Thursday, March 31, 2011

This week in Gela . . .

On Saturday morning we had a great service project. We went to clean the local beach! We ended up filling more than 60 bags of trash, not including the stroller, tire, door, and other good finds that were there. The local TV came and filmed a little bit. I haven't actually seen it, but we're hoping to get a copy on DVD. Unfortunately, right before I was going to be given a short interview it started raining so they had to pack up. It was still pretty cool though. It was actually a regional TV channel, so I guess it goes to Gela, Ragusa, Caltannisetta, and maybe some other cities.

We really had a blast. It was just 6 missionaries and Cristian, but we're going to do it again in a few weeks and the city of Gela should be participating. Pretty sweet how much we cleaned up, huh? After we got done cleaning we decided to take some sweet jump photos because there was a good staircase to jump off of into the sand.  : )

I'm seriously becoming a part of this city now. I've been here for five months, I know tons of people really well, and it's just crazy. I feel like I'm actually living here. haha. (In the sense that I moved here or something, not that I'm just serving a mission here.) If I were to move to Italy I definitely wouldn't ever have chosen Gela! But I really love it here.

This week we went to the market again. I was really lucky. Do you remember that gray suit that I brought on my mission? Well, the pants of that suit got a big hole in the knee, so I decided to cut a piece of the pants off to bring it to compare with other pants at the market. I ended up finding a pair that fits me well, is almost identical to the suit, and it only cost me 8 Euro!! Score!

On another note, one thing that frequently stupefies me is how much people can misinterpret the scriptures. It really blows my mind sometimes that people can misunderstand them so much. This morning, as I was reading Joseph Smith History, I read how after he and Oliver Cowdery were baptized they were able to understand scriptures that they weren't able to understand before. I think that the gift of the Holy Ghost is essential to understand the scriptures, so maybe that's why people get so confused sometimes.

There really isn't too much other news this week, we've just been keeping busy and loving what we're doing. I just see a lot of joy in my life, and I see that a lot of people here don't have it. It's really just a pretty simple choice. We were talking with this lady that was complaining about how help is being sent to Libya or something and how they need help here. She said, we don't have any food, what can we do, we're the ones who need help. She told us this right after we had talked about what she would eat for lunch, which was salad, pasta, steak, and I'm sure she had fruit in the end. This is what she eats every day! We need to all wake up and appreciate the blessings that we have. I'll admit it, I eat really well. I'm incredibly blessed. My life is awesome.

Well, I'm happy.

Anziano Banks

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Wow, I feel like I was just here (at the internet point). This week went by so quickly! I've realized that my life is always like that. I completely love my mission, but I also completely loved college, I completely loved high school, and everything before that I don't even remember that well because it was so long ago! haha.

Time just keeps on flying.

This week I was really happy because we taught a lady named Letizia (her name means the same thing as felicità - happiness!) She is really elect. I met her awhile ago when we did a "Helping Hands" project and she came to help us. She told us to come by her work, but one time when we passed by she wasn't there, another time we could see that she was crazy busy, and another time they were closed. Finally, after months of not being able to get into contact with her, we finally went and saw her and she was really excited to see us. She's like a super-woman. I'm really excited to teach her the gospel.
I'm don't completely understand what her job is, but I know that she does a lot of volunteer work and helps people. She also feels like the church is true, she's read the Book of Mormon but didn't really understand it, and she knows that we're servants of Jesus Christ. She is a little afraid to change, but I think she's excited to start meeting with us (she's never actually been an investigator).

I think I forgot to tell you about another really great success! haha. So, we taught Elisa and Ishan about fasting, and we DSCF4080decided to fast so that she could give up smoking. She smoked about 10 or 20 cigarettes a day. So we all fasted. She fasted from Friday night until Monday morning!! We told her on Sunday that she had already been fasting too long and that she didn't need to keep fasting, but she wanted to do it! She also didn't smoke the whole time she was fasting. After she finished, she smoked again, but she only smokes like one cigarette every day or two. We're helping her stop completely, but I think it's a total miracle that she has gotten to this point because she has been smoking since she was about 8 years old!! Here is a picture of most of their family.
I really like the way things are going. It's weird that I'm staying here longer than any other city, but I like it here, so that's good.

We recently bought a new pan. It's ceramic. It's nice and makes good food, but not as good as these pizzas! Or this lunch we had with our district. Somehow food is always better when you don’t have to make it yourself. haha.


On Sunday we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Italy. I kind of wish I was in a bigger city right now, but I heard that tonight there are going to be fireworks here. I gave a talk in church about supporting the government. I shared my experience at BYU-Hawaii when I had to take the bus all the way to another city to vote. That was crazy, but I did it because I know it's important to vote.

This week I also bought a sweet new Bible. They came out with a new, economic Bible here so I decided to buy one. It's pretty cool. I was looking through it, and I realized that it has some books from the Apocrypha. haha. Anyway, it's a lot easier to read than the one the church uses here in Italy. I'm so glad that in English we have the King James version. Here in Italy everyone has a different translation of the Bible. My companion likes to use the Evangelist version, because he says it's more accurate than the Catholic version.

Anyway, I guess that's about it for today. I hope that you're doing great and that you're happy and healthy. It's sounds like you are by your e-mails.

Anziano Banks


Sunday, March 13, 2011


Wow, what a tiring week. hahaha. I meant to say, what a fantastic week. We went to a (more-or-less) Zone Conference in Catania yesterday. It was awesome. What I learned was this:

  1. Love the Gospel and Love the Members
  2. Express your love

So, I definitely have the first one down, so now I just need to show them my love more, bear my testimony more, and help them feel the love. I think that's the same thing that we need to do with just everyone: Help them feel God's love. I feel it. Do you? If not it's probably because you're not looking for it.

Other than that, this week we postponed Cristian's baptism, but we also set another baptismal date! Things are really picking up here in Gela. I think it's good because our city is generally viewed as a city that doesn't really do a lot, but I think that it's going to start doing tons, and everyone's view of Gela is going to change. I hope that Gela can become like Cosenza. The thing that I loved about Cosenza is that even we had just a little branch, we had the blessing of great members that loved to help us. We have good members here, we could just use a few more of them. haha.

Did I tell you that I'm starting to eat really healthy now? I was already trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, but now I've stepped it up: I eat whole grain pasta! haha. I found out that white bread, white pasta, and white rice is all at the top of the food pyramid along with sugars, fats, and all the things that you should eat sparingly. Basically, if you want to be healthy you should also be eating whole grain. I actually really like it for certain pastas, although for others it still tastes better to use normal pasta.

About every transfer we get something called the Italy-Rome Forum. It's a couple pages about where people are serving, who's finishing the mission, who's coming in, and it has a message from President and Sister Kelly, and also from the Assistants. Well, the last one had Sorella Miller (from my MTC district) on the back as one of the people who was finishing the mission. I guess I didn't really think too much about it, until this time when I was looking where everyone was at (and I always look where the people from my MTC district are) and she wasn't on there! Wow. That was so weird. I'm now at the point that I've been on my mission longer than any Sister missionary. haha. weird. I miss Sorella Miller. Now our MTC district is incomplete.

At this conference the only one there was Anziano Garvin, and he flew in from Malta to do some things for his green card (type thing). He's been out on Malta for 5 months!! haha. Crazy.

This week I want to recommend that you all read Matthew.  I also highly recommend Jesus the Christ by Talmage. Incredible book.
Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. He suffered for all the sins of the world (every one of our sins). He also overcame death through the resurrection. He organized His church. He called Twelve apostles. He performed many miracles. He is my personal savior, and He died for me. That actually makes me feel sad, but He did it so that I could repent of all my mistakes and be purified through His blood. I bear witness that I have felt the cleansing effect of the atonement when I have repented of my sins. It's incredible! I can think of one experience in particular where I would describe the feeling as a white light inside of me that is warm and comforting. I know that anyone can repent if they choose to.
God loves us so much that He gave us His son, Jesus Christ. I hope that we can all learn from His life.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What a great blessing.

At the Conference in Catania President Kelly spoke a lot about our thoughts, and I really like an example he gave. He said that a bad thought is like this: You're looking outside of you kitchen window, and you see a nasty stray cat. You can sort of look away from it, and wait until it walks away. On the other hand, you can give it some milk, open you door and let it into your house.

Basically, if we have bad thoughts, we should ignore them and draw our attention to something else. The next thing is to fill our mind with good, productive, uplifting things.

Anyway, I hope that you were able to learn something too from the conference and everything.

Have a great week!
Anziano Banks

Friday, March 4, 2011

G is for Gela, G è per Giungla

Wow, what a fantastic week. I was able to splits in Catania for a day while I waited for my companion, and that was a total blast. I really love that city. Just walking around there reminds of the start of my mission because that's where we flew into! It's a lot more fun now that I can talk to everyone without any problems.

Anziano Scotchi is my new companion. I think I told you a little about him last week, but I think now I'll tell you a little bit more. Anziano Scotchi is from Moldavia (it's between Romania and Ukraine). He has lived in Italy for about 8 years, and he speaks Italian perfectly (he went to high school here). He's a great missionary. We haven't had much time to do finding work, but I've seen that he's a really great teacher. I what makes him so good at teaching is that he's studied a lot and very well. I've decided to study more carefully so that I can become a better teacher.

One of my favorite quotes from the last conference was that "We become who we want to be by consistently being who we want to become". One thing that I was thinking about lately, is that we are in a constant state of change, and so it might as well be improvement. I think a good goal is to become a respectable person. I'm starting to work on that.

I don't think I told you how surprised I was when we got our phone call last week from President. Wow. When he got off the phone with Anziano Perez I thought we were getting blown out because the first thing he said to me was how good of a job I had done here in Gela. haha. Then he told me I would be staying here and Anziano Scotchi would come. I basically started shouting for joy! What a great missionary!

Antonella says hi! She said to say hi even though she doesn't know you. Haha. She's so awesome. She quit smoking, and she understands the importance of being baptized although we haven't set a date yet. She has an amazing testimony of the Book of Mormon. In fact, she tells us all the time about how she knows that it's true, about the things that she's learning and understanding, and how she wants to share it with everyone! She said that when she first heard about it she thought to herself, the Gospel, in the ancient Americas? That seems weird. Maybe they just made this religion up themselves (she thought to herself). Then she says, when I started reading it I thought, this is true. This book is a true book. I wish everyone would read it! The Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught to all of God's children. This book is true. It's so awesome. I really think that she's going to help her friends and the rest of her family read the Book of Mormon too! She's awesome. I'm so happy that when people actually read the Book of Mormon with the real intent to follow God, they always know that it's true.

I think that we're going to be seeing a lot of success these days. I'm also learning how to be a better cook because my companion's really good.

This week Dad sent me a little message that I really like about the greatest day ever. I think that it's so true that every day can be our greatest day ever. I seriously enjoy my mission because it's a blast. I love people. I love to help people. All day long I help people that I love come closer to Jesus Christ.

I also got an interesting letter from mom this week. I can't believe Verle is getting married! What a punk. I think everyone should just wait until this fall before they get married, that way I can come to everyone's weddings! (that includes Levi)

Anziano Banks

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Recent Happenings

I guess the big news is that I'm staying in Gela....and that my companion is being transferred! haha. He was only here 6 weeks! My new companion is going to be Anziano Scotchi!! He's a stud. I don't know if I've ever told you about him, but he was in Bari when I was in Foggia, and then he was in Bitonto when I was in Bari. In other words, we know each other. He's from Moldavia, but he's lived in Rome for years, so he's basically an Italian. It's interesting, but missionaries who have one Italian companion usually have two. I don't know why. I guess because the Italians just love us so much. haha.

Speaking of love. I bought my first suit here. I was in a tight situation because I completely destroyed my gray suit (I wore it out) and so I was stuck with only one suit. Seeing as it's winter, I've been wearing the same suit every day. So I finally bought a suit, and it is INCREDIBLE!! I love it. I also got a really good deal. It's about a 130 Euro suit, and I got it for 45 Euro. It's awesome. I've actually decided not to get rid of the gray suit either because Anziano Rowland gave me the idea that I can just buy another pair of pants that look the same, and use those. The suit jacket isn't totally destroyed yet, but the pants are. I figure I'll wear through the jacket, and then I can just keep using the pants. Seriously, this suit is awesome. Italians just know how to make good suits. They also know how to make good shirts, sweaters, coats, and about everything else. I love Italy.

The work here is going well. It pretty much always is though. The only problem is that I know too many people. It makes it a little bit hard to do street because I know so many people, and a lot of people like to talk. I love Italians. They're very friendly and open and talkative. Especially Sicilians. Seeing as I'm staying here, I think I'm going to end up learning a lot of Sicilian. It's pretty fun because people always get stoked when you start speaking Sicilian. If you want to make someone happy, all you have to do is say something in dialect. Then of course there are the people who don't even know how to speak Italian. It's incredible to me how many people are illiterate. I'm so thankful that I'm literate.

This week I also felt closer to Spencer. I've already been told that parts of Gela look like Peru (by Anziano Reyes – a Peruvian), and now we've been without water for two days!! haha. Fortunately we had bottles of water set apart because we had heard that this happens every once and awhile. The last couple days I have been showering with buckets. I have to admit though, I haven't gone completely third-world. Before showering I heat up some water with the stove, that way I don't have to take a cold shower. haha. Gela is so ghetto. One of our investigators told us that we don't have water sometimes because of the Mafia. I guess that they're just involved in everything here.

Oh man, I don't think I told you, but last week I went and saw the Temples in Agrigento. WOW. They are totally incredible. I would highly recommend them to anyone. At least if they're here in the area. We also played a little basketball with the Anziani in Agrigento, and I can definitely tell that I haven't been running enough on my mission . . . haha.

This last week I decided to start reading the New Testament again in English (because I finished the Book of Mormon again in English). It's pretty amazing. I love the book of St. Matthew. It's awesome. The things that Jesus Christ teaches just make so much sense. I really feel the Spirit when I read them.

I'm going to have an awesome week. Tonight I'm going to Catania, I'm staying there all day Thursday, and then I'm coming back here on Friday. I love Catania. It's a great city. I love Gela, too. But let's face it, Catania is way sweeter. They have a McDonalds! Yes!

Anziano Banks