MAF flies SIL/Wycliff for conference
Photo: Wouter Nagel

Fiaraha-miasa Lioka, also known as the Luke Collaboration, is currently translating the Bible into sixteen local Malagasy languages. In August, they learnt that their main source of funding would stop in October. MAF flew representatives from their different bases to an assembly in Antananarivo to discuss the crisis. Patrick Keller, MAF's Country Director in Madagascar, attended too. Participants shared with him critical insights into their day-to-day lives and the life-changing impact MAF is making.

In August, the team of Fiaraha-miasa Lioka received the message that in October financial support from their most important donor would stop. As the news was unexpected and gave little notice, the group decided to call a meeting of the translation team representatives in order to discuss the issue and decide how to move forward. Thus, the next issue arose: The teams were stationed all over the island. Getting from A to B by bus can be an extremely dangerous and complicated endeavor in Madagascar. Fortunately, MAF offered to fly the participants from their different bases to the assembly in Antananarivo at highly subsidised rates. A potential logistical nightmare was perfectly avoided – the aircraft and pilots were available, and the weather too played its part.

Bible translators with Aircraft
Photo: Wouter Nagel

Mr. Mosa Celestin works as a pastor in a Protestant church in Fort Dauphin. Being able to fly to meetings like this saves him substantial time and dangerous multi-day trips.

“Taking the bus takes around 3-4 days with constant driving and only a few 30 minute meal stops. The route is about 1000km long. The first part in particular, the ‘zone rouge’ (i.e. ‘red zone’), is famous for attacks by ‘dahalos’. Those are armed cattle thieves who also hijack as well as attack and rob buses and cars. It is not rare for people to get killed during attacks like those. The roads are very bad and driving at night is especially dangerous. Buses are often not maintained well, so there is always a chance of getting involved in an accident.”

“So, if I have to travel by car or bus, I need to leave four days prior to the conference, and my entire family is scared of something happening to me. In addition, the long travel is physically draining, which means I arrive tired and exhausted before my work has even started. I always feel very safe and relaxed when flying with MAF. The staff take really good care of their passengers. One flight I was on a few years ago, for example, was very bumpy, and everyone on board the aircraft got a little scared. But then our pilot Patrick looked back at us and said it was about time somebody got some work on that bumpy road done. Everyone laughed and was able to sit back and relax. The biggest plus for me is the fact that, thanks to MAF, my wife can sleep well while I’m traveling.”

Pilot and Bible translators
Photo: Wouter Nagel

Mrs. Tema Jeanne agrees. She has been working with the Luke Collaboration for 20 years now. The trip to the capital city Antananarivo also takes her about a three day bus drive.

“People try to sleep on the bus, but it’s very hard. Every time I try it, my entire body feels completely sore the next day. Traveling by bus is very time-consuming and exhausting, especially if you have to go to work afterwards. Flying with MAF is an entirely different experience. First of all, it’s really fast, which allows me to make the most of my time and do more work at home instead of spending days on the bus. Also, looking down at the Earth from above is really neat, to see all those little houses…flying with MAF brings lots of peace, for my family’s minds and mine!”

Mrs. Jeanne has lost count of the number of times she has flown with MAF at this point. When asked how other people react when they hear how frequently she travels, she responded, “Some are simply scared to enter an airplane, but others actually would love to travel as well one day. A lot of people who live in the South say that life there is very hard. They haven’t seen any rain for two years, and even if the rain comes this year, they won’t have the seeds necessary for the crop!”

Another woman who had been listening attentively to Mr. Mosa and Mrs. Tema Jeanne’s interviews was happy to tell us an incredible anecdote of her own about MAF saving her life.

“Several years ago, MAF actually evacuated me from Manakara because I was in a very critical health condition”, explains Mrs. Felicite. “MAF already had another flight planned for that day, so the pilots decided to leave Antananarivo at 4 o’clock in the early morning, Patrick being one of them, in order to land in Manakara at sunrise, pick me up, and be back in Antananarivo in time to still be able to do the second flight planned later in the day. After I had been admitted to the hospital, the doctor said that I had been very lucky to arrive just in time. If I had been admitted only a few hours later, I could have died!”

On the day of the interview, over 10 years after that event, she was sitting at the conference along with about 20 other people, discussing how the translation work is affecting people and society to this day.

Photo: Mark & Kelly Hewes

Just before the flight, Patrick took some time to ask a few more questions to the whole group flying that day. Both Rosefine and Mariette also shared stories of their adventures while travelling by bus. They have to cross six rivers with a type of ferry. Some ferries do not even have an engine, so the ferry loaded with the car has to be pulled with a rope. Some cannot be used at night, so sometimes you arrive at a river in the evening, and you have to wait until the next morning to cross it. If there is a hotel, you try to get a room there, but sometimes there are no hotels at all, and you spend the night either sitting in the bus, trying to sleep, or next to the bus on the street with a blanket.

Mahamiadana Farlain and his co-worker Rabemahazaka just travelled with MAF for the first time. One thing they mentioned was that they were happily surprised to see the pilot pray before the flight. That does not tend to happen in buses, even if the drivers are Christians!

During the conference, the future of the required funding was obviously a big topic. Money is needed not only for equipment like laptops but also for transport and other small things necessary for translation work. However, they then were encouraged that it would not be “men’s work” but the work of God and that He would continue to provide for that work. Having the MAF Country Director appear at their conference was highly appreciated and brought encouragement and joy to the whole group. The group members know that they are not on their own and appreciate the wonderful support MAF continues to give them.

Listening to all the stories brought Patrick Keller a deep sense of joy and fulfillment. “I felt so much awe and thankfulness to be part of such a wonderful and life-transforming project, God’s work! It was very apparent that this appreciation towards the community is mutual.” Even though some very heavy topics were discussed during the two days of meetings, there was an overwhelming sense of unity and peace, of trust in God, and hope. In the end, all the team members agreed on one thing: They want to continue translating scriptures, with or without funding, because they believe the work is truly life-changing and indescribably valuable. They will continue to seek funding for the projects from other sources, and in fact they have already received a substantial gift from elsewhere before they even started making this known. The group believes God is clearly saying “Tohizo, fa asako ity!” – “Continue, for this is my work!”