- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 21 October 2014 21 October 2014
The mornings here begin early with the timely sunrises around 5:00 AM and the barnyard animals alerting us all to the daylight hours. We had another delicious breakfast of fresh pastries with the addition of egg omelets today. You will not go hungry on this mission experience!
We had the pleasure of attending a worship service this morning with the Malagasy people. There were close to 1,000 people in attendance! The children's choir of roughly sixty children began the service, and they sang throughout. I am pretty certain they could tour in the U.S. based on how great they sound. The Malagasy in attendance were dressed very nicely, and whole families attended together. It is quite amazing to hear the sermon and the gospel reading and know that the same message is being shared across the world. Despite the different languages, the message is the same.
The size of the church and congregation is phenomenal. There was one service at 6:00 AM, one at 10:00 AM and one at 6:00 PM. If 1,000 people attend one service, can you imagine how many people worship there in one day? Each service takes well over two hours with communion, but everyone is very engaged. Many of the hymns they sing have the same tunes as in the United States. The women's group, which sounds similar to the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, is getting ready to have their 100-year jubilee. Sounds like a great time! The morning offered such a neat experience to commune and worship with the Malagasy people.
There is a large Lutheran presence here in Madagascar. There are actually 23 synods of the Lutheran church in Madagascar. A synod in Madagascar would be similar to a district in the U.S. The church is called the Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy (Malagasy Lutheran Church—MLC). They are partnered with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod from the U.S., but they also associate with other Lutheran church bodies like the ELCA and the Lutheran Church of London. In the past, the Malagasy Lutheran Church was strongly tied to the ELCA. However, in recent years, given the ELCA's stance on homosexuality, the Malagasy are trying to break ties with the ELCA. Homosexuality does not fit with the culture of the Malagasy, so now there are strong efforts to have the Malagasy Lutheran Church partner with the LCMS instead.
Domonia explained that she and her husband, Dr. Harison, have been working with the LCMS for seven years now to host Mercy Medical Teams. They hold the clinics in villages where there are Lutheran churches. One of the goals is to have the patients seen in the clinics receive a positive impression of the LCMS. Dr. Harison and Domonia want the Malagasy people to see that the LCMS is present in Madagascar and doing good works. Since Mercy Medical Teams have been coming to Madagascar for seven years now, the teams are starting to re-visit villages. Patients are beginning to come back to see the staff at the clinics again, and they have had several people join the LCMS churches in the villages based on their experiences at the clinics. How neat is that? Villages in other areas more remote and farther away from Antsirabe are also starting to request to have Mercy Medical Teams come. There is just a struggle to figure out the logistics.
After the morning worship experience, we returned to the guest house for an elegant Sunday lunch meal. We were served stuffed pork chops, potato salad, carrot slaw and rice. Dessert was a fruit salad with mango, pineapple and banana. The food is delicious and the presentation is just elegant. The staff here are amazing. By far the best food I have experienced on a mission trip!
This afternoon we did a bit of gem shopping at a local market. Madagascar is famous for the gems they produce, especially amethyst and sapphire, as I learned today. Jo and I will have to show off our purchases!
We were also able to visit Toby (pronounced too-bee). This is a place where the mentally ill, developmentally delayed and those addicted to alcohol and drugs are treated. There are multiple Tobys throughout Madagascar. The LCMS and Malagasy Lutheran Church sponsor these facilities. In order for a patient to be admitted, they have to be evaluated by a physician. At the Toby the patients share rooms with up to ten people and sleep on cots on the floor. There are “shepherds” who live in the room next door who are responsible to care for the patients. The shepherds pray for the patients and can perform exorcisms for those who are demon-possessed. Medication is not used to treat these patients. Patients who can be violent, such as those addicted to drugs (mostly marijuana) and alcohol actually have their hands and legs shackled. At this particular Toby there are six male shepherds for 100 male patients and four female shepherds for forty female patients. Shepherds attend training for two to three years and then take an exam before beginning their career.
The patients' families live at the Toby, too. The families are responsible for cooking for the patients and providing for their personal needs. There were tons of children present, and I can imagine that's an interesting life for them to experience as they grow up. The children loved receiving candy from us, and they enjoyed having their pictures taken as well. We brought two bags of rice to give to the Toby as a gift. Hopefully this will be put to good use for nutritious meals. This was a very unique experience. I am happy to see that Madagascar has found a way to provide care for this psychiatric population.
The evening brought some time to visit and get to know the team better. Dinner was another new experience. We had zebu, which is the type of beef available here. The animals look like cows, but their distinguishing characteristic is a hump on their back and longer horns. We had a pasta side and french fries. Dessert was similar to bananas foster with cooked bananas with chocolate and caramel sauce. Delicious again!
After dinner, we sorted, packaged and packed medications for the clinic on Monday. We hope to serve many more Malagasy tomorrow and provide a good witness for the LCMS!
“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?