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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018



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)


Monday, May 7, 2018

I Stand All Amazed

Carissimi,

What this week lacked in pictures, pizza, and sunshine, it made up for in spirituality! I'll also see most of you in a week, so you can see my face then😁

I had a wonderful experience yesterday during Sacrament Meeting as I played the piano. I had picked out the classic "We Thank thee o God for a Prophet," one of the simpler hymns to play, for the opening song, and everything went fairly well. Mistakes here and there, but for the most part despite a lack of practice it sounded halfway decent. Then came the sacrament hymn. I had chosen one of my personal favorites, "I Stand All Amazed," or in Italian, "Attonito Resto," yet had grossly overestimated my ability to play the song, and that was evident as I stumbled through the intro. Finally we arrived to the first verse, and the congregation hesitantly began singing along. This gave me confidence, as the piano became less audible, and I started focusing less on hitting wrong notes, and more on what the song had come to mean to me.

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

As I sat there playing, I literally felt confused. Why in the world would my Savior, Jesus Christ, literally suffer, bleed, and die for me? What had I done to merit such a priceless gift? I thought of the line from President Faust's "This is the Christ," which says "How many drops of blood were shed for me?" I continued on to the second verse.

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

Nana always said, "There is not a bribe sweet enough or punishment strong enough to deter Christian from doing his will or accomplishing what he wants." I am that soul, so rebellious and proud. Yet he extends his unending, unconditional love with "pierced palms, and scarred wrists," as Elder Holland once described them.

Music has played a large role in spiritual experiences throughout my life, and yesterday morning was a continuation, an affirmation of such. As I plunked out the third verse, again I was touched. I sat there playing wrong note after wrong note, missing flats and naturals alike, and yet the world did not cease to spin, nobody told me after the meeting that I should never play again, in fact, many thanked me for playing. I was reminded of Brad Wilcox's classic, "His Grace is Sufficient." He said something to the effect of, "we don't tell the amateur pianist he can't keep playing the piano when he hits a wrong note. There aren't just two options when it comes to the pianist, Carnegie Hall or giving up. Why do we see this so clearly when it comes to learning the piano, yet fail to do so when it comes to grace. We are not earning heaven, we are learning heaven."

Elder Lynn G. Robbins spoke to a similar effect in this last conference, as he taught of those learning new languages, who make thousands of errors, maybe even a million before desired fluency is attained. For now, I'm still in that thousands of errors stage, both concerning Italian, and the more important language of the Spirit. Yet I learned as I played the piano that those errors are inconsequential in the grand scheme of the heavenly symphony. Our Maestro is ever patient, and as C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Is even pleased with our mistakes."

An hour before the meeting, as I completed personal study, I read the words spoken years ago by then Elder Boyd K. Packer;

"I cannot with composure tell you how I feel about the Atonement. It touches the deepest emotion of gratitude and obligation. My soul reaches after Him who wrought it, this Christ, our Savior of whom I am a witness. I testify of Him. He is our Lord, our Redeemer, our advocate with the Father. He ransomed us with His blood. Humbly I lay claim upon the atonement of Christ."

Like Elder Packer, I'm doing my best to lay claim upon the Atonement of Christ, through daily repentance, and gradual change. I know I'm gonna hit wrong notes along the way, because I'm writing my own Magnum Opus, and fortunately it's not finished yet.

"No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, [Christ's Atonement] is wonderful, wonderful to me!"

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

See you Sunday!✌

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Monday, April 30, 2018

Put Your Shoulder to the Boulder, Push Along!




Carissimi,

It occurred to me this week I have dedicated very little space in my letters to the actual missionary work I'm doing here in Napoli, and lest you think we're just out here lounging in the sun on the Amalfi coast, eating pizzas left and right, and visiting 2000 year old archeological sites, here's a weekly dedicated to the miracles Anziano Ferrara and I have been seeing lately. 

Hablas Español?
The answer to that question friends, is poquito poquito, but fortunately for us, Antonio, and his family, (wife Yaneth, and daughter Josselyn), the Spirit does (kinda)! Antonio works at the pizzeria beneath our apartment, and we'd talked to him a few times before. He's El Salvadorian, and as many from Latin America, knew a decent amount already about the church. He had never taken the time, however, to study the gospel truths, restored in our day, so we invited him to do so this week. He showed up with the aforementioned wife and daughter, who speak varying levels of Italian. Unfortunately, after a year in Italy, my sentence formation in Spanish left something to be desired, but fortunately we were able to read selected scriptures, and understand their questions and concerns. I'd never before taught "La Restauración", on my mission, and it showed as we all laughed at my feeble attempts to conjugate, or slip in Spanish words here and there. Since meeting with them, they have begun reading the Book of Mormon as a family, and will hopefully make it to church this upcoming Sunday! Stay tuned as our Italian speaking Anziani prepare to present, "El Plan di Salvación," (more than likely they'll stick to "Il Piano di Salvezza," and let the Spirit take care of the rest)!

Parli Inglese?
Major highlight of the week was flexing those Italian muscles in teaching the Restoration to another Antonio, this one a student of our weekly English Class. Antonio immediately recognized the significance of the message, and the difference between what we do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and what we do on Sundays. Antonio likes to refer to me as "Professore" Toronto, so we're working on changing that to "Anziano", but my ego kinda likes Professore, so it might just stick haha! As we taught the Restoration, he was eager to find out more about Joseph Smith, and after every point, (from "God is our Loving Heavenly Father," up until "The Great Apostasy,") he kept asking, "This is where he comes in right?" Eventually he was right, and he loved the idea that he could receive an answer from a God, anxious to "give liberally," as the scripture in James says. Stay tuned for our next installment, as Antonio 2.0 continues his study of the Book of Mormon, and (cross your fingers), receives the answer that millions of other sincere readers have received worldwide! 

"But do you actually speak English, cause these guys are fresh off the boat..."
This is essentially what Brother Austin said as he presented his two friends Maxwell, and Blessing to us for the first time in Church yesterday. The two had just arrived, days before, and were looking for a Christian church to join here in Italy. Luckily, Austin was there to snag them before our wonderful evangelist brothers did. After teaching these brothers the Restoration, Maxwell told us that on his journey over, he had covenanted with God, that if he found a good Christian church here, he would never miss church on Sunday. That lifetime commitment is exactly what we're looking for, and the next step for the two of them is a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I don't know if you're sensing a common theme, but... Stay tuned for our next installment, as Maxwell and Blessing receive testimonies of the restored gospel, the Prophet who started it all, and the Prophet who, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, leads it all today!

Upon reflection, its hard not to think that I've taken it for granted, the joy I feel in doing the Lord's work here in this part of the vineyard. For that reason I wanted each of you to know there's no place I'd rather be, than right here, right now. Yes, there are hard days, hard moments, hard headed people (of just about every nationality, gender, age, etc.), hard finding sessions spent underneath Napoli's unseasonably warm morning, afternoon, and evening sun... basically, the mission hasn't gotten any less difficult, I've just become quite a bit stronger. 

Remember the greek legend of Sisyphus, who as a result of misdeeds, was punished to eternally push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down just before reaching the summit.

Similar is the story of the man once asked to push a boulder located at the bottom of the hill. He diligently pushed and strained with all his might, day after day, but the rock didn't budge an inch. The master returns to survey his progress, which, to the boulder pusher seemed nonexistent. The master reminds his loyal, faithful servant, that he had commanded him solely to push, which he had done, without ceasing. He then points out the muscle, and mental fortitude, forged in the furnace of pain and determination. After suffering what the master intended, the servant was far more capable, and an effective instrument in the other work the master had for him to accomplish. 

Oftentimes I feel like missionary work is pushing a boulder. Some days I'm Sisyphus, feeling pretty good about the progress I've made, until the rock slips from my grasp and begins to tumble down the hill I've struggled and worked so hard to climb. Other days I feel as the other servant, as though I'm going absolutely nowhere, pushing the immovable boulder, in a futile attempt to accomplish the Herculean task laid before me. Now, at the end of the day, the refiner's fire, or boulder if you will, has been shaping me since the moment I placed the black and white tag on my chest. Yet every second, of every day spent pushing that boulder, was well spent, and I have the spiritually torn muscles to prove it! 

There have been days in which I've called up on the Lord to "Console me in my afflictions", (Jacob 3:1), and others I've asked that, like Joseph's, my afflictions would, "work together for my good," (D&C 98:3), "be but a small moment," (D&C 121:7) and "give [me] experience", (D&C 122:7). Yet I gratefully endure each moment, "that perhaps [I] might be the means of saving some soul; and [I] supposed that [my] joy would be full if perhaps [I] could be the means of saving some." (Alma 26:30). 

I would do it all again, for the happiness I have felt, feel, and will continue to feel as the Lord allows me to be a part of the soul-saving process. I can't express fully the gratitude I have for my Savior, who so perfectly knows the boulders I need to push in order to become like him, because he's already pushed every single one of them himself. I love him for that, and will continue to call upon him as I push, and at times lack the strength, motivation, or willpower to keep on pushing. Keep pushing the boulder placed in front of you, don't give up, and don't look around at the boulders those around you are pushing, or you may feel tinges of "boulder envy". Push, and keep on pushing, trusting that the Savior is pushing right there next to you. Because he assuredly is.

In his holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen

All my love,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹




Monday, April 23, 2018

The Almalfia: Rd 2

Caught Anziano Rodriguez half smiling as he came around
training each zone as the newly called Assistant!
Carissimi,

Zone Conference:
You give it a few weeks and we always seem to find our way back to the spiritually enriching hours spent listening to and learning from mission leaders and the Holy Ghost. As Anziano Ferrara, Sorella Palacios, and I prepared the training portion we had been assigned, we bounced ideas around until we landed on change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As is common for Anziano Toronto, and Christian Toronto before him, the night before Zone Conference came, and my thoughts were still entirely unorganized. This time it wasn't for lack of preparation on my part... I had spent hours, and hours studying the Atonement, and more specifically the repentance process, yet the outline of the training wasn't coming as it had often done in the past. Jumbled ideas, quotes, and principles refused to form themselves into the concrete plan I wanted. That evening, I bounced what I had off of President, based on study, and life and mission experience,  and he shared a myriad of scriptures, along with his own understanding of what needs to take place in order for the Atonement to take true effect. I went home, and though steps had been made in a positive direction, I still lacked clarity. I woke up early, and again, made progress, but I didn't really know what I was going to say until I began saying it. As we touched on different aspects of the Atonement, scriptures and quotes I had studied came to mind, and I truly felt that which I taught. The atonement has helped me to begin singing the first few bars of the song of redeeming love, but like Stairway to Heaven, the intro keeps on going forever! In this life I won't ever get done singing that song, and surely as with my voice, and instruments I've learned, I'm going to hit some wrong notes along the way. Regardless of that, Christ allows me to keep singing in his choir, and for that, I'll sing his praise evermore!

Missing: a Competent Pianist
Mom always told me I would regret the day I quit piano lessons, because I'd be sent to somewhere on my mission where they'd need a pianist, and I wouldn't be able to help them out, (this among other reasons of course). Until last week, her prophecy was no more than an empty threat to a young boy who preferred spending time on a basketball court or football field, rather than on an uncomfortable piano bench hitting wrong notes for half an hour before she let him get to where he really wanted to be. Anziano Stucki was sent off to Rome, and with him all the sightreading capability the city of Napoli possessed. Last Sunday, the ward suffered through a few a capella hymns, and apparently the suffering was felt most keenly by Sorella Ariante, the music director, who approached me after the meeting and asked if I would prepare to play the next week. Friends, Sweet Hour of Prayer, and a few other selections can only get you so far, so pray for this amateur pianist as he plays for the 2nd week in a row this upcoming Sunday. His classics are exhausted, and he needs some serious divine intervention to keep his fingers on the proverbial straight and narrow keys. It doesn't help that the F key is broken in the bass clef...

Amalfi:
P-day took us once again out to the beautiful Amalfi coast, just an hour or so south of Napoli. Gorgeous, but far too tourist based for me. Sky high prices, and not much to do for a missionary who can neither swim nor go boating... but highlights included seeing a paper museum from the outside, (then realizing it cost 4€ to go inside), seeing a stunning church from the outside, (then realizing it cost 3€ to go inside, and the 4 hours of travel getting there and back. Only a missionary could give Amalfi a 3/10, and a stingy one at that, but what's a guy to do???

A young 47, and an Actually young 22:
I would be slacking in my duty if I neglected to mention the significant current events, the former having taken place this last week, and the latter yet to come. Jonny J celebrated a birthday this week, and lucky for him this is only going out to family, so the world won't know he's one year older! As for Sim Shady and Amy Kate, all I can say is auguroni da Napoli. One of the toughest parts of the mission is only being able to well wish as your dear friends and family celebrate milestones and more around you, but know that if I were there, I'd eat only 1 plate for mom's sake, and give you both a CYT sized bear hug!

They say the mark of a distinguished missionary writer is his or her ability to take a week in which little happened, and make it seem like it was the best week of their life. That's why I'm not a distinguished missionary writer haha😉

Jokes aside, it was a great week! Love what I do, and I know without a doubt I'm where the Lord needs me to be! I bear testimony that through the Savior and his Atonement our mistakes are written only in expo marker, as opposed to sharpie. President Ezra Taft Benson once declared that, "Christ changes [missionaries], and changed [missionaries] change the world." I'm a changed, and changing missionary, and I'm trying to change the world, one person at a time.

Love you with all my heart!

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹




Zone Conference Pics