Wales and Madagascar - families in the gospel

    by Jill Kirby

    neuaddl-wyd

    It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be on the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

    Mark 4: 31-32
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    David Jones

    A mustard seed was sown in the early 1800’s when two of my ancestors, David Jones and Jean Le Brun, accepted calls to go to Madagascar.

    David Jones and Thomas Bevan, both born 1796 in Neuadd-lwyd in Wales, had grown up together.  They made the decision to go to Madagascar, training in Gosport, Hampshire as Independent Missionaries of the London Missionary Society (founded in 1795). With their wives they set sail in early 1818.

    After months at sea they arrived in Port Louis, Mauritius and were greeted by Reverend Jean Le Brun.  Reverend Jean Le Brun, born 7 September 1789 in St. Helier, Jersey, had arrived in 1814, leaving his homeland against his parent’s wishes, accepting a similar spiritual prompting from God to serve the people of Mauritius and to bring education to the poor, to fight slavery and to teach of Jesus Christ.

    In Port Louis David’s wife Lucy (nee Darby) gave birth to a baby girl called Anna in August 1818.  They soon left Port Louis and arrived at Tamatave, Madagascar on September 1818.

    Jean LeBrun

    They were greeted warmly by the native people who delighted in the small white baby and her mother especially; they had never encountered white people before.  Prior to the arrival of these missionaries the people of Madagascar were said to have never heard of Jesus Christ.

    They set about working immediately assessing the needs of people and how they could work together to educate them, fight slavery and teach of Jesus Christ.

    Within three months of landing disaster struck; baby Anna died when five months old, and her mother Lucy followed not long after.  Soon Thomas and Mary Bevan and their child were also gone leaving David Jones, very ill himself, alone and heartbroken; he was just 22 years old.  But while struggling with his own health and in agony and despair, continually calling out to God as he recuperated, he made the decision to remain.

    From one of his letters dated 3 May 1818 he wrote. “I am very unwell and weak, I am now left alone to labour in this mission, and I find my mind in great anxiety and a great resolution to exert myself to learn the language and to instruct the Malagash in the knowledge of God and his son Jesus Christ, which is life eternal.  I hope that the little fire kindled here, shall not be extinguished, until it be said, behold Madagascar’s see the salvation of our God.”

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    In 2010, in the 200-year old ‘academy’ erected on the farm where David Jones was born, it was a time of rejoicing for the countless millions who embraced Christianity as a result of his decision to remain in Madagascar.  He had translated the Bible into Malagasy; he had developed an education program that would eventually become numerous schools; he abhorred the slavery conditions he witnessed first hand, assisting in every way to tear it down. He taught always of Jesus Christ and that all men are created equal. The work he began still goes on today. So important was this event that a former President of Madagascar and his family attended the 200th anniversary.

    In 1821 David Jones married Marie Anne Mabille, a French relative of mine. They had a daughter named Lucy and six other children. David become a brother-in-law of Reverend Jean Le Brun when he married Coralie Mabille.  Josephine Elizabeth Mabille, sister to Marie and Coralie, is my third Great Grandmother.

    Jill

    David and his family returned to Wales in 1831 to raise funds for the people of Madagascar. (The fundraising still goes on today.)
     
    Returning to Madagascar they were confronted with changes brought about by a new ruler, who wanted to get rid of all the Christians. David Jones remained with his supportive wife and family, continuing his work.  His letters indicate he never lost faith that God would be by his side.  Never fully recovering from the illness that beset him in 1818 he died in Port Louis, Mauritius in May 1841 when 45 years old, having spent his entire adult life in Madagascar fulfilling a commitment he made to God when he was just 19 years old in Neuadd-lwyd, Wales. 
     
    The fruits of his labours, and of other missionaries who would join him, was so evident in the rejoicing I witnessed in 2010 in Aberaeon, Wales. Through shared faith in Jesus Christ, Wales and Madagascar regard their nations as family.
     
    David Jones decision at just 22 years old to stay and continue sharing the message of Christ when all around him was lost, changed the lives of countless people and families.