Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dreams of Italy...: August 9, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
First off, when people move here from their 14th-story mini-apartments to somewhere else (a rarity - their grandparents probably were born in that same house), they hire a moving company, which takes us a parking spot outside and has a huge lift that attaches to the railing on the balcony. They lift (and lower) dressers, tables, china cabinets, anything you want. It's a bit odd to see it... But it exists. That's how moving happens here. Normally people move a block away or something like that... or North for work.
Today we went to the Accademia di Belle Arte - the "museum" built and created to house Michelangelo's David. Talk about a tourist trap - it costs 9.50 to get in, 12.50 if you don't want to wait in line for 3 hours. There isn't much of anything except the staute itself, and you can't take pictures. Wow. If any of my future companions want to go, we will most definitely simply take a tour of Piazza Signoria - the original resting place for the monument - where there is an exact marble replica. And you can take pictures. It has been a fun week.
We didn't have a real Preparation Day last Wednesday - we spent the whole time planning for another meeting on Thursday. The meeting went really well - the topic was on finding formulas in the scriptures. First, you find a blessing that you really want. Something big. We can read in the Doctrine and Covenants that all blessings are predicated upon obedience to specific laws. Hence, we only need to search the scriptures, go in prayer to the Lord, etc.. to find the laws upon which the great blessings we desire are predicated. Take Alma 26:22, for example - he who repents, exercises faith, bringeth forth good works, prays without ceasing... if we fulfill the requirements, then we add the final ingredients - the true faith that the Lord can and will fulfill His promises, and humble prayer, asking Him to grant us that which we desire. It works! The Lord really does fulfill His promises, if we go out and search for them. We can look in the scriptures and have incredible spiritual experiences by following the formulas we find. The final commitment? Think of a blessing that you really want. Something big. Find the formula. Follow it.
We then began our round of scambi - companionship exchanges - for this transfer. First, Elders from Siena. We went out singing in apartment buildings, then realized that it really wasn't working and went to a park. The music changed the atmosphere enough that people came up to us and asked about the Church; then we all went out and taught people who had heard us singing and whose mental barriers of stone had been taken down. We met with a few very nice people, but changing street/park contacts into progressing investigators is a difficult task here. People are willing to talk with you, but often will not give you a way to recontact them. Friday and Saturday we did what our District Leader had asked us to do - meet with members and teach them the new lessons. Very few people in Italy know about Preach My Gospel, even though there has been tons in the Ensign and in General Conference. Hence, we are teaching them on an individual basis - the families that don't have/take time outside of their children, etc... We taught two families and an older man (our genealogy guru) and they are all excited for the chance to do missionary work. It would be nice to have a branch mission leader. We have knocked a whole lot of doors. Yesterday we did another exchange, with the Elders from Arezzo. We went singing again (with the additions, we have 8 missionaries available) in the market, and it was a really good tool. I feel like singing helps people to look at us in a different light; a man asked us afterward (far away and long after) exactly what we were singing - what was the message? The people seemed touched by our simple presence there. We finished off with a bunch of hours of knocking doors.
By the way, we are on bikes! I mean, really on bikes. We ride hard for about an hour, an hour and a half each day. Every day, Sunday included. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Church biking (10-15 if you arrive and can't breathe), and we are all over the city. We have the west half of the city as our Zone, with via Cavour as the dividing line between zones. We are looking for people every day. The city is full of tourists.
Well, some days I wonder. Tomorrow we go to Rome again. The next day we come back home. It is finally getting darker earlier here (which means it gets cooler earlier, which means we can sleep at night), and yesterday we had a rainstorm. It was interesting to do scambi with the other elders - I learned from each of them. One of them was in the group after me in the MTC, and he seems to get along well with many people. He is also very optimistic yet real in what he says about situations. The other is very interesting. He said he was in a rock band before the mission, but I really can't imagine him as such. He doesn't speak loudly, but he is very to the point. He's a good missionary.
I'll send some pictures in a few moments (I still don't have one of my district!?!), so I'll leave you with my testimony. The work here is going forward. There are good missionaries here in Italy... "the cream of the crop" was Elder Nelson's quote. I've had the chance to work with some of them. I know that the Lord is at the head of this work. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that God lives, and that we have a living prophet upon the earth today. What a blessing to share the news of a prophet with so many people each day - people who have never heard it before. Their faces turn and I see them thinking - a prophet? Who is this prophet? Why is this young man so excited about him? What is happening here? What am I feeling inside? I know that this Church - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - is the true Church of God. It really does matter which Church is true - how else can we find the truth? I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that we can understand and resolve concerns (our own and others') using its pages. Go out and live the Gospel - wear your heart upon your sleeve was ancient saying - so that everyone will ask you about it. Then teach them and see them change. I know it is true! I love you all!

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