Mission in Madagascar

Mission | November 2, 2015

Editor’s note: Meridyth Bates is spending a year in Madagascar as part of the Young Adults in Global Mission initiative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your path to serve – what choices did you make, how did you learn about the opportunity?

A: I never thought that I would end up here in Madagascar with YAGM. I didn’t even grow up Lutheran! But as I was nearing the end of my college career and thinking about my future, I had this “feeling” that I was not meant to go into the workforce right away.

I felt as if God was calling me to explore other options. This is when I stumbled upon YAGM. I had asked Pastor Sara (Olson-Smith) about different volunteer programs she would suggest, and she mentioned YAGM. Everything about the program just felt right, including the attitude not of superiority and evangelism, but of accompaniment and walking alongside a new community, and I knew that this is what I would do.Mad2

Q: What do you do day-to-day while you are there?

A: I am working full time-ish (about 30 hours/week) as a nurse here. I work at SALFA Toliara, which is a small hospital and clinic that is a ministry of the Malagasy Lutheran Church. My background is in obstetrics, so I help with the prenatal clinic, deliver babies, and also fill in at the vaccination clinic and the family planning clinic.

I am also leading an English club once per week for the workers of the hospital, and working on getting involved more with church activities, such as choir.

Q: Where you are living?

A: Toliara is on the southwest coast of Madagascar, right along the ocean but also in the desert. It is HOT and sandy!

The streets are lined with small wooden makeshift shops, open air markets, and many bicycle rickshaws, which are the most common form of transportation here. It is a city of about 150,000.

There is a lot of poverty here, with people sleeping in their makeshift shops, driving their beaten down rickshaws with no shoes, and begging for money on the side of the road. Garbage lines the streets, and there is often a smell of burning trash in the air since there is no community garbage service.

However, it is also a beautiful city. Palm trees grace every corner, the sun is always out and shining, people are smiling, little kids run around playing games they make up, and people wear colorful and vibrant lamba hoany, which is a beautiful cloth draped across the body, a traditional Malagasy way of dressing.

The hospital is very small, with only four inpatient rooms, along with the various clinics: dentistry, outpatient medication administration clinic, a laboratory, family planning, vaccination, the delivery room, and a few general practitioners. It is very rudimentary, with basic metal-framed beds, no air conditioning, shoddy electricity, and water that doesn’t always run.

Q: What has been most challenging?

A: There have been two very difficult challenges for me so far. The language barrier is a definite obstacle. I’ve been trying to learn Malagasy, but it’s a really challenging language, and very few people are fluent in English here. The other challenge has been the adjustment to this totally new culture with totally new people.

I have questioned God’s call so many times even in the short time that I have been here, feeling as though I’m not strong enough to do God’s work here. Everything is very new, from the culture and food, to the stories of difficult lives that are lived here in Madagascar.

It’s a constant confrontation with the harsh reality of lives in poverty, something that my privilege of being a middle class American has allowed me to escape in the pMad1ast. Leaving behind my home, family, friends, and creature comforts in America and jumping into a culture where EVERYTHING is new has been at times beautiful, and at times very overwhelming.

Q: How does this work intersect with your faith?

A: I feel that as Christians, we are called to lead lives of service. Jesus set the example by reaching out to the poor and oppressed, and there is no question about whether or not we should do the same.

I do not expect this year to make a huge difference in many lives of the Malagasy people, but to see and experience the devastating poverty that is present in over 90% of the population here makes me realize that God calls us all to offer ourselves, our time, and our resources to these people in whatever ways we can.

Madagascar is so beautiful in so many ways, but the poverty here is undeniable. I hope that this year will shape me into a more aware person and Christian so that I will continue to live in a way that will help to address these issues.

I am more aware not only of the many privileges that I have, but also of God’s work in the world in a global context. Already I’ve realized that we are all God’s people, and we have so much to learn from each other. I believe that God is so present in community, and not just our own communities, but in the relationships we build and the exchange of ourselves with people all over the world.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”