Monday, February 26, 2007

Messes and Miracles...: January 4, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Let's see if I can convey the wonder I feel in this letter... We have seen a bunch of extremes this week, and I hope that the Lord will help us to take advantage of every experience and tune it for our good.
Beginning, we'll talk about some miracles.
Friday we had set up an appointment directly after English Class on the other side of town (something that probably wasn't the best planning maneuver (I can't remember how to spell anymore if that word is spelled incorrectly)). As my companion was closing the Church, I looked at the time and the map and realized the gravity of our predicament. On foot, we would barely be able to walk fast enough to get home by 9:30, let alone make our appointment at 8:45... We needed to catch the bus, which doesn't always run at the best times. I slowly said a vocal prayer explaining our problem to Father and exactly what we needed to overcome it. I explained that we needed to catch the 40 which stopped only 50 meters away and took us directly to our appointment, and that we would need the bus to be there in 2 minutes. I promised we would be grateful if He helped us to make it to our appointment on time, and closed. It was a simple prayer... and I didn't close my eyes or fold my arms - it was more a vocal plea while we closed the Church and realized how much we needed the Lord. My companion finished closing and we walked out of the street... and I directed us toward the abandoned bus stop in the middle of nowhere it seemed. I would assume that it was 120 seconds from the time my last word hang in the air that the 40 rolled to a stop for my outstretched arm. I don't remember anyone getting on or off until our stop a short while later - 100 meters from the appointment we needed to keep. What amazed us the most was that the Family Onnis wasn't there. We had seen a miracle and the Lord had simply shown it to us because He loves us and fulfills our faith. We went home and I looked in the Bible Dictionary under types of miracles (I couldn't remember all of them to list them and their functions). I would say we saw a sign, and by my companion's reaction I know it was also a wonder. It may seem like a little thing, but it was definitely a miracle... and we have seen many more since.
New Year's Eve, we were afraid to not be able to sleep through the night because of the explosions. We talked before going to sleep about the miracles we wanted. My companion - to simply sleep through the night. I - A rainstorm to drown out the noise and discourage ragazzaci (bad kids) from hanging out outside (they like to throw firecrackers off rooftops at people). We both woke up at 6:30 the next morning and the ground was still very wet.
We went by a less-active brother on Saturday and tried to find out exactly why he was less-active. He saw and understood our plan, and when I asked at the beginning "Come sta?" with a bit too much concern, he replied "Mind your own business" in English. We tried talking with him on the way home when he gave us a ride, and he at first talked about his first missionaries and then refused to talk more. We told him we loved him and were always available for him and his family, and then I sent an SMS from a public phone (we can't send SMS's from our cell phone - cell phone costs are astronomic in the first place here in Italy) to thank them for lunch and express again our support and love for the family. Sunday his wife said that he had wanted to come, but had been kept home by his daughter that was too tired and absolutely did not want to go to Church (I wondered to myself if I would give in to a child like that, or make them come, or leave them home alone, or whatever... and I'm not sure. The lack of one person in Church, even one Sunday, makes a big difference in a branch. A leader is always missed, even if he is only 5 minutes late. ...I guess I'm glad to not have to make all decisions here on my mission). Hopefully he will come this next week and we can help him overcome his problems in spite of not knowing them.
Sunday is where the messes came in (hence the title of our letter). We asked the Branch President if we could meet with him and he told us that since we now have a BML (Branch Mission Leader) we no longer should need to speak with members of the Branch Presidency. We should meet with our BML and plan the missionary things we want to do. I asked if the District Calendar had come in, and he asked why... to schedule an activity... which activity... an activity on applying the principles of the Gospel into everyday life like food storage... he responded that the Branch will take care of that - missionaries should worry only about missionary activities. I was about to cry. I still think I may. I spent the rest of the day in shock and wondering if I had simply misunderstood the role of missionaries in Branch functions. I have seen amazing success when Branch and Ward leaders use missionaries to get things done - there is no one more available, with more time, more energy, and a greater sense of urgency than the missionaries. We get things done now. We were still reeling from the shock that evening, so we went out to knock doors. No one let us in, and it started raining and blowing wind. I truly believe that when it is raining and windy that the day becomes per forza (absolutely for sure) beautiful. We set up a bunch of pass-backs and then finally went home. Monday continued the mess. We had DDM, where we talked about how concerns can be solved by the Book of Mormon, and then went to all of our pass-backs. Of the four, three told us we shouldn't have come back. One told us to come by another day. We went home and ate lunch, then went to visit a man on house arrest to teach his mother how to read Book of Mormon stories. We arrive and he says his sister-in-law's mother just died, so he's not available. Ok... We went to sing in the park and everyone left. We meet a member and go to teach an older woman (a confirmed appointment) - who should be giving us a firm baptismal date. We ring the citofono and no one answers. Strange. We ring again, and wait... and then after a few minutes ring again and someone yells at us that there are people there and there is no time right now and be patient. We wait for 20 minutes and realize maybe she isn't going to receive us. Sorry to our member! A member calls and cancels the appointment with her husband because she feels sick. We go and try to pass by former investigators and no one wants to talk with us - they say they talked with missionaries in the past and there would be no point trying again. Our less-actives all totally shunned us for some reason, and the one night we wanted to go to sleep early to get up early a member chooses a huge lesson for Family Home Evening. Va bene.
On Tuesday we went to Zone Conference in Sassari - a 3 and a half hour drive with the Assistants and our Zone Leaders. I think we are supposed to feel humble and grateful for all the opposition the Lord is allowing in our path. That was one of the talks in Zone Conference. Today my companion feels sick, as well...
On the final note, we will go like "Ring out Wild Bells" (For all of you who are simply oblivious, that is a Christmas/New Years song in the Hymnbook that changes key from minor (a sad sound) to major (much happier) on the very last note of the last verse, thanks to the tenor part). I know that the Gospel is true, and we as missionaries here have been called to a hard mission (another talk in Zone Conference). But, the miracles here are based upon our faith. We can see the greatest miracle - change in hearts - conversion - only when we have the faith necessary to help such a change come about. I know that the Lord gives us miracles according to our faith, our felt needs, and when we ask Him for them. May the Lord bless each of you with the miracles you seek for in this New Year!

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