Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Moment #520. Amharic at parking garage. Tue, Jan 31, 2006

01/31/2006. I entered a downtown parking garage, and the attendant told me it was pre-pay. He was an African-looking man and spoke with an accent. I decided to speak with him when I came back if he was still on duty.

After the event I entered the parking garage on foot, and saw another man at the booth, and saw the first man walking from the attendant area to the parking area. I only had a couple seconds to act. I got his attention and asked if he spoke French. He did not. I asked where he was from and he said Ethiopia. I asked if he spoke Amharic and he said yes. I excitedly said I had a book in Amharic in my car, that it was from my church and was free. I asked if he liked to read in Amharic and he said yes. I offered to give him a free copy, and he agreed. He was parked on the first floor and I was on the third so I asked him to wait for me and I'd bring it down.

I walked calmly into the stairwell, then ran up the stairs, went to my car, got Amharic and English copies out of my trunk, and drove perhaps a little too fast down to the ground level. I parked my car near his and he got out of his car, and I presented the Amharic copy of the Book of Mormon. We chit-chatted a little about it, and he also accepted the English copy to go with it.

He helped me practice a few words in Amharic. He recognized the words I learned from one of my CD's. His dialect and pronunciation was closer to the speaker on the CD than the last person I practiced with, so I was a little relieved. He seemed pleased at my efforts. I said my name and number were in the books, and asked him to call me if any of his friends wanted copies.

Moment #519. Amharic at laundromat. Tue, Jan 31, 2006.

01/31/2006. I needed to do laundry this afternoon. I was planning on going to the laundromat a little farther away, which is cleaner, is no-smoking and a little cheaper than the closer one. But while driving past the closer one, I felt "the tug" indicating I should do my laundry there.

Shortly after I got there an Ethiopian looking lady with two daughters came in. And shortly after them, two more Ethiopian ladies came in who looked like recent immigrants. I recognized the latter two from having given them Amharic copies of the Book of Mormon before.

The latter two ladies had a discussion over one of the washers, and it looked like they needed help, so I pointed out to the attendant that they might need help. Then I realized the first Ethiopian lady, who looked very Amercanized could also probably help them, so I asked her if she spoke Amharic. She said yes, and I pointed out the other two ladies who might need help with a washer.

It turned out the two ladies didn't need help anyway, but it was a nice ice-breaker. I saw the three of them conversing later.

The first lady was busy helping her daughters with home-work so I didn't want to interrupt. But later as I was taking my last group of clothes out to the car, she was getting some stuff out of a dryer nearby, and that was a chance to approach her. I held out the Amharic Book of Mormon and asked if she had seen it before. She showed interest in it and asked about it.

It turned out she wasn't from Ethiopia, but from Eritrea, the neighboring country which used to be a part of Ethiopia. Their native language is Tigrinya, but she spoke Amharic too, and could read it a little bit. Those two languages use the same alphabet.

She graciously accepted the Amharic and the English Book of Mormon. The daughters were curious too.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Connecting missionary dots. Sun, Jan 29, 2006.

01/29/2006. Last Sunday I gave an Indonesian Book of Mormon to the set of elders teaching a man from Indonesia. Later in the week I remembered that two of the members of our ward are from Malaysia and speak Malaysian, which is almost the same as Indonesian, just a different accent. They are ethnic Chinese and Mandarin is their main language, Malaysian their second, and English their third or fourth. So before sacrament meeting, I pointed them out to the missionaries and told them that the brothers speak Indonesian. And I also told the two brothers which set of elders had an Indonesian investigator. Hopefully, they'll get together.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Moment #518. Thai declined. Fri, Jan 27, 2006.

01/27/2006. I was driving through a shopping center when I noticed a Southeast-Asian looking man standing at a bus stop shelter. He stood out in a way that drew my attention. I continued on, but within about 15 seconds, I felt a sense of urgency about contacting him. So I looped back and parked near the bus stop. I happened to have Thai and Chinese copies of the Liahona magazine in the car, so I grabbed those and my small case of Chinese Books of Mormon.

I forget how I started the conversation, but he was not interested. I couldn't tell if he was not fluent in English, or just extremely shy, so I didn't prolong the conversation. But he did see the covers of both magazines.

This was one of those situations where I wonder if I erred in my approach or if the purpose was something other than a placement. Probably both, as my approach was not very smooth.

Unsuccessful placement attempts can still serve several purposes. As long as the other person sees the title of the Book of Mormon, or the Liahona magazine, or the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet, an idea or image has been planted that the Holy Ghost can later latch on to. If that person ever seeks religious truth in the future, then the Holy Ghost can bring that image or testimony to remembrance, and either lead them to it, or cause them to recognize it the next time they see it.

Another possible purpose is that the Lord tries to reach out to people even when he knows they will not respond. Such has happened to me many times in my life. As I've pondered the many mistakes in my life, the Spirit brings to memory the promptings or the people who tried to help me, but I wouldn't listen.

Sure, many people have lived and died on this earth without having a chance to hear the gospel, but one of the Lord's purposes is to give as many people as possible a chance to hear. And the scriptures are clear that everyone must hear before the Second Coming.

I think a common question people will ask in the hereafter is "Lord, why didn't you let people know you had an official church on earth?" And the Lord or one of his representatives will answer "Do you remember those two young men in suits and black name tags who knocked on your door that one day?" Or, "Do you remember that fat guy who tried to give you that blue book at your restaurant?"

As hard as it is for me to comprehend the idea, the Lord loves me too. He wants me to learn new things. That was my first approach at a bus stop, therefore it may have been appropriate that the sense of urgency was so clear. It reminds me of the first time I was prompted to speak with a fellow customer at a gas station instead of the clerk. Or, the first time I was prompted to stop at a gas station when I didn't really need anything. Or, the first time I was prompted to stop some place, and actually had to wait for my intended contact to show up, instead of them already being there.

Many times the Lord dumped opportunities right in my lap such as standing right next in line to someone who was overjoyed to receive church material in their native language. But sometimes the Lord has asked me to go out of my way a bit. It's completely in line with gospel principles for the Lord to expect us to put forth effort and sometimes go out of our comfort zone.

As I ponder what I am to learn from this encounter at the bus stop, I have the idea of actually sitting on the bench and letting a conversation develop more naturally, or of even taking a bus ride.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Moment #517. French/Wolof/Arabic, gas station. Tue, Jan 24, 2006.

01/24/2006. I was driving home from having lunch in a city about an hour away. I came to one of the suburbs of Indianapolis and had a strong impression that I should take this exit as there would be another opportunity on my way home. This would take me through a few business districts instead of pure highway.

Just after getting off the exit there is a Shell gas station. I wasn't thinking of it prior to exiting the highway, but I wondered if this was one of the franchises owned by the man who hires a lot of Senegalese. No prompting here, but it was worth a try, so I stopped in and bought a newspaper.

The one clerk looked like he could be West African. He spoke English very well, and I didn't detect a noticeable accent. I took a gamble and asked "Parlez vous francais?" He said "oui." I asked where he was from, and he said Senegal. I asked "Parlez vous Wolof?" and he said "oui." I said "Tuuti Wolof rek laa degg" (trans: "I speak just a little Wolof") which I learned from a language CD set. He started to speak in Wolof, but I said that was about all the Wolof I knew.

I offered him free church books in French and Wolof and he agreed to see them. I brought in Wolof/English Gospel Fundamentals and the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet, and French/English copies of the Book of Mormon, and presented them. He graciously accepted.

There was another clerk who looked Middle Eastern. I asked if he spoke any other languages, and he said Arabic. I offered him a book in Arabic, and he agreed. I went out and brought back in Arabic and English copies of the Book of Mormon for him. We shook hands, he thanked me, and I said "afwan," you're welcome in Arabic. I saw him flipping through the Arabic copy as I got into my car.

It felt like my assignments were over, so I got back on the Interstate to go home.

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Moment #516. Chinese at out-of-town buffet. Tue, Jan 24, 2006.

01/24/2006. I went to lunch at a Chinese buffet in a town about 1 hour from Indianapolis. I took in my big black bag of books in various languages. My standard Chinese restaurant set includes English, Traditional Chinese, Simmplified Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Spanish. The waitress/hostess seated me, and asked my drink preference. I thought about putting out the Chinese books prior to going to wash my hands and getting my first plate. Usually I want to be there to witness the waitress' first impression so I decided against it. But I think I should have put them out first.

After getting my first plate, I put out three books (both kinds of Chinese, plus an English one underneath one of the Chinese copies), and then a different waitress came by. She came by a couple times for me and other customers before finally noticing the books. She didn't say anything the first time she noticed them, and there didn't seem time to strike up a conversation.

Finally, she came by and inititiated a conversation about them. Her English seemed limited to very little besides restaurant vocabulary, and she said she couldn't read English. But I think I got across the idea that she might be able to learn by reading both together. She ended up accepting a Simplified Chinese and an English copy, and accepting another pair for anyone else.

I used to put addresses and food recommendations in these reports that I sent to the ward mission leader and some friends. But I decided to withhold that information from public posts.

Driving home from this lunch appointment led to the next placement.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Indonesian to missionaries, Chinese. Sun, Jan 22, 2006.

01/22/2006. Between meetings one of the sets of missionaries in our ward said they are teaching a man from Indonesia, and asked if I had a Book of Mormon in that language. I got him one from my car. They can special order them through the mission office, but it would take at least 3 weeks.

I met a brother visiting from Idaho, and he said he would be driving back this week. I asked if he ever ate at Chinese restaurants, and he said yes. I gave him three Books of Mormon in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English and suggested he stop at a Chinese restaurant along the way. I explained how Simplified Chinese was created by the communist government to promote literacy, and is therefore for people from China proper. And that Traditional Chinese is for people from outside of China, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sad story about a Triple.

I purchased a used Triple combination on Ebay from a reputable book-seller in Utah. There were inscriptions in it, indicating a married couple, their birthdates, the date of their marriage, and the names and birthdates of two children. The inscription date was in 1982.

I did a search on their names at Google.com. The father is currently an inmate in a Federal Correctional Institution. He's been there for several years, and will be there for many more. The oldest son, who was under 2 years old when the book was inscribed, is in a county jail in Utah.

Part of the family's story can be found in legal documents on the web. It's sad.

The book is in near mint condition, so I doubt it was in their family for a long time. But the father, on his prison-pen-pal web page, claims to be LDS.

I'm going to offer the book to the son, and if he doesn't want it, I'll see if I can offer it to the father. It may remind them of happier times.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Moment #515. Yoruba at laundromat. Fri, Jan 20, 2006.

01/20/2006. (Actually starting late Thursday night the 19th). I was doing a late-nighter at the all-night laundromat. There were several Hispanic individuals and couples, but nobody obviously stood out. There was one couple at the next folding table over from mine that was real lovey-dovey, with lots of PDA. The thought of offering them a "Together Forever" DVD crossed my mind, but I didn't think I had any in the car. They reminded me of a young married couple that a companion and I taught in my mission 20 years ago. That couple investigated the church because they were attracted to the idea of being together forever.

There was one African-looking young man, but his dress was rather Americanized. The main clue that he might have been African was his shoulder bag, something I've rarely if ever seen young African-American men carry. He was by himself at first, but was sitting with an African-American young lady when I was using the dryers. I decided not to contact him.

I had a lot of laundry, so it took several trips to the car to take everything out. On my last trip out, he was using a dryer near the door, and I got that antsy feeling that indicated a contact was in order, but I chickened out thinking it was too late. As I grabbed my last group of clothes on hangers and approached the exit, the automatic door didn't open, and I couldn't leave. Hmmmm, coincidence? Is God trying to tell me something? I thought it possible that I had approached the door from the wrong angle, and the detector device that opens the door just didn't see me.

Whether just a random malfunction, or approaching at the wrong angle, or divine intervention, the pause at the closed door was enough to allow me to repent of my "chickening out" and decide to approach the man.

So with clothes-on-hangers in one hand, I walked the four steps back to speak to the gentleman. There was a folding table between us, so it was a respectful distance, and I was not invading his space. I asked him if he spoke French. He said no. I asked if he spoke any other languages, and he said yes, and that he was from Africa, from Nigeria. I asked if he spoke Igbo, and he said no, that he spoke Yoruba.

I said I had a Yoruba Sunday School manual from my church in my car, and offered to show it to him, and he enthusiastically said yes.

I took my clothes out to the car, and retrieved Yoruba and English copies of Gospel Fundamentals, Yoruba and English copies of the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet, an English Book of Mormon, and an English Bible.

I presented the Yoruba Gospel Fundamentals to him, and he eagerly started flipping through the pages. He said he could just barely read Yoruba. I said that I knew that only English is taught in Nigerian schools, and he nodded his head. Then he said that his parents would really like it though. I offered him the English version, and he accepted that too. I still had the plastic zip lock bag of an English Bible and English Book of Mormon. I asked if he needed a Bible, and he indicated he already had one. I offered the Book of Mormon to go with his Bible. He asked what it was, and I said that we use it in conjunction with the Bible, and he accepted it.

I practiced a few words in Yoruba with him, and he could understand me. He seemed pleased at my attempts. I said I learned it from a CD. I suggested that if he knew anyone else who wanted Yoruba material to please contact me, and I took my leave.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Moment #514. French-Arabic-Yoruba-Amharic. Thu, Jan 19, 2006.

01/19/2006. I stopped at a gas station located between the sister missionaries and the Post Office to get a money order for an Ebay purchase. The clerk who waited on me appeared to be Ethiopian. The other clerk appeared to be West African and his name-tag was the same name as someone to whom I gave a French Book of Mormon at a Shell gas station over a year ago. There were no other customers, so it was a perfect opportunity to converse.

I asked the second clerk if I had given him a blue book in French at a Shell station, and he said no. In French, I asked if he spoke French and he said yes. So, again in French, I said I had a book in French, from my church, and that it was free, and asked if he'd like to see it. He said sure. We chit-chatted a bit more in mixed English and French. He is from Benin, which is next to Nigeria in western Africa. He also speaks Arabic and Yoruba, and agreed to see books in those languages too. He's ethnic Yoruba, and his parents were originally from Nigeria. When he said he spoke and read Arabic, the first clerk said that was because he was Muslim, so I said the books were Christian, and asked if that was still okay, and he said of course. He also speaks Gun, a regional language of Benin, but the church doesn't have anything in Gun.

The first clerk also agreed to see books in Amharic.

I brought in several books in their languages. I gave the Ethiopian clerk Amharic and English copies of the Book of Mormon, Amharic and English copies of Gospel Fundamentals, and Amharic and English copies of the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet. I don't normally give out Amharic Gospel Fundamentals, but since I was going to give it to the other man in Yoruba, I wanted things to be even-steven.

I gave the man from Benin Arabic, French, and English copies of the Book of Mormon, Yoruba and English Gospel Fundamentals, Yoruba and English copies of the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet.

For both, I presented their native langauge materials first, then asked if they wanted the English "to go along with it" and they both enthusiastically said yes. They were both very fluent in English.

Moment #513. French to missionaries. Thu, Jan 19, 2006.

01/19/2006. I received a phone call from the sister missionaries. They received a media referral for a French Book of Mormon request, and asked if I had one. They were home for lunch, and I was headed in that direction to run errands anyway. I took them a French Book of Mormon, French paperback New Testament, English paperback New Testament, "Our Heritage" in French, the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet in French, the multilingual "Special Witnesses of Christ" DVD that has a French audio track, and the multilingual "Together Forever" DVD with a French audio track. Maybe overkill, but they can space them out as they feel proper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Moment #512. Chinese declined at restaurant. Wed, Jan 18, 2006.

01/18/2006. This was an "almost." On my way home I stopped at a Chinese buffet that I hadn't been to before. I asked the cashier, who seemed very Americanized, where their family was from, and she said China. I asked if she liked to read Chinese and she said no, that she only went to first grade there before coming here. I showed her the Simplified Chinese and English copies of the Book of Mormon but she wasn't interested.

I put my stuff down at a table, and put the two books out, and went to get some food from the buffet. The waitress noticed the books. I could tell by her speech that she was a more recent immigrant.

One of the times the waitress passed my table, she touched the Chinese Book of Mormon that I had displayed on my table. I offered both books, but she indicated she didn't read English. I opened both books to 1 Nephi 1:1, to demonstrate that they were the same book in two languages, and she got that part. She accepted the Chinese book and sat down at the table next to mine and started reading it. A good sign, but she eventually gave it back.

I wasn't sure if she understood it was free, so I later offered it to her again, and she again sat at the next table and read some more, and eventually gave it back again. She was very polite and humble.

She apparently wasn't interested in the content, but I'm not sure she grasped the bilingual nature and the possibility of learning English from the two books.

I felt rather positive about the place and the experience, so I plan on going back for lunch some time.


Moments #510-511. Chinese to members. Wed, Jan 18, 2006.

01/18/2006. A long time member, who is ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, married a lady from China, and her young-adult daughter was baptized. The daughter lives here in Indianapolis, and her parents live in Illinois. The step-father performed the baptism tonight here in Indianapolis.

A member from Columbus Indiana, an anglo guy, who served a mission in Taiwan, helped the sister missionaries teach the lessons. He was there, and offered the closing prayer in Chinese. After the service I gave him three copies of the Book of Mormon in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English. I told him a little about giving them out at restaurants.

He said that the young lady didn't have one in Simplified Chinese. I thought she had, because the sister missionaries had indicated so. But he spoke with her, and confirmed she didn't have the right kind. She's from mainland (communist) China, and the book she had was Traditional Chinese, the kind used by Chinese outside of China (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, etc.)

So as we were all standing in the hallway after the service, I handed her one of the Simplified Chinese books.

There is another local member, from the neighboring Avon ward, who was in the Army and was stationed many years in Taiwan, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He's an anglo guy, and knows this Chinese family from Malaysia. I thought he might be a more convenient resource than the brother from Columbus IN. The young lady didn't know him, but her step-dad did. I gave her the phone numbers of this brother in Avon. Her step dad said it's been years since he talked to him, so I called the brother in Avon on my cell phone, and handed it to the Chinese brother from Illinois. I couldn't understand what he said, as they spoke in Mandarin, but I could tell it was a happy reunion. When he was done, I gave him the brother's phone numbers too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Moment #509. Donation to Library book sale. Tue, Jan 17, 2006.

01/17/2006. Today I mailed out a package containing some books to a libary in a neighboring county. A few days ago I read in an old newspaper that they had regular book sales, so I called to see if they were still accepting donations, and get their mailing address. I wasn't sure if it was a prompting or my own idea, but the idea impressed itself upon me to the point where I decided to act upon it.

I sent them a hardback Book of Mormon, an inexpensive used quadruple combination that I had purchased on Ebay, Gospel Principles, Our Heritage, True to the Faith, a "Joy to the World" DVD, and an English/Spanish "Finding Faith in Christ" DVD.

If nothing else, it put me at the Post Office at the right time to meet the Indonesian man.

Moment #508. Indonesian at Post Office. Tue, Jan 17, 2006

01/17/2006. I stopped at the Post Office on the way to the gym in order to check mail and mail out a package. In my PO Box were some copies of the February 2006 Liahona in several languages. I then got in line to mail out my package.

It's happened before, so I wondered "Will I meet someone who speaks one of these languages?"

There was an Asian-looking man at the counter in the inner lobby. The line was long, so I was standing in the outer lobby. After that man was finished at the counter, he walked by me and I politely got his attention and asked what languages he spoke? He was polite and humble. He said he spoke Indonesian. I said I thought he might have spoken Chinese, and said I was going to offer him a free magazine, and showed him the Chinese Liahona.

I forget how we finished our brief conversation, but we said goodbye and he continued on his way.

I forget at what point I remembered I had an Indonesian Book of Mormon in the car. I think it occurred to me while we were talking, but I wasn't fast or smooth enough to mentally shift gears from Chinese to Indonesian. I was expecting the Lord to make it too easy.

I turned around, and the man was still at a counter in the outer lobby. I came to my senses and realized I could still offer him the Indonesian book. Giving out a Book of Mormon is worth more than losing my place in line.

I got out of line, walked over to the man, and struck up a conversation again. I looked kind of scruffy in my sweats and uncombed hair. There were other people in the lobby noticing us but I didn't care.

I told the man I had a book in Indonesian in my car, that it was from my church, that it was free, and I wanted to give it to him. He seemed a little reluctant, but it was more from surprise that someone wanted to give him a free book. He was a very humble man, and not reluctant to converse, but I was just presenting him with a situation he was not familiar with.

I asked if I could just show it to him, and he indicated it was okay. I asked him to wait in the lobby, and would get it. I retrieved the Indonesian and an English Book of Mormon from my car. He was still at the same spot, and I presented it to him. He was genuinely interested, and probably wanted to chit-chat for longer than I was willing to. He said he's been in the United States for about 30 years, that he was retired, and hasn't read anything in Indonesian for a long time.

He was still surprised at the new situation I had presented him, but he was genuinely grateful, and looked at a couple passages in the Indonesian Book of Mormon almost wistfully. It was more than a merely flip through.

I also presented the English copy, and opened both books to 1 Nephi 1:1, to show him they are parallel, hoping that he would read them together, and hoping it would generate interest.

We shook hands and I then got back in line in the inner lobby.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Crystal's conversion story. Donnie O's autobiography, & the BoM.

Crystal has a cool conversion story posted on her blog. Here's the condensed version: She developed a crush on Donnie Osmond and watched the "Donny & Marie Daytime Talk Show." She bought a copy of his autobiography and was intrigued even more. She went to his web site and learned about his beliefs and felt comfortable with them. She told Grandma about reading up on the Mormons. Grandma gave her a Book of Mormon she had bought at a Catholic book sale. [Hence the tie-in to "Flood the Earth."] Crystal goes to college, and finds the LDS Student Associaton. Goes up to their table and says: "Hi. My name is Crystal, and I want to join your church."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Missed opportunity. Sat Jan 7, 2006.

01/07/2006. This was one of those situations where I felt the opportunity slip away in real-time, and afterwards a guilty conscience re-inforced the lesson. A feeling of guilt or the withdrawal of the Spirit is a wonderful feedback tool, and failures can be as instructional as successes. Since I've blogged so many good experiences, it seems only fair to record some failures. That, and the guilty conscience usually doesn't go away until I 'fess up.

I needed to drop off a payment at the Post Office Saturday night so that it would go out at the first pickup Monday. And I needed to gas up the car for Sunday travel.

There is a gas station near the Post Office but I decided to go to the Post Office first.

Right as I pulled into the gas station, I made eye contact with an Asian-looking man using the opposite side of the pump that I was driving toward. It was an eye contact that indicated some kind of connection. It was a "bingo!" moment.

But there just wasn't enough time to "cooly" approach him before he got into his car. Had I hustled, I could have gotten his attention after he entered his car, and spoken to him through his car window, but it would have come across as intrusive and "major uncool." Yet in the moments I hesitated, I felt that familiar antsy feeling of him being an "intended contact."

After the moment was gone the guilt set in, and has come to mind every day since then. (I write this Wednesday the 11th.)

If I had gone to the gas station first, the moment would have been perfect. Perhaps I failed to listen and hearken to the Spirit in my decision of going to the Post Office first. I'm not sure of that part. But, I definitely let fear overrule at the pump.

I've had this lesson before, of being prompted to step out of my comfort zone and "look stupid" for a minute, but apparently I haven't fully learned it.

The real issue wasn't that talking to the man through his car window would have been "major uncool." The issues were whether or not the Lord really wanted that man to have an opportunity to receive the Book of Mormon, and if so, whether or not I was going to obey Him by being the delivery boy.

Over the last few months, I've noticed the opportunities for book placements taper offer; or, I just haven't noticed the opportunities. I haven't been as close to the Spirit the past few months, so I assume the latter. I need to fix that.