Well family, to start off I really can't say much more than this has probably been the most miraculous week of my mission and also life. Remember last week when I said I hoped Heavenly Father would help us fill our schedule after dropping so many investigators last week? Well, He DID!
It all started on Tuesday when we did a scambio with the Anziani in Messina. For it, I went to Messina. It made me super happy to be once again in Sicilia. I will always just love that place! Tuesday afternoon we did some bus finding which means we basically just get on a bus at the top of the line and ride it on its whole route back to the top of the line the whole while trying to talk to as many people as we can. By some chance we chose a bus that had like a two hour route though and it ended up taking us way away from Messina up into the mountains of Sicilia before circling back down. So that was cool! Haha but what was cooler was that we ended up getting two more contacts who were super awesome! Then, that night we had English Course. English course usually gets done at 8, but for some reason the students just ended up staying more just talking and having fun with us so it wasn't until like 8:40 that me and my scambio companion Anziano Gunnell ended up leaving the church to head home. It was a miracle though because as we were walking home we ran into an old contact of theirs who was actually heading to the church to find us and so we would have missed him if we left earlier!! So we headed back to the church and it worked out perfectly because since we had a lesson we could stay out until 9:30. It felt so cool just sitting their in the church being in a lesson that pretty much Heavenly Father had scheduled for us! Haha Right from the start it was so spiritual. This man is actually here studying to be a music major so it was so awesome to talk to him and connect. It was just meant to happen! Then, the next morning we had a lesson with another man. He lives with his mom though and she doesn't like the missionaries so we weren't sure if we should follow through with it. We prayed about it though and felt like it was a good idea to go and it again was so meant to happen. We got to really discover many of this man's questions and doubts and help him.
Meanwhile, the work over in Reggio was also popping! At our English Course we had 15 people show up (and for my whole time here we've just had 5)! Plus Anziano Cooney and Anziano Sanchez (his scambio companion) got to meet with an investigator named Nino that hasn't seen the missionaries for awhile. Plus, Nino really opened up to Anziano Sanchez. They taught him the restoration and they said the whole time he was just gasping excitedly at the fact that we believe in a modern prophet and that the church has been restored and on and on. The funny thing is he's been taught the restoration lesson many many times. Haha I guess it just took Anziano Sanchez to reach him.
Little did we know that was just the first trickling drops of rain before the HURRICANE of blessings hit. We re-exchanged companions in Messina Wednesday afternoon, went back to Reggio and were heading back on the bus to our apartment in Reggio when a certain African got on the bus and happily came up to us (I think I vaguely remember talking to him before but I don't remember where or when or what we talked about, I just vaguely recognized his face) and said, "Hey I am going to come to church on Sunday!" To which we confusedly were like "Okay sweet!" I also got to use some of the phrases I've leaned from African dialect also known as "Pigeon English!" That got to him so much. Haha It's one thing for the Africans to see you and be able to speak English with you, but they just love you so much more the instance you say something in dialect. Well, his name is Caster (from Nigeria) and we scheduled an appointment with him for the next day and if that wasn't enough later also on the bus we met another African friend named Solomon (also Nigerian. There are a lot of Nigerian refugees) who we've been trying to get ahold of and set up an appointment with. Then, that night we went out to do finding when it started foreal raining so we headed back home to call old contacts in our phone. Pretty much that was also a huge miracle because in that calling session we contacted so many people and got several teaching appointments!
Then, the next day in companionship study we were talking about setting a baptismal date for Nino (He's Italian). We prayed about it and decided on the 21st of October. The lesson with Nino was that afternoon, but first in the morning we had the lesson with Caster. That lesson with Caster was probably one of the most spiritual lessons in my mission. He is so spiritually prepared and believing. As the lesson came to the end I just got the strongest impression that that baptismal date we chose for the 21st was actually for Caster. With that I invited him to be baptized and he accepted!! It felt so good. The church here is in an apartment building so we saw him down to the bottom floor and then went back up and just said a prayer of gratitude. Then we headed down to take the bus and met another old investigator who has been really busy lately. I had never even met her yet, but she talked to us and said she would like to meet soon! Later that day we then had the lesson with Nino. As we had felt, it wasn't the right time to give him a baptism date, but he committed to coming to church which was also a miracle because he's only come to the church once before (fast forward though he did come to church yesterday which was such a huge miracle also)!
That night at English course tons of people came again. Afterwards we got a ride home from a man and his girlfriend who have been coming to English Course for a long time. English course was just especially good and fun that night and then in the car it just continued and then towards the end of the ride the girlfriend started asking about how our church meetings work. We explained it to her and then right as they were dropping us off told us that they would love to come! We were just shocked and so happy because they have never showed interest in the church before! We were so happy all we could do was go inside and just thank Heavenly Father for everything.
I literally have only told about a few miracles and this letter is already way too long. The next few days were basically just more and more and more miracles. I don't know what's happening! We have all of the sudden just been meeting everyone and being able to contact everyone. It's been crazy! Like on Friday one of our contacts who lives in a far away city randomly just called us in the middle of pranzo and said he had an emergency and had to come to Reggio and he only had a little bit of time but if we wanted to meet he could meet us somewhere right then. He agreed to drive to us though. We agreed and told him where he could meet us. At that point pranzo was ready and we had appointments the rest of the day (also a miracle) so we had to eat lunch right then. I seriously just put the phone on speaker as I was jamming pasta down trying to give him directions to the piazza where we could meet him. Haha not only that, but in general the buses have just been working so well for us lately with rushing between appointments.
On Saturday we had an appointment with our recent convert in Locri. We were doing studies and lost track of time though so when we finally saw the time, we had to grab all our stuff and rush out the door to get to the bus stop a block or two away. As we were going I made a joke about how with all these miracles I didn't think we could miss the bus if we tried! Haha Well, little did we know that was kind of going to be put to the test because when we got out to the bus stop Anziano Cooney realized he forgot his tablet in the house. We sprinted back to the apartment, ran in and got it, and ran back out to the bus stop. At that point the bus was supposed to have passed 15 minutes ago. BUT, just seconds later the bus we needed came rolling up and we were able to make it to the train station on time to make it to Locri!
This letter is so long, but I haven't even said all the miracles that have happened! I don't understand why we are being so blessed! At some point in the week Anziano Cooney and I were talking and I just said I wonder if there's someone in particular who is praying for us right now? If someone had told me that the whole worldwide church was doing some special fast just for our companionship all of this would make perfect sense to me. Haha I just don't understand it. I guess it just shows that honestly God's blessings will come in His time. What we have to do is just stay faithful even when we don't see all those blessings.
Still though, when I think back on points in my mission I see so many points where I didn't feel like I was "faithful." I HAVE made mistakes and have had moments of weakness where I DIDN'T do my best, but yet Heavenly Father has decided to bless us.
There's a scripture that Anziano Cooney found this week. I had read this scripture before, but forgot about it. It is Romans 8:35.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I know God is always aware of us and loves us and as we try to do our best and stay faithful we will recieve blessings. He will bless us with blessings beyond what we could ever deserve or earn through our own efforts. I feel like we are experiencing just a bit of what the scriptures say when God gives us so many blessings that "there [isn't] room enough to receive it." I know He does this because He loves us and is so merciful.
Hurrah for Israel! Love, Anziano Stucki.
P.S. I realize I haven't really introduced my companion, so at mom's request I will say my companion is Anziano Cooney from Saint George, Utah (he unfortunately doesn't know our cousins from Saint George). Annnd, he loves music and wants to be a music major so we get along pretty good and I try to love him even if he does play jazz and not classical. 😉 He also plays like 8 instruments though! He is very talented! He loves puns and has many diverse skills, one of which (my favorite) is cooking Calabrese Pesto. We enjoy ourselves and he is a very hard and dedicated worker so we get the job done!
This week has been another exciting one. I feel like our weeks are just so crazy here. I think for one thing, because it's a small town the bus system isn't as reliable/often so we very much have to base our schedule on the bus. Another thing is most investigators and members actually don't live in Reggio and so it makes it kind of exciting trying to schedule lessons and coordinate travel.
This week has been kind of sad because we literally dropped like 5 investigators. The thing is, that they shouldn't have really ever been considered "investigators" because many never had interest. They were more like random people on the street who missionaries just met and briefly talked to and then labeled them as investigators, or people who have no interest in the church, but have only been inviting the missionaries over because they like their company. We are really trying to clean up the areabook and decide who are our focus investigators. I just hope that as we are opening up our schedule the Lord will fill it with people who are sincerely searching for the truth.
So here in Reggio we are the only city in our zone that is not in Sicilia. So every Tuesday when we have DDM we take a boat across to Sicilia to the city of Messina. It is such a pretty ride. At DDM this week we talked about what it means to be a good leader. We watched a video called "Building leadership cability." One phrase from it stood out in my mind. It was, "Good leaders try to make others better than themselves." So basically you can derive that good leaders try to make others, leaders too! I began thinking how people say at the end of the first 12 weeks of a new missionaries training the idea is that the trainee will be able to train. So in my case Anziano Cooney has finished his first 12 weeks so technically he is ready to "train." This week and just my time here in Reggio so far has really been a time of contemplating and thinking about what I need to improve. A lot of the time I've also heard trainers say that they are not the ones training but that they are being trained. The thought came to me that as Anziano Cooney's follow-up trainer this is a chance for me to allow him to train and in doing so I can learn from him. So in a certain sense Anziano Cooney is my new trainer. This is a time of learning and growing for me!
I am so thankful for this time. I know the Lord knows what He is doing. We just need to have faith in Him.
Love you, Anziano Stucki.
baptism - the hottest of hot
Well well this week has been anything but boring! To break the news fast I got transferred to Reggio Calabria! I am right on the toe of the boot! Right across from Sicilia. You literally can see Sicilia just across the bay!
Transfers and traveling have been so crazy. It was really sad saying goodbye to Lucky and so many of our other friends and investigators and just to leave Cagliari. Anziano Hunsaker and I were joking that president Pickerd was looking at our companionship and thought it was just going to good so he had to shake things up. Haha I am grateful for everything I learned in Cagliari.
Here in Reggio Calabria the work is very different. It's a small branch of around 12 members and we are the only missionaries in our city. I am follow-up training my companion Anziano Cooney and I feel such a big weight to keep the work going and strengthen this little branch.
Back up to before transfers, me and another missionary in my zone were expected to fly out of Cagliari Thursday morning, but just before on Wednesday afternoon we found out that instead of leaving at 8:10 Thursday morning we would be leaving 8:10 in the evening on Thursday. I was so happy because I hadn't even started packing my bags. Haha so Thursday night we left for Rome. We were in Rome for approximately 50 minutes because we literally got off the plane and then got on the next one for Catania, Sicilia. We landed after 11:00 at night and then got taken to the Catania Anziani's apartment to sleep. We didn't get to bed until 1:00 in the morning! It was rough. I have not done that in awhile! Haha the next day we headed to the train station only to stop at a couple bars for the long missed Sicilian food. Let me tell ya, Sardegna has good food, but nothing is like Sicilian food! Taking a bite into an arancino was like coming home! After that we went to Messina where I met my companion and then took a boat and went across to Reggio Calabria.
The next day, Saturday, was highly-anticipated because I had found out just a few days before that there would be a baptism of a women named Anna! It was crazy to go to the baptism and meet her for the first time AT her baptism. Haha nothing like an awesome welcome to a new city! Saturday morning we got a ride with members up to a town called Locri where Anna and her husband live. To make things even cooler the baptism was in the sea! It was a beautiful service and afterward we went to their house with family members and branch members to eat lunch. I will look forward to getting to know them over the coming weeks. Haha
One great thing about Calabria that I have seen is that they love spicy food! I didn't think that was really thing in Italy at all because from what I've seen Italians don't really care much for spicy food. But at the lunch the branch president made a joke that he wouldn't sit down until there were peperoncino's on the table so after that comment, I knew I was home. They have this thing where they just take a bit of olive oil, put it in a jar, and then basically gut out the seedy-hot insides of a bunch of peperoncino peppers and let it sit for along time so the olive oil just gets flavored with the hottest of hot. It is SOOO hot, but good if you just put a little bit. Haha
That's all for this week, love you all! Anziano Stucki
Grateful for an opportunity to learn and come closer to the Savior, Neal shares his mission experience with us.