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.