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!