Norberto Harijaona of Antananarivo, Madagascar20964_000_013
The sun comes up early in the city of Antananarivo. By the time Norberto (10) and his brothers, Tahiry (9) and Tahina (12), walk the 500 meters (about 1/3 mile) to school, the streets are filled with cars and people. School starts promptly at 8:00 A.M.
“I love to see my friends at school,” Norberto said. He has lots of chances to share the gospel because he is one of only a few members at his school. He likes to be a good example to the other children by living Jesus’ teachings. “I tell my friends not to fight, and I don’t hit others.”
Norberto and his classmates keep “memory books” that their friends can write in. Recently he wrote a letter to his friend Hery for his memory book. He told Hery that God loves him and that he shouldn’t make bad choices, because they bring unhappiness. Norberto wrote the letter very carefully in French and had his parents correct it.
Norberto speaks French at school and Malagasy at home. (They are the two official languages of Madagascar, and many people speak both languages.) His favorite subject in school is math, but he also enjoys his English class.
When he gets home from school, he likes to play basketball in his backyard with his brothers and neighborhood friends. And he likes riding his bicycle, which he shares with his brothers. Sometimes he rides the bike alone; sometimes they all ride at the same time! He also loves making cars that he can pull around on a string. He has chores to do, too, like doing his homework, making his bed, and sometimes buying bread for the family.
He spends a lot of time with his family. They often watch videos or walk to the market together. They eat all their meals together because the boys walk home from school for lunch. Norberto’s favorite lunch is pork chops, and his favorite dinner is fried eggs.
Family home evening is a special time for him. He loves to study the scriptures, sing, and pray with his family. He likes to play games from the Etoile (the French-language Church magazine, now called Le Liahona). He likes it when he is called on to say the family prayer.
At night, Norberto says his prayers and crawls into the bunk bed that he and a brother share. Then the boys sing songs together. They like singing Primary songs the best. Norberto said, “I love the Church because of Primary.”
He is in the Antananarivo Third Branch, and he looks forward to church every Sunday. He likes studying the scriptures and playing games in Primary. His class is learning about Joseph Smith and reading in the scriptures about Job. “I like to read about Job because it reminds us that people are tested in this life.”
Norberto and his family have been tested. Once, he was sick from malaria and trembled all over. They had no medicine to give him. His father gave him a blessing, and then he was finally able to sleep through the night. Now whenever he is sick or has an important test at school, he asks for a father’s blessing.
Norberto says the Church has brought him many blessings in his life, but the best blessing is that he and his family were sealed in the temple on January 5, 1997. A special Church fund paid for his parents to travel to the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa. But his parents had to sell the house they lived in to pay for the children to go with them.
Norberto and his family were brought into the Church through an uncle they call “Ton Ton.” Ton Ton bought their family a subscription to Etoile in 1985, and so when he visited the family in 1991, they already had an idea of what the Church was about. Ton Ton said, “The Church has now come to Madagascar. Let’s go find it.”
They found the meetinghouse, but the first time they attended, Norberto’s father, Elie, couldn’t go. He still had responsibilities with the young men’s group in another church. His mother, Esther, came home from that first meeting and told her husband, “We’ve found the right church.” He went with them the next week, and they all accepted the gospel. Norberto was only a baby at the time, but he was baptized when he turned eight, even though he was afraid to go under the water.
Now his father is the district president over all four of the branches in Antananarivo. Norberto was recently thrilled when his father returned from training meetings for Church leaders that were held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and brought him some gifts.
His dad and mom say that Norberto is a very giving boy. His mom said, “Norberto has some friends who live near our house who are very, very poor. Some of his friends have no shoes. Norberto is always asking me if we can give them some of our things. He says that we have enough. He always wants to share his food and clothes with them. That’s his character. He is very generous.”
Many of the members in Antananarivo share Norberto’s faith and strength. The Church is growing rapidly in Madagascar. The first official chapel is about to be dedicated in Antananarivo. Land for another chapel has already been purchased. It will not be long before the branches will be made into wards, and the wards into a stake.
Norberto has borne his testimony in Primary. “I know the Church is true. I have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know he translated the Book of Mormon.” Norberto wants to encourage all Primary children to choose the right. That is how they will find true happiness.