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Around the world | Presbyterian World Mission

Risky journey

Mission worker Doug Tilton stands with African church in time of need

Two men shaking hands

Building relationships: mission worker Doug Tilton greeting Martin Mfom, a pastor in the African Protestant Church of Cameroon. Photo by Bob Ellis.

Presbyterian mission worker Doug Tilton didn’t know what to expect when he arrived in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in June 2009.

Tilton would be attending a national meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar just three months after a military-backed coup had sent the country into chaos. Security forces from the new government had arrested and beaten pastors and other church leaders. As a result, many pastors went into hiding and one church official left the country temporarily. Some remained in hiding the day Tilton arrived, and the tension was still thick.

As the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s regional liaison for Southern Africa, Tilton goes to many church meetings. In this case, his hosts thought his attendance would be particularly beneficial. They surmised that his presence would make it less likely that church leaders would be arrested or harmed.

The meeting was held without incident, but Madagascar’s political and economic crises still persist. Human rights violations also continue, and in response the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, known by its Malagasy acronym FJKM, is pushing for a return to democracy. Presbyterians in the United States, including the Madagascar Mission Network, are supporting the FJKM. 

“We hear constantly from the FJKM that the most important thing people can do is to pray—pray for peace and justice and for the health and discernment of the church in Madagascar,” Tilton says. “It’s also important that we engage in advocacy with U.S. officials.”

As Malagasies seek to cope with severe economic hardship, many of them turn to the FJKM for help. “It’s a church that expresses well the concept of holistic ministry,” Tilton says.

The FJKM is involved in community and economic development, agricultural work, environmental reclamation and health ministries. Over the past decade, it has planted an average of one church per week.

The FJKM is assisted by PC(USA) mission workers Dan Turk, a forester and agronomist, and his wife, Elizabeth, a nurse and public health specialist. Mission worker Jan Heckler, who was appointed in January, will assist with long-range planning, assessment and resource allocation.

The FJKM is one of nine partner churches with which Tilton works. He also supports the ministries of other mission workers and helps build partnerships between African Christians and Presbyterians in the United States.

Tilton, who is based in South Africa, says, “I am filled with wonder at God’s perpetual capacity to do new things in the lives of God’s people.”

Pat Cole is a communications specialist for the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


World Mission

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