It has been a great last 7 days here in Taranto. Quite another busy week again. Starting from Wednesday it was very hectic getting everything prepared for zone conference. Once President arrived he immediately started interviews and I headed off to Bari with Anziano Kelly to finally get the other companionship here in Taranto a set of desks, chairs, and closets. That was a miracle. Then we hustled back and taught Maria Grazia one last lesson before her baptism. Thursday rolls around and we have an awesome zone conference full of great lessons learned and good experiences. As soon as everything wrapped up and people started heading out we began the process of getting the font filled up and all that jazz. Then the problems start arising.
Problem #1: the font is not cleaned (even though this baptism has been known about for 2+ weeks.
Problem #2: the font has no hot water.
Problem #3: the font is not filling up properly. We took on one problem after another keeping our cool and just pushing forward.
Everything worked out. I decided to not mention to Maria Grazia that the water was cold because we couldn’t do anything about it anyway so it seemed like superfluous information. Plus it would make for a nice surprise… baptism time comes and tons of members and our investigators are there. Miracle. I’m pretty nervous but it’s okay.
When we all head over to the font I step in and yes the water is about the temperature of a river in springtime. Am I bothered? Of course not. All of my companions have made fun of me my whole mission for taking cold showers daily but who’s laughing now? A freezing cold baptismal font and a completely unaffected Anziano Friedman. Win.
Maria Grazia took it like a champ too. She was a little shocked when she stepped in but pressed on. Afterward bishop conferred the gift of the Holy Ghost on her because we had Stake Conference this past Sunday and she would’ve had to wait a week and a half so President Pickerd approved us to do both on the same day. We were really relieved after all was done that it went well. Friday we met again with Maria Grazia and she described how good she felt during her baptism that it testified to her that what she did was good. She also had her first experience standing up for her faith and declaring “I’m a Mormon!” I could not have been happier to hear that. I wish I would have made that declaration as soon as her. The rest of the weekend was good. The whole apartment has been sick this week. Going from Anziano Yskes to Anziano Bates to Anziano Andersen. Who hasn’t gotten sick? Anziano Friedman. Maybe more people should follow my cold shower theory. But really.
Joking aside, this week as you may have assumed, I reflected a lot on my own baptism. It’s something I honestly don’t think about very much, but when situations like this come up it’s pretty inevitable. I thought about what a baptism really means. As missionaries we often say that baptism is the gateway to eternal happiness. It’s not the end but the beginning. I understood that on a deeper level this week. Not all have the opportunity like I did to be baptized and then serve a mission as a demonstration that, yes, this really is a change of lifestyle. Most people here receive baptism after the maximum age to serve a mission. So they continue on in their daily lives in this new church and may struggle to see the difference appear. Well, I say that the difference isn’t something you see but something you become. You are the difference.
You allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate your heart so that quite literally a baptism of fire takes place within you and your desires, your dreams, yours goals are now changed and so are you. You are filled with strength and stability you may have never thought possible.
I testify that baptism by true authority has been restored to the earth and that it is necessary for us to be baptized according to the commandment of Him who came to earth so that all of us may receive eternal joy and peace. The gate is opened to all but we must enter ourselves.
I love you all and pray for you all.