Here’s Michael’s letter for today. Some people may not have received it for some reason (working on resolving).
Imagine the frustration of every day people not understanding that truth is limited to, well, truth. I know many missionaries (including me) experience that frustration….
Subject: “They’re DANCING!”
This past week has actually been pretty good! I had been feeling like things haven't been going too well here, but our stats are finally starting to pick up. Apparently last week we (in Sabotsy Namehana) had the best stats in our district. When you put it like that, I guess we're not doing too shabby, eh?
That being said, I'm having a really hard time thinking of anything to write about right now, so don't be surprised if this is just a lot of rambling.
We had been teaching this couple named Landy and Lanto for a while, but recently the disappeared off the map. They officially live in a different area, but they where staying with a friend. The saddest part is that they were really good investigators, and one of them had already come to church and a church activity. But they have since vanished, and they don't answer their phone anymore. We stopped by their friend's house to see if they had any news, but they didn't. However, the friend now wants to learn from us!
The friend, a couple named Jim and Anjarisoa, have no concept of "the ONE true church". We brought up baptism to them, asking them if they would prepare themselves to be baptized in December. Both of them said, "that's nice, but we're already baptized!" Really now. In what church? The husband was dunked in some random church I've never heard of, and the wife was baptized (with a little water on the forehead) in the Protestant church. They have both ditched their old churches and are now members in the "Miara-Manompo" ("Serve Together") church. So basically, my companion and I have a lot to do with them, explaining authority and why it is so important.
To their credit, they are not the only ones that think that any church can save you. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, ALL of Madagascar thinks that. We'll try to blow their faces off with the Restoration, how God's church DIDN'T EXIST during the Great Apostasy, but was restored in this church. And they'll just say, "that's cool! So your church is true. So is the Protestant church, the Catholic, the Apocalypsy, the 7th Day Adventist, the Lutheran church, and everything else out there that preaches about Jesus". That just isn't possible!
And I keep asking them, "then when do doctrine's disagree?" Why do some people teach that God has a body, and some teach that He is a spirit? Why do some people teach that infants need to be baptized and others teach otherwise?
And their response is always the same. "It just depends on the person! Some people think that children need baptism, others don't. Some people think God has a body, others don't. But none of that matters, because it's not your church that saves you, but your faith."
"Faith in what? Faith in actual eternal truths, or faith in whatever I feel like believing?"
I'm not really sure how to overcome this idea. I've started using a new example, that seems to be helping a bit, but they still just have a really hard time separating from what they have been taught their whole lives. I've even asked Malagasy members and missionaries how to help people understand that, and they just laugh and say that they have no idea either. Members of the church get it, but even they don't know how to help others get it.
But enough of that. Suffice it to say, we have a lot of people that we are teaching that fall into that category. Hopefully we can bring the Holy Ghost into the lessons so that He can do the heavy lifting.
Josoa, for those of you that may remember him, came to church again yesterday, without his wife, Nirine. She had told us the day before that she had some work to do at their church, but she will come next week. Hopefully. Josoa also says that he likes our church, and just wants to learn a bit more about it before he gets baptized. His wife is more hesitant, but hopefully we'll get her in the end.
One last note about our investigators. There has been this guy named Faniry that is learning from us, and he has learned on and off from missionaries for the past two years or so. He just refuses to progress. Recently, we were about to give him our drop talk, but when we asked him why he isn't reading the Book of Mormon or praying, he said that he has done it before and never got an answer. Now there's something we can work with! So we're still teaching him, trying to help him get an answer.
Even more interesting, his mom wouldn't talk to us for a while. I kept asking her why she doesn't learn from us, and she says, "I'm not ready." Well, you won't just wake up one day and suddenly realize that you're ready! You have to learn first! But this last week we finally convinced her to sit down and talk with us, so that we can at least know what her real problem is.
In short, she believes that her church is true and doesn't want to leave it. But that's not the real news here. The REAL news is that she let us in and was finally willing to talk with us. Even better, she accepted a return appointment and we'll go back there later this week to help her out some more. Awesome. The church is true.
We also have a baptism coming up this week. The son of our branch president is getting dunked, and since the kid is already nine, he had to learn from the missionaries. But he's a way cool kid, and has been learning very effectively. He apparently had some trouble remembering who Joseph Smith was during his baptism interview, but nothing serious. We'll just have to make sure that he learns about Joseph Smith more... thoroughly next time.
Anyway, that's probably all I have to say for now. The work here is going great, and Elder Stokes is a stud. He's never afraid to try teaching, and is working really hard to be more effective in the language and his teaching abilities.
Thank you all, especially Mom and Dad for writing double this week. It's great to hear about your lives back at home, and how much you are all trying to balance your lives.
I love you all!
- Elder Arrington
PS: Lindsay, you mentioned that you're having trouble finding time to do some missionary work. Have you considered holding a ward activity at Arbor Mansion? On a day when you have no events planned, just a dinner or something, as a "non-threatening way" to help nonmembers interact with members. I guess they have actual church buildings for that, but it could be worth a shot, right?