So one thing I forgot to mention about my branch last week: it is the ONLY sign language speaking branch in all of India! Pretty sweet, huh? I've been trying to learn ASL (they use american sign language) so that I can communicate with some of the deaf people in our branch, but my sign language is about as good as my Telugu (which isn't all that great. haha) I DID get my own sign language name though, so that's pretty cool! :D You make the letter "a" and then hold it up next to your cheek. The "a" is for Anderson, and you hold up next to your cheek because my rosy cheeks are my most distinguishing characteristic apparently. haha everyone at BYU always thought I was blushing, and everyone here in India thinks I'm dying of heat exhaustion. I try to tell people I'm just naturally red, but no one believe me. :P
This week I also had another cool experience with my name. So let me preface this by saying there was another Elder Anderson that served here in Bangalore a couple of years ago, and every once in a while members will ask if I'm related to him. I tell them that Anderson is similar to Kumar in India (it's a very very common name). Usually, I don't really think much about the other Elder Anderson that served here, but this last week I gained new appreciation for this other Elder, and greater appreciation for being an Anderson. As I met one member in our branch, I asked him what his name was, and then he asked me what my name was. When I told him my name is Elder Anderson he started to choke up, and tell me that a few years ago an angel named Anderson came and gave him the Gospel, and now he had the honor of meeting another angel with the same name. I'll be honest, I've never felt so proud to hold the name of Anderson as I was then. Never again will I take my name for granted, even if it is the second most common name in the United States!
Another great experience for me this week was getting to see the difference between rich people and poor people. While I was in the States, I would hear many studies on how money doesn't make you happy, and how true happiness comes from different sources (namely, the Gospel). I believed these studies quite a bit, but now that I am here in India, I KNOW money is not what makes people happy. In my area we have one street called "Apostate Road" by the missionaries, because it has every Western thing you could possible want, and many Elders have gone... apostate there. Anyways, the place is loaded with people as rich as Americans. Just like in America, you can tell people are dripping with money, just by looking at them.
But then I have another part in my area that is a slum area. Like, legit slums, not what people in America consider "slums". People live in one room houses, there is garbage piled up everywhere on the streets, stray animals running everywhere, half naked kids walking around because they can't afford clothing, etc. etc. By a monetary stand point, the two areas are as different as night and day.
But, just as important, and just as noticeable, is the level of happiness experience in both areas. The people on Apostate road all look very solemn, and just mind their own business. People are absorbed in their phones, with no interaction with the people swarming around them. They seem very alone, despite the concourses of people around them. However, if you go over to EG Pura (the slums area), everyone is happy, smiling, chit chatting with everyone around them, and clearly having a good time by all of the squeals of delight I hear coming from the streets in and within homes.
The people on Apostate Road are proud and pessimistic, while the people in EG Pura are humble and happy. No, I don't think money is inherently a bad thing, but looking at the broad picture, it clearly doesn't bring happiness to people.
This week I also had a very humbling experience of my own. For the past few months, I have worked very hard to become a skilled teacher. I have learned how to ask effective questions. I know how to listen to people. I know how to speak "Indian English" so that people can understand me. I know how to introduce a scripture so that people can understand it better. But this week I got a spiritual smack in the face when I realized I have become (or was rapidly starting to become) a missionary robot, something I promised myself I would never become. I was forgetting to rely on the Spirit, and more and more relying on my own skills as a teacher. I was simply going through the motions of missionary work, rather than really pushing myself to 110% every single day.
So this week I have really been focusing on getting the Spirit more into my teaching, and more into my life. And, by no coincidence in my opinion, this week my love for the scriptures has also skyrocketed up. I get ready as fast as I can in the morning so that I can start my personal study sooner. Instead of taking a nap on this hour long bus rides, I pull out a book from the missionary library and read that. And then before I go to bed, instead of just lying on the couch and relaxing for a minute, I pull out the Book of Mormon student manual or the For Strength of Youth pamphlet (two of my favorite things to read) and study those for 10-15 minutes before I hit the sack. I truly have a yearning for the scriptures now! Going to sleep is a burden, I just want to stay up and read more of God's word!
And, I can honestly say, I have been feeling the Spirit a LOT more this week. Like the chicken and the egg, I'm not sure which came first, me feeling the spirit more or more reading the scriptures more, but I would say they both rapidly build upon each other.