[sam-ba-chra] blessed to be happy|happy to be blessed

The Madagascar Ates Final

Here’s a snapshot of our final retreat with the YAGM Madagascar crew.  It was a blessing of worship, laughter, God’s Creation, and beautiful conversation.  Sambatra izahay…we are blessed!


After finishing two weeks of delightful site visits with the Mad YAGM, and have many conversations about leave taking, the last two months, how will we say goodbye, (as well as Austin and I doing much of our own goodbyes to communities and leaders) Espi captured just what goodbye might mean.  Read Below and Enjoy! 

Orginally posted by Christina Espegren:

“Stay alive!” That’s right, the Malagasy word for goodbye is the word life [velona] in the command form [at least that’s what my Malagasy tutor assures me, the subtleties of Malagasy grammar are far beyond me].

Why am I saying goodbye you ask? Didn’t I just get to Madagascar? That’s how I feel – that is, when I’m not feeling the exact opposite, which has happened on more than one occasion, being a world away from my California home. But alas, in 7 short weeks I will be taking my leave of the Malagasy community that graciously hosted me for 11 months, and bidding them “stay alive” until next I see them.

But, as the end nears, I’m faced with the question, what does “veloma” that really mean? Keep breathing! Don’t go and die on me! Well, yes, hopefully that, and more.

During our YAGM orientation, the Global Mission staff promised to mess with our heads so that we might come back and mess with the heads of our sending communities [that’s right, I’m talking about you]. And I can assure you that this open-hearted, polluted, boisterous, pick-pocket ridden little piece of Madagascar that I’ve called home for a year has messed with my head. The challenge now is how the people I’ve formed relationship with, and the experiences I’ve had stay alive in me.

How do I take a year’s worth of living among a Malagasy family, choir, church, neighborhood and have this time inform how I live into the future and my call in the kingdom of God? I do not have an answer to this question, as I know it is all too easy to conveniently forget; to ignore that email from a friend asking for a favor because they seem [and are] a world away, to return to habits of excessive spending even though I know my students here share erasers because they can’t afford to buy their own.

So, I am asking you all to help me keep Madagascar alive. To sit through those boring stories I tell about my host brother and sister. To be gentle with me when I set foot in a Costco the first, second and third time, because that is going to be weird for a while. And most importantly, to ask questions. But please, for the love, do not ask, “How was Madagascar?” because all you will receive in reply is a deer in the headlights. That is a question for people who don’t want to have their heads messed with!

But, just as important, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I will stay alive here in Madagascar. Being a YAGM, you hear about other former YAGMs, from coordinators, host communities, random people you meet in hotels that find out you’re a missionary. Whether you try to or not, you leave a legacy with someone. But, with less than two months left, it is easier for me to check-out, coast through class with no lesson plan, stop trying to learn Malagasy, skip choir practice, preoccupy myself with future plans. But if I’m not truly living here while I’m here, I won’t stay alive in my community when I’m living on the other side of the planet.

So I keep living. This month I joined a zumba class in my neighborhood with my host mom and her sister-in law, started giving presentations about gender based violence with my friend Sthela, and committed to weighing babies every Tuesday morning until I leave. And yes, these might be small additions, but it feels good to live into the close of my service here, and into the beginning of my service elsewhere, because in Madagascar goodbye isn’t really goodbye, but a reminder of our call to be alive in Christ and in community.

The term “life-giving” is a YAGM buzz word for experiences that fulfill you and affirm your life and purpose. But, the term becomes even more apt when we realize that life-giving experiences usually are a result of giving some your life for someone or something else – dedicating your time and efforts to a person or purpose.

So I leave you with this command, “Veloma daholo! Stay alive everyone!” and remember, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” [Matt 16:25]

Meet the new Mad YAGM Coordinator!

Pastor Kirsten Laderach is the new Madagascar Young Adults in Global Missions (YAGM) country coordinator.  Kirsten arrived to Madagascar in March to travel with us around the island for one month to soak in the Malagasy culture.

Pastora Kirsten

Pastora Kirsten

She then returned to the States for the Discernment, Interview, Placement weekend, held in Chiacgo, where she meet 10 new young adults who will come to Madagascar this August!

We are excited for Kirsten and the new journey she is embarking on.  Please support her, as she transitions into this new role, we know that we could not have done it without you all.  You can follow her blog at:

If you would like to continue your missionary support you can be in contact with ELCA Mission Support: or by visiting them at:

New Callings

Three years ago, we hit the ground running to grow and develop the ELCA’s vision of having a YAGM program in Madagascar.  What a blessing it has been to serve alongside the Malagasy Lutheran Church to foster a dream of volunteer service into a reality.  Coordinating this program has revealed to us so much of what God is up to in the world. The young adults we have had the privilege to lead and walk with, on their journey of accompaniment, has shown us the beautiful work within the Holy Spirits’ woven world.

We give thanks with great joy to you for y’alls support and love over the years.  For now, the time has come for us to seek new callings and want to let you know that we are ending our service as ELCA Country Coordinators.  But don’t you worry, the YAGM program will carry on in Madagascar with a new leader, Pastor Kirsten Laderach.

We Trust the Beautiful Promises Ahead

We Trust the Beautiful Promises Ahead

It’s been a privilege to serve with the ELCA Global Missions here in Madagascar, but sure feel good about handing off the YAGM program for its next stage of growth and development, and look forward to where God is leading us next.

And don’t you worry, our pup, Puba, will be making the next journey with us!

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