Norberto Harijaona of Antananarivo, Madagascar

“Norberto Harijaona of Antananarivo, Madagascar,” Liahona, Apr. 2001, 6

Making Friends:

Norberto Harijaona of Antananarivo, Madagascar

The sun comes up early in the city of Antananarivo. By the time Norberto, age 10, and his brothers, Tahiry, age 9, and Tahina, age 12, walk the 500 meters 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 says. 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,” he explains.

Norberto and his classmates keep memory books that their friends can write in. Recently Norberto 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. (These 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 all three brothers 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.

Norberto 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 Le Liahona (French). 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 he and a brother share. Then the boys sing songs together. They like singing Primary songs the best. “I love the Church because of Primary,” Norberto says.

Norberto 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,” he says.

Norberto and his family have been tested. Once Norberto was sick from malaria and trembled all over. His parents had no medicine to give him. His father gave him a priesthood blessing, and then Norberto 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. The best blessing is that he and his family were sealed in the temple on 5 January 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 the Church magazine in French in 1985. 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 the family attended, Norberto’s father, Elie, couldn’t go. He still had responsibilities with the young men’s group in another church. Norberto’s mother, Esther, came home from that first meeting and told her husband, “We’ve found the right church.” Elie went with them the next week, and the entire family accepted the gospel. Norberto was a baby at the time. He was baptized when he turned eight, even though he was afraid to go under the water.

His dad and mom say that Norberto is a very giving boy. “Norberto has some friends who live near our house who are very, very poor,” his mom explains. “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. It may not be long before the branches will be made into wards and the district into a stake.

Norberto has borne his testimony in Primary. “I know the Church is true,” he says. “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—the same happiness Norberto shares with everyone who knows him.

Photography by Anita F. Bott

Top: Norberto enjoys singing with his brother. Above: Family prayer is an important part of the Harijaona family’s day.