Thursday, May 31, 2012

Buon compleanno Morgan e Heather!!!

Buongiorno cara famiglia mia!
Castelsardo, Sardegna, Italy

Well we got transfer calls and Anziano Hill is out! We got calls on the train Saturday heading to a city by the coast called Porto Torres. Anziano Hill is going to Bitonto, a small city outside of Bari in Puglia (if the boot of Italy had a spur that's where it would be more or less). He will be serving with Anziano Bradshaw, the guy who took my spot in Olbia after I left. My new companion with be Anziano Hopper, who is about two transfers away from finishing the mission. I don't know much about him but I'm really excited to have a companion much older than me in the mission because it is my goal to get into the habit of speaking only Italian. I hope he is down for it! Anziano Schwing is a beast, this transfer he is branch president again, and training, and even district leader! I think that's the craziest amount of jobs that a missionary could have! Right now we are waiting here in Sassari for our new companions to come in tomorrow. 

This week has been great! A little crazy with getting Anziano Hill ready to go because he has a very long trip to take! Since he's been here for seven months about we spent a lot of time saying goodbye to people, including members. I'll give a little update on how investigators are doing:

Adhemar is going through a bit of a tough time right now, but as far as the gospel goes he is making great progress. As far as the gospel goes Adhemar finally has a testimony of the Book of Mormon. He said with strength, "This book is true", which have been the words I've been waiting for for months. When Fratello Murgia began investigating the Church, near to the same age as Adhemar, his wife wanted nothing to do with it. He said that all he could do and all he did was pray for her and his family, and four years later she was baptized. I think this really helped Adhemar and gave him comfort, especially because he probably feels so alone. In this journey he is taking. Except, that is, for his niece Margherita!

Margherita unfortunately couldn't come to church again, but she is still making progress with her reading in the Book of Mormon. It turns out that her mom wants to come with her to church to rightfully see what it's like before her daughter frequents, and so when her mom is busy she can't come. We pray that she'll finally come this next week though because her and Adhemar can definitely sustain and support each other. At least Adhemar is making a great habit of coming to church now and he loves Gospel Principles so much!

Salim is progressing, Javier is extremely busy with work until June, and Maddalena went down to Cagliari for a few months, but we gave her as a referral to the sister missionaries. I think they could do great work with her and Maddalena might like the difference with female missionaries. There is definitely a special spirit about sister missionaries and they are great!

Speaking about sister missionaries I have a good feeling that we might be getting an awesome new investigator soon. I mentioned in our telephone call about a member here who is twenty years old, but isn't baptized because her father is contrary to the church due to his beliefs as a Muslim. Well Sunday night we as missionaries in our district put on a music fireside of the first lesson for our investigators and members. Well this sister came and she approached me and mentioned something about our birthdays because hers is coming up soon too on June 5th. She shared that she wants to serve a mission so bad, but can't until she is baptized, obviously. About a year ago she had a baptismal date but things didn't go through. She expressed the desire to try again so hopefully we can work with her and the heart of her father will be softened. Miracles!

I want to share a huge miracle story real fast. The wonderful lady Lorenza who invited us over for Easter from our English course was really sad last night. A little back story, I have been praying so hard to find a way to begin teacher her, and my prayer was answered. I asked her what was wrong because she is such a happy and joyful person, so it is strange to see her like that. She shared that her cousin had just died at forty years old. It was really sad and throughout the course the only thought in my mind was to invite her to hear the lessons. I pulled her aside after and told her if we could share our beliefs on what happens after our physical death this Thursday after English course because I know it can give her comfort. She simply smiled and said, "willingly." It was such a huge answer to months worth of prayers, night and day, and know the Lord has opened this door! He truly listens to our prayers and uses His perfect timing and judgement to do His marvelous works with man.

That's the sum up for the week! Thank you all so much for the packages and cards (that I can't open until Friday of course!) I love you all so much! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan (AND HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY MO-MO!), I love you Brooke, I love you Heather (AND HAPPY 14TH BIRTHDAY TO YOU TOO! THIS TIME IT'S MY BIRTHDAY ABOUT 9 HOURS BEFORE YOU-HA HA), and I love you Greg. Vi voglio una galassia di bene! In bocca al lupo per queste esame e per la fine di scuola! 

Con affetto,

Anziano Clay Lacey

Friday, May 25, 2012

Siamo saliti il castello!

Dear Family,

Hey guys! I am so glad you are all doing so good and I can't believe the school year is practically over! Hang in there because I know things get pretty crazy!

This has been a great week! We are looking forward to transfers because it's going to be pretty exciting for what will go down! The whole island is up for switches since there are people who have been in their areas for forever!

Investigators are doing good! This weekend was a little crazy because there was a three day festa for the Sardinian culture, and the weather has been ridiculous. It's been raining almost non-stop since Sunday and unfortunately a huge part of this annual cultural event was cancelled. Nearly no investigators came to church either for that reason so things have been a little slow. 

Wednesday we did another lesson with Margherita and she is progressing well, but we still haven't done another lesson with her mom yet. For that reason it is hard for Margherita to come to church because her mom is so busy with work and Margherita needs to keep an eye on her brother. Members are really available to give her rides so she will make friends in the branch easy. She promised that this week she'd come!

Javier has been busy with work but he's doing good, and so is Salim. Since he is studying at the university he has a dorm and we went to it. It was a little weird doing a lesson in a foreign college dorm but overall it made me miss and get excited to go back up to school. I don't know how he knew this but he asked me if I could say a little prayer for his momentary home for protection and a place where he could feel safe. It was a cool experience doing a dedicatory prayer for his home! He is so great and he is understanding everything we teach him, and he is even sharing these things with his friends who now want to hear the gospel! True conversion brings missionary work!

Adhemar is doing great! We did a lesson with him and then as we were leaving we met some of the Jehovah Witnesses that were walking up the stairs to teach his wife. We had a nice little encounter with them. They have this little trick they like to use (and everyone of them uses it) when they encounter missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They all know we are here for two years but they always ask how long we serve missions. I've made the mistake one time in the past by saying two years, and then the JW quickly made note how he's been doing his work his whole life. Well when I was asked the question this time I responded the same, two years, but we are missionaries our whole lives. We've been called of God to leave our lives for a moment, like when the Apostles of old were called by Christ himself. The man didn't say anything after that. 

Well, talking to Adhemar a few days later I guess this particular man was the leader of the JW congregation here in Sassari. He tried to show Adhemar a bunch of anti-Mormon stuff on his laptop, but Adhemar told us he didn't listen and bore testimony instead. How cool is that! He was very proud as he used his Book of Mormon to confront him in their hour long conversation. I love Adhemar! We are still pushing baptism but things haven't worked out yet. Piano piano. 

Saturday there was this huge market around town that zig zagged through the streets. I refrained from buying stuff but my companion bought a bow and arrow (not a real dangerous one)! It was funny because the moment he strung it when we got home it broke right away! You should have seen the very unhappy look on his face!

Sunday night we went down to Olbia because our district has been preparing to do a musical version of the first lesson. One person explains a part, and then we sing a hymn that goes along with that particular topic. We are doing somewhat of a reenactment, and I am Joseph Smith in the grove... I drew the short stick and all the missionaries say "Leonardo DiCaprio should do it!" I thought that this DiCaprio similitude was dying down until I did a split with Anziano Schwing in Olbia, we met a less active, and she was freaking out because she thought I looked exactly like him. It was good though because she didn't smile once throughout that whole visit until that point!

Speaking of splits we were in Olbia from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. Anziano Schwing impresses me with his diligence as a missionary, but also how much he speaks Italian. It is so easy to speak English with companions, but he is the man and does such a good job with disciplining himself to speak nearly only Italian, and he benefits from it because he has mastered the language. It has somewhat inspired me and I've spoken nearly only Italian (English course doesn't count) since Sunday! I gotta keep it up! I saw the Mazzone family and my love keeps growing for them every time I see them. We were talking about when I will come back after the mission to visit, and they really want to meet you all! They also want me to come with my future wife of course!

Today was so much fun! We met the Olbia guys at this city called Castelsardo almost right on the top-middle of Sardegna. There is a beautiful castle on the top of a mountain right on the shore and we had a blast exploring it. I took a ton of pictures, but unfortunately I don't have my cord right now so I can't send any! I'll be sure to send them next week.

That's the sum up of the week! Things are going great! I'm excited/scared/nervous for transfer calls! If I'm out of here I'll be sure to have Antonio let you know through facebook! (He's a member here in Sassari and he is a great guy! He comes to our English course). I'm pretty sure I'm staying and I would really like to stay because we are so close to a baptism here! 

I love you all so much! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan, I love you Brooke, I love you Heather, and I love you Greg! Have a great week and hang in there with the craziness of the end of the year activities! Vi voglio una galassia do bene! 

Un abbraccio!

Anziano Clay Lacey

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hey guys!

Thank you so much for the Skype call on Sunday! I felt so good after and it really got me pumped. I love and miss you all so much! I'm so glad you are all doing so good!

I shared a lot during our talk so I'll be somewhat brief for this email.

Monday we went down to Olbia for district meeting. Things went good and we talked a lot about finding new investigators and different methods of finding. When we got back, we called a potential investigator to see if we could meet. His name is Salim and he is from Kenya! We met him on a bus a few months ago and gave him a pass along card, but he never called us back. A few months later he stopped us on the street and he told us that he went back to Kenya to visit his family so he never had the chance to call us. Monday night we met with him and it was an awesome lesson.

We learned a little about him and he is such a stud. Back in Africa he used to be a tour guide in the Savanna and told us all about the elephants, lions, and other animals that he has encountered. Throughout his life. It's amazing how he is actually in Italy now. He was giving a tour to a rich Italian family and they decided to give him the chance of a lifetime and bring him to Italy to get a college degree. He took them up on it and he's been here for a year studying on a scholarship. The problem is that it has been really hard for him here. For example, back in December he was walking home late one time and he walked past a group of about fifteen drunk men. They saw him, and began making racist comments. They chased him down and beat him up pretty bad, and now his left index finger is practically deformed. He explained how alone he feels here and that he can't wait to go back to Kenya after he gets his degree.

The lesson we had went so great. In the opening prayer he started to cry and he said that he really knew we are men called from God. It was a very tender experience. We talked about his religious beliefs, and he has one of the strongest faiths in Christ that I've ever seen. Things are going to go really good with him!

Tuesday was a little weird. We didn't have too much planned in the morning so we went searching for inactive members of the church and to do some finding on the way. We had absolutely no luck! We stopped at so many houses, but we found no success, no numbers, nothing! It's strange because that usually doesn't happen. The cool thing was that we didn't get discouraged! Toward the end of the day as we were doing some street contacting outside of the church, waiting for English course, we stopped this young guy in his twenties and he told us he was very interested in the message! We got his number and we look forward to seeing him again. Sometimes it takes a little extra work to find miracles, and sometimes they happen after a trial of our faith. 

English course went well! Lorenza, the student who had us over for Easter asked for a Book of Mormon, but specifically with a little note written in it from me. I wrote it, gave her the book, and she read it and even cried! I'm glad it touched her because I wrote my testimony in it and I hope it, and our invites to come to church will help her come closer to the Gospel.

We met with Javier this morning and he is doing great! Keep praying for him! We are doing about three or four lessons a week with him.

Well that's about it! We have a lesson tonight with the Nachif family so we are excited for that! Hopefully we can get some baptismal dates set around here soon! 

I love you all so much! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan, I love you Brooke, I love you Heather, and I love you Greg. Have a great week! Vi voglio tanto bene!

Anziano Clay Lacey

(Just a few pictures from this demonstration parade thingy we saw around Sassari)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Short clip from Mother's Day Skype

This is a clip of Clay talking to the owner of the Internet Cafe where he Skyped with us this morning for Mother's Day. It's pretty fun to see him speaking Italian.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Le famiglie sono eterne

Buongiorno cara familgia mia!

Hey guys! I'm so glad that everyone is doing good! You have no idea how excited I am for this Skype call at the end of this week! I cannot wait to see your beautiful faces! This has been a really good week and it was nice to finish it off with a spiritually uplifting training from President Kelly.

I have seen one of the biggest miracles of my mission so far in the past couple of days, starting last Wednesday. As we were paying to leave the Internet point, a man walked in and said, "I've been looking everywhere for you guys!" We were a bit surprised especially because nearly nobody ever searches for us! His name is Javier, and he wanted us to help him with something. He said he had a friend in Brazil who is a member of the church that wanted a Hymn book and a Children's Songbook in Italian. He said he wanted to get these things for her before her birthday in June. We set up a time to meet him in church and he also mentioned that he wanted to talk about a few personal things. Right away we took that to mean that there might be some interest in the Gospel, and we prayed hard that he would become a new investigator. He is an awesome, thirty-five year old guy who came here to Italy from Chile when he was younger. For work he takes care of mentally handicapped children in the hospital and he has a great love for them. In fact when we met him he had this little boy named Davide who was physically effected by his mother's abuse of drugs while he was in the womb. It's very sad but his little smile really brightened up my day!

Saturday we met him in church and talked about how we could get these items to him. At the conclusion of that he simply asked that he wanted to know more about our church. Well he officially gave us more details to this story of his. He is dating this girl in Brazil, and he loves her. She only wants a temple marriage, and he said he will do anything for her, therefore he met with us. He wants to change his whole life around for her! Me and my companion were a little blown away! 

I'll keep you all updated with how teaching goes with him but so far so good! We are already great friends and he was also making friends at church when he came for the first time on Sunday. This next Sunday we have a lunch with all the members together so I am really excited for him to come and to get to know the members in a more casual setting. This will be good for all of our investigators.

I had another really cool experience on Saturday. The Madrid Temple President came to Sassari to help the members get even more excited for the temple. His name is President Tenney and as we talked it turns out that his older brother is our very own Patriarch Tenney who gave me my Patriarchal Blessing! How cool is that!? It was one of those "it's a small world" moments. He taught an amazing lesson there and it made me really miss the temple. He focused it all on the family which made me miss you all even more, and I can't wait until the day that we can all go to the temple together. You have no idea how bad I want to go back and it makes me appreciative that we have a temple so close. 

I also had the wonderful chance to see the Mazzone family! They came from Olbia to see the conference and they are doing so well. I love them so much! It felt good to hear Ignazio call me his "first missionary", and he bragged to the other Anziani that I confirmed him a member of the church. He recently received his first calling in the church and the Lord has called him as the Sunday School President! This will be great for him to be able to prepare lessons and to have responsibility. He has truly become a new person since his baptism!

It is so amazing because we are really gaining the trust of the members. Fratello Murgia takes us out every once and a while to go contact a few friends and members of his family that might have interest in the Gospel. Things are looking very positive with one of his cousins! It feels really good to know that a member would willingly give you a referral and put such a sensitive subject on the line such as religion. I'm conjuring up a plan in my head to get the members more involved in the work, do missionary work trainings with them, and in the end to get them excited to share the Gospel with their friends and family. I want to see a Sassari have a stake in my lifetime!

Monday night after a lesson with Javier we headed down to Cagliari with the Olbia Anziani. We even had the chance to go visit Maurizio, and he is doing good! President Tenney also gave his same talk in Cagliari on Sunday night, and he came and enjoyed it very much. We still hope things we go great with him and we are happy that he is working with the Cagliari missionaries. 

We had zone conference on Tuesday and President Kelly gave a very inspired training. It seems like every word he says is suitable for me in the ways I can personally improve as a missionary. It was a perfect zone conference and we had a great time together. 

When we got home to the Cagliari apartment, I really understood one of our missionary rules: to not play practical jokes. We only had one car and getting back home was a little switched up because some had to take the bus and others needed to take the car. Well I was the first to the apartment with an Anziano from Oristano. When we opened the door we found the apartment destroyed. Furniture was thrown everywhere, things were missing, and it looked like somebody had robbed the place. First thing we did was call the other Anziani. In the end there was a bunch of miscommunication as we tried to get a hold of people (I don't want to go into detail because there was a lot of stupidity involved) and in the end we made the decision to call the police. Finally we found out that it was a joke that some Anziani had done. We weren't very happy at all because we were about ten seconds from having the police over. My maturity was tested because I wasn't very happy with these Anziani, yet I didn't want to damage my friendship with them because they are my friends. Plus it made me angry that there was one who said that it was our fault because we were about to act too quickly. In the end I said a quick prayer, sat them down with me in a room, and we talked it out calmly. I'm glad I had the help of the Lord because I was a bit heated at first, but everything was worked out in the end. I hope this makes sense because I didn't go into much detail!

For p-day we did this beautiful hike altogether. We got permission from President to do this hike and to beat the sun in order to see the sunrise from a point called La Sella del Diavolo. We had a great time and we took off for the long train ride all the way to Sassari. 
La Sella del Diavolo

That's the sum up for the week! I am so excited for our call this Sunday! I can't wait to see you all and to hear your voices! Sister Kelly said in her training at zone conference that these calls are very special, and it is extremely important to prepare well for them. That is what I'll do! I love you all so much! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan, I love you Brooke, I love you Heather, and I love you Greg. Have a wonderful and a safe week! Thank you all so much for your supportive prayers! 

Con amore, 

Anziano Clay Lacey

Eating Maggot Cheese (live maggots)

maggot cheese

(From a separate email...) 
The pictures with the cheese might make you sick. There is this special kind of cheese here on Sardegna that is quiet famous. It is called worm-cheese. Basically, the people who sell it take some cheese, put some worms in it, and the worms eat some of it, poop, and eat some more, which makes it have a particular taste. It is completely disgusting, but you can't serve as a missionary and leave Sardegna without trying it! So that's what I did. I ate it with live worms and everything. Pretty gross to have tiny worms jumpin around in your mouth! Don't throw up! Haha
Love you all!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cara famiglia mia

Hey guys!

I'm so glad that everyone is doing good! I can't believe that the
school year is almost over for you all! I left before it began  and
it's already almost done!

Things are doing great over here in Sassari. We are having a lot of
fun teaching investigators and seeing their progress. It's a little
sad for us, but Maurizio is moving to Cagliari tonight. We spent some
time with him and his friends last night and we'll say bye to him
today (not for good of course). He is really excited still for his
baptism, we'll be there for it, and he is in good hands with the
Cagliari Anziani. Lets just say when I called the Anziani last night
to tell them about it they just got the best referral of their
missionary lives!

You would not believe the change we've seen in Enoch. He has been
working hard to follow the commandments, especially the Word of
Wisdom. Church was pretty crazy because no investigator showed up. I
think it was going to be my first sacrament meeting without an
investigator in church in my whole mission. Well Enoch was the only
one who showed up and he loves church so much. I've never seen such a
huge voiced desire from someone to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Yet again there was another Italian holiday so schools were closed and
we couldn't see Margherita and her family, or Adhemar yet. Adhemar's
daughter has been really sick so he's been caring for her.

We met with Maddalena after working for the Mastino's. She is doing
great and making progress and we still need to help her work towards
baptism. "Piano, piano", as they say! We'll go all on her time and
we'll set a date when she's ready.

We have a new investigator from Nigeria! His name is Ismaila (I think
that's how you spell it) and he is a professional ping pong player! He
was hired from a team and he goes all over Europe to play. He is way
cool and we found him thanks to Enoch.

Well that's the update for investigators! Things are going good and we
still have a lot of hope for everybody.

I want to share a cool little experience. We were walking and we
noticed a blind man in front of us who was struggling to find were he
needed to go. As we were walking behind him thinking about what we
could do to help him, a group of punk teenagers saw him and began
yelling as loud as they could to distort his course. I can't think of
a nicer way to put this but I've never wanted to cause pain to people
so badly and make them shut up. I turned around and glared at them which
made some close their mouths. My companion was awesome and he asked the
man if there was something we could do to help him. The man asked for
help crossing the street, so we escorted him across, and I bent down
to take off a piece of wet cardboard that was stuck to the cart he was
pulling with his groceries. He was so thankful and asked where we were
from (obviously he could tell from our strong accents). It turns out
he has a friend that is a member of the church. We invited him and I
can tell you I will never forget that little Christ-like moment we had
with him, Fabrizio.

Well that's the sum up for the week! Things are going great and I
still can't believe it's almost a month away from my year mark! Ahh!
And no time at all until we can see each other on Skype! I love you all
so much! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan, I love you
Brooke, I love you Heather, and I love you Greg. Have a great week!
Take care and stay safe!

Anziano Clay Lacey