Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Palermo Stake Conference

This last week I attended the first stake conference of the new Palermo Stake (which includes all of Sicily). It was awesome. I got to meet one of the Chinese members in Palermo! I can't remember what part of China she's from, but anyway, she's married to the brother of a member I knew in Bari.

The entire trip was crazy. We rode over to Palermo with a bus that came from the Ragusa ward. We were the only ones from our branch that went to the conference. haha. At the conference I also got to see Anziano Rowland! I also had a pretty scary experience. I've picked up the habit from mom of always carrying around a little water bottle. I've also picked up the habit of using the restroom whenever I get the chance. So, right after the conference I decided to use the restroom before we had to leave. I went into a stall, and closed and locked the door. Then I tried to get out, but the door wouldn't unlock!! I was pressing down on the handle, moving the lock around, and instead of being a normal stall, it was more like a closet in the sense that I was in a closed room. I kept trying to get out, but after a little bit I decided it would be best to call for help. I started yelling, "AIUTO!! AIUTO!!"
I could faint voices of people talking. I even heard people saying that the third stall was occupied. "AIUTO!!" I screamed. I faintly heard my companion chatting with someone. "ANZIANO DESTEFANIS!!! AIUTAMI! NON POSSO APRIRE LA PORTA!"
Finally, my companion heard me, and tried to help me. After a few seconds he was able to get the door open using his lucky coin to open the door . It was crazy. My companion told me that he couldn't hear me because of the hand dryers. Anyway, it sure was a stressful experience.

Afterwards we got a ride from the Zone Leaders to Agrigento. Anziano Acerson was too tired to give us a ride home, so we stayed the night there! That was pretty fun. I love our Zone Leaders. Anziano Acerson and Anziano Reyes (he's originally from Peru, but he's from northern Italy). They had hardly any food at their house! We ate a couple little frozen pizzas and the last of their pasta for dinner, and then in the morning Anziano Acerson and I made pancakes.

So then it was Monday, and we took the train home. We talked to a lot of people on our way home from Agrigento. We taught a couple people about the restoration, and one of them worked for the train station. I asked him about his tie, and I think he's going to give me one! It's a sweet tie.

Then we had to go to Ragusa to give the Sorelle the baptismal clothes that Agrigento had borrowed (that's why we stayed over there), and we gave a blessing to one of their investigators. My first Italian companion, we've given two blessings together, and both times I've been the one who does the sealing. haha. It went well though, and I really like the man we gave the blessing too.

Speaking of blessings, things are going great with Nicola! We taught him the word of wisdom, and he was good with it except that he drinks two or three cups of coffee every day. He was having a hard time overcoming, and then his doctor told him the he had to quit drinking coffee!!! How awesome is that? Unfortunately, at this point we had already promised him that I would make him a cheesecake if he quits drinking coffee, and now he quit. haha. Today I gave him his cheesecake, and we also went to see some things around Gela with him for his birthday (he just turned 33).

Nicola is going to get baptized on the 11th (we decided it would be best to go a week later instead of earlier because we wouldn't have had enough time to teach him everything well).

So anyway, as far as everyone else goes, we just found a new family!! We were finishing up the end of our housing zone (where we had chosen) and we found a family of four! They're pretty awesome. We went by them again yesterday, but their son (young) was extremely sick and went to the hospital. We also found another family in that zone. I think it's part of the whole enduring to the end. haha. We didn't really have much success at all in that zone until we reached the end.

By the way, Thanksgiving tomorrow!! Happy Thanksgiving!! We were going to have a party in church, until we realized that we don't have any money, and no one can come! haha. So instead we decided we're going to do a special fast. haha. I think this will be the only Thanksgiving that I do something like that. haa.

I hope you're all doing well. I pray for you. I pray that you remember to read the scriptures and go to church! haha. This week I was thinking about something. In our last Zone Conference our President mentioned something about how we demonstrate our own faith and testimony by how much we want to share it. That made me feel pretty good about mine because I understand that in the end every person will be happier if the accept the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? That means that when I talk to someone that says that they're happy, I tell them that they can be even more happy! That's the truth.

Anziano Banks



Be thankful for all the great things you have, like internet at home instead of in a smoky internet cafe where everyone plays online poker and they play the same song over and over and over and over again.
But I'm grateful that I at least have that!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis a Gift

So lately I've had the opportunity to drive a lot, which has given me some time to reflect, and to listen to the mormon tabernacle choir. On one of their CDs there is a song that is probably called "Tis a gift."
It's pretty good. I really like a line from it that says: "Tis a simple gift to be.”

I'm so grateful that we all chose to come here on this earth to learn and be happy. Do you remember my farewell talk? (I know, probably not, haha) Anyway, I mentioned the promise in it that more happiness imageawaited me on my mission than I had had before. I can honestly say that I have had tons of happiness. It's been awesome. Plus, I discovered a way to send you a picture! The webcam on this computer! haha.

One thing I've realized is that there are lots of missionaries that do a little too much enduring through their missions. I'm into enjoying it! People focus too much on the how happy they'll be in the future. I'm happy about that, but I'm also happy about now. Lots of missionaries sleep away half their missions too. haha. I figure, I have two years to learn as much as possible, and there's always something to do.

One really great thing is that we set a baptismal date with Nicola!!! He's such a stud. We met him on October 28th. I stopped him and started talking to him a little bit about prayer. In the end we got his phone number, and then the other day we set a baptismal date. It was sweet. I looked him straight in the eyes and asked him if he would be baptized by someone who holds the the authority to do it on December 4th. He said "Sì.” haha. It was sweet. Unfortunately we're going to have to change the date because the branch president can't be there for when we give the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. We're still not sure if we'll do it a week before, or a week after. I think he can be ready for a week before.

I also have seen how much obedience brings blessings. My companion right now hasn't had any real success here in Gela his first two transfers here because he had two companions that were "dead" but now we're finding tons of people and things are going well.

image Here is a picture from our last zone conference. Someone forwarded it to me so I can actually send it to you guys! I’m in the middle in the very back. One cool thing is that our district is doing really well. It's only us and the sisters, but we're having the most success in the zone! haha. I have to admit though...the sisters baptize like crazy. We basically haven't had a baptism in Gela for five years. Nicola is solid though. We just need to find more people like that.

I'm starting to feel really good about this branch. Nicola will be a solid member, and we also have two more members that we got last week. One sister was reactivated, and one brother lives between us and Ragusa, so he got permission to switch to our Branch!! Then we have another sister that should be reactivated soon. This branch is going to double easily while I'm here. It was at five active members when I came, right now I would say it's at seven, but we'll reach ten for sure!

The only problem with all the success that everyone is having is that it means we have to do lots of driving. I already drive to Ragusa and back once a week, but this week three times! One extra to get baptismal clothes for Agrigento, and another to do a baptismal interview! It's crazy.
I think I'm becoming a better driver though...or maybe worse! haha. I'm getting good at driving in Italy. haha. Anziano Acerson is the driver in Agrigento and he's already had to do three repairs to the car! One was the mirror, another was he popped a tire on a curb, and then he also dented in some siding on a curb!!! haha. So far the only repair I've had was replacing the headlights and changing the oil. I really don't like Ford. It's just not a very good car in comparison to a Toyota.

Anyway, the highlight of this week was definitely Nicola. Right now we're looking to find someone else like him because we want to have more strong members.

Let me know if there's anything I can do for you from here.

Anziano Banks


P.S. I'm sorry that I'm not able to get more photos to you all, but if you get the chance to send me some that would be much appreciated. Even just things that are normal. One thing I've realized is that we should all take more photos of everyday life because 30 years from now it will be interesting. Mom studying, Dad doing yard work, Lia sleeping, you know all the normal things you all do. ha ha ha.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super Short Email!

This week was awesome. We had Zone Conference in Catania, and I got to see Anziano Garvin, Marzolla, and Rowland. Did I tell you that Anziano Garvin got transferred to MALTA?? hahaha.

Anyway, it was awesome to see some of my best friends. We laughed so hard. Anziano Marzolla was literally crying. I'll admit, we were definitely the loudest missionaries when we were eating lunch at the conference.

The other good one this week is that I figured out why all the Italians drive tiny cars!! We got a ride from the husband of a less active member to his house to help him with something, and we went on roads where there were literally inches between the car and the walls on both sides! haha. One time he actually had to pull in his mirror to get buy a road because in the old city parts of Italian cities the roads are TINY.

I've also been doing well with my driving, and getting a lot better at dealing with tiny roads and crazy drivers.Apparently northern Italy is different, but here in Sicily there are no rules! My companion always complains that no one wears a helmet.

Okay, I'm sorry but I have to go because this internet point costs more than a euro every fifteen minutes!!


Our other place is closed.

Have a great week,


Anziano Banks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


You remember that song from Kanye West called "Amazing"?? It's the one that pretty much just says the word amazing over and over again. About 17 times in a row. haha. Anyway, that's how I would describe this last week.

One of the amazing experiences I had was splits with Anziano Reyes. He's one of the Zone Leaders and he is an amazing missionary. He's Peruvian, but he's lived in Milan for the last 20 years. What makes him really great is his firm testimony, and that he puts it all into practice. What I learned from the splits is that I need to study and apply more. When he talks to people he says lots of things that are straight from the scriptures, and modern day prophets. He's very sincere and direct, and that's what makes him so effective. I've taken a new route with my language study because of him. My problem is that I don't study the doctrine enough in Italian, and so I can't always quote things in Italian because I don't know the exact translation. Lately I've begun reading all the general conference issues of the Liahona so I can quote apostles and prophets easily when I teach. I also loved how much he expressed his love for the people and willingness to help them. We were at a members house and he said, I love you, the Lord says to love your neighbor, and I do it. I've never enjoyed splits as much as that time because he is a really great example of a Christ-like missionary.

Another amazing thing that happened this week is we have a new investigator that used to be a frate. I believe in English it's a friar, or a Catholic monk or something. Anyway, he showed us photos, and it's those Catholics that have the whole brown tunic. He's amazing. Obviously, he knows the Bible really well. He was with them for 6 years. He came to church on Sunday, and then we had another appointment with him yesterday. We spent the entire time answering all his questions because he's really interested in the church. He went online and studied about the church a ton, but he didn't go looking for anti-sites, he actually found a lot of good information. He's exactly what this branch needs. We only have one worthy priesthood holder, and that's the Branch President. I really feel good about this guy. He's only 32.

I also met a less-active that came by English Course last night. He has a powerful testimony, but he is in Palermo on the weekend, and so he can't come to church here. I was wondering, what is the maximum age to go on a mission? He is 26, and I think he would be awesome. On Monday they had a special day for the dead. In other words, everyone went to the cemetery. We had to go to District Meeting in Ragusa, and got stuck in traffic for more than an hour. I'm getting used to driving here, but I'm going crazy because we don't have any music!! I have a couple CDs that I've already heard too many times, and my companion doesn't have anything! Fortunately, I was able to get another Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD from the Zone Leaders, and also one EFY CD that's pretty good.

The other night we went downtown (if you can call it that...the city is only 80,000 people), and we walked around talking to people about the Gospel. Well, me and my companion both like talking to everyone, and so we meet tons of people. This time when we went, we just kept running into people that we already knew that wanted to talk to us! A few of them were pretty crazy...one was anti-mormon, and another was someone that asked us to pray for him and he introduced us to a couple of his friends. One of his friends started bagging on the Catholic church, and we told him that we shouldn't judge and that we don't want to talk about it, then he started going off on the Jehovah's Witnesses, and we told him that we had to leave. I'm pretty sure if we had stayed a few minutes he would've gotten to us! haha.

It's crazy how many different religions there are in the world. Some people get really into theirs, and some people don't care. One that has stood out to me lately are the people who believe in God, but don't believe in religion because they see all the corruption. I think that what's important is that they realize that when Jesus Christ was on the earth he created a church, he called twelve apostles, there were other leaders of the church called as well (like Bishops). For many it is obvious that there was an apostasy and that things from the Bible and the original church of Jesus Christ were changed, but they think that the time of apostasy is right now! Instead, we are here to let them know that the apostasy is over and if they pray than they will know that the true church is here on the earth. Just because you don't know about something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. People give up the search too soon. The good news is that not everyone does, and we've been blessed to meet a lot of people that want to learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pray to know that His church is here again.

One thing that they advise us to do is to keep a study journal. I...haven't been the best about it, but now I've finally started one! It's awesome. When we study the scriptures, we receive revelation...when we don't write it down, then we forget it! I also generally have a pen and paper near my bed for thoughts that come to me while I'm lying down, or inspiration that comes to me during my nightly prayer. I also recommend writing notes in the margin of the scriptures. That's what I do, and it's really helpful. Maybe it can help you too.

No photos this week. I've been taking them, but I don't really have a way to get them to you because the USB on these computers doesn't really work. Last week I was able to because I unplugged the mouse, plugged in my camera instead, used the keyboard to copy the images onto the computer and then e-mail them to you, but in the end I think I may have messed up the mouse. haha. . . . so unfortunately I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to do as far as sending you photos while I'm here in Gela. I'll always try and see what I can do. SORRY! Well, there's someone who keeps yelling in the internet cafè so I’m going to go. Yeah...we don't have the best place to use internet.

Have a great week!
Anziano Banks

P.S. What you were saying about me not being weird after my mission, hahaha, oh man. I actually had a conversation about this with my companion the other day. He's very focused on the world (girls, soccer, etc), and he says that he doesn't want to go home from his mission and be weird and totally into the gospel. He said he doesn't want to follow the missionary handbook when he goes home. Obviously. The missionary handbook only applies when you're a MISSIONARY. What I've come to realize lately is that people go to extremes in the gospel, while not actually following it. The reason why return missionaries are like that when they go home is that they don't understand the difference between mission life and life in the world, and how to help others whole all have their own free agency. I think that we should all try and shape our lives after Jesus Christ, and we can look to the Apostles and Prophets as examples of people who do a good job at it. For example, the apostles have non-member friends that they aren't friends with just to share the gospel with (some RMs end up like that), the Apostles have a great education. Elder Eyring has an iPhone. I say we should follow them. I may not get an iPhone after the mission, but I'll for sure get an iPod touch. hahaha.

Also, I heard a story that may or may not be true, but I liked it. Anziano Shaw's Bishop was at a Beach Boys Concert and saw President Monson. He was surprised to see him there, and started to talking to him. He explained that he was surprised to see him there, and President Monson said that we are to be "in the world, but not of the world" haha. I'm not sure if it's true, but I think it demonstrates a good point.