My name is Dale Christensen, and I grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho (the Potato Capital of the World!). I first visited Italy on a 12 day “Senior Trip” while studying at Central High School in London, England. We crossed over the Alps, swept through Tuscany, visited Rome, Pompii, and Naples while navigating the Amalfi coast and ducked into the Blue Gratto of Capri. It was enjoyable and enchanting.
Immediately after my freshman year of college, I served a mission in The New England States Mission with headquarters in Cambridge, MA. I met many people of Italian descent all over New England but thought little of it. A year later, I returned to study at Boston College where I made friends with many students and faculty who had Italian names or ancestry.
During my senior year, I met Mary-Jo Nanna from Mt. Vernon, NY whose ancestors all immigrated from Bari, Casamassima, Reggio Puglia and four towns nearby Cosenza, Reggio Calabria in eastern and southern Italy. She had been searching for truth and immediately accepted the restored gospel. She was baptized and immediatlely transferred to Brigham Young University.
Mary-Jo received her patriarchal blessing and had desires to serve a mission in Italy. Her Catholic family was supportive and over the years she has done an extraordinary amount of family history and temple work.
I’d never met anyone like her and promised her I would take her on a mission if she would marry me. She consented. We were married the following year and have four children and twenty-two grandchildren.
We have served three missions together, but not yet in Italy. We’ve always talked about serving in Italy. After serving in Peru, we stated our preference to serve in Italy on the next two mission applications, but instead were called and served in New York City and London.
Covid-19 restrictions have forced us to “think outside the box.” We believe creative mini missions are the way to go. We hope to travel for monthly, 90-day or 6-months at a time to enjoy getting to know Italy, worshiping in the temple and with members of the Church and developing friendships wherever we go.
While studying Come Follow Me and listening to several different YouTube videos of the same, the thoughts of a way to Italy have become more pressing. Along with our daily scripture study and listening to General Conference talks we have communicated with others about finding a way to Italy..
I have been feeling an Italian pull and sense of urgency to get something going. I have been wondering why because I have Scandinavian and British ancestry. However, I've eaten enough pasta to be 75% Italian. My wife is 100% Italian. My children are 50% Italian. And my grandchildren are 25% Italian.
We have all been sealed together as an eternal family. So, I believe our Italian ancestors are nudging me and prodding me to help them and to help build the Kingdom of God in Italy. The best way to do this is to get as many other people involved as possible. My family, my friends and those connected to Italy.
I see the potential of beginning and achieving a marvelous work and a wonder. I see the potential of making many friends and blessing many lives. I envision numerous obstacles along the way and some problems to solve. But, I also envision ways to overcome these challenges and to solve these problems.
I believe there will be great friendships forged, faith acquired, and testimonies found and strengthened. There will be dreams fulfilled, homes fortified, skills developed, and businesses established. There will be many, many wonderful things accomplished in the building up of God's Kingdom in Italy.
I believe we can help Italy be a stronger and more prosperous nation. I believe we can encourage Italians to stay in Italy and to help build it up. We can encourage Italians to return with their knowledge, skills and resources. We can involve those who love Italy to continue to fulfill their own dreams and destiny.
I believe we can encourage Italians to gather to Italy. I believe we can encourage returned missionaries, friends and relatives to lend support and encouragement. Many lives will be blessed as a result of our efforts.
This would indeed be marvelous and wonderful. This will be worth it.