Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amo Siracusa!

Buongiorni tutti!

Hey guys! Well I'm all settled in here at Siracusa and I love it so much. It is seriously such a beautiful city, and we walked past old monuments by chance that date back all the way to ancient Greek time! Can you believe that?! For example there is a Temple of Apollo that is just ruins right now, but supposedly Paul came and taught the gospel there thousands of years ago when he did his journey to Rome! How cool is that, preaching the Gospel exactly where the great apostle Paul taught!?

Transfers were very easy compared to my voyage from Sassari to Trapani. We left Wednesday from Palermo and headed to Catania where we waited with other missionaries, got things figured out for where people needed to go and when they needed to take buses and trains, and then me and Anziano Hoover took off that night for Siracusa. We got in late but I love my new home. It's kind of an old, 80's style apartment, small, easy to keep clean, and we got two members that live in the same little neighborhood. The little girls from one of the families always make sure we come home on time and they wait out on the porch until we show up. It's so much fun and I'm glad we have the Zombra family there waiting to make sure we're all right!

There is a little bit of a negative to the new city, but I'm looking at it more as a positive. The work is very slow at the moment. The only investigator is a twelve year old kid from an inactive family that is living with his grandparents right now but they don't want him to see us so I haven't met him yet. Needless to say we have done almost nothing but finding work, and we have found pretty good success for the very short time we've been here. We found a new investigator on Sunday named Davide, and yesterday we taught the Restoration to another man, Giuseppe, in church that we found a few days earlier who is now a new investigator and we have another appointment set with him.

It is a neat feeling to see things grow as far as the work goes, and I know that we'll see miracles here in Siracusa. As a matter of fact we are already seeing miracles! One night we were walking home absolutely tired from a straight day of finding. Although we could have easily continued forward and headed home we kept talking to those in our path. We had little luck but the Lord blessed us for our diligence. Right before our house we stopped a young guy in his twenties, simply asked him if he had interest in a message about Christ, and he agreed! We got his number and we have an appointment with him in church tomorrow.

The church! The church here is fantastic! It is really different from other church designs like the normal one's we have in America and the one from Sassari. I'll send a picture soon, but I think it is a beautiful building perfect for the saints here. It is big, three stories, and is perfect to impress new investigators. Nearly everyone in the city knows about the 'Mormons' thanks to the beautiful church.

My first Sunday was great and the ward here is fantastic. I got to church a half an hour early so I could start making friendships with the members right away. It is so big compared to what I am used to, and the members have such strong testimonies and a huge love for our Father in Heaven. I look forward to doing anything I can to serve them.

On of these service opportunities happened that night when we brought the sacrament to a sister who has very severe health problems. She was so grateful for this little gesture, especially when we shared a spiritual thought about the importance of the sacrament from 3 Nephi 18. I would suggest to every young man who takes the sacrament to those in their wards that cannot make it to church to always leave them with a message and an invite. From this one experience I realize the power it has, and it helps those in need feel the love of the ward, and most of to feel the love of the Savior. 

The new responsibilities as zone and district leader set in and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve. Me and the other zone leader, Anziano Hansen in Catania (trained by Anziano Schwing) make sure everyone is home safe every night, and we report weekly on numbers every Sunday. In our Zone we have Siracusa, Siracusa sisters, Catania, Catania sisters, Messina, and Reggio Calabria. When we did numbers we found that even though it was a transfer week, our zone was on fire! We have a ton of baptismal dates in September, and everyone is really working hard. I am really learning a lot from Anziano Hansen.

We had our first district meeting with sisters Spicq and Hicks. We really collaborated and shared a ton of new ideas about how we can work together and help this beautiful city know more about the Gospel. We have a lot of crazy new ideas, but thinking out of the box helps a lot so we'll see how things go! I'll keep you informed on the progress. 

That's the sum up of the week! I love it here so much and I am blessed to serve such a wonderful people in one of the most beautiful places in Sicily! I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures for next week; this week has been crazy! I love you Dad, I love you Mom, I love you Morgan, I love you Brooke, I love you Heather, I love you Greg. Mi mancate tanto! Vi voglio una galassia di bene! Buona settimana! Grazie di tutto!

Anziano Clay Lacey

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ho già finito il tempo a Trapani

Hey guys!

Well we got transfer calls and I'm heading out! It's pretty crazy and I wasn't really expecting it but I am really excited! I'm still going to be on Sicily but I'm going to the ancient Greek city called Siracusa! (Syracuse in English) (Look at your Scriptures with the picture of Paul's journey to Rome and he goes through it!) My new companion will be Anziano Hoover. I talked to him a bit at zone conference and he seems like a stud. He is from Idaho Falls and he's pretty young in the mission (4th transfer). It will also be my first time to work with sisters in my same city and same district! One sister is from France and the other is Sister Hicks, a great friend from Sardegna. Anyways, I've never been more excited about a transfer call and it just feels right.

Everyone has been really surprised that I'm leaving because I've only been here for one transfer. It was funny because when the branch president announced that I was leaving in sacrament meeting, he messed up bad on my name. There has only been about a handful of members that could pronounce my name correctly so maybe it was always a sign! I'll put a list of what people have done with my name here in Trapani. I've kept track because it makes me laugh so bad! Anziano Lacky, Laggello, Leo, Lace, Lacci (It means 'shoe laces' in Italian), Lezly, Leppy. I think that's about it. One time I almost busted out laughing when someone prayed for me and said Lezly... Haha I love and I'll miss the people here!

This week we went with a member to Erice, one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to on my mission! It is an old medieval city on a mountain above Trapani. The clouds blow in from the sea and surround the mountain, but don't rise any higher than the castle that stands on top, so one feels on top of the world looking down at the top of the soft white clouds and the coast touching the sea below. It almost feels like it was frozen in time. A real dream! We took a gondola to get there and it was absolutely beautiful! It was in the evening so this tourist hot spot was lit up with a beautiful array of orange lights as the sun set. It was sweet! We went to this famous pastry shop where I tried for the first time the very famous Sicilian sweets. When I come back to Italy in the future it will definitely be a place I will visit.

As far as the work is going, and as far as me finishing up my time here, things are going great! Sergio is still progressing well and is working hard for his baptismal date. Nearly every morning he studies the Book of Mormon with his brother using the student manual! He is understanding things very quickly as you could imagine. Since it is so close, I'm going to talk to President about coming back here to Trapani for his baptism. Usually President allows it so it would be a great experience.

Sunday night we worked hard and even found a new family to teach! We taught them about the Book of Mormon and they asked us to come back the next week. I like working hard right before leaving an area because I hope that the elder I'm replacing would do the same for me. Trapani's missionary work is looking very positive. There is another part member family that became investigators, and members are bringing friends to church left and right. It's hard to leave when the work is looking so good, but I have no doubt that Siracusa is where the Lord wants me.

Other than getting ready to go we have received quite a bit of meal appointments so I've been enjoying the extra food! Other than that and the excitement of the transfer calls, not much had been going on except saying goodbye to people. The goodbyes in Trapani were a lot easier than those from Sardegna to tell you the truth, just because of the amount of time I spent there with them. A lot more than my short six weeks or so here!
I love you all so much! Have a great week. I can never thank you all more for everything you do for me, even though I'm halfway around the world! 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. Vi voglio un sacco di bene!

Un abbraccio!

Anziano Clay Lacey

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battesimo in Settembre!

Hey guys!

This has been a great week with the work! We keep seeing a ton of miracles and we are really excited for the upcoming weeks.

To start off, we have a baptismal date set for September 1st with Sergio! On Saturday we went over to his brother's house to do a lesson. We met him there along with another really strong member of the church, Fratello Messina, and we began teaching the first lesson. Things went great, but it wasn't turning out quite like I wanted it to because there were a lot of people talking and it was going all over the place. The best thing to do to bring the Spirit to the first lesson is to simply begin teaching the story of Joseph Smith and the First Vision. I always feel the Spirit so strong when I recite Joseph Smith's very words, and you know that everyone else feels it too when the room goes silent for a little while. And then a heartfelt testimony acts as the 'cherry on top' for a real spiritual presentation. While we were in the spiritual climax, we asked him if he would try to prepare himself for baptism for the first of September and he agreed.

The best part of teaching is inviting. I invited him to give the closing prayer. We taught him how, and he was a little nervous to do it in front of everyone present, but he did it anyways and did a great job. We left feeling very edified by the Spirit. The next day was Sunday and he came to church looking great in a white shirt and tie. There, during the second hour of church I was able to teach a class with him, a recent convert, and a member to have present. We talked about the Plan of Salvation, and it was great because when we had left Saturday night, Sergio started reading the Plan of Salvation pamphlet, therefore he was a great participator. After the lesson he came up to me and thanked me. He thanked me for inviting him to pray the previous day, and he shared with me that never before in his life had he prayed, and he felt something different. When he told me this I felt that same feeling that I've felt many times in my mission: the love that my Heavenly Father has for this man. I told him that that was the Spirit, and because he had the faith to pray he opened himself up and the Spirit witnessed to him that those things that we said, the events that we talked about, and the fact that there are living prophets and apostles on the earth today, are all true. Times like this are when President Monson's prophetic promise in my call letter comes true that I will feel a joy beyond anything I've ever felt, and that I'll have a rock solid testimony of the Restoration as I lose myself in this labor of love.

We now have a new investigator named Natale! He is a man that has known the Church for a long time, and has frequented our English courses. He was actually the first man I met in Trapani! We invited him to take the lessons and he agreed. We haven't set a baptismal date yet, but he agreed to be baptized when he finds for himself that these things are true. We now teach him every Tuesday and Thursday and he loves the Book of Mormon.

We had a real miracle last Sunday. We prayed to have the Lord guide us to someone who'd have need of our help before beginning proselyting work. We were walking on a street and somebody honked at us, pulled over, and turned his car off. We walked over to see if we knew him, and he said, "Ciao Anziani". Obviously he knew who the missionaries were, but he was very quiet and didn't say much. We found out that he is actually an inactive member of the church. Him and his wife are separated, and she lives in Milan with their two children, one of which is leaving for his mission in Romania. He told us that all he wants is to be with his family again. I don't want to go into too many details, but we are helping him to reactivate himself to feel and see the same blessings he had when he was going to church every week. He personally was the one to say that the Lord helped direct us together to cross paths.

We have also been asked to give a lot of blessings recently. One sister was really sick with a high fever, so on Saturday she asked me to give her a blessing. I had given blessings of comfort in the past in Italian, but never the sealing of the anointing. The Spirit guided me with what I was to say, and she came to church the next day fine, happy, and healthy. Blessings work! Another family is about to go to America for a vacation and to attend the wedding of another member of the family. The mother is really worried that their little two year old son, Mirko, will not benefit well from this long travel, and that the vacation might have a negative affect on him so they asked me to give him a blessing of comfort as well.

The members here are so great! They are such hard working member missionaries and their immovable goal to make Trapani a ward still impresses me. We had a great Family Home Evening with a sister who had never once participated in, or held a FHE activity before! She has been a member for over twenty years, but she is the only member in her family. We had a great time with the young adults, and other members of the branch that are the only members also in their families. Plus we ate gelato, and the gelato in Trapani is really famous, and the best ice cream I've ever eaten in my life!

Well that's the week! Things are going great and we'll see how transfers go this Saturday! I'm a little nervous, like I always am at the end of the six weeks, because anything can happen! We'll see. I love you all so much! Thank you all for your prayers and for the love I feel from you everyday! 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 stay safe! I miss you all so much! Vi voglio una galassia di bene come sempre!

Anziano Clay Lacey

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Giorno di Preparazione a Palermo!

Hey guys!

Thank you all so much for the emails. I am so glad that you are all doing so well and are all safe, healthy and happy. Today we are in Palermo for p-day so I will be pretty quick. 
Palermo, Sicily, Italia - 8-8-12

Palermo, Sicily, Italia - 8-8-12
We just finished one of the best zone conferences I've had my whole mission! It was weird switching from a zone conference with just ten missionaries to over thirty. Every missionary in Sicily was there and it was so much fun. I saw friends that I already had, and met a ton of new people. President really felt that he should do interviews again this transfer so we did those and I learned so much. He is honestly the most inspired man I know!

Anziano Lacey and Luke

Anziano Luke, Lacey, and Botalla 
The main point of the conference involving missionary work was baptismal invites. He really wants us to invite people a lot more, and to look at it as something joyful, instead of dreading it and being scared for the reaction that the investigator might have. Our purpose is to invite to baptism, so why not do it right away? Some of the most spiritual moments I've had in my mission have been the baptismal invites, so I look forward to pushing myself to invite others even more. 

The other theme was that of an apostolic prayer. Elder Jefferey R. Holland hasn't been on a vacation with his family for years. He called up the Kellys asking about local hotels and they insisted that he stay at the Villa. He agreed and was given, along with his family, a tour of Rome with the Kellys. President said that it was funny because the whole time he was there he wasn't in a suit and tie, he called President "Tom", and was amazingly positive, optimistic, and energetic. At the end of their short two day stay, he told President that he wanted to give a prayer and leave an apostolic blessing on the Italy Rome Mission. They all knelt down to pray, and right away the Spirit was felt as a special witness of the Lord addressed his Master to humbly pray for this mission. He prayed that the branches might become wards (interesting to note that that is the number one goal for the members here in Trapani), he prayed for us missionaries, especially those with a firm testimony of Christ, and for their families that the blessings of heaven may be poured upon them. He blessed those that we teach and will teach so that they will come to know of the truth. These are just some of the things that were mentioned but I feel so spiritually pumped and have a vision of the future as far as what kind of missionary I need to become. 

This week has been great for the Lord's work in Trapani. Myself and Anziano McMullin, my zone leader from England, did a very productive split. We saw a great miracle especially with those that we met and saw, and we found two new investigators from Napoli. We ate lunch with the Sanacuore family and they invited some friends over that are American-Italian from New York. We shared a little message with them and helped them understand more about the Church. 

The family we teach invited us out again while the zone leaders were with us and we played soccer! I am finally able to hold my own ground and I made a goal! Woo! I used to hate soccer but now it's really getting addicting! The Sicilians play a lot more soccer than the Sardinians, that's for sure! 

Since half of our members were still on their way back from their week long temple trip there weren't very many members in church so I was asked to give the lesson in priesthood with a topic of my choice. I felt strongly about 2 Nephi 4, also-named "Nephi's Psalm", and we dissected the beautiful words that can help strengthen us to avoid temptation. It was a great chance to gain the trust of members and to share my testimony of the Gospel with them so they can know that I really do care. 

The greatest miracle happened on Monday. The members came back from the temple, and have been so spiritually hyped up to share the gospel. Our branch president called and said, "Anziani, if there is anything I can do to help with the work, call me. Anything." We got a call from a member that was just sealed to his wife for time and all eternity. We went over to his house and there was his brother who isn't a member, but who has been curious about the church. We did a lesson with him and everything went perfectly. We invited him, Sergio Valenti, to be baptized when he will come to know that these things are true. He said yes, and now we can very clearly proceed down the path of the missionary lessons and the miracle of the conversion experience. I feel so good about this and I have high hopes for this wonderful man. 

Thank you all so much for your wonderful examples to me! I love you all so much and I pray for you always. 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 be safe! Remember that you had an apostle of the Lord pray specifically on your behalf! How wonderful and true this Gospel is! Vi voglio tanto bene! Divertitevi un sacco durante scuola, lavoro, ect!

A presto, 

Anziano Clay Lacey

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

L'inizio di Agosto a Trapani


Hey guys! I'm so glad everything is going well! Things are going great here in Sicily and it is still hotter than ever! I don't have much time so this email might be quick!

The investigators are doing great! Our two Nigerians should be getting a baptism date here soon if all goes to plan! They are really enjoying the Book of Mormon and Michael has even been blessed with finding more work! For the Italian course we wanted to teach unfortunately only one person came, but that's all good! We've been working harder on publicity so we are hoping that there will be more people tomorrow!

We went down to another city called Marsala where we visited a recent convert who just moved into the area. His name is Cristian and he is from Ecuador. He found the church in Rome, moved to Spain for work and was baptized there, and then followed his family to Sicily. Marsala is pretty far from Trapani, and he has no way of getting to church. There is a less active man from there that could give him a ride, and it would be a great motive to help him get active again if he could give Cristian a ride. We have been praying for some kind of miracle so that he can come to church and we found that miracle at church on Sunday! There is a family visiting from up north and they drive through Marsala on their way to church, so until September when they go home they can give him a ride! This gives us some good time to work and to create a friendship with this less active member. Cristian is 26 and the rest of his family aren't members but possibly have interest in the gospel so we'll hope that we can start teaching them.

I'm really loving the English course students we have here! They are a ton of fun and the lessons are such a great place to share the gospel. I gave a spiritual thought after the course last night and they all listened so intently and asked great questions. Afterward we had a little chess tournament and a member even brought snacks and drinks.

This week has been a little hectic because I'm working on the renewal of my Permesso di Soggiorno which allows me to live in the country. Luckily it has all been going smoothly, and I'm blessed to be in areas where the systems work well. I've heard horror stories from other Anziani about waiting for hours and things getting lost.

Sunday wasn't too eventful because me and my companion were a little sick for some reason, but we got over it fast and were ready for the day on Monday. We have been doing a lot of finding and have found a lot of success. Nearly one whole apartment block asked if we could come back! We also have set a few appointments and we found this stud guy named Benni. It was definitely one of those spiritual prompting moments when the Spirit whispers to you that you do to go out of your way to talk to this person. We got his number and should meet with him next week.

With another family that we are teaching we had a fun lesson where we made paper airplanes and launched them off the balcony and we compared it with scripture. It was a miracle because one of the sons, Salvatore, prayed for the first time with us! We taught him how and he gave an awesome prayer and was all smiles after. It is amazing to see when people make that close connection with our Heavenly Father and render it possible to receive the spiritual promptings they desire.

Our investigator Silvana who comes to English course shared something beautiful with us. Many years ago she had a dream where there were people singing a beautiful hymn outside of a temple that looked like a castle. I showed her a picture of the Salt Lake temple and she said that she doesn't remember if that was it, but when she saw that image after I handed it to her, something was familiar about it. She can't come to church because of work, but we decided for all of us three to put our faith to the test and pray hard so that her boss will give her Sundays off. He's done it in the past so lets expect some miracles!

That's about it for the week. Things are going great and we are excited about the work. We are staying busy and productive which gives you the best satisfaction at the end of the day. 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... And HAPPY BIRTHDAY for tomorrow! BUON COMPLEANNO!!! I can't believe you are 10!!! Wow... it seems like yesterday that I wrote that birthday card in the MTC to you with the wrong age!!! Have a great day buddy, you're the best brother ever!

I love you all!!! Vi voglio tanto bene! Abbiate una bellissima settimana!

Con affetto,

Anziano Clay Lacey