What a week! I definitely had some very interesting experiences this week that I have never had before. We'll start off with the saddest one and then end with the best. 😉
I don't even know how to go into this, but I'll just start by saying I think the Lord must have heard my complaints about my bag being too heavy and annoying to carry around, because in His mercy, my bag got stolen this week! He also was merciful enough to give me a spiritual prompting to NOT leave my bag unattended in the chapel of our church as we walked outside onto the patio behind the church where some video producers for the church were going to be interviewing and filming my companion to make a short Italian Mormon message, but I ignored it! I have learned this week that there are times where you recieve a spiritual prompting and follow it and it increases your testimony, but there are other times where you recieve a very clear spiritual prompting and don't follow it and then the consequences teach you and hopefully strengthen your testimony! All I can say is, some say that the Spirit isn't real. I say that the bag, wallets, and keys that I don't have tell me differently. Alright, since you're all probably dying I will just say that pretty much as we were out behind the church building while these workers for the church were interviewing and filming my companion, I left my bag on this table in the chapel after we had just finished district counsel meeting. I am always SO SO careful about not getting robbed. Trust me. We see someone either get robbed or almost get robbed everyday by the gypsies on the metro. You will never see ME walk on the metro without putting my bag in front of me and holding it with both hands. To be honest, this time in church I felt this extra feeling that went beyond the usual caution that I take about protecting my stuff. My companion, as I found out later, felt it too and hid his tablet under a chair before we went out behind the church. Well, I justified leaving it on the table because there were several other missionaries around who had to do a few things in the church. So (all unbeknownst to me as I am outside with my companion and the filmers) the missionaries inside see this man enter the church (when we are in church for meetings we often leave the front door open so people can come in). He is a member and works for the church and just had to take a few measurements so they waved him off and went back to whatever they were doing. Well, a bit later, I don't know how long, another man comes in. Thinking he is also a worker they politely salute him and go off to whatever they were doing in another part of the church, all while I am outside. Well, a bit later the other missionaries inside the church apparently left. I'm not sure how long it was after that, but at some point I happened to look through this big glass window in the corridor of the church and see a man lightly jog out of the front door of the building holding a bag at his side. Several weird emotions and thoughts just went through my mind. My gut instinct said, "That guy kind of looks like he just stole something." The other side of me said, "He was not running very fast at all and he was running so relaxed." Plus, I was able to actually get a good look at the bag and it was grey and looked smaller than my bag (which is brown). I went through the thoughts in my head for about 5 to 10 minutes. I was also standing behind the camera and they happened to be filming and in order to walk around to enter the building I would have had to walk past the camera, so I waited. I grew more and more uneasy until finally when they had a break in filming I walked away for a minute and went inside just to check on things. To my hoar, when I went inside, my bag, where I had left it hanging on a chair, was gone! I have been with a missionary before who got his backpack stolen last transfer, so I guess you could say I "knew the drill." Hah my first thought went to my credit cards, but I had to be sure it was actually stolen. I began searching all over the church to make sure I hadn't just misplaced it as I also pulled out our phone and starting calling all the companionships in our district to make sure they hadn't accidentally grabbed it. When they confirmed that they hadn't seen it, I called the mission office and asked them to cancel my church credit card. In order to cancel my personal credit card though I myself would have to call and since our cellphones can't make international calls, I had to get over to the mission office so I could use their phone. Luckily at that point, my companion and the filmers had finished filming the segments they needed outside. I explained to them what happened and they were so nice. They paused everything and we jumped in their car and they took us to the office so we could call my dear American bank. I felt pretty good up until that point, but as I started thinking about all the things I had lost it was pretty upsetting. I was thankful most of all because, even though my tablet was sitting right on the table in front of the bag, the guy only took my bag (there were also a couple other bags and tablets of other missionaries lying around, but he just took my bag)! After taking care of everything at the mission office, we had to get lunch and they also wanted to take more clips of us just walking around and doing normal everyday stuff. We walked into this pizzeria and they began filming us as we ordered pizza from the man at the cash register. I didn't know to laugh or cry as I just told myself, "Ok. Just stand here, get some pizza, and smile as if you didn't just get robbed!" 😂 I never knew missionary life could feel so glamorous as, with all cameras up and going, they told us to go stand on the other side of the street and then cross back over when their weren't any cars passing. Hahaha Well, after several hours of filming we finished and then ran off to the police station to file a report (it was especially important for this because in my bag that was stolen there was my Italian residence permit and the police can give me a paper that will help me get a new one extra quick). Well the miracle of it all is that just as we were finishing up at the police station our mission president's wife, Sorella Pickerd, called us and said excitedly, "Anziano Stucki I have your wallet!!" Pretty much, some man had found it laying on the ground by a dumpster near the mission home (about a kilometer from the church). The man must have seen my residence permit and knowing that there are two Americans living near there must have thought to give it to them. That was a huge blessing! My credit cards and money were gone, but I got back my residence permit, temple recommend, drivers license, and a €30 gift card to an anonymous favorite Italian store. 😉
Well, please don't worry about me. I am doing well. I am a bit frustrated about the money I lost, but in the end, I didn't lose anything of great monetary value so it really isn't that bad. I have kind of been praying every night that the man who took my bag won't figure out that in that bag there is a full set of keys for the church that he stole it out of, and that I won't get a call some morning from a bishop about how the church got vandalized last night. I think they are going to change the locks on the church soon. Yeah, about that, let's just say I'm kind of becoming famous among the bishops here in Rome. Apart from the things I lost, I guess you could say the one thing that I have gained from this experience, that I didn't have before, is a vivid understanding of how important it is to follow the Spirit. It really is a protector. So often I think of it as a protection spiritually, because he is a spirit, but thankfully for us, he is much more; he will protect us physically and temporally. We just have to listen to him.
Wow, that story took a lot more space than I expected. I am just a firm believer that if you're going to tell a story you've got to tell it right! Hah Speaking of which, I said I was going to end this with the best part of the week. That would be yesterday when Bishop Waddell of the presiding bishopric came and spoke at our stake conference and then did a special meeting with the missionaries later that afternoon. It was one of the most spiritual meetings I have had in a long time. I could not be more grateful to have heard his advice at this point in my mission especially seeing that this evening I will probably get a transfer call to my last city in Italy. Before I get off topic though, I would like to just include some of my notes from his talks. He talked a lot about gathering scattered Israel. He shared the scripture that says "My elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts." He also shared with us 15 words from Jesus Christ that basically teach us everything we need to know about follow God and observing our covenants. I don't have time to include the scripture references for these phrases, but here they are. Bishop Waddell also added a comment saying, "Convenient and covenant are not often found in the same phrase."
"Here am I. Send me." -I will do it as you say. I won't change the conditions.
"Not my will, but thine be done." -I will do it your way.
"It is finished." -He didn't stop until it was completed.
Bishop Waddell concluded by saying how we will be able to look back on this experience (our missions) and say, "I can do hard things, with the Lord's help."
If I am learning anything from my mission, that is one of the biggest lessons! I know God can help do what is necessary. The point is that we need to just do what is necessary.
I love you all! Anziano Stucki
Grateful for an opportunity to learn and come closer to the Savior, Neal shares his mission experience with us.