Wednesday, March 25, 2009

missionary-minded members

Dearest Family,

This week was different than most I've experienced on my mission. We are spending more time with the members. They are so great here. There is a family we love to visit, Elizabeth her husband Rajan and her sister Prema. They are so great and they always feed us the best food. They are from Kerala which is the little state on the southwest coast of India. That state is mostly christian, the legend goes that Thomas the Apostle came to India to preach the gospel. Everyone in India seems to agree that he spent his time in Chennai and the surrounding areas in Tamil Nadu...except for Keralas, if you suggest that Thomas came to Chennai in front of them, a prompt reproof and correction follow. Elizabeth claims the Thomas himself converted her pagan ancestors.

Anyway they are so funny and she and her sister are both principals of schools out here. They have been members of the church for 19 years. Essentially the oldest members of the church in Hyderabad. They have seen it grow from a small home group to the four branches that now exist. It must be quite a sweet experience for them to watch the church grow here. Between her family and Rajesh we have more than enough spectacular meals each week.

It has been so rewarding to watch brother Mahender grow in the church, he is so good. Every week he is seated for sacrament a half hour early. That kind of behavior in India is unheard of. He received the priesthood this week. Rajesh continues to grow. Every week he works us in ping pong and then we teach him. His daughters(12 and 13) go to a christian school and he loves to have them pray for us. They recite the Lord’s prayer (the Our Father) every time. Last night we tried to teach them how we pray. We even wrote the steps on the board for them to follow. They began with dear heavenly father and started to express their feelings like we explained. They got tongue tied halfway through and recited the Lord’s prayer to finish it off. It was quite the combination.

We have been in a threesome companionship for the past few days with another Elder named Morrison. He is from the first branch and we got a chance to do some work over in his area yesterday. There are some wonderful families. There is one brother who is our age and joined the church a year ago with his sister. Their mother used to hate the elders. But two months ago she was baptized too. They are inviting their extended family to learn from the elders and another one of their cousins is getting baptized in a few weeks. They are a great family and a wonderful example of spreading the gospel. It’s incredible to observe the desire within recent converts to spread the gospel. I hope I can keep my desire up to their level. Anyway I think that'll do it for this week.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

I am stoked to hear that you wore your cricket jersey to school. You play with a wicket. There is a bowler, who is like a pitcher. He runs and throws the ball that has to hit the ground first. The wicket is three sticks in the ground. The batsman protects the wicket. He tries to hit the ball away from it. He does this until finally the bowler hits the wicket. In a normal game there are ten outs for each team. Sometimes games last for days because batsman are good. They get points by hitting the ball, you get a certain number of points depending on how far you hit the ball. It is a pretty cool game and it is huge in India.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 18, 2009 letter

Dear Family,

This week was great, Mahender was confirmed a member on sunday and received the Holy Ghost. He was so excited to participate in that ordinance. It is so humbling to see the change wrought in him, and even more humbling to think that I was a part of it. He is going to be an incredible member and I know the gospel will truly bless his life. He even started to bring some of his neighbors to church on sunday so he is already helping us with missionary work. Such a gem.

We had a fireside on saturday. It was originally planned to be a huge activity to get member referrals. We had planned dances from each auxiliary, dinner, and a church tour. But, due to the circumstances the district presidency suggested strongly that we limit the fireside to just members. So we had to adapt, but the fireside was great. We talked about the life of christ and then showed a little video. It is called reflections of christ. It is incredible, I don’t know if any of you have heard of it. But you should check it out. Only about 7 minutes long, but so powerful (click here to view the video).

We are no longer allowed to contact or find but there have been many other doors opened up. The members have been giving referrals and helping us so much. I actually can see how this incident happening is a blessing. The members know our situation and in response they have been working harder to give us people to teach. Member referrals are more likely to join the church anyway so I am excited to see how this works out here in the 2nd branch. Elder Tolefoa left the mission on saturday it was really sad to see him go. He was a great leader and took good care of us out here. We are all really young now, but it is exciting. We can’t rely on him for anything now, were just gonna have to figure it out ourselves. The oldest in our district is 9 months out. I’m sure well be fine though. That’s about it for this week I think.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual family letters)

We are being as careful as possible, being a missionary without finding is kinda weird. We are trying to stay as busy as possible. Even in the mornings we have been having extra district meetings and such.

As far as drinking water goes, there is no need to worry. The first week was adjustment, but since then there have been no problems. The water is probably not the cleanest everywhere, but my body has adjusted and it does not bother it. I make sure to drink a lot of really clean water from my apartment and bottles too though. If it tastes really bad then we won’t drink it. But I haven’t experienced that very much.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"holi" day

Dear Family,

Today is the day before Holi (click here for info about this festival). Mom, it seems that Hyderabad is far enough north to be celebrating the holiday in full force. Today we had to stay in til 1, luckily there is a Reliance close to our apartment out here. We were able to sneak our way over here and I've got no paint or chalk on my person. Let's hope it stays that way...

Last thursday our zone leaders were confronted by some members of the RSS, which is a radical fundamentalist group out here in India. They despise all forms of western culture and specifically christianity. Our zone leaders were simply contacting in their area and they came across a few RSS brothers. Basically, there were friends called and a large group surrounded the companionship. They beat them a little and one of the zone leaders was able to get away. The other was taken by the mob to prison. We all caught wind of this quickly because of the other zone leader’s escape. Thanks to that we were all able to promptly return to the safety of our apartments.

I have seen mighty miracles this week. Our district kneeled together in prayer on behalf of our ZL. Elder Tolefaoa offered the prayer and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. He pleaded with Heavenly Father to keep Elder Moses safe. He begged Him to work a miracle for our brother. During the prayer I literally felt embraced. Comforted and assured that everything would go smoothly. Later that night our district presidency went to the jail, and was able to recover Elder Moses. A miracle in itself, because in order to release someone immediately like that there needs to be all the respective authorities present to sign for it. That never happens. But, that night everyone was there. Moses was released and taken back.

Missionary work in this city is changed and probably will be for quite some time now. We can’t contact or virtually talk to anyone on the street. I wear a colored shirt outside. No tie or tag. We have to be super careful and take autos everywhere. The RSS seem to be making a concerted effort to target us missionaries. But, among all this turmoil, I must admit that I have never felt more safe. This is our Father's work and it must roll forward. I know I will be ok. So please don't worry about me.

Mahender was baptized on sunday. Wow, that was an incredible experience. I was able to perform the baptism and that was such a blessing. I was so humbled to see how the Lord has brought another one of his children back into the fold. It is awe-inspiring to know that I was an instrument in that process. What I am doing out here now does not even compare with what I was doing back at home. This is exhilarating.

Ultimately I want you as a family to know how much I love and appreciate you. I want to thank each of you for the example you have set for me. The blessings of having a sealed family are so apparent to me now. Hope this week goes well for you, just know that amidst all the different things going on out here, I am having the time of my life.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from letters to individual family members)

I don’t know if times have changed or what, but it seems that this holiday is celebrated all over the country now. Even in Chennai there are huge celebrations. And everyone is throwing chalk. This mission is different… There are a lot of occurrences that we cannot predict. Our situation is constantly changing. As if learning how to be a missionary wasn’t hard enough. Now we need to learn how to do work under these special circumstances. No problem, I trust that everything will be taken care of and we will still have success out here.

Mom, the baptism I had was so awesome. Thank you for joining the church. Your courage is going to bless so many lives. I promise.

I am learning patience that is for sure. We can only go to appointments that we have set up. It’s hard to find new investigators at this point. I am hoping that the members of our branch come out big for us with some referrals…

I recalled the other day that you and Mom had met mother teresa and I did actually share it with one of our investigators so it is interesting that you mentioned that this week.

When I go down to chennai I will be learning as much Tamil as possible. But as for now I am learning Hindi and Telegu. Those are the major languages up here. In telegu to say how are you it is "Bagunara?" and in Hindi it is "K see oo?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

summer begins in hyderabad

Dear Family,

It was wonderful to meet up with Lata this past saturday. We spent a couple hours together and had a great time. Seeing a great family friend from home made me feel so comfortable. We took her to the church after lunch and showed her around. We sang a couple hymns for her in the relief society room and the spirit was there.

This week was another great week and a learning experience as well. We are working hard, but man is it hot out here. March is the beginning of summer out here and the only difference between the summer here and in St. George is about 20 degrees and humidity. It is pretty hot walking around during the middle of the day, but I am sure that eventually I'll just get used to it. I'm thinking about buying a cowboy hat to keep the sun out of my eyes...I heard they were mission approved.

Today was a zone activity which is why I am writing this at such a late time. We went all around Hyderabad looking at some famous sites, I am planning to attach some pictures and I hope that you enjoy them. I learned more about Hyderabad. There is this huge fort called Golcunda here, it was built hundreds of years ago by the muslim royalty. We climbed to the top of it! Ha but it was quite random because once we passed the first couple mosques on the ascent, out of nowhere this Hindu temple appeared. I was so thrown off. It’s like a huge muslim fort and there is some random Hindu temple right in the middle of it. The diversity here is so apparent. We even rode a boat to a Buddha statue.

We are working with a brother named Rajesh who lives near to our church. Actually his wife owns a girls’ hostel. He has us over for lunch on sundays after church. This sunday I tried something quite peculiar. I remember how mom and dad always warned me that I better not be a picky eater at home because I'd have no control over what I eat on my mission. Until this past sunday I've been quite content with my cuisine consumed over here in India. Rajesh decided to change that when he put fish head curry on my plate. yum...Ha he told me the brain was the best part. Wow I somehow put it down. But i'll be making sure to ask for fish without the head next time. He is doing well. He said to me this past week that he wanted to take baptism in the USA. I asked him why and he didn’t really have a reason. I explained to him that baptism here in India and the USA are the same, and once he realized that, he was ok with getting baptized here. Mahender will be baptized this sunday if all goes smoothly and I will be very excited about that. It is my first baptism and I can’t wait to see my friend make this special covenant. I know he will be a great member of the church.

I watched a goat get killed and dressed right in front of a member’s house yesterday. I never liked the goat meat much before, but now I'm pretty much determined to avoid it. Sorry to end the end the letter so bleakly but I didn’t know where to throw that in.

Love you guys.

(below are excerpts from individual letters)

It is crazy to see that grandma is now a great grandmother. She seems so young to me for some reason. I've noticed that about Indian people though. They have the fountain of youth. I always seem to underestimate people’s age out here.

Temples are such a wonderful blessing. I must admit that even though I tried to take my temple attendance seriously while I was at home I didn’t quite understand the importance. Now that I see all these member families that have not had a chance to be sealed in the temple I understand a little better the necessity for a temple. I want to do all I can to bring these people a temple. Hong Kong is just too far.

Anyway thanks for the tips and everything else you do for me. I am trying my best to roll with the punches. The mission is not easy. I am trying my best to stay positive and motivated. I try not to think too much. Just allowing myself to become adjusted and learn as quickly as I can. Teaching is fun though. Finding in the hot sun is difficult, but I can see the blessings when we meet sweet families. There are the ups and downs. But I must say that I've never grown this much in any other circumstance. Thank you for encouraging and helping me find my way on a mission.

I played ping pong with our investigator Rajesh at the church this week. He was the champion in all of andra pradesh 20 years ago. He smoked me.

I am still in my first area and with my second companion. There are about four different languages we deal with each day...English is the only one I understand.