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.