This was a really great week, full of new investigators, newly diligent families, and many more fun things.
I have yet to get the package you mailed right after Christmas, but I am pretty much expecting to get it today when I go to the office. I got Clarissa's MLK package last week. A word on that whole sending of packages should probably be said. Clarissa's package was pretty much opened up wide for the greedy hands of postmen stretching from here to America. I don't think they really stole too much, but there were a couple of things gone that, according to a note that was in the package, are unaccounted for. I was pretty peeved, but what are you going to do? Elder Slater had a package where they opened up his bag of Reeses Pieces, took a handful, and then sealed the package back up. So if there are any expensive or precious things that you are thinking of sending, lets talk some strategy first. I think we were just all kinds of lucky with the camera. Clarissa put some delicious muffin and cookie mixes in my Martin Luther King Day package, and what I have baked is delicious. Just a thought for the future ;).
To answer the monsoon question: [Ed : Matt lost his good REI rain suit] the yellow rain poncho was too heavy and bulky to be packed in my bags when I left Antsirabe. Consequently, someone else is just going to have to wear that silly thing for awhile. Maybe it will become a house tradtion of wearing the ugly coat in the Ambohimena house.
A story: I went on splits with Elder Smith in Ivato. Elder Jordan, the zone leader, was doing a baptisimal interview in Sabosty Namehana, so I got the chance to go back to my old stomping grounds. We only taught one lesson out there, but I was able to talk with so many people that I taught, baptized, and even worked with back in those begining days. It was so awesome to see those people again, especially now that I can fully understand them and express myself in the language. At the end of the day we went over to Soeur Fanza's house to just see what was up. I believe I mentioned Soeur Fanza many times back in those days, but just as a reminder, she is my Malagasy mom. For a good hour and a half we just talked about different subjects and caught up. In conclusion, Ivato is a lot cooler than I remember it being.
While tracting this week we came along a new little group of houses, huts, and shacks, and decided to try our luck. We walked up to one - a tall, long house that kinda reminds me of an apartment building, yelled "ODY O!" the usual term to say that you are at the door, and about six heads popped out of the upper stairs window. We said, " Hey we"re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter...." but then stopped because they all popped their heads back inside. Elder Slater said it was like wack-a-moles. They all came downstairs, invited us into their house, and we proceeded to have an incredible lesson with all ten of them. Three distinct families were present, but there were all the children of one grand-father named Eli. They all accepted bap dates for the 26th, and seemed very receptive to everything that had happened. One of the fathers, towards the end of the time, said, "I'll definitely come to church this Sunday, but if I'm gona be baptized I need you guys to come teach me in my house just about every day! I wanna progress!" Just the words a couple of missionaries love to hear.
Another experience which we had this week was at the house of Joel. Joel learned from the missionaries back in 1993 when all the lessons were still in French. He learned everything, but had problems with his work so he and the church grew apart before he was baptized. For ten years after the time when the missionaries stopped coming, he just cruised around. Joel learned about the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and we talked a lot about the church in general. He told me a pretty amazing story about when he finally parted from the church. Back ten years ago, some preachers from his wife's church came to his house and told him the the Mormons were evil, and the the Book of Mormon was the word of Satan. So they took all of his church literature away, and told him to repent. Since that time, he says, he has not ceased to have troubles in his life. Marriage, children, and work. He told us that he fully believes that this is the result of the church being removed from his life. Because of that, him and his entire family are going to be baptized in the end of Febuary or the begining of March. Awesome.
After we finished our time with Joel, we invited him to come to the baptism of Frere Phillippe at the church. He came with us, along with a bunch of other investigators who have just recently become very interested in the church. Phillippe's baptism was such a spiritual event, and a somewhat peculiar one. The entire first half of the
service, rain came down like no other outside. Since I was going to be doing the baptism, I was a little worried that everyone would have to wait inside while I baptized Phillipe outside by myself. Fortunately, the rain miraculously stopped for five minutes as soon as the time came to get into the portable fount. Just before Phillippe went down into the water, his whole non-member family came through the gate. I think it was a definite miracle that they were able to see that, as they have now decided to investigate the church. "So by one man were many made sinners, by Jesus Christ are we all saved." I just think of that scripture when I see more and more people coming into the church because of the actions of one or two people.
We see so many spiders! They are absolutely everywhere! And scary! Skinny ones, fat ones, little ones, huge ones, ones that are so big and muscley that me and Slater swear that we saw a new type of Tarantula.
Time to continue on the increasingly shortened train of emails. Well I love you guys and pray for you mucho mihtsy. Have a good week and don't get bitten by any spiders.
Wondering If There Are Any Poisonous Spiders In Madagascar,