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Our Blog

SUFFERING

     Thousands of miles and a whole continent in between are two women.  They don't know each other, nor will they while on this earth.  Yvonne and I know them both.  Both of them are suffering.

     Several weeks ago Yvonne was coming home after visiting a friend when she came upon Bernadette.  Wrapped in little more than rags, Bernadette was laying outside the doors of local clothing and jewelry stores, barely conscious.

     Though we did not know her name at that time, we've seen Bernadette before along with countless other beggars that roam our neighborhood.  We had never seen her in this condition.  

     Her lips were white, her eyes yellow and her hair speckled with grit from the street.  She sat in a puddle of air conditioning condensation and her own urine.  Without help she couldn't sit up, let alone stand up.  

     Someone nearby had given her a cup of water and a morsel of food, but she was too weak to lift her hand to put them to her mouth.  Two young women had stopped to comfort her, but really did not know what to do.  Mostly, people either just walked by or stood and stared.

     With the help of our translator, Gerand, we were able to extract enough information to know that if we didn't help her she was going to die.  The three of us were eventually able to lift Bernadette into a tuc tuc and transport her to the local hospital.

     Within a day she had regained much of her strength.  Within two days she was able to walk to a bathroom (without her cane) and bathe.  A week later she was able to leave the hospital.

     The curious thing about Bernadette is that she has family not far away.  They have enough to provide their sister food and shelter, but Bernadette prefers wandering the streets and begging.  We have seen her several times in the last week, right where she has been before.

     While it is apparent that Bernadette, who is 60 years old, suffers from some form of dimensia, it is also apparent that she has enough awareness to know she has a place where she could live in a semblance of dignity.  She prefers indignity.  Her family is well aware of her condition, but is unwilling to fight through Bernadette's obstinance to help.

     Back in the states, there is another who is suffering.  She did not grow up in squalor, but in middle class America.  As a young girl she contracted polio.  Now as a 74-year-old woman she is battling cancer.

     What we know about Jeannine is that she is a fighter.  She fought through polio and raised a family without the help of an absentee husband.  She persevered through adversity and was able to provide.  The ultimate fruits of her labor are two children of immense character.  

     Her son and daughter are the picture of what any parent's heart would desire; both accomplished and both with healthy families of their own.  Most importantly, they love their mother deeply.

     When we heard of Jeannine's challenge Yvonne and I really didn't know how to respond.  You see, Jeannine is a friend of ours.  We have shared Christmas and Thanksgiving together, but we did not know how to share in her suffering.  So, we prayed.

     Just recently we exchanged e-mails, and Jeannine said this: "I believe the only way I'll succeed in winning this challenge is with God's help."

     What I see from a distance is the success of Jeannine's suffering.  She has already won.  The rewards are her children and grandchildren, who are now at her side with love and compassion.  In return, Jeannine has persevered with courage and grace.

     No matter how pragmatic or accurate a doctor's prognosis, where there is God there is always hope.  And where there is hope there is love.  The Bible says, "...God is love...Now there abides these three; faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."

     You see, the difference between Bernadette and Jeannine is love.  Bernadette's family is ambivalent when it comes to her suffering.  There is defeat and separation.  There is no desire to ensure the one who is suffering any sort of comfort and in exchange they receive no comfort.

     On the other hand, Jeannine's family is tied together in love.  They are bound by compassion and mercy.  I suspect that though they might not even recognize it, that their hearts are set on the prospects of justice prevailing - that ultimately their hearts are united in eternity.

    So, one family is divided, the other united.  One is forlorn, the other hopeful. One woman suffers in bitterness, the other in love.

    We are reminded of a Savior, who's birth we are about to celebrate.  He lived, He suffered and He died...for us.  Then He was resurrected...for us.  

     Yvonne and I pray that you would know this love this Christmas.  That it would resurrect purpose in your life.  And once you know it, share it with someone who is suffering.  It is the greatest gift we could possibly give.

The Plague

Mike Broadhurst

     Since we have returned to Madagascar in early August an outbreak of the plague has taken on world-wide attention.  In a country inadequately equipped to accurately track births, deaths, income and other useful social information, the latest confirmed cases of the plague by the World Health Organization as of October 12 is 684, nearly 10% (64) of which have led to death. 

     To put this in perspective, the population of Madagascar is at about 25 million, so according to WHO this problem is not on a scale with the Ebola virus of 2014 that claimed over 11,300 lives in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone (total combined populations of 27 million).     

     Furthermore, according to WHO, the Madagascar Ministry of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations and other international sources the case/fatality rate is far less than the Madagascar plague epidemic of 2014 when there were 116 confirmed cases and 40 deaths between August 31 and November 16.

     There are three types of the plague - bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.  According to WHO, bubonic plague infects the lymphatic system, septicemic attacks the blood and pneumonic is the infection of the lungs.  Pneumonic plague is the most lethal form of the plague and has claimed most of the lives here in Madagascar.

      Bubonic plague is transmitted by fleas that are carried not just by rats, but other animals - even cats and dogs.  Pneumatic plague is transmitted through cough droplets from infected persons.  The CDC states that pneumatic plague originates, “from untreated bubonic or septicemic plague that spreads to the lungs…typically (contracting pneumonic plague) requires direct and close contact with infected persons.”

     Public gatherings, such as worship services and concerts are being cancelled.  Public schools are closed until November 6. Here in the city of Toamasina we have noticed a noticeable drop in people frequenting public places such as the beach, the three small grocery stores, open-air markets, dining establishments and the like.

      One of the most startling images for us is the burned-out pauper village on the beach overlooking the port.  A mere three blocks from our house and 200 meters from where Mercy Ships once moored, it was a place where 100 to 200 people resided.  It is an area where mounds of garbage are accumulated and the poor rummage for scraps of food and reusable junk.  The inhabitants of the small community had constructed shelters from sticks, plastic bags, cardboard and discarded tin. 

     Of course, places like this are breeding grounds for rats and the fleas that carry the plague bacteria, so it is only reasonable that the government put a torch to the area.  What went unaddressed was the health of the persons who were living there and forced to find refuge elsewhere.

    So, for the time being much of our ministry work has been put on hold.  We haven’t been to church in two weeks and we rely on the internet for sermons from our rector at The Church of the Cross in Bluffton, South Carolina.  We don’t spend much time in public and when we do we take great care.  We avoid groups of people, even resorting to the donning of surgical masks – although Yvonne is more committed to this precaution than me.

    With all of this in mind and to put it into perspective, Yvonne and I know hundreds of Malagasy people.  We have not heard from a single individual about a case where a relative has either contracted the plague or died from the plague.

    Our final request is that you continue praying for the people of Madagascar and God’s will for this nation.  We have seen the fruits of His labor and that of our fellow missionaries.  The potential for change here is real and verifiable.  The Malagasy are hungry and thirsty for a future and a hope.

PAIN

Mike Broadhurst

    "On a level of 1-to-10, how is your pain?"

     If you have ever spent any prolonged time in a hospital, this is a question with which I'm sure you are quite familiar.  It was asked of me so frequently during my 24-days at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland that, to be honest, I really didn't know how to answer.

     Being hospitalized is somewhat of a paradox.  Logic suggests that the best remedy for multiple surgeries, replete (in my case) with six tubes and IV's protruding from your body, would be rest.  However, as they say, when you are in a hospital there is no rest for the weary.

     Every two to four hours there is either a technician, a nurse, a doctor or a room attendant at your door looking to either put something in your body or extract something from it.  With nearly every visit, the inquiry is the same, "On a level of 1-to-10, how is your pain?"

     To answer that question forthrightly required a lot of soul searching, because to be honest I did not know how much pain I could endure before it became a "10."

     For example, how does the discomfort of a tube the width of a pencil and 14 inches long extended to the lower portion of your lung compare to having your arm shot off in the middle of war? Or, how does a stint 1-inch in diameter and 7-inches long that holds open your esophagus compare to a tumor on your neck, so large it threatens to choke life from your body?

     What about the friend who has battled cancer for the last year-and-a-half compare?  Or the impoverished child half a world away with tummies distended from malnutrition and starvation? Or even more sublimely, the loss of a child?

     As I reflected on these things, I developed my favorite answer.  Three.  Why?

     First of all, let me admit, I do not have a high threshold for pain.  I've never been particularly adept at enduring it, and have put forth concerted efforts to avoid anything that might pose a prospect for pain.  So, yeah, I'm a sissy.

     However, I knew for sure my pain was not a 10, so with lots of time on my hand I started a process of rating pain?  If 10 is the most severe, then was I an 8, 7 or 6?  

     To me, on the painometer, the answer had to be no.  They hadn't put a catheter in (even the thought hurts), nor had they inserted a ventilator, which one RN assured me rather menacingly "You don't want," in an attempt to get me to breath after the first surgery.  So, if catheters and ventilators are not so uncommon and people come through those implements fairly regularly, anything above 5 was out of the question.

     Was I at a five?  Possibly, but five is half way to 10 and I wasn't sure I could even quantify the pain as that severe.  So, I chose three because to me it represented more than just discomfort.  It required the infusion of pain killers to keep it from growing worse and left enough room to go up on the scale without tempting the most severe pain, a 10.

     What I realized during all of this was that the more I thought about pain, the less I could concentrate on what I really needed. Pain was a distraction trying to keep me from my heart's desire and that was healing.  So, in a spiritual sense there was a battle going on every time someone asked me, "On a scale of 1-to-10, how is your pain?"

     During this process I came to see that pain is one of the adversary's great weapons used in an attempt to lead us away from God's grace and place attention on ourselves.  Pain is an enemy to faith.  It tempts us to accuse God, leading to the inevitable question, "God, why me?"

     Except that Yvonne and I have seen how faith has changed the lives of so many people, I suppose making such a charge would be a logical conclusion.  Fortunately for us, we've been exposed to far too much of God's power to buy into such a deception.  Whether it was the prisons of South Carolina, the addicted and forgotten on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, or the hopeless and impovershed of Madagascar, we have a personally witnessed hundreds who have been delivered from pain and brought into the joy of the Lord.

     Knowing His nature and desire for us changes the dynamics of the query.  Rather than, "God, why me?" a different perspective was possible when I asked, "God, why not me?"

     What I choose to take from the last 30 days was not an opportunity to accuse God of His lack of love or mercy for me, but to look at the ways God expressed His love toward me and Yvonne and how we might minister to others simultaneously.

     My wife, my family, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world reached out to me and to the Lord on my behalf with a power and authority not known in the natural realm and that is what I take away from this trial.  That is, that love was made manifest and faith grew for all of us.  And God was glorified in the process.

     I have not arrived at a point where I'm willing to say thank you to Him for the 1-in-100 chance of complications and the "threes" that followed, but in the midst of battle I can tell you there is a God who loves us all and wants to use each and everyone of us to touch a world fraught with pain and suffering.  That is what Jesus Christ did for us and through Him what you, my loved ones, have done for me.

ISLAM

Mike Broadhurst

     "Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."  Romans 12:17-18

     "And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men." 1 Samuel 12:26

     I have mentioned in previous blogs that there is a large and influential Muslim community in Madagascar.  I have also mentioned that Yvonne and I live in the middle of a Muslim community.  I have also mentioned that the streets of this Muslim community are among the safest in all of Toamasina, the city where we live.

     I see many blogs, from Christians, about Islam.  Granted, the majority are in response to the wickedness of radical Muslim believers, but to my dismay there rarely seems to be any inclination to separate the guilty from the innocent.  Wasn't it the Savior who said that when we hate somebody we commit murder?

     I can think of a thousand responses you might have to my dismay.  Many will justify their hatred based on the actions of an enemy.  However, I want to ask you, do you know any Muslims?

     All I can say to you is what my experience has been here in Madagascar.  Neither Yvonne nor I live or walk in fear.  We are not suspicious of someone because they wear a taqiyah.  

     Everybody in our community knows that we are Christians.  If we see someone in need, we don't ask them what they believe before we help.  The results are that we are happily greeted, respected and treated with favor.

     So well that I would like to attest to these things:

  1. Muslims have asked us to pray for them in times of trouble.
  2. Muslims have asked us to be friends with them on FaceBook.
  3. Muslims have asked us to teach them to learn English.
  4. Muslims have saved us thousands of US dollars since coming to the neighborhood.
  5. Muslims have provided us free medical care.
  6. Muslims have honored us because we have proven to them we are here to love.

     And just today a Muslim cleric asked me to use his building to teach Malagasy people the principles of how to start and operate a business.  He said it didn't matter to him that I was a Christian.  He said to me, "Each day we grow closer to the Angel of Death.  When death comes we will all have to stand before God and give an account of what we have done."

     Christian friend, I know that Jesus is my propitiation.  I know that it is by grace, through faith, that I am saved; not by works, so that none of us can boast.  I know that He was raised from the dead.  I know his blood is poured out for me and the forgiveness of my sins.  I know that my works are an expression of His love for me and not born out of a legal responsibility.  I know and accept all of the doctrine of Christianity.  I know these are not the doctrines of Islam.

     Yet, Yvonne and I can, and have, committed ourselves to live peaceably with all men.  Not just the ones we choose or agree with our faith or politics.  

     Real Christianity has feet.  It goes out and meets peoples' needs.  It does not discriminate between the faithful and unfaithful.  It is hands on.  It loves.  It doesn't hide behind social media tirades, where it is blind to the expressions and emotions of those it offends.  It doesn't spew forth hatred that calls everything that does not agree with it the anti-Christ.  Real Christianity doesn't live in fear, but in power, love and a sound mind.

     There are billions of people on this earth who don't know Jesus Christ.  We, brothers and sisters, may be the only Christian they ever meet.  When they meet us, will they meet a healer, a lover and a savior?  Or will they meet His adversary, the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy?

     Yvonne and I attest and bear witness that we walk in victory.  We have the favor of all men.  We walk under the anointing of the Father's love and the Son's sacrifice.

     Yvonne and I so appreciate your prayers and support.  You are very much a part of the victories being won here in the name of Jesus Christ.  May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

A Bike

Mike Broadhurst

     When we left Mercy Ships a crew member was kind enough to leave behind two bicycles.  They were a little weathered, a torn seat, some rust, flat tires and in need of some TLC.  Here's the story about one of them.

     A week before Christmas, Yvonne and I were in a bit of the doldrums.  Other than a Christmas Eve service at church, we really didn't have a lot planned.  To see our loved ones a continent and ocean away planning time together made our hearts yearn for home.

     So, when one of our friends told us he lost his housing and didn't know where he would sleep that night, the solution was readily apparent.  Yvonne looked at me, I nodded affirmatively and we had a guest for the holidays.

     It changed the season.

     Our house guest is from Toliara - light years from our home here in Toamasina.  As best as we can gather, he has five brothers and sisters from the same mother and father, and another four half-brothers and sisters.  

     His parents were too poor to support the whole cast of characters, so he and his younger brother spent their youth in an orphanage.  It was there that he learned how to read and write, that stealing was wrong, how to play the piano and strum the guitar.  It was there that he first heard about Jesus.

     Outside the orphanage Toliara is a rough place.  Bandits roam the countryside, not the least bit hesitant to kill for what they want.  It's reputation is well-know throughout Madagascar.

     Our friend has had a few brushes with them.  The most memorable was when his father, a fisherman, would not give up his day's catch.  

      Taking the first bite of the family dinner that night, Dada noticed something was wrong and warned his family not to eat.  They watched helplessly as the patriarch writhed and thrashed, his belly swelling to unnatural proportions before drawing his last breath.

     Our friend was 11 years old.

     There are other tales of woe, but the one that touched us most is his sister's story.     

     Our friend tells us of her 25-year-old beauty and love for money.  Toliara happens to be one of the poorest communities in all of Madagascar, so the concoction of physical allure, the love of money and a society that places no value on chastity, makes easy the profession of prostitution.  

     A year ago our friend mustered all of his courage to tell his sister that he loved her, but that her lifestyle was not acceptable before the Lord.  It caused a serious rift - one that she threatened would last forever.

     But within weeks, the sister fell deathly ill.  The first person she called to her bedside was our friend - her brother.  She asked him to forgive her.  He asked the same.  That night he rested his head upon her shoulder as they wept, embraced and fell into a deep sleep.

     Not long after, before she died, the sister made a last request.  "Burn my clothes."

     Here, in Toamasina, our friend walks everywhere.  He's a healthy 21-years-old, but still the days here are hot and humid.  And when we say walk, we mean walk.  Two-and-a-half miles is a stroll.  When we worked at the Hope Center some of our day crew would walk, even run, an hour to get to work.

     He makes less than $50 US a month.  He uses a portion of it to support himself.  Some of it goes to support his family at home.  He sometimes helps friends in need.  He seeks advice on tithing.  He doesn't like to spend money on buses or tuc tucs. Our friend makes people smile.

     A few days before Christmas, Yvonne remembered that one of our bikes was sitting idle downstairs.  We determined long ago that venturing into traffic on a bike was a dicey proposition.  So, she had our translator spiff it up in preparation as a gift to our guest.

     On Christmas morning the bike was dressed with silver and red ribbon, waiting for our friend to awake.  When he saw it, the reaction was indescribable. 

     Yvonne and I have sat and watched each other, our children, our grandchildren and many others open gifts, but nothing could have ever prepared us for our friend's response.

     As he stood half way across the room, we told him the bike was his.  He stopped in his tracks, covered his mouth with both hands, and confirmed incredulously, "Is that for me?"

     There wasn't any problem getting a camera ready when we saw his response because he was literally frozen in unbelief.  He finally thawed long enough to walk to the bike, touch it, stare at it, stoop and admire.  

     Then he sat on it, completely consumed by the pure joy of receiving a gift he did not expect.  A 21-year-old, sitting on a bike, completely innocent of how he might look, our friend was absorbed in ecstasy. 

     As we prepared breakfast, he sat quietly on the couch staring at the bike.

     Later that morning he told us that nobody had ever given him anything.  Never.  In his whole life.  Nothing.  He told us then he knew we loved him.

     It was a gift that Yvonne and I will never forget.  A memory that we will share forever as we spend our days here in Madagascar and beyond.

     Yvonne and I wish you the very best for 2017 and pray that the gift of love be poured out on you abundantly.

SUFFERING

Mike Broadhurst

     Thousands of miles and a whole continent in between are two women.  They don't know each other, nor will they while on this earth.  Yvonne and I know them both.  Both of them are suffering.

     Several weeks ago Yvonne was coming home after visiting a friend when she came upon Bernadette.  Wrapped in little more than rags, Bernadette was laying outside the doors of local clothing and jewelry stores, barely conscious.

     Though we did not know her name at that time, we've seen Bernadette before along with countless other beggars that roam our neighborhood.  We had never seen her in this condition.  

     Her lips were white, her eyes yellow and her hair speckled with grit from the street.  She sat in a puddle of air conditioning condensation and her own urine.  Without help she couldn't sit up, let alone stand up.  

     Someone nearby had given her a cup of water and a morsel of food, but she was too weak to lift her hand to put them to her mouth.  Two young women had stopped to comfort her, but really did not know what to do.  Mostly, people either just walked by or stood and stared.

     With the help of our translator, Gerand, we were able to extract enough information to know that if we didn't help her she was going to die.  The three of us were eventually able to lift Bernadette into a tuc tuc and transport her to the local hospital.

     Within a day she had regained much of her strength.  Within two days she was able to walk to a bathroom (without her cane) and bathe.  A week later she was able to leave the hospital.

     The curious thing about Bernadette is that she has family not far away.  They have enough to provide their sister food and shelter, but Bernadette prefers wandering the streets and begging.  We have seen her several times in the last week, right where she has been before.

     While it is apparent that Bernadette, who is 60 years old, suffers from some form of dimensia, it is also apparent that she has enough awareness to know she has a place where she could live in a semblance of dignity.  She prefers indignity.  Her family is well aware of her condition, but is unwilling to fight through Bernadette's obstinance to help.

     Back in the states, there is another who is suffering.  She did not grow up in squalor, but in middle class America.  As a young girl she contracted polio.  Now as a 74-year-old woman she is battling cancer.

     What we know about Jeannine is that she is a fighter.  She fought through polio and raised a family without the help of an absentee husband.  She persevered through adversity and was able to provide.  The ultimate fruits of her labor are two children of immense character.  

     Her son and daughter are the picture of what any parent's heart would desire; both accomplished and both with healthy families of their own.  Most importantly, they love their mother deeply.

     When we heard of Jeannine's challenge Yvonne and I really didn't know how to respond.  You see, Jeannine is a friend of ours.  We have shared Christmas and Thanksgiving together, but we did not know how to share in her suffering.  So, we prayed.

     Just recently we exchanged e-mails, and Jeannine said this: "I believe the only way I'll succeed in winning this challenge is with God's help."

     What I see from a distance is the success of Jeannine's suffering.  She has already won.  The rewards are her children and grandchildren, who are now at her side with love and compassion.  In return, Jeannine has persevered with courage and grace.

     No matter how pragmatic or accurate a doctor's prognosis, where there is God there is always hope.  And where there is hope there is love.  The Bible says, "...God is love...Now there abides these three; faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."

     You see, the difference between Bernadette and Jeannine is love.  Bernadette's family is ambivalent when it comes to her suffering.  There is defeat and separation.  There is no desire to ensure the one who is suffering any sort of comfort and in exchange they receive no comfort.

     On the other hand, Jeannine's family is tied together in love.  They are bound by compassion and mercy.  I suspect that though they might not even recognize it, that their hearts are set on the prospects of justice prevailing - that ultimately their hearts are united in eternity.

    So, one family is divided, the other united.  One is forlorn, the other hopeful. One woman suffers in bitterness, the other in love.

    We are reminded of a Savior, who's birth we are about to celebrate.  He lived, He suffered and He died...for us.  Then He was resurrected...for us.  

     Yvonne and I pray that you would know this love this Christmas.  That it would resurrect purpose in your life.  And once you know it, share it with someone who is suffering.  It is the greatest gift we could possibly give.

Peace

Mike Broadhurst

My Dear American Brothers and Sisters,

     We awoke this morning to news of demonstrations, peaceful and non-peaceful, in the face of the Presidential elections.  We read of pleas by opponents to the President-elect  for a physical uprising and rebellion.  

     We see pictures of faces calling out against hatred and bigotry.  They are faces filled with the anguish of the same hatred and bigotry.  We hear of celebrities ready to leave the nation and give up because one-half of their fellow American brothers and sisters don't agree with them.

     Then we opened to our morning devotionals.  This is the first one:

"The eternal God is thy refuge." — Deuteronomy 33:27

     The word refuge may be translated "mansion," or "abiding-place," which gives the thought that God is our abode, our home. There is a fulness and sweetness in the metaphor, for dear to our hearts is our home, although it be the humblest cottage, or the scantiest garret; and dearer far is our blessed God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It is at home that we feel safe: we shut the world out and dwell in quiet security. So when we are with our God we "fear no evil." He is our shelter and retreat, our abiding refuge. At home, we take our rest; it is there we find repose after the fatigue and toil of the day. And so our hearts find rest in God, when, wearied with life's conflict, we turn to Him, and our soul dwells at ease. At home, also, we let our hearts loose; we are not afraid of being misunderstood, nor of our words being misconstrued. So when we are with God we can commune freely with Him, laying open all our hidden desires; for if the "secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him," the secrets of them that fear Him ought to be, and must be, with their Lord. Home, too, is the place of our truest and purest happiness: and it is in God that our hearts find their deepest delight. We have joy in Him which far surpasses all other joy. It is also for home that we work and labour. The thought of it gives strength to bear the daily burden, and quickens the fingers to perform the task; and in this sense we may also say that God is our home. Love to Him strengthens us. We think of Him in the person of His dear Son; and a glimpse of the suffering face of the Redeemer constrains us to labour in His cause. We feel that we must work, for we have brethren yet to be saved, and we have our Father's heart to make glad by bringing home His wandering sons; we would fill with holy mirth the sacred family among whom we dwell. Happy are those who have thus the God of Jacob for their refuge! - Charles Spurgeon

     Then there was this:

     The kingdoms we are to subdue today are the kingdoms of self and flesh, as well as the kingdom of this world (with its millions of bound and lost, who are perishing in darkness). The righteousness we need and that we proclaim is the righteousness of Christ, who lives in us! The means is ever the same-by faith.

     The prophets persistently called the people to forsake their ungodly ways and to turn to the Lord's righteous ways. Isaiah preached powerful warnings concerning unrighteousness. "Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward" (Isaiah 1:4). Isaiah also held forth the Lord as man's only hope of righteousness. "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7). - Bob Hoekstra

     Yvonne and I are reminded today that neither the plans of man nor woman are in control.  We serve a merciful and gracious God who alone brings us to the altar of peace that surpasses all understanding.  Can we praise Him today?

A Call To Prayer

Mike Broadhurst

     Yvonne and I need your help.  We need your prayers.

     Corruption permeates Madagascar, yet there are many who desire to see things change.  It would be easy to blame the malfeasance on the rich and powerful, but greed and avarice can be found top to bottom.  

     In the last 10 days three of our start-up entrepreneurs have been robbed.  Of the 16 businesses to which we have provided financing, four (or 25%) have lost all of the capital it takes to operate their businesses to thievery.

     Yvonne and I are not discouraged.  If anything, we are more determined than ever to exhaust every effort to press toward the goal the Lord has given us...to plant seeds that will change the face of Madagascar forever.

     We look at these setbacks not as defeats, but as evidence that the enemy is mad.  In response, we urgently call out to you for covering us with prayer.  And not just us, but the whole of Madagascar.  

     If you want to know specifically what to pray about, it is the strangling FEAR that is prevalent in Madagascar and for the Lord's love to prevail.

     Today two of our friends who are partners in a pig and charcoal business came to see us.  On Saturday one of them was duped down a secluded path in the countryside and was beaten and robbed.  As he lay in the dirt, bound and semi-comatose, he listened to his enemies talk about how to kill him and get rid of his body.   He managed to loosen his binds and run to safety.

     Last week another one of our new entrepreneurs was in Antananarivo (the country's capital) on a crowded bus when perpetrators managed to slit open his pocket and take all of his money without him sensing a thing.

     A few days earlier one of our friends was bilked of all of his capital.

     We could go on ad nauseam about how the politicians, the judges, the police and the rich leech the life out of the poor, but the truth is the poor are as equally vicious toward one another.  When it becomes apparent that one of their own kind is making any progress they become a target.

     Our feeling is that there is such a sense of desperation here that prince-to-pauper will go to great lengths to either protect what they have or take what they don't have by hook or crook.  Where there is no hope, fear creeps in and self-preservation prevails.

     Gratefully, the Lord is bringing HOPE to this community.  

     Over the weekend we visited one of our entrepreneur's fish pond farms and the site was nothing less than spectacular.  Close to 30 people scurried about constructing three ponds that equaled the size of one-and-a-half football fields.

     Two-and-a-half months ago the valley was covered in a thicket of underbrush and 30 villagers had no source of income. They built the ponds with 7 small shovels and an assembly line to move the dirt in bags. It was all quite remarkable.

     Today we visited another one of our friends who has opened a cooking pot forging company in her yard that employs two men.  She is on her way to tripling the income she made while she was working at Mercy Ships.

     Last night, one of our friends told us how he gave a 72-year-old beggar woman the equivalent of $12.50 to start a charcoal business.  When he saw her two-weeks later he asked her if she still had the $12.50.  The response was nothing less than miraculous.  

     "Oh, I still have the (money) you gave me," she told him.  "I make $10 with it every time I buy more charcoal.  The money you gave me is my seed and I'll never eat that."

     God has a plan for Madagascar.  It is to take the foolish things of this world and confound the wise.  Just as it was in Jesus' day, the profane and wicked don't like it one bit.  

     Won't you please join us in prayer as we battle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

What It Is Like

Mike Broadhurst

     We've been in Madagascar for one year now.  When we first left the United States with Mercy Ships we thought we would be in their service for two years.  My, how things have changed.

     The ship, with all of its comforts and security, left almost three months ago.  We stayed behind, pretty much on our own, without giving much weight to the perils or negatives.  

      Yvonne and I frequently talk about what you, our friends and family, have to say and think.  So many of you have been supportive, we won't ever be able to express just how grateful we are to have you in our lives.  

     So, this is what life is like when you're living in a developing nation half a world apart from your loved ones.

     We have a comfortable apartment by Malagasy standards.  Though there is no central air conditioning, we have individual units in the two bedrooms (one of them serves as an office).  We will see how hot the living area and kitchen become as we head into Madagascar summer.

     Our bed is a 4-inch thick foam-top on a wood frame.  To be honest it is not terribly comfortable, but again compared to the alternatives we can't complain.  

     We have a simple kitchen with a gas cook top and small refrigerator.  The dishwasher is anyone with the sponge, be it Yvonne, me or a guest.  We have a washing machine but hang everything to dry.

     We eat basic, healthy meals, consisting of a lot of rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, some fish and Zebu every now and then.  Let it be noted that produce is abundant, affordable and bursting with flavor.  We have to filter all of our water to make it potable and we wash all of our produce and rinse our plates in a bleach bath.  

     Our living area has a dining table and one couch, which we use when we have guests over for lunch or dinner.  These meals are primarily for the purpose of counseling.  

     We finally got wifi a-month-and-a-half ago.  There is a television but no service.  We don't subscribe to cable, satellite or even any internet networks, so we read a lot and listen to praise music via YouTube.

     We don't own a car, so I get around town on a scooter.  Yvonne will go on short jaunts with me on the back, but anything beyond a kilometer means we use a Tuc-Tuc.  

     Petty crime is common, so we are in by dark most days.  You hear of violent crimes, but it's nothing like the cities of America.  We are always in by 9 o'clock at the latest.  The owner of our building makes sure it is secure.
     
     We live in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood.  There are two mosques one-and-a-half blocks north and south of us.  Though they don't perform the adhan (call to prayer) at the break of day, they do so the other four times.  It is loud.  To be honest, neither Yvonne nor I have an ear for it.  

     Our lives are not glamorous.  We live in a city about the size of Savannah in population, but keep in mind this is third world.  Grocery stores have limited inventory, so there are not a lot of choices.  Occasionally we visit a local restaurant.  The food is good, but nothing like our favorite places at home.

     This is a country in want.  Our satisfaction is in our work and the people.  We try to keep life simple.  We don't own much.  Socializing is not high on our agenda.
  
     It is a foregone Malagasy conclusion that if you are a foreigner you are wealthy.  It's not just the impoverished who ask for money, but requests come from pretty much anyone who thinks they have a need.  

     Even though our desire is to give, we can't meet the demand.  I think this is our biggest challenge - coming to grips with the fact that many times the answer is "no."  So, the focus is on the ministry the Lord has given us and realizing we cannot be everything to everybody.  

     We have taught our business development class three times.  We have graduated 113 students.  We have lent to 15 businesses and at least 5 other people have started businesses on their own wherewithal.  

     We visit most of the businesses frequently, providing advice and encouragement.  One business is struggling; another is taking time to get established; one was a short-term endeavor that didn't succeed as planned; but all of the others are actually quite successful.  

     About seventy percent of our graduates worked for Mercy Ships making about 300,000 Ariary a month (a little less than $100 US), and most of them are now or will soon be making more than that amount.

     To put this in perspective, 300,000 Ariary is more than sufficient for a single person, a bit of squeeze for a couple, a test for a single mother and child, but daunting for any more than a family of two.  This is not to say that a single person can't get by on 150,000 Ariary a month.  We know plenty of people who do so.  

     A typical Malagasy urban house rents for 50,000 to 100,000 Ariary a month.  Some own their own home or live with family.  A home consists of one or two 200-square-foot rooms.  Cooking is done outside, over charcoal.  The toilet might be an outhouse, otherwise a bush.  

     A family of four can eat on 5,000 Ariary a day.  Public schools require families pay tuition, which is 20,000 Ariary per semester per child.  Then there is clothing and medical expenses.  A typical doctor visit could run 5,000 to 30,000 Ariary.

     Most of the businesses have employed or do employ other people.  For example, one person built three ponds for a tilapia farm and utilized the labor of 31 people to do so.  Another business that forges aluminum pots employs three men plus the owner.  We guess that at least 50 other people have been put to work by the 20 new businesses.

     What's more is that these businesses have had to utilize the services of other businesses.  Since our teaching motto is "A successful business must be sustainable and able to grow," we can see that over time this work that we are called to has the potential of far-reaching effect.

     Yvonne and I also teach and preach when we are invited.  On average, we are teaching or preaching once a week in various settings.  Our messages focus primarily on Kingdom of Heaven principles - encouraging people to find their purpose under God's call.

     I would like to close by telling you that what we are doing is challenging - very challenging.  

     There have been lots of obstacles, even what some might consider defeats.  We have both suffered through months of sickness (we both lost over 20 pounds each - a whole heck of a lot for two small people).  Patience, which Yvonne has a greater supply of than me, is invaluable.  Disappointments  and discouragement are formidable foes.  We have questioned, be it ever so briefly, whether we should come home.  

     But we always come back to the most important thing - that is that God called us here.  We knew that back in late 2014 at our home in Bluffton, South Carolina.  It is an irrevocable call and so we put our trust in that and that alone.  

     This is where we find fulfillment - knowing that God's promises are faithful and true, and that Madagascar has a bright future.  And we get to be a part of sewing into that future.

     Through the victories and defeats, there is no place we would rather be.  We thank you for your continued support and prayers.  All glory to God.

Declaration of Interdependence

Mike Broadhurst

    When working in developing nations, there's a favored axiom among missionaries that cultural differences "...aren't wrong, they're just different."

     I get the part about imparting humility and respect into our flawed characters, but to be honest with you I find it hard to equate a comfortable lifestyle as proof of personal, let alone cultural superiority.  The fact is, Yvonne and I often said there was little reason to leave our cozy community of Bluffton, South Carolina because there was plenty of need right in our own back yard.

     So I hope you get the idea.  At this point in history no reasonable or objective person can look around the world and conclude that the developed nations are the standard bearers of anything resembling excellence.  You would have to be blind to think so.

     From halfway across the world the viciousness with which my fellow countrymen respond to one another is sickening.  Might I suggest that we should consider tempering the contempt with which we see Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, lest we look in a mirror and be surprised by who is staring back.  I can't help but think that the best we have to offer is really a reflection of the worst of what we've become. 

     To make this point, I'm going to ask you to be honest.  When you think of people who don't agree with you, where do your emotions rest on a hate/love scale, with one being hate and 10 love.  I'm going to suggest that you're not indifferent to that person, but much closer to the one range than your comfortable to admit.

     If you doubt this, read the comments posted after any on-line newspaper article, be it conservative or liberal.  Within a few posts, insults fly and character degradations are in full swing.  Respect is non-existent and dialogue is a lost cause.

     If anyone dare post an opinion on Facebook, the response is the same.  You have to ask, "What are the motivations that fuel the exchanges?"  The evidence suggests that a country once constructed on the lofty idea of "We the People," has sunk to the pits of a pigsty branded with the moniker "I the Person."

     So, I haven't come to a developing nation with any sense of cultural superiority, but a sense of just how bad things can be when people of a nation have no single source of strength to draw upon.  

     Which brings me to Madagascar.  The bottom line is this - as beautiful a place as this country is, and as alluring are the people, this is a land so fraught with superstition, cultural anomalies, political corruption and power grabs that indeed "it isn't just different, it's also dreadfully wrong."

     The bottom line is that there has to be a foundational change in the way we the people see who we are and what purpose we have on this earth.  That goes for those in the United States or those in Madagascar.

     Secularism is a proven failure as the agent for this change.  America has been hot for it for the last 40 years.  Europe even longer.  Where has it gotten us?  Again, just consider the news and the dialogue between countrymen.

     Don't think for a second that secularism is devoid of religion.  It is in fact a religion unto itself and the individual is the idol.  With atheism as its backbone, the outlook is sealed.  Just listen to what Richard Dawkins, the movement's famed front-man, pens:  "DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."

     If indeed we are the sum total of Darwin's formula of time, plus matter, plus chance - cosmic dust fluttering about space, then I ask you, "What's the point?"  The prospects are bleak, the philosophical results catastrophic.  Oh, that we would not dive headlong into the prophet's chastisement, "Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die."

     But if we're more than that, if we are here for the purpose of good, and that each of us has the incarnate ability to do good, then the possibilities are endless.  Then, it means that there is hope because we aren't here just for a season, but on the first leg of a journey into eternity.  

     And if there is an eternity, then there's more to life than to satisfy the daily whims of self-gratification.  There is a chance for rebirth, to shed the shroud of self-righteousness, rid ourselves of conceit and overcome the allure of chasing the vanity of insatiable pleasures that can never be satisfied. 

     Who is so arrogant that they would dare to make light of the opportunity to impact other people's eternity.  This was the motivation of our founding fathers, best remembered by Nathan Hale's proclamation at his execution in 1776, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."  Dare I say, that there is absolute truth in what the Son of Man proclaimed, "No greater love is there than this, than a man who is willing to lay down his life for his brother."

     My friends, there has to be truth and it has to be universal.  It cannot be the truth of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; it cannot be the truth of the United States or Madagascar; it cannot be your truth or my truth.  It has to be a truth that is independent of any man, yet verifiable and applicable to every man.  It has to be a truth that stirs each and everyone of us to think less of ourselves and more about others.  It has to be about a big picture and not our own fleeting lives.

     Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."    Pontius Pilate asked, "What is truth?" and walked away without seeking the answer.  My friends, don't walk away.  There's no need to grope for life's meaning.  Ask and He will answer.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened.  Together, as One, He can change the world.  For apart from Him, we can do nothing.

     I love you all.

Trust and Blessings

Mike Broadhurst

  Mercy Ships will be leaving Madagascar in a little over a month.  Yvonne and I won't be going with them.

     I hope I can explain why we're staying here without sounding overtly religious or even delusional, but no matter how this reads please know that it is very real to Yvonne and me.

     A little less than two years ago I was surfing the Internet and saw a news clip by 60-Minutes on YouTube about a hospital ship serving the poor in Africa.  I rushed into Yvonne to share it with her. Little did we know that the 5-minute video would change the course of our lives.

     I would like to add here that we had always felt as though there was enough service work to be done in our own backyard, even vowing that there was no need to go to the Dominican Republic, let alone Africa or Asia.  But something struck me that night that I would have to describe as inexplicable.  It was relentless, perhaps a little bit scary, but definitely unshakable.

     In the coming months Yvonne and I spent countless hours talking, praying, seeking counsel and researching what it might look like if we gave everything up and left America.

     How would our kids take it?  How would our families respond?  What about our house, which by the way was worth about 75% of what we owed on it?  Or a business that was providing a very good income?

     One by one, excuses for keeping the status quo were methodically removed.  It was about the same time that we were studying the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis and what came across was this nagging question, "Do you trust Me?"

     In the book of Malachi, God challenges the priests of Israel to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, and then attaches a promise.  It is this, "(And see) if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

     As I reflected on this I realized that the whole tithe didn't represent 10% to the Levitical priesthood, but 100% of their inheritance (Numbers 18:21).  For us, God was saying, "Give me everything," and asking, "Do you trust me?"

     Fast forward to June 2015, and there we were on the first leg of a two-year commitment to the Africa Mercy, with the first stop being Madagascar.  If you've read any of our blogs I think it's pretty evident how smitten we've become with the people and the country.

     During the process we've had this growing and overwhelming sense that God is going to do something great in Madagascar.  Not just that, but that we have a small place in His plan.  To list the details would take a lot more time than I have to catalogue (and you probably have the patience to read), but suffice to say the doors that have been opened for Yvonne and me are simply amazing.  

      So, here we sit, making arrangements to stay right here.  Our ministry is to assist the young and not-so-young launch their own businesses (see our last blog) using kingdom of heaven principles as the foundation for success. 

     Yvonne and I would like to close by recognizing that our whole approach to this decision has been somewhat paradoxical.  We are teaching the importance of having a plan, yet at the same time we haven't planned any part of our future.  We just wake up each morning waiting to see what door He will open next.

     What we can say is that it is indescribably exciting and testify that He does indeed "...pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

     We so appreciate your prayers, encouragement and financial support.  This is a big step for us and your participation has been, and will continue to be, of paramount importance.

 

Shalom

Comparing

Mike Broadhurst

What is it to be poor?  What makes a person reach the conclusion that they are poor?  Or, better yet, if you are a person of means how do you determine who is poor?
Over the years Yvonne and I have read the 1st through 3rd chapters of Genesis dozens of times.  We have found so many hidden gems that we've come to the conclusion that all other scriptures have a core connection to those first three chapters.
When Adam and Eve walked with God, they were naked.  The scripture doesn't seem to indicate that they had a 3-bed, 2-bath home, either.  While they could eat freely from the garden, they were created to work for its fruit.  We're thinking there wasn't much arguing.  Life was good.  It was very good.  What do you think?  By today's standards, were they poor?
We've been so blessed these past few months here in Madagascar.  Yvonne and I have found a niche in the community.  We have joined forces with a wonderful pastor and his wife who have started 52 churches throughout the country.  Together we are conducting a 7-week seminar on how to start a business.  
The impetus for these classes was that everywhere we looked Yvonne and I saw potential.  In the land, in the people, in the community and in the country.  
The obstacles to starting a small business are pretty substantial.  There's a corrupt government, graft in every segment of business, and the biggest hurdle of all - fear.  To overcome we believe there are three key ingredients:  faith, hope and love.
On the other hand, we've also met some very successful Malagasy and each of their stories starts in poverty.  So, while the challenge is stiff we are certain that with the right attitude and the right strategy our students can improve their circumstances.
If they are taught well, then they will be willing to teach others, and those others still.  We think that the key to changing a person, a community and a nation is more than salvation.  Salvation is the starting point, not the end result.  Why else would the Lord ask us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is it heaven."
Which brings us back to the concept of poor.  You see, when we look at our students we don't see poor people.  We see people who love to laugh, to sing, to dance and to work.  We see people of wealth.
So, one day we asked our class, "Who in here is poor?"  Much to our surprise everyone raised their hand.  This immediately brought to mind several desperate souls that we've seen on the sides of the street in Toamasina.  
After describing one such person, we asked again, "Who in here is poor?"  No one raised their hand.  So, it seems to us that determining if someone is poor requires a person to compare themselves to another.
In his book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How to Reverse It),  Bob Lupton writes, "Again and again we are finding that when it comes to global needs in organizational development and human development, the granting of money creates dependence and conflict, not independence and respect.  By changing the equation to other means of exchange, we find that we are empowering people based on shared responsibility, mutual support, and accountability.
 "Mercy is a force that compels us to acts of compassion," Lupton continues.  "But in time mercy will collide with an ominous, opposing force. Injustice.  Against this dark and overpowering force, acts of mercy can seem meager...Perhaps that is why the Bible places equal emphasis on both mercy and justice."
Lupton concludes, "Mercy combined with justice creates:
  • immediate care with a future plan
  • emergency relief and responsible development
  • short term intervention and long-term involvement
  • heart responses and engaged minds
"There is no simple or immediate way to discern the right response without a relationship.  And if you don't have time to invest in forging a trusting relationship, give your money to a ministry that does," writes Lupton.
Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you..."  There is no doubt that the poor will always exist.  We are called to serve them.  However, some of the poor aren't poor.  They're just stuck in a comparison mode, lacking opportunity and training.
So, we ask this question, if there is no economic foundation where the educated can find jobs and where hospitals have paying patients, where is the sustainability to support them in our nobel efforts?  How have we empowered them?
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  If we take on the mantel of training the children of God the ways of God, God promises to change a nation. He says so in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Yvonne and I have come to see scriptures like these as material fact; part of a recipe for a promised outcome.  When we trust in them and apply them the results are remarkable.
Let us close by saying this - we are not promoting the idea of worldly wealth.  We are teaching kingdom of heaven principles whereby the very people we have come to serve will hear from the same Holy Spirit who is calling them to serve.  The purpose of prosperity is best defined in Deuteronomy 30:9.  It is to do good.  
We stand on that instruction.

 

Aplomb

Mike Broadhurst

 

  •  Jesus said, "...Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Luke 6:20  
  • Jesus said, "The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

     We had been waiting for The Ladies from Maroantsetra since Thursday afternoon.  As the crow flies, it's only about 160 kilometers from Toamatave, but if you've taken a bus anywhere in Madagascar you can attest to the fact that "as-the-crow-flies" really isn't a great tool for determining how long it takes to get from one town to another.
 
     Suffice to say, these 15 ladies were supposed to leave Sunday a week ago, but that departure was delayed until Tuesday.  The trip to the Hope Center (where Yvonne and I work) should have taken two days.  Instead, they arrived on Saturday - four days after they're odyssey began.

     All of these ladies suffer from obstetric fistula (OBF).  It is a condition typically brought on by obstructed and/or prolonged labor, and is worsened in countries where poverty is rampant and health care minimal.  

     Affected women either leak urine or feces or both, leaving them socially isolated in most instances and ostracized by many...sometimes for a lifetime.  In addition to the psychological trauma inflicted, OBF also imposes enormous medical / financial burdens on victims and their families. When you think of OBF, think of the woman with the issue of blood described in the Gospels of Mark 5, Matthew 9 and Luke 8.

     To get to the Hope Center they saw one of their buses slide into a river; walk 10 hours under the deluge of several thunder showers; sleep on the side of the road using their meager belongings for covering and bedding; and conserve what little food they had so it would last four days instead of two.
 
     Usually when our larger group of guests arrive here at the Hope Center the transportation is in the form of either a bona fide bus or at least a 10-passenger van.  I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I looked over the balcony as the The Ladies from Maroantsetra arrived yesterday.
 
     Stuffed into a double-cab pick-up truck were two-drivers, a chaperon and 15 ladies plus all of their belongings.  A make-shift tattered canopy covered those sitting on the benches in the truck bed where no less than 10 ladies sat crammed together.  The rest of the cadre were tightly compacted in the interior seating designed for five.  It made me think of the Ringling Brothers Circus clowns I had seen as a kid - one after another piling out of a VW Bug, only I didn't think of this sight as amusing, but with incredulity.
 
     Yesterday (Sunday) I asked them about their trip.  They had to take four different "buses."  None of them were an improvement over the one in which they arrived.  "The first one didn't have a canopy," one lady told me.
 
     "Did it rain?" I asked the group.
 
     The cumulative response was a resounding "Yes!"  "Sometimes it rained so hard all of our belongings got soaked," another lady offered.  

     Suffice to say, they didn't have hotel rooms.  The ladies said on one night the road was so rough the driver pulled over and waited several hours before moving on.  They used the delay to disembark and sleep in the grass on the side of the road.
 
     Their trip wasn't supposed to include a boat ride, which I had heard about several times as we got updates on the ladies whereabouts.  It occurred two days into the trip when they came to a river near Famba (a place I couldn't find on a map of Madagascar). 
    
     There is no bridge to cross at this 60-meter-wide gap, so apparently locals have found a spot where the water is low enough that brave souls can drive across the river bed.  All of the ladies left the truck and watched as the driver made his attempt.  He failed.
 
     The rains that had fallen the night before added an element of the unknown.  As the driver entered the waters the swollen currents overtook the truck and it lost traction.  It didn't sink, but it did slip and slide until it became permanently stuck, locked between some slime-covered rocks.  To the best of anyone's knowledge there it still remains.
 
     It's then that the ladies got their boat ride...two at a time, that is.  It was on Thursday around noon that a local villager with something described as a canoe helped these ladies across the river in pairs.  Once they got to the other side, they sat for two hours before they commenced their march to a nearby village, some 10 hours down the road.  It's during that walk that it started to pour, sometimes torrentially as the ladies explained. 
 
     From there they caught another truck, which took them to another depot, where they fianlly caught the vehicle that brought them to the Hope Center.  They were in the truck from sometime Thursday afternoon until late Saturday morning.
 
     As they were finishing with their story I asked them if they were ever scared.  Again, in unison, they nodded their heads, "yes."

     "What scared you most?" I queried.
 
     After commiserating for a few seconds one of the younger ladies raised her hand and gave voice to their fear, "We were afraid that we would miss our appointments."
 
     Their fear makes me muse about the comforts of home and how something a little out of the ordinary has the power to disrupt my temperament on any given day.  On the other hand the Malagasy treat the unexpected with such aplomb that I wonder if they know what a light they are to me.  

     I pray that each and every one of these ladies are successful in their quest for the healing they so faithfully pursue.  I pray that the hem of the Master's garment is within their reach.

Courage

Mike Broadhurst

     Are you courageous?  Webster's Dictionary says  of courage:  mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

     What images conjure up in your mind when you think of courage?  Before you read on, please stop and consider this question - what image do you see?

     You may have read the news accounts a few weeks ago about the Christian missionaries who refused to leave a Jordanian village in the face of an ISIS attack.  They paid for their faith with their lives as 12 of them were beheaded.  

     What do you think?  Were these Christians courageous?  Or were they stupid, not leaving their post when forewarned of the impending danger.  

     I witnessed such courage here in Madagascar just last week.  And to be honest, it humbled me.  It made me ask myself, "Am I courageous?"  As well as, "What kind of Christian am I?"

     Let me set the stage.

     The organization Yvonne and I work for has guidelines that we are to follow when we are in the public arena.  This means that while we are at our daily workplace or in one of the organization's vehicles, we have to abide by these standards.

     There are lots of good reasons why these rules are in effect.  Not only do they protect us personally, but they also limit the chances of the organization being taken advantage of or misrepresented.

     So, last week I was several miles from our workplace in one of our vehicles.  I was parked on the side of a narrow, but very busy road waiting for one of our Malagasy co-workers to purchase some supplies.  

     As I waited I was reading something on my lap.  When I looked up I saw a man having a seizure.  This is not the first time I've seen such an occurrence.  I have seen epileptics go through their agony at the prison in Ridgeland and on the streets of Savannah.  I'm aware that there's really nothing you can do for a person in such a state.  You pretty much have to stand by and allow the fit to pass before you can be of any assistance.

     The most dangerous thing for this man was the traffic that streamed by - large 16-wheelers headed to the port, passing within inches of this poor convulsed soul twitching and trembling in the gutter.  

     With all of the people walking around, no body would come close to the man.  Some would glance, a few gazed from the other side of the street, but most merely passed bye.

     So, I left the truck and headed to the man.  My plan was to at least stand by him and flag the traffic to avoid running him over while he uncontrollably squirmed and wriggled in the street.  As I knelt to pray for him it became apparent that something far worse had taken place.

     The first indication was the blood streaming from his mouth.  I had not seen that in other seizure victims.  At the same time he was sucking up dust from the street with every gasping breath, so I gently turned him over on his back.

     As I did so, his left arm was revealed.  It was split in two, like a snapped twig.  Where his forearm was meant to be straight, it jutted in one direction and then to another in the shape of V so that his wrist and hand dangled listlessly.  He had a multiple compound fracture.

     Now this incident was more than a seizure.  It was a matter of life and death because if no one were to help this man get to a hospital he would most certainly go into shock and die.

     Let me add here there is no 911 in Madagascar.  There are no fire departments with EMT's ready to respond to an emergency within minutes.  The fact is, if health care here is an abomination then emergency medical service is non-existent.  Though someone told me they do have ambulances I've never heard one, let alone seen one.

     It may be hard to understand, but for reasons explained above our organization's policy in cases like this is not to put people in our vehicles under any circumstances.  There are no exceptions.

     So, here I stood.  A white man in a foreign land, amidst a crowd of puzzled and frightened black faces who seemed to have no intent to intervene in a desperate circumstance.  Then my Malagsy co-worker returned from his errand.

     He came and stood next to me, waiting for instruction.  Instead I queried him.   "If you were alone," I asked him, "and you saw this man in this condition, what would you do?'

     The reply was short and resolved.  "I would help him."

     So, as the seizure started to wane, my Malagasy friend and I tried to wave down a passing pus-pus (a tri-wheeled self-propelled buggy that serves as a taxi).  One finally stopped and it was apparent that the operator, while willing to help, was very scared.  When it became apparent that the passenger could easily fall from his seat, the driver decided he wanted no part of helping the man.

     Fortunately, another driver stopped and offered his services.  By now a crowd of people had gathered, all shouting what I assume were instructions.  It was a chaotic and surreal scene.

     As my friend spoke to the crowd we found one young man who was willing to sit in the passenger seat with the dazed and groaning man, securing him for a trip to a nearby hospital.

     They drove off and my Malagasy friend and I boarded our truck, headed back to our workplace.  

     I was so struck by the unwillingness of what I would suppose was a hundred people to help that I asked my partner, "Why would no one lend a helping hand?"

     "Mike," he said, "they are scared."

     "Scared of what?" I asked incredulously.

     "They are scared of catching his disease."

     "What disease?" I replied.

     "The one that causes the seizure."

     Well, smart American that I am and knowing that epilepsy is not contagious, I pronounced that, "Seizures are not contagious."

     Needless to say, the conversation went on.  The Malagasy people are afraid of seizures.  My Malagasy friend was every bit as afraid.  Which of course led me to ask, "If you thought you could catch his disease, then why did you help?"

     Again, the reply was quick.  "Because he needed help."

     So, in the coming hours I pondered this event.  I thought, "If someone I knew to have Ebola was in desperate need, would I help him?"  Certainly that's how my Malagasy friend saw this episode and so I started to ponder, "How great the courage?"

     It wasn't until several days later that I found out that encephalitis can cause seizures.  Encephalitis is not uncommon in Madagascar.  So, what I perceived as a Samaritan work paled in the light of the truth.  There was ignorance in my work, but there was true courage exhibited by my Malagasy friend.

     So, I ask you, what is courage?  I can honestly tell you that I have never been called on to make such a decision and as I reflect on this episode I think of the small things that occurred during this trial.  Not the least of which is, "Why did you not put this man in your vehicle and take him to the hospital yourself?"

     I'll conclude with this - thank you Lord that there are courageous Christians who live sacrificially; who do not love their own lives so much that they would shy away from death.  That indeed, no greater love is there than this, than a man would be willing to lay down his life for his brother.

Extraordinary

Mike Broadhurst

     One of the most extraordinary places that Yvonne and I have been privileged to visit in our first few months away from home is not the majestic mountains of Zululand, nor the roaring Indian Ocean just steps from our current place of residence.  It's not a wild life refuge where we stood side-by-side with two elephants and I'm sure it won't be a lemur retreat we plan on staying at in the coming weeks.

     No, the most extraordinary place we have visited is down a narrow one-way street in Durban, South Africa.  It is hidden between two bustling thoroughfares - an older, well-used commercial building where something beautiful is taking place (see our video diary).

     Rod and Gloria Degee operate a facility at 16 Mona Road called the Umgeni Community Empowerment Center.  It is here that hundreds of people have come to know the power of a loving God.  Yvonne and I visited this place in late August. 

     On the Sunday we went to worship there the congregation was bright, cheerful, enthusiastic and hospitable.  They welcomed Yvonne and me with open arms.  We would find out later that every person, with the exception of Rod, Gloria and the children present, was someone whom had been transformed from prostitution, drug addiction or homelessness.

     It was the place Yvonne and I dreamed could be possible in Savannah when we ministered on the streets there for nine years.

     Like Yvonne and me, Rod and Gloria are not spring chickens.  Like us, they left a comfortable suburban lifestyle to serve the Lord in the most humbling of environments.   And like Yvonne and me, their ministry depends on the loving support from believers like you.  

     Unlike Yvonne and me, their ministry has taken on dimensions superior to anything we ever endeavored to accomplish.

     Aside from being involved in a number of life-saving outreaches, UCEC operates two incredible facilities apart from the center on Mona Road.  One is a refuge for prostitutes and abused children; the other a safe harbor for men trying to escape the clutches of alcohol and drugs.  Let me repeat, these facilities are not funded by government agencies.  They are funded by private, charitable donations.

     Yvonne and I were honored when Rod and Gloria invited us to see the home where they take in prostitutes and nurture them back to humanity.  It is a home in a very nice section of Durban, surrounded by garden terraces where residents can plant flowers and vegetables.  When we were there they had the ability to house over 20 women at one time.

     One of the residents was a 5-year-old boy.  Earlier that morning, the pastor asked for testimonies and this tyke bounced gleefully to the front of the congregation proclaiming, "I am thankful because my mommy has gotten me into a school."  A little over a year ago "mommy" was imprisoned by heroin addiction, so desperate that she sold her body to strangers for a moment's relief.

     Another woman sat at the dining room table eating a bowl of cereal.  She was in the third day of the arduous task of breaking free from the same shackles.

     The Lord's redemptive power can be seen in the pictures pasted on Rod and Gloria's office walls.  Some were the same faces that greeted us at the worship center that Sunday morning.  

     Rod and Gloria live not far from the office in a humble two-bedroom apartment.  They drive a late-model Toyota, provided to them by their children.  They once drove a Mercedes Benz.  The world would say Rod and Gloria are of modest means, but I assess they are anything but modest.  They are adorned with wealth that I imagine most people in Durban don't even know exists.

     If their story intrigues you, visit their site www.ucec.org.za and check out what they do.  They are always in great financial need, so if you are so moved would you consider making a donation(s) to this Christ-centered ministry?

     Yvonne and I personally attest to their faithfulness and courage!

 

 

 

 

No Fear

Mike Broadhurst

Jesus returned to the Temple, knowing full well the hatred the Pharisees held in their hearts toward him.  He knew of their intent to kill him, yet he returned.

Yvonne and I serve at the HOPE Center for Mercy Ships.  The ship has limited bed space, so the center serves as a hostel for those awaiting surgery and recuperating once they come out of intensive care. 

Our building is part of Toamatave's Hopital Be (Big Hospital).  We pass their patients every day as we come to work.

One morning we walked in and a Muslim stood on the veranda outside one of the hospital's rooms.  He looked forlorn and weary.  As I passed by the room several times that day I could see a woman inside.  She seemed to never move from her left side.

In the next two days more and more family members showed up at the room.  There seemed to a be a growing mood of despair and expectation of death.  I sensed more and more, with each stroll by the room, that I was supposed to pray for them.

I prayed, but the more I prayed the more I had an urging to go into the room and intercede for the woman.  So, I approached one of our Malagasy interpreters and asked him to take me to the man with the taqiyah (a prayer cap).  I sensed some trepidation on my translator's part.

The conversation was brief. I told the man that I was praying for the woman inside the room and, if he would like, Yvonne and I could come and pray at her bedside.  His face was deadpan as he responded.

The interpreter later told me that he thought the man was scared.  "To him Jesus is a prophet, not God," my translator said, something that I already knew.  "He is probably scared that you would pray to Jesus, so all he said was, 'Thank you.'"

The interpreter went on to tell me how Islam is gaining strength in Madagascar; that there is tension between Muslims and Christians; that each side is afraid of the other.  I told him that I recognize there is fear, but reminded him that the Bible says, "Perfect love casts out all fear."

We conversed and I encouraged him that Jesus loves all people and that if we don't approach our supposed enemies without fear they will never see nor hear the love of Christ.  

Later that day, the interpreter rushed to Yvonne and me with exuberance and a big smile.  "You're not going to believe this," he said.  "It's a miracle!"   

"What's a miracle?" we asked.

"The husband of the woman in the room came to me and said that he welcomes you and Yvonne to come and pray for his wife," he said.

Early two mornings later, Yvonne and I went to the room.  Yvonne chose to cover her head out of respect for the Muslim woman.  We brought towels as prayer rugs.  We both got on our knees at the foot of the bed, me with my face to the ground.  The woman was where she had been for days, on her left side barely moving and groaning with pain.  So, we prayed.  And we prayed in and through the name of Jesus Christ.

The very next day we saw a first; the woman was on the veranda sitting upright.  The husband greeted us with a face aglow, a beaming smile, thumbs up signifying success and then shaking our hands.  Three days later they were gone.  The nurses at Hopital Be said the woman had regained her strength, stood up and walked out of the hospital with her family.

We didn't get a chance to speak the gospel to them, but they saw first hand the power of the Savior.  I pray that the seed of life given to that woman will stir their hearts to pursue the One who said, "No one can enter the kingdom of heaven except through me."

Caring

Mike Broadhurst

One of Yvonne's favorite sayings is, "People don't care about how much you know until they see how much you care."

We would not have spent over nine years in the streets of Savannah, nor eight years at Ridgeland Correctional Institute and we certainly would not be on a current two-year commitment to Africa if we didn't believe in doing the work of Jesus Christ.

However, in the last few weeks here in Madagascar, it has become infinitely clear to us that all of the well-intentioned works are of no value if they are devoid of the Christian responsibility to use our mouth, too.

Dear friends and family, Jesus Christ's greatest accomplishment was not feeding 4,000, nor was it walking on water.  No, it wasn't even healing all who would come to Him.  Our Savior's single greatest accomplishment was what occurred in the three days surrounding His death, burial and resurrection.

His victory over death and promise of eternal rest to all who call upon His name is the lone reason why there is a Church at all.  It is the message of the New Testament.  If you research the antiquities, you'll find it is what made a rag-tag "world-wide" following so uniquely powerful, willing to face persecution even unto death.

For them, the gospel did not promise wealth.  They didn't think they could avoid sickness.  They were a strange group who rejoiced when persecuted, shared their meager belongings, did not fear lepers and lived lives of faith without compromise.  What drove them?

Mercy Ships is an incredible organization, served by many wonderful people, but the stark reality is there are many who come to our doors that we just can't help.  So, the logical question many of us ponder is, "Where is their hope?"

The answer seems rather apparent.  Jesus said it, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."  Matthew 28:19-20  The Apostle Paul expounds on it, "How then shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except that they be sent?" Romans 10:14-15

So, yes, Yvonne and I will be his feet and hands, but we must also be his mouth as well.

We leave you with the writings of the Apostle Paul,  "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." 1 Cor. 15:19

Love and a Club Foot

Mike Broadhurst

Some of my deepest, most satisfying meditations come before the sun rises - before I'm fully awake.  The clarity of introspection is so intense that I'm not sure there are words fitting for its description. The thoughts are so unusually concise and real, it is as though they are coming from a source other than myself.  I like to call them, "My God moments."

This morning I awoke to the memory of something that I had long since forgotten.  I was born with a club foot.  I remember my mom telling me on several occasions about the experience. She said that when the doctor informed my father and her, my father threw himself across the bed bawling like a baby.  My dad was not someone who cried.

As my mom told the story, in the ensuing months several times a day she would have to take my feet and bend them in an unnatural way until I screamed and cried with pain.  She said it was so difficult she could hardly do it, but she knew that if she didn't do it that the affliction would grow worse.  

As I recalled this story I whimpered in my slumber, trying to do so quietly so that I didn't wake up my wife.  Why was I crying?  Let me explain.

I don't know how severe my club foot was, but suffice to say it didn't require surgery.  There are many people here in Madagascar who are severely afflicted with the deformity.   Manipulative treatment can correct it and this is one of the services that Mercy Ships has the capacity to provide.

Mercy Ships does a great work, but as I'm sure you can understand they can't do all of the work.  As I was standing on the balcony of the upper floor of the Hope Center yesterday I was watching our screening team meet with about 50 local people suffering from various infirmities.

Keep in mind this part of the Mercy Ships cadre has already been to 10 regions of Madagascar interviewing people for potential life-changing surgeries.  What that means is that the surgery and treatment schedules have pretty much been booked up for our entire 10-month service.

Let me interject here, hospitals in Madagascar are not what you think of when you think of a hospital in the USA.  That's worth a whole other blog.  Suffice to say, Malagasy hospitals are lacking by comparison.

Over the past few months Mercy Ships has completed the rehabilitation of a building within the Toamasina hospital complex for the purpose of Ponseti procedures.  This manipulative technique corrects congenital clubfoot without invasive surgery.  Sometimes the treatment can take several years when provided for persons well beyond infancy, as it requires reshaping tissue, cartilage and bone with casting and recasting.  If caught early enough the affliction can start to be reversed in a matter of weeks.

From that balcony I could see people being tenderly turned away, though many have treatable infirmities.  One young man, perhaps the age of 15, limped slowly toward the hospital's security gate with his mother.  His right hand on her left shoulder, they would take three or four steps, stop to rest and repeat the process.  Suffice to say, their journey was arduous.

So, I wept.  I wept because the young man suffered from club foot, a very treatable deformity.

According to medical sources, Ponseti treatment is almost 100% successful in all cases of club foot. IT IS NOT EXPENSIVE.  About 150,000 children are born with this affliction annually,  80% of them are in developing nations.  So, in my mind, that young man limped away needlessly.

The fact is most of the horrendous appearing deformities and diseases here are very treatable, if not avoidable, if countered with proper nutrition, education and/or routine medical attention.

The famous atheist Richard Dawkins loves to ask mockingly, "If there is a God, then why is there so much suffering."  Some in churches, synagogues and temples will ask this weekend, "What can I do?" and then do nothing.

Suffering doesn't exist because there is no God or there is a God.  Suffering exists because there is man...many of them with the wherewithal to help other men and still have plenty left over.

So, will you ponder this question with me.  At what cost?

Oh, that if the world could see, feel and touch the pain that is beyond the miles that separate them from places like Madagascar.  I'm certain hearts would be changed.

Patience

Mike Broadhurst

We are in Madagascar.  We have been here for two weeks, well-ahead of our hospital ship Africa Mercy and the instruments of hope and healing that she carries within her confines.

The crew that is here represents a small portion of the contingent that will eventually call this port city of Toamasina their home for the next 10 months.  While the ship's arrival has been put off for a few days, I know that many of our fellow workers are anxious to get here and start the work for which they so eagerly volunteered.

The Hope Center, where Yvonne and I will serve, is a 242-bed facility where patients will come to prepare for and recuperate from life-renewing operations.  Our job right now is to prepare the building for its purpose as a welcoming place for those coming with such great expectations.

Mercy Ships has never endeavored such a great undertaking.  We are told that past Hope Centers typically housed 50 to 100 patients.  The capacity of the Toamasina center was increased by over 100-beds to meet the needs of this field service.  Right now it is empty. 

We wait patiently, praying and praising our Lord.  The time spent together is sweet.  I am particularly fond of the moments that I get to spend in one-on-one conversations with other crew mates who share this common goal.  That is, to serve a Savior who has equipped us for every good work.

Giving

Mike Broadhurst

Six weeks of cross cultural training was supposed to prepare us for the differences between the way we Westerners see things and the way people in Africa respond in similar circumstances.  Part of our "education" was to shed light on how most African cultures view money.  

In simple terms, in the USA the goal is to save money, accumulate wealth, prepare for "rainy" days and retire with a suitable nest egg.   Money, in a sense, is very personal.  

In Africa, money is communal property.  The village comes first.  To have something and not share it with others is not virtuous.  To have something and "save" it for the future can actually lead to someone being shunned by a community.

With that as a backdrop I want to share an anecdote that touched my heart.  Let me make it very clear that the villages that we visited in the area of the Drakensberg Mountains are very poor by the way of American standards.  In one village the population numbered about 400.  

One local care-giver who led us into homes for the purpose of providing healthcare services and prayer said that 80% of the inhabitants test positive for HIV/AIDS.  Many are children under the age of 10.  In several circumstances our team met with people on their death beds...a thin matress on a cement floor was their only comfort as they prepared for their last breath.

On Sundays our team of 30 would break up into groups and attend different churches.  One of our group went to a church where the pastor had died two years ago.  His wife had inhereted a small flock.  Last Sunday five of our group attended her church.  The congregation numbered 10, including those representing our team.

Like churches in the West, offerings are very much a part of the African experience.  In some services there's actually several collections.  At this particular church an offering was taken at the end of the service.  Everyone in the church, locals included, put something in the basket.

The pastor then made her way to the person heading up our group.  She presented the enitire offering to our team, telling him, "Because you have come to Africa to minister to us, we want to give to you to help you in your work."

My friends, what they gave wasn't 10% of their earnings.  I can assure you that what they gave was not out of a savings account.  The contents in the basket represented several days wages, if not a week's.  In a very real sense, some of the members of that congregation gave everything they had.

These people that we are ministering to are beautiful people.  They are humble people.  They are loving people.  They are people who have blessed us beyond measure.  My prayer is that Yvonne and I might leave this place with a morsel of their faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, Willing and Able

Mike Broadhurst

The outpouring of feedback that Yvonne and I have received is, well, overwhelming.  We can't thank you enough for your interest, your prayers and your financial support.  To know that so many of you are thinking about us is an incredible encouragement.

"Our bags are packed and we're ready to go..."  I'm writing this from our dorm room, moments before we jump in the car and head to Dallas/Forth Worth Airport.  We will not arrive at our next destination - Winterton, South Africa, until Friday afternoon.  We will fly from Dallas to London today; London to Johannesburg tomorrow, which by then will be Friday.  Then we fly to Durban and then take several shuttle buses to Winterton.  

Winterton is a Zulu squatters camp in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains.  We will be serving an orphanage and an aids clinic.  To be honest, I'm not sure what to expect...I just know that I will be in the company of 24 incredible team members who love the Lord and love the people we are going to meet.  We are all very excited.