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Christmas is a wonderful time to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas is also an excellent opportunity to preach the Gospel to those who may not frequent church throughout the year. In the weeks preceding Christmas, our people worked hard to distribute over 1,000 invitations to friends and neighbors in our area. Anticipating many visitors for our Christmas day services, we decided to hold the service outside. December, however is the peak of hot season in Madagascar so several men from the church gathered on Christmas Eve to construct makeshift tents and canapés to shade our visitors from the sun. After much work and effort, everything was in place and we were well prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
Christmas Day began, however, with some unexpected words: “I think I’m in labor.” Rachael’s due date was December 27th. All of our babies have conveniently been late…never early! This is what we had expected for this one! But this baby wanted to come on Christmas! Knowing labor is rarely a quick process, we began preparing for the day. Dan seemed to ask every five minutes, “Any changes? How close are the contractions now? Do we need to go the hospital yet?” Although the contractions were coming, they were still mild and spread out! Closely monitoring the situation, we prepared for church. With no changes to Rachael and the baby, Dan and the kids left for church (only a two minute walk from our house). Soon, the visitors began to arrive. We praise the Lord for over 300 people in attendance for our Christmas Day service (150 adults and 150 kids). The children and youth of our church did a fantastic job sharing the Christmas story through song and show, and Dan preached a simple but clear Gospel message. To this day, we are still seeing fruit from the Christmas outreach. As for Rachael, the contractions eventually stopped completely and she was able to come for the service!
After the visitors left and everything was cleaned up, we enjoyed a quiet, but hot Christmas at home. Later that evening, everyone fell asleep exhausted but thankful for the wonderful day — everyone except for Rachael that is! The contractions returned with vengeance and the baby was not going to wait any longer! Around 1:00a.m., we woke the kids, got in the car, and were off for the hospital, a 45 minute drive.
We dropped our kids off at a friend’s house at 2:00a.m., arrived at the hospital at 2:30a.m., and Joelah Faith was born on December 26th, at 3:00a.m.. God blessed with a healthy baby and safe delivery. We were later released at 9:00a.m. and Rachael made a full and quick recovery at home!
We thank God for a great finish to the year 2021. We saw great growth both numerically and spiritually in the church. Souls were saved, several were discipled, many took good steps of spiritual growth, and Joelah Faith was born — to God be the glory.
In February, we had our third baptism service since planting the church. Nine people (five teens and four adults) followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. The greatest highlight, however, was baptizing the very first man we led to Christ when we started the church. Ulrich accepted Christ in 2020, not long after the church was planted. He faithfully attended church for several months and then moved to another city for work. Recently, he returned and expressed his desire to follow the Lord in baptism. What a great privilege it was to see him take this step of faith and obedience to the Lord!
We ask for and covet your prayers for our ministry over the next several months. We have been working together with another missionary family who has led the children’s and youth ministries since the inception of the church. In April, they will be returning to the US on furlough. When they return to Madagascar, they will launch out and start another church. In preparation for their departure, we have been training our people for children’s ministry during the last several weeks. We are excited to see many of the believers getting involved in this important ministry and demonstrating their heart to help reach the next generation for Christ. Please pray for a smooth transition and God’s continued blessings on the children’s ministry.
As always, we appreciate your prayers for us and our ministry. We pray God will bless you as much as you have been a blessing to us.
Your Servants to Madagascar,