Luckily here they have a senior couple named the Lintons, and also many local advisors to take care of all of our paperwork. Actually the Lintons are going home soon and due to a visa problem my former companion Elder Bartlett is being forced to take her role! He’s a logistical genius though and we will all be jokingly referring to him as “Sister Linton” from now on.
To describe the last week as ‘a roller-coaster ride’ would be a bit of an underestimation. On Wednesday we toured Vizag in a bus, which was fun, and in the evening I went on exchange with my companion from the MTC, Elder Diamond. It was amazing to see how much we’ve both grown since then.
On Wednesday night we got a call from Raju and Saraswathi -- the family getting ready to be baptized on Sunday -- saying that their landlord was kicking them out of their apartment.
We made a bunch of calls to the branch president and put into motion previous plans that they could stay in a room owned by a church member in Madhurawada, 45 minutes journey from their work and school and such. So we found some church members’ houses where they could store stuff and a church member who had an auto and spent from 9 am to 6pm moving them.
This was especially problematic because Raju goes way downhill mentally when he is worried about all of this, and he relapsed and took a thing of gutkha before we got there and then spent the entire afternoon begging us for permission to take “only one” even though he knew it was wrong.
They were scheduled to be interviewed for baptism but needed to leave early to get back to their new house – which didn’t have any cooking facilities, only had well water, and no toilet. To make things worse, Raju is (no insult intended Baba, just description) a Mumbai city boy, and continually referred to his new residence as a ‘village.’
Zone conference was Friday, which went really well. I learned a lot about helping people make and keep commitments.
Normally, I would be more happy and descriptive, but as soon as it was over we had to go move stuff from one church members’ house to a different church member’s, because their relations were coming and they didn’t have any room there anymore. To make matters worse, Raju and Saraswathi had about 100 rupees to their name and scarcely had money to eat, let alone get to town, and he wouldn’t get any salary for another month.
Anyway, we wake up expecting to have the interview for baptism on Saturday morning, when President Nichols tells our leaders that we need to sit down with the branch president and make a more detailed plan before anything else happened.
Up until now we had mostly been practicing seat-of-the-arm group decision making between us, Raju, and the branch president - we hadn’t actually all sat down and talked together. Raju came almost in tears because he wanted to be baptized so badly and he was afraid he couldn’t be.
When we all sat down, it was a breakthrough – the branch president committed to get Raju a bus pass and buy his groceries until he got his salary, and also move him into another more permanent place as soon as the church members found a cheap enough one. We were ecstatic, but still worried if Raju was ready to make a lifelong promise three days after he took some gutkha under stress.
Oh yeah, and meanwhile President Nichols’ assistants call me on Friday night and tell me I’m being transferred to Hyderabad, to an area called BHEL. I will be senior companion to an Indian elder from Delhi named Elder Steven that has been out six months. So I have to say goodbye to all of my converts and friends in Vizag, and Elder Pritchett. And I have no idea what’s going on with Raju and Saraswathi through all this, so I don’t tell him.
Actually when Raju was being interviewed for baptism President Nichols was interviewing me, so I get out of the interview, and see the simple note in the hand of Elder Pritchett: “We left. Don’t forget to call and cancel appointments.” In other words, Raju passed his interview, and Elder Pritchett and another elder named Elder Ward had left to Madhurawada to go interview the rest of the family.
I went into another room, jumped up and down three times in the air, and then joined the branch activity that my new temporary companion Elder Nixon was helping hold.
Then on Sunday morning, we wake up, get the white clothes ready, go teach some people, go to church, sit in church for two hours, and then pull out the family to change into baptism clothes. We all change into white apparel, wait for church to finish, take pictures – and I haven’t seen bigger smiles in awhile – start the baptism service.
First Elder Prichett steps into the freezing water and perfectly baptizes Saraswathi; next I smoothly baptize Raju and Santosh. We dry off, change back, say our goodbyes, and leave.
As we’re walking out Santosh runs after me with tears in his eyes, not sure when he will see me again.
Today morning we go over and spend 3 hours chatting, and when the auto finally arrives, half an hour moving them into their new room – with discoloured walls and floors, not the best, but for 400 rupees a month (8 dollars), not bad.
Now, it’s Saraswathi crying (about me, not the room). I bid farewell to them and hold in my own sadness as we catch a share auto back to have another farewell, lunch with a brother named Nageshwar that we’re teaching.
Life is crazy, happy, and sad all at the same time. We played football today though and I need to go shower. So farewell for this week.
Dear parents, I understand the dilemma you are in. Thank you for your loyalty and love in holding in your feelings, but please feel free to say whatever you wish to family and friends in Mumbai. This is my own decision, and I make it of my own free will. I love you and I care about you. But please understand that I wouldn’t be anywhere else for the world.
With love, your son,