The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s partner, the five million-member Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (known by its Malagasy acronym, FJKM), has multifaceted and holistic ministries that seek to respond to the challenges of poverty, human exploitation, social and political conflict, and environmental degradation as an integral part of what it means to follow Christ.
A group of ten US Presbyterians is visiting Madagascar November 7 to 17 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Environmental Ministries to learn more about the FJKM’s various ministries of reconciliation and peace-building, as well as its efforts to promote sustainable human development whilst protecting the integrity of creation.
The group includes Rev. Carl Horton, the coordinator of the Peacemaking Program, and Douglas Tilton, the PC(USA)’s Regional Liaison for Southern Africa. In-country leadership is provided by PC(USA) Mission Co-workers Dan and Elizabeth Turk and two representatives of our FJKM hosts: Pastor Lala Rasendrahasina, the immediate past President of the FJKM, and Pastor Lala Nirina Rakotoarisoa, the former head of the FJKM’s Chaplaincy Program.
Day 1 – Arrival and Orientation
The participants all arrived safely in Antananarivo by 3 pm – save for one who had to undergo an emergency appendectomy on the eve of her intended departure. (She’s doing fine, we are told, but we’re still missing her.)
Madagascar is not the easiest place to get to, and the vagaries of airline scheduling—not to mention flight delays, missed connections and such—meant that some of us had to arrive a day or two early or spend up to 48 hours in transit to arrive in time. So we are grateful for traveling mercies. Tired, but grateful!
Some of the earlier arrivals had a bonus—an opportunity to have a conversation with Pastor Alfred Randriamampionana, a lecturer at the FJKM’s Faculty of Theology and convener of the church’s Committee on Theological Education. Pastor Alfred explained the FJKM’s system of training pastors and how they are expanding this to meet the demands for clergy in a church that has been adding, on average, nearly one congregation a week for the past ten years! A new theological college opened recently at Ambatondrazaka, and building is well underway for an expansion of the facilities at Ivato seminary, near Antananarivo’s international airport.
Following a convivial dinner at our hotel, we got better acquainted at our opening orientation and had an opportunity to review our schedule for the next ten days in greater depth and to address questions and concerns before retiring for some eagerly anticipated rest.
Contributed by Doug Tilton