One Malagasy woman and the women who lined her path
By Mercy Kambura
Ramatoa Razarinia was one of the first Malagasy women to be sent as a missionary to the southeast coast of Madagascar. Born in 1867, she would go on to forge a path lined with women who moved mountains with her and for her. Like the Apostle Paul in Romans 16, who sends greetings to women who have worked hard in the Lord, so Razarinia’s life was full of such women.
Three queens of the Kingdom of Madagascar were placed in power at the right time, paving the way for missions work.
Queen Rasoherina ruled from 1863 to 1868. Her husband, King Radama, reinstated freedom of worship and the opening of schools. After his death, the queen pursued and expanded the scope of his actions. This opened doors for the growth in education that would mark missions in general and Razarinia’s calling in particular.
The next queen, Ranavalona II, made Christianity the faith of the royal court, further paving the way for Christian influence on the island during her 15-year reign.
It was her successor, Queen Ranvalona III, who hosted a farewell ceremony for Razarinia in the royal chapel at the time of Razarinia’s commissioning as a missionary in 1890.
Like Eunice, the mother of Timothy, Razarinia’s mother played a huge role in her conversion and missionary calling. Having established the church school in their hometown, she took Razarinia with her to school every day.
Accompanying her mother helped her adapt to the rhythm of school life. Aged seven, she entered the Girls High School managed by the Friends Foreign Mission Society in Faravohitra. After finishing her studies, she stayed as a teacher for seven years.
Her village was still unreached with the gospel and this saddened her, as did social ills like violence and alcoholism. Razarinia’s missionary calling was confirmed when a woman from the International Blue Cross arrived in Antananarivo with an agenda to fight alcoholism.
In addition to the women in her formative years, Ramatoa was influenced by women friends throughout her life. One was Razafinimanana. After two years of thorough preparation, they were sent together to the south east coast of Madagascar in 1890. They served at the busy Ambahy mission station where there were three priorities: education, medical work and evangelization.
Razarinia married the governor of nearby Farafangana, Rajonah, and they had a son, Gabriel. However, Rajonah was killed in 1895 during the Franco-Malagasy war.
Razarinia and her fellow missionaries eventually left the region in the care of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission and moved to the Betsileo high country. Always passionate about the welfare of young girls, she taught biblical studies and practical living skills in a teacher training college.
In Ambohimahasoa, Betsileo, she helped establish a girl’s school and stayed on to teach here for 23 years. She also taught girls employed as domestic help who had no other means of education.
Razarinia eventually left her adopted home in the Betsileo and returned to Antananarivo in December 1926. But the work was not yet done, and she found herself accepting more invitations to teach.
Razarinia remained active in church and missions even into retirement. On Christmas day 1946, Razarinia Ramatoa joined her Saviour in glory.
Further reading: https://dacb.org/stories/madagascar/razarinia/