In what is one of my favorite books, "the Screwtape Letters", written by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape, a demon who might be aptly described as a trainer, teaches his protégé, Wormwood, and important lesson about peaks and troughs. In the lens of the novel, these peaks and troughs were the high and low points of one's personal faith, but as with all aspects of life, missionary work too, has its' highs and lows. I share with you a couple of each, seen in the past week!
High: Zone Conference! As each companionship, from Ragusa all the way up to Reggio Calabria gathered in the Catania chapel, there was undoubtedly a special spirit. The theme for this conference was taken from a mix between Anziano Oaks' general conference address, "Good, Better, Best," given in October 2008, and Anziano Ballard's instruction from this past conference, entitled "Return and Receive". The most impactful lesson for me was taught in the addestramento given by the APs. Their focus was on using the Book of Mormon to answer questions, instead of answering them ourselves, and then supporting our answers with scripture. Finding and teaching in this manner causes conversion to the Book of Mormon, and the truths found therein, as opposed to conversion to missionaries, who seem to have all the answers. As we put this method into practice, great success was found! As we sought to create a reliance on the Book of Mormon, our investigators and potentials found themselves with a greater desire to read it, and find the answers contained within.
Low: Sacrament attendance. For the first time since I arrived here in Catania, we did not have an investigator in church. In fact, between three companionships of missionaries, only one investigator came. Contrast that with the combined 6 we had last week, it was a pretty sharp drop off. What does it mean? We need to work even harder to help our investigators recognize the importance of church attendance and the sacrament!
High: Scambi, a.k.a exchanges! On Monday night, after Pasquetta activities, our plan was to do a giant gesso with the 20 or so missionaries that had arrived throughout the day, but this plan was changed by the APs, who decided to do a spontaneous exchange with Anziano Rodriguez and I. This meant I got to spend from 6-9 working and finding with Anziano Battaglia! What an incredible experience it was! We walked, walked, and walked some more, finding as we went. I learned so much in just a short period of time, but the most profound lesson was taught in an agreement we made as we set out. We both would respond without hesitation to any prompting we received, no matter what. This led to many, many conversations, and what turned out to be a great time! Another lesson learned was the need to be fearless in presenting the gospel to everyone, after all, we are talking about their eternal salvation here right!? Friday came with another surprise scambio with the Zone Leaders, and I had the chance to work with Anziano Berger from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon! We journeyed here and there, teaching, finding, and learning as we went!
Low: I woke up Sunday morning around 2:00 AM, feeling like I'd been run over by a semi... I struggled to get back to sleep, and spent the most part of the next few hours sleepless... After receiving a blessing, and taking some ibuprofen, I decided I would try to make it through church, and the meal appointment we had at the Rochira's afterward. I made it through sacrament meeting alright, but the ibuprofen wore off, and I soon found myself shivering, with a pounding headache. It was a miracle I made it through 3rd hour, and determined not to disappoint Sorella Rochira, we made the drive out to Paternò. I sat in the car, basking in the heat of the sun, and told myself I could make it, but when I left the heat I quickly realized I had overestimated my abilities. I collapsed on their couch, and allowed Sorella Rochira to work some magic on me, while the others ate. I was the subject of many jokes, including those pointed at how someone of my stature was brought low by a virus who's size is better measured in micrometers, much like the story of David and Goliath, (however I'd like to hope the Lord was on Goliath's side in this case). I somehow managed to make it to the end of the appointment, and even had the strength to share our spiritual thought. This however, was all I had left in me, and we headed back to the apartment so I could try to recover. I went through a couple different stages, but the worst was as I woke up later in the evening, fever broken, but absolutely drenched in sweat. Since then, I haven't improved much, and I'm still on bed rest at the command of Sorella Williams, the mission nurse, but I'll probably make it out alive!
The key to success and happiness is transforming our lows into highs, after all, the lower we are, the greater the heights we can reclaim! Joseph Smith received some of the most insightful revelation ever recorded, while at his lowest point, incarcerated in Liberty Jail. God allowed Job to be tested with the lowest of lows, so that he could then bless him with the highest of highs. Let us remember in our lowest moments, he who "hath descended below them all", even our Savior, Jesus Christ. How grateful I am for his example of strength and dignity even in the lowest of lows!
I testify he loves each and every one of us, and descended below, so that as Alma writes, "That he may know...how to succor his people according to their infirmities." He knows what each of us go through, and will be there to carry us through when we can no longer walk on our own.
Vi Voglio Benissimo,
Anziano Toronto II
A special Happy Birthday s/o to the one and only Jonathan J. Toronto. I wish I was there to eat oatmeal with you, and skip the cake and ice cream, sounds like it was a blast;) What an incredible impact you've had on my life, one that is truly ineffable. I can only express the smallest part through an email, but hoping for many more birthdays to come offers consolation for this inadequate expression of love!
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.
Monday, April 3, 2017
|Catania's Missionary Apartment Flag|
|Now featuring the signatures of Anziano Taranto|
and Anziano Taranto II Giovane.
Anziano Toronto's Conference Invitation:
What an incredible blessing it is to hear the voice of our prophets and apostles every 6 months. How truly guided their remarks are, and how personal they seem... a testament to their calling and union with the spirit. Among my favorite discourses were those given by Anziano Sabin, Anziano Holland, Anziano Uchtdorf, and Anziano Oaks. Each answered questions and taught doctrine I came to conference seeking to understand. What a blessing personal revelation is, and how grateful I am for the spirit we feel every time these beloved leaders speak. This gospel is personal, in every way, and those talks that spoke to you, might not have struck me in the same way. I invite each of you that read this, to think on the messages you have heard, or go listen to them, if you have not. There is power in the spiritually guided lessons taught by the Apostles called by God, and despite their brevity, those taught by his living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Let us read or reread their words, and commit ourselves to more diligently accept their invitations. The blessings they have promised are real, therefore let us seek to attain them. In the following week as you study, email me your thoughts, and your favorite, or favorites, as you find them!
A few thoughts on the work and the Atoning Gift, given to each of us by Jesus Christ:
Alfio chose to stop smoking for the third time yesterday. He was convinced this was the time, he felt strong, and prepared, but he only made it 19 hours before his body overthrew his small amount of self-control. I was devastated, but I instantly was reminded of my own struggle to change, in many, many ways. I fell short wayyyyy more than 3 times, and in many ways, I still fall short, but the gospel isn't about being perfect, but rather becoming so. As Brad Wilcox so eloquently put it, "There are not only two options for a young piano player, Carnegie hall, and giving up..." The Atonement of Jesus Christ empowers us to make the necessary corrections, despite our falling short over and over again. Poignant and piercing, are his descriptions of those who give up, simply because they fall short. As he says it, "They say, I just can't do this Mormon thing. It's too hard, I've tried... these people do not understand the atonement of Jesus Christ." "Never fear", as Anziano Uchtdorf reminded us yesterday, because we have a superhero on our side even stronger than Superman, even more noble than Captain America, much less snarky than Tony Stark, and who didn't get his power from a radioactive spider, but rather the Divine Creator of all, even God. He is Jesus Christ, and he will not forsake us, rather it is us who often forsake him, for the alluring nature of our own personal Lexus Luthors, Lokis, Jokers, or Ultrons. They can seem more powerful, even impossible to overcome with our own limited strength, but we must understand our strength has no limit. As Ammon declared, in Alma 26, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." I testify with absolute confidence, there is no shortcoming too trivial, nor desperation too deep, that our Savior will not be there to help us through. There is no addiction you cannot overcome, and no sin from which you cannot repent. Repentance is change, but the desire must come from within. We must simply set aside our pride and reach out to him. He awaits our hand, stretched forth in humility, and will lift us up beyond where we believe we could be.
Zone P-Day was highlighted by an awesome game of Ultimate frisbee, despite intermittent rain. I am ever thankful for the gift of sports, because I don't know where I would be without them. I miss tennis pretty bad, (but more just beating my dad😉), it isn't even funny, but a few basketball and soccer games here and there are compensating.
|Ultimate Frisbee on P-day|
Last note and challenge for each of you. If you have not already done so, watch the Church's Easter video, Prince of Peace. Watch it again because it's awesome, and then share it on whatever social media sites you participate in. It is incredible, and inspiring, and brings the Spirit. Each time I watch it I become even more grateful for his life, and for His Infinite Atonement!
With love and gratitude for each of you,
Anziano Toronto II
|A creative way to meet people on the street.|