“WHEN I listened to the experiences of my friends who served in areas where there was a great need for pioneers, I longed to taste that joy too,” says Sylviana, a pioneer in her mid-20’s. “But,” she adds, “I feared that being a need-greater was beyond my abilities.”
Can you relate to the feelings expressed by Sylviana? Do you too long to serve in a territory where more Kingdom workers are needed, but you wonder whether you will ever reach that goal? If that is the case, take heart! With Jehovah’s help, thousands of brothers and sisters have succeeded in overcoming obstacles that hindered them from expanding their ministry. To find out how Jehovah opened the way for some of them, we will visit Madagascar, the fourth largest island on earth.
Over the past ten years, more than 70 zealous publishers and pioneers from 11 countries * have come to serve in this fruitful field in Africa, where many people respect the Bible. Also, numerous local publishers have been willing to move so as to help in spreading the Kingdom message throughout this vast island territory. Let us get acquainted with some of them.
OVERCOMING FEAR AND DISCOURAGEMENT
Louis and Perrine, a couple in their 30’s, moved from France to Madagascar. For years, they had been thinking about expanding their ministry by moving abroad, but Perrine hesitated to move. She explains: “I feared going into the unknown. I was anxious about leaving behind our family, congregation, apartment, all the familiar places, and our routine. Really, my own worries were the greatest obstacle I had to overcome.” In 2012, Perrine mustered up the courage, and she and Louis moved. How does she feel about their decision? “Looking back, I can say that it has been a faith-strengthening experience to see Jehovah’s hand at work in our lives.” Adds Louis, “Imagine, at our first Memorial in Madagascar, ten of our Bible students attended!”
What gave the couple the strength to stay in their assignment when problems arose? They supplicated Jehovah in prayer to give them the power needed to endure. (Phil. 4:13) Louis relates: “We experienced that Jehovah answered our prayers and gave us ‘the peace of God.’ We were able to focus on the joys that our service was bringing us. Also, friends from home sent us e-mails and letters to encourage us not to give up.”—Phil. 4:6, 7; 2 Cor. 4:7.
Jehovah richly rewarded the endurance shown by Louis and Perrine. “In October 2014, we attended the Bible School for Christian Couples * in France,” says Louis. “Attending that school was an unforgettable gift from Jehovah.” Upon graduating, the couple were delighted to be reassigned to Madagascar.
“WE WILL BE PROUD OF YOU!”
When Didier and Nadine, a couple from France, moved to Madagascar in 2010, they were middle-aged. Didier relates: “We pioneered when we were younger, and then we raised three children. When they reached adulthood, we considered the possibility of serving abroad.” Nadine admits: “The thought of being separated from the children made me hesitate, but they told us: ‘If you move abroad to serve as need-greaters, we will be proud of you!’ Their words encouraged us to make the move. Although we now live far away from our children, we are glad that we are able to have frequent conversations with them.”
For Didier and Nadine, learning the Malagasy language was a challenge. “We’re not 20-year-olds anymore,” says Nadine with a smile. How did they succeed? First, they joined a French-speaking congregation. Later, when they felt ready to tackle the local language, they moved to a Malagasy-speaking congregation. Says Nadine: “Many people we meet in the preaching work love to study the Bible. They often thank us for visiting them. At first, I thought I was dreaming. I love pioneering in this territory. When I get up in the morning, I say to myself, ‘It’s great—I’m going preaching today!’”
Didier smiles as he recalls the time when he began to learn Malagasy. “I was conducting a congregation meeting but did not understand any of the answers given by the brothers and sisters. All I could say was, ‘Thank you.’ After I thanked one sister for her answer, those seated behind her started gesturing to me to alert me that the answer was not correct. I quickly called on a brother who gave the right answer—at least, I hope he did.”
SHE GLADLY ACCEPTED THE INVITATION
At a convention in 2005, Thierry and his wife, Nadia, watched the drama “Pursue Goals That Honor God.” That Bible drama about Timothy touched their hearts and deepened their desire to serve where the need for Kingdom workers was greater. Says Thierry: “At the conclusion of that drama, while we were applauding, I leaned over to my wife and asked, ‘Where are we going?’ My wife said that she was thinking about the same thing.” Soon thereafter, they began to take steps to reach their goal. Nadia relates, “Gradually, we downsized our belongings until all we had left fitted into four suitcases!”
They arrived in Madagascar in 2006 and enjoyed their ministry from the start. Says Nadia, “The people we meet give us so much joy.”
Six years later, though, the couple faced a challenge. Nadia’s mother, Marie-Madeleine, who lived in France, fell and broke her arm and injured her head. After the couple had consulted Marie-Madeleine’s doctor, they asked their mother to come and live with them in Madagascar. Though 80 years of age at the time, she gladly accepted the invitation. How does she feel about living abroad? She says: “Sometimes it is challenging to adapt, but despite my limited abilities, I feel so useful in the congregation. And what makes me really happy is that this living arrangement allows my children to continue their fruitful ministry here.”
“I FELT JEHOVAH’S HELPING HAND”
Riana is a brother in his early 20’s. He grew up in Alaotra Mangoro, a fertile region in eastern Madagascar. He did well in school and wanted to pursue higher education. Yet, after studying the Bible, he changed his mind. He relates: “I strove to finish my secondary schooling earlier and promised Jehovah, ‘If I pass my final exam, I will start pioneering.’” After graduating, Riana kept his promise. He moved in with a pioneer brother, got a part-time job, and began to pioneer. He says, “It was the best decision I ever made.”
However, Riana’s relatives did not understand why he did not pursue a secular career. He relates: “My father, uncle, and grandaunt all encouraged me to pursue higher education. But I did not want to stop pioneering for anything.” Before long, Riana wanted to serve where the need for workers was greater. What contributed to that desire? He relates: “Thieves broke into our living quarters and stole many of my belongings. That burglary made me reflect on Jesus’ words about storing up ‘treasures in heaven.’ I decided to work harder at acquiring spiritual riches.” (Matt. 6:19, 20) He moved to the southernmost part of the country—a drought-stricken region 800 miles (1,300 km) from where he had been living. That region is home to the Antandroy people. Why did he go there?
A month before the burglary took place, Riana had started a Bible study with two Antandroy men. He learned some expressions in their language and thought about the many Antandroy people who had not yet been reached with the Kingdom message. He says, “I prayed to Jehovah to help me move to the Tandroy-speaking region.”
Riana moved, and right away he faced an obstacle. He could not get a job. One man told him: “Why did you come here? To find jobs, people from this place go to where you came from!” After two weeks, Riana left the area almost penniless to attend a regional convention, wondering what to do. On the last day of the convention, a brother slipped something into Riana’s coat pocket. It was a sum of money large enough for him to travel back to the Antandroy area and to start a small business selling yogurt. Says Riana: “I felt Jehovah’s helping hand just in time. I could continue to help those who had not had a chance to learn about Jehovah!” There was also much work to do in the congregation. Riana adds: “I was assigned to give a public talk every other week. Jehovah was training me through his organization.” Today, Riana is still sharing the Kingdom message with the many Tandroy-speaking people who want to learn about Jehovah.
“BLESSED BY THE GOD OF TRUTH”
Jehovah assures us that “anyone who seeks a blessing for himself in the earth will be blessed by the God of truth.” (Isa. 65:16) When we work hard to overcome obstacles to expand our ministry, we do experience Jehovah’s blessing. Consider Sylviana, mentioned in the introduction to this article. Remember, she feared that being a need-greater would be beyond her abilities. Why did she think so? She explains: “My left leg is about three-and-a-half inches (9 cm) shorter than my right leg. So I walk with a limp and tire out quickly.”
In 2014, Sylviana nevertheless teamed up with Sylvie Ann, a young pioneer sister in her congregation, and they moved to a small village 53 miles (85 km) from their hometown. Despite the obstacles, Sylviana’s dream had come true—and what a fine blessing she received! “After just one year serving in my new assignment,” she relates, “Doratine, a young mother with whom I studied the Bible, got baptized at our circuit assembly.”
“I WILL HELP YOU”
As the expressions of faith from these need-greaters show, when we strive to overcome an obstacle to expand our ministry, we experience in a very personal way the truthfulness of Jehovah’s promise to his servants: “I will fortify you, yes, I will help you.” (Isa. 41:10) As a result, our relationship with Jehovah deepens. In addition, offering ourselves willingly—in the area where we live or in a foreign country—prepares us for the theocratic activities that are awaiting us in the new world. As Didier, mentioned before, puts it, “serving where the need is greater is good training for the future!” May many more willing workers start that training soon!
^ par. 4 The need-greaters came from Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Luxembourg, New Caledonia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
^ par. 8 Now replaced by the School for Kingdom Evangelizers. Full-time ministers serving abroad who meet the requirements may apply to attend this school in their country of origin or in another country where the school is held in their mother tongue.