Wednesday, February 28, 2007

..till by turning and turning we come round right: March 15, 2006

Dear Family & Friends,
As I warned you, I've been transferred. As such, the Quartu address is no longer valid (the letters will still get here, regardless of postage, etc... There is some type of grace period and I've gotten letters with 4 cent and 2 cent postal stamps (the kind you stamp with red ink or are a big sticker). I guess they feel bad about the people who didn't know.). I've been transferred from Quartu to the city of Battipaglia - not the one in Sicily, but nearby bella Napoli - Naples. I know nothing about my new companion, except his name. Va bene.
I leave tonight on the boat to go to Rome, and then we take a train tomorrow morning to Battipaglia. I knew I was leaving 2 weeks ago - the night we spoke with the Branch President and I saw him soften I suddenly realized that it was all possible. My thought was that I could leave and the work would change - that my companion's new companion would suddenly come and see huge success... and that I could simply fade out of existence. On the contrary, we have seen all the changes we could have wanted. We have been blessed with incredible miracles and it was amazing. Our new converts are amazing.
We have seen miracles up until the end - I went to the Questura yesterday and my Permesso di Soggiorno wasn't ready (the document that legalizes my staying here in Italy). The attendant went back into the office section for a half hour and came back, asking us to come back the next day. We went back today and she saw us, then got this horrible shocked look on her face and said (out loud), "Non è stato firmato ancora" - it hasn't been signed yet. She called the next number (the Questura is a bit chaotic - you arrive early before they open the doors and hopefully there is a line instead of a mass of people - when they finally open the door there is a huge rush to get these little numbers - like you take at the Deli in a Supermarket. Then the carabinieri that are there call the numbers... and everyone else is just standing in this little room. Fun. I'm grateful for patience.) and then made a phone call and went back into the office. I felt bad for the little woman who waited there at the desk (it was her number that was called) for 30 minutes while the carabinieri pulled strings for me. She came back, and it was signed! Wow. What a miracle. The Lord loves His missionaries. I didn't even have to wait for my number to be called.
We then went to a bookstore where I had bought a famous (among missionaries) Italian recipe book. We had each bought a copy, and they were plastic-wrapped... and mine was printed badly. Because the Questura had gone so well, we had time to go back and exchange the book - they didn't have any more copies, so now I have a Vegetarian Italian Cookbook. It looks fun, and it lacks the seafood section that consumes so much space otherwise (I think...)!!!!
The baptism on Saturday (was it really only a few days ago? No way!) ... and I don't believe time... It was not only 4 days ago. It was an eternity ago. It went really well... even though a lot of members didn't show up. We didn't have to do much. It was nice. Sunday we went to the Branch President's house and he realized that he doesn't know us very well. I guess it's something he'll have to improve with the next set of missionaries - my departure has made him more aware of the limited time constraint we have on missionary work.
All of our members with the gift of discernment cried this week (it's really funny - there are people here who, after knowing you for a very little while, will declare what they see in you. I truly believe they have a partial gift of discernment - to everyone is given a gift!) because I was leaving. They are praying that my companion's new companion is a hard worker so that they can be in 2, because "they have to be in 2! There have to be 2 of them!" Sometimes Italians are not extremely understandable. Either way, someone else will have to baptize the rest of the people here. I'm more than happy to have seen the miracles that I've seen.
We ate lunch with one recent convert at a restaurant and it was wonderful. People love to give. We should love to receive as well. I'm still working on it.
We went to the Peruvian family last night and ate dinner, then talked and sang "God be with you 'till we meet again"... and cried. Then, to finish off on a good note, I told a joke. It was absolutely hilarious (because of context) even though the joke itself is awful. We laughed until our sides hurt and so I left them smiling with tears. We will have to go to Peru to visit them after my mission is over. They live in Punta Negra - did you ever serve in a city like that, Dad? I now have a Peruvian hat-like creature that says Peru on it, and we learned that our Cilantro plant (brought back to life from the dust of long past missionaries, literally, by yours truly) is extra-rare. My companion will give them one the next time he sees them. Today I board the ship and I will probably cry.
These transfers have made me realize how much the Lord loves His missionaries when they are obedient. Italy is a difficult place to do missionary work. But we saw success. Our Branch changed, palpably. Our members became more real. They live the Gospel now. We have many investigators in Church every Sunday. We have had baptisms. Our Branch President loves us. We have a Branch Mission Leader and Branch Missionaries. This really is His work - and if we work hard and pray hard and do all we can, we will see miracles. We will. I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God here upon the earth. I'm grateful for the opportunity I have had to work here in Quartu, with my amazing companion. He is well on his way to becoming the best missionary ever. This is what missionary work is all about - changing the hearts of people so that one day we may meet again at the feet of our Creator. The places and names run through my mind as I slowly close a chapter in my life. Will I ever see them again? Perhaps not soon. Perhaps not even in this life. But we will meet again. The Italian translation of "God be with you..." has an interesting touch - "Fino al giorno in cui ci rivedrem" - means "until the day in which we will meet". It is decisive - every person with which we communicate is a son or daughter of God, and we are all part of a great family. We will meet again at the judgment bar, and then I hope that we all can rise to Celestial Glory and live "happily ever after" in the fullest sense of the term. I'm grateful that now my Mission President trusts me and has faith that I can do anything - he gave us a great compliment when he called for transfers. I know that I am needed in Battipaglia, and I go there to work miracles - to cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and to turn the hearts of the people to the Lord God who created them. May the Lord accompany me and bless me, and may the Lord bless all of you. Be missionaries of light. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand... let us put on the armor of light" (Romans - look for it!). We can shine and change the world one ray of light at a time. Go for it! Pray to God for help, and then expect Him to do His part! I love you!

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