This week I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting on how members can better share the Gospel. I concluded my talk with saying "In the final day of Judgement, I don't believe God will care so much how many times we came to church, but rather how many people we invited to church." Not to brag, but I'd say it was a pretty well done talk!
Also, this week was equivalent excitement level of Christians having Christmas: Diwali for the Hindu's! =D The grand holiday where people nearly blow themselves up by lighting more fireworks than I think most of them can afford. It was pretty awesome, but I was more than a little disappointed, because we ran all 3 days of Diwali, thus putting a big damper on the festival... plus, the area I live in is just filled with rich people, and rich people don't light off too many fireworks.... sad. Weird, but it's the poor areas that light off the most fireworks. Maybe that's because it's the one thing they look forward to all year, so they save up every Rupee they have for this festival, whereas the rich kids don't take seriously. Or potentially it's because the rich people are more educated, and thus they realize how dangerous it is to have their little 10 and 12 year old boys lighting off mortars... haha who knows. The one real highlight of my Diwali is when we took a late night auto ride through a sketchy neighborhood. THAT was awesome! Typical sketchy looking Indian neighborhood, with what sounds like gun shots and bomb blasts going off around you, and then seeing explosions right in front of the auto (haha the auto driver would get pretty mad when kids nearly damaged his auto...) Pretty fun, if I do say so myself!
Just a random side note: As I take more and more plane flights, I've really noticed something sad: no one treats the air hostesses like people! Here you have these two cute peppy little women, saying hello and good evening to everyone as they board the plane, and everyone just walks right by them without even acknowledging their presence! I always make sure to say hello back to them. As I thought about it, I thought how interesting this is. Because, to be an air hostess, you have to be at least pretty attractive. So here you have these attractive young woman smiling and saying hello to all of these business men, and none of them say hello back. However, if these same men were to have the same encounter with the exact same woman outside of the airport (as in, one of these men had one of these cute women say hello to them out on the streets), I'm sure that man would light up with joy at the fact that he was getting waved at by her! But for some reason, as soon as that woman puts on her little air hostess outfit, she is no longer a person. I know this is a random observation, but I think about it every time I fly. Especially since one of my converts in Kakinada, Diana, said that her dream is to become a flight hostess someday, so I always think of her whenever I go flying.
This week we helped to get 3 new Indian missionaries sent off to the Philippines Missionary Training Center. As I looked at these three starting their mission, I couldn't help but think "Oh man... do these people know what their getting themselves into?? " One of the sister missionaries seemed totally prepared, but the other sister missionary looked like a scared little girl about to get onto a roller coaster, and the elder seemed... pretty much like he had no idea what he was doing. It reminded me how crazy it is that the main portion of the church's missionary force is just little kids! How are we expected to move forward the most important work of our age?? Only by God's help, that's for sure. I'm sure all 3 of these new missionaries will do a lot of good with the Lord's help, and they will grow a lot personally as well. I know I've certainly changed a lot for the better. :-)
Sad story... so there was an elder that served in our mission 10 YEARS ago named Prasana Dass. He is somewhat of a legend in our mission, and he is one of the main reasons we don't wear name tags in Bangalore. On the first day of his mission, he and his companion went out to proselyte. Well, they came in contact with some BJP members (a political group that advocates a traditional India, not westernization/Christianization). These people invited the elders inside their home. Long story short, they got in an argument, the BJP members called the cops, they saw the inside of the elder's bags (which were LOADED with pamphlets), and they thought the elders were illegally converting people. The American elder was shipped out to Sri Lanka that night, and then flown from Sri Lanka back to America. However, Prasana Dass went to court. By the end, the court said they would drop the case if he paid them 15,000 Rupees (the equivalent of maybe $500 back in those days). Well, the church doesn't support the corrupt bribing system in India (which is one reason the church has so many struggles with the government here in India), so they didn't pay it. Well, guess what? They didn't drop the case. In fact, they STILL haven't dropped the case. And every couple of months Prasana Dass needs to come back to Bangalore for a "court hearing", during which they essentially say nothing, but just tell him he has to come back again in a couple of months. He lives very far away from Bangalore, but the church has agreed that whenever he has a court hearing, they will pay for a flight for him to come to Bangalore, and book him a hotel to stay in. And this has been happening continuously for the past 10 years. Well, this week he came to Bangalore for a hearing. Again, they told him to come back in December. But, here's the real problem. Before he left for Bangalore, he told his work that he had to take leave to come to a court case, but they didn't give him permission to take leave. Well... he HAD to come, so he just didn't come to work without their approval. Because of that... they fired him. :-( Also, you take into consideration that it has been difficult for him to find ANY job, because the employer sees that he has a running court case.. oh man. I don't know what's gonna happen with him. I'm just glad this whole incident hasn't made him leave the church! I really do feel bad for the guy though.
Also, telling that story reminded me you asked me about Sri Lanka. So usually, the only missionaries we have in Sri Lanka are one or two couple missionaries. However, there's been a recent change to that! Now we are going to send any Sri Lankan missionaries that want to go on a mission to a different mission for a year (maybe the Philippines, Autrallia, or something like that), and then after the first year of their mission send them BACK to Sri Lanka for the second year of their mission. Which is really crazy, considering their only 3 branches in Sri Lanka... soooo... most likely they will be serving in their home branch at one point or another. Crazy. They want to send them somewhere else for the first year, to get a taste of how the church is run in more established areas, so then they can better help their own branches in Sri Lanka reach that level. Also, what I'M really excited about is that we are planning on sending the Assistants from our mission to go on exchanges with them from time to time... which means I may get to go to Sri Lanka! woo woo!
Two last interesting things I've noticed as an Assistant. One, Indian elders will almost always call Elder George (he is Indian) when they have something they need to talk about, and American elders will almost always call me... hmmm. Interesting. Also, as we just finished some transfers, I've noticed the reaction of some missionaries to how transfer calls went are very short sighted. All they see is their little bubble (what should happen in transfers to best help their own situation), but they fail to look at the big picture. Because they don't realize, whenever you transfer one person... another person also must be transferred. Now... where do you put that other person? Or when we book plane tickets for people they will complain about not getting a good timing for their flight, and they will whine "why did the AP's book me so early in the morning!", never even thinking for a moment "Hmmm... maybe that was the only plane ticket available." But, I can't be too hard on them, because I had the same thought process as them just a few weeks ago! =P Now I know... you just gotta trust that your leaders know what they are doing.