Friday, February 16, 2007

And the answer is...: May 25, 2005

...I'm not transferred!
I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad to stay in Napoli, but I think it will be good to learn from another missionary. Either way, tomorrow I retrieve my next companion from the train station and we begin the work anew.
The mail system here in Italy is a bit strange - I did finally get the package of Calligraphy pens when we went to Rome, but I haven't gotten anything regarding my driver's license (could you give them my address?)... and the mailman was delivering our letters to the wrong address, so I really don't know what to tell you.
Today we have a baptism - it didn't work out Sunday, yesterday we were filling the font (takes three hours and we need to be there the whole time) and our Baptizer and son of the woman being baptized was admitted to the hospital (the mom was fretting and obviously not in a position to be baptized), and then they called us this morning to ask if we can do it tonight. I guess I'm glad we have a small branch, in that making decisions like that can happen. We're having a baptism.
Today also we went to Piazza Garibaldi - a place here in Napoli that is a street vendor's paradise. For those of you who went to Hawaii, the SWAT market there is absolutely nothing compared to the streets of Napoli. Of the things the others bought include: €6 shoes (Skechers, Bostonian, etc...), €5 ties, €5 dress shirts, and a long and drawn out search for a .5 liter bottle of Aqua Digio or something like that perfume for €30. I think I'll pray for all my family members and such to never be called to Italy, or at least never serve in Napoli. What a nightmare! I found a good excuse to write letters - a thing we rarely have time for, but I had to stand up the whole time. Then we ate an African Sandwich - a loaf of bread with grilled meat and lettuce and french fries... I really, really hope that I don't get a reaction from the french fries... It's really hot here in Napoli. Right now I am sweating a lot, and I never want to go back to Piazza Garibaldi again for my whole life (unless I lived here, in which case it would become a Market Square or something like that in Utah. It would be bearable if I lived here, but I don't think I could or would on anything less than Church assignment (hence my present conditions).
We also have a woman we are teaching who is wonderful - she could be baptized in two weeks if she weren't leaving for Houston next Tuesday for a few months. She was having some hard times in her life and prayed for God to help her find the truth, then met us the very next day. She has tons and tons of questions, so it's hard to teach her, but I was praying for an investigator with tons and tons of questions, so both of our prayers were answered. She could change her life here. Permanently. Oh well, if she goes then I will write to her every week and then when she gets back she'll get baptized. I need to contact the missionaries in Houston to find someone that speaks Italian - she still wants to learn about the gospel but speaks barely a word in English... I'm sure the Lord will prepare a way.
Friday we went to Rome to see Anziano Nelson! We were in a small room with other missionaries and we had the chance to ask him questions. In reality, we only asked 2 questions - he took a very long and roundabout way of answering both of them, but I was able to feel the Spirit as he spoke. He listed as part of it the reasons that we have the Church here on the earth today. The first was covenants - we gain blessings, learn, perfect ourselves, etc... The second he had to give us - the gathering of Israel. The gathering is something much greater than simply a gathering of a people. It is the summation of all blessings that righteous fathers have procured for their children. In my perspective, it is why later generations of time are always so much more greatly blessed - because there are more righteous forebears to send us blessings. He was looking for one last answer and no one could answer him correctly. I had my hand raised and he kept calling on others, one after another they were incorporated into the other two answers. Finally, he was about to give up and write it on the board, when I was waving both hands (probably a bit out of place) to catch his attention. He pointed to me and I said, "One of the reasons why the Church of Jesus Christ was restored to by God today was to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of His Son, Jesus Christ." I'm not exactly sure what happened directly after (I seem to remember some things that would not fit in that atmosphere), but I had gotten it right. It was such a strange feeling, because as I stood up to answer everyone looked at me, from the people sitting next to me, to Elder Nelson, to the other people on the stand (who could see me - there was a huge pillar right in the way). I never got a chance to ask him to bear his testimony of missionary work here in Italy, but he bore another one about the importance of missionary work in general. All in all, it was a great experience (except for the train ride back, which was almost as hot as I am right now...).
Last night a miracle occurred. We met with the President of our Branch. He met with us for over an hour and we talked about the importance of missionary work and how we could integrate the missionaries into the work of the branch. We also helped him realize the importance of having unity within the branch itself - having a goal, multiple goals, that realize the full potential of all members. In reality, if I am ever a branch president or Bishop, I will first write down what my vision for the ward is as a whole, then target all specialized groups - inactives, youth, ysa, children, priesthood, relief society, you can categorize and include large amounts of the ward in many different ways (hence the success of your activities, Mom). Once I have goals for all the different groups, I can work with each of the auxiliary committees to plan activities, events, firesides, talks, meetings, etc, all with the end goals in mind. They will make their own individual goals, and we will be unified as a ward in purpose, instead of divided into separately functional auxiliaries that meet together for sacrament meeting and ward activities. I think the Branch President caught part of that vision last night. There is actually an amazing section of Preach My Gospel that talks about this with regards to missionary work - chapter 13. We copied it (we got it in Italian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (can you tell my excitement??!) a bunch of times and gave the copies to the Branch President to distribute to the leaders of the branch. I guess I'm grateful to have a nonfunctional branch right now, because we are going to change everything. It will be such a tremendous change that everyone will see the difference! I wish that every unit in the Church could realize the importance of unity in purpose. Simply being unified means that nothing is redone, overdone, or done in the wrong direction. Just that simple step ensures that we are progressing. It helps inactive members feel needed, useful, gives the bishop, branch president a reason to call active and inactive members to serve the ward... it does so many things! The Church is here to prepare us to receive the Lord at His Second Coming - obviously, the world needs to change, but we need everyone's help to do it!
Well, the Summer is definitely here... and I'll close with another thought about the Book of Mormon. All of you who read this email, after you finish, spend at least 10 minutes reading the Book of Mormon. Read about anything - the vision of the Brother of Jared, the 2000 sons of Helaman, Ammon and his adventures, Nephi and Laban, explanations of Isaiah in 2nd Nephi, Alma's promises to his sons, the Savior's appearance in America... I promise you, the Lord will enlighten your minds. We do not understand the importance of the Book of Mormon. With it, we can unlock the secrets of eternity, the knowledge that man will never find unaided. It will calm our hearts and deepen our feelings, help us find peace in the hottest fires (or Napolitano summers) of life, and give us purpose in life. Read the Book of Mormon!

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