Monday, April 27, 2015

E-mail: April 27, 2015 "Elder Dias..."

Wow, I guess the Lord thought that my life as a missionary had become kinda boring, so He sent me a companion who's an expert in all things fun and crazy. This week I've come downstairs on more than one occasion looking for my keys right before we have to leave to find them chained to some random object; a towel curtain, a closet handle, even the bars over our windows. Because it's my keys that are locked up I have to find my companion and beg him for his keys so that I can retrieve mine, which he usually does after trying to make me bargain for it with my food or a free auto ride to our next appointment. He often greets me with cold wet hands on the sides of my face after washing the dishes or by curling up at the head of my bed while I say my prayers before we retire. The funniest thing is that the joking began even before we were companions. I made the mistake of sitting next to him at a veg restaurant after a zone training about a month ago and he managed to discretely fill my shirt pocket with the tiny mints they pass out after the meal, which I'm still picking up around our apartment. I have not yet found a worthy means of retaliation, but I think it's time to put my prank training with Elder Thompson to good use and come up with something diabolical. Beware Elder.

This week was a little bit slower because there's a fever going around and we spent some time in the apartment recovering, but the days we were able to go out yielded lots of positive results. Elder Dias is an excellent teacher and has an incredibly strong desire to get out and do stuff, and so when we had bunked appointments (which happens all too often) and it seemed like we had nothing else we could do his attitude encouraged me try a little harder to be productive with our time. The result? The Lord worked miracles. We showed up at the same homes where people are always busy but they just happened to let us in this time. We walked down the same streets we always do but this time someone called out to us to come into their home and say a prayer. It's my testimony that miracles come only after we give our best- plus a little bit more. The Lord is always ready and willing to help us but all too often we fall short just before we earn the blessing. My challenge to each of you this week is that when you feel like you've done your best and things still aren't working out push a little more and watch the Lord work his magic.

It's almost summer over here in Bengaluru but the temperature still feels like early spring. I've been jealous of all my former companions traveling to the countryside to do their work but as I've communicated with them they say that it's hotter than Hades in their new areas, so I'll count my blessings a little bit longer. We've had a bunch of spring showers this last week too and the city is beautifully green and alive again. The fear of getting hit by a falling coconut is beginning to take root now that they're ripe and there's a million palm trees everywhere, so a few extra prayers that Elder Clouds doesn't become an Indian Isaac Newton wouldn't hurt. ;)

Oh, and I just reached Alma in the Book of Mormon. Good luck everyone. :)

Anyways 'til next time ya'll stay awesome, ya hear? 

-Elder Cloward

From Jen (mom):

I think his getting a practical joking companion is karma for his April Fool's joke.  ;)

Monday, April 20, 2015

E-mail: April 20, 2015 "Transfers"

In our mission there are 6 or 7 different cities where the missionaries serve. Some of them, such as Hyderabad and Bangalore, are larger and far more crowded than than most cities in the US. Others are much smaller, quieter, and closer the the natural beauty that India has to offer, and I've been praying for 6 months that I would get sent to one of those. Utah is considered "the mission factory" in this mission because that's where most of the US Elders come from, and there's a city in eastern India called Rajahmundry which is the mission factory for Indian Elders. My trainer came from that city, and I've had the chance to meet many of those members when they came to Hyderabad for a conference, and I've been hoping beyond all hope that I would get to go and serve the people in that region. My last companion, Elder D'vaz, got called to serve there shortly after I left to Bangalore, and although I brushed it off as a mere coincident that time when the assistants called Elder Thompson last week and told Him he'd be transferred to the Rajahmundry 1st branch I almost went into a raging fit. The Lord has a cruel sense of humor I testify of that.

Aside from my pain and disappointment over watching my last three companions go to the area I've been yearning for and my sadness over losing Elder Thompson, I'm excited for my new companion. His name is Elder Dias; a fun loving, fast talking, great cooking Elder who always has a joke or funny story to tell. The only downside? When I met him the first time 6 months ago I learned that he's thoroughly convinced that all home schoolers are weird and socially deprived. I guess it'll be my job to prove him wrong. *cracks knuckles* 

Anyways other than that the work is still continuing to move forward, things are beginning to go faster and we're slowly but surely locating the seemingly endless list of less actives that live in the most absurd corners of this labyrinth of a city. The Lord is in this work, and I'm able to see his hand more and more as I strive to be obedient and recognize His guidance in all things. :)

Until next time- when you feel like you're drowning in life remember that your life guard walks on water. :)

-Elder Clouds

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

E-mail: April 13, 2015 "Gotcha ;)"

All right all right everyone, I'm not going to the Philippines. Missionary work here in the Bangalore mission is still strong as ever and we have no indications that it's going to change. I'm sorry if any of you were genuinely worried, but I'd be a fool to pass up an April fools. ;) The first of April brought many surprises to our apartment as well, among which were shaving cream in my shoes, turmeric powder (which stains your skin yellow) in the shower head, switching the lock on our door before the other Elders came back, and my personal favorite, replacing the juice in an apple juice bottle with cooking oil. Luckily I was only on the receiving end of one of these pranks, but unfortunately I think I'm still waiting for forgiveness from people on both continents. When I think of all the trouble may have caused I have to ask myself, "Was it really worth it?" to which I respond with a "resounding and unequivocal yes!"

On that note conference came a week late for us and we were able to enjoy the inspired messages with our branch members these last two days. Some of my favorite quotes from these sessions are:

"Sorry president, I slipped into my native German accent."
"The vote has been noted."
"The church is a giant hospital, and we're all a little sick."
"I'll never do that again, unless when I'm a father my son wants me to do it with him."
And my personal favorite-
"We live in a generation of professional pickle-suckers."

I learned so much from this conference, most of which came as a slap in the face on where I need to improve, and then an occasional message which served as an ice pack to ease the sting and comfort my soul. The most exciting part of this conference however was easily the announcement of the new temples. One of the hardest things to teach about over here is temples. We teach how temples are beautiful places where we can draw closer to the Lord, how we can do necessary work there for our ancestors, how our families can be united eternally through the ordinances there, and how the covenants we make there are an essential part of our salvation. It's heartbreaking to see people get so excited as they learn and when they ask us where the nearest one is we tell them that it's in Hong Kong, several thousand miles and rupees away. Many members go without and save for years on end just to be able to afford to take their families there once. The unequivocal faith and devotion of these members adds strength to my testimony and resolve to serve the Lord, but when my companion and I heard the announcement of the Bangkok Thailand temple and realized that it's almost twice as close to India as Hong Kong, we couldn't help but shout for joy. That Temple is going to be an almost indispensable blessing to the faithful members here who have been saving to make the journey to the Lord's house, and It's just another testimony to me that this work is going forward unhindered for the blessing of all of god's children. :)

And last but not least, photos!
These are from our sight-seeing P-day a few weeks ago.

Until next time everyone, stay awesome and rock on. :)
-Elder Clouds

The library which just happened to be closed on Mondays. Oh well...

From left to right: Elder Anderson, Elder Peter, a white statue of Elder Cloward with a turban and a mustache, Elder Cloward, and Elder Thompson.

Mahatma Gandhi, in the flesh! (kinda...)
The "SomelongHindinamethatIcan'tpronounce Government office"
Another picture of the government building! Yay!

The front of the government building! Woohoo!

Whooooa, a red one...

Sad faces because they don't let white tourists past this gate. (we walked in with the throng of Indians going through the front gate and they still kicked us out)

"Elder Cloward, stop saying 'Cubbon' Park, it's pronounced 'Koobon' Park" "Brother, what's the name of this park?" "This is 'Cubbon' Park sir." One point for Elder Cloward! Regardless though it was a beautiful park.

Monday, April 6, 2015

E-mail: April 6, 2015 "Goodbye India :( "

Wow, just when you think you've finally settled in and everything is going normal the Lord throws a curveball at you. Ever since India has opened up for missionary work the missionaries who serve here have had to be smart and pay special attention to a few rules and regulations because of the diversity of the religious spectrum that dominates the country. This week we received word that due to several new laws which were just passed here openly spreading christianity is now prohibited and, until further notice, all missionary work has come to a halt. The church will be transferring most of the current India missionaries (including myself) to the Philippines where we will likely be finishing our missions. Our mission president has been vigorously trying to get things sorted out and has done everything he can to let missionary work continue here but unfortunately this is the situation for now. We will be heading to the Philippines within 2 weeks (if everything gets figured out and they're ready for us by then) and hopefully we'll be able to get back into missionary work soon.
They informed us of these changes last week on April 1st.

We had an excellent zone training last Saturday with President Berrett where we felt the Spirit testify to us of the things we need to do better and the changes we need to make to allow the Lord to work with us more abundantly. Among many challenges he gave us was to read a new copy of the book of mormon in 62 days (in time for the next zone conference) and mark with different colors every reference to the Gospel of Christ, which are faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. As we finished the meeting I made a small wager with my companion: last one to finish the Book of Mormon treats his companion to a Krispe Kreme doughnut. Elder Thompson told me that he wasn't much of a reader before his mission so I thought this would be an easy way to win a free treat from him. Imagine my chagrin when I looked over his shoulder today to see that he's already 75 pages and I'm barely through the first couple chapters of 1 Nephi. I guess that's what I get for making a bet on a scripture challenge, however the challenge itself is an excellent idea and I encourage anyone who wants to join. If you start now and read 9 pages a day you can have the book of mormon completed by June 8th, and if you want a little extra challenge and feel like pitting yourself against Elder Clouds he might send a postcard to anyone who can beat him. ;) If you're up for the challenge then start reading from the beginning (including the introduction and testimonies) today and email me each week with where you are and I'll reply with where I am. You don't have to mark it up like we are, just read it. Oh, and since I started today that'll give you two extra days after I finish to still win.
Are you up for it? Do you want an awesome spiritual experience and a postcard from India? Do it, I dare you. ;)

This last week we had an awesome time being able to share the message of Easter with those we visited. There's something special about the story of Christ's Death and Resurrection that brings a special spirit to the homes and the hearts it penetrates. An interesting insight was made in Gospel Principles on Sunday when the Elder teaching the class asked us to think of someone we loved and if we would be willing to lay down our life for them. Throughout the class there was a unanimous yes as the participants thought about their friends and families, but then the missionary asked us all to think of someone that we disliked and whether or not we would be willing to die for them. As we all envisioned the one or two people that we either knew personally or knew of that we didn't particularly love no one was able to honestly say that they could give up their life for him/her. The Elder went on to explain that that's exactly what Jesus did. The Savior not only died for those who loved him but also for those who despised him. He died for all the people who mocked Him during HIs ministry; He died for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him; He died for Pilot, who let an innocent man be condemned to death because he feared the people; He died for the man who pushed the crown of thorns onto his head, the man who tore his flesh at the scourging post, and the man who nailed his hands and feet to a cross. "Greater love hath no man than this, than he who would lay down his life for his friends." Yet in order to truly become like the Savior we must be willing to not only do good to our enemies but love them enough to sacrifice for them. Do something this week for someone whom you have a hard time loving and watch as your bitterness or resentment towards that person melts away into Christlike love. I testify that it works. I testify of the Savior's infinite love for us. I testify that it was because of that love that he chose to suffer more than is possible for any of us to even comprehend so that we could be forgiven and cleansed if we will only choose to follow Him. But most of all I testify that He lives, and because of His life and His sacrifice we will all have the chance to live forever in exaltation.

Until next week-
Elder Cloward

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

E-mail March 30, 2015 "Baptism? Hey man, I can't swim!"

We've been working with an awesome young man named for a little more than a month and he's turned out to be a 14-karot golden investigator. One day as we were walking to an appointment we got a call from a number we didn't recognize and after greeting this guy that we didn't know he said that a friend had told him about our church and he wanted us to teach him. After picking up our jaws off of the ground we set an appointment with him and the rest has become history. He's been learning really well and he's probably the first investigator I've had that keeps all of his commitments. We love working with him. The best part? His name is Krishna, the Hindu cow god. This week we taught him about baptism and extended the invitation to be baptized, to which he responded that he doesn't swim. After clarifying that he would only be under water for a few seconds he accepted and is doing an exceptional job at preparing himself for it. When we pray and have faith the Lord will put people into our path whom He wants us to help, which for us as missionaries usually comes in the form of an investigator. This experience also taught me about the importance of opening our mouths about the Gospel. Because of one simple sentence, probably less than 10 words, someone opened up the gate that is leading Krishna to salvation. Make a goal to be the kind of person today who has enough courage and faith to lead others to salvation and then see how the Lord will pour out His blessings on you. I dare you. ;)

On the topic of baptism there was another young man this week who we taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ which includes the first principles and ordinances that lead to salvation. First is faith in Jesus Christ, second is repentance, third is baptism, fourth is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and last is Enduring to the end. As we teach this lesson we like to go back and ask our investigators to repeat the steps back to us to make sure they understand, and that's what we did with this young man. He remembered faith and repentance but couldn't remember what came next. We decided to help him out and told him it started with the letter B and started making splashing noises. Immediately his face lit up and he said "Oh I know, bathtub!".

Because the people here have limited English we use very simple words to help them understand the concepts we teach them, but apparently telling them that our church buildings have a giant bathtub where we perform baptisms only confuses things later on. Lesson learned.

Before I close I just want to send a quick note to any young men who are preparing to go on missions or who aren't quite sure yet if they want to go. The most simple yet best advice I can give to any young man about a mission is to listen to the people who sell your favorite shoes and Just Do It.
If you can't decide whether a mission is for you or not I can testify with all the certainty of my soul that it is, now just do it. It is impossible to comprehend or even imagine how a mission will change your life, take it from someone who couldn't see two inches past his nose when he left. A mission will change you in ways that aren't possible in any other setting. it is more important than college, your job, or any girlfriend in the world (sorry ladies). There are two main reasons I can see why the Lord has issued a commandment, not a suggestion, for young men to serve missions. Reason number 1- People need to hear the gospel, and they need you to help them change their lives! Reason number 2, which is just as important, if not more so- is that you need the Lord to change your life in the ways that are only available while you're serving a full time mission. So to all those young men who are preparing right now, keep yourselves worthy at all costs and continue to prepare yourselves. And to all of you who are thinking that a mission isn't for you, please believe my words, man up, and Just Do It. If you do you'll never regret it, and you can take that as a personal promise from Elder Cloward and the Lord. :)

Until next time everyone, rock on. :)
-Elder Clouds

E-mail March 23, 2014

Well my stitches are out and I'm back in the full swing of missionary work. This was the best week we've had for teaching in a long time, and although it left us tired out of our minds it's so rewarding when you know that you worked hard and helped someone to come a little closer to Christ. I had a discussion with my companion this week about the law of the harvest; how we sow what we reap and get back exactly as much as we put into something. This principle has become an equation that we can live by as a missionary. When we choose to give our all to the work, even if our appointments bunk or a lesson doesn't go as well as we planned and we feel like our time was wasted, it always comes back to us. For example there was a home we tried to find right after I came to this area but despite our best efforts we couldn't figure out which house it was. None of the members knew this man and none of the neighbors in the area spoke English, and so after trying three different times we decided he didn't live there anymore. A few weeks later we were in the same area again and we felt like we should try one more time. To make a long story short, we finally found the man and his family and they've become one of our best families to visit. The faith and spirit we feel every time we visit him easily makes up for the all the time we spent wandering around looking for a door number that didn't exist. Whatever we give of ourselves to serve the Lord always comes back to us, I testify of that. I also testify of the importance of following the spirit, because if we hadn't this family would still be lost to us.

In our apartment we have 4 elders and 4 beds, but there are 5 mattresses. Out of the four of us my companion was the only Elder previously living in the apartment so when we first arrived he told us that the extra mattress was already "taken". I feel bad admitting it, but watching my companion sleep on peacefully and comfortably on a bed that's twice as cushy as mine made me just a little bit jealous.

So I hatched a plan.

One day after coming home I said I was tired and wanted to go to bed early. After making sure that Elder Thompson wasn't coming to bed for a while I carefully slipped his extra mattress onto my bed, tucked both of our sheets back in perfectly so he wouldn't notice, and immediately went to sleep. I knew that if I was already asleep when he came in he would be nice enough to let me sleep instead of trying to get it back, and so when he came to bed much earlier than I anticipated I closed my eyes and stayed perfectly still. I peeked just enough to see him walk over to the beds, look at his, look at mine, then sigh in frustration as he flopped down onto a slightly less soft surface then he's used to. As the lights went out I smiled in smug satisfaction and then drifted off to sleep. The next day I was surprised, however, when he didn't make any reference to my stunt, and at the end of the day I was beginning to wonder if maybe he hadn't noticed. As I walked into the room ready for bed I noticed that Elder Thompson had already fallen asleep, but I didn't think anything of it. I walked over to my bed and let my fatigued body drop onto the mattress, only to sit back up in pain as my back felt the full force of the wooden 2x4s in my bed frame. My companion immediately started snickering uncontrollably and as I stood up to see what had happened I realized that he had completely overturned my bed frame and placed the mattress back on top of the ribbed bottom to make it look normal. I learned that day that I'm living with a force to be reckoned with, but the wheels of revenge are turning and I'm already plotting my retaliation.

Elder Thompson, you have been warned.

And more pictures!

Until next time everyone, stay strong and Morm-on. ;)
-Elder Cloward

I'm pretty sure that D&C 89 says that oats are meant for horses...

it's a little hard to see but this highway is actually going right down the middle of a jungle preserve. Pretty cool ah?

Welcome to the Vijay Kiran apartments. The only downside is that those trees fill up with bats the size of small dogs every night. *Shudder*

Maybe this restaurant can't afford real plates, or maybe these are considered fancier than fancy dining ware. Either way I'm happy with it. :)
That's rice and curry, and that's a banana leaf. Put them together and we call it lunch. 

This is how missionaries work out their abs in the morning. (Ignore the look of extreme pain on my face.)

I can't get enough of these sunsets.

Public restrooms are extremely rare in India, so we were so excited when we saw this sign- until we realized that it's actually just pointing at that tree. I guess it's back to basics over here.