Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Italian Snow

This week was better than last.  Christmas was nice -- even if it never really felt like Christmas, but I'm glad I got to Skype my family -- and then on Saturday it SNOWED!  One of the only things I wanted to see and hadn't yet was Italian snow.  It was beautiful.  We walked through centro and took the funicolare to Città Alta.  I was in heaven: huge, slow snowflakes falling among the ancient buildings and brave evergreens, while adults dared to finally smile and children shrieked and danced in the streets.  I'll admit I did a bit of skipping and giggling as well.  Okay, a lot, actually.  It was a dream come true, okay?

Thanks for your faith in and prayers for the work here.  When I saw Anziano Horrocks in Milano during transfers, he told me to find a man that he found a year ago while serving in this same branch.  We did find him in the Area Book and were able to meet him yesterday.  He's a worried young father with great morals and lots of respect.  I'm excited to help him find a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Truly Magical Moment

Buon Natale!

I got an onslaught of other envelopes from a bunch of people out of the blue, so I'll be busy responding to all of you kind folk over the next few weeks.  Thanks for the Christmas love and well wishes!  They are returned wholeheartedly, e per lo più in italiano.

We caroled several times this week.  I might pop up on YouTube somewhere: I stood up on a little stone column in centro and sang O Holy Night at the top of my lungs.  Passerbys took videos and the whole piazza got silent to listen.  A truly magical moment for me.

But now we're all sick, ha!  All four of us in the apartment have caught a little cold.  We finally taught our first lesson as a companionship this week, and I think the work will pick up a bit after the holidays.  That's a nice thought.  For now we're trying to rest and get our voices back so that we can talk to our families tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sing Up in Città Alta

I had tons of emails today and I'm technically out of time already.  But I'll write as fast as I can and answer some of these questions.

First of all, thanks to everyone for the kind words based on last week's email.  I got lots of compliments, encouragement, and love.  I appreciate it more than you all realize, so thank you.

Here are my mom's words:  So, tell all! The good, the better, and the best. Living quarters, companion in three adjectives, ward level, dinner menu, favorite line to say to strangers, areas you will be most effective here, just pour on the details.

Going to Milano for transfers was super fun.  I got to see Anziano Kessler!  I freaked out as I walked up to him.  He saw my smile and laughed, "Okay, just don't start crying!"  And we hugged like father and son.  He's headed to Ancona!  I hope he says Hi to Paolo for me.

This city is gorgeous, especially Città Alta, which is in MY area!  Yeah, of the 12 ways that Bergamo is divided, I happened to get the most gorgeous part of the city.  It's old and... just super cool.  Look it up.

The guys I live with here are amazing!  Everyone's so different, so fun, and I think we're all gonna get along really well here.  So that's nice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

Here's the last email I'll be sending from Reggio Emilia.  On Saturday we got transfer calls, and I was surprised to learn that our companionship is being closed.  Both Anziano Smith and I are going to different cities while Anziani Stoll and Vaclaw will take over all of our work and serve with only the sisters here in Reggio.

I'm going to be really honest in this email, so those of your with weak emotional constitutions may want to click over to YouTube and watch cute cat videos instead.

I can't believe this is happening.  My first emotions were all just sad.  A few times I've felt angry, but only at myself.  If we had found more, taught more, and baptized more, would the companionship have stayed open?  I don't know.

I've made dear, dear friends over the last six months here in Reggio.  And I only have six weeks left.  I thought surely that I would stay here to finish the mission.  Instead, I'm being flung from Roberto, Marco, Godfrey, Festus, Emanuele, Sebastian, Vescovo, the English class students... Sorella Quinton... Anziano Stoll......

And all right before Christmastime.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

There's So Much to Love

Thanksgiving went fine over here in Italy.  They don't even really know what it is, so we tossed stuff about gratitude into lots of lessons and English Class.  That was a lot of fun, getting our students to think about and express in another language what they are grateful for.  Even in difficult circumstances, there's so much to love.

Love has been more and more important to me.  I think I really learned about love in November of 2014.  I'll be grateful forever to Heavenly Father for the lovable people He put in my path.  Those feelings were missing.

Now it's suddenly December, and you can tell in our apartment.  We're singing Christmas songs like nobody's business.  Anziano Vaclaw, the new guy in the apartment, is a really good singer and an excellent harmonizer.  He and I are like songbirds, singing about sleighbells and winter wonderlands as one of us hangs up laundry and the other makes a sandwich, ha!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Look Out

I've been writing lots of songs lately and thinking about words.  It's amazing how we can string together a bunch of lines and curves and communicate ideas beyond images: we can share emotion, questions, answers, and who knows what else?  Music is eternal.

My gut hurts.  I think it's stress.  I'm trying to zen and let things go and just keep going.  F'naaa.  It's hard.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited for life back home, but the last thing I ever want to do is leave Italy. Conflict.  I guess there has to be opposition in all things.

Not much to say this week.  Thanksgiving is coming up.  I'll just write a list of what I'm thankful for.

I'm most thankful for God, and that He talks to me.
I'm thankful that I'm learning how to hear Him better.
I'm thankful for all the things I've learned out here.
I'm thankful for family and that I know what it means now.
I'm thankful for friends, and that they mean everything to me.
I'm thankful for love, because it's the reason for every good thing.
I'm thankful for music.
I'm thankful for stories.
I'm thankful for moments where life feels like a movie.
I'm thankful for sacrifice, and what it teaches me.
I'm thankful for all the missionaries who have reached out and loved me.
I'm thankful that I got to help other missionaries.
I'm thankful for the families that made me feel at home.
I'm thankful for understanding and wisdom.
I'm thankful for light.
I'm thankful for the internet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sento Qualcosa!

I heard that President Eyring went to the Vatican.  That's so great.  The weird thing about Italy is that there is not much communication from region to region.  There's really no such thing as an "Italian", just Veneti and Napoletani and Siciliani and Romani.  The members of the church here are an amazing example of strong family life.  

Sorry for not having emailed yesterday, but we went up to Verona for the conference.  We ended up only having about 10 minutes to practice as the choir, but they were all talented singers and the performance went fine.  The conference was fantastic, all about increasing every area of performance by just 1%.  It looks like nothing at first, but if we continue with 1% increases in every field, the eventual improvement is dramatic.  Elder and Sister Fingerle came from Germany for the presentation.  They were wonderful.

After the conference, there in Verona, I saw and heard from a few families I used to visit often, just about a year ago.  They remembered me by name and were so happy to see me.  I nearly burst.  I love Verona and its wonderful people.

There's a family here in Reggio I'm falling in love with, too.  They're from Venezuela.  The uncle, Elviro, is a member since two years ago.  The father of the family and his 9 and 7 year old children are not yet members.  We've been working with them as a family and I've been experiencing some of the best moments of the mission.  I loooove family, and I love children.  I especially love when little girls say a prayer, look up at their father, point to their chest, and say, "Sento qualcosa!"  I feel something.

It's true.  It's so true, and she knows it.  She felt it.  So can I.  I cried on the bike ride home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I can't stand the wind.  It's funny you'd write about it, Mom.  The other week it was super windy here in Reggio and I remembered how windy it gets back in Pasco.  Yuck.  They say it'll snow here during the winter.  I sure hope so -- I haven't seen la neve in Italy.  I had a dream it snowed.  My dreams are getting more and more realistic lately.  I wonder if that's good or bad.  It's sure boring.

It's really weird to think I'll be bilingual when I come home.  Er, I already am bilingual, I guess.  It's cute to read through my first journals.  All I ever talk about is how badly I want to understand and speak Italian.  Now, as long as the conversation stays in regular territory, I can communicate as easily as I do in English.  My dreams frequently feature Italian.  It's all the things I wanted in the first months, and now it's all so... normal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

There Ya Go

The autumn days are cold and wet
In Reggio nell'Emilia.
The other elders here regret
The weather unfamiliar.
But I, from rainy Washington,
Pretend to be at home,
Even though my farming town
Is drier than a bone.

I just made that up right now.  Guess I've still got it, ha!  Reminds me most of English Class.  We've gotten to the point that people come just to hang out with us Americans, play games while they conversate in English, and hear the nice, feel-good spiritual thoughts we offer at the end of every lesson.  We've done classes on poetry and autumn lately, so there ya go.

I can't think of anything interesting that happened this week.  Oh, except TRANSFERS.  Heheh. Anziano Vaclaw is awesome.  He fits in super well and has a little bit of each of our personalities. Plus he's a really good singer, so we're harmonizing all over the apartment.  It's great.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another 6 Weeks

(deep breath)


I'd sing it in Italian, but I don't think you'd understand.  Besides, the origins of the word auguri are super creepy.

Anyway, happy birthday, little g and Big J!  It's weird to have both of your birthdays in the same week, but also super fun.  I can't remember when either of you were born, but I do remember how much I loved you both as babies.  Why, I still love you both as much as I love babies!

Gentry's 16 as of yesterday (I think you'll get my letter on Halloween, g.  Sorry it's late!) and Jed's turning 14 on November 2 (that's the last day of my 14th Transfer, so for one day we'll both for 14!).  I can't believe how old my gorgeous little siblings are getting, and that they're just gonna keep on growing until Jed's on a mission in France and Gentry's taking her kids to soccer.  Ha!  I'll probably be recording a new Mom's basement.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Where You Are

We had a fine week.  The weather has been mostly cold, with one grueling exception.  Yesterday was too hot for comfort in comparison to the autumn chill settling over northern Italy.  Hopefully that doesn't happen again.  It's delightful today, even if my slow-moving fingers don't agree.

Parma, the city just 10 minutes away and that makes up part of our area, was flooded last week.  Lots of missionaries went to help clean up the mud that had devastated lots of the buildings and streets.  Thanks for previous engagements we didn't get to go, but I'm glad that there are so many missionaries and members available and willing to jump at the chance to serve.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eterno is my Favorite Word

Well, I can't say I'm a huge fan of football... but I am a huge fan of light.  I'm basing almost everything I do and think about on the symbols I realize God has presented us in Light and Seeds.  I'm guessing Water and Earth are going to because important to me as well, but maybe that'll take a trip to Japan or something.

For now, I'm grateful for the light I have already received from God, especially that bit that taught me "there is as much to learn as the eternities will allow".  And that's a beautiful concept to me, because I have come to believe that progress IS happiness.

We had lots of rain this week.  So much that something was flooded in Parma and thousands of phones in this section of Italy stopped working for two days.  It's amazing how much society has centered itself around our feeble technology.  It seemed like half of life essentially shut down.  And though it was a little nervewracking not to be able to contact the District or our investigators for two days, there was something very... relaxing about not having instead communication access.  I can't imagine how people lived in the 1800s... or even in the 1980s!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Better Leads to Best

Yes, Mom, GenCon was wonderful!  We had several technical difficulties since the missionaries were suddenly in charge of everything, but we got it worked out and ended up listening to many beautiful talks.  I was thrilled with the foreign language speakers, and there's no way I could pick a favorite (although off the top of my head I'd say it was Elder Christofferson's on Justice and Mercy. watch it Amazing!)  

Unfortunately we don't get to watch the last session on Sunday Afternoon because of the time difference and the missionary schedule.  I've heard it was good, though.  I love Conference.  Weird to think that this was my last one in Italy.  I've already done four of these?  Unbelievable.  And the next time I'm inspired by modern prophets, it'll be in the comfort of a home.  And I'll get to watch the whole thing.  Weird to think about.

How goes the work, you ask?  Well, what can I say?  It goes.  Things are happening.  Good things are happening.  The District is having fun and working together.  We're enjoying the Fall weather rolling it and pulling on our sweaters and thicker socks.  I love that the bugs go away and the clouds keep it cool.  Goodness, I love Autumn.  Weird to think that last time this weather came around I was in Verona.  I love Verona.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Moving Forward

A fun thing: I saw your car this week!  It drove down the street I live on.  Exact same Volkswagon Passat, even down to the color.  It was really weird, because you almost NEVER see cars with a trunk here in Italy. My gut flipped.

I'm so excited for GenCon this week!  I've been pumping myself up for months... pretty much since last April.  I love everything about October, it's my favorite month for lots of reasons.  Especially because it starts with GenCon!  And it ends with my favorite Holiday!  And somewhere in there is the birthday of a very special someone who I love so very very much!

Things are going well here in Reggio Emilia.  A lot of our investigators are really starting to love and trust us.  I'm convinced that there's something about colder weather than pulls people closer together.  Maybe that's why I love the winter so much, because I'm way more interested in the warmth of a person's heart than that of the sun.  Besides, I hate being sweaty.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Oye, what to write this week.  Things just blur together.  I'm sure I had some cool experiences.

We casa'd into a group of 4 college age kids who actually listened to our spiel on the Restoration and accepted a return appointment to receive copies of the Book to read for themselves.  That was pretty great.

English class was fun, as usual.  We had everyone write letters to each other while I played nice songs on the piano.  They actually loved getting to practice reading and writing.  I love letters.

Anziano Espinosa and I did a scambio this last week.  An appointment of ours was cancelled, so we suddenly decided to hop on a tiny train that passes through the itty-bitty towns surrounding Reggio Emilia and get off when we felt like it.

We landed in a super tiny city and started walking around.  A young boy I guessed was Albanian was standing on the sidewalk using his phone.  We started talking to him and he didn't seem very interested. Then I started speaking the little bits of Albanian that I knew from Anziano Hallulli, and he seemed to like that.

We ended up teaching him about the Plan of Salvation after asking, "If you could ask one question to God, what would it be?"  His response: "What comes after this life."  Bingo.  We taught him.

We're going to bring him an Albanian Book of Mormon soon so that his mother can read along.  He was 14 years old.  Makes me think of Jed.  I love families.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Doing Good

You may or may not notice that I'm writing this rather late.  We went to the mountains today to check out a castle.  It was a great adventure, but also a long one that included missing trains and surprising separations.  All is well, and I'll certainly sleep well tonight.

I'm glad my family got my most recent letters.  My mom asked me how I am -- just like that, "How are you?"  The simplicity makes me think she's worried, but maybe I'm reading too deeply into things.

I'm doing... good.  Not well, but good.  I mean, I'm actually doing good things.  Not all the time, and not as good of things as I probably could be doing, but I do notice day by day how much good I am able to do for others.  It's amazing and humbling and beautiful.  I feel closer to God.

I love Mormon messages.  Anziano Espinosa has downloaded tons of them and we watch them in the apartment frequently.  Some of the more recent ones are terrific!  Especially "Hope of God's Light." video

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Prepared People

This week was nice.  It got hot for a few days, but rain swept in last night and cooled my world down.  I'm grateful for that.  I'm grateful for so many things.

An investigator I really love -- the same one who gave me the typewriter -- came to church for the first time this last week.  I was thrilled to see him, and he was touched by several testimonies borne.

There is a great treasure of knowledge to find in the Book of Mormon.  One can read that book a hundred times and get new insights into the mind and heart of our Heavenly Father with each experience.  And what an experience it is!  I love the book and all I'm learning from it.  I encourage those of you who want a stronger relationship with God to study it and pray.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I love September

Wow, so Audrey's in Mexico, eh?  I think that hits me more than it hits any of you who might read this, even Mom.  I pray for her and wish her the best of inspiration.

Pictures!  Sorry, it's been a while.
*drinking from the waters of life (or something) *playing basketball for the last time in Ancona
*the silliest apartment ever (me and Edwards on Carter and Espinosa, respectively) Long live Transfer 12.
*me at a cool well (Anziano Smith loves cool pictures.  He's infecting me.) 
*weird 4th of July pictures in Reggio nell'Emilia *my birthday (WOOOOHOOOO!!!)

I like what my mom said in her weekly email to me today:  "A mission can't be easy.  I am so grateful it's not.  Life is not easy."  At first I lowered my brow at that, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed.  I am so grateful that the mission is hard.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Wow, I love that MTC picture of Audrey!  Great colors!  That doesn't look like the MTC, though... I guess things change in a year and a half.

Yup, it's my last day of being 20.  Starting tomorrow I'll be an adult... I guess.  Ha!  If you say so, society.

This week was nice because of the weather, sopratutto.  It's been cloudy and grey and cool and I LOVE that.  It's like happy birthday present from God.  Especially since it hasn't rained, and rain really ruins the work.

This week has started well.  We've met some cool new people to teach on the streets and invited tons to our fun English Class.  We got to teach yesterday and did lots of games about phone calls.  It's hard enough to communicate in another language face to face, but on the phone?  Without facial expressions or hand guestures or anything?  I remember how nervous I was in Padova with my first Italian phone calls.  Now it feels like second nature.  "Pronto!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rung by rung

Thanks for the concern and prayers, those many of you who wrote to me about my lost scriptures.  So far they're not back, and there's no trace of them.  But hey, everything happens for a reason, I guess. Maybe somebody needed them more than I did.

Though this week felt really long, it doesn't feel like there's anything to write.  Things are going along fine.  Days fly by -- it feels like I'm jumping in and out of bed over and over, week by week.  I guess that's what happens when you do essentially the same things for 18 months.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baggy Pants and Glasses

Transfer weeks are always longer, it seems.  I feel like I haven't written an email in ages.  Quite a bit of "negative" stuff happened this week, but I feel pretty good right now.  I'll just walk you through what happened:

During a scambio (companion exchange) in Modena where my Zone Leaders serve, I lost my nifty little scambio bag that Anziano Treadway gave me on the train.  It had all my needed toiletries in it, including my contact solution and case.  Since Italy is famously the Land of Inconvenience, I wasn't able to find a case to put my contacts in for a few days.  Thanks to sweat, heat, and allergies, they dried up really fast in my eyes and even started to shrivel.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

13th of 16 Transfers

This week is a happy one, if unusually sentimental.  The last six weeks have been some of the best of my mission.  They have flown, as happy moments always do, and I can't believe I'm about to enter my 13th of 16 transfers.

We were confused when the transfer call came, telling me that Anziano Carter would stay a fifth transfer in Reggio while I was being transferred to Brescia.  We were puzzled, saddened, and tried to accept the news for over 24 hours until a second call came straight from the Assistants.  They told us there'd been a mistake in communication, and that in reality I am staying here in Reggio while Anziano Carter is going to Brescia.

We're both relieved at the truth, but the whole experience was just muddling.  I was trying to understand why I was only staying barely over a month in this wonderful place, having hardly started to get to know the members and investigators we frequently visit.  I can't explain here or anywhere else the strangeness of the feeling, especially when it was partly pacified and partly accented when the second call of apology and clarification came.

Either way, I'm staying here, and tomorrow I'll meet my new companion, Anziano Ty Smith.  I don't know a thing about him, except that Sister Jackman in my district and the Assistant, Anziano Johnson, says he's cool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bloom and Grow

Ancona was a disaster.  I didn't end up getting my Permesso last week.  The documents were successfully overnighted down to me (by DHL, Gentry!  They're everywhere!) but the Questura was closed and wouldn't let me pull any strings.  I got really angry, but Anziano Carter and I talked it out and I called the office in Milano and everything turned out okay.  We went home empty handed, and just yesterday we took a long train down to finally grab my Permesso and take a long train home.  Oh, well.  Everything happens for a reason, even if we don't get to see it now.

I sure love it here in Reggio Emilia.  The weather has been wonderful.  This time last year I was dying of heat in Ferrara.  Now there's an almost constant cloud cover and frequent sprinkles of rain that keeps it all cool.  The Italians are amazed.  They say they haven't seen a summer this cool for decades.  I'm so grateful, I can't stand the heat.

My sister Audrey is now the Sister Burton!  Or Hermana Burton, I guess.  That's so exciting.  I look forward to watch her bloom and grow as a missionary over the next year and a half.  I know she will be a great tool in the Lord's hands if she is obedient and chooses to be happy.  It's taken me a whole year and a half to get that into my head, so let's hope Audrey learns faster.  She's always been smart.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Plan

Oh, boy.  Did I have a weird week.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!  Haha!

I'd love to make this a really trippy email, starting at the end and working my way back through the story like a Christopher Nolan film.  So I think I will.  Surprise of the week:  I'm writing this email from Ancona, in all the same clothes I wore yesterday, sweating over phone calls from a bunch of important numbers I don't know.

How did I get 260 kilometers from my assigned area of beautiful Reggio Emilia?  Well, it all starts several days ago when I got the call from office in Milan: "Your Permesso di Soggiorno is ready!"  Last time I heard that I was in Verona and traveled with Anziano Kessler to Padova to simply pick up the legal document that lets me stay here in Italy.  So when I got the call, Anziano Carter and I went to the train station, bought (really expensive) tickets for Tuesday, and went back to work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


First and foremost, big shout out to my little sister Audrey headed to the MTC a week from today!  Woohoo!  She'll be headed to Mexico to serve for 18 months as a sister missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I feel like I'm in the movie Legacy or something.  "This is my brother Johnny, my dear, dear brother Johnny!"  (That will be funny to such a small group of readers.)

Audrey, the MTC was still one of the best parts of my mission.  Enjoy every moment you have there, because by the time you're a few months into the field, it'll feel like it was only a dream.  If you start well at the MTC, your whole mission will benefit.  Be obedient!  And don't worry about the language AT ALL!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An instrument in His symphony

This week went so fast.  I can't even believe it's already July 9.  What happened to Independence Day?  We tried to celebrate it by singing patriotic songs and eating at McDonalds.  It was pretty fun, but four Americans celebrating isn't quite the same as ALL American celebrating.  Plus I spilled chocolate milkshake on my pants.  Ha!

But it was a good week.  We went to Modena for a really great zone training meeting that focused on personal revelation, being creative and individual in missionary work, and finding the people God has prepared to receive his message.  They are here!  We know they are!  Anziano Carter and I get sad sometimes that so few people listen to us, but we believe and are searching for the people God's been getting ready.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Busy and new!

I absolutely LOVE weeks like this!  It feels like it's been a hundred years since I last got to email, which means the week has been filled with new things, and both of those are so welcome and exciting in missionary work: busy and new!

Reggio Emilia is a beautiful city.  I love the Centro.  It reminds me a bit of Verona, but on a smaller scale.  It's just more Italian, I guess, and makes me think of the beginning parts of my mission.  I love the vibe and the people stop to talk with us often and I can't complain at all.  In fact, I rejoice!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Che bello!

Dear Everyone,

It's a been a few weeks since I wrote a real bloggish letter, hasn't it?  I've been more focused on my mom, which I don't think anyone will complain about.  But now I have quite a few things to say, and I'd like to address it to everyone--which I did.  At the top of this email.

Three main things to type about the in the next fifteen minutes or so: first of all, and this is kind of directed to Mom but also to everyone who has children, teach the kids about our ancestors!  Maybe every FHE, choose one ancestor to tell a few stories about or look at a picture of.  I've found so much joy putting together the My Family booklet and realizing how much my life is influenced by these people I never knew.  Where I've lived, what I can do, what I like to do, even what I look like, it's all because of these people's choices.  And I'm so happy that we have the opportunity to get to know them, even just a little, and to preserve their names and actions in the theoretically eternal internet!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Greatest

Elder Holland really is The Man.  It's popular here in the mission to have audio recordings of his best talks and listen to them often.  It really pumps us up, helps us feel the Spirit, and teaches us what's most important.  I love that man, and I hope I get to meet him... again.

That's funny and cool about Brooke.  [Our Pasco friend sent a message saying: "Hey!!! I'm in Italy and I found some elders that knew your son!! Pretty cool. I asked if they knew an elder burton and they said yea. He sings really good right and dresses nice? I said yes! That would be him. :)) thought I would let you know."] We're headed back to Firenze tomorrow for a Multi-Zone Conference.  Some missionaries have this biting fear that they're going to run into someone they know from home here in Italy.  I never even consider it possible, with how few people I know and how huge Italy is.  I'm happy to know my name has circulated around the mission, though, especially for my singing.  You always wonder what other missionaries think of you.  It doesn't really matter, but it's nice to know, I guess.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Good Feeling

I think about our ancestors, too, and everything they did.  I've been reading "Our Heritage" and I watched "Legacy" while on a scambio in Pesaro this week.  The pioneers made such amazing sacrifices.  But not just them, even further back.  So many people made so many choices that landed me exactly where I am right now.  It's bizarre, but it's so great and it's fun to think about now and then.  Life is so huge and crazy, but God is in control, and He makes things beautiful.

It doesn't feel like much has happened this week.  It got really hot.  I cut my hair twice.  It's super, super short now.  I can't stand the heat.  I don't mind wearing short sleeves anymore, though.  I used to think these short-sleeved white shirts were so goofy and silly looking.  Now I just feel like a missionary.  It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Focusing on Christ

Awww, that picture with Oma is so cute!  I look like Jed did when he was little!

Today was crazy and my head is still kinda rattled from all it's events, so forgive the short email and lack of usual enthusiasm.  We went to San Marino today as a District--the 2 companionships is Ancona and one is Pesaro.  San Marino is an ancient little country inside Italy.  It's pretty much just a city, but it's really nice and super old, and best of all the ancient part is built on top of this crazy, fantasy-esque mountain with towers of castles and walls.  And they have really cheap chocolate, cologne, guns, and crossbows.  Ha!  There are stores full of ancient-to-modern weaponry totally legal inside San Marino only.  Don't worry, it's a peaceful place, but they like their toys, I guess.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I really can't think of much to write about this week beyond my allergies.  I mean that both as 1) my allergies have been a main concern of the week, and 2) right now my allergies are making it hard to think or write.  So excuse me for a short email.

We got some great new investigators this week who I love, and it's always exciting when I really love the people I'm teaching with all my heart.  We've also had several cool experiences with people stopping us, which very rarely happens around here.  In one day, three or four people just walked up to us or waved us over to their parked car and started a curious conversation that led to us getting to know them, bearing testimony, and inviting them to meet and know more.  So far we haven't had much success, but that's okay.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Oh my goodness gracious sakes!  My heart is just a-burstin' right now!  This is one of the happiest emails I've gotten in a long time.  Seeing my little brother wind up to the pitch, and my beautiful stepsister getting married to an RM!?  WOW!  I'm just so stinkin' happy!  Feels like my chest is bursting.  Maybe that's from all the pushups I do in the morning.  Heheh, just kidding.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

While I'm Training

with Anziano Gomez in Ancona
in Florence!

This week was nuts, and it's only going to get crazier.  It's transfers already.  Can you believe how fast it goes?  I sure can't.  So let's catch you up as fast as I can:  This weekend we went to Firenze (Florence).  I was in heaven.  We got on a train Saturday Morning, arrived in the afternoon, spent the afternoon in the city buying ties (missionaries love a little stand in the market that sells 4 ties for €10) and leather bags (I'm gonna look so cool at BYU), ate lunch, saw the amazing Duomo I've dreamt of for years, and then went to a Saturday evening session of the conference.

We slept in one of the Firenze Anziani's apartments, cramming 8 missionaries into whatever space we could find.  The next morning we went to the Sunday Morning session in the enormous "Palazzo dei Congressi", where the Florence Stake was formed and leaders were called for two hours.  It was a marvelous experience with many great talks, testimonies, and trainings, and I enjoyed every second.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Preach My Gospel is among the most amazing, inspired, and simple manuals the Church has ever released.  Some of it doesn't apply to non-full-time missionaries, but certain chapters are universally helpful.  I think especially of Chapter 3 through 6, and 2 is super useful as well.  I'm so happy that Jed and Gent have copies to peruse.  Peruse well, young ones!  (And Audrey, you better study that thing until your eyes fall out!)

Good week.  We taught a lot more lessons than we did the last 2 weeks.  I had some good conversations with my good little greenie and I think he's starting to adjust to missionary life a bit more.  I forget how hard it is.  It feels so normal and easy now.

Well... maybe not easy, but certainly normal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The mission rules

This was one of the best weeks of my mission, and I think the 21st may have been one of the best days of my life.  I can't write a 100th part of the stuff that happened to me or the miracles I saw, but I'll do my best to convey how I felt.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fight for happiness

There's a lot I could write about this week, but I think I'll boil it down to three main things:

1)  Anziano Gomez is doing great!  I can't say I've been the best trainer.  It's hard at this point in my mission to remember what it was like to be at the beginning, what might be confusing or new.  He sometimes reminds me that he has no idea what's going on, and I have to slap myself in the forehead and explain a few crucial things.  It's a bizarre thing, for missionary life to be so normal.  Makes me scared to go home someday.

2)  We went up to Milano and back yesterday for New Missionary Training.  It was fun to watch this last group of only 7 elders reunite after their first 10 days in the field, sharing miracles and experiences with each other that are so excited for them and so normal for us trainers.  We're surely a blessed group, and I forget that all the time.  Sometimes I'm so fixated on what I'm not doing perfectly that I forget all the stuff I'm doing well.  I imagine it's much the same for most of you, and I invite you to do what I've been doing and write down a positive list of things you've learned over the last year or so and the people you've helped.  It's great to think positive.

3)  I was super inspired by 2 Nephi 2 this week. Amazing chapter of the Book of Mormon.  Verses 5 and 11 especially stood out to me, and as I went over old notes from near the beginning of my mission that I had scribbled in a forgotten notebook, I was amazed at the ideas that poured into my mind.  I thought I'd share them with all of you:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

For good reason

I always seem to run out of time.  I usually save this email for last, because every time I think I'll have plenty of time left over to think about what to say.  But, instead, I end up writing huge emails--half of them in Italian these days--to everyone and their mother, and then I'm left to scramble out a few words of faux-wisdom and missionary experience.

Well, I'll just tell you a few great things that happened.  This week felt really long, and the weather kept oscillating between super summer hot to cool and rainy.  Right now it's raining--piove.  My thoughts are starting to translate themselves again instead of separating English and Italian because I'm having to answer "What does that mean?" or "How do you say...?" ten times a day.  Va bene.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Doing my best

There's a lot I could write about this week, but since I want to include some pictures, I'll keep it short.

I'm about to enter my 10th transfer.  In the mission, Transfer Age matters a lot, and a missionary in their 10th is officially "old".  That's scary.  We only serve 16 total.  10/16... gross.

But let's not think about that.  Let's look at what's in store for me here in my 10th Transfer.  I'll still be here in Ancona, but I won't be with Anziano T anymore.  In fact, we're going to Milano tomorrow... to pick up my new greenie!  President called me on Monday.  I'll be training again!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What a privilege

F'naaaaaaaa, we're so busy. Okay, I'm gonna type fast:

Monday, Tuesday, and today are all taken up by one word: MOVING. Which is awesome. I'm not sure I talked about it yet, but the apartment we were living in here in Ancona is a tiny, old thing tucked into a corner riddled with filth and cockroaches. Anziano H the clean-freak of the apartment (who I love), did a good job at making the place at least halfway livable for the time we've been there, but now we're moving, and we've been moving for two days already. There's a lot to do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's all just so much fun

Yay Audrey!  Called to serve among the descendents of the Lamanites.  That is amazingly fun, and Spanish will serve her for the rest of her life.  Congratulations, and prepare well!

This week was a good week.  I'm in a super happy mood and just feel really loved.  I'm getting to know the members better, they're giving referrals that we get to go visit, and I'm contemplating a lot about what all has happened in my first year in Italy.  That's right, one year ago today I was in a plane headed across the ocean.  A lot has happened, and while I can easily pick out little details from all across the board, it's great to look back and consider this first year a really positive experience.  I've grown a lot, and I just have more to learn.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Good Ideas

I feel like there's so much to write, so I'll just dive in and hope it makes sense:

Ancona is a port city, and the port is its coolest feature in my opinion.  It's so massively huge, and when viewed from up high--like by the duomo--it's pretty awe inspiring.  I can hardly believe we've built such gigantic boats and cranes and platforms for how amazing small we are in comparison.  Makes me think of how much a little guy like me can affect the world, for good or for bad.  What you do matters.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Matter Where

It's amazing that it's already March.  On the 20th I'll hit my year-in-Italy mark.  I remember snippets of my first days here, walking through the Centro of Milan, riding my first train across the country to Padova... wow.  Weird to think that was a whole year ago.  It goes so fast.

Ancona is treating me well.  We're having some really interesting experiences here.  We ate at an old Italian couple's this week for dinner.  The wife had dear missionary friends about 20 years ago, and now she sees us about once a week.  She's had some really tough experiences, losing children to freak accidents, but she still believes strongly in God and his goodness.  She's the first Catholic I've ever met here who actually loves God the Father and doesn't think He's out to destroy mankind.  Beautiful to see such love in people.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Really, really

I'm sorry in advance, looking at this computer screen in this dim room has given me a really bad headache.  Or maybe it's the dramatic change in altitude from Verona to Ancona.  I'll just catch you up on how things are going.

It was really, really hard to leave Verona.  I've never been so sad in my life.  Even two or three days into the work here in Ancona, my mind would sometimes drift back to the faces of the friends I left behind and I'd start to tear up.  But by praying for comfort and working to keep my mind on my assignment here, things have been going better.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


That's wonderful that you got to see a baptism in our ward!!  Wow, how cool to think it happens back in Pasco, too.  Ha!  It's always so exciting and beautiful here.  Good to know the missionaries are doing their job back home.  Verona is the highest baptizing Stake in this mission.  I got to see several during my six months here.  There's a special spirit at a baptismal service.

My time here in Verona has been long and wonderful, hallmarked by a number of meaningful experiences.  One of them happened just this last week.  Our ward mission leader is one of my best friends in this ward.  He and I have been talking about putting on a missionary concert for a while.  Right when we finally got started nailing down the specifics, his foster/soon-to-be-adopted baby son got very, very sick.  All of that family's time was taken up caring for this poor infant, and the weight of the concert fell on me.  Fratello G said we could either cancel it or put it in my hands.  Of course I took the challenge.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Anz Kessler and I being awesome. (It's not hard.)
I can't think of a lot to write about as far as this week goes.  We're working with three really great investigators, two of which are Italian, and this week we're going to take one of our favorite members to a lesson.  In fact, we have a lot of good things set up for this next week, which is great because in all likeliness it'll be my last full week in Verona.

That's weird to think about.  A talk fell through on Sunday, so Anziano Kessler and I were invited to bear our testimonies.  Mine felt a lot like a "goodbye" testimony, not only to me but to many the members I've befriended over the last 6 months.  We were invited to lots of lunches, ha!  It'll be a good week.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Starting Tomorrow

In my email to Ky today I sent a line from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's Conference talk 'You Can Do It Now!' as our missionary begins the second round of his best two years: "We acknowledge that your path will at times be difficult. But I give you this promise in the name of The Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength."

I love that you quoted President Uchtdorf's "You Can Do It Now".  That was my favorite talk from last session.  Strange that was way back in October... and that I was still in Verona.  I've been here a long time.  But I would stay here for the rest of my mission for the members alone.  I've made so many good friends here and I love so many of the families.  Good thing I have another month to be among them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2 for 20

Wow, I had a lot of emails and have very little time left!  A few cool things from this week is all I'll write:

Anziano Kessler's birthday happened on the 24th.  That was fun.  Now we're both 20 years old.  Weeeeeird.

I'm in Padova today!  It's so good to be back!  My Permesso di Soggiorno [residency permit] FINALLY ready to be picked up... y'know, the one I started in late March, 2013.  Ha!  It's amazing to walk these streets again after 7 months.  Bizarre to say "That's where that one story I told you happened!" to Anziano Kessler.  We'll head back to Verona after this.

Yikes, no time left!  Sorry for the short email!  Thanks for all your love and prayers.

Anziano Burton

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I want what God wants

This week was infinitely better than last week.  We're still not seeing a lot of numbers in our work, but my attitude is getting much better and I'm starting to understand the whole "successful missionary" thing.  Starting to.  But I'll get to that.

What contributed to this week's awesomeness?  Well, tons of things, really, but I'll just type out three:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Things are going well here in Verona.  The weather's been cold and rainy and the work slows down because of it, but we have a lot of potentials we're calling and have a new project to keep us going.  It's called FNAA: Find New Activators Always.  We're looking for something new every day to keep us going and finding and working hard.  It's not easy, but it's fun and different.

Anziano Kessler is teaching me a lot more than I'm teaching him.  I'm so happy to be with him and dread the day we'll part.  My journal is bursting with thoughts and insights he's given me without even trying.  I'm really proud of him.  He'll be an amazing missionary.  He has the right attitude.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Find a Way

Thank you for bearing your testimony at the end of your email, Mom.  Dad did the same thing this week.  I'm always touched by testimony, especially here on the mission.  Anziano Kessler and I have seen a dip in the work and our (okay, my) attitude has suffered.  We often talk about our purpose, and how to know if we're doing well as a missionary. 

He's helping me come to the conclusion that a missionary is happy when he does his job: invite and help others to come unto Christ.  How do we do that?  By making direct invitations and committing people to act on the word of God, to try out His way and obey His commandments to receive His promised blessings.  That's what changes lives, creating a personal relationship with Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Christmas meals and presents (Anz. Kessler bought me The Little Mermaid!  He knows me so well!), new years' haircuts and silly pictures.  The mission is so much fun.
Thanks for reminding me of how many people love me and of my siblings' good choices.  I'm very, very happy to hear it.

It was so good to see my family on Christmas!  I always get that feeling afterward--not just with Skype, but also with these emails--that I forgot to say something important, or that I said something silly that didn't need to be said.  I think we all get that way.  The weird part is that there's nothing we can do about it.  I'm reminded sharply of that as 2014 rolls in.  There's no way to turn back the clock and try again, or try it a little different.  We've done what we've done.  Now it's just forward, and making today better than yesterday.  I don't know if that makes as much sense as it does in the little philosophical nook of my head.