Monday, January 26, 2015

E-mail: Jan. 26, 2015 "Tea Leaves and Transfers"

"Brother, you're drinking tea? You know that's against the Word of Wisdom."
'No it's okay, because Adam and Eve drank tea too."
"...Brother, what?"
"In the garden of Eden there were many trees, right?"
"That means there must have been a tea tree there, and God said that Adam and Eve could have any fruit from the garden, which means that they must have made tea."

It's amusing at times to see what kind of justifications people will make to continue with their "favorite sins". That was a real conversation we had with a less active member and we tried for 10 minutes to correct his flawed logic and teach why we need the Word of Wisdom, but he rebuffed everything we had to say and argued to prove why he was right. It made me think about my own life, and how I sometimes justify the wrong things that I'm doing because I don't want to give them up just yet. I think that's one of the ways that Satan traps members of the church, because most of us have grown up being taught the commandments which gives a solid knowledge of what's right and what's not. We've been taught about why we need to be obedient and what the consequences are if we're not, but if the devil can make us think that some sins "aren't that bad" or if he can provide us with a loophole to the commandments we justify our transgressions to remove the guilt that always accompanies them. Someone told me a while back that people will "justify themselves to Hell", and I think that's a perfect reminder that God doesn't care if "everyone else is doing it", there is never an excuse to knowingly and willingly break any of God's commandments. There should never be an excuse to "Justify yourself to Hell".

Oh, and I got transferred to Bangalore this week. I was supposed to leave tomorrow but due to some legal procedures it'll probably take until the end of the week. I learned that God can have a unique, and at times almost cruel sense of humor. I love Hyderabad, but it's so dense and crowded that I've been yearning to go somewhere more open and more green. I dreaded the thought of going to an even bigger city, but I figured that the lord knew my desire and I felt like the odds of being transferred to Bangalore were slim.

"Elder Cloward, you're being sent to Convent Road in Bangaluru, the busiest, richest, and most crowded part of the biggest city in southern India."

I've been reviewing these past few weeks in my mind to figure out what major sin I committed that brought about this trial. Oh well, come what may and love it, I guess.

Thanks also for the birthday wishes everyone, it made my day. :) I was able to go out for lunch and enjoy the day with the other missionaries and some members, and one of the missionaries got me a larger than life color poster of himself as a gift. Oh, and President Obama even came all the way over here to India to personally wish me a happy birthday, but it looks like he got lost and ended up in New Delhi. Oh well.

Until next time everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail: Jan. 19, 2015: "We're here to save people from Eternal Dalmatian."‏

"Eternal Dalmatian"- My companion had a slip of the tongue the other day while he was describing our purpose as missionaries and I couldn't help but write it down. ;) I've come to realize that there are a lot of words and phrases associated with the Gospel that are, at times, not only hard to understand and explain but hard to pronounce as well. On top of that English is a second, or sometimes third or fourth language for all the members here, and so during our lessons on Sunday it's easy to misunderstand what's being said sometimes. For example, last Sunday the Teacher tried to explain how we show love to other people:

"You can't just say you love your fellow man, love is a worm."
"...Excuse me, love is what?"
"A worm, a worm, love is a worm."
"Brother, do you mean 'verb'?"
"Oh yes, that's it, love is a werb."

We have a lot of fun with it sometimes. ;) However I still have to laugh at how appropriate it is that my companion replaced the word 'damnation' with the dog that's traditionally associated with firefighters and places that are burning.

One of the most important Christlike qualities that we can learn to possess is charity, and I think I finally began to know what that feels like this week. There's one boy in our area that we met six months ago who's in a part member family that we've been trying to get to come to church and accept the gospel ever since. From our second visit with him I was really irritated with him and the choices he was making in his life. I was annoyed with his overly casual attitude lack of dedication towards us and everything else and I thought that we had very conflicting personalities. That was my attitude towards him for a long time, and it got so bad that I disliked visiting him. These last few weeks the mission president has been pushing us to do better at teaching with the spirit, and he even provided training to help us improve. When we went to visit this boy last week I tried really hard to listen to the spirit and teach him the things that the Lord wanted me to teach him. As the lesson began and we started talking with him and asking him questions he opened up and I saw a side of him that I hadn't been able to see before. As we sat in the lesson all the bad feelings I'd been harboring against him melted away and I felt myself beginning to love him as my brother. The next day he broke his commitments again, but this time instead of feeling angry I felt a desire to try even harder to help him overcome his obstacles. When the spirit is with you, whether you be at home, at school, at work, or in any situation, the Lord can help you to love and care about anyone. I testify of that. :)

Anyways until next time- oh be wise, what can I say more? ;)

-Elder Cloward

Monday, January 12, 2015

E-mail Jan. 12, 2015: "Elder, you're just a walking bunch of weirdness right now."

Those were the words my companion said to me one afternoon while we were visiting one of the members from our ward. It was 9 year old boy who we were teaching about the scriptures, and we were using the illustrated Book of Mormon Stories to help him understand. This book is full of colorful artwork that helps to bring the stories to life, but as I was looking I noticed that the painter had taken inspiration from Arnold Freibordg's artwork. Naturally I became very excited and started flipping through the book anxious to find more similarities, but unfortunately my companion had no interest in art or small discoveries and he thought his companion had lost his mind.

Don't worry Elder, your companion still has at least most of his marbles left.

There are many small and simple things I've taken joy in since I've been here, things like *occasionally* burning incense in the apartment, or jumping onto moving buses, or playing Ludo (Parcheesi) in my free time. My biggest fear about coming on a mission was the possibility of being stuck with a crazy companion, but my fears ceased the moment I realized that I am that companion. But however crazy I may be, I try to never let my desire to have fun overpower my desire to do work.

It's so cool to see how the Lord works with people. There is one woman whom we've tried to prepare for baptism almost since I got here and she's finally being baptized this week. There are so many times when at the end of the day we're disappointed because people aren't changing or they broke their commitments or a lesson didn't go very well or anything like that, but now that I can look back on everything that as happened I can see how the Lord was preparing those individuals and I can testify that He truly does have a plan for all His children. If we trust in the Lord and put our faith in Him He will always guide us where we need to go, even when we can't see it at the time.

And more pictures. :)

Until next time everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward

Brother Madhu and his family: Wife, daughter, and sister.

Sambasiva and his son Dhruvith at his baptism

Just another day in Indian paradise

Happy birthday to yo- FIRE!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

E-mail Jan 6, 2015: "No, I meant FIRST Nephi 3:7"

 "Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance."
-3 Nephi 3:7

This week we learned how important it is to make sure that investigators read the right passage from the Book of Mormon when you first introduce them to the gospel. Maybe this is proof that Joseph Smith had a sense of humor when he gave this verse and the incredibly popular 1 Nephi 3:7 an almost identical reference, because however appropriate this scripture may be, it's probably not the first thing you want your investigator to read when he first starts to learn about our church.

Happy New Year everyone! I can't believe that it's 2015 already! Time really does fly, it seems like 2014 was here just a week ago.

...See what I did there? hahaha

Anyways with the coming of the new year also means the coming of a new found commitment to be a better person by making positive changes that last two weeks until we get lazy and fall back into our old habits, or New Years resolutions, as they're more commonly known.

I apologize, I don't mean to be pessimistic there but I know from personal experience, and from the experience of others, that that's usually what happens to us after new years. I'm going to challenge everyone right now to make a commitment to yourself and to the Lord that you will use the opportunity that a new year brings to change your life by coming closer to the Savior than you ever have before. It is my personal testimony that if you will do that, and be completely consistent with it, you will feel a power and spirit come into your life that will strengthen you enough to further fulfill your potential as a being with divine responsibilities.

Also, consider taking up jogging in the mornings, it makes you feel good inside.

Anyways sorry this is short but I'm already a day late with this email and there are so many souls just waiting to be saved.

Until next time, I dare you to do something awesome. I double dare you. ;)

-Elder Cloward