My new Malagasy name is: Rabemanantsoa, as gifted to me by the figurative mother of the Sabotsy Namehana Branch, Sister Bertha. The name literally means: Rabe-the important one, manan-who has, tsoa-wonderfulness or goodness. Elder Slaters name is Rabemananjara. Elder Slater and I are still together, for two and a half months now. It is certain now that my companionship with him will tie with mine and Elder Horn's for the longest of my mission at a grand total of three months. Elder Slater is from Colorado.
At the begining of the week we met with a very cool, older couple named Julian and Jelien. After we had started the time with a prayer, I asked them if they had any questions about their readings in the Book of Mormon or in the other pamphlets. They said no, but that there was one thing that was troubling them which they needed to speak to us about. Apparently, their younger nephew who goes to one of the private schools nearby their house saw us leaving his uncles house after the completion of one of our times. Soon after the nephew approached his uncle to tell him the the Mormons were the worst bunch of folks there ever were. Wicked lies, such as torture and killings, were all mentioned by the kid. As most people would feel I'm sure, Julian was extremely worried that maybe that's what did go on at our church! He told the boy that the gossip about the Mormons didn't sound too accurate, as he had already had a lesson from the missionaries and it was wonderful. Then he told the boy that he would talk to the Mormons himself and figure it out, also stating that he could do what he wants and let anyone into his house that he pleased (the boy was saying, "Don't ever let them come back!").
When Julian brought these concerns up to us we first called his nephew a liar - I couldn't resist - and then showed him pictures of what a usual church service looks like. There fears eased, they promised that they'd be at church on Sunday. And come they did. For the entire three hours that proclaimed up and down that they would be coming into the church, meaning getting baptized, as soon as possible. They said that church service was great! and that they knew the church to be true. During the elders qourum meeting Julian stood and bore testimony, and so great was his testimony that there was a round of applause from the members! These people are incredible, and it'll be a huge blessing to have them in the church.
Slowly but steadily, the church is growing in the Sabotsy Namehana Branch. This past Sunday we didn't even have enough bread and water to give everyone the Sacrament, there were so many people who showed up! We just got a new Sunday School President, and new Young Mens President, and several priesthood ordinations through, including one Melchezidek priesthood holder. The organization and leadership is shaping up nicely, leaving more room for others to learn to take on their roles in this glorious church. I love being a member of this church which is learning and responsibility based. Just got out of your sophmore year in college? Get ready to be an Elders Quorum President. Gets already dropped off at school? Welcome to the Relief Society Presidency. Often we are not even in the neighborhood of being ready to fill the positions we receive, but when the Lord calls, He prepares as well. Ready or not beforehand, that Lord will bring you up to speed if you are only humble and teachable. He will lead us by the hand if we will just follow. It has been so cool to see recent converts find themselves barely treading water in leadership positions, and then to see them get up in new knowledge and experience, passing and shooting with the rest of the team (waterpolo reference).
Similair things have happened to me often on my mission. Training when I didn't even know the language myself, leading areas when I am the only person in many miles who speaks English, and then taking the role of Lehnhardt translater. This is the last straw, I thought. For a few days before I left Antsirabe, worry and nerves threatened to crush the life out of me. When I finally got to my new area and had to translate for a Branch Presidency meeting, I was positive that the time for my death had come. No longer could I just fake my way through understanding and speaking. The time had come to understand and comprehend every word that's being said. For the majority of my mission before that, I only understood vague ideas when people started into talks or disertations, not really paying attention because the task was just too difficult.
The whole translation business may not be the one for me long term, but it has definitely shown me an interesting side of life and work. I don't always understand everything thats being said, or translate everything I hear with exact perfection. But on the whole, I can play my role as translater every Sunday effectively, because the Lord decided I was ready. One of the most exciting times for me is when I get to translate the Lehnhardts talks and lessons to the congregation. At that point I have no choice but to press on, no time to think, no time to worry. It is quite a think-on-your-feet kind of activity. It is fun to get creative and search for the words and ideas that can properly explain what is being said into my ear. Sometimes no one understands what the lesson is really about, even me. Deep doctrine discussion from the Pearl of Great Price is a treat all its own when being taught to a room full of recent converts and investigators who don't even really remember who Joseph Smith is. But we always make it through, feeling uplifted and strengthened in the end, even if the whole "light of Jesus Christ powers the sun and the rest of the universe" thing is still a bit unclear to the majority of us.
Business, just to ease your worried minds, the SD card only just got sent last P-Day. I hope you guys are all well and nothing terrible bad has occured with any of you.