Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Telugu at gas station. Tue, Jul 29, 2008.

07/29/2008. 1042. I stopped to get gas at a gas station on my way to an appointment. It's one I've been to before, but not recently. I went in to pre-pay and went out to fill up. Then I went back in to buy a newspaper, and as I paid I was the only one there, so I asked the cashier where he was from. He was from India, and spoke Telugu as his regional language. I offered, and he accepted Telugu and English copies of Book of Mormon, so I brought them in from the car. Then the other cashier joined us and expressed interest. Both were very curious and positive. Since it wasn't too far from home, I went back home to get another Telugu Book of Mormon for the other guy, and I got some Telugu copies of the Liahona out too. I went back and present them.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

English DVD at gas station. Mon, Jul 21, 2008.

07/21/2008. 1041. I was at a gas station to get gas. There was a car along the side of the road with a flat tire. A man came in another car, parked at the gas station, got of his car, then he drove the car with the flat tire onto the gas station too.

When I was done putting gas in my car, I offered to help him change the tire. He accepted my offer and said he had never changed a tire before because he'd never have a flat.

I helped him put on the spare tire, and taught him what I know about changing tires. Afterwards, I asked if he'd like a free DVD from my church, and he agreed to receive it. So I gave him a copy of "Finding Faith in Christ" that I had in my car. Since he now had two cars to take somewhere, I offered to follow him in my car and ferry him back to get the other. But he said he was close enough that he could walk back on his own.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chinese at restaurant. Thu, Jul 17, 2008.

07/17/2008. 1040. After eating at a Chinese buffet restaurant, I stopped by the counter and showed the cashier (I think he was the owner) English and Chinese simplified copies of the Book of Mormon and a "Finding Happiness" DVD, and offered them to him free. He accepted them. They were pretty busy, so I didn't attempt further conversation.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Chinese at restaurant. Mon, Jul 14, 2008

07/14/2008. 1039. I was out shopping around supper time, and stopped to eat at a Chinese restaurant that I haven't been to before. I ordered, paid, sat down, and put some material on the table. The cashier/waitress noticed the material so I picked up the Chinese Book of Mormon, and asked if she had seen it before, and she hadn't. She accepted my offer of copies of the Simplified Chinese and English Book of Mormon. I started to explain a couple DVDs, when the phone rang and she had to get back to work. When I went back to the counter to put some money in the tip jar, I offered her Together Forever and Our Heavenly Father's Plan, which she accepted.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

English DVD at gas station. Sat, Jul 5, 2008.

07/05/2008. 1038. I went to the gas station down the street. I paid at the pump, pumped the gas, went inside, bought the Sunday paper, came out and got in my car. Before I closed the car door, a man on a bicycle came up to me and started with a story of his broken down car, and three other people needing a ride home. He wasn't very consistent, and I could tell pretty quickly he was just telling a story to get some money.

But I've previously decided to give money to beggars and use the opportunity to give them gospel material. After all, I eat out a lot, spending money that I normally wouldn't spend in order to create an opportunity to give out gospel material. And here was this man handing me an opportunity on a silver plate, and it was going to cost me less than a meal at a restaurant.

I told him it was a good "story", and said I'd give him a buck, and a DVD to watch. I got out and walked around to the back passenger side door to get the video out, and he followed me. I gave him "Together Forever." When I got my wallet out to give him a dollar, he could see I had three ones, and then he plaintively asked for $3 and said "please" in a pitifully persistent way.

Yeah, I could tell he was playing me, and when he got close, I could smell alcohol on him. But I decided that this wasn't about money or alcohol. I sincerely wanted him to have a gospel message, and $3 was cheap compared to what I've spent to create other opportunities. So I gave him $3. He smiled as if he had "won the game."

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Small inputs can lead to large outcomes.

Here'a an article about how a donation of a goat to an Ugandan girl's impoverished family leads to her graduating from college in the U.S. This article made me think what long-term consequences may arise from giving someone a copy of the Book of Mormon. (Hat tip to Kaimi who posted a link to the original article on the side-bar at Times & Seasons.)

The Luckiest Girl

Published: July 3, 2008

This year’s college graduates owe their success to many factors, from hectoring parents to cherished remedies for hangovers. But one of the most remarkable of the new graduates, Beatrice Biira, credits something utterly improbable: a goat.

“I am one of the luckiest girls in the world,” Beatrice declared at her graduation party after earning her bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College. Indeed, and it’s appropriate that the goat that changed her life was named Luck.

Beatrice’s story helps address two of the most commonly asked questions about foreign assistance: “Does aid work?” and “What can I do?”

The tale begins in the rolling hills of western Uganda, where Beatrice was born and raised. As a girl, she desperately yearned for an education, but it seemed hopeless: Her parents were peasants who couldn’t afford to send her to school.

The years passed and Beatrice stayed home to help with the chores. She was on track to become one more illiterate African woman, another of the continent’s squandered human resources.

In the meantime, in Niantic, Conn., the children of the Niantic Community Church wanted to donate money for a good cause. They decided to buy goats for African villagers through Heifer International, a venerable aid group based in Arkansas that helps impoverished farming families.

A dairy goat in Heifer’s online gift catalog costs $120; a flock of chicks or ducklings costs just $20.

One of the goats bought by the Niantic church went to Beatrice’s parents and soon produced twins. When the kid goats were weaned, the children drank the goat’s milk for a nutritional boost and sold the surplus milk for extra money.

The cash from the milk accumulated, and Beatrice’s parents decided that they could now afford to send their daughter to school. She was much older than the other first graders, but she was so overjoyed that she studied diligently and rose to be the best student in the school.

An American visiting the school was impressed and wrote a children’s book, “Beatrice’s Goat,” about how the gift of a goat had enabled a bright girl to go to school. The book was published in 2000 and became a children’s best seller — but there is now room for a more remarkable sequel.

Beatrice was such an outstanding student that she won a scholarship, not only to Uganda’s best girls’ high school, but also to a prep school in Massachusetts and then to Connecticut College. A group of 20 donors to Heifer International — coordinated by a retired staff member named Rosalee Sinn, who fell in love with Beatrice when she saw her at age 10 — financed the girl’s living expenses.

A few years ago, Beatrice spoke at a Heifer event attended by Jeffrey Sachs, the economist. Mr. Sachs was impressed and devised what he jokingly called the “Beatrice Theorem” of development economics: small inputs can lead to large outcomes.

Granted, foreign assistance doesn’t always work and is much harder than it looks. “I won’t lie to you. Corruption is high in Uganda,” Beatrice acknowledges.

A crooked local official might have distributed the goats by demanding that girls sleep with him in exchange. Or Beatrice’s goat might have died or been stolen. Or unpasteurized milk might have sickened or killed Beatrice.

In short, millions of things could go wrong. But when there’s a good model in place, they often go right. That’s why villagers in western Uganda recently held a special Mass and a feast to celebrate the first local person to earn a college degree in America.

Moreover, Africa will soon have a new asset: a well-trained professional to improve governance. Beatrice plans to earn a master’s degree at the Clinton School of Public Service in Arkansas and then return to Africa to work for an aid group.

Beatrice dreams of working on projects to help women earn and manage money more effectively, partly because she has seen in her own village how cash is always controlled by men. Sometimes they spent it partying with buddies at a bar, rather than educating their children. Changing that culture won’t be easy, Beatrice says, but it can be done.

When people ask how they can help in the fight against poverty, there are a thousand good answers, from sponsoring a child to supporting a grass-roots organization through globalgiving.com. (I’ve listed specific suggestions on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, and on facebook.com/kristof).

The challenges of global poverty are vast and complex, far beyond anyone’s power to resolve, and buying a farm animal for a poor family won’t solve them. But Beatrice’s giddy happiness these days is still a reminder that each of us does have the power to make a difference — to transform a girl’s life with something as simple and cheap as a little goat.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground, and join me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kristof.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Swahili, English at singles event. Fri, Jul 4, 2008.

07/04/2008. Journal entry. I was at a dinner/cook-out for singles at one of the local chapels. A single member from one of the local wards brought one of her non-member friends. During a conversation she mentioned that she spoke Swahili, so I asked if she'd like a Swahili copy of the Book of Mormon. She enthusiastically said yes. She already had an English copy that her friend had given her.

I went to my car in the parking lot to retrieve the Swahili copy from the trunk of my car. There was a family passing near me who had used the church parking for a nearby event. Local church leaders knew of this event, and had let it be known among the members, including the singles, that the church parking lot was open to non-members for this nearby event.

1037. It just seemed natural to offer that family free Bibles, since they were using a church parking lot. The dad said sure, and sent a couple of his older children over to my car. I gave them a couple paper-back copies of the NIV Bible, and then offered them a free Book of Mormon. The dad said for his kids to get one of those too, so they accepted an English Book of Mormon.

I then took the Swahili copy back to the other lady, and she was excited to have something in Swahili.

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How Many Christians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

(Sorry, I don't know the source.)

How Many Christians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

Charismatics - only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals - Ten. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Calvinists - None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholics - None. Candles only.

Episcopalians - Eight. One to call the electrician, and seven to say how much they like the old one better.

Baptists - At least 15. One to change the bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Mormons - Five. One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it. (More Mormon lightbulb jokes here.)

Unitarians - We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb, and present it next month at our annual light bulb service, in which we will explore the number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists - Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved - you can be a light bulb, turnip bulb or tulip bulb. Church lighting service is planned for Sunday, January 5th. Bring bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene - Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church lighting policy.

Lutherans - None. Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish - What's a light bulb?