From Home Group to Branch

“From Home Group to Branch,” Liahona, July 2018

From Home Group to Branch

“And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people” (Mosiah 26:17).

It finally happened! On February 18, 2018, the Vijayawada Branch of the India Bangalore Mission was organized! It was a historic day for the Church in Vijayawada. There was a thrill of excitement in my heart the whole day. The new branch president is Nalli Kumar Rajeev, with Bhavani Prasad Annaladasu as first counselor, Jamandlamudi Kumar Madhu as second counselor, and Koyye Rakesh Babu as branch clerk. Rajesh Boni was called as the elders quorum president and Ravi Kumar Garikapati as the elders quorum first counselor. Sister Sumithra Rajeev Nalli was called as the Primary president and Sister Saraswathi Boni was called as the Young Women president.

They changed the church timing to be at 1:00 p.m. so the sustaining votes could happen simultaneously at the Rajahmundry First Ward. What a moment when President Mortensen said, “It is proposed that we create the Vijayawada Branch. All in favor, please manifest it by the raise of the right hand.” WOW! There were 80 people in attendance: 45 members and 35 investigators, the highest we’ve ever had.

After the meeting we watched the eight leaders get set apart in a row in that little rental fifth-floor hotel room and it was so powerful to see how smooth, so simple, so natural, and peaceful of a transition it was. Missionaries have been in the Vijaywada home group since the end of May 2017. It went from a home group of five people to a branch in just nine months. Only 10 missionaries ever got to serve in the Vijayawada home group—that’s how fast it grew.

It was a perfect example of faith to cause things to happen, to create something that didn’t exist before. Nothing is more humbling than to watch the Lord hasten His work in its time. He does all the writing; we are just the pencils. So far, every baptism in the Vijayawada Branch has been from member referrals or part-member families. That is the power of members and missionaries working together. Everyone does their part to build the kingdom of God. Thanks to Elder Kommalapati, Elder Tahiliani, Elder Tuscano, Elder Ramishetty, Elder Dass, Elder Richards, Elder Slater, Elder Vuppada, Elder Skidmore, Elder Berryhill, and Elder Gonder for all their missionary work to help build the branch, and special thanks to all the members and their help as well.

“His work is perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

I love the Lord! I know with all my heart that this is the only true and living Church on the face of the whole earth! I know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that Russell M. Nelson is a prophet today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. —Elder Richards

Testimony of President Nalli Kumar Rajeev, called as the new branch president

Dear brothers and sisters, today is a special day for me as once again God proved that He listens and answers our sincere prayers.

When my family moved from Chennai to Vijayawada in 2014, we were starving for spiritual food, as no branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was available in Vijayawada and we were not interested in attending other churches, despite their being available aplenty around our house. Monthly we used to travel about 200 km to attend church meetings in Rajahmundry, but for rest of the month we had no spiritual nourishment. As a family we used to pray for a branch in Vijayawada, and God has answered our prayers. In November 2015, the mission president agreed to have a home group in Vijayawada at our house with seven members. We as a home group sincerely prayed for a branch in Vijayawada. Today is a great day for us, as we have a branch in Vijayawada with about 50 members.

God not only answered my prayers but also gave me an opportunity to serve Him as branch president. I’m very much grateful to Heavenly Father for listening and answering my prayers. I’m once again surrendering myself to Almighty God to utilize me as a useful vessel. What I shared is true, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Testimony of Sister Sumithra Rajeev Nalli, wife of the branch president, called as the branch Primary president

Praise to the Lord. It’s a pleasure and honor to get a calling as Primary president in our newly formed Vijayawada Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Basically, I love children; even my profession is teaching. Kids are like angels—we have to nourish them with the right spiritual food in their childhood so that they can become great leaders when they grow up.

I have served as Primary teacher in the Hyderabad Madinaguda Branch from 2008–11 and also served as Primary president in the Chennai First Branch during 2012–14. I love to magnify this calling, as it helps me to learn a lot through children as I have to practice and prepare songs, lessons, and activities before teaching the kids. It has strengthened me spiritually, and it will continue to improve my faith in Jesus Christ.

I humbly request God to help me and guide me with the Holy Spirit to magnify my calling and prepare future leaders to bring many souls unto our God’s kingdom, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Testimony of Elder Skidmore

I was so excited for Jamandlamudi Kumar Madhu to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be called as the second counselor in the branch presidency, since he was only baptized on December 16, 2017. It is every missionary’s dream to see their converts grow in the Church. I never thought I would be so blessed as to see one of my converts hold a calling and the holy priesthood so soon. Heavenly Father truly has a plan for each of His children, and it is incredible to witness His hand.