Monday, May 30, 2011

Sign Language

Dad, sorry to hear about yours and Brady's trials of surviving without Mom. I remember well my first week in country, when for the first time in my life I had to put more thought into my meals than just going to Taco Bell or buying some chicken breast at Walmart. Elder Horn and I went to the local Shoprite and did some shopping. As we were walking around, all of the different types of food felt so foreign to me that my mind kinda shut down and I decided that I had no idea what to buy. So I asked Elder Horn and he said that I should just buy some cereal or something. So, that first week I just ended up buying an excessive amount of corn-flakes and expensive, weird-tasting milk. I'm not gonna lie, it pretty much sucked.

We had some more baptisms this week, which is incredible as always. Things can get to you sometimes, so the baptisms that we have here are in some ways even more rewarding than baptisms I've had in other areas. Right after me and Elder Nash had finished baptizing our people, we were standing in a hall-way in between the font room and the restrooms and we shared a funny moment as we high-fived and had a mini-rejoicing. Elder Nash added, "Man this is what makes all the hard times worth it." Ahhh, so true. Those who were baptized are named Mahira, Cynthia, and Sania. These are all younger people that have really progressed with incredible rapidity in the gospel. We had a great turn out to the baptism and everyone was really excited to welcome in the new members. The best part of all, however, was to see the complete and starting changes of these people's countenances. From these young people, we have already started branching out to others in the families and neighborhoods. The work moves on.

Today transfers are coming out and everyone is ready to see just exactly what will happen. President Donnelly told all the Zone Leaders about a week ago that there were some major changes coming to the mission shortly. They are as follows: Zone Leaders would be companions with other Zone Leaders; Zone Leaders would be getting cars; and every companionship in the mission would be getting simple I-Pads to help in the visual aid department. These are all crazy and wild and new, and we're all waiting to see what will actually happen.

Being a District Leader is kinda like being a section leader in choir, or maybe even the senior member of a gang that has a lot of new jump-ins. In some ways it doesn't actually mean anything at all, but in others you find yourself beset with the all too-real mantle of leading someone, even if the number of these certain someones may be somewhat small. To drive this point home we had a District Leader training meeting this past week which brought a lot of very new things to the forefront of my mind. Things like doing more than just taking stats, than just doing baptismal interviews, than just conducting the weekly District meetings. At this point there are some tid-bits of leading people, in truth, and not just managing. The meeting we had was excellent and, leadership principles aside, highly uplifting.

A week and a half ago, after we had finished teaching English class at the church, Elder Collins and I were walking down the hall talking about the ends and outs of hypnotism (it's a long story lol). We were stopped in the hall be one very loving and wonderful brother named Jules. Jules is pretty famous in our mission because he is first, completely deaf, and second, completely awesome. He always greets all of the missionaries that he knows with a huge hug and smile. His testimony is pretty much second to none and you will never see him show a speck of sadness or depression. Frere Jules makes the most of everything he has in life. Everytime he meets up with someone new, he teaches them as much sign language as he can in whatever way he can. The first couple of things he usually does is to teach the new aquaintance "I love you" "I know the Church is true" "You are awesome" and the way to say the name of the church. If you didn't speak Malagasy than you'd have a difficult time learning the sing language, because he can only mouth words and make sounds in Malagasy. Anyways, he decided that I learned how to say the name of the church really quickly, so he would be coming to our Sacrement meeting so that I could translate for him....yikes.

When he arrived the next Sunday, the learning and tanslating started pretty quickly. I would have to write down words for him or mouth them for him so that he could read my lips, and then he'd teach them to me and Elder Nash. By the end of Sacrament meeting I was actually able to translate some pretty decently in-depth phrases without having to rely on Jules' lip reading abilities. During every song I would point at the words in the hymn book and Elder Nash and Jules would sign out all the words to the song. Before Sacrament I remember thinking it's gonna be a nightmare, and by the end Elder Nash and I were so pumped about learning more sign language and working with Jules a lot more.

Till next week...

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I love these people

This past week was really something special. There were a lot of very humorous times, some very frustrating ones, and even a few incredible ones that make up, in my mind, the vast majority of a good mission experience. I feel like the vast majority of the good memories come from the times that touch your spirit the most.

One of the most crazy things that has ever happened to me on my mission occurred just this week. As Elder Nash and I were setting up an appointment with one of our investigators, who is actually getting baptized this week, a man shouted at us in Malagasy, "Hey you better get out of here right now! You guys are baby-stealers! Get out of here!" And then he repeated this sentiment in English, which was pretty strange. The guy I was talking to said that this guy was way drunk and that we should probably get out of there. So we told them goodbye and started walking swiftly away towards one of our favorite stores, because the guy was actually coming after us. I turned around when we were almost at the store to see that this same drunk man was now following us, shouting obscenities in English, being followed by a large crowd of on-lookers. As soon as I saw this, I knew we were in for some some fun.

Stopping us outside of the store, the man came right up to within 6 inches of my face, screaming his head off about how we were baby-stealers and that we weren't wanted in Madagascar anymore. He raged that the Malagasy people weren't going to be screwed around with like us Americans apparently had in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he began shouting about the death of Bin Laden, saying that he wouldn't let the same thing happen here. After he said that our God wasn't wanted here, and that the Malagasy people already have their own god, I began wondering what had driven this man to such extremes. I now understand that he was a Muslim who was very disgruntled about the death of Bin Laden. The entire time he was screaming at us, a huge crowd gathered to see what all the racket was, and we just kept our faces straight not saying anything.

When he was done he stormed off, wobbling all over the place. Then the guy fell straight down on his face on top of a crowd of children. He just straight up dropped! The entire crowd died with laughter. Interesting eh?

Last Friday we were teaching a family at the house of one of my favorite members in Madagascar, Sr Silvy, and we had just begun talking about baptism. The Spirit was so strong and the non-members in the room all expressed their want to be baptized, but also expressed some of their concerns about it. All of them were resolved, and when the last person had given a comment, their was a short pause to let everone reflect upon what we had just talked about. It was at this time that Sr Silvy turned to the mother of the investigator family and said, "Hey girl, you can't get baptized if you're still chewing tobacco, like we did last time we joined a church." Everyone had a good laugh at this and we discovered that the two women's relationship had originally been started when they were investigating another church. That was just a funny/spiritual moment that my area seems to be full of ;D.

On Sunday we had a huge amount of investigators come to Sacrament Meeting. Most of those who came were first-timers whom we had taught for a very long time before that. This was a tremendous joy to finally see all of our work finally paying off. One of those who came was named Daniel. Daniel is an extremely humble man, in both character and circumstance. His wife died about two years ago and since then he has been stuck in a pretty huge rut. No real work to speak off, and no real purpose to his life until now that he's found the gospel. Anyways, him and his little girl came to church yesterday after walking for some 40-50 minutes through the city streets and muddy rice-paddy paths. The most touching part of all of this is that he and his little girl had no shoes on their feet at all. Daniel had borrowed a dirty white-shirt from one of his friends and the rest of his daily outfit was exactly the same...because he has no other clothes. And did this wonderful man show even a moment of embarrassment at his poor state? Even as others come in designer clothes and cars? Not for even a moment.

I love that man, and I love these people. These last five months are going to be the best, and the quickest. Therefore, some of the saddest. It will really be a major cut in my life to leave these people.

This past week Elder Nash and I have worked as hard as we could to really get the work moving here in Ankorandrano. A new goal we have in the mission is to contact 80 people per day as we are going out and working. This comes to forty contacts a missionary, and lemme tell ya, it works amazingly! We were only able to do it and actually keep count for one day this week, because we passed out every single one of our contact cards on that day. But for all the rest of the days in the week we had people coming up to us on the streets and asking us for the invitations to church, or just simply wanting to talk to us. This new method of finding builds up the friendship and trust that the people of an area have with the missionaries. So now our schedule is completely one hundred percent full and we plan on printing out upwards of 500 contact cards/invitations in this coming week.

I love you guys and pray for you. Miss ya.
Elder Cryer

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's been a busy week for us. To begin, every Wednesday we teach English at the church for about fifty people from all sorts of different areas in Tana. Some of them are members, but most of them are not. I wish I had some kind of training in teaching English before I came here, but I just make do with what I know...which sure isn't much! If anyone has any advice for me, aka Clarissa, then they should feel free to send that on over ;P.

As we were waiting for a time to start at one of our very diligent investigators' houses, the conversation was running to an end and we just had nothing to do. Everyone was just starting to look around akwardly, but there was some music playing softly from one of the patched up radios in the house, so I just started to bobbing my head to the tunes, searching for something to say. A couple of the kids in the room started laughing at the vazaha dancing. It was way fun and totally broke the ice nicely. I taught them some of my infamous stake-dance moves and Nash and I did a freakin-sweet impression of some Malagasy dance maneuvers. I am always going to be of the opinion that when in doubt, just doing a little jig might do the trick.

So we found an absolutely incredible new family this week (along with other families, of course) that in my opinion has some real promise. Nash and I were hoping to find the miracle of some mature men that might have huge families that would want to receive the gospel. As we were walking along, I heard a "Bonjour!" ringing from one of the surrounding yards. I looked around for a second, trying to find the person who had said it, when they shouted "Bonjour" again. We yelled manahoana back and went and talked to them. The owner of the surrounding houses and the leader of the clan was named Selestin. His family just so happened to be huge, receptive to the message, and ready to act upon it! They understood everything we had to teach them, felt the Spirit at the revealing of restored truths, and even asked deep questions that showed how much they understood. By the end of the lesson the entire neighborhood had crowded into the floorless hut and the Spirit was so strong. To be true, we only taught them about how God is our loving Father in Heaven and about the importance of Families, but you could tell that the things we talked upon them definitely impressed them intensely.

I love finding people like that and teaching lessons that are similarly spiritually-charged. When the Lord promises to show His elect if you go forward with faith, then I know that He will fulfill His promise.

We ended up getting dogged a lot this past week, but still seemed to pull off a good showing stat-wise. Not like that all! But we do have to report the stats so I still have to give them some kind of weight, ya know?

Dad, your Mother's Day talk made me emotional. The news about Guy the Dog is very sad. Still praying for you guys. And I got the package! All of its contents are already gone, but it was super fantastic.

Elder Cryer

Monday, May 9, 2011

Man, it was great to talk to you guys yesterday. It seemed a little bit weird, but after a bit, it seemed like everthing was almost back to normal. Apparently it takes a lot longer than two years to get totally out of whack with the people you love
the most. And that is you guys for me...

It's been a quiet week, my companion was sick, but he's better now. Here's a story I don't think I've ever explained well enough:

Malagasy houses are really something else. On occasion you'll find a house that is pretty ok....not American by any means, but all the things that you would generally assume should exist in a house are there. Most of the time though, these houses are extremely humble. For most of the people we teach, they live in little mud-brick huts that have no floor and only patchy tin-roofs to keep out the rain. Those tin-roofs are really something special when the rain is coming down hard. There have been times when my companion and I have literally shouted at the top off our lungs to teach the lesson, and we are not even partially heard over the racket of the rain on the roof. You wouldn't believe how loud the rain gets!

A lot of times when the rain is really being mischivious, we just end up walking around from appointment to appointment, trying to teach one of our investigators that has a grass roof or something. We often just end up being wet and dissapointed. That's when we usually go to a snack shack to wait out the worst of the rain. I love comfort food :).

Most of the time Malagasy furniture consists of a large, shoddy wooden frame with a lot of clothes and different, random types of textiles on it. This is their bed that everyone in the entire house sleeps on. That's right - the mother, father, children, and the grandparents if they are still kickin'.

On occasion there will be a couple of chairs that we can sit on, but a lot of the time there isn't any. So we either take a spot on the already crowded bed, or just squat in the middle of the floor. When I first came in country, the squat position was painful for more than a couple of seconds and pretty much impossible for me. This position has now become quite relaxing for me. Sometimes though, the "squat" really does work on your ankles if you do it for a long period of time. At that point I just sit my bum down on the dirt/mud floor and accept that fact that my pants are going to be dirty for the rest of the day.

In general, living in a tent is probably far more comfortable and luxurious than living in most Malagasy dwellings. But despite these poor conditions, the Malagasy people are hardy. Every morning they get up and figure out how they are going to keep on surviving - with a smile on their faces, in fact.

If we could all live that way..... From what the scriptures say over and over, the poor shall inherit the kingdom of God, and it will be harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The moral of this story is: let's all be poor! Lol jkjkjk. The real moral is that despite what our earthly riches may or may not be, we need to always have our actual treasures in heaven, for there too shall our hearts be.

Well that's all I have for right now. Transfers will probably prove to be interesting this week.

Love you guys,
Elder Cryer

Monday, May 2, 2011

"I know that God taught me"

It's been a good week. One especially fantastic thing which occurred this week was when I saw our young small pox friend...alive! Me and Elder McIntire were on splits and teaching a brand-new group of people in an area which we have just started tracting in. About half-way through the time we saw a little boy that had a somewhat different looking nose - as if it was just recently slimming down after an extended period of time being swollen up - and his scalp looked odd. It was then that I realized I was looking at the small boy which I had blessed back two weeks ago. It appeared that the blisters had spread to cover his entire head - minus his face - and then were stopped, there was a line where the healing had begun. The blisters were scabbing and falling off and his head looked horrible, though considerably better. It definitely seems like there will be some scarring on his scalp, but at least he is alive. I would assume that he got the vaccine or something, which can do incredible amounts of good if received soon after the virus starts it work. The one thing we did counsel them to do was to go to the hospital as fast as possible, borrowing whatever money they needed to do it. Seems like that and a hefty boost from God have been at work.

Me and Elder Nash did try to express our affinity for performing by serenading to some random dude on the highway. The way it started was by the man asking us where we were going. We said that we were heading to Andravohangy Amboniny - he asked if we were going to take a taxi, we said yes. He shook his head knowingly, as if having some sort of a private joke in his head. I then said jokingly in English, "Well are you gonna loan us your magic-carpet or something?" Going on right with the beat, Elder Nash started into "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. Without questioning what was going on, I joined him for the next line, "shining, simmering, splendid." Then we broke into the whole song, going together till Jasmin's part came up, and then I went on a solo while Nash did an interpretive dance routine and chimed in with the corresponding back-up for Aladdin's part. The man had no idea what we were saying, but he seemed to enjoy it anyway. Eat your heart out "Book of Mormon: The Musical".

This past Saturday we had the baptism of Frere Elie, Souer Hiando, and Souer Holy. The wedding of Sr Holy did precede the baptism and then Elder Nash and I spent the vast majority of our time outside of teaching appointments preparing for the baptism the coming Saturday. In stark contrast to the last time we had a baptism in Ankorandrano, there were loads of members that showed up to give their support and well wishes. We had a full house - standing room only. I was able to do the baptism of Fr Elie, so that had a pretty special meaning for me. Both Frere Elie and Sr Holy gave really excellent, mature testimonies towards the end of the baptism. The ten year old Sr Hiando gave a short, funny, and quite frank one. In all, the meat of it encompassed just one sentence, "I know that God taught me, and not the missionaries." Well said! Those are certainly the things I like to hear.

I wasn't able to see them all receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost because I was off in another companionship's ward giving someone an interview for baptism.

This past week was really excellent for the work. Over twenty new investigators were found and that same number ended up coming to church. This is easily the largest number of investigators I've ever had in any of my Tana areas. 20+ was somewhat normal for my area, Ambohimena, in Antsirabe. For the entire past two months that I've spent in Ankorandrano we've been trying to attain province like stats here in one of the harder down-town areas. Now we only have to convert these things into baptisms!

Well anyways, I'm out of things to say. Most missionaries find that as they start moving towards the end of their missions there just seems to be less and less to write about.
Anyways, love you paps, love you mum. Prayin' for ya.
Elder Cryer

Happy news today - it is always a good day when international terrorism takes a major hit such as that. Hip-hip-hooray.