Monday, October 20, 2014

No, I'm not from Utah

This week I got to go back to Hyderabad to finish my work at the FRRO (foreigner registration for the respective area where I live). After 2 days, I successfully got a transfer paper from the Hyderabad FRRO, so now I can go to the Bangalore FRRO, and hopefully after a day or two there I will be registered here in Bangalore! I was very blessed when I went to Hyderabad though. I think I worked with the one woman in all of India's FRRO's the was actually friendly and helpful! It was amazing! She actually TRIED to help us, instead of seeing how much she could torture us! We sincerely thanked her after we left. 

While I was in Hyderabad I also got to go see my little baby, Elder Bandi! Haha he was so ecstatic to see me... even though it's only been like 3 weeks! He even wore his nice Sunday shirt and tie because he knew I was coming... cute cute. 

This morning after I finally got home, Elder Penugula (an elder in my apartment) came up to me and said, "Elder Anderson, are you sick? You always look so tired after you get back from traveling and exchanges..." All I could say was "Yup. That's because I AM tired..." :P

As I travel around our mission, I've gotten to meet a lot of elders I didn't know before. Almost always I have a conversation that goes something like this: 
"Elder Anderson, where are you from??" 
"Well, I'm from..." "WAIT! Let me guess."
"No, I'm not from Utah." 
"Are you serious?! Man, you look totally like a Utah Mormon!" Haha apparently I just scream Utah boy!

This week was also really exciting because our office couple missionaries, Elder and Sister Loewer, finished their missions! :( We definitely had an exciting last night with them! First, they took Elder George and I bowling! That was pretty cool. Then they had us over for an AWESOME dinner! REAL beef burgers, mashed potatoes, AND blueberry pie and brownies and ice cream for dessert! The mother-load!! :D We stayed and chatted for a long time, but finally around 10:30 we (me, Elder George, and the other 4 elders in our apartment) all said a final good bye to the Loewers before they left in a few hours, and headed back to our apartment (their apartment is the apartment building right next to ours). 

Well, we had a fun surprise when we got back to our apartment... So, a month ago, Elder Pilli came to Bangalore for Mission Leadership Council. Well, he accidently took our key with him back to Hyderabad... :P So for the last month all 6 of us were sharing one key. The good news is, when I went to Hyderabad to do my FRRO stuff, I got our key from Elder Pilli! But then when we got back to Bangalore, we gave it to a guy named Shanker to make 2 duplicates of it (one for the other companionship, and one to have as an extra). Weeeeeell.... we didn't tell the other elders we gave it to Shanker to make duplicates. All they thought is that we had an extra key with us. SO, they decided they didn't need to bring their key with them, knowing that we had an extra... so, when we got back to the apartment, we learned that Shanker had one of our keys, and the other key was inside our apartment....... So we went back to the Loewers apartment, and asked if we could sleep at their place for the night... haha I'm sure just what they wanted, 6 elders coming and spending the night with them when their taxi comes to pick them up at 3:30 that morning... First time in my life I brushed my teeth with just toothpaste and my finger! 

All in all, a fun, memorable experience. Reminds me of the time I stayed out too late at BYU, forgot my key, and slept outside from 4-7 until my roommates woke up to let me inside... Did I ever tell you that story?? It's a good one! 

Also, we inherited all of the Loewers unused food when they left... We've been eating pretty well these last few days. :-)

This week I had a talk hit me so hard as I read it. It was "The 7 Deadly Heresies" by Bruce R. McConkie. As I read the second heresy about evolution all I could think was "That's me! That is exactly what I think!! =0" I've always tried to combine my knowledge of the Gospel with my knowledge on evolution, but as I read that talk, I quickly realized that an apostle of the Lord thinks I am making a VERY VERY big mistake in my logic... I've done quite a bit of research this week on evolution from a Gospel stand point, and I've realized... evolution does not fit in with the Gospel! But... all I've ever learned in school is how evolution is so true and correct... I was feeling quite frustrated at these contradictions, so I decided to talk to the smartest guy in our mission: Elder Larson (he goes to MIT!!) I was fortunate to talk with him, because he told me that he has done a LOT of research on this topic, and has learned a lot. He shared with me quite a few flaws (from a scientific point of view) with evolution. Actually, pretty substantial flaws with the theory of evolution. But what he said most that really hit me was this: ALL true sciences bring us closer to God as we learn about them. They testify of God so clearly (chemistry, sociology, history, math, etc.) Everything that is, EXCEPT evolution. Evolution has caused more people to become atheist than just about anything else in the world. Hmmm... Also, the strongest proponents of evolution strongly tell others that God is NOT there. Hmmmm... that's a red flag. So not only may evolution be incorrect, but it may very well be inspired of the devil! I still haven't learned everything yet that I want to know on this subject, but believe me, my view of evolution has changed dramatically in the past few days.

These weeks are flying by so fast... it feels like I'll be talking to you guys tomorrow! So... have a great day!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Follow the Prophet

As always, General Conference was superb! I remember during the Saturday morning session when it got to the intermediate hymn I was thinking "What?! An hour has already gone by?! They just started!!" It was definitely a great spiritual experience. After conference was over, me and my fellow missionaries all agreed: Elder Bednar had the best talk. Hands down. But also, I thoroughly enjoyed Elder Callister's talk on parents being the primary gospel teachers. I'd say over my mission, I've come to really appreciate Elder Callister, and now he is one of my favorite people to listen to. One thing I noticed was that people talked about the prophet a LOT! How grateful we are to have a prophet, blessing him during the prayers, or sharing examples of things he has done within their own talks. Truly, he is a great man of God.  

Thomas S. Monson

 Gee wiz, I have so many great things to share from this week!

First off, we started going on exchanges with the zone leaders this week. Which is pretty awesome, because we take plane flights to go to their respective areas! It makes me feel pretty official, having flight travel paid for me so that I can go give training to the other missionaries. I had quite a few great experiences with them!

One part I really enjoyed was getting to go on exchange with Elder O'Dell. As you might remember, he was one of my companions in Indiranagar (Bangalore), so that was really sweet getting to serve with him again. He is one of my favorite companions. One what made it REALLY fun is that we were on exchange in Rajahmundry (the least speaking English zone in our mission), in an area that has the least English for all the areas in Rajahmundry! hahaha of man, the lessons were so funny! Half of the lessons we would speak baby level English, and the people could manage to understand, and then they would speak back in a baby level Telugu, and we managed to understand that. At one point Elder O'Dell even got a stick out to draw pictures on the ground to help them understand! It was awesome.

One thing that also really struck me was when we were teaching a very, very, VERY poor recent convert family. You know the houses they make on the TV show Survivor? Yup. Pretty much describes their living conditions. Instead of having the hut next to a beautiful ocean, it's next to a dirt field covered in trash. Delightful. It just made me a little angry that as we were describing the people in tents that surrounded the tower of King Benjamin, we described the tents by pointing to their own home... here we are in the 21st century, with incredible strides in technology, and yet people living thousands of years ago had better living conditions than they do! Why in the world is that??! Well, at least they have the Gospel now. That's better than all the riches in the world. They were a wonderfully humble and loving family. I'm glad I got to meet them. 

I was reminded what India is REALLY like. I've been living too long among the richest of rich Indians in the nation. 

Another fun experience was when I was on exchange in Visak. After District meeting, the whole zone went to lunch together. And, not intentionally, but as usual, all the Americans went to one place for lunch (Pizza Hut), and all the Indians went to some noodles and rice restaurant for lunch. No one ever intends to segregate Indians and Americans, it just naturally happens every time you do something together as a zone. We are comfortable with people that are similar to us. Just adds to the idea that people that are unrighteous won't even WANT to be in the Celestial Kingdom! Why would they want to spend eternity with people they have nothing in common with? 

I gave a lot of insights to the missionaries that I got to interact with. Hopefully some of it helped them in some way or another! 

On the way back, we had a 4 hour layover in the Hyderabad airport. Blah. Well, I picked up a newspaper (is that apostate for a missionary? I felt like it was fine!) and read through a few articles. One thing that really struck me was an article on what India is trying to do to solve it's power crisis. People aren't happy about having power cuts on a regular basis! And as I read this article I realized they are really TRYING to fix this problem, but they just aren't capable of producing enough electricity for everyone! Now, it gives me a new dimension ever time I leave a fan or light on. Because I left that fan on, that means there wasn't enough electricity for someone else to have any fan running in their house, because their neighborhood had a power cut (we never get power cuts. Our apartment complex has it's own generators. A LOT of generators.) Pretty sad, really. 

One last cool experience to share. So, one night we went out to visit a member's home. Unfortunately, she wasn't home yet, because she had to stay extra at work... Sigh... Well, fortunately there was a different neighbor that lives next door to her, so we went to go visit them instead. We just popped in, and of course they welcomed us inside their home. Well, as were talking and getting to know them I asked the husband, how he met his wife. He said "Don't ask me. Ask her." "Uhhh... okay. Lalitha, how did you two meet?" She was pretty silent. I was a little confused, "Why won't either of you answer that question??" The husband said "she doesn't want to tell the story, because that might stir up some romantic feelings in her." I was thinking "Uhhh... ya... so isn't that a good thing?" Well, come to find out, they actually hadn't been speaking with each other all day because they were angry at each other... :P But, this is what I am grateful for, we were able to help them bring the Spirit back into their home. We talked to them more about their marriage and how much they love each other, and shared a scripture on forgiveness, and by the end the husband went over and gave his wife a hug and a kiss. :-) Nice. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mister Anderson

Well, good news for me is I've gotten into the full swing of things here in Bangalore. I'm fairly confident doing my different duties now, and I'm beginning to learn our area pretty well also. Still, some things get a little stressful, because we deal with booking plan tickets for our mission, and dealing with big money can raise the stress a little bit... For example, I booked 4 people for the wrong time, and then to cancel their tickets it cost a total of 6000 Rupees ($100). Woops... fortunately, I then found an alternative for their travel that was 15,000 Rupees cheaper than the flight plans I should have originally booked, so all in all I saved 9000 Rupees! That's a month's salary here in India! 

Another fun, but sometimes stressful, part of my new life is that everyone expects me to have all the answers for their problems! Almost every night I get a call from someone asking if they can/should do XYZ, or what they should do to fix problem ABC. Uhhhh... I don't know what you're supposed to do! Although it's a tad bit stressful at times, it's also kind of cool having people listen to me. But really, it's kind of weird how much people listen to my opinions... haha. 

One problem though is when people don't like the answer I give (or that Elder George gives), so then they call the other person, and try to get the answer they want... Good practice for parenting I suppose, when Dad/Mom gives the "wrong answer", so the child goes to the other parent. You always need to be unified, even if you disagree with what the other parent said.

So, in my apartment, we have 6 elders total, and I am the only American; the rest are Indian. One night Elder George realized this, and asked if I was lonely, being the only American in our home. I said no I'm not, and really I'm not. I'm just fine talking to and being friends with Indians, as long as they can speak English! :P Fortunately, the elders in my apartment all have pretty solid English. There is even one elder, Elder Saroha, that is from New Delhi. Delhi people are... way American. In India, the country is very divided, North against South. I can see why! South Indians act like... Indians! Where as north Indians, especially those from Delhi, are waaaay westernized. Just for example, Elder Saroha will always refer to me as "Mr. Anderson", in reference to the Matrix. Or when we were walking this morning he started singing the Star Spangled Banner! What in the world?! Also, two Delhi sister missionaries were here for MLC this week, and they also were super American! One of them even used the phrase "shenanigans"! Rest assured, shenanigans is not in the typical Indian vocabulary. 

Also, here's another fun tid bit about Elder ******. So, this elder is... not the most obedient missionary in the world. In fact, most of his companions complain about him being a junk missionary... This week though, I learned something. Elder ******'s parents don't know he is on a mission. In fact, they don't even know he was baptized! He said "Ya, if my parents ever knew I was baptized... they would probably disown me." His family is Brahman, the highest caste in India. Getting baptized would ruin your prestige as a Brahman. His family is 110% Hindu. 

It just reminded me how we really have no room to judge others. We have no idea what situation they are in. Maybe some of their actions aren't the best. but for all we know, that person could be much more on the path to the Celestial Kingdom than we think we are.