As we approach the “gift giving” day of Christmas commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, I wanted to share a few gifts that the Savior has given us during our time here in India. One of the last things the Savior did while he lived on earth was wash the Apostles feet. Through His example He taught the need to serve and love one another. The gifts He has given us have come from the ability to serve in His church. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all service in the church is voluntary and it is a lay ministry. One does not request a position to serve in, rather those that have been called to oversee an area of the church, ask different members to serve in various “callings” or positions. We have been richly blessed by these opportunities which have become “priceless gifts”. To highlight just a few:
Seminary — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all high school age youth attend weekly classes to study the scriptures. In California, our teenagers would attend early morning seminary that was held Monday thru Friday at 6:30 a.m. before high school. Here in New Delhi, the church holds seminary twice a week in the evenings for the youth. There are about 16 active participants with a mix of expat teenagers that attend the American Embassy School as well as the local teenagers that attend various high schools here in New Delhi that range from age 14-17 years old. One of the greatest “gifts” Karen has been given has been the opportunity to teach this class. She loves these incredible youth and loves the hours spent every week to prepare for the classes.
Branch Council — The Church in New Delhi India has a “district” that consists of seven smaller “branches.” These branches are a geographical area that come together to worship each Sunday. Within the district, there is a branch council where leaders serve and help the different branches. Tyler would count among his greatest gifts here in New Delhi the service he has been asked to give to one of these branches, the Pitumpura Branch. It takes Tyler about 45 minutes every Sunday morning to travel to the location where this branch meets but he loves the people there and they love him. Most of the meetings are held in Hindi in this branch but Tyler has a few individuals that help translate for him and when he has to speak or give a lesson, he has a translator. Some of the most incredible people, with great faith, can be found in this branch. As a family we accompany Tyler a couple of times a year to their meetings where we are welcomed so warmly.
All these American missionaries wanted was a little beef. So we had four of the six missionaries serving in the Pitumpura branch over for a hamburger dinner last night. (Yes, Tyler brought back some frozen Costco burgers on his last trip to Seattle.) We are hoping members in the Philippines are taking care of our missionary son, Jacob, as well.
Relief Society — Karen has also been given the opportunity to serve in the leadership of the women’s organization of the church in our branch where we live. Serving as a counselor in the Relief Society gives her many opportunities to visit these wonderful women in their homes. These women live very basic, simple lives here. What an incredible “gift” to hear their stories, to witness their desire to be good mothers and wives and to see how their faith in Jesus Christ grows.
Home Teaching — Even our teenage sons have been given “gifts” here by serving in the church through home teaching. Home teaching is the program in the church where men are assigned families to look after their needs and visit them monthly. Thomas and Conner get the opportunity to go and do home teaching with Tyler. They have had the opportunity to trek through sections of New Delhi that the normal expat teenager does not get. They will come home laughing about how many cows they had to maneuver around just to get to some of the homes. They have been inside homes that would humble any American and have gotten some real life experiences in seeing the lives of a normal person living in New Delhi. It is truly an incredible “gift” to be able to have a teenage boy get these types of experiences.
When we serve our fellowmen, we truly are serving our God and as we serve God, He can make much more of our lives than we ever could on our own. The opportunity to serve in His church here in New Delhi is like unwrapping those “gifts” that will never have a money value. How wonderful at this time of year to pause and thank Christ for these incredible “gifts” He is giving to us as we live here.