Thursday, February 7, 2013

It is Wednesday evening, February 6. We have had an exciting several days. Let me start by mentioning how we resolved some of our concerns:

No shower curtans: We think we can live with this situation. The water pressure isn’t too strong, so only a little water sprays out on the floor when we shower. We purchased some soft rugs from IKEA and put them down on the bathroom floor. We hang them out to dry each day and think this will work well – so, no shower curtain. We have decided not to even think of using the smaller shower which has never been used.

Toilet Seats: IKEA again to the rescue – only 3 euro each – granted they are plastic and too short for the toilets we have, but they will definitely do until we find some larger ones.

We cleaned the refrigerator and stove, and we use the heat as needed. Sister Scherbel also transferred some of the landlady’s stuff to cupboards already nearly full to the brim and has managed to clear out enough kitchen cupboard and drawer space. We are still learning the finer points of trash separation, but feel we are nearly there on that subject as well.

Hairdryer: Everyone just uses the Max. 1500 Watt plugs for their 2000+ Watt hairdryers. We are doing the same.

Internet: No good solution yet.

Sunday was wonderful. Church started at 9:30 a.m. There were nearly 30 members there – twice the number we expected. We met the Branch President, the Branch Clerk, the Elders Quorum President, and the Ward Mission Leader. Priesthood/Relief Society Meeting were first. Priesthood was more or less Utah quality – possibly a bit better. We attended the Gospel Doctrine class while the Elders taught the Gospel Essentials class. They had four investigators there. Amobi, an African brother, is being baptized Feb. 16. Gospel Doctrine was taught by Stefania D’Andolfo, the Branch President’s wife. She is an outstanding teacher. It is so wonderful to hear the Gospel taught by Italian members. During my mission in the 60’s I don’t ever remember hearing an Italian teach a lesson. The missionaries did pretty much all of the teaching then. Sacrament Meeting was next. It was Fast Sunday, so time for testimonies. Several people bore their testimonies including Sister Scherbel and I. She was a huge success. She did such an amazing job. I didn’t know she could say so many things in Italian. After Sacrament Meeting, one of the sisters who was recently baptized came up to me and said she really enjoyed my testimony, but my wife’s was much better – it made her cry. It kind of made me cry too…

Battipaglia Branch Luncheon
After the block of meetings, they held a branch luncheon. They served two kinds of delicious rigatoni – one had a simple tomato sauce made from tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chilies (The Branch President and his wife had spent four months in Mexico waiting to adopt some children, so she loves to include Mexican ingredients in her Italian food – amazing!) and Parmesan cheese. The other was more of a butter/cream sauce with Parmesan cheese. Both were delicious. Then they served some potatoes boiled in kind of a gravy with a bit of beef and peas – again, delicious. One sister also brought a couple dozen pastries from a local pasticceria (pastry bakery as opposed to a panificio – bread bakery). We try to stay away from the pasticcerie because they are way too tempting. So we had a pastry as well. It was so fun to eat this wonder food and get to know the members and investigators a bit better.

As we were leaving the Church, it started raining a bit. We thought we could rush home before it starting coming down hard. We rushed to the back gate to our apartment complex thinking we had a key to open it. We didn’t and it started pouring rain. We had to walk/run all around our apartment complex and come in the regular way. We were soaked before we could get to our apartment. We spent much of the evening drying out our clothes and getting warm.

Elders, Sister Scherbel, Willie's and Tavernari's
Monday was District Meeting in Castellammare di Stabia, a beautiful city right on the Mediterranean Sea. There were eight Elders and Elder and Sister Willie who work with the military bases in southern Italy, plus us.  After a very well-run meeting by Elder Decker, we retired to the home of Jonathan Tavernari of BYU basketball fame who now plays professionally here in Italy. He and his beautiful wife Kiri, along with their six month old Xander, were wonderful hosts and served some CafĂ© Rio style burritos. Sister Tavernari shared a wonderful poem written by some missionaries. Here it is:
I had been in that hole for a very long time
In the dark and the damp, in the cold and the slime.
The shaft was above me; I could see it quite clear
But there’s no way I ever could reach it from here.
Nor could I remember the world way up there
So I lost all my hope and gave in to despair.
I knew nothing but darkness, the floor, and the walls
Then off in the distance I heard someone call:
“Get up! Get ready! There’s nothing the matter.
Take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.
This had never occurred to me—had not crossed my mind.
But I started to stack all the stones I could find.
When I ran out of stones, then old sticks were my goal,
For one way or another I’d get out of that hole.
So I soon had a ladder that was sturdy and tall
And I thought, “I’ll soon leave this place once and for all.”
I climbed up my ladder.  It was no easy chore,
For from lifting those boulders, my shoulders were sore.
I climbed on up the ladder, but soon had to stop
For my ladder stopped short—some ten feet from the top.
I climbed back down my ladder and started to cry
I’d done all I could do.  I gave my best try.
And in spite of my work, in this hole I must die.
And all I could do was to sit and think, “Why?”
Was my ladder too short?  Or my hole much too deep
Then from way upon high came a voice, “Do not weep.”
And then faith, hope, and love entered into my chest
As the voice said to me that I’d done my best.
He said, “You’ve worked very hard, and your labor’s been rough,
But the ladder you’ve built is at last tall enough.
Do not despair.  You have reason to hope.
Just climb up your ladder; I’ll throw down my rope.”
I climbed up the ladder, then climbed up the cord.
When I got to the top, there stood the Lord.
I couldn’t be happier; my struggle was done.
I blinked in the brightness that came from the Son.
I fell to the ground, his feet did I kiss
I cried “What can I do to repay thee for this?”
Then he looked all about Him.  There were holes in the ground
They had people inside, and were seen all around
There were thousands of holes that were damp, dark, and deep
Then the Lord turned to me and he said, “Feed my sheep.”
Then He went on His way to help other lost souls,
And I got right to work, calling down to the holes:
“Get up!  Get ready!  There’s nothing the matter.
Take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.”
It now was my turn to spread the good word.
The most glorious message that man ever heard.
That there’s one who is willing to save one and all
And we’ve got to be ready when He gives the call.
He’ll pull us all out of the hole that we’re in
And save all our souls from death and from sin.
So do not lose faith; there is reason to hope
Just build up your ladder; he’ll throw down His rope.
(Author Unknown as yet.)
We stopped at IKEA to show Sister Scherbel how lucky we are to have an IKEA nearby and again purchased a bunch of “necessities.”  We also stopped at our wonderful Maximall and purchased the things we couldn’t find at IKEA. After getting slightly lost and taking one wrong freeway exit, we finally made it home.

We love the Knorr dried soups for quick suppers as we dunk delicious Italian bread in them. We are definitely eating well.

Tuesday was an unusual day. We are required to register with the Questura (local police) within eight days of our arrival in Italy. In order to do so, we need to pay some money and sign some special forms. President and Sister Kelly were going to bring these forms down to us as they came to visit the Battipaglia Branch last Sunday. However, President Kelly was sick and unable to come down. So the Mission Office in Milano shipped them by DHL and asked us to wait at our apartment for their arrival. So, Sister Scherbel waited all day for this special delivery. On Monday, the door handle broke off our washing machine. We had noticed that our Landlady was treating it kind of tenderly as she showed us how to use it. Now we know why. We notified the Mission Home of this mini-disaster. They told us to also await the delivery of a washing machine on Tuesday. So we were awaiting two deliveries.

In the meantime, I went out to take care of a few more errands. We needed copies of our house keys and gate key. After getting soaked Sunday, we went through the many various keys hanging on the wall and finally found one for the back gate. We were paranoid that if we accidently left the house and forgot the house key we wouldn’t be able to back in because the door locks automatically when it closes. We had heard stories of missionaries scaling walls and balconies to get in their apartments when they forgot their keys. So I found a place to copy our keys – even the large skeleton key which opens our front door.

I also wanted to find out about Internet and cell phone options. All the stores are closed from around noon or 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Finally, at 4:45 pm the cellular telephone store opened. I learned about several plans. I then needed an Ethernet cable so I could connect my laptop to the church’s Ethernet and a usb cable to connect our printer to our computer. I finally found a little computer store. A husband and wife operate it much like my computer business in Star Valley.

Tuesday evening I helped with English class. There were only two students – one “advanced.” Stefano and I had a fun evening talking about his schooling and career plans. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering. He had lots of questions about the United States, so we got on the Internet and looked at Google Maps.

Today, we went back to visit the Tavernari’s. Jonathan had done a bunch of research about Internet/cell phone options and volunteered to help us purchase what we needed. We took a small walking tour of Cava de Tirreni where they live. We then purchased a SIM card for Geri’s iPhone with an Italian number so I can call her. It is a pay as you go plan which requires no contract. There is no charge for incoming calls and she gets unlimited internet and 200 text messages (in Italy) and 200 minutes for 13 euros. We don’t expect to use this phone too much, but it is great to be able to stay in contact. I’ll carry the mission cell phone and she will have hers.

We also purchased a cellular modem which allows us to connect our iPhones and computers to the Internet over the cellular network. We get 5 Gig per month for 20 euros. We will see if this will be sufficient for our needs. This gives us the flexibility to connect to the Internet even while we visit members’ homes so we can show them Church videos.

We really like the Tavernari family. We had a delicious lunch with them (mozzarella and provolone cheese with fresh lasagna with artichokes) at a local restaurant, learned where to buy such things as vanilla, brown sugar, baking powder, and chocolate chips. Sister Scherbel has already made a batch of peanut butter cookies from peanut butter she brought with us.

So far, except for a few problems with our apartment, we are doing more celebrating than missionary work. We love it here. We try to take at least a mile walk every morning to explore new areas. We are gradually getting familiar with our surroundings.

Avellino, the first city I served in as a young missionary is in our branch. I never dreamed I would be able to return to Avellino, but we have an elderly couple that lives there, a wonderful investigator named Flavia, and the daughter of another of our members in the hospital there. We are scheduling a visit there probably this week.
We try to walk at least a mile together each morning. This a picture of our apartment from a nearby overpass.

Line points to our apartment

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