This blog is produced by the Shep Family... we post letters and photos that Kyle sends us from time to time...

A resident of Chennai is called a Chennaiite. As of 2001, Chennai city had a population of 4.34 million, while the total metropolitan population was 7.04 million. The estimated metropolitan population in 2006 is 4.5 million.In 2001, the population density in the city was 63,926 per mi, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The average literacy rate is 80.14%, much higher than the national average of 64.5%. The city has the fourth highest population of slum dwellers among major cities in India, with about 820,000 people (18.6% of its population) living in slum conditions. In 2005, the crime rate in the city was 313.3 per 100,000 people, accounting for 6.2% of all crimes reported in major cities in India. The number of crimes in the city showed a significant increase of 61.8% from 2004.

The majority of the population in Chennai are Tamilians. Tamil is the primary language spoken in Chennai. English is widely spoken especially in business, education and white collar professions.

According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute about 81.27% of the city's population, and Muslims (9.37%), Christians (7.63%) and Jains (1.05%) are other major religious groups

Chennai is a major centre for music, art and culture in India.[77] The city is known for its classical dance shows and Hindu temples. Every December, Chennai holds a five-week long Music Season celebrating the 1927 opening of the Madras Music Academy

Among Chennai's festivals, Pongal is celebrated over five days in January, is the most important. Almost all major religious festivals such as Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are celebrated in Chennai. Tamil cuisine in Chennai includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Many of the city's restaurants offer light meals or tiffin, which usually include rice-based dishes like pongal, dosa, idli and vadai,


Chennai has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate. The city lies on the thermal equator and is also on the coast, which prevents extreme variation in seasonal temperature. The weather is hot and humid, for most of the year. The hottest part of the year is late May to early June, known locally as Agni Nakshatram ("fire star") or as Kathiri Veyyil,[32] with maximum temperatures around 38–42 °C (100–108 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 18–20 °C (64–68 °F). The lowest temperature recorded is 15.8 °C (60.4 °F) and highest 45 °C (113 °F). The average annual rainfall is about 51 in. The city gets most of its seasonal rainfall from the north-east monsoon winds, from mid-October to mid-December. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal sometimes hit the city. The highest annual rainfall recorded is 2,570 mm (101 in) in 2005.


Monday, July 19, 2010

July 15 2010


It sounds like everyone has been having an exciting week.
I think I would have enjoyed seeing the Falls and Church History sites.
You also got to hear the mission president speak, huh? I imagine it may not have been significant or entertaining for my sisters, but I can see myself really enjoying hearing from him.
I'm glad that everyone is getting along and enjoying each other!

In Chennai we had a baptism! His name is Vikram. He is doing his fourth year of college and has been attending Church on and off since he was in 8th grade. His family is Hindu, and so was he, but his friend invited him to Church activities and he went with him, then Church. He soon became so involved with Church that he was spending his whole weekends there with activities, Church, and friends. His parents did not allow his baptism, but now, 7 years later he was referred over to us and was old enough and separated enough from his parents to decide to be baptized, just as he always wanted.

Well, wish granted. His friend couldn't come from Hyderabad to baptize him... so we made Elder Bennett do it! Yay! His first baptism on a mission. It was well done. He was nervous, but he did a great job.

We will have baptisms next week and then the next also.


I've been transferred.
My new assignment is Visakhapatnam.

I've thoroughly impressed President Funk and promptly been reassigned to Gajuwaka, a new branch on the outskirts of Visak.

I will be with Elder Powell, who was previously in my District in Hyderabad, and whose parents are good members of Chennai. I know them well. They are excited for me to go and serve with their son. I will again be the "petty cash custodian" and will be reviving the Branch

I'm sad to leave Chennai, but excited to work in Visak. I've visited there a few times before. It should be a fun city. My Zone Leaders are... Elder Mackay and Elder Cranney. I was, of course, Elder Mackay's companion and Elder Cranney's District Leader in Hyderabad. Actually, my District Leader is going to be Elder Lofgran... I was his District Leader in Hyderabad also. So, round circle. Looks like I've been given my opportunities to serve and will be doing my part. Okay. I told the Mission President that he could put me anywhere with anyone doing anything. He did.

I love you.

Father: I'm waiting on my list of online classes to approve. I've been sending you emails to edwin.shep@hotmail.com, but they aren't reaching you. Where should I send your emails.

Mom: Thanks for the thorough play-by-play of the week. People keep asking if your my sister in my family pictures I show them

Sisters: I love you


June 6 2010


Things are going well in the Zone Leadership.

The new District Leaders are doing well. They are new. We are attempting to get 15 baptisms with 5 companionships for the month of June. In May we had 9. We currently have 14 people set with baptism as a Zone, we will need 16 more if we go by the statistics. We can do it. It will take some training for our District Leaders and some loving pushes by us, but we can do it.

Our companionship is now the official missionary representatives of Chennai 3rd Branch. We get the whole Branch to ourselves! Our area has gotten larger (though we won't expand our actual proselyting efforts, rather, consolidate.) We picked up an area right behind the rented Church building that will make it very easy for people to get to Church after we find them. Furthermore, our timings have changed to 2-5PM, which removes some of the obstacles that prevented some investigators from attending Church and will prove to unmask false excuses for non-attendance from others. I'm excited. Our new Branch Mission Leader was the Assistant BML before. He's fantastic.

I'm sad to lose President Nichols, I respect him and his leadership a lot. I'm excited to get President Funk though. I've noticed that change on the missionary front generally results in getting back to basics and re-evaluating ourselves and leads to more obedience and more solid results. I'm excited for what President Funk has to offer and to be able to counsel with him on the needs of the mission. There has been no update on whether he has a visa or not, but there's no point in asking because the Area Presidency is taking care of it and keeping it under wraps.

My companion, Elder Jenks, is from Idaho. He's tall and prefers light fruity-colored ties. I've served near him at all times on my mission. We have attended the same Zone Conferences our whole missions. He goes home in 2 months. He was the District Leader of Hyderabad 1st Branch when I was there in 2nd. Since we met in the same building we often saw and collaborated with each other. I like him, we will get along well.

Mom: Good luck on your exam! If you study well like you seem like you would then you shouldn't have a problem. I didn't feel any earthquake. I'm not concerned about any natural disasters, none of the locals have talked about anything dangerous. Good luck through the Hurricanes!

Dad: Great! It's exciting to hear that your company is expanding. What part do you play in relation to this new company? They speak Tamil in Chennai. Actually, my companion can understand a lot of Tamil (his previous Branch spoke Tamil for all of their Church meetings.) He picked up a lot, I can understand some, but since the First Presidency approved the English-only policy proposed by President Nichols I have not attempted to learn the languages here. I'll have to do that later. I'll keep Grandpa in my prayers.

Sisters: I love you! Write me.


JUNE 16, 2010

Dear Family,

Wow. Great responses this week. I'm glad that everyone enjoyed my last email.

The last two days have not been the most pleasant for me. I got a sore throat, headache, and body pains. Like a Shepherdson I wend out doing missionary work anyways. Somehow we ended up with really good days too. We had a brother pass his baptism interview, found 5 new investigators, and had some effective member-present lessons too.

Kesavan, our baptism candidate, is a 29 year old Hindu man who came to Chennai for his work. He is a software engineer for a company that is trying to analyze a person's eyeball to track early eyesight loss for patients with certain diseases. He ran up to us on the street one night and told us that we need to come over to his home and teach him English for an hour every night. We told him to come to an activity on Saturday and Church on Sunday. He came to both. My recent convert, Suguna, then proceeded to challenge him for baptism. Having done all this, we went to his home for the first time, taught him the Restoration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and set him for baptism. He had previously recognized that his former religion could not have been true and decided that Christianity was most logical. After our lessons he was convinced. We're happy for him. He will be baptized this Sunday.

Unfortunately, the other baptism we had intended to have this Sunday has been postponed because Vikram will be leaving to Hyderabad for a week. We'll just wait until July.

Elder Jenks and I are doing well together. The new Branch is doing okay. Attendance has been relatively low, and our investigators aren't coming like they were before. That just means that we'll have to do more and work harder, but the transition is somewhat hard. Fortunately, the leaders in the Branch are doing fantastic. Things are getting far more organized than I have ever before seen in India. Our Branch Mission Leader is on top of his job. He only has 1 companionship to worry about, but he's taking it to the next level. I appreciate him.

Congratulations on finishing another year of school, Beth and Marie! Marie is going into highschool... that will be fun. How is the new school coming along? Now that the first year is complete at that new highschool have they got things working better than at first? Marie, you went and burned everything? You're crazy.

I have been taking good notes of what President Nichols has told me. I'm pretty good at writing in my Journal daily, though I have to go back through it sometimes and fill in missing days.

Mom: Take it easy. If you passed, you passed!

I love you all very much,

April 28 2010

Dear Family,

I, of course, still love you lots.

This week was quite entertaining. We have a new investigator who had shown up to Church all on his own on Sunday and wants to be baptized...

On Saturday we had a talent show! Many recent-converts did performances including:
1. Varadharajan singing an excellent Tamil song
2. Selva Singh singing a song he had made himself ("I believe the Book of Mormon, Doctrine Covenants, Pearl of Great Price. Oooooh.)
3. Kalaiselvi bravely singing a Tamil Song
4. Dinesh doing a scary mime. His face was painted like the Joker from Batman
5. James dancing to Michael Jackson. He was really good

We, the Elders, did an interpretive dance reenactment of Alma and sons of Mosiah converting to the cause of righteousness. We danced to Michael Jackson's song "Bad" and "The Way You Make Me Feel." I was the angel that commanded them to repent, then I joined them for the dance. We received wild applause. There will probably be hundreds baptized as a result of our dance.

Anyways, on the missionary work front we are doing incredibly well. There are a bunch of people who should have baptism dates pretty soon. Let me tell you about some of them!

1. Keerthana, Keerthi, and Logambal.
- This family consists of a 50 something year old mother who speaks little English and her son: Keerthi (24) and daughter Keerthana (20.) Their father died a little over a year ago and they were heartbroken from it. They are Hindu converts and were baptized into the Assembly of God church on January 1 2010. They love the Restored Gospel and say they want to be baptized in about 3 months as they give up their current church that they just recently got baptized in. They love the peaceful feelings they get at church.

2. Anu and Divya.
- Divya is 20 or so. She is in college and has been working hard to study and prepare for her exams. Anu is a mother of a small son (named Nixon) and her husband doesn't speak English. They are the cousins of Varadharajan (the recent-convert) who lives just 5 doors down from them. Their mother gives a beautiful smile (Indians have great teeth) and though she doesn't understand English joins us for the lessons every time. This family actually lives about 7 doors down from Keerthana and family, so they are easy to visit often.


Mark won't be too far from me will he? I wish that I got to wear a dress and sandals :( It's very popular here also, but the mission president hasn't decided to implement that dress style. We probably wouldn't be respected as much, not disrespected, but a suit sure is impressive isn't it? I will be praying for Grandpa. I can't imagine cancer being very fun.

I don't remember that time when I helped Beth with her homework, but I'm glad I did it! You can rest assured that the Kyle that will be returning from his mission will be much more prone to good works and service than the pre-mission Kyle. Service is incredible. You are right that I love these people, who couldn't?

Happy Birthday again! it sounds like everyone is excited to have you back.

Good luck on the SAT. Go ahead and beat me, then you can get a scholarship.

Sorry about your hand :( Get better soon. Have fun at graduation!


May 15 2010

Oh Family,

Missionary work is going really well.

We are getting a high number of new Investigators and Member Present Lessons. There are many families preparing for baptism and we extremely excited to help them reach that goal. Elder Mackay and I are still enjoying our work as Zone Leaders. It's fun to help Elders. We also continue to enjoy training Elder Pimsakul. He understands missionary work pretty well and desires to learn more.

I don't know if I told you much about our current investigators...

Here we Go!
1. Rachel (Female, 60?)
Here's the story. A man on the street stopped me and told me he did compost. He spoke very poor English and I had absolutely no intention of calling him, but I took his number down when he offered it. I eventually gave the number to Elder Mackay jokingly telling him to call. We set an appointment with him due to his convenient location. Upon our first visit he invited his neighbor to join us, this was Rachel. She listened intently, and apparently understood much more than the compost man. When we finally told her that Jesus Christ's true Church was on the earth she yelled: "where?!" We told her where, she told us she would be there on Sunday. Surprise! She came to Church. There she explained that, though she had attended her previous church for 22 years, she wasn't satisfied. She had begun fasting for the correct Church, a church full of love. We found her on the second day of fasting. She came to Church on the 4th day of her fasting. She asked to be baptized that following Tuesday. She is going to be baptized this Sunday.

2. Logambal, Keerthana, Keerthi, and Vignesh (Female, Female, Male, Male)
Logambal is the Mother. I found them while knocking doors the same day I found the compost brother from the story above. This family was baptized into a very popular commercial church on the 1st of January this year. Their father died in November of last year. He had converted from Hinduism to Christianity and the family wished to join the same church as him following his death. The are currently being well cared for in their church, though they feel that the pastor and congregation are impersonal and pushy. After our lessons they have agreed to be baptized but with to wait until the 1 year anniversary of their father's death to do it. Keerthana mentioned that it would have been really helpful if we would have just come in December so that they wouldn't have to go through the hassle of changing churches. Haha.

3. John and Mary Li (Male, Female, 50s)
Completely Chinese, both born and raised in India. John has been addicted to alcohol and cigarettes for 40 years or something and Mary drank 40 cups of tea a day. They both completely left all of the their habits in under 2 weeks. Really an interesting couple. They were referred by Kalaiselvi, the sister we recently baptized. She has helped us keep track of them and strengthen them when we are not there. John attended Church last Sunday and committed himself to continue coming until he becomes a member... OKAY JOHN!

4. Tamil Mani (Male, 26?)
Works at the same office as a recently baptized Church member. He was found on the bus by some other Elders and referred over to us. After about a month of trying to meet him, we finally succeeded. He was awesome. He grasped the concepts of the Restoration extremely clearly and has begun reading the Book of Mormon with zeal. Unfortunately, he works full time and has college classes all Saturday and Sunday long until July. Well, we challenged him for baptism and he totally accepted. We will have to find a way to get him to Church... but that can be done.

And others...

I'm currently in Bangalore. We just finished a Zone Leader's Council and received an excellent training on Stewardship. It turns out that we don't own anything and that we'll have to start living the Law of Consecration to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. Helpful. I'm excited to keep being excited. I'm confident that we can baptize more people than we ever have before. My testimony stronger, and my knowledge higher than it has ever been before. It's time to work double time.

I also enjoyed talking to you all on the phone. You are an awesome family. You are also a lot of fun. President Nichols talked about the greatest gift a parent can receive is kindness shown by children to other children. I think there is a lot of that going on in our family. We love each other a lot.

Dad: Good luck on your company acquisition! That's exciting.

I'm finding out that all of these things that we believe are more and more true every day. It makes sense, it's confirmed constantly as we live by the laws of God. It really is incredible to see other people and their beliefs. I'm grateful for the sheer level of knowledge that we have as revealed by the modern prophets and apostles. We understand far more than any other people on the Earth.

Missions are awesome


May 26 2010

Dear Family,

You are the greatest
Isn't that the truth?

We baptized Suguna (Rachel) this Sunday. She was awesome. Elder Pimsakul performed his first baptism.
The service went well. We had an investigating family stay for it too. I played piano for Sacrament and for the baptism service.

The news:
1. 4 Elders are going home on Friday
2. Elder Mackay (my Zone Leader comp) is going to Visak
3. Elder Pimsakul is going to another area, but still in my district, so I'll see him often
4. Both of the District Leaders in our Zone are changing.
5. My new comp, Elder Jenks, … he will be great to work with.
6. Our branch is splitting and I'm working with the District Presidency to divide our areas appropriately.
7. And I love it!

Things are going well. I told President Nichols that being busy is like working out. It hurts sometimes while you're doing it, and you get frustrated sometimes, but the results are great. I'm busy even today.

We set goals that are going to send us through the roof as a Zone. I'm on top of, so I am excited!!
I love you!
Write more,

Monday, February 15, 2010

FEB 11 2010

Hot dang! Today was awesome (I have the sunburn to prove it.)

7:30 met at church in my red sumo wrestler shirt and jeans
9:00 arrived at an old Hindu Temple, ran straight for the Elephants (there were three) and begged the caretaker to get us on their backs. I was the first of the 14 of us and was blessed with the longest RIDE!
10:30 saw a silk weaving factory and purchased a 100% silk tie of purple and white. It's awesome.
12:00 explored a bunch of rocky places. I got some awesome pictures and did some great wall running and climbing.
3:30 played some football on the beach.
4:30 went to a crocodile farm. They had American Alligators there (haha.) We purchased meat and threw it into a pit with over 100 crocodiles. They went CRAZY. I have a long video of it. That's the big deal.

My memory card is now full. Therefore... I'LL BE SENDING A DVD WITH ALL THE PICS!YAY!
The missionary work is doing well. Elder Gantyada is a stud. Our work has been far above the standard, so we're setting a good example for the other elders in the district. Also, Elder Gantyada has agreed to keep running with me on tue, thur, and saturdays. We have run twice before. It's so nice to get some good workouts in.

Mom: That's awesome that you're giving zone conference talks! I hope it works! What's the mission president's name? What's he like? What are the elders like?

Dad: Haha, Elder Sorensen is sooo excited that the Saints won. He can't stop talking about it. He's originally from New Orleans. Are you meeting clients there?

Sisters: I love you! Keep studying hard!
Oh, here's my new direct address:

H/NO 618,
11th street
Nandanam extension
Chennai 600035India

Send me a letter to commemorate my new apartment! The sisters are going home on Monday and transfer calls are coming on friday... change is coming.

Our mission is doing great, though we REALLY need those visas to come. I'm so glad that I was blessed to come to India. Really. I'm now confident that this is the place for me. My testimony has grown so much. What has started as a hope and built-in way of life has turned into a strong faith proved by answers to prayers and results of trust and obedience. I have learned to love the gospel in a whole new way and to desire making covenants and seeing them through in the correct light. I remember reading something Joseph Smith had said. It went along the lines of: "The prophets of old sacrificed everything and will be rewarded with all that God has. How can we think of obtaining that same glory unless we sacrifice as they did?"And on a separate occasion: "Any religion that does not require the sacrifice of everything cannot produce the faith necessary to reach exaltation." Or something of that nature.

I now love service and sacrifice. It's so weird, but it happened. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that God is our Heavenly Father, that they have a plan for us. I know that the Book of Mormon is exactly what it claims to be. I love it. I'm thankful for the priesthood restored today. I know that Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet. I fear for the many people who don't know about or listen to his counsel. I'm thankful for a beautiful family. I love you all.