Tuesday, December 30, 2014

E-mail Dec. 29, 2014: "Christmas isn't over yet..."

Wow, Christmas day has come and gone but the Christmas Spirit still lives on. Everywhere you go the lights, sounds, and other signs of Christmas continue to shine and enchant us. Over here it seems like just because a holiday is over doesn't mean that you can't stop celebrating it, which I actually kind of enjoy. Back home if I had gone to a restaurant after Christmas day and heard "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" I would've complained to the manager, but now I love how it helps to keep the feelings of joy and laughter alive a little longer.

Christmas day flew by like a flash. We watched the first presidency Christmas devotional in the morning, then in the afternoon the stake president treated us to lunch in his home, and last we were able to take a little time in the evening to unwind and watch some of the church videos to end our day. It was easily the most unusual Christmas I've had to date; the lack of family being gathered around a lighted tree, or snow falling softly outside, or almost any of the other things I've grown accustomed to over the years made the day feel different. However, no matter how different it was, it will forever be one of the most memorable holidays I've had. Being without most of the things that I'm comfortable with during this time has taught me what this season is really about more than any of the stories, songs, or lessons I've ever learned  on the subject. For that I'm grateful. :)

Aaand, more pictures!
Enjoy. :)

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas, and until next time, peace out. :)
-Elder Cloward

"Welcome to Hyderabad!"

Another beautiful Indian sunset.

The original Hyderabad zone, from left to right- Elder Bandi, Sister Katuka, Elder Surya, Elder Ravindran, Elder Stephen, Elder Cloward, Elder Pushparaj, Sister Yelamanchelli, Elder Gill, Elder Anderson

The Metro rail, while currently under construction, stretches across all of Hyderabad and makes it feel like a "Back to the Future" movie.
A first person look at one of India's many bustling streets.
Some more of the awesome members in our ward.

Several of the ward members gathered for a birthday party.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A note about letters...

From mom (Jen):

We had a great time talking with Kaiden on Christmas!  He is doing great!  He mentioned that he can get real, snail-mail letters!  We didn't realize that.  He says they take about 2 weeks to get to him and if anyone would like to write him a letter, he LOVES getting mail.  The letters just need to be sent to the mission home address as listed at the top of the blog.  

He also reassured us that he did buy himself some socks.  :)

Here are some pictures from the call:

Monday, December 22, 2014

E-mail: Dec. 22, 2014 "I wonder if frying it would make it taste better..."

"If they don't get baptized by the end of the month, I'll eat my tie."

Those were my words at our zone training when they asked us to write down the names of our investigators who had a baptism date. What usually happens is each companionship will write down five or six names of people that they think will be baptized, but unfortunately usually only one or two actually do. Our zone leaders want us to be more realistic and so after I wrote down our two names they asked me how sure I was that they would actually be baptized this month, to which I gave my confident, (but not well thought out) response.

To make a long story short, the other Elders are literally making me eat those words, and Elder Cloward will probably be suffering from some tie-induced indigestion next month.

The day before the baptism for one of these women we had her interview and found out she would have to meet with the mission president to resolve something first. She should still be able to be baptized in January but until then I'm hoping the other missionaries forget my rash agreement. Prayers in that regard would be appreciated...

The other women who we had a date set for did get baptized though, and I had the honor of performing the ordinance. I had to prepare her and myself and I had to make sure the baptism service was organized and nice and so most of that Sunday day I was pretty stressed. However, when the service started and the speakers shared their feelings about baptism my anxiety left and was replaced by the Spirit. The ordinance went perfectly (I only had to dunk her once) and it was an experience that I'm sure this family, nor myself, will ever forget. :)

Oh, and I finally have more pictures. :)

My first day in Bangalore, from the apartment we stayed in that night.

What most of the streets in our area look like.

The first of many new friends I was soon to make.

The view from our apartment in Hyderabad.

Elder Ravindran's Indian masterpiece.     (Disregard the Coke...)

Cake fight! And the winner is- Elder Cloward!

One of the many beautiful sunsets that are so common here.

My trainer, Elder Surya. A.K.A. The Pigeon Whisperer 

Monday, December 15, 2014

E-mail: Dec. 15, 2014 "Gloomp"

That was the closest word I could think of to describe the sound that was made as I accidentally dumped out my entire bottle of consecrated oil on another elder this week. One of the elders in our apartment was having some lower back pains so he asked us to give him a blessing. He asked me to do the anointing so I found my small bottle of oil (that I thought was almost empty) and started to tip it out over his head. My attention got distracted for just a moment and when I looked back my bottle was empty and there was enough olive oil on his head to fill the other five virgin's empty lamps. The other Elder then gave the blessing and quickly washed off his hands.
In a very literal sense I think that this Elder knows what it feels like to "have blessings poured out upon your head."

We also gave a few other blessings this week to other people who requested them. One such occasion was at the home of a new investigator whom we were going to teach. As we arrived, the man (who is well stricken in years) was lying on his bed in what I could tell was a considerable amount of pain. We sat down and at the same time a nurse came to the home carrying a machine that he quickly hooked up to the man's chest to find out what was causing the pain. After the test was finished and the man was given multiple shots we shared a short message and asked him if he would like a blessing. He agreed, and after giving the blessing we left so that he could rest, Several days later the member who had been with us to see this man told us that the day after we had come the pain had left completely and even though the man didn't know if it was more the medicine or the blessing that had healed him he was giving thanks to God for the miracle. We're going to continue to teach him now that his heart is being prepared.
Our God is a God of miracles, and those miracles happen through the power of the Priesthood. I testify of that.

We've encountered something we call the "white tax" when we have to take an auto somewhere. My companion, Elder D'Vaz, has taken the initiative to bargain for our prices because he looks like an Indian and the auto drivers will give him a better price. Last night as we were coming home I walked a few paces off into a shadow so that he could negotiate alone and get a better price. He got the price he wanted and gestured for me to come over. As soon as I stepped into the light the auto driver's face fell and he demanded that we pay him a higher price. I was ready to tell him "heck no brother, you're racist" but my companion exercised his Christlike love and gave him the price he asked for. I learned that I either need to learn more humility or get a spray tan, we'll see which happens first.

Anyways until next week study hard and stay strong. :)
-Elder Cloward

From Jen (mom):

One of the other moms on our missionary parent's Facebook page posted these statistics this morning:

"In 2005 India had 5,951 members. Today India has 11,690 members. In just ten years the church membership as doubled. There are currently 82 missionaries serving in the Bangalore mission. This week they have 6 baptisms, 7 confirmations, 37 investigators with a baptismal date, and 95 investigators who attended Sacrament Meeting."  Incredible!

Monday, December 8, 2014

E-mail Dec. 8, 2014 "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow... Please!"

Well the Christmas season is here and I barely even noticed. It's so weird not having to wear a coat to shop for Christmas trees or not being able to see the lights or hear festive music. The culture down here is predominantly Hindu and Muslim so it's difficult to even talk about Christmas with anyone, however the church has issued a challenge to the missionaries and to the members of the church worldwide to spread the joy Christmas to all over the world this year. If you have time go to christmas.mormon.org and watch the video that the church made and think about what you can do to help those who are in need of this message this Christmas season. Oh, sorry, now that I'm a missionary I'm learning that "when you have time" means "if you remember it in a few months please make a note so that you'll remember to remember it next year", So on second thought, stop reading this email and check it out right now. :)


Do it now.

Stop reading this and watch the video, dang it.

(From Jen (mom): "I've included it in the post below to make watching the video easy on you!")

Alright, now that you've all been spiritually uplifted try to do something to share this message with your friends and family this season, whether it be through facebook, twitter, other social media, or if you really want to be old school and actually tell people about it face to face that works too. ;)

In other news this week was a slow week. We had appointments bunk left and right and there were many time when we sat down on the side of the road for a good chunk of time just trying to think of what we could do and who we could go visit. I knew long before I came on my mission that I would have weeks like this and I know that the Lord is giving me a chance to learn patience but I have to wonder if there's more I could've done that would've prevented a lot of the stress that came this week. And if I'm being completely honest the answer is yes, there were several things I could have done better that would've helped us this week. I fear that if I'm not constantly checking myself, I'll fall into a rut where I get lazy and keep doing the same things because it's easy. I don't want that, so this week my goal is to study Preach my Gospel really hard and find out where I can improve and work a little harder to make that happen.

Anyways sorry this is short but my time is up and it's about time to go save souls again.

Until next time-
Elder Cloward

"He is the Gift" – Christmas Video – #ShareTheGift

Monday, December 1, 2014

E-mail: Dec. 1, 2014 "Spin the bottle? I thought this was supposed to be a church activity..."‏

The best part? It was a church activity. ;)

Our ward mission leader told us how they put a new spin on spin the bottle for a YSA activity, where after you spin the bottle the person it lands on has to share a scripture or something similar. I thought that was clever, but I have to say that maybe if they played it the right way they'd all finally start dating each other.

Sorry, it just takes forever for people to get married over here sometimes.

Happy Thanksgiving all! Thanksgiving here was a blast, although the American missionaries and their lucky native companions were the only ones celebrating. We went to a place called "Thugs of Grill" where you pay about $8.00 for all you can eat barbecue served on kabobs over live coals in the middle of your table. Along with that the place featured an Indian buffet complete with all the best dishes and endless Gulab Jamun (the only desert that will be left after the earth is cleansed of imperfection). In short I ate until it was physically impossible for me to eat any more, and then we all waited an hour for the food to digest and went back for round 2. I'm beginning to notice that I'm a little heavier than I was 4 months ago, in fact the first words that one of my MTC batchmates said to me after seeing me for the first time in 3 months were- "dude, you've put on weight."
"No elder, I'm sure it's just the cut of this suit..."

Anyways because of that we've finally started do our exercises in the morning, and I'm hoping that all of Elder Cloward's extra kilograms can be turned into muscle pretty soon.

The work continues to move on over here. We're trying hard to find more people who are truly prepared to hear the word of God instead of people who just want the white guy to visit their family (which we have a lot of). One of the only indicators we have that people really want the happiness that the gospel brings is by their commitment to keep commitments. Think about that as a member of the church now; even though we've been baptized are we truly converted? Are we doing the simple things that our leaders encourage us to do? And if so are we doing it for the right reason? It's helped me to see where I can improve in my life.

Oh, and here's a conversation we had with one of our investigators after teaching about the three kingdoms:

"So brother, which kingdom do you want to go to?"
"The last one."
"What? Brother you know you can only be with your family and Jesus Christ in the Celestial kingdom, don't you like that?"
"...I like stars more."

From now on we may teach about the sun, moon, and stars concept in a later lesson.

Anyways this is Elder Cloward saying "Don't be fool, Stay in Sunday School. :)

from mom (Jen):  I had no idea what Gulab jamun is, so I looked it up.  Here's what wikipedia says about it, I also found the picture above on Google.  :)

"Gulab jamun is a milk-solids based dessert, similar to a dumpling. It is popular in countries of South Asia such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, also in the Caribbean countries of Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica and in Mauritius. It is made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk. In India, milk solids are prepared by heating milk over a low flame for a long time until most of the water content has evaporated. These milks solids, known as khoya in Pakistan and India, are kneaded into a dough, sometimes with a pinch of flour, and then shaped into small balls and deep fried at a low temperature of about 148 °C.[1] The balls are then soaked in a light sugar syrup flavored with green cardamom and rosewater, kewra or saffron."