Faith in Italy
For the first 6 months of my mission I lived in the Piemonte region of Italy. In my 1st area we were teaching a young man by the name of Samuel. He was about 12 or 13 years old, and I always saw him as the little brother I never had. This is probably why he was one of the most favorite persons I taught on my mission. When I first met him I learned that he had been listening to the missionaries already for about 2 years, but was unable to get baptized because even though his mom was fine with it, his dad was adamantly against him joining the church.
I loved our appointments with Samuel. He had a real love for the scriptures. I remember him saying, “Anziani, I really want to read Alma 32. All the missionaries talk about what an amazing chapter it is.” But Samuel wouldn’t just read the chapter, he wanted to read all the preceding chapters and then he would read Alma 32. We helped Samuel make daily reading goals, and finally about at the half way point in my time in my first area Samuel finally made it to Alma 32. I remember our meeting with him that day. He went on and on about what a beautiful chapter it was. I could tell that Samuel really had felt the effects and blessings that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings into one’s life. I remember thinking to myself, “Why doesn’t God let Samuel get baptized? It’s a righteous desire. He obviously has faith, and I have faith that it could happen. So why doesn’t it come to pass?”
About a year later in my mission, I returned to Piemonte to oversee 5 different areas as a zone leader. Samuel still had not been baptized. I had continued to pray (however, probably not as fervently as I had done in my 1st city) that Samuel would get baptized. I remember that about a week after starting my work as a zone leader we got a phone call from the missionaries that were in my 1st city. They said that Samuel was going to talk with his dad the next day about wanting to get baptized. The missionaries were asking all of us in the zone to pray that night specifically that Samuel would be able to soften his father’s heart and finally get baptized. I called all the missionaries in the zone. I pleaded with them that we all might unite our faith so that this righteous desire could finally come to pass.
That night in my own personal prayers I wrestled with the Lord. I pleaded that He remember all of the times that I had prayed for Samuel and all the times that previous missionaries had prayed for Samuel. I remember saying that I had faith. I knew it was possible. I knew God wanted it. And I knew that it was right. I said, “Father I know that with Thee all things are possible, and Thou knowest the desires of my heart and of Samuel’s heart. If it be Thy will, let this wonderful thing come to pass that Samuel can get baptized.” I felt very calm and comforted, and I instantly felt that whatever happened would be for the best. Somehow I knew that the time had finally come, and Samuel would be getting baptized. I felt the added strength and faith of the missionaries in the zone. Together we were united and full of faith that this miracle would finally come. The next day we received the most wonderful news. Samuel’s dad had given him permission to be baptized. I was overjoyed. I had learned a valuable lesson about being full of faith, doubting not, and being ready to accept the Lord’s will in all things. For faith is not to have a perfect knowledge but to hope for things which are not seen but which are true. And eventually if you hold out faithful until the end God will bless you to see those things which you most desire which are in accordance with His will.
Faith in Switzerland
When I was in my first city, Winterthur, we were teaching this awesome family from Liberia, the Kargbo family. There was Augustine and Margaret, and their children Thomas and Dominique. They grew to become some of my best friends in Switzerland, and the closest thing to a family that I had over there. They are great people. There is one night that we shared with them that I will never forget.
I first arrived in the city in June, and we were teaching them up until the end of September when this story took place. For most people who served missions, this is a long time to be teaching one family who did not make any progress (come to church, read daily in the scriptures, or accept the invitation to be baptized). I remember one time we thought about not going back to teach them because they just would not progress, and we needed to spend our time elsewhere, however, they started to read in the Book of Mormon every day, and prayed as a family every day. It was great! So we continued to teach them.
They were doing this for about a month, and Elder Bealer and I knew that they were ready for baptism, and to make that covenant with God. We had brought up the topic with them before, and they were really hesitant about it. One major concern was the language. They were going to a church that spoke English (their native language) and we only had services in German, and they had responsibilities in their other church as well. You can see why that would be a pretty big concern. They believed in the Book of Mormon, and they enjoyed coming to church whenever they came. We really wanted to see them get baptized, so we decided to put God to the test. We decided that we were going to teach them a lesson and then ask the father, Augustine, to say the prayer at the end. We wanted him to ask God specifically if he and his family should be baptized. The catch was that we didn’t want him to stand up, or get off of his knees, before he had an answer; whether it is a yes or a no. We were putting our faith in God that he would answer their prayer! Kind of an ultimatum situation, but we knew that God would give them the right answer.
The night came to teach the lesson, and my companion and I were a little on the nervous side. We showed up and taught a lesson about the plan of salvation. We also had Sister Sunke with us that night; a great member of the local ward. The spirit was very strong during the lesson, and my companion and I taught very well together that night. Then, we talked a little about baptism again, and told them what we were going to do for the final prayer. Augustine and Margaret, his wife, agreed to the situation. So, we all got on our knees and Augustine said the prayer. I was saying a little, alright, a big prayer in my heart that the Lord would answer his prayer. He said a great prayer; he thanked the Lord for us missionaries, and for the Book or Mormon, and then he asked the ultimate question if they should get baptized into the “church with the Book of Mormon; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!” As soon as he said this, I had a very calming feeling come over me, and I knew that he had his answer and that the answer would be yes. Augustine then closed the prayer, and we stayed kneeling for another minute or two. I would occasionally poke my head up to see if anyone got up or not, and then Augustine finishes “in the almighty name of Jesus Christ, amen.” He then stands up and says, “We need to get baptized.” It was a great night, and the Holy Ghost was definitely there. It will be a night I’ll never forget, that’s for certain!
I know that the Lord lives and that He answers prayers. My faith in Him was definitely increased that night as I experienced how much He cares about His children. He answered our prayers as missionaries when he answered Augustine’s prayer in a way that he would understand, and know what he had to do. When you put your faith in Him, He always comes through for you.
Faith in Guatemala
Faith is not a passive belief in an ultimate being nor is faith a submissive attitude in the gospel. Faith is an action that leads us to believe. I was an area called Teleman when I met a man who was unsure of what to do. He was an inactive member who didn’t know what to do. I felt drawn to him since the beginning of my time spent there. I first met him when I had about 5 months in the mission. I was on a division with the zone leaders and they were trying to talk to him. He didn’t seem too enthusiastic about returning and so they left. When I received my transfer to Teleman I could almost hear the Lord hinting me to find him. That was one of the first things we did. We climbed the side of the mountain to find him (name censored for discretion).
He was once a very strong member in the church. His brother was branch president and his father also held a position in the church. However, we all make mistakes and he made one of his own. I could feel his pain and sense the unhappiness and gaping hole that his mistake left in his life. I didn’t know what to say so instead I left the speaking to be done by the Scriptures. Isaiah 1:18 “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” We prayed and prayed for him because he was such a great guy and deserved the peace and happiness the gospel brings to our families. That Sunday when we were arriving to church we saw him there walking his family into the doors of the chapel. I was so happy to see him there. We visited him constantly and I can honestly say he became one of my best friends. We worked and worked with him so that he could be worthy of his priesthood and take care of his family.
After about 4 months he was restored to full status in the church and he was feeling really great. The sins that he overcame required so much faith. There is no way that someone who didn’t feel the strong promptings of the Holy Ghost would walk in the 100˚F weather up a mountain every week to hear the words of God. He didn’t just believe...he had faith. His story does not end here. He then helped us in that area to find the elect. He became the Sunday school teacher and enjoyed learning the lesson each week with us. He became as a missionary and was constantly wishing to be by our side. His wife was so much happier and they were feeling as sons and daughters of the Almighty. I love him and his family. They overcame the sins, distress, agony, and loneliness that wordly things bring to our lives. He showed me what faith was.