I hope you are all doing well and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving - festive and fun. Even though it doesn't feel anything like Christmas season here, it's still fun to be able to get ready to celebrate. Actually we've been having some pretty crazy weather here. This week it was hail the size of golf balls! AND SO MUCH RAIN. Other than that it has been very nice. For Thanksgiving, I thought that instead of trying to outdo all of you, I'll just eat lychees because it's one thing I know I will be missing a year from now. I don't like the holidays because you can't help but feel a little homesick. At the same time I cannot believe that it's almost Christmas. The time I've been in Fianarantsoa has gone so fast. I need to stop blinking or it's going to be over.
We had transfers this last week, but we're all staying the same in Fianarantsoa. When you're this far away from everything it doesn't really feel like there are other missionaries and a mission home out there. You just feel like everything is very, very far away. This is a little city, completely inaccessible to the outside world except for one dirt road that runs from the capital and an airport that has such a short runway that it's practically useless. It's funny to think this is the third largest city in the country. Ha ha.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to list a couple of things that I am especially thankful for. Although this list is far from complete or even representative of all that I'm thankful for, it's what comes to mind right now.
I am Thankful for...
Being able to devote all my time and efforts to my God and to my Savior without any distraction and with total focus on helping them complete their mission
I have an amazing family, a mother and father who love each other and love me, and they support me always without being asked and in total love and compassion
I have annoying siblings, yeah, I'm thankful for that, ha ha!:p
I have grandparents who love and support me unconditionally, and who worry about me and care, and who I am important to
I have wonderful friends who have supported me throughout my mission, who have prayed for me, and even though we are often times from different backgrounds and faiths, they have always been there for me, especially Taylor
I am able to work here in Fianarantsoa and the Lord trusts me to minister and do the greatest work on earth and in eternity
I am thankful that I can change and progress and that I'm able to learn and grow and improve myself
I'm thankful that I'm not perfect and that I can know that I'm not perfect and that I can work to be better
I'm thankful for all of those on the mission who support me and allow me to work, who sacrifice and put forth effort to make this opportunity available for me
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the single greatest thing that has ever been done for me, and ultimately the thing I am most grateful for, the thing that allows all the other things to be possible, I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice of my Savior Jesus Christ, that he in his perfection died to rescue an imperfect soul like me, because of his pure love he saw in me what I cannot see in myself, and that he now walks with me each step, he suffered for everything that has and will ever happen to me, now he supports me each step in my times of trial and victory.
I have had a hard, but very rewarding week. I'm thankful for the opportunity to write to all of you. As a companionship we made pizza everyday, which was really fun. We made all the dough, toppings, and sauce last p-day. Then we made it quickly each day as we came home. Today we were going to go to the national park Ranomahafana, but in the end we weren't able to go. So, we went into the old town of Fianarantsoa where some of the first Christian churches in all of Madagascar were built and still stand. It was really cool to be able to see them. We found the guardian's house for the oldest one and they let us inside. It was amazingly cool and we could pretty much just walk around and do whatever. They let us up by the organ, etc. It made me think of grandpa Steve. If you can talk to the right people you can pretty much do anything in Madagascar. We tried to look inside the cathedral, but it was closed. Apparently the bishop and nuns have the same p-day as us.
One really exciting thing that happened this week is that one of our investigators, that we have been working with for a long time, came to church with his son. His wife couldn't come because she was sick. It was great, and he seemed to have a good time. One hard thing is that I can't be with the people we're teaching in church. I was conducting, and then I had to teach gospel doctrine. He was doing well when I talked to him. We are doing a lot of training for the leaders. This week was tithing settlement. I feel like my letters since I've been here are a little hard to explain to people who aren't Mormon because they use so much unique vocabulary. But, if I had to sum it up, lots and lots of teaching. I love teaching, in any language - teaching and helping people grow.
Another amazing story here in Fianarantsoa is the family of one of our recent converts. The husband got baptized, but his wife and children didn't get baptized with him. They were very hesitant about his decision to join the church. We have been working with them and now they are preparing for baptism. We are so excited for them. It has been amazing to see their conversion little by little. It has been hard for his wife, but we gave her a challenge to study finding answers in The Book of Mormon, and then pray about it. At first she would say, I accept that because it agrees with what I already think. But after that assignment I think she realized that she needed to put her questions to the Lord. She started praying. The next time we asked if the reading was true, she said that she knew it was. We asked her how she knew. Before she would have said that it agrees with the Bible or this or that. This time she got a big smile and said, because the holy spirit let me know that it was true. It was such a powerful moment. The spirit was very strong in the room. This and another experience this week reminded me of how important it is for us all to ask God in faith and if we honestly seek an answer we will know what we should do. When I was teaching gospel doctrine this week we talked about faith and I shared a quote from President Uchtdorf. He said, :"I wish that I could let everyone in the world know one simple truth. We believe in the gospel, not because of things we do not know, but because of things we do know in our hearts and our spirits to be true." I asked the class to share their conversion stories, since everyone in there was a convert. It was amazing to hear everyone explain essentially the same story. Two weird people knocked on my door, I didn't really want to let them in but I did anyway, I don't know why, they explained this wonderful message to me, I read, studied, prayed, and felt it was true. That to me is an amazing testimony, and it is so true. They felt the spirit because they were honest and ready. I invite everyone who has honest questions to put them before the Lord in solemn prayer. You will know what you should do.
I hope you all have a wonderful week,
Hello. We have been working very hard and I'm thankful for all of the unusual opportunities that I've had on my mission. We are working with some very nice families. Also the weather has been fabulous! During the summer in Fianarantsoa it's typically either raining and flooding or it's warm and sunny.
In response to your question, mom, I haven't received any of the packages you sent for the holidays. I would love some new insoles. It worked best when I put the gel and cloth ones together. I know that sounds extravagant, but I like having comfortable shoes. If you wanted to send more insoles, I wouldn't object - ha ha. Nothing will ruin you day more effectively than bad shoes. Thankfully, mine have held up well. Regrettably, Madagascar has finally gotten to them. They don't keep the water out 100% anymore. I was so sad, but I guess that's okay.
Last preparation day we went on a hike. It was fun. There is a giant statue of Mary at the place she visited here in Fianar. I don't think it's an officially recognized Mary visitation site, but don't tell anyone here that. It's funny that the diocese here accepts it fully, but it isn't accepted more widely. Anyway, it was fun to go up there and see it. I had already been, but this time I took my new companions. I got to explain Mary visitations too. It's always fun when I get to use my four years of theology.
Everything is going well in Fianarantsoa. Most of last week was spent in a car driving across Madagascar for zone conference. Thankfully the drive was nice. Zone conference was very good. It was great to see Sister Foote and President again. They are doing well and we got to eat pulled pork, which was fun.
It has been raining all week here. I've basically walked through my insoles again. So azo lazaina fa - missionary life. Regrettably, when it started raining we we found that our house had a hole in the roof. So now at some point we have to find the time to find someone who can fix it. But, that's a problem for later - ha ha.
We've been talking as a companionship about what we learned at zone conference. It corresponded a lot with what was talked about in general conference, especially focusing on simple, true discipleship. We talked about the difference between converting someone and conversion to the gospel - that conversion is from God. It was very applicable.
Otherwise, I'm doing well. I am not suffering from tons of flea bites like my companion, Elder Snell. I will say that I am completely done trying to type on this French keyboard. It's so annoying. I love you all very much and miss you. Have a great week.