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
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