Monday, April 23, 2007
Who would have thought, on that fall night more than 6 years ago, that one day I would find myself in a temple in Switzerland together with the family that had just let us into their home to teach the gospel? I still can hardly believe it! It was such a great time!
To write about the whole week would mean a very long post that most of you would not be interested in reading, so I will spare you the boredom. The surprise was pulled of excellently! I arrived early in the day on Monday and awaited the arrival of the Zarrelli family later that evening. When they arrived I was waiting in the lobby of the hostel, which is owned and operated by the church for members traveling to the temple. First, the youngest son, Sandro, walked through the door, his face one of pure astoundment. I embraced him in a huge hug just as Pasquale, the father of the family, stepped through the door. He grinned as wide as eternity and simply said, "I knew you would come". A big hug and an Italian kiss (firmly grabbing your head on both sides and kissing both cheeks) followed. "How are you", I asked. "I couldn't be better", he said.
Next came Maria. Father and son told me that she was out walking around a bit to gaze at the temple. She was so awestruck by it all. I walked out the door into the darkness of the evening and saw her figure walking toward the hostel. I called out, "Is there a Maria Zarrelli around here?" I heard her gasp and then opened my arms as she ran toward me. She burst into tears and cried on my shoulder for several minutes. "I knew you would be here. I knew you would come!"
The following day was the special occasion. As we opened the large doors to enter the temple, Maria was once again overcome with emotion as the realization touched her heart that the long awaited day had finally come. You must excuse my faithlessness but I'm always somewhat anxious when I witness someone go through the temple for the first time, unsure of how they will respond to the very symbolic and unique experience of the temple. They were absolutely comfortable. Maria said to me in the Celestial room, "I've known all this before". Indeed.
The sealing that followed was absolutely beautiful. I had never seen a sealing of a couple that had been previously married, in this case for many years. There is something extra special about it because of their maturity and already existing foundation of love. The sealer's words were some of the most profound and insightful that I had every heard in a sealing ceremony. The Spirit was very powerful. Finally, the moment came when Sandro was invited into the room. This was also a new experience, as I had never witnessed the sealing of a live child to his parents. Much of the reason the family was finally there was because of this young man. They have been too poor to make the long trip to the temple up until now. The youth have gone several times and Sandro has been able to go. Upon his return from their last trip, he said to his parents, "won't you please take us to the temple to be sealed for my 18th birthday?" The Spirit was palpable as Sandro kneeled at the altar and placed his hand upon those of his parents. The sealer began the prayer and Sandro began to weep. His shoulders shook and tears poured down his cheeks as the sealer pronouned, "time and all eternity". I've never seen Pasquale cry but tears streamed down his cheeks too. So powerful!
I've never spent so much time in the temple in such a short period of time in all my life. We literally did hundreds and hundreds of baptisms, about 10 endowment sessions, and dozens of initiatory names. The Zarrellis had prepared tons of names from their own family lines to receive the sacred ordinances. It was remarkable how much these members accomplish during these trips, and how much they relish in serving in the house of the Lord. Are we so willing?
And so it is that the miracle continues. On that October night the prayers of a yearning missionary and the prayers of a searching family were answered by the same Father. He has been there through everything. Now they are an eternal family, they have opened the door for hundreds of relatives to receive the same blessings, they serve faithfully in the church, Sandro is preparing to serve a mission where he will share his joy and testimony with many more, and they are happy! I never would have imagined!
Posted by C.J. at 8:21 PM
Monday, April 02, 2007
The tickets have been purchased! Two weeks from yesterday I will be on my way to Switzerland (the land of my heritage, by the way) to witness the sealing of one of my favorite families in all the world. This is going to be the coolest surprise I have ever participated in! They have no idea that I'm coming, although Maria (the mother) said goodbye to me yesterday on the phone by saying, "We'll be waiting for you!" I told them that I just did not think I would be able to make it, but how can you let down faith like that?
Posted by C.J. at 8:37 PM