Monday, December 29, 2014

Week 24 - Antsirabe - Christmas Happened!

So we'll start this week off with a quick review of the end of last week. On Sunday, Elder Razakamandimby was sick. Ok, that's enough to get going here. So on Monday he was feeling a lot better, so what does he do to continue the rest and recovery stuff? He plays a very competitive game of basketball with all of the other missionaries. Then, when P-day was over, we headed off to have a soirèe at a less active family's house. After eating a lot of corn, with lot's of sacay (like mashed peppers with oil--way spicy) on them, he decided he once again wasn't feeling good. The timing was pretty good, because it was already just about time to go home. So he went home, threw up, and then slept. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, that's mostly all he did. Threw up and slept. And used the bathroom. He was even sick on Christmas too, but he was feeling better and we managed to get the skyping done without a problem. The poor guy was finally feeling better on Friday, so we managed to get back out to work. Moral of the story is don't push yourself too much when you're sick. And something else we can learn from that is that we didn't do very much work this last week. It was kind of nice staying home and studying a lot, and it was nice to stay home so my companion didn't die, but I'm not going to lie, I missed working pretty bad. I've got a nice habit of working every day, so not working just drove me crazy, but it's all good, because he's doing a lot better now.

Then, Christmas happened!! It did not at all feel like Christmas, but we did have a Christmas pageant thing that we were able to get to, in which the missionaries were all angels and sang "Far Far Away on Judea's Plains" in Malagasy, of course. Then I was the lucky duck who got to be the Angel Gabriel and wave my arms around and look angelic while the narrator read my lines. It was pretty fun. Then we skyped home! That was amazing!!!! You all looked so good and it was so nice to talk to you all!!!

It was pretty fun getting to be a part of the present opening on Christmas morning too! Things I learned from that:
1. Matthew's voice dropped and is comparable to mine now.
2. Sammy and Danny are HUGE!!!
3. Every one of you is HUGE!!! (That might have been because the camera was right next to the floor, but also, when I see a 5'8" person now, I think he's way tall. And my 13 year old brother is the same height as my companion...)
4. Andrew looks a lot older.
5. South Africa does actually look like a very pretty place. I will admit that now.

The whole skyping thing was fantastic though, I had a blast and it was so great to see everybody and talk to y'all. Between seeing everybody at home and James in South Africa and even talking to Elder Glazier on the phone and wishing him a merry Christmas too, it was like I never left!!! Except I was in Madagascar. Small sidenote.

One other cool story for this week, after writing in my journal on Saturday night, I was reading through it some, the entries before I left on my mission, and I read one from March 2nd 2014. It talked about how I got a plate of snickerdoodles at my door with a typed note that said, "Nate Rasmussen (that was my name back then), you are probably the nicest guy I know. You are a great example of a disciple of Christ in everything that you do. You are smart and funny and a great friend. Thanks for that. :)" Feel free to start the "nice guy" jokes now, but my entire journal entry was just super happy and I just felt so loved! It was probably around a half an hour or so of effort to make some cookies, but the part that made me the most happy was just this little note with 4 little sentences and it totally made my day and made me feel so great about myself! Then, when I read it again, almost a year later, it made my day again!!! That's a lot of influence that one person with a little bit of free time has! I still have no idea who sent that, and that's part of why I'm writing this, so that maybe they will read it and know that I'm super grateful for them. So what you should all be getting out of this, is send me cookies. Not really, they would go bad, but really, if we each take a little bit more time to build up the people around us, then we can do so much good and so much service and we will get so many blessings! Complimenting someone is not going to have bad effects on you, even though we might think so, and it could totally make someone's day! Even if they're having a WAY rough time! A little bit of kindness goes a long way. So, my little challenge for you is to work on spreading a little more goodness, and I'll work on that too.

Going somewhat along those lines, the Malagasy Morsel this week is manatsara, mah-nah-TSAH-rah. It literally means to make good. You can use it as improve but you can also use it as compliment or talk good about someone. I think that's pretty cool because when we spread kindness like that, we are really improving the world a little bit. Rehefa manatsara ny olona hafa isika, dia tsy manao afa-tsy ny fanatsarana izao tontolo izao.

Love you all!
Aza adino ny manoratra ahy matetika! Satria tiako ianareo!
Elder Rasmussen

PS sorry there are no pictures, some should be coming next week. And a new camera might be coming soon too, we'll see.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 23 - Antsirabe - Christmas is Coming!

So... This week has been pretty exciting. We got to enjoy the hectic transfers but we managed to make it through all right. Everybody is starting to settle down, and it's been nice to meet some new missionaries.

I'll start of at the end of the week and work backwards. On Saturday we had the Talent show. It was pretty great, there were lots of surprising talents and there were lots of not so surprising talents. Elder Razakamandimy and I were one of the last talents to go. Razaka was playing the guitar and singing a song he wrote while I played the drums on the keyboard. We looked like straight up G's in our snapbacks and RayBans. And proselyting clothes... We were looking pretty hood, and everybody loved us, especially when the bass dropped and I came in. But then there was Tahiry interrupting our stream of thugness. He decided to switch out his outfit right before we went on and wore a... jesters hat...? Then he was much to flamboyant as he sang the harmonies. Razaka had his nice manly guitar playing thing going on, and I had a nice Daft Punk head nod going on with the keyboard, so it just seemed a little out of place. But that's ok, we got called back for an encore! We were the only ones who got that, so in my mind, we won this unjudged talent show pretty squarely. What can I say, we're keeping it real out here.

Then, a neat thing that happened this week. I have been studying faith this last little while, and there is a nice entry in the Bible Dictionary about that. One of the things it says is that miracles always follow faith, and the elements can be controlled by faith. Anyway, skip to Thursday and it was raining very hard. That's not really new because it is the rainy season, after all. Anyway, we could barely hear anything because most of the roofs are made out of corrugated tin, so I decided to offer a small prayer while all of the cannons were going off above my head. I asked for the rain to stop, but once I was finished I felt a little ashamed of my prayer. It just felt like I had been to wishy washy and the prayer had kind of been a "do it if it by Thy will and in Thy time" kind of thing, and I felt like that was more just throwing a wish out there than actually exercising faith. So I prayed again and asked that the rain stop in the next five minutes and it stopped in two. He's real. Usually the rain doesn't stop that easy during a big rainy season storm like that, often the rain can last for several days. So that was pretty cool and it helped me change my perspective of what it actually means to exercise faith. You got to be an agent and actively seek something, like the Brother of Jared. Don't just throw a wish out there and hope for the best. That's not actually doing anything. But I know that faith works. Then, after that, the next day we had three appointments in a row that weren't there. So we turned to go grab a quick snack two of the times and then they walked right up just as we were turning away! Then for the last one we felt like heading over to someone else's house and we found them. We had really great lessons with each one and it was great to see the Lord's hand guiding the work.

Malagasy Morsel for the week: bandy. BAHN-dee. It means like a young adult man who is just a thug. Imagine a bunch of kids trying to look like rappers sitting on the side of the road calling out crap to the missionaries as they walk by. That's a bandy. Example: Elder Razakamandimby and I looked totally bandy in the talent show. Do something with that word.

Anyway, HAVE THE MERRIEST CHRISTMAS EVERR!!! And a happy new year too.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 22 - Antsirabe - Staying Put

Alright, so this week starts off on last Monday. When we played basketball and I went and picked up my two pairs of tailored pants. Then we got some food too. That's a pretty important part...

Then on Thursday we were teaching some less actives who have recently been reactivated and she has been trying to introduce her friend to the gospel and brought him to our lesson. We were all excited, it's nice when members do missionary work. Then, it turns out he just wanted to Bible bash. Which was all great, because we managed to teach her some, answer some of his questions and then at the very end, gave him some scriptures to look up later and come back ready to talk about the spirit world and the resurrection next time. He even wanted to bring a friend to help him understand! Or in other words, he found our answers too satisfying and sensible, so he needs to bring his preacher to help out. But that's all good! That's just another person who gets to learn a little and feel the spirit and choose what to do from there! Surprisingly enough, that experience really helped our less active family come to church! I think the real reason is that the weight of our message was just so impressive. Literally. We came in and sat down on the two beds and 1 chair--that's all there is--and then about ten minutes in, the bed just collapsed! It had nothing to do with the big white guy who was sitting on it... I think there was a small, extremely focused earthquake or something. I felt so bad, but granted, it was me sitting with like three other people there, so I can't take all the blame. But there you have it. I'm fat. I am way fat. I am furniture-breaking fat!

Then, we moved again. We bought a new house that is pretty nice, the only problem I have with it is that there are some low hanging lights and some pretty painful doorways! We didn't really move in much and settle in because we weren't sure what was going to happen in transfers, but here's the news.... I'm staying!!! I'm super pumped about it! Elder Razakamandimby is staying with me, and the other Ambohimena elders are staying too! Which is great because our branch could use a little extra help and attention. It's started turning around some, but it still has a long ways to go before it will be able to totally stand on its own. It reminds me of the early church a bunch! People are still just trying to figure out how the church runs and how they fit in to that. Lucky us though, the Doctrine and Covenants was written when the early church was going through some growing pains, so it applies really well! Imagine that! The rest of the zone is changing though, Elder Covey is heading down to Fianarantsoa to mom Elder Glazier, who just finished being trained. That will be fun for both of them! Then we are getting both Elder Christiansen and Elder Fox, who were the APs when I got here, and they are super awesome, balling missionaries!

So these transfers were pretty good! I'm pretty satisfied, and I'm way excited to stay here for Christmas and spend that here! Skype you later!

Tiako ianareo tsirairay avy!
Elder Rasmussen

PS whoops! Forgot my Malagasy Morsel! Fahafantarana means knowledge or knowing. Faha-fahn-TAR-ah-nah. You use this a lot when you ask quesstions, for example: araka ny fahafantaranao, iza moa Andriamanitra? or according to your knowledge, who is God?
So, yeah, that's it for today. Have a great week before CHRISTMAS!!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 21 - Antsirabe - Last Week Here?

So I'll start out with a little game of two truths and a lie. This week I flipped over my handlebars on my bike. This week I crapped my pants. This week I broke one of my super long pinky fingernails. You all get to decide what's actually happening over here.

In other news, this is probably my last week in Antsirabe. I'm pretty broke up about that, but I'm excited to get transfer news this Sunday! This transfer is only five weeks because they didn't want to be doing transfers over Christmas. So I will probably be skyping home for Christmas in a new area, with a new companion. It's a bummer I don't get to spend my Christmas here with all of these members I love so much. I am, however, pretty excited to go to a new area and meet some new people. It's not 100 percent certain that I'm gonna be bouncing, but Elder Razakamandimby will have only been here for five weeks and I'll have been here for 17.

We have already moved though. Our house was having some problems with the power... we apparently used over 1,000,000 ariary worth of power and hadn't payed for three months. The guy who turned off our power stuck to that story even when we showed him our receipt from last month. So we lost power. We're guessing the landlord has been stealing power, because we haven't been using our washer, dryer, or our hot water heater for two weeks, so it's not like we've been using anything but an occaional light. So then we moved. Elder Rice and Elder Morse headed over to the Antsirabe house, my last house, and then Elder Razakamandimy and I went to the Mahazoarivo house, my first house. So right now I'm living with Elder Covey again, and then Elder Stokes, Morley, and Kelsch. It's pretty packed. We are sleeping in the main room and we have our stuff in there too, so there's enough room for the table and that's about it.

We went on splits with our wise and all powerful AP's this week. That was pretty fun. Other than that it's just been work as usual this week. We've been having great member help this week! We organized them a little bit, and now we are scheduled to have at least 1 man helping us each day. I want to work it up to where we have one day of member splits each week, but we'll see what we can do this week.

This week's Malagasy Morsel is mitsiriritra, I'll let you all guess on the pronounciation of that one. It means to covet, so we frequently use that when teaching about the commandments. Plus it's just fun to use right after I blow past Elder Razakamandimby and dunk on him. "Aza mitsiriritra ialahy." Don't covet man.

Favorite hymns? My favorite Christmas hymns would probably be the same as yours (Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High). My favorite just Christmas song would probably be "Let it Snow" We've started singing some Christmas hymns in church, but there's barely any that have been translated into Malagasy. Other than that, I hear an occaisional Christmas song being played every once in a while, but it really doesn't feel like Christmas at all still.

I know how you feel with the whole "it doesn't feel like Christmas" thing. I'm sleeping with just a thin sheet so I can keep the mosquitos off and not get too hot.

About the baptism, they're fine with it (the less-than clean water) because to them it is clean water. That's the water that comes out of the pumps and the taps, but most people wash from well water, which is even worse because it just fills up with runoff when it rains and the runoff is nasty. We do have filters on our water, but it comes out of the filter much slower than the regular water.

I'm glad it sounds like you all are getting around and doing stuff together, it sounds like lots of fun!
I got two packages on Thursday, one had some snacks and 4 wrapped presents and the mission journal, and the other had the ensign and an advent calender that had melted and all the chocolate leaked out, and then a little letter from Sam.

Yeah, life's pretty much going good here. Just doing work and helping people to change.
Love you all!
Aza kamo!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 20 - Antsirabe - Thanksgiving

So I had my first baptism where I actually baptized some one. To quote Nacho, "Baptized!!" It was great! The water was cold and green and full of bugs and smelled like Utah Lake in August and that is the water that comes out of our taps... It was fantastic! Our program has finally started getting to the baptism stage, when we whitewashed it took a while to get people going, but the harvest is finally starting to whiten and it is wonderful!

So Thanksgiving happened, it's this really big holiday here in Madagascar where no one does anything different except for a bunch of white Americans and a random Canadian and some Malagasies that got dragged into it. It started at 7 in the morning where we went and had a zone activity and played football, the american kind, for a while. I believe that was our district meeting too.

After that we went home and studied some, got ready, and went to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal at the Tolmans' house, the scrawney Malagasy turkeys weren't good enough for them, so they made chicken cordon bleu instead. But we had all of our stuffing and potatoes and fruit salad and pie. Then we went and worked. Then, at around 8 we went to a restaraunt called Sam's and ate another thanksgiving meal, this time with real turkey. It was fantastic and almost as good as Sister Tolman's cooking! Then we went home and went to sleep.

But did we stop partying there? No. We just waited until Saturday after the baptism when we went to our now former investigator's house and had a Malagasy party. We had some Macaroni stuff for an appetizer and and then we had rice and loaka. The Malagasy way on this is you have to eat until all the rice is gone and there was soooo much. Then, throughout the meal we had some natural pinapple juice they made and put into water bottles, I think you can see them in the picture. Anyway, those destroyed my entire system yesterday, but they were pretty good on Saturday. Then we finished off the meal with some ranon'ampango or burnt rice water. Then they pulled all of the chairs and tables out and filled the room with subwoofers and an army of other speakers and then we had a dance. It was awesome. I still think most Malagasy music sounds like the Mexican radio station mixed with bluegrass and occaisionally dubstep, but Malagasy dancing is one of the most entertaining things I've seen. You know Napolean Dynamite's dance where he starts out just stepping on one foot then the other? It's like that but usually they don't get too far past the first part. It just reminded me a lot of a junior high dance filled with white people with white people, so in other words, I've found my place! I can do that!!

So other than making plans to return to Madagascar after my mission and become rich as a professional dancer, life has pretty much gone on as usual for us out here in the Indian Ocean.
This week's work is midoladola, mee-doo-lah-DOO-lah, which means to waddle. Why, you may ask, would a missionary need to know this word? I'm honestly not sure, but I'm super happy I asked what it was during English class! And since this week has been a week of bounty and the Christmas season has begun, I will give a second Morsel of Malagasy for you all (I think that's what I'll call this from now on), and that Morsel is, "kay ilay ity!" It is pronounced kie-lay-tee if you say it fast, and its English equivalent is, "the heck is this?!" So there you have it. Do something good with your increased knowledge and fahaizana.

Our branch supposedly has around 300 members. Ususally church attendance is around 90-120, but this last week it was 139! But that was the primary program, and I think people from the other wards skipped sunday school to come to that...

This week's spiritual though comes at you from John, he said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..." Sure you've all heard this before, but it's the fundamentals that are the most important, and as we get into the Christmas season don't forget that you mean something special to your Father and your older brother in Heaven, and they will do all they can to help you if you will accept their help.

I love you all!
Stay gold ponyboy.
Mifalia daholo!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 19 - Antisrabe - First Basketball Injury

So this week has been exciting. We had district conference, which was pretty good, and then we did missionary work stuff. It's been fun! Fun side note: Elder Branch, James's companion, traveled with us from Provo to London and then split and went to Capetown instead of JBurg with us. Small world right?

The word of this week is inspired by my basketball game last Monday. Marary- mah-RAH-ree and it means sick or injured. Now to the basketball... We played with all of the missionaries here and it was a party. Before half of them got here we were playing a small game and I went up and when I came down, I landed on the side of my foot and dropped like a pile of bricks. It is still swollen by the way. So then I walked it off over to my water, the other missionaries showed up, I walked it off back to the court, and then kicked all of their butts. Not to be cocky or anything... Each team had one sub, and when someone scored they got subbed out, and I got a lot of rest... Haha it was a ton of fun, and we have some good basketball players here!

Then last night we had a barbecue at my house with our whole zone. It was so much fun and the food was way good! We have a Malagasy style fireplace thing so we just barbecued over kitay- kee-tie- which is just like dry firewood. It was way fun!

Living at our house has been lots of fun, we have a really good time! Elder Rice painted me a precious picture with some watercolors he found in one of the rooms. I'm keeping it forever.

 Oh, I also finally got pictures of my suit. Enjoy. I am probably going back to the tailor this week to get some new pants.

This work has been going well this week. We struggled occasionally  getting male member help, because the are all working or at school. We don't have any problem getting female help though... They are always super excited to... help people become converted...? We did have some great lessons this week, I really love working with Elder Razakamandimby. We've been working on getting the members to actually help more with the teaching because they usually just sit there and then at the end they maybe share a little thought or testimony. It's been coming along really well though!

Mbola marina ity filazantsara ity! Aza kivy ary tohizo amin'ny asan'ny Tompo!
This gospel is still true! Don't get down and keep up the work of the Lord!
Elder Rasmussen

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 18 - Antsirabe - Baptism by Ice

Manahoana daholo! (not to be confused with manahoana dahalo... very different)

This week has been fantastic! Elder Cartmill left on Tuesday and then Elder Razakamandimby came on Wednesday. That's Elder Rah-zock-ah-mahn-deem-bee for all of you vazahas. You just say it fast and it's not hard at all! Because of the transfers, our stats suffered this week, but that's ok, because next week will be great! Elder Razakamandimby is a baller! Literally, he played on the Madagascar national basketball team before his mission. He is also way good at English, especially because he only started learning eight months ago when he started his mission. We mostly speak Malagasy though, and that is a crazy party! Malagasy is so cool! I am having a blast learning it!
Which leads us to the language part. Fatana means stove, not to be confused with Fasana, which means grave, and that's not to be conused with fasika, which means sand. The emphasis for all of them is on the "fa" then you just say the rest really fast and you've got it! That's one of the biggest differences between English pronunciation and Malagasy: you say everything really slow in English.

So I moved houses this last week and I am in the sisters' old house. It's pretty nice! It's like a cute little cabin that you would find up Provo canyon.

The stairs are hardcore messed up...

Pictures will be coming after my camera works again... My new housemates are Elder Rice and Elder Morse, straight from Tana. Elder Rice is from Boise and he played rugby before his mission. He is a lot of fun to be around and then I already knew Elder Morse from the MTC so we are already a nice cute little family.

Elder Rice (l), Elder Morse (reaching into cupboard), and Elder Raza (r)

Speaking of cute little families, I have made friends with a cute little family of fleas again. My first night in the new house I got 24 flea bites on my left hand alone. 24!!!! At least they seem to really enjoy the fact that I moved in, so that's nice.

We got a couple packages for other elders this week, which reminds me about the method for successfully sending packages across the world. Especially in Madagascar, the people are quite religious and slightly superstitious, so if you put stickers of Jesus on the seams of the package, then they will be less likely to steal stuff. Cool, right?!

So we actually did missionary work this week too... When we visited Maxime and Noelisoa, Noelisoa had just gone into labor. So she went to the hospital and we will see her sometime this week with a new baby! Then we did some contacting, taught a few firsts and we have some new, ballin families thaqt we are teaching! This week has been great! We had a baptism on Saturday, and pictures will come next week. When they came out of the (very cold) water, it was terrifying! They were thrashing and gasping, and I thought something was wrong until they bolted out and sat wrapped up in the towel with chattering teeth. Even with that fantastic part of it, it was a great baptismal service!

We just hit the pavement this week. I mean, we hit the dirt and occasional cobblestone this week and got a lot of work in. When you work hard and do your best, the good results follow. That being said, work hard and don't get too content with where you are at right now, but improve a little bit and help someone else too!

Tiako ianareo! Misaotra betsaka!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week 17 - Antsirabe - Joe Handsome

So we got transfer news last night. I will write that at the end and you HAVE TO READ EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN FIRST!

First big event is we had our first baptisms on Saturday! We had to start everyone from scratch when we arrived because we whitewashed. When I say we had our first baptisms on Saturday, I really mean we had our first baptisms scheduled for Saturday. Until Jirema (the power and water company) cut off all of the water and the lake was too far away... and since you can't really have a baptism by water if there is no water, we did NOT have baptisms this week. Which is a bummer because that means Elder Cartmill and I had no baptisms together. (Spoiler. Now you know one of us is leaving, but since we both whitewashed together it could go either way because he wasn't here before me...) That's alright though, because we have about 15 set up right now, and they're all coming along well. So that was a bummer for sure.

I still do not have my suit back because I was being pretty picky with the tailor and it wasn't quite perfect, so I'm getting it today, it's going to look legit.

(in the next email...)

Sorry. The computer decided it was time to send the email before I was ready.

Let's see, other than the water being cut, the power keeps getting cut too. Not that that's a big deal, because if we try to make toast while the dryer is going the power dies... However, it's been especially bad the past few weeks and we have our candles set up all the time because it's only a matter of time before the power goes out, so James... one upped!

This week Elder Cartmill and I got Malagasy names from an investigator, this will be the Malagasy for the week. He was kely sauce. Kely means little and sauce means sauce... So when small sauce Cartmill complained about his name and asked why that was his name, this Malagasy with significantly smaller muscles told him it was because he wasn't bokana, or muscular... I then showed him how Elder Cartmill's arms are significantly larger, but he wouldn't accept it. I didn't complain much about my nickname because it is Rakoto Bogosy, Rakoto is just a way common name, and bogosy means handsome... I think it definitely fits.

Last week when we were going around we were stopped by a tipsy woman who let us know that she had been having a really hard time at home and had left to go drink and then kill herself. Then she felt that that would be dumb and she decided she needed Jesus in her life. So she prayed and then right then she saw us. That was a really cool experience, we should start teaching her for real this week.

Then when Elder Cartmill and I were walking by a garbage pile (they're everywhere), we saw a kid pull down his pants and do his business in the ditch (really pretty common) and then when he was done he just wiped himself with some garbage he grabbed off of the ground. That's the life! You don't even need to do any work to find toilet paper!

It has rained a bunch since last Monday. It's pretty geat! My jacket works really well! I still get soaked underneath it, but that's because of sweat. It's still pretty dang warm when it rains, so bundling up to keep dry doesn't really work...

Ok, transfer news now.
No changes to Antsirabe other than the sisters who work in the Ambohimena branch with us leaving and Elder Morse and Elder Rice coming down. Elder Rice is way cool and Elder Morse was in my group. We are moving in to the sisters' old house so it will be the Ambohimena house. It should be a party! The Elder Cartmill is going to Mahajanga! That's a 2 man area an airplane ride away from everyone else, so he's heading up to Tana on Tuesday and then he's going to fly out! Not every elder gets to go to a big 3 (Mahajanga, Toliary, and Fort Dauphin) and he's way psyched for that! My new companion is Elder Razakamandimby! He's a native Malagasy and I'm super pumped! Everyone I've talked to loves him, so it's going to be a party!

This is a great part member family. The man is the one who gave us our new names, the little girl's name is Diary and at first she hated us. Now she loves us.

 This is our best progressing family right now. They're all ballers. Baptism is in December. I love 'em.

This is the champion family of all champions. In their family they have the elders quorum president, young mens president, relief society second counselor, 3 branch missionaries, young single adults leader, district young single adults coordinator, family history expert for our branch, and branch clerk...

The church is still true, and when you trust in God first, everything else works out.
Mozotoa daholo!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 16 - Antsirabe - Here Comes the Rain

So I'll just start this one out with the word of the week. Let's be real, that's the most exciting part anyway. Anyway, mikitika, mee-KEE-tee-kah, means to tickle. Then, if you double the root it turns into mikitikitika, mee-kee-tee-KEE-tee-kah, which means to mess around with, or tinker while having absolutely no idea what the heck you're doing, as in, "I don't actually know how to fix the car, but if I just open the hood and tighten some stuff and put some more oil in, then it should work..." It's also just fun to say, so have at it!

Last Monday we all went to Lake Tritriva, sorry, LAC Tritriva... (that French stuff gets everywhere!). Anyway, it was a nice long bumpy ride, but then it was super pretty! It's up in the mountains and you get a beautiful view of most of Antsirabe from up there. It's mostly a tourist attraction, so when we got there all of us white folk had to pay the vazaha price while Elder Andriamanganoro, the only Malagasy missionary in Antsirabe right now, got to pay the Malagasy price which was several times cheaper. And then we got hounded by people selling souvenirs. That was pretty funny because they all have jacked up prices because they're used to selling to French tourists. So they would run up and show us their carved rocks or bracelets and say, "Mora be!" Which means, "very cheap!" Then when asked how much their little polished rock was, they would reveal that it was more than the cost of my food for a day if I ate out for every meal. But the lake was super pretty, I took some pictures on other people's cameras, because I still haven't figured out what's wrong with mine. Most of that is probably due to the fact that usually I don't have time to mess around with it (mikitikitika, see how useful it is?).

Then, some exciting news about this week is that the rain has started for real! The even more exciting news is that I left my raincoat back at the other house when I moved, and I didn't get a chance to get that until three days after it started raining! It's a good thing my bag is waterproof... The rain is a blast though! It just comes and comes. Whenever it starts looking like it's about to rain everybody rushes home. Then when it does come, people are crowded underneath any canopy or overhang they can get under! You'd think that people would be used to rain in a place with a nice monsoon season every year, but they're not. It's super funny. The rainy season hasn't started for real yet though, so far it's kind of clear to mostly clear in the mornings, then by about 2 the sky gets dark and cloudy, and then it rains from around 2:30ish to around 7, and then it's just drizzles the rest of the evening. Then repeat the next day! The coolest parts are that the clouds are always a lot lower than back home, so they're super huge and you can see them in detail really well! I'll have to send some pictures. And then the rain also fills up all of the sewage ditches, so you have to be careful which puddles you walk through, but that's just part of the fun! Final note, water proof shoes aren't really that waterproof... If it's not raining and you're just walking through water, they work great. But when it is raining, the water is just running down your legs into your shoes anyway, so that's that. Actually, they do a really good job of keeping the water in once it's there, so I guess they are pretty waterproof...

Let's see... notable things this week would include a split with my district leader, Elder Bowler. He is the second counselor in the Branch Presidency in the Manandona Branch, just South of Antsirabe. He's super funny and way good at Malagasy so it was way fun! However, we only taught two times and half of Preach My Gospel class before we had to go home because he was having some stomache problems... He was just laying on the floor while I taught PMG class... That was a bummer... Pun intended...

Then yesterday I learned how to make mofo sira which means salt bread. It should probably be called mofo siramamy, or sugar bread, because the recipie uses 1/4 kg of sugar, but only a spoonful of salt... Oh, it's also makes enough to feed a small neighborhood... They make it in a muffin tin over a fire, and it's essentially just muffin tops, it's pretty good though.

This week we had lunch with all of the missionaries at the couple missionaries' house. Elder and Sister Tolman, who are actually from American Fork too!, made us some delicious chili and cornbread. Of course, the chili was over rice because you have to have rice with every meal, every Malagasy knows that! Then we had ice cream and cake, which was some of the most delicious stuff I have eaten in since Sister Adams's food the first day in country. Then I also got to check their scale, which actually works. I'm still five pounds under my post MTC weight, but I lost 10 lbs when I got sick last month, so I've gained five back!

The final notable accomplishment is that I made bread again this week and it was heavenly. Thanks for the advice, Trent, because it turned out much better this time. I thought it was so good looking that I sent home a picture for all of you to enjoy to. Except you don't get to taste it... I made some rolls too, and it was nice to just eat bread and rolls for essentially half of the meals this week.

Something I've been working on a lot with those I teach is the principle of obedience. In John 7:17 it says if any man will DO Christ's will, THEN he will know if it is of God. That's true with just about anything, if you want to know if the Word of Wisdom is true, then follow it. If you want to know if the Book of Mormon is true, then read it. If you want to know if God exists, or even if you just aren't sure, then follow every single one of his commandments as best as you can and pray to him, then you'll know.  I know that seems backwards logic, but science has figured this concept out too. It's been proven that if you want to be happy, then live and act as if you already are, then the happiness will come. If you don't know if God exists, then live and act as if he does and the knowledge will come. That's an eternal concept, and I know it works. God exists and he is our literal father. The gospel has brought me so much joy not just because it's something I can believe in to improve myself, but because I know that it is true and that my Heavenly Father, who has all power and wisdom, is on my side and wants me to be happy. I know this stuff is true, and like I tell those I talk to here, if I didn't know it was true than I wouldn't have left home and my schooling to come work on the other side of the world.

Love you all!
Elder Rasmussen

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 15 - Antsirabe - No Bible Bashing

First things first, conference was fantastic! We finally got it here in Madagascar, and Conference is a little bit confusing in Malagasy... It was super great though, and I got a lot of good stuff.

Second, I was wrong about my forecast of rain, which leads into this week's vocab for all of you: tsy mbola, tsim-boo-lah, or if you are a member of the vakanakaritra tribe like many here in Antsirabe, you say tsahm-boo-lah. There, you got a little bit of a dialect too. (Not really, merina or official Malagasy, and vakanakaratra are essentially the same, it's just like the difference between american english and texan english). Any way tsy mbola means not yet or still not. For example you can ask, "Is it raining there?" and then I can say, "tsy mbola." Or you can ask if it's cold here, and then I can say, "Tsy mbola mangastiaka" or "tsa mbola mangitsy." In Merina and Vakanakaratra respectively. My favorite is when we are prepping people for their baptismal interviews and we ask them if they've killed anyone and they just say, "tsy mbola." Not yet. Good, keep it that way!

 Then we had a pretty sweet time yesterday night, we were teaching this family that runs a little restaurant that the missionaries always go to and have always gone to, so they've learned from a lot of sets of missionaries and never really progressed. Anyway, we were just sitting down and seeing how they were doing when a gendarme (police/soldier) comes in and sits down to listen. We prayed and started teaching the family and he starts imterrupting all the time. He is a hardcore Protestant who prays to the Bible and he was just talking himself in circles. We kept teaching as best we could and talked about Christ's appearance in the Americas and showed the picture in the front of the Book of Mormon of Christ among the Nephites, and the guy stops us and says, "That's not Jesus." What? Of course it's Jesus, look at him! He says, "No. That's not a picture of Jesus. Did they have cameras back then?" No. It's a painting of what someone thought he looks like. It's just a representation. "Ah, but the Bible says no man has seen Jesus." It says no man has seen God. And the JST says no man has seen God in his sins, but people who lived with Jesus did see him... Anyway, once we explained that it was just a representation and got back to teaching the family he kept interrupting. Then we just layed down our testimonies and said nothing could separate us from our knowledge. Elder Cartmill was on fire. With the Holy Ghost of course. Then we closed it off and he left. I was a little bummed by how it went, but we made sure not to argue with him and we didn't get into any Bible bashing with him. Then once he left the family freaked out and were all just so thrilled because the missionaries before had apparently gotten really confrontational and angry or just embarrassed and didn't know what to say when someone tried to argue with them. They were also happy because on the first lesson we laid out our purpose and told them that we would be working them towards baptism, that is one of our goals. Yay Preach My Gospel! It looks like it actually is right. Anyway, it was really cool after that and the Spirit was way strong, which was great because the guy was pretty confrontational and was doing a pretty good job of keeping away the Spirit at the beginning. The family was still freaking out right before we closed, so we asked them if they wanted to be able to feel this all the time, they said yes of course! So then we snagged them and got them to promise to read the BiM every day and come to Church each week and work towards baptism. It was great!

Pictures this week! Courtesy of Elder Cartmill's camera
Me and M., one of the biggest studs around. He's a boss.

This is one of the first families we taught. They are now active again. Mostly. The little kid with his eyes closed is super cool.

This is L.and V. and their family. They are the two girls on the right.

This is a guy named Solofo. He was one of my "investigators" in the MTC because my teacher taught him and roleplayed as him.

This is Elder Christiansen, when he was still AP, and I surrounded by kids who want our popcorn.

This is me in our room studying something.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 14 - Antsirabe - The Ebola and Potatoes

It's still been pretty dry here in Antsirabe. We haven't had any notable downpoor for a few weeks, but that should change soon. In fact, I think it's going to come down pretty hard later today, but we'll see. And by that I mean I will see and then I might tell you about it later. Interviews with President Adams happened! They were pretty quick, but Elder Bowler, Elder Andriamanganoro, and I got pretty spiffed up for them. We had a shoe shining party and Sister Adams told us we had the best looking shoes she's seen the whole time she's been here! The sad part is that that was actually a big deal for us... Anyway, the pre-coup president returned and was promptly arrested by the current president, so there have been riots and bombs going off in Tana. So we all got our 72 hour kits going, but nothing happened in Antsirabe, so don't worry.

This week has gone pretty well. We had a few good investigators at church and some less active families that we've really been working with. We are starting to get some good referrals from members who bring their friends to church, which is great!

L. and V., two investigators in a part member family, are our start investigators right now. We gave them the Word of Wisdom pamphlet and told them to read it, came back and they knew all of it. So we reviewed it a little bit, then taught about obedience and scripture study, then we gave them a law of chastity pamphlet and told them to read it, and we came back and they essentially taught the lesson. So we taught about other stuff too again. Their baptismal date is in three weeks, but they could be baptized at the end of this week. They are way prepared.

One thing that I've been hearing a lot about from Malagasies is the Ebola. They tell me thaqt 2 people have it in America and everyone is freaking out. One Malagasy told me that the Ebola is very bad for Americans because they have huge potato processing plants and "once" Ebola gets in, everyone will get sick from their potatoes that they eat every meal (most Malagasies think that since Americans don't eat rice every single meal, there must be something else we eat just as much). She then went on to tell me that Malagasies wouldn't get the Ebola because they have better food, and the Malagsy people are strong. So there you have it. No need to worry about Ebola here, my rice and cold meat will keep me safe! (Also, it's always "the Ebola" so I capitalized it to show what a big deal it is here.)
Right after I learned all of that, we had a teaching appointment with J. and L.  J. has been learning for a while and two weeks ago he brought his buddy, L., to church with him. They are both super dilligent and they read their scriptures, oh I don't know, religiously? See what I did there? Anyway, yesterday we taught them and a ton of kids came to listen too. There were maybe around 15 of them. So we just reviewed the plan of salvation with all of them, and J. and L. essentially just taught the entire lesson to the kids while we watched. It was fantastic! J. has started to progress a ton since he started learning with his friend. Good support is crazy important!

I actually included a picture this week. I finally got my camera to work for long enough to take a few pictures, and now it is in a coma again. The first one is our mansion. Six missionaries live there and it's not as spacious as it may look. If you look closely on the right of the picture, yes, that is razor wire on the wall. I'll send some pictures of the inside next week if I can resuscitate my camera again.

The second picture is our church building right now. We still don't have an actual church here, so this is the one for now. Yes, that is my trainer, Elder Cartmill, caught at a bad time, in the bottom corner.

The last picture is our Preach My Gospel class! These are some of our branch missionaries who are getting ready to go on missions. E., the one flashing gang signs with me, is our young men's president, ward clerk, ward family history consultant, seminary teacher, branch missionary, and I think he is the young single adults leader. Then S., the one with the Book of Mormon is the chorister, branch missionary, and seminary teacher too. Then the other people live in the sister missionaries' side of the branch.

This week's word of the week was almost mpilofo, which means a try-hard, but it was more difficult to think of a spiritual thought to go along with that. So we'll go with a pretty neat word instead, mivadika, mi-VAH-deek(ah). It means to turn from a higher path to a lower one, or turning away from something that you know is right. Pretty cool concept, huh? This word becomes applicable when we are trying to get members to do the things they know they should, but just stopped doing because it's easier to just... not... We've been focusing on teaching about the blessings that they will receive when they start living the gospel again, and it's been working for some, but some just have hard hearts and don't want to change yet, which is tough to work with. However, it's God's work, and everything will work out. Work hard and do your best!
Elder Rasmussen

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 13 - Antsirabe - Gonna Get a Suit

This week has not been as exciting as some of my other weeks, but it has still been good. I learned a lot of good words this week, from femmy to the milky way to the different classes of rain... So that's pretty cool. Training is about 3/4 of the way done, which is definitely weird. And then we have interviews with president this week, so that will be pretty neat too.

So, one thing that I'm not sure that I've said about Madagascar yet is that they get lots of random crap from China. I think of it as like the factory outlet for China because we get all kinds of clothes here that have stuff spelled wrong or maybe there were just too many or things like that. I tell you this because a few days ago I saw a Malagasy wearing a hoodie from the HHS French club from 09-10. On the front it had a logo and the words, "We don't surrender..." Then on the back it said, "We're just too cool to fight!" I thought it was hilarious because number one, it's making fun of the French, number two, this Malagasy had no idea what the heck his shirt said, and number three, it was a french club making fun of itself. And it was here in Madagascar.

Speaking of clothes, I have found a new outlet of my personal funds... There is a very good tailor here in Antsirabe and I'm going to get a tailored suit for about $40... I figure if I'm going to get a suit it needs to be at the beginning of my mission when I still haven't lost all of my weight, that way it will fit after my mission too. So today I'm probably going to go buy some fabric in Tsenasabotsy, the big market. And then in a couple weeks I will have my suit. I'm pretty pumped!

Other than that, not much new has happened this week. I taught a bunch of lessons and we've got people getting ready for baptism next month. I taught district meeting and that went pretty well. The work's just chugging along.

This week's word is sambatra, SAHM-butch. It means blessed. We've been teaching a lot of the commandments this last week and we have been teaching A LOT about the blessings of living the gospel. If we just trust in God and do what he would have us do, then he will provide for all our needs and our righteous desires too. It's a great deal! Giving up some earthly pleasures for our short time here on earth in exchange for peace during our short time here on earth, and eternal glory and exaltation after! The church is true.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Week 12 - Antsirabe - Lake Stinky Water

So I'm just going to start with the transfer news and get that over with. Elder Glazier went to Fianarantsoa, about 6 hours south of Antsirabe. So, that's a bummer. However, it is in my zone, so I might see him in a couple weeks. He did come through Antsirabe, but they got in super late and left early in the morning and the zone leaders stole the Andranamanelatra Elders' car, so we couldn't go visit them real quick. However, we also moved houses because we got new elders who are whitewash training in the area where our old house was, so we moved to the house that's actually closer to our area. It's also much bigger and much nicer and it has two and a half bathrooms for seven elders instead of 1 bathroom for four elders. So that is very nice! Also, the new elders are all really sweet, so it's lots of fun to get together with them all.

Then the next big item on the agenda is rain. It first rained like 2 weeks ago, and it's rained a couple times since then, and it is fantastic! When we are on a flat stretch of road on our bikes, our bikes have wakes like little boats as we go, then when we are going down a hill, there is a monster river going down each hill! If you just go straight down, you're good, but if you try to turn sideways, then the water catches your tires and you can fall over pretty easily. Then, at the bottom of the hills is a big lake. When we bike through there, because real men don't stop for anything, our feet are submurged for half of the pedal, so it looks like we are rowing a boat or something becuse the foot dips in, then pulls back, and then pops out again just like an oar. Of course, this particular lake that forms at the bottom of two hills we go on all the time is next to an actual lake, so the drainage is pretty good, but there is still a LOT of water. (fun side note--the name of the lake is literally Lake Stinky Water, Malagasy names are sweet. And very honest...)

So yeah, the rain is great. We get super soaked, especially our legs. I haven't gotten caught in the rain without my jacket yet, so I've still been doing good other than my legs and head. My bag has been doing great. It's a waterproof champ and I love it.

Fun story: **DISCLAIMER** you are not allowed to get freaked out about this, Mom. So on Saturday we were mandeha tongotra, or going on foot because our bikes are fosa orina and they break frequently. Anyway, this guy held his hand out to us as we were finishing the descent next to Lake Stinky-Water so we of course shook his hand and kept going. We expected him to try to beg a little more and then we would just say no and keep going. Instead, he followed us and walked right behind us. We stopped halfway up the hill to "go over our plan for the day" and lo and behold, he stopped too! Then we asked him what he wanted and he asked us for the time, then we gave it to him and left. And he followed us on the other side of the road now. We stopped again to admire some fabric, and he asked some other guy for the time, then waited awkwardly staring at us. This guy was obviously no pro. So then we went up the rest of the hill watching him tag along at a distance. Then we went into Tsena Asabotsy, the huge market, and lost him pretty easily in all of the alleys around the bike booths. Then we went on with our day. Pretty cool, right?

Then, yesterday was fast sunday for us because we don't get conference until the end of this month. Church was great, we got four investigators at church that we've been working with, and they loved it. We also got a crapload of inactives there. For those of you not familiar with that unit of measurement it is exactly 20ish people. I was pretty stoked to see them all.

For this week's word of the week I was pondering about which of the Malagasy swear words that I learned from some of my Malagasy buddies I should teach y'all, but then I decided that I should probably not do that. Because bad words shouldn't be used... especially not shouted at the vazaha missionaries walking by... not that that kind of stuff happens though. I know a few of their favorite sayings now, so now I can walk over and inform them that they really shouldn't be using those kinds of words. What would their mothers think?! Then they realize I can actually speak Malagasy and understand them and they get all embarassed. It's great. Especially because the other people will get on them for swearing in the presence of "holy men" I like feeling like everybody's got my back.

Anyway, the real word of the week is antenaina- ahn-ten-NAH-ee-nah. It means to be expected. I learned it as I was reading about the responsibility of parents to teach their children in Gospel Principles. Too many people expect other people to teach their children about the gospel, but ultimately that's the purpose of the family. The most important work we do is within the walls of our own homes. And our Father expects us to teach our children correct principles. I'm pretty glad that I have parents who understand that and I learned about the gospel from an early age in my own home.

Also, don't be ashamed of your beliefs. Lots of people are scared to let other people see what they believe and that it's different from most people. For example most people won't let us come teach if they have other family over, but they should be the people that you want to hear the gospel the most. Then lots of people in part member families don't understand how powerful testimony and simple discussions can be in converting the rest of their family. The Lord has promised that if we open our mouths it will be filled. If you're trying to do his work, he will help you every time.
Anyway, that's all for this week, you all better love that general conference. Don't take it for granted!

Mazotoa daholo!
Elder Rasmussen

PS sorry about the lack of pictures. I'm getting new batteries for my camera this week.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Week 11 - Antsirabe - I Got Better

So, this week is TRANSFER WEEK!!! It's kind of a big deal for those missionaries which are actually not training right now like me. For those missionaries who are training, nothing big happens. Except... they opened up a new area in Antsirabe so we are moving to the big, nice, fancy house and they will live there instead of us. "They" are a pair of Elders, a trainer and a trainee, so it is possible that Elder Glazier could be coming down to Antsirabe, which is SWEET! But not super likely, unfortunately. Most of the trainers are the most rocking missionaries I know, so he'll be in good hands for sure.

I should, however, start at the beginning of the week (last Monday), and not the end of it (transfer news came in yesterday and it will be all finished by Thursday night). I got sick! There it happened. Right after I was pumped about all the weight I was gaining. On Monday, after the cyber in the morning, we went shopping and ate out with all the elders in Antsirabe, then we beat the tar out of some Malagasies at soccer. It was fantastic. That night, I was feeling kind of cold and I took my tempurature and I was at 100, and I felt super tired so we stayed home. Good move, because my fever shot up to 103 and I was vomiting/dry heaving a ton. I took some medicine for my stomache and then threw that up. Then I slept for the next day with breaks where I made a mad rush for the bathroom. The good news is that I could go out working on Wednesday, and I'm running almost normal again, the bad news is that I may have lost a few pounds. I'm still the heaviest missionary in Antsirabe right now, but the margin is narrower now. Plus once transfers are done I'll be stuck with second heaviest... dang it!

Other than the crappy (pardon the pun) start to the week, it's been pretty good. We have had a lot of lessons fall through or our member help hasn't shown up, which is no bueno because we need another male with us to teach in most of the homes with just females and children. We have been focusing on father lead families, but usually we can only teach those at night when work is done, so the afternoon has lots of single mothers, and if we don't have our member help, we can't teach them. The lessons that we have had have gone fabulously though. We gave four investigators bap dates in November, so if everything works out, we should have around 15 baptisms then. That's including some people who we were going to give bap dates to this week, but we never got to them, and our couple previous investigators.

We had a pretty good attendance at church yesterday, but only two investigators showed up. That's really, really not good. They are the two daughters of the former branch president, Lalao and Vanessa, and they are super mazoto. Vanessa is nine and she is adorable. She's super shy, but she's starting to not be shy with me, which is great. Our first branch council with the new branch president was excellent! Almost everyone who was supposed to be there was there and there was even an agenda! It was so great! I have high hopes for things here in the Ambohimena  Branch.

This week my word of the week is a little bit different because it's 2 words!!! Avy hatrany, AH-vee hah-CHAW-nee. It means from now on or continuously. This comes at you from Alma 32 when Alma turns from the big crowd of Zoramites he was preaching to and focuses on the big group of poor people because he can see that they are ready to recieve the gospel. And then from then on he only talks to them. I like how once he sees that there is something better that he should be doing, he turns and does that from then on. Lots of times when we try to improve, the change might not be lasting, or we might notice a problem, but not deal with it for a while. The nice thing is that through repentence we can stop doing that bad thing right away and live better starting then and continuing for the rest of our lives.

Love you all a bunch! Enjoy general conference for me, because I won't get it here for a while.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 10 - Antisrabe - Practically a Malagasy

So it's starting to heat up here in Madagascar. It's sitting around 70, and all of the people are still wearing sweaters and thinking it's pretty chilly. It is not, however, and it is so nice all the time.There has been a huge party/music festival in Antsirabe for more than a week now. It's in the city center which is in between our area and our house, so we have to take detours each night. And when I say huge, I do mean pretty big, there was even a firework show last night as we walked past.

Cool accomplishments this week:
I am still gaining weight--20lbs since I entered the MTC.
I have been told I am tanner than when I first arrived.
I have been told that I am practically a Malagasy right after I was told that I am tanner than when I first arrived.
I ripped the legs off of live crawdads with the family who told me I am practically a Malagasy right after I was told I am tanner than when I first arrived.
I made some killer biscuits and gravy.
Oh, and I may have taught a few people about the gospel too.

Anyway, first things first, this week our Branch Presidency was reorganized. Ok, that's like one of the last things that happened, but it's going first anyway. Starting with the second counselor, we have Adr., who we reactivated our first week here. He's super studly and he knows his stuff really well, and he goes teaching with us around twice a week usually. Then we have some guy with a French name that I don't remember, it could be like Fabien Pierre or something like that, anyway he was the old first counselor, so nothing new there. Then our branch president... drumroll please... Ruf.! You don't know him. So you'll just have to take my word when I say he's a stud. Actually, I think I already wrote some about him a few weeks ago. He's the one with the super maditra kid who kept stealling my pen during the prayer. He's a mechanical engineer and a professor at a local college and he was also reactivated pretty early in our stay here. So essentially we have two newly reactivated members in our branch presidency and they are both massive studs and I am so glad that they are ready. They are both really smart and they know the gospel better than most around here, so they'll be able to help out a lot.

We finally got M. and N. to church this week. M. is the guy who is still having some trouble with the word of wisdom (ny tenin'ny fahendrena) but he's been sober since his episode last week, which is good. M.s mom, who is already a member and lives with them, is actually the one who told me that I have gotten tanner (twice) and that now I am practically a malagasy. Which is true, because my hair and skin are way darker and I have shrunk a foot so now I fit in with them all! That was a joke. I do have a pretty sweet tan line on my neck from my collar, and my arms have a sweet tan line too, but I have, unfortunately, not changed ethnicities yet, but I hear that usually happens after a few months so I'm still waiting.

This Thursday, when we went to go teach M. and N., we walked in on a big (2 gallons ish) bowl full of live crawdads. They were all crawling over each other and a bunch were locked in death grips on each other. Then we sat down and plucked the legs off with the family and threw the live crawdads into another bowl where they all just thrashed and writhed, then after that we stuck them in a pot to boil. It was great! Not even phased.

We went to the big tsena (market) last Monday to look for some stuff and I got some flip flops. They were the biggest ones I could find and they were still too small. All the other elders thought it was funny, but I have the same size as one of them, and the other ones are within 2 sizes of me, so it still sucks for them too, they just don't know it yet! I have also determined that either this week or next week I'm going to get a sweet snapback from the tsena, because there are sooooo many, and we missionaries are pretty thug, so we just have to get them. On the subject of my shopping list, I learned of a guitar maker in Tana who can make you a guitar from baobab wood legally. I think I might hit him up at the end of my mission...

Anyway, I'm super excited for this next week because on Sunday we get transfer news!!!! Not that I'm going anywhere. Or pretty much anyone else in Antsirabe... All of the Elders except the zone leaders are training or being trained, so one zone leader will probably change, but that's it. The real exciting part is this transfer will be the introduction of the next group, including Elder Glazier, to Madagascar. And that's exciting. Hopefully they will open up some new area down here in Antsirabe and he'll be coming here, but we'll see. He's probably going to stay in Tana though, poor guy...

They get a lot of rip off clothes from China. So there are a lot of American styles but all the clothes are dirty and worn usually. Everything is super colorful though, that's definitely a big thing. There are a lot of traditional clothes though too. Especially hats. There are 18 different tribes and they all have their own colorful hats. Then there are some other cool clothes too, there's this super long shirt thing, kind of like a night shirt thing, but it's just like a fitted shirt that goes down to your knees, and I am going to get one. Even if I have to have a tailor make one just for me because they are all too short. Let's see... there are lots of flip flops, t shirts, shorts, jeans, and lots of sweaters when it's cold (like in the 60s). Then there are a TON of snapback hats, and I'm going to get some of those too. For proselyting, of course.

Anyway, that's all for this week. The word of this week is manolotra, muh-Noo-loo-chah, and it means to offer. I found it when I was reading Ny Fitsipiky ny Filazantsara, also known as Gospel Principles. We didn't have any copies in Malagasy so I got one from the other house because they had a ton, but I may or may not have asked them first... Anyway, this week we have been having a little bit of a tough time because people have that darn agency thing. We've been offering what we have, but lots of them have just gotten to sidetracked by things that really aren't as important. It's important to remeber that if you put ALL of your faith in God and put him very first, you'll still have rough times, but everything will work out eventually. You'll have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. That's kind of a big deal, anyway, you all take care.

Amin'ny manaraka,
Elder Rasmussen

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 9 - Antsirabe - Studying

This week has been great. And it ended on a really high note too. We stayed home on Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday because Elder Cartmill had some really bad diarrhea and vomiting going on. He's feeling a lot better now, but it was pretty rough for a while. While he was sleeping and/or in the bathroom, I got to study a lot. I worked on reading Preach My Gospel in Malagasy and my scriptures in Malagasy too. It was easier than I was expecting, I got through the first chapter of Preach My Gospel without really having a problem, so that was cool. And then I deep cleaned our house too. I'm pretty much the mom in that house. I even made banana bread in the evening so that it came out about when the other elders came home. It's that bad. I also reorganized the kitchen and deep cleaned it, but mostly I just studied. It was pretty weird to not be walking around all day, and it was definitely nice, but I'm glad that we got back out and starting working last night.

Before that, though, we had a pretty successful week. We have been getting to a lot of recent converts and less actives, and we got a few new investigators too. Last Monday, we went to the soirèe at the branch president's house and taught his two daughters. They are very prepared and accepting. It's amazing what a strong gospel environment in the home does. Then on Tuesday we went and talked to a less active family. The wife had been avoiding us, but we finally sat down and had a great conversation with her and she really opened up and is starting to trust us, I think. Then we taught a few more people, and went to one of the families we are teaching with baptismal dates and the dad wasn't back from work yet, so we sat around and talked with the family as we waited for him. Then Marcel, who is a recent convert and probably one of the biggest studs in the whole branch, brought in the dad. And I do mean brought, he was totally carrying him. In Malagasy terms he was "vita be" or you could say he was smashed. He was so drunk that we just put him to bed essentially and then taught the rest of the family how they could work with him to help him overcome his drinking problem. It was a reall bummer to have him slip up like that again because now we are going to need to move back their baptismal date again. I think he'll make it though, the Atonement is stronger than something like that, so I have high hopes for him.

Another story from this week was when we were teaching Marcel (that stud that I already mentioned) and his wife in his house, which only has a bed, bookshelf, and a bench sandwhiched between the bed and the wall that we sat on. We had planned to start teaching his dad earlier, but he was never available, we asked Marcel if he could set up a time with him so we could teach him. We were expecting him to get back to us the next day, but he just leaned back and yelled through the wall, "Dad! When can you meet with the missionaries?" Then his dad yelled back from his little shack that was packed in pretty close to them. It was so great!

Then on Saturday a Seventy came and talked to the district and had a Q&A session with them. It was announced in Sacrament meeting last Sunday, but only about 60 people came. It was pretty disappointing. The meeting was really cool though. And then on Church, we had about 120 people there, which is our highest attendance so far! We had a lot of less actives come that we've been working on, and it was great! We still have a long ways to go, but it's nice to see some improvement.
This week's word is befahatany. It's pronounced bay-faha-TAH-nee and the "faha" is more like one syllable than a fa-ha like we would do in English. It kind of means "in vain" and you use it after a verb to show that it doesn't really have purpose. For example you can mamaky befahatany which means you read without really getting anything out of it. It's important that everything we do has a purpose and helps us become better in some way, otherwise  it isn't really doing us any good.

Tiako ianareo!
Elder Rasmussen

(From another letter home today) So I have fleas. It's actually pretty common here because the general sanitation is bad and there are stray dogs everywhere and people all live super close together. I think I probably got them from just sitting on a member or investigator's bed (often some of the only furniture in the house). But they really aren't that bad, I think mosquito bites are worse than flea bites, the only problem is that usually there are more flea bites. We are going to get some permetherin soon to put on all our clothes and bedding and then apparently eating garlicky food helps too. As far as I know all of the missionaries in Antsirabe have them, so it's not super bad, but hopefully will get rid of them soon.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 8 - Antsirabe - Food and Music

So on P-days we have dinner at around 5 and then go and proselyte from 6 until around 9, and we had been having a little bit of a tough time to find people then because people rarely want to meet on Monday nights, but last week we got it all solved. We went and did a little family home evening with the branch president, and it turns out one of his children was away at school somewhere else when the family got baptized, and she wants to learn. The branch president invited us to his house for a soirèe (like a small party) each Monday and he will invite some members or investigators each week and then we can teach his daughter too. We are pretty pumped, our program is just about full now, and it's been really cool to see how it filled up. We started with nothing like 3 weeks ago, but now we are starting to have trouble fitting people in. It's way nice to have that problem. Eventually we are going to have to start going on member splits all the time, which means no English at all, and that is something I am not really looking forward too... but it needs to happen eventually and it will be good for me, so I can't complain too much.

Our food this week has been fantastic. We went to Chez Billy's once with all of the elders from Antsirabe, which right now is the zone leaders, me, Elder Covey, and Elder Schroedter (who were both in my group in the MTC), and our trainers. Then we also all go to Besofina, a nice Malagasy hotely (little resturaunt), and then our house went to Pizza Inn this week, which is Malagasy pizza, and it's super greasy and has no sauce and it destroyed our digestive systems, but it was worth it. Then we've made crepes, pancakes, omelettes, spaghetti, other noodles, tortillas, burritoes, banana bread, coconut rice, and of course ramen. We have only had Malagsy food once at our house, and even then, it was Americanized some.

One of the Pizza Inn pizza boxes. We each got our own.

This week there has been a music festival in Antsirabe. It's all Malagasy music, which is pretty fantastic, and it's only at night. The best part is that you can hear it just about anywhere in the city, even half an hour plus away. So we can hear it all night long. It's usually like a mix of the mexican radio station and electronic dance music. With an occaisional banjo.

Part of the city, in the left corner you can see the spire of the cathedral on the main road.

Our investigators are improving, we have three with baptismal dates and a bunch of others that are progressing. We had a few come to church on Sunday, along with a bunch of less actives, which is great. One of the big problems we are having is retention. Most of the members are still really young in the gospel and they don't have strong foundations most of the time. So when a leader does something wrong, or someone doesn't come to the funeral of another ward member, or when there aren't any elders for a few months lots of people just stop coming. Then there's also a problem with gossip and we are running at about a 25% attendance right now, which is bad. Of course, the records need a lot of work too, and we have the records of a lot of people that have moved or died still, so it's not as bad as it seems, but we are really working on getting people to remember their covenents, teaching them about forgiveness, and helping them remember that it's Christ's church. The work is going really well though. The people are loving and good intentioned so it's usually not too hard to talk with them. All in all the people are really loving. They are just great! I haven't had a single door slammed in my face and the most hostile anyone has been is staring at the white guys as they pass by.
The word of the week is manankina, mah-NAHN-keen-ah, which means to rely on. It's important for all of us to get to the point where we don't need to rely on others for our relationship with God. We should only be relying on him and the supports that he has given us like priesthood leaders, scriptures, and modern day revelation. When people have a very strong relationship with God, they work their hardest to do the things that he wants them to do, and they are solid, solid members.
Misoatra betsaka ho ny fotoana!

Elder Rasmussen

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 7 - Antsirabe - Trying to Read the Book of Mormon

So last week after we went to the cyber to email, we went shopping at the Shoprite, the only grocery store in Antsirabe other than street vendors. While we were there, we found a whole section of mugs for sale, and Elder Covey and I found some of the coolest mugs in existance, and we bought them for about three dollars. They are white with pictures of kittens on them. It doesn't get more hardcore than that. Mine is actually better than his because I get 5 different kittens in one big picture that wraps all the way around, but he only gets the same cat twice, once on each side.

This week has been super awesome! Our member help is amazing. We have had at least one person with us every day this last week from about 2ish until around 7. They have been a huge help because they know lots of the people who were investigating with the last missionaries, the less actives, and the leaders in the ward. There was one day where we had no help and we didn't know where to start, so we just went into our area (about a 30-45 minute walk from our house) and stopped at a market to look around and decide where to go. Then a member walked up to us, announced that she was going to help us for that day, and then started taking us around to people. She even had a list of recent converts and less actives for us! The Lord is definitely leading us to those he has prepared.

A nice traditional Malagasy meal

In one of our lessons with some less active members, there was a little boy who decided I was his friend, and I was chatting and playing with him a little bit before we got going. I made the mistake of writing something down in my planner and he was fascinated with my pen. It's just a black ballpoint pen that you push the button down, then have to push a button on the side to pop it back up, but he thought it was the coolest thing in the world! Then, during the prayer, he reaches through my folded arms, all the way across my chest and slowly pulls the pen out, then after playing with it for about 30 seconds (it was a long prayer), he slowly reaches back and slides it back into my chest pocket. I was trying sooo hard not to laugh the whole time! His family is really awesome though. They are pretty rich for Malagasies, the dad is a mechanical engineer and professor at a local college. Pretty rich is relative, of course, because they still have a cement floor and I'm not sure if they have running water or not. It's crazy how much we take for granted.

A sunset in our area

Today we drove way out into the boonies in Manadona, to go to a waterfall. It was super cool. We went with all of the missionaries in my district and in the other Antsirabe district. Some of the elders went and ran way up past the waterfall jumping from rock to rock in the river. It was lots of fun, and it was really pretty.

My selfie from our hike to the waterfall today

I've started to read the scriptures in Malagasy to work on my language skills, and I started by jumping around to a lot of scriptures that I have memorized in English, but then I decided to start at the beginning. I open to the first verse and it says "I Nephi, because I was born of parents pinched people with hair..." or something like that. I asked Elder Rahilahivao, the native Malagasy who lives with me, about it and he started laughing and said that it was pretty messed up--apparently the translation isn't quite perfect... Apparently people still manage to keep reading after coming across that, so it's all good I guess. The mistakes of men can't keep the work of the Lord from progressing.

The word of the week is mazoto (muh-zoo-too) it means dilligent. We use this word a lot when describing investigators and members. It's super important because those who are not mazoto, those who don't read their scriptures and keep their covenants and obey the commandments, don't have the Spirit in their life and they lose their faith. It's super sad to see. It's a hard concept for lots of people to understand that you won't be able to know if the gospel is true or not until AFTER you start living it. You have to give it a test drive first because no assurance that it's true will come until after the trial of your faith.

Fitiavana maro!

Elder Rasmussen

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 6 - Made it to Madagascar

Well, as the subject says, I actually did make it to Madagascar, but that only happened after a very, very long plane ride. We left Monday morning and then didn't arrive until Wednesday afternoon. I slept a little, and was bored out of my mind a little, talked to the people around me a little, and lost all feeling in my lower body a little. It was great!

London Heathrow!


Then we arrived in Madagascar, and the airport was this great little podunk place. We had to sign papers in Malagasy and they asked us questions in Malagasy and we just smiled and nodded. Then President and Sister Adams met us with the AP's, Elder Fox and Elder Christiansen. I made sure to tell Elder Fox that I knew all about his mission because I stalked his blog.

(Mom's note: we received these photos from the mission office, along with a short note to let us know he arrived safely.)

Then we took a sketchy drive through Tana to the mission home.

The view of Tana from the mission home.

Selfie at said mission home.

We had a great lasagna meal there. Then we went to the AP's and office elders' apartments and slept there.

Me on the office elder's balcony. I had one with my face lit up, but I looked stoned so I deleted it. Enjoy!

Then back to the mission home where we had breakfast-- a great oatmeal type thing-- and then we had some orientation and after that we opened our assignments. That was intense. We were in the chapel with our whole group and all of the trainers and AP's and we were called up one by one by the mission president and given an envelope with our assignment in it, then we opened it there in front of everyone. Then everyone clapped, the trainers would come up and tell a little about the area, then you went and sat by them, and the next missionary was up. It was like a whole new mission call opening.

Mission tags! Super cute!

I have been assigned to Ambohimena, in Antsirabe, a city about 3 hours South of Antananarivo! My trainer is Elder Cartmill, he's from North Dakota and he's been in country for about a year. He got up to tell me about the area, and he said that it's in Antsirabe, but that's mostly all he knows because we are whitewashing it... What?!

After everyone received their assignments, we had Sister Adam's famous sloppy joes and then headed out. The taxi-brousse (inter-city bus, as opposed to a taxibe which is intra-city) was trying to rip us off, and the AP's were coming because we had a zone conference, so we just drove with them, which was much nicer than a taxi-brousse.

Antsirabe from the Andranamanelatra Elders' car. That's Elder Covey driving like a boss.

We had dinner at Chez Billy, which is like a Malagasy American resturaunt, and I had a hamburger. It's in my area, so I can go to it pretty often if I want.

Then the next day we had a zone conference with Elder Hamilton of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency. I told him to keep an eye out for James when he goes to Capetown next month.

(Mom's note: this is a photo we received in a note Elder Hamilton sent to us, saying Nathan was a "fine young man.")

Then the next day was Saturday and we tried to find people. We don't have an area book, long story, so we had to try to do our best on our own. We found some investigators with the sister missionaries' help, and then after eating my first Malagasy meal at Besofina's, a Malagasy resturaunt, we headed off on our own to try to get the hang of our area, which is huge.

We explored an area called Senasabotsy, and we got lost and asked someone for directions and she is the ward mission leader's mom! She was right in front of his house and we met him. Then after he took us around to a few members and less actives, we wandered off again and after an hour-ish we heard a little boy call misionera, which is Malagasy for missionaries. We went and talked to him and right by him was one of the ward missionaries! Then he took us to the young men's president, who is a super dilligent guy who teaches with the missionaries a lot! Then we met 2 more of the ward missionaries at his house. It was crazy how everything worked out. We headed out that day with the goal to find the young men's president, the ward mission leader, and some members to help us teach, and we found all three in a part of our area that is huge and there are lots of people and very few members. Miracles are real, ok?

Then we had church the next day. Attendance was really low because one of the ward members' sons died and lots of people were at his burial, but we still met a bunch of members. There are lots of young single sisters in our branch, and they kind of swarmed us a bunch, but don't worry, it's nothing I'm not used to!

The kids here are crazy cute and they love to play with us and give us fistbumps. They also yell "vazaha!" whenever they see white people, which is funny, but so far, I think I've heard more people say, "lava be!" when I walk past than "vazaha" Which is impressive because you hear vazaha all the time! Lava be means very tall and I get it a ton. First of I'm white, so they notice me, and then I'm 6'6" and my companion is only 5'8" which is already taller than most Malagasies, so I am just massive. And I hit my head on stuff. But it's ok because the kids love me, and I can be as intimidating as I feel like being.

Antsirabe from a hill.

Elder Cartmill is pretty mahay (fluent) and he has been in Antsirabe for a while, just in a different area, so he knows the language around here pretty well.

We live in the same house with his old companion who is working the area that Elder Cartmill just came from. His name is Elder Rahilaivao, he's a native and he's super funny. His English is good for a Malagasy, but he still has a ways to go, which is tough for his trainee. He's training Elder Covey from my group, which is way exciting because that means we see each other all of the time. Elder Covey is going to come out of training super good at Malagsy because Elder Rahilaivoa's English isn't super great. He's being a good sport about it, but he likes asking Elder Cartmill Malagasy questions when we're home at night.

So far I'm loving it here! I'm even getting used to the smell of sewage and burning garbage that's everywhere. Sorry for the super long email, but there was lots to write this week.

Tiako ianareo!
Elder Rasmussen