Archive for January, 2011

the cows are the right color here

January 31, 2011

The scripture passage this week is Acts 16.  http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/acts/16?lang=eng The hymn, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is “Do What is Right”. http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=237&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=237&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

To explain the subject line… for all my life pictures of cows have always shown them as white with black splotches… but in all my driving past dairy farms on the insterstates, I only ever saw brown cows, black cows, grey cows, or black cows with white heads.  And now, halfway around the world, the cows are finally ‘the right color’ although none of the cows in picture books ever had blue and red painted horns,or necklaces. (I still have yet to see a purple cow… but in India, who knows?)

Where I am now is about as rural as Mormon missionary work gets in India… which means I’m still in a town with about a thousand auto drivers, and plenty of three story buildings.  But I’m definitely in the country.  There used to be gold mines here, built by the British, which closed down a while back because none of the equipment had been modernized since Independence and there were about 200 deaths a year.  So a decent number of people here commute 4 hours a day (2 each way) to work in Bangalore.  The other main employer is an earth mover manufacturer (I don’t know if they make a lever long enough…)  [Matt is in Karnataka http://www.karnataka.com/]

It’s very beautiful… imagine Appalachia in India, and you’ll still  be imagining something completely different from KGF, but that’s the best way I can think to describe it.

My childhood exposure to sign language has proved incredibly useful here… several members of the branch here are deaf, and several others have learned sign language to help interpret.  One deaf member, Arvind, is preparing to submit his mission papers.  Last Sunday (my first Sunday here) he came up after sacrament meeting, hugged me, and motioned for me to wait exactly where I was until he could get an interpreter.  At first I didn’t think I’d be able to remember any of my sign language, but the alphabet came back very fast and I’m picking up other things from Arvind.  The scripture passage this week is actually one he showed me when we visited his house on Thursday, for verse 31… I glanced at the context and remembered the story from Sunday school a few years back, when I noticed it because of the end of the chapter:

35And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

36And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

37But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being aRomans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out bprivily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

Ah, I love Paul.

Have a good week everyone.

Elder Mattathias Westwood

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For the Lord is good

January 29, 2011

This week’s scripture passage is Psalm 100.  Had a really good Elder’s
Quorum class on gratitude that featured the Psalms… I found out
afterward that the brother assigned to teach hadn’t been there, and
the quorum president had to wing it… but he did so by having
everyone turn to the Topical guide for “thanksgiving” and then just
going through different scriptures and talking about they ways they
show different approaches to gratitude, blessings of gratitude, ways
to show gratitude.  http://lds.org/scriptures/ot/ps/100?lang=eng

I’m very grateful for that brother.

The hymn this week is “Teach Me to Walk in the Light” (#304).
http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=304&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=304&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

I hope you enjoy those.  There will be a short interruption of your
regular missionary update system while I take care of some other
pressing correspondence.  Tune in next week, barring emergency
cancellation.

Suffice it to say, I’m in a new place with new people and new sights,
it’s beautiful here and the week was amazing.

Love,
Elder Westwood

“give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword”

January 21, 2011

This week’s scripture passage is D&C 11. http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/11?lang=eng
Someone once said to me that
the reason God compares his word to a two-edged sword is that if we
attempt to misuse the scriptures to cut someone else, we will also be
cut (see also D&C 121:34-46). http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121?lang=eng
And that’s true.  The hymn for this
week is “Be Still My Soul”.  http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=124&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=124&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

I think that anyone who’s known me for a long time can attest that I
live very intensely.  I’ve gained great strength from the stories of
my namesakes- Mattathias of Modin and Guru Gobind Singh.  Men whose
unmistakable zeal for the word of God could not be mistaken or denied.
Men who boldly stood for what they knew was right.  And in everything
I’ve done I’ve tried to be sincere, and to be anxiously engaged in a
good cause.

For years I also thought I knew how to relax.  That I knew how to
rest.  But last year my brother James mentioned how tense I was one
day, and I realized that really that was about how I was most days.  I
was loving life and accomplishing a lot but always with tension.  And
I took that counsel and then kept moving with my life, kept going just
as fast and worrying just as much.

And this week I think I finally learned what it means to have peace.
To slow down.  Again, I’m just starting.

Last week after e-mailing we got a call on our temporary phone with a
pre-paid sim card asking us to come to the other side of the city to
pick up our phone replacement.  And as soon as we got off the phone I
started going through a checklist of all the ways we’d have to change
our plans for the day, talking through how we should arrange it.  And
Elder Karatapu said “Elder, elder.  Don’t worry.”  And my first
thought was “I’m not worrying, I’m planning.”  and then something said
“Listen to him” so I did.  And we got the phone.

Then that evening we had to make some very quick changes of plans, and
again I was tensing and running through all the ways we could arrange
things.  And Elder K. just said “Is this the right bus?” and I
realized it was, and we went.  And it was good.

The next morning I was incredibly tense and I can’t remember why.  But
I remember that after companionship study I went to hang up some
laundry, and I saw the light streaming through the open windows, and I
prayed.  And there was peace.

And the lessons just kept coming through the week.  And then Sunday
came.  And Sunday is usually my most stressful day, because it’s the
day you see whether everyone you’ve been working with actually decides
to come to the church and worship.  And of the 14 people we worked
with this week, 1 came on time and one came late.  And it wasn’t until
10pm when I was describing the day in my journal that I realized, I’ve
been at peace all day long.  And even though so many people didn’t
make it, I didn’t stress and I didn’t worry.  I accepted what could
not be changed, and moved on with the work I had to do.

So it was a very good week.

It was also a festival here in Andhra, called San Kranthi.  I think
most of you have heard of kite-fighting.  San Kranthi is a harvest
festival, but it’s also the kite fighting holiday.  So Friday and
Saturday the skies were full of kites and every rooftop was full of
men and boys looking upwards.  And all the doorstep designs were
colored again.  It was a very, very good week.

I also found out that I’m leaving this Friday for Karnataka.  I’ll be
about an hour outside of Bangalore.  So keep me in your prayers and
thoughts as I finish here and travel to my new assignment.

Love you all,
Elder Mattathias Westwood

“Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.”

January 10, 2011

This week’s hymn is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” but I  want to
talk about a verse that isn’t in the Latter-day Saint Hymnal.  “I have
seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps/ they have
builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps/ I can read his
righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps/ His day is marching
on”  I’ve been thinking about the ways we can the light of God shine
from the little things, the mundane things, in our lives.  As a
missionary, I dress every day the way I would for Church on Sunday.
Which is to say, each morning I dress to worship.  Thinking about that
has helped me start making my whole life a worship of God.  Paying the
auto driver is worship.  Talking on the phone is worship.  Even
responding to frustration ought to be worship, because how I love my
fellowmen is the measure, according to the Word, of how I love God.
http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=60&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=60&searchsubseq end=ZZZ

This idea is just beginning to change the way I do things, so
hopefully I can keep it in my mind for long enough to make a real
difference.  I’m beginning to think that keeping things in mind is the
most important challenge of this life.  Maybe that’s why the
scriptures tell us so often to remember.

This has been an interesting week.  I’m with a new companion.  Elder K. is from Delhi.  He joined the Church when he was 17.  He
wants to be an animator.  He’s been on a mission for 16 months, but he
always says that he’s a new missionary.

This week half the days have gone great, and half the days everything
we planned fell through and we just had to figure out how to pick
through the pieces and still get something accomplished.  We lost our
phone,so we’ve been using a spare body and the prepaid SIM card I got
for Christmas.  Fortunately, it still had 100 Rs on it.

We’re teaching a brother named P.  He’s 18.  He has a big smile
and his voice cracks when he talks.  Since he’s preparing for baptism
we needed to meet his family, because we won’t baptize anyone under 19
without written parental consent, and if we baptize anyone in any
family we like to meet everyone so they know what the Church is and
what’s going on.

We’d asked P. if we could visit him at home on Saturday, because
usually he just meets us at the Church.  We said “We want to meet your
parents.”  On Saturday he came to the Church and said “My parents are
out of town and won’t be back until late tomorrow night.”  Elder K. said “That’s all right.  Can we still come to your house
today and have the lesson there?” And he said ok and took us there.

His parents were home.  His parents were wonderful.  They don’t speak
any English, but they’re very kind and they clearly love P. very
much.  They had 6 sons but he’s the only one still living.  We think
the reason he didn’t want us to meet them is that they’re very poor.
His father is the watchman for a large apartment complex.  He almost
certainly is looked down on every single day, simply for being a
watchman.  His son was ashamed to bring visitors from Church to his
home.

Poverty is terrible, but the shame is even worse.

So the scripture section for this week is Alma 31 and 32, because we
too often commit the sin of the Zoramites and confuse wealth with
superiority.  Or maybe it should be Mormon 8:39, which I think may be
the sharpest condemnation of our generation.  Because however much
we’re doing to try and fix this broken world of ours, it isn’t enough,
and maybe that’s because we get too comfortable with the ways things
are, especially when we aren’t the ones hurting.  I know I do.
http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/31?lang=eng
http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/morm/8?lang=eng

But there is Christ.  And he has suffered all, and never forgets, and
always reaches out.  And through His grace we can become like Him, and
we can heal the broken heart.

I write these things in his Holy name,
Amen.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning

January 3, 2011

The scripture portion for this week is Proverbs 3.
I’ve heard from a
lot of people here that the part of the Bible they love most is Psalms
and Proverbs.  One brother we talked to pointed me to Proverbs 3:1-12.
On the basis of so frequent a recommendation, I’ve decided to read a
chapter a day from Proverbs in January, so today’s reading for me will
be chapter 3 as well.  The hymn for this week is “Come All Whose Souls
are Lighted
” (No. 268) on account of the fact that A) It’s a
missionary song and B) it specifically mentions India.

My mother pointed out when I called on Christmas that I really haven’t
written much about India itself, just about missionary work.  Looking
back, I notice that the only two things I’ve said specifically about
India were both about traffic… first about autos, and then about
trucks.  I think this is understandable, since I spend probably about
30 minutes a day staring into traffic to see when it’s safe to cross
the road.  But still it must be remedied.  So these week’s e-mail will
be an Indian culture issue, and from now on I’ll include an Indian
culture fact and a Telegu word of the week at the end of my e-mail.

One of the interesting facts about Mormon missionary work in India is
that we teach in English.  I think this surprised almost every person
who I told about my call, except myself and my family members, who had
know that for years due to our Indian family history.  What I didn’t
fully think about though is that while many Indians speak English, it
is not the first (or even usually the second) language of any of them.
And everywhere I go, there are also many people who speak no English.

Right now I’m in [the state of] Andhra Pradesh, so Telegu is the dominant language.
But one brother we’re teaching is from Orissa, so his first language
is Hindi, and we have one family who speak Malayalaam primarily, some
English, some Hindi and some Telegu.  Understanding English is a
struggle for many of these people, and even for some long-time Church
members.  Since our teaching and about 75% of church services are in
English, these people do the equivalent of attending a
Spanish-language church in the US.  Some even learn English just to
understand church services more fully, and we have some members who
attend faithfully every week even though they speak no English
whatsoever.  Understanding this more fully has given me even more
respect for Indian members of the Church.

A couple of people have asked me how New Years is celebrated in India.
Like in the US, staying up until midnight and making resolutions are
both popular.  There was even a New Years party at the church which
lasted until one or two in the morning, which seems to have been an
excellent success.  We didn’t attend, because midnight is way past our
bed time, but I hear that there were musical chairs, a talent show, a
midnight countdown, a testimony meeting, and then an early-morning
cricket game for those who had stayed overnight at the Church on
account of it being far from home.

Also, a key part of at least Hyderabadi culture is the chalk drawings
everyone puts on their doorstep.  I’ll have to take some pictures to
send, but anyone who’s curious can also look at the October 2010 New
Era, which shows a few of them in the article on the Church in India.
Usually, the patterns are just in white, but on New Year’s Day
everyone adds lots of color, and lots of people write something like
“Happy New Year!”  It’s pretty awesome.
http://lds.org/new-era/2010/10?lang=eng [there’s a button for a PDF of the article, but I couldn’t get it to load]

The Telegu word of the week is “Paramati Cheka” which is the Telegu
for “Westwood.”  We also tried to translate Elder Anderson’s name, but
since there’s no satisfactory translation for Ander, we’ve just been
using the translation of Androidson, figuring that it’s a good enough
approximation.

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Elder Mattathias Westwood