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...