Monday, December 26, 2016

26 December 2016

Well, this week was really, really short. I'm still not trunky, believe it or not. We largely spent the week running around, trying to find new investigators. I just packed up most of my stuff, and I'll be home tomorrow. Let's see if there are any stories from the week...

Monday and Tuesday nights, we tried to go caroling, but everyone showed up far too late. That was pretty funny. We also found a bunch of new investigators on Wednesday! 

Thursday, we met with a less-active returned missionary. That was interesting. 

Friday, we had our Christmas party. That was as entertaining, if not actually Christmasy, as always. 

Saturday, we had our Christmas missionary devotional. All of us went down to the mission home, and the mission president showed us a couple videos, fed us lunch, and gave a great talk on obedience and the Christmas spirit. Funny story- one of the American elders was pretty sick at the time. I just got the news- he's in the hospital with a nasty bladder infection. That has to be thrilling. 

Finally came Sunday. Christmas. The last one on the mission. It went by pretty quick. We had 8 o clock church, then went back and had a snack, before 3 consecutive meal appointments. At the first one, they fed us chicken biryani, and we called home from there. At the second, with our WML, he gave us lots of sweets and tried to feed us more chicken biryani. At the third, Neil, he gave us bacon! And yes, more chicken biryani. You can't forget the chicken biryani. 

Christmas itself is interesting in Bangalore. You don't see too many decorations outside, but people will decorate the inside of their homes. Also, because under 10% of the population is Christian and the temperature was still in the 80s, it really just looks like a normal day. 

I'm now mostly packed, and will move out to the mission office for my trunky training shortly. See ya for the last time!

Monday, December 19, 2016

19 December 2016

We had a fairly slow week- not too much in the interesting department. The best story was actually last Monday night! We had a set appointment over near our bishop's house, one of his son's friends. The problem was that we didn't really know how to get there. The usual way in India is to stop an auto, tell him the area name, go there, and call a member. We did that. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy out, and autos have open sides. Oh, and the ride was far longer and more expensive than we thought. Anyway, we got out at what we thought was the right spot, still cold, wet, and raining. We called our bishop, and asked how to get to his house from there. It turned out that we'd gotten down at a spot that was named something similar, and only about a mile off. Of course, the bishop didn't actually know where we were, so we had to wander around asking strangers on the street directions for a while before we figured that out, but hey; we're missionaries, and that is part of the job description. Eventually, after walking about two miles (it was still raining, by the way, and neither of us had an umbrella), we got to the bishop's house. The only problem was that he wasn't there, and neither was the investigator who said that he'd be there just that morning. So, we waited. The bishop's very nice wife let us in. Did I mention that our bishop just returned from a trip to America? His family gave us all sorts of amazing American candy. In the end, the bishop and investigator never showed up because of the rain. But hey, I'd do a lot more to get a Baby Ruth again.

Tuesday was equally uneventful, except for yet another fun incident. We were trying to find a member's home somewhere called Pillana gardens. On arrival in the area, we looked in vain until we tried asking people about the landmark. They told us it was across the railroad tracks and beyond the wall. So, we went there. I kid you not, the first thing we noticed was a ton of Muslims everywhere. They are very noticeable, and this was apparently home to a lot of them. We started cautiously looking around anyway, and that's when the party started. Within half an hour of us being there, they started having some huge celebration, I still don't know why. They jam-packed the main road to get out. Now, I haven't had too much luck with big crowds of religiously excited people (remember the Coimbatore incident?), so we tried to find a back way out- but couldn't. In the end, we just caught an auto and evacuated. Nothing too exciting happened, thankfully. 

Wednesday was just plain uneventful, as was Thursday. We had a couple of appointments, but that was it. Friday, we had zone training in the morning, then the plan was to go to a member's wedding, where they'd give us lunch. For some reason unknown to anyone, we instead decided to grab lunch elsewhere, then go to the wedding. Then, we headed back to our area, and tried to go to a set appointment with a returned missionary. You'd think that a returned missionary of all people would know better than to bunk appointments. You'd think. Nope! Then at night, we tried to visit an investigator named Babitha. We had to walk around forever trying to find her house while she ignored our calls. Eventually, we found it- only to learn that she'd bunked. We'd just set the appointment that afternoon when we saw her at the wedding! After walking all the way back out of that area, she finally called us back. Turned out she had to take her grandmother to the hospital. Oh well.

Saturday, we managed to meet with some new investigators. Nothing too thrilling, though. We did have a puzzle- both of us had written "James" in our planners, but neither of remembered who James was! That mystery is still unsolved, as the number listed as "James" in our phone won't answer our calls. 

Sunday, we had church, then went out caroling with the ward. That was fun!

Well, that's our week. Nothing too crazy happened, but we had plenty of fun stories. 8 days to go!

Monday, December 12, 2016

12 December 2016

Well, I'm back in Bangalore. Things are surprisingly similar, just flipped. Last time, after 3 weeks, I was leading the area with no idea of where anything was. Now, my companion, Elder Magnusson, is leading the area, with no idea of where anything is. He's only been here one transfer, where he went on a ton of exchanges and had a lazy companion who didn't show him much. So, we largely spent the week finding new investigators and members' homes.

Tuesday was the transfer. I flew over from Visak fairly uneventfully, and got dropped off at the Lingarajapuram apartment. As soon as I got there, I learned the power was out, so I had to haul my luggage up 6 flights of stairs. That was fun. Right after that, we needed to go to the mission office to pick up some stuff. There, I got to meet up with a lot of old companions and zonemates, including the unforgettable Elders Patten and Jalagam. They were all going home, along with a ton of other elders that I knew. We had one funny moment- Elder Conrad had received a package from home that had something in it. After looking at it, we decided it must be either dog treats or beef jerky, but we weren't sure which. Even after we all ate some, we still weren't sure. I think it was dog treats, but it could have just been cheap jerky. Elder Halvorsen loved them anyway, and ate half a bag! After that, we did lots of finding members' homes, without much success. 

On Wednesday, we did some administrative work- printing a member list, media referrals, and other stuff. Not much happened, but we did do more finding!

Thursday, we tried to have weekly planning, but we didn't quite finish. Then, we tried to make a map of the area, and ran into the usual headaches associated with that. At night, we met with a member, Rajesh Bogati. That was surprisingly fun! On the way back, we met with another, too.

Friday, we had district meeting in the morning. It was a relief to have someone else teach- I'm not the district leader anymore! Then, we had interviews with the mission president. That went pretty quick for me- "How are you doing? Any issues? See you for your exit interview in two weeks!" We met with two less-actives later, Moses and Aaron, from the Congo. Our ward seems to have tons of Africans in it, by the way. Finally, we did more finding! 

Saturday, we finished up our weekly planning, met with an RM (the former Elder Sampson), who showed us the area a bit, and had our first lesson with an investigator all week! Then, we had correlation meeting.

Sunday was interesting. Our church meeting was inverted- sacrament meeting at the end of the block, for some reason. After church, we spent a lot of the rest of the day in various meetings and ITLing on the streets. The highlight was meeting with a part-member family and sharing the Light the World initiative with them. 

That was our week- lots of finding! The 15-day countdown has begun- I'll be home on the 27th. Join me next week as I battle trunkiness and invent a compass to find investigators. See ya!

Monday, December 5, 2016

5 December 2016

Well, I don't have a lot of time, but I do have a LOT of news. Let's see how much I can cover:

Tuesday, we had a standard district meeting and correlation. Nothing thrilling.

Wednesday, we met with Pavani, who was on date for Sunday. She is still doing well! Then, we went down to Madhurawada and refound a couple families we hadn't met with in a month!

Thursday, we had a huge service project in the morning. It was supposed to start at 8, and finish at 1. No, it started at 9:30, and we didn't start proselyting until 6. For that, we went to an old folk's home. The warning we got didn't help- "Don't hesitate when you see their faces, just smile and make them smile." Cheering, right? Fortunately, we only had a couple of weird moments. For the service, we cleaned everything. I first weeded a flowerbed, then cleaned ceiling fans, but other elders mopped, painted, etc. There was a lot to do! At night, we managed to meet with a recent convert family, but that was it. 

Friday was a lot more exciting. We split up with the zone leaders in the morning to do two interviews in two different places at once. Pavani, our investigator, passed her interview! Then, we went out to a pastor. We didn't know he was one at the time, but we learned fairly quickly. He loved to debate everything. We had to explain everything over his frequent interruptions. In the end, we committed him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He told us he'd read it in just 3 days. Good luck!

Saturday was the fun one. The mission president called in the morning, and told us that he was coming in 30 minutes. After half an hour of frenzied cleaning, he arrived, gave us the transfer news, and dropped off a new elder, Elder Cundick. I am going to Bangalore for my last 3 weeks, and am leaving tomorrow morning. My companion will be Elder Magnusson, from Georgia. Anyway, we met with Pavani again, then a couple of new investigators.

Sunday was mostly just thrilling because Pavani got baptized! That is big news. She's been investigating for over a year! That was about all that happened, though.

The biggest news for me was hearing that my return date is December 27. I'll see you then. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

28 November, 2016

This week was pretty nuts! And way too fast. Today is my 50 day mark, even! To make things even better, we had a ton of success, and a really good week. Here's how it broke down:

Tuesday, we had a lot of really good plans for after district meeting...which didn't end up happening. The zone leaders had two people who they needed interviewed for baptism afterwards; the first was late, and we had to go to the second's house. Fortunately, in the interim, we met a really great new investigator, Jesus Ramgee. It's pronounced like Yesoos, here. He is incredibly interested, and comes from a Christian family that he introduced to us later in the week! 

Wednesday was busy. We met with Jhansi, our on-date baptismal candidate, in the morning, then Aruna before lunch. We even made it out to Priscilla, another investigator, before we had another interview with the zone leaders. Fortunately, that was the last one of the week. 

Thursday, we met with Jhansi again. She is ready to go! We later met with Pavani, an eternal investigator, then a recent convert family. Nothing too thrilling. 

Friday, we did our weekly planning in the morning. It was the least exciting day. Elder Daniel was sick and couldn't really walk, so we ended up staying in. 

We made up for that on Saturday by going on splits. I went down to Madhurawada, with a member named Ravi. We met with a couple of families, but didn't have too much luck. The funniest part was when we were just splitting up. Ravi said he wouldn't be available in the evening, so I called a different member. While I was still on the phone, Elder Daniel convinced Ravi to stay the whole night. We went down to Madhurawada, and even taught a lesson before we got everything figured out and remembered about the member I'd just called! We did end up going with him to Boby, another investigator, who introduced his brother to us. While we were busy in Madhurawada, Elder Daniel was even busier in Arilova. They met with a ton of people, and met Jesus Ramgee's family! 

Sunday was relatively slow. After church, all of our appointments bunked, so we tried to visit a less-active family, the Rekha's. They didn't have a brother there, but as we were on our way out, we met a new family, the Anulga's! They invited us over to pray at their house, and asked us to come back to teach! 

Also, we just had a baptism this morning! Jhansi was baptized by our branch mission leader, Bro. Chinna. My companion has all the pictures, but I'll send them when I get a chance. 

Well, that was our week. This week is the last one of the transfer; next transfer is my last. I'm still not sure when I'm going home; the mission president still hasn't emailed. See ya!

Monday, November 21, 2016

21 November, 2016

Our week went fast! We had some thoroughly exciting days, and some even more dull ones. Tuesday was a dull day. We had district meeting in the morning, then prepared for the fireside we were having later.

Wednesday, in contrast, was thrilling. We visited Jhansi again in the morning, and taught her, before going on an exchange! I went with Abraham, one of the YSAs in our branch. We went out to Arilova, did a bunch of finding, and taught a bunch of lessons. Elder Daniel went with another member to Madhurawada, and did even more. By the end of the day, we got 8 lessons! We are definitely going to do that again sometime. 

Thursday, we met with Jhansi again, and did more fireside planning with our branch mission leader. We did some weekly planning, then went out to Arilova again. We didn't have too many lessons then. 

Friday, we met with Jhansi yet again in the morning. She is preparing for baptism! We managed to meet with a new family again, Priscilla and Ramesh, but that was about all of the news. 

Saturday was the fireside! We had a Powerpoint presentation we were going to give, but learned that we would need to give it on a TV, not a projector, like we had planned. So, we went to a net shop to try and convert it to pictures instead of powerpoint. That was a disaster. Normally, it would be a simple matter of taking screenshots and pasting into Paint. Not at this shop! There were nightmarish holdups with connecting my USB drive, with taking screentshots, even with pasting. And in the end, something went wrong anyway and it wouldn't show up on the TV. Blah. The fireside went well anyway. We trained all the branch missionaries (who showed up) how to teach the Restoration, and played some  games.

Sunday was exciting, mostly in the morning. We met up with Aruna, an old investigator, and had a very interesting conversation with her neighbor. Pavani is on date...again. We'll see if she makes it this time. We had church as usual, and met with Ramesh and Priscilla again. 

Well, that was our week. Nothing too thrilling, but it was a week. See ya!

Monday, November 14, 2016

14 Nov. 2016

Our week was weird! Lots of crazy things happened. Remember Diwali, from 3 weeks ago? It still hasn't died down all the way. There are still fireworks going off every night! The other bit of exciting news is that Rajahmundry is becoming a stake on Dec. 17th! When I first came to India, there was only one stake. There's going to be 3 by the time I leave!

The biggest news about the work is Jhansi. I'm going to ditch chronological order on this email to talk about her. She was on date for this Sunday, but complications set in. We were supposed to meet with her on Monday night, but she bunked. We were going to visit her Tuesday, but she bunked again. Wednesday morning, she was finally available. We went over the baptismal interview questions then, and again on Thursday morning, and she was interviewed on Friday morning. That was a bust. Apparently, she still somehow managed to forget everything, and I mean everything. We'll take a few weeks to go over everything for the third time, but we can only hope...She wants to be baptized, but has some mental issues. 

Returning to chronological, Tuesday was good. A member family showed us a new investigator family! Then, we had another member appointment, and then correlation meeting. 

Wednesday was an adventure. We had a ton of shocks, forget surprises. Late Tuesday night, we got a notice from the APs that I thought was a joke: the PM of India had demonetized all 500 and 1000 rupee bills. That was a surprise! From that moment on, you couldn't spend them. Banks would exchange them for the new currency series...starting in 3 days so they could stock up on it. All the banks and ATMs were closed for a couple of days, presumably to prevent rushes. That was a problem for the missionaries, who all rely on cash. I still haven't managed to change out my money; all the banks are still packed. I guess that's what happens when everyone in India simultaneously wants to go there. The move was apparently to target "black money", drug dealers and counterfeiters with big stocks of cash and no legal way to have earned it. All the banks are requiring a copy of a valid ID to exchange money to help track how much cash everyone has. 

That was only 1/3 of the story for Wednesday. Another 1/3 was the auto strike. Those are fairly essential here, so pretty much all public transportation in the city ground to a halt. The police had seized a ton of autos the day before for breaking some law or another, and the auto drivers were striking until their demand for halted police action was met. We found all that out the hard way. We did manage to get out to Arilova to meet with Jhansi with fairly few difficulties. Catching an auto was easy, but halfway through the ride, a crazy guy jumped into the auto, grabbed the keys, announced the strike, and jumped back out. Fortunately, keys are pretty optional for autos, so we got there anyway. (in case you are wondering, this is an auto).

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Anyway, getting back from Arilova was the fun part. The CITU, which is some sort of communist union, was leading the strike. That much was obvious; all of the people out in the streets who were stopping all the autos were wearing CITU stickers. We had quite a few misadventures trying to catch an auto before having to walk about a mile down the road past the strikers. All the buses were jam-packed with students hanging out the doors, so they weren't an option either. Because all of our normal areas were out of reach, we decided to go super far off- all the way to Bheemili, an hour by bus. We had to wait until afternoon, but eventually we got out. There, we finally met with an investigator who we'd been trying for nearly a month: Jayababu. That was the final 1/3 of the news, and it was a big third. He lives in a hostel for his school, and when we went there, other students trickled in: 11 of them by the end! And they all were interested, and wanted to meet with us again. That's right, we found probably the only Christian hostel in all of Visak.

Thursday was less eventful. We had a bunch of appointments in the morning, and didn't manage to have weekly planning. Instead, we went out past Madhurawada, and met with a member family who'd invited us to their new home. They wanted us to pray over each room! That night, we met with a bunch of members, and got a new referral family that we contacted!

Friday was zone conference, and Elder Campbell's birthday. His companion privately asked us to get him a cake to celebrate, but Elder Campbell had asked us not to get him a cake in advance because he knew his companion would ask. So instead, we did this:

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It's really too bad that we couldn't find a bakery that would frost a pineapple, but you can believe we tried. President Mortensen showed us the new Christmas initiative the church is starting, and we talked a lot about finding families.That night, we managed to find the Ravi family's house! That was good; we'd been looking for it for forever.

Saturday was weird. We did our weekly planning in the morning, then wanted to go out to Bheemili again. We'd just found a dozen new investigators there, so we were sure that at least one would be available. Luckily, we called ahead, because it turned out that none of them were; it was the college holidays and they'd all gone home. Then we tried to go to Madhurawada. There was always someone available there...usually. Not this Saturday, though. Instead, we tried Arilova. There's absolutely always someone there, right? Nope. All the members were at a party the branch president's wife was throwing, so we couldn't take anyone to our investigators, who were also unavailable. Eventually, we manage to meet with one member family who had stayed home, but that was it. Also, I stood in line at an ATM for 45 minutes to pull out some money. I had plenty and to spare, but it was all in the denominations that had just been deemed worthless.

Sunday was also funky. We ended up splitting in the morning; the zone leaders had a sticky situation over in Gajuwaka to sort out, but also needed to be at their own church. Eventually, I met up with Elder Daniel again, and we went to our church. That night was wacky for lessons, too. 

Overall, it was a good week! Plenty of new investigators, and plenty of surprises. I still don't have news on when I'm going home, but it should be soonish. Today is my 22 month mark! See ya!