Two young Mormon women from India, Sister Sireesha Penumaka and Sister Annapurna Polisetti, are serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in New South Wales. When they return to their homes after 18 months, they will become ambassadors for Australia, having left a lasting impression for good here about their own cultures and their faith.
Sister Penumaka and Sister Polisetti walk everywhere they go with back packs and a smile. “We are enriching the people of Australia by sharing eternal truths that bring joy and happiness when those truths are applied in everyday life,” said Sister Penumaka.
Missionaries, whose titles are “sister” and “Elder” for their period of service, come from all walks of life and can participate from the age of 18. Seven hundred serve in Australia and, in New South Wales, 29 different nationalities are represented in the missionary force. Approximately 100 from Australia serve in other countries of the world.
Sister Penumaka was born into the Church. Her family in India had joined the Church in the 1980s. With just a few Latter-day Saints in a population of hundreds of millions, the challenge for the Penumaka family was to stay fully immersed in the gospel amidst many cultural and religious differences.
Sister Polisetti joined the Mormon faith just two years ago in March 2010. “The sweetness I felt in my heart helped me know it was a good thing, and I wanted to join myself to the Church,” she said. “I always believed in God.”
"We are currently serving in the Oatlands area of the Sydney Mission,” said Sister Penumaka. Her companion Sister Polisetti has served in other areas in NSW, while Oatlands is the first area for Sister Penumaka. The number of Latter-day Saints congregations here indicates the members’ great love of the gospel.”
Sister Penumaka and Sister Polisetti teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to interested members of the public and also give community service to those in need. According to Sister Penumaka, their community service is given “without any religious strings attached. We simply want to help people regardless of whether they are interested in learning about the Church.”
The Church is now growing strongly in India. The first stake was created in June, 2012. A stake is similar to a diocese in another faith and comprises between 2,000 and 4,000 members in a number of congregations. Sister Penumaka treasures a photo of herself shaking hands with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle of the Church. (An apostle is similar to a cardinal in the Catholic faith.) “It was so wonderful to meet him. It was a very special experience,” she said.
As a student studying Electronics and Commicatons Engineering, in her last semester Sister Polisetti did project work on Robotics for a large electronics company. Her project manager who is a Mormon said, “Would you like to come to my Church on Sunday?” "He was always happy," sister Polisetti said, "So I was inclined to go and find out about his faith and what he believed."
When Sister Polisetti attended Mormon Sunday services for the first time, she had a wonderful feeling. She recalls, “I thought this Church would cause a person to become good and feel happy. I learned more about it when I read the Book of Mormon that the missionaries from the Church gave me.”
However, Sister Polisetti said that just because a church makes you happy and teaches you good principles it doesn’t mean it is necessarily God’s church.
“I had to find out for myself through a spiritual witness from God that this was his true church on the earth, “she said. “After living the standards of the Church and, then, praying to find out its truthfulness, I received a wonderful witness of the Holy Ghost that it contained all of the truths that God needs us to know at the present time.”
Eventually she decided to serve a mission for the Church to tell others about the gospel. “Through the power of the Holy Ghost, I also knew it was the right thing to do,” said Sister Polisetti.
An understanding that the Church was right for her came to Sister Penumaka in the Church’s Young Women classes. “I learned for myself that my Heavenly Father is a reality and that Jesus is my Saviour,” said Sister Penumaka.
The two missionaries from India have adjusted to their new home in the five months they’ve been here. In that time they’ve learned a new culture and the local accent. Coming to terms with a new diet was the most difficult part for the missionaries.
“The food in Australia is wonderful, the people so loving and kind,” Sister Penumaka declared. “While the curry dishes we have found here are a little bit like those in India, we still miss our mothers’ true Indian cooking!”