Monday, September 26, 2011

Every chair and bench completely full

The days are slowly drawing themselves to a close with significantly more finality than they have before. I'm enjoying my mission as much if not more than I ever have, but it seems as though my interest in writing big emails is coming to an end. My life of dealing with the day to day just seems regular and familiar now.

This week I finally fulfilled a dream ever since I first saw pictures of the giant Malagasy Baobab trees. I always wanted to see a baobab, to touch a baobab, to even....oh yes...hug a baobab. It wasn't exactly huge or anything, I did in fact wrap my arms and legs around that strange, twisted tree and DREAMS CAN COME TRUE.

The work here is still going well. We're expecting a couple of baptisms on the 15th of October. The people who got baptized at the beginning of this month are still very diligent, thankfully, and we're starting to see some recent converts who have gone less active come back to church. This past Sunday I got to translate for a member from Utah who doing a small visit here with Rio Tinto. He was also here over two years ago, so it was really neat for him to see the tremendous growth that the branch has seen since that time. As he said to me, two years ago there were only 5 members total! He was in a bit of shock when he walked into the building to see every chair and bench completely full.

Dad, the insect repellent in the sock thing is a good idea, but I nor anyone else has insect repellent. We're all dealing with cutting the fleas out. The locals are used to it, they handle it easily.

My time is a bit short today - farewell until next week. My shoes have holes in them now. Hopefully my kicks will make it.

I miss you guys and love you bunches.

Elder Cryer

Monday, September 19, 2011

So goes the work~

This past week was great! My companion, Elder Rasoloniaina, and I are exhausted every day and working hard. So we have this one man named Leonar and his wife who have been learning for about two months from the missionaries. Leonar is about 85, and reminds me of a Malagasy version of the karate master from 'Karate Kid'. I just think they look alot alike ;P. Leonar was born a terribly long time ago in a place called Farafangana, which is very far from civilization. He is from the Tandroy tribe, and therefore fluent in Atandroy, but fortunately also speaks a bit of Marina.

Our lessons with Leonar are always interesting, as well as entertaining, affairs. He complains near constantly about his eyes, and the fact that reading the Scriptures is hard because his glasses suck, and even when he bought new glasses he still says that his eyes are bad so he can't really read that much. He also claims that if his eyes were better, then he'd be able to stand more of the dialect we use. During our lessons, he is always excited to talk or tell us about something...even when we are talking. As soon as he starts off rambling, we finish saying whatever we were going to say quite rapidly. He enjoys learning from us, and coming to church. He seems to be learning the doctrine little by little, so maybe the Spirit really is doing the bulk of the teaching - which is as it should be.

Leonar and his wife are currently waiting on their marriage, which is on its way eventually. Yesterday when we were teaching him and his wife about the temple, he asked when he and his wife could go to the temple. We said that there would probably be a temple here in a few years, so if when he and his wife got baptized all they would have to do is wait a bit. To this he said saucily, "If we're even alive at that point. Geeheehee!" Leonar is as witty an old man as they come.

Finding efforts here in Fort Dauphin are very different than what they were in other areas. For instance when I went out tracting in my other areas we usually wouldn't get let in all that often (as is to be expected with tracting), but when we could get in the door the people were usually pretty diligent. Here in Fort Dauphin everyone and their dog lets you into the house, but that does not mean they are ready to receive the message. A lot of times they are laying around and other times they just want to hear what we have to say but have no intention of following the principles found in the lessons. So far we haven't actually found anyone ready to progress through tracting, but we press on none the less :D.

I'm salama tsara as of the moment (healthy), though the fleas continue to make attacks upon our very lives. This last week I found a flea inside of my foot. I was just looking at my foot one night and boom! I see this weird looking growth right under my big toe. I asked an elder if a flea had crawled into my foot - and he should know because at that time he was in fact pulling TWO of them out of his own foot - and he confirmed my fears. I sanitized a knife and finger-nail clippers and sliced it out.

My week has been good, I suppose, though the low turnout to church was pretty depressing for both companionships. I was told by a couple investigators who are Protestant that this past sunday there was "Fandraisana (Receiving of the Sacrement)" so even though they are planning on getting baptized in our church, they had to go and take the Sacrament at their old place. We're going to have to go back and teach on the subject "Receiving a Testimony for Yourself". But ahh well. So goes the work of the missionary.

Well I have less than 60 days left at this point. AHHH! Scary and exciting all at the same time. I'm super excited to see you guys; thanks for wishing me a happy birthday.

Love you!
Till next time,
Elder Cryer

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In the ocean

Sorry to be emailing a day late, but you already know of the problems we have with the Internet connection here. My companion especially is having problems because he has never used a computer before. Please tell Brady that I'd love to go with him to Comic-Con. I don't know if I would be wearing a costume to this thing or not , but I'll sure try to get into the full spirit of the thing. Also please tell Sarah that I wrote her a birthday letter and have been trying to send it for a couple of weeks now, but still no luck with the Post Office here. I'll probably just end up scanning the letter and sending it as an email when the actual day comes. Please tell her sorry for me!

So the biggest news of the past week is obviously the baptism. In terms of awesomeness, I'd probably place it equal to the gigantic 40-plus person baptism that took place in Antsirabe a year ago. That baptism was cool for its sheer size, and also for the General Authority that was in attendance. For this little baptism here in Fort Dauphin we had 7 baptized, but it was made special because of the fabulous people whom were dunked, and the unusual circumstances of having to baptize in the ocean.

The waves were over our heads. There were a couple of times that all of the Malagasys went completely under, Elder Cryer being almost totally swallowed in the surf, and Elder Peaden alone with his 6'2 frame being able to keep most of his head dry. Each person that got baptized seemed to be unaware of the giant waves that were coming. All of the women had to be picked up and elevated when each wave would come so that their baptism was not just one long process of being underwater the whole time! Even the older women didn't seem to want to jump up for themselves. For the two little girls who got baptized (twins, so cute) I had to carry them in my arms and literally hold them up the entire time. We tried to see if they could stand on the actual sand bottom, but the waves that were hitting us would have swept them away.

Another challenge, but fun part of the baptism, was that I was the one who had the baptismal prayer memorized. For each of the baptisms I spoke the words with those who were baptizing. It was fun, and exciting, and a little bit scary when one of the baptizees would go under water and not come back up when we wanted them to. I'm thankful that the waves weren't higher. So that, and the wonderful experience of baptizing in the ocean are definitely things to be grateful for. We have another baptism coming up at the end of this month, and at that time we might just try and do it in a river or something. There is one place where a giant lake meets the ocean called Ankoba, and the water there is very calm. Maybe that'll be the trick....

When it came time to head back to land, we all started trudging through the tumultuous water. Unfortunately, and simultaneously fortunately in many respects, a giant wave came that engulfed us all, so I stroked my arms, kicked my legs, and body-boarded that sucker. I cruised into land, eventually getting taken under and flipped over, and finally back-stroked to where the water was a bit less crazy. I love my mission.

Walking back to the church after the actual baptism was over was tough. My feet were covered in scratchy sand, I hadn't brought a towel to begin with, and long-sleeve shirts aren't too comfortable when wet. The testimony portion of the meeting was good, if a bit humorous. The first person to bear testimony included a portion at the end that was...not bad....but maybe timed a bit wrong for sharing with the congregation. The woman told of her old and past sins, saying that because of the church she didn't do them anymore. And then, every one of the other baptizees followed suit. It was really funny when the two little girls said, "I used to not do my homework but now I do!" and "I used to whine all the time but now I don't!"

In conclusion, I know this church is true. I love this church, and I love my mission more than anything.
Till next time,

Elder Cryer

Monday, September 5, 2011

Full to the brim

What a week it has been! I'm sorry to hear about the horrible heat and dryness that ya'll Texans are having to put up with. Here in Fort Dauphin the weather is beautiful every single day, never that hot and never that cold. I kinda feel like I'm in Hawaii, minus all tourists that I remember crowding the beaches while I was there. A couple days ago we had strong winds buffeting us all day - sand flying into our faces, getting in our hair, blowing into our mouths when we tried to talk. This was not exactly pleasant, so Fort Dauphin doesn't quite qualify as perfect, but it's definitely the closest I've ever seen during the past two years.

The branch here is growing at a rate which is not to believed! Even though missionaries have only be here for ten months, the attendance is already over most old wards in Tana. President Jacko, who came to visit and set apart new Melchezedik priesthood holders, said it best, "Even though Tolagnaro (Fort D) is so new, the priesthood here is as strong as it is in my home ward, Manakambahiny, which has been around for quite some time." This past Sunday we had 7 new Melchezedik priesthood holders officially enter the Elders Quroum. Almost all of the guys who received it work with us day after day - going on splits, leading us around, etc. They are all way great guys, every single one of them. Last Friday we even saw Frederick and Firazana marching off down the road to do some tracting because, well, they wanted too. Even with no name tag on it would've been hard to say those weren't missionaries to the truest extent going out to do the work of the Lord.

We're thinking that they will have to split the branch within the next year, just as soon as we can add more potential leaders to the ranks. Already the warehouse which doubles as our meetinghouse is full to the brims and we're having trouble placing people. It would be way cool to see the split actually occur, but I won't see it.

People understand the spoken version of the official dialect (marena, or ambony andro) but reading it in the Bible of Book of Mormon is another story entirely. They just don't understand so many of the words in there. We try to get them to read, and they do, but in the end they are just sounding out a bunch of big words they don't understand anyways. It's a bit frustrating - not gonna lie - and more than anything just surreal that me as a vazaha has to teach Malagasys their own language. All of these translating things aren't necessarily bad, and more than anything I suppose I'm just thankful for the opportunity for a new challenge. I'll stop complaining.

Regardless of the differences in dialect that we have to deal with here, and the obvious lack of education, these people are truly God's elect. They are so ready for the gospel it is almost not to be believed. And remember that this is coming from a guy who's already worked in the other areas of one of the highest baptizing missions in the world. Teaching is the easy part. Getting them married is still a challenge, but so long as they are coming to church and still have a desire to be baptized, it's worth it.

I know the people of Madagascar, despite their incredible poverty, were probably in many cases great leaders before this life; chosen spirits that fought for the cause of Jesus Christ when it was not yet certain who the final victor would be. I believe this because there is no other way to explain the incredible progression of these people in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not know why God put so many prepared people in one such poor place in the world, but I am still extremely thankful for this time I have to be with them. The members are so new to the gospel, they are constantly learning

I do feel a lot better, as I got some sort of anti-biotic from Tana. President Jacko (the second counselor in the mission presidency) brought a bunch of stuff down for us this past Friday. Whenever someone from the mission or stake comes down to visit the branch they usually end up hauling whatever supplies we need as well. So I got some medicine that seems to be working pretty well.

Just got done negotiating prices with a sword maker. We got the price down to 30 dollars for two swords. I love you guys and pray for you. Please pray for me as well. I'm in a scary part of the world right now, and a one where people dislike their clothes.

My shoes are on the verge of death. My extra shoes were stolen. I think the Docs will make it through to the 18th of November. There are millions of terrible fleas. Some get into your skin, burrow and lay eggs. Our house walls seem to be infested with woodworms. They are so loud, especially at night. I'm pretty sure that someone tried to break into our house last night.

I'm with 2 native elders and Elder Peadon, love 'em. 7 baptisms this Saturday, in the ocean!

Yall be good now, ya hear!

Elder Cryer