Monday, April 18, 2016

E-mail April 18, 2016: "Oh no, Americans..."

This last week at our stake conference I saw many American church members who are living here in Hyderabad for various reasons. I thought it would be nice to socialize with someone from back home a little bit but as I walked up to one tall white man my mind went blank, my throat went dry, and I completely forgot how to speak.

I was terrified.

It was the same sensation I felt the first time I tried talking to an Indian when I first got here. Now that I've been surrounded by Indians for almost two years, I have no problem talking to total strangers about their job, family, or religious beliefs; but unfortunately I've lost my ability to talk to white people. Brothers and Sisters, forgive me if I get home and don't know how to talk to you, it looks like I may have some adjusting to do...

Someone once asked me if my mission is always great all the time. The short answer for that would be no, in fact most of the time it's extremely difficult. This week, for example, was very hard and left me tired, frustrated and discouraged. As several of the people whom we had high hopes for told us they refuse to accept the Book of Mormon, I started to feel a little discouraged. And then when several others we've been working with asked us not to come to their homes anymore because they're not interested, it crushed my spirits even more. There were a few other disappointments and finally to top things off we had a heat stroke these last few days and although it didn't cause any serious problems, it drained every last bit of energy I had left. You'd think that by this time in my mission I'd be accustomed to setbacks like this, but after everything that happened to us this week it was almost more than I could bear.

It amazes me though, that even though I was frustrated and frankly unworthy of receiving help, Heavenly Father still blessed me with the strength and comfort I needed to keep going. Yesterday we had our stake conference and President Funk of the Asia Area presidency spoke to us. His and the other inspiring talks that were given brought the Spirit and began to chip away at my negative feelings. Afterwards I had a happy reunion with most of the members from my first area including two individuals whom we baptized more than a year ago. As I talked and laughed with them the pain and frustration I'd felt was washed away and I was filled with joy and peace. I testify that sometimes God lets us weather the storm before He interferes or sends blessings. Although I'm not particularly fond of trials or hardships and I know there are plenty more coming before I'm through here, I'm grateful for the opportunities for growth that they bring. Most of all though, I'm grateful for a Father in Heaven who always helps me when I need it the most.


I want to start including photos of some of the foods we have here. These are Chinese noodles and meatless meatballs.

I love India.

View of our area.

This is called Bonda and it's delicious. #Friedfoodforbreakfast

This is Puri. #Morefriedfoodforbreakfast

How many people can we fit in a selfie? so far we're up to 7. In the blue is a member named Calvin who works with often, the rest are our neighborhood buddies.
at the Hyderabad Stake Conference

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

E-mail April 11, 2016: "Elder, is that approved?"

"Hey Elder what happened to your hair?"

"Whoa Elder, that's a little short isn't it?"

"Hey Elder, niiice haircut."

Yes, thank you, I know about my haircut. Those are a few of the comments I received last week from missionaries and church leaders alike. Last Monday we went to get haircuts where the elders typically get them here. Since this was my first time at the saloon (barbershops are called saloons here, unfortunately there are no songs and cowboy hats) I carefully described to my barber how to trim my hair and again ended with the phrase "brother, business cut." The barber signaled his supposed understanding with an enthusiastic head-bob and went to work. The poor lighting in the shop made it difficult for me to see what he was doing until he was finished. When I finally stepped of the barber's chair and into the light I concealed a gasp as I realized that he had left less than half an inch of hair on my scalp.

Surprise! My barber doesn't know English after all.

As I walked away my companion noted that with my new do I looked like a World Wrestler. Knowing that wrestling shows are extremely popular here I realized that John Ceno was probably the only American my barber had seen before, hence the reason for my cut. Oh well, three weeks to go before I look like a missionary again.

This last week went well. My companion and I were sick for a couple of days but we tried to stay busy by updated teaching records and organizing our area book. Regardless though, we still managed to find many new investigators and we finally have someone with a baptism date. Bro Raju has been meeting with the missionaries for months but recently was avoiding us. Yesterday we insisted that we meet with him before he left after conference and with some reluctance he agreed. As we talked with him we again tried to let the spirit guide our conversation and we learned of some fears he had that had kept him from progressing. We were able to successfully clear his doubts and now he's excited to be baptized on the 24th. I learned that listening is a powerful tool when it comes to helping people and it's a skill I'll definitely work harder to develop now. I'm grateful that the Lord helped us to understand and solve his concern.

Oh, and just in case some of you didn't scroll down to see the note at the bottom of last week's email-
April Fools! I didn't actually break my leg. Gotcha again ;)

Love you all! Until next week rock on and stay strong. :)
-Elder Cloward

Oh yeah-

I totally forgot to mention about general conference. My bad.

General conference comes a week later over here so we spent the last two days watching it in the church with the members. This was that most uplifting conference experience I've ever had and I felt uplifted and inspired more than ever before. I received answers to questions I had prayed for and some answers came for questions I forgot I had.

I think one reason this conference was particularly special for me is because for the first time I made the effort to pray right before it started that I'd be able to understand and that I'd learn what heavenly father wanted me to learn. I testify to the power of prayer and the effects it has on our personal growth.

I also testify of living prophets and apostles who lead and guide the work of God on the earth today. It's crazy how even though I've never met these men and women I've come to love them through their council, service, and examples. I was sad when conference ended and It's crazy to think that I'll be back the next time it comes around. I know what the Lord wants me to work on now and I'm ready to press forward better than before.

Love You all. :)
-Elder Cloward

Note from Jen (mom): He told us last week that his official mission release date will be Aug. 2, 2016.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

E-mail April 4, 2016: "Good bye..."

Since I've come to India I've heard many stories about Elders going home for injuries but I never thought I'd end up being one of them. On Friday as we were traveling back to our apartment for lunch I slipped while getting out of an auto right as a bike tried to pass on the same side. The bike driver tried to swerve but the bike skidded and he lost his balance. The bike and driver landed on top of me and broke my leg. After going to the ER the doctors told me I had a compound fracture and it needed serious attention. The doctor did what he could but it's bad enough that I need to come back to America for surgery so it can heal properly. I'll be flying back tomorrow and because I only have 4 months left and my visa will be expired again by the time I finish healing I'm getting an honorable early release. I'll miss India but I've gathered so many good memories and I'll never forget the things I learned.

Before Friday though the week wen't really great. We dropped several of our old investigators because they weren't progressing but the Lord blessed us as we were able to find even more than we lost. We were literally guided all week to people who were willing to listen to our message. We ended up finding more investigators in just a few days than all of last month combined. It truly was a miracle.

The more I recognize the miracles that area happening in this work the more I realize how little I actually do. Although I'm trying to work hard and be obedient there's no way that I could possible know where to go or what to say the way that we've been able to recently. At the end of three of our appointments this week the people we were teaching were skeptical and asked difficult questions about God, Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon. I was amazed as every time my companion and I were able to answer all of the questions in such a way that the investigators were either satisfied or had no room to argue. I know that the things I said didn't come from me, and I'm so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who gave us the words we needed "in the very hour" that we needed them. Two of those appointments led to return appointments and the other we're satisfied that we did our best and we at least gave them a chance. God is behind this work and if we do our best and remain worthy He will work miracles through us, I testify of that.

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

Oh, and I didn't actually break my leg.
April Fools! ;)