By Alvin Makunike and the Rev. João Filimone Sambo
April 13, 2023 | ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (UM News)
Hundreds of people packed into tiny Ambodifasika United Methodist Church to experience a series of firsts: the church’s first visit from a United Methodist bishop and its first baptisms, Holy Communion and confirmations.
The island’s first United Methodist church also celebrated its inaugural church council and organizational conference during the visit of Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, resident bishop of the Mozambique Area, who also has been assigned to oversee the Madagascar Mission Field.
Ambodifasika United Methodist Church began in 2018 under the leadership of Ratovohery Jean Aime, a local citizen who learned about the denomination during leadership training in the United States.
Over the past five years, the church has been growing steadily, but during the bishop’s late February visit, the membership rolls jumped to about 500 with the confirmation of nearly 100 new members and the baptisms of 65 children and 28 adults.
“What we are experiencing here is very encouraging and promising,” said Nhanala during the historic visit. “I feel very blessed to be here.”
Nhanala spent eight days in the country overseeing church ceremonies and business. Madagascar is an island located in the southwestern Indian Ocean — separated from the African coast by the 250-mile-wide Mozambique Channel. The country has an estimated 29 million inhabitants.
“This is an important occasion in the life of the church and people of Madagascar,” Nhanala said. “We have come to see and learn what the people of this country are doing in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”