Jan periodically returns to the United States to visit congregations or organizations. Email her to extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.
About Jan Heckler’s ministry
The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) has more than 5 million members with congregations throughout the country. The FJKM was founded in 1968 through the union of three churches that arose out of the work of the London Missionary Society, the Paris Missionary Society, and the Friends Foreign Mission Association. It is heavily involved in health and rural development ministries, evangelism, environmental concerns, and Christian education. The church invited Jan Heckler to help its wide-ranging ministries be more effective. She assists with denomination wide program planning and management and women’s programs, with a current focus on promoting effective methods of teaching in the FJKM’s 723 primary and secondary schools.
Madagascar remains one of the world’s poorest countries. More than 90 percent of its population live on less than $2 per day. Located in the Indian Ocean 250 miles off the eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and is home to many unique species of mammals, birds and plants. The Malagasy people are thought to be the descendants of East Africans and Indonesians who settled on the island more than 2,000 years ago.
After a coup d’état in 2009 the country democratically elected a president and a new government in December of 2013. The country has been peaceful since then. Just over 40 percent of the Malagasy people are Christian, 50 percent adhere to traditional beliefs, and 7 percent are Muslim.
Read: Jan Heckler commits heart and mind to education in Madagascar
About Jan Heckler
While teaching adult Sunday school in 1999, Jan realized with new understanding that Christ’s command to love our neighbors is not restricted by proximity. “It was during this time that I was called to his service to work on behalf of people in the Majority World (a term used alternatively to developing countries or Third World), primarily in sub-Saharan Africa,” she says.
Seeking to be faithful to her calling, Jan developed a small non-governmental organization and donated her time as executive director. In this role she sought to improve basic education and literacy throughout the Majority World.
From 2002 through the end of 2008 she served as a teacher educator and consultant to ministries of education in Ethiopia, Namibia and Malawi. During this time she identified and field-tested those teaching methods with the greatest empirical support, using them effectively even in schools with no electricity. The resulting methods, evidence-based methods of instruction (EBMI), are the very same being shared today with FJKM schoolteachers in Madagascar.
“In an epiphany, the Lord allowed me to understand how my training and education could be shared with others who were interested,” says Jan. “The mandate of my service in this form only grew greater as I continued to discover the immeasurable value of improved learning techniques and classroom arrangements to individuals living in Majority World countries.”
Since Jan’s faith pointed her toward Africa, she had long wanted to serve through the church. “To serve through the church is one of the greatest honors I can imagine,” she says. “It is an opportunity of immense personal and spiritual importance to me.”
During her visits to Africa Jan developed close relationships with many people on the continent and holds a deep admiration for their tenacity and faithfulness. “They have touched my soul in a most profound and continuing way, and I thank the Lord daily for allowing this to happen,” she says. “I will never forget these people’s resolve and their love of the Lord, and my life is dedicated to trying to help.”
Yet she realizes her assignment in Madagascar is not a rescue effort, but a ministry built on mutuality. “A partnership can only be effective when a mutually dependent and trusting dynamic is nurtured,” she says. “To me, this interactive demonstration of trust is a prerequisite for sustainability. When it works, friendship and its fruits become part of the many gifts reciprocated.”
In addition to her international service, Jan has several years of experience working in education, public health, mental health and social service positions in Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. Jan earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in psychology from the University of Florida, where she also completed all requirements for a doctorate in psychology except the dissertation. She later studied computer science at Florida State University.
From 1993 until mid-2001 Jan lived in the Atlanta metro area, where she remains a member of North Decatur Presbyterian Church.
Birthday: June 12