We've mentioned Pastor Toria before in our blog...most recently he is one of the pastors who helped lead the Lay Leadership Training in the bush. Please read Steve's account of his most recent visit with Toria...
This past week during our bush trip to Mahafaly land we decided to go by and visit Pastor Toria in Beheloka. Like always, we did our formal greetings with him and his family and asked him what was new there. He proceeded to tell us that he was glad that we had come by because he did not know if we would have seen him again if his family had moved. We were confused and asked for more explanation because we did not know they were looking to move. He told us that they were in the process of making a decision as to whether or not to stay in Beheloka and continue to do ministry.
While fighting back tears he began to share how hard life was there for him and his family in Beheloka. They have been there eight years now and for the first four years there, they slept in the kitchen of a church member's house; yes, not an extra bedroom, but the kitchen. After that time, they were able to build a tiny house that barely fit their entire family. He and his wife have four kids and they have adopted one more. Two years ago they built a little bigger house, but still small, next to the tiny one where he and his wife slept with the baby. The older kids slept in the tiny house until it burned down last year and they were left with one house again.
Also, for the past eight years they have struggled to get fresh water since Beheloka is a coastal town and all the water is salty. Food is another thing that has been hard on them. The town they live in does not have a huge market with tons of vegetables and many days they can only find cassava to eat. For the first seven years there, Toria would go out daily and catch fish to be able to provide meat for his family, but it was hard on him to do that and be a pastor. Earlier this year he decided to give up fishing and focus more on his ministry at the church and his three nearby preaching points. That put a huge burden on his family with food as well.
Please understand that I am talking about a rural bush village that he lives in. There is no electricity or running water. The name of the town literally means "Big Sin." He is the only pastor that lives in that town. The Catholic and Lutheran priests just stop in occasionally. He also goes out into three other nearby villages and preaches the gospel, some of which take an hour to get to on foot. He has been a catalyst in starting a church in one town just south of Beheloka in the past year that already has a building and has 50 to 60 meeting there each Sunday morning.
Some of their recent struggles have been sickness. His whole family got really sick back in July and they have been battling sickness ever since. More recently, his wife had to be brought into Tulear to receive treatment. She has a serious and painful medical issue, the doctor sent her home to Beheloka with medicine, but she now needs to come back to Tulear for more treatment and meds. This provides another stress on their family in a financial way.
I have written all of this information here about this great, Godly man for you to be able to lift him and his family up in your prayers. We learned yesterday that his decision as of now is to stay in Beheloka. He traveled up to Tulear to talk to his supervisor yesterday and other pastors along his route encouraged him. While here in Tulear, he also learned that if he leaves his town, that the church in Tulear will probably not be able to find another pastor that would be willing to live in Beheloka because they know how hard it is to live there.
Please join us in praying for Toria, his family, and his ministry in Beheloka.