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Sciacca – Week 11

Ciao tutti!

We had another great week here in Sciacca and all is going well! We had a lot going on in another busy week here and we were able to accomplish a ton. We had a good number of lessons with our investigator who accepted the baptismal date for the 4th. His progress has been miraculous, to say the least, and he is doing so well! He is reading in the Book of Mormon, his prayers are always spot on, he loves saying the prayers during lessons, and he is just already so well integrated into the branch. One cool thing that happened, for instance, is when we taught about Sabbath Day observance this week we invited him to keep the Sabbath Day holy and at the end he didn’t think that he could do it because he would have to work on Sundays when he got a job. We explained that he could ask the people during the interviews if he would be able to have Sundays off so he could do his best to always make it to church and not have to work. He agreed that he would try, with some skepticism still. Well, the next day in another lesson he explained how he went home that night and kind of felt guilty that he didn’t think he could do it. He was thinking how, in the creation, God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested. He was questioning himself and asking why he couldn’t do that. So he prayed that when he finds work that the people will understand his beliefs and he will be able to have Sundays off.

He as been doing really well with everything and he will have his interview this week, when the zone leaders come down to do a scambio, and then we will be holding the baptism this Saturday at noon! It has been amazing to see the miraculous changes that he has had in his life. He has been humbled and he is always expressing thanks that there is light coming into his life, which we know this God’s light entering his life and penetrating him. It is amazing to see that God has blessed us with the opportunity to know him and be able to hear his story. I am really excited to see how it will all turn out for him during his life.

We had another great lesson with his sister this week, with some of the sisters from the branch again, that went really well! She is engaged in the invitations that we have extended to her and she is doing well in searching all the things out that she needs to. She really loves the teachings of the gospel and does a great job in expressing her feelings about what she feels and thinks. She really has a testimony of these things, but is just having a hard time recognizing that she does know that these things are true. We are doing our best to teach and ask questions to help her really see for herself what she has instead of just telling her. This will really help her realize that it has been there for a while and she will be willing to act on what she knows to be true because she knows it and not anyone else. It is all going really well with her and we hope to see her continue to progress as well!

We were finally able to see our other investigator this week twice after a couple weeks of not hearing from him at all. We called one night kind of thinking that we wouldn’t get a hold of him again and low and behold he answered! We had two great lessons with him this week and in one we talked about real intent and really working hard to seek and find the things that we desire to obtain. We were able to really explain the importance of daily scripture study, prayer, and church attendance and he has recommitted to really be doing these things and he is doing a great job thus far. He started to read more in the Book of Mormon and he came to church this past Sunday which was great! We also saw a miracle with him along his path to obeying the word of wisdom and to stop smoking. He usually smoked 20 cigarettes a day and is all the way down to 1 so that is really amazing! We were super happy for him and he is doing so well!

We also had a branch activity this week on Friday night where we played a mixture of games that were set up by our branch President. It was a lot of fun and we played boys verses girls and it all went super well! The games were fun and we were able to help out with some but not all of them since it was Italian proverbs and such, which most of time went over our heads. It was fun though and we were able to see how competitive everyone was getting. Then in the spirit of Italian jokes as usual there were a few Carabinieri [police] jokes told hahaha. Then at the end someone asked if our branch President would share this story that he told them a little bit ago and he asked us if he had told us this story or not and we said that he hadn’t so he got into this whole big story about these guys dining and dashing with his wife around one of their anniversaries since they were nice enough to make some room at their table in this restaurant. It was this whole long story and we were just all hanging off on every word that he was saying because he is so good at telling stories and it just seemed so real all to find out it was another big joke hahaha. It was really funny.

We had the missionary broadcast this past Wednesday evening with all the other missionaries in the world. It was set up in a council setting with the Missionary Department council which consists of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Neil L. Andersen, and others. It was super cool to see everyone respond to questions and share their thought sand ideas over snippets from last years missionary broadcast in January. It was super cool to be able to learn from them and really learn what more we can do as missionaries to teach repentance and baptize converts. One thing that Elder Bednar said that struck me was that, “All is one in Christ.” He talked about too often in the church we have this look at the gospel of Jesus Christ, consisting of: faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, as all separate processes or ingredients to a recipe. He talked about how it all is interrelated to one another. This was something that I really enjoyed and immediately the verse that Elder Andersen ended up sharing with everyone was the one that came to my head. These verses are found in Alma 34 and I have always loved this phrase “faith unto repentance.”

15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

I really love that it is faith that leads us to put our trust in Christ’s Atonement and in his deliverance from our sins. That is what leads us to the change that can come through repenting of our sins and being clean again, naturally leading us into the next steps of baptism for the remission of our sins and receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion to help us for the remainder of our lives. This is why enduring to the end is applying this way to live our life each and every day with continued faith unto Repentance and partaking of the sacrament weekly.

There was also an announcement on a change of our key indicators which have been simplified into 4 numbers instead of 9. These are baptisms & confirmations, investigators with a baptismal date, investigators who attended sacrament meeting, and new investigators. It is really nice with helping us focus on working towards helping these people repent and be baptized. There was also an announcement on the change of our daily schedule which consists of things that we need to do each day, with a flexibility of being able decide when to do them. This will help us all to really decide what the best way to use our time is, since each mission is different, as well as each city in a certain mission. It will really be nice moving to this new way to plan and do everything, and we get 2 extra hours of pday staring at 8:00 instead of 10:00!

We had a super cool service opportunity as well this week! We got a phone call one morning from our investigator that is the husband of a member. A week or so prior we had met in a panificio [bakery] near our house (the people that work there used to live in Chicago, so we sometimes pass by and chat with them since they have been friends with the missionaries for a long time). So one of the ladies that works there asked if our investigator could help get a hold of us to go in and visit them since they needed help with something. So we went there after our studies and they needed some help with English to help her son study for these exams to try and enter into a military academy since he wants to become a pilot in the military. So we went to their house later that day and helped him out and it just went super well.

They are such a nice family and we really enjoyed being able to help them with everything. So they wanted us over for dinner and last night was the only night that we really have free all week so we were able to go out and have an awesome dinner with them last night. They showed us around their house and we were able to get to know them all better and at the end we shared the message of the restoration with them and they all agreed to read the Book of Mormon. It was super amazing and the kid, who is about our age, is really cool and was talking to us on the way home how he admires what we do. We really hope that all this goes in the right direction and we will be able to help them out. We will be heading to see them again and help out a little more with studies this Friday.

We had a great week though and I look forward to this upcoming week with all the things that we have planned. So late this past summer the day in which departing missionaries go up to Rome changed a little bit. We no longer head up the Saturday before and then are there until Tuesday, but now you go up Sunday evening so you are able to spend the maximum time in your area. Well, this time it is a little different and we are actually headed up to Rome early Sunday morning at 6:40, which means we will make it up there in time to head to Rome 1 for church! I am definitely excited about that and will be able to bear my testimony where I stared and bore my first testimony in Italian on my first Sunday in April 2015. It will be great to see all the members up there and talk to them. So we will then do proselyting in Rome that evening and then sleep there. My interview will be held the Monday following in the morning, most likely after some other things in the office like turning in my iPad and such. We will then have a pday in Rome and be able to go around Rome for one last time and then we will all meet in the Villa for departing dinner and testimony meeting. Then Tuesday Anziano Blocker and I will be headed to the airport first, since our flight is at 8:00, and we will go from there.

Well, I look forward to being able to tell you all about this last week here in Italy next week! So I am not completely sure if I will be able to write an email next week and surely wont have time to write anyone personally at all, but if I don’t, I plan on writing up my last blog post upon arriving home so everyone can get the final update on how the week went and what not! Look forward to seeing you all soon and being able to tell you more of all my experiences here these past 2 years! Love you all and thanks again for everything!

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Garrett

Members of my MTC group in the Palermo Zone. We have one week left!

Me with our favorite Sciacca family

Anziano Campbell with our favorite Sciacca family

Sciacca – Week 6

Ciao tutti!

I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas and that you all enjoyed the holidays yesterday!! I always love the family time that comes out of the holidays when we are all able to just pause on life for a while and spend time with one another. It is super important to always treasure and cherish these times and memories that we can share with one another. I am thankful that the Savior can really unite us all together and I am thankful for the significance of this holiday to commemorate the coming of our Savior. I know that He has come and done all that He did for love of God and all mankind. I know that He will again come and that we can do all that we can to prepare ourselves for that time!

We had a great time here in Sciacca this Christmas! Babbo Natale [Santa Claus] passed by our house so that was super cool. We were able to go to church in the morning and it went super well! We were all edified by the talks that were given and the simplicity of the messages with their testimonies. It really helped us continue to feel the spirit of Christmas and reflect on the birth of our savior. Our branch President read through some of the verses in Luke 2 and elaborated as he went through it. After church we watched part of a movie and then went to a lunch with the branch President’s wife’s family which was a lot of fun! There was a good number of people, not as many as back home, but more than last year at Christmas, which made for a crazy time! We enjoyed being able to spend the lunch with all them and interact with them as we ate a delicious lunch because of which it was difficult for us to walk back to the church afterwards! We finished up that movie and then watched half of another one. Which we will be finishing today! We watched Zootopia and then It’s a Wonderful Life. Neither of which I have seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first and am loving the story of the second. We then got to finish off the night Skyping our families which was so much fun! I had a great time being able to talk to all them again and this time around it wasn’t really hard to hang up at all. It was nice to feel like we were all just sitting around again telling stories and such hahaha. It was a great time and definitely love them all so much!

The week went by super fast and was jam packed with a ton of things that we were able to do! We started off the week playing Zone Soccer and caroling later that night which allowed me to reminisce on last years zone activity that we did as well! We had a great time doing that and were able to sing fairly well together too! We then had DDM Tuesday in Palermo and then a super awesome lunch at the Garrett’s home so that was cool to be able to invited by some of the family even though I am far away from everyone else hahaha. That was a lot of fun and we had a white elephant gift exchange and I made it out with a nice scarf! We proceeded then to have a nice scambio with the zone leaders and it was cool to be able to go with Anziano Blocker who is in my group and that was the longest that we were ever able to work together so it was a lot of fun. I love being able to learn form other missionaries and be inspired by the way that they work and what we can all learn from one another. We were able to then have a scambio with Agrigento here in Sciacca which went well too! I was with Anzinao Alexander and Anziano Jensen was with Anziano Campbell. We saw a lot of neat miracles in getting the husband of our member to join us for the spiritual thought this time around, and we were able to see a lot of finding miracles too that we hope all pan out super well this week too! Love getting to feel the energy and excitement that Anziano Alexander has and all the hard work he puts in!

It was a great week and it just flew by! We were able to accomplish a lot and had little small moments to serve other to the best of our capacity. I really hope to be able to continue to put in as much hard work as possible! We are looking forward to see what the Lord has in store for us this next transfer when we will receive the calls tonight! I am excited to always be able to learn from the experiences and the oppourtunities that he places before us. We just have to continue to act, have faith, and trust in him! I am thankful for this time that we will also have to look back on another year and reflect on what is to come! There is a talk that comes to my mind that I would invite you to all read found at this link.

Here is a short little part that I love from this:

An old proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

There is something wonderful and hopeful about the word now. There is something empowering about the fact that if we choose to decide now, we can move forward at this very moment.

Now is the best time to start becoming the person we eventually want to be–not only 20 years from now but also for all eternity.

I know that we can start now and we can commit to change and with the Lord there to help us we can become the person that we really want and need to become!! Once again a Merry Christmas to all! I love you all and thank you so much for all the love and support you show me!


Anziano Garrett

Christmas luncheon in Palermo, a few days before Christmas. Hosted by Anziano and Sorella Craig Garrett (the senior couple in Palermo).

[Editor’s note:  Craig Garrett is my step-cousin.  He served in the Italy Catania Mission in the late 70s.  He and his wife are now the senior couple assigned to Palermo]