We were so excited that Flavia had set her baptismal date. When we returned home the Elders called President Kelly immediately with the great news. He wasn’t nearly as excited as we were about Flavia being baptized in Rome. In fact, as the Elders later related to us, her had several good reasons why he didn’t want her to be baptized Rome, but in Battipaglia which is her home Branch. We were devastated. Obviously, we had over-stepped our bounds by telling Flavia she could be baptized in Rome. I had even said she could be baptized in Alaska if she wanted to. She had responded that Rome would be just fine.
What to do…Elder Taylor, Elder Carr and I sat in our living room in silence for quite a while. We weren’t sure what our options were. We discussed the fact that being baptized in Rome was so important to Flavia. In fact, she had planned to be taught by the Sisters in the Rome Third Ward. When we visited her, we assured her that the Elders in Battipaglia were the ones who should teach her and that her desire to be baptized in Rome was no problem. We also felt that President Kelly is a very inspired Mission President. I felt the strength of his spirit immediately when I met him in November. We didn’t doubt he was right; we just didn’t know how to back out the hole we had dug for ourselves without devastating Flavia. We knelt in prayer, and each one of the three of us offered a vocal prayer seeking to know how to approach this situation. After the prayer we all felt that we needed to schedule another visit with Flavia as soon as possible. We called her Saturday evening after our prayer and asked if we could come to visit her again on Monday. She agreed.
We had kind of a tight time window because we had also arranged to meet the Branch President’s family at 5:30 p.m. and the drive from Avellino takes at least an hour.
On Sunday Flavia wasn’t in church. Fearing that she had had an automobile accident or something, I called her during the first hour of the block (Priesthood Meeting for me) to see if she was all right. It had snowed in Avellino Saturday night, and the roads were bad, so Flavia had wisely decided not to try to get to Battipaglia for church. We were so glad she was safe.
We worried all day Sunday, wondering how we should present President Kelly’s decision to her. The Elders felt that I should be the one to break the bad news to her.
On Monday, we drove up to Avellino. Flavia met us at her Aunt’s home where she lives. Only she and her grandmother were home. It was about 2:00 p.m. After an opening prayer, I told her that we were not going to be able to baptize her in Rome. She was absolutely devastated – our worst fears had come true. The most important aspect of her baptism was for her friend, Laura, to be there. She then told us that Laura didn’t even like to leave her house. The cemetery where her son is buried is right across the street from her house. She can see it from her front window. The only time she had left her home in recent months was to visit Flavia as she had another doctor visit in Milano. Apparently, they are as close as mother and daughter.
I asked her what the chances were that given Laura’s depressed state she would actually attend Flavia’s baptism even if it were in Rome. She said a hundred percent. I was going to argue that maybe after going to all this trouble to arrange for a baptism in Rome, maybe Laura wouldn’t come anyway – wrong again.
We had brought a sample baptismal program with us that Sister Scherbel had prepared to show Flavia how many people her baptism would effect and to try to help her understand why it would be so much better to be baptized in Battipaglia where people she knows and loves could give prayers, talks, and even perform her baptism and confirmation. She thought that was all fine, but she didn’t really care who baptized her if Laura couldn’t be there. Elder Carr bore his humble testimony that he was sure that in some way Laura would be blessed by Flavia getting baptized no matter where it happened. Elder Taylor then related his challenges in Malta and how sometimes disappointments happen in life and we need to go on in spite of them. It was a very spirit-filled meeting, but we were really at a loss to find an answer which would bless all those involved including Flavia, Laura, Flavia’s family (who probably wouldn’t be coming to Rome), and the Battipaglia Branch. We asked if there was any chance that Laura would come to Battipaglia. President Kelly had indicated that the Mission was prepared to help her get to Battipaglia if necessary. Flavia indicated that there was probably no chance that Laura would consent to travel down to Battipaglia. We left her with the suggestion that she at least call Laura to see if there were any way she would consider coming to Battipaglia. Even Flavia’s grandmother was so sad that things were not working out as we all thought they should.
We barely made our appointment with the D’Andolfo family. We spent a wonderful evening getting to know them. Sister Scherbel had made some chocolate cookies that tasted kind of like brownies which were a big hit. I took a couple of pieces of my sister Annette’s Christmas caramels which Sister Scherbel had hidden away in her luggage. I expressed my concern to President D’Andolfo regarding Flavia and asked him to pray for her too.
The next day, we headed for Rome for our Zone Conference with Elder Kent F. Richards. We were staying with the Steuers. Sister Steuer had prepared a wonderful supper of homemade soup with fresh ham and cheese pannini on wonderful Italian bread. Just as we were about to sit down to eat, my cell phone rang. It was Flavia. She had called Laura. Incredibly, Laura had said she would be happy to come to Battipaglia for Flavia’s baptism. I have rarely been so happy. We were absolutely elated. …And the Steuers immediately volunteered to drive Laura down to Battipaglia. As it turned out, Laura’s car had been in an accident and wasn’t drivable, so did need the help of the mission to get her down to Battipaglia. President Kelly had been totally correct all along. This solution allows absolutely everyone to be at Flavia’s baptism.
We went back to visit Flavia Thursday, the day after we arrived home from the conference. Elder Carr had scheduled her baptismal interview. Again timing was critical because Flavia had to leave for Milano for her check up on Friday and wouldn’t be back for eight days. We had the most wonderful visit. Flavia’s grandmother, her Aunt Delia, and her cousin Amerigo (10) were all there. As Elder Carr interviewed Flavia in the living room, we all went into a back room and discussed how they felt about Flavia’s decision. They were extremely supportive. We learned about their firm faith in God and how they had obtained their faith. Elder Taylor started relating the Joseph Smith story to them, but was interrupted by two workmen coming to mount some shelving to Delia’s living room wall. So, the Joseph Smith story will have to wait. But, now that she is being baptized in Battipaglia, Flavia’s Aunt Delia, her grandmother, her cousin and, probably, Flavia’s Uncle Sabatino (who we haven’t met yet) will be at her baptism and her confirmation on Sunday.
Flavia has now selected who will pray, who will give talks, who will baptize her, and who will confirm her. I will be giving a talk on the Holy Ghost. Since it will be Fast Sunday, the Branch Relief Society has agreed to prepare a simple luncheon after the Sunday block especially for those who have to travel back to Rome. Flavia’s Aunt is going to be helping with the luncheon. It should be a marvelous occasion. We can hardly wait.
|Aunt Delia, Elder Taylor, Flavia, Grandma, Amerigo, Elder Carr in Delia's beautiful Living Room|