It is June and that means it is hot in Delhi. How hot? Like melt on the sidewalk hot. Like drink 2 liters of water a day hot. Like take a shower as soon as we get home hot. We have seen 115 and 117 temperatures but when you add in the 30-40% humidity, it feels even hotter. In the morning the low is 90 and humid. Luckily we have had a few rain storms move through already and they usually cool it down a few degrees. Plus we are blessed to have air conditioners in our flat, while many of the members only have fans. The one good thing we’ve learned about weather this hot is that it is too hot for mosquitoes—there aren’t any right now. We hear that when the monsoons come, it will cool down for good. I'm thinking of learning a rain dance. But we’ve also heard that the mosquitoes come back en masse so we bought a mosquito bat with a rechargeable battery that kills any bug it hits. The mosquitoes are not welcome in our home!
We have a number of stories to share. Last week we met with a small group of young single adults, most in their mid-20's. Our topic was becoming a stake, but even more important, becoming a Zion people. As part of that discussion we talked about some of the sacrifices the early members made in coming to Zion. Then we pointed out that they are the pioneers in New Delhi, as all were first generation members and many the only member of their family. We asked them to share with us what kind of sacrifices they have made. Here are my recollections of what a couple of them shared. (We had donuts at Dunkin Donuts after our activity.)
Dave is from Manipur, a state in northeast India, a place of many tribes and many languages. He lives close to the border of Myanmar (Burma)--in fact there are people across the border from the same tribe who speak the same language as he, but the border separates them. His is a small tribe from the hill country and they are more Mongolian than Aryan (north India) or Dravidian (south India). They were pagans, worshipping the forces of nature until right about 100 years ago, when Christian missionaries arrived and now members of his tribe are all Christians. However he is the only Mormon, having joined while here in Delhi. He has even served a mission in south India, but he can’t get a passport so he wasn’t able to go to the MTC or the temple before serving. The members of his tribe are all very close knit and he misses them a lot, but to go home would mean being so far away from any other member of the church. He has made some very good friends among some of the other YSA’s and they support one another. Dave is serving as Elder’s Quorum President in his branch.
Another one of the male YSA’s shared his story, also being the only member of his family to join the church. He is from the Brahmin Caste—the highest priestly caste, and within that caste, from the highest rank. He said he still worries a bit about others in his caste finding out and coming and beating him up for his choice. He also has good supportive friends within the ranks of the YSA’s. We are aware of several others from within the higher castes whose families are still not aware of their being members of our church even after 5 or 6 years, as it would make trouble for the whole extended family.
I think I’ve shared before that people’s last names indicate from which caste their family belongs, and maybe that is one reason why members of the church here go by the name Brother/Sister (their first name). Also higher ranking castes are associated with lighter colored skin. We’ve been told there are pockets of Indians from the far northern parts of India with very light skin. The southern part of India has some very dark skin people. This was something I hadn’t thought about before arriving here—the wide variety in the color of brown among the Indians. Here is a picture from yesterday’s birthday celebration for a lady in Noida Branch, and you can see the range of skin colored among the members. I have to say that I’m so used to being with beautiful brown people that when I see someone from North America, they look so pale to me.
Another story we were told recently is about a love marriage. This young couple grew up just a few houses away from each other since they were 8-10 years old and were good friends, he a Hindu and she a Sikh. As they got older, her parents told her to stay away from him, since he is of the lowest rank. (He explained that his last name is of the kingly rank around Jaipur, but everywhere else, of the lowest. The story they were told was that they used to be the rulers, but then were conquered and made the slaves.) She is of the Punjabi rank and marriage outside of your own caste is not allowed. Anyway, they said the advice had the exact opposite effect on their relationship as what her parents had desired—they did in fact start liking each other. Along the way, he joined the Church and went on a mission. They married a couple of years ago, but had to run away to do so. Her parents still live just a few houses down from them, and her father hasn’t spoken to her since their marriage. Her mother has started to communicate via texting, but that is all. And then they told us of the couple married just before them at the place they went to, also a love marriage. The other couple were killed by members of their families shortly after their marriage, and it was considered an honor killing. Very sad. We have been told that in rural villages, the caste system still has even more power than in the big cities. Even within the Church, a lot of the marriages are arranged and most are still within their caste.
On a little lighter note, we had another District Conference the end of May. Here we are visiting with members of the Noida Branch prior to the start of the meeting. (The lady in yellow is sharing pictures from her phone with me.)And here we are meeting with the 4 Elders working in Noida.
We are excited that there are two more senior couples coming, hopefully next month. They were supposed to be here this month but are delayed, waiting for their visas. We are also getting a few more young Elders from the US, but they too are waiting for visas. The work goes on.
Remember that building by the Dwarka Church that is under construction? I watched as these workers piled 20 bricks onto this platform they had on their heads, then walked around to the side of the building, climbed up to the third floor and delivered the bricks to some other workers up there. In this picture, at the bottom left you see a worker putting the bricks onto his head and then at the upper right, you can see another worker delivering the bricks.The green material along the front of the building is to contain the construction dust to the site and are very common here. There is a ton of manual labor in construction here.
Well I have been adding to this blog for about 10 days now so I'm going to post it. We are alive and well, but a little on the warm side. We love the people here and admire the way they have embraced the gospel and the hope it gives them in their lives. We do recognize many of their hardships and challenges and pray for their growing faith. They are indeed the pioneers here in Delhi.