Wednesday, March 9, 2016

March 7, 2016

This week was crazy. We had the Elders from Tulear fly in. An Elder had an emergency surgery and had to be flown to Tana. He had an appendicitis, but he's doing very well now. It was seriously a miracle that we got him on the flight though. It was the last one for like 3 days, which obviously would have been too late. We found out at 2 o'clock and he left at 3:50ish. They almost didn't let him on the plane. After that we had zone conference, and finally today, there's time to slow down a little bit - haha. Life, it goes too fast. Zone Conference was with Elder Hamilton of the Seventy. I got to translate, which was pretty fun. It made it hard to focus sometimes on what was actually being talked about. I've gotten pretty decent at translating on my mission. You just have to learn how to hear something while saying one sentence behind. So you hear, translate, and speak - three different thoughts. Once you get into a groove, though, it's really fun, But then comes a weird word or phrase that doesn't translate or you forget the word in Malgasy or English, and then you get off of the rhythm - haha. I was also able to translate for President Foote. It was great to see them. They're awesome!
This week we are going to be teaching the plan of salvation a lot. I love teaching the plan of salvation because I think it makes everything very clear. That is if you understand why you are here and everything, it all fits into place. It's why we have to act the way we act during this life. It explains our goals and where we are going, and you realize that change and perfection are required to be better. I really love that. and it helps me understand why overcoming challenges now will be a blessing later in life or in eternity. It is very empowering - the idea that we can make differences and push ourselves to be better.
I love being a missionary and I love you all very much. Have a great week.
Elder Ahlstrom
February 29, 2016

First off Emma and Will look great, and it's great to see Grandpa Dale. This cyber is very hot and there is a screaming child so I don't really want to email. I just want to get outside, but I love you all very much so I want to be able to talk, so I will use my patience - haha. I'm actually working on that this week, so maybe this is a blessing. This week went well. Exciting news, my companion had a minor operation to remove his ingrown toe nails because they were infected. He's doing much better now and he's much happier, but we've been taking things easy. We weren't able to work for two days this week but now he's feeling much better so we can focus again on work. President Foote and Elder Hamilton of the Seventy are coming down this week. I'm very excited to see them. We are having a zone conference and I'm looking forward to it. 

Last week I got a haircut and while my hair was being cut I started talking to my barber. He was a really nice guy. Anyway, I asked him to tell me a crazy story, and I told him if it was good that I would send it to America (the story that is). Well, it was a good story, so now I have to tell you. He was over at a friends house way in the middle of nowhere, (in Ambanivolo) with three other friends. It was night, and so they had to leave to go home. They started out heading along the path in the middle of the night. Mind you this path is just a cow path. As they're walking, they come to a river and prepared to forge it, when further along the bank they see a group of daholo (bandits) doing they're fomba daholo (bandit rituals), sacrifices etc. Well, these bandits are from a very different tribe and so my barber and his friends didn't understand them, but they were seen by the bandits. The daholo started after them to kill them, rob them, and sacrifice them to their bush god so that they would have success in their pillaging. My friend and his friends took off running as fast as they could, jumping through rice patties and under brush trying to hide their path. Unbeknownst to them, a little bit further along the path, was a massive funeral service. The daholo thought that my friend was part of the funeral. Fahoriana started firing at the funeral service, at which point the funeral service fired back at them. As they ran away a gunfight broke out and they were in the middle of it. They escaped, but all the gunfire alerted the gendarme, and my friend ran into them along the main path. The gendarme thought that my friend and his friends were part of the daholo and lined them up in front of a firing squad. Before they started to shoot, however, the tompo ny fahoriana (leader of the funeral party) burst out of the brush and cleared my friend the barber by telling the gendarme he was not part of the daholo (because his dialect wasn't bara, that of the daholo). They were all let free, the gendarme forced back the daholo, and they finishead the night off at the funeral.

I thought it was a pretty good story. It's even better when you imagine people running through the malagasy bush (ambanivolo) so that's my story, Have a great week, I love you all very much. The Church is true!

Elder Ahlstrom
February 22, 2016

Wow, everything looks really nice with the new design in the TV room. It's also good to see that life is going well there. We''re working really hard here in Fort Dauphin, and lots of good stuff is happening. V is doing well. He decided that he was going to leave his job and look for new work so that he could come to church. We didn't even encourage him to do that, we just told him to pray about what he should do whatever it was, and that's what he felt was the answer. He has a lot of faith, be he also seemed much happier after making the decision. He is a very impressive young man.

I had a good week. The new elders just came in from Tana, that was exciting and they got here safely. It's funny because it's like an hour and a half flight but the drive would take days. Today we get to show them all the cool stuff here in Ft. Dauphin, and we're going to have a nice lunch. Life is soooo expensive here. It's crazy. It's just because we're very far away. The people here, however, are very nice. It's fun because we're teaching a lot of people with varying religious backgrounds. Most of them are very strong in their own faiths, so it's interesting to see the different perspectives they bring to things. We're teaching some people who are very Catholic, very Protestant, very Adventist, and it's interesting to see their concerns. It's also interesting to see the universal truths of the gospel. A lot of people have very direct specific concerns and they're all different. Some people easily accept one principle while another is really hard and visa versa. One thing that is always interesting though is the difference between those who ask and those who don't, ask God that is. That is the single greatest difference between those who learn if the message is true and those who never can accept it, they're unwilling to trust or to receive a hard answer. I think this is good for all of us, however, to consider that. Something being hard, or something being new is not a good enough reason to God for us refusing to accept him. In whatever facet of life or perspective, he has clearly set forth his plan. Adding to it or taking away from it with our own perspective will not bring us salvation. We must stay focused and centered on following his closely defined path. Ultimately, all teaching in the church serves the purpose of explaining the plan of redemption and then giving people the opportunity to follow it or not.

President Foote is coming down in March. I can't wait to see him; he's the best! We cleaned up our house after a very long time of neglect last week and now it's clean. I'm so happy; it was way nasty. This week we're going to our branch president's house for dinner. He lives in a rio tinto housing subdivision so we're essentially going to little America. It's very weird. It's very far from town and has a big gate around it. There are basketball courts and everyone speaks English (because you have to to be a high up in rio tinto). It's very funny, so that is something new.

So, in general a good week and next week will be a great week. I can't wait to hear from you all again, and please enjoy yourselves.

February 15, 2016

How are you? I hope everyone is happy and healthy as always. I’m glad to be able to write to you all. It is another hot and humid day here in Ft. Dauphin, and the internet connection is terrible! Work is going well here. It was fun to see the pictures and everything from Emma’s birthday. Did she register to vote? I remember that’s how I celebrated my 18th birthday, and then I got the voter I.D. card right after, which was pretty fun. I still have it, and although I don’t think it’s expired, I doubt it still works. I don’t even know what state I’m a legal resident of anymore. How does that even work, I have no clue. It’s also fun to see all the construction you’re doing on the house. One of the other Elders here mentioned how his mom moved a rug from one room to the other and how he felt like it wasn’t his house anymore. I thought it was funny how we get so used to things and even small changes are crazy. It also made me laugh to think that when I come home everything will be different, not just the rug. It’s going to be weird being in a new house, it will feel like it’s someone else’s - haha. The important thing, however, is that family will be there.

You mentioned Vino in your letter. He is doing well, but he’s been very, very busy. I actually shared with him a talk that you quoted to me, faith by choice, not by chance. I felt that it would help. This week was transfers. I am staying here and my companion is staying the same. The cybers haven’t been working today so I don’t even know if this email is going to get to you. I love you all very much. This is short because of all the silliness with the cybers today. I hope you are happy, have a great day.

So the internet wasn’t working so we put it on a flash drive and brought it to another cyber.

Elder Ahlstrom
February 8, 2016
It's been a long time here in Madagascar. Next week is the end of my first transfer here in Ft. Dauphin. I feel like I should be used to things by now, and I am to some extent, but I don't think you ever fully get used to anything. I hope you are all doing well.
I would like to quickly talk about an amazing person we're teaching right now. His name is V, I believe I mentioned him before. He is just the nicest guy I've ever met. When we first started teaching him, he informed us that his brother had joined the Church. He then asked 'why did my brother leave the faith of my family, what do you guys bring that is so unique, what's the importance and the unique reality of your message'. We told him that it was the Holy Ghost, and that his brother had developed a relationship with God. That's what made the difference. It's been really amazing to see him develop a deeper faith. He is struggling a little bit right now because he unexpectedly became the primary provider for his family. It's been really hard for him because he has had to work full time, that means he lives at his work and doesn't come home. We were only able to talk to him for 30 mins this week because we caught him for his one evening at home before he goes back to work. People in Madagascar are amazing and work so hard. It's remarkable. He is trying to figure out how to balance his life and keep growing spiritually, so please keep him in your prayers. I don't think I've ever taught someone who was so prepared to receive the missionaries. Anyway, we're trying to help him, but it's definitely a very personal quest. I'll let you know how he's doing.
Another couple that is ready to be baptized are waiting on marriage issues. It is pretty hard to get married here because you have to go back to your birth commune and get it directly from them. Out in the sticks, half the time the communes aren't even open for months at a time, etc. Just very slow and frustrating, especially for people who are ready but just waiting on that last step. It rained this week, which was nice. Both for the farmers who are in a terrible drought down here and also for missionaries who hate the heat - ha ha. Things are going very well, and we are very happy with the success that we are seeing. It's fun to work down here and I am very happy. I hope you are all happy too.
Elder Ahlstrom