In Madagascar, medical mercy teams share catechism

Categories: Catechism, Madagascar, Malagasy

In Madagascar, an island nation off the east coast of Africa, simple everyday ailments can become major health problems. Untreated hypothyroidism results in melon-sized goiters. A simple fungal infection spreads from between the toes to above the knee.

A continent and an ocean away, medical mercy teams from LCMS World Relief and Human Care have been moved to volunteer their time and money to bring health and healing to the Malagasy people.

And now, one team also hopes to bring spiritual healing to the people they treat, using the balm of God’s Word found in the Malagsy-language Small Catechism.

Care for the caregivers
Rev. Jeff Kuddes, a pastor from southern Minnesota, will serve as chaplain when the team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel depart for Africa in early August. Typically, the chaplain’s primary responsibility is to minister to medical staff.

“Especially as Americans going into a poverty-stricken nation, our staff sees some things that they’ve never seen in their everyday practices, and despite their training, they’re taken aback,” Rev. Kuddes explained.

As the days go by, the team is often overcome by frustration and feelings of futility. Skilled medical care is hard to find outside of the cities of Madagascar, and most people are too poor to afford good healthcare, even if it were available.

As medical teams realize the immensity of the problem, “they’re frustrated because of their inability to do anything about it,” Rev. Kuddes said. “They’ll say, ‘If we were at home, we could do this for this person…’ but they can’t. So to have regular devotions, to have God’s Word applied to our situation, is critical.”

Though mercy team chaplains most often minister to the medical personnel, Rev. Kuddes saw on previous trips to Madagascar that their patients also needed spiritual care.

“We’ll find a way.”

So as he was preparing for his August trip, Rev. Kuddes decided to contact the Lutheran Heritage Foundation to see whether he could get Luther’s Small Catechism in the Malagasy language.

“The catechism is such a wonderful tool of telling and teaching the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rev. Kuddes explained. “It literally tells all that we need to know about the life and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our life in Christ, and that’s for the Malagasy people, too.”

LHF’s answer was yes!

Though LHF had translated and published the Malagasy catechism in 2007 and then reprinted it in 2009, the books were quickly claimed by the more than 4 million Lutherans in Madgascar. None remained.

Reprinting the catechism in 2013 wasn’t in LHF’s budget, but the staff believed a way would be found. Amazingly, before LHF could begin to seek funding for this unexpected project, funding came to LHF!

Out of the blue, a check arrived in the mail from the Central Illinois District LWML, earmarked for Madagascar. The women of the district had collected more mites than they’d expected and agreed to send some of the extra to LHF.

Then, Rev. Kuddes’ churches (St. Paul in Hollandale and Trinity in Waltham, Minn.) decided to support the remainder of the cost for 3,000 catechisms. The printed books now await the medical team’s arrival in Madagascar.

Rev. Robert Rahn, LHF’s founder and interim executive director, simply smiled. “ ‘God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply,’ ” he quoted.



Just wanted to let you know that upon my arrival in Antsirabe (Madagascar) there was waiting for me 1500 copies of Luther’s Small Catechism in Malagasy. Thanks so very much! We distributed them to the pastors of the 4 congregations where our clinics took place.

In Ibity, at the Lutheran Church there, I presented the catechisms to the catechist of the congregation and the congregation’s president (the pastor was not there then). They were so very thrilled. They had “prayed for years” and hoped with great faith that God would somehow provide for them these very books! Can you imagine? The Malagasy Lutheran Church is very confessional and they had hoped that this foundation of faith in the Small Catechism would somehow come to them and strengthen them in the faith, and that for their children too. Thanks be to God!
Additionally, we attended a women’s conference (similar to an LWML conference) of nearly a thousand women representing the 40 districts of one Synod in the Malagasy Lutheran Church, the Synod in which we work known by its acronym, SPAM. We were able to give 20 catechisms to a representative from each of the districts (excluding the 4 in which we worked), so 36 districts received 20 of the catechisms. This synod (which is equivalent to an LCMS district), SPAM, contains 900 Lutheran congregations.

Again, thanks for taking on this task and for playing a part in its success. But ultimately, as we well know, to God be the glory! Amen!

In Christ,Rev. Kuddes

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