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.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Here's some awesome news, we had a baptism! That took forever...
Vikas was baptized, he's awesome, I'll attach a pic.
Unfortunately I have to keep it short this week, Elder Mickelson is with Elder Sekar and I as a threesome and we have to pick up his new comp at the airport.
If it's possible, I love the Indian people even more than before. I love teaching the people and bringing happiness and understanding into their lives. I love to see the blessings of following the gospel creep up on them and make them better people.

Fun things: i made pancakes, syrup,
onion rings, and a barbecue chicken sandwich for the 4th of July. GO USA!

I love you and wish you the best!

Here are some common things that I eat:
Ramen noodles
2. Oats (Muesli)
Breakfast cereal stuff
Scrambled eggs
4. Curd w/ rice (curd=sugarless yogurt, like sour cream)
5. CURRY w/ rice (curry=garlic paste, tumeric, onion, chili powder, oil w/ chicken parts or potatos or eggplant, you name it.)
Chinese noodles or fried rice
7. Biryani (rice cooked with oil and masala(clumps of spices) and often with chicken in it, it's not wet like curry, but a delicious blend)

That's mostly what I eat. Basically if you want to summarize Indian food you can say: curry and rice, sometimes biryani, and north indians like bread items like nan, roti, chipatti (they are all like tortillas.)

Anyways, I still love it! Baptisms are really nice. I've noticed that there's been a serious decline of them in our area (I think due to laziness and unorganization) and I've been working to get everything in order and planned so that we can change that.

It IS pretty crazy that I'm turning 20. It IS so weird. Sorry. I'll be exactly the same though. Except, when I come home I'll look different. I'll be missing some of my weight and my muscles will be toned and I'll have an impressively white neckline from my shirt.

Yeah... we're on foot, did I forget to mention that 3 months ago? We end up spending plenty of our money on travel, especially since Elder Sekar is not a fan of buses (he's broken his right arm 4 times on a bus.) I don't really blame him, the buses here are notoriously dangerous. They don't stop completely to wait for people, either you push people out of the way and hop on before it speeds up or you don't get to ride... dangerous. So we end up taking tons of autos, which quickly whittle away our funds. No problem.

love youu!


We just recently finished our Zone Conference. I absolutely love them. In my interview President Nichols and I discussed the way to quantify unquantifiable goals, like increasing spirituality or (like I asked) increasing the power and authority in my testifying. I was really lucky because he gave a wonderful training just yesterday on testimony and some signs that empower and give credit to our testimonies. The five that he mentioned are:
1. The testimony of the brethren and prophets
2. The scriptures
3. The natural world
4. The personal spiritual experiences we have
5. The results of living the gospel
The first three come from Alma 30, which he quotes from a lot, and the remaining are from D&C though I can't remember where, I think around 66. Anyways, it was really interesting. He also spoke on the importance and sequence of effective goal setting, which I completely agreed with. Sister Nichols spoke of the Reformation and the Restoration. It reviewed a lot of my European history and was taught to help us realize the timeline of the Lord and the perfection of the timing of the restoration. Very enjoyable. I bore my testimony afterwards.

I got to be reunited with Elder Shahi for a little, which was sooo great. He brought some baptismal pictures of Sunny, Bunny, Sandeep, and Bhadra Rao. They blew my mind. I also got letters from Soni, Sunny, Bunny, Chaitu, and Prasad. It was a beautiful thing

love you all,

Here's what I have to say about this week and Hyderabad:
1. Elder DJ is transferred to Kakinada
2. My new comp will be Elder Shaker (from
Chennai, my 2nd native comp and 3rd foreign one (President Nichols praised my ability to get along with anyone )
3. We are teaching an African from
Cameroon. He talks FOREVER, but it's cool that we're teaching him, he came 2 months ago.
4. There are tons of Muslims here, they are much nicer than America perceives them to be.
5. It rained again and I walked through mid-shin high poop water, soaking wet. Gross.
6. I just received an email that says I've got a package waiting for me. Thanks, I'm excited.

I love you!

So, this past week we popped out 11 investigators, 9 of which I found with Elder Sekar. Good things are happening with this companionship. I'm improving myself. My ab workouts are still helping me slim and shape my core, though I still have some weight to drop. The total weight dropped since my arrival is 11 pounds. I'm 80.3 kgs, or about 177 pounds. I would be optimistic about weight loss in my future... but I recently ate a whole chicken. Really. I bought a 140 rupee "grill chicken" that tasted like a rotisserie chicken and was delicious. It was about 50% bigger than the rotisserie chickens you buy at grocery stores. So... I'm cool.

So, I'll tell you about yesterday:
1. We got a call early in the morning that Vikas' mother would not let Vikas be baptized. :(
2. We met with Vikas and his mother with a Telugu speaker and explained things and she accepted! :)
3. We asked Vikas if he was following the
Word of Wisdom so that he can be baptized on Sunday (that was the plan.) Nope. :(

He'll be waiting another week. Sad, but it's for the best I guess.


4. We went to one investigators home for a birthday party! Her daughter Blessy was turning 16. We had a member with us, Elizabeth, a convert of about 2 years. She is probably 45 or something and comes from a strong Christian background and I guess has just brought her old ideas to her current, Mormon, beliefs. She asked if we would give Blessy a priesthood blessing, we said no, it wouldn't be appropriate (she wanted us to give her an OIL blessing!) So, we told her no. She called over Rachel and told her we would give her a blessing. NOOOO! We told the man FILMING the party to turn off the camera and I gave a blessing. THAT WAS AKWARD.

So, there's your story. I'm doing good.
I want to thank you for the package. I enjoyed it soooo much. I love the summer sausage, those Koalas are definitely delicious and gone, thanks for the extra effort for them! The socks are being put to use and I LOVED the letters. They were great, thanks to everyone. Good humor.

The pics are:
Unlimited kebabs and such at Barbecue nation
Me and Elder Sekar
Elder Sekar is cool

I love to hear from you!
Love, Kyle

1. Tell me about some of the missionaries... What kind of background did your companion come from? was he raised in the Church?

>Elder Sekar is from Hindu background (early in life,) then his family converted to Roman Catholic, and he was baptized LDS when he was 14, so ten years ago. His parents also, but I think later on. He was basically raised Christian, but only LDS by his two older sisters who were baptized before him and also served missions.
>Elder Ward (our district leader) is from
Idaho. His father's professions is raising cattle. He was a wrestler and has large, toned muscles. I'm not as strong as him :( but I could be if I just eat more protien and work out.
>Elder Michelsen is from Idaho also. His parents have a giant house and recently remodeled it to include a racquetball court. He has a few snowmobiles . He fancies himself a businessman and a philosopher and wants to go to Harvard...Good luck.
>Elder Cranney is from some smaller town in
Utah. He won a national shooting competition and is pretty much a country boy. He is a hunter type, I could see him with a full beard, a plaid shirt and jeans. He's cool
>Elder Lofgran is from
West Jordan, Utah. He played violin for hundreds of dollars at receptions and weddins around his area. He is paying for his mission completely on his own. We came from the same batch.

2. How often does your zone get together?

>Every 3 months for Multi-zone conference, that's about it. I have yet to attend a zone activity.

3. What did you do this past P-day and
on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday? I like hearing about your teachings to others.

>Last P-day we ate lunch at SUBWAY and then we headed over to the church with monopoly and a ping-pong table. That's it. It was fun, but kind of a waste.
>Sunday we went to church. Unfortunately we didn't get to have Vikas' baptism because he wasn't following the
Word of Wisdom, but he's good now, his mother agreed and he is being baptized this Sunday.
>Monday we had Weekly Planning Session until 12:30 or so. I then cooked Dahl. It's like a thick split pea soup that is good on rice. It turned out REALLY thick, too thick. Then we went out and ended up meeting with very few people when they didn't answer their phones and weren't home.
>Tues I had an exchange with elder Ward. He was fun to be with, we got two member-present lessons, a new investigator, and helped one awesome member (Michael Moses) prepare his talk on the sacrament.
>Today (Wed) we moved from our old junk apartment to an amazing new one. We are not done setting up and unpacking but it's nice to be in a CLEAN apartment, it will help a lot. We had lunch at Paradise, a "fancy" "hotel (it's only a restaraunt but they are confused about the use of that word here)." I had fried rice.

4. Is the weather any cooler with the monsoon season?

Yes, but only because it's a whole lot windy-er

5. Are you being careful to stay healthly... WASH your hands, don't get bit my mesquitos, do you sleep with that mesquito net?.. make sure you drink clean water. Remember and ounce of prevention is worth a ton of medicine.

> I'm doing my best to stay healthy. I garuntee that I eat healthier than most of the other elders. I remember my vegetables (carrots, tomatos, potatos, and onions) and I eat oranges and mangos mostly. I DO wash my hands. I avoid mosquitos, I don't sleep with a net though. I take vitamin C every day, multivitamins, and anti-disease medicine.

6. Are you able to keep in touch with anyone of your group from the MTC? Do you still have about 80 missionaries in the mission?

>We have something like 88 missionaries now, but we will only be losing them throughout this year. Visas aren't coming through, the elders that should be here now are in
Maryland and... somewhere else now as they wait for visas. I only keep in touch with Elder Lofgran and Elder Riley because they are close by in Hyderabad. I'm not supposed to email other elders.

7. Are there any missionaries in Bangalore?

> Yes. Elder Addagabottu (my trainer) is serving there as a Zone Leader with his comp and I think there are another 4 there.



Okay. I was hearbroken when I heard that I was leaving Rajahmundry. They don't speak English, I'd been around the whole area, and the branch wasn't so reverent but I sure loved those people. Now I have to readjust. The people here are good I'm sure. Now I can get rid of old habits and set some new goals.

Here's the deal in Hyderabad:

Comp- Elder Doss-Johnson (DJ.) He's from nothern
California and has been on his mission for 9 months. He last served in Chennai and his last companion (here in Hyderabad) was elder Tuscano, who he was with for 3 transfers. Ummm, he did Polynesian Dance and kind of wants it to be his career if he can, so... . Anyways, this information is misleading, because we get along great and we are going to work hard and get a lot of baptisms.

Apt- GROSS. It is 3 bedroom 3 bathroom, so the size is nice, but it apparently was too much for previous elders to handle. The apt is really dusty, dirty, and messy. It was tons of leftovers from other Elders because they would leave their old things there as they went home and nobody would throw them away. It's the storage location for all of our District's supplies (I'm not sure why) so there are tons of things in our apt. The worse part is that there are tons of ants and TONS OF COCKROACHES. Anyways, I've started cleaning, so I'm getting more comfortable there. It will improve.

Area- It's huge. We take buses and autos, so that gets expensive. There are tons of English speakers... but we can't talk to them yet. We have to ONLY knock on blatantly Christian doors. We have some quality investigators though. Also, this is the place for eating GOOOOOD food. There's a
McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Dominos, and assorted other goodies. There are buffets and Pradise Biryani, which is really good Indian food.

Branch- Yep, the building is hardcore nice. The members are really nice too. The branch is doing pretty good and should be a nice welcome for the large number of baptisms we're going to get.

I love you sooo much!

There was lots of rain here too mom. I got completely soaked and had to cover my bag in a trash bag. It was fun... but the streets aren't exactly sanitary, and when sewers flood it's not very pretty. Nevertheless, I like the rain, I just have to make sure I don't get sick.

I remember you telling me about your companions and running around like that. We haven't really done any cardio, but we do walk all day long. A few days ago we ran stairs, that was really fun. I don't have a gym to go to any longer, but I do remain active. I start by doing an
ab workout, then pushups, then I curl a gas cylinder (it's heavy) I do a lat workout with it and then get my traps also. Then more pushups and ab workouts.
I do some squats and lunges occasionally too. My weight has dropped a little bit more, but I may be gaining some of it back. When I can to Hyderabad I checked my weight after a few days (which included a fast sunday in between) and I had dropped 3 Kgs, which is like 7 pounds. That's drastic. I can see my abs even more now, even though I've maintained a donut around my mid section. I have consistently large love handles.

I'm excited for Emily's graduation, and I too am really glad that you have smart and well-behaved children. You absolutely had a large hand in that. You're right that I love these people. I've made wonderful friendships and I've found that they are able to tune themselves into the spirit's frequency. It's crazy how little knowledge of the gospel they have coupled with how strong testimonies they have.

We are currently hitting the mark pretty well for our 2009 goals. Hyderabad was obviously set back, but Rajahmundry was having the greatest results of it's recent history as well with some other places that were picking up the slack, so we're on target though Hyderabad is going to have to get back in the swing of things to keep these 20 something elders busy. Especially now that we know we are relatively safe for a while.

I enjoy it out here and I miss you a lot! Keep up the faith!
love, Kyle