“I was hungry and you fed me”…

‘I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:35)

We are delighted to receive an update from the Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar, where the great suffering caused in recent months by drought and famine has led both to an outpouring of generosity from Christians in other places, and to a marked increase in church growth.

Fields devastated by drought

The latest newsletter from the Friends of Toliara reports:

“The second stage of the food distribution has now taken place in the deep south of the Diocese, where the worst of the famine is occurring. 800 sacks of rice and 192 sacks of beans were given out in Amboasary, and Fort Dauphin received 100 sacks of rice and 25 sacks of beans. So, 900 vulnerable families received enough food for 30 days. Mr Ialy (Economic Development Coordinator), Rev Donné (Dean of the District) and Deacon Gaston (from the Parish of Amboasary) oversaw the distributions.

“The rice and beans are given to everyone, no matter what their religion. People in these villages are turning to follow Jesus. Gaston reports that the churches in Amboasary Parish are now packed – an “explosion of people”, he said, “with no more room to fit in people. People are being baptized because they are being touched by the love of God and asking, ‘What religion is this that cares? We want to join you’ “.

Food distribution in Amboasary and Fort Dauphin

“The local people have noticed also that we gave everything we had to give. In other cases, soldiers (appointed by the government) kept almost 2/3 of the goods they had to distribute. People are touched by the Diocese’s integrity and trust. So we may think we’re just giving money, we may think we’re only giving foods, but through this, people are being saved eternally by God’s grace.

Discipling new believers with Rooted in Jesus in Ambovombe

“There are many groups of people from the forest who come each Sunday to worship together at the church in Ambovombe, walking in some cases 6 miles to get there.  They are learning about Jesus for the first time.  Seven villages have asked if a church could be planted there, but because of the lack of workers, Dean Donné and Rev Gaston decided they should worship first with the Church in Ambovombe for two months to learn more about Jesus. Gaston’s wife, Oliviah, is leading three Rooted in Jesus groups. Gaston is teaching new catechists and evangelizing. The student catechists are teaching the people about baptism.

The new church in Ambovombe is now packed on Sundays

“The need is still great however, and the rural exodus has not stopped, with some people walking to Fort Dauphin on foot (around 60 miles). Please pray for rain to fall so that rivers will be filled, the underground water table will rise, and crops will grow, but not so much rain at any one time that it causes damage.  

Rooted in Jesus in Mahabo parish

The Rooted in Jesus group receive their certificates

Meanwhile Sue Babbs, who has recently returned from a nine month assignment in Toliara, reports that the Chapel of Saint Andrew in Mahabo has now completed the Rooted in Jesus discipleship training. They have achieved this just two years after Derek Waller and Revd Florent Lahitody, working alongside parish priest Victor Osoro, trained the first Rooted in Jesus group leaders at Mahabo. The photo shows the group receiving their certificates.

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13.34-35

Looking back

Rooted in Jesus was translated into Malagasy and introduced to the Diocese of Toliara in 2011, with Rooted in Jesus Junior following in 2017. Back in 2011, the Diocese was yet to be formally inaugurated: it had just three priests, a tiny cathedral built of sticks and thatch, and a handful of churches scattered across a huge area. Now there are over 108 churches in ten parishes, supported by a well resourced central hub and an innovative programme of outreach and training. In a country where 80% of people are yet to hear the gospel, it’s encouraging to read of the huge strides still being made despite the very real difficulties of living in an island subject to an increasing scourge of famine and cyclones.

The diocese is currently led by Assistant Bishop Samitiana Razafindralambo, who has taken over from Bishop Todd and Revd Patsy McGregor following their return to the United States.

The cathedral in Toliara back in 2011!

You can find out more about the ministry of the Diocese of Toliara by visiting their website here.

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. The Rooted in Jesus website can be found here.