We love being with the missionaries. We have an exceptional group. As the average age of the missionaries is now lower than in the past, we have not noticed a significant change in spirit, motivation, work ethic or abilities in these younger missionaries in comparison to the ones who started on the average a year older. This is good news.
I will include a copy of part of a letter from one of our sister missionaries, Sister Paterson who works in Antsirabe, about the conversion of an amazing couple. Their story helps put things into perspective.
We have been teaching a new family- Frem and Paulette-and they have two young sons. One is under one, and the other just 8. The 8 year old is so brilliant; he loves to bare his testimony, and is such a gentleman. He always walks us to the bus after we teach, and I confess I brake the rules sometimes and buy him some bananas or vegetables on the way. He always gets so happy and skips all the way home. Well they are absolutely amazing. Frem is very handsome, and brilliant, but his legs are severely crippled. When he walks, he walks on his hands. When he was young, his mom and dad died. His grandma took him over. Then his grandma died, and he ended up on the streets. I don't know whether he even had a wheelchair at that point. He told me it was the worst time of his life and he wanted to just die. He had no friends- he said "No one wanted to be a friend of someone who walks with their hands, and looks different from everyone else". He said one day there was a beautiful, young girl who passed by- she smiled, and it filled him with a new hope and happiness. She started passing by more often. She is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, and that is the truth- spiritually and physically. They became the best of friends. She cared for him. Before he was close to death. No money for food, no one would give him a job, living off the streets, being tortured and treated badly. She would bring him food, and talk with him for hours about his potential and how amazing he was. One day he got really sick- she got desperate. She begged her parents to get him medicine. They said "You stay away from that boy- he is no good for you!" She told them she loved him. Her parents were very upset by her, and wanted her to leave their presence. She said she prayed God would give her a way to save him- she stole medicine her mom had, and prayed the medicine- even though it wasn't for his sickness- would heal him. It did, and they ran away to the country. When they got here, they didn't have a home, or money, but said they prayed every day that God would help them. Paulette saw the missionaries, and knew that they had the full message of God. They taught them and Paulette quickly felt it was true and wanted to be baptized, but couldn't because they weren't legally married yet- traditionally only. It is expensive to be legally married here, and their paper work is far away, which would require a lot of money too. They only have money for one meal a day- sometimes two, but rarely. They pray just to have a few beans and rice every night for them, and their tiny sons to eat and survive. There house is a little shack that gets cold at night, especially when the winter comes. Their home is made from a small amount of wood, and card board; however they respect it and keep it so clean on the inside. There is a picture of Joseph Smith, and the Plan of Salvation, and all the books that we have taught them with are used for decoration. The sight of it is enough to bring someone to tears, because it is powerful. Frem kept saying- "I am Catholic- I can't convert". While telling their story to me, she said "I knew the church was the only true church, so I prayed to know what to do- and God told me to read the Book of Mormon out loud." At first Frem would play his guitar- but he slowly started playing quietly and listening. One day he said, "I know that book is true" They kept praying and seeing huge miracles. Frem said "We would literally be suffering from not eating for days, and I would pray or read the BOM or go to church, and random people would show up and give us food for the night- we have this little place to live because a random man gave it to us." They saw us on the path, and yelled our names. Well they have baptism dates, and I have been working my hardest to get them married legally- I have a couple routes through the mayor of the city or through the elders in a city far away from here. She pushes his wheelchair two hours to church, and he carries the baby on his lap. Sometimes their 8 year old son will ride on the back of the wheelchair or run next to his mom. They asked if they could pay tithing even though they aren't members because they have so much faith in it. I told them to save it in a bottle for temple money- They are so excited- they are already preparing to head to the temple- they want to be together for eternity- they are in love. Elder Todd saw him at church and was so impressed by him and his character. He was visiting with a bunch of mission leaders, heard his baby boy crying, and hopped from his wheelchair and went and got his baby and came back. He thought it was amazing how even though he was talking to other men, his baby came first. Elder Todd said he was so moved by him, and the way he loved and cared for his baby. They are the most diligent, faith filled people I have ever met. They have faithfully kept every commitment we have invited them to keep. Even when they had no food- we promised if they came to church instead of washing the neighbors cloths for money that they would be blessed with a miracle, and God would put money in their hands. The next Tuesday we taught they were so excited to tell us that the promise we made was fulfilled. A lady at church gave them enough money for the week. She said she felt like it was theirs from God. Miracles have happened, and their paper work is on its way in order for them to become legally married. We were teaching President Noel's mom, Marceline, the other night and she was extremely upset, and crying about some hard things in her life. During our lesson Frem called- He was laughing and cheering because he got a call that the paper work was on its way and they were going to finally be baptized and become an eternal family after learning from the missionaries for 7 years. We rejoiced together, and I can honestly say, I have never felt such incredible happiness in my heart. It healed everything wrong that I have ever been through. They have changed my life forever. After I went back to teaching Sr. Marceline- President Noel's mom (who we were preparing for her baptism on this Saturday). I told her a little about Frem and Paulette, because I noticed she had made good friends with them at church. I told her about the miracles they had seen- she then let me know that there was one Sunday she felt overwhelming strong feelings to give them money, and followed the promptings. I about died when I found out it was her who fulfilled our promise to them. She said she felt a special connection with them, and wasn't sad anymore but had strength to do what God had told her to do, and her biggest wish was to be baptized on the same day as them, which is her birthday. We never thought it would be possible. Frem thought he wouldn't be baptized until December at the soonest. Elder Todd called me last night, and said the elders would have his paper work here by Thursday. I called Frem, and he said he has already finished all the other steps, but the money they saved wasn't enough. I told him of Marceline's wish and said it was possible this weekend if it were his and his families desire, because God is able to do miracles for his faithful children. He cried out, "This Saturday!, We could be baptized into the true church, and prepare to be an eternal family this Saturday!?" He was shocked, and so happy- laughing, and crying. He said "Of course, This is the desire of our hearts- thank you!". The Todd's came with us last week and we all had a party hanging up card board, and trying to fix their house up a little. It was so much better after- what an incredible opportunity to watch Elder Todd and Frem work together on the house. I even helped the best I could by stapling and hanging card board. They were very grateful. Now we are all just crossing our fingers that they can be baptized this Saturday with Marceline. Keep us in your prayers. This is God's great work. We are literally bringing people heaven here in Madagascar.
I will include a photo which shows Frem and his family with the very small wooden shack that is their home.