An Incredible Move of God in Madagascar

By Kevin Cuz - Canadian National University Director for Athletes in Action 

I made it back to Canada after one of the best Athletes in Action international projects I have ever been on in Madagascar. I feel so full of joy and gratitude and am just fired up for a new campus year after walking in the power of the spirit and seeing God do some incredible things IN us and THROUGH us this summer.

I can't wait for you to see and hear about what happened during our time in Antananarivo, Madagascar and the lives we were able to touch with God's love! Grab a coffee, sit back and prepare to be in awe of the ways God works all things together for good...

Many times at these games we jump in for a short time, make a big impact and then everybody goes home. We trust the seeds we have planted will grow and multiply! The beauty of the vision for this trip was to equip, train and come alongside the locals for lasting impact. I was surprised and encouraged to see AIA staff and other sport ministry workers from Mauritius and Rodrigues, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Brazil, USA, Germany and more- it was truly an honour to see the nations joining together to equip God's people for works of service, in love.

We were amazed when over 75 Malagasy pastors, leaders, volunteers and students showed up for our sport ministry training, hosted at a local school. We divided the teams into IN SPORT (ministry to athletes) and THRU SPORT (ministry that churches could use to impact communities with sport). I was so excited to teach on discipleship as we realized that many of the believers had never been discipled themselves.

These volunteers for IN SPORT, chaplaincy to athletes, were on the edge of their seat to get practically equipped for reaching coaches, teams and athletes. They stayed engaged for the full 3 days, often travelling hours to get there. The best part was that after these days of training, many of the pastors and volunteers came and did ministry with us at churches and at the games, side by side with our staff, and in fact they continued reaching out and ministering to their own people and athletes long after we had to fly home!

As we ended our training and commissioned everyone the Lord gave me an incredible vision.  In my mind I saw thousands of angels holding bows with arrows notched in the strings. Their faces were turned toward us, just waiting for our prayers to be spoken out so they could loose their arrows. When this happened, thousands of arrows were fired high into the sky where they turned into birds, which then flew in every direction to accomplish God's Will! This picture would continue to be a great encouragement to us all over the rest of our project.

I love having the opportunity to attend the Opening Ceremonies of the games. It's a great kick-off for all that will transpire in the coming weeks of competition and a great touch point for conversations with athletes as we get to experience it together. We had no way of knowing that this opening ceremonies would turn from a joyous celebration to one of suffering, pain and tragic loss of life.

As most of our team went to their seats, our Malagasy volunteers wanted to continue prayer walking around the stadium with DJ (AIA Canada staff) and me as we spiritually prepared for upcoming ministry with athletes. The President of Madagascar had invited the population to attend for free and 42,000 fans had already come into the stadium over many hours. At some point they hit capacity and so attempted to close the gates to shut out the tide of people who wanted to attend. Chaos ensued, a stampede was started and children and adults started getting knocked over, stepped on, and crushed in the mass of people.

My group narrowly missed the danger from the rush of people and suddenly injured kids were being carried past us to the Red Cross tent, first with missing shoes, then injured limbs, then some who were so badly hurt it was clear they were not going to survive. One of our volunteers, Miayl, jumped in to help, having just taken the training. DJ and I prayed and tried to offer comfort where we could. Countless ambulances made it through the continuous crowd of people outside the stadium, still trying to force their way inside. We had an incredible opportunity to thank, bless and pray over the head of the Red Cross for Madagascar and 30 volunteers who had worked so hard to help the injured in their agony and the wailing of parents, desperate for any help. When everything finally settled down, we were devastated to learn that 13 people had been killed and 100 or more experienced injuries. This wasn't something I ever imagined we would encounter at these games.

Later in the opening ceremonies, the performers depicted something that was confusing to me which led me to some research. Starting in 1829 Madagascar was ruled by a tyrant queen called Ranavalona I. During her 33 year reign she used forced labour and extreme punishments. That along with war, famine, disease and her trials by ordeals, resulted in the population of Madagascar decreasing from 5 to 2.5 Million in the first 10 years of her rule. She outlawed the growing Christian movement in 1835 and made its practice a capital offense, becoming infamous for throwing Christians to their death off the cliffs near the palace, the same cliffs that surrounded this stadium where more death happened. When she finally died and was succeeded by her son, he gave his life to Jesus and gave freedom to the people to worship once again...this led the culture to an incredible openness to the gospel, though for years they fought against demonic influence and evils attributed to the dead queen. Our team had earlier sensed a real spiritual oppression on this site which lead us into a lot of prayer for the people most impacted by the tragedy.

After experiencing something so tragic we expected it would become the defining event of these games. It didn't. In fact, our team responded with deep grieving, prayers and felt God ask us to stand in the gap for these families because there were no flowers, crosses or crowds at the site of the deaths, no indication anything had even happened aside from increased security and blood smeared along the ground.

Also discouraging was the fact that the athletes village had never been completed and so there was no central place to meet athletes, no cafeteria to gather in or common areas they were fact we found out the almost 4000 athletes, coaches and officials were spread out across the city at 83 different, smaller hotels...what would we do now??

I started that morning quite confused, pleading with God to make sense of what had happened and to give us opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the people of Madagascar. Some on our team went to support and grieve with the family of one of the volunteers who's sister had died in the stadium tragedy. Others went into a church to serve a community surrounded by witch doctors and we attended some competitions to support athletes. Later that day, the Lord connected us with a Christian hotel manager who had been looking for a chance to be used by God. He said we could set up inside his hotel to minister to athletes.

The next day, we had a hope and a plan. Our hope was to make some connections with athletes and we planned to set up at the hotel at the invitation of this amazing believer. We prayed, prepared, bought snacks, got Bibles ready and I even greeted most of the Madagascar team as they came in for lunch at another venue. By dinner time we were ready and it turned out to be a most incredible night!

When the sun went down (5:30pm local time in this part of the world) it was as if God's presence descended on this place! Our team paired up with Malagasy translators and we went table to table as the athletes ate, it turned out that the ENTIRE Madagascar delegation of almost 500 athletes was staying and eating in this hotel each evening. Every table we approached received us with open arms. Almost every athlete I talked to asked us to pray with them- for issues they were facing, for injuries, for strength, faith, joy and wisdom. They opened up about struggles, wanted advice on complicated issues and so many were hungry for us to tell them more about Jesus.

As I was praying with a Karate athlete, weeping with our Madagascar AIA staff, I looked over and Carl (former US wrestler/AIA Staff) was sharing about wrestling in the Bible with the entire Men's and Women's wrestling team, all 15 of which were then raising their hand to indicate a decision to make Jesus Lord of their life. Everywhere I looked, each member of our team and our volunteers were ministering to athletes! It was one of the most spiritually open, incredible nights I have ever experienced and I believe the Kingdom advanced in a mighty way that evening!

One day our team went into a rough part of Antananarivo, in a very poor area, to do a worship outreach with a local church. As they waited, they prayer walked around the area and started to draw a crowd. Without knowing how it happened, suddenly there were people lining up to receive prayer from our team; God's spirit seemed to draw them in. They were asking for blessing, an experience of God's love, freedom from oppression and many with physical disabilities were asking to be miraculously healed- what incredible faith!

Though our team didn't experience God physically healing anyone in that moment they saw some incredible transformations in the spirit. One young guy, with a twisted leg, heard about what was happening and came for healing. After hearing the gospel, he accepted Jesus into his heart and was encouraged to throw off any sin entangling his life. He was wearing a shirt with satanic images and symbols and so another man, who had also just become a believer, took the shirt and offered to burn it for him. Mari, one of our teammates, offered him her clean, white AIA sweater as a symbol of the new life he is now experiencing in Jesus! What an amazing moment!

I could fill many newsletters with all God did in and through us on this trip but here are a couple more quick highlights for now:
  • We asked for Favour with Muslim athletes- despite many bold prayers we had very few chances to minister to the Muslim athletes BUT we prayed for each one we saw competing that God would send dreams and visions into their heart and found out we have believers working on those islands now.
  • We Asked for Supernatural understanding of the language and God provided through a number of key translators who were able to be with us each day...and boy did our French lessons pay off in helping us understand and make connections. English wasn't common!
  • Our delegates from Seychelles and staff from our Canadian team got to meet with the Director of the Sports Committee from Seychelles to put plans in motion for full time chaplains on this island!
  • After hours of praying and waiting our team connected with Rosa, who was in charge of the Island Games, had a chance to pray with her and give her a Bible and were granted 5 Accreditations which gave us access and favour when and where it was needed
  • Our student, Malagasy volunteers travelled 2 hours each way to serve with us and got so many chances to share their faith as they worshiped God in song on the long bus rides with so much joy.
  • 80 percent of the 28 million Madagascans live on less than 1.92 dollars per day. We had chances every day to bless kids with a kind word, bread and prayer
  • We got invited to do a Chapel Service with the Madagascar Karate Team and Rugby teams and pray blessing over them. Such a warm reception and open door for our local staff to continue being a blessing.
  • We handed out Hundreds of French "Struggle and Triumph Bibles" and other Christian Resources and helped many find the Malagasy translation on The Bible App.
  • Our Thru Sport team did many outreaches with local churches where they put on soccer clinics, distributed humanitarian aid, did an open air worship concert in one of the poorest parts of the city, and church outreaches in the communities around Antananarivo, showing the Jesus Film in the local language.

To reach Kevin or to find out more about how you can partner with Athletes in Action please email:  or visit athletes