Monday, September 26, 2016

Four Month Mark

Hey Guys,

Sorry to my family for the late email today. We just got back to Dwarka after having another zone activity in Vasant Vihar near the mission office. We played volleyball on the tiny dirt field that the church has bought for the building site of the temple, so that was really cool. I hope the temple can be here within the next ten years, but there is still a lot of work to do. It will be a happy day for me when they announce the India New Delhi Temple in General Conference, actually a happy day for everyone. 

This week I am starting my OctoBulk month early and have been getting ready to put on some serious muscle. I go to the gym every morning and we even wake up a little earlier and go to bed earlier just to get more time to work out so we can still be back in time for studies. Working out is the only time I get to be selfish and worry about myself, and I get to do something that I love and that is familiar to me. So I take it pretty serious, and then after that it's all about the people and the mission. But with the gym and working out, I thought it would be cool to tell you my meal plan, or what I usually eat here in India. 

I love to eat of course, and I still haven't grown out of my teen eating stage I don't think. Each day I eat six eggs, two peanut butter and honey sandwiches, a pack of maggi (top ramen), three bananas, and a liter of unpasteurized water buffalo milk..still haven't gotten sick from the last one ;) I also eat whatever members or investigators feed me, but we have to be considerate when we know food is in short supply. We only get fed about once a week by members anyways, it's just not a common thing here, which I'm okay with. Members are really good at giving us water though, and it is usually clean and safe, and they always give us biscuits (cookies), but they are basically crackers here, so that is appreciated. I love Indian food and have never been disappointed by the taste of the Indian food, it's amazing. I do however, hate their desserts. I don't know who invented their sweets, but they are evil. Indian sweets are gross! Ha-ha.

Anyways this week was really good. We got super high numbers and did really well in our lessons and people are starting to progress. We picked up two new investigators finally and are working with them. One is a fourteen year old boy named Anchul, who we found through our English classes. He is great and loves to come to church and English class and has even accepted baptism and wants to keep learning more, but we are waiting right now for his father to give him permission, we'll see how that goes. I will be praying. Also we picked up an investigator named Amrita. We met Amrita Friday night at a Dosa stand, I love street food. It's worth the sickness. Anyways, we started talking to her and she was really interested, especially when we told her she can find peace and happiness through our message and through Jesus Christ's teachings. She immediately wrote down her name and address for us and told us to be at her house the next morning, we were pumped up. So we went to her sister’s home the next morning and...I have never been in a home yet, that has had as many Hindu gods and Idols and all manner of ridiculous items. It was crazy. I was immediately worried, and whispered to Elder Huskey, "This is going to be a lot harder than we thought". Well, as soon as we discovered that the sister and her husband were hardcore Hindu's, but didn't mind us teaching Amrita and was cool with us being there, we were relieved. So we continued to teach and the lesson was so powerful. She has had such a rough life, and she needs that peace and happiness that we promised her. I know she can get it if she truly is prayerful and wants that change. I will be praying for her as well. She is awesome and I just was so amazed at how strong the Spirit was, in a room with Hindu gods and Idols everywhere. It just builds my testimony of the Restored Gospel so much more. I love the message I am sharing. 

This week I have been noticing how humbled I have been since being in India. I seriously needed this place, to put me in my place. I took for granted so many things, and nothing makes you more grateful for home and family than walking, no crouching, into a home that is made of cement, bricks, cardboard, and tarps, and sitting on a solid wood bed with no mattress and sharing a lesson to a family that has been basically through every challenge I thought existed. It's just unreal. And the scripture we share is in Hindi, Tamil, and English and we need the kids who actually know English to translate and help us teach the lesson. That's about how most of our less active member lessons go. 

I just can't believe how little some of these people have. I hope you all know that I am not struggling here in India, it's a change and it's different, but I am not in survival mode. But there are millions here who are. I was just in a home yesterday where the little kids literally had no clothes. It really is humbling. The reason so many of these people are so kind even when they have so little, is because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the gospel we don't need money and nice clothes, or as the scriptures say, riches and fine twined linens and apparel. Those things lift people up in the Pride of their Hearts, and that is very apparent here in India. The people who have money and cars and a good education and a good job, are almost always too good for anyone, especially missionaries. I have seen some really wealthy people acting like idiots and I have seen people who put the gospel first, and who pay their tithing when they have almost nothing to give. Guess who is happy?  Guess who is the one who is nice and kind, helpful and loving? We can even set the money aside and ask the same question. It's the person who has their heart and mind focused on the Savior and His Gospel. You want true happiness? Live the Gospel. It's the only way. Take it from a kid who put all His heart and mind into sports and girls and then chose to serve a mission. I'm a lot happier now than I was. I go to bed every night after a long prayer with my Father in Heaven, with a smile on my face, excited to wake up the next day. Excited to drink my unpasteurized water buffalo milk and walk in the hot sun and dirty streets. It's not about me though, test it yourself. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and see how your life and your mindset changes. Have Faith. Repent. Be Baptized, or Renew and Keep your Covenants, and Endure to the End. This is the way. He is the Way. I promise with all of my Heart. 

Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your Heart be also." 

I turn 19 this week and that is crazy. Thanks for your prayers and your birthday wishes. I'll celebrate my 21st with you all. 

To my dad, keep it up. You're a great coach, things will come along. Just look at the JV team. Never give up hope and make them do pushups in the sprinklers like you used to make us do. Those were great times. It makes you tougher, that’s for sure. We were born with Marsh Valley in our blood and it will never go away. I still pray for the team every Saturday morning at kickoff. You're the best coach I ever had. 

Love you all, Go Eagles..BYU..and Dallas!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Week Sixteen

Dear Family, Friends, and random people reading my blog on the Internet. 

How are you all doing? I'm doing great. Zero complaints about life right now...I try never to complain even if I have something to complain about, but right now I literally have nothing to complain about. Last week was transfers and I'm still with Elder Huskey here in Dwarka. He goes home after this transfer so my next transfer I'll be with a different companion. It's almost guaranteed he will be an India missionary, but I will actually probably stay in Dwarka and train him to the area before I leave. So it looks like I will be here in Dwarka until December, starting my first 6 months here. I actually like that and want to move around as little as possible in my mission. I like being in one place and making it my home ha-ha. I hope one of those places is in Mumbai though, that would be legit.

This week we continued to work with less active members and trying to find new investigators. It's been a rough couple of weeks, but we think we are about to get some good investigators who will show potential. Everyone has the potential to change and to become a member of the church and to receive all the blessings that come with that, but very few are willing to make that kind of a commitment. We need to find those who are prepared now to make those commitments. Kavita is still doing well, but we are in the process of trying to figure out when her baptism will be...She is due to have her baby on the 8th of October...but we don't think she is ready to be baptized on the 2nd like we originally thought. Her English and understanding still needs to be a little better so that she will stay active and endure to the end. That's going to be tough to tell her, and then after she has the baby we are going to be concerned about how much she can come to church and when her next available baptism date could be... so we stuck between a rock and a hard place right now. Wow that sounded like an Idaho saying...that was weird. 

 I don't know what much else to report on this week. I am feeling better and my MTC companions are here finally, but I still haven't seen them. We are spending so much time as missionaries trying to prepare the branches here to become wards and a stake in Delhi. It is such a struggle...there is so much work to be done. I really took for granted all the people back home who fulfilled their callings and for how smoothly our stake and wards run. This place is still learning how to become like that...they don't exactly understand the culture of the church. Not many people fulfill their callings, zero people do home teaching, and very often people just don't show up to church when they were supposed to speak in sacrament meeting. It's hard to see, but we are doing what we can to correct the mistakes with love, especially when someone starts chanting and praising their Hindu god in testimony meeting. That was weird...and awkward to have to walk up and stop them because the branch presidency didn't know what to do. It's just a different world here, but people are doing their best to live the gospel and become closer to Christ. It's very impressing to see these people change their lives and their culture for the truth. 

This week I have been thinking about Sacrifices and how necessary it is for us to make sacrifices. I have had to make many sacrifices to be here on my mission. Some of those include time and money, schooling and dating. The hardest one is being away from family and football of course. I also miss driving and chewing gum, I miss swimming and I miss my music. Man do I miss my playlist with all my good songs. But I needed to make these sacrifices to get the most out of my two years of service, without these sacrifices I wouldn't be truly serving the Lord. I wouldn't be learning what I need to learn to become better. A sacrifice is the giving up of worldly things and living your life more in harmony with the will of the Lord. It is extremely hard sometimes to make these sacrifices, and sometimes we don't want to...but without them, we wouldn't learn what it means to love the Savior. Joseph Smith, who I love so much and is my favorite person to teach about, once said that "a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." That is a big statement, and I believe it. Our Church, the True Church, requires a lot of sacrifice, but because of that sacrifice we have the power and the faith needed for Salvation. We are asked to pay tithing, to live the word of wisdom, to fulfill and magnify callings, to go home teaching, to have family home evening, to read our scriptures everyday and pray all the time, we are to do temple and family history work, and don't forget about the young men and women who serve missions and give up years of their lives to serve in this work. This church demands a great amount from us, even to the point where we covenant with God to give all our time, talents, and efforts to the work of the Lord. It's not easy, but without it, we aren't the True Church. We wouldn't be the Lord's church; we would just be a bunch of people who barely believe in what they say they believe in...pretty much no different than the rest of the religions in the world.
But we are asked to sacrifice...and just like in the hymn "Praise to the Man" it tells us that Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven. If we want the blessings of Heaven we have to sacrifice, and the blessings from sacrifice are always greater than the sacrifice itself. Jesus Christ himself paid the ultimate sacrifice; give back to him by sacrificing your time, talents and anything else you can, to move the work along. I think of Joseph Smith and the sacrifices he went through for us and for the Book of Mormon. No one would sacrifice as much as The Savior and Joseph Smith did, for no reason. And your sacrifices won't be for nothing, I can promise you that. Give yourself to the Lord, just a little more each day, and see if your life gets better. 

The sacrifices you make to be a better disciple and a better person won't go unnoticed, and they won't go without blessings. It's a privilege to be a part of a Church that demands so much from us. Do your part, we are all a team here, and we're on the winning team. 

Until next week


Elder Armstrong

Monday, September 12, 2016

Week Fifteen

Hey Everybody!!
I am sicker than a dog right now but so excited to be emailing all of you back home. I have a super bad fever and a sore throat that is killing me. Everyone in India is sick right now and I think I have the same thing. I have been giving more blessings to sick people in hospitals than anything, and the hospitals here are pretty sketchy. I don't think any of this entire country is clean.
I got my first package from my parents this week and that was so awesome to have beef jerky and toilet paper and Marsh Valley gear. It was a nice taste of home.
Just a few mission facts I thought you would be interested in hearing this week. My mission is the largest in the world in terms of population, and it's in the top 3 in land size. The only ones bigger in size are missions in Russia. I cover 5 countries, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and the Northern half of India. The city where Osama Bin Laden was killed is in our mission. The Church is stronger in Pakistan than in India and almost every month they have more baptisms than us. Their missionaries have to be from Pakistan and they don't wear name tags and they proselyte most of the time in secret. I'm lucky I don't have to do that. Also, there are more members of the church in China, excluding Hong Kong, than in India. And they don't have missionaries there at all. So we're up against some pretty big numbers trying to establish the Church here in India, but we are sooo close to having a stake. Like super close. And there is also about to be another stake in South India as well so if it keeps growing we will get a temple within the next 5 to 10 years and the church will really start to take off here in India. I love being a part of the work here and it is such a blessing to see all of this going on. I took my stake and ward for granted so much. The Church runs so smoothly in America and we are still trying to help the leaders learn how to run a meeting and all the different things that need to be done we are teaching them. It’s a great time here.
This week is transfers and I really have no idea what will be happening. I could still be with Elder Huskey for his last transfer or I could get a follow up trainer. I think I'll stay in Dwarka but I could also be moved I'm not sure. Everyone says that I'll be the first American to serve in Kolkutta but that wouldn't happen until we become a stake. I could also serve in Mumbai for some time but you never know. President Hodges is awesome though and he knows what he is doing, I know the Lord inspires him on where we need to be as missionaries. I can't believe I'm already done with my first two transfers...It feels like it's all gone by so fast.
The work this week has went pretty good. We picked up a few new investigators and our less active members are really improving. We have almost reactivated 5 families back to the church and that is such a great feeling seeing them come back to church every Sunday and to see their lives improve and the happiness that comes from partaking of the Sacrament and keeping the commandments. I love that I have the opportunity to bring the Spirit into their homes so that they can realize what they are needing in their lives to become happier people. The Church is all about being happy and that's my favorite thing to see is happy families here in India. Sadly one of my favorite families is going through a rough patch right now. The Mathesu family had a rough week. Brother Mathesu was really needing a job and was almost to the point of losing their little cement home and having to move, even to the point they were asking for money from us missionaries. We had to tell them no and that was really sad. It's against our rules and we can't do that, and when we told Sister Mathesu no she felt so embarrassed and was really sad about the situation they were in. If I wasn't a missionary I would give that family every penny, or rupee, that they needed. They have treated me like their son and to not be able to help them with financial problems was kind of hard, but I just told them to always pay their tithing and go to church and the blessings will come. Then the next thing I know Brother Mathesu has a job, and that was awesome. We were so happy to hear that for him and his family, but then he relapsed on his addictions and we walked in on him smoking a cigarette and the next visit he was drunk. It's really sad to see him start falling away again. He was so close to getting better and he was doing everything right. Now we are starting back at ground zero trying to build him back up again. We tried visiting again yesterday to encourage them and see why they didn't come to church and Sister Mathesu wouldn't even let us in because he was so drunk it embarrassed her. So that was sad, but he was so close and I know he can change so I'm definitely not giving up on him.

This week was really good and I just love being a missionary. I'm always having a good time here in India and that's so nice because I thought I would be homesick a lot but I'm doing really well. I'm glad everyone at home is doing well too. I just wanted to share some things with you that might help you to understand the culture here in India. I serve with and have met many Indian Elders. The Indian elders serving in Delhi are all from South India and have amazing conversion stories. They also have unreal Faith.
We learn in the scriptures that Faith is a hope for things that are not seen, that are true. Faith is trusting in Heavenly Father's plan for us and not being afraid to live what you know to be true. It was a step of Faith to come to India on my mission, and it is a step of Faith for my parents to even let me go. Sometimes a step of Faith is saying a small prayer, or reading our scriptures. Maybe it's being nice to someone you don't exactly want to be nice to. The fact is, we usually don't know the ending outcome of so many decisions in our lives. And it takes a step of Faith to see the outcome. We have to nourish that seed of Faith by taking small steps, then our Faith can grow huge. We have never seen Heavenly Father or His Son Jesus Christ, but we know they live. We trust and have Faith that they are there and that they answer our prayers and that they love us. Since being in India I have a completely new understanding of Faith. And it's because the Elders here have a lot of it. I want to tell you about Elder Potnuru who is in my district.
Elder Potnuru is 24 years old and he weighs about 100 pounds. His nickname is Mosquito in the mission and he is so humble and quiet and kind. Everyone likes him because he studies hard and he works hard, and he makes everyone laugh. But there's something that makes him extremely different, that has impressed me so much. Right now I'm emailing family and friends, and he's watching videos about the Savior on You know why? Because he doesn't have friends and family to email. Right now at this exact moment his parents think he is in Delhi studying and going to school. They have no idea he is a member of the church, or serving a mission for the church. He only calls them on Christmas and Mother's day to tell them how his "studies" are going. His home branch back home is helping hide this from his family, and this act is actually completely supported here in India. I thought that it would be wrong to lie to your parents about serving a mission, but he told me that he knows it's true with all of his heart, and that it's a commandment to serve a mission, so he wouldn't miss it for the world. His family doesn't know because they would literally disown him. It happens very often here in India and Elder Potnuru isn't the only one hiding his religion from his family. Many of the Elders here were converted less than five years ago and now they are serving missions in their 20's. That's Faith. They are going against every tradition and religion and family member they have ever had. Because they know it's true, and it means that much to them. It was the normal thing for me to go on a mission, in fact people in the States celebrate it like you won the super bowl or something. Here in India it's a legit step of Faith, trusting that Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and that following the commandments, no matter what the cost, is what we need to do.
Don't take for granted your blessings.
I love my Eagles still, and will never stop praying for you. Marsh Pride.
Love, a very sick Elder Armstrong who needs to go buy some medicine

Monday, September 5, 2016

Week Fourteen

Dear Family and Friends,
Hello from the place where I once saw a man carrying 30 bricks on top of his head, where men hold hands, no matter what age they are, to signify their friendship and where eating McDonald's literally means you are rich. I love this place and I'm still having a great time doing the Lord's work here in India. I wish you all could come here for just a week and see what life is like. I think you would enjoy it.
This week has been a pretty good week. But I am sad to say that many of the people I have written to you about are no longer taking lessons from us anymore. Varun stopped, Shiva stopped, Shivani has stopped, and Vishesh is still going, but was highly discouraged when he couldn't be baptized. We are trying to do our best to keep him going for the next year if that's how long it takes to get him baptized and a member of the church. Our most progressing investigator is Kavita. She is a part member family investigator. Her sister-in-law is the Relief Society president and her husband is a less active member with Word of Wisdom problems. She speaks absolutely zero English and we got special permission to teach her because she's the only one in her family that isn't a member. We are working so hard with her, visiting almost 4 or 5 times a week to help her learn English and the Gospel. We teach her terms like Heavenly Father and The Gospel, Jesus Christ, and The Book of Mormon. In doing this she will be able to attend church and understand what the teachers are teaching in English, until she learns enough to go on her own. She literally is working so hard at it, not to mention she has a one year old kid and is 8 months pregnant. She's pretty awesome and even though I don't understand her, I care for her a lot.
We also have 3 Christian families that we are teaching. They are all great and I want them to improve so badly, but they continue to fall off the path. One family believes in The Book of Mormon but won't come to church and the two other families don't want anything to do with the Book of Mormon but are more than willing to come to church. It's a weird mess and we have a lot of work to do to help them feel the Spirit tell them what is right.
This week I was watching a video and studying about Lot and the story of his wife. It related to me so well and I know I needed to learn this lesson this week with the struggles I had been facing.
In no way am I trunky, or homesick, or even at all having a hard time adjusting to life here, either because of the culture or the missionary lifestyle. I actually feel like I have adapted rather well and I seriously love this place. But this week I was feeling a little uncomfortable. I was kind of wishing I had the comfort of my old life. For a second I wanted to be back in the life of High School Preston. Then I learned about the story of Lot's wife. Lot had been commanded to leave Sodom because it was going to be destroyed. And he was commanded to "Look not behind thee" in Genesis 19:17. They did so and as they were walking away from Sodom his wife looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt. She was so worried about the life she left behind her, her home, her friends, her belongings, everything she loved she had to leave. And even though she was commanded not to look back, she couldn't help but look back towards the life she once lived, the one she was comfortable in living. Now in a similar sense, I wanted to look back. I don't want to come home, but there was a sense of homesickness for the life I lived before my mission. I had it easy. High School came natural to me, I was good at sports, I had a lot of good friends, I kissed too many girls, I showed up to school and while barely trying got all A's and B's. It was a life of comfort, even whenever I needed money or wanted to do something fun, it was given to me by my loving parents who only wanted the best for me. We went on vacations and we had plenty of food on the table. I had zero stress other than what movie I wanted to watch or what friend I wanted to hang out with that night. Life was simple, and I kind of missed that. But I realized that I can't look back, because we're here in this life to look forward. I'm living a life that will change my future forever, but if I look back, I'll miss the point of serving my mission. I'm here to change, and I'm here to serve. With my mind back home that's impossible. And like I've said, God gives us trials to make us better….one more trial of mine is not to look back. So many of us want to look back on life before our trials and our struggles, to when we lived a life of comfort. But if there's one thing I've learned, there is little growth in the comfort zone, and little comfort in the growth zone. We are here on Earth to learn and to grow, and to be happy while we do that. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is for that purpose only. To help us learn and grow and become happier people. The whole point of the Atonement was so we didn't have to look back, so that we can always have a better tomorrow. So I invite you all this week to look forward to what life has in store for you and what blessings your Father in Heaven wants you to have. You'll miss them if you're constantly looking in the past. Don't live a life of comfort, live a life of growth and improvement. I promise the days will be happier.
In the words of my man Jeffery R Holland. Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.
I love you all. Look Forward. Stay Happy. Go Eagles. Go Cougs. Go Cowboys.
Your favorite,
Elder Armstrong