Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 44

March 28, 2016

It's been a good week! 

Tuesday we showed the Easter video to all 50 or so English Course students, it was a pretty massive crowd. It's not easy to control or teach these swaths of Italians who all love to be the one talking, but I really have come to love it.  It was honestly a miracle that they could sit still for the spiritual thought, but it seemed to go well and the sisters harvested some appointments from it. 

Samuel doesn't have his documents, which means no baptism for him yet.  But he is making some great progress. He says he feels at home here thanks to the love people show him.  Our ward has dominated the fellowshipping game.  He even got a ride to church from an old Italian man who had never met him.  And one of our other Africans lived just 20 kilometers away from him in Nigeria so they hit it off well.  But he also feels the Spirit when we teach and has been reading the Book of Mormon! 

Our investigator Mario is a former professional tennis player whose net worth is probably greater than all the other investigators that I've ever had combined. During a recent lesson he asked us what the Church’s stance was on him buying the car he wanted which cost a crud ton of money.  Not having had that problem before, I didn't really know what to say. 

Easter was great! Because of the time change that had just happened in Italy, right as I was reading Alma 7 during a bit of study before church, the sun came up over the apartment behind us and lit up and warmed up the room really nicely. Church was awesome, several of our investigators came.  Unfortunately, like always we were the most popular people there.  My companion had to leave priesthood meeting where he was translating to come with me as I played the piano for a song the primary kids were learning, complete with the signs "go", "stop", and "slow". 

Speaking of kids, the primary Easter missionary activity happened on Saturday. The sisters did most of the planning, but as my dad would say, they should have just known that the kids' favorite part would be "running around like banshees". I ran around with them and had a blast. A lady who invited TWO families to come... is inactive. That's right; if she can do missionary work, YOU CAN TOO! 


Anziano Cannon 

Missionaries at the Easter party. Notice the photobomb by the cute girl in the back. 

Are we finding part member families or is this chemistry class? 

 In this picture I am reassuring one of the kids that we will, 
in fact, be doing an egg hunt at the end of the activity. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 42 and 43

Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!! I am being TRANSFERRED! Anziano Flynn, one of the assistants, called me, and when he broke the news... I may have said some things I regret.  Don't let your imagination run too wild.  It's just that I was super confused and was kind of just babbling because I did NOT expect that.

We've been blown out ("white washed" in other missions) which is super weird.  [Both missionaries in a companionship being transferred out of an area at the same time.]  Usually that happens when there is major disobedience involved (uh huh, big problem here) or like zero work being done in the area.  But we have just been hitting or were about to be hitting the standards of excellence!

I'm heading to Bari to be with Anziano Chugg. The cool experience I had though is that this call came during personal study, so right afterward I said a quick prayer asking for help understanding why this would happen.  I was lead to read in the Teachings of Joseph Smith the section about missionary work. I had heard the story before. During a time in Kirtland, many members of the church and even leaders were going apostate. The prophet Joseph probably thought, "Gee, I have to keep the only faithful, solid people I have left right here to help strengthen the saints." But amidst this all, he was asked to send the Quorum of the Twelve on missions to England. It probably seemed crazy to him at the time, but he was obedient and because of it the church survived and thousands were brought to the gospel. So that made me feel a lot better.

So, here is the state of what we are leaving for the new elders:

Maged should be having his baptismal interview on Saturday. When I let him know I was leaving I told him, "It's hard, I really love this ward."  In his not super strong English he responded, "Yea, and I love... you." I think at the end he realized that that wasn't super normal to say, but it's ok, I'm super happy for him, and I love the guy too. 

Liu told us last Tuesday that he wasn't ready for his interview on Saturday. The reason why is pretty interesting though. He has a massive testimony, he knows this is the baptism he needs, and even though this has been an insanely difficult time in his life, he has never felt more peaceful. The previous Sunday he said he left church singing out loud he was so happy. But he understands the commandments very well, and with his companion and son living in Venezuela at the moment, he has some doubts and things he needs to fix privately. But I see this as an eternal family. He wants to bring her here and marry her, and I'm sure the Bishop would be more than happy to do it for free. Until then, the elders can work on getting him to take the step of baptism as soon as possible. 

Mauro has had a change of heart. When we went there the last time, it was as if they were all active members for years. They are praying multiple times a day as a family, he and Rosa are individually reading the Book of Mormon, and there was an incredible spirit of love and joy the last time we went. Plus Dennis has honestly become one of my two favorite young men in the ward.  He and the rest of the family did well putting up with the gospel principles lesson we taught on the fly this Sunday since the teacher wasn't there ha-ha. But anyway he'll be ready to be baptized once Rosa returns from Ecuador after a few weeks visit! 

This Tuesday night we were sweeping water out of our bedroom because our washer flooded.  I will say, if you ever get lazy and don't want to sweep, flooding the house is an excellent way to clean the floor .

Anziano Cannon 

Left to right: Fabio, the legendary member missionary. We had an appointment cancel this week so we did a little street finding.  A couple times he introduced us by saying "noi siamo qui come... Agenti segreti." [We are here like....secret agents.]  I'm not sure the people understood, but it made us missionaries crack up for sure. Then there's me, Franz Barriga (Shh... but he's my favorite young man here. Such a cool kid), and Elder Saffer, an AWESOME companion who I am very sad to be leaving after three incredible transfers.

March 21, 2016


Reasons I am privileged to come to Bari: 

Bari itself. Our bishop told us that National Geographic rated this area as one of the top places to visit in the world. Today for p-day we went to the beach and played mountain cricket or something like that. We saw other evidence of tourism as we walked past stores like Gucci and Armani and Prada with their $1600 jackets. Most of that is probably not for the locals. 

2. The work. It's going great… I think. Apparently Bari is one of the most desired cities in this mission to go to. It is a missionary ward. Going to correlation and hearing about lots of new converts, having the bishop sit in for 40 minutes and get really involved helped. For example, the Bishop mentioned a primary activity they are planning.  "It'll be great for the kids to get together and have fun, but obviously above all we want them to invite their friends. It should be primarily a missionary activity." That was just music to my ears, it's incredible what the missionary spirit can do to a ward of about 70 people. You don't get that everywhere. 

3. My companion. He is great and super obedient. We walked out of the house first day and I found out we only ever speak Italian outside.  Awesome!  He's one transfer younger than me but has great desire and spirituality and he speaks quite well. He's also a state champion golfer and is going back to BYU to play there. 

Here's a couple cool things:

Saying goodbye to people was crazy. Liu calls us his "little brothers". I'm super glad that he's been able to build relationships with members however, because stuff like his happens. He gave us "Roma" (the soccer team) scarfs the last time we saw him.  I had ceremonially given him a tie the night before; that's a tradition for people you baptize so I'm putting some faith in him!

Mauro drove us to the train station at 6:00 AM the day we left. A few hours later, I found myself in Bari! 

We've done a couple lessons with a pianist named Piero. It was super cool last night to go there and he let me play his piano as we all sang "Israel, Israel God is Calling" as an opening song. 

Samuel! He is a Nigerian referral that we've taught with the senior couple, the Fitzners. He is super cool, about 6'3" and easily over 300 pounds. On Sunday we ate a massivvvveee lunch after church with the ward members, and we put him on "bringing in the tables" duty. I can't wait to see him get an answer that he Book of Mormon is true. Who will baptism him? We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. 

Anziano Cannon 

Out with the old...

...In with the new! 




Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 41

March 7, 2016

What an awesome week!!!!  Yesterday was stake conference so Elder Herbertson, an Area 70 was here. On Saturday morning we got to go with the stake president to pick him up at his hotel and teach Mauro! He is such a cool guy, he's from Wales and likes hiking (he's been to Crater Lake) and has a ton of cool stories.  One that he told us was about the super cool inspiration they received while reorganizing Elder Saffer's stake in Sweden.

We found out that they wanted to do this lesson with us on Tuesday, and it was a straight up miracle that we were able to meet Mauro at 9 am to teach him. We thought a lot about it and decided finally on what to teach, but as we talked about it in the car, President Diniciacci politely let us know that we were basically just going to let Elder Herbertson go for it. And he DID. The spirit was super strong, he cited a story about another dad from a part member family making the step to get baptized after 17 years. I was under the impression Mauro didn't speak English, but he understood it pretty well and eventually said in his thick Italian accent "yes, I know it's true". President Diniciacci also brought some powerful testimony and after we left, told us "now I know why that appointment almost got cancelled but then didn't. It was needed". 

All three of our progressing investigators came the next morning to stake conference, where Elder Herbertson did an incredible job again. He clearly was pretty busy, as he was the main speaker at five separate stake conference meetings. Saturday night during adult session he told an incredible story about a shy woman who took the challenge to pray for someone to give a Book of Mormon to.  She ended up giving it to an African woman on the bus to work, who took the lessons and wanted to be baptized. Then her sister got mad and came up from Africa to "save" her. She came to Bishop Herbertson who said "this is a big mess. Why don't you listen to the missionaries' message and then we'll sort this all out." Two weeks later she wanted to be baptized, and her husband subsequently came up from Africa to fix his wife and sister in law. Bishop Herbertson had the same conversation and four days later he came back desiring to be baptized. This couple then returned to Africa where they converted over 30 members of their family and hundreds more came into the church as the result of a small act of courage by a shy Mormon woman in England. 

On Saturday night at the end of the adult session President Diniciacci grabbed me to tell me how he is really grateful for my smile, "it really makes other people happy". That is super gratifying, I've really tried to make a conscious decision to be (not to fake being) happy. 

On the way to Terni for an exchange I was reading in 2 Nephi. What an interesting coincidence that we had just met someone from Lebanon. The police came over to check all of our passports, and on the front of her passport book was - you guessed it - a cedar.

Miracle of the week was Manfreddi!! That guy we talked to with Fabio. He met us in church and we had a sweet lesson with him. He is pretty smart; we often had to say "yes, that is what we were about to explain". Before we even asked him to do so, he committed to read the Book of Mormon every night and wants to be baptized on April 23rd. 

Actually no, this is the real miracle: remember Margherita? She was a lady who lives in another area we street contacted on New Year's Eve. Well, we got word that by her second lesson she had read through second Nephi, cried during the lesson, and kissed the Restoration pamphlet! YES! 


Anziano Cannon 

Zone conference! I can't believe we've been at it for SIX TRANSFERS! 
Notice how Anziano LaPray has been in this picture five out of six times. 

Janos is leaving for the Philippines. We're hoping soon after he will go on a mission! 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Weeks 38-40

February 15, 2016

So we were waiting for English course to start in the foyer of the church on Tuesday and in to the church walk the stake presidency and area 70, accompanying Elder Hallstrom and Elder Kearon of the 70. Serving in Rome 1, you become less star-struck as time goes on and that happens more often. They had come to see a stake service project the youth were doing for the refugees. The next morning, we had an amazing training that they did for the missionaries here. 

It's super cool how they can just GO for it, no notes or plans or anything, and they'll give you an insane spiritual experience. There was one part where Elder Kearon said something to us, like "you know who you are. There's not many of you, but for those of you who..." It was pretty crazy how well he spoke exactly to me. But one thing we all learned is that we should ALWAYS bring specific questions to meetings, and probably especially when they seem mundane or usual. If we want specific revelation, we should ask specific questions. 

Liu is doing well. Fratello Salerno started snoring really loudly in elders quorum, but it was ok. From what we hear from the sisters, the Relief Society is way worse. Um... I'll leave it at that. Use your imagination. He won't make the 27th, but a couple weeks later should be good. 

We finally saw Jean Pierr and Eva again. Didn't leave too much in the way of commitments, but we will be able to see him again, and that's what we came for. 

This week I had one of my best scambios [exchanges] ever, this time with Anziano Mika. Both of the zone leaders came to our house, which is TINY, and it smelled awful by the end.  Poor Anziano Mika, who plays basketball at BYU, is 6'10" and I'm not sure exactly how he fell asleep on the cot we gave him. He's a really great, hard thinking missionary. In the last branch he was in he got 60 referrals doing a super hard core, intense program with the members that involved fasting, praying, and every day contact. 

So this week we've been really getting our member game on. We have a huge ward, and honestly, if there's member work to be done in any area in the mission it's here. One small thing that we have done is to make a list of all the birthdays of members.  This morning we called a certain woman whose name I didn't recognize, and when we asked if we could sing her a song for her birthday, she responded "HOW CUTTTTTTEEEE!!!!!" Ha-ha so I think we'll continue doing that. 

On Saturday we had a family night in church. I was feeling kind of bad because no members ever come.  It's almost always just us and investigators, until a miracle happened! Roger and his wife are from Peru showed up; she has been in Italy for a while but he just got here. I think they liked it a lot and today their friend Monica is going to talk to her about meeting with the missionaries! 


Anziano Cannon 

Normally we wouldn't do p-day with the sisters, but this less active needed help. She came to church for the first time in a long time Sunday, so I guess it worked. 

Zone calcio today. Pray that my ankle gets better! 

I ate this and was still hungry afterward. Shrimp pizza is pretty good here. 

February 22, 2016

Such a miracle filled, Spirit led week. We had just said our prayer to start companionship study and I looked at our names board and Harry's name jumped out at me. I thought "we need to call him now!" So we did... No answer. But then we were on the bus to go do some service and he called back. He is a referral from the Philippines. But his wife is against the church so we hadn’t been able to meet. Things didn't seem much better on the phone, but after I hung up Anziano Saffer told me "you know we are driving RIGHT by where he lives, right?" So we decided to ask him if he could meet us right then, and he said yes! Miraculously we were able to find him in this crazy Filipino apartment complex that looked like it came straight from Tattoine. But it was good and we hope to see him again with some members this week! 

I took Elder Hallstrom's advice to go into meetings with a question- so I went to church with a desire to strengthen my testimony of the Spirit's power to convert people. What I got was NOT what I expected. The stake presidency came to basically sweep all the dirt out from under the rug, so to speak, during Sunday school with the entire ward. Yes, I actually learned new things myself as we discussed Joseph Smith's wives, new church policies causing people to withdraw their records, and being open as we talk to our children about morality. The answer to my question I think was how the stake president showed we can receive personal revelation to resolve the questions we have, which was pretty cool. 

Immediately afterward we did a mini scambio where my companion went to give a blessing to the sisters' investigator who was considering getting an abortion, and I was left to take the rest of our investigators to priesthood, where I didn't have much time to talk about what had just happened, as I had to translate for Elder Memmot, who was just reading the New Era while I looked over his shoulder. I think I saw a gray hair in the mirror this morning :) 

We also are pretty excited for tonight, we have three appointments. One is this guy from Egypt who just showed up at church yesterday with his less active friend. Our zone leaders gave us a special weekly key indicator to report - how many people we invite to church. No one we invited other than investigators came, but Maged did! Then we also have Valerio. The other week I said a prayer and then went through the area book to find someone we should meet. I came to Valerio, a contact who the missionaries met five years ago. Well, we're seeing him at 7 tonight, so I can't wait!

Boy is it a roller coaster with Jean Pierr and Eva. Yesterday we went over there with Fabio (afterwards I asked him how the lesson went - Fabio was crying and both of the investigators seemed to be very touched, but obviously I only understand Spanish so well ;) But we did a repaeat of the Restoration since Eva hadn't been there the first time. They both said they would get baptized, she just needs to sforzarsi [make an effort] a little bit to find out if the message is true. 

Mauro is leaving in April to go find work in Ecuador for a month. His wife Rosa wants us to help him decide whether to be baptized before or after the trip. Thankfully he will be with her family who are members during that time, but we'll have to pray for some guidance. He seems to be finally coming around, HE FINALLY READ. We took the patriarch, Brother Salerno, with us.  He is one of my favorite people in Italy, but holy cow he needs ZERO invitation to just go for it.  They made one comment about how he looks young and he talked for ten minutes about the blessings of the Word of Wisdom. Ha. 

Got some more surprises for next week, really cool people who could turn into miracles. I like how in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord challenges people to replicate even one of the revelations Joseph Smith received to show that they truly were divine. I feel the same way with missionary work. Neither I nor anyone else could do this work for just one day without the Heavenly aid we receive constantly. We really do have angels on our right and left out here! 


Anziano Cannon 

St. Peter's! The ban got lifted for missionaries! 

February 29, 2016

Well the biggest thing that happened this week was Maged!!! (Muh-jeed) We aren't allowed to teach people living in the immigrant camps, and since he was Egyptian, we were kind of suspicious going into the first lesson on Tuesday, but it turned out great. He doesn't live in the camps, but did just come back from Germany with his less active friend Awad. He has been Orthodox his whole life, but I guess stuff just happened in Germany because he apparently has felt the Spirit really strongly regarding the Book of Mormon and even dreamed about getting baptized, though he couldn't because he had to leave Germany for document issues. So we were pretty taken aback by the end of our Gospel of Jesus Christ lesson. 

The next time we brought Hanim, this lady who's been a convert from Islam for 17 years, and is a HUGE help because Maged's English isn't incredible, so once in a while she steps in and translates into Arabic. At the end of the lesson, I told him "reading the scriptures and praying daily will help you be ready to be baptized. Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on March 27th?" Then he started talking to Hanim in Arabic, and I thought "oh no, was I not clear enough?" But then Hanim told us "He means to say, how did you know the 27th? That was the same date the missionaries in Germany had chosen for him to be baptized."  That was a cool experience, especially since we hardly ever do baptisms on Sundays anyway, it just kind of worked out like that since we didn't want to run into Mauro who we had planned for the 26th and Elder Christofferson who is coming the Saturday before. 

We kind of goofed teaching Liu, at the end of our short prophets lesson, he asked us what exactly do these modern prophets ask us to do? Dang it. It's ok; we are teaching the Word of Wisdom tonight, that'll help clear it up pretty well. 

Teaching families is not easy. Mauro's kids have immune systems the strength of a cheap umbrella from a Chinese store, so they were sick this week and we couldn't see him. 

Couple of weird experiences: the elders quorum president invited us to bring investigators to an activity on Friday night. He had also invited the high priests and young men, and we received a couple confirmations and some maybes. We were supposed to start watching "Ephraim's Rescue" at 6. But by 6:30, it was just us elders, Brother Aprea, and this old (and a little crazy) member named Sylvio. We had ZERO material there, so I wanted to leave, but poor Brother Aprea had brought a ton of food and was all ready - he had even spent 12 HOURS the previous day working on doing the Italian subtitles himself! We didn't want to leave him alone with Sylvio. So we stayed, and, a couple other people ended up coming including our less active Francesco. 

Second is this Pakistani guy we talked to at the bus stop who forced us to let him buy us lunch when he found out we were missionaries and wants us to come to his restaurant this Wednesday. 

Thing I learned (again) this week is what faith can do. When I was on my exchange the other week with Anziano Mika, he told me offhand about a girl who they were teaching whose parents wouldn't let her get baptized. "But we'll fast and pray together soon and get permission and she'll get baptized". This morning the zone leaders sent us our zones weekly numbers. The zone miracle of the week: this girl had gotten permission to be baptized. 

Also, when we went to teach Eva and Jean Pierr last week, we literally talked to ONE other person on the bus. Somehow Fabio got his number. I was super skeptical about his potential, but then yesterday Fabio sent us his number and said when he had called this guy had seemed super interested. When we called, sure enough, he was super positive and we are seeing him tomorrow! The work reflects your attitude, not vice versa! 


Anziano Cannon