Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 14 in Sabotsy Namehana

This week Michael learns something about patience with one’s companion—a skill useful to all!  Just laugh about it!  Even when the power keeps going out.

Subject:  "They wrote me a note: 'Wally, we don't like you'. And they all signed."

When life makes you mad, laugh about it.

I just about snapped at my companion yesterday, because he was being stupid. A few details first, and you'll understand what I mean.

We had had enough lessons planned for yesterday that we would have to split up to even dream about catching all of them. President Christian (our branch president) had promised to help with one lesson in the evening, but we still had to find two people so that we could split up and teach until then. Unfortunately, we could only find one.

So we prioritized our schedule, focusing on the people we REALLY wanted to teach, and set off with Haingo, one of our members. That's two missionaries and one member. Now let us skip ahead to four o'clock.

That leaves us roughly four hours of teaching time, and we had four lessons left, all in one area. So I mention that we could just stay and work there, since those lessons could add up to more than four hours, but Elder Andriamanganoro shuts me down. He says "let's go teach Nambinina first."

Well, Nambinina lives twenty minutes away, her husband is out of town, and she really isn't the smartest tool in the shed. I try to point out that the lessons here (in an area called Ambodivonindava) are far better lessons, with smarter people and actual families; whereas Nambinina lives in Namehana, plus the reasons I just said before. But no, my companion starts walking off to Namehana.

Of course, I don't want to argue with him or anything, so I follow along.

But I still tried to find a way for us to catch all of the lessons in Ambodivonindava after we got back from this hour long waste of time. I leaned over to Elder Andriamanganoro and mentioned that we could call President Christian and have him come a little early, so that we could split up and teach more people. He promptly told me that we had invited President to come to one lesson. Yes... but we need his help earlier, and he said he's free. So why not ask? Nope. We're not doing that, said my comp.

Are you serious!? You're leading us out on a huge waste of time, and you won't even think of ways to make up for it?? I was pretty mad about that, and started fuming to myself. After a minute or two, (while we are still on our way to Nambinina) I realized that he could be right. Maybe it's more important that we teach Nambinina. Maybe that's what God wants for us.

Maybe Elder Andriamanganoro is seeing something that I don't. Why not just go with it and see what happens?

After almost pulling the "I'm the senior companion" card, I just decided to let it go. I trust that he wants the best for the people that we teach, and he's a smart kid. I just decided to trust him on this and go with the flow.

The time with Nambinina actually did turn out to just be a waste of time, since Nambinina's drunk, Jehovah's Witness mom waltzed in and started yelling about where God's Kingdom is and something about me having them speak in Malagasy instead of French. Her train of thought made no sense to me or my companion, but we walked out of there without really being able to teach at all. The drunk lady even yelled "aleha!" at us, which is a way disrespectful way to say "beat it!". That's the word they use on dogs. And she told us to never come back. But hey, the lady was drunk. That's just another reason we Latter-Day Saints don't drink.

Bottom line: I may have been right about us going out there being a waste of time, but I learned to just be quiet about it and not worry too much. To be clear, I ended that time completely un-mad at Elder Andriamanganoro, deciding that that wouldn't help anybody. Instead, he and I just enjoyed the good parts of the day and laughed off the bad.

We have three branch missionaries, which are supposed to be the ones coming with us when we teach. One of them, Gabriel, has a mental condition, and just about had an outburst in one of our lessons, so Elder Andriamanganoro is hesitant to bring that guy out again. As I said before Haingo had come out with us yesterday, and now that my companion has seen how Haingo teaches, he doesn't want to bring Haingo any more either. Our branch missionary options are dropping like flies!

It's not really Haingo's fault though. He just has so much less experience in teaching than we missionaries do, so he hasn't quite built up the skill.

He just overloaded the person with too many points and too little explanation, jumping from the Premortal Life to the veil (claiming that we can cross through it) to false prophets and "by their fruits ye shall know them" and so on. Elder Andriamanganoro kept trying to focus the lesson again, using phrases like "so what Haingo is trying to say here is..." Not what Haingo was saying at all, but it just helped us save parts of the lesson.

On the bright side however, President Christian did end up teaching the one lesson with us, and he turns out to be an awesome member to bring. He just sat there quietly, letting us do the teaching, and then bore testimony about his conversion. That was awesome. Probably the best member I've had out teaching with me so far.

And that particular lesson was with Sedra (the right spelling of "Setra"), who is progressing quite nicely. He and his family are still just way diligent, understanding doctrine and asking questions, really trying to understand what we teach. We have just finished teaching about the Restoration, ready to move on to the Book of Mormon, and they started throwing out questions regarding the Plan of Salvation AND the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There's just so much for them to learn, and so little time.

We're now trying to set up a program for them to learn twice every week, instead of once, and they are down for it. Sweet.

But enough about them. Let's talk about me. As I said before, sorry for being late on the email last week. It sounds like mom was about to send out a Search and Rescue party, so I'm glad I got the message out before they unleashed the dogs.

The rest of this week (from Thursday to Sunday) has been... decent. Just a lot of days with a lot of lessons planned, and few of them caught. However, the quality of the lessons continues to climb, along with the quality of the investigators. We tracted into a lady named Brigitte and started teaching her and her husband, and they are both awesome. We were kind of nervous when they mentioned that they pray to Jehovah (which is a huge deal for some people here), but we explained who Jehovah really is and how that whole thing works, and they said "oh! That makes perfect sense!" Brigitte even referred back to the First pamphlet, telling us that what we were saying makes sense. So that's one more awesome family that we are teaching.

I realize that most of this letter was about yesterday, but that was really the most exciting thing to report on. Although I do have some feedback and responses regarding all of your letters from a couple weeks ago, so listen up.

Dad - Everything seems to be going well, and I hope that it continues to do so. I did mean to send pictures last week, but there was a problem with the computer. I'll be sending them this week.

Mom - Here's a random note for you: I had been thinking about getting a motorcycle when I get home. I knew it would have upsides and downsides, but I was just thinking of it as an option. Then you sent me the details about Brother Longmore's accident and I'm thinking I'll pass on that. I choose life.

Also, I did receive your package, but I keep forgetting to write about it.

The cookies are delicious. I've been working on the perfect amount of time to microwave a cookie so that it comes out as if it's fresh from the oven, and I think I'm getting close. Further testing is necessary.

Emily - I read about the problems you've been having with the boys that you teach and I've decided that if you want to declare war on them, you could start cable tying the chairs together and hide the hymn books. Less distractions for the boys. Then I thought, "if she wants to REALLY declare war, she could cable tie the boys to the chairs!" An immobile child is a moldable child. Seriously though, I have no idea how to deal with teenage boys. As an ex-teenager I can tell you that they are just stupid. Looking back, I was way stupid. I have no idea how people dealt with me sometimes.

But hey, you live and you learn. I just hope that those boys learn it faster than I did.

You could also offer cookies or something to those that are reverent, and deliver the cookies when class ENDS, not when it starts. This is a prize, not a "here's a cookie so be quite now." This is "Be reverent now and reap the benefits after class."

Also, I just read one of my notes for this letter and it said, "you can't force a testimony, but preparation can help get them on the right tract".

Yeah. Tract. That's how a missionaries brain works for ya.

Stacey - you mentioned your inner battle of whether to have a shopping spree, a musical, or a staycation as your birthday present. The way I see it, any would be acceptable when you add a little ice cream. Or a lot of ice cream.

You've also asked a lot about my language skills and the people here. To be totally honest, I am actually better at speaking than the average missionary (not counting natives). It just seems that the better I get, the more I see I need to improve. A lot of people stop studying the language or learning after they get "comfortable", even though they still make no sense when they speak. Right now I'm really trying to focus on using phrases that Malagasies use, verses just getting the point across. Really sounding like a native versus sounding like a huge vazaha. Between listening and speaking... they're about the same? I don't know. I find that focusing on listening can help you learn more about how to speak. The two are so connected that I can't really choose one or the other. And yes, I do have Malagasy scriptures.

As for the people, they all know about Jesus Christ, and they all "know"

that any church you go to will get you saved. That's actually one of the most frustrating things about people here. They swear that any church is good enough to save your soul, so it's really hard to convince them that this is the ONE true church. They'll just say, "sure your church is true.

But so is mine." Which just shows that they don't understand the Restoration. Even some members of our church don't understand it.

And that about all for now. I'm still working on sending pictures, but these computers have something against being effective. It might have to wait until next week. Just be aware, I AM taking pictures. And the pictures are coming. One day.

Thank you all for writing and the updates about your lives. It's great to hear all the progress that you guys are making and things that you all get to do. Have an awesome time.

- Elder Arrington

PS: the power keeps going out here, but apparently this cyber has back-up power. Who knew?

PSS: even that didn't really help. I'm finally sending this from the office, because my computer at the cyber still died anyway.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Week 13 in Sabotsy Namehana

Whew!  That was a close call.  We didn’t hear from Michael on Monday.  We didn’t hear from him on Tuesday.  Yea, we were going to go get on a plane and chase him down.  Luckily, we did hear from him on Wednesday morning.  Nervousness aside, this letter was worth waiting for.

Subject:  "I only laugh to keep from weeping."

We had a bit of trouble getting to the cyber on Monday and Tuesday, so I'm sorry this week's email is so late. Dad said that he waits every morning for the email to come in, and I'm thinking, "that's a long time to wait". Sorry about that.

Part of the problem on Monday was me being sick. I guess I ate something bad, because I woke up and threw up. Repeatedly. It wasn't the best morning of my life. And it really sucked because we had a bunch of stuff planned for the day, and I just about fainted every time I stood up. And honestly, I have no idea what I might have eaten that would have caused that.

Anyway, stuff still had to be done, so after a couple hours of sleeping I got up and told Elder Andriamanganoro that we were going to the office, the cyber, and back home to sleep. Maybe two hours out of the house. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

As we showed up at the office, President Adams greeted us and said that there are some elders that just got set apart and have to wait a day or two before their plane takes them to the MTC, and he needs us to take one of them to eat, since the poor kid hadn't had a chance to eat all day. Okay, we can handle that. To make a long story short, "taking him out to eat" turned into walking him Soixante-Sept for the rest of the day to buy a suit, along with any other things that he needed. So we're walking around Soixante-Sept (ranked as one of the dirtiest cities in the world, mind you) while the new kid looks through shoes, sandals, pants, shirts, suits, and anything else he might need, while I still think I'm going to hurl at any moment. I figured that on the bright side, me throwing up there really wouldn't make it that much dirtier, so I wasn't TOO scared. Still, it was not the best way to spend a P-day.

After that fiasco we took the new kid home with us and went off to a soiree that we had planned for that evening. We had a pretty good time, and I managed to keep some food down.

All in all, not the best day ever, but life goes on.

The rest of the week has been pretty good. I finally figured out why missionaries are supposed to be afraid of dogs. I always knew they could be scary, but this one dog tried to eat me alive.

We were tracting and found this gate that was sitting a little bit open, and decided to try there. We knocked and peeked in to find a dog the size of West Virginia staring at us, which then jumped up and charged the gate. I slammed the gate shut while the dog barked its little head off, trying to eat our feet under the door. That was quite terrifying.

There was another dog too that just started barking at us for no reason. It was all nice and everything, smelling us like a good dog. Then we started walking away and the thing started barking like it was on the hunt. Have dogs always been this ridiculous and I'm just realizing it, or what?

I also had a fun time with the language a while ago. There are two words in Malagasy: vala, which means fold or group of sheep, and valala, which means grasshopper. So I was explaining John 10:16 to this one family and how Christ said that he has other sheep "that are not of this grasshopper". Boy, did they get confused after that. Fortunately I realized the switch and we all had a good laugh about it.

We had tracted into these two guys awhile ago, named Faniry and Riana, and came back at our return appointment. The two guys were gone, but their mom was there, and she let us in. After we asked her why she had let us in, she started explaining that her dad had died a while ago, and she's been bouncing from church to church trying to figure out what happens after we die. My companion and I looked at each other and thought "awesome!". We introduced her to the Plan of Salvation, giving her the pamphlet and a picture of the actual plan. We emphasized the Spirit World, clarifying that her dad does not have to burn in heck forever, but still has a chance to repent and get his work done in the temple. She looked at it and said "I like that". We stopped by her house again yesterday, just to drop by, and she said that she already read all of the pamphlet. Which nobody does. But for some reason, she kept talking to me in French. And I'm like "we talked for over an hour in Malagasy, and now you're dropping into French? What the fruit!" But we'll be going there later today for a real teaching appointment, and we're pretty excited about it.

Another lady we tracted into saw me and immediately asked "do you guys teach in French or English?". Elder Andriamanganoro and I both answered her "MALAGASY". She looks back at me and says oh, you're Malagasy!
I certainly am.

People here are just funny. One last story. We have a new elder that's being trained in our house right now, named Elder Lee. He is Tahitian and working with a Malagasy comp. Now, his companion is way funny, and we call him "Pig" or "Big Head". One day I turned to Elder Andriamanganoro and asked "if Elder Andrianjarasoa's nickname is pig or big head, then what is Elder Lee's?" He told me that they had already discussed that before, and decided on "Chong", since the kid looks Chinese. And I'm thinking "isn't Lee already a Chinesey name? We've got Jet Li, Bruce Lee, JackLY Chan... It seems like calling him Chong is just redundant!"

We have a pretty awesome time whether we're working or talking at the house.

All in all, the work is going pretty well. Solo is still learning, and my companion is edging him along the path to baptism. Setra, who I think I already talked about, is still learning, and he and his family are awesome. We're also teaching a guy named Jean-Christophe and his wife Midra, and they are way cool too. And there's others. So we have a ton of cool investigators, and we're having a lot of fun here.

Thank you everybody that worked on the missionary challenge (especially Dad for spreading the challenge to the ward), and I continually ask that you all work on that. Joseph Smith said something to the affect of, "after all that has been said, the most important thing is to preach the gospel."

And thanks to all of you that had a chance to email this week. I always love hearing from you all.

Have a great time,

- Elder Arrington

PS: Mom and Dad, thanks for the pictures! You all look great. And Steven's biceps look about as big as my head right now, so I'm officially scared of how big he'll be when I get back.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Week 12 in Sabotsy Namehana

This week was crazy because we were on Church History Tour—something Michael did with us just a couple years back.  Trying to write to him while travelling on a bus was a challenge, but due to rather amazing technology, we were glad to hear from him the minute his email came in!

No pictures this week.

Subject:  "He's trying to lead you down the path of righteousness. I'll take you down the path that rocks!"

This is the third week in a row that I have tried to type in dad's email in the "Send To" bar, and I just type "Dad" instead of the email address. I keep telling myself to get it right, and then don't. So that's odd.

The Old People and Not-So-Much-Baby of the Family are off on a bus, discovering distant lands on the church history tour. Now there's an experience for you. There's not I really have to add to that, other than to make the best of it. I guess it's almost over by now, but stay focused on the church and history that you see. That's what it's all about, right?

Apparently there's lots of people from Evergreen Ward on the bus, including three Arringtons and two Nathan Bennetts (I'm guessing that was a typo in dad's email). Way to represent!

I just tried to sign into the LDS website for missionaries, and it came out in French. So I clicked on the language bar, and happened to see that one of the options for the website is "American Sign Language". I was not aware that you could actually TYPE sign language. I guess you learn something new every day.
We've taught two people this week that insist that God's name is Jehovah. It's been kind of fun teaching them, just because of how ridiculous they get. First we'll clarify that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, and then ask who the Savior is. Both of them say that it is Jesus Christ. Correct. Now let's read Isaiah 43:11, which says: "I am JEHOVAH. There is no Savior other than Me." After reading that to them I just started laughing to myself. Just a great feeling of "I win". Of course they still rejected it, trying to think of ways to warp the scripture to their belief. But I hope it at least got their minds moving a little bit, and that they'll be humble enough to recognize the truth that we have given them.

People have some really funny ideas about God and his gospel. Here's one more of them.

We had found this family a while ago, and are teaching them really slowly. Elder Andriamanganoro and I think that they could be way cool members, so we're trying to teach them really well. As we do with everybody. But you get the point. Yesterday we talked about prophets and how God always works through prophets (Amos 3:7). However, the wife had a problem with that, and started beating around the bush about why we don't need prophets today. In the end, she explained her big issue: "In the Catholic church, they have 'prophets' and you have to confess your sins to them. I don't think I need to confess my sins to anybody but God, so I don't need a prophet. I can do my repenting business directly with God."

After she said that my first thought was "WE ARE NOT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH." But we explained that that is not what a true prophet is for, and he does not replace our personal line with God. I believe there is a Dallin H. Oaks talk that explains about our personal line with God, and our priesthood line. They are separate, but both are needed. We encouraged them to pray about it, and hopefully they'll be diligent in that.

Our teaching has generally been getting better, and we've been teaching more. A good combination. We also met these two guys named Tojo and Njara who seem like they could be way cool.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but my companion's family owns a house in our area. It's really just a shack out in the middle of nowhere, and most Malagasies have a second home like that. Because of that house though, we found out that there is a less-active member that lives out in that area, and we decided to stop by. And he is the coolest member ever.

He was baptized a few years ago in a different ward, and became less-active after moving to where he is now. But he still reads the Book of Mormon every day! Not a very common thing to see in people that don't come to church anymore.

However, the real reason that he hasn't been coming to church is that he only has one leg, and it's really hard for him to climb into the bus that would take him to the church. But his explanation was a great example of his attitude. He didn't point at his missing leg and say "I'm missing a leg". Instead he pointed to his one good leg and said "I've got one good leg, and I can go about 500 meters before it really wears out". Just one of those "glass is half full" kind of guys. And even better, he actually came to church last Sunday. So that's one less-active member reactivated. As long as he, Bruno, keeps up the good work. He's a good old guy.

One more new investigator that we've found is... our branch president's son. For those who may not know, any person who is nine years or older and not already baptized has to learn from the missionaries. It's pretty common here in Mada for people to just put of baptizing their child until it's too late, and they come to the missionaries, expecting us to teach them. What the heck, people? Just dunk 'em when they're young and we won't have to teach them! And if anybody shouldn't have had that problem, it's our branch president!

It turns out that it's actually his son from his first marriage, which didn't turn out too well, and the kid (Anselmo, pronounced like Hansel-Moo) had been staying with his mom until now. But hey, it's one more person we get to count as an investigator, right? Plus he's a pretty smart kid, and we have a really fun time when we teach him.

I feel like this email has been a lot of babbling, but I guess that's all it is normally.

And it sounds like everybody back home is having a good time. And what's this about Steven having "a better communication device"? Did he inherit an iPhone while my back was turned? Well done kid. And it sounds like he's being responsible with it. Good job kiddo. O, be wise. What can I say more?

As for the rest of you, life still seems to include a lot of jobs, kids, and in Emily's case, more kids. I've just skimmed through your email so far, but I hope your kids are mingling with them French Fries and Spanish Salsa's too. That will give your kids the bragging rights of being that much cooler than all the other kids that don't hang out with foreigners. And maybe some language skills too, because those always come in handy.

Mom, Dad, and Stacey, thank you for your reports on the Missionary Challenge. Keep up the good work. And to those of you who have yet to start, I repeat my letter from last week: "Now get off your butts and Just Do It!"

And if it helps, read D+C 4 right before talking to the missionaries, remembering that it applies to YOU just as much as it does to them.

Thank you all for your support and love. It's great to be remembered somewhere out there.

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week 11 in Sabotsy Namehana

I guess we better be doing member missionary work!  Get on it!

Subject:  "I'm not a big, fat panda. I'm THE big, fat panda!"

Tracting. What an interesting job that missionaries have. If they gave you the job description ahead of time, missionaries would work a lot harder to avoid having to tract. The definition goes something as follows:

Tracting: walking endless miles, knocking on endless doors, talking to endless people, and possibly finding two or three people that you could teach. For more effective finding see also "Work with Members".

We've been tracting a lot lately, and it's gotten difficult. It seems like the people in my last area were more willing to at least listen and try out the message. People here in Sabotsy Namehana just tell us that they "already have their Jesus". Seriously? We white people did not cross the PLANET to come here and tell you some guy's name so that you'll be saved. We came here because our religion is true, and we want you to be blessed from the fullness of the truth, not from just a part of it.

This one lady was kind of funny. We knocked on her door, and after I explained that we are missionaries she went off in French. My companion told her that I am from America, not France, so she tried to repeat herself in English. I stopped her and explained that I actually speak Malagasy. Finally she told us that she has "her Jesus" and that's all she needs. And then she shut the door.

One more story about contacting. We had taught this kid named Ando a few weeks ago, and he seemed really cool. About twenty years old, willing to study, and really nice. Just recently we caught him at his house, along with the rest of his family. Our goal is to teach fathers, so we found the dad and started talking to him. And I have very rarely been rejected so thoroughly.

He is from the Jesosy Mamonjy ("Jesus Saves") church, and there's all kinds of stuff I could tell you about how apostate they are, but that will have to wait for now. He was actually pretty nice at first, until my companion said that we have a "new gospel message that you don't know yet". The guy reacted as if we had suggested killing and eating his family. "HOW DARE YOU think there is something I don't know about the Bible! I KNOW my Bible!" Elder Andriamanganoro tried to explain that our message is not in the Bible (it actually is, but you have to know what you're looking for). He meant to say that we have a new message, not that this guy didn't know the Bible. But this Jesosy Mamonjy guy (or JMG, if you will) wouldn't hear of it, but sent us into Bible bashing.

My companion told him about eternal families and JMG quoted a verse about a woman, who marries a man that dies, and then marries the dead guy's younger brother. Husband number two takes a dirt-nap, and then husband number three, and so on through seven brothers, until the woman finally dies. Christ is asked who she will be married to after the resurrection, and Christ responds that people are not given in marriage after the resurrection. They went on debating and arguing for a while, and JMG just kept repeating that he has a "full Bible".

Finally I cut them off and told JMG that his Bible is NOT full. I actually have a list of eleven books that are mentioned in the Bible as being scripture, and yet we don't have them (you can find that list in the Bible Dictionary under "Lost Books"). So there is scripture that does not exist in the Bible. That shut up our apostate friend. Finally he just said that he doesn't need any scripture than the Bible and sent us away, refusing to let my companion bear testimony of our church. We felt like we had handled the situation as best as we could, but it was still sad. That guy just doesn't fully understand where the Bible came from, but he wouldn't listen when the truth came knocking on the door. Maybe he'll be more willing to listen to another missionary down the line.

But enough of that madness. Our tracting has started to produce some good fruits, although they may be few for now. I think I talked a little bit about Setra before, and he is way cool. We also found this one-legged guy named James that seems really willing and ready to learn. I made up some pirate names for him, like James the Wobbly, but I forgot most of them. But he's really nice. He even offered to go to our church or something to learn, since we shouldn't have to walk out to his house. We told him that that is our job, and we really don't mind it at all. His eyes just about popped out when we offered to stop by around six o'clock. "Are you serious?? That's WAY too late!" From his reaction, you would have thought we had suggested midnight. That's the Malagasy schedule for you. So we'll be teaching him tomorrow morning.

I also went on splits yesterday (Sunday). Elder Austin, our zone leader, called me the night before, explaining that the assistants had demanding that he and I go on splits ASAP. I don't know what it was for, but Elder Austin said that everything went well, and offered some tips on how I can improve.

The funny part of the splits was hearing Elder Andriamanganoro talk about his day. The companion that he was with (Elder Midgley) came to Madagascar about ten days ago, and his Malagasy is not great. Elder Andriamanganoro's English was good enough for them to communicate pretty well, but it was rough while they were teaching. My Malagasy told me how he would: tell the investigator something, listen to their response, and then translate it all for Elder Midgley. Elder Midgley then tried to add in his two cents, but it apparently came out un-understandable. So Elder Andriamanganoro ended up teaching mostly by himself. But he is a good spirited guy, and we all had a good laugh about it at the end of the day.

Incidentally, I saw part of the broadcast about missionary work that came out recently. I think they showed it in your churches a few weeks back, if that sounds familiar. Elder Austin had to watch it, so I got a good peek. One of the benefits of being with the zone leader. Anyway, it really hit me just how much they want us to work with the members. It was not "this is the missionaries job", but more like "this is the ward members' responsibility TO the missionaries. And to God." In that spirit, I would like to repeat my challenge to all of you, since nobody seemed to follow through on it so far.

Right after you read this, call up the missionaries in your ward (you can get the number from the stake directory or your bishop) and offer to go teaching with them once this week. Then write back to me about it, whether you actually taught with them or not.
Notice that it's called "missionary work", not "the missionary's work". One of the definitions of "missionary" is: a person who is highly in favor of a work". Are you in favor of God's work?
Preach My Gospel has a quote from President Monson that says, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Your performance is to help the missionary work. Measure it in your journals for yourselves, and report it back to me and (most importantly) report back to God. I promise you all that it will accelerate your spiritual improvement. And between the war we are waging with Satan and all the other work that God has for us to do, we'll need all the progress and improvement that we can get.

And actually do it this week! All it takes is a phone call to local missionaries and a short email to another missionary. And with that little effort, you could be the one that God needs to help "that one" person get converted. If you were in grave danger, I bet you would be very grateful to the person that saves you. Our job as members of the church is to save people's eternal souls. Now get off your butts and Just Do It!

I may have infringed Nike's copyrights somewhere back there, but you get the idea. I realize that we are all busy, but if we have to choose between being busy in God's work and being busy with something else, which should we choose? You all KNOW the right answer, so go ACT on it and Choose The Right.

Okay, enough catch-phrases.
("Every member a missionary".)
I'm pretty sure that we all understand what I'm trying to say here.
("A marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men".)
So no more quotes.
("See that ye serve him with ALL your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day".)
Keep writing if it's convenient, and help the missionary work whether it is convenient or not. I love you all, the work that you do, and the stories that you share. We've all just had a great week. Let's get out there and have another one!


- Elder Arrington

Monday, July 1, 2013

Week 10 in Sabotsy Namehana

Michael gets his new companion this week, who appears to have a good sense of humor as well, looking forward to hearing more about that.  Michael also issues us all a challenge.  And sends a few more pictures!

Subject:  "And your intention is to blackmail this person? Good luck."

Long goodbyes, and short companions. It's a funny world we live in.

P1040261Elder Razafimandimby left on Thursday, and was replaced by Elder Andriamanganoro. My new companion is rather short, but he's way good at English and has an awesome sense of humor. Fortunately he still lets us talk in Malagasy, so I'll still be able to learn a ton about that and such.

We've also done quite a bit of tracting recently. On Friday and Saturday we probably clocked seven or eight straight hours of it, and taught three people throughout those two days. And two of them were long time investigators. Still, we set up some return appointments and invited a few people to church.

P1040265Here's a little side note about the Madagascar geography: there are areas that are "province" and there is Antananarivo. I've probably said that before. Elder Andriamanganoro just came from a province (Toemasina) and told me that it's way easier to teach out in provinces. People are far more accepting, and just generally nicer. So apparently there are "good areas" out there. We just have to bring Sabotsy Namehana to that level. It could be rather a good deal of work.

And it is hard to work when you are sick. Apparently it's bad for you to eat meat that's pink on the inside? Yeah. I definitely should have been smarter about that. Tracting plus sickness are not good combinations. But I think I'm getting past the second of those, mostly thanks to the medicine and things that mom sent with me (who knew I would have a chance to use those? I guess mom did. Thanks mom).

P1040273But enough of that. On the bright side, the people that we DID end up teaching seem to be progressing pretty well. Solo is still being awesome, and astounding Elder Andriamanganoro the first time they met.

One person that we met recently was kind of a wierd (weird? I have no idea.) find. Elder Razafimandimby and I had tracted into this house a couple weeks ago and met this guy named Setra. He said he was busy, but we could come back another time. Yesterday Elder Andriamanganoro and I went there, knocked on the door, and asked for Setra. He comes out, and is entirely different from the person that I had talked to before. Kind of awkward. But this new Setra invited us right in and sat us down with his family, and asked a couple questions about our church. We explained the church's views about the Sabbath Day, the Law of Moses, and things like that, and he said that he agreed with everything that we had said. We then offered him the Restoration Pamphlet after explaining a little bit about it, and he agreed to let us come back again!

P1040279Elder Andriamanganoro walked out of that lesson (after teaching thrice in the last two days) and said, "that just feels better". Doesn't it? As a missionary you always feel better after a good lesson. Which brings me to my "Missionary Weekly Challenge of The Week". You read that right. Weekly.

I, Elder Michael Arrington, Son of Ed the White-Headed, Brother of Steven the Shirtless, hereby challenge all who read this to: call the missionaries in your ward today, offer to go teach with them once this week, and report back to me on how it went before I send off my next letter.

P1040284I promise that the missionaries are always looking for your help. Don't wait for them to ask. Call them up and offer it. And really make it a priority. There's not a lot of things more annoying than members and investigators that "don't have time". Seriously? The almighty God that created your body, organized your very intelligence and offers you a way to receive eternal happiness is asking for half and hour of scripture study each day, or teaching with the missionaries, to help you along your path to salvation. And you have higher priorities? There are so many times I look at people that we teach and think, as Ron Weasly says, "she needs to get her priorities straight".

And there does seem to be some rather big news this week. Happy Birthday Steven! My little brother is now that much bigger. A little advice on the driver's license test, from one who has failed it before: don't be nervous, and don't use your mirror's when you back up. Apparently that's a "bad thing" to do. And if it comes right down to it, bribery is always a good way to boost your score.
But seriously, happy birthday. Have a great time.

P1040290Lindsay, I'm sorry to hear about the power problem you had at Arbor Manor. An event without air conditioning is like an ice cream cake left in the sun. It's just not as cool.

Dad mentioned that you have all been going through a heat streak back in the homeland, some places even up to 127 degrees. Ouch. Madagascar can't seem to make up it's mind to be blistering cold or scorching desert. The last couple days have been really hot but I had to wear a vest and a jacket anyway because of "dis-eases" associated with some disease. But that's life.

Thank you everyone for your support,

- Elder Arrington