A Letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk, serving in Madagascar
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The year is only half over, but 2017 has probably held more monumental change for us than any year thus far. As we shared in our last Mission Connections letter, Dan’s father passed away in March. This June, we celebrated a wonderful milestone—Frances’ high school graduation. It was even more special having our son Robert and Elizabeth’s father, Bill Warlick, in Madagascar with us to celebrate the event. Robert enjoyed being back. It was great to be together again as a family in Madagascar.
We are currently in the United States to get Frances settled into college. She will be near Orlando. We will be based out of Mission Haven in Decatur, GA, through October as we visit churches and speak.
Ministry with PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar, the FJKM (the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar), continues with exciting results. Below are a few highlights of new collaborations and results from older partnerships. We hope these examples will encourage you as they have encouraged us.
Fruits Changing Lives
What difference do a few trees make?
In 2010, PC(USA) and the FJKM Development Department helped over 70 households at Antanetibe Ankazobe plant tangerine trees—about 20 trees per family on average. Now, in June 2017, the trees have had their first big harvest and people are selling tangerines in Ankazobe for the equivalent of 36-43 US cents per pound. Justin Randrianarisoa is taking three baskets to market every week and making the equivalent of over $32 per week. In a country where over 90% of the people earn fewer than $2 per day, this is good money.
Cyril Rakotoarimanana said that a major change is that he used to spend more money than he earned on market day. “Now,” he said, “I make money.” The success of this year’s tangerine crop has encouraged farmers to redouble efforts to fertilize and irrigate their trees adequately, which should result in greater harvests in years to come.
The Mahatsinjo Fruit Center is now in operation. On May 23, the FJKM officially received the new multipurpose building from the builder during a worship service and ceremony. On the same occasion, the official title to the Center’s 13 hectares (32 acres) of land was presented to the church. Meanwhile, planting of mother trees and propagation activities at the Center have been increasing. Over 270 fruit trees belonging to 47 species and 148 varieties have been planted. These trees will both demonstrate the potential of the species and varieties and be used as sources of propagation material to produce grafted plants. Grafting of mango trees is already in progress for over 50 trees. Other trees being grafted include citrus, sapodilla, canistel, Indian jujube, and sweet tamarind.
Next steps at the Center include fixing up two large water reservoirs, putting in a new water system for irrigation and drinking water, and setting up the permanent nursery. The Center will be inaugurated in a formal ceremony in late 2017 or early 2018. After that, continued propagation, especially of mangos, will be a major focus along with trainings for church leaders and farmers. In 10 years, we fully expect mangos and other fruits to be making a difference in the lives of many people across Madagascar, just as tangerines are making a difference in the lives of Justin and Cyril at Antanetibe.
Water Changing Lives
Water changes lives! Celebrating 10 years of safe-drinking water with the people of Tsaramiakatra this June 17th was a joyous privilege. In 2007, the gravity-fed water system received major funding from Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, FL. A group from Faith Presbyterian Church actually came to Madagascar and participated in the final stages of installing the system. In the intervening years, the Tsaramiakatra community has cared for the system, and the water has helped children stay healthier and helped their parents devote more time to economic activities. The Tsaramiakatra Water Association has added fish ponds for income and set up a system for storing rice to help the community through periods of rice scarcity. Recently, they built two community cement wash basins for washing clothes. Thankfulness for partnership with Faith Presbyterian Church and PC(USA) was a main theme during the celebration, which was marked by a worship service, speeches by local authorities, a collective meal, festive music, and skits. During the event, we learned that more children are continuing education past elementary school. New houses have been built and people are starting to get money from fruit trees that are irrigated with the water system. It was wonderful to see how the children’s and parents’ lives are being changed.
Now, 10 years later, the PC(USA), with further help from Faith Presbyterian Church and other churches, is helping the town of Isoavina Ambanitsena get safe drinking water. The project will renovate the existing system and expand it to provide drinking water for the town, an FJKM conference center, and the two local schools. The community is very committed to the work. Every man in the community aged 18-59 has promised to be responsible for 12 meters of digging. The work should be finished by October 2017. This is another example of PC(USA) and FJKM’s life-changing partnership in progress.
Further Changes and Opportunities
This June, we also said goodbye to Dr. Martha Sommers, a PC(USA) co-worker who came to work briefly in Madagascar in October 2016 when violence erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were amazed as always by God’s timing and providence. Martha fit right in and was able to work in several areas of the country and in FJKM’s health ministries. We enjoyed her company and professional insight. We hope to see her again one day in Madagascar!
This October 12-14, the Madagascar Mission Network will be holding its second meeting. This year’s meeting will be in Orlando. We will share more information as it becomes available. The FJKM has wonderful ministries in evangelism, development, education, and reconciliation. The network meeting should be a great opportunity for Presbyterians to share and explore ways to support the FJKM church as it seeks to share God’s love and minister to the people of Madagascar. Please consider attending or having a member of your church attend this meeting.
In the midst of all of this year’s changes, we have been repeatedly reminded of God’s presence. Seeing the positive results after many years in Antanetibe and Tsaramiakatra reminds us how faithful partnerships can change people’s lives radically. We do not always know where the Lord is leading, but we know that the Lord’s plans are good.
It is hard to believe we will have a freshman and a senior in college this fall. Definitely a new phase of life for all of us! We ask for prayers for us as a family as we each adjust to the very new realities we will face: empty-nesters, senior finishing college, and freshman starting college. We are excited about the future and know that God has prepared a unique path for each of us. We could not do what we do without your prayers and financial support. Thank you very much for your continued faithfulness.
Dan and Elizabeth Turk
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