Thank you for praying with us this week for Andry Randrianasolo from Madagascar.
The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean just southeast of mainland Africa. Of the island nation’s 29 million people, 85% are Christians (46% Protestant, mostly Malagasy Lutheran, and 38% Catholic), 7% report no religious affiliation, 5% follow folk religions, and 3% are Muslims. Madagascar is famed for its tropical rainforests, reef-rich beaches, and biodiversity. Over 70% of its wildlife, including lemurs, can only be found within its shores. In recent years, prolonged drought and deadly cyclones have caused famine in the country’s south, where 2.2 million Malagasy face food insecurity and 479 thousand children suffer from acute malnutrition.
Andry is pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary (Kentucky, USA). Previously, Andry served as Deputy Director and Professor of Church Ministry, Evangelism, and Malagasy Lutheran Practical Theology at the Malagasy Lutheran Regional Seminary of Theology in southeast Madagascar. For his dissertation, he is investigating the discipleship outcomes of exorcism (asa) and healing (fampaherezana) practices in the Malagasy Lutheran Church.
Andry is the first Malagasy Lutheran scholar to research 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 have two college-aged children: a son, Fitahiana, and a daughter, Priscilla.
Andry shares the following message:
I am Rev. Dimbiniaina Randrianasolo, known as Andry. I am an ordained clergy and mpiandry (a certified and commissioned exorcist and evangelist) in the Lutheran Church of Madagascar.
I am pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies, with a concentration in Evangelism and Discipleship, at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky (USA). While completing my doctoral studies, I am accompanied by my wife Lanto and our two collegian children, Fitahiana and Priscilla.
The Malagasy Worldview
The Malagasy worldview has a spiritual power encounter dimension within a fear/power culture. Within this worldview all happenings in life (wealth, blessings, harvest, offspring, illness, poverty, misfortunes, curses, and even unexplained deaths) have spiritual causes. Therefore, it is crucial to seek higher power in the razana (ancestors), who are mediators between living descendants and Zanahary (a traditional creator god, not the Christian God).
In this belief system, wealth, blessings, offspring, and good harvest are rewards for obedience to the razana, while curses are punishments for disobedience. Seeking solutions to their spiritual power encounter issues, people approach the ombiasy (traditional healers and diviners), who intervene between the living and the razana. However, from a Christian perspective, those solutions are not from God but from Satan. Solutions provided by an ombiasy have demonic attachments.
Recently, my dissertation proposal was approved by my committee. My dissertation is titled: “Malagasy Lutheran Evangelism, Exorcism and Healing: Effects on the Discipleship of Those Who Received Deliverance and Healing.” I will study the effects of asa and fampaherezana (exorcism and healing) in the evangelistic practices of Malagasy Lutherans. I seek to learn how these ministries affect the discipleship formation of those who receive deliverance and healing. I will explore how they affect spiritual growth toward Christian maturity and true conversion.
The ministries of asa and fampaherezana have been church practices of Malagasy Lutherans since the 1894 indigenous Malagasy Lutheran revival movement called Fifohazana. These ministries are some of the primary evangelistic tools of Malagasy Lutherans that deal with the Malagasy people’s spiritual worldview issues by addressing the spiritual power encounter dimension within a fear/power culture. As evangelistic tools centered on Christ, the practices involve preaching the Gospel and demonstrating Christ’s power through the expulsion of demons and the laying on of hands in prayer.
The ministries of asa and fampaherezana present the Gospel in meaningful and relevant ways that the people of Madagascar can grasp within their cultural context. However, there remains a question of whether these ministries actually lead converts to spiritual growth toward Christian maturity and true conversion.
Alternatively, they could lead in the opposite direction toward syncretism, split-level Christianity, or even reversion to Malagasy Tradition Religion (MTR). Syncretism blends two faith systems, Christianity and MTR, and is readily identifiable in the Church. In split-level Christianity, Christianity and MTR remain distinct and separate in practice. This is more difficult to identity in the Church. For example, a family may come to church on Sunday to worship and tithe, but then turn to an ombiasy (MTR healer/diviner) on Monday when the baby is sick.
I would appreciate prayers asking God to provide me with funds that would allow me to travel to Madagascar and do field research soon. Though doctoral field research is expensive, I believe that the unity of collective prayer from the Body of Christ can be powerful. The findings from this research are for the benefit of the Church, not only for the Lutheran Church of Madagascar, but also for the universal Christian Church and for God’s Kingdom mission to the world.
Pray for my family as we navigate and manage through challenging times.
Pray for the Lutheran Church of Madagascar as the Church continues to carry out the mandate of evangelism, preaching, teaching, and making disciples of Jesus Christ while also addressing the issues of syncretism and split-level Christianity.