Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Miracles and Disappointments
It was another good week! We had some really neat things happen and some disappointments as well.
Awesome things that happened:
Tiziana and Lucio are new investigators. They are a really special Italian family with two kids. They are incredibly warm and open and bright. If they keep progressing, they would be an absolute miracle. She had read all of 1st Nephi after a few days and understood it very well. They understand what the Restoration means and said to us, "If this is true that would be great, but do you know what kind of force you are going up against here in Italy with the Catholic Church? Do you have any idea?" Haha, yeah, we have an idea. Their story is on the voice recording.
We did "mostra" (a display we set up on the street that has several canvas sheets explaining our beliefs with pictures, and we try to stop people and have them look at the mostra and listen to us) on Sunday and 6 members came to help us. Mostra is a hard thing to do, but it can be very effective (big display drawing people's attention if they are interested), but with the help of the members it turned out great! They stopped and talked to lots of people and two people were interested enough to leave their phone numbers with us, yeah! I love the youth of Ladispoli, they are fabulous!
Okay, so I know I talk about a lot of different people and get excited about them and then you never hear about them again. I want to tell you a little bit about the disappointments we face here at times, to help you understand a little bit about what happens I am not discouraged right now (thank goodness), but missionary is a difficult difficult thing at times!
I'll use Raffaella as an example. We had a second lesson with her on Friday, a member came and we taught the Restoration and showed the Restoration film. It was so wonderfully, the Spirit was strong, she understand clearly and eagerly accepted every commitment we gave her. She was happily going to come to church with us, she asked us at the end "when can we meet again?", she eagerly accepted invites to read and pray to know if it was true. She had already been reading and she really liked it and understand the lessons that it was teaching us. Sorella Tutt and I were so thrilled afterward, I have never taught anyone that seemed so perfect, so willingly and so likely to gain a testimony and be baptized. We talked about it the whole day and planned carefully for her and our next lesson. Then on Saturday after English course, she came up to me and said "About our meetings... I decided not to change religions. I am sorry, please take the Book of Mormon back" I told her she could keep it and she said no, she didn't want to. It was a complete shock and a huge disappointment. We have no idea why and we couldn't talk to her about it because we were surrounded by other English course students.
The Catholic Church and the tradition of it in Italy is much bigger than I imagined it to ever be. Even if most people don't attend church or believe in it. There have been so many times we have talked to people on the street and in the same breath they tell us about the corruption they see in the Catholic church and also how they will never ever change religions. It is incredible, its a tradition that is so strong here.
This week I talked to a woman, probably 35 years old, at the bus stop. She was telling me about how she thinks Italians don't have the spirit of research when it comes to religion, she said that she thought they should teach more about the history of other religions in Italian schools so that at least young people could know what was out there and make a choice about what was right for them. She said that instead though, they teach only about Catholicism. And no one has the spirit of searching what else is out there. After we talked for a few minutes, there was an older Italian woman sitting next to her who interrupted. The older woman was really upset and told my friend how ridiculous that was. If people wanted to learn more about other religions, they could learn from TV or go to their worship place. She said Italy already allowed other religions to practice, but Italy's religion was Catholicism and that was that. She kept repeating "Italian Catholicism, Italian Catholicism." She was really upset at my friend. To her, Catholicism was just as much a part of Italy as the language or any other part of the culture and to dare undermine that in any way was a threat to the culture. Wow. It was fascinating to watch their exchange, it so perfectly demonstrated the traditionalist older culture of Italy contrasting with the newer more modern and Western culture.
Another example. We taught a lesson to someone on Sunday. We talked about apostasy and restoration and she thought it was really interesting and "seemed right and true". But when we invited her to come to church she said no. We talked for a while. She explained and kept repeating how difficult it was to change. Her daughter was involved in catechisms and it would be a huge huge life change to attend a different church. She said she liked what we said but she did not have the desire to change because it was a very difficult thing. She recognized clearly that it would take a great desire to really find out if this was true and change religions, a desire she did not have.
And it would be a huge change for anyone. I feel for the people here who convert. Catholicism is so much a part of the culture. We walked by the main square in Ladispoli this week and there was a mass going on. It was a huge cultural event for the city, commemorating the patron saint. It is everywhere.
So yes, there are so many people who refuse to listen for even a moment. There are many others who feel that it is right and good but will not make the commitments needed to develop the deep and lasting testimony that will help them change their lives. They will not scratch below the surface. There are so many indescribable things that happen that cause people to not come to church or not see us anymore. There is great opposition.
BUT, there are people like Giovanni. There are people who are working to develop a testimony and although sometimes it comes slowly (like it is for him), they are willing to make the sacrifice for the truth. Giovanni is so filled with concerns and questions and it is wonderful to watch them being resolved (although slowly and over time, haha, but still resolved). He is developing his testimony, he is reading and praying and coming to church (this Sunday all dressed up in a suit too!)
I am convinced that there are more people out there. There is opposition but I feel hope and am excited! Also, I have never appreciated the beauty of the gospel and all it has to offer or the grandness of our Church until now. Many times I get caught up in small things and limited perspective, but then sometimes I see the bigger picture and it clicks! This is a gospel of great truth and progression. Wow.