From Northern Madagascar

Mandrit Oct 14

(Written in the first week in October, click on picture to enlarge)…  “Back at Mandritsara, I cycled out of town.  A brick kiln is in the foreground, the bricks inside are from clay beside the kiln, then fired with wood from the few remaining trees.  Behind me the town, booming with new building.  The track is unusally smooth just here, leading to villages between the mountains in the distance. Hospital patients can spend several days walking to the hospital, or lying very uncomfortably on a bullock cart.

The poverty of the whole area is a big challenge for the leaders of the churches, R.C., Lutheran, Pentecostal and Baptist.  There are a few Anglican churches in Madagascar, but not one here.  My son-in-law shares responsibility for training 50 or so subsistence-farmer pastors for new church plants – as well as leading the expat team at the Good News hospital, Mandritsara.  Daughter Katy is a doctor here.  The hospital offers good surgical facilities for people from a huge area, that has only one tarred but badly pot-holed road, connecting to the capital, 20 driving hours away.

Internet access is virtually non-existent, the hospital runs an FM radio station for the town, but short-wave radio is the best way to keep in touch with the wider world.  I hear of how the U.K. now shares in the bombing of the ‘Islamic  State group’ in Iraq, so tensions will not be lessened there.  However, picking up the African service of the Vatican radio, I hear of R.C. and Orthodox church leaders meeting together in Amman, Jordan, to pray for the unprecedented level of Christian persecution; in an email from the Bishop of Southwark, I hear of a similar meeting in London.

Christian unity, in a world facing unprecedented challenge, is so crucial.  It is hard to work for unity in Madagascar, with so much compromise in many churches with animism and ancestor worship.  Still the vision remains, picked up from the Nigerian churches in 1964, where as a student teacher, I knew of thousands of regular prayer-groups meeting from churches of different denominations, united by prayer for one another in fulfilling the Great Commission.  That vision drove my working for Mission:England in the North-East in the early 1980’s, and I tried falteringly to encourage such prayer in Oman and South London and continue to do so.

Soon, back in the U.K, Air France pilots strike permitting.  With the Scottish independence vote now out of the way, and Parliament voting for more bombing in Iraq, I hope the cost was counted of the growing likelihood of vengeance being returned on soft targets, and subsequent growing community tensions.  And the months tick away before the next U.K. general election; will the ‘little England’ policies of UKIP be a significant factor?  But, there is plenty to work at immediately.”

Then today, October 26th, I was encouraged to listen/watch to Justin Welby, speaking at a convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in London.  He supports their claim to be the fastest growing church.  It is well worth spending 33 minutes to check out what the archbishop has to say…