Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mirrors of Eternity:YSA Conference

We just spent a most enjoyable 3 days with about 100 young single adults, ages 18-30, including 13 flown in from Nepal and 7 or 8 who spent 2 nights and a day on a train coming to Delhi from Mumbai. We had 2 busses and an 9-person taxi which transported us to Jim Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve. Here we are with those that rode in the taxi with us, along with the driver.
 We stayed at The Wind Crest Resort and had a great time! There were workshops,

art activities,
playing in the swimming pool, early morning walks along the river
and even a bon fire and talent show the last night, started off by those from Nepal.
Some of the native dances were amazing and so graceful! And there were quite a few really good singers. Elder A and I sang our family's rendition of Ragtime Cowboy Joe! It was fun!

It was a beautiful resort complete with clean air, mountain views and lots of vegetation.
One thing that was new for me was the shower from a bucket--it works just fine!
We were impressed by some of these young people’s stories of conversion, especially from Hinduism and Buddhism. They are very strong, since they were often the only members of their family to join.

Now the only negative about the location of this conference was that it took 8 hours each way to get there. That said, we shared the road with cargo bikes
cargo tractors,

horse and oxen drawn wagons,
women carrying cargo on their heads,
and lots and lots of motorcycles,
as well as trucks, busses, and cars. Now I would have never thought of a motorcycle as a family vehicle, but we saw many with 4 people on them and quite a few with 5! All these different vehicles travel at very different speeds and make for something that reminded me of a video game—only live! There isn’t a fast lane and a slow lane on the roads—remember there aren’t really any lanes at all—even on divided highways we quite often had vehicles traveling the wrong way on our side of the road. But somehow these remarkable Indians just honk and proceed and make it work!

Other sights seen along the way included fields of sugarcane
and rice, houses and shacks complete with satellite dishes even in the most remote of regions, lots of monkeys, goats, dogs and cows and even a camel, elephants to ride and a huge termite hill.
Since we traveled during a festival, we saw lots of colorful dresses as people made their way to the gathering—and through the towns, walking on foot was definitely the fastest way to go!
This was yet another amazing memory!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First Impressions

Today marks a week since we arrived here in India. It’s time to share a few of our first impressions.

Our Flat

Our housing situation is a very pleasant surprise! The British influence is evident in that our apartment is our flat and yes, there is a lift (elevator) and even though we go up 2 full flights of stairs, it’s on the second floor. (We enter on the ground floor; going up one flight of stairs has us on the first floor, etc.) It’s much larger and nicer than we were expecting!
We have 2 bedrooms, an office, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and 3 bathrooms—one even has a tub for me to soak in! Yeah!
We have granite counters in the baths and kitchen and most of our floors look like marble but we were told they are really granite.
The office has wood floors and all the rooms have high ceilings—I’d guess 10-foot.
There are narrow balconies all around with 5 different doors leading out to them.
Our building is owned by the Church and there is only one flat per floor. The basement is the office for the grounds keeper/maintenance guy. The ground floor has 4 sister missionaries in it. The first floor is where another senior missionary couple lived until just the week before we arrived—they worked on public affairs and humanitarian projects. We’ve been asked to follow up with some of their contacts. We live on the second floor and the third floor is a smaller flat with a balcony where the two AP’s (Assistants to the Mission President) live.

The light switches were a mystery to us at first—but we’re slowly figuring out which switch goes to which light or outlet.
At first I would just switch all of them on in a room as I entered and then all of them off—and wondered why there was no hot water in the bathroom. Then I noticed that a few of the switches had round circles on them, signaling that it was best to leave those switches on all the time. When I’m jet-lagged, the learning curve is even longer than usual.

We live right next to the Mission Home/Mission Office in a very nice part of Delhi called Vasant Vihar. (The brick building is ours and this is the walk to the cream-colored Mission Home next door.)
There are Embassies all around us. Most buildings have gates around them with security guards in little booths out front 24/7—both the Mission Home and our building do. A few blocks away is a large park for taking long walks and getting away from the noise and traffic for a while.
We’ve seen lots of birds including peacocks and peahens plus pigs. This morning we passed a couple of cows/bulls on our way to the park and of course there are lots of loose dogs everywhere.

The Food

The very first day we were here, the Mission President’s wife took us to the closest market place and introduced us to their favorite places to buy food—first the fresh fruit and vegetables stand, then the milk/yogurt/egg/cereal store and finally the chicken store (I was happy to see that these were refrigerated!).  Another happy surprise is that we are encouraged to buy any and all fruits and vegies, bring them home, wash them, soak them for 10-20 minutes in bleach water, let them dry, and eat them all! So the prep time is greatly expanded, but we’ve had lettuce and spinach salads, apples, bananas, pears, persimmons, pineapple, pomegranates, tomatoes, celery, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, red peppers, just about everything you can think of.

Our flat comes with a reverse osmosis water filter in the kitchen for drinking and rinsing dishes. The water coming out of it is cleaner than most bottled water here so we are encouraged to fill our own bottles and avoid drinking the regular water unless we want a case of “Delhi-Belly.”

We did go out to dinner with the Mission Presidency, District Presidency, and Branch Presidents and wives following District training on Saturday night—how is that for good timing?
It was an Asian Kitchen Restaurant, but with an Indian influence for sure! Elder A ate something so hot that it brought tears to his eyes and gave him a case of the hiccups! All in all, we liked the food, drank bottled water, avoided all fresh vegies/fruit and did just fine!

The Traffic

Here in India, you drive on the left side of the road—another British influence. And you usually stop at red traffic lights, but not always—large trucks and busses often honk and proceed, and if no one is coming the other way, why stop? And, as the mission driver shared, whoever painted those white lines on the road wasted a lot of paint! No one pays any attention to them! There are a lot of motorcycles and ‘autos’ (yellow and green minicars powered by motorcycles) and small trucks and cars so a road with three lanes marked on it may have 5 or more vehicles traveling down it side by side at any given time. And at a stop light, once traffic has finally stopped moving, there could be even more lined up across the road. You are literally inches away from vehicles around you. It’s pretty crazy, and yes, I close my eyes lots of the time!

Our flat is across from a small park and has a fairly major road in front of and beside it. There are no yield signs at the corner, but there is a lot of honking! I’ve been told that they honk to let others know they are there. I’m amazed that there aren’t more accidents, but have been told that Indians honor and respect life so try their hardest not to hurt anyone or any animal (loose dogs, wandering cows, people walking along the side of the road, bicyclists, people pulling carts, etc.). This is a view from one of our balconies.


India is home to almost 1.3 billion people, 24 million of which live here in New Delhi/Delhi area. That’s a lot of people! And they have a real problem with air pollution here.This is today's sunrise--the sun was pretty red.
The Mission President’s wife is doing all she can to keep us all safe and healthy! She has ordered air purifiers for all of our apartments—ours got here just the day before we did. She gives out air masks—but we brought our own and have used them some already! The area we live in is one of the cleanest—not because people don’t drop their litter everywhere, but because there are people who clean the streets and gutters every day, other people who come and pick up the piles of trash, and still others who burn it in the park right across the street from us. We’ve been told that the air is worst in the mornings and evenings, and especially in the winter (December and January).  Riding in autos is bad any time of day, since they are not enclosed and open to all the fumes of the road.

The People

A view out the window this afternoon
We had been told that, of course, the very best part of India are the kind, gentle people who live here. They are simply amazing! And the women are so colorfully dressed! When we showed up Sunday morning at one of our Church’s branches (small congregations), we were immediately welcomed and I think the vast majority of the members attending that day came up to us and shook our hands either before, during, or after the meeting, and there were about 80 in attendance. They were so friendly and glad to see us! However, over half knew no English! It was interesting to hear most of the speakers and teachers at church saying something in English and then repeating themselves in Hindi. The church was held in a bank building, on the first through third floors—with the baptismal font on the roof! And yes, there was a baptism immediately following the regular meetings to which 36 people attended. Pretty exciting first meeting for us! We will be working mostly with this branch in Dwarka as well as a smaller branch in Noida which we will be visiting this next Sunday. We’re excited!

We get to attend a Young Single Adult Conference (ages 18-30) this Thursday through Saturday. It's being held in Corbett National Park, a 6-7 hour bus ride northeast from here. Sounds like fun!

A Visit from An Apostle

President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, is coming to Delhi! On October 28 and 29! He is meeting with us missionaries during the afternoon of the 29th, and then with all members that evening! Pretty exciting! What good timing for us! Stay tuned for a report in the next blog!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Day of Five Lunches

We are in India! Yeah! What a place full of bright colors, different sounds, lots of people, and new experiences. But first I must tell of our day of five lunches.

Monday, October 12 started about 1:30 am for us: up, shower, dress, final pack and a quick meal of a peanut butter and honey sandwich and milk—sounds like a lunch to me. At 2:30 we leave our room and head down to the travel office. There we are joined by four other missionaries who have a 5:45 am flight—ours leaves at 6:25 am. The van drops us off by 3:30 am. Even the airport is quiet at this time of day. We wait an hour for the American desk to open and over the next hour or so we eat a turkey and cheese hoagie, orange and yogurt—lunch #2.

We fly to Chicago, sleeping part of the 3+ hours, make our way to the International Terminal, and go through security once again—but much slower this time. We’re very glad for the 2.5 hours between flights. Our next flight to Abu Dhabi is almost 14 hours long and is on a Boeing 777. We are flying Etihad Airlines and they start boarding an hour before we leave. What do you do for 14 hours on a plane? Well I slept a total of 4-5 hours, watched “Inside Out,” did 12+ Sudoku puzzles, and ate—plus got up and walked around several times. Elder A. watched a couple Indian Movies (2-3 hours each which he really enjoyed!), slept an hour or so, walked around, and ate. What did they feed us? First a four-course ‘lunch’ (as their menu labeled it) with a choice of chicken, lamb or vegetarian—very yummy, followed by two ‘snacks’ (a small vegetarian sandwich then hours later a bag of sweetened popcorn--Elder A also had an ice cream sandwich—almost sounds like another lunch!). Finally they served us a vegetarian ‘light lunch’ a couple of hours before we landed.

Abu Dhabi is in the middle of an enormous desert—or at least that’s what it looks like from our plane! The airport is very modern, we go through security again even though we never leave the terminal, and before boarding both our boarding pass and passport are required. And guess what meal they serve us? Yup, another yummy 4-course ‘lunch’ with a choice of lamb, chicken or vegetarian. That makes at least five lunches for us on our journey to India. We are picked up at the airport by our mission president and his wife and their driver and deposited to our new ‘home’ around 9 pm local time, Tuesday, October 13. They offer us food, but no—we are much more tired than hungry at this point—five lunches are enough for anyone!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Our Week in the MTC

So how was our week with 2000+ other missionaries all preparing for missions to places all over the world: Russia, Fiji, New Zealand, Ukraine, Kenya, Nairobi, Spain, Romania, Peru, Mexico, all over the USA, and of course there is us going to India? In one word: GREAT! This place is amazing! It’s obvious that they have been doing this for a long time and are used to housing, feeding, and teaching very large quantities of people. There is literally an army working together to make it all happen—lots of BYU students cleaning everywhere, working in the cafeteria, teaching districts, working the front desk, etc., plus quite a few full time employees as well as the MTC Presidency.  And of course all us missionaries help each other out whenever we can. It’s a well-oiled machine! But the thing that is probably most important is the Spirit that is so prevalent here. 

The thing that surprised us the most is how busy they kept us! Classes from 8 am-4:30 pm Monday through Friday with night activities Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. However, the classes were very participative and useful so even all of us oldies stayed awake.  Some of our classes were as a large group of about 80 senior missionaries and other times we were in our district of 8. We even had a chance two different times to practice teaching at the TRC (which despite the rumor to the contrary does not stand for “Torturing Retired Couples” but instead is “Teaching Resource Center”). They even had a couple classes on how to use your tablet/smart phone apps. Yeah!

Our room for the week was about the size of a hotel room with a real comfortable queen-sized bed, dresser, corner-table with two chairs, closet and bathroom. One thing I loved was that the 2 chairs each had a foot stool that slid out from under it. On a couple different early mornings, I carried one of the foot stools into the shower so I had a place to sit while reading/working on my computer without disturbing anyone else who preferred to sleep until 6.

This morning we repacked our suitcases in preparation of our 2:30 am checkout on Monday morning. Then this afternoon we went to the Provo Temple, the first temple I ever attended over 40 years ago. And who was one of the female helpers but a good friend who had moved to Provo a number of years ago. What a treat!

Stay tuned! The next entry will be from India!

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Post

This first blog post is coming from the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah. We are getting officially oriented in one hour. We want to thank you all, friends and family alike, for your interest in following our Adventure in India. It feels like a lot of support to us and like we won’t be all alone over there. Feel free to make comments, ask questions, forward this to anyone you want. This is a public blog.

We did enjoy visiting with some of our grandkids lately. Getting a glimpse into how they see the world can be enlightening. I noticed that all of our 4-year old grandson’s prayers included the petition to “help Grandma and Grandpa sell their house.” When I shared that we had finally sold our home, he said, “Grandma, my mom and dad both went on their missions before they bought a house. You and Grandpa should have gone on your mission before you bought yours—then you wouldn’t have had to sell it!”

Here is a conversation with our 7-year old grandson: “Grandma” “Yes” “You and Grandpa are going to be in India for 18 months! That is a long time! And you won’t be able to come see us! Why would you do that?” That is the question I would like to explore in this post.

We have discussed the possibility of a senior mission for many years. We share a desire to serve and feel an obligation to share our blessings with others. We have explored many options from humanitarian or self-reliance, mental health to Church Education, as there are many different types of missions for senior couples. The Church’s website has a 15 page listing of current opportunities for anyone to see, along with the approximate cost of serving in all the places around the world, ranging from around $1500/month to $4000/month. The cost of senior missions varies a lot, as we pay actual expenses in most cases. However, there is a place in the application where you put down how much you want to pay and we are told that will not be exceeded. There is also a place where you can indicate your mission preference.

It was last March when we decided the time was right to go on a mission this year. We studied the possibilities, quickly filled out the papers, had the necessary medical procedures and interviews, and submitted everything to the church in April. The wait for our call lasted 5/6 weeks. However, since we had decided that this was a good time to downsize our home, we were busy getting it ready to sell. Also, since my husband had decided to retire from consulting and suspend much of his writing/teaching/counseling practice while we are gone, he had lots to do to get everything in place to make this happen. Saying goodbye to my seminary kids was hard, but I had told them from the beginning of the year that we may be going on a mission the next year. And now it was true!

The call came May 23. What a surprise—a member leader support mission to New Delhi, India! As senior missionaries, we had indicated a request, but of course we can’t see the big picture nor do we have the Lord’s perspective, so it shouldn’t have been so surprising that the call was different than our request. But India! We hadn’t really thought of that as an option. We started reading about India and the church in India and it wasn’t too long before we were getting excited about our upcoming adventure in such a fascinating place—home to almost 1.3 billion people.

The ancient Indus River Valley civilization was flourishing 4500 years ago, at the same time as ancient Egypt and Babylonia. Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world, is native to India and also the most common with 80% of Indians following its practices. Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism also all originated in India. About 14% of Indians are Muslims while only 2% are Christian—about 24 million--of which 12,000 are Mormons. Just for comparison sake, I googled how many Mormons there are in Colorado—over 150,000!

But back to our grandson’s question of why we want to go on a mission: One thing I have learned over the years is that when I am doing what the Lord wants me to, I am happier—my life works better—I feel more purpose in my life—I feel more inner peace. Now what the Lord wants me to be doing has changed over the years. When I was younger, I remember the feelings I got attending Mutual and seminary, participating in service projects, helping around the house. When our kids were little, I remember the feelings I had being with them—reading to them, playing with them, watching them play, watching them sleep. When I went to help with our first grandchild, the Lord affirmed to me again the importance of these little ones. And being in the church gives us endless possibilities to serve--sometimes the Lord has wanted me to be with the children, sometimes teaching Young Women or Sunday school or Relief Society or Seminary. I have learned and grown through them all. 

But for some reason yet unknown to us, I know that right now the Lord wants us to go to India on a mission. He let me know that soon after our call. I recorded it in my journal just in case there are times I need to “remember” it. Through my past experiences, I know that there is nothing else that compares to the feeling of being useful to the Spirit. I have also gotten a taste of what it means to be renewed by the Spirit and carried by the Spirit. There have been a few miracles already, making this mission to India possible. One example is our visas--not only did our missionary visas come a month early, but instead of being 1-year visas requiring renewal which sometimes doesn’t happen, we were granted 5-year visas! But don’t worry, we are planning on coming home after 18 months.

We are encouraged to reread the Book of Mormon before coming here to the MTC. It’s been a very interesting experience. I’ve noticed a lot of new things—you’d think I was entering a new phase of life! For example, in 3 Nephi 15 and 16, I noticed how often Jesus said, “The Father commanded me to…” and I’ve come to realize that the impressions we receive from the Spirit could be termed commandments—personalized commandments--that when followed bring great blessings into our lives. And as we hear each week in the Sacrament prayers, we need to always remember Him and keep ‘the commandments’ He has given us so we can always have His Spirit to be with us. Not only does the Spirit bring us comfort, hope, joy, and peace, but is the way we receive those personalized commandments of things both to do and not to do. You can be sure that we plan to be strictly obedient on our mission as we feel the need for guidance and protection.

I have a new appreciation for how the Jaredites might have felt—preparing their barges, then entering into them and trusting in the Lord to get them to where He wanted them to be. I know the Lord wants us to go on a mission to India and is preparing a way for us to do what He wants us to do but I sure don’t know the what’s and the how’s. It reminds me of a saying I heard a few years ago: “There is little comfort in the growing zone and little growing in the comfort zone.” I think we are entering a growing phase of life.

We want to thank our four kids who surprised us by all coming to spend our last weekend home with us. And especially thank their supportive spouses who stayed home and watched our 15 grandkids. Those of you who have been around us lately know that our brains pretty much turned off a month ago—it’s kind of an interesting experience to watch them slowly come back. Our kids were sure we had picked up on one or two things they had said to us and knew of their plans to surprise us—but no. We’re not picking up on much of anything right now.

One brother in our church congregation who has now served two senior missions recently shared with us that to have a successful senior mission, it’s helpful to be patient, flexible and humble. Patience is something I’ve studied multiple times in my life because I’m not a natural at it. The first time I studied it I was in my 30’s and came to understand that when I was impatient, I was judging—that something or someone should be different than what it is. The next time I studied patience, my understanding deepened and I realized that impatience is showing a lack of faith in the Lord and His timetable. I’m sure I still have much to learn about patience and look forward to what the kind and gentle Indian people will teach me about this important attribute. And likewise I’m sure I have much potential growth in my understanding and practice of being flexible--and becoming humble is a life-long pursuit for me. Like I said, growing phase—here we come! Prayers on our behalf are welcome!