Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On to the racetrack!: August 16, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Yesterday was a huge holiday here in Italy - it is called Ferragosto - the celebration that includes every Italian going on vacation to somewhere else climaxing on the 15th of August (the announcement of Gabriel to Maria, I think, or when she (according to catholic faith) ascended higher than Christ). It is perhaps the largest celebrated festival period. The busses don't run. No stores are open. The city is dead... And we clean our apartment for 12 hours straight! August 15th, and the 1st of January are the two days we deep clean. It was fun. I made Cincinnati Chili with lentils in place of the meat - a pound of cooked dry lentils in place of the meat, and it has absolutely no fat! Meat is also expensive here, and I don't trust it for a moment. That's another story.
Today we go to a huge horserace (it has become a cultural event - the race is only 20 seconds long) called Palio. It is in Siena, and it should be incredible (to be with other missionaries and to simply see the excitement that engulfs the city throughout the celebrations).
We have been incredibly blessed this last week. After searching for weeks and finding no one interested in the Gospel, the light came through the clouds. Monday we had District Meeting, and a Sister (sisters in my district? what?) gave an incredible training on teaching for understanding - one of the topics under teaching skills in Preach My Gospel. She explained that the Spirit teaches for understanding and shared a few scriptures, among them a favorite - 2 Nephi 31:3. The Lord teaches according to our understanding. She explained an example of a windowpane to Heaven; each of us has our own "window to Heaven," through which we receive revelation and communicate with our Creator. When we teach others, we are finding the window and throwing off the dark veil of unbelief (look in the story of King Lamoni - Alma 19), and then we need to simply ensure that the glass is clear. We need to teach so clearly that a child will understand. There can be no question. That way, the Spirit will have an opportunity to bear testimony of the truth. It was pouring rain (I pray for rain) and then suddenly it stopped and light streamed through the ceiling skylights in the Church. I felt inside that the veil of darkness on our work had been rent; we would find those who were searching for the truth. Later that day, we went out to knock doors. After only a short while, we felt prompted to stop and go to the park. We did so, and found a 16-year-old boy that was very interested in the Gospel and took a Book of Mormon in Romanian. Then, we went to sit down for a little bit and a woman came up to sit on the bench. She was struggling under the weight of grocery bags, and complained of a hurt shoulder. We finally simply took her bags and made her allow us to help her (Italians can be stubborn), then found out she was 82! She lived a ways away. Far away, and the bags were actually heavy. We arrived at her home and she had forgotten her keys - meno male (good thing) we were there to buzz everyone else's doorbells - finally we got in to find her keys in the door. She had locked her husband inside! We went in and taught them - she had been given a Book of Mormon before, and Liscia and Waldo are incredible. He is 85 and she 82. They are lucid and love to talk, but also to listen, and are very open. It was an incredible experience.
Sunday evening we were talking. We don't have a whole lot of time. My companion is going home in a few weeks (note to readers: The best way to send a missionary into depression or what is called trunkiness is to talk all about when he comes home, or to count down the days, or to do similar things. If you absolutely have to, write to missionaries about life after the mission. Otherwise...) and we have a lot of things we constantly need to do - companionship exchanges with multiple sets of missionaries (tomorrow as well!), meetings, etc... so we were talking about how to be more efficient. Knocking doors is not the most effective tool when no one is home. We were finally able to be united in some way, and we saw blessings the very next day.
This last Thursday we went to Rome again to do scambi (companionship exchanges) with some missionaries. It was interesting. To finish off the night we went to Piazza del Popolo - a famous square in Rome - and set down two dark sheets and began drawing on them with chalk. It is illegal to draw on the ground with chalk - it is defacement of public property - so we do it on our own sheets, that fold up and carry away. It was a really good finding activity. On the other hand, our singing in centro (downtown) was a bit discombobulated by the lingering rainstorm. We found a few members searching for the Church, though! And we had fun together searching for a place to sing. Everywhere we went, there was already some type of musical group?!? I had never seen one on the street before, and yet in every main square we wanted to sing in there was already a group playing in the rain. Whatever. We will most definitely continue comunque (anyway).
Family and Friends, I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that God is our Father, and that He is watching over us. He teaches us as we let Him - he teaches us according to our understanding, or our willingness to understand His ways. I know that the Church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is true. As we were teaching Liscia and Waldo, I felt the Spirit testifying to both of them, and we explained the feeling they had. They both felt with us that it was true - that is what missionary work is - throwing off the blind (albeit slowly) and helping people to rejoice in the light! It brings so much joy to watch people change, and the seeds we plant will someday grow! President called me Sunday with news - a family we had found in Quartu was baptized Saturday and confirmed Sunday. It was a father, mother, and daughter, with two younger under-eight siblings. It was comforting to know that the Lord gives blessings according to our diligence and faith; even though we may not see the results of our faithful planting, the Lord will bless others for our faith. It's like in the Hymn "We are Sowing" - Seeds that grow... when the sower's hand is cold. It is not in vain that we share our testimonies - by a breath we scatter glory! May all those around us know that we know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He has called a prophet in these the latter days! The knowledge that the Lord is good and brings success has spurred me to be better, more diligent, and more hopeful in the work here in Italy. We will triumph, together, and the ears will be gathered in to the storehouse. Then will we rejoice in the Kingdoms of our Father with those we helped to arrive there! A member once said it very clearly, "You will not be happy when you are in Heaven and your friends are not." Let us open the windows, and let their seeds of faith grow in the light of Heaven. I know we can - individually. Everyone can see the success of missionary work. Go to your Father in Heaven and ask for His help, and He will tell you what to do. He will grant your righteous desires. I love you all, so very much - go out and be the light of the world!
Anziano Peterson

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