I'm tired. I'm happy. I'm so grateful for the sweet Spirit of the Lord that guides us in all things, if only we ask. This week was very hard and very, very rewarding.
Last Monday, we had a soiree de carte at the giant home of Frere Noel. I don't know what soiree de carte means, so don't bother asking. It is basically like a ward social at someone's house, with investigators being the main focus of the event. We ate some cracker-type things, slide show of Fr Noel's family, and watched the Joseph
Smith First Vision Film. It is the one that is kind of a visual representation of the prophet's story in "Joseph Smith History." I then had to translate the whole film for the people there. Talk about exhausting! Joseph used some pretty flowery language and pretty expansive metaphors that are close to impossible for a young missionary such as myself to accurately describe. Most of the time I was just putting the words of the movie into simpler, more translatable form.
Everyone here is dying, no joke. Death after death it seems like it coming to every family. It is common knowledge that when it gets cold, the old folks are at risk. To go along with all of the funerals, everyone is having their Famadiana. I really have no clue what that means, but it is when the families have a big, rock out with trumpet and clarinet party. They take all the bodies - that have yet to crumble into nothingness - out of the fasana (grave/monolith thing) and rewrap the bodies. Then they hoist them on to their shoulders and dance around. I heard about the grave dancing thing and here it is. No good pictures, but there's always next year!
We have two people getting baptized this coming Saturday. It should be a ball as all the other companionships are having a few people baptized as well. One of the kids is named Roland, and he is a hold-over from two weeks ago when his mom and brother got baptized. At the time he was deathly afraid of water and just would not be
baptized. But, the example of his family and a shearing haircut from his mother got him excited. Pretty cool, huh? The other is a girl who's mom is already baptized. She learned from the missionaries in Ambositra (two hours south) and is pretty much more mahay at the gospel than any Mormon girl at a Scripture Chase in America. I'm
really proud of these two and super excited to see them join their families in this most Celestial covenant.
In other news, I've been charged by bulls twice this week! Ironically, both times were at the same spot. For some reason, I guess the bull wranglers like to run their really pissed off bulls there. Who knows? They do it all the time! The first time I scrambled quickly up a steep hill that the bull couldn't climb. The second time, the bull chased me on my bike up the hill. Luckily, the bull handlers beat it into submission and got a rope around his neck before he caught me.
We had the wonderful opportunity to do service twice this past week. One of the events was a Mormon Helping Hands service party. All we did was go sweep up the public square in front of the train station that was already clean, then went and did a cleaning of the church. The other thing we did was help one of our investigators make bricks. Yay! That was super fun and definitely a cool experience. The guy named Zoe makes bricks for a living at a giant...umm...mud bank? Anyways, he gets about ten ariary per brick (.5 cents) and works like a horse. So we went there to give his rough, one-man brick making business some help. First we transported a giant pile of mud and then began the actual brick buidling process. At first it was hard getting the bricks into the mold and setting them down right. Then we got mahay and were bangin' em out like no tomorrow. By the end, we were completely covered in mud and had to go wash off in a what was pretty much a giant mud puddle. The Malagasies were amazed that a vaza would get his hands dirty and on top of that, be good at making bricks. I told them I was going to parlay my new skills into a booming brick business in America, and threw mud at all the gawking kids from time to time. Fun times.
As per usual, the best day of my week was Thursday: mountains day. It is by far the most tiring but has some classic characters as well as amazing indivduals in the mix. That night, we went to Fr Nirina's buidling and had an amazing experience. The lesson was about their marriage and their baptism date. I was having mixed feelings
about the whole thing, thinking that their date was just too soon. So, I asked them if we could all kneel down and pray, asking God when they should be baptized. They agreed and Rakoto offered the prayer. It was a sacred and holy experience for me and I felt direct communication and revelation from the Lord.
I don't know why, but this week I have felt like I am on the top of the world. Does this ever end? Do I really have to go home someday? I'd rather stay here and feel this way all the time. The work here in Ambohimena is indescribable. We have so many things on our plate that just planning is a trial. Church is a calf scramble with the 20+ investigators that we have to deal with, the different things that the presidency wants to happen, and so forth. I'm competely exhausted.
From time to time, I think Satan has tried to use this agaisnt me. For instance: as we are flying through the mountains in the pitch blackness, late as usual for our times, tired beyond comprehension, I get feelings of angst and feel ready to give up. Once I even said, "Leave me alone Satan. Let me do my work without your constant nagging." And ya know what? It worked. I have a testimony that temptation can be turned away from and cast out - if we but decide to do it. That's something I've learned that I would have loved to know when I was a snot-nosed brat in high school. We don't have to sucumb to temptation. We don't even have to endure it. Just call upon the power the resides within us all, tell that Corrupter to depart, and move on. He knows when it's a lost cause. Of this, I bear witness for I have seen it it my life and in the eyes of those whose lives have been transformed. Never doubt it. Have trust in God and he'll deliver you.
If I sound like I take myself too seriously, I'm sorry. I promise that I won't talk about gospel principles and break out into preach sessions all the time when I get home. It is just that, well, I'm on a mission. I feel pretty strongly about these things. These spiritual-related things are the most viable thing to me, everything
else is pulling along in second place. But that's how it should be, I figure. A mission is for metamorphisis, not stagnation.
Well, I can honestly say that I am exhausted and have run out of fumes. At this point, I'm running on the good, ever-present arm of the Lord. This week has been one of the most, if not the most, wonderful weeks of my life up to this point. All I'll say is: my mission has arrived. Here, I am.
I love you mom and dad, and family, and others who happen to read this. Miss you guys.
PS: I think I might go to a place called An'Zoma soon and go ride some bulls bare back. It should be fun :D. I'll make sure to get a weak, old, frail one just in case.