Hello from Southern Madagascar!

Since we last wrote so much has gone on.  As leadership we have concluded that we have an amazing team full of hard working kids who have positive attitudes and are not prone to complain, which has been a HUGE blessing in our first few days here!

When we last sent our report, we thought we had arrived at the TMI base but we were actually 3 km from the base.  We waited at the side of the road for over an hour while the base coordinator tried to start the tractor to come pick us up and carry us & our baggage to the base.  Unfortunately, the battery on the tractor was dead & it was getting late.  So our team decided to begin carrying our 50 lb duffle bags down the 3 km path to the base.  With 2 team member on each bag and every Malagasy BMW/MSSM student taking a single bag themselves, we set out on a 2 hr hike.  It was an “adventure” up & down muddy paths.  Everyone was relieved when we arrived at the base to discover that there was a nice large enclosed cinderblock building which the team will be sleeping & cooking within.  We quickly set up our tents and the base coordinator’s wife provided us with some raw chicken and hot coals that we cooked some wonderful hot chicken soup that warmed everyone’s spirits.  While we were hauling our bags up the hill our base coordinator was able to find a new battery in town and have one of the BMW students carry it up to the base, he started the tractor and began the long trek down the muddy roads to rescue our remaining bags.  Around midnight  the tractor arrived at the base with our remaining luggage, soggy but intact. Everyone was excited to not have to return down the hill.

The following day was spent setting up our kitchen and organizing all of the supplies that were sent with us.  The team was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have “western” style toilets here, although we still need to bucket flush them.  The BMW students quickly went to work building us a dish line and serving tables for us.  We tried to help, but the BMW students work hard and fast…and we are frequently trying to catch up.  Yesterday we completed our shower stalls & everyone had the opportunity to take a much needed shower after 5 LONG days of travel.  There was MUCH rejoicing!

Twenty-Four hours after we arrived, the team was whole again!  Our 5th leader and team member, who had to remain behind in Washington DC for 3 days until she was medically cleared to travel, arrived into the capitol on Sunday afternoon.  They were met by a former BMW student who speaks very good English & he accompanied them on the 24 hour public bus ride to the southern base.  They had many fun stories to tell about their 4 different buses that they had to travel on, due to a local bus strike, and the many different people they met along the way.  Everyone was excited to be reunited!

The team started right into doing eyeglass clinics yesterday.  It was so exciting to go out to a local village and begin to use the skills that we were trained in at Boot Camp.  About 15 team members, plus three leaders traveled out to conduct the clinic.  The remaining team members stayed behind at the base to work on construction projects and prepare meals.  We plan on rotating these crews so that everyone has the opportunity to go out and do clinics most days.  The team walked to a nearby village and broke up into three different groups.  One evaluated people for glasses, another assessed medical needs and the third did games with the kids.  Everyone had lots of fun & the team was able to do a presentation  and drama at the end.  Balloons were a big hit and we were able to give away 45 pairs of eyeglasses.  Our base coordinator is hoping that the team will be able to visit 14 local villages while they are here, so we anticipate being very busy.

Thank you EVERYONE for all of your prayers while we traveled and once we arrived here.  We are having an amazing time and are looking forward to sharing in the local villages and blessing those here at the base.

We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to share their first impressions of Madagascar, so here are their thoughts:

I saw the Eiffel Tower from the plane – Shannon

We made it to Madagascar!  This country is stunning and already feels like home.  The base is small but very cozy, and I’m so excited to see what we accomplish this summer.  Much love to everyone back home & my lovely family! – Sophie

We finally made it! Madagascar is amazing.  It is everything I thought it would be and nothing like it at all.  God is already showing me so much!  We even got to go to a village today.  I had a blast doing the medical stuff.  Love you all so much! – Kaytlyn “Katie” K.

Madagascar is cool.  The stars are really pretty. – Kaitlyn C.

Madagascar is very beautiful.  The sunsets are like nothing I’ve ever seen, just utterly breathtaking. – Nathaniel

Totally amazing!  The people are incredibly kind & God is doing some sweet stuff. – Wes

OM Gosh this place is amazing!  Everyone is so nice.  This is the best team ever.  I’m going to miss this place. – Risa

I’ve really been enjoying being here. All the kids are so excited to see us, and it’s just so amazing. I’m really going to miss this place. – Joanna

This place is stunning and the people are so welcoming and nice.  I absolutely love it.  I can’t wait for the summer ahead of me with this team, serving the needs of these people.  – Isabelle

This is a testimony to show that I am truly alive in Madagascar and loving it and the people. – Micah

We finally made it!  Felt like it took forever but was worth the wait.  Getting to know my team has been amazing!  Still can’t believe I’m here! – Emma

Madagascar is beautiful, but my favorite part has been getting to know my teammates.  It’s very isolated here, so you only have your teammates and God to talk to. -Lydia

I like the chickens.  I saw a lot of them, but wasn’t allowed to pick them up. 🙁 There is a lot of goats too, but they’re not as good as chickens. – Ella

This trip is nothing like I expected.  The people here are all so quick to love in a world so full of hate.  My eyes have really been opened.  And, as a bonus the stars here are absolutely amazing! – Jada

Madagascar is so gorgeous, the landscape we saw on the bus ride was really cool. Another thing I love are the stars, they’re so bright and different than what I’m used to. – Madi

The trip has been great so far! I’m having a great time, and making some lifelong friends.  I have some great stories to share.  – Noah

This trip was nothing like I was expecting.  God is defiantly showing me things and teaching me more about myself.  This team is so compatible! I love them! – Grace

This trip has been great so far.  The people are so willing to help out and do whatever needs done without hesitation.  It is very humbling. – Andy

This trip has been so amazing and a God sent team.  Madagascar is so beautiful! The people are amazing and hard working.  Being here is a blessing. – Denice

Our travels were slow and long but that gave us the opportunity to share the gospel to kids on the way!   Madagascar is beautiful and full of God’s glory! Best part is; leaders are are and team members are safe.  Pray that it will stay that way! – Halley

I was so excited to come to Madagascar and then I came.  (It’s amazing!) God is working in and through us in ways I knew not possible.  I can’t wait to see what else he has for us here in Madagascar! – Karen

Who in their right mind would trade their family, friends and modern convinces for the heat, mosquitoes and sore feet of Boot Camp? And then travel for five days with two fifty pound duffles, a backpack and a food bag?  Just for the purpose of handing out eyeglasses?  Without God, life is meaningless. that has been one of the many lessons that God has taught me through this hard experience.   Seeing people who have no hope whatsoever is a very sobering thing.  One that really matures a person and gives them a hunger and thirst for a closer relationship with God. – Todd

This trip to Madagascar is not what I expected because it has been better and worse.  The roof over our tents so they don’t get soaked is a plus.  But the 5K walk in the dark with a 50 lb duffle up hill in the rain and a backpack is not something I enjoyed. – Todd

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