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.