Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coimbatore, December 12



I am sad to be leaving, but new hands can pick up the work that I left
and give it new direction.

I had an eventful last week. The stories that were in progress finally
got to a reportable point, so this will be a long e-mail.

The main highlight was being able to baptize two families that we had
been teaching.

The first one is named Robert and Girija, they are on the left in the
picture. Elder Riley knocked on their door when he was with a
different elder and met the wife Girija. She told Robert that we came
and he was not interested. He is an ex-military guy who is now working
for a security agency as a training officer.

Though he's a military guy, he watched his father become a drunkard so
he doesn't drink or anything. Actually he used to be an altar boy when
he was young but stopped due to watching priests take money all the
time. So he hasn't really been to church since he was 13. Girija is
much more religious and prays all the time. Funny story actually.

One lesson when we were telling them to pray from their hearts instead
of saying memorized prayer we read a verse from the Sermon on the
Mount. It saaid something like "do not use vain repetitions, as the
heathen do, for they think they shall be heard for their much
speaking."

At tha Robert just starts bursting up. We're a little bit confused so
we ask him why he's laughing so hard. He points to a Roman Catholic
prayer book that they have, and tells us that one time Girija started
from the beginning and went through all the prayers, *53* times.
Girija's looking find of uncomfortable now, so we laughed and gave
Girija a "well, you didn't know better" shrug and went onwards.

Anyway, that's all later. We came back a second time and when he met
us Robert was way impressed with us. We gave them a Book of Mormon and
invited them to church; they didn't come and we didn't think they were
too interested, so we didn't go back again.

About a month later, after Elder Riley went home I remembered their
house and figured I'd go back with Elder Prabhakar. Meanwhile, Girija
had given the Book of Mormon to her sister, who lives in Kanyakumari,
the southernmost district in India, where they are from. Her family is
all fishermen. Her sister started reading it and was way impressed, so
she told Girija, so she and Robert started praying to get another
copy.

Lo and behold, we show up again on their doorstep, let us in, and we
give them another copy and invite them to church again. Robert tells
us how he and Girija are fighting all the time. She stares angrily
back at him. We promise them that they gospel can bring more unity
into their family.

(This is on like Tuesday in late October.)

On Sunday, they come to church and love it, we go to their house again
and discover Girija is like 200 pages into it.

The next couple weeks we get them to have family prayer almost every
day. They come to church every week. We bring over a family in the
neighborhood, husband and wife named Shiva and Latha, and they become
best friends.

They keep trying to get us to sit on their plastic chairs when we come
over but we keep resisting because they only have two so that would
make us sit above them. We insist instead that we all sit together on
a mat on the floor. "All are equal, brother," I tell Robert.

We get the branch president's wife (Shelley Schultz equivalent) to
teach Giija and another sister, Cecilia, English twice a week.

The difference is so obvious. Last week as we're going to their house
Girija rests her arms on Robert's legs and leans towards him, which
for India is all over him. "Girija so much love this week, brother,"
Robert says.

Elder Meservy baptized Robert. I baptized Girija.

The other two people, standing on the right side, are Vincent and
Cecilia. A church member family who lived across the street brought
them to church to see the Primary presentation -- all the children 3
to 11 had a special presentation where they gave talks and sang songs
during the first hour of Sunday meetings. It lasted like 40 minutes.
Vincent and Cecilia were way impressed. "The children are so
disciplined," they said.

As we began to visit their house I was impressed so much by how much
they loved their children, Vincy Jasmine (4) and Christo (0). They
aren't nearly well-off enough to afford diapers, so quite often as we
were meeting them the usually-nude Christo would start to pee or
diarrhea on the floor. Cecilia or Vincent would calmly lift him up,
get a towel, and start to clean up the mess.

Cecilia is a college graduate, so she speaks OK English. Vincent not
so much. Usually when we say something Cecilia translates for Vincent.
Even though he doesn't speak so much English we can really tell how
intelligent he is. They were also raised in a Catholic tradition, so
as we read from the Book of Mormon about how Adam and Eve story, he's
amazed.

"I always thought it was a bad thing, and finally I learn that there
was a purpose after all," he says. (Well, this is the branch president
translating what he said for us.)

We were always worried about the spirituality of their lessons, as
Vincy was always trying to play with Christo, Christo was crying or
screaming, or some other distraction associated with having small
children happened. But they always just seemed to want to learn. Many
times Cecilia would have to take Christo and walka round the church
building during meetings on Sunday. Sometimes someone is there to help
her, but sometimes not.

Still, they both have so much patience. At the end, we realized: they
know that their children will be children. They don't need the
quietest atmosphere. They just want to learn. They have a vision of
how their future family can be, and they want to get there.

I baptized both of them.

Anyway, that's my last big accomplishment. More good stuff will happen
after I go, but all these families should continue on the path they
started. I helped them build the foundation. So I'm happy.

With love,

Sam

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