Wednesday, July 22, 2009

mini miracles

Dear Family,

This week was really cool. Elder Schmidt and I are continuing to notice the Lord's hand leading and guiding us wherever we go. Something neat happened a few weeks ago. We were at a bus stand in T-Nagar waiting to catch a bus out to Madhu's house. It was evening and the bus was just not coming. Naturally we got impatient and started looking around for things to entertain us while we waited. Just behind the stand was an apartment complex and a volleyball court! We saw a few people playing and decided to join. We played for a little and asked the kids if there were any christians around. They directed us to some houses on the other side of the complex. Right then our bus rolled in so we had to run but we came back another day.

That's when we met Sri Raj. He is a great man. I have never taught someone quite so intelligent yet humble. We met him and introduced our message. He was interested. Two weeks later we were on exchange with the assistants. We went up to his house and met him. We taught the plan of salvation. He had some questions. He ended up sharing a huge story about someone he trusted and loved a lot but was basically emotionally abused by them. He was obviously hurt by the experience. We spoke some comforting words and how this was an experience he could learn from. After a while we both just had nothing to say. I looked down so did Elder Hughes. After a minute or so of straight silence Sri Raj said "So what is baptism?" It was a great experience.

So we had a talent show on saturday night at the church. It was a hoot. We only went for about the last hour but it was a great time. Even we Elders prepared a small talent. We had practiced a little dance to the Michael Jackson song "Beat It." We were the last talent. We got up there and did our skit. They loved it. It was mostly a funny dance because anyone who knows me understands that I am a "funny" dancer, not a good one. So it was like that. But they were giving praise and accolades galore. One day I'll send you the video.

My studies continue to benefit me greatly. I have been reading the book of John. I love more and more the words of Christ. As I read the bible I realize that Christ didn't even baptize everyone he talked to. In fact a ton of the people he taught wanted to kill him...I never realized these things before. He was so bold and confident in speech. Through my studies and personal experiences I am learning more about those people God calls "elect" and "prepared."

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family) is such a miracle to get those cookies from you. Who would have thought that while I was on my mission I would still be enjoying your chocolate chip cookies. Thanks a ton. It really made me happy to think that those cookies were made at home.

We saw the Solar Eclipse this morning. It came here! I have some small photos I might send. We woke up early this morning and went to Besant Nagar beach with all the Elders to watch. It was sweet.

This week we had some really cool spiritual experiences. We are learning more about relying on the spirit and inquiring of the Lord. All of these little things really add up. They are helping me so much. My testimony only increases while I'm out here. There are tough times but these miracles always get us through. And they keep coming.

Monday, July 20, 2009

tender mercy coincidence

Below is a post from a blog written by Abbey (a friend of Anjuli's who is visiting India with the Rising Star Outreach organization). The branch of our church that she attends in Chennai is the same branch where Josh currently serves!

Well first of all, here is a post for Anj! For those of you who don't know, my friend Anjuli's brother, Josh, is serving a mission here in Chennai. I have never met him but we have been planning this meeting since the day we discovered I was coming to India a month ago. Anj and her mom put together a package for me to take to him at church today. Here is the experience:

I walked in to church with my large "package" for Elder Tuscano and I instantly spotted him scanning for me from the stand. His smile looks identical to Anjuli's so it could not be missed. For some reason I became extremely emotional! Probably because when I said goodbye to Anj she cried and said, "Tell my brother I love him." It was so sweet and it was surreal to see him. Anyway, he waved at me from the stand and I had to wait the entire meeting to talk to him. By the way, the meeting was awesome. This branch has 2 missionaries going out in the next few weeks so they both spoke. It was honestly amazing. Conveniently they speak English in this branch so we understood nearly every word.

I found Josh after the meeting and got to talk to him for a while. He introduced me to some members and I gave him his package which was so nice to get off my hands because I was stressing about it! He was super excited, especially about the homemade cookies :) As we were talking another elder came up and asked if Josh would teach a lesson. he invited Chelsea and I to join his class while the rest of our group went to a young single adult class. The class was fitting for me, all about service. It was so fun to hear Josh teach. A few notes from the lesson that you might enjoy:
- Love is more than a feeling. When we love others, we want to serve them.
-Love doesn't fear, love does what needs to be done
- A list of "small and simple acts of kindness we can do":
1. give good advice
2. don't make problems
3. pick up garbage
4. pray and love the weak
5. have a helping mind

I only add this list because it was hilarious and Josh was literally pulling teeth to get them to suggest things. Everything they said was hard for even him to understand and interpret enough to write something on the board. It was hilarious.

Also, Anj, he talked a lot about your parents and their perfect service to him as their child. He talked about your dad and said that whenever he was having a bad day, your dad would encourage him to serve others and he would therefore feel better.

-Through service we increase our ability to love. When we serve, we grow close to the Lord.

It was a wonderful lesson and made me excited to finally get to the colony where I will be serving the people. In our meetings today we also talked about trying to see the people the way the Lord sees them. I have thought about that a lot coming into this experience and it is something I am trying hard to focus on. Though I have not encountered it yet, I am hoping I can see beyond the bodies and deformities of these people and see them as children of God.

I was so happy to go the church here in India and once again realize that the gospel is the same no matter where you are and that there are incredible members all over the world. Luckily I found out we will be attending that ward again next Sunday. Josh says he has things to send back with me that he didn't have today so that worked out well. It was such a neat experience to meet and talk to Elder Tuscano. He is darling and made me miss my dear friend Anj!

Posted by Abbey on July 19, 2009 9:25 AM

Anjuli said...
what can i say...i cry at everything. i can't even believe how amazing this whole thing is :) i knew you and josh would be instant friends. i am so happy right now and so proud of both of you!! i hope you are getting some sleep!! i love you!!

Posted by Anjuli on July 19, 2009 11:59 AM

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

gratitude, blessings, miracles...

Dear Family,

This past week was zone conference and it was incredible. President Nichols talked about how to recognize and understand the spirit. I had always been somewhat confused about specific experiences and whether or not the spirit was involved. I'm sure many people wonder the same thing. As I listened to President share experiences from his life I realized many things that I hadn't before. One major thing I realized was this; the more important the question we ask is, the more quickly Father in Heaven answers it.

We have been working with a sweet family. The father's name is Peter and his wife is Anita. They have a young son named John and he is deaf. Also Peter's Mom lives with the family. They are from Vietnam, but Anita is Tamilian. Peter and his Mom got baptized in our church many years ago and virtually haven't been since that time. His wife is a convert to christianity. But after certain trials in her life she had turned back to her hindu traditions. She wondered most why God would give her a deaf son. She asked us that question last week. I had NO idea what to say. But something told me to ask, what have you learned from this experience? She was then able to realize something significant about God and his purpose. We have been working slowly and teaching for understanding. But we both feel good about her and this family. With a lot of prayer and faith I think we can bring them ALL back to church.

We went out to the village on friday. Madhu has some family friends out there who wanted us to offer a prayer or something. Language problems often leave us in the dark. Details are hard to come by out here. So we make the journey to the village and it was sick. Ha we got to help some aunties make biryani. They cook in these massive pots. You just sort of throw all the ingredients in the pot and close the lid. Elder Schmidt loved it. I will send some pictures of the experience. We then had to offer a small prayer for the people there. The lady who was running the show was really nice. I think she was from the pentecostal church, but she spoke perfect english which was really a surprise to us.

We continue to see the hand of the Lord guiding us in our daily work. Little miracles keep occurring. We realize that as we express our gratitude for the blessings we receive, the Lord sends us more. What a concept! Anyway the studies are great and I find joy in feasting upon the words of the scriptures.

Love you all,
Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

I am doing my best to serve with all I have. There are setbacks and a lot of obstacles. But I have realized that as I trust in the Lord none of those things matter. I might not have the most baptisms, but I feel that the service I have rendered thus far has been accepted by our father in heaven. That’s really all that matters to me.

So one thing I wish I would have done before coming out here was go on exchange with the missionaries. We were encouraged to do that during my senior year but I just was not interested at the time. That’s too bad for me. This week we took an american who was visiting chennai on exchange. He is 18 and about to leave on his mission. We took him to an appointment friday night. I think it was a cool experience for him. I wish I would have done more of that.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First 4th of July in India...

Dear Family,

Top of the morning! We met with a former investigator named Steven Raj this past friday evening. I had never seen him before; I hadn't even seen his teaching record. We met him at the church in Nandanam. We chatted and I was trying to gauge his level of understanding and even more just the lessons which he had been taught by the elders before. After we said the prayer I had no idea what I was going to teach the man. Something in my head was just like 3 Nephi 27. I didn't wait. We opened the scriptures and read. Pretty soon in the lesson we realized the man needed a baptismal date. We challenged and he accepted. It was a cool experience. Actually he didn't come to church sunday or answer our phone calls. Not uncommon behavior for investigators in this place, but I'm sure we'll talk to him soon.

Last night we met a sweet family. The other day we were finding in a place called T-Nagar. Elder Schmidt said that it had been tracted out but we still gave it a go. As we were walking down the street Elder Schmidt randomly asked a watchman if there were christians in the complex. He didn't have a clue what we were saying, but took us to the first door, a hindu woman who spoke english and directed us to a christian door in the back. We scheduled an appointment with the man's daughter. He has a crazy story. Born christian, but converted hindu...Ha I made him tell me that like 3 times because it’s completely backwards. The only direction for a convert starts with hindu and moves to christian. Anyway, he converted back to Christianity. He attends the AG church which is the biggest church in Chennai. They have a great concept like home teaching. We shared a little world history with him starting with Adam and going through the line of prophets. At first we thought he might be contentious but he was surprisingly humble. At the end he said he has a lot to learn from us. Ha I'll be sure to keep you updated on that.

I have been continuing my bible study. This morning I was reading in Luke, the parable of the prodigal son. I never before saw the light it shed on the concept of repentance. I understood a little more about Heavenly Father's position in this process. I've realized that having the spirit while you study is so important. I learn so much more when I feel the Holy Ghost.

That’s all for this week. Love you.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

Happy 4th! We did as much as we could to celebrate. Whenever people asked us where we come from we made sure to tell them that it’s independence day there. Then we ate lunch at the american restaurant called Gallopin Gooseberry's. They had beef hamburgers. It was a day of days.

Before I came on a mission I had no idea what to really expect. You know people tell stories about their missions and how much they loved the experience. But I never really understood what they meant. I can't express how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve one myself. I could listen to people relate experiences from their service all day, but in the end it would not do much for me. I have already seen the benefits of doing this, and I trust that the Lord will continue to bless me now and throughout my life if I serve him faithfully. I can't imagine moving forward with my life without having that kind of assurance.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

still hot...

Dear Family,

Things in chennai are still really hot. Everyone said that it cools down about the middle of june... but not this year. I remember when I used to take of my pads off after football practice. They smelled so strongly of sweat; when I take of my shirt at the end of the day here it smells the same!

Madhu is moving right along. He actually moved this past week into the farthest reaches of our area. Clear out in a village like place. I've spent the past 8 months in downtown city. It was kinda nice to get out there and see some grass. But after we taught we sang the spirit of god and he LOVED it. At the part when we sing hosanna he joined in. He wants to sing it every time we visit. I've really enjoyed working with him because of his humility – it really is a strength.

We went to a marriage last night. I am growing to love Indian weddings more and more (mostly because of the food). There were a ton of people waiting for the bride and groom in the banquet hall. But they were taking forever, so they just pulled out the banana leaves and started eating dinner. It was late, so we ate and rolled. We didn’t even get a chance to see the couple...

I've been continuing my studies in that wonderful book we call the Bible. I am becoming more impressed with the teachings of our savior. I love the parables, and I also love his ability to be bold. He was not afraid of anyone, but he did it in a silent confident manner. That is something I hope to learn more about.

Anyway that’s about it for this week. Love you all.

Elder Tuscano

(below are excerpts from individual letters to family)

I want to thank you for writing me every week. I know you are busy and have a lot of things on your mind. There are elders who have little brothers your age and they hardly write them. I feel so happy to know that you are a consistent writer.

I love telling people about my roots – it always surprises them. It’s incredible how my ethnic background is a culmination of the major faiths here in India.

I am trying to understand how the time passes out here. Sometimes it’s fast sometimes it’s slow. Some days are better than others. We have been doing a lot of walking in the sun lately and at the end of the day I'm just exhausted.

I am so glad that I have this opportunity to become acquainted with your culture. I feel that it is now a part of me. I am starting to learn tamil with more resolve. By the time I get back I hope to be fluent.