Here is a description of the value of our educational trip to Madagascar this summer. You will notice it is not called a "mission trip" because people might think we are doing some good works like painting buildings. We go to learn from the Malagasy people, and especially listening to the church to see what they need. We also want to develop a personal relationship with them and their mission and ministry, because that is important. If one wants to know how to help them in their work, good intentions are not enough. Therefore:
1) We will meet with the leadership of the Malagasy Lutheran Church to establish a relationship. A year and one half ago, a totally new executive group was elected. Rev. David Lerseth and Friends of Madagsascar Mission (FOMM), the sponsors of this educational mission trip, had a wonderful relationship with the former executive group, and is working to have the same with the new group. Pastor Lerseth has met the new president of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) and has visited with him via email numerous times to set up a meeting when we are there. His name is Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina. When he mentioned that there would be a representative from the Institute of Lutheran Theology traveling with him to Madagascar, he commented that he knew all about ILT and seemed interested in having a representative come to Madagascar. We plan to meet with all those from the leadership group that are able to coordinate with us. This will include representatives from the educational work of the FLM.
2) The FLM has a deep commitment to providing a comprehensive educational training for its church leadership including catechists, evangelists, pastors and female theologians. These leaders are trained in a network of regional seminaries, Bible schools and at the SALT Seminary in Fianarantsoa where a master's level degree is offered. We will visit as many of their schools as possible, but for sure we will travel to Fianarantasoa for the graduation day at the SALT Seminary and set up a time to meet with the school's dean, The Rev. Lotera Fabien. The school seeks a relationship with other theological educational schools to provide lecturers, etc.
3) We will also be meeting with three of the twenty-five FLM Synod Presidents (they do not call them bishops) when we attend an Evangelist Training Event sponsored by FOMM. We will be meeting in Antsirabe for three days with sixty-three representatives of the FLM's mission and ministry that are involved in being supported by FOMM. Included will be the three synod presidents, three presidents of these synod's Bible Schools, forty-three evangelists, 3 synod evangelist coordinators, representatives from the Prison Ministry Program, a doctor from Ejeda Hospital, an American who has spent the past sixteen years translating the Bible into the Tandroy dialect that is currently being printed at the Ebenezer Printing Company. This is a Christian printing press in Kerala, India. These synods always are seeking ways in which their pastors may continue their education, and they are especially interested in doing it through distant learning.
4) In addition, we will be visiting other FLM institutions such the one at Tobys, which is one of the renewal movement centers where lay people are trained for mission and specific social services in caring for the poor, the mentally ill, etc. We will also visit a Malagasy Lutheran Church school for the deaf, hospitals, schools, etc.
Now you can see why Pastor Swensson is excited to go. There are so many opportunities. In case you do not know, the Malagasy Lutheran Church is one of the largest Confessional Lutheran churches in the world. It was begun by Norwegian Lutheran missionaries and in the mid twentieth century many Americans worked there with names you would recognize like Vaagenes and Braaten and others.
ILT's International Partners needs donations for the trip. We are hoping you will stay tuned for further news about whether the time is right to begin some educational partnerships, and of course, that is where we will need some long-term partners. Thank you.
If you wish to donate at this time, please go to www.ilt.edu/international