God is building his Church in this region and the church is growing quickly. Through contacts made by the church, hospital, community health team, holiday clubs, etc., today there are new groups of Christians regularly meeting in over 70 villages throughout the Mandritsara district, with some groups over 100 kilometres away from Mandritsara. We now have the challenge of helping these groups, in particular, the leaders of these groups, to grow.
In addition to other ways of supporting village church leaders, we are providing three different types of on-going training for leaders of these village church groups:
Edisiona Vaovao Mahafaly (EVM Bible correspondence courses)
This Malagasy Bible correspondence course was started many years ago in Antananarivo. A number of Baptist churches in Madagascar have come into being through contacts of the Editions Vaovao Mahafaly. 12 courses are available, but these have all gone out-of-print. A branch of EVM has now been set up at the Good News Hospital, and 4 courses have been reprinted. About £350 is needed for each course to reprint 1000 copies. Mr Radesana, one of the hospital evangelists, manages this course and has been responsible for the 550 students from this region who have signed up for this course to date.
Theological Education by Extension (TEE)
In March 2011 we began a course of Theological Education by Extension (TEE) here in Mandritsara. This is a 3-year distance learning course, with a daily programme of personal study at home and group seminars every two weeks. The material has been widely used in mainland Africa, and is available in Malagasy. Our first group of students is made up of people who already have links with specific village church groups. We meet every fortnight in the church in Mandritsara to discuss the previous two weeks of study and to take a test. When these students have successfully completed the course, it is hoped that they will become TEE trainers who will go on to lead new groups in more distant villages. We hope that the programme will expand over an increasingly wider geographical area.
The Good News Hospital has been providing Bible training to village church leaders for several years. Previously, leaders of these village church groups came to the hospital for a two-week block of teaching every year. However, in 2009, the national Association of Bible Baptist Churches went through a process of decentralizing theological training and Mandritsara became one of four pilot regions for providing theological training. Therefore, in line with the national plan for decentralised training for the Bible Baptist churches in Madagascar, we follow a defined syllabus (provided by Conseils des Institutions Theologiques d’Afrique Francophone, or ‘CITAF’) , and run two one-month blocks of training each year.
During these blocks of teaching up to 50 or more leaders of village church groups come to Mandritsara and stay in the church. They sleep on mattresses which are packed away in the daytime for teaching to take place. Women from church and some of the surrounding villages come to cook three meals of rice each day for the students. It is great to see the town church welcoming and supporting this training. Teaching takes place all day covering topics such as Old and New Testament studies, doctrine, preaching, the Church and development, music in church, French and Official Malagasy (as many of the students only speak the local dialect of Tsimihety). There is good sense of camaraderie developing between the students and they find it a great encouragement to be studying together.
The Association of Bible Baptist Churches of Madagascar run a seminary in Antsirabe (160km south of Antananarivo).
There are a number of challenges we face in supporting this growing church, including:
- The majority of these leaders are subsistence farmers and need to work to feed themselves and their families
- Many leaders have a very low level of education and literacy
- Many of the ‘roads’ in this district are impassable by 4×4, even in the dry season, and many of the villages are just too far away to visit on a regular basis
- The number of leaders seeking training (74 leaders attended the training in 2009)
- Few teachers available to teach
- No dedicated training facilities
- Very few teaching resources available in Malagasy
How can you help/be involved?
- Please pray for us at the hospital and the church here in Mandritsara as we seek to honour God in helping the leaders of the rural Church to grow in faith.
- Please pray for the leaders that they will continue to yearn to know more of God in their own lives, families and communities.
- We have a dedicated fund for training village church leaders. This fund may contribute towards helping funding the bi-annual training, subsidising training resources, helping with transport costs for training events or sending local leaders for training outside of Mandritsara.
- If you would like to give to this fund, please click here to contact the treasurer.
If you would like further information about leadership training in Mandritsara, or a copy of the 2010 DVD, please click here to contact Mat Linley.