Madagascar Bishop Pushes Evangelism, Education and Economic Development in New Diocese

Thousands respond to Gospel proclamation as evil spirits are cast out and Christ enters changed lives

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org

The newly formed Missionary area of Toliara on the Island of Madagascar might not sound very exotic to Anglican ears as there are none of the scandals over homosexuality, property ownership and how to handle declining parishes and dioceses that plague Western Anglican provinces.

For Bishop Todd McGregor and his wife, the Rev. Patsy McGregor, it is a joyful challenge on how to bring the gospel to people locked in animism, traditional religions, and poverty on the fourth largest island in the world. There are 21 million people divided among 19 ethnic groups and 80% of the people live on less than a $1 a day. Mostly African traditional religions dominate the landscape with 40% being Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. The Anglican Communion is small but growing fast.

The McGregor’s have toiled in this Southern Madagascar vineyard, one of the poorest and most unreached places on earth, since 2007 and they love it even as deeply burdened as they are to bring the Good News of the gospel to people who desperately need it. Their task involves serving and coordinating the Anglican Church in an area the size of Florida. Because the area is so large, one of their main focuses is raising and training leaders who can serve the churches over this vast region.

In their ministry they have seen people coming to faith that include the village drunk and powerful witch doctors. They believe that in order to marinate the spiritual soil prayer is the foundation to all evangelism. They practice what they call “lifestyle evangelism” having lived in a slum for nearly four years. Behind where they lived a Satanic cultic church could be found. It is still there.

“People are in bondage to Satan because the Shaman offers healing herbs and ordinary folk can’t afford medicine. They dedicate their children and have a curse put on them,” says Patsy.

She recalled a manifestation of evil spirits on Maundy Thursday when all the clergy were together to rededicate themselves through their vows. “Someone came into the meeting manifesting several demons. Several were cast out and they named themselves as they were cast out.

Asked what she saw as their call to mission, she said it was the Word of God and the Great Commission.

The McGregor’s have labored in East Africa for over 20 years, first in Madagascar, and then Kenya, bringing the gospel of Jesus to whomsoever. In 2007 they returned to Madagascar, focusing their efforts on the most remote and poorest southern territories focusing on the ministry of the 3E’s of Evangelism, Education and Economic Development. Fr. Todd was consecrated the first bishop of Toliara at St. Laurent’s Anglican Church in Antananarivo, Madagascar on December 10th, 2006 under the Province of the Indian Ocean and its archbishop the Most Rev. Ian Ernest.

They told their story to the 500-strong evangelical Episcopal congregation of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA recently. Todd is originally from Vermont. Patsy is from Florida. The McGregor’s sending companions are mainly from the USA, specifically the Diocese of Southeast Florida under Bishop Leo Frade and several parishes from The Diocese of Chicago.

The McGregor’s felt called to God’s mission to preach the Good News from their earliest years after they met and married. They began as a pioneer missionary family, beginning their work in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar in 1991.

With excitement and some expectation, they watched their newly approved diocese grow with three new churches recently completed and dedicated. Bishop Todd consecrated a new church building on November 29, 2008 in Sakarana. All Saints Church in Morondava was dedicated November 1, 2008. A packed congregation worshipped on Christmas Day in Ankilifaly, with 200-300 in attendance, including youth and children. Discipleship groups continue to flourish, with a 6 am Morning Prayer group, Wednesday evening worship in English as well as several discipleship and small group gatherings throughout the week.

In March, 2009, the McGregor’s began a new partnership with SAMS-USA (www.samsusa.org) as a missionary sending agency. SAMS (South American Mission Society) is one of the most established Anglican/Episcopal mission agencies, supporting missionary families for 150 years

In 2009, they focused on the three 3E’s in the Diocese of Toliara. During that year they experienced over 300 Baptisms, 70 Confirmations and the establishment of five new church plants.

“Our Educational efforts included the training of 7 clergy/evangelists for ministry service, offering the Alpha program (an introduction course to Christianity originally founded in the UK) in two parishes to over 47 students, ongoing weekly English classes with 30-40 students, hosting a Saturday worship service in English and sponsoring 47 children for primary and secondary school education. As we continue to partner and assist those in the area, our Economic Development allowed the purchase of 60 acres for microenterprise farming, the start-up of two women-managed farming businesses and the receipt of an 11-acre ocean front tract for future development.”

The McGregor’s founded the ministry of People Reaching People in 1991. Initially, as a first year missionary family, their work began in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar and expanded into remote areas of the eastern rainforest. This led them to southern Madagascar.

The Early Years

While in Madagascar, Todd and Patsy served with the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and the Diocese of Antananarivo in a variety of different capacities: teaching at St. Paul’s Theological College, implementing, developing and constructing 11 health clinics; founding, administrating and constructing the School for Lay Ministry, constructing eleven new churches including the Cathedral in Mahajanga and church-planting the Ravinala Community: an international, ecumenical, English speaking church.

Ministry in Kenya

In 2002, the McGregor’s moved from Madagascar to Kenya to continue their ministry to the poorest of the poor in Eastern Africa and to the many nomadic and ethnic groups residing there.

Todd became the Director of Mission and Evangelism in Northern Kenya and an adjunct instructor of Church Growth, Evangelism, and Leadership at St. Paul’s United Theological College in Limuru, Kenya. Patsy managed and expanded St. Julian’s Centre, a retreat and conference center offering a beautiful and serene environment for renewal and refreshment. Together, they lead Kenyan and international short-term mission teams to some of the “least-reached” people groups throughout the world, including the Borana, Gabbra, Rendille, Samburu and Sakuye tribes.

Patsy was ordained as a Deacon on November 27th, 2005 and ordained a priest on September 3rd, 2006 by Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Anglican Church of Kenya. Rev. Todd was consecrated as the Assistant Bishop of Antananarivo and the first Bishop of Toliara at St. Laurent’s Anglican Church in Antananarivo, Madagascar on December 10th, 2006.

“The diversity of the people is one of the challenges as well as one of the blessings of being here. Christ has been faithful and the McGregor’s ministry has grown in five years from only 1 church and 10 worshiping communities, to over 25 churches.”

This year the partners are hoping to raise $300,000 to establish three new churches, a primary school, clergy housing, and to start building a cathedral for $250,000 that will seat 1,000 people.

Patsy has written two books describing their experiences serving in Africa, A Guest in God’s World and The Detour.

Asked what they see as their legacy, the bishop said, “That people come to know Jesus, training the next generation of Malagasy leaders and ultimately winning their adopted country for Jesus Christ. We invite you to partner along with us as we serve God in His ministry, vision and purposes for Eastern Africa and Madagascar.”

Both are driven by the testimony of William Carey, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”

For those wishing to support this dynamic and growing ministry you can help by sending a donation to SAMS-USA (www.samsusa.org) earmark it McGregor Ministry.

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