Thursday, October 28, 2010

Once a year Island Conference of all missionaries
Elder Touli and me, baptism day
All hat and no cattle
Our mission goals
Pizza message

Pain and Rain

This week has been, interesting. Apart from the fact that the monsoon season has arrived here in Antsirabe, it just seems like every day has presented its own set of crazy problems and challenges. The first one I'll write about is the first one that really presented itself to us last week. Elder Peatross and I were teaching a really incredible family. The father of the family, came up with an unusual problem
towards the end of the lesson. He asked us if it was ok to do the traditional 'turning of the dead' ceremony with his family. I said that it was ok, just so long as he didn't do any of the witchcraft stuff that usually associates itself with such practices. He shook his head and said ok, but I could tell that there was something just eating at him. With a little bit of proding it came out that his family does indeed do some super bad witchcraft practices. He described some of the rituals to me and asked if they were ok to do. Well, duh, of course they aren't ok to do! He kept persisting and trying to get some sort of lee-way. I told him again that it was totally not ok to do and I shared with him 3 Nephi 13:24 - "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the
other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." Never before have I used this scripture and had to apply it in such a literal way. Like, this was an actual case of a devil worshipper that has religion; or vice versa. He kept arguing a little bit, so I came down on him hard and said, "As
representatives of Jesus Christ, I am telling you that witchcraft is absolutely evil and not acceptable. You must leave this wickedness in the past. Will you serve God and not hold to this dark practice any longer?" He agreed, but it was a tense moment. Dealing with witchcraft and devil worship is something that I could really do without.

During that same time, it was discovered that this man and his wife are not actually married according to the laws of the state. I don't know how we never talked about this before, but it was very stressful. So as of right now he is traveling out to a far-away town in order to collect his papers for their marriage on Saturday - four hours before their baptism. We'll see if they make it!

So as one couple decides to inherit salvation together, two more decide to completely separate. This is an extremely sad thing to see happen, but sometimes a completely necessary one. The first and less contentious couple is just tired of being together and they don't feel like getting married before their baptism. The man seems to be in all actuality just perfectly frightened of committment, though they've already had eight children together. Whatever - though I think that
they should just show some responsibility and get married, that's their choice.

The other couple is one that you guys have heard about before. Now, for the past three months of my stay here and even a few months before I arrived, us missionaries have been having to deal with the suspicious monkey-business and endless ups and downs of this couple. There were times when everything looked solid; they were going to get married and baptized. Then there were times when I felt like I was in an episode of twilight zone, the problems were just so weird. Last Thursday everything came to a slightly violent head. The wife, who has completely stopped drinking for some weeks now, was beaten and cussed at by her husband, who still drinks. When we came in for the time the wife was already crying and the husband just shook our hands and left without a word. Through babbled tears she tried to explain what had happened, but she was completely incoherent. In the end I had to ask her son (the coolest ten year old in the world) what had happened. After I got the full story, we then had to deal with her hysterical crying. After a good five minutes of this, Peatross said, "Dude, she is gonna hypervenilate." Peatross worked with doctors and stuff before his mission, so when he speaks about health-related things, I listen.

Once she finally seemed to be restored to some sense of stability, we offered a prayer and called the branch president for them. President Grenie is the one who should be dealing with such problems, of this I am sure. Long story short, we almost fought with the husband on the road outside of a bar and then the two decided to scream at each other that they were getting a divorce - and so a painful era comes to a painful end.

O! One more thing about that story. After we had left this house we went to another person's house right across the hallway. And the very end of the lesson with Leah, she asked us for money or food. We said that we couldn't but that Prez Grenie could. During the next lesson Leah came in all smiles and told us that a very charitable and loving member had given her and her kids some rice and money. Now that, is the true love of Christ. If only we could all let ourselves be used in such powerful ways by the Lord our God.

Sweet! I'm so excited that my package made it to America. I told the other missionaries that my package made it, and it was kinda a victory for all of us. Hardly anyone has tried to send a package from here in Antsirabe, so the news that it is possible and somewhat quick is quite wonderful. Everyone here is also about to send their Christmas packages. There packages range from small to huge and absolutely
expensive as heck.

Well paps, a very horrible thing has happened. Either someone stole my nice rain jacket, or I simply misplaced it, or I just left it at the Ivato house. Short story shorter, I can't find the thing for the life of me. And whadda know, the rain is finally here. The monsoon season has started, and every day there is rain for at least 2-3 hours, sometimes all day. For two days I just braved the storms jacket-less. Talk about retched! I was covered in mud, literally drenched, and just all around not happy at the world. On the third day I'd had enough and I went to a giant market looking for a rain jacket. Elder Riding had lost his as well, so he had bought a pretty sweet jacket from the market the day before. As is usually my luck, the seller of good jackets was gone to Tana for the day and only the bad sellers were there. Fantastic. So I ended up purchasing a giant, yellow, plastic number that is suppossed to be able to withstand fires. Sweet! Needless to say, I look absolutely ridiculous. But hey - wind, rain, fire, and probably acid is not getting through that jacket.

Well, I love you guys and pray for you always. Have fun at Enchanted Rock! Eat some brauts for me - I haven't had a hotdog in a year.

Elder Cryer

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple, plain and non-suspicion-arousing

I sent the Christmas package last P-Day. The package people at the Poasitra (post office) were very helpful, though not exactly knowledgable. We weren't really sure how to secure my package to make it theft-proof, so after turning down the sweet post office workers idea of actual tying the whole thing up with rope, we just put a lot of tape on it. Cheers! Hopefully you guys won't get slamed for customs when the package gets to you. The package checker couldn't speak English, so he let me write in the contents of the package. I tried to be as simple, plain, and non-suspicion-arousing as I could, but I couldn't bring myself to just flat out lie - the effects of being a missionary I suppose.

BTW, there is an incoming birthday card for Clarissa. My goal is to send one for everyone in the family - excepting the babies. They can't really read, and it costs a good sum of my food money to send letters, and ya. So anyways, mother, the 4925 Kentington address is pretty much my stop way for all items going to America from Mada.

Also, if you would like to send me some sticker books, that'd be super awesome. Like: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, World of Warcraft, and anime. I decorate all my planners with sitckers and clever little cartoons, and I'm getting tired of the usual Dragon Ball Z and Naruto that just so happen to be the only stickers available. Thanks!

Elder Peatross got a pinched sciatic-nerve. Ouch! Because of that, Prez Donnelly asked us to not ride our bikes for a couple of days and just walk to our times if we
could. Seeing as most of our times are super far away, and/or in the mountains, we just ended up staying home alot. We payed for expensive pous-pous' to get us to our absolute-must times, but that was pretty much it.

Even with that though, we still had lots of people come to church and three baptisms on Saturday. The people that got baptized were named Ihanta, Georgette, and Jean Didider. They are a mother and two children, and they are extremely diligent. Ihanta had been looking for the true church for a very very long time. One day she prayed and asked God for the true church, and then we showed up. I remember that day over two months ago. We were out doing times and most of them just weren't panning out. So we decided to just try and tract - my favorite! We taught a sort of lesson to a lady on her porch, and then ambled on over to the house/square/apartment thing of Bebe Patsa. Patsa has learned all the lessons, but she hasn't come to church because she's old and hard-headed. Everyone else that lives in their little compound is either already baptized now or soon to be baptized. Pretty amazing huh?

Another interesting story: One day a couple of weeks ago me and Peatross were eating some rice and beans at one of our favorites. People are always amazed that we are actually mahay tengasy, so they were asking us questions and we were just chattin abut random stuff. Then we started talking about ohambolonas (proverbs) and ankamantatras (riddles). They were pretty interested, and eventually the topic
of conversation turned to our purpose here as missionaries - my favorite topic of conversation :D. One of the people was actually pretty interested, and she invited us over to teach a lesson.

The next week we went to this ladies beauty salon and taught her a pretty incredible first lesson. Half way through the introduction of what we were going to talk about, she says, "Hey, do you guys use the Book of Mormon? Because I have it and read it every day. Where does that book come from?"

Are you kidding me? Why can't people ask such questions and already have such experiences every day? So we taught her an entire BoM lesson as well and she seems totally ready to accept the gospel fully into her life. It's people like these that are the elect, in my opinion.

That's all I've got for you guys this week. Have fun camping. Wish Uncle Wayne well for me and tell them that they are in my prayers.

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hey Ian!

September 16, 2010

Hey Ian! This is Elder Matthew Cryer here reporting from the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission. A mission is a pretty awesome thing, Ian. A real adventure is waiting for you! I've shaken hands with lemurs (monkeys), been bitten by chamelons (lizards), and even been chased by bulls! I love my mission and I know you will love your mission too.

Ian, I know the church is true. I know that God gave us prophets like Moses, Joseph Smith, and Thomas S. Monson so that we could learn and return to heaven someday. I also know that if you want to have a cool mission like mine, you gotta get ready NOW! Read the scriptures, go to church, do some pushups, follow the Prophet. If you do that, you'll be ready for this awesome adventure.

Just yesterday me and my companion were coming down a huge mountain - we had taught some cool Malagasys. Then we had to go through the jungle, boulders, cliffs and other crazy stuff. Trust me, a mission is awesome!

Love, Elder Cryer

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocks the socks

I'm so excited for the holiday season! Halloween is fast approaching and you better believe that even in Madagascar we are preparing for our Halloween celebration. Last night me and Elder Riding carved a pumpkin that I bought from one of my recent converts. Then, we got everyone out of bed at 11:30 at night, dressed up in cheesy sweaters and jeans, made a fire, and took our house Halloween picture. You'll be receiving one in the coming weeks. There is also going to be a Halloween party, a Thanksgiving picture, and a Christmas picture. There will be lots of costumes and live animals involved.

So, as you might have guessed, Antsirabe rocks the socks right now. Me, Riding, and Peatross stay up late every night talking and creating things. Sometimes our activities may or may not take us past 10:30, but as soon as we realize the time we head straight to bed. The best part of all our fun is that we are still working way hard. Unlike many whose idea of fun is directly related to laziness and disobedience, I feel like it has only driven us to work harder and more effectively. Our Antsirabe Zone has pretty much twice weekly parties and get togethers, so it is just making life awesome. On Sunday night we have a Family Home Evening/Pot-Luck were we play games and just get to know each other better.

In other news, my bike is the most miserable creation of metal and tires the world has been cursed enough to behold. On that note, Elder Peatross's bike is right behind it in levels of dreadfulness. These bikes break constantly. I personally feel that this is a personal attack from the Enemy himself, Satan. He knows that we are a rockin force of scriptures, Malagasy, and the Spirit, so he's obivously trying to hold us back. But we'll throw those bikes in the ditch and run to our times if we have to.

Work is getting quite chaotic and packed. Referals are coming in; old investigators from the Sisters are coming out of the wood-works; and the work is just on the whole erupting. We are supposed to get about 9 baptisms at the end of this month to add on to the 3 that are coming up this Saturday. I'm a little bit nervous about the whole affair. I feel like people just aren't getting the time and attention that they
deserve. We're slowly converting our whole schedule to thirty minute times only, because there is too much work for everyone. Personally, I love hour long times because you really get to know your investigator and build a foundation of trust and love. But, duty calls and the war against darkness is mounting further every moment.

I feel like this situation can directly be related to faith. In order for faith to grow, we must experiment upon that which we have and exercise it constantly to see progression. There is no such thing as a 'plateau' level where you can just relax and cruise. As one of the Apostles said, (possibly M. Russel Ballard, or Uchtdorf...I can't rememeber),"There is no growth in the comfort zone." I know that
to be true for I have seen the positive and negative effects of the dynamic principle of faith in my own life.

I miss you guys and can't wait to chat at Christmas. Love, Elder Cryer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Super Troopers

So anyways, I am so jealous that you guys got to watch conference. I probably won't see it for at least a month and chances are good that it'll be in Malagasy. Conference has become one of my most favorite times of the year.

In other news, Elder Rakotoniaina got transfered. My new companion is named Elder Peatross and he is awesome. Elder Peatross (Pet - tr - oss) has been out for about four months, so he is still pretty young. Fortunately for my tsy mahay self, he is already walking, talking, and dressing himself! He is, in my opinion, one of the coolest young guys around. And, if he isn't the best, then Elder Riding - the other new elder in our house is. We all make a a pretty dynamic, rockin party at our house. We study, we clean, we speak in English, we work, and we party every day. I feel like it could be passably argued that our house is the coolest of all the houses in Mada. In fact, only ridiculously cool people have been transfered to Antsirabe.

So about my shoes and stuff. I'm pretty happy that we bought the Dr. Martens because they are some super-troopers. No need to replace those bad-boys. And yes, I would really like the headlamp. In fact, Elder Peatross saw the details of the Black Diamond head lamp as well as the picture, and he's decided to ask his parents for that for Chrismas as well. That is a pretty slick lookin light - I must say. My rain jacket is good - no complaints there. I don't really ever wear it, is the thing.
I got in Mada at a strange part of the year when there should have been monsoons, but there wasn't. Everyone's sayin that in a month or so the rain and heat is gonna hit hard again, so my jacket should get some good use :).

I have what is probably an upper-respitory infection as of right now. The force of it has thankfully lessened, but for a couple of days I literally couldn't do anything! It was so horrible - especially when you consider the fact that I have no computer or TV to entertain me through the boredom of doing nothing. Yuck.

All in all, Antsirabe is still by far the best area in Mada and has only gotten better. On Peatross's first day we taught some random guy at the house of another investigator. We had dropped by just to check and see if our investigators were there, and we found this guy. Apparently he is the husband of the woman and children who we had taught the week before. We had a pretty amazing lesson, and the man was in tears at he end of the lesson. We helped him out with some other problems and then invited him to be baptized with his entire family at the end of October. I've seen enough miracles by this point in my mission that I'm no longer suprised when I see new ones, but just awed. He whole-heartedly accepted and even told us that he had been looking for something like this. Though he had been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church, he became disenchanted by the have-it-your-way-but-not-the-Bible's-way type of doctrine. So he left and never went back. As he said this, Peatross and I looked at each other and said in English, "Awesome."

The next day we saw another miracle. Him, and his family, and anyone else they could round up for came to church. How amazing! There were 25 investigators at church on Sunday, and we are expecting many more to come.

I love my mission and I testify that this is the absolute best work I could be doing at this point in my life. I know my Redeemer lives and died for me, and I am so thankful to have the oppurtunity to inform people about this magnificent message. No matter where you think you are in the range of spiritual progress, there is always room for improvment and there is always knowledge to be gained from the simplicities of this gospel.

Gringo's sounds delicious about right now.

Adventure On,
Elder Cryer