1. Yes I did indeed receive the package from Sarah. And O, what a joy it was.
2. The most recent packages that I can remember are the one with the batteries (thank you!) and the Halloween one I just got a couple of days ago. The things in the Halloween package were this: The giant and supremely awesome 'Myth Busters' bag, more batteries, a shaver, a funny Halloween picture, and the Tony's. If there was anything else of special note you can just ask me and I'll tell you if it was in there. Sorry; my memory ain't perfect.
So this week we have had a major resurgence of people who are actually interested in getting married before their baptism instead of just giving up or splitting up. Nirina and Leah seem to be on the slightly up and up - though how many times I've thought this before, I cannot even begin to count - and Ernest and his wife have decided to get hitched after all. Yay! To top it all off, Hery and his wife Nirina are getting married this Thursday and baptized on Saturday. If that is not a straight up, down and out miracle, then I don't know what is. I'm so happy to know that though this marriage is only for this life - till Death do you part - it is most certainly leading to an eternal marriage in the temple someday. Maybe they won't ever be able to scrape the funds together to go to Johannesburg - in fact I
highly doubt that they will - there will someday soon be a temple right here in Madagascar (I hope). With the work going as rapidly as it is, there will easily be enough of a diligent membership base within the next couple of years to merit a temple. And that, my family, will be a day remembered by all Malgasy people, for what I would say is all eternity, as one of the greatest days in their peoples history.
A temple is probably something that is easily taken for granted in highly prosperous areas like the United States. But here in this country, only the richest of the rich are able to go all the way to South Africa and partake of the temple blessings at this time. For 98 percent of the others, it is absolutely impossible. I would even say that it would be like me asking an average American citizen if they would like to buy a ticket to the moon. Sometimes, that's how I feel when people realize just how far they have to go to get to the temple.
Regardless, the blessings of an eternal family and the ordinances which can only be had in the Holy House of the temple are something to save up for. Be it a few hundred thousand ariary, or that many billions of dollars. It's worth it. I know it is.
This past weekend we were privileged to watch conference. For the missionaries, it is very difficult - we had to watch it in Malagasy like everyone else. Six months ago I was able to watch Conference in English, but then again six months ago I was in Tana. Being in the province is cooler, but also a bit less accomodating and and a lot more independent. So, we're probably never going to get the Conference talks in English until we actually receive the Liahona that contains them.
I personally can understand the conference talks in Malagasy, but there are a lot of things I'm not understanding, or just not getting. The hardest part about listening to conference talks in Malagasy is the translater's accents. Some of the translaters are quite easy to understand. Some, are absolutely impossible. In the end, all of the
missionaries just ended up at the back of the chapel writing letters, reading, or sleeping.
This week we had to tract a lot. Anyways, we put our shoulder to the wheel and got out there, though we most certainly didn't want to, and found tons of new investigators. Every single time we opened our mouths to tell someone about the gospel, they let us in to share an entire lesson. I know it was four months ago, and my memory may be slightly tainted by time, but I don't think I ever had such success tracting back in Ivato. In my mind now, tracting is really just doing times that are unscheduled. I feel certain that if we have faith and just do it, the Lord will smile on us and bless us with even more diligent investigators, truly building His Kingdom here in Madagascar.
Mom, I really do sometimes feel like I am one of those super old time story tellers, or maybe even an authentic pioneer missionary. The fact that electricity is scarce and candles and fires are the main light sources for many homes, I always feel as if I've traveled back in time a hundred years or so. For example, we were teaching a lesson to two wonderful referals from my favorite member, Frere Hiaja (the womens
names are Nidina and Lalaina, btw). There were the missionaries (us), about ten members, and then the mother and daughter. Could you ask for any better of a combination for a time?
We all sat around two small candles, listening, sharing, and learning what the Spirit provided for us. It was an incredible lesson, and one which I will never forget. The mother said that this gospel was indeed what she had been searching all of her life for. At the end of the lesson we gave her and her daughter a bap date, and whadda know, they accepted. The Spirit was so strong that we practically knew before the invitation was even said that they would accept baptism. The members
got a little bit nervous as what I was saying became readily apparent, but they didn't try and stop us. Not suprisingly, they and some more investigators came to the showings on General Conference on Sunday. They'll get baptized for sure.
One thing I'd like to say about that is this: if you are a member who is hosting the missionary lessons at your house, don't ever (extenuating circumstances permitting) try to mess with the plan of the missionaries and that of the Lord. They know what they are doing. I have heard countless stories about members becoming mad at
missionaries because they were "moving too fast for their friends" or "they were too pushy." Maybe that happens sometimes, but I have faith that most of the time it doesn't. Missionaries are blessed with a special mantle and power, and they will probably know before a regular member what the needs of the investigator are. Regardless of levels of 'spirituality' or gospel 'experience,' the missionaries are going to know what to do. I know this to be true.
You guys have no idea how badly I would have loved to go camping with you! This is one of those times where missionaries just get kinda disgusted with the whole holidays-in-America-but-not-where-I-am, thing. Or at least it just kinda stinks here. There is certainly no such thing as Thanksgiving and Halloween in Mada. In fact, the few times that I have tried to explain Halloween to people, they were
kinda freaked out. On that subject though, we did have a pretty sweet Halloween party
last night for the whole zone. We all dressed up and had a nice little dinner. I was actually Zeus - toga, flowers in the hair, lighting bolt and all. It was seriously loads of fun. I'm fairly positive that never will there be a compilation of such cool and like-minded people again in my mission lifetime.
So the race is on to finish the entire Book of Mormon before Island Conference at Christmas. We've been promised some pretty serious blessings if we can do it, so I'm excited. Dang it! I just realized that I forgot to read my four BoM chapters last night. That means I have to read eight today. :/ That's gonna be a long one.
Well I miss you and love you. That's all I have for you guys today. Wishing I Could Have A Camp-Cooked-Hotdog. Love, Elder Cryer