Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vizag, September 23

This last week has been really, really crazy. The family that we were teaching got baptized on Sunday. Between Thursday and Sunday, we visited them five times, plus they came to church, and they still wanted us to come over on Monday for lunch (it was Anisha's 11th birthday). As my companion put it, "I'd be sick of me." By Sunday night, I about collapsed.

The other family we're focusing right now is so wonderful. It's really clear how much the Spirit is there. A lot of what we teach they will forget (or won't understand -- English problem), but they do everything we tell them to, so they feel the Spirit and start to change. For example, they've started having prayer and scripture study every night as a family. They've come to church every week, and they feel so happy there. The wife gave up tea and coffee on Sunday, though the husband is still working on tobacco, tea and coffee. It's really clear how much time stuff takes to sink into people's souls. He needs to feel the Spirit and understand the gospel enough to stop. It amazes me sometimes that the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed him as much as it has - a concrete person that I concretely know and concretely love. Even as I teach him I am amazed.

We found another wonderful family on Monday - well, the mother and the children are wonderful, but they have to hide their Bible and our meeting from the father, who is meanwhile having an affair with another woman. He used to be Christian, but something happened. We really, profoundly, don't know what to do but are praying about it.

The people that I taught and saw baptized we've all put to work on other people we're teaching -- John Prasad we took three times last week, Solomon by tonight we'll have taken him to four appointments this week, and Jerry is busy trying to help a sister we're teaching that has tons of problems. Eight people that I've taught here are now baptized. All of them come to church plus other people we're teaching, which means I have like a small posse at church. I don't know whether that's good or bad. It could make me lazy, on the other hand they all want to come with us. It does probably mean that I'll be sent somewhere else soon.

In summary, life is crazy and wonderful at the same time, which is pretty usual.

With love,
Sam

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vizag, September 16

This week has been pretty good. No crazy stories like card-preparing, but pretty good. Glad you liked it!

Elder Pritchett and I are getting into a groove, which is good. It takes about a week to get into a groove with a new companion, I think. Elder Pritchett and I are getting along pretty well and also figuring out how to remedy our weaknesses, mostly that we just both are inclined to go off on tangents instead of focusing on what we need to be focusing on, especially during planning. It’s testing my focus and prioritization, but I don’t have Elder Bartlett to get me back on track anymore. I’m doing a pretty good job though and learning.

Case in point: we had this wonderful lesson on Thursday that we spent half an hour preparing our three main points, what we were going to read with the family, that went off without a hitch, and motivated the family to start reading the scriptures together. And then they reported feeling really happy as a result.

Hmm what else is new. We keep having a bunch of appointments at the church with people that are doing all right in keeping their commitments but have unpredictable schedules, so we keep sitting at the church a lot which is annoying. We also discovered that one really great family we’re teaching doesn’t actually live in the area that we’re responsible for, which is kind of sad because we have to give them to the other elders and I’ll miss them.

Elder Pritchett and I were thinking recently and we realized that most of the families that have really investigated our message are love marriages. (The Michael family in Chennai, the family we have to give to the other elders, and the Raju family, a family I’ve mentioned before that we’re teaching that is preparing to be baptized on October 18.) It’s interesting because love marriages are a small percent of the 40-50 year old Indian population, even, at least I would presume, among the people that speak English. But they are a large proportion of the people that accept our message and get baptized, in my and my companion’s experience. There are several possible explanations but we’re not sure which one is correct. Also the sample size is pretty small. Anyway, these are my recent ruminations.

Today I finally sat down to write letter to Jeremiah and Michael family, my converts in Chennai, which was really good. I’d written them a letter six weeks ago, but now I got to write them another one.

Oooh, excited that you actually saw a copy of the essay! How does it look? (Visual on the paper, I know what it says.) Also if you look an interview with Margaret Young is in the same issue. Also Elder Pritchett informs me that his family is in the same ward in Boston with the journal editor-in-chief, so his sister found my blog. Amusing. Also glad to hear I’m a little bit richer.
Glad you made the deadline for the newsletter. Our perennial experience at the Daily was missing ours, hah.

Times Square looks way better as a pedestrian zone. Is Baba’s friend Suresh the one we went to see in Kentucky. And the dress looks nice on Rachel! It’s weird to think that you made it! (And still have it, you packrat. Though I should first ask, how many dresses have you made in your life?)

Have a safe trip to Chicago, and hope you don’t suffer too much from empty nest syndrome,

Love,
Sam

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vizag, September 9

My new companion is really cool. Get this: his family lived in Delhi for 3 years because his father worked for....the World Bank. (and is currently teaching development economics at Harvard.) Everybody in this mission is ridiculous. I guess it's rainy season now, but we've missed most of the downpours -- we've only gotten seriously rained on twice, but we're mostly spending time inside teaching people instead of outside finding people to teach.

Life this week was pretty low-key. We didn't go outside for a couple of days this week because the CM of Andhra Pradesh died (you might have heard) in a helicopter crash, and the government called a strike. Then was a crazy Saturday -- we ran around town to three different really important appointments, that all went really well -- Sunday we weren't able do too much, planned Monday morning, then in the afternoon it took three hours for my companion to get registered at the police station, and then we made and took a "Get Well" card to a 16yo brother in a family we're teaching, who's had a 104 fever. That one was a bit funny, the stationary shop had tons of these ridiculously elaborate friendship and birthday cards but not a single Get Well card (or a single simple card), so we bought a sheet of blue paper to write on and a couple 8 1/2 x 11s and folded an envelope out of it, wrote a note, and folded a paper boat. All done in the stationary shop -- the people who ran the shop are going to be telling the story about the two strange American customers for a while :)

By now I've gotten pretty settled in my area and I'm continually making sure that I don't get comfortable -- eg, not shying away but saying hi to people that I don't know at church (because I should know them by now). Neither of us really like to talk on the telephone which will either be disastrous or a great learning opportunity - we'll try to make it the latter. We're still getting used to each other's teaching styles - Elder Pritchett has a very thoughtful way of speaking which involves pauses while he thinks. But all is well.

Today we walked up the hills just behind our house, it was pretty fun. When we got to the top we could see a lot of Vizag (probably 5-6 kms radius). It's way more pretty than suburban America, there's way more variety in building styles and so forth. Then we were tired so we went back to our house and slept for half an hour.


With love,
Sam

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Vizag, September 2

Life’s been really good since last time I e-mailed. The most major development is that I’m getting a new companion – Elder Bartlett is becoming zone leader, which means that he’s responsible for all of us in Vizag, which means he’s shifting across the city to be companions with the other zone leader. His name is Elder Pritchett, everyone tells me he’s a good hardworking smart elder, he’s arriving on Friday from Bangalore, and that’s all I know about him. I will miss Elder Bartlett though, he and I are like the same person except he’s less openly emotional than me.

The rest of the trip in Hyderabad was good. We were going around this place called Charminar and looking around at a lot of really old cool Muslim architecture. Then Elder Bartlett and I went back to Secunderabad with this really cool auto driver – he is a manager at ICICI Bank and drives autos as a “time pass.” So he gave us a partial tour of Hyderabad for meter fare. And he got to test his English on Americans. So all three of us were happy.
The conference there was really good – it was on how to work with members and build trust. He was telling us how things were supposed to be, which they aren’t pretty much anywhere in India. Then he said something really interesting – if we take the things we learn say “well it doesn’t work this way here, Hmmpf,” that was the exactly wrong thing to do – instead we should pick one thing to improve and work on it.

What else is new. One crazy situation is looking way better than we were afraid of, which made my whole week. Another one will probably change for the better or worse really soon, so we’re waiting on it.

Not much is new and exciting. Elder Bartlett and I got like a full week’s work done in three days last week, which was pretty cool. We met a shopkeeper at one of those corner cool drink/snack shops who, to pass the time, does flight booking on a desktop at the shop. It was pretty funny.


Love,
Sam