2014 Madagascar Mission Trip emails


Greetings everyone,
Just wanted to let you all know that we are HOME – at last. After roughly 34 hours of air travel – an overnight in Chicago and the drive back to Door County today – we are home. A little weary from the trip – but OH SO GLAD TO BE ON AMERICAN SOIL! And all our luggage made it with us too!

As you gathered from previous emails – we had an absolutely amazing journey – we are so thankful for all your prayers as God answered them with his awesome protection and provision through out our journey.

Now comes the part of discerning what God wants us to do with all that we learned and experienced – just what God is up to with all this remains to be seen – but most certainly it will be good and awesome work for His Kingdom!

For now, Dave and I just want to rest – get over the jet lag and the colds we returned with, unpack our bags and hope we didn’t bring home any tiny little critters and then get ready to share our stories and pictures…..

Thanks again for all the prayers! Can’t wait to see you all!

Blessings and love,
Sue and Dave

Hello Again from Madagascar!
Well to say we have had an unbelievably long day is an understatement! At one point today I asked Mark Vander Tuig “how many days have we been the van today?” We left at 9:00 am and returned at 9:30 pm; in that time we visited a farming ministry “Not far away” (at least a 90 minute drive into the country), a Toby [too-bee] retreat center, a “country church”. We stopped for lunch finally in the middle of the afternoon (I think everyone was grateful we had brought along some power bars and Breakfast on the Go bags) – then we made stops at two different Lutheran schools. At the first we visited each of the 15 classrooms, then had a snack with the administration as they explained their school’s history and needs. Tt the second school the students (all high school students) waited over an hour after school for us to arrive so they could greet us and sing to us before being dismissed, then we also met with members of the school and church administration, the pastors, and the elders as they shared with us their history and vision for the church and school and of course after which we were invited to snacks and conversation with them. From there we went back to Hope church where we worshiped Sunday morning, and met with the pastor and treasurer as they shared their hopes and visions for their church and school, and then we had supper with them!

Today we covered an amazing amount of ground – drove over some of the roughest roads yet and somehow managed to get everywhere we needed to be. We are beat though! Glad that we have nothing scheduled until 3 pm tomorrow – one last stop at the market and then a final dinner with the Synod staff and leadership to wrap up our visit – and then worship on Sunday morning (6:30 am!) before checking out and heading to the airport.

One of the things that will make things interesting is that tomorrow is the official swearing in of the new president of Madagascar – so there are a lot of international folks in town – some of whose motorcades drove by us today (security details are a little different here). The big event happens about 10:30 tomorrow morning – apparently about 5000 people have been invited to the ceremony of which both Dr. Peri (my professor) and Pastor David (the synod president) are among those invited. Dr. Peri was actually on the committee that oversaw the elections….in case you didn’t realize we have been hanging out with people with clout!!!! you should be impressed!……

All of the hoopla may make getting through security at the airport a little interesting on Sunday as well – don’t know if any of those international folks will tie things up or if they will head out tomorrow afternoon…we will see. I already gave Dave the “be patient as we go through security” reminder…

Needless to say we have a lot to process from our time here – so many sights, sounds and smells too (won’t miss our drives past the garbage piles)…won’t miss the traffic – traffic here makes Chicago, LA, and NY city driving look like child’s play…but will definitely miss the Malagasy people – our driver who has been amazing – Peri and Ernestine and a host of other folks we have met along the way. Don’t worry – I’m not thinking of staying – but will definitely think about coming back. Our team has been an outstanding group of people to hang around with – all of us a little quirky in our own way, but you have to be to make this journey, and we have all worked and played well together….so as we start to wrap things up we can definitely see God’s hands all over the purpose of our being here – now its up to the Holy Spirit to direct us from here.

We are just about ready and getting anxious to be on our way home. I will look forward to fresh air, clean drinking water, the wide open roads to drive on and my own bed….we miss you all and thank you for all of your prayers – they have been heard and answered…God has been amazing!

With love and blessings,
Sue & Dave

From Sunday 1/19 at the dedication of the steeple--the overflow section outside the sanctuary

From Sunday 1/19 at the dedication of the steeple–the overflow section outside the sanctuary

From Sunday 1/19 at the dedication of the steeple--the playground at the country church

From Sunday 1/19 at the dedication of the steeple–the playground at the country church

From Tuesday 1/21--the seminary students

From Tuesday 1/21–the seminary students

From Tuesday 1/21--the first Lutheran church in Madagascar (1863)

From Tuesday 1/21–the first Lutheran church in Madagascar (1863)

From Wednesday 1/22 at Hope School--preparing the rice for the school lunch (in other words, picking out the stones)

From Wednesday 1/22 at Hope School–preparing the rice for the school lunch (in other words, picking out the stones)

Greetings and peace to you all! Or as they greet one another here, “Salama Topko” (toop-ku)!

The time is flying by and its hard to believe its already Wednesday here. Yesterday we took a “road trip” to visit one of the Lutheran Seminaries in a town called Ansirtebe. It was about a 3-1/2 hour drive there over a winding two lane road. We have this amazing driver that has been with us most of the time we have been here – since there are not really any speed limits it was an interesting trip to say the least – we passed everything in front of us – from semis to “buses” loaded down with people, to pick-ups carrying cattle to market, we passed people pulling carts and scores of people walking with their wares on their heads…pictures will be forthcoming. It was one of the wildest rides I’ve been a part of in some time…we all commented that it was the longest roller coaster ride we’ve ever been on.

Once we arrived at the seminary we were greeted by the president and ushered into a classroom where all the students had gathered to greet us. We began our time together with song – “A Mighty Fortress” sung in Malagasy! Then we had all the introductions. The President of the Synod traveled with us and of course he brought greetings and described our mission and what brought us out there. He talked of the valuable relationship the SP-Anta Synod is creating with LCMC – a relationship built on the sure foundation of the Word of God, and the commitment to serve the great commission. He also described how our relationship will build direct contacts with congregations in the states and the potential for a mutual sharing of gifts between us.

They all seem to get a kick out it when Dave is introduced as the pastor’s spouse…they can’t quite figure that one out. One thing we discovered is that it costs roughly $100/month per student to go to seminary – that includes all their living expenses! We also found out that once these pastors are ordained they may be assigned to a parish that has up to 20 congregations in their circuit – if they don’t have a good bike they will have to walk from church to church!

Our visit there was only about an hour or so and then we were on our way again, after they sang “Now Thank We All Our God” as a blessing to us. After the seminary visit we stopped in Ansirtebe for lunch before we were to tour the local hospital there (many of the hospitals in Madagascar are run by the Lutheran Church here). Unfortunately I didn’t make the tour as I was not feeling well, so before we left, the synod president made sure I had a chat with the head doctor who wanted to make sure I took my antibiotics and drank plenty of water. Then we hopped back in our van for the 3-1/2 hour trip home…so once again it was “pedal to the metal” all the way back (at least until we reached Antananarivo when we caught up with the rush hour traffic). We saw unbelievably beautiful countryside, hard working people walking back and forth from town to town – children walking home from school – cattle grazing along the roadside while their owners worked the rice paddies….we went a long way to see a class of seminarians and their professors but it was worth every winding turn along the road.

Today the team went to Hope School but I stayed behind at the hotel as yesterdays journey proved too much for me and it was best for me to lay low and catch up on rest. I was disappointed to miss this day as the children had prepared special songs for us and there was a mutual sharing of gifts. You will have to wait for Dave to give you an update on that.

This will conclude the update for today – we have been so incredibly blessed to be on this journey – the Lord is presenting us with so many opportunities for us to engage in an ongoing relationship with the Malagasy Lutheran Church that will be mutually blessing for both of us. Can’t wait to see where He will lead us!
Blessings and love,
Sue and Dave

Hello again from Madagascar!

We have had a couple of amazing days – Sunday was spent attending two worship services – the first of which started at 6:30 AM – and the sanctuary was full (it holds 3000) plus there were pews set up outside and the grounds entering the church by the parking area was full of people – some of whom walked two hours to get there! Mark Vander Tuig preached – one of the 13 choirs sang – it was awesome – but we had to leave shortly after the offering was taken so we could get to the second service. That one was out in the country – they were having the dedication of their bell tower and the president of the synod was doing that (he’s our host for the time we are here) and my professor Dr. Peri was bringing the message – all sorts of dignitaries from the community were there. Though this church is quite a bit smaller than the first one – it was full along with the pews set up outside as overflow. This little church has 6 choirs and 1300 members! its not uncommon for them to arrive at 8 in the morning and still be worshiping until 4 or 5 in the afternoon! Once we arrived they didn’t start the service until we had breakfast (coffee, juice, bread with jam and pizza); we thought that odd until we were midway through the service and realized it was going to be a bit yet! We concluded worship about 2 pm – then all headed over the local high school across the street for a traditional Malagasy meal…complete with a huge sheet cake topped with the biggest sparkler type fireworks I’ve ever seen topping a cake. Then we made the trek back to the hotel so we could rest up for another busy day.

Monday was once again an amazing day – we started the day at the synod office which is based on the grounds of one of the local churches – one of the churches I worshiped at when I was here before – cool to visit it again (we will actually be there for worship on Sunday morning). We met with the synod staff and Mark had the opportunity to tell them more about our structure as a church how we function and all that kind of stuff – it was an opportunity for them to ask questions of us. From there we visited the Christian radio station that is housed at the church, and toured the church facility. Then we went to visit one of the Toby’s (too-bee) – and stopped in just as they were wrapping up their worship service before they began the laying on of hands for healing and casting out of demons – the president of the synod and Mark both brought a brief greeting and then we left (I don’t think the president thought we could handle such intense prayer time that was going to follow!) Many of the people that come to that are considered “in-patients” – people who are dealing with physical, mental, and emotional needs for healing…they actually live there at the Toby with “shepherds” who care for them.

The hospital is located in the same compound of sorts and so we toured the drug/alcohol treatment center, the surgery and maternity area of the hospital along with the dentists office and the eye doctor’s clinic…its quite the place…all part of the ministry of the Lutheran Church under the SP-Anta synod. From there we were invited to Dr. Peri and Ernestine’s home for tea and a snack and a chance to visit. Peri and Ernestine are La’s parents, and also Carl, Jim and I all had Peri as our professor during seminary (we all felt like students again).

Needless to say we had another full day…the drive home was through the rush hour traffic that included all the people walking their cattle through town to where ever home is…its quite an odd thing to have horned steers walking down the middle of the street amidst all the vans loaded with people going home from work…we have gone back and forth along the same road several times now and are just overwhelmed by the poverty, trash, and just the sheer volume of people with no where to go….hard to even describe.

Tomorrow we have an early start as we head off to tour one of the seminaries about 3 hours away. It will be kind of nice to get out of town and see the country side….

Could write more – but that’s enough for now. Keep the prayers coming – we feel so sheltered under them!

Blessings and love,
Sue & Dave

Some of the SP Anta Synod along with Mark Vander Tuig  (my professor Dr. Peri is in the center with the light colored suit)

Some of the SP Anta Synod along with Mark Vander Tuig (my professor Dr. Peri is in the center with the light colored suit)

our team outside the Hope church where we have spent the last two days

our team outside the Hope church where we have spent the last two days

the salad plate for lunch - thought it was beautifully plated for us

the salad plate for lunch – thought it was beautifully plated for us

the Lay School of Theology students as they stood to sing to us at lunch time

the Lay School of Theology students as they stood to sing to us at lunch time


Greetings Everyone,
Greetings once again from Madagascar – we have enjoyed a full couple of days – meeting with the pastors and wives from the Synod on Friday and learning about the ministries of the church here and preparing the ground to see some of those ministries up close and personal over the next few days. We had a chance to share the gifts that we brought with for the pastors and their wives. That was fun and special.

Then today we went back to the same church and were there to meet with the students at the Lay School of Theology. This is a group of about 90 students who gather three times a week for two hours over a period of two years to be trained in Bible and Theology. Once they complete their training they are sent all around the synod as catechists (Teachers) leading Bible studies, making home visits and starting new churches. They are completely volunteer. Today was a special day for them as they were celebrating the new year (having their Christmas celebration – which they do all the month of January) so they exchanged gifts in which each gift was accompanied by a verse from scripture. We were able to join them for lunch having a traditional Malagasy meal – very tasty – then they sang for us – it was really beautiful. We were told that the Malagasy people sing a lot because singing makes everything better….and they have some of the most beautiful harmonies – something we were told they don’t have to learn – they just do it naturally…wish you could have heard the bass lines – awesome!

We had hoped to do a little sight seeing today – we hopped into two cabs and headed up to the Queens Palace and the Church of the Martyrs – but we stepped out of the cabs into the rain and then the heavens opened up – thought it might pass over but no such luck. By the time we were totally drenched we decided it was in our best interest to head back to the hotel, which of course by the time we got back it was drizzling and of course by the time we reached our rooms it had stopped. We chalked it up to a great bonding moment and figured it wasn’t our day for spending time there. We hope to go back later in the week. That is one place that I remember so vividly from my first time here – particularly the church of the Martyrs….it is a haunting place. Some 60-70 people were burned to death inside the church while scores of others were thrown off the cliff because the Queen didn’t like these Christians. Its like you can still hear the screams there….its eerie and truly humbling.

Tomorrow we are up bright and early as we head to church for a 6:30 am service! After that we head out to a rural church for the second service we will attend. LCMC’s Mark Vander Tuig is preaching.

The team is a great group of people, the reception we have received has been wonderful and gracious. The hospitality we have been extended has been awesome.

Blessings and love,
Sue & Dave

hotel lobby front desk attendants

hotel lobby front desk attendants

general lobby area that includes the coffee bar and breakfast area

general lobby area that includes the coffee bar and breakfast area

Mark Vander Tuig (service coordinator for LCMC) and Pastor Carl Billings (Senior Pastor at  Discover church in Mpls)

Mark Vander Tuig (service coordinator for LCMC) and Pastor Carl Billings (Senior Pastor at Discover church in Mpls)

Pastor La (Associate at Discover Church ) and Dave

Pastor La (Associate at Discover Church ) and Dave

Greetings All!
We have safely arrived in Madagascar – warmly greeted by a delegation from the SP Anta Synod – the synod President and his wife, the VP and a couple of other representatives along with my professor Peri and his wife Ernestine (they were very surprised to see me – that was great fun to surprise them). We breezed through immigration and customs and were en route to the hotel. The drive took us through the city as our hotel is situated in the heart of the capital of Antananarivo. The drive took us past unbelievable poverty – worse than when I had been here before. We were told not to have our cameras visible as it made us vulnerable as we drove through very narrow and crowded streets.

Our hotel is quaint and comfortable – we are grateful for the ceiling fan as there is no air conditioning in our rooms. We have a brief meeting with the delegation that welcomed us and then they left us to rest and get settled. Tomorrow we gather with the pastors and their wives from the synod. At that time we will share the gifts we brought for the pastors and their wives and the offering for the synod.

They are SO excited that we have come and anxious to share with us the ministries that they are involved in and how we might work together. In Madagascar there are roughly 21 million people – 4 million of whom are part of the Malagasy Lutheran church which includes 6000 congregations. We are meeting with the pastors of the SP Anta Synod (the Regional Synod of Antananarivo) which has roughly 57 pastors covering 90+ congregations.

WE are still waiting for two members of our delegation – Jim and Marilyn – to arrive late tonight – then our team will be complete

Since our only internet connection is from the lobby of the hotel this is where we will most likely find ourselves each night as we all report back to family, friends, and congregations at home…so check out the pics of the lobby and our little corner of the world for the next ten days…more pictures to follow in the days ahead…

Blessings and love to you all,
Pastor Sue and Dave

Hello all, and greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.

We have enjoyed our travel thus far – very excited to have met up with part of our team at Dulles in WA DC – Mark, La and Carl. After about 20 hours of travel time from Dulles to Johannesburg we are grateful for a warm shower and a night of rest. We are currently 8 hours ahead of you so its nearing 11 pm as I write. Tomorrow morning we leave to fly to Madagascar and the adventure continues in earnest.

We are thankful to God for the blessing of safe travels thus far, good accommodations and hopeful for sleep. We will meet up with the rest of our team tomorrow.

Heard you had a bit of snow back home…..thankfully it didn’t follow us here!

Thank you for all your prayers – keep them coming!

Love and blessings,
Pastor Sue & Dave