Amidst Madagascar famine, over one thousand people baptized into new life

Amidst Madagascar famine, over one thousand people baptized into new life

Matthew 25:35

I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.

I am very grateful to be in America and continuing to heal from surgery. I still work with the people of Madagascar using technology, and once the pandemic is behind us, I hope to return. I am very grateful to those who continue to support me with prayers and financial contributions. Keep reading to see photos and updates from the women’s ministry of the Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar.

Famine in SW Madagascar

The South of the Diocese of Toliara has suffered from severe famine, there has been little rain for three years. IaIy, the Coordinator for Economic Development in the Diocese of Toliara, had family living in the area where the famine was severe. This is a story that Ialy wrote about his family in November 2020.

Ialy, the tallest man with sunglasses, at church distributing rice.

“The woman of this family is my aunt’s daughter, she’s called Anantsoa. She’s 39 years old and married and she has 3 children (10, 14, 16 years old). They lived in the town of Ambovombe. When the famine happened they used to move outside town of Ambovombe, went to the countryside, it is north and it reaches about 78 km from the town. They cut the trees and the dry forest for making charcoal and for agriculture. Every month they visit my aunt at town. The money which was earned from charcoal and agricultural, they used to buy daily food and a zebu and goat for breeding. Their place is very far from the wells, it is around 78 km (48 miles). They have not used water to wash hands, face and even their body; they rarely take a bath each semester because of lack of water.

Regarding their children education, they couldn’t send their children to school any more so they made their mind on their children to help them.

Nowadays, the severe famine happens everywhere in southern Madagascar in the region of Androy – that means no rainfall for 11 month in this year, that involves the lowest of price of livestock and to increase the price of the daily food such as rice, corn, sugar, oil, etc… A lot of zebus, goats, and sheep were dying and also no crops in the fields because of the high famine.

In addition to that, the highest red wind has happened since November. It has not stopped up to now. That wind provokes many sicknesses through people there. The severe famine including the strong red wind happens in southern of Madagascar now. Cassava from Toliara changes zebus, goat, and sheep. For instance, 10 kilos of cassava trades for one goat or sheep.

To sum up, Anantsoa’s family wanted to exit out but they could not because they are very weak so they were dying in the same day (November 7, 2020). My aunt went there by cart to take them to move to town but she couldn’t because they were already dead for three days so the local authority (chief of village) came and decided with my aunt to bury them there and encourage her.

It is horrible situation what happened to my aunt (she is widower) and our family.”

Rice distribution to all who live in the village.

In December the first stage of famine relief began and February there was a second distribution by Mr IaIy, Rev. Donne and Gaston in the South where the worst of the famine occurring: Amboasary, Ambovombe and Ft. Dauphin. Thank you to all those who contributed to the famine relief. The rice and beans are given to everyone, no matter what their religion. People in these villages are turning to follow Jesus. Gaston reports that the churches in Amboasary Parish are now packed – an “explosion of people”, he said, “with no more room to fit in people. People are being baptized because they are being touched by the love of God and asking, ‘What religion is this that cares? We want to join you.'”



The last two weeks of February there were 1,189 new baptisms in Amboasary, Ambovombe, Beloha, Tsihombe and Maroaloka. The people were baptized by Rev. Berthier (the secretary of the Province of the Indian Ocean), Rev. Donne and Gaston. The people are being fed with the nourishment of food and the love of Jesus Christ.

Oliviah and the children under an umbrella as it rains

The end of February it rained in Ambovombe and there was great celebration as rain is a blessing in Madagascar. Please pray for continued rain so the people can grow food.

Craft Inventory at the Women’s Center

Kitchen Inventory

The women at the center are busy they have formed a committee to help Chretienne and Harisoa run the center, there are four women on the committee, Nivo, Oliviah, Laurichia and Adrienne.  The women have completed an inventory of the supplies in the kitchen, the craft supplies, completed crafts and the Days for Girls kits and supplies. The committee is making decisions with Chretienne and Harisoa on how to run and organize the center. The women are not making paper beads for crafts as they have a large inventory. Oliviah has taught the women to make crafts using plastic beads.

Bead jewelry

Planting Tamarind trees

On March 8 2020, International Women’s Day, Tamarind trees were planted by the women from the center and the Mothers Union at the compound. The women at the center hosted the event outside in the compound and gave a presentation of the Days for Girls Kits using the flipcharts. After the presentation questions were asked and those who answered correctly received a gift of a POD (a DFG kit containing a shield and 2 liners), the youth were given a tooth brush and a bracelet.

Women’s Day Meeting

On Sunday March 15, 2021 the second Bishop of Toliara was elected. Bishop Samitiana was elected, he had worked as the assistant bishop with Bishop Todd  Mcgregor.

Bishop Samitiana and his wife Holy

Note from SAMS Communications Coordinator, Kate Ulrich: As Christians, we are called to walk alongside the church globally, lifting up our brothers and sisters in their suffering. Jacky Lowe works in the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar, sharing the love of Jesus and economic skills with women. Would you partner in her ministry?

Missionaries in Honduras create job opportunities for struggling parents

Missionaries in Honduras create job opportunities for struggling parents

You’re a parent of two children in Honduras, struggling to provide for your family in a violent and poverty-stricken neighborhood. The loving education your kids receive at the local Christian school is a rare blessing. The school charges a small tuition fee, but it is a manageable cost. Then you hear news of a deadly virus circulating the world. Before you know it, your community has shut down to prevent the spread of the virus. You’ve lost your job, and soon you aren’t able to feed your kids, much less pay tuition.

Such is a scenario many families in Flor del Campo, Honduras experienced when the 2020 pandemic hit. SAMS missionaries Suzy McCall, Amanda Scott, and Stephen and Debra Buckner serve there at the LAMB Institute. LAMB is an extensive ministry with a children’s home and church, a school, and other programs to help at-risk children and youth. Students depend on that community in a place plagued by danger and destitution. The ministry infuses hope into children through Christ-centered education and spiritual nourishment. The pandemic would have threatened kids’ ability to participate. Yet LAMB, led by Suzy, knew they needed a way to keep kids in school while also empowering families to pay tuition with dignity. The solution they created gives parents a chance to work off the payments owed. That is not all – the plan also equips families with start-up small businesses and skills they can use after they have paid off tuition debt.

Suzy describes the project – “We have created jobs for family members of the students who owe money. First, we hired a coordinator for this project, which will initially run for three months. We have selected a young woman in our neighborhood who holds a university degree and is currently unemployed. Several small businesses have already started: a man is selling fresh fruits and vegetables from a cart which he pushes around the neighborhood; another family is selling paper products; another is selling plastic products. A carpenter in our youth outreach program offered to train a small group of people in woodworking, with the hope that they would eventually produce marketable goods, such as furniture. They have completed their first project: three bookcases. Our fund underwrites the start-up expenses, pays the carpenter, and provides stipends for the ‘employees.’ Again, we will underwrite the materials and pay the workers for the first three months, with the stipulation that part of their pay will be applied towards their school debt. If some of the businesses are successful in generating profit, we can turn them over to the operators, and they can continue without our help.” Empowered by God’s grace, this ministry puts legs on our Lord’s calling to proclaim good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1). Lift up these Honduran families in prayer as they engage in these small business opportunities and interact with the Christian community at LAMB.

In 2021, SAMS World Relief Fund (WRF) provided for a grant of $4,000 for LAMB’s job creation project. SAMS WRF has helped other ministries in Honduras as well. Two severe hurricanes devastated other areas of Honduras in Fall 2020. Stay tuned to read how SAMS Missionaries are helping those communities get back on their feet.

Senders giving generously to SAMS World Relief Fund in 2020 and 2021 have enabled missionaries globally to help their communities in dire circumstances caused by the pandemic and natural disasters. In four rounds of grants, SAMS WRF has given to 18 missionary projects and five diocesan projects, totalling $80,700 since April 2020.

How my 9-week mission trip became 9 MONTHS!

How my 9-week mission trip became 9 MONTHS!

On March 7 2020,   I left Miami for Madagascar with a team from Saint Andrew’s School Boca Raton, Florida.
I was the representative from the congregation of the Chapel of Saint Andrew, which is located on the school grounds.  

We were on a short-term mission trip to visit the children in the village of Manamby, too small to find on a map.  We flew into Morondava, on the west coast, from the capital, Antananarivo, and then drove to Manamby.  This visit was part of a larger plan to someday build a school for the children there.

The team was to return to Miami via South Africa and I would continue on to Toliara for a six-week visit with the Rev Patsy and Bishop Todd McGregor and the people in the Diocese of Toliara compound.

On March 17, Mme Holy (the wife of Bishop Samitiana) and I left the capital Antananarivo on the two-day overland trip to Toliara.  Little did I know at the time that my planned 6-week mission trip in Toliara would extend to 9 months and that I would return to Miami on December 15, 2020.

While in Toliara I stayed on the Diocesan Compound in the guest room in the Women’s Center.  

The second day I arrived, I was asked to quarantine for two weeks because there was a concern that Neny Holy and I had been exposed to Covid-19 on the trip to Toliara.  During that time of quarantine, my only interaction with anyone was through the window to the outside. I loved this opportunity!

I have always wanted to visit a cloister and here I was. It was a wonderfully quiet time for reflection and rest.  Plus, it was so hot that for the first few weeks I mostly slept. I later learned that the average annual rainfall in the spiney desert of Toliara is 16 inches. This was not a challenge for me. I grew up in the Central Valley of California where the average annual rainfall was 13 inches. However, I later learned from Google sources that the dewpoint of Toliara ranged between muggy, oppressive and miserable. When I arrived in March, it was definitely “miserable” 24/7.

By April, it became clear that I would be in Madagascar indefinitely.  A few days after my arrival in Toliara, the Madagascar borders had been closed due to Covid-19.  International flights had been suspended and interior travel was curtailed to commercial transportation of food and life-giving items.

I soon settled into a routine.  Each day started with my morning wakeup call by the roosters crowing around 5 a.m.  

Due to Covid-19 there were restrictions on the number of people who could gather in a single location.  So instead of regular corporate prayer which was the normal practice on the diocesan compound, a schedule was set up so that two households would meet for daily evening prayer.  During my visit, I joined different households in prayer depending on the rotation schedule.

About a week after my quarantine time, I was able to access internet and I started to communicate with my family and church community. The typical American question arose, “what do you do all day?” So, I would say that during my time there I developed relationships, by spending time with people.  I really came to experience the saying, “God uses us just as we are and wherever we are.”

With regard to the “doing aspects” :

  • I participated in the regular schedule of corporate prayer such as the monthly days of diocesan prayer and fasting and the intermittent Sunday services.  These were special spirit-filled times that deepened my understanding and experience of prayer.
Holy ( Bishop Samy’s wife) and Emily Nell making a presentation in the Cathedral
It is hard to talk and wear a mask!
  • I offered to tutor English, teach the basic Order of Saint Luke program of Christ’s Healing Miracles to the students of the Bible College, and introduce and teach the concept of Blessing Prayer developed by Roy Godwin, Russ Parker and others.
  • I helped to write a grant proposal to continue the Rooted in Jesus program and other spiritual and leadership development programs in the diocese. We learned on Thanksgiving Day that the proposal was funded for the next two years!  What jubilations!!
  • It became clear to me that I needed to suggest projects that required a minimum of sustained attention, so I encouraged xeriscaping  —  let’s support God by growing local plants that will survive without water or much attention. 
  • I encouraged the cleaning up of the land in the compound – clearing areas around the cactus rather than pulling out the cactus.  I kept saying “let’s support the way God plants this area”.  And indeed once the grass and vines had been cleared, the cactus really popped out and they were in blossom.  So it was very effective.
  • I paid Seliny 5000 Ariary to cut grass for 3 hours as my contribution to help maintain the compound.  She took the grass home to feed her zebu.
Doing this the Malagasy way…
Emily Nell and Fiadanana, sitting on a cement bench that Jacky Lowe gifted through a grant proposal
  • I wanted to clean up the area outside of Holy’s office.  And, as a result a bench was put out there so she could sit outside.  I do not think they would have even thought to put one there till the grass and vegetation had been cleared to show off the trees and the cactus.
  • I met with Rev Patsy McGregor on a regular basis, acting as her sounding board and editor as she created several devotionals, some of which incorporate reflections on life during this worldwide pandemic.

Most of all during this time, I developed friendships that will last a lifetime.

Emily Nell Lagerquist, Missionary Bridger

This post was originally published at the website of the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar:

The Messenger — Spring/Summer 2020 Issue

The Messenger — Spring/Summer 2020 Issue

Click on the first page of The Messenger below to access the full issue. Featured:

  • A Chilean woman’s two-day hospital stay is transformed into a miraculous gospel opportunity
  • A “forgotten” community in Honduras receives seeds of hope and a church building
  • Prayer Calendar March – August 2021
  • New missionary candidates

Growing Grace in San Lorenzo

Growing Grace in San Lorenzo

A Honduran reporter once said that San Lorenzo was a village forgotten by man and God. Yet God had not forgotten. He used this report to inspire a Honduran priest to reach out to this isolated mountain community of subsistence farmers.  Missionary Jeannie Loving went along and began to serve the people in the name of Christ in 2008.  A church formed. Jeannie began to dream that this spiritual community would have its own building.

God opened the door for other projects first. Jeannie coordinated construction of a playground and a community center made of ram-packed earth. Several groups began to use this center, including a kindergarten and the new church. Eventually, Jeannie fixed up a simple house so she could be rooted in the lives of the people.

Hunger arising from crop failure is a regular occurrence in San Lorenzo. The villagers raise crops for their families’ daily food, usually without surplus to sell. Jeannie was eager to help them farm successfully. She applied her experience as an organic gardener to train farmers. Jeannie started a demonstration farm where she shows how to develop rich soil through composting. People receive seeds and seedlings.

Jeannie saw the community’s hunger for God, too. She organized Bible studies with the help of fellow Christians gifted in teaching. People have attended those studies enthusiastically. Jeannie says that “their greatest spiritual need is one we all have: to forgive. It is by forgiving that you are forgiven. We need a lot of forgiveness.”

When the Diocese of Honduras approved construction of the church building, Jeannie’s decade-old dream began to be realized. SAMS Missionary and Architect Jack Melvin designed the building with input from the community.  Jack shares that Edil, a member of the church and the chief contractor, “is a true craftsman, who puts love into his work.” Construction proceeded quickly in spite of a pause due to the pandemic – and with no electric tools! The priest, Father Victor, who serves three churches, preaches and leads Holy Eucharist every two weeks. Jeannie says “He is very pastoral. He sends all the vestry members daily encouragement, stories, and Bible passages.” Iglesia Santa Maria Magdalena now has its own space in which they can serve the community, thanks to generous Senders who caught the vision God planted in Jeannie’s heart.