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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Going Green!

Gesso Pic feat. Sorelle Adams, Batres,  Dustin, and Aranas,
along with Anziani Ridd, McConkie, and Waddell!


No, my title for this week does not indicate support in any progressively liberal all-green initiatives, fortunately living in socialist Italy hasn't changed me quite that much yet! Instead, it refers to the state in which my companionship, house, district, zone, and mission are currently in. With summer, came new missionaries, and with new missionaries came the need for new trainers. Despite a lack of experience, and feelings of inadequacy, I have been immensely blessed this transfer and the next to train!

My new missionary, affectionately referred to as a greenie, is named Anziano Waddell, and he's just about the biggest stud in all of Italy right now! Before the mission, I had the chance to eat lunch with him through a mutual friend, and I had absolutely no idea that 6 months later we'd be having the time of our lives out here in Pescara. He didn't even have his mission call yet, but he mentioned how cool it would be to serve in Italy, some dreams do come true folks!

Anziano Ferrara headed off to Palermo 3 Thursday, but not before we managed to grab a pizza from Fratelli di Bufala a Porta di Roma, along with a few other missionary friends! Highlight among those, was definitely Anziano Osmond, who I hadn't seen since day two in Italy!

Since arriving in Pescara, we've had a multitude of adventures but a few quick points, and I'll let you return to your normal daily life:

1) Pescara trains - This transfer we received two more companionships in our district, both of which are training. This leaves one companionship out of the 6 in our district who are not training right now! Pescara is filled with some greenie fire, and the members are beginning to engage in the work of Salvation. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to move to a larger, American style chapel in later September, and we know the Lord has great plans for this area!

2) Block parties in apartment complexes - After returning to our house last night, we heard a voice yell up to our 3rd floor apartment, "OOH (also known as the Roman Bark), Raggazzi, volete mangiare??" Or, "HEY! Boys, you wanna eat?" The sweet scent of Arrosticini drifted up, and our empty stomachs answered the all too easy question. A quick, "Sì, scendiamo subito," or "We'll be right down," was all needed in response. We celebrated as most Italian's do, just without wine and coffee to accompany our food. We ate as fast as possible with our new best friends, and wished the host a happy birthday. Doing our duty as missionaries, we brought the spirit by singing "I Need Thee Every Hour" in Italian as we said good night, and said literally 14,000 'grazie's'... what a NIGHT!

3) Gesso finding fun - We also had the chance to Gesso as a city last night, and seeing 4 basically brand new missionaries with their extraordinarily capable Italian was truly a sight to behold! How grateful I am for the reminder of the joy of missionary work, seen as they teach, find, and watch others make and keep commitments on their way to baptism. They truly have a fire, and I'm just gonna keep adding fuel to it!

Last, but unquestionably not least, I'm grateful for the incredible plan of our Heavenly Father this week. My testimony of the Plan of Happiness was strengthened this week as we watched Mimo accept it without hesitation. I bear testimony the only true happiness is found in the Christlike love and service of others, and the knowledge and reassurance found within the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will be with our families for eternity, as we make the conscientious choice to serve God and Jesus Christ, and endure to the end every day! In the words of King Benjamin, "Now, if ye believe all these things, see that ye do them!"

Have an incredible week, and try not to be jealous of the adventures and fun we're having out here in Pescara!

Vi Voglio Bene,

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Return Appointments, Hastags, African Suits, and Italian Street Ballers

This week there isn't much to mention more than what was said last week, except that the work here in Pescara moves forward! After a tougher week, this week we were blessed to find 6 new investigators, each of whom have solid potential! Most awesome of those are Mimo and Mattia Salvatore, who own a fruit stand right across from the new chapel being built a 3 minute walk from our new apartment! After buying fruit a couple of times, and after a bit of small talk, this week we had the chance to teach the both of them the Restoration, and give them Books of Mormon. They were struck by the message we shared, and set up not just one but two return appointments with us this week! We are beyond psyched to teach them!

We still don't have hot water or gas in our new appointment, so we'll continue to shower quickly in cold water, and eat a lot of cold food and microwaveables! Im grateful for the amount of walking we do, which is currently justifying the amount of gelato we are eating... #RIPdresspants #Thank-heaven-for-Piazza-Italia-and-10€-slacks #using-hashtags-like-jjtoronto7 #like-father-like-son

I invite you to reach out this week to the one, that one lost sheep who is struggling to find their way! They are waiting for your invitation to return, or discover for themselves! As you search to do so, Heavenly Father will place those people in your path, and will guide you to them! Never let them pass you by!

Here is a pic of New(ish) Convert Felix with Anziano Ferrara and I, rocking his best looking African Suit, which he says he can get for us!

Anziano Toronto out finding where the people are... Can't tell you how shocking a big white American missionary who can dunk in missionary clothes (unfortunately not pictured here), is to Italian street ballers... but captured in the video, and throwing the alley-oop is a great friend we made this week from Belgium! He is 15, plays on the Belgian National 15U team, and is an absolute stud. Despite a language barrier, we had a solid conversation with his dad who speaks Italian, about the church and what we're doing here... Turns out he knows some members in Belgium, so I told him to go back and find out a bit more about them and the Church! Like Dad, I used Instagram this week as a missionary tool, sending my Belgian baller to my profile telling him we'd talk for real in a year and a half when I get back, and that he can see what I'm doing as a missionary on Instagram!

All my love, from Italia on this wonderful transfer Monday!

Vi Voglio Bene!

Anziano Toronto II  ðŸ‡®ðŸ‡¹

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Perspiration and Consecration

Famiglia e Amici

The last week can be summarily described as the subject line denotes, perspiration and consecration... Pictures this week are non-existent, as consecration isn't really photograph-able, and I'm 100% the last thing I want is pictures of how much I perspired this week anywhere near the internet... I guess I'll write about a thousand words for every picture there should have been!

First off, perspiration: 

After receiving news Tuesday morning, two weeks ago, that our new house was prepared to move into, Anziano Ferrara dropped everything and began a mad dash preparing for what we hoped would be a one day move. A week later, after plenty of miscommunication, transportation, and yes, perspiration, we finally began the true move-in process! Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in the service of our fellow beings, as we helped the Sisters move into their apartment and, along with many of the active men of the ward, lent a hand to an elderly sister in the ward, who by necessity needed to move out of her apartment. The former was only a 2 floor job, but the latter asked much more of our suffering legs. Up and down her 6 floor apartment we trampled, carrying the collected goods of a lifetime pack-rat along the way. My shirt didn't quite dry before we were back working on our own move, from Montesilvano, a little northern suburb of Pescara, to Pescara itself. We had the assistance of La Coppia Hyde, all the way from Napoli, who were absolutely irreplaceable in their tenacity and van driving skills! By Saturday afternoon, we were all moved in to our apartment, which is temporarily without hot water or gas, (count your blessings, for as Kris Allen says in Live Like you're Dying, "You never know a good thing till it's gone"...) and decided we would hit up the local basketball court despite our missionary attire. All eyes were on the two Americans dressed in white shirts, slacks, and ties, who walked on up to the court, declaring that we wanted in on the next game. After assuring our boys we weren't worried about how silly we looked, we got in the game. An hour and a half later, there was not a dry part of my body, nor a dry piece of clothing on me, (even my tie, to be entirely honest, and to paint the picture since there is no way in this world or the next I was going to let anyone take a picture of me in that state, haha) but hey, numbers were acquired, gospel principles were taught, and friendships were made. WhatsApp is probably going viral with videos of a giant, American, Mormon Missionary throwing down some tomahawk dunks. Let's just say my bounce was truly righteous... 


In the process of the move, I found a binder filled with inspirational talks on missionary work. Inside, was the talk, "Becoming a Consecrated Missionary, " by Anziano Tad Callister. Remembering that I had been given the talk by Anziano Berger back in Catania, but I was unable to read it because it was in a weird format, my interest was piqued. I began to read, and I was absolutely enthralled until the final, "Amen". Many of the questions I had as a missionary, and my own perceived inadequacies were discussed by Anziano Callister, and it has been an incredible catalyst for change in the last couple days! As I read it for the second time, I cursed Apple technology, for not having been able to read it sooner, but I realized I was being prepared up until the moment I found it. I wouldn't have understood it, nor received the same inspiration from the words, had I read it even a month earlier. As a missionary, I cannot change the past six months, nor would I want to. I have learned an incredible amount in an incredibly short period of time, and the Lord waited to give me this specific counsel until I was ready to receive it and act upon it. 

The gratitude I have for my Savior's Atonement is absolutely unequivocal. I fall short in so many ways, yet that has no bearing on the infinite gift you and I have been given. The Lord chose imperfect servants to preach his word throughout all of history, and he has done so again with me. We can't do anything to deserve our Savior's love, but surely we can emulate it in our relations with those around us. We cannot fathom how we have obtained forgiveness, but surely we can offer that forgiveness to those surrounding us. I invite you to chose some aspect of your life, and consecrate it in gratitude for our Saviors infinite sacrifice. Choose to serve and lift those around you, and you in turn will be lifted up. Sweat in the service of your friends and loved ones, and when you do, know that there is an Anziano not too far away in Italy doing the same thing. 

Vi Voglio un Mondo di Bene,

Anziano Taranto II 🇮🇹

Monday, July 10, 2017

Weekly Update and Pictures

Fam bam,

After last week, I figured I had plenty to digest, and that you had written a ton, so I didn't want to make you do the same again this week! Thank you so much for taking the time to write me, and address those few concerns of mine. As I searched PMG this week, and prayed and fasted, many of the encouragement and much of the advice you gave me, I was able to feel and discover for myself! You are each such great examples for me as a young missionary, and each of you know those struggles I'm going through, so any further advice is always welcome! I love each of you, and will be praying for you this week! 

Vi voglio bene,

Anziano Toronto II

1. Baptism of Stefania! How awesome is that!

2. Marriage of Carlos and Valentina, two blind, but iper capable and independent members of the church!

3/4. Pictures from our Patriotic 4th of July DDM!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Troughs and Peaks

Current Pescara Bravi, with Anziano Ferrara, e Sorelle Dustin and Aranas
A little reflection on the week, edited slightly, but I wanted you to understand how I'm doing.

An interesting phenomenon spoken of in CS Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters", is what's called the Law of Undulation. In effect, we are never staying put, but instead are constantly progressing or regressing. At the same time, we are in a series of troughs and peaks-- whether those refer to our success, exact obedience, language, or health. This week was a definite trough in success. We received bidone (cancelled lesson) after bidone, and no matter how many people we talked to or smiled at, we weren't able to find someone with real interest in our message. Yet with the lowest of all troughs, when it comes to the science of physics, there exists the highest potential energy, or potential growth. Anziano Ferrara and I had a rough week, but we look forward to another one, knowing our rough week is nothing compared to the suffering our Savior experienced in Gethsemane.

One peak of the week was Zone Conference which was fantastic. It was themed around the General Conference talk "Onward and Upward" given by President Kimball in 1979. In the address, it speaks of plateaus we reach, and how we must consciously choose to propel ourselves onward and upward. What plateaus have you settled on and in what ways can you move yourselves onward and upward?! I invite you to reflect on the talk, and react to those promptings that come. Jump off those plateaus, and go climb some mountains!

As I reflect on my first 6 months of service, there are certainly things I'm proud of, and those of which I am not, and wish to improve upon in the next 17 or so. 

One thing I still struggle with, even to this day, is regressive drive. After a while, no after no takes its toll. There's an even more vicious cycle, in which you find someone who seems interested, listens to what you have to say, even gives you their number, and then never responds to your calls. I have yet to find the solution for the inevitable frustration that results from this phenomenon.  Mission is more than 50% finding. You are simply out walking and talking for much of the day. This takes its toll mentally and emotionally, as you truly desire for the salvation of those you meet, but they want nothing to do with the message of hope you have. Member referrals are pretty rare in Italy, due to the lack of super strong members. 70-80% of baptisms are found in the street or at English Course, instead of the opposite occurring in America, where 70-80% are based off of member referrals. 

Satan's most effective tool in this mission is telling you two things, "you COULD talk to that person, but they'll just tell you the same thing every one else does, that they aren't interested, or that "what you're doing is a nice thing, but I'm Catholic and that's how I'd like to stay"," or "you're too tired to go out and do finding for the next 3 hours, you won't find anyone to teach, or that will want to be baptized..." I still don't have the answers, at least the perfect ones, but I'm willing to continue to work to try to find them, and that's what makes the difference for the next 17 months. I will face discouragement literally every day, but the yes's in between the dozens of no's make it bearable. I also find comfort in the PMG paragraph, "No Effort is Wasted". As I work, no matter if they accept or not, I've done my part, and will be blessed for doing so. Eventually, maybe even tomorrow, I'll find and investigator I can teach and baptize, but until that happens I'll be looking for him or her, and praying for the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

I think all of that can be summed up in a sentence, that "Missionary work is the hardest thing I've ever done." Everyone tells me it will be the most rewarding thing I'll ever do, but I'm still working on seeing that side of it. It's certainly harder for me to understand how I've been changed by the mission, and oftentimes the personal rewards come unseen. I think the rewarding piece comes in hindsight, and I'm not sure I can fully appreciate it right now. 

Despite all the doom and gloom, there is joy and happiness out here in Italy. There will be a baptism on Saturday for an investigator the Sorelle are teaching, and I had the chance to conduct her baptismal interview on Sunday. As she testified to me the truths she had come to know, and I responded with my own personal testimony, I was overjoyed with how prepared she truly was for this "next step". Anziano Ferrara and I get along really well, so that's another positive! This week I have a goal to focus on more positive thinking, and to accept rejection with a smile, we'll see how it goes!

All things considered, I'm doing great, and look forward to another 17 months in the Lord's service! I am grateful for your constant support! 

All my love from a lovely fishing town in L'Italia, 

Anziano Toronto II 🇮🇹

Gathering of old MTC District friends,
including Sorelle Manning and Rhoades,
and Anziani Maytham, Gibson, and Hinckley.

Combined Roma Est e Ovest Zones

The Roma Anziani

Preparation for Zone Conference musical number