Epoxy is your Friend

Epoxy is your Friend

Car trouble is bound to happen when you travel the roads of Madagascar with all the put holes and big bumbs.

We spend our Christmas and New Year in Mantasoa. A wonderful place in the area of Antananarivo… ‘only’ 16 hours drive from home. Naturally you check all the fluids in the car and whether all visible part are still tight. The car did just fine and we had a lovely holiday in Mantasoa.

Then, on our way back, 30 kilometres from the nearest town, the bar that holds the radiator broke. The radiator went down and with that hoses came loose. The bar had to be welded so we quickly continued our way to the garage. At least that was the plan. After a few hundred metre the clutch stopped working. The pipe with clutch fluid leaked and thus we didn’t have any pressure. After a long drive (since we only could drive in third gear) we arrived at the garage. Repair, in between heavy showers of rain, took 4 hours.

On our way again and finally after 15 hours we reached our favourite stopover, Ranomafana. Just a short break of a few days among some nice people is lovely. I wish! The radiator started leaking again. This time we do the repairs ourselves. Epoxy-glue is your friend when you own a car on Madagascar.

I decided to see it as a hobby… That way it is less annoying. Also, it gives an opportunity to learn the traits of mechanics which is useful for a missionary. Likewise, plumber, electrician, carpenter, road worker and what not.

Trip to Maroamboka

Trip to Maroamboka

A week ago Jurgen and Issa travelled to Maroamboka to pay a visit to the building site of our house. Maroamboka is situated just 5km from Sandrohy.


We wanted to visit the side earlier but putting all the car papers in our name took much longer than anticipated. Finally, we received all the papers… that is to say, the temporary papers. Hopefully he official papers will be ready at the end of December 2016. Jurgen’s Malagasy drivers licence is a whole different story. To get the official licence we need a visa that has to be still six months valid. This is not so straightforward as it might sound. When we apply for a visa (for the new year) we receive a paper that says that we have applied. With this paper we can travel but it is not the same as the official visa. Still, the validity of the visa starts as soon as we apply. In other words, if we receive the official visa after 4 months it will only be valid for eight more months. Our hope is that we will get our visa in time to transform the temporary licence to a permanent one.


Slowly but surely the car is equipped with the necessities to deal with the hard conditions in which we are going to use it. One of the changes is a big roofrack (2,30 bij 1,20). Local metalworkers worked hard to make us a strong one. We are very happy with the rack as this gives us the possibility to move our belongings in and out of the area.

Jurgen used the visit to move many of our furniture. On the roof we transported a heavy cupboard together with two small tables. In the car we stacked our chairs and kitchen appliance. Jurgen and Issa left on the 11th of December at about 5 in the morning. After only 45 minutes a police officer stopped them. The load on the roof was no problem but apparently Jurgen needed a permit for the load in the car. Luckily Jurgen managed to persuade the officer to write him a permit on the spot. So, with all the right papers they could continue their trip.

Bad Roads

The national roads on Madagascar look very much like Dutch cheese with holes. This makes travelling very tiresome. At noon Issa and Jurgen arrived in a place called Abohimahasoa. There they stopped to spend the night in a hotel. The next day they travelled the second part. Near Ifanadiana one of the tires went flat, a piece of wood stuck right through. Fortunately help was not far. Jurgen stopped the car near one of the many police checkpoints and asked one of the officers for help. The officer first had to put his AK47 aside and then he stopped a lorry. He told the driver that the foreigners needed help. The lorry driver, together with a local, changed the wheel and said that there was no need for Jurgen to get his hands dirty. A few miles further the tire was repaired in Ifanadiana for about € 1,70.


It is not hard to hear the car coming. The people of Sandrohy al ready waited at the side of the road. The children sheered and clapped their hands and the adults came to shake hands. After some brief chats the trip continued to Maroamboka, about five kilometres from Sandrohy. This road was a good test for the car. Deep gullies, big rocks and steep climbs (sometimes 35% and more).

Passing through the last curve the house became visible. Quickly the local people ran towards the car to greet Jurgen and Issa. The car could be parked next to the house of our contact person. After the inspection of the car by all the ‘experts they started to unload the car, which didn’t took long with all the extra hands.


The House

We were already informed about the fact that the builders didn’t fully followed the drawings. Our drawings where way to modest. The house will be bigger because, according to the builder, we need enough space for all our children. On the ground floor we will have a bedroom and a combination of a living room with a kitchen. Going up the stairs we find ourselves on the first floor with a corridor and two more bedrooms for the children. Outside is a separate place to wash ourselves and about 15 metres further the builders dug a toilet. The house is situated next to a water-well with clean water. Most of the time there is enough pressure to install some plumbing. This is something the builder will look at. However, during Jurgen’s and Issa’s visit the well didn’t give much water due to a lack of rain. We will have to see whether we can solve this with a water reservoir that can collect and store rainwater. The house is mainly built of wood from the nearby rainforest. We will have, however, a tin roof and the ground floor is made of cement. The traditional houses have a leaf roof and a wooden or mud floor. This is a set up for trouble during the rainy season. Coming month we will look for a solar panel system. Solar panels are more common as many have a little system to recharge phones and the like.


During the two days, Jurgen and Issa visited three villages. The mpanjakas (kings) of two villages where absent. Jurgen brought the promised photos from our last visit and left it together with his greetings for the mpanjaka. The mpanjaka of the last village was present and he welcomed Jurgen and Issa into his house. It was a good meeting in which the mpanjaka did his utmost to understand Jurgen’s official Malagasy. The conversation was relaxed and amusing—especially when Jurgen started to pronounce the differences in several Malagasy dialects. The mpanjaka said that he was very happy to hear Jurgen’s progress in the language.

Meanwhile, Jurgen and Issa are back in Antananarivo. The came back with a lot of fruit given by the locals. We are planning another trip to Maroamboka soon. We will have to bring more furniture and other things like our bed and school material for the children. The builder estimated that we can move as a family somewhere in January 2017.

We are excited! Finally, after months of preparation, we are going to live among the Tanala.

Friends Already

Friends Already

We had to wait a long time, but at the end of last month we finally made our family trip to Sandrohy and the surrounding vilages. Although we still did not have a vehicle ourselves, friends made the trip possible by lending us their four wheel drive family car. It was a long trip of 540 km that took us 14 hours, mainly because of road conditions.

Upon arrival we were welcomed by many people of the village. The people of Sandrohy take great interest in visitors, especially foreigners. We stayed in the centre of the village in a specially prepared room, adjacent to a local shop. We felt very welcome in many ways: the local chilldren played with our children and brought them so many flowers we felt we needed to tell them we had quite enough whereas the local women enjoyed chatting with Katja.

You can see a video impression of our trip here:
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The goals of the trip were to get to know the area, to meet with the local people and their headmen (mpanjaka) and to see where we might live as a family.

On a previous trip Jurgen had already visited several villages. This time we renewed these contacts as a family. A local friend helped us to say the right words (greetings and goodbyes are subject to good form) and help us communicate our meanings in coming to their villages. We emphasised that we are coming to share the Good News from the Bible with them, but that we need to learn their dialect first. We asked them for their friendship as we will need some people to stand by us.

The responses were heartwarming – especially in 2 villages. In Tsiombivositra (see picture below) the whole village said they wanted to be friends and asked for a photo as a confirmation between us of our friendship. We will print the photo and bring it to the headman on our next visit. We were touched by the fact that it was not just the headman pleading his allegiance with us, but it was clearly something in which everyone wanted a part.

We also spoke with our new friends about a place to live. The were concerned since they did not have a pomp nearby – and what would we do if we got sick? We were moved that our new friends did not so much worry about their own needs in this respect, but were thinking of us!

Our contact in the region, Sylvestre, had a solution for a place to live. He owns much land in his own village and has a small plot of land just outside the village he is willing to offer up for the purpose. We are very thankful that there is a place for us, central to many villages in the Sandrohy area. Before deciding we will discuss the matter further with AIM Madagascar’s leadership. Exciting times …

First Impressions

First Impressions

We have arrived! After an almost 8 hour flight we have landed in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday 10th in the evening. During travel we enjoyed the good food and the views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert. It was quite an experience!

After arrival we have stayed at AIM’s guesthouse in Nairobi for three days. That way we could rest awhile after the busy months we have had and be better prepared for the the conference we are now attending. A video about our journey from Schiphol to Nairobi you can find on our multimedia page.

On Tuesday 13th October we travelled in over 3 hours to the conference location. We saw men in business suits and just around corner one of the many slums of Nairobi, where houses are only for the rich. Halfway we passed by Rift Valley. Close to Nakuru we were treated to grazing antelopes and zebra. A video of the sights we saw can be found here.

Sofar we are very thankful for the preparation to missionary life in Africa we receive. The first week we have learned much about African culture, values and worldview. The tutor is an African who has studied in England and thus understands both Western and African culture. We also benefit from the contact with the other attending missionaries – some unexperienced, some with many years of service behind them.

In the the week to come we will dig deeper into African worldview and we will discuss safety and health. The third week will be about transformational development and world religions. Activities will include visiting local churches, a mosque and a visit to a Kenyan family. It is an interesting but worthwhile programme.

Photo Gallery Baby

Photo Gallery Baby

We had to wait 4 years on his arrival, but he has finally made it: Simeon! He was born on 29 July at 01:20 am in hospital. He weighed 3810 grammes and measured about 51 cm. It all went rather quickly: labour started at 10:49 pm, the arrival in hospital was at 00:30 am and three quarters of an hour later Simeon had safely found his way into this world. We feel very rich. Again we are amazed about 10 little toes and 10 little fingers. How small and fragile life begins!



Our departure to Madagascar is drawing nearer. For years we have been preparing ourselves, but how?


The language amongst missionaries and within most missionary organisations is English. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to raise our children bilingually from an early age. From about 3 years of age – when they have an age appropriate fluency in Dutch – Katja speaks as much English to and with them as possible. After having learned to read and write Dutch at beginner’s level, we start teaching them the same in English. Sofar this approach works for our family: our children are capable of conversing in 2 languages and are confident about their abilities. On the mission field they will be able to communicate with other missionaries and their children from the start.

Cultural Awareness

Compared to thirty years ago, when we were in primary education, the world seems to have ‘shrunk’! The world comes closer in the books we read, the television programmes we see and even through people living around us who have come from a different culture.

Since we will be living in a vastly different culture than our own, we read and talk a lot about the continents, climates, cultures and religions in the world. We hope to get a better understanding of what culture is and how important it is in everyday life. We read books on Madagascar in particular, so we will have some idea in advance of what we might experience and see.


Children of missionaries generally have more identity problems than their peers who have no cross-cultural experience. It is often heard that the live between 2 or more cultures and have difficulty identifying any which country as home. Ties with the country of origin can be weaker than the ties with the country they, as a familly, have served in.

For these reasons we emphasize our own cultural identity as well. Through history lessons, typical Dutch celebrations and family traditions we enforce our identity as a familly, Christians, Dutch and Europeans. We trust this will enable us to move and feel freely in both our own and our host cultures.

A Cozy Little Cottage

A Cozy Little Cottage

On the third of October we moved from West Farm Cottage in England to a little cottage in Holland. The journey took us about 20 hours. The first few days were spent unpacking boxes, but now we have settled into our nice little cottage. The cottage, which used to be a pigsty, belongs to Katja’s mother who moved to the old farmhouse three years ago. The children have quite some room to play, and the ducks have found their way to granny’s pond.

Since last week the children’s lessons have been resumed. All goes well, although it is not an easy transition for us. We miss England and our friends there, and we have not returned to the Netherlands to stay. We all realise we are only here temporarily.

Please pray for our family as we settle back into Holland, especially for peace as we seek to trust the Lord to unfold His plan with our lives