Sunday, August 26, 2012

We received nine new elders here in Madagascar this week from the Provo MTC. In the past couple of weeks we also received two elders and one sister assigned to Reunion Island. Three missionaries have completed their missions and have gone home. These are really exceptional missionaries. Included is a photo of the arrival of the group here at the Antananarivo airport. We had training for the new missionaries and for those who will train them. We had dinner for 20 Wednesday evening and then lunch for 30 the next day (shown here) in our home. That is a lot of food preparation. The transfers associated with these new additions and the training and other assignments have, thus far , been one of the most challenging parts of this calling. A significant portion of the mission was affected by these changes. The logistics of moving many missionaries all over this country are daunting. They were handled almost flawlessly by my missionary assistants. Including is a photo of the Tanjombato Ward building at the south end of Tana which is a converted mansion inside a walled compound with a formal garden and beautiful views of the surrounding valley and hills. This is a very rare property here.
Today we attended church at the Manakambahiny Stake Center which is on the main road in the center of the city. It is a very impressive building both inside and outside. We attended with Elder Jackson Mkhabela, our Area Seventy from Johannesburg. I have included some photos taken of and from the church. Also there are some random photos of young members.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The faith of Ra Be

On the blog post of July 29, 2012 I talked about a little branch about 4 hours south of Antananarivo. In that branch are many humble, faithful members, none more so than Ra Be. He works 80km (50 miles) from that village of Manadona and walks home all day each Saturday so that he can attend church on Sunday.
After church he turns around and walks back. Today I received a letter from Elder Prochnow who is serving as the branch president. The following is a part of that letter:

There were two really big accomplishments this last week though. The first was the Mormon Helping Hands activity that took place Saturday. My counsellors and I went and talked to the president of the fokontany (the equivalant of a mayor) and came away with the idea of helping fix up the local school. We swept the insides and painted the outer walls of four buildings at the school, repaired multiple desks and other various broken items, and did a real good job cleaning the actual school grounds. In total, we had about 30 members and six investigators that stayed for the duration of the activity. I'm not sure if you remember Ra Be or not. He is the male member that walks 80km one way to church. Last Sunday he apologized and said that he was really sorry that he couldn't make it because of the distance. I told him that it was ok and that we all understood the situation. That's when another miracle took place down here in the Dona. Elder Maua'i, my first counsellor, secretary, and myself were the first to show up at the school Saturday morning at just after 0800. Then to our surprise, good old Ra Be was the first members besides ourselves to show up as he walked in five minutes behind us. He told us that he felt guilty that he wasn't going to help serve along side other members. He left early Friday morning, hoping that someone would help feed him either Saturday or Sunday because his money wasn't going to be enough for the weekend after not working the full week. Just thought that you may want to know about that man and his amazing faith.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We just returned from a wonderful couple of days in Johannesburg, South Africa at a new mission president seminar with the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and wives: Elder and Sister Soares (from Brazil), Elder and Sister Renlund, and Elder and Sister Cook. The other new mission presidents are (back row, left to right) the McMullins (Congo Lumbumbashi Mission), us,  the Kretlys (Mozambique Mission), and the Cooks (Zimbabwe Misson). We have all become good friends. Each one has, in six weeks, gathered a lifetime worth of experiences, and it is only the beginning.  The Area covers 32 countries from Sudan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Cameroon on the north, all the way to South Africa on the south and Mauritius on the east. There are 11 missions. It is a fascinating array of countries and cultures unlike anything else in the world. We will be back in Johannesburg in November for a seminar with the mission presidents and wives from all 11 missions.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We spent this week back on Reunion Island and, for the first time, Mauritius. Reunion was beautiful as before. We had a meetings with the missionaries and members. We traveled to the southwest of the island and saw some spectacular mountains. We dinned with a great family in the city of St Pierre and heard a truly amazing conversion story. We then flew to the also beautiful island nation of Mauritius. It is more second world than Reunion with its own spectacular beauty. We again had good meetings with the missionaries and a two-branch conference on Sunday. We stayed at an hotel on the beach and had some nice walks on the sand. We are home for a day and a half and it is off to South Africa, our eleventh and twelfth flights in six weeks.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

This weekend we flew to Fort Dauphin at the very southern tip of Madagascar. It is a very picturesque beach town a long ways from anything else. We visited a branch with 187 attending today. They have lots of children and youth. The missionaries have only been working in this city for two years and the branch is ready to divide. They even have 12 attending 5:30 am daily seminary. There are several preparing to go on missions, one sister leaving for the Ivory Coast Mission in Africa in just a few weeks. In order for someone from this area to go on a mission (or go to the temple in South Africa) 
they have to first ride a crowded taxi-bus two full days to Antananarivo to personally appear to apply for a passport and then they return home. When they get their passport they must then return to personally apply for a visa before they can complete their application for the mission. It would be hard  to describe how difficult and uncomfortable that journey is, yet they are willing to do it to serve the  Lord. There are several strong, well educated, long-time church members who have moved there from Antananarivo who give great leadership to the branch. Included are some photos of Fort Dauphin including a baptism in the Indian Ocean which occurred a while ago. Also included a picture of the branch fireside last night to welcome us. 

Here is a photo of a baptism of 35 in Antsirabe (three hours south of here).

Here are some photos in and around Antananarivo including drying clothes along a stream, a local hand cart delivering furniture, and a shot of one of our new, very prominent (four stories)
stake centers in the city.