Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

It was incredible to talk to you guys. Like I told Dad in his email, I feel like I hopped into a portal that took me straight back into our living room to have a nice chat with you all. The days of endless questions about the life here in Mada seem to be over - thankfully. For it seems that as I have gotten older and more mahay in the ways of Malagasy mission life, so to has my family. Now I just have a hop skip and a jump left to go, and it is so nice that I will be making this last stretch competely comfortable with everything.

This week, a large variety of things occured that I've already written down in my planner to share with you all.

This week I learned some simple conversation phrases in Chinese! The are a lot of Chinese people here that half-way know Malagasy, so I had them educate me as I was waiting for Slater to make up his mind about some fake-Air Jordans he saw. "Ni how!" "Yo sama shin one?!" On that note I also learned how to say hello in Arabic.

Me and Slater took some pictures in the pig-pen of our favorite friends - Herbert and Alex. We heard the bad news from some of our investigators and recent coverts that Herbert - the fatter of the two pigs - would be on people's plates by Christmas dinner, so we felt that we should properly say good-bye. R.I.P. Herbert, a dearly beloved, porky, friend.

We decided to cross some rice paddies to get to one of our times late at night in order to make up some time as we were already late. The rice paddy proved to be a mammoth thing, filled with maze-like, treacherous pathways that tested the bounds of our nerves. Apparently the test became too much for me though, when I was half submersed in the yucky water, falling from the dirt-ways. Twice I fell in in. At one point we had to make a mighty eight foot jump across a pitch-black gorge in the fields, in full-missionary gear. Surprisingly, we both made it through.

We had a really nice chat with a couple of Adventist buddies of ours this week. They were pretty astounded by all we had to say, but also pretty self-confident as they strutted around their scant knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the D&C. They are both well-educated in the Bible, so our discussuions have proved to be quite the enjoyable exercise. They'll come around though.

This week I've had to translate for President Donnelly, the Malagasy sister missionaries, and the usual Lehnharts. At one point on Sunday I let one of my really good friends from Antsirabe translate for Elder Lehnhart during the final meeting of the day. He is about as good in English as I am in Malagasy, so we were able to do a little bit of tag-team translating. Words like, "germinate," "disintegrate," and
"logistical outputs" are little difficult to make known in Malagasy. Regardless, we got creative and I'm pretty sure everyone understood the lesson.

I had to sing a solo as I already told you, as well as a special performance of the remixed "Praise to the Men (to the tune of Praise to the Man)" For one of the activities at zone conference we were split into different groups according to our abilities and talents, and then given creative tasks to accomplish. For my groups chalenge, we had to write a song that encomposed all of the qualities that we'd
like to see in our work. My favorite line was, "Drunk guys and vita soratraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, now fight us in vai-ai-ai-ain." We brought down the house.

Even though our call was cut a little bit short, I still feel like it was successful. Seeing as we did get to scream, "I love you! Merry Christmas! Bye! I love you!" about ten seconds before the whole thing went down, I don't really feel as though we were cheated out of our experience or anything. But hey; it was fantastic to talk to you!

That's all for now. The area is going great as we gain momentum for the new year.
There is your general summary of what happened during my Christmas. All I have
left to say is this: Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Elder Cryer

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hey Dad, recognize this shirt? A Malagasy man had it on.

They break, we fix them, they break, we fix them...

Warrior Mutt

This week we had some fantastic experiences and a great find! Starting last Tuesday, I found a giant store called 'Jumbo Score' that is kind of like Walmart. They have good food, clothes, computers and TVs, everything that Walmart carries back home expect guns and hunting equipment - really. The only problem with this store of fabulous wonders is the exorbiant prices. I mean, I feel like these prices would be a little on the more expensive side for someone in America. That makes them nigh impossible for any regular person here in Madagascar. Regardless of price, though, I did pick up two packs of delicious hot-dog weiners.

By far the best find we made this week however, was the 29 new investigators. We had to drop a lot of the less-diligent people last week and we upped the hours that we work every day, so we had to do lots of tracting and referral searching. It was long, it was hard, and it was incredibly fun. Tracting in the pouring monsoons of Madagascar is not something that I think most people would aspire to doing. We just sing our hearts out and trudge on through the mud and the wet. Everyone sees us out and about during the storms - with no jackets on - and feels bad for us. So we easily get in those doors and find us some new investigators. Some of the people we've been finding are truly the Lord's elect; and others are a bit on the other side of the playbill, but regardless, I know it will be to both ours and the investigators benefit in the long run.

This week we had another baptism and we therefore had to have another round of bap interviews. That means that I had to go on splits again with the mini-missionary from last week. As we we going around and visiting people, we came across a dog who apparently wasn't in the best of moods. Maybe the rain had gotten him down - idk. Anyways, I looked at him and he gave me a little bit of an irritated snarl, but not so much as to imply a coming attack. I told him in Malagasy to shut up (mangiana ianao!) and he shut his yapper. About three seconds later as we were walking around the corner from where we had originally seen the dog, I hear a loud bark and running. I turned around just in time to see the dog lunging through the air, bent on ripping my throat out. So, I took some inspiration from all the martial arts flicks I had ever seen, and kicked my Dr Martens-equipped foot straight into his face. He flew back, stunned that a vazaha would show such back-bone in the face of
danger, but not quite finished. As he rebounded for the next attack, I let him have it again! Now this time I'm sure he was feelin' it, but it wasn't enough to stop his rage against the white man. One more time he came, and one more time was he stomped. He shook his head, dazed and confused, but still keeping up a steady growl of defiance. Maybe he would have gone at me one more time - but then his owner came running around the corner with a fork to ward him off of me. I feel certain that he's had the sharp end of the fork before, so he promptly turned tail and ran.

Later, as we were walking away from that area, I heard a similar, mighty bark of challenge from off in the distance. Turning to face down my foe once more, I summoned as much of a Clint Eastwood glare as my face could muster. We faced each other. Slowly, he ceded the battle ground and retreated. And that was the tale of the Warrior Mutt.

So here are my comments about the pictures: you guys look fantastic! I feel like you look stronger and leaner then before. Also, I think that you guys have evened out in the who-is-more-tan category. Father, you always did have the skin of an Commanche but it now seems as though Mom has turned herself right into a Mediterranean sunned Greek woman! Look at that tan thing!

The baby Joshua is a very cute and very regular baby. I mean that in utmost respect and praise, but he just looks like the quaint picture of what all babies should look like.

Alright, I guess we'll chat in a few days. I love you guys.
Elder Cryer

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Surprises

Hello everyone: The baptism was a nice little shin-dig! A lot less people showed up to give support then I am used to. In Antsirabe, pretty much the entire ward would show up to welcome the new members into the church. Still though, there are some very diligent members that help us ceaselessly and have definitely got the vision of what it is going to take for us to get a temple here in Madagasar. Will lazy members get it done? Most certainly NOT.

Manivo, Sitraka, and Fabien all got baptized as planned, and they were joined by the newly minted eight year old son of the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency. Harking back to my dawn-of-time Ivato days, the water was only 18 inches deep - and that is being generous. There also wasn't enough clothes for everyone so I opted to sit out and let Elder Slater do all the baptisms. It is a way incredible experience to personally baptize someone, but I'm happy to see a ward member do it or give another missionary the experience.

This coming weekend we have two more baptisms on the line-up. The peoples names are Hasina and Lova. Both are these people are as of yet unbaptized spouses of another member. These two families happen to live in the exact same neighborhood/fenced off compound of huts. They live right beside each other.

Though I love my area immensely, it seems to be somewhat lacking of adventures at the moment. I think I may actually like my area more than Antsirabe, but it definitely is much less exciting. Fine by me. In my opinion, adventure after adventure distractes and sets you off to go possibly look for more adventures than can probably be gained by following the missionary hand-book, if you know what I mean. I think the reason I love my new area so much is that me and my companion, Elder Slater, have really given ourselves over to working as hard as we possibly can. It feels so nice to walk in the house after a long, successful day, clean up the house a little bit - as we do have an up and running chore list -, plan, write in the journal, and hit the sack. Which, may I just say, is exactly the things that the White Handbook tells us to do. Me and my comp were talking about it during comp study, and we both expounded on the wonders of just following ALL of the rules. It was like before in my mission, it was a burden to be totally obedient. In fact, I'm pretty sure most missionaries still think such things.

Dad, the living room looks incredible! That floor is so nice. In my current house we have a wood floor as well and I have been converted. The only weird thing is that in our house there are little weird, black, eight pointed stars placed at random throughout the house. Seeing as witchcraft and sorecery most certainly exist in this land, these things are a bit disconcerning. But, it wouldn't be me first time to live in a haunted house, and we already gave the house a blessing so we should be ok.

As I said in Dad's email, this area seems to be much less prone for adventures and the like. On the flip side though, it could just be that I've become desensitized to the crazy things that I see every day, so I don't really notice them for what they would be to an American tourist anymore. I feel like the vacation-missionary phase of my mission has come to an end. I am completely and totally at home here in Mada, so there really isn't anything that surprises me anymore.

Well I love you and miss you guys. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sab Nam

This weekend we have three baptisms in our area, and they are some amazing people. Their names are Manivo, Sitraka, and Fabian. They are a mother and two teenage kids. I've only had a few lessons in which to talk with them, but already I love them and know that they were specially prepared for the message that we bring. When I think of the term "the elect" my mind immediately jumps to Hery and Nirina from Ambohimena, and Manivo and her kids here in Sabotsy Namehana. The are absolutely 100 percent ready for baptism and it is so exciting to see the light in there eyes as we discuss religious subjects and as we put the final touches on their preparations for baptism. In fact, after Manivo & Co., we have about 6 to 9 more baptisms before Island Conference on the 23rd. This area is on fire, especially considering that we are in Antanannarivo - not province. So far I love my new area and everything is definitely working out well.

My new companions name is Elder Slater. He is a stud. We work hard, have fun, and keep the rules. That's all I ask for in a companion.

When I think on the differences and similarities of my areas, I realize that Ivato and Sab Nam are very similair. And yet, I like Sab Nam so much more. Why is this? I think my abilities in Malagasy are a strong factor for my new dispostion on areas as a whole. Also, I believe that Antsirabe taught me two things: how to work, and how to love the people. Once those things are in place, I have faith that you can be at home in any area of the mission, no matter how well or not well it used to be going. Whether it's the bandit-infested jungles, or the garbage rivers of inner-city, you can love your area.

Translating for the Lehnharts is at once awesome, and exhausting. Not so much much stressful or difficult as I had originally thought it would be though. I definitely enjoy translating from English to Malagasy more than the reverse, but on the whole it isn't too difficult to translate. We go to the church at eight in the morning and from that time till 12:00 I have to translate everything, including Branch Council and Branch Presidency Meeting. By the end of the last meeting, I am tired.

Funny story: Manivo gives us something to drink every time we come over for a time. The first time we got to drink some sort of sour fruit thing that I loved and Elder Slater hated. On our second visit, we had to choke down three glasses of literal mouth-wash. I'm not even kidding. We think that she thought the drink was just going to be mint flavored or something. Afterwards both Elder Slater and I were doubled over in pain.

So these past few weeks I've been quoting a lot of scriptures in Malagasy to people. This is kinda weird because I remember it in English and then quote it in a different language. I've been trying to do some concerted reading in Malagasy,
but I feel like I just don't have much time! The reading is pretty clear to me, so that isn't a problem. But it is just that we get home really late at night and we only sometimes have time to do all of our studies in the morning.

Answers to questions:

I love the new clothes! The pants are super-durable and fit quite nicely, if a bit snug in the waist. I can definitely tell right now that they will both probably endure well this next year. The shirt is fantastic and superbly white. I had no
idea cloth could shine so! As per usual in my life of mishaps and unfortunate events, I got some sort of miserable dark stain on the front of the shirt within an hour or so of putting it on. Why I expected anything different..I just don't know.

The pants of my new suit are really more like my old skinny jeans before I sold them to Elder Riding. I'm going to go and get them re-tailored. While I'm there, I'm
also going to get the torso taken it - it is just so malalka (spacious or roomy)! On the whole though, the suit looks great. The fabric is very unique and for the most part the suit was well made.

Yes, I found the money from that wonderful lady Aunt Susan. Bless her.

First of all about the new house: it is downright gorgeous. We have more space than we know what to do with, a fancy new shower and water system that really works, some lovely neighboors who persist in trying to communicate with us in French, and the senior couple who watch and watch out for us daily for fear that we are going to burn down the new mansion or otherwise harm it in any way, shape, or form. I love it. I now live in Analamahitsy, which is kinda far away from our working area, Sabosty Namehana. Long drives every day.

I love you guys. Till next time.
-Elder Cryer

Monday, November 29, 2010

44 Dressed in White

One of the first major things that occurred this week was the fikarakaraina (taking care of) Ernest and Marguerite's wedding. Going into this experience, both Elder Peatross and I were not exactly of high spirits as Ernest had already put off going to the Commune (gov buidling) for days and days and it seemed certain that we weren't going to be able to get them married before baptism.

I walked in with Ernest to the desk in order to say the words that he might not have thought to say. It isn't that he wasn't mahay tengasy, it is just that sometimes Malagasys are overwhelmed with such difficulties as a stubborn office worker or regulations. We, as Americans, are more natural arguers and more apt to be assertive in working our way throught a system. Anyways, the man at the desk said exactly what I thought he'd say: "Yes; I'm glad that you and your wife would like to be married so soon (within two days), but it seems as though you did not take the liberty to read our strict policies and guidelines which state clearly that your marriage date is according to our whims and especially upon the date which you submitted you papers for the ceremony, in the first place. Consequently, you will not be able to get married until next Thursday (after their baptism date). Maybe in the future you should be more prompt with your requests."

Ok ok, so that may have been somewhat of a dramatic interpretation of what the man said, but the meanings were essentially the same. So at the point I begged the man to have mercy upon us, and I specifically explained our plight. I told him that us as missionaries were always helping people get married, and that it would be fantastic if we were to receive a little bit of help in return. If one was to guess his decision by his flustered face and harsh "gruff" at my pleas, I'm fairly positive that they'd say he would say "no." It was at that point that I turned to my Father in Heaven. I remembered reading about Ammon praying with his brethern so hard that God might pour out His Spirit upon those receivers of the word, and the Lord
doing just as he had asked. So, I prayed as fervently as I could under the circumstances and begged the Lord to soften that mans heart and pour His Spirit out upon the front-desk worker.

Then, a miracle happened and the worker said with a broad smile that Ernest and his wife could indeed be married that next Thursday. The Lord will hear our prayers if our intentions are good, our faith is strong, He will usually answer.

The following Thursday, Ernest and Marguerite got married at the local commune. The Spirit was strong as those wonderful people became a couple according to the Law and to God. Later that day we had a modest celebration of Thanksgiving with food, fun, and a movie.

I'm going to Sabotsy Namehana today and I will be senior comp. In fact, from my sixth month on in the mission, I've always been senior companion. Also, I got my Hump Day package and Christmas package! They were wonderful! All of the candy has already been consumed, the letters read, and the presents opened. I just didn't feel like waiting for Christmas, as the main present of the day for that holiday is going to be my speaking with all of you beautiful people. The socks, the ties, the light, and the journal are all wonderful and very much appreciated. The packages were wonderful and I thank you kindly.

The preparations of the baptism last Saturday were long and stressful. Goodness gracious; it was a wonderful event. We were running around town like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get all of our ducks in a row. When the baptism finally started after a good hour or so of delay, it was standing room only. Standing up straight for hours on end was tough - all of us missionaries had really bad headaches and backpains. During the baptism of the all-dressed-in white-44, I didn't really have the stength to ponder upon the wonderfulness of it all. I was just so tired. Seeing all those people in white and watching them all go into the make-shift baptismal font was truly incredible - a sight that I doubt I'll ever see again in this life time.

The next day at the District Conference to form the district, Elder Jackson Mkhabela of the Seventy spiritually brought the house down. This is a summation of what he said, "Seeing the faces of those people getting baptized yesterday was truly humbling. I could see their faith, their hope, and their commitment. But most of all, I could see their joy by the smiles on their faces. I have never in all my years of Church service seen something so breathtaking. I was taken away in the Spirit and I needed some alone time with the Lord." It was spectacular and articulate.

I love my mission and I especially love Antsirabe. I have a whole year left, but I doubt that I'll be able to see something that will trump that. I know this church is the one and only true church on the face of the Earth. I also know by that same power which gave me my testimony to begin with that every single one of those people will be joining us in the Celestial World, dependent of course upon our faithfulness and diligence.

In closing, I just wnted to say that I love all of you and pray for you daily. Also, my next Thanksgiving will be spent at home.

Sad to Leave But Thankful Regardless,
Elder Cryer

PS: I'm the new translater for the senior couple, The Lehnharts.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Week

It seems as though Thanksgiving is closing in. This coming Thursday, all the good wonderful people of America will be taking part in this joyous festival of food, fun, and family. In Madagascar, the missionaries get $2.50 to celebrate with a special meal. So, those are my plans for Thanksgiving.

All this week Elder Peatross and I have gone to all of our people who have baptisms coming up soon. As of right now, there are 7 firm baptisms for the Ambohimena ward this Saturday. So our seven will be there, along with 23 from the other branches and
Ambositra making a nice round number of 30 overall. All the branch presidents are going crazy with preparations and excitment.

This week I was thinking about how I need to move myself to a higher level of teaching and preaching the gospel, I've become alot more assertive with my investigators. I've made the move towards this style slowly over the past month. I think it really started when we were teaching a man named Njaka and and his family.
Njaka had been leading us on for awhile and had been not coming through on his commitments. I love this family, so it hurt and saddened me when he regressed and lied to us. It was affecting his family in a sad way. I felt the Spirit move me to action, so I told him that he needed to grow up and leave his childish ways in the past with his childhood...where it belongs. I told him that he needed to become the mature leader of his family that his wife and children needed him to be. The whole time I was talking to Njaka, his wife Holy was just nodding like, "Mmmhmm. You tell 'em brother. That's the gospel truth to my ears." Afterwards I told him why I had been bold with him - for my love for them. I explained that I see sinners constantly, but I never speak to them like that. The reason for my holding back
with others is that they would not receive such words of boldness, but I love my investigators more than any regular person off the street.

Though he was very quiet, I could tell that the Spirit had touched him. The next day he finally came to church, has been coming ever since, and will be baptized with his wife this Saturday. Now that, is a gift of the Spirit and a true miracle. As true, if not, more powerful than a healing, or a divine manifestation. Those are the miracles that your mission is made of. Other things are cool and work to strengthen your testimony, but I feel strongly that it is the simple things I will remember most.

I'll share with you one other experience. About a month back or so Elder Peatross and I gave a woman a blessing. This woman miraculously received her healing. And yet even after witnessing and receiving this miraculous event, she would not leave her old church of choice. She told us that she knew our church was true, but that it would be to hard to leave the Lutherans. It just reminds me of when Laman and Lemuel saw an angel, and then asked how the Lord could possibly destroy Laban and his fifty.

Well, it seems as though my English is starting to go the way of all missionaries that are long in the tooth (as Dad says). My speech is always sprinkled with Malagasy and sometimes I just have to switch. There are some words like amin (in, at, to) or ny (the) that I will sometimes say on accident, and then I have to finish my phrase in Malagasy. Most of the missionaries these days are pretty young, so when I say things like 'ny ankabiazany (the majority)' they just do not understand. And, sometimes I can't remember what those things are in English. If I'm talking to another missionary, I just slip into izy'roa (both). Plus, there are some words that just don't make sense in English - now that is annoying.

And no, I haven't gotten the hump day package yet. We only get stuff indray indray (sometimes...I had to ask for help on that one) because someone from the mission office has to take our packages with them when they come down for meetings and the like. So, hopefully I'll get my package this Friday. It'll be a nice after-Thanksgiving surprise.

About the coup and possible military junta: yes that is definitely happening. The missionaries are working in Tana right now, but sometimes they have to go inside for the day or be on lockdown because of riots and shootings and stuff. The story that I got from the Malagasys is that a group of generals told the current president that
he must leave, or be killed - an ultimatum. All the Malagasys are saying things like, "The shizz is gonna go down soon." That is pretty much exactly what my friend said in Malagasy, and then in English.

Btw, I'm going home on the 17th of November 2011. No extensions and no early home date. Don't worry about me. I'm safe. Just got the word that I'm being transfered next week back to Tana to an area called Sabotsy Namehana. It is right by Ivato.

Elder Cryer

Monday, November 15, 2010

How many times can I say this place is paradise?

Hello everyone: I suppose that I have been in Antsirabe for a bit now, but I really
don't feel like leaving any time soon. I could easily put in another three months, no sweat. I love this place so much, and the work is always on fire pretty much. We had the two baptisms at the begining of this month, and then we should have between 6to 11 more on the 27th.

About the whole going home a month early thing - it is still not super set in stone, but in the end everyone in the mission that is here now is going to have to go home a month early or a month late. The reason for this is that the transfers have been jumbled-up by the transfers of the MTC. They changed their dates for putting out our missionaries, so now we have to change ours as well. Otherwise, we'd have people leaving and new people not arriving to fill their spots for a whole month.

This week, both me and Peatross have been super sick. I was sick for one day, and then Peatross way sick for all of the rest. I think we ate some bad eggs or something like that. I was feeling horrible last Tuesday, but then just slept it off. Peatross is super sick. I feel really bad for him, but on the whole I just feel helpless. What can I do?! I wish there was something substantial. We still had 17 investigators show up to church despite the major lack of work.

This Wednesday is election day! Yay! Or maybe I should be saying, Uh-oh! The stand-in president has finally accepted the election, but things are still not all happy and dapper. Me and Elder Riding were talking to a Peace Corp worker a few days ago, and she said things are unsettled in Tana right now. Scary news, amiko (to me). We here in Antsirabe don't ever see even the slightest speck of violence or mayhem or even any real suffering. It is paradise :D. Then again, the relatively high level of peace could be the result of the garrison of soldiers patroling the central part of the city every day. Who nows?!

Frere Ernest set out this morning to pick up his and his wife's papers for their marriage. This is crazy exciting news as they will soon be married and they will then after be baptized! On the 27th, they and their daughter as well as another family of three are going to take part in the baptism bananza that is the creation of the District. For a long time Antisrabe has been kept under the wing of the Tana Stake, but now they are finally getting a degree of independence and being turned into a District. This means that they will have a fully autonomous leadership here. The fact that people are receiving their first ordinance of salvation seems like a miracle to me.

I'm afraid to say it but that seems like that's it for my news this week.

Love, Elder Cryer

PS: Tell Sarah congrats for me and give everyone kisses from me, especially the baby. He's real cute.

Monday, November 8, 2010


A Wedding and a Baptism

This week was absolutely fantastic. Probably the first major thing that happened was last Thursday. That was the day that Hery and Nirina got married! Woohoo! They had a really nice, sweet, and very humble wedding at the local Commune (government building); them, and another couple actually. I guess the Commune was running behind so they decided to do two weddings at once. So goes the ways of Mada. The
ceremonies are very official. Everyone sits around a table and signs contracts, shakes hands, and then talks about the commitments of a lasting marriage. At the end
they actually got to do the whole "you may kiss the bride" thing. Hery and Nirina straight up made out. Plus, the wedding officiator lady even gave us - the missionaries - a personal "thank you" for helping so much in the preparation process of the wedding. That was cool.

After the wedding we all went over to their house and had a reception. It was nice. All of this delight and excitment led up to and was exceeded by their baptism on Saturday. I've baptized a few people in my time and am usually very happy to see them entering the waters of covenant with the Lord. But this one was different. These people are strong - absolutely tough as nails. I know they are going to be incredible members and probably even leaders in the church. Everyone present could obviously tell that they were taking this baptism deadly serious.

This baptism was different. The Spirit was absolutely present and truly making his presence known upon all the people there. Then Hery and Nirina bore their testimonies, and it blew everyone out of the water. Usually they just talk a very little bit about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, close in the name of Jesus Chrsit and then sit down. But Hery and Nirina bore full on, mature, and sincere testimonies. Talk about incredible. Nirina even talked about how much we - the missionaries - had helped their family and thanked us graciously. I've never even heard of this happening, so that was just fantastic. Overall, I'd say that it was one of the experiences and baptisms which I'll remember most from my stay in Mada.

Some more news of late - it seems like President is going to be giving everyone the choice on whether they go home a month early or a month late, as expected. Because of Thanksgiving and the majority of the Christmas season, I'm going home in October 2011. Just throwin' that out there for you guys. But, we've known this since the MTC.
Well it looks like I'm out of interesting things to say. I love you all and miss you less. Don't be offended by that - that just means that I love you a lot!

I am,
Full of Cheap Malagasy Cracker-Type Products, And Sincerely Yours,
Elder Cryer

Monday, November 1, 2010

Me and Elder Touli and a great family
Needs no explanation
Cool family
We all started together in the MTC
At Island Conference

Like a pioneer missionary

Business first:
1. Yes I did indeed receive the package from Sarah. And O, what a joy it was.

2. The most recent packages that I can remember are the one with the batteries (thank you!) and the Halloween one I just got a couple of days ago. The things in the Halloween package were this: The giant and supremely awesome 'Myth Busters' bag, more batteries, a shaver, a funny Halloween picture, and the Tony's. If there was anything else of special note you can just ask me and I'll tell you if it was in there. Sorry; my memory ain't perfect.

So this week we have had a major resurgence of people who are actually interested in getting married before their baptism instead of just giving up or splitting up. Nirina and Leah seem to be on the slightly up and up - though how many times I've thought this before, I cannot even begin to count - and Ernest and his wife have decided to get hitched after all. Yay! To top it all off, Hery and his wife Nirina are getting married this Thursday and baptized on Saturday. If that is not a straight up, down and out miracle, then I don't know what is. I'm so happy to know that though this marriage is only for this life - till Death do you part - it is most certainly leading to an eternal marriage in the temple someday. Maybe they won't ever be able to scrape the funds together to go to Johannesburg - in fact I
highly doubt that they will - there will someday soon be a temple right here in Madagascar (I hope). With the work going as rapidly as it is, there will easily be enough of a diligent membership base within the next couple of years to merit a temple. And that, my family, will be a day remembered by all Malgasy people, for what I would say is all eternity, as one of the greatest days in their peoples history.

A temple is probably something that is easily taken for granted in highly prosperous areas like the United States. But here in this country, only the richest of the rich are able to go all the way to South Africa and partake of the temple blessings at this time. For 98 percent of the others, it is absolutely impossible. I would even say that it would be like me asking an average American citizen if they would like to buy a ticket to the moon. Sometimes, that's how I feel when people realize just how far they have to go to get to the temple.

Regardless, the blessings of an eternal family and the ordinances which can only be had in the Holy House of the temple are something to save up for. Be it a few hundred thousand ariary, or that many billions of dollars. It's worth it. I know it is.

This past weekend we were privileged to watch conference. For the missionaries, it is very difficult - we had to watch it in Malagasy like everyone else. Six months ago I was able to watch Conference in English, but then again six months ago I was in Tana. Being in the province is cooler, but also a bit less accomodating and and a lot more independent. So, we're probably never going to get the Conference talks in English until we actually receive the Liahona that contains them.

I personally can understand the conference talks in Malagasy, but there are a lot of things I'm not understanding, or just not getting. The hardest part about listening to conference talks in Malagasy is the translater's accents. Some of the translaters are quite easy to understand. Some, are absolutely impossible. In the end, all of the
missionaries just ended up at the back of the chapel writing letters, reading, or sleeping.

This week we had to tract a lot. Anyways, we put our shoulder to the wheel and got out there, though we most certainly didn't want to, and found tons of new investigators. Every single time we opened our mouths to tell someone about the gospel, they let us in to share an entire lesson. I know it was four months ago, and my memory may be slightly tainted by time, but I don't think I ever had such success tracting back in Ivato. In my mind now, tracting is really just doing times that are unscheduled. I feel certain that if we have faith and just do it, the Lord will smile on us and bless us with even more diligent investigators, truly building His Kingdom here in Madagascar.

Mom, I really do sometimes feel like I am one of those super old time story tellers, or maybe even an authentic pioneer missionary. The fact that electricity is scarce and candles and fires are the main light sources for many homes, I always feel as if I've traveled back in time a hundred years or so. For example, we were teaching a lesson to two wonderful referals from my favorite member, Frere Hiaja (the womens
names are Nidina and Lalaina, btw). There were the missionaries (us), about ten members, and then the mother and daughter. Could you ask for any better of a combination for a time?

We all sat around two small candles, listening, sharing, and learning what the Spirit provided for us. It was an incredible lesson, and one which I will never forget. The mother said that this gospel was indeed what she had been searching all of her life for. At the end of the lesson we gave her and her daughter a bap date, and whadda know, they accepted. The Spirit was so strong that we practically knew before the invitation was even said that they would accept baptism. The members
got a little bit nervous as what I was saying became readily apparent, but they didn't try and stop us. Not suprisingly, they and some more investigators came to the showings on General Conference on Sunday. They'll get baptized for sure.

One thing I'd like to say about that is this: if you are a member who is hosting the missionary lessons at your house, don't ever (extenuating circumstances permitting) try to mess with the plan of the missionaries and that of the Lord. They know what they are doing. I have heard countless stories about members becoming mad at
missionaries because they were "moving too fast for their friends" or "they were too pushy." Maybe that happens sometimes, but I have faith that most of the time it doesn't. Missionaries are blessed with a special mantle and power, and they will probably know before a regular member what the needs of the investigator are. Regardless of levels of 'spirituality' or gospel 'experience,' the missionaries are going to know what to do. I know this to be true.

You guys have no idea how badly I would have loved to go camping with you! This is one of those times where missionaries just get kinda disgusted with the whole holidays-in-America-but-not-where-I-am, thing. Or at least it just kinda stinks here. There is certainly no such thing as Thanksgiving and Halloween in Mada. In fact, the few times that I have tried to explain Halloween to people, they were
kinda freaked out. On that subject though, we did have a pretty sweet Halloween party
last night for the whole zone. We all dressed up and had a nice little dinner. I was actually Zeus - toga, flowers in the hair, lighting bolt and all. It was seriously loads of fun. I'm fairly positive that never will there be a compilation of such cool and like-minded people again in my mission lifetime.

So the race is on to finish the entire Book of Mormon before Island Conference at Christmas. We've been promised some pretty serious blessings if we can do it, so I'm excited. Dang it! I just realized that I forgot to read my four BoM chapters last night. That means I have to read eight today. :/ That's gonna be a long one.

Well I miss you and love you. That's all I have for you guys today. Wishing I Could Have A Camp-Cooked-Hotdog. Love, Elder Cryer

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Once a year Island Conference of all missionaries
Elder Touli and me, baptism day
All hat and no cattle
Our mission goals
Pizza message

Pain and Rain

This week has been, interesting. Apart from the fact that the monsoon season has arrived here in Antsirabe, it just seems like every day has presented its own set of crazy problems and challenges. The first one I'll write about is the first one that really presented itself to us last week. Elder Peatross and I were teaching a really incredible family. The father of the family, came up with an unusual problem
towards the end of the lesson. He asked us if it was ok to do the traditional 'turning of the dead' ceremony with his family. I said that it was ok, just so long as he didn't do any of the witchcraft stuff that usually associates itself with such practices. He shook his head and said ok, but I could tell that there was something just eating at him. With a little bit of proding it came out that his family does indeed do some super bad witchcraft practices. He described some of the rituals to me and asked if they were ok to do. Well, duh, of course they aren't ok to do! He kept persisting and trying to get some sort of lee-way. I told him again that it was totally not ok to do and I shared with him 3 Nephi 13:24 - "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the
other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." Never before have I used this scripture and had to apply it in such a literal way. Like, this was an actual case of a devil worshipper that has religion; or vice versa. He kept arguing a little bit, so I came down on him hard and said, "As
representatives of Jesus Christ, I am telling you that witchcraft is absolutely evil and not acceptable. You must leave this wickedness in the past. Will you serve God and not hold to this dark practice any longer?" He agreed, but it was a tense moment. Dealing with witchcraft and devil worship is something that I could really do without.

During that same time, it was discovered that this man and his wife are not actually married according to the laws of the state. I don't know how we never talked about this before, but it was very stressful. So as of right now he is traveling out to a far-away town in order to collect his papers for their marriage on Saturday - four hours before their baptism. We'll see if they make it!

So as one couple decides to inherit salvation together, two more decide to completely separate. This is an extremely sad thing to see happen, but sometimes a completely necessary one. The first and less contentious couple is just tired of being together and they don't feel like getting married before their baptism. The man seems to be in all actuality just perfectly frightened of committment, though they've already had eight children together. Whatever - though I think that
they should just show some responsibility and get married, that's their choice.

The other couple is one that you guys have heard about before. Now, for the past three months of my stay here and even a few months before I arrived, us missionaries have been having to deal with the suspicious monkey-business and endless ups and downs of this couple. There were times when everything looked solid; they were going to get married and baptized. Then there were times when I felt like I was in an episode of twilight zone, the problems were just so weird. Last Thursday everything came to a slightly violent head. The wife, who has completely stopped drinking for some weeks now, was beaten and cussed at by her husband, who still drinks. When we came in for the time the wife was already crying and the husband just shook our hands and left without a word. Through babbled tears she tried to explain what had happened, but she was completely incoherent. In the end I had to ask her son (the coolest ten year old in the world) what had happened. After I got the full story, we then had to deal with her hysterical crying. After a good five minutes of this, Peatross said, "Dude, she is gonna hypervenilate." Peatross worked with doctors and stuff before his mission, so when he speaks about health-related things, I listen.

Once she finally seemed to be restored to some sense of stability, we offered a prayer and called the branch president for them. President Grenie is the one who should be dealing with such problems, of this I am sure. Long story short, we almost fought with the husband on the road outside of a bar and then the two decided to scream at each other that they were getting a divorce - and so a painful era comes to a painful end.

O! One more thing about that story. After we had left this house we went to another person's house right across the hallway. And the very end of the lesson with Leah, she asked us for money or food. We said that we couldn't but that Prez Grenie could. During the next lesson Leah came in all smiles and told us that a very charitable and loving member had given her and her kids some rice and money. Now that, is the true love of Christ. If only we could all let ourselves be used in such powerful ways by the Lord our God.

Sweet! I'm so excited that my package made it to America. I told the other missionaries that my package made it, and it was kinda a victory for all of us. Hardly anyone has tried to send a package from here in Antsirabe, so the news that it is possible and somewhat quick is quite wonderful. Everyone here is also about to send their Christmas packages. There packages range from small to huge and absolutely
expensive as heck.

Well paps, a very horrible thing has happened. Either someone stole my nice rain jacket, or I simply misplaced it, or I just left it at the Ivato house. Short story shorter, I can't find the thing for the life of me. And whadda know, the rain is finally here. The monsoon season has started, and every day there is rain for at least 2-3 hours, sometimes all day. For two days I just braved the storms jacket-less. Talk about retched! I was covered in mud, literally drenched, and just all around not happy at the world. On the third day I'd had enough and I went to a giant market looking for a rain jacket. Elder Riding had lost his as well, so he had bought a pretty sweet jacket from the market the day before. As is usually my luck, the seller of good jackets was gone to Tana for the day and only the bad sellers were there. Fantastic. So I ended up purchasing a giant, yellow, plastic number that is suppossed to be able to withstand fires. Sweet! Needless to say, I look absolutely ridiculous. But hey - wind, rain, fire, and probably acid is not getting through that jacket.

Well, I love you guys and pray for you always. Have fun at Enchanted Rock! Eat some brauts for me - I haven't had a hotdog in a year.

Elder Cryer

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple, plain and non-suspicion-arousing

I sent the Christmas package last P-Day. The package people at the Poasitra (post office) were very helpful, though not exactly knowledgable. We weren't really sure how to secure my package to make it theft-proof, so after turning down the sweet post office workers idea of actual tying the whole thing up with rope, we just put a lot of tape on it. Cheers! Hopefully you guys won't get slamed for customs when the package gets to you. The package checker couldn't speak English, so he let me write in the contents of the package. I tried to be as simple, plain, and non-suspicion-arousing as I could, but I couldn't bring myself to just flat out lie - the effects of being a missionary I suppose.

BTW, there is an incoming birthday card for Clarissa. My goal is to send one for everyone in the family - excepting the babies. They can't really read, and it costs a good sum of my food money to send letters, and ya. So anyways, mother, the 4925 Kentington address is pretty much my stop way for all items going to America from Mada.

Also, if you would like to send me some sticker books, that'd be super awesome. Like: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, World of Warcraft, and anime. I decorate all my planners with sitckers and clever little cartoons, and I'm getting tired of the usual Dragon Ball Z and Naruto that just so happen to be the only stickers available. Thanks!

Elder Peatross got a pinched sciatic-nerve. Ouch! Because of that, Prez Donnelly asked us to not ride our bikes for a couple of days and just walk to our times if we
could. Seeing as most of our times are super far away, and/or in the mountains, we just ended up staying home alot. We payed for expensive pous-pous' to get us to our absolute-must times, but that was pretty much it.

Even with that though, we still had lots of people come to church and three baptisms on Saturday. The people that got baptized were named Ihanta, Georgette, and Jean Didider. They are a mother and two children, and they are extremely diligent. Ihanta had been looking for the true church for a very very long time. One day she prayed and asked God for the true church, and then we showed up. I remember that day over two months ago. We were out doing times and most of them just weren't panning out. So we decided to just try and tract - my favorite! We taught a sort of lesson to a lady on her porch, and then ambled on over to the house/square/apartment thing of Bebe Patsa. Patsa has learned all the lessons, but she hasn't come to church because she's old and hard-headed. Everyone else that lives in their little compound is either already baptized now or soon to be baptized. Pretty amazing huh?

Another interesting story: One day a couple of weeks ago me and Peatross were eating some rice and beans at one of our favorites. People are always amazed that we are actually mahay tengasy, so they were asking us questions and we were just chattin abut random stuff. Then we started talking about ohambolonas (proverbs) and ankamantatras (riddles). They were pretty interested, and eventually the topic
of conversation turned to our purpose here as missionaries - my favorite topic of conversation :D. One of the people was actually pretty interested, and she invited us over to teach a lesson.

The next week we went to this ladies beauty salon and taught her a pretty incredible first lesson. Half way through the introduction of what we were going to talk about, she says, "Hey, do you guys use the Book of Mormon? Because I have it and read it every day. Where does that book come from?"

Are you kidding me? Why can't people ask such questions and already have such experiences every day? So we taught her an entire BoM lesson as well and she seems totally ready to accept the gospel fully into her life. It's people like these that are the elect, in my opinion.

That's all I've got for you guys this week. Have fun camping. Wish Uncle Wayne well for me and tell them that they are in my prayers.

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hey Ian!

September 16, 2010

Hey Ian! This is Elder Matthew Cryer here reporting from the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission. A mission is a pretty awesome thing, Ian. A real adventure is waiting for you! I've shaken hands with lemurs (monkeys), been bitten by chamelons (lizards), and even been chased by bulls! I love my mission and I know you will love your mission too.

Ian, I know the church is true. I know that God gave us prophets like Moses, Joseph Smith, and Thomas S. Monson so that we could learn and return to heaven someday. I also know that if you want to have a cool mission like mine, you gotta get ready NOW! Read the scriptures, go to church, do some pushups, follow the Prophet. If you do that, you'll be ready for this awesome adventure.

Just yesterday me and my companion were coming down a huge mountain - we had taught some cool Malagasys. Then we had to go through the jungle, boulders, cliffs and other crazy stuff. Trust me, a mission is awesome!

Love, Elder Cryer

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocks the socks

I'm so excited for the holiday season! Halloween is fast approaching and you better believe that even in Madagascar we are preparing for our Halloween celebration. Last night me and Elder Riding carved a pumpkin that I bought from one of my recent converts. Then, we got everyone out of bed at 11:30 at night, dressed up in cheesy sweaters and jeans, made a fire, and took our house Halloween picture. You'll be receiving one in the coming weeks. There is also going to be a Halloween party, a Thanksgiving picture, and a Christmas picture. There will be lots of costumes and live animals involved.

So, as you might have guessed, Antsirabe rocks the socks right now. Me, Riding, and Peatross stay up late every night talking and creating things. Sometimes our activities may or may not take us past 10:30, but as soon as we realize the time we head straight to bed. The best part of all our fun is that we are still working way hard. Unlike many whose idea of fun is directly related to laziness and disobedience, I feel like it has only driven us to work harder and more effectively. Our Antsirabe Zone has pretty much twice weekly parties and get togethers, so it is just making life awesome. On Sunday night we have a Family Home Evening/Pot-Luck were we play games and just get to know each other better.

In other news, my bike is the most miserable creation of metal and tires the world has been cursed enough to behold. On that note, Elder Peatross's bike is right behind it in levels of dreadfulness. These bikes break constantly. I personally feel that this is a personal attack from the Enemy himself, Satan. He knows that we are a rockin force of scriptures, Malagasy, and the Spirit, so he's obivously trying to hold us back. But we'll throw those bikes in the ditch and run to our times if we have to.

Work is getting quite chaotic and packed. Referals are coming in; old investigators from the Sisters are coming out of the wood-works; and the work is just on the whole erupting. We are supposed to get about 9 baptisms at the end of this month to add on to the 3 that are coming up this Saturday. I'm a little bit nervous about the whole affair. I feel like people just aren't getting the time and attention that they
deserve. We're slowly converting our whole schedule to thirty minute times only, because there is too much work for everyone. Personally, I love hour long times because you really get to know your investigator and build a foundation of trust and love. But, duty calls and the war against darkness is mounting further every moment.

I feel like this situation can directly be related to faith. In order for faith to grow, we must experiment upon that which we have and exercise it constantly to see progression. There is no such thing as a 'plateau' level where you can just relax and cruise. As one of the Apostles said, (possibly M. Russel Ballard, or Uchtdorf...I can't rememeber),"There is no growth in the comfort zone." I know that
to be true for I have seen the positive and negative effects of the dynamic principle of faith in my own life.

I miss you guys and can't wait to chat at Christmas. Love, Elder Cryer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Super Troopers

So anyways, I am so jealous that you guys got to watch conference. I probably won't see it for at least a month and chances are good that it'll be in Malagasy. Conference has become one of my most favorite times of the year.

In other news, Elder Rakotoniaina got transfered. My new companion is named Elder Peatross and he is awesome. Elder Peatross (Pet - tr - oss) has been out for about four months, so he is still pretty young. Fortunately for my tsy mahay self, he is already walking, talking, and dressing himself! He is, in my opinion, one of the coolest young guys around. And, if he isn't the best, then Elder Riding - the other new elder in our house is. We all make a a pretty dynamic, rockin party at our house. We study, we clean, we speak in English, we work, and we party every day. I feel like it could be passably argued that our house is the coolest of all the houses in Mada. In fact, only ridiculously cool people have been transfered to Antsirabe.

So about my shoes and stuff. I'm pretty happy that we bought the Dr. Martens because they are some super-troopers. No need to replace those bad-boys. And yes, I would really like the headlamp. In fact, Elder Peatross saw the details of the Black Diamond head lamp as well as the picture, and he's decided to ask his parents for that for Chrismas as well. That is a pretty slick lookin light - I must say. My rain jacket is good - no complaints there. I don't really ever wear it, is the thing.
I got in Mada at a strange part of the year when there should have been monsoons, but there wasn't. Everyone's sayin that in a month or so the rain and heat is gonna hit hard again, so my jacket should get some good use :).

I have what is probably an upper-respitory infection as of right now. The force of it has thankfully lessened, but for a couple of days I literally couldn't do anything! It was so horrible - especially when you consider the fact that I have no computer or TV to entertain me through the boredom of doing nothing. Yuck.

All in all, Antsirabe is still by far the best area in Mada and has only gotten better. On Peatross's first day we taught some random guy at the house of another investigator. We had dropped by just to check and see if our investigators were there, and we found this guy. Apparently he is the husband of the woman and children who we had taught the week before. We had a pretty amazing lesson, and the man was in tears at he end of the lesson. We helped him out with some other problems and then invited him to be baptized with his entire family at the end of October. I've seen enough miracles by this point in my mission that I'm no longer suprised when I see new ones, but just awed. He whole-heartedly accepted and even told us that he had been looking for something like this. Though he had been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church, he became disenchanted by the have-it-your-way-but-not-the-Bible's-way type of doctrine. So he left and never went back. As he said this, Peatross and I looked at each other and said in English, "Awesome."

The next day we saw another miracle. Him, and his family, and anyone else they could round up for came to church. How amazing! There were 25 investigators at church on Sunday, and we are expecting many more to come.

I love my mission and I testify that this is the absolute best work I could be doing at this point in my life. I know my Redeemer lives and died for me, and I am so thankful to have the oppurtunity to inform people about this magnificent message. No matter where you think you are in the range of spiritual progress, there is always room for improvment and there is always knowledge to be gained from the simplicities of this gospel.

Gringo's sounds delicious about right now.

Adventure On,
Elder Cryer

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twists, turns and music

Thanks for the B-Day letter! Was there supposed to be money in it? I think you mentioned something about that but I don't know if that was the letter you were talking about. If it was, the Malagasies snagged the money. Ow well.

So that one apartment building that we teach at with tons of families has been the host of music practice. All the newly baptized people want to learn how to read and lead music. Specifically, hymns. So for about the first half of our lessons I teach everyone how to lead and sing. It is super fun. Most of them have problems understanding the beat system and counting, but a couple of the younger kids have been quick to catch on. One night I got carried away and tried to teach them how to sing parts. After a short and painful five minutes, I gave up that idea :P. It is amazing how few people actually know how to sing and lead music. In fact, except for members of the church, there is hardly anyone in country that is aqcuainted with the art of note reading. In America we complain so much about there not being enough money for the choir trips; not enough budget for every single thing band directors can possibly concieve of buying. Well, here there is absolutely nothing of a music nature. NOTHING. If I ever become blessed with a lot of money someday, I want to start a foundation for music education in second and third world countries. These kids at least need to chance to grow artistically. Maybe the next Placido Domingo, Mozart, Chopin, or even Freddie Mercury could come from here. Who knows?

We had a nice baptism for two people from our Branch last Saturday. One of the women was from us, the other from the Sisters. The one that was ours is named Hiasana and she is the oldet daughter (like 30 years old) of Victor. The work is going so extremely well here in Ambohimena, it is just amazing. I'm so thankful to the Lord for the incredible bounty of fruit He has given us in this part of the vineyard. Next month we are expecting about 20 or so baptisms, so that should be a ball. One of the best things about the baptisms we are having is that tons of members and friends are showing up to the baptisms. Even people from the different Antsirabe branches are coming to show their support. The situation here is really starting to look up member-wise. They've just finally made up their minds that they are on board for the missionary work and the general work of the Lord. It's so cool.

Bingham, Rakotomalala, and Rabenjarisoa are all going home. Plus, Taggart and Rakotoniaina are probably on the move to other areas. Kinda crazy huh? Like, only four people are gonna be left of my original gang. Plus, the much beloved Tahitian couple, the Bennets, are being transferd to La Reunion. Now that is most certainly some horrible news. They are so cool, so helpful, and so nice. Now us missionaries will be allll alone. No more soirees, no more free rides in a nice car, no more nearly instant mail and package delivery.

An interesting twist of all this is that I'm getting the Sisters area tomorrow. The APs already gave me a call to prepare me for it. On Sunday we scheduled times with all of the Sister's diligent investigators, three families. Antsirabe to us, it is practically paradise. I'm in an amazing place, as Antsirabe is the gem of the Mada mission.

Miss you peeps. I miss you and love ya.

-Elder Cryer

P.S.: About the razor issue: Just to give you some perspective, a pack of four quality Gillet razors is 36,000 ariary! I only get 75,000 per week, so that is just out of the question.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some of the local wildlife

God in Our Lives

Yay I'm twenty! Feels suspiciously like 19 though.... I didn't really do anything for my B-Day, expect for going out to eat for lunch on Saturday and having a big missionary dinner on Sat night. But the purpose of the dinner was three-fold - because of my B-Day, the missionaries who are going home, and just because. Thanks to everyone for everything!

This week we had five baptisms for me and Rakotoniaina. Another four for the sisters and one more from Taggart, so there were ten baptisms on Saturday. The names of
the people were: Victore, Aina, Selestine, Michael, and Tana. The first two are mom and daughter, Selestine is a really cool girl the lives next door to Aina, and Michael and Tana are the children of a couple who are having some serious getting married problems - Frere Nirina and Soeur Lila if you remember them. Hiasana, Victore's daughter, is going to be getting baptized this Saturday as well, along
with a couple of the Sister's last baptisms before they go home. This is pretty mind-boggling, and pretty humbling. I know that Madagascar is a very special part of the Lord's vineyard, and I'm so thankful to be able to be one of the priviledged workers here.

And now I'd like to talk about something I hate. I absolutely hate alcohol! It destroys people, families, neighborhoods, and anything else that the Enemy can get his hands on. So many times we've had an extremely spiritual time with our investigators ruined by the alcoholism of a wayward family member. In many cases, I just don't know what to do. I pray, and I feel like I receive inspiration, but these people have their agency if they don't want to stop their destructive habits and addictions. I have seen some of the saddest situations in relation to alcohol. These issues are between the people, the Lord, and occasionally one of His representatives. I'm sure we've all either seen or personally felt the tragic effects of life with an alcoholic. Alcohol and all of if its rotten cohorts (drugs, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc.) are certainly some of the greatest tools for evil and wickedness that Statan has ever unleashed upon the generations of men. It is so sad to see what used to be mighty souls of the fold of God fall prey to these
substances and temptations.

On to happier topics. We had an amazing time with a woman named Volola this week. Two weeks ago Rakoto and I taught a huge time with all of her kids and some adult neighbors at their house. To preface, she explained a conversation that she had had with her daughter after our first time. She said:

"My daughter wasn't feeling good. I asked her what the problem was and
she said, 'We don't have enough.'

'We don't have enough what?' I responded.

'We don't have enough God in our lives.'

"I was astonished. I remember my kids asking if they could go to the Mormon church. I didn't understand why they would want to when they've been Catholic their whole lives. So my question for you is this: What does my family need to do to have more of God in our lives?"

I don't know that I've ever had such a good question. Because of her discussions with her kids, we were able to come straight out and say that our purpose as missionaries was to help people come unto Christ through Faith, Repentance, Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. We taught her a little about Joseph Smith and the importance of prophets, but mostly just talked with her about her life and her family's relationship with God. It was truly awesome. That's a miracle right there. I know it.

To answer your questions: near death experiences are approximately zero this week. Me and Elder Taggart did bicycle surf down a big giant hill one night, but that's another story for another time. And no, we don't wear helmets. My mission is in a poor country, therefore we have a poor man's budget for pretty much anything. But hey, the ghetto-ness of it all just adds to the romance.

That's all I got this week. I miss you guys and love you lots.

Elder Cryer

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Explorer with scriptures

Last Tuesday we had Zone Conference with the Area President, Elder Koeliker, as the guest. I sang "I Have Not Seen Yet I Believe" and all in all it was a good little shin-dig. We learned more about the new teaching methods and basically that was that. Had some lunch at the Bennet's house and then took off back to work. I ended up having to sing again on Sunday because there was the opening Sacrament meeting at the Manandona building. All the mission's leaders came and they wanted to make the occasion a nice one. There was a thrown-together missionary choir and they made me sing another solo. I did "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" in Malagasy and English. Hopefully it wasn't too bad.

Me and Elder Rakotomalala (not to be confused with Rakotoniaina) went on splits to Manandona on Wednesday. Manandona is a pretty wonderful place. It is about twenty something kilometers away from Antsirabe and deep in the countryside. Lemme tell ya, this place is beautiful. Rolling landscape, big-ish mountains, and more rice-paddies than you can shake a stick at. This is somewhere that I could see myself working at towards the end of my mission. After doing a few times in the morning, we ate some kinda-not-good crackers at a pitiful little epicurie because there is pretty zero food out there. Unless, I guess, you just want some plain rice.

After lunch we headed out into the mountians. For about an hour we hiked, climbed, forded rivers, and at times rode our bikes through the rugged paths. It was awesome. Finally we arrived at the times we had in the middle of literally nowhere. I have no idea how they found these people! These people are true subsistence dwellers. I felt like I had travelled back in time to around the 1000 BC Greek countryside. No joke. After our times with some wonderful people, we biked up a giant and horribly steep mountain, broke our bikes, and finally made it to what I guess would be called the highway. Both of us were exhausted and our bikes weren't keen on going much farther. Then, a miracle occured! The Bennets came flying around the corner in their car, coming to our very rescue. That day was hard - but what an experience! I could reasonably relate it to scrambling through the mountains on the scouting High Adventure activities, on a bike, wearing a white shirt and tie.

The next day me and Elder Smith went on splits for mountain day in Andrangy. We got lost, taught some incredible new people, had laughs galore, and really made a day of it. In fact, I think it was so much fun because we got lost! That night we were heading to our last time on a very dark and treacherous road. Smith went down after hitting a massive rock in the middle of the road. He shook himself off and kept going as I explained how I should have told him about it. Halfway through my sentence, I hit a cliff-hole thing and flew straight over the handle bars. My bike wrapped around my body and pinned me. Now I'm moaning and aching on the ground. Smith turned around to see what the comotion was all about, when he got tripped by the road again! He goes done in a laughing heap. The irony of the whole situation just countered the pain and frustration. After that, we slowly walked our bikes to better paths only to be dogged (a term meaning that the investigator wasn't there) by our last time. Fantastic! We should have known what fate had in store for us after what the crash-derby, highway of heck had done to us ;P.

In other news, the grasshoppers are migrating south. This means that literal clouds of the little guys are flying through town. Like, imagine the Moses-plague on Egypt, and you have some idea of what this looks like. As I was engulfed by the cloud of grasshoppers before one of my times, I almost thought that the next thing that would attack us was fire balls coming done from the sky.

We taught a new family this week that has an interesting story. The husband is deaf and he used to work for a dairy company called Tiako - the corporation that was owned by the former now-exiled president. He has no job now and his family barely scrapes by. Theirs is an especially sad situation considering the circumstances of their legal marriage - or lack there of. When they had their last baby, they were planning to get married soon afterward. There were complications in the birth, so they had to go to an expensive doctor. He told them that the price would be 100,000 ariary and if they didn't pay up then he'd take their karapanondros (kinda like an ID). They didn't have any choice but to accept his terms, not pay him the full amount, and get their IDs taken away. So, now they can't get married. This is so sad because they are so spiritually strong and diligent. What can we do but pray, hope, and put it in the hands of the Lord?

This week has literally been an adventure. How I got so lucky to have a mission like this, I don't know. This place is amazing. I really feel like I'm more of an explorer with scriptures in hand than just a regular missionary. I hope I never leave Antsirabe! The mission that I dreamed about when I first got my call is finally here.

I honestly have no idea how the political situation is here in Madagascar. We don't get too much news here in Antsirabe and even if the whole country was in an uproar, Antsirabe would still probably be perfectly calm. I asked Elder Eschler about it a few weeks back and he said that there really wasn't anything to report. So, there. That's the policital situation in Mada according to me.

It seems like less things have tried to kill me this week, which to me is a plus. I got some slick new red brakes on my bike so I have much more control over that situation.

The work is kinda on the verge of being too big to handle. We had 26 investigators to church on Sunday, 6 baptisms this weekend, and possibly 15-20+ baptisms coming up in October. Combine that with the fact that the Sisters are leaving and I'm taking their area on top of my own. I think I'm going to die. I need my companion to stay to help me deal with the extra 40-50 investigators that will soon be flooding in. If I get someone new, that means we can't go on splits for awhile because he won't know the area. I figure that about half of the days in the week should be spent with us doing splits so that we can double the amount of work we can perform. I'm really
hoping that president decides to split my area in the months after this, but at that point I'll probably be close to heading to a new area. Your prayers would be appreciated :D.

Our guardian angels are working overtime. Just as a matter of caution, tell everyone to be super safe and careful and live worthily - I think there is certainly protective power that comes from the Lord. It's at times like this that I think about families. The dead and mortally wounded don't really have to worry about to much; they're in the Spirit World, a much better place. But what must those families feel when such tragedies enter their lives? Most likely, they don't know about the plan of salvation. They don't know about the temple, they don't have eternal sealings and covenants in their lives. They don't have that comfort that penetrates all death, strife, and sadness. To me, this only makes the message of the gospel that much more important. These people need the relief that only the Savior's love can bring.

Well that's all I have for now. I miss you guys and love you. Still working out, still not where I want to be physically, thanks for the high muscle/high fat genes I inherited from you and Mom ;P.

O hey, I turn twenty on Sunday. Cool.

Elder Cryer

Zone Conference Sept. 2010 Antsirabe

Monday, September 6, 2010

Run over, attacked, still kicking

Thanks for praying for me on mountain day. Ironically that was certainly not the day in which I was in the most danger this week. I got slammed on my bike by what could respectably be called an eighteen-wheeler. But fear not! I only have a scrape on my knee and a mild cut on my ankle, and my bike has already been fixed. I am fairly positive that it was a complete miracle that I am alive right now and not at least in the hospital. Fa tsy maninona! It was totally the bikes fault and I am now being 100 times more careful so that my bike has no chance to sabotage me.

The first big event of my week occured on Tuesday. Rakoto and I were on our way to one of our many times, going down a long road that is usually very busy with traffic and drivers who don't obey the non-existent traffic laws. Just as we were about to turn into a side road, I saw a big giant truck flying down the road. It was hauling some sort of building material I suppose, quite massive. But, this truck was forever away down the road. There would be no problem at all with me trying to cross the road. Ha.

Just as I turned in to cross the road, my bike decided to take a break. Literally. It stopped peddling all-together and left me to cruise slowly out into the path of the oncoming truck. I had about a second or two to think about how the driver would be mad at me for getting in his way, because I could already hear screeching of all its many tires. Then, the truck slammed hard into the back of my bike, sending me flying through the air backwards. As I flew, I thought something along the lines of, "Well, this isn't good. How embarrassing." Then I hit the ground, skidded for a moment, and lay prostrate for a bit because I was so shocked at what had just happened.

Once I got my senses, I jumped up and ran over to the truck driver to apologize. I think the driver and his assistant were mostly just relieved that they wouldn't be fired because they killed a missionary. After that, I went home because my legs were aching and my bike was unrideable. It was at this time that I considered just how close I had come to being destroyed and losing my entire lower half. Just three more inches and that truck would have slammed into my back and I'd probably be a vegetable right now. Talk about a miracle. I think that maybe God had this happen because I needed to learn just how wretched our bikes are, and that I need to be much more careful with them. Maybe I didn't really get it at that point, because I was then assaulted by a roaming pous pous - sent flying through the air again - and have been dealing with a horrible brake system that seems inclined to never actually work. Hills have been a whole new bit of fun and spectacle this week.

On mountain day, I got hit by a giant bee and spider battle. A massive, hairy spider and a mammoth black "bee" (so they say) were having a duel in mid-air. How this whole arrangment ended up airborn, I have no clue. Anyways, they dropped onto my head while I was giving a spiritual thought outside to a group up in the mountains. Of course they dropped on my head - why would they do anything different? The combatants fell from my head into my lap - I freaked out and flipped them onto the grass. I quickly finished the bee's work and dispatched the spider (he was one buff spider), before chasing down the bee and finishing it with my planner. All the kids in the group thought my battle with the bee was HILarious. He was vicious. Apparently I've read Ender's Game far too much and think everything is trying to kill me. But, as events have played out so far in my mission, I'd say there is a fair chance that everything is indeed trying to kill me.

In other bits of wonderful news, Christmas is coming, my only one in Mada. I'll get to talk to you guys on the phone *does a little dance*. Who will I be able to talk to on Christmas?

This week has been filled with work, and baptism dates. The new fomba (umm...way) in the mission is to talk about baptism on the very first lesson. I love it. We learned about this way of teaching in the MTC, but I promptly forgot it when I came in country because no one did that. I guess I was just too scared to change the "tried and true method" that was already popular in the mission. I'm glad we are making this return to Preach My Gospel principles. It seems like it absolutely does work, which isn't a suprise when you follow the divine guidance from Heavenly Father.

That's about all I have for you guys this week. I love you super mucho mihtsy and miss you. I'm so happy to be here on a mission, doing the Lord's work, bringing souls unto Christ. I know this church is true and I know it with a conviction that is unshakeable. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet and leader of the Lord's chuch in these latter days. I hope you guys are staying "in the low valley" and still following the "straight and narrow path that leads to eternal salvation." I pray for each and every one of you constantly.

Elder Cryer

Monday, August 30, 2010

Carry On

It's been a good week. The work is still going incredibly and every week brings me closer to the time when I'll have to leave Antsirabe. This is a terrible thought. I love this place more than anything. It is seriously like heaven. So many good things happen but even when bad things happen, I say a quick little prayer in my heart, and then sing when we're cruising through the countryside and I feel better. There's me, blaring out "Carry On", "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel", or one of the classics, "Carry On My Wayward Son", "Don't Stop Believing" or any of the other Journey masterpieces that are my favorite when we are on our way home. You can really let loose when no one is on the streets at night.

Zone Conference is goin down next week. I was going to sing "Whole Again" but it is far too difficult for my pianist, Elder Raoilson, to play. As soon as he saw it he said, "It would take me at least a month to learn this!" So, after I email, I'm gonna go to Sally Deford web site and pick one of the easier hymnal arrangments.

We had a baptism this last Saturday, and it went great! Except, of course, for the fact that one of our kids didn't show up at all. That was a major bummer, especially considering that the family didn't even come to church at all the next day. Though disconcerting, we can't really do anything about it until Thursday when we go out into the mountains. They just live too far away for us to go out there with our packed schedules. I'm thinking that someone is sick, or an old relative died, or there was a giant party/meeting that everyone in the area attended.

I'm trying to get through the Book of Mormon in Malagasy, which is a fun challenge all its own. I understand mostly everything, except for the weird word that my dictionary doesn't have. At those points I have to consult my English scriptures and find out the the word was some old verson of the word wickedness, or floating in the air, or some strange conjugation of the word, stuff like that. It is so cool to go through the Book of Mormon in another language, seeing how the translaters went about their work. Most things are not translated straight across, because that would be kinda impossible. But, the general thought of the phrases is always there.

Not much out of the ordinary really happened this week, but we did have quite the pleasant suprise at church on Sunday. One of the familes of a group of three that we have been working with for about three weeks finally came to church. Woohoo! It was especially peculiar because at our last time he had said that they would try to come to church, but they probably couldn't because there was an end-of-the-month neighborhood meeting. But they came! And the best part was that father was so active and upbeat about the whole thing. There wasn't a nervous bone in his body. He answered so many questions during the investigator class that Sister Rabenjarisoa literally told him that he couldn't answer or talk anymore - other people needed the chance to talk too! But no one else knew the answers to the questions, so he went back to being the prime answerer.

The other really cool thing about this family is that they are Catholic. Most Catholic people we talk to are really accepting of our message and diligent, at their church. Generally the Catholics never change for anything. They'll accept the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the whole sha-bang but they never take that next step. Their excuse is always inevitabley "Andriamanitra Ray ihany!" (God the Only Father!) That doesn't make any sense in English and by all means shouldn't in Malagays either, but what they are actually saying is, "God is the Father of all and it doesn't make a bit of difference where we go to church or how we worship, just so long as we believe." That's a lot of information in one little phrase, isn't it?

Concerns from last weeks email: I do have a headlamp actually, I just don't use it that much because the battery is always dying in it. Generally there is only enough life in the things to give me the blue light for any extended period of time. Though, I am definently recognizing the need for a flashlight. I hate more than anything riding through the mountains or over a thin strip of land beside a giant drop at night time, especially when there is no light from the moon. Riding through the many cactus walls in people's neighborhoods is not much fun either at night. Super super scary.

Thanks for the advice about the bulls. I didn't get chased again this week, which was a relief. But I was pretty much scared for my life every time I went by the bull running area. I found out why the bulls are so angry there. On the top of the hill there is the slaughter house :P. Me and Rakoto figure that they can smell the death and therefore get really crazy. I can't blame them though. If some aliens are leading me to the anal-probe room, I'm gonna be swingin my fists all the way. I forgive the bulls.

Miss you lots but I'll be home in no time at all. No time to waste. Have fun, go to church, eat good food. And don't be afraid to share your religious beliefs with the next guy.

Elder Cryer