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
See photographs from the Antsirabe blind school on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Madagascar. LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison visited the school, which was the recipient of an LCMS emergency grant after the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations, learned that the children were malnourished due to budget cuts from European partners when he toured the school last October. Photographs by Erik M. Lunsford, staff photojournalist with LCMS Communications.
See photographs of LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison as he visits a Lutheran church near Antsirabe, Madagascar, on Feb. 5, 2014. Harrison addressed the opening of the Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy synodical convention. Photographs by Erik M. Lunsford, staff photojournalist with LCMS Communications.
On 2 February 2013, approximately 650 people gathered for the dedication of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Accra, Ghana. After the dedication service, President Matthew C. Harrison, LCMS President, and Bishop Paul Fynn, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, cut the ribbon, officially opening the seminary for use.
More than 50 Ghanian pastors attended the dedication service, praising God for the completion of a seminary building where more pastors can be trained.
Bishop Paul Fynn spoke how the construction and completion of the seminary has been his dream for more than 25 years. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana began in 1957, there was only one pastor. Today, the ELCG has more than 150 pastors with more needed. Bishop Fynn said that as each seminarian graduates, he is tasked with planting at least one new congregation. Bishop Fynn described the many challenges that delayed the construction of the seminary. In fact, Bishop Fynn identified how Satan hindered the seminary at every turn because he hates the gospel and wants to prevent its preaching in the world. (Dr. Lawrence Rast reflecting upon Bishop’s Fynn’s clear identification of the seminary delays as “Satanic,” noted that Western Christians have been so influenced by rationalism that they are unable to see building delays, funding problems, land title issues, and such as anything but “normal” delays or the cost of doing business. Dr. Rast noted that like Bishop Fynn, Dr. Martin Luther, would have regarded all of these events as troubles, trials, and hinderances caused by the devil to prevent the preaching of the Gospel.)
President Matthew C. Harrison preached at the seminary dedication. His sermon theme was, “Jesus ye oudia,” or “Jesus is for you!” Harrison noted how Jesus taught because we need to be taught the truths of God because they are not obvious or knowable to our natural nature. Jesus taught his disciples for 3 years. This is the purpose of the seminary — to teach men to become pastors, to teach men the Holy Scriptures. That Jesus is the God-Man, who became incarnate in the flesh must be taught! That babies need to be Baptized must be taught! That Christ gives his true Body and Blood in Holy Communion must be taught! The Creed, the Catechism, worship must be taught! Saint Paul says that a pastor must be apt to teach. This is what the seminary does, teaches men and assesses their aptness to teach. Jesus also taught with authority and not as the scribes and the pharisees. Pastors must only teach from the inspired Word of God, which is the source of their teaching’s authority. Nothing must ever be taught which would contradict the inspired Word of God. Nothing should come out of a pastor’s mouth that causes his hearers to doubt the Word of God. Pastors are to proclaim the Word of God. The seminary teaches men to proclaim the Word of God. The Word of God is not mere information, rather it delivers forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. How? Did Jesus say, “Lazarus, I’ve done all that I could for you! If you want to rise, come out!” NO! Jesus called out, “Lazarus, Come Out!” by the power and authority of the Word of God. When the Lord proclaims, it happens… “Behold, a virgin shall conceive.. The Word shall become flesh… Your sins are forgiven. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers who proclaim that Jesus is for you.
After President Harrison’s sermon, the Ghana Lutheran Church Mass Choir
Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, participated in the Ghana Theological Seminary dedication. Drs. Rast, Roethemeyer, and Quill greatly assisted the completion of the Ghana seminary by providing library and accreditation consultation through the Chemnitz Library Initiative, a joint partnership between Concordia Theological Seminary and the International Luther Council.
After the service, Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of International Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary and Director of Theological Education for the LCMS, gave an address for the dedication of the seminary. He told a story about his time in Nigeria when Pres. Fynn was a young seminary student. One day Quill’s four year old brother was riding his little bike down the big hill behind the seminary and did a complete summersault. Paul Fynn picked him up and carried him home in his arms. Today’s celebration of the new seminary campus in Ghana also experienced a sever bump in the road when construction was halted. Someone needed to pick things up and bring the task home to completion. This was done by the joint efforts of Dr. Fynn, the generous donors from the LCMS, the LCMS Office of International Mission. Quill encouraged the members of the ELCG to now care for their seminary and their dedicated faculty, including sending their finest young men to study theology and be prepared as pastors for their churches and missions.
Inside the seminary after the dedication, guests gathered for a tour and for refreshments. The Ghana Lutheran Theological Seminary is among the best Lutheran seminaries in Africa. The Ghanian seminary fits into the theological education strategy for West Africa. The theological library at the Ghana seminary is among the best in Africa, along with Nigeria and Kenya.
The program for the seminary dedication and the service participants.
Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations on 3 February 2014.
Members of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg meet at the Luther Hotel in Wittenberg, Germany, tour the reconstruction work at the Old Latin School in the city center, and visit the Luther House.
Photographs by Erik M. Lunford, staff photojournalist at the LCMS