The beginning of Lent seems like a good time to focus our minds and prayers on our brothers and sisters in other lands, and we have some news to share from the Diocese in Toliara, Madagascar. We have posted a full report on our blog, but here is a summary:
Southern Madagascar has been hit by a prolonged period of drought. This has seen many people lose their lives, and many more have been forced to leave their homes in search of food. With support from Christians in far off places, the diocese has now made a second famine relief distribution, providing enough sacks of rice and beans to feed 900 families in the affected areas for a month.
The good news is that many people have responded to this by starting to attend church – not least because the food was given away to everybody, irrespective of religious affiliation. There has been, Revd Gaston, reports, an “explosion of people, 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’”. Gaston’s wife Olivia is running three Rooted in Jesus groups to teach those who have decided to place their faith in Jesus, and the new church of Ambovombe is packed out on Sundays.
Meanwhile, not far away in Mahabo parish, the Rooted in Jesus group in the Chapel of St Andrew has now completed the programme and received certificates.
We first went to Madagascar ten years ago. In a country where 80% of people are yet to hear the gospel, it’s hugely encouraging to see the huge strides being made despite the very real difficulties of living in a place subject to an increasing scourge of famines and cyclones. We feel privileged to be able to continue to support them in these small ways. As we begin the season of Lent, it would be good to respond to their prayer request: “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.”