Pastor Rene Armand, a pastor from the Androy region of Madagascar, shares how he became a pastor.
Growing up, Rene Armand's Sunday mornings were not spent inside a church.
“In my family it was taboo to go to church,” he said. “Every Sunday we went to the seaside to call to the spirits of the dead, and slaughter a goat.”
Born in Tulear, in the southern region of Madagascar, Rene was the son of a witch doctor.
One day when Rene was 10, two evangelists from The Assembly of God Church visited Tulear. They urged the curious village children to attend church, saying that if they did, they would receive a sweet.
“So because of candy I went to church,” Rene said.
Candy might have been what got him through the door, but Rene found himself listening in ernest to the preaching and teachings. Even when the candy incentive stopped, he continued attending.
At first, Rene believed that Jesus was one of the forefathers. Gradually, he began to understand who Jesus truly is; the son of God, not a forefather.
When the Sunday school teacher asked who was ready to receive Christ into their heart, Rene was the first to raise his hand.
Due to his new found faith, 10 year-old Rene's family excommunicated him. His grandfather told him that he would not care if Rene died, and his father said likewise.
“Yet, I insisted to follow Jesus,” said Rene. “I knew He had a plan for me.”
Rene moved in with the pastor of his church so that he could continue going to school, and learning about the Bible.
While living with the pastor was a good experience, the pastor's lack of income troubled Rene.
“I was sad because the pastor was very poor,” he said.
Rene planned to study hard in order to get a good job, so that he would be able to support men of God, such as his pastor.
Having always done well in school, Rene went into the final exams before graduation confident that he would receive good marks. When he got his grades back, however, he saw that he had not done well at all. He had failed.
Determined to succeed, Rene re-did the school year, and took the exams again.
Once again, he failed.
Rene had to repeat the exams four more times before he passed.
“I realize now that those four years of failure were in the plan of God to keep me to work for Him.” Rene said.
Since accepting Christ into his life, Rene would go to the countryside to preach the gospel. Those who heard him remarked that God was with him when he preached, and that there was a call of God upon his life. Rene could not see it, and disregarded their comments.
Four years of failure, however, helped change his view.
When his pastor asked the church if anyone would like to go to Bible School, Rene was the first to raise his hand.
After studying Rene became a pastor.
In 1994, he started a church in Tulear, his hometown, where he was able to be a light in the community. Several of the family members who had previously shunned him became believers. After seven years Rene felt called to move to Fort Dauphin.
The move to Fort Dauphin was hard.
“I realized that there were a lot of sinners in Fort Dauphin; that's why God sent me there,” Rene said. “But Fort Dauphin is very expensive. My family was not happy, because they thought I would be poor. I had five children at the time. But I realized when I got there, that I was blessed.”
After settling in Fort Dauphin, Rene began a church in Ambovombe, a five-hour drive away.
OM Madagascar has a team of three ladies working in Ambovombe, and they connected with Rene's godson who lives in town. When OM ran a conference there in 2013, Rene's godson invited him to attend.
“I learnt a lot of things last year (at the conference),” Rene said. “This year I learnt even more.”
Forty-seven pastors and church leaders attended this year's three-day conference that began on 9 July 2014. Two lecturers spoke on topics such as: leadership, what it means to be a church, and balancing faith with culture and tradition. The topic that impacted Rene the most was discipleship.
“I have been preaching for a long time, but I did not know how to make disciples. I just knew how to save people. Through OM's conference I learnt that I need to make disciples.”
Rene is looking forward to returning to his church in Fort Dauphin, and implementing changes.