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!