Because it had been two years, we didn't really know what kind of reception we would get. We were overwhelmed at the love and warmth shown to us. We surprised the bride and groom and many others by showing up for the festivities. Cristina, (the bride whose baptism I spoke at while on the mission) burst into tears when she saw us and kept saying that she couldn't believe that we would come. It was worth the transatlantic flight just to see that.
In Italy one must first get married civilly before going to the temple to be sealed. This actually works well because so many of the members there come from part-member families so this allows them to have a traditional celebration that their relatives can attend. We traveled to Sicily where her family resides for a fabulous wedding. It was held outdoors in a beautiful resort villa. Cristina wisely chose to have many beautiful hymns and primary songs played through the speaker system for the prelude. It really brought the Spirit to the occasion. Her Bishop from Milan conducted and several of the ward members participated. It was an LDS service Sicilian style. All of her family who are not members of our Church filled one side of the congregation while ward members who had flown down for the wedding filled the other side.
When they realized we would be there they asked me to say the closing prayer and David to say a few words. We had forgotten the kind of panic that can ensue when asked to do something like that in a second language with little notice!
The speakers that preceded David did such a great job preaching the Gospel in a way that was so appropriate for the occasion. The Spirit was strong and one could see that her family was visibly touched. David had prepared a few words that he had shared with me before the service. He did a beautiful job expressing those and then he went off script and blew us all away when he started to recite 2 Nephi 31:20 in Italian by heart. (This is the "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ scripture from the Book of Mormon.) Now you have to know that since returning from the mission David has had a couple of scriptures that he has continued to know by heart in Italian. Every morning since coming home I have asked him to recite to me this particular one because it is so incredibly beautiful when he does it in Italian. Next time you see David you must ask him to do it for you and you will know what I mean :) As he began to recite it to the couple, Cristina, the bride began mouthing the words along with him. It was such a sweet moment. I had never realized before what a great scripture this one is for a couple embarking on the new path ahead of them, beginning an eternal marriage. The other scripture he had memorized had to do with the natural man being an enemy to God so I was glad he didn't choose that one :)
As I sat basking in the golden Italian light in a villa in Sicily and I looked on as my husband was expounding these powerful words to these precious people who have become so important to us I marveled at how if someone had shown me this scene five years ago I would never have dreamed that this would be a part of my life.
The bride's family was so kind to us. Afterwards, the father told us with tears in his eyes that when his daughter first joined our Church he was worried, but that now he could see she was in good hands. The power of the Spirit is such a force for healing.
After the service we ate and ate and danced and ate some more. (By the way, even David enjoyed the dancing) The dinner seriously lasted over five hours. Special music would play as the waiters wheeled out the many courses. Sicily, being an island provided us with many fresh seafood dishes such as calamari.
|Man making fresh mozzarella on the spot for us to eat with fresh tomatoes and basil. Delizioso!|
Our time in Italy was also blessed with two extraordinary experiences. While in Sicily we were able to travel to the town where there is the Church that our friend, Giovanni Criscione who we met on our mission, discovered 4 lines of my genealogy. He had called ahead asking the Priest if it would be possible for me to see some of these records. The priest said no and that it would require a special permit that could take months to obtain. When we got to the Church the priest was not there and Giovanni had made friends with the sweet man who was the caretaker of the Church. The dear man had his friend stand watch while he allowed me to examine some of the hundreds of years old records. I had no idea how breath-taking it is to see the name of an ancestor you are looking for in its original handwriting written hundreds of years earlier.
The second tender mercy came when we had been praying to be able to figure out how to make contact with one of our precious YSAs who we worked so closely with and who was not going to Church anymore. Our time was very tight and we didn't have any contact info to reach her. While running a quick errand in downtown Milan on foot, David suggested we take a detour down a back side street as he thought it might be a short cut. Lo and behold, the next thing I heard him say was the name of this young woman. She walked right passed us! We hugged and cried and she shared with us an update on what had happened and why she wasn't at Church anymore. We were able to express our love to her and get her contact info. She told us she would contact the couple whose wedding we had attended. We marveled at what the chances were that we could have crossed paths at that place and moment. It felt like we were on our mission once again.
It was a testimony to us of how mindful the Lord is of each of His children. After that we traveled to beautiful Switzerland to see the couple have their marriage sealed for time and all eternity. To be in that Italian session which consisted of only those there for the sealing which would follow was truly a highlight of our lives. As we looked around in that sacred setting seeing our dear Italian friends whom we have missed, it truly was a glimpse of what it must feel like when we will die and be reunited with so many loved ones. Brigham Young said that we will find that we have so many more friends on the other side of the veil than we can imagine having here.
|The wedding in Sicily|
|The happy couple after the sealing at the Temple in Switzerland|
|Reuniting with some of our precious YSAs|
|We had forgotten how wonderful the gelato is! Brought tears to our eyes|
|With our friend, Giovanni in front of the Church where many of my family records are|
|Familiar image of Italian men playing cards in the square. Have you ever seen men so well dressed for a card game?|