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.