African pastors serving Lutherans in Thailand

Malagasy Lutheran Church representatives: overseas mission coordinator Rakotondramiadana Holiharifetra, vice president Rev. Andrianjafy Octave Benil, and pastor Rev. Ravaka Ratovohery. Photo: LWF/P. Lok

LWF Promoting cooperation between member churches in the Global South

(LWI) - Two Lutheran World Federation churches are breaking the traditional mission partnership mold.

Whereas partnership usually takes the form of churches in the global north supporting those in the global south, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand (ELCT) has welcomed missionaries from the Malagasy Lutheran Church, Madagascar. Both are members of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

At the recent partners’ consultation of the Thai church, partner churches and mission agencies from eight different countries came together to review and to explore new ways of carrying out mission work in Thailand.

One partnership that stood out was the cooperation between the Thai and Malagasy churches, which brings together two member churches from not only the global south but two different LWF regions.

A deep desire to be part of mission

Overseas Mission Coordinator of the Malagasy church, Rakotondramiadana Holiharifetra, told the consultation her church had been in this mission partnership with the Thai church for six years. It has two Malagasy pastors, together with their families, serving in Thailand. Her church is also engaged in other Asian countries, such as Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.

Vice president of the Malagasy church, Rev. Andrianjafy Octave Benil, said, “Our church has been much enriched by the 150-year old partnership we have with the Norwegian Mission Society. Now it is our turn to bring the good news to other parts of the world. Many young people from Madagascar have a deep desire to be part of God’s mission.”

One young pastor is Rev. Ravaka Ratovohery, who has been working in Thailand since 2015. Together with his wife, Dr. Rovasoa Razafindraib, a medical doctor, and their daughter, Grace, Rev. Ratovohery serves as a pastor in the remote northern province of Nan. The language barrier was a challenge in the beginning, as were efforts for Dr Razafindraib to have her medical qualifications recognized.

New models of partnership

The LWF continues to promote south-south models of partnership, through which churches from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean work together in the ministry of service and proclamation.

LWF Asia area secretary Rev. Dr Philip Lok Oi Peng said that through these partnerships, cross-regional relationships in the communion will be further enhanced.

“In order to promote a balanced and healthy communion, the LWF tries to encourage more south-south exchanges. While there have been many instances of such new partnerships, most churches are from within the same LWF region. In this model, we have two member churches from the south but from different regions coming together for joint mission program.”

The Norwegian Mission Society was the traditional partner of the Malagasy church. As the Norwegian Mission Society was also working in Thailand, it invited the Malagasy church to explore the possibility of doing mission work in Thailand, as well. The Malagasy church agreed Thailand would be another mission field in which it could be involved.