Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hyderabad, June 1

This week has been pretty interesting. I'm learning some lessons in delegation this week.

We had some spare time waiting for an appointment at the church, and was talking to the previously mentioned sister Soumya's husband Suresh. Suresh is in charge for all the young-adult-religion-classes in India, and was having some problems getting local leaders who have stewardship over young adults to take adequate responsibility and initiative for inviting and enrolling their students in these programs. He just started running some ideas past me, not really seeking my advice but just so as he talked to someone he could think more clearly. (I'm sure you know how that works). After he talked for ten or fifteen minutes, reasoning out loud and changing his plans in mid-sentence, figuring out how he would word letters and frame requests, he came up with something he was happy with.

"If I had just done the status quo, I would have left my office a couple of hours ago," he said laughing.

"Isn't it funny," I replied. "Figuring out how to delegate correctly takes more time than just doing everything yourself."

And then, the joke was on myself.

In this branch there are about 500 or 550 members on paper, maybe 200 will come on any given Sunday, and a significant fraction haven't come in several years. As I'm sure you know, technically branch members are supposed to visit each other and support all the members, including those who aren't coming to church, but in reality that requires habit-forming and dedication in busy lives and few members actually do that. The result is that a lot of people don't get visited.

As elders, we're pretty busy running around visiting and teaching people who aren't church members and don't have a lot of time to go spiritually shepherding people who are supposed to be (at least primarily) under the watchcare of the branch. In order to effectively focus our attention, we pay an especially close on people who were recently baptized into the Church and their families.

Generally elders are a pretty unifying force here; perhaps because infighting is a pretty big problem (some explanation: this doesn't have so much to do with the Indian people or the moral quality of people that join the Church; it's just a common problem that happens when a bunch of new people come together and try to form a family or society and happens pretty much whenever the Church is newly organized in a place.)

Moreover this branch in particular is filled with a lot of dedicated, experienced people that returned from their missions but don't have a lot of responsibilities in church.

The bottom line: there are many experienced people want more stuff to do and ask us, or say yes when we ask them.

I was explaining this semi-jokingly this situation to a church member named Raju. "We're entrepreneurs. Businessmen. We're paid to connect people who need stuff with people that have that stuff." (the monetary joke, of course, is on us) "There are lots of people who need stuff to do to grow spiritually. And there are lots of people who need people in the church to be their friend."

When I started to think about it, I realized there were three recently baptized sisters who really needed more friends and advice, plus about four or five recently baptized or married brothers whose wives aren't church members and don't really feel comfortable coming to church.

The former lack supporting sources and counselors as they seek to make important decisions about jobs, marriage, and living location. As elders, even if we had the time we're not allowed to counsel sisters.

For the latter, (and yes, I really believe the following statement) the Church and the teachings of Christ make their most dramatic impact in the relationships Church members have with others, especially family members, and it's difficult for the Church to help a family become stronger, to heal deep wounds and build loving, trusting relationships, if only one spouse is a Church member.

Moreover, we are brothers, and so if we visit their homes their wives will probably just go and sit in the kitchen as per Indian culture, and if they stay outside they might not speak English.

So taking all of this in mind we started organizing Church sisters to go visit these two groups of people. So far we've made plans for five sisters to be visited and four sisters to visit them and have more plans for several of them in progress. It's going to take a lot of coordination, specific instruction and follow-up, but I'm really excited. And this is completely new for me, I've never done it before and never dreamed it was possible to like, coordinate something!

With love,

Sam

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