February 15, 2007 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46: 1-3) Christmas in Manakana New Year’s greetings!! This is our first newsletter of 2007 so we will share some news from the end of 2006 and what has been happening so far this year. Our family had an interesting and unforgettable Christmas 2006 in a remote village in Madagascar. A (very long) story about that experience has been posted on the Project Shalom website for anyone interested in reading about it. Life in Antananarivo “It’s an inconvenience for those of us who live in nice houses, but devastating for many Malagasy people.” That was how one UNICEF staff described the floods affecting Antananarivo. Unfortunately this is not a one-time event, but continues to affect thousands of people across Madagascar as the rainy season has already included three cyclones and continues to bring torrential rains way above the normal amounts for this time of year. “Madagascar needs more than $242 million to recover from cyclone damage so far this season,” Foreign Minister Gen. Marcel Ranjeva said in a Reuters report. That article went on to say that, “Rising floodwaters have covered houses, cut off main roads, and destroyed an estimated 200,000 tons of rice.” Another report said that roads and bridges have been washed away, 85,000 hectares of rice fields are under water, and at least seven people have died due to the storms. Estimates vary but around 8,000 people have been left homeless. Many are living in temporary housing close to their flooded land. UNICEF has provided many tents as a temporary shelter but many more have built their own small plastic versions. The rainy season is likely to continue until the end of March so there are still several weeks to go before there will be much relief. The results of the floods affect more than those displaced or having rice fields destroyed though. Everyone in Madagascar is already affected by the higher cost of rice and vegetables due to the lower availability of these items and the ripple effect of higher prices for most everything else. For people struggling to get by due to huge inflation during the last few years, this adds yet one more immense challenge. We ask for your prayers for the many people affected and for solutions that could give long-term stability and security as well as help for immediate needs. We appreciate the concern from those of you who have heard about this situation and have asked about our welfare during the floods. Other than “cabin fever” from so many rainy days, we are fine. We are among the fortunate few in Antananarivo, who live in a solid structure on high enough ground without a leaky roof that we have not been dealing with water in or around our house at all. We have had more than our share of electric problems, but that is unrelated to the floods. More on that later. Arabic Studies Doug is making many new connections here in Antananarivo with others who have a similar burden of ministry. He recently met one woman who hosts a Bible study in her home regularly for those of another faith. Many have already become Christians and others are seeking. She has a wonderful combination of loving those of another faith, and boldly proclaiming her faith in Jesus Christ to them. “She’s a wonderful example of how this ministry should be done,” Doug says. At a synod level as well there is great interest in Project Shalom. Doug recently met with one local pastor who is eager to involve his church in this ministry. The synod president of the Antananarivo synod is supportive and eager to get the synod involved as well. Doug is studying Arabic regularly and meeting lots of people whom he hopes to get to know better in the coming months. He is learning about evangelism efforts by others to convert Christians to their faith. Doug also continues to be involved in the ministry in Diego, which has many challenges due to the prevailing culture which was recently described by the synod president to be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Please pray for the churches and Project Shalom to be the salt and light to that city which it desperately needs. We were inspired recently by watching a video about five people from different countries who converted to Christianity from another faith. All of them had had visions or dreams of Jesus coming to them which led them to Christianity. Please pray for Doug in his new connections here in Antananarivo and those who are faithfully living out their call to be a witness to others. Monica to attend Handcrafts Conference Monica is making plans to attend a handcrafts conference in New York in August, along with her colleague, Lova, from Manna for Madagascar. Monica will also be able to join her family in celebrating her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in North Dakota. Manna for Madagascar is getting ready to ship its spring products to the US for sale in churches and at synod assemblies. You might want to consider contacting your synod about the possibility of supporting Malagasy women by selling Manna products at your assembly. To hear about past synod assembly sales, contact Lil at email@example.com. To order products for sale at your church, women’s event, or synod assembly, contact Lea at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also praying about the possibility of purchasing or building a combination office/storage/packing/workshop facility. Please pray with us for wisdom in this big decision. Electrical and computer problems After daily power cuts in Diego for several months before our trip to the US last year, Jeremiah spent our first weeks in America marveling each time he discovered the lights worked. Not any more. We have now come to take the electricity in Antananarivo for granted with such infrequent cuts. But we got another reminder last week that we’re still in the developing world. Between cheap wiring and bad installation the power company had used to send a wire to our house, an unqualified person having made many mistakes installing the wiring in the house, and an ongoing problem of the power company using poor regulators in transmitting power, it all finally gave way last Thursday to circuit breakers blowing up and allowing over 400 volts of electricity to run through our lines. We didn’t know the extent of the damage right away. Our power was cut for over two days to rectify the multitude of problems. When it was finally restored, we discovered that most of our personal appliances, including both computer power cables had been damaged. My computer had already been having trouble which is still in need of repair so I can only use it for half-hour intervals before shutting it down. We were able to find a new cord for my computer but it looks like we’ll have to order one for Doug’s computer from the US and wait a few weeks until someone can carry it over. Unfortunately this has a huge impact on what we can accomplish and will significantly limit our ability to correspond by email. We apologize to any of you who are waiting for answers to emails right now. We would ask for your patience as we try to work through this new challenge. Recently I was informed again of someone praying for us regularly that I wasn’t aware of. That was a great encouragement for us and we want to thank those of you who pray for our ministry here and for our family. We are blessed and strengthened by those prayers and by your support. God is faithful and honors those prayers! Thank you!