Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Can't Believe That Happened

Dear Family and Friends,

There are a lot of things that happened this week. And I mean a lot so buckle up, sit back, and enjoy the ride that is the Mission of Rome Italy.

Okay so in the beginning it was a pretty tranquillo week. We did normal things like district meeting, helping with home teaching appointments, teaching a less active member, teaching English course, helping with theater course, etc. etc. I think the fun really started to begin on Thursday. First, we started the day with putting up English Course posters so more people can attend the service that we do. We walk around for a long time and it turned out pretty successful. Nearing the end of our giro, we notice a large group of ragazzi being lead by one man (most likely a school field trip). The man leading the group immediately recognizes us, calls out to us as "Mormoni", and pretty soon we are surrounded by him and the group of ragazzi. This guy then proceeds to explain to the entire class of students "who we are" and a very water downed story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Before we could testify of the truth, the man rounded up the class and they were gone. We were shocked.

Yes, persecution is very real in the mission. Nothing like stoning or crucifixion but there will always be someone who accuses us of being Jehovah's Witnesses, complaining that we only bother people, and ragazzi trying to take us in giro ("mess around with us"). While doing door to door this week, we were even kicked out of a palazzo which usually never happens.

But onto more lighter things, that very pranzo, we decided to experiment and make a new pasta. We tried to make squid ink pasta! Basically, it's like spaghetti but mixed into the tomato sauce is the ink from squids. I've heard good things about it here and so we took the risk. But we should have guessed what it should have tasted like based on the disgusting smell and appearance. It was soooooo gross! We probably didn't make it right but I'm going to wait for an Italian to make it for me because it was soo bad when we tried.

Side story: On Saturday, we knew there was going to be a big celebration for San Giorgio, the saint of Ragusa/Ibla, so we went down to pass out lots of biglietinni and talk to lots of people. It went pretty well but as we were leaving, we passed one church that was surrounded by a big crowd of people. Almost immediately, a band begins to play and men come out carrying this large statue of San Giorgio and another one that looks like the Ark of the Covenant. It was very surreal, people yelling and cheering for the saint, and there were even fireworks! Although catholic traditions are strange, they sure know how to throw a party.

But on the more serious note, we have really begun to see Sebastiano, our only investigator, make progress. He said to us in a lesson that he believes he has receieved an answer that the Book of Mormon is true and really wants to be baptized. We are doing everything we can now to prepare him and improve his relationship with the ward so that he has a great support system and doesn't go inactive. It's amazing how far he really has come.

And to top it all off, the entire stake of Sicily gathered this Sunday at Catania for Stake Conference. It was amazing to see so many members like thos from Siracusa and also to see so many fellow missionaries like Anziano Moscon again. We also just had an amazing Zone Conference and I feel I have learned a lot and have greater hope for the future here in Ragusa.  It's so much fun finding with other missionaries, we all become so couragious and it just turns into something more easy. In fact, yesterday we were doing a gesso and I had just finished talking to a person. Soon after, while waiting to talk to someone else, I feel something land on my glasses and suit coat. Turns out, I got pooped on by a pidgeon! So terrible, unexpected, and funny at the same time. Good thing I wear glasses though!

After how crazy this week has been, I honestly just want to say how grateful I am for every experience I have had in this mission. There are so many tiny moments that I want to just cherish forever. These experiences, like seeing old members and friends from Siracusa remember me at stake conference this week, feeling the Spirit during our Zone Conference, reuniting with fellow missionaries, playing ultimate frisbee in the dying heat, and eating the best fragola granita I have ever tasted...these experiences have brought me such great feelings of love and happiness, more than before the mission. I have been blessed with such a great mission president, zone, district, city and companion. I know God has a specific and special plan for me, he puts special people into my life to bless me, and even the hard things he plans for me because he knows who I need to become at the end of this all. As always, I am grateful for all of your support and the love you send to me while I am away.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hay Pasta, Tomatoes, and Thoughts

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was certainly a week of firsts. We have yet to still find that one person here in Ragusa who wants to hear our message but we definitely tried our best and had a lot of adventures along the way. Anziano Albright sure makes the journey a lot more fun. Like for example, we were waiting at the questura for Anziano Albright's fingerprinting appt so he can be legal in Italy but it always takes forever (imagine DMV but in Italy). He made the two hour wait so much more fun with his jokes and blunt humor. My favorite quote this week is when he said in response to me saying how there are three steps we working to accomplish: finding, teaching, and baptism. He replied, "If we can get to the 2nd step, I'll cry a river of tears so we can have the baptism". I can't imagine how much harder missionary work would be without a companion to always be there to laugh, talk with, and back you up whenever you need it.

Let's go to the funny things first. Of course most of these involve food, but after all it is Italy. I wouldn't be truly Italian if I didn't mention food in this email. Anziano Albright and I wanted to try making a pesto lasagna, basically just like a normal lasagna except the ragu is replaced with pesto and besciamella. We decided to use the really good pesto from that Sicilian lady a while back along with good prosciutto. It looked perfect especially when we took it out of the oven. Except that upon eating it, Anziano Albright exclaimed that it was more like eating hay pasta! Apparently, we added way too much pesto and we were supposed to mix it with a lot more besciamella. Sadly, we used up all that good pesto but considering the only way I know how to cook now is by trial and error, it definitely wasn't as bad as it could have been.

One thing we did cook right was homemade tomato sauce! We visited Sorella Ferraro this week which as always was tawesome. She brings up so many questions about the purpose of this life and why she's here and we did our best to answer her questions with the Book of Mormon. Her life would be more blessed if she could just have the church closer to her or a more patient husband so that she could go to church and not have to worry about making pranzo late on Sundays. Like seriously when we went, her husband during the prayer for pranzo couldn't wait and started eating in the middle of it! It was so funny! But I can understand, she makes really good food! At the end, we said goodbye and passed by a box of fresh tomatoes from campagnia that her husband received from work. She immediately saw us looking at the box and proceeded to put 15 tomatoes in a bag for us to take home before we could deny them. Sicilians are just about the sweetest people you will ever meet sometimes.

But anyway, we decided to make our own red sauce with these bad boys (after asking plenty of Italians how you make tomatoe sauce to which most of them said, you don't, you buy it). So the night before we go to buy this special machine which basically just grinds the boiled tomatoes to pulp which then can be cooked into a sauce. We hesitant during the whole process fearing something would go wrong but in the end it tasted sooooo good! Just little too sweet from too much sugar but still much better than the grocery store sauce.

As for other firsts, we went all the way out to Rosolini (about 45 min away) this week to teach a former investigator named Giovanni Crepez. We have been trying for a month to help him come here so he can see the church but in the end we decided to go out one time to him and figure out his situation. He is quite an interesting guy and has been through a lot in his life. Ultimately, he realized that every church was missing something for him to which we explained how that was the fulness of the gospel, which enables us to have peace in this life and eternal life in the next. It went well and in the end we determined it would actually be closer for him to go to Siracusa so hopefully he can continue his progress with the anziani there.

After a week of helping members with their home teaching visits, helping Sebastiano progress, searching desperately for people interested in our message, ringing door bells, directing church in Gela for one member again, driving back and forth, and ultimately living the life as a missionary, I realized I was tired. Like really tired. I'm not going to lie, this work is difficult, really hard, and sometimes frustrating. I honestly think this is the hardest I have worked for something yet. And at the end of the week, when you look back and see what resulted from all that hard labor, one may think it was wasted. But like my grandfather told me, when you are pushed to the point of utter exhaustion, that's when you know you gave it your all for the Savior. Yes, I am still weak and there are lots of things I need to work, especially if we are going to be blessed in finding the children of God. But I know that the greatest happiness that can ever be felt is that total sacrifice for the Lord, even if nothing seems to have resulted. I am working everyday towards that goal, to feel that joy in total exhaustion for Christ, for God and His Church. I want to be his missionary, his son and hope that I can be a part of his daily miracles here in Ragusa.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Monday, May 15, 2017

Miscellaneous Events

Dear Family and Friends,

I love being a missionary! I'm sorry but there is nothing that compares to the joy and happiness that one feels being called by God to preach his word, even in a small city like Ragusa where it seems like no one wants to hear it. This week was simultaneously tiring, amazing, hot, frustrating, fun, and miraculous all at the same time. Sadly, I feel like I will never be able to fully describe the life as a missionary, but you will just have to work with me and imagine what it's like.

First off, this week we did a scambio with the Zone Leaders in Catania. First, they came down to join us for our district meeting, give us an exciting addestramento, and take us back up to Catania for the day. I was with Anziano Bertoldo for the day and so we dedicated the time to talking with everyone in our sights as we walked around the city. It was fun and afterwards, we got to teach a new convert over Skype since he lives far away so that was definitely a first. And of course, Anziano Albright and I stopped for a delicious strawberry and vanilla gelato with brioches before we headed home from our great scambio (Honestly, I don't know who thought of mixing sweet bread with ice cream but it tastes good).

One highlight of the week was our visits with Sorella Puglisi. Some of the coolest stories I have heard come from the members like Sorella Puglisi. Especially because Sorella Puglisi doesn't stop talking ever! We always come to share a spiritual thought but it is such a struggle to focus on the topic when Sorella Puglisi brings up her complaints about the Italian government, her phone bills, the musical practices, and also as she recounts to us occasionally her life story (which in her words, is a modern day romanza). The other time we saw her that week was to just drop off some bags of clothes from another member but the supposedly 5 minute drop off, turned into an hour long conversation about how her birth saved her dad from getting killed in WWII (pretty cool story actually). Italians love to talk but Sorella Puglisi especially does because her husband sadly passed away about 8 months ago. We even gave her a blessing of comfort because she feels alone in this moment of her life with so many problems. And always in return for our listening for so long, she rewards us with gelato.

Our lessons with Sebastiano keep getting better and better. He is more focused especially on finding his answer by reading the Book of Mormon so I believe the Spirit is really taking an active role in his conversion. He came to church and finally has realized that even with all the different commandments like the law of chastity, his doubts all point to one question: is this the true church of Jesus Christ or just another imitation in his words? We are praying that he recieves his answer and will be prepared for the 10th of June.

Hilarious Finding Moments: Finding takes up a good chunk of time so thankfully these moments make every situation unique. But the biggest thing I have noticed is that a lot of people make assumptions about knowing our religion without even us saying anything. Either we are Amish or Jehovah's Witnesses, or just not normal Christians. Like when we were doing casa a casa and this lady answers the door. After our introduction, she explains, "Sorry but I believe in God.", to which our response is so do we! Then she says, "Well I also believe in Jesus Christ" to which I say, great we do too...which leads to an awkward shutting the door. Another experience was yesterday night, we went out to do finding and there were tons of people on the street! Most of them were old and looked like they were waiting for Catholic Mass so we thought, perfect time to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, everybody was a little too busy waiting for their mother's day parade of the Madonna. There are so many funny and different traditions here in Italy!

Overall, this week like most was a struggle but I am learning how to deal with the struggle and turn it into joy. To not worry, to suffer these things now for Christ like he did so that I might please him. This week we also had church in Gela where it was just Anziano Albright and I and only  one other member of the branch! That could easily be discouraging but as I presided the meeting, I remembered in my testimony how Christ is always with us, even if it is just two or three of us gathered. We have a testimony of the truth still and that's what matters.

Ti voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Monday, May 8, 2017

I'm a Dad!....Technically

Dear Family and Friends,

How are all of you? I am doing just fine, having the time of my life here in Ragusa! Oh yah, transfers have come and gone and I am still here in Ragusa AND I am still with Anziano Albright. Totally unexpected but super cool. We are excited to work hard together and make it a great probably last transfer for him here in Ragusa. Also, I have technically become a father in the mission because Sorella Torres is training a new sister missionary, Sorella Tenney, and according to tradition, the district leader of the city is the "father". Mission traditions are pretty strange but I guess that's what happens when you are by yourself in a small Italian city with the only 3 other people that speak English.

Also, thanks to travel situations, transfer day was crazy! First off, we dropped Sorella Demann off at the train station to go to Napoli early in the morning which left Sorella Torres without a companion for like the whole day. Luckily we have an amazing new convert who was able to stay with her for the whole day until her greenie arrived. Anziano Young in Siracusa was also without a companion for the day and by the afternoon didn't have anyone to be with, so we took charge and roadtripped to Siracusa. By far, a fun miracle to see Siracusa again. And luckily, it worked out because then Sorella Tenney missed her connection to Ragusa (since the train down from Rome is always late) and so they sent her down to Siracusa. In the end, I finally got to eat another pizzolo, and we finally arrived home at 10 at night. I definitely wasn't expecting any of that to happen (especially the two "apostate" TJ trios we did).

For me, I learned a lot of lessons this week. First off, I still need to work on my Italian. We were doing a gesso in Ibla about the purpose of life and how we can find that in the Book of Mormon. I was chosen to draw and write the question this time since none of us our artists (even though I still think I have the worst handwriting). People passed by and no one seemed really interested in our message which is quite normal to expect. I stopped this one couple who were reading the question and I asked what they thought. They proceed to explain in english that it was wrong. I think, what's wrong with understanding the purpose of life? And then Sorella Torres looks at what I wrote and points out that I wrote "scopa" rather than "scopo". A one letter difference that means "what is the BROOM of life?" I couldn't believe it. Luckily, it was pretty funny in the moment. No wonder people think missionaries are weird sometimes.

As for our work, our lessons with Sebastiano are going better and he is planning on getting baptized the 10th of June. He was finally able to come to church this Sunday since his back was feeling better. In fact, a lot of people came like Giuseppe Guastella, a less active we have been working with, and a lot of others. The chapel was full, especially with tourist eason beginning. In fact, that was probably the sweetest moment. A missionary who served here 37 years ago came to church and asked if the Chines family was still. Turns out she was one of the missionaries that taught them. The ex-missionary didn't know if the Chines family would recognize her since after all it was 37 years ago. Upon Sorella Chines seeing the ex-missionary, Sorella Chines yells out her name and runs into a hug and then begins to cry. It was quite amazing to see the happy reunion and how that missionary helped 3 generations overall join the church.

Probably the biggest lesson for me though was about gratitude. Thoughts of leaving, staying, new companions, new cities, one of my former companions "dying", members, missionary work and especially my "father" becoming one of the new assistents to the president, have all given me a lot to ponder about. Reading through my journal and remembering my "mission" really struck me this week. I've seen a lot of improvement and as I look back, I really only seen the good, the fun, the joy. But even more importantly, I've seen how I get so stressed, frustrated, about things that really weren't important. For example, I remember my transfers with Anziano Moscon in Siracusa having some of the hardest experiences I have ever experienced. I felt lost and most of all, I felt that maybe I failed Anziano Moscon and didn't how enough love to him. Fortunately, now he is one of my greatest friends I have made, just like all my other companions, and I realize how much I really love and miss his humor and uniqueness, and really how great those transfers were.

Sorry if that makes no sense. In the end, I realized I am really bad at being grateful for things in the moment. I should've been more grateful and appreciative of the amazing members of Siracusa, with Anziano Moscon, with every day that has passed already as a missionary. I am just so happy I have the chance to try again with Anziano Albright and especially for the members of Ragusa. It's so hard to change but I know if I don't express my love for these people immediately, if I don't work my hardest every single day, then I only deprive myself of the maximum amount of the joy I can feel at the end of my mission.

I am grateful to be here, to serve with all my heart in Ragusa, to have an amazing companion, to have an amazing district, members who cook the best food I have eaten and cause me to make the same mistake of asking for seconds, and I am starting to be grateful even for those hard days where you end up asking only non-Italians about the Book of Mormon by accident, where people hang up the citofono after they hear Jesus Christ, and replace the stress with joy. This is a joyful work, our message only brings happiness to others, and I don't want to miss out on any opportunity to bring that joy to someone else, even if that ends up just being myself.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Monday, May 1, 2017

Do's and Don'ts: Italian Food Edition

Dear Family and Friends,

Okay, I may like talking about food a little too much. But trust me on this week because the food certainly defined this week. As well as the amazing members of this ward, the people we meet on the street, my great stalwart companion, Anziano Albright, and of course our everpresent defense of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

April 25th is a holiday apparently for Italy because of the Liberation during WWII so the ward on Sunday decided to plan an activity for the holiday in two days. The problem was that we showed up and no one was there! Literally no one for a while. Soon some came but really in the end, it was The Magrograssi family, Sorella Rollo and her Sri Lankan housemaids she invited. So since we needed more food, we quickly went home, whipped up a kilo of pasta con sugo rosso( with a splash of besciamella), mozzarella, and salsiccia in under an hour. Yes, it was good, one of my favorite pastas. Sorella Rollo, the old Sicilian lady, kept complimenting me saying she couldn't believe the anziani had made this. Checked that off the mission milestone list.

Also, on the more funnier side of things, we were invited to eat with Stefano Dimartino (a returned missionary) but his mom had to go to parucchiere(hair stylist). So he started making a normal pasta...okay not normal but a red sauce with tuna pasta, but at the end we realized it wasn't enough sauce. So he says in english with his italian accent (he served in manchester), "okay elders, never do what I am about to do", and he proceeds to add ketchup to the sauce! It was hilarious and nothing changed but if anyone in Italy knew, he would probably get arrested for something like that. :)

This week we also got to meet Sorella Ferraro who is a member that lives outside of Ragusa in a city called Vittoria. She is a great member with a strong testimony but her husband doesn't let her go to church that often since it makes her late to cook pranzo. That seems very small but considering she has made some of the best of the best food ever and that her husband is a very traditional, eat at 1 o'clock, type of Sicilian, I can understand her more. She kept stuffing us with this sicilianas stuffed with ricotta that were amazing, I had at least ten. But we come to lift spirits and invite people unto Christ, not just eat food. So we helped answer her questions and encouraged to have patience in the trials she was facing. The key factor is always obedience, if we aren't obedient, we have no guarantee of blessing. It was quite a spiritual visit.

Other Milestone: As diligent missionaries, Anziano Albright and I decided to try doing door to door again for an hour one day. We find a nice looking palazzo and decide to ring the bells. The hard thing about italy is you have to get through 3 doors: outside gate, door to get in the building, and the actual door. So we ring all the bells of the first building, manage to get inside the gate in the middle of ringing, but no one even lets us in the apartment. We continue on to the next building (since there were two) and continue to ring without success until about the 6th bell. A lady answers, says she sadly isn't interested but appreciates the effort and offers to at least give us a coffee. I thought about it but I figured it would be difficult to explain we don't drink coffee and there could be more people to find. So I said no thank you and rang another bell...which actually turned out to be the same bell! She said "Dai, amore. Venite!" (Basically, c'mon love, come inside) and so we did. Nothing major turned out but she expressed her love that we were good Christian young men doing the right thing, just explaining what you believe. We accepted her fruit juice and sadly weren't able to transition to the gospel. But she gave us two jars of her homemade pesto and told us come back whenever you need to!! That's pretty miraculous! Only in Sicily!

The rest of the week continued like this: meeting with Sorella Puglisi, giving a less active member a blessing of health, teaching Sebastiano, going home teaching with an amazing new convert Simone, made my first ragu pasta al forno(super good!), teaching English Group, giving Sebastiano a blessing for his back, doing a gesso where we finally got someone's phone number, planning a youth activity that in the end, didn't go as planned, and Simone announcing in his talk on Sunday that he wants to serve a mission! It really was quite the eventful week. What also isn't seen is the number of times we called people, and especially the number of people we stop to ask if they have ever heard of the Book of Mormon.

For me, this week was about feeling the Spirit. It's pretty easy to tell if you are doing the right thing if you know God is telling you to do it. But for me, recognizing the Holy Ghost has always been a more difficult thing to accomplish than said. But really this week, it became clear. Sometimes God says, "Just do what's right because I trust you. I'll tell you what to do if it is really important". For me, it's this way. My favorite feeling is when after acting on something or I read something that finally clicked in the Book of Mormon, the Spirit just flowed in my heart, with the same thought in mind. "I love you. Don't worry about that, just go and do". I love food (like ricotta, kiwi, lasagna, gelato, etc.), but what I really love is knowing I am doing the Lord's work. We have transfer calls tonight so anything can happen. I am ready to just go and do, to finally find that one person we have been searching for this whole time in Ragusa. But of course, with patience and trust in the Lord. I love you all and send my prayers of support.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price