Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Week in Our Mission Life

This post is based on an email Elder sent to family a week or so ago. I loved it so here is my edited version (so the ‘I’ is Elder):

Our weeks go by quickly. We seem to have a pretty good routine most weeks that include:

Monday: P-Day. It is a busy day. We skype with a couple of our kids, then I mop the floors, which takes a couple of hours.
I also dust and do other odd-jobs and then go grocery shopping at our local outdoor markets.
Sometimes mom and I go together but sometimes I go alone while she cooks. She uses Monday to do cooking for the week. Preparation of vegetables, soups and other meals we can eat by warming. In addition, she cleans bathrooms and washes our clothes every Monday.
We usually write our goals and plan for the upcoming week as well. Sometimes (twice so far) we go to an outdoor tourist site. Most of the museums are closed on Mondays.  The first week of the month we skype with the two Humanitarian senior couples in Nepal for a FHE—if the mission president is in town, he and his wife join us.   

Tuesday: Mission Office Coordination Meeting with the mission president, his wife, Assistants, mission driver and bookkeeper at 10:00. Then mom and I head to Noida or Dwarka, alternate weeks and attend the District Meeting of the young missionaries. There are currently six in both branches, which may change because we are losing missionaries and they are not being replaced due to visa problems. We enjoy these meetings. I think the missionaries enjoy having us come. It is a change for them. We also bring a different perspective, even a little wisdom, as we do training and talk about district business. We then like to stay out and visit members, sometimes we do this on our own and sometimes we team up with the Elders. Some of them like to involve us in visits to investigators, or more likely in-actives we would have trouble finding on our own. It can be late (after 10) when we return these days due to the hour or more it takes to get home from each of these areas. This week we went to Dwarka.

Wednesday: Usually a day of visiting members in the afternoon and evening. Once we leave home we don't return until we're finished for the day. It is not uncommon for us to be out until quite late--9:30 to 10:30 or so. We try to get in at least three visits, and sometimes four. We stay at least an hour and a half per visit, and then have to travel quite a ways to the next home. We try to organize ourselves so we are in one area and not traveling all over the branch boundaries since both are really quite huge. We'll go out by Uber (taxi) but travel while out there by metro, auto, electric auto or even bicycle rickshaw. You never know what you will see while traveling down the roads of India.
This week we left home at 10:15, visited a part-member family with 2 little boys for 90 minutes with the young missionaries, then went on our own to support a recovering alcoholic who has come to church the last 2 weeks, even bringing his wife and daughter last week, and introduced him to the Addiction Recovery Program of the Church (there are no groups up here). Our next visit was to an inactive man, baptized about 8 years ago and active for only a few months. While there, we watched as this cow stuck their head into their courtyard for a drink.
Then we reconnected with a pair of junior missionaries and traveled about 90 minutes to an active family we home teach. We walked down streets like this one
and saw sights like this cute short family.
We had a nice visit with the mother and her nonmember mother, plus they fed us dinner! It was at least an hour and a half journey home and another full but rewarding 12-hour day.

Thursday: We are trying to stay home although it varies a lot. We need one day in so we can work on resources we're creating for self-reliance and leadership development, upcoming leader training, our Saturday night English class, Temple Prep class for Noida, Sunday talks and lessons, Primary music, and spiritual messages for our less active members.  Sometimes we are out part of the day, evening or morning. This week we were totally in, skyping with the senior couple over Self Reliance in India for an hour in the afternoon, but getting some much needed prep time.

Friday: This week we had 3 visits, leaving about 11 and returning 12 hours later. Actual visit times add up to 7.5 hours with 4.5 hours of traveling.  Most roads are narrow,
and often crowded,
but there is one stretch of road about six or ten lanes wide in each direction--it is crazy! On the way down, it was empty. One the way home, it was packed!
The first visit was to a middle-aged couple who we are helping to teach. It is great to see the changes in their lives as they start to study and pray with regularity. They shared the differences they are feeling inside themselves. They described ‘our God’ as very responsive and their Hindu Gods as deaf and dumb and not responsive. Our second visit was to a partially active family—the husband was converted while attending college in the US 8-10 years ago. He was very active in many leadership positions here for years but got disillusioned and offended a few years back but his wife is still active. Our last visit was to a partially reactivated family whose 11 year old grandson was having a birthday party. What a party! Balloons! Music!

A cake as big as a wedding cake!
It was lots of fun, but took us 2 hours to get home and we left at 9 pm. Another long day!

Saturday: We attend meetings on self-reliance or with leaders and also visit other members. We focus more on leadership development on Saturdays than on other days. It is easier to find them home or available. We have spent some time working with Dwarka BP and more recently with the EQ and YM presidencies. We sometimes have branch activities on a Saturday afternoon and are now doing our English class from 6:00 to 8:00. In a couple of weeks we will also be teaching seminary every Saturday before our English class. This week I met with the Branch Presidency for a couple of hours in the morning and then came back home before returning with mom around 5. We got home to stay around 9. You never know what you will see on the roads. There are a lot of scooters and motorcycles, but most driven by men. Here is a woman driving one dressed in a sari

Sundays: Early morning presidency meetings in both branches. We leave by 7:30 or so. Then the 3-hour block. Then other leadership meetings, PEC, BCM, following the block. We then meet with a leader or two. Sometimes we come back to Vasant Vihar for a district meeting. (Yesterday we met with district presidency and district auxiliary presidents to talk about the Branch Development Plan.) Sometimes we stay late on Sundays and visit a few members. Sometimes we come home a little earlier, say 4 or 5:00 p.m. and don't go back out. This last week we met with 2 different families whose fathers struggle with Word of Wisdom addictions.
They were both touching and emotional visits. We arrived home by about 9 pm. We were very tired!

And then we start the routine over again the next week.  

I met with a missionary last week that wanted to talk about a personal problem. (They sometimes talk to mom and I and we'll direct them to the mission president if appropriate.) He told me about the poverty in which he grew up. He came from a small village and lived a simple life. His parents split up when he was young and so he lived in an orphanage although he knows his parents, today, and they are both involved in his life. His mother is a member and his father is not. He told me he lived in such poverty that he often didn't have anything to eat. He literally ate grass and even sand or dirt just to have something in his belly. Really very sad. 

His school was a hut and didn't have any amenities, including desks or chalk boards. Although he got such a crude education he is a very bright guy. I'm hoping he can go to college once he returns home. 

The saddest part of the story is that he has active TB which has been treated while on his mission. However, it continues. He sees a doctor periodically who tells him his chest x-rays are still positive in spite of the medicines he's been on. Mom and I have asked Sister Hodges why they don't send him home to recover and she's said he'll get no care back home. He is getting better treatment as a missionary so they want to keep him out here. 

However, there are times he has chest pains and has to stop doing the work. He told me that he and his companion stayed an extra hour on the metro one day last week because he was in too much pain to get off and walk home. I don't know whether this is mostly due to the TB or if there is also something wrong with his heart, which he's alluded to but we've not been able to explore. 

Anyway, he is a great guy, currently serving as district leader. I gave him some counsel about a personal problem (relationship with parents back home). But the personal problem aside, I think he wants to connect with a parent figure more than anything. Mom and I don't try to take the place of the mission president and his wife, who are the most important parent/authority figures to the young elders. But sometimes they reach out to us in various ways and we want to be there for them. If the mission president and his wife are the parents to the missionaries, we have been told senior couples are the grandparents. It is a different relationship than to their mission president but one that some of them need. My heart goes out to them when I hear many of their stories. We hope our little bit of influence can make a difference to some of them. 

Anyway, that is the latest news from the New Delhi India Mission in which the senior couples are scarce but united and growing day-by-day through their incredible experiences. 

P.S. Here is the latest exciting news: Another senior couple is coming next week! Their visas finally came! And three junior missionaries are coming back from the Philippians to finish their missions—they have been gone since before we came!  These are the first visas approved since ours were 6 months ago! Yeah! And two more couples have calls to come in May and June!

Here is one last picture for you--of the 3rd Branch celebrating Holi--Festival of Colours in the empty lot next door to our apartment. Us missionaries were told to stay in all day since you can have colors thrown on you unawares and some of them aren't safe. However, these people look like they are having fun! And the Branch President was the most colorful of all!

Happy Easter everyone! And enjoy General Conference! We get to watch it a week late here, but I’m excited! Last October we watched it at the MTC in Provo. What a difference 6 months make!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Time to Teach

Elder and I both love to teach and have had quite a few opportunities to do so since coming to India—though often it’s the kind like last Sunday when I walked into the YW room in Dwarka and the YW President looked up and saw me and said, “Sister Allen, can you take the lesson because I thought my counselor was taking it and she thought I was.” And yes, here in India you don’t give lessons, but take them.

However, these last two weeks, we have started team teaching two on-going classes. Every Saturday night we are teaching an Intermediate level (American) English Class in Dwarka, following a curriculum from Cambridge with workbooks, teacher’s guide, homework and quizzes. It is being taught in each of the branches in Delhi, preferably by a native speaker, followed by an optional spiritual message by the missionaries.
This is being done as community service and attended by both members and non-members with the hope of helping the members improve their English and also finding people who might like to hear more about our church. A week ago we had 18 people register for the class with a few observers/auditors in the class as well.
This Saturday it was threatening to rain so our numbers were down a bit, but we still had 16 in the room by the end of class with just a few attending both weeks. It is too early to know how many will attend with any regularity and if everyone who has come either week were to all show up the same week, we would really have a crowd. And we did have one unexpected creature attend the first week--a friendly gecko!

The other class we are teaching is Temple Preparation in Noida Branch every other week (since that is how often we are there) right after the regular meetings. (Well actually right after the pot luck lunch they have been having ever since the new Branch President was called—it’s a big hit with the members and makes it much easier to stay after for Branch Council Meetings and now for our class.)
The Branch President’s wife loves to cook and usually brings the most food to share, but there are usually 3 or 4 other people contributing as well including some investigators. Plus if anyone is celebrating an anniversary or birthday, there can even be a cake!

Attendance at the branch is up, regularly in the 30’s now, but we were concerned about having enough interested people for the class. However, yesterday we had 3 of the 5 couples invited to attend, plus the wife of another invited couple, one invited single man, and two RM’s who acted as translators for us, for a total of 12 including us. It takes quite a bit longer to discuss things when you need to translate back and forth between the teachers and the students but it was good. I am excited to teach this class and share my love of the temple with these members here. And also yesterday was the last Sunday for one of the couples in the branch who are shifting to Idaho to attend BYU-I. He is a counselor in the District Presidency and a previous Noida Branch President and an RM from Nepal. In fact, you can read about his mission experience in a talk Elder Funk gave in General Conference in October 2013: They will be greatly missed but we all wish them well!
We are also helping organize some Self Reliant groups and train branch specialists. Here is an Education group in the Dwarka Branch. They meet for 2 hours a week for 12 weeks, learning principles of self-reliance and making and keeping commitments. They are also eligible to apply for PEF loans to further their education/training here in India.
 One Saturday while in the Dwarka building, I looked out the window to see several families disassembling their homes. You can see them taking the metal roofs off from over their brick walls and piles of their belongings waiting in the dirt.

The next week I took another picture for comparison. Nothing is left. I wonder where they all went.

I'll add a few more comments and pictures from the domestic side of life. Did you ever wonder how bathtubs are installed? We got a glimpse one day last week about how they are supported here in India when 4 workers showed up at our door and informed us that our bathtub was leaking a little and they needed to replace a pipe underneath.
So out it came, resting on its side for a day while they made the repair, replaced it and recaulked all around it. However, since the geezer (small hot water tank) is broken, I still can't take a bath unless I want it to be a cold one.

A fun discovery we made a while ago was red carrots. They are much sweeter than orange ones but are only available in the cooler months, we are told. We will miss them this summer.

I finally got a real haircut. Elder has had several for about $1-2 dollars each. The mission president's wife warned me that the local beauty shop here had tried to charge here the equivalent of $40 for a haircut so I have cut my own sides and tops a couple of times. However, the back had 5 months growth and was beginning to look really shaggy. So a friend from Dwarka who is a professional beautician came to our home last Monday and gave me my summer cut. It definitely isn't too long anymore--and much cooler!
In closing, I'll share a couple of street scenes. This first one is repeated every few blocks--a place people dump trash and the local cows and pigs eat whatever they want.

The last one is taken from an elevated Metro Station of a typical street scene.There are vendors underneath all those colored tarps on the left selling all sorts of things. One thing we have enjoyed about the several rains we have had lately is that the air is much cleaner now. Yeah! Know that we are both very busy but enjoying our mission. Thanks for your interest and prayers. There is much to be done here and throughout the world.