An Indian Sabbath

I love the Sabbath. It is so wonderful to have that weekly day of rest—a day fully dedicated to worship, prayer, and meditation. It is so much a Holy Day; it is a sacred day.

There are a number in our group who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Those of us affiliated with the LDS Church woke early this morning, therefore, in order to make the two hour journey on a bouncing bus to attend a church meeting in Chennai. In order to look our best we determined to wear the traditional saris. Knowing we lacked practice and skill for putting on saris we woke extra early to ensure we would be able to put them on. My cousins and I struggled for quite some time to get our saris to look right. Finally, we felt we had succeeded enough so we went out to get breakfast.  Kala, one of the house mothers, was standing there. She stared, then only said, “Come with me.” Apparently we failed. She then took me into the laundry room where she fixed our saris in but five minutes. Ha. It was lovely. I walked out the door in my Indian Sunday best.  Church was beautiful.




It is always so grounding to me that no matter where I am in the world the Church is the same. In Sacrament Meeting one of the speakers discussed how truly important it is for the members to take on the roll of Member Missionary. The Indian government is no longer issuing visas for missionaries to come into the country. The couple speaking shared that when he arrived there were 12 elderly couples, but when they leave at the end of this month there will be zero. The Church is in its infancy in India. There are solid members, but only a few. These members are pioneers. In joining the Church they are going against everything they know—culture, customs, religion, caste, family—it is extremely hard for them. They are like the early pioneers we associate with the times of Joseph Smith. They are pioneers today.

Another talk discussed how important it is for each member to have a temple recommend and to start saving to go to the temple. The closest temple for them is the temple in Hong Kong. Many of the members lead extremely impoverished lives. Still they have testimonies of steel. One man has been saving for years and believes he will be able to go in December of this year. When that was announced, a hush spread through the room as everyone looked at him in awe. The speaker spoke how many of the members are saving; they are saving to go to the temple. These members who have nothing in the eyes of the world, have their eyes on what truly counts; these members are seeking to have everything in spiritual terms. The temple is so important. Yet it is so easy to take it for granted with temples so close to where I live. I can never take it for granted. It is a blessing that the members in India would give all they have for. Would I give all I have to go to the temple? I hope so. I love the temple with all of my heart. I have a prayer in my heart that these members will have the opportunity to go to a temple. The speaker also shared, “Go to the temple. Start saving now. Don’t wait for a temple to come to you. By the time you’ve saved enough perhaps a temple will be nearer. But don’t wait.” It was a really neat experience. The Spirit was so strong. And my heart felt for these members so deeply—with love and respect. They are beautiful people; they are beautiful pioneers.

Later in Relief Society, my cousin Amy and I had a comical experience. So, you know how we nod in the US when we mean yes. Well, in India people don’t nod. They do what we have termed The Bobble Head Doll. We call it that because when Indians “nod” it really looks like they’re bobble head dolls—it’s not a nod, nor a shaking, but it’s a bob of some sort. Sitting with Amy, we tried to really nail the bobble down ourselves. We were so focused that we failed to notice that we had an audience. Suddenly it dawned on me we were being watched. I made eye contact with the sweetest lady who seemed to have been watching us for some time, and she just burst out laughing! Ha! Amy and I laughed quite a lot too! It was great!

We returned to Rising Star mid afternoon. The afternoon was filled with a number of tasks. Some helped students write their sponsors letters (the students at Rising Star have sponsors and each write their sponsors quarterly), others prepared dinner, even others ventured into the village, and of course some played with the children. Mostly it was a laid back day as the children didn’t have school and many in the area are in fact Christian and view Sunday as their Sabbath. I played most happily with the children. They are amazing. A group of the older kids pulled me over to see a dance they have been learning all summer. They were so cute…and actually pretty good! The music: Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”.  It doesn't get any better than that!  It was so fun to see! They are such great examples of sharing their talents and really letting their lights shine! They certainly shine; each and every one of them! They shine and shine and shine! You can’t help but to be happy around these angels! Even when they’re being punks they still make me happy! Ha! Love em!

During playtime I also helped two boys from my house—Rotish and Ismael—dig for clay in the middle of a field. We dug, and dug, and dug. My faith in our endeavors I confess waned but they were determined; finally, after a good 30 minutes of digging, we happened upon clay! Lots of it! They were elated! I was elated!  We then spent the remainder of playtime building cubes, trees, people, etc out of clay. Too fun!

The bell rang at six, as always, calling for prayer time. I hurried over with some of my boys. One of the most adorable 4-year-olds (so three in the US) got pushed over on his way over and was absolutely bawling. I felt so bad. I urged him to come sit by me; so naturally he came and plopped himself right on my lap. Such a stud. He too had lice crawling all throughout his hair; only I seem to have habituated to this as it no longer makes me nervous. I mean it’s treatable right?! Well, we were sitting there singing songs and listening to religious stories when I noticed that my legs were getting warm. And wet. Home boy on my lap definitely peed MY pants! Haha! It was so funny. He didn’t even move. It was adorable. Haha!

Putting the kiddies to bed was so much fun tonight! Oh goodness! We had promised the boys a dance as they had danced for Bryan when he was sick. Bryan and I decided to take it back to some good old "Boot Scootin Boogie"!  Not a lie.  Ha! They loved it! They all were up trying to learn it with us. After that we danced for quite some time to "Jai Ho", "Black or White", "Jai Ho", "Black or White", and "Jai Ho" again…those appear to be their favorites. It was such a party! We danced for most of the evening as the children didn’t have homework.

Right at the end of our dance party a fabulous thing happened: a torrential rainstorm came through! We’re talking you walk outside and you look like you've jumped in a pool. All the children were watching it from inside. That wasn’t good enough for me though. I ran outside and was consumed by the rain. Bryan, Katie, Sarah, and Amy ran, jumped, sang, skipped, and played in the rain with me too. It was most entertaining for the children. They thought we were absolutely insane. And maybe we were…but it was AMAZINGLY fun!

We came back inside and realized it was time for the kiddies to sleep. It was the easiest time we’ve had putting them to sleep as Bryan promised them “Jesus songs” again (they LOVE "Jesus songs" as they all them); they were all lying down within a minute. Bryan and I serenaded them with primary songs for almost 20 minutes. It was so fun!

The last thing we did tonight was have a devotional. Everyone in our group was to share a journal entry regarding their experience. Now, you may think this blog is my complete journal. Well, it’s not. This blog is excerpts from my journal that I simply copy paste; I keep the more personal things to myself. The entry I selected to share, however, was from one of my more personal writings. As I shared it in the group, I suppose I can share it here too.

Gazing into the affectionate and wise faces of these beautiful natives I no longer see the differences I recently discerned—complexion, features, culture, language, aroma, dress. Now I see but similarities. I see our sameness. They—like me—are children of God. We together—his sons and daughters.

Today we drove by the “Hallelujah” man—he was a member of the first colony we visited.


He was begging on the side of the road and I couldn’t help but recall the wise words of King Benjamin [a prophet from my scriptures].

 

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

…And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

…And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearths that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.”

What a call to service; and a call to love. These people lack typical Western and worldly possessions, and yet they still find the means to give—a bindi when living off of a monthly wage of $6, indiscernible blessings and praises in a foreign tongue, a simple hug, shared lunch, an elated grin, or even a kind note. They give all they can; they give all they have. Their gifts are deep; they are sincere. They serve one another and us with their whole hearts. Are we not the same in our need to give all that we can? I have learned more of true service from these beautiful people than I have from many I interact with at home. It is easy for me to give a little here, and serve a little there when I am feeling ahead. But here with so little they give incessantly; and they serve unceasingly. They convey love, service, and gratitude to unheard of extents.

Yes we have different opportunities; yes we face different trials and even different triumphs. But we are all beggars. We all must rely upon our Father in Heaven. And we must all serve Him by serving his children; I must serve him—here in India and at home in New York. And how better to learn to truly serve than to simply observe and interact with the people of India, and the people affiliated with Rising Star?

A final thought, continuing with King Benjamin’s sermon,

“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”

My lesson from India: serve to the best of your individual ability. Sacrifice. Love. Serve. But serve according to your position and abilities. There is always someone to serve. There is always someone to love. And there is always something you can give, even if all you can offer is a smile. That smile could be someone’s high for their life. These beautiful people of India are saving the world through their selfless service and love just as much as anyone.

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