I would say that each day felt like an entire week this past week; not because they were hard or dragging on, but because literally there was so much going on from morning until night that by the end of the day thinking back to what happened that morning felt like a week’s worth of activities! So get ready for a long one…
Starting from the top, P-Day was moved to Tuesday so it already felt like a shorter week just from that. It was super fun though. The whole zone came into Taranto and we played sand volleyball! Then we had an awesome little testimony meeting after which I really enjoyed. That night we had English course and afterwards did a small exchange with the assistants who were in town for zone conference the following day. Coincidentally, we had two lessons setup for that night, both right after English course, so it worked perfectly that we were doing the exchange.
I was paired up with Anziano Toronto. If I have never talked about him in the past let me do so now, Anziano Toronto is a one of a kind. He comes from a big family in Minnesota and is one of the most Christlike, humble, joyful, encouraging, diligent, and charitable people I have ever met. One thing I think often overlooked before departing on a mission is the incredible missionaries you will end up having the opportunity to serve with. Usually you only hear about the hard companions or the funny members, but during my mission I have met some awesome missionaries and sister missionaries that have been great examples to me. Anyway, back to the exchange. Anziano Toronto and I are teaching Valerio, who asked me at the previous English course if he could meet with us and learn more about our church. The lesson was going so well. Anziano Toronto teaches with such power and love, we are all feeling great throughout the lesson.
Teaching the restoration and coming to the end where we begin to give invites, Valerio stops us and on his own tells us that he had read on the internet (in that moment my heart skipped a beat) that we do baptism by immersion and it represents the old person dying and a new person beginning. We affirmed his comment. He said he wanted that in his life. Jaws dropped. Tongues tied. Suffice it to say, he has a baptism date for the 20th of August! WHAT!
We came out of the lesson and found out the other assistant and my companion had an incredible lesson too and their investigator, Mateo, has a baptism date for the 17th of September! WHAT!
Drop the mic and we’re on to Wednesday . . .
Wednesday we had zone conference which was great. I always love zone conference. The assistants had an awesome training on the importance of getting investigators coming to church and the blessings that can be received and the progress that can be made when they come and experience it for themselves. Also President led a great discussion on the doctrine of repentance and how we can teach repentance out of the Book of Mormon.
Thursday we had lessons with Valerio and Mateo again, both after English course so we had to go on member exchanges to cover both lessons, which I have never done on my mission so that was awesome. I was with our newly called ward mission leader Fratello D’Apuzzo, who is awesome. His understanding of the Gospel and how it can be applied to our everyday lives is so precise. We had an awesome lesson and when I was about to invite Valerio to come to a baptism that was going to be on Saturday in Brindisi, he said he was already going because it was a friend of his and that he wants to see it in preparation for his! The only thing was he said he probably couldn’t come to church this Sunday because of a family commitment. Afterwards I meet up with my companion who was on exchange with our bishop (who is 32, served in Milan mission, and one of the coolest guys ever) and find out Mateo read all the way to Ether in the Book of Mormon. That’s like 490 pages in two days. Yeah! He enjoys the doctrine and story contained in it but reading that fast has him missing a lot of the spiritual aspect of it, which will be our focus this next week.
Friday we get a call in the morning saying the baptism is moved to Taranto which makes it easy on us now so we were excited about that. The only thing is we hear from the sister missionaries around 8pm that the baptismal font is gross and needs to be cleaned so we head to the church and they were very right. Apparently, it’s been a rough stretch for Taranto and there hasn’t been a baptism here in a long time so the font was filled with massive spider webs, and spider eggs, oh and also a massive spider. But anyway we got all that cleaned up and prepared and even though it was a late night it was worth it.
Saturday, the day of the baptism! An incredible amount of drama goes down the morning of the baptism because the young woman being baptized is living in Brindisi at the moment but is from Taranto and will be returning after summer. Anyway, the original plan was that her parents would drive her here to Taranto which is only about 60 kilometers, so not a huge deal, and the missionaries would take the train. Then all of a sudden, the parents don’t want to come so they say they will only drive her to the train station which is about 5 kilometers from their house. Then they say they refuse to do even that. So the missionaries in Brindisi wake up at 4 in the morning to walk all the way to their house, which is out in the country surrounding Brindisi, in order to pick her up and walk with her to the train station near their house. Then some other drama occurs and what ends up happening is our investigator Valerio gets called to drive all the way out there to pick them up and bring them back which he does and the baptism happens! It was awesome!!!!
People, there is a very unique spirit that accompanies a baptism that can not be felt anywhere else. Afterwards, I told Valerio that if he wants to be baptized on the 20th and feel this joy that his friend is feeling then he has to come to church the next day in order to have enough presence in church to give him proper experience before baptism.
Sunday rolls around. Valerio comes to church! Our other investigators come to church who have been coming for the past I don’t know how many weeks in row and finally they agree to a time for us to come teach them! After church we eat at a member’s house and it is amazing. We did a role play of the Restoration with the family and the two older sons (one return missionary, one future missionary) teach us the Restoration. It was a great experience.
Then in the evening, we had a lesson with our investigators who have been coming to church for a while and recommitted them to read and pray about the Book of Mormon after having quite an interesting discussion with the husband over his misunderstanding of the story of Joseph Smith based on his internet research instead of just simply reading the things contained in the Book of Mormon.
It was probably the most bold I have ever been on my mission in regards to bearing honest testimony about the workings of Satan and the necessity for us to know spiritually instead of see physically or reason logically.
To quickly wrap up since I know this is already super long as is, I just wanted to say this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, and I can say that without doubt. It might seem strange to hear that phrase, at least when I heard it the first time I thought it was. But how special is it that someone can say they know something is true. In a time when the essence of truth is getting so horribly corrupted it brings me great comfort to really know the truth of something and that knowledge comes solely through the power of the Holy Ghost when we ask Heavenly Father in the name of and having faith in Christ.
I apologize for the length of this one!
Hope you all have awesome weeks,