Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Times and Travels: October 25, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
This week we have seen great miracles. I won't have a lot of time to write this morning, so I'll tell you some of the highlights. Yesterday we were on scambi (exchanges) and I decided to take my temporary companion to the open-air market at the Cascine (where we had prior found many people). We talked with dozens of people, many interested in the message of the Gospel. It is really amazing how many people you can contact when the Lord gives you a way to meet them. We simply walked down the street and spoke with everyone that was sitting on the benches that line the river behind the busy marketplace. We spoke with Antonio - a man that has been practicing Buddhism for 20 years and said that he would pray to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet. We spoke with another man - Enrico - who told us that, up until a short while ago, he was "un sasso" spiritually (a rock). And he wasn't talking about having a firm foundation. He was totally insensible and didn't care. He said that time had eroded his thick outer shell and finally he had let thoughts of God enter in. As we spoke, he told us how he had never learned how to pray or to think about the Lord - many of the people here in Italy are Catholic by culture and tradition, but don't have the basic fundamental doctrinal knowledge that is so essential in our Church. They really don't know what they believe in, let alone what their church believes in. He was happy to learn that he could be free of doubts and know the truth. I'm grateful to be a missionary. I hope that I can continue to speak with people about the Gospel and change their lives in short 20-30 minute sittings like we can here! Sunday we had an incredible experience. We have been singing every Sunday evening at Piazza della Signoria - a famous square in the heart of Florence. Then, it started to get dark really early and the piazza was too dark to read the hymnals. Singing was cancelled. So, my companion and I went out a Saturday night at 9:00 to find a good place to sing. We found a street corner in the corner of that same piazza that was well-lit and didn't have any stores behind it; we announced singing and everyone arrived the next day. The only problem is that I often feel pulled in two different directions - I really feel it important that we go out and stop everyone that walks by, not only those that stop for a while. But then, sometimes the music stops if I'm not singing. I volunteered to stop people and gave my hymnbook away... and bam! We had an incredible night! It is an amazing thing to have a choir of missionaries behind you as you walk up to a couple with children and say, "Good evening - my name is Elder Peterson and we are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We're here in the piazza tonight trying to bring peace into the lives of the people here, and because we have a marvelous message that has changed our lives." You then find some way to ask a question - either about the family, or peace, or God, or religion - are you religious people? We taught so many people about the message of the Restoration; I ran out of pamphlets quickly and we received great contacts and referrals for others. With the music in the background, many people are prompted to stop and ask questions about the Church, and there are thousands of people who walk by this little street corner in the center of Florence. I finished off the night going to speak with an elder (who was in my MTC group, though I have never served with him) with a young woman who had asked about a star of David on the wall. She then said she was Jewish - from Israel - and I am grateful to have studied Hebrew at BYU. I knew there was a reason, and if it was only to touch the heart of this young woman, it was enough! We spoke, and at first she was very closed. She was still closed at the end, but she had felt the Spirit and we had taught about prophets and the Restoration... and then she said something that hit me. The other elder asked if he could send missionaries to her house (by the way, there are no missionaries in Israel - it would take a while to explain why the Church has not sent missionaries there and why it signed a no-proselyting agreement with the Israeli government) and she mentioned that she wouldn't feel comfortable learning about our religion - it was too similar to her own. I realized that I knew her thoughts, and that she was afraid. It was the first time in her life that she had seen an option other than Judaism that encompassed the same basic doctrines and philosophies as her own, but then went beyond. Most Christian religions scourge the Jews and don't respect them or their place in history; we, on the other hand, have great ties with the Jewish people and even have prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled concerning them. I think one of the religions that is the closest to ours is the Jewish religion - in its purity it was the stepping stone to our Church - the pure Christianity... and if you live strictly by the law of Moses as revealed though him, you will naturally live a life that follows the principles of the Gospel as revealed through Joseph Smith. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach people, and I am grateful that I have had the experiences I have had to learn about cultures enough to touch the hearts and break down the barriers of others. To all of you out there - go and learn about everything! You will need all of your knowledge to help build the kingdom of God! This week I'm playing piano for the primary program. Really. My small skill on the ivory keys will be augmented by the Lord, but I am grateful for the few moments I did spend before my mission learning this skill. Absolutely everything is worth learning - everything good. I have spoken in German and Spanish and French and Hebrew and am learning pieces of Italian Sign - who would have thought that someone going to Italy would use the skills and culture from classes on Spanish, German, French, Hebrew, and American Sign? And yet, the Lord will help you touch the lives of people wherever you go. You simply have to go.
I realized a powerful thing this week. If we pray to meet someone who is searching for the Gospel - that the Lord will place people in our path - and then we want to know who it is, all we have to do is talk with everyone! It is really a simple concept, but it is incredibly powerful. If you pray with faith that the Lord will place someone in your path today who needs to learn about the Gospel, and then you simply talk with everyone you can (everyone that is in your path of walking, or on the fringes, etc... everyone that calls or rings the doorbell or talks with you for a moment... everyone next to you or that you could talk with), YOU WILL FIND THEM!!! It is that simple! I have seen it. You just need to talk with everyone about the Gospel, and don't have fear. We learned in District Conference that true love casts out all fear. If we are afraid, it is because we do not truly love these people. We do not really want them to be happy. But when we are filled with love, fear is replaced with faith and we will see miracles. I know this work is true - go out and talk about it! Members are the strongest missionaries! I know that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His Church. May the Lord guide us in this work as we do our best!
With love,
Anziano Peterson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Custom Search