This week has been quite a spiritual journey for me. I've prayed a lot - a lot and hard. I've read the scriptures, searched the holy writings of the Church's leaders both past and present, looking for answers to my questions. I feel very at peace now and am really not worried. I'm trying my best to be Christlike, which means I am constantly repenting.
In other news, I've gotten back into running and am trying to lose some weight. Antsirabe is not really the best place for losing weight or eating with any kind of regularity healthy foods, but I'm gonna give it a go. I'm tired of the pudge.
I'll answer your questions first. The Relief Society is probably one of the strongest entities in Mada. Since there are so many women in the church here, there is no lack of good, strong women. Usually the Relief Society President is a very smart, leadership-oriented woman, also is usually well-off by Malagasy standards. Some of the women hardly have money to feed their many babies with a bit of rice a day and have no choice but to go to church with no shoes on. These people, though wonderful and absolute daughters of God, have not the resources to keep up with such a demanding calling like RS Prez.
The only white members in town are just the few vaza missionaries who work here. I think that a lot of French people have come down for a nice vacation during the summer break. Pretty much none of them speak English; a lot try to speak to us because it seems like we know what we are doing. Fortunately, I can't speak French well and the attractive tourist girls don't speak English or Malagasy (ha!) so I
have no opportunity to flirt with them :)
We were eating in a hotely (little restaurant thing) when a big group of French people walked up looking for some grub. They saw that some white people were in our hotely, so they came in as well. After trying to communicate with us in broken English and French, they soon realized that they would have a tough time getting any food from the non-French-mahay staff. It was great. They spent so much time arguing and trying to make the host understand, that they sat there forever while we finished our meals. Needless to say, they were amazed to see us speak in Malagasy. Everyone from outside the country just thinks, "O. That's that weird tribal language, who cares about that anyway? Besides, the tourism guide said that 90 percent of the people are mahay tenfrancais." Hehehe, that is not exactly the case.
There are currently ten missionaries here in Antsirabe with three houses for us to live in. I live in the house with the two Malagasies and one Congolese. Gino, Taggart, Bingham, and Smith live in the other. The sister missionaries live in the luxurious basement of the house of the Tahitian mission couple. Luckies.
This week was pretty wonderful and also pretty stressful. There are a lot of things that I am trying to tweak about the area. So far, the Lord has not told me to not do these things, so I feel fine about it. We taught a lot of lessons and had a lot of investigators at church, which was of course especially rewarding. We have three -four baptisms this coming Saturday. I say three to four because one of them is a nine year old boy who is afraid of the water. Saratra izany. I don't really know how to deal with such a thing, so I guess I'll just pray really hard and find out.
I'm getting better with the bike, though I fell a lot and one time my comp crashed into me. My legs hurt really bad and I can still only do short little sprints before becoming exhausted. Sometimes I shoot past my comp with a burst of speed only to be caught ten seconds later because I tire easily. Hopefully by the time I leave here, I won't be quite so bad.
To answer one of your questions that you have asked many a time but I have always forgotten to answer: yes, yes we do get fed by people a lot. Sometimes it is only a boiled root called mankahazo. Othertimes it is a plate of rice with anything from beans, to straight animal fat, to simple leaves on top. On occasion, it is a giant multi-course meal from a very well-off family. I love all that is given to me and I
really think that the best things I've eaten have come from soirees. I was worried about the whole "I HATE VEGETABLES" situation before my mission. But when I got here, I prayed and dug in. Ever since, almost no matter what I've been fed, it has been delicious. O the Lord has some interesting powers.
At a baptism for some of Elder Tagart and Gino's invesigators, we had a major problem. All of the Branch Presidents were out of town and they were the ones with the keys. So, Elder Tagart decided to climb up the side of the DHL building that is connected to our church and break in through one of the windows. I steadied the gate as he scrambled up it and mounted the roof. All seemed well as he crawled across the
sheet metal surface of the roof. Then, he disappeared from sight in a giant rucus of sound. I just looked at the ground and thought, "O crap." Within moments, Tagart was back up and crawling. He looked very non-plused. After reaching the windows, he simply stated that he had indeed fallen through the roof, and that is was irreparable. Fantastic.
Long story short, we could not actually break in and eventually found someone to unlock the doors. We went upstairs and discovered the giant hole in the roof. As of now, there have been no demands for payment for the damage. But, we are ready and I for one am expecting the angered call to the zone leader any day now. Good times when
ya rock and roll.
On Thursday me and Rakoto went out to this area called Andrangy. He neglected to tell me this tidbit of info before we went, but the area is actually in the ever-lovin mountains and filled with horrible paths. Awesome. This was the day my bike broke a lot and I ate the dirt a lot. From the traveling aspect, it was one of the worst days of my mission. There were also some other frustrations. All of our times
were only thirty minutes long and there was at least a 10-15 minute journey between each place. So we were flying between times, sharing spirtual thoughts and very shortened lessons. That part of the day, I hated. I love having longer times were I get to know the people.
By the end of the day I was exhausted, frustrated, and kivy be. The last thing I wanted to was bike out of the mountains to go to some times which we were already late for. O how happy I am that we went. That night we had a time with some long time investigators named Nirina and Lovy. They are awesome, very strong testimonies and very ready to help us with referrals and what not. The only problem with them is that they haven't been legally married (though they are now within days of that goal). They've got some other challenges too.
We sat them down and talked it out. It was easy to see that their real problem was their own personal relationship. They obviously love each other. When it came for counsel time, I went straight to the heart of what I saw. I told them straight up that it wasn't problems with alcohol, tobacco, etc that was the problem, but it was their relationship. We talked a lot about what they could do different and I counseled them about being wary of one anothers emotions and feelings. I even talked about you guys and said that you were such incredible examples for me of how a married couple should behave.
In the end I challenged them to make a covenant with each other and with God. By working together, they could help each other avoid the harmful substances that were plaguing their lives. They accepted whole-heartedly and Nirina even said right there and then that he would never do those things again. His wife had tears in her eyes as she said to him, "Thank you so much. Are you really going to do this?" By
the end of the time, they seemed to be a completely different couple. I felt the Spirit so strong. It is things like this that testify to me that this is the
greatest time of my life thus far.
Well, I love you guys and will talk to you later. Eat some nacho cheese
chips for me will ya?