Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We don't have too much time today because we need to run off to some appointments soon in Prima Porta.

Christmas was great! On Christmas Eve we had lunch at the Villa (the mission home) with the other missionaries serving in Rome and the office couples and President and his wife. They fed us a wonderful dinner and we had a white elephant gift exchange and a small Christmas program. It was pouring rain and so when we all arrived, we were soaking wet! Luckily, Sorella Kelly gave us slippers to wear while our shoes dried. It was a wonderfully yummy dinner. Afterward, on Christmas Eve night, we went metro caroling with the sisters from Ladispoli. We hopped on a metro and sang Christmas songs to the people, it was great fun! Then we skyped home to our families and went home.

We didn't have any invitations from the members for Christmas so Sorella Pickett, Sorella Zeller, and I put together our own Christmas! We were able to sleep in (I was the last one to wake up at 10:00. Wow, it felt great) and we made french toast and then opened up our presents around our Christmas tree and listened to Christmas music. Then we went ice skating and to play Frisbee and football with the elders in our district and two members from the Philipines, Anthony and Louisa. Then afterward, we rented the Karate Kid to watch but we weren't quite sure where we were going to watch it. We stopped by the Crawfords (an office couple who live just up the street from us) to sing them a Christmas song and found all the office couples there, and they had just finished having Christmas lunch together. They invited us in for leftovers and told us we could watch the movie on their TV. It was perfect! Then we went home and read Christmas stories together, ate chocolate, and acted out the nativity story from Luke 2.

Other highlights from the week....
We have a new investigator! Her name is Veronica, she is 14, and her family is friends with our bishop and he invited them to the ward Christmas party. She is not sure what she believes right now but we have already met with her twice and is very open to trying the experiment of Alma 32, to plant the seed of faith and see it grow. We plan on meeting with her three times a week and hopefully get her family involved as well!

On Sunday we went to Beth's (a member from the Philippines) house and when we showed up, there was another woman and her daughter there. They told us that they were investigators in the Philippines and were really interested in learning more about the church and maybe being baptized and they really wanted us to teach them and come to their house. I was thrilled!!! A whole family that wants to learn about the gospel! We taught about the Restoration for about 30 minutes and it was going really well until finally she tells us, "I am just kidding! I am actually a member who just moved to Rome." HA! Mean joke!

We have a new finding activity that we've been doing the last few days and I am really excited about it. We bring our gospel art book and play a game with people on the bus. The game is "guess the prophet" and we flip to pictures of Moses and Noah and Daniel and Jonah and they have to guess which prophet it is (the animals and the ark, or the 10 commandments, or the lions, or the whale usually help). Then, we flip to a picture of Joseph Smith and they are like "Uh,,, I have no idea" and then we explain to them who Joseph Smith was. Good fun! It works well with some people who would never listen otherwise, it's a nice ice breaker, and its entertaining!

This Christmas season was special because I have been reading Jesus the Christ this transfer. I get on to "study kicks". I realize that I am not very good at studying if I have more than one goal at a time or if I try to spread out my studying. Its a lot easier if I just make one goal and focus on that for a transfer. Last transfer I read the Book of Mormon, this transfer its Jesus the Christ. The next transfer I am going to read through Preach my Gospel. Anyways, one thing that has really stuck out to me is how relatively few people in the world knew of the Savior and how many people rejected Him because He didn't come in great glory or in the way that they expected. I thought about how much this parallels the Church today, it is relatively small but growing and how interesting it is that many people reject it because its not exactly what they expected it to be. Big lesson in that God's ways are always higher than our own!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 days until Christmas!

Christmas is in 3 days and we are excited!! So far, no appointments lined up for Christmas Eve or Christmas (our members are a little disconnected from the missionaries and most of them live really far away which will be impossible to get there on Christmas), but we have a couple of things going on! First, Sorella Zeller from Rome 3 will be joining us today through Monday so we will get to spend Christmas together in three. That will make it fun! Then, on Christmas Eve we are calling home to our families and having Christmas lunch at the mission home with the other missionaries serving in Rome. Hopefully we will also go caroling that day. On Christmas, we have permission to sleep in (wohoo!) and watch a movie. We arent quite sure what the guidelines are for that, what movie it will be, or where we are going to watch this movie, but it will be awesome.

Good week here in Rome!
On Saturday, we went to the Romanian 7th day Adventist church with our Evangelical friends Ramona and Yonika to watch Ramona play the organ for their Christmas choir concert. Then, we took them and a whole bunch of their friends (like 5 other people) to our ward Christmas party! The contrast was hilarious. The Evangelicals have this huge beautiful church and the choir was beautiful and dressed formally and sang like angels. Then our church isn't really a church, its a building that we rent out, and the party included a small Christmas program at the beginning that was just chaos, it was ridiculously loud and it included this funky disorganized dance by the teenagers all wearing Santa hats and the choir was just a last minute mix of women from the relief society. I loved it!!! I was a little stressed at first that it was so ridiculously loud and disorganized, but I think they liked it too :)
We also had Carolina and Alessandra come (other investigators) and lots of inactives and several members brought friends. It was a blast! There is so much love in this ward, I will really miss it when I leave Rome.

I've been giving away stacks of Christmas pass along cards this week, I make it a game to pass all of them out before Christmas. Its funny seeing people's reactions. They can call the card and get a free Christmas DVD, I hope that of all the cards we give away, at least one person will call! At least it helps people recognize us as a church and the Spirit we try to bring. One of my favorites was a woman we offered the card to and she said, "are you a testimoni di geova (Jehovahs Witness)?" "Nope." "Okay, then I'll accept it." I really like the Jehovah's Witnesses that we meet, they are very nice, but I never realized how difficult they make our mission here in Italy. Because they have been around for so long and a lot of people are really sick of them and don't like them, we have to fight to get away from the image of being a JW. There are a lot of people that think we are JWs and dont give us a chance to explain differently. Phew, its tough work, but we are trying!

We did a lot of finding work this week because a lot of people are busy this time of year. One night we were waiting at a bus stop and there was one other man there. I convinced Sorella Pickett that we should sing a Christmas song to him. She didn't want to because she thought it was really awkward, but I asked him if we could sing and she was stuck :) It was hilarious, he loved it!
We talked to one great girl this week on the bus, Tange, a student at the university here. She was really open to us and said we could meet again in January after the holidays and her exams were over.

Merry Christmas! I am trying to remember Christ more than I have before this season. I am so grateful for his sacrifice of mercy, that He understands every pain and sickness we experience and helps us through it all. Thanks to Him we have hope for the future!

Sorella Askew

Harvesting olives service project

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's beginning to look like Christmas.

It is starting to feel like Christmas here in Rome! We drink lots of hot chocolate and everyone put up their lights (there is an official "put up your Christmas decorations" day here in Italy) and its cold enough to snow!
Highlights from the week:
Number one highlight would be the service we did yesterday. One of the families here lives about an hour outside the city and owns some land in the countryside, including an olive grove of 300 olive trees. We spent the morning harvesting olives from the trees, and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. It was a beautiful cold, clear morning and the countryside outside of Rome is gorgeous. It was a wonderful break to be outside the city and the difference between the city and the country was more profound to me yesterday than it has ever been before. I now understand why people like to escape to the country and relax. PHEW, it was relaxing! They had these big green nets that would stretch out under two trees at a time and these small hand rakes that we could use to rake the branches of their olives. It takes quite a while to get all the olives off one tree and once we finish, we gather up the nets and dump the olives in a bucket and move to the next set of trees. The family would then take the olives t to the community olive press to make olive oil. WOW.

We had a wonderful Family Home Evening with a new convert family from Bolivia. We acted out 1 Nephi 16 with Nephi breaking his bow and them finding the Liahona. When we showed up, the mom said, "I need to run an errand, I will be right back" and we thought, "sure, that's fine!". We waited for an hour and a half for her to return!!!! She decided to go grocery shopping for the week. What??
A great lesson with Yolanda and the Tempesta family about Enos.

Elder Causse, a general authority, toured the mission this week and our zone conference for the transfer was centered on him and his training to us. Incredible! He talked about lots of great things, about approaching people on the street, planning every night to find people (first we choose who we want to find and then decide where we want to find them. For example, we decide that we want to find a young Italian university student and then we decide where we could find her, how, and what we could say to her. Its so important to remember that these are people, people who the Lord has in mind for us to find, we just have to have the faith that He will help us find them if we do our part), teaching the first lesson (talking about baptism from the very beginning of teaching someone), and preparing someone for baptism.

It was pretty funny, Elder Causee would call on random missionaries to come up and role play with him and if they weren't doing it right he would say, "stop, start over" and sometimes had to repeat this a bunch of times. Intimidating!
We have these great Christmas pass along cards that we are using to talk to people. I love it! Its still awkward but that's part of being a missionary!

I've been thinking about the process of conversion and how our testimony of the Savior is a precious thing and for some of us, it is not gained easily. Just like Joseph Smith said, the mysteries of God (or knowledge or testimony of any form) come through time, experience, and deep ponderous thinking. We need to be patient as our understanding and appreciating for the Savior grows slowly over time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Week one with Sorella Pickett

My new companion is Sorella Pickett from Eugene, Oregon. She is starting her 8th transfer and has spent her whole mission in Sicily, so Rome is a big change! She is great, she is sweet and bright and will be a great companion.

This is my first time teaching a city to someone else in the mission and it has been a crazy week! I was surprised at how stressed out I felt, knowing that the weight of everyone we have been working with was now on me because Sorella Pickett doesnt know anyone. And there are a lot of investigators, members, and less actives to keep track of! Anyways, I felt an enormous amount of responsibility for them and went from making some phone calls every once in a while to making all the phone calls and making all the plans for what we would do each day. Phew! With this change, I have also seen that I have been blessed with a greater capacity to fulfill my responsibility. I am able to make all these phone calls in Italian, I am able to (for the most part) keep track of everyone and what we need to do for them, I am able to keep a conversation going and direct a lesson and lead us around this giant city of Rome (our area covers a large part and we travel sometimes 2 hours to visit people). I am particularly grateful for the example of my last companion who showed me to gain the trust of the people, even though I could never do it as well as she can!

Fun things from this week. We had a bunch of investigators in church on Sunday, including three hard-core evangelists, Ramona, Yonika, and Franca. It was probably the highlight of my week and one of the more hilarious parts of my mission. We met them on the street three months ago and they invited us to one of their baptisms and then came with us to a stake activity but have been really busy in the last few months. But anyways, they all came to church on Sunday, and they are all way intense and way into it! Our Relief Society lesson was on the gifts of the Spirit and Franca turns to me in the middle of the lesson and asks me, "What gift do you have?" Uh.... I dont know? She told me it was very important to recognize my gifts. At the beginning of Sacrament Meeting, Ramona and Franca were arguing (both very opinionated people) and in the middle of it, Franca turned to me and asked, "Well, what do you think? Is salvation a personal thing or not?" Uh....

In Sunday school, they started arguing with one of the members, haha, but it turned out okay. Overall, everyone was really nice to them and introduced themselves, which is a tremendous help to missionaries. I LOVE Rome 2 for that reason, we have some spectacular members in this ward and it makes missionary work a thousand times easier when we have the support of our members. I can't imagine leaving Rome and bringing investigators to church where people arent as friendly. I am lucky to be here! Anyways, I felt giddy having my three evangelical friends in church with me. Franca and I talked for a little while after, she is just great. She may be opinionated but these three don't come to argue, they come out of geniune curiosity and they are wonderfully nice to me and my companion. They all claim to be busy again but said they will come to the ward Christmas party!

Other good moments with meeting with the ward mission leader and his wife and talking about missionary work. They are incredibly bright and talented people, wow. If only I could live up to all they expect from us!

We brought the entire Duran (member family) family to the Cruz's (part member family) house and it went so well! I think they are a great example to Carlos and will hopefully help him more than we can in his journey to building a testimony.

We have also had good luck contacting people on buses and trains this week, we have meet some wonderful potentials. May still be my favorite part of missionary work!

Today for P-day we toured the Colosseum, the Palatine hill and the Roman forum (a huge area of ancient Roman ruins), and the Vittorio Emmanuele building. Lots of walking!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baptism scheduled! Catacombs on P-Day

We have a great new investigator with a baptismal date! Her name is Fumi and she is 26 with a four year old daughter from Nigeria . She is awesome! She meets with us several times a week in between work and picking her daughter up from school, and every appointment with her is pretty much hilarious. She is a very unique character, with a lot of faith and so much eagerness that she is often finishing our sentences. One of my favorite discussions with her was on how Heavenly Father answers our prayers, and she told us that Heavenly Father always answered her prayers. She listed a bunch of things she prayed for and got and one of them was that she prayed to have a daughter without a husband and she got one! Haha, no worries, she would like to find a husband now and have a family. When talking about the plan of salvation, we asked her if anything was hard for her in this life and she said, "Nope, nothing is hard for me". And she is a single mother all by herself here in Rome ! What an example of faith and optimism! She currently has a baptismal date for December 21.

Louisa, an less active girl from the Philippines said something funny this week. We were talking about reading the Book of Mormon and choosing a time to read every day. We said, "what time would you like to read at night? 10:00?" She said, "Yes, 10:00!". Then Sorella Urban said, "What time do you go to bed?" Louisa said, "9:30".

We've started spraying down the mold in our apartment this week with this cool spray that makes the mold literally disappear (I dont know where it goes!) but now our house smells like bleach!

We had stake conference this week and it was wonderful, there are some incredible incredible church leaders here in Italy . Yolanda came with us to stake conference (yay yay yay, she has now been the church twice, telling her boss that she was going to go to church instead of working) and there was one talk that we think was perfect for her. It was pretty funny though because she didnt put her phone on silent and it went off in the middle of the meeting. She didnt quiet it, rather she just held her purse really close to her, trying to quiet the noise (it was still pretty loud and it seemed to last FOREVER). A few minutes later it went off again and we asked her if she could turn her phone off or put it on silent and she said she didnt know how! Sorella Urban put it on silent for her and we finally felt relieved (its scary when everyone is turning around to glare at our investigator, haha). Then, a few minutes later another phone went off and we thought, phew, at least it isn't Yolanda's. Until Yolanda started hugging her purse again and we realized it came from her. What?? She had brought two cell phones! Ha!

This week for Pday we climbed the dome to the top of St Peter's Basilica and took lots of pictures and went to some old Christian catacombs (early christian underground tombs) and did a tour. It was fun! There is so much to see in Rome , you would think that I would be able to see a lot after 3 months, but I have hardly seen anything here!

One of the office couples is cooking for us tomorrow for Thanksgiving, yay!

Miracle: We were on the bus yesterday and some really nice older woman started talking to us and said "You know my daughter, Daniella, who lives here in Fidene". Yes! Daniela was our wonderful Italian we met doing casa, who we havent been able to get a hold of since. Apparently she likes us enough to tell her mom about us, and her mom told us when we would be able to find her. What are the odds!

Love you all! I like letters :)

Sorella Caitlin Askew
Italy Rome Mission
Piazza Carnaro, 20
00141 Rome RM

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Member referrals

It has warmed up a little bit here, I hope it stays warm!
We met with another young couple in the ward here on Thursday and talked with them about missionary work and the husband gave us a referral! We went to find her on Monday in her office although she wasn't there and her husband told us to come back the next day. We found her yesterday and talked for a while and it went great! Her and her husband own a shop where they sell all sorts of random books and other things from various religions, and they are both hilarious people (just like many Italians are). She (Rosella) is very open to learning about different beliefs. She grew up Catholic although is disillusioned because of the corruption she sees and is literally now searching for truth. Perfect! She is excited to meet with us again and particularly LOVES Sorella Urban, haha. I hope she will still want to meet with missionaries when Sorella Urban gets transferred away!
But anyways, I have felt strongly about working with the members here in Rome and it is wonderful to see the fruits of those labors!
One of the best lessons we have had was last week with the Cruz family, teaching Carlos. We brought along a strong priesthood holder from our ward and hope to bring him and his family this Friday for their families to start becoming friends and the full-member family to act as an example. Wohoo, I have so much hope for Carlos, he is almost there, he just needs to decide to act.
We taught a law of chastity lesson to someone who wasn't keeping the law of chastity (my first time teaching this lesson). Phew, it was a little scary, but went really well!

I have been thinking a lot about finding people and our efforts in doing so. I am convinced that in this huge city of Rome, there are way more people who are searching for truth or who would be open to listen to us than we have yet found. Heavenly Father knows where they are. I think it is just a matter of working with Him to find them. We've been trying lots of different things for finding- talking to people on buses, knocking on doors, working with members. But the efforts we are giving are not enough, we just simply aren't finding the people who are ready, who we know are out there. A lot of people we meet seem like great potentials and then drop off the face of the earth and don't answer their phone anymore. We have determined that we need to seek more guidance and Sorella Urban reminded me that the one thing we haven't done yet is fast. She is brilliant! So, we are fasting. We are fasting to know how to find the people who are out there and ready for us. I came into the mission with a lot of confidence feeling like I would be able to find these people with my efforts. I am quickly learning that I absolutely need the help of the Lord. Our own efforts will never be enough.

Random story:
Someone in their car pulled over to us a few days ago and asked us, "Are you preaching right now?". We were like.... "Uh.... not at the moment!" He said something along the lines of, I know who you are, you can see it in your faces, they just glow! He told us where he went to church (we thought he was a member) and we thought, "Hmm, we don't have a church there." We were all confused for a minute until he said, "Ooh, I made a mistake. I thought you were someone else". When we asked, he told us that he was a Jehovah's Witness. He thought we were too and was so nice to us until he realized that we weren't!

Italians are hilariously bold. When I have acne on my face, people will ask me "Whats on your face? Are you having an allergic reaction to something?" Haha, nope, just acne.

Last night I was getting out of a member's car at an appointment and I tripped on the seat belt and literally rolled a few times on the street, haha. I am a little scraped up now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Zone Conference, the gift of charity, and the bone Church

Good week!
I love Zone conferences! We had zone conference on Friday and it was a wonderful uplifting experience. We learned about how to improve our prayers, charity, working smart, and finding new people to teach. The zone leaders also talked a lot about faith and working with members, which was wonderful to hear because we have been doing this and seeing the good results that come from it. I rarely have the experience where I feel like a talk or a conference is directed just at me, but this was one of those times. I felt that almost every point they talked about was one that I had been thinking about in the last few weeks, it was perfect! I particularly loved the reminders of how much our faith has an impact on the work and also how charity is something that is a gift from the Lord. With a lot of things in life, I feel like if I work hard enough, I can make it happen. I have realized that with charity, I cant just work hard enough until I earn it and feel all sorts of love for other people. Although what I do does make a difference to what extent I can receive the gift of charity, it is still a gift! I've seen clearly how I can't just create it on my own! I can serve others and pray for it and THEN receive that love for people as a blessing.

So, what has been going on this week?
The Tempesta family invited us over for lunch last week. When we were teaching them a lesson after, Sorella Tempesta got on a one hour tanget about dreams and how her dreams foretell the future. Haha, we felt so bad but while she was talking, we were both fighting to stay awake! I hope we didn't offend her!

We had a very productive time in Prima Porta on Friday. We talked to Carolina (16 years old and investigator for over a year) and Carolain (13 years old, her mom and sister are members and she goes to church) and asked them both specifically what was keeping them from baptism. Carolain is one of my favorite people, she is very bright and mature for 14 years old, and she told us that she wasn't sure because she believes the church is true but understands the commitment that baptism entails and is not sure she is ready for that. We don't know what else to do to help her! Carolina had similar concerns, she understands that baptism is a serious thing and wants to be sure before she commits. We are teaching Carolina's mom as well and hope that she will start to be a support in her life. We are also teaching Carolain's dad (the Cruz family) every Friday night and he is great because he listens and participates (we teach them as a family) although when we asked him to come to church with his family, he declined saying he only likes to listen but its not really for him. We have lots of hope for him though and are going to bring another member family this Friday to their house for the lesson, hoping that the strong priesthood holder will be a good influence on him.

My favorite lesson this week may have been with Teresa Gonzales, the wife of a Philippine member. She has been taught on and off by the missionaries for years and has a testimony of the church, although cannot and will not stop smoking. She refuses to come to church as well knowing that she cant be baptized. We were very bold with her and she was bold back to us. When we asked, she told us that she loved her cigarettes so much that she would choose her cigarettes over her family. That made us very sad. Although by the end of the lesson, she admitted that she prays to God to stop smoking and she admitted how much she wants her son to go on a mission and for them to go to church together as a family. I think she is just frustrated with years of missionaries telling her to quit smoking and her not being able to. Our goal right now is to help her at least come to church and do the other things that will help build her faith and testimony so that one day she may have the strength to stop smoking. And I love that we can be open with her, because no matter how blunt we are, she still ADORES the missionaries and asks us to come back. She is so generous as well, she cooked a huge Phillipine meal for us and made us take home all the left overs. Sorella Urban stubbornly tries to tell her no, but Teresa is even more stubborn than Sorella Urban. And while we were teaching her and her husband, Ben, Teresa would sneak out of the room every 10 minutes or so and bring back more random food from the kitchen to add to the sacks of food we were taking home. We ended up with 4 huge sacks of food! It was hilarious!

We did some casa (door knocking) yesterday and found a wonderful Italian woman who is disillusioned by the suffering in the world although very open to the things we have to say. When I meet people like her, people who are smart and capable and have a lot of difficult questions about why things are the way they are, I feel very humbled. I have my own opinion on things like that, but I do not have all the answers and I often don't know what to say when I see someone who is truly suffering as a result of the difficult world we live in. There are so many people that we teach who work long hours just to have enough money to pay for their rent, and their lives seem to be day after day of drudgery just to get by. I know that the gospel offers hope for everyone in every situation but I have not experienced the things that these people have experienced and I feel humbled coming from my background and having to somehow tell them that what we have really is the answer for finding joy despite the circumstances.

I hope to see this woman again, Daniela, and help her find joy and hope through the gospel.

Random stories:
I don't get to learn to drive stick shift after all :( The mission just came out with a new rule that a mission car can only be driven by the missionary pair who is in charge of it. That means no more borrowing the car from the assistants! So my one day of driving around Rome was all that I will get to have.

When we were doing house, an old woman came to the door. I don't think she heard us very well when we introduced ourselves and she told us to hold on a just a minute while she talked to her husband. She came back with a handful of change to give us! I don't know if she thought we were beggars (there are a lot of beggars here) or just collecting money for the church but it was pretty funny!

I have a bad habit of forgetting my umbrella at home on rainy days. And when it rains here, it pours!

One night this week, I kept being woken up by the buzzing of a mosquito. I would wake up and freak out, wave my arms, and throw my sheets over my head. This happened a few times. In the morning, there were a bunch of bloody streaks across my sheets next to my pillow, so I guess I killed them! Wohoo!

Sorella Urban likes to cook and I love to eat.

I am learning about how to have more confidence, more faith that the Lord will help me know what to say in lessons or in talking to people on the bus. I know that my trust in Him affects my confidence and that has a huge role in how well I am able to talk to people and teach them. If I don't worry so much about what to say and think just about what they are saying, it is much easier! And I am much more likely to be guided by the Spirit.

President told me that I will probably stay here in Rome next transfer and Sorella Urban will be transferred out. I will miss her! She is a wonderfully talented missionary. She always seems to know what to say to people (especially when I don't, phew) and is so good at forming relationships with people and letting them know that we care about them and making any situation easy and comfortable. She is diligent and hardworking and extremely charitable. And we have a lot of fun together! I have learned so much from her example of boldness and of taking action. She seems to have no fear! I don't know how Rome will run without her around! Ah!

Today I think we are going to the Bone church with the other sisters. Its a church filled with skeletons. Creepy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A guest in the garden

BRRRRR... It has gotten cold here in Rome! I know it really isn't that bad, but it is humid and wet and very few places have heating so the only time we feel warm is when we take a shower. And when it rains in Rome, it pours! I am going to look for some boots today!
We've started teaching some more part member families, which is exciting! A lot of our work is in Prima Porta which is two hours away with public transport, and that makes it a little more difficult. They can only meet in the evenings, but then we have a problem because it takes us two hours to get home so we either get home much later than we are supposed to or we only have one appt at 6. Bah!

Highlights from this week:
Jane is my miracle girl! She is from Seychelles and we met her on a bus a few weeks ago. When we started talking to her, she told us that she is currently searching for a job and in the meantime, what she does for fun is she goes to random churches! That is just what we like to hear as missionaries. She is very religious and loves to pray, and invited her to come to church with us on Sunday. She hasn't been able to come yet but we met with her last Wednesday and will meet with her again today. We teach her in English and our first lesson with her was great. We gave her a Book of Mormon and a few other things to read and she was so excited. She liked the things that we told her and loved the way that we invited her to find out for herself and told us that that was just how she thought a church should be. I cannot wait to meet with her again and see what she thinks of what she has read. We would love to meet with her every day but she lives far out of the city which makes it more difficult.

I learned this week about how important it is to work with members! Well, I already believed it, but I was able to see what a difference it makes, rather than just believing it. We are still meeting with Yolanda from Ecuador and this time we brought a member with us. It was probably the best lesson we have had with her. We talked about tithing and our member, Sorella Tempesta, explained it much more clearly than we ever can and bore powerful testimony on her personal experience of the blessings of paying tithing. Not only that, but they seemed to get along great and so when Yolando is able to come to church in two weeks (when she stops working at her Sunday job), she will have a friend in church! Even better, Sorella Tempesta told us after what a good faith building experience it was for her. We need to find a member to bring to every appointment now!

Sometimes I feel so weak in my ability to teach in Italian or form close relationships with the people we work with, but that is okay. I can do the best I can and it will be enough. I think that one of the reasons that the Lord has given me these weaknesses and having a language barrier that keeps me from expressing everything as clearly as I want it to be or connecting better with the people, is so that I will be humble enough to seek help from the members. The Lord hasn't taken away all these weaknesses I have because He knows there is a better solution, and that is to involve the members. And because there is another solution, the Lord lets me keep my weaknesses for now rather than immediately turning them into strengths because it is a constant reminder of my dependency on Him. Humility!

Sometimes I wish I could just have all my righteous desires granted to me, that I could be the missionary I want to be and overcome the obstacles I face. But He obviously doesn't need that missionary right now, even if in my wisdom, I sure think it would help the work here! In His wisdom, I am enough at the moment and he lets me have the wonderful, more permanent growth that comes if the process is slow rather than immediate. I sure can't keep track of everything that I need to improve though! I come to the realization of one thing and then seem to forget it because another weakness quickly comes up behind it. Ah! Overwhelming! Where to start?

One thing I have been thinking about: I want to learn how to have a Christlike love for everyone, no more comparing myself to others, rather just being content with who I am and what I have, and being happy if other people have more or are better than me! Of course I think I have always wanted this, but I just don't know quite how to get there yet, to where I truly want to lift other people higher than myself in every way, including spiritually and socially.

Other random experiences. We have a rat friend in the garden! Our apartment is on ground level and has a little garden. When I got here, the other sisters were keeping worm cheese (specialty from Sardegna) out on the porch. I opened the window one day last week just in time to see something scurry away from the cheese. A few days later we had two neighbors knock on our door and complain about the cheese collecting "animals" and someone saw a "giant mouse" who runs into a hole (not there when I moved in) in the ground. We cleaned up the cheese but a few days after that, I opened the window to discover a rat walking around in the garden! He is really cute too! The neighbors still came and complained about the hole and how we should bury it for our own safety so sadly we did ;(

Also, I learned how to drive stick shift this last week in Rome! Every once in a while we borrow the car to drive to Prima Porta and when we got out there, someone canceled on us, so we took a little bit of time to teach me to drive the car. After just a few minutes I was out on the road, driving with other cars on narrow winding lanes! Its stressful but not as bad as I thought it would be to learn! I definitely need more practice though.

Gina our investigator told us that she went over to the home of someone else who used to come to English course and stopped. This woman is a little bit crazy, but Gina wanted to know why she stopped coming. She told Gina that it was because we (the missionaries) are trying to "steal her soul". Haha! Gina thought it was pretty funny too.

Thanks for the letters, I love them!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's been a good week!

It's been a good week!

At the end of last week, we started working with the members in our area a little bit more and have several appointments with different families Thursday-Saturday. We usually talk about Elder Ballard's talk on member missionary work and then leave them with a commitment. We've made these cutesy paper handouts for the members that we talk to, with a scripture and a big blank space for writing names. Our commitment is to have them write down all the names of the people they can think of, family and friends, and then with this list, pray to know who would be ready to listen to the gospel. We are keeping track of who we meet with and plan on following up with them to see if they have written the list and prayed and thought of anyone. So far it has gone great! Usually the members are excited when we give them this list and they start rattling off a couple of names of people they know who they think really could use the gospel of Jesus Christ right now. This is a great ward here in Rome, and there are a number of really solid families. There was particularly one family we met with on Friday, the Boscos, who I am really excited about. They are just a few years older than us and pregnant with their first child, so they aren't yet overwhelming busy with several children. They are both strong in the gospel, an adorable couple, very nice and bright, and the husband especially is way enthusiastic about missionary work! He told us that he openly tells everyone he is LDS and looks to find people he can share the gospel with. I can't wait to meet with them again and work with them to find people to teach!

We also are focusing on a few part member families, although they live far away and its tough coordinating a time that we can get out to Prima Porta.

We are making good progress with one woman in particular, Yolando. She is from Ecuador and speaks a mix of Spanish and Italian, so I have a harder time understanding her, but she is filled with so much faith! The biggest block right now is that she cant come to church on Sunday because she works, but in a few weeks she will be able to start coming! She knows that she is working towards baptism, although realizes how important that commitment is and wants to learn more about the Church and the commandments first. Last transfer we met with her once a week because she works so much, but we have started meeting with her twice a week, having shorter lessons so it isn't such a burden.

I am also excited about Gina, a 26 year old Romanian, who is very kind and open, although we want to meet with her more than once a week and help her understand how wonderful and life changing the message we have really is.
On Saturday, President Monson broke ground for the Rome temple! Most of the members and none of the missionaries were able to attend, but we watched the broadcast of it on Sunday and were able to see the image of how the temple will look. AH, I AM THRILLED! I cant even imagine how some of the members here must feel to be able to get a temple in their own city. I feel even more excited for this temple than the Draper temple, and probably that is because I know what a difference the temple will make for missionary work in this city and country, which is what my life is dedicated to right now. I just wish I could be around to see it! They plan to finish in 2013, that seems like forever!

Sorella Urban and I are really working on finding an Italian family in this area that we can baptize and prepare for the temple. I know that there is a family somewhere in this city who is ready to accept the gospel, we just have to find them! We pray every day for this family and are doing more finding work, especially in the area where we live, Fidene, because it is close to the temple grounds.
And finding work still remains one of my favorite things! We have some of the funniest experiences. One old man stood at the door and talked to us for a while, and although he was directing most of his talking to me, I didnt really understand what he was saying, so I just stood there smiling at him and nodding my head. Sorella Urban started giggling because she could tell I didnt know what he was saying, and that made me fight to not start laughing. Struggle!

One older couple let us in, they have talked to sister missionaries before and it was a very interesting experience. They were very bright and educated people, although very Catholic and very opinionated. The woman has read the entire Book of Mormon and knows that it was written by prophets of God and is what it claims to be, although she says to us that she has no desire to change religions. Ah! That is where free agency comes in, we can do all that we can to help them read the Book and understand what it means in connection with the Restoration, but if they have no desire to change, we've hit a block! It was still a wonderful successful experience in teaching with love and bearing pure testimony rather than Bible bashing and arguing points of doctrine. I learned early on that that gets you nowhere, even if we seem to have the responses to their objections! At that point, we can just love them and bear testimony and invite them to read the Book of Mormon. It works much better!

We also met one Italian man and his adorable son who told us we could come back when his wife was home. Perfect, that's what we hope to hear!

This mission is much different than I thought it would be, both the struggles and the successes! There is a language and cultural barrier that is more difficult than I expected it to be, and sometimes I wonder if I really am the right type of person to be here because my personality seems so much different from theirs. I am grateful for companions who are different than me and whose strengths are sometimes my weaknesses. I am also convinced that this is the best mission for me and personal growth. I am grateful that Heavenly Father also had my soul in mind when he sent me out to convert people. I get to more fully convert myself as well!! Every day I get to exercise my faith in Him and His perfect plan and the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to make everything right. I am more grateful for the things I have and feel less entitled than I used to, something that was probably a major struggle in the past.

I desire so much to become an instrument in His hands here in Italy. I may have ideas about the work, but only He knows the best way to do it. I plead with Him every day to help me despite my pride and despite my weaknesses, to find the people that need to be found and teach them what they need to hear. And I am grateful that things aren't perfect or easy, so that I do have a chance to exercise and grow my faith. I am praying for miracles in this city!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rome Temple Groundbreaking is Saturday!

We had a very unusual week this week and as a result, didnt get to work too much! I'll tell you a little bit about the week and how it was so different!
It was the start of the new transfer with just Sorella Urban. We dropped off our companion Sorella Riffaldi on Wednesday night at the bus stop, she is now in Siracusa! Thursday was the official transfer day and we spent a big chunk of the day at the train station in Rome, helping sister missionaries get to their new companions or on their way. We have three sets of sisters in this zone, us, Rome 3 and Ladispoli. Sorella Stevenson, my trainer, is transferred up to Rome 3 now and I am so excited to be in the same city as her and get to do Pdays together and such. Wohoo! Both the sisters in Ladispoli went home and one sister came up from down south to train a new sister who doesnt arrive until next week (things are really off this transfer because of a mission president conference in germany). She is currently with the Rome 3 sorelle until her new sister arrives. She is so sweet though, I am glad we have her in our zone!
Good news! The Rome temple groundbreaking date was finally announced and it is this Saturday! President Monson is coming (wohoo) although we dont get to go to the actual groundbreaking; instead we see it broadcast the next day in church. I can't even explain how excited I am for this temple. I have never really realized until now the great power in temples and missionary work. The temple will be built close to where we live and it will be visible from a major freeway and a major mall and it will have a visitors center. A temple with a visitor's center, I cant even imagine what a difference that will make in the missionary work here!! In just a few years, there will be visitor center sister missionaries!!! WOW!! I feel great anticipation for the temple to be started and built quickly, although I probably wont be around when it is finished. It really is difficult for me to describe my feelings, but I have such a testimony of the blessings of temples around the world and the power that they bring. This temple in Rome will be such a privilege and I feel the privilege and responsibility that I have being able to serve in the same area of the city where the temple will be. I get to be involved in helping the Church grow in preparation for this temple! I hope to be in Rome for quite a while longer. I am ready to settle and get to know the members well and work with them in missionary work. And I would love to be here for a while as the temple construction is started.
Sunday was a great day for starting our missionary work with the members. S. Urban and I split up and each talked to a lot of members about meeting with them this week and next. We plan on talking a lot about the things Elder Ballard said a month ago about member missionary work. We want to know them and have them trust us so that they will have the desire to help us do missionary work. I know that it is so important to help members get involved in missionary work and I am thrilled to be able to help them do it more!
On monday, we took a trip to Taranto to pick up my permesso di soggiorno! 6 hour train ride, but it was great to be back in my home city and hear about how the work is picking up and see the great sisters working there. We went on Tuesday morning to pick it up, only to find out that it was only open Tuesday afternoon! Our ticket back to Rome was for a train at 2;:00 but it opened at 3:00! Ah!!! Luckily, we had a little miracle. We explained to them our situation and they were kind and helped me to get my permesso, even when they were officially closed. Phew!!! It was pouring rain in Taranto too and we had no umbrella, that made for a nice adventure back to the train and a very wet train ride home. Also, on the train ride, when the person checked our tickets, we discovered that we accidently bought the return ticket for the day before! They made us get off the train in Napoli, and with 8 minutes until the train left again, we bought two new tickets from Napoli to Rome. What an adventure! We made it back on the train with about 1 minute to spare!

Today we went sightseeing with the Rome 3 sisters and anziani. We saw the pope this morning! I dont know how often he speaks, but we waited in St. Peters with thousands and thousands of other people for him to drive by on his pope-mobile and speak to the crowds! Sweet! We were so impatient by the time he arrived though that we didnt really care to hear him speak. We also went in the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. It is so cool to see all the things I learned about in Art History classes forever ago, I wish I remembered more so I could appreciate it better.
I love Rome!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More quick updates!

Transfers!!! Yup, its true. I am staying here in Rome with Sorella Urban for the next transfer and Sorella Riffaldi is going to leave tonight for Siracusa, Sicily. Sorella Stevenson is being transferred up to Rome 3 so I will be able to see her more often. I am excited about that! I think she will get along good with her new companion and I hope she has a good last two months in the mission. I do love her and learned tons from my first companion.

Last Thursday we had zone conference. I love zone conference. Well, its actually a mix. I love being inspired and learning about things I can do to be a better missionary, but I also struggle with the frustration that these are things that I don't always seem to effectively apply. Mixed emotion for sure but its okay.

We taught English that night and a lot of new people showed up! That's exciting because we had spent the first few weeks of the transfer advertising for it. I wasn't very prepared though for my intermediate class and it was tough because everyone was at a different level! I usually teach intermediate and I like it a lot, but I have to learn how to make it fun rather than just teaching them English.

We taught a woman named Diana who I met on the bus the first lesson on Friday. It was kind of funny actually, she seemed really interested and exited to meet again and said she would come to church. We called her a bunch of times on Saturday because she didn't answer. When we finally got a hold of her, we chose a time to meet to go to church. She never showed up and we called her a bunch of times on Sunday to try to get a hold of her. Finally, we get a text saying "leave me in peace, please!". It came as a surprise to us, although we did call her a lot over a few days, haha. I guess that annoyed her! We are learning!

I met an investigator of Jenny and Erika's for the first time on Monday. Her name is Gina and I really like her, I am excited to teach her more and get to know her better.

I really liked something Cousin Jared said to me in a letter. We are here on a mission not to meet our own expectations but to meet the Lord's expectations. This is so true. I know it is true, I want it to really sink into my heart so that I will be able to feel satisfied with my mission as long as I know I fulfilled the Lord's expectations, no matter how it compares to someone else's experience.

We spent some time this week with Sorella Riffaldi saying goodbye to everyone and seeing how much they all love her. She is a funny Italian and she will be missed!

We did exchanges among the Sorella from Monday night to Tuesday night. I went with Sorella Zeller to Rome 3, the south east part of Rome. Monday night was one of the best nights I have had in a long time. While teaching with her, we found a nice balance together and it really clicked. I felt joy after our lessons and contentment; it was nice. We set up a baptismal date with one woman from Peru and then taught a very stubborn man from Romania. It was very interesting, we taught him in this tiny, dark, smoky room with a convert woman and her family. The only light was from the TV and an eerie blood red light bulb. But I felt the lesson was powerful, despite the circumstances. The Rome 3 apartment is a palace compared to ours. Holy Cow.

I do believe that a big part of success is someones personal faith and effort and that miracles really can happen and that a brand new missionary with a lot of faith and enthusiasm and desire can really make great things happen, despite the language barrier. Cool experience to do exchanges!

Time's up-gotta go! Love to all,
Sorella Askew

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A quick update!

We teach free English classes every Thursday night at the church and this last week I taught my first class! I loved it! I still have no idea how to teach English to other people but I am excited to learn how and get better.
Cool story from this week. We decided to do some casa (knocking on people's doors) this week for the first time. It was Sorella Riffaldi's first time every doing casa on the mission too. We knocked on a few doors and decided it was Sorella Riffaldi's turn to talk when the person opened the door. She was so nervous for her first door approach, even though she is Italian. A teenage girl opened up and Sorella Riffaldi told her who we were and her mom in the background yelled for us to come in. Wohoo! We talked to Jenny and her daughter Erika for about 20 minutes and got to know them and invited them to church. Jenny is from the Philippines and has lived here for 20 years and is a nurse but on a break from work because of a work injury a few months ago. They came to church that Sunday and we taught Jenny about the restoration the next day. They are wonderful! She was so receptive and really liked church, especially Relief Society where you could "exchange ideas" and told us several times that she could see that there was something different about us. We talked a little bit about baptism and she said she would love to learn more and probably be baptized! We get to meet with her often because she isnt working and she believes we are an answer to her prayers because she has just gone through some hard times with the work injury. I have lots of hope for her.
We also went to a Peruvian birthday party this week in a Mexican restaurant and what a blast! That is one of the things I like a lot about Rome, is that there is so much diversity here. We were in this restaurant for an hour or two and it felt just like we were in Peru rather than Rome, Italy.
We are working hard!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First week in Rome

I am in Rome and I love it! There is so much to tell, I hardly know where to start.
An elder from my district in Taranto was also being transferred to my new district in Rome (he was being an assistant to the president), and there was a girl in southern Italy who was coming to Rome to serve a 3 month mission, so all three of us made the 6 hour drive together. We got lost once we got into Rome though and spent another hour on the phone with missionaries in Rome trying to figure out how to get to the mission villa! The "villa" is the mission home, where the mission president and his wife live. We finally made it and I was able to meet and talk with Sorella Jones, who was headed down to Taranto to take my spot with Sorella Stevenson. I was so glad I got to tell her about my wonderful city of Taranto and get her excited to serve there!

We then drove to the mission office and met my new companions, Sorella Urban and Sorella Riffaldi!! They are amazing! They have been serving together in Rome for two transfers already but were both so excited to have me join them. Sorella Riffladi is Italian, from Milan, and this is her fourth transfer, meaning she has been in the mission for 5 months. Sorella Urban is half Italian and half American and has lived in Italy on and off growing up, so her Italian is incredible too. Sor. Riffaldi understands a fair amount of english but rarely speaks it, and luckily we have Sorella Urban to translate for us if we cant understand each other. They are both incredible missionaries, I heard a lot of good things about them before coming to Rome and they are all true! Sorella Riffaldi has a gift for teaching, she can explain things so clearly, and has a way with people. Sorella Urban is the same, she is extremely personable and an incredible missionary in the way that she gets things done! Whatever needs to happen, she finds a way to make it happen. They are both gifted missionaries and work together in unity and love. We are quite the combination of missionaries, the three of us! If anyone knows the color personality test, then that will help explain things because we are each solidly distinct colors. Sorella Riffladi is a yellow, a people-person who likes to have fun, Sorella Urban is a red, a natural born leader with high drive and motivation, and I am a blue, someone who is all about feelings and emotion! Haha! Makes for some good times!

The work here is so different than Taranto too! We did a lot of finding work (which I love, I love talking to random people) in Taranto, but here in Rome, our time is filled with appointments. I sort of miss being able to do finding work all the time, because here we are usually running (often literally running) to the next appointment. But I love this too, it is exciting to witness the success they are having. This ward had a baptism the day before I arrived and there is another baptism this Saturday. There a lot of people that we are teaching and working with, I am still trying to learn who all of them are!

I'll explain a little bit about some of my favorite people that we are working with. Rome is also different from Taranto in that there are A LOT of immigrants and a lot of the people we work with are from the Philippines or from Central/South America. On Saturday we had a lesson with Josue from El Salvador. He is 21 and this was the first time that we have met with him and he was awesome! He was really interested and open to what we had to say and seemed excited to meet with us and come to church. He is a really bright kid too and we get to meet with him tonight.
There is another woman Erika and her beautiful three children from Peru who we started teaching. When we showed up at her house, her daughter Giorgia who is 8 was carrying around the Book of Mormon and so excited to tell us about how they have been reading together! Erika tells us she really likes reading and always wants to keep reading to find out what happens next. We taught them the beautiful story of the restoration and they sat around together as a family, listening. Giorgia was so attentive the whole time, and even the 5 year old stayed for most of it! They are incredible and I am so excited to teach them about the happiness that they can have together!

Another amazing experience. We found out on Saturday that Elder M. Russell Ballard was coming to Rome with three other general authorities, Elders Causse, Rasband, and Bishop Edgly, to talk with people about the temple, and they wanted to speak to us! On Monday they met with the missionaries just in the Rome zone (it was too expensive to bring in all the missionaries in the Rome mission) and talked to the 20-25 of us for an hour in the church! Elder Ballard talked about how we need to become master teachers as missionaries, how a lot of how people use their agency depends on how we present our message, and how we need to practice together. He also said that we should ask members if we can come to their home and teach their family and then ask the members to critique us so that we can be better. It was wonderful. On Monday night, he spoke to the entire Rome stake and talked about member missionary work and what the members can do to help the missionaries! It was so precious to me to hear, its hard to explain. But it is something near and dear to my heart, something I am working so hard for, and to hear an Apostle of the Lord teach specifically to Rome about how missionaries and members can work together was incredible. I was feeling pretty emotional! I cant wait to begin implementing what he is saying. Once again, that was something I really learned in Taranto, how important it is to work with the members in the area. And I've only been to church once here in Rome, but I have already met several solid solid families who are willing to help us out. Wohoo!

Other fun things? Hmm. I am now in the same zone as an elder from my MTC district, Anziano Mickelsen. He is doing great, already baptizing people and giving blessings in Italian and taking charge to get things done. Another elder from my MTC district, Anziano Parry, is in our zone. We had a fun little reunion at the meeting with Elder Ballard. He is doing great and loving life. We dont know still when the temple will be started here in Rome. We think it will be very soon.
We are going sightseeing today for Pday. The colosseum and St. Peters basilica. Sweet!!
We dont usually have time for language study, we are so busy. We leave in the morning and dont come back until night time sometimes! We just pack a lunch and keep going! Rome is pretty and big and hilly. I live in NE Rome on the outskirts in an area called Fidene.
I am so excited for this transfer, we have some great goals we are working for!

Love you all!
Sorella Askew

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Transfer to Rome!

Transfer calls came and I am headed up to Rome! I leave tomorrow and I will be in Rome 2 (there are three sections of the city where missionaries serve), although I dont know exactly where that is yet! Its the same ward though as my mission president. Also, I am going to have two companions in Rome! One is Italian, Sorella Riffaldi, and the other is Sorella Urban, who lived in Italy for 9 years when she was younger. That means I am probably going to be speaking a lot of Italian this next transfer, wohoo!! I am ready to start learning a little faster, sometimes I feel like I am not progressing in the language, although I know it probably isn't true. What a joy it will be! The idea of such a big city makes me really excited, I love having lots and lots of people to talk to.

I want to reflect a little on my experience in Taranto. I will truly miss these people and have learned so much this first transfer.
I am so glad that Sorella Stevenson has been my trainer. I have learned so much about love and working together as a companionship. She has taught me how to work with members and how important it is. I never realized before coming to Italy that a big part of what we do as missionaries is to help build up the ward or branch in the area. Missionaries come and go so often and we can make a big difference in the area, but when we leave, its the ward that needs to support any new converts. The strength of the ward has a huge effect on how the work in the area goes, and a part of our purpose is to help the Italian members see this!

I learned also in Taranto once again that Heavenly Father has a perfect plan for us. I have seen so clearly in this last month, more than ever before, that we are prepared for the things we need or want to accomplish. I can pick out specific experiences I have had that were necessary for me to be a missionary right now, with these companions, in Italy. I have been prepared so well and I never realized it at the time! But over the years, God has been shaping me to be here right now! Also, I have seen more clearly than before how our prayers are answered. Some things that I have asked for years ago are finally being realized and I can see now how I was being prepared to receive my answers all along but I just couldnt recognize it at the time! But we do have a loving Heavenly Father who loves us and knows that He is doing. My faith and trust in Him is growing.

I have also learned that the Atonement bears burdens. How grateful I am that Someone completely understands my struggles and sorrows!
I see also much more clearly how everyone needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful gift it is that we offer!

Random experiences from this week:
We were walking with an older woman on the street and talking to her. The street was pretty empty, we were walking just in front of her and turning around to talk. Suddenly, someone ran out from another street and grabbed her purse and took off running! I started chasing after him because it was just a kid and I was really mad! But I thought to myself "I think chasing after thieves is against the mission rules" and I stopped and watched him get on the back of a motorcycle of someone who was waiting and drive off. Arg, I was so mad though! Right in front of our eyes, middle of the day! The poor woman was really upset about having lost her house key. We walked her to a police station and they helped her from there.

We were inside an apartment building the other day where the elevator was broken. As we were coming down the stairs, there was an old old woman walking down with a cane, sobbing. Apparently her husband was at the bottom of the stairs and couldnt get up by himself and she was trying to get down to help him. She could barely walk though! Luckily we were there to help out, one with the husband and one with the old woman. I am not sure how long it has been since she has left her apartment but it took about 20 minutes to get her up the stairs and she was sobbing the whole time. I was so worried, she would pause and gasp and close her eyes, and I thought she might have a heart attack right there on the stairs! But then she would open her eyes and yell at her husband, so we knew that everything was okay :) Someone came out of their apartment and started yelling at me and I tried to explain to them that we were only trying to help but its a struggle with my Italian! Sorella Stevenson told me after that they thought we were stealing the old couple from their house. I have no idea why! Haha. Struggles with the language barrier!

We met another wonderful old couple on the street and talked with them for a while. At the end, the old woman pulled out a watch from her purse and gave it to me! It will be a reminder for the rest of my mission on how generous these Italian people are.

We also had our first rainy day this week. It poured! I realize how unprepared I am for the rain, yikes!

Best place to write me now is the mission home address.

This is hard work but I trust that all will be well!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ostuni, Italy

P-Day Adventures with Santa Clause

Let's start off with some P-day adventures! Last week in Bari we walked around in a big group of missionaries, all those from Taranto and Bari together, and did a little sightseeing. We visited the church of St. Nicholas (Santa Clause!)! It was a typical old church, just like the ones I have studied in art history and seen all over Europe, but it is always just as neat! They are filled with altars and shrines and paintings and huge arches. When you walk down into the basement, you can see the tomb of St. Nicholas and there is a place where people leave money and lists. We were guessing that they were Christmas lists, so Sorella Stevenson made one for us and added it to the pile. Who needs the North Pole when you can bring the list directly to St. Nicholas himself??
Today we had my favorite adventure in Italy yet. We took a bus to the little town of Ostuni, the "white city". This is a little city on a hill close to the ocean on the other side of the heel and its painted all white! It is just like how I would picture Greece and I fell in love with it! Sorella Stevenson and I went with the anziani in Taranto and we wandered around, getting lost in the narrow streets and took lots of pictures. The weather was perfect and it was amazing! The only problem was that the wind was really strong and we struggled keeping our skirts modest, eek!
Grazia and Aldo are still around but sadly we haven't been able to see them because they have been busy. We met a woman, Maria, from Romania a few weeks ago on the street and she told us that she was a member of our religion! We met her on Sunday evening (she works and cant come to church) and found out more of her story. She was baptized 4 years ago in England and hasnt been to church in a long time because she lives too far from a church in Romania. She also has never had a copy of the Book of Mormon in Romanian and we brought one for her to have and start reading. Meeting Maria was a miracle in so many ways, its difficult to describe. But she needed to find us, if nothing more than to receive a Book of Mormon in Romanian. What a gift that she has never been able to experience in her native tongue!
Funny moments in Italy...
The Italian members are hilarious! One of the cultural things that is different here is that people will openly and loudly argue their opinions, even in church. I love it, even if I cant understand everything that they are saying. They are not afraid to openly say "No, you are wrong. This is what I think" and then continue to share their opinion! And yet they still love each other and everything is okay.
We, the Sorella, got reprimanded the other day by a member. As we started to share our spiritual thought with his family, he interrupted us and stood up and talked for 20 minutes on how we as missionaries cant just come and leave a spiritual thought and go on our way. We have to love the people, we have to be missionaries who convert both members and non-members with our love. We have to share with them our difficulties and successes and laugh and cry and grow together if we expect help from the members in missionary work. It really struck me. Unlike me growing up, these Italians have literally seen hundreds of missionaries coming through their ward over the years. We cant just do what we have always done as missionaries and expect a change, expect them to love and remember us and not all the other missionaries. We have to give them all that we have, all of our love, for that is the great converting factor. I believe I was taught an important lesson. I just have to figure out how to show them all my love in another language!
One last thought. Something that touched me recently was a talk by Elder Holland. He talked about why missionary work was so hard. After all, if it is the truth, why aren't people jumping into the water to be baptized? He said something profound, that a part of the reason missionary work isnt easier is because salvation is not a cheap experience. Particularly as missionaries, how can we expect to be representatives of Christ if we refuse to experience even a tiny portion of the pain and tribulation that He experienced? We are being refined so that we can become more like Him.
I may have already talked about this before, but I want to mention the tender mercies that I see every day. Every day of this work, there is at least one moment where there is no where I would rather be than here in Taranto declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is always at least one moment that makes every thing that is hard worth the pain. I am so grateful to be a missionary, to be trusted with the entire city of Taranto and all of its beautiful people. I know that what we have to offer is truly the solution to everyone's problems. It is access to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and all the blessings and joy that come from that. I feel great honor that I get to represent Him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Month in Taranto

I want to tell you about the wonderful family of Grazia and Aldo! We found Grazia on Lungomare a few weeks ago and met with her and her husband a week ago and taught them about the Restoration and invited them to meet with us and try the "experiment" of Alma 32. What a wonderful experience to teach about the Restoration, the whole story of Joseph Smith, to someone who has never heard before. Wow! I have a harder time than I thought explaining just how significant it really is, everything that it entails and what a blessing from God. They were wonderful though, they have a few children but everytime we meet with them, it is just their 4 year old daughter Noemi who is home and playing in the same room. Aldo offered the closing prayer at the end and thanked Heavenly Father for us Sorelle and when he tried to say my name he said "Askem" and immediately after Grazia corrected him and then immediately after that, Noemi the 4-year old said "queste belle sorelle" which means "these beautiful sisters". It was probably the cutest thing I ever heard from the cutest family I have ever seen. I love them! We met with them again a few days ago and will continue to meet with them. I have so much hope for their beautiful family, they are incredibly sincere and open and willing to listen what we say and "try the experiment" of reading and praying. What more can we ask for? What more does Heavenly Father ask for?
We also had a zone conference yesterday in Bari, my first zone conference in the mission! I got to see three elders from my MTC experience and they are all happy and working hard. I can see changes in them already and I hope that the same changes are occuring in me. I hope that I am becoming more loving and patient and humble and firm in my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can not deny the light that comes into my life, the Spirit of God, because of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. I know just as Joseph Smith wrote in the introduction of the Book of Mormon that this book truly will bring us closer to Christ over any other people. And I know that when we strive to be more like Him, we find peace and joy. It is simple, this gospel is simple.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God answers prayers

Hello Family and Friends,
God answers prayers. I tell Italians that every day, but it is true. There are so many things I prayed for in the MTC specifically. I prayed for charity and love for these people and I felt it from them immediately, in a way that I have never felt it for them before. I prayed that I would be prepared and qualified. Almost every insecurity I had before about being a missionary is gone now (although there are new ones to work on now too!). Sometimes I am surprised that I can talk to so many people in a language that I am struggling to learn. And yet in many ways, it is easy, surprisingly so. I just simply do it, and I know its a direct answer to my prayers from before. Also, I prayed that I would be able to "hit the ground running" and I absolutely have been placed in a situation where I can, although much differently than what I expected! That is usually how it goes! I have found that it helps a lot to write down the questions or desires that we have and pray for, so that when we finally receive our answer (and sometimes it takes a long time because God wants us to grow and become better for it) we can recognize it and be grateful for it.
August in Italy is holiday season, known as "feragosto". Every day the people ask us "andate al mare?" or "are you going to the beach?" and then they are shocked and amazed when we tell them no, because that is what everyone here does! Sunday was the main holiday day and we had two member meal appointments. Now I have heard lots of stories of Italian food and how much they feed you, but I never really believe it or at least it never really sunk in. But oh my goodness it is true! Meals here are a 2 or 3 hour event with usually around 6 to 8 courses!! We start off with a giant bowl of pasta, enough to definitely be a meal alone, and then for the next 2 hours, they keep bringing out more courses. Usually the salad comes next, then often things like stuffed eggplant, sausage, beef, chicken, potatoes, shrimp, rolls with cheese and ham, fruit, and gelato. It is AMAZING! And hilarious!!! I definitely think that was one of the reasons I was called to Italy, because I can handle the amounts of food just like an elder can! Sunday specifically was quite an adventure, as we had the two meal appointments. We had a few hours in between but were definitely not hungry for the second one. And yet managed to eat just as much food! I dont think I have ever eaten so much in one day, phew! One of my favorite things was something called burrata, which was a ball of mozzerella cheese with cream. The ball of mozzerella cheese was twice the size of a tennis ball and we ate it (each one of us had their own ball) with a roll and ham. And this was just one of the 7 courses of the meal! Can you even imagine?? Delicious!

We do a lot of street contacting here and I love it. I carry around this little notebook and write down Italian words I dont know and the names of the people we meet. Right next to our apartment is a long sidewalk with lots of benches. Lots of old Italian men sit on those benches almost all day long and we've gotten to be friends. At night when we return home, there is a group of friends/family that sit on the benches and I've made friends with the little girls, they are absolutely adorable, especially Marita, and they teach me new Italian words and write them down in my notebook for me. Funny story, we were talking to a sort of older man and I started to ask him if he would pray about something. He cut me off and said, "I pray. I pray every day to meet a beautiful woman like you!" and then he pats me on the cheeks. Haha, these Italian men are ridiculous! Most of them are hilarious and just harmless.

We meet a lot of Romanians here and they are some of my favorite people. Lots of them immigrate here to work as badantes (people who take care of old people and there are lots of old people in Italy) or to beg. What a humble people they are for the most part, just working to send money back home to their families.

Also, the mission made an announcement that all mail including packages should go to our appartment now instead of the mission home. It is probably because the mission is so spread out. Its tough though because it takes about two weeks to get mail and we never know when we will be transferred and have a new address. If it is around transfer time and you arent sure, you can probably still send it to the mission home and it would be okay.

This is getting a little easier, I might be catching on to how to be a missionary! Wohoo, there is hope for me!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Second week in Italy

Week two in Italy! We've talked to lots of people in this city but there are plenty more to talk to! We meet with a member or a less active member every day and with our extra time, we talk to people. Sometimes we just talk to them and sometimes we share with them the gospel. Most people say they are Catholic or too busy but we'll keep trying!
I gained and lost my first personal potential investigator. His name was Mimo and I found him the first week at mostra. He was 80 and great because he spoke very slowly with me. We talked for a long time at the mostra and met again on Lungo Mare and talked for another hour about faith and God and we shared Alma 32. He couldn't understand why God "took away" two of his wives and had a hard time believing in God. We met one last time and he made it clear that he would love to keep meeting with us but only as friends. As much as I loved that little man, our purpose here as missionaries is to bring people to Christ and we can’t just meet with him to be friends.

(Note from Suzy--Caitlin's email this week was very short because of computer issues. Apparently all the Internet Cafe's in Italy are closed in August for Holiday and so they must go to the Post Office and pay high prices to use the Internet there. I happened to be awake at 3am my time when she was writing her email and was able to email back and forth a little bit, and it was so good to "talk" to her! The computer there was giving her all kinds of trouble and she was trying to get assistance but her email time ended without her finishing. More next week!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hello All;

Where to even begin?? My first city is Taranto! It's in the very south of Italy and is a city of about 200,000 people. There are three elders and me and my companion here. My companion is Sorella Stevenson from San Bernadino CA and she is someone that my MTC teacher Sorella Lewis trained! She is great, she is a little more quiet and has only been in the city for 4 weeks so she is relatively new here as well. I don't know who long I will be here for but if you send letters to the mission home, it will be weeks and may be several months before I get them because Rome is so far away. So write me at my new apartment address in Taranto!

Via Cesare Battisti 269
74100 Taranto

I've heard that mail takes a little while to get to Italy.
Wow!! I am in Italy! We arrived Wednesday afternoon (last week) and President Kelly picked us up at the airport. We ate dinner at the mission home, which is a beautiful beautiful building built for Mussolini's daughter in 1924. The next morning, he drove all of us new missionaries to the temple site in Rome. It's a special place, set on a hill, although they still haven't broken ground for the temple yet. We then went back to the Villa (mission home) and had the ceremony of the "golden transfers", or our first transfer. We were a huge group of new missionaries, there were 15 of us and we all gathered together in a room with a big map of Italy and each of the possible cities were marked with a pin. One by one, each of us went up and opened our envelope that told us what our city would be and who our trainer was, with a picture of our trainer. Taranto with Sorella Stevenson!! We then went to the mission office where they gave us a new missionary orientation and then separated to our respective cities! I traveled with the Bari area group, which consisted of 2 older-in-the-mission anziani and 4 of us new missionaries. We traveled on the train for 5 hours, and I sat next to another new sister (Sorella Tinoco) who is from Peru but has lived in Italy for 11 years so she is pretty much a native! She doesn't speak very much english and she spent just 3 weeks in the Spain MTC. We talked to the people we sat next to on the train for almost the entire ride there and taught them together, even though I had just barely met Sorella Tinoco. She was a powerful teacher and she absolutely taught with the Spirit of God. I couldn't understand most of what the Italians were saying but so it will be for the next little while!
When we got to Bari, our new companions (including mine) met us at the train station, and my companion and I stayed the night in the Bari sorelle's apartment. The next morning, Sorella Stevenson, Anziano Smith (who was also being transfered into Taranto) and I took the 1.5 hour bus ride to Taranto. We dragged our luggage to our apartment and then got to work! Our apartment is cute, it has two rooms, one for sleeping and studying and the other has the dressers and mirrors, and a bathroom with a tiny tiny shower and a full-sized kitchen. We went outside to the street and started talking to people! That night we met with a member and taught her a short lesson. And so life in Italy begins.
It is a little different than I expected here in Taranto! We dont really have anyone to teach right now and we've spent a lot of time going places to get my permesso all in order. Whenever we are out, we say buongiorno to every one we walk by. Some people ignore us and some people respond! We talk to people here and there, and everyone has been really nice to us so far! I have had almost no jet lag and almost no fear to talk to people. I feel comfortable enough speaking Italian and expressing in one way or another what I want to say, although I understand little of what people say back to me, haha. Well, that depends! When we taught the member a lesson, I could follow almost everything. When we talk to people on the streets, especially older people, it is more difficult to understand. It's great though because my companion speaks and understands almost perfectly, her Italian is beautiful, so she answers every question or responds to anything that I cannot. So I have little fear to start conversations with people because of Sorella Stevenson! And I still get to contribute my fair share too, wohoo!
The ward in Taranto is one of the biggest wards in Italy, although definitely smaller than my home ward. I had my first Italian meal after church on Sunday and the rumors were true! They DO feed you way more than you can handle!!! Sister Pastano brought out a big bowl of pasta and I thought that that was plenty, but after we were done, she put another big plate of chicken and french fries and watermelon in front of us!! AH! At home we eat very simply: fruit, veggies, bread.
Everything in Italy closes down for 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the day so everyone can go home and eat. Its crazy! The Italian old people are pretty much hilarious. There are a lot of old people in Italy and they love to talk. Talk, talk, talk, talk. They say some of the funniest things too!! One lady we sat down on a bench and talked to. I continued to say buongiorno to the people walking by and she got kind of mad at me. She kept telling me to stop saying hi to people that I didnt know, although I continued to do it because I forgot and she kept looking at me like I was crazy. Some people do seem really surprised that we say hi to them, haha.
Our schedule goes like this; wake up at 630, exercise until 7, 700 we get ready, 800 personal study, 900 companionship study, then we go out. we come back around 130 for lunch and have language study and a break and then go out again for the rest of the night until 900, where we then plan for the next day.
meeting people is definitely the highlight of my experience. this is hard, but ill usually meet someone each day who makes it all worth it. I talked to an Atheist yesterday about our age, he was so nice to us and friendly. I talked to a group of about 10 kids who thought it was so cool what we are doing and we taught them all about the restoration. I met an old man at mostra (we put up a sign on sunday nights on lungo mare where lots of people walk and then try to talk to everyone!) who we are going to meet with again tonight. This is difficult for many reasons, but the MTC prepared me well with an understanding of my purpose and a hope that it will get easier.

Sorella Askew