#52 Trip to Mud Town & Year Mark

Week 52.3This week was incredible!  Last Thursday I hit my 365th day on my mission which adds up to a year!  It was a very quick year and I wouldn’t change it for any other year.  I’ll explain the details in how we celebrated this stepping stone in my mission later in the email, but there is a great story that I think you would like to hear about first.

So, there is a part in our area that we go to every Saturday that is literally a jungle.  When my camera arrives we will send a fun and intense video.  However we were crossing some rice patties, it wasn’t absolutely necessary to cut through on these patties, but it was to save some times.  Well, I was leading the trail at this particular point of the crossing and we were somewhat running.  A few days earlier, it had been raining very lightly and made some of the mud walk paths become a little bit more mushy.  In the midst of our run, I came to a  crossroad and, with my legs going faster than my mind could think about the path ahead, there appeared the be no path.  In the midst of my sprinting panic, I hopped on top of what seemed to be a secure hand-sized rock, only to be deceived and shooting my right foot 2 feet deep into the mud and the edge of the swampy rice patty. As I struggled to find a quick and available foot hold for my left foot that followed almost seconds after, I lost my balance and planted my hand on a secure branch.  All in all, I fell in a rice patty and later had to wash it off at this water pump that is used by the local dwellers.  Two girls thought it was so funny and couldn’t stop laughing.  I became, what my father calls, the village idiot.  I felt so embarrassed because at least 30+ people saw the plunge.

So, we had another incredibly productive week and had two splits.  One with our District Leader and another with the Assistants to the Mission President.  It was great and we had 9 people at church.  Sorry for the small letter, but I spent a little too much time on the story about my ‘trip’ to mudtown.Week 52.6

I hit my year mark this past Thursday and we are heading out the door to have our little year mark dinner and celebration with some of the other missionaries that were in my group.  Have a great week!  Love you tons!  I will include more about the spiritual experiences next week, but I forgot my journal!Week 52.1Week 52.8

#50 Vola Vaovao & English Class

So this week was great!  Many great things happened.  First we had a pretty good showing of investigators at church.  Sundays really feel like judgement day because you are just waiting for your investigators to show up and it’s pretty stressful at times.  However, we had 7 investigators at church.  A lot of the others were working or visiting family in the countryside.  It’s really sad because a lot of people have been dying in the families that we’ve been with and they haven’t been able to be as committed as they want to be.

Vola Vaovao = New money.  Just this past week Madagascar had created a brand new set of money.  They just came out a few days ago and it looks really cool, however, they look kinda like monopoly money.  I’ll send you guys a picture when I get a good collection.  They also came out with a bigger bill.  Previously the largest bill was 10,000 (about $3.10 USD).  The new bill is a 20,000 Ariary (about $6.20 USD).  With the new money coming out it has been a topic of interest and people often ask me what the largest bill is in America.  I feel really sad when I say $100 (about 300,000 Ariary) and when you put that in perspective to Malagasies, it is 600 ariary for a cup of rice off the street and 3 cups feed a family of 5 for a whole day.  It’s very sad because of the poverty here and I love giving and helping where I can.

This past week we were guest speakers at an English class at one of the schools.  The kids presented recipes in English and did a little cooking activity for each of their recipes.  We ate fruit salad, Malagasy Bread (not very good), and juice.  At the conclusion, we just broke up into groups and talked in English and helped them develop a better accent.  It was really fun and the teacher was a returned missionary that served in Uganda.

Our investigators are progressing very well and Vincent had read the first 5 chapters of the Bokin’ I Mormona when we returned.  He loved the story of Laban and the brass plates.  He retold that story in his own words and he really understands it super well.  He is growing so much.

I love Madagascar and it’s absolutely great!  Elder Soper is still hilarious and a great missionary and Manakambahiny is the best area!  Have a great week, God bless.

From a personal letter regarding funerals:  I’ve already been to two and they are quite unique.  The person is usually laying on the table in their living room and people just walk in, in a single-file line, shaking the loved ones hands and giving them your condolences.  It usually smells bad because the body stays there for multiple days and isn’t touched.  However, I haven’t been to an actual burial yet, so that  is an experience yet to come.   

Date: Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 11:48 AM
To: Brock Thomas Coleman <brock.coleman@myldsmail.net>
I read your quick little email and you’ll see this in about 72 hours, but helping people and losing yourself in the service of other is a lot better.  What a great opportunity you have to serve so many people.  There are a lot of people in need of help and I’m sure that it was a day well spent and helped you grow closer to your fellow Japanese.  On your  questions about what has changed, I will respond in the order that you presented to me.

A few new things is that I am humbled a lot more because of the poverty.  I’ve become grateful for the blessings that we have in America and a lot more frugal and thrifty.  Through this change of mindset from 1st world to 3rd world, I’ve really discovered and
understood what has the most meaning in life.  Seeing people work from 7am to 7pm and only earn 10,000AR which is about $3.25 per day has been humbling.  Especially because they are just as happy, if not happier than most Americans.  They truly know that God is the most important thing out of any worldly thing.

In short, I’ve developed humility and stripped myself of pride, become kinder and more giving to those in need and always being ready to lend a hand of service even when it isn’t convenient or might make us late for an appointment.

I’ve left behind a lot of the fowl speech and have overall cleansed myself.  Truly the scripture in D&C 121:45 (I think) is a better description of myself now: “Let virture garnish thy thoughts unceasingly…”.

One of the things I’ve started is an adventure of a lifetime of reading the scriptures and truly pondering them.  I’ve developed incredible study habits that would have been useful if I had them in High School.  Personal and Language study really have enveloped my mind and they are some of the funnest hours of the morning!  I’ve truly grown in the knowledge of the gospel and a personal, deep love for the scriptures.  I’ve never really studied like this before my mission and I realize how spiritually immature I was.

I’ve finished the Book of Mormon once (3 months) and I started reading it a second time and going through very deeply (I’ve been studying it for 8 months and I’m only in Alma 45).  I’ll hopefully finish it for a second time on my mission in November.  I was just talking with my companion just a few days ago about this and a common question was posed, ‘What is your favorite book?’  I think every time for the rest of my life I will be saying the Book of Mormon.  I know it sounds too goody-too-shoes, but it really is true.  There is no better story, to me, than the family of Lehi and their descendants.  It is pretty difficult to answer otherwise.  I’ve never become so attached to a book as I have with the Book of Mormon.

This answer is somewhat out of order, but I’ve also been changing my mindset about almost everything.  Education is going to be a fun adventure and I’m excited to go to college after the mission.  Another weird thing about the mission is that I feel that I’ve gotten closer to some of my family and friends (like you) even though we are so far
away from each other.

I absolutely love Madagascar man and I know that you love Japan.  We are coming up on your year mark and it’s very exciting and sad at the same time.  We only have a year left to be in full service to the Lord.  Kinda scary to think about.  Anyways man, we’ve had some great spiritual adventures and I too am curious to see how you have changed.  So my question to you is this… what’s changed? What’s new? What things have you developed since we last saw each other? What things have you left behind? What things have you started? What things have you finished?

Have a great week in the service of the Lord!
Love ya tons buddy!
Elder Stromberg

#49 Elder Soper, Vincent & Splits in Itaosy

Greetings loved ones,

This week was another step in the mission.  It was really great and full of new things.  I’m going to start off answering some questions from my parents and such and I thought the rest of you might like to know as well.

Give us some information on Elder Soper like where is he from? ~ ~ Elder Soper is from Orem, Utah.  He’s 20 years old and just a slick guy.  He rock-climbed, played soccer, and debated before the mission.  He’s incredibly talented at the piano and just an overall great guy with a hilarious out-going attitude.  He’s not afraid to talk to everyone and it’s nice because our house isn’t as quiet as it usually is for 2 Elders. He wants to be a lawyer when he grow’s up and studied a semester at BYU before his mission.  You’ll get some pictures in the next couple of weeks.  He’s just an inch or two shorter than me.

How did Elder Soper get experience in delivering a baby, that is not something that many 19-20 year olds know much about.  Was the doctor there? ~ ~ He took a human development class at BYU and he had to watch some videos of live births and he was taught how to deliver a baby just in case his wife might need that sort of assistance and he memorized how to do it.  I don’t think he had any idea that he would be using that knowledge on his mission, but that it would be reserved for several years later.  The doctor didn’t show up until about 15 minutes after the baby was delivered.

How is your new responsibility of zone leader coming along? ~ ~ It is great.  I love it a bunch and you have a lot of time and opportunities to help train other missionaries and just strengthen the morale of those in your zones.  Two weeks ago we had a special training meeting in which we focused on planning for the needs of investigators and being more organized missionaries in order to help the investigators progress better.  I’ve also been on 3 splits in the past three weeks and have done 1 baptismal interview with plenty to come.  I love the missionaries in my zone and they are great.  It’s fun to be surrounded by so many great brethren of the priesthood.

Also, how are you and Elder Soper getting along?  Sometimes it can be a little crazy in a companionship of zone leaders.  ~ ~ We are getting along very well and our relationship strengthens each day.  We both have somewhat similar personalities which limits the times of awkwardness to a minimum and the openness helps a lot.  As we’ve been serving each other, we’ve been getting closer for sure.

Experiences of the week ~ ~ Well this question opens up really well into the rest of the email so I will make a long response and end it.  This week we worked with one of our investigators that we found just two weeks ago.  He’s a security guard of this nice building where we pass by frequently in our area and Elder Soper and Elder Bingham (the companion right before me) met him initially.  He accepted the pamphlet, read it, and asked us to come and teach him and his wife.  So he is from a beach city in the south of Madagascar called Manakara and the church hasn’t developed that far out of the capital to get there yet.  Anyways, they first came into a member that was visiting some of their family down there and about 3 years ago told them the story of Joseph Smith, shared the ‘Restoration’ pamphlet and invited them to pray about it (great example of member missionary work).  After 3 years, Victor’s work moved him to the capital and after being here for about a month the missionaries talked to him.

Two weeks ago we had our first lesson with him and his wife Hanitra and he bore record that he knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  He felt that his story and vision was true when he felt the Holy Ghost as that member purely testified to him in that small costal village.  They accepted the commitment to be baptized on August 26th and have already started working on getting their birth certificates and the documents required for their marriage.  Yesterday, Vincent came to church and I got to sit next to him and another one of our investigators during sacrament meeting as Elder Soper played the organ.  He was incredibly particapative in the investigators class and really loved the gospel doctrine lesson about Fasting.  A unique experience that also happened is there was a death in the ward and the whole ward went after church to go visit this brother in the ward that just lost his wife and Vincent went with the ward to visit.  He didn’t get home until 4:30ish and is really loving the church.  He said he felt the spirit unlike he has ever felt before and loves the hymns that we sing and the reverent power they bring.

This Wednesday I had a great time to reunite with one of my previous companions, Elder Wilson, during a split.  I served with him in Ambolomadinika, Tamatave (my 1st area) for two transfers and they were incredible.  We really bonded well back then and he’s one of my greatest friends that I’ve had.  We are really open and build each other up and just a very funny, personal relationship that we have.  We took some videos in the evening and built a fire in their fireplace at their house and relaxed as the split came to a close.  Elder Soper and I met up with him, his companion, Elder Wolfgramm, and Elder Kruger for lunch today and we had a nice p-day.  He forgot to send me the videos this afternoon so hopefully I will get them next week and you guys will be able to hear our voices and personalities.

The work here in Madagascar is going superb and we’ve been seeing an increase in our success and had 11 investigators at church and 3 of them came for the very first time.  I love the members and the Manakambahiny ward is really strong with great men and woman leaders.  I hope you all have a great week, sorry there are no pictures I still don’t have a camera yet.


Elder Jacob Stromberg

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

#48 Making Bricks, English Lesson and Delivering a Baby

Week 48.1
I’m holding a baby ondry (lamb)

So this week was a little bit different than others.  On Wednesday I had one of the craziest days of my entire mission.  In the morning, we went to help one of our investigators build some bricks for his house in an act of service.  It was really fun and got really dirty.  Unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures because neither of us had a camera.  We spent about 2 hours hauling mud, making bricks, and stacking bricks.  It was really fun.  The investigator is Ibrahim and he is really great and we are working on getting him and his family to church this next week.

On Wednesday as well, I taught my first lesson in English.  There is a German woman named Maike and she lives with the 2nd counselor in the Stake Presidency and she is within our ward boundaries.  She’s studying here in Madagascar to finish up her PhD in ecology, if I’m not mistaken.  The lesson went very well and she’s been to church for the past two weeks.  Without us bringing it up, she said that if she found out that our message was true, she would be baptized.  It was great and She’s a really nice lesson.  However, it was really difficult to teach in English.  I couldn’t find some of the words that I wanted to say without accidentally saying it in Malagasy first.  It was difficult, but a very good growing experience.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing a baptism of a white person in the next month or so.  She has already read the entire first pamphlet and is in the process of working to receive an answer to her prayers.  We have our second lesson with her this Wednesday and I hope for the best!

Sorry this email is short, we don’t have a lot of time and it is difficult to focus because we are emailing and there are a lot of missionaries around.  Have a great week, Happy 4th of July!   I think he’s a little late here 😊

This is an excerpt from a private letter to us.  He wasn’t sure that he should include this experience in his general letter, but I was totally shocked and kept giggling, so I think I will share it.  You never know what will happen on a mission…. 

So, on Wednesday, Elder Soper and I were heading over to a referral for a lesson.  We were going to meet at one of our members house who is a doctor (a Malagasy doctor).  Anyways we got there and went into the house to immediately see a woman in labor beginning to deliver a baby.  We quickly got out of the room and waited outside in the courtyard, because we decided we shouldn’t be in there.  In Malagasy, one of the guys came out of the room and asked if either of us knew how to deliver a baby and Elder Soper did have a fair amount of knowledge.  Trying to stay within our boundaries even though we didn’t know the limit in a particular situation as this, Elder Soper directed the helpers to deliver the baby.  He helped them cinch the umbilical cord and administer the anesthesia.  I was just standing there in awe and out of the way because I didn’t know what to do.  It was a pretty eye-opening experience and it is very hard to describe.  For the lack of better words, I was very uncomfortable in that situation.  It’s a good thing that Elder Soper knew what to do.  Both the mother and the baby are healthy and everything is great.  It was truly a ‘first’ for me.

#47 Manakambahiny, Elder Soper, and Vicious Cactus

It was another incredible week in Madagascar.  On Tuesday night, the APs came and picked me up at my house in Antanetibe and took me to my new area across town in Manakambahiny.  It’s has been a great week with a few days of work and I am really impressed with the area.  This ward is definitely one of the strongest wards in Madagascar.  We had 13 investigators at church and truly the past missionaries put in some good work.  We have some of the best investigators, let me tell you of just a few of them.

The first, is Cesaire, he is a relatively old man (about 60) and really loves the message of the restored gospel.  He is working hard to get off his cigarettes, he’s down to 2 or 3 daily.  He came to church yesterday and as Elder Soper was playing piano for sacrament meeting, he was my buddy and I sat next to him.  He’s going to be off smoking in just a week or so and will be baptized on August 12th.  It’s going to be great and when I get my camera I will send a picture of him.  Mamy (father) and Josy (mother) and their two boys are another one of our investigators.  They are really sincere investigators and have been coming to church and really diving in to the Book of Mormon.  They were investigators for the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 7 years and never got baptized.  We are working hard for them to receive an answer to their prayers and help them find out for themselves that our church is the same church that Jesus Christ established during his mortal ministry.  Also in our ward we have a great set of priesthood holders that bring powerful maturity to the ward and the sacredness of the work.  So far, it’s incredible.

A big part of this new area is Elder Taylor Soper.  He’s really a big goofball and a powerful teacher.  We are constantly running to appointments because we have so many people that we are teaching.  He really is a power missionary and I’ve learned so much from him in these past five days.  I love the way he works and we truly never waste any time.  He’s really funny and has a good personality that makes people want to talk to him and enjoy the blessings of this church.  On Thursday we had a great zone conference that was held a day before 10 missionaries went home.  In that, President Foote gave some great counsel: “Finding new investigators is 90% personality and 10% the Holy Ghost.  On the flip side, teaching is 90% the Holy Ghost and 10% personality.”  I totally agree and that is probably a big reason why our teaching pool is so big and why we are seeing success.  As Elder Soper and I were tracting, it didn’t feel like tracting, it felt like we were searching for anyone that would like to hear about our message and accept us into their homes.  I love Elder Soper, he’s a great guy and from Orem, Utah.  He goes home in December and is doing very good.

This last story is about last night.  We were heading over to a soiree last night and were crossing some rice patties.  The phone died and so did our flashlight.  As we were trying to cross this treacherous terrain by the guiding light of the bright southern hemisphere moon, we found a dead end and turned back.  As we were hiking back up a little hill, a vicious cactus attacked my right thigh.  We didn’t see it nor notice it until is had already taken me as it’s victim.  On a 6 inch dirt path in the middle of watery rice fields, I pulled my pants down just enough to pull out the 3 thumb-sized pricks from my leg.  Quickly following the release of the needles, blood began to emerge little by little (mom it wasn’t too bad).  We made it to the soiree and my leg was pretty sore.  I think there might have been some natural poison in the cactus shards.  Anyways, we had a wonderful night and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I went on a split with Elder Heo this past Thursday just after zone conference. We made it out to Tanjomabato just a little into the evening, stopped by a couple of their times and I went and interviewed a daughter of a family for baptism. They have a wonderful family of four that got baptized on Saturday and it was a great example of the work they are doing up there.  Elder Heo is a really cool Korean guy and has a great, enthusiastic, personality.  For the lack of a better term, he is dope.  We had a good evening.  That was my first baptismal interview that I’ve ever done and it was a great experience.  That is just a picture of what the missionaries of Madagascar are like!

I love Madagascar and everything about it!  Especially the lemurs.  Sorry my camera got stolen and I don’t have any pictures this week, there should be some next week!  Be SAFE!

#46 Transfers, Lunch with the First Lady, and Independence Day in Mada

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Me & Alfred with wife Selesy – one of my favorite investigators

So, this week was great and pretty sad.  Saturday morning during our personal study we received a call from the APs and received transfer news.  I’m going to Manakambahiny in an area on the opposite side of the capital.  I’m really excited to go and my new companion will be Elder Soper.  Transfer news really came out of no where because this transfer doesn’t end until July 3rd, next Monday.  However, there were 9 missionaries that are going home this Friday, so they had to start transfers early to accommodate the sudden change of missionaries and start moving people around.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The ward missionaries & my buddies

I loved my time in the Ambohibao ward and it was hard to wish them farewell.  It was especially difficult to say goodbye to some of my favorite members and investigators whom I have come to love over the past 4.5 months.  Missionary work is just incredible and I love sharing the thing that has brought so much happiness into my life–the gospel.  Elder Modisakeng, my trainee, is going to receive his new companion tomorrow evening and I will be going to my new area almost three hours away.  It’s going to be great and I’m very excited.

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis last Thursday after district meeting, we went to a soiree with our district leader and his companion.  In their area, they were tracting and found this extremely nice house and decided to knock it.  To their alarm a really nice lady opened the door and let them in.  Which happens to be pretty uncommon in Madagascar because if people are rich, they are usually pretty prideful and don’t want anything to do with missionaries.  Anyways, that was a few weeks ago.  KODAK Digital Still CameraThey invited the District Leader and our companionship to eat lunch with them.  They are really nice and very humble people.  The wife was a mayor and the First Lady of Madagascar at one time and her husband was a major CEO of a telephone company here in Madagascar.  All three of their boys live in Europe and they as a couple are enjoying their days in retirement.  One of the most incredible things that was in their house was a medium grand piano.  It is the only one in Madagascar that I’ve ever seen and I played a little bit.  It was really nice to touch such a beautiful instrument.  The food was great and we discussed a little bit about religion.  It was very nice and casual.  Very nice and humble people.

KODAK Digital Still CameraToday is June 26th which is the ‘Feti-pirenena’ which translates to ‘Independance Day.’  As I’ve mentioned before in previous email, Malagasies love to party and don’t stop.  As such, President Foote put a curfew for missionaries starting on Saturday through tomorrow night that missionaries have to be in their houses before 6pm.  It’s pretty sad because our programs that we had planned with people in the evenings of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, were pushed back.  However, we received permission from the APs and went with the Ambohimanarina Elders to hike up a little mountain and sit on some rocks to watch the fireworks.  Yesterday were most of the big fireworks, the day before the actually independance day.  It’s been great.

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Fr. Dieu Donne’s family & Fr. Fetra’s

Today as missionaries we are going to be playing soccer at this really nice grass field against the Tana 1st Ward.  Then Elder Modisakeng and I will have a nice time relaxing at our house reading scriptures or doing other missionary stuff.

Madagascar is great and I love every part about it!  Have a great week and be safe!

EXTRA INFO:  He didn’t put this in the public email, but Jacob will be a Zone Leader in his next area.  He has not been a District Leader yet, so he is quite humbled.

Below are photos taken from Sister Foote’s Instagram.P-Day Soccer

Week 46.10Week 46.9

New Antanarivo District Presidency
New Antananarivo District Presidency

#45 No Baptism :( , Volleyball, and Modi’s 19th B-Day

Modi turns 19
Elder Modi turns 19

This week was full of plenty of ups and downs.  To start off, we didn’t have a baptism on Saturday.  The reason being that Alfred‘s wife has been very sick and on Thursday, she was the sickest she’s ever been.  We visited him on Friday and we asked him about his thoughts on the baptism tomorrow and he felt very excited and ready.  He really is the most converted person I’ve ever taught.  For example, last week we gave him the Malagasy Liahona General Conference magazine from the October 2016 and he had read from pg 1 – 108 in just a few days.  He is in Alma in his Book of Mormon reading and is just a superstar.  He came to the baptism an hour early to have an interview with the 1st counselor Fr. Jean de Dieu, and expressed his concern.  He couldn’t focus at the baptism because and was worrying about his wife the whole time, considering that no one at the house knows how to take care of his wife and her needs.  The conclusion was that it would be better to postpone the baptism until his wife is a little bit better.  At the end of the interview, his eyes began to swell up with tears because he wants to get baptized.  He has amazing faith and during his prayers, he constantly asks that a way will be provided for him to get baptized.  Sad day, but the decision was for the best.

Week 45.6Today we had a zone activity and played volleyball at our church with our bishop.  After 5 games of intense volleyball with 8 people, we switched over to soccer, and then a little bit later 8 more missionaries showed up.  We played more than 3 hours of soccer and volleyball and I am really tired.  It was really fun and a great time to spend with our bishop and other missionaries in some wholesome recreational activities.  I’ve slowly been getting a hold of volleyball and how to spike better, it’s a trial and error kind of thing.  It was a great turn out for missionaries and was such a fun activity.

Week 45.2Today is Elder Modisakeng’s 19th birthday.  We went and ate some delicious lunch and then as we were heading to the taxibe stop we egged and floured Elder Modisakeng.  All 8 of us remaining got him pretty good.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Malagasy culture, it is tradition that on your birthday you get crushed with a bunch of eggs on the head and then doused with flour.  Let me play this out to you in a play by play scenario.  First, Elder Nolan went to say a good bye handshake as we began to split and go back to our homes, in his hand he held an egg and they crushed it when they shook hands.  Week 45.4Elder Modisakeng looked at his hand and saw the remains of an egg and things quickly began to piece together in his mind.  Almost before he could move, eggs were being crushed all over his head and he began to run.  I finished him off with a kilo of flour all over him.  Don’t worry, he was completely ok with it after we got him dirty, and we were just a two minute walk away from our house and his shower.  So he was only a little embarrassed as we walked home and prepared him for the shower.  He’s all clean now and it was really fun.  He was really surprised and we were able to plan it without him knowing.  What a great way it was to introduce him to Malagasy tradition right in training!  He’s now the ripe age of 19 and a big boy.  I love him a lot and he is an incredible missionary.

Sorry this email isn’t very long, I’ve gotta send a great email to my father because of La Fete Du Pere.  I love you all and hope you have a great week!Week 45.5

#44 Croc Farm, Lemur Fun, and an Explosion

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis week was wonderful.  We had a full program every day this week and the missionary work is just exploding.  Let’s start off with today and work backwards.

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis morning, we went with the zone leaders, Elder Nelson and Elder Lebereko, to this place in our area called Croc Farm.  It’s basically like a mini zoo.  So, we bought two chickens prior to our entrance at a market.  When we got there, we went to the big area where the crocodiles were and prepared our chickens to go into the pen of crocodiles.  The guards said it was ok, because that is what they eat.  Anyways, our chicken was named Piso (which means kitten in Malagasy), and the other missionaries name was Mpamboly Coco.  At first, the crocodiles were lazy and weren’t chasing after it.  After a little of time, the crocodiles started chasing after the chickens and Piso was the last the be eaten, thus the champion.  Unfortunately first and second place got the same reward in this competition.  It was really fun.

KODAK Digital Still CameraAlso, at Croc Farm, they had lemurs that were just hanging around in the trees uncaged, throughout the park.  After using some weird sounds and offering them some biscuits, they flew down from the tree tops above.  They came right next to us and we fed them some sweet little biscuits/cookies.  We were able to play with them for 30 minutes.  They are so soft and have really weird feet/hands that help them with gripping almost any surface. KODAK Digital Still Camera I’ve wanted to play with lemurs all my life, so this was a dream come true.  This is the thing that Madagascar is famous for and it was nice to be a part of it.  They are so nice and cute little guys.  Mom, can I take a lemur home to America?

So, the ‘explosion’ that I mentioned in the header might have been misleading.  Explosion as in regards to missionary work.  The work is just exploding.  We’ve been teaching a lot of referrals this past week, invited new people to prepare to be baptized, and strengthening recent converts/less actives.  We had 9 investigators at church this Sunday which was kind of sad, because some of them weren’t able to make it.  KODAK Digital Still CameraWe have a baptism this Saturday and have a great program set up for Alfred with a lot of help from the ward.  If I’m being optimistic, we could have 16 people getting baptized on July 1st, if they keep coming to church and learning well.  It’s going to be great if everything works out.  Elder Modisakeng is doing great and I’m training a legend.  Unfortunately, I only have a few weeks left with Ry Zanako Malalako until I get transferred.  I love training and he’s great and become a life-long friend.

Spiritual Thought: 3 Nephi 13:19-21: 

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Are you putting your time, focus, and effort on things or worries of the world, or are you embracing the gospel and serving others, or in other words, serving Heavenly Father?  The things of this world are only temporary, fame, popularity, and worldly possessions are worth less than the dust of the earth when put into eternal perspectives.

Madagascar is great, love you all and I hope you have a great week.  Here are some pictures below!

KODAK Digital Still Camera
trying to look good for the camera…

#43 Pentecost, Great Attendance, and Fr. Sunee

This week was incredible.  So as Malagasies always do, when they have a holiday, they celebrate the day before and the day after.  Malagasies just love partying.  Yesterday was the official celebration of Pentecost.  It’s funny because they just extend the days of the holiday so that they don’t have to work!  Haha.  When went over to Fr. Emile’s house and had a great lunch with him and his family and some of their extended family.  Their new baby boy just got blessed yesterday during sacrament meeting and it was great.  Fr. Emile served his mission in Cape Town and still speaks some English.

Yesterday at church we a had a good attendance, especially from investigators.  We had 15 come to church!  It would have been 19, but there were a few investigators that have been coming constantly for the past months that suddenly weren’t able to come, but the rest of their families came.  Next week we should be seeing more in the audience.  We’ve been working a lot with members and the work has been progressing so much better.  We’ve got members lined up with us daily and they are paired up with teaching investigators.  We’ve been getting referrals and the members are helping us teach them and they have been bringing the investigators and recent converts to church.  We have a baptism on June 17th for one investigator Alfred.  He is incredibly powerful and spiritual.  Optimistically speaking, we could have a massive baptism on July 1st.  About 20 people could possibly be baptized, if not even more than that.  We’ll see.  We are trying to get some families married and then they will be able to be baptized.  We printed off a talk and gave it to the local leaders from Jeffrey R. Holland in the April 2001 general conference.  The work truly is hastening and the local leaders are helping a lot!

Last but not least, Fr. Sunee.  He’s 23 years old and teaches the investigators class occasionally.  He’s a returned missionary from The Congo and speaks great English.  Anyways, he got married this past Saturday and flies out today to get married in the temple in South Africa.  Because it is so expensive to go to the temple for most members, this is a great occasion for him and his soon-to-be eternal wife.  What a great blessing it is that we have temples in which we can do eternal, saving ordinances.  I love the temple and I miss it a lot.  He is going to start his eternal family off right by being sealed for time and all eternity.

I love this gospel and I especially love sharing it.  I encourage all that haven’t read Elder Holland’s talk to read or watch it.  It is simply inspiring.   No pictures yet, sorry.

Personal letter excerpts:  We have a very calm day today for p-day and are going to play the piano and cyber.  We are cybering at the church and there is only one computer.  So, I’ve been teaching Elder Modisakeng the piano and he’s currently practicing.  We will come back to the church later when his mother is on and he will cyber and I will practice the piano.  It’s a great day!

Another one: I just barely got on, it’s about 8:20 here and we finally walked up to the church.  I played the opening hymn yesterday in Sacrament meeting and it was difficult, I was able to get through most of it, but it was tough.  5 minutes before sacrament meeting they asked me to fill in and I was happy, until I found out the songs.  They were tough.

P.S.  When we skyped with Jake over Christmas,  he explained that most members go to the temple only once in their lifetimes. In a ward, there are very few endowed members.  It is a really big deal to go to the temple because it is so expensive.  Generally, a family will set the goal to go to the temple and then speak with the Bishop.  At that time, they come up with an amount of money that they can save over a few years while sacrificing for it.  When the time comes, they use all the money they saved and the church helps make up the difference.  If not, no one would ever make it to the temple.  So this is pretty phenomenal to start a marriage off in the temple.

#42 Anarana Namana, Surprising Sacrament Meeting, and State Champs

So this week was great.  Our area is continuing to progress and we’ve been receiving an extraordinary amount of referrals from members.  ‘Anarana namana’ means the name of a friend.  There is no direct translation in Malagasy that expresses the word referral so that is the best we can get.  Anyways, last Monday we were at a family home evening with the first counselor Jean de Dieu and he had brought a mom and her daughter to join with us.  When we showed up they were already there.  We taught them a great lesson about unlocking the power of the atonement through faith and prayer and it opened their hearts.  We explained a few of the things as we went a long to the new family Corrine (mother) and her daughter.  After a wonderful evening we walked about 10 minutes to their house and met the father.  He had just gotten home from work and we set up a return appointment for us to teach them.  They are very kind and ready for the gospel.  We teach them tomorrow.

In our sacrament meeting yesterday something out of the ordinary happened.  At about 8:55, Elder Modisakeng and I are standing outside of the chapel waiting for the last few people to come into the building.  As we were standing, one of the member said to me “Eto ny rainao” which means ‘your dad is here.’  I was confused at first, then I saw a white person start walking towards the church.  Then appeared behind him President Foote.  They first went to a nearby branch prior.  Before they entered, the Seventy felt impressed to not go to that branch, but that the Lord needed him to come to our ward.  What a true blessing.  The seventy presided and it was a great meeting.  We ended up with 123 people attending sacrament meeting in all with 10 of those our investigators.  There was a post-missionary that translated for the Seventy when he spoke, Elder Modisakeng sat with some of our investigators, and I sat in the back and translated for President Foote.  I felt confident in my Malagasy, however, this circumstance was a humbling experience.  It is a lot easier to go from English to Malagasy, but not necessarily the other way around.  People who have learned another language understand this clearly.  Anyways, they stayed for all of church and then President took the Seventy to his flight back to South Africa.  It was a great blessing to hear from them.  One thing he said in his talk while referring to sport and our spiritual growth: “There are two kinds of players: The first tries to just be better than the others, and the second tries to become better than himself. The second will grow even after he succeeds his competitor because he is humble and working on self-improvement.”  Which type of player are you?

In final, some of you already know, but Layton High won the 5A Boys Soccer Championship for Utah.  Big congratulations for them.  I remember playing just last year and the guys that I played with that were younger, were definitely strong.  Shout out to my boy Sammy for blocking the 4th penalty shot.  I’ve never been so trunky than seeing the pictures.  Love you boys, congratulations, and keep up the good work.

Items requested for package: 12 Razor Blades the Gillette Fusion + Camera if you are going to Costco see if you can exchange it for the orange, but if not don’t worry about it 🙂 + Trolli Sour Gummy Worms + Letters from you guys + Deodorant Preferably: Degree Cold Rush.  Send a 4 pack + Clinpro Toothpaste, two tubes if you don’t mind. + A crisp $1 USD bill because I want to smell america and see it.  People often ask about American money and I want to show them. + Maybe a book of postcards with different pictures of Jesus in it.  Elder Shoemaker got one in a package from his mom.  They are great to give away.  The one he had had about 30 pictures.  You could probably find it at Deseret Book. + The Testaments DVD