Monday, August 25, 2014

E-mail: August 25, 2014 "Second week in curry heaven"

I think the most important thing I've learned this week is exactly how much the Lord loves his children and will give them incredible amounts of strength when they choose to follow Him and change their lives for the better. I've been here a week and we've already had two baptisms, and while technically the previous Elders from this area did most of the teaching and set the baptism dates we got to see them take these final steps before entering the font yesterday. One of the converts, Mathu, has changed his life dramatically in order to be a part of the church, including quitting tobacco, resisting negative comments from his family, and committing to keep the Sabbath day holy even to the extent of telling his boss that he has to have Sundays off or he'll look for a new job. It's been amazing to see the gospel change these lives the way it has. :)

The second most important thing I've learned this week is to not get into a cake fight with an Indian, because you'll lose. We visited a less active family this week and it was one of the boy's 16th birthday so my companion got a cake and, well, one thing let to another and before we knew it we were cleaning frosting out of our ears. Be it known though that, like a true American, I didn't get involved until I felt that my personal safety was in jeopardy and I had no other choice but to defend myself.

I also witnessed my first beef-deal this week. It was perfectly smooth and almost undetectable- late at night away from any streetlights a man pulled up close to another man on his motorcycle and quickly withdrew a small black plastic bag from under his jacket, and like a flash the exchange was made and the customer tucked the contraband away into his bag and left the scene.
On a totally unrelated note my companion made the most delicious and satisfying beef curry that I've ever had that night.

Everything else continues to go well here. I'm getting to know the members and investigators, I'm studying Preach My Gospel and the scriptures like crazy, and I'm feeling the spirit more than I think I ever have before. I'm constantly reminded of how different my american ethnicity stands out like a sore thumb here though as all the Indian children don't even try to hide their astonishment at seeing someone so white. The courageous ones will come up to me and shake my hand while the more shy part of the group will take pictures from a safe distance. It's fun. ;)

I've got to sign out now but until next time may the spirit be with you. :)

-Elder Cloward

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

E-mail Aug. 18, 2014 "Greetings from Hyderabad"

Hey I made it to India, after a 41 hour flight and two fun layovers in Chicago and London I'm finally here, and all I can say is holy flippin' cow. We arrived at the airport Thursday morning at 5:00 and we almost didn't make it through because the people in charge of the immigration counter couldn't understand why we were here, but thankfully we finally got it worked out. President Berrett picked us up from the airport and took a cab with us to the mission home in Bangalore, and I got a hard slap in the face from reality as we drove.

We're not in Utah anymore, Toto.

The best way I can think of to describe this place is a giant messy apartment that reeks of culture, curry, and diesel fuel with millions of roommates that don't have time or money to clean up. Oh, and the traffic in this apartment needs tons of work. Most of the roads don't have lines on them and the few that do don't make a difference. Nobody here obeys traffic laws, probably because there aren't any traffic laws to obey. if there's any way you can possibly pass and cut off that bus in order to get where you're going a little faster, even if there's only 0.5 centimeters of clearance on both sides, you do it, and you do it terrifyingly fast.

The city structures are unbelievable, it consists mostly of 5+ story apartment buildings with tiny little three-walled shops in the bottom. You can tell that the cities are trying to expand to accommodate the people better because on every block there are enormous concrete frameworks for new apartments and business buildings going up, but I realized that most of them haven't been touched in years. These giant grey skeletal monoliths are so frequent that they look like a part of the environment now. I'll look down the street and instead of hills or mountains rising up in the background I see these lonely, desolate structures just waiting for someone to come and notice that they're still there.  

Oh, and don't let me forget to mention the ruthless raging monster I've come to know as Jet Lag. It preys on my fatigued human body in the most critical moments, such as the stake open house where I fell asleep twice when I was supposed to be teaching. My only refuge from this enemy is at 9:30 back at my apartment when I can lay down in bed. 

But then I'm attacked by the ravening Snoring Roommates beast, so I'm pretty beat up right now. 

Basically I feel like I've touched an Indian live wire because I am culture SHOCKED. The Lord is helping me to adjust though and I've come to know that the People and food here are fantastic and I'm loving getting to know them both. 

The church is true and the Lord knows what we need, I testify of that. Until next time, this is Elder Cloward signing off. :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

E-mail from Sis. Berrett

Dear Bro. and Sis. Cloward,

We are grateful for the arrival of you son in the India Bangalore Mission.  He arrived safe and in good spirits.  We have great need for him as a missionary.  We felt the strength of his testimony as he shared with us his feelings for missionary work.

Your son has been assigned to work in the city of Hyderabad, in the West Marredpally 2nd Ward, serving with Elder Surya from India.  Elder Surya is an experienced, dedicated missionary and we are confident that they will be able to help and support each other in the work of the Lord here in India.

We have attached photos of your son the morning that he arrived, one with President Berrett and me and one with his companion.

Many parents have asked about sending packages to their missionaries. Postage is expensive for those sending from outside India and custom charges are often assessed. We recommend that for birthdays and holidays that you put money in their personal account to save on customs charges and risk of damage.  If you send a package, especially from outside India, it should be sent to the mission office.   THE FIRST LINE OF THE ADDRESS SHOULD READ -- “Indian Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” This is for customs purposes. The missionaries name should be written elsewhere on the package. Please keep in mind that most of our transfers are done by air travel. The local airlines have a 15 kg (about 33 lbs.) weight limit.  Missionaries struggle to keep within that limit so they transfer very light and discard items not necessary.

The Mission Office address changed about 6 months ago.  The new address is as follows:

India Bangalore Mission
No. 2, Rear Building
Garudarcharpalya, Mahadevapura Post,
Opp. ABB Tech Park
Whitefield Road, Karnataka
Bangalore 560048

Thank you for your help in your son's preparation and your support of him as he serves.  The people of India are so grateful for the truth and knowledge the missionaries share.  I know he will come to love the people with a deep love.

with Pres. and Sis. Berrett

with his companion, Elder Surya

***Note from Jen: It looks like Hyderabad is about 569 km (354 miles) north of Bangalore.  It would be about an 8 hour drive; but they fly, so it's a quick 1 hour flight.

Monday, August 11, 2014

E-mail: Aug. 11, 2014

Wow, I can't believe I'm leaving the MTC tomorrow, These last 8 days have flown by (because the first three days literally lasted three years) and I can't believe my district will be splitting up and we'll have to get new companions. Yikes. Oh, and we found out that my companion will be serving in Boston Massachusetts for three months due to complications with his Visa, and we're all pretty bummed about it. :( Anyways things are still as great as ever, we watched "The Testaments" last night and it was incredible spiritual, but it almost got hard to understand the dialog at the end because of all the sniffling sisters. I'm totally ready to get out to India and actually start teaching people! And as much as I love the classes I'm to the point where it's getting very difficult to pay attention anymore. Please pray that I survive my last two three-hour blocks today, because I'm not sure if I'll make it otherwise.

So you know how I really like the slug bug game? I've been going through withdrawals since I've been here because there obviously aren't any Volkswagens on the campus so I decided with my district that we would start hitting people whenever we saw a redhead instead, which are surprisingly common here.
I think I'm winning.

It took a while for it to catch on but now I've got everyone playing, except I've noticed that they don't go after other, they only go after me, and they've started hitting hard enough to leave bruises.
...I think that means that they like the game.

Oh, and once again the home school stereotype precedes me. We went to a meeting where you had to get up and tell something you learned about your companion and Elder Pereira's words were, and I quote: "My companion Elder Cloward is home schooled, but he doesn't act like it. He's not sheltered and he's actually social."
Thanks Elder, I appreciate the compliment.

And hey, I just want to say thanks so much for all the letters I've been getting from people, they really are worth more than gold here. Once I get to India I'd love to still get letters but if anyone would like to talk to me more than once a month (it takes awhile for letters to get there) you're welcome to email me too. :)

Quotes of the week:

-"So wait Elder Cloward, does that mean that all your school dances were in your living room?"

-"Baptism by fire? that sounds like it would hurt." "That's why we have a baptism with water right after."

-"I bet it was easy to be Prom King since your family were the only other ones there."

Later everyone! :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

E-mail: Aug. 6, 2014

"Do you want a Book of Mormon?
Come on let's go and pray,
We never see you anymore, 
Come out the door, 
We fear you've gone astray,
You used to be real active, 
And now you're not,
We wish you would tell us why,
Do you want a Book of Mormon?
Let's go read the Book of Mormon-
*Go away Elders*
Okay bye."

It definitely helped my first opinion of the MTC when an Elder from another district popped his head into our room and sang that to us our first night. ;)

Wow, this place is absolutely amazing. the Spirit here is unbelievable, everyone is super nice, our testimonies are growing, and we're learning tons about The Doctrine of Christ. It's also a boot camp. An amazing, fun, uplifting boot camp. It's basically like a crossover between EFY and Seminary on a very illegal amount of steroids for 8 hours a day. Thankfully though that's pretty much what I was expecting so it hasn't been too much of a shock, I mean at least I'm not learning a language. 

"Hey I'm Elder Cloward, where are you going on your mission?"

"I'm going to the Baltic North Mission speaking lkjnegvbyow, I've been here six weeks learning the language, what about you?"

"I'm going to the India Bangalore Mission speaking English, I'm here for 12 days."

"...I hate my life right now." 

Yes that was a real conversation I had.

My companion's name is Elder Pereira (per-air-uh) and I literally couldn't have asked for a better one. He's an Indian convert to the church of four years from California and he's about as spiritual, humble, and fun as they come. we get along great and we have a lot of fun teaching together. In fact all 8 guys in our district are just plain awesome. Every one of them has a great testimony, a great sense of humor, and they all work hard. I really lucked out with these guys, even when they use Elder Cloward as the punchline to a prank. We were sitting at dinner one day and one of the Elders popped up and said, "Hey Elders, did you know that if you mix ketchup and salt together it creates a chemical reaction and you can feel heat coming off of it?" So of course Elder Cloward holds his hand right over the cup of ketchup to feel and SPLAT.

I've showered three times since then and I'm pretty sure my hands still smell like condiments.

But as great as the Elders are they come nowhere near the profound awesomeness of the sisters. They're everywhere, beautiful, spiritual, amazing daughters of God who are all completely off limits unless you're talking to them about the Restoration or asking how to get to the mail room. They really are amazing though. We had two sisters in our zone and they left this morning, but not after presenting us with as many snacks and leftover treats as they could muster before saying goodbye. Our whole district is missing them pretty bad, but not just because they were fun and pretty, the spirit that they brought to all of our meetings was incredible. 

Oh yeah, "Spiritual", haha. So we all recognize that it's not appropriate to call the sisters beautiful or pretty or anything like that out loud because we're not supposed to be paying attention to that, and so it took me until about the third day to realize that when my companion was saying "wow those sure are some spiritual sisters" or "there's a sister shining with the spirit to your left", it meant something a little different. I also learned the hard way that when another Elder sees you deep in thought and asks you which scripture you're thinking about while there are sisters in the room "and they were exceedingly fair" is not an appropriate answer.

We have an amazing set of teachers who are helping us to live and breathe Preach My Gospel, my favorite of which is Brother Derenthal. He's an RM of about 3 years who looks just like Joseph Smith and has a sense of humor just as great as his teaching methods. We're learning so much about the Gospel and How to teach people, and let me tell you they don't waste any time. The first night we were here we met as a group to teach investigators and we've been teaching and doing tons of role playing since then. It's amazing how when you're doing your best to learn how to help change and convert people the Lord begins to change and convert you too. I've learned more about myself and about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ than I ever thought was possible in just a week. It's astounding to realize just how much we don't know about the Gospel, and yet the Lord still helps us and allows us to do this great work. The Church is true everyone.

Oh, and I have to include some of our favorite quotes from this week, just so you can get a better idea of what it's like here. ;)

"Stop being dumb, I know you feel the spirit!"

"If at first you don't succeed, then try it the right way."

"H-no! ...That means Heavens no."

"The title of this is not 'Joseph Smith and Friends.' "

When referring to investigators: "Ain't nobody a project."

"Sure you can stay home from church, I'm going to light the house on fire on my way out though."

Love you everyone, I'll see you in 2. :)