Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Two Years to do it, an Eternity to Remember it

Hey everybody,

I first wanna apologize for sending this so late, it's cuz I didn't have wifi the whole day and just now get to send out my draft. But anyway...

This week was an interesting one. It may not have been filled with a bunch of lessons or appointments, but it definitely had its miracles. I guess I underestimated (again) the power the God has and what He really is capable of. It's honestly astounding to me how He hasn't stopped working miracles, even here in the literal home stretch of my 2 year full time missionary service.

The people we meet with regularly didn't come thru this week unfortunately, but we met other people and had some discussions to remember. This one man that we taught over a week ago kept having things come up and keep us from being able to meet with him all the way til Sunday. He's the guy I told you about from Egypt that wants to become Christian. He recognizes that we are one of MANY Christian religions and for this reason wants to study and think this out before he decides which religion is the true one. A little over a week ago we gave him a Book of Mormon in Arabic, his native language. On Sunday after church I called to see why he didn't make it to church to make sure he was ok. He answered and felt super bad that he slept in and couldn't make it but then he was like, "I'm almost done with the book you gave me." I was like 😳 "bro, that book is over 500 pages." So yeah apparently he's passed the halfway mark and loves it. It's difficult to talk about it though cuz he reads in Arabic but we chat in English. So he doesn't have the best vocabulary when it comes to English gospel topics..lol. But it works. Side note: my whole mission I've avoided teaching immigrants and refugees because their lives are so spontaneous that you never know what could happen or when they could leave and you don't want to get them into something that they'll eventually leave because of moving away or something. But with this guy it's different. He really wants it and most of all, he wants to change his life he said. So Sunday evening we had a heart-to-heart and he was like, "guys I wanna change. I wanna become Mormon. I wanna quit smoking and this and that" it was pretty incredible. He really wants our help and I'm pretty juiced to help him turn his life around. It's one of the coolest things you could ever witness.

In church on Sunday, as we entered the 2nd hour of church, there should be a "Gospel Principles" class. For some weird reason, the church in Ostia doesn't really do it unless there are some new people there that don't really know about our church. This is not how it should be, for a number of reasons. Anyway, we came to the conclusion that if we just did it regardless every Sunday, that God would more likely send people to us than He would if we were unprepared. So, we did it. And 5 minutes after starting, this random guy about 55 years old comes walking in saying he's looking for the Mormons and wants to "study" with us (in his words). So that was pretty cool...it was unreal. It went really well and after church we exchanged some info and he asked us to come by and see him on Tuesday. Wow.

Today for p day we went ice skating and got this bomb gelato and looked around Zara (shoutout to my Europe bois). It was fun. Last full p day so that's weird. But then after went and had a super bomb dinner with this fam as we taught the father since he currently isn't a member of the church and wants to know more and discover if it's the truth or not.

All in all it was a good week.

Guys, idk what to tell you. I'm prob gonna see you all soon (I hope) and I can't wait to tell you all about this experience and hear about all yours these past 2 years. This week we had Zone conference and I kinda gave my "final words" if you will. I spoke for like 5 mins. What I said then is what I'd like to kinda just sum up for you guys...

   These past 2 years have been the most unique of my life, and they always will be. Many people have the misconception that these are supposed to be the BEST two years (of your life, even) but that's not it. Yes, they are amazing. But we are not here on earth all meant to go on a church mission for 2 years, therefore the best years of our life will not be enjoyed in this manner. However, these past couple years have prepared in a way that nothing else could've done. I have had some of the best and some of the worst moments of my life during these 2 years out here in Italy. There have been moments when I was so happy I couldn't even remember why I was so happy, and then there have also been times where I've found myself on my knees asking God why certain things had to happen to me and those I loved. In the end I've come to know that God knows all, and knows everyone. I didn't come to Italy for a vacation, but I came here because apparently there were some people i needed to meet and experiences i needed to have. I can't really sum up 2 years in an email, but just know that if it wasn't for these 2 years and everything that happened in them, I'd be completely lost. I love my mission and I love these people. It's out here amongst the rejections and the miracles that I've come to know that this is the truth. I've gained something here that you can't just get by chance. I've gained a knowledge of the truth. It isn't a perfect knowledge, but it's enough to keep me going for the rest of my life and keep me doing what I need to do. 

I'm sorry this is so awkwardly worded but it's really hard for me to express myself cuz I have so much to say and even more going on in my head. This has been the best experience of my life. God is real. I've found His church, His truths. And I'm never going to forget a single moment of my mission. This mission has saved my life. I'm eternally grateful.

See you guys soon. I love you guys.

Last Zone Conference

Ice Skating on Pday

We are all finishing our missions on the same day

Home stretch

Hey guys!

Well another week has passed and it felt like I just blinked my eyes...😳 super weird. I'm not sure exactly what you guys wanna hear cuz I mean I feel like it's weird to tell you about my week since I'll be home in 2. But I guess I'll just talk about some cool things that happened.

I've been feeling weird the past few weeks, kinda out of it I guess. And then I realized that I hadn't fasted in over 3 weeks...(usually I'd fast at least once a week since several transfers ago). I was also getting bummed out that we weren't having a ton of people to teach like I would like to, since teaching is literally why I'm here. Then I remembered a key scripture again in Alma 6:6 in the Book of Mormon. It talks about how the people of the church of God were commanded to gather themselves together often, and pray and FAST on behalf of those who "knew not God." So, after really understanding that and taking it to heart about...6 months ago, I decided to fast at least once a week. Fasting is a thing I could talk about for hours, but 2 years ago wasn't familiar at all with its potency. It is literally a way to show God you want a miracle and you're willing to sacrifice for it. During my mission I have seen absolute real-life miracles happen because of it. I've seen people's lives saved and happiness found, thanks to fasting & praying (always with faith though). So anyway, I fasted. Long story short, it worked. That day I finished my 24 hour fast, we found someone. He's from Egypt and never wants to go back. He wants to be Christian. He is so prepared. He said there are so many different Christian religions though and for that reason he can't just join any random church, because there's obviously something different in each one, making all but one single church different from the actual truth. He expressed to us his desire to study it out and find the true one. After our lesson he was so happy and stoked to read the Book of Mormon we gave him in Arabic (his mother language). Btw he also speaks English and Russian, and is learning Italian. He told us that he felt something he had never felt before while he sat down and talked with us about the story of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (and His church). He said it all seems right and legit, but he needs to read and confirm it all. We'll see how this goes, maybe we can set the next missionaries up with a nice baptism :)

Other than that, we've just been doin our thing really. We need to grow our English course cuz it sucks rn TBH, like it's really small. But luckily our two homies always come cuz they absolutely LOVE IT. They're actually really curious about what we're all about as missionaries. We're thinking of meeting up this week actually to go grab some grub together in Rome and we'll have a nice chat about our religion, since they have a billion questions. They're pretty informal guys and I think they're just curious; I don't think they want to change anything...but that's ok cuz it all starts out with curiosity.

This reminds me of a dumb phrase, "curiosity killed the cat" lol. It's funny and sometimes true, but unfortunately out here in Italy it's soooo true. People look at you weird if you start to ask questions and think about leaving Italian tradition established 2000 years ago. It's like a real-life version of the book Brave New World (if you haven't read it, it's a good read and I recommend it). But like if you do something out of Italian routine people are like, "you're not Italian, you're weird, don't talk to me." It's not always like that, but it's common haha especially out here where the good ole Pope is 😂 but honestly thanks to God Himself, we're finding people that wanna break out of that tradition, kinda like in The Giver when the kid sees color. We see color and we want others to see color, but unfortunately there are too many tryna stay with the comfortable black & white. That's really all it is. But, like I said, miracles have happened, and are happening as we speak!! I love meeting people that have been prepared to listen to us and what we have to say; it makes life so much more awesome.

I just wanna let you all know that reflecting on my mission a bit, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. As a result of these 2 years, everything good that has ever happened to me or will happen, has either come as a result from my mission, or my eyes of appreciation have been open to these things...thanks to my mission. I've learned to love what really matters and not preoccupy myself with things that don't. In doing so, I've finally learned what the secret to happiness is. Matthew 6:31-33

Love and miss you guys. I'll write a better email next time haha, I hope. See you guys soon 👋🏽✊🏽