Monday, February 23, 2015

E-mail Feb. 23, 2015 "Oh, that's why he was so friendly!"

"Wow Elder, that guy seemed really interested didn't he?"
"Elder, you know he was drunk right?"
"What? Are you sure? Why couldn't I tell?"
"Elder, you can never tell. This is the third time you've set an appointment with a drunk guy."
"...Well he's still a child of God."

I always used to think that I was good at reading people. There have been many times when I was able to tell that someone had a problem just from their body language and I could respond accordingly. However, despite how good I thought I was at this I realized this week that I can't tell when someone is drunk to save my life. I've seen people here so intoxicated that they can't even sit up straight, and thankfully I'm usually aware of those people. The problem is that I didn't know that when someone is just slightly drunk they act really friendly and interested in what you have to say, and so for six months most of my street conversations have been with people who are just tipsy enough to listen but not coherent enough to remember. My companion can usually tell immediately if someone's had one too many because he says he can smell it on them, and so I figure that either my sniffer's broken or Elder Cloward just doesn't know what beer smells like. To solve the problem my companion came up with a secret sign he can show me when I start talking to someone so I can know if they're drunk. I think It'll work.

One of the Christlike attributes that I'm learning right now is patience. There are many experiences I've had that test my patience a lot more than it did at home. Things like being chased down and slapped by an old guy when he noticed I was white, being called 'foreign trash' by someone as he passed by us, almost getting run over by a bunch of punks on a motorcycle who were trying to be funny, and watching my companion get slapped as someone else rode by on a scooty have tested my tolerance. I'll admit there have been times when I've wanted to turn around and give a couple of people a piece of my mind, and sometimes it's all I can do to just grit my teeth and keep walking. What helps most is a scripture that comes to my mind often where Jesus says that it's easy to "return railing for railing", but the true mark of a follower of Christ is one who "bears all things with meekness and humility". Strength is not determined by whether or not you can deck the guy who just insulted you, strength is when you have every reason to retaliate but you choose to do as the savior did and 'turn the other cheek'. It's been a hard lesson for me to learn, but I testify of that truth.

I've noticed that there are a lot of Chinese families who live here in Bangalore and we pass them almost every day on the street, but I never thought I'd be mistaken for one. The first time I saw a small Indian child point at me and say, "look, Chinese!" I thought he was just confused, but when it happened again the next week I began to wonder if I actually look a little more oriental than I thought. I bought some sunglasses to keep from squinting while we walk though and I haven't had that problem since. What a coincidence...

Anyways until next time, peace. :)
-Elder Cloward

Elder Cloward, Krishna (their newest investigator), and Elder Thompson after church.
---photo from Elder Thompson's mom, Mary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

E-mail Feb. 16, 2015: "Hey, Listen!"

Oh boy. Just when you get to thinking that you're a great missionary and you have the whole teaching thing figured out the Lord lets you know that you're not as much of a superstar as you think you are.

Last night we went to visit a new investigator whom we've only visited once before. A member had shown us his home a couple of weeks earlier and we had briefly taught him about Jesus Christ and His role as our Savior. That first lesson went well, and so as we talked about what we were going to teach him last night and knowing we wouldn't have much time we decided to leave him with a book of Mormon. He was excited to see us and after coming in and sitting down I explained that we wanted to start our message with a scripture from the Bible. Glancing around the room I noticed a few books on the table next to me but I could tell that none of them were a Bible so I asked him if he could bring his. My companion leaned over in front of me and started to scrutinize the books on the table, and I wanted to tell him that I'd already looked and there wasn't a Bible there. As he squinted his eyes to read one of the titles he whispered to me "Elder, what's the name of that book right there?" and after turning my head I noticed a very old, tattered, but clearly visible blue book with gold letters. How I missed that I don't know, and how we didn't establish in an earlier lesson how he had been visited by the missionaries 8 months previous and had already been given a Book of Mormon makes me feel a little embarrassed. I was ready to teach this man all about a book that he already knew about because I hadn't asked him the right questions to get to know him before. Now granted, that's a pretty simple mistake that could have happened to anyone, but what really makes me feel small is that this isn't the first time it's happened.

About a month ago we taught a woman who was preparing for baptism about tithing. Her husband had been a member for many years and after being taught by the missionaries for many years she was finally ready. I knew that their family was struggling a lot financially and so we shaped our lesson on tithing to help strengthen her faith and convince her of the blessings that would come if she lived it. After teaching her for 20 minutes we asked her if she was ready to live that law, to which she replied, "Elders, I've been paying a full tithe for more than two years now."

'Sheepishness' is a pretty good word to describe my feelings in that instance.

Thankfully my simple follies didn't cause any problems with our investigators and I can laugh at them now, but it helped me to realize that I need to do a better job at listening to our investigators and the Spirit. There may be a time, and in fact I'm sure there will be, when someone whom we're teaching is going to need a specific answer or teaching because of something that's going on in their life. Sometimes the factor that determines whether or not someone will continue to listen to or accept our message is determined by how well we as missionaries do our job to listen, discern, and fill the need that they have in the very moment that they need it. Now if that doesn't make someone at least a little nervous about their calling as a missionary nothing will. When I think about how crucial it is that we as missionaries do the right thing at the right time I'm reminded of the words of my mission president when he says, "No pressure Elder, just don't screw up".

Thanks president, real comforting.

As I think about it though, it makes sense to me now why it's so important for missionaries to be worthy of and teach with the Spirit. In order for someone to overcome the obstacles in front of them and unite themselves with the perfect gospel they really do need to be taught perfectly by perfect teachers. Missionaries are supposed to learn and practice to become better teachers every day, but despite our best efforts every once in a while we'll fall short simply because we're imperfect beings. That's why our Heavenly Father, the real perfect teacher, has promised to give us His perfect spirit to make up for our imperfections as we teach-so long as we are worthy of it. I testify of the importance of being worthy and ready to let the Spirit guide our lives, because without Him we can't be the effective builders of The Kingdom that the Lord wants us to be.

Anyways until next time everyone remember that God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason. ;) 
एल्डर बादल (Elder Clouds)

Monday, February 9, 2015

E-mail Feb. 9, 2015 "18 months left to go!... Wait,what?!"

Holy cow, I can't believe that 1/4 of my mission is over already. They say that when you're having fun time flies, if that's true then when you're doing missionary work time flies like-, something faster than normal flying stuff. It seems like just yesterday I was walking into the MTC as a timid, clueless 18 year old. Now I'm nestled comfortably in one of the most unique, different, and cultural places in the world while I serve the Lord as a slightly less timid, less clueless 19 year old. Pretty soon I'll be headed off to the Philippines to get my Visa renewed (which I'm not very thrilled about since I'll have to learn Tagalog for three months) and I'm sure it won't feel like very long before I'm on my way home. Now that I know how fast the time goes I want to commit myself to not let a moment pass by. It hit me hard when I realized that this is the only time in my life that I've been commanded to serve the Lord full time with everything I have, and I want to make sure that I can look back and be satisfied with the work that I've helped to move along.

This week was pretty normal, which, if I think about it, is actually pretty unusual. I've come to be less surprised when I'm stopped by a drunk man on the road who wants to talk to us for an hour about whatever's on his intoxicated mind, or when I almost run over a dog or get run over myself by something with 6 wheels and a horn, or when I lie awake all night listening to a drums and trumpets right outside my door from some kind of Hindu ritual, or any such experiences that would've scared me half to death 6 months ago. It's fun to think that crazy and exciting has become my normal, and what used to be a normal week for me rarely happens anymore. In other words, I love it here in India, and I'm so grateful that I get to serve these people here. :)

And more pictures, still from Hyderabad though. I'll get some of Bangalore soon.

Until next time everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward

A quick note from Jen (mom):
He just told us that the Convent Road branch, where he is serving, is the hearing impaired branch and he is learning sign language!

The thugs at Thugs Of Grill.

Outside our door on Diwali. This was our neighbor's doing, and hopefully if someone teaches me ours will look like this next year too.

Our holiday feast (with french toast courtesy of Elder Clouds)

*sniff* They were almost too beautiful to eat.

Monkeys right outside our first apartment in Hyderabad. They would come out of that old warehouse to watch the sunrise every morning.

From left to right- Elder Surya, Elder Larson, Elder Bandi, Elder Aldridge, Elder Pilli, and Yours Truly.

Sharah, Madhu's mother, at her baptism.

Monday, February 2, 2015

E-mail: Feb. 2, 2015 "We're not in Hyderabad anymore, Toto..."

Wow. I arrived in Bangalore this week and I've had a couple of days now to get around and see what it's like, and all I can say is holy flip, it's like I'm back in America. My first day we got real beef steak burgers for lunch and we went to Krispe Kreme in the afternoon and I began to wonder if I had actually been taken straight up to heaven for being such a good missionary, but then I saw a bunch of white tourists in short shorts and I realized I was still here. The weather here is fantastic! I got off my plane and it must have been as low as 65 degrees! I almost started shivering. I asked my cab driver why it's so cool here and he said it's because Bangaluru is on the top of a hill and it's close to a lot of water, which is also why it's so much greener and healthier. Hyderabad had a bunch of small, low reaching plants and trees, but here the trees are taller than most of the 4-5 story buildings and they have an equal share along the streets and throughout the city. It literally looks like someone took a bustling American metropolis, added a little extra dirt and bright colors, and dropped it in the middle of the Indian jungle. I know I said I dreaded going to serve in Bangalore, but this place just keeps getting better and better; and to top it all of I get to use a cycle in my area as well.
Happy day, all is well.

My new companion's name is Elder Thompson; a very tall, fast, and fun loving missionary. He's from Kaysville Utah, about 10 minutes from where I used to live and the chances are we bumped into each other at least once or twice without knowing before the mission. He's showing me how to use our cycles in a city where there are more cars than room on the road, and I'm slowly but surely learning how to navigate through a moving gridlock without crashing. He used to mountain bike before his mission and so whenever the road is less crowded he picks up his speed and turns and ordinary rock or speed bump into a jump. I'm not brave enough right now to try any of those kinds of stunts, but I think he's determined to help me overcome my fear and become just as tricky as him. ...Pray for me.

I've been told that the work here is much more difficult than my previous area, and during these last few days I think that's been confirmed. In Hyderabad the members almost gave us more referrals than we had time to contact, and it wasn't unusual to walk into sacrament meeting and see 3-4 new people that we were able to start teaching because one of their friends encouraged them to come to church. One such example is of a man who got up at 4:00 in the morning to take a bus almost 200 kms to attend our church. As we talked with him after sacrament meeting I kept asking him about his job and his family to figure out why he had come all the way to Hyderabad. I didn't believe him the first time when he said he came all the way down just to visit our church because one of his friends told him to come and see, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when he told us that he felt so good during the meetings that he was going to try and make the trip every week. That's an example of a modern day pioneer. That's also an example of member missionary work. Here in Bangalore most of the members don't seem to have caught on to that spirit yet and so the work is very hard. The support and help from the ward or branch in any area is one of the key factors in how well the work goes in there, and I'm petitioning the Lord for help as we try to help the members here catch on to the spirit of this work and turn this area around.

Oh and I'm sorry I don't have any new pictures this week, I'll take some more and get them out soon.

Anyways until next time, rock on everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward

Elders Cloward and Thompson in Bangalore.