This week was crazy. For the 4th of July we went to this restaurant at night and get some pizza and asked them to play the star spangled banner and Whitney Houston started singing. It was a sweet moment when we were eating pizza and drinking milkshakes.
Better than that was the most intense story of the transfer. Saint-Michel wasn’t able to get his papers for marriage so he didn’t get baptized last week, that was pretty sad. However, Isidore and Nathalie had everything ready to go to get married on Friday.
Prerequisite knowledge before this story makes sense and you understand the magnitude of this miracle. In Malagasy culture they have cultural weddings which are very important to them. In the specific tribe of Antanosy, for a man to marry a woman he must purchase one cow (about 600,000 Ariary = $200) to give to the woman’s father in gratitude for his wife’s hand in marriage. In some countries this is similar to a dowery. I will refer this Malagasy culture as “Fomba Gasy.”
Anyways, so Thursday evening, we got a text from Isidore saying that there was a big problem with their marriage. We quickly ran over to his house which was pretty close and talked with him. He arrived first and then his wife wasn’t there, so he went and got her. We sat in their house and talked. Previously, when we had taught Isidore and Nathalie about the law of chastity they decided to get legally married to keep god’s commandments because it would probably take them more than 2 years to save up money to buy a cow and get married fomba gasy. They still wanted to do fomba gasy because that’s their culture, but they also wanted to get baptized and they didn’t think that it would be a problem. When Nathalie was inviting her family to come to their marriage, her father found out and told her that if she got married legally before she got married fomba gasy they would disown her. Going back to Thursday evening, we talked with them and decided to go out together and talk with her father. They live 45 minutes drive into the countryside and we called one of our taxi buddies to take us out there. When we got out there we went into their house and the Zoky (Elder/Father) called all of his kindred from surrounding palm tree wooden houses. We all sat in meet with the father, Isidore, Nathalie and their family. They all knew why we were there. We asked if we could start with a prayer and share a spiritual thought before we wanted to talk. I shared Deuteronomy 6:7 which talked about parents teaching their children to keep the commandments of God and we explained the law of Chastity and God’s commandments concerning legal marriage. Elder Jackson explained that we weren’t trying to diminish fomba gasy, but we were trying to help Isidore and Nathalie follow the commandments of God. Well the Zoky didn’t really accept. He said to all of us if they get married the ‘white people way’ before you get married the ‘malagasy way,’ it means that you respect white people more than you respect your own culture. That was a pretty big stab to the heart, we were losing confidence that we could get permission from Zoky to get Isidore and Nathalie married.
Well, the mother wasn’t there so they called her on the phone and Zoky was talking with her. He said to her that he wasn’t agreeing to them being married legally before fomba gasy was completed. He handed the phone to Nathalie, she talked. She handed the phone to her brother-in-law who talked to Nathalie’s mom and he went outside while he talked to her. He was on our side the whole time and voiced his opinion in helping them keep the commandments of God. When he came back into the house a few minutes later he walked right up to me and handed me the phone, she wanted to talk to me. I tried to give it to Elder Jackson, but for she wanted to talk to me. She railed me in their native tongue for about 3 minutes straight on how we were trying to make the ‘white people culture’ about malagasy culture. In my most respectful way, I explained to her the law of Chastity and how we honor the law and government and that we are to follow the government and Elder Jackson reminded me to promise them blessings that their children would receive. In a calm manner, at the close of my conversation with her, I asked: “Will you allow your daughter to keep the commandments of God and be legally married?” She gave me a five word response: “Omeo ny telefonina amin’ny Zoky” which means ‘give the phone to Zoky.’ I was hoping that I didn’t offend her in any way. Elder Jackson and I are stressed out of my mind while Zoky is talking with his wife. Dramatically, he sets the telephone down and says, after the longest 10 seconds of my life, “Mahazo”. Which means they are ‘allowed’ to get married. It was the biggest miracle of all time because the entire time we were discussing with Zoky he was so against them getting married, but something touched the mother that helped her convince Zoky to allow them to get married.
Friday morning Isidore and Nathalie got married and Saturday afternoon they got baptized! It was the biggest miracle. As we were sitting in the baptismal program singing hymns, I looked and just saw Isidore and Nathalie with the two biggest grins on their faces so excited to get baptized. I remembered all the changes they’ve made in their lives to get to this point and I was so happy for them. It was a miraculous week.