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Former Executive VP WordPerfect Corporation. Father of 6, grandfather of 16. Mostly retired, but still thinking.

Our Opera Overture

Musicals and operas generally start with an overture. The lights start to go down, but before the curtain opens, the orchestra plays the overture. It’s usually an instrumental summary of everything which is to come, with bits and pieces of all the songs you’ll hear strung together. It gives patrons a little extra time to find their seats and the actors a little more time to get ready. I call this trip “Our Opera Overture” because we are coming to Opera, Italy, a suburb of Milan, for ten days to get ready for our mission. So far, you wouldn’t call our trip a comic or light opera. Things look pretty dark right now.

Our Delta flight from SLC to Paris left an hour late. That wasn’t too bad, because we picked up 30 minutes on the way and easily made our connection with Air France to Milan. The Air France flight left 30 minutes late, which gave us hope that our luggage would make it. We brought along 2 huge bags and a big bag, with stuff like bedding and towels and lots of clothes. Unfortunately, only one of our big bags made it, and the one that made it didn’t have any of our clothes. As we go to sleep, we’re hoping we’ll have a change of clothes to wear to church tomorrow. Air France gave us a couple of t-shirts and a few bath items, and that’s pretty much all we have to wear tomorrow if the bags don’t come.

Our mood wasn’t all that great along the way. Even though we’ll be home in 9 days, Marieta is already horrible homesick. Her dad used to say, “homesickness is the worst sickness,” and right now Marieta believes he is right. From time to time on the flights she would cry and then start really sobbing. At one point the flight attendant wondered if I had done something to hurt her. I explained as best I could our desire to do what we think in our hearts is right and how at the same time our heartstrings are tugging us home.

After leaving the airport without our luggage, it didn’t help that the day was dreary. The taxi driver told us Milan has had 30 days without any sunshine. Everything looks grey and lifeless. We made the trip to our hotel in less than an hour, but our driver told us on a normal day it would take two hours. The Christmas holiday in Italy goes until January 6, so not many cars were on the road. The fare was 150 euros, which is pretty outrageous. We will have to figure out mass transit for sure.

Our hotel is sad and dreary as well. They advertise themselves as having 4 stars, but none of them are shining. We did get free Internet access for our 8 nights here. The problem is that no one has been able to use the Internet since the serviceperson fixed it on December 24. He let me try their computer in the lobby just to prove that the Internet was working (I couldn’t connect with my computer, even though I tried two different cables and a number of settings). With their computer running, I opened the browser. It took only 3 minutes to bring up the Google search page. So, the free Internet is a good news, bad news type of thing.

As far as I can tell, we are the only guests in the hotel. It’s clean and we have a little kitchenette in the room, but it’s not very inviting. The restaurant is closed until the 7th. I’m not sure if that is a bad thing. Of course, I paid in advance after learning about the free Internet access. It is very quiet here.

President Dunaway picked us up for dinner a little after 6:00 p.m., and that part of the day was very nice. Ruth fixed dinner, and it was authentic Italian and very good. We talked about what we would be doing and what needed doing. Just barely did Marieta not blurt out, “I want to go home.”

So, the first little snippet of our overture is rather somber. If we could wish ourselves home in a moment, we would be there now.

A Leap not of Faith

We still don’t know for sure where we are going.

We submitted our papers on December 9, requesting we go to Italy. The papers went through a review process, and then went to the Missionary Committee on December 18. From there they were forwarded to the desk of one of the Apostles. As our luck would have it, the Apostle has not made a decision about where to send us.

We know this because the Italy Milan mission president has been calling the Missionary Committee every few days to track the progress of our papers. He has not been told which Apostle has the papers, but has been told that the General Authority in question has been out of the office and will probably not return until next week. So, we likely won’t know our fate until the week of January 5.

Of course, we are in turmoil. We have sold two cars, spent hours learning Italian, settled finances, purchased large luggage, taken family pictures, and have moved forward at an unhesitating pace. Marieta was even released from her ward callings. We are truly hurrying up and waiting at the same time. Could we end up in Africa?

More unsettled is our upcoming trip. We have been planning to fly to Italy on January 2 for a week of training before the current office couple comes home. They leave on January 16, but they won’t have much time in their last week to teach us very much. So, if we want their help, we have to go right away.

We can’t even call this a leap of faith. We have faith the Lord will send us where He wants us to go, but we have no idea what He might be thinking. We talked with the mission president this morning, who talked with the Missionary Committee this morning, and everything points towards us going to Milan. Our probability of going is likely to be greater than 90%.

What do you think? Remember that Milan is cold, foggy, and rainy this time of year. Keep in mind that we can take a lot more stuff if we make two trips. Remember that much of the work we will do is very specific to Italy–helping missionaries with visa issues, paying bills, and handling leases. We also would be able to see our apartment, so we would have an idea where we can put Marieta’s sewing machine. On the other hand, if we stayed home, we could save more than enough to money to ship anything we needed FedEx.

Should we go? Let us know what you are think we should do.

Love, Pete and Marieta

Not a Christmas List

Our week passed in a blur of appointments, shots, interviews and arrangements. We’ve sold one car, purchased two items of luggage, put our finances in order, and started a list of things to do. The list is long enough that we use post-it notes on the kitchen door. There is so much left to do. And the list is growing.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Our last appointment needed to finish our application was a visit to the dentist. At 4:30 p.m. at the moment the dentist signed the evaluations, I called Bishop Cluff to tell him we had completed our application. Within moments he pushed the application to the stake level.

We took our signed evaluations to the assistant stake executive secretary so he could fill-in all the medical and dental information. By 8:30 p.m. the application all was ready for the Stake President. Minutes later, President Hughes, who happens to be in Japan today, sent an email to say he had reviewed the application and had passed it on to the missionary committee. After a week of furious activity, we have officially submitted our mission papers.

First thing tomorrow morning, President Dunaway will be calling the missionary committee from Italy to make sure everyone is on the same page. Although unlikely, there is a small chance the church could send another couple to Italy and send us to some other place. Marieta is very afraid we will end up somewhere in Africa.

We probably will not know our fate for certain for two to three weeks, but at least we can relax a little. Because we are trying to get to Italy as quickly as possible and because we cannot get a long-term visa until we have an official call in hand, we were in a rush. Now while we wait we can concentrate on our list. Hopefully, Marieta will have a little time to sew. Pete

Laziness Interrupted

Sunday morning we trudged to the Stake President’s office to keep a 9:00 a.m. appointment. Marieta felt at ease, because we were both under the impression that I would get a new calling. Soon she shared my anxiety.

President Hughes explained that President Dunaway, our former stake president and current president of the Milan Italy Mission, called asking for help. The mission office couple was returning home in January, and he desperately needed a senior couple to serve in their place. The missionary department of the church let him know that he had little chance of receiving a replacement couple unless he could find a couple himself. The demand for senior missionaries exceeds the supply, and the available missionaries were needed elsewhere.

President Hughes explained that after a lot of prayer and thought he had come to the conclusion that he should ask us to consider accepting the call. Unlike earlier days of the LDS church when calls were announced from the pulpit and no one could say no, he was asking us if we would be willing to serve. We talked about our family, our health, our finances (Milan, Italy is one of the more expensive missions and missionaries pay their own expenses), and our commitments. We could only think of nine reasons not to go—our grandchildren Rylee, Samantha, Jacob, Barrett, Dani, Jonny, Ashley, Matthew, and Jane. They are so dear to us. Watching them learn and grow is such a joy.

We had a few questions, but we told President Hughes we would go. By Tuesday morning our questions were answered and our plans were settled. Assuming we pass our physicals, receive approval from the church’s missionary committee, and have our visas, we should be in Milano (notice the switch to Italian) in March.

We’ve shed some tears and lost a little sleep, but we’re going to go because we feel we should. We’re excited to help the missionary effort and to learn a little Italian, but we’re sad to have to say good-by. Luckily we’ll have the Internet and the tools it offers us to stay in touch for the 18 months we are in Italy.