Sunday, July 29, 2012

 I just returned from meeting with a branch in a village almost 4hours south of here. The branch is spread over a fairly large valley with several dependent groups in outlying areas. The missionaries bike 16 miles oneway to get to the area in hilly terrain ( like biking to Auberry every day) They have to start back 1.5 hours before dark because there is almost no electricity in the area. When they get back to the larger city, where their apartment is, they start working in another area. They are now biking 150 miles a week. They teach lessons wherever they go. 

At the branch meeting I met a family who walks 20 km one way faithfully to church every Sunday. I was overwhelmed when I learned that, and then I met a man who walks home from where he works 80 km (50 miles) each Saturday so that he can attend church on Sunday and then walks back on Monday. As I was sitting at the front of the congregation I was getting pretty choked-up thinking about that kind of devotion.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We spent the past week on the beautiful island of La Reunion. It is actually part of France. Think of it as a blend of France and Hawaii. The missionary work is very different from and more difficult than in Madagascar. Again we met many great members and missionaries. We have included photos of St Denis, capital of Reunion and one of Antananarivo, Madagascar from the air.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

We just returned from a trip to the northeast coast of the country to the city of Tomatave for missionary interviews, meetings and several member meetings. On the way we stopped for the night at Andasibe.
There we stayed at a very nice hotel with our own bungalow in the rain forest. It was like driving into Jurassic Park. The hotel has its own large private reserve of lemurs which we were able to visit. They are amazing, gentle and friendly animals. We went with a guide at feeding time early in the morning. They literally came running and jumped on us to get bananas. We also saw a few fosse in an inclosed area. Included are a  couple of pictures from the road trip to the coast, crossing from the high hilly center of the country descending the mountains to the tropical east coast.

We met with the members in Tomatave and went teaching with the missionaries in some very humble homes. The people continue to amaze us with  their warm and loving spirits. We flew back this afternoon. After one day back at the mission home and office we pack up and fly to La Reunion Island for a week.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

This week end we traveled to Antsirabe a large city about 3 hours south of Antananarivo. We got a real taste of cross country road travel which is impossible to describe. The roads are narrow, windy with lots of pedestrians, bikes, cows, oxcarts, nine seat mini vans packed with 15+ people, big trucks and other cars. It was a wild ride to be sure.  Once we left the capital we had rolling hills with terraced rice fields in the valleys. We passed many villages with two story brick homes, most without electricity. In Antsirabe we met many remarkable members. We continue to find the people to be incredibly welcoming and loving. We are literally treated like royalty. In the  branch conference we attended this morning there were  158 in attendance. These people really know how to sing hymns. There are several large strong branches here and their leadership is devoted. We have included some pictures of the trip leaving Antananarivo, the countryside, and the pousse-pousse rickshaws in Antsirabe. They are used there because the city is mostly flat. The street stands are everywhere. These are some of the better ones. We do have regular modern supermarkets but they are too expensive for most of the population.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This is our neighborhood. This is one of the chapels in Antananarivo which contains our mission offices and our home on the top floor. We have 24 hour security guards at the gate although this is really a pretty safe area. The traffic is crazy, the streets are narrow and winding. There are virtually no street signs. Many people live along small narrow alleys without names. Most of the streets are full of pedestrians and little shops (often micro shops) are every where. The people are very welcoming and warm. We have just had an incredible experience teaching a remarkable family in a 6x6 foot home down a series of tiny paths and alleys. We would never find it again without the elders. Tomorrow we start our travel schedule with at least half of each week on the road or in the air for the next 8 weeks or so. We have some fascinating places to see. We have a remarkable group of missionaries.