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Letter from the Turk Family in Madagascar

June 12, 2009 

Dear Friends,

We are doing well. Our children finished the school year today and are excited about having time off for “grandes vacances.”

We would like to issue a special prayer request for the FJKM (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar) National Council meeting now in progress (June 10 to 17). Please pray for the National Council members as they work to chart a way forward for the church in these difficult and uncertain times. Decisions will be made from June 15 to 17. Doug Tilton, PC(USA) regional liaison for southern Africa, is attending the meeting. Please pray that the church find ways to sustain its vital ministries with creativity and optimism in the midst of the current turmoil.

There will be an HIV/AIDS training for Ivato seminary students this weekend, June 13 to 15. Elizabeth will participate in the training. The FJKM AIDS Committee hopes to have a training for FJKM graduating seminary students at the Ambatonakanga seminary in July before graduation. The community health program, with malaria and safe drinking water as major components, is continuing. We will be starting an intensive program with two FJKM dispensaries and their community health villages. Training and village assessments will begin in July.

Dan did follow-up at Andramasina last week where nine farmers are participating in a program to grow fruit trees that began in 2007 with help from Central Florida Presbytery’s “2 Cents a Meal” program. For the farmers, the church provided about 15 grafted fruit trees along with training in orchard establishment and maintenance, and plant propagation. The goals of the program were to enable the farmers to produce fruit to eat and sell and for them to propagate their own trees in order to have as many trees as they wanted on their property. It was hoped that some of the participants would eventually produce their own grafted trees and have some fruit to sell or otherwise distribute to people. Most of the farmers have already been eating fruits, particularly peaches and nectarines, but also a few citrus fruits. Four of the nine farmers have planted at least 25 more fruit trees than they had initially received. Six of the farmers have had at least some success grafting trees, including apples, peaches, nectarines, citrus, and persimmons. Three farmers in particular are in the process of mastering propagation techniques. They plan to plant large orchards for themselves and to produce additional trees for sale. So we are pleased that this pilot project seems well on its way toward achieving its goals. We expect the limiting factor to be soil fertility, which is very low in the Andramasina area. We are planning more extension work in other areas.

As a result of the coup d’état on March 17, Madagascar is suffering a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis. Many people have lost jobs. Prices of basic necessities are on the rise; more people are going hungry. Many people cannot pay school fees, purchase needed medicines, or pay rent. More and more cars have “for sale” signs. The continuation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is responsible for probably over 150 000 jobs, especially in the textile sector, is in jeopardy. The coup government has cracked down on people advocating a return to democracy and constitutional order by shooting unarmed protesters on repeated occasions, arresting leaders of the movement to restore legality, denying people the right to assemble, and shutting down radio and TV stations. In addition, those protesting the coup are being terrorized by a special military unit set up expressly to arrest and interrogate political opponents. A number of the protest leaders are either in jail or in hiding. The coup government used tear gas on protesters again today 12 June 09. There does not appear to be a solution for a just and durable peace in sight.

Thank you very much for your continued prayers for the country and people of Madagascar. May God’s grace and power sustain the people and the church.

Peace in Christ,

Elizabeth and Dan Turk

The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 48

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