Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Day with the Missionaries

Carolling at Priya Market
We spent Christmas Day with all of the missionaries in India - 26 young elders, 4 young sisters, President and Sister Sackley, Elder and Sister Black (Public Affairs, just arrived in November) and us.   We had a delicious  breakfast of various treats prepared by the "older" sisters, after which we had a white elephant exchange, skits by the missionaries and caroling in the local market. All the missionaries got stockings filled with "goodies" prepared by Sister Sackley and Sister Stevens.  Lunch was catered by a local member.  We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, rolls and salad.  We even had jello with marshmallows - talk about feeling like we were in the US - at least while we were eating.  After lunch we had a devotional with talks and videos on Christ and  Christmas.  The event ended with too many desserts to count all made by Sisters Stevens, Sackley and Black.  It was a fun day, and helped us not think to much about being back home.  In the evening we were able to talk with all the grandkids right after they had opened their presents.  It was a very enjoyable day for us.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Office Christmas Party

12 Days of Christmas - 3 French Hens
Unlike most mission offices, we have employees that work for the Church in the office.  There are 2 reasons, 1) the mission has not been able to consistently have senior couples called to New Delhi, and 2) as mentioned before many people, including most of the vendors, landlords and contractors that the Church uses in New Delhi don't speak English.  So we had a Christmas party for the office this week and had the mission's 3 employees and their families along with us and President and Sister Sackley gather for food and fun at the Mission Home (the home of the Mission President).  Kids are what make Christmas fun and we played games and sang songs and the kids got presents to open.  Our contribution was to teach the kids the 12 days of Christmas - a tradition we had all the time our boys were growing up.  I'm sure Bryan, Eric, Tyler and Jared are groaning right now as they think about the years that Dad would don the Santa hat and we would perform in front of their mother the 12 Days of Christmas.  Well boys, the tradition lives on now in India for a whole new generation...

Merry Christmas - A Time of Service

At this time of the year, we all look for ways that we can be of service to our fellow men and women to demonstrate our love for the Lord at His birth.  Most Latter-day Saints go about trying to do good without much fanfare.  Recently I read a talk by a modern Apostle, M. Russell Ballard.  In speaking about being anxiously engaged in good causes he said in part, "...Now, brothers and sisters, I'm not encouraging religious zealotry or fanaticism.  Quite the contrary!.  I'm simply suggesting that we take the next logical step in our complete conversion of the gospel of Christ by assimilating its doctrines deep within our hearts and our souls so we will act and live consistently - and with integrity - what we profess to believe.... In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children.  If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible.... if we multiply our efforts by tens of thousands, even millions of prayful efforts to share God's love for His children through Christian service, there will be a compounding effect of good that will bring the Light of Christ to this ever-darkening world." 

Sister Stevens and I invite you to join us this Christmas and throughout this coming year to do as Elder Ballard has asked - pray for opportunities to provide Christian service to our Heavenly Father's children. Merry Christmas.    

Our Love and Best Wishes,

Elder and Sister Stevens

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Off to Manila...

Sister Anu Lama (from Nepal in center with pink scarf)
and Sister Shruti Singh (far right in jacket) with us,
at the Mission Home the night before leaving for the MTC
This past week we saw off three young sister missionaries (sisters in the sense of the church, not biological sisters) going on their missions to the India Bangalore Mission.  They first spend 2 weeks at the Manila MTC to learn about how to be effective missionaries.  Both missions in India (Bangalore in the south and our mission, New Delhi in the north) are considered English speaking, so there is no language training for the missionaries.  In reality, only about 50 % of the people have passable English skills.  One of the three sisters are one is from Nepal, who came to New Delhi to be set apart as a missionary by our mission president.  The other two are "graduates" of our first missionary preparation class.  We have really enjoyed teaching the class these last 2 months.  The class helps the young prospective missionaries learn 1) why they are serving the Lord, 2) why it's important to be personally worthy to preach the Gospel, 3) how to recognize the spirit of the Holy Ghost, 4) how to invite the Spirit into their teaching 5) how to teach basis gospel principles like the restoration, the plan of salvation and the importance of keeping the commandments, 6) how to effectively use their time and 7) why it's important to be physically, mentally and spiritually prepared to serve.  For any youth preparing to serve a mission, I recommend that they receive this training.  It integrates well with the teaching they receive at the MTC.  And with the length of time at the MTC being shortened to allow more missionaries to go, it's even more critical than before to their success and effectiveness.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Friends from Houston

Who could image all the Houstonians we have met in India.  This last weekend, Cliff Keeler was in New Delhi for work and came to our District Conference.  I really admire Cliff, since he didn't get in until 4 am and conference was at 10, but then again, when you're halfway across the world from home it's hard to tell your nights from your days.  After Conference, we had lunch together with the mission president and his wife as well as Elder and Sister Black, who just came to the mission two weeks ago from Kingwood.  We had a chance to catch up on what's going on at home and talk about old friends. 

Here is the other picture I was looking for with Elder and Sister Meehan.  I know it looks like all we do is eat, but it's more exciting than processing visas.  Anyway, Elder and Sister Meehan came to India from Hong Kong as part of their Humanitarian/Welfare assignment and took us to dinner a few weeks back.  We had a great time visiting with them.  They are now at the end of their mission and heading back home soon.  We wish them the best on their return

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Farewell to the Elder and Sister Crookston

We are saying farewell to another couple that couldn't get their visas renewed.  Elder and Sister Crookston are serving a 23 month mission and have been in India since February of this year.  They along with the Capeners were unable to get their missionary visas renewed for another year so they will be going to the Singapore mission, which includes much of Malaysia.  We'll miss the Crookstons.  Elder Crookston is the ultimate boy scout - ready for any and all situations, and the technical expert in the district that insures all the branches get the church broadcasts.  Sister Crookston is just fun to be around.  We have enjoyed their friendship and wish them the best in their new mission location.

Farewell dinner with President and Sister Sackley,
Elder and Sister Crookston and us at our favorite Thai Restaurant

For our astute readers, you might be asking yourselves "well, if the first 2 couples to finally get a visa to India in 3 years didn't get their visas renewed, what's going to happen to the Stevens?"  That's a good question, and the answer is we don't know.  Both the Capeners and the Crookstons had missionary visas and we have an employment (volunteer) visa.  We're hoping that we can get our renewed in country, but we'll just have to wait and see.