Monday, July 27, 2015

E-mail: July 27, 2015 "One year older and wiser too"

This week marks one year from the time I packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends and family and entered the world of curry and missionary work. When I think about this last year I can't believe how fast it's gone, yet at the same time I feel like I have far more than a year's worth of memories that I've gained. I've learned more and grown more out here than any other time in my life. I've experienced more happiness and joy and also more stress and frustration than I thought was possible, and more than anything I've started to learn how to trust in the Lord and let Him do for me what I can't do alone. In short this last year has been the best year of my life, and I'm sure that this next year will go even faster and be even better. Thanks to all of you for your support, encouragement, letters, emails, and funny comics about getting an appendix taken out. Although I'm trying to stay focused on the work it's refreshing and encouraging to hear from each of you. I apologize for not emailing or writing back to each of you very often. Missionary work is busy as, well, missionary work, and sometimes in the craziness I forget or don't have time to reply. I'll I'll be better at it from now on though. :)

It was really funny to see the power of perspective when I landed in the Philippines. After we landed we met up with the new missionaries at the MTC as we traveled to the mission together, and as we traveled the greenies and the missionaries from India made many comments about what they were seeing. Her are a few of the contrasting opinions I heard:

"Wow, look at all the street dogs."
"Wow, where did all the street dogs go?"

"Man, I thought we were going to die on that ride over."
"Man, that was the safest ride I've had in a year."

"It's hard to see so much poverty."
"It's great to see so much wealth again."

"The traffic is really crazy here."
"The cars actually stop when we cross the road? No way!"

"This is nothing like back home."
"It feels like we're back home again."

The contrast went beyond just conversation though when on our first night we all decided to walk to the local 7-Eleven for a snack. We needed to cross the road and so at the first break in the traffic ALL the Indian missionaries instinctively ran across leaving the two new elders and several angry drivers thinking we were all crazy. "You can take the missionary out of India, but you can't take India out of the missionary" has become my new catch phrase.

As I thought about these differences in perspective it made me think back to when my companions and I would occasionally have an argument about something. He would want to do something one way that I thought was totally crazy, and he would think the same thing about my way of doing it. Most of the time it never came down to one person being right and the other being wrong, it was simply two different people with different experiences seeing the same problem and offering different solutions. If I think about how those new missionaries came straight from their homes in America it's now surprise that they think it's so different, even though I think it's basically the same. In the same way if we take the time to look through someone else's eyes, to understand why they see something the way they do, we would be much more capable of solving any problems productively and peaceably. That's my challenge to you this week, before you judge someone else's way of thinking first try to understand it, they may end up being more right than you thought they were. ;)

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

Here are some pictures Sis. Clark sent us:

This is a map of the mission so that we can keep track of where he is serving.
(If you click on the map it will pop out into another window a little bit bigger.)

Top: Elder Cloward and his new companion, Elder Operio
Bottom: Elder Cloward with Pres. & Sis. Clark


Monday, July 20, 2015

E-mail July 20, 2015: "Hello, ako po si Elder Cloward, hindi ako nagta Tagalog."‏

Translation: Hello, I'm Elder Cloward, I don't speak Tagalog.
My companion helped me learn that much to start my talk for Sacrament meeting yesterday.

Holy flip, I'm definitely not in India anymore. For the last several months I've heard from other missionaries what the Philippines is like but I could never picture it very well. When we landed in manila I had to double check my flight ticket to make sure I hadn't boarded the wrong plane to California. It was so green and lush and organized It looked like we had stepped back into America. There were so many crazy differences from India, the replacement of curry hotels to beef restaurants being among the most notable, but as we started to get around we noticed a lot of similarities as well. The main mode of transportation for us here are jeepneys, which looks like the offspring of a 4x4 jeep and a school bus, and trikes, which look like a motorcycle and an auto-rickshaw holding hands side-by-side. To us they're pretty much the same thing as autos and share autos, but the wide roads and lack of traffic means that we get where we're going a lot faster.

I've been assigned to the Philippines Angeles mission serving in the Angeles zone, the biggest part of the biggest city in the mission (I've come to terms with the fact the I'm never getting out of the city on my mission, so I'm just trying to roll with it now). Our mission is very close to Manila so after we met the other missionaries at the MTC we drove to our mission in a van. It was a big difference from taking flights just to get to the other zones like we do in India, but It's cool to know that the church is so established here that the areas are that close together. After we arrived at the mission home we went through orientation with the greenies, and who should I run into but Elder Colt Williams who was there at the same time to pick up a trainee. It was great to see him again and after we had chatted for a minute about our missions he went back to work with the other missionaries speaking what sounded to me like perfectly fluent Tagalog. (We took pictures but my camera's being fussy so I can't send them today, sorry).

 I've been wondering if they would let the Indian missionaries speak English because we likely won't be here very long, but that hope was shattered the moment the mission president dropped a 'learn Tagalog' book in front of each of us and said "you have an extra 60 minutes for language study every day, get to work." No classes, no instruction, no anything. For any of you that have seen The Other Side Of Heaven that's pretty much what I feel like right now (I've already secured my own Tagalog Book of Mormon for the side-by-side approach as well). My new companion is an awesome Filipino Missionary named Elder Operio, and thanks to his help I've already learned a few phrases, but I've got a long ways to go before I can converse or teach in this crazy language. Regardless of that they asked me to speak in sacrament meeting yesterday so I gave most of it in English and then read my testimony that had been translated by Elder Operio. I tried to break my English the same way I do in India to help people understand, but I learned real quick that Indian-English doesn't work over here. Thankfully though I found out that most of the members speak very fluent English, so it'll be a little easier than I thought.

We went on exchange with some of the Ward Missionaries the other day, brother Edsel and Sister Mariel, and they Insisted that I try Balut after only being in the country for 24 hours. Now let me tell you about Balut- Imagine a chicken egg that's been fertilized and left alone for several weeks until the embryo has developed into a baby chicken. Boil it, crack it, slurp it, munch it; that's how they do it and that's how I did it. I've never been closer to throwing up because of crazy food in my life, but I managed to get it down. I'm glad I tried it, but the next time someone tries to play 'Kill the American in His First Week in a New Country', I'm going to opt out. Included is the video. The brown thing on top is the baby chicken, and I'm trying to dilute the flavor with with salt and vinegar.

Anyways everyone pray that I survive as I try to master this new culture and language. Until next time, magandang gabi po.
-Elder Cloward

Here's his video of eating balut:  

video


Here are a couple of pictures that Sis. Clark sent today of the missionaries that got there last week:





And, just because I like to find things out and share them with you: 
This is his new mission president:  (from lds.org Feb. 2014)

Scott Boyd Clark, 54, and Sandra Gail Clark, four children, Naperville 3rd Ward, Joliet Illinois Stake.  Brother Clark is a former stake president, high councilor, bishop, ward Young Men president and missionary in the Japan Sendai Mission. Vice president and general counsel, National Surgical Hospitals. Born in Salt Lake City to Wallace Ivan and Colleen Christensen Clark.

Sister Clark is a former stake seminary supervisor, counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency, stake camp director, ward missionary, counselor in a ward Young Women presidency, seminary teacher, and temple coordinator. Born in Murray, Utah, to Jay Kent and Bonnie Jean Curtis.

Monday, July 13, 2015

E-mail: July 13, 2015 "Oh come on, I just cleaned this!"

"Elder, where's the lid for the blender jar?"
"Don't know Elder, sorry."
"Okay, I guess I'll find something else..."

This is more or less the conversation my companion and I had Sunday morning as we prepared food to have for lunch after church. He was preparing chutney, I was upstairs getting ready, and disaster was lurking in the corners of the kitchen. I never understood before why they tell us to stay on the same floor of the building as your companion, but now I know. As I walked downstairs and into the kitchen to check on his progress I stepped into the aftermath of a chutney tornado. It covered everything; the counters, the floor, the cupboards all the way on the other side of the room, but best of all was my companion, who was covered head to toe. Apparently when he couldn't find the right lid for the jar he decided to just use it without one, which resulted in him and the kitchen looking like a chutney-stained battlefield. After I regained my composure from laughing more than I should have, I offered to help him clean up, but he insisted that he do it himself. As he dabbed at the chutney and massaged his injured pride I chuckled one last time and then continued to get ready. Lesson learned- always use the right lid on the blender, or don't blend at all.

Speaking of blender lids there was another important lesson they taught me a little while back. In my old apartment we used our blender frequently to prepare smoothies, chutneys, and other items. All the lids to the jars were purple, which made them easy to identify when we opened our less than organized kitchen cupboards, but unfortunately I learned the hard way that the purple dye wasn't as permanent as it should've been. Somehow, (and I still can't figure out how) one of the purple lids got into my laundry without my knowing. I was surprised as I removed the lid from my laundry after the wash, but I was even more surprised to discover a large purple stain on the back of one of my white shirts. Luckily this wasn't the first time I've had my clothes stained by an unwanted object in the wash so I knew that the stain would fade after a few more cycles, or at least I hoped it would. So far I've had my white clothes stained green, purple, and blue twice, which has left them all a nice shade of grey. You'd think that I would learn after the first, second, or third time of doing this, but considering the fact that I even remember to wash my clothes regularly at all is a miracle you can't really blame me.

These last 6 weeks in Chennai have been awesome. I've had many ups and downs but I feel like I've grown tremendously here during this transfer. I leave for the Philippines tonight to renew my visa and I'm heartbroken to be leaving a city and a branch that I've come to love so much. On the bright side though we were able to baptize our investigator, Joseph, yesterday. We've been working with him for a long time and I worried he wouldn't be ready before I left, but due to some divine help it happened.
Here are the photos:

Me, my companion, and Joseph

Ready for baptism

Right before the service (honestly I can't remember what we were laughing at...)

"wait, the baptism's today?"

Once again: me, my companion, and Joseph
Anyways everyone until next time stay strong and stay awesome. :)
-Elder Clouds

Thursday, July 9, 2015

E-mail: July 6, 2015 "I don't care if it adds flavor"

One thing I've grown accustomed to while living here in India is always having to share our apartment with uninvited guests. These 'guests' include spiders, cockroaches, ants, several varieties of lizards, mosquitoes, and that branch member who drops by uninvited every once in a while hoping we'll give him food. Most of these can be controlled fairly easily; using bug spray, sleeping under the fan where the mosquitoes can't get us, and chasing the lizards and the branch member outside with a broom, all seem to be affective ways to keep the pests away. Yet, despite our best efforts and our ability to keep all the other critters away, we can't manage to control the ants. Ants are everywhere here, from the big ones that could bite your toe off to the minuscule ones that take a magnifying glass to detect, they always find a way to pester us. The infestation we have now consists of tiny ants that eat everything from sugar to toothbrushes (true story).

If you leave a snack on the counter for longer than 20 minutes the entire colony will arrive to devour it before you get back. I hate to admit it but I was fascinated the other day as I watched them trace a straight line almost 20 feet long across the floor from the food source to their colony without resting or deviating from the path. My fascination quickly turned into fierce anger however when I opened a sealed package of biscuits only to find that the six-legged devils had gotten to them first.

My breakfasts usually consist of cornflakes and rolled oats topped with bananas, honey, and milk. I keep the bananas and the honey well out the reach of the ants, but I didn't think they'd be audacious enough to touch my unsweetened oats.

My mistake. The problem is that I didn't notice until after I'd gotten halfway through my breakfast.
Before my mission if I'd seen 20+ dead ants floating in my cereal I would've thrown it and the bag of oats away immediately. Now however, when money is tight and food is precious, I resorted to freezing them so they'd at least be dead and making sure I don't look into my bowl while I eat breakfast from now on.

The ironic part is that lately I've been looking for ways to get more protein into my diet. The Lord truly blesses us with what we need when we need it (sometimes with a touch of cruel humor).

While we're on the topic of ants I had another experience with them a short while back that taught me a valuable principle. We were visiting a less active sister outside her home when I noticed that the Elder beside me was constantly shuddering and swatting at himself. As I looked closely I saw he was covered in ants, but after he shook them all off he'd be covered again in just a few minutes. We realized they were coming from a small electric cable running just above our heads, and the reason they were falling down onto this missionary is because they were all marching upside down on the bottom of the cable. The ones that didn't fall on him landed on the ground where they wandered around not knowing how to get back.

As I looked at them I couldn't help but think to myself- "Stupid ants, why are you all walking on the bottom of the cable when you know you could fall, just walk on the top where you'll be safe." As I thought this I remembered something I learned years ago about ants- when one ant finds food it leaves a chemical trail back to it's colony that other ants can sense and follow. Ants trust their senses so much that they'll follow the trail regardless of where it leads them, which in this case was walking precariously upside down 10 feet in the air.

How often are we like that? How often do we do follow what everyone else is doing regardless of how pointless or even dangerous it is just because we don't want to stand out? Going with the flow is not the Lord's way, and when He was on earth He paved the perfect example of what it means to stand out. He fearlessly went against religious and cultural norms of His day because He knew they were wrong, and because of His example many others followed. When we follow the way that the Lord has shown us we stay safe, when we choose to follow the crowd ,we risk falling and not being able to get back on our own. I pray that each of us will have the courage to follow the Savior regardless of what everyone else is doing. I pray that each of us will have the courage to be different.

Anyways, until next week everyone, don't be an ant, or a lemming, "or anything like unto it". :)
-Elder Cloward


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

E-mail: June 29, 2015 "Speaking Proper English I'm Not Anymore"

Well it's officially happened, my English has been broken.

One of the challenges with teaching people in a country where English is a second, third, fourth, or sometimes even fifth language is that regardless of how well you annunciation or how slow you speak, very few people will understand what you're trying to say. The solution? You learn how to speak English the way they do. A typical lesson for someone who doesn't know much English could go something like this-

"Joseph Smith is having one doubt. Wanting to know, which church is true. He's looking for answer from Bible. Yakobu (James) is telling if you have doubt you should ask God. Joseph Smith is going into one forest and praying. God and Jesus Christ come and tell don't join any church, because no church is true.'

That kind of language, coupled with Indian tones and pronunciation, make it possible for many of our investigators to understand the basics of our message when we teach. The problem is that when you speak like that all the time your brain gets used to it. Yesterday in sacrament meeting there were several visiting Americans in the congregation, and as I stood to give my talk I tried to speak so that they could also understand, but try as I might my American English wouldn't come. My companion's words to me after the meeting were-

"Wow, I don't think the Americans sitting behind me could understand anything you said."
"Dang it. What about the Indian members?"
"Oh yeah, to them it was fine."

Oh well, at least I'm good at speaking to the people I'm here to teach. After I come home though, it may be best if you give me a month or two before you talk to me face to face, because I doubt we'll understand each other.

This week we visited one of our investigators who hasn't been coming to church. When we asked her why, she said that she has exams coming up and she has to study. As we pressed her and tried to explain how if she came to church God would help her with her exams, we also learned that she's goes to school from morning till evening six days a week and Sunday is the only day she has to study and do her housework. Furthermore she lives two and a half hours away and has to take an auto, then a train, then a bus to get to church, which leaves her almost no time for anything else on Sunday. As we listened to her, I couldn't bring myself to ask her to come to church again knowing how stressed she was and how real her situation is. That was my mistake. I had forgotten that more than just coming to church on Sunday, Heavenly Father has commanded us to keep the Sabbath day holy and has given us that day because He knows we need the rest. The next time we visited with her the member we brought with us bore powerful testimony of the importance of the Sabbath and committed her to come to church. The miraculous part? She came. All two and half hours to and from by auto, train and bus.

Excuse me, but your excuse for breaking the Sabbath is invalid.

I've known many church members (especially teens) who justify working on Sunday or not coming to church. "My job won't won't give me time off." "I was up too late last night." "I'm saving money for a mission so I have to work." "I have to study for my super-duper important exam." etc. I'm going to share with you what I learned this week, which is that God expects us to have enough faith in Him to keep this commandment regardless of our circumstances. My challenge to you this week is that if you're not keeping this commandment the way you should be, fix it. If you do, The Lord will provide. He always has, and He always will. I testify of that.

Anyways until next week, ya'll take care. :)
-Elder Flower


E-mail: June 22, 2015 "Really, you don't say?"

One of our investigators whom we recently started teaching was having a hard time with the Word of Wisdom. He has a medical condition which requires him to go to the hospital multiple times a week for treatment and his excuse was that while he's in the hospital one of the only beverages available is tea and it's the easiest thing to take while he's lying on a bed for hours. As we met with him this week though we were surprised to learn that he'd given up his tea and coffee. He had read an article written by a doctor who described all the negative effects of those two specific beverages, and just a few days later watched a program on TV which mentioned the same thing. Whether he took it as a spiritual affirmation of the commandment or decided it was just common sense I don't know, but now he's keeping it and enjoying the blessings

Most of the people we teach are pretty open and willing to accept our message. We can get them to pray, we can get them to read the scriptures, often we can even get new investigators to come to church, but as soon as we teach the word of wisdom and commit people to give up tea and coffee, a bomb goes off.

"Why can't we drink tea or coffee? What's wrong with it? My doctor told me I need to take it. Why does everyone else drink it? Why do some church members drink it? Actually I know tea and coffee are good for you because Adam and Eve drank it. I need it for my health condition. Why did God make it if we can't drink it? yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah," -You get the picture.

What's really interesting about the word of wisdom is that it's an almost sure-proof way to determine who's becoming converted and who's not. For many Christians who already read the Bible and go to church each week it's not that hard to start reading the Book of Mormon or come to our church when we ask them to, but when they actually have to give something up it really tests whether or not their committed to our message. I think the same is true for us as members, especially those who have been members most of their lives. It's easy to come to church if all of your friends are going, it's easy to read your scriptures if seminary requires it, and young women and scouting activities are usually enticing enough by themselves, but the real test comes when the Lord asks you to give up something when you don't entirely know the reason. This week we watched Ephraim's Rescue for our branch movie night and I'm reminded of the scene when Brigham Young asks Eph to shave off his beard before coming back to the party. His words after Ephraim obeys without question stand out to me- "Now there is a man that will give strict obedience, regardless the nature of my request. There is a man that l can trust with the most important of missions." In essence that it was the Lord says whenever we choose to be obedient to the "small and simple things". Who will you be? One who justifies his or her wrongs with any myriad of excuses? Or one who is humble enough to keep ALL the commandments even when you don't know why? The Lord waits for us to do the small things before He ever tasks us with His larger jobs, I testify of that.

We all decided to wear some traditional clothes this P-Day in honor of ...something, I'm sure.
We had a great time, enjoy. :)

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


'Sup?

Chennai Zone- from left to right: Elder Pushparaj, Elder Devarapalli, Elder Peterson, Elder Bandi, Sister Rai, Sister Pedely, Sister Rainuthal, Elder Bunga, Elder Kumar, a very white Indian wannabe, and Elder Larson.

Indian Swag

"Namaskar"

This is what I call an Indian Rainbow.

Aren't we adorable?
No these are not dresses. They're called Lungies, and they're all the rage over here.