Monday, June 26, 2017

I Never Know What to Expect

Dear Family and Friends,

To say that a few things happened this week would be an understatement. It seems like every week unfolds into an adventure that we never planned or really could have expected, but in the end is better than anything we had planned in the first place. I guess that's a good sign that Lord is with us as we are laboring here in Ragusa. He puts an idea here, a bidone there; a person here, a chance to speak there and pretty soon, you have an experience that only Anziano Mars and I could have experienced. 

For example, this week we lost our car! That is, we had to give it to a senior couple (who were super nice and took us all out to pranzo) who need it more than us, which in the end is a blessing. We can talk to people on the street more and I no longer have to worry about driving in Italy. But the heat decided to arrive right when we lost the car as well. Or rather, the heat probably is a lot more obvious now since we are outside a lot more now. We are fortunate to actually be in Ragusa since the giant hill gives us more altitude and wind. But we still drink un sacco di acqua!

I also never expected training to be like this. In the sense that you are helping someone start being a missionary from scratch. It's a lot harder than I expected but even more rewarding, just like when I was being trained. I've seen really how much I have grown from being a "greenie", and now I just have to inspire that same change in Anziano Mars. Which isn't too difficult considering Anziano Mars is already great. Totally different than all the rest of my companions and one of the most unique people that I have met. He's just so attentive, detailed, and knowledgable about the most randomest things. I pray that I can just be a good enough trainer that he can be set for the rest of his mission. 

But now I will go to experiences. Last Sunday, Giuseppe, a student from English Group, randomly came to church so we had a lesson with him this week. He had lots of questions and so we did our best to explain the Restoration in the context of his concerns. Mostly, he wants to know the truth but feels it's too hard to read the whole of Book of Mormon. And he thought church was a little boring but still we have lots of hope in Giuseppe. During our lesson in the park, the carabinieri or police also interrupted us and asked for our documents. I never expected anything like that to happen and fortunately we did have our documents. Giuseppe said they probably stopped us just because we looked strange or possibly someone called the police thinking we were "dangerous". 

As for the rest, we taught lessons to Sebastiano who finally came to church again, the new convert Simone, and other members. I have actually been able to feel the Spirit a lot stronger as we have begun teaching together with Anziano Mars, the Restoration to these great members. We accomplished more finding with English Group posters, door to door and gessos and it feels good to walk around the city a lot again. We also had amazing pranzos with Sorella Puglisi and the Dimartino family and turns out I really like cherries. Anziano Mars reminds me everyday how I take for granted this amazing food that Ì have been eating for a year. And probably the craziest thing we did this week was set up for the musical. The theater group has been working hard and so have we so finally we have seen some good progress considering that it is this Thursday. On Sunday, we came and took apart the chapel in order to make room for the stage so there was a lot of chaos. But in the end it looks nice, I've never seen anything done by a ward this big and in decent order. We are excited to perform (okay, more I am excited to perform since Anziano Mars isn't too fond of acting :)) and we hope we have an awesome turnout of people to come to church. 

On a more spiritual note, I feel calm. There have been some days I look back at the end of the day and just feel peace. Peace that all will work out. The stress with investigators, with training, with trying to understand people, with trying to find people has actually disappeared. I know this peace comes only from God and so I know we are still doing the right thing. I feel all could go wrong and yes that wouldn't be something I would like, but I feel confident enough to say that I can do anything with the Lord so why worry about what is ahead. Yes I may fall and slip, and yes I may still get frustrated, but I love the feeling at the end of the day where I can say to God, I did my part and thank you for your amazing help and forgiveness. I hope I can cherish and remember every moment because this mission has changed my life. I understand more, I sacrifice more, I am willing to give it my all even if no one else listens. And I just love Italy so much!

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Monday, June 19, 2017

I'm Getting Old

Dear Family and Friends,

Holy cow, what a week! So many things happened and it had felt like a roller coaster ride beginning last Monday when we received the calls for our transfers.

News: I'm a father! I must now be getting old in the mission even though I don't feel it. They called saying my new companion would be a brand new missionary straight from the MTC which is quite a big deal. No pressure. Up until the day of transfers, I was stressed with thoughts. What's he going to be like? How am I going to train him? Am I good enough? What will we do in Ragusa? etc. etc. I was definitely anxious but luckily Anziano Albright assured me all would be well and reminding of what's the worst thing that could happen.

Before Anziano Albright left that Thursday to be in a trio in Agrigento, we made appointments to see Sorella Ferraro and eat delicious food, we finally finally finally taught the Restoration to a great potential that we hope to follow up on soon (we made our goal!), and did normal things like teaching investigators and helping with English Course and Theater Course. He's a great humble and obedient missionary that certainly deserves the applause that Vince from English Course gave him the Tuesday before he left. Hopefully, I will see him again.

On Thursday, after getting Anziano Albright onto his bus, I drove the car to Catania train station ALL BY MYSELF! That's how the transfer situation worked out I guess (desperate times call for desperate measures). Nothing bad happened and I made it safely to the zone leaders on the other side. And there was waited for the greenies to come. There was another missionary trainer too at the station so when the train arrived, it was at first awkward to figure out who was training who (because we had no idea, they were the only people that knew) but I finally got Anziano Mars.

First off, he has a sweet name! And the rest: He's a great missionary that comes from Ohio, ready to serve and already has a good understanding of the language. He's organized, super smart, and see's the world in a whole different light than me (which leads to him blowing my mind with random questions or profound thoughts). Right now he's still a little riserved but I imagine so was I as a greenie so I have hope we are going to get along well and make a great companionship together.

So the rest of the week became crash course in training, figuring our permessos, how to teach lessons, how to plan, driving all over Ragusa and other cities. But we are seeing some progress and miracles so that means we are doing the right things. We had a gesso at the Marina where there were lots of people (that's an Italian summer for you) so that was cool. We were asking people how we can have a more united family, and one kid answered, "Take away their phones".

Sadly, this was also our last week going to Gela because the branch is getting moved into the area of Agrigento and will no longer be it's own branch. These members that I have met our amazing and it was sad for them but they are looking forward with faith and having new opportunities in the new branch. One of the member's son in law asked why there aren't mormon churchs in every place. Una buona domanda but I remember Anziano Mars's testimony on how everything is in the Lord's timing, so never doubt that all will work out!

After church in Gela though, we decided to pass by the house of the one of members and deliver her the Liahonas she had ordered since she hadn't been able to come to church since they had arrived. We drove up the small roads to the small town of Niscemi in pouring rain. It was little dangerous at some points but we made it safely. Francesca really appreciated the visit and we were able to give her sick mother a blessing which was also another really powerful moment.

All in all, training is lot more different that I thought it would be. I don't know what to do half the time but in the end, it is like when Nephi followed the Spirit, not knowing beforehand what to do. Oh yah, I also turned 20! That kinda just flew past but don't worry, we celebrated with arancini and plan to do something today. All that I can say is that life is good, it is a really blessing we have to live, bless others, and serve them. That's really what has changed the most this week. Like a switch, once I received that call, my mind is focused on how do I help this son of God become the missionary he is meant to be. I imagine that is what happens in fatherhood as well, and I imagine that is how God thinks about each and everyone of us every single moment of the day.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Tender Mercy a Day Keeps Satan Away

Dear Family and Friends,

Oh how the time has gone by. By the end of this next week, I will have already finished 2 transfers(~3 months) here in Ragusa. Oh, and I turn 20 (or as Italians say, I will have 20 years)! One lesson you learn on the mission is just how precious your time is because it can easily disappear. While some days might drag on, we are always doing the Lord's work so I try to never wish the time to go away because sooner or later it will go away!

As always, I have a lot of thoughts. I guess knocking doors and looking for people to talk to also gives me a lot of time to ponder life and my purpose here. But wait, what even happened this week?

Well Anziano Albright and I wanted to start the week off to a great start so literally the first thing we did after P-day was door to door. We wanted to finally finish the area our ward mission leader challenged us at the beginning of this transfer and we were only missing a few palazzos, including the ward mission leader's (Fratello Lo Monaco). Like normal, there was fun, disappointment, people not understanding who we were, a little yelling by one lady, and someone at the end basically saying, "Do you think anyone will really let you in at this hour?". I guess it was 8 o'clock but we had a work to do. No one let us in sadly, but as we walked away, we saw the Lo Monaco family walking back to their home. We greeted them and like the amazing Italian family they are, they invited us in for gelato to make up for the struggle. That definitely cheered me up haha.

In other news, we had a lesson with Sebastiano one day and in the hopes of fellowshipping him with other members, we all had a pranzo appt. with Sorella Puglisi. IT WAS SOO GOOD! She made homemade ravioli and although all italian foods are really good, ravioli is like gold, especially with fresh ricotta from Ragusa. And I ate one of the best peaches of my life and so of course I docuemented it with a photo. Seriously, I am so thankful for the amazing sacrifice of these members who do so much for a meal with the missionaries. We don't eat often with the members, but as Anziano Albright says, "One meal is basically 5 meal appts at the same time."

For example, yesterday after church, we went to the Guastella's house. In my opinion, Carmelo Guastella is one of the best cooks in at least Ragusa. He and his family surprised us with risotto alla frutta del mare, which is basically smorgasbord of seafood(shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels,) with risotto. I've heard legends about this stuff being hit or miss and this time it was really good. So that proceeded to me eating two plates (I asked for "un pocotino" for seconds to which Carmelo gave me a full plate which is pretty typical. That would suffice for a normal meal but then we had roast chicken, roasted potatoes, and salad for the 2nd plate! And to top it off, a giant piece of watermelon that was really good! I made them a tiramisù as a gift for their hospitality but at the end we barely could touch it being stuffed to the brim.

Okay I am going to try and not mention food for the rest of this email. To summarize the week, we taught less active members, another lesson with Sebastiano, received bidones, taught Simone, a recent convert, bought a brioche for the sacrament at Gela because there was no bread, and attended theater course for Beauty and the Beast. We now have parts in the musical which is something I didn't think would happen on the mission but it's pretty fun! Also another crazy experience was with Falcone. Background: He's this religion and philosophy teacher that has studied all the religions for a long time. He has known about our church since the late 60's and has realized it is the "best" church but believes in universalism, that there can't be only one true church, a common belief for some italians. Comunque, he's been coming to church for a while so in the hope of trying to fellowship him we agreed to go to his religious library. Turns out in campagnia he uses his parent's old house as a library that he wants to make open to the public which contains A TON of books on religion, philosophy, etc. It was really cool to see and get to know his life better and even answer some of his questions about our religion. Only in Italy.

For the weekend, it was all finding. We tried changing it up a lot, going to the Marina, Ibla, Via Roma. We tried different methods, English Course, Book of Mormon, etc. But in the end, it was really hard. I remember saying to Anziano Albright that the next place for finding would be better everytime we moved on. But in the end, we realized that it only seemed better, and that every place we went to was just as hard as the last. Friday was especially long, difficult, and hot. I remember being pretty disappointed at the end that night. After passing an end of school concert to start off summer for the ragazzi(that could be the reason why it was a little unsuccessful), I remember feeling pretty disappointed and even a little discouraged. As we were about to get into our car, Anziano Albright and I heard a loud "Anziani!" and then saw Simone drive by with his friends. Immediately, we started to laugh (because we love Simone so much and he's an amazing person that always does that when he sees us) and the discouragement disappeared.

It made me think of Alma 26, when the sons of Mosiah were depressed and thought of turning back and how the Lord sent an angel to comfort and encourage them to continue in this great work. That day, I saw how Simone was a tender mercy, an "angel" if you will. Tender mercies like that occur daily in the mission, but for me it takes a really careful eye to see it. Like sharing a nutella pizza with Anziano Albright after a hard day of finding. Like when Vince, one of the best people at our English Course, says a prayer in English, thanking God for the "Mormon missionaries" even though he says he's atheist. Like when you finally are able to make a lasgna that tastes like it was made by a true Sicilian after planning for our one investigator and calling people in the Area Book. I know God is blessing me everyday and teaching me so many lessons. Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of all the things I have learned these past two transfers. But the biggest thing of all, is gratitude for the tender mercies of God, which tends to be the amazing people I work with, eat with, and just randomly meet on the street every day. I love this mission with all my heart and hope to continue to find the tender mercy of the day, each day until my time is up as a representative of Jesus Christ.

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price

P.S. Sorry I couldn't think of a good title and this is the only thing coming into my head right now.

Monday, June 5, 2017

It's Not Easy

Dear Family and Friends,

After the great fun and spiritual experiences we had last week, I feel like Anziano Albright and I came back to the ground or as Elder Holland puts it, returning to the "regular vicissitudes of life". But thankfully, we were prepared for this and I can honestly bear testimony that we are trying our best over here, even though sometimes it may result the way we would like it too.

In short, I guess I should say what happened this week since I can't think of a creative cute way to describe our daily happenings. I remember the day after P-day we had plans to go see several families but then they all got bidoned(canceled) and so that morning, we decided to go put up English course posters because you always need more people to come to English course. Also there was the time where we tried to make cookies in order to teach less active families, but no one answered so we ate the cookies intead. Since we are trying to find more people to teach, finding is the name of the game here in Ragusa. We have started doing more area book finding, which is basically like calling old investigators and potentials from a while back. Most of the times it can be awkward. I remember calling one person asking, "Do you remember us?", which he didn't maybe because the missionaries had seen him once FIVE YEARS AGO! Most of the times, it is funny and maybe we will start to see some fruits.

On the funnier side of things, we visited some great member families sharing with them the message of The Family: A Proclamation. One time we went to the Micozzi's, where sadly the husband is sick and unable to come to church, but he's 85 and still alive so that's good. With the Criscione's, we try to encourage the husband to investigate the church since he's a non-member, but he usually wants to get back to watching tv instead of listening to us. Luckily, he and his wife liked the message still and gave us some cookies. Fact: Every spiritual thought apparently must be followed by some kind of snack or dolce, at least for Italians.

Sebastiano was making good progress but now he seems a little stuck, in that I don't know how devoted he is to searching for this answer, this answer that the Book of Mormon is true. He's an amazing friend, always taking us places for P-days and being really funny, but sometimes I just wonder, what is it that he really needs in order to make those steps toward Christ. I remember one lesson in particular this week where he opened up a lot about his problems in his life currently to which we felt confident to to tell him to ask God for help in these things and how this answer about the Book of Mormon would not only help him for eternity, but help him right now. We fasted for him, not just for an answer, but so that he could have peace about whatever happens in the future for him. Sorry if that was confusing.

The trick for me in doing missionary work really is finding the joy in small things. Anziano Albright and I did door to door this week several times and one time we even got kicked out of a palazzo again! That's how you can tell when you are getting close, when Satan bites back. Also, the mission president and his wife, President and Sorella Pickerd, visited Ragusa this week. It also turned out to be the same day as the Day of the Republic, the italian holiday of when they became united as a nation. So as with every holiday, everything was closed. Luckily, we still managed to find a nice place to eat delicious sicilian food (I tried gnocchi with rabbit ragù) and had a great time talking and visiting the church and the apartments. They loved the Ragusa church building, it is certainly one of a kind!

Advice time: I receieved this recently from President Pickerd. Count your blessings! Something I am really striving to work on. But I can start with being thankful for Anziano Albright, my district, these wonderful members, the haircut I got this week, being able to see the ward practice the musiscal, the Beauty and the Beast, our English Course throwing us a pizza party, and playing my violin as part of our gesso this week which was really fun. Counting blessings always makes me feel better.

I think I have hit the point where most things just seem like a normal part of life now, as if I have always lived in Italy, as if I always have worn a white shirt and tie, as if I was born being a missionary with an imaginary family and friends that I email every week. Maybe it's because I've been out here almost a year even though I still like to think I'm still that "greenie" that I used to be. Luckily, even without family, friends, my dog, the comforts of life in America and home, I never would trade my time on this mission for anything else.

As Hillary Clinton, a recent convert here and refugee from Africa said to us last night in his words, "It's not easy what you do. To teach people what is right and wrong. To volunteer your time. It's not easy." I agree wholeheartedly. It is not easy, but it's worth it!

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Price