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Sciacca – Week 9

Ciao tutti!

This week went really well and we really enjoyed being able to get some great work done here in Sciacca! The week seemed to have flown by once again. After a while of not seeing our investigator we were finally able to see him this past week with our branch president and the lesson went really well. We were really happy that we were finally able to get ahold of him and we hope that we will continue to be able to meet with him and be able to see where he is at right now. We still have a lot of confidence in him and we will keep working with him and seeing where we can get with him and everything. I really hope that he will continue to progress and make big strides.

We had a great scambio with Agrigento and I was able to be with Anziano Jensen, who is in my group, and we were able to get a lot of great things done. We were able to meet with someone that is originally here from Sciacca, but had lived in England for a long time so she naturally speaks English perfectly. The lesson went really well and she is in a perfect position to recieve the gospel and her daughter, who lives with her kids in Sciacca, sounds like she is in a similar position to really accept the gospel right now. I hope that she will commit to read the Book of Mormon and search for the answer that she really can receive from God. It was a little weird teaching in English, but it all went really well and we hope to see her again this week!

That night we were able to go over to a part member family’s house with the plans to teach the member’s husband and have him sit down for the whole thing. Anziano Campbell and I were unsuccessful in our latest previous attempt. Our member forgot that we were passing by and didn’t remember that we had set the appointment. We were still able to come in and we went into the living room, which was perfect, since that is where the husband usually is watching TV. We kept talking to him and he lingered long enough to sit down fro the lesson and we had a great restoration lesson with him. It was one of the most fun lessons because early on when Anziano Jensen found out at that he was a doctor we used this whole big analogy about doctors and hospital that flowed so well throughout the whole lesson involving both of them at the same time. We were really happy with the result and there was a sweet and special spirit that was there with us. We have seen some really big changes in Gaspare since he we have met him early on in our first transfer here, and we are really excited to see where we will be able to get with him and how we can be of help and assistance to him.

We had a great lesson with our new convert this week that went super well and we were able to talk about Joseph Smith and we started watching the movie with him which we will finish up on our next lesson with him. He is doing great and it has been so awesome to see how well he is continually progressing. We talked about sending the missionaries to his parents back home. We look forward to seeing where we can get with that and I really hope that his parents will be open to have the missionaries over to their home. We were also excited to see him at our ward activity, along with our other investigator, and some other nonmembers too! It was great! We had a karaoke night and this is surprisingly my first one! So Italians love karaoke and it is infamous here that most activities end up getting changed into some form of karaoke. We had a great time talking to people and watch how into it everyone would get while they were all singing. It was a great time. We even got an announcement in church that not this Friday. but the next. we will be doing an activity where we will split up into two teams and play some games, and President added that the end if we have some time we will pull out the karaoke stuff hahaha.

Sunday I had the opportunity to give the lesson in the combined relief society/priesthood meeting that we have where we go through all the lessons together. It was super cool to be able to talk about being an Ensign to the Nations and how our church is truly that light on the hill. It was really neat talking about the pioneer story of them arriving int he Salt Lake valley and how the church going from 6 members at the beginnings in New York and is still an ever growing worldwide church. It is amazing and it was so fitting because the members here in Italy are still like pioneers for the church, in their cities, and families. They are really doing their best to help give all their efforts to building God’s kingdom here in Italy. Anziano Campbell and I were both assigned talks this day too and we were able to give these and I was able to speak on the importance of the scriptures in our lives. It was a great opportunity to share my experience with gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon and how ever since my desire to read and study the scriptures has grown and grown and I am so very thankful for that. It was great too because the brother of the branch President’s wife came to church and has asked to be a part of our church and has a strong desire to change his life.

After church we went over to the branch President’s house for lunch and we were super excited because his brother in law was there too! We had a great lunch together and enjoyed being able to talk with one another and enjoy some wonderful food. They also told this really fun account of a famous Italian movie and a banana so that was entertaining to say the least. At the end of an amazing meal, with a nice cannolo to top it all off, we were able to have a great lesson sharing the restoration with them all. It went really well and we were able to hear this guy’s story and why he has a desire to change right now. We are so very excited for him and the spirit was there in much abundance with us all especially while talking about the atonement. We look forward to seeing him again tonight and finishing up that lesson with him. He is a great guy and we are looking forward to seeing where all we will get with him. He is really golden.

We went to Palermo and traveled to get to the church for our interviews that night with President and Sorella Pickerd. We got there and we were a little behind schedule so we had the opportunity to talk to the other missionaries waiting and get to know them all a little better. The interviews were super nice as always and I love being able to get to know them both better and get the advice and support that we are seeking from them too. I was able to get my temple recommend renewed which was super special and we did the whole thing in Italian!

It got me really excited again to be able to go to the House of the Lord which I have really missed for these two years. Super excited for that.

Zone conference was really great and we were able to feel a great spirit all together. We talked a lot about the importance of the spirit into our work and how essential it is that we have the Holy Ghost doing the teaching because that is the only way that we can help other people because he is the teacher. That is the way that God has ordained it. I was super happy with all that we learned and all the invitations that were given to us so that we can apply these things to help those around us. At the beginning of my mission I was able to bear my testimony in my first zone conference in Italian, and yesterday I was able to bear my departing testimony in English. I was thankful fro the Spirit that was present as me and three of the Elders that came in with me bore testimonies. It was a great zone conference and I love how President Pickerd is making sure that we are applying the things we learn for a lifetime not just for the next week, couple weeks, transfers, or missions, but a lifetime.

I really am thankful for this week and all we were able to do. One thing that I would love to share is from a talk that I used some quotes from in my talk this past Sunday.  It is from this past October, 2016, General Conference. The talk is entitled “Look to the Book, Look to the Lord.”

President Ezra Taft Benson expanded on those teachings of Joseph Smith. He said: “There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”

President Benson further taught: “The Book of Mormon teaches us truth [and] bears testimony of Christ. … But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. … You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.”

I know that to be true and that the Book of Mormon has truly been this big blessing in my life to really help me be able to have a strong testimony. I invite all to read it and ponder it in the hearts, and as Moroni exhorts us to have faith in God, a sincere heart, and real intent while asking our Heavenly Father if this book be from him or not. I know that we can all receive an answer that will be a blessing for the rest of our lives. I love you all and will talk to you guys next week!

Con tanto amore,

Anziano Garrett

Sciacca – Week 8

Ciao Tutti!

So this week was really crazy! We were all over the place and we have been on some sort of transport for 50 hours this week which was really nuts and definitely the most I have ever done in a short amount of time within my whole life. We were definitely worn out by it all and it was a very fun travel at the same time. So we started out Monday night by heading to Palermo and we stayed the night there so we wouldn’t have to wake up super early on that Tuesday morning for travel to get to Palermo for our train and run the risk of being late for it or something like that. We headed out on that train at 9:30 and we were on that one for a good amount of time. We had a guy assigned to sit next to us and I am not really what sure what language he spoke because after he sat down for a second I asked him where he was headed in Italian and he didn’t acknowledge me so I am not totally sure haha.

He got off after a little bit and we eventually made it to Messina where we cross on the boat to get back over to the mainland. I have been on that thing a fair amount of times it seems like. We had a small expensive lunch on the boat and got back on the train.

We then had to endure this lady that was sitting in another little section play traditional Sicilian music out loud and at first it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it definitely started getting a little annoying after a while hahaha. We finally arrived at Salerno at 6:30 in the evening and had about an hour and half layover before we had to be on the train again. Just enough time for a pizza!! We were close enough to Napoli and we were logically starving at this point. We had a pizza place picked out that we wanted to check out also hoping it was a like a sister restaurant to Sorbillos in Napoli. Well that place was closed so we made our way to another one and sat down and stuffed our pizza down in about 15 minutes or so, which was super delicious as well! After contemplating for a total of 3 seconds we decided to head back to the original place since it was said to have been open by then and grab a pizza to go. Don’t know what was up, but it was still closed. There was another one that we passed by and we decided to check it out and it seemed to be a fast place. We ordered and then I started talking to the older man that took our order. I was asking if they were from Salerno and whether this was their Pizzeria. We were just starting the small talk and then the guy that was making my pizza who was younger stated in Italian that we weren’t from around here. We said that we were from the United States and then all of a sudden he asked in English if we had a tag. Mine was half way covered by the tip of my jacket and we were shocked at the question and the fluency of English. Then he said that he was mormon and asked where we were from.

Well we told him we were from Sciacca and he said that he served part of his mission there. We asked him his name and having heard it since being here as well as talking to the members about him we had a great little time talking to his family and his pizza was really good too!

We in fact have a cook book he made while he was on the mission and it was a pretty cool experience.

After chowing down that pizza we had a nice short little ride for the next leg of the trip. We were late taking off and then we also sat at a station for a while and I had a feeling we were going to miss the connection to get on the bus headed towards Foggia. I tried searching for someone and went down the train, but the door I knocked on no one answered, didn’t realize till after it was the door connecting to the carriage hahaha. When we got off we were rushing around and then we saw the Tren Italia worker getting off and we asked him about the fact that we missed the bus and two others had the same problem. Well thank goodness we asked him, because he offered all of us a ride to catch the bus. So we hurried in the car and headed to one of the towns about 40 kilometers away that the bus would stop and pick up more people. It was super funny and we were just laughing at the situation that we were in and everyone in the car was super nice and we got to talk to them for a good amount of time.

Making it to Foggia we had our ride up to Pescara and then sat in the station for 2 hours waiting for the next train and oh my goodness was it freezing in that station. It was so cold and we were tired hahaha.

That was definitly the most painful part of the trip as well as waiting in the Porto D’Ascoli station for the last train. We arrived in Ascoli around 7:00 in the morning and we were able to go and get some breakfast at the Anziani’s house, shower, and study before getting Anziano Campbell’s permesso. I got to try these really good fried olive type things in Ascoli which are famous there. We had a nice little short stay in Ascoli before heading back down to Rome and from there we were able to thankfully take a night train with beds on it so we knocked out really fast on that part and when we woke up, besides the few times along the way, we were arriving in Palermo. Took the bus back to Sciacca and were finally able to make it to our area.

We had a great few work days here in town and were able to accomplish a lot of great stuff. We were able to visit some members and we also had the chance to help some members move to a new house so that went really well!

Friday while we were planning there was snow coming down! It was crazy!! That rarely ever happens down here. It was sticking of course, but cool to see. That is also a holiday here in Italy called the il giorno dell’Befana it is where all the Christmas decorations are taken down and apparently this witch comes and leaves some gifts for the kids. It is a cool little cultural holiday. Well, needless to say there weren’t many people out with a combination of these things. We hopped in somewhere to grab something to eat in the evening and ended up sitting down from little bit. Upon exiting I turned around and Anziano Campbell was talking to this guy in English and we were all of sudden in full fledge conversation with someone that served in Sciacca as a missionary 20 years ago and was on a trip planning where he will take students on his trip this summer. It was super cool talking about members and the experiences that he had on his mission. It was super cool!

Well Saturday the whole branch, as well as our new convert, were going to head to Palermo to get to a conference where there would be a General Authority speaking. Well the bus was late for starters and then the next thing that we knew we got the slowest bus driver ever and it took like 3 and half hours to get all he way down there.

Thankfully everyone was a great sport about it and we had a potential there as well that is the husband of a member in our branch. Well we made it for the last 15 minutes or so, but it went super well! It was a nutty night, but we made it back safe. All went well and we had a great Sunday to the close of a super long and busy day! We were super happy about everything that happened and all that we were able to accomplish.

One thing that the experience in Salerno made me reflect on was a story that Elder Quentin L. Cook recounts in a devotional he gave some years ago about President David O. McKay.

When I was your age, President David O. McKay was the prophet.

President McKay served as President of the Church from 1951 until 1970, which was the year I turned 30. There is always something very special about the prophet who serves when you are a young adult. I loved and admired President McKay. He often related a true account that occurred while he was a missionary serving in Scotland. He was feeling homesick after being in the mission for just a short time and spent a few hours sightseeing at nearby Stirling Castle. When he and his companion returned from visiting the castle, they passed a building where the stone above the door had a carved inscription of a quotation usually attributed to Shakespeare, which read: What E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.

Recalling this experience in a talk given in 1957, President McKay explained: “I said to myself, or the Spirit within me, ‘You are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than that, you are here as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. You accepted the responsibility as a representative of the Church.’ Then I thought [about] what we had done that forenoon. We had been sightseeing, we had gained historical instruction and information, it is true, and I was thrilled with it. … However, that was not missionary work. … I accepted the message given to me on that stone, and from that moment we tried to do our part as missionaries in Scotland.”

I love this quote a lot because it shows that we always have to be doing our part to be who we really are at all times. We didn’t have to start talking to the people at the pizzeria and often times in our lives we may find ourselves in situations where we can maybe be different than we normally are or whatever. I just really love the fact that wherever we are we should always be doing what we can to be who we know that we need to be. I really know that all actions have consequences and something I loved this week that I read in a talk from President Thomas S. Monson was how we are always affecting the lives of others by the way we live our lives whether that be for good or bad. I hope that we may all do what we can to be who we need to be always! Sorry for the length of the email this week it was super long!

Have a great week everyone!

Vi voglio bene!!

Anziano Garrett

Pizza in Salerno

Pizza in Salerno with an RM who worked in Sciacca while he was on his mission

It’s freezing cold in Sciacca

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]