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Salama from Madagascar! Jo and I have arrived in Antsirabe, Madagascar, after many hours of travel. Africa is literally on the other side of the world! Our long journey began with a mid-day flight out of DIA on Wednesday afternoon (October 15) to Detroit. From there we took an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam and then another eight-hour flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Ebola is a real fear here in Africa—well, in the world, for that matter. As we entered immigration and customs in Kenya we all had to have our temperatures checked. Just a precautionary measure, but I fear what would happen if you had an elevated temperature. I imagine quarantine in Africa would be less than pleasant.

After passing the Ebola inspection, we were driven to the Scripture Mission House in Nairobi. This is a guest house that is in the same compound as the LCMS office in Nairobi. This was a very accommodating layover option that allowed us to shower, sleep a few hours and eat non-airplane food prior to heading back to the airport.

The flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar was about three hours. As we flew out of Kenya, I noticed a large mountain sticking out of the clouds. The stewardess confirmed my suspicions: we were flying right past Mt. Kilimanjaro. By far the highlight of the day for me!

By about noon on Friday, October 17, we finally arrived in Madagascar (keep in mind we are nine hours ahead of Colorado time). We had to complete another temperature screening at that airport, and then we were allowed into the country. The long journey is complete, and we are just starting to settle into Madagascar.

After leaving the airport, there were a few bumps in the road. After lunch at a local pizzeria in the city (did you know you can get papaya and fried egg on your pizza?), we began the journey via van to the city of Antsirabe, where our base camp will be for the week. Less than a mile into the road trip, we broke down on the side of the road. The first van had an oil leak. AAA was not available here in Madagascar, so we all piled out of the car and stood on the side of the road as the driver worked to repair the car. I am sure we were quite the spectacle to all of the locals—white Americans with backpacks and cameras just standing on the side of the road. The driver was able to maneuver the oil filter to get it to work, and we were back on our way about one hour later.

The drive to Antsirabe did allow for some splendid views of Madagascar. The country is beautiful, with rolling, green hillsides and red dirt. Rice paddies are found frequently and are a large part of the economy around Antananarivo. Brick making is another common occupation here. They use the thick clay to manufacture the brick. Once the bricks are fired/burned, they turn a reddish-brown color and can be used for building. They are one of the more affordable housing material options. We drove through many market areas where vendors sell their goods, food and supplies. You can purchase anything from fresh fruit to whole chickens to used clothing. The streets are busy with people and the traffic here is insane. They say the traffic yields to those on the left, but I think it's just a free for all, especially through the roundabouts!

The road trip took about five hours (after the van was back up and running). We arrived at the Lutheran Hospital compound in Antsirabe about 8:00 PM. We had a dinner of barbecue chicken, rice, french fries and vegetables. Dessert was fresh papaya, mango and pineapple. Delicious!

The evening was full of beginning the preparations for the medical clinics we will be holding. Our group collected multiple donations from our home congregations and cities, so we all opened the bags and began sorting the supplies. Thank you to Saint John's for your generous outpouring of supplies and support for this trip! We began dividing medications into individual doses to give to the patients who attend the clinic (for example: thirty children's vitamins per individual bag). We have a full day ahead of us tomorrow. The site where our first clinic will be held already has 358 people signed up to see us! That will be a particularly busy day as we begin to figure out our rhythm and process for the week.

In preparation for beginning our service, we hope to get some good rest tonight. We are staying at the guest house that is here on the compound at the Lutheran Hospital. Dr. Harison and his wife, Domonia, have been exceptionally accommodating so far. We look forward to serving with them and learning more about their mission and lives here in Madagascar.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?