Tuesday, May 31, 2016

E-mail May 30, 2016: "I spoke too soon..."

I'll never again complain about an uneventful week. Last week I was wishing something out of the ordinary would happen and this week the Lord granted my request, but not in the way I was expecting. Although nothing ground breaking took place this week there were enough small quirks to keep me satisfied with for a while. Here's a few things that happened to us this week. 

Wet paint

We all think it's funny when someone sits on wet pain in the movies, until it actually happens to you. One day this week my companion and I ended up walking several miles to get to all of our appointments. As we were coming down I dirt road I was exhausted so I sat down on a cement drainage cap (like a raised manhole) and my companion came over to join me. As I tried to move over to make room for him something stuck hard to the bottom of my pants (I happened to be wearing my nicest pain too) and I thought "oh no." before I could warn him my companion had also plopped down next to me and after getting up we were both stained with bright yellow markings on our seats. Apparently they must have sprayed the drainage cover with lettering just hours before we sat down and since we were in the middle of nowhere there were no warning signs. WE're still working on getting the paint out.


As we were getting ready Saturday morning our zone leaders called and informed us that we'd be having apartment inspections in the afternoon. My companion and I are pretty clean guys but by the end of the week we had a lot of clutter lying around so we came back for lunch a little early so we'd have time to tidy up. Imagine my surprise when I went to take the trash out and found our zone leaders standing outside our door and hour earlier than they'd told us they were coming. We felt pretty sheepish as they walked through our less than clean living room but thankfully our kitchen, bathrooms, bedroom, and cupboards were all organized so they were still pleased. Again it taught me to always be prepared.


Sunday I woke up with stomach pains and as I sat through church they got worse and worse until I developed a fever. We stayed for our meetings after church, had a short visit with a man we met who invited us to his home for lunch, but then we came back to the apartment and I was down for the count the rest of the day. As I was thinking about how I got sick I remembered the day before when a member had offered us some water before we left her home. She knows the missionaries and told me that the water wasn't filtered but it was hot and I said that I had a strong immune system so it wouldn't affect me. As I remembered that I felt pretty shameful and I determined to adhere to to "only filtered water for the Americans" policy more strictly from now on.


The miracle of this week though was when we were finally able to meet a less active man whom we've been trying to visit for months. I'd never met him before but for the two months I've been here his name has stayed at the back of my mind. We'd tried to see him several times but our calls and attempted visits were always in vain. On Saturday night after we finished our appointments we had a little extra time and we had the feeling to try one more time. To our astonishment when we arrived at his home he answered the door and warmly welcomed us in. He was very happy to see us and said he'd been busy for long time and that we'd caught him at the right time that night. As we talked with him we got to know the trials he's going through and my heart went out to him. We're going to keep working with him to help him build up his faith again. God truly does know all of His sheep and if we're worthy we can be the means of finding and rescuing those who have gone astray, I testify of that.

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

E-mail May 23, 2016: "Ummm..."

I'm actually not sure what to write this week. It was hot, we worked hard, we taught many people, it was hot, we invited someone for baptism and she accepted, and it was really hot. The days are flying by now and I hope it doesn't slip away too fast. Unfortunately there wasn't too much that happened in the "exciting" category, but then again that's probably a good thing. Push starting a bus or getting your appendix out tends to make one a tad phobic of exciting experiences so I'm actually not too sad that we had a relatively boring week.

A sad part of this week though is that Raju, our main investigator whom we've  been preparing for baptism got cold feet about his baptism date and says he wants more time to think about it. We were pretty bummed about that but now he won't pick our calls and we're wondering if he's even interested anymore. It's heartbreaking when you get to know someone and have such high hopes and then everything falls apart. We're going to continue to pray for him as we try and contact him again but I'm not sure where he'll go from here.

The great news of this week is that the new sister we found last week accepted a baptism date. Her name is Mary and we met her when she called is over to her home to do a prayer when she saw us walking down her street. We quickly saw that she was different from our other investigators after she actually came to church the day after we started teaching her. She accepts everything we're teaching her and she frequently comments on how happy our message makes her. She came to church again yesterday and she's preparing for baptism at the beginning of next month. Months and months of hard work are beginning to pay off as we are finally finding those who will accept our message. I'm grateful how even when we start losing hope for one investigator God helped us to find someone who is truly prepared. :)

Anyways sorry this is short but our time's up. Stay strong and Rock on everyone. :)
-Elder Clouds

Sunday, May 22, 2016

E-mail May 16, 2016: "Wow, prayer does work!"

I've been taught my entire life that if we need something we can pray for it, and I've had my prayers answered many times before, especially during my childhood. These last few weeks though prayer has taken on a newer meaning for me. I've spent a lot of time on my knees recently as I've tried to overcome obstacles and my own weaknesses. As I've started to rely on the Lord and His grace a little more my prayers have started to become much more meaningful. I'll admit that at times especially after a long day when I just want to flop on my bed without another thought prayer has felt a little burdensome. Recently though as I've prayed for strength and specific blessings, my eyes have been opened to be able to see the answers when they come. As I've recognized answers it's made me want to pray more, and the more I pray the more answers and help I get. My faith has been strengthened these last few weeks as I've rediscovered the power of prayer, and I'd like to include one small experience where a specific prayer was answered.

On Saturday we met a mother and daughter living next to one of our members who want to learn more about Jesus Christ. They're christian and happily invited us into their home but unfortunately we learned that the mother doesn't speak any English. Generally when we find someone who doesn't speak English they won't ever come to church because they can't understand it, so imagine our surprise when yesterday morning we got a phone call from this sister telling us that she was waiting for us at the church. We explained about what would happen before during the meetings and then sat next to them during sacrament meeting. I was hoping that someone would give a talk in Telugu so that our investigator would understand but no one did. We could tell that she wasn't paying very close attention (understandably) so we assured her that the next class we'd have translation. The gospel principles class was taken by a substitute teacher who preferred to teach in English though and despite our attempts to translate she again didn't understand most of the lesson. I thought we would lose our investigator so I said a silent prayer praying that someone would at least reach out and fellowship them. During the last class we separated for priesthood and unfortunately after the meetings we lost track of them because of how busy everyone was. When we called them later I expected the worst but when my companion got off the phone he had a huge smile and he said that she loved the meetings because of how many people talked to her and made her feel welcome. She told us to come back soon so she could learn more about our church.

This experience taught me two things: Again, the power of prayer. It might not seem like much but for any fellow missionaries who are reading this you can understand how much of a miracle it is when the members take over and help the investigators at church. I'm so grateful that God inspired these good members to reach out and help a new face yesterday. And that's actually the other point, the power of fellowship. Fellowshipping is nothing less than missionary work by the members and although you may not teach any lessons your role is vital in helping others come to Christ by showing them His love. My invitation for everyone this week is to pray harder and do a little more to reach out to those in need. Doing so will bring an unrestricted flow of blessings into your life, of that I testify. :)

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

E-mail May 9, 2016: "In Sun and Rain"

That's how we do our work out here in the promised land, and this week we had both the sun and the rain. Mother Nature is a sneaky little devil. Several times during the last two weeks we've gone outside our apartment in the afternoon to a perfectly clear sky and have walked back at the end of the day in a downpour. The next day we again wake up to clear skies and leave our umbrellas back assuming that Mother Nature won't pull a nasty trick like that twice.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. In short we ended up walking back in soggy shame over and over again these last couple of days because we kept on falling for it. Momma Nature, you've officially lost my trust.

Other than the deceptive skies though this last week was pretty good. The work is still hard but we're learning to rely on God more and He leaves us with some blessing to be grateful for at the end of each day. Right now Bro Raju is the only person we have with a baptism date. We've invited many people for baptism these last few weeks but no one else is ready to accept the invitation yet. We're praying for God to soften their hearts but regardless of what happens I'm trusting that whatever work we do will pay off later, even if we're not here to see it.

Sorry this is short but it's late and we need to go soon. Here's some photos though. :)

P-day activity from a few weeks ago. This is Charminar, the gem of Hyderabad.

This is the cool building next to Charminar. I'm not sure what it's the gem of...

And these are the gems of the India Bengaluru Mission. From left to right- Elder Wakefield, Elder Tuscano, Elder Larson, and Elder Bandi.

From far away this looks like just another tree-

But if you look closer...

You'll see that it's actually proof that hot dogs grow on trees. #Veg

Found this bench while locating out at the edge of our area. I couldn't resist this shot. ;)
Oh, and Happy Mother's Day everyone! I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to Skype call my family this morning. It's crazy to think that the next time I talk to them will be in person.

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

E-mail May 2, 2016: "Hotter than - "

I'm sweating like a pig as I write this. We did our mailing in an internet shop today and the current just went out. Luckily the computers are hooked up to a generator but unfortunately our life-sustaining ceiling fans are no longer in motion. I'm trying to type fast before I succumb to indoor heatstroke.

This week was HOT. We're experiencing record breaking highs here in Hyderabad and I'm pretty sure I'm already a few shades darker than last week. Thankfully the missionaries here haven't had any problems. We're trying to be smart when we go out and work so we generally stay out of the sun in the afternoons. Still though, if it gets any hotter I'll be a puddle with a name tag.

The work is a little bit slower here in our area but we're trying to work hard and do our best. We invited several people for baptism last week but each of them rejected. They have fears about how life will be different or how they're family will treat them if they join the church and so we're going to keep meeting with them to help them to progress and gain a testimony. It's nice that we at least know their specific concerns so we can know how to help them but I'm still hoping and praying that God will lead us to one or two more golden families before we're through.

Oh hallelujah, the fans are back now. I think I'll survive now.

Despite the challenges we're facing we're seeing great progress with one of our investigators, Raju. My companion and I met Raju about a months ago as we were walking around at the edge of our area. We talked to him on the street and he invited us to come to his home. The first time we taught him we learned that he didn't believe in any particular religion and didn't have much knowledge about Jesus Christ. As we taught him about the restoration he had a ton of questions, many of which were very difficult. As he was talking I said a silent prayer asking for the Spirit to be with us. As we started answering his questions the words just flowed and I realized that what I was saying wasn't coming from me. The Spirit touched all of us that night and although Raju had been very skeptical at first he agreed to meet with us again. Since then he has read from the book of mormon between every appointment and he came to church for the first time yesterday. He recognized the second counselor in our stake presidency who was presiding in our ward as his schoolmaster from when he was young and they caught up after sacrament meeting. Crazy small Mormon world. I'm so grateful for the Spirit who helped us to answer his questions that first night and who is continuing to help him to gain a testimony. If things keep going well Raju will be baptized by the end of the month. Cross your fingers for us. :)

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