This week we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Gray who returned to England after serving as Humanitarian Service Missionaries. This humble couple, working through translators, over the past eighteen months have accomplished amazing projects which have significantly affected the lives of almost sixty thousand people living in many villages and towns. They were honored last week in a ceremony personally hosted by the Minister of Health for their contribution to the country of Madagascar. Many of their projects involved the installation of clean running water in areas where people would often have to walk long distances daily to obtain and carry back drinking water. Other work included hygiene training, neonatal resuscitation, wheel chairs, vision and dental services. This work has had a real impact on the perception of the Church in this country. Sister Gray also served as our nurse and handled the medical problems for the missionaries in this challenging medical environment. They worked literally up until the last minute, even meeting with people in the airport. In my final interview with them they expressed how, in their wildest dreams, they never could have imagined the things they accomplished, the adventures they had, and the impact the people they met had on their lives. They are "poster seniors" for a senior couple mission.
Last weekend we flew to Mahajanga on the northwest coast to meet with our two missionaries there and to be with the members for Sunday meetings and training. This is midsummer and it was pretty hot. We have reduced the missionary force from four to two so that the branch can better assimilate and take care of the new converts. It has actually been growing too fast. Sunday afternoon we spent seven and a half hours (again) waiting for the delayed airplane to arrive. There was only one other person in the airport for most of that time. Just another day in Madagascar.
The rainy season has arrived, so far with mild temperatures here in Antananarivo, much cleaner air and big evening thunder storms every couple of days. The country side is very green. We have been appreciating more the beauty and charm of parts of this city.
Two weeks ago we were in Mauritius for interviews with the four missionaries, branch meetings and training with the missionaries and members. We had a great time. We had an enjoyable preparation day hiking with the elders in the mountains overlooking Tamarin Bay. At the request of the elders, we also stopped by McDonalds (not found in Madagascar). This one is owned by a Hindu so it has a chicken- only menu.
On our last night we took a long walk on the beach and were blessed to sit for a few minutes on a bench and watch a beautiful sunset over the Indian Ocean. We don't get times like these very often. Typical days start early in the morning and last late into the night, often seven days a week. Occasionally, especially when we are in the islands, we plan in some relaxation time.