Monday, December 31, 2012

Week 10 in Ambohimanarina

In which we learn about the Christmas package.  Not sure what was missing, though…

Subject:  "Are you telling me you made a time machine... out of a Delorian??"

Well, I'm never really sure how to start these. Hello. That should work.

Suffice it to say, these week has both been awesome and difficult. First off, Christmas. We had a little party with the other missionaries in our zone on Christmas Eve, with a white elephant thing. I ended up with this awesome painting of some baobab trees. P1020381Booyah. Then we had to come home. Thanks to it being so close to Christmas, it took about a billion years to get from Analakely back to our area. It was a really long trip. Just a ton of traffic. But we were in a taxi, so it was pretty comfortable. Relatively. So we all kind of slept. Good times.

On Christmas we were just supposed to do some service, which we did. Elder Landon and I brought a bunch of rice and bananas to Pascal and his family (who I got a picture with), Francis and Josiene (and a toy for their daughter), and Leonce and his family (parenthesis). We shared a little spiritual thought with each family, and watched "Finding Faith in Christ" with two of them. There was a little disappointment at one of the times, just because a certain somebody had been drinking, when they had told us that they had quit. And he was kind of a jerk to his wife for her not being ready. Apparently she had been planning to make some food for us, but we came by earlier than we had told her, so she didn't have time. But he was drunk, and it wasn't very fun.

P1020383Other than that, we opened presents! I got an orange for my stocking and an umbrella hat from Elder Randall, which was pretty dang awesome, and... let's see. I got this crazy little puzzle ball thing, which is kind of weird, because it came with instructions on how to solve it. Kind of defeats the purpose of a puzzle, don't you think? But I didn't look at the instructions, and still solved it. I still got the magic. Anyway, I also got a Huggy Pet, which is apparently a make-shift Pillow Pet. And it's super cool. His name is Timmy. And I got a rather delightful Ducks football, and a Frisbee thing. Sweet. Ultimate Frisbee Football, here we come.

P1020382Mom and Dad, I also am working on sending a picture of the box when I opened it, just because there was some free space that didn't seem very... Arrington-package like. Probably stolen from en route. Oh well. But there was also Cracklin' Oat Bran, which has pretty much made this the best package ever. Delicious cerealness.

And that was pretty much Christmas. And we watched 17 Miracles, which was great. But now, back to missionary work.

The work here has been going pretty good, but with a few difficulties. Our biggest problem is just getting people to follow through on their commitments, particularly attending church. There's one lady that we found pretty close to when I came to Madagascar, named Arlette, and she keeps promising that she'll come to church. And then Sunday rolls around... and she has "other stuff to do". On Saturday we kind of P1020386broke it down for her. She keeps saying that she's been getting a bunch of blessings from God already for just reading the Book of Mormon (like one verse per day) and praying. To Jesus. We keep telling her that's wrong, but she doesn't change it. Anyway, Saturday we told her that if she does not come to church, God will take away the blessings He's given them. He say that it's enough to follow a couple of His commandments and ignore the rest. YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW ALL OF THEM. We finally committed with her (again) to come to church. We talked about how her schedule would be on Sunday, what things she could do before or after church so that she could attend. And at church yesterday, guess who didn't attend? Her. So that made us pretty sad.

We have another lady named Lily, who hasn't been coming to church because of her work. She came a couple weeks ago, but the week after that her boss got mad at her, and she hasn't been able to attend since then. We keep telling her that if work is going to be in the way of church, then she has to find a way to get Sundays off, or leave the job. Her situation is a little more understandable than Arlette's, because if she doesn't work, her family is going to have a really hard time getting along. She needs a job. But that job is getting in the way of church attendance, and that means that she (and the rest of her family) are having their baptism date pushed back. It was supposed to be on January 12th, but because she didn't attend, we have to push back the date. If she won't be able to attend church before her baptism, she won't be able to after it. Which is not okay. So we talked to her and asked if she believes that God will help her if she shows her faith in Him and puts following His commandments above everything else, and she said yes. But she is still afraid to leave her job. So really the answer is no. It's just frustrating. If you're not going to attend, don't promise that you will. And if you don't really believe that God will help you, don't say that you do.

P1020389So we have people that don't follow through on commitments because they're afraid of what might happen, and people that are just lazy. We'll walk in and ask "Did you read the pamphlet we gave you?" And they always say "no, I didn't have time!" Boy, you were just sitting there watching TV! You couldn't have put your eternal salvation above a little soap opera? That's in French?

That's another random thing. Most of the TV shows and things around here are in French. Not very helpful considering how few people know French around here. But they also get things like Tom and Jerry, which don't need words. Because Tom and Jerry is awesome.

P1020390I'm not really sure what else to talk about here. It sounds like everyone is having a pretty good time back at home. It's just crazy hearing about people just GOING to watch a movie, or eating out. Just doing stuff that I used to think was normal, but now it's like... people can do that? Weird. Enjoy that. Speaking of which... actually no. I was going to ask how Les Mis was, but don't tell me. I'll find out when I get home. Stacey, be sure to add that to the list that I know you've been diligently keeping.

Also, it sounds like people are flying a lot. Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Idaho... enjoy that. Planes are cool.

It sounds like everyone has been staying pretty busy with all their what-not. Keep that up. Dad, the server's been working pretty well today, and you should find that there are a few pictures waiting for you there. Use them wisely.

All in all, the work here has been tough, but we keep at it. All of you people, especially if anyone reading this has recently been talking to the missionaries - KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS. You'll get blessings for following God and showing Him that He is the most important thing in your lives. Because, let's face it. He created us, and gives us everything we have. We'll always owe Him for each blessing He gives us, and when we pay him back by following His commandments. And then He continues to bless us, and we owe Him again. The least we can do is keep His commandments.

Keep working hard everyone, know that I'm praying for you all, and I love hearing about your lives, no matter how simple or boring you might think it is. Trust me, it's awesome to hear about everything.

Thanks everyone,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, December 24, 2012

Week 9 in Ambohimanarina

Great letter this week.  AND we get to talk to Michael on Christmas Day, which, of course, is tomorrow….  We’re counting down the hours.  The downside is that there are no pictures this week.  And I have no idea what movie his subject line comes from.

Subject:  "Well I brought my dinosaur, who eats force field dogs!"

Great movie.

So I was sitting in a lesson this last week, just talking to people. In Malagasy. Because, I do that now. Anyway, I start hearing this kind of... flapping next to me. What in the world could that be? I turn, and it turns out to be a moth about the size of a bald eagle, just flapping its merry way along. After I finished screaming and swatting at it we continued the lesson without a problem. Fun story. Another random thing, I officially learned the word for zombie. I was talking to one of our members that helps us out all the time (Leonce, if you remember him and his awesomeness) and we started talking about the resurrection. They don't really have a word for resurrection in Malagasy, so they call it "mitsangana amin'ny maty". Literally, "to stand from the dead". And a while ago I had learned the word "mininginingina" meaning "to crouch". Switch that in, and you have "mininginingina amin'ny maty". To crouch from the dead. It makes sense that that would be a zombie right? You don't quite stand all the way from the grave, but you're kind of alive. It turns out they actually have a different word, but I think mine makes way more sense. Random word of the day.

As far as actual missionary work, things are going great. We have a baptismal service set for January 12th, with six people on the path to be baptized. First is Boto. I've talked about him before. He's super cool, always reads and asks questions, and he's just awesome. Unfortunately, he went to Mahajunga for three weeks and won't be back until about a week before the baptism. So we called the missionaries out there and got Boto connected with them, so he can still learn while he's gone. He's already heard all the lessons, but we just want to keep an eye on him to make sure nothing happens. So we've placed our Mahajunga missionary spies in position, so we'll see how it plays out.

Next is Hery. He's been learning really well, reading when he can, and is pretty diligent. But he has two problems: he works a ton, and he smokes. The work mostly just makes him super tired so he never has much time to read. But he usually still makes it through a chapter or so in a week. As for his smoking, he only smoked up to three cigarettes per day before (way better than some of the other people around here that smoke 30 or 40 each day), and last week we made a goal for him to only smoke two each day. He followed through on that, so now his goal is one each day. Hopefully he'll have the strength to make it through this, and he'll be able to completely stop smoking at least two weeks before the baptism. If not, we'll probably have to push back his baptism date.

The last four kind of all count together. Noel, Lily, and their two kids. Noel and Lily have had a problem getting vita soratra (officially married) for a long time, but progress is finally being made. They're planning to go to the commune and officially sign off all their papers and be married sometime this week. So they'll be ready for their baptism. They and their kids have been learning forever, are way diligent, and just a great family. Lily had a problem attending church because of her work, but she got to come last week. Then yesterday we were totally ready for her to be there, but she wasn't. We found out later that some things had gone missing at her work, and her boss blamed Lily. So she couldn't leave. Hopefully she'll make it next week.

Other than that, the work is going pretty good. We still have a bunch of other investigators that are doing awesome, but they just won't come to church! It's kind of annoying. All you have to do is come to church and then you'll feel the Spirit and know that it's true! That's it! But they usually find some reason to not come. Sad.

Thank you all for you emails. It's good to know there's someone out there that knows I'm not actually French. Mom and Dad, it sounds like things have been going pretty well back in the home I was born in, built by mine own hand. Make sure you're still there when I return. And get Steven to write sometime. I don't hear anything about that kid anymore.

Emily, I haven't heard much about the family of frogs, but from what little I know it sounds like things are going pretty well. Keep up the good work and get ready for this alleged baby.

Lindsay, work sounds tough. Enjoy what little breaks you get. But know that if nothing else, there's a missionary here in Madagascar praying that you'll get the bookings that you need. And as soon as I find him, I'll thank him for you.

Stacey, thanks for the updates. As short as they (and you) may be, it's always good just to hear that everyone is still alive. I have to admit I was kind of hoping you would have the baby on the 21st, because seriously, how cool would that have been?

Julie, keep up the good work. James sounds like he's becoming quite the puddle-jumping handful, but you seem to handle him well. Gold star.

David, it was awesome to finally have another message from you. And while it sounds like school is going pretty well, you clearly need to find a girl that's less spiritual. Or already back from her mission. I'll leave that up to you, but know that I've spent many a night laughing about the current situation. All in good humor of course.

And that pretty much wraps it up. I apparently forgot to take any pictures this last week, so you'll all have to binge off of the fruits of last time. We'll just say I got really caught up in the work.

Keep sending messages everyone, and know that I read ALL of them, although I may not be able to respond to everything.

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 8 in Ambohimanarina

Great stories and great pictures!  In fact, the pictures are so good, mom exclaimed “these are the pictures every mom needs to see!”  Nice job, Michael!

It appears that he got through a power failure without losing all that he wrote.  It also appear that he was in a hurry while writing this—perhaps the life of a missionary?  In fact, he gives us a quick overview of his daily life as a missionary!  We love to hear what he has to say!

Oh, and what time shall we call on Christmas Day?

Subject:  "Save yourself!" "I ain't quitin' you!"

Well. Certainly an eventful week. First off, right after I sent off
the email last week, we went to Analakely. After hanging around there
for a while, it started raining. A lot. So we decided to wait under a
canopy that some people had put up (there's tons of these little
places that sell random stuff, and they all have some kind of canopy
or cover for the rain). After it had rained for a while, we figured we
should head home so we could get back to work on time. So we put on
our jackets, and set ourselves afloat. At first we tried to stay on
the crosswalks and above the water, since the streets had flooded
P1020360quite thoroughly, but after a minute or two, it just didn't matter. We
were already soaked through and through. So we started just running
straight down the streets, through the flood. And while we did that,
all these Malagasies who were sitting in their little covers started
cheering for us. For real. It made us feel pretty awesome. And then we
saw a car stuck in the water, so Elder Randall and I went over and
started pushing. And of course, the fine Malagasy people started
cheering again. Except they cheered really weird. "Oui oui vazaha! Oui
oui!" Yeah... I do not think that means what you think it means. But
he gave it a shot. Good man.

P1020333Other than that, it's been a pretty unevntful week. I finally got my
hair cut, since it was pretty long. And apparently my head has been
getting sun burned since the hair is really short now. So that's kind
of... odd. I thought that only happened to bald people.

A certain somebody keeps asking me about life as a missionary and
things like that, so I'll run through what happened yesterday. A day
in the life of a missionary, if you will.

First, we wake up at 6:30 (yes, in the MORNING) and get ready for the
day. Showering, eating breakfast, that kind of stuff. Then normally we
would do personal studies from 8 to 9, companionship study from 9 to
10, and language study from 10 to 11, with some 12 Week Program things
crammed in there. But since yesterday was Sunday, we just went to
church. Then came home and ate lunch, and headed out to work for the

P1020340Our first appointment was with Paullette, a kind of old nonmember
family member of this way awesome family. See if you can keep that
sentence straight. But she wasn't there, so we taught the next person
on our list, Hery, who is also part of that family, and not a member.
Yet. But he's really diligent and works hard. Good man. And we taught
another part of the family that had become inactive. They're all
awesome people, but sometimes they just get lazy.

Then we walked about a gagilion miles to our next appointment with
Adolf and Louise. They had also gone in active a while ago, but
they're coming back to church and doing way better. I got a picture
with them too. They're the family with lots of kids. A slight problem
with them though, some things went missing at Adolf's work, and his
boss thinks he did it. So that's no good.

P1020363Then we also taught Georgette, recent convert, super awesome. Sorry,
I'm really running out of time, so After we went to Georgette, we
stopped by Noel's house. I may not have told you before, but his wife
hasn't been able to attend church, because her boss "has to have food
ready for her when SHE comes back from church". So that's kind of
mean. But Lily actually got to come yesterday! We have a baptism date
for her in about three weeks, and we really need her to keep coming to
church every week for that to happen. Hopefully she'll be able to make
some kind of permanent deal with her boss. We'll see.

Dad, you asked about the Enya music. The short answer: no. I finaly
remembered to bring my iPod today, with the cable. Then I found out
I'd have to download iTunes. No big deal right? Wrong. It took about
45 minutes to load and get ready to be used. Meanwhile, I finally got
onto the server and started the playlist downloading. And it said it
would take about 3 hours. So I stopped that, and started ONE song
loading. Even that took about 20 minutes. Then I opened up iTunes, and
it wouldn't recognize the iPod or do anything. So I put in my account
P1020339information, and it finally showed up with everything. I try adding
the one little song, and iTunes pops up with a little box that says
"are you sure you want to delete everything on this iPod?" NO! I just
want to add a song! So that's been causing some grief.

And the power just went out here. For no apparent reason. Fortunately
I'm on a laptop with a full charge, so this is still going. But
there's no internet, so I won't be able to send this. Yet. We'll see
if it turns back on sometime today. I really don't know what to do if
it doesn't, so... we'll see.

Basically, thanks everyone for writing. Keep up the good work!

- Elder Arrington

PS: We just now came back to the cyber after a really quick trip to
Analakely. Elder Rakotomalala dropped his camera last week, and then
it was stolen. That's rough. So we pooled together some personal funds
and bought him a new one. Also, I was kind of scared that I'd get a
bunch of hate-mail about "why haven't you emailed yet!?" And when we
got here I remembered that even though it's 3:45 here, you are all
probably still asleep. Victory is still mine.

PSS: I actually uploaded some pictures to the server. I'll describe
them as well as I can remember. In no helpful order whatsoever,
there's a picture of me on top of our church building. He's going to
Mahajunga for the next three weeks or so, so we thought it would be
good to take a picture. There's also a couple pictures with families.
The one with lots of kids is Adolf and Louise's family. The one with
me in the middle with the lady on my left holding a rather fat baby is
Fr. Toky and Sr. Lina's family. They were less active, but we're
working on bringing them back. The white people is Elder and Sister
Grey. They've been the health missionaries for a while and now they're
going home, to be succeeded by the Shupes! And there's a picture of me
in front of some water. It was the only thing I could really think of
that would make a really stretched out and short picture.

PSSS: Dad, Elder Landon says the best way to do a call in his
experience is to just have the family in America call. I don't know.
If that's okay with you, I would be fine with that. He also says his
family is planning to call at about 7 pm our time, which would be
something like 8 am for you? So when would be the best time for you to
call, before or after?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 7 in Ambohimanarina

Since Michael’s humor always seems just a half bubble off plumb, Julie adds the following explanation:  FYI, when Michael says "I'm pregnant. With Josh Groban's baby!", he is referring to a quote from Parks and Recreation where the girl says that line, and the other guy immediately spews out his drink straight out like a fountain out of his mouth, in shock and surprise. Thus, what Michael probably did after discovering there was no filter for the water he was in the process of drinking.

Hopefully that’s helpful.

Subject:  "Why is the car stopped?" "It's frightened."

It's another P-day, and we still have to run around. It's kind of hard for us in this area, because the office and all the exciting stuff is in or near Analakely, which takes about an hour to get out to, then come back, plus a bunch of walking between the two. So we're still pretty busy.

On the note of missionary work, everything is going pretty well. I've definitely made some... unforgettable memories. Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to discuss them at this time, so all o' y'all will just have to wait. Mom, it will be interesting to hear from you when you read through this journal.

P1020301One of the things I'll release to the public, is that I finally fixed some of my own things. On one of my ties, the little tag thing at the back had broken off, making it impossible to use a Tie Saver with it (a little thing that attaches the tie to the shirt). As I'm sure David understands, after you've used a Tie Saver, you never go back. So I had to fix the tie. I broke out the sewing kit and the Mission Impossible theme song and got to work. After I finished, I'm pretty sure force of a thousand semi trucks hanging from my tie couldn't separate it from my shirt. Mission accomplished. And it still looks awesome, so that's another bonus.

I've still been struggling with the language (something tells me I'll finally get comfortable with it right before I head home), and it's caused some interesting slip ups. One of them was pretty stupid, even for me. Since the person was talking in English. We met this lady that owns the house that one of our investigators works at (named Boto, and he's crazy awesome), and started talking. It P1020303turns out she had studied at a bunch of universities in the US for some kind of program, and had learned some way good English. After asking my companion where he's from (Utah, of course) she turned to me and asks me "and where are you from?" In English. And I, in a typical red-neck, cow tippin' Oregonian way, say the only thing that comes to mind. AMERICAN! Wait... that's not right. I'm... from... Oregon...... So that was pretty interesting. And while I refuse to tell you my Malagasy mistakes (since I can't remember any right now), I seem to remember other people's just fine. Gotta work on that.

Just another kind of awkward thing that comes to mind is that I got on a bus and this Malagasy guy climbed on right behind me, sat down next to me, turned and said "Hello my dear" in English. This could be a very interesting bus ride. It turns out he was actually pretty good at English. Just that first moment was weird. I told him I was a missionary. And he was like "oh, you're the people that don't use the Bible!" No... we use the Bible. "I don't believe that!" Okay... so I pulled out my Bible (which looks awesome since I got it bound) and explain that we do use the Bible. "No you don't!" Okay, let's just think about this for a minute.

First off, I think we would know if we use the Bible or not. Second, why would I bother to carry around a book (which is really heavy and possibly breaking my backpack) IF I DON'T USE IT. He was just fun to talk to though.

P1020310Which reminds me, we've been getting tons of people asking why we haven't headed home yet. It seems we're supposed to go spend our time with our families since the world is ending this month. There's a bunch of churches that believe that around here, and Elder Landon are really looking forward to laughing at them after they realize they're wrong. Not really. But still kind of.

If anybody has been wondering about the water here, we're not supposed to drink it. Kind of. The sink water isn't clean enough. But in the churches and mission homes there are filters so we can still drink from it. I went to fill up my water bottle at the church the other day (there was an activity there) and after getting some, I started drinking it. Right as a Malagasy walks up and tells me that the filters is broken. Also, I'm pregnant. With Josh Groban's baby! (we'll see who gets that reference) And it explains why the water tasted like 400 year old egg. It was fun.

P1020312Anyway, I should probably go now. There's work do be done. I've also attached a couple pictures on, since Madagascar is decidedly against me getting onto the server. We got a bunch of cereal for super cheap, and we're pretty excited about that. They have these carts here that you can go for a ride in, so I got a picture pulling that. And there's a picture of my leg. Covered in ever so itchy flea bites. Good stuff.

Anyway, everyone keep up the good work, keep emailing, and stay awesome.

-Elder Arrington

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 6 in Ambohimanarina

More great information about how the work is going including splits with the branch president.  And apparently how complicated the streets are in Ambohimanarina.  Ambohimanarina--say that three times fast.

Subject:  "Yes Mr. President?" "Um, nothing, goodnight."

First off, I just want to bring up the Christmas call home. To put it simply, I have no idea what to do. I would be fine with just a normal phone call or something, or a skype or google call. The problem with that here is basically just the internet. You know those times when you type in the place you want to go and it SAYS it's working on it and the little bar is filling up, but then it doesn't finish for like 10 whole minutes? Yeah... that's pretty much what it's like all the time. Today it took my about 35 minutes to log into my email. Which kind of sucks. But the moral of this story is, I'm really not sure how these computers could handle a Skype call, even if it's just voice. So some work will have to be done about that.

And now, to the interesting part of this letter: missionary things. The work has been going pretty good. We talked with some of the investigators that keep not attending church (another big problem here) and told them that if they don't come next week, we'll have to stop teaching them. If they won't progress, we have to go find people that will. Sad but true. Hopefully they'll actually follow through on their part.

On another fun note, Elder Landon and I went on splits yesterday. He went with a member named Tojo, and I got to go with our branch president. Who is Malagasy. Oh goodie. It turns out he actually spoke a bit of English (about as much as I speak Malagasy), so we were able to communicate okay. I took him to an investigator named Boto, where we explained the Law of Chastity. After the lesson, he started asking great questions, about what exactly is polygamy, what happens if there's a married couple but then one of them dies, and things like that. It was awesome to hear questions that actually applied to the lesson and could help in some way. Instead of things like "okay, so that's a picture of the First Vision. But who took the picture?" Oh dear. But yeah, Boto is awesome.

Then we stopped by Patrick's house (recently baptized kid, in the picture with Georgette and Leonce from a couple weeks ago) and went back over the last three principles of the Gospel: baptism by water, baptism by the Spirit, and enduring to the end. He's a great kid, and remembered the lessons pretty well, so no problems there.

The big problem of the day was the next appointment, when we were supposed to stop by another recent convert's house, but I forgot where it was. So we just kind of wandered around for a while. Stupid brain. Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile.

On a note of my righteousness, the other elders at my house keep telling me that I shouldn't read Jesus the Christ during personal study time, because we're supposed to focus on the scriptures and things. And I thought if that's true, I should probably follow that. But if you follow my to page VIII in Preach My Gospel, you'll see on the bottom half of the page a list of approved personal study time material. And what's FIRST on that list? Oh, Jesus the Christ? Yeah, I'm going to follow Preach My Gospel, but thanks for the thought. Another thing that I've noticed is just how crazy awesome the scriptures are. There's some good stuff in there. Study the scriptures.

To wrap this up, I don't know what's happened, but ever since I showed up here I've been having the coolest dreams ever. A couple nights ago I dreamed that Leonardo Di Caprio (or however you spell that) was teaching me and a bunch of people how to use the dream thing in Inception. So in my dream, we'd go into another dream (two levels) and just do a bunch of crazy stuff. It's just awesome.

Anyway, the mission is great, everyone keep working hard and writing.

Thank you all!

- Elder Arrington