A letter from Dan Turk serving in Madagascar
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Greetings from Madagascar, where it is hot at Christmas time! Our lives have been very busy since we returned to Madagascar in August. The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), the PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar, has elected new officers and has a new leadership team for the next four years. We have enjoyed visitors from the PC(USA) and First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla. Frances is now halfway through her senior year in high school and has spent a lot of time on the road getting to and from school because traffic has greatly increased since we were last here.
We are excited to announce that a Fruit Center of the FJKM is being established at Mahatsinjo, located about 200 km northwest of Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo. In a few years it will furnish grafted mangos and other quality fruit trees for planting throughout Madagascar. A multipurpose building currently under construction is on schedule to be finished in March 2017. Nursery activities will begin in January and many orchard trees will also be planted in January close to the onset of the rainy season. The FJKM, both nationally and locally, is providing strong support for the new center. The mayor of Mahatsinjo, who gave the land for the center, is also a major supporter.
A worship service was held October 7, 2016, to commemorate the start of construction activities at the new 13-hectare (32-acre) fruit center. The new FJKM president, Pastor Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi, preached from Ezekiel 36:30, “And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, that you may not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations.” A memorial stone (“Vato Fehizoro”) was unveiled to mark the occasion and a cornerstone for the new building was symbolically placed.
On November 20 the pastor of the Mahatsinjo church, Pastor Harifidy Andriamanantsoa, led a worship service before digging began for the building’s foundation. Fifty people from the congregation came out that Sunday afternoon to help dig the foundation. The building will have a large central room that will be used for trainings. It also will have an office room, a storage room, and two upstairs rooms for living quarters.
Also in November a father-and-four-sons team began digging two wells by hand on the site. Unfortunately, after getting down 20 m and 25 m, the team hit bedrock and the wells had to be abandoned and filled in. Water does get to the center from a canal diverted from a stream a couple of kilometers away. This canal will allow the new tree nursery and several hectares of orchards to be irrigated. The canal provides water for two ponds that will be sealed with cement to serve as reservoirs. Eventually a pipe will be laid that should allow for irrigation water to reach all of the center’s land.
The construction team, led by Rakotomalala Patrice (Rapa), is on schedule to get the multipurpose building finished by March 15, 2017. It has been a challenge to keep the team supplied with construction materials. Some (cement, rebar, wood, etc.) have been trucked in from Antananarivo, while others (sand, gravel, rocks) have come from local sources, sometimes delivered by ox cart. Much of the gravel has been broken on site, using rocks from a local quarry.
Soon with the arrival of the first trees to be planted, the real fun will begin! In January hundreds of trees will be transported to the center. Some are rootstocks for citrus, mangos and others to be potted up for eventual grafting. Others are mother trees to be planted as sources of scions for grafting onto rootstocks. Among the mother trees are over 20 varieties of mangos, including many of the world’s best from India, Florida, Thailand and Australia. My FJKM colleagues and I are looking forward to the time when grafted mangos and other trees produced at the center will be distributed widely in Madagascar. We are also looking forward to helping local farmers begin to realize the potential of fruit trees to help them get beyond poverty.
We are very grateful for the funds provided by churches and individuals without which the fruit center could not exist. Many thanks to all those who are contributing through financial donations and prayer. Your support helps keep us in Madagascar ministering with the FJKM. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many by sharing God’s love in concrete ways.
We hope you all have had a wonderful time celebrating Christ’s birth.
Dan and Elizabeth Turk
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