Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hyderabad, January 13

Life is good. Elder Gervais and I are getting along superbly. He like me is very open and easily readable, so we can easily tell what the other person is thinking and come to a consensus, share opinions, come up with ideas.

He’s from Wyoming – Cheyenne. The second person from Wyoming I’ve lived with, I guess. He’s the coolest guy ever, really big but pretty quiet and humble. He used to spend a couple hours in the gym every day.

The initial combination of our styles, expertise, and skills, as witnessed after our weekly planning session on Monday:

Elder Gervais: “I know why I’m exhausted! I thought when I was with you I would learn how to study, but right now my brain is exhausted from you asking me so many questions (about all the people we’ve been planning for). I’m not used to it, bear with me…”
[Elder Bhagwat thinks for a minute]
Elder Bhagwat: “I know why I’m tired during personal study! (8am-9am) I thought when I was with you I would get all big and strong but right now my muscles hurt from these intense morning exercises we’re doing. I’m not used to it either, bear with me…”

Some other highlights from the week:

- We split up on Sunday, went with different church members, and got about as much done as the standard for an entire week. That was pretty cool.

- My morning diet is generally a baked cheese sandwich (we have a toaster/oven), two fried eggs, and the key ingredient – lots and lots of oregano.

- An ongoing amusing drama with a sister named Lavanya. She’s like 30 but lives on her own and has a really good job. (As you know, pretty atypical for India). When Elder Gervais talked to her first, this was the conversation opening (verbatim):
Him: “Sister, we’re coming from church. We’re sharing a message about families-”
Her: “Well, I’m single. I live alone. What’s the gameplan now?”

But apparently she got “good vibes” from us so she came to church on Sunday to meet Elder Gervais, and brought a present: two 20-rupee chocolates…and a candle, and a small statue of Jesus hanging on a cross, because she thought we did prayer like that. Really well-intentioned, we suppose. (We hope she wasn’t just elaborately flirting with him.)

And (the most important part) we had a great lesson and got to bring a 32yo single sister church member who needs friends...and the best way to get one is to be one...


Hyderabad, January 6

No New Years’ celebrations – we showed our faces at our apartment block party but their retired to bed and got a good night’s sleep. I think there were lots of fireworks, they woke Elder Stephen up but I slept right through it.

It seems like just as soon as I get settled down here things get upturned. Elder Stephen and I have been working really well together; while everything isn’t perfect we seem to be consistently setting goals and achieving them – not talking on and on, alternating talking, being in and out the door in 15 minutes, finding 15 new people to teach in the week. That’s exciting, and it gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps bond us together and keep the petty feuding to a minimum. We expected to be together for the next six weeks also but it seems it is not to be – Elder Stephen is getting transferred to Kakinada, another elder named Elder Lima is getting transferred to Coimbatore, and their two companions (namely me and another elder named Elder Gervais) are getting put as companions.

The good news is that Elder Gervais is way cool. I met him a few months ago and liked trusted and respected him from the moment I started talking to him. He’s from Wyoming; he’s 23, he joined the church when he was 16 but then didn’t go to church for a while. His life experiences include being set up by his girlfriend with three huge Marines and waking up in a park dazed and confused. He is about my height but is way big and strong so about 200 or 210 pounds. I will send some photos with my new camera. I hope we get to stay together for a while.

Monday night was pretty crazy, I went with Elder Lima for the day. I’d been with him on exchange for a day before, in Chennai, back when neither of us knew anything and we were all confused and trying to figure out what to do. I really respected him then for his dedication and way of teaching by asking questions.

Now we’ve gone different paths, and crossed half of South India. But we’re in the same place again, now walking the streets of Hyderabad, this time with knowledge and confidence. We go to this family named Chinna Reddy family, who Elder Lima taught and baptized five months back. They stopped coming to church but just started coming back, and Elder Lima is saying goodbye – a goodbye that keeps getting longer and longer as they try to get him to stay. Chinna Reddy and his wife Adilaksmi are looking at my friend Elder Lima as their son. They strain their ears and English skills as he guides them on a thousand-year journey, relating the history of the Book of Mormon.

Then we took their 16yo son Dinesh and went and visited another brother we’re teaching named Prashant, also 16 years old. Dinesh and Prashant had hit it off in church and all the pieces fell into place to take Dinesh to Prashant’s house, and we were jazzed about that. They hit up a lightning-fast conversation in Telugu about their lives and their colleges, Elder Lima have no idea what’s going on, but don’t really care. Then Prashant displays maturity above his years, stops the conversation, turns to us and asks us to share something. We introduce the Book of Mormon and say we will share about it. Instantly Prashant tells us he’s had a question about it from the time he came to church. Then he spits out three more questions about the lesson I had taught the previous day in Sunday School.

It’s not what exactly the question was, or what my lesson was. It’s the way he asks the question. It’s easy to tell that he has a firm grasp of the Bible and cares about what it says and about following God’s plan. And he also was definitely paying attention during the lesson and caught a couple of the finer points I didn’t bother to emphasize. And he has a sharp mind that tries to make all the puzzle pieces fit together, and he wants them to fit because he wants it to make sense, he wants to follow the plan.

Then Dinesh pipes in with another, related, question he’s been wondering about for the last few months, about why we teach a particular principle in church (that families can be together forever) when one of Christ’s parables seems to indicate something else.

We sit back, raise our eyebrows, and compliment Prashant and Dinesh on their question. We start to answer them, when Prashant’s father Joshua (who for the record is about Baba’s height and probably weighs 20 to 50 pounds more) comes in. Joshua sits next to me, puts his arm around me and squeezes us together (Elder Lima brings out his camera and takes a photo), and tells us repeatedly, in loud tones, how happy he is that we are coming to meet his son. Then in broken English, Joshua relates the following points:

- I’m really thin and should gain some weight.
- I should marry a very fat girl. Preferably a very fat Telugu girl.
- It is possible to perform the ceremony tomorrow night.
- I could, in fact, marry one of the following four girls (he proceeds to pull photos out of his bag, of girls whose marriage he is arranging.)
- If I can’t marry one of them, I should at least come over and live at their house so his wife can feed me all the time and make me gain weight.

By this time, we are all pretty much doubled over on the floor laughing. After we finish laughing and Joshua goes into the other room, Prashant turns in a faintly embarrassed way and asks us to finish sharing, so we share something small, commit Prashant to read from the Book of Mormon, laugh, say a prayer, and go back.

I sit at the sit of the share auto as Elder Lima and Dinesh reflect about the times they’ve had together and how much they’ll miss each other. After all is said and done, I put my arm around Dinesh, promise to answer his question next time, and tell him how happy I’ve had to have people who I trust (my friend Adam, Jacob, Margaret Young, etc) that can answer my questions about what I learn in church, and how it all makes sense.

Dinesh is my dear, trusted friend’s convert. A son of God. And now Elder Lima is gone to Coimbatore and the mantle of responsibility is on my shoulders.

So that’s a day in the life-

With love,

Hyderabad, December 30

I don’t have too much more exciting to say, other than Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Today there is a bund and it is our preparation day so we will go play volleyball with the church members.

Hmm…special New Years’ plans…we might be going to a party for everyone in the apartment building. The church members are having a party but we have curfew, so we won’t be able to make it. It sounds fun, but alas. We have intersections with that sometimes – we were meeting with one of our recent converts who needs friends, and some church members showed up to practice a dance routine for the talent show, and she joined in, so we were happy.

My 15-minute personal organization time is going well. The main improvement now is in the organization of my personal space. I think it will make my companion more happy with me also. I’m doing 3 sets of 100 jumps with a heavy jumprope every morning and it’s a bit tiring, which is good, I’m getting real exercise I guess.

Shortly, and with love,