Friday, February 16, 2007

A longer letter: March 16, 2005

Dear Family,
Let me tell you a few things about being a missionary in Rome.
When you send packages, label them as "MISSIONARY SUPPLIES", otherwise they will get stuck in customs.
Mail here is strange - anything you send to the mission office arrives there, but isn't delivered to the missionary until after a while, during Zone conferences, etc - so packages can sit for a while (they're still ok, though!) Letters are the same. I don't have an address here yet - we are relocating and don't know when we will move in... hence why I have not yet unpacked my suitcases. I don't know how to send letters to the States yet - I know at least that American stamps don't work.
We get to email (or check email) once a week on Preparation Day - Wednesday here, when all of you are probably asleep. It costs about 1€ per hour; a € is the currency in most of Europe today - right now it is about $1.25 Sorry about my last letter not having much in it; the logs off after 45 minutes and I took almost an hour to compose my letter. Sadly, it ate it. When it rains, it pours!
I'm doing fine replacing everything from the stuff I lost -
The Mission President's Wife found some bags and is bringing them to Zone conference tomorrow;
My new passport has already arrived at the embassy;
I got 2 of the traveler's cheques refunded (there is some kind of investigation going on with the third one - at some point you should get something from American Express talking about that...);
A new calligraphy set would be nice (you are so nice!);
My only 'important' missing ID was my IL driver's license. I don't know the number... but it would be nice to have. I'm not sure it's possible to get it replaced if I'm not in the US;
I can get new scriptures here pretty easily.
Thankfully my other cards were not stolen. I needed to have them to apply for a new passport.
It would be nice to have more black pens. I have none - only the 3 colored pens I had in my pockets.
Here is an itemized list of all the things I lost with their approx values.
-MTC backpack ($37?)
-$150 in Traveler's Cheques
-$3 Cash :)
-Italian Scriptures (Leather Triple, Bible, Book of Mormon) ($40) -Passport ($96) -Wallet ($5) -Pen bag with pens (colored, nice, calligraphy) ($80) -UT state ID ($8) -IL driver's license ($8) -Insurance cards (expired, 0) -Temple Recommend -$50 Cash Card -And sadly, my study journal with all my notes from the MTC devotionals and firesides and 9 weeks of study; all the notes I wrote while I was at the MTC and the seminars we had here... (priceless...) I still expect the Lord to bless me - I wrote down the feelings of my heart, my revelations, and that was following the commandments. Just because the journal was stolen doesn't mean the Lord doesn't have to do His part in blessing me for following His counsel.
And, on to the stories...
Before, please send this email to whoever wants it - including friends at BYU. Thanks!

We left the MTC at 4 in the morning; we got on a plane and flew to Chicago. In Chicago I talked to 2 people (they were nice - they seemed like they were really interested in the doctrines of the Gospel and accepted a Book of Mormon) and then we boarded to go to Munich. The food on the plane was good, but it was really odd beacuse the stewardesses came around with cigarettes (no smoking on board), then tea, then coffee, then wine, then again after each meal with the same. It was strange. I gave a stewardess a Book of Mormon in English and a bunch of pass-along cards for her friends (the people next to me only spoke German and I have forgotten all of it).
The flight from Munich to Rome was good - more food in a little puddle-jumper plane. I spoke with a husband and wife that only spoke Italian and German and got their name and address for a referral. (Yes!)
We then arrived in Rome and toured a bit with the AP's - first we went to Saint Paul's Outside the Walls - where tradition holds that Paul was executed (outside the walls of Rome because he was a Roman citizen). There is a huge golden door called the Jubilee door - every year of Jubilee (now every 25 years because it was too long before) there is a ceremony in which the Pope comes to the door, knocks three times, stretches out his hand, and is admitted through. Anyone who follows through the door is 'forgiven of their sins'. How could they lose so much truth?
We saw the Colosseum - it isn't nearly as impressive as I thought it would be, especially surrounded by the skyscape of Rome... We also walked through the old Roman Forum. We had pizza and saw the huge horse statue of Vittorio Emmanuele? - the pizza was gross because the AP's ordered awful flavors (fish, potato, etc...) - but pizza here is strange anyway.
We then had some instruction and interviews, and couldn't go to bed until after 9:00. We were exhausted - I got no sleep on the plane over, and tried for 9 hours straight... But we got to sleep in the next morning. Oranges here are orange on the outside, but dark red on the inside! They're called "blood oranges", and they're really good.
We then had some more instruction, and the 'golden transfers', where we got our first companions. My companion is from San Diego California; we serve in the Napoli Centrale area. In fact (here's a secret for you) my area covers the area where the Mickey Mouse (is our code word for a word that starts with M and ends in afia - since it is real here) war is going on right now. Obviously, we don't go there, but it is in MY proselyting district. We also don't go near where we were robbed (President told us so...).
Since we are translocating, I have a small area to put my clothes in, about the size of a temple locker, and I still have almost everything in my suitcases. We don't have desks, but we have beds, and I sleep well every night. We eat pasta every day.
Something interesting - there is very little peanut butter here (hard to get), and also they don't have oats. Strange. The breakfast cereal section is smaller than the section with shampoo - there are really only 6 different kinds of cereal. We always eat pasta.
The week after the robbery was different - every morning we either went to the Embassy or the Questura to file a report. It was tedious, but necessary. I have plenty of money as long as I keep track of it.
We spend hours and hours knocking on doors, and my companion tells me this is the least success he's seen in the mission. We know there is a better way, and it is through the members. I am so glad that you are working with the ward in getting activities going - could you send me a list of good ideas for our branch here? We have about 40 people that come on a regular basis, and tons and tons of inactives - many who really don't know anything about the doctrine of the Church (drink, smoke, can't read the Book of Mormon). What can we do to help them become active again? What would you suggest?
I don't remember if I included it, but Rome will have a visitor in May - Elder Nelson! He is coming to... organize a Stake! Rome will have it's first Stake of Zion! We hope that a Temple will follow soon after.
Thankfully, I had applied for my permesso di sogiorno before my passport was stolen (actually, that was why I had my passport in the first place, but I'm being optimistic).
...But it is all worth it when we find someone that really wants to listen, when we see someone at Church, when they understand and really want to be strong in the Church. There aren't a lot, but there are some. Somewhere. Let me leave you with a good thought - I love the people of Italy. I truly love them, more than I can even understand. I look into their eyes and see that they aren't truly happy, and then they slam the door in our faces. I've cried a few times. How could Satan have such a hold on their hearts? Dearest friends and family, understand that we are infinitely blessed. We have the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in its fulness! No one else has that! Please, share it! Please! Be a good example, but share it! The Lord will help you find a person to share it with, then another, then another, forever. We never stop doing missionary work. We never should. Learn to love the people around you enough that you aren't afraid to step across the lines and share the messages that are so important to you. What's the worst that could happen? They show their 'true selves' and turn against you? They slam the door in your face? They utter "non mi interesse"? Every one of those happens to me dozens, maybe hundreds of times each day. When you pray for the missionaries, always pray that you will be a better missionary, no matter where you are. The purpose of a missionary is to help others to come unto Christ. We can always do that, no matter who we are with, or where we are.
I love all of you! Tell me what you want to know, and I'll answer your questions!

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