Elder Hayden L. Williams

Week #10 - Vizag - "Thank you Amah!"

Fear limits you. That was an amazing conference. We watched it on Saturday and Sunday and it was just incredible to hear those messages that were prepared for all of us. 2 hour church is gonna feel real strange but maybe then our members will actually stay! Hopefully.. 

So we actually have a large teaching pool but a lot of the time they only have a short time to meet so we never teach full lessons in one sitting. We teach very slowly so they will understand. We visit a lot of members to strengthen since I have a native companion that can talk with them, the other Elders don't spend that much time with member. However, because we spend time with these members they give us a good number of referrals so that is really nice. Manohar was just the most progressed because he has already been taught all the lessons but we still haven't been able to meet with him again so hopefully this week for sure. 
I don't really know if I will get to sing in church because no one plays the piano well enough to accompany so maybe later in my mission I will find someone but likely not in this area. 

Haha Brother Rios the only people that wear turbans are the Sikhs and they are mostly in Northern India but I have seen a few of them here and there and I want to get one before I come home. 

So Amah means Mother and you use it to address any woman who is old enough to be your mother. It is very respectful and they love it when you do it. I was at an investigators home, his name is Raja, and we were talking to his mother, Sarojini, that we gave a blessing to earlier this week and we asked her how she was and said she was doing fine thanks to us. She then complimented us and I said, "Thank you Amah" to which she replied, "No problem, Baboo" in just the sweetest voice and it made tears spring to my eyes. Baboo means son in Telugu and no one had ever used it to address me before and I just realized how much I loved these people. Abba is Father, just by the way. 

So last Wednesday I went on exchange with Elder Harper who I discovered has a ton of the same interests as me so I came to love him a ton before he got transferred to Rajahmundry. So Elder Stutz who was in my apartment was also transferred there. The rest of my batchmates arrived here in India on Wednesday and Elder Hugie was sent here to Vizag to replace Elder Stutz so Elder Rather has been assigned to finish training him. Watching Elder Hugie adjust has given me slight insight into what I may have looked like.

That was this week here in Vizag. See you next time!
Elder Williams

Week #10 - Vizag - "Happy Birthday Ghandi!"

So this last Tuesday was Ghandi Jayanthi or in other words, Ghandi's birthday. Everyone just gets holiday from work so they sit in their homes, but apparently they are still too busy to meet with us. At least that is what they all tell us when we want to visit. 

So I have discovered the only thing I don't like about the food here. The sweets. I can handle just about any food now regarding spiciness but the sweets here are just straight bad... They are either made entirely from sand (what it feels like) or it is soaked in some kind of syrup that is so sweet it is actually sickening. So pretty much the food here is one extreme or the other. Super spicy or super sweet. No in betweens. There is some stuff here called Sameyah and it is this sweetened milk that has some kind of coconut shavings in it. I get sick after each time I eat it. It is just way too sweet.

In other news guess what religion that I just found out is here? Church of Christ Philippines! Or as we know it, the Iglesia Ni Cristo! I met the preacher of the congregation because he was a former investigator of some previous missionaries. Turns out he just took what he learned from the Elders and used it in his own preaching.  

I got some of the numbers that we use down. Ochati (not Ocati but Och with the back of the throat thing) Rendoo, Mordoo, Noragoo, Idoo. That is 1 through 5. 

Not too much else this week except that we couldn't meet at all with Manohar this week so he did not get baptized on Saturday so we will reset his date and work with him some more. There is a lot of work to be done here it is just really hard because we can only meet with people after 6 or so because no one is ever home before that and public places are terrible for finding here usually. We do a lot of good work here though. We go around to a lot of members homes and share messages with them. We have been working with a lot of the less actives because there are so many in our area. Like Manohar's family for example are less active but we visited them this week and then they came to church on Sunday so that was awesome. 

Until next time, 
Elder Williams

Week #9 - Vizag - "Bagunanu!"

(Bagoonanoo) It means "I am good". It is the proper response to "bagunara?" which is asking, "are you good?". I include it because every time I hear it I think of "nanu nanu" from Mork and Mindy. Man that is an old reference now...

So just knowing this greeting gets all of the people excited and they laugh and love that I can say at least something. 
So first note I had some apple juice this week and lets just say it is the good stuff just like China. A little expensive though so probably won't buy it too much.

So Tuesday Elder Ramishetty slept most of the day because he wasn't feeling well so I had my first full day in the apartment. I read. A lot. I ran out of Liahona magazines and made it really far in my personal study. But that night we went out to get some air and we went down to the beach. The beach at night here is absolutely beautiful. 

Every other day we just went to member appointment because the rest of our appointments bunked on us, so not too much teaching happened this week. We weren't even able to meet with Manohar because he had exams almost every day so we are going to try and meet with him a lot this week.

Gave my first talk on Sunday, got notified Saturday night when we had fruit shakes with the branch president. All things considered that was more warning than I was ever expecting. He asked me to speak about how I knew to serve a mission to help the youth know how they can know for themselves. My talk was very similar to my farewell but more polished and guided for sure. I didn't look down at my notes that I had written at all. After I finished Brother Manuel from my branch got up and translated it for the members. All from notes that he had taken while listening to my talk. He is an incredible member and his violin skills are just as good as his translation which is amazing. Oh yeah did I mention that we have a sacrament pianist and a sacrament violinist? It is pretty fun to hear both of them as they play hymns. 

So the percentage in the mission of foreign missionaries I'd say is 70% ish. Some areas are only natives and they put a lot of them there. I only sunburn on P-days and they don't really bother me like they did when I was at home. 

Yesterday we brought a member with us to an appointment. His name is Ramuna and he has one of the strongest testimonies that I have heard. He is completely blind and has been from birth, he met with the missionaries about two years ago and quickly accepted the gospel. The most amazing thing is that before his baptism he used a walking stick like most blind people but after his baptism he stopped using it because he found he could get around without it. He can also translate really well so I will likely be around him a lot but he is amazing.   
Elder Williams

Week #8 - Vizag - "Chuma"

Chuma. Possibly the most annoying word on this planet. It means "simply". They say it for everything. It comes from anyone and everyone for anything. Ask them why they aren't keeping commitments and that is their response. 

This morning we went down to the fishing harbor which is in my area and it is quite the strong smell there to say the least. The most terrifying part is that the smell of drying and dying fish smells better than a lot of the streets I walk down. We then went to the beach and a few Elders attempted to fish. I felt like my father because I was hiding under my umbrella the whole time we were there which they made fun of me for but I would have been so sunburned if I had sat out in the sun that long. The ocean looks very pretty but there are so many rocks that it is too dangerous for anyone to swim, not to mention no one here knows how to swim. 

Biggest thing this week is we got someone on date for baptism! His name is Manohar and he was taught by Elders about a year ago and was going to be baptized but he was 17 and his father would not let him be baptized. His mother and sister were so now he has turned 18 and we are going to get him baptized and reactivate his family in the process. That is a big issue here just like it was in the Philippines.. People stop coming to church, chuma. Simply because they have to work 7 days a week, all day every day just to provide for the tiny house and minimal food. Manohar has at least decided only to work half days on Sunday so he can come to church. It all comes step by step, we are working on it.

The language is really too difficult to learn when you have no resources so we really do have to work through translators. I am going to learn enough to contact but other than that, the grammar is way different and it is way difficult to try and read and my companion isn't so keen on trying to teach me. I am doing my best to pay attention while my companion speaks what sounds like gibberish but it can get difficult when we visit members and he doesn't translate. He usually does not translate in member appointments so I have to keep from falling asleep sometimes. I am already doing better than his previous companion who did fall asleep in member appointments so I am doing well in that regard.

So this last Friday was Zone conference which we got some really good instruction from President for most of the day. Saturday and Sunday were District conference where we had so many meetings that we only had one appointment on Sunday. President and Sister Mortensen were there along with Elder William the first native area 70 and Elder David Homer of the General Authority 70 and second counselor of the Asia area 70 were both there as well. They are both incredible and gave such amazing insights and lessons about how to feel the spirit and use him in your life. 

Elder Williams

Week #7 - Vizag - "Where to start..."

So let me start by saying that Hinduism and Hindu temples are utterly bizarre. I was walking by a Hindu temple one day and I literally thought they were playing bumper cars inside because it was so loud and sounded like colliding metal. Still don't know what was happening. Thursday was a Ganesh festival which is where they erect idols of Ganesh, the elephant headed 4-armed god of knowledge, all over the city and praise him by listening to loud music and who knows what else, we had to be back in the flat by 5 o'clock because Hindu's drink a lot when they have these festivals. So that was my first afternoon staying in the apartment which we spent cleaning the entire flat and now it is livable. It was really bad before... I was terrified of staying here because of that but it looks good now and I can live there in peace now. 

Also my right hand always smells of some spice or another. No one uses utensils here. Rarely. If you are having ice cream or something they have spoons but other than that they only use their hands which honestly I prefer. Using your hand (right hand only, the left is rude to use because... reasons... uncleanness..) is way better because you can pick out the super hot chilis and set them to the side. 

So I traveled to my area alone on an airplane. They have super strict weight limits so my checked bag could only be 15 kgs and my personal item (I was only allowed one but I totally got away with my backpack) is only allowed to be 7 kgs. I had to drop a lot of things at the mission home because of these extreme weight limits. It is super expensive to go over them. My companion picked me up at the Vizag airport with his old companion, he only learned I was coming about 3 hours before I landed. Lets just say that transfers here are a mess and you never know when you might just be transferred to another area in the mission. 

Yeah I don't really understand the language because I don't get too much time to do so. The other US elders only speak enough of it to greet people, say funny things and invite people to church. Don't even get me started on trying to read it because it is impossible... I am learning enough of the writing to help people navigate the Book of Mormon and that will be the extent of that.

Church is really good, the members do their best to teach in English because that is what we have been told to do by the Area Presidency but some members can only give their talks in Telugu so I don't understand those as much. But this week we had two farewells in my branch. Of course they aren't going very far, after the MTC in the Philippines they will come right back to this mission and serve.

Our apartment does have A/C in the bedrooms so it feels really weird to wake up in the morning and feel cold. In India. But hey, I am not complaining. Better than what Cody had. We also have a lot less power outages here in the city and if they do happen it is only for a couple minutes. 

Robert went to Dominos? Yay! As an AM or what? I won't lie the strangest food I have had here was Dominos. My companion wanted to get it one night so I said that was good and we both ordered chicken sausage pizzas and then my companion asked if I wanted some Golden corn. I assumed this was corn on the cob which I thought would be a weird thing from Dominos but I said sure. Little did I realize when the pizza guy shows up with only pizza boxes that the golden corn was a pizza with only corn on it! I'm still on the fence whether I liked it or not... But the food here is really good, chicken dum Biryani is my favorite dish here. 

Speaking of home there is another Elder here who is from Lone Peak. He graduated the year before me so I only vaguely recognize his name because he played a lot of sports. His name is Tyler Kapp and he is a Zone Leader in Vijaywada. 

So last week I mentioned that we climbed a mountain and I got a really bad sunburn. But lets just say that the Lord wants me to continue working because I prayed real hard that it wouldn't bother me or hinder me and another Elder gave me some Aloe Vera and lets just say that my arms were red the next day but I didn't feel a thing. 

We went to a members home on Friday because we were impressed to do so and she had a good referral for us that we are beginning to teach but the real spiritual part was on our way back to the main road where we came across a man that was crying in the middle of the lane, I noticed that he was wearing a cross around his neck and so I thought we could talk to him. I was right, the instant he looked up and made eye contact with me he stood up and started talking to us. Elder Ramishetty told him that we could come back the next day and I gave him one of our pass along cards of Christ. His eyes lit up when he saw it and when we went to his house yesterday he was so grateful and listened as we shared about Jesus Christ. He puja'd our feet as we left which is always humbling to me because they truly see us as messengers of God even if they don't believe our message of the Restoration (puja is the Indian putting of the forehead to the feet but now they usually just put their hand to your feet and then to their forehead). We are going back this week to start with the Restoration so I am hoping that that goes well. 

We had 4 investigators show up to church yesterday. Kanta and her son Money, about 20 or so, and her nephew Isaac, who has apparently been reading the Book of Mormon instead of the Bible each night! We also had another investigator named Manohar who has just been waiting to turn 18 to be baptized because he gained a testimony 2 years ago when he was taught. So he is now 18 but true to form he has lost a little bit of interest in coming to our church so we are trying to encourage him.  
Elder Williams