So this week has been particularly exciting. We got our transfer calls, but I'll talk about that later. We also met with our investigator named Hector again and when we asked him about what he thought about the Book of Mormon, he said he had read a few pages and that it felt right and that it was very interesting. When we asked him whether he thought it was a true book and about all of the things we had taught him previously in the restoration lesson, he said he believed it all so we went off of that and extended a baptism date to him! It seems that even though we have had a tough time with some of our people lately, the Lord does reward us for our sacrifice with blessings such as Hector. We also were given the opportunity to give a blessing to a little girl in a less active family. Once we were done with the blessing we chatted with them and had a good time before we told them that we had to leave. Before that, though, the husband asked what he would need to do to receive the priesthood so he could do blessings like that and we told the family that for all those sorts of blessings to be available to them, they would have to start coming to church and living the gospel in their everyday life. They seemed to really like us and talked about having us over again sometime. The Sorelle were the ones to give us their information so we could go give the blessing but they are usually the ones to go see them. We told them what happened today and they were amazed because they have never been able to meet with the husband and they did not form a friendship with the family that fast. Usually the situation is the exact opposite, where Anziani have a tough time meeting with an investigator/less active and the Sorelle are the ones who are welcomed in more readily so it is nice to have it switched every once in a while. So now we are both meeting with the family to try to get them to church. So with transfers there are some really good things happening. We learned that I am being transferred to Verona and that Anziano Pyper is training a new missionary here in Cimiano! I'm excited for the new guy because Pyper seems to be an ideal trainer, doing work while also having fun and not letting the stress get to him. I'm thrilled to be going to the "Romeo and Juliet" city where apparently the work is good and the city is beautiful. I will be there with Anziano Gridley, who Pyper served with in Vicenza and we will be whitewashing in, which is missionary slang for when you and your companion transfer into a city at the same time when neither of you has been serving there before. It will be fun but also very trying because we will not know who the investigators are and what their needs are so we will be trying to figure out all of that, plus figure out our method and how to get around the city. I'm up for the challenge though and I can't wait to see how I do once I'm out of my crib and into the meat of my mission. Anziano Pyper has been telling me about G. throughout this transfer and from what I've heard, I can expect a quirky guy with some unusual methods, he will be a great companion. We will definitely do work and we will definitely get along as long as I do my part to be a good companion. Instead of going around everywhere on metros, trams, and buses, I'll be riding my bike everywhere in my next city so that should be way different, especially since it is in he heat of the summer right now and we've been dying just being outside period, let alone riding bikes everywhere. I guess it's about time I get some good leg workouts in after not doing any for the duration of my time in Cimiano. There are apparently lots of missionaries in Verona so in my district there will be the zone leaders, two sets of Sorelle, and another companionship of Anziani besides us (there might be even more but that's the missionaries I know of in Verona). Also, I talked to one of the office Anziani who used to be in Verona in the same apartment that I will be in and he said that it has AC! There will be a lot of changes with the place I live considering the place I have now is more of a house in this cute little neighborhood in the suburbs of Milano and is always super humid and hot inside, no matter what we do to try to change that. I will now be living in an apartment with rockin AC and will be more in the city. In my district will be a trio of Sorelle including Sorella Harris, who was in my MTC group and was in the Milano area Lampugnano this last transfer. We have only just recently been "bottlebroken" (which is when your trainer leaves and you are introduced to what the mission is really like) but now she is bottlebreaking two people at the same time in a totally new city. Luckily one is from Italy so she is fluent in Italian and the other one lived here for a few years so she knows it very well for her age in the mission. The zone leaders are also in our district so we should be in close contact with them all the time. All in all, I should be having a really great next few transfers. I will be "killing" Anziano Gridley because he only has 2 transfers left, which will be different from my two companions that I've had who are not yet to their year marks. I've also been told by an office Anziano that it is most likely that they are setting me up to train after G. leaves because I will be old enough in the mission at that point and have been doing pretty decent work so far, plus I will be in an ideal training area and there will be a gigantic group coming in at that time so all hands will be needed to take care of them. The prospect of training scares me right now but I'm ready for whatever the Lord sees fit to throw at me. That brings me to my thought for the week. I am a person who always wants to know the plan. I want to know why I am doing something, how I am to do it, and what the end result will be, all before I ever start it. Life doesn't always allow for that though. In Ether 12:6 it says "...I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen. Wherefore dispute not because ye see not for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." In other words, the Lord will not show you the blessings of your faith until you have already put it into action. Doing the will of the Father and exercising ones faith in Him is rarely convenient or easy, and we are rarely shown the full picture in that moment, but we can rest assured that He has the full plans and knows how to go about making it happen. All we have to do is trust in Him and submit ourselves to His will. I wish I always knew what He has in store for me but I guess I need to just show a bit of faith so He can use me in the way He needs so that His plans may be fulfilled. As I've looked back on my life, I have seen the hand of the Lord and how he has guided me to the place where I am today. The more I see where submitting blindly to His will has taken me and the blessings that have come from it, the easier it is for me to do the same in these days, despite not knowing where I might be going. As always, thank you everyone for your continued support and prayers. Anziano Younce
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
This week has been brutal to us with our work once again. Sometimes you just do everything you can to meet with people and to help them progress and it just doesn't work out the way that you want it to. We plan lessons and call to confirm the day before or that day so we go to the appointed spot and they aren't there. We call again and either they don't pick up or they forgot and are across the city. So we have been stood up or "bidoned" as we call it more than ever before. Each day we might plan 4 lessons and 3 of them fall through or something like that. Putting so much love and work in every day and not being able to see an equivalent amount of change in the people we teach absolutely breaks my heart. Also, our investigator with a baptism date set named Isidro just found out that he is going to have to go to Toscana for 2 months starting Thursday for work. That means that even if I do stay here for another transfer, I won't see him again. Luckily there are missionaries where he is going so we will put him in contact with them and he can be taught while he is down there. I don't even care whether I'm able to be there for his baptism though because I know that I did everything that I could do for him and that ultimately it paid off even if I didn't get to be a part of the final process. On a positive note though, happy Independence Day! We spent our Fourth of July by bringing a bunch of American desserts to district meeting and then we went to the apartment of one of the companionships in Milano with the rest of the Milano people and we made burgers and steaks for lunch. On the way over there I had a really special experience. We were getting off the metro and a man recognized us as Mormons and then told us that he is American. We were confused because he looked Italian, started by speaking in Italian to us, and spoke English after that with a thick Italian accent. He confirmed once again that he is American and told us that he is from North Carolina and showed us his license to prove it. I told him that I am too and showed him mine and he totally freaked out and told us his story. He is from Napoli and then moved to North Carolina to teach Latin at Sanderson high school in Raleigh. I told him that I have friends that went there and that there was recently a missionary in Italy who went there. He then told us that his sister and her family is Mormon and that he is not but goes to our church a lot. I asked where and he said that he lives in the neighborhood right by the Raleigh temple and that he goes to church there at the stake center right by it except when he goes to Wilmington in the summer, when he goes to that church. I told him that the stake center there is mine because I live in Cary and that I've lived there my whole life. He seems to be someone who was right on the edge of being baptized after many years by the stories that he told us. He came to America to be with his sister who married this returned missionary who served in Italy and then he was introduced to the church through her. He had many students in his class over the years who were members of the church and he told us that every single one of them really impressed him, especially how they got up early for seminary before school. Remember, youth, that in every respect you are examples wherever you are. You have the capacity to change hearts just by living righteously. Now this man came across me completely by happenstance while he was in Italy looking for records of his grandpa and it seemed to be some sort of answer to a prayer for him. During our conversation he was crying the entire time and probably said "thank the good Lord Jesus for the blessing" about 20 times. It was weird being able to talk freely with someone who knows your hometown as well as you do and it was great to have such a positive on someone just by existing and being in the right place. Yesterday we woke up early to do some service but I didn't know what kind of stuff we would be doing until we got there. All we knew was that we couldn't wear our missionary tags in there and had to wear normal clothes. Turns out that we went to this huge warehouse full of old birth, marriage, and death records for the Milano area and got to search through and organize these records so they could be taken to the FamilySearch center here in Italy to be photo captured and then put up to be indexed. I really felt the importance of the work that these people do all the time and that I got to do this one time because each name in each of these old books represents a person who did not have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the accompanying ordinances, just like any one of our investigators. Just because they are no longer with us doesn't mean that they aren't important. Over the past few months I have really gained a great love for family history work and hope to do more with it once I get home and have the time and resources for it. I'd just like to end things with a little bit of a tribute to America. Being away from it for an extended period of time has really made me appreciate it for what it is: a choice land. There are few other places in the world where children are brought up with the knowledge that they can do or become anything if they work hard and even after over 200 hundred years of our government being established, it is still a beacon to the world of freedom. We have some stains from a past filled with racism and slavery, but the good thing is that we know that we must change and then we actually do something about it. Also, while I grow to love the Italians here a little more each day, I guess I have a special connection with the massive amounts of immigrants here as well. These people come to Italy for many of the same reasons that my ancestors came many generations ago such as for work opportunities, religious freedom, safety from a hostile government, simply looking to improve their lives. Many of them want to eventually eventually get to America where these things they seek are in even greater abundance and are willing to work hard to get to that point. The fact that for the most part we have been very good to immigrants in the past and that we have such a rich tradition of immigrants in our country. Everyone except for a few Native Americans can trace back their family to European, Asian, or African immigrant ancestors who came looking for freedom and opportunity and I think that is the exact attitude that was needed for God to decide to restore His gospel on the earth once more here in the United States, a place where it would never again be taken from the earth, but rather protected and nurtured by this country. Vi voglio bene Alla prossima! Anziano Younce
Thursday, June 30, 2016
There are some events in your life that you don't recognize as a moment that you will always remember until after it happens and then you reflect on it some and realize the gravity of it. I'll tell y'all about an experience that I've had this week that elicited such a response. It happened when we were visiting a less active family to help them get them involved in missionary work by sharing the gospel with their friends so we can start teaching them. They fed us dinner and we taught a lesson to them, but then they said that they had a favor to ask of us. Using language that they knew their little girl couldn't understand, they explained to us that she the mom was pregnant. Apparently because she is a little bit old to be having children and she has some other health problems, she will be going to the doctor to assess the health of the baby and mother. They haven't told anybody, including their daughter, because they aren't sure what is going to happen but they told us because they wanted her to have a priesthood blessing. The husband could not participate for reasons he didn't specify but I'm glad that they trusted us enough to ask for our help. We were about to start when they both said that they would like me to say the blessing. I guess it made sense because it was the first time they met Anziano Pyper and I had seen them a couple of times before, but they also knew I wasn't very good at speaking Italian. As I was pronouncing the blessing on her, I realized that it was the first time that I had actually said a priesthood blessing, let alone in Italian. I'm starting to see more and more the purpose of the priesthood. It isn't a means to exert power over other people in the church, but rather is a way to serve others and carries with it that responsibility. Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, is known as one of the most service oriented people on earth. Since his early adulthood he served countless widows, sick people, and poor people in his numerous callings, all in the name of Christ and his priesthood. Our Savior, the prime example of priesthood holder, never used it for selfish purposes but instead served others. He healed the sick and fed multitudes but when he was suffering of hunger or bodily pain, he refused to do the same for himself. Ok I know I pretty much already a spiritual thought but I want to do another one really quick because I feel the need to do so. This week we met with our little Peruvian miracle man, Isidro, again and we talked with him about how he is doing with some of the commandments we talked to him about. He expressed concern to us his doubts with the Law of Tithing and Word of Wisdom and said that he doesn't know yet what the benefits will be for him or why he has to keep them. In essence, he doesn't know why he has to keep them because he has never tried it. We were almost out of time when he told us this so we decided to talk about it the next time we see him. I felt that I should really put some thought into a response to his questions because at this point, he just needs to attend church one more time and get this out of the way and he will be ready for baptism. As I reflected on his doubts, I realized that it was completely based on a lack of experience on his part with these commandments and that they may sound strange at first but that once he puts it into practice, he will see the blessings that will come from observing them. I thought about how a person who had never seen rain or snow had it described to them: little drops of water or flecks of ice falling from the heavens, seemingly spontaneously. However, if they are shown a fresh layer of snow or get caught in a spring rainstorm, that uneasiness, doubt, or fear will soon turn to delight as they dance around in the cool shower or make snow angels for the first time. When we meet him next I will be sure to try show him how sometimes we just need to have the faith to follow God and that he will take care of the rest. From what it sounds like, everyone back home is well and blessings continue to be showered on all of you. If there is anything that any of you want to talk through or want me to keep in my prayers, please don't be afraid to contact me. Also, please don't neglect to think of all the good things that are happening in your lives and inform me of them. I want to know! Con un cuore pieno d'amore Anziano Younce
Hey everybody I hope you've had a good week. This week has been pretty good to me. I'll start at the end of last Wednesday, after my emailing time was over. We were doing English class and we decided that since there were so many people at different levels in our class, we would do 3 classes. So the Sorelle took the absolute beginner students, Anziano Pyper took the advanced students who pretty much already know English, and I took the intermediate ones. The people in my class really don't know how to speak or understand a lot of English but do know a fair amount of grammar so I had to mostly speak in Italian and be able to translate lots of random words and phrases that they had questions about directly. I did surprisingly well and one of the students who has been coming since the beginning of my time here remarked on how much my language skills have improved since my first day. At the end of the lesson I was going to share a short spiritual thought with them and the thought came to my head to share a video where Elder Holland explains the Book of Mormon. While it was playing I realized that I had that thought because the 3 people I was with had all at some point expressed some sort of interest in our church or had been picked up by us as an investigator even though only one had received a Book of Mormon and none of them had read it(I don't know how that happened). After the video was over I talked about what the Book of Mormon means to me and the powerful effect that it can have in a person's life as it has in mine but for the first time ever, I didn't feel limited by my ability to speak in Italian. The words just flowed from my mouth and even the student of ours that had been dozing off the entire time before was sitting up and listening. After I was finished I asked the people who didn't have a Book of Mormon whether they would like one and they were very interested so I quickly ran upstairs to get a couple of copies for them. I know that I couldn't have done that without the guidance and power of the Spirit. I finally am starting to feel like I can do this "missionary" thing on my own. Obviously, for a lot of things it is helpful to have someone with me that knows the language very well, but it is comforting to know that if I needed to that I could do things on my own. The rest of Wednesday was a little rough because we had ward council and we butted heads with the bishop some more but I won't go into more detail since I don't like to criticize local leadership to such a large audience, especially since he really does mean well and is trying to do his best. The rest of the week was pretty normal for the most part. Isidro didn't show up to church again because he had work, which is a problem because if he can't change his work schedule he won't be able to come to church at all. Since we've had a lot of referrals lately, we have been busy trying to schedule appointments with all of them but, as usual, it is harder than it should be because that's just how it is to be a missionary. There seems, at times, to be an invisible wall of force of some sort that prevents us from being as successful as we would like to be. It's exhausting working against the grain like that but we just have to "continuare avanti" with the knowledge that it will not always be that way and that we are doing the right thing. By the time I send my next weekly email out, there will be a new Mission President here named President Allen and the old one, President Dibb, will be gone. I've really liked Dibb even though I've only been with him for a few months. There are some rules that he has made that lots of people don't agree with but all of them have been for the purpose of protecting us and making us most effective missionaries that we can be. I've been told that there are two main groups of mission presidents: ones that focus on missionary work and ones that focus on missionaries. President Dibb definitely belongs in the former category but from what I've heard of President Allen (my companion's parents know him from back in Idaho), he is a very relaxed person and is open and friendly with everyone around him. His wife apparently even told the parents of missionaries serving here who came to their farewell to write down something that they can bring out to Italy for their missionaries. In essence, I'm sad to see President Dibb go but I'm excited to see how things are under different leadership. All I know for sure is that I want to try my hardest to be a person that the president can count on for anything he needs to be done. This week I've been reflecting on exactly how fortunate I am. Of all the places in the world that I could have been born into, I came to America. I received a complete family who loves me and who taught me from a young age the teachings of Jesus Christ. I was born into the gospel and now have the opportunity to share those same blessings that I've received with people in far off lands. Then I realized that everyone on this earth has been blessed enormously as well. We all have a Heavenly Father who loves us beyond comprehension and who blessed us with life and this earth. We have a Savior who made it possible for us all to return to live with God again. I am amazed everyday as I try to think about all the eternal potential in the people around me and I know that each of them are beloved sons and daughters of God. If there is ever a time in life where it seems like privileges or talents were unevenly distributed or like nothing is going your way, remember who you really are and that your final destination is not at the end of this life. You were created for grand purposes. Vi ringrazio per tutto il sostegno che ricevo ogni giorno da voi Vi voglio bene Anziano Younce
Before I begin, I would like to just talk about some things I'm grateful for. I'm extremely grateful for my loving and supportive family who, even though they are thousands of miles away, has found a way to uplift and sustain me. I am grateful for all of the church leaders and teachers I've had over the years that have been instrumental in getting me to this point in my life. I'm grateful for the chance I have to serve here in Italy with the best people on the planet.
So my trainer, Anziano Hansen is now far away from Cimiano. Luckily, my new companion has arrived and has been fantastic. Anziano Pyper is from Idaho Falls and is one of the goofiest guys ever. There really isn't a dull moment with him around and we have gotten along really great. One of the best things about him is that he is a great people person so he has been able to connect with all of our investigators very easily. Also, he is good friends with one of the missionaries who work in the mission office, which is very handy when you live so close to the office. Actually, we have connections all over the two Milano zones. On Saturday we went to an all you can eat sushi place for lunch with pretty much everyone in Milano and we are all buds, including the APs and office elders.
Sometimes there are days and weeks on the mission when you wonder whether what you are doing is enough. Then along comes a miracle that seems to say "you're doing just fine". I had a couple of those this week. We were just walking home one day and a man approached us and said that he and his son had some problems that he wants to fix. We talked with him and got a prayer lesson out of it before getting his contact information and giving him the address of the church and our number. He came to church the next day and then later that day he called us and set up his own appointment. When we met with him the next day, he said he wants to meet as often as possible, as in every day if we can, because he really wants to change his life. We gave him a Book of Mormon and restoration pamphlet and set up an appointment for the following day. When we met him, he had already started to read the book and we taught him about the restoration without a hitch. Next time he plans to bring his son as well so we can teach them together. It's moments like these that give me that little boost to keep going forward. I know that God is watching out for each of us and that when we are feeling at our lowest, that is when He is with us the most. Through prayer we can reach Him and He can give us the emotional rescue that we need. I've learned how to turn to prayer for that spiritual and emotional support on my mission because if I didn't, I would have probably exploded from all the stress a long time ago. I wish that I had discovered this little "secret" to a stress-free life a long time ago. It has helped me see the hand of God in my life so that I can see exactly how close He is to me. Even if you not feel him close, He is there and is waiting to come to your emotional rescue so you can see how much He loves you.
Thanks for all the emails everyone! I'll talk to y'all next week.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
This week was amazing in some ways and frustrating in others.
First off, I feel like we didn't get to teach nearly as many lessons to nearly as many of our investigators as I wanted to but I guess there were some things that got in the way. Early in the week we got "bidoned" (a term we use here for being stood up) a bunch early in the week. On Monday we had 4 appointments lined up at the church building and non of them showed up even though we called all of them and they all said they were on their way. On Thursday we had a "scambio" (exchange) with the zone leaders and while it went very well and I learned a lot, we didn't get to talk to any of our people for a day and a half. Then, on Saturday, the European cup championship soccer match was being played in Milano so all of us couldn't use the metro (meaning we pretty much couldn't do missionary work in any efficient way) and then had to be inside our houses by 5.
Alright. Now for all the tender mercies of the Lord!
Usually we are lucky if we get 1 referral in a week but last week we had received 4 and we already have another 3 this week! We have been meeting with Michele a lot lately and he is super close to coming to church. He has told us so many times that he knows that this church is true and that the Book of Mormon is true (though he always reminds us of how boring it is to read it) and that he needs to go to church but there are still some matters of stubbornness in his way. However, I have no doubt in my mind that by the end of this transfer, he will have come to church. Also, yesterday, after Anziano Hansen's farewell party, we ran into someone on the metro who used to be an investigator but who fell through the cracks and was never baptized. He is an African refugee but has been here for a few years already so he has his documents and is no longer living in one of the refugee houses so we can teach him. He was so excited to find us again. Anziano Hansen is leaving for a little city by the coast out in the boonies of the mission called Ancona so he will no longer be here. Starting Thursday I will have a new companion and I will no longer be in training. It seems like the Lord has given me all these people to take care of as a way of testing me. I have learned from tough experience that when the Lord gives you an opportunity, you make the best of it. I'm reminded of the parable where a master gave his 3 servants varying amounts of money before he left for a lengthy spell. When he returned, 2 of them had doubled their money but one of them, hoping not to mess up and lose the money he had been entrusted with, didn't do anything with it. The master said to the first two "well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things". To the one that didn't make an increase, he took away that which had been given him. I think one of the lessons to be learned from this parable is that when the Lord gives you something, don't be selfish. For instance, because He has blessed me with abilities and opportunities to care for many of His children, I have the responsibility to do so and if I do it to the best of my ability, he will offer more opportunities and will give me even more blessings to be able to do so. If I don't do so, he will take away all of those blessings and will not receive an increase. This principle doesn't just apply to missionary work. Use your talents for good and do good things. Take those opportunities you are given to improve other people's lives and you will be blessed.
So this transfer I'm staying in Cimiano and I am getting a companion named Anziano Piper. He is in the same group as my trainer was so they know each other very well. I've only heard amazing things about him so far so I'm very excited. I'm also nervous because for the first week or so I will be pretty much in charge until my companion knows all of our investigators and the members. I'm a little scared but luckily I think my Italian has really picked up. Instead of staying silent because I don't know what I'm saying, I just start speaking and hope that the words come to me and luckily that has helped a lot both with understanding and speaking because I get some practice and because I am more involved in the conversations so I can follow it a little better. Anziano Hansen will be with someone from Spain who grew up in Pavia, Italy (which is actually in our zone) named Anziano Sossa. His English ability is very limited and apparently has decided he will only speak Italian with his companions so Anziano Hansen is worried because he still isn't totally confident with his ability to speak Italian but he is an amazing missionary and man so I'm not worried for him at all. He gets along well with everyone so that should help.
Thank you everybody for your love and support! I feel your prayers and I enjoy all of the encouragement I receive through emails.
Vi voglio un sacco di bene!
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
These past two weeks have reminded me of a scripture from the Book of Mormon that I memorized in Sister Despain's seminary class (thanks to a catchy tune). In Ether 12:6 it says "And now I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things. I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen. Wherefore, dispute not because he see not for he receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Last week was absolutely brutal to us and I started to lose hope in my ability to fulfill the Lord's errand but we tried to exercise faith by taking steps with investigators towards baptism and by shifting our efforts from some people who need to do some more personal preparation for baptism to the exhausting process of finding people to teach. In this area we had just about given up on "finding" because, at least while I've been here, we haven't had any success. However, we felt impressed that instead of wasting our time on people who are not ready to listen to us, we needed to make an effort to find the people that the Lord has already prepared for us. Because we exercised our faith in something that we hoped for but could not see, the Lord decided to bless us tremendously. My companion says that he has never had success in "finding" the way that we have this week. The miracles were not limited to just finding though. One time, we had an appointment with our new convert, Anthony, and he didn't show up and wasn't answering his phone. We were worried about him but it wasn't the first time this had happened so we forgot about it. Anyways, afterwards we were about to head to la stazione centrale for a lesson with someone but when we called to confirm with him he was not answering. In the past he has been super flaky even when we were able to get ahold of him and he hasn't ever come when we have not gotten through. As the metro came my companion turned to me to make a decision about whether we should go or not. At this point I was about 97% sure that he wouldn't show up and even if he did, he was one of the people that we were going to drop considering he isn't progressing at all and even if he was, he couldn't be baptized because he lives in a refugee camp, it wouldn't be a big deal if we blew him off to get some awesome finding work in. In addition, we hate going to centrale so in essence, there were about zero reasons for us to go to the appointment. If I were to follow my own logic and desires, I would choose to go looking for people to talk to in a beautiful park on a gorgeous Italian spring day. However, I was moved on by the Spirit to go to the appointment so we hopped on the metro. It just seemed like the logical thing to do even if it really wasn't. Immediately when I got on the metro I was regretting the decision and thought that my companion would soon be teasing me gently for wasting the Lord's time. When we got to centrale we decide to walk around and look for our guy and then if he wasn't there, go back. While looking, we found Anthony sitting next to a friend of his. We started to teach Anthony and his friend listened in as we talked about eternal family and he seemed really interested so after the lesson we exchanged numbers and will see him sometime soon! There were many other miracles that happened this week that I do not have the time to write but you get the picture. By exercising faith we leave room for God to work miracles. Yesterday was one of the best days I've had on the mission so far. It started out with us going to the church early so that we could unlock it and set it up for the new missionary training conference. About 25 minutes before we left Michele, one of our beloved investigators, called us and told us to meet him at the metro station so he could show us something. When we got there he took us to this little hole in the wall pasticceria that has super cheap and super good dolce. On the way there and back we were talking about his life and his experiences with investigating the church in the past. He has really grown to love and trust us and we live vet him in return. He is definitely someone who I will miss and who I will tell people about when I get home. After that little adventure we were at the church where I got to see President Dibb, probably for the last time, and all the new Sorelle who I saw at the MTC before I left. We did some catching up but soon left because they had the training to do and we had work to do. At the church we picked up an Anziano who had just come back from the States for some surgery and for the next 5 hours until his companion could pick him up, he was with us. It was awesome having him with us because I learned a lot and he is a pretty cool guy. After we handed him off to his companion, we went to the house of an investigator of ours named Prince. He is from Africa and he is very involved with some ministries up here so he is very interesting to talk to. He reminds me of some of the people I would talk about religion to in high school because he always tries to tempt us into a Bible bash. My companion let me sort of take over the lesson because I have a lot of experience talking to people like that, growing up in the south. It was actually very fun because he had many very complex questions that he wanted answered that could be answered with simple principles of the gospel. I don't think I've ever met a man that is as curious as he is. His questions are not designed to try to trip is up. Rather, he wants to know more about what we believe and why and we try to find common ground but when we can't find any, we bear testimony and give scriptural evidence. The problem with appealing to the Bible for answers or any other scripture by itself, for that matter, is that there are many ways to interpret it and just about every scripture from the bible we used he turned around the other way. That is the reason that the Book of Mormon and modern day revelation is so necessary, though. There are infinite interpretations of any one scripture but with two witnesses, the Book of Mormon and the Bible, we can gain a clear picture of what God wants for us. Unfortunately, Prince only takes the Book of Mormon to be a study of our religion and not to be the word of God yet but that is what we are working on with him. I may have had an awesome week and I may be on cloud 9 right now but that doesn't mean that I will always be there. Even now I still feel the pull of Satan into thoughts that would bring me down from this wonderful state. Thoughts of self worthlessness are always from him so never let him pull you down that way. He wants you to remember the imperfect person you used to be, even though you have changed. He wants you to think about the shortcomings you have now, even though you are trying your best to be better. He wants you to lose all hope for the future by reminding you of what you weren't and aren't, even though your potential is infinite. He does this because his past, present, and future are pitiful. He is the lowest of the low and he can't improve so he wants you to feel the way that he does. I bear witness that God loves everyone on this earth and that He wants everything that is good for you. My favorite thing about being a missionary and thus a representative of Jesus Christ is that I just get a glimpse of that love that He has for people. On the days where I feel like I'm going to pass out from exhaustion, that love that I feel and all that potential that I see is what motivates me. It motivates me to try to show people what I see. Never let Satan pull you off your cloud. You have been born for better things than that. Alla prossima settimana, vi voglio bene! Anziano Younce
Ever since we baptized Anthony we have experienced a slowing down in our work. I knew that things were just too good to be true and that the mission couldn't be this rewarding without a few difficulties arising. We have been trying to figure out how to move our investigators forward but at every turn something has been preventing us from doing so. It is especially hard to help these people to come closer to Christ when then don't show up to appointments also, like has been happening a lot lately. In the past apparently Cimiano has been the worst area in the mission when it comes to cancellations, sometimes approaching a 75% cancellation/stand up rate. We look at our whiteboard every day and glare at the empty space where we write baptism dates. We have decided that some of our investigators who are really not interested in baptism and do not keep our commitments, but have been meeting with us anyways because we have been hoping to change that, will be dropped. Instead of using our time on them, we will be helping those who ARE ready to accept our message whether it be the handful of investigators we have now who are ready to do that but we have had difficulty meeting with, or finding new people to teach. We have been going to lots of members houses and less active families to show a video that President Dibb is recommending. Actually, there is a funny story about this effort of ours. Since Friday I have been sick and Sunday was the worst day for me but I could stand and talk so I went out and worked. My symptoms included a headache, sore throat, and absolutely no appetite. We scheduled to meet with a strong member family followed by a less active family on Sunday to show them the video and talk to them about how they can be involved with missionary work. We didn't say anything to either of them about staying for dinner and, in fact, said that we couldn't stay long because we were very busy. I was dearly hoping that they wouldn't have food for us because I couldn't eat anything but when we got to the first house, they brought out enough food for 20 people and told us to eat. I ate as much as my throat and stomach could handle so that I wouldn't appear rude and then we showed the video and got out of there. By now I was feeling like I was gonna throw up because there was food in my stomach that didn't belong there. I was hoping beyond belief as we walked from our first appointment to the next that they wouldn't have food but when we walked in I saw a bunch of food on the table and almost walked out the door right then. Normally I would be excited to eat a bunch of traditional Milanese cuisine like risotto and fried chicken filets (I don't know what they call them) but not that day. I decided my strategy would be to get the smallest possible scoop of everything and the smallest filet and spread it out on my plate so it would look like I had gotten more than I did and then to take small bites and chew it for a long time. For most of the meal it seemed as though nobody noticed until somebody brought it up and they started making fun of me for taking tiny bites and chewing so much, like a baby. I'm afraid that they were offended that they made all that food for us and I didn't eat much. I couldn't really do much about it considering with each bite I put in my mouth my body had the urge to throw up. When we finally got out of there my companion turned to me and said "why didn't you just tell them that you are sick so you can't eat much?" I almost decked him right there because I didn't know that I could do that. I really wish he told me that I could say that because it would have saved me the upset stomach and the relationship with that family. We are gonna go see them again soon so hopefully I can explain to them what happened last time and show them how fast and how much I usually eat.
This week we have also done a ton of "finding", where we go up to people on the street or in the park and try to start a gospel conversation with them and eventually get their number so we could see them another time. We haven't had any success so far because I am awful at finding due to my very limited knowledge of Italian but I found myself getting better at it and becoming more bold.
I chose the title of my email, "Riders on the Storm", because first of all it seems as through we have been riding through a storm this week, but also because the opening lyrics of the song are "riders on the storm, riders on the storm, into this house we're born, into this world we're thrown" and I have been reminded of those lyrics so many times since I've been here. I see people every day who seem to have been thrown quite roughly into this cruel world and are left to eke out a meager living before they die. They are just hoping to hold on through the storm. Little do they know that they are designed for a much greater purpose and that their Father in Heaven is still there. This reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, "Master, the Tempest is Raging" as well, with the accompanying inspiring account from the Bible. When the Apostles of the Lord were caught in a great storm and it seemed that they would perish, God was still watching after them and he still loved them but he wanted them to literally and symbolically turn to Jesus Christ to save them. When they did, the seas were calmed and their faith was strengthened by the experience. Before, I had never thought of the story from the perspective of our Heavenly Father, but my experiences have helped me see his hand in our lives and in our trials. This week has truly been a storm for me and unfortunately I have been letting it get to me more than I should but I know that I have received strength enough to handle it by turning to the Master. The whole time I have never been forgotten but for some unknown reason, I needed to learn to turn towards my Savior for strength. Never forget that you can turn to Him in every difficulty and in every trial. Sometimes He will not help in the way that you want Him to, but the help will come nonetheless. If there is one thing of which I am sure, it is that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us with all his heart, might, mind, and strength and that He will not let us fail. That is why He sent His Son. Thanks to Them, we can survive the storm that sometimes seems as though it will envelop us.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
This week's email is going to be much shorter than usual because I was able to skype my family on Sunday but I will still tell you guys some stuff that happened this week. First off, my companion was sick all throughout last week so we weren't able to do much proselyting but we did get Anthony baptized. He wasn't answering his phone for the 5 days before his baptism so we were debating whether we would cancel the baptism since usually with our African investigators if they aren't answering, it's because they are far off somewhere working on permesso stuff or in another country. We prayed about what we should do and despite everything pointing to the probability that he wouldn't show up, we went through with the baptism because we got a confirmation that everything would be alright. He showed up and my companion baptized him and then I confirmed him and face the gift of the Holy Ghost the next day in church. This week I've been thinking that there are so many reasons to be joyful in my life. I'm sharing a powerful, happy, important message with people in the most beautiful country ever, my family is safe and happy back home and even though I don't get to see them, the Lord is taking care of them and they are so supportive of me. This work I am doing is to help others to find the same happiness that I know can be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I see how everything I have that gives me joy in every moment of every day stems from the message that I get to proclaim and there is no feeling more satisfying. I also find satisfaction in knowing that my cousin is reading this email of mine in the South Africa MTC as he prepares to do the same. Just like I have something special to share with the people here, he has that same responsibility in Durban, South Africa. Sorry again that this is so short but I'm short on time this week. I'll chalk it up to a communication breakdown Anziano Younce
As always this week has presented its own new challenges and new blessings. I will first present the blessings because I don't think I can wait until the end to write about them. Anthony finally had his baptismal interview with Presidente Dibb and he passed with flying colors! He is going to be baptized this Saturday and then the following Sunday I will give him the gift of the Holy Ghost so I'm pretty excited to do that ordinance for the first time (especially since it will be in English). Last week at Sorella Avila's goodbye party a member brought a friend of his who is interested in learning English so we invited him to our free English class and he came! We have arranged to meet him tomorrow and he seemed super excited to see us again. Hopefully he understood that we are not meeting him tomorrow for a private English lesson though. Ok now for the difficult stuff. This week one of our investigators dropped us because while we wanted him to progress towards baptism, he wanted to stay Muslim. His reasoning is that he is a Muslim and so he can't be a Christian. We tried explaining to him that we wanted to show him our beliefs so that he could find out for himself if it is the truth and that if he found it to be true, that he would be baptized but he didn't quite understand. He didn't seem to be in any danger from other Muslims if he were to be baptized like some are but he said that his parents and grandparents and everyone from his country were Muslim so he will always be Muslim. I thought that kind of attitude was limited to the Italians we've talked to but apparently it also affects refugees as well. In my experience though, even the refugees who are Muslim are very open to us and are more ready to accept the gospel as any other group of people. We are told not to seek out refugees and to only teach them if they come to us and are interested but they still end up being the majority of baptisms in this mission. For the past couple of days Anziano Hansen has been pretty sick and we have tried to get out and proselyte as much as he can handle but nevertheless we have been staying in a lot. I've actually forced him to stay in more than he has wanted to because he needs to recover but he has been worried that we haven't been putting in as much effort as we could into our work. I'm just glad that my trainer isn't the kind of missionary to make excuses to not do missionary work. Before I say my final remarks I would like to talk about some more quirks about Italy. Almost no places here take credit cards. They only take cash which is a trait which is mostly limited to hotdog stands in America. I guess it's just a part of the stubborn traditionalism that reigns supreme here. That sense of tradition is also probably the reason why there is no such thing as air conditioning in Italy. It's not that it is too expensive for them but rather that they are afraid of it. The missionaries who have been here longer say that it is because of this belief here that a swift cool breeze to the back of the neck can cause all sorts of sickness. I'm not totally sure if they were telling the truth because it seems pretty far fetched but it would make sense considering the church buildings here have air conditioning installed but it isn't turned on during the summer. This stubbornness is one of the reasons I love Italians so much but it makes it difficult while we are trying to find new people to teach because when we talk to them they are either stubbornly Catholic or stubbornly atheist but either way they don't know why they are one of those. They don't know why they believe something and never have considered changing. Even when we come to them with some new ideas. I've been watching the Joseph Smith Papers (downloadable in the Gospel Library app) during my free time at night and have been thoroughly enjoying it. The series satisfies both my curiosity regarding history and the early church and I highly recommend it. While watching it and pondering on Joseph Smith, I have realized how important prophets were to the early Saints and how important they are to us today. Their words cannot be taken too seriously and only good can come from heeding them, as history can bear witness. They truly are watchmen in the tower, seeing danger from afar and warning us of it. I have seen in my life and in my service here that when I try to follow closely to their counsel, I am protected spiritually as well as physically and when I do not do so, I don't have those same blessings in my life. Vi voglio un sacco di bene! Anziano Younce Anziano Younce
Monday, May 2, 2016
This week has been another one of ups and downs. The beginning of it was fantastic and we were getting lots of work done. We had a miracle where an investigator who had been taught for over 4 years set a baptism date for himself without us even planning to do that in that lesson. In every aspect of our work we were finding little miracles but as amazingly as it was going, it quickly went in the other direction. Our recent convert and our investigator with a baptism date disappeared and we couldn't find or contact them. We had already reminded everyone in the ward to come up on Sunday and welcome him but we were afraid that he wouldn't show up and we could stand there looking pretty stupid for talking up our "golden investigator" to bishop and ward members. People were blowing off lessons left and right and for 3 days in a row we even struggled to get 1 lesson. An activity with some members and their friends at the park where we planned to find some new people to teach was delayed but nobody told us so we couldn't possibly stay. The same investigator who had set his baptism date called to say that he no longer wanted to be baptized and then said he doesn't want to meet anymore at all because he wants to found his own religion including the teachings of Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Mormonism (we always knew there was something off about him anyways). The whole situation was putting stress on our conviction and on our companionship relationship until our appointment late on Saturday night with a less active member of the ward. He has been down some very bad paths in life and because of his bad choices he might be excommunicated. The missionaries here have been meeting with him to help him work things out and to strengthen him. In the lesson he told us that what we are doing here is not in vain. He told us how much our love and care means to him and how important it is to the people we see and to God. He reminded us of how special this calling is and that there are very few teenagers who would give up 2 years of their life for this cause and thanked us for making the decision to come here and help people like him. I feel like we didn't deserve all of his praise but nevertheless it gave us the boost we needed to continue forward in the work. I feel like that member was an angel that God sent to strengthen us and uplift us while also lifting our 3 day curse. The next day was Sunday and so far while I've been here I've dreaded Sundays because it is all in really fast Italian so I can't understand it and as a consequence, usually end up almost falling asleep. The members would come up to me and talk really fast in Italian and sometimes Spanish and I would be left confused while they poked fun at me and said I would learn "piano piano". Not this Sunday though. First of all the Sorelle brought a big ol lasagna for us to eat for lunch (we ate it all by the way) and then when we got to church, I felt like I could understand people way better than ever before. The talks made sense to me and when members came up to me I could have a half intelligent conversation with them instead of just responding with "sto bene" or "tutto posto". Halfway through sacrament meeting, our disappearing investigator, Anthony showed up to our utter amazement considering the one time he had responded to his phone that week he had said he was staying in Lecco for awhile.
After church and after eating Sorella Avila's bomb lasagna, we went to teach a lesson to our Muslim investigator, Muhammad, and for the first time, he seemed like he was understanding the concept that Jesus is the Son of God and is our Savior and isn't just a prophet. He is now really interested in reading the Book of Mormon and learning more about our gospel now that we have taught him how he can live with his family forever because his parents are dead and he really loves his family. He is kinda crazy but I can't wait to see if he can start to grow his own testimony.
On Tuesday we met again with the investigator who said he wanted to be a founder of his own church..because he said he wants to meet still. We had hoped that before he was just having a breakdown or that he was just intimidated by baptism but when he got to the church he said he didn't want to be baptized but he wanted to keep meeting with us so that he could learn more about the Book of Mormon for his new religion. We dropped him like it's hot. We said that he could still come to church but we can't meet with him anymore. Immediately afterwards was a party because Sorella Avila is leaving after being in Cimiano for 6 months and this guy stuck around. He just talked to anybody that would listen about weird stuff in the Bible. He started talking to one of our investigators but we quickly got the ward mission leader to replace him so our guy wouldn't be weirded out. Anyways, about Sorella Avila. She only has one transfer left in her mission and she is going to a different city. That alone is very tough on a missionary because you don't have any motivation to get to know anyone and even if you do want to, you don't have enough time to do so. On top of the "one and done" she is training a new missionary and is going to an area of the mission that is generally very hard to do missionary work in. Luckily it is Mestre though so Venezia (Venice) is in her area so she is gonna have some sweet P-days.
Ok. I wanted to save this for last because I'm just so excited about it but Anthony might finally get baptized! There have been lots off deliberations about the refugee crisis here that have gotten in the way of it up to this point along with some resistance from some people here but after countless lessons and 10 times as many calls trying to work everything out, his baptismal interview is arranged. He has to do it with the mission president because of some new rules but if he does as well as he has for the 2 practice interviews he has had with us, he should be in the water on the Saturday after this one. There have been so many things standing in his way but he has stayed with us the whole time and the Lord has guided us through it all. I see his hand in so many things throughout the process that I don't have the time to write at this time. Anyways, hopefully he will soon be well on his way up the stairway to heaven.
Thank you for the emails, pictures, and prayers everyone! They really do make a difference. More than at any point in my life I feel sustained by God and I know I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. For any young man or woman who is wondering whether they should go on a mission, I am recommending for you to JUST DO IT! DONT LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS! It really is so much better than I could possibly imagine and, while it is incredibly hard, I have found that I surprise myself everyday with the crap I can put up with and the mountains I'm able to climb. It is the most rewarding thing I have had the honor to do thus far in my life and (no offense to all of you) I don't see any reason why I would want to be home right now. That isn't because I'm in the most beautiful country on the planet because in actuality this area is pretty ugly. Rather, I see people's hearts change and I see the atonement work in their lives and that can be found wherever you serve. Whether you are Elder Despain in El Salvador, Elder White in Taiwan, Elder Day in Idaho, Elder Dooley in South Africa, or Anziano Younce in Italy, that is the most amazing part of the mission. I think this is the happiest I've ever been. Anyways, I will talk to y'all more next week.
Ci sentiamo nella prossima settimana!
Vi voglio un sacco di bene!
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Email from 4/20/16
Before I explain my title, I would like to talk about some other things. So we have made a habit of going to the house of our investigator, Michele, for lunch every Sunday after church. He is my favorite person on my mission so far for so many reasons. I talked about him a few weeks ago but y'all probably don't remember that. We visit with him and his family and eat the best food ever. This last week he made a lasagna for us that can only be described as celestial. He makes fun of us and his kids the entire time but we are all rolling in laughter the entire time even if he is picking on us. Usually he picks on our clothes but this last time I wore my grey suit and he was super impressed. I don't know if that is a good thing though because he has a very strange fashion sense. He loves super overly fat ties and suits with insane amounts of buttons. He had my companion try on a suit of his that has 6 buttons so that we could only see a little bit of his tie and his collar. He seems to be a very happy person but I can tell he gets pretty lonely because he has had a rough life. He used to have a good job as a dentist and a beautiful family of a wife and 2 kids and good health but then all that was taken away from him. He got very sick and could no longer work so he lost his business and his wife left him soon afterward. She took all his money and their house in the ensuing divorce. So now he lives in this little, one room basement apartment where he used to run his practice and he only sees his kids on the weekend. I saw pictures of him even just 10 years ago and he was a healthy, happy individual but now he is bent over with scoliosis and has lost everything. He seems to be a "forever investigator" but when I visit with him I don't feel like I am wasting my time. He is a child of God who needs our emotional and spiritual support as much as anyone. He has made great strides to try to obey the word of wisdom but he still needs time before he will recognize why he needs to baptized and I have no doubt that it will happen some day. He showed us how to make an Italian apple cake last time we were over and it was super good. Ok now I will explain the title. On Friday we had a lunch appointment with an investigator named Vito. He is an interesting guy with a very interesting house. He has a bunch of classic rock albums hanging on the walls and a bunch more in stacks all over the apartment (which I could have looked at for hours) and he showed us how to make home made pasta with mushrooms. While we were cooking he asked if he could put on some music and while we explained what type of music we are supposed to listen to, he went ahead and put on the album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience called "Are You Experienced?" which happens to be one of my favorite albums ever. When I heard the first chords of Purple Haze play I had mixed feelings but found myself doing a silent fist pump. I'll attach some pictures of us making the pasta. Last week I talked about the talk by Elder Holland in the last general conference and I would like to talk about another one this week. While being here I have had a lot of first hand experiences with refugees from Africa and the Middle East and I found that the words given by Elder Kearon were absolutely inspired. His talk was entitled "Refuge from the Storm" and in it he addressed the issue of refugees and how it is our duty as humans, supporters of freedom, and as Christians to help them in this their time of need. I have talked to these people who are trying their hardest not to be a burden to others but still are in need of food and shelter. They do not want to hurt anyone and, in fact, the ones I have met so far have been some of my favorite people I have ever met. If you haven't read or listened to this talk, I urge you to because it honestly changed my whole outlook on the refugee situation in Europe and the United States. Anyways, my time is almost up so I should probably close out. Vi voglio bene! Anziano Younce
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
On Sunday we met with Michele again for lunch. He made the best pasta I've ever eaten and some delicious chicken with potatoes. While talking to him I realized that I was understanding him a lot better than I did when we last saw him during my first week here. It was satisfying to see how far I've come with the language in such a short amount of time. One thing that I've learned about Italians is that that say exactly what they are thinking. We walked in and he starting making fun of how I was wearing a dark suit in the spring and wearing a spring tie (I was wearing a pink tie that I bought in Bellagio last week). He then proceeded to stuff us full of delicious food. Apparently he likes me because I eat a lot and eat really fast. He also thinks that my mouth is beautiful. Sometimes that Italian honesty is really awkward. Lucky for us though, he gave us his leftover sauce from the meal in a jar so we used that for lunch yesterday.
I've been eating better lately than I was when I first got here. It was quite the adjustment going from eating 3 meals a day with snacks to essentially eating one big meal. I wasn't used to taking all of my food for the day in at once so I felt hungry for a large portion of the day because I wouldn't be able to eat a large lunch. Now I have adjusted to eating an ungodly amount of pasta in the middle of the day to hold me over until I can have a small bit of food at night before I go to bed. I know in my previous emails I made it sound like I was starving or something but I was probably just being dramatic. I should be grateful that I am in an area where the members and investigators feed us fairly often and where there is enough food for us. I should also be grateful that the missionary work here is keeping us busy enough that we don't have a ton of time to eat lots of meals. Also our flat is fantastic so we have that going for us. The sorelle swung by to pick up the key to the church one day and they actually got mad because our place is so awesome. I will send a picture of the front of the house later. Now that spring has sprung there is an arch of purple flowers over the gate leading to it and there are a couple of little lizards that we have claimed as pets living in a rock in front of our house plus I think we might have the only place in the mission that has a backyard. There is also an extra room in our house since there used to be 2 coppie that we use for working out and drying our clothes (I'll talk about that later in the email). But enough of me bragging about my crib.
Today we went to see "The Last Supper" and it was pretty cool. They only gave us a few minutes to see it but it was just weird being in the same room as a painting that is as famous as it is and has been reproduced so much. We then went into a Catholic Church nearby and it was odd to see that you have to pay and light a candle to pray. While the inside was beautiful and very quiet, I didn't feel the Spirit and the peace that can be found in the temple. Ultimately it felt empty. It felt more like I was in an old palace or a museum rather than a house of God. Anyways, I'm glad that we are sticking around Milano this P-day instead of traveling to another city. We get to take as much time as we want to see some cool stuff here and don't have the tight, stressful schedule that we have had in previous weeks. I also think we just need to relax some because we have had a tough week so far and have a lot to do for the rest of it as well but you will read about that later.
I think now that the newness of my surroundings is starting to wear off I can start to tell all of you some of the strange things I have discovered about Italy. First of all, the toilets here are awful. Instead of having a quick, powerful flush to get everything down the drain you turn a knob and this waterfall sort of thing happens. It takes forever to get the toilet paper to go down because there is no pressure. I get that they might be trying to save water or something but in reality you stand at the toilet for a straight minute waiting for everything to go down. I do like that you can find great ingredients for really cheap here though. I have no trouble keeping my spesa (grocery shopping) for the week around €20. I don't think this will be true of most of Italy but at least in Milano there are Africans, Indians, and Arabs selling super cheap fake watches and glasses. That last part and a multitude of other things about Milano remind me of New York. If you took away the Italian advertisements there are some times when I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the 2 cities. There are tourist shops everywhere, people selling crappy knockoffs of name brand accessories, busy people in a hurry to get somewhere, and people begging on the streets. That last one makes me super sad because if I was home and it was my own money I wouldn't hesitate to give them a bit of money but now that I have this name tag on I'm not allowed to. It is for a good reason that we aren't allowed to give people money as we don't want them to give future missionaries any problems because of our generosity and also we are dealing with the Lord's money and it has been set aside to sustain his missionaries. It is still hard to turn them down. Anyways, I will talk about some other Italyisms next week.
This week we are trying to get 21 lessons or more because Presidente Dibb challenged us to do it. We want to do even better than that so we are trying to get 30 lessons. To put this in perspective, our mission averages 9 lessons per week per companionship. On Monday we had 9 lessons scheduled and we ran around all day trying to meet with them but we would get to the place we agreed to meet and they wouldn't show up even if we had called just a few minutes before and they said they were coming. In total over the past few days we were stood up 15 times and we felt like we had wasted a lot of time waiting. However, were able to find 5 people in the park who would hear a short lesson from us and some gave us contact information so that was good. All in all we were sore and worn out from all of the fast walking and standing, plus it was the first really warm I've felt here so that added to our discomfort. I feel proud of those 2 days, however, even though we got way less done than we should have given the effort we exerted. I know that I could show what I did on Monday to the Lord and I could be proud of it because I worked my butt off. About halfway through Tuesday I was thinking that I was tired and that I had done all I could but then I remembered a video that Presidente Dibb showed us in new missionary training last week which basically taught me that as a representative of Jesus Christ, that when I feel like I have been asked to do too much, that my burden is too heavy or that my the task I've been assigned is too hard that I should remember all the Christ has done for me and everyone because He suffered far greater than I have. He took upon himself everybody's burdens. He asked in the Garden of Gethsemane whether there was an easier way but He went through the Atonement despite His fears. As I work past the point I think I can go because He needs me too, that is when I am closest to Him. I'll let you know next week how this goal goes. I'm prepared for the most exhausting week of my life thus far. However, I also know that my energies will be put to good use as I will be using them to invite others closer to Christ.
Ci vediamo nella prossima settimana!
Excerps of an additional email sent to Mom and Jacob on 4/13/16 . Edited and included here
So as you might have read in my big email, I've had a tough week so far. I would like to go into some detail about what I have learned from it though. We had a very rough day on Monday and we thought on Tuesday "ok we need to make up for the lessons we didn't get yesterday" and then we got an even more difficult day. After yet another appointment fell through Anziano Hansen had the wisdom to suggest that we say a companionship prayer to find out what we need to do. It absolutely did not help with the work. However, we did learn something. As we walked through the park we came to the realization that while we might have been working hard and doing all the right things, we weren't doing it for the right reasons. It became a pride issue because we wanted to show President Dibb how great we were and we wanted the recognition that might come from being the youngest companionship in the mission but still managing to get 30 lessons in a week. The work had become more about collecting lessons than about helping others to come unto Christ. The Lord knew that we can do better than to think that way so he decided to humble us and I'm glad that He did. It's almost like He said to us "while you are doing my work, you are becoming disciples of my Son. These are my children. Love them like We do." Now, to avoid doing things for the wrong reasons we have decided to not even refer to lessons but to instead refer to the people that we are going to teach. We were counting lessons throughout the day but now we will focus instead on how we are going to help the people we teach. Since we made this attitude change everything feels different and it has actually felt like we are consecrating this week to the Lord. Our first lesson today actually cut directly into our relaxation time but we had a good attitude about it because we knew this was the only time we could visit with him and help him. The man's name is L... and he has been having a big problem with the Word of Wisdom and especially the part about smoking. This is made even worse by his doctor because he has actually prescribed cigarettes for him because of some of L...'s mental health issues. However, he is working closer to baptism and is down to only 2 cigarettes a day from 20 a day. Today was different though because his dad has died. Because we had refocused on loving the people we teach we were able to know what to say to him and had, as a consequence, one of the sweetest lessons I've had thus far on the mission. I think his faith has been strengthened enough by the Spirit now to be able to completely stop smoking. I am also sharing this with Jacob because I feel like as a future missionary he n
Thursday, April 7, 2016
So we have been meeting quite frequently with James, our new convert, and Anthony, our investigator with a baptism date who is friends with James. If you recall from last week's email, they have recently been kicked out of their government housing and are now homeless. Through all of their difficulties they continue to have amazing faith. Unlike our very difficult investigator, their experiences have humbled them tremendously and now they trust so much in the Lord and his plan for them. I think I have learned far more from them than they have ever learned from us. They watched General Conference with us on Saturday and Sunday and we have been calling them every day to check up on them and give them words of encouragement. It is a difficult situation though because there isn't much that the church can do for them here because there aren't the same welfare programs and bishops storehouses here like there are in America. They both came to watch General Conference with us on Saturday and Anthony stayed the entire time on Sunday as well! He has been progressing so well and I really do think he is ready for baptism. This week we started meeting with another African man named Andrew. He was being taught by the Anziani in Lampugnano before they realized that he was in our area. On our second lesson he told us that he used to have a baptismal date for February but that it never happened. We promptly set another one with him for the end of April. Andrew has been asking great questions during the lessons and I can tell he is really thinking about all of it and is trying to understand it but he can't read which could make it difficult to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately we have to hold off with Anthony's baptism until the church decides whether or not we will be baptizing people who do not have documents which prove they are in the country legally. That would hurt the work in Italy a lot because many of our best investigators are refugees from Africa who have come here looking for a better life. They make up a large portion of every ward as well and are the most faithful and humble people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. They all are so ready to hear the gospel and accept it but they might not get the chance. Fortunately we think that Andrew has a permesso because he is going to a sort of government mandated class so even if the change takes place where people who are here illegally cannot be baptized he should be fine.
Now I will share a sad experience which actually turned out to be an amazing learning opportunity.
This week I had my first experience with dropping an investigator. He was a minister back in Ethiopia for awhile before coming to Italy so he thought he was very knowledgeable in the bible and with religious things (in actuality his reasoning based on scripture made absolutely no sense and his questions were even weirder). He had been through a lot in his life and had seen some terrible things but while those experiences should have humbled him, it instead hardened his heart. He would ask us questions for all the wrong reasons like to trip us up or to try to get into a "bible bash". We would answer with simple gospel principles and bear testimony but it was obvious that he was not allowing the Spirit to touch his heart because each time we would feel the Spirit start to enter the room again he would deny it by claiming that he had seen more in his life and had more experience than us so he was entitled to being right. He would then chase that Spirit away again by insulting us and our efforts. At one time we said that we are sacrificing 2 years of our life vest to help others to come unto Christ because of our faith and he denied that it was a real sacrifice. My companion then bore a powerful testimony and said that his father had died a few years ago and that his family needs him back home because they no longer have a father and this man tried to one-up him by saying that his father had died before he ever met him and used that fact to try to bring us down. Needless to say, the room was completely devoid of the Spirit despite our best efforts and I was struggling to feel Christlike love for this man because of all these terrible things he was saying to my companion. These weren't the reasons that we have ceased to meet with him though. The reason we dropped him was that he was unwilling to change. There have been difficult investigators in the past who have gotten baptized but they usually also keep commitments and progress spiritually, no matter how slow. This man fundamentally and adamantly was against praying (which confused me because he was a minister and was still deeply religious) and flat out refused to read the Book of Mormon. He had been taking the missionary discussions for awhile but hadn't followed up on any of these invitations. As missionaries the only thing that we can do to help others to come unto Christ is bear testimony to bring the Spirit and extend invitations. There is no way to help them if they will not listen to the Spirit and seek the truth through it. I'll admit that for awhile I was mad with this man. I didn't feel charity, compassion, or love for him (something that for, any future missionary reading this, is necessary to have for everyone you see and especially for your investigators). By the time it came for me to go to bed that night I was plagued by the thought that I couldn't do anything to help him. That hatred that I had started to feel was turned on myself. I felt guilty that I in some way had failed him and had failed God. I couldn't sleep for a long time because of these thoughts but then an impression came over me that this is not my work and is not my message. It is His message. All the Lord wants me to do is try my hardest and open my mouth. He wants me to love his children and if I do all these things, he is pleased with me. I am reminded of an MTC devotional from a few years ago that they showed us while we were in the MTC by Elder Bednar or the quorum of the twelve apostles. It was called "Character of Christ" and in it he said that it is necessary for a disciple of Jesus Christ and especially his missionaries to turn out from themselves. Christ was the ultimate example of this action. Absolutely everything He ever thought, said, or did was in service of others. He was ridiculed, despised, insulted, and disrespected a whole lot more than I have been on this mission but He never ceased loving. He never thought of His s own pride or comfort or ego. I realized that in my own pride my thoughts had turned away from the needs of those people who I have been sent to serve and I had turned inward. To be honest, before coming on a mission I thought that humility was one Christlike attribute that I had perfected (pretty ironic, I know). Since this experience I have realized how far I have to go. It's a good thing that a mission is probably one of the most humbling experiences a person can go through. It is a constant struggle to become worthy of being called a representative of Jesus Christ. I bear my testimony that missionary work is a divine work and that it is important to God. He will bless his servants who are faithful and he has prepared and will continue to prepare His children to receive this message and our job is simple: find them and invite them to come unto Christ, He who is mighty to save. The field is white and ready to harvest so it is a great time to be a missionary. We could have spent countless lessons preparing that difficult investigator to open his heart but the Lord doesn't tell us that the field is brown ready to plant. He has told us that it is white ready to harvest. Our time for these 2 years is, in reality, the Lord's time and so I believe that misusing it on people who are not ready to accept our message is a sin. While we might have been planting seeds by talking to him there was a field of white and it is harvest time. Someday our former investigator may be ready for the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ but in the meantime, there are countless souls who the Lord has prepared for us.
Yesterday we had a really sweet experience that helped me see my purpose here a lot clearer. We were having an absolutely awful day of proselyting where absolutely all of our appointments fell through, we did a lot of waiting for people who never showed, and one of our investigators dropped us. In the afternoon, though we had correlation with the ward mission leader where we were to discuss how we could help investigators, less active members, and new converts. We had just finished saying the opening prayer when the sister missionaries called and said that one of their new converts needed a priesthood blessing. To give you some background on this new member, she, her husband, and her 9 year old son had been baptized a few weeks ago. A week after the baptism her husband ran off for unknown reasons and we haven't heard from him since. Now her son is without a father and they are left trying to figure out how they can provide for themselves in his absence. When the sister missionaries called us she had just found out that her mother, who she was very close to, had passed away. If I was in her shoes, having been promised countless blessings if I were baptized but then having my family torn apart I would have been flat out angry with God. When we got the call, the ward mission leader immediately stood up and we all headed to the sister's house. When we got there we gave her the blessing and then shared with her some thoughts and scriptures about the plan of salvation. Then we proceeded to visit with her for about 3 hours, playing card games, talking, and playing with her son. There are a lot of other things that we could have done during that time (3hours is a long time for a missionary) like setting up appointments or making surprise visits to the houses of our weaker investigators but I know that God wanted us to be with that family for that time. We are instruments in His hands and I know that he was answering a prayer and showing that sister His love for her through us.
Today we went to Bellagio which is at the tip of a peninsula going into Lake Como. The bus ride to and from it was absolutely gorgeous. I will make sure to attach some pictures in another email. We got there and it was pretty much a tourist town but the view was still fantastic and there were some cool shops that we browsed. We bought some "Lake Como ties" from a couple of shops because they are famous throughout the mission for being awesome quality. They aren't as cheap as "Firenze ties" (which are only 2.50 each for missionaries) but they are awesome and I will be sure to send some pictures of them as well. We got some pizza from a little shop which my companion said is the best pizza he's had in Italy and got some gelato which he also said was the best he's had here. That means a lot too considering he spent 3 transfers in Firenze which has the best pizza and gelato in the mission! So all in all it was a fantastic P-day. However, because we did so many changes between metros, trains, and buses and were running around all over the place nonstop the entire time it hasn't been exactly relaxing. Next week for P-day we are staying in Milan to see the original Last Supper painting so it will be a more restful day. What I've learned so far is that P-day is a sacred day to a missionary. Since we can't participate in Sunday afternoon naps and Sunday's in general are very busy, P-day is our day of rest and needs to be protected at all cost. Without it I think all 74,000 or so missionaries around the world would go insane.
I thought conference was especially fantastic this time. When the prophet spoke in priesthood session I could see he was physically very weak and was struggling to say what he wanted to say but I could still feel the power in his words just as strongly as when he was first called to be the prophet. I watched the hour long movie about his life on Gospel Library this week and I was once again amazed by the amount of service that man has given to the church and to God over his lifetime. He has truly been on the Lord's errand. Remember to pray for him and the other general authorities. They need our support now more than ever. It makes me so sad to hear people oppose them during the sustainings each and every conference so now more than ever we need to voice our support for the priesthood that they have because they truly are men of God. We didn't get to see the second Sunday session because of the time difference but we are planning on watching that this week at some time. Everyone keeps talking about Elder Holland's talk and he always astounds me so I can't wait to hear his words.
Ci vediamo nella prossima settimana!
Vi voglio bene