Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sweet is the Work

It’s hard to believe that July is over already! But it has felt good to ease into full-time missionary work again. We are so thankful for all the skilled professionals that helped Elder in the hospital. Here is a shot of a few of them as he leaves.

And Sister Adams made sure he felt welcomed as he returned home.

He also received a few homemade get well cards and many get well wishes from friends and family. Thanks again for all your prayers.

We did take it easy for a couple of weeks, and it was such a sweet blessing to be able to again attend church with all our friends out in Dwarka. In the weeks we had missed, it’s like they realized that we almost got sent home and we aren’t going to be with them forever, so it’s up to them to start doing more of the things they need to be doing. Branch council meeting was so fun to experience! And average attendance is up from 65 when we got here to 85-95. Way to go!

And the next Sunday in Noida we saw our first baptism out there—there have been a few others but we just weren’t there for them.
Their baptismal font is also on the roof of the building. And here is a shot of the neighborhood
and one of its residents sitting on the gate of the church.
So Noida, the smallest branch in the district, who was averaging only about 15-20 at Sacrament Meeting when we first got here (8 of which were us missionaries), is now averaging 35-45 a week and one week they were above 50. There are only 80 members on the role so President Gygi and those young missionaries are working super hard on both reactivating and finding.

We had a super fun visitor on July 22.
Many of you will recognize Rob Schill, who served as ward clerk when Elder was bishop, and then replaced him as bishop of the Marston Lake Ward in 2008. He was in town for a week and made time to come spend an evening with us, going to Dwarka Branch’s Pioneer Celebration.
He seemed to enjoy mingling with the Indian Saints,
listening to stories about pioneers then (Utah) and now (India), watching stick pulls
and biscuit eating contests
and getting a taste of real Indian food.
Here is some of what he shared about the experience:

I happened to come when they were having their branch celebration of Pioneer Day and saw Sister Allen lead the primary children in a song and heard Elder Allen bear a wonderful testimony of his mission and about being a pioneer. I got in my cab that night with a hot plate of food, a warm goodbye from the branch and such an uplifted feeling for having been there.”

Any of the rest of you who might find yourself in New Delhi in the next 8 months, just let us know and we will give you a taste of the real India!

We are in the middle of monsoon season over here and I caught a glimpse this past week of a couple of the Noida Elders trying to protect themselves from the downpour.
And I’ve noticed that even if it isn’t raining at the time, the humidity is often 95-98% so it might as well be raining.

A week ago, the number of senior couples in the mission doubled with the arrival of the Hubbards (on the right--Public Affairs, Humanitarian and supporting one branch) and the Blunts (MLS like us so supporting two branches).
We are so excited! Sister Adams has made up a FHE schedule for the first Monday of the month and we get to host this next Monday evening. What’s on the menu? The Allen family’s favorite--Chicken Sundaes/haystacks of course!

Last night all of us senior couples, plus the Hodges, attended the wedding, dinner and reception for the daughter of President and Sister Katuka, he having been baptized back in the 80’s and one of the most experienced members in Delhi.  I believe he was the first missionary from Delhi, he is a current Branch President—but also previous branch president many times—not always serving in the branch where he resides, and previous District President. Sister Katuka is District Relief Society president, branch YW president, and also teaches a combined Institute/Seminary class in their branch. They both were on the couple’s conference committee with us, plus they serve on the district Self Reliance committee with us. The groom is also from Delhi but both he and his new wife are currently attending BYU Provo. It was the largest wedding we have yet attended as President Katuka is also very well connected in the community.
Here is a picture of President Katuka on the left with current District President Suku and his counselor President Palanivel at the Branch Presidents training on July 2.
Here is the wedding, and then the reception with the bride and groom in traditional Indian Wedding clothes.
Elder enjoyed the dance floor.

The work continues here in Delhi—there is always much to do. We are thankful to still be here participating in it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tender Mercies

It is a wonderful thing to see the hand of the Lord in our life, to feel His love and sustaining care. Even amidst change and surprises, it is the one constant. Let me share some context:

Health is important to both Elder and I. We try to eat right, exercise, manage stress, be ‘anxiously engaged in good causes,’ and make room for fun and friends as well. We have both been active and healthy pretty much our whole 41 years of married life—for which we are grateful.

However, there is a lot of heart disease in Elder’s family, including his father and mother and younger brother. Seventeen years ago he had a coronary angiogram and was given a clean bill of heart health, with all the arteries looking great. About 5 or 6 years ago he started experiencing a heaviness in his chest, fatigue and even hoarseness when spending long periods of time on his computer. He mentioned it to his doctor but there didn’t seem to be much concern. He could pass any stress test they gave him with flying colors. He loved his running club with its monthly trail races and probably averaged running 20-25 miles a week.

Since coming to India, he has only run a handful of times, usually going on walks with me or riding the stationary bike in our flat while practicing Hindi. He did go on one 40-minute run last week and said it felt great! But the last couple of months that heaviness in his chest after working on the compute intensified, coming after only 30 minutes of work instead of an hour or two. He tried different arm positions, different relative heights for his laptop, making sure he wasn’t holding his breath while working, but nothing seemed to make a difference. So on Thursday, June 23, he called Sister Hodges and asked about making a doctor appointment for him. She agreed and called back asking whether he wanted to go that Saturday, or Monday, June 27. He opted for Monday. The internist he saw was very responsive and ordered a whole bunch of blood work and tests, including an EKG, ultrasounds of his abdomen and CT scans of his heart. All of these tests were done on Tuesday and Wednesday, with him picking up all the results by Thursday and bringing them to his return appointment with the doctor Saturday morning. Everything looked good until we got to the CT scans of his heart, where she read about a ‘moderate to severe blockage’ in his LAD, with both calcified and soft plaque evident. She prescribed a statin and referred him to a cardiologist, whose first appointment wasn’t until Tuesday morning, July 5. Just for the record, we were very impressed by how quickly all these tests and appointments happened and at their inexpensive costs: an EKG for $8 and a CT scan for $300. Total so far for 2 doctor appointments and all the tests: $650.

President and Sister Hodges got back from a trip to Nepal on Saturday night and asked for a copy of all the results to send to the Missionary Doctor in Hong Kong. We heard from him by 7:30 am Sunday with instructions to not go out to Dwarka Branch for the day as planned, but rest at home. He was in need of a stent or two in his heart but where and when? The soft plaque made travel risky. It was decided to go to the emergency room here, hoping to see a cardiologist before Tuesday, asking their opinion of travel, and maybe getting some nitro for the interim. President Hodges and Br. Anil (the mission driver) gave Elder a blessing promising him healing and comfort and we were all on our way back to the hospital by about 10:30 am.

In hospital pharmacy--they are called chemists here

We were all amazed that there was no waiting in the emergency room and he got immediate testing. Of course we gave them all of the results from previous tests (all results belong to the patient here, you pick them up and carry them around, show them to the doctor, then take them back home again—even all the large images from the CT scan) but there were more done including another EKG and an echocardiogram (everything looked good). He had at least two cardiologists come and see him, both talking to the mission doctor in Hong Kong by phone. Everyone was feeling very peaceful when all the doctors agreed that the best course of action was to admit him and do the procedure here on Monday. The head cardiologist would do the insertion and he is board certified both here and in the USA. Come to find out, this team of doctors does over 20 angiograms a day, many with stent insertions. Talk about experience! Yeah!
Monday morning waiting for the procedure

The procedure went as planned on Monday afternoon, with the one 80% blockage in his LAD requiring two stents because of its length. His recovery is going well. We discovered that the protocol here is to keep them 24-48 hours after the procedure, so he was released from ICU this morning (Tuesday, July 5) to a regular room, but won’t come home until Wednesday morning. He is looking great and feeling great! The only incision is a small cut into the main artery of his right arm down by his wrist. Modern medicine is amazing! We feel so blessed!
Tuesday morning feeling great!

President and Sister Hodges have been so supportive—spending 6 hours with us at the hospital on Sunday and another 4-5 yesterday. Sister Hodges went back this morning and will go tomorrow since we will most likely need her help with the checkout procedure/insurance. Elder and Sister Adams have also been so supportive, driving out to the hospital with me Sunday night so I could take a few things to Elder, plus Elder Adams gave me a comfort blessing Monday morning and Sister Adams gave me food to eat later at the hospital. Br. Anil, the mission driver, volunteered to drive me to and from the hospital anytime I needed, with the Hodges approval. All the nurses and doctors and workers at the hospital were so helpful and professional. We feel so grateful and blessed.
One of our many competent nurses
The information counter in the  main lobby with a very helpful receptionist
But overarching all the rest, the peaceful feeling we have all felt through it all has been so wonderful and sustaining. Having a heart procedure while on our mission certainly wasn’t in our plans, but with a recovery time of 72 hours (according to our head cardiologist) and a ‘take it easy’ time of only a week or so, it isn’t a game changer either.

Now you might ask why I didn’t let you all know what was going on. Honestly, it all happened so fast and the comforting Spirit was so strong, I only took the time to inform our immediate family members. The Lord truly is in charge, that I know. And no, it doesn’t always work out so smoothly and quickly and I don’t know why, but this time I’m thankful it did or our 18-month mission might have been cut in half. As it is, we look forward to the next 9 months loving the people here in Delhi.

Thanks for your continuing prayers of support! We can feel them!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The View from the Hump

Nine months—the hump—we’re halfway through our mission. It’s hard to believe, but then again last October seems like a long time ago.

The monsoons have started so the temperatures have come down and the humidity has gone way up. What does 95 degrees feel like with 50 or 60% humidity? A sauna! Here is the forecast for the next few days:

This last week was a great week for our mission! Though we sent two very good missionaries home, we got three back from the Philippians with renewed visas, four new ones from south India and one from the US.  In about three weeks two more senior missionary couples will be joining us! Yeah! Here we are sending Elder Muthyam home. He was one of the Assistants to the President when we first arrived and was so helpful and patient with us as we learned the Indian ways. He finished his mission working in Noida, so was very instrumental in helping to raise its Sunday attendance from 20 to 40+. He will be missed.

We are beginning to see some baptisms of students from the English classes we started last March. Here is the Chauhan family in Dwarka whose three kids are now all members. The Elders are still teaching the Mom and Dad.

On Father’s Day, we invited the single first counselor in the District Presidency over for dinner following a District Self Reliance Committee Meeting. President Pandey is a good friend and we both enjoy our time with him.

I splurged on a kitchen cutter/dicer recently. One of the sisters we visit regularly has one and says it saves a ton of time. Since cooking here is so time/labor intensive, and Amazon.india sells them for about $6.50, I thought how wrong could I go? I love it! I learned the hard way, though, that the blades are extremely sharp and you should not try to pick out any little pieces of food with your fingers. Once that was learned, I’ve been enjoying the speed at which I can prepare vegetables for cooking.

I learned something new from my seminary students a couple of weeks ago. I had taken some black pepper for an object lesson during class. I had also taken some cut up watermelon as a treat following class. They all grabbed the pepper and liberally sprinkled it on their watermelon before eating it up! I knew Indians like spicy food—but spicy watermelon? I guess so!

Here are a couple of street shots: Here is Elder on our way to an appointment 
                  … down a narrow road with scaffolding from construction making the road even narrower. And here is a view of all the wires overhead.
And this last one is on the way to church in Noida last Sunday. This fellow was riding on a motorcycle standing up! What a daredevil!

We had some really satisfying meetings just yesterday with some less actives that we have been working with a long time—and they told us they are ready to recommit! Yeah! And tonight we meet with the District Presidency, Branch Presidents, and District Council in the next step of implementing the Branch Development Plan, simplifying the handbook for the members here. The work moves forward!