Dan and Elizabeth Turk (PCUSA) - October 2014 Update
Greetings from Madagascar. It is still dry but starting to get much warmer. Frances and I returned in August after a quick trip to the States to get Robert settled into Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. He is doing well. If you would like his address, please contact us. Dan’s return in September was delayed due to the Air France pilots’ strike. It is good to have him home finally! We appreciate your continued prayers for Robert and us as we adjust to this next phase of our lives.
Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying that people are struggling here in Madagascar – but it is true. I was struck by this again after being away for a short time. Even though there is a new government, the economy hasn’t picked up. Most people are having a very difficult time caring for their families.
In the midst of these difficulties, the church continues to witness to God’s love and faithfulness. Among these faithful witnesses are Pastor Benja and his wife, Ihary, whom we highlighted in our last letter. Thank you for your prayers. Ihary delivered a healthy baby girl. After delivery, Ihary had a blood clot and was hospitalized for over a week. An FJKM doctor who cares for seminary students treated her for free. They visited me in August before starting the two-day return journey to their home in NW Madagascar. Their eldest son had returned home earlier on his own because he had to take the “baccalauréat” (national exam seniors take after finishing high school). Test results have just been published, and he passed. Unfortunately, less than 40% of all students taking the test passed this year. Please continue to lift up Pastor Benja and his family and the other FJKM pastors who serve the Lord in challenging circumstances. Please pray for all the youth who did not pass their baccalauréat as they decide what to do next.
Another faithful witness of the FJKM church is its commitment to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS and its care for those affected by the virus. At the end of August, three FJKM colleagues and I had the privilege of participating in a meeting sponsored by the Malagasy government to prepare the national AIDS strategy for 2015-2017. It was heartening to see the role that the FJKM plays in the national strategy. A government official thanked the church noting, “you don’t talk a lot about what you do, but you are doing important work.”
An exciting collaboration between the FJKM AIDS Committee and the FJKM Women of the Church (Dorkasy) took place these past several months. They worked together to promote prenatal care among pregnant women. You might wonder, “What does prenatal care have to do with AIDS prevention?” One of Madagascar’s national AIDS goals is “Zero new HIV infections in children.” An important way to accomplish this is to have all pregnant women tested for HIV. Those who test positive can take medication that will greatly reduce the likelihood of their child getting HIV. The government is offering free HIV testing to pregnant women, but less than 50% of pregnant women seek prenatal care. This low rate of prenatal care also contributes to Madagascar’s high maternal mortality. This year the Dorkasy held regional meetings across the island to celebrate their 45th anniversary. To improve the rate of women seeking prenatal care and getting tested for HIV, the FJKM AIDS Committee collaborated with the Dorkasy to promote prenatal care at these regional meetings through informational sessions and handouts. Over 10,000 women attended the regional meetings. They will be sharing this information with women in their local congregations. Please pray that the information shared will help women understand the importance of seeking prenatal care from the beginning of pregnancy and the importance of taking medicines if they are HIV+.
The FJKM continues to train seminary students in AIDS prevention. A new year of training in the four FJKM seminaries starts this month. Please pray that this training equips pastors to be positive resources and agents of change in their communities.
The FJKM continues to provide care for HIV+ persons in three regions. In one instance, the church helped a poor single mother with AIDS by providing school fees so that her children could go to school. A difficult struggle facing the FJKM doctors is convincing patients to take their medicine and to let their partners know that they are HIV+. Please remember FJKM staff as they seek to minister to HIV+ people and their families.
One disappointment we encountered is the postponement of the youth peer educator training scheduled for this November. Usually the five-day training occurs during the vacation around All Saints’ Day (November 1). In September, we learned that the schools will not have their usual November break. So the next training will happen during the 2015 Easter break. Please pray for FJKM staff as they prepare for the training and for the program to continue to impact youth.
Thank you very much for supporting us and our ministry with the FJKM. I hope you have caught a glimpse of the difference that you make in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This is just one way that you are helping the FJKM reach out and share God’s love in this country. We could not do what we do without your love and care.
Peace in Christ,
Amount needed in 2014
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