Monday, August 1, 2016

Last E-mail Aug. 1, 2016: "Come What May and Love It"

Wow, we've all heard the cliche that these two years go by super fast but I guess it takes actually getting to the end before you realize it's true. I can't believe that I'm already leaving a place that I've come to love so much. The people here have become like my family and these last few days of saying goodbyes was harder than I thought it would be. I'll definitely be leaving a part of myself here (besides my appendix) and I hope to be able to return to this beautiful country before too long.

As I think back over these last two years I think the phrase "come what may and love it" is a pretty fitting theme. My mission has been the hardest roller coaster of ups, downs, and in-betweens I've ever experienced. At the same time it's also brought greater joy and satisfaction than anything I've ever done before. I've faced trials and challenges all along the way and I've wondered more than once how I'd be able to continue. One of the key lessons I've learned though is just that; to accept what comes, trust in the Lord to guide you through it, and then to enjoy whatever it is. It's my testimony that God will always see us through if we stay near to Him.

My mission has caused me to grow and stretch in ways that I never would have thought possible before. I've grown much closer to the Savior and I've become much more sensitive to the Spirit. I'm a very different person then I was when I walked into the MTC two years ago. Although I know I still have a long ways to go I'm grateful that God has helped me to become a little better than I was before. These really have been the best two years of my life. :)

Thanks to all of you for your love and support these last two years and before. Many of you have been an answer to prayer as your words and encouragement have come at just the right moment. I look forward to seeing each of you again. :)


This is what rainy season looks like.

Brother Isaac, one of our investigators and a truly Christ like man.

Our friend Yanni. We've had a great time working with him.

Jibi and Tresa. We had fun with them. ;)

Vishantkaran, Sumitra, Sumitra's duaghter, and Vibakaran. Some of my favourite people from this area.

Stephen and Flamy's family.

I love India.

Sister Radhika and her mother.

Sister Mary, her daughter Sony, and I'm not sure who the last one is.

Sister Maheshwari, Brother Durgesh, and Sravanthi. A wonderful recent convert family who are all still going strong.
Love you all. Until next week everyone, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

E-mail July 25, 2016: "Success"

We've been working very hard with several of our investigators these past few months who have agreed to be baptized. Some of these investigators that are so close and so ready right now are Flamy, Radhika, and Mary. Each has a unique story about how they came to know about the church, and each has shown tremendous faith as they've overcome obstacles in order to come closer to Christ. After 5 months of hard work here in Hyderabad I was hoping that I'd get to see one or all of these great individuals baptized, but it looks like God has something else in mind.

Although we did our very best to have these women ready in July one by one something came up that unavoidably pushed their dates back to August, each only a few days after I leave. Although I'm sad that I won't be there for their baptisms the joy I have for how far these people have come overcomes the disappointment. I've learned that success isn't about how many people you can bring to the font; it's about how well we extend the invitations to follow Christ and how hard we work to help people do that. I'm so grateful for all the miracles I've seen in this area. I'm grateful for the personal growth I've experienced that wouldn't have been possible under any other circumstances. Most of all though I'm just grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary, I've never done anything better. :)

Pictures from our zone activity last week. We went to a place called Golconda Tombs where a bunch of Muslim kings are buried.

Me in front of the tomb of a Muslim King who used to rule here

Man, isn't this tree just gnarly?

There were about 30 of these tombs all over the park.

More tombs

I couldn't resist this shot. ;)

inside the structure. That's an actual tomb. Whoa.

Inside a small mosque.

Here's some pictures of people I was able to meet from my first areas:

Kennedy and Sujatha's (right) and their family, some of my best friends from Hyderabad. Sujatha was baptized while I was in 2nd ward.

My friend Aditia from Bengaluru. he was in Hyderabad so we all went out for lunch at a classy restaurant. #I'mlovingit

Brother Madhu, baptized two weeks after I hit the mission field. It was great to see him and to see that he's still completely faithful in the church.
Love you all. Stay Strong and Rock On. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail July 18, 2016: "Foundations"

We saw something cool this week. As we went to visit a less active member I noticed that they have a great view from their 4th floor balcony in their apartment. As I looked down I could see the empty lot next to us and some construction work going on. In India buildings go up surprisingly quickly, even high rises, so I was surprised to see that the lot was still as empty as it was 5 months ago when I saw it the first time. And then I noticed why:

Hyderabad is famous for many things, among which are big rocks. You don't have to go very far before you find a gigantic stone poking up out of the ground or resting just below the surface and usually blocking someone's way. The lot we were looking at just happens to be settled on one of those giant rocks. Normally when buildings go up here it only takes a few weeks to get the foundation dug out and prepared, but because this rock is in the way it's slowing the progress and it will probably be several more months until they're done cutting holes and blasting apart the stone in preparation for the foundation.

​As I saw this I couldn't help but think about how Helaman counsels us to build our foundation on Christ, the rock of our Redeemer. I learned that it's much easier and faster to build a foundation on soft or sandy soil, like most of the buildings here. To actually build on a rock takes time, energy, and ceaseless effort, but the result is a solid foundation that can withstand any storm. I think Helaman knew that building our lives on Christ and His teachings wouldn't be easy, but I think he also understood very well how critically important it was for his sons, and for each of us, to have that solid foundation under our feet. We can know we're building our foundation on Christ when we're doing our best to do all the things He's asking us to do. My invitation for all of you today is first, look at your life and determine how much rock versus sand is in your foundation, and make changes if you need to. Second, for those of you who are doing your best to follow the teachings of the Saviour but it doesn't seem like you're making much progress, don't get discouraged. Carving a solid foundation out of solid rock has never been easy or fast, but I promise you that if you keep chipping away one day you'll look down from the 10th floor of your testimony and you'll be happy you put in the work. :)

Things area continuing to look up here in AS Rao Nagar. We're busy as ever finding, teaching, and trying to do our best to do all we can here. Sisters Radhika and Flamy are moving closer and closer to their baptisms and we're so excited for them. Again I'm grateful for the miracles we've seen in this area and I'm glad to be a part of this great work. :)


A wild Indian parrot. #Awesome

Pictures from a birthday party last week. (I'm holding a fire extinguisher in my other hand).

The highlight of any Indian birthday party is when we get to feed each other the cake.

Sis Betsy, our amazing missionary mom of the ward.

A wild Indian Elder. #Awesome

 Stay strong and Rock on everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

E-mail July 11, 2016: "Miracles again"

It never ceases to amaze me how many miracles we're blessed with out here.

Yesterday we had so many appointments planned but after church every one of them fell through. It's been a while since I've been bunked on that bad and we were discouraged. With nothing else to do we decided  to go out and see the family of one of our less active members. She lives clear out away from all our other members but we decided to give it a try. Unfortunately they were busy and we were pretty bummed about traveling all the way out there for nothing. As we walked back out of the area we passed a home we door knocked a few weeks ago. The home was christian and last time an older woman came out and told us politely but firmly that we should visit some other home because they went to a "private church" (I'm not sure what that means). As we walked by again yesterday I got a small feeling that we should try again. Neither of us really wanted to but we walked up and knocked the gate anyways. First a big dog ran up and started barking at us, then the woman came to the door and this time she was very obviously not happy to see us. She told us she wasn't interested and we turned to leave but then her husband (who was totally drunk at the time) came outside, took away the barking dog, and beckoned us to come in. He didn't stay in the lesson and as we started talking to the woman we could tell she was frustrated and she told us that the only reason she had let us in was because it was a Sunday and she would feel guilty if she turned us away on the Lord's day. She basically told us to say whatever we were going to say quickly and then be on our way. As we started I silently prayed to have the Spirit with us so we could get through to her. My companion started with an inspired question: "Sister, tell us about when you first started believing in Jesus."

And then everything changed.

As she started talking about her life, how she had left Hinduism and how God had supported her, she got emotional and broke down in tears. We listened quietly as she cried and explained that she loves God but is wondering why she has so many problems. After that her entire attitude changed and she listened as we testified about living prophets and how the restored gospel can bring her peace. The scowling lady we started with was very different than the sweet, smiling woman who thanked us for coming and invited us back at the end. This was nothing less than a miracle. From the change that took place in her to the fact that we even stopped at her house in the first place, it's evidence that God is behind this work. Man I love being a missionary. :)

On top of that our investigator Radhika finally agreed this week to be baptized next month. When we first started teaching this lady several months ago she told us she would never be baptized. We patiently worked with her but every time she made progress some new obstacle would come up and we'd feel like we were back at square 1. Despite the hardships though we worked with her and watched as slowly her faith increased until she was able to overcome her fears. This last month there were many answered prayers and one perfect event after another led her to finally say yes to being baptized. I've really come to love this lady and we're so happy that she's changing her life and experiencing the joy of the gospel. Man, I love being a missionary. :)

Anyways that's it for this week. Sorry, I wasn't able to upload pictures this time. I'll have more next week.

Love you all. Stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Clouds

Sunday, July 10, 2016

E-mail July 4, 2016: "Brownies!"

This last week on P-Day my companion and I went to Pizza Hut for the first time in months. The food was delicious but after the meal I started having a craving for brownies. Brownies are not a very common treat here in India and although Pizza Hut offered them, they were very expensive and I'm on a budget. Normally I would just bake brownies in our apartment but unfortunately ours is not equipped with a conventional oven. The closest thing we have is a microwave and I wondered to myself "could that work?" I know, those are dangerous words coming from Elder Cloward. Regardless though,  we stopped by the store to pick up things like cocoa powder and butter and then we went to work. We followed the recipe and mixed the ingredients in a mug and then nuked it on high with our fingers crossed. It worked perfectly. The brownie was amazing and for a second I felt like I was back home.

Although my doubled recipe put me in a mild sugar coma, it was so good that I tried it again later in the week. The second time however I forgot to thaw the butter and it was hard as a rock. I thought I would be clever and substitute the butter with cooking oil. After all, they're almost the same thing, aren't they? I excitedly mixed the batter and stuck it in the microwave but to my dismay when it was finished instead of a delicious brownie I got a thick, disgusting brown brick. it was difficult to eat even after a generous topping of vanilla ice cream.

I wondered why it turned out so different this time when I only changed one ingredient. The cocoa, the sugar, the flour; all the main ingredients were the same but because of one small substitution it ruined the whole thing. I think that's a lot like life. One day recently, my companion and I were working and although we were doing our very best, things just weren't working out. I wondered what went wrong and I realized that because we were so busy we had missed our studies that morning. Even though we had been working hard that day because we missed that vital ingredient theSpirit wasn't as strong as it should have been. I've learned that in life with the commandments there are no such things as "satisfactory substitutes." When God commands, or invites, or suggests, He expects us to follow. I've learned that any justification for breaking, bending, or trying to get around the commandments by saying "it's only one small thing" or "I do everything else right" is simply a recipe for disaster. My invitation this week is to look at your life, like I've started looking at mine, and see if there are any missing ingredients. It's my testimony that if we fill our lives with the proper and best quality ingredients, the commandments in their fullness, we will have a sweet and satisfying experience. :)


The original microwave brownie in all it's glory.

There are a lot of these guys around right now.

Other American dishes we made this week. These are my multi-cultural pancakes.

Elder Cloward about to indulge (don't mind the messy kitchen).

Another recipe we tried: Microwave Snickerdoodle cake. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

A dirt road at the edge of our area. Truly scenic.

My companion's new best friend, Sweetie.

Homemade mac and cheese, courtesy of Elder Rahul.

Until next week everyone, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

E-mail June 27, 2016: "Elder What?"

This week my companion Elder Bandi completed his missionary service. Tuesday morning a cab picked him up and by Wednesday evening he was back home in Vizak. We had a good time together and I'm missing him already. He taught me a lot and I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to serve with him. It was crazy watching him pack his things and realizing that I'll be doing the same in a little more than a month. As my time winds down I can't help but think about everything we still need to do here and I hope and pray that God will help us to do everything we can.

My new companion is Elder Rahul. He was born in Calcutta but was raised in Utah. He's a brilliant, fun loving guy who's pumped to preach the gospel and build up the church here. I hope I can keep up with him. Elder Rahul's actual surname is Lechtenberg and when he arrived in the field about 5 months ago that's what he went by. He quickly realized though that not many people here can pronounce "Lechtenberg" so he shortened it to Elder "Berg." I guess he really had a beef when everyone started calling him "Elder Burger" so he switched to Elder Rahul. We're already having a great time together and I can't wait to see how much work we can do these next 5 weeks. :)

Things area finally cooling down here in Hyderabad which makes it much easier to stay busy outside during the day. We're hoping and praying that some of our investigators will accept the invitation to be baptized this next week. At first I couldn't understand why anyone would say no to joining the true church but now I can understand a little bit why it's so difficult for some people. Looking through other's eyes a little more has helped me to realize how life changing a decision like baptism really is, especially in a country where less than 6% of the population is Christian. I've met people out here who have been persecuted, threatened, and disowned by their families for joining the church. While that's definitely not the majority of situations it has shown me what it means to "suffer shame for Christ's name." It's helped me to act with more love, patience, and faith as we try to help people accept baptism and I've seen miracles as the Spirit has helped some of them to overcome their fears. It's also strengthened my commitment to stand as a witness for the Savior all the time. The members here in India are nothing less than valiant, fearless pioneers and I hope that I can be a faithful as they are. my invitation for each of us is to always have the courage to stand strong for the things we believe in.


​The Meruga family, and awesome family from our ward.

Another one of our friends. I love Indian reptiles

From right to left: Me, our investigator Sister Radhika, her sister Deepika, Elder Bandi, and- ...I forgot her name.

On the back is me, brother Stephen, and our investigator Flamy. On the front is Bro Krupa Rao and his wife- ...I also forgot her name. 

My new companion Elder Rahul, AKA the goat whisperer.

"Crikey mate, be careful!"

Anyways until next time everyone stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail June 20, 2017: "So now we're dentists?"

Last week as my companion and I were walking through a small neighborhood a woman asked if we were coming from a dental hospital. My companion replied that we teach about Jesus Christ and unfortunately she lost interest. I guess in some places salvation isn't as highly valued as straight teeth. Oh well. As we walked away though we thought it was funny how we'd been mistaken again. We've been asked if we're college students, pastors, social workers, and every time I go to the local grocery store, customers ask for my help in finding their items. This was the first time we've gotten dentists though.

Another funny incident this week happened when we stopped for dinner at a hotel (restaurant) at the edge of our area one day. It was the first time we went to this place and we were charmed by the modern decorations and tasteful appearance. There was even a set a loud speakers playing quiet music to add to the ambiance. The music was coming from the manager's pen drive and halfway through our meal we hit a rather unpleasant playlist. We tired skipping several track from the buttons on the machine but they all had the same weird tone and feeling. After a few minutes my companion asked me if I'd brought my pen drive, which I had. We waited for a few minutes for the manager to go into the backroom and then I quickly replaced his drive with mine and soon the whole place was filled with Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When the manager came back he walked over to the speakers, looked at my pen drive, looked at me, looked back at my pen drive, and then walked away without a word. Whether he experienced a change of heart or simply didn't want to question two guys with ties and name tags I'm not sure, but we were happy that we got to finish our meal with such uplifting music. :)

We invited Sister Flamy for baptism on Saturday and she accepted. After being rejected so many times these last few months I wasn't expecting that response at all and I didn't know what to say. After stuttering and clarifying her response three times to make sure I hadn't heard wrong I was ecstatic. She had a few questions but we were able to answer them and she is showing by her words and actions that the messages she's learning are sinking in. I recognize that it surely won't be easy as we prepare her and anything can happen between now and then but we're moving forward with faith  and we're praying that things will go through. I'm so grateful for the success we're beginning to see and again I testify that God knows and is in charge of this work. :)


This is Brother Mande Prasana and his family. Bro Prasana only has one leg but he's one of the happiest and most faithful members I know.

Our district, from left to right: Elder Devarapalli, Elder Martin, Elder Bandi, and the tall white guy.

Me and Elder Bandi

He wants me to mention that this one was my idea...

Our investigator Mary, her friend Maria, and her daughter Sony

Remember the wet paint story from a few weeks ago? Well here's the culprit.

Love you all, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward