A letter from Elizabeth Turk in Madagascar
Greetings! October was a big month for Madagascar – the first round presidential election took place peacefully on October 25th – the first election since the coup d’état of 2009. The run-off presidential election and legislative elections are scheduled for December 20th.
Even as people await election results, Madagascar is still in the throes of the post-coup economic crisis. Life is very difficult for people. The United Nations latest report states that 92% of the people of Madagascar are living below the poverty line. A plague of locusts threatens much of the country. Many children did not return to school this year because their parents couldn’t afford to send them, leaving a lost generation of 1.5 million children out of school.
Where is the Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar or FJKM) in the midst of all of this? It is witnessing and trying to bring reconciliation. It is also continuing on with its work of evangelism and outreach. The fact that the FJKM church does not stop its ministry in the midst of crisis, but actually strengthens its ministries, gives hope to many.
I would like to share with you two snapshots of how the FJKM is bringing hope through its fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS in Madagascar. The PC(USA) is supporting both of these efforts. The HIV rate is still less than 3% in Madagascar. Therefore, much effort is placed on prevention and on caring for those living with HIV and AIDS so that they do not spread it.
Training Pastoral Students to be Involved in the Fight against HIV and AIDS
Every year, FJKM seminary students are trained so that they can be effective educators about HIV and AIDS in their churches and communities. Usually this only involves students at the two seminaries in the capital city. This year, we were invited to do training sessions at the other two seminaries as well. The seminary students learn about the basics of HIV and AIDS while examining what behaviors put people at risk for HIV, and how those behaviors can be prevented. What can the church do to strengthen marriages so that there is less adultery? How can youth be supported so that more choose abstinence before marriage? How can the church help decrease the stigma faced by those living with HIV? The students also receive basics in counseling people living with HIV and AIDS. Many pastors who have received training are now leading the fight in remote rural communities, where most of the understanding about HIV is based on rumors. Please pray for them as they seek to break down the traditions and human behaviors that isolate people and put them at risk.
Caring for Those Living With HIV and AIDS
The FJKM Development Department (SAF/FJKM) has three dispensaries that are directly involved in caring for people living with HIV and AIDS. This May, we met to review the successes and challenges of their programs. It was encouraging to hear their stories. Dr. Zatovoniaina Rakotondrainibe, the SAF/FJKM doctor at Antsohihy, shared how his dispensary facilitated surgery for an HIV+ woman. In Moramanga, Dr. Fanja Andrianjatovo is working with a young HIV+ prostitute who is interested in leaving prostitution. The project will help with funds and training to help her do so. Shortly after our meeting, Dr. Julienne Rasoazanany in Tsiroanomandidy covered the costs to bring a HIV+ pregnant woman from a remote rural village so that she could deliver her baby in safe conditions, and so that her newborn could begin anti-retro viral treatment.
We are doing well as a family. Robert is enjoying his senior year and is busy with college applications. Frances is a freshman and adjusting well to high school life. Dan’s work with the FJKM is bearing fruit at the village level and with FJKM pastors. The FJKM community health work has gone slowly – but the outhouses and wells are almost finished now. Please see the web for updates on our work and the situation in Madagascar (http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/turk-daniel-and-elizabeth).
As we approach the Christmas season, there is a mixture of hope and anxiety in the atmosphere. People have hope that the presidential and legislative elections will help bring much needed change to Madagascar. However, given the history of last minute changes in the past four years, there is still concern and uncertainty that the elections will take place fairly and that the results will be respected.
In reality, the only real hope is Christ. On Christmas day, Malagasy Christians will be celebrating the birth of our Lord. The results of the December 20th presidential election will not be in yet. In the midst of this political uncertainty, there will be a great reminder of eternal certainty – God’s promise of “Immanuel.” The celebration of Christ’s birth will be a reassurance that no matter what happens – God is with us.
Please continue to lift up the people and country of Madagascar in this election period. Please pray for fair elections December 20th and that results will be accepted without violence. Please pray for reconciliation.
Please pray for those involved in the fight against HIV & AIDS.
Please pray that people will be reminded this Christmas season of God’s love and presence. Pray that they will know that God walks with them no matter what the circumstance, and that God will not forsake them.
We know that God is with us and the people of Madagascar. Your prayers and support are concrete reminders of this fact. We invite your continued prayers, communications and financial gifts. World Mission has a matching gift challenge going on now, so every individual gift from now to December 31 will double in value and impact. Thank you very much for all that you are doing to help God’s hope shine in Madagascar.
Peace in Christ,
Write to Dan Turk
Write to Elizabeth Turk
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