Wednesday, May 27, 2009

chennai is hot...

Dear Family,

As always it has been a pleasure to hear from you all. The wednesday e-mail session gives the week a boost for me. I am sorry I may have been confusing in my explanation of my visit with our family last week. I was in a hurry as usual, and sadly I did not take my camera that night. I plan on seeing them sometime this next week, probably tuesday. At that time, I will surely bring my camera and hold a photo shoot.

This past week was great. Chennai is not getting much cooler, but the work is about as hot as the weather. We have been blessed, like I was in Hyderabad, with many people to teach. The Lord has truly been mindful of us and led us to different families who have been "prepared" to receive the message of the gospel. The hard part of missionary work is helping them SEE that they have been prepared for this.

Yesterday we met a guy named Prakash. He was contacted a few months back by the elders here. He has a big problem with drinking. He is married and has a son. When we went yesterday, he was a little past tipsy. We sat down for a while and he started telling us how bad his life was and how much he disliked his wife. I felt bad because his wife was sitting right next to him. She doesn’t speak english, but I'm sure she could get a feel for the conversation. He was going off saying tons of ridiculous stuff. I was just looking around and didn’t know what to think. I kind of wanted to leave, feeling as though I should not be there. But then I remembered when Christ said the healthy have no need of a physician, but it is the sick that he visits. Yeah, that was perfectly applicable in this situation. The whole time he was going off, my companion was trying to read from 3 Nephi 14 about how they can fix their marital problems. But it didn’t go too far. I was just waiting. Then all of a sudden the spirit took over. I was led to say a ton of stuff. It was all way good and none of it came from me. The spirit helped us take control of the situation and help him understand that his marriage was failing because of him, not his wife. I feel bad for his wife. Anyway, we set a return appointment on sunday and he is really excited for it. He has a desire to change, but we will see how sincere it really is over time. I hope everything turns out well for this guy, mostly because I feel sorry for his wife and the future of his son.

We are teaching Jeremiah and he is getting closer to his baptism. He is doing so well. He comes to church early and even takes notes in gospel essentials class. I love seeing people who have a real desire to learn and change. These are the kind of people who are elect.

I have been spending some time studying the parable in Jacob 5 about the house of Israel. Actually, I have nothing profound or spiritual to share about it this week. But it is interesting and there is a lot to it. If any of you know a lot about this parable I would love for you to shed some light on it. I am nervous because I have to sing a duet with another missionary at sacrament on sunday. I never sang at home. But I am spending a lot of time singing out here. I am growing to love it, but still pretty nervous to do it in front of people.

Anyway, by and large this week was a success. Chennai is the place to be in the mission right now (no political problems). It’s all good.

Love ya'll,
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

Tamil is coming along; it is actually really difficult compared to Telegu. The sounds you have to make while speaking are difficult and there are a lot of characters in the alphabet. I will try. Most of our investigators are actually from Kerala. I don’t know why that is. They are christians and that is who we find. But, I will try harder to learn this language as I go. Most of the men we talk with speak English. I do feel badly for not being able to converse in Tamil with the women because most of the indian women we talk with do not speak English.

So it sounds like the memorial day block party was a success. I remember going to that thing, it was always fun and the neighborhood had a good time. I was just thinking about what the outcome of a neighborhood block party in India would be. I honestly don’t think it would be pretty – the muslims on the corner would probably be avoiding the hindus up the street, who would be busy try to insult the christians next door, but I am glad that in shadow mountain everyone is CHILL.

I am glad for scouting and young men’s activities. While I might have been less than excited to participate during the time, I am happy to have the memories now. It seems that way with a lot of things in my life.

It is cool to hear that the St. George visitor center is starting the "Why I Believe” firesides like the ones at the DC visitor center. I always loved them. I planned to do it in Hyderabad, but I got transferred before the date. I plan to start them here in chennai. Nearly everyone in India is a convert and the have some pretty incredible stories. I want to get it started because I feel it will strengthen the members, and also provide our investigators with inspiration.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

first visit with relatives

Dear Family,

It was great to hear from you all and it sounds like time is just flying by back home in the STG. I must admit, I feel the same way about time here in Chennai.

So, first things first. I spent the evening last night with Raja (note: Raja is a very close cousin of Usha). It was a great time! My companion and I somehow found their home without too much trouble. They live in 2nd branch area, but in an auto it is only about 30 minutes travel time. It was wonderful finally meeting them. I met Raja's wife Geetha and his mom, Saradha (she only speaks tamil, so I'm going to have to learn quickly in order to communicate with her). It was so fun to be there, they fed us idly and sambar. And yes mom, it did taste familiar. I felt so happy to be there. Raja and Geetha are both amazing. They showed me pictures of Sita and Curtis when they came to visit. They said they had a great time with them and were impressed with curtis’ ability to adjust to the culture. So a big congratulations goes out to big uncle curtis for embracing the indian ways. They also showed me photos of Mom and Dad when they came here for young ambassadors... Dad, you look great in a doti. Ha

We have an investigator here by the name of Jeremiah. He comes from a place in India called Assam. I actually don’t have a clue where that is. But, north is my guess... His family now lives in a place called Nagaland. Apparently in that area of the country people live in tribes and they are all christian and are constantly fighting. His family had to flee their home for saftey. They are in a different place now, but Jeremiah lives in Chennai and works as a cook. He is so prepared for the gospel. Every time we meet him he accepts and keeps the commitments we extend. He obviously had a difficult life but the gospel, and especially the principle of repentance, is working a marvelous change in him. He is preparing for baptism. We have to talk to the Branch President because he has a little bit of a "unique" situation.

There is another family we are working with, I can’t remember if I told you about them yet. The son is Kevin and he lives with his mom and grandparents. Basically only kevin knows english. The grandfather has been reading the book of mormon in Tamil daily though and expressed to us recently that he feels he is "learning the gospel for the first time." We bring a member for exchange and do some translation while teaching. But this week I talked with Kevin's mother during the lesson. She is very sad and stressed because her husband left her and kevin alone. She has a job as a teacher and is worried that she won’t be able to support herself and Kevin. She feels bad because she has to live with her parents. I bore my testimony to her about the gift of the holy ghost and how he can help us overcome our trials and sorrows. She expressed to me that she didn’t know much about feeling the spirit and I told her about receiving that gift after baptism. She really understood the concept, even though a huge language barrier was there. Further proof to me that the spirit speaks in a language that is universal.

One last thing... something I gleaned from my gospel study this week – actually, today. I read a line in the Preach My Gospel manual. It was in a story from a convert and he made a statement: "We know who we worship." I felt strongly about that. Here there are many people who worship Gods they know little or nothing about. I am so grateful for modern day revelation and scriptures which testify of the nature of our loving Heavenly Father. And for prayer, so we can build an intimate relationship with him.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

Mom, it was great to meet our family. You know I always knew we had family in Chennai, but until yesterday that was an abstract statement. Now I actually have met them and enjoyed spending time with them. It was a miracle that we were able to find their house so easily. The Lord really guided us there. Raja is so funny and I can tell that he is Alagu's brother.

Hey dad, you looked like a natural Indian in those pictures! Raja thinks highly of you and told me how much he enjoyed spending time with you when you came to India. I couldn’t believe that I was looking at pictures of you on the streets I walk on every day. Crazy, right?

I have developed some goals, but I like how you said to look specifically at your ultimate goal and make little goals each week to try and achieve. I will work on that. Having a goal makes doing hard work a lot more meaningful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother's Day

Dear Family,

It was great to hear from you all on the phone on Mother’s Day. Everyone sounds good, just like you did when I left. Jonathan's voice is getting a little deeper so it was good to hear that. I am so happy to hear that everyone is doing well. I think it is incredible how much Heavenly Father has blessed our family as of late.

I'm writing from the mission office in Bangalore. The past two days have been a great time. We had a great zone conference yesterday. It was about goals. I realized that I didn’t really have any good specific goals. Like there were certain things I wanted to accomplish on my mission but I never really considered it so deeply. Now I have been thinking a lot about specific goals that I can set for myself. I know that a good goal will help me be a lot more productive.

Chennai is wonderful. It is not cooling down anytime soon, but I am just getting used to it now. We are working with a wonderful family; the father's name is Prakash. He has been smoking for the past 20 years or something. They have been teaching him for months, but never came to church. This past week his wife and children came. It was so good to see them there. They had a great experience and I feel so good about them. Prakash has some financial problems and his word of wisdom is obviously an issue, but I strongly feel that with the strength of the Lord he will overcome these problems. That’s all for this week.

Elder Tuscano

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

chennai arrival

Dearest Family,

This email is coming to you directly from the heart of Chennai baby. I arrived on friday morning last week. After walking through the airport doors to the open air here, it was not more than 3 minutes before my body was wetter than my shower that morning. It is hot here and it is humid. Mom mentioned that my timing to be here was perfect and she was right. Starting on the 4th of May till the 18th of May is a period of time they call "Karthri." Or in other words, the two weeks of time when most people die because it’s too hot. Ha but I am coping.

I really feel so blessed to be here. It is weird to say it, but this place really does comfortable. I always felt drawn here, especially since I arrived in India. But, being here is such an amazing experience. I love knowing that, in a way, this is my hometown. People are so surprised when I tell them that my Mom is from here. I love holding them in suspense when they ask my origin. I always tell them about Dad first and how he is Italian and Arab, then, while they are still trying to sort that out in their minds, I drop the Chennai bomb on them. It’s funny to see their faces.

The branch here is great, I am serving in the first branch and it has a huge membership. There are a lot of active and less active members in our area. So we have a lot of work to do here. I am just trying to sort out all of the people we have on our plates down here. Since this was my first transfer ever I didn’t really know what to expect. Getting to know a new area is difficult. Learning all the people, places, and members here is a big task. But the Lord is helping me out – my mind is clear and I am focused.

I would tell you all about the investigators we are working with, but I don’t have that great of a handle on the situation yet. I have not seen the majority so far. I will give you that update next week. Everything is going great, Chennai is an amazing city and I am looking forward to spending some time serving here.

Elder Tuscano