History of the Bible Baptist Church Sunday School, Mandritsara
Jane Mann writes:
When Johan and Ann Coutigny and David and Jane Mann first arrived in Mandritsara in 1993 they were delighted to find that a small church of the FFBBM (the group of churches with which the HVM project is shared) had just been born. There were twelve members, three of whom were young people. These twelve members met each Sunday morning in a small building in the town. There was also a mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting, but no other meetings had as yet been organised. We were warmly welcomed and it was not long before I was asked to help start a Sunday School. Ann Coutigny was also starting a work amongst the women and helping to teach a children’s time in the services.
Jesus words to His disciples, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them” (Matthew 19:14), remind us of our responsibility to make Him known to children.
The Psalmist too exhorts God’s people “to teach their children, so that the next generation would know His law … and they in turn would tell their children.” “Then,” he continues, “they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands.” (Psalm 78:1-8)
Half the population of Madagascar is under the age of 15. Some villages visited by our Community Health Team seem largely to be composed of children! Our responsibility is very great.
So a Sunday School was started with a group of fifteen to twenty children and young people. Three of the church members were keen to meet with me in order to prepare each week. We had no previously prepared lesson material in Malagasy, so I started preparing lessons directly from the Bible. My previous experience of Sunday School work had convinced me of the value of consecutive Bible teaching, tracing God’s plan of salvation from the entry of sin into the world in Genesis right through to the fulfilment of that plan in the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Started in weakness
Due to my lack of fluency in Malagasy and the fact that the church was only just taking shape, we started in weakness. However, the children and young people kept coming, as did a growing number of adults who liked to sit and listen at the back. Gradually, as a few more church members were willing to help teach, we were able to divide the group into classes according to age.
We established two aims in our lesson preparation: firstly to teach the Word of God so that children and young people might understand their spiritual need, hear the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn to Him for salvation. Secondly, we aimed to help those who had come to true faith to grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord, learning to follow and serve Him more closely in their daily lives.
I have been grateful for the Lord’s provision of committed, faithful and experienced Malagasy Christians with whom the Sunday School leadership has been shared. We have continued to meet weekly for lesson preparation with the growing team of teachers, seeking that each one would have a firm Biblical understanding of the lesson to be taught. It is then the responsibility of each teacher to prepare the lesson according to the age of those in his or her class. We have also sought to give regular help with teacher training, how to use visual aids, teach a memory verse, etc.
As the church has grown, there has been opportunity for helping and encouraging small teams of church members to go out each month to an increasing number of surrounding villages. Teachers trained up in Sunday School have joined one or other of these teams in order to bring the Good News of Jesus to the children in that particular village, whilst older church members have ministered to the adults. We praise the Lord for these opportunities to take the Gospel further and further afield.
In Mandritsara itself we now (2013) have, with some seasonal variation, around 350 or so children, young people and adults attending Sunday School. After an initial time of worship together we divide into 22-24 classes ranging from tots through children and young people to adults.
In addition to the series of lessons originally started for older children and young people, another series with the specific needs of young children in mind, has now been prepared. Though simple in approach, this also aims to lay a consecutive Biblical foundation. Both series of lessons, together with visual aids, are now available on CD for use in Madagascar. The series for younger children covers a three-year cycle and contains 94 lessons with 394 pictures. The series for older ones to adults contains 132 lessons from the Old Testament, 92 from the New Testament, 23 from the Acts of the Apostles and 1 lesson from Revelation. There are 569 pictures to accompany these lessons.
The increasing number of villages contacted is due in part to the fact that the church and the hospital, together with the Community Health team, serve a very large district. Patients coming from near and far hear the Good News of Jesus proclaimed. Some have then asked for continuing Bible teaching in their village.
Another factor in the expansion of the work is the annual Holiday Bible Club run during the long school holidays (July-August) under the auspices of the church. Initially these Clubs were held in different parts of Mandritsara itself. Then we began holding the Club in a different nearby village each year. Often this has resulted in significant interest amongst the adults of the village as well as the children, culminating in requests for regular follow-up.
We are conscious that the Lord has opened a great door of opportunity. We continue to feel our weakness, but look to the Lord to fulfil the promises made that His Word “will not return to Him empty” (Isaiah 55:11), for the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). We do thank all who join us in praying that this work may be a means of bringing new life to many, and that it may all be for His glory.
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