Marc Mailloux's Blog


Benin apples
February 28, 2019, 2:41 pm
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It was my first visit to Benin, a small country of 10 million, about the size of Ohio, sandwiched between Nigeria and Togo. The population is approximately 25% Moslem, 27% Catholic, along with the idiosyncratic “Celestial Church of Christ,” and the usual array of Voodoo animists. Indeed Benin is reputed to be the birthplace of Voodoo and still holds an annual Voodoo convention here each year with a number of Haitian priests as participants.

I came (Feb.2-9) to teach a course on some basic principles of biblical interpretation including Jesus’ affirmation that the entire Bible—properly understood—is about Him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39+46). Providence was with me and an eager mixed group of 25 men and women including a few who came to the faith through the ministry of some theologically questionable television evangelists of the ‘prosperity gospel’ tradition. The course I prepared borrowed from the likes of the late R.C. Sproul, Drs. Bryan Chapell, R. Rayburn Jr., and especially the late A. Kuen whose excellent book on that subject ( “Comment Interpreter la Bible”) is a French theological classic.

The host for the course, Mrs. Yvette M., a bright, articulate mother of four (married to Lambert) organized the daily sessions (from 9h to 13h) in her Pentecostal church across the street from her home. The students were attentive and asked some of the usual questions revealing their preoccupations with secondary considerations (Should Christians practice foot-washing?) as well as some more thorny theological issues: Speaking in tongues; Women pastors etc. Fortunately, they respect the authority of the Scriptures, the condition sine qua non to progress in the Faith. I lodged at the “Royal Space hotel” just 300 meters from where the classes were held —only a two minute walk to work each morning. Though hardly up to Western standards (no hot water, irregular electricity and WIFI etc.) the hotel had television so I even got to see the N.E. Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl at 4:30 AM on Feb.3—jet-lag insomnia oblige.

My stay in Benin was marked by an ostensibly banal incident which I share with you now. First, a bit of background information. Know that apples don’t grow in West Africa, as the tropical heat favors fruit like bananas, mangoes and pineapple. Any apples found there would be imported from Europe at a hefty price. Just before leaving Florida on Feb.1, I was faced with a dilemma. There wasn’t room in my suitcase for the two dozen paperback copies of D. J. Kennedy’s apologetic volume “Pourquoi je crois” I’d packed and my habitual bag of “Fuji” apples that I’d picked up at the local Publix the day before. Something would be left behind as my suitcase—which contained a few French study-Bibles—was over the 50lb. weight limit. “Too bad for the books,” I thought. “The students probably wouldn’t read them anyway…” Besides, the Lord knows I need my morning fix—an apple and coffee.

But just before the Lyft driver pulled into the driveway for the ride to the airport I had a change of heart, my conscience telling me that it would be selfish not to take the books when the spiritually hungry Africans would surely benefit from them. So I hastily pulled the apples out of my bag and replaced them with the aforementioned paperbacks. I neither thought nor said anything about it until Thursday morning Feb.7 when one of the students—a bright young pastor from a local church—offered me a bag of ten impeccable “Golden Delicious” apples, probably imported from Europe! There was no way he could have known about my predilection for this fruit as I’d said nothing to anyone. Just another providential provision…

 

The following week (Feb.10-16) I taught the first half of a church history course for 8-10 pastors in steamy Abidjan, Ivory Coast: six hours/day for considering the inspiring examples of the early martyrs such as Ignatius, Blandina, Perpetua, Origen etc.; but also the intensive, drawn-out battles to defend the biblical orthodoxy against the likes of Arianism and Pelagianism, with a particular consideration of the heroic efforts of men like Athanasius, Augustine, and even Pope Leo I. What I wouldn’t give to know what that illustrious bishop said to the monstrous Attila the Hun to stop him from plundering Rome in 452! It’s on the long list of things I’ll ask the Lord when I see Him.

Meanwhile, we got as far as the 14th century, finishing with brief reflections on scholasticism and Anselm’s famous ontological argument—not exactly the burning subject of conversation among women drawing water at the well in any African village! Yet the African pastors need to know whence the Church has come lest they repeat the errors of the past. Less analytical, but more receptive than most Frenchmen, I’ve yet to meet an African foolish enough to doubt God’s existence.

The nightly television news spoke of trouble in Haiti—violence in the streets from hungry citizens protesting against government corruption with the mysterious disappearance of billions of dollars in foreign aid. Yvette, my Benin host, has been to Haiti and thinks Benin looks pretty good in comparison. The only hope for any country is an authentic spiritual revival. People need to realize that we’ll all have to give an account… (Revelations 22:12).

My next teaching gigs are with our Haitian students in the Dominican Republic in March, and in Burkina Faso in April. Meanwhile Aline and I are scheduled to drive to Savannah (Feb.20-24) for a church mission conference. I’ll bet there will be apples and even pecan pie there. God blessed America.

Blessings,                                                                                                                                                  Marc and Aline

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Sister Andree and Dad (93) in front of the “Maison Maillou” in Quebec city

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Ivory Coast adventure
August 31, 2018, 2:29 am
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Class photo with some of Man students

Ivoirien students at Man teaching center

Dear friends,

A couple of pastors from Ivory Coast whom I met in Liberia in March related the desperate need for basic biblical education in their French-speaking country of some 25 million (ca. 40% Moslems, 30% Christian, 30% animists) and pleaded with me to teach there. They promised to assemble a group eager for instruction in the Word. Though I’d taught twice in that country’s largest city of Abidjan, it was my first visit to their town of Man (pop. 200,000) about 360 miles to the northwest where the dominant tribal language (of the 75 spoken in that country) is “Yacouba” but everyone speaks or understands French–a residual benefit of European colonization.

Travelling can be stressful. Departure of my Air France flight from Miami to Paris (usually the best route to French West Africa) was delayed over three hours. So I landed at CDG after a sleepless transatlantic night and just barely made the connection for the flight to Ivory Coast. Seated in the last row of the giant double-decker Airbus A380, I was the last one in line behind more than 500 other passengers when we arrived at Abidjan customs and immigration at 20h. It was a long wait… Following a brief night at an airport motel, I caught an “Air Cote d’Ivoire” flight to Man via the town of Odienné. Seated next to me on the plane was a Christian woman (converted from Islam by the Lord’s provision of physical healing and a single Bible verse) who’d never flown and was nervous. She saw our encounter as providential.

The program in Man went well. A group of 37 students—most of them pastors—followed attentively as we considered some of the basic principles of biblical interpretation from a course by the late R.C. Sproul that I translated and adapted along with a book by a godly Swiss Bible-school professor. The classes—which met in the stifling heat under a corrugated tin roof structure—went from 8AM ‘til noon, and from 1 to 4 PM Monday through Friday—35 hours in all. By the time we finished each day, my clothes were drenched with perspiration and my throat sore, minor inconveniences compared to the sweet satisfaction that the Kingdom had been advanced among this appreciative group from towns of that region who in turn will be teaching others (cf. II Tim.2:2).

The organizing pastors, Michel G. and Patrice D., president of the union of evangelical free churches, hired a driver to take me back and forth from the teaching site each day while the students themselves stayed in place in the most rudimentary ‘lodgings,’ sleeping on dirt floors on strips of foam mattresses we bought for them and eating the simple starchy lunches prepared by six devoted women. [cf. photo]. As for me; though the hotel where I stayed was Spartan by any Western standards, it did have a French-trained cook (Olivier) whose succulent sauces—like love itself—covered a multitude of gastronomical sins. What a sweet, unexpected, providential provision to enjoy a good meal at the end of a hard day!

It’s amazing to see how the church is growing in Africa in spite of a dearth of biblically trained teachers, study-Bibles etc. The Spirit indeed “blows where He wishes.”

Authentic Christians but with little if any biblical instruction, these Ivory Coast brethren–like most Africans and Haitians–do not have well-honed theological beliefs. They seemed to ignore the meaning of the sacraments and were pleased to discover that, with regards to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they were Calvinists like me. Still, there’s a danger of sectarianism along with divisions over issues of minor importance such as the celebration of Christmas, the charismatic controversies etc. A collective reading of Romans 14 went far to convict many… “Unity in the essentials, diversity in the rest, and charity in all things,” someone said. That’s good advice.

The “Ivoirien” brethren have asked me to return want to set up a Bible-training program in their area. In the wake of their overwhelming gratitude, I promised them I’d do what I could and refer them to some French-speaking colleagues who could teach. Meanwhile, they’re trying to raise funds to start a poultry production to create jobs for the many unemployed among them and finance the ministry as their assemblies are dirt poor. One pastor told me that the entire collection in his church the previous Sunday was the equivalent of $6. US.

The return trip home took 36 hours and included three flights and a couple of eight-hour waits at both the Abidjan and Paris airports. Finally, the last leg from Miami was with a French-speaking Haitian Uber driver from Catholic background. Ernst is searching and shared about his involvement in the Kabbalah, but is clearly ignorant of basic biblical teaching. We had an interesting discussion. Forty minutes later when he dropped me off, he asked if I would consider doing a conference for a Haitian group in Miami about the Bible. I’m awaiting confirmation of what seems like another providential opportunity.

Aline and I will be returning to France in July-August for our annual summer ministry in the town of Anduze in her home “départment” (county) called the “Gard” which boasts the highest percentage of sociologically Protestant folks in France–save for Alsace–but where the Word is muffled under the stifling influence of the surrounding secular culture. Western Europe is a whole other kettle of fish from Africa and Haiti. Still, the church in Anduze—a Meca for Dutch summer tourists—receives us warmly each summer and we’re grateful to be able to return and to serve in such diversified places and for those of you who make it all possible.

Blessings,

Marc+Aline



April 2018 The Lord’s Kingdom in West Africa
April 14, 2018, 1:06 pm
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Marc with Solange, Baha, Patrice, Michel in Liberia

Dear friends,

It was my first trip to an English-speaking African country. In March, I was invited by Pastor Chuck M. to accompany a group from ELI (Equipping Leaders International) on a teaching trip to Ganta, Liberia for sixty people (40 pastors and 20 of their wives). The reason for my participation was the anticipated presence of a few French-speaking men for the third ELI conference in Liberia. The ‘francophones’ were from bordering towns of neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast. It was obvious from the outset that they’re so hungry for any instruction in the faith that they had even attended the previous ELI conference in spite of the language barrier.

As soon as I met pastors Patrice and Michel (from Ivory Coast) and Haba (from Guinea, 83% Islamic) I understood why I was there. Though zealous in the Faith, they had no formal theological training. Haba lamented the absence of Bible schools in his country, the least evangelized of Sub-Saharan Africa. They asked basic questions about biblical interpretation that should be treated in any “Hermeneutics 101” course. Neither did any of them even own a study Bible. Still, Aslan’s on the move and the church continues to grow in Africa!

The pastor-students listened attentively as we went over the text of 1 Timothy with notes prepared for the conference. After our first session together, they pleaded with me to come to their respective countries for a more in-depth treatment of the subject. It’s the kind of request that’s hard to refuse.

Titus D., a Liberian who heads up the ELI work in West Africa, told me that the educational needs and opportunities in the French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa were greater than in the English-speaking countries, but that there is little instruction available for the faithful in French (Perhaps another reason for some of you reading this to study the language of Molière?). I’m planning another teaching trip in June to the somewhat remote home town (pop.200,000) of Patrice and Michel in Ivory Coast where they told me to expect thirty eager pastors who minister to a growing number of new believers. It seems like a providential opportunity not to be passed up…

Liberia is rather different from the eight other African countries I’ve visited over the years. The modern republic was founded partly with the influx of some 13,000 former slaves from the U.S. in the 19th century who did not integrate well with the natives. At the present, its people are still hurting from their two recent civil wars (1989-96; 1999-2003) which claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and forced a million more to emigrate. After the removal from power of Charles Taylor (convicted of war crimes), Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (a Harvard trained economist) was elected as Africa’s first female president (2006-18). Georges Weah, a former soccer star, was elected president in 2018. Even with the best intentions, leaders are impotent to eradicate the rampant corruption that plagues the country.

Though the land is potentially rich, a visit to a local market near Monrovia showed that there is little fruit available. Most people subsist on a starchy diet of rice and cassava with green plantains with a bit of fish. A discussion with an American agronomy professor (from Texas Tech.) we met at the Monrovia airport was enlightening. It seems Liberia’s development is stifled partly by a handful of Lebanese magnates who maintain control of much of the economy, which hinders individual initiative. The answer and only hope for Liberia (and everywhere else) is the life-transforming gospel.

Arriving home from Africa, I was greeted by daughter Anais and her husband Eric with their family of 2.5 daughters. They dropped off the little ones (Elea, 2½ and Heidi, 10 months) while leaving for a last week of R +R before the birth of daughter no.3 due in July.

Though the trips to Africa (via Europe) are exhausting for one who does not sleep on airplanes, it was nothing compared to the interaction with two little ones who, without their mother for the first time, ran us ragged–especially Aline–and made bedtime SOOOO appreciated! The only break my wife got all week from ten-month-old Heidi–who clung to Aline like a leech–was when I’d strap her in the stroller for long early morning walks during which time we’d listen to Mozart’s sublimely pacifying “Sull’aria” (from the Marriage of Figaro) played over and over again: the soothing effects were reminiscent of those of David’s harp music on tormented Saul. Meanwhile, Aline and I have new respect for grandparents who raise their grandchildren.

It was a blessed time nonetheless as the girls taught us much. Sinful human nature is the same everywhere. Still, one sees the profound difference in philosophy of child-rearing in the West as compared to what I’ve witnessed in Africa where large families are the rule, doting parents unknown, and a more laissez-faire attitude reigns. Haba and Solange, the 35 year old couple from Guinea who attended the Liberia conference have five children already. When I asked who was keeping them in their absence they replied: “The family and the village…”

It’s not surprising that African children (if they survive childhood in a land of Ebola virus, cholera, and mamba snakes) grow up quite independent and resistant to germs that would kill the most robust of Westerners. Overall, life is simpler, if not more precarious, on the Dark Continent.

Finally, I write this after verifying our MTW support account, pleased and grateful to find the funds to book the next trip to Africa, and praying for wisdom to prepare some teaching material that will make a difference in the lives of these spiritually hungry brethren. With continued appreciation for those who make it possible…

Blessings,                                                                                                                                                  Marc+Aline

 



“I am the Alpha and the Omega…” Rev.1:8 February 2018
February 28, 2018, 1:42 pm
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photo de famille Dec.2017.jpg“Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders and the judgments of His mouth…” Ps.105:5

Dear friends,

There have been several major events since our last newsletter in December, including the annual visit of our children and grandchildren— always the high point of our year as well as a reminder of the upcoming marriage feast of the Lamb where the Lord’s elect will be gathered around His table (rest assured the food will be French). Hasten the day! Meanwhile there’s much to do as many of us have concerns that loved ones would not be present at the only appointment and family gathering that really matters.

These include a number of acquaintances of our surfer son Justin in the Dominican Republic whom we visited Jan.12-15—a second major event. He arranged opportunities for us to explain the Word to some of his acquaintances: his buddy S., an Argentine expatriate; and a few North Americans, including R.M., a wealthy, generous Canadian woman (with her impressive entourage) to whom our son gives tennis lessons. The sumptuous meal at her palatial home included twenty other guests with some high-rollers blessed with many worldly things but in need of the Savior.

Aline and I were delighted to hear the aforementioned lady lavish praise on our boy for his general good disposition and consideration for others as he goes about his work and play—almost the same for him. Surely the Lord has heard the prayers of many on his behalf over the years.

Still, we’re concerned by the dearth of Christian fellowship and serious instruction in the Faith in his town (Cabrera) of 25,000 without a solid Bible-believing assembly! Pray that the Lord would inspire some Spanish-speakers to feed His sheep in the D.R. It’s a beautiful region with magnificent beaches and tropical fruit even if one has to put up with the annoyance of the underpaid Dominican police shaking down foreign tourists to extract small-change bribes. Our son sees this as a minor inconvenience and the price of doing business in that country.

Another significant event was my third teaching trip (Feb.3-14) to Burkina Faso. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the friendly folks in that poor, mostly barren land just south of the Sahara. On this visit the harmattan wind was blowing a thick cloud of dust over the area limiting visibility and causing many to wear face-masks to filter the hot desert air. I arrived in Ouagadougou (it was 95F) for the second part of a church history course (15th century to the present) started last year with 24 eager students. We reminded them that history is linear and has meaning as it is indeed “His-story,” the Alpha and the Omega. It’s important that one learns to understand the circumstances of the present in the light of His eternal Plan. There’s much to learn and emulate from the Lord’s people of the past such as Calvin’s inspired efforts at reforming and organizing the church in 16th century Geneva which John Knox called it the “greatest school of Christian discipleship since the Lord Jesus Himself walked the earth.”

On Jan. 29, we started a new semester at our local Ft. Lauderdale Haitian Bible school. Even after 20 years of existence, it’s still a fledgling affair, with major administrative problems, few committed students or teachers, and a shoestring budget.

The educational level among the Haitians (75% illiterate) is such that anything we can teach helps. Our students are receptive, but the blinding voodoo-superstition is well-ingrained alas, and it takes a generation or two before the transforming principles of the Bible are absorbed and the culture transformed. It’s a longterm effort…

Like the African’s, Haiti’s is an oral culture whose people simply don’t like to read—a habit they need to acquire. Can a people be transformed without the daily meditation of the Word? Think of how the printing press was so instrumental in the transformation of 16th century Europe. Both Haitians and Sub-Saharan Africans tend to be pre-Enlightenment in their thinking. Unlike our skeptical western naturalists, they are all too aware of the battle going on in the unseen spiritual realm.

Meanwhile, we’re convinced that the development of any country is directly proportional to the extent that its people apply the “directions for use” principles as revealed by our Maker in His Word (Deut.15). Our erstwhile Christian countries subsist on residual grace bequeathed to our ancestors. But our “cut-flower” societies are wilting fast and will perish unless we get re-rooted in the Faith and refreshed by the living water.

As usual, this Africa trip included a significant number of providential encounters with fellow travelers including Alice, a Marseille theatre worker seated next to me on the flight to Burkina Faso; Maela, a young French woman from Britany with whom I spoke as we waited in line for over three hours at the Ouagadougou airport; Joel, a “Burkinabé” man on the Ouaguadougou-Paris flight on the way home; and old George, a 77 year old Frenchman seated next to me on the Paris-Toronto flight. All were seekers (George was reading a French translation of an old C. Castaneda work!) and eagerly accepted French copies of D. J. Kennedy’s “Pourquoi je crois.” Thanks again to all who make this ministry possible.

Blessings,

Marc+Aline

P.S. We’re told to remind our supporters that the new address for donations to the ministry is: MTW donations PO Box 744165, Atlanta, GA 30374-4165.

justin-salsa-macho-pubSebastian and Justin with their billboard in the Dominican Republic

with Burkinabe students

With Burkina Faso students in Ouagadougou