These last two weeks have been especially packed with activity. On Wednesday, Sept 5 we had Zone Leader Council with all the Zone Leaders from Madagascar. On Thursday we welcomed 4 new missionaries and their trainers. On Friday we greeted Elder Carl Cook of the Quorum of the Seventy and the Area Presidency and his wife Lynette for an 11 day mission tour. Saturday we held zone conference for the two zones in Antananarivo and for the missionaries flown in from Fort Dauphin and those who took a 9 hour bus ride from Mahajunga. Anna prepared meals for 16 on Wednesday and Thursday and for 58 on Saturday. We had a fireside Saturday for the 2 stakes. After church we drove 3 hours south to Antsiribe for a fireside that evening and zone conference the next morning. We returned to Antananarivo that evening for a very nice family home evening with the mission couples. Tuesday we set off for Tamatave on the east coast. We stopped in Moramonga to speak with the youth of the Tamatave District at their youth conference and stayed the night in the rain forest at Andasibe. The next morning we took the Cooks to have an experience with the lemurs and then on to Tamatave. We held leadership training and a fireside for the district that evening and a zone conference for the missionaries the next morning. During part of the conference I conducted 14 first-time temple recommend interviews. That afternoon we headed to the airport and flew to Reunion Island. The next day we had zone conference, interviews, leadership training and a fireside for the island. Saturday mornring we flew to Mauritius for a small zone conference and fireside. Sunday we had a combined church meeting for all on the island. We all spoke at church during an extended sacrament meeting and then held men's and women's training. After church we gave our farewells to Elder and Sister Cook who returned to South Africa. After more interviews, Anna and I spent the afternoon at the beautiful home of one of the branch presidents, Russel Caine. Our hotel was on a beautiful beach on the west side of Mauritius.
That evening we took a walk on the beach. The next morning we had planned a relaxing walk on the beach before our flight as part of a long anticipated "preparation day" or morning anyway. While on our walk that beautiful morning I ended up on about 25 phone calls dealing with 3 or 4 significant issues. Our p-day turned into a p-moment. On our way to the airport we learned that our Air Madagascar flight was delayed as usual, so we met with and I interviewed all the missionaries. Afterwards, we took them to lunch. Our 2pm flight finally arrived in Antananarivo after 10 pm.
Our experience with the Cooks was truly remarkable. They were so warm and fun. Even though the schedule was intense, it was really enjoyable being with them all day, each day for 11 days. We learned a lot, not only from what was taught, but from observing how they treated us, the missionaries, the members, people on the street, and each other. We feel as if they have been life-long friends. The zone conferences, and various meetings with the members were a spiritual boost for all. Elder Cook and I had some long talks about the challenges of ministering to and administering this vast mission. We are already making some significant course changes to help assure "real growth". We are also making some changes in the "mission culture" to help the missionaries better accomplish this.
I am sitting at my desk ready to start calendaring the next three months of travel. Next week we take a three day journey by car to visit some of the branches in the center of Madagascar which are not accessible by air. We will end up in Tulear (8 hours from the next nearest branch) in the south west of the country and from which we will fly back. The photos are of some of the missionaries at the zone conferences, random street and roadside photos and of the beach where we had our p-moment.