We huddle over a small table in a dimly lit room – an American pastor, a Malagasy pastor, and me, a woman with no title. Like the two men on either side of me, I am a follower of Jesus. This is what has brought us together in this place that feels like the middle of nowhere.
Our hands rest on the surface of an old map unfolded on the table. It’s of little use since tomorrow’s destination is so remote it isn’t on the map. But it serves as a focal point, a place to join hands and hearts and imaginations and prayers.
I have been here many times, but for my American friend, this is all new. He is a brilliant scientist, a theologian, and most importantly, he’s authentic. He’s never been to Africa, let alone Madagascar, yet here he is, ready and willing to head deep into the Mikea Forest tomorrow, with no clue what we’re walking into.
Our Malagasy pastor friend is also a man I deeply admire. A passionate preacher with a natural communication gift, he has a real love for people and a far-reaching vision to take the gospel to the unreached. We have been working together to serve a community of rickshaw drivers in the town of Toliara, most of whom live in a slum called Andakoro. Along with his equally gifted wife, we have laughed ourselves silly and cried many tears as we’ve built relationships with these precious Andakoro men and their families. But tonight we are here to talk about the Mikea, a primitive hunter-gatherer people who are called the ones who hide behind trees. Tonight, we are dreaming, brainstorming, and making plans.
Part of making plans is a budget, of course. Our Malagasy partner currently makes less than $15 a month to support his wife and two children – about 50 cents a day – which is not a living wage anywhere. Since we will begin to collaborate with him, we discuss what he might need to cover health needs, educational materials for his kids, food, water, clothing, household supplies, petrol etc.
Would $100 a month be too much ? he asks. The answer catches him off guard.
$100? That’s only about ten pizzas! We could get ten people to give the cost of one pizza every month, and that would cover your salary! They can eat hot dogs that night and learn about sacrifice.
From an American viewpoint, this is a practical idea. I know a family who effectively taught their children about giving to missions work in just this way. But this young pastor can’t wrap his mind around what he has just heard.
The room grows quiet for a moment, and then our friend lays his head on the table and begins to weep. Ten pizzas? , he asks between sobs. This is what my life is worth? Ten pizzas?! I can’t even buy clothes for my children, but if you just give up eating pizza once a month, that is a sacrifice?
From his viewpoint, sacrifice is moving his family from the capital city of Antananarivo to a village with no water, no health care, no school, and no church – not exchanging a slice of pizza for a hot dog. He is brave and honest enough to speak his mind.
God’s presence is thick in the room as, tearfully, the three of us listen to each other’s hearts and look into other’s worlds. We end the evening praying for one another and for the people we have been called to serve together.
The men retire to the room they share in this tiny hostel, not only as fellow pastors and partners in the gospel but as friends. I go to my room alone to prepare for tomorrow’s long journey, reflecting on the clash of worldviews we have just experienced. I think of the blind man in the gospel of Luke. When Jesus asks him, What do you want me to do for you? , he doesn’t ask for gold or silver or fame or power. He simply replies, Lord, I want to see.
Lord, give us eyes to see and a heart to understand how our culture influences the way we view ourselves and those who are different from us – especially those in the family of God across the earth. Show us where the values of culture and kingdom collide and help us to choose the way of your kingdom of love. Lord, we want to see.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13