Connecting Remote Communities – MAF in Madagascar

MAF has enjoyed a long partnership with Bible translation organisations in Madagascar. Translation Consultant Bev Erasmus explains more about the work being done, and how MAF flights support it.

Fiaraha-miasa Lioka is a collection of primarily mother-tongue translators, from different Christian denominations, with a small ex-pat support group. We started Bible translation into five Malagasy languages in 2001, after intensive language research. There are now 16 languages involved, and we hope to start another five soon. This will mean at least some scripture available in most of the languages in Madagascar that need it.

‘MAF has been a close ally since the very beginning, and we have benefited from just about every aspect of their ministry, including technical advice (MAF provided our first internet connection before it was widely available), flights to and from hard-to-reach places (mostly subsidised), and facilitating collaboration between various mission partners. We have really appreciated MAF’s leadership and innovation over the years.

‘Some teams live in really difficult locations, or are very far from where translation workshops might be held. It was a great relief when MAF and Helimission could transport teams and consultants. When the Betsimisaraka South team came to their first translation workshop in Anstirabe some years back, they had walked four days to the nearest ‘bush-taxi’ station through mountains and rivers, and then travelled another day in the taxi itself. To this day that area has very poor infrastructure, practically no roads, but MAF has an airstrip, and have been helping the team to get to and from workshops.

‘Since Covid-19 struck, we have been trying to work out ways to help teams to progress in spite of the restrictions and obstacles that the pandemic has brought. Usually the translation teams gather together with other teams twice a year to receive training, to work with translation consultants from Wycliffe and SIL, and to exchange experiences and advice with each other. However it hasn’t been possible to hold these workshops since the beginning of 2020, and we needed to find ways to work together remotely, and to be able to provide training and support.

‘In December a local colleague and I were grateful to be able to take MAF flights to Mananara Avaratra in the north-east, to visit the Betsimisaraka North team, and to Antsiranana in the far north, to visit the Antakaraña team. We delivered laptops, projectors, printers, and smartphones to each team, and trained them to use the software used for Bible translation, and communications software. Previously neither of these teams had translators who were sufficiently computer literate. However translators in each team happened to have daughters who were unable to continue their work as teachers, and so have offered their services for computer input. And they have committed themselves to train their parents to use the software for the future.

‘Although we had only a few days for training during these trips, we could set them up with Zoom and Skype, and have now been able to continue the training remotely. Both teams have also been able to hold their own workshops remotely with their consultants, who are in the Netherlands and Norway. In addition, the Antakaraña team, who are split between two towns, are able to communicate and collaborate using software on their smartphones.’

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