A Truly Amazing Women of God
One of the guest speakers at the C/SIS 2003 Women of the ELCA Biennial Convention was a short, vibrant, engaging woman from Madagascar by the name of Toromare Mananato.
At that time, I didn't know how she would engage me, inspire me or affect my life. Our president, Robin Bert, had gone with the bishop on a mission trip to Madagascar when the newly founded ELCA had established the Sister Synod program. Our Central/Southern Illinois Synod had chosen part of Madagascar, and a representative group was sent there to learn about the people and the very well-established Malagasy Lutheran Church.
As they were shown various facilities that the church funded or supported in some way, our synodical group met Toromare who was running a Bible school. Here people learned to read and write in English as well as in their own language. Toromare thought that learning English was essential to the advancement of her people, and she was also fervently trying to spread the Gospel any way that she could. So, she needed as many English Bibles as she could obtain. We sent Bibles, dictionaries, and bicycles as part of our synod's outreach. Robin Bert was so impressed with Toromare’s zest for living, and her tremendous faith and courage, that she asked Toromare to come to America in September of 2003. She wanted Toromare to explain what she did in her country, how much she had a heart for the Gospel and missionary work, and how she was trying to become a pastor in Madagascar even though women at that time were not allowed to become pastors. Even Toromare's father, himself a pastor, discouraged her from proceeding with her plan to go to seminary. As a result, Toromare was the guest speaker at our Biennial in 2003 and while in Springfield visiting and speaking at all our ELCA churches here, she stayed in my home. One night we were driving home from a meeting at Grace Lutheran in Springfield and thunder rumbled across the sky. Lightning flashed and the streets were flooded, especially underpasses. We had quite an exciting ride home and Toromare was not afraid. She said that she wished it would rain like this in her own country where rain is much needed and drought frequent. One evening standing in my bathroom she asked if Americans took a shower every day. Washing was a real treat in Madagascar and usually it was out of a bucket when there was enough water. After this visit Robin approached our C/SIS Women of the ELCA board of which I was mission chair and asked if we could support a fund-raising effort to educate Toromare at one of our seminaries. Eventually after many speeches, articles and pleas for money our women's group was able to send Toromare first to a special college to learn better English and then to Wartburg Seminary in Iowa where she studied to become a pastor. In doing this we partnered with our church's Global Missions unit. Later when Diana Krueger, and then I, became president, we encouraged our ladies to support Toromare's job as the Secretary General of her own Malagasy Lutheran Women's Association. We funded a house which the women could rebuild and repair so that they could open a wayfarers’ house for visitors. This would serve as a mission project and allow the women to earn some money for their own group which badly needed funds. While this was going on, Toromare was also busy visiting and treating the sick in the prisons in her region as well as guiding teachers in ways to spread the Word of God in their schools and churches. Meanwhile, she had two serious motorcycle accidents. She was using that mode of transportation to get around to her various jobs and was very badly burned in both accidents. Because of her adventures on motorcycles our synodical Women of the ELCA bought her a car. Now she is faced with the cost of maintaining the car and perhaps that will be another undertaking which we will take on. We cannot know what it is to walk in Toromare's shoes because life is so different in her country. We can pray for her and her various ministries and support her as we are able. The past couple of years she has been elected as the only woman on the board of the Malagasy Lutheran Church, which is a great honor. However, she is still not an ordained pastor, but she is certainly doing her job to foster the Kingdom of God. Respectfully yours, Mary Plymire, Past President C/SIS Women of the ELCA