A Letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk, Serving in Madagascar
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Greetings from the United States! Our time home this summer has been full and rewarding. In May, we had the joy of attending Robert’s graduation from college. Having time for reflection and renewal at the PC(USA)’s Mission Co-worker Sharing Conference in June was another highlight of the summer, as was visiting family. It has been especially wonderful to have time with Frances, who just finished her freshman year in college, and with Robert before he starts a nine-month Fellows Program with First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.
Dan is taking a graduate course titled Tropical Fruit Production and Research at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. He has enjoyed interacting with specialists and gaining important information to help the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM)’s fruit tree program as it continues to grow and expand. While Dan is in Homestead, Elizabeth is enjoying being based in Orlando with her parents and Robert and Frances.
We return to Madagascar August 13, and will head straightaway to Toamasina on the east coast to take part in the FJKM celebration of the arrival of the first missionaries of the London Missionary Society 200 years ago.
AIDS Ministry’s New Focus: Promoting HIV Testing
Promoting HIV testing is critical at this time in Madagascar, as very few people are getting tested. Madagascar offers free treatment for those infected with HIV. But because so few people are getting tested, unfortunately most people infected with HIV are unaware of their condition and therefore cannot take advantage of the government’s free treatment. When people living with HIV are treated, they are less likely to spread the virus to others, and they can live healthier lives.
The FJKM AIDS Committee is collaborating with the government to promote HIV testing. This June, HIV testing was offered at the Ivato Seminary campus — the first time ever on a FJKM seminary campus. After hearing how important testing is during their training on HIV/AIDS, the seminary students asked if the FJKM AIDS Committee could organize a testing day at the seminary. It is rewarding to see the results of training.
During the weeklong celebration in Toamasina August 12-19, the FJKM AIDS Committee will be sponsoring HIV testing in collaboration with the government AIDS Committee. FJKM President Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi has agreed to be tested publicly during this week. This will be very important in helping to promote testing in the church and in the nation. We give thanks for President Ammi’s willingness to do this and for our partner denomination’s being at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. Please pray that the testing goes well in Toamasina and for the FJKM’s continued efforts to fight the disease.
New Collaboration: Fruit Tree Center and the FJKM University Agronomy Department
This April, we were reminded about how wonderful the Lord’s timing is. The FJKM University just started a three-year agronomy degree program. In early April, Dan met with the new university head, Pastor Ratsimandisa Haritiana Zo, to explore possible collaborations between the university and the Fruits, Vegetables, and Environmental Education (FVEE) project. She is a pastor and medical doctor, and she also has a degree in agronomy. As we had scheduled a trip to the FJKM Fruit Tree Center for a visiting team from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Pastor Zo, the head of the agronomy department, and others from the university were able to join the team.
When Pastor Zo saw firsthand the scope and expertise involved in the fruit tree work at the center, she was amazed. She noted that no one else in Madagascar has as many different types of fruit trees as the FJKM and that there is no other group with a fruit tree center dedicated to helping low-income farmers improve their lives. She was very excited about the opportunity for students from FJKM University’s agronomy program to do internships at the FJKM Fruit Tree Center. The FVEE project will be working to get a building constructed that can house interns and others coming for trainings at the Fruit Tree Center. This collaboration will enable a new generation of agricultural graduates to get first-hand knowledge of how to grow many kinds of promising fruit trees, to learn propagation techniques, and to be ready to share this knowledge with others. The Lord’s timing is indeed amazing! Please pray for funds to build the new building and for the collaboration between the FVEE project and the FJKM University agronomy department.
Life of the Nation
April through June were turbulent months for Madagascar. In protest of unfair electoral laws, 73 deputies led public demonstrations on April 21. Unfortunately, the first day there were some deaths and injuries. In May, Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court ruled that some elements of the electoral laws were unconstitutional, and the laws were modified. A new prime minister and ministers were named in June in an effort to seek common ground. Presidential elections are scheduled for November 7. The demonstrations stopped in July. For more information, please see the Presbyterian News Service May 16 article titled, “Malagasy Church calls for peace, dialogue amid growing political tension” (presbyterianmission.org/story/malagasy-church-calls-for-peace-dialogue-amid-growing-political-tension/). Please continue praying for the nation as it moves toward its presidential election. Please also pray for the FJKM church and its leaders as they seek to be witnesses for peace, justice, reconciliation, and transparency.
It has been a joy to connect with some supporting churches and individuals this summer. We look forward to meeting even more when we return to the United States for interpretation assignment in September 2019. We are so grateful for the faithful prayer and support we receive. The ministries that we do in collaboration with the FJKM could not happen without this support. “He (Christ) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” Ephesians 4:16 (NLT). Lives are being touched and changed in God’s name because of our work together. Thank you so much.
Peace in Christ,
Dan and Elizabeth
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