Wednesday, September 1, 2010

P-Day Adventures with Santa Clause

Let's start off with some P-day adventures! Last week in Bari we walked around in a big group of missionaries, all those from Taranto and Bari together, and did a little sightseeing. We visited the church of St. Nicholas (Santa Clause!)! It was a typical old church, just like the ones I have studied in art history and seen all over Europe, but it is always just as neat! They are filled with altars and shrines and paintings and huge arches. When you walk down into the basement, you can see the tomb of St. Nicholas and there is a place where people leave money and lists. We were guessing that they were Christmas lists, so Sorella Stevenson made one for us and added it to the pile. Who needs the North Pole when you can bring the list directly to St. Nicholas himself??
Today we had my favorite adventure in Italy yet. We took a bus to the little town of Ostuni, the "white city". This is a little city on a hill close to the ocean on the other side of the heel and its painted all white! It is just like how I would picture Greece and I fell in love with it! Sorella Stevenson and I went with the anziani in Taranto and we wandered around, getting lost in the narrow streets and took lots of pictures. The weather was perfect and it was amazing! The only problem was that the wind was really strong and we struggled keeping our skirts modest, eek!
Grazia and Aldo are still around but sadly we haven't been able to see them because they have been busy. We met a woman, Maria, from Romania a few weeks ago on the street and she told us that she was a member of our religion! We met her on Sunday evening (she works and cant come to church) and found out more of her story. She was baptized 4 years ago in England and hasnt been to church in a long time because she lives too far from a church in Romania. She also has never had a copy of the Book of Mormon in Romanian and we brought one for her to have and start reading. Meeting Maria was a miracle in so many ways, its difficult to describe. But she needed to find us, if nothing more than to receive a Book of Mormon in Romanian. What a gift that she has never been able to experience in her native tongue!
Funny moments in Italy...
The Italian members are hilarious! One of the cultural things that is different here is that people will openly and loudly argue their opinions, even in church. I love it, even if I cant understand everything that they are saying. They are not afraid to openly say "No, you are wrong. This is what I think" and then continue to share their opinion! And yet they still love each other and everything is okay.
We, the Sorella, got reprimanded the other day by a member. As we started to share our spiritual thought with his family, he interrupted us and stood up and talked for 20 minutes on how we as missionaries cant just come and leave a spiritual thought and go on our way. We have to love the people, we have to be missionaries who convert both members and non-members with our love. We have to share with them our difficulties and successes and laugh and cry and grow together if we expect help from the members in missionary work. It really struck me. Unlike me growing up, these Italians have literally seen hundreds of missionaries coming through their ward over the years. We cant just do what we have always done as missionaries and expect a change, expect them to love and remember us and not all the other missionaries. We have to give them all that we have, all of our love, for that is the great converting factor. I believe I was taught an important lesson. I just have to figure out how to show them all my love in another language!
One last thought. Something that touched me recently was a talk by Elder Holland. He talked about why missionary work was so hard. After all, if it is the truth, why aren't people jumping into the water to be baptized? He said something profound, that a part of the reason missionary work isnt easier is because salvation is not a cheap experience. Particularly as missionaries, how can we expect to be representatives of Christ if we refuse to experience even a tiny portion of the pain and tribulation that He experienced? We are being refined so that we can become more like Him.
I may have already talked about this before, but I want to mention the tender mercies that I see every day. Every day of this work, there is at least one moment where there is no where I would rather be than here in Taranto declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is always at least one moment that makes every thing that is hard worth the pain. I am so grateful to be a missionary, to be trusted with the entire city of Taranto and all of its beautiful people. I know that what we have to offer is truly the solution to everyone's problems. It is access to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and all the blessings and joy that come from that. I feel great honor that I get to represent Him.

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