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
On Wednesday, 29 January 2014, the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) met in Wittenberg, Germany, to discuss the ongoing reconstruction of the Old Latin School. The LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) area facilitators also were able to join the ILSW for a tour of the construction site.
Pastor Michael Kumm, chairman of the ILSW, conducts the meeting. Bruce Kintz, President and CEO of CPH, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary and Chairman of the CTCR, and Mr. David Rohe, executive director of CID CEF, listen to the update on the project.
- Posted by Dr Albert B Collver on 29 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
The choir sang severs songs during the service. Many of the songs were from the period of the Marxist Derg Regime, and had apocalyptic overtones. One song written when the Gospel could not be proclaimed freely described how the gospel would go out into the world and be victorious by bringing about the Lord’s kingdom. Another song said, “We are in the desert, but The Lord will remember his promise and drown our enemies like Pharaoh and his army.”
- Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 26 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Today, the LCMS Delegation, consisting of President Mathew Harrison, Dr Collver, Dr. Carl Rockrohr, and Dr. Debbie Rockrohr, met with EECMY leaders at the Mekane Yesus Seminary and at the EECMY headquarters.
At the Mekane Yesus Seminary,
President Harrison presented to faculty, students, and church leaders on Lutheran identity. The presentation was followed by a Q & A session moderated by Dr. Carl Rockrohr.
After the presentation on Lutheran Identity, President Harrison played the banjo. Mekane Yesus Seminary has a music school on campus. After finishing playing, the banjo found its way into the capable hands of the director of the music school.
Over lunch Dr. Berhanu, the EECMY General Secretary, described the church’s persecution under the Marxist Derg Regime (1974-1991), including his own imprisonment. Dr. Berhanu closed by saying, “The Lord always works a blessing through persecution. Through persecution, The Lord purifies his Church.”
In a presentation about the EECMY, we learned that the first Lutheran, Peter Heyling, arrived in Ethiopia in 1633 AD. He worked in Gonder between 1634-1652. He practiced medicine and taught Greek and Hebrew to the Ethiopian Orthodox Priests at Gonder. He tried to reform the Ethiopian church by teaching sola Scriptura and by translating the New Testament into Amharic, the vernacular of the ruling class. In 1648, Heyling fell out of favor and was forced to leave Ethiopia. On his return to Germany, he was captured by the Turks and offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Peter Heyling chose death rather than to deny Christ, becoming a martyr at the age of 44. Traces of his work remain an influence in the EECMY today.
At the end of the day, both President Wakseyoum of the EECMY and LCMS President Matthew Harrison offered reflections about the day. President Harrison commended the Mekane Yesus church for desiring to remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures and for taking difficult stands on Biblical teaching that were unpopular with her partners. In particular, President Harrison commended the EECMY for breaking fellowship with the ELCA and the CoS over their position of affirming homosexual marriage and clergy. President Harrison also discussed frankly where he believed the EECMY and the LCMS had differences in doctrine and practice. President Wakseyoum thanked President Harrison for his honesty. While holding his Bible in hand, President Wakseyoum stated the EECMY’s and the LCMS’s commitment to the Holy Scriptures was the primary reason that the two churches should be talking to one another. He stated that fellowship comes through the working of the Holy Spirit. In the mean time both churches should pray and study the Scriptures.
- Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 24 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Yesterday, 23 January 2014, President Harrison arrived in Ethiopia for his first visit there. After a several hour travel delay in Nairobi and an aborted landing attempt, we safely arrived in Addis Ababa. We met with the leaders from the Mekane Yesus Seminary and the EECMY. Pictured above: President Wakseyoum gives President Harrison a copy of the seminary’s history.
- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 24 January 2014using BlogPress from my iPhone