Baptist Mission Work in Madagascar
It is commonly thought that Baptist work in Madagascar began in the mid-1930’s with a Welsh missionary named Brinley Evans who initially came to Madagascar with an organization focused on Scripture distribution. Sometime after arrival here he was baptized and became a Baptist. He started what became the first Malagasy Baptist church. Conservative Baptists were the first from America to send Baptist missionaries. These included Michel Neuman, Rich and Bonnie Shattenburg, and Clint and Kathy Akins, all of whom came in the ’70s.
Southern Baptists sent Bud Fray and Davis Saunders from the African continent to Madagascar on a reconnaissance trip in the mid-1970s, but at that time the climate was not favorable for American missionaries (due to Marxist experiment).
It was not until 1995 that Southern Baptists sent long-term people to live here, first under the leadership of Fred Sorrels (wife Sami). Though his assignment was initially agricultural ministry, Fred ended up developing an organization that did sports evangelism. He also did some relief work and evangelism in the provincial cities. After Fred, Harold Mitchell (wife Rene) served as Mission Administrator. Harold had done dental ministry in other parts of Africa prior to coming here. There were a number of personnel who served during this period either under Fred’s leadership or Harold as mission administrator: Ben and Candi Williams (relief work/MK teacher), Tim and Cathy Cummins (research), Tex and Wanda Selph (sports/ESL?), Jim and Marcia Richardson, Eddie and Donna Tabeling (sports), Betty and Wayne Brown, George and Margaret Johnson, Andrew and Susana Johnson, Bettie and Edward Lockwood (business mgr), David Baillie, Jerry Busbee (ESL), Laura May Chitwood, and Paula Ryken. I believe that all of the above personnel lived in Tana or its suburbs.
I’m not sure what all the roles for the above-mentioned folks were but have a clearer picture of the role for three other units. During this timeframe, the Blankenship’s (Billy and Dana) and Lechner’s (Charlie and Angie) came to Madagascar. The Blankenship’s did some language study west of Tana in a place where many Antandroy have migrated, then moved down to Fort Dauphin to begin ministry with the Antandroy people group. Their specialty was agricultural ministry. The Lechners did language study in Antsirabe, then moved to Ft. Dauphin to join the Blankenship’s, but had to leave due to medical reasons after only a month or two there. James and Cindy Strange also came while the Mitchells were here, assigned to oversee orientation and language learning. They left after about one year. The Mitchells retired from Madagascar in 2000.
After the Mitchells left, there were no IMB personnel on Madagascar until 2003 when the Spann’s (Matt and Lucinda; left the field) came. The next year, the Emeishes (Taisir and Kristi) came as well as the Booz (Sherri and Ben). Kyle and Suzanne Roberts came shortly thereafter to work as MK teachers for the Booz family. However, the Booz left after one year due to medical reasons, so the Roberts ended up doing a special research project on the people groups of Madagascar called “Backpackers Gone Mad”. In 2005, the Spann’s and Emeishes moved up to Tana. Next to come to Madagascar were the Barbours (Chuck and Amy; now in Port Elizabeth) and the Newtons (Jeremy and Angela) in 2006. After language study in Antsirabe, the Barbours moved to Toliara to begin work with the Mahafaly people and the Newtons moved to the rainforest (Kelilalina) to begin work with the Tanala people.
The next wave to come were the Wallers (Grant and Jodie), Allens (Michael and Michelle), and two journey girls (Tessa King and Melodie Conner) in 2008. After language study, the Wallers moved down to Toliara to work among the Mahafaly. Originally, they were going to be on the Mahafaly team led by Chuck Barbour but became team leaders when the Barbours left in 2009 in the wake of the Madagascar political crisis. The Allens moved up to Diego following language study to initiate work among the Antankarana people. Tessa and Melodie started a university/institute ministry in Tana, but Melodie left during the political crisis. Tessa continued this ministry alone after a brief evacuation. After Tessa completed her term in Tana, she took another ISC assignment, this time as an On-Site Coordinator for the Story Crafter training project in SW Madagascar, based out of Toliara.
The Norton family (Tim and Anna) were the next to arrive in 2009, along with two more journey girls (Cara Bergthold and Heather Teater). Following language study in Antsirabe, the Nortons, Cara, and Heather all moved to the rainforest to join Team Tanala. After this group, the Berry family (Andy and Christina) came in 2010 on a general call to Madagascar request. They had previously served as ISCers in Uganda. After language study, the Berrys moved up to Diego to join the Antankarana team. The Berry’s then moved to Mahajunga.
The Roberts (Steve and Nickolee) came in 2011 to begin language study in Antsirabe in preparation for serving with the Mahafaly team in SW Madagascar. In 2011 the Hailes (Adam and Suzie) serving the Antandroy people and Mitchells (ISC) serving the Antakarana people arrived and did language in Antsirabe and each went to their final destination with an extra stop for the Hailes in Toliara. At the same time, journeyman Nathan Baker and Doug Campbell came to serve on the SW Team working with the Mahafaly.
In 2012 the Jones family (Kurtis and Holly) arrived to work with the Northern Betsimisaraka. They did language in Antsirabe and then moved to Sambava. The Mahoney (Andy and Ruth) family followed shortly after and served in Antsirabe and Antananarivo as a smaller people group catalyst. Ashley Gruber arrived to be the homeschool teacher for the Hailes family and lived in Toliara and Fort Dauphin with them. The Hayes (Andrew and Kristen) came as journeymen to map out the Antanosy people. That same year Drew and Christina Smith arrived in Toliara to work on a social work program for the SW Team. Towards the end of 2012, the Snyder (Chandler and Kelly) family arrived to go south to work with the Antandroy people.
In 2013 the Minton family (John and Laurie) came to work with the Antanosy people and did language in Antananarivo. The Hoskins (Todd and Deborah) arrived to work with the Bara people group. Following them were the Sprankles (Ben and Erin) working with the Masikoro. Alongside all of them came the Fletcher family (Jason and Emily) working with the Vezo. Also, Brian Lehenbauer came to work with logistics. Rachel Gregory arrived that same year to work with the Hailes and Minton families as a Homeschool teacher in Fort Dauphin. Kayla and Amber came to Manakara as journeymen. They served on the SE Team and worked with the Antesaka.
In 2014 the Snipes (Andrew and Leah) came to work in the North but due to complications ended up working down South with the Antandroy people. Ancil Ragoonath came to work with the Antemoro people and David and Kristin
Washer came to work with the Antefasy people on the Southeast team and lived in Manakara. Melissa Smith came to be the homeschool teacher for the Waller and Sprankle family. The Espeland’s (Matt and Julie) arrived to do a Macedonia call four-year term and worked with the Tanala people. The Nedzel Family (Carl and Ann) came for about two months and lived in Toliara.
In 2017 Tiffany Dewett arrived from FBC Orlando to work with the Antemoro. The Baker (Nathan and Tessa) family came back to work with the Mahafaly as a married couple. The Fredenbergs (Brett and Katelyn) came to Fort Dauphin to work with the Antandroy as journeymen.
In 2018 the Phillips (Mark and Aimee) arrived to work with the Betsimisaraka and did language in Mahajanga with the Berry’s and currently live in Tamatave.
In 2019 the Garduce (Chris and Anna) family arrived to work with the Antanosy people in Fort Dauphin. The Lee family came to work as (City Servants) in Antananarivo.
In 2020 the Washer (David and Kristin) family returned as career to work with the Antandroy in Fort Dauphin.