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Reform Magazine | July 15, 2024

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Partners across the ocean - Reform Magazine

Partners across the ocean

The first missionaries to Madagascar in 1818 were from Wales. A group visiting from Wales this year found that relationships between these countries still matter

In July, a group of 11 people from churches around Wales made a two-week visit to the east African island of Madagascar – the latest instalment in an international relationship that has lasted 30 years. Over that time, more than 30 Malagasy volunteers have come to serve God in Penrhys, helping in Sunday School, homework club, craft club, café and primary school.

The visit was organised by husband and wife Miara Rabearisoa and Rebecca Lalbiaksangi. He is from Madagascar and works for the Presbyterian Church of Wales in Montgomery, where Rebecca – originally from India – was ordained in October. They have served in Wales since they came to Penrhys in 2011 with the Council for World Mission (CWM).

Sharon Rees, who was paying her fifth visit to Madagascar, says, ‘There are so many connections between Llanfair and our brothers and sisters in Madagascar. They have contributed so much; we have learnt much from each other and friendships have continued and grown over the years.’..

Fiona Liddell is an elder at Beulah United Reformed Church, Cardiff


This is an extract from an article published in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of Reform

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  1. Edward Thomas & Helen Thomas

    Dear Fiona Liddell,
    We found your article in REFORM headed “first missionaries to Madagascar in 1818 were from Wales” very interesting as my wife Helen is the daughter of Leonard Maurice Williams (1903-2081) who, with his wife Mary, were missionaries at Imerimandroso (Lake Alaotra) between 1934 and 1940. Leonard was principal of the Theological College in the town, but spent extensive periods in the surrounding district visiting isolated churches. We have a photograph of him finalising his sermons whilst on the move suspended in a chair carried by 4 men. He was not directly from Wales, having been born in West Bromwich, but was of Welsh extraction.

    Sadly Helen’s elder sister Alison Janet Williams died of malaria there as a baby. In October 2018 we travelled by road to Imerimandroso to visit her grave which was one of 5 in the European section of the field, the headstones still recognisable if overgrown. We arrived unannounced and found the church minister was out of town, but were taken around
    the mission compound by the present head teacher and her husband. It was a wonderful experience as we were able to locate most places shown on copies of old family
    photographs(the originals are in the London School of Oriental Studies).

    Meanwhile we have noted Mr Miara Rabearisoa’s comments in you article, and have also
    located his earlier REFORM article of Feb 2021 and wonder whether he and his wife are
    still in Wales. We would be very happy to share our copies of visit experiences, old family photographs, and visit photographs.

    Best regards
    Edward & Helen Thomas
    Immanuel URC Swindon.

    We were not disappointed

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