The presence of Consolata Missionaries in Beandrarezona is taking shape and making an impact in the lives of the people. People were not used to having priests living in their midst, thus wondering how to relate with us. There is no particular house designated for Consolata Missionaries working in Beandrarezona, therefore, we opted to rent a house within the village. This option has helped us to understand the culture and reality on the ground. It is a two-bedroom house which forced us to convert a store into another bedroom to accommodate the three of us. The house serves as a residence, office and the corridor transformed into a chapel. It took us quite some time to adjust to the space available.
The corridor serving as a chapel-the Eucharist celebration
Our encounter with Malagasy culture has been interesting because of its uniqueness. One of its outstanding elements is the famahadiana, which means exhumation of the dead. For the Malagasy eternity is connected to the ancestral grave. The past and future converge in the family tomb. The exhumation of the dead is done from five years upwards. The family astrologer determines the days of exhumation. On the material day of exhumation when the family has gathered at the tomb, the family elder makes a speech, announces the arrival of the family, introduces the new members of the family( newly born and in-laws) to the ancestors and after which the tombs are opened. Bones are re-assembled in their original position then wrapped in new shrouds. The descendants are invited to dance with the ancestors, after which they are taken back to the village with music and dance. The ancestors must occasionally see their village and stay in the village from one to three days and then returned to the grave. This year we will have an opportunity of participating in the ceremony of famahadiana.
The Family grave
Formation of Christian communities is in progress with the objective of creating sense of belongingness and ownership of the parish. Several leaders’ formation seminars are organized with the aim of tapping talents and bring them on board as we put in place leadership structures. In addition, catechists have monthly formation sessions which enable them to carry out their duties in the best way. We do not have edifice to host participants during formation programs. We make use of the parish church as a dormitory and venue for formation sessions. It poses challenges of planning and execution of programs.
Catechists having lunch
The Parish Church
Visits to families and villages have been instrumental in dismantling the initial ice barriers between the people and us, consequently, creating friendship and sense of belonging. This activity demands endurance and determination to maneuver through muddy paths/roads, rivers, and hilly places.
Fr. Jared Makori imc going to visit families
Fr. Kizito Mukalazi imc going to visit Christian Communities
Youth and children make up the highest percentage of the Catholics of Beandrarezona parish. It is positive sign of a brighter future. A good number of the parents of these children and youth are not Christians. They accept their children to embrace the Catholic faith, only that they do not recognize Sunday as the day of the Lord. As a result, they organize farm work and other works for the children. It is difficult to organize activities for them on weekends.
Fr. Jean Toluba imc with the youth
The youth are enthusiastic to participate in parish activities only that we lack sports equipment and facilities like football pitch, and basketball and volleyball court. We improvise by putting our creativity at work.
Improvise Basketball court & football pitch
High level of poverty in the area is the biggest threat to the vulnerable especially to young girls who become mothers at a tender age and majority of them are school dropouts. They work hard in rice paddy to sustain their babies, but the returns are very low.
The health facility is poorly equipped, there is no laboratory to carry out essential tests, there is no mother-child clinics which has led to high infant mortality rate. There is no ambulance to transport the sick to the referral hospital. The sick are transported on carts pulled by oxen. Majority of the sick die on the way for it takes long time to reach to the hospital due to the poor road. We decided to transport the sick to referral hospital in order to save life. Several people knock at our door with a request to transport their sick person to the hospital.
The few schools in existence are poorly equipped with no textbooks, benches, and toilets. One textbook is shared amongst three to five pupils. The pupils totally depend on the information from the teacher. The end term exams are still handwritten on the blackboard. The learning environment is not conducive as a consequence the level of education is very low.
Our road is known as a “trap of death”. It is in a horrible state, but the locals seem not to be bothered at all. They tell us that road has been in the same state since time immemorial therefore, nothing can be done. It is a “trap of death” given that many cases of expectant mothers with labor complications do not make it to a referral hospital, as well as children and patients in critical conditions. During rainy seasons no motor vehicle, even if it is a four-wheel drive, tractor, motor bike, etc. can pass through this road, rendering our village cut off from the rest of other villages. The only remaining option is walking, however, it has its own challenges because of being muddy and the mud reaches at the level of the knees.
The condition of the road
Being a missionary means leading and giving insights to people. We are mobilizing locals through their village leaders in order to fix the worse spots of the road. The response is encouraging and sense of working for the common good has started sinking into their worldview. Raw materials are available such as marram, stones etc. our biggest challenge is transportation of materials up to the site. We need to hire lorries, tractors and Caterpillars in order to do a good job. Currently, we are using our vehicle to transport stones but we cannot do much. Fixing the “trap of death” means saving life and breaking chains of poverty in Beandrearezona.
Fr. Jean Tuluba imc fixing the road with the youth
The mission in Madagascar is at its initial stages and has a lot of needs at all levels. Therefore, we cannot walk this journey alone without you; the missionary call invites us to step out of ourselves for the love of God and the neighbor in order to give life through missionary activities of the Church. Therefore, I call upon each reader of this article to join us in this noble cause of evangelization, together we will realize the objectives and goal of our missionary presence in this beautiful and great country of Madagascar.