Monday, June 24, 2013

Week 9 in Sabotsy Namehana

Week 9 and already time for a new companion.  And some baptisms!  And more pictures!

Subject:  "And what? Taken all the REALLY big rocks? The scoundrel!"

As Dad mentioned in his email, "days go by slowly, but the months go by quickly." How true that is.

But it sounds like you are all filling that time with awesome things. Hearing about how busy you all are, I start to wonder just what the heck I did with my time before the mission. Time is short, so make the best of it. I'm starting to understand what old people mean when they say they want to make their kids understand how important time is. It's one of those things, where we always "know" that it's important, but you only realize just HOW important it really is after you lose it.

P1040255Speaking of which, Elder Razafimandimby and I have had a pretty awesome time here in Sabotsy Namehana. Solo never fails to astound us with awesomeness. For example, he told us that he wants to start learning from us every day. Literally, EVERY day. That's a bit much, but we compromised. We now teach him two or three times each week, and invited him to a class each Saturday morning, where the other elders teach Preach My Gospel. And he's way excited about it.

When we started teaching Solo he had asked us for a Bible in English, so that he could start preaching in English. I gave him a Malagasy Book of Mormon, secretly planning to give one in English later. That way, if he wants to learn English he will HAVE to study the Book of Mormon. However, when he met us last Tuesday he updated what he wants. He then and there asked us for a Triple (the "big Book of Mormon") in both Malagasy and English. It would seem that the Holy Ghost has helped straighten out his priorities.
So along with focusing himself on the Book of Mormon and learning from the missionaries Solo is still teaching his preacher friend, his wife, and now his son. We're planning to invite them to learn from us actual missionaries too, but apparently they think we're scary. The only reason the preacher friend won't accept us is that we use the Book of Mormon. Apparently it's a scary book that only cults use. Them darn Mormons. But things are going very well.

P1040256Including the baptism that we just had. Five girls, all of which had been shut down from baptism before because their parents are not diligent. Nevertheless, they have proven their personal diligence, and have therefore been found ready for baptism. So that's good. One of them even asked for me to baptize them, and to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cuz you know, I know how to say all that in Malagasy. Not. But I managed to get the job done, mostly with the help of the branch president whispering what to say.

We had a zone conference this week, and they showed this AMAZING talk by Brad Wilcox, about turning strengths into weaknesses. Seriously, one of the best talks I've ever heard. He explains that the Atonement will bring us back to the presence of God, whether we like it or not. The difference between somebody that is "saved" versus one that is not is that a "saved" person will want to stay there. People who are wicked and sinners will not want to be with God, because of all the shame and guilt that it would bring up to them. Thus, the work that we do in the gospel is not to come back with God, but to change us so that we will WANT to stay there with him. I highly recommend it to all of you. Watch it, read it, print it out and mark up the text. Study it.

P1040251We also had something of a game night with our zone after the conference. The had a bunch of little games, including juggling three balloons at once so they won't hit the ground (which I won. I guess all that practice as a little kid paid off) and bouncing a ping pong ball into a cup (also one that I won. Pure luck). It was a blast, and even our mission president tried a couple of the games. Fantastic.

Transfer news came out yesterday, and Elder Razafimandimby is leaving me. Since before I left my last area, I figured that this transfer could end up with me training. I'm decent at the language, and everything just seemed like it would work out really well like that. Transfer news came out... and I'm not training. The downside is that I don't have a trainee. On the bright side, I will be getting another Malagasy companion, whose name escapes me. It's something like Elder Andriamanganoro. So that means that there will be me and my new Malagasy companion in the house, along with the Malagasy elder that works in Analamihitsy and his new companion. Who is actually a new missionary. This poor guy is going to have a rough time communicated with people in the house, considering that two of them are Malagasy and the other guy (me) has enough trouble communicating in English.

Moral of this story: if you assume you will be training when transfers come out, you'll be given a Malagasy companion. Which I am totally down for. Malagasies rock.

After Elder Andrianjarasoa heard that he will be training he got so excited that he dove on his bed. The fruit of this labor was similar to what happened in "the RM" when the "Tonganese" guy falls through the bunk bed. As this elder dove onto the bed, the mattress sunk down to the ground. It turns out there was just a little piece that had to be put back in place, so we fixed it pretty quickly. But it was really funny.

P1040248And that pretty much finishes up my week. Baptisms, transfers, zone conferences and parties. I also had a guy call me something way racist yesterday. Kind of the Malagasy equivalent of the “n-word". Fortunately I've been working on not getting mad at people for that, so me and my companion just walked away.

Having read all the emails that have been sent so far, I thank you all for the updates. I love hearing about life back at home as only a missionary can. Keep it up.

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

I just remembered that I never described this weeks pictures.

P1040257I finally found out that sticking butter knives into a power outlet really does make your hair stick up all Einstein-like. Actually that's just how it looked one morning. But it was pretty funny.

There's also a picture of me at the ping-pong ball challenge, and a couple pictures from the baptism. One little problem that we faced was that I had forgotten my belt, and my pants were falling like a blonde person's IQ. So after some consideration, I unlaced my shoe and used the lace to tie together the buttons on the inside of my pants (the ones meant for suspenders). It turned out to work pretty well, so I took a picture.

I'll probably stop by the cyber again later today to send off a picture of the wooden plaques of the temple that we had ordered, so you can see if you like it or not.

Thanks everybody!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Mom, I said I would take money out last week, but will probably happen this today instead.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 8 in Sabotsy Namehana

Has Michael been in Sabotsy Namehana for two months already?  Time is flying, even as Michal says.  And then there’s the parable of the toothpaste tube…

Subject:  "Perhaps I'm not as stupid as I am ugly, Commander."

With how time is flying now, you'd think somebody had thrown a clock. Ha. Get it?

P1040199Two more fantastic lessons with Solo (Captain Awesome that is also a preacher) have led to some good news and some bad news. Bad news: his wife. He's been avoiding having us over while she is there because she's way die-hard in her church and would probably throw us into a furnace. We'll have to meet her at some point, so I'll let you all know the details about that when it happens.

The good news however is that Solo has been asking for a Triple. He heard about this "big Book of Mormon" that some library had and asked how much it would cost: 40,000 Ariary, if I remember right. So about 20 dollars. I think we just about stopped the poor guy's heart when we told him we could get him one for 1,100 Ariary (55 cents). He basically threw the money at us and asked how soon we could get it to him.

P1040211Dad mentioned in his email that he had also taught a couple preachers during his mission that just didn't seem to get it. I was wondering about what makes Solo different, and all I can really think of is that he was willing to try. Anybody that has gone on a mission has had investigators that just don't read from the Book of Mormon, yet that is exactly what Solo had been willing to do. Before he read from it, he was borderline hostile. After maybe a week of owning the book and reading from it his entire view has changed. Rather than arguing, he's asking questions and really trying to learn. My companion and I walked out of one of our lessons and one of us said that we might as well just leave Solo, since he's pretty much teaching himself now. He had just studied the Plan of Salvation and knew it better than most of our members.

P1040220So what makes a golden investigator? Willingness to try. Even if Solo doesn't know the church or the Book of Mormon is true yet, he is willing to test it to find out. His mind is open, and God is going to take care of the rest.

Last night I had a little apostrophe ("I think you mean an epiphany") about how God pushes us. Follow me on this. It's like each of us is a tube of toothpaste, with God squeezing us out onto this massive toothbrush of life. The biggest thing that I really got from that is that God is going to push us until HE thinks we're through, not until we stop giving. P1040225Sometimes we'll have a little bubble, so God pushes a little harder until toothpaste comes out instead of just air. And even when it seems like we're at the end and can't do anymore, God keeps squeezing, because He knows that there is that little glob in there, and He's going to get it, no matter how hard He has to push.

Basically God pushes us to literally give everything that we have; nothing more, nothing less. Getting squished like that might not be comfortable, but it's what we need. Instead of trying to hold back, just devote yourself to Him, and let the guy who knows EVERYTHING take the wheel.

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I just finished a toothpaste tube last night, after getting everything I could out of it.

P1040227From today, we have five baptisms this Saturday (all children investigators from before I came here) and then transfer news on Sunday, and there is a good chance I'll be losing Elder Razafimandimby. Which is sad because he is awesome. As for the baptisms, they are all really smart and everything, but I would rather hunt down twenty people like Solo than dunk a hundred 10 year olds. Everybody in the mission knows that older people are the foundation of a solid church here in Madagascar and those who are now children can join the church later in life, when it is more stable. Unfortunately, baptizing kids is a lot easier for some missionaries. Hence, Elder Razafimandimby and I are tracting and finding families that will hopefully be diligent.

P1040231And there's always the less-active members that we have to hunt down. They range anywhere from strictly lazy (and thus not coming to church) to 100 percent apostate, like the guy from a couple weeks ago. Again, they just lost the desire to improve and know that the church is true. Those of you who are reading this, obey my advice: DON'T GO INACTIVE. It's just not worth it. You might as well just be a tube of toothpaste, completely full and ready to be awesome, but holding back as hard as you can. As the scriptures say "God will have a humble people". You can either give in now, or God is going to start squeezing hard. Whether in this life or the next, you WILL be humbled. So you can regret your life when you look back on it, or proudly tell God that you were there when he needed you, ready to give the very last of your paste.

P1050917Thanks to all of you who have been writing and letting me know about life back in the mainland. It sounds like Lindsay's business is doing even better than her competition. Might I add in that sabotage is always an effective weapon, if you're just trying to beat the other guy. But seriously, good job. And thanks for the email Lindsay. Have fun on your campouts.

Grandma and Grandpa Arrington, thank you for your email too. I guess you never know what happens to people when you leave them, but they say that no effort in missionary work is wasted. You'll be blessed for your work.

As for the rest of you, keep up the good work. Business things, baseball games, school, and high adventures. It doesn't get any better than that. Make the best of it, and stay focused on the important things in life (the gospel).

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, June 10, 2013

Week 7 in Sabotsy Namehana

It looks like Michael has some baptisms coming up, or at least scheduled in the next couple weeks.  One is not the preacher, but the preacher does seem to be making more progress.  Who knows?

I’ve posted more pictures from the Crocodile farm and a few others as well.

Subject:  "You're on the wrong side of the road! Bunch of amateurs."

P1040155A great week, with lots to catch up on. Yesterday one of our members (the wife of the previous branch president) said the closing prayer at sacrament meeting and ended it by saying "in YOUR name Jesus, amen". So apparently even our long time members think it's okay to pray to Jesus. Elder Razafimandimby and I had a good, awkward laugh about that.

107_4492There are five people here with baptism dates on June 22nd. One of them is a daughter of a way diligent lady (Joely) who has a marriage problem. The daughter's name is Laingo. So we go to teach them one day, and end up in a little trivia battle about the Bible. Joely started asking a few questions about where Moses died and things like that, just for fun. So I tried to stump her by asking, "how many prophets will die in Jerusalem before the Second Coming?". Let me emphasize the "how many". Laingo, sure of the answer as a ten year old can be, turns and proudly says "Joseph Smith!" Good job Laingo.

Probably my favorite investigator as of today is Solo, the preacher that we've started teaching. As you all may remember, we had some problems at first with teaching him, but every time we go there he seems to get cooler and cooler. Last Thursday, for instance, Solo told us about an argument that he got in with one of his other preacher friends after revealing that he was learning from the missionaries.

IMG_0168This other preacher guy lectured Solo on how he is a preacher, and shouldn't be learning from missionaries. Solo wouldn't back down, and started defending what we had taught him, especially about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He claimed that everything we say is backed up by scripture, and it all makes sense to him. That was fantastic to hear. One of the biggest things that set of the other preacher is that we believe in a baptism by the Spirit. People think that the Spirit just falls on you after baptism, but the gospel of Jesus Christ (as defined in the scriptures) includes a baptism. Solo didn't really want to argue with his friend, so he backed off.

P1040142After having all of this explained to us, we went through the Bible with Solo and showed him all kinds of exciting things about the baptism of the Spirit: Acts 1:5 and Acts 8 especially, which separate the baptism of John the Baptist (by water) from the baptism of the Spirit. I especially love Acts 8 which specifically says that the gift of the Holy Ghost comes through the laying on of hands. Booyah. He asked if we can even feel the Holy Ghost before baptism and we explained that we can. Teaching people is so much better when they have an actual DESIRE to learn. You can take P1040068a horse to water, but you can't force people to feel the Spirit. They have to want it.

Of course, not everything has been going so great. To find some of the cool people that we've been finding we have had to drop a lot of old investigators, who were just not progressing. It's sad, but they had lost the drive to learn. For us that has meant a lot less lessons, but better ones. In missionary work, I'll take quality any day. Quantity can come after you have a base of awesome members.

P1040065The language and everything are still getting along pretty well. One thing I've noticed about people here is that whether a missionary speaks well or not, they usually understand really well. They just have no idea how to apply what they know. They get comfortable and stop improving. Don't let that happen to any of you. One of the biggest things that helps me is just repeating back exactly what Malagasies say. I've heard it all the time, but nobody speaks the language as well as a native. Whether you unP1040184derstand everything or not, just repeat them. It makes you sound WAY better.

I don't imagine too may of you learning a language soon, but I figured I'd just get that out there.

Side note, I added twenty something pictures to the server today, including many from the Croc Farm. One is the sign they have that says non-Malagasies pay twice as much to enter (in French. Which makes no sense to me). I wrestled with a crocodile, rode a turtle, and fed lemurs by hand and by mouth. It was an awesome day. I think I threw in a picture of Elder Razafimandimby sleeping too. We had just come home from church, he ate rice and scrambled eggs (or as he calls it, "food"), and fell asleep right after. Church, eat, sleep. Life is good. Fortunately he wasn't too hard to wake up when we left to work.

P1040178Elder Razafimandimby is an awesome companion. He works hard and has a fantastic sense of humor, even when something terrible happens to him. Like finding bananas in his backpack that he had bought a week ago, having already gone very bad. He knows how to just laugh it off. Elders Landon, Eppich, and Razafimandimby. They are awesome missionaries, and I've loved them all.

Keep up everything you people are up to. Raising kids, making businesses more effective than ever, and walking forty miles. Sounds fun. I want to get something made with the phraseP1040036 "Do hard things; they make better stories".

Speaking of which, Elder Landon (the one I live with now, not my trainer) got a wooden plaque made, designed after a picture of a temple. It looks way nice and I'm thinking about getting one made. Mom and Dad, could you send a picture of the Portland, Oregon temple?

I'll also offer to direct "Arrington clan" family members to place an order for you, if you are interested in having a plaque made. Let me know by next week if you are interested, along with the picture you want made. It will costP1020999 about 40 dollars (send it to Mom). Product should arrive in 3 weeks - 15 months.

Anyway, that's about all I have for today. Keep being the best family (and friends) a missionary could ask for.

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 6 in Sabotsy Namehana

In which Michael begins to witness a miracle.  I recall teaching a preacher or two on my mission, but never saw this kind of change. 

We also got a bunch of pictures from the Crocodile Farm visit.

Subject:  "Wreck? Shooooot, I'm the worlds best backwards driver!"

Wow. This week I've seen a bit about how people can change, for better and for worse.

First of all, some of you may remember how a lot of last week's email was rambling about the preacher that we taught. Well we taught him again, and there's been a 100 percent change. At first he was borderline hostile, pretty much ignoring anything we said, scriptures we referenced, and things like that. This time he was like a lamb to the 107_4500slaughter. Or to the... watering hole? Something like that. He came to us having read in the Joseph Smith pamphlet, the First pamphlet, and the Book of Mormon, and was full of questions. Best of all he was willing to listen and pay attention to the answers that we gave, which was fantastic. He seemed excited to learn, rather than just looking to Bible bash. Which is good for him, because I was about ready to bash his head with the Bible after that last lesson. But he seems to be much more receptive now and asked if we can start meeting twice each week. I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but we were way happy about that. After walking out of there Elder Razafimandimby mention how he's started feeling the Holy Ghost as he reads the scriptures. Interesting.

My overall thoughts about that lesson: it was effective because the student was ready and to listen to and learn from his Sensei. That is me.

107_4512On the far end of the spectrum, we also taught a "less-active" member that has gone about as apostate as you can go. To keep his story short, he joined the church a long time ago, was diligent for about two years until he lost his job but found a new one translating the Bible for the Apocalypsy church. He ended up joining them at some point, and is now a preacher in that church. There's something going on with preachers right now for some reason.

Anyway, we're supposed to seek out the less-active people and help them, so we grabbed a member and lady that is not yet a member, but is way diligent (she has problems getting married) and set off to help this guy that has fallen away.

IMG_0164After starting us off with a decently "un-apostate" prayer, he broke into a barrage of questions, talking so fast and asking so many that neither I or my companion could answer them. Mainly his questions were about the book of Revelation (or Apocalypsy, as it's called in Malagasy. Hence the name of the church), which I really don't know about. He said "there are four animals that will be before God's throne; do you know what they are? No you don't, because you guys don't know the truth." Literally not even braking to let us TRY to answer. I would have no idea what to say about that, but it's the thought that counts. Besides, I don't really consider that to be as important as... the Plan of Salvation... repentance... things like that. He also informed us that he does not believe the Plan of Salvation to be from God,IMG_0179 literally FORBADE us from calling Joseph Smith a prophet, and claimed that because we pray on Sunday, our church must be wrong. Well, good sir, the important thing is not the day of the week, but what you do. And in Acts it says that the apostles had the sacrament on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, so you can shut your little apostasy filled face.

This was all Bible bashing with him though, so I showed him Galatians 5:22-23 that says the fruits of the Spirit are peace, happiness, and things like that. I then told him that I feel none of those things when we argue as we had, and we ended the "lesson".

Overall thoughts about that lesson: this guy was far more hostile than the other preacher guy that I talked about last week, and has less than zero desire to come back to the church or even listen to what we say. I don't think we're ever going back there again.

P1040119Which just really sucks, because this guy knew better. He was a member of the true church, but now when judgment day comes he'll have to tell God that he turned away from everything that he had been given, for a job.

But enough about that. Let's talk about me. Work and things have been going pretty good here, and seem to be getting better. My companion is starting to drop investigators that are just not progressing, although they've still been taught for at least the last five months. Not a very effective use of missionary time. But with ward members we are seeking out less-actives, and still trying to find a lot of new investigators. It's good.

Life with Elder Razafimandimby is awesome. Partly because he is deathly afraid of the dark, which presents me and the other elders that we live with a delightful opportunity every night after work. But he's a way good sport about it, just laughing it all off.

P1040084They have a Crocodile Farm reasonably close to where we live, and I just got back from a trip out there. Best. Decision. Ever. The crocodiles were less than exciting, until the Malagasy elders started poking them with sticks through the fence. But they also had lots of other animals and things, including a giant turtle on which I rode into battle. There are very few fences in the park, and fewer guards, so we had plenty of chances to do things like that. Was it smart? Probably not. Did we get caught? No. Worth it? All the way.

They also had a few lemurs jumping around in the trees that apparently love crackers. We lured a few down and had a crazy awesome time with them. These were apparently not as friendly as the ones in actual "lemur" parks, but they were still way fun. Just watching them jump around from tree to tree was cool enough, but they loved eating crackers right out of our hands.

P1040078Five dollar entrance fee for the Croc Farm (or two dollars for Malagasies), poke crocodiles, feed lemurs, and get the coolest profile pictures ever. I'll take that any day.

We took tons of pictures, but my camera died, so most of them are on other peoples cameras. And I don't have a card reader right now, so we might have to wait a week for those.

Thank you everyone for writing. I love hearing about your lives and all the important things that you're all up to, as well as votes about puppet names. You only go through this life once, so why not have some fun with it (within the rules that God has given us)?

Thank you all again,

- Elder Arrington