Jurgen & Katja Hofmann serve in a remote village in Madagascar. Here they share some of the challenges about where they live.
“Living in a rural area is beautiful. Lovely nature and a calm life…” The reality can be quite different though, especially when there are no doctors nearby, no supermarkets, no clean drinking water, no electricity, poor telephone reception, and a road that is not always drivable.
We live in Maroamboka among the Tanala, sharing the gospel with them in their heart language. What a joy it is to see people respond positively! But, there are challenges to living here.
Who are the Tanala?
The Tanala people, also called Antanala, live in the inland forests of south eastern Madagascar. Their name means ‘people of the forest’. With a population of 1,200,000, the Tanala represent 6% of the population in Madagascar. They are skilled woodsmen, food gatherers, and hunters. Many of the Tanala live in small, hard to reach villages, enduring difficult living conditions. Often, they are suspicious and afraid of foreigners, as well as of other Malagasy people groups.
The Tanala hold deeply to their traditional religious practices, which are based on animism and ancestor worship. They believe there are spirits all around us and that people must try to please the spirits. Like most Animists they live with a certain amount of fear that a spirit will be unhappy with them. They are considered to be one of the least reached people groups in Madagascar.
We had a visit from a fellow missionary. It had already rained for days. On the day of her departure the road was flooded. Normally it takes more than an hour to drive the 19 kilometre road. Now, we doubted we could get out at all. Eventually, we did manage, and returning home we said to each other, “Hopefully nothing will go wrong now, there is no way we can get out with the car again.”
That night I couldn’t sleep. I was in terrible pain and vomiting faeces. Katja searched for a spot with a decent signal and rang some doctor friends. They could only guess at what was wrong and advised me to get to a hospital. Easier said than done. Katja decided to call Helimission. Due to the bad weather it took the helicopter six hours to arrive and another three to get to the hospital.
To our relief the problem was ‘only’ kidney stones and not something life threatening and I was home within two weeks – but how do you know whether to take a risk?