Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Zeppole: March 1, 2006

Dear Family & Friends,
This week is full. I won't have time in all the world to tell you about all the amazing things that have happened, so I'll take time to
tell you about the miracles. Sorry, I forgot my camera cord, so you'll have to pretend for a week about the peppercorn tree and the zeppole. (More following). Well, for simple miracles - we had heard about these Italian dolci (sweets) called zeppole - all the little pastry shops have window signs that say, "Oggi Zeppole" - Oggi means today. We had no clue. We talked about it, and then a member gave us some at Family Home Evening, and an investigator felt the need to buy them for us, and a little pastry shop gave us a few free, and another investigator gave us a pound of them, and we went to a Carnevale party (really, I'm not a fan of that festival - it is the "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and we die (give up our sins)" party. How horrible! On every occasion, the zeppole were given to us - we didn't take them or really ask for them. Then, finally, our member misisonary called us right before we went to bed and asked if he could come to our house. His mom had made something and he had to bring them hot. He arrives, running the more than a mile, and hands us a bag of hot hand-made zeppole. I was told when I arrived in Italy that donuts don't exist. They really don't, except they do - zeppole are home-made old-fashioned donuts, and they are amazingly good when you think about the love of the people who simply listened to the Spirit of the Lord who has a great sense of humor. At least one other person felt the impulse to give us zeppole, but fought the urge. I think the Lord was trying to do daily contacting.
Another little miracle, a funny one at that... We have had some rough days here and sometimes we wonder if we are doing things right. Then, we see miracles that just make us laugh and laugh and laugh and we know that the Lord is happy with us and wants us to lighten up a little bit. I was munching on spices one night (I was hungry, but didn't want to eat, so I tried tasting spices) and I tried a red peppercorn. I am not mad, only slightly crazy. Red peppercorns are not hot. ???? The black ones and green and white ones are, but the red ones are not. I expressed the wonder to my companion - where do peppercorns grow? He had no clue. We thought about it a bit, and then forgot. A day or so later, we ducked into the park next to our home to get some quiet to make a phone call, and I see shimmering on the ground red peppercorns?!! I picked them up, looked at them, smelled them (yes, thanks to my close association with them I can now identify the smell of red peppercorns - that probably rivals our Texan Sister's companion, right?), and then remembered Paul's promise (about poison, snakes, etc) and ate one. It was most definitely a red peppercorn. We look up and see......a tree filled with bunches of red peppercorns, on bunches like grapes - and we are absolutely amazed. I think we laughed. And laughed. The Lord certainly loves us, and His tender mercies are not few. We harvested a bunch of them and I made a red sauce for pasta with the flavor of red peppercorns.
We now have another saying in our companionship... Have you ever heard of a peppercorn tree? A peppercorn tree? A peppercorn tree! And in the name of the peppercorn tree, we wish to welcome you to munchkin land! Perhaps the salt in the ocean this has to cross will make it less funny, but the Lord even answers our unanswered prayers.
Our companionship is almost legendary. We had 9 investigators in Church on Sunday, and a baptism this Saturday with others following. For those in other fields, Italy is one of those "hunt them out of the corners of the rocks" places - it had been years since more than one person crossed the threshold of the Church, let alone 9 for two missionaries. We have seen amazing miracles. We went to an appointment with a referral from a member and she suddenly asked about coffee. What's wrong with coffee? If I can't drink coffee, I will never enter this religion! I can't do it! I can't! Naturally, we taught about the Word of Wisdom, and I testified that the Lord gives us commandments and then gives us incredible blessings - and she could use some - thyroid problems, obesity, smoking cough, tiredness, sadness... and she hasn't drunk coffee since. She came to Church in pain from not having eaten anything, and we gave her pancakes. She was proud, and had felt the Spirit bear witness that the Lord would truly bless her. An African investigator in Church decided to wait to take the sacrament until he was baptized a member and confirmed - we have only really met with him once, as he now has no home and has to live with friends while his wife and children are at a Catholic homeless shelter. He had been tricked into renting a condemned apartment and then the city kicked him out, promising to find a new one within 10 days. It's been more than a month. He came to Church and was grateful for the peace he felt and the opportunity he had to forget his problems for a while, and then, when they came back, to be able to deal with them from the right perspective. The mother in our Peruvian family is being baptized this week (yes, Daddy, we are still teaching Peruvians, and we will probably take a road trip to visit them someday in Peru) and she is excited and happy of her choice. Her son decided he is not yet ready, and then we did an activity called "When will I be ready for my baptism?" It was a search in the house for clues that led to scriptural passages that determine worthiness and readiness to make the covenant of baptism (the Lord has certain prerequisites). Doctrine & Covenants 20:37, Mosiah 18:8-10, and others helped him to realize that in all intents and purposes, he is ready. He has an incredible mind. He remembers everything we tell him, and my companion is sure that he will be an excellent father and everything in the future. I only hope that I will be able to see his baptism. Transfers are coming up, and I will probably go away. I have seen the incredible change that usually follows - the work has come alive again and people in the Branch are giving referrals, offering to help in some way, and they are more united in some small way. Hence, in 2 weeks I will probably have to pack my bags, crying, and leave my island paradise to meet a new and different people. I'm already crying. Sorry. You don't know that. We realized how much we love people so very quickly here. We had spent 3 hours in total with a referral and a new clarification on a rule (there must always be an adult male when teaching, period) made it possible to have to transfer her to the sisters. We thought for an instant, and then realized that we were already too close to break - she had already become attached to us. We love the people and we let ourselves become totally emotionally involved in the work. Everything revolves around the work, and our stress levels sometimes are incredible. Last night we remembered to have double-scheduled an appointment with the Branch President (dear Lord, help it go well!) and this same referral, and for a moment everything in the world rode on one phone call. It worked out, our adrenaline stopped pumping, and we slept well. I love my companion - he didn't forget his camera cord, so I am sending a picture of the peppercorn tree after all. And zeppole. The Lord certainly love me - He sent my companion.
I know that God lives, and that He is our Father. I know His Son Jesus Christ lived and died for us, and that He lives. I'm singing He Lives at our baptism in Italian. Since I'll be dressed in white, it should be beautifully symbolic. I know that a prophet lives today, and I know that we all can know each day through sincere and humble prayer to God. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to see the change and miracle of conversion to Christ and the power of the Atonement in my life and the life of those around me. May we commit ourselves to share this Gospel - this good news - with all men, that all may feel the Spirit of God. May He fill us with the peace, love, and joy that I feel now - that you may feel as well - that we will know the truth of His teachings. I love you all - will you pray to know? Will you pray to know the truth? I know that God hears and answers our prayers, and that every day, no matter who we are, we can become closer to Him. May the Lord be with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Anziano David Peterson

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