OK, so the only really new thing from this week is that we went to the Lindt factory that is here in Varese and I feel like it might be the World HQ because it is practically as big as the Boeing factory. Between Mastino, Chase, Mortezazadeh, and I we bought about 7 kilo of chocolate. No more must be said of the subject.
Other than that, the work is about the same, but we have pretty much lost all of our investigators except for the ones stalking us and two others (one being our favorite African man Bryan). So, well, we’re doing what we can haha. The cool thing is that Bryan has been telling all of the people he knows (which somehow turns out to be half the town) about what we teach and tells them they need to come to church. Even as we are on the street with him, he is stopping people and yelling out to people across the street to come listen to us and come to church. Man, you gotta love this guy!!! This is why missionaries need other people to tell their friends, members especially; most people don’t like or trust us, and so when you have someone they do like or trust tell them about those things, they listen. What incredible stuff. He even appeared out of nowhere when we were doing street contacting and said hi to his friend that we were talking to as well and then gave us his personal endorsement in French and an invite to learn and come to church. This man is straight from God!!!!!
Cultural Bit: Italian Missionary culture time!! Terms:
Dying missionary: Missionary that finished the mission
Birth: Refers to your entering into the mission (birth place, day, etc.)
Simps: Simpatizzanti (Investigators)
Casa: Door knocking
Bottle Breaking: The missionary that comes right after a trainer is a bottlebreaker
Father (Mother): Trainer
Son (Daughter): Trainee
Space Transfer (Getting spaced): Getting transfered right in the middle of a transfer, usually as a surprise
Spiritual Bit: Alright! So I must post this wonderful update I received from a friend in Rome (the same friend that I posted the Easter update after) because her experience this week was much stronger than anything I could ever have written. You will feel the Spirit if you take a moment to read it! Its a bit lengthy but I promise you will not regret it!
(Names have been changed or omitted for privacy.)
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I should start this email or how I should title it. In many ways, this has been one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had in the mission. There are few times I have experienced and observed so much concentrated suffering as I have this week, but there are few times, looking back, that the veil has been thinner and I have been more aware of my role in the Lord’s work and His plan. There is a lot of suffering in the world, but we can always find manifestations of our Heavenly Father’s love, sometimes just in knowing that we are being given strength that is not our own to handle trials and pain we simply couldn’t otherwise.
We had been visiting Anna and her husband in the hospital about every other day. He received a priesthood blessing from the elders and we felt very strongly that the Lord was actively preparing them and that He was about to do a great work with that family. We fasted and prayed very hard for them. We felt excited about the prospect of him being healed and becoming converted through this experience. We could just see Anna, her husband, and their six year-old son becoming sealed together in the temple. Anna was also full of faith and hope at this prospect.
In my personal study in the morning I like to pray to find a conference talk that will help me to know what the Lord wants me to do or know for the work that day. I then feel drawn to certain sessions and then titles of talks. I have found this to be an incredibly effective method of communicating with the Lord and receiving personal revelation. On this particular morning I felt drawn to a talk that talked about how sometimes priesthood blessings of healing are not fulfilled because it is apart of the Lord’s plan that that particular person be taken home, and that we are meant to endure certain trials, but that through His Atonement He will lift and support us and we will not be alone. Up until this point we had been utterly convinced that Anna’s husband would be healed. I suddenly felt impressed that the Lord meant to take him home, and we needed to know that it was a part of His plan, so we needed to know that it was okay and be strong and be there for Anna. We went to visit them in the hospital that day. Anna was so weak, after barely sleeping for two weeks. All she could say is, “I pray the Lord will come soon. I have faith the Lord will heal him soon.” Her husband was skin and bones, after not having eaten for two weeks, but he seemed more lucid than before. His stomach was very swollen with internal fluid and the tumor on his pancreas. (We did not know until later that he had a tumor, and I don’t think Anna really realized either.)
The next morning we had no appointments so we went to go do finding and felt impressed to go near the hospital even though barely anyone was in that area. We them got a phone call from Slla Migliorisi, the Relief Society President, who said Anna had called her and all she had understood on the phone was that she said that her husband was dead. We rushed to the hospital, ran to go find Anna, and as soon as we saw her she collapsed into our arms in sobs. We were all sobbing together, just completely unable to take in what was going on. It honestly felt like a dream. Slla Migliorisi rushed to the hospital and held Anna while she cried. The three of us waited in the hall while Anna and some of her family and friends were in the office with the doctors trying to figure out what to do with the body since it couldn’t stay in the hospital but couldn’t be buried yet either because the people who would bury it wouldn’t be working until Monday. It eventually got sorted out, but I will never forget holding Anna as she sobbed, completely weak and hysterical, saying that she has no money to bury her husband, where would she find the money to bury him? We all then went down to the morgue to see the body. I have never seen grief like that before. A few of the people completely broke down into hysterics and started having panic attacks. Anna tried to pray over her husband to bless him and send him off, but started hallucinating that she could see him opening his eyes and that he was breathing. Her family had to drag her away from his body. It was the most heart-breaking thing I have ever seen and I don’t think I will ever forget her screams as long as I live.
We then went upstairs to wait on the people who were preparing his body. I kneeled on the floor holding Anna’s hands as she wept and said, “Why did he leave me? Why did he leave me and his son alone? I prayed so hard! I had so much faith! God took my mother and my father and now my husband away and I am alone! My God, why hast though forsaken me?” I held her face in my hands and bore witness to her that she would see her husband again, than he loved her, and that Christ did not leave her alone, that he would bear her up and give her strength, that all of this will be for a small moment, but that she will see him again, never again to be separated. I have never felt so strongly the truth of those words than when I was testifying of them to her in that moment. She would become calm and I would tell her, “You will be okay. You will not be alone. We are all here and we love you. Your husband’s spirit is here, too, but you will only be able to feel him if you are calm and quiet.” She was slipping in and out of reality, saying, “I must follow him, I must go with my husband. I saw his eyes open! He is still alive!” And then she would smile and laugh, and then burst into sobs again. At one point she thought she saw someone holding her hand, and she said she didn’t know who it was. We explained to her that Christ was with her and that she wasn’t alone. I definitely felt a strength not my own make me very calm and help me to keep her eyes on me and stay calm as she listened to our testimonies of the Plan of Salvation (it was only a month ago we felt impressed to re-teach her the Plan of Salvation). I asked her, “Will you be okay?” And she would nod and be calm. (So much meaning now in the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”)
During all of this the most hysterical friend would whisper things to her in their Nigerian dialect, which I couldn’t understand completely but I understood enough to know that she was telling Anna that she was alone and that she would never see her husband again. Anna would become hysterical again and we would calm her with our testimonies of the Plan of Salvation. At some points I felt like we were battling Satan who wanted Anna to doubt, who was attacking her faith in God’s plan actively in front of our eyes. There is a lot of power in testimony.
I learned a lot about grief that day. My heart has never hurt so badly for someone else, but I was calm in knowing that our Savior was taking care of her and her family, that He sent us here to Ragusa to be with her at this time, and that she will be with him again, never to be parted. I am so grateful for the peace that comes with that knowledge because it changed everything. I have never seen such hopeless hysterics as I did from a few of her friends, who seemed so wrapped up in their own pain and selfish grief that they pushed away the Spirit that sought to comfort them and instead allowed the spirit of hopelessness to run rampant. My heart sincerely hurt for them. Grief can bring us closer to Christ, but allowing ourselves to be consumed by hopelessness pushes Him away. We cannot let ourselves become to blinded by our own pain that we resist the Spirit of comfort and hope that seeks to heal us. This was Saturday. We have checked on Anna since then, and she is in the presence of loved ones 24/7 (I love how tight-knit and loving African communities are!) and is doing better.
We are still in a state of shock and it still kind of feels like a bad dream that can’t possibly be real, that 28 year-old, sweet, kind, hard-working and selfless Anna could have lost her husband so quickly and so tragically, and be left to take care of their six year-old son. I have grown so close to her and her family the past five months I have been here. There are few people for whom I have felt the Spirit so strongly bear testimony of Christ’s love. I KNOW that Jesus Christ loves Anna and that her family is precious to Him. I have had positively sacred moments in her little home and in her husband’s hospital room. I know that she will be with her family forever. Sometimes I have to pull myself out of lingering to long on her situation and focus instead on how the Lord is supporting her through this. My view of and relationship with Christ has been forever changed by this. I have never felt so much His colleague than I have in this experience. I feel like I understand more how He works now. He doesn’t fix our problems all the time because He knows that suffering refines us. The more I look back the more I see His hand preparing us, guiding us, and softening this blow for Anna. I’ve quickly gained a testimony of how necessary it is to rely on Christ and allow Him to comfort us, teach us, and guide us during these times instead of dwelling on doubts and fears and becoming bitter instead of better. We have to let the Lord refine us, otherwise we make pointless our suffering.
This week was definitely a reality check for me. But I am infinitely grateful and humbled that Christ has enough trust in us to put us here for these people at this time. In about twenty minutes we will leave to go to the burial. It’s been wonderful to see everyone gather around Anna, comfort her and support her. The Lord has infinite wisdom and He loves us all so very, very much. I know that He will make it all okay, that He IS actively working for our eternal progression and benefit, that there is a reason and a purpose for all trials, even when we can’t possibly see them at the time. I know that He suffered these things before Anna and her husband did, and that He suffered greater things still. I know that He lives, and because He lives someday we will all live again, too, never to be separated from those we love.
7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
Please keep Anna and her son in your prayers, as well as my companion and me so that we will be guided in helping her be strengthened.”
I love you all and wish you all the very best week you could ever have! Go make it great!!
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.