#69 Elder Haslam, Itema & A Christian Multi-Family Home Evening

Week 69.1So this week was the first full week with my new companion Elder Haslam!  He just finished training and so that makes me his ‘mission mom’ (2nd Companion).  He’s from Bountiful, Utah, loves rockclimbing, hiking, playing the piano (he’s really good), and making music.  He’s 18 years old, he’s the oldest in his family of 7 (2 brothers and 2 sister), and he went to the Ghana MTC before he came to the mission field.  E. HaslamHe has the best ties in the mission, is super positive, and a happy guy that is ready to do some missionary work.  He got what he’s wanted because we’ve worked super hard in St. Pierre for the past week.  I seriously don’t think I’ve been more tired on my mission than I have this past week.  We’ve had some cool experiences these past few days.

Our progressing investigator Itema is such a stud.  He’s 24 years old, lives alone and has had a pretty rough life.  About a year ago he drove his motorcycle off the road because he was smoking and drinking alcohol that night.  Both of his legs were pretty damaged and he can’t really play any sports until another six months have passed.  However, if you were to look at him, you would never tell that he had an accident.  Week 69.5As a result of this, he’s been looking for some friends and the members have really been accepting him into the branch.  On our lesson on Saturday, we taught him about the Book of Mormon and more about the restoration of the gospel and what our purpose is in life.  We read 3 Nephi 27:19-21 and we asked him what he thought his purpose was.  He responded that he needed to repent and be baptized.  As the spirit directed, we invited him to prepare to get baptized.  He committed and we set a date for December 30th.  I think he could make this date and if he is determined he will be able to.  We gave him as homework to read 1 Nephi 8 – Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, and when he came to church on Sunday he had already read it and loved it!  He’s one of our best investigators.

Week 69.4
The former Elders of St. Pierre

Just yesterday night, we had a lesson set up with this guy that Elder Alvarez and Elder Juchau tracted into last Wednesday and neither Elder Haslam nor I knew him.  Upon arrival at his house, we were guided by a kind neighbor through his gate on to a backdoor into the house.  There were a bunch of chairs set up and we took a seat.  We thought we were just going to teach Fabrice, but we didn’t meet him until some eleven other people came.  Before it began we were talking to this one couple who seemed to be around 40 years and they seemed like the head honcho’s of the group.  We got to explain a little bit about our church and what we believed in, but then it seemed like the head honcho wasn’t too interested because they believe that they, themselves are the church.  They said that they don’t need a church to save them, but just their own conversion and the Holy Spirit.  I wanted to ask them, out of curiosity, if they do baptism, but we had already begun the what I would call “multi-family home evening”.

We sang some Christian rock songs and some of the people just started slowly dancing with their eyes closed and mixing in a few ‘amens, thank you lord, and hallelujahs.’  I think this is how they thought the spirit was felt, but in my experiences I’ve never felt the spirit that way.  After the song, some of the people in the group were going to Métropole (Paris, France) so a few prayers were said on behalf of them.  When they pray, some people keep their eyes open and look around, so you really have to pay attention to what they are saying and take some hints from the people around you to see if they close their eyes and bow their heads.  It’s also not really clear when they begin praying so it was like they would be talking and then you would notice some phrases that are directed to God and then realize that they are praying.  They also mumble a lot of stuff when they aren’t the person praying.  I couldn’t tell if they were repeating the words of the person saying the prayer, or they were just whispering their own prayer, but when someone said something they liked, they would say a medium-voiced ‘amen’ in agreeance.  They shared a bunch of scriptures which they knew off the top of their heads which was quite impressive and most of the scriptures focused on the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and personal conversion.  Their mindset was this:  They had seen that many churches had become corrupted as a result of the great apostasy and had just given up on going to church, so they kinda just formed their own little group.  They call themselves Christians with no specific denomination, they read the bible together, pray, and sing together.

Week 69.3
Brother Guyto in St. Pierre

They took turns sharing their conversion stories and the guy who was sitting across from us shared a really great change in his life.  When he was twelve years old he began smoking cigarettes, and at about thirteen he moved over to marijuana, and by sixteen he was hooked on cocaine.  He said that until he really prayed to God when he was about twenty, he didn’t know God existed .  When he prayed, he felt the power of the Holy Ghost which changed his life.  He’s around 27 years old, has a wife and kids, a good career, looks really clean and just a great guy.  We sang some more Christian rock and ended with a prayer.  They invited us back next Monday and said that we could bring friends, so we might bring some members, but we gotta find some that are really strong and willing to come to something like this.  This was an excerpt from my journal.  The young couple that I mentioned earlier are really cool.  We are going to talk to them more next week and hopefully go and visit with them and start teaching them.  We are kinda using this as a finding activity and a lot of the people were interested in us.  We’ll talk to them more next week and see how it all works out.  But, it was kind of a weird experience.

Personal Letter Excerpt:  So for Mauritius, if we go there, we will stay there because Reunion has a policy that you can stay for 3 months in every six months without a visa.  January 19th is our 3 month date and we have to be out of the country by that time and we can’t go back to Reunion until six months from October is up.  So we will probably be in Mauritius until we get back to Madagascar.  Hopefully it is just 3 months in Reunion, 3 months in Mauritius, and 18 months in Madagascar.  That would be a pretty good mission for me.

 

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#68 Thanksgiving, Zone Conference & Transfers

Thanksgiving FeastWell this week was fantastic.  I’m all hyped up for missionary work because we had Zone Conference and interviews yesterday.  But last Thursday we had a pretty awesome Thanksgiving and it was all thanks to the incredible senior couple we have Elder and Sister Boyle.  They are the most loving and caring people I have ever met and the hours of service they give for us, is just their un-ending love.  We all helped out by bringing some stuff for Thanksgiving, but Sister Boyle and a few of the missionaries did most of the cooking while all those who were learning French were doing the mini-MTC.  Thanksgiving DinnerLunch came around and I felt like I was back at home in America.  There was stuffing and chicken and whipped cream topped jell-o, and home-baked dinner rolls, mashed-potatoes and gravy and just everything that you would think of when you get ready for Thanksgiving.  To end it all off, we had pumpkin and apple pie.  You don’t really understand how wonderful they are, but they are the greatest and your life will be better if you have the chance to meet them.

So after a hard week of tracting and finding a bunch of people, we had some success.  After the weeks end, us four missionaries brought 3 less-actives to church and 2 investigators.  It was super awesome to see the branch work with them and just accept them right into their group.  It was so cool also to see some of the experiences with tracting and how they are really paying off.

with Fr. Ivaha, branch mission leader
Fr. Ivaha at his restaurant (Branch Mission Ldr)

On Sunday evening we left with a full day of tracting ahead of us.  It wasn’t going too well for the first few hours.  As culture is in La Reunion, Sunday is family day in which they usually go to a park or the beach and have a picnic, so usually most of the people are out on Sundays.  The bummer thing is that most people don’t want to talk to two white guys dressed in their Sunday best in front of all their family and extended family, so we just went and knocked some apartments that looked like they had people in them.

It wasn’t our best idea and we thought it didn’t pay off until around 7pm when we knocked a door and this energetic older woman and her husband came out and just wanted to talk!  They eventually invited us in and we talked about their lives and their kids and we had a great time getting to know them.  They are both Réunionnaise, but the wife is white and the husband is Indian descent.  The cultures here are seriously so mashed up together, that I think I’ve seen every combination of race possible to see on the earth.  Anyways, after a little bit they asked what we do here in La Reunion and we had a chance to share about the restoration.  We opened with a prayer and began explaining the apostasy and the need for a restoration.  They have been Catholics all their lives and so they knew most of the stuff about prophets and apostles.  I don’t know if they didn’t understand us or they are just very open people, but they accepted the apostasy really well and agreed to it and the prophet Joseph Smith.  We told them to read the pamphlet and it would be a lot more clear.  We are going back to them this Sunday night and it’s going to be great because they were really sincere and are some of the kindest people.

Fr. Jeankatt's family, Sr. Desvignes & Ravy
Soiree with Fr. Jeankatt’s family and Sr. Desvignes.  The mother is less-active, but came to church on Sunday.  Ravy, the little boy is still not baptized and one of the investigators at church.

We had Zone Conference yesterday and President Foote always makes them the best.  He told us so many stories about his mission and ways that he found people when he was in Paris, France on his mission.  He is such a legend, on his mission he baptized 32 people.  I was really surprised to hear that especially because he was serving in a very Catholic and first world mission in France.  For the most part of it we brainstormed with President Foote about ways that we could find new investigators — like service, branch activities, picnics w/members, practicing teaching members the 1st discussion & having them invite friends to attend, and, of course, better ways to tract.  It was very enlightening and is getting me hyped to improve my missionary work and effectiveness of time.  Then, the last resort to tracting is when you aren’t doing any of those new tools.  “Finding always and finding all ways” ~ Pdt. Foote.

Soiree with Fr. Argien
Soiree with Fr. Argien (Elders Quorum Pres.)

Half-way through Zone Conference he asked if we wanted transfers so he just said them to us.  All the old Malagasy missionaries are going to be paired up with Reunion missionaries and my new companion is Elder Haslam.  Elder Haslam has just finished training and I will be his Mom (missionary terms to mean, second companion after training).  I’m really excited to work with him and our area in St. Pierre is going to be shrinking down to two missionaries.  I’m so blessed to stay here in St. Pierre because of the awesome branch down here and all the investigators that we just barely got into our teaching pool.  Elder Shoemaker is going to St. Marie (north part of the island), Elder Alvarez is going to Le Port (west part of the island) and Elder Juchau is going to Mauritius.  It’s really sad that we aren’t going to be in a house full of Malagasy missionaries where we could always speak Malagasy to each other, but it’ll be better this way so that we can learn French.  I love French, it’s a beautiful language and is fun to learn.  I’ve picked it up a lot quicker than I have picked up Malagasy.  They say it’s easier to learn your third language because you’ve already learned one.  Anyways, Elder Haslam and I are going to get a few baptisms here in St. Pierre and it’s going to be great.

E. Juchau & I relaxing at home
Elder Juchau & I relaxing at home

Some other news, all of the Madagascar missionaries have to be off La Reunion before January 19th (90 days in country) because we don’t have a visa and can’t apply for one unless we are in America, so we will all be going to Mauritius at that point.  We will hopefully be back in Madagascar as soon as March hits (that’s what president is saying) and we will be going back in waves probably starting in Ft. Dauphin and in other provinces where the plague never got to.

Love you all tons and hope you have a great week!

—  Elder Jacob Stromberg

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

#67 Happy Thanksgiving

Week 67.1So we haven’t had Thanksgiving yet, but I thought I’d do it a little bit differently than I’ve done in the past and wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving in advance.  We’ve had a great week so far and I’m thankful for the guidance of the Lord in our lives especially as we use that guidance to bless others.  I’m so full of gratitude for the opportunity I have to serve a mission and especially serve the people here in La Réunion.  Let’s start off with a quick story.

This past week we’ve been splitting up more from our quadcompanionship and have been trying to find new investigators that we can use to bless the branch.  We were tracting an apartment complex because we thought it would be more productive and successful.  On the sixth door that we knocked on we waited a little bit longer than we usually did and knocked a few too many times.  When the door flung open it was a middle-aged man who had pretty cool hair say to us:  “You can come in, but you only have two minutes.”  As you can imagine Elder Alvarez and I walked in pretty quickly and he pointed us to a room with a couch where we sat down and began talking.  He pulled out his Bible and we started talking to him about Jesus Christ and a little bit about his own life.  A few minutes later, he told us to wait and he left to grab something.  He came back with a Book of Mormon in his hand.  He said that he loved the Book of Mormon.  It turns out that missionaries had taught him in the past because in the front cover of the book, there were the testimonies of three missionaries that served about a year ago.

Well as we continued to speak he said that he had been on a religious treasure hunt trying to find out which religion is true and he said that of all the missionaries from different religions he’s talked to, and churches he’s attended, the Book of Mormon is the only thing that he hasn’t gotten rid of.  Usually he looks at the churches doctrine, takes some of their books, and then gives them back after he has a reason to.  We talked about the Book of Mormon and how it explains and testifies of Jesus Christ and expounds the doctrines of the atonement in a simple manner and how it blesses our lives especially our families.  During the lesson I felt prompted to share a few verses of scripture that I read in personal study that morning in 3 Nephi 18:19-21 and it really clicked with him.  We asked if we could leave him with a prayer and if we could pray for his family.  As we knelt in prayer with Stephan (his name) and prayed for his wife and kids, it was a really spiritual experience.  After we finished talking, we weren’t able to set up a return appointment, but he gave us his phone number.  We are going to contact him this week and hopefully he wants to learn again!  He has a wife and a little girl, but his wife doesn’t really like talking about religion.  He was really happy to have us there and those two minutes quickly turned into 30 minutes.

Yesterday we had a soiree with one of the Malagasy members in our ward and they are the best!  We did the soiree familiale Malagasy style where everyone shared their own little spiritual thought and testimony and it was super great!  Le famille de Imare is one of the strongest families in this branch and I’ll tell you a little background about them.  Fr. Imare was a convert when he was around 20 years old and his wife Sr. Imare lived in Madagascar for most of her life and served a mission in Cote d’Ivoire.  She shared with us a story of when she and her companion baptized this one family through tracting and some of the cool stories.  I think she was getting us excited to find people here in Reunion.  They are trying to find some people that we can teach, but they don’t have any right now.  We have tons of members that are searching for opportunities to share the gospel right now and the branch is changing!  I love this branch and all the members in it.

I’m thankful for all my friends and especially my family for all of their support.  My mom and dad are the best and I love you guys.  Thank you so much for always supporting me in education, sports, mission, etc.  The lessons that you have taught me and the experiences we have cherished, could never be replaced.  It truly is a doctrine of the gospel that the family is the best place to learn and grow in a spirit of love.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,  Elder Jacob Stromberg

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week but I left my camera at home.  I got this picture from another missionary, but this is us with La Famille de Imare last night!  Bon journée

Excerpt from a personal email:

The pastries here are super good!  The people that make them are usually straight from Paris so they are super legit…

This Thanksgiving, we are going to be driving up to the mission home in St. Denis on Thursday and the senior couple, Elder and Sister Boyle (they are the best and like grandma and grandpa!) are going to make some good food for us and all the missionaries are also bringing stuff and it’s just going to be the best!  

#66 Cascade and Birthday Week for E. Alvarez & I

Week 66.1This week has been another très bon week.  I’ll tell you a little bit about last week first.

On p-day last week we went and emailed in the morning because in the afternoon the first counselor in our Branch Presidency, Fr. et Sr. Ah-Pine, wanted to take us up to some super cool cascades (waterfalls).  You’ll see from the pictures, but they are some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.  After a twenty minute hike, you come to this edge that just pops open to a ledge where you have the best view of these creations of nature that look like heaven.

We also went on a few other little hikes and they showed us this really nice beach on the coast.  Literally last Tuesday, I just wanted to swim so bad!  It didn’t help that the weather is warming up here in Reunion and a plunge into some nice cool waterfall springs or into the ocean would make me feel so good.  But nonetheless, I resisted the temptation.

Week 66.12Fr. Ah-Pine and his wife are just the greatest.  The very first night we got into this area, we went over to his house unannounced and he was very patient and helped us work on our French.  His wife is really cool and they have become some of our best friends in the branch.  Fr. Ah-pine has been Branch President three times and I can see why, because he is such a solid member.  As we’ve been teaching, it has been us four Elders working together and we comprehend almost everything they say.  Our Branch President explained it as we all have 25% in our heads and together we make 100%.  Our branch president is great, but he’s as my dad would say—a goofball.  I love him and he’s serious when he needs to be.  We’ve been making a lot of progression in our French this past week and I might add that we’ve been giving some awesome spiritual thoughts.  The members are really great here and they seem to love us.  We’ve had 7 soirees this past week and they are so generous.  They make some of the best sausages here in Reunion they call it their ‘plat special’ and I’m a big fan!  I’ll attach some pictures.  Week 66.11We’ve been working with the members a lot to get their trust and work with getting some referrals.  A lot of them are praying and searching for opportunities this week to share the gospel with their friends and family members.

November 8th was Elder Alvarez’s birthday and mine was November 11th.  It was a pretty good week and we both egged and floured each other.  For those who weren’t in tune with my email last year, it is Malagasy custom that people get hit with a bunch of raw eggs and then poured on by a bunch of flour the day of their birth.  Week 66.10For Saturday, we had a branch activity with all of the branch members and we played soccer at a neighborhood turf complex.  It was a great turnout and the members loved it.  That afternoon, we went up with some of them and had a picnic in the mountains and we shared a spiritual thought about setting examples to others.  Week 66.8Through living Christlike lives, others will see the happiness we have and want to know what brings us such happiness and we taught them that through their examples they will be able to share the gospel.  It was a great opportunity to help the members strengthen themselves and become more like a family.  They are so great and I hope I don’t get transferred from this branch.  They are the best.

Also on Sunday, the six kids in our primary had a primary program and it was super cute!  I love watching kids sing and the reactions of their faces are sometimes hilarious.

I hope you all have a great week and I love you tons!

Week 66.2Week 66.3Week 66.4

#65 Quad-Companionship & the Spirit Truly Guides

Week 65.14So this week we visited a bunch of members and just practiced our French.  It’s getting a lot better and we’re able to keep a very good lesson with the four of us.  I don’t know if I mentioned it, but since neither four of us are fluent with the language, we are staying together because with all of our four minds, we at least understand what is going on and if they ask questions, we can respond well.  We’ve been learning at a mini MTC we are doing from some of the other missionaries that are really good at French.  We do it twice a week and it really helps us learn the language.  The members here are super patient and really great people.  We’ve gotten two referrals from this past week and we are working with some less-actives.  That is, until we get a grip on the language and can tract/get to where we need to go.

Week 65.9Here in La Reunion it is difficult to get around.  Without a gps, good road signs, and small sized maps, we get to a lot of our appointments with members by walking around for twenty minutes after we get within a 10 proximity of their house.  Our DMB (French for Ward Mission Leader) is working with us really well and the members are getting excited for missionary work.  We’ve got a bunch of members that say they will have someone ready for us in the next few weeks because they are talking to them.  Sorry this email is short, we are headed over to our 1st counselors house right now to go hike some waterfalls!  Love you all and hope you have a good week!

Excerpts from personal emails:  Well there isn’t too much.  I got way trunky for Madagascar last night and cried some man tears, but that’s it.  this morning we went and dipped our toes in the Indian Ocean and that was fun.  The Carrefour’s here are absolutely MASSIVE!!  We just went and spent 159 euros for food for the week for us four. 

Jamison is now a missionary!  Woohoo!!  I bet he’s loving the MTC right now and everything is doing great for him.  He’s going to bless so many people in his mission, he’s not going to know before he gets there, but they will become his lifelong friends.  

 Week 65.8I love the quote you (dad) told me about ‘looking up’.  I just wrote that on the back of the front cover of my planner.  I really like it.  The French are great about being patient with us learning their language.  Even strangers in the street love listening to us and don’t make fun of us.  They are more respectful than I think some other cultures would be if someone didn’t speak their language.  However, I can officially teach a first in French.  I’ve called 50+ people in French and only a quarter of them have ended with me and the caller laughing because my French is tough to understand.  However, one of the tender mercies that we’ve had has been with navigation.  Somehow, of all the 20+ members houses we’ve visited this week, we’ve never once not been able to find their house.  With no GPS and a somewhat detailed map and addresses, we’ve been able to find them.  It’s been crazy.  Ward Mission LeaderI love the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  I’ve found myself increasing my prayers for the gift of tongues over the past little while.  I love French and I love La Reunion and I love Madagascar!  I miss it so much, but there is a reason that I’m here and I’ll find out what it is.  Love you tons!

Week 65.15Week 65.16Week 65.17

#64 St. Pierre & The Ultimate Whitewash

Week 64.11This past week has been a pretty long week.  I’ll share for the most part the highlights of the week.  First off, our P-days are always going to be on Tuesdays because of some French reason I still need to find out.  Wednesday morning we went street contacting in the evening and although my French was very poor, the people were really nice here and patient whenever we’ve talked with them.  Thursday, we had a zone conference here in Reunion to talk about how we can organize the influx of missionaries.  Let me explain our circumstance a little bit:

Week 64.6There were six elders here in Reunion prior to our arrival:  Elder Raie (been out on mission for 23 months/ about to go home), Elder Burfeind (been out on mission for 2 months and is in training), Elder Halsam (2 months/same), Elder Hunt (2 months/same), Elder Ricks (6 months), and Elder Hillier (8 months).  So in four weeks we are going to be losing Elder Raie and going to be with the remaining 5 elders and three of them are half-way through training.  So we have a very young mission especially in regards to French experience.  There are four branches in the cities St. Denis, St. Marie, Le Port, and St. Pierre.  President and the Zone Leader, Elder Hillier, organized everything and worked it out like transfers.  This is what it came down to: 4 Malagasy Elders would have to be sent down to St. Pierre to do what we call the ultimate whitewash.

Week 64.15Elder Shoemaker, Elder Juchau, Elder Alvarez (my new comp.), and I are taking the city of Saint-Pierre.  I am technically leading this dynamic quadgroup down here in St. Pierre because I took just 4 years of high school French.  For those of you who don’t know or haven’t had children take it in high school we’ll just say that I was very under-prepared.  What a plight we are in:  All four of us missionaries haven’t driven a car in our entire missions, none of us know the language(except for Alvarez and I who have a basic background), none of us know the city, and we don’t have a program/ teaching appointments.  So, we did what we knew best, we street contacted and visited members.  It’s been really fun so far because we’ve taken the Madagascar mission attitude into the branches and they really are just exploding.  That was the difficulty that I just explained, but let me describe the miracles.  Let me tell you in advance that Heavenly Father knows your trials and weaknesses and he helps you conquer them.

Week 64.12The first glimmer of hope was when we met Fr. Ah-Pine and his wife Friday night.  They gracefully let us into their house when we came unannounced and we talked with them for a while.  They are really great people and they have a son that has already served a mission and one that is currently serving.  He’s been helping us a lot by showing us where members live and such.   When the language is a barrier as it is for us right now, people extend a lot of patience.  The members here are really great people and they’ve been so welcoming to us.  In fact, all the hours of teaching in Sunday School and combined Relief Society/Priesthood were about missionary work.  We’ve set up a bunch of lessons with members this week and we’ve been practicing teaching them the first.  We’ve also got a bunch of activities set up so that we can increase the progress of the ward.  The St. Pierre branch is pretty small.  Only 44 members were at church on Sunday, but all of them are pumped for this many missionaries.  It’s been super good and we’ve been teaching some Malagasy people here in Reunion and I’ve been loving it.

Elder Alvarez is my companion and he’s a super stud.  He’s been picking French up super quick – I think it’s because he knows a little bit of Spanish.  He’s been on the mission for 13 months (a transfer behind me) and is pretty buff.  He’s from Provo, Utah and loves soccer and mostly anything athletic.

For now, us four are staying a companionship because we are just trying to stand up on our feet.  We’ve been lost so many times in the car and without a GPS or map, it’s pretty funny.  I love being here and experiencing this crazy world with all these awesome guys.  I hope you guys have a great week!  Avec amour…

Excerpt from a personal note:  Merci beaucoup pour votre témoignage.  Le travailler ici est difficile mais l’Église est vrai.  Je crois que mon occasion ici La Réunion avais une purpose parce que il y a une personne que je veux trouver.  Je suis désole parce-que je ne parler pas bien le Français mais je apprends il.  Je t’adore avec tout mon cœur.  A bientôt!

 

This lists some of the other Elders from his mission and their new assignments:Week 64.1Week 64.5

And some pictures of his former companions saying goodbye that I stole from Sister Foote’s Instagram:

Elders that went to Swaziland:

And Elder Wilson went to Durban, South Africa

Week 63.12
E. Wilson went to Durban, S. Africa

 

#63 Third EMERGENCY TRANSFER & Je suis comme ci, comme ca

Week 63.11Well, it may have only been 7 days since last week, but I’ve been through a few roller coasters.  So I’ll give pretty good detail for the most part.  Last Tuesday we started our week in Fianarantsoa and had a great day.  Elder Bennet, one of my good friends, was passing by Fianarantsoa to go to Toliara because he was emergency transferred down there and due to the long drive, stopped and rested a day with us.  Wednesday morning comes around and we get a call while we are out at breakfast that the entire Madagascar mission is on lockdown for 48 hours and must stay indoors because of the spread of the Bubonic plague.  So the entire Wednesday we spent inside the house playing Monopoly, studying scriptures, etc. etc.  Then, we wake up Thursday morning and Elder Jackson, Evacuation3our district leader, got a call from President Foote.  We all gathered to listen to him on speaker announce that we are going to be reassigned and that all missionaries are being pulled out of Madagascar because the plague is spreading.  He explained that the called came directly from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.  Despite the desire to follow the prophet, this was hard.  Week 63.6This was definitely the saddest I’ve been in my entire mission and breaking down to tears wouldn’t suffice an explanation of our feelings.  Leaving behind all the people in Madagascar without missionaries when they are the people that need them most?  How could I do it?  Elder Snow, Bennet, Jackson and I were the missionaries in that house whom had been there the longest and felt the most heart-crush from this news.  Picture it, you’ve been in a foreign country for an entire year, you finally become very good at the language and can start weaving yourself in and out.  The culture is understood and you have grown an inseparable connection and love for the people because you are with them everyday.  After you have already overcome so many personal hurdles and trials, you get taken out and away from everything that you have come to love for the past year Week 63.1and a little.  Let me tell you first hand that it is tough.  Another difficult part of it is we couldn’t tell our investigators or members that we were going to leave Madagascar because we weren’t allowed to.  We were just supposed to sneak out of Madagascar, which made it even harder to leave.

Flash forward a little bit to Thursday evening, a mission driver, Lalaina, managed to take all 8 of us Elders and our baggage to a city closer to Tana to make the evacuation even easier.  He did 9 hours of driving that day and we had to pack our bags in little to no notice at all.  That night we slept in Antsirabe and Friday morning we left just in time to get to the mission home by that afternoon.  There, we received our reassignments and I was called to La Reunion, I’ll explain more in a second.  We ate lunch and started packing our bags again trying to keep the weight under 20 kgs per bag.  It felt like I was playing tetris in a weird way.  However, Saturday morning we got on a plane and headed out for Reunion.  Right before we headed on the plane, one of the members in the Ambohibao ward (an area I worked in February through June) was there and we talked for a solid hour.  Evacuation1It was great, but really sad.  Taking off in the airplane was one of the saddest things.  I was sitting in the middle and the girl that sat between me and the window was probably way wierded out because I kept leaning over her to look through the window the first 30 minutes of the flight until we were above the clouds.

Saturday night we were picked up by the Reunion elders and some of the other Malagasy elders that came the day before and we went back to the apartment.  Honestly, the adjustment has been all but easy and somewhat stressful. Just from walking out of the airport I was culture shocked by how much wealth was stored just within the parking lot in the amount of cars parked side-by-side.

Week 63.15The most exciting experience happened on Sunday.  I went to church, bore my simple and short testimony in French and then introduced myself to the members after sacrament meeting.  Two of the families in my branch are Malagasy!!! It was so fun to speak to them and I honestly felt at home.  It’s weird to me to speak French or English so this was a nice let free moment.  Elder Wolfgramm and Elder Shoemaker joined us in Reunion Sunday night and it was great to see them.

Honestly, the French is coming along much better than I thought it would. I’ve been able to learn a lot from my errors. You will also soon see how fun it is to learn with Elder Wolfgramm and Shoemaker. Those guys are such champs. I love Reunion, but I was expecting another 10 months before seeing all of this first-world-ness. However, the Branch in St. Denis is really great and Elder Hillier and Haslam (Reunion elders) are great Elders.

WEek 63.17Because of some French thing, our p-days are now always going to be on Tuesdays so sorry for not writing you yesterday because we couldn’t.  However, we’ve had a pretty bomb p-day today.  This morning, we went on a hike/4×4 climbing tour.  It was super sweet.  Our branch president, President Chion-Hock, has a really old truck that is a total beast.  We took it up this insane path which he claimed was a ‘trail.’  It was really crazy and his truck made it up so many climbs that I don’t think it should have made.  We hiked up to a waterfall and took a bunch of cool pictures because it is so beautiful and the view is absolutely incredible!  Breathtaking!

Week 63.21The work here in Reunion is pretty slow and a lot different than Madagascar, but with 11 other Malagasy elders here in the mission now, we are going to jump the work up so much!  The islands Reunion and Mauritius have had 19 baptisms this year combined and they are about to just shoot up!  One of the blessings of being reassigned to Reunion is that we have the same mission president and nothing really changes except the language and culture.  Unfortunately, those are two insanely big changes.  There were 9 missionaries in Reunion and 8 in Mauritius before we got here.  We added 12 to Reunion and some of us are probably going to be going over to Mauritius soon.  President Foote will get here tomorrow and we will figure things out from there.

Week 63.22Well, my fingers are very exhausted, but that is basically the past seven days in a nutshell.  I love you all, please pray for those of Madagascar and us here in Reunion.  Have a great week!

Much love, Elder Jacob Stromberg

 

Week 63.5Week 63.3Week 63.4

#62 Fasting Miracles, Pointe de Vie & Find My Sheep

Week 62.12This week has been absolutely incredible and tiring.  Honestly as a missionary, you get more tired as the days go by, but your love for the work increases, so its honestly the only reason I’m still going strong!  I love being a missionary.  It’s way simpler than regular life and is so much more rewarding.  But it’s not a type of personal rewarding or feeling of accomplishment, but more like you are happy because others are happier.  It’s really just a great feeling.

Week 62.01
Walking along the rice patties

On Thursday, Elder Jackson gave the lesson during district meeting and it was incredibly inspiring.  He taught about the power of fast and prayers in missionary work and gave a bunch of scriptures that directed the lesson (Alma 6:6, Alma 17:3, Helaman 3:5, and 3 Nephi 27:1).  After the district meeting, we unanimously decided to fast and ask the Lord for guidance as we begin this work here in Fianarantsoa.  We started it Thursday night and ended Friday night.  It worked out perfectly that the entire day of Friday was just tracting (which was most of our program at that time).  We were guided to so many families during that fast and we taught 4 lessons on Friday alone, but set up a bunch of return appointments that turned out very promising as we followed them up Saturday and Sunday evening. This really built my testimony about fasting and the power it can have in missionary work. It was very inspiring and the fast was very consecrated. We’ve seen finding miracles already happen thus far and all three of the areas and both of the branches are beginning to see a bunch of light and success.

Week 62.03
The Crown of Thorns sculpture

Point de Vie (View point).  Today, all six of us missionaries went and did some exploring in Fianarantsoa.  We went to this view point that overlooked the entire city.  A lot of pictures today are from that hike.  It was truly breathtaking and we hiked along the other side of the mountain and the town completely flopsided and turned into a country side feel of red-bricked straw-roofed houses.  I took a few minutes of taking in the view and it’s impossible to me to think that all of this beautiful creation came from just a so called ‘big bang.’  It’s just silly to me when I see all of the beautiful creations from God and the way the mountains and rocks roll in a landscape.  I love Madagascar so much and God is real.

Week 62.07
View of our area

I don’t know if I’ve already shared this, but Elder Pace and I are supporting both of the two branches here in Fianarantsoa.  Elder Jackson (he’s in my group) and Elder Modisakeng (I trained him) are working the Fianarantsoa Branch, and Elder Snow and Elder Beardall are working in the Tsianolondroa Branch.  So Elder Pace work in both areas (3 days in Tsianolondroa and 3 days in Fianarantsoa).  It’s been really great and fun to work and get to know all of the members down here in both of the branches.  As part of our work here in both of these branches, Elder Pace and I have been taking care of the ‘Find my Sheep’ mapping stuff for both of the branches here in Fianarantsoa. Some of you may not know, but we have been looking for members houses on google earth and pinpointing them on the church website.  We have over 200 left to do in both of the branches combined and it’s difficult because adresses in Madagascar are not organized and have no real distinction.  As a result, we’ve been needing a ton of member help and it is coming along at a good pace. We have meetings setup for next sunday and we are mainly going to be doing that after church, as organized by the branch presidents. From my first sunday and not much experience, the Tsianolondroa Branch is very strong and has a great attendance at church. On the other hand, the Fianarantsoa Branch is struggling a bit on attendance. However, for the days that we are working in the Fianarantsoa area, we are mainly going to be doing a lot of less-active work in helping restrengthen the branch.

Elder Pace and I are doing well and continuing in exact obedience and fine tuning, the small things. He’s getting progressively better in the language and we’ve had many lessons where we both witnessed the gift of tongues in action. I love this part about training. I love Elder Pace’s drive for obedience and his steadfast desire to be a good missionary. We help each other in this part.  He’s such a funny guy and I love being with him.  I hope you all have a great week and take some time this week to go outdoors and do a hike or something like it.

Week 62.11
public signs regarding the bubonic & pneumonic plagues

Week 62.10

Week 62.05
Elder Snow

#61 Bubonic Plague, Fianarantsoa, Zone & General Conferences

Week 61.1Well, I have a bunch of news for all of you on the other side of the globe.  I’m assuming it’s not a problem that I’m telling you, because it is common knowledge and the mission is taking every precaution to avoid any problems.  There has been an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague here in Madagascar and several have died.  You can read more about it if you want, but as a result, my trainee of 5 days old in the mission and I got emergency transferred from our area in the Capital, Manakambahiny.

Week 61.11
Deserted market area

We are now in Fianarantsoa which is a larger city outside of the capital about a nine hour drive south of Tana.  The drive was incredibly beautiful and a testimony to me that this was created by God because no amount of science could produce that much beauty with rolling red mountains and enough greenery to satisfy a vegetarian.  We got here on Wednesday and the past little bit we’ve been tracting and contacting a bunch of new people with little success.  In this massive city, there were two missionaries before us – Elder Jackson and my other son Elder Modisakeng.  Then, Elder Snow, Beardall, Pace, and I were added to the mix.  Elder Snow had already worked in Fianarantsoa, so he was given one of the two possible proselyting areas.  So in our house, we have 6 missionaries working in this city and it is just super fun.  Both Elder Modisakeng and Elder Pace were/are my trainees and it’s so fun to watch them do stuff together.  I feel somewhat like a proud father watching my two little boys play on an AYSO soccer team.  What a rewarding feeling!

Week 61.3As a result of the change, President Foote and the two senior couples came down and brought the two Ambositra Elders to do a zone conference.  It’s a lot more fun with the less amount of missionaries because it feels a lot more personal and I’m a lot more participative.  We learned a lot about ways we can avoid and be safe from the plague, but we are currently in full action down here in Fianarantsoa with no restrictions because there is no plague here.  After listening to President Foote, I felt so inspired.  Honestly he is a man called of God and he is such a powerful teacher of the gospel and our true purpose here on earth.  We had a Q&A session with him for 2 hours and it was so much fun to pick his brain of all the gospel knowledge that he had.  After that we went to dinner and had interviews with him.  They were absolutely great as always and you know when President takes you to eat food, it’s always really good and such a splurge.

Week 61.4During my interview with President, I asked about what I was supposed to do for my missionary assignment here in Fianarantsoa because it still wasn’t clear.  Anyways, I am going to be whitewash training here and working in both of the other proselyting areas helping them build up the branches here.  I will two areas within each of the two areas to work on and Elder Pace and I will be finishing training here for sure.  It’s really frustrating because there are so many investigators that we had in Manakambahiny that were going to get baptized and now we aren’t there.  We’ve been working really hard by telephone and contacting our DMP (ward mission leader) to help those who have already received all of the missionary lessons finish their baptismal interviews and get baptized.  So hopefully there will still be a baptism in the coming weeks.  Elder Pace & I are now full speed ahead under the direction of the District Leader Elder Jackson in tracting and building up a new area in Fianarantsoa.  Wish me luck and pray for me tons!

I love you tons.  We watched General Conference this past weekend and I just wanted to emphasize one thing that was said:  “Deflect personal praise.”  There is a quote from a famous american author “Sit down, be humble.”  Let us all humbly love and serve one another as the perfect example, Jesus Christ did.  I promise you that more happiness and satisfaction will come into your life because of this.  Don’t forget the scout slogan “do a good turn daily.”  Have a great week and send your prayers to our old investigators in Manakambahiny to continue to progress despite the non existence of missionaries in that area.  The day before we left, we had 21 investigators coming to church.

As of today, there are 34 dead from the Plague.  It has morphed into the Pneumonic Plague which is much more contagious and deadly.  That strain is transmitted person to person rather than from a flea.  There are over 300 cases currently.   Jake also started his Christmas list out with razors, gummy candies, and brown sugar.Week 61.12

#60 Elder Pace – My New Trainee

Week 60.1
This is from Sister Foote’s Instagram of Elder Pace after 2 days of straight travel.

Hey, I don’t have too much to send for a big email nor too much time, but if you could compile everything together and try and send out a small email.  Please don’t let everyone know about the plague outbreak.  It’s not supposed to be talked about.  But something about Elder Pace you could share.

So Elder Pace is from Farmington, Utah.  He is 18 years old and just a big fresh greeny.  He’s such a jokester and at the same so excited to be a missionary.  Because of the splitting of the areas, we have been tracting a lot and finding a bunch of new people.  I love him so much and I love you tons.  I’ll try and send some emails later, but now I’ve got to go.  Love you!

Then, in a follow up email after mom got after him…

Elder Pace is one of the most interesting lady slayers this side of the mississippi.

Hobbies:  Rock climbing, running, triathlons and being a baller

He went to Viewmont High School which are the Vikings.

Height: 5’10

Girlfriend:  In missionary terms, he’s whitewashing when he gets home

Family life:  He has Mom, Dad, 1 younger brother age 15, and 3 younger sisters ages 13, 10, and 5.

Famous people he has met:  Elder Stromberg

He was baptized at 8 and his great grand-father was Joseph Fielding Smith

Special Talents:  Diligent.  He makes me laugh because of his goofiness

Sorry if these are too direct and don’t provide as much information, but I’ll send a better email next week.

We are officially being evacuated out of Tana and Elder Pace and I along with 2 other elders are being sent down to Fianarantsoa and will be there until further notice.

Love you guys tons and I hope you have a good evening

PS:  Elder Pace is not related to Joseph Fielding Smith

Here is a snippet from his letter to his dad: