Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas fun and a blessing

Two really great things I want to share with you . . . .

First thing is the branch Christmas activity that we had on Saturday. It was AMAZING!!! Without a doubt, it was my all time favorite Christmas activity. I haven't laughed that hard in a loooooong time! Everything was simply superb. Spiritual skits. Funny skits. Technical difficulties galore (which I always think are quite amusing). The awkwardness of a 12 year old flirting with me. The chicken biryani as our Christmas feast afterwards. The primary kids singing Christmas songs in the way that only primary children can do. Ahhhhh! I loved it all so so much. :) 

Second thing I want to tell you is about a true blue miracle that we had this week. So, one evening Elder Pilli and I were feeling a little bit down. We had had a not so successful day, and weren't feeling quite as chipper as we usually are... It was about 7:45 in the evening, and we were debating two options. One, we hadn't eaten dinner yet, so we could just go grab a bite to eat, and then head back to the apartment a little bit early. Or, there was one recent convert that said she wanted to introduce us to one of her friends, so we could go over to her house so that she could show us her friend. The thing is, this recent convert doesn't speak a lick of English, so chances are her friend doesn't speak English either, so we probably wouldn't even be able to teach her friend. Also, she lived a couple miles away, so we weren't all that anxious to go out to her house. 

Well, we decided to go the extra mile, and go visit the recent convert so that we could meet her friend. So we powered walked/slow jogged over to her house, and eventually got there about a half hour later. She then took us over to her friend's house and... wow. Wow wow wow. She introduced us to a GOLDEN family! Like, really, I couldn't think of a much better family to teach then the one she showed to us. They speak GREAT English (which is a mega blessing), they said they want to come to church before we even invited them to do so, the mom asked if it would be alright for her daughter and son to take baptism (again, before we even invited to do so), and they actually UNDERSTAND the doctrine that we are teaching them! Ahhhhhh! It's almost too good to be true.

I think of a quote that from one of my favorite Elders, Elder Bown: I'm not a very good missionary, but God decided to bless me anyways. 

Again and again, I am shown what an inadequate representative of Christ I am. But for some amazing reason, God decided to bless me and help me anyways. Really and truly, we are all blessed so much more than we deserve. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Money doesn't buy happiness

So one thing I forgot to mention about my branch last week: it is the ONLY sign language speaking branch in all of India! Pretty sweet, huh? I've been trying to learn ASL (they use american sign language) so that I can communicate with some of the deaf people in our branch, but my sign language is about as good as my Telugu (which isn't all that great. haha) I DID get my own sign language name though, so that's pretty cool! :D You make the letter "a" and then hold it up next to your cheek. The "a" is for Anderson, and you hold up next to your cheek because my rosy cheeks are my most distinguishing characteristic apparently. haha everyone at BYU always thought I was blushing, and everyone here in India thinks I'm dying of heat exhaustion. I try to tell people I'm just naturally red, but no one believe me. :P

This week I also had another cool experience with my name. So let me preface this by saying there was another Elder Anderson that served here in Bangalore a couple of years ago, and every once in a while members will ask if I'm related to him. I tell them that Anderson is similar to Kumar in India (it's a very very common name). Usually, I don't really think much about the other Elder Anderson that served here, but this last week I gained new appreciation for this other Elder, and greater appreciation for being an Anderson. As I met one member in our branch, I asked him what his name was, and then he asked me what my name was. When I told him my name is Elder Anderson he started to choke up, and tell me that a few years ago an angel named Anderson came and gave him the Gospel, and now he had the honor of meeting another angel with the same name. I'll be honest, I've never felt so proud to hold the name of Anderson as I was then. Never again will I take my name for granted, even if it is the second most common name in the United States! 

Another great experience for me this week was getting to see the difference between rich people and poor people. While I was in the States, I would hear many studies on how money doesn't make you happy, and how true happiness comes from different sources (namely, the Gospel). I believed these studies quite a bit, but now that I am here in India, I KNOW money is not what makes people happy. In my area we have one street called "Apostate Road" by the missionaries, because it has every Western thing you could possible want, and many Elders have gone... apostate there. Anyways, the place is loaded with people as rich as Americans. Just like in America, you can tell people are dripping with money, just by looking at them. 

But then I have another part in my area that is a slum area. Like, legit slums, not what people in America consider "slums". People live in one room houses, there is garbage piled up everywhere on the streets, stray animals running everywhere, half naked kids walking around because they can't afford clothing, etc. etc. By a monetary stand point, the two areas are as different as night and day.

But, just as important, and just as noticeable, is the level of happiness experience in both areas. The people on Apostate road all look very solemn, and just mind their own business. People are absorbed in their phones, with no interaction with the people swarming around them. They seem very alone, despite the concourses of people around them. However, if you go over to EG Pura (the slums area), everyone is happy, smiling, chit chatting with everyone around them, and clearly having a good time by all of the squeals of delight I hear coming from the streets in and within homes. 

The people on Apostate Road are proud and pessimistic, while the people in EG Pura are humble and happy. No, I don't think money is inherently a bad thing, but looking at the broad picture, it clearly doesn't bring happiness to people. 

This week I also had a very humbling experience of my own. For the past few months, I have worked very hard to become a skilled teacher. I have learned how to ask effective questions. I know how to listen to people. I know how to speak "Indian English" so that people can understand me. I know how to introduce a scripture so that people can understand it better. But this week I got a spiritual smack in the face when I realized I have become (or was rapidly starting to become) a missionary robot, something I promised myself I would never become. I was forgetting to rely on the Spirit, and more and more relying on my own skills as a teacher. I was simply going through the motions of missionary work, rather than really pushing myself to 110% every single day. 

So this week I have really been focusing on getting the Spirit more into my teaching, and more into my life. And, by no coincidence in my opinion, this week my love for the scriptures has also skyrocketed up. I get ready as fast as I can in the morning so that I can start my personal study sooner. Instead of taking a nap on this hour long bus rides, I pull out a book from the missionary library and read that. And then before I go to bed, instead of just lying on the couch and relaxing for a minute, I pull out the Book of Mormon student manual or the For Strength of Youth pamphlet (two of my favorite things to read) and study those for 10-15 minutes before I hit the sack. I truly have a yearning for the scriptures now! Going to sleep is a burden, I just want to stay up and read more of God's word! 

And, I can honestly say, I have been feeling the Spirit a LOT more this week. Like the chicken and the egg, I'm not sure which came first, me feeling the spirit more or more reading the scriptures more, but I would say they both rapidly build upon each other. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Convent Road Branch

Well, it's been an amazing week here in Bangalore. I'm still getting used to being in BANGALORE! This city has 20 MILLION people. I want you to think about that for a minute. The United States has 300 million people, which means on average each state has 6 million people. That means I am in a city that has the equivalent to more than THREE states' populations! And we do a lot of traveling. In just my area alone, it's not uncommon for us to travel for an hour or two by bus to get to an investigators house. Insane. I'm definitely not used to living in a big city, but I'm learning to love it! :) 

My companion, Elder Pilli, is awesome possum. He has only been a member for a year and a half, and he was a Hindu growing up. He went to church for a couple of years before getting baptized, and the reason that he didn't take baptism earlier is because he had to wait until he was 18 (his parents wouldn't sign the form to allow him to be baptized). He is a very very kind person, and very very humble as well. So far, it looks like we are gonna have a great time together. :)

I'm in the Convent Road Branch (otherwise known as Bangalore 2nd Branch). Our building is SO nice! And the members are lovely people as well. The only thing that really saddens me is the fact that we have 450 members in our branch's area, but on average we get 80 people coming to church each week... ya, there's definitely some work to do. It was really crazy that at church there were about five Americans there! For random reasons people come to Bangalore (business usually), and it's really cool to see them here at an Indian church. 

So ya, I lost my wallet this week... I really don't know where it went. I don't think I was pick pocketed, so I think it must have just fallen out of my pocket or something... But, it's okay! I had like 3,500 rupees in it, which is a lot by Indian standards, but when I calculated it out it's not all that much by American standards. I can easily earn that much money in just a day's work in America, so no sense stressing about losing my wallet for more than a day, right? 

This week I got to meet one awesome recent convert named Keerthi Sagar. He is a CHAMP!! During one lesson this week he started telling us about how he was reading in the bible where Jesus tells some of his apostles to stay awake and pray for Him as He goes to perform the Atonement, and he had the Spirit tell him that he needs to do the same. And by the same, I don't just mean he wants to pray, I mean he wants to wake up at the same time the apostles were commanded to pray (3 in the morning), and then give an hour long prayer to God. I told him that I don't think that's what those verses are meaning for us to do, but he said that that was what the Spirit told him he needed to do as he was reading those verses, and hey, who am I to tell a man not to listen to the spiritual promptings he receives? Keerthi really is an all star. He is very Gospel gung-ho, much more so than even me! :) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Transfer to Bangalore

So, I have kind of somewhat really exciting news for the week... I GOT MY FIRST TRANSFER!!! :D That's why I didn't email yesterday, because I had to spend my whole day traveling (which included many hectic moments, and many tender mercies as well). And guess where I got transferred?! To THE best place in THE best mission in the world! I got transferred to BANGALORE!!! :D Wow, I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to get my transfer call. When I told other elders that I am going to Bangalore, they were all more than a little jealous of me... :)

It was weird these past few days, because I had to say good bye to many of my best friends, and I knew that I will probably never see any of them ever again in this life... :( That's okay though, I told them we will all hook back up in the Spirit World in 80 years (I plan on dying when I'm 100)! :) 

And now that I am in Bangalore.... wow. wow. wow! I am literally having culture shock right now. I became so accustomed to living in a small Indian city/village, where people don't even know what a drinking fountain is, to being in a city that is almost identical to America!!!! It's insane..... Let me tell you some of the culture shocks I've already had in the past 24 hours.

-I am now able to have CASUAL CONVERSATIONS with random people! Like, last night I just had a nice casual conversation with a man in the bathroom, about how their was no soap in the dispenser. I don't think you can understand, but really and truly, that is the first time in 6 months I've had a casual conversation with a stranger! No one in Kakinada speaks English well enough for me to just casually chat with them... haha :)

-Along that same line... I CAN ACTUALLY FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING TO ME!!!! Miracle. A true miracle. I remember when I first started my mission, I was in Bangalore for just a couple of days, I couldn't understand a lick of what anyone was saying to me. But now... NOW all I can think is "These people have AMAZING English!!!!" I heard someone use the word "copy cat" today. Wow. Wow. American English. It's SO nice to hear! :D

-There is American food here!!! Like, not even Indianized American food, there is true blue American food here. I just had Krispie Kream donuts with my lunch... divine. :)

-Girls here wear makeup!! Insane, right? After spending 6 months in a place where makeup pretty much doesn't even exist, to a place where the girls cake it on as thick as they do in America... It's weird. Real weird. 

-I'm NOT a super hero here! :( In Kakinada, white people are treated as gods, but now people barely even care that I'm white! Sad day. 

-There is a "hustle and bustle" here that is so... American feeling. That's one thing that I don't like. I like the laid back village life. 

-The church here appears that it's actually fairly functional here! woo woo! :D I'll miss seeing all the funny things that go on in the Kakinada branch, but's it's also nice to be in an Indian church that knows what it's doing (for the most part at least, haha)

Those were just a few things that have shocked me. But really, I am in shock right now. I will need to get used to this new area, but I think I'm gonna love it.

My new companion is named Elder Pilli. He is a very nice guy, and very humble also. He is also my first Indian companion! He is just 19 years old (most Indian elders finish their college before going on their mission, so they are 23-25). And get this: he has only been a member for a year and a half! Wow. A true inspiration. 

Also, our mission address changed. Here is my new address for mail and what not:

The Indian Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
No. 2-B, Rear Building, Garudarcharpalya, Mahadevapura Post,
Opp. ABB Tech Park, Adjacent to Brigade Metropolis,
Whitefield Road, Bangalore 560048,
Karnataka, India

Monday, November 25, 2013

Early Christmas

Zone Conference

Hey! Guess what I got this week?? A Christmas package from my dear family! :D Wow, I can tell you, I was VERY excited to rip that puppy open! And to my delight, you all WAY out did all of my expectations! There's been many times these last few days where I've been saying "Wow, mom and dad NAILED it! This is PERFECT!!" We've listened to my favorite Christmas song (Carol the Bells) probably around 10-15 times already... haha it's great. Thanks for all the wonderful western goodies too. I had to resist eating that whole bag of dark chocolate berries in one day! :) And Elder Thompson really loved the tie you sent too! He's very particular with the ties he wears, and he says the tie you sent is so good that it's going into his "post-mission" ties stack! I dare say, this is probably the best Christmas present I've ever gotten, so thank you very much. :)

This week I got to attend a wedding! It was SO funny! hahaha ohhhhh arranged marriages... they are a funny, funny thing. These two people have barely even known each other, and now they are getting married! It was so much fun to see how awkward the guy looked. It reminded me of the awkwardness the first time I went on a date... just totally awkward, and not knowing what to do. You could tell he was VERY uncomfortable putting his arm on her shoulder for their pictures. haha ohhhh fun stuff...

Yesterday at church was our branch's primary presentation. I thought the primary presentations in the USA were hilarious, but I was DYING yesterday! There were only 3 girls that did 90% of the presentation (one little boy bore his testimony also), but each one of the 3 girls gave like 2 or 3 talks, sang all of the songs, and each went up and bore their testimony. My favorite part was seeing how every time they would go up to give one of their short talks, they would ALWAYS start by saying "Good morning my dear brothers and sisters", even after they have already gone up two or three times already, and already said good morning to us... haha it's semi doctrinal though here in India to start your talks that way though. I always think it's hilarious when people that don't know English start their talk like this, "Good morning my dear brothers and sisters... Telugu Telugu Telugu" Every member of the branch knows at least those 7 words of English. :)

It kind of reminds me of the silliness in America where people say "for those of you that don't know me, my name is..." even though they were introduced before they started their talk, AND their name is in the program! haha, funny.

These past few weeks we have stopped eating at restaurants for lunch, and have started cooking inside. As we eat our lunch, we've been watching church videos that we have lying around the apartment (mormon messages, the District, the Testaments, etc.) Two things that I've thought of as we do this. One, I think of what I did during my lunch breaks at college. I would usually either get on Facebook while I was eating, or watch some quality Drake and Josh, or some other similar show. What a change from watching Drake and Josh, to watching videos about Jesus Christ! A very good change though, that's for sure.

The second thing I thought of is when we were watching the District videos (which is a documentary of some missionaries in California). Whenever Elder Thompson and I watch the segments of the elders we just think "Are you kidding me... have these guys even read Preach My Gospel before??" But then as we watch the segments with the sister missionaries we think, "Are you kidding me... how are they so good?!?!" I also recently learned that lat year, the highest baptizing missionary in our mission was not an elder, but a sister. And that's especially amazing when you think of the fact that we have 80 elders, and only 8 sister missionaries, so STATISTICALLY an elder should be the highest baptizing missionary. I'm beginning to think more and more that God lowering the age for sisters to go on missions was the single biggest action to hasten the work of salvation!

Little sister (Abbey), I really hope you go on a mission some day, because we definitely need more champs like you!

Have a great Thanksgiving break! Enjoy your American feast; I'll probably go to an all you can eat rice buffet. :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Love that Curry!

Since you mentioned tithing, I'll also say that I have been pleasantly surprised by how easily people accept the doctrine/commandment of paying tithing. To a large degree, I think that's because Indian society is run by churches, so people are used to paying big bucks to their pastors (pastor's homes tend to be... well above the standard Indian home). One elder even told me that he had an investigator say "10%? That's it?? Great! I was already paying 20% to my old church, so 10% should be easy!" haha :)

Yes, this month I passed the big 6 month mark! Huzzaw! :D To celebrate my 6 months completed, and my companion only having 6 months to go (he entered the MTC almost exactly one year before I did), we splurged a little bit and went to an AMAZING all you can eat buffet for lunch! I ate tons of rice, chicken curry (my favorite curry), egg curry, potato curry (another one of my favorites), this Hong Kong fried vegetable stuff (not really sure what it was), butter naan (delicious!), Indian style Chinese noodles, and then a few bananas and sweets for dessert. All this amazing food in a very classy looking restaurant, all for just $4.50. :)

Well, this week I have an interesting story to tell you. I'm not sure what you'll think of it, but I'll just tell you how I see it, and you can take it as you will.

About a year and a half ago, I received the Melchizedek Priesthood. During my time at BYU, I had a couple of times to use this priesthood, but each time I felt very intimidated, because I really had no idea what I was doing! Also, while I was at college, I remember very clearly one lesson we had on the priesthood in Elder's quorum, in which I thought to myself how I will ALWAYS be worthy enough to give someone a blessing. There should never be a time in my life when I had to tell someone that I can't give them a blessing, because I'm not worthy enough (wow, just the thought of having to do that makes me cringe...)

But, guess what I did this week. I denied giving someone a blessing.

What?! Crazy, huh? But, I'll explain the situation.

No, it's not because I'm not worthy (I'd say I'm more worthy than I've ever been before), and it wasn't because I was too scared to give the blessing (I've already given tons of blessings on my mission, so now I feel fairly confident in giving people blessings.) It's because I really want to help the people here in India, and sometimes that means not helping them directly, so that they can have the opportunity to help themselves.

You see, the church here in India is still very dependent on the missionaries. The church is very new here, so the Elders still play an integral role in making sure the church works properly. But, in my opinion, it's time for the church in India to begin standing on it's own two feet, and stop using missionaries as their crutch.

The tradition here in India is that whenever you are sick, you call the Elders. They will come give you a blessing. And at first, I was okay with this, because many people don't have a priesthood holder in the home, so I felt privileged to be the one that brings the blessings of the priesthood into their homes. However, I know that fathers, if they do have the priesthood, should be the one taking care of their family.

One night a couple of months ago, a man asked us to come give his son a blessing. We agreed to come over, and when we got there, I asked him if he had the priesthood. He said yes. In fact, he had served a mission from 2003-2005, so I knew this man knew very well how to use the priesthood. But, he refused to give his son a blessing. He only wanted us to give his son a blessing. So after much pleading, I agreed that I would give the blessing (believe me though, I was not happy about this. I knew he should be the one giving the blessing). After we left though, I made a resolve: never again would I give a blessing to someone IF they had a worthy Melchizedek priesthood holder already in their home.

Fast forward to this week, and a very similar situation came up again. A man asked us to come over and give his son a blessing. We came over, and then asked him if he had the Melchizedek Priesthood. He said yes. We told him he could give the blessing, and we would simply assist. He said he had forgotten how to give blessings, so we taught him again how to give them. Then we all agreed that my companion would do the anointing, and then this brother would do the sealing of the blessing.

But, after my companion anointed, this man wanted to back out. He started pleading for me to give the blessing instead of him. But, I told him I wouldn't. I told him it was his duty as the father of his home, and I was not going to take that duty away from him.

Sadly, after a couple of minutes of talking, the man just sat back down in his chair. He wouldn't give the blessing, and I would not give it either.

He told us "Sorry for wasting your time Elders." And then, after another minute of just casual conversation, we left. His son, as far as I know, was not blessed that evening.

I know it might sound harsh, but I'm pretty sick of people having faith in the elders, rather than faith in God.
But, there might be a happy ending to this story.

Yesterday, a different family called us and asked us to come give their daughter a blessing. We told them that they could have their home teachers come over, and they would give a blessing. So, we told them who their home teachers are, and they gave them a call instead. Their home teachers came over, and gave the daughter a blessing.

Guess who one of their home teachers is? The father of the son that I wouldn't bless.

There's no growing in the comfort zone, and there's no comfort in the growing zone. I think it's time to make the people of India a little uncomfortable, and help them get into the growing zone.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that long story of mine. haha :)

Have a wondrous week!

Elder Anderson

P.S. Also! This week India had a holiday that kids in America beg for every time we have Father's/Mother's Day: Children's day! :D But before you get too excited, let me tell you what a few of the highlights of Children's day are: the teachers at school give all the kids about 50 cents worth of candies, they get to play a few games, they don't get homework for the day, they don't have to wear school uniforms, and, best of all, the teachers don't beat them.
No uniforms, no beatings, a few games, and some candy. Sounds like every day in America, huh?

Enjoy your week long Children's day! ;)