guys you will never believe my week. it was seriously a surprise party everyday. we will start exactly from where i left off.
after leaving the internet point we ran into a good friend of ours, stefano, the son of lidia (a new convert that is my best friend in italy besides sorella) and an investigator of the anziani. we chatted with him for a bit when he said "did you hear i am getting baptized?" wha?! "yeah on the 28th ... with your nigerian friend valentine." yay!! duel baptisms!! woo!!
1. we met ellen degeneres' (how in the world does one spell that) italian twin. to. a. t.
2. we met this other man that was great! he said "i grew up catholic but i have decided that they aren't the one true church. there should only be one! (yeah we were so excited at this point) and after studying the religions around the world i have narrowed it down to 2 churches: buddhists and the mormons." we loved that. we left him a book of mormon and set up an appointment. we loved him but worried, based only on his long curly hair that was slicked to his head and his multiple rings and snake necklace, that maybe he might maybe be a mafia man, but we are here to teach this gospel of CHANGE so we moved forward. however, word traveled back to the ward that we had chatted with someone so great as this man, only to be told that he is (or maybe was ... i don't really understand the logistics) in the mafia. our mafia radar is so good.
3. we had a lesson with valentine, the last one he needed before his baptism, scheduled for the 28th. the anziani were also meeting with stefano at the same time. we all finished our lessons and were chatting all together when the bishop came. he was asking if they (stefano and valentine) were feeling excited and prepared for their baptisms. they of course were excited (why wouldn't someone be excited to begin a new life, clean and pure and as a disciple of christ?!) then bishop said "well why don't you just get baptized this sunday instead?" they both excitedly agreed and we planned the program right there and then and my first baptism was in the works. SURPRISE!
valentine had his baptismal interview and was set and ready to be baptized (or in valentines words "give his heart to god")! the other best part of this day was a quick mini english lesson we taught with a man that only referred to himself as "paul sixth" because it was the literal english translation of his name. classic.
val and slla taylor the day before the baptism (cutest picture of the mission so far!). calssic valentine.
THE BAPTISM! oh it was the most beautiful thing! these two men have completely changed through this process. all day i was just overwhelmed with these feelings of love and gratitude for the changing power of the gospel of jesus christ through his atonement. everyone can change and if we can learn to apply the concept that president monson taught in the last conference, of seeing people as they can become, we will be able to view each other through our loving heavenly fathers eyes. what a blessing! anyway valentine brought 3 friends to the baptism (named emanuel prosper, and bright courage ... gotta love african names ... side note slla taylor met an african in sircusa named gods power ... i love africans SO MUCH) and they are so great. the program was great, at least i think it was, but i was too nervous and shaking and feeling all kinds of crazy since val had asked me to speak on the holy ghost (in italian) to really know for sure. but once i finished my talk, and during really, i could just feel how much heavenly father loves his children. stefano was baptized first and valentine was next. if you ever have the chance to hear an italian try to pronounce an african name such as ogbanmwan--give an ear. it is a good time. after the baptisms stefano and val had a chance to bear their testimonies. stefano bore a beautifully simple and motivational testimony. so did val, with one of the anziani as the translator. he finished his testimony but went in for a part two: he said, "i want to tell you my thanks through song now" then started singing that song from the price of eygpt that says something like "there will be miracles when you believe." it was CLASSIC valentine and needless to say the ward is IN LOVE with him even more now. ha! that is honestly my favorite memory of my mission so far: valentine singing at his baptism. ha! love that guy.
us and val on the big day.
us, val, the anzinai, stefano, the kovacs family (ie: stefanos family and my besties).
valentine called us multiple times throughout the day to tell us how happy he is. and when we saw him he was just radiating. beautiful! we read a talk with him about how to prepare to receive the priesthood, because now bishop wants to give him the priesthood this sunday after confirming him. so we read a talk that quoted a lot of old prophets. val was getting a kick out of the names like heber j grant and spencer w kimball. lawlling out of control. then he got to the name brigham young and he said "oh is he chinese?" slla taylor and i lost it. ha! imagine if brigham young was really brigham yung.
was zone conference and the most motivating and wonderful day! perfect follow up to a fabulous weekend of surprises and miracles and singing songs of gratitude. we learned a lot about changing and becoming consecrated missionaries. woo! missions. they are so good (or as valentine would say "too much"..."you girls. you are too much.")
sisters at zone conference.
rose (or sorella preston) at zone conference.
yesterday while we rode the train back to taranto from bari, where we had zone conference, i was reading the latest ensign. there is a story of the last page that made me think about us. it was about this girl that just loved to be happy. she wouldn't fully enjoy happy experiences because she was terrified for them to end and be back in times of struggle. i think we are like this sometimes but heavenly father just lets the good times keep on coming. really! he does! i hope you are feeling that right now. feeling happy and looking forward to a perfect brightness of hope! be happy! be happy because we have the truth, we know the plan, and we can rejoice!!
all of my love from across the pond,