A Letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk, serving in Madagascar
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As Advent approaches, we give thanks for being close to family and having good health. We are also very thankful for a wonderful Madagascar Mission Network (MMN) conference this past November 12-14. It has brought new opportunities and avenues for mission in Madagascar.
First Virtual Madagascar Mission Network Conference
The MMN paved a new path with its first-ever virtual conference! The virtual format, while challenging, brought together a diverse group of people from eight countries and at least 12 states. Many had never before attended an MMN conference. Direct participation from representatives of PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar, the Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara, Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, (FJKM), was particularly meaningful and included Pastor Alfred Randriamampionona, FJKM Theological Education Committee Chair, Pastor Zo Ratsimandisa, FJKM University Rector, Pastor Juliette Razafiarisoa, FJKM Ivato Seminary Director, and Pastor Helivao Poget, FJKM Ministry to the Marginalized Coordinator. FJKM President Irako Andriamhazosoa Ammi shared a pre-recorded message. Others participating through videos included the FJKM Head of schools, seminary students, pastors, doctors, and development workers.
The conference opened with the movie “Ady Gasy” followed by a panel discussion that included the film’s producers. The movie examines how people in Madagascar use creativity and strength of spirit to live in the midst of material poverty. We highly recommend this movie.
Pre-recorded sessions were presented on FJKM’s priorities, theological education, the Evidence-Based Methods of Instruction (EBMI) teacher training program, growing fruit trees to get out of poverty, health and HIV/AIDs, COVID-19 in Madagascar, FJKM women’s program, and preventive work with vulnerable women and children. These presentations, each 15-25 minutes long, can be made available for Sunday school classes, youth group meetings, or mission committee meetings. Below are presentation links for the ministries we are directly involved with. We would be happy to join via Zoom to answer questions and provide further explanation when these videos are shown. Please get in touch if you are interested in this. “Growing fruit trees to help people get out of poverty” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwNrFoMMJ1Q&feature=youtu.be) and “Health and HIV/AIDs ministry” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6siD8UZRfY&t=13s).
While the number of reported cases and deaths from COVID-19 continue to be low in Madagascar, with only 87 new cases and one death reported last week (November 8-13), people continue to experience economic hardship resulting from the previous preventive measures. Movement within Madagascar has mostly returned to normal, but people from the U.S. and other countries with high COVID-19 infection rates are not allowed into Madagascar. The MMN conference presented a video describing the effects of COVID-19 on Madagascar and the FJKM and how PC(USA) and other partners collaborated with the FJKM to help mitigate the devastating effects (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKLB-sVH1-8&t=40s). The FJKM is still struggling with a financial gap caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and personnel remains on half-salary. The Madagascar Mission Network launched an appeal for FJKM COVID Relief Funds during the conference. Those interested can contact Barbara Sayles, MMN treasurer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madagascar Mission Network helps two FJKM Doctoral Candidates.
When the MMN met in 2016, the FJKM expressed that its highest priority was training more pastors as it has over 6,000 congregations with only 1,500 pastors. A key component for this was helping to get more faculty with doctorates for FJKM’s seminaries. The MMN is supporting two doctoral candidates, Pastor Juliette Razafiarisoa and Pastor Mamisoa Rakotomalala. God has worked many miracles to provide for their needs. Thank you to all who have helped along the way! Since January 2019, Pastor Juliette, FJKM’s Ivato seminary director, has been pursuing a doctorate of ministry in executive leadership at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Planning to return home to Madagascar in November, Pastor Juliette learned on October 19 that she would need to leave October 25 via a special repatriation flight if she wanted to return before Madagascar closed its borders. Although there were many nerve-wracking moments, God provided! She was able to turn in her thesis draft, get her COVID-19 test, and get on the plane on October 25. A special thanks to all who helped during that week! She flew to the island of Nosy Be and proceeded by road home to Ivato, getting there in time for her grandson’s birth and the FJKM General Council meeting. Pastor Juliette worked tirelessly to get her thesis turned in in record time and plans to complete her doctorate by May 2021.
Pastor Mamisoa Rakotomalala is pursuing a doctorate of educational ministry at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA, to be completed in 2022. This fall, Pastor Mamisoa received Columbia’s Florrie Wilkes Sanders Prize, given for the best paper showing sound theological scholarship and relevance to Christian people’s needs in the contemporary world. She completed an internship at Decatur Presbyterian Church and preached virtually at West Raleigh PC on World Communion Sunday. Even before she returns to Madagascar, Pastor Mamisoa will help write curricula for the FJKM seminaries. Both Pastors Juliette and Mamisoa shared during FJKM’s theological education program presentation at the MMN Conference.
• For the Malagasy people as they struggle amid the economic hardship due to COVID-19;
• For the FJKM as it ministers among the Malagasy people;
• For Pastors Juliette and Mamisoa as they complete their studies; and
• For us, as we continue our ministry in Madagascar from the U.S. and for protection from COVID-19.
In this season of Thanksgiving, we are very thankful for those who faithfully support us and the ministries of the FJKM. We have a five-minute video about the ministries that we are involved with that could be used as a minute-for-mission or other venues (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd169nBB8hg&feature=youtu.be). Thank you very much for being part of mission in Madagascar.
Peace in Christ,
Dan & Elizabeth
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