By Heidi Thulin, Photo by Tori Alverson
On Field Media
Rosina Ferdinand grew up in the traditional Sakalava way—farming and fishing on an island village on Nosy Be off the north coast of Madagascar, believing in cultural taboos, and engaging in ancestral worship. Her mother was a famous medium in the area, and people highly respected her gift of communicating with the spirit world. Even at a young age and especially after watching her parent’s marriage disintegrate, Rosina suspected that something was missing in her life.
Rosina, along with her father and her siblings, left for the mainland, and she attended high school there. “In that time, I was searching,” she recalls, “Students from the university came down to my city with the gospel and invited all students to come to a meeting. I went to that meeting, and there, my mind was open when they talked about Jesus, about the Bible. I knew that Jesus was the Savior. I could be friends with Him. I could trust Him.”
The preaching and Bible studies continued for a whole week before they asked the life-changing question. “I was torn and trembling,” Rosina remembers, “but I stood up and said, ‘I want to give my life to Jesus.’”After graduating from university, Rosina became part of that same student ministry, but the fate of her own people back on Nosy Be weighed heavily on her heart. She knew how far away from God she had been, how she had been trapped by the fear of taboos and unappeased ancestors. Her whole community still lived in that bondage. “I did have the desire to come back to Nosy Be, so that they would be freed and know salvation,” she says, “but I did not have the courage.”
Many years later and after much prayer and council, Rosina now sits outside her simple thatch-roofed house in the village where she grew up. She’s served as an AIM missionary here for four years, has led a TIMO team, and now disciples the newest believers at the Sakalava church plant. One of those young men, the leader of the worship band, recently expressed a desire to become a pastor. “This is not something I could have done by myself,” she says, and she is so grateful for the people all around the world who have been praying for her and her ministry among the Sakalava people.
“I just wanted to be with my people,” she explains, “sitting down in the village, being with them so maybe they would see the transformation in my life and see that there is something magnificent in that, and they would know Jesus as well.”
As it happens, Rosina’s mother, the famous medium, did see that change and did discover Christ. Rosina marvels at God’s miracles: “I thought my mother would be the last one,” she says. “But she was the first. If the Lord was able to touch my mom’s life, and she became a believer, putting behind all those ancestral worships, I can be sure that the Lord will do some more great things in other people’s lives… Salvation has come right here in the middle of Sakalava people.”