Wednesday, June 24, 2009

it's true...

Dearest Family,

It’s great to hear from you all this week. I was especially excited to find out that Anjuli was able to make it to Janet's baptism. I would have never imagined that someone I taught would be getting baptized on the campus at BYU. Crazy! Teaching her was an incredible experience; her perspective was so relative to me. She understands the culture in Utah and I was able to prepare her somewhat for some things she might experience as a member of the church there. I feel really blessed to have been a part of that.

This past week was great. Kevin's family came to church. I keep meaning to take pictures of them and send, but always forget. Can you imagine that? They are excellent. The grandpa and granny don’t speak english. But grandpa has a rock solid testimony of the book of mormon. We were there last week and I asked him if he knew that the book of mormon was true. "It's true. It's true. It's true" was his reply (In tamil of course)! But the progress being made in that family is incredible. For their age and weakness, just seeing them make the journey to church on sunday morning is a miracle.

We have been working with a brother named Madhu. He is hilarious, we love him. SO humble. We were over there a few weeks ago and we also asked him if he had a testimony of the book of mormon. He said yes. Then we asked him how he knew, he opened to the first page of 1st Nephi, verse 3. Nephi says that he knows this record is true, so Madhu says know it’s true because Nephi said! We taught him word of wisdom yesterday, he said he did not know any exercise so we made him get on the ground and we showed him how to do sit-ups and push-ups.

My studies have been full of insight lately. I was reading today in mark about a young man who was possessed by a devil. The apostles tried to heal him and it didn’t work. Jesus came down and did the job. Later his apostles asked why they couldn’t do it. He said it took "prayer and fasting." I was reading Jesus the Christ also, and Talmage says that this applies to us also. Sometimes when we have a favorite sin or indulgence we can’t overcome, the only way to do it is through prayer and fasting. I am continually amazed at the modern application of the Savior's teachings.

Elder Tuscano

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

one in a million miracle...

Dear Family,

It sounds like the weather in old St Geezy is not too bad. Enjoy it. They say it cools down here after may here...and maybe it has. But I haven't noticed it. How cool it is that you met Elder Schmidt's grandparents! I have known about them since the MTC but I didn’t know they were in the 7th ward. It is weird, the more time I spend out here, the more little things I forget about home... irrelevant things like street names, ward boundaries… it’s kinda funny.

Elder Schmidt and I are having a great time serving together. This is one of the most enjoyable times of my mission so far. Not that it has not all been good, but now I'm really living it up. We took Jeremiah on exchange last night and it was amazing. I always thought he was sort of shy and I was a bit apprehensive to take him on exchange. But we were teaching him about missionary work last night. We had an appointment the next street over and asked him to come. It was SICK! He was money and not shy. He was honestly one of the best member exchanges I've taken. He was resolving concerns, testifying and promising blessings. It was so neat for me to see that happen.

I want to share an incredible experience. We have been in a companionship threesome the past two days with our boy Elder Naulu. On Monday, we were running a little late. We had to catch an auto from a far place in our area back to our apartment. The whole night Elder Naulu was carrying his bag around with him for the exchange (valuable goods inside). Anyway, the auto dropped us outside of our apartment at 9:29pm. We stopped to buy biscuits at the store for breakfast and Elder Naulu realized that he left his bag in the auto (which was long gone). Now just to put things in perspective, there are about million autos in Chennai... once he told me he forgot his bag I knew the chances of finding it were low. The only thing I suggested, and it was immediate, was that he'd better pray and ask for a miracle. We walked around the streets for a few minutes looking to see if the drive stopped nearby. No Chance. My logic started taking over, I thought maybe we could go back to that part in our area and see if he returned. Out of any ideas, all the chances of actually finding the bag were really low. It was 9:40 and we knew we should be in the apartment, but he needed his bag. We stopped in the middle of the street and I prayed. I asked for guidance and as soon as I said Amen, Elder Naulu said we gotta get in the apartment. We didn’t question, we just rolled. We got in the apartment and planned for about 15 minutes. Then the doorbell rang. I must admit, I was actually expecting this. Two guys were standing there trying to say "bag" in english. We went downstairs and there was the auto guy with his bag. I learned from the experience, obedience really comes first. Sometimes we have to step into the dark with it. We were obedient to the spirit and almost immediately – a miracle! Through faithful obedience we can expect miracles.

That story took up a ton… I love my studies. I’m learning more about the mysteries of Godliness. I have become really attached to Doctrine and Covenants section 88.

Love you all,
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

Things out here are sweet. We have a huge area now and we spend a lot of time on buses. Here you have to run and jump to catch them and jump off when they are still going. This is a pretty athletic mission bro, so you better prepare yourself.

My companion and I were so pumped to hear that our families were chilling together in STG. It is cool that at home you can have that connection. I may be far away for now, but it doesn’t really feel like it.

Raja helped us out this week, our fridge was broken and he sent one of his boys to come fix it. It’s so cool having cousins up the road.

Thanks for the advice about charity and showing people that I care. It is such a true principle. I try to show them and I know that when they know we care then they will keep their commitments.

You're right; there are a ton of people to learn from and to emulate. I have been trying my best to do that throughout my mission and it has helped.

Our new area is huge and we are just trying to figure out how to travel in it and meet everyone. It’s fun though, and I love serving with Elder Schmidt.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

companion change...

Dear Family,

This past week was transfers and we got a surprise. Elder Bhagwat got the call to Visak and another Elder named Cunningham also. Till now we had 4 companionships here in Chennai 1st. But they just reduced the number to 3. So... my new companion is Elder Schmidt. He is my batch mate. I was so surprised to hear that I would be serving with him. We both have to combine our areas now, so it should be an interesting experience. Needless to say, I am pumped to be serving with my boy from the MTC. We have been around each other so far in our missions, but I never thought we'd be companions. His grandparents live in St. George.

The work in our area continues to explode. We had a baptism this past week. I had the opportunity to perform it. Jeremiah was one of the most prepared individuals I have ever met. While his life has been very difficult for him and his family, it was incredible to see the peace the gospel has brought into his life. Teaching him was, and is a treat. Hopefully someday in the future, he will open a branch up there in Nagaland.

We also have been working with Kevin and his family. They are incredible! Basically, this past week Kevin asked when he could be baptized a member of this church. The only problem is they have strong loyalty ties to another church and they don’t see the importance of going to our church every week. Other than that they are ready to go…

We met with Prakash and his wife Annie. I think I told you about them, he has been a smoker for 20 plus years. We have been working with him, but not too much progress over the past three months. He is a great man and my companion loves that family so much. It was nice to be there with my companion before he was transferred. We planned to watch a DVD about temples, but it didn’t work, so I had the “reflections of Christ” DVD also. I don’t know if there was divine intervention involved but the lesson we had was incredible. We just bore our sincere testimonies of the savior. My goal in the lesson was to put a smile on Annie’s face. She always seems so down. And we did! So I was pumped, and I think it gave them a little more encouragement to have faith in the atonement.

I spent the past week studying the last few chapters in the book of Matthew. It has been quite the ride – especially chapters 26 and 27. I never really took much time and studied them. The story itself is a miracle. But I was so impressed with the strength of the savior throughout the experience. As I think about my trials and worries compared to His I really get a new perspective. Elder Holland was right when he mentioned in his recent conference talk that the surrounding circle he had got smaller and smaller. But he stayed strong. That example means everything to me.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

I’m excited to get started on a new transfer but I’m just a little worried because of area splits. My area may be given almost completely to two new elders. Now my companion and I are trying to work out a compromise so that we can keep some of my area. It would be tough to just hand over all our good investigators. But whatever happens will happen. I'll be happy no matter what.

I have not tried the brownies yet. In fact, the reason I asked was because there are some members in our area who wanted brownies but did not have an oven. Actually his name is ruskin and he is a returned missionary. His father had been sick for a long time. This past Sunday, we went there and gave him a blessing. I said that he would have peace and gain joy in knowing where he would go. He is not a member. I told Ruskin to talk to him immediately about the plan of salvation. He was sick and basically incoherent. He died two days later. We went to see ruskin and he told us how after we left on sunday he explained the plan to his dad. His felt that his dad understood and felt peace, and started to act normal. I have seen the spirit do things through me that I had no idea were possible. I am out here counseling all kinds of people and, in reality I have no experience or any idea what they are going through. But I always know what to tell them. Crazy, huh?

I have been thinking a lot about my mission lately. I have been trying to give it my all. Be obedient and work hard. I have seen success, but I want to be better. Are there any suggestions or insights you have from your mission experiences about improving yourself as a missionary?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

study, spirt, strength

Dear Family,

It is still burning up on the streets of chennai but we are lovin it. You can sometimes wring out your tie at the end of the day!

This past week was great. The fifth sundays here are "missionary" sundays and we were in charge of the sacrament meeting. It was pretty fun; we sang a song together as a district, missionaries gave talks and I was the chorister. Anyway, everything at church is fine except for attendance. This branch is huge on paper, but not that many are coming to church. It’s been said the reason is the holidays and because people are out of station. But those days are coming to a close pretty soon here so we'll see how valid that reason proves to be. I hope it does.

Jeremiah is doing so great. I told you about him. I talked with President Nichols about him this past week. He keeps all his commitments and is prepared for baptism. But his family lives in that dangerous area of India called Nagaland. So I was on exchange with Elder Siyyadri (ever heard that name before – he was my first companion and now home from his mission) and we talked to him about how joining the church is a life long commitment and about how it should be a determining factor as to which places he chooses to settle down if he wants to be near the church. I was impressed at the strength of his testimony, because he knows this is right. He committed to live in an area of the country where the church is. I was very excited to see his sincerity. I understand that he is 19 and nothing is set in stone, but he understands the importance of the restored gospel.

We have been spending more time than usual working with people who struggle with the word of wisdom. We taught a few lessons to people in the past week that were actually under the influence at the time. It was amazing to notice how when we were just talking to them, we did not have much control over the situation. But as soon as we said a prayer and started teaching, the power of the spirit became extremely evident. Those people became completely subdued and listened intently to every word we spoke. I have truly gained a stronger testimony this past week about the power the spirit has.

My studies have been great lately. I have been spending some time reading the parables in Matthew. They are amazing. I find that as I read and study from the bible and keep the book Jesus the Christ open beside it, I learn so much more. I was reading today from the 22nd chapter of matthew and came across a parable I'd never studied – the marriage of the king’s son. There are some amazing implications in that parable. I was especially intrigued by the concept that we all have to "put on" the wedding garment to enter the kingdom. You should check it out.

I’ve grown to know more about other denominations of christianity since coming on the mission. I remember dad showed me that chart which told about different beliefs of christian sects. No one else believed pre-mortal existence right? How is that possible? Revelation is pretty plain in explaining it…

Anyway, all is well and I'm lovin my time here in Mom's hometown.

Elder Tuscano