Monday, February 29, 2016

29 Feb. 2016

The description of the open house does sound like something Payne would like- lots of bacon. Does he still have the huge truck and watch lighter?

Also, since Matt just got glasses, I'm now the only kid without glasses! That's a first. How bad is his vision? I found out that mine is -7 on the Indian scale, which really impresses people. 

Anyway, this week was relatively calm. Not too much happened, and we only had a few power outs. The big and exciting thing was a missionary fireside, which took all week. Here's how it broke down:

Last Saturday night, we met with an RM, who suggested that we hold a fireside. We brainstormed about when it should be held, and decided that the only workable time inside of two months was...8 days from then, this last Saturday, at 5:30 PM

Sunday morning last week before church, we designed and printed out the poster and invitations at the church, and it was announced in Sacrament Meeting. 

Throughout the week, we handed out invitations to almost every member, and literally every investigator in our area.

Friday afternoon: decorations, snacks, and activities were purchased and prepared.

Saturday: 3:30: we set up the room, and brought everything in. 

Saturday: 5:30: we still sat, waiting for anyone to show up.

Saturday: 6:30: a few investigators had arrived, but no one else. 

Saturday: 7:00: we started the fireside, with one member there.

Saturday: 7:30: a few members trickled in; we finished the message, and moved on to the games. 

Saturday: 8:30: the last people arrived, we closed the fireside, and had treats. 

We played a load of Minute-to-win-it games, which ended up being wildly successful. That was about it for the week, though.

Monday, February 22, 2016

22 Feb. 2016

Well, a couple of very exciting things happened this week, starting on Tuesday. After 8 weeks of going to the FRO over and over again, I'm finally registered! The other exciting thing that happened close to that event was half the power in our apartment shutting down. That's right, half. Half of the apartment has power, the other half doesn't. Fortunately, all of the important things have power- the fridge, washing machine, and A/C. The final, thrilling thing of this week was go-karting. We just came back, and that was unbelievably fun. The track was pretty small and very sketchy, but no one died, and only one person got hurt-entirely through his own fault. He rested his arm on the hot engine, despite the clear warning the workers gave everyone before we started. Oh well. The rest of our week wasn't quite as exciting- lots and lots of finding. We haven't had too much success, but we did find a few new investigators. What we largely found is that most of the places in our area don't have many Christians.

Statistics doesn't sound like much fun, but if you have to take them, you can't do much about it. Aunt Krysta already took that? Is she whatever position you're looking for already? I thought you started nursing around the same time...

Over here, things are also unseasonably warm- in the much too hot region. Other than that, not too much has happened.

Monday, February 15, 2016

15 Feb. 2016

Well, this week was pretty epic, just like last week, in a lot of the same ways. It's getting hotter and hotter over here, and I'm ready for winter to start. In other news, I hit my 13 month mark yesterday, and that also means that I am under 3 months away from heading out of the country...again. I'm still not sure where I will go; to the Philippines, where missionaries have been going, or to the states, which would make much more sense. When I head out, I will have 6 months left on my mission, which less time than the missionaries who are currently waiting in the Philippines have been there. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, a lot of fun stuff happened this week. On Sunday, we had District Conference, where Pres. Berrett and his wife spoke. On Saturday, we had no water. Well, we had no running water: our water filter holds a couple liters. But, you can't shower with a water filter. That was fun enough- until the power cut too. That removed the possibility of getting water until the power came back on. Fortunately, power was restored soon, and we got water back at night. On Friday, we had a LONG district meeting. President and Sister Berrett were there too, and held interviews with all the missionaries- which took 4 hours after district meeting. Add in 2 hours of travel to get there and back, and the 2 hour district meeting, and that pretty much killed our whole day. It was fun though. Sister Berrett checked our medicine packets, and gave out brownies. She also showed us some hilarious pictures that she'd found on the internet, that perfectly describe the Indian attitude toward some things. I'll forward them, with explanations. On Thursday, we had weekly planning, but Tuesday was the really exciting day. I got a new companion, and we split the area. Elder Maddikonda and Elder Singh, his new companion, took the north half, and Elder Kommalapati and I took the south. Splitting an area is always and adventure: one companionship can only work with so many people, so when you split that, both sides have to do a lot of finding to build up their teaching pools again. Elder Kommalapati is from Bangalore, and knows a whole bunch of languages, which comes in handy frequently. With four elders in the apartment, we've starting preparing a lot of our own food, which is a lot cheaper, too. I've made fajitas and stew, and they've made lots of curries and biryani. 

Here's a couple pictures from the week:

Inline image 1

Here, the leaves are just starting to fall.

Inline image 2

Inline image 3

Monday, February 8, 2016

8 Feb. 2016

Well, we had a surprise, or at least disruption to the schedule every morning this week; some much more so than others. Last Monday, we took a trip to Semmedu, but Tuesday kind of upstaged it. We were just studying in the morning, when the power went out. It wasn't your normal powerout- it cut in sections. So, we went out and looked at the junction box- only to see a power company representative pulling our fuses. We talked to him, of course, and he said that it was because we hadn't paid our bill. Monday, we'd gotten a strange call from the mission office about that, but it was referred to the zone leaders, who I had assumed had taken care of it. Apparently not. Anyway, I called the mission office again, and got the lowdown on the situation: missionaries had vacated the apartment last year for a couple months due to transfers, and the electric meter got switched out in the interim. The church didn't know that, and couldn't figure out how to pay the bill. So, in November, the power got cut, and the talks began in earnest. Soon, it was all figured out, and the power company gave us power again. BUT, the company seemed to have failed to credit that to our account, and so was charging us for that huge amount all over again, along with the recent power use. The mission office had been talking with them for 3 weeks without any results, and now asked us to go down in person (they'd sent a few others, who had all been sent off ineffectually), and figure out what was happening. We went to the main power office, and got redirected to a more senior official. Our BML, Bro. Bosco, and Elder Maddikonda and I went down there to speak to the guy. But, he didn't know English, and our BML was the only one that knew Tamil, and didn't fully understand the situation. After much talking, translating, and misunderstanding over the papers we had been sent, we finally learned what had happened: Soon after the missionaries had left the apartment, the power company had shut off the power for no explicable reason. But, someone had gone and plugged in their own fuses: a criminal offense here punishable by jail time, as it technically is stealing power, despite the fact that the company still meters and charges for it. Anyway, the power company confiscated those fuses in November, causing the power to cut. They put in the official fuses, and restored the power. But, sometime between those points, the power company threatened police action, and someone went to them and asked if they could just apply penalty charges instead of informing the police. So, they did. The only problem was that the company billed the user, the church, not whoever actually put in the fuses, which was probably the landlord. So, we talked about our options, called the mission office, and ended up telling the power company that they could just sue the landlord; we had nothing to do with it, and wouldn't pay the penalty. They accepted that, and I just got an email confirming that the terror is over: the bill (the standard amount) was paid, not the penalty. After the talk, they gave us our power back, which was off for a very long four hours. But, that seems to be the end of it.

On Wednesday, we had yet another exciting trip to the FRO. And yet again, they told me to come back another day. Apparently, my documents finally cleared in Hyderabad, after a month of waiting, and are now pending in Rajahmundry. No one can quite explain why or how or what is going on, but they are content to sit on it and let things pass by. 

On Thursday, we had some thrilling weekly planning, where we tried to guess what was going on in the transfer. But Friday was where it got really exciting: we had zone training, and learned some very interesting new announcements:

1: We are no longer serving in the India Bangalore mission; it is now the India Bengaluru mission. No explanation was provided.

2: Due to another change in the MTC training time (it's 3 weeks for English speakers again), next transfer will be 7 weeks long to catch up.

3: 4 missionaries are entering the mission on the transfer.

4: Missionaries from our mission whose visas ran out have been waiting for 6 months for new visas, and prayers would be appreciated.

5: Bangalore has unofficially stopped registering missionaries, so no American elders will be assigned there until they clear things up with the FRO.

6: Our area is probably being split. 

That was what we heard, and yep, it all happened. On Saturday, we were anticipating an appointment in the morning and an exchange with the zone leaders, but both fell through. Finally, on Sunday, we had church, then transfer calls. Elder Maddikonda and I are staying in the same area, but splitting up: the area is being divided, and we have to figure out how. That means that every area I've stayed in for a full transfer in India, I personally had to split it. Granted, that's only been two areas, but it's still pretty crazy that out of the 9 months I've been in India, I've only been in 2 areas for a full transfer! At the end of the email, I'll send my full transfer/companion list as of the end of my first year. Anyway, my new companion will be Elder Kommalapati, who is fresh out of training, and also a native Indian. Stuff is happening!

Man, I keep getting weird flashbacks to a year ago, which was still on my mission now. I remember talking with my trainer about the Super Bowl! Also, I'm really jealous about you getting snow. Believe me, I'd really appreciate a couple feet of snow around here. It's nice and hot and humid in Coimbatore right now, still hitting over 80-90 some days, with plenty of sun. I looked through some old pictures I had, and saw one of me wearing a jacket, which made me laugh. That's also interesting news about McDonald's- they never offered me more money! And, that's about it for the week. See ya!

Year one of the mission:

Brea 1st Ward (5 months)
Rajahmundry 1st branch (3 weeks)
AS Rao Nagar (2 weeks)
Rajahmundry 2nd Branch (5 months)
Kakinada (1 month split b/t RJY 2nd)
West Maredpally 3rd Ward (5 weeks)
Coimbatore 1st Branch (6 weeks and counting...)

Brea 1st:
Trainer: Elder Wilding
Elder Mackey

Rajahmundry 1st:
Elder Thompson
Elder Willis

AS Rao Nagar
Elder Patten
Elder Peter

Rajahmundry 2nd Branch:
Elder Patten
Elder Braganza
Elder Jalagam

Elder Patten
Elder Braganza

West Maredpally 3rd Ward:
Elder Campbell

Coimbatore 1st Branch:
Elder Maddikonda

All that in one year!

Monday, February 1, 2016

1 Feb. 2016

That's interesting, about the new missionary. I actually have had a few opportunities to practice French here. I've met a few people who have studied it in school, and I have a funny story. In the Coimbatore FRO office, things are a little slow. I've been there once or twice a week since the beginning of the transfer, but with no luck registering. Anyway, I've met people from 4 continents in there. One of those countries was Rwanda, where the guy spoke French. So, we had a very short conversation in French, where I quickly realized that I do not know as much French as remember knowing.

Things have been going pretty calmly here, up until today. We spent most of the week trying to stay in one area a day, to cut down on travel time. That's been going pretty well, but it's been slow. We have found quite a few prospective elder's houses, but we've been having trouble meeting with our investigators. We expected 8 to show up at church on Sunday- but none came. Give the missionaries in your home ward lots of referrals! They are really important! We have 3 investigators who we could baptize any day now if they would just come to church. 

Today was pretty fun, though. In the morning, we woke up early to go to a Hindu Yoga place. There, we wandered around the very well-manicured grounds, and got to see a lot of what happens in Hindu temples. There was a huge pool that was "energized" by small solidified mercury pillars in it that people would take a dip in, a pooja shrine with a bunch of chanting worshippers, and a whole building thing that takes some explanation. Elder Sampson, a former Hindu missionary, explained the concept behind Hindu temples. Apparently, the grounds and the shrines are comparable to the telestial rooms in temples, or the outer courts of the tabernacle of ancient Israel. The waiting place to get into the big room is comparable to the terrestial room or Holy Place, and the room itself was like a big celestial room, or Holy of Holies. It was lined with all sorts of carvings and decorations, and had a massive Linga in the middle. It looked like a big silver pillar wrapped in snakes, and decorated with a garland. It was supposed to be the biggest mercury pillar on the planet, consecrated by a great Hindu priest, the whole nine yards. There was near-silence in the cavernous room, which had a domed echoey ceiling. Everything was made out of stone, and there were several Hindu attendants to silently show you the proper way to worship the rock. When you were walking up to it, you are expected to maintain absolute silence. Outside the building, you wait, until the cross-legged priest flips up a sign, inviting you to enter. You file inside the dim space, and look around, before sitting until the bell chimes (about 15 minutes). It was kind of a neat experience, but also really weird. I'm starting to see more and more from being out here how good it is to know a God that answers prayers. 

I'm a little pinched on time this week, but I'll send pictures once I get to a less sketchy computer. See ya!