Monday, February 27, 2006

Moment #529. French/Swahili. Missed opportunities. Scouting. Mon, Feb 27, 2006.

02/27/2006. Whenever I feel cocky and think I have something down pat, the Lord shows me some of my weaknesses and fears.

The idea of a local road trip occurred to me as I drove home from the singles Family Home Evening at church. The general path I was to take, but not the stops, came to my mind. Not which path to take home, but where to go after I got home. After I got home and was on the computer a bit, it came again as a strong prompting. I then pondered some places to stop, and a particular gas station came to mind. I had placed Amharic material there before, so I assumed it would be Amharic again. That assumption would turn out to be wrong. I had forgotten that lesson which has been repeatedly given before. Don't assume someone's language. But the idea to go to that particular place was strong.

I threw some more books in the car and took off. I bought some hot chocolate at that gas station. When my cashier said "good evening" I replied "good evening" in Amharic. Big mistake on my part. She didn't react. She was from Kenya and spoke several languages including Sawhili. The other cashier was from Benin, and he spoke French and Malinke (for which the church has materials) and several others which the church doesn't have material. He also spoke Kisii, but it was West African Kisii, not Kenyan Kisii.

I brought in French, Swahili, Kisii, and English Books of Mormon. The second cashier was enthusiastic about seeing them. The first cashier was in the process of doing close-out stuff at her register so my conversation was mainly with the 2nd cashier. He confirmed that our Kisii Book of Mormon wasn't his Kisii. He accepted the 2nd pair of Swahili/English books to give the other cashier when she was done working.

I also discovered that I hadn't replaced the Malinke Joseph Smith Testimony in my pamphlet case in the car, so I didn't have one of those to give him.

It was interesting that when I bought the chocolate, there was a long line ahead of me, but when it came to my turn, no one else was behind me.

Missed opportunity.

To get back on the Interstate, I went past another gas station. I felt "the tug" to go there, so I went in and bought a newspaper. The cashier had dreadlocks that looked a bit Caribbean. But he didn't speak any foreign languages. He was a humble man who gave off spiritual light, but I was too chicken to make an "English only" presentation.

As I left and got back in the car, I chickened out and disobeyed a prompting to talk to him more. I didn't have anything prepared to say, and seemed to have forgotten my English-only presentations of the past. I forgot that the Spirit most often doesn't give you something to say until you start talking on your own.

I'll have to go back there and see if it's still proper to make contact.

Another missed opportunity.

As I continued on the general path that had been presented to my mind, the place where I should loop back to go home came to mind. A couple more gas stations along that path then came to mind. So I made the turn-off and found out that the first station was no longer there, but a new one had gone up across the street. I bought a couple gallons of gas there, but did not see any opportunities.

I went to the next gas station on the loop-back, bought a different newspaper, and didn't see any opportunities. But as I was about to leave, I saw a taxi parked at one end of the gas station lot, with the driver inside. The Spirit indicated he was an intended contact, but I feared contacting someone while they were in their vehicle. I wrestled with the Spirit trying to convince myself I was imagining things, but the guilty feeling as I drove away confirmed what I should have done.


A scouting detour.

I got back on the Interstate and headed for home. I contemplated that my lack of humility about the first Swahili/French placement probably had something to do with not having the humility and faith to step outside my comfort zone to make the other two intended contacts.

On the way back home, I got off the Interestate to head toward the gas station where the Caribbean-looking man was working, thinking I might humble myself and still make a presentation. But as I got to the end of the exit ramp, and was about to turn left, I felt a very strong "tug" towards a strip mall or "out-lot" towards the right and across the street. I looked quickly, and couldn't see any obvious place to go like a gas station. I made the left turn anyway, and then that guilty feeling and slight sense of panic hit me.

Having disobeyed twice that night, and having twice felt that feeling of disaproval of the Spirit, I quickly decided to turn around, and made a U-turn at the next light. There was no "U turn prohibited" sign and hardly any other traffic, so I hope it was okay.

I went to that strip mall and out-lot wondering what I was supposed to find there. There were a couple of fast food joints, a bank, a Starbucks, a bar/grill, a nail salon, and, when I got close enough to make out a sign, a Chinese restaurant! That was it. Although I drive on the Interstate past that exit quite often, I had never seen or known about that restaurant. I'll have to go there for lunch soon.

By the time I got to the one gas station again, I felt as if it would be okay to go there another evening. So I went on home.

What a blessing to be able to make deliveries like that, but also what a big lesson that there is so much more to do if only I were more humble, more faithful, and more willing to step out of my comfort zone and trust the Spirit.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Moment #528. How does God do that? Yoruba at Kroger. Sat, Feb 25, 2006.

02/25/2006. It was shortly before midnight, and I was the only person in the check-out lane at Kroger. A lady in traditional African dress and speaking a foreign language on her cell phone got in line behind me.

After paying I waited a bit halfway between the check-out and the exit. As the lady came by I politely asked where she was from. She said Nigeria. I asked if she spoke Igbo or Yoruba. She said Yoruba.

I said my church has a Sunday school manual in Yoruba, and that I had one in my car that I'd like to give her. I asked her to wait inside and I would get it, but she decided to follow me to my car. Another reason I ask people to wait inside while I fetch the material is that I don't want to appear to be a mugger or kidnapper.

But I've given up on trying to explain to people why not to trust strangers. These encounters are not the time for safety lessons. I ask people to wait for me in the safety of the store, but if they want to follow me to my car, I'm not going to argue.

I also have one of those sappy faces that people like to trust, but it also makes me a mark for panhandlers on the street.

I gave her a Yoruba and an English Gospel Fundamentals, and a couple DVDs of Together Forever, and Finding Faith in Christ. She asked a couple questions, and I pointed out the phone numbers in the material. She was very eager, curious and grateful for the material.

I've read that there are over 20,000 African immigrants in central Indiana. So it's not surprising that I meet a few now and then. But the interesting thing is, I didn't realize that there were so many immigrants from Africa until I followed a prompting to put the African language copies of the Book of Mormon in my car on June 18, 2004, and then met a man from Zimbabwe that very day.

Now that I know to be prepared for these chance encounters, maybe they aren't such big miracles to me. But looking at it from the other person's perspective, perhaps it is a miracle to them. That lady went to Kroger to shop, and the guy in line in front of her gave her a church book in her native language. Wow. How is she going to tell that story to her family?

Was this really a chance encounter, or is it something in which we should confess that the Lord has his hand? As in DC 59:21. Why did I procrastinate and wait so long before going shopping? I didn't feel prompted by the Spirit. But did the Lord manipulate either my circumstances or hers to bring us together like that? Or am I over-analyzing this?

"Miracle" or not, I'm going to go along with DC 59:21 and say the Lord had his hand in it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Moment #527. Diet Coke and Amharic. Thu, Feb 23, 2006.

02/23/2006. On my way to an early supper I went a little out of my way to a certain gas station to buy a newspaper there instead of a closer newspaper vending machine in order to see if they had soda on sale, and to possibly follow up on previous book placements there.

Neither of the employees I met on a previous trip were working there, but they did have Diet Coke on sale, two 12-packs for $4.99, with a limit of 10. I got a newspaper and four 12-packs. My cashier was a Caucasian English-speaking guy, but the other cashier appeared African.

I took my purchases out to the car, but hadn't reached the limit, so I went back in for four more. This time my turn came with the African cashier. As he rang me up, I asked if he was from Ethiopia. He said he was from Eritrea. (Eritrea was part of Ethiopia at one time.) I asked if he spoke Amharic, and he said yes. I said "ndayt-wahloo" (good afternoon) and he started speaking in Amharic. I said all I knew as "ndayt-wahloo" and "ndayt-ahmahshoo". I told him that our church has a book in Amharic, that it's a Christian book, and offered him a free copy. He eagerly agreed to see it. I took my stuff out to my car, and brought back in an Amharic and an English Book of Mormon, and waited in line again. I think there was someone in line behind me, so I wanted to be quick. He flipped through the Amharic quickly, read the title, and asked where our church was. I said it was in the flyer inside, and my phone number was also there. I excused myself saying I didn't want to bother him at work, but that he could call me. He seemed upbeat and wasn't reluctant.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Moment #526. French/Twi. Tues, Feb 21, 2006.

02/21/2006. I went to buy some groceries at a local store that carries food typical of Africa and the Caribbean. I've been here several times before. The owner keeps several foreign language Books of Mormon in stock and gives them out to her customers. Today I gave a French copy and an English copy of the Book of Mormon to a customer, with the owner's permission. Her husband was there. Someone had already given him an English copy of the Book of Mormon in a nearby suburb. Today he accepted a copy in his native language of Twi.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Moment #525. Chinese at restaurant. Wed, Feb 15, 2006.

02/15/2006. I had supper at a buffet on W XX Street. I've had lunch here before, but there was a different crew this evening. The bus-boy saw the Chinese Books of Mormon on my table when he collected my plate, but didn't say anything. The girl who brought the check noticed them too.

When I went to pay afterwards, the girl who took my check didn't seem to understand my offer. The older cashier, who spoke perfect English, accepted the English copy, but declined the Chinese, and the girl accepted the Simplified Chinese copy.


Afterwards, I stopped by the apartment of one of the sets of Elders to drop off food. They requested a Tagalog Book of Mormon, so I got one from my car and gave it to them. I also gave them 2 Simplified Chinese, 2 Traditional Chinese and 2 English copies of the Book of Mormon, and told them a little about my restaurant placements. I said that if it was okay with their zone leaders, I could give them a whole bunch to give out to their zone to take with them the next time they went to Chinese restaurants.


On the way home, I stopped at a Shell station looking to make an opportunity, but wasn't able to. I pumped some gas and went in to buy a newspaper, and just missed a man who was wearing African sandals.

How personal or detailed should one be when describing the Spirit?

How personal or detailed should one be when describing communications from the Spirit on a blog entry?

I can tell from my hit-counter service that I have some regular readers, so I'm directing this question mainly to them. I've turned on anonymous comments if any non-Blogspotters want to comment. (Comment moderation is still in effect, so comments won't appear until I approve them.)

In the scriptures, the prophets basically say "The Lord (or the Spirit) told/commanded me." Today, the Brethren usually say "I was/felt impressed" or "I was/felt prompted."

Being prepared for, and sometimes seeking out book-placement opportunities has allowed the Spirit to teach me of ways in which he works that are new to me. I now believe the Spirit can vary the types or methods of inspiration/revelation in addition to the strength or volume. In previous entries, I've described "tugs" where I feel pulled to a place that's within eyesight. Sometimes it's more of a "visual focus" such as when a particular person or place "stands out", and my attention is drawn to them. Sometimes a person appears to give off spiritual light, and I can perceive it radiating from them.

A big lesson for me was learning that the Spirit can implant ideas that feel like my own ideas. These are neither whisperings nor promptings. If I'm in tune with the Spirit, I can identify a whispering/prompting as a something that originates from outside of me and is being communicated to me from the outside in. But the "implanted idea" is something that wells up from within, as an internal desire.

Do you think I should include full details of spiritual thoughts and feelings and how I analyze or discern them when describing these events?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Missed opportunity at gas station. Sat, Feb 11, 2006.

02/11/2006. I exited the gas station going back to my car. At the next pump over from mine was a taxi, and the cabbie was outside of his cab. He appeared to be an immigrant. My focus was drawn to him indicating a contact was called for. Instead of approaching him directly, I made a guess as to his nationality and got what I thought would be the appropriate Book of Mormon from my car. But as I turned to approach him, he was driving off. If I hadn't wasted time digging for the book, I would have had time to politely make contact. Lessons: don't make guesses, and act quickly. I've been taught that before, but apparently haven't learned it. There's more to the story, but it's too personal. A lingering guilty feeling afterward indicated that I had screwed up and the need for a confession.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Being single in the church. Stake Conf talk. Feb 4, 2006.

This talk was given by sister Jeannette Colonna at our Stake Conference Saturday session. Posted with permission. I'm guessing sister C to be in her late 30's.

The conference theme was marriage. And by what I consider to be great diplomacy, sensitivity, and inclusion, the stake presidency invited this sister to talk about being single in a church that focuses so much on the family.

Sister C gave voice to some things that many singles would like to say publicly in the church, but we usually don't have the guts to say them outside of our circle of single friends. Her talk was very diplomatic, and she obviously has a testimony.

I had to restrain myself from not giving this sister a standing ovation at the end of her talk. But if I had, I'm sure the other singles sitting near me would have joined in.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sad history of anti-mormonism.

I recently purchased the 4 volume set of "They Lie in Wait to Deceive" from the FAIRLDS bookstore.

Robert L. and Rosemary Brown expose and skewer phony "doctors" of divinity and others who spread tired old anti-mormon myths.

The Browns do an excellent detailed job with transcripts of radio addresses and photocopies of documents and letters.

I think the "They Lie in Wait to Deceive" series deserves a place on every LDS apologist's bookshelf. $23.90 plus $4.90 shipping.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Moment #524. Tagalog at store. Wed, Feb 8, 2006.

02/08/2006. I was on the other side of town doing errands before going to a meeting. One of my favorite Asian grocery stores had moved, so I wanted to check out the new location. The Filipina owner had previously accepted Tagalog and English copies of the Book of Mormon.

A different lady was working there today. I made some purchases, and struck up a conversation with her. I asked if she had seen the Tagalog Book of Mormon I had given the owner. She said no. But she said that a lot of people in the Philippines were Mormon and they were very nice. She accepted my offer of a Tagalog Book of Mormon, but declined the English.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Moment #523. Chinese at Post Office. Mon, Feb 6, 2006.

02/06/2006. As I entered the Post Office to check my PO Box, I noticed an Asian-looking man waiting in the outer lobby. He appeared to be humble. I checked my box, and it included a Korean and a Chinese Liahona. I approached the man and asked if liked to read Chinese. He said yes. I asked if he was from China or Taiwan, and he said China. The Chinese Liahona is in traditional Chinese, not the Simplified Chinese used in mainland China. But I offered it to him anyway. He eagerly and gratefully accepted it.

I thought about offering him a Chinese and English Book of Mormon, but decided that the magazine was enough. I went back to my car and started to read some of my other mail, but felt a sense of urgency about giving him a Chinese Book of Mormon. I took a Simplified Chinese copy and an English copy of the Book of Mormon back in and presented them, and he graciously accepted them.

Ex-member status.

This blog has gained some new regular readers (I can tell from the IP logs), so I'd like to thank those who link here. And if anyone would like a reciprocal link (see right hand column) let me know.

I've mentioned this in comments on other blogs in the Bloggernacle, but I think it's been a while since (if ever) I mentioned it here. My current status is ex-member.

I joined the church in 1982, went on a mission from 1984 to 1986 (I was at the upper age limit), stopped attending in 1987, requested name-removal in 1991, and came back in 2002.

Because inactivity and leaving the church is a recurring hot topic of the Bloggernacle, yes, it was mainly due to unrepented sin. And the secondary reason is that once you lose the Spirit, small frictions between members turn into offenses, and real offenses become unbearable. As I've prayed and studied to understand where I went wrong "Was it all my fault, or were those other people really jerks?" The answer has been a resounding "Both."

Lessons learned have been:
- Consequences of sin pile up until it becomes painfully apparent that repentance is the easier option.
- Things about others that bug the heck out of you are generally problems that you have yourself. IE. "it takes one to know one." Or, as in Romans 2: 1,3.
- Once you have a testimony, there's no neutral ground.
- You can know something by the Spirit with greater surety than having seen it with your eyes. Page 38, Gospel Principles.
- Section 19 is true, especially verse 20. You could say the Lord gave me a "section 19." The "my Spirit" that ends the verse likely has a dual-meaning, both the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ. And when he withdraws His Light of Christ from you, that is Hell. I now believe that is the definition of "Hell" (capital "H") or Spirit Prison, a place where the Light of Christ does not go. As we know from Revelation 20:13, and Section 76, hell is a "temporary" place (except for the sons of perdition.) I believe that that "temporary Hell" (if you can call a millenium temporary) is a small version of, or taste of, outer darkness.

Apparently, you don't have to be a member to buy printed matter from the Distribution Center. They sold me all those Books of Mormon, so now that they are my property, I can dispose of them or give them out to whomever I want.

At times when I pray, I wonder if I should be doing all this, and I say "But I'm not a member, I'm not worthy." And the answer seems to be "I know. Do it anyway."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A follow-up. Sat, Feb 4, 2006.

02/04/2006. Our stake center is about a 45 minute drive from where I live, so I like to take advantage of such trips to find new opportunities and follow up at previous locations where I made placements.

On the way to and from Saturday evening session of Stake Conference I took note of some of the ethnic restaurants in the neighborhood of the stake center. Near the main intersection, there's an Indian restaurant and a Korean/Japanese restaurant on one quadrant, a sit-down Chinese restaurant on another quadrant, and a Chinese buffet on the third quadrant.

After stake conference I bought gas at a station that I hadn't been to before. I didn't see any opportunities there. When I buy gas now, I don't fill up the tank. One reason is that I don't want to make the car too heavy because of all the books I carry around. Another reason is to have the ability to buy gas should the Spirit prompt. I realize some may think that silly, but it happens.

I then stopped at a second gas station where I had made placements before, hoping for a follow-up, and got some hot chocolate, but didn't see any obvious opportunities. But, I've felt a bit guilty about not striking up a conversation with the English-speaking anglo cashier, which indicates it might have been an opportunity. He seemed rather humble, and may have been receptive to a pass-along card.

A few miles down the road on the way to the Interstate I stopped at a third gas station where I had made several placements before. I went inside to prepay for fuel, and recognized the cashier who previously accepted books and perhaps a DVD. We practiced a little French and Wolof. If I gave him a DVD previously, it would have been "Together Forever" which has a French audio track. This time I gave him "Heavenly Father's Plan" which also has a French audio track.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Moment #522. Punjabi/Hindi at gas station. Wed. Feb 1, 2006.

02/01/2006. I left the laundromat and went to the bank branch and got some cash from the ATM. Leaving the bank I turned to go home, and then received what I thought was a clear prompting to take another just slightly longer route along the main road I had been on. So I turned around and went back to the main street and continued on.

Down the street there was a fast food restaurant on the left side of the street that caught my attention and I felt "tugged" there. However, it was too late to turn directly into their parking lot. The next business over was a convenience store gas station. I thought I'd get a newspaper at the convenience store and go back to the fast food restaurant and read it there while having a 99 cent sandwich.

It turned out the convenience store was an intended destination anyway.

The family running the store was from India.

I bought a newspaper, and asked the gentleman what languages he spoke. He said English and Punjabi, and then he asked me what languages I spoke. I said English and Spanish. He said "gracias."

I forget if he said Hindi too, but everyone from India speaks the national language of Hindi, and in addition to that speaks their state or regional language, such as Gujerati, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, etc.

The gentleman was very friendly and agreed to see the books I offered. He was not reluctant at all, but it seemed he agreed more out of a sense of customer relations than of genuine interest.

I went to the car and got Punjabi and English Gospel Fundamentals, and Hindi and English copies of the Book of Mormon.

The older gentleman had sat back down and a younger man who had overheard our conversation was now at the counter. He eagerly accepted the books and asked where our church was. I pointed out the info flyers in the books and my card. We chatted a bit and then I left.

To obey the original prompting, I then drove next door to the fast food place, but the door to the dining area was locked, and only their drive-through was open. That has happened before, being directed to a highly visible place in order to get to a nearby place that was not as visible. Or, of receiving generalized directions, and not having the details made known until I get there.

After I got home I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all and offered a prayer of thanksgiving and to ask blessings on those to whom I gave books. I've debated whether or not to include mentioning the promptings in this and the previous post, or just include the outward facts of where, when, and what. I may go back and edit those out later.

I don't feel particularly worthy of such divine guidance. But I'll risk belaboring a point that I'm not sure is obvious. The Lord knows where everyone is. He knows who is ready to have a seed planted. If a seed-planter with seeds is driving past someone who is ready to receive a seed, is not the Lord capable of prompting the seed-planter to make contact?

One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage people to go and do likewise. I encourage you to find out what languages are spoken in your town, and keep copies of the Book of Mormon in those languages in your car. Or use pass-along cards, and keep a list handy of Book of Mormon languages.

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Moment #521. Amharic at laundromat. Wed, Feb 1, 2006.

02/01/2006. Have you ever received promptings in the form of driving directions, or heard others tell such stories? They obey the prompting and barely miss having an accident, or they disobey the prompting and get in an accident?

I was at the chapel on an errand and could take one of several streets home, "over and up," or "up and over." I thought I received a clear prompting to take a certain street. That route would take me past an ATM and I needed some cash anyway. At the time, I didn't firmly connect it with possible book placements.

Before I got to the ATM, there's a laundromat that I've been to before, but not one of my regular places. I received what I thought was a clear prompting to go in there. I was able to obey in time and pull over without having to turn around and backtrack. I knew they had snack machines, so I planned to get an ice cream bar. I was now on the look-out to see if this would turn into a book placement. Near the front was an African-American lady and her daughter talking to the attendant. They were wearing totally American clothing, and did not seem to speak with an accent.

I went towards the back to a vending machine and got an ice cream bar. I started to eat the ice cream bar, dawdled a bit, looked around, saw some hispanic individuals, but I did not see anyone who stood out as an intended contact. I wondered if I had imagined or ginned-up the prompting.

I started to leave, but when I got near the front door I detected an accent in the speech of the lady as she talked to her daughter. I turned back and it was as if my eyes and ears were opened and I now perceived or discerned her as an African immigrant.

I took a step towards her, but still at a respectful distanced asked "Parlez vous francais?" She didn't understand, so I asked in English if she spoke French. She said no. I took another step towards her, and asked her where she was from. She said East Africa. I asked which country, and she said Eritrea. I asked if she spoke Tigrinya, and she said yes. I asked if she could read Amharic, and she said a little.

I said I had a book in Amharic from my church, it was free, and offered to show it to her. She agreed with no indication of reluctance. So I went to my car and brought in Amharic and English copies of the Book of Mormon.

We chit-chatted a bit, and I practiced some Amharic words with her, and fortunately her Amharic matched up with the language CD I have. She showed some interest in the church, so I pointed out the address on the info flyer I put in the books, and pointed out the number of the local mission office. I asked her to call them or me if she'd like to talk to our lady missionaries.

It was a very friendly encounter.