Overcoming Adversity in Italy
One of the most difficult things that I had to overcome while living in Italy was actually learning how to speak Italian. In high school I had become pretty proficient at speaking German, and I must admit that I thought Italian would be just as easy. But in the first 3 months of my missionary service, the Italian language still eluded me. I studied hard every day trying to learn new words and correct grammar. But it seemed that the harder I tried the worse I became. I couldn’t really express myself in a coherent way, and it was even more difficult for me to understand things that were said to me. Every sentence that I heard sounded like one really long word. The worst part was that on Sundays when I would go to church (a place where I should have been able to at least recognize some of the vocabulary) I was just as lost as I always was.
It was almost too much to take. I wasn’t used to having my honest efforts not be rewarded with success. I remember thinking that my best just didn’t seem like enough. It was then that I realized I need help. I began to pray earnestly for help and strength to overcome this trial. I still worked just as hard to try and improve my language skills, but I slowly began to notice that there seemed to be some tiny improvements in my capabilities. I began to start to kind of recognize some words. But it still wasn’t enough. I still was met with adversity and became depressed and frustrated when I couldn’t communicate with people.
One night it became too much for me to bear. That night I knelt down and poured out my soul to my Father in heaven asking for help. I had worked so hard and had yet to see significant results. All I wanted to do was understand the people we were trying to teach and help them overcome their problems.
The next day we were at church in the middle a lesson and I remember that one of the church members stood up to read a quote. Inexplicably as the quote was read I understood every single word. I was filled with joy. I turned to my colleague and said, “Did you hear that? That was a great quote!” He looked at me confused (because of course he had understood what was read). For me this had been a modern miracle. I had understood and entire sentence of Italian and it felt great.
This is exactly what I had needed. I needed to see a modicum of success. Something that showed me that what I was doing was working. I know our Heavenly Father cares about each of us and is aware of our struggles and difficulties. He knows what we need to do to grow and just what we are capable of becoming. He loves us and for this reason we are allowed to face and overcome adversity.
Overcoming adversity in Switzerland
One great example of overcoming adversity that I witnessed on my mission was from one of my favorite families- the Kargbo family. I’ve mentioned them a few times in these posts, but just a reminder they are the family that I had the privilege of seeing baptized in my first area of Winterthur. They were a family that escaped from Sierra Leone to Liberia and then onto Switzerland where I found them. They had amazing faith, and they were great examples to me. Even while we were still teaching them they would bring their friends to appointments to be taught as well. I remember some lessons where they would start teaching and bearing testimony to their friends about principles such as fasting or the Book of Mormon. They were, and are, a tremendous family.
That family went through quite a bit of adversity before and after their baptism. I don’t remember everything that happened to them, but I remember that we would receive a phone call from them a couple of times a week because they were struggling. Most of their struggles had to do with their family that was still down in Africa. Shortly after their baptism, they got a phone call saying that Margaret’s brother was killed. That was a hard night for all of us, but especially Margaret. We went over to give her a blessing, and it helped a little bit; but those are rough situations.
I remember a couple weeks after their baptism, one day after church we were walking with the Kargbo family and I was talking with Augustine. He was telling me of some of the trials they were going through. He would mention temptation to smoke, temptation not to go to church, and all of the stuff going on with their family down in Africa and he seemed to be feeling a little down. He told me that it was hard, but that it was worth it if they were on the right path. I was able to bare testimony about enduring to the end, and the blessings that come from it.
A few weeks after that, I was talking to him again, and he was telling me about how good he felt about having been baptized, and that they were living the gospel. He said that he had never been happier. That family had great faith that led them through the trials that they were having. A great scripture is in the Book of Mormon, found in the book of Ether chapter 12 verse 6 where it says, “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Our faith will be tested. We will be required to do things that seem hard, or that seem difficult. But if we endure to the end, I promise that the blessings that we receive are worth more than the price that we pay while going through our trials. The Kargbo family was a great example to me about overcoming adversity and sticking through it.