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A letter from Jan Heckler in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Madagascar

december 2014 - a country still in crisis

Akany Gazela ‹ Nov. 5, 2012


Children in EBMI class at FJKM school (in Antananarivo)


Children of Bevalala (near Antananarivo) singing hymns


Pastors Dyna and Vero of FJKM's Women's Div. flank Jan at 17th Gen'l Synod Meeting in Manakara, Aug. 2012


Some of the Women and Children of Ambaniakondro, Sept. 2013

I am in the home of my sister and her family in Middletown, Delaware (U.S.A.).  I am here on "Interpretation Assignment" (IA), during which I hope to visit as many churches and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as possible through mid-March of 2015, when I am scheduled to return to Madagascar.

As we prepare to have our Christmas here it is cold and wintry outside.  This will be the first Christmas I’ve been blessed to spend with family since 2010.  Everyone of course is most eager in our anticipation of it!  Still, as yet another log is added to the wood-burning stove and the Canadian geese at a nearby lake settle in for the night, I reflect on the meaning of Christmas and the hope we have through our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Though Americans have typically been exhausting themselves since Thanksgiving in sending cards and greetings, decorating their homes, and traveling variously to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I am moved to remember the congregations and presbyteries I have been blessed to have visited so far during thisIA.  I am also pondering and praying for the people of PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar, the Church of Jesus Christ of Madagascar (or FJKM as it is abbreviated from the Malagasy equivalent).

‘Peace on earth and good will towards men’
Despite having had fair elections and a new government last year around this time, Madagascar remains in political and economic crisis and, if anything, matters there have been worsening despite this substantial achievement.  The new government has yet to tap into the resources of the international donor community because the process of receiving international aid, though taking less than a single day to stop, requires from 18 to 24 months to re-initiate.  Therefore as a practical matter, the chaos and poverty characterizing daily life in Madagascar continue to plummet unabated with 23 of every 25 souls surviving somehow on $2/day or less and 3 of every 5 either malnourished or actually starving.

Most notably, the deposed past president, Marc Ravalomanana, recently returned to the country without the permission of the newly elected president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, or the procedural approval of the ministry of the interior.  Almost immediately Ravalomanana was detained and placed under arrest for illegal entry into the country.  Though he has been transferred to his private home for his ‘house detainment,’ this in turn has caused healing wounds to be made raw once again. 

The reconciliation process, so important to the peace-loving people of this country and barely begun before, has thus been dealt a conspicuous and possibly telling blow.  So the load shouldered by the FJKM in helping to lead this process, already made arduous by the violent overthrow of the last democratically elected government, will indeed be more burdensome as a result.

And so I pray, please, for a peaceful Christmas, and may the weeks and months of the New Year, though hugely challenging to all who pray in FJKM’s pews, be marked by the promotion of inner strength, reconciliatory insight, and tempered, prayerful action. 

I pray also for the people, programs and elements of my ministries there to have a Merry Christmas.  Most particularly, I pray for:

  • The young ladies who study while living away from their homes and families while boarding at Akany Gazela
  • The women and children of Ambaniakondro who are trying to build a lasting community in the wake of their departure from the legacy of oppression of their tribal patriarchy
  • The orphans of Bevalala growing up with the stigma of the ‘unknown’ status of their missing parents
  • The many young couples and families who benefit from the shelter and services of Tabita in Antananarivo, who are overcoming episodes of domestic violence, that their marital and familial relationships are nurtured back into health
  • The learners and teachers of the FJKM’s School Department’s 723 primary and secondary schools nationally as they work to improve the efficacy of their methods of teaching

So, Merry Christmas and in Christ, a healthy and hopeful new year for us all!

The struggle of good people against a host of pressing life problems and realities in Madagascar is a daily occurrence.  Your correspondence, gifts of prayer and financial assistance are what make PC(USA)’s presence in Madagascar possible. 

I thank you for these many wonderful things.  Still, more is needed if this work is to continue.  Please, if you are able to consider increasing your gift, of whatever sort it may be, I will be grateful.  Thanks be to God for the privilege of serving, and many thanks for each of you who supports and accompanies me on this miraculous journey that becomes more precious with every passing day.

Jan Heckler

The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 154
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