Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The time is far spent...: December 27, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I guess friends aren't really going to receive this email; I'll have to forward it to them when I get back. Va bene. Non c'è problema. No problem. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! Here in Italy we have interesting weather - in the mornings on my bike my fingers begin to freeze, then during the day it gets hot again, in the evening it gets cold, and the floor of our apartment is so warm that at night I feel hot! The mosquitoes went on vacation for Christmas. I put into practice this week a principle that I want to internalize for the rest of my life - sacrificing for others. Last Sunday our bike helmets were stolen, so we had to buy new ones. I had a thought as we were going to the bike store, and when the salesman asked, "Scontrino unico, o due?" I said, "Scontrino unico." Merry Christmas companion. I got him a set of batteries for his front light on his bike as well.
I realized that, many times, we have the opportunity to help other people do what is right if we will only make a small sacrifice. Example: You are with a group of friends and they begin to make plans to do something outside the Standards of the Gospel. What can you do? You can try to make some good plans, but sometimes it doesn't work. Nothing helps. Are you going to simply go along into transgression? Or are you going to leave your friends to do what they want, "It's their life... they have free agency" and utterly deny themselves of exaltation? Or can you have the keen-ness of mind to see the obstacle and make a way out of it? "There's (such-and-such) playing at the Dollar Theater - Let's go - My treat." Who's going to turn down a free movie offer? What have you lost? A few dollars - 10? 20? 50? What have you gained? You helped your friends (those who you want to take with you to the Celestial Kingdom) have fun in an environment that doesn't run away the Spirit. There are countless opportunities to help people be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, simply by helping them make the first step.
Our Christmas Party on Friday was an incredible success - We arrived and our members started introducing us to people we didn't know. I realized, "This is an incredible member referral!" And we taught. And taught. And taught. And taught again. We got 7 referrals from members, and the other missionaries got referrals as well. We gave away a copy of the Book of Mormon and have a follow-up appointment with a man; others told us that they felt the Spirit of the Lord guide them to the Church for the party. I was so busy teaching that I didn't have time to be involved in the program - good thing I hadn't planned it! I'm not even sure what the missionaries did; they called me on the microphone to come and sing (took a break from teaching, sang, came back to finish teaching) and it went really well. I was happy. Christmas Day we opened some gifts - from members, others, etc. Later that day we went to the Church to eat dinner with the other missionaries and do phone calls. It was a bit complicated on my part! There wasn't time in the phone schedule at Church, so I braved a public telephone. After a few tries and lots of different numbers, I used 2 phone cards at the same time (one for Italy and one for America) and was able to get through. Perhaps it would have been better to not call... Everyone was trunky (When are you coming home? It will be so nice to see you... etc) I'm certainly not! It helped me realize how much I really have changed... I left, and left a hole in the family, a hole among my friends. Everyone remembers the person I was. For two years, I've been a servant of the Lord, and I have changed. I don't fit in the spot I was before. In a short while I won't fit here, either. And so, I won't fit anywhere. I think that's why missionaries have it so hard - they go back to the people who think they know them and find that they (the missionaries) have changed remarkably, whereas only two years has passed at home... so don't be surprised when my accent and my fluency in Italian aren't the only things that set me apart from 2004.
I intend on emailing every week for the rest of my life. This account is good for another 2 months; by the expiration I'll have another one to use. Ueia! That's a big commitment! But I think it will be easier than just that - there will always be missionaries to email.
Interesting bit of information: Elder Peterson's flight to Nicaragua leaves at 11:45 pm Tuesday night, Mountain Time. My flight leaves Wednesday morning at 7:50 am, Italian Time. There's an 8-hour time difference. We leave at the same time. One Elder going out to the field, another returning home. There's a lot of symbolism in that. If I call from the airport, it will be very, very late at night there; I'll pray about it and follow the Spirit. Either way, I'll have a chance to talk with Elder Peterson on Mother's Day. My flight should get in at 2pm; we have to go through customs as well, so I don't know when I'll get out.
I had this incredible idea - I am going to write down and index all the spiritual experiences (the smaller ones - not the really big ones) I've had in my life (yes, it's a long-term goal) and what principles they teach and what invites I can use them for. Personally, I love personal experiences. And I've seen that having experiences available helps others to believe in a principle enough to have experiences of their own. (Finding things after praying, for example).
My companion and I get along well; we are two very different creatures and we have trouble understanding each other on even the most basic of levels. I think we are simply totally different - not opposite - but somehow different in a way that I was never aware possible.
I know that the Lord is with us - we prayed to find people a few days ago and He led us to an Evangelist Church at 8pm. I knocked "Why not?", and the door opened! We taught two men about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we felt the Spirit of the Lord testify. I know that Jesus is the Christ - we can be missionaries without a black nametag - and I know that He will always be with us, if we let Him! I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

On being 21...: December 20, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I'm not sure it's different from being 19 or 20. The weather here is interesting - there are still mosquitoes. These last few days we were sick; my companion has had a cold/flu that passed from him to me to him and finally developed into a sinus infection (him, not me). I got a blessing this morning and feel much better - I was reading in the scriptures and found the "he who has faith the be healed shall be healed [by the laying on of hands]... and he who has not faith to be healed, but believes, shall be [treated with medicines and wholesome foods]" scripture. A quick check in my patriarchal blessing assured me that I am not destined to be sick in my life, so I decided to take up my bed and walk! It seems to be working. Hopefully my companion will follow suit, or his body will be able to sort it out by itself.
Yesterday we went to English Class and the students threw me a party. We talked about holiday vocabulary and I told them the story of The Snow Queen. When I get back I'll take the time to write new English Class manuals - the manuals we have now aren't very guided for teachers and make it difficult for new teachers to determine what has been taught in the past. Va bene. I gave all the students a parting gift - a copy of The Book of Mormon with a dedica inside. They all took it and were happy to receive it; I am grateful that the Lord gave me the chance to know them.
Sunday we had the District Christmas Concert. The District choir has been practicing for months for it, and finally it happened in a little concert hall/old church downtown Florence. We arrived and the director shook my hand and asked me if I would sing with them. I looked at her a bit strangely, but she ended up being serious - she came and pulled me out of the audience to sing next to her husband. It was fun to be in a choir - there were a few songs that I had never sung before, but the tenor part wasn't too difficult to pick up (she thought I was a tenor. My voice was almost hurting by the end.). One that I really like is from the Hymnbook - Stiam Marciando verso la gloria - We are marching on to glory? - It is a beautiful hymn that I first heard here at District Conference. We also sang the Carol of the Bells in Italian. I've been here long enough that a text in Italian doesn't phase me - it was when the choir began singing "Peace like a river" in -English- that caught me off guard! Afterward we tried to give away copies of the Book of Mormon to investigators and friends that had come; we only had a slight problem - we didn't know who was from the District and who was not a member! We tried talking with everyone - dropping vocabulary and trying to determine where they were from - and we were able to find a lot of members we didn't know... I think the investigators walked by without talking with us. That's possible. We had two investigators there.
I've been looking back on my life... on my mission... on eternity, and I've seen the Hand of the Lord in everything that happens. I can say that right now I'm happy, and that my greatest happiness comes from being able to help others be happy. Our investigators have started disappearing for the holidays, and I suddenly realize that when they come back I won't be here to greet them and ask how their reading in the Book of Mormon is going. I won't be able to ask if they are praying, or if they are following the commandments. But my companion will be here, and hopefully his trainer taught him well enough to encourage the salvation of souls. (Speriamo - let's hope so!) And so I don't worry. I can still do a lot - I can still pray for them. The Lord will answer my prayers. It is interesting to be nearing the finish line of the race I have been preparing for all my life. I remember being little and being in Primary one day when the sister missionaries from the Spanish Branch came in. They taught us "I am like a star" in Spanish. All of you know that I love music, and that song has never left my mind. I still can recall the words a dozen years later. That's the power of missionaries. Simply because it came from their mouths it was important to me. Simply because they said it, it was true. I remember earning money and putting it in my tithing/savings bank. I didn't buy much growing up, because I wanted to save for my mission. I remember going to BYU and getting the question (hundreds of times), "Where did you serve your mission?" There were some looks of incredulity when I responded, "I'm 17." I remember waiting for the call... and now I am a missionary. I've been a missionary for two years. Time still goes by at the end of the mission - it's incredibly important to finish strong (as all of you sports people are aware - the most important runners in a relay are the first and the last), so I am planning on finishing strong... and never stopping.
Cari, vorrei anche portarvi la mia testimonianza in italiano. Forse non la capite, ma ancora potete sentirne la forza. Io so che Gesù Cristo è il Figlio di Dio. So che Lui è venuto per salvarci, e che Lui è il Salvatore e il Redentore del mondo. So che Lui ha chiamato oggi un profeta, e che Lui ha restaurato la Sua chiesa qui sulla terra. E' la Chiesa di Gesù Cristo dei Santi degli Ultimi Giorni. So che il Signore sta qui con noi in questo lavoro - Lui ci guida e ci sta vicino. So che, se noi chiediamo miracoli, li riceveremo! Se chiediamo le benedizioni del cielo, le riceveremo! So che Dio vive e che possiamo un giorno tornare da Lui.
May the Lord bless each of you in your lives this holiday season - don't take a vacation from sharing the Gospel. This is the time when men's hearts are turned to God - turned to Christ. Take the time to talk about the truth, to share the Book of Mormon. You will answer unvoiced prayers. You will be the miracles that change the lives of men for all eternity. Eternal life and Salvation are the stakes at hand - will we be courageous enough to give the true gift of Christmas? I am grateful that the Lord has given me another Christmas season to carry His name - my prayer is that we all may take upon us the name of Christ, always remember Him, and share His light with those who stand in need. The world is filled with the impoverished - not of gold, silver, and food, but of the word of God. Go out and bring them in! This is what President Young was saying about the Handcart companies - if you do not go out and bring in the suffering in the world, nothing you believe in matters! This is why we are members of the Church - to bring in the others and help them to live. It is hard to find them, yes, but they are out there suffering... and we have the promise of God that He will help us to find them. I love you all. Bring them in!
Anziano Peterson

Tick...Tick...Tick... And time goes on.: December 14, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
It feels like years ago that I sat at this computer to write to you. Perhaps it was. Friday we had an activity - The trip to Hawaii one - and it went well. I had written the script and we had a member essentially read it as the angel of light. It went well - almost every companionship had at least one investigator from each of the two branches. We didn't have a big show from our Branch; we sort of feel mixed vibes from the new Branch Presidency. As far as activities go, it was a great hit with very little planning involved. I wrote the script, assigned parts (airplane captain, angel of light), gave out scripts to those involved, and then we had a cast meeting a half-hour before to explain. No one else had to be stressed, because no one else knew what was going on. It meant that they could simply enjoy it. It was a good start.
Saturday it hit me again that it's December and exactly what that means. As time runs by, it gets harder and harder to keep from crying. Thanks to everyone for not writing letters about 2007 and after. It really does help.
Singing has been a really good finding tool here in Florence and in the nearby cities. We sang on Sunday and met a bunch of people; Wednesday we went to Siena and sang there as well - hundreds of people stopped in the streets, many willing to listen to the message of the Gospel. It happens.
Sunday there was an incredible miracle. A sister in the Branch, was born Deaf. She met the Church about a year ago and was baptized by a sister in my MTC district. I, upon arriving here in Florence, made great friends with her thanks to my skill with sign languages. (Ecco - a reason why I took American Sign at BYU) I picked up a bit of LIS (Italian Sign Language) and I translate for her in Gospel Principles. Sunday was a bit odd, though. She arrived and had trouble concentrating on my signs. When I asked her questions she wasn't really paying attention to me - and that is not only uncommon for the Deaf, it is normally incredibly rude - something was wrong. I finally gave up and just watched her - she was staring at the teacher, intently reading his lips. She turned when another student made a comment, and then at one point just stared straight forward with an intent look on her face. I wondered what she was thinking, feeling... Then, she told me she had something to tell me. I pulled my companion outside and she told me this story: (paraphrased since there isn't room - we should send it to the Ensign anyway)
I went to the Temple recently and I felt that I had to return in December. But how? I can't go in December by myself! But there was a trip for the Young Single Adults, and I went. While there, I heard a voice that said that I would hear voices and sounds, but not words. All the way home to Italy I felt like Jesus was doing an operation in me to change me - I felt the Spirit so strongly! I returned last night from the Temple. This morning I woke up and all was silent. I went and put in my hearing aids - nothing. I changed the batteries and began combing my hair. Shwsh, shwsh, shwsh. What is that? I brush some more - shwsh, shwsh, shwsh - it's the sound of the comb! I've never heard it before! I take a few steps - I hear my footsteps! I open the window - I hear the cars passing by! I come to Church today and I can't concentrate because I hear so many sounds - I could hear the voice of the teacher speaking - and I had never heard a voice before! I can hear voices and sounds, but I don't yet understand the words. It is a miracle!
I had one of the sister missionaries hug her (as I couldn't), and I cried plenty. What an incredible miracle! The Lord continues to do miracles in our lives, as we allow Him to do so. I know He does!
I have an invite for all of you. I would ask you all to pray each day to talk with at least one person about the Gospel. If you believe that you have no friends outside the Church or you have no timeto find new people, listen to this (true, personal) missionary story.
We were on the train going to Rome for a Conference. I had prayed for the opportunity to share the Gospel that day, but it didn't look like we were going to have the opportunity - the little compartment in the train was empty except for missionaries. I started wondering how the Lord would help us. I thought of getting up and moving compartments, but it was a reserved-place train. Then, a ticket-controller came into our compartment. He asked for our tickets, then asked us if we were students. We replied we were missionaries, and he told us, "I feel inside that I should sit down and talk with you. I have learned in the past to follow these feelings, as they lead me towards God. Wait just a moment and I'll be back." He came back and we talked for 3 hours - the entire ride to Rome. He took the Book of Mormon and promised to read it before the weekend, then gave us his information to give to the Rome Elders. The Lord knew we didn't have time to go searching for people. He sent that man to us, because we had faith. Because we asked Him. Only a short while later, we got on the bus - a bus totally full of missionaries. I sat down next to a man that rolled his eyes at us and a nun. She looked at my nametag and started talking with me - very odd for a nun. She wasn't interested in the Gospel, but asked me all the 'right' questions that I ended up teaching her all about the Restoration. A man sat down behind us when she left and started to ask questions as well; I taught him, too. All in all, we had absolutely no time to search that day. We were on trains and buses and in a Conference. But because we had the faith to ask the Lord to place people in our path - and because we looked for them and found them - we found incredible people that would have never been found knocking on doors.
My invite to all of you, again, is to pray each day that the Lord will place someone in your path with which to talk about the Gospel. Pray for the Spirit to recognize the opportunity He will give you, for He will give it to you. Pray for the courage to follow the promptings of the Spirit when they do come, and then courageously follow them! I promise you that, as you do this, the Lord will show you how you can be an essential part in His work. Every single day He can place someone in our paths. Every day He can place 2, or 3, or 10... it all depends on our faith. Begin with one. Ask for the miracle, and it will come. I promise it will come.
I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is at the Head of this Church and this work. I know that God lives, and that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God. Go out and share it with the world! I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

Miracles and messages: December 6, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Friday we have an activity, too! At our first missionary correlation meeting our Branch Mission Leader asked if we could plan an activity before Christmas. We said yes, and then he decided we were going to do "A Trip to Hawaii" - an interactive activity where the participants are passengers on a plane that goes down, then they are guided through life after death - essentially explaining the Plan of Salvation. No one in the whole meeting understood exactly what we were going to do, so I was nominated scriptwriter and I wrote out a script for the whole event. It began unfolding in my mind as I used scriptures and rhetorical questions to guide the people through Spirit Prison and Paradise, through the Judgment and on to Celestial Glory. It's set up very simply - it requires only 1 person who understands the entire script (as the Spiritual Guide) and then a few supporting roles (without scripted lines - flight attendants, missionaries in Prison, the plane captain). Missionaries are filling the roles, and then I asked a member if she could be our spiritual guide. She amazed me with her response - she offered to memorize the entire script - 4 pages long, single-spaced! Wow. We are inviting tons of people with a, "You've won a trip to Hawaii! Come and redeem your prize!" flyer - people seem to be interested. Our main goal will be to help the branch realize that missionary activities can be very successful even without huge planning and preparation. We are all excited.
Two days ago (Monday) we had a shaking experience. It was raining really hard as we went to District Meeting, and then we printed out the flyer for our activity, then made copies, delivered them to the other missionaries, and finally got home to eat lunch after 4. It was late, so we ate, studied the language a bit, then went out to knock doors near our home. We decided that we wanted to contact everyone in our little neighborhood, so we have been keeping track of the people we talk with with crazy little designs of the doorbells. We were filling in the blanks - where no one answered or they said to come back another day. Around 7:30 we were buzzing a citofono that liked to shock us (literally - there was live electic current in the metal doorbell frame) and my companion buzzed the last bell. We were let in to the ground-floor home, where a little man greeted us. We saw instantly that he was not entirely normal - he had an odd grin on his face and said things three or four times in an interesting voice, staring off into the distance. But I felt like we should teach him. We began singing and asked if he would turn off his television; he prayed with us, and then we began teaching. My companion thought I was crazy - I left spots for him to talk and he was totally silent. Then the door opened, and in walked his wife. They are both around 65. She was arriving home from work and didn't glance twice that there were strangers in her home with her husband. She went and changed shoes, then came back and began talking with her husband and with us about her day. We talked with them and realized that she was a bit odd as well, but truly a very nice person. She takes care of a 90-year-old woman all day. We moved the topic to the Gospel again, and she seemed interested. She hsa been in a coma and saw "true happiness" as she calls it. She explained that her husband was bipolar and that they never have guests, as he is either euphoric or depressed, even with medication. She had been very surprised to see us in her home. We gave her a pamphlet on the Prophet Joseph Smith and began explaining the Restoration of the Gospel, and then the phone rang. It was her son, and he was calling to tell her he had intentions to "Saltare nell'Arno" - to jump in the river. She came back and we continued talking... we hadn't realized what the phrase meant. Then, it suddenly hit us. He was going to commit suicide. We are in a total stranger's home, we have been talking long enough that we love them and care about them, and then her son calls and tells her he is going to commit suicide. She was no longer able to concentrate on the Gospel; she called her son and berated him for the "joke" he was playing on her. She told him that his actions would not gain the satisfaction he wanted from his love that had abandoned him (he had been living with a woman that left him for another man - he is 40). His words before hanging up were, "Prega per me, Mamma. Perdonami." ...Pray for me, Mom. Forgive me.... She was shaken... and we left her a Book of Mormon and left the appointment with the intentions to go talk reason into her son. My companion saw my intentions and protested, citing a training in the MTC specifically against talking with suicides. We called the mission president for advice, who told us to instruct her to call the police. We went back and did so, but she explained that Italian laws tied the hands of even parents in the cases of disappearances. She had no right to notify the authorities, and didn't believe there were anti-suicide agencies available. We left crying. What type of world is this? ...But I wasn't going to stop before I had done absolutely everything in my power. After looking through the telephone book for a half-hour, I remembered that our Branch President had worked for the Police. I called him, even though it was late, and he also told me that the Police could help. I called them and they told me the same, only that they needed the mother to call herself. We went back yet again and convinced her to call 113; the operators assured her that they could help her son, and we went home. We realized that there was no chance in the situation that we had been in - it was no chance that we had been let in to a home and that her son had called at that moment. She would have never called the police to report the situation and get help for him... he may have never had a chance. I don't know what happened to her son. I don't know if he is alive or... But I do know that the Lord put us in the place that He wanted us to be in. We had the chance to save someone's life. It has made me even more pensive about the real meaning of missionary work. There are so many people out there who are on the verge of committing spiritual suicide - making choices that will hinder their eternal progression... and are we ignoring the warning signs? We as missionaries are able to save their lives, but how many people jump off the bridge of their life to become bitter, unkind, or simply unbelieving? There are so many people who have killed their desire to learn about God - so many people who have lost their lives... and we can help them! That is what the Lord will do - He will place us in the spot we need to be to change their lives and redeem them from past actions. In the end, it is their choice... but we can do a whole lot. Alma's faith sent an angel to claim his wayward son; this woman's good nature and faith in God sent missionaries to her home who convinced her to send specialists to her son. We can do a whole lot before we need to give up.
...And we have another thought! (Changing modes... beep. click. bzzzz...) Many years ago a Senior Sister Missionary asked me to promise her that I would never play Basketball on my mission. I guess that our mission had had some problems, and she was sincere in her request. I had never been a huge fan of Basketball, and I felt the spirit of her request, so I said sure. I promptly forgot about it for at least 5 years.... until I was here in Italy and someone asked me if I wanted to play Basketball a Preparation Day. Suddenly, the image of this sister and her request came up from the depths of my mind and I had a choice to make. Should I disregard the promise I had made so many years ago and play? Or should I stay faithful to a promise I made who knows how long ago to a person whose name I don't remember? I realized the importance of integrity... if it had been a promise contrary to the teaching of the Gospel, I could have repented of it and hence released myself from its bond... but it had nothing to do with that. She had asked me and I had responded. I had no chance to clarify now - and no one would ever know. I realized that integrity is not an external factor - it is the internal understanding that we are truly faithful and honest in all our doing with our fellow men. I've missed a few basketball games during my mission (today, for example)... but I made a promise. To me it's that simple. Hence, the invite - when you say you will do something or that you won't, then do it. Be honest. Have integrity. Then people and God can trust you entirely. And you will find other people who have the same qualities. Many times here in Italy I have met people and known, in an instant, that I could trust every word they ever said. Time proved it true, and I hope to be able to be trusted by others in the future.
I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He is here among us. Of this I am certain - that He restored the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that today there is a living prophet on the earth. I love you all - put on your (albeit internal) nametags and share the Gospel of Christ!
Anziano Peterson

The mission never ends... only changes!: November 29, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This last week was beautiful. The work is going well. The Lord is doing miracles, and we are being molded in His hands. I spoke with my companion on service, and then for two days in a row we received trainings on it - proof that the Lord truly does answer prayers. We need only to ask Him. Singing in the square was incredible as well, and we are planning an awesome activity in Church.
Yesterday was my last Zone Conference and, with it, came the tradition of bearing testimony and giving advice to the rest of the missionaries as a departing testimony. I had been thinking about what to say, and I'll give you an insight to my thoughts.
I've seen a lot of miracles here in Italy. Real miracles. I've seen the Hand of the Lord and His children found and gathered to the fold. I've learned that this really is an incredible experience in life, and I know just as much that the Lord didn't send me to Italy or Elder Peterson to Nicaragua or anyone anywhere on a mission to have the best experience of their lives, just to end like running into a brick wall. The Lord doesn't want it to end. We don't go to school to stop learning and using the knowledge we have gained. We don't study all day to then not go and take a test. The Catholics have huge divinity schools to which they send potential priests and leaders of their church. They don't educate them only to leave them on the streets as beggars - and just as much, the Lord doesn't invest two years of His time to leave us as we were before. The mission never ends. It only changes. Our Church had no divinity school to train its ministers. It only has a mission field. Every man serves a mission, and instead of learning Theology, Theogony, Doxology, and the other unutterables, we learn how to recognize the spirit, the principles of the Gospel, the importance of the Book of Mormon, teaching skills, how to study, our calling, and how to speak in the language of the Spirit. It is like the image of Zion's Camp - the Lord wanted to prove His people, hence He called them to march with the Prophet. Speaking of Zion's Camp, a later member of the 12 said something like, "What days were those! We walked with the Prophet 1000 miles and heard his voice. We received revelations at his hand, and we saw prophecies given and come to pass!" We, too have a similar experience. For 2 years we are sent away, out of the world, with the Spirit as our constant companion. For 2 years and thousands of miles we walk with the Spirit, hear His voice, receive revelations at His hand, and see prophecies come to pass. We feel the still small voice that tells us to knock this street and we find a son of God waiting for us. We speak to one more person and we lift a suffering life. We have the gift and guidance of the Spirit - the angels stand round about us to bear us up! And then...? Zion's Camp was disbanded. Some felt it was a failure. Others understood its true importance. From that small band the Lord chose His leaders - the people that would guide the Church through the most difficult persecution it had ever before seen. We return home. We take our nametag off our clean white shirt, but there is still another one - the impression that has been written upon our hearts. All of us at baptism promised to take upon us the name of Christ. His name will always be written upon our hearts. We walk with Christ for thousands of miles, to engrave his image in our countenances. Our eyes will shine with the Light of Christ, and suddenly, we won't need a nametag anymore... because the people around us will see. Our actions, our words, our very faces will show Him whom we serve - that we are missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ! The walls will melt away as our radiance helps us become the true missionary force in the world - a member-missionary! Never again will someone say, "I'm not interested." before even looking at our faces. Instead, they will ask, "Why are you so happy? Who are you?" So, we undo the training wheels on our bicycle, and we begin to fly. That is why we are missionaries. The Lord is teaching us to become missionaries, and to remain missionaries, for the rest of all eternity. The mission never ends. This is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This is the mission. I know that this work is true. I know it. I know that the Almighty God listens and answers our prayers! I know that He has sent His Son to show us the way. He called a Prophet - Joseph Smith - in our day, and today there is a living prophet of the Lord upon the Earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that we are truly His children. That He may mold us into to become perfect is my prayer. I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

(a self-service automatic pasta machine) (awful, isn't it?)

Where can I turn for peace?: November 22, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This week has been a good time for reflection. First off, Happy Birthday!
Wednesday after I wrote you we went to have interviews with President. I'm ever grateful to have him as my Mission President; he seems to know exactly the needs and personality of so many missionaries. One of our investigators is going faster than I have ever seen before. Every time we go he throws out a one-liner like you only dream about. "I'm a Mormon!" (shouted as he jumped from his chair on Monday) "...Since you guys came, my goal is the Celestial Kingdom. I'll do... Anything to get there!" (After the invite to live the law of the Sabbath; he works multiple jobs on Sunday) He is incredible, and he is one of the things that keeps us going each day. There are people like that out there... who need the Gospel in their lives, desperately, and don't know where to find it. Transfer calls came and went... we survived and I am staying here in Florence. It's been raining a lot, and then not, and then yes... It may be starting to get cool as well; our 75-degree mostly sunny weather hid for a few days as almost-thunderstorms shook the city. Time just seemed to fly this week, for one of the first times in my mission.
I had an interesting experience this week; I asked the Lord for a miracle and, as usual, asked Him to tell me what I lacked if He wasn't going to give it to me. That evening He told me, and again I have a list of qualities to improve upon and develop to be a better missionary. But I also realized that perfection is not an end goal in this life. The thought came to me of Moses; he was commanded of the Lord to go and smite the rock, that water would come forth. He did so, and the miracle was accomplished. Some time later, the Lord called upon him to speak to a rock, that water would come forth. Moses was afraid - he didn't believe it would work to simply speak to the rock, so he hit it a few times. Water came out - the Lord did a miracle - but for his unbelief Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land. There's a dual blade to this story - even prophets are afraid (and have other imperfections) sometimes - Moses was the meekest of all men and yet still feared men more than God at some points in their journeyings in the wilderness. But, just as it wasn't OK for Moses to lack in faith (or anything else, for that matter), it is not OK for us. Sometimes they are little things. Sometimes they are bigger... but I would that all of us could be ready and trust in the Lord when He calls upon us to do anything - and that we do it in His way.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and all the missionaries in Toscana are invited to go to the American base at Pisa to a huge activity. I guess we'll see... it should be fun. Many missionaries have said some of their best memories came from that activity. Friday one elder in our apartment goes to Rome and we receive an Italian in our apartment; hopefully it will help my companion in his language skills (and maybe they will talk about something other than football!). He got the phone this week (we all have cell phones, since home lines cost way too much. Cell costs are still huge - up to 30 cents a minute with connection fees!) and his self-esteem is slowly growing. Training here in Florence is much different from in Quartu. In Quartu I had perfect control over what happened - there were no other missionaries. Here it's a bit harder in an apartment with two other missionaries and a district with 4 more and frequent zone activities... that goes to 12 missionaries total! If we were all perfect, it would be optimal, but we are all still learning. I think I feel a bit of the stress that parents do when their children start spending time with their peers. It's a good thing, yes, but...
I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that the Lord's hand is in this work. I love you all!

Anziano Peterson

Walking on water... or air: November 15, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
The Lord is blessing us greatly here in Florence. I'll begin with one, a man from Brazil. He was taught by missionaries in the past and found a piece of doctrine that he didn't completely understand. He told the missionaries to not come back, and they didn't, until one of them saw him in the marketplace and asked how he was doing (the missionary was there for a short while to renew legal documents). He got the address of this man and sent it to the missionaries - to us. We contacted him immediately, and met with him the next day. He told us his story and expressed a desire to cut off contact... and then we told him that we wanted to teach the Plan of Salvation. We showed him a diagram and explained that the Plan of Salvation would answer all of his questions about life. He set a return appointment with us. Our appointment was on Thursday; we were well prepared to teach from the scriptures. As we entered, I felt impressed to sing (we normally do)... and he stopped us and asked if he could bring his guitar. It was amazing as he played to our voices. We taught the lesson and watched as he changed - we could see the difference - from saying, "I don't believe in life after death and I don't believe there was a life before this one," to, "...This Plan is perfect! There are no holes! It makes so much sense!" All of his questions were answered and he planned on coming to Church Sunday. We called him Saturday and my companion understood only a few things. 1: He was really excited about something. Really excited. He had talked to his wife and she had gotten really excited. He wanted to meet with us as soon as possible. 2: He couldn't come to Church or the Baptism, but wanted to meet with us as soon as possible. We met with him Tuesday. We arrived and asked what had happened, and he told us, "When you guys left on Thursday, I had this really strong feeling about what you had talked about. It was a big feeling of happiness, of joy, of... I can't explain it. I was wonderful for 3 days, and then some little things happened that made me sad and the feeling went away. Now I'm confused, and a bit sad. I don't know why it went away. I want to feel it again. I want my wife to feel it." I'm grateful that the Lord has given us the opportunity to teach His children. We see them grow and learn and one day we will be with them in His presence. We taught him about the steps of the Gospel, including the gift of the Holy Ghost. He mentioned baptism about 7 times before we got to it, and told us that he needed to be baptized before we even arrived to a point where the invite would work. He wants us to teach his wife. He wants help in telling his family. He has already seen the change that the Holy Ghost is playing in his life - while under its influence he had great ideas to help people in Brazil (his native country), his family, his friends... he felt the desire to help everyone in the world to be happy. And he wants to arrive to the Celestial Kingdom. He wants to be saved. The amazing thing is that it's not because of us. My skills in teaching the Plan of Salvation aren't what caused the mighty change in his heart - it was the Holy Ghost that touched his life, and then he opened himself to it. His wife accepted the invitation to hear the Gospel, and we meet with him again tomorrow (he wants to be baptized as soon as possible). And I realize that I feel like I know him from another time... His face, the way he speaks, his great excitement remind me of... I feel that we were friends - good friends - and that the Lord has a Plan for each of us. I know that Plan is a perfect Plan. That's why he could be born in Brazil to a poor family and rise up in his education to be a math teacher. That's why he could have financial difficulties and so come to Italy to support his family. His tough life is not his choice, but he has the same choice to make it to the Kingdom of God as we do. That's his choice. That's why I could be born in Chicago to a family that already knows the truth, and go on a mission to Italy... because the Lord knew that we would find each other. That's what eternal friends are for, right? Tears...
A member told me last night that she totally trusted me... that she felt like she should do anything I asked her to do. Some days I wonder...
We have at least 4 investigators that are anxiously pursuing baptism. All have expressed their intentions to be baptized. One investigator accepted the Word of Wisdom Saturday - it looked like the only obstacle in his path, so now he can be taught all else and baptized. We are working with families - to whom we are going to teach the Plan of Salvation. We have contacts, referrals, progressing investigators, baptisms in the future, members that love us and are willing to do anything for the work, incredible blessings each day... Some days I wonder... The Italy Rome Mission is not the highest baptizing mission in the world. Our numbers are not the highest in other indicators. And yet, with few exceptions, I have been blessed with many people to teach and great success. I think it is a lesson on humility - I have learned here that much in life is a lesson on humility. Whether we are rich or poor, bond or free, in sickness or health... everything is here for a place. It is all part of a great Plan - a perfect Plan. I know that God lives, and that He has created a perfect Plan for us - the Plan of Happiness. The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Redemption and of Forgiveness. I know that He knows us each and that, if we do what is right, everything that happens will be for our good. Everything. Everything will be for our good. Everything will be good. If we do what is right, no bad can happen to us - everything will be good. I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

Becoming a better teacher: November 8, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
First off, beware of the cactus fruit! I don't know if they're the same as Fichi d'India, but the ones here are filled with seeds and would have to be mixed with something to be edible (though perhaps it's only my taste).
For the recipe for Cincinnati Chili with lentils instead of meat, you can buy dried lentils (here in Italy) at the supermarket. They're really cheap - I actually bought a kilo for 99 cents today (about 50 American cents a pound). They're a dried legume, and they store forever. To cook them (how I did), you take them out and let them soak for a few hours (or overnight). Then you change the water and boil them for a while. Then I blended them all up. Here in Italy they have these little hand-blenders - it's a long stick-like object with a blade at the end that spins. Then I added all the other ingredients - chopped onions (2?), and all the spices. I didn't keep perfect track, since it was without the original recipe. It made a lot more than 2 pounds of meat would have. The only concern is that you have to make sure that it is liquid enough - there is no oil in it at all! Remember making it with 90% lean beef? This has no oil whatsoever... I think once I added olive oil because I was afraid the other missionaries would complain. Just add equivalent portions of the ingredients until it tastes right, and then maybe a little more. The lentils somehow absorb the flavors more than meat does. If there isn't enough juice it is a bit dry (that's a really profound observation); the flavor is really good, though. I just started with lentils in the place of meat and then added spices when I realized that my pot was full (literally) of lentils. I remember hearing that 1 kilo turns into 4 or 5 when cooked (that's a change from 80% ground beef - that goes from a kilo to .8 when cooked. You may end up with 5 or 6 times as much from the same dry weight...) Good luck! I used lentils because they were the cheapest and easiest to cook (dried beans take longer) and they had the right color (almost). If there is an alternative that is closer in flavor, let me know!
This week I've been trying to determine how to be a better teacher. It began with concern for my companion (that is struggling with the language a bit) and also wanting to know how to improve in his regards. So, I've been trying to determine the needs of teaching and the best way to teach (whether it be a language or any other thing). What I got was an exploded mind, filled with ideas about objective evaluation, coginitive instruction, and creative development. I think I may do some serious thinking when I find the time (never)... about the teaching method and how to better teach and evaluate students' progress. I did learn/realize something very interesting this morning studying; The Lord will judge us all individually, but He will judge us from a perfectly objective point of view (translation for objective: He will not bend the rules nor enforce them beyond their bounds - He is not partial in any way). He does not judge us subjectively. And if the Lord does not judge us subjectively, what right do we have to judge others subjectively? Sorry, but I may use some big words (those were the ones that fit in my head). We are taught many different types of knowledge here on the Earth - cognitive knowledge (1+1=2, the sky is blue because...), moral knowledge (another deeper topic), and then each have creative abilities and talents that, based upon the development of cognitive skills, we are more or less able to use to express ourselves. For example: When I take a creative writing class, I not only place myself in an environment where I can create without subjective evaluation, but I also learn the cognitive skills required to better express my creativity. Example: I learn grammar. I also learn how grammar affects the reader's attitude in writing. Good grammar and poor grammar have different effects, and because I have a knowledge of them, I can now choose for myself according to my creativity whichever fits. Before, when I did not understand grammar (or any other cognitive principle used in creative expression), I was constrained to use unrefined skills to create my masterpieces. In a gospel setting, this is much of what missionary work is - teaching the cognitive skills of determining right and wrong, and then letting people actually create their lives instead of being constrained by their surroundings. It's incredible - this is why the truth makes you free! - because it gives you the opportunity to choose and know the consequences!
For those of you who didn't want to read the above paragraph, hopefully this one will be better. I also realized the importance of having goals in educational settings. Every task in life requires certain knowledge, whether it uses only cognitive understanding or a mix of creativity and cognition. Example: Praying in Italian requires a simple knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Learning the individual skills without seeing the end becomes quickly tedious (has anyone ever taken a math class where you seem to learn something absolutely worthless?), whereas learning with a goal in mind from the beginning makes it possible for learners to apply cognitive skills even while you explain them. That is why it's so important for missionaries to teach toward their commitments! That is why teachers must always help their students have short-term goals - abilities that they will acquire through the acquisition of knowledge that they prior did not possess. Sorry if I've lost you - it was something that suddenly helped me realize why we teach the way we do, and also the importance of it.
I know this Church is true! I know that Jesus is the Christ, and I know that the Lord's Hand is here, among us. I simply know that if we do our part, the Lord will teach us. He is the master teacher, and He knows our needs and will teach us according to our understanding. I love you all - may we work together in this great work!
Anziano Peterson

Memories...: November 2, 2006

Dear Family and Friends (except for Elder Peterson),
Wow. I can remember almost 2 years ago when I entered the MTC - the adrenaline rush as I walked into the Administration building and left behind my luggage; the wonder at receiving a nametag that said Anziano !?! Peterson - what does Anziano mean - and why does it not say Elder like everyone elses?; the anxious anticipation as the ceremony began; the sudden **it's here** of the end... and I haven't seen you since. Walking down the hallways was like a dream, and once it became real I was walking down the streets of Naples and Rome and Quartu and Florence. Days and weeks meld together to simply create time as a missionary - I've always been a missionary, right? It's difficult to remember life before the MTC. I guess that's a blessing. Now another Elder Peterson is there. I'll send him a letter.
This week was a tough week. We haven't taught much. Friday we went to pick olives with a member to help him out, as well as yesterday (Wednesday). That took the whole day. Olives don't fall off the tree at this stage (they are still slightly green), so you have to use rakes with spaces large enough for the branches but smaller than the olives. You set up a big tarp (parachute) and rake off the olives. It's time-consuming. It was fun work, though. We don't get the chance to do much hard labor. Saturday we had ZDM - Zone Development Meeting. That evening I practiced with the Primary for their program. Sunday was the Primary Program and then we went out and found some great people - the Cascine is always packed Sunday afternoons, and in Centro (the city center - dowtown) we sing in the evening. It was a good experience. The rest of the week was filled with cancelled appointments. A bit sad, but we bounce back. We have the Lord Omnipotent on our side!
I have something to tell you all - it's about the importance of goals. I have realized here in my mission the importance of setting goals. Big goals, small goals, reachable goals, visions and dreams... One day I may write a book on goals (talk about an interesting goal... smile). But I would like to tell you something that has hit me hard. Everything we do moves us in some direction. Every time we make a choice or take a turn in our lives, we go somewhere. But where? Do we simply go, without truly understanding where it is we are going - simply because we understand the short-term? For example - I remember cleaning as a little kid and wondering why we were cleaning - when would we be done? There was always more to be done - the house was never truly "clean". And then one day Mom revealed what the goal was. She wanted the house to be cleaned to a certain level at least once each week. She set the standards of cleaning and we established a day that we wanted it to happen. And cleaning not only started to make sense, but it was no longer super-stressful the rest of the week. We had a clearly-defined goal and simple steps that enabled us to chart our progress and reach the goals that we wanted. It is essential in our lives that we set goals - if I simply make the goal to "study the scriptures," when have I finished? And why do I still feel guilty when I only read a verse before going to bed some days? Didn't I do the right thing? And how much is enough when I DO have time? Why do I pray? Why do I go to Church? Why do I spend time with my friends or my children or spend time preparing lessons for my calling? What am I going towards? I have seen that having visions - for every aspect of our lives - helps us to grow in a way that is incredible. When I realized that I wanted to teach Italian at the MTC, it gave me a new reason to study Italian. It gave me the faith to believe that the Lord would continue to help me learn, and it gave me the desire to take the time to improve even when I speak well-enough. Studying the Book of Mormon with the intent of designing lesson plans to help missionaries (or even myself) on specific subjects is incredible. Intending to teach everything I learn impresses the knowledge I acquire upon my soul. And the Lord sends more - because when we have a goal, the Lord can give us personal revelation to help us reach or change our goals. So, the first step is to have a clear vision (Long-term goal) for each aspect of our lives. That takes some time. It can be tough. But once you find them, they will change you. Then you set shorter-term goals. Goals that you can do in the near future... so you don't forget them. Sometimes there are Medium-term goals as well. And then you find yourself asking yourself, "Is what I am doing now taking me toward my goal?" It's incredibly powerful - you can do anything at all in baby steps! I challenge each of you to set goals in your progression in the Gospel - evaluate who you are, truthfully, and determine who you want to be. See the vision. Then, ask the Lord what you need to do. Be humble. Go and do. Set short-term goals, and control your progress frequently. Then start walking. The pathway to eternal life is long... and many of us are staring down at our feet. We stumble and fall, only glimpsing every-so-often the light at the end. We need to simply raise our gaze to the light of the Savior and walk in His light. That is why we have goals. That is why we look towards Heaven - because it doesn't really matter if we stumble a little bit, as long as we are going in the right direction. I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God. I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

Times and Travels: October 25, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This week we have seen great miracles. I won't have a lot of time to write this morning, so I'll tell you some of the highlights. Yesterday we were on scambi (exchanges) and I decided to take my temporary companion to the open-air market at the Cascine (where we had prior found many people). We talked with dozens of people, many interested in the message of the Gospel. It is really amazing how many people you can contact when the Lord gives you a way to meet them. We simply walked down the street and spoke with everyone that was sitting on the benches that line the river behind the busy marketplace. We spoke with Antonio - a man that has been practicing Buddhism for 20 years and said that he would pray to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet. We spoke with another man - Enrico - who told us that, up until a short while ago, he was "un sasso" spiritually (a rock). And he wasn't talking about having a firm foundation. He was totally insensible and didn't care. He said that time had eroded his thick outer shell and finally he had let thoughts of God enter in. As we spoke, he told us how he had never learned how to pray or to think about the Lord - many of the people here in Italy are Catholic by culture and tradition, but don't have the basic fundamental doctrinal knowledge that is so essential in our Church. They really don't know what they believe in, let alone what their church believes in. He was happy to learn that he could be free of doubts and know the truth. I'm grateful to be a missionary. I hope that I can continue to speak with people about the Gospel and change their lives in short 20-30 minute sittings like we can here! Sunday we had an incredible experience. We have been singing every Sunday evening at Piazza della Signoria - a famous square in the heart of Florence. Then, it started to get dark really early and the piazza was too dark to read the hymnals. Singing was cancelled. So, my companion and I went out a Saturday night at 9:00 to find a good place to sing. We found a street corner in the corner of that same piazza that was well-lit and didn't have any stores behind it; we announced singing and everyone arrived the next day. The only problem is that I often feel pulled in two different directions - I really feel it important that we go out and stop everyone that walks by, not only those that stop for a while. But then, sometimes the music stops if I'm not singing. I volunteered to stop people and gave my hymnbook away... and bam! We had an incredible night! It is an amazing thing to have a choir of missionaries behind you as you walk up to a couple with children and say, "Good evening - my name is Elder Peterson and we are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We're here in the piazza tonight trying to bring peace into the lives of the people here, and because we have a marvelous message that has changed our lives." You then find some way to ask a question - either about the family, or peace, or God, or religion - are you religious people? We taught so many people about the message of the Restoration; I ran out of pamphlets quickly and we received great contacts and referrals for others. With the music in the background, many people are prompted to stop and ask questions about the Church, and there are thousands of people who walk by this little street corner in the center of Florence. I finished off the night going to speak with an elder (who was in my MTC group, though I have never served with him) with a young woman who had asked about a star of David on the wall. She then said she was Jewish - from Israel - and I am grateful to have studied Hebrew at BYU. I knew there was a reason, and if it was only to touch the heart of this young woman, it was enough! We spoke, and at first she was very closed. She was still closed at the end, but she had felt the Spirit and we had taught about prophets and the Restoration... and then she said something that hit me. The other elder asked if he could send missionaries to her house (by the way, there are no missionaries in Israel - it would take a while to explain why the Church has not sent missionaries there and why it signed a no-proselyting agreement with the Israeli government) and she mentioned that she wouldn't feel comfortable learning about our religion - it was too similar to her own. I realized that I knew her thoughts, and that she was afraid. It was the first time in her life that she had seen an option other than Judaism that encompassed the same basic doctrines and philosophies as her own, but then went beyond. Most Christian religions scourge the Jews and don't respect them or their place in history; we, on the other hand, have great ties with the Jewish people and even have prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled concerning them. I think one of the religions that is the closest to ours is the Jewish religion - in its purity it was the stepping stone to our Church - the pure Christianity... and if you live strictly by the law of Moses as revealed though him, you will naturally live a life that follows the principles of the Gospel as revealed through Joseph Smith. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach people, and I am grateful that I have had the experiences I have had to learn about cultures enough to touch the hearts and break down the barriers of others. To all of you out there - go and learn about everything! You will need all of your knowledge to help build the kingdom of God! This week I'm playing piano for the primary program. Really. My small skill on the ivory keys will be augmented by the Lord, but I am grateful for the few moments I did spend before my mission learning this skill. Absolutely everything is worth learning - everything good. I have spoken in German and Spanish and French and Hebrew and am learning pieces of Italian Sign - who would have thought that someone going to Italy would use the skills and culture from classes on Spanish, German, French, Hebrew, and American Sign? And yet, the Lord will help you touch the lives of people wherever you go. You simply have to go.
I realized a powerful thing this week. If we pray to meet someone who is searching for the Gospel - that the Lord will place people in our path - and then we want to know who it is, all we have to do is talk with everyone! It is really a simple concept, but it is incredibly powerful. If you pray with faith that the Lord will place someone in your path today who needs to learn about the Gospel, and then you simply talk with everyone you can (everyone that is in your path of walking, or on the fringes, etc... everyone that calls or rings the doorbell or talks with you for a moment... everyone next to you or that you could talk with), YOU WILL FIND THEM!!! It is that simple! I have seen it. You just need to talk with everyone about the Gospel, and don't have fear. We learned in District Conference that true love casts out all fear. If we are afraid, it is because we do not truly love these people. We do not really want them to be happy. But when we are filled with love, fear is replaced with faith and we will see miracles. I know this work is true - go out and talk about it! Members are the strongest missionaries! I know that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His Church. May the Lord guide us in this work as we do our best!
With love,
Anziano Peterson

Travelling to and fro: October 18, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This week we spent a lot of time travelling. Thursday was transfer day; I went to Rome and picked up my new companion and then we came back to Florence. It was a long day. I should send a picture if I remember. Friday we did our huge programming session and my companion gave me a run for my money shopping - he spent 9,60 and I spent 9,20. I still don't remember a time that I've been beat. Most missionaries spend from 15-30 euro each week on groceries; the cost of living is very high in Italy. Saturday we saw some miracles. Early in the morning we went out to the Cascine - the huge park nearby our house. We started speaking with people and met Luca - the international affairs head for the region of Tuscany. He took a copy of the Book of Mormon and said he would look up the Church in France - he is going to live there for a few years - work transfer. We then met a man from India - Dhusmanta? - and he was so interested in the Gospel that he invited us to his home in India to be his guests of honor. He said, "I will take you around to many centers of worship, where you will teach many people your message. And you will be my guest of honor." Wow. What a referral for India - I hope there are Elders there. If not, add India to the list of international travel plans to do follow-up contacting!
Elder Uchtdorf arrived this last week, and we had a conference with him Tuesday. It was interesting to note the differences between this conference and the one almost 2 years ago with Elder Nelson. They are different types of teachers. I sang a duet with a sister missionary - We are Sowing, both in the chapel and without music - can you name that Italian musical term?
Monday we went to the Questura to get my companion legal, and adding that to all the rest of the travelling... we are tired. We have been on the train for hours and hours this week, going to and from Rome. It's nice that I don't have to worry about much traveling in the future.
Good news - my personal goal of saving the mission more money that I cause it to spend may be accomplished! I found a way to get 20% off deals on train tickets (of all things) and we are working towards lower ATM fees. Add food-storage and money-management training for other missionaries, and I think I may make it! I'm grateful that the money we are able to save will help some other missionaries to serve the Lord.
My companion is from Salt Lake City - near Sandy. He's a great missionary, and he is getting better with his Italian. We are learning a lot from each other. Today we went to the market and tasted a ton of different Italian foods as our cultural experience. It was a lot of fun.
As far as a deeply spiritual note, I'd like to invite each of you to think about the incredible promise and doctrine that we have - an assurance from God. We speak with people every day and many people believe they are right... but have never asked God. They don't feel they need to - they can figure it out for themselves. Almost no one has ever asked. And those who have... and asked in faith... found us. Don't take for granted the power of prayer. It is incredible. Pray for things and the Lord will grant them unto you.
I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that this is His Church. We are seeing great miracles in the work, and our faith together works miracles. May the Lord bless each of you in your lives as you faithfully walk in His paths and ask Him for the blessings He has in store for you.
Con amore,
Anziano Peterson

Change... and Memories: October 11, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Lots of things are changing. Tomorrow are transfers, and my companion is going to Napoli. He was a bit shocked when he heard the news - he has only been here for 6 weeks and doesn't feel as if he has accomplished much. President took to heart making zones and districts larger, and the Florence 1 and Florence 2 zones have been united to make one Florence Zone. This makes no sense for non-missionaries. It means, though, that another companionship is opened to be simply normal missionaries (instead of Zone leaders). President closed 4 zone leader companionships, which should make the mission much more efficient.
That frees me up to do what I've always wanted to do - train again! I'll be finishing my mission here in Florence and I'll have the opportunity to again make the best missionary in the world out of some new elder. It's the perfect opportunity - the work is exploding here with dozens of new investigators and members who give us referrals. We have baptismal dates and progressing investigators and it would be difficult to have a better situation. Lucky elder. (I hope :) It has also made me smile a whole lot... and think about changes.
In our lives there are many changes. Changes in the mission field, changes in callings... and it is incredible exactly how much we can change from one day to the next. One day, we can live in one place, and the next be a totally different person. We truly are in charge of who we are and who we want to be. There is no one that can force us into a mold. Tomorrow my responsibilities change, and I can actually feel it hovering in the air. It makes me think of the distant New Year and the dreaded events that ensue shortly thereafter. How many of you have changed responsibility? It's like being at the helm of a ship and steering, then being relieved and going to sleep, only to get up and begin cooking or cleaning on deck. It is amazing how the Lord shapes us to His causes through the tasks we need to fulfil.
This last week was amazing. We saw tons of miracles and continue to see them. Monday we went to Zone conference and Elder Schultz from the Seventy came to teach us. It was very good. Next Tuesday Elder Uchtdorf (I hope you know who he is) is in Rome (he's actually there a bit earlier, but...) and we get a missionary-only conference. Fun, huh? We were told that he is talking with government officials (there are two possible reasons - to make the Church a Church (so we can get a temple) or to get a temple). I'm going to Rome tomorrow to find out who my new companion is.
Today we went to the Uffizi - probably one of the most famous art galleries in the world. I was sadly not impressed... but that's ok. It helped me realize much more about the things I really do appreciate. I'll need to take more time in the colossal gardens here in Florence, since I'll be here for another 3 months.
We found out this incredible invite to use with people!!! When you meet with members and then set up another appointment, simply ask, "Will you invite someone to be at our next appointment to listen to the message of the Gospel?" Also, Elder Schultz informed us that we needed to invite investigators, friends, family members to baptisms and to have the missionaries teach a short first lesson to everyone instead of singing during the time when the candidate changes into dry clothes. He bore a lot of testimony and I am excited to see it in action this Saturday.
I am happy. Very happy. I am grateful that the Lord can help us to be happy no matter what we are called to do. It always makes me think of a battlefront, or a track meet... where each one of us is called to do our duty. Everyone is important. We are all part of a huge machine with many, many wheels to turn. Whether we turn a small or a large one, we are turning. We will always have the opportunity to serve in the Church. I know this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He restored His Church though the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Read it! Study it! Ponder and pray about it! Please! I know that we have a prophet today. I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

There can be miracles!: October 4, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Happy Birthday to my little brothers!
...And Happy Birthday to all the other people who have birthdays (I'm sure I've missed a ton of them.)!
How do you like that?
Today we had interviews with President - I love my mission president. We talked about members of the zone and what we can do. There are some problems, and I don't envy President for anything. As I knew before, the Lord doesn't always give us guidance in all our problems. Not even the important ones. He does, however, give us a head and a heart and loved ones and peers, and He promises that if we use them to our full ability He will bless us just the same as if an angel had commanded us. It's good to know that the Lord is watching over us. He will not let us fall too far if we are going in the right direction. He loves us. What a great thing! Our mission is changing - zones will be combined, districts will be combined, to make bu-rah-cra-see (noooo! I'm losing all my ability to spell in English!) a bit less. I think it will help in many ways, but it will be a big change. Things will change. I'm not sure what will happen this next transfer (except for the mission rumor that Elder Uchtdorf is coming to speak with Italian government officials)... I know that President trusts me, and I trust him well enough to know that wherever he calls, it is the Lord that is doing the calling.
Sorry about pictures - Italian Museums and churches often are surrounded by NO-FOTO signs. Hence, the only day we can take pictures is slighted by the difficulty of taking them. I'll work on finding some favorites for you.
This last week was full of great, interesting experiences. Thursday we had scambi with the assistants - we went out and worked and saw some great miracles. Saturday and Sunday we went to Prato to see Conference. One of our investigators came to conference! And... he loved it! I am grateful to see people change their lives and be happy about the changes. Saturday was only in Italian (that is, the Saturday morning session - we don't see the Sunday afternoon one ever), which made us a bit shocked... but Sunday it worked and the Lord started answering all the questions I had been asking Him. I know that these men are prophets. Who would think that the Prophet of the Lord would speak and answer my prayers? Who am I? And yet, it happens... The Lord truly loves each of us. Individually. Monday and Tuesday we went to Siena to do another scambi. It was again amazing - we have seen great changes in the attitudes of missionaries and they have seen miracles. I'm grateful for the opportunity I have had to help bring all men unto Christ.
The Lord has spoken a few times this week to me. In maniera chiara (in a clear way). I'm really happy. I love my companion, we are finally starting to understand each other, I am teaching him new things. He is teaching me. Work is going well. We are seeing the Hand of the Lord in all things. What a great blessing! Next week comes Anziano Schultz - a member of a quorum of the seventy. I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we are children of the living God. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet and that through him God restored the Book of Mormon - the Word of God along with the Bible and the words of all other prophets. I know that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God and that we are led by the Hand of the Lord. I love you all - go out and make friends. Talk with everyone! Talk about the things you have in your hearts - don't hide the Gospel. Make comments in school, or in meetings, or anywhere. Make references to meetings or scriptures or anything. The Gospel is the most important message that there is! I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

Are you kidding?: September 27, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Let's see... I'm not sure that any of the languages in which I can communicate can express the excitement I feel. This week we saw incredible (or marvelous - an investigator had trouble with the word incredible) blessings. Thursday we went and gave service at the Mensa (cafeteria for the poor foreigners), and the cooks asked us all the golden questions (the ones that preface the, "Can you tell me about your Church some day?"). We met with some of our investigators and went to meet a family that is wonderful - they invited us to dinner and we taught as we ate (one of the few times I have ever done it - and perhaps the only time no one was distracted by the food). Wow. Hopefully there will be more on them in the future. We have great hopes. Saturday we had a project called, "Helping Hands" - a program put in place by the Area to help Public Affairs. We cleaned up Piazza San Marco and Piazza della Independenza. It was great - a bunch of people asked us who we were and we taught as well. Saturday night we had sort of an adventure. The new rules on bikes called for some fixes in ours... We had to get/fix lights and brakes and make sure reflectors were in place. I was very blessed - my brakes work well, and there is a dynamo connected to the bike. I only had to buy a replacement bulb for the back light and then do some engineering to ground the circuit (the part of the bike it was attached to was so thickly painted that the current couldn't flow). I would get it to work, then mount it and it wouldn't light. So, I'd take it off and get it to work again (with a bunch of work) and then it wouldn't light mounted. I finally realized (after a bit of prayer and the illumination of the Holy Ghost) that it was perfectly mounted... except that there was no ground. The dynamo only generates one part of the flow - the circuit has to discharge into the bike itself to make the lamp glow. So I grabbed a spring and over-stretched it, hooked it on the grounding screw and to another metal piece, and tightened both ends. It looks a bit interesting (when you're close up), but it works like a charm.
Saturday we went out to an appointment a ways away, and my companion's bike tire blew up. We were on a major road and already very late, so we kept going and locked our bikes to a lighted pole. We ended up leaving them there for the night (dangerous) and a member gave us a ride home. That night, we prayed that the Lord would protect our bikes (and the easily removable brand-new lights my companion had mounted that same day) and ensure that we found them in the same condition in which we had left them. We went back yesterday (Tuesday) because we needed to take the bike in to get it repaired. Sunday wasn't an option; Monday we were waiting for an appointment for so long that we lost our time slot (and bike shops are normally closed Monday). Tuesday we found our bikes in the same place as before, with everything mounted. What a blessing! What more, the bike shop was in that same piazza - the only bike shop within miles! They offered to fix in within the hour, and then told us to remove the lights because we were in a high-risk area (people walk by the shop and anything easily removable is removed and bikes are easily stolen. We saw a bike tire locked to a pole. They took the bike and left the tire!). Our bikes were obviously protected by the hand of the Lord. He loves His missionaries.
In Piazza della Signoria (the original resting place of Michelangelo's David, for those wanting to know the significance of name), we sang Sunday night and I started losing my voice. Singing in the piazza has been my idea... and there was almost a consensus between the other 11 missionaries that if I lost my voice that we would simply stop. Sad... So I said a quick prayer that the Lord would help me sing. Suddenly I realized something very interesting. Talk about how the Spirit of the Lord will tell you ALL things that which ye should do: I suddenly was prompted to stop singing with my throat (which hurt) and to simply form the sounds with my diaphragm and let them resonate in my throat. I realized that the opera-like tone that came out was a lot easier on my vocal cords, and I was able to sing for the rest of the night even if my nose was running like a faucet. I wasn't even hoarse later that evening. What a blessing.
We are trying to acknowledge the blessings that the Lord gives us. It may seem trite to write about bikes and singing, but I have realized that the Lord blesses us according to our needs. He blesses us according to our prayers, and according to our faith. ...Signs follow those that believe in my name...
My companion and I have had a few more heart-to-hearts. We are certainly very different, and we have very different ideas on some things. He brings up a subject and what he thinks should be done, I express my idea, we talk... and then we go and look in the scriptures for anything that will help us. We think of examples and try to determine what the reality is. Then we pray and talk some more... and in the end we realize how we can improve in our thoughts and feelings. I'm grateful to have a humble companion that is willing to reason with me. I'm also grateful that he doesn't think I'm too hard-headed when I always want to know what is right (not just simply what will work). We do good work together. Our biggest effort recently and in the near future are what are called ZSR's... zone status reports. I would assume that in every mission there is some way that the mission president learns about how missionaries are doing outside of interviews and zone conferences. In our mission, President has asked that there be a report compiled on each missionary and companionship to help him know their needs and abilities (mostly for transfer purposes). It's easy to write them when there are no problems. It's harder to determine what to suggest when that is not the case (and everyone has problems).
Today we are planning on going to a museum on Leonardo da Vinci - it has interactive, life-size exhibits from his etchings. It should be a lot of fun. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary in Florence - talk about the opportunity for cultural experiences!
I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He sends His angels... His missionaries, to teach the Gospel throughout the Earth. Go out and teach with the voice of an angel! Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost - when you testify of the truth, the Holy Ghost carries the truth of it into the hearts of those that hear you. You speak with the voice of an angel! I love you all!
Anziano Peterson
p.s. - One investigator came to church after having read an incredible amount of the Book of Mormon. He started recounting to us the pride cycle. We looked at each other and almost asked, "Are you kidding?" The field is white - The Harvest is ongoing. Let's get going!

Lots and lots of things to do: September 20, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This last week we had Zone Conference, ZDM, exchanges with Siena, and a couple other things that kept us busy. Zone Conference was Monday, and it was incredible! I am grateful for the opportunity to have great leaders here in the mission.
ZDM was... interesting. In our planning for the training, my companion kept hinting on a topic he wanted to talk about. Strangely, it was a topic that really didn't apply to the other missionaries at all - it was something that I felt was only a problem for myself. It was on being a big black dog - giving loving correction or being a good example without seeming superior. Finally when the other missionaries left, he told me... and was very surprised when he learned that I was all too aware. It is interesting to see how each of my companionships develop into a productive relationship; we are totally different in so many ways, and after just so long we finally come to understand each other that we can simply talk about it for a few hours. It's sort of like a big companionship inventory. Our only problem was that it was the night before a major meeting and our part wasn't yet finished. It ended up going really well; there are some problems with some of the missionaries (is that vague enough for you) and thankfully it was exactly what they needed to hear.
I'm learning again the importance of humility. I've been very blessed in my life, in my mission, in my family... in everything. It is interesting to see how the blessings the Lord has given me affect others. Sometimes people simply hate me or are for some reason jealous. They assume I'm incredibly arrogant and suddenly there is a huge barrier between us. Others are on the other extreme - awe. They simply assume I'm perfect and thus we can no longer communicate. Anything that applies to me simply applies on a different plane. It's unreachable. And then there are some that are able to look beyond the talents or defects or whatever it is that I may have and see me as a person... a son of God. I've had companions that fell into each category, and contacts, and members, and friends... and it has been a life-long struggle to learn to humbly acknowledge the Lord for the gifts with which He blesses His children. No one is perfect. I'm certainly not perfect. Each passing day I realize that more and more. And each new face brings a new opportunity to learn new things. My companion impresses me each day; I am grateful to have another humble companion.
Our Mission President recently returned from a Mission President's Seminar in London; his remarks were based on the new Missionary Handbook and the talks given at the Seminar. There was a quote that hit me hard, by Elder Ballard, "... the harvest is about to commence... those coming in and those returning." Recently we have been very blessed here in Florence; we stop people and they want to talk with us. We set up appointments with members and they are more than willing to accompany us. Investigators come to Church and we find new people each day.
The work goes forward; let us call upon the powers of Heaven!
I love you all, and I know this Church is true.
Anziano Peterson

Count your many blessings!: September 13, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This week has been incredible. Thursday we had a conference in Rome and learned a ton; the new white handbooks came in for everyone and we spent a while talking about ways that our mission would change. I was impressed with the trust and respect that President places in us - when we asked potentially loaded questions (sincerely), he was willing and able to guide the discussion. I am grateful that he is my mission president. Sunday we saw a few miracles. The less-active families we have been working with all came. It was incredible. And they smiled, and one even sat with and spoke the whole time to one of our best investigators. They could feel the Spirit of the Lord again in their lives and were very happy for the change that they had finally been able to effect. Both of them are returned missionaries, and they will be great assets to the work. Sunday evening we went to talk with a man near the train station - his car had broken down, so he couldn't arrive to the park where we had scheduled the appointment. He called and asked if we could meet in a different place. With him, he brought an old copy of Il Libro di Mormon, with many pages folded in the corners, showing it to be well-read. He explained how he saw fulfillment of prophecy and counsel in the Book of Mormon in Latter-day times. He felt the book was true and wanted to take the steps to learn about our Church and become a part of it. What a miracle. He also has one good friend that, someday, he will let us know. I am grateful for the ability to see the blessings that the Gospel can bring to the lives of the people we teach.
Monday we began another round of companionship exchanges. I went with the Elder in our apartment who arrived only 2 weeks ago. We went out and the Lord truly blessed us. Everywhere we turned there were people wanting to hear the Gospel. All Monday night we were in parks talking with people, and then Tuesday morning we went out again and taught the truths of the Gospel. We found a mother with two children that at first told us she wanted peace (not us) because of her children. We kept talking, and she slowly asked us questions, becoming more and more interested as her prejudices slid away. She knew a little about us - the family is important, we don't use technology, we live in all-mormon communities where it is easier, and things like that. When she realized that it was possible to apply and see results of the heavenly qualities of a happy family, she invited us to her home (wow!) and even said, "You can eat dinner with us, right?" She lives very close to a strong member family, also a new couple with two little children. I can already see their future happiness. What an amazing experience! We were talking about it as we walked towards another person to teach (also interested), and I hope that in 'real life' I can have the same incredible experiences of teaching the Gospel and changing lives, if on a different level. I know that every Mother or Father that has one of those 'teaching moments' feels the same way, or when you finally teach your Primary class and they listen or respond in just the right way. I hope that I can learn the skills we teach missionaries and actually apply them for the rest of my life... like talking with everyone! It's hard to talk with everyone... until you realize that everyone wants the thing you have! We can talk and be bold in the promising the blessings and bearing testimony of the Gospel - we have the Lord Jesus Christ as our backer! Finally, last night we went to visit an investigator that came to Church on his own... He willingly accepted the Law of Chastity and other commitments, explaining to us that he was changing his life and wanted to become a better person and a member of our Church. It made us a bit more cognizant of the blessings that the Lord gives us. The work is exploding in South America... and here we can still see great blessings. I'm grateful that I was called to be a missionary in Italy. Correction from a past email: your parents are allowed to pick you up from your mission (we got a clarification from the Mission President's Handbook).
I've become much more cognizant of the way that we look at leaders here in Florence. I remember in Battipaglia one evening, an Elder called me and asked me for advice in working with members of the Branch. He had finally gotten time in Elder's Quorum to talk about missionary work, and he felt it important enough to call me miles and miles away. He had been my Zone Leader 5 transfers before (a long time in the mission - that was two areas before) and we hadn't seen or talked with each other for months. We talked for a few moments, and hopefully I was able to help him. A few weeks later he was assigned to be an assistant to the president. This morning I got a phone call from the assistants asking for some information on a way we found to save money traveling; I was humbled to realize that, in reality, I knew missionaries that practiced what they preached. Humility and service, compassion and love, accountability and hard work are the qualities we want to see in leaders and then we want to emulate in ourselves. I'm grateful to have missionaries that strive to become così (such). Following has sometimes been a bit difficult for me; I ask a whole lot of questions and I may have a hard time not seeing and understanding as much as those who make decisions. It's ok to follow in the footsteps of another person in the Gospel setting, because we have covenanted to. When we magnify our calling and allow others to magnify theirs, we enable men and women to become the Sons and Daughters of God they really are. We can help each other to become great leaders, whether we are at the front or in the back. We lead through example, and we lead each other towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know this Gospel is true. I know the Lord will bless each of you to be missionaries as you seek His guidance.
Anziano Peterson

Winds of Change: September 6, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
With Anziano Snyder, the new missionary in our apartment, came the new white handbook. It was almost a race to see who could read it first and find the things that would change our lives as missionaries. Most of the things won't seem all that new to outsiders... but there are some things that could set off firecrackers around the world. First, there is a part in the handbook that explains that missionaries should return home immediately after their missions without any delay. It then gives diverse reasons for this rule. We are not exactly sure what this was intended to say, but it seems clear that it is prohibiting the ever-popular "mission giro" where family members come to pick up a departing missionary and then they together become tourists for anywhere from a week to a few months before going home to finally be released by the Stake President. We will have to determine what and why... in the meantime, the Lord has again answered my prayers for guidance (and it only took one day, too!) - I'll be coming home to go to school in January. Maybe I'll even get to hear from Hermano Peterson as he goes out to the field, but even if not, there's always Mother's Day! Obviously, it doesn't prohibit missionaries visiting their country of service, only not staying there as a missionary on the missionary visa that may be impossible to renew for the next missionary until you pass the border once again.
My companion... it is strange to have a companion that speaks Italian better than I do. (He's Italian) I find myself having to think about taking an active part in lessons because his language flows a bit better than mine does. All in all, though, we are trying to communicate. He really wants to learn English, and I am striving to teach him well. The new handbook really cuts down on slang, including mission slang, so I am much happier (another prayer answered - the Lord must really love His missionaries!) and my companion is willing to oblige. As of yet, this transfer hasn't presented any stressful events, except that we don't know what is happening! Elder Schultz of the Seventy is coming to do a mission tour, but we don't know when... which makes scheduling all the other things that have to be done a huge hassle.
I have a question for returned missionaries and missionaries in the field: How many people are/were in your districts and zones in the mission field? How many districts in a zone? Did you ever have two-man districts? And how much time did you have to travel to get to District Meeting each week?
We found a Soup Kitchen to do service this last week, and yesterday we went to give service; it was a great experience and all three companionships worked together to pull off a miracle. The other Elders talked with and made friends with the other two volunteers, our companionship taught a simple first lesson over the lunch table as we ate together, and the Sisters set up a return appointment to talk about the Gospel.
These last few days have been filled to the brim with miracles. We are using another finding method - Sondaggio - surveys where we ask questions about people's basic beliefs in God, the purpose of life, the family, Jesus Christ... Many people then want to hear about our message to the world. We have been talking with many people and the Lord is finally answering our prayers to bless the city of Florence. One thing that is incredible - you need to be careful what you pray for. This last Sunday, it wasn't raining, but as we left around 3 to go to an appointment, I voiced a prayer that the Lord would help everyone go outside and downtown - so the piazza could be full when we arrived to sing. Not thinking about the consequences of such a prayer, we then went to knock doors. No one answered. Maybe 5 people on a huge street. I think they were all outside going to centro. My companion and I laughed for a bit and then found another finding activity downtown. The Lord really is willing to answer our prayers if we have the faith that He will.
Congratulations to everyone with new things in their lives - new babies, babies to come, mission calls, and everything else. Sorry if I forget birthdays or other important events. It means my mind is focused on the work (or that I didn't write it in my planner).
To end, I would like to invite all of you to do all the good things you feel you should do, when you feel you should do them. In short, follow the promptings of the Spirit. In the Book of Mormon, we read that all things that invite men to do good come from Christ. How many times have you felt like calling someone, or visiting someone, or talking with someone, or stopping and doing something that felt like a good thing to do? Every day, there are people all around us that need our help, and if we listen to the Spirit He will tell us where we need to go and what we need to do to help others come unto Christ. Last Friday was a good example of that - we went out to do work and simply followed our promptings. We taught a ton of people who have been looking for the Gospel because we stopped our bikes in an abandoned (almost) park, went to look at the sunset, took another street home, or went to a darkened park near 9:00. The Lord will bless us. We need to have that faith. If we ask for direction and the Lord gives it to us, we can expect that He will bless us for our diligence. If He does not give it to us and we do the best that we can, we can expect the exact same blessings as if an angel of the Lord had commanded us to complete the same action. In fact, we can expect more - we chose ourselves! That is why we need to be anxiously engaged - ask the Lord for guidance, listen carefully and follow the promptings of the Spirit when they come. When they don't, follow the guidance the Lord has given in the past and He will bless you. He will bless you! Have that faith, and ask for His blessings! I know that this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God. Be true to the Faith!
Anziano Peterson

Times and Seasons: September 6, 2006

Dear soon to be Hermano Peterson,
In the MTC there are no phone calls home. Period. You don't get to call home on Christmas... and you will be there for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years! Wow - what an incredible blessing - tons of Apostles will come to visit you! You do get to call home from the airport, however, if you have a layover. But... your release date from the MTC may very well be my last day in the field, which would make it all but impossible to reach me (on a plane going to Chicago the next day, not to mention the difficulty in time zones - we are 9 hours different from Utah)... Once we find out when you are leaving the MTC, maybe we can talk about it. Tanto, we'll hear from each other again. (Fra poco anche tu devi imparare una lingua basata sul latino). Go get the new white handbook and memorize it! It's incredible... and it has some new rules. More on that in the real email. Ciao! I love you!
Anziano Peterson

Some days I wonder...: August 30, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Did my picture CD arrive in one piece? And why hasn't my brother written me, if he got his mission call to Nicaragua?
My last companion goes home today. He is probably already on a plane from Rome to London. He left on a train yesterday morning for Rome, and we are now in three until my new companion arrives. Two years is... Transfers are in the process of happening; I am staying here in Florence and one of the other elders in the apartment is going out to the island. The other elder will be training a missionary and my new companion will be an Italian. That will be interesting. The Church in Italy is very small, and for some reason many of the Italians are sent abroad, so there are only a few native missionaries. There are some missionaries that never serve with (including in the apartment) an Italian. This will be my third, but the first as my companion. If he doesn't speak English yet, he will hopefully learn to speak it well. And hopefully I can better my Italian skills.
Sending a missionary home makes me a bit pensive. This elder is going home; my brother is coming out; the world keeps on turning and each of us has his own individual mission to fulfill. Little brother - you don't want to take more than 100 pounds of stuff (and leave room for things you acquire in the MTC) because of airport regulations. I'm not sure what else to write about. We went and played volleyball with a member and some of his friends; we asked them and they invited us to their home to learn about the Gospel. ...We have done a lot of park. People are still on vacation (starting to come back) and school hasn't yet started, so the parks are packed with families. At least, the parks in the other elders' zone. We went singing twice this last week; one time in Piazzale Michelangelo - a big square above the city - panorama type of thing (I'll send a picture), then we left and went to piazza della Signoria again. Then last night I convinced the other two elders to start singing with me in the park... to at least change the atmosphere. A man approached us and we spoke for a long time. He had studied a bit too much psychology and was very closed. It was a bit sad. I'll send you the articles we are trying to publish in the Newspaper as well; we have a friend that said she could get things published for us and there is a couple in the Mission Office that works as a public affairs couple from the Area.
Dad - at an appointment we had Papa alla Juacayina (spelling in Spanish??) I think of you every time a Peruvian member feeds us. Most of the members assigned to us are South American (strangely).
And finally, to brighten your day, another incredible mission story! (They always happen; we just need to be more aware and more grateful) Sunday morning, it was again raining. Hard. The other elders decided to walk to Church and left early (they were afraid their bikes would stain their shirts - happens easily). My companion felt similarly and decided we would take the bus. As we were praying, we heard the bus pull away... which left us with only one choice - bikes. I prayed that the rain would stop, so that we could arrive safely to Church, and so that later in the day we could go and sing again. As we came outside, the rain stopped. The roads were slightly wet, but we went slowly and had no problems at all. As we left Church afterward, the sun was shining brightly and the roads were dry. Then, later dark clouds loomed again on the horizon. We went to check the bus schedule to take us to Piazzale Michelangelo and it started to pour. Again, a prayer was offered to quench the rain. It stopped and the weather cleared enough for it to be a beautiful evening. It was another miracle. It's things like this - the Lord answering prayers even when it is obvious that they affect other people as well - that make me humble. Asking for peace and comfort is one thing; asking for the weather to change is another. I know the Lord hears and answers my prayers... and yet who am I? We all need to remember that the Lord of the Universe is our Father. He wants to bless us and help us to accomplish His grand design; He is willing and very, very able to help us if we will but ask Him. So do it! Go and ask the Lord for the blessings you need. Believe He will give them to you, if you have done your part. That is what faith is. Sunday evening right after singing it started raining again. It was like a "rain check".
I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that God is behind this work - we can see His hand at every turn. I know that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration and that Gordon B. Hinckley is the prophet of God today. I know that the Lord will give us the blessings that we ask for in faith. I know He will bless us with the opportunity to be missionaries according to His needs. I love you all - go out and share the Gospel!
Anziano Peterson
Custom Search