In the final quarter of 2019, Tana City Center Church (TCC) launched two new plants into Antananarivo, Madagascar. Having established gatherings of around 30 people, both plants were forced to stop gathering during 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdown in the capital city.
“[The neighbourhoods of] Tanjombato and Andoharanofotsy are located in the southern part of Tana, it is a fast growing and developing area, we started meeting on Sunday mornings in September 2019, before that it was a monthly home group” explains Ny Avo, who is heading up the congregation in Andoharanofotsy.
Daniel and Niry, formerly on Eldership at TCC, are heading up a new congregation in a low income neighbourhood. Describing the current attitude toward faith Daniel says “In general, the majority of the Malagasy think of being Christians. This causes a big problem because people are not believers but they are just religious. By following their religion, they believe they no longer need the gospel.”.
Ny Avo agrees, “with so many ‘churches’ and Christian organizations showing up in every corner of the street, people are quite reluctant to the idea of new churches, which really forces us to become more intentional in building friendship first”.
Worldwide, public gatherings have been prohibited as governments struggle to contain the spread of the contagious coronavirus. For many churches, this has meant pivoting to online and live-streamed Sundays, prayer meetings and mid-week groups. The accessibility and availability of broadband internet a panacea in this season.
However with 70% of their congregations without access to high speed internet, the new plants have pursued other creative alternatives to keeping connected to isolated members.
“Because of COVID-19 we can not do our meetings for about three months. We communicate by phone to keep in touch with church members and to hear their prayer requests. We were able to make a weekly radio show on which the church encouraged members.” explains Daniel
Further to that, each congregation published a Bible reading plan which they went through together. Connected members were also able to tune in for the sending church’s (TCC) weekly online gatherings.
Notwithstanding the upheavel of 2020, Ny Avo celebrates the advance of the Kingdom further into Antananarivo during the year, “we had our first baptism in 2020, and also, witnessing Christ being formed in some individuals, and seeing their hunger for Christ and the gospel and the bible, and towards the end of the year, God added a few people to our number”.
Daniel is equally upbeat, detailing the church’s efforts to support vulnerable members during the lockdown, “During the lockdown God blessed us to have opportunity to share food to the members. After the lockdown there are new people joined the church.”.
These two congregations are being wrought in some of the most challenging circumstances within Advance’s global partnership. It is inspiring stuff to hear the stories of new believers baptised and evangelistic innovation realised in this setting. Please continue to pray for and support these faithful planters in their effort to bring Jesus to the people of Madagascar.