About Me

The adventures of Christian Toronto, a full-time missionary serving in the Rome Italy Mission (Dec 2016-Dec 2018). Christian grew up in Minnesota, then moved to Colorado right before his senior year in high school. He is the third of seven children. He was attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah prior to his missionary call. Christian's older brother Simeon completed his mission in Rome, Italy a day before Christian left for his so they literally swapped places. We call them our Roman soldiers for Christ. In his free time, Christian loves basketball, tennis, american history and politics, and music.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

I'm in Love, I'm in Love, and I Don't Care Who Knows it!❤



Carissimi,

I thought I'd have the chance to surprise you all with the news of my transfer, but word travels wayyyyyy too fast in today's wonderful, technologically enhanced world, and I'd be willing to bet you almost knew before I did! Leaving Napoli was paradoxically difficult, as I had set myself on the probability of another transfer, and expected some miracles coming my way in the form of Napoletani to teach, love, and baptize, but when I discovered it was the famed Bari Libertà ward that was waiting for me, I packed my bags and happily went and did what the Lord had commanded me! Though sometimes I feel more like Laman and Lemuel than Nephi, this call was a bit like going back to Jerusalem for Ishmael and his, more than likely 8-cow daughters. Like them, then, I knew there was a prophet in Israel, or at least a Mission President to whom I am grateful!

We sent home Anziano Jackson and Vance on Monday, after making them tombstone cakes, (see photo below), and the rest of the day was spent in anticipation.


I got the call, was both elated and heartbroken, and as is a common theme in these last weeks, went off to pray. I gratefully felt as though the Lord had accepted my service among my brothers and sisters in Napoli, and that he had even greater trials and blessings waiting, along with a Panzerotto, in the newly formed Puglia Zone.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of goodbyes... Maxwell, Christian, Peter, Presidente Amodio, La Famiglia Granata, English Course students, random citizens I had somehow met along the way, etc etc... I sincerely hope those goodbyes are not an "addio", but an "arrivederci". I simply love those people, and will dearly, dearly miss them.

Thursday came, and with it a 5 hour intercity train ride down to Bari. I arrived, was wrapped up in hugs with some friendly faces, and sped on home to get settled. I spent a good couple hours washing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping, picking up trash, and more. I felt like I was repenting for all the times others have cleaned up after my messes in the mission, whether I was conscious of the fact or not. I was grateful to serve, and to get my new living environment in a halfway decent condition. Then it was off to Bitonto, an outlying Bari suburb, in which we do English Course. We taught the 10 or so people who came, and I enjoyed just the freshness of seeing new faces. After English course, we had a branch calcio activity, at a field near the church. What. A. Blast! Not saying my former zone lacked athletic ability, because I recognize the lack thereof in myself, but there is something special about playing soccer with Italians. Especially when they brush off your countless mistakes, and just keep passing you the ball. It was a great chance to meet the young men and Branch President, and start things off right here. That night I had my first Panzerotto, Mamma Mia Che Buono! The year and a half of being teased for never having partaken, was blissfully forgotten in a fried, mozzarella and tomato sauce haze!

Friday came, and Anziano Baker and I, with the Sister Training Leaders of the Zone, Sorelle Hickey and Aranas, hopped on a train headed up to Rome for MLC. (Insert small rant about Italy's public transportation not being made for giants 2 meters tall)😑 We made it, that's all I'll say haha! It was fun however, reminiscing and getting to know the three of them!

That night after dinner President had a special surprise. All the leaders of the mission were loaded into 4 or 5 cars, and shuttled over to the Temple site, where we sat and listened to President and Sorella Pickerd speak of love; for our companions, the Italians, and the Lord, as the sun set and turned the Temple pink. Un. For. Gettable. They gave us ten minutes of silence, and I used it to pray and thank Heavenly Father for the countless Italian missionaries and members who's work proceeded our own. From Peter and Paul, to Lorenzo and Giuseppe, Simeon, Presidente Toronto of the Catania Mission, and so so many more. Each labored so diligently so that I could have that sacred experience. I'm still waiting on pictures so that you can experience it as well, but the image will never leave my mind.

That night I enjoyed conversations with 6 of my 7 former companions, all of which were there. The only one absent was Anziano Cutler, who went home just a few days prior. I suppose working with Anziano Toronto is such a challenge, that, like a refiners fire, prepares his companions for greater and grander things. I'll just keep it up I guess😁

Saturday was similarly delightful, as we were taught on trust, and adaptation, and made some mission wide changes. We closed MLC, and after the classic "Pane Pizza Dolci" hamburger we were shoved back in to a Freccia Argento, and sent back down to Bari. Oh how I love MLC!

Sunday Morning was a chance to meet new faces, and make my presence known in the Bari Libertà Ward, (not too tough a task when you're 6' 6", and the typical Italian Nonna pushes 4' 11"). I heard "ma quanto sei alto," and "ma, sei parente di Presidente/Anziano Toronto," a million times, but it never seemed to get old! We saw a few miracles that I'll touch on as things pan out in the next few weeks, but it sufficeth me to say, I love Libertà!

We had lunch with a beloved Italian Nonna, and that's something I hope to be doing a whole lot more of down here. You just can't get tired of Nonna's cooking, though it made me miss my own Nana just a bit. My stomach also loves Libertà!

We closed off the week with a Gesso in centro, and though the first half an hour was a little rough, I was grateful for the scattered conversations God allowed me to have, the doctrinal principles I was able to share, and the seeds I was able to plant! I love the Baresi!

Just as Ammon felt, I too desire to dwell among this people, even until I die. But should the Lord have other plans, let it be so. I will treasure up my time, and do my best to develop unforgettable friendships and memories here. Last time I'll say it, but I really, truly mean it... I LOVE BARI!❤

I love all of you too, statemi bene!

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹



Look for MLC pics in following weeks...




Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Super Mocio Bros

Copy the url address below ad paste it on your url address bar to be sent to a voice recording of Anziano Toronto as he discusses the missionary labors of this past week. 

https://soundcloud.com/user-565039128/anziano-toronto-2018-06-25-weekly-recap

Various Pics featuring:
Maxwell
Christian and Maxwell
Vitalii and Sons, I'll talk about him in a future email...
Rome Temple scaffolding free😍😍








Monday, June 18, 2018

It's A Sunny Sunny Day

😎Carissimi,

Start Filling the Font:
There's no better way to leave and area than with a baptism, and Christian is giving me the opportunity to do just that! Though mentioned just once or twice in previous emails, Christian is a friend Maxwell brought to church his 2nd or 3rd week here, and he has been slowly, steadily plodding on towards baptism, ever since. This week he decided to quit plodding, and take a leap, and was interviewed on Saturday, and couldn't have done better. His testimony of the need for modern prophets is strong, and even stronger is his belief in the Book of Mormon. Oh how we love this brother, and can't wait until Saturday and Sunday to see him take the final hop, skip, and a jump right into our swimming pool-resembling baptismal font!

Let's Go out to the Park and Play:
Parco Capodimonte is just about the greenest, open space you can find in the Napoli extra urban area, (except for Carney Park of Course), and most of our zone took advantage of this oasis this morning and afternoon. We had a little picnic of sandwiches, and enjoyed a little relaxation. Anziano Vance and I noted that the beauty of P-Day, is that when, almost accusingly, your conscience asks you why you're not doing street finding, you can stick your tongue out, blow a raspberry, and go back to playing long-toss with a football. It's a truly beautiful thing!😅 Among the activities enjoyed were, "Sciaccia a Sette," an improvised game resembling a volleyball pepper circle, in which players take turns passing the ball while counting up to seven. On the seventh hit, players near the ball seek to smash and hit others near them, while those being aimed at respond in a variety of ways, such as cowering in fear, sprinting in the other direction, or bracing themselves for impact, hands hoping to catch the incoming smash. Needless to say, it's a fun time. Last but not least, though it's not fall, and Turkeys are out of sight and mind, we had our own Bowl Game of sorts. 10 or so Anziani participated, and the varying degrees of athleticism made for an interesting game, yet it was great, I'll never complain about some good old pickup football! #QB1 (actually with the condition my arm is in, it's more like QBench😂... If only coach woulda put me in 4th quarter back in the glory days. Woulda been state champs, no doubt in my mind)

I wish there was more to say, but for now there's not much besides a heartfelt Happy Father's day to Jonny J, and so many other exceptional fathers who have made all the difference in my life. Here's to hoping I am on my way to becoming half the father I had, cause boy those size 13 shoes are big ones to fill #StillTallerThough... I love you Daddio, or "Babbo" as our Napoli natives affectionately would call you. Actually, probably Babbone, given your size... Comunque the gratitude, though not easily expressed through words, is real, and again, heartfelt!

Vi voglio bene,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

"The Brothers" feat. Peter, I.K., Maxwell, and everyone's favorite Nigerian/Italian at heart



Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Anotha One..."



Carissimi,

Zone Conference:
As DJ Khaled might say, "anotha one..." That's right friends we've made it to the 12th installment of listening, learning, and being edified. Anziano Ferrara, Sorella Palacios, and I had the chance to train the zone, focusing our instruction on the concept of becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. We taught of the story found in chapter 4 of Matthew, where Christ calls his disciples to follow him and become fishers of men. Likewise we challenged the Anziani and Sorelle of the zone to become fishers of men. then taking inspiration from Elder Holland's classic General Conference address, "The First Freat Commandment," we spoke of Peter's experience with the risen Lord and his call to renewed, reinvigorated discipleship. The essential taught truth was that the Lord needs disciples, and he needs them today. He needs missionaries who will preach his gospel, and defend His faith. He needs those who love Him, truly, truly, love him. We called them to love him more, and to love the process of becoming his disciples, no matter how difficult at times it may be! That was a message I needed to hear more than anybody, so it's a great thing it was repeated on Sunday.

Stake Conference Broadcast:
On Sunday, we had the chance to tune in to a Europe Area broadcast, in which we the Zone Conference messages were driven home. Elder Hallstrom began his remarks with the story used so movingly in Elder Holland's classic, that of the exchange between Christ and his senior Apostle. Elder Hallstrom encouraged all listening to choose to be on the Lord's side, and to do so, today! Shortly thereafter, Elder Uchtdorf spoke of Becoming Disciples of Jesus Christ, I kid you not! As they spoke, I looked over and smiled at Anziano Ferrara. In the mission, we call "spidey-senses", the gift of the Holy Ghost, and boy were we grateful to have both, as we found ourselves "in-line" with the brethren, which, as President Pickerd often reminds us, is always a good place to be.

Vesuvio:
P-Day carried us, like Nephi's spirit, high on a mountain top, yet unlike Nephi's, the mountain we summited is well known for destroying an ancient, (and abominable) society. We were taken by bus to the base of the Volcano, and a short, yet steep hike later we were gazing into an absolutely gargantuan crater. Imagining the explosive force necessary to displace the amount of missing rock left me in awe, literal awe. Also, cannot be more grateful, (and I know I join my mother in saying this), that Vesuvius is currently a dormant Volcano, unlike it's Sicilian counterpart, which I climbed a time or two. Let's just say I don't want to be anywhere near Napoli when the day of reckoning comes, and Vesuvius returns to life in all it's smoking glory. For now at least, we can sleep knowing that day won't come until Anziano Toronto leaves in a few weeks, *quickly knocks on the closest wood possible*😁

Would have loved writing a masterful discourse on volcanoes, eruptions, and backsliding, (see Etna email pt. 1 for further detail), however technology again failed to preserve my draft, and so it is that the treatise on Vesuvian theology goes unwritten. I will say it was inspired by the shrines to both, the Madonna, and Padre Pio on the trail up the Volcano, and the two classic Mt. Sinai commandments, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing..."
"Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, it might have been."
-John Greenleaf Whittier
Oh what might have been... oh well, I'll content myself with that which I have written, acknowledging the fault, and the slightly juvenile jabs at Catholic idol worship, contained therein, they're written with love😊

Vi voglio un sacco di bene la misura del cratere di Vesuvio,❤

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹


Friday, June 1, 2018

The Big White Giant

Carissimi,

This week's highlights are brought to you by the Peanut Gallery; Making Anziano Toronto's mission a comedy, and more often a comedy of errors, since day 1!

Anziano Toronto, "Il Grande" -
I thought I was in with the hair cutter below our house as he gave me a tie after cutting my hair this week, but apparently he's a savage... As Anziani Vance and Hernandez went in for haircuts a day or two after, he looked at them, saw the tag, white shirts, and ties, and said, "Voi siete con il Grande Bianco Gigante, no?" Yes, he called me the Big White Giant friends... I'll take it as a compliment, except for the white part, I've been working on my tan pretty hard, so that one hurt a bit🙃

Miraculous Mario:
As we prepared to teach English course this week, we were pleasantly surprised as a Mother and her young son, whom we had stopped on the street walked in the door. That was a miracle in and of itself folks, we take them where we can get them! The class went pretty well, and after, as we always do, we shared a small spiritual thought with the students. Anziano Ferrara and I began sharing the story of Christ and Peter walking on water, making various connections as we went. We testified of how if we look to Christ, no matter the storm, we'll be able to accomplish miracles, and that when we fall short, when our faith doesn't quite measure up, His hand is extended immediately to our rescue, we need simply call on him and have faith to be saved. As we made all these spiritual connections, the young son, who's name is Mario, raised his hand, and when called upon said, "You know, I once did a miracle too, in the pool I walked on water!" Of course all the students busted out laughing, and so did we! He just kept grinning with the few baby teeth left to him, and acted as if walking on water was an every day occurrence. I paused to think how many of the Lord's miracles pass unnoticed, and how great a work he is accomplishing in our lives! May we all have the faith of little Mario, to literally, and figuratively walk on water!

Ital-American Memorial Day:
The culmination of a multiple months planning occurred as the Napoli Branch and Pozzuoli Ward gathered together Saturday afternoon to celebrate the American Holiday. We had a BBQ cookout, complete with hamburgers and hotdogs, and yet managed to keep things Italian by following it up with some pasta and risotto. After the food and a spiritual thought, we got schooled by the youth and ysa's in Calcio, your's truly doing little to earn his signing bonus, letting in a goal that Abraham probably could've stopped, and having a highlight reel that only featured members of the other team leaving him in the dust with their fancy footwork. I redeemed myself only slightly on the basketball court, and the tennis court, but I could only take the heat for so long. As Anziano Vance put it, "I saw a pillar of light, now I'm burned..." All things considered, it was a great activity, and the sunburn is slowly going away. We loved seeing members, both American and Italian bond over grilled meat and pasta!

Miracle Max -> Baptized and Confirmed Miracle Max
Saturday Night, after the Carney Park activity, Anziano Ferrara rushed to our apartment to change and get ready, cause we had Maxwell who was getting ready to follow the example of Jesus Christ at 7:00. We showered, (ouch! very, very burned), and hustled to the church to begin filling the font. We got everything in order, and Maxwell arrived just in time to put on his white clothes and start the baptism! It was an incredible service. Austin, who had brought him to church spoke on Baptism, and Sunday, a new convert of about 6 months spoke on the Holy Ghost. Both did a great job, I'm so proud of these brothers! The baptism went without a hitch, Maxwell bent his knees, I managed to get the words right, and he went all the way under the first time so I'd call it a success on all counts! After changing, he shared his testimony of how his life had been changed in the short time he has known the church, and of his gratitude to God for giving him the chance to hit the reset button here in Italy. He was confirmed the next day by our Branch President, and is one happy, new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This stalwart convert built his rock on the Book of Mormon, and he has already begun helping others to do the same. What an example! WE LOVE MAXWELL!

We'll give you a break from the piano metaphors this week, but don't think you're out of the woods yet. There's plenty of key lessons we can still learn from Anziano Toronto's woefully inadequate attempts to play song after song.

All my love,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Maxwell is in the middle in the bright white shirt!



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Napoli Pizza Counter:🍕=♾

Weeeyyyyy Belli,

Sometimes technology is a blessing, other times it deletes your nearly completed weekly email draft without warning. Sooooo, you're getting the unfiltered, less pretty version of what I took time to write down today!

FDR's 4 Term's Got Nothin on CYT's:
FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS! Well, actually just another 6 weeks or so, but hey, who's counting? That's right folks, expect the unexpected in the Italy Rome Mission, and more often than not you're gonna be right! With baptisms on the horizon, and zone members to learn from, President decided to leave Anziano Ferrara and I together one more transfer! In the last 4 months, I've learned to love this city, to the point where, like Ammon, I might say that, "I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die." On second thought, maybe not until the day I die, maybe just for the next 6 weeks!

Maxwell and the Boys: 
We leaped some major hurdles with Miracle Max this week, as he was interviewed for baptism by both President Amodio, our branch president, and President Pickerd. Being the stud he is, he passed both interviews with flying colors, and is sprinting down the final stretch! We discussed with him Let's vision of the Tree of Life, and the different groups of travelers that reached the fruit. Of his own accord, he declared that after tasting of the fruit he never wanted to be ashamed and leave for the great and spacious building, as many misguided travelers in Lehi's dream had done. He told us the fruit was so sweet, that the world's temptations effectively paled in comparison to the love of God. After that lesson, Maxwell did as Lehi, and invited 2 of his friends to taste of the fruit, and sure enough, they all rolled in together on Sunday! Christian and Ikay had been curious about the "blue bible" Maxwell was studying, and so they came to find out more about it! Maxwell was more than happy to hand them off to us, telling us to teach what we had taught him! He is an example already, in inviting all to come unto Christ, and taste the sweet, sweet fruit of the restored gospel! Saturdaycannot come quick enough for our dear, elect Nigerian brother!

Piano Piano:
Our struggling pianist continues to perform just well enough that they don't give his job to the recorded hymns on the LDS Music app, though it's a close call every week. I laughed out loud when the ward chorister looked over right before the intermediate hymn, and asked if I could go any faster... I responded that if I did, I would set a record for most wrong notes played in a sacrament meeting ever, she laughed back, and proceeded to (jokingly) painstakingly conduct, looking remarkably similar to Flash the sloth from Zootopia. It's actually amazing how much weekly letter material I get from playing the piano, it might be worth it after all

Wish I had more to say, but that's just about it! Just mentally prepare yourselves for six more weeks of cheesy jokes about pizza, and piano playing, cause that's what makes up my life, that and of course sharing the gospel with whoever'll give me half a chance! #LoveThoseCatholicsTillTheyLoveYouBack

Cordiali Saluti,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Monday, May 14, 2018

🌹Things I Love or Learned From my Mom🌹

Zone Calcio Classic

I [Anziano Toronto] being born of goodly parents, (but especially a good mother) wanted to take the opportunity to share a few of the lessons that came to mind as I reflected on the impact she has made on my life.

Patience is a Virtue, and Thankfully so is Forgiveness:
Each of her children have been uniquely challenging to raise, and each posed their individual challenges to Mom, yet each challenge has been met with an astounding amount of patience. When her children make mistakes creative punishments were invented to fit the crime, such as the memorizing of scriptures and hymns, and the study of selected General Conference messages. #WillNeverForget2Nephi2:27 #NobodyMakesChristianAngry ... Despite their tendency to be "quick to iniquity," Mom has always been quick to forgive. She doesn't hold grudges, and doesn't easily take offense. She is Job-like in her patience and long suffering, and I have often found my self wishing on my mission that I had my mother's patience!

Reverence is more than just quietly sitting: 
As Camille touched on during her sacrament meeting talk, getting her (mom's) 7 children to sit through a sacrament meeting without killing one another was a weekly miracle. Sometimes however, silent prayers on our behalf didn't suffice, and sometimes the aforementioned creative punishments were in order. Time lost during Sacrament Meeting was time spent on the couch holding hands, singing Barney classics. Through this, and other experiences in church and in the temple, I learned to have a deep respect for the sacred nature of certain things. It is not inherently wrong to joke, laugh, or have a good time, but she taught me that there's a time and place. Mom exemplifies quiet dignity, an enviable attribute to be assured, and one gained through sincere love for Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the way we worship them here on the earth.

Miss I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T:
There came a certain point in the Toronto household, where the frequency with which Christian's clean laundry would appear on the laundry room floor, amd Mom's, 'Conniption risk' kept getting higher and higher. Eventually, she said, "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!" (think Bill Cosby bath time sketch), and declared that from then on, I would do my own laundry. Similar episodes occurred in the kitchen, and on the piano bench, along with in my bedroom, each adding to my already budding independence. I learned to cook, clean, manage time, money, studies, athletics, and more from a mother who had me doing those things since the moment I was able to do so. She cultivated what was already there, until the figurative plant learned to water himself.

Cheerleader in High School Turned Cheerleader for Life:
Mom is anything but a helicopter-parent, however don't let that fool you. She's as supportive, and more so, than anyone I know, of her 7 children and husband. She has spent innumerable hours watching and cheering them on as they compete in sports, perform in the arts, showcase musical talents, and simply put achieve. When they wanted to give up and stop running, when they were frustrated with playing time, when their tennis team went 0-13, when they sang surprise solos, or squeaked away on clarinet, saxophone, and bassoon, and when they sang "Lida Rose," she was there. She was there to cheer on, encourage, calm down, laugh at (with), and cry. She was there, and always will be for those she loves.

Lift Where You Stand:
Mom has always taken and run with the opportunities she has been given to serve. Whether it was simply making a meal for a sick sister in the ward, or helping out in nursery or primary, no matter the calling, Mom has responded with enthusiasm, impacting lives wherever she went. Like President Monson, she was focused on the one, and I remember many times going to the houses of friends to lift them and serve them. I remember in particular trips to Holly's home in Minnesota, and who could forget the time I accidentally ate a dog treat thinking it was a cookie for me? As President Hinckley would tell her, "You never know, you never know the good you do," (one of my favorite Mormon messages by the way, makes me think a lot about Mom). Can't wait the neighborhood of celestial mansions Mom's building up for herself and her posterity with her dedicated service here on the earth!

Love for Learning:
Inspired by her professor father, and (all but formally titled) teacher mother, Mom has always sought to instill in her children a thirst for knowledge and a love for learning. This resulted in a reluctance to pollute their brains with cable television or mindless TV, and instead replaced them with learning programs such as Planet Earth, Marty Steiffer, and the ever classics, Eyewitness "Birds." School House Rock, America Rock, Liberty Kids, and more. She taught them to read early, and helped them with their homework where she could. Trips to the library were a biweekly adventure, (If not only to avoid late fees), and the same for trips to the science museum, and even the occasional art gallery. Children were expected to take their education seriously, and were gently encouraged to strive to do their best in school. Luca, (famous Pescara Luca), loves the quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley that says, "Il processo di apprendimento è interminabile," and that just about sums up Allison Toronto real well!

Dad, you got a good one!❤

The happiest of Mother's Days to the best of the best! Loved interacting with each of you yesterday, and loved even more the fact that I'll be able to see all of you wonderful humans before Christmas!

Forgive your missionary for his overlong, rambling testimony. He had thought his thoughts were gathered and coherent, but there's always something else he wants to tell you he's come to know for himself!

I'd love any pictures you captured of our short time together, and Anne Katherine tells me Simeon is or has already translated the epistle from your favorite Roman disciple of Christ!

Next week you'll hear about transfers and we'll be back to the typical missionary update, don't you worry!

Vi voglio bene!

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Zone Calcio Classic (no smile)