They stood as one and raised their voices in heartfelt praise, singing a Malagasy hymn in beautiful 4-part harmony. Then they sat, three at a wooden desk, elbow to elbow. Their composition books and pens were in sight, but not a single computer or tablet was seen in this Wi-Fi free classroom filled with ten rows of nine students.
Our group was visiting the Dogmatics class at Ivato Seminary of the FJKM Church outside of Antananarivo. We engaged in a lively set of questions with one another. Among the things we learned: French, English, Greek and Hebrew are required languages; many of the students are second-career, most having been teachers before seminary; and their library is in need of current theological texts.
When it was our turn to be questioned, they were most interested in learning about the oppression of Palestinians from Lucy Janjigian, our member who was born in Jerusalem and who frequently visits there. One inquired about the possibility of studying abroad, another wanted to know whether our group’s average age was indicative of the PC(USA)!
Upon leaving the class we toured Dan Turk’s amazing tree nursery on the seminary’s grounds, lovely palm tree garden that contains some threatened species, the orchard and vegetable garden. The innovative environmental program there requires that each student work weekly in the garden, and then the produce is shared.
Pastor Juliette Razafiarisoa, the seminary Director, is a delightful visionary with exciting plans for the future.
Contributed by Dean McDonald of San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA
About the Travel Study Seminar –
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.