Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chennai, April 30

Mmm, what’s new and exciting. Each Wednesday seems to come so soon. Our lives
are lived in six-week intervals called transfers; each missionary planner is six
weeks long. I just finished my second one, which means I’ve been in Chennai
twelve weeks. Amazing.

It’s really amazing how much you learn in that time period. The constant
battle is to keep trying to improve, to avoid slipping into complacency. I could
teach most of the lessons in my sleep, but they wouldn’t be very exciting.
Right now I’m focusing essentially on my social skills, to show that I
genuinely care about the people we’re teaching. Elder Siyyadri is teaching me
a lot about this, which is very helpful. One of the members – a native,
long-time church member who served a mission 20 years ago – called it
‘working smart, not working hard.’ (Because building greater friendship and
trust with the people you’re already teaching is a lot easier and more
time-effective that walking the streets and finding twice as many people to

We had a family come to church this last week that really loves us and the
church services and our message (and dislikes their church). Their only problem
is that when they came to our church their pastor called them and asked why they
weren’t at church. All they need now is to find out for themselves that our
message is true – otherwise, joining is just church-hopping. They have the
desire so they will probably continue to progress quickly. We are going to bring
the husband of our recently-baptized family over to their house tomorrow, it
will be the first time we’ve brought him with us which is exciting.

The main problem is that people are far more likely to give commitments in
India (or generally to LDS missionaries?) than keep them. From what we
understand, this is a combination of having just met us, Indian culture of
don’t-offend-guests-in-your-house, and that we are asking them to do new
things – coming to (a different) church, reading a new book, praying in a
possibly different manner. We planned for everyone who told us they would come
– four families, two bachelors, and maybe two others. Of those people, one
family and one bachelor came to church. Apparently you get used to this but I
still find it rather frustrating. I suppose I will just have to work on making
stronger commitments.

The heat notwithstanding, we’re all pretty happy because in Chennai we had 14
baptisms this month, which is about as many as we had the whole beginning of the
year. Basically there’s a sequence of events which usually happen in a
particular order, for them to get baptized – first, you find them, then you
get a return appointment (which means they get counted as a ‘New
Investigator’) then you teach them, hopefully when bringing members along with
you (which counts as ‘Member Present Lessons’), then they come to church and
get counted as ‘At Sacrament Meeting’, keep other commandments and get
counted as a ‘Progressing Investigator’, and sooner or later you invite them
to be baptized on a certain date (if it’s better, with the caveat that once
they know our message is true), and they get counted as ‘With a Date,’ and
then they get baptized.

During each stage in this sequence of events some people will lose interest
and fall out of the sieve, or they will gradually become converted and
eventually get baptized (with some odd exceptions). Our current situation right
now is that we baptized Michael and his family, another of our main families
lost interest, and we’re working on moving the ton of people we have through
the funnel, while using our little spare time to find more people and go visit
less-active families and recent converts.

One thing I'm trying to figure out now is whether people have a 'time-clock' on them,
ie whether if they don't really gain interest by a certain time they will start to give up and lose interest. I think so, but it depends a lot on the person - for example, one of our investigators wasn't keeping any of his commitments like reading the Book of Mormon but recognized that he needed to repent so it wasn't a problem. Other people didn't keep their commitments, but after a couple of visits decided (or seemed to - sometimes we couldn't tell) that they had nothing new to learn from us. The relevant problem that I'm worried about is this: if you can't get them to keep commitments initially, will they as a result not be getting real spiritual nourishment and so give up quickly? (And so you don't get a second chance to get them to keep commitments?)


1 comment:

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