Monday, March 31, 2014

Jumping Rope

It's starting to get pretty hot here in India. I'm glad to be in Bangalore though, which is the coolest city in our mission. One day this week I was passing by some of my little school girl friends that were out skipping rope, and I asked them if I could give it a shot. Of course they GLADLY gave me a turn, because really, who wouldn't want to see a foreigner jump rope? In an attempt to impress them I did 100 jumps, which yes, did impress them quite a bit. But, I learned my lesson. Doing 100 jumps while it's 100 degrees outside WHILE you are wearing a shirt in tie is not the best idea in the world... I was dying afterwards! :P Good times in the India Bangalore mission! 

I really like the way people refer to me here in India! All the little kids will call me Uncle, and adults will usually call me Boss. Haha it makes me fell really grown up and cool having people think I'm someone of high standing. I also enjoy having people that aren't members of the church call me Elder. Even though they don't believe what we believe, they will still show respect to us. India is a great place to serve. :)

This week we also had another elder join our companionship, making us a trio. His name is Elder Pydimalla. He has been out for about 20 months, and is from Andhra Pradesh (India). I really like him a lot! It's funny, because from the pictures he shows me from before his mission he looks like a total tool. Haha not to be rude, but it's true! :P But the awesome thing is that I can totally see in his personality that he has kept all the good traits tools have (confidence, the ability to talk to anyone, etc.), but being on a mission has helped to burn away his impurities (cockiness, self-centered-ness, etc.) I hope being on a mission can do the same thing for me. He is a lot of fun to work with, and he is a great missionary! 

One other story from this week. So, we teaching this AWESOME family that lives next to Shashi. This week though we were teaching them about the book of mormon, and as we were inviting them to read the book of mormon, I could tell they didn't understand really how serious this invitation is. I don't know what happened to me, but I guess the Spirit told me to be bold with them! I nearly started yelling as I told them that for them to read the book of mormon is one of THE most important things they can do! It is PROOF that this is God's one true church. ALL CHURCHES ARE NOT EQUAL!!! After the lesson I felt good though, knowing that if they still didn't read, it was on their shoulders. I had done my part in inviting them. 

With the oldest member of the Church in India - Dhanna Paul

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Unbeatable Questions

So, one area that we work in a lot is a poorer area. And, being a poor area, the people love us even more, but they speak less English... in particular the little kids LOVE us, buuuuut they know virtually no English. Frankly, I speak more Spanish than they speak English, which isn't saying much! BUT, one phrase that they do know is "I love you!" So, whenever we walk through this part of this city we have tons of little kids come up to us and shout "I love you!" Do they know what that phrase means? Probably not. But, I think if you only know one phrase in English. "I love you" is probably one of the best things you could know! :)

Here's an observation I don't think I've shared with you before. So, in India, most people go to whatever church is closest to you. Kind of like everyone has a neighborhood church. Well, that concept holds true for every church out there. Everyone EXCEPT for Jesus Christ's church. We almost NEVER have people that live right by the church actually go to church.

Hmmm... why would this be??? Well, my theory is that (not to be rude) people that just go to the church that is closest to them are lazy Christians. Or, Sunday Mormons as we term them in the church. But Jesus Christ's church isn't for the weak. It's for those who are willing to devote EVERYTHING. So, if you are looking for an easy way to worship Christ, this church isn't the one for you. No matter HOW close you live to a church building. 

So, as a missionary, I like to give people "unbeatable questions" when I am trying to introduce them to the Gospel. Unbeatable in the fact that only illogical people would give an answer other than yes. To a Hindu I might say "We are sharing a message about how to have a happier life/strengthen your family. Would you like to be happier/have a stronger family?" Or to a Christian I might say "Would you like to learn more about our Savior Jesus Christ? Would you like to receive more blessings from God?" See what I mean? Pretty tough to say no to those kind of questions. 

And people DON'T say no! Instead, they just give a response that has no relevance to what I just asked. 

"We are sharing a message about how to have a happier life/strengthen your family. Would you like to be happier/have a stronger family?"
"Uhhhh... I'm Hindu"
I didn't ask what religion you are! 

"Would you like to learn more about our Savior Jesus Christ? Would you like to receive more blessings from God?"
"I'm already Roman Catholic."
Sigh.... I didn't ask you what church you go to.... 

Also interesting is that whenever we contact a Hindu, they tell us we should go and teach Christians, because Christians are the ones that are interested in learning about Jesus. But whenever we contact a Christian they tell us they already know about Jesus, so we should go teach Hindus that don't know anything about him.

Haha... People's illogical-ness is fairly frustrating for me, but I can only imagine how frustrating is for Heavenly Father when He hears His children say things like this. 

I always find it interesting when members tell me about the story of how the missionaries found/taught them. Two interesting stories are heard this week were from our branch president and a YSA guy in our branch. President Anthony told us that missionaries had been teaching him for 8 months, and they kept pushing him to be baptized, even though he didn't really want to. But, he didn't want to hurt their feelings. So, he got baptized anyways, hoping that would get the missionaries out of his life! haha :) Little did he know what would follow in his life...

Then the YSA guy told us how he didn't really want to get baptized that much either. In fact, he knew when his baptismal date was, and he knew he would be signing up for the military before that date came. But, the army rejected him, so he didn't leave for military training... so instead he got baptized! :)

Neither set of elders had any idea what was going on with their investigator. But that's okay, because God knew EXACTLY what was going on their lives. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Trials of Shashi

A few funny things from this week...

We have a brother named Albert that comes on exchange with us a lot. One day he came and told us that his neighbor was sick, and he wanted us to come give her a blessing. We told him that he also has the ability to go and give her a blessing. He said "Elder, I was alone... I couldn't go in by myself!" MAYBE he was referring to the fact that it's better to have 2 brethren there when you give a blessing, but I got the impression he was thinking he couldn't go in and visit a sister by himself. haha he's been hanging around Elders too much! :)

So, in India it's fairly acceptable to go pee anywhere you want. In Bangalore it's a little bit more frowned upon (since this city is pretty westernized), but it's still okay. I have one spot that I always go to, because it's kind of dumpy garbage spot that is hidden away behind a big building, so I can still have some privacy. Well, this week as I turned the corner around the big building I found that some old guy was already there peeing in my pee spot! Ridiculous.... But it's okay. We just awkwardly went to the bathroom together. 

Yesterday was the holiday Holy, the one where they spray colors at everyone. I had to make a mad sprint away from some 6 year old that thought it would be funny to spray my white shirt with some orange stuff! haha :)

Yesterday we also went to a funeral function. Pretty much, it's a big party when someone dies (exactly what you want, mom!) I felt kind of awkward though, because we were treated like the guests of honor when we came to it... I'm not even related to the person, and I was treated way better than the family members there! :P Indians love love love white people. 

Sad news for this week though: our golden investigator Shashi is being buried under a big mound of trials and hardships. Her testimony is stronger than a vast majority of church members, but she is just getting trials pounded down onto her. First, her mother-in-law passed away (hence why we were at a funeral function yesterday; she insisted that we come to it). Then, her husband got so upset about his mom passing away that he is drinking more than ever. Morning, afternoon, evening. Always drunk as a skunk. :( And, because he's upset and drunken, he likes to take some of his anger out on Shashi... physically. Then, to make life even MORE exciting for this woman, she is having some un-surmountable financial struggles. So, she used to have a job that made $130 a month, but it forced her to work on Sunday, so she found a different job with Sunday off, but it only pays $95 a month (pretty significant drop). So, you'd expect that she would just get some awesome temporal blessing from that, wouldn't you? Well, I'm sure God has some big blessing in store for her in the future, but as of now... it's not looking good. See, she needed $500 to pay for her daughter's school fees, but there is no way she just has that much money lying around the house, so she took out a loan. She hid the money away in her house, because it was still gonna be a week or 2 before it was time to pay the school fees.

Well, guess what? The money was stolen. All $500. 

As she told us about this, she just broke down into tears, knowing that there is no way she is going to be able to pay for her little 6 year old daughter to go to school.....

AHHH! It just makes me so frustrated!! Why are prideful jerks like myself just given every possible comfort in life on a silver platter, while there are oober humble people like Shashi that have the few meager blessings in there life ripped out of their hands? I've been a member of the church long enough to know "the answer" to questions like this, but it just frustrates me to no end to see a woman I love so much go through such ridiculous trials.... 

Sigh... we're definitely praying over this, because we have no idea what to do. Because, to top it all off, James (Shashi's husband) doesn't want Shashi to join the church (he wants her to come to his church). Ahhh.... we really don't know what to do. 

It'll make a great story 5 years from now when we can look back and see how God's masterful plan unfolded in Shashi's life, but for now... It's not looking good. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

1 in 10 Billion

This week was a BLAST! Lots of awesome leadership stuff that I got to be a part of (in fact, I'd say this week was the first week that it really sunk into me that I'm a leader right now!)

To kick off the week I got to attend Mission Leadership Council. They've started something new in our mission in regards to MLC. They used to have all the zone leaders fly into Bangalore each month for MLC, but they decided that was too expensive/time consuming, so now they only do that every other month. On the other month, we all hold a council on Skype together. So, this Tuesday I got to be part of a virtual conference! 

It's really cool getting to learn such a variety of things on a mission. Such as, one thing I never expected I would learn about, the pros and cons of a virtual conference vs. an in-person conference. Yes, Skype is definitely much cheaper and easier, buuuut.... haha maybe not quite as effective. Think about Noah. When he is on Skype, how does he act? Pretty crazy. Now, realize that elders are only slightly more mature than a 17 year old... haha ya, it was pretty great. 

Me and my companion bought a whole bunch of American food that you can ONLY get in Banaglore, and made sure everyone else could see what we were eating.... Only place in the mission you can get root beer! Try not to be TOO jealous, all you other zones! :P 
Yummy American Food

But, I still did feel the Spirit, and some good things were discussed, so it was still definitely a worth while adventure. 

Also, this week I got to go on exchange with one our district leaders and his companion. It was interesting, because although this district leader has been out the exact same amount as time as I have (actually, maybe even a week or two more), he still clearly saw me as someone that could lead him. Kind of a weird experience, having someone look to you for guidance and expertise, when really you have no idea what's going on either! haha. I see my missionary efforts in a similar way that Woody saw Buzz Light Year's flying: "That's not flying... it's falling! Falling with style." Yup. Pretty much sums up my skills as a missionary! :) This week was actually the first time it's hit me that I really have been out on my mission for a while, and I still feel like I fall quite short of where I need to be... I gotta ramp it up even more! 

On the exchange, I learned how careful I need to be with what I say/suggest, because as soon as the big 'ole zone leader says he thinks something is a good idea, all of a sudden it becomes THE only idea to be used. "Whoa whoa whoa! That was just my opinion!" haha I'm sure you have the same problem, Bishop Anderson.

Okay, and now I gotta share with you guys one complete and total miracle that happened to us this week. Again, like most miracles, this could be explained away as a "coincidence", but the chance of it happening on it's own is about 1 in a 10 billion chance. Hopefully I can adequately explain it to you so that you understand how amazing this is.

To start, you need to remember Bangalore is a BIG BIG BIIIIIIIIG city. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe its size smokes all American "big cities". Next, you need to know that people use Autos a lot here in Bangalore (the Indian form of a Taxi). Now, you need to understand that Auto drivers are NOT honest people (on the whole). They are notorious for scamming people. Just an example, the other day we took an auto, and it cost 90 Rupees, and I handed the guy a 100 rupee bill, but instead of giving me my change back he just sped away as fast as he could. Ya. Pretty much sums up Auto drivers. 


So, two weeks ago we took a video projector from the mission office to use for one of our training meetings. After we got the projector, we took an Auto back to our apartment. Unfortunately........ we left the projector in the back of the auto. Just totally forgot about it. And by the time we remembered, the auto driver was gone.

Projectors are expensive, even in dollars, but in Rupees... they are worth a fortune. We knew that driver could sell that projector for more money than he makes in a month, so we kissed that bad boy goodbye. We submitted a "lost or stolen church property" form to the mission office, and they said it was alright, they would pay for a new one (we felt so bad about it though...)

BUT, just 2 days ago, we had our miracle. The projector was returned. While we were waiting for a member to show up that was gonna come with us for exchange, an auto driver pulled over on the side of the road and beckoned us over. We weren't really sure what he wanted, but we decided to go over to him. After using his broken English to confirm we were the right people, he told us that he was the auto driver that we had used when we lost the projector!! He said he tried to find us as soon as he saw we had left the projector in the back of his auto, but it was too late, he couldn't track us down. So, he took the projector to his home for safe keeping. Then, by some amazing "coincidence" he saw us waiting on the side of the road, and recognized who we were.

He then drove us to his home, gave us back the projector, introduced us to his family, and bought us each a mango juice drink to celebrate. Amazing. Simply amazing. 

The chances of this happening really are 1 in 10 billion. The fact that he just happened to be driving in the same place we were standing. The fact that he even noticed us. The fact that he recognized us. And most amazingly, the fact that we left the projector in THE one only honest taxi drivers in all of Bangalore! 

I'm still in awe. 

And to top it off, the guy is Muslim. On my mission, I have gained a great respect for Muslims, and this guy just confirmed my respect for this people even more. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rosy Cheeks

Well, first I will give you an update with Shashi, and then tell you the super duper exciting news for the week. Sister Shashi is doing AWESOME! She never ceases to amaze me. Really an amazing woman. And her kids are just TOO adorable, so it's always a blast going over there! :) And guess what? In the past 2 weeks we have visited her home a lot, and in the last 2 weeks we have never seen James (her husband) drunk. Not once. Blessings from his wife accepting the Gospel? I think so. 

It would be more than crazy if someone like Shashi came and visited our home in America... for multiple reasons. For one, it would be the equivalent of one of us getting to go live in one of those houses on the show "Cribs". Just ridiculous how nice our home would be to her. Overwhelmingly nice. And being surrounded by church members... crazy! 

Well, big big news for this week. For the first time in YEARS we had a mission conference!! All of the missionaries from the entire India Bangalore mission all assembled in Bangalore for our conference. (haha we had 14 elders sleeping at our apartment that night. We only have 8 mattresses... ya, things got cuddly.) Flying in tons of elders, and other elders taking buses for 14 hours to get to the conference. A LOT of work went into getting everyone there.

Mission Conference with Elder Holland

So why all the hoopla for getting all the missionaries together? Well, we had a special visitor come and talk to us... ELDER JEFFREY R. HOLLAND!! :D SO COOL!! 

It was a day I'll definitely never forget. Everything from being reunited with many of my missionary friends, to getting to shake an Apostle's hand (and in that 5 second encounter with him, he told me I had nice rosy cheeks... haha everyone loves 'em!), to getting to hear Elder Holland give some top notch training IN PERSON! It was all so great. 

Interestingly, he didn't give us a "hell fire and damnation" talk at all (he talked about teaching to investigators needs/level of understanding), but still after hearing from him I felt like I could/need to do so much better... I'll do my best! 

Then on Saturday all the other zones went back to their normal areas, but since I'm here in Bangalore I got to be here on Sunday when we had a special District Conference presided by Elder Holland! So I got to have a double dosage of that man! Huuzaw! It was so great seeing how many people came to the district conference. Even people that are less than fully active in the church came out to the meeting. It was OVER FLOWING in there! So many people came. :) 

I did think afterwards though how Elder Holland really didn't give some amazing kind of talk (as in, not anything way more amazing than he would normally give in Conference), but the difference that this was so much better is because WE were more spiritually prepared to receive the message he would give to us. I'll just have to keep that same kind of prepardeness when conference comes around again! 

Also, after the District Conference I was delighted to see Vidya Sree, Dinakeran, and Manjula there from Convent Road branch. Glad to see that some of my favorite people are still coming to church! :)

Bangalore Zone Conference
Me, and Elder Singh, and Elder Mangum