Imagine trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people throughout the country who live in tiny rural villages and not having a Bible translated in their dialect.
Imagine that, even if a translated Bible were available, most people could not read it because they have not learned to read.
What would you do?
If you were Southern Baptist missionary Tessa King, who grew up at First Baptist Church in Fernandina Beach, you would teach the stories of the faith so that the Malagasy can embrace the good news, incorporate biblical truths into their lives and share the Good News with others.
“Anyone in Madagascar will tell you that ... people love stories. That is just part of who they are,” said King.
“So when we think of how many people have not heard and do not understand ... it just seems natural to take God’s Word and put it into a clear story in their dialect and teach it to them. The more we’ve done that, the more it seems that it does catch on fire in their heart.”
King’s ability to share such compelling biblical stories is no surprise to her home pastor Jeff Overton. “Tessa has a gift of being able to share from God’s Word in a clear and direct way.”
Melina, an older woman in Madagascar who is young in her faith has befriended King. Once Melina began telling Bible stories with King and her team, she “began sharing the stories with people all around her,” a new and invigorating experience for Melina.
“She shared with us that she was very happy because before, she had believed that she couldn’t share the Bible with her family because she couldn’t read it. Now she was so excited because she could tell her family stories from God’s Word!” said King.
The young missionary, described by pastor Overton as a “person who extends God’s love and compassion to everyone she meets,” has been serving in Madagascar since October 2008, working as a Journeyman with the International Mission Board. For two years, she served in the capital city of Antananarivo, building relationships with university students there.
When that stint was completed, she was given the opportunity to extend her term of service and move to the southwest side of the island, where she would help translate Bible stories into various dialects. Her goal is to finish 27 Bible stories in the Masikoro language, beginning with creation and moving all the way through the resurrection of Jesus.
“Language can sometimes be a challenge, and working cross-culturally is always a learning experience,” said King.
Yet, language and cultural differences are often the least of King’s challenges.
Recently King huddled in safety as torrential downpours flowed from the skies and fierce winds shook homes violently. Hour after desperate hour, the onslaught of a cyclone pounded the lives of the Malagasy.
For many, homes and crops were ruined. Lives were lost.
But King’s enthusiasm was not dampened, and her commitment was not swept away with floodwaters. If anything, even through hardship, her long-held missionary commitment has solidified. King and her fellow missionaries are working toward a relief effort through the local churches.
“As I’ve lived here, I’ve become more and more certain that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. Though I’m still waiting on God’s direction step-by-step, it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything other than this!” she said.
King knows she is not alone in her commitment.
“First and foremost, we are prayer partners with Tessa,” said pastor Overton.
Such prayer support is necessary, said the young missionary.
“Without the prayers of family, friends and churches at home, we could do nothing here. We are so much in need of your prayer support!” she said, adding that she is also grateful for Florida Baptists’ financial support through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which are “wonderful ways churches can support our work here.”
Tessa King completed her Journeyman assignment this summer. She enrolled in seminary in preparation of returning to the international mission field.
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