The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through Global Mission has positions available in Madagascar for ELCA young adults, ages 21-29. Volunteers must be flexible and able to work cooperatively, in good physical health, emotionally resilient, and culturally sensitive. They must also be willing to engage in issues related to race, poverty and class, serve in diverse communities, have a commitment to live simply and to learn basic communication skills in the language of the region. College degree or equivalent life experience required.
ContextMadagascar is an island nation in the Indian Ocean that serves as a cultural crossroads between Africa and Asia. The size of Texas with high plateaus covering the central part of the island, Madagascar has a population of 18 million people from eighteen official ethnic groups, all of whom speak a dialect of the national language, Malagasy. As a result of its geographic isolation, Madagascar is home to a host of unique plant and animal life that continue to be discovered despite the fact that deforestation has claimed over 80% of the original forests. One of the poorest nations in the world, most Malagasy people earn a living as subsistence farmers in a country where rice is the main staple. Having moved from dictatorship to democracy in the 1990s, Madagascar has experienced political uncertainty since 2009 when the elected president was forced from office by a political rival. Few countries have granted recognition to the current president and government which have promised new elections within the next year. In terms of religion, estimates are that the population remains evenly divided between Christians and followers of traditional Malagasy beliefs, which include a strong veneration of ancestors. There is a small but significant population of Muslims. Among the Christian churches, the Catholic Church is the largest denomination followed by the Reformed Church (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar). Lutherans are the third largest denomination.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy, FLM), a member of the Lutheran World Federation, dates back to the arrival of Norwegian missionaries in 1863 and was formally established as an independent church in 1950, with 1800 congregations and 180,000 members. Currently, the church has a membership of over 3 million, which makes it one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world. The Malagasy Lutheran Church places a high priority on evangelism, social ministry, and leadership development.
The church is led by a President (Rev. Rakoto Endor Modeste) and a General Secretary (Rev. Georges Samoela) along with other officials elected by the church’s general assembly. The church is organized into synods with each synod having a president, vice-president and local leadership. Although the MLC does not yet ordain women, theologically trained women serve in a variety of ministries at all levels of the church.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church maintains a large health care program, including both hospitals and dispensaries. Community- based primary health care is foundational, and special projects include a school of nursing, child survival, family planning, and AIDS prevention.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church also ministers to the spiritual and physical care of people who suffer from physical illness, mental illness, or demonic oppression. Through an indigenous revival movement, selected church members receive training as "shepherds," giving them skills for special ministries with the sick. Some villages are set aside to provide compassionate Christian care as well as instruction in the Christian faith.
The MLC has a deep commitment to providing a comprehensive education and training for its church leadership, including catechists, evangelists, pastors and women theologians. Such leaders are trained at a network of regional seminaries and Bible schools and provides a Master’s level degree at the national seminary in Fianarantsoa. In addition the church sends missionaries to support the work of other church bodies. Several Malagasy doctors and theological professors have served or are serving in places such as Cameroon, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Liberia.
In a society where the education itself is highly valued, the church operates numerous schools at the primary and secondary levels. There are also schools and ministries dedicated to working with the blind and hearing impaired.
The MLC has a vibrant women and youth programs at the national, synodical and congregational levels. A National Youth Center for the church is located near Antananarivo and coordinates activities that include summer camps or Vacation Bible School-type programs within synods. A Women’s Training Center called ILOFAV receives students from across the island and provides vocational education. Women’s vocational training programs also exist in some of the church’s synods.
The MLC highly values its historical partnerships. The church has had a relationship with the ELCA and its predecessor churches since 1888. Today the church maintains close partnerships with the Norwegian Mission Society, DanMission (Denmark), ANELF (the French Protestant Mission), and the ELCA. Four ELCA synods are companions with synods in the MLC.
What Opportunities Are Available?As a program still under development, YAGM Madagascar is exploring a host of excellent placement sites. Keeping in mind that one of the primary objectives of YAGM is the development of servant leaders who are “more globally formed and globally informed”, YAGM volunteers will have the opportunity to engage in one of the many dynamic ministries of the MLC in a manner that will allow them to wrestle with the realities of economic justice in one of the poorest nations on earth, and the complexities of social dynamics in a country with significant but subtle ethnic diversity and deeply rooted spiritual beliefs and practices.
Possible placements sites being considered include the following:
Given that there is a very high level of interest in English in a country where French is the official international language, YAGM volunteers in Madagascar can anticipate that each placement site will include the opportunity, formal and informal, to provide some English instruction for either ministry leaders or participants.
What Is Provided?
As a Young Adult in Global Mission, you will have the opportunity to learn more about yourself, grow in faith, and increase in understanding of your place in God’s world. In addition, you will receive:
What Is My Commitment?
Preferred application deadline is February 1. Final deadline for receiving applications is February 15.