Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mission Update August 30, 2009

Dear Ward Members, Family & Friends,

Time passes way too quickly in the mission field. Transfers are coming up as they do every six weeks and that is how missionaries keep track of time. It is interesting to talk to the missionaries that are on their last transfer. It usually comes with mixed feelings and emotions and the great missionaries finish with a sprint to the end to do as much as they can before their departure. It is sad to see some go home early and you pray for those a little more fervently.
Heavenly Father has been blessing us with good health and enough time to recuperate when we need to. It allows us to perform what is needed of us and more. Recently we have been having success working with a group from Bhutan/Nepal. I may have mentioned this before, but for those not familiar with the situation I will describe who and what they are. About 18 years ago in Bhutan the king decided to crack down on people that were not staying as conservative as he would like. The king is Buddhist and wanted his kingdom not to change. So he gave what he would term radicals (especially Christians) an ultimatum. Either you sign off that you are not a Christian or you lose all you have and have to leave the country. Many were tortured with all kinds of abuses from the government. About 100,000 left the country and headed to India seeking sanctuary. They were met at the border with machine gun carrying Indian Government troops and were told not to unload the trucks. Some were killed as a result. So they headed for Nepal. Nepal is the second poorest country in the world, but they had some inclination to help because many of these people many generations ago were from Nepal. Now comes the interesting part at least for me. After 18 years, the United Nations finally passed a resolution to help those that were in these refugee camps (squalor) who wanted to an opportunity to relocate to a third country. About 60,000 want to.

Shortly after we arrived in the mission field, one of the missionaries got a referral from Elders Gardner & Fisher in Florida. It was for one of these refugees that had been relocated in the Oakland area. Raj Magar is his name. It was a member referral from Manoj Rui who had joined the church in Florida and wanted all of these refugees to have an opportunity to join as well, Raj and his family being the first. Manoj was over about 20,000 people (kind of like a mayor) in the refugee camps and had some influence. I called him for the Oakland Elders to confirm what was going on and to seek some guidance and help and understanding as how to proceed. Manoj said, “Le me talk to them and I will tell them to stop worshipping monkeys and cows and join the church.” With that instruction we went to contact them. It turned out that at exactly the same time, the Sister missionaries Kaetler and Tu’Ivai tracted out another one of these families. We started teaching them but had a great disadvantage with the language barrier. Most understand the Hindi language and the Book of Mormon is translated into Hindi, but not Nepalese. I called Manoj back and asked if he would help if we put him on speaker phone at some of the lessons. He agreed, but it was very cumbersome. We learned that Elder Rimal’s father, Savat Rimal living in the Salt Lake area was from Nepal. Unfortunately his son does not speak Nepalese, but does very well on his Spanish speaking mission. I asked permission to talk to his father and gave him a call. We put him on the speaker phone as well with about the same results. Better than nothing, but very cumbersome. We started teaching more and more refugee investigators so at a district meeting we decided to fast for an interpreter. I found a banker that was not a member referred from a guy at the pharmacy that we use that speaks Nepalese, so we prayed that he might help us or whatever Heavenly Father could do for us. It was tough on some of the elders because they had dinner appointment s with the Tongans and they always put on a great feed. To their credit they agreed. While fasting I did a lot of research and found out that there was a group that wound up not only in Florida and here, but in Salt Lake City as well. And that there were between 300-400 in our area and a boatload more coming. Talking to these people showed me how humble and prepared they are for the gospel. We read in 2 Nephi 1:5-7 that all people are led by the hand of God to this promised land and that they are all entitled to the same blessings as Father Lehi’s family upon conditions of righteousness. It is very true with these people that have washed up on the shores here in Oakland.

Two weeks after our fast, the banker did not call back, but a miracle was in the making. I received a call from Elder Clyde (ironically on a Spanish speaking mission who had tracted into some of these people) who had been serving in this area but had been transferred from Oakland to San Francisco. He said that he had a man by the name of Ramesh Shrestha from Nepal that might be able to help us. I said you’ve got to be kidding. Not only that but he is a member of the church. He gave me his contact information and I called him. Turns out that not only is he a member, but he served a mission to India and then it even gets better. His home town in Nepal is one kilometer from the camps and some of the people recognized him here in Oakland at a McDonalds. Now Ray (Ramesh) has a great conversion story that I will share some other time, but it seems as though not only are these people here, but Heavenly Father keeps dragging us toward teaching them the gospel. 28 had joined in Florida from what the Elders told me. We are actively teaching about 30 with many more interested. We take them up to the temple grounds and the Visitors Center and they just don’t want to leave. Many are attending church which is difficult because none of them drive. Bus fare is $5 round trip and if you have a family it is often out of their budget. So we do the best we can trying to get them to church. Overcoming culture barriers is still going to be difficult, but at least now we are on a level playing field where we can actually communicate with them and know that they understand what they are being taught. We currently have commitments for 5 baptisms and many others on the cusp. Teaching materials in Nepalese is not readily available other than the Gospel Principles manual and a few other items. I would like to ask you all to take the time and pray that the Book of Mormon will soon be translated into Nepalese. It will bless thousands of lives.

Our mission is truly a reflection of the world wide church. Heavenly Father continues to open the doors to missionary work. When one closes He opens two more. I pray that as a people that we are prepared for these opportunities. I have been rereading an article from BYU Studies publication, Volume 47, number 2 2008. In that article, President Kimball’s son, Edward, in researching his father’s declaration on the Priesthood stated that one of the reasons given for the delay was that the people in the church were not ready for it as opposed to the black’s not being ready or worthy. 15,000 African would- be members and thousands more had to wait years to become members because of that. And now look at how the Lord has blessed these people and the church.

May the Lord bless His church and His Prophet with the wisdom and the guidance to continue this great work. We love you all and pray for Heavenly Father’s blessings on you as well.

With Love,

Elder and Sister Heaton