WOW! Noah that is awesome!! I definitely didn't expect Italy for you, but now that I hear it it seems to fit perfectly for you! :-) When I was at BYU I became buddies with one of the temple workers at the Provo temple, and he also served his mission in Italy. He said he gained a TON of weight, because people fed him tons of delicious pasta all the time. I don't think you will have a problem with the food. :-)
I had to laugh at little bit at your comment that I didn't get the timings, classes, or teachers I wanted... haha but really, I'm sure whatever happens will work out well enough. I'm sure you still got me signed up for some good stuff. Thanks for taking care of that for me; I'm sure you guys did a lot of work to get me signed up for my classes.
Oh! And Happy almost birthday to you Abbey! You are one person that I never forget the birthday for, because when you were younger you would always remind us that your birthday is. I hope you have a great 15th b-day!
But take for example this week we were teaching our potentially gay less active member Savio. He lives in an old run down Tamil medium (speaking) school, and we were teaching him at the back of the school. We were each sitting on three large bricks, because there were no chairs. As I looked around at us sitting on bricks, in the middle of some run down school yard, and us teaching the Gospel to some Indian who has lived a life of who knows what, I couldn't help but think, "I'm gonna miss being a missionary." There are just some experiences that you have on a mission that you can't have anywhere else. To be allowed into the deepest parts of hundreds of strangers' lives allows you to learn more than anything a school could ever teach you.
It's also interesting as I look at the 3 other Elders in my apartment. I can very clearly see old parts of Elder Anderson in each of them. Things I did or ways I thought at the beginning of my mission, but not anymore. I am happy to say I am not the same person I was at the beginning of my 2 years.
But, obviously missions are not easy, nor are they always fun. In fact, they are quite stressful! My mind is constantly thinking about our plans, and backup plans in case Plan A fails (which it often does). Who are we going to visit? What if they are not home? What are we going to teach them? What if they didn't keep the commitment from last time? Do we have appointments for? Do we have a member coming with us? What if that member doesn't show up? What if that lesson goes too long? Will we still have time to get to the next appointment? And so on and so forth. Today marks the first day of the last 2 weeks of Elder Peter's training though, and on the last 2 weeks it is up to the new missionary to lead the area. It's weird to think, but those questions are no longer my job to worry about now! Elder Peter is in charge of figuring those things out for 2 weeks, and then I no longer need to think about them anymore... Weird. Really weird. That's all I ever think about! All I know how to do is to be a missionary! It is my prayer that my transition to home life will go well. I'm sure it will be just fine!
This last week, President Solomon spoke in the Indiranagar branch Sacrament meeting, and his talk was so good that the news of it got passed around the zone. President Solomon used to be the India Mission's mission president back in 2000. He shared that when the year 2000 started, the missionaries all set a goal to have 1000 baptisms in the mission during 2000. The saying became "1K In 2K". They also realized though that they would need God's help to accomplish such a goal, and to get God's help would require complete obedience. So they made a list of specific mission rules they would track, and had each Elder report on his obedience level each week. Well, at the end of 2000 the mission had 614 baptisms. Pretty impressive, but not quite the goal they were hoping for. Well, guess what the average level of mission obedience was for the year? 61%. Whoa. Other than 4 freebie baptisms that God just handed to the elders, they reached exactly 61% of their goal with exactly 61% obedience. Truly this is a clear and powerful example of the power of obedience.
This week we visited one of our old woman investigators named Sunnunda Raj. She lives in a very nice home, and clearly her family is very well off. Well, as we got to know her better, she told us about her trials in life. Her husband is having an affair with another woman, her husband is very controlling of her and until recently wouldn't even allow her to have any friends over, and her daughter also doesn't like her at all. Wow. I contrasted that with the Lakshmanan family we visit, who are semi-recent converts to the church. They are VERY poor. They don't even have running water in their home. But they tell us they are happy. Happiness and peace is in their family. It still amazed me how often I see that money does not make people happy or bring them peace in life; only the Gospel can do that.
Testimony meeting yesterday was touching in our branch. Many people that have big barriers to bearing their testimony still went up and shared! A couple of small kids went up. Deaf people went up, and had a member translate what they were signing. An old woman went up who knows NO English, but had her family write out a simple testimony for her so that she could sound out a simple English testimony. Even a brother named Prakash went up to share his testimony in English, and he had tears in his eyes by the time he finished, despite that he has the English level of a 5 year old in America. The church in India has great difficulties because it is run in English (imagine trying to establish the church in Washington by only speaking Spanish!), but it truly touching to see the faith of the members, as they do the very best they can to participate in church, despite their lack of English skills.
Last night as we shared an Easter message with a recent convert, he asked us HOW are we resurrected? I told him quite frankly that I don't know! All I know is that it really will happen. As I pondered this on the walk home, I realized how the Gospel and science are very different in that regard. In the Gospel, we know the WHY for everything, but almost never the how. (I know Jesus Christ suffered for my sins because he loves me, but I have no idea how a man 2000 years ago felt my pains today and paid the price for them). Where as in science they can tell us the how, but never the why. (We know that molecules generally want to fill their shells with an equal amount of electrons to their protons, and we can measure where and when and how they get those electrons, but we have no idea WHY they want to have those electrons. The most my science teacher could say was that having a full valence shell makes the molecule "happy" because it balances the positive and negative in the molecule, which is not a real reason at all because molecules are inanimate objects and can't be happy or sad!) The same could be applied for almost every Gospel principle, as well as scientific discovery. How blessed we are to know the how's of science, in addition to the why's of the Gospel.
I am still enjoying my mission a lot, and learning a lot as well. I hope you all can say the same for your lives as well.