Monday, October 31, 2016

Five Month Mark

My new look!

Hello from Dwarka,

I have lots of news for you today. Starting with Happy Halloween to you all. Here in India it is Happy Diwali, and we just had the biggest night of fireworks ever. Imagine a city with 30 million people and no restrictions on fireworks that cost like a penny each. They started at 9 p.m. and at 3 a.m. they were still going. The entire city is polluted like crazy and you can barely breathe, we have masks on and may not be leaving the apartment much if the festivals don't stop. Last night we had to be in at 5pm and I guess the party just keeps on going the next couple of days. We watched the fireworks from the roof of our apartment and they were going off in the entire city, including all around us..some of the fireworks were blowing up in the air probably 30 yards from us, it was so cool. Like I said, no restrictions and a bunch of crazy people celebrating good over evil, it makes for a good show. The pollution here is ridiculous now..and it will continue to get worse. Today the scale is above 1000 which is as high as it goes, so we broke the pollution scale. All missionaries are wearing masks and may not be able to go out that much the next couple of days depending on pollution and celebrations. Also as part of Diwali everyone puts up lights, and here they call them Diwali lights but we all know they're Christmas Lights. I'm going to miss Christmas lights hanging up until July from all you rednecks, but we've had ours on our tree for about a month now. So the lights reminded me of Christmas time and I'll probably be pretty homesick for Christmas. 

In other news this week it was the end of the transfer and I got a new companion. I am training Elder Chidithoti (Chid-ee-toe-tee). He is from Hyderabad, India in the South and is 21 years old. He and his older brother are the only members of the church in his family and he came here with 4 shirts and 3 ties. But a suitcase full of faith and a sense of humor that makes everyone laugh. So we'll have a good time I think. I get to teach him English and help him improve on that, it should be fun. He is already teaching me how to cook lots of Indian food so just wait til I get home, you'll be in for a treat. He is really cool and I'm surprised I am training this early in my mission, it seems like just 6 weeks ago I finished my own training. Elder Huskey went home and I had a good 4 and a half months with him, it was a good time but I'm excited for a new companion and new experiences, however I am in the same area here in Dwarka and that should lock me up here until January. It will be comforting to spend Christmas here in an area I know with people I know. 8 months to start off my mission in the same area is my kind of mission, I've never been one for moving around much and I really do miss "My House". (That was for you Dad;)  President Hodges was very complimentary to me and Elder Huskey, and President and the Lord have a great trust in me to train. President Hodges related it to me in a way I had never thought of before. He said "You and I will go home after our missions, but these Indian Elders will stay, we are training the next leaders in India to build the church as strong as it is in America." President Hodges is the man, and I am excited to be training and helping in the Lord's work. 

Anyways I hope you all had a good week, I hear my Boys won again so keep that train moving. #CowboysNation #KeepDakPrescott and as far as football in Idaho goes I am putting my bets on South Fremont to win it all for my friends that are still playing there. As long as Shelley and Snake don't win I'm happy. 

This week I honestly didn't know what I should share with you or what message you back home needed to hear. And sometimes I get confused with what I have shared before, so I hope I don't repeat myself very often and make you feel bored. So this week I wanted to share with you a story about being happy and how the Atonement makes that possible. I talk a lot I think about the Atonement but it is the single most important event in history, and everything we teach revolves around the Atonement of Christ.

It was about two weeks before I was going off on my mission and I was just about to graduate from High School, so not too long ago. And as I had realized I would be leaving soon I was thinking about my life up until that point. I thought about my friends and family, the Buffalo Wild Wings trips, the Football games I played in, or the college games with my family. I thought about Christmas and Disneyland, my cousins and the fun we had together. I thought about the early morning wrestling practices and the times I thought I would never stop laughing. Most of all I thought about the night I opened my mission call, the night I still to this day will say has been the happiest day of my life. In short, every thought that I can remember coming to my mind for a good hour while I was in my drive way shooting some hoops, was a happy thought. I thought of everything I loved. I honestly didn't remember any of the bad times, the dumb mistakes, the times my dad yelled at me. It's as if they just didn't exist. It's a much smaller scale, but it relates very well to how everything can be washed away through the Atonement of Christ. In Isaiah 1:18 it says "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." No matter what we do in this life that is wrong, it can be washed away and we ourselves can be renewed. It starts with simply choosing to follow the Savior and acting upon that desire in our hearts to be good. It takes times, the result of all of my happy thoughts was due to months of changing my actions and preparing myself for a mission, at the time I felt the Savior's love for me, but it took time to get there. It wasn't always that happy of a moment, and it won't always be in the future. But our sins and hardships, just like those Scarlet red leaves of fall in Idaho, can be as white as the Snow you will have this winter. 

Choose to be good. Follow the Savior. It starts with a simple prayer asking for help. 

Love you all, Go Cowboys and Go Jazz

Elder Armstrong 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week Twenty-One

Hello again, It's Elder Armstrong.

I hope all of you had a great week. Mine was super. 

Number one on my list. Happy Birthday Parker. I miss you so much man, congratulations on an undefeated season and being such an impact player on the team. I love getting your highlights and pictures from dad. You make me proud and you wear that number 6 really well. No one else would I want to wear that number. I hope you had a good birthday and I was thinking of you, you're 16 and a Priest now. Blessing the Sacrament is a great blessing and always live worthy to hold that Priesthood. Oh and how could I forget...take the keys from mom and the money from dad and go on a few dates. Have fun in high school you only get it once and it goes fast, now prepare to start ballin and breakin some ankles on the court. Love you man.

As far as my week, I had a great one. Yesterday I was able to have my first baptism. I baptized a kid named Varun Shuklah. He is 11 years old and is a great kid. I didn't teach him, the other elders here in Dwarka had taught him, but when his family was getting baptized he chose me to baptize him. I have taught him a few times in Primary and his mom is in my English and Gospel Principles classes and I became good friends with him as I saw him every Sunday. I'm thankful for the opportunity to baptize him and exercise my Priesthood in that manner, and also very humbled that he chose me. He's a great kid. 

This week we found new investigators and they are really great. We found a family that may be the first family or investigators I teach that truly accepts the gospel and will progress. They have been searching for it. I'll let you in on a little secret of finding out someone’s religious history in India and whether they are originally Hindu or if they are from a Christian background. Their names. I baptized my friend named Varun Shuklah, but my new investigators names are Alfred, Wilfred, Sandra, Queenie, Neelum, and the baby Jayden and their last name is Palmer. That was quite a shock and I felt I would never hear that kind of a name in India, you know, something I could pronounce. They are so great and I have had two great lessons with them. They love the Priesthood and the Plan of Salvation and are really accepting. Which is exactly what I felt I needed to share today with you all back at home. The blessings and reality of Eternal families. 

As you all know, I am in India. I am far far away from my family who I love, so much. I love everyone really and I miss you all. I think that coming on a mission takes a lot of faith in the Plan of Salvation.  My faith is slowly building to where I want it to be. But at any time I could lose a family member or friend.  Any of us could lose someone we love, maybe it could even be our time to go as well and that's a scary thing to me. But it comforts me to have Faith, Hope, and Trust in our Heavenly Father and His Plan for us. I trust in Him and I know he loves us. I know that Families are Forever and I love to testify of this truth to others and bring the Holy Ghost into the room to help them understand that they will see their family and friends again. As I told you about our new investigators, the father's name is Alfred. Alfred is a great guy, he loves to fish and he often watches fishing videos on the Internet, and even though he has a pole and a tackle box it's been years since he has been fishing. In just a few short days, I’ve really built a relationship with Alfred and his family. And I've come to know that Alfred lost his wife in 2013, and Wilfred, Queenie, and Sandra lost their mother. They figured they would see their mother again in Heaven, as most Christian families do. But I would dare say they didn't have true faith in that principle and in sharing with them the Plan of Salvation lesson, the Holy Ghost was able to testify of the truths of the restored gospel. I was able to sit through a very spiritual lesson and let the Holy Ghost speak through me, that baby Jayden was not long ago with our Heavenly Father and that Alfred's dear wife would be with him again, and that as a whole, their family could be together forever. I was able to bear testimony, of a family back home, literally an entire valley of people I love, that no matter what happens to any of us, we can be together forever. This is Heavenly Fathers plan, it is real, and it is true. Families are Eternal, and through the blessings and sacred ordinances of the temple we can seal together our Families, to never be separated. 

Brothers and Sisters…Heavenly Father misses us and loves us more than we can ever comprehend, he wants us to be with Him, but first we had to be away from Him to learn and grow and work towards perfection and to progress and build faith. He's only two kneeling knees and a prayer away. Build your faith in Eternal families. There is so much peace and comfort in this Eternal truth. 

Love you all so much, thanks for the birthday letters I am still getting in the mail one month later. Grandma Sandra your letter made it to me, and Grandma Norma thanks for your letters as well. It means a lot and I know I truly have a family back home that is eternally together. 

Love Elder Armstrong

Varun Shuklah's Baptism

Playing around on P-day

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week Twenty

Am I already emailing you again?

Time is going by soo fast. It is crazy, I don't even know what to say. This week was full of ups and downs, but mostly ups I think. The biggest news is that Kavita had her baby!! It's a girl, which in India they don't find out until the baby is born, and they also don't give them a name until after 19 days..don't ask me why I couldn't understand that much Hindi. But she is way cute and Kavita looks so happy, and I'm happy for her.  She is a good mom already to her 1 year old son Sunnit and she'll be great with her daughter as well. When the time comes they have asked me to do the baby blessing, which means a lot. The father is less active and doesn't have the priesthood and doesn't show much sign of progression. I would love to work with him on that and get to the point where he could do the blessing because that would be great for the family, but we'll see how that goes. Also the baby was a bit premature and is only 2 kgs.or 4.5 lbs. She had some breathing problems at first, but is doing great now. So the blessing won't be for a while and who even know if I'll be in Dwarka still. Anyways...hospitals in India are gross...just know that.

This week, and all of October there are so many festivals and holidays. The crackers (fireworks) are going off like crazy all the time. Tuesday we were locked up all day and it will be the same on Diwali on the 30th. India knows how to get crazy.and it actually gets a little sketchy. The culture shock for me is pretty much long gone; in fact the only culture shock I feel is how well I have adapted to the culture. This place is so weird compared to Idaho but I feel like I belong here. I can sit on any rock solid surface cross legged for hours, I have learned some Indian dances, I eat with my hands like it's nothin, I can eat the hottest chili’s without coughing..even though my face turns red and I sweat like crazy, and I feel as if I have lived here for two years already. I even wear some traditional Indian clothes and I can cook curry. So all is good here in India.

It also sounds like all is good back home. I'm super jealous of the family for going to the BYU game. I miss the Y and it sounds like it was a great time. Dallas is also winning it seems and I bet they and the Jazz will both win a championship just because I can't watch them. I think that's how Heavenly Father shows His humor. I miss football and family more than you would ever know. It's definitely a harder sacrifice than I thought it would be. And I thought it would be really hard, ha-ha. Anyway I'll get to the important stuff. This week I still have been thinking about General Conference and trying to apply it into my life and one of the topics that just seemed to keep coming up was Repentance. Now I'm trying to apply this into my own life, as well as to my investigators and members lives. I have learned a lot about it the last couple of weeks and want to share with you what I feel and have learned.

I used to always think of Repentance as like a punishment almost, like "Oh you have to Repent now or else" and in a way yes if we don’t repent that's not good. But it's not that we Have to Repent, it's that we Get to Repent. I always was scared of Repentance and thought that it was a bad thing. It's exactly opposite really. It's such a blessing. Without Repentance how could we ever become better people, and truly follow the Savior. Repentance is an essential part to the great Plan of Happiness. The scriptural definition is to change your view of yourself, of God, and of others. Without this constant change of view, for the better, we would be stuck in one place, or worse..digressing in the Gospel. But because we have the opportunity to repent and change that view, to humble ourselves and accept our mistakes, we can then be propelled forward by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Repentance is one of the many blessings that come from the Atonement and because of Christ's last sacrifice we don't have to sacrifice animals to God anymore like in Old Testament times..or like the Muslims in the streets of India in 2016. Anyways back to the topic, all we have to do now is offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. If we truly have sorrow in our hearts, and want to change our lives and our views, we can be forgiven through the repentance process. But we have to take that opportunity, we have to confess and forsake our sins. We have to accept the Atonement in our lives and the fact that we are not perfect. And sometimes that's the hardest part, accepting that we're wrong. So I'll explain like I do with my investigators.

Imagine your best friend came up to you and told you they had two tickets to the greatest event in the world..for me it would be the Super Bowl with Dallas playing the Patriots and whomping on them. And your friend paid for it all and just wanted you to come with them. All you have to do, is show up. And then the next week comes along and you know the event is happening but you choose not to go, you choose to stay at home and sleep. How would that make your friend feel? How would he feel after doing all of that for the both of you to enjoy together, and then you choosing not to go? Well in that exact same way, Jesus Christ literally is the Savior of the World, he paid for your ticket, and your friend’s ticket, and your family’s tickets, and everyone who will ever come to this Earth has their ticket paid for. A one way flight to the Celestial Kingdom. The Atonement was infinite and Eternal. Are we going to show up? Are we going to do our very small part, and Repent? I hope I will..I hope everyone will. Because the price has been paid, every penny, or rupee, or drop of blood needed..was paid in full. All we need to do is Follow Him. It won't be easy, but it will always be possible.

Brothers and and friends. I love you to death. Never pass up on the opportunity and the blessing we have to repent. Accept your ticket, and you'll feel the Saviors Love.

Love you so much. Go MV.

Elder Armstrong

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week Nineteen

Birthday Cake made by Manisha
Manisha's Family
Birthday Card from Manisha

Inside of Birthday Card

Birthday Cards from Family Members

Namaste Family and Friends,

I just got done with a really good week here in India, but aren't they all good weeks? I think so. I think you can always find an excuse to have a good day.

This week was full of spiritual moments and assurances that our Heavenly Father is there for us. I know that He knows me personally, as well as all of you, and the 18 thousand million people I see every day. I don't know how it's possible, but I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm it to me many times, and I have seen others feel that same feeling. I don't think the 15 and a half million people on Earth today who have felt that same Spirit are crazy, not to mention the millions before us. This gospel truly isn't a fairytale or some story, it is real life. And it is truly the Church of God.

This week I don't have much to say about my daily life here in India or any crazy stories to tell you. Well I guess we did have one problem with an RSS weirdo trying to accuse us of trespassing in his country. I was able to be a little witty at the moment and helped him to understand that his Hindu leader and prime minister let us into the country, and so if we were truly trespassing he could go talk to his leader. Also he accused us of converting right there at the metro, and that's a word you never use in India as missionaries. So we told him no we were not converting but that we were inviting people to learn about Jesus Christ and then they could find out for themselves if what we teach is true, and that we do not force people into religion. I won't lie, the guy really irritated me and I wish I could have forced him into baptism so he could feel that same Spirit and stop being a problem to the work of the Lord. Oh well, he will get his chance to learn. 

I finally got to watch Conference this week and that was awesome. I miss the old President Monson, the one who I grew up watching wiggle his ears and being a really funny guy. I am still grateful for him though, even though he is old and struggles to speak for long periods of time he is truly a Prophet of God and the Savior has a plan for him. His messages were perfect and I loved when he said "Let us Love the Truth." I wrote that one down for sure. And of course my favorite...Jeffery R Holland. He only spoke in Priesthood but that man can make me feel the Spirit like no one else has ever been able to. You can tell when he speaks he just truly loves you, no matter if he's yelling or praising you. Conference overall was just great. But there was one talk I loved the most. It was given by Juan A. Uceda of the Seventy on Saturday morning session. 

In the talk Elder Uceda talked about how when he was serving as a missionary he was in South America somewhere. The other missionaries wanted to go to the Inca bridge that was pretty much a cliff and had a 2000 foot drop on the side. Although the talk was about prayer there was a great principle I learned in it, or rather relearned, that I feel is important. He had felt the prompting from the Holy Ghost not to go three different times. And he fell into peer pressure and the temptations of the devil and went anyways. He ended up falling and almost dying, while another Elder who had stopped along the trail had been there to save him, because that Elder listened to the prompting of the Holy Ghost that told him to stop. I loved this because it relates to me and others so well. I can remember distinctly a point in my life when I felt the Holy Ghost tell me to stop what I was doing. To just leave where I was, and to go home, to get away from the place where I was. He was pleading with me to just leave. But I chose to ignore those promptings..I chose to do what I wanted. Now most people recognize the Holy Ghost with happy feelings, especially during as time of their conversion. But in my personal conversion, I felt a different feeling, and this was a huge moment for me. Because what happened next I will never forget, I felt the Holy Ghost leave me. I felt him just leave my presence. And at that moment I knew that I had literally just told the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, and the Spirit that testifies of Christ, to leave. Because at the time, in my thoughts, my will was greater than his. I look back on that time and realize how stupid I was, but how important that was for me to feel. To not have the Holy Ghost to lead and guide me was awful, he wasn't there anymore to protect me from mistakes. I knew from this experience that the Holy Ghost was real, and due to that knowledge I knew that the Church was true. I did my best from then on to start being better and to get that companionship of the Holy Ghost back in my life as soon as possible. Now just to settle things out I wasn't doing anything super crazy or wrong, I just was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. And all has been resolved. 

But what is important is that we listen to the Holy Ghost. We need him, and what a gift he is in our lives here on Earth. To be a constant companion and a friend to warn us, to help us reach our goal. And because of this same Holy Ghost, I have a new solid investigator. Our new friend Dilip, was completely guided towards us by the Holy Ghost. And it was a miracle. Dilip had been trying to find his way in life, and had been trying to find out more about Jesus. He was a Christian already but barely knew much about the religion. He had been going to different churches trying to find his way. And one day he went to a Baptist church, and attended some seminar they were having. He then asked the preacher at the end of the session, if there was a church closer to his home that he could attend. The preacher told him no, not a Baptist church. But then the preacher told him something very rare, he told him that there was a Mormon church in Sector 12 Dwarka, and that if he wanted to learn about us he needed to find the people in the white shirts and black tags. He then started home on the Metro and was about to go to Sector 12 to our church, but decided he would wait until Sunday because he didn't know if people would be there. He then got off at Dwarka Mor metro station to walk right into us, and to our surprise he came us to us and said "hello friends, I've been looking for you". It made my life...and he is now on a solid baptism date and is ready to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost throughout his entire life. 

I know the Holy Ghost lead him right to us and directed his every decision. Don't take for granted the Holy Ghost in your life, he will lead you to something far greater than you could imagine..all we have to do is Listen. 

I love you all and thanks for reading my letters. It means a lot to know that I can help others back home and I truly try to find out what you need so I can strengthen anyone possible. To my Grandma and Grandpa Evans who I heard bought a brand new laptop to read my letters...that brings tears to my eyes. That you would do that much to hear from me, I miss everyone of my family members and I pray for you all. 

You never forget where you come from. 

Elder Armstrong