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...)