Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year...

Dear Family,

It was so nice to talk to each of you on Christmas. You all sound the same as I remember, but it has not been too long. We'll see if I feel the same in May. Transfers went down on saturday; we got to take a nice A/C bus to the airport. Elders ward and evans came with me. My new companion is Elder Doss-Johnson he is from Santa Clara, Cali. The same place where andy benton is from! He is an OG, really a cool guy. He is very chill, but down to work hard. In our short time together we have experienced quite a bit of success.

Yesterday we taught the first muslims either of us has ever taught. We contacted them in an area called Karkhana and went over to one of their homes. They are auto drivers, but both of them are well educated and intelligent. It was quite an experience. They were very receptive. I feel like you all may be thinking that muslims are dangerous or something and we need to stay away from them as missionaries. That is not the case; they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I hope that I can teach a lot more during my mission. Last week there were two baptized in Chennai.

The work is going good; the Branch President asked my companion and a new elder fabrizio to speak in sacrament last sunday. It was great, the whole sacrament was a huge emphasis on missionary work and the members are starting to get better about it. I had a few members walk up to me and give me referrals last week. I am really excited for these upcoming weeks.

I realized something last night about the people here. We were sitting in an investigator's little one room house, and talking with them. They kept bringing us food and drinks as the people here will always do. I realized that these people will give you everything they have. If that means just water, they will be sure to give you it. They simply love everyone and care for them. I have learned so much about service and compassion from these wonderful people.

Love you all
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual family letters)

We are continuing to work with Brother Singh; he came to church fifteen minutes early this week! I have noticed that people's perception of time here is very different than back home. No such thing as punctuality… I am trying to emphasize to people that things start when they’re supposed to, not thirty minutes or a half an hour later. But singh will be ready for baptism very soon and we have others who have dates as well and we will work hard to help them progress.

I bought soy milk the other day and it tastes way good! It was nice to have something close to milk, I just can’t get over the fact that the milk here comes from water buffalos, too weird for me to want to drink it.

The work out here is definitely moving forward, the branch is starting to become more excited about missionary work. There is just so much gossip out here in the branch it kind of tears people apart. There really is a division of loyalty.

Virtue is a really cool topic. I was studying it a few weeks ago and there are some cool lines you can draw between it and power. Look at the story of the woman who touched christ's garment and was healed. See what power healed her.

India is crazy; boys and girls here are not allowed to talk to each other really (referring to dating). Most marriages are still arranged…

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Call

On Christmas Day we talked on the phone with Josh. It was so good to hear his voice and to listen to him describe his experiences. He didn’t sound homesick yet he mentioned some things that he misses; hot showers, clothes dryers, a pantry filled with foods that he enjoys, and the taste of beef. It appears that he is nicely adapting to living in India and getting used to the traffic on the streets as well as the insect/rodent traffic in their apartment. He already speaks with a fondness in his voice for the people of India. His English contains a hint of an accent (his words are more clearly enunciated). He spoke enthusiastically and optimistically about the challenges and joys associated with being a missionary.

Although we miss him, it feels wonderful to know that he is immersed in this life-impacting experience.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas week

Merry Christmas Family

Sorry about last week, it was disheartening to see that you weren’t going to see any of the e-mail I penned last week. It was a good one, but no problem, hopefully this one works out...

So, It was really nice to hear your voices today on the test call, I never realized how easy it was to just call across the world. Life here in India is going well, I’m finding missionary work to be really fun, there are so many people to meet and the members here are great. I have made good friends with a few of them actually. One of them, Sri Kant, is like 21 and he is the smartest kid that I have ever met and he is so good for exchanges. I am trying to convince him to leave on his mission as soon as he can. Maybe I'll get to train him!

This past week was good, except for my companion being so sick. He was seriously on his death bed for like two days in a row. He is still pretty sick actually, but he did get out of bed for e-mail so that is pretty lucky for me. I’m trying my best to take care of him, and make sure he gets better. Last night I was trying to think of what Mom would do if it was me that was sick. Ha but I couldn’t really remember what she would do. We gave him a blessing and I think that he will be getting better any time now.

We were able to meet with Singh a few times and he came to all our ward activities, except CHURCH! It was a little frustrating, because that means we have to postpone his baptism another week, hopefully he will gain a stronger testimony of church. This week I have a good lesson about the sacrament prepared and I hope that the spirit will testify the importance of that ordinance. He is still a great guy, and his wife is so good. Only she just can’t understand english that well, or hardly at all actually. We have a few others who are close to baptism. I know that they will come soon, there are still so many people out here that have been prepared and I know they are just waiting to be found, taught and baptized. Speaking to the Indians is getting a little better for me. For the most part they are able to understand me, or at least I think so...

Yesterday we had an incredible experience. We were called to an apartment that is opposite to a member. There was a four year old girl, and apparently she was possessed. Her mother was talking to us about it, and telling us how she would have outrageous outbursts when the night came. But, at that time she was relatively calm. I looked in her eyes and I could just feel that there was a darkness there; I sensed that something was there. We sat her down to give her a blessing and she began to cry, I anointed and Siyyadri sealed. It was amazing; the spirit truly spoke through him. He said that whatever was within the little girl to come out. After the blessing I looked at the girl and literally there was a light replaced in her eyes. It was so cool to have an experience like that. It helps me to further realize that we truly are at war with satan and his forces, but more importantly it helped me to realize how much stronger the priesthood is than any power that he has.

Anyway, that’s it for the general epistle this week.

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

…Christmas time out here is a lot different than back home. Christ is certainly not the center of attention at this time of year. The christians will celebrate but there are so few that it’s hardly making a noticeable difference. To tell you the truth it does not feel any different than any other time of year out here.

…I love to think about how I have friends all over the world right now doing the same thing I am. It is such a comforting thought. I know that the work we are doing is making such a big difference and I am so glad we all get to be a part of it.

…We will still be proselyting on christmas day, but we have a party in the morning and at night I told you were going to President Guti's house. So that will be good. But I think christmas will be a great day to get work done in between functions.

…there are so many monkeys around right now, but you have to be careful because they will steal your food and run away if you don’t pay attention.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

email "brief" - internet glitch


So...Bad news. If you didn't recieve the e-mail before this, then this little e-mail is all you will be getting this week! Sorry, but I guess the internet in India is all messed up today and I don't know if it sent. It was a good letter, too. Anyway, since time is short now I have to hustle. Still gotta write Anj. Let me know if you want me to call christmas eve for you, or on your chirstmas morning. I wil give Dad a test call on his phone this week I think, SO be ready for it. It was so good to hear from you this week. Brother singh didn't come to chruch because he was sick, but he will be baptized january first week.

I love you all, sorry about this. Talk to you next week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hyderabad Happenings...

Namaskaram Family,

Thanks for spelling Namaskaram right for me dad. we don’t see much written out here, so the spelling is always gonna be a little sketchy. you would actually be surprised that most people out here can speak like 3 or 4 languages but really can’t write or read many of them - only their native tongue. but it actually makes sense because all the languages are so different; telegu and tamil are nothing alike and written, they are very different. people up here in Andra Pradesh speak a telegu but its like mixed with english and hindi. my companion always brags that he speaks "pure" telegu. the cities are so diverse so the mixture of language is inevitable.

this week was good. brother singh came to church (which is like monumental)! when you get people to church here it’s a big deal. actually this week we did really well for church. we had like 7 investigators there. but only 4 counted because 3 were late. India Standard Time is far more distorted than Mormon Standard Time. so you take what you can get. but anyway millusingh came and was able to meet a lot of members and learn about the priesthood. i am so grateful we were able to find him, please keep praying for him. he is working towards the big day on dec 21. we have a few more people who are progressing towards baptism. one is brother santosh, who my companion taught like months ago, showed up at church. we taught him the next day about baptism. we had a recent convert named manoj there and he shared his experience with baptism and it was so powerful. i think santosh will be baptized soon.

the past few days we have been walking a lot! we are searching so hard for an apartment, but we can’t find one. we need to have one by monday because we have to be moved out by the end of the year. actually that brother singh knows people here and is helping us find an apartment. the two main problems are the fact that we are bachelors and christians. Indians have no problem being prejudice. anyway, we really are having trouble finding a good apartment. but ya there has been a lot of walking in attempt to find one, and people to teach as well.

i have mentioned the lack of unity here and i continue to see manifestations of it daily. yesterday was a muslim holiday here, I’m not sure what it was called but its a fairly big one. so what the muslims do on this holiday is basically try to irritate the hindus. and they do a good job. we were walking down the street and passed a hindu temple. right next door there was a group of muslims slaughtering a cow -- like in the open. not a pretty site for me, an american who has spent his whole life enjoying hamburgers and steaks. imagine a hindu who holds the animal sacred and is vegetarian watching that take place right next to their temple. the conflict between religions here is huge.

last week i got a chance to give a training lesson in district meeting and it went really well. i think all the members of the district were able to get something out of it. i taught about the pre-earth life and God’s purpose and plan for us. it was nice because I’m used to only teaching basics to investigators, but when you get a chance to teach people who already know, then you can go deeper. i really enjoy that. the scriptures are so incredible. I’m really finding that they truly can unlock the mysteries of God.

Another guy we are teaching is named Murthi and he has been getting taught almost a year now. he is great he has wanted to get baptized for some time now but his wife is really rooted in her hindu traditions. she even comes to church, but she won’t give up her old traditions. this week we will meet them, maybe you could pray for her heart to be softened? the members here are so great, they are always willing to go on exchanges and they spend a lot of time at the church. the chapel really is a sanctuary here.

i have realized a trend with the church and its growth here. the converts are mostly kids younger than 30. there are few families here compared to YSAs. The kids are the ones who speak english. the parents oftentimes do not. when we go finding, i try to pick out the smart looking kids. they are usually the ones most receptive to the message. so in twenty years there will be plenty of families to build up the church in India. but now it’s kind of disheartening because so many kids are having to go against their parents to join the church.

So, mom never told me this, but the indians are very affectionate and touchy people. only, not in the way I’m used to. they show their love towards members of their own gender. here, it’s very common to see grown men walking down the street holding hands, and women too. but to see a boy and girl giving PDA is unheard of. I’m getting used to it. members will always put their arms around me when we are walking and yesterday this kid, sudheer even held my hand, ya, i was like uhhhh this is really weird. but honestly, for now, i just pretend it’s a girl or something. sorry mom and dad, probably shouldn’t be thinking about that on my mission, but it’s the only way to keep my sanity! maybe ill get used to it. anyway that’s probably enough for the general letter this week. love you

(below are snippets from his individual letters to us)

…we took a video on the way over here today so maybe i will send that. It’s pretty funny -- it has us crossing the street and catching an auto (rickshaw) and stuff.

i hear gas prices hit the floor after i left! just my luck.

thanks a ton for the college bowl games info. we all loved that. that national championship game will be sick, so will utah vs bama. BYU in the vegas bowl. what's new?

anyway thanks for all the advice. actually i wanted to thank you and mom for being such great examples throughout my life. i see now how much i was privelged to have parents as faithful as you. there are so many members out there that don’t enjoy the same blessings. anyway love you and thanks for everything.

…i will probably call dad’s cell on Christmas, and i am not sure what the limit is. we get a test call like a day before though. I’ll know more details next week.

i am starting to gain a little fat on my belly and it’s bothering me. is it the rice? i have been drinking a lot of cool drinks (soda) so maybe it’s both? I’m not gonna drink anything but water and juice now. i don’t have that much time to exercise in the morning. when we move i will get a gym pass so that will be good.

my district has 6 people. five americans including myself. district leader is elder toleafoa from Hawaii. he is such a good missionary and a great example. he sings very well and we have fun writing music together. his companion is elder Sorensen. he was from my batch in the MTC but not my district there. so i didn’t know him that well till we got to india. he is from texas, he went to the same high school as Deron Williams! the other two are elder evans who you know about, and his companion is probably my favorite in the district, elder ward. he is from a tiny town in idaho called almo. i am trying to convince him to go to BYU when he gets back because i think he would be chill with all our friends. he served in chennai! mom i can’t wait to go there. apparently the people down in tamil nadu are tough but i don’t care.

the people out here are naturally flaky so i see where i got it from. but they are still good people. finding is tough and can get discouraging when no one wants to hear the message. but it’s great when you find someone who does want to listen.

there are so many cockroaches and they are everywhere. It’s hard to get away from them. and there are rats in the street all day man! still haven’t seen an elephant but I’m looking.

First Photos from Hyderabad

This first batch of photos that Josh sent from India includes his district, zone, his companion (those pictures taken on Thanksgiving Day at the Hyderabad Marriott) and a picture from their turkey bowl football game. Below is the text that Josh sent with the photos:

Ok, so these photos are of my district. my companion is the only brown one. elder toleafoa and sorensen are in the middle. they are the big dudes. elder evans has curly hair and ward is the other one. the other is basically our whole zone. the kid i am holding hands with is elder thompson and he is from my district at the MTC - he is sweet. the other is just me and my comp doin it big. they are all at the marriott. ha, dont get any false conception of india. that hotel was by FAR the nicest thing in india.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Settling into Hyderabad (H-town)

Dear Family,

Hi you all, how are things going back home in the USA? It sounds as if Thanksgiving went very well -- that was good to hear. This week was incredible actually. As far as my safety is concerned, I feel very safe. Mumbai is not that close and after the first day or so we could resume normal activity.

On Sunday we had a great experience. We were out finding in an area called new vasavi colony. We were not having very much success. The whole week in general had been fairly disappointing. But it was the end of the day, and we were both pretty tired. We started walking down this street and my companion stopped in front of this house. I recognized it because we had been there before. It was actually the first house I ever got into. On my first day we stopped there because he was a christian. His name is Vishnu and he was actually born a christian but his english is not very good. In fact I’m not sure how much he understood, but he said he would come to church back then, but he didn’t. But on sunday we stopped by and he let us in right away. His sister was there and also her husband whose name is Mallu Singh. Their family recently moved here from bangalore and he is a very smart individual. His english is good so we were able to communicate well. We actually started by teaching the second lesson, he really enjoyed it and he wanted to meet the next day. So, on monday we met him at the church and taught him the lesson. Man, was it sweet. The lesson was very good, the spirit was definitely there. One cool thing that happened...we were teaching the apostasy and how the power of God had been taken from the earth. My companion turned the time to me for teaching. I made an analogy about how the current(power) goes out constantly in India. And if you turn the switch without the current there the light won’t turn on. I was talking and I said that apostasy meant spiritual "darkness" as soon as that word came out of my mouth, the power went out. It was so crazy. We all sat there for a second and were like whoa. It came back on and even did it again when I was talking about the apostasy so it happened twice. My companion was talking about the restoration when it was still dark in the room and as soon as he mentioned a restoration of truth the lights came back on. then brother singh was like, wow you must be teaching the truth. It was amazing guys. But he was prepared i think because he really did accept our teaching and he committed to be baptized on Dec 21 so please pray from him and his family that they might be able to come to church and be baptized. I really hope so much it will happen. Sorry that might have been long winded but it was so cool. We are meeting with him tonight as well so I will give you an update next week. We also met another guy nameed naveen. He was sitting on the road on sunday night and I started talking to him. He has been a christian for a year. We taught him on monday and challenged him for baptism. He is committed to another church so we need to teach him some more so he can understand authority and power. Pray for him as well. Sister bagayamarry didn’t come to church but she is always willing to meet so we will see her this week and hopefully get her to church. This week has been good.

We are searching for an apartment. We found a few but last night we found a sick one. It is 20 thousand rupees a month though so we gotta talk the owner down to 10. But our agent is a boss so he should be able to get things done. Some of the apartments out here are bunk. mom, they really save space out here, huh. The bathrooms are so condensed -- like the shower head is right next to the sink and the toilet is right next to the shower head. So when you shower everything in the bathroom gets wet. It’s wonderful, and we hardly ever have hot water so I’m getting used to waking up with cold showers in the morning. The food is delicious you guys. Hyderabad is famous for its biryani and we always get it. It’s money with a little curd. I chow on that for lunch like it’s my job.

My companion is sweet actually. We are getting work done together and it is improving our unity so much. The people here are so cool. The other day I’m getting in an auto and i whacked my head on the cover. i looked outside the auto and there is this hardcore looking indian wearing the all black get up and the huge red/yellow bindi just laughing so hard at me. It was pretty funny to see. Indians are so curious -- like if you stand outside and just look up in the air, honestly like twenty people will just stop by you and stare up looking to see what you see… i love it. India is great. I’m feeling good about being a missionary.

(below are excerpts from letters to individual family members)

We can talk to anyone. We just have to watch for BJP and RSS. Tonight there are going to be rallies in H-town because of the bombings up in mumbai, but we just have to be careful and avoid bad situations. Everything will be fine. Don’t even worry. Me and my companion fair well because he is Indian and I look pretty Indian, so we don’t get stared at too much. When we’re out with the white kids in our district people will seriously stop in their tracks and stare at them like they are a celebrity or something. It’s so funny. OK, normal day is this. we wake up and exercise for thirty minutes. From 7 to 8 we eat and shower. Then we do personal study till 9 and then companion study till ten. Then we go out. We usually find in the mornings and try to set up appointments for later. We’ll eat lunch around two. Then we go back out and find or meet with investigators. We skip dinner here cause its so good for finding. The evenings are usually good for appointments. Then we get back in by nine or nine thirty if were doing a lesson. I love telling people here my mom is from Chennai. It usually surprises them.

Our companionship is doing way good this week. We became friends now and the work is moving along nicely. He is a great guy and I respect him a lot. He is from visak. His mother is not a member because she can’t speak english and his father is dead. He was hindu all his life but then converted to pentecostal for a month or so, then found the church. his experience is so valuable when he shares it with investigators. He is way funny too. It took a while for me to adjust to him i guess but i truly value all he is teaching me. He is good for me so i can become educated in the indian ways. We are growing closer and being able to talk to each other helps a lot. I hope that we can continue to grow closer together. I feel like having success together builds bonds better than anything else out here. Our district is great We all get along so well. We played football last week and dominated. We easily have the most athletic district in hyderabad.

Work out here is so good. Being a missionary is so amazing. There is so much to learn and people are so easy to love when you serve them. I find myself just thinking like the next thing i can do to try and help someone. I have to get better at serving but i am making progress.