Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Week 22 in Ambohimanarina

Michael says he doesn’t have much time to write this time, but still, there’s a lot here!  We were a little concerned because it was a day late, but not to worry--another great letter.

Subject:  "It looks like he's... leaning."

Sorry about this, but we really don't have much time to email today. We got stuck in some ridiculous traffic on our way back from Analakely, in a taxi with the coolest driver ever. Kind of a lose-win situation. But still, we made it (-ish), so that's good. We'll see where things go from here.

Work here has been awesome. Obviously things could have been better for the last little while, but it's starting to get better, little by little. First of all, we've been looking over the stats for the last few weeks, and literally the WEEK that Elder Landon left this area (my trainer), the stats dropped. To almost a half of what they used to be. Total times that we teach, member presents, things like that. It's pretty crazy. And it's stayed down low like that ever since. We've been trying to find some reason for it, and can't seem to find anything. We're still going out to work like normal, still have the old appointments, plus new ones, and we end up having to tract. On an average day we'll have anywhere between 9 and 11 appointments set up for the day, and at the end we might catch 3 of those. Yesterday we only caught one of them. ONE. But we're trying to keep a good attitude. Obviously it's not the total number of lessons that counts, but the quality. But it would still be nice to have a LOT of good lessons, rather than a few. So Elder Eppich and I are setting up some plans to help the work go better. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Elder Eppich, this kid is epic. We're having an awesome time. He's got a great sense of humor, very similar to mine, so we manage to squeeze in a few laughs throughout the day, even during the work. All good stuff. On the downside, it's looking like I might transfer this April, which would send me out after just a few short months with this kid. Which would be kind of sad.

Speaking of April, we finally have some more baptisms lined up, and guess what day it is! Oh yes. My birthday. Yes, I chose the date, and yes, that was pretty much the entire reason. But hey, the date works out well with the people, and it's going to be awesome. The only downside is that I might move before that, so it could be kind of depressing to not see them get baptized. Still, that means my birthday will be the same as their... re-birthday. Pretty cool.

One thing that's really been bugging me about the work here is how some people just REFUSE to understand the Restoration. This last Saturday we were teaching this lady named Arlette, who has been learning for a long time, reads from the Book of Mormon more than almost anybody we'll teach, but still refuses to come to church. We finally challenged her to baptism again, and she told us that she doesn't need to get baptized, since she already was baptized in some other church. This is after we've explained the authority to her, over and over and OVER, and she refuses to understand that her church does NOT have the authority to baptize. I kind of got mad and just straight up told her, "your baptism is useless". I said it nicer than that, but that was pretty much the message. It just drives me crazy how you can tell somebody that the authority was lost, give them all the examples and parables and testimonies that you can, but if they don't have the desire to act and learn for themselves, they will not progress. Arlette won't accept that her church doesn't have the authority, and because of that she is not going to receive an answer to her prayers if the church is true or not. If she did receive that answer, she wouldn't act on it, and as I've just been learning from my Book of Mormon reading in Alma, how much more doomed is somebody that knowingly doesn't follow God, verses somebody who just doesn't know?

Moral of that story: our desires are what make all things possible. If we want to have faith, we can. If we want an answer to prayer because we are ready to ACT on it, we will receive it.

There are so many people here that are diligent in reading, or coming to church, or praying. But they have no true desire to know if this church is true, so they cannot progress. And I have no idea how to give them that desire.

Interesting timing from Dad, who, in his last email to me, reminded me to be patient with our investigators. It's really hard. But thank you. We're trying to help them progress, but it's starting to look like we'll have to wash our hands of these people and seek out those who are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.

But not everybody is like that. There are still plenty of people that we teach that are way diligent, and super awesome. Mario and Santatra, for one. Mario's parents are members, and having seen the blessings that they received and how their lives have changed, Mario and his wife want to know how they can be like that. Most importantly, they are willing to act. Just sitting there and teaching them is fantastic, because we get to learn about just how much effort they put in to know the truth. Mario and Santatra sit down together and study the pamphlets that we give them. If something is unclear, they'll use every resource that they have to learn what it means (the definitions in the back of the pamphlets, the scriptures) and if it's still not clear, they ask us questions. It's SO nice having people that actually want to learn. They have the desire to actually know the truth, and they are ready to act on it.

Leonce, if any of you remember him, taught me an example for teaching about faith. Imagine a boat, with two oars. What would happen if you only use one of the oars? The boat wouldn't work. You would just be rowing in circles. You have to use both. Our lives are like that with faith and works. I'm sure you all know that we need both, but I've been thinking about it a lot recently. Picture in your mind a lake, that is our life. We all started off in our little boats, trying to make it across. Some people fly straight across, but there are so many people sitting there, going nowhere, because they have no faith or works. Or they're just spinning in circles, because they only have one or the other.

Now in this lake of spinning nutcases, you're floating by. As missionaries (and as members of the church) our job is to help OTHERS make it across, not just finish on our own. One of the best ways we can help them is by setting forth a solid example of faith and works. We have to teach them how to row by showing them how we do it. And when we do this, we can bring forth huge numbers of boats, having huge success in our job. Unfortunately, people still have agency, and can choose to not go anywhere, in spite of all the knowledge and help you give them. It's a difficult job we have, but we have to try. The gospel is all about our effort.

And there's your inspirational thought for this week. I haven't really had time to read much of your emails yet, but I'll print them out to read later. From what I have read though, it sounds like I officially have four new nieces and nephews, healthy, cute, and chubby as ever. It sounds like the rest of you are still having a good time, working hard, keeping Arbor Manor running solid, taking care of the families, and apparently throwing out new technologies with Intel that will change modern photography as we know it. For better or worse.

Press on everybody, especially in the gospel. Put your life in God's hands. Just as we hand over broken TVs to people that know how to fix them (or just buy a new one, but follow the example), God knows how to make our lives work most effectively. This is GOD we're talking about here. The most powerful, wise, loving being in existence. Why would you follow anyone else?

- Elder Arrington

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