascar, would be eternally significant.
The annual outreach, themed "Listen to Me, Islands," drew people from all over the globe—Brazil, El Salvador, Netherlands, U.K., South Africa, Nigeria, U.S. and Madagascar—who had one thing in common: a passion to share God's love with those who didn't yet know Him.
On 29 August, just hours before the team embarked on their journey, they heard the news that one of Madagascar's government ministers had drowned the day before during a tragic boat accident off the coast of Sainte Marie.
Regardless of this unsettling news, and to the dismay of some family and friends, the team decided to continue with the outreach.
When the team reached the port city to board a boat, the local people expressed shock that they would take such a risk after the accident, even asking, "Do you want to die too?"
But, as the team would later see, God was already using this tragedy to prepare the hearts of the people of Sainte Marie to receive the gospel.
A small island in the Indian Ocean, Sainte Marie is stunningly beautiful but riddled with poverty, witchcraft, Islam and sexual tourism. Though the church has a presence on the island, many people still have no basic knowledge of the Bible or God's plan for salvation.
One team member asked a local man if he knew who had created the beautiful island. The man responded, "I don't remember. I was very young when it was created."
Although amused by his answer, the team was saddened, as this man's response demonstrated the lack of biblical understanding so prevalent on the island. Yet in the midst of so much darkness, the people are hungry for the Truth of the gospel.
One afternoon while sharing door to door, team members spoke with an old fisherman standing by his boat. They asked questions about his faith and soon discovered he was having marital problems. His boat was tethered to the dock by three ropes, and though the waves rocked the boat, the three ropes held it secure.
The team pointed to the ropes and explained that marriage was like the boat and the ropes. Three things hold marriage together, they said: the husband, the wife and the Lord. In the same way, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit hold believers' lives together.
They asked the man if he wanted to accept the good news of Christ, and he responded, "I will if my wife will."
After discussing it with his wife, the couple prayed to accept Christ. The fisherman gave his phone number to the team and asked that they call and keep him accountable to reading the Word.
"The harvest was truly ready in the island and many people came to know the Lord."
Team member Evelien Starreveld, from the Netherlands, says she could see how the enthusiasm of the team and their faith in Jesus impacted the people of the island.
"One lesson I learned was how important it is to be full of Jesus every day, in prayer and in His Word, to burn brightly like the sun," she said. "When the people in Sainte Marie first began to hear about Jesus, their faces would light up and also begin to shine like the sun. And because of the love of Jesus, they began to overflow like fountains as well."
Through various ministries during the outreach, including door-to-door and street evangelism, children's programmes, drama, sports ministry and seminars, over 100 people accepted Christ as their Saviour.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of the local people in Sainte Marie to hear the gospel," said participant Simon Fellows, from the U.K. "The harvest was truly ready in the island and many people came to know the Lord."
During a day of street outreach, Simon began talking to a woman. By the time he had finished speaking with her, he was surrounded by a crowd of about 15 people. At the end of the talk, each person accepted Christ as Lord.
"I felt privileged to be used as God's tool," remembered Simon. "I'm going to continue praying for these people as they begin their walk with Jesus."
Another team member, Matthew Luney (Northern Ireland), noticed that even though the churches he visited in Madagascar did not have access to much Christian literature or resources, they had no lack of the Holy Spirit or love for Christ. But, he also recognised the work still needed on the island.
"I realised the great need of the church to continue reaching out and providing for the spiritual needs of these people—to get the church out of the church building and into the lives of the people."