A group of 6 intrepid adventurers left at 6:30 am, well after the sun had risen and the lemurs had begun their “singing,” for what turned out to be a rather strenuous 6 hour hike into the Zahamena National Park at Toamasina, just outside of Andasibe. Our guide was a patient and knowledgeable man, skillfully finding and pointing out flora and fauna at every turn.
Frequently along the trail, he’d ask us to wait as he ran into the forest and returned to guide us to our next discovery – sleeping owls, nocturnal lemurs, chameleons, geckos, frogs and orchids. Barbara Clark and I came equipped with our binoculars and “Birds of Madagascar” guidebook and tried to identify the many varieties of endemic birds we encountered along the way. Deeper into the forest our guide led us, up and down hillsides to find families of Indri, Diademed sifaka and brown lemurs. When we found them high up in the trees, we quietly stood beneath them, positioning ourselves for photos, observing them and listening to their songs, awestruck by the wonder of God’s creation.
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.