Wednesday, July 27, 2016

E-mail July 25, 2016: "Success"

We've been working very hard with several of our investigators these past few months who have agreed to be baptized. Some of these investigators that are so close and so ready right now are Flamy, Radhika, and Mary. Each has a unique story about how they came to know about the church, and each has shown tremendous faith as they've overcome obstacles in order to come closer to Christ. After 5 months of hard work here in Hyderabad I was hoping that I'd get to see one or all of these great individuals baptized, but it looks like God has something else in mind.

Although we did our very best to have these women ready in July one by one something came up that unavoidably pushed their dates back to August, each only a few days after I leave. Although I'm sad that I won't be there for their baptisms the joy I have for how far these people have come overcomes the disappointment. I've learned that success isn't about how many people you can bring to the font; it's about how well we extend the invitations to follow Christ and how hard we work to help people do that. I'm so grateful for all the miracles I've seen in this area. I'm grateful for the personal growth I've experienced that wouldn't have been possible under any other circumstances. Most of all though I'm just grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary, I've never done anything better. :)

Pictures from our zone activity last week. We went to a place called Golconda Tombs where a bunch of Muslim kings are buried.

Me in front of the tomb of a Muslim King who used to rule here

Man, isn't this tree just gnarly?

There were about 30 of these tombs all over the park.

More tombs

I couldn't resist this shot. ;)

inside the structure. That's an actual tomb. Whoa.

Inside a small mosque.

Here's some pictures of people I was able to meet from my first areas:

Kennedy and Sujatha's (right) and their family, some of my best friends from Hyderabad. Sujatha was baptized while I was in 2nd ward.

My friend Aditia from Bengaluru. he was in Hyderabad so we all went out for lunch at a classy restaurant. #I'mlovingit

Brother Madhu, baptized two weeks after I hit the mission field. It was great to see him and to see that he's still completely faithful in the church.
Love you all. Stay Strong and Rock On. :)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail July 18, 2016: "Foundations"

We saw something cool this week. As we went to visit a less active member I noticed that they have a great view from their 4th floor balcony in their apartment. As I looked down I could see the empty lot next to us and some construction work going on. In India buildings go up surprisingly quickly, even high rises, so I was surprised to see that the lot was still as empty as it was 5 months ago when I saw it the first time. And then I noticed why:

Hyderabad is famous for many things, among which are big rocks. You don't have to go very far before you find a gigantic stone poking up out of the ground or resting just below the surface and usually blocking someone's way. The lot we were looking at just happens to be settled on one of those giant rocks. Normally when buildings go up here it only takes a few weeks to get the foundation dug out and prepared, but because this rock is in the way it's slowing the progress and it will probably be several more months until they're done cutting holes and blasting apart the stone in preparation for the foundation.

​As I saw this I couldn't help but think about how Helaman counsels us to build our foundation on Christ, the rock of our Redeemer. I learned that it's much easier and faster to build a foundation on soft or sandy soil, like most of the buildings here. To actually build on a rock takes time, energy, and ceaseless effort, but the result is a solid foundation that can withstand any storm. I think Helaman knew that building our lives on Christ and His teachings wouldn't be easy, but I think he also understood very well how critically important it was for his sons, and for each of us, to have that solid foundation under our feet. We can know we're building our foundation on Christ when we're doing our best to do all the things He's asking us to do. My invitation for all of you today is first, look at your life and determine how much rock versus sand is in your foundation, and make changes if you need to. Second, for those of you who are doing your best to follow the teachings of the Saviour but it doesn't seem like you're making much progress, don't get discouraged. Carving a solid foundation out of solid rock has never been easy or fast, but I promise you that if you keep chipping away one day you'll look down from the 10th floor of your testimony and you'll be happy you put in the work. :)

Things area continuing to look up here in AS Rao Nagar. We're busy as ever finding, teaching, and trying to do our best to do all we can here. Sisters Radhika and Flamy are moving closer and closer to their baptisms and we're so excited for them. Again I'm grateful for the miracles we've seen in this area and I'm glad to be a part of this great work. :)


A wild Indian parrot. #Awesome

Pictures from a birthday party last week. (I'm holding a fire extinguisher in my other hand).

The highlight of any Indian birthday party is when we get to feed each other the cake.

Sis Betsy, our amazing missionary mom of the ward.

A wild Indian Elder. #Awesome

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

E-mail July 11, 2016: "Miracles again"

It never ceases to amaze me how many miracles we're blessed with out here.

Yesterday we had so many appointments planned but after church every one of them fell through. It's been a while since I've been bunked on that bad and we were discouraged. With nothing else to do we decided  to go out and see the family of one of our less active members. She lives clear out away from all our other members but we decided to give it a try. Unfortunately they were busy and we were pretty bummed about traveling all the way out there for nothing. As we walked back out of the area we passed a home we door knocked a few weeks ago. The home was christian and last time an older woman came out and told us politely but firmly that we should visit some other home because they went to a "private church" (I'm not sure what that means). As we walked by again yesterday I got a small feeling that we should try again. Neither of us really wanted to but we walked up and knocked the gate anyways. First a big dog ran up and started barking at us, then the woman came to the door and this time she was very obviously not happy to see us. She told us she wasn't interested and we turned to leave but then her husband (who was totally drunk at the time) came outside, took away the barking dog, and beckoned us to come in. He didn't stay in the lesson and as we started talking to the woman we could tell she was frustrated and she told us that the only reason she had let us in was because it was a Sunday and she would feel guilty if she turned us away on the Lord's day. She basically told us to say whatever we were going to say quickly and then be on our way. As we started I silently prayed to have the Spirit with us so we could get through to her. My companion started with an inspired question: "Sister, tell us about when you first started believing in Jesus."

And then everything changed.

As she started talking about her life, how she had left Hinduism and how God had supported her, she got emotional and broke down in tears. We listened quietly as she cried and explained that she loves God but is wondering why she has so many problems. After that her entire attitude changed and she listened as we testified about living prophets and how the restored gospel can bring her peace. The scowling lady we started with was very different than the sweet, smiling woman who thanked us for coming and invited us back at the end. This was nothing less than a miracle. From the change that took place in her to the fact that we even stopped at her house in the first place, it's evidence that God is behind this work. Man I love being a missionary. :)

On top of that our investigator Radhika finally agreed this week to be baptized next month. When we first started teaching this lady several months ago she told us she would never be baptized. We patiently worked with her but every time she made progress some new obstacle would come up and we'd feel like we were back at square 1. Despite the hardships though we worked with her and watched as slowly her faith increased until she was able to overcome her fears. This last month there were many answered prayers and one perfect event after another led her to finally say yes to being baptized. I've really come to love this lady and we're so happy that she's changing her life and experiencing the joy of the gospel. Man, I love being a missionary. :)

Anyways that's it for this week. Sorry, I wasn't able to upload pictures this time. I'll have more next week.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

E-mail July 4, 2016: "Brownies!"

This last week on P-Day my companion and I went to Pizza Hut for the first time in months. The food was delicious but after the meal I started having a craving for brownies. Brownies are not a very common treat here in India and although Pizza Hut offered them, they were very expensive and I'm on a budget. Normally I would just bake brownies in our apartment but unfortunately ours is not equipped with a conventional oven. The closest thing we have is a microwave and I wondered to myself "could that work?" I know, those are dangerous words coming from Elder Cloward. Regardless though,  we stopped by the store to pick up things like cocoa powder and butter and then we went to work. We followed the recipe and mixed the ingredients in a mug and then nuked it on high with our fingers crossed. It worked perfectly. The brownie was amazing and for a second I felt like I was back home.

Although my doubled recipe put me in a mild sugar coma, it was so good that I tried it again later in the week. The second time however I forgot to thaw the butter and it was hard as a rock. I thought I would be clever and substitute the butter with cooking oil. After all, they're almost the same thing, aren't they? I excitedly mixed the batter and stuck it in the microwave but to my dismay when it was finished instead of a delicious brownie I got a thick, disgusting brown brick. it was difficult to eat even after a generous topping of vanilla ice cream.

I wondered why it turned out so different this time when I only changed one ingredient. The cocoa, the sugar, the flour; all the main ingredients were the same but because of one small substitution it ruined the whole thing. I think that's a lot like life. One day recently, my companion and I were working and although we were doing our very best, things just weren't working out. I wondered what went wrong and I realized that because we were so busy we had missed our studies that morning. Even though we had been working hard that day because we missed that vital ingredient theSpirit wasn't as strong as it should have been. I've learned that in life with the commandments there are no such things as "satisfactory substitutes." When God commands, or invites, or suggests, He expects us to follow. I've learned that any justification for breaking, bending, or trying to get around the commandments by saying "it's only one small thing" or "I do everything else right" is simply a recipe for disaster. My invitation this week is to look at your life, like I've started looking at mine, and see if there are any missing ingredients. It's my testimony that if we fill our lives with the proper and best quality ingredients, the commandments in their fullness, we will have a sweet and satisfying experience. :)


The original microwave brownie in all it's glory.

There are a lot of these guys around right now.

Other American dishes we made this week. These are my multi-cultural pancakes.

Elder Cloward about to indulge (don't mind the messy kitchen).

Another recipe we tried: Microwave Snickerdoodle cake. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

A dirt road at the edge of our area. Truly scenic.

My companion's new best friend, Sweetie.

Homemade mac and cheese, courtesy of Elder Rahul.

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