Monday, April 26, 2010

This is what it's all about.
My friends and me

The kids think we're big and strong. We think we are too.

Our beautiful building

I'm in the Mad Ant~!

Home Sweet Home
Yes, there are lemurs

One great lunch!

Yep, we're happy missionairies.
The church in Ivato.

Matt and Elder Horn, first companion

Adventure On

My new companion is named Elder Eschler. He is pretty big, with a big heart and amazing language skills. He is ridiculously good at Malagasy; so much so that I have started to actually study again so that when I get to my year mark I'll be half of the speaker he is now. Eschler is super cool, really spiritual and such a good example in everything. Studies are way fun and insightful and, mother, you'll be glad to hear this next part: he is also a clean freak. So the house is on its way to being somewhat sanitary once more as is might have been immediately upon completion and before any missionaries moved in. We made a solid dent in the muck today.

To answer questions: The baptism clothes I have are from the wards storage closet. I really wish that I would have had the foresight to buy some before getting here.
Yes we lock our doors at night. We're in Madagascar for heaven's sake!

Eric and Vola, and Faby and Zafy have still not been baptized. Paper issues are clogging up the way and it is quite frustrating. With prayer and faith though, I know that they will be happily married soon and right after, baptized. What a pleasure - and a relief! that will be. The work is going quite well here in Ivato. The sisters in our ward are on fire. They are supposed to have 9 baptisms this coming Saturday. Wowza! I don't know what they are doing right but I wish I could get in on it. One thing that definitely contributes substantially to it is the amount of help they get from the ward members. They have tons of member-present times per week and get boat loads of referals. Now, I'm not sayin the members don't like us, I'm just sayin that the sisters get a lot more help. O well. No worries. I'd probably trust the Malagasy sisters before the giant white guys who are bad at the language, too.

So first of all: general conference was awesome! This may have been the first time that I was truly ready to receive the message from the Lord and the prophets. Sad, but true. There are so many talks that were just awe-inspiring and seemed as though they had been crafted to fit me. Some favs were the talk on good judgement, the one on lust, hard work from Elder Eyring, and patience from Elder Uchtdorf.

I know without a doubt in my mind that we have a true, living prophet here on the Earth. He represents God and his words are the same as the Almighty one. I am so grateful that the Lord has seen it fit for us to hear from the truly inspired leaders of the Church. I know that if we follow the words of the prophet, then we will see innumerable blessings in our lives. If someone is reading this who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, then I challenge you right now, to seek after this message and obtain for yourself the truthfulness which God has so benevolently given to us.

I am also so grateful for my work here in Mad Ant. It was somewhat surreal this morning as my companion and I went on a morning run. We jogged through the muddy and dirty cobble-stone streets. The Malagasy people looked at us and probably thought, "Crazy vazas (white people)." No one runs here in Madagascar but missionaries. It was so cool to think that just four months ago, I was running and working out on the other side of the world in a nice and comfortable gym. Now, I am in this wonderful land.

But, when you are sick, you long for the luxuries and medical technology of home. This week I got super duper ill. I threw up all night on Thursday and then wasn't able to eat for the next two days. I seriously thought I was going to die. But the Lord helped me through and now I am pretty much ok. The ironic thing is that I had only eaten peanut butter and no street food that day.

Another question:
The marriage situation here in Mada is pretty much horrible. The person has to have a paper called a copy, a residential card, and a photo ID that is called a Kartapanonjo (probably not spelled right). All of these things besides the ID must be obtained from the birth place of the person. This is extremely hard when a person was born pretty much across the country and has not the money to even buy rice - much less a bus ticket. Matters are even further complicated when you factor in that you cannot send money through the mail. Gahh! So if there is no one down there who will pay for the copy for you, chances are slim that you will be able to get it. A lot of couples end up going through many sets of elders and never get married. It is so sad. There are tons of couples that go to church but simply cannot be baptized. There are also major issues with getting a divorce - even harder than getting married.

Alright well I am going to depart. We're off to buy food. In the words of Clarissa, "adventure on.
The Curly-Headed Wanderer

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Feel Lucky

What a week. I'll start out with the biggest news first and that is that Elder Horn is going to Tamatave. Woo!!! I am so happy for him! He will be in a super cool area and he'll get to baptize in the ocean. I'd love to be there someday, but right now I love my area so much that the thought of leaving it makes me sad. My new companion is named Elder Echler. He is six months older than I am and probably one of the best at the Malagasy language for his age. I will learn tons from him and I am so excited. He has had mostly Malagasy companions his whole mission so he has had tons of experience. I'll take lots of pictures soon for you.

The work went pretty slow this week because of scheduling mishaps, a random zone conference that no one knew about, and Horn being pretty sick for two days. All in all, we got a lot of work ahead of us this week to make it up. So goes the life of a missionary in Madagascar. The baptisms that we were suppossed to have this Saturday got shot in the leg for now. Because of General Conference showing this weekend, we've had to reschedule them for the next weekend. Ahh! So frustrating. I just wanna see these families baptized and receive the greatest gift you can possibly receive! Luckily, and I really do feel lucky, I am here in Ivato for at least another month so I will get to see them enter the water. What an amazing blessing this will be in their lives. Eric, one of the men getting baptized, is refered to as Missionary Eric in his neighborhood because he is so knowledgable about the gospel and so ready to teach. When we teach one of his friends - and we do this a lot - we explain a principle, they don't really get it, and then Eric explains. He's so good that the investigators instantly understand the principle of the gospel we are teaching. This is one of the main benefits to teaching with a member.

Right now I am reading in Mark as well as the book "Jesus the Christ". I got to thinking one day that everything I knew about Christ and deep-doctrine stuff came from people who had read Jesus the Christ. I absolutely love it! No real surprises, it's just been cool is to see my own ideas - which I formed before I read the book - proven with the scriptures. There are so many places in the Holy Bible that totally prove our church 100% correct. Again, as you might imagine, I get to thinking about how people have come to such a distortion from the original truth. I mean, BoM and prophets or not, if you really study the Bible and pray about the true meanings therein, you would never think that conventional or contemporary Christianity is in the right. It has been a blast to reacquaint myself with the old stories about Jesus. They never disappeared from my mind, but like the BoM, it is always good to go back to.

And now to the Mom Questions of the week:
1. I wash my clothes in the washing machine in our house. We have no dryer so I hang all my clothes up to dry. They usually get all hard and crusty because of the lack of a dryer. No big deal.
2. When you put money in my account, I have to take it out as soon as I can. I pay for things that are super needed and then divide the rest into my weekly alotments. The ATM is really hard to get to in my area and is usually broken. So, if it is available, I take everything out at once because it is much easier that way. Convenience conquers!

I miss you guys. Once you go on your mission, that is really something that shines through, how much fun it was to hang out with my family. I love you Mom and I love you Paps and I love you Family. I find myself talking more and more about my memories of us camping. I love you and miss you so much. In closing: Mad Ant is the best mission in the world, the Church is true, and adventure and experiencing God's creations the way they were meant to be experienced is the best way to live life.
Elder Cryer
The Curly-Headed Wanderer

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great Times, Dirty Clothes

Ahhh, well a great, and slow, week has just passed. Somehow we got slammed with times and consequently our schedule of teaching is low. Not too low, but nothing to brag about either. With the Easter shut down that plagued the country, we had two days of no times and then the rest of the week we were victim to bad planning and transportation issues. We scheduled times back to back that were very far away from each other and had a lot of trouble with the taxi bays being full to the brims. So some times had to be dropped - which we feel bad about - or other times had to be walked to and then rescheduled - which is uncomfortable and annoying. All in all though, we had some great times and some great experiences with them.

We teach this one guy named Sasa. He is an absolutely amazing investigator. He actually said - and this is no exaggeration - that based upon the spirit that he felt as we taught him a first discussion and the proof which we had given him, that he had his confirmation before even praying about it. He did of course pray about our message anyway and now he has the developing buds of a soon-to-be strong testimony. This week, we also taught his sister and mom. I kid you not, they are the exact same as Sasa! As I was teaching them about the Plan of Salvation, the sister was literally finishing my sentences about things that you could not know if you didn't already know the teachings of this church. Just to clarify: no she hasn't been taught before. It all just made sense to her. So awesome! Every lesson we have with Sasa is absolutely explosive. Horn and I always leave walking on cloud nine.

Along with good stuff, I've been learning about spiritual elitism, not good. Some people think they just know everything that there is to know about the gospel and they are obviously the only ones who will inherit the Kingdom of our Father. Oh how unbearably misguided they are! What right do any of us have to say we know more than another or - and this is much worse - to say we are more worthy than our fellow man. Rant over.

I sang for a fireside where we had a general authority. They told me the day before I was supposed to sing, so I did a snappy rendition of A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. My ward has a really good choir. They want me to be in the choir or to do a number with some of them, but that means to set aside practice time. I just do not have any time at all to go and do choir for now.

I will give you all the info about the Mother's Day phone call after the next transfer. There is a chance that I could move and then all of the info would be null. Transfers are in one week. I'll answer the Malagasy question - Veloma amin Fitiavana means, roughly, goodbye with love. But that is a hard thing to translate into Malagasy. Possibly veloma miaraka amin ny fitiavana would work better. Idk.

All my clothes are just fine. I'll probably have to buy some more shirts because the ones I brought do not wash very well and have gotten extremely dirty. Like, gross - it's not pleasant. The work here is hard and exceedingly dirty. A nice white shirt comes back from a full day with random brown stains all over it. I'll probably replace them with some cheap-o shirts in a few months. That is what a lot of missionaries do. Also, all my ties are done. This country is mean to all clothes but ties especially. If you guys could send me some cheap ties in about six months - my year - I'd really appreciate it.

The weather is super nice here right now. In a month or so we should have to start wearing sweaters as we work...wohoo! Sometimes it is still a touch hot but it is so much improved since my arrival. It has rained a few times, but nothing really different from Texas rain storms. I came after the major rain season so rain has been somewhat scarce. I like it :D. In a few months everything will be all dried up because it will stop raining all together. But at the same time, it will get into the forties, which is a dream. The weather here is pretty much exactly like the Gulf Coast. Not too bad for now.

I am so glad that I have a full weight set now. It has been great to really pump some iron to get back into the swing of things. I have no weight racks and my bench is sketchy, so I have found myself in some situations. Ok well I love you. I miss you guys and will see you in a little over a year and a half. Wow!

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter in The Mad Ant

First, I did get the package, so that was quite delightful. I actually got it right after I sent off all my emails and went to the office. I was just like, o well. I really liked what you had in there.

Alright so now we go to an Easter in Madagascar. They celebrate Easter Sunday by having low-key family parties and going to the Catholic church for candy. Quite similar to the American version - minus the eggs and bunnies. Then comes Monday....and the whole country shuts down. They have two Easter days. The religious one on Sunday, and then the party-your-brains-out one on Monday. It seems like a lot of people drink, walk long distances for no apparent reason, and generally have a good time. The closest thing I could relate it to is maybe, Carnival minus the parades? - you get the picture.

President cancled P-Day and moved it to Tuesday because literally everything is shut down. We did get to go out and work though. And we were dogged all day long and had no times what so ever. We were only able to set up member times because of the holiday, and none of them were home when we stopped by. Happy Easter! I really don't blame them. Most other missionaries didn't get any times either.

In the morning we went and did service for a member. Her name is Souer (Sister) Fanza. She is a lady in her mid-fifties that is widowed, lives alone. So we went over to her house and she started us on the bushes. I was wishing I had our sharp clippers back home. All the time we worked though we knew that delicous food was in our future. We ended up only working for maybe an hour at the most before she called us in and we had an amazing lunch. Mom, Dad - if you guys come and pick me up - then we are going to have a dinner at Fanza's house. Her cooking is top-rate. I dare say it rivals the best cooks of Cajunland - ha! I just can't get enough of it. Every time she feeds Horn and I, we leave feeling stuffed. Good times.

O cool story to share. Horn and I were eating at this really nice - but cheap - restaurant that is by our house. We were sitting down and talking about the day when an asian-looking French woman came up to us. She said, "Of all the places in the world I never thought I'd meet the missionaries here," in perfect English. She then went on to explain that she is a member from France and has come to visit some family and friends. We gave her the address for the church in Ivato and chatted a bit more with her. What a cool lady! It was so nice to hear a testimony from someone who spoke English and was not a missionary. Kind of trippy, to be honest.

Well we had a great week this week. Lots of times taught. On the 17th we should have at least four people being baptized. Wohoo! It has been a long time coming for one of these familes - parents named Faby and Zafy - as they have been working on getting married for years. The other is Eric and Vola, whom I spoke of in my last email. I am sooooo excited!

Wow those were such cool pictures! It was like I was still there! Everyone looks the same. Me and Horn did get a good laugh out of the Elders hunting for eggs.

General Conference: We actually won't even be seeing it for a month :(. I was so excited for conference...and then we found out that we weren't gonna get to see it. And if I go to a far-away province then I probably won't see it at all. Gahh! It is pretty amazing - the scripture study everyday and nearly 24/7 spirit rush helps me so much.

I am going to send my SD card with a letter today. No, I did not make a back-up because we don't have a jump drive or anything like that. No worries though! I have faith that it will make it safely home - I'm livin on a prayer! (insert wailing Bon Jovi tenor). I can't believe we'll be talking in a month. Aaaahh!

Veloma amin Fitiavana,
Elder Cryer