Making disciples in south west Madagascar
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, with a population of 26 million people. About half are Christian, and most of the rest follow traditional religious practices, which are strong and distinctive. Ten million people have yet to hear the gospel, and millions more have yet to be discipled into a living faith.
According to Operation World, ”Discipleship and biblical training are the greatest needs of churches in Madagascar. There is little by way of structured training or teaching for ordinary believers. Pray for new grassroots movements that are accessible and relevant to all Christians, and that can be multiplied and reproduced throughout the country.” This is exactly what Rooted in Jesus is designed to do, and over the last few years training conferences have been provided in two dioceses, for both the adult and the junior programmes.
News from the Diocese of Toliara
CMS missionaries Derek and Jane Waller have been invited to minister in the Diocese of Toliara, in the far south west of the island. Derek writes:
“The Diocese is young – only formally established in 2007 – and its growth under the dynamic leadership of our American bishop, the Right Reverend Todd McGregor, is remarkable. When he arrived in 2007 as a missionary bishop, together with his wife, Rev Patsy, there were only two Anglican churches, both in the city of Toliara. Now there are more than 80 Anglican churches scattered across the south of Madagascar and each year the number of new Christians and churches is increasing. Apart from the bishop and his wife, there are only six Malagasy clergy in the Diocese. A big boost this year has been the appointment of an assistant bishop to share the load with Bishop Todd. We were delighted to share in the joyful consecration of Bishop Samitiana in the capital, Antananarivo, in February.”
Mind the gap!
Derek has been asked by Bishop Todd to focus on disciplemaking in this diocese of young Christians, and to develop and support the Rooted in Jesus adult programme within the diocese – with only four parish clergy and such a huge area it has proved hard to provide all the support to group leaders that is needed. As he and Jane contemplate this task, the phrase which springs to Derek’s mind is ‘Mind the gap!’. He continues:
“What is the gap? It’s between the confession of faith of these new Christians, expressed through baptism and confirmation, and their understanding of that faith; also between what they say in Sunday worship and the lives they lead. Many of these Christians are young in their faith and have had little Christian teaching, and they can easily fall back into traditional practices and lifestyle. Our task is to help them to grow so that this gap is reduced and they can play their full part in serving the church and transforming their communities.”
Derek is taking a hands on approach with Rooted in Jesus:
“I decided to lead two pilot groups locally, one in the Cathedral and one in the city of Toliara. I wanted to know how RinJ works from the inside. We’ve now covered the first three sessions. These have been very positive. The groups are enthusiastic and especially enjoy the small groups where they can express their views. In particular, the city group has been chosen with potential leaders in mind and so promises well for the future.”
Meanwhile Derek and Jane are getting to grips with the complex and challenging Malagasy language. They have asked for a reprint of the Malagasy books as new leaders are trained.
The fastest growing segment of the population in Madagascar is children: over 40% of the population are aged under 14, and until now there has been no resource material for them available in Malagasy. So last year Bishop Todd decided to introduce Rooted in Jesus Junior to the diocese. Sunday School coordinator Nolavy Arisoa translated the course, and Sunday School teachers came from every parish to a four day training conference. Recent news from Bishop Todd is encouraging:
“Just a quick note regarding RinJ Junior. I went to Rev. Donne’s district (Fort Dauphin) this past couple of weeks for my annual pastor visits, baptism, confirmations, laying of cornerstones and etc. One thing which came up at every church (11) was that they ALL have started RinJ Junior groups, which began back in January. Some of the children were quoting scriptural passages they had memorized to the congregation. They are really excited about using this discipleship making program. They have even made T-shirts with the RinJ logos promoting the program. Every one of the teachers has one. I don’t have any idea how children are participating in this but if I was a guessing man, I would say between 300-500 children. Thanks for training our Sunday School teachers last year.”
Discipleship made real
Learning to follow Jesus is not, of course, just for other people. This is Revd Patsy:
“Today, Todd and I drove into town for errands. Errands always require patience as Plan A almost never works out and one could go long into the alphabet before reaching plan G, which I call plan God. As we turn into the office building, I notice a large trash dumpster half full with tons of rubbish surrounding it. A young boy and girl are happily chatting as they pick through trash knee deep in search of treasures. The girl stops to play. A swing has been constructed out of rubbish twine and hung on the metal poles of the overhanging billboard. As she freely swings just inches over the trash, she smiles and sings as if life is wonderful. Never mind that she is in the dumpster. Never mind that she is searching for food scraps for her malnourished body. Instead, she swings contently as though she is in a beautiful green meadow with chirping song birds and red roses. What a positive attitude! Can I also find joy in the moment and happiness despite my circumstances? I have periods of greed and discontentment even though I have everything I could ever need, and more. May I learn to be content in all situations, just like this young girl swinging on twine in the trash dump.”
Derek offers this reminder:
“We don’t embark on this exciting work of discipling Christians from a position of superiority. On the contrary, we are all too aware of the gap between the life Christ beckons us to live and the reality of our own lives. We often fall short. This gap is not only in the life of individual Christians but in our lives together. Our churches also struggle to live up to their calling as the body of Christ. More than 20 years of parish experience have shown us this. One way of summing up the Christian life (individual and corporate) is our attempt, with the grace of God, to narrow the gap between our present lives and the life of Christ. Please pray for us in our language learning and desire to grow in Christ alongside our brothers and sisters. May we, in the power of the Spirit, mind the gap! And here is a question to ponder: How can you mind the gap (i.e. recognise it and do something about it) between the way you live and the life Christ is calling you to follow?”
Can you help?
The diocese needs more copies of both the adult and junior leaders’ books so that the work of training new leaders to serve the growing Christian community of Toliara can continue. If you would be willing to help us print more books for Toliara and other dioceses who need them we would be immensely grateful – please visit our support page here or simply click the purple button at the foot of this page.
Find out more
- Read the McGregors’ latest newsletter here.
- Read the Wallers’ newsletter here.
- Visit the Madagascar page on the Rooted in Jesus website here.
- Sign up to receive automatic notification of Rooted in Jesus blog posts in the right hand panel.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust.
Posted 25th June 2018