From John Westover: I served in the Italy, Rome mission while there I was able to participate in only three baptism. That was considered doing well at that time since in 1992 only a little over 70 baptisms were performed in the mission. In 1993 the number of baptisms jumped to 99. There were approximately 150 missionaries at any given time during any of those two years so you can imagine that there were quite a few missionaries that completed their missions without even baptizing a single soul.
Each of my baptisms have their own little story to it. I first served in Naples (called Napoli in Italian) I was very new to the language and to Italy. I came to a companionship that already had someone committed to being baptized. This woman was a very energetic woman she had a great love for people. However she was also easily offended. There were many times that my companion and I would get a call from her and we would catch a bus to the church house and meet her there. My companion would talk for hours trying to resolve whatever problem she was having.
I felt useless! I didn't understand a word they were saying. I had studied hard in the MTC I could speak pretty much what I wanted to say. That doesn't help when I didn't understand a word they were saying! It took about three months until she was finally ready to go into the water. She was baptized by the branch president and was very welcome in the branch. Or so we thought.... It wasn't a week later that she again was offended by someone. We worked through that problem only to have my companion transferred.
He made the mistake of giving her the telephone number to the new place he was going. He thought he would be able to help but it ended up being a grave mistake. She started calling him almost every night with some problem or another. So he finally told her to talk with us since we were the missionaries assigned to that area. He told her that he had his work to do and that he couldn't deal with her problems and work effectively. She went ballistic to put it mildly. She accused him of treated her like a number and not a person. She threatened to have her name taken off the records of the church.
I was heartbroken here was someone who apparently had accepted the gospel wholeheartedly now threatening to take her name off the records of the church. I remember I was so distraught I sat down at my desk and wrote her a long letter telling her how much she meant to the Lord and to us. I tried talking to her on the phone. It was then that the Lord helped me in understanding Italian. It was as if I had just broken through a wall. I was free to express whatever I felt and I was able to understand what she was trying to say to me. I tried to convince her that she wasn't a number and that we really did care for her. She didn't budge she was convinced that she was just a number to us. She never came back to church again. I just wish that I could have done more.
The next person that was brought into the waters of baptism was dear old lady I met in Civitavacchia (note Civitavecchia means old city in Italian). I had been out in the mission field for more than a year. I was just transferred into the city and my companion was taking me around to meet all the contacts that they had. Before we got to her house he told me that here was a lady that had developed a great affection to the missionaries and we had to be careful. She liked to give baci (kisses on each cheek) a custom generally discouraged for missionaries. Well from what my companion had told me she had already built a strong relationship of trust with the missionaries. The Spirit told me that I needed to talk to her about baptism. Even though it was the first visit I had ever had with her I challenged her to be baptized and was very bold.
After that first visit my new companion expressed his opinion. He said I was too bold and should have gotten to know her before trying to commit her to baptism. I told him that I felt that the Spirit had told me that was what I needed to do. I found out later that was the turning point for her. She started praying and reading the Book of Mormon and a few weeks later told us that she wanted to be baptized. It was the highest point of my mission. It wasn't my doing though it was the Lord I was just the instrument.
She was baptized. I remember the change that came over her when she was baptized. I could hardly believe the happiness that she radiated. I could truly see the Spirit shining in her eyes. It was the biggest testimony builder I have ever experienced. She is still a strong member to this day as far as I know.
The third baptism I was involved in was in Salerno. I had the privilege of baptizing a young woman that the sister missionaries found. I was picked as the person to baptize her. For some reason this young woman was impressed with me although I hadn't even spoke to her that much.
I was certainly blessed on my mission to Italy the people there are very friendly and I have a great love for them. I would go back there in a heartbeat if I could afford it. My prayer is that some day I may be called back to Italy to serve once more the people I love.