Tuesday, March 29, 2016

E-mail March 28, 2016: "Hot & Spicy"

No I'm not declaring my favorite flavor at KFC (although that's still an appropriate guess). Hot and Spicy basically sums up what life is like here in good ol' Hyderabad. I'll admit I forgot how blistering hot the temperature is here. Although I haven't yet suffered heat stroke I know that it's waiting to claim me as soon as I forget to pack water outside so I'm being extra careful. On top of that as if the temperature outside wasn't bad enough the signature spice here in Telangana serves to light my insides on fire as well at almost every meal. I'm adjusting to both though and I have to admit that I enjoy being in this unique and mystic city once again.

The work here is going a little slow right now. We didn't visit many investigators last week due to several holidays going on but we did have the chance to meet with many of the members. The members here are warm and friendly and most have an uncanny sense of Indian Humor which keeps us smiling. As we visit the members we're doing our best to build their trust in us as dedicated servants of the Lord and we're seeing positive results from that. Most of our current investigators are children from either part member families or are good friends with church members so we rely heavily on the active members to help fellowship and even bring them to church. I'm grateful for the support we're receiving in this area and I trust that as we do our part it will continue to increase.

Oh, and some sad news. Elder Sunny, who has literally been a ray of sunshine in this companionship is being transferred tomorrow. He'll be going to Bengaluru to serve in the south part of the convent Road ward, a place that's very close to my heart. Although I've only known him a short while we've become good friends and I'll miss him after he's gone. Elder Bandi and I are both staying though and we'll both likely be finishing our missions here. We're ready to keep working hard and to tear it up as best as we can here in A. S .Rao. :)


Our district took a trip to Golkonda Fort last week on P-Day. Golkonda fort is an ancient palace built almost 500 years ago (I think) on the top of a hill overlooking almost all of Hyderabad.  I don't remember if I sent pictures from the last time I visited so if I did bear with me. ;)

View from the front gate.

This, my friends, is called racism.

if you look closely you can see the fort is built all the way up the hill.

Peaceful little walkway. If I wasn't with a bunch of other Elders I'd probably even call it romantic.

My crazy companions: Elder Sunny (left) and Elder Bandi (right).

Almost to the top...

I couldn't resist taking one of these. ;)

Beautiful palace on the very tip of the mountain.

Anyways as always everyone stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder "Cloudy"

Friday, March 25, 2016

E-mail March 21, 2016: "Elder, you're looking so thin!"

"Elder, have you lost weight?"
"Elder Clouds, you've become so skinny!"
"Hey Elder, don't go outside in the wind, you might blow away. hahahaha."

You won't believe it, but after coming here to Hyderabad I learned that 10+ members of the West Marredpally 2nd ward, my first area, have moved into the boundaries of the A.S. Rao Nagar ward.  I had some fun reunions with old friends this week as we traveled around to the different parts of the area but time after time after time people kept asking me why I was so thin. I guess I hadn't realized it but as I looked through my old photos for an evaluation I realized that it's true. I have lost a few pounds recently due to the changes I've made in my diet. Lately I've been trying very hard to eat better and to take better care of my body. Missionary work in India, and probably in most of the rest of the world, is very physically demanding and now that summer has started I've realized how important it is to stay healthy. I've started eating much more whole fruits and vegetables and I've been taking less meat which has contributed to my weight loss. Dropping a few pounds is normal though as my body starts to function better so I'm not worried about it. I just think it's funny how one day I'm complaining about a rice belly and later people tell me I'm too skinny. You just can't please anyone can you?

The rest of the week here in Hyderabad was good but hard. I've learned there's much truth to the saying "there's no growth in a comfort zone and there's no comfort in a growth zone." Leaving all the people I loved in Coimbatore and trying to adjust to a new area again was definitely uncomfortable but I know that God has a plan for where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do. I'm learning that trials bring greater opportunities for growth than almost anything else and I'm grateful that God is giving me a chance to learn a little more and become a little better.

Regardless of the hardships this week though it was great to be able to meet new people and see how the work is progressing here. On top of that me new companions are great. Elder Sunny is an Elder from New Delhi and lives up to his name in every sense of the word. He's full of energy and enthusiasm and truly is a little ray of sunshine. I've known Elder Bandi since the beginning of our missions. We're one transfer apart and after being in the same district during our training we've been in almost every zone together. He has a great desire to work and is always doing something to make us laugh. I'm excited to be able to work with these Elders. :)

Anyways everyone until next time stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloud

E-mail March 21, 2016: "Didn't see this one coming"

Wow, just when you start to get settled into a nice area with a zone that you love and the work finally starts to pick up God sends a curve ball at you.

Due to some problems in the city because of the ongoing elections most of the missionaries are being transferred away to different areas for a few months. The sister missionaries along with My companion and one other native Elder will be the only ones staying in Coimbatore for now to keep the work going as much as possible. I'm extremely sad to leave my companion and the people here so unexpectedly and after only serving here a short time. It's been difficult saying goodbye these last few days but although it's painful and it's hard I know that this is part of God's plan and I trust Him.

I'll be leaving back to the city of my missionary birth tomorrow to serve in the Hyderabad AS Rao Nagar ward. My new companions will be Elder Bandi and Elder Sunny. I'm excited to work with them. :)

It's interesting, it seems that my entire mission has been one long flow of unexpected changes. As soon as I get comfortable with how things are going like clockwork God moves me on to a new mountain to conquer. I've come to realize recently though how much of a blessing that's been. I look back on the person I was when I stepped into the MTC and notice all the changes, some small and some more significant, that have shaped me into a much better, more capable individual and realize it's been a result of the many trials and challenges I've faced these last 19 months.

I've learned that much like the beautiful diamonds that start out as lumps of coal we, as God's mortal children, can't become the beautiful beings He desires us to be without a̶ ̶l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ a lot of heat and pressure. I've learned that avoiding trials and changes only hinder our growth and prevent us from gaining much of the experience we were sent here to acquire. As I've tried to view challenges as necessary and helpful and have sought God's help whenever one comes along it's always worked out to my advantage.

I testify that no matter what trials we have or where they come from God has a plan for each of our lives. If we put our trust in Him and move forward with faith our stumbling blocks truly can become our stepping stones to a better life. :)


This is called Dosa, a rice batter cross between a pancake and a tortilla that's served for breakfast. It's delicious and after 19 months of practise I think I've finally perfected them. 

These are many of the members from our branch gathered for lunch after church yesterday. I'm going to miss all of these people a lot.

Our amazing sister missionaries. From left to right, Sister Raman from Chennai, Sister Padmakumar from Kerala, and Sister Gantimi from Rajamundry.

This is Nagaraj, one of our recent converts and a good friend of mine.

This is Akash, one of the young men. This photo basically describes our relationship.

Brother Raja, our Branch Mission Leader who's always ready to help us out.

Brother Suresh Jaising and his family.

From left to right: my companion, sister Jacinta, Bitun, Brother Satish, and Rihanna. A truly unforgettable family with lots of energy and a love for the missionaries. 

There are so many other people that I've grown so close to here in Coimbatore that I also wanted to get pictures with but didn't have the time. Regardless though I'll always remember them and they'll always have a place in my heart. :)

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

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Packages from India

Katie and her sister Marilee volunteer at an orphanage in India.  While they were there this time they met Elder Cloward.  They spent a lot of time with the missionaries because they were teaching some of their friends.  When Katie and Marilee came home this week, they offered to bring things to us from Elder Cloward.  We were super surprised to get an email from them asking to meet us and drop off the packages!

We met up with them yesterday in SLC.  We love the gifts Elder Cloward sent!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

E-mail March 7, 2016: "Groooss!"

Our apartment here in Coimbatore is great, but we suffer from a small infestation.

Every morning when we wake up I go to the sink in the hall and see a small army of tiny black disgusting worms crawling up out of the drain. I tried everything I knew how to get rid of them. I repeatedly rinsed them down when they came up, I flooded the drain to drown them, I even dumped in entire bottle of bleach to kill them, but no matter what I did they kept coming back.

We finally figured out that the reason they were surviving was because the sink dripped and created a constantly damp environment that let them thrive. I turned off the water supply to the sink, but a plastic bag over the faucet to keep it from dripping, and then opened up the drain under the sink and cleaned out all the worm infested mud and sludge that I'm sure had been sitting there for years.
It. was. nasty.

After a week of letting the sink dry out to completely kill anything else that might still be inside we were pleased to see that the problem had been solved and all the devil worms were dead. We happily started using the sink again and for about two weeks we didn't have any more worm problems.

But guess who greeted me again when I woke up today?

When I went to the sink this morning I was horrified to see the same black worms once again making their way up the porcelain and I realized that our disgusting problem was back. As I stood there wondering why in the world this had happened again I realized that after we had solved the problem the first time we hadn't taken any time to fix the leaky sink. The damp drain once again became the perfect home for our little friends and we were left right back where we had started.

I think there's a lesson to learn here. Often in life we make mistakes and our lives become stained with sin. Thankfully through the atonement the Savior can purge our wrongs if we repent, but after we've been cleansed we must make the effort to change our habits and ultimately our natures if we want to stay clean. If we repent of our sins but continue living the same way as before those sins, just like tiny black worms, are bound to creep back into our lives.

This week we're definitely going to take the time to get our sink fixed, and my invitation for each of you is to do the same. Take some time this week to examine your life and see if there are any "leaky sinks" that need fixing and then set goals to improve. As we seek the Lord and rely on His grace to help us change our habits and our hearts we'll be able to avoid the disgusting burden of sin, of that I testify. :)

Oh, Prem was confirmed yesterday and we can see his testimony getting stronger and stronger every time we visit with him. We're so happy that he's chosen to step onto the path of eternal life and I know that he'll be a great instrument for the Lord one day. :)

We tried this great new roadside snack the other day. They break a small black coconut over a bowl mat or palm fronds and then you drink it. This is Elder Krishnavelu demonstrating.

And this is me, wondering if this is really a good idea. (It ended up being delicious)

Look closely at this picture, see anything unusual?

What about Mrs. Cow chillin' in the middle of center street during rush hour?

"I have to admire your courage Bessy, even the heavy traffic didn't stop you from munching on those decorative banana leaves."

Prem's baptism photos. On the left are his family members, on the right is our Branch Mission Leader and some young men.

Here he is, excited to take the plunge.

Stay strong and rock on everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward