Homepage
Home Read stories Africa maps The Project Resources Our Writers News

Rajaofera, Daniel
1885 to 1936
Protestant, Lutheran (NMS)
Madagascar

Daniel Rajaofera, also called Baba Rafaofera (Father), lived in Vatotsara, in the region of Antsirabe where Norwegian Lutheran missionaries were already working. He was born on March 9, 1885, to Pastor Radaniela and his wife Ramarianjanahary, and was raised in a Christian milieu. As a youth he was very active in the parish his father led in Vohitsara: he taught in the Sunday school, he directed the choir, and he played the organ. He also enjoyed photography.

He studied at the Teacher's College of the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) in Ivory-Fianarantsoa, then in Antsirabe. For one year, he taught in a school of the Lutheran mission, but he had to leave that position because of poor health.

At one point, his brother Daniel Rajosvah, who was a writer and translator in Mananjary, invited him to spend some vacation time in his home. He found work there in the police department and was transferred to Tamatave. He married Christine Ranjavao, a native of Ambohinapetraka Vatotsara, in Tamatave in 1908. Because of recurrent health problems, he left his position there in 1912 to devote himself to photography and agriculture.

He was sent out as an evangelist to the province of Tulear (Ambohibe, Befandriana) because he spoke the sakalava dialect of that region well.

News of what had been happening at the Toby Manolotrony (Manolotrony revival center) with the evangelist Neny ("Mother") Ravelonjanahary [1] reached him in Vatotsara. Out of curiosity, but also in the hope of getting healed and of making some money by taking pictures of Neny Ravelonjanahary, he left for Manolotrony in 1927.

However, God had other plans... When he arrived there, he was surprised by the number of people that were waiting to be seen. During the long wait he began to hum a song and without realizing it, he began to sing more loudly. He had a nice voice and the people were enjoying his singing, so he decided to teach them a song. From inside the house, Neny Ravelonjanahary could hear his nice voice, and she prophesied that Jesus needed that man. She called him in, had a talk with him, and laid hands on him. He was completely healed of his sickness and he felt that an inner peace had come into him. The Christian education his parents had given him earlier (and that he had nearly forgotten), came back to him, and the urge he felt to get rich left him.

During the time he spent in Manolotrony he received training as a pastor-evangelist and he was asked to take over the secretarial work of the center. He thought that Neny Ravelonjanahary's teaching was marvelous.

When his training was over he returned to Vatotsara and began his mission as an evangelist. On Easter Sunday in 1928 he was leading a worship service in the parish of Vohitsara. While Rajaofera was praying, the Holy Spirit came over the congregation and all the sick people who were present there were healed.

On one occasion he was called to Mandoto (Antsirabe), to the bedside of Pastor Rajaonesa, who was afflicted with double pneumonia. The doctors were unable to do anything further that might heal him. He was in the throes of death when Rajaofera prayed for him. He then asked that a jar of cold water be brought and that Rajaonesa drink from it, and that the rest of the water be poured over his body. The doctor who was present objected, but Rajaofera said, "When doctors can't do anything, God has solutions; you will see God's glory." Right after that, the sick man was healed and he got up out of bed.

The doctor was astonished and asked Rajaofera to accompany him to Antananarivo, where he could help him to heal sick people. But Rajaofera did not stay with him long, as he preferred to continue his mission as an evangelist in the Lutheran parish of Ambatovinaky-Antananarivo. News that sick people had been healed, that handicapped people had been rehabilitated, and that demons had been cast out during meetings he was leading made its way to Antananarivo and the surrounding area. His main message consisted in convincing people that that they should throw out their idols and believe in Jesus-Christ, who would then be their Savior. Many people were indeed convinced of this, and they brought their idols to him for burning.

Ramiaramanana, who was also called Iombimanana, was a famous ombiasa (diviner) who was the guardian of the tomb of Andriambodilova in Anosisoa-Ambohimanarina. He wanted to defy Rajaofera and convince his followers about the power of Andriambodilova, who was a deceased king that he venerated. He believed that this deceased king had the power to heal and to meet the various needs that people had. He heard that Rajaofera was coming to preach in Anosivavaka-Ambohimanarina on Sunday, September 8, 1929, which happened to be the feast day of Andriambodilova. He invited journalists and film-makers to come and cover the event. The newspaper Diavolana got involved as well, and printed up a big headline: "Hampiady Andriamanitra i Iombomanana sy Jaofera"("The Gods of Iombimanana and the God of Jaofera Will go to War!").

On Saturday, September 7, there was a prayer vigil in the parish of Betafo-Ambohimanarina. Very early in the morning of Sunday the 8th, people started traveling towards Ambohimanarina. The congregations of the Protestant parishes of Antananarivo came out in large numbers, as did those of the churches of Vatotsara, the parish of Rajaofera. The meeting was held in the Protestant church of Anosivavaka-Ambohimanarina, which was tightly packed with people both inside and out. On the way, the crowd was singing hymns, and it is a surprising fact that, in spite of the distance that separated the beginning and the end of the convoy (which stretched out for several kilometers), the same hymns were being sung all along it, and they were ending at the same time!

Inside, Rajaofera was leading the meeting, and he ended his sermon by saying, "Today you will see God's glory!" As the congregation was praying while saying "Masina, Masina Jehovah Tompo, feno ny voninahitrao izao rehetra izao" (Holy, Holy, Lord Jehovah, the whole earth is full of your glory), a light in the form of a rainbow entered the room and descended on the pulpit where he was officiating. White smoke came from the pulpit and spread about, especially among the people who were praying and repenting. Outside, the crowd saw that the sun had been covered by a white cloud that made it look like a full moon that was descending while revolving. It came very near the spire of the church but did not touch it, then went back up. Everyone was ecstatic!

On the other side, around the tomb of Andriambodilova, Ramiaramanana had brought singers who were playing drums and performing folk dances. However, unexpectedly, the two zebus that had been set apart to be sacrificed had run away for good, and a thick cloud of mosquitoes covered the tomb and the surrounding area. The people scattered so they wouldn't be bitten by the mosquitoes, and Ramiaramanana the ombiasa couldn't do anything. God had won. Several eyewitnesses gave accounts of what had occurred, including some journalists and film-makers.

The worship service continued the next day, September 9, in Anosisoa-Ambohimanarina. Baskets full of idols and fetishes brought by new converts were burned. The faith of the Christians there was strengthened. The eight surrounding parishes of Ambohimanarina continue to commemorate the 7th, 8th, and 9th of September to this day.

Daniel Rajaofera did meet with some difficulties during his mission work as an evangelist. He was denounced by government officials who were jealous of his success for being someone who disturbed the peace. However, the missionaries helped him, and the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

Pastor Mondain, who was a missionary with the French Protestant Mission (MPF) [2] had this to say about him:
On two occasions I attended prayer meetings that were led by Daniel Rajaofera. His preaching was based on evangelization and on encouraging people to be truly repentant. However, it was his prophetic gift that surprised me the most. During one of the meetings I attended, a stranger approached him. Rajaofera addressed him, saying: "You are a Catholic, and you bought some fetishes a few days ago." The man admitted as much. Rajaofera kept on looking at him and he told him that he wouldn't be able to do anything for him because he wasn't telling the whole truth. He told him to go find the sticks he had just bought from a sorcerer, and that he would then see about things.

Another time, a well-dressed, respectable woman approached him. Rajaofera told her: "Don't come near me until you have thrown away your fetishes." She answered, saying that she didn't have any. He reproached her for lying and said that he could see the fetishes that were kept under her pillow! The woman, embarrassed, left to go get the fetishes. Rajaofera did not even know her. [translation from Malagasy by the author]
Rajaofera had two distinguishing traits: he knew how to reveal what was hidden in people's hearts, and he had the audacity of saying things that were difficult to believe. One day, for example, there was a witch who intended to disturb him, along with his family. He told his wife: "Don't be afraid, because you will see her tomorrow morning." That is what happened, because the witch was still there the next morning, having been unable to move from where she had been.

His prayer life gave him great strength and helped him to accomplish miraculous things, even unto raising the dead. He died on August 16, 1936, after having carried out his mission as an evangelist from 1927 to 1936, during which time he had worked almost everywhere in the island.

Berthe Raminosoa Rasoanalimanga


Notes:

1. Toby Manolotrony was the second [largest] revival center, after the revival center in Soatanàna. It was established after the conversion of Neny Ravelonjanahary.
2. The French Protestant Mission (MPF) was the third Protestant mission to arrive in Madagascar (1897). The London Missionary Society (LMS) had arrived in 1818, and the Quakers, which are still called the Friends Foreign Mission Association (FFMA), had arrived in 1867. Pastor Gustave Mondain was one of the first missionaries sent by the MPF.



Bibliography:

James Rabehatonina, Tantaran'ny Fifohazana eto Madagasikara (1894-1990) [History of the revival movements in Madagascar] (Imarivolanitra: Trano Printy FJKM, 1991).
Tiana Hanitriniala Razohajamanana, "Baba Rajaofera ou Rajaofera Daniel: Tantaran'ny 7, 8, 9 septembre 1929 tao Ambohimanarina" [The story of September 7, 8, and 9, 1929, in Ambohimanarina], Final paper written for the conclusion of coursework at SETELA (A theological society for training laypersons).
Zoly Ramangarivo, "Trakitra: Tsiahin'ny 8 septembre 1929 teny Anosivavaka Ambohimanarina" [A pamphlet in memory of September 8, 1929, in Anosivavaka Ambohimanarina].


This article, which was received in 2008, was researched and written by Berthe Raminosoa Rasoanalimanga, directress of the Centre National des Archives FJKM from 1984 to 2007, and DACB Project Luke scholar for 2008-2009.