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.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
This week, Sicila got a little crazy!
Stake Conference: On Saturday and Sunday this week, stake conference was held here in Catania, for the Palermo Stake of Zion. Members, investigators, and missionaries alike gathered to hear the inspired messages given by President Nudo, (Stake President), Anziano Charles, (Area Seventy from London), his wife, President and Sorella Pickerd, Vescovo Uccello and Erica Battezzato, and a few others in between. The theme of the conference revolved around becoming devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, and developing ourselves so that we might do so.
I was particularly struck by three invites given to the congregation by Anziano Charles. The first, was in connection with the beautiful hymn, Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy. We as members of the church, have an obligation to be the lower lights, guiding wayfaring sailors safely home to the superior light, Jesus Christ. The second is to write down promptings issued by the Holy Spirit, and immediately thereafter act upon them. In this manner, we display our willingness to follow, and our desire for further guidance. The third was inspired by Disney's "Finding Nemo," and encouraged each of us to "Just keep swimming." No matter the trial, temptation, struggle, or situation, we swim, and swim, and swim, knowing eventually we will be strong enough to withstand the waves that beat upon us! I echo these invitations given by an ordained mouthpiece of Jesus Christ, and so invite each of you to seek to be lower lights for struggling seamen around you, to write down and act upon promptings of the Holy Ghost, and to just keep swimming!
Zone Conference: As Stake Conference came to a close, Zone Conference was just taking off. Missionaries who had gathered for the former, stayed for the latter, and that meant houseguests, and hungry ones at that. After interviews on Sunday, All 20 or so Anziani and Sorelle gathered in Piazza Universita, and a mass effort commenced. Books of Mormon were shared, testimonies born, and English Group cards handed out like candy! We had a blast, and the next day was no different. The Anziani were woken up well before 6:30, and were hustled through showers and bathrooms in military fashion. We arrived at the church a good hour early, and had the opportunity to both mentally and spiritually prepare for the occasion. After opening formalities, Sorella Pickerd gave a heartfelt training on being anxiously engaged, without anxiety. We talked about stress relief, and ways to keep our expectations high, but do the same with our energy, focus, and happiness. President Pickerd instructed us on being all in as missionaries, using Anziano Sabin's talk from last conference as a second witness. Shortly after lunch, Anziani Vance, Kolsen, and I had the opportunity to share our musical talent in song, with Anziano Young accompanying us on the piano. We sang a 3 part harmonization of "Homeward Bound," and it was incredible (video pending, maybe look on the Pickerd's blog?)... The afternoon addestramenti were awesome, and we were invited to examine our identity, first as children of God, second as agents unto ourselves, and last as disciples of our master, Jesus Christ. The evening concluded with another mass gesso, and again, we saw success. Again we had the opportunity to use our voices, and sang a number of hymns to the masses who passed by, a truly fantastic experience!
Zone P-Day, and Misc: Believing that two days in Catania just weren't enough, we invited the Zone to stay for P-Day today, and, like last transfer, had a blast playing ultimate frisbee in nearby Villa Bellini. Friendly trash talk was exchanged, but a final score of fun-fun left all feeling somewhat competitively satisfied. Food, and strolling through centro were also activities enjoyed by all.
Last P-Day, Anziano Kolsen and I took the opportunity to delve into the fiera, or street market here in Catania. There we found watches. Fake watches, but not tellingly so... Attached are pictures :) Speaking of fake, apparently Asics recently decided to begin half-heartedly, or more appropriately, half-sole-edly, manufacturing their footwear. After a 5 month struggle, my right shoe finally gave up today, and a solid nickel sized hole appeared in the sole. They'll work until I can find a solid replacement that'll last a little longer!
It was fantastic to hear from many of you this week, and I hope all is as well as it seems!
All my love,
Anziano Toronto II
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Knowing that we'll have the opportunity to talk face to face later in the week, I'll leave quite a bit unsaid!
That being said, this week was transfers, and Anziano Toronto is staying put! Woo-hoo!! At least another 6 weeks in the best city in the mission, that's what I'm talking about! Anziano Rodriguez was sent to Roma III, and in his place comes Anziano Kolsen, from the GANS center in Rome! Anziano Kolsen calls Idaho home, but has moved around quite a bit, is an incredible singer, did theatre and choir, but also MMA and Tennis, so he's kind of all over the place. With Anziano Berger's departure home, Anziano Alexander comes from South Central Sicily to take his place. This has created quite a stir among members, as Anziano Kolsen is 6'3", Anziano Alexander is just a little smaller than I am at 6'6", and Anziano Bertoldo, now a dwarf, is a not so short 6'0". Camillo Battezzato, a 85 year old man, who cruises around at about 5'3", couldn't stop laughing when he came and stood in between the two of us, and I couldn't help but join him! Other moments of note, the usual, but still eventful and successful Sunday night gesso took place, with Libri di Mormon being handed out like candy... this P-Day has been a long one, but full of adventures. We bowled in the morning, cruised Via Etnea, chilled, laughed, talked and had a blast!
As far as skyping goes this Sunday, knowing that church in the morning for you means a later Skype for me, you'll have to let me know whether it works best before or after church for the fam. I'll try to be available whenever works best for the others! All my love, and a cheery salute from our 360 degree view rooftop balcony!
Vi Voglio Benissimo!
Anziano Toronto II
Famiglia e Amici,
Throughout the many years of recorded sports history, some of the great heralded stories are those of returns to action. These returns are always hyped well beyond their actual significance, but often a return signifies a turning point for the athlete, whether in a positive or negative manner. Michael Jordan after a baseball sabbatical, returned to tear up the league another 3 years straight, renewed in purpose and ability. Tom Brady after a league-enforced suspension, played with a chip on his shoulder, and vengefully claimed the Lombardi Trophy. Derrick Rose, after a series of knee surgeries, had perhaps one of the most hyped returns, that quickly fizzled with the appearance of further knee trouble. LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, and in doing so, singlehandedly destroyed the city of Cleveland, OH. His return brought hope, finally realized the summer of 2016, as he overcame a 3-1 deficit to bring a championship to his childhood home.
Anziano Toronto did much of the same this week, as he rose Tuesday morning to fight the bug that had laid waste to him Sunday and Monday. Declaring during daily planning, "Well, it'd probably be a good idea if we stayed off our feet most of the day, and found a few lessons to teach..." Anziano Toronto figured a nice, easy recovery day. Anziani Rodriguez and Toronto proceeded to walk all the way across Catania and back, in the process sprinting after 2 separate buses, and finding for a number of hours. Having analyzed the distances traveled that day, it's safe to say I've never done more walking on my mission! While it was not what I had in mind, it was what the Lord had in mind, and it was my job to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes rather quickly, and trust that I would have the strength I needed! What a test of faith, but at the same time a confirmation of the power of work. President Ezra Taft Benson once declared:
“I have often said one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.”
The truth of this statement was undoubtedly proven in our efforts Tuesday and Wednesday. We have never had a busier pair of days, and I've never felt more satisfied at the end of a day than when I collapsed, exhausted into bed Wednesday night! Each day, I continue in my efforts to apply this quote, and the truth contained therein.
All of this being said, there are three returns more hyped, and more significant than any other in the history of mankind. The first has already happened, nearly two thousand years ago, while the second only two hundred years past, the last we await anxiously.
Celebrated just a few weeks ago, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was the greatest return to date... Having overcome physical and spiritual death, Jesus Christ returned to send his gospel into all the world, in the hands of his empowered and commissioned apostles. The world for the most part, rejected his gospel, and slew his messengers, erasing Godly power, in the form of his holy priesthood, from the earth for nearly two thousand years.
Thus arose the need for the second return, that of eternal truths, lost in mistranslation and intentional corruption, and Godly power, again, that of the Priesthood. These truths, and this power returned to the earth through the hands of his holy messengers, Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, and many more, upon the head of Joseph Smith, and those who the Lord saw fit. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in its' fulness, allowing us the opportunity to make covenants, or promises with our Heavenly Father once again.
All of this is done in preparation for the third and final return. Jesus Christ will return, as he declared when among his disciples in Jerusalem and the Americas, to reign in glory forever. Banished will be the influence of the adversary, and eternal will be the salvation of those who chose in this life and the next to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How great and incomprehensible is our responsibility then, to strive to follow him, in every thing! How grateful I am for the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and all he suffered for each of us individually. As a representative of Jesus Christ, I testify, as many others have, that he lives. He rose from the dead, restored his gospel once again upon the earth, and will return once again to reign forever. How grateful I am for the chance in this life to prepare to meet God, that we might be able to stand, confident in his presence!
Vi Voglio un Sacco di Bene!
Anziano Toronto Il Giovane