Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some days I wonder...: May 31, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Here in Battipaglia we are seeing many miracles. The weather cooled down a bit - we again have the incredibly beautiful Italian weather that everyone talks about. Time seems to run by here; transfers are coming up next week again, and I think I may be transferred (I only tell you when there's a chance I could leave). I've only been here in Battipaglia for 3 months... and with my companion for a couple of weeks... I'm not sure what will happen just yet. I know that the Lord will help me no matter what the assignment is.
I gave a talk in Church on Sunday on studying the scriptures - I think the best part was the reference to the importance of food for the soul. Here in Italy, active members miss church because "they have to cook lunch"!?!? People lock their doors during lunch. They unplug their phones. The schools and workplaces close. The police station isn't open. You can't buy a bus ticket for the busses that don't pass. Trains don't come. Even 800 numbers on products give hours to call - either in the morning before lunch, after lunch, or both - but never during the sacred meal hours! How many of us spend so much time and effort making sure that we eat each day, whether preparing lunch the night before to take to school, or cooking, or shopping for food, or going to a fast-food restaurant, or working to have money to buy food to eat or anything? We are obsessed with food. We refuse to live without it. For a day a month we have the opportunity to go without it during the Fast Day of the Church, and we can prove our independance of foodstuffs... but how much time and effort and work do we put into spiritual nourishment? Is our every waking hour spent working toward our spiritual wellbeing? Or do we simply work for food that will get eaten or go rotten? In the scriptures it explains that we must not work for that which does not last - how can we ensure that we have the right attitude toward something as simple as food or as important as the scriptures? Scripture study is important - I remember during my time at BYU that someone in some talk said that we should spend MORE effort learning about spiritual knowledge than we did learning the things that would teach us in a specific profession or career. That's an interesting concept - if you're like me and spend over 50 hours in the classroom, how can you spend more effort learning about the Lord? It really made me think about the importance of the knowledge we take for granted. There's a lot I've always taken for granted. Many of my companions have siblings that are inactive in the Church. I know that all of my siblings are little, and that I'm the oldest cousin, but I really never thought twice about the given fact that everyone in the family was a member of the Church and everyone held and magnified some sort of calling. Our Mission President said something that made me think a while ago - "I'm sure that every one of you has a family member - a brother, a cousin, an aunt, that has fallen away from the Church..." (talking about the importance of working with less-active members). I thought about it, and I couldn't name anyone. I'm sure there's someone - a third-cousin-twice-removed-by-marriage-in-law or something like that, but we are so blessed that all of us believe. I pray that all of the little ones can keep the heritage - that we can all be an eternal family one day - all of us.
We fixed our bikes, finally. I had no clue how to fix the brakes - they weren't clamping hard enough... so I grabbed one of those bike socket things and went out and it was actually really simple. They all work now... my companion pumped up the tires and we need to only buy another helmet and we are off!
The other companionship had a bit of an argument on Sunday. And shortly afterwards, our house really didn't seem like it had a spirit of peace. I went into our room and just prayed for a while that the Lord would help them to work out their problems... and He did. They are friends again. Even when I thought that President was going to have to do another midnight transfer. I know that the Lord will grant answers to our prayers if we pray in faith. He does and will!
We continue to do "negozio" ("store") - our newest and best mode of finding. We take English class flyers and ask if we can leave some for the people that come into the store. They say yes, and then we ask if they have ever seen/spoken with missionaries before. We then invite them to hear the gospel. It's really obvious who is interested and who is not. The people who are not tell you straight out, "No." People who are interested will give you an appointment, there in their store, during an hour that is less busy. The inbetweeners will tell you they are always busy and there is never time. They may still be interested - you can tell that by their actions the next, and 3rd, etc time you go. We have talked with many people, and our English Class is booming. You don't have to do it with English Class, just something. You can have publicity for anything, or ask about the store - how long they've been there, if they carry a specific item... people just put up huge walls when the first thing you ask them is about religion. I'm not exactly sure why - perhaps it's simply because in society today religion is not really accepted as a public expression. People from other religions don't really talk with you. Or something like that. Either way, you only need to break the ice before asking them to hear the Gospel. It works best in little stores - the owners are the people who works there - that don't always have tons of people inside. I'm grateful the Lord has helped us find another way to find His children. Next step? "Chiesa" ("Church") This one will be a bit harder. I'm going to try before I leave Battipaglia.
We taught in a bar this week. It was a bit odd - we had taught outside when the men asked us to teach them - because at the beginning everyone was smoking. They offered us something to drink, and we ordered the most expensive thing on the menu - fruit juce. Huh? Whatever. We then sat down in this little area probably used for playing cards, but perfect for teaching the Gospel - a bunch of chairs, a little table, open area. They all stopped smoking within minutes, and the bar got quiet. Everyone that wasn't listening left, and all the people that came in sat down. We talked about the Restoration, bore our testimonies, gave away a copy of the Book of Mormon and a few pamphlets about the Prophet Joseph Smith, and left them with the commitment to pray. A few were really sincere - I don't think any of them were really drunk. People at bars here either like to hang out or fall down. These were good kids. As I look back on the work here, I see a lot of people... I'll have to do some good thinking to determine what my effect on Battipaglia has been.
I know that the Gospel is true, that Jesus is the Christ, and that missionary work is the way to be happy. Go out and talk to them! All of them! If you don't know them, introduce yourself and become friends! I love you all!

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