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