Monday, January 28, 2013

Week 14 in Ambohimanarina

Opinions on the Lehi’s Dream question below are welcome.  We’ll see what kind of information we get!

Subject:  “Some king of the rock.”

So... first off. In Lehi's dream, Lehi just chills in darkness for a while, and sees a guy dressed up in white. Does anybody know who the whitely-clad guy is? There's cross references to Joseph Smith-History (Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith) and a vision that Daniel has when he sees the Lord. Not really a big doctrinal "need to know" kind of thing, but it would be good to know. An investigator asked that yesterday, and it kind of caught us off guard.

Anyway, it's been a pretty good week. Elder Landon and I are getting along a bit better, and things have been going smoothly. Of course we still have people not coming to church or following up on their commitments, but hey, they're getting closer.

There's one guy in particular that seems rather promising, named Indrina. He sells sandals on a path that we walk by all the time, and we finally worked up the guts to talk to him. And he accepted to meet back with us later. We've taught him twice so far, and we learned that he chews tobacco and drinks, plus who knows what else. But he has a really sincere desire to improve himself and his life. He says he keeps trying to quit chewing tobacco, but never makes it very long. So we're going to strengthen him with the message of the restored gospel. Booyah.

Another kind of funny person Elder Landon and I tracted into is named Daniela. He started off by telling us that he used to be FJKM (Malagasy Protestants) but after studying the Bible, he decided that the FJKM is wrong. And I'm sitting there like, oh boy, do we have a story for you. You see, in 1820 there was a young boy named Joseph Smith... and then Daniela kicks back in by saying he already found the truth. Apparently some guy here in Madagascar that's telling people that he had some vision and Jesus gave him the authority to restore and lead the church. He's now the "prophet" of this random church. Weird. It could be very interesting teaching Daniela.

I'm not really sure what else to talk about... all the people with baptism dates are going pretty well... other lessons have been going pretty well... here's something. Elder Rasoloniaina has been really quiet and kind of a jerk for the last while, so we had a house inventory. To skip over too many details, things are better now. We figured out that the problem was us. Kind of. Since Elder Rasoloniaina doesn't speak English, every time that we speak English (pretty much all the time) he thinks we're gossiping about him. So we've started speaking more Malagasy around the house, and trying to involve him more. It's worked out pretty well. So that's good. Also, I don't know if I mentioned this before, but they play a lot of dominoes here in Madagascar, and I've been learning from the best. It's one of those games that is super simple, but you can also strategize, so it's not all luck. And Malagasies are REALLY good at it. It's ridiculous.

P1020453Speaking of ridiculous, I can't seem to find a reason to take pictures any more. Just more fantastic views of rice patties, teaching the same old people, and... pretty much nothing else. I keep trying to do something exciting to photograph, but... nothing. I'll try harder next week. But, here's a picture of Leonce near our house. This kid helps us out all the time, and apparently wanted a picture. So we took that one and he printed it off. You may also notice, in the next picture, my companion playing with a Barbie. We got bored waiting in someone's house for them to show up, so... there you go.

I've been trying really hard to think of something significant to write about, but I can't really think of anything. Time is flying by here. I can't believe I've been on the mission for FIVE MONTHS. It's crazy. Doesn't feel like it at all.

P1020452It sounds like everyone back home is staying busy though. Dad and David at this business thing, Steven doing science things and eating pizza, and Mom travelling all over the place. Mom, I got a kick out of when you said, "I feel very disconnected from things at home when I am gone." I was just sitting here like, yeah... tell me about it.

Siblings of mine, from the shortest Emily to the tallest David, from the abs of Steven to the... brothers-in-law...: stay busy. I don't mean you should do stuff just to do stuff, but always focus on useful work. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, while Christ chose his apostles while they were working. Interesting pattern. Focus on the gospel, stay busy, and watch the blessings rain down.

And I now bid thee all adieu, until we meet again. Or next week's email.

- Elder Arrington

Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 13 in Ambohimanarina

Ah, the life of a country-club missionary!  Nothing like a round of golf, with a caddy, no less, after a hard week of teaching.  And can you get teaching hours on a golf course?

Good letter this week—longer than most!

Subject:  Fly away Stanley, be free!”

I have to admit, I keep having this thought that I could shoot out a quick email to you all and try to just get some questions to write about. But then I remember that you won't be up for like 7 hours. Sad.

P1020394On a much brighter note, our area is starting to look a lot better. Lily, if you remember her, came to church today. It turns out she had pretty much just told her boss that on Sunday, Lily be goin' to church. Which is awesome. She and her family are looking pretty ready for their baptism on Feb 9th. The only real problem here appears to be their sense of humor. When we taught Lily last (yesterday) she pulled out a pair of broken glasses. We asked her how they were broken, and she told us that one of her kids (a daughter named Lova, also planned to be baptized on the 9th) had snapped them on accident. So I start going into the lesson that we prepared, on repentance, and throw in that it's a perfect lesson for Lova, since she broke the glasses. Haha, right? Wrong. Awkward silence. It was pretty weird. Elder Landon told me afterward that he wanted to burst out laughing, but couldn't. Politeness. But Karma came back to bite him in the face when he tried to say that we need to repent always, and it came out as, "we have to sin always" instead. Mwaha.

Boto, also scheduled to be baptized on the 9th, has been in Mahajunga for what feels like a millenium. Elder Landon has been trying to call him to find out when he'll be back, and when the phone finally worked he turned to me and said I'm going to talk to him. Which I've never done before. And along with the whole "language" thing going on there, the phones here suck. But after a while, I found out that Boto was coming back on the 30th. Of February. And I repeated it back to him like 55 times just to be sure. Elder Landon heard and, almost crying, took the phone to clarify. Apparently Boto is coming back on the 30th of JANUARY. Which is awesome, but it made me feel pretty dumb. No worries though. Boto is awesome, and we're really looking forward to his baptism.

P1020427Next up is Hery. The final person to be baptized on the 9th. He's been having some trouble remembering the doctrine and things, but we're reviewing everything with him and he gets it way better now. He's already stopped smoking, and is starting to look way ready. Awesome stuff.

We've also been having a lot of trouble here with our teaching. Just... we really don't know what to do. This last week we just dropped a couple of days and went out tracting, hoping to find a couple new investigators. Which worked fantastically, and the people that we've found are super cool. Way interested, asking questions, and excited to learn. Not common traits around these here parts. Also, this one guy we went up and talked to while he was just smoking on the street, and after a while we asked his named. He gave it as the Malagasy Mr. Bean. Looking closer, you could totally see it. It turns out that he's been in a few Mr. Bean type movies here in Madagascar. So that was pretty cool. All in all, we hadn't had many new investigators recently, but now we know why. Things are looking much better.

Except for some of my language abilities. There are two meanings for the word "mandika" in Malagasy. One is to break, like a commandment or a law, and the other is to translate words. It's pretty much decided by the following word. Context clues. Anyway, we were sitting there teaching about Adam and Eve, and I told the investigators that while it's true that Adam and Eve "translated words" when they ate the fruit, blah blah blah. And I could not get it straight for the rest of the time. It was rough. But pretty funny.

We found out that there is a golf course around here, and last week, we totally went out golfing. LOADS of fun. For one, we each got a caddy. Always a plus. For two, those caddies were pretty dang good. My guy kept correcting my swing, always knew just what was wrong with it, and on the last whole we had them play with us. I don't want to be too specific about how badly they beat us, but suffice it to say the got about half of our score on that hole. We only got to play 14 holes total because Elder Randall was feeling really sick, but it was way fun. And I won, so haha suckers, I was the luckiest one today. Way fun. Less than 40 dollars for balls, clubs to rent, a caddy, and fond memories of golfing in Madagascar. Totally worth it. And we're thinking about doing it again sometime. We also got a bunch of pictures from that, so that's what you'll be seeing today. And some pictures of some cows on the course. Just chillin' there, doing their thing.

P1020431Mom, I couldn't help laughing when I read your email about how Sunday is a day of rest, after church. First off, that's just funny. Second, it doesn't really count for missionaries. I always feel like we're supposed to just rest on Sundays, but missionaries still just go out and teach like any other day. Go figure. But it's always good work.

Dad, it sounds like this 50 miler should be fun. Speaking as one who walks what feels like 50 miles each day, I advice bringing a lot of water. You can never have too much, but you can have too little. The same with trail mix. Plus, trail mix is just dang tasty.

Speaking of tasty, what's all this about Hostess going out of business? Is that even possible? Will the weight of the average American suddenly drop? (I guess McDonald's is still there, but it's going to have to really start working now) Most imortantly, where the heck am I going to find a Zinger when I get home? I don't know man. It's a messed up world out there. Signs of the Apocolypse.

Lindsay, keep up the good work in the business. Know that I'm praying for you. It sounds like things are starting to turn up a little bit, so find a way to endure. That's one thing I've been learning a lot about the gospel. It's not just about making it through life (enduring), but enduring well. Have a good attitude, and just try to enjoy the journey. And blessings will rain down for it. Also, you asked about weddings here in Madagascar. I don't know if there's really a party, but some of them will go rent a bunch of cars with their families and drive down the streets, way slowly, honking their horns. Hey look, we're married. That's about how fancy they get around here.

David, it appears that you've been in some tragic, likely near fatal, accident, because my inbox is rather devoid of things from you. Considering the full body cast that you are now sitting in, as that would be the only logical reason for missing an email, I'll let you off for this week. Same goes for you too, Stacey. Get well soon.

Julie, I always love hearing about what a little beast this James of yours is becoming. Just remember the whole "enduring well" thing from Elder Arrington. It sounds like you've found some good ways to help you cope with it, so keep it up.

Steven, try to squeeze a little time in between your morning workout and your post-morning-workout workout to send a little email down my way. Or some other time through out the day. That's one thing I've noticed since coming on my mission. You make a schedule and stick to it, and suddenly effectiveness flies through the roof, dropping off being bored and wasted time to the wayside. Wayside School. Sideways stories. Somebody read those books again, and let me know if they're still as awesome as I remember.

Emily (and family, which goes for all the other sisters too), it sounds like Dave is going through quite an ordeal. But from what I hear, the doctors know what's wrong with him and declare that more money is needed to fix him. Did I say money? I meant surgery. Pretty much the same thing. Regardless, he's in my prayers too (and so are you). I would recommend finding some food with iron in it afterward though, just in case. Doesn't spinach have iron? I think it might. I'll just skip over the Popeye references that we're all thinking and just say spinach is supposedly good for you.

All in all, it sounds like the family is doing mostly well, including the newest member of it, this little Kellen Leybas fellow. Stacey, see if you can stop him from growing up for the next... 2 years or so? Or not, I suppose. He sounds all healthy and alive, so make sure that continues. I hear that food is important for people of his age group. Try using some of that. And now I feel like he's one of the little Tomagotchee things (or however you spell it) where you have to give him food and presents and make sure he's happy. So yeah. There's my keychain-child parenting advice for the day.

Everyone else, keep up the good work, keep enduring (well), and keep writing. I love hearing from you all, and do my best to respond to everyone.

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, January 14, 2013

Week 12 in Ambohimanarina

Just how many is a bagillion stairs?

Subject:  "Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make."

I'm never really sure what to say in these emails, so we'll see how this works.

First off, it was a rather... interesting week. Painful in some ways, successful in others. On the upside, we were still able to teach a bunch of people. Not as many as we normally do, but we did pretty well, all things considered. Sunday was especially rough.

First off, we went to church. We have a goal to get 15 investigators to attend, and with how many people we teach, that should be pretty easy. Yesterday, there were 6 people there. Six. We were pretty sad about that. Just come to church and your whole life will get better! It will just take some more work. But the REALLY depressing part didn't come until after church.

P1020348We headed out to teach, and got a call from the first guy we were planning to teach, saying that he couldn't learn today (yesterday). One down. But no problem, we still found some people to teach. We showed up to our next lesson (after walking down a bagillion stairs, mind you) only to find that they were not at home. Okay, so we went to our next lesson (back up the stairs). They were there, and we found out that the reason THEY didn't attend church today was that they have no lock on their door, and they can't leave the house, just in case there are thieves roaming about and causing havoc. Understandable. Next up was back down a million stairs (on the other side of the hill). They were gone too, so we went back up those stairs, and back down the other side, only to find that the second person we had wanted to teach today still wasn't there. After waiting for them for a little bit, we headed back out, going up again, and back down the other side again. The people were finally there, and we shared a little thought with them, then headed back up the Stairs of the Thousand Burning Quads. And since the parents for our last scheduled lesson of the day weren't there, we got to teach their kids. That whole family is preparing for baptism on February 9th, but the wife keeps not being able to attend church (Lily, if you remember her story). Anyway, the parents were gone, but we got to explain a bit about repentance with the kids, just to make sure they were ready to. They were sharp as a tack. Or an open safety pin.

P1020360All in all, we had to climb up and down a whole bunch of stairs, making me feel rather like Po on his way to see who the Dragon Warrior will be, but we still ended up teaching six lessons. We had a couple other days that were pretty rough too this last week, but somehow we still manage to find something to do.

There is a man named Boto that we had been teaching for a while, but he had to go to Mahajunga a while ago for some work. He was awesome, learned really well, and is just a great guy. Understood the doctrine, actually asked questions if he was unclear on something, recognized when he had received an answer to prayer, and things like that. Just an awesome guy. He had said he would be gone for three weeks, but he's been caught up in a lot of work and things have come up, so he hasn't been able to return yet. Elder Landon (who is now pretty definitely leaving in the next transfer, since he's already been here for five and a half months) was getting really anxious that he might not be able to see Boto's baptism before he gets sent to his next area. Boto has officially promised that the latest he'll be back is the beginning of February, which would put him able to be interviewed and baptized right AFTER Elder Landon leaves to his next P1020363area. BUT there came some news about transfers. They'll be postponed until the next group of Elders comes in from the MTC, at the end of February. Meaning that Elder Landon will most likely get to see the baptism. Which he's pretty stoked about.

It also means that he will have been in this area for 7 months. Which is a long time. And it means that he will have been with me for four months, and in his own words, four months is a long time to be with one companion. True that. Suffice it to say, we've had some interesting conversations, just trying to sort out our differences and such. It's taken some work, but we're making progress. Very slowly.

I know this is probably not the best email ever, and I'll try to do better next time. Same with pictures. I found an email in my "Drafts" box that I apparently hadn't sent before, so I got that off. The extremely black guy standing next to me is Boto. I forgot what the other pictures were, but they should be pretty good. And now here's one with Sr Tsabon Marie (or as we call her, Jambon Marie). She's super diligent, and helps us out all the time. Super cool.

That's pretty much all for now, so everyone keep up the good work.

Thank you all,
- Elder Arrington

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week 11 in Ambohimanarina

Subject:  “Would it break her heart and crush her soul, of course!  But you’ve just got to do it.”

I'm not really sure what to talk about here. Ever. I almost walked into a cow a couple days ago. I was just walking down the street, looking around at the little shops and everything, and I look up, to see this cow walking straight at me. It sounds pretty lame, but it was actually really intense as I dove out of the way, saving myself and various small children from the imminent threat. Imminent. That's a weird word. Good times.

P1020393I finally made my some nice mistakes in the language that I can share. One of them was when I was talking about Lehi's dream. I pulled out a picture book (which is super handy) and start describing Lehi's "nify". Except the word for dream is "nofy". I was describing Lehi's teeth. They laughed for a good while. It was pretty fun. And then later I was trying to explain to somebody where we had to go. Imagine a mountain, with you on one side, and having to get to the other side. And the only way to get there is straight up, then back down the other side. That was pretty much it. So I'm trying to tell them we have to go up from where we are, and down the other side. Then we'll have to come back up and return to where we are now. And repeat like three times. "Ilianstika miakatra, dia miditra, dia miakatra, dia miditra." Except that means "we need to go up, then enter, then go up, then enter." Just a little weird.

On the note of yesterday, things did not go very well. For one, five of the seven people that we had planned to teach couldn't learn, pretty much all because they were out of town. If only we had known this earlier. So it was kind of an interesting day. We kept having to climb Mount Burns-the-Quads and slide back down the other side (but with no slide). It was pretty rough.

And on the note of things that are rough, sand paper. In related news, church was rough. There's just so many people that promise they'll come and thing "something came up". WE'RE TRYING TO SAVE YOUR SOUL HERE. But you have to come to church. They just don't seem to... care? Or at least they care more about other things than going to church. So we're trying to help them see that if they trust in God and show him (and themselves) that He is the most important thing in their lives, He will provide for the rest. But they still fear the world more. It's just kind of frustrating.

But church also had some good parts, obviously. The meetings all went pretty well, but the fun stuff happened right after church ended. They branch president had invited us to a branch council (which they've never done before), but we had to wait for a little bit. As we were waiting, this guy comes up, dressed up like... I don't even know what. Apparently it was some religious clothing thing. Anyway, he walks into the branch president's office, talks with him for a minute, and leaves. We found out later that this guy had invited our BRANCH PRESIDENT to attend another church. He had walked into OUR church, walked up three flights of stairs, to invite the LEADER of the branch to attend another church. Nice try, good sir.

Also, really quick. I've been talking a little bit about getting music on the iPod here, and after pulling a few cyber-teeth I found a solution. Suffice it to say, I now have twelve Enya songs on the iPod. I'll work on the rest next week. But thank you Dad for your help on that. I was also wondering if you could send the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. But if you do, leave out "Test Flight", because, as Steven surely knows, it's the best song ever. And if I have it, I'll probably be listening to it too much. But the rest of the soundtrack should be good.

I'm trying to be more effective with this computer time, so I haven't had time to read a lot of your emails (but I'll print them out to read later), but it sounds like everyone is doing well. Especially this newborn "Kellen" fellow. I look forward to greeting him when he is almost two years old and still knows that I'm the coolest uncle. Mwaha.

Everyone keep up the good work! Especially you, David. With Jordan leaving, it sounds like you're back on the hunt. And in this endeavor, I wish you luck. Good luck.

And everybody else keep doing stuff too.

Thank you all for writing,

- Elder Arrington