Originating from the slums of India and eventually finding themselves on the island of Oahu, converts from the the subcontinent who have been making their way to BYU-Hawaii reveal how their conversions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints paved the way to higher education.
One of these converts, D.J. Krishnavelu, a freshman from India studying information technology, said, “I have a Hindu background. I knew about Christians, just not much about their beliefs. We lived in a slum area and no missionaries go there. But, missionaries were around that day and asked less actives about any new people who moved into the area. The less actives told them about us. They came to my home and started teaching us.
“I got baptized in a couple of weeks because the missionaries asked me to pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I never prayed before but I followed what the missionaries said. I went to a separate room, kneeled, and closed my eyes. I prayed and asked. I felt the spirit and my heart was burning.”
D.J. Krishnavelu on the day of his baptism. Photo courtesy of D.J. Krishnavelu.
Bala Krishna Pili, a freshman from India majoring in mathematics and computer science, shared his conversion story. He said he made contact with the church through his sister’s classmate who was a member.
“He invited us to church and I really liked it. When I went inside, I thought it was the best place. I heard there was no paid pastor and the message was really cool. The people were really nice and genuine. The one thing that changed my heart was when I listened to the Plan of Salvation. It gave me purpose and I knew what to do here on earth.”
Another convert, Margaret Krishnavelu, D.J.’s spouse who is a freshman from India studying TESOL, said, “I joined the church in 2004 when I was 17 years old. My cousins who are members introduced me to the church. I was Catholic. My whole family is Catholic. In 2009, I prepared to go on a mission.”
The couple said they had a desire to go on missions. Margaret Krishnavelu said when she got her mission call to New Zealand it was a shock. According to her, stepping out of India for the first time was an adventure, and “it helped me become more independent.”
Margaret Krishnavelu as a missionary in New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Margaret Krishnavelu.
Commenting on his desire to serve a mission, Pili said, “My family was not supportive, and I knew it would be hard to go on a mission without their support. I finally talked to my mother about my desire to go on a mission. She told me to do my best and do whatever I wanted.”
Both D.J. and Margaret said their missions were stepping-stones to their educational destination, BYUH. Pili said he had a goal to be a good leader in the church and decided he wanted to go to America to see how the church functioned there.
D.J. Krishnavelu on his mission. Photo courtesy of D.J. Krishnavelu.
Pili said, “I went to the temple and prayed about my future wife and steps I should take to get to BYUH. I got my patriarchal blessing and I was also able to get documents to come to America to study. I also had the opportunity to meet with Brother James Faustino. He gave me suggestions like taking English exams to help us get into the Winter Semester at BYUH.
The Krishnavelus said they had a difficult journey to BYUH. D.J. said, “We planned to come here since 2014 and we were rejected so many times. The admissions office kept telling us that India was closed, and they weren’t going to allow anyone from that country.”
Margaret added, “We had a goal to come to BYUH so we could get an education and set an example for people in our home country. We felt that we were rejected for no reason. D.J. was finally accepted to LDS Business College, but I wasn’t attending school at that time. We decided to come here to Hawaii to pursue our education.”
According to LDS.org, the church in India is relatively new with an official mission established in 1993. There are 13,000 members who live in India. The Central Intelligence Agency’s reported on its World Factbook the country of India has a population of over one billion.