Monday, October 27, 2014

10/27/14 - Splits and Rain

Wuzzz upp everyone!!

It was a good week this week! We had some different things happen this week but Elder Lehr and I were able to plan out and carry through with a really good week.  We found out that one of our areas, Fianarantsoa South, is getting split.  So Elder Lehr and I have been trying to find a new home for the missionaries that get transferred there.  It took a while but we think we found a good one.  It is ready for when transfer news comes. 
First to answer some of mom and dad's questions.  How's your shoes?  My shoes are great.  I'm really grateful for these shoes.  They are handling the rough roads and I have not had any blisters yet.  Do you cook?  Have you been eating well?  We usually eat out for lunch because we are away from home and then we make breakfast and dinner for ourselves.  We all contribute to the cooking masterpieces in our house.  haha.  We usually buy some meat from the street vendors and throw some other stuff with it like beans, add some black pepper on it, and add rice.  It's pretty good.  We eat really good in this city.  We do have a microwave and an oven.  Also a washing machine and a dryer and we can use it if there is electricity.  We have had a lot of problems with the electricity so sometimes have to get creative and make due.  Are your showers cold?  We have warm showers.  I'm so grateful.  Have you been sick?  We have all been sick.  We feel bad for the damage we do to our poor toilet.  How is the language?  I can definitely see progress in my language.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I can hold a little conversation with someone and other days people just sound gibberish.  I am working hard to learn so I can be more useful.  Did you get to watch conference?  I'm excited that we get to watch general conference this weekend.  Woot woot!
On Thursday, we went on missionary splits.  It was not the way I thought it was going to be split.    Me and Elder Coleman were put together.  I'm not saying that's bad but yet I am because we are both in training!  We can't talk to people really quite yet!  But our trainers just wanted to see what would happen.  losers.  jus kidding.  haha.   But it ended up being fun!  Elder Coleman is a swag guy and he knew a lot more than I thought he did.  We tracted the whole day and we got alot of return appointments.  We don't really know if they said we could come back just to be polite or not. haha. We actually went to a less actives house and we thought it went well.  We were able to share a spiritual thought with them and shared pictures of our families and it went well.  Then, we were very happy to see that she came to church on Sunday and she even came to our baptism service!  Me and Elder Coleman were pretty proud of ourselves!  I guess our trainers knew what they were doing. 
Oh my gosh!  So I experienced my first Madagascar rain this week!  It was awesome!  The rain drops are huge!  It felt so nice cause it's been so hot!  The people here have actually been in a little drought this year so it was awesome to see rain for them! 
We had another death in our branch this week.  It was so sad.  He was a recent convert with his wife.  I'm grateful for the plan of salvation.  And no, I did not get kicked in the head by this dead body.    
The word for this week is "mahafinaritra" (ma-ha-fih-na-ri-chuh) it means awesome!  I use it all the time.  haha  Well, that's pretty much it for today.  Hope all is well with everyone.  Thanks for keeping in touch.  Have a great week!

Elder Mack
This is our ward mission leader Patrique.  No, he is not super tall.  He asked me to sit down so he would look taller.  haha!
The sky over Atarandolo
I have no idea what this bug is but it looks like walking twigs
I don't know this kid but he saw my camera and posed for me.  Haha.  Malagasy kids like cameras.
This is my friend Tsyory.  He's so funny.

This is the church building.  Can you see the sign on the second floor railing?  We have our sacrament meeting on the first floor, the garage looking doors.  We've been actually looking for a bigger building too because the garage doesn't hold everyone anymore.  We sometimes stand up most of the meeting.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

10/20/14 - Funeral and Lemur Park

Aloha my Ohana,

I thought I would use hawaiian for my greeting just to feel a little brown again. haha.  I get called "vazaha" everywhere I go!  It's like in Finding Nemo where the birds say, "Mine, mine, mine, mine!"  Except its, "Vazaha, vazaha, vazaha, vazaha!"  Oh my gosh!  haha.  It drives missionaries insane sometimes! Vazaha means like 'foreigner' or 'white guy'.  haha. 
Well, this week was well quite a week! haha. Elder Lehr is the district leader and he pretty much does the work of zone leaders here.  We got really caught up with duties this week.  Our branch is struggling a little but we have faith that it will run smoothly soon.  Elder Lehr is really like a third counseler to the branch president. haha  We got a new elder in our district! His name is Elder Coleman and he is a swag master. haha  Such a fun, awesome elder! This week we did very little teaching but still helped investigators feel the spirit!
So, this week I got to experience my first funeral.  One of our investigators family members died and we decided to go to the funeral.  The culture is that if someone close to your home dies, you go to the family to pay your respects and give money.  We went to the burial and this is where it got interesting.  The family let me and Elder Lehr in the tomb!  It is a small room with some slots on the sides to put the bodies.  They don't use caskets for the bodies.  So they just carried the body down the stairs and into the tomb and placed him in a slot across from me.  They realized he was too tall for that slot so they had to put him in the one that was right behind me.  I couldn't move out of the way! The room was too small and the door was blocked by people.  They picked up the deceased and came towards me with him and so what was I to do!?  I ducked!!  The malagasies carrying him are so short so I was almost laying on the ground trying not to get hit! The deceased was like an inch away from kicking me in the face! I stood back up and looked at the deceased and one of his eyes was not all the way closed and he was just looking at me. They put a blanket on him and we left.  They also have a tradition here called "turning of the bones".  Every 7 years, the family opens the graves back up and takes the bodies out of their graves and dances with them. Elder Coleman said he saw one of those parties happen and people were just carrying bones above their head, dancing and they were all drunk!  He said it lasted for two days! Well, that was my week! It was cool to experience some of the Malagasy culture! It was definitely different from what I'm used to but it was cool!
I got your package mom and dad!  Thank you so much!  You were smart to put catholic pictures on the outside.  Gives it a higher chance of not being stolen!  I really appreciated everything in it.  All of us elders love the candy!  Haha.  One of our companionships had to drive to Tana.  They brought the mail back with them.  (Mom:  We sent Elder Mack a Halloween box on September 16.  It took just over 4 weeks to get to him.  I'm so glad it got there!  I kept hearing that you take a risk in mailing anything.  I won't say how much I spent to mail it.  It's a little painful.)  
It is super hot over here.  Me and Elder Lehr come home drenched in sweat. Haha.  Today we went to the Ranomafana National Park to see lemurs.  It is a rain forest.  This is the lemurs natural habitat.  They're not used to humans so they don't get too close to us.  Lemurs are so cool!!  There is a lemur park in Tana that I'll probably get to hold one but not here.  Just to answer dad's question: we are in a smaller city.  It is called Atarandolo. 
Hope everyone has a good week!

Elder Mack

This is my friend Kai.

This is a rare orchid rose. 
This bug is called a giraffe beetle. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

10/13/14 - New dialect struggles & email chat


How is it going everyone? It's been pretty good on this side of the world! So my mom thought it would be cool if I taught one word every week to you all.  So the word of the day is "yo". haha. It is close to what we say in America except instead of it kinda meaning hello and starting a conversation, you say it to end a conversation here in Fianarantsoa.  As you finish up a conversation with someone, you say your goodbyes then you say "yo" then you leave. haha.  Have fun with it. 

This week felt like it went by super fast but at the same time super slooooww!  I feel like I'm not doing much right now as a missionary.  I know my time will come where I can speak to the people and joke around with them and truly touch people with the message of the restored gospel but right now I'm struggling a little with the language. Elder Lehr has been the biggest help. He tells me that I remind him so much of himself when he first started here.  It is kinda hard learning the language here in Fianarantsoa. The way they talk is like slurred. It's really really hard to understand them! Especially the hardcore betoleo speakers!  It sounds like "mqslkfsheuozohnhfsml."  My jaw drops. haha.

Well, it's been a good week otherwise! We got new investigators and we had a baptism service on Saturday for this family - a mom and her 3 little girls. It was great! Can't wait till I get to do my first baptism! It'll be awesome!  Me and Elder Lehr were able to get 2 less active families back to church yesterday! It was awesome!

Well, just another hard working week.  The work is really moving here. What's cool is that President Adams compared the membership here to how it was in the 1830s. Everyone is excited about religion.  Kinda awesome! Hope everything is rolling smoothly for everyone. Till next p-day!

Elder Mack

No pictures this week but we were able to catch Elder Mack when he emailed and chatted with him for a little.  We got some more details from him this way.  This is some of the conversation:

Mom:  Where are you emailing from?
Elder Mack:  I'm emailing from some internet place close to my home

Mom:  What is the church building like?  Is it a ward or a branch?
Elder Mack:  The church building is like a big house sort-of-thing.  Sacrament meeting is like in the garage.  We all have to squish in sacrament meetings.  The missionaries usually stand up on the sides to make more room.  I'm in a branch.  It is doing good.  There are only two branches in this area. 
Dad:  That's pretty cool you meet in a little house.  In ten years or so they'll probably have nice buildings and a temple.  Enjoy the simplicity while it lasts.

Dad:  Is your branch president Malagasy?
Elder Mack:  We had a local malagasy branch president when I got here but we kinda had a bad situation with him so one of our senior couple missionaries is the branch president now. He's malagasy too so that's cool! He speaks no english! We joke aorund with him like calling him "elder president" and all that haha
Dad:  Don't worry about feeling useless while you're learning the language.  We all went through that.  Keep your heart open and the language will come soon enough.  It will click and things will get better real fast.
Elder Mack:  The language is really the stress right now.  I hate not being social!  I went through 4 hours of meetings yesterday and didn't understand squat.  I need extra long study time!  haha.  I can't wait for that click to happen.
Dad:  I used to communicate with people with smiles and hugs while I was learning the language.  Try making paper airplanes for the kids or give them candy.  That translates love too without saying anything.
Elder Mack:  Haha.  That's really what I'm doing right now.  The kids are so dang cute.  They say there's no cuter baby than a Malagasy baby.  The sad thing is when drugs happen and then the kids lose their teeth and go crazy. 
Mom:  Man - that's sad.  Darn drugs.  Drinking and drugs will only make a situation worse.  It's an escape from a hard life for many people.  It's sad that its happening in Madagascar

Mom:  How many elders are with you and Elder Lehr in Fianarantsoa?  Are you all living together?
Elder Mack:  We have two other companionships here in Fianarantsoa.  It's just us six here and we all live together.  Two to a room.

Mom:  Do you get to play the ukulele?  (President Adams allowed Jordan to take his ukulele there)How are you eating?
Elder Mack:  Me and Elder Lehr always sing hymns and I play the uke.  Those chords on the Malagasy songbook you sent me are being put to good use!  I'm eating good.  Actually too good.  haha.  Elder Lehr is spoiling me.
Dad:  I figured out a simple instrumental of "Nearer My God to Thee." I need to figure out how to teach it to you over email. I'll get it to you somehow.
Elder Mack:  That would be so great!! Thanks dad! I'm using the uke alot here! Me and Elder Lehr use it alot cause we love singing hymns and I'm starting to take it to family nights we have with this one family whom we love!

Mom:  Any news on when you'll get to watch/hear/read conference?
Elder Mack:  No, not yet.  Elder Lehr was able to download some of it so we have been listening to some of it this week.  We're impatient. 

Mom:  Any fleas?
Elder Mack:  Nope, no fleas yet!  One of the elders in our house has them though. 
Mom:  Oh no.  I guess fleas are normal there though.
Elder Mack:  Yah, it's junk but he's fine.  

Mom:  Do you wash your clothes by hand or do you have a washing machine?  a microwave?
Elder Mack:  Yup.  We got all our essentials.  I've got to go mom.  Have a good week.  Hugs and kisses.  Love you!
Mom:  I love you my boy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

10/10/14 - Unexpected but most welcome email from Elder Lehr

(This is a part of the email I got from Jordan's companion.  It came on a day that I really needed it.  So grateful for this elder!  I was hoarding it to myself but just decided I need to share it.)
Subject:  He's not your son...He's MINE!!! <(^_^)>
From: Spencer Lehr                               
Sent:Fri 10/10/14 4:06 AM
To:  Tami Mack
Dear Sister Mack,

I hope you don't become too offended by the subject of this email. In the missionary terms, the trainee and trainer have a relationship like unto a son and his father. So....I always tell investigators that he is my son. And they laugh :)

I just wanted to email you really quick to say that your son is a stud. He is by far one of my favorite companions. We work hard, we play hard, and we sing a lot :) It has been a pleasure for me to train your son even though it has been about a week. I am very glad to see how these next 3 months turn out, and am super grateful to be able to be with him. Thanks for all you have done in helping him to have a strong testimony. He will definitely get this language. It will take time, and its definitely a struggle, but we are going to work so hard here that the blessings of heaven will be poured on us so that we can do this work.

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful day, and I hope that you can know that your son is in good hands.

Mahalo plenty :)
i Elder Lehr

P.S. Tena Fantako fa raha manam-pinoana amin' i jesoa kristy isika dia afaka mahazo ny fitahiana rehetra avy amin' Atra. Izay ny hijoro ho vavolombelonako ataoko aminy anaran' i jesoa kristy amen.

Sent:  Fri 10/10/14 10:48 AM
To:  Spencer Lehr
Elder Lehr,

How fun it was to get your email this morning!  I am thrilled by the subject actually.  It made me happy cry.  I always remind Elder Mack's brother and sisters that we are giving him into the hands of the Lord for these two years.  We all miss him something terrible.  Your subject line reminded me that the Lord has people in place to guide and take care of Elder Mack.  :)  And I am so glad that you are that person right now.  We were hoping he would have a really good trainer and we could not be more grateful. 
As soon as we got the email from Sister Cloward with Elder Mack's assignment and trainer's name we googled 'Fianarantsoa' and 'Elder Lehr'.  It pulled up your blog with all your missionary emails and pictures.  We read it all and we were so comforted to know that Jordan was in great hands.  The best.  
do see a lot of similarities with you and Elder Mack!  He is fun.  You are fun.  It comes across in your blog emails and pictures.  He loves to sing.  You love to sing.  Music will bring you both joy.  I hope he's recording some of your duets :)   And your testimonies.  I am inspired by both of your sweet testimonies.
I'm excited to follow you both in the next months together.  Elder Mack says you are the man.  And that you know the language so well.  Thank you for teaching him, for helping him learn this new dialect, for being a good example, for being his father on his mission, for helping him to work hard, and for helping him to have fun while he serves the Lord.  Thank you for sending the email.

Much Aloha and Mahalo Nui Loa (a big thanks),
Mom Mack

Monday, October 6, 2014

10/6/14 - Fianarantsoa with Elder Lehr

Hey y'all, hows it going? Well, I'm good, you know, just preaching the gospel in MADAGASCAR! Haha.  I'm finally here!  It's awesome that I finally get to do some legit missionary work!  The plane ride was very very long - over 50 hours of traveling in buses, planes, and waiting in airports! It sucked.... but we're here! 

President Adams and the AP's came to pick us up from the airport.  They are all so awesome! The APs are Elder Weber and Elder Fox.  They are awesome.  The second day we got our assignments and took off.  I got the assignment of serving in Fianarantsoa.  Fianarantsoa has a different dialect than what I was learning in the MTC. It is called Betaleo.  Oh wow.  I can't even speak the normal Malagasy yet haha but I know I'm meant to be here. The Lord will help me.  It is one of the easier dialects so I shouldn't complain.  I'll be ok.  I also have the coolest trainer ever so all should be good!  His name is Elder Lehr and he is a Stud!  He knows the language sooo well and he is really willing to help me!  Super fun guy too! I definitely got lucky to get Elder Lehr.  He's taking good care of me except today at lunch.  We ate cow tongue on rice.  haha.  Nah, it actually wasn't half bad though.  Fianarantsoa is like 10 hrs away from Tana.  That drive was not fun.  We stopped in Antsirabe for the night then went the rest of the way on Thursday.  We took a taxi bè to Antsirabe which was so not made for 6 foot tall guys haha.  One of the church workers was able to drive us the rest of the way in a mission vehicle so that was way nice. 

We didn't get to watch general conference this past weekend.  We will get to see it in about two weeks.  I'm excited that there are talks in different languages.  I'm still a little upset that I didn't get to sing in the choir during priesthood session.  haha.  That's okay.  I can't wait to see all my MTC friends singing in conference. 

Well, the work is really moving here.  We have been teaching a few people this week.  We have also been doing alot of tracting!  We have a good bunch of appointments this week and we are excited!  This past week, we taught Andry, gil bèrt, Hoby, and another betaleo family.  Two of them were drunk as we were teaching haha it was fun.  Hoby is like 12 years old and we are planning on commiting him to baptism on Wednesday! Exciting! Andry has really been keeping his commitments too! It's awesome! The people here are incredible!  Well, that's this week! Beautiful place, teaching the gospel day by day!

Elder Mack

Elder Mack's trainer's blog -  We are so grateful that Jordan has such a wonderful Elder to learn from.

Look how mature he's become in just 6 weeks!

Look at my man Elder Fiaui!  He's a stud.  He's off to Australia shortly.

Elder Snell always looks like a model while he's pondering great things.

Leaving the MTC

Flying over Johannesburg

We flew from Salt Lake to Johannesburg on British Airways

South African Airways from Johannesburg to Madagascar
Mada from the airplane
At the mission home with Elder Ratsimmazafy

My trainer Elder Lehr

the view from the mission home
rice paddies

I love the Malagasy people

Elder Connault
This morning on a hike visiting the crown of thorns.  Look at this view!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10/1/14 - Arrived in Mada!!

Elder Mack left the MTC Monday morning September 29 and arrived in Madagascar Wednesday, October 1 in the afternoon.  We received the email below from the mission home this morning.  Included was a great picture with the Mission President and his wife.  It was a loooooong 3 days for Elder Mack and his district of twelve elders.  They were flying for about 26 hours total and waiting in airports for about 13 hours.  We got to talk with Elder Mack at each of his layovers.  It brought tears to my eyes to hear his voice.  He sounded so excited to finally be going to Madagascar.  His P-days will be on Monday there.  We can't wait to hear all about Madagascar.  We are in for an adventure! -Mama Mack   
Dear Mack Family,
We want you to know that Elder Mack and all of the missionaries from the Provo MTC arrived in Madagascar safely yesterday afternoon.  All of their luggage arrived with them!  They are all doing well.  They had a good night sleep and are ready for training, to meet their new companions today, and go to the areas where they will be serving. 
Elder Mack will be serving in Fianarantsoa North in the Antsirabe District and his trainer will be Elder Lehr.
Elder Mack is going to be a great missionary!  We are excited that he is here to serve the wonderful people of Madagascar.
Sister Cloward
Madagascar Antananarivo Mission Secretary
President & Sister Adams
Kimo found his trainers blog page -  Our Spencer likes that his name is also Spencer.  He sounds like he's going to be a great trainer.