IMB missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa have a goal to see 55 unengaged, unreached people groups engaged with the gospel by the year 2025.
Among these groups, which are the largest unengaged and unreached in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are few or no Christians or churches. These groups need people praying for and working among them full-time preaching the gospel. Missionaries are praying that God will call local believers, believers from nearby people groups and missionaries from further away to join in reaching them. They are also asking churches in the U.S. and around the world to pray for, and eventually to help engage, these 55 people groups.
One of these people groups is the Sihanaka of Madagascar. The Sihanaka people number 611,000 and are located on the plateau in the center of the country, just northeast of the capital city of Antananarivo. This area is the country’s main source for the staple rice crop. As far as religion is concerned, the vast majority of the Sihanaka people practice ancestor worship. Missionaries report that there are several churches from two Malagasy evangelical denominations and a number of believers among the Sihanaka. Still, these believers are a small minority, and the bondage of ancestor worship is strong in the region.
One Malagasy couple, who are part of the Malagasy Biblical Baptist Convention and are friends of IMB missionaries Nathan and Tessa Baker in Madagascar, felt called to move their family to the region where the Sihanaka people live. Oliva and Narindra are passionate about church planting and biblical marriage counseling and training, said the Bakers. Before they moved to the Sihanaka region, the couple partnered with Malagasy Biblical Baptist churches around the island, as well as missionaries, to host marriage counseling seminars and trainings.
Oliva and Narindra have lived in the Sihanaka region since September 2020. They are supported by the local church, as well as friends who have chosen to partner with them in their mission to serve among the Sihanaka. They continue to partner with IMB missionaries for encouragement and prayer as they minster to those around them.
“I try to check in on them monthly to see how they’re doing and how we can pray for them,” said Tessa.
The Bakers explained that because of the stress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, many of the Sihanaka people have turned to Oliva and Narindra for guidance and counseling. Although both men and women have expressed interest in the gospel, Sihanaka women have been more likely to respond. Pray for these women and their husbands and families to have soft hearts to the gospel.
The Bakers also relayed Oliva and Narindra’s prayer requests for strength as they face spiritual darkness. Whether it be witchdoctors, mediums or ancestral worship, the spiritual darkness in the region is oppressive and prevalent. The Malagasy couple also asks for prayers as they discern how to reach the Sihanaka who live deep in the mountains of the region. Oliva and Narindra want to bring the gospel to those who live “off of the beaten path.”
Please ask God to give them wisdom, especially in the first contact with these rural people.
Pray for more Christians from all over the island of Madagascar to go to the Sihanaka region. Pray for openness to evangelical conversations and pray for eyes to see the depravity of ancestor worship and the joy of worshiping their true Creator. Pray for researchers to find churches and offer further missional training.
This article was written by Catherine Finch, a writer for the International Mission Board. It was originally published at imb.org.