A letter from Jan Heckler in Madagascar
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ –
Some personal history. A baker’s dozen years ago I was working with emotionally disturbed children and adults in the metro-Atlanta area. I was also helping teach Sunday school at my church, North Decatur Presbyterian Church. I was healthier and stronger than at any time since college and I was praying about how I could "give back" and better serve the Lord.
How could I show my love for God in ways I had not already contemplated or attempted? This is what I was asking when I heard the call to mission in sub-Saharan Africa.
Having little in the way of financial resources, I had to sell my home and give up nearly all of my personal possessions in order to serve. Even my most loved furniture and favorite prints had to go. And, my fenced-in backyard and beautiful azaleas all went with them.
“Sell what you have and give alms . . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33-34).
It was a scary moment to be sure. But the Lord gave me the strength and reassurances that I needed to proceed. And so I did.
Since then the Lord has made me rich in spiritual blessings many times over. I realize that I have received much more than I have ever given. Along with many other riches came many new friends and relationships and new meaning for words like wealth, sacrifice, need and success.
While living and working in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia and Ethiopia, I helped train new teachers and consult with ministries of education. In part, the results of these efforts produced a new teacher-training textbook written expressly for the sub-Saharan African teacher. It also helped Ethiopia gain a $417 million funding package from five European nations and the World Bank to improve the quality of education.
Today. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a 175-year tradition of serving the Lord through Presbyterian World Mission. In the 21st century it does this by placing an average of 200 mission co-workers in 50 countries.
In 2011 the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to go to Madagascar as a PC(USA) mission co-worker. I learned that our partner church there, the Church of Jesus Christ (called FJKM from the Malagasy equivalent), desired somebody with my background and experience.
After arriving "in country" this past April, I began searching for ways to help FJKM’s organization develop while addressing PC(USA)’s three critical global issues (CGIs):
- Addressing the root causes of poverty particularly as it affects women and children,
- Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ primarily through capacity building, and
- By working toward reconciliation in a violent world.
To do these things, the PC(U.S.A.) and I need the support of people who understand that the needs of a global-majority people include being uplifted spiritually by and partaking in the material supports of the church of their faith. They understand that the "Great Commission" to reach out to the world around us in mission and the "great commandments" of loving God and our neighbors come together and are fulfilled in the PC(USA)’s mission program.
Thus I am writing to ask two important favors. First, I ask for your prayers and continuing interest and involvement in my ministry. Our partner relationship with FJKM cannot prosper without these two things.
In particular, I ask you for your prayers during this most challenging period for the people of FJKM and Madagascar. Three years ago a violent, military-backed coup ripped the democratically elected government from power in Antananarivo.
Since then FJKM and others have been working tirelessly for peace and justice while restoring the democratic process to this island nation. With presidential elections finally set for next May, we pray that fairness will be upheld and further bloodshed avoided.
Second, I am writing to ask you to consider the various ways that you express your faith and to consider supporting my ministry here. If you can, your support will be most appreciated and used only for the purposes described above.
By sustaining our mission here, you will be helping to provide FJKM and its 4.5 million people of faith an important boost to their ailing morale during a most challenging period. During these past three years:
- The standard of living has dropped precipitously in a country that was already one of the poorest in the world.
- Violence and bloodshed became commonplace in its city streets.
- Families have experienced frightening levels of malnutrition and disease.
In addition, you will be providing lots of practical assistance to FJKM’s organizational development efforts. Together with our FJKM partners, we will develop important organizational systems and share skills that will help the FJKM and the Malagasy people in their service to God.
Thank you for the kindness of your prayers and thank you for any material form that your caring may take.
Peace and Love in Christ,
Janice B. Heckler
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Madagascar, p. 110
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 121
 My first assignment has been to work with the women’s division of FJKM to develop and open the Gazela home for girls in Moramanga. This program, a recipient of a Presbyterian Women building grant, will help rural girls complete their secondary education in a safe and nurturing environment.
 In order to ensure that this happens, please make sure that the following designations appear in the "memo" portion of any check or money order:
ECO-E200490 (for personal giving) or DMS-D507556 (for church giving).