Monday, June 2, 2014

Week 1 in Betongolo

So, now Michael is in the office, doing office stuff.  But it sounds like by early afternoon he’s out and about in the field doing traditional work.  And he’s getting a few laughs…

Subject:  "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming..."

First things first. I'm in the mission office right now, using a mission computer for emailing. Benefits of working in the office!

We had a party with Sr. Vero in Mahajanga on Monday evening, which was way fun. She and her two daughters have been members forever, but her husband never joined the church because he was "too busy" to learn from the missionaries. But he made it to the party and it turns out that he's way cool! A way nice guy. I think he could be a really cool member one day. We just need to help him desire to join the church.

Actually, Elder Hamm and his new companion need to help him do that, because I have moved on to a new place.

Saying goodbye to people was sad, and it only got worse when Florent, one of our best investigators, had to drag the goodbye on for like twenty minutes. We kept trying to say that I would call him sometime and catch up with him then, but as soon as we tried to turn to walk away he'd start thanking us for all the awesome work that we do, saying that we're such good people, God will be with us... he did that like four times. I love the guy to death, but I am definitely not a fan of long goodbyes.

The bus ride here was a nightmare and a half. We were supposed to leave the bus station at 7:30am and show up around 7:30pm, but the bus got delayed for an hour and a half and then just decided to not go at all, because there weren't enough people in the bus (and thus, not enough money for the driver). Another bus driver volunteered to take us, and we set out at 9am.

We then stopped for the longest gas stop of my life, no joke. The worker shot about 40 liters of gas in the tank right away, but took fifteen minutes filling up another 12 liters. Agonizing.

But we started out again after that. Assuming the bus travels at a decent speed the whole time, we should have shown up at our destination around 9pm. Late, but no biggy.

The worst thing happened at exactly 2:35, when we had to stop for a bridge that was closed down for repairs. It looked pretty strong to me, but they closed it. Apparently they shut the bridge down every day from 2:30 to 5:30, so we just missed it. Thanks a lot, gas station guy.

So we waited for three hours. I wandered out onto the bridge and took a couple pictures of the scenery, which was some awesome streams/waterfalls and the setting sun. That was nice. I also read some conference talks that I had brought with me, and talked with a couple people. In fact, I met a lady that was 75% Arab and 25% Malagasy, born in Mahajanga, and speaks Malagasy, French, and English. So we talked for a little bit. Apparently she lives in Manchester, England and was visiting her family. There's a cultural mosh for you!

After that we didn't have any more stops or problems on the bus ride, and showed up in Tana just after 1:00am. Good thing the office elders had been sleeping in their car waiting for me since 8pm!

I was also super tired because of this overly-polite Muslim guy in front of me that kept poking me while I was trying to sleep, asking if I was comfortable enough. For the fiftieth time, I'm fine, now let me sleep! But I guess he was trying to help, so kudos to him.

That bus ride was on Wednesday, and Thursday the office elders were invited to attend the lunch that President holds for new missionaries that just showed up in country and their trainers. Usually only the assistants attend that, but they made an exception for some reason that I don't know (maybe because it would have been lonely without us? There were only two new missionaries this transfer).

Anyway, during that luncheon (fancy word) I got laughing harder than I probably have through my entire mission. It turns out that President has an awesome sense of humor, which I didn't know about before.

Add that to the fun (and work) that we've been having in the office for the last couple days, and this has been a great start to my last three months here. The senior couples are awesome, and I actually enjoy doing some office work. Who'd of thought?

We also live in an apartment right above the assistants, one of whom was in my MTC group and the other is the trainee of my second companion. Small world, huh?

But they are both way fun, so this is going to be a great time!

Somebody mentioned that Elder Naef, who just got home, is moving into Brookwood ward. I've met him a couple times, and it'll be great to see him soon!

Mom also mentioned Oregon strawberries. I admit, I didn't like strawberries before my mission (and I can't eat them here because they can cause serious problems), but I will love them when I get home! I've grown an appreciation for fruits and vegetables. I guess all those old people were right about telling me to eat healthy foods!

I guess that's just about my whole week. My new companion is named Elder Turner, and he's definitely a new kind of companion for me. I don't want to say that he's a nerd... but he's definitely a smart kid. And a licensed pilot. Since he just got finished training, he's also the youngest missionary that I've ever worked with.

But life is good. Elder Turner is a good missionary and got to baptize a kid that he had been teaching for a while on Saturday. We've also been doing a lot of contacting trying to build up a good investigator pool.

And that's pretty much been my week. Thank you all for your emails! I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: for those of you that are wondering about the office elder schedule, we do studies like normal, work in the office until two or three, and then go out to teach like a normal missionary. So we still get to teach a little bit!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Week 24 in Mahajanga

And apparently his final week in Mahahanga.  With just 3 months to go, and just 2 transfers remaining, Michael is moving on….

Subject:  "You don't know the power of Styrofoam!"

DSCF0584I keep trying to not mention it, but... time is FLYING!

Elder Hamm and I keep having these moments where people ask us how long we have left on our missions and one of us says "three months". Then we look at each other and realize just how short that is. It's terrifying.

We just got transfer news yesterday. I am getting transferred to... the mission office! I'll be Madagascar's newest office elder. I hear that the office elders still get to teach almost as much as everyone else thouDSCF0586gh, so that's good. The area they work is called Betongolo, which means "big onions".

Also, my companion-to-be was just trained in the office, so I have as much time left in Madagascar as he has finished so far. I don't imagine that will make either of us less trunky.

Actually, I really haven't really had to deal with trunkiness yet. It's not that I don't love and miss you all in America, but I've been able to just focus on the mission. It also helps that all of my companions have been way awesome so far (and this new kid, whose name I forget, sounds super cool. Apparently he's a licensed pilot?), so they keep my mind away from home.

DSCF0578Some people would think that spending so much time in Antananarivo would be a lame way to end a mission, but I honestly couldn't think of a better way. Hanging out with mission president, being able to buy souvenirs (and a suit?), possibly learning to drive stick-shift... But all those things are coming up later. Let's focus on the present.

This last week was not our best for teaching. We caught far less times than we hoped, but it wasn't our fault. People just don't know how to respect a time that they give you. But that's okay. We got in three hours of contacting, and contacted some sixteen people, most of which seem way cool.

DSCF0602I'm kind of sad to be leaving Mahajanga right now, because we're starting to find some super cool people that I want to teach. But, that's life. My new pilot companion and I will just have to find even cooler people in Betongolo!

Florent came to church yesterday, which means that he is that much closer to baptism. That guy is going to get dunked for sure. He'll have to sort out some misunderstandings, like his idea that magma is heated by the fires of hell, therefore, hell is inside the earth. But he likes learning and is reading like a madman, so he'll be a great member here very soon.

The branch isn't doing to well, but it goes through phases. A couple of the young men DSCF0617got in a fight on Saturday which made a few people angry, mostly parents, but I think that they have it sorted out well by now so that shouldn't be a problem any more. I hope.

We started teaching a lot of new people that seem way cool, but since I won't see them again I don't think it would be effective to talk about them. Suffice it to say, the missionary replacing me (a Malagasy) should have a great time teaching with Elder Hamm.

Definitely the highlight of the week was Sandratra getting baptized by Ulrich. Ulrich was baptized in December and gave us Sandratra as a referal in March. Now Ulrich got to baptize him. Good for him. Those two are going DSCF0607to be studs in the church, and Sandratra is thinking about going on a mission. Ulrich will be going as soon as he can.

I learned a couple of new Malagasy words this week. A member was trying to teach me "manifikifika" which means to shake, like you would if you burned your hand. After a minute I tried to double-check the word so that I could write it down and said, "the word was manofokofoka, right?" Wrong. That word means to be die-hard about something, and apparently it's funny, because the member couldn't stop laughing for like five minutes.

DSCF0612I tried to apply those words the next day and said it wrong again, this time coming out as "manorokoroka" which isn't technically a word, but could apparently be defined as "going around kissing people" (it comes from the word "manoroka", in case you were wondering). Again, the members with us broke out laughing. Hey, life is funny.

I will definitely miss some of the members here, many of whom are just the coolest buddies you could ask for. They are great people.

And so, my time in Mahajanga will end. But you know what they say. As one door closes...

So there's a bright future ahead, and life seems to only get better.

DSCF0622Thank you all for your emails, and know that I love you.

- Elder Arrington

PS: Dad, the new server thing works like a charm and downloads pictures super fast, so I was able to put a few more on than usual (with a few captions!).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 23 in Mahajanga

With what is approaching just 3 months remaining of his mission, Michael continues to focus so much on his investigators.  And we have some good pictures!

Subject:  "He died instantly. The next day."

I'm not sure if I ever told you all about Sandy. He was baptized back in September and went inactive immediately. We have been working with him ever since, and he always said that he would start praying again, but hasn't. This last week he finally just came out and said that there's no way he's coming back. He refuses to tell us what brought on this change, but his mind was set. He tried to give us back all his scriptures and asked to have his name removed from church records. Sandy is just done with the church.

DSCF0554So that's not the best way to start an email, but this week only gets better from there! We've started teaching a couple of men named Diambare and Florent, and that's going really well. They are reading and progressing well, and both said that they would come to church yesterday. Neither one did, but we can work on that. They also just focus well during the lessons and ask good questions, so we really enjoy teaching them.

There is also this guy named David that we just met, who we think will be a really good investigator, along with his family. We haven't gotten to teach him a full lesson yet, but we think he will be diligent. Only time will tell.

We've been working with Diam and his wife, Arlette, for quite some time now. Diam has been a member for a long time, but went inactive for a while. His wife is not a member and can't get baptized yet because they are not officially married. But that should be taken care of soon. Another problem is that two of their three daughters are over eight years old, and need to learn from the missionaries. To make things more difficult, the oldest one, about 11 years old, has been praying at a Catholic church with her friends rather than praying with her parents. The parents allow her to "make her own decisions".

DSCF0574For a while we have been trying to get the older one to come to church (the younger one comes all the time), but she always runs away to be with her friends instead. We've tried explaining about eternal families with her, but she likes being with her friends.

So now we've started talking to her friends, trying to get their families to learn, or at least to let the group of friends come to church with us. And yesterday, they came! We'll keep working on teaching the other families, but who knows? This little 11 year old girl could have given us more referals than 95 percent of the members here!

There's a man here named Jean Pierre, the nonmember husband of a less-active lady. The lady recently started coming back to church and asking us to teach them. Why? Some Jehovah's Witness people started teaching her husband, and she doesn't want him to follow them. Uh... okay?

So we've started teaching Jean Pierre. He's a nice enough guy, but I just don't know if he is going to progress. He keeps asking questions like, "why do churches try to prove each other wrong?" and "aren't ALL churches true?". Even those questions would be fine if he would listen to the answers. But he doesn't really. We answered all his questions the first time we met him, and the second time he asked EXACTLY THE SAME questions. Jean Pierre got about half-way through asking his questions before my companion stopped him and said, "look, if we try to answer all your questions then you won't remember the answers. But the simple answer is this. We believe that God wants you to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and we can explain why."

DSCF0536That's a solution that we have been using on a lot of people lately, including new people. I used to try to explain about authority, living prophets, modern revelation, etc. But just telling people that God wants them to be members of this church helps them make the commitment to get baptized. That's a useful thing.

This last Thursday we had a bunch of random and abnormal things happen, one of which I will share. I fell off of my back. Actually, I fell OVER my bike. One of the members here had done a front wheelie a while ago, and I, in of those moments where nothing seems like a bad idea, thought, "that shouldn't be too hard. I'll give it a shot!" I got moving and pulled the brakes way too hard, and flipped right over the handle bars. I wasn't injured, but I learned a lesson: don't try to do wheelies, especially on the mission!

This week has been really good, but as Mom said it, "Time is SERIOUSLY out of control"!

Keep up the good work everyone, and I'll see you soon!

I love you all,

- Elder Arrington

PS: I saw David's wedding announcement and realized that Gabby's middle name is Marina. For what it's worth, that's the Malagasy word for "true". That may not seem significant, but hey, knowledge is power.

Pictures:  Dad, I can't seem to connect to the server, but here's a couple pictures of:

- Elder Hamm and I with Hery and his family. Hery has been a member for about a year and just moved up here from Antananarivo (Tanjobato). They are a way good family.

- A guy that was chopping down half of his tree. I don't know him and the tree has no sentimental value to me, but it just seemed like a cool Madagascar thing.

- Bro. Paul. He's another good member, and just a good, happy guy.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Week 22 in Mahajanga

This week we got to talk with Michael for Mother’s Day!  And we talked for nearly two hours on Google Hangouts, which meant it was a video call.  It was awesome!  We loved seeing and talking with Michael on video—on the big screen, of course.  His smile was most impressive!


After that call, he still wrote an email!

Subject:  "There's like fifteen retainers in there!"

Sandratra is probably my favorite investigator right now. He can be serious during lessons and focus, but he can also laugh and just be a buddy outside of lessons. He learns at our English class every week, and he really is our friend, rather than just a person being taught. I wonder what it would take to get other investigators to be like that?

One of the biggest and most annoying things right now is getting people to church. Every week we challenge people to come to church, and they say they will. And then they don't. So we challenge them the next week, and they say that they will again. And they still don't come. Could it really be that hard to walk into a building full of nice people to pray to God on Sundays??

One of our investigators is particularly frustrating. Frank has been learning for a while and is a super nice guy, and will make a great member. But the guy will just not come to church! We've tried inviting him, preparing him, sending the branch president to pick him up, and yesterday we tried picking him up ourselves, and he still hasn't come once. He keeps saying that he will, but there is always SOMETHING that keeps him from coming. We don't want to drop Frank since he is still reading the Book of Mormon all the time and ready for baptism in every other way, but this church thing is getting ridiculous!

But alas, that is missionary work. That being said, we're making a lot of progress with less-actives, who are coming back to church now. We've got several that are back to full activity, for which we are grateful. Life is good.

We also just started teaching this guy named Stefano, who is going to be a stud. He accepted baptism right away, and should progress very quickly. He does have a problem with coming to church because he attends school on Sundays (every day, actually), but that will be over soon enough and he'll be able to be baptized then.

Another man that we have started teaching recently is named Xavier. He's the guy who's kid had his eye pulled out. Xavier is down for learning about the gospel and could be a really good investigator. Honestly, I'm getting kind of sad that we're finding all of these cool people right before I leave Mahajanga. But hey, there's plenty of missionaries out there that can teach and baptize these investigators just as well (if not better) than I could. Kudos to them.

Our power got cut off again this month, for probably the fourth month in a row. The power company keeps promising that it won't happen any more, but it does. It's not really that much of a problem for us since we just turn the power back on as soon as the people leave anyway, but still.

I'm afraid I really don't have much else to talk about this week. Life has been going really well, along with the work, and my companion is a stud, so we're enjoying the mission.

I love you all!

-Elder Arrington

Monday, May 5, 2014

Week 21 in Mahajanga

Michael has great missionary stories again today, and gets a little scriptural!  About beating children?  The rest of us are looking forward to a call next Sunday for Mother’s Day!

Subject:  "Yeah... he took the red one."

We have been teaching Sandy ever since I came here to Mahajanga. He was baptized right before that, but went inactive immediately. So we've been trying to get him back to church.

He tells us that he will come, but always finds some excuse to keep him from coming. Twice a week we go out to his house and teach him, but he just sits there and says, "yeah, that makes sense. Good. Okay." Sandy says that he has no questions, so we can't prepare a lesson really to meet his needs. He says that he understands everything, and he'll come to church. And then he doesn't. Frankly, I've had it with him. We've done everything that we can to encourage him nicely, but I'm done with that. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Last Tuesday we started by talking about God's commandment to respect the Sabbath Day, and asked Sandy if he realizes that he is breaking that commandment. He responded by saying that he was just too busy, and it's not like God is going to hold him guilty for just not going to church. So Elder Hamm showed him James 4:17, which he had found just that morning for this purpose, which says, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." BAM! (James 4:17)

Sandy almost tried to laugh it off, but we didn't let up. I told him how sad and angry it makes me that he doesn't come to church. Not because I don't like visiting him, but because he could be so much happier in life, so much better, but he refuses to come to church.

Finally, like a hard nut that got hit just right, Sandy opened up and admitted that he had questions about the Restoration and the church, showing that he probably wasn't ready to get baptized when he did. Regardless, now that he has said that we can work WITH him to answer his questions, rather than just throwing out random spiritual thoughts that mean nothing to him.

I guess that sometimes people just need to be told that what they are doing is not acceptable. Correction is necessary sometimes. In fact, it says in Proverbs 23:13-14, "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with a rod, he shall not die.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

(I've discovered the searchable scriptures on, hence all the scripture references)

We didn't beat Sandy with a rod (except for the "rod of my mouth", D+C 19:15), but I think that the correction was necessary. Now he can start moving forward.

That process actually worked out so well that we're setting plans to do the same thing to other people that have stopped progressing. We call it the "fire and brimstone" lesson.

We have thrown out a lot of baptism dates this last week, trying to get people progressing, and also trying to set the mood for the new investigators that we are finding. I won't be there to see them, but it should help them progress faster and encourage them to act more effectively.

We had a pretty funny story from a less active lady this last week. She told us about this man that she had known who had lived to be 105 years old. He wasn't really handicapped, just old and slow. But the guy hated it. Helene (the lady telling us the story) said that he would wake up every morning and pray to God to let him die. And eventually, he did. It probably didn't help that the guy didn't eat anything and drank nothing but two cups of coffee every day. Still, I just thought it was a funny image to see a guy just lying there on his bed, having just woken up, and praying, "come on God, you've had your fun. Now just let me die already!" Now that I think about it, it's not that funny. It's sad. But it was funny at the time.

I keep trying to stop mentioning Ulrich in every email home, but it's hard not to. This week Ulrich gave us yet another great referral: his brother. This brother, who's name I forgot to write down, and his wife seem very interested in learning, and they seem like they could be way good investigators. If this keeps up, eventually all the investigators that we teach will have come as referrals from Ulrich!

I've started making rice and loaka for myself every day. It's not the most luxurious meal, but it's healthy enough and fills you up, without costing a lot. Like, I could pretty easily survive on half of the monthly allotment eating rice as opposed to cereal and hamburgers. That could come in handy in college. Then again, Little Ceasar's has never been a bad "cheap food" option either...

So that's pretty much been our week here. I wish you all a great week and I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: And I look forward to talking to the family on Mother's Day!

PPS: Mom, I guess you provided an early Mother's Day gift for a certain mother duck by saving her ducklings! Wouldn't you be grateful to somebody who helped out one of your ducklings when you couldn't do it on your own? (there's a sacrament talk somewhere in there...)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 20 in Mahajanga

This week was actually Michael’s 21st birthday.  Congrats to him!  It sounds like he spent the day watching general conference and coloring pictures…

Subject:  "You're very good. But she needs a lot of work."

General conference! It always takes a couple of weeks for us to get to watch it, but it came and our Mahajanga branch watched it this weekend. That was pretty fun. I'll admit that I spent a good amount of the last session drawing pictures with some four year old kids, but that seemed more reverent than letting the kids get rowdy so that their parents start yelling. Honestly, adults are way more annoying than kids sometimes.

Like you'll be teaching a family and the kids are sitting on the ground, drawing pictures of them meeting Jesus, quietly singing to themselves. And then the parents start screaming at them to "shut up while the white guys are preaching!"

We have to tell some parents that freak out during lessons to just cool their jets, since they are more of a disruption than their kids.
But it also makes me grateful that I was "born of goodly parents". Mom and Dad, thank you for having been patient with your kids (especially me) and setting such a great example. We certainly didn't make it easy for you, but you raised us well. Thank you!

DSCF0509But now, back to business. During general conference our branch made lunch for everybody between sessions, which meant that there was a whole lot of rice there. The rice here isn't processed, so there's always little rocks in it. Thus, people "mitsimpina vary," or cleaning the rice, which involves pouring the rice into large, flat dishes and pulling out the rocks and things. Quite a painstaking job, but most Malagasies do it at least twice per day, for their entire family. I tried it a little bit, and found out that I am also grateful for clean rice.

(I also cook rice here, but it's packaged, and thus it's been processed, so I don't have to worry about mitsimpina vary!)

Our teaching has been going pretty well. Haja (that barber that I said is named Hary) is progressing nicely, along with his co-worker. It seems that every time that we go there some other new person shows up and wants to learn from us too, so it's turning into a good way to contact new people. Go figure.

DSCF0505Of course it's not all good. Teaching in a barber shop is still kind of difficult, since the guys that work there could suddenly have to work at any moment. One of the guys was busy the last time we were there, and that made us pretty sad. We try to have them just set apart some time to close the shop so that we can have a focused lesson, but they won't do it yet. So we'll do the best with what we have.

Edmond came to watch general conference on Saturday, and loved it. His wife was sick, but when Edmond left after the afternoon session, he stopped and asked us for a copy of Doctrine and Covenants. I tell you, a missionary's heart jumps for joy when an investigator asks him that!

DSCF0479Our bikes have been nice, but it's also kind of a pain. The paths here usually aren't that bike friendly, and finding places to lock them up is especially difficult. Still, it's nice to be able to get to places so quickly. I had forgotten how fast you go on a bike!

Elder Hamm is still doing great. Actually, it's kind of nice to be with somebody from my MTC group. I remember a missionary from a while ago who mentioned that he doesn't like being the senior companion, because he feels like the junior has to accept everything that he says. Suggesting that they go to the grocery store is taken as an order to go, for example. Of course that's not how it really is, and the junior could say no if he wanted to, but the thought is always there. Still, it's nice to be able to see a companion as an equal rather than an assistant or secretary.

So life here in Madagascar has been going pretty good! No complaints, and we're just going to keep plowing ahead until the end!

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Thank you everybody for your emails and your wishes!

PPS: I also got to scrape out the inside of a coconut shell. People mix coconut shavings into their rice to make it taste better!

PPPS: We had to hitch hike a ride home after a picnic with the branch last Monday, and the people in the back of the truck with us were way cool!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 19 in Mahajanga

Apparently Michael is the senior companion in this case (and technically the district leader since there’s no other companions there), although I’m not sure that really matters, as he says.

Is is true that he has an investigator named Hary that owns a barber shop?  Hary?

No pictures again today.  We’re going to have to get after that boy!

Subject:  I can’t sir.  It’s a liquid.

Sandratra, whom some of you may remember, is still just progressing like a stud. He's reading the Book of Mormon, coming to church, and has friends that are members. And he even came to a church activity earlier today. He's going to get dunked as surely as an Oreo gets dunked in a glass of milk.

That church activity, by the way, was one to remember. They kept telling everybody to be at the church early on Monday, because the bus that we would be riding out to the activity (a special bus that they were renting for the day) would be leaving at 7am sharp.

After they made that announcement, I turned to Elder Hamm and asked, "what are the odds that they actually leave at 7?"

"There's not a chance."

And so it was. We missionaries were a little late because we had stopped by the cyber in the morning to check emails before we headed out, but made it there by 7:45. About half of the other people were there. And the bus hadn't even come!

It was at least 9:30 before we left. But since we had been thinking that the ride there would be two hours and it was only half of that, it wasn't much of a loss of time.

The activity was alright, just hanging out and picnicking at a pretty nice area with a slow running river (or "temptation", in missionary terms). We had a fun time just hanging out with the members.

When we realized how late it had gotten, Elder Hamm and I started walking and hitch hiking. We got a ride decently soon, with this nice family that took us back to main Mahajanga in the back of their truck, for free! We tried to give them money, but they refused. Nice people.

And just a fun day.

The rest of the week went pretty well too. We did some tracting, which I have learned that I actually prefer over street contacting. It's just too awkward for me to grab random people off the street. Through that effort we found two new guys, named Fas and Tresh. They are brothers that go to college, and even though they were laughing a bunch with us, they got real serious when we mentioned our message, and they promised to read the First pamphlet and pray about it. They weren't there when we came back for our return appointment, but I'm sure we can hunt them down again this week.

We also taught this twenty year old guy named Hary who works as a barber. Since he lives pretty far away, Hary told us to just teach him in his "barber shop", so... we did. I wasn't sure how good an environment we could set up in a tiny little room with a door facing a busy street, but it actually worked out pretty well.

Hary, along with another barber that works there and his girlfriend, were very good and listened well. I got a little bit concerned when some random punk looking kid walked in to get his eyebrows trimmed, since he just didn't look like the type that would listen well. But boy was I wrong!

Even the new kid listened really well, and everybody accepted a First pamphlet and set up a return appointment when they could all be back there, including the random kid with freshly trimmed eyebrows. In fact, we were riding our bikes earlier this morning and that very kid waved at us and yelled, "don't forget about our appointment!" I wasn't expecting that. But sometimes it might be just the people that don't LOOK like they need the gospel who want it the most. Go figure.

Dad sent a picture of Steven going to Mormon Prom this week with...

HER. When I first saw the picture it was stretched out, so I was like, "when did Steven get so fat?". But then I downloaded it and it showed up stretched out the other way, so I thought, "oh, Steven's not fat.

He's tall!" I don't know what to think about that any more, but suffice it to say that Steven, whatever his dimensions may be, is looking good. Way to be kid.

Side note, I recently asked Elder Hamm if he had trained yet on his mission, and he revealed that not only has he never trained, but he's never been the senior companion! He's gotten close a couple times, but I'm as close as he's ever gotten to a junior companion (and, just for the record, I am older by like two months. Just saying.). He joked that if Elder Horne gets sent up here this next transfer (one of the other elders from our MTC group) Elder Hamm could end his mission having never been the senior companion at all!

That's okay though. Except when training, being the senior companion doesn't really mean much. The senior works with his junior as an equal, and both people get a say in decision making.

And that's pretty much been our week. Crazy delayed activities, teaching awesome people, and all that good stuff. And oh yeah, a rat ran across my foot in one of our lessons yesterday.

You gotta love life on the mission!

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Emily, thank you for your email!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week 18 in Mahajanga

Another good week with a baptism, and more to come!  And a new companion.  Again.

Subject:  "Well don't blame me-" "I blame you."

We had a baptism this week! It was actually just a bunch of primary kids, but we had to teach them since they are over nine years old. So that's that.
What we are REALLY looking forward to is the end of May, when we should have a couple families getting baptized. That will be a great day.

Edmond and Nirine should be getting dunked then, since they have been progressing so well. They come to church every week now, and even came to the baptism yesterday. That combined with how much they read the Book of Mormon means they should be just about ready! Their daughter (and two of her friends) is definitely ready, and even comes to seminary and other activities. Their son is a thirteen year old stud. So that will be four people going down in May.

We are trying to get Frank ready for that day as well, but he just does not come to church! He says every week that he'll be there, and then doesn't show up. When we ask him, he just says that he was tired and didn't happen to make it. We'll try sending a member to pick him up on Sundays, but if Frank doesn't start coming his date will have to be pushed back. It's sad too, because he's just such a nice guy, and diligent at reading. But we should get him in the end. He is ready to be baptized, but he still has just a little bit of laziness holding him back after years of not going to any church at all.

Justin, if anybody remembers him, is still super far away, but reading the Book of Mormon and Bible like a beast. He's good to be baptized once he gets back, but I'll almost definitely have left this area by the time that happens.

And there's this lady named Pathy and her two kids. The lady split from her husband a while ago, but she's diligent to learn, so we'll teach her.

Add to that Arlette and her daughter (the wife and daughter of Diam, who is already baptized), Sandratra, and possibly a couple others, and the baptism at the end of May should be quite a grand event! So we're pretty excited about that.

Another exciting thing from this last week was the senior missionary couple that stopped by here. They had a (much needed) training seminar to present to the branch about how to prepare a Sunday School lesson. They emphasized that the lesson preparation should begin the WEEK before you deliver it, not in the sacrament meeting right before. The Shupes also mentioned a lot of other good teaching tips about making eye contact, how to ask questions, and making assignments and commitments for the students to do throughout the week. It was a really good meeting, with a pretty good turn out. Elder Marsh drew the short straw for translating, so I got to sit in the back the whole time and learn a little bit.

The Shupes also brought us two shiny new bikes, that we will be putting to good use starting this week. That will be good, but it's going to cut down the amount of help we get from the members, since almost none of them have bikes. We'll look for a solution to that, but for now, we'll be cruising along the roads of Madagascar on what I'm told are the best bikes in the mission! We're grateful for that.

Another thing that the Shupes brought up is... my new companion! Yes, this is transfer week, and I'm getting a new companion while Elder Marsh is getting transferred to... well, America. The guy finished off his mission like a stud, and in four days he'll show up with his family in America. Good for him.

My new companion, by the way, is also my old companion. I doubt that anybody remembers, but Elder Hamm was my MTC companion all those years ago. And now we're back together again. This transfer was decided by mission president and the APs, and one of the APs was also in my MTC group (Elder Evans). Not that that means anything, just an interesting point.

Anyway, Elder Hamm is a stud, and we're ready for an awesome time ahead of us.

So that's about everything from my week. The three T's of missionary work: Teaching, Transferring, and bapTizing.

Have a great week everybody, and keep rocking up life in America!

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Emily, happy birthday! (better late than never, right?)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 17 in Mahajanga

Computer problems appear to make this week’s message just a little shorter (and no pictures), but I’m still inspired by the stories Michael tells.

Subject:  "Well. It's not a prybar."

So I had just about finished my email home, when the internet browser closed for no apparent reason. I pulled my email back up, and the thing I had been writing had never saved. That's... unfortunate.

So here's the short version.

I'm exhausted because we spend probably five hours walking today, searching out what was supposed to be an awesome P-day activity, and something called Lac Sacre (which I think is French for Sacred Lake?). We went down the wrong paths, went down parts with NO paths, and found it in the end. Honestly, the lake was more of a pond, and less than impressive. But it did have like ten cool fish in it, which now I have seen. So if anybody asks me about the coolest fish that I've seen in Madagascar, I'll be able to answer that they were in Lac Sacre!

There's an investigator lady named Meme, who has been learning forever. The sad thing is that she can't get officially married, so she can't get baptized. But she can (and should) come to church, which she has not been doing. We've been working with her for a while, and she finally came yesterday! We just want her to keep being diligent in the things that she can do, even if she's not baptized.

On a more humorous note, Meme told us about her hometown. She apparently grew up in a small village in the northern part of Madagascar. And get this: the name of the place is Hellville. In English. Apparently Meme had grown up her whole life not knowing what that meant, but just recently somebody told her and the lady just about died laughing. She is a funny lady. From Hellville.

Some of you may recall Bernardo, the thirteen year old, super diligent member. He comes to church early every week. Of his own choice. He also attends the Preach My Gospel class that we teach. Again, of his own choice.

Some of the older members decided not to come to church last week because of the hurricane that passed by us. It really just caused a lot of rain and some strong winds, but it stopped some people from going outside.

Bernardo, on the other hand, will need more than a hurricane to stop him from going to church. The biggest problem is that the path from his house to the church is really muddy, especially when it rains hard. Bernardo didn't want to ruin his clothes, but he did want to come to church.

He showed up last week, even earlier than normal, dripping wet from the rain, wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and no shoes. Then he grabbed his backpack, which he had kept dry inside a plastic bag, walked into the bathroom, and walked back out dressed for church in his shining shoes, slacks, and white shirt and tie. The kid is a stud.

And by the way, he did that of his own choice. Bernardo is going to be a great missionary someday.

As a final story, let me mention Nirine and Edmond. We've been teaching them for a while, but I've been worried about Nirine. She doesn't really participate in lessons, and I wondered if she was even listening. Then she got sent off out of town, and didn't come back for almost a month. But when she did get back, she told us about some other preachers from another church that had started teaching her while she was out of town.

Apparently they got in a huge argument with her when she wouldn't accept their teachings about life after death. Nirine quoted what we had taught her about the spirit world and the resurrection, but the other preachers wouldn't hear of it. Finally Nirine mentioned that there is a book of scripture that proves what she was saying (the Book of Mormon). The other preachers got silent, and apparently the time ended with Nirine having dominated them. Nirine was just cracking up while she told us about that.
I guess Nirine really was listening to what we taught that whole time! That's a relief! She and her husband are progressing well, and will be getting baptized soon.

We've also gotten a ton of member help this week, which has helped us teach more lessons than normal. Which made us pretty happy. It was a pretty good week.

Thank you all for your love and emails! I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Congrats to DDR, Mike, and Kyle on their new job situations/prospects!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 16 in Mahajanga

“The rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the rock stood still.”  How about a little hurricane action?  And some pictures!, presumably from the new camera.

Subject:  "Ye best start believing in ghost stories, Ms. Turner. You're in one!"

So we got a call from mission president yesterday that started something like this:

Elder Marsh: "Hello?"

President: "Hello. How are you doing?"

"Good. And you?"

"I'm good. Just wanted to let you know that there's a hurricane coming your way."

"Uh... oh! Okay. That's good to know."

Selfie.Apparently it's a pretty big storm, but still decently far from us in Mahajanga. We should be fine. It's been raining something fierce the last day or two, with some pretty strong winds. But don't you worry. Elder Marsh and I are not going to let a little thing like a hurricane stop us from emailing.

Our week has been pretty good. We got some good member help, which made us happy. Some of the members here are super diligent, so we like having them with us.

Ulrich, for instance, gave us a referal this week (his second one since getting baptized in December). The kid's name is Sandratra. He actually learns in our English class, but had a couple questions about the gospel and asked Ulrich. Ulrich directed Sandratra to us, and just like that he has become a progressing investigator, with a few members of his family on their way to follow suit. They are a very nice family, and we'll be going back to teach them this Tuesday. More to come.

Edmond and Nirine, investigators whom some of you might remember, are still going well. Nirine is in Tana, apparently pretty sick but getting better, but we stopped by Edmond this week. His daughter and her friends have been coming to church for a month or so, but Edmond has been bouncing between here and Tana and hasn't had time, until yesterday. He came to church, and had a pretty good time. Side note about his daughter and her friends: they've only been present for a few lessons, but they started coming to church and just haven't stopped. Now they come to youth activities and even came to clean the church on Saturday. I think that at least a part of that comes from the fact that they have friends here, so they enjoy coming. Why can't the older members be that good at helping new people join?

DSCF0283Most of the older members here in Mahajanga just go to church and go home. They aren't very social. However, there is one sister, named Sr. Vero, who is VERY good at welcoming new people. We had this investigator come to church, Pathy and her son and daughter, and we were afraid that nobody would talk to them. But as soon as sacrament meeting ended, Sr. Vero grabbed and went with Pathy to the next meeting, and Vero's daughter carted the kids off to their classes. Excellent.

By the way, we had figured that Pathy wouldn't even come to church yesterday because of the rain, but she did! It looks like she and her family are going to progress very quickly. She's not married, but as long as she stays on the right path, she can repent later.

Elder Marsh and I spent some time contacting, but in a way that was pretty new to me. We found a bunch of former investigators in the area book, who were written down as being awesome, but then the records stopped. The people stopped learning for some reason, but we have no idea why. It just wasn't written down. So we called them up to see if they are still interested in learning. And out of fourteen people that we called, three of them set up appointments then and there, five or so couldn't give a time right then but would later on, and the rest didn't answer. NOBODY said that they just didn't want to learn. So we now might have a bunch of "new" investigators, and we didn't have to knock a single door!

I've been doing pretty well here in Mahajanga. It's been very hot for the last while, but with this rain and wind we've been pretty cold. I'm actually shivering. My shoes are also full of water, but I'll survive. Actually, all of my three pairs of shoes are still water-proof, but that doesn't do much good when you have to walk through puddles deeper than your ankles. But still. We made a good investment in buying these shoes.

DSCF0277We had an opportunity to serve this week. Fr Gaetan, Fr Gerald (recently returned missionary), and their mom are moving to Tana for work, so we helped them pack some things in a truck to be driven down there. That was pretty bittersweet. Helping them is good, but they were really good members, serving in tons of responsibilities, including: branch family history specialist, young mens president, institute teacher, temple prep class teacher, and relief society president. We are sad to see them go.

However, another family moved INTO Mahajanga at exactly the same time. Hery, along with his wife and two kids, has been a member for about a year, and just got the Melchizedek priesthood. They are super nice, and should be a great addition to our troops here.

For the last couple weeks, we had been getting text messages, with scriptures written on them. The scriptures were always things like, "soon we shall meet again," or "I shall rise up to meet you." And we had no idea who was sending them, or why. It turns out, it had been Hery this whole time! That guy.

DSCF0289Last Saturday we got a call from this girl, a member in Tamatave. She said she would just text us her message and hung up quickly. Her messages started coming in, telling us that she would tell a secret, and not even the missionary's companion could know. Elder Marsh, who had the phone at the time, laughed as he read it out loud to me. "That's just not going to happen," he said.

Finally the lady got to the point, "do you like Malagasy girls?"

"OH NO!" My companion texted back, "we're not going to talk about that. If you have a message, just say it." What a stud.

It turns out that the lady had a referal for us, that she would bring to church the next day. But they never came. Oh well.

Still, Elder Marsh was just a boss in how he handled it. He explained to me that he has been aware of too many people that kept secrets, and ended up making huge mistakes afterward. After all the texting was done Elder Marsh just laughed one more time, "you're not getting me that easily, Satan."

So there you go. My companion is awesome, we've had some people coming to church this week, and life in general has been pretty good, in spite of the afore mentioned hurricane.

Thank you for your emails, and know that I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week 15 in Mahajanga

On the upside, missionary work is making good progress!  On the down side, Michael’s camera got taken….

Subject:  "Now when you go around loving everybody, you'll smell so sweet!"

The weeks really are just flying by. Part of that might be because I get so distracted laughing at Elder Marsh freaking out about going home, since he now has three weeks total left of his mission.

He's actually doing a great job of not getting trunky, but it still reaches him when he reads emails. But Elder Marsh does a great job of getting focused again right after that, so it's all good.

The real problem with our work this last week started on Thursday, when my companion got pretty sick, and that lasted through Saturday night. The poor guy had to stay pretty near a bathroom most of those three days, so we didn't get to work as much as we normally would.

That being said, we still caught more total lessons this week than we have had since I came to Mahajanga (or even back in Sabotsy Namehana, for that matter).

One of my favorite people that we are teaching now is named Albert and Joseline. They and their family are super nice and diligent. My companion and I decided to really focus on getting to know them on our first meet up with them, rather than just quickly introducing ourselves and then jumping right into teaching them. And it turned out that getting to know people can get you a long way!

They have enjoyed us coming over to their house much more than other investigators might, and the lessons are much more fun and can progress much better, since we are more like friends now, rather than random white dudes talking about Jesus.

That's awesome too, because plenty of other white people do that, so we try to stick out and do things different than other preachers. Becoming friends, and encouraging them to get an answer to prayer, rather than trying to Bible-proof everything. So we're basically trying to do a better job of applying the Holy Ghost in our lessons. And it's working out pretty well.

Another favorite that I've had is this new guy named Siverlon. He's just been really diligent, and even when we met him on the street for the first time he was full of questions. Even better, he listens to our answers to his questions. Could life get any better?

So the missionaries here in Mahajanga teach a Preach My Gospel class. In the last class we were explaining about effective questions, and I mentioned that one example of a less effective question would be, "who is God?" because people will always just answer that according to their current faith, which gets you nowhere.

Then I remembered that that's exactly how my companion (most of my companions, actually) starts every first meeting, and I just threw out that it's wrong in front of everybody. Granted, nobody else knew that, but I think he heard it.

A lot of missionaries here seem to do that, and I just don't get it. They ask somebody what they know about God, the person answers according to their faith, and then the missionaries have to shut down their faith in what other churches say. And usually they do that with a bunch of Bible scriptures, which is just a prelude to extended Bible bashing. So we don't like that.

In other news, I got robbed this week. I was getting on a bus and talking on the phone, setting up an appointment with an investigator, and people were just pushing and shoving around, and in all the hustle and bustle, I successfully set up the lesson and squeezed into the bus. Right after that I checked my goods, making sure I had everything. I didn't.

My camera was gone. Right out of my pouch. By the time I realized it was gone, there was nothing I could do. So that wasn't the highlight of my week.

On the bright side, only a few pictures were actually lost. Almost everything was backed up, and Elder Marsh had taken similar pictures of just about everything that I lost. So the only real loss is the camera itself.

And today we went out and bought a new camera. Nothing too fancy, but it should hold up until the end of my mission. I'll just have to keep it more secure than I did the other one.

Other than that, this week has been pretty good. Lots of good teaching appointments, lots of diligent investigators, and lots of success.

Have a great week everybody!

- Elder Arrington

PS: Sorry, no pictures this week :P

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week 14 in Mahajunga–or is it Mahajanga? or Majunga?

I Googled it.  According to Wikipedia, Mahajanga is the correct spelling, and that the correct French spelling drops the ‘h’ and uses the ‘u’ instead of the ‘a’.  Official:  Mahajanga.  French spelling: Majunga.  Michael is using the correct spelling which means this blog has apparently been incorrect all this time!

Michael’s experience with missionary work continues to strengthen.  His testimony is clearly growing.  And he’s having fun, too!  As a side note, his brother David (formerly a participant in this very blog) got engaged last Friday, hence the comments.

Subject:  "Oh, not you Roxanne! I was just yelling at my mother's urn."

Just a usual week, nothing super new or grand or surprising...

And then I open an email from dad to see a picture of David on one knee? Holding a ring? In front of a chick? How did that happen?

So my brother is officially engaged now. That's a weird feeling. But way to go David. Good job.

(PS: I've heard that this is "Facebook legit", so I guessed there would be no harm in me commenting on it.)

But all of you probably already knew that days ago.

P1070174As for me, life has been much of the same. Teaching, preaching, and all that good stuff. Elder Marsh and I have also torn up Mahajanga this last week with our contacting efforts, and it's starting to pay off. Maybe ten percent of the people that we contacted are going to progress, but that's still some progress. Progress is good.

Mahajanga is actually kicking up a gear in several different areas. We found a less active family that the branch had been contacting for a while, and visited them. Jean Baptiste and his wife came to church yesterday. They left early, but it's a start. We'll keep visiting them, and try to help the branch do a good job of accepting them back into activity.

Sandy, who some of you may remember to be a less active recent convert, previously Jehovah's Witness. We've been visiting him, and it seems that he is still searching for the truth, and even stopped by institute class recently. As long as he continues that search, he should find the truth. We'll be focusing on the Book of Mormon and prayer with him.

P1070095Which is exactly what we did with Justin. Justin is that super diligent guy. He reads everything we can throw at him (so far, most of the Book of Mormon, a priesthood ordinances manual, and now he's tearing through Gospel Principles, all in less than a month), but we were afraid for a while that he would end up as a "facts convert".

With every principle that we taught Justin would ask for scriptures in the Bible to prove it, always asking for proof. We focused a bunch on the Book of Mormon and prayer, explaining that IF the Book of Mormon is true THEN everything that we taught him is also true. Two lessons with Justin ago we found out why this is the right way to teach.

Justin straight up bore testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. He said that he feels happier when he reads it, studies the books P1070161that we've given him, and when he learns from us missionaries. Even when he just talks to us outside of our lessons, he feels that there is something different about us. Because of this, Justin has been asking us about how he can apply this new faith that he has, which is perfect. We were planning to baptize him on April 12th, but he just recently left of town and won't be back until Juin, [Juin: French word for June] probably after I leave Mahajanga (dang it!). But we'll make sure the missionaries later on dunk him. Justin is an awesome person.

There's this new guy that we found named Tsadidy. He comes from Toliara, and has the coolest accent ever. It's actually kind of hard for us to communicate with him sometimes, since he mainly speaks Vezo (a dialect from Toliara), which is fairly different from Merina (the official dialect of Malagasy that every person in Madagascar is supposed to know). We're trying to learn a little bit of Vezo so that we can communicate clearly with Tsadidy, but honestly, there's a lot to learn and almost nothing to learn it from (such as books).

Fortunately, we've been blessed with one very diligent recent convert, Ulrich, who actually comes from Toliara, and so is able to clarify any misunderstandings.

P1070180Ulrich apparently speaks almost all of the Malagasy dialects (there's somewhere around 20) as well as French, and is getting pretty darn good at English. He's a stud.

But back to Tsadidy. My companion has this thing where he'll always ask a new investigator, on the first visit, who God is to them. What they understand about Him, things like that. Tsadidy just said, "I don't know that." We asked about Jesus Christ. Same answer. So we are given pretty much a blank religious slate to work with. We'll see where this goes.

One last note about Vezo people is that they are not very well educated. Tsadidy is huge (like, the size of Bane from that one movie), but he has the mind and innocence of a child. He's a way nice guy, and we love teaching him.

Pascal, Jean and Clementine are all continuing on the recent converts path very well. No signs of them going inactive any time soon.

P1070092Smooth subject transition.

While toiling out in the hot sun, Elder Marsh found time to grab a goat and pretend to ride it. Elder Marsh, aside from being tall beyond reason, used to do some pretty serious bull riding before his mission.

The poor little goat would never have stood a chance.

For our P-day today we went to the beach with a bunch of the young men from the branch. We had brought some meat for a reason, and the young men got a fire going, and then cooked and ate the meat. Apparently it tasted less than stellar?

I had already been to that beach before, but it was new for Elder Marsh. And I got a picture of Ulrich jumping over me, so that was a day well spent.

P1070120And I threw in a picture of me with Justin. My companion was smart enough to suggest that we take pictures a couple lessons ago, just in case Justin had to leave suddenly. And he did.

That's pretty much all I can say about this week. Stay happy everybody!

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week 13 in Mahajunga

Things moving forward in Mahajunga!  Almost as an afterthought, we have baptisms!

Subject:  "So. What's with the WHEEL??"

I have now gotten my fifth American companion (if you include the MTC).

P1060973Elder Marsh is about as American bred as they come, wears cowboy boots around the house and talks with this super redneck accent. It's awesome.

Honestly though, I'm finding it hard to communicate with him, because I can never remember how to say things in English. So I'll get his attention and say something like, "hey, could you pass me that...what is that called........ that one thing........" and I just leave him hanging there since I can't remember the English word for pen or something. I'm sure he's been enjoying that.

So we've been rocking things up here in Mahajanga. He also refuses to let anything in our house work less than perfectly, so we'll be spending most of today tearing things apart in efforts to fix them (the washer, the sink, and basically painting the house with bleach. Gotta keep these things clean!)

And that's how he chooses to spend the first of his last five P-days.
Which reminds me, Dad asked about the odds of there being another transfer coming my way soon. Elder Marsh will be going home at the next transfer, so I'm guaranteed a new companion. There's also the possibility of Mahajanga getting white-washed, but we'll see how that all works out in a couple weeks.

P1070027Elder Marsh has also been helping us straighten out the branch, particularly in their meetings. They've had some rather ineffective (useless) branch council meetings, but this last one was really good. The branch president followed the agenda that was made for him, and some decisions and assignments got made. It was by no means perfect, but much improved.

So that's progress!

We also had thirteen investigators at church yesterday, including Edmond and his family (his wife Nirine is in Tana, but everyone else came). Edmond, the Croc Hunter, has been a really good investigator, pretty diligent in reading, and finally came to church for the first time. That sets a clear horizon for their baptism on April 12!

Justin also came to sacrament meeting, on time, but had to leave right after that to help his wife with some work. He keeps begging us for a Doctrine and Covenants, but we simply don't have any to give him. We tried to send some up with Elder Marsh, but that didn't happen because of some communication error. No biggy. Until then we are trying to stuff Justin's appetite for reading with church manuals and whatever books we have just lying around the church building, but he's reading way too fast. But I guess that's the kind of problem that you would want, so I'm not complaining!

P1070031Frank also said he would come to church, but then didn't. Not sure why.

We also had three newly baptized recent converts at church today, that were dunked the day before. I baptized Jean Doe (that's seriously his full name.), Elder Marsh baptized Clementine, and Ravo baptized his friend, Pascal. That's what it's all about!

By the way, check out how ghetto our baptismal font is. Pretty much the coolest thing ever.

We've been drop talking a lot of people that weren't progressing in an effort to look for more diligent investigators. My companion has suggested that we look for more part member families with the free time, so we will be doing that this week. There are lots of families here in Mahajanga where just one of the sons is a member, or a daughter, or a wife, so we'll try to get the rest of the family to recognize the truth. Most of them have learned before and chose to not get baptized, but saving their souls is worth another try.

We've finally been able to split our English class into two sections, for the people that are already pretty good and those that are not. Although honestly, even the lower level class people were pretty good. I taught the lower level, which basically consisted of our branch missionaries. We are going to really try to get them good at English, because mission president wants to prepare more Malagasies to serve in English speaking missions. So it would help if they already speak a bit before they get air-dropped in South Louisiana or something, with no translator.

I've been doing pretty well, and I think that my toe is doing better. I just remembered about when I went to the hospital for the second time to get a bandage replaced. I was talking to the old lady doctor while she cleaned up the wound, impressing her with my Malagasy skills, when some other person walked by the window and said to the doctor, "oh look, you got a white guy." She yelled back, "watch it girl, that's my son you talkin' about!"

And I was like, "what's up black mama!"

So I officially have a Malagasy mama now. Cool!

There's a less active that we had worked with for a while named Mevasoa. Mevasoa said that the only reason he isn't coming to church is that he has rheumatism, and can't sit down for a long time. We thought about that and told him that if he comes he can stay off to the side, and stand up and walk outside when he needs to. Mevasoa accepted, and actually came to church yesterday!

His wife on the other hand, a nonmember, did not come. I talked to her for a while, asking why she wouldn't come to church or learn from missionaries anymore, and she said that she had prayed and gotten an answer that she should stay in her current church (some protestant branch). So there you go.

Mevasoa is still way diligent, and preparing to go to the temple. Good guy.

That's pretty much been our week. With another bright one straight ahead!

Until next week!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week 12 in Mahajunga

A new month and a new planner!  The weeks continue to roll on and we’re now just outside of 5 months remaining.  This week’s news?  Michael is getting a new companion, who happens to be freshly released from being an assistant to the President.  Interesting choice.  And this week’s letter comes with a genuine Malagasy recipe!

Subject:  "It's a highly efficient language. You can fit a whole book on a napkin!"

Today signifies the bright new beginning of a new planner! How exciting. That planner represents the first of my last three or four planners EVER. That's weird. It also means that we just got transfer news yesterday.

As I may have mentioned before, there are three areas in Madagascar that are considered the "best areas". Mahajanga, Fort Dauphin, and Toliara. Once a missionary goes to one of those, he is off limits for going to another. It's kind of the unspoken rule. However, transfers came in, and guess who is moving from Mahajanga to Fort Dauphin? MY COMPANION.

P1050849The lucky little punk is bouncing down there, probably for the next six months (his mission ends at the same time as mine). He should have an awesome time.

I, on the other hand, am staying in the other "best area", Mahajanga. My new companion is to be Elder Marsh, who will be leaving the throne of AP to end his mission in Mahajanga. It's kind of weird to think that this companion actually may have had some say in picking me as his next companion. I guess that's one of those, "a second to decide, a lifetime to regret" kind of decisions.

Just kidding. I've met Elder Marsh before and heard a little bit about him, and we should have an awesome time. He's like a seven foot tall redneck. What could be better than that?

P1050862But enough about transfers. Our teaching this week has been going pretty well, with a couple people in particular.

Some of you may remember Frank from last week. He is still progressing well, reading from the Book of Mormon, but he doesn't like to pray he doesn't like to pray when we are there. I don't get that. Especially since he's prayed before, following the instructions in the pamphlets perfectly. But now he doesn't want to. But we'll get him.

Frank had also suggested that he might come to church yesterday, but didn't. That made us pretty sad. But that's life. We might send a member to hunt him down this next week.

Justin is still doing pretty well, and arguing less. Honestly, most of his arguments are pretty reasonable, like when he asked about God having a body when John 4:24 says that he is a spirit. We answered that as well as we could, and then told him that it, once again, hinges on the Book of Mormon. I probably say that like four times every time we teach him.

P1050870Justin was supposed to come to church this week, but didn't. I'm sure he has a good reason, especially since he didn't even hesitate to come the first time. But still. Come to church.

While those investigators didn't come to church, many others did. Sixteen others, to be exact. Much of that comes from all the primary kids that we teach, who are officially counted as investigators, but there were a few others as well.

Jean and Clementine, for example, came. Which is really good since they'll be getting baptized this Saturday. I haven't talked about them much. Jean used to be Muslim and wasn't that interested in the church until recently, although Clementine has been trying to get baptized for a year or so. Her only problem was not being officially married. But now that's all out of the way, Jean is on fire and doing his best to be like Jesus, so that's that.

P1050889A young man named Pascall will also be getting baptized this Saturday, so that's good. He was almost dunked before, but was drinking coffee. He has now passed the roadblock, and in the clear.

We teach this lady named Mémé, who I call Mad Madam Mim. She also has been trying to get baptized for a while but can't because her marriage isn't finished. Yesterday she asked us why unmarried "husbands and wives" can't get baptized but unmarried people that date can. We explained, and she understood. Mémé has a great sense of humor, and laughs a lot. She would be a good member.

I was thinking about whining for a few paragraphs about how ineffective our branch councils are (and I do in letters to mission president), but suffice it to say that it took an 18 year old young men's leader to tell all the older people, including the branch president, "you are all just complaining about the problem and wasting all our time. Just start look for solutions." I couldn't have said it better myself. That being said, the leaders still managed to end the hour long branch council with almost nothing to show for it.

P1050914That being said, there are a couple of good members here. Gaetan, the 18 year old that spoke up in branch council, is a good one. He is also the branch Family History consultant, and just a diligent guy. His brother, Gerard, is also super good. Gerard just got back from his own mission and is way solid as a leader and in his efforts to straighten out things in the branch that are not okay. Both of those brothers are really good at English, by the way.

The problem is that both Gaetan and Gerard will be moving soon, due to their mother's work. She is also a good member, but hasn't been coming to church because of her job. She has an actual job working at a grocery store, so the family's income is pretty solid, but she should come to church.

On that note, just coming to church does not define a good member. On our way to church yesterday Elder Rakotonjanahary and I bumped into a member lady walking in the opposite direction. We asked her where she was going and her response was, "oh don't worry. I'm just going to stop by the market really quick and I'll be at the church soon." And I was like, "oh good. Breaking the Sabbath ON YOUR WAY TO CHURCH. That's a new one."

P1050915The members just don't understand a lot of things about the Sabbath day and the way the church runs. But enough of that. Things will improve.

President has also suggested that my new companion, Elder Marsh, should be a good help in kicking the branch council and leaders up a step. I'm sure he'll be great.

That pretty much concludes what I have to say this week. I hope you are all enjoying life in America. It has been mentioned that people here look pretty poor. Living and working with them kind of makes you more grateful for the "necessities" that you used to have. Things like a bed for each individual, couches, a kitchen table. A kitchen. But the people make do with what they have.

I love you all!

- Elder Arrington

PS: I've been watching some of the people that pull pouse-pouses for a living. I'm convinced that those guys would have been fantastic pioneers, because can they run all day pulling their load like a handcart, and half the time they aren't even winded when they get to their destination. The only problem is that their pioneer wagon would be full of straight up RICE. The average Malagasy eats somewhere around two-thirds to a full pound of rice each day (measured before it is cooked). Can you imagine carrying that bucket of all your belongings (15 lbs?) AND a hundred pounds or so of rice PER PERSON?

PPS: I had Elder Rakotonjanahary teach my how to make some Malagasy rice and laoka, and I realized that the laoka that we made was basically chili. So if anybody wants to try a Malagasy dinner, here's a quick recipe:

- Cook a bunch of rice.
- Microwave some chili.
- Mix the two and enjoy!

PPPS: Lindsay, thanks for the email! It's good to know you're still alive!