Thank you for praying with us this week for Dimbiniaina (Andry) Randrianasolo from Madagascar.
Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean, to the southeast of mainland Africa. Of the island nation’s 26 million people, 85% are Christians (46% Protestant and 38% Catholic), 7% report no religious affiliation, 5% practice folk religions, and 3% are Muslims. For much of Madagascar’s 4,000-year history, smaller kingdoms ruled the island until the Kingdom of Madagascar consolidated power in the 19th century. In 1960, after 63 years as a French colony, Madagascar gained independence as a constitutional republic. The country is famed for its tropical rainforests, reef-rich beaches, and biodiversity. Over 70% of its wildlife, including lemurs, can only be found in Madagascar. Concerns over rapid deforestation, climate change, and wildlife conservation continue to rise amid economic hardships worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andry is pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, USA. Before coming to Asbury, Andry served as Deputy Director and Professor of Practical Theology (Church Ministry, and Deliverance and Healing Ministry) at the Regional Malagasy Lutheran Seminary in southeast Madagascar. For his dissertation, he is investigating how casting out demons and laying on hands have shaped Lutheran missions in Madagascar.
Andry will be the first Malagasy Lutheran scholar to study these practices, which have been vital for evangelism and spiritual care in Madagascar, where shamanism and syncretism are widespread, even among Christians. Upon graduation, he will be the first pastor in the Synod of Manakara to hold a PhD, as well as the first professor in his region with expertise in Intercultural Studies. Andry and his wife Lanto are parents to two teenagers: a son, Fitahiana, and a daughter, Priscilla.
Andry shares the following message:
After successfully passing my comprehensive exams, I am now writing my dissertation proposal on a topic needed by the Malagasy Lutheran Church. I plan to examine “asa sy fampaherezana,” a form of exorcism and healing practiced by the Malagasy Lutheran Church in its evangelistic ministry since 1894.
This holistic practice often provides meaningful solutions for people who experience issues such as demonic oppression or possession, curses, unexplained illnesses, witchcraft, and fear of evil spirits. Even though such people often find solutions in the church, it remains to be defined how the church addresses these issues. It is essential to examine how the church helps people to overcome demonic attachments and enter into Christian discipleship.
The Malagasy Worldview and the Malagasy Lutheran Church
The Malagasy have a power–encounter and power–fear oriented view of reality. People with this worldview believe that all happenings in their daily lives – such as illnesses, poverty, misfortunes, curses, and even unexplained deaths – have spiritual causes. The Malagasy also have an animistic view of reality that attributes supernatural issues to angry ancestors or malevolent spirits. To address these issues, people often seek solutions through the mediation of witchdoctors.
In contrast, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (7 million members) understands these issues as the works of Satan and the powers of darkness. For this reason, the Malagasy Lutheran Church sees “asa sy fampaherezana” as necessary for deliverance and healing. Since the Fifohazana revival movement beginning in 1894, this has been a practice of the Malagasy Lutheran Church to the present day.
The Effects of COVID-19
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Madagascar has affected not only the well-being of the Malagasy people and their means of making a living, but also the life of the churches, including that of the Malagasy Lutheran Church.
For many months, the government closed the doors of our churches. As a result, Christians have been like sheep without shepherds to care for their needs, and address their bodily and spiritual well-being.
It is in these uncertain and troubled times that churches need to rise above and beyond, and find means to care for believers, so that they can be sustained in their faith in Jesus Christ, instead of seeking other means of help from the wrong places, such as from witchdoctors or dead ancestors.
At the same time, in this delicate situation, churches also need to take into consideration the boundaries set by the government, so as to avoid setting a bad example.
1. Pray for me that I may be filled with the Holy Spirit, that I may be given wisdom and knowledge. Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead me, guide me, and counsel me as I continue writing my proposal.
2. Pray for my family’s well-being. My wife, Lanto, and our two teenage children, Fitahiana and Priscilla, are with me while I complete my doctoral studies.
3. Pray for the Lutheran Church of Madagascar, as well as for our sister churches in Madagascar, as we continue to carry out our mandate of preaching, teaching, and making disciples of Jesus Christ, especially as the Church navigates the new reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic.