Some of the overall story.
05/24/2006. This is in response to a comment by danithew to a previous post.
I described the Chinese aspect in this post here. Here's another post that describes one reason why I do this.
I guess I need to write down the overall story and how it started. Here's a start.
1. My mission president over 20 years ago sent my companion and I to Chinese restaurants with Chinese Books of Mormon. No baptisms, but some "Hmmmm" moments. I forget if we paired them with Spanish copies or not.
2. In 2004, a 70, Elder H. Bryan Richards, told our stake at stake conference to "pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to put people in your path whom the missionaries could teach." I prayed that.
3. A little later, I had a crazy idea to buy 3 copies of all 103 translations of the Book of Mormon at some point after that stake conference, but I didn't connect it with anything. I thought that I would donate them as "sets" to university language departments or libraries for use as a "Rosetta Stone."
3. I ordered extra Chinese copies to resurrect the Chinese restaurant idea from the mission. I ordered extra African language copies for a member friend from Africa.
4. I went to a Chinese restaurant, and boom, it worked. It was actually a Vietnamese-owned Chinese restaurant, so it was a Vietnamese Book of Mormon that was offered and accepted.
5. The very next day, I met an African lady at the gym, I could tell by the Amharic writing on her t-shirt, which looked like the title on the Amharic Book of Mormon, because it is very unique. I had alphabetized, made labels, organized, and shelved the Books of Mormon, so I remembered a few that were in non-latin (non "abc") alphabet. She agreed to see my Amharic Book of Mormon, I ran home, and got it, and she was very happy to received it.
6. Later that month, the Spirit told me to "put the African language books in your car." That message went beyond a "prompting" or "impression" and was well into the "obvious" territory of being commanded by the Spirit. There was no confusion about the message. It was a matter of saluting, saying "yes sir!" and doing it. So I did it. Actually, the idea to put them in the car occurred to me several days before, but I procrastinated until the Spirit made it obvious.
Based on the above, you should see that this project was not my idea. It was a synthesis of what my mission president assigned years ago, what Elder Richards said at our conference, an "implanted desire" (to buy 3 sets of all languages of the BofM), and the Lord then commanding me (through the Holy Ghost) to put some in my car. So once the ducks were all in a row, boom - boom - boom, things started happening. From that point out, it became variations-on-the-theme, and refining techniques.
7. Within a few hours of putting the African language Books of Mormon in my car, I stopped at a gas station to buy some pop on sale, the cashier was a black man who spoke with an accent. You guessed it, he spoke one (later I found out it was two) African languages in which the Book of Mormon is translated. I ran out to the car and got him Zulu and English copies. It was a "WOW!" moment. The Lord knew who I was going to meet that day!
8. I saw the Lord's pattern, so I started buying extra copies. And I started to figure out what languages were spoken in town. I knew there were a lot of people from India, the middle east, Africa, etc. I googled all 103 languages to see what countries they were spoken in. I looked up the Nationalities Council of Indianapolis, to see what countries had associations or clubs in town. German club, Philippines club, Latvian school, Lithuanian school, India Association, etc, etc. And then I stocked my car with all languages spoken in those countries.
9. The next step was buying the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet, and "Gospel Principles (Simplified)" a.k.a. "Gospel Fundamentals" in languages for which there is no Book of Mormon yet, such as Fulani, Pashto, Somali, Wolof.
10. The encounters are of three types of situations:
a. Where I try to create an opportunity, by intentionally going to Chinese, Mexican, or other ethnic restaurants. Or by stopping at gasoline stations and independently owned convenience stores where there is a good possibility of finding employees who are immigrants. If my business or errand takes me from point A to point B, and I see a gas station that I haven't been to before, I sometimes stop there on my own volition just to see if I can create an opportunity.
b. Situations where the opportunity just "plops in my lap", wherein I'm doing normal things like shopping, doing laundry, or buying gas (when I really have to) and the person next in line or passing by me just happens to be an immigrant.
c. About 10% of the situations are where the Spirit either tells me or "tugs" me to go to a certain place, somewhere that is usually along my path of travel (and on rare occasions even out of my way), and an employee there or fellow customer is an immigrant who is willing to receive material. The Spirit has several methods of communication. One is a "spotlight effect", in which a location just "stands out" above all other places and things in view, kind of like Roma Downey having that angel spotlight shined on her in the TV show, "Touched by an Angel." But you see it more with your spiritual eyes, than with your natural eyes. Another is similar, in which my "visual focus" is drawn to it. A third is a "tug" in which I feel a spiritual pull like being a dog on a spiritual leash. A fourth way is that the idea of going to a certain place enters my mind and heart, and does so in a way that I can tell that the source of the communication is external to me, and is not my own idea or desire. A fifth way is that a desire to go to a certain place can well up inside of me, and it is "my" desire; I can't always tell, but if I'm paying attention well enough, I can sometimes tell it was an "implanted" desire. A sixth way is that the still small voice of the Spirit just plain tells me to alter my itinerary, or to just go someplace.
And then there are combinations of b) and c), where I'm someplace just doing what I would normally do, but the spirit points out an individual and says "Him!" or "Her!".
My standard conversation starters are "Where are you from?" or "What languages besides English do you speak?" or "Do you speak any foreign languages?"
For people who are not obviously immigrants, just plain English-only-speaking Americans, my conversations starters are "Would you like a free Bible?" or "I like to give out Bibles. Do you need, or would you like a free Bible?" And regardless of the answer, the follow up is: "Would you like a free Book of Mormon to go along with it? My church believes in the Bible and the Book of Mormon." You can get paperback Bibles for $2.00/each plus shipping from American Bible Society and International Bible Society. I call that "doing an Ezekiel." I carry around copies in Spanish RVR-1960, King James, NIV, and TNIV.
People can easily understand an offer of a Bible, and can grasp where you're coming from. Offering a free Bible says that you believe in it and promote it. And the offer of a free Bible with a Book of Mormon clearly indicates that you believe the Book of Mormon goes with the Bible and does not contradict or replace the Bible. An offer of a Book of Mormon alone begs the question: "Don't you believe the Bible?" The offer of both eliminates the normal and logical (but mistaken) assumption that we're replacing the Bible.
I often, but not always, underline the last phrase of John 21:25, "the books that should be written" and stick a Book of Mormon pass-along card there. I hope to create a link in the mind of the reader between that phrase and the Book of Mormon. In the NIV and other modern translations it's "the books that would be written", which is even better because it is subjunctive tense. Of course, this is not proof of the Book of Mormon, but it is a hint that more books would, could, or should be written.
This way, if someone accepts a Bible, but declines a Book of Mormon, they at least get the pass-along card. I figure, hey, I'm giving it out free, I have the right to stick whatever promotional material I want in there.
I try to put an "info flyer" in every book I give out. It contains one of the church's 800 phone numbers, the local mission office address and phone number, and the www.mormon.org web site. It also contains a list of the chapels in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, along with meeting times. It also lists the local Family History Centers (Genealogical libraries), their hours, and phone numbers. On the back it lists the 104 languages translations of the Book of Mormon. My next revision will also have the languages in which other material is available.
I also put a personal "calling card" in all the books, which is a business card, but only has my name, email address, and phone number. About $12 per 1,000 at Office Depot.
I make a point not to write anything in the Bibles or Books of Mormon I give out. Many cultures consider that desecration of the scriptures. So I just use inserts and Post-It type notes. I describe which parts I mark in this post.
Also added to my "car inventory" are the multi-lingual DVD's. There are 8 now.
Finding Faith in Christ, Special Witnesses of Christ, Together Forever, The Restoration (English/Spanish only), Joy to the World (MoTab Choir), Heavenly Father's Plan, To This End Was I Born, and Finding Happiness. They are available at www.ldscatalog.com. They are usually $4.50, but if you buy them in a case of 50, the price goes down to $1.50/each or less. Add quantity 50 to your shopping cart and see.
Man, what a blessing it is to be the delivery boy of the greatest message on Earth. And there is much more that could be done. I've messed up some these attempts. I believe I've offended a few people. I've confused a few more. There were some where I dropped the ball and didn't do the right follow up. Sometimes there were clues or indications where the person might have wanted to receive the missionaries but I missed them, and merely said "Call this number if you want to learn more" when I should have asked "Would you like representatives to visit you?"
I'm amazed that even in my unworthiness and screw-ups, the Lord still sometimes calls upon me to offer Bibles and Books of Mormon. It appears to me that the Lord can use us to whatever degree we allow him by our striving to be more worthy and better prepared. It looks to me like he wants us to stretch, learn, and progress. And when we make good-faith efforts, he stretches forth his hand and causes miracles to happen.
And after all, it's his message and his program. He's in charge. The best we can hope for is to get in line as much as possible with his will.