missing Hansie

Although I haven’t talked about Hansie’s mission here, we miss him every day– especially holidays and weekends and Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays…

Hans loves Madagascar and sends emails every Monday that make us laugh out loud. A few excerpts:

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Dear family,
We woke up yesterday morning and found a drowned rat in our sink. I saw a herd of spiders on a bunch of spiderwebs, it seriously looked like the Hobbit there were so many. And two days ago we went to teach an investigator in a member’s house and when we got there the member was pushing a rooster back and forth and throwing it around and just working it out. He was training it for fights, and it’s already fought three times and won every time.
Also the power goes out a few times a day, in fact it just did, but only for a couple minutes this time, so if I ever don’t email I’m sorry, but I promise I’m alive.
Just so you all know I’m not actually in an apartment, I’m in a house. And by Malagasy standards it’s pretty nice. We all sleep in one big room with all our beds pushed together in two rows of three. In that room we also have a couple couches and chairs. We have a kitchen and so we can actually cook stuff, we’ve made brownies a couple times. We have two bathrooms, actually three but one is broken. Well actually two are broken right now. We have three study rooms and one more room. We also have a garage, but no car.


To get everywhere we ride these things called taxi bes (bays), they’re crazy. They’re buses you jump into in the back and squeeze through a million people to get to a seat and then jump off of about two minutes later. But it’s a good chance to practice my Malagasy, basically every time I sit down next to someone I tell them I’m trying to learn Malagasy and ask them to help me. They are always willing to talk at least a little.


What else? Oh there’s lots of French here, every billboard and ad is in French, when people see us they say bonjour because they assume we’re French. Well that or they call us vazaha, which basically means white guy from another country. I think it’s funny, but all the old guys hate it. I think it’s hilarious, but I don’t know what they’re saying.

Speaking of little kids, they’re super cute here, and there are a million of em. It seems people are never at there own houses. We’ll talk to someone with ten kids in their house or yard and they say they only have one kid. Everyone’s kids just roam around together

The power has cut out twice, so I’m just sending this now love you all!


Dear Mary, I keep seeing cute little kids that remind me of you, also yesterday we were about to teach some people and we were just talking about their family and they asked about our families so they were the first Malagasy family I showed my pictures to, I always keep the pictures you took outside the MTC in my bag, and everyone loves hearing about my family!Madagascar is great! Sorry this is late we were emailing last night and the
power went out.

DSCN0322​ Me and Elder Johnson waiting for the people with the keys to the church to come for zone conference. Featuring Elder Olsen with a cookie in his mouth, not a Hitler-stache.

I see chickens and cows everyday. The cow here are called zebu though and they have a big hump on their neck, you should look it up it’s cool. I also see feral dogs all the time, they’re scary, but they’re all scared of people because people are so mean to them here. I saw a dead dog on the side of the road last week it looked totally fine except for it was on its side super stiff and its legs were in the air. I see lots of spiders.

I love the food! It’s actually really good, although we put some chicken we ate in the fridge yesterday and then I ate it at night but the power goes out so it might’ve gone bad, I feel a little bit sick but I’m probably fine. Have a good week!

DSCN0370Dear Mary, I’m doing great!

Anyway here’s a thing that’s kind of interesting. Obviously we don’t have a computer in our house, so to write to you guys we go to the cyber. Basically we just walk down the street and find a little building with 6 computers. We don’t have libraries here because no one really reads because no one is really educated. So we go to cybers and they charge you by the minute. The one I’m at is pretty expensive so it costs 50 ariary per minute. Which ends up costing us 5000 ariary, which is actually less than a dollar fifty haha! Anyway I hope that was interesting.




Dear Family,

this is just a warning, the cyber I’m at is very bad, I’m still alive and safe but you might not get much more than this this week, sorry!



Dear Family,
Did you hear Ben got married!? I was on a split Friday and I kept asking Elder Mack, my temporary companion what time it was, because Ben was getting married. At about 8 pm, so  11 am for you guys, I said, “Sweet my brother’s probably getting married right now!”
I’m so happy ya’ll got married. Good work everyone, it sounds like a smashing success!
Anyway I went to a croc farm last Monday, which was awesome. It blows all American zoos out of the water. They are both a farm for croc skin and a zoo, they have lots of animals. We had to walk for about an hour to get to it after taking a bunch of buses, and when we were about half an hour away we bought a chicken, because that’s just what you do. We put the chicken in Elder Covey’s backpack and told it to be quiet because we weren’t sure if we were allowed to bring it in. We were basically the only people in the whole zoo so that was cool. Their enclosures aren’t super secure, most of them are just a low stone wall, probably about two feet tall. We saw a bunch of snakes, frogs, chameleons, geckos and other lizards. They had a bunch of tortoises and some of them were huge. I saw a fossa but no lemurs. The enclosure for the crocs was a little better, it was a chain link fence but it plenty of holes you could stick your hand through if you wanted to get it bitten off.

Anyway, after we looked at most of the animals we crossed a little bridge to a little hut in the middle of the croc enclosure. Then we threw our chicken (we named it Kevin, but Kevin was actually a girl) in. She hit the ground, bounced and didn’t hit the ground again, a croc grabbed her and chomped her a couple times and swam off. It was scary. Also Elder Olsen and I touched a crocodile, we barely tapped its tail and it started swinging it around, but it’s okay we just leaned over the super safe stone wall. It was super safe because it was about four feet tall instead of two.​The split was cool, I saw a cock fight, there were probably 12 people hanging out between two houses and a little kid and a probably thirty year old guy ran in with roosters and got them fighting. It was intense, eventually one of them ran off and everyone booed, it was funny.


 In other news our water is out. There was a leak and some people tried to fix it and ended up breaking a thing on a pipe, so we turned off our water. We turn it on a little bit every day to wash dishes and eat, but no showering. Our water control is in our neighbors yard so we have to hop the fence and be secret ninjas to go do it, except when the people are awake then we just knock on their door and they let us in.
Yesterday I was in a bus and I made friends with a couple little kids. One of them I made funny faces at and he tried to do them back but he looked super confused the whole time. The other one was right next to me being held by his mom, I made funny faces at him too and he just laughed and smiled. I didn’t let his mom see so she just thought her kid was crazy about me, it was great. We taught a couple of great people yesterday, it was great!
I think that’s all.
Love, Hans

Dear family,

 Sorry I’m kinda out of time already so I’ll be quick.

My birthday was great! Elder Johnson is great so he made pancakes for breakfast, and he made syrup. And we had whipped cream and strawberries, which apparently don’t have brain worms. That’s just a missionary rumor. It was super good, and very nice of him.


We didn’t have any appointments. We just tracted the whole day. But I actually had fun, I like tracting. Also we met a lady and then taught her on Friday.
Then at night they egged me, they egged me good.
​Twas great.
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Last thing I’m getting transferred to Fort Dauphin, it’s the furthest south you can go, it’s the furthest you can get from the mission home and Salt Lake. It’s also on the beach and beautiful and the members are super great and give millions of referrals, it’s kind of where everyone wants to go! So I’m excited, Elder Johnson has been there and he talks about it all the time!

p.s. thanks for the video mommy and everyone who was in it you’re all great!

DSCN0269Dear Family,

I had my first baptism this week. I didn’t do it the guys cousin did. Which you know it’d be cool to do it myself, but I will be in his life a maximum of six months and his cousin will always be there. We’ve taught Mickael ever since I got here. He’s fourteen and he lives part time with his cousin who actually works at the mission office. His full name is Rakotomalala Tojonaina Mickael, and his cousin’s name is Rakotomalala Nirina Lalaina. Basically every guy here is named Rakotomalala. And Lalaina is hilarious, after the baptism he said, “Hey, you guys have been working hard, you deserve a little break, we should all go get ice cream, and you guys should pay.” Also in church yesterday he told Elder Olsen they should go get pizza. He’s just constantly messing with missionaries. We were at his house last night and his wife pointed at a crib and asked what it was in English and he said ‘baby sleep’ so it’s not just us he messes with.

We teach English every Saturday, and wow our English class is doing great, we have probably 50 people coming every week now. It’s great, it means I have a bunch of people who are OK at English that I can ask Malagasy questions to.

I’m not sending pictures this week because I can’t really trust this cyber, but next week there will probably maybe be some good ones!

So much happened this week and you guys will only get a short version because I took too long replying to people, oops!

Here’s a fun malagasy thing: the word for cute literally means, “makes me kind of die.” Mahafatifaty

Elder Ahlstrom’s birthday was Tuesday, we bought a kilo of flour and 21 eggs and we got him good.


Elder Ahlstrom is hilarious by the way. If someone tries to be funny and say “Hi” to us in English he’ll get all excited and say

“You speak English! Oh my gosh that’s so cool! I speak English too, how are you!?” And also he’ll just yell out what people are doing in Malagasy. And he does lots more stuff too that is just hilarious. Friday Elder Johnson and I went with him in his area and it was way fun. My stomach hurt after from laughing so much.
Saturday was great! We were on a split with Elder Herrin on of the APs in our area. We actually had a great day and our lessons just went great. We taught my favorite family about the Holy Ghost and it was great. Then we asked them to set a date for their baptism and they finally said yes! We’ve asked them three times before but they finally said yes!
After that we taught a guy who’s getting baptized this week. His cousin is a member and RM but he loves to mess with us. We asked him what he thought about the Joseph Smith story and he said it was awesome, we asked why and he said
“because there are angels.”
Yesterday was good but I was feeling way sick, we visited a recent convert and his family is going to Salt Lake in October to get sealed. But don’t bother saying hi to him because he doesn’t speak English. He’s going to be amazed by America, he’s even been to Japan and France I think but America is so different; it’s so big!
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So last week we went to a lemur park, it was great but my camera died on the walk there, I’ll try to get pictures from the other Elders someday or I’ll just send pictures next time I go. It was a lot like the croc farm, we took a few buses then walked forever, but the walking is never too bad, it’s pretty fun. It’s good to just talk and see Madagascar, it’s so beautiful.
​ Anyway we got there and it was super fun. We bought bananas before (instead of live chickens) and we fed the lemurs. There were two new lemurs in a cage because if they weren’t they’d fight with the other lemurs, but when we got there that’s all we saw. But the guy who works there(he’s great, he’s found most of the stuff at the park just wandering around, also he’s 19 and he’s worked there 18 years) started saying aty aty aty and lemurs started coming down from the trees. They are sooo cool! They can jump about fifteen feet from tree to tree. And they can just climb up trees no problem. You just had to open your banana and stand by a tree and they’d come eat. But you had to hold on tight or they’d grab the whole banana and split. Theyr’e way cool, sometimes they just bite it out of your hand but normally they reach out and grab off a piece with their little hands. They’re hands are like little baby hands they’re way soft and they feel like human hands. Also you can get them onto you if you just guide them with a banana I got one to get about halfway onto my arm, but they’re pretty scared of people. We fed them for a while then the guy who works there showed us all the other stuff. There were about 20 lizards a few frogs and two snakes. We got to hold almost all of them. So yeah Malagasy zoos are the best.

I had a dream a while ago that one of you sent me an email of travel plans to come home for the wedding. And it was just assumed I was coming back for it and it bugged me. I wanted to stay out here and not be interrupted. It was weird.

Thanks for not making me come home, even if I wish I could be at the wedding.
I’ve been thinking how great our message is. We don’t have to hide anything from investigators or try to make the gospel sound better, because it’s already the best thing ever. One thing Elder Johnson does is at the end of the first lesson he asks if the person is good at lying, he asks if pastors are good at lying, and he asks if missionaries are good at lying Mahay mandainga ve ianao? The answer is yes for all of them. Then he asks if God is good at lying. Nope. Then we ask them to pray about our message. They’re always surprised that we don’t try to convince them it’s true. It’s really nice to just know that we don’t need to, God will do that part because it’s true.
Have a good week! Have fun getting married(only Ben and Sammie)!

​Also here’s a picture of me with a lemur

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Sorry I’m feel like I’m not remembering this week very well at all, so I’ll tell two things from yesterday, one spiritual, one funny.

 The other day one of the elders told me I was simple, simple to know or something like that. He meant it as a compliment. I thought, “Hey, that’s rude. You don’t know me, you don’t know my life, you don’t know what I’m thinking, you don’t know how I feel, what makes me sad what makes me happy, I could’ve killed someone or done drugs or be depressed and you wouldn’t know it. I’m not somebody who has nothing going on inside. I don’t think anyone is.”

And I was thinking wow, the second you thing you understand someone completely is a moment of pride, you demean them severely, everyone I know, even the people I know best I always try to remember I don’t know them perfectly. We live as we dream, alone. For me that means be nice to people, try to understand them, give them the benefit of the doubt. And I thought, if I’m simple that means I’m boring, that means people don’t think there’s much to me.

But this elder said I’m simple to know. He said you met me and you knew what kind of person I was. He said when there are arguments we already know your opinion because it’s the right opinion; that I’m just a nice guy. I still wasn’t really satisfied. But Sunday afternoon session of General Conference rolled around and Elder Uchtdorf said something about the gospel being so incredibly simple a child could grasp it but so amazing and complex we could study it for a lifetime, even an eternity. I think if you say it like that it’s OK to call someone simple. It really hit me that we should try to be simple, this Elder knows he doesn’t know everything about me, but about the important stuff he does, and you know I think I didn’t like what he said because I don’t think I am simple and I really wish I was. So I kind of got mad at him for that, but now I think it may be the best most helpful compliment I’ve ever received.
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Hi Mom- It’s so weird you guys are getting ready for Christmas, it’s the hottest time of the year, we literally have sweat dripping off our faces while we teach. It’s super hot and the houses usually have tin roofs so it’s like teaching in a microwave.

I wouldn’t believe every missionary loses thirty pounds. Maybe they do at some point.  A lot of people gain a lot of weight and then they get sick and lose it, but don’t worry I weighed myself about a week ago and I’m almost exactly the same as when I left. I do know one missionary who lost 30 pounds during his first transfer here because he was sick, but I saw him at the end of his second transfer and he was pretty chubby again, it’s not hard to get enough to eat at all.

This transfer really is fantastic. Fort Dauphin is every missionary’s dream. It’s gorgeous. Our church and house are right on the beach, the members and the leaders are always giving referrals and befriending investigators, the branch council is very effective, it’s just great. And we teach about 50 lessons a week. Everything is really expensive down here but that’s OK. My new companion is great his name is Elder Wiscombe, he’s from Orem. He’s super happy and energetic and I really like his teaching style he’s just always excited about the gospel. He’s a really great guy I already just love him a ton. Our house is right on the beach. We have the top floor of a house, it’s super dirty and our downstairs neighbors are kind of grumps but the location is so great that no one has ever wanted to move.
Anyway sounds like lots of great stuff is happening with you guys love you all!
Love you mommy,


December 4, 2015
December 21, 2015



  1. Annie

    December 10, 2015

    Loved this so much. It kind of reminds me of my mission to Ecuador, long, long ago. I’m going to have my four pre-mission sons read this, to help them get a feel for what real mission life is like. The Elder Covey that Hans is speaking of is the son of friends of mine. It’s a small world!

  2. Nancy Nielsen

    December 13, 2015

    he looks so happy!!! so very, very happy!!! he glows! he is so handsome!!!!

  3. stephanie demordaunt

    December 15, 2015


    I don’t know how I wondered onto this blog – I was googling Dodo pie?! Anyhow, I’ve loved reading the little I have read. Somehow I think my friend Marianne Morris Sonntag is our mutual friend because she was telling me about the naming of her son Hans. (My grandpa’s name is Han’s – he has passed but that name has a dearness in my heart! He was a giant heart of a German man!!

    So…here is my purpose for writing…

    …my daughter is headed to Poland on a mission and here is my question…what camera is your Hans using on his mission? Great pictures!

    Thanks for the brief “job on your blog!” I grew up in East Millcreek! I’m 50 so that was eons ago! Never-the-less so many fond memories there!

    Happy Holidays to you and yours! Hold true to what is real and works!

    – Stephanie

    • mlehnardt8@msn.com

      December 22, 2015

      Marianne Sonntag is my husband’s cousin! We ADORE her and her family. Poland! What an adventure she’ll have. You know, I’m not sure what camera I bought Hans. I just went on Amazon and chose the best deal in their point and shoot category. OK, I think it was this one: Nikon Coolpix L340 Digital Camera, Black. It’s on sale for $128.

      Thanks for writing. Much love to you and your family.

  4. Anne Marie

    December 17, 2015

    What amazing experiences your Hansie is having! I know he is blessing so many people with his love and sunny personality. How you must miss him!

  5. Claudia

    December 18, 2015

    I LOVED reading this. He is doing so great! What an adventure for such a fine disciple of Christ. His pictures are fabulous. Must take after his momma 🙂 We include him in our prayers for those missionaries dear to our hearts! Excited for your Christmas phone call. Love you <3 xoxo

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