Thursday, November 27, 2008

Letter re: Mumbai attacks

Hey guys,
i don’t know if you have been watching the news or if it’s on the news out there but apparently there was a big bombing in mumbai and they were targeting americans. i think that is why it is kind of a big deal for us. you will probably know more than me because you can read about it. but also, we heard that they are threatening to bomb bangalore and delhi next. i'm sure the government here is trying their best to handle the situation. so nothing really to worry about...but also we heard from a source that there was a bomb blast in secunderabad which is where we live. so that was kinda scary but we're not sure if that source was legit. the purpose of this e-mail is not to scare you! just to let you know that we are safe and nothing to worry about. i feel safe, even if there is all this crazy stuff going on. i feel bad for those people in mumbai. but ya, since we are american we have to be somewhat cautious. so we are not allowed to go out finding or anything. we can go to appointments if we have them but we have to take autos (golf cart things) - we can’t ride the bus. things will work out. i’m not scared so you shouldn’t be either. also happy thanksgiving! today we were so lucky because we got to go to the marriott hotel for dinner. it was bomb! i bet you were thinking, josh is probably going to have a sad thanksgiving, but we got hooked up! like the nicest buffet in India probably... turkey mashed potatoes and everything. loved it. have a great day, i’m just fine so don’t worry about me, love you guys.
your son- elder tuscano

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

11/26/08 letter from Josh

Dear Family,

How are you all doing? It was so good to hear from you, getting e-mails and being able to write to you all – I look forward to it all week. this week was a good one for sure. adjusting to life as a missionary is more difficult than i expected it to be. president nichols keeps telling me that adjusting to life as a missionary is much more difficult than adjusting to living in India. he is so right. but still, i am learning so much and beginning to find this work to be fun.

So, I’m not sure what i mentioned about christians in the last e-mail, but we can actually talk to everyone we want. my companion is kind of reserved and doesn’t really prompt me to make contact with people on the street. in fact sometimes he would kinda discourage me from opening my mouth in the first place. but i talked to my district leader about it and asked him if we really aren’t supposed to talk to people that much, like my companion made it seem. but he told me i could talk to whoever i want. so that’s what i started doing and we have been contacting a ton. you should see me. i just walk up to whoever now. we have met christians, but the majority are hindu. we have appointments with new investigators this week and they are all hindus. it seems like the roman catholics here are just very stubborn and want to bible bash. ha i never thought i would be bible bashing in india, but i was wrong. except i really try not to be contentious and drive the spirit away.

so, we had this lady, sister bagyamarry marked for baptism on dec 7th but she didn’t come to church on sunday and you have to come 3 weeks in a row to get baptized, so we have to postpone it a week...if she is able to make it to church the next three weeks. she is a great lady, she seems to have a strong testimony but there are a lot of things going on in her life at this time, and she doesn’t completely realize the importance of this step in her life. i am praying for her to be able to recognize how much this matters. if you can, you should pray for her to know really how important baptism is. she also has a daughter named rosie who is like a dancer in all these telegu movies and is gone a lot. she is 18, but when she is home she really enjoys meeting with us. I’m not sure if it’s the message she really cares about though...i hope that the example of her mother will help her. we are teaching other families, a boy of 17 named prisanth and he is ready to be baptized but his father won’t allow it. the father is kind of rude and his mother just wants to bible bash when we go over. so we are really praying for his father’s heart to be softened. that auntie from last week actually told us not to come back anymore, that was my first real taste of discouragement on the mission, cause i really felt that the spirit was there and they realized he was testifying to them. but like nephi says, the power of the holy ghost can carry the truth unto their hearts. not into them. too bad. otherwise we have a few new investigators, i met a guy named chandu on sunday night. sometimes we just ask people if they “are liking jesus christ” and when i asked him, he got so excited and was like "i love jesus christ!" he is hindu but we are meeting with him soon. i hope it goes well.

this week my companion has been sick. he woke up in the morning the past few days and then just went back to sleep for the rest of the day. so i get to stay home and extend my personal study. but it’s not too bad, i really had some good spiritual experiences while studying. i have been reading jesus the christ by james talmage. that book is so captivating. he is such a good writer. but, today i think my companion feels better. i hope so, because the past few days we had some appointments i was excited about and we had to postpone.

church is always a fun experience here. you should hear the hymns during sacrament. indians don’t usually have musical training i guess, right mom? needless to say, the congregation does not really sound much like the mormon tabernacle choir. It’s an experience, we went to PEC this week ha and its really just like a huge argument. not like people are mad at anything, but i guess that’s just how things are done here. like people will be yelling at your face but they are not mad at you, they are just talking -- surely, something to get used to.

(above is the family letter and below are general comments from letters that Josh wrote to each of us)

service does bring joy. little random things, like helping people out on the street and stuff. it makes me happy.

their english is very different than ours. It’s sometimes hard for us to have a conversation. i have to talk slowly. remember how you were teaching me tamil -- you were saying you have to like talk in different tones? you have to do that while you are speaking english to them or they won’t understand you at all. so i have been working on it, and also the head shake. that was the first thing to come, i can do that like a champ, but talking is a different story. I’m getting the hang of it though, like you have to leave out words and stuff. ya there are places to get American food, but they have like biscuits here and they are delicious, do you know what I’m talking about mom? i just get a rack of those when i shop, so ya you don’t need to worry about sending snacks. we are supposed to move by the end of the year. they want us to live in a flat with just our companionship. so we are looking for a nice one. It’s kinda hard to find a good one, but lucky my comp is indian so we don’t get ripped off by brokers. Ya, there are american restraunts here like kfc. my comp likes that so we eat there sometimes. mostly we eat at this bakery close to our apartment. they have samosa and cutlets that i like. we have biryani here cause its way good. we hardly cook. we don’t eat dinner in the mission cause that’s the best finding time. so we have like 10 minutes after 9:30 to eat something and there is no time to cook. i make breakfast and that’s always eggs and toast. elder siyyadri made dosa last night though and that was good. masala dosa is my favorite thing i decided. we have a thanksgiving feast tomorrow at the marriott hotel actually. they are hooking it up. only like 200 rupees ($5). it should be good.

i have learned this much lately, in the scriptures whenever jesus is talking, you need to analyze every word. he does not waste words, so every word is so important. being a missionary is tough. for some reason i thought it would be easy, but it’s not. I love it though. i work hard and at night I’m so tired, but i only have two years. when i get discouraged i just think of you guys and my other friends that are all around the world doing the same thing.

i have seen so many monkeys this week, there are stray dogs everywhere. also the other day there was a camel in the street! how crazy?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1st letter from 1st area - Hyderabad

Dear Family,

I think I will start to organize my e-mails like this: a general letter to the family explaining things about the mission and everything. Then I will write back to each of you respectively. So here it goes...

Wow. I knew that I had no idea what to expect coming out here. and i was so right about that. India is so so different than the USA. I am trying my best to adjust as fast as I can, but still, its a completely different world out here. As President Nichols mentioned, I am serving in Hyderabad, in the Second Branch there. Actually, there are four branches out here in Hyderabad. The first two are in the city and the other two are basically out in the villages. The church in India is the strongest here. The first branch has about 500 members our branch I think has close to 200 or something. but not everyone is active. So when they decide to create a stake in India...Hyderabad will undoubtedly be the host of it. So, I was very excited to hear that i was going to be serving here and also I felt very blessed that the president would send me here to begin my mission.

My companion is a native, and he comes from a city called Visakapathnam which is north of here maybe 350 miles or so. He has been out in the field for 18 months. He is a good trainer, obedient, and pretty hard working. I am learning a lot from him. I think maybe he is just a tad excited to go home though...hah I guess I cannot blame him though. He has served here in Hyderabad for 8 months, which is an unusually long time to be in one area, but he has been doing work so it’s chill. We are both thinking that after this next transfer, when he is done training your one and only, he will be leaving to another area.

Ok, so the city is ridiculous. There really are so many people here, you wouldn’t believe it. I'm sure that the videos you are watching give you some idea, but you really don’t have a clue until your trying to walk across the street, and you look up there is a bus literally about to run you over, or a motorcycle, or an auto-rickshaw, or even a car. Crossing the street is so scary. My first time, I knew I was going to die. Here, people are just as common in the middle of the road as cars. Traffic laws here are merely suggestions. But, I am starting to get the hang of it. There is a verse in 1 corinthians that this experience reminds me of, walking by FAITH and not by sight. Ha, you just have to go for it and hope they don’t hit you...and they usually don’t. Lets see, being so populated the cities are very dirty. The streets are pretty muddy and not very even, there are many areas that are very modern, but those areas are very few compared to the areas that are old and run down. It’s very interesting, here you can drive down the street and you will see a plot of land that is completely destitute with a few piles of bricks and mud and right next to it you will see a very modern edifice, like a designer store or something. The contrast here is so abrupt, there is poverty and wealth like any other place, but the difference that here they are one in the same. There are so many beggars on the street and it’s sad because we cannot give them money. In our area of the city it is largely residential, so there are apartment complexes and many houses. The streets are in very poor condition so you have to be careful when you are walking. The apartments we live in are very nice for India. They have marble floors, but that doesn’t mean they are way nice or anything. They are comparable to a decent apartment in the US. There are 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. There are 6 of us in our apartment right now. We have A/C so that’s nice, and we have showers with hot water...sometimes. Also, we have a washing machine but no dryer.

Ok, now on to the good stuff. We are teaching right now about 10 different people. We met two new families on monday evening and I think they will be very good investigators. They are both Christian families and are well acquainted with the bible. We taught to both of them the first discussion and with the first family we left a book of mormon. I think the auntie will end up reading, or at least I hope she does. We have a return meeting tomorrow. Finding people is exhausting, but really the key is faith. If I walk out the door in the morning knowing that I am gonna find someone today, I do. It’s seriously incredible. In another family there is a Brother Raj and he is the head of the household and was baptized 3 weeks ago by my companion. He received the priesthood this past sunday! His wife does not speak english, only telugu so we can bring members to translate, and with permission from the branch president she can be baptized, so we will work for that. We also have a few more families we are teaching, I haven’t met all of them yet, but i will soon. Man, teaching is so fun. It’s like the reward of all the hard work you do finding people. It's when you walk out of a house after a lesson and the spirit was there that you feel so relieved and satisfied. That is what makes it worth it.

Below are excerpts from individual emails that Josh sent:

So, when we came in the first day there was a parade here. It was the BJP party, I think you may have heard of them. But they are just like an activist group who hates christianity, when we came into the city everyone was staring at us like they were gonna kill us. We took off our name tags but once we got to the apartment we had to stay inside. Most of the people are very mild mannered but there are a certain few here that will cause a whole lot of trouble for us. So...we just have to avoid them. Consequently, teaching Hindus is a touchy matter. you cannot knock on hindu doors and we are very cautious in even approaching them on the street, when i say that i mean that we usually just don’t... the branch here is very good. the members are sweet. i have met a few i really like. One is Madhu, he is a convert of a about a year. he goes to school here and works at a call center so he can do an american accent, it is much easier to understand! he is funny and he comes to exchanges with us, i really enjoy him.

My first week here was very interesting and a lot of adjusting to do. I am trying to embrace India as much as I can, eating the food and eveything. I love the masala dosas here I always get them for tiffins. There are many sambars and curries to eat, but my stomach does still need to do some adjusting to food. Also, we have to be careful of water to drink. sometimes we go to houses and they bring us glasses of water. I drink some and then set them down. i dont wanna know what will happen if i drink the whole glass.

india is so crazy. the people here are so cool though. like if you walk down the street they will stare at you like you're an alien or something, but if you smile at them they light up and are so excited to wave at you.

india is so different than america. there are little kids running around in the street all the time. but they are all so smart. yesterday i met a young boy named krishna who was your age and he was so polite i was amazed by it, probably about as smart as you too man. the food is good here, very hot to eat, but you just have to get used to it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arrival letters from Bangalore!

hey family-
How are you?! I am just sitting here at a computer in the office in Bangalore. We got here last night at about 1:30am local time. The trip was very long... too much time on the airplane if you ask me. India is incredible. There are so many people here and the streets are crazy! I'm glad we don't get to drive because I don't think I'd be able to go for very long before getting hit by someone -- it's crazy! We have interviews with President Nichols today and tommorow morning and we'll get assigned to our areas. I am kind of hoping that I go to Chennai at first (note from family: Chennai is where Usha is from). They say its the hardest area, but, whatever. So, if you send me a package make sure to keep it blank (don't put any writing on it or really indicate what is in it). Send it to the mission office and keep it under 4 lbs. I gotta go, so, love you, and talk to you next week.
-elder tuscano

(letter from President Nichols)
Elder Tuscano arrived safe and sound in Bangalore early this morning. We picked up he and his companions and brought them into Bangalore. They got to bed about 4:00 AM. We then had them come over to the Mission Home where Sister Nichols fed them a great breakfast. We then gave all the elders an orientation. Then we took this photo of Sister Nichols and I and your son. This afternoon we brought them all into the Mission Office and covered a number of items with each elder. I then had a wonderful interview with your son.

I will meet with him again tomorrow morning and give him his first assignment. He will be assigned to the Hyderabad II Branch, in Hyderabad, India which is about 500 miles north of Bangalore. His companion will be Elder Siyyadri an outstanding young man that I trust very much. He is a local elder from Visakhapatnam. Your son will be in good hands.

Hyderabad is a great place and the city where the church is probably the strongest. He will do well there.

Elder Tuscano seems to be doing well and adjusting though he is still suffering some from lack of sleep and jet lag. Thank you for sending us your wonderful son.

Please do not hesitate to contact me.
President Melvin R. Nichols

Monday, November 10, 2008

Josh departs for India

Josh departed the Provo MTC today. He flew from Salt Lake City to Denver (we got to talk with him by phone at each of those airports). He flies from Denver to Frankfurt, then on to Bangalore and arrives on Wednesday, November 12. He sounded excited and anxious.

When Josh and the 13 other missionaries going to Bangalore arrived at the Salt Lake airport, they met an Indian gentleman traveling the same route. He was very friendly and acquainted with the LDS faith (for over 30 years). It was a great opportunity for the missionaries to experience the challenge of discussing differences and similarities among religions as they prepare to teach the gospel.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

another MTC email

Today we received from Josh what may be the last email before he leaves for India on November 10. He described a typical day at the MTC (below is the excerpt from his email).

My companion and I wake up just before 6:00am so that we can exercise before we have to go. Every day is a little different, but most of the time we have gym, first thing - that starts at 6:35. It is about an hour long. Since it's so early, it's usually dark and cold; therefore, I can't go outside to play soccer, which is what I would really want to do. Instead, I just play basketball, there are some chill kids that are pretty good so the games are fun. My companion plays four square. After gym, we shower and go to breakfast which is at 8:15. It lasts till about 9:00, then we go straight to class, which is where we stay till lunch at 1:00pm! ha, but it's not too bad... sometimes we have teaching appointments and the spirit is very strong so its not like i'm sitting in class counting the bricks on the wall or anything. Lunch lasts till around 2:00, and depending on the day, we either have a large group meeting, which is just instruction with a bunch of missionaries about different things pertaining to missionary work of course, or we go back to the classroom and have personal and companionship study. Then we have MDT, which is missionary directed time. During this time we decide what we want to do. You can study more, set up appointments in the T.R.C. or the T.E., but usually my companion and I walk around outside and teach lessons to elders and sisters. I taught an elder with the last name Hurst this past week! He is from slc and thinks he is distantly related to bryson. That made me excited. Also, during the afternoon, brother petersen will come in on most days to help us practice different aspects of teaching. He is so good. The best thing about him, is that he will tell you directly and specifically what you need to improve. I love that! So, because he comes in, we usually have our MDT time cut into alot more than the other missionaries, but that is fine with me. At 6:00pm we have dinner. After dinner, we will usually go to the RC which is the refferal center. It's where you call when you get pass along cards, so we get to talk to real people and share our testimonies with them. It's a very cool experience. Some nights we have class after dinner which lasts till 9:00. Then we stay in class till 9:30 and plan. We then go to the residence and get ready for bed, quiet time starts at 10:15 and this is when i write in my journal. i have been so good at writing in my journal lately. Also, we usually have to check people out of their rooms every night because we are ZL's.

...a day in the life of a missionary at the MTC.