Monday, September 18, 2017

Week 59 - Ataovy Dimy

Salama y'all. I hope you all had a great week. First off, I received news that I will not be leaving paradise!!! I am very happy to say the least! I will be here my 5th transfer and my 4th with Elder Shelby. It is great and we will hopefully be seeing some great families baptized this coming transfer! I could not be happier!! We had a sweet p-day activity today so I don't have much time, so this may be a short little email. I will let the pictures do the talking for the p-day activity. Basically, just gotta go on a nice hike in ParadisaGasy. This week we were able to have a great District Conference with President and Sister Foote also. It is always great having them in town! We had a cool experience this week that I would like to share. Monday nights, we usually have dinner and family home evening with one of the Branch Presidents. But our dinner was cancelled late notice, so it left us with a night we had no program or lessons set up. So Elder Shelby and I decided to go visit a less active family and we shared a lesson with them and it was great. As we were closing the lesson, I looked at my watch and realized it still wasn't too late. I didn't know who to visit though. There were no members or less actives that lived close by and it was late enough that most Malagasies would think you were crazy or trying to rob them if you knocked on their door. But I felt something tell me to go to this family we tracted into a while ago...but this family wasnt exactly the most warm-welcoming last time as they just said they didn't have time and we could come back another time. Most of the time that is the Malagasies way of saying I want nothing to do with you get out of my house haha. But I still felt that we should go there. I thought to myself that it was just me and that I was wanting to be a good missionary and not go home and that nothing would come of it. So I just kept thinking of others we could visit. We left the house of the less actives we had visited and we started walking. We walked one step past the house I was prompted to go back to and I just stopped and said let's try these guys. So we did. They were home. The husband didn't seem too happy to see us again but they let us in and we had a very great lesson and are visiting them again this week. When we got out Elder Shelby told me that if I didnt say something he was about to say we should visit that house again too. I knew then that it was the Spirit. I dont know if this family is going to be baptized or anything but I am so grateful to be able to have the guidance of the Spirit in our lives. I heard a quote and I don't know who said it but it was this, "Follow all the promptings you have until you can tell they are not from the Spirit." I always remember that when I have thoughts or feelings to do something that might be weird and I tell myself that it is just my own thoughts. I know the Spirit is real. How blessed we are as members of the church to be given such an amazing gift that can help us in all aspects of our lives. We must always strive to live worthy of this great gift so we may be blessed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I hope you all have a great week!!! I will be enjoying my time in paradise. Sorry if the pics make you jealous :) Veloma!! 
 Pics from lemur park last pday! We were allowed to use bananas to lure the lemurs but not allowed to let them eat them haha so there is an awkward pic of me smiling while fighting the lemur for the banana. 

Emma's baptism pics! It was a great baptism!!! 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Week 58 - Ny Sorompanavotana' i Jesoa Kristy

Akory aby! Hope you all are doing well and it was a great week! This was a good week for us! A few sad moments this week as our investigators that were preparing for baptism this Saturday were not able to get vita soratra (legally married). That was sad but I know they will be baptized one day!! We do have a baptism coming up this week! Emma will be baptized! She is a twenty-year-old girl and the cousin of our Young Mens' President who is also the Institute teacher who is also a recent convert. He is a baller. But anyways Emma is a stud like him, so we are pumped to see her baptized! I know she will help this branch a lot!! This week I thought a lot about the Atonement of Christ. One thing that amazes me is how little other churches teach about the Atonement. We will teach members of other churches and lots of them know very little or nothing about the Atonement. They know Christ died for us but it seems as though that's all they believe or know. It makes us sad when people don't know what the Atonement means for us and how many blessings it allows us to receive. There are 3 scriptures that I read this week that really made me think about the Atonement. The first one is Alma 37 verse 46. (I don't have my scriptures and this computer is too slow for me to switch pages and copy and paste. I am sorry you will have to read them on your own haha). This scripture talks about how the way is prepared for us and if we will look we might live. Then in Omni 1 verse 26 there is a line that says "partake of His salvation." I love the Malagasy translation of this as it translates to "handraisanareo anjara aminy famonjeny." It literally translates to take responsibility in His salvation. These two scriptures stood out a lot to me. The Atonement is done. Vita. Check it off the list. It's finished. Eternal life, happiness, peace, living with God and our families for Eternity is all prepared for us. It is all there. Heavenly Father and Christ are now just telling us to go get it. The path is there and Christ has done everything for us so that we can receive all that God has prepared for us. But we need to partake of His salvation. We need to take responsibility and do what we need to, to receive it. Christ suffered, died, and rose again for us so that we, sinners, can receive such great blessings. But it doesn't just come to us. Christ didn't just suffer and die for us so that we could be lazy and not follow Him and still get all that. No, He did all that and prepared the path. And then He showed us that path and has given us all we need to go and stay on that path. But He cant drag us down that path. We need to do our very best and when our best comes short then He takes care of it. But it has to be our very best. I had a seminary teacher tell us that everyone in this life gets what they desire. That is so true. Hopefully our first and foremost desire is Eternal Life and following the Savior. If it is, then we know we will do anything to get and do that. If our desire is to go win a state championship, we are gonna work our tails off and practice more than everyone else. And if our desire is to follow the Savior, we are gonna work our tails off and follow Him. Then the last scripture is in Moroni 10 verses 32 and 33.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
(Hey that copy and paste worked, #churchistrue.) Christ prepared the path and He calls for us to walk with Him and follow Him. As we give all we have to the Lord, He will perfect us. He doesn't ask for us to be perfect but He asks us to give our very best. There is a quote by Gordon B Hinckley if I am not wrong, sorry if its not his quote. He said, "All we have to do is try, but you REALLY have to try!!"  I know that is true. The Atonement is done. We just need to follow Christ and keep His commandments and do our part. I know that through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we can follow Him and do all that is required of us to receive the blessings of the Atonement. I hope you all have a great week!! A day without repentance is a day wasted :) Veloma! Mazotoa.
 Our dinner with President Danielson. He came to the other missionaries house this time haha we made sloppy joes. His daughter wasnt the biggest fan.
 A bunch of little kids ran up to me asking for help and led me to this poor kid whose older brother tied him to a fence. He was crying and I told him I would let him go but I had to take a picture first haha...older brothers are jerks. At least I never tied you to a fence Brax haha.
 Dorgivier's mom wanted a pic with me haha. She is awesome and will be baptized in a few weeks! Sadly I wont get to see it.
  Some nice Malagasy bathtubs.
 A selfie with all the kids in Mbola's house for our lesson with them! Thats only the kids that were in the lesson! haha.
 And a kid at Mbolas that wanted a pic!
 This fruit is the fruit from the baobab trees. The ones Madagascar is famous for!  Btw the fruit was nasty. It was way sour and just weird haha
Mbola's brother wanted a pic with us and it was way windy ha.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Week 57 - Faradofay

Salama aby! Can't believe it is time for the good ole weekly email again. Time goes by so fast on the mission and sometimes a little too fast. It was a great week! The work is going great in this area right now and it is so fun to be apart of. We gave a great family a bap date this week and they came to church. Rachel and Roland were a couple we tracted into a two weeks ago. Roland didn't seem as though he wanted to talk to us a whole lot, but Rachel was very nice. Roland said they didn't have too much time so we gave them a quick summary of our message and a pamphlet and to be honest figured they would never call or we would ever see them again. Then the next week at church to our surprise Rachel was there waiting almost an hour early. She told us she had learned with missionaries in Antananarivo and almost got baptized but moved down here to Fort Dauphin. When we gave a summary of our lesson we told them that are job isn't to go around convincing people this is true, but that we share a message and if the people search with their hearts for the truth we know the Spirit will convince them of it. She said Saturday night she prayed and asked God where she should go to church. Sunday morning she was getting ready and all of sudden felt she needed to go to our church, so she got ready and went. It was great. We went back to teach them and her son and daughter-in-law listened to the first lesson. Rachel's husband still doesn't want to listen but Rachel, Ronaldene (Rachel's son) and Ronaldene's wife Berline and their kids were at church and they all accepted a bap date on the second lesson. Needless to say we are very excited about them. They are all very awesome and kind people and Ronaldene is a guide here in Fort Dauphin so he speaks English and that is cool haha. The Lord's hand is in the work and it is great being on His team. This week in studies I read in Doctrine and Covenants section 136. Verse 31 really stood out to me. It reads, "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be ready to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion. And he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my Kingdom." I love this scripture. The end part is what stood out to me most. My companion and I talked about this in comp study. I thought about how important it is that we can take help or coaching and be able to learn from it. In sports the greatest players are those that are coachable. I have played on many teams and multiple different sports and the players that improve the most and have the most success are those that listen to the coach and strive to implement that in their game. The coach was usually a player before; he usually knows the game and what it takes to win and because of that he is in a position to help his team and correct them. Our everyday lives are no different. God is the coach and we need to be coachable. Church, the scriptures, seminary, institute, and General Conference are just a few ways God coaches us. God wants us to win and he is the one coach that will never make a mistake. So as we strive to live the Gospel, He will guide us and try and coach us through the Spirit. It is important that we submit our will to His and we need to trust Him and know that His ways and His knowledge will always be better and broader than ours. I love verse 31, as sometimes in the gospel and church we learn something that we need to change or do better, it is vital that we follow those promptings and strive to follow Gods game-plan and throw ours out the window if necessary. I know that God has called living Prophets and Apostles on earth today as his assistant coaches. I know that as we follow their guidance and teachings we can take comfort that we are following God. God always has our needs in mind and as we strive to follow Him and give our lives to Him, He can shape us into better players and better disciples of His Son. I am so grateful for God's loving guidance, even though sometimes it requires us making the harder right rather than the easier wrong, as President Monson once said. We are all so blessed to have a knowledge of the Gospel and have such a perfect game plan set up before us, now we just need to go out and perform. I hope you all have a great week!! Veloma!!
 A Malagasy stove.
 A selfie with Lahavelo and Emma who is preparing for baptism on the 16th!
 Me and Lahavelo after he helped us teach a lesson. Our area is so beautiful.
 Velo and Bebline's family, who I brought some glowsticks for (thanks for the packages from home.) Velo and Bebline are the family I wrote about a couple months ago who can't read or write and have a hard time remembering the lessons but come to church every week. They are awesome!

 Some pics from our hike this morning! We had a good group of members and investigators come! It was fun!

Our group up at the top of the mountain!!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Week 56 - Mazoto Be

Akory aby! I am sure you all had another great week! Our week was great too! I am loving this great area that I have been blessed to serve in for 4 transfers (about 6 months). There are so many great people here and I feel so blessed to serve with them everyday! This week was great. We are having so many great and prepared people being put in our path and you can definitely see the Lords hand in the work. There are so many "coincidences" that happen on the mission that are definitely not coincidences at all but rather the hand of the Lord helping His children that are ready to find the truth. My testimony is strengthened everyday that this is truly God's work and He is in control. It is always a nice comfort as a missionary to know that all we have to do is be obedient and work hard and the Lord will take care of the rest. This week we taught one of my best friends here, Dorgivier. He is now a member and a stud. We baptized him probably about a month or so ago. Dorgivier is one of the most humble guys I have every met. He has had a big impact on me as I have gotten to know him. He lives in the smallest house I think I have ever been in. I could not lay flat either way in his house and fit. Also, of all the members, he lives the farthest distance away from the church building. Oh and he is handicapped, as one of his legs is shorter and not developed like his other leg. Yeah having to mow the lawn on Saturday afternoon while the game is on doesn't sound too bad now huh? :) Anyways, we taught Dorgivier and when we were about done we asked if he had any questions. He said yeah. He asked, "Is it ok to blame God for some things? Like I am disabled and it is hard. I walk on the street and people stare at me and sometimes I will be carrying something heavy and some people will help me but other times I will fall as it is too heavy and people just watch. It is hard but is it ok to blame God for that?" Man, I felt as though I wasn't worthy to answer his question. But I shared D&C 122:7-9 with him. This talks about how no matter what happens to us in this life and all the trials and hardships we have the Savior has suffered more than all of us can imagine. And in this scripture the Lord says "all these things shall give thee experience and be for thy good." I told Dorgivier I don't know why certain people are born with disabilities or hardships that they cant control and they did nothing to deserve it. But I know that God gives us trials to help us in the long run. They are for our experience and good. Sometimes in life we get frustrated and mad at God because we have endured hardships and trials yet we have done nothing but tried to be good and keep the commandments. I know that those hard times are for our good. They make us better. They strengthen our faith. They help us realize how blessed we truly are as we focus on the good. If we lift weights, once 1 plate gets too easy, we usually add some more weight so we can strengthen our muscles. I am sure that principle is the same with our spiritual growth. We endure hardships and trials through out our lives. And I would guess that when those come, it is God saying ok you are ready to take a little more weight, don't worry this first rep is gonna be hard but it will get easier and you are gonna be stronger than before. I know that God is a loving and merciful God. He will never give us too much that we can't handle. But sometimes He sure does make it hard, and as we have faith we will recognize that "it is all for our good and experience." Focus on the Lord and He will help you through. I am so grateful for such amazing people like Dorgivier and many others in my life. I hope you all have a great week!! Mazotoa!
 Heiden Rooney and his wife, Savannah, were at our dinner with President Danielson and their family. Heiden served here a while ago and we are long lost family so that was cool! (Heiden is Paul's cousin's nephew). 
 Pic of some kids playing soccer in our area.
 Some little studs we found one night. They made this wooden guns that shot rocks like a sling shot. They made them themselves and it was so cool. We see them running around having wars with their friends. Reminded me of airsoft wars in the backyard when I was little haha.
 A pic with Dorgivier in a beautiful part of our area. He helped us teach on Friday. He was so happy to help us. It was awesome.
 Dorgivier posing for a pic.
 Pic with Mbola. They like taking pics a little too much. Seems that after every lesson we have a little photo shoot with them it is funny haha. 
 People like making the joke that I am a Mpanamboatra Kiraro (shoemaker) yet my shoes are broken. So I decided to pay a member to fix these up for me haha. Hopefully these bad boys can last one more year ha.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Week 55 - Fibebahana

Akory aby!! What's up everyone? I am sure it was another great week for all of you as it was for me!! We had a great week. Had some great and very spiritual lessons this week and we had a great turn out at church! It was a very exciting week. One story is of an investigator family we teach that I have grown to love a lot. The couple is named Zava and Poni and we teach a couple of Zava's sisters with them and Zava's niece. They are all great although Zava's niece has seemed to be the one most affected by our lessons.  Her name is Sisine. They are all a part of the Catholic church and they are great people. We taught a lesson on faith. At the end of the lesson, Sisine was telling us that she is having a hard time knowing what to do. She has been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church and she always believed that was the true church. She has been moved by our lessons and our message though and she says she doesn't know what to do. As she said this, Zava spoke up, he said "Joseph Smith was like that, he didn't know what to do and he kept searching and searching." Then his wife, Poni finished off, "Yeah and remember what he did? He went and prayed and he got an answer! You just need to pray." They all then looked at us and I just said amen ha. They were at church the next day and it was great to see them. Sisine seems to be the one leading them and I truly believe they will all be baptized and be able to enjoy the fullness of blessings through the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with such amazing people!! This week I listened to a talk by Elder Holland. He talked about the story in John 21. This is after Christ's resurrection. Peter and some of the other disciples decide to go fishing again and back to their normal lives. They went out fishing and didn't catch a thing. The Savior then appears to them and tells them to cast their nets again. As you can guess, they then hauled up a big load of fish. Christ invites them to come to Him. Then He asks Peter, "Peter, do you love me more than all of this?" Peter answers, "Yea, Lord thou knowest that I love thee." Christ asks him again, "Do you love me?" Peter says, "Yea, Lord thou knowest that I love thee." Christ asks him a third time and Peter answers again. Christ's answer to Peter was then this, "Feed my sheep." I love this little story and have loved relating it to me and my life and all of us today. I am fairly confident that one of the first questions, if not the first question Christ and our Heavenly Father will ask us when we meet face to face with them again is,"Did you love me?" We all know love is shown and not just spoken. I love the Savior's first question to Peter. It wasn't just, "Do you love me?" It was, "Do you love me more than this?" Referring to the fishing Peter was doing. I am sure that many of us have a love for God and his Son. Is it a perfect love? Maybe not. What if the Savior appeared to us and asked us a specific question like that? What would He ask? "Do you love me more than those inappropriate movies, tv shows, and songs you watch and listen to?" "Do you love me more than those inappropriate thoughts?" "Do you love me more than those swear words you say a little too often?" I am sure there are many things He could ask each of us and they would all be different. But I am sure His answer would be the same. "Follow me, and keep my commandments." As we all know that if we truly love Him we will keep His commandments. I love this story and have tried to apply it in my life and see what I can do better or give up to better love my Heavenly Father and Savior and to follow them. I know that as we do, we receive true and everlasting happiness. I would like to share a great quote from President Foote. He said this in my interview with him this week. "We aren't trying to make them Mormons, we are trying to make them Saints. But being a Mormon is the best way we can become Saints." I love this quote and know it to be true. I love this Gospel. I know that as we follow the commandments and guidelines of the living Prophets we will come to love the Savior more and more and feel His love for us more and more. I hope you all have a great week! Mazotoa!!
 Last P-day we made some dumbbells for our house. Some pics of us making them, me with the member's daughter who helped us, and the final result! We don't mess around here haha.

 A cool view.
 Some pics of Mbola's family, who always want us to take pics of them when we teach them.

 This bebe (grandma) was wanting to see the pic but I snapped a pic of her and it is classic haha.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Week 54 - Akory Ziora

What's up Everybody?! It was a great rainy week here and I hope you all had a great week also! Fort Dauphin is the place to be and it just gets better every single week. This week we had some great lessons and found some awesome new families that we are very excited about! One couple who we found, first talked to missionaries in 2005 in Tamatave. When they first moved to Fort D, there weren't missionaries or a branch here and they lost track of the church. They read the Book of Mormon everyday and it was amazing when the wife comes up to us as we had just tracted into her cousin's house. She was holding a really old Book of Mormon and my comp and I were shocked. She said they have been reading everyday and she led us to their house and we shared the first lesson with them. I am very excited about them!! We have many investigators right now that are so awesome and it is very exciting! This week I have thought a lot about the Atonement. Sometimes as we teach people about the Atonement and what Christ did for us it is a very deep and hard thing to understand. It is amazing that one person could be filled with so much love that He would be willing to suffer and die for all of our pains, sicknesses, sadness, loneliness, mistakes, and everything else we could ever feel. As we teach about the Atonement I often share a story I heard a long time ago but don't remember where. It is about a school class of boys. They were very rowdy and disobedient. Finally one teacher told the class they need to come up with ten rules. The students came up with ten rules they thought were fair to follow. The teacher then said if there is a law but no penalty then the law is pointless. What is the penalty for those who break these rules?' The students decided that those who break the rules would get beaten ten times across the back without their coat on. A few days later Big Tom found that his dinner was stolen. The class found out who the thief was and it was a little boy named Jimmy who was very small and very hungry. The teacher said, "Jimmy, you broke the rules you get the punishment; ten stripes across your back." Jimmy pleaded and told the teacher he could beat him but to please let him leave his coat on. The teacher said, "You helped make the rule, take off your coat." Little Jimmy took off his coat and the teacher saw he had no shirt under and just a skinny bony little body. The teacher thought to himself that he couldn't beat this poor little boy, but he had to do something to earn the class' respect. Just then, Big Tom steps up and says, "Teacher, I will take Jimmy's beating." The class and teacher agreed that if someone else accepts one's punishment it is acceptable. Tom took off his coat and the teacher beat him across the back. Little Jimmy jumped up and hugged Big Tom. He said, "I am so sorry Tom! I was so hungry. I will love you til the day I die. Thank you for taking my beating." I love this story and example of the Atonement. We are all little Jimmy at one time or another in our lives. How blessed we are to have a Savior that was willing to take our beating so that we can be forgiven and return again to our Heavenly Father. A day without repentance is a day wasted and I am so thankful for the Atoning Sacrifice of the Savior. I know He suffered and died for us but then rose again. All He asks is that we love Him and follow Him. I know this Gospel is true and as we follow the Savior we will have true and everlasting happiness. I hope you all have a great week! Veloma!
 Some pics of our walk we did last P-day right before we went out to work. The path we took is just right behind our house. Like a 15-20 min walk right by the beach. Sorry...not trying to make you guys jealous. Haha.

 Some pics from Mbola's house. This is some of Mbola's family. His dad is a Mpiambina Omby and his family makes charcoal. That is what the big hole in the ground with smoke is.  

 A pic of the path out by Mbola's house.
Elder Hunter was transferred to Tamatave and we took a goodbye pic. This is right outside our favorite restaurant here. It is owned by a French couple and it is so good.