Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 18 in Sabotsy Namehana

Yes, week 18 in Sabotsy Namehana, but it is now more than 52 weeks on his mission!  Michael has crossed over.  More than a year.  Here we see pics with a little celebration or two for Elder “Iray Toana” (to be explained below).  Picture descriptions are at the end.  There’s also a reference to some Essay David wrote, but we’ve not seen that.

Subject: "You should write a book: How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less."

Report on Solo: he wasn't able to learn at all this last week. So still no progress there. But they say no news is good news, so let's take that to mean that the Holy Ghost is working with him, helping Solo to understand.

Mom, you gave me some teaching ideas about authority, which were great. I've been reading in "Our Search for Happiness", and Elder M. Russel Ballard uses that very same driving/being given a ticket example. Police have authority, our neighbors don't. So if you were wondering, your teaching is right in line with that of a living apostle. Gold star!

P1040422As for the mirror example, we use that a lot. I personally like to explain it as a glass bottle, filled with soda (because hey, soda is tasty). When it shattered, all the pieces were separated, and the soda was lost. People took little pieces and made churches based on a little truth, but not the fulness. But even if you could rebuild the full bottle, that soda is already lost forever. That soda represents the authority. No matter how closely and completely you follow the teachings of Christ, if you have no authority, it's pointless. An empty soda bottle won't fill anybody. (Side note: the Malagasy word for pointless more accurately means "an empty thing", so you can joke around about how "empty" a church would be without authority. And thus, you all know a Malagasy pun. Congratulations.)

And you're absolutely right about faith. Facts don't convert. Those facts are good, but if you don't apply them with faith, you might as well be a baby that never learns to crawl, or walk. As a baby, you see people walking, and maybe you understand the concept. Two legs, one moves while the other stands still. But until you try it out for yourself, you're still just a little blob on the ground.
One more example. The gospel is like a math class. People can tell you all the formulas and principles they have, but it's not until you APPLY what you are told that you really understand it (if only I had known this in high school!). You start seeing their teachings in new ways, understanding it better. The more you learn and apply, the more you understand. And the more you understand, the better you can accept more complicated formulas, new ideas, or rather, deeper doctrines.

I've learned from my own studies that the gospel is only as deep as you let it be. When you study and really understand, things start to click in your brain. Not just the facts, but the reasons for them. The gravity of just what we are facing in our lives. The perfection of God's plan and His love for us. But if you don't use what you learn, those ideas will never click. As some famous person once said, "the gospel has to become real to you". It can't just be a good idea. It has to work inside of us, so that we really begin to understand: not that there might be a God, but that there IS a God. He IS watching us, and He DOES love us. Each and every one of us.

P1040428That clicking of knowledge can only come through the Holy Ghost. And HE will only come through OUR diligence and efforts.

But yeah, we explained all that to Solo, and he just says that all churches have their own WAYS of following Christ, but the main idea is still there. Yeah... some churches follow the fulness of his truth, with his authority, and some don't. But Solo refuses to accept that. For now.

On the other hand, we found another person, named Fano, that is just as frustrating. But he has his own problems.

We found Fano a couple of weeks ago, gave him a pamphlet, and tried to set up a lesson for next week. He told us that that is too long. So we came back two days later and talked about his reading from the "Restoration" pamphlet. Everything went pretty well, so we left him with a Book of Mormon and told him to read. Unfortunately, he couldn't learn again until yesterday, and here's what we found.

He had read from the introduction through a couple verses in 1 Nephi, and told us that he didn't agree with what he had read. Okay, that's nothing new. What's the problem? His problem was that Moroni should not have been able to be resurrected, since Jesus Christ himself was the only person to be resurrected, and will remain as such until the second coming when everybody is resurrected. Okay, also reasonable.

We showed him the verse in Matt... 27? or 29? It's one of those. And it talks about how after Christ's resurrection, "the graves opened" and the saints walked out. We explained how that scripture shows that there WERE people resurrected, other than Christ. Even the apostles have been resurrected (or at least some of them. John the Beloved technically hasn't died yet, so resurrection is difficult for him).

Fano thought about that for a minute and said, "no, that's not right. This scripture is talking about the people that didn't know about the gospel of Christ. The were brought back to life so that they could learn the gospel, but they were still mortal. They would still die again." I was going to throw Alma 40 at him, which teaches about the Spirit World, but Fano brought up a bigger problem.

He had kept saying that "this isn't okay with me" about the Book of Mormon and things that he had read. And I'm like, "that's nice. But have you asked God if it's okay with HIM?" After all, we're following God's will, not Fano's. And Fano told us that he will not pray, or ask God for an answer. He explained that God knows what we need, and will give it to us on his own. So why should we ask?

Well, that's kind of what the apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ himself taught us. So that's worth following in my book. To make a long story short, we got into Bible bashing, me giving a scripture that tells us to pray, him misinterpreting it to mean what he wants. Then he would give a scripture, I would explain how I see it, and he disagreed, and the whole cycle continued.

And before anybody things I'm a bad teacher (because of Bible bashing) let it be known that I told Fano, every time one of us gave a scripture, that we are only seeing it by our own translation: what we want to see. So unless we pray and receive (recieve? Neither of them look right right now) an answer from God, we'll be stuck Bible bashing forever.

But Fano looked me in the eye and said, "I will not ask God for an answer." Then you won't know the truth.

P1040432I mean, prayer is such an obvious, fundamental part of what Christ taught us, so universal to the churches that exist, that I was just entirely unprepared on how to explain the need for it. Honestly, I was pretty mad after leaving him. Luckily I couldn't remember where the scripture is that says, "the evil spirit teaches man that he must not pray," or I would have thrown it at him (2 Nephi 32:8, for the record).

But enough whining about Fano. Suffice it to say, I felt pretty awesome about my Bible skills when I finished that lesson, although I felt less awesome about the effectiveness of our time.

The rest of our week was pretty awful. Six-and-a-half days of full schedules, and we ended the week with eight lessons total taught. The week before totaled at 22, and the week before that was 21. I mean, what the heck? Fortunately, the lessons that we did teach (aside from the one with Fano) went pretty well, and we found a few new investigators. And we're starting to make some progress on hunting down members' houses, so even though the numbers are low, the progress is progressing. Progressfully.

One final note about an investigator that we found. We had tracted into this lady a while ago, and she told us that she was busy working. So we set up a return appointment, and came back on the appointed day. She was still working. I, being unhappy about her choosing work over God (granted, subconsciously), asked her what is more important to her: work, or God. She said she really had to work. So I said goodbye, and made a mental note to never go back to her.

The next week (this last week), we happened to be passing by, and I thought, "I'll bet she's still working. She just has no understanding of how important God should be in our lives." I really didn't want to go back, but I figured (as with Matt Damon's wife in 'We Bought A Zoo'), "why not?". So we knocked on the door.

P1040459After one of her kid's brought her to the door, this lady let us in. Just like that. She sat us down and told us that she still has work to do, but she decided to set some time apart for God's servants. We had a really good lesson, and at the end she explained how, when we knocked at the door, she had been working, and almost denied us again. But she heard a spirit tell her to make some time, and accept the missionaries in.

In summary, I almost didn't go back to her, but the Holy Ghost convinced me to man up. She almost didn't let us in, but the Holy Ghost convinced her to listen to us. Interesting how God plays both sides of the table sometimes, isn't it?

This week has been long and tiring, but the coming week looks even better. We have members planning to help us out (and give us yogurt, for some reason), and good lessons lined up.
I hope this last week has been good for you all, and that the coming week is better. Keep up your missionary challenges (and if you haven't started yet, get your butt in gear!).

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

PS: David, I thoroughly enjoyed your essay on the "Book of Mormon/Books of Mormon" enigma. Well thought out, and well explained. Especially the part about "book of Mormons" referring to one book, written by multiple people named Mormon. Cracks me up.
And I know what you mean about just wanting to "sort this out". Sometimes it's just fun to do. And sometimes it's way helpful for understanding. I do that sometimes in my studies, and all of the new knowledge and understand that I find just blows me away. Half of me thinks "I knew that before, but I finally GET it!" and the other half thinks, "I might be the only person in the world that really understands this." Of course that's not true, but that's the magic of the gospel becoming real. Real understanding.


For some reason I can never remember to explain the pictures that I send. Here's a quickie on the most recent ones:

We had a big, combined zone meeting (two zones), in which I got to see Elder Andriamanganoro, my last companion. We also got some rather delicious cake sort of thing. Thicker than cake, but way better than bread. I'm not sure how to describe it, other than delicious. We also got told about a bunch of Malagasy culture things that we need to respect, and we had never known about. But we'll talk about that later.

We split a cheesecake (courtesy of a loving mom and family in America) four ways on my year-mark, and I got a picture with my part. The people here have trouble pronouncing my name, so they just call me "Elder Iray Toana", which means "Elder One Year". Hence, I'm pointing to my nametag. One year gone, one year left, Elder One Year. Get it?

Remember the Malagasy culture thing? Somebody had invited us to their wedding, and, according to customs, we accepted. And since I'm apparently the only person on the planet with a camera that's not hidden inside a camera-phone, I became the appointed photographer. For the record, this is what they call a "Fisoratana", which is when they get papers that say that they are married. But if you go by pure Malagasy customs, they had actually been married for a while, although they never had a paper to show it. It's pretty interesting stuff, actually.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week 17 in Sabotsy Namehana

This week we approach one year out on his mission!  Wow.  Time is advancing.  And we have more pictures!

Subject:  "They lit me on fire!" "It was just your pants."

I've been buying a tube of Pringles for each of the last couple weeks, and they are dang good. I've also learned from grocery lists that I make that my English spelling is terrible. I've been writing things like "Peanut Butte" and "Egges". I swear that I used to be good at that, but now my brain is about as functional as the fan in this cyber. It runs for about seven seconds and gets stuck as it pans to the left. Weird.

David, I'll say this now, because I keep forgetting to answer your question. Sorry, but I have no idea where they are. I too remember us using them back at Lindsay's house, but after that... nothing. Sorry about that.

P1040406And now: area report. Solo's baptism is officially going to take a long time. Partly because of his family, but mostly because of him. Our last lesson was us debating the existence of false churches. I don't know if I've said it before, but Malagasies have this idea that all churches are true. And Solo is no exception. We've tried explaining the authority that is needed in the true church of God, the Apostasy, true baptism, and who knows what else, but he just can't accept that some churches are not true. He ended that last lesson by saying that all churches are true, but they each have their own ways of following God. Again, we tried to explain that Jesus taught that there is only ONE way, but Solo told us that that means that ANY path will lead to God, as long as Jesus is talked about. Honestly, I'm running out of ways to tell him the same thing. Any help would be appreciated.

We gave out three Book of Mormons (Books of Mormon? Copies of the Book of Mormon.) this week. All of the investigators that were given the books seem really diligent in reading, so we're pretty excited to watch the Holy Ghost blow their minds with truth. One of those investigators (named Lanto) even came to church yesterday. We had a sort of stake conference, which may have been a strange first experience for her, but hey, church is church.

P1040407There was also an investigator at church that we had met the day before. He had met missionaries down in Antsirobe, and his name and number were sent to us in Sabotsy Namehana. He (Christian) also gave us soda and crackers the first time that we came to his house, so I'll count that as a way good investigator. Both my spirit and my stomach would be happy to stop by there again.

And as long as we're talking about investigators at church, there was this girl named Fiononana too. Fiononana (and her sister) has been learning from missionaries for a long time, and during this last week we stopped by their house again. We started talking and she asked if she could tell us a story. Of course you can! Go for it.
She explained that she has a cousin (nonmember) that has been reading the Book of Mormon and believes it to be true, but her family is way against the church. So this cousin isn't coming to church, but she wants to. What can we do about that? Pray that her families hearts will be softened. But that's about it.

But Fiononana also had a more personal question. She explained that she really wants to preach the gospel, but can't, because she's a girl. She would look at us missionaries and think, "they are so lucky, they get to spread this message to people, but I don't, just because I'm a girl." Whoa... say what??

We asked her why she thought that, and she goes, "well you showed us that scripture in 1 Timothy 2:11 that says women should learn in silence!" And I started laughing to myself, thinking "yeah, that was a good one..." But seriously, we explained that women DO have the opportunity to go on missions, and they can spread the gospel just like men can. Moral of the story: be careful which scriptures you give to people, regardless of how funny it may be.

Last note about Fiononana. She told us that she used to not really read the Book of Mormon, but just thought it was boring. Then, she started really getting into it. Now she loves reading it, studying, just learning about the gospel. That's the work of the Holy Ghost for you. Get somebody to open the Book of Mormon, and you've set them on autopilot for the baptismal font.

Jean-Chris and his wife are allegedly still reading in the Book of Mormon, but we weren't able to teach them this last week because they had left to work early one day (when they were supposed to learn from us) and his wife's sister popped out a baby on the other day that we learn. But this coming week is still solid.

I don't know if I explained about Lanty and Lanto, but Lanto is that lady that came to church. She and her husband are one of those that were given a Book of Mormon, and so far it looks like smooth sailing. Lanty just likes reading stuff in general, so we're not too worried about them. All we really need now is a good member to befriend them, and the hook that we laid in their metaphorical mouths will be set solidly. Mwaha.

P1040410Olga was yet another of those given a Book of Mormon, but I want to talk about her testimony of the Bible. She told us this story about one night when she was walking around (Bible in her bag) and saw a witch. She claims that a Malagasy knows a witch when they see one. The guy was coming right at her, but she reached into her bag and clutched onto that Bible (rather like holding to the Iron Rod?) and that witch guy stopped, walked around her in a big arc, and left. Interesting. Witches are pretty well known around here, and anybody you ask has stories to tell about them.

A few last details about yesterday. My companion and I, having more lessons planned than we could handle on our own, split up with ward members, and set out to teach. By the time that we met back up, almost all of the twelve lessons that we had planned fell through. But, the two families that I (and the returned missionary member that was with me) taught were awesome, and ready for their own Book of Mormon. It's been a while since I've had a companion that really knows how to teach, and it was awesome to be with him. Good stuff.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you (plural. Would that be "y'all", or "all-a-y'all"?)

Dad mentioned the general growth of missionaries throughout the world, and asked how that's been affecting Madagascar. So far, we have a lot more missionaries. Especially sisters. But we're also getting way more (much needed) elders. In my MTC group, there were four of us. In this next group that's showing up in September there will be sixteen. That's a lot. As for mission or area growth, our mission president has been really focusing on "centers of strength". He had been working on shutting down almost all of the provinces, but with the new missionaries coming here he might be able to keep the provinces running, rather than packing all the troops here in the main city. Only time will tell.

But seriously, let's talk about all-a-y'alls. Dad, you also mentioned that you may be rewiring the pool bathrooms, laying in speaker equipment. That saves going on top of the roof, but have you considered setting in a full speaker system (from microphones all the way down to speakers, possibly set into the outside walls of the building)? That way nobody would have to depend on the "Mouse Palace" for when they announce things. I don't know. Just a thought.

P1040411As for Mom's business about Steven getting the rock wall job at Hawthorne Farms, I actually do have some advice. First of all, ask questions. It might feel awkward asking Kyle Moore how to tie a knot, or asking your boss about what you can and can't do with free time, or stuff like that, but it's better to ask a question then to remain un-smart. That was kind of a problem that I had back when I worked there. I started wandering when nobody was climbing (trying to help out where I could!), but my boss didn't agree with that. Just ask to be safe. Also, there's an old-ish guy named Paul that climbs a lot, and he has the technique pretty much down. If he's still there, learn all that you can from him. Aside from that, climb as much as you can (safely), and take full advantage of the free gym membership that comes along with the job. I expect  you to be the size of Dwayne Johnson when I get back.

Julie, I love hearing about your family and baby raising experiences. You explained that James has a bottom-less stomach, while Parker spits up endlessly. Have you considered that the two issues could be related? The way I see it, there could be some kind of portal in James's stomach, so that every time he eats, the food goes straight to Parker's stomach. Thus, James is always hungry, and Parker gets overfilled like a sink that was left running. Just a possibility.

As for the rest of you, keep having a great time for the next one year and three days. And then the real party begins.

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 16 in Sabotsy Namehana

This message is complete, but it did come in two parts.  Occasionally we get a message that is obviously unfinished, followed by another that is the complete version.  Something to do with Malagasy computers in cyber cafes, I’m sure. 

Pictures this week, including one of my favorites:  That ethnically diverse group of four missionaries with Madagascar in the background.  Good lookin’ guys!

Subject:  "You really shouldn't mumble, because I cannot understand a word you are saying."

First of all, I opened my email and found... EIGHT emails! Julie even wrote twice as much, so that's a lot of mail. Thank you all. (And a special thanks to Kathryn "A Froglet" Frogley)

P1040364After being called out by mom, I looked back on last week's email and realized that I sounded pretty negative. Let it be known that that was mostly unintentional, and generally we stay pretty positive around here. But sometimes it gets hard to do that when people refuse to accept such a simple doctrine.

One guy that we taught, that I might have already mentioned, is named James. We've taught him a few times, but James just cannot accept that "Jehovah" was a name of Christ before he came to the Earth. It was kind of funny though, because he brought that up and said that if we could show him ONE scripture that says that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, then he will accept it. So my companion pulls out a note card that's filled with scriptures, all proving that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. He started reading them to James and James said, "okay, that's enough. I'll study these verses and get back to you." And Elder Andriamanganoro said, "are you sure? Because there's still tons of scriptures here that prove this point." I laughed at that. But really it's kind of rough. I've found that when somebody really sets their mind that something must be one way, they'll just deny scriptures and any truth that you give them, trying to make themselves right. Although a drop talk is looming on the horizon, we are trying to help him open his mind, however little.

P1040365Aside from that, the people that we teach are progressing very well. Sedra has been reading about the Plan of Salvation and starting into the Book of Mormon, and doesn't seem to have any serious problems. His wife and family weren't there yesterday, but we set up a program with them for this Friday, so they can all learn then. And our branch president has offered to go teach with us on Friday, so we're pretty happy about that.

We also tracted into this guy yesterday named Fano, who could be a really cool investigator. He brought up all kinds of things, things on which he is different than most churches. The cross, for instance. He explained to us that he has studied the Bible, and he cannot find any reference to the cross being a holy symbol. Well, we agree with that. He mentioned that we shouldn't pray to statues of people or anything. Well, we agree with that. He had a bunch of other questions too, and through that we learned that pretty much everything he believes in is the same as the LDS doctrine. And when we ended the lesson he asked, "how soon can you come back?", just like that. We offered to stop by next week and he asked, "don't you have time before that?" We'll be returning there tomorrow.

We also taught this couple named Lanto and Lanty. They are Catholic, but very open-minded and willing to listen. Most interestingly, we invited them to come to a branch activity on Saturday, and they accepted. At first I just thought "suuuure you will. Just like every other investigator that said they would come." But we went to the activity, and who do we see waltz in the door? Lanto. Her husband couldn't come, but she stopped by and enjoyed a lesson by a returned missionary, one by our branch president, and then mofo sakay (spicy-ish "pepper bread"), made by one of our members. I'll have to get the recipe for that. But she had a good time and got to meet with a bunch of the members. My new companion and I were pretty excited about that.

P1040388Which reminds me: I have a new companion! Elder Ranomenjanahary (or "Teddy", as he goes by) is my first mini missionary companion and my third Malagasy companion (in a row!). That makes three American companions and three Malagasies. And I have loved them all so far. Everyone says that they have had companions that they didn't get along with, but so far all of mine have been awesome. (knock on wood)

But yeah, Teddy is from Mahajunga, which is about the hottest place in Madagascar. I mention this because it gets fairly cold here in our area at night, and he just suffers through it. Poor kid. But he takes it all in good humor, and turns on our heater as soon as we walk in the door. Last night he told me about how he is used to walking around in the dark, because back home, whenever his parents said there was work to be done, he would run out and hide. Then, since he was afraid he would get beaten for that, he would just stay out until nighttime, wandering the back roads of Mahajunga. We had a good laugh about that.

So mom has been numbering her emails that she sends me since the beginning of my mission, and this last one was number 50. Which is getting pretty close to the big "5-2", if you know what I'm saying. To more weeks and mom's emails could make a full deck of cards. Stacey mentioned it, and Kathryn asked about it, so here's the big news... I'll be hitting my year mark in a week and a half! That's the mission half-way done. I'm planning to surprise my companion on that day, and we're going to stuff ourselves with an entire cheesecake. Leftovers are unacceptable.

P1040394I also managed to throw a couple of pictures out into cyberspace, so let me break it down for y'all. First up, we had a district meeting a couple days back, and as I looked around the room I realized that me and our district leader (not in the picture) are the only Americans in our district. Other than that there are five Malagasies and one Tahitian. There's a fun fact for you. Which reminds me that our Tahitian will be moving out this week, moving to Antsirabe, and being replaced by another mini missionary. And since Elder Lee (the Tahitian) was living in our house, that will leave our house as 75 percent Malagasy, and 25 percent me. And since Elder Lee is leaving, the elders in our house decided to take a picture together at the mission office. From left to right (like reading a book) there are: Elder Andrianjarasoa, Elder Lee, Elder "Teddy" Ranomenjanahary, and Elder "white-as-can-be" Arrington.

Another is a picture of a less-active member that we found out in the middle of nowhere. We have a list of all our members, and we are currently trying to track down all their houses. Addresses in this country are about as useful as wings on a penguin, so progress has been slow. But we found him, and he told us that he (Dodier) is only inactive because of some work that he has, but he'll try to come to church. And lo and behold, he came yesterday. And to top it all off, he gave the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. So that was awesome. I got a picture with Dodier out near his home.

And Elder Ranomenjanahary wanted to get his picture taken, so there you go. A Malagasy photo.

And speaking of sacrament meeting yesterday, we officially doubled our attendance from last week. Last week was 36 people, this week was 72. Quite a difference. The stake president attended with us, and that helped boost our numbers, but mostly it was members. Diligent members. And one investigator. Our investigators aren't coming to church for some reason, but we're working on that. Either way, we had a good 65 members of our branch in attendance yesterday. That made us happy.

I'm never sure how to end emails. Or letters. Or virtually anything written or spoken, other than missionary lessons. I guess for now I'll just say, thank you all for writing, for supporting me and the other missionaries out there, and for being such great family and friends.

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

PS: sorry about the first, unfinished, message. Darn computers are getting harder for me to work with. I'm starting to understand why old people say that they feel like dinosaurs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Week 15 in Sabotsy Namehana

More strong testimony about faith, how powerful that is!  All people need to do is ask.  Sort of like that snake on a stick in the desert that Moses had to deal with.  Simple, yet almost too simple.  Anyway, we got a couple pictures this week!  And could a transfer be coming in a few weeks?

Subject:  "They said they didn't want you. They said you're not 'Slurpee' material."

Well, well, well. Driver's licenses, 3lbs burgers, and pool parties. This has been quite a week.

For the record, those are all things that I've heard about, not things that I've done. They're not missionary things to do.

P1040309Things I have done include going to a musical presentation at one of the churches here, and honestly even that felt un-allowed. It just feels like anything other than teaching or finding efforts is forbidden. Even at the first baptism we had back in Ambohimanarina, I remember thinking "shouldn't we be out teaching somebody right now? Why are we wasting this time? Oh, right. This is a baptism, not a waste of time." I even told it to my companion at the time, and he looked at me like I needed some serious brain surgery. Good times.

But back to this week. Solo seems to have entered a mental "Mexican Stand-off" ("only we ain't got no Mexicans...") regarding true churches. We keep trying to tell him that if the message of the Restoration is true, then this is the ONLY true church on the earth. And he's like "sure it is. But the Catholic church teaches this, and the Protestant church teaches this, and your church teaches this. So which one is true?" MINE IS TRUE, dang it! Now go pray about it and so that you can know for yourself. Sometimes I feel like I've just set up all the dominoes for him, and say "push the first one, and watch the truth come out". Then he pushes the first one BACKWARDS, and turns to me saying, "you don't get it, do you?"

I GET IT ALL! Just understand what I'm telling you! Man, it's just frustrating sometimes. Actually, he asked about getting baptized, and we had to backpedal a little bit. He just doesn't really understand the Restoration, and his testimony is based on facts rather than faith.

P1040314That's one hugely annoying thing about teaching. People that refuse to have faith. We had a lesson where we were teaching about the Word of Wisdom and the investigator goes "well where is that in the Bible!?" That's not really the point, now is it? I'm telling you the law, no go PRAY about it to know the truth.

I mean, who gave us the Bible anyway? God. But through people. Wouldn't it be better to have an answer, a direct line of communication with the one being who is all knowing, all loving, and already wanting to help us? Missionaries ask people to go straight to the source of all knowledge, and people keep turning to other things. It's like telling a thirsty person that there's a drinking fountain right behind them, but they're content to lick the dew off of the grass. I mean, what the heck people?

People are just ridiculous sometimes. And I just rolled out two pretty awesome examples right there, in case nobody noticed. I feel like I could write a book, called "Dominoes and Dew: Observations of Stupid People". Actually, "Stupid People Being Observed" might be a better title, to avoid the confusion found in title one. I am not the stupid people, but others. Or maybe I am too. Who really knows?

Jean-Christophe and Minja. I don't know if I ever told you all about them, but they're pretty cool. They've been way diligent in reading the pamphlet that we gave them, and they understand what they read. On the downside, they had a bit of a fight recently and we didn't get to teach them for a while. But things seem to be better now, and we'll be teaching them about the Book of Mormon this week. Exciting!

We also have been working to find the houses of all our members, active or inactive. Through that effort we found an inactive member that lives ridiculously far away, but he's way good. He still reads the Book of Mormon, and they only reason that he hasn't come to church is because of his work. But he accepted us right in, and he seems like a great member. We just have to get him back to church.

There was also some kid on that trip that wouldn't stop asking me for money. "Monsieur, give me money!" No. "Give me money!" No. "Monsieur, where are you going?" That way, looking for a friend. "That's nice. Give me money!" No.

We also found an "active" member that prays to Jesus, so we'll be returning to him shortly.

One stat that we take in this mission is "Father-Lead-Families". That is, families in which the man of the house is not a member and actively learns from the missionaries. Looking back over this week, comparing the possible versus the actual stat, we caught about half of them. People in this country just don't get the idea of setting up a time and sticking to it. Seriously, there's like six of them that we should have taught, but couldn't because they weren't at home. That's frustrating.

But generally the work is looking much better in Sabotsy Namehana. Attendance at church this last week was 36, about half of what we normally get, but it was a Fast Sunday. Apparently church attendance is less important on Fast Sunday. Still, looking around, everybody there was solid members. The best of the best. That was a good thing to see.

And we had another great lesson with Sedra and his family. I'm a little bit worried about his wife, since she barely speaks during the lessons, but when she does talk it's always to ask a good question. We just taught them about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and they loved it. Sedra asked, "if this Book of Mormon is scripture, then why don't they make one book that includes the Bible and the Book of Mormon?" Well, I actually have just such a book. And here's a verse in Ezekiel that explains that very thing. Two books becoming one in hand.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you. Mom and Dad both mentioned Steven getting his driver's license, and his "enthusiasm" about driving. Mom said that he has trouble seeing, so you might consider adding in a "prescription windshield".

And back to me. I just remembered that we got transfer news last night, and guess who's transferring! Not me. Actually, my companion is! Elder Andriamanganoro showed up here a month ago, and now he's bouncing right back out. And I'll be staying here with a mini, which puts me in an interesting position for the next transfers in September. Stay tuned.

And back to you all. We're kind of crunched for time right now, so everybody have an awesome week, and keep helping the missionaries in your wards!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Mom mentioned that talking to people gets easier when you tell yourself to do it. Think of it like a date. Just go up and commit yourself to talk to them. And if they shut you down, walk away with your head hanging sadly as you walk home to cry into your pillow.

No, but seriously, commit yourselves to talk to one new person each day, and if it feels right, bring up the gospel. Thank you all!

And here’s another add-on note just for Julie…

So I had just closed down the browser and everything and remembered that Julie's birthday had passed like two weeks ago, and I keep forgetting to write about it.
Well, happy birthday Julie!

I know it's not as great when people say it two weeks late, but honestly, the "Julie Birthday" has always given me trouble. I feel like Stacey and Steven's "Ten-year-apart-twins" birthday is enough excitement for July, and the birthday part of my brain shuts down until August starts up. Sorry about that.

Anyway, have a great week everybody!

- Elder Arrington