Monday, January 25, 2010

Mad Ant is so awesome!!!

First Day:

Ok so the country is sweet. I've picked up the language very well and I am dominating. I can teach the lessons and people actually understand what I'm saying. My trainer, Elder Horn, is super cool. We teach all the time and I've probably walked about 1 million miles by now. I like the food. The house I live in is super nice. I'm personally baptizing a kid this Saturday. Wish me luck. Prez Donnelly is way cool. The people in Mad Ant are amazing. I love them so much.

Sixth Day:
Mad Ant is so awesome!!!! I love this place, the food, and most especially the people so much! I shall now take you through a step by step of what it has been like so far.

So when we got here it was very hot and the airport looked downright ghetto-tastic. Though we were all bubbling with excitment (except for one elder) we were all slightly nervous as well. Of course, the lady who came up to us spoke zero English and thought that we were French. Apparently there are no white people here that aren't French. Getting through the signing in process was kinda difficult. Once we got to the other side and made it through the customs check, we were met by the Donnellys, the APs, the Petersons, and the Birds. Those last two are the missionary couples here in Mad Ant. Prez Donnelly came up and gave us all a warm handshake. He was so nice and friendly that we all felt immediately invited. He is so much nicer and cooler than I was expecting. We all took a picture and then Elder Goff and I went to go get some passport pictures (apparently the ones you sent didn't arrive). The APs, Elders Cox and Burton, are awesome. We chatted all the way to the picture place and it was so cool. When we got to the picture place, which is in the middle of Tana, we decided to go and contact people as we waited. I'm sure my meager attempt to contact someone all by myself was horrible. Burton said that he was listening from around the corner and that my Malagasy was super good. Hmph, ya right. Long story short, we went out and tracked in the super-turbo ghetto and then ate at the Donnelly's house that night. While the 5 by 5 ft shack that we taught a family in suprised me that first night, I now realize that it is pretty common-place in Mad Ant. Ain't no thang.

Next day we went through our orientation and stuff. One by one, drivers took us to our respective areas. Mine, as you already know, is called Ivato. It is a two hour drive (if you are in a good taxi). There are tons of rich people in my area though so it makes tracting very difficult. They literally have castle-mansion-palaces. Craziness.

So my trainer is named Elder Horn. He is from Utah, he's 21, super funny, and fairly good at Malagasy. Our first day (I arrived at 6 PM) we went and taught two families. At our first house there was a boy named Faly. I shared with him a spiritual thought about Jesus. His Mom is a recent convert and Faly is going to be baptized this Saturday. He is only 9. When Horn asked him who he would like to baptize him....he said me. So I am baptizing someone for the first time in Malagasy this Saturday. Woohoo!!! Now I just have to remember the prayer in Malagasy.

We have taught many other times since then and had many wonderful experiences. I wish I could share all of them with you but I have not the time. I will tell you about this one family who we taught in a shack full of other peoples stuff. The building was like some kind of rental place. Anyways we taught them the third lesson and it was absolutely awesome. I teach the main lesson in all of the times because I can and because Horn thinks that it would help me alot. I agree. So half way through the lesson, the girl's boyfriend comes in and sits down. We catch him up to speed with the lesson. The problem with this family, which is the same problem with 18 of our other investigators, is that they aren't married. It is very difficult process to become married in Mad. I won't go into details.

The father, who is probably 70, is a member. After I finished the third lesson he bore an amazing testimony of how his life has been blessed by the church and by being baptized. He started to cry and it was absolutely amazing. Then he chastized the other guy for not getting married to his daughter. Then more chastizing to the young guy for the same thing, and says that if he doesn't marry the mother of his child, he should leave. Then...he agrees to get married! Holy cow! He decides to also take the lessons and come to church. All three of those things which he agreed to have been major problems with him in the past. Horn said it was one of his favorite lessons of all time. The Spirit was so strong in that humble shack, I feel like could have almost bottled some and taken it home. I hope that story was semi-linear.

So my Malagasy is not as good as I thought. But through the Spirit, the people understand everything I say. Everything! It is like a miracle. They respond correctly, they answer questions, they are engaged in the lesson. It's like a dream come true!

If you send anything, send it in an envelope or disguised in food or whatnot. Otherwise they will open the package and steal the card. Guaranteed. If there is cash in a package, they will take it no matter what. Candy, food, other things - no problem. But electronics and money sent through mail will definately be taken. The best way to send cash or cards is by hiding it in something like a box of candy or jar of peanut butter.

Alright, so I am very happy to hear about the Saints. It is close to Texas and my heart. I love you all so much and miss you, but more than anything, I am focused on the work here in Madagascar. Later -

love always, Elder Cryer

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Leftovers From The MTC

From President Donnelly

"Antananarivo, January 23, 2010

Brother and Sister CRYER,

Your son, Elder CRYER arrived safely in Madagascar. After prayerful consideration, I assigned him to labor initially in Ivato with Elder HORN, one of our best missionaries. We will do everything in our power to see that your son’s missionary experience is all that it should be and one that will be a source of strength to him throughout his life.

As your son takes the gospel forth, he will have some new experiences, some of which will probably be a great challenge, especially learning a new language, being away from home in a foreign land and culture, adjusting to missionary life, and getting along with companions and other missionaries. Experience shows that missionaries who lose themselves in the work quickly overcome any obstacles.

Your weekly letters will greatly influence his success and be an important source of emotional and spiritual support. Please make letters to him cheerful and uplifting. Family members are authorized to send emails to their missionaries, subject to the guidelines established by the brethren.

For any package you would like to send to Madagascar use the address below (very important) when using DHL or any other mail company :

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints
Madagascar Antananarivo Mission
B.P. 5094
Dingana III

Each missionary receives the Missionary Handbook. Your missionary has committed to living by the principles of this handbook. You can be of great support to your missionary if you are aware of some of these principles.

“Write to your parents each week on preparation day.” If you should not receive these letters regularly (taking into consideration that there is some irregularity in mail delivery), please let me know.

”Notify the mission office if your parents’ address changes (including e-mail addresses).” It would be useful for you to also notify us of such a change, just in case your missionary forgets.

“Do not telephone parents, relatives or friends.” We would also ask you to refrain from placing calls to your missionary, except for a call on Mother’s Day and one on Christmas, which we do authorize. Missionaries are not authorized to accept other calls.

“In case of an emergency, contact your mission president.” Should the family have an emergency which needs to be communicated to the missionary, please contact the Mission Office (001-22-417-51).

“Consider your support money as sacred. Spend it wisely and only for things relating to your mission. It represents sacrifice by your family, yourself and others…If you have extra funds, do not overspend and make it difficult for your companion who may not be as fortunate.” There are many valuable lessons to be learned during a mission, and one of these lessons deals with being able to budget and live within an allotted amount.

Sean Edmund DONNELLY, President Madagascar Antananarivo Mission"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the ground

Hi everyone - well, I just got in and stuff. This is my generic, "I made it to Madagascar" email.

It was a very long series of flights, but all went well. My plan of hitting every fast food between the MTC and Mad Ant didn't work out. I paid $10 for a Burger King Whopper Meal at the SLC airport. Then because of a mix up at the Chicago airport where we didn't get to buy an actual meal, I had a peanut bar and a Mountain Dew in the International Terminal there. In London, I paid $22 for a meal.

A young agnostic Jewish woman sat by me during one flight and as long as we were talking about regular stuff, she was happy to talk, but as soon as I started talking to her about the Book of Mormon, not so interested. But I tried and will keep trying.

I miss you all and love you. I don't have much time no so I will write more on Monday (my P-Day).
Love, Elder Cryer

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's Mad Ant time

Well, I can't believe my time here is almost over. I am so excited to get to Madagascar. Mad Ant refers to the abbreviation that is used in the MTC for my mission. Antananrivo is the capital, there's only one mission in all of Madagascar, so there's our mission, we're the Mad Ant or some people say Mada.

My weight has stabilized. I hover between 173-175 lbs pretty consistently. Some how, my six-pack is rockin and I run a mile in under 6 minutes. These last couple of days I have decided to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I figure since I am about to go to Mad Ant and be malnourished I should get as much good old American junk food as I can. Besides, I’ve heard that everyone gets sick for the first couple of weeks when you get there. Thanks for sending the protein powder, but cookies and cream flavor?

We are leaving SLC, then to Chicago, layover for several hours, then to London, layover for at least 8 hours, then to Johannesburg for several hours, then finally to Mad Ant, woohoo. I am going to be on 3 continents in three days. The journey goes from Monday to Wednesday. 30 hours of flight time. It will be quite the trip. My companion is from England, but I doubt we will be able to leave the airport in London. We have to ask the travel office people and something tells me that they will say no. Mission rules are mission rules. The flights will be crazy long and we'll have to wear the same pants and shirts for 3 days, but it'll be ok. I want to teach anyone I sit beside in the plane. I want to sit by a Malagasy on the plane from Johannesburg so I can practice speaking the language and I can teach someone. I have to start taking malaria pills on Saturday.

I've learned a lot in the MTC. My knowledge has grown ten fold about the gospel. I feel it so fervently that when I look back on, well, even the days just before I left, I see a different person. I am the same mostly. It is just that a monumental, spiritual change has been wrought. I am still working and progressing, but it is so amazing to see how far I’ve come and how for I still have to go. I feel like there are so many things about the gospel that I just did not adequately understand.

Yes, I cashed the check for the flight reimbursement. Yes I did get the clothes box. I’m wearing the skinny jeans as I write this and was very happy with everything you sent to me. Love those old clothes. Even the new Bruce Springsteen shirt - I wore it last night and everyone was like, “Why are you wearing that?” I just said, “I don’t know. My mom sent it to me, she's a fan.” New or old, love stuff from home.

So this week was pretty chill, I guess. I am now semi-officially proficient at gospel speech in Malagasy. I’m sure a native Malagasy would disagree, but I feel very comfortable with teaching lessons/ street contacting/ praying/ bearing my testimony. Conversationally I am lacking and not quite where I would like to be. There are still so many words that I do not know. My teachers have assured me that learning how to be conversant proficiently should be a cake walk (paraphrase) in Mad Ant. I can have simple-ish conversations. Basically I can say all the needed things but I can’t really talk about, oh idk, the weather, sports, work, and a myriad of other subjects. I know that through the Lord’s help, it is just a matter of time. I really should send you a video of my speaking Malagasy so that you have some idea of what it sounds like in action. Maybe.

This week we heard from Elder L. Tom Perry, again. Last time his talk was kind of dry and scripture based. When he walked into the room, I think everyone was kinda expecting the same thing. He talked on the first lesson…it seemed as though our fears had been manifested. It was going to be another quiet talk. It fact, I walked out of the room thinking that, indeed, it was exactly as I had imagined it would be. It was so quiet that I drew a picture of Elder Perry as some anime warrior and took all of my notes in Malagasy (Which is very hard if they are using big words in English. Ex. testimony = fijoroana ho vavolombelona. It just takes forever to write).

Once we had gotten to our sharing time meeting thing, my perception began to change. As I reviewed my notes, I realized how extremely profound some of the things were. Though there was no actual deep doctrine going on, his words provoked deep reflection, thought, and introspection, made me really think about my testimony. The talk the Elder Perry gave turned out to be a home-run for everyone…after the fact. It was as though a spiritual boomer-rang had been thrown. On its way back, it knocked us all in the back of the head. And yes, I know that boomer-rangs don’t actually come back in a full circle like that.

I’ve decided that I will eat at every single fast food restaurant that I see from here to Mad Ant. So, if I email again in a week asking for more money, forgive and forget.

I love you and miss you all a lot. I think about you all the time and I want everything to be going good and you guys to be having lots of fun. My family is the best. I pray for all of you every day.

love, Elder Cryer

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 Days Left in the MTC

Hello everyone:

Business - I am not sure of what my itinerary is going to be, but I know I only have one more full week in the MTC. I can't believe it's passed so fast. Because we didn't get to call at Christmas, we might get to call from the airport either at Salt Lake or in LA. Might. I am extremely excited for Mad Ant.

One more week and I am outta here! I am positive it will be harder that I can imagine, but I'm not really worried. I've worked hard and learned a lot. I'm sure the Lord has many new challenges awaiting me on the island, including wild gidros (lemurs) and a very unstable political situation. We hear it's worse than it was before. We need to be prepared to be evac-ed to South Africa if things get worse. Ok, whatever. We hear that everyone is angry, the president, etc. Apparently, the one guy who should be the president is not or something like that. The good thing is that the Malagasy people don't kill each other super easy, it takes a lot to rile them up.

I have lost 14 pounds here. I have never been so lean. I probably have lost some muscle mass, but straight fat too. I've been eating pretty well, but no big protein shakes like at home. I feel better, no stomach crazy anymore. My song for the fireside went pretty well. The best thing is I got to have a cool conversation with the mission president and his wife while waiting for it to start. This is funny - after I sang, some people said, you need to perform opera. And then the Mo-Tab lady said, sing for your pleasure but don't major in music. Ha. Me singing at that fireside, the Lord did 99% of the work and got me well in time to sing. My friends got the whole thing on video.

I am zone leader now. It is an alright position. All of the responsibility and none of the perks. Wohoo. Last night we had to bring in 21 new Elders. What a treat that was. Missionaries going to Indonesia, Malaysia, Oklahoma, and California. I learned before this to never aspire to leadership unless there is a substantial pay increase. I have a great zone, though. We all have a lot in common and we all know how to have fun. You have to have fun in here sometimes or you go crazy from being serious all the time. We have had some crazy times that shall go unmentioned but make us laugh. Ninja battles may have been involved. They all know about Brady and they think he's the coolest bro ever and he is.

For all the people who read the blog and sent me a letter through Dear Elder, I will write you back the regular mail way because I don’t have your email addresses. If you want an email, send me your address.

My message to all - pray. We can ask the Lord for anything we may or may not need. He may or may not give it to us but if we never ask there can only be one outcome.

Love you all so much, Elder Cryer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To my ward family

Hello Bishop and everyone: Thank you so much for the gift card! In Madagascar I could literally buy a fairly good car for $100. In fact, I might just do so.

The MTC is pretty chill. Malagasy is not as hard as I thought it would be. The food in the MTC is not as bad as I thought it would be. For Rob and Jason, I hope your call comes soon and you can get here as quick as you can. For everyone else who is thinking about a mission - do it. I can honestly say that it has been the best decision of my life.

I'm not yet in Madagascar, but I leave in just over a week. I love you all and sure do miss you. Thank you so much for the support and all the help everyone's been my whole life. If anyone wants to send me a box of treats and candy, feel free - just throwin' that out there.

love, Elder Cryer