Sunday, June 19, 2016

June 13, 2016

I had thought to make this email a long final goodbye, but now that the time has come, my mind is completely overwhelmed. My heart is heavy, and I am incredibly excited while at the same time incredibly nervous. Things are so weird, life is so weird. I love my mission so much. I love this work, I have never felt so fulfilled in my life. It has also given me a desire to make my whole life more fulfilling. I want to do things and be an example of good. Peace, civility, friendship, and happiness are the greatest causes to search after. Anger, hatred, incivility, judgment, and an inability to compromise are results of people who have unfulfilling lives and are unwilling to do the things that will bring them true happiness. People look for evil when they are uncentered, unbalanced, and unhappy. Well, I'm happy, and I've spent two years helping others to be happy, and I want to be able to continue to do that throughout my entire life.

Please have a great day a great week, and I will give you hugs in under 11ish days!

Elder Ahlstrom
June 8, 2016

It's great to hear from you. I'm going to keep this email a little short, not because I don't love all of you, but I have a lot planned for these last p-days, so that means email time suffers a little bit. Today I placed an order for the suit that I'm going to wear home. And next week I'm going to have a soiree. It's all very fun but a little bit sad. Actually it's really sad. It's hard to think that I'm almost done. I don't really like it. I never thought I'd come this far. Not that I ever thought I wouldn't finish, but just that I'd just serve until the end of time. I am excited to report on my mission to the high council and especially excited that dad will be there. I get letters from the high council every month and I was hoping it would be dad's turn before I came home - ha ha.It's hard to think about what to write, but I'll tell you all about it in three weeks. Please be happy and safe.

Elder Ahlstrom
May 23, 2016

Well, it's not to say I've run out of things to say, but I definitely don't have anymore catchy titles to put on my emails. I hope that you are all doing very well and that you are all happy and healthy. I'm sorry that some of my emails recently have been weirdly short lately. You know that one thing that's always hard for me is to talk about my investigators, because conversion is a very sacred personal thing. It's hard to say someone is "doing really well" and then "not so well". Coming closer to Christ is between us and Christ, so I usually wait until afterwards to talk about people. That aside, Elder Brown and I have had a really good week. I enjoy working with him a lot. I think we work very well together which is nice. We are seeing a lot of success which is even better. I love being able to work as hard as I can to the end. I must be honest, the thought of coming home is very melancholy. I want to see you all, but I will be sad not to be a missionary any more. I actually love being a missionary - a lot. It's hard, but I would do it again. If they announced that missionaries have to serve another year, I think I could manage - haha. The scariest thing is coming home. It's hard to think about coming home. Missions are easy, life is hard. I don't really want a whole lot of down time when I get back. 

(Note from mom: The bulk of Alex's letter focused on specific things that he would like to do when he returns home and personal notes to family members. He mentioned a desire to continue studying languages. I'm including his thoughts below, but I wanted to explain the reason it seems like a weird transition from the note above)

I would like to learn some new languages as I've said in the past, but i don't know exactly what yet. I feel that i should learn French better. I just love speaking languages. The only way to really talk to someone is in their own language. I even look at myself, although i speak Malagasy, the deepest expressions of self I can only truly express in English. When you hear someone speak their native tongue, you are hearing an inheritance of knowledge passed down for millennia. It's really beautiful to think about, you are hearing the words they learned as their mother whispered to them putting them to sleep. I love language, it tells you so much about people and it enlarges your borders immensely. That being said languages are really, really hard! I hope you are all doing well. Please have a great week.

Elder Ahlstrom

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 16, 2016

Well, I had a very calm and uneventful birthday, which was nice because there's not really a whole lot of time to try and have a big thing. It's just kind of just another day. Church was good and then we got a lot of work done. It was a very satisfying birthday, for being on a mission. Elder Brown and I are working really hard together and it's great. Life is going very well. I was working in two areas the last two weeks so it's nice to get back into my real area full time again. It's also fun to be able to just work really hard up until the end. We have a lot of big things coming up this week. We have some meetings with missionaries, etc. I'm just trying to stay focused. I have been working on a cool list of scriptures to share at one of the meetings about the importance of missionary work and the scriptural foundation of it -  why it's so prevalent now, and how you can find prophesies of the modern missionary work in Isaiah. I'd share it with you all but I totally forgot to bring it with me. Today we played soccer against one of the wards here in Tana. We won. It was fun. I only played a little bit because I'm really terrible at soccer, so I played until I was satisfied, and then yeah... It was nice to see all the other missionaries. We also ate a lunch with everyone, so I guess you could say I celebrated my birthday today. I got egged yesterday, which I did not like. It was terrible. I've never egged anyone but whatever. You have to be a good sport about it. Thankfully it was after work so I could take a shower. I guess it's technically a term of endearment so I should appreciate it. I guess i'm just looking forward to when showing endearment means something a little less exciting! But life is good. I'm happy. I hope you had a great Mother's Day. I love you very much, all of you.
Elder Ahlstrom
May 2, 2016

Dear Mom, Family, and Friends

How are you! Yes, it feels crazy that we will be Skyping this week. I can't wait to see you all and talk to you. It will be great to hear your voices. I am doing well, first, I'll tell you about the news that happened here this week. So my companion, Elder Yeagley, is going home. His two years are up, but he is leaving before the transfer mark because of Mother's Day, so I don't have a companion until sometime next week. So now I'm working two areas, Betongolo and Ambohimanarina, which are pretty much on opposite sides of the world from one another. The Elder in Betongolo is in somewhat of a similar situation, so we will be serving together. It's not great, but I guess it will have to do! Another piece of exciting news. Three wonderful people got baptized this Saturday. They were so excited, and it was really special. I didn't do the baptisms because I"m still somewhat new to the area, but it was great to see how happy and excited they all were. I don't want to say too much since we'll be talking later this week. I'm really sorry but I'm really bad about emailing now, it's just hard to think of new things to talk about. I guess the two most important things i can say in any email are these

1.) I love all of you more than you can know

2.) I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he is the Savior. I have never seen him I don't believe I have ever heard his voice HOWEVER I have felt his love and I have felt his divine power. I know that he lives because I have seen his presence in my life.

I cannot wait to talk to you.

Elder Ahlstrom
April 25, 2016

It seems like some really exciting things have happened this week, and not all of them good. I'm doing very well here in Madagascar. I'm glad that your house hasn't flooded. Did the temple flood? I think you all get crazier rain than we do. It's crazy to see your pictures. I always think how it almost look like Madagascar. Today we're having a very calm preparation day. I'm looking forward to being able to just sit around for a little bit. This last week was really crazy for us. It wasn't bad, but we had a lot of meetings and we were working with other missionaries on the other side of town and sleeping on the floor. Saturday I was so tired. We had a meeting with President Foote and the Stake President of Ivandry. I translated for the stake president and Elder Yeagley translated for President Foote. It was a really good meeting. Afterwards we went and taught English. By this point my mind was spent - hahah! Now I feel much better, and am much better rested. It was fun to be able to go to other areas and work with people. It was special to be able to see people I had worked with in the past and see how much they had grown and progressed. It is especially a spiritual moment when I can see people who I worked with and taught, who have grown deeply in their conversion to Jesus Christ. It is amazing to be able to talk to them and hear the great happiness that has come into their life. I love the gospel deeply and love to see how it changes people. I know that it has changed me deeply. There is a family that is preparing this week to be baptized. It is exciting for me to think of the great change that is about to come into their lives and the growth that the gospel inspires. That is the most important thing, is that the gospel causes people to grow. It's a journey. I can look back now and see that journey sprawled out behind me and the work that I have done on my mission. I can't wait to share these experiences with everyone. Writing is one thing, but I love to talk and I love to share the things that I have seen and felt. I can't wait to Skype with you all in a few days. I will let you know next preparation day when will be best for me. I love you very much. Have a wonderful week. Thank you for writing me every week of my mission. Even though it is often only small talk it makes a very big difference. 

Elder Ahlstrom
April 18, 2016

First off, I hope you have a wonderful birthday, mom.

Also, a quick note, my email last week was pretty short because I was really sick. I'm feeling fine now, but that's why I was not really there in my email. Things are going really well here. I'm enjoying the work that we're able to do. Ambohimanarina is great. The branch is just very fun to work in. Everyone is good at being nice to new people. The English class we teach here is huge. It's boring to teach small English classes. I think I've gotten pretty good at teaching English in Malagasy.

So this week we actually had a few exciting things happen. First off we had an epic power dilemma. The power company here is terrible as I've recorded in other emails. This is the same power company that exists all over the island, so yes it is also that same company that caused the riots when I was in Toamasina so long ago. Well they sometimes like to randomly cut peoples power. I don't know why, but to make a long story short we were at the jirama office for two days trying to get our power restored. Essentially it comes down to someone looking for a bribe. Way frustrating, but whatever. Anyways, it was a big hassle. They just keep sending you to new people around in a giant circle. I've gotten pretty good at breaking through all their silliness though. Elder Yeagley and I are pretty good at doing "Madagascar" by now. So we got our power on, but it was a big hassle. They cut it for no reason. Then they told us a bunch of bills hadn't been payed which they had, then they told us that we had to pay a bunch of fees because our power was cut blah blah blah. But it's all over now. I also got my shoes re soled this week. They feel so much better. Now they have tires on the bottom of them. I had walked through the soles of both my shoes but these should probably last me now to the end. The guy did a really good job. I love that Malagasies are so good at fixing things. They never throw anything away. At some point the original product becomes indistinguishable from all the repairs, and it becomes something new. (In this way a pair of pants in Madagscar will steadily become a car over the course of it's 200 year life! ha ha. I think that's how most of the taxi be's we ride on started as.:) Also the person in the Liahona last month, Solofo, is in my branch. He's a high counselor and a really nice guy. He teaches at a school that is in exclusively English. It closely mirrors the american educational system with the goal of getting it's students into american universities. He went on his mission in Africa, Uganda or somewhere around there, where they speak English. So that's kind of a fun connection.

On a more spiritual note,conference was great. I only saw it a week ago, but we haven't been able to talk about it. I really loved conference. I thought it was very applicable for all the things I'm preparing for in my life right now - being on a mission, and also preparing to come off of a mission. So that's life here. Please have a wonderful week, and I will talk to you all very soon.

Elder Ahlstrom