Monday, February 29, 2016

E-mail Feb. 29, 2016: "Oh no, I said it..."

While I've been in India I've noticed that there are many habits and idiosyncrasies that are unique to the culture here. Many of these things are fun and quirky and I've enjoyed picking up on them. Things like bobbing my head when I talk, using expressions from the local language such as "Aiyo!" (Oh my goodness!) and "epide ah?" (wait, really?), eating with my hands, and many other things that have become a part of me now, however there are a few things that I said I would never do, one of which is using the term "five minutes."

In India when someone says " only five minutes" what they really mean is "at least 45 minutes" or "I have no idea how long" and knowing that has helped me to avoid a lot of wasted time. However tonight as I went to borrow the key for the clerk room from the security guard (yes the church buildings here all have security guards, sweet right?) I knew I would be spending at least 30 minutes finishing some work and yet I inadvertently told him "five minutes, brother."

I've officially been broken in all the way now. I just hope that this and my other bad habit of crossing a busy street while sticking out my hand to stop the traffic don't stick around too long after I get home.

Our investigator Prem was baptized yesterday and I had the privilege of performing the ordinance.

Prem is the one who told us that he would never be baptized but after we invited him to read the Book of Mormon he did so and gained a strong enough of a witness of it to change his mind. The service was excellent and I felt the Spirit very strong as he testified to me that what we had done was good. Baptisms always serve as great reminders of why I'm out here and how God really is in charge of His work. I testify that the guiding hand of the Lord these last few months is the reason for the baptisms we've had and were it not for Him none of them, especially yesterday's, would have been possible. Always remember that the Lord has all power and He can do anything for us if we will let Him. :)

Oh, and sorry there are no pictures of the baptism today. We had some "technical difficulties" here at the church so I'll have to send them next week.

Anyways love you all. Stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Saturday, February 27, 2016

E-mail Feb. 22, 2016: "Applesauce..."

...Is what covered most of our kitchen yesterday thanks to yours truly.

These last few days I've been drinking a lot of apple juice and I decided that I would try to make it myself. The recipe should have been easy: blend apples with a little water and you're done; but due to my uncanny lack of patience I ended up making it a bit harder.

Blending apples in our blending jar works great, it just takes a long time and sometimes it doesn't blend everything completely. As I stood in the kitchen wondering how I could possibly make the process faster a brilliant idea came to mind: Why not use the small grinding cup attachment instead of the mixing jar? Just the day before I had read the owners manual for the blender trying to figure out what all the different jars were for. Although the caption for the grinding cup said "for small amounts of dry ingredients" I presumed I knew better than the manufacturer and proceeded with my "brilliant idea."

I chopped up the apples, added a small amount of water, stuck it in the cup, put on the lid, and turned the machine on. At first it sounded like it was going great, but again my impatience prompted me to turn up the power so it would be done faster, and that's when disaster struck.

Guess what? The grinding cup has a flat lid that's not designed for the pressure buildup that occurs when you turn up the speed on wet ingredients. Wish I'd known that beforehand.

As I turned up the power the lid blew off and an applesauce volcano erupted all over the kitchen. I say applesauce because I didn't add enough water and so it wasn't quite a liquid, which was unfortunate because sauce is much harder to clean up than juice.

After coming out of my apple-induced shock and surveying the mess I realized that it had been a bad idea. But could my bad idea become a good idea if I just used less apples? Surely that's where the problem occurred, so I sliced up another apple and only partly filled the cup this time. Once again I turned on the machine and once again the lid blew off and I was standing in a second coat of sticky sauce.

I know! If I hold the lid down tightly I'll be able to keep it on and I can finish the rest of my apples this way! So for the third time I loaded up the grinder, popped on the poor lid and after pressing it down with all my might switched on the blender.

They say that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. If that's true then I certified myself as clinically insane today because even after the third try I once again got the same disastrous result.

My folly doesn't even end there though. After finally finishing my apples I was pretty hungry and as I looked around at the mess I decided that I'd come back later to clean it up. Guess what? Applesauce doesn't clean up so good when it's dry. I ended up spending a large amount of time scrubbing and re-scrubbing every inch of our kitchen within a four foot radius of the blender until it was finally shining again.

I know you're all probably waiting for pictures of all this but unfortunately that was the day I left my camera in the other Elders' apartment. Go figure.

I share this story because as I was scrubbing I couldn't help but think about how I could have avoided all this and how maybe there were some life lessons to learn from this. Here's a few that I found:
-In many areas of life and the gospel there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. I had read the manual but still felt that my way was better and that I was smarter than the makers. How often do we read the instructions given to us by our Maker yet persist in our own way because we think we know better? I learned to trust the manuals I've been given instead of doing things my way.

-The first time I made the mistake should have taught me to do things differently, and the second time should have been more than enough. How often do we realize our mistakes and even repent of them but still fall back to our old habits again and again? I learned that it's not very smart to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. The very reason God provided repentance is for us to change, and I realized that if I'm not changing then I guess I'm not really repenting.

-The third time I tried I thought I was strong enough to keep the lid on and therefore avoid the problem. How many times do we know the commandments but get close to the lines anyways because we think we're strong enough to avoid sin until it's too late and we end up covered in problems? I learned that even if I think I'm strong enough for something I shouldn't take the risk.
-And finally I shouldn't have waited to clean up my mess. Do we ever make a mistake, big or small, and then avoid cleaning it up because we think it will be too hard, we don't really need to, or we're afraid of what people will think? I learned that if I had cleaned up my mess immediately it would've made things much easier for me.

I end this with my testimony that the Savior lives and His atonement is real. If we will trust in Him we can avoid so many problems and heartaches but even if we have strayed from the path it's never too late, or too early, to repent. I testify that Christ is there to help each of us clean up our individual messes, no matter how sticky they may be.

Love you all. Stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail Feb. 15, 2016: "Tracting? What's that?"

Yup we did it, for probably the first time in my entire mission I experienced the T-word, Tracting.

I think it's funny how everyone always associates missionary work with knocking on doors and handing out flyers and in my mission we do very little of that. There's a reason of course; due to the potentially hostile individuals who are seriously opposed to spreading Christianity in India and who may or may not know who we are we've been trying to not show up at peoples doorsteps offering to help them change religions. There's been little bit of fear among the missionaries here for a long time when we think about going out of our way to show people who we are and what we do, and for good reason. In fact in one city the missionaries don't wear their tags and there was a solid month where I didn't even wear a tie outside because it was considered unsafe. The culture of fear that we've been living in is coming to an end though as our mission president has been inviting us to exercise our faith and trust on God to keep us safe. President Berrett feels it's time set our fear aside and start showing India that we're here, so he's invited us to do more open proselyting and start talking to people wherever we are. My companion and I desperately need new people to teach so we tried it out on Wednesday and knocked on doors until our knuckles were sore. It's interesting the type of people you meet when you tract; some are warm and friendly, others turn us away or try to convince us that were not really Christians. As we experienced those and many more such interactions that afternoon I couldn't help but think "wow, is this what missionary work is like everywhere else?" The day ended up being fruitless for us in finding new investigators but I'm sure that as we exercise our faith and put away our fears God will start working miracles, just like He always does.

Elder Samson got transferred last Tuesday. We had a great time together and as he said goodbye to the people here in Coimbatore I noticed several people get misty eyed. He truly made a difference the 6 months he was here, and I hope that I can emulate his example of love and diligence.

My new companion is Elder Krishnavelu, and his name literally means "The Spear of God", and if it wasn't a Hindu god it would be perfectly appropriate for his calling. He's a native of Bengaluru and we actually came on our missions at the same time. He's soft spoken with a big heart and he loves a good joke. I'll think we'll have a good time together. ;)

Anyways until next time everyone, all the best. :)
-Elder Clouds

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

E-mail Feb. 8, 2016: "Can you say Bengaluru?"

Because that's now the official name of the Mission I'm serving in. Let me explain why: when the British took over India hundreds of years ago they changed the name of many of the capital cities. After India gained it's Independence the government changed many of the cities back to their original cultural names. Bombay was changed to Mumbai, Madras was changed to Chennai, and Bangalore was changed back to Bengaluru. It took time for the change to catch on but now that it's beginning to sink in the Church authorized us to change the name of the mission to reflect the original name of the city. When my return home my official release will be from the India Bengaluru mission. Just a fun fact. :)

I learned something interesting this week. As I've been doing my laundry these last couple of weeks every time I take out my whites and hang up my shirts there's one shirt that is full of holes, the collar is wearing out, and the fabric over the whole thing is starting to get torn up. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why it was like that. I bought it at the same time and it's the same brand as all the other shirts I took on my mission, all of which are still in good condition. As I sat puzzling over my haggard shirt I realized what had happened. Almost one year ago when I was serving in Bengaluru my companion accidentally polished his BLACK shoes with one of my shirts thinking it was a junk shirt. Not wanting to lose one of my good shirts I spent an hour bleaching, washing, and heavily scrubbing all the shoe polish out of it until it looked like new. After it was clean it looked just all the other shirts, but I realize now that all the scrubbing I did caused it to wear out before any of the other shirts. I think there's a lesson for life there: Often the little sins and mistakes we make today don't show any immediate damage but destroy us later on. Breaking the Word of Wisdom is an excellent example of that; drinking and drugs can be fun in the moment but 10 years down the road it leaves lasting damage. With other sins the effects are more subtle; breaking the law of chastity, not being honest with each other, being disobedient to your parents even, they'll leave lasting effects if we don't repent and change now. Unlike my shirt which will soon have to be thrown away though the great thing about the gospel is that we know that through the atonement of Christ we can be forgiven and made whole again no matter what we've done. Remember it's always better to prevent than to repent, but no matter where you are today or how torn and tattered you may feel if you'll turn towards the Savior He can heal you. :)

Until next time everyone, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Coimbatore skyline

Saw these at the airport. Those flowers are onions.

those flowers are potatoes

He's a watermelon.

And happy frog made out of a- actually I don't remember what fruit that is. Gotta love Indian creativity. :)

These are sand murals for republic day also in the airport. They're pretty cool.

Here's another one.

Gosh that's cool.

Another side of an Indian street.

Arun's baptisms!!!

All the YSA's from 3rd branch.

Us, Arun, Sister Raman (tall), and Sister Gantimi (less-tall).

Monday, February 1, 2016

E-mail Feb. 1, 2016: "Kunchum Kunchum Miracles"

"Kunchum kunchum" means "small small" in Tamil (the local language here) and we've definitely seen some seemingly small but significant miracles lately. I'll name just a few-

So remember last week how I was telling you about our golden investigator Arun? Well he just got baptized.

Yeah buddy!

It was amazing to be able to watch Arun progress unhindered through the lessons as he developed a testimony. It was even better to answer his endless flow of questions about the gospel because it showed that he was learning and understanding. Lesson learned there, don't be afraid to ask questions, especially about the gospel. Questions help us to not only gain knowledge but I think it also has the ability to increase our interest in a subject, just so long as we do it right. Remember that with the gospel not all questions can or should be answered when we think they should be, so let your faith satisfy those doubts that presently don't have a solution.

Wow, I digress...

Another miracle we saw this week was with another one of our investigators, Prem. Prem is the relative of one of our strong members here and has been meeting with the missionaries for more than six months. Every time they invite him for baptism he says that he already took baptism in another church and he's not comfortable taking baptism in another one. When my companion and I taught him again last week we had a very long discussion about a lot of things but at the end he gave us the same answer regarding being baptized. We invited him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and he accepted on the condition that we don't teach him any more lessons. We agreed, after crossing our fingers behind our backs. To make a long story short three days later my companion was on exchange and as they were teaching a lesson to one of the member families in our branch Prem just happened to show up. Prem felt the Spirit and let them teach him about the restoration. At the end of the lesson Prem said that a few days ago he had been studying a For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet and had a strong impression that the things we were teaching were true. He said he wanted to be baptized.


Basically, our God is a God of miracles, and my testimony of that grows firmer and firmer every day I'm out here. Brothers and sisters, believe in miracles, pray for them even, and then exercise your faith. I testify that if you'll do that you too will begin to see some kunchum kunchum things bring to pass great miracles. :)

Until next time everyone, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail Jan. 25, 2016: "Finally"

My whole life whenever I've heard stories from or about missionaries there's always been the classic tale of "The Golden Investigator." I came on my mission thinking that I'd meet plenty of those and that my journal would fill up with golden people.

Guess what? It didn't work like that.

Week after week, month after month, area after area I diligently searched for an investigator who was perfectly prepared and ready to be baptized. I hoped that sooner than later I'd be able to teach someone who would accept what we taught with perfect humility and then follow through on all of our commitments until baptism. Although I taught many wonderful people and there were many who were very prepared they usually made it into the silver or bronze category of investigators.

Then we met Arun.

Arun is an amazing young adult we met a few weeks ago while visiting a recent convert. He came here to Coimbatore looking for work and is staying with one of our members. When we began teaching I didn't know what to think because he didn't speak English and Elder Samson had to translate everything, but as we taught him the lessons we watched his entire being come alive with the light of the gospel. After the first lesson we assigned him to read the introduction to the Book of Mormon before our next visit. When we showed up again we asked him if he had completed it and surprisingly he said yes (most people it takes two or three visits before they remember and find time to read it). When we asked him to explain what he understood we sat there in quiet awe as he spent the next 10 minutes perfectly relating every detail of the introduction. At the end of the lesson when we asked him to pray he again blew us away with the pure faith that underlined his humble conversation with someone whom he already recognized as his Father. Every lesson has been the same. We give and assignment, he reads it and remembers everything. We invite him to church and he comes. he even understood the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith so well that we asked him to teach that part of the lesson to another investigator, and it worked perfectly. His baptism is scheduled for this Sunday, and I'm so grateful that God led Arun to us. I'm grateful for the way that his faith has strengthened mine, for the humility that he has taught me, and for the chance I've had to witness someone who was perfectly prepared. He truly is a 24-karat Golden Investigator. :)

Oh and thanks so much for the temple pics you've all sent to me, it was the best birthday gift I could have asked for. :)

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