Monday, February 25, 2013

Week 18 in Ambohimanarina

And now, things change.  More baptisms, but transfer time has finally come!  Oh, not for Michael, but this week he gets a new companion!  And he’s got great investigators!  And more baptisms!

Subject:  "This tattoo will protect me from harm!"

Transfers and baptisms! I know what it's like just reading these things at home and just thinking "that's nice", but we have been crazy busy. And I think it's messing up my brain. First off, I was telling someone about the Book of Mormon, trying to explain that it's just a different book than the Bible, about people in a different place (people have a really hard time understanding that it's not just a different translation of the Bible). So I grabbed the first two things I could find to illustrate: two glass bowls that were sitting on the table. I explained that one represents Jerusalem (where the Bible took place) and the other represents the Book of Mormon, which is the story of "the people in Madagascar". Whoops. I corrected that pretty quick while Elder Landon laughed. And then I realized that the glass bowls that I was using as "salt and pepper shakers" for the scriptures were actually ashtrays. Is it sacrilegious to use ashtrays and stand-ins for the scriptures?

P1020487Second, later that day we were walking home and I decided that I wanted to buy some potatoes and make some fries later that night. A good idea right? So we stop by the tsena (imagine a farmer's market kind of thing), I find some potatoes, walk up to the person selling the potatoes, point at the potatoes, and ask "how much for these eggs?" So that was pretty awkward. But funny.So I just switched computers with Elder Rasoloniainam because this one only seems to have an English keyboard on it, and he only knows the French one. Which leaves me trying to figure out the English one again. This is really hard.

In other news, we had another baptism! Monja, Tinahy, and Sambalihy are now the newest members of the Ambohimanarina Branch. And they're super cool. Tinahy told us that she had been super nervous that she would forget everything right before the baptism interview (and rightfully so. She's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but she believes the church is true), so she prayed for help remembering. And Elder Randall, who interviewed her, said she did great. We were pretty happy about that. She needed help, and turned to God. Way to be kid. Samba was super funny to watch get baptized. After Elder Landon finished the prayer, Samba DOVE back into the water. Just a super excited little kid.

P1020491We have also started teaching this super cool couple named Mario and Santatra. We taught them once, and gave them a First pamphlet for them to read. When we came back, they pulled out the pamphlet, which had been marked up like crazy, and asked about the Melchizedek Priesthood. They told us that they understood the general idea of priesthood and the Aaronic, but they weren't sure why there was a higher priesthood. Fantastic question. We explained it, and they got it. Even cooler, when we started talking about the Restoration, Elder Landon asked Santatra what she remembered about it. And she told him the story of Joseph Smith, EXACTLY as it happened. In 1820, there were a bunch of churches. Joseph Smith wanted to find the truth, so he read in the Bible and learned that he should pray. He prayed, and God AND Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that none of the churches were true, and because of the Apostasy the truth was lost. But Joseph Smith was called to be a new prophet, to restore the true church and God's authority, the priesthood, back to the earth. She had it all. In Elder Landon's words, it takes some people YEARS to understand that. She (and her husband) got it in a week, because they actually READ the dang pamphlet. After that, we invited them to come to church. Just a nice thought, maybe they'll come eventually. Saturday night they called us to ask what time church starts. Which nobody does. On Sunday, we were standing outside the church, greeting people, and I turned to Elder Landon and said "wouldn't it be weird if Mario and Santatra actually came today?" and right when we laughed about that, who do you think walked up the stairs to our church and said hello to us? The coolest investigators ever. Mario and Santatra. They said that Mario's parents are members, and now these two want to investigate the church because they've seen the blessings that the parents have gotten. And, most importantly, they are willing to put in the work to receive those same blessings. Get ready to hear about them getting baptized.

P1020492Another couple we started teaching a while ago is starting to look super cool too. They are the ones that thought all the churches are true. But recently, they seem to have been changing. They're far more open to what we teach, and they've started reading the Book of Mormon. Interesting connection. Even more interesting, they passed the First pamphlet that we had given them off to their neighbor, who also wants to learn, and has been sitting in on the lessons. And now that lady has passed the pamphlet off to another neighbor, who also wants to learn. I don't know if it's the people or the pamphlet that's working this magic, but it's fantastic. These people have really been prepared by God.

Sadly, it appears that this little group of neighbors is doing more missionary work than our members, but hey, we're not complaining.

Another rather interesting note, Elder Landon is officially getting transferred. Goodbye to my trainer. When we got the transfer news, I learned that my new companion's name is Elder Eppich. It sounds like we could have a pretty "epic" time. Haha. Humorous.

Generally things are looking way up back here. We still have plenty of disappointments, particularly with investigators, but as Harvey Dent said it, "the night is darkest just before the dawn. But I promise, the dawn is coming". And so it is. Thanks Harvey. I believe in Harvey Dent.

P1020481And it sounds like things are going great with all of you. Moving houses, having babies, Dad getting into this work at the Hillsboro Arts and Cultural thing, and Adam being back from his mission. Someone give that kid a high five from me.

Same thing goes for Steven. I salute you on your choice of wearing jeans. The pants of kings.

Everyone keep up the good work, don't forget your missionary out here in the field, and keep doing God's work. The church is true.

- Elder Arrington

PS: This weeks pictures include baptism shots of Monja, Tinahy, and Samba, and the other girl in there is named Sr. Tsabao Marie. We call her Jambon Marie. There's also a picture of me with Elders Rasoloniaina and Randall. Elder Rasoloniaina has a real tattoo, and you can get these press-on tattoos from a certain kind of gum here. I have Mulan. And there's a picture of Fr. Remy's family. They're all members, and super cool people. We like them. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Week 17 in Ambohimanarina

Subject:  “He didn’t fall?  Inconceivable!”

What a week. Rain, rain, and a good deal of rain.

I don't know if I've already mentioned this, but it rained here. For the last four days we've been having some pretty awesome floods. Fortunately we have rain jackets (thank you Mom) though we usually try to hide under some shelter if we can and wait it out. That's one of the really weird things about the rain here. It rains like four inches of water in half an hour. Just pouring like crazy. But it's pretty fun. You can always dry off when you get home.

The work here... what to say. We've finally gotten a some baptisms, and just yesterday another family, passed their interviews, so they are officially ready for this Saturday. Congratulations to Monja, Tinahy, and Sambalihy! So on the baptism and success front, we're doing pretty well. It seems that there is a lot of opposition though. Just as things are looking up, with baptisms and diligent recent converts and investigators, the negatives are flying off the charts. One family that we had taught a couple of times, who seemed really interested, slammed the door on us the other day, saying that they didn't want to learn any more. Out of NOWHERE. That got us pretty sad. Add to that all the time we have to waste just wandering around and searching for something to do, and you've got a couple of fairly unhappy missionaries. Especially when your back-up plan for your back-up plan fall through.

But by far, the most frustrating thing that we've done out here is teaching this one new family that we just found. We've taught them twice, and this last time they told us that they believe all religions are true. ALL OF THEM. I don't want to sound negative, but that is just a retarded idea. In the Bible, Christ says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism. (Ephesians) How many? ONE. But they explained that that just means that any religion is okay, and you can't go wrong. As long as you want to follow God, any religion will get the job done. So Elder Landon brought out an example for them. The Apocolipsy church said that the world would end in 2012. And yet we're still alive. So is their church true? The investigators answered no, but people just need to receive a personal answer about whether or not something is true, and that answer comes through God. Which is true. So I asked them if they believe God has a body, to which they said they do. So, if they received that answer from God, than any church that teaches otherwise (i.e. God does NOT have a body) must be false. They just sat there and tried to figure out what that means. Well, it means that NOT ALL churches are true. We ended the lesson after that, giving them a pamphlet on the Restoration to read as homework. Hopefully they'll read and pray about it. It seemed that they were starting to understand our point, and right now we're just trying to figure out how to continue to teach them with patience. We have to take it slowly and just help them see the truth. "That's what we do. Save souls." - Madagascar Missionaries Inc.

DSC03333But generally, I think things are looking up. We have some recent converts and people to be baptized soon, and it they're all solid in the faith. There should be none going inactive. We've been working hard, and it's paying off.

Side note, we were teaching the family that was baptized last week, and there was this little kid there. And he randomly ripped his shirt off. And continued by wrapping himself up in some toga looking thing, and decided he's a superstar. Elder Landon got a picture of him, which you should be able to see here.

As for the family, it sounds like everyone is doing well, based on the reports I got from Mom and Dad. Although a good deal of you got pretty sick from the sound of it, which is never fun.

Lindsay, I imagine moving houses wasn't fun. It never is. Moving around heavy boxes and things. Not to mention you got that baby in your stomach which is like a permanent box that you never get to put down. An extra weight. But it should all be worth it in the end.

Steven, good choice on skipping baseball. Obviously playing it would have been awesome, but people seem to lose sight of the importance of choosing good friends. Elder Randall has just been telling us about a member they had just baptized in their ward, who has started drinking again. Why? That's what her friends did, so she just joined them. Always choose your friends wisely. But also try to find some way to keep playing baseball. America's pastime. *Salute*

Also, everyone, if you have not read the November general conference version of the Ensign (or Liahona), READ IT. I just got if from the mission office, and it is AWESOME. Crazy good stuff in there. I had never been one for reading magazines, but it's fantastic.

Generally, keep up the good work everyone!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week 16 in Ambohimanarina

Wow, week 16 in the same place and still going strong!  And good thing, too.  This was baptism week.  Quite a few, actually.  What a great experience for Michael!  And look at the pictures—he’s clearly the tall one in town.

Subject:  “If I stare at the lock really hard, it will burst into flame and melt.”

Baptism. Booyah. So we officially have five new members of the Ambohimanarina Branch. Noel and Lily, their kids Tsiry and Lova, and the ever awesome Hery.

P1020473A few details for y'all: First off, the "font" broke again before the meeting even started,  so we had to plug up a hole in the bottom  with a rag that somebody had found, which meant one of the people there had to strip down and plug it. Which worked out just fine.

Second, there was some kind of party going on on the roof across the street so there's these songs blasting at us while we're trying to baptize people and give them an awesome spiritual experience. So much for that. But they all still enjoyed it.

Third, apparently the two kids asked that I baptize them, so Tsiry and Lova are officially my first baptizees. Awkwardly enough, I didn't quite get Tsiry under the water on the first attempt, so the second time I just shoved him down. Hard. But it got the job done.

P1020474And fourth, after Elder Landon baptized Noel (the old guy), Noel jumped out of the water and said "Amen!" It was pretty funny.

All in all, the baptism was good, although it could have been held a little more sacred to the members. But it got done.

And yesterday, Hery, who just got baptized, referred us to his mom as a person that we could start teaching. The first referral we've been given in probably a week. We started teaching her, who is a pretty solid Catholic, and six other women joined, ready to learn. So we'll see where that goes.

P1020475Generally the work here has been improving. I don't want to jinx it or anything, but we have some really cool investigators and we're working hard to help them progress. Most amazingly, they are working too.

Other than that, this week has been pretty uneventful. Just teaching and preaching. And working and sweating. A lot. So it's all good. We had a zone meeting this last week, where the zone leader pulled out the progress records that everyone in the zone had made, and laughed at them. People just leaving spaces blank, writing information that doesn't help, and stuff like that. Then he pulled out one and said, "this one was actually really good". Who made that one? Oh yes. Elder Landon and I. I had pretty much just assumed that everybody filled out records completely, but apparently that's a real problem here. So I'm really glad my trainer has been teaching me well.

Including the language. I've been getting a couple messages from those among you who think that my Malagasy must be getting better, since my English is getting worse. I, in my righteous indignation, went back to see if my English really is suffering. And it is. Big time. And it's the same thing in my journal too. So that's pretty sad. On the bright side though, my Malagasy IS getting better, so I'm pretty happy about that. It's a fair trade-off.

P1020476Unfortunately, that's pretty much all I can think of to write right now. We've basically just been working a lot, studying hard, and seeing some progress. It's interesting how much WORK is involved in this missionary WORK. Who'd of thought it?

For pictures this week, we of course have all the baptism pictures you could ask for, as well as me holding a couple of baby ducks. One of the less active members that we teach (who is actually starting to become active again) had a bunch of ducks just sitting in some bucket in her house. Which was pretty cool.

It sounds like everyone is still doing pretty well back at home. Steven is going to battle against the sons of unrighteousness, all the sisters are preparing for/raising their new P1020477babies, and dad is fixing the washing machine. Good man.

David, let it be known that I say this: Happy Birthday! I admit I didn't get you anything, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Everyone, just keep working and studying them scriptures. There's some REALLY awesome stuff in there, if you put in the effort to find it. That seems to be a really common theme in the gospel. You have to put in the effort, and THEN you'll get the blessings for it. Effort = blessings. Hence people like the pioneers having so many miracles (at least 17 miracles, if I recall correctly. Good movie).

Thank you all for your support!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 15 in Ambohimanarina

Great email again this week.  And some fun pictures!

Subject:  “Great Scott!”  “I know, this is heavy.”

So apparently there is a mall that just got built near us, and we're going to meet up with some other elders and check it out. Should be fun. Mada-mall. What will they think of next.

P1020460The work here this last week has been going quick good. Quite good indeed. You all may remember that we have a baptism coming up this Saturday, and just yesterday, everybody passed their interviews for it. In weather man/airplane pilot terms, it's looking like clear skies ahead. Hery is doing awesome, and Noel and Lily and their kids, Tsiry and Lova, are all great, know the gospel, and are just plain ready.

A couple fun stories happened becuase of the interviews, mainly because we had to go on splits to get them done. I ended up going to a different ward with Elder Rasoloniaina, while Elders Landon and Randall went to my branch to do the interviews. However, since nobody had told the ward that I was attending about the splits, they thought I was Elder Rasoloniaina's new companion. So I'm sitting there in Sacrament meeting, and the testimonies are about to start, when the bishop stands up and says "and now we're going to hear a testimony from the new missionary". Wait, what? So I got up there and rocked that podium like a star. Good times.

P1020467After church, since Elder Randall, as the district leader here, has to go on splits with everyone anyway, Elder Randall and I teamed up to take on Ambohimanarina. Which was awesome, but kind of rough. For one, he decided that he just wanted to listen to me teach, so he only helped teach in one of the lessons. But it was really rough just listening to him speaking Malagasy. He has a hard time with the language, but insists that he doesn't need to work on it because he is, in his own words, "good enough". No offense kid, but I've been here 10 months less than you, and I'm probably better at the language. I don't want to sound all prideful or anything, but it's true. But I avoided correcting him at all today, and took his advice with the grace of a gazelle frolicking through a meadow on a clear and sunny day. Frolicking.

Rain. It's rained here pretty hard for the last couple of days, and through some of the nights. I bring this up  because I woke up a couple nights ago to find it raining on my head. Apparently the rain had squeezed through the rough and decided to leak, right on my bed. So, being a tired, Madagascar missionary, I moved my bed and went back to sleep. I could fix it in the morning. I still haven't fixed it. But it stopped leaking, so I'll count the problem as solved anyway.

P1020461And that's pretty much a week in Madagascar. I loved getting all of your emails today. Mom, you asked about the Plan of Salvation. Try reading around Alma 32-34. I think that's the area. There's a lot of good stuff in there. And of course Preach My Gospel. It's kind of ridiculous how helpful that book is. I would recommend using it when you teach, and challenging your... people that you teach to read it as well. I've found that when I follow Preach My Gospel when I teach, people seem to understand it better, not to mention it structures the lesson. I also just read a talk today by Robert D. Hales from General Conference in 2010, I think from October, where he talks about the importance of our agency. That might be another small help.

Thank you all of those that have offered explanations for "whitely-clad guy" in Lehi's dream. I suppose anything other than reading from the dream itself is just speculation, but it was interesting to here some of your ideas. Especially Dad's. He talked about how the Man in White could be just anyone who works to help others find their way to the Tree of Life. In essence, any diligent member. An interesting thought.

P1020458Picture update: since I went on splits, I decided to get a picture with Elder Randall. He's the really tall guy. Also, I figured a picture with Leonce couldn't hurt, so we gathered up a bunch of random kids that happened to be near there and snapped a snap shot. And the church in Ambohibao has a guard (the church I attended, not my usual place), so I got a picture with him. He's pretty cool. Notice his jacket says something about the Marines. That should help illustrate how awesome Madagascar is.

And that pretty much wraps up this week. I'll try to be a little more organized next week, and to keep the pictures coming. Everyone, know that we are working hard out here as missionaries, and I hope you all are doing the same. There's a quote I read a few days ago that goes something like "after all that has been said, the most important thing for us to do is missionary work." I think that's in Preach My Gospel somewhere. Suffice it to say, missionary work is really important.

Thank you all for your support,

- Elder Arrington