Daniel and Elizabeth Turk - October 2018 Update
We arrived safely in Madagascar on August 14. It is good to be back in our home, even though we miss family! Dan spent the next day at the national quarantine greenhouse with his colleagues potting up the over 500 trees we brought in our luggage. We then drove 10 hours to Toamasina on the east coast to participate in the celebration of FJKM’s 50th anniversary and the 200th anniversary of the first missionaries’ arrival in Madagascar.
The First Missionaries
The London Missionary Society sent David Jones and Thomas Bevan from Wales as the first missionaries to Madagascar. They came by boat, initially leaving their families in Mauritius. They arrived near Toamasina on August 18, 1818. Within a month after their arrival they started a school. After a little bit, they returned to Mauritius to fetch their wives and children. Each family had a young child. Within six months of the first arrival, all but David Jones had died, most likely from malaria. David Jones carried on, moving the focus of the mission to central Madagascar where he founded over 30 schools and, along with fellow Welsh missionary David Griffiths, translated the Bible into Malagasy. Appropriately, most of the celebrations in Toamasina were at the school named after Jones, the David Jones FJKM School.
History of the FJKM
The Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (FJKM) was formed by the union of the denominations that emerged from the mission efforts of three mission agencies: the London Missionary Society, the Mission Protestante Française, and the Friends Foreign Mission Association (British Quakers). Around the time of independence from France in 1960, three independent Malagasy denominations developed, one from each of the original church traditions. In Toamasina at the first Synoda Lehibe (General Assembly) meeting, these three denominations officially came together on August 18, 1968 to form the FJKM. Today the FJKM is the largest protestant denomination in Madagascar.
The weeklong celebration in Toamasina culminated in a three-day weekend. There was a worship service each day, a soccer game, a concert, a four-pronged procession through the city, an evangelism campaign on the beach, and an excursion outside Toamasina to see where the first missionaries came ashore in Madagascar. Over 50 stands prepared by church entities describing their activities were on display at the David Jones FJKM School as well as historical displays from the FJKM archives. The theme for the year-long celebration is II Timothy 1:8a, “Don’t be ashamed to be a witness for our Lord.” The president of the country attended the worship service on Saturday. We heard a lot of good singing, sermons, and speeches. One church leader reminded attendees that a jubilee celebration is a time for repentance, a time to get right with God in preparation for going forward.
In the FJKM tradition, major celebrations are commemorated in practical and concrete ways. For this celebration, the FJKM is constructing two commemorative buildings: a two-story classroom building for the David Jones School that was dedicated on August 18 in Toamasina and a four-story building on the grounds of the Ivato seminary that will be dedicated October 20 at the festivities to close out this year of celebration. The four-story building contains many classrooms to help the FJKM educate more pastors to serve the growing church. At this time, the FJKM has about 1,500 pastors for roughly 6,000 congregations.
Another celebration highlight occurred when the FJKM President, Pastor Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi, pictured above, got tested in public for HIV at the free testing booth provided by FJKM’s National HIV/AIDS Committee. Free testing was available the whole week. President Ammi made radio announcements encouraging people to get tested during the celebration. Over 650 people were tested, including Committee Chair Pastor William Razafimahatratra. A page encouraging people to get tested with President Ammi’s photograph being tested has since been sent out to over 5,000 members of the FJKM attending regional meetings. The HIV testing rate in Madagascar is very low and many Malagasy who are seropositive are unaware of their status. What a powerful example the president provided.
We left Toamasina to return to the capital Antananarivo, stopping to spend the night at Andasibe to avoid driving late. Andasibe is home to the last major fragment of natural forest along the road from Toamasina to the capital – quite a contrast to the extensive native forest that David Jones witnessed when he first walked to the capital in 1820. Reflecting on the 200-year legacy of Christianity in Madagascar, it is inspiring to consider what was accomplished through the sacrifice of both foreign and Malagasy Christians. They overcame many challenges to spread the Gospel and bring a more abundant life to the Malagasy people. As the FJKM looks toward the next 50 years, the country and church continue to face many challenges, including the demise of natural ecosystems, upcoming elections, severe poverty, and the challenges of a growing church in need of more trained pastors and lay leaders. Thank you very much for supporting us and partnering with the FJKM as it seeks to serve God and address these challenges.
Dan and Elizabeth
Read more about the Turk’s ministry HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking $10,000 for support funds for Dan and Elizabeth Turk.