Monday, December 29, 2014

12/29/14 - Christmas, Skype, & New Years


Hey y'all!  I hope this Christmas season has been a blast for everyone and that it was full of joy, love, and laughter!  I want to thank all those who sent me christmas wishes.  Thank you to my wardies for the ornament notes! :)  That was super nice of y'all.  Thank you for your support and love!  I had a wonderful Christmas.  Christmas morning we went down to the zone leaders house and made pancakes and crepes.  It was delicious.  Then we made burgers for lunch.  Tasted awesome!  We watched church movies and mormon messages all morning.  At 2 we went up to the church to do our Christmas service.  We moved everything in our "chapel" downstairs to a bigger room.  Then at 4 we got to Skype our beautiful families halfway across the world! :)  Skyping was so great!  It made me super happy and was definitely my Christmas highlight.  I miss my fam so much but I know this is where I need to be.  Dad - I promise that it didn't make me depressed.  That night was a little hard but the next day I picked myself right up!  Keep moving forward right?  I'm really having the time of my life here!

Okay.  Sorry for keeping y'all waiting for the word of the week. :p haha  So the word is "tratra" (cha-ch).  "Tr" in malagasy makes the "ch" sound.  It means 'caught'. "Merry Christmas" in Malagasy is "Tratra ny Christmas" or "caught the Christmas."  We also say "tratra" whenever we are chasing a kid and we catch them. haha 

So this week was great but a little tough on us.  Christmas was definitely the highlight.  Christmas Eve we went to the fancy restaurant President took us to after zone conference. We went in our regular clothes and it felt soo weird.  Friday and Saturday all the missionaries here in Fianarantsoa were feeling a little sick. Elder Hammer had it the worst.  We were unable to work for two days.  We think it was the burgers.  Well actually, Elder Kono wasn't feeling all that great halfway through the day on Saturday so he called us.  Me and Elder Coleman ended up doing splits.  It was great seeing the progress with me and Elder Coleman.  Remember the first time I talked about me and Elder Coleman together!?  It was rough!  We were both still so inexperienced.  But this time it was a whole lot better. We understood a lot more and taught a lot better.  Great day Saturday!  For church though, we had "0" investigators come.  It was really dissappointing but I guess that's motivation to work harder right!?  It could be because it was just Christmas. I dont know. 

Well things are going great over here.  Loving Mada!  Loving life!  Nothing but good things happening here.  Me and Elder Hammer are doing great.  I miss my dad Elder Lehr but I get to call him sometimes.  I have a good feeling about this week.  It's a new year!  I will set me some new goals.  It'll be awesome!  I hope everyone has a wonderful New Years!  Spend time with family, blow up some fireworks, set new goals, etc.

Love you all!
Elder Mack

Our new branch president

My mission mom and grandpa (Mom:  I think mission mom means that Elder Hammer is the second person training him.  Elder Lehr was his mission dad.  Then I think his mission grandpa means that Elder Rigby was Elder Hammer's mission dad.  Thanks Elder Lehr's mom for helping me decode that right.)

Last dinner with Elder Lehr.  L ro R:  Elder Connault, Elder Mack, Elder Lehr, and Elder Coleman (Mom:  Thank you to Elder Coleman's mom for the following four pictures)

Christmas Eve

Elder Hammer and Elder Mack playing in the rain

Thursday, December 25, 2014

12/25/14 - Skype Call

 Mom:  We were so excited to be able to see Elder Mack and hear his voice via Skype on Christmas morning at 7:00am Utah time, 5:00pm Madagascar time.  I will get some of the dialogue posted here shortly.

Family picture with Elder Mack

Mom's best Christmas present

Lindsay and Rachael

Monday, December 22, 2014

12/22/14 - Skype test call

Mom:  I was working at my computer this morning before everyone got up and I got a pop up box that said 'Jordan Mack calling'.  What??!!  I clicked the pop up box and there his cute face was.  He was testing the Skype instructions that I gave him earlier!  It was then panic mode as I tried to get everyone up and in front of the computer.  Granted it was probably very funny to see as he was just laughing at us.  (First picture)  Everyone came running all messy hair and makapiapia eyes.  We got to chat for a short while with him.  The last picture is his new companion Elder Hammer.  The real Skype call is on Christmas morning. 

12/22/14 - Christmas, New Comp, Baptisms, Ships & Anchors

Hey y'all!  How's it going!?  I hope this holiday season is treating you all well.  I'm super stoked for Christmas!  It's definitely not the same here.  You don't see lights everywhere.  You don't hear Christmas music everywhere, etc.  But it's still a fun time to be here for Christmas in Madagascar.  On Christmas Eve we are going to go back to that nice restaurant for dinner.  Then on Christmas Day, as a zone, we're going to get together and make crepes and pancakes for breakfast, then some hamburgers for lunch, work for a few hours, then SKYPE at night! woot woot!  Super stoked!
First things first, of course, the word of the week. "Mety" means "okay" or "possible".  So for example you can ask, "Mety ve?" which means, "Is this okay?" or "Is this possible?"  The response would be, "Mety ka".  Adding "ka" makes it mean, "That's really okay" or "That's really possible." 
I got my swag new companion this week.  Elder Hammer is a baller and he is from Orem like Elder Lehr so that's cool.  Orem represent!  He got in on Wednesday night.  He is from Elder Coleman's group so he is only 6 weeks more into the mission than me.  Freaked me out a little that we're both so young in the mission but Elder Hammer is super good at teaching and speaking Malagasy.  Elder Rigby, my zone leader, was his trainer. 
So on Thursday I went on splits with Elder Kono so I didn't even get to go out with Elder Hammer that day.  It was great with Kono though.  He is from France so he taught me French numbers because no one here uses Malagasy numbers really.  Then we went to do two baptism interviews because Elder Kono is the district leader now.  Wilson and Mada both passed and I baptized them on Saturday! What what!  First baptisms!  It was great!  They have been so diligent, so awesome, and so ready to be baptized.  I'm very grateful that I have this opportunity to be a missionary and dedicate all my time to this work.  All those countless proselyting hours feel so worth it.  The baptism service was awesome! 
So because Elder Hammer is new to the area I'm leading the area.  That's hard because I feel so new but I guess the mission is all about being thrown out of your comfort zone right!?  There's a couple of quotes I got from a special friend of mine that describe my feelings really well.  The first is, "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for."  Sometimes we need to be thrown out of our comfort zones. When you leave your comfort zone that's when you really learn.  You learn to do hard things. The second quote it, "The strongest storms test the strength of our anchors."  The mission really does push you to your limits and sometimes a little farther but as we keep our Heavenly Father close he strengthens us.  He is our anchor as we go through hard trials. The mission is so not easy. Being away from family for holidays like Christmas is not easy but God brings you comfort and strength. 
I love being a missionary.  I love the Malagasy people. They are truly amazing and it is incredible to see their lives change. Well, I hope everyone has a merry merry Christmas!  Full of joy and laughter! Mele Kalikimaka with much aloha!
-Elder Mack

Elder Mack with Wilson and his family on his baptism day

Elder Mack with Mada and her family on her baptism day

Monday, December 15, 2014

12/15/14 - Open House, Zone Conference, Transfers


Hey everyone! How is it going!?  I thought I'd throw some French/Malagasy at you.  First off let me give you the word of the week.  The word is "soiree" (su-aw-ray).  You hear it used sometimes back home.  It's one of the French words that we use here.  It means 'a little get together' or members use it when they're talking about getting together for family home evening.  Malagasies mix alot of french words in their conversation.  (Mom:  Madagascar was a French colony and there is still a lot of French influence there.  Many of the wealthy still speak French.  One of the islands in the mission, La Reunion, is French speaking.) 
Well, this week is transfer week.  Here's the news.  Elder Lehr is leaving Fianarantsoa...  he says "finally!"   He has been here for a long time - 7 1/2 months and he is so ready to go to a new area. He is going to double province and go to Antsirabe.  He will be in a trio with Elder Christiansen (Elder Snell's mission dad) and Elder Andriamanganoro (I hope I spelled that right).  Malagasy names are long and hard to spell.  That'll be a fun companionship. I'm gonna miss my swag mission dad.  So my new companion is going to be Elder Hammer.  I don't know much about him but I hear he's pretty swag!  He was in Elder Coleman and Elder Johnson's mission group.  He'll come down from Tana and get here Wednesday night.   In the meantime it's a trio companionship with Kono and Coleman!  What what?!  Exciting stuff.
This past week, our schedule was pretty much shot as we focused on the open house.  We didn't get to do a lot of teaching.  We taught 6 lessons total last week.  On Thursday and Saturday we didn't teach at all because we were at the porto veit (open house) all day Thursday and then zone conference on Saturday.  So we felt like the porto veit was a success.  We got some great contacts and are excited to teach them more.  I have a couple of pics of the open house so you can see what it looked like.  It ended up great.  There was a station for everything - young mens, young womens, elders quorum, etc.  The members did a great job of putting a lot of it together.  I got to split with Elder Glazier and walk around giving flyers to people.  It was so cool!  Elder Glazier is a stud.  We were in the MTC together and talked about how when we were in the MTC we never thought we could do what we're doing now.  Look at us now.  It is so amazing to see how much we have progressed from then until now. 
So zone conference, was AMAZING!  It was a long day but full of so much useful information.  President Adams is the man and inspired us a ton.  He is an amazing person, both he and his wife.  So grateful to have them here.  He talked a lot about obedience. There was a great quote that they shared about how the work of the Lord cannot be stopped. "Our enemies have never done anything that has injured this work of God, and they never will...  This work cannot be injured by any mortals except for ourselves." - President Heber J Grant.  I love this quote.  No one can stop the work of the Lord.  It is so important to be obedient.  It is by our obedience that we can choose to help move the work forward.  If we are slothful and don't follow mission rules, then obviously the work is not going to move forward.  They also talked to us about gossip.  That is a problem here.  Gossip does nothing but harm.  Sister Adams asked me and Elder Lehr to put together the song "School thy Feelings" to sing.  Some of the words are:  "School thy feelings.  Let wisdom's voice control.  School thy feelings there is power in the cool, collected mind.  Passion shatters reason's tower, makes the clearest vision blind."  Just don't gossip. It is hurtful.  I've seen gossip so bad over here.  It has ruined relationships and lives.  We are to teach this and be examples of this. 
To answer mom's questions, we did get our suits!  They look way sick!  I'll get a picture sent next week. I forgot to take one.  I loved Sister Staheli's miracle stories.  (Mom:  The Stahelis taught the mission prep classes.  Brother Staheli was Mission President in Paris, France).  I have not had a really cool miracle story like the stories she used to tell us.  I have definitely had alot of little miracles. Here's one.  Yesterday, we realized that we had no water and no food to cook and we couldn't buy food because it was Sunday.  It had been a busy week and we didn't think about it.  No food and water?  We prayed.  Our neighbors saw us trying to fill up water and they gave us a full bucket of water!  We were so grateful.  We used our filtered water bottles to drink.  Then I remembered that my mom had sent some Heber Valley dried soup mixes and some saimin.  We hadn't needed to use it yet.  So we cooked that up and it was a delicous meal! :)  
Well, our baptism is this Saturday! I'm super stoked!  Have an awesome week everyone! Veluma!

-Elder Mack
The porto veit (open house) at the church building

Rufen's adorable daughter Melony

Elder Lehr with Jean Chry and his family

So it hailed again.  This was an average size of the hail.  They were massive and it came down hard.

Paela and his daughter

The fancy restaurant that President Adams took us to

President brought all the letters and boxes in the office!  No padded envelope yet mom but I got your Thanksgiving card and Lia's letter.

My meal.  So dang good.

AP selfies

Elder Lehr saying goodbye to Mario

... and Francia

Monday, December 8, 2014

12/8/14 - Suits, Magic Tricks, & Eating Bugs

What's up Tompko!!?

Haha.  Mada missionary joke.  In fact, I'll use it for the word of the week.  So "tompko" (two-mp-ku) means, "my lord". Not Lord meaning The Savior, but Lord like the British meaning.  It's a very respectful thing to call adult Malagasies.  So when you pass someone in the street you can say, "Salama tompko".  Then they will say it back. You wouldn't say this to kids and teenagers.  You would say "ela" or "indry" (ey-lah, in-gee).  Ela for the boys and indry for the girls.  It just means like dude or dudette.  Salama ela.  Salama indry.
Soo this week, twas awesome!! But sucked... haha nah nah it was a great week!  We are just dealing with so much branch stuff and we are preparing for an open house that we are havng this weekend.  We made a ton of invitations to give out to people to come and check out our church.  We are hoping for some good success with it.  We are thinking we will have a good turn out.  It is this Thursday and Friday all day.  Those will be busy days.  Oh and Saturday too because Saturday is Zone Conference! Me, Elders Lehr, Coleman, and Kono found a lady who makes custom made suits.  We should have our suits in time for zone conference.  I'm so excited for them.  We bought our own fabrics then gave it to this lady who's an investigator.  They are supposed to be done on Wednesday.  I'll take a picture at zone conference with all of us in it then send it next week. Last Saturday we had a baptism and Elder Glazier got his first baptism!  So cool!  He baptized a super tall Malagasy.  He's like 6' 5".  Elder Glazier had a little trouble fitting him in the font. haha  But we got to play basketball with him this morning.  He's soo dang good!  He and his girfriend play in tournaments here.  So cool!
Me and Elder Lehr have 2 people planning to be baptized on December 20.  Everyone else we had to push back because they are not coming to church.  But yah, we are excited for them.  Please pray for them.  Wilson and Mada are doing awesome.  They are both 12 and they have been soo mazoto(diligent).  We got a new family this past week and they are awesome.  So much fun to talk with them and they are already "vita soratra" (legally married).  Last week when we went over to their house they had a deck of cards.  I showed them some magic tricks my dad taught me and BLEW THEIR MINDS! haha.  But we taught great spiritual lessons to them.  It took a little convincing to get them to accept a Book of Mormon because they are Catholic and they love their church but they took one and we are hoping that they will read it and know the truth of this beautiful gospel. 
I love Malagasys. Love their Culture.  Love Everything.  It's an amazing place here. That's it for this week.  Have an amazing week y'all!  Peace Out Tompko! :p

-Elder Mack
This is a little email conversation we had this morning.

Mom:  I was reading Elder Snell and Elder Evans blogs last week.  They talked about how the bubonic plague is in Tana and Tomatave.  You have probably been given some counsel on how to protect yourself.  Snell and Evans said that their Doxy malaria pill is effective against the bacteria that causes the plague.  Just making sure you're taking your Doxy pill everyday...
Elder Mack:  Yes, mom.  We are taking the pills too.  You don't have to worry.
Mom:  I'm glad to know you are protected from the plague.  Kind of scary.  Do the pills make you feel yucky?
Elder Mack:  Nah, the pills are fine.

Mom:  What are your plans for Pday today?  A hike?
Elder Mack:  We played basketball.  Super fun.  I haven't played since the MTC so I feel so out of shape.  The court was not great.  The ground wasn't flat and there was no back board.  Then we had to stay home for a little while someone came to fix our sink.  That was good though because we had to clean the house.  We'll have house inspections when President comes.     
Mom:  Is President Adams coming for Zone Conference?
Elder Mack:  Yes.  And the APs.  (Assistants to the President)  I'm really excited about that.
Mom:  House inspections.  You need to do some deep cleaning?
Elder Mack:  Oh yah.  We deep clean!  You'd be so proud of me mom!  We're almost ready to go and teach for the rest of the day. 

Mom:  Did you guys by chance get to watch The First Presidency Christmas Devotional last night?
Elder Mack:  No, we didn't but we are going to download it then watch it when we have time.
Mom:  How do you download it?  Do you have a laptop?
Elder Mack:  We just download it onto a flashdrive from and then watch it on a video player that every companionship has.  It is so nice having it.  We've watched the Joseph Smith Story, John Tanner Story, and some of our favorite General Conference talks.

Mom:  Any crazy weather this week for you?
Elder Mack:  Yes.  Oh my gosh.  It hailed yesterday.  It hailed hard.  Pretty insane.  It was so cool because we saw this wall of rain coming towards us and when it hard it hit HARD!!
Mom:  What?!  Isn't it the hot season there now?  It's actually warmer than usual here in Utah for this time of year.  It's been 50's all week and no snow.  Weird.

This is the bug that I ate!  It's called tsonzolly or something like that.  They are fried but I had to pick the legs off myself :p

One of Elder Elder Connault's investigators is a scout!  Scouts is called Boys Scouts of Madagascar.  In Malagasy it is pronounced 'scoot' like when a dog scoots across the floor.

This is Stella on my right.  She is my favorite little Malagasy.

Pella's cow had a baby.  It was so clean!

This guy was so drunk.  He crashed in the middle of one of our lessons and then he fell over on top of me.  Freaked me out.  He didn't move on the floor and I thought he was dead.  Then he got up.  Haha.

I taught Andry and Wilson how to play Speed

The Young Men

The Young Men's Presidency

I crashed, then Elder Connault fell asleep on me!

Fierce faces

Monkey faces

The back of my nametag.  I got the Ninja turtle sticker from Lia's letter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

12/1/14 - Six words, Thanksgiving, Workin' it

Salam Wuah!!
So the word of the week is 'wuah'!  This is a fun word.  It's actually an emphasizer word.  For example...  remember how we get called "vahzah" (foreigner) all the time?  When someone calls Elder Lehr "vahzah", he corrects them by saying, "Boob betsileo wuah!!" He is telling them that he's an albino Malagasy wuah!!! haha.  He's so fun.  Mizavah ve!?  That means, "Is that clear?"  Wow you got three words out of me in one email. "Fets Fets ianao." (you're sneaky)  Whoa there - now it's six!  :p haha.  
How is everyone doing?  This past week was Thanksgiving!  It was awesome!  We had a great time here.  On Thanksgiving morning we had a zone meeting.  The elders in Ambousitra came down to us in Fianarantsoa. We had a great time together.  After the zone meeting we worked from after lunch till 6:00pm.  Then we went down to that fancy restaurant Tsara Guest House that I talked about in the last email.  It was super nice.  It was so expensive "wuah!" but it was super good!  I had zebu and spaghetti.  Zebu is like a cow or something.  (Mom:  I looked it up.  What was my boy eating??  Zebu is a species of cattle.  The only species which has adapted to the hot tropics.  It is known for having a distinctive hump on its upper back.  Whew.)  I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving.  I am grateful for all of you and for your influences and great examples.  I love you all. :)
This week, me and Elder Lehr had a huge proselyting week!  We worked till we dropped!  haha  It felt so good to do so.  It is a great feeling knowing that you did all you could to work and serve. Well yesterday, we had about 110 people come to church.  That's probably the average number we usually have but not bad.  Me and Elder Lehr got 4 investigators to come to church.  It is awesome! Wilson, Mada, and a couple that we've been working with.  We were really hoping Pella, Loma, and their families would have come but they didn't.  They have not come yet.  They say that they know that this gospel is true but they just have not come to church.  Sad... But guess what!?  Remember Francia who I talked about last week!?  She came to church with us yesterday again and she even came on missionary splits with us and Etienne!  I'm so glad that she made that decision to return.  She is definitely going through a hard time right now but she was able to feel God's love again.  So great!
Well, it's December finally and now I can listen to Christmas music!  My good friend Elder Coleman hated it when I would play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. haha  Well that's it for this week!  Sorry this one is short but just know that everything is great on this side of the world!  The work is workin'!  Have an awesome week!

-Elder Mack

This is for my little sister Lia.  I showed this grandma (bebe) a picture of Lia and she thought Lia was so cute (because she is).  She asked if I could take a picture of her and show it to Lia.  Here Lia.  This is a really nice grandma in Madagascar.

Our Thanksgiving dinner at a fancy French restaurant - Tsara Guest House

My Thanksgiving meal - Zebu and spaghetti

Monday, November 24, 2014

11/24/14 - Baptism, Sick, Feeling the Spirit

Hey, hey, hey!!!

Hi y'all! We had a good and busy week.  The word of the week is "makasary" (ma-kuh-sorry).  It means to take a picture.  Whenever a kid sees my camera, they will say, "You should makasary me".  They love seeing themselves on camera.  They will also ask you to print up the pic so they can have it.  It is hard to tell them no.  Pictures are pretty expensive.  Stingy little kids. haha
This week had its ups and downs.  Elder Lehr got sick on Friday.  We wanted to go out and work but it is better just to rest when you're sick.  If you push yourself you will make it worse.  You can get really bad here in Madagascar.  Elder Lehr was better by Saturday and we got to work again.  On Saturday we held a baptism service.  The baptism was planned for a couple in Elder Glazier and Elder Garcia's area and then for a young girl in Elder Connault and Elder Coleman's area.  The couple in Elder G's area did not show up.  They were disappointed about that but Elder Kono was able to baptize the girl from their area.  It was great.  Me and Elder Lehr sang for the service.  We actually winged it.  We were not warned ahead of time that we were singing.  We sang 'I Stand All Amazed' and I think it went well for only singing it once. 
Our investigators are doing well.  Pella is doing awesome.  He has just had a problem with coming to church because it interferes with his job.  Wilson is doing awesome.  He is such a stud.  Super smart kid.  He understands the gospel so well!  He has been very active in coming to church.  Loma who I talked about in the last letter is also doing awesome!  He and his wife have been learning the gospel from us and they are receiving it very well.  His wife is super smart! We are trying to get them to church now.  Their baptism date goal is for December 20th.  Baptisms before Christmas!  That'll be awesome!
Soo, this week Thursday was my 3 month mark!  How crazy right!?  It doesn't seem that long ago that I just entered the MTC.  Soo insane! 
Yesterday, we went to Francias' house.  Elder Lehr baptized her while I was in the MTC and she has been so strong and active.  But recently she has had trouble feeling gods love.  We didn't know how to really help her but yesterday Elder Lehr felt something telling him to take Frer Mario, one of the members, with us to go see Francias.  He was willing to come.  Mario helped soo much.  He knew exactly what to say to Francias.  Francias said after Mario was done speaking that she felt her stress calm down.  I couldn't understand everything that was being said but I could feel that the spirit was present.  It was there.  It was incredible and I know Francias felt love in that lesson. 
Well, that's the week!  I hope all is well!  Have an awesome week and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! They obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving here but we elders are going to.  We are going to a fancy vahzah restaurant! It's a French restaurant that President Adams took us to when he came down last month.  Yeh yeh!!!

Elder Mack

Me and Patrique - Santa hat swag

Me and Wilson making muscle poses

Aladdin is in Mada!  (Mom:  This is kind of an inside joke.  For those who don't know the joke - a few times kids at school thought Jordan was Mediterranean.  Jordan always said, "No.  Hawaiian."  They thought he looked like Aladdin.  Then in Aida he wore a hat kind of like Abu, the monkey from Aladdin.  Rachael, his sweet friend, calls him 'monkey' because of that.  Jordan's audition song was 'A Whole New World.'  Just lots of Aladdin humor.  Love the magic carpet Elder Mack.   

Excited for Christmas.  (Mom:  This is the contents of our Christmas box for him.  The envelopes are 'The 12 Ways of Christmas' or the 12 ways to be more like the Savior.

There were some guys smoking in front of the church so I got a No Smoking sticker and put it up

This guy is a stud.  He is deaf but he reads lips.

Some pics of our area

It's lychee season!!! Yay!!

This is Rufen and Alan.  They're fierce.

My uke

These girls are so cute.  This is Fetch and her sister.

This is Eric and his dad Etienne.  They are so buff.  He killed my arm.  I really need to work out.

Patrique could be a model.  He was cold so I let him wear my sweatshirt.