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

Friday, May 13, 2016

April 11, 2016

Life is good and I'm happy. For the most part things have been very good. I'll start generally by saying that this week went very fast. That's always the case, but this week it was accelerated by the fact that we had conference. On Saturday and Sunday we watched conference at the mission office in English with all the other missionaries in Tana. It was good to see new faces, and I was surprised by how many people I didn't know. It's weird because I haven't been in a zone for over a year (zone-10-30 missionaries within a close geographical location, have meetings together etc.). I've been a little bit further away. So it was weird, but yes, new people have come into the mission. Conference was really great. I really liked it, and I thought that it had a lot of great things in it. I was especially touched by the talk on refugees, and felt a very strong prompting that I should learn one of the main refugee languages. Now that I have a knack for picking up crazy weird African-ish languages and I'm stupid enough to spend time learning a language that's not really applicable, I felt why not. Actually in all seriousness, I felt strongly impressed that I need to at least try a little bit. Having lived in Madagascar I have learned that 1.) talking to people in a language they don't understand can't help them 2.) your native language is the language of your heart 3.) you can't understand someone truly unless you can speak to them in their native language. That's a little bit off subject, however, because obviously it's still a while before I can render that service, but I wrote it down when I felt the inspiration. Other than that, I felt that two often repeated topics were "do you really believe" and "are you close to Christ". I feel we can all work on these things, especially because they're very personal goals between yourself and God. Also, as it says in the New Testament, knowing God and Jesus Christ is eternal life. Kind of an interesting thought. Since none of us have eternal life yet, then it would be logical to conclude that we should better know our Savior. We can still get closer to him. As far as the area, etc. well I'm still getting used to it. I think I can probably get along pretty well now in it. I know where most of the people we visit live, etc. Elder Yeagley and I are doing well, just working. Right now we're working with someone and their three kids, so please keep them in your prayers.
Other than that I have nothing new. Hope you are all doing well.

Elder Ahlstrom
April 4, 2016

First, it's very exciting to see my flight plans. I hope you are all doing well and had a good conference weekend. We will be watching conference this upcoming weekend so I will tell you what I think then. I've been hearing a lot about this "I was a stranger" thing. It sounds really good. So I'm working in Ambohimanarana. It's a wonderful branch. We actually go to church right next door to the American Embassy in a beautiful brand new church building. It's very strange to be working in such an organized area  again after having worked so far away for so long in little tiny branches. Even if they ran well, they were just starting. Most of the members there were 2 or 3 years in the church at most. Here many of the members have been in the church for 15 or 20 years. It's fun to be able to work with new people and have the new experiences of an area. I'm still unpacking. I haven't been to the office yet. Today I will finally be able to get there and get a bunch of my stuff. I only have warm weather clothes but Tana gets really cold at night so that's the first step is getting my blankets and sweaters from the office. Work is going well so far, just trying to get used to everything. This week has been a rush. After I finished cybering you on Monday, I hopped on an airplane to Tana. That was exciting because it also happened to be the dedication of a new plane, the first jet engine plane in Madgascar Air Mada fleet. There were a bunch of politicians and journalists on board. They had two fire trucks spray arcs over the plane to dedicate it's maiden voyage. It was all very exciting, I guess you'd say haha. I sat next to a really nice guy who helped foreign companies and scientists get visas to come to Madagascar and work. It was really cool to hear about his work. It was also strange because the whole converstation was in English. He was very good. He also spoke German and French, so go figure.
This week has just been trying to get used to everything again. But life is good and I'm very happy here. My new companion's name is Elder Yeagley. I actually lived in the same house as him at the very beginning of my mission. He arrived one transfer before me and we both started in Toamasina.
I'm trying to think of other things to say, but as I said, in general just kind of a normal week. I'm excited because i get to do some fun things preparing to go home like getting some souvenirs and getting a suit made to get off the plane in. Yeah so that's kind of life here. I hope you are all doing well
Elder Ahlstrom