Patsy and Todd have been such wonderful hosts. They’ve lived here in Tulear, in Africa for many years. Because of them, we have been able to do the work we have done. They have inserted us into a community of Malagasy who have afforded us immediate trust because of the longstanding relationship they have with them.
Patsy invited us to their English church service which was to be held at 5PM on Saturday evening. In this impoverished city, the church is a place where people can gather to pray in community. It is a place where everyone is equal in love and in hope.
Patsy asked if I would speak at the service, I said yes, and almost immediately started feeling a little bit nervous about what I could possibly say to these Malagasy who come from a world so different from my own. A world without CNN on television (most don’t even have television or electricity ), computers, internet or any of the “creature comforts” that we take for granted every day. On top of that, "Who am I to speak in church?" I asked myself. I knew this was something important to Patsy and the Malagasy. They have done so much for me, so of course I would speak. She gave me a guideline, I could speak about the readings. One reading was from John, the other from Ephesians, “Choose one “ she said.
The Ephesians reading came from Chapter 5 and is entitled “Living in the Light”. It has a simple message. God has given us grace and love. He has also given us gifts. Find your gift and share that gift with love.
A friend who posts daily quote on Facebook just so happened to have posted this quote that morning: “God does not give us grace because of the good works we have done, he gives us grace so that we may go out and do good works." When we try to do good for others we usually receive more of a reward in return. The easiest way to help others is by finding out what we’re good at, what gifts we have. Everyone has a gift whether they are an impoverished citizen of a developing nation, or a wealthy westerner. The Malagasy children I worked with were so smart. People here have to be inventive and ingenious in order to make something out of the little that they have, and they are. The hard part for us is figuring out exactly what our gifts are, the hard part for them is even acknowledging that they have gifts. For two weeks I’ve been working very hard to remind them that they can do important things in their lives. I reminded the group (mostly young men) in that church in Ankilifaly Saturday evening. I hope they stop and think about it.
I think we all think we know our gift, but through this experience I’ve learned that if we stop and listen to those around us, if we listen to what they see in us without denial because we are humble, we will find our gift. Once we do, we just need to go out and use that gift in love. I have given my gift, but I have also received so much from the Malagasy people. Whether it’s been a kind smile, a laugh, a hug, a tear, a conversation about culture, or a thank you for teaching them technology, the gift they have given me is the affirmation that no matter who we are or where we live we all have hopes and dreams for a happy life.
My friends are so kind, and have said how amazed they are at what I have done here, but what I want them (you) to know is that they (you) are doing amazing things too. You don’t need to travel to Africa to share your talents, your generosity or your love. Most everyone I know and love already does that. You just need to sit back and listen to others, to listen about how you have impacted lives and continue to do so. Listen about how you shine.
Our gift is our light that shines. I hope my light will stay bright long after I leave here, and I hope to keep it shining bright by continuing to share as much love as I have to give and... of course, by returning here to Madagascar.