Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I guess Christmas is over but first things first I think I should explain just how great it was to see you on Christmas. I think about you every day but normally it's in a nice happy way that is more like a memory of some people far away. But Christmas eve and Christmas day it was as if a box of anxious had been opened. Once the possibility of talking to you came into view it seemed to take over my view. Anz. Free and I both slept badly the night before and then the morning of Christmas we had a hard time thinking of much else besides our phone calls. I was surprised at how excited and nervous I was to see you. I guess the lesson to be learned is that normally I'm just fine because I've gotten used to not seeing you or talking to you, but as soon as the chance comes to talk to you my brain lets all my anxiety to see you out.
Our Skype session was great and I have to say it was a thoroughly Lehnardt experience the way the camera never held still for too long and everyone spent time running in and out of the screen. It was good to see you.
This week we are now in the funny time between Christmas and New Year's. These are the two days of the year that we kind of have off and they're just a week apart. It's kind of a crazy time of year. It's been weird to feel a little less routine but it's been good. I've taken a new approach to things like chocolate and treats lately. Instead of trying to ration my treats and make them last I just eat them like I feel like doing which is normally pretty fast and then when they're gone they're gone and I just don't think about it. Good luck on your moderation Dad but I'm just going to be a pig and then be healthy when I run out of treats.
We have Sefki's baptism today which is exciting. We've been talking to people about temples more lately and I love how the gospel is always giving us something new to work towards. The temple is such a good goal with blessings that we all want and it's amazing to see how a good objective gives people the power to change. We do the same thing with helping people set a date for baptism. Once people have something they're working towards it becomes so much easier to change. God is smart.
I'm so glad everyone's Christmas was so good. I know that seeing you guys made my Christmas. It's so funny how Christmas for missionaries doesn't seem to really matter except for talking to our families. I really didn't care about getting any presents and we didn't even worry about getting to watch a Disney movie, we had a good meal but the thing that really mattered was our families. I'm amazed at what is really important in life and how easily we forget about it until we lose it. Food and things don't really matter because there are things in life that are so much more important like family and love and happiness and friends and people and chocolate. I have to admit though that I like to talk about things I'm not good at. A missionary came to our apartment for a scambio and ate lots of our Christmas chocolate and some of our American cereal that the Americans on the military base gave to us. I had to fight myself not to be mad at him for being so inconsiderate and eating our goodies. Maybe that's why Jesus said when someone steals your coat give him your cloak also. That way we remind ourselves that it really isn't that important. I didn't give him the rest of our Captain Crunch but I did try to just not care about chocolate so much.
Did I tell you how good it was to talk to you? I know I have but I don't know if I've explained just how good it was to see and talk to each of you. Wow, I love you guys.
Life sounds so good at home with Dad and his friends who are old and falling apart and weddings and families and going skiing on rocks and not filling our college applications and sword fighting in the back yard. Thank you for the video mom and Mary and Mary- I'm homesick to tears. Just kidding. I can handle it. It was totally worth it. I can't believe the funny crazy things you guys do for me.
I hope mom shows everyone this letter. I know how she hides them from you.
Ski fast, don't make turns, eat lots of chocolate, party hard because its almost birthday season and there's a wedding coming. Read the Book of Mormon and pray like you mean it because those are pretty important too.
I love you and have a good week.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
First things first. Christmas day phone call- or rather Skype. We're going to the Maughans who are the senior couple in Vicenza for Christmas and we'll be Skyping from there. We've been trying to work out when each of us will call but the plan is this. We're going to church in the morning and then we'll be in Vicenza by 3:00. That would still be 7:00 in the morning for you guys and I don't know when you have church. But have no fear, the Maughans set up a Vonage phone before they left so they can call just like they are calling from Utah. I'll give you guys a call Christmas morning and we can set up a time to Skype. Will you email me your Skype account so I can find you?
It doesn't really feel too much like Christmas here. It's cold but it's hard for me to even feel like it's winter without snow. There are lights and decorations up, but as cliche as it is Christmas really doesn't come in packages, boxes or bags. I guess I'm realizing more than ever that Christmas is really about family and Jesus. Lately I've been reading the gospels and I can hardly believe how good they are. I guess I've read them before but I feel like before I must have just been reading the words without really thinking about them. This time something has changed and I've actually been paying attention to everything and I've just been amazed. Jesus Christ really was the Son of God. Cool huh?
Anz. Free is super cool. If I can't spend Christmas with you guys I feel like he's not a bad person to be with. It's been weird how easy he is to get along with and I have to admit that I'm really happy.
As for politics- sorry dad but I haven't heard much. Thanks for your updates though because it's nice to know how the world is going to end. When it comes to Italy I bet that in 20 years the Muslims and the Africans will be running the show and the Italian race will have died out for the most part because they don't get married and have kids. It's sad to say but even the Italians know things aren't going well. I was talking to a member in our ward and she was saying there isn't much future for Italy and I hate to say it but I think she's right.
The health care stuff sounds cool. It's funny how so much of the time in life if we'll slow down, think about things a little bit and make a plan we can do things so much better. We're hoping to do better at that this transfer. We're planning on trying lots of new stuff to do better work instead of just doing hours of mindless work. One of our plans is to build a mostra which is like a street display. Our ward mission leader is really cool and he's going to help us. It will mean taking a little bit of time to prepare but we hope that because of that when we actually are out proselyting we'll be a lot more effective. Do you guys have any ideas? I want your creativity too.
Sometimes High School is just lame. Sorry Stefan. I liked it a lot sometimes but other times it was just frustrating. I did get really lucky though to find cool friends though. But I really am sorry Stefan. Don't worry about trying to be someone else. Just be patient and you'll have fun in college. Don't forget to do cool stuff though. I know you're doing stuff like learning French and reading lots of good books, but don't spend as much time as I did feeling bad for myself some days. Go do something crazy. Go kiss a girl. Have fun.
I have to confess something. I killed Flat Stanley. Who would have known that he wasn't waterproof. I thought he was getting a little dirty from all his adventures so I wanted to give him a bath. I put him in the shower, but by the time I remembered that he was just a paper doll and not a real person it was too late.
Just kidding Mary. Flat Stanley is just fine. I keep forgetting but I promise I'll send him today. By the way your hair is getting long. I think I saw a real pony tail in a picture.
Have a good week everyone. Merry Christmas. Talk to you in a couple days. Woo hoo.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
This week has been good and wet. I've been able to enjoy riding a bike in the rain which has actually become something I really enjoy. As for news I the biggest is transfers. I'm staying in Padova and Anz. Valli is going to Ferrara. My new companion will be Anz. Free. He's my first companion I've met and talked to before becoming companions. He seems great.
Last night our phone got stolen while we were riding on the tram. It's been a real pain to deal with being cut off from the world, but in the end I feel like I've seen lots of little miracles that kept us from falling a lot harder than we could have. I have to say that I've started to enjoy these accidents that happen in life because it seems like it's so much easier to see all the ways God is helping us when we stumble a little. Nothing big happened, but that doesn't matter. I had phone numbers written down in my planner that I normally don't write down and I felt so calm and a whole recovery plan seemed to fall into place so easily. Not only that, but now I have a good story to tell.
We'll be having a baptism the week of Christmas of a man who has known the church for the last 15 years. While we were meeting this week I found out that he is Rom which is more commonly known as gypsy. Gypsy, or gingri is actually a term made up by Hitler for his second least favorite race after the Jews. Rom are a people without a country so instead they roam the world. They have their own language with many dialects and their own flag. They don't believe in war and are natural musicians. In spite of stereotypes not all of them beg on the streets or in trains. The guy we're baptizing works and has a nice house. In fact lots of them are normal working, law abiding people and it's just a few that give them a bad name. The guy, Sefki, likes to talk about it a lot because he's seen so much racism and I think he's trying to show that the stereotypes are wrong.
As for me I'm doing well. Life is moving on and I feel like I'm learning and growing. I'm working hard and feel like I'm doing the best I can for my circumstances. I hope you're all doing well.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Dad- First of all I have some very important news. Anz. Duque is a missionary in my district and he's become a great friend. He's from the Phillipines but moved to Rome when he was about 13. He went to cooking school for three years and he always teaches me something good and new to cook. And last night he showed me how to make hot chocolate Italian style. Nice and thick and chocolatey. I think you'll be as excited about that as I am.
I loved the story about Grandpa Fritz. I think that most of life is a struggle to see what's really important. There's a scripture I really like that talks about how the spirit helps us see things as they really are. I'm so glad for people like you and mom and Grandpa Fritz who see things as they really are. Who don't do things just to impress people or because it's important in the moment but not really important. I really liked what you said about being afraid of failing too. You're the best dad.
Mom- Thanks for your story. You and Dad both wrote me really nice emails this week. I loved your blog posts especially the one about what kids want for Christmas. I still want to make you and dad proud and I still love your attention. I really miss you guys. I will fully admit that I'm greedy for your attention. How could I not be? You and Dad are the coolest people I know. I'm really excited for Christmas even though I'll be so far from home. It seems that as the excitement for Christmas builds I somehow feel closer and closer to home. I'm so excited to talk to you guys. There's something I love about you and Mary having so much fun together. Thanks again for the blog posts. Thanks for being my mom. It's the best thing you ever did- at least according to me.
Stefan- I'm good. thanks for asking. Ya know Stefan I think you're the best 17 year old brother I could ask for. I really miss you. You really know how to enjoy life at home. I hope everything is going well and you're enjoying wearing my clothes. Have a good week, eat lots of chocolate and ask Mary on a date.
Hans- giocoso means playful- I think. My science fair projects were lame. I only remember one of them involved goldfish and colors and I ended up keeping bowls of goldfish in my room for a week or two. Does Stefan not drive to school? I can see him doing something like that. Did you know that you look completely different from the little brother I left behind? You look like a man now. Weird. I've been getting fatter so I look different too. To test fear you should take someone down to the gateway and make them go talk to strangers about the gospel. I don't think it's so bad, but it sure does scare some missionaries.
Xander- What is this? No email for two weeks in a row? What am I going to do with you? What's going on? Are you alive? Did you forget about me?
Scrooge- How be ye this fine week my dear mate? It pleases me that you find geometry to be such a fine subject. Would you fancy a nice cup of hot chocolate? My dearest and warmest wishes to you this week good chap. What an excellent brother you are.
Mary- I've been taking Flat Stanley on lots of adventures. This morning we went to Venice again. Anziano Duque, my crazy Philipino friend, caught a pigeon and we took a picture of Flat Stanley riding him. Flat Stanley is having some great adventures here in Italy. When should I send him back?
Have a good week everybody. Love you lots.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
As life has taken me to the other side of the world, thousands of miles away from the ones I love, I've come to understand just how important a family is. My family is everything to me.
One of the best ways to get people talking, really get to know them, and help them see that they need the gospel is to ask them about their family. Whether they're a member, an investigator or a person on the street, whether they're Italian, Afrikan or Romanian everyone has a family and it's always something important. I wish I had more time to think of words to put my feelings into but unfortunately I can't right now. With Thanksgiving tomorrow and Christmas around the corner my family is on my mind more than ever. They are so fun, so smart, so happy and so much of who I am. Rather than their absence making me depressed it makes me want to go and work and be the person they taught me to be. I'm thankful for my family. I'm proud to be a Lehnardt. I'm grateful for who each of my family members are.
Life in Padova is good. We're still working on building up the work because not much was happening when I got here. I think there are dementors in the area though because we've had a lot of fog lately.
I hope everyone has a good thanksgiving. Isn't God good? He's given us so much.
Have a good week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Padova is sometimes known among missionaries as Little Africa because there are so many Africans here. Really all of Italy is full of immigrants but Padova has a special dose of Afrika. (For some reason I like spelling Afrika with a K) This week we were talking to a Nigerian new convert named Adeola. I told him how nice it was to have so many Afrikans in our ward here because it makes it much easier. In fact they even have an English Sunday school class just for them. In Siena we taught some Africans but it was so hard to help them enjoy church because it was all in Italian and even with translation it was weird for them. But then he told us about how hard life is for them. He said that the women normally learn Italian because it's easier for them to find help. A lot of the time they will have a husband or boyfriend who emigrated earlier who already has a house and if not often times a rich man will make her his "girlfriend." If that doesn't happen they will often turn to prostitution which brings lots of money quickly. The men are faced with the pressures of sending money home so they immediately jump into trying to make money without being able to take the time to learn the language. Unfortunately many are driven by their frustration to make money in bad ways like selling drugs or even prostitution. I asked why they leave Nigeria and found that it's because there is so much corruption in Nigeria that there is no money for most people and everything comes from knowing the right person.
I can't believe how sad it is and I feel bad writing about it. Anyways I think someone needs to do something for Nigeria and I would like to do it. I think economics could solve a lot of their problems and I just wish I had Dad here to talk about it with me. Wouldn't it be great to make some good laws in Nigeria and help change the situation? I know I'm a missionary and really the gospel could solve the problems better than anything, but the part inside me that loves reading economics books wants to go to Nigeria and change the laws. I think it would be fun.
Anyways on a lighter note things are good here in Padova. I'm still in shock at how amazing the ward is.
Lately I've been realizing that I'm not exactly a young missionary anymore. I'm not old by any means but I'm not really young either. I've met a few missionaries younger than me and I love the reminder of how much I've learned. I still have so many challenges but luckily I've moved on past many of the challenges I began with. I don't have huge problems with the language, I've gotten comfortable with the system we work within and I feel comfortable teaching people. Of course I have plenty of stuff to work on, but it is nice to realize that I'm moving forward.
I love you all. Hope you have a great week.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I don't even know where to begin in starting to describe my new adventure here in Padova.
Padova is actually a really nice city. When I first got here I thought it was a big ugly city, which you can't really blame me for considering that I just came from Siena, but now that I've seen a little more I'm discovering that it really is a cool city. It's much bigger than Siena and is full of cool stuff and cool people.
How can I even describe the huge change that a transfer can be? I'm now in a completely new region of Italy with almost a whole new group of missionaries that I kind of know. I went from knowing every side street and corner to not knowing a single main road and I'm with a new companion which always brings change. It's not bad, but I'm just overwhelmed as I sit in front of this screen trying to think of how to describe my life.
So much has changed where do I even begin? The north is much wetter. It's rained a good amount since I got here which makes riding a bike even more fun. When I got here my bike didn't have brakes so that was something we took care of right away. Missionary bikes are always an adventure because they are never maintained beyond the point of lasting until the end of the transfer when there's the chance of passing it off to someone else.
The other night I was riding home through the pouring rain and it hit my how strange my situation was. Here I was riding a crappy bike through dark streets in the rain in a city that I didn't even know. I was far from home, soaking wet and yet I was happy. I took my hands off the handle bars lifted them up and looked up into the sky and let the rain hit me right in the face. And I couldn't help but laugh. One of the things I've learned in the last few months is not to care.
Let me use my suit as an example. A suit is something that you normally take care of. When you wear a suit you live life a little more on the careful side. A suit is too nice to do a lot of things in. It's expensive and easily torn or stained. But as a missionary this doesn't really matter. I have sweat to death in my suit, chased buses and trains. I've run and jumped, ridden a bike and recently been soaked by rain in a suit. The point is that I just don't care anymore. I've learned that even though a suit looks nice I can still let go and live. And that's the thing I love about the gospel lately. The gospel lets us let go. Life is full of hurts and pain, loss and heartbreak and no one escapes. We can't ignore it and we can't avoid all of it. But the gospel helps us let go and overcome. Thanks to the perspective of eternity a long wait of a letter doesn't seem so maddening. Thanks to the atonement we can let go of the weight of sin. Thanks to the gospel we can let go of hurt and laugh and smile and live our lives.
OK, my sermon is over.
Anz. Valli is from Draper. His Dad is from Livorno Italy and his parents met serving in Catania. He's in his 12th transfer so he's about 6 months from home. He's a nice guy.
Life is good and I hope all of you have a good week. I love you and I miss you.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I loved the talk in general conference about the Book of Mormon and how it must either be from God or from Satan. Not only did he give a great talk, but he quoted C.S. Lewis too. I wish I could help people see this type of decision. We have seen so many people with this idea of subjectivism lately. They all say that everyone finds what is right for them and that is where truth is found. They say that Joseph Smith is all good and well for me because I believe in him, but that Maria, or Allah, or Buddah is right for them and we can't judge each other and it's not possible for someone to say that what someone else believes is wrong. Argh. It's so hard to watch so many people walk in confusion and darkness and then watch them turn us away just because they can't take a stand on what is really right or wrong, true and false.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Anyway, yes conference was great for the fact of reminding me that we really are involved in something much bigger than we realize. It was really amazing too to see how well the church is moving into the future and world of technology. Here in our little branch we were able to watch live conference in Italian, Spanish, and English. We got to see all the sessions except for the Sunday afternoon session because that would have started at midnight for us.
Mom- I loved conference too. It was funny to see how we seemed to notice a lot of the same talks. I thought Sister Dalton's was great and Elder Anderson's was really interesting too. I remember hearing that that was something they used to talk about, but it's a new subject for this generation. You asked what I eat. Well like I said, mostly pasta. I made my own pesto this week which turned out really well, but most of the time there just isn't time or money get too into cooking. Don't worry though, I'll still be able to impress you guys with good stuff when I get home. I brought a kilo of pasta to conference for lunch and I was very proud when the Italians said it was good. I love your emails. I feel like I never have time to relax and let some of my worries go because we never have any time to relax and slow down. This morning I was remembering how Dad used to call me worry wart. Your emails and blogs help me slow down and appreciate life a little more which I think is something really important. Missionary work can be so stressful. Anyways, thanks for writing me. I love hearing from all of you.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Mom- The blog you sent me reminded me of a conversation we had with a lady in the park yesterday. She didn't want to talk about religion at all, but when I asked her about being a mamma she talked a lot. She said it's hard, but it's the most important thing for her. I told her about mia mamma and we had a nice conversation. I've said it for a long time, but I'll say it again that I'm proud of all the things you're good at but in the end you're always my mom and that's what matters most to me. As much as you do realize it I still don't think you know how much that means to each of us who are lucky enough to call you mom. Quindi, cara mamma mia, sono molto grato per te e per tutto che tu fai. (So, my dear mother, I am very grateful for you and everything you do.) I also got your package this week and I loved it. I was never much of a hat person before but I love the Red-Sox hat you sent me. I wear it around the apartment all the time. I would really like to go to school in Boston too someday. Maybe Stefan can teach me his secrets to test taking to help me. Anyways. Thank you. You know just what I like- pictures, pens, good stuff to read from Mary, and Boston stuff.
Xander- I think reading the BoM everyday is a great idea. You would be a great investigator. I really like what the bible dictionary says about prayer. I tell people everyday and I really mean it that the BoM can change your life. Something I've been trying lately is trying to read the BoM without the intent of finishing it quickly so much but more of reading it and thinking about everything it teaches me. It's good to read the whole Book of Mormon but it's a shame to rush through it just to finish it. After all once you finish you normally just start right from the beginning again. Why not enjoy the read? sono fiero di te, x-man. Fai bene e contua di crescere nel vangelo. (I am proud of you, x-man. Make good and continue to grow in the gospel.)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sunday we got to church and found out that a group of 23 people was coming. I wondered who they could be and why there were so many of them as we prepared to almost double our branch for the week. At about 8:45 cars started showing up. The people started getting out and before long I recognized French. It turned out that there was a bit of a family reunion going on nearby for a family from France. The Grandpa was Elder Patrich Boutoiue of the seventy. I anxiously wondered what we would do because no one here speaks French. Luckily most of them spoke English, which solved half of our problem. The only problem now was translating from Italian to English and the job fell to me because Anz. X, not being a native English speaker, can't really translate.
The first hour went terribly. I was taking full minutes of conversation and minimizing them into a sentence or two. Sometimes I even just resorted to making things up. It was so hard to listen and speak at the same time. Not to mention juggling two different languages. But, then in Sunday school things got better. I started getting into a rhythm and was doing much better. Then in sacrament meeting things got even better. I had been praying really hard and I know that I was helped. I can't say it was easy but the translating seemed to just come.
It was amazing to feel myself lifted to serve beyond my own capacity. I know I didn't translate perfectly, but it was still way better than I'm capable of doing on my own. It was also pretty amazing that I was translating from Italian to English and because of this all the French speakers and another tourist from Finland (go dad!) could understand Italian meetings.
Things haven't been easy here, but I have found so much satisfaction this week by being involved in such a great work.
I love you all.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Last week we had an appointment that was about a 20 min bus ride outside of Siena. Afterwards we got to the bus stop and decided we were close enough to the end of the line that we would just ride it until it turned around instead of trying to find the station going the other way. We soon found out that the last few stations were really far apart. The bus kept going and going for about half an hour before it turned around. It was kind of a long time but it was one of the most beautiful bus rides I’ve ever taken. It was like driving through a post card. Oh I can hardly describe the rolling golden Tuscan hills, the endless fields of sunflowers. It was so cool. If anyone is ever in Siena and wants to see some beautiful Tuscan country all you have to do is ride the number 5 bus. It was a mistake that we ended up loving.
Yesterday we had interviews and during the interviews we have a little bit of training. One of my favorite things was something Sorella Wolfgramm talked about. First of all it's Slla Wolfgramm who is one of the nicest people around. It's so funny to see her because she loves every missionary so much even though she doesn't really know any of us that well. Anyways, she played a few clips from “The Sound of Music” starting with the opening scenery, then the song about all of my favorite things. She talked about being happy as missionaries and finding joy in life. I like this a lot. Being a missionary is really hard but there are beautiful things all along the way. Like bus rides. Another thing I love are pens. I'm a little particular about my pens but when I find a pen I love it really can make me so happy.
I taught priesthood meeting this week and it was terrible. Not only was it the first time I had ever taught a lesson in church but it was also in Italian. Oh it was a disaster. Italian isn't too hard for me but it was just so hard to try and think about a lesson and speak Italian at the same time. Everyone was really nice but I felt pretty dumb afterwards. I feel pretty good about Italian most days but after that I walked away wondering if I even knew how to speak English. Luckily there was an Italian confidence booster on the way.
In the middle of our Sunday school I saw a familiar face poke in the door. It was the Pinnocks. I don't even know the Pinnocks that well but it was fun to see some Americans that I knew at least a little bit. They were really nice and they made me feel really good about my Italian with their tourist Italian which consisted of 'prego' and 'grazie.' It's funny how much your perspective changes when you're here in Italy for 2 years rather than just on vacation. It was really fun to see them and they're really nice people.
The work has been really good this last week and we've been seeing a lot of success. It's amazing how much good comes from just doing what Preach My Gospel says. We're told to invite people to be baptized in the first lesson unless we really feel like we shouldn't. This seems kind of scary so a lot of the time it doesn't happen but in the last few days we've been doing it and we've found three new people that accepted the baptismal invite. Sweet. Missionary work is really fun when it goes this well and it's amazing what happens when we trust what we've been taught. Until next week, vi voglio bene. Love Ben
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Siena continues to be absolutely beautiful. We are right in the middle of Tuscany and a lot of the time I feel like I’m walking through a postcard. It's really fun to be here right between the two Palios too. They have two races a year and the other one is August 16. They seem to be having carnivals and medieval fairs at least once a week.
We also had a baptism this week. It was a little weird because I had hardly met Daniele before his baptism, but it was still really exciting to see anyone get baptized. It was a funny day and I was reminded over and over that I am not in America. I spent the first two hours of church boiling water on the stove to heat up the mobile font. Then during sacrament meeting the AC unit in the ceiling started dripping so one of the branch presidency members started mopping while the speaker kept going. It was a funny day, and in the end it was really great to see Daniele get baptized.
Anz. Blaga is good. We have a lot of fun together. Imagine Karl Marx and Adam Smith writing a paper together. That’s kind of how things are here. We're both focused on the same subject, but we have very different ways of thinking. In the end though we're having a lot of fun. I've made getting along with him my main focus and it has helped a lot.
Not to be preachy, but then again I am a missionary, but lately I've been noticing a lot in the scriptures how often it talks about taking care of the needy, the sick and the afflicted. Alma basically says that now matter how much, faith you have and no matter how good you are, if you aren't helping the poor you’re an evil hypocrite. He's pretty blunt but he probably has a point seeing as he's a prophet. This is something I'm terrible at. A lot of the time it takes effort and time to find people in need, but then again does it? So my invitation is to join me in an experiment this week and try to find people in need and help them. Caring for people’s physical needs was a major theme in this last general conference too. I spend so much time worrying about peoples spiritual well being everyday that I think it sounds like fun to try and help someone in physical need. I feel a little funny doing this, but I guess I can be a little weird since I'm a missionary.
Well I would just like to end, by saying how proud I still am of my brother Stefan. Not just because he got a 36 on the ACT but because of who he his. I would like it to be put on the record that I am his brother and that I am predicting great things in his future. Now that I think about it I'm proud of my whole family. They're all so great. I'm so proud to be associated with them.
Until next week. Love Ben
p.s. Oh man, mom, you make our life look so good. I love all the blog posts. I can hardly describe how it makes me feel to see how beautiful life is and more specifically your lives are. I miss you guys a lot. I'm happy, but I definitely know that I'm only supposed to be away from you for two years. Any more than that would be too hard.
I have more time to read them too. We do email on the computer here in the church so I don't have to pay for email time. I can't believe how grown up our family seems now. Our family has already changed so much since I left. Mary seems like so much less of a baby. This is the first time in my life that our family hasn't had a baby. Can you believe that?
To be honest this week was kind of hard but I’m feeling much better the last two or three days. I'm really still figuring out this whole missionary business and it's hard. I feel more alone here in Siena because we are way off in the corner of the mission. But, things are good. I'm learning and growing a lot. One thing that I've started to enjoy since being on my mission and that I’ve really come to depend on in the last week or so is writing. I write like crazy. I think that's how I learn and think best. It helps me so much to write things out. I have at least five different notebooks that I use for different things.
We have interviews next week in Firenze so I should get my package then. I'm really excited about it. Well I love you lots and don't forget about your son in Italy in all the craziness of summer. Love Ben
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I don't even know where to begin describing this week. So much has happened and every day has been an adventure. The time between emails in bologna was starting to go really quickly but this week it seems like forever ago that I emailed last. I'll try and hit the highlights and skip the boring stuff.
Once again on Wednesday I packed up everything I own and got ready to go to Siena. It's so weird to pick up and leave everything over and over. I really did love bologna. I made some good friends in the ward that I’m sad to leave and Bologna itself is a beautiful city. Not to mention Anz Rich and the other two missionaries I was living with. It's kind of fun but kind of hard to start over time and time again.
Thursday were transfers and I spent the whole day on trains. Bologna is only a few hours away from Siena but everyone goes all the way to Milan for transfers because it's a lot simpler. It would save a lot of time and money if they could figure out how to make each transfer without everyone going all the way to Milan but that’s not my responsibility so I don't worry about it. I wonder what the people in the station think about the pattern of about 100 boys in white shirts invading the station for about an hour or so and then disappearing until about 6 weeks later.
Anz Blaga is a good guy and he is really sincere. He's from Transylvania to so I’ve been eating extra garlic just in case he has any vampire in him.
Saturday was also Palio, which was so cool. We legitimately couldn't work during palio because the whole city is shut down and crazy so we went with a member. Siena is divided into Contradas. Contradas are like neighborhoods with a Hogwarts house twist. Each Contrada parades around with its drums and flags with everyone dressed in medieval attire. It was so cool. Practically Stefan’s dream I think. It's like playing that sword game on the trampoline but instead of a trampoline you have a medieval city and instead of a wooden stick you have a real sword, real armor and real servants to carry your flags and beat your drums. The race was less than a minute long but really intense and exciting. Our adopted Contrada, Oca won too. People take the race really seriously so our member who is from Oca was really excited.
Sunday was exciting because we have lots of BYU students here. The branch is good but about 3/4 of the people there were Americans. They're a lot of fun to have here.
Monday we had a fourth of July district meeting where everyone but Anz Blaga made lots of patriotic comments. We tried to add some excitement to a day that just isn't that exciting outside the US.
One last exciting bit of news is that we have a baptism this week! Daniele is 15 and ready for baptism. His mom got baptized about a month ago and he's next. I just met him today and he seems really great.
I miss you and I love you all. Thanks to everyone who has written me I love hearing from you even if I can't always find the time to respond.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Last week was really good. We taught a lot of lessons. In fact more than double what we have done before. It was something I was really concentrating on this last week and it was so satisfying to be successful. One of the apostles promised that if the missionaries would consistently teach 20 lessons per week baptisms would double. There has been a big push in the mission to get everyone teaching 20 lessons per week. We were only doing about 7 and this week we got 19. We were blessed for it too. I felt like I got better at teaching in just this one week and my favorite investigator Silvio accepted our baptismal invite. I'm pretty happy about it.
Summer is setting in and even though the national month long vacation isn't until August most people have decided that they don't really need to work right now. People are really hard to work with because they are all going on vacation and they normally go for a while. Like 3 or 4 weeks. Argh.
In other news last night I found out that I’m getting transferred to Siena. I have really loved Bologna but I’m excited to go to Siena. Anz Dunshee, one of the zone leaders I’ve been living with served there for a long time and loved it so he has been really excited for me. It will be a lot different though. They have a branch of about 10 people and it's a much smaller city. It's about as far south in the mission as you can get so if Nick Anderson is still in Terni we will be as close together as we can possibly be. I'm really going to miss Anz Rich. I've learned so much from him and we've grown so much together. My new companion is Anz. Blaga and guess where he is from? Romania! I'm excited. I’ve met him once before but don't know much about him. Anyway, I’m really excited to go to Siena and I think I will learn and grow a lot there.
Mr. 36- wow I can't believe you. You got a 36. Do you know what that means? You can do whatever you want now. Is there anything you aren't good at? You can go to any college in America. That’s amazing. Way to go. Any update on France? I feel like I’ve been asking you about it for months.
By the way go look up Palio in Siena. They have a big horse race right in the middle of the square twice a year and the first one is this Saturday. It's a really big deal and should be pretty exciting.
Well I love you all and I miss you too. Love Ben
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It is getting very hot and I sweat like crazy. Luckily I get to wear long pants and a tie to help me soak up the sweat. The Italians really know how to dress down for the heat. I can't tell you how many old men I’ve seen answer the door in their whitey tighties.
The other night we were heading to the center of the city to talk to people in the piazza. We were walking along and we came to a big parade. There were people drumming and cheering and being crazy. It looked like a lot of fun but instead of jumping in we decided that we should probably head to a nearby park instead of Centro because that was probably where they were going. After a little while in the park the parade showed up. It was kind of hard to talk about spiritual stuff with crazy drums and dancers everywhere. We decided to leave but soon found that all the entrances to the park were locked up except for the one the parade was coming through. Eventually we just had to dive in and go straight through the parade. Talk about craziness. Part of me loved it but at the same time it wasn't really a missionary place.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about something Grandpa Fritz told me. I was interviewing him for a project and the last question for the interview was if he had any advice. He said to remember that nothing is ever as serious as it seems. I think when I remember his history this makes it even more meaningful. This is someone who saw Nazis and Russians invade his home, who lived on his own at 16. Nothing is ever as serious as it seems. Whenever I’m in a situation I don't like, I think of that. Sometimes I forget that time moves on and situations change, that I won't be in the badness forever. I look back at times when I’ve been uncomfortable or in pain or anything else bad and I remember how I felt like it would never end. But, then I look back and see that it did end. Luckily for us time moves on and the bad ends. This applies to the gospel too. Something that I don't think about everyday but that's still pretty crazy is that life ends. We can't imagine it being over but we know that it does. We know that life ends and then we will see God again and be judged. We think the world will go on forever but it won't. Christ will come again and things are going to be crazy. Anyways, the point is that life moves on and changes and sometimes it helps to remember that.
Unfortunately the work hasn't been as hot as the weather. Lots of people travel a lot during the summer so we've met a lot of great people who are leaving in a week. Bologna has lots of students and school is wrapping up this week so we have a lot of people leaving.
I can't believe I'm in the last week of my first transfer. I don't know what to expect for the transfer but from what I can tell it's hard to predict exactly what will happen. I'm hoping for something good.
Dad- Are you in Texas? I'm guessing for a food show or something. Anyways things are good here. It's getting really hot. I sweat like crazy and unlike me not everyone is wearing a shirt and tie.
Mom- I loved everything you wrote. That’s so cool that your photo was on the cover of Mormon Times. Well this week I saw another case of you being right even when we just thought you were a little crazy. Our crazy investigator Alberto (who we have now dropped) was pretty weird. Last week we were talking to him and when he went to get his scriptures he came back out with a Dan Brown book. Apparently he studies that along with the Book of Mormon. That must be where he was getting his crazy ideas about being a descendent of Christ. Then last night we talked with a guy in a square and after we told him about the restoration he asked us what we thought about the Da Vinci code. Stupid Dan Brown. Stupid People. Arrghgh. It's fiction people. Anyways now I see why they can be bad.
So do you know what's going on with the package now? I think in the future it would be best to just send packages to the mission office. Oh well I guess we'll see.
You sound much better this week. The scriptures are great and prayer is too. It's nice to hear that someone in this world cares about them. Sounds like you have a busy week ahead. I hope it all goes well.
p.s. imagine your love for mascarpone combined with your love for gelato= mascarpone gelato. It’s so good.
Stefan- Thanks for your email. I'm glad you made the font so big. You know how my old eyes are. You sound like you're having a lot of fun. I have to admit I’ve been dreaming of being alone for several hours with just a good book. Make sure you take advantage of that. And you finally took the ACT. Good for you. And what in the world you're reading Harry Potter in French. Who are you? That’s super impressive. Tu puoi capire tutto? You'll really be grateful for that someday. I wish I spoke French along with Italian and English. Even if you don't go to France on a mission I promise you will end up talking to someone in French. France would be really cool. Do you want to go on a mission to France? Anyways enjoy your summer and smooch some girls.
Ciao. Love you and I miss you.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
It is getting hot in Bologna. It's so weird to have summer come without any transition except the temperature. Normally I would be excited about school getting out and worrying about finding a job but now I just keep doing the same things. I guess the gelato flavors change a bit. They have more and better fruit flavors since they use fresh fruit. School just ended here and I was on a scambio in Ravenna and we rode our bikes into a square and it sounded like a riot. It turned out to be tons of students who were celebrating getting out of school. They were throwing water and flour and it looked like a lot of fun. I almost jumped in, but at the last second decided it probably wasn't the best way to find people to teach. Italians are pretty good at celebrating. The other day I saw a bunch of cars drive past honking like crazy because they just came from a wedding. It was pretty cool.
Yesterday we went to Pioppe to help a member with some stuff. He lives in what used to be a hotel, a mechanical shop, and a bar and dancing place all in one. Now it’s a pretty big place for just one house. It’s really old too. He was saying that in WWII the Germans and Americans didn't want to bomb it because it was a central point in the area. Instead they fought for it hand to hand within his house. He said one day he found bones in the basement. Cool! It’s all made out of concrete and rocks so work goes really slow on it. In fact he's been working on it for the last 20 years. It felt a little like working in the catacombs sometimes. The nice thing is that we good some good food and improved our relationship with some members. Not to mention that they helped my Italian a ton.
A quick side note. I've been seeing ads for a Cars 2. I don't feel like I’m missing out on much as a missionary but I do have to admit I’m going to be jealous of everyone when they see it. Oh well...
As for missionary work things could be going better. We were really excited to find a little Philipino family that was really interested. One day we were doing casa and this Philipino boy let us in. we taught the restoration pretty quickly and when we got to the BoM he said he already had one. He went and grabbed his Tagalog BoM and said he started reading it about a month ago. I was super excited. Unfortunately he and his family are now out of town for at least the next month.
It has been pretty hard work opening a copia and we haven't seen a ton of success.
As for my cold I’ve discovered the magic of water. I started drinking lots of water the other day and it has helped more than any of the other medicine I’ve taken. The only problem is that when you're constantly drinking water you're constantly peeing too.
Italian it is a beautiful language but it’s hard. It gets better every day but I think if I just keep working at it every day I’ll be able to speak really well before too long. I've been surprised at how many people only speak well enough to get by but talk about the people who speak really well like they're really special, but then they don't do any language study. Funny funny. I think enduring and working hard every day is the real key.
I’m eating much better now and I love having the assurance of those Euros you sent me. Did I ever tell you how surprised I was at how much you sent me? Holy cow. Anyways I agree with you life is too short now to eat well and I’ll only be in Italy for two years. I think I’m good with money but I do have my debit card at Chase Bank if I run out again. I had a delicious canolli this morning and I can't even describe how much I love gelato.
I'm glad to hear that you're proud of me. I love being here but I still miss you guys a lot. And like you were saying about families I think we were all meant to be together so it is kind of weird being so far away from you guys. I really like to compare the mission to the plan of salvation though. It’s hard to be gone but I know I’ll be back with you guys before too long. I'm having a lot of fun and learning so much. I love you guys and think about you every day.
Mom- I'm sorry to hear that this week has been so hard. I wish I could do more but I feel like all I can do is pray extra hard for you. Lately I’ve been praying for angels to take care of you guys a lot. Is that bad? Can I do that? I think I can. So I do. Sometimes it's so hard to tell exactly what we can do and can't. The doctrine is simple but sometimes it's confusing too. I have an especially hard time with CS Lewis. I know he wasn't an apostle but a lot of the time his explanations work so well. I was thinking and reading about judgment and I love the imagery he uses in The Great Divorce. I love the idea that it's more our choice. That the judgment isn't so much God looking at us and then telling us where to go but more us putting ourselves as close to or as far from God as makes us comfortable. I know that when I make mistakes or hurt someone a lot of the time my shame makes me want to run away from them. It's hard to face people we hurt. I hope this doesn't come across as being preachy at all. I just like talking about this stuff. One thing I do know is that Heavenly Father does love us. He loves you and me and Dad and our whole family and everyone and He wants the very best for us. He wants us to be happy in ways we can't even imagine. He is the king of true happiness. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. And if they do punch them because that's Satan talking. Satan wants so badly to confuse our idea of God. What a jerk.
Fight the thing.
I love you and I'll be praying extra this week.
Stefan- I think you’re awesome. I think I brag about you more than anyone else.
Everyone else don't be lame. Take 5 minutes to write me a short email this week. I promise it's not that hard and if you don't dad will beat you with a stick. Really though I promise you won't regret it. I will eat a gelato for you if you send me an email. I promise though that you really won't regret it and you'll get benefits even more real than me eating gelato for you. I love you all lots and I just don't want you to forget me and I don't want to lose contact with you for 2 years. How sad would that be?
I miss you and I’m so proud to be part of our family.
One last thing. There are so many things I love about Italy but the government is not one of them. This morning I had to go to my questura appointment to get my permesso di soggorno. It's basically like a green card. Imagine the DMV but with 10 times more people, 5 X more hot, no organization at all with half as many workers that are twice as grumpy and drunk with power. It was terrible but eventually my good old trick of just acting like I knew what I was doing worked for me.
I love you and I miss you. Hope everyone is good and happy.
Once again time is speeding up again and it feels like I was emailing just yesterday. I'm still alive here in Bologna and things are going great. We have investigators now. All three of them. That might have been a little sarcastic but I really am happy. It's tough to open a copia (new area) and I think it might just take some time to get things going.
We have Silvio,who was the first person I got a number from all on my own. We met him on the bus a few weeks ago and were finally able to teach him this week. He's from Sicily so it's cool to be teaching an Italian.
Anyalem is from Ethiopia and hard to get a hold of.
Then there's Alberto. Alberto is a merman. He just told us last time. Oh and on top of that he is a descendent of Jesus. He says he has the blood of Christ in him. But, he loves the book of Mormon. He really loves it. He and his friend were fighting over taking turns reading it. We were happy to give them another copy so the didn’t have to fight. He might be crazy but he is our only progressing investigator.
We've had a little bit of excitement this week with some big thunderstorms. I actually like it when it rains. It cools things down a little bit and adds a little excitement to our day. Unfortunately I have been a little sick. It’s just a cold but it is driving me crazy. I have turned into a booger machine and I cough and sneeze a lot, which makes other people want to talk to me a lot. One thing I love about Italians though is that they aren't shy about blowing their noses. When they need to blow, they blow. I've decided to make this a part of my life and blow my nose with wild abandon no matter where I am.
We went to San Marino today so I spent some of my day in another country. San Marino is a little city-state that built a big castle on top of a big mountain, declared themselves independent, and said they would fight anyone who wanted to come fight. The cliffs around the castle are really steep so I don't think I would want to attack them. It's funny to see some missionaries who have no trouble scheduling appointments and such the rest of the week get really stressed about the timing of a little trip to a castle.
I can't think of much new stuff for this week. We knocked a lot of doors or rather rang a lot of citofonos. I was talking to Anziano Ramjoue and he was saying he's only done casa (proselyting door-to-door) once in his two transfers. I can't believe it. Apparently his trainer is really good with the members.
Mom- Hello mother! Thank you for the blog posts I always love reading those. I can't believe how much our family is growing up. I have to admit I’m a little jealous of how much freedom you have to go and do stuff. It sounds like the summer is going to be a lot of fun. I have to admit that I hope you do take our super tent and set it up. That thing is so cool and I’m really proud of building it. By the way I would love a copy of the Ensign. Also if anyone had favorite conference talks they wanted to send I would love them. Congratulations on getting published too. That’s really exciting. I love writing in my journal. A lot of missionaries look at it like a chore but I actually really like writing. There are so many things we can learn by writing about our lives. Thanks for writing to me and keeping me updated on our family.
Well have a good week everybody. I love you and I miss you.
Don't forget about me.