Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 27 in Sabotsy Namehana

Again, no transfer for Michael.  He’s been in the same city for more than half a year now.  But his experiences are always positive, except for that possible bubonic plague thing... 

It appears Michael is now district leader in Sabotsy Namehana.  The man is in charge!

Subject:  "If the game gets bigger than three on three they have to take it outside."

So we've been teaching this couple named Toky and Natasha for about two weeks now, and they seem to be progressing decently well. Except for the last lesson when they had only read the introduction to the First Book of Nephi, and understood it completely wrong (their homework had been to read chapter 1). They thought it meant that Lehi had a dream, some of his sons didn't like it, and all of them got kicked out of Jerusalem because they rebelled against Lehi's dream.

P1040816That being said, they DID read, which is something. And they promised to do better before our next lesson (tonight). We are also pretty happy that they are not completely shutting down the idea of being baptized in the church.

There was a guy last night that we tracted into that shut us down pretty good though. We had knocked on the door and explained that we are missionaries, and right away they guy goes, "wow, all the work you're doing is just great. You are really working to push forward God's kingdom. I really respect that. But I'm a Protestant, and you won't be able to convert me to your church."

We talked with him for a few minutes, trying to explain that he should at least LISTEN first, and then he can choose to shut us down. But, as Christ said in Matthew 7:20, "Koa dia ny voany no ahafantaranareo azy". It's going to be pretty hard to know if the missionaries have good or bad fruit if you don't listen to them first.

At the end, the guy just said, "look, I would never deny Christ, but I am denying you," and shut the door. Ouch.

So we weren't too happy about that.

Anyway, we wiped the dust from our feet (metaphorically and literally. It's kind of a running joke that we have with Mamy, our Branch Mission Leader) and walked off. Free agency sucks sometimes, but apparently you can't force people to repent and follow God.

But we have had some pretty good experiences this week too, like finding Onja and Tolotra.

We had been trying to check in on Solo, whom some of you may remember to be a preacher in the FJKM church that was progressing really well for a while. Then he couldn't understand authority, and hasn't talked with us since. Anyway, we stopped at his house, and he wasn't there.

So, having a little time left over, we tracted into the first house that we came to. Onja (the man) opened the door and let us in right away, sat us down with his wife, mother and two of his children, and listened. That was a fantastic experience!

Onja and his wife Tolotra are currently learning to become partakers of the sacrament in some Protestant church in Antananarivo (because Christ TOTALLY taught that we have to learn the Bible before partaking the sacrament. Not.) but seem really interested in our message and really willing to talk to us and listen to us. We like them a lot.

Unfortunately, they seem to only have time to learn once per week, which isn't usually enough to keep a person progressing, from what I've seen. Two or three visits are much better. Still, we are planning to teach them once and visit a couple times throughout the week, just to make sure they are still reading and being diligent.

But they seem way cool.

Two last investigators. Tahiry is this lady that we've taught a couple times, but her husband is currently afraid of us, and doesn't want to learn. We'll work on that. We haven't done anything to him (yet), but I think he just doesn't want to change churches yet. We'll let the Holy Ghost take care of that.

But we were teaching Tahiry, and she has been asking some really good, deep questions. She's also reading through the Book of Mormon, having almost finished 1 Nephi in two or three weeks. She seems like a good investigator, and we think her husband will be too. When he starts listening to us. Fortunately though, Tahiry is good friends with Mamy, and he has been able to help her learn so far.

The last investigator family is that of Solo (not the preacher) and Bodo. They have been way diligent, Solo having read 1 Nephi - 2 Nephi 9 or so in a week. Bodo, his wife, has also been reading, but just the minimum that we give them, which is one chapter a day. But that's good. Their children are also reading, making it one big, happy, progressing, family. We've also been focusing on mentioning temples with them a lot, to help them understand the "big picture". They love learning so far, and we have really enjoyed teaching them. They have a baptism date for December 14th, which will be right before I probably transfer out of Sabotsy Namehana.

Which leads me to the transfer news that came out last night. I'm staying here in Sabotsy Namehana, with Elder Stokes, but one of the other elders in our house is moving out (the Malagasy one), to be replaced by... an Italian! That's exciting. Apparently Elder Carrius lived in California for a while, and speaks pretty much perfect English. He seems like a way good missionary too, so he and Elder Webb should have a great time working in Analamahitsy.

That being said, it means that when the next transfers come I will have been in Sabotsy Namehana for seven and a half months, which is a long time. I'm guessing that I'll move out then, probably to a province. Which will be awesome.

I am also the district leader now, which leaves me enough authority to collect my district's stats every week and send them to the zone leader. Yippee.

But enough about me. It sounds like most of you have been having some pretty good times back in the Land of the Free. Steven, I was especially proud to hear about your Hawkeye costume. You have made me one proud older (but apparently not bigger) brother.

I also got a kick out of Mom and Dad's costumes as "old people". Classic.

Stacey, I loved your comment about Darci helping other kids to pray, and her grand "Amen!" at the end. One of the big problems that I have noticed is that a lot of parents just don't teach their kids to pray, but figure that the kids will pick it up. I was very happy to hear that you, as a mother, understand and apply the fact that the home is the best place to teach and practice living the gospel. Keep up the good work.

Julie, it sounds like you've had one chunk-a-bunk of a time (whatever that means) raising your boys, including Dave. And I was sorry to hear about him getting his appendix removed. It doesn't sound like it was a pleasant experience.

Thank you all for writing and being the world's greatest family.
I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

PS: I was just reading our mission newsletter and apparently there is a strike of the bubonic plague here in Madagascar. So that's... not good. It doesn't sound too serious right now though, so no worries. It's just good to know, I guess.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 26 in Sabotsy Namehana

Michael finally gets to enjoy General Conference, which is always a hit among missionaries.  That’s good.  Advice this week:  hakuna matata.  Oh, and read your scriptures.

Subject: "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."

General Conference! They never disappoint, do they?

First of all, I might have to side with Elder Ballard as my favorite talk. That guy just knows how to throw it down on missionary work. Now get to it everyone!

I think President Uchtdorf's was really good too, if I remember right. He was the one that mentioned all the meetings and things that our church asks of us, and the guy was like, "why would anyone want to be a member of your church?" "I thought you'd never ask." Right?

Other than that, we had a pretty good week. We've been trying to find new and better families to start teaching, and it has really been paying off. We've found six new families this last week, all of which seem really interested (especially the fathers, which are usually the most difficult to get!). So yes, we're pretty happy with how things are progressing.

Our stats our down a little this week (thanks to ten hours of conference), but we still feel content with the outcome. Our branch is starting to help us by befriending investigators, and we are handing out baptism dates as quickly as we can. Dad also suggested teaching about the temple, to show people a grander goal than even baptism, and we have been following it. And I think it's helping. I'm not sure if these new people that we are teaching are just more ready than the old ones, but they are reading pamphlets, asking questions, and trying to understand.

Interestingly, many of our old investigators are also having a change of heart. Many of the people that kept telling us that all churches are true suddenly broke down in our last lesson with them, seemingly out of nowhere.
At first they had been convinced that any church is fine, but now they have looked at us and said, "we understand that only one church can be right. But how can we know WHICH church is the right one?" I thought you'd never ask.

And that's not just one investigator. It's like three or four families, all suddenly understanding what we've been telling them. You gotta love being a member of the true church, eh?

We spent about an hour tracting this last week, and while we were at it this old grandma walked up to us, inviting us to her house. Why not? So we followed her to this pretty nice house, where she lives with ALL HER FAMILY. Or, as missionaries call them, PREY.

We had a nice talk with her in which she promised to read a Restoration pamphlet, and we set up a return appointment. We haven't gotten back yet (this happened on Saturday) but we think that this whole family might be willing to talk to us, which would make Elder Stokes and I a pair of very happy missionaries.

All in all, no complaints. You've got your ups, and you've got your downs, but I find that if you focus on the ups, you'll be happy. If you focus on the downs, you won't be happy.
Elder Stokes, for instance, is working to get really good at Malagasy (he dreams of being as good as me one day! Haha). Sure he makes mistakes, but since he focuses on trying new things and getting better, being happy with the progress that he is making, he is happy. Whereas people that beat themselves up all the time just get stressed out, and make life more difficult for themselves.

As the Lion King puts it: hakuna matata!

We've also been looking for small, simple service projects that we can do each day. One of the most well known members in Madagascar is President Jacquot, who is also the brother of our current branch president here in Sabotsy Namehana. Jacquot's first contact with the missionaries was when a pair of white guys with white shirts and "black squares on their shirt pockets" stopped to push his car so that he could pop the clutch and drive away.
The missionaries walked away without talking to him.

More than two years later, a pair of white guys knocked on Jacquot's door. These two were also wearing white shirts, with black squares on their shirt pockets. He invited them right in, was converted, and has been a strong member ever since.

It's also noteworthy that after President Jacquot was converted, he introduced the gospel to his family, adding several more strong members to the church.

So Elder Stokes and I figure that if we can find just one act of simple service to do each day, it will probably pay off some day. And if it doesn't, hey, you can't go wrong in doing a good thing.

One final note, regarding scripture study. DO IT. If you're not doing it, do it now. As President Brigham Young once said, in effect, "at the times when you don't feel like praying, get on your knees and plead with your Father in heaven until you DO feel like praying." The same thing applies with scripture study. If you don't like doing it, do it more.

And with that, I challenge each of you to study for 30 minutes every morning of every day this week, studying the standard works and Preach My Gospel, looking for what YOU as a member can do this week to progress the missionary work in your ward/branch, to help save the soul of ONE of God's children. Start with one. Think of a person you know that needs the gospel (ie: EVERY person you know) and study how you can help them accept the gospel. If you can't think of anyone, pray for opportunities to find new people and prepare for those opportunities through studying the scriptures.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use thirty minutes of scripture study every morning to help you push forward the work of salvation in your ward/branch.

Thank you all for your support, your emails, and your love. Elder Stokes and I are doing our best to represent you all out here in Madagascar.

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 25 in Sabotsy Namehana

25 weeks in one place.  That seems like a long time.  Still, Michael is progressing well, is a senior companion and a trainer.  Not bad.  And we have pictures!

Subject:  "You used to be real pretty! You're just not now."

I can honestly think of nothing to write right now. My mind is completely blank. Which reminds me all too much of high school.

P1040728First of all, I did manage to snap a few pictures this week with a chameleon that we picked up as he was crossing the street, a SUPER short grandma that is way awesome (named Jacqline), another grandma that always asks us for candy, and Elder Stokes "chucking his money" (apparently that has some reference in pop culture). It's been a pretty fun week.

We also taught this guy this week named David. David had already learned from missionaries before, but stopped progressing because he didn't have any friends in the church. So we've been working to solve that problem, and it should help him a lot.

That being said, David apparently is fairly lazy. He had asked us to give him some homework to study before the next lesson, which we did. However, stopping by a day or two before the planned lesson, we checked up with him, to see how his studying was going. David then whined to us (and I seriously mean WHINED) about how he just doesn't have any time to read at all, he's so busy with his work, and his life is so hard. I looked at him and said that there is time RIGHT NOW to read, since all he was doing at the time is lying in his bed and watching some TV show with creepy Malagasy clowns (to be fair, I find all clowns equally creepy, regardless of their race).

And he said that he couldn't read.

P1040732WHAT?? He further explained that God "can't expect us to devote our ENTIRE lives to Him". We have six days to do whatever we want, and the seventh one we can pray and go to church (if it's convenient). Which he also doesn't do.

We had a very interesting discussion about that, but it kind of makes you think. God not only asks for our entire lives (heart, might, mind and soul), but He promises that if you DO devote yourself to Him, you will "find that He can do more with your life than you ever could on your own" (or however that quote actually goes). As we devote ourselves to God, we will find greater joy than we could get from devoting ourselves to anything else.

Interesting, huh?

I also hear that a number of you are working to talk more to people, getting out of your comfort zones. Way to be! Keep devoting yourselves, and watch God bless you. As mom and dad have said, you don't even have to talk about the gospel. Mom just had a nice little conversation with one of her neighbors that was putting their garbage can out. And now she has a new friend!

So there is really no downside.

P1040733Another person that we taught this week is a nice couple named Jim and Anjarasoa. We've taught them two or three times so far, and they had shown no signs of understanding the whole "one true church" thing. Then, in our lesson with them yesterday, they just understood. Out of nowhere. I don't think it was anything we said, but at the end of the lesson they just looked at us and said, in effect, "so there's only one church that God will accept? Then how will we know which one is true?"

After them not understanding at all, and then hearing this, Elder Stokes and I looked at each other and thought, "so you're telling me there's a chance... yes!"

Dad also mentioned an idea to help those people that don't understand that very idea, which I want to apply this week. What we were doing before obviously wasn't working, so we might as well try a different approach.

One final note on that. People will sometimes take a doctrine that we teach them and assume that it is doctrine in their own church. After we explain the Plan of Salvation for example, they'll say something like, "our pastor never explained it like that... but now we get it!"

So do you believe that the LDS church is true?


Dang it.

P1040738One other thing that we've been focusing on is not trying to find a hundred new investigators, but getting more use out of the ones that we have. Preach My Gospel says to contact investigators every day. Considering how spread out our investigators houses are and how few of them have phones, that's not really feasible. But instead of visiting an investigator once a week (and them not being there half the time) we are trying to go to each house at least three times a week. We also try to stop by anybody whose house we happen to pass by, just to say a quick hello if nothing else.

We've also started giving candy to investigators that complete their homework (thanks to some advice from David) and I think it's helping them. They get candy and salvation! Can life get any better? I submit that it cannot!

Anyway, that's about all I have to say for now. Thank you all for writing, your advice and your love. Keep up the good work.

Thanks again!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 24 in Sabotsy Namehana

We all have our parts to play.  Michael is playing his part in Madagascar.

Play it well.

Subject: "You already lost one war this way, let's not make the same mistake twice."

Happy birthday Mom!

I remember on Friday, as we were doing our nightly planning session, and I looked at the date and was like, "this is my Mom's birthday!" I even told Elder Stokes, and he said to say "happy birthday" to you, from him. So there you go. Not just one, but TWO missionaries in Madagascar wished you a happy birthday.

In other news, we thought we had enough time to get back home after going to the office and things to send emails, but there have been no busses for the last FORTY FIVE MINUTES. Which is just ridiculous. Usually you don't have to wait more than five. Anyway, we're at a cyber in Analakely today instead of our normal one, trying to email really quick before going out to work.

Anyway, this week has been pretty good. We finally had a baptism! Granted, it was the son of our branch president, but still. We're starting to have a little bit of real progress here. We have some people that seem like they are progressing really well. Some others got evicted from their house, others apparently moved to Fort Dauphin (pretty much the farthest place on the island), and others couldn't come to church because they had to lead a wake yesterday. But they said they'll come next week, and they are still learning really well.

We also found this guy named Tojoasa, who seems like he could be way cool. He let us right in after we knocked on his door, and promised to read the pamphlet that we gave him. We've only taught him once so far, but I'll let you know how things go from here.

Another of my proud moments from last week was introducing Lova (a member) to David (an investigator). David had learned from missionaries about a year ago, but didn't progress because he had no friends in the church. One of the missionaries that taught David told me about him, and we're starting to teach him now, and get him a friend! Now there's nothing (except smoking) to stop him from baptism!

We also tried tracting a little bit with our branch mission leader, Mamy. So we showed up at this nice, big house, and the owner wasn't there. But as we're waiting at the door, big old money-banks/owner-of-the-house pulls up in a car, gets out, and asks why we're there. We explain, and he says that he "needs to think about it first". Right. Like we've never heard THAT one before. But we'll come back anyway.

It was just funny, because Mamy turned to us as we walked away from owner-of-the-house's house and said, in English, "Jesus? No, no, no... Money, money money!" sounding exactly like that scene in Toy Story when Andy is playing with his toys and Ham gets all his money. It was hilarious. We love Mamy. He's an awesome member, and actually understands the doctrine.

Mamy, in helping us teach one of our lessons, told the investigator a bit about his conversion. Apparently, Mamy used to be Catholic, and a pretty lazy one at that. He wouldn't read the Bible, or dress up to go to church or anything. Then, he started learning from the missionaries, and started wanting to learn. Right as he had that desire to study for himself, a friend gave Mamy a Bible, another friend gave him a white shirt, and his dad gave him slacks to wear to church. Mamy is now one of the most knowledgeable members that we have, and helps us out whenever he can. So we love him.

There was also a zone conference on Thursday, which was just fantastic. President gave us a lesson about integrity, and one of the missionaries showed us what kind of missionaries we should be by showing us the difference between a cheap little dagger and a sword that he had picked up in Fort Dauphin. Obviously, we want to be useful swords in God's hands, not little broken daggers. And we got sloppy joes at the mission home, which brought much joy to Elder Stokes and myself.

Speaking of Elder Stokes, we've been finding better opportunities for him to talk in lessons. So far I've had him just talk as much as he can, and I fill in the gaps. I think I'll start just not speaking at all, and try to make him teach the entire lesson. Because you only get better with practice, so you might as well practice a lot.

And on that note, I want to thank Mom for practicing her missionary skills, and trying to be a better member. The rest of you, get out there! You can, as Mom does, start out just talking to people. Having a conversation. It's not that hard, so do it!
I also hear that Steven not only went to Homecoming, but was asked to go by someone else! While I was reading Dad's version of how it all went down, I told it to Elder Stokes and we were both like, "that kid is a playa!" Keep up the good work, my little "playa" of a brother.

Everybody, keep working hard and staying active in the church. We all have our part to play. Play it well.

- Elder Arrington