I thought perhaps I should share some about exactly what it is Elder and I are doing day to day on our mission—what part of ‘missionary work’ do we do?
We are called as Member Leader Support missionaries. Before I start describing our core work, let me first define some terms. Our church’s congregations (200-500 people) are called wards and usually 6-10 wards combine together to make up a stake—all these are geographically determined. Each ward is led by a bishop and each stake by a stake president. Here in New Delhi, there are less members of our church so the smaller congregations are called branches led by a branch president and the 7 branches combine to make up a district led by a district president. All these positions are filled by lay priesthood and some with just a few years of membership in the church. Our mission president is over the three districts in Pakistan, the one district in Delhi, as well as the branches in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kolkata, and Mumbai. He and his wife visit each of these places several times a year, being gone for up to 2 weeks at a time.
We have been assigned to two of the seven branches here in Delhi, Noida (with only about 80 members and 12 attending) and Dwarka (with over 300 members and 80 attending).
Delhi is a huge city with a metropolitan area of 25 million people. Our flat is somewhat centrally located, right next to the mission home with its lowest three floors home to 2 of the 7 branches. Each of the other branches’ meetinghouses are located about 30-45 minutes from here in good traffic and at least double that in bad. And travel within most of the branches’ areas can add another 30-60 minutes to our initial travel. We travel often by those green & yellow autos in good weather and during the day. We usually call a taxi if it’s cold or dark. We also travel by Metro—Delhi’s train/subway system which is very inexpensive, very frequent, at times extremely crowded, but still under construction in some places so doesn’t go everywhere we need to go. We also ride electric or bicycle rickshaws if it’s a short distance, like from the Metro station to a home.
Most people love to tell us how they first came to know about the church and it is for social reasons most quit coming—either pressure from extended family members or lack of fellowship from church members. A few have taken offense from something that happened years ago, and then we have the privilege of listening, absorbing some of their pain, and inviting them to forgive and join us once again. We find this work very rewarding, but also both emotionally and physically draining.
As the only senior missionary couple, we are also involved in a few other things. We are members of the District Self Reliance Committee and are excited to support this program. It teaches principles of both spiritual and temporal self-reliance and has classes to help participants find a job, start a business, or obtain needed education/training. We are hoping to play a bigger role by facilitating classes ourselves plus training more facilitators so more people can benefit from this powerful program.
I have begun handling the applications requesting assistance from the Temple Patron Fund for anyone in our mission, with most members in Pakistan going to the Manila Temple and those from India going to the Hong Kong Temple.
We also do a bit of Public Affairs, attending an Inter-faith dinner this past week and being asked to attend a day-long conference later this month representing our church and even making a short presentation.
I must first include a picture from the Dwarka Branch's Christmas Party on December 23. The Primary did the nativity story, so look closely for an angel, Mary, Joseph, wise men and shepherds. It was delightful! Sorry the man in front of me stood up just as I was snapping my picture.
Christmas morning was spent with the missionaries, mainly doing a service project of tying 45 fleece blankets to give away.
I was surprised that Christmas Day is a holiday here, and public schools are closed for 2-3 weeks starting December 24 so some people still have not returned. However, I just took down our little tree and put the few decorations we had away for next year (including a sketch of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus by our artist friend Dev).