Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Before I

Before II

After I

After II
We have now had three days with no graffiti on our wall. I’m not sure how long it will be before some kids seeking fun in destruction will re-paint their graffiti on our little wall, but for now it looks lots better than it did. I kind of like the gray. It goes well with the red fence and the orange building across the street.


Lots of great food - this is the dessert bar...
Pasqua is the Italian word for Easter. It translates "Passover." Pasquetta (-etta at the end of word is diminuative. It usually means small or little.) is celebrated the Monday after Easter. It gives everyone in Italy a long weekend. In general people like to be out doors taking walks and relaxing. It is kind of like a welcome to Spring. Traditionally in our District, several Branches gather in Battipaglia for some fun because we have such a great lawn. This year was no exception. Well, there was one exception. I thought it would be nice if we did some work around the church before we celebrated. So when people arrived, we did a few projects. Mainly, we cleaned out the planter area outside the fence and prepared it for planting.

Never challenge an Italian to a game of fussball...
Noemi Mondelli was in charge of the games and we had a lot of fun. Here are some pictures and videos of our activities. We also practiced our choir numbers for District Conference. I thought it was amazing how such beautiful music followed what appeared to be chaos.

Getting ready for games.
The Mondelli's brought their dog, Nami (like Tsunami). She had a great time. (Double-click on videos to see full screen.)Water balloon volleyball was fun.
Our sisters were practicing for our choir number at District Conference on April 21st. I couldn't believe that from so much chaos came such beautiful music. (This video is a bit long, but it is fun and illustrates the point well.)

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Sister Barretta, Branch Librarian and Primary President.
She worked tirelessly for several days geting the building
organized. These are some of the excess manuals we had
to dispose of.
One of the projects I have wanted to finish most is to get our building looking really nice. Brother Arena, our Facilities Manager, visited us as I described in a previous post and helped us catch the vision of how nice our building could look. Since his visit, we have really cleaned house. One of the first things we did was to empty all of our cabinets of things that were of no use. One of our biggest problems were the large numbers of church manuals which had been collected over the years. It seems that it is Church policy to send enough manuals for the members as listed on the computer. The branch would try to order just enough for the active members to have a copy, but the Area would send the number according to the Branch List. I can’t believe what a serious waste of printed material this results in. Here is a picture of our kitchen after we emptied our cabinets of most of the old and unneeded manuals.

Trashy Garage I

Trashy Garage II
We wondered what to do with them. First we offered them to members and investigators who came to the church. They took quite a few, but many remained. I thought of giving them to people we meet who express an interest in learning more about the Church. Then, I realized that with good luck, we might get a person interested in reading one book. I doubt we could interest them in two or more books. So, we could either interest them in the Book of Mormon, or a Sunday School manual. It gradually became clear to me that we were going to have to throw away a lot of unneeded manuals. So, that is what we are doing. So far we have eliminated two entire cabinets. My philosophy is that if there is an empty shelf in a cabinet somewhere, someone will find something to put on it. I like the idea of reducing the number of cabinets in the building.

Some of the large items from the garage hauled away by truck.
Our second effort was cleaning up the garage which we use as a game room. Brother Arena arranged to have a truck come and take away larger items like broken furniture. Here is a picture of the stuff the truck hauled away. Sister Scherbel then went in and thoroughly cleaned and organized the garage. It looks SO much nicer. There is plenty of room for ping pong and fussball and it looks a thousand times cleaner than before.
Wall with grafitti

Future flower box
Our next project is to clean up the area outside of our fence. There is a triangular area which was full of weeds and trash, and a short wall covered with graffiti. We have received permission to paint the wall and I have already purchased the paint. However, we needed to pull the weeds out of the triangular area and then haul in a bunch more dirt to fill up the triangle before painting. I started by making dirt from debris around the building.

Cement "Rock"
If I had a hammer...
First, there was what I thought was a large rock. It turned out to be what was a sack of cement which had hardened. I found a little hammer and started breaking it into small pieces. As I was spending several hours breaking up this “rock” I had time to think about many things. I thought about God creating the world. He made dirt also. He must have had a much larger hammer. Then I found several cinder blocks lying around and broke them up. It is amazing what a little hammer and a little time can accomplish. So, I made some more dirt.
Surplus Cinder Blocks 

Dirt is everywhere! Notice indentation behind pole where our
first bucket of dirt came from...
Although this effort helped clean up our yard, it wasn’t nearly enough dirt, so when I saw our landlord, Quinto, in the parking lot, I asked him where I could get some dirt. He looked at me like I was really naïve, and said there is dirt everywhere. (True enough.) He said all you need is a bucket. So, he opened his little garage storage area and took out a plastic bucket and a hammer. Then he walked over to our fence and started scooping dirt into the bucket – right out of the landscaping around our apartment buildings. (See picture). He then carried the bucket over to our project and dumped it in the triangular area. I said I didn’t think the people who owned the apartment complex would want us to take a bunch of dirt out of their landscaping and asked if there were somewhere else we could get some dirt. He pointed out a little island just across the street from our project, filled his bucket again to demonstrate to the newbie how it should be done, dumped it into our project, and said we should take some dirt from there since there was too much there anyway. He said if anyone asked what we were doing we should just say that Quinto said it was all right. ("Quinto" means "fifth." He must have been either the fifth child or the fifth son born in his family.) He used to be a fireman here, so maybe he actually knows someone. Anyway, that’s what we decided to do.

Dirt supply island
Ready to start hauling dirt

Help from Elder Taylor and Elder Ostler during Pasquetta

During Pasquetta (the Monday after Easter) we had a work party and then a fun party. During the work party, the Elders were able to get most of the weeds removed from the area we wanted to plant. Today, April 6, I decided to start hauling dirt from the little island and wheeling it over to our project. The missionaries agreed to come around 10:15, but didn’t arrive until 11:45. By that time I had hauled seven wheelbarrow loads of rocks and dirt over to our project. The Elders helped with a couple more loads and it is pretty much ready to plant. We now have to decide what to plant.

Ready for flowers
While I was moving dirt, our next door neighbor came to talk to me. He wants us not to plant anything too high which would block his view as he backs out of his driveway. I agreed. We had a nice conversation. It was great to finally meet him. The man constructing the new apartment buildings (the many-colored buildings) in front of the church also stopped by and said we could take all the dirt we needed from the little island. I thought it belonged to the city, but apparently, it his. Sometimes it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Another man stopped on his way to the Catholic church down on the corner. He said he had read some in the Book of Mormon. I had another nice conversation. It was amazing how many people stopped and talked while I was working. They could see what we were doing and were very supportive.

I think we'll plant some flowers here too.
It was a beautiful day and Sister Scherbel was able to mow the lawn at the church again. So, there we both were, working together to beautify the church. It doesn't get much better than this. And the Lord said, “Let there be dirt”, and there was dirt.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Some of the beautiful Barretta girls - Alessandra is on the right. Her left
hand partially disappeared because she was shaking her finger at
me because she didn't want her picture taken.
Our latest tender mercy occurred in the home of some of our members. Sister Barretta is the head of the house.  In March 1999, her brother and his wife were killed in an automobile accident. Three children were in the car as well, but they survived. Sister Barretta and her husband took them in to their home and raised them. They already had five children of their own. Her husband, a taxi driver, died in 1999, leaving her to raise the eight children by herself. A year later, she discovered she had uterine cancer and had to go through extensive chemotherapy. Then, in 2001, her son Valentino was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. Needless to say, her family has had its share of challenges.
Her oldest daughter, Alessandra is trying to become an attorney. She is very bright and has been studying on and off for many years as she has had to work to help feed the family. In Europe, university degrees are given after a required number of examinations are successfully passed. She had run into a very difficult exam on legal terms and concepts which she had taken seven times before and never passed. She was scheduled to try for the eighth time the day after our visit. In the past she had studied sufficiently for this exam, which is conducted with a couple of law professors asking questions out loud to her, face to face. The past few times, she allowed herself to be intimidated by the professors and didn’t score high enough to pass – a passing score is 18. Since she was scheduled to try again the next day, we decided we should have a family prayer together to help her have confidence in the things she had studied and let her mind be at ease during the test. We all knelt around their coffee table and I acted as voice. Our prayer was answered. She called today to say that she received a score of 18 – enough to be considered a passing grade. This was a marvelous achievement. Now she can continue with the rest of her exams and graduate around September. If she had not passed today, she would have had to wait a few months to take the exam again and would not have been able to continue with her other exams.
Family prayer. Who knew?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mauro Ferrara

As we arrived in Battipaglia on February 1, one of the first things we saw was our church. It is located in a very nice part of town only about 100 yards from our apartment complex. It sits behind a red fence composed of vertical iron bars. It has a beautiful lawn in front about 100 feet square. There are several beautiful trees as well. There are a couple of lemon trees, an olive tree, and, my favorite, a Rangpur Lime tree.
Panarama shot of our building after church our first Sunday

Our Rangpur Lime Tree
The Rangpur lime looks like a mandarin orange tree, but the fruit is sour like a lime. When we first arrived, the members told us it was a “wild, evil” tree because the fruit tasted bitter and sour. In fact, the D’Andolfo children named the olive tree the “tree of life,” and the Rangpur Lime the tree of “knowledge of good and evil.” On first glance you expect a sweet Mandarin Orange. The tree didn’t receive much attention and there was rotten fruit scattered  all around underneath the tree. I was curious and looked on the Internet for sour mandarin orange and found some information about the Rangpur Lime. So, I picked a few of the “limes” and squeezed them to extract their juice. I then looked for a limeade recipe on the Internet and found several. So, I boiled ¾ cup of sugar in water to dissolve it into a syrup, cooled it and mixed it with about a cup of juice, then added fizzy mineral water to fill a 1.5 liter bottle. It was wonderful! It is now my favorite drink.
Ingredients for Rangpur Lime-ade: Sprite and Limes


Organ Loft left of Sacrament Table

InAnyway, I really like our lawn, trees and flowers. Inside the church there are four levels. The lowest level which is seven steps lower then ground level is a large room where we hold Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine class on Sundays and Institute on Tuesdays. We also use it for our initial and closing group meetings as we teach English later on Tuesdays. In addition to the large meeting room, there is also a kitchen. The first floor is about 12 steps above ground level and serves as our chapel. It has a stand in front with a sacrament table and a pulpit. There is also a nook where a very nice organ sits. The Second floor is composed of three rooms of about equal size which are used for Primary, Young Women (of which we currently have none), and a Branch President’s office. The fourth floor has a couple of computers and a storage room and is only used at this point for clerical activities. There is a bath room on each floor and an additional bathroom off the Primary room. It is basically a nice, four-story home converted into a church.
Church and Front Lawn

Sister Scherbel and Gino Carullo getting the lawn mower

We also have a small garage on the ground level. It has a ping pong table and a fussball table, some soccer goals, a lawn mower, some old chairs and a few broken desks and tables and other no-longer-used stuff. On Tuesday nights a fierce fussball and competition follows our English lessons.
Garage with Fussball and Ping Pong (and soccor goals)

On Sundays, we have about thirty in attendance on a normal day. For Flavia’s baptism, we had nearly double that and the building handled the extra people pretty well. So, I like our building quite a bit.

The one serious problem we have is all the stairs. One of our members is severely crippled and some are a bit elderly. Going up and down the stairs is definitely a challenge. We are not very handicap friendly.

One of the first things I learned about our building is that we have decided to leave it for another building. The main reason is that our Landlord is not cooperating with some needed repairs, and he sold a portion of the front of the lawn without our permission to some developers who are building some new, very colorful, apartment buildings across the street. I understood that when we first leased the building, it was from the current landlord’s father. He passed away and now his son is our landlord. He isn’t even answering our phone calls and refuses to meet with us.

This situation worries me a great deal. Changing buildings is a difficult process. When I was a young missionary, we had to find a place to meet in nearly every city I worked in, and it was never easy – even for a small congregation. Our congregations are now much larger and finding a new building is even more difficult. We like ground floor spaces with no stairs. We also need to be close to public transportation and within easy access of main roads. We like to be in nicer areas. We need to be where our meetings don’t bother our neighbors. The ground floor of an apartment building, for example, is usually not good since we meet on Sunday mornings and sing while those above us are trying to sleep in. In Europe, adequate parking is frequently a challenge. And, for some reason, anytime we change buildings, we tend to lose members.

As we were looking for another apartment for a set of Elders, I met a Real Estate Agency named Frimm, and an agent named Gian Luca Leverani and his assistant, Daniella. He helped us find a suitable apartment for the missionaries in one try. We wanted a furnished apartment located near the center of town, yet close to the church. We hoped it would have a good heating system, hot water, air conditioning if possible, and appliances that worked. It needed to be in a safe area and, most of all, the landlords had to be willing to have two young Elders live there. The Church has an iron-clad rental contract which they had to agree to entirely as written. As it turned out, Gian Luca had a two bedroom apartment, newly furnished on the third floor of a walk up building. We went over to see it and loved it immediately. It is a bit small, about 50 square meters, but it has two bedrooms, a bathroom with a nice shower and a new washing machine. There is a kitchen/living room combined with new kitchen appliances including a microwave oven and new furniture. It also has a large terrace/patio which has an amazing view. You can see all the way to the Mediterranean Sea – spectacular.

We liked the landlords immediately, and they seemed to like us. We were a little reluctant to bring up the fact that the apartment was not for us, but, instead, for two young male missionaries. They said, “Do you mean those young men who walk around town with the black name tags in dark suits?” We said, “Yes,” fearing their next remarks. They said they would love to have them rent their apartment. It turns out that the landlords are an elderly couple who, judging from their beautiful home, are doing very well. They also seem to know many of the movers and shakers in Battipaglia. The wife said that her brother, who is a doctor, lives right next to our church. Based on the fact that we sing on Sundays and play ping pong and fussball on Tuesdays, I was really fearing her next sentence. She said her brother has nothing but good things to say about the Church. Our address is Via Moncharmont 17. His addess is Via Moncharmont 15. Our building is literally 10 feet from his home on the side yard. I was amazed at her answer for I expected exactly the opposite. Anyway, things worked out and the Elders will be moving in within a couple of weeks and a pair of sisters will move in where the Elders are now – right across the hall from us.

So, I told Gian Luca that we were looking for another building to meet in. He said he would do some research. In the meantime, I realized that if the brother of the apartment landlord’s wife lived next to our church, he might know our hard-to-reach landlord as well. I asked Gian Luca to ask them if they knew a man named Mauro Ferrara.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, President Kelly and Brother Arena (head of all facilities in two stakes and one district including ours) had seen the buildings being constructed across the street. They are very modern to say the least. They wanted to talk to the builder to see if we could rent some space in the new buildings. There is also a large commercial area on the ground floor of the building they just finished which would be really nice for our meeting place. Since it would be right across the street from out current building, the location would be perfect. So, I asked Gian Luca if we could talk to the builder to see if there was a possibility to rent some of his current or new space.

Yesterday, Gian Luca phoned me and said he had some information and a couple of locations he wanted to show me for possible new locations for our church. He showed me some ground floor space in a couple of apartment buildings. He was on the right track, but I didn’t think the people living above those spaces would appreciate a church meeting under them. He agreed. He then said that he actually knows the builder across the street from our church quite well and had discussed with him the possibility of us renting some of his space. He said that a supermarket had already rented the commercial space. It was more than 900 square meters. We only need about 250 square meters. The supermarket rented the whole space with an option to buy. The only other part of the project that would be suitable for us was already promised to the City. In order to erect the apartment buildings and commercial space, the builder had to give something to benefit the town. The town then widened the street and installed some street lights which really improved the neighborhood.  It seems a post office might occupy the other space we could have used. So, that possibility seemed pretty much impossible.

Gian Luca also gave me the telephone number of our current landlord. He is a friend of a friend. I decided it was time to give him a call. Other options were currently looking a bit bleak. I said a fervent prayer and dialed his number. He answered immediately – surprise number one. I introduced myself in my poor Italian and asked if we could meet sometime to discuss our building. He said, no problem – surprise number two. I asked when would be a good time and he said, “How about now.? – surprise number three. I had a bunch of things I needed to do, but felt this was more important than anything else, so I said, “I’ll meet you in five minutes outside the church.” He said that would be fine.” – surprise number four. I told him I would be holding an orange umbrella, since it was raining as it has nearly every day since we arrived.

Me with my orange IKEA umbrella
I then walked over to the church and waited. Nobody came. President D’Andolfo had warned me that he hadn’t come to a previous meeting they had scheduled, so I thought he was probably just taking me for a ride and was probably watching me from somewhere standing out in the rain waiting for him. I walked into the grounds and paced around for a while, then back out onto the street. About half an hour had passed since my call. Just as I was about to give up, a car drove up and parked across the street. A young man got out and came toward me. It was Mauro Ferrara, our much maligned landlord. He seemed like a nice enough young man, and we went into the church so we could talk where it was a bit drier. As we sat down, I asked, what kind of renters we were. He said, “The best.”  Surprise number 5. Pleasant surprises turned out to be the order of the day.

I asked him if there had been problems in the past – any unresolved issues. He said there were – mainly that they had agreed to refinish the exterior stucco on the building. It was peeling badly in several places. Also there was some brick/tile work outside lining the entry and garage entry as well as the outside steps that needed work. He said that the reason this work hadn’t been completed was that they were still trying to recover from the death of his father. There are three boys in his family. He has been appointed executor of his father’s estate. His father was only 65 when he passed away. They discovered an inoperable brain tumor, and even with the best medical help they could find, nothing could be done. His father had passed away just over a year ago. When the discussions were being held regarding the building, he was at his father’s bedside in the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, a famous hospital called “La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” (The home for the relief of suffering) designed and built by Padre Pio, now considered a Saint in the Catholic Church.  The hospital is near Foggia on the east side of Italy, about 220 kilometers from Battipaglia. He said he was right in the middle of his father’s illness and his subsequent death as we were trying to get some work done on our building. Even now, a year later, he is still working with the courts to get things straightened out. (I know how difficult this can be in the U.S. I am glad I don’t have to worry about this kind of thing in Italy.)

I told him we liked the building and wanted to proceed with the repairs they had discussed previously. He said that would be no problem once the rain stopped. He also said that the city had forced him to give up some land for the construction of the apartment buildings across the street. They actually entered the property, removed the existing wall, moved it back and then replaced it. Then they realized they had made a mistake and re-did part of the wall leaving a triangular space between the two walls. At any rate, we certainly didn’t need the extra land. I think the thing that concerned us the most was that a third party could gain access to the property and change the boundaries without our consent. Had I been here then, I would probably be as concerned as everyone else. But since I see the land as it is, not as it was, and it is very nice from my point of view, I probably am not as concerned as those who were here to witness the actual events.

I told him about our concern with the stairs. I said I had been thinking of possible solutions and wondered if an elevator could be installed. There is no room for an elevator to go inside the building, but I have searched the Internet for some alternatives and I found some “mini-ascensori” (small elevators) which are a self-contained unit which are designed to go about 15 meters in height and hold a couple of people. They only cost around 10,000 to 15,000 euros. (I know I get a bit too creative at times…) I asked him what he thought of this idea. He actually liked it. It turns out that he is an architect and he immediately understood my idea. (What number of surprise are we on?) His brother was in an automobile accident and is now crippled and he had been looking for a similar solution for his brother. So, we agreed to meet again when our facilities people come next week and talk to them.
I then asked about two more problems I have been trying to resolve. First the wall in front of our building has a bunch of graffiti on it. I asked what it would take to get it cleaned up – maybe paint over it. He is still not sure if the wall belongs to the city or to him, but he said that he didn’t think the city would mind if we just cleaned it up. He offered to contact the city and see what would be required. Problem number two is that the church’s trash isn’t picked up. The missionaries just take it home and include it with their trash. This works fine when there isn’t much, but when events like Flavia’s baptism occur, or when we weed the flowers, there is too much trash to combine it with our personal trash. The other people in our apartment building get upset if we bring a bunch of trash there. So, I had been talking to the city about this problem. He said he would take care of that too. In fact, he said, the mayor lives about three doors down from the church. He knows him personally, and will talk to him personally if necessary. Wow! 
We looked at the ground floor of this building as an alternative
Meeeting House - nice but quite expensive.
Here I was too afraid to call the monster landlord after hearing all the past tales. Now, we are nearly friends. We plan to invite him and his finance over for dinner in the near future. I am amazed how much can be accomplished with just a little courage and a phone call. I feel so blessed.  I hope we can get everything resolved so we can stay in this building. One of our members is getting married this summer and she would love to be married on the church lawn before she leaves to be sealed in the temple. With a little more luck, I think we can make her dream come true.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Miscellaneous Pics

Alessandro and Flavia after Sacrament Meeting

Close-up of Flavia's Shoes - notice the aqua colored heels...amazing!

Scherbels and Steuers at Pizza Sofia awaiting our awsome pizzas.
Jonathan Tavernari with his son Xander

This video was taken at the Mondelli home. Marco is playing the guitar, his fiance Mariangela is beside him, his mother is to his right and his Father on the far left. Ivan Sapio is between Mariangela and Brother Mondelli. A very fun evening. (Sister Scherbel laughs at the end.)
The words to "Il Treno dei Desideri"
Cerco l'estate tutto l'anno e all'improvviso eccola qua.
Lei è partita per le spiagge e sono solo quaggiù in città
sento volare sopra i tetti un aeroplano che se ne và.

Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo, per me
mi accorgo di non avere più risorse senza di te
e allora io quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo vengo da te.
Ma il treno dei desideri nei miei pensieri all'incontrario và.

Cerco un po' d'Africa in giardino, tra l'oleandro e il baobab
come facevo da bambino, ma qui c'è gente, non si può più
stanno innaffiando le tue rose, non c'è il leone, chissà dov'è.

Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo, per me
mi accorgo di non avere più risorse senza di te
e allora io quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo vengo da te.
Ma il treno dei desideri nei miei pensieri all'incontrario và.

Sembra quand'ero all'oratorio, con tanto sole, tanti anni fa.
Quelle domeniche da solo in un cortile, a passeggiar,
ora mi annoio più di allora, neanche un prete per chiacchierar.

Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo, per me
mi accorgo di non avere più risorse senza di te
e allora io quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo vengo da te.
Ma il treno dei desideri nei miei pensieri all'incontrario và.


Left to Right: Alessandro, Americo, Delia, Sabatino, Maria Grazia, Elde Taylor, Elder Carr, Flavia, Laura, Antonio
Sister Scherbel, Vanessa, Elder Scherbel, Nadia

We were basking in the wonderful aftermath of Flavia’s baptism. Since the Steuer’s would be bringing Favia’s friend, Laura, and her husband, Antonio down from Rome, a three plus hour trip, and since it was going to be Fast Sunday the next day, we thought it would be a great idea to invite the Steuer’s and Laura and Antonio to our house for lunch before the baptism on Saturday. We also wanted to get to know Flavia’s family better, so we decided to invite them also. Flavia invited quite a few people to her baptism, and several accepted. In the end, Her Aunt, Delia, and her Uncle, Sabatino, her cousin Americo, and her grandmother, Maria Grazia, came. This was no surprise, since Flavia lives with all of them and we had met all except Sabatino before at their home. In addition, her mother, Nadia, and sister, Vanessa, also came. So did a friend from Milano, Alessandro, who is also from Avellino , but works in Milano, where Flavia was in the hospital. Apparently, they became close friends while she was receiving treatments there. So, counting the Elders and us, there were sixteen people in our apartment for lunch on Saturday.
Sister Steuer and Sister Scherbel

Sabatino and Delia with her Caprese cake to the right
Sister Scherbel had made some tetrazzini and some spaghetti alla primavera. (Because of her bout with leukemia,  Flavia isn’t allowed to eat meat or mushrooms, so Sister Scherbel made her some pasta primavera.) We also had potato salad and bean salad alla Americana and broccoli (Like zucchini, broccoli is an Italian word and very popular here.). For dessert, Sister Scherbel had made lemon bars (the biggest hit) and melt-away cookies (also a hit). Sister Steuer brought some killer chocolate chip cookies (lots of brown sugar) and brownies. Delia brought a cake called “Caprese” (from the island of Capri) which was a chocolate cake with almonds and hazelnuts. She covered it with powdered sugar in which was written the word “Caprese.” This cake was amazing also. The fresh hazelnuts gave it kind of a woodsy, wild taste. It was delicious. We drank water, mineral water, Sprite, and a red-orange flavored drink that I like. All in all it was really fun. We did make the mistake of having only one size plate, so they had to put their tetrazzini on the same plate as their salads. This is a definite no-no in Italy. We didn’t realize the problem until everyone had filled their plates. We could have easily had them use two plates, but we neglected that particular instruction. So, not perfect, but very memorable. The interaction among everyone which we had hoped for was wonderful. And, although it was a tiny bit crowded, our apartment handled the sixteen people quite well.
Laura and Flavia with Vanessa in the backgrond to the left.
We then walked over to the church for Flavia’s baptism. Before the actual meeting started, they had a photo session (Video below - the precious D'Andolfo children are especially fun to watch). There must have been forty or more people. Sister Scherbel counted nineteen non-members. It was so perfect. Flavia was baptized by President Marco D’Andolfo.
 Ivan Sapio had given a talk on baptism; I had spoken on the Gift of the Holy Ghost (attached, for those of you who want to see a bit of Italian), and the three D’Andolfo children sang “I Am a Child of God” (“Sono un figlio di Dio”). Ivan and the Elders had put together a wonderful program, so it was a perfect baptism.

Our little baptismal font after the Elders
prepared it so nicely.
Flavia's Program - Outside
Flavia's Program - Inside
The Steuer’s stayed with us and Laura and Antonio stayed with Flavia’s family. On Sunday, all of Flavia’s family returned from Avellino in time for Sacrament Meeting and her receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Flavia had asked brother Francesco Mondelli to confirm her a member of the Church and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost, and he had basically prepared nearly all week for that occasion.

Luncheon I

Luncheon II
After Fast and Testimony meeting, the Relief Society had organized another luncheon with several people bringing different kinds of food. It was more than delicious. Sister D'Elia brought fusili (like taglitelli rolled up into little springs) made by hand the night before.) Most of those attending the meeting stayed.

So, as I said we (Sister Scherbel and I) were sitting in the Chapel basking in the wonderful aftermath of Flavia’s baptism, waiting for Sacrament Meeting to start.

Just as the meeting was about to start, the Branch President beckoned to us to come up to his office. As we entered, we saw him and President Paolo D’Apuzzo, First Counselor in the District Presidency, standing in the office. We entered and President D’Apuzzo basically said, “We have decided to make a change in the Branch Presidency and we would like to ask you to be Branch President.” That was it. I was absolutely shocked. My first reaction was to say, “You must be joking!” (In fact, I may have actually said something like that in English sort of under my breath.) I looked at President D’Andolfo to see his reaction, and he didn’t seem surprised or sad. I hesitated a moment or two and then said something like, well, I always accept any calling I receive, and that was it. I was stunned. I had just remarked to the Steuer’s how nice it was to be clear down here in Battipaglia with no challenging responsabilities and not in the office in Rome where they had to be in the office at a certain time every day and be as busy as can be. Sister Steuer really laughed when she reminded me what I had said just the night before.

So, I now have a new calling. I have never felt so overwhelmed. My Italian is passable at best. I love hearing Italians pray, teach and give talks in Church in their perfect Italian. It is such a beautiful language when spoken well. It is not nearly as beautiful when I try to speak.

Since it was Fast Sunday, President D’Andolfo bore a wonderful testimony. He then read a letter he had received from a young boy named Paolo who is not a member of the Church, but who comes with his grandmother each week. Then, Flavia bore her testimony – it was terrific as you can imagine. Sister D’Andolfo, the best teacher in the Church, bore her testimony – also amazing. Elder Taylor bore his testimony – full of enthusiasm as you would expect from an outstanding junior missionary. Brother Mondelli bore a beautiful testimony as well. It was about time for the meeting to end, but President D’Andolfo leaned over and said I should probably say something (I was sitting beside him on the stand by then still a little dazed). I then bore my testimony and President D’Apuzzo concluded. I was still stunned. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had so many plans to help President D’Andolfo as his counselor or something. I am definitely out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Our poor little lawn mower...
It is now Thursday. This week, in addition to some missionary work, we have let workers into the chapel each day as they repair sixty-nine odds and ends in the building. They are doing a good job and the church is looking very nice inside. Since spring is basically here, the lawn is growing quickly and needs mowing. I found we have an old broken down lawn mower that needs to get fixed. (See Sister Scherbel’s blog about running into Gino Carullo.) I find out that we are having trouble with our current Landlord and are actively looking for a new building. (Yikes! I love the building we are in.) I have submitted my ideas for re-organizing our Branch leadership to President Lord. We meet with him on Friday to see what he recommends. We have also discovered that the church doesn’t get trash picked up. We suspect that we or our landlord have not been paying the necessary fees to the community. We are now getting to know some of the people at city hall.
Setting up for the Party with Alfredo and Sabrina

Alfredo is ecstatic about the Salerno pizzas - they were really good!
Jonathan, Fausto  Maria and Antonio
(Fausto's cousin) enjoying being together.
Last night we went back to Alfredo Filippella’s home in Salerno to celebrate his birthday. He had also invited the D’Andolfo and Mondelli families. We had such a great time. He ordered pizzas for all of us (15). Sister Scherbel brought some of her famous brownies and Alfredo had ordered a kind of cheese cake like dessert made from whipped ricotta and pears. It was delicious as was everything else.

One of our members, Giusi Cossu, just happened to know a man who has his own INR machine. He gave me a pro-time test this afternoon and my blood is just about where it should be. I was worried how I would get these tests done. That one was way too simple. Just one more in a long line of tender mercies.

The Lord continues to bless us here in Battipaglia. Life is never boring. We love our mission.


My Talk on the Holy Ghost as corrected by Ivan Sapio:
Matteo 7: 7-11 Chiedete e vi sarà dato; cercate e troverete; picchiate e vi sarà aperto; perchè chiunque chiede receve; chi cerca trova, e sarà aperto a chi picchia. E qual’ è l’uomo fra voi, il quale, se il figliuolo gli chiede un pane gli dia una pietra? Oppure se gli chiede un pesce gli dia un serpente? Se dunque voi che siete malvagi, sapete dar buoni doni ai vostri figliuoli, quanto più il Padre vostro che è ne’ cieli darà Egli cose buone a coloro che gliele domandano!

Giovanni 3: 16 Poichè Iddio ha tanto amato il mondo, che ha dato il suo unigenito Figliuolo, affinchè chiunque crede in lui non perisca, ma abbia via eterna.
Pensando a questo discorso che dovevo preparare, cercavo un simbolo per aiutarmi a dimostrare lo Spirito Santo. Finalmente ho pensato al nostro navigatore che usiamo spesso quando dobbiamo andare in macchina in qualche posto nuovo. Di fatti, nelle ultime 4 settimane, abbiamo visto molti posti nuovi. Il nostro navigatore ci ha salvato parecchie volte. Non so se avete avuto delle esperienze con questa tecnologia. C'è qualcuno che usa il navigatore in macchina? Avete almeno sentito di questa tecnologia? Andando in macchina ieri, ho registrato la voce del nostro navigatore; veramente, siccome è una voce femminile, dovrei dire navigatrice. Sentite la nostra navigatrice. Mi piace molto quando dice: "Ricalcolo", indicando che abbiamo sbagliato.

Non sarebbe meraviglioso se ci fosse una voce che ci guida sulla strada della nostra vita e ci indica in quale direzione andare? Infatti Dio ci ha dato proprio questo - un navigatore che ci guiderà se ascoltiamo la sua voce. Si chiama lo Spirito Santo. Imagino che quando sbagliamo, lui pensi, “Ricalcolo.”

Nel 1842,il profeta,Joseph Smith scrisse una lettera in cui è incluso un breve elenco dei principi in cui crediamo come la chiesa di Gesu Cristo dei Santi degli Ultimi Giorni.Questo elendo di principi è stato chiamato "Articoli di Fede".I primi quattro sono:

1.       Noi crediamo in Dio, il Padre Eterno, e in Suo Figlio Gesu Cristo e nello Spirito Santo.

2.       Noi crediamo che gli uomini saranno puniti per I loro propri peccati e non per la trasgressione di Adamo.

3.       Noi crediamo che tramite l’espiazione di Cristo tutta l’umanita puo essere salvata, mediante l’obbedienza alle leggi e alle ordinanze del Vangelo.

4.       Noi crediamo che I primi principi e le prime ordinanze del Vangelo sono:  primo, la fede in Gesu Cristo; secondo, il pentimento; terzo, il battesimo per immersion per la remissione dei peccati; quarto, l’imposizione delle mani per il dono dello Spirito Santo.

Oggi voglio parlare dello spirito santo e in particolare del dono di quest'ultimo.

Vediamo, il primo articolo di fede dice: Noi crediamo in Dio, il Padre Eterno, e in Suo Figlio Gesù Cristo e nello Spirito Santo. Crediamo che essi sono tre esseri distinti. Dio, il nostro Padre Celeste è letteralmente il padre di Gesù Cristo ed è il padre dei nostri spiriti come è scritto nel dodicesimo capitolo dell’Epistola di Paolo agli Ebrei. Crediamo anche che Gesù Cristo, dopo la sua risurrezione, ha mantenuto il suo corpo di carne ed ossa. E quando Gesu Cristo disse a Filippo, come è scritto nel quattordicesimo capitolo del Vangelo secondo Giovanni, “Chi ha veduto me, ha veduto il Padre,” crediamo che anche il nostro Padre Celeste ha un corpo di carne ed ossa. Pero, lo Spirito Santo è un personaggio di spirito. Come dice il Profeta Joseph Smith nella sezione 130 della Dottrina e Alleanze della Chiesa, “Il Padre ha un corpo di carne ed ossa, tanto tangibile quanto quello dell’uomo; il Figlio pure; ma lo Spirito Santo non ha un corpo di carne e ossa, ma è un personaggio di Spirito. Se non fosse cosi, lo Spirito Santo non potrebbe dimorare in noi.”

Probabilmente tutti voi avete già avuto esperienze con lo Spirito Santo. Lo Spirito Santo non parla all'orecchio, ma parla al cuore. Forse vi siete chiesti se Dio esiste realmente. Se avete sentito una rassicurazione nel vostro cuore che Dio veramente esiste, era lo Spirito Santo che vi faceva provare questo sentimento. 

È anche possibile che avete avuto qualche altra domanda importante durante la vostra vita, come “Dovrei sposarmi con questa persona?” oppure, “Che cosa voglio fare nella mia vita? Quale carriera sarà giusta per me?” Se vi siete sentiti guidare da una forza interna e spirituale, probabilmente è stato lo Spirito Santo .  Tante volte ci riferiamo a questa voce interna dicendo che è la nostra coscienza. E' sempre interessante per me pensare siamo posti davanti alle decisioni piu importanti della nostra vita  quando siamo giovani. Decisioni come:  Con chi mi sposero? o Che cosa devo studiare?, o Dove voglio vivere?  Di solito, tutte queste domande di solito ce le troviamo davanti verso i venticinque anni.  È molto meglio prendere decisioni  importanti con l’aiuto dello Spirito Santo che decidendo da soli cosa sia giusto fare.

Voglio paragonare la nostra vita a questo metro. Infatti, non è precisamente un metro, ma una misura di 100 centimetri. Mettiamo che ognuno di noi vivrà almeno cento anni – uguale a tutta la longezza di questo metro. Tagliamo, allora, la parte già vissuta. Per Jonathan tagliamo solo 9 centimentri. Per Americo, tagliamo 10 centimetri.  Per Flavia togliamo 21 centimetri. Per me, un po’ di più – 65 centimetri. Non possiamo cambiare il passato, cosi la parte tagliata e già finita. Pero, abbiamo ancora tutto il resto della nostra vita in cui possiamo scegliere la via che vogliamo prendere.

Ho trovato un altro simbolo dello Spirito – una bussola. Secondo il dizionario una bussola è: “costituita da un ago calamitato libero di ruotare su un piano orizzontale, che segna con la punta la direzione del nord magnetico.” Si può girare una bussole in ogni direzione, e indichirà sempre la direzione nord. Quando Marco Polo stave in Cina, scopriva un tipo di pietra chiamata magnetite che è di natura magnetico e sospesa con minima attrito indica sempre la direzione nord.

Lo Spirito Santo agisce in maniera simile. Ci dirige sempre sulla strada giusta. Non importa dove siamo sulla strada della nostra vita, lo Spirito Santo ci indicherà la strada giusta. E' interessante considerare che il "Nord" è simile per ogni persona, ma  non precisamente uguale. In generale, i comandamenti sono gli stessi per tutti come i Dieci Comandamenti, i comandamenti di amare Dio e il nostro prossimo e il comandamento di rispettare la parola di saggezza.Pperò le risposte a domande come: cosa dovrò  studiare e chi dovrò sposare, sono differenti per ogni persona. in questo senso, lo Spirito Santo è molto più utile di una semplice bussola.

Cercando una bussola che potevo regale a Flavia come ricordo del suo battesimo, ho trovato una bussola un po più complessa di una bussola normale Prima di tutto, è gialla. Questo colore mi fa pensare al sole e alla luce del sole che riceviamo ogni giorno. E' simbolo della luce che riceviamo ogni giorno dallo Spirito Santo. A questa bussola c'è anche attaccata una lente d'ingrandimento: questa simboleggia lo Spirito che ci aiuta a vedere le cose più chiaramente. Quando non è chiaro come dobbiamo agire, lo Spirito ci aiuta a chiarire i nostri pensieri.

Questa bussola ha anche un fischietto, questo simboleggia pericolo. Quando siamo in pericolo, se agiamo in un certo modo, lo Spirito ci griderà avvisandoci di fermarci e di non continuare in quella direzione.

Non abbiamo finito. Questa bussola ha anche un termomentro che può simboleggiare molte cose. Per me significa tranquillità, benessere e conforto. Ci indica la temperatura della vita e così sappiamo come prepararci. Se ci troveremo in un posto spiritualmente freddo, sappiamo che dobbiamo portare il nostro mantello spirituale per protezione. Se saremo in un posto spiritualmente caldo come in chiesa oppure al Tempio, possiamo stare senza mantello con maniche corte e gioire nel calore dello Spirito.

Adesso voglio dare questa bussola a Flavia per aiutarla a ricordare alcune delle benedizioni che riceverà e che ha già ricevuto dallo Spirito Santo.


Voglio chiarire un punto in più riguardo lo Spirito Santo. Qual è la differenza fra lo Spirito Santo e il dono di quest'ultimo. Prima del battesimo e della confermazione una persona può sentire i sentimenti o i suggerimenti dello Spirito Santo. Come abbiamo detto prima, normalmente chiamiamo questo "Coscienza". Quando invece cerchiamo la verità con sincerità, ad esempio quando preghiamo per conoscere la verità, lo Spirito ci confermerà la verità e sentiremo nel nostro cuore la risposta. Dopo che una persona viene battezzata riceve la confermazione. In quel momento, alcuni detentori del Sacerdozio di Melchisedec porranno le mani sul capo della persona confermandola membro della Chiesa di Gesù Cristo dei Santi degli ultimmi Giorni e diranno: "Ricevi lo Spirito Santo". Da quel momento in poi, questa persona avrà per tutta la sua vita la compagnia dello Spirito. Sarà suo compagno, il suo collega e il suo amico; in ogni situazione, in ogni posto, in ogni pensiero, lo Spirito sarà vicino per dare l'aiuto necessario.

Io so che lo Spirito Santo ci guida. Mi ha guidato tante volte durante la mia vita. Mi ha aiutato a sapere chi sposare, dove vivere, che cosa studiare, quando iniziare la nostra famiglia e quando venire in missione. Credo che lo Spirito Santo abbia guidato gli apostoli a chiamarci nella Missione Italiana di Roma e ha guidato Presidente Kelly a mandarci qui a Battipaglia. Sono molto grato per lo Spirito Santo e per le innumerevoli benedizioni che ho ricevuto nella mia vita. Spero che Flavia continuerà a ricevere ispirazione dallo Spirito Santo durante tutta la sua vita.