In spite of the fact that he remained virtually unknown in Madagascar, professor Rajaobelona was very instrumental in making Madagascar known in Norway, and he had a direct influence on hundreds of notable Malagasy people (many of whom were Lutheran pastors) during the course of his forty-two year teaching career.
1867 to 1938
In the days of the Merina kingdom, his father Randrianaivo was a counselor to the throne, and he was frequently called to the palace for consultations. Following an obscure attempted coup d'état that was blamed on his father, he was condemned to forced labor in the lime kilns of Antsirabe. It was while he was there that some Norwegian Lutheran missionaries from the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS) noticed him. S. E. Jörgensen received permission from Randrianaivo and his wife, Ravelonjanahary, to take their son, Rajaobelona, to Antananarivo as a student. He lived with his tutors and he was treated by them like a son, so he not only became fluent in Norwegian, but he also learned English and ancient Greek. He continued his studies at the pastoral school in Masinandraina, was ordained as a pastor in 1893, and began his ministry in Fianarantsoa. When the Lutheran seminary in Ivory (Fianarantsoa) opened in 1896, Rajaobelona was called upon to be a professor of Old Testament and of practical theology. He enjoyed such a high degree of prestige that his students, without malice, referred to him as "the noble lord, Ingahiandriana." He subsequently went to France to do two more years of supplementary theological studies, and then undertook a long voyage that went from one end of Norway to the other. During that trip he preached in various churches in Norwegian, and his most noted sermon was preached in Trondheim on the subject of the Good Samaritan.
When he returned to Ivory he took up teaching again, and he showed talent in poetry and drawing as well. He translated several hymns from Norwegian to Malagasy, ten of which are in the hymnbook of the Lutheran Malagasy Church, and he was also active in his church, where he served on the literature and music committee. He also wrote a commentary on Isaiah in Malagasy, a commentary that is still in use today in Ivory and in several Bible schools. He gave good counsel to many people, and although he eventually reached the age of retirement, he continued to teach until his death, which occurred in January of 1938.
A. Snekkenes, L. Molet
"Heviteny Esaia" (commentary on the book of Isaiah).
ten hymns in the Lutheran Hymnbook.
The above article, reprinted here by permission, is from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d'Outre-Mer [People and Destinies: an 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.