Where Malagasy Haggai leader and medical doctor Noro Rakotoarivelo lives in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the culture is rich. It’s a huge part of the people’s lives there, with traditions and rituals still in practice today, dating back many generations. But many of those traditions are not based on God, and that’s one of the biggest hurdles Dr. Rakotoarivelo faces when trying to share her faith. Plenty of her neighbors go to church, but they haven’t accepted Jesus as their Savior. Because those rituals maintain as much presence and importance as what they learn in church, it is nearly impossible to grow in one’s faith. In fact, the ones that do often face difficult conflicts with their families.
“I believe that when a person knows the Bible and applies what they learn, their lives change,” said Dr. Rakotoarivelo, who teaches a Bible study for women. “That’s what our people need, as conviction from God’s Word would correct wrong thinking — and our people have many, stemming both from our heritage and today’s wider culture.”
Dr. Rakotoarivelo works in a rural area of Madagascar’s capital. Faced with the needs of children living there, she and another Haggai leader began a kids ministry.
Dr. Rakotoarivelo uses her equipping from the Haggai Leader Experience to teach the value of daily devotion to this group of women, and for many who’ve taken that next step, it’s been life-changing.
One young woman decided to leverage her family business to share the Gospel with children and teenagers at a local school by printing Bible verses and uplifting messages on their school supplies. Another shared astonishment when she learned her coworkers altered their behavior around her, simply because they knew she was a Christian.
Medical doctor Noro Rakotoarivelo says one of the biggest challenges to sharing the Gospel in Madagascar is that its people often mix ancestral beliefs with parts of Christianity. When a believer decides to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and shed previous religious practices, it can cause division within his or her family.
“One of them said, ‘We see that you are Christian, and you are teaching us by your behavior.’ She did not even say a word about the Bible or Jesus, as it was forbidden in that workplace, yet she is living the Gospel in front of them.”
Another invited two young sisters of a different religion who had been struggling with their faith and the idea of a true God for some time.
“They said later, that when I gave the lecture on that passage, especially Acts 1:8 about the unstoppable spirit of God, they made the decision to totally commit to Christ and leave behind their previous religious beliefs. This put them at odds with their father but didn’t deter them from following Jesus and studying the Bible.”
Meeting together regularly has given them time to study and apply Scripture, pray for and encourage one another, and, ultimately, learn how to ask God for guidance as they go out into the world to make disciples of others.
Now, that’s a new kind of tradition worth starting!