Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wind and rain: 12 July, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
It seems like all the prayers sort of massed together in one lump and soaked us this last week. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday... every single day we had a beautiful morning rainstorm. The winds howled on our 7th floor balcony, and the mornings we were out knocking doors our books were safely protected by a plastic grocery bag in my backpack and we were soaked. It was nice. We enjoyed the brief repose from the hot summer sun. It was actually incredible - it would rain and the wind would blow so hard that you couldn't see - the trees thrashing, the raindrops seemingly flying through windowpanes... and then the sun would come out. While it's pouring rain. We saw a few rainbows.
This last week we have done a lot of finding work again. We are knocking lots of doors (actually, buzzing lots of citofonos) and talking with everyone. Our meetings with Catholic priests were... interesting. On Saturday, Leandro was more open. He seemed somewhat interested and was very knowledgable (obviously) about the doctrine of Catholicism... and history. At the end, he was open to reading from the Book of Mormon and praying to know if it is true. Then he gave us a ride to our next appointment (really nice). Francesco, the priest for the main parrocco here in Battipaglia, was a slightly different story. We met with him yesterday, and I feel as if I have been in psychological warfare. He is good! It was amazing how well educated he was in social skills - he made us feel completely at ease and then we started tossing the ball of the conversation back and forth. He began, and began unwinding us before we started. We caught the ball and took it back to the message of the Restoration, and when we talked about Jesus Christ he stopped the discussion, saying, "Let's not talk about how we are different. It is better to talk about how we are the same. We can just talk about Jesus Christ." My companion didn't realize the battle we were fighting, so he went right ahead. Yes! We taught about the apostasy and the Restoration, and a living prophet today. At the end, he didn't take the Book of Mormon (already had one, somewhere... and wouldn't have time to read it anyway...), but took a pamphlet and said he would read and pray. We'll see if he does. Later yesterday we knocked into a chiromante - an enchantress? She told us to come back at a different time... I guess everyone needs to hear the Gospel. We had seen flyers for this "Madame Melissa" all over town a few weeks ago, and then in a building we suddenly see the sign for the practice... I guess we'll see.
This next week is transfers. I will probably be transferred, and leave the little town of Battipaglia for something more northern. (Battipaglia is at the furthenmost southern part of the mission)
Today we were going to go to Napoli to a big missionary birthday party for one of the Elders... My companion really wanted to go, because they will watch the World Cup Final game and eat lots of food, and there will be over 20 missionaries from all over the zone there... I was not thrilled in the slightest. But, as it came closer, he expressed more and more of a desire to go, and so I agreed. I love my companion, and I wanted it to work out for him. I still didn't want to go personally. I had no wish to be around some of the missionaries (some are a bit immature) and simply eating and watching a soccer game isn't my cup of tea (or orzo, as we get our investigators to drink). I was planning on going and writing letters or something... and felt really bad about it. I didn't want to go, didn't want to go and sulk, didn't really feel able to go and have fun... so I decided to pray for help. This morning, I finally felt like I could go and try to have fun, if only trying to do something. Then, last night I woke up a dozen times feeling sick, with a stuffy nose and aches all over. During companionship study, I developed an incredible headache and felt naseous...started sweating a bit... and so after studies I called President, who thankfully happens to be a doctor. My companion left the room, and as I started describing my symptoms to President, I realized what I had, what our plans were, and what it meant. I have the flu - not a big thing at all - but the flu is highly contagious. Going to a party in a small apartment in Napoli with all the missionaries of the zone would be a very unwise thing to do - President told us to not go. Only an hour earlier, I had finally realized how to go in the right spirit, and now I was crying on the phone because I realized that we weren't going anyway. It hit me that perhaps it was simply a trial that I had had to pass - was I willing to sacrifice for my companion? I've learned the importance of sacrifice here. So, we'll actually go home and I'll go to sleep while my companion studies and sleeps and writes letters and maybe makes a cheesecake. Interesting combination. That may be also why my letter isn't as profound - my brain is slightly cloudy, with a 50 percent chance of rain.
I think the main problem here in Italy is that no one really knows who we are. No one knows about the standards of the Gospel. No one knows about the incredible service efforts. No one knows about the integrity of the members, or that we try to be outstanding citizens. No one knows anything about us, and so no one wants to talk with us. Often people will talk with us on the street and simply want to know, "What is the difference [between our church and the catholic church]?" It's a bit difficult to explain in 5 seconds. We talk about prophets, about the Book of Mormon, about modern revelation... but I don't think people understand the depth of the message we share. "Is that all? You tell people about this prophet and ask them to pray to God to know if he is a true prophet?" Obviously, a true knowledge of the Gospel goes fathoms deeper, but there isn't a way we can communicate it easily. I think I will try to write some newspaper articles in the near future - we have a public relations couple in the mission for the whole area (I think) - and they can try to get some newspaper articles that simply tell people about who we are. I think that once that barrier is overcome, people will be more open to truly understanding the fundamental principles of our doctrine. So many people close doors in our faces (after saying, "Permesso") or hang up on citofoni simply because they don't know who we are and are afraid. I think this computer's time limit is malfunctional - we have been here for a while and it says I have 41 minutes out of 60 left. That is impossible. Va bene. We'll report it to the supervisor. Italy has a much lower level of communication than America - almost no one uses the internet, and the newspapers and televisions don't talk about too much... They are simply ignorant of many things. I think if they were simply aware of us, more people would be open to us.
I know the Church is true! I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that God really exists - He answers our prayers when we pray in faith! I know that the Lord is guiding this work, and someday thousands in Italy will come to a knowledge of the truth. Thousands will repent and come to a knowledge of their Redeemer. During vacations, make time to share the Gospel. It's easier far from home. You don't know the people. You don't need to be afraid that they will think strange things about you for the rest of your life. Just go and talk with them. I love you all!
Anziano Peterson

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