As we interviewed people in line for the Rome Temple dedication, we found that more often than not, couples and families were there because they were former missionaries or mission presidents who had served in Italy years before. Many of them never imagined a temple could come to Italy in their lifetimes.
Some missionaries who had served in the past 10 years remembered how they had each been taken to the temple lot on their first day in the mission for the opportunity to find a quiet place in the field and dedicate their mission to the Lord. On our first day on the temple grounds, we witnessed a new group of missionaries sitting in the Visitors’ Center in front of the statues of the Christus and twelve apostles having the same opportunity. What a setting to begin a mission!
Former missionaries and mission presidents attended countless mission reunions during the week leading up to the dedication, reminiscing on the work they had done. We witnessed many tender reunions on the temple piazza of mission companions or converts seeing their missionaries again for the first time in years. These missionaries couldn’t help but be drawn back to the land they had labored for to witness the dedication of the temple that is an answer to millions of prayers. The following are three stories of these incredible missionaries:
Former BYU basketball player Eric Mika took two years off his basketball career to serve in the Rome Italy Mission, but what made this mission call even more unique was that his girlfriend, Gabby, got the same call. When they both arrived in the mission, they let their mission president know, so the couple only saw each other twice their entire missions—once during transfers and another time at a mission-wide conference in Rome with Elder David A. Bednar. Eric said running into Gabby both times was definitely weird, but also showed him that they were still good friends even though they weren’t together and didn’t talk.
Mike Pinnell took German in high school but did not particularly like his teacher. After his negative experiences in German class, he decided to take a Spanish class at BYU. He wanted to try a new language because he was convinced that if he were called on a German-speaking mission he would knock on doors and his old German teacher would be on the other side. To his chagrin, when his call came in the mail, he was assigned to serve in Switzerland. Though he was disappointed, he said to himself, “Ok, if that’s where the Lord wants me to go, I’ll go.”
When Elder Pinnell arrived in the mission, he felt really strongly that he was supposed to serve the Italian people. His mission president told him that his German experience was needed and his first companion was nearing the end of his mission and needed help. His companion had never been a senior companion and the mission president didn’t want him to go home and consider himself a failure. So, Elder Pinnell taught lessons in German with his companion adding something here and there. A few weeks after his first assignment, the mission president called to let them know he was going to come tract with them.
While Joel Scoville served as a missionary in Pisa 45 years ago, he and his companion would eat at the cafeteria of the University of Pisa every day. During one of those lunches they met Paolo Menis, a university student. He was a quiet young man, and as the two Elders started teaching him the gospel, they had a hard time discerning what he was thinking or feeling about the gospel.
Joel said, “We would ask ourselves, ‘Do you think he believes it?’ We didn’t know, even until the end. We said, ‘Well, you should be baptized,” and we didn’t know what he would say.” Paolo agreed and was baptized soon after. These young missionaries couldn’t have foreseen that they were baptizing a future leader of the Church in Italy.
Read the rest of the article on Meridian Magazine.