Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dressed in White

Well, as you may have noticed from the pictures I forwarded to you, we had a baptism this week!!!! :D Manjula, Vidya Sri, and Dinakaran. All very wonderful people. :)

It was so cute watching them get prepared for their baptismal interview. It was like watching a little 16 year old before his first date; they just wanted to make sure they had everything perfect, that they knew exactly what they should say, etc. etc. Even in the moments right before the interview Manjula asked me to review the questions with her again! Haha and you'll be happy to know, they all did great during the interviews. :)

Although, I must say that even I got a little nervous while the interviews were going on... I don't even know why! They are all awesome. I guess their anxiousness rubbed off onto me a little bit. :P 

These are the first people on my mission that I have been with from finding them to the time they are baptized. Every other baptism has come from people that elders had already taught a little bit (even if just 2 or 3 lessons - me and my companion have still been the ones to set all the baptismal dates). But, it was cool getting to see the whole process from start to finish. Well, I guess "finish" is the wrong word. Their journey has just begun! 

It really was a great day. I got to give baptism for Manjula and Dinakaran, and even I felt so clean after leaving the font. :)

P.S. Random observation of the week: Basketball isn't a very big sport here in India, but I realized that all of the S churches here still have basketball courts... I guess B-Ball is God's favorite sport? haha who knows!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tender Mercies

My first week as District Leader has been quite fun! I really do enjoy it. Although it is continually made manifest to me that I don't know what I'm doing... haha like this morning it was 8:30, and I remembered that there was a conference call for all of the district leaders and zone leaders at 8:15! Then, by the time I got logged in to the conference call, it was 8:45, and the zone leader told me that the conference call was already finished, but he would do a 5 minute-recap for me on what they talked about. haha woops! Totally my bad! :P

Hey! Our mission had a cool miracle this week! So, our mission has been rapidly decreasing in the number of missionaries that we have. Because, many elders are going home, but not a lot are coming in, because no one can gets visas. So, they have closed down a couple of areas in our mission, and then other areas where there were 2 companionships they decreased it to 1 companionship. So, this last fast Sunday President Berrett asked all of us, and all of the members, to pray that the Indian government would start approving visas for the elders that have been called to this mission.

Ten days later got the news that not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, not 8, not 9, not 10, but ELEVEN elders received their visas! Starting in February, our mission is going to start building in numbers again! Huuzaw! 

I think my mission (and my life) are just filled with miracles like this. They are the kind of miracles that a skeptic could say "oh, that's just a coincidence", but when they happen day after day after day, it comes to the point where it would be irrational and foolish to say that so many coincidences happened in a row. 

Tender mercies of the Lord! :)

One last thing... So I remember one of my older brothers (sorry, I don't remember which one!) wrote in one of their weekly missionary letters that they noticed how every time they had a baptism coming up, Satan would throw something into the person's life to try and make it difficult for them to make this eternal covenant. Well, I can now firmly attest that Satan works just as hard in India as he does in Mexico! 

Our golden investigators, Vidya Sri and her mom Manjula, who hopefully will be baptized next week, have been having serious family problems. The father in the family works for an appliance store, and this last week the business has 40 pipe pieces stolen from them. Because of that, he and all of the other workers, were under suspicion and kind of on trial. This has created a big hassle for their family, and they had to stop meeting with us for a while, because they said it would look very suspicious if people saw strangers coming into their home while this investigation was going on. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Be as a child

I received some big news this week! This last week I got a call from one of our Assistants, and he told me "Elder Anderson, we have chosen you, well, GOD has chosen you, to be the next District Leader for the Convent Road District." Woooow, big stuff! I start today as the new District Leader! 

I'm fairly intimidated by this though, knowing that out of the 6 elders in our district (including me), 3 of them have quite a bit of seniority on me. In fact, 2 of them are our zone leaders, and another one just finished being a zone leader, but then came here to train another elder in our district. Wish me luck, giving training to people that have been around the missionary block a lot more than I have! ^_^

On a different note, here is an observation I had this week: There is a very strong correlation (maybe even a causation?) of how Westernized a part of the city is, and how much freedom you lose. For example, in some areas of Bangalore you are living in the slums. Not at all like what you see in America. BUT, you can do pretty much whatever you want (e.g. you can go pee just on the side of the road, throw trash anywhere you please, etc.) However, there are other areas that look VERY nice (even nice by USA standards), but in those areas there are very strict rules (e.g. you need to be careful where you sit down, otherwise you might sit "in the wrong spot"!) I thought about how America is much like the latter situation. Everything is very nice, beautiful, and orderly, but there are rules rules and more rules. 

You can do this, but you can't do that. You can sit there, but not for too long or you will be loitering. You can say this, but if you say that it's not "politically correct". Etc. etc. 

Interesting trade off. 

On a different note, here is a more spiritual observation I had this week, one that I may have shared with you before, but I will share it again: people that are babies in the Gospel share it 10,000 times better that people that are veterans in the Gospel. 

Here's a quick story regarding this.

So, there is one sister missionary in our mission named Sister Ravi. When she first started her mission, her mom (Vijaya) was not a member. Many elders had tried to teach her mom, but she was a devout Hindu and refused to listen to them. But, after Sister Ravi left for her mission, her mom started to listen to the elders, and within a couple of months she was baptized (she was actually baptized a week or two before I came to Bangalore). 

Since she has been baptized, she has been sharing the Gospel with TONS of her friends, telling everyone how amazing Jesus Christ's church is, and how much happiness it has brought her. Some of our best investigators have come from Vijaya, including Vidya Sri (actually, Vijaya referred Vidya's mom, Manjula, but they came together as an amazing package deal of golden investigators!)

Now, since we have begun teaching the Gospel to Vidya Sri, she has introduced it to a couple of her friends, and it appears that they may also turn into very progressive investigators. 

Keerthi Sagar, baptized 2 months ago, also shows us at least one new friend a week.

Contrast that by the fact that I don't think I've ever received a referral from a member of the branch presidency, the Elder's Quorum president, the Relief Society President, etc. 

I blows me away that these people that are still just laying the foundation of their testimonies are a bajillion times better at sharing the Gospel than people with "solid" testimonies. 

I've thought of a few possible hypothesis as to why this is, but really, I can't fully explain it. It still baffles me. It baffles me at how amazing these new people in the Gospel are, and it baffles me how weak the veteran in the Gospel are. 

May we all be children in the Gospel. :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Now Is the Time

Oh, and this week I got many other Christmas cards, including one from Adam and Chelsea, the Ewings, and some Christmas toffee from Grandma and Grandpa Peterson! Awesome! I really enjoyed the cards, and another elder in our apartment (Elder Gottipatti) thoroughly enjoyed the toffee (I shared quite a bit with him, because he really liked it, and I know he is having a tough time adjusting to Indian food. I remember when I first came here I was dying with joy every time I got a chance to eat American food, so I understand the pain he is going through!)

One interesting thing I observed this week is that all of us who share the Gospel have a favorite emphasis. Example, I will teach people about the Book of Mormon every chance I get. If there is ever a question about what to teach, I always want to teach about the Book of Mormon, because that is what my testimony is based off of. However, my companion Elder Pilli LOVES the plan of salvation, and he wants to teach that at every chance he gets. I think that is what has really helped his testimony become real/meaningful, so he wants to share it with others. But then there is also Keerthi Sagar, who comes on exchange with us a lot. He always wants us to give people pass along cards, with our number on it, to people we meet on the streets. Even if the person isn't interested, he wants us to give them a pass along. Through a series of miraculous events, Keerthi Sagar got a pass along card from one of his friends who had happened to receive one from an elder, and that is how Keethi got introduced into the church, so he has a full testimony of pass along cards! 

All very good things (Book of Mormon, plan of salvation, pass along cards), but it's interesting how we all have different things that we have a little bit more faith in. 

Okay, I need to tell you another story about Vidya Sri (she is just too perfect of an investigator!) So this week we had a whole lesson on the Book of Mormon (my favorite!), and went over the introduction with her. We told her about reading the book, pondering, and then praying to ask God if the book is true. We asked her if she would do these things, and she said "Ya sure, I'll read the Book of Mormon. But do I need to ask if it's true? I've already asked God if this is the path I should take, and He has already told me yes." 

She then went on to tell us about how before she came to church for the first time, she had prayed and asked God that morning if she really should go to this church, and really listen to our message. After she was done praying, she opened the Bible to a random page, and started reading 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. And let me just tell you, those verses are PERFECT!! In the King James version of the Bible they give a pretty clear answer, but her Bible is one of those Bibles with modern English. In her Bible it was written even more clear than in our Bible! Ahhhh! So perfect!!

Essentially this: Now is the time to come unto God. I have reached out to you, and now today is the day to come unto Him. 

Obviously, I'm a pretty big fan of God, but after hearing the answer that He gave to her I just wanted to shout praises of joy for how amazing He is! :D 

Baptism of Shruthi

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Very Merry Christmas

So as you saw, we had a member take us all of us elders out for a Christmas dinner. He is here in Bangalore for work, and has been here for about 3 months, and will leave next month. He doesn't really have any family or friends to celebrate Christmas with here in India, so he said he might as well spend this special day with the missionaries! Very nice for us, because he definitely treated us very well. The restaurant he took us to was insanely nice (and expensive. Good thing he treated!) It was weird being in that restaurant though, because everyone around me was just dripping with money... haha I have felt so out of place, being just a poor little missionary and what not! It really was a lot of fun though. 

And as you saw, before that we also had a Christmas lunch with Elder and Sister Smith. They made GREAT Christmas food, including delicious mashed potatoes and what chocolate chip cookies! woo woo! Fun fact: Indians don't like mashed potatoes. Crazy, huh? 

And also later in the day, Keerthi Sagar invited all of us over for an Indian Christmas dinner! Ghee rice and chicken curry. It really was good food, but it was difficult to ear, because, well, I'd already gorged myself with 2 Christmas feasts just a couple of hours before that! 

A very merry Christmas indeed! 

Oh, and of course I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you all as well! You know how I don't like calling people, but I think that phone call with you all was still definitely the highlight of my week. :)  

I also just want to mention to you about our star investigator, Vidya Sri (not 100% sure if that's how you spell her name... haha I'm doing my best!) She is only 14 years old, but she literally is a perfect investigator. No joke, I don't think I could design a better investigator myself if I got to choose all of the traits that an investigator had. Just a few examples of how great she is. 

"Joseph Smith was very confused, and was trying to figure out which church to join. He turned to the Bible to help find an answer. He found one verse that really helped him discover what he needed to do." 
"Can I know which verse that is???"
"Actually, yes, yes you can! We were just about to turn to it now!"

"Will you be baptized?"
"Well YA, of course!" *giving us a "would you expect anything else?" kind of face*

"Hey Elders, my uncle is actually interested in learning more about Jesus Christ. Would it be alright if you came over and taught him too?"
"Yes, yes that would be QUITE alright!" :D 

Some people understand what we teach mentally, but don't want to accept it in their lives. Other people want to do the right thing (the things that we teach them to do), but they are mentally incapable of understanding what we are teaching (usually due to a language barrier). But Vidya Sri can understand what we are teaching AND she wants to accept it and change her life! A very very great combination indeed. 

Have a happy New Year! And be sure to set some awesome possum goals! :)