The Tanala of Madagascar
Pray for the Tanala of Madagascar. They live in the forest of South East Madagascar, in difficult to reach areas. They are a large group and are skilled woodsmen, hunters and gatherers. They also practice slash and burn farming, which is discouraged by the government.They are animists and venerate the spirits found in the forest. Pray for Christian farmers to come and teach them another way to farm and another Way to live.
Location and Background: The Tanala people, also called Antanala, live in southeastern Madagascar and are separated from the coast by the Antaimoro and other ethnic groups. They are a large tribe of forest dwellers living inland. Their homeland separates the east coast from the central highlands. The Ranomafana National Park is located in the area of the Tanala. They are divided into two subgroups: the Tanala Menabe in the mountainous north and the Tanala Ikongo dwelling in the more accessible southern part. Tanala Menabe villages are isolated. They are built on mountain tops and are hidden in the dense forest.
History: At the time of the French conquest, the northern Tanala were under Merina domination while the southern Tenala still held many independent fiefdoms.
Culture: The Tanala are skilled woodsmen, food gatherers, and hunters. They trade beeswax, honey, and other forest products and engage in slash-and-burn agriculture, growing rice as a staple. The central government is encouraging the Tanala to use more modern agricultural methods in the cultivation of rice and coffee. The Tanala observe patrilineal descent and often live in large compounds consisting of a father and his sons or of a group of brothers. Their houses are usually built on stilts. Besides slash-and-burn agriculture, they grow rice, corn, yams and coffee. The traditional dance of the Tanala (Dombolo) has become widely recognized and popular.
Religion: The Tanala hold deeply to their traditional religious practices, which is based on animism and ancestor worship. They believe that there are spirits all around us in nature and that people must try to please the spirits. Animists usually live with a certain amount of fear that a spirit will be unhappy with them. Very few of the population is evangelical but there has been some church planting among them within the past two years.
Latest Prayer Updates:
Pray for Doris and Stanis. These two men each pastor a small church in two different areas. They are passionate about Jesus. Both are from a different tribe which means they still use a lot of ‘strange’ words while talking with people. Doris received the story set accompanied with recordings. This way he can practise the Bible stories in the Tanala language. Still, he and Stanis have a hard time understanding the need to use local dialects since the Bible is already available in the official (old) Malagasy language. They still assume that all Malagasy people understand the official language, but this isn’t the case for those in the villages who are unable to read and have spent their whole lives just hearing and speaking one specific dialect. Both men have been trained as pastors and as such have been taught that reading the Bible in the official (old) language is required.
Syncretism is a big problem among the Christians. Because of this they are still afraid of the spirits, which causes the unbelievers to doubt the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I have access to the kings and elders in the villages (among whom are several important witch-doctors). They listen to me and are surprised by the boldness of the Gospel. Pray that this fearless preaching will have an effect on the other Christians. Pray that they will repent from their syncretistic life style, experience freedom from fear in Christ, and share their testimony with others.