That a Betsileo man should give up an official position as a native governor in order to return to being a simple parish pastor - that is a story worth telling, and such is the story of Andriamampihantona.
c.1868 to 1928
Andriamampihantona was born in Iakarina, in the district of Fihasinana, in Madagascar. His quick mind had caught the attention of a missionary named Nilsen-Lund, who invited him to pursue his studies in Ambatofinandrahana. He became a Christian while attending the teacher training college there and went on to the seminary in Masinandraina (near Antsirabe), which eventually led to his ordination as a pastor, in 1893. He had learned Norwegian during all his time spent with Norwegian missionaries, and when the island was annexed by France in 1896, he also learned French. The political changeover entailed certain difficulties, and Andriamampihantona's church was taken away from him and turned into a Catholic church. His stubbornness throughout the ordeal landed him in jail. Upon gaining his freedom however, being an educated and dignified man, he was asked to become the Governor of North Betsileo, and he was offered a home in Ambositra. In agreement with, and with the assent of the missionaries, he considered the offer to be of divine origin, and he took the position, holding it for several years. At first, everyone was surprised that he didn't take out any reprisals on those who had sent him to prison. But he never forgot that he was a pastor, and he actually mentioned this fact in his official correspondence until he was formally told to stop doing so.
At that time, the most common offense was clandestine gold washing. Without being rough, he would interrogate people, rebuke the guilty parties, and hand out lenient penalties. Although he was congratulated for this by his supervisors, slanderous persons accused him of being partial and dishonest. Investigations proved that he was honest and was acting in good faith, but he was so discouraged by the whole ordeal that he went back to his pastorate in Ambatofinandrahana, even though the pay was significantly lower. He carried out his ministry there for almost twenty-five years, and served on many church commissions (1906, 1911-1912). It was probably because he was often heavily bereaved that he wrote seven hymns for the Lutheran hymnal on death and eternal life, hymns that praise the consolation that comes from complete faith in God.
Having become very weak, he died on April 14, 1928.
A. Snekkenes, L. Molet
This article, reprinted here with permission, is taken from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d'Outre-Mer [Men and Destinies: Overseas Biographical Dictionary], vol. 3, published in 1977 by the Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer (15, rue la Pérouse, 75116 Paris, France). All rights reserved.