Monday, May 27, 2013

Week 5 in Sabotsy Namehana

Apparently soccer is the sport of kings.  I guess I’ll wait before telling him that it’s actually football—American football. 

He also explains that investigators can be brain dead, but they can also be great!

Subject:  "I was in the hall. I know it because I was there."

Soccer. The sport of kings. We just got back from a game. The field was all dirt and partly flooding with rain water, but hey, Madagascar is awesome.

IMG_0066Life has been great here on the mission. And difficult sometimes. Some people are just so dumb! We started teaching this preacher from another church (since that can only end well), and he is honestly one of the most frustrating people I have ever taught. Having started the lesson about the Restoration, we explained the work of a prophet and why it is so important. Because if we have no prophets, then life is looking pretty bleak. Prophets guide us and tell us God's will for the CHURCH as a whole. This guy, a preacher, who studies the Bible in both Malagasy and French, teaches a congregation of people that follow him, said that we do not need prophets. But that's a common thought, so we jumped to Plan 2.

We showed him the verse in Amos 3:7 about God working through prophets and he said he agreed with that. God works through prophets. But, as this preacher explained, that was back THEN. We don't need prophets anymore, because people can receive revelation for themselves now. He claimed that after Christ came the Holy Ghost became a free gift to everybody that falls on them after being baptized in water (he also ignored the authority that is needed for baptism, which was pretty annoying).

P1020899To make a long story short ("too late!") he continued to deny the importance of prophets. That got me started thinking about what the Bible really has to say about prophets, and follow me on this thought: the Bible was never meant to be THE BIBLE. Especially the last books of the New Testament, starting after the Testimony of John. All those letters to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and so on, were words of correction from THE LIVING PROPHETS at that time. Yes the books are "scripture". But they are letters of CORRECTION to a falling people, not books from which to divine the foundation of a religion. In an address about the importance of the Book of Mormon over the Bible, Mark L. McConkie said, in effect, "the books in the Bible are meant to CORRECT the people in Christ's church as it then stood. The Book of Mormon was meant to INSTITUTE that same religion among a people that did not have P1020897the same history of religion that the Jews did". Basically he explained that the Book of Mormon is more clear, more simple, and more necessary in the foundation of Christ's church because that is what it was meant for. In summary, the Bible is good for reminding the people in Christ's church of the laws and things, but the Book of Mormon is necessary for creating (or more accurately: restoring) Christ's church. Just my personal thoughts about that.

We're going to teach that preacher again later this week, so we'll see where things go with that. It might be a drop talk very soon.

IMG_0079Anyway, things are going pretty well other than that. A few diligent investigators, a few new ones, and a whole lot of less active members. Mom mentioned that less active members should mean we just have to rekindle that fire they had when they were baptized. And hopefully, Elder Razafimandimby and I will be able to do that.

We also have done a lot of tracting, which has yielded (along with investigators) a lot of stories. We found what we call "ny alika rindrina" meaning "the wall dog". He just poked his head through a hole, but it looked really funny. We've also had to cross a lot of rice patties, which means lots of opportunities to fall in some water. Or jump over it. Elder P1020959Razafimandimby is kind of a nut, and asked me to take a picture of him jumping gap, probably about seven feet wide.

One of my favorite things was this old lady that we tracted into. She was standing about thirty feet from the gate when we knocked, and we just had a hilarious time trying to communicate. We would ask her something and she response would be about something else entirely. We asked her how she was doing and she said that they had already eaten. So that's... related. In any way whatsoever. Elder Razafimandimby was just cracking up behind the P1020991fence for all of this.

For those of you who have been wondering about "Malagasy and Elder Arrington", it's been improving. My accent is pretty good, but my downfall is that dang vocabulary. I study and study, but things just do not stick in my head. Sometimes I feel like a sponge trying to absorb words, but my brain-sponge is getting squeezed out at the same time; nothing sticks. But I'm getting better, and my Malagasy companion is a great help.

He's also been asking me to help him learn English, so we're both getting better. For those of you who may learn a language in the P1020932future (Steven), be willing to drop English phrases and replace them with those of native speakers of your language. There are way too many people here that speak English, directly translated into Malagasy. Which is completely un-understandable.

To wrap this up, I just want to thank you all for your support, your love, and your emails. You gotta love hearing from family, especially when they are on the other side of the world. Speaking of which, does anybody actually know exactly how far Madagascar is from the Shack?

Thanks again,

- Elder Arrington

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Week 4 in Sabotsy Namehana

Another week when Michael didn’t write on Monday.  Why not?  Well, you’ll see.  We did get an email the next day, so all is well.

It turns out this is Dad’s birthday as well, and Michael sent me a personal note that I have shared below.  I’m telling you, there’s nothing like having a son serving a mission and getting a personal note from him!

Subject:  "They put the plate of donuts here to test your guilt! If you don't touch the plate, you're guilty!

One big thing that I've been learning here is how much we all already (all ready) know. I've been listening to CD by Mark L. McConkie in which he mentions that faith is the application of knowledge. Thus, we need to have knowledge to have faith. He goes on to explain how important the Book of Mormon is, because there is so much KNOWLEDGE in it, which thus helps us increase our FAITH. As I've been working in scripture study, all those simple little things that religious teachers say is sinking into me, and really making sense. Whereas I knew the KNOWLEDGE before my mission, APPLYING it is what builds up the FAITH.

There's just a little thought about testimony. The more you know, the more you can act to increase your faith. And life is pretty boring without faith.

First of all, I am emailing on Tuesday, not Monday. Apparently there was some holiday yesterday, for which all the cybers and businesses were closed. So here I am, Tuesday-ing. This is just temporary though, so later emails will be coming out on Monday again.

Yesterday we also went to a ward activity with the Analamahitsy elders. The plan was to go out to this area, have a little picnic, and then the elders break off and go to a nearby lemur park. We didn't realize until we showed up at the place that the lemur park was closed (on account of the afore mentioned holiday). The ward activity took over, and we ended up spending our entire day with them, while the Malagasies went out and picked gauva (just to snack on). It was still pretty fun though.

We've been working a bit to contact a lot of new people, and start teaching a lot more. When I first showed up here they had about ten "eterni-gators", and not many others. So we're weeding a little bit, deciding who is really progressing, and filling the rest of our time with a bunch of tracting and street contacting. Not the most fun thing in the world, but a little work can lead to a lot of progress. Kind of a "sharpening the saw" thing.

And of course, we get to clean up the mess from the elders before us. Here's a little Madagascar mission history for you: elders in years past had decided to search for a lot of baptisms (not all elders, but some). So they baptized tons of women and children. This is NOT what the church needs to progress. So now instead of us current elders focusing on just finding good families, we also have to search out the several hundred inactive members in each branch, and try to reactivate them. It's kind of a balancing thing of baptizing men that really build up the church with priesthood things and bringing back inactive people who were only baptized because they thought they would get money. There are not many things that frustrate me as much as people who were baptized with absolutely ZERO testimony. But progress is being made.

Dad also asked about the cybers here, so I'll address that. Yes, the church actually pays for our time at the cybers. Keep in mind though that our whole conversation only cost about 4,000 Ariary, which is about two dollars. Gotta love Madagascar prices. I can buy a package of Saltos Fromage (Saltine crackers that taste like Mac and Cheese cheese powder) for 30 cents, and my lunches (either a plate of rice or a steak) never cost more than two dollars! Life is good.

Things with my companion are going great. He's teaching me all kinds of things about the language, although sometimes he doesn't know it. Malagasies through in tons of sounds when they talk that just don't show up when you read. Talking really helps iron those things out, helps me sound more native, and helps others understand more clearly. All are good things.

David told me earlier in my mission that being bilingual is the best thing ever. How true that is. Not many things make you feel cooler than speaking and understanding a language that most people don't know exists.

I'm having some trouble uploading pictures (a problem with the computer, not the server). I've taken a bunch recently, and Elder Razafimandimby has a bunch that I want to send too. I'll sort this all out and hopefully send a bunch next week.

Thank you all for your emails and messages. It's been great hearing from you, and learning about all the great things you're doing. I salute mom's efforts in creating a new quiet book puppet. Good work mom.

I read in the De Rurange Family Constitution that "We shall pray always...". Might I be so bold as to add something about scripture study? Praying and reading the scriptures... they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Mmm... good.

Keep up the good work everyone. I'm proud to be part of such a great family.

- Elder Arrington


Subject:  Happy Birthday

Dad -

First of all, happy birthday. Since I can't be there in person to give you barbecue tools, I figure a letter is the next best thing.

Second, thanks for raising me. And I really mean that. There are a lot of missionaries that have problems adjusting to one thing or the other, whether it be the mission work, the mission rules, or so on; I'm just really glad I don't have to be one of them. I've been raised in a way that has prepared me for my mission. I really don't mind keeping those "little" mission rules.

Some people whine and complain that "after a long day of work, I deserve a break, so bending a few rules is okay". But I don't really find keeping the rules to be a burden. I'm happy to follow the principles of the gospel and keep rules and standards because that is what I have been taught to do. Not blindly following, but I believe that following those "little" rules is what separates "people that go on missions" from "missionaries". Since I was old enough to have a "Future Missionary" tag pinned on me, I have been taught the importance of a mission. And not just going and coming back from where you serve, but devoting yourself to that work.

Thank you Dad, and happy birthday!

- Your son, Elder Michael Arrington

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week 3 in Sabotsy Namehana

No letter this week, because it was Mother’s Day and Michael got to call us!  We did a Google Hangouts will all the family from various locations around the globe (most of us here in the West, Michael obviously in Sabotsy Namehana, wherever that is.

On the funny side, we were expecting his call Sunday morning, so we all got up at 4:00am to prepare for the 5:00am call.  No call.  We did it all again on Monday morning, and voila, there he was!

Here’s a picture of the Google Hangouts with Michael on our big screen!


Here’s mom’s email after the call:

Subject:  Thank you!

What a great way to start the week!  (Though a bit earlier than I am used to.)  Thank you, everyone, for the thoughtful gifts and for being awake so early to share Michael’s call with us.

He looks great and obviously learning lots.

I know your lives are all very busy and it’s hard feeling that your struggles in raising small children are ever going to pay off (or going to school and working).  Be reassured, that the tough days will someday be forgotten (or filed away with treasured memories) and the rewards of your efforts will be so WONDERFUL.  There is nothing more rewarding to me than watching my children and grandchildren grow…and it’s a LOT easier now.

Thanks again for the thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts.  I look forward to cashing in my gifts.

I love you most,


P.S. I hope you find time to take naps today!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Week 2 in Sabotsy Namehana

Ok, so this Malagasy companion of Michael’s cracks me up.  They play the best missionary games….

Subject:  "So he walked. And sometimes, drove."

P1020710First of all, our last P-day was awesome. Not only did we email and such, head down to Analakely and not have to feel rushed to get back, but I bought some deodorant that smells like chocolate. Add that to the strawberry soap that I use, and I walk out of the house each day smelling like a fondue buffet. Life doesn't get much better than that.

We ended last week's P-day with a party with some members. We had committed to bring some brownies, and did so. The problem: something went very wrong when we cooked them. Maybe there was too much sugar, maybe not enough salt or something. We may never know. The bottom line here is that those brownies hardened like concrete inside the pan. We had to use a screwdriver, five P1020713people rotating shifts, and 45 minutes to chisel them out. But it was totally worth it.

I'm afraid my companion and I still aren't teaching quite as much as we would like to, but we're making some progress. Rather than sitting and waiting for the next people to show up, we've started doing a bit of tracting. Which has led us to some fun stories.

For one, we started playing a game. At each house, I'll pick a word for my companion, and he picks one for me. Then I'll have to use the word that he gave me in our door approach, in a way that the person doesn't find it odd.

P1020751So at this one door, I tell Elder Razafimandimby that he has to use the word "hala", which means spider. We go and start talking to the lady, and she just shuts us down, saying that she never has time to learn, her husband gets home really late (at six o'clock. As if that counts as late.), and she's already way religious, blah blah blah. So my companion turns to her and says "halahelo izahay raha tsy hianatra ianao." Which translates to "we will be sad if you don't learn". Notice the total lack of the word spider, and yet he slid in "hala". Halahelo has no relation to hala, but he says it counts. And we had a pretty good laugh about it.

Also from our tracting, we found this way cool guy. As he caP1020732me to answer the door, he greeted us while HOLDING his Bible. As if he had just been reading from it. He lets us in right away, and takes us into his house. Sitting down in his chair, he opens up his Bible and tells us that he's ready to learn, and explains that he had just been studying the book of Job in both Malagasy and French. So we've got a pretty smart, bilingual, diligent studier of the Bible. And as we continue talking he told us that he's actually a preacher for the Protestant church here. But we can work on that.

Anyway, he seemed way cool and we set up another time to meet him. More to come about that. And as a fun side note, he's actually the preacher for another one of the investigators that we teach. Small world.

P1020743Another fun story. We were walking out to work one day and saw a Malagasy "Flintstones car". As you can see in the picture, they stuck the top of a car to a handcart and are pulling it like the pioneers crossing the paved plains. Even my Malagasy companion thought it was pretty funny.

On the not so funny side of things, we found a way cool investigator. The downside? It takes a 15 minute bus ride and an HOUR walk to get there. Seriously, a straight hour. I've gotten pretty used to walking, but I'm still sore from that. We got to see some way cool scenery, I learned a bit about some Malagasy culture and buildings, and then we kept walking. But it was all totally worth it. We got to a member's house who was going to show us to the investigator (who comes to church every week), and just look at how cool they are. I think I added a picture of their house, which is covered in church pictures. Adam and Eve, Christ in Gethsemane, baptisms, temples, and tons of others. And to top off how awesome they are, pretty much all those P1020757books on the shelf thingy are religious books. Scriptures, Teachings by the Prophets, Preach My Gospel, and all kinds of other stuff. They walk an hour and take a bus just to attend church, and then do it all again to get home. Just way cool members.

Anyway, I know this may not be the most organized email in the world, but enjoy it for now. Apparently next week is Mother's Day, which means I'll be making a sort of phone call. Thing. Talk to dad for the details on that.

Thanks to all of you that managed to squeeze off an email this week. It seems like everyone's lives are just getting busier and busier. But keep up the good work.

Thanks again,

- Elder Arrington

PS: if any of you haven't read "I Need Thee Every Hour" by David... Vadimlkghisk... or something like that, I would highly recommend it. You should be able to get it at Deseret Book. It's a fantastic book that talks about how we can apply the Atonement in our everyday lives, through the hard times and the good times. Enjoy!