#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:


#59 Split Zone Leader Training & Getting Together with Old Companions

Week 59.1Sorry, this isn’t going to be a big email, but we’ll first start off with some questions from mom and then the best of details

 How did it go with Vincent and Hanitra?   Well, they didn’t get married this past week because Vincent’s mom should be arriving here in Antananarivo sometime this week.  We discussed it with them and they are going to be getting baptized on the 21st of October for sure and we had a nice talk about it.  They want to get baptized so bad and that is probably going to be the earliest they are going to be able to get married because of the Marriage Commune.

Week 59.6What about Landry and Fandresena?   Well, Landry will probably be baptized the same time as Vincent and Hanitra because he has no rush to get baptized and it’ll be a better baptismal service with more people.  Fandresena is also going to be preparing hard to pass the baptismal interview and be baptized on the 21st of October as well.

Aside from that, we got transfer news yesterday!  It is official, Elder Soper and I are splitting Manakambahiny and we are both going to be training.  There are 15 elders coming in on Thursday and we’ll get our new companions from there.  I’m way excited to train again and it’s going to be super fun.  There are some things that I’ve worked out in order to help my new trainee become better than I was.  Elder Soper and I are having a blast here in Manakambahiny and the work is going super well.

Week 59.3We went on a split with Elder Wilson and Elder Jakins.  I went and did baptismal interviews with Elder Wilson in his area.  For those of you who haven’t been in tune, Elder Wilson was my second companion on my mission and helped me right out of training.  He is only a transfer ahead of me so we are pretty similar in age on the mission.  We had a great split and were able to exchange a lot of stories and experiences because its been a while since we’ve been together.  I love Elder Wilson and the people that I interviewed for baptism were absolutely incredible.  My favorite was Henry.  He was tracted into by Elder Wilson two months ago and has been an super stellar champ in the gospel.  He has literally taken all of the pamphlets read them, done all the homework things in the back, and then wrote a summary of each book by memory in a notebook.  Every gospel doctrine class, he writes notes and knows the doctrine so well!  He will be getting baptized on September 30th by Elder Wilson and his new trainee.

Week 59.5I hope you all have a great week and enjoy by living happily and spending time with family.

Week 59.4
It’s in French!!

#58 Regime, Prepping Our Area For Our Kids & Split w/Elder Chounlamany

Week 58.1Regime (French for ‘Diet’). This week could have been better than it was.  Yesterday and Tuesday were sick days for Elder Soper and I.  We’ve been trying to battle this head cold that has been bouncing back and forth between both of us.  So we’ve been alternating being sick.  Anyways today we have both been feeling good and I think the sickness is out of us.  As a result of the time we were at home, Week 58.2Elder Soper and I made a good diet for us this next week.  He had a cookbook for 2 that his mom sent with him and we are putting it to work.  We made a shopping list, budgeted out 10 meals, and executed this morning as we went to the local grocery store Shoprite.  Anyways, it should be a good week and we just cleaned our house today and got it sprayed for bugs to protect us from the insects of Madagascar.  Everything is going to go well this week in preparation for our new trainees that come next Wednesday.

E. Soper slipped into the little poop river
Elder Soper looking disappointed as he slipped into the little poop river that runs along a rock path.

Preparing the Area for our Kids (Trainees).  Well it is getting close to our new trainees 56-hour air travel arrival and we are working really hard to get everything booming when they get here.  First off, splitting the area is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, because in both areas we have the best investigators ever!  It has been split and very even, however we are both sad because once we get our kids, the split will be official and we can’t work where it’s split.  We’ve been tracting more and working with members in order to build up our program although it’s been difficult with the sick days.  So yesterday and Saturday, we finished up some of the baptismal interviews and Vincent and Hanitra are getting baptized this Saturday.  That is, if they get married on Thursday and they said that we shouldn’t worry, but they still haven’t sent in their papers to the commune to be processed in order for their marriage to happen.  Hopefully they will get baptized this Saturday, but if not, next Saturday (this is probably going to be the outcome).  Landry and Fandresena also had their baptismal interviews and Landry passed, but Fandresena didn’t.  It’s pretty sad because Landry is 11, a chatter box, and Fandresena is 13 and pretty shy.  They and Vincent & Hanitra are from two different families, but if Vincent & Hanitra don’t get baptized this Saturday, Landry will probably also get pushed back and then three will be done at the same baptismal service.  So, that is a little bit about the area.

Stake Conference.  We had stake conference yesterday and a member of the area seventy Elder Kawaya came and presided at the conference.  It was a great conference and it was nice because it was held at our church, so it’s nice and within walking distance.  There were 8 wards that attended the conference and the entire meeting house was filled (including the overflow).  We were blessed to have 17 investigators at church and they loved the conference and were able to endure through 2.5 hours of it.  Whoohooo!

Split w/ Elder Chounlamany.  On Saturday because we needed to have baptismal interviews for Vincent & Hanitra, we went on a split with the District Leader Elder Lesch and his companion Elder Chounlamany.  We set it up and Elder Soper stayed in our area and I got to go with Elder Chounlamany in their area Mahamasina (which borders our area).  Elder Chounlamany is a great missionary, he hit is year mark this past Thursday, is 100% pure unfiltered Thailandais, and just an overall champ.  Their program has been struggling a little bit and the entire Saturday was tracting.  They had no lessons planned.  But that was no trouble and certainly didn’t put us down, so we did what we knew best – tracted by the church.

E. Lesch - DL, Durban, S.Africa
E. Lesch – District Leader – South African, Durban Blood

Well, one thing I’ve learned from Elder Soper is how to tract and love it!  I used a lot of techniques and it was one of the best days I’ve had on my mission.  I’ll just tell you about how it went, we were able to teach 7 lessons that day, set up 14 return appointments, hand out 23 pamphlets about the restoration, and finish the night after tracting into one more GOLDEN family at around 7 pm.  Tina & Mora are their names and they have a little boy named Vatosoa.  When we saw them, we were in an alley and the guy, Tina, said as I greeted him “Hey, do you remember me from the bus that one time?”  I paused for a second as I tried to think of where I saw this man and then responded with a smile “Sorry Sir, I ride a lot of buses and talk to a lot of people, what is your name again?”  After he laughed and told me his name, I asked him if he remember what our job was and he said “To teach the gospel” and I answered positively and asked if we could share our message with him and they quickly and excitedly took us to their house.  We shared the message of the restoration and they said that it made so much sense.  The church they have been attending is really far away and they don’t feel too much when they attend their Sunday services.  Well, because our church is really close, they were excited and we answered a few of their questions about the church.  They thought because our church is so beautiful that they weren’t allowed in, but were super excited at the invitation to come to church because they’ve always wanted to see what was inside.

First picture with new camera
1st picture with my  new camera

They loved everything about the message and Elder Chounlamany set up to teach them next Saturday at the same time.  I love sharing the gospel and seeing the light it brings into people lives.

Madagascar is going super well and I love it here.  The people are great and the church is true.  If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be sharing it, but I know it is.  Love you all!


#57 Voan’gripa, Soiree w/ Pres. Jacquot, and Blaise

Week 57.1Dear Beloveds,

Voan’gripa / Progress in the Area. This week was splendid and full of hard work.  So I’ll just tell a little bit of the story, but Elder Soper and I have both been sick with the flu/nasty head cold/sinus infection (Voan’gripa).  This morning we went to the mission office and after visiting with Sister Boyle, the mission nurse, we got a bunch of medications to help with my sinus infection.  If I look back on the week and don’t think about being sick, it was wonderful!  We had a bunch of great lessons and progression of our investigators.

Week 57.2We will hopefully be getting 5 baptized on September 23rd: Vincent, Hanitra, Fandresena, Landry, and Sidoniah.  Vincent and Hanitra are going to be getting married in just a week or so and they are so ready to become members.  We’ve finished all of the lessons with them and they wanted us to start redoing them.  They’ve been a little tight on money, so Elder Soper and I bought them a notebook and some pens.  Vincent always says that he wants to take notes so that he can teach his kids the gospel when they are older.  What a champ.  They have one daughter, Clarita and she’s seven years old and cute as a little ball of sunshine.

Week 57.6I’m just going to boast about my companion for a second.  Elder Soper is probably the most skilled at the language in our entire mission and an incredible teacher of the restored gospel.  I seriously learn so much from him every day and lesson and we talk about it openly.  I know that through his teachings, I’ve become a better teacher and speaker of Malagasy.  It’s crazy how good he is at the language and he’s helping me fine tune.  The goal is to be very ready to train again when my kid comes September 27th.  I’m very excited to split-zone-lead-train with Elder Soper!

Soiree w/ President Jacquot.  So President Jacquot is President Foote’s first counselor in the mission and conveniently lives right next to some of our best investigators in Marohoho (by our church).  Anyways, we invited these two families Solofo sy Dahlia and Mamy sy Josy.  They both came.  Elder Soper and I presented the lesson and President Jacquot’s children gave a spiritual thought.  In my part of the lesson, I shared the scripture in Mosiah Chapter 4:

“14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is theevil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth andsoberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”

Week 57.8I shared about the role of parents and helping their children grow up not only physically, but spiritually as well.  I shared President Foote’s teaching: “When we don’t raise our children within the spiritual and physical protection of the church, there are many risks that we take and they only have the streets of Madagascar to learn about what is in the world.”  They wouldn’t let their children go hungry, and the same goes with their spirit, they shouldn’t let their children go hungry spiritually and through the gospel in this church, it’s youth programs, opportunities for participation, etc., they can raise their children with righteous values and good friends that will help them live happier lives.  Everyone was super happy at the soiree and it was a good time for everyone to get to know each other and investigators to become more familiar with the culture of Christ’s church (ie. family home evenings).  Solofo wasn’t able to make it to church yesterday because of work, but Mamy, Josy, Dahlia and their kids were able to come and participate in the sacramental services and the doctrine classes.

Week 57.4
Cesaire & I looking at all the bananas he is going to sell

This following segment of the email was taken straight from Elder Soper’s letter to his family because after I read it, I couldn’t think of a better way telling this story:

Blaise (sounds like Blaze).  Always drunk, always respectful. My boy Blaise. He goes around stopping people on the street with a “Uhh.. Hello sir! Can I stop you for a minute?” If you happen to get stopped by Blaise, he will have a polite conversation with you about your day, your kids, your work, and then he’ll end with, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” No thanks, Blaise. Help yourself first, haha! I’ve honestly never seen him not drunk. To add to his great personality, Blaise also considers himself a Mormon! It started once he came to church months ago when my past companion, Elder Bingham–not realizing he was drunk–randomly invited him on the path. Way too enthusiastically, Blaise sprinted over and expressed how ready was to finally change. As church started, Blaise was amazed at everything: the “fine workmanship of the ceiling and pews”, how “quiet” it was and the power and spirit he felt during the bishop’s talk–he literally nodded a full 90 degrees after every sentence. After church, he revealed, with wide drunk eyes, that he wanted to be baptized! We countered, “Come to church again, and we’ll see!” He didn’t come the next week…

Then! Yesterday evening, Blaise suprised us as we rounded a corner. He first said sorry a few times for scaring us, and then said, “I came to church again! It was wonderful!” We didn’t see him at all during sacrament meeting, so we replied, “No you didn’t, Blaise.” Sincerely offended, he cried, “I did! I really did! Trust me. I stayed all three hours.” Laughing, we left a disappointed Blaise to drink the night away.

Later that night, while putting in stats, the elders in the other ward that meets in our building told us that a guy named Blaise showed up to their sacrament meeting, stayed all three hours and exclaimed he wanted to be baptized to the priesthood quorum, haha! Elder Stromberg and I laughed so hard. Though drunk 24/7, I guess he’s a progressing investigator.

I hope you guys got a good kick out of the story.  Elder Soper is a very creative writer, I’ve still got a little ways to go.  Have a great week, love you all.

Week 57.7
these sunglasses are “vrai marke” meaning the real thing
Week 57.5
teaching a crawfish / foza orana
Week 57.3
Elder Soper & the son of recent convert, Joseph

#56 Congolese & Cameroonian, Q&A and The Work

Week 56.7Dear Beloveds,  So this week was absolutely incredible.  I know it sounds like I say that every week maybe because being a missionary is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.  This past Thursday, after finishing a good day of work, we went over to some of these really nice Congolese people that live in our same complex.  Jean Luc is the dad and he’s really funny and has an outgoing attitude.  Because of his work, he needs to speak a little bit of Malagasy, so we’ve come over a few times before to teach him some of the basics.  So Mimi, his wife, wanted to make us some traditional Congolese food and invited us over to a dinner soiree.  When we got there, there was a guy named Cedrick that also lives in the complex with his wife Emma.  Cedrick is French and Emma is a Cameroonian (I think that’s their title).  Well, we had a wonderful meal together and my favorite thing was probably chicken liver in this sauce stuff and some fried plantains.  I learned a lot about Congolese and Cameroonian culture.  They all spoke English, but it was their second language, so I got to practice my French and learn some more.  We also shared a little bit about what we do as missionaries after Cedrick asked.  It was a really cool and felt really casual to talk about in English.  We had to tell them that we didn’t drink alcohol and they were very surprised, but satisfied with the answer.  All in all they are really incredible people and it was great to exchange good conversation over some delicious food.  There are some pictures down below.

How is the work going?  How many investigators were at church?  How many lessons did you teach this week?   The work is going incredible.  We’ve been figuring out our meetings with the DMP and the Bishop and it is going to help the area progress a lot more and prepare us for the split we will be making when Elder Soper and I both train.  If everything works out these next few weeks with weddings (Vincent sy Hanitra and Sylvain sy Menja) we will have 8 baptisms this month!  We haven’t been teaching as many lessons, but all of our lessons are insanely high quality and more filled with the holy ghost.  This past week was alright, we had 23 lessons.  Honestly last week wasn’t the best, but it the result was the best we’ve ever had.  We had 20 investigators at church yesterday!  That’s the most we’ve ever had.  We had a pretty effective set of meetings the past two days with ward council and our ward missionary leader meeting.  The ward is working really hard to help us and it’s looking to be pretty great.

Week 56.9Any new baby delivery stories?   No, sorry.  Baby deliveries haven’t come very often in my experience in the field.  However, next time I will be ready to help!

Did you get to shop for a camera yet?   We tried today, but didn’t find any except very low quality ones, but we will next week.

How is the weather?  Are you warm enough? How are your shoes holding up?  Clothes too?  Did you open that brand new shirt at your halfway mark?   The weather is getting a lot warmer.  We use the heater on half heat at night, and I don’t use my sweaters too much any more.  My shoes are holding up great on the outside but the sole are destroyed.  Do you think you could just purchase the soles?  They are the hushpuppy ones that look really round and are slip on.  If possible, that is the only thing I need!  Clothes are doing great, all my shirts have become a gray.  No one really noticed it was bad until I stood next to one of the new missionaries with their blinding white shirts.  Yes, I did open that vacuum-sealed bag at my year mark and it was so nice.  I added two ties, a new pair of socks, and two short sleeve shirts to my wardrobe.  Most missionaries burn one of their shirts that their year mark, but I didn’t because that would be a loss.  One of those short sleeve shirts I only wear to zone conferences and training meetings because I want to look good 🙂

Week 56.1
Chuck – a chicken/duck

Are there any chameleons out during the winter or do they hibernate?  Tell me about the wildlife.   Well, I haven’t seen any in quite some time so I imagine they are hibernating.  The wildlife is pretty normal as being in the city where I am.  I don’t see anything new, there’s a bunch of street dogs, chickens, and ducks waddling around.  Sorry to disappoint you will the wildlife.

Are you in a ward or branch? How many Stakes/Districts in Mada?  How many baptisms in your Zone in September?  Was that normal?  I am in the Manakambahiny branch in the Manakambahiny Stake.  There are 2 stakes and 3 districts in Mada.  We had 5 baptisms this past month in our zone.  No, that was not normal we are working a lot more to get a bunch this next month, and we will be getting tons.  In our area we will be getting at least 8 and we will end up around 30 for the month of September if we are on track.

 Week 56.8What gospel topic are you Studying?  How often do you eat with Members? Have you gained weight?  What stories of you and Elder Soper are going around the mission? (Other than the  baby delivery).     I just barely finished up a two week study on the habits that the Nephites had that improved their spiritual growth (Helaman 3:35).  I took all of the principles and really broke it down and related it.  All in all it took about 15 pages of small Jake-styled handwriting to complete the study.  We are limited to 2 soirees per week with members.  I am currently at 165.6 pounds, I just weighed myself.  I started my mission at 150 ish.  So I’ve gained 15 pounds.  People don’t hear too much about our stories because we are in a two-man house and don’t have too many people to talk to except on p-days.

Week 56.11
Boabab Fruit – very gritty & sweet/bitter

So the work in the area is sky-rocketing.  We’ve had some people fall through on their baptismal dates because Cesaire still isn’t off of cigarettes and the two other families still aren’t lawfully married.  However, we have set plans for all of them and they are already put into action and we should be having eight baptisms this month including (for those that have been following the emails): Cesaire, Sidoniah, Vincent sy Hanitra, Sylvain sy Menja, Fandresena, and Landry.  The mission is great and I love helping others and seeing the light of Christ change their lives to become better people, that are more full of love.  Thank you for all of your prayers, we can definitely feel them.  Have a great week!

#55 Time is Flying

Week 55.3So, this week was pretty incredible.  The weeks seem to fly by even though sometimes the days don’t.  We had a very progressive week on investigators and help with members.  This past Wednesday we had a family home evening at one of our member’s house – Jean Louis.  It was an opportunity to bring less-actives and investigators.  We brought Laza, a referral from Jean Louis, and Vonjy sy Fafa’s family.  Vonjy and Fafa have four kids and they as parents have been members for almost a decade, but went less-active.  Two of their boys are now taking the missionary lessons from us and are planning on getting baptized this September 23rd.  They are reactivated and fully participating in the church and coming to activites! It was super great and we had 16 investigators at church yesterday (that’s the most I’ve ever had)!  All-in-all a solid week!  Sorry mom, we didn’t organize our time very well today, there will be a much better email next week.Week 55.1Week 55.2

Excerpts from personal letter:  Wow mom, this email was super full of some awesome things!!!  I’m glad that you guys were able to go to Elder Nelson’s homecoming and especially receive the package.  It was all that I could compile in just a little bit, but I also have Book of Mormon’s for Carter and Harry.  Don’t tell them, but they will get them before they go on their missions.  It’s a great little thing that I thought about six months ago and I know you guys would like it.  I was planning on sending a package back to you guys, but it’s pretty expensive and I think that you can wait another few months for them.

Stuff in the family sound busy as ever with three going back to school and one being a full-time employee.  Jam should be working full-time so that he doesn’t waste this time in making money.   It’d be nice to return to a few thousand dollars when he gets back from his mission.  Keep motivating him and encouraging.  I’m glad he is maturing more, I’ve definitely done a lot of that on my mission.

Dad is totally smoking HOT isn’t he?  I’m looking at the pictures on Jam’s birthday of them pressing out their bellies and the only word that comes to my head is ‘ATTRACTIVE’ 😄

I will pray for Becca.   Have a great week mom!  I keep praying for you and the family and working hard!  There’s this one thing that I love that keeps me diligent and motivated in the mission:  There are people that we promised during the pre-mortal existence to bring the fullness of the gospel to.  Maybe that’s why I love people the second I see them, because they were my friends before this life and I am fulfilling my promise to them.  I feel that especially about Vincent and Hanitra.  Love you tons!Week 55.4


#54 The Rivalry, Gigi, and Sylvain sy Menja

Week 54.3
a bunch of kids that helped us find a less-actives house

This week was incredible.  We’ll just jump right in.  Tuesday morning was an Andro Tsy Miasa, which basically translates to a holiday.  So the church always does activities on days like this and both the stakes in Tana had all their wards get together and they rented out a field for the day to play soccer.  Anyways, our ward (Manakambahiny) was lined up against (Mahamasina) which is the other ward that meets in the same building as us.  Everyone knows each other pretty well within the wards, so you can imagine that the competition was pretty intense.  The Bishop was the coach for our team and after the first half we led 1-0.  I assisted the second goal which was scored by our Ward Mission Leader Fr. Aina.  We then got scored on which brought us up to 2-1.  With about 15 minutes left, we were pretty tired and a loose ball went in the middle of the penalty area and I went to take a swing only to get a random rut in the poor grass field to impede my kick.  Fortunately I fell and landed on my side and one of the defenders tried to clear out the ball, but bounced right next to me.  While on the ground I flicked my left foot and hit it hard enough to send it right past the goalkeeper into the back of the net.  Now this little story of how I scored the goal might have sounded intense, but it was kinda pathetic in the way I scored because I embarassingly tripped prior to my strike and the second shot was only a desperate attempt at success.  My dad once told me “a goal is a goal, no matter how pretty or ugly it was.”  Thanks for the words of encouragement dad 😉 After that, we scored another goal and we won 4-1.  It was a really fun activity to strengthen the ward with the missionaries and we got two referrals out of it that we will be teaching this upcoming week!

Week 54.1
 Some kids that ride down this dirt hill on old plastic water bottles and plastic insides of tires, what a life!

So Gigi a guy that we accidentally tracted into about a month ago.  He’s pretty old and is a retired Malagasy veteran.  I say we accidentally tracted into him because we went to a house where an old investigator used to live and had mistaken his house for theirs.  Anyways we taught him a first and a return appointment and it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary.  Well a few weeks later and a few lessons, Gigi came to church for the first time yesterday.  He’s pretty shy, but the members welcomed him in very well and he had a good friend with him during the ‘Gospel Principles’ class and Elder’s Quorum.  We had taught him about the Book of Mormon last week and just a few days later we returned and he had read all the way to 2 Nephi 2 and completed all of the questions in the back of the Plan of Salvation pamphlet.  He loves the message and enjoys all of the homework we give him.  He has a lot of time on his hands because he is retired and loves reading.  We’ll set a goal for baptism with him this next week.

Week 54.2Another one of our investigators that we have is Sylvain and Menja.  So, I’ll tell a little bit of their story.  Sylvain is an electrician and Menja is a mother.  Pretty simple right?  Well they have two little boys that are really cute and just little champions.  A few months ago,  Sylvain got this weird kind of disease where his hair falls out and it doesn’t grow back except in weird patches.  Anyways, he’s been Anglican and Protestant for his whole life and when he first received our lessons he was quite reluctant.  He is very smart and loves the Plan of Salvation and dives pretty deep into the homework we give him.  Sylvan and Menja came to church yesterday for their second time.  This time, they stayed for sunday school and priesthood/relief society.  They loved the learning classes and how we broke down the doctrines.  They said that they have already learned a lot at our church about the gospel than they have at any other church they’ve been to and it’s helped them grow spiritually.  This past Thursday, we had a lesson with them and the lesson before didn’t go very well because Sylvan is pretty possessive and doesn’t like his wife even saying ‘hi’ to another guy.  Well the lesson was about the Law of Chastity and it was the best lesson I’ve ever taught regarding this sacred commandment.  They were really open and ready to change to have a happier family.  We really talked about mutual respect within spouses and the blessings that come from a family when both parents work together.  They committed to serve each other this week and when we had our lesson with them yesterday, their entire aura was changed.  The gospel really does bless families and the most important commandment is to love one another.

Other than that, there is going to be a three-way zone conference tomorrow and Elder Soper and I have been asked to share a 10 minute lesson.  We’ve been preparing over the past few days and its going to be great.

I hope you all have a great week where ever you may be.  Be safe and enjoy wholesome activities with family and friends.  Week 54.4

Personal Letter Excerpt:  Mom, when I wrote that story I wrote it pretty fast.  I updated this one a little bit mainly fixing some grammar errors.  Here’s the experience you can send to Mary Perry’s sisters’s brother’s grandfather.  Elder Oaks.  Let me know if anything happens with it.  Love you!

“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 Sr. Lydee (a Malagasy doctor).  Anyways we got there and went into the house to immediately see a woman in labor getting ready to deliver a baby.  We quickly got out of the room and waited outside in the courtyard, because we had decided we shouldn’t be in there.  One of the young adults in the ward, Fr. Tony, came out of the room and asked, in Malagasy, if either of us knew how to deliver a baby and Elder Soper quickly responded to the call, having had a fair amount of knowledge on this subject because he took a class at BYU the year before.  Trying to stay within our boundaries even though we didn’t know the limit was in this particular situation, 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.  This was the first time I got to see one of our brothers and sisters enter into the world.  The Plan of Salvation lessons we had that day had a bit more meaning when we taught about the Pre-Earth Life.”

EMAIL Thurs. 8/24/17  So on Tuesday, we had zone conference and while it was happening, my package came.  Well, it was the package you sent, but with a big gash in the side and then some cords labeled: Antananarivo, Paositra.  Which means post office.  So I got my package, but the camera had been stolen as well as all the razors.  Good news, I got everything else in the package including the memory card and I really like the book Lectures of Faith.  There is a first world mall called the Ivandry Mall.  Is it okay if I go there and buy a camera?  It won’t be too expensive but it’ll get the job done.  Is that alright?  You definitely should have sent it DHL.  Next time, if Carter or Harry go to a third world country and you have to send a camera send it DHL because then it is guaranteed to get there safely.  Also I saw on the package that it was insured up to $200.00 and you could use that from USPS.  I don’t know the exact process, but I don’t have the package wrapping anymore.  I hope that won’t be a problem trying to get the refund.  Thanks for sending the package anyways. Also, don’t worry about me sending this email because Elder Soper is sending a picture of his ear to the senior medical couples in our mission.  I love you tons!


#53 Elder Stromberg Part 2, Transfers & Area Miracles

Week 53.07
Worst haircut EVER + a big pimple

Dear Loved Ones — This week was incredible.  By far, the most exciting news was about my brother Jam.  He received his mission call this last Thursday and he is going to be serving in the California San Francisco/Oakland mission and he will be teaching in the Lao language.  I’m going to assume some of you are like me and don’t know what that language is.  Well, it is a dialect of Thai which looks like the Arabian language that turned into a bunch of circles.  He’s such a super stud and if you see him in the next couple of weeks, make sure to send him a nice congratulations.  He leaves on November 1st and is incredibly excited.  There will now be two Elder Strombergs covering Madagascar and California.  The world better look out!

Other news this week, Elder Soper and I are staying together as zone leaders for another transfer!  I’m actually super relieved because now he and I can go to work and fix all of the problems in our program.  We had an interview with the Mission President last Monday and it is possible that Elder Soper could be in this area until the end of his mission (3 more transfers including this one).  I’m glad to be with this goofball, he is really fun and just such a powerful teacher.  He is the best Malagasy speaker in the entire mission right now and I am learning a lot from him in refining my studies and knowledge of the language.

Week 53.16So, this past week we’ve been reworking our area and program totally switching the days around so we can work different days in different parts of our areas and allocating more time to teach progressing investigators twice a week.  That all might sound like a bunch of words to those of you who didn’t serve missions, but from the lessons we caught this week and through the help from members, we had 13 investigators at church!  It was super incredible, I got to sit with three of them and the other ten were sitting with members.  The members of this ward are working very hard and doing very well in welcoming those people who are new to the ward and investigating the church.

Week 53.10
reaction to Jake’s haircut

An update with one of our progressing investigators Vincent and Hanitra.  They have been doing incredible!  Their baptismal date for now is August 26th.  We still have to teach them about the Law of Chastity and Tithing, but because they still aren’t married that’s kind of a problem.  Madagascar is not very similar to other developed countries.  They have two ways of marriage, the ancestral way which consists of usually paying a cow or goats/sheep.  However, it works the same as a normal marriage the wife and husband are required to stay faithful to their spouses and they go and raise a family together.  Then there is the actual way which comes through the government and all investigators must be married this way at least 24 hours before they get baptized.  It’s similar to a regular marriage.  Anyways, they still don’t have all their papers and still need to send for them, but they wouldn’t allow us to push back their baptismal date for two weeks later.  They literally said, “we can’t wait another two weeks after August 26th to become members of this church.”  They are very determined to do everything they can to get baptized on the 26th.  They both came to church together yesterday and enjoyed the classes and we all enjoyed the day together.  What a miracle!

Week 53.06Well, Madagascar is still great and I love so much about it!  I hope you all are safe and enjoying life and spending precious moments with your families.

When asked how he found out about Jamison’s mission call, he said:  I found out from the video.  We went to a cyber and I saw Becca’s thing saying about the dropbox so I immediately went there.  I didn’t know Jam’s call until I saw him tell it to me on the video.  It was like I was actually there!Week 53.22