Tuesday, June 28, 2016

E-mail June 27, 2016: "Elder What?"

This week my companion Elder Bandi completed his missionary service. Tuesday morning a cab picked him up and by Wednesday evening he was back home in Vizak. We had a good time together and I'm missing him already. He taught me a lot and I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to serve with him. It was crazy watching him pack his things and realizing that I'll be doing the same in a little more than a month. As my time winds down I can't help but think about everything we still need to do here and I hope and pray that God will help us to do everything we can.

My new companion is Elder Rahul. He was born in Calcutta but was raised in Utah. He's a brilliant, fun loving guy who's pumped to preach the gospel and build up the church here. I hope I can keep up with him. Elder Rahul's actual surname is Lechtenberg and when he arrived in the field about 5 months ago that's what he went by. He quickly realized though that not many people here can pronounce "Lechtenberg" so he shortened it to Elder "Berg." I guess he really had a beef when everyone started calling him "Elder Burger" so he switched to Elder Rahul. We're already having a great time together and I can't wait to see how much work we can do these next 5 weeks. :)

Things area finally cooling down here in Hyderabad which makes it much easier to stay busy outside during the day. We're hoping and praying that some of our investigators will accept the invitation to be baptized this next week. At first I couldn't understand why anyone would say no to joining the true church but now I can understand a little bit why it's so difficult for some people. Looking through other's eyes a little more has helped me to realize how life changing a decision like baptism really is, especially in a country where less than 6% of the population is Christian. I've met people out here who have been persecuted, threatened, and disowned by their families for joining the church. While that's definitely not the majority of situations it has shown me what it means to "suffer shame for Christ's name." It's helped me to act with more love, patience, and faith as we try to help people accept baptism and I've seen miracles as the Spirit has helped some of them to overcome their fears. It's also strengthened my commitment to stand as a witness for the Savior all the time. The members here in India are nothing less than valiant, fearless pioneers and I hope that I can be a faithful as they are. my invitation for each of us is to always have the courage to stand strong for the things we believe in.


​The Meruga family, and awesome family from our ward.

Another one of our friends. I love Indian reptiles

From right to left: Me, our investigator Sister Radhika, her sister Deepika, Elder Bandi, and- ...I forgot her name.

On the back is me, brother Stephen, and our investigator Flamy. On the front is Bro Krupa Rao and his wife- ...I also forgot her name. 

My new companion Elder Rahul, AKA the goat whisperer.

"Crikey mate, be careful!"

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

E-mail June 20, 2017: "So now we're dentists?"

Last week as my companion and I were walking through a small neighborhood a woman asked if we were coming from a dental hospital. My companion replied that we teach about Jesus Christ and unfortunately she lost interest. I guess in some places salvation isn't as highly valued as straight teeth. Oh well. As we walked away though we thought it was funny how we'd been mistaken again. We've been asked if we're college students, pastors, social workers, and every time I go to the local grocery store, customers ask for my help in finding their items. This was the first time we've gotten dentists though.

Another funny incident this week happened when we stopped for dinner at a hotel (restaurant) at the edge of our area one day. It was the first time we went to this place and we were charmed by the modern decorations and tasteful appearance. There was even a set a loud speakers playing quiet music to add to the ambiance. The music was coming from the manager's pen drive and halfway through our meal we hit a rather unpleasant playlist. We tired skipping several track from the buttons on the machine but they all had the same weird tone and feeling. After a few minutes my companion asked me if I'd brought my pen drive, which I had. We waited for a few minutes for the manager to go into the backroom and then I quickly replaced his drive with mine and soon the whole place was filled with Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When the manager came back he walked over to the speakers, looked at my pen drive, looked at me, looked back at my pen drive, and then walked away without a word. Whether he experienced a change of heart or simply didn't want to question two guys with ties and name tags I'm not sure, but we were happy that we got to finish our meal with such uplifting music. :)

We invited Sister Flamy for baptism on Saturday and she accepted. After being rejected so many times these last few months I wasn't expecting that response at all and I didn't know what to say. After stuttering and clarifying her response three times to make sure I hadn't heard wrong I was ecstatic. She had a few questions but we were able to answer them and she is showing by her words and actions that the messages she's learning are sinking in. I recognize that it surely won't be easy as we prepare her and anything can happen between now and then but we're moving forward with faith  and we're praying that things will go through. I'm so grateful for the success we're beginning to see and again I testify that God knows and is in charge of this work. :)


This is Brother Mande Prasana and his family. Bro Prasana only has one leg but he's one of the happiest and most faithful members I know.

Our district, from left to right: Elder Devarapalli, Elder Martin, Elder Bandi, and the tall white guy.

Me and Elder Bandi

He wants me to mention that this one was my idea...

Our investigator Mary, her friend Maria, and her daughter Sony

Remember the wet paint story from a few weeks ago? Well here's the culprit.

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

E-mail June 13, 2016: "It's a Small World After All.‏"

It's crazy how small this world is when your'e a member of the Church. A few weeks ago we were visiting an older member, Brother Krupa Rao, and I noticed that he had an unusually nice set of scriptures. When I asked him where he got them he said they were given to him from the missionary who baptized him and his son nearly 20 years ago. That missionary was Elder Householder from Utah, the same Householder who's a friend of our family and who shared his mission experiences and prepared me for India before I came out. This family still loves Elder Householder and I've also met several others who remember him and have commented on how good of a missionary he was. I'm grateful for the great work he did and I'm glad that I got to meet some of the people he helped bring into the gospel.

Bro Krupa Rao's son Stephen recently got married and yesterday we started teaching his wife Flamy. Most of the investigators I've taught over the last six months have only spoken limited English and I've had to break down my language or use a translator with a lot of my teaching. Stephen and Flamy both work IT jobs in a place called Hi-Tech city and they almost speak better English than I do. It was quite an unusual yet refreshing experience having the investigator understand everything I said. I used to wonder why I've been called to teach such a vast subject as the gospel in a place where I can't speak the language and only a few people can understand me. I imagine that's the way most missionaries who are learning a new language also feel and I've learned that the only reason conversion is even possible in that setting is because of the Holy Ghost. The longer I'm out here the more I realize how helpless my teaching would be without the Spirit. I know that it's only by the Spirit that anyone really changes and I'm so grateful that God has given each of us that precious gift to guide us as we strive to lift others.

Here's a quick follow up from a few weeks ago. I mentioned that we found a member named Prabaker who welcomed us into his home. Due to the efforts of us and the ward leadership and thanks to a Heavenly miracle he came to church that next Sunday for the first time in 9 years. Although it had been such a long time he still knew some of the members and they treated him like family. I think that's only the second time in my entire mission when someone who's been away from the church has come back the first time we invited him them to. It adds to the miracle of even meeting him in the first place and adds to my testimony that God really is in charge of His work.

Oh, and I apologize for not sending pictures in a while. We get so busy that I forget to even take them. My bad. Here's a few from last week.

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

(He sent this one to Afton.)

This is our friend who lives outside our apartment. You can"t see it very well here but he's actually more than a foot long.

We found this Christian melodies book in someone's home the other day and check out what was inside-
It looks like Latter-Day Saints aren't the only ones who want to be a sunbeam.

This is us with Vineel (member) and Krupa Rani (future member).

This is us with the Young Men's President Koti, his sister Anitha, and her two children Ankita and Akash.

This is Bro Nalani, his father Aharon, and his mom ...I forgot her name.

E-mail June 6, 2016: "Um, excuse me brother, why is mine red?"‏

Lately my companion and I have been so busy trying to stay busy that we haven't taken time to come back to our apartment for lunch. Here in Hyderabad, Chinese noodles and fried rice are very popular and in our area here in A S Rao Nagar the Chinese stands are everywhere. We've started going to one such stand near the church because it's fast, cheap, and delicious, but one day this week as we stopped by I got a surprise. I usually get the noodles but as we approached the stand that day I glanced at a dish two other customers were enjoying- nice, plain brown fried rice- and I decided to order the same thing. A few minutes later the cook brought over my plate but to my surprise my fried rice was bright red. As soon as I took a bite I knew why.

There are some people in this world who go to movies for entertainment, some like to read books while others like to hang out with good friends to get a good laugh. I learned this week that my friends at the noodle cart like to play a game called "let's spice out the American" for their entertainment. It took almost a full pitcher of water to ease my burning throat and stop my violent hiccups and several tissues to cure my chili-induced runny nose.

Now granted I don't know if those guys were really trying to give me hard time, but what I do know is that everyone else's fried nice was brown, and mine was flaming red. Regardless we're finding a new Chinese stand this week.

This last week was hard again. We've dropped most of the investigators we found a few months ago because they're just not progressing. We're trying to stay optimistic though and we're working with the ward to coordinate with the members and get referrals.

I used to hope that when I reached this point in my mission I'd be a converting missionary machine who knew all the ropes but to be honest I realize more and more every day how much I still have to learn. I don't think I'll ever be a Dan Jones or a Wilford Woodruff when it comes to missionary work but what I'm learning is that I can use my strengths despite my weaknesses to do the best I can here.

There's a quote I read recently from a general authority that says "You can't do everything for everyone everywhere, but you can do something for someone somewhere." and I've learned that that's absolutely true. Sometimes I get stressed when I think about all that I can't do due to my weaknesses or physical limitations, but now I'm trying to focus instead on what I can do. That's my invitation for all of you this week too. Don't get stressed about what you can't do, but do your best to do all you can do. I promise that as you do that the Lord will magnify your strengths and that you will be a blessing to someone somewhere.

Until next week everyone, stay strong and Rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward