Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Communication Breakdown" Anthony's Baptism Email from May 11, 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

"All Along the Watch Tower". Email from May 4th, 2016

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

"Stairway To Heaven" Email from Elder Younce April 27,2016

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!

Ciao ciao

Anziano Younce