Most of you have heard that we are heading to Madagascar for our next field service. We plan to arrive there towards the end of October after a couple week stop over in Cape Town, South Africa. Some of you may wonder if a place like Madagascar really needs a big white hospital ship. There is no denying the natural splendor of the country. By all accounts it is a truly magnificent gem of flora and fauna.
However, there is also no denying that the nation is ranked 155th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (with lower numbers representing higher levels of development). Like many countries that we have been - and perhaps even more so - the natural beauty stands in stark contrast to the poverty of the people. Hollywood has
romanticized the landscape but the reality is that most people live in dire conditions. It is a place where we can truly make a difference by bringing hope and healing. Here is some more info on the country:
Off Africa's southeast coast in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo. A stunning diversity of plant and animal species found nowhere else evolved after the island broke away from the African continent 165 million years ago. It has a mountainous central plateau and coastal plains. The first settlers were of African and Asian origin, and 18 separate ethnic groups emerged, derived from an African and Malayo-Indonesian mixture. Asian features are most predominant in the central highlands people, and coastal people tend to show features of African origin. Most of the population depend on subsistence farming, based on rice and cattle, with coffee, vanilla, and seafood being important exports.We are excited for this new adventure and ask that you join us in prayer as we face many challenges ahead (short time frame, poor roads, rainy season, and the possibility of cyclones to name a few) and especially for the people of Madagascar.
French colonial rule began in 1896; independence came in 1960. In 1990, after almost 20 years of Marxism, Madagascar lifted a ban on opposition parties, and a new president was elected in 1993. Elections in 2001 resulted in a period of civil unrest, lasting for several months, until Marc Ravalomanana was declared winner of the presidential election. Environmental degradation is a major concern as damaging agricultural practices cause deforestation, soil erosion, and desertification. The island is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones, which brought destructive floods in 2004. (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/madagascar-facts/)