Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hyderabad, January 6

No New Years’ celebrations – we showed our faces at our apartment block party but their retired to bed and got a good night’s sleep. I think there were lots of fireworks, they woke Elder Stephen up but I slept right through it.

It seems like just as soon as I get settled down here things get upturned. Elder Stephen and I have been working really well together; while everything isn’t perfect we seem to be consistently setting goals and achieving them – not talking on and on, alternating talking, being in and out the door in 15 minutes, finding 15 new people to teach in the week. That’s exciting, and it gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps bond us together and keep the petty feuding to a minimum. We expected to be together for the next six weeks also but it seems it is not to be – Elder Stephen is getting transferred to Kakinada, another elder named Elder Lima is getting transferred to Coimbatore, and their two companions (namely me and another elder named Elder Gervais) are getting put as companions.

The good news is that Elder Gervais is way cool. I met him a few months ago and liked trusted and respected him from the moment I started talking to him. He’s from Wyoming; he’s 23, he joined the church when he was 16 but then didn’t go to church for a while. His life experiences include being set up by his girlfriend with three huge Marines and waking up in a park dazed and confused. He is about my height but is way big and strong so about 200 or 210 pounds. I will send some photos with my new camera. I hope we get to stay together for a while.

Monday night was pretty crazy, I went with Elder Lima for the day. I’d been with him on exchange for a day before, in Chennai, back when neither of us knew anything and we were all confused and trying to figure out what to do. I really respected him then for his dedication and way of teaching by asking questions.

Now we’ve gone different paths, and crossed half of South India. But we’re in the same place again, now walking the streets of Hyderabad, this time with knowledge and confidence. We go to this family named Chinna Reddy family, who Elder Lima taught and baptized five months back. They stopped coming to church but just started coming back, and Elder Lima is saying goodbye – a goodbye that keeps getting longer and longer as they try to get him to stay. Chinna Reddy and his wife Adilaksmi are looking at my friend Elder Lima as their son. They strain their ears and English skills as he guides them on a thousand-year journey, relating the history of the Book of Mormon.

Then we took their 16yo son Dinesh and went and visited another brother we’re teaching named Prashant, also 16 years old. Dinesh and Prashant had hit it off in church and all the pieces fell into place to take Dinesh to Prashant’s house, and we were jazzed about that. They hit up a lightning-fast conversation in Telugu about their lives and their colleges, Elder Lima have no idea what’s going on, but don’t really care. Then Prashant displays maturity above his years, stops the conversation, turns to us and asks us to share something. We introduce the Book of Mormon and say we will share about it. Instantly Prashant tells us he’s had a question about it from the time he came to church. Then he spits out three more questions about the lesson I had taught the previous day in Sunday School.

It’s not what exactly the question was, or what my lesson was. It’s the way he asks the question. It’s easy to tell that he has a firm grasp of the Bible and cares about what it says and about following God’s plan. And he also was definitely paying attention during the lesson and caught a couple of the finer points I didn’t bother to emphasize. And he has a sharp mind that tries to make all the puzzle pieces fit together, and he wants them to fit because he wants it to make sense, he wants to follow the plan.

Then Dinesh pipes in with another, related, question he’s been wondering about for the last few months, about why we teach a particular principle in church (that families can be together forever) when one of Christ’s parables seems to indicate something else.

We sit back, raise our eyebrows, and compliment Prashant and Dinesh on their question. We start to answer them, when Prashant’s father Joshua (who for the record is about Baba’s height and probably weighs 20 to 50 pounds more) comes in. Joshua sits next to me, puts his arm around me and squeezes us together (Elder Lima brings out his camera and takes a photo), and tells us repeatedly, in loud tones, how happy he is that we are coming to meet his son. Then in broken English, Joshua relates the following points:

- I’m really thin and should gain some weight.
- I should marry a very fat girl. Preferably a very fat Telugu girl.
- It is possible to perform the ceremony tomorrow night.
- I could, in fact, marry one of the following four girls (he proceeds to pull photos out of his bag, of girls whose marriage he is arranging.)
- If I can’t marry one of them, I should at least come over and live at their house so his wife can feed me all the time and make me gain weight.

By this time, we are all pretty much doubled over on the floor laughing. After we finish laughing and Joshua goes into the other room, Prashant turns in a faintly embarrassed way and asks us to finish sharing, so we share something small, commit Prashant to read from the Book of Mormon, laugh, say a prayer, and go back.

I sit at the sit of the share auto as Elder Lima and Dinesh reflect about the times they’ve had together and how much they’ll miss each other. After all is said and done, I put my arm around Dinesh, promise to answer his question next time, and tell him how happy I’ve had to have people who I trust (my friend Adam, Jacob, Margaret Young, etc) that can answer my questions about what I learn in church, and how it all makes sense.

Dinesh is my dear, trusted friend’s convert. A son of God. And now Elder Lima is gone to Coimbatore and the mantle of responsibility is on my shoulders.

So that’s a day in the life-

With love,
Sam

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