A letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk serving in Madagascar
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We knew that 2017 would be a year full of major changes for our family with Frances heading to the United States to start college. By the end of 2017, we will be empty nesters in Madagascar, with Robert and Frances in college across the ocean! But we did not anticipate all the ways our life would change.
On March 6, Dan’s father, Robert S. Turk, died rather suddenly, though he did have Alzheimer’s for a number of years. One hour after Dan’s flight left for the U.S. on the afternoon of March 7, it began raining in Antananarivo from Cyclone Enawo and did not stop for 36 hours. We thank God for His provision in getting Dan a flight out before the cyclone hit Antananarivo. Dan and his four siblings all made it to Asheville, N.C., in time for the memorial service on March 12, coming from Texas; California; Scotland; Central African Republic and Madagascar. Five of the 10 grandchildren were also at the memorial service, including Robert. Though sad, it was also a celebration of Dan’s father’s extraordinary life. Among other things, he performed surgery for six years at the main hospital in Kinshasa, Zaire, separated conjoined twins, drove to Moscow at the height of the Cold War in 1972 and drove from Chile to Colombia on our way back to the U.S. in 1978.
Dan’s mother, Naomi, is doing well—people in Madagascar are surprised to learn that at 85 she is still driving a car. Since Dan’s return to Madagascar, waves of colleagues and friends have come by to express their sympathy, provide encouragement and pray. This has been a great comfort. Thank you to all who have shared condolences and prayed for Dan’s mother and the rest of our family at this time.
Fruit Tree Ministry Update
Madagascar has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world. Growing fruits holds much potential for reducing malnutrition and generating income to help people get out of poverty. The FJKM, the PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar and the largest Protestant church in Madagascar, collaborates with PC(USA) to provide quality fruit trees to reduce malnutrition and poverty. As part of this collaboration, a new fruit center is being established at Mahatsinjo, an area with a good climate for growing mangos.
The first three months of 2017 have been very busy months at the fruit center. Fortunately, construction of the multipurpose building at the Mahatsinjo fruit center is nearly complete. The red roof is on, the painting mostly finished and the ceiling installed. The only major items that remain are installing windows and doors and finishing the septic tank. Once completed, the nursery worker and his family will move in.
Forty-five mango trees have been planted belonging to 22 varieties that are among the world’s best. Other trees planted include avocados, canistels, nectarines, green sapote, litchi, longan, mamey sapote, Indian jujube, jackfruit and a sweet tamarind. Nursery activities have begun, with rootstocks planted of mangos, citrus (citrange) and Indian jujube. In addition, bamboos (Bambusa textilis) and Syzygium cumini have been planted in the nursery, both of which will eventually be planted out as wind breaks.
Community outreach activities have also begun. Fruit trees, native palms and other native trees and shrubs have been planted at the Mahatsinjo FJKM church and at the new local public high school. Having native trees and fruit trees at the school is a wonderful way to promote appreciation for Madagascar’s native trees and give examples of fruit trees that students can grow at home. When colleagues and Dan held the tree-planting event at the school, a violent storm hit within minutes after we started, and chaos ensued. But the trees got planted and a rainbow came out to help us celebrate.
The fruit center has received its first trainees, a group of 33 FJKM lay people who came to Mahatsinjo for ongoing theological training. They and their three pastor trainers came out to the center for an afternoon. Germain Andrianaivoson, project technical assistant, demonstrated how to plant a fruit tree and explained the advantages of grafted fruit trees. The visitors and the leaders of the regional FJKM synod in Maevatanana have already communicated an interest in further training.
The leaders of the FJKM church have been very supportive of the fruit program and tree planting in general. In late December, the FJKM president, Pastor Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi, asked Dan and colleagues to plant fruit trees at his official residence. Needless to say, we got him some good trees, including mangos, a nectarine, a guava and a miracle fruit. In January, at a worship service at Antananarivo’s largest outdoor stadium, Pastor Ammi told the overflowing crowd about planting fruit trees at his house and encouraged the thousands attending to do likewise. In early February, he repeated this at the FJKM’s annual tree-planting event, when 4,000 fast-growing trees were planted at Fihaonana, about 50 km northwest of Antananarivo. The goal for next year’s annual tree planting is 8,000 trees.
On the 7th of March, Cyclone Enawo hit the northeast coast of Madagascar as a Category 4 storm, causing much damage to lives. Over 40,000 homes have been destroyed and schooling has been disrupted for over 120,000 children due to damaged or destroyed class rooms. Sixty-two percent of classrooms in the Sava region of northeastern Madagascar were destroyed. In Antalaha, a city of 80,000 people, the main water distribution system was destroyed, leaving the people without safe drinking water.
For a more detailed account of the devastation, please following the following link:
“Madagascar: Cyclone Enawo Situation Report No. 4 (March 28, 2017).”
Suffering from the cyclone will extend for many months due to disease, damaged crops and higher prices for rice and other staples. The government declared a state of emergency and the FJKM has appealed for disaster relief. Donations can be sent to PC(USA) and should be marked “Madagascar cyclone relief – DR000152.”
Visit to U.S. and Study Tour to Madagascar
We will be in the U.S. from July through much of October for interpretation assignment and to get Frances into college. Please get in touch if you would like for us to speak at your church during this time.
From November 6-18, the PC(USA) Peacemaking Program will lead a study seminar in Madagascar to examine the themes of creation care and reconciliation. It will be a wonderful opportunity to visit a unique part of the world and see firsthand how PC(USA)’s partner church is actively involved in issues of peace and reconciliation and preserving God’s creation. Anyone interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should see the information at the Peacemaking website:
The registration deadline is August 1.
Please join us in prayer for:
• Frances as she decides what college to attend and prepares to leave her home,
• Robert as he finds a summer internship,
• the many people in Madagascar recovering from Cyclone Enawo and
• the fruit center at Mahatsinjo.
Thank you very much for supporting our ministry in Madagascar. Your prayers and financial support are essential for the continuation of our work. Together with the FJKM, our ministry brings hope to the people of Madagascar.
Peace in Christ,
Dan & Elizabeth
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