Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's that time of year. Christmas is pretty awesome. I think it's the best holiday.  Then again, I said that about Thanksgiving too. haha. We had a Christmas party in our branch last night that went well. The best part about Christmas this year is that Gela isn't nearly as cold as Cosenza was last year!

Haha, okay, so that's not really the best part. The best part about Christmas is that we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I really enjoyed watching the Christmas Special that the first presidency did. Have they always done that, or is that something they've just been doing these last few years? Anyway, it was good.

I was hoping to tell you a lot of things, but I've gtg! We’re super busy today. Luckily, I’ll be calling next week! Tell everyone in America “hi” and “Merry Christmas”!

Buon Natale!

Anziano Banks

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This week was totally awesome. Very spiritual. Very tiring. My companion doesn't speak a word of English, so I just speak Italian all day long. I know, it's horrible. hahaha. Nah, it's alright. I'm already past the point where it's uncomfortable.

We had the opportunity to hear from two seventies on Wednesday. That was awesome. Then on Thursday morning we met with Nicola. He had already had his interview, but wasn't sure about getting baptized on Saturday. We told him the same thing that Elder Caussè said which is that each of us needs to find our personal sacred grove. We need to find somewhere that we can pray aloud, kneeling, and express all our desires to the Lord. Personally, I did it Wednesday night, and then on Thursday I bore testimony to Nicola about the Spirit that I felt. I also read a little bit from Joseph Smith History. Some advice that Dad gave me has really helped. Whenever you want to have the Spirit, open Joseph Smith History and read a little bit of his experience. When we left Nicola's, we had decided that for now we wouldn't set a specific date, but that he would be baptized as soon as he feels ready.

That night we talked to him on the phone and he said that right after we left he was going to read the Book of Mormon, but it was like someone was telling him not to read it. He said no, and read anyways. He prayed and he was overcome by the Spirit. He wanted to be baptized two days later, on Saturday.


That created a real mess for us though. haha. There has been a lot ofNicolaBaptism3 work being done to the church (repainting, repairing, etc.) so the church had to be cleaned up. With the help of the members we cleaned the church, and then we set up the baptismal font. The baptismal font is ridiculous. haha. You know those swimming pools that are made up of white tubes? Well, it's kind of like that, but with rusty metal pipes instead! haha. It's crazy.

The day of the baptism we tried to do everything we could to prevent the water from being freezing cold. In the end we had four pots of water that we heated with the stove, and we made trips from our house to fill up jugs with warm water. We also underestimated the time to fill the font, and had to use water from our back-up water supply at home (that they have for when the water doesn't work in the summer).

NicolaBaptism2 After the baptism we used the same pots from earlier to drain the font! haha. It was the only way! We had a lot of difficultly taking it down because the pipes are rusty, so we had to leave it partially mounted until Monday when we used some tools to take it down.

Nicola was baptized on Saturday, and confirmed Sunday. Next week Nicola is going to get the Aaronic Priesthood. They're hoping to get him the Melchizedek Priesthood early next year because we really need it here in this Branch.
NicolaBaptism1 I love new converts. They're always happy and have the spirit. Do you remember in Bari, with Cecilia (the new convert who's 32)? Well, whenever I saw a guy around her age in Bari I would stop him and share the gospel with him because I told her that she needs to get married and that I would help her find a husband. WELL, I've finally found someone! haha. Nicola's 33. hahaha. Now I just need to figure out how to get these two to meet.

There basically haven't been any baptisms here for about five years. In January we will officially have two new active members (that started coming but live out of our area). Our Branch will now be up to 8 active members. We just got a new list of less active members to work with, so I expect that we'll start having even more.NicolaBaptism4

Well, I've gotta go! You're always in my prayers. If I could give you any advice it would be to follow the counsel to find your personal sacred grove. When I was in college I always had up the poster of the sacred grove. That's a sweet poster. I went to a member's house in Ragusa and they had it in color! It was pretty awesome.

Anziano Banks

p.s. Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


So things are good here in Gela. There's not too much news from this last week, but I realized that I haven't told you about some of the characters that are here. I'll try to start giving you them every once in a while.

One of my favorites is a guy that comes up to me and my companion and tells us how beautiful we are. A few days ago he told us that my companion was "bello" but I was "bellissimo!" He said that it was because he read Psalms 42. haha.

The next day we ran into him again. This time he told my companion, "Tu sei bellissimo!" Then I said, hey! What about about me? He says to me "Tu sei bellissimo!" Then he turned to my companion and said, "Ma oggi, to sei PIU' bellissimo!" hahaha. He's a funny dude.

There are also the two Chinese girls that we also we say hi to. They are probably around 4 years old. One time we passed them and I said "Ni hao." They both started repeating to us "NI HAO! NI HAO NI HAO!"
They said it over and over while we walked away. Now, every time we walk by one of us says ni hao to them and they start to yell NI HAO at us! haha.

Our district is doing great. Last transfer I sealed the anointing of a blessing for a man named Angelo. Right after the blessing I felt like he really needed to be baptized. I actually regretted on the way home that I didn't invite him to be baptized myself (he's one of the sister's investigators). Anyway, in a couple weeks he's getting baptized and I'll get to do the interview!

Speaking of baptisms, Nicola passed his interview and just needs to do the baptism now! Oh! Tomorrow we have a conference in Catania so I'll get to see some of my friends from my MTC district!

Anziano Banks

p.s. Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gela 2010

It looks like I'm going to finishing the year here in Gela. We got the transfer calls the other day, and the only thing that is changing is that I'm a district leader. That should be cool.

I feel like I'm going to end up in Rome at some point. But if not it may be better because we can always visit Rome after the mission. Instead it seems like I keep serving in the cities that aren't worth visiting! haha.

This place has so much mafia. The other day we saw a random Ferrari. haha. There's also a street with multiple cars that have been destroyed. There are also some people that we see all the time that we're pretty sure are with the mafia. Gela and Palermo are supposed to be the two cities where it's the biggest, but they always keep quiet about it all.

Things are going pretty well here. We've doubled the attendance in church!! haha. Which means that last week in church we had more than 8 people. haha. The work's going well. There is a less active brother that hadn't been to church in a long time, but he talked to one of his coworkers about the church. We went with him to teach her, and she said that she would come to church, but that he would have to come too! haha. They both came to church, and I'm pretty sure they'll both continue coming.

Nicola is doing great. He needs to have a stronger testimony, but if everything goes well he should be baptized in a couple weeks. One thing that I've been really enjoying is proselyting here. I pretty much enjoy it anywhere, but what makes me really like it is the specific people that I meet. For example, I met a couple of atheists that were all dressed in black, and we explained to them a little bit about God and invited them to pray. The guy didn't really accept it, but the girl listened and was really interested and said she would do it. It's really great to see people who are sincere because they'll really come to know the truth.

Speaking of which, I also met a couple people this week that were a little more difficult. For example, we met a guy who was 18 and he talked like a 70-yr-old that has lost the faith. He told us about how he's been praying for 18 years without getting a response and that he doesn't believe in God. We tried to help him and invite him to make changes, but he wouldn't accept anything. In the end he more or less asked if it's possible that God exists with all the evil things that happen. Yes! We tried to explain to him free agency and God's plan for us, but in the end he pretty much thinks that if someone does something wicked, they should be punished immediately. . .oh well.

One thing I was thinking about lately is the amount of time and effort that people put into something. For example, if I was to be good at tennis, I have to go and play for hours every day, and slowly I'll start understanding how to play the game and how to do the strokes and how to play well. If I want to become a mathematician, I have to study for hours and study and study and practice and practice and practice. If someone wants to understand the things of God, they can't just think about it a little on Sunday, or figure it out with just a few minutes of study. When I think about how complex and difficult some concepts are in math, and how much time it takes to understand them, it's obvious that the mysteries of God take some time to understand. On top of that, we can't understand spiritual things with just study, and so we have to pray and receive help through the Holy Ghost.

Which brings me to another thing I've been thinking about which is the concept of giving milk before meat. We need to teach the basic principles of the Gospel before teaching the more complex ones. In the end, even though it's interesting to learn the complex things, a lot of times it's not even that important. There are things that we don't even really need to worry about for now. I'm sure that the prophet and apostles know all kinds of doctrine that we don't know, but they generally teach the basic things because that's what we need to strengthen our faith and our testimonies.

There's a person here that is from another religion that has studied a book written about a book that Brigham Young wrote (or something like that). In the end, official church doctrine comes from the scriptures. Here we have some who doesn't even understand English that well who is studying a book about a book about doctrine that comes from the scriptures. He doesn't even really know what the Book of Mormon is! It didn't take long to realize that he was actually an anti-mormon, but it was silly because he was bringing up things that we don't even believe in! haha.

Anyway I hope that every thing went well for thanksgiving. We didn't do a whole lot here. We did a fast a thanks and that was about it.
I guess the Christmas season is starting. Merry Christmas!

The weather here is starting to get a little chilly. brr. It's not too bad though. I definitely prefer warm weather for doing missionary work, but now I'll have more motivation to get appointments because I want to be inside! haha.

Anziano Banks