Letter of March 1 st 2004 from Jacques Gaillot
Impressions of Madagascar





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Impressions of Madagascar

Tananarive I was coming for the first time in this country. The Spiritan missionaries invited me to animate a spiritual retreat in Tananarive. As first contact I thought that I ought to go to the bush. It was a delight for me to cross the high lands and to go down to the East coast on the Indian Ocean, with the forest surrounded by red lands, a landscape full of harmony, with numerous rice fields. And along the roads, people marching with dignity. 

In spite of the rain, I went for a walk round the village market. I saw two children exhausted by carrying on their shoulders a log with two stacks of cut wood hanging at the ends. They were walking slowly through the market displays watching for an eventual buyer. In vain. I had pity for these children coming from the forest after a walk of 6 kms! Children who were not attending school.

My companion got an idea: I am going to ask some people that I know to buy this wood. They did it willingly. We called on the children. I helped them to unload their burden. How heavy was this wet wood! Both having got their money; at once they went back to the forest. 


We were four of us to leave the Mission by car to go towards the capital, feeling we could expect some problems on our way. Effectively the first floating bridge happened to be impassable. It was raining. We had to leave the car in a safe place. Where to put our eight piece of luggage except in a modest hut by the path? The family man accepted to keep them, the luggage were taking a good part of the hut. The mother was smiling with her baby in her arms. Three children were looking at us with an amused curiosity. The father looked like an icon figure, peaceful and with dignity. How could they support themselves? Such poverty for this family! They did not own anything but the essential, family love, isn't it?

avec mon ami On Saturday afternoon I visited Pedro, a friend who came to Evreux on an Easter day. He is a well-known missionary in Madagascar.  
Since more than twenty years he has been building villages on the rubbish dumps for the poor with the poor, making them proud of themselves. Driving his car he was explaining the origin of his years of work with people living in unbelievable conditions of misery. He took up the challenge to change things with them. His work is remarkable. Today villages are put up with better houses adorned with flowers, real streets with pavement, and true squares with shops. As soon as Pedro was getting out of his car, a gathering of children met him with joy. The adults came to him to shake hand with respect. He knew all of them by name and their history. It was impressive to see this man, having the energy to undertake, to make the things possible, to communicate his energy and above all not giving up!

porter la lumière Before my departure I celebrated mass with him on Sunday. In the gymnasium, a crowd of 3 500 people were gathered.  
It was the feast of the light. Every one was having a lighted candle. When every body raised his candle it was like a glowing flame. This crowd was bringing light and was aware of its dignity. Each village was animating the liturgy by its dances, songs and applauds.
The mass lasted more than two hours, but I did not find it too long. I left Madagascar happy to see this man bringing hope to these poor people and courage to many for the future.