Rebe McReynolds

Praying for Lemurs

By Bryan McReynolds, Jun 16, 2020

Editor's note: As a result of COVID-19, the tourism industry supporting the Sakalava people has shut down. The following story took place in the weeks leading up to the shutdown. We hope this story encourages you and reminds you to pray for the Sakalava during a season of financial hardship for the islanders. 

The hot, humid air surrounded Ladis like a blanket. Off in the distance, he could hear the waterfall that made this part of the jungle so special. For several weeks, Ladis and many men from his village had been coming here, just a 20-minute canoe trip from their beach. They all find work in the tourism industry of Nosy Be, Madagascar. Those who can speak French, Italian, or English work as tour guides, guiding people through the island’s lone nature reserve; others work as canoe paddlers, cooks, or guards of the jungle.

Normally they would take tourists farther down the coast and enter the reserve there, but the people living in the village near that entrance kept raising the “admission fee,” growing vanilla in the jungle, and neglecting the plants and animals. So Ladis and his friends decided to create a new entrance into the reserve. They worked hard clearing trails, removing dead limbs, building shade structures where tourists could sit and eat, and cleaning up the area around the natural waterfall so tourists could cool off after their hike.

But they had a major problem. There were no lemurs! Lemurs are the crown jewel of any nature reserve in Madagascar, and any tourist visiting the reserve in Nosy Be would be very disappointed if they did not see any. For several days the men brought bananas into the jungle hoping to lure lemurs to the area, but without success. They were worried and stressed.

Jesus v. Sacred Rocks

“The men from the other village must have put a curse on this place to get revenge on us for not bringing our tourists to them,” some of the men said. “Maybe we have done something to upset our ancestors. Maybe there is a spirit in this part of the jungle that is not happy with us.”

Some of them disagreed on the source of their predicament, but they all agreed on the solution: They needed to appease the ancestors and the spirits by finding a sacred rock and making an offering of honey, rum, incense, and red and white cloth. In Sakalava culture, each of these items has the power to appease and manipulate the ancestors.

As the group of men sat around discussing their plan, Ladis’ heart pounded. For the past few years he had been learning more and more about the God of the Bible, and he knew he should say something to these men; it was the right time. But he was scared. What he needed to say would go against their tradition, against the way they had always done things. Even so, he had truth that they needed to hear.

He stood slowly, and said, “You all know that I am a Christian now, and the God of the Bible does not require all of these things from us. He is not found in a rock because He made the rocks. He made everything, everything in the ocean and in the jungle. He does not need honey because He created the bees that make the honey. He doesn’t need anything from us. Yet He has told us that He will take care of His children like a good father does. So, before you perform the ceremony, let me pray to God for our needs. I will walk into the jungle and offer a prayer that God will bring the lemurs to this area. I will bring two people with me to be witnesses. Please allow me to do this, and we will wait a few days.”

When the men agreed, Ladis walked into the jungle and made his request to God.

God Answers Prayer

The next day, one of the local guides had two French tourists who wanted to explore the reserve. He explained two options to the tourists: They could go to the original entrance and be sure to see lemurs, or they could go to the new area with a beautiful waterfall, but they might not be able to see lemurs. Surprisingly, they decided on the second option. All the men back in the village eagerly awaited their return to hear the “vao-vao,” that is “the news from their journey.”


And the “vao-vao” was—lemurs! Lots of lemurs! Everywhere there were lemurs! Two groups of lemurs on the trail, and another group of lemurs relaxing by the waterfall. They even spotted a rare nocturnal lemur. One of the men who was with Ladis in the jungle when he was praying began telling everyone in the village how powerful his prayer was and that Ladis’ God answers prayer!

Ever since that day, every time the men have taken tourists to their new entrance to the park, they find more and more lemurs waiting for them. This is a tremendous story of God’s provision, a testimony of His goodness and faithfulness to the village we live in, and care for His children. As for Ladis, his faith has been strengthened to continue speaking gospel truth to the men around him. 

Bryan & Rebe McReynolds serve with MTW in Nosy Be, Madagascar.

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Give thanks for the maturing of the Sakalava church in Madagascar. Pray for the Sakalava believers who are now leading a congregation of people once steeped in ancestor worship and spirit possession.

Pray for the Sakalava in Nosy Be, Madagascar. Islanders have been hard hit by the shutdown of the tourisim industry. Many are new to faith. 

Pray for a band of young Sakalava men in Madagascar who have come to faith and are writing and recording songs from Scripture.

Pray today for Alexi and Mbotizara, new Sakalava believers in Madagascar. Pray they will grow in their faith and lead others to faith in Christ. 

Pray for women of the Mama Vao Vao sewing business in Madagascar. It's helping keep Sakalava women out of prostitution and introducing them to Christ. 

Pray for the Sakalava people of Nosy Be, Madagascar as they deal with harsh realities of death and poverty, and give thanks that many are coming to faith. 

Pray for the Church in Africa to deepen and for African believers to live holy lives in accordance with God's Word.  

Pray for missionaries adjusting to new cultures and new norms, forcing them to surrender the comforts they once considered non-negotiable. 

Pray that we would become more proficient at ministering to oral learners—those in cultures that learn best through the spoken word and storytelling.

Pray for a sewing ministry in Madagascar as it transforms into a business providing resources to a community plagued with sexual oppression.


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