Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chennai, February 18

1. What day is your prep day?

Prep day is Wednesday here. Hence, why I am sending e-mail today.

2. Did you get your suitcase?

No, but I hear it is on the way. Sister Nichols and Sister Linton (she is at
the office) are taking care of it for me.

3. Is it hot?


4. Tell me about your day to day practical living - i.e., do you have an apt?
how many of you live there? Do you cook or how do you eat? Do you/have you gone
shopping? Stuff like that.

Apartment. Four of us live there. We have a kitchen. It seems a bit
extravagant for India but whatever. 2 bathrooms. We wake up at 6:30am, exercise
in the apartment and on the balcony until 7. Get ready until 8. One hour
personal study, one hour companionship study. Many times we just plan what we
are going to teach our investigators. We leave at 10:30 am (normally 10am but my
companion and Elder Diamond's companion have leadership responsibilities for
1/2 hour). We take 1 hour for lunch, then get back at 9 to 9:30 pm, plan until
9:30 to 9:45, eat a snack. We go to sleep at 10:30pm and start the cycle over

We have usually three appointments every day, and in between we go finding
(looking for people), either by knocking on Christian doors, or talking to
people in the street.

What else is new. I hurt myself jumping off a bus. It was pretty stupid of me. We put hand sanitizer on it right away (that hurt) got a probably redundant tetanus shot and put some antibiotic ointment on.

Time is starting to go by faster. It is interesting learning to gauge
people's interest level, they will sometimes even set up an appointment with
you and then they are not there. I am still learning how to use time effectively
with that in mind.

I went on exchange on Tuesday with my current companion's last companion,
he is only eight weeks out and it was interesting. That was the day I jumped off
the bus. He knows a friend at school, which is kind of funny.

People - friendly investigators and less-active
church members we visit - promise to do things and then don't, a lot. (Of
course, people we meet on the street promise to call us too when we give them
our card, but we just met them so that's understandable that they just tell
us that.) It can get kind of frustrating sometimes, but there's a scripture
verse that I'm remembering a lot.

"No power can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only
by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love

By kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without
hypocrisy and without guile." (Doctrine & Covenants 121:41-42)

Had the first baptism at church while I've been here. We didn't teach
them; one of the other pairs of elders did. There are three other pairs of
elders at the same branch (~ward), plus an older couple that alternates between
two branches. I think I told you about them, their name is the McKinleys, and
they are wonderful.

Still learning how to be effective and understandable. Basically, I need to be
able to teach in five word sentences if necessary. When I come back you might
not realize it's the same person talking to you. It was funny my companion
was working on his essay for BYU and I was able to help him a lot on that -
making it clear well-laid-out and intelligible. But he is teaching me by example
a lot about how to be intelligible speaking. Works for me.

Also, made my first Indian food ever! Okay, so that mostly involved boiling
potatoes (after putting them in chlorine water) frying onions and putting
prepackaged curry powder and salt on, but it was very good. I was impressed with
myself. Well, the people who made the curry powder mostly.

Editor's Note: The questions that open this post were addressed to Sam in a recent letter; his answers are inserted after each question.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chennai, February 11

Am in Chennai now. Life is good. Don't have physical address on me,
it's in Alwarpet. My companion is named Elder Glade. He has been out for 22
months and will go home mid-April. I am his last companion. He is really
awesome. He is calm and quiet but firm and focused. I have been learning so much
from him - how to go about talking to people, how to present material clearly
[esp. with the moderate language barrier. It's not so bad with me because I
understand people's accents. But Elder Diamond, my companion in the MTC, is
living in the same apartment and is understandably having a lot of trouble.]

All the elders here are really tall. My companion is 6-4, and the fourth person
in the apartment is 6-5. We get around the city by bus and auto, mostly bus. I
have both jumped on and off a moving bus now, that was interesting. (I have
jumped off twice but didn't fall either time.)

We are meeting the most interesting people. Christian people whenever we
introduce ourselves invite us into their homes; but those with more experience
say they aren't as receptive once they hear us.

Probably the most interesting thing is talking to people. I am getting less shy
though I have a long road ahead of me. We talk to the most interesting people. Elder Glade went to Bangalore for two days (he has leadership responsibilities, he is a zone leader and so with Elder Diamond's companion he is responsible for ~14 people in
Chennai.), and so I was with another elder at the end of his mission. We taught
a couple of 30-year-olds, a really awesome guy named *Karl- he is a hunchback with a
spinal defect - that we had a very spiritual lesson with. Another guy named
Jimmy, same age, is consumed with making his father happy, being a better
person, and having all of his friends that graduated from a management college
earning more money than him. We had a lesson semi-prepared, but threw it out the
window and read from the Book of Mormon with him. It was a passage called
Lehi's vision, [1 Nephi 8] especially the part where people are pressing towards a tree with
fruit representing God's love, and eat of the fruit, but are embarrassed by a
building with people "with exceeding fine clothes" mocking them and
cause them to fall away from the tree. We were able to teach him (imperfectly)
exactly what he needed to hear, and that was such a great feeling. I will not be
teaching him again (he lives in an area covered by Elder Jones, not me and Elder
Glade), but it was awesome. Those feelings make up for the times people don't
want to listen to us, that I'm being really awkward and mess things up, etc.
The way President Nichols put it was that the bad experiences outnumber the good
ones, but the good ones outweigh the bad ones.

Hmm, what else. There is also an older couple here on missions, the McKinleys.
They are wonderful and very helpful in teaching. We have weekly meetings with
half of the missionaries in Chennai, and they help us practice and figure out
how to teach better, find people better, and so forth.

I have some plans for missionary programs I want to start/am starting, but it
is all taking time, so I will tell you more later.

It is interesting with the aversion to 'conversion' in India. So when
we go around, we introduce ourselves as volunteers sharing a message that
brought us happiness. Which is true. But we also don't, for example. pay
people to attend our church and so forth (which others do). Other elders have
told me they've been asked "how much will you pay me to join your
church" before though I haven't yet. We aren't allowed to give
money to anyone, even beggars, because of this. There were some people I met on
Saturday who were mad at me over the whole conversion thing. Shrug.

Mm, am nearing the end of time, so will send and then send another if have
anything else to say.


*Editor's Note: Names of individual's have been changed.