Saturday, February 17, 2007

It was a terribly beautiful day...: December 7, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
This last week I realized di nuovo (again) the extreme opposites felt in the mission field.
Wednesday we had a Barbeque in the Church (obviously Barbeque outside on the balcony) and we watched L'altro Lato di Paradiso (The Other Side of Heaven in Italian). I had never seen it in Italian, and many parts of the story hit me. I thought a lot about being a missionary, across an ocean and on an island. Elder Groberg had it easy - he was never transferred, and he changed companions only once in the movie. Here in Italy, there are no 'rules' about length of stay in a zone - we can be there for anywhere from 6 weeks to 14 times six weeks - and both happens (obviously, the second is much more rare). My companion will probably be transferred on the 21st of December, and depending on the will of the Lord... we'll see what happens! I was actually thinking about the rain - Anziano Groberg had some sort of passion for the moon. You all know I love the rain. It's certainly not the same rain that falls here in Sardegna and there, but it also wasn't light outside at the same time from America and a little island in the Pacific - so we can say that anytime it rains, you can think that God causes the rain to fall upon all men - the just and unjust, people in America, Mexico, Mongolia, Texas (is it politically correct to list it separate from America?), and a little island in the Med. Sea. And then if (when) you miss me you can do missionary work. Rainy days are perfect to lift someone's spirit with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let's see... winter begins the day after my birthday, so there are 1,2,3... 14 days until winter! We went to the beach today and had a Barbeque (yes, everything we do is according to rules and perfectly obedient - our mission really tries to be 100% obedient). I found a bunch of tiny-tiny-tiny shells - about the size of grains of sand. Tiny sand dollars, tiny spirals, tiny pieces of coral, everything perfectly intricate in the way only the hand of Deity can make them. It will be much cheaper to send them in letters and I won't have to worry about them breaking or being too bulky. I found the coolest spirals a millimeter long...
And on the opposites... Thursday we spoke with our Branch President and developed a plan to help the Branch members - something that he had done and had worked miracles, and something, if it works, that I will do for the rest of my mission. You set up an appointment with each family and single for 10-15 minutes max. You go in, pray, each missionary bears testimony of the truth, and then they introduce Moroni 7:48 and ask the family to follow the impegno (commitment) to pray - and to pray to find someone who will listen to the missionaries before a specific date - for us it is Christmas. You then bear testimony of the truth, promise that God will put someone in their path who will listen to the missionary lessons before Christmas if they do their part (a prophetic promise - not just ours), and leave a copy of the Book of Mormon for them to carry with them to remind them of the commitment and so they can be ready at any time. We have felt the Spirit amazingly and I am sure that we will be receiving some awesome referrals fra poco (within a very short time). Most of our members have people with whom they want to work, but don't have the little 'push' and don't really know what success is. We haven't had a baptism here in over a year. I think the gas has been slowly blowing - members are praying and trying - and this spark will ignite and explode the work here! Obviously, I'm super-enthusiastic about it.
...And then there is the problem of communication. Our Capi (Zone Leaders) did scambi (exchanges) with us yesterday and their addestramento (training) was on communication. I think the Spirit felt my companionship needed it enough that everyone in the Zone got it. My companion and I are very different. We obviously have the same end-end goals - to receive salvation, but we have very different visions of how it will happen or what it means or everything else in between. To explain more clearly, we follow the rules according to our own personal agency, and we have trouble differentiating the difference between personal agency and right and wrong. For example -, I won't give you an example. Hopefully we can become friends, but I think it may take more time than we will be together. ...And there might be contention or confrontation if we simply 'opened up' to share our feelings and concerns with each other. I have realized yet again that relationships are one-way as far as we individually are concerned. I cannot ever change someone. Even if I convince him to change, it really is not me. And so, it really doesn't make sense to ever criticize someone. Instead, help them to realize their own mistakes. I remember when I would write a paper and then ask you (Mom) to correct it at 2 am in the morning. You would make marks and write a few things, but mostly simple marks that required explanation. Often I would read it and realize myself it was awkward or a runon or strange or... and if not, you would help me to understand the rule and then I would apply it to the paper. Hence, I learned to edit my own papers and internalized the grammar rules of English. Here in the mission it would be all to easy to list the problems I have with my different companions (none of us are perfect), but arguing won't solve them, and talking about them won't convice either person if they are right or wrong. Instead, I find that to resolve concerns I go and pray and leave the opportunity for my companion to pray as well. Too many times to count, problems have 'solved themselves' when we both go to the kindest, most loving source of eternal truth there is. You know I took debate - I loathed it because I learned the possibility of convincing someone that black was white and white was black. In a conversation, we may be wrong. We may think we are right. In a prayer, if we are humble, we are willing to do God's will regardless of if the other person in the argument was right or wrong. Così ( being), we can humble ourselves before God and learn from Him in our time of need. I would ask all of you to take time to pray before (and maybe instead of) 'resolving concerns' through a "Defining the Relationship" or some other terse conversation. I know that going from a problem to a room to 'talk' about a problem will never work! Going from a problem to a room to pray will always work.
So, let's say that there were a bunch of big problems all in a row. I suddenly realized that it was probably my choice and responsibility (as a sapient member of the relationship) to sacrifice. And so, we are working a bit better now. Even if it means that I as a missionary am not exactly the same as I would want to be, we can be effective as a team. That is a hard lesson to learn. That means that I understand when my companion makes different priority choices within his agency, that I don't have to delve into the why of his every thought - the "How do you know" for those who are familiar, and that I choose our topics of conversation very carefully to avoid contention. It's a bit sad. Last week I write about Gospel Trust and this week I realize that I haven't been able to make it with my own mission companion. I do know, however, that here in the Mission anything is better than contention. Except disobedience. I would never let my companion make choices that led us as a companionship to disobey. But everything else is better than contention. My goal as a missionary is to fulfill missionary work, and so I have to change to fit my companion. Hopefully I'll find an eternal companion after the mission in whom I can confide, a person who can truly listen and understand and we can talk to each other about everything. Until we get that far, we are holding the boat together. I love my companion and I am willing to sacrifice everything for our success. Your prayers are always helpful.
We also had Zone Conference this weekend - another extreme high (the Lord really is not kidding when He says there is opposition in all things). Elder Baxter from the Area Presidency came and we learned a ton.
So, to finish, I love you all. Remember the rain and to do missionary work and to take time before 'talking' (for our missionaries as well) and to pray and to do everything. Please develop trust with everyone!

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