Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On being 21...: December 20, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I'm not sure it's different from being 19 or 20. The weather here is interesting - there are still mosquitoes. These last few days we were sick; my companion has had a cold/flu that passed from him to me to him and finally developed into a sinus infection (him, not me). I got a blessing this morning and feel much better - I was reading in the scriptures and found the "he who has faith the be healed shall be healed [by the laying on of hands]... and he who has not faith to be healed, but believes, shall be [treated with medicines and wholesome foods]" scripture. A quick check in my patriarchal blessing assured me that I am not destined to be sick in my life, so I decided to take up my bed and walk! It seems to be working. Hopefully my companion will follow suit, or his body will be able to sort it out by itself.
Yesterday we went to English Class and the students threw me a party. We talked about holiday vocabulary and I told them the story of The Snow Queen. When I get back I'll take the time to write new English Class manuals - the manuals we have now aren't very guided for teachers and make it difficult for new teachers to determine what has been taught in the past. Va bene. I gave all the students a parting gift - a copy of The Book of Mormon with a dedica inside. They all took it and were happy to receive it; I am grateful that the Lord gave me the chance to know them.
Sunday we had the District Christmas Concert. The District choir has been practicing for months for it, and finally it happened in a little concert hall/old church downtown Florence. We arrived and the director shook my hand and asked me if I would sing with them. I looked at her a bit strangely, but she ended up being serious - she came and pulled me out of the audience to sing next to her husband. It was fun to be in a choir - there were a few songs that I had never sung before, but the tenor part wasn't too difficult to pick up (she thought I was a tenor. My voice was almost hurting by the end.). One that I really like is from the Hymnbook - Stiam Marciando verso la gloria - We are marching on to glory? - It is a beautiful hymn that I first heard here at District Conference. We also sang the Carol of the Bells in Italian. I've been here long enough that a text in Italian doesn't phase me - it was when the choir began singing "Peace like a river" in -English- that caught me off guard! Afterward we tried to give away copies of the Book of Mormon to investigators and friends that had come; we only had a slight problem - we didn't know who was from the District and who was not a member! We tried talking with everyone - dropping vocabulary and trying to determine where they were from - and we were able to find a lot of members we didn't know... I think the investigators walked by without talking with us. That's possible. We had two investigators there.
I've been looking back on my life... on my mission... on eternity, and I've seen the Hand of the Lord in everything that happens. I can say that right now I'm happy, and that my greatest happiness comes from being able to help others be happy. Our investigators have started disappearing for the holidays, and I suddenly realize that when they come back I won't be here to greet them and ask how their reading in the Book of Mormon is going. I won't be able to ask if they are praying, or if they are following the commandments. But my companion will be here, and hopefully his trainer taught him well enough to encourage the salvation of souls. (Speriamo - let's hope so!) And so I don't worry. I can still do a lot - I can still pray for them. The Lord will answer my prayers. It is interesting to be nearing the finish line of the race I have been preparing for all my life. I remember being little and being in Primary one day when the sister missionaries from the Spanish Branch came in. They taught us "I am like a star" in Spanish. All of you know that I love music, and that song has never left my mind. I still can recall the words a dozen years later. That's the power of missionaries. Simply because it came from their mouths it was important to me. Simply because they said it, it was true. I remember earning money and putting it in my tithing/savings bank. I didn't buy much growing up, because I wanted to save for my mission. I remember going to BYU and getting the question (hundreds of times), "Where did you serve your mission?" There were some looks of incredulity when I responded, "I'm 17." I remember waiting for the call... and now I am a missionary. I've been a missionary for two years. Time still goes by at the end of the mission - it's incredibly important to finish strong (as all of you sports people are aware - the most important runners in a relay are the first and the last), so I am planning on finishing strong... and never stopping.
Cari, vorrei anche portarvi la mia testimonianza in italiano. Forse non la capite, ma ancora potete sentirne la forza. Io so che Gesù Cristo è il Figlio di Dio. So che Lui è venuto per salvarci, e che Lui è il Salvatore e il Redentore del mondo. So che Lui ha chiamato oggi un profeta, e che Lui ha restaurato la Sua chiesa qui sulla terra. E' la Chiesa di Gesù Cristo dei Santi degli Ultimi Giorni. So che il Signore sta qui con noi in questo lavoro - Lui ci guida e ci sta vicino. So che, se noi chiediamo miracoli, li riceveremo! Se chiediamo le benedizioni del cielo, le riceveremo! So che Dio vive e che possiamo un giorno tornare da Lui.
May the Lord bless each of you in your lives this holiday season - don't take a vacation from sharing the Gospel. This is the time when men's hearts are turned to God - turned to Christ. Take the time to talk about the truth, to share the Book of Mormon. You will answer unvoiced prayers. You will be the miracles that change the lives of men for all eternity. Eternal life and Salvation are the stakes at hand - will we be courageous enough to give the true gift of Christmas? I am grateful that the Lord has given me another Christmas season to carry His name - my prayer is that we all may take upon us the name of Christ, always remember Him, and share His light with those who stand in need. The world is filled with the impoverished - not of gold, silver, and food, but of the word of God. Go out and bring them in! This is what President Young was saying about the Handcart companies - if you do not go out and bring in the suffering in the world, nothing you believe in matters! This is why we are members of the Church - to bring in the others and help them to live. It is hard to find them, yes, but they are out there suffering... and we have the promise of God that He will help us to find them. I love you all. Bring them in!
Anziano Peterson

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