we have this nightly read-pray-tuck routine at chez owens, something i’m reestablishing with the small folk after many post-adoption months of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-crazies. so last night i was praying with L, and she covered the whole gamut of thank yous–for her field trip and sleeping in a warm house and playing with her brothers. then she came to this bit:
and please help me so that i’m kind to the people around me. and please help me to look in case there’s someone who maybe needs a friend or is sad. so then i can be their friend. amen.
it was my turn next, but i had to stall until i could unsnag my voice from my throat.
i’ve been following the work of our mission team in africa, reading their updates and candid pleas for prayer. some of the media folk recently visited a couple remote people groups living on islands off madagascar. they’re beautiful people steeped in spirit possession and tied to the realm of their ancestors. they make careful vows, thread their steps between taboos and sacred places.
For the Sakalava, god is a distant idea, and the idea of a gracious God who intimately cares about them is even farther from their experience. So they must go to the spirits. They bargain with them. They visit the sacred Tamarind tree on the edge of the village, bow before it and place an offering of rum or money in the tangle of its roots. There they make a plea – for something mundane like a new oar for their boat, or for something profound like a child’s life. They make a deal. Make a vow.
“If I get this thing, I will kill a cow here. I will buy fabric and clothe the tree. I will protect this sacred place.”
And it is taboo to not keep a vow. A person may get sick as a result – a kind of retribution from the spirit world. The whole village might even suffer some awful consequence.
[Mike Delorenzo, An Island Too Far]
but here’s the good news: Christ has come, and with him comes life and release from the clutches of fear. and the sakalava, they are precious to him, which makes them precious to us. i’m itching for them to get to know God, to come alive, to rest and move and breathe in the assurance of life beyond this, spun out in the company of the One for whom morning stars sing. the One who thinks they’re the bee’s knees: who loves them deeply and sacrificially and like nothing they’ve ever known.
some of our mission team are prepping to make their home among the sakalava soon. please pray with us as they go.