Wednesday, January 28, 2009

...early growth

Good Morning Family,

It's interesting how I am basically starting my day on wednesday while all of you are just winding down on tuesday evening. As you already knew this week was zone conference. They really are such a wonderful experience. President Nichols is truly an inspired man. I had the chance to have an interview with him on monday morning. Usually he lets the missionaries just ask questions and stuff. But my interview was him just talking mostly. It was exactly what I needed to hear. During zone conference we spent a lot of time discussing the concept of goals and then he gave our mission goals for the year. The goal is to achieve 500 baptisms this year. But, we have a lot less missionaries than we had before and we are a lot younger and we are going to lose the only old missionaries left in the next 3 months. With all these factors considered, the goal for baptisms is still much higher than it has been in the past.

This past week was wonderful; we are continuing to teach Alex and his wife. They came to church and really enjoyed it. Alex has so much potential to contribute to the church. We taught him the Plan of Salvation on Monday and it went very well. At the end he said, so you’re telling me I can live my whole family forever? And we said, yes that’s the whole point, he said, ok well whatever it is I have to do, let’s do it. He is so cool, but as a missionary I have learned a lot about patience. People need to completely understand and accept the gospel before they make the sacred covenant of baptism. We will continue to teach his family. His wife is also progressing; it would be a cool experience to help a muslim prepare for baptism.

We met a brother named Jacob last night; he had approached us this past saturday. Apparently he met the missionaries in Germany where he was doing his studies. He has a very colorful story, and a very difficult and trying life. He does have a strong belief in god and desire to follow his commandments. He has been to a number or christian denominations including the Jehovah's Witnesses. It was in Germany, but you would be surprised to know that there are many Jehovah’s Witnesses in India.

As a companionship we learned a lot this week, especially about teaching by the spirit. I have been consumed with my desire to teach all the principles and cover all the material. But, I am beginning to realize that if I slow down I can pay attention to the thoughts that come into my mind. When I share my thoughts with the people I teach, they can sense the love I have for them. It is much easier to relate information in simple sustained means. The spirit tells us which questions to ask, how to respond and everything else we need to do during a lesson.

We have been teaching a wonderful brother named Noel who works as a chemistry professor in the Maldives. Also his son who works on ships down there. They are such a cool family; they are very musically talented too. The other day he brought out a guitar and started playing american songs! Ha we were singing along and I felt like I was at uncle Phil's house! It was really fun. Anyway, his son brought out this book he had, it was about celestial marriage. One of his friends gave it to him, this girl that is in the first branch. So we have hardly taught him the first lesson and he began inquiring about the temple and eternal marriage. It was definitely not the next lesson on the teaching record but it went very well. They came to church and I have a good feeling about their family. This week was another incredible week in India, I continue to see the Lord's hand in the work here and it continues to amaze me.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from letters to individual family members)

Thank you for your compliments in your past email. I am so happy to be out here and even though it is hard at times, I wouldn’t trade anything for these growing experiences. Not even a pair of william rast jeans.

We have to be so careful, even if someone falls on the street or something we have to be careful of how much we help them. You never know how far a member of the BJP or RSS is. They could make crazy accusations or something against us.

Indians are motivated strongly by reward and incentive aren’t they? I am trying my best to become better at analyzing people so I can discern their needs and teach to meet them.

How are uncle phil and aunt muthu? I would love to hear from them and any of our family. Aunt sita and uncle curtis? and make sure to let your brother and sisters know that I am doing well and thinking about them. Especially uncle frank, how is he doing anyway? I would love to hear from him!

Thank you for your uplifting and encouraging statements and tips each week they help me a lot. I try to be obedient and work hard. I have this feeling inside that is always telling me I need to work harder. I have never had something like that before. I constantly have a voice in my head and my heart that tells me I need to do better. I hope I can keep it through my whole mission and always want to work harder no matter what.

It is crazy to think you will be out of primary so soon. I feel like I just graduated from primary yesterday! Before you know it you will be out here on your mission like me. It will come fast buddy so make sure to enjoy the time you have right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

planting seeds...

Dear Family,

Every week here proves to be very rewarding and a growing experience. There are so many things to be done here, and I truly enjoy working all day. Our district has been working really hard to build strong relationships with the members and hopefully find good referrals from them. We have been to a few members’ houses this past week and they all feed us and we have such a great time with them. There are many who truly are such wonderful members of this church and understand the importance of sharing the gospel with others.

We visited with a brother named Shanth Kumar; he is a returned missionary of about one and a half years. We have a church membership record and we find people in our area and highlight them, but we don’t recognize the names of people on the record. We just call, set up appointments, and find out who they are when they open the door. It’s exciting, and this guy, Kumar, is great. His family is one of the strongest in the branch. He is experiencing a lot of trials in his life. He is married and has a child. His father was helping him financially since he got married, but his father died a few months ago. So he is really struggling to support his family among other things. But still, his love for the gospel enables him and his family to be so happy anyway. I am really starting to see how much the knowledge of the gospel can provide us with a solid happiness.

We met a wonderful family on friday evening in A-town (alwal) which is our favorite place to proselyte. The people there are just prepared. This family speaks great english and the father works for the king of Saudi Arabia. They are catholic I think, but were so open to our message of the restoration. We are teaching the father's sister's family too. So I really hope it is God's will to bring this family into the church. They would strengthen our branch so much. Pray for us as a companionship to have the spirit strong so we can invite them to enter the waters of baptism. His name is Alphonse, and his sister’s name is Edna. They treat us so kindly here, he even sent us home with arabian chocolates and sweets.

Things with Alex are definitely moving along, we met him on monday and afterwards he and his wife came with us to family home evening. His wife is Muslim royalty here in Hyderabad; apparently her grandfather was some king. Anyway, they are so wonderful. Noel is helping us so much; it is so nice to have him there all the time for fellowship so we don’t have to worry about that phase of the work. Alex even volunteered to bring the treats for FHE next week. He is so funny. He knows that the book of mormon is true. He is a very logical guy; he needed to understand exactly what the book of mormon was. And when we explained how it was a record of writings from prophets in the Americas, he was like "Ok, that makes perfect sense." Once he reads and prays I am sure he will receive a witness that it is true.

Our closest investigator Mahender is having a hard time in his life right now. His brother got in a bad accident on saturday and he was very distraught about it. But, he has been in contact with us continually asking us to pray for him and his family. I think this experience will strengthen his testimony. All in all, we are continuing to move forward. I am learning so much and time is beginning to move pretty quickly...

Love you all,
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

It sounds like the inauguration went well; I think there were many people here who watched it on television last night. It is amazing to me to see how concerned people are with things that are going on in America. But I guess America affects the world more than I realize.

I am beginning to realize that even though you are planning to have a baptism there really is so much that goes into it. I now realize the tenderness and delicacy we must use when approaching any baptism. I am looking forward to my first one; I hope it comes sometime soon. It sure would be nice to see fruits of my labor. I feel like I am working hard, but I think I have to learn a lot about being a missionary before the Lord will send great blessings.

One thing that has proved to be very helpful is the principle of teaching when you find and finding when you teach. When a first lesson goes well, we ask our new investigators if they know anyone who could benefit from the message we are sharing. We met Sister Edna through some little children we met on the street. They took us to the school they attended because their english teacher was christian. We walked into the school during the middle of the day, and met Edna. We set up an appointment that weekend; we came to visit and shared a wonderful message with the entire family. After the lesson, we asked if there was anyone she knew who we could teach. She wrote down four families and their phone numbers. Through that we have been able to teach quite a few new investigators. When we are out finding we talk to everyone we see, and if they are not interested we ask them to point us towards families who are christian, speak english, or have interest to hear the message. It is surprising to see that even though they might not be interested, they will give great referrals. Each day I try to walk out the door knowing in my head that I will find good people today. And if I work hard, I always do. Sure, you will be getting rejected ninety percent of the time, but eventually you will find that family. Patience coupled with faith can work miracles.

During personal study I read the conversion story you sent to me of the missionary who taught and baptized you, wow it was so cool. When I was halfway through I realized something. I was sitting there and it hit me that if this guy hadn’t had those wonderful experiences, you might not have joined the church. And I wouldn’t be in India on a mission. I realized the importance of growing and nourishing our testimonies. We really have no idea how many apple trees our seed can bring.

You asked if I’ve been getting any regular mail (non-email). I haven’t received mail yet from anyone except the packages from you guys.

Thank you so much for your insight about people getting baptized and making good choices. The statement you made about Satan's way and God's way hit me very hard. I wrote it in my journal. You are very right, God values agency in the highest regard. He was willing to lose 1/3 of his children in a struggle because of it. I think I need to follow his example and totally give people their choice. If we testify and invite the spirit they will then have to make some choices for themselves. I hope that we can meet a lot of people who are ready to accept the commitments we extend.

Things with alex are good; I realize that he is way too smart for me to try to reason with him intellectually. All we can do is bear testimony and explain the basic principles of the restored gospel. I feel good about him; I think he will make some good decisions in the upcoming weeks.

I have realized that the spirit hasn’t been guiding me as much as I would like. I realized that the reason for that was my pride. I try to rely on myself too much. I am trying very hard this week to humble myself and move past my pride. That way the spirit can truly guide me in His work.

Thank you so much for the jerky, missionaries treat that like gold out here. It is very hard to find anything beef, you already know that. So you can imagine my joy in being able to eat some beef each day.

Jonathan, you will be getting the priesthood in August and I am looking forward to that for you. It will be such a great experience. I am glad to hear that you felt the spirit while Grandma was reading the scriptures in tamil. That is the thing, even here the people can’t always understand what we are saying to them. But, the spirit doesn’t speak a specific language you know? It is universal!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

...learning to adapt

Dear Family,

This past week was very difficult. I would consider it to be one of the most trying times I've experienced. But, I definitely learned a lot. The quote I keep on my wall, "more weight," has grown to mean so much more to me. Brother Singh will be baptized in early February, it has been somewhat of a confusing situation but I learned one very important thing about baptism.

Since I got to the MTC all I heard about was the importance of baptism and I just wanted to get one so badly. I didn’t really realize what baptism actually was. I might have tried to rush this baptism a little bit, partly because I was so excited for it and because I knew that’s what I'm here to do. But from this experience I learned that I am not out here in India to just get people baptized. I am here to help people get to the celestial kingdom. In order to do that I will make sure that every one of my investigators has a rock solid testimony before getting in the water.

There were many forces opposing our companionship and our district this week, but we stood our ground. I know that God is trying me right now, but I am working my very hardest to respond how he wants me to.

We met a new investigator just yesterday, his name is Alex. We were introduced to him by one of Elder Toleafoa's converts from over a year ago, his name is Noel. Probably one of the best members I have ever met, he always gives us the best referrals. So Elder Toleafoa went on exchange and this guy Alex took us to lunch at paradise. He is so funny, and way smart. He is the VP of a huge company; I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated talking with him. But I think I did ok. He said that he had met the missionaries a few years back, but he wasn’t quite as mature. Now he is very prepared and ready to hear this message, we will meet with him very soon.

We met another brother named Shastra and he was probably one of the most knowledgeable guys I have ever talked with. He is a hindu by tradition, but he follows christ. He has read the bible, the bhagavad gita, and the Quran. He already knew that celestial kingdom is where god lives and everything. We brought to the appointment a member in our branch who just got back from the Dehli mission a little while back. All of us were so taken back by this guy’s knowledge. But he was very open and he was willing to pray, I think when he gets a book of mormon he will really tear it apart.

We are doing very well finding new investigators, but helping new investigators turn into progressing ones is the difficult task. We really are making a concerted effort to build relationship with the branch. We have been visiting members a lot; they are so good to us. Also we have been working on finding less active members and helping them come back. We met these two girls in our branch that haven’t come to church in years. We visited with them and shared a powerful message about the atonement. They said they would come back to church. We are going to really try to get them back. This week was trying but very rewarding.

Love You,
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual family letters)

I got your envelope last night! I bet you will be very excited to see that. You addressed it to my apartment so that is good and I am glad that it got here. Even the jerky made it, usually customs will confiscate any meat, but they let it through so that is nice.

…the slums of mumbai probably look very similar to a lot of
neighborhoods in my area. There are a lot of slums; it is just so interesting to witness the blatant contrast that India presents. So much wealth in little areas and so much poverty that is wide spread. I don’t think I will ever be able to get used to it. We got to ride in Alex's car and it was so cool, I don’t get to ride in cars much.

The power goes out at least once a day here. But we never get to go home early from “work.” No problem though cause this work is especially captivating.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

...a new year begins

Dear Family,

Hi everyone, it was wonderful to hear from all of you this week. Everyone seems to be doing excellent and starting the new year off quite smoothly. New year’s celebration for us Elders here in India was quite the extravaganza. Ha, well actually the branch threw a big party and it was a huge success. That was a relief, we had a few investigators there and they really seemed to enjoy themselves. As for us, we were off to the apartment and inside by nine fifteen. We did receive permission to stay up till twelve. But, I only made it till around eleven and I was off to bed. Next day means up at six thirty still, so I didn’t see the benefit. The holidays will pass here, without much notice on my part. It’s kind of a blur, mostly we are just focused on the work and our investigators. All christmas and new years for us were opportunities to get our investigators fellowshipped. It’s weird but that’s how I think now.

This week was a great week, we had a lot of success and I am continuing to learn so much from different missionaries and the people here too. Brother Singh is preparing for his baptism this sunday. I am so excited for it, but not as excited as he is I think. Last night we were at his house doing some of the paperwork with him, when we left he was saying the prayer and I finally began to realize what I have helped him to do-understand his true relationship with his father in heaven, I was feeling so much joy sitting there listening to him say a prayer. His baptism will be the first in our branch since early november and the first of this year. Our branch presidency made a goal for 192 baptisms this year, and Singh is so excited to be the first.

We have been teaching another brother his name is Mahender. He is so excellent, we have been teaching him for quite some time but his only problem was that he worked on sundays all day. We told him to pray and ask Heavenly Father to prepare a way for him to attend church; we told him we would pray for him as well. Wednesday night he called and was so excited, he said God answered his prayer because his shift timing changed and he was coming to church every week from then on. He came on sunday and we met him at his house that night. We taught a wonderful lesson and challenged him for baptism, he accepted and he will be baptized the first week of february, pray for our progress with him to continue, he is such a great guy.

Progress with Sister Bagyamarry and her daughter Rosie is still underway, we weren’t able to meet for awhile but we met yesterday and they are so funny. Probably my favorite investigators to be around, they just crack jokes the whole time. They gave us MANGOS! I heard they are going to come to H-town soon, and when they do I am gonna eat nothing else. They struggle with coming to church but we're really trying to stress the importance of it, any suggestions for them?

Yesterday I went on exchange with a Zone Leader here in Hyderabad, his name is Elder Sookhoo and he is a great missionary. We went together in my area to a new place have never even been before. It was called Alway, such a good place. We found at least 5 new families! I learned so much from this guy, he really knew how to deal with the Indian people and work efficiently. I am excited to try out some things I learned from him in my own finding. The people are so willing to help, all you have to do is ask them. There are so many crazy things that happen here, I will always think to myself that I need to remember that for my e-mail and then I forget what it was. Ha I think I will start to write them down now. Anyway that does it for the general epistle this week.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual family letters)

My health is excellent. I adjusted fairly quickly and I drink the water at investigators and members homes all the time. It doesn’t give me any problems, and I hope it stays that way.

I really am trying my hardest to keep the weight off my belly. I'm doing a good job, but it’s really difficult. It is because I am used to eating a lot, cause I did at home, but I was exercising like crazy. Out here I only get a half hour and I don’t think that’s enough. So basically, I think I either have to stop eating so much or I will get fat. So, I will have to eat less, because getting fat is not an option.

I decided that I really want to learn canada, the language they speak in Bangalore. Everyone says that if you know that language all the other Indian languages will be easy for you to learn and understand.

There is just a lot of gossip and a ton of politics out here. Although the caste system is "done away," there are still fat traces of it. It affects a lot of things out here. All we want is a happy branch, we are putting a lot of effort towards the members this transfer.

Actually mom, I have had so much curry out here. I don’t know if it is just H-town style but yours and grandma’s are still my favorite. They taste a lot different than the kind people make here.

The work is moving along. I am realizing that I really have to depend on the lord. I have found that my success as a missionary is directly dependent on my faith and my obedience. I am being blessed so much.

I was very surprised to hear about the sugar bowl score. We all were quite taken back.

It is so cool for me to know that I have friends all over the world doing the same thing I am right now.

Is the ward running smoothly? We have to work hard to keep this one going well. I am not used to a branch not running smoothly and definitely not used to spending a lot of time making sure that it does. I am learning a lot.

I don’t know if I mentioned how young this mission is, but I think I did. My "follow-up" trainer is only three months out longer than me. He is a good kid, ha we are both learning a lot. I am trying my hardest to pick up everything quickly. I know that with time everything will come, and patience is probably the most important thing to remember in my situation.

Hey bro, I really appreciate what you shared with me about that song. It is such a good one and I am so glad that you thought about me while they were singing it in sacrament meeting. Hymns are so good and they really bring the spirit into a room so much.

It is never cold here, it was a little windy this morning and it has been the coldest i have seen here. Which is probably like 70 degrees in the morning.

Keep reading the book of mormon. i love that book so much… that’s the key to our work out here so make it the key to your life back there.