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

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