The idea of culture shock sounds negative. However what I have experienced is life giving. While it is such a huge challenge to begin to understand the culture of the Malagasy. Honestly, it is truly overwhelming to be immersed in such a different daily existence. At the same time it is a breath of fresh air.
For example, during my visit I participated in the third synod of the Diocese of Toliara. Watching Bishop Todd in action is amazing. For over twenty years he and his wife Rev. Patsy have shown such commitment to the Malagasy to learn their language, live with them as them, and share Christ’s love. The diocesan synod is a living example of the best of missionary work which respects the culture while empowering them to live as Christ in their own place and time.
This synod looks like nothing I have ever witnessed before in a diocesan convention. Over a hundred people moved onto the diocesan compound for two weeks including many children. Mattresses cover the floors of education building and women’s center. Clothes lay out in the sun to dry, outdoor bathrooms kept clean, fires stoked with big pots of rice and stewed meet, and daily fresh baked cookies and cakes to delight the children.
The synod is spiritually focused. Prayer, Eucharist, Bible study and constant breaks in meetings to sing hold them to their goal to grow together in Christ.
The meetings display their effort to organize themselves. Their challenges are significant. This small team of clergy and trained lay leaders are so dedicated to their mission that they are willing to run parishes with as many as 24 small churches that cover a distance of 100 kl. On top of that the Malagasy speak 18 different dialects which challenges the church leaders in their communication and their acceptance by parishioners.
As I recall all my new acquaintances and our shared experiences of God, I am swollen with joy. The mystical union of God’s Spirit is real and it breathes new life in me as I prepare to return to our parish in Northfield. I return home today sometime if all the flights run on time!
With you on the journey,