This week, let us intercede for Dimbiniaina (Andry) Randrianasolo from Madagascar.
Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean, to the southeast of mainland Africa. The island nation is famed for its tropical rainforests, reef-rich beaches, and biodiversity. Over 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife, including lemurs, are found nowhere else on the planet. Of the country’s 25 million people, 85% are Christians (46% Protestant, mostly Lutheran, and 38% Catholic), 5% practice folk religions, 3% are Muslims, and 7% report no religious affiliation. 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. One of the world’s least developed countries, Madagascar is investing in ecotourism, agriculture, and education to bolster its economy.
Andry is pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, USA. 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.
In this context, Andry hopes to point to Jesus, who alone is mighty to save. Upon graduation, Andry 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. He is passionate about training missionaries to reach the diverse ethnic groups of Madagascar. Andry and his wife Lanto have a son, Fitahiana (18), and a daughter, Priscilla (15).
Andry shares the following message:
I am an ordained Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. Before coming to Asbury Theological Seminary in the fall of 2015, I served as Deputy Director and Professor in Practical Theology (Church Ministry and Deliverance and Healing Ministry) at the Regional Malagasy Lutheran Seminary in Southeast Madagascar.
The Lutheran Church of Madagascar has six Regional Lutheran Seminaries, which are at the MDiv level, and one National Lutheran Graduate Seminary, which is at the Masters level.The main objective of the Regional Lutheran Seminaries is to train individuals who have received the call to serve in ministry as pastors. These pastors are also trained to become commissioned Malagasy Lutheran exorcists. The objective of the National Lutheran Graduate Seminary is to equip pastors with skills and tools to become effective church leaders and teachers.
While the core theological disciplines (Lutheran Church History, Old and New Testament Theology, Systematic Theology, Lutheran Dogmatics, and Practical Theology) are offered at both seminary levels, the discipline of Intercultural Studies, which is critical for cross-cultural ministry, is absent. I find that the study of cultures (religions, customs, and languages) offered in the curriculum of Intercultural Studies can equip pastors and church workers to become effective in cross-cultural evangelism, especially in the context of a power encounter-based society like Madagascar.
Unfortunately, at the present, there are no Malagasy Lutheran professors who have received this training or who are qualified to teach this discipline. For this reason, it is important for me to pursue a doctoral degree in Intercultural Studies. Upon finishing my studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, I will be given the task of creating an Intercultural Studies Department at both seminary levels.
About Madagascar and My Denomination
The Malagasy have an animistic power encounter-oriented view of reality. This view of reality associates all things that people experience in their daily lives to spiritual causes. These experiences include illness, poverty, success, misfortune, and unexplained death.
In the Malagasy context, the traditional religious practice associated with this worldview is ancestor worship. Ancestors are viewed as the source of blessing, as well as misfortune and cursing. Therefore, people appeal to their ancestors for blessings, removal of curses and misfortune, and protection from evil powers.
The primary ongoing challenge faced by the Lutheran Church of Madagascar is the fight against syncretism within the Church. Although Christians come to church on Sundays, there are some who continue to visit witchdoctors, seeking help from ancestors on the other days. This is exactly why pastors need to be equipped with skills and tools in the field of Intercultural Studies to help them identify the problem, study the situation, and provide discipleship and teaching according to people’s needs.
My doctoral degree in Intercultural Studies has a concentration in evangelism, so I can learn about cross-cultural evangelism at a deeper level. My dissertation topic will focus on “The Relationship of Deliverance and Healing Evangelism Ministry to Spiritual Development and Church Retention in the Malagasy Lutheran Fifohazana Context.” Through this research, I seek to understand the reason why people stay or leave the Church after obtaining deliverance and healing, in order to shape theologically sound teachings and practices that can impact spiritual development and church involvement.
1) Pray for me as I prepare for my comprehensive exams, which I plan to take during the last week of October and the first two weeks of November.
2) Pray for me that God would continue to bless my studies, so that I may advance and succeed in my efforts, while learning and growing from the teachings I receive at Asbury Theological Seminary.
3) Pray for my family, that we may be given good health and strength for each day.
4) Pray for the Lutheran Church of Madagascar as the Church continues to carry out the mandate of preaching, teaching, and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Dimbiniaina H. Randrianasolo