November 17, 2015
You are assigned to labor in... South America?
Ah, what a great week it has been! Transfer day was great. We were at a random stop somewhere and I got to see my trainer Anziano Borner for a second, just before the train left. Then when we stopped in Napoli I was pretty stoked to see my MTC friend Anziano Lancaster and my BYU RA Anziano Friedman! When we finally arrived in Rome, I met my new companion, Anziano Saffer. After we said hi to each other, he told me something like "well we could wait a second for the rest of the missionaries to get off the train so you could say goodbye real quick, but there's no reason to waste time so after that let's get out of here." Right from then I knew we were going to get along! Ha. He's a super good guy. Out of our district of us and four sisters, I am one of just two from America.
Anyway, referring to the title of my email: I was a bit surprised to see that tons of people here, and especially tons of members, are from Latin America. Particularly Peru. We were in a lesson with our ward mission leader the other day and all of a sudden he decided to just start talking in Spanish, despite the fact that everyone present was perfectly good at Italian. Afterwards I was like "OK. Cool. I understood maybe four words there I guess I'll just bear my testimony now." There are some great people here though. One of them is our ward pianist, who wrote several songs for the Italian hymn book. Needless to say, I was not asked to accompany the music on Sunday. :)
The other day I heard through the grapevine that Rome 1 hasn't had a baptism in a year. And to be honest, the work right now is pretty slow. Suddenly I saw an unspoken challenge from President. Leave two young, hungry missionaries together in a bad area and see what they do. Well, you had better believe I told my comp the streak is breaking during our companionship. I don't like how sometimes missionaries say that areas where there are a lot of investigators have "lots of work" while other places that aren't seeing success have "not much work". In my opinion, the latter areas have the most work in the mission, because we have to catch up to others and GET investigators before we start teaching and baptizing them. We started doing this last night, where we took the subway to the Vatican and found our way the four or five mile walk home.
Quick things: P-day was on Tuesday because we had zone conference yesterday… with my cousin! Didn't think we'd see each other this soon.
A couple guys from Salt Lake City came to church to take pictures. I will admit it was pretty cool to have someone taking a picture of you making a comment in priesthood while someone else in the back of the room is simultaneously translating what you are saying (there are a lot of English speakers here so they have to do that). Well, if yours truly is on the cover of a future Ensign, don't be surprised. ;)
The Italian has definitely improved. I now say all of my prayers throughout the day in Italian except my longer evening prayer.
This week I had the thought that I am literally "walking on water" in a sense. With the experiences we have every single day, I should be SO exhausted, homesick, depressed, and frustrated. It is such a miracle and a huge evidence of the prayers and heavenly support we receive that we can do this work every day and love it.
Fratello Mannino. Incredible guy. African branch president.
Famiglia Saccone, Famiglia Mantegna (investigators) and Salvatore
Eman and his friend Endurance came to see me off at the train station.
First P-day. Vatican in back.
This castle we went to was part of the movie
"Angels and Demons" if you've seen that.
Zone Conference pictures:
Ethan with his cousin Tristan Spencer!
November 23, 2015
So on Saturday my companion and I had an interesting comp study where he revealed to me certain things about our ward that I hadn't noticed my first Sunday there. For example, right now there are so few willing men that only active members have home teachers. Yes, you read that right - only ACTIVE families have home teachers. And WE missionaries have home teaching assignments.
I could give 31 reasons why this is completely inappropriate, but I won't. We scheduled a meeting with our ward mission leader and kind of vented a tiny bit. He's a good guy. But to be honest I felt a bad afterwards. So I repented and decided that this would take a ton of prayer and faith that the Spirit will guide us to know what we can do and how we can do it to improve this ward, trusting that God knows which situations are best for a "cleansing of the temple" approach and which situations are better dealt with in a more positive way.
And I had a potential opportunity to "break boxes" (Italian slang for calling to repentance) a little in my testimony yesterday, especially after the less-than-desirable welcome our investigator Marco had just received, but I let the Spirit guide me and instead ended up expressing a ton of love I felt and knew that God has for each of them. And we have been blessed.
That day we befriended an Argentinian kid, who’s been home from his mission for two years but just came to Italy and is working on switching his Spanish to Italian right now. Being the awesome RM he is, he told us how where he used to live he would go with the missionaries once a week, "if that's ok". "Yes, yes that's fine with us" I quickly responded. :)
But yea we've seen some good success. We should have a couple baptismal dates by the end of this week. I have never worked harder on my mission, or prayed harder for guidance, despite this being the least numerically successful week of my mission. We talk to SO MANY people every day. I absolutely would've gotten up on the front of the bus and started preaching to everyone, instead of wasting time just talking to individuals, if my companion hadn't been a little worried they might get annoyed with us! Ha.
I will just quickly say, without expounding more than necessary, that my health and physical safety have been pretty miraculously preserved during the past six months (OK, four and a half months - nothing can happen in the MTC). But it's good that we went to the Vatican last week, because we missionaries are now no longer to go over there.
Well I guess my spiritual thought today will just be that Jesus Christ is the center of all we do. Joseph Smith said that all we have as members of the church - rain gutter regattas, relief society activities, cool "I'm a Mormon" videos about Irish runners - they are all just appendages to the real reason we are here. Jesus Christ and His Atonement. And I can't wait for one more reason to help people come to him as we approach the Christmas season!