Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 31 in Sabotsy Namehana

Michael’s focus is impressive.  He seems to be working hard and his investigators are becoming more diligent. That's what it's all about, right?

This week, we sent Michael our new family picture.  This pic includes everyone in the family, and to represent Michael, we included King Julien from Madagascar.  He’s photoshopped right into the picture.  Now, that’s fun.

Speaking of pictures, we got one of Michael.  He’s the tall one.

Subject:  "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

If you don't know what that's from, try reading it "in a lower register".

P1040927So... some of you may remember our investigator named Benjamin. Yeah, he totally drop talked us this last week. Out of nowhere. We had come to his house on Monday, and he wasn't there (apparently off drinking). They couldn't learn on Wednesday, and when Friday rolled around, Benjamin sat us down and just said, "So I've been thinking about what you guys have been saying, and I think I just want to stay Catholic." What??

We tried asking his wife and 25 year old daughter what they thought, since they had actually been reading and diligent, but Benjamin wouldn't hear of it. He said, "I am the father of the household, so what I say goes. Don't bother asking them." I hate hearing that. And it's unfortunately common here.

By the way, Benjamin's wife and daughter just stared at him angrily for the rest of the night, so we're pretty sure they were on our side.

On the bright side, however, Benjamin said that he would read the Book of Mormon later and let us know what he thought about it. So that made us a little more happy, and we secretly committed ourselves to check up with him now and then to be sure that he's reading.

Back on the downside, we've bumped into Benjamin twice since that lesson, and he's been drunk both times. So... we'll see where that goes.

And let's slide back onto the bright side. Toky and his wife are still learning really well, and they loved watching the Joseph Smith story. That's right. We showed them the movie. As soon as it ended, Toky said, "turn it back to when the angels show up!" Well, they're not just angels, but okay. The idea that God the Father and Jesus Christ showed up to Joseph Smith, and not just angels, is difficult for people to understand. But the bottom line is: they enjoyed the movie, and understand the Restoration better than before.

And they keep promising to come to church. They had some responsibilities at their own church this last week, so they "couldn't come to God's true church", but they are planning to come this next week.

They are also good friends with our branch mission leader, Mamy, who goes with us to teach them three times per week. Sweet. Elder Stokes and I got a couple pictures with them.

And speaking of church, Solo and Bodo finally came! They have been way diligent at reading so far, and promised to come to church last week. And then they didn't. Apparently one of their kids wouldn't come to ours, and said that they wouldn't go to church at all if the parents didn't come with them. That's the spirit, eh? Especially since this "child" is currently married and living on her own.

Anyway, that was the problem last week. But we talked to them about it, and they promised to come! And then they actually did! Elder Stokes and I were pretty happy about that. And just to make everything even better, the branch president went up and met with them right after sacrament meeting, all on his own, and then a member couple swarmed about Solo and Bodo and just befriended the heck out of them. Our branch may be small, but it's powerful as... King Jake? I don't know how many of you remember (or ever knew) the Packard's cat, but that was one royal little furball.

Suffice it to say, Elder Stokes and I were very pleased with how the branch accepted in new people. Now if we could just get the rest of our investigators to come to church too!

There was one family that I was pretty concerned about, because they met us one time and "haven't had time" to meet again. Their names are Onja and Tolotra, and one of their moms. Ones of their mom. One of theirs mom? How do you say that?

The couple seemed really interested, but the grandma is the one that always answers the phone and the door, and keeps telling us that they don't have time. So we figured that she just didn't want the family to learn.

Then, yesterday, she opens the door and just lets us in! And what's more, she had read the pamphlet that they had been given, and we talked about it. And then set up a return appointment when the whole family can be there.

We were really concerned that they would just not learn anymore, but it looks like they might keep going! Which makes us really happy. Goodness knows that we need more families to teach.

Last note about investigators. Jaona is that giant kickboxer guy that threw his beer in my face. Fortunately, he has been consistently not drunk all the times that we have gone to him this last week, and his family also enjoyed watching the Restoration video. Jaona kept looking back at us and nodding in agreement when the voice of the film said things like, "I knew that God could not be the author of so much confusion."

We keep committing him to come to church, but he keeps pushing it off. But we'll get him in the end.

That's pretty much all I have to say for this week. We are working hard, and our investigators are starting to be more diligent. That's what it's all about, right?

I love you all, except for Elder Stokes....

- Elder Arrington

PS: We love the family picture. A lot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 30 in Sabotsy Namehana

Yes, week 30.  That’s pretty close to 7 months in the same city for Michael.  But Michael remains diligent, as are many of his investigators.  Some are not so diligent….  Michael got to interview several people for baptism in his district-leader role.  Almost all of them passed.  Almost all. 

Subject:  "I have been studying her comings and goings and find them most... sinister."

I don't know if I have mentioned Toky and Natasha to any of you yet, but they are an awesome couple. They have both been diligent at reading and following up on commitments, and we are really happy about them. The only problem is that they aren't coming to church yet, but hey, everybody has problems. In general, we are very happy with how they are progressing.

Especially since Toky used to be big into drinking and smoking weed. Then, right before he met us, he decided to quite, and he did. And he is very happy now because of that.
And Toky also told us some pretty interesting stories about himself and his family while we were over last night. Here's my favorite one.

Back when Toky smoked weed there was a man that came to his door to give him weed. This was odd because Toky believes that man to be a witch. Anyway, the guy gives the weed and walks away, and Toky sits down to roll one up.

Right as he is about to roll it the wind blows his door in, and blows all of the weed on the ground. So he didn't get to smoke it.

And that same thing happened a second time. Toky is given weed by the same guy, and as he gets ready to roll it, the wind blows it away.

Toky told us this story to describe that God was watching over him. Whereas Toky had smoked weed before, he figured that if he smoked this witch-guy's weed, it might have done some serious damage. Shortly thereafter, Toky quite smoking altogether. And drinking too.

I'm not so sure about this witchcraft business, but it very well could have been God's hand that was knocking Toky's weed to the ground. What happened there helped Toky decide to improve himself and his life, even before he met the missionaries.

Toky will also tell you that he used to fight with his wife all the time, but ever since he quite drinking and smoking (and gambling, for that matter) they have gotten along splendidly. Just living the Word of Wisdom helps families be happier.

He also mentioned that here in Madagascar, owls are considered "the birds of witches". So that's weird.

But enough of that. We also taught Josoa, who is pretty much progressing on his own now. His un-diligent wife is the only reason that he isn't baptized yet. In our last lesson with him, Josoa asked if he could go to seminary or institute, since he likes learning about the gospel so much.

Of course you can good sir!

Our kickboxer friend, who's name is Jaona, is also doing well. He came to the church on Saturday to watch the Restoration film, which we had forgotten to bring. But we'll be bringing the film to Jaona's house so that he and his family can watch it there.

As things went though, he and his daughter just learned English from us, since we had English class at that time anyway. So that was good too.

We stopped by this guy named Christian during this last week, since he keeps saying that he'll come to church, and then doesn't. But then, yesterday, there he was, at church! He left immediately after sacrament meeting though, and we found him smoking. But it's a start.

We also had to leave our church after sacrament meeting, because I, being a new district leader, had some baptism interviews to do. In three wards, at two different buildings. And Elder Stokes, as the Assistant (to the) District Leader, had to follow along.

The good news is that four out of the five people passed with flying colors. The bad news is that there was one that didn't pass. She is an 18 year old girl that just didn't seem ready. And I told her that. But don't worry, I did it kindly.

It turns out, however, that that girl is clinically depressed, and her baptism had been one of the things that had kept her going. So I guess that getting shut down in the interview didn't help things. But the missionaries will keep working with her and hopefully she'll be ready when the next interview comes.

Side note: the people that passed included a way diligent 18 year old girl, and 10 year old son of an active mother and inactive father, a 45 year old father/doctor, and a 25 year old named Tony. The last two did especially well. Tony also does this thing when he talks, where he'll answer a question and then say "mhm!" as if to verify his own answer. It's funny.

We also went on splits with the zone leader this week, who was in my MTC group. The zone leader, Elder Evans, worked with Elder Stokes in my old area, Ambohimanarina, while I stayed in Sabotsy Namehana with Elder Randriamamonjisoa, who is Malgasy but speaks WAY good English. Like, native-and-a-half. Way to be for him.

During those splits, we visited a less-active named Eugene. The guy is like 65, and has been having some problems with his legs. So Elder Randriamamonjisoa listened to the issue and said, "you know what? I'm actually a pretty good masseuse (person that does massages, right?). Do you want my to give you a massage?". And before I know it, there's a 65 year old dude taking his shirt off, and a missionary getting ready to massage him.

Apparently he did a pretty good job.

There was nothing too awkward, except for some other guy walking in during the massage that started talking to us and mentioned that he wants us to teach him the gospel. So that was pretty weird. But hey, it's another new investigator.

I've also started my own personal stat regarding contacts, that I call "GHB". That is to say "Guys Holding Babies". Mission president wants us to teach families, especially focusing on the fathers. So I figure that if you contact a bunch of men that are holding babies, you'll either find a loving father, or an infant kidnapper.

Speaking of which, apparently a French guy and an Italian guy were beaten to death and burned here in Madagascar because they were kidnapping babies and selling their organs on the black market. So um... don't do that kind of stuff.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I can think of to say right now. The mission is great.

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 29 in Sabotsy Namehana

Ah, the experiences of a missionary!

Subject: "Beat it stupid cat!"

So if any drunk guy sticks a bottle in your face and says, "give it a wiff!", don't do it. That happened to me this week and I, not being smart enough to hold my breath, just about passed out on the spot. Alcohol smells horrible. Why would you want to put that in your body? Especially when you have cherry limeade as an alternative?

The guy that did that to me was one of our investigators, and he later apologized. Which was pretty cool. He is the kickboxing instructor that I mentioned, and he just seems like a really good guy. When he is sober. But we'll work on the drinking. Captain Kick-a-Box has been reading, and agrees with what he has read. Except for the Restoration, which he just doesn't understand yet. So we'll also work on that.

We've been teaching another guy with a drinking problem, named Benjamin. He and his family have been really diligent at reading so far, and always have questions to ask and are willing to listen to the answer. Golden. Benjamin has been drunk for a couple of the lessons, but he, when sober, is awesome. Just a way fun guy. And he's diligent with reading and planning to come to church, so all that's really left is to get him off of drinking. That shouldn't be too hard.

We did five drop talks this last week. Just people that are not ready to progress. They don't have the right priorities. Here's one of the most ridiculous (but true) examples:

David had been taught by the missionaries a while ago, but wouldn't come to church. Missionaries that used to work in Sabotsy Namehana told us about him, and we started teaching him again. Unfortunately, for about the last month, David has told us, every time that we contact him, that he is "too busy to learn". We would set up appointments, and he would cancel them. Every time.

Finally, we just stopped by his house to officially drop him. David met us at the door and we asked him if he could learn. He said that he couldn't because of his work. After a short conversation, we told him that it is not God telling him to work (instead of listening to missionaries, coming to church, etc.), but Satan. David responded by saying, "well, I don't see why that's a problem. My work has to take priority anyway, and if the devil is encouraging me to work, good for him."

So David got dropped. He's just not ready yet. But maybe other missionaries will get him, later on.

We have another investigator, named Anja, who has stopped learning from us. She pretty much yelled at us for postponing her baptism, but it was for the better. It turns out that she wanted to get baptized, but she is also planning to marry some guy from another church. Who is currently living with her. And apparently practices witchcraft. Anja is now, as she wrote in a note to us, "caught in apostasy". We don't really know what to do, because she is showing no signs of changing, although it seems that she doesn't really understand what she has been taught by the missionaries. So that's... not good.

So we have some drunk people, we have some people that are knowingly following the devil and think it's a good thing, and we've got some apostate ex-investigators. How's that for a gourmet table of negatives?

But that is why we have to learn to laugh.

Honestly though, the work has been going pretty well. The positives outweigh the negatives. For one, we are currently teaching people right near the church, instead of three or four miles away. We are also teaching lots of families, instead of just one or two random people. And those families are reading their homework, and planning to come to church. A week of drop talks is depressing, but it's like shaving your head and buying wigs. It opens you up to all kinds of new options.

By the way, I saw a wig shop earlier today. Just as a side-note.

We are also meeting a lot of new people that seem really willing to accept us and listen to us, which is really exciting. One of them is a new FJKM preacher, and we'll be going to battle against him tomorrow, with an RM member of our branch named Vonjy. Hopefully it won't be a battle, but I'll sharpen my sword just in case.

Thank you all for your emails and the pictures. I especially loved Stacey's "roadmap to our family". Mike's picture is probably my favorite, with David's at a close second, because he looks like Metroman. Although Elder Stokes says that he looks like Sydrome from the Incredibles. Stacey's makes her look like an Egyptian hieroglyph. Classy.

It sounds like every body has been having a great time at home, so keep up the good work. Elder Stokes and I are going to do our best to represent you all for this next week!

Arrington clan, I want you to know that I consider you to be seven of my closest friends and family members, and one very dear acquaintance.

Until next week,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 28 in Sabotsy Namehana

The pictures we got this week are not of Michael, but of some pictures he’s apparently purchased.  Michael has been serving well in Sabotsy Namehana for a long time now—nearly 7 months and sounds like he’s still doing well.

Subject:  "It's the only building in Metrocity with a fake observatory!"

Yo listen up, here's a story. About a little guy that lives in a blue world...

Elder Carrus, the Italian that's living with us, came to me this morning and said, "you only have nine months left".

I laughed and said, "no, I still have... what the flip!?" I thought about that for a second. For some reason, my brain was still thinking that I had just passed my year mark, but that was apparently three months ago!

So I got pretty freaked out about that. But now it's time to, as mom says, "make every day count".

P1040904On that note, let's talk about the people. Elder Stokes and I have been teaching this guy named Faniry for a while now, and Faniry just won't progress. We give him assignments, check up on him, and he just won't do anything. Frustrating.

So we went to talk to him again this week, and, after a good long talk, he just said he doesn't want to learn anymore. He likes being Catholic, and doesn't want to change. And just like that, he asked us to stop coming to teach him. Ouch.

We actually spent a good portion of this week drop talking old investigators that aren't progressing. It's almost funny, because we inform them that we won't be returning anymore, and they get all sad. But then we brighten their day by saying that if they come to church, then we will come back to them. That gets them excited, and they promise that they'll come. And guess how many of them showed up at church this week?


But we also did some contacting, trying to find diligent investigators. We tracted out right near the church (because we had never thought to do that before) and found a few nice people, many of whom promised to come to church. Then Sunday rolled around and...


So you see where I'm going with this?

But this week hasn't been all bad. Honestly, we're pretty happy with the outcome. We got some good contacting done, and met some interesting people. One of my favorite is a kickboxing instructor.

P1040905We met him as we were stopping to pick up candy (to give to investigators that complete their homework) and we noticed this huge guy with a towel tied to his head staring at us. After a while, we say hello, and start talking.

It turns out that Huge Guy has talked to missionaries in the past, but they stopped coming to him after a while. We asked HG where he lives, and he pointed right behind the epicerie we were at. So we walked there, and found out that he is actually a pretty well off, with a nice house. His wife and kids weren't there at the time, but he promised to have them all together at the next lesson.

All in all, he seems like a way nice guy. We have gone back there one time so far, and his entire family actually seems really nice. HG has also promised to come to the church on Saturday to watch the Restoration film, and he and his family have been given a baptism date for January.

We have also been teaching Toky and his wife for a little bit, and they are progressing decently. We showed them the Restoration video at their house this week, and they liked it. It's clear that they didn't really understand it, but they liked it. We might try watching it again with them, pausing and talking about what's going on.

It was kind of funny though. After the film ended, Toky asked us to go back to "the part with the angels". For some reason, people have a really hard time understanding the whole "God the Father and Jesus Christ showed themselves to Joseph Smith. But Toky did like that part, and we think it helped them understand a bit better.

One last family that I want to talk about is that of Benjamin. Benjamin caught us last Monday on the street (smelling faintly of alcohol) and told us to come to his house, which was nearby. So we went. We have gone back two other times since then, and Benjamin, his wife, and his kids (there are three, each of which is married but still sharing a house with Benjamin) seem to be really cool.

P1040906Benjamin's wife is that person that reads the entire pamphlet between lessons, and comes back with questions. Good questions. And she listens to the answers. Benjamin has been a little slower in reading, but he listens to what we say. They also have a bap date in January.

Sorry, one last family. We met Solo and Bodo a long time ago, but "never had time to contact them". Finally there came a day when we could, and it's been awesome since then. Solo is now, after three weeks, almost done with 1-2 Nephi, and understands what he is reading. His wife and kids are also way diligent, reading at every chance that they get. They also have a bap date in January.

So all in all, we are pretty happy with how things are going here. We have also gotten some advice about other things that we could do to help our investigators, which we are planning to start applying this week.

And finally, I wish you all a grand time at this "Thanksmas" (or is it "Christgiving"?) family reunion. And send a picture!

Speaking of pictures, I had a problem with the server today (I'm pretty sure it's on my end, not yours) so I'm just emailing pictures. Here are three paintings that I bought today for about thirty dollars. For all three. Booyah.

Keep looking for missionary opportunities!

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

PS: David, Elder Stokes and I saw that first picture of this Gabby and went "daaang!"