Sunday Worship at Ivato Lutheran Church (FLM)
Today, on our last day in Madagascar, we attended Sunday worship at Ivato Lutheran Church (FLM) about 1.5 miles from the airport (immediately following the service we needed to catch an airplane for our return to the United States after more than three weeks of travel through Africa). The congregation was formed in 1994. It began in a house. Today, it has over 2,000 members and not enough seats on Sunday for all the members to attend. In total, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) has over 4 million members.
This morning at the 9 am service (which lasts for 2 hours), approximately 600 people were inside the church with several hundred people standing outside the church (a grand total of more than 1,000 in attendance). Every seat in the church was taken.
Note the three offering baskets. These baskets correspond to Witness, Mercy, Life Together (note the purple, red, and green ribbons). One offering is collected for missions. A second offering is collected for helping the poor and sick, while a third offering is collected for the needs of the congregation. As stated in the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study, the Malagasy Lutheran Church provided inspiration for the theme adopted by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as a mission emphasis. One of the church parishioners brought a live chicken in a plastic bag for his offering. People give as The Lord has given them. The congregation presented a special gift to a family who recently had a family member die to assist with the funeral costs — Mercy.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church is liturgical, hardly deviating from the hymnal. At the same time, the Malagasy Lutheran Church is experiencing rapid growth, opening a new congregation every week. (A congregation worships between 1,500 and 3,000 each week.) The liturgy is based off the Norwegian Lutheran tradition but is readily recognizable to Missouri Synod people (Confession / Absolution, Kyrie, Gloria and so forth).
On the way to church, I bought a Valihy, a tube zither made of bamboo. Ironically, this traditional instrument, in fact, the national instrument of Madagascar, is not used in worship in Lutheran Congregations. I asked the pastor why the Valihy is not used in worship. He replied that it is used when traditional Malagasy people exhume the dead between June and September for ancestor worship. He said an instrument used to worship ancestors and demons is not fit for use in worship of The Lord.
You might have noticed that the church building lacks a roof. In fact, this situation is rather common in Africa. Most African Lutheran congregations can afford
to construct their buildings from local materials. In some parts of Africa, the buildings are made from bamboo and mud. Here in Madagascar, the churches are constructed of red bricks made from mud taken from rice patties and baked in a burning grass fire. However, they often have difficultly obtaining the tin roofs necessary to keep the congregation dry during the rainy season.
Because of this reality (difficulty of obtaining tin roofs for the congregations), 17 of the 21 Malagasy Lutheran Bishops requested that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod assist them by helping 22,000 congregations with tin roofs. Currently, we are waiting for a formal proposal from the church to see how the LCMS might assist.
Our stay in Madagascar was incredible. We were well received. We look for ways we can work more closely with the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM). Now we sit at the airport for our long journey home.
– Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver on 9 February 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
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