Negumbo Branch

Today, a bunch of us went up to Negumbo for church. District President Sunil, who goes by his first name, like everyone else, because his last name is so long and unpronounceable (Arsecularatne) for us foreigners, of course went and organized the whole affair. He took with him the Merrells, Brother Merrell being one of the District Counsellors. Lionel – whose last name I don’t even know – and whose position in the District I’m not sure of. And me, the District Family History Consultant.

Pres. Sunil is putting on a big push for family history here, never mind that none of us has any idea what resources are available for doing family history. That’s something that we’ll figure out as we go.

He’s also ordered a computer through the LDS Church’s distribution centre for use with family history and, more specifically, TempleReady. Yay!!!!

So he dragged me along – and no, I actually wanted to go, so ignore the way I phrased that – so I could teach a beginning family history class during Sunday School.

We left the Merrell’s at about 6:40am – they live a block from the church here in Colombo – and arrived at the Negumbo church at a few minutes before 8.

Sacrament meeting doesn’t start until 9, but Pres. Sunil had some interviews to do before. People started coming in shortly after 8, all happy, cheerful, joyful, vibrant.

Sister Merrell introduced me as Laurie Farook, and “she married a Sri Lankan.” People looked at me like a. they were impressed and b. they thought I was nuts. All at the same time. It was kinda funny – she kept introducing me that way to everyone. But I think it helps, too, from the perspective that a. I’m not a missionary. b. Therefore I won’t be leaving the country in 18 months or less. c. I can understand them to some degree because my husband is one of them. Or at least I’m trying. Or something. A few people asked me how I met my husband, and when I told them over the internet, I got the same response I usually get – wide eyes and sheer disbelief.

Sacrament meeting was in both English and Sinhalese. Everything is being translated – for our benefit. No, more accurately, for the benefit of the Merrells and I. Lionel and Pres. Sunil both speak Sinhalese, so this isn’t something they need.

After Sacrament Meeting, we have Sunday School, and it’s up to me and Sister Merrell to teach beginning family history. They already know why they need to do their family history, but they don’t yet know the nuts and bolts of how to actually do it.

We hand out Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets and explain how to fill them out, starting with what they know now. Start with themselves.

We had a 17 year old girl translate for us, and me, well, I’m not used to working with a translator. I’ve never had a translator before. Every now and then, I’d be talking away, someone would poke me, and I’d realize that it’s because I’ve talked too long and the translator needs to step in. Oops! But everyone, especially the translator, was very understanding and patient. She had a great sense of humour about it.

We had a few questions, good questions, at the end, and overall, it was productive, useful, and all those good things. They were eagerly absorbing everything I could tell them. They wanted to know.

After the class, I spoke to three people. First, one male, short, who’d done some work previously on family history. I asked him if he could get together his list of resources – every place, organization, whatever that he used to do his family work. He’ll compile it and give it to Sister Bown, the female portion of one of the missionary couples in Negumbo.

Second one, male, very very tall for Sri Lankans – as in, probably around 6’2″ – and Burgher, which means that his family history is different from everyone else’s.

Burghers are descendants of the Dutch settlers from the Dutch occupation. He tells me that he’s 3/4 Dutch. He looks 100% Sri Lankan, with the exception of the height and build. He’s also got a much bigger skeletal frame than the typical skinny scrawny Sri Lankan – this guy was broad. But coloring, hair, facial features – all Sri Lankan.

Coincidentally, we have Charles, a man from the US who came to Sri Lanka with his family to do his family history. He was born and raised in Sri Lanka, and left for the US thirty or so years ago. He’s been working on his Family History like crazy for the last month, and he’ll give me his list of resources. Cool.

And the third – a woman who needed the services of the same translator as I had in Sunday School. This woman had also done some family history, and will get a list of the resources she used to Sister Bown.

After we were done, I look around, and there is NO ONE left in the room where we had Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School. I was told previously that Relief Society was held upstairs, so upstairs I go. I see no signs of a crowd of women. I hear voices, and I wander towards them, and find myself in the nursery. “I’m lost!” I say, and one of the women comes out, takes me by the hand, asks me where I want to go, and takes me there.

Relief Society is full. Jam packed. There’s about one empty seat, and I take it. There had to be more than 25, perhaps 30, sisters in there, and it was pretty obvious they WANTED to be there.

I didn’t understand a word of what was taught or said – it was all in Sinhalese. Well, I am, after all, the foreigner, and why should they cater to me all the time?

After Relief Society, people asked me all sorts of questions. How old am I? (Fahim, I tell ya, I got too much white showing. I really really really need to do my roots!) Where am I from? (Canada. Yes, not the US. No, I’m not American. I’m Canadian.) Where is my husband? (At home. He’s not a member, he’s Muslim.) Everyone wanted to know everything.

Finally, I’m not in the middle of conversing with anyone, and I wander outside and see a mango tree. I’ve never seen one this close before, so of course I take a picture. There have to be hundreds of mangos hanging on this thing by what appear to be cords – or vines – maybe a quarter of an inch thick. Yowsa.

They’re all green, and I gather that when they fall off, they’re ripe. Good system. Makes it easier to tell, don’t’cha think?

I look around and see a bunch of children standing around under a jumboo tree. No, I don’t know if I spelled that correctly, but that’s how it sounds. You’ll have to look fairly closely to see – it’s those red specks.

And I hear children laughing and having a great time, and saying things that none of the children on the ground are saying. I look around, and finally, I realize that it’s children in the trees. I look up, and at first, I see only the two swinging on the lower branches. A few minutes later, I finally realize there are three more at the top of the tree.

Like kids pretty much the world over, they’re more than happy to ham it up for me. I’m more than happy to take photos of them. They haven’t seen a digital camera before, so I show them the picture on the back of the camera, too, and that has them entertained quite well. Never mind that they speak not a word of English and I speak not a word of Sinhalese – okay, maybe five words – we still communicate great.

We go over to the Coombs for lunch. The Coombs are another missionary couple, but they’re serving with LDS Charities, and they talk about a clean water program they’re working on here. Cool. That’s always a good thing.

Negumbo has a total of 8 missionaries – 2 couples, and two sets of Elders.

We’re seated at two tables, and the first question comes from the other table. “Tell us how you met your husband.” “You want me to yell it out?” Cuz that would be the only way they could hear it. “Yes, please.” Okay. No problem. I’ve got a loud voice, as everyone who’s ever met me knows. 😀

And this is where I interrupt and say that in my family, I’m the quiet, shy, reserved one. My sibs are all much much louder than I am. Ignore the comments they add to this blog that argue with me. This is my blog, I’m the Supreme Commander, and therefore, I’m always right. 🙂

So I tell them, and those who haven’t heard the story before are surprised. Well, yeah. I would be, too, if I was hearing it from someone else.

After lunch, we chat for a while longer about this and that, and Lionel wants some help with the online LDS dating sites. Okay, no problem. They didn’t work for me, but they have worked for others I know. (Hi Lynn & Meryl!!!)

We get back in the van and head back. During the drive back, President Sunil calls the room that’s been set aside for the family history computer the Family History Centre. Turns out, he’s hoping that we’ll get official Family History Centre status now – because if we do, there are all sorts of other things we can order for it. Like microfilm and microfiche readers. Software. Books. All sorts of fun things. He’s waiting to hear if it will be a Family History Centre. I’m thinking, “Way cool!”

Author: LMAshton

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