I guess I'm a philosopher by nature. I feel like I ought to fill this blog with details of our everyday senior-missionary life, like getting an oil change and enjoying the wall art...but then what I'm learning from it kind of takes over.
This time, though, I think I will just give y'all an idea of what we do. We work with five pairs of young missionaries, two in the Pozzuoli/Flegreo area, and three in Naples. One of those pairs is comprised of sister missionaries - in Pozzuoli...the mission president just can't bring himself to move sisters to Naples! And even though there were four of us sister missionaries in Naples when I was here in 1973, I can understand this caution. Naples is truly the best city I know - but it is not a "tame" place. It is the mission president's responsibility to provide as much safety as is within his power.
What do we do with these missionaries? We go with them to teach people who have expressed interest in the teachings of the church. We are not the primary teachers; the elders and sisters have that stewardship. What we are "good at" is sharing our own personal witness of the various principles being taught, as well as experiences from our looong life.
They attain this wisdom and authority by being 1) "set apart" through priesthood authority for that calling and 2) by much daily scripture study, prayer, planning and studying together, and by practicing strict obedience to the regulations set up for missionaries. They avoid distractions by focusing solely on the work that they gave 18 months-2 years to do, full time. They are happy to do it (for the most part; some come because they feel pressured to do so, and until they undergo some kind of metamorphosis wherein they become self-directed, they can feel pretty miserable sometimes). They also grow, very much, through service. They try to help folks out in any way needed. They are just the most light-filled, light-hearted young people I know, and it is a delight to work with them.
We also have fun. We laugh a lot. We eat pizza a lot!
The sisters in our zone, along with pre-mission Gioele
Sometimes we feel a fair measure of frustration with attitudes that get in the way, among active members as well as others. Sometimes it feels like we're offering a major banquet, holding a door wide open and a chair ready, but one thing or another holds them back. It's distressing...but it's also a great crucible of learning and growth. How often I have walked - and do still - those same paths. Encourage and stay encouraged, that's the key. And this cannot be done alone, no matter how spiritually strong a person is.
We all learn to walk by faith. And power and grace come as a result. What a marvel.
Last Saturday, another baptism at the sea. Sapele, baptized by his friend Peter, a returned missionary/refugee, who is continuing the work he started in his native Nigeria.
Last week, we were so preoccupied with the goings on in TX, given that Andrew, Sara and their family were right in the middle of it and we hadn't yet heard how the night had gone for them, whether their house had been flooded or not - we had a hard time concentrating on anything. So we drove about an hour and a half into the hills and went hiking.
At a certain point, we took a wrong turn and came upon this luxury resort/spa. I loved the juxtaposition of the Rolls convertible and the vintage Fiat 500!
Had one of the most enjoyable meals yet, in Telese Terme, at Locanda della Pacchiana.
A week or so earlier, we went to Posillipo, overlooking Napoli on one side and Pozzuoli and environs on the other, here at the huge Parco Virgiliano.
Pozzuoli side, with Bacoli, across the bay, and the islands of Procida and Ischia in the distance.
Napoli side, with the Amalfi peninsula and Capri in the distance.
Here Sorella Abbate (born in Napoli, raised in Como) and I are gesturing toward Bacoli, Procida and Ischia from the patio of our church in Pozzuoli, showing our new Sorella Contreras (from Veracruz, Mexico) a bit of the layout.
Just have to put in this photo of our GPS. It kind of shows why driving in Napoli is Blaine's greatest stress! We always enjoy August in Italy, because practically everyone goes on vacation, meaning traffic and parking are, if only temporarily, a breeze.
I took the two photos below when we were out walking on a not-too-hot day, and there were clouds in the sky. Silly me! I thought that meant rain! But I can say that yesterday, probably about 3 weeks later, we did finally get some good rain.
So Blaine has never been a cat person, really...but this is getting serious!
Yes, we are actually feeding her.
This bush grows multicolored, multi-patterned flowers. In the heat, with no rain. Amazing.
No words for this sweet photo
A few pics of those wonderful missionaries I was talking about, plus some others in the Napoli zone with whom we do not work on a regular basis, but see them at least once every six weeks.
That guy smiling directly at the camera is Anziano/Elder Draghi, who is about to finish his mission. We knew him a year ago here in Pozzuoli - but we knew him even before that, because he comes from Rimini, which is in the area where we served our first mission. He helped us there with the camps we put together for the Young Women and Young Men. Man we love these guys!
In the pic below are two special people (besides Blaine of course, and good ol' Anziano/Elder Friedman, who is now starting a new adventure at BYU): Gioele, a Napoli girl who will leave this month for a mission in Lyon, France; and Sam, who is the branch mission leader in Napoli, and always comes to zone conference. Great guy. He's from New Zealand; his wife Lori works at the US Embassy. Missing is Giuseppe, a Napoli guy who leaves in November for the Milan Mission.
Below is Mamadou, from Senegal, though I'm not sure I spelled his name correctly. We met him selling hand drums and other wares at the Fourth of July spectacular in Carney Park, the place where the US military holds all their activities. We ended up buying ten djembes from him last month, with monies from the church humanitarian fund. There are three (at least) refugee camps near the church in Naples, with around five or six hundred Africans who have virtually nothing to do but wait for their documents. The week before last we started a drum circle in church on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, followed by Italian class. We've had about 8 - 10 participants so far. If it takes off we'll buy more drums and other instruments.