A Letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk, serving in Madagascar
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We hope you enjoyed the Christmas holiday. This past September through December we have been in the U.S. on interpretation assignment, visiting supporting churches and attending the Madagascar Mission Network. Dan also attended the annual ECHO agricultural conference. We are sorry that we were not able to visit all our supporting churches because of time constraints. We produced a short 3-minute video that you can access at https://vimeo.com/370186065 with the password dande2019 . We also have a self-explanatory PowerPoint we can send to those who would like to see it.
It has been special to have time with family and spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with them. Our son Robert is in graduate school in Chicago majoring in Art Therapy and Counseling, while daughter Frances is a junior in Winter Park, FL majoring in elementary education. It was a blessing for Elizabeth to be in Orlando to help out following her father’s knee replacement in October. We are now preparing for our return to Madagascar this month (January 2020) to start a new term working with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar.
News of the Fruit Center at Mahatsinjo
The past year has seen many major advances at the FJKM Fruit Center at Mahatsinjo. In November and December, over 100 low-income farmers were trained at the fruit center on how to plant, grow, and graft selected varieties of mango trees. The trainees, from the Maevatsara Synod, where the fruit center is located, received grafted mango trees to take home and plant on their land. These trainings are possible thanks to a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program. The fruit center is, more and more, being asked to provide internship opportunities for university students. This past September, for example, the center hosted 37 second year agronomy students from the new FJKM University for 10 days. A new dormitory building is currently under construction at the center to better be able to accommodate university students and trainees.
As a result of successful grafting in 2019, 33 varieties of mango trees are ready to be planted at the fruit center now that the rainy season has begun. Three trees of each variety will be planted. These are mostly varieties that we brought to Madagascar in our luggage in August 2018. Because of them, the total number of mango varieties at the fruit center has reached 60. In addition, Dan’s colleagues Rolland Razafiarison and Germain Andrianaivoson obtained 20 other varieties of mangos from the Mangatsa agricultural center near Mahajanga. Many were obtained in the form of scions, so we will have to wait to see if the grafts would take.
The Fruit Center will be inaugurated on 20 March 2020. This will be an occasion to better communicate to church leaders, local authorities, and others involved in agricultural development about the objectives and progress being made at the fruit center. Please consider yourself invited if you would like to come. It would be wonderful to have representatives from supporting churches.
The Madagascar Mission Network (MMN) is a group of mostly PC(USA) churches and individuals interested in mission in Madagascar. It promotes the priorities of the FJKM to spread God’s love throughout the island through evangelism and ministries that meet the needs of the Malagasy people. The MMN held a 3-day meeting at Altamonte Springs, FL Oct 12-14, 2019. Pastor Perline Cooper represented the FJKM at the meeting. Among those present were representatives from churches in AL, FL, and NY. We were among many who did presentations at the meeting. Officers were elected. For a statement from the meeting please see https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/madagascar-mission-network-communique/.
The MMN offers a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and projects and stay current on how to pray for and support the FJKM and the PC(USA) mission co-workers serving in Madagascar. An important part of the MMN’s support for the FJKM has been to help the FJKM strengthen the theological training of its pastors and assist the FJKM in gaining accreditation for its seminaries.
Currently, two FJKM pastors are in the U.S. for this purpose. Pastor Juliette Razafiarisoa is earning a Doctorate in Ministry at San Francisco Theological Seminary focusing on leadership training, and Pastor Mamisoa Rakotomala is earning a Doctorate of Educational Ministry at Columbia seminary in Decatur GA. Pastor Juliette is scheduled to return to Madagascar in June 2020 to complete her research, whereas Pastor Mamisoa will be in the U.S. for two more years before she can complete her degree. The MMN has been helping to raise support for Pastors Juliette and Mamisoa.
The next MMN meeting will be November 5-7, 2020 in New Jersey. Please save the date! It would be wonderful to have representatives from as many churches as possible at that meeting. For more information, please contact the new MMN Convener Thierry Rakotobe-Joel (email@example.com). To be added to the MMN contact list, please contact Julie Rogers-Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org), the MMN Communications Chair.
Special Funding Needs for FJKM Schools and University
In addition to the funding for our support and for the work that we do in partnership with the FJKM, several additional funding needs have recently been lifted up as priorities by the FJKM. The FJKM school system (the FJKM has about 7000 primary and secondary schools) is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. To celebrate, the FJKM is working to establish a new teacher training college at Imerimandroso near the NE corner of Lake Alaotra. Funds are needed to construct the necessary buildings for the new school.
The FJKM University is in the process of constructing a new classroom building for its students. Funding is needed to help complete this building.
For the FJKM General Assembly (Synoda Lehibe) that will take place in Sambava (NE Madagascar) in August 2020;
For the FVEE as it trains low-income farmers in how to grow and propagate mangos and prepares for the inauguration of the fruit center in March 2020;
For the FJKM HIV/AIDS committee as it continues to train seminary students and provide free HIV testing at FJKM events;
For the FJKM Health team as they continue to support the newly trained youth peer educators;
For Pastor Juliette and Pastor Mamisoa to complete their theological education;
For adequate funding for the new FJKM teacher training college and university building; and
For PC(USA) as it seeks a new mission co-worker to serve with the Evidence-Based Methods of Instruction (EBMI) project to help improve instruction in the FJKM schools.
As we come to the close of 2019, we are grateful for all of the wonderful work that has been done in partnership with the FJKM this year in health, AIDs prevention, fruit tree training and environmental education. These ministries would not have happened without your faithful prayers and support. They have brought joy and hope to many and reminded them of God’s love. Thank you for your part in this. Please join us in 2020 so that it can be a greater year of ministry and sharing God’s good news!
Peace in Christ,
Elizabeth and Dan
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