February 2007 Newsletter

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
mannamad@mel.wanadoo.mg. To order products for sale at your church, women’s
event, or synod assembly, contact Lea at lea.mannausa@yahoo.com.
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!