Monday, August 10, 2015

(week 28) Love everyone

There are some things I've mentioned but haven't really gone into
great detail about before.

One story has to do with loving the people, nothing too crazy, but
definitely helped me realize that loving the people is necessary.
There's this family I met back in Caserta, my first area, and it was
actually an amazing experience because the mom was born and raised in
Brooklyn, NY while the father was born and raised in Napoli, IT
(basically the Brooklyn/NYC of Italy). They had 2 kids, age 11 & 13,
and the whole family was bi-lingual. However, everyone but the mom
spoke Italian as their 1st language and English as their 2nd. Anyway,
the presence of American blood in the family helped me bond even more
with them, because we had something in common. Though they were some
of the nicest people I ever met, they were very difficult to meet
with. They were always busy and when Sunday's came around, they
preferred to take that day as a lazy day rather than go to church. And
when spots opened up for us to teach them, they quickly filled those
spots with other activities. Basically, this went on for almost 2
transfers, about 10 weeks. Throughout these 10 weeks, my comp and I
pondered on what we should do just to simply get a 1st lesson with
them. We came to the conclusion that we really couldn't do much; all
we could really do is love them and hope they willingly decide to
"take the lessons." Opportunities arose where we were able to have
some sort of interaction with them, but nothing really more than that.
We called them at least twice a week just to check in and see how they
were doing, and invite them to church or any other activities we may
be having. They pretty much always declined because of how busy they
were. I remember one day we had actually received a phone call from
them, telling us that their son was having a birthday party and that
he wanted us to be there! We were so stoked. When we got there the
following Monday, we quickly realized that the people he invited were
nothing less than close friends or family. We were confused why we
were included in such a crowd to be honest...eventually it came time
to go home from the party (we were already late as it was), and as
they walked us out the door, the husband shook our hands, said bye,
and told us that they wanted to come to church the following Sunday.
It was so awesome. After all that work, he finally decided to come! We
were so happy. My comp and I were pushing and shoving each other after
we left because of how happy we were. Time went on, and they came to
church 3/4 Sunday's after that. During the weeks, we would teach them
lessons and they would go amazing. I had felt the Spirit tell me
multiple times that they were to be baptized one day. Questions arose
often regarding our church and its teachings and every time we
answered she would agree with our responses. But anyway, we kept
trying to get them to commit to a baptismal date, but she felt she had
to know everything before doing so. In essence, we didn't see a
baptism in the near future. It was frustrating because the lessons
were going so good but we couldn't get them to commit.
4 weeks after my comp got transferred to Palermo, I got Emergency
Transferred to Crotone; some Greenie went home early and along with
other things happening in the mission, a total of 10 people were moved
around in order to accommodate for this unexpected event. And of
course, I was one of those 10. I was devastated. I couldn't figure out
why after all this work I've done with this family, and getting so
close to them, why I had to be taken away from them in such a crucial
time.
I'd say about 5-6 weeks later, while teaching English Course in
Crotone, our phone rang and I stepped outside to answer it. It was
Alicia from Caserta. She apparently got my number from some missionary
or something, and called to tell me she had a secret to tell me, but
that I couldn't tell anyone else. She told me that her and her family
had discussed it, and unanimously decided to be baptized into the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At this moment, I don't
think I had been more happy in my entire mission. My eyes filled with
water and I was nearly speechless. She told me she wanted to call and
make sure I was the first person they told, because she said that it
was because of my love and friendship that they came to this decision.
Of course, it wasn't me alone that helped them decide this, but she
expressed gratitude on behalf of her entire family for my patience and
love and kindness to them throughout the months. They even asked if
there was a way I could come up and baptize them! Haha. I told them
that unfortunately not, being that I was roughly 6-7 hours away in
Crotone.
Looking back on it. It made me realize how important love is. We hear
it said all the time, "people don't care how much you know, until they
know how much you care," and it's true. Even when I felt like I wasn't
doing anything and we weren't making any progress, just simply running
in place, something really was happening. By just loving them and
being their friends and caring for them, they felt that, and were then
able to more comfortably accept our commitments, and consider what we
had to say as truths. As Jeffrey R. Holland says, "these people aren't
lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic..." We as
missionaries, both full and part time, must remember that these people
have hearts and emotions too, and that our goal is not to simply get
them baptized so we can check off another one for the books. What we
must do is love everyone. We must, "preach the gospel at all times,
and when necessary use words," as Saint Francis put it. We must be
Christlike and show Christlike love for everyone, because that is what
converts the people; not convincing words and persuasive arguments.
The most unique thing about our church is the presence of the Holy
Spirit. And in order to help people feel it and recognize it, you must
love them as Christ would. It's definitely no easy task, but as I've
strived to do so, I've seen much more success in my mission. According
to me, the fruits of my labors are not recorded as a number of
baptisms, but rather as those people which I have helped to feel the
Spirit, God's love, and whom I have truly loved myself. This
experience, amongst many others, has taught me that love truly is the
essence of the Gospel.

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