Saturday, February 27, 2010

Un'altra settimana

Ciao Famiglia!!

This week was pretty sweet. Where to start?? How about yesterday? Yesterday me and my companions took our P-day and climbed a huge mountain in Castrovillari!!
We made it all the way up to the snow. It was an awesome view. It was a pretty intense hike considering we didn’t have a trail to follow. Haha. Climbing up the mountain in the snow wasn’t the best, but on the way back down we were able to experience the closest thing to skiing that you probably can on your mission. So that was awesome. It took us about 3 ½ hours to climb the mountain. I’m not planning on hiking anymore trail-less mountains anymore on my mission. It’s way intense. The only other time I’ve done something like it is in Hawaii when me and Austin Foster climbed Snickleberry Mountain. The first attempt we didn’t make it, but the second attempt we did. From that I learned the secret. You have to go in a gorge where water runs down, because that’s where the growth isn’t quite as thick. If you want to scale a mountain without a trail, now you know what to do. Haha. Here’s a picture of the view from the top:

View From the Top

The views I see all the time are awesome here. I wish my camera was a little better, as far as batteries, because I can't get a hold of those ones that are good for it here. Probably in bigger cities, idk.We started the hike at the Prison. This way funny dude named Pepino dropped us off there. We were actually going to hike a smaller mountain, but then we ran into him and he told us to get in!! So we asked him to take us to the prison to climb a mountain there. He's so funny.

I have to admit. I have a ridiculously fun mission. It's not the easiest, and it's really tiring. But it really is awesome. We know tons of hilarious people that all love us. And we're also seeing a few lives changing. Fratello prayed again this week, and he is finally seeing his self-worth. It's not easy to give someone confidence. But that's why it's nice that we don't have to do it ourselves.

The real highlight of this week is that I gained a testimony of fasting. Because there was two weeks ago where we prayed for a family with two kids, and we found them. We had prayed for that every day. But then on fast Sunday I had fasted to find a family with four kids, but then I had somewhat forgotten to keep praying for it throughout the week. Well, we found a family with four beautiful little girls! We’re currently teaching them and they’re way awesome. I now see the power of fasting, and I am really grateful for the opportunity we have to fast altogether each week.

My Italian’s still coming along just fine, but my dialect is going great. Haha. I’ve managed to learn a few things here and there and everyone loves it. I also heard that a lot of people in Rome speak the dialect they use here, so if I ever get transferred up there I could still say some things.
Dad sent me some advice for teaching Chinese people and that really helped. Thank you. I was able to teach a couple of lessons on Saturday just based off that question of what they think the purpose of life is. That’s really sweet. There’s a family in Castrovillari that’s really busy, but I think they are progressing really well. The wife is very interested but she is in China right now. She said she would bring her Book of Mormon on the flight and read it…and she really did!! I’m excited to see her in a couple weeks when she gets home. I think her husband is mostly letting me teach him because he wants to know about it because his wife does, but it’s going well with him as well. They’re that family I mentioned before that we can’t use any Italian because they hardly know any.

So there are a few stories that I’ve forgotten to tell you all about before. Or at least I think I did. Hopefully I’m not repeating myself. One is about Bari. Remember I went there for the Conference? Anyway, in all cities you go to in Italy there is tons of graffiti that says “Ti Amo” which means, “I love you.” I’ve seen it in Catania, Cosenza, Messina, Castrovillari, Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria, and everywhere else I’ve been. And there is graffiti that says that all over. Well, in Bari, for the first time since I’ve been in Italy I say “Ti Odio.” Hahaha. That means, “I hate you.” I thought that seemed pretty funny. But Bari is way sweet. They have two wards there. Daily conversation here can be pretty funny. One of the most common topics of discussion is what you had to eat for lunch. Everyone always asks what you ate for lunch, and it’s always pasta with sauce. Then you ask what they ate for lunch and they say pasta with sauce. Hahaha. Sometimes it goes slightly more in depth. For example “We ate pasta with red sauce.” Haha.

Everything is just still going great here. Next week will be my last P-day of the transfer. We’re thinking that I won’t be transferred, but it’s hard to say. Anyway, just so you know, there is a chance that next week will be my last time at this address. But we’ll see. I’d be down for going, or down for staying. At the very least next transfer I shouldn’t have two cities anymore. Which is actually a little bit sad because I really like the people up in Castrovillari.

The last thing that I thought was funny was last week at the end of internet my Umbrella had been stolen!! So they told me just to take any one. Hahaha. I decided that I can just get by without one. The rain has settled down a little. If it builds back up then I guess I’ll just buy a cheap one or something.
Thank you for all that you do for me! Have an awesome week.

Con Affetto,
Anziano Banks

They have a saying in Italian: Tutto il mondo è paese
Basically it means that everywhere is more or less the same as France.
hahaha. It means the whole world is a place. What that means is that everywhere is about the same.
I think it's a little bit true. But I'm pretty sure Sydney and Suzhou are a little different. haha.
I think one of the ideas of a mission is to make you appreciate your family more. I appreciate you guys. I also think it's to make you not be lazy. But I need to warn you, I plan on sleeping in like crazy when I come home. I've been tired ever since I got here. Me and Anziano Connell used to take naps for most of a few of our P-days. haha. I'm getting a lot better at napping than I ever was before!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carissima Famiglia!



So good news as always. 
The work in Castrovillari has really been blessed. Last week we got that new family that we’re teaching. This week we did some work with a couple from Canada that is here visiting for the next…3 months!! They have served a mission in Argentina, they are both originally from around Castrovillari, and they asked us to give them a few copies of the Book of Mormon to give their friends and relatives. I believe they are really going to be a great help with the work in Castrovillari.

I hate to give you the highlight of my week this early in the e-mail…but this week (last night, actually) we had an awesome experience. We were visiting one of our two active members in Castrovillari. Her name is Gina, and her husband is named Mario but he’s usually just called “Fratello.” Anyway, we doesn’t usually participate much in our lessons, and the time before we had asked him to pray, but in the end we just asked him to pray the next time. Well, last night he asked me to say the closing prayer, and I was almost going to do it when I remembered that he was supposed to! He kept refusing to do it and saying that I should offer it, and finally we just asked him and then bowed our heads and waited. After about…I don’t know, 30 seconds, he said I should do it again. Then I told him that all he has to say is “Dear Heavenly Father” and then close in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 
Well, after about another 30 very long seconds he said a brief prayer of thanks to his Father in Heaven!! It was awesome! He has been married to Gina for 11 years, and that is the first time that she has ever heard him pray! In ELEVEN YEARS! While he was praying we all felt the Spirit very strongly. It was amazing. We’re going to continue working with him and maybe one day he’ll be the Branch President. Because we still need to find one. Hahaha.

Yesterday I made fried rice!! It actually turned out pretty good. I really regret not watching mom cook in the past. If I’m not a pro by the end of the mission I’ll have to have mom teach me how to make it better. It took forever though! All that chopping and chopping and chopping. I also made a lot, because we eat tons of food.

I guess that’s about all the news from here. Last week we had some crazy success. On Sunday we had four lessons in the presence of a member! It was really sweet. Our spiritual thoughts in English course have been directed to questions asked by the students, and now they are starting to ask if they can meet with us to learn more. Our members are starting to give us more referrals because we’ve been meeting with them and helping them prayerfully select their friends that are ready to receive the Gospel.

Ricordate che il valore delle anime è grande agli occhi di Dio
Haha. We memorized that scripture with Fratello when we taught him and Gina last night. It’s really true. Every soul is very important to God. God loves his children. And…we’re all his children!
One thing really cool about the mission is that I’m realizing the importance of experiences that I’ve had in my life. All my trials suddenly have meaning because I am able to use them to relate to people, and I tell them things that I’ve done as analogies to their problems.

I’ll give you a couple quick examples. 
We have been teaching a lady about the importance of scripture study. She’s really bad about remembering to, so we wanted to call her everyday to remind her. I told her that growing up mom always told me to brush my teeth, and so I always did it. I never had a cavity. Then once I went to college.. 
At this point she interrupted me and said I remembered to do it in college because mom had always reminded me. 
But I corrected her and said that sometimes I wouldn’t brush my teeth before going to be because I didn’t have the reminder and I got two cavities! Haha. It was pretty funny, and it’s nice to feel like there’s actually a purpose in me forgetting to brush my teeth and getting cavities. 
Don’t worry, I brush AND floss now.

Another experience I used the other day was about building the pergola in the backyard this last summer. We were teaching Carlo about the importance of having a baptismal date and I related to him how we had to finish the pergola before I came on my mission. And that if we hadn’t have had that plan, then I never would’ve finished it because it just seemed like too much to do. Of course, in my rough Italian I told him that we were building a wooden building in the backyard, but he got the idea I think. Haha. So I even found a purpose for all that work on the Pergola! Unfortunately, he still does not have a baptismal date, but he’s making great progress towards it.

It’s really hard for people to make a change in their lives. The secret is to read the Book of Mormon. We were teaching an Inactive family that has recently had a big struggle because the wife’s mother is ill. They have to do things for her on Sunday. I’m really worried about them because they were saying how they helped out with all kinds of thing for the church for 20 years. Never missed church for 20 years. And they can’t go to church now because her mother comes first. 
This is the trial of their faith. If you always put the Lord first you will be blessed. Not just when times are easy, but also when you are going through struggles. I’m sure that when they pray for help and read the scriptures they will figure out a way to get through this, while helping her mother and while helping the Lord.

Fortunately for me, right now isn’t actually a time of great struggle. It’s just a really really busy time! Haha. 
The thing that stinks about being busy is time goes by crazy fast! It’s already February! That’s crazy. 
I’ll keep you in my prayers. 
Con Affetto, 
Anziano Banks

p.s. I had heard about the Elders in Romania as well. In our mission we have Carbon Monoxide detectors and we just checked the battery on it last week. Don't worry about me. : )

p.p.s.This is our bookshelf that fell while we were at Catanzaro!! Anziano Sadler thinks maybe someone broke in, just because that was fallen down, and our door is a little bit messed up now. But my passport and money are all still don't know. Maybe it just fell. haha

Broken Bookshelf

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How do you like that?

So I have some pretty sweet news. I told you about the family I tried to get us the other day, that Chinese one. Well, Anziano Sadler picked up new investigators up in Castrovillari while he was on splits. A family of four!!! haha. They have two daughters. Prayers are answered. I kind of was hoping it would be here in Cosenza, but at the same time, I may also be serving up there in Castrovillari for the whole transfer. I'm going there tonight for the weekend.

I also forgot to tell you about something funny that happened about a month ago. Or at least I think I forgot to tell you. I remembered yesterday because we were eating lunch at a member's home in Catanzaro and they found out quickly that I spoke chinese, and they started telling me a story they had heard about an Elder speaking chinese to a lady on the train. And as they started they said maybe it was me!! And it was! haha. I'm getting famous. lol.

So here's what happened. My companion had to go down to Catania for his mission conference. So I guess this was more than a month ago. But anyway, he met a chinese lady on the train that couldn't really speak any English or Italian, but he knew that she needed to get on a different train and the missionaries were trying to help her. Well, he called me and told me to talk to this Chinese lady (without telling me what he wanted), so I just started teaching the first lesson! haha. I asked her if she believed in God, and she said maybe, and then she passed the phone back to the Elders (confused) and they told me what they had wanted me to tell her.

All in all it was pretty funny and I was able to help her get on the right train. And I guess that the story has gotten around a little bit.

Also, another funny thing. In Bari I guess there's a TV show about the missionaries (a comedy). I'm actually pretty sure it's not offensive though, it's just funny. And it makes it so lots of teenagers just walk up to the missionaries and start chatting with them. They even have a theme song!! haha. Siamo noi...doo do doo do . . . It's pretty sweet. It's about Brother Johnson and Brother Johnson. Two missionaries. They have Italian actors for it. I thought it was pretty funny. Apparently it's a pretty popular show, because when I was with Anziano Marzolla we were walking past a random group of kids and he started singing it and they all started laughing and singing. haha.

Have a great week!


Anziano Banks!

So this is tonino's little 50CC car!! haha. That's the same size engine as the one on our little motorcycles. hahaha. So funny. Anyway, he's always driving this thing around castrovillari.

He's one of our investigators. He's pretty hard core catholic. He has a four foot long picture of the pope in his house. I think he knows that the Book of Mormon is true though. He keeps meeting with us, and he said that he's afraid that it is true, and he feels like he shouldn't be baptized because he's been baptized once. Anyway, he has a sweet car. And he feeds us gnocchi every saturday we're in town. haha. pretty cool.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm not one to leave a long build-up . . .

There are tons of things I want to tell you about this week, but I'm just going to start with the best.

Effective July 1st the Italy Catania Mission, along with all of its missionaries will become part of the Rome Italy Mission!!!

Which means that the possibility of serving in any of their cities will open up (like Napoli!!), and also that the mission home will move to Rome.

Basically it's just totally exciting. We will also have twice as many missionaries in our mission now.

Pretty much, this is totally awesome.

Now, normal things. Well, somewhat. This last week I have been in Cosenza (my city), Castrovillari (my other city), Bari (mission coference), and now I am in Catanzaro (P-day).

Because both my companions are Zone Leaders they had an extra meeting in Bari, and so I got to go on splits there. It was pretty fun because I was with Anziano Connell!! Plus I had some killer Panzerotti, and I tried Foccacia, which I actually wasn't that into. haha.

One thing that was sweet up there was we met some backpackers from Canada. They had just come from Switzerland. Basically what I learned from them is that backpacking around Europe is actually pretty expensive, and so I'm definitely thinking China is where I want to travel around after my mission.

Chinese, Chinese. So I told you I gave away a Chinese Book of Mormon, right? Well this week our goal has been to find a family of 4 to teach. Two married parents, with two kids. Well, yesterday we were walking and we saw a Chinese family like that!! So I went over to talk to them, but the wife was very not interested (which is weird because usually it's the husband). But anyway, it didn't work out because she said that all the Chinese go to a Christian Church together, and so they already have a church. What I'm thinking is, if they all joined our church they could just start a Chinese Branch!! haha. Oh well, she didn't want to listen. We still have the rest of the week to find a family.

I was thinking about something after I e-mailed you last week. I'm pretty sure I forgot to tell you about church in Castrovillari!!! hahaha. So first off, Anziano Sadler is the Branch President. There are two hours of church. First we had Sunday School, and we had one person come to that (an investigator), and then we had sacrament, for which one member joined us. haha. It's pretty crazy. We really need to get more members up there! I think that will probably be the smallest Branch I go to in my life. The thing is that they actually have quite a bit of work up there, they just need to start getting baptisms (don't we all..)

Thank you for your letters you've been sending. Lia's one with IN-N-OUT made me SO hungry!!! All we ever eat is pasta! I haven't even had McDonalds since I've been here. (only Burger King. haha).

The thing about the mission, is you pretty much lose your support system, except you can still pray to your father in Heaven. So if you don't start relying on him, then I could see how you would have struggles. Prayer is totally key to everything. And in prayers I think the key is the word "affinché." Which basically means, "so that," and it helps you realize the motives for the things you are asking. It really helps to make your prayers more effective and thoughtful. You should definitely try it.

Well, I guess that's about it. Everything's pretty sweet here. I'm really excited for the mission change. The Calabria and Puglia are sweet, and I'm still hoping to get a chance to serve in Sicily. But let's face it, the Rome mission just seems awesome. They have Napoli.

Keep me updated on your lives. Read the scriptures!!

Ciao ciao ciao.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Buona Notizia da Italia

As always it’s great to hear from you! This week I have quite a bit of news.

So, I don’t know how much I explained, but currently I have two companions. Anziano Sadler’s companion should be here in a couple weeks, but right now he is having visa problems, so there’s a chance we’ll be a threesome for the whole transfer. Another thing is that I am also serving in two cities!!! Haha, It’s actually really awesome, I love it. So right now I am serving also serving in Castrovillari. We take a bus (about an hour) up there and spend half of every week there. It’s pretty sweet. And actually, I get to go to Saracena too, which is nearby Castrovillari. You should look up pictures sometime because I think it looks really sweet.

Another really cool thing about Castrovillari: Yesterday, I went and talked to this Chinese family in their shop that I had spoken with last time I was on splits in Castrovillari, and also another time I had taught them how to pray. This is the Peng family. They’ve lived in Italy for sometime, but they don’t really speak much Italian besides what they need to use in their shop. Yesterday I gave out my first Chinese Book of Mormon to them! Well, I actually just gave it to yang fan, and she said she is going to read it on her plane ride over to China for Chinese New Years, and then when they get back I’m hopefully going to be able to teach them the gospel. I had to memorize some gospel terms before I spoke with them this last time, but I think she’s really going to read it, and then hopefully her brother who read the pamphlet I gave them will read it as well. And of course then they’ll pray, get a testimony, and be baptized!!
Right now the mission is ordering some Chinese pamphlets and Book of Mormons for me, so I’m pretty stoked for that.

Another story for you. So in the city of Castrovillari there are “Magic Fountains” where the missionaries go and fill up their water bottles. Those glass ones that I sent a picture of. The “Magic Fountains” are where you go to get clean water, and you always carry the glass bottles full of water back to the house. The previous Anziani (plural of Anziano), have apparently always done this. Well, me and Anziano Wood started asking more about it because it was something unique to Castrovillari. What we discovered is that Anziano Sadler hadn’t actually ever seen anyone else do it. But he and Anziano Rogers always did, and so did Anziano Pett before him, as far as we know. Well, we decided to ask one of our investigators the story on the fountains, and quickly learned that they are actually the same as the tap water!! Hahaha. So basically that morning when we went out in the rain filling them up at 7:30 in the morning to have something to drink for breakfast, that was totally ridiculous. Haha.

In other news, my companion Anziano Jeffrey Sadler, is in HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL!!! Haha, he plays the trumpet in the movie. I knew you would all love that. He told me that he’s willing to sign autographs. Just let me know how many you’d like.

Lately me and my companions have been going out of our way to always be smiling, whether because we’re laughing about something, or just because we have the joy of the Gospel in our lives. Another thing we’ve been doing is trying to find a family to teach. Well, the other day we were walking and laughing and we all said “Buona Sera” to a man as we walked by, and he had a big smile as well. So I turned and asked him “Come Sta?” and then we all stopped and started talking to him. We asked him why he was so happy, and he asked us the same. Haha. Well, we ended up having a nice chat with him and he accepted all the things we told him because it all made sense. He had never heard of our church, but his wife was a practicing Catholic. Anyway, so we gave him a Restoration pamphlet, and we’ll hopefully get a chance to meet with him sometime. Unfortunately he works a lot, and he doesn’t actually live in Cosenza. But the point is we had an awesome opportunity to teach a man because we were smiling.

A few days earlier in Castrovillari we had a similar experience with a lady that we had offered to help with her bags. She didn’t need any help, but we laughed and chatted with her, and she’s asked us to come back by her house, so that was sweet. Last night while I was talking to the Chinese family in the shop, she actually walked by and my companions spoke with her, and she still wants us to come over to her house, so hopefully we’ll get the chance to teach her next time we’re in Castrovillari.

The mission is going well. Missionary work is going well. One thing we’re finding out with our investigators is that they have a problem of saying yeah, I believe this is true, and so they don’t want to ask God and receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. I think it’s important that we all ask on occasion, so that we have our testimony reconfirmed, so that we have that much more confidence. We’ve also been really pushing them to read scriptures daily, and I think that that is also just as important for members. Not only just to make sure we keep our faith, but also make sure we keep our action. The scriptures are really inspiring, and we can use the Powers of Heaven to help us not only with spiritual things, but also temporal things. It’s all about motivation and faith.

One other problem is that we have a couple investigators who don’t have enough self-confidence. They believe everything, but they just don’t think they can keep it up after they’re baptized. I guess they also don’t have enough faith that God will help them.

Well, I guess that’s enough for this week. Tomorrow I’m heading up to Bari. That should be pretty cool. We’re having a conference up there.

Thank you for your prayers and all that you do for me! It’s always good to hear that you’re going to church. : ) Don’t forget to read as well. The Lord always blesses us when we do what we should.

Have a great week!

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks

Filling up the water bottles at the "Magic Fountain"

P.S. I forgot to tell you one of the coolest things that happened last week!!

So we were on the bus from Castrovillari to Cosenza, and it was completely full. Anziano Wood was talking to someone sitting, and me and Anziano Sadler were talking to each other, and then we started talking about how we always heard of people teaching buses full of people. Well, then we were like...maybe we should do it! So then we thought about how to do it, and I explained to him I think it would go down if it were in English.

Well, then this is what went down. Anziano Sadler asked the bus driver if we could do a presentation about our church for the back half of the bus (keep in mind this a full sized bus). Then we started teaching the Gospel to about 15 people at once!!! It was awesome. It was a little to start, but then I realized to get them involved we would just have to ask people directly. So I asked one kid (because it was pretty much all college aged kids), "According to you, who is Jesus Christ?"

And then we went on explaining things and asking about different things and it was overall awesome. I actually did quite a bit of talking too. It was really cool. We gave pass-a-long cards to everyone, and I gave the Book of Mormon I had with me away to a girl that wanted to read it.

It was an awesome experience, and what's cool is that it was both me and Anziano Sadler's first time doing it. But since I'm at the beginning of my mission, now I can do it for the rest of my mission!!

Awesome, huh?