Emergency relief efforts have coincided with a spiritual awakening in famine-hit parts of Madagascar. The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid launched an appeal late last year to help the Anglican Diocese of Toliara, a part of the Indian Ocean nation hard hit by COVID and now, by famine.
Food packs have begun flowing, including a 10-day mission when Anglican Aid-sponsored theological students distributed rice, beans and water to more than 200 families across four areas of Toliara region.
The deliveries got through despite security problems. When trucks carrying goods to the area were attacked, some local Christians informed the team that people were also about to attack and rob them. So the team halted until protection was arranged for the convoy.
Churches are packed - some with standing room only
Help arriving from a Christian organisation has prompted a spiritual awakening. The Rev Berthier Lainirina, the provincial secretary for the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, reported that in the worst-hit area, the parish of Amboasary, churches are packed – some with standing room only.
“People have responded to the love of Christ testified to them through distribution of food,” Mr Lainirina says. “Therefore, all the churches are packed, and it is an exceptional explosion. Seven villages without churches have asked that the Anglican Church would plant churches in their villages. Please pray that they genuinely commit their life to Christ.”
“People have responded to the love of Christ testified to them through distribution of food,”
Now, the challenge is to train catechists to lead these new churches. Another local leader, the Rev Tsiavandeza Gaston (who has been personally distributing clean water supplies), says, “A lot of people are being baptised because they were being touched by the love, and asking, ‘What religion is this that cares?’”
The Assistant Bishop of Toliara, Samitiana Razafindralambo, put it this way: “The Diocese of Toliara has been called by God to become the hands of his heart full of love for everyone”.
Bishop Samy told Anglican Aid, “People want to know Christ more through us: many were baptised and want to join us. People were touched also by integrity and trust – they have received what [was] planned to give for them. They have noticed that others kept at least two-thirds of the donations.”
Mr Lainirina told Anglican Aid that because Christians were distributing the food, this set them apart from other organisations.
“We do not only share goods, we share the history [gospel] and motivation of Jesus,” he said. “The testimony makes the difference. We may think we’re just giving money, we may think we’re giving food but, through this, people are being saved eternally by God’s grace.”