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17 April 2024

A growing partnership


CMS has a new partnership with the Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean (including Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius). In January 2024, we welcomed Archbishop James Wong from this province to Australia, to speak at CMS Summer Conferences. We share some insights from Archbishop Wong, as well as observations from our new missionaries on the importance of training leaders:

 

When James Wong, now Archbishop, began his ministry in Seychelles in 2009 as Bishop, he noticed that the Diocese was only holding two or three weddings a year. He also met a family where each of the woman’s seven sons had different fathers. The family fabric in this small nation was weak. Many said, “Why marry, if I will probably get divorced?” James and his wife Doreen decided to hold hands whenever they were walking together in public. This was, for him and Doreen, a statement about the importance of marriage: “Our life is a witness; a testimony. It needs to be based on a solid biblical foundation and we need to act in accordance with what we are sharing.”

Today, by God’s grace, marriage preparation is a regular aspect of ministry in Anglican churches throughout Seychelles, and there are around 15 weddings per year in the Diocese. It is common to see Seychellois couples walking down the street holding hands. Archbishop Wong says the family fabric is slowly improving.

 

A strategic partnership

CMS missionaries Ryan and Lynne Verghese have been serving in Seychelles since April 2023, under Archbishop Wong’s leadership. Adam and Avril Friend began serving in Madagascar with CMS in January 2024. The relationship with the Anglican Church in Madagascar is a wonderful example of cooperation and collaboration which started when Bishop Peter Tasker visited in 2009. It was strengthened through visits from Rev Alan Lukabyo, from the Parish of Croydon (NSW), who first visited to teach a short Bible course in French in 2012. He returned every year, with others, up until COVID. From these initial beginnings, CMS is now committed long-term to equipping leaders for the churches in Madagascar, and Seychelles.

 

Training leaders for Madagascar

The population of Madagascar is growing at the high rate of 2.68% per year. Many live in poverty. But amidst extreme drought and famine in recent years, God’s Church has also been growing rapidly. The gospel of grace is bringing true hope to people who are suffering. There are hundreds of thousands of new believers. Praise God!

With quick growth, there is a severe shortage of trained church leaders—which brings challenges. CMS missionary Adam Friend says, “For most churches, when they don’t have a minister visiting and preaching, it is a new believer who will lead and preach. When pastoral issues come up through the week, it is a new believer who will intervene the best they know how.”

Adam continues, “There is danger in all of this, that new believers might return to the traditional, animistic, pagan religion they have converted from. Or they may hear and turn to Islam, or distortions of the gospel.”

There is a critical need to equip leaders for the Church in Madagascar. Adam explains: “The church in Madagascar needs leaders who will demonstrate in their life and teaching that Christ is entirely sovereign and wonderfully sufficient.”

In locations like Madagascar, missionaries can play an important role in teaching and serving alongside local leaders. As Adam shares, “Avril and I are preparing to serve the Church in two ways. First, at a theological college, by training new leaders to know Christ deeply from the full testimony of Scripture. Second, by training current church leaders to be involved in reading and listening to the Bible one-to-one within their parishes.”

 

Working with the church in Seychelles

In Seychelles, according to missionary Ryan Verghese, there are currently just enough ministers to ensure Sunday services happen each week. He explains, “These current clergy have varying approaches to some fundamental aspects of Christian ministry: the importance of godly character, the handling of the Bible in teaching and preaching, and the Christian leader’s ministry to their own family. Within the next few years, most of these ministers will retire.”

Ryan continues, “There is a great need for faithful teaching in Seychelles. As Lynne and I serve here with CMS, we have a significant opportunity to shape and influence current and future Christian leaders to be Christ-centred in their life and ministry.”

 

A challenge for us all

Through our growing partnership with the Province of the Indian Ocean, CMS is committed to developing leaders in these nations who are grounded in God’s Word, and can bear witness to his grace in their churches and communities. The needs are vast, yet we know that our sovereign Lord is powerful to change lives.

We look forward in hope as we consider the potential for the growth of God’s kingdom in the years to come. How will you play a part? Would you consider serving in Madagascar or Seychelles? Please join with the CMS fellowship in praying that God would enable Christian leaders in these nations to stand firm in the Lord, grasping him tightly in the knowledge that he is sufficient for all they need.

 

GO

Archbishop Wong said there are many opportunities to serve the Lord in Madagascar. Would you prayerfully consider using your gifts and skills to help grow God’s Church there? Go here to start a conversation.