Thursday, July 29, 2010

Taranto, Region Puglia (Apulia), Italy

Here is some information about Sorella Askew's first mission area...

Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, the capital of the province of the same name and an important military and commercial port. It has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships, and food-processing factories.

Taranto history dates back to the 8th century BC when it was founded as a Greek colony. The ancient city was situated on a peninsula, protected by a helm; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek necropolis. The islets S. Pietro and S. Paolo protect the bay (called Mar Grande, Big sea) where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Small sea), is formed by the old city, and there fishing is flourishing; Mar Piccolo is a military port with a strategic importance; at the end of the XIX century, a channel was excavated to allow the military ships to enter Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island. In addition, the islets and the coast are strongly fortified. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called "the city of the two seas".


We are all allowed to send a quick email letting our family know that we got here safely. I am in Rome! Travel wasn't too bad, I slept my full 8 hours last night and feel fine today, quick adjustment to time zone, yay. Good news!! I know where I am going and I am leaving to get there this afternoon! I am going to Taranto in the south of Italy!! My companion is Sister Stevenson and she was someone that my teacher Sorella Lewis trained so I've already heard a little bit about her. Her Italian is good but she is pretty quiet, or at least she used to be. Taranto here I come!!!

Sorella Askew

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week nine, last day in the MTC

Note from the editor, aka Caitlin's mom: There is no email from Sorella Askew this week because she is on a plane to Rome! I'll post her next email as soon as I get it and do weekly updates from her mission emails. Thank you again for all your support for Caitlin!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week 8 in the MTC

I got my flight plans!! Huge deal in the MTC!! We are leaving on Tuesday, July 27. We are split up into three groups and my group leaves at 12:25 pm. We fly into Dallas and then London and then Rome. Ahhhh!!! It's real now!!!
Other exciting news, Matteo is getting baptized at the end of the month! Wohoo!
Today we were able to go clean the temple because the temple is closed for cleaning for the month. What did I get to do?? Um, put together a chandelier in the sealing room. Yes, that is right. The chandelier cost more than my mission and me and one other worker put it together, polishing one crystal at a time and adding it to the chandelier. Amazing. The time and care that goes into the temple is incredible, of course symbolizing our love and respect for God.
I think I will just run through some of the things I've learned here in the MTC. Some of this may sound familiar, but these are my MTC "themes"; the things that changed the way I act or view life or the gospel.
1. One thing I learned early on is that external validation is never enough. We MUST seek our affirmation from our Father in Heaven, He is the only one who counts and will lead us in the right way. This has hit me so hard while I have been here, the problems of comparing and finding success from other people's failure. Life is so competitive, it is so much this way but that is not how we can be happy.
2. Everything is a gift from God. Everything we have. I've spent my entire life feeling entitled to blessings, but I am finally learning that I am entitled to very little. Rather, everything is a gift and we must have gratitude for it
3. The plan of God is a merciful plan. Everything is motivated by His love and desire for us to succeed. How wonderful!
4. I will be a valiant missionary. I choose to no longer feel disappointed or weighed down by doubts. Not anymore
5. This is God's work, we are merely helping in it. He could easily accomplish this without us but chooses to let us help so we can be benefited. And we must give everything we can! Don't just let him take over because He can. He will take over through someone else. Do all that we are able if we want to benefit!
6. The Spirit of God is real and necessary for conversion. We have authority as missionaries and can have this power through the Spirit. I have felt it.
7. The Book of Mormon truly is a miracle, a tangible miracle that we can touch and hold and test out for ourselves. It teaches us of the gospel of Jesus Christ and convinces us to follow it
8. The gift of tongues is real. I've seen it in others and I have seen it in myself. I have learned much faster than ever before, even in other "immersion" settings
9. This gospel is simple. It is faith, repentance, baptism, enduring to the end. Really, it is simple and we have our Savior as our example. Wonderful.

Love you all! Thanks for all the letters and packages! I am excited and nervous of course. Ready? Who knows. Italy here I come!

Sorella Askew

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week Seven in the MTC

We got 10 new Italian missionaries this week! 8 are going to Milan, 2 to Rome, and one of the Milan missionaries is a sister! She is what is called a "solo" sister meaning that she is the only sister in her district/classroom. She is assigned to our companionship during gym and relief society and service and when we are in the residence hall, but other than that, she has no companion! When she is with her district, she just always has to be with atleast two elders at one time. What a unique situation!

Only two more weeks in the MTC, sometimes we as missionaries have moments of complete excitement and moments of complete fear, haha. In two weeks we will be thrown into a country where we don't speak the language and yet somehow expected to tell everyone we meet about our eternally significant message. AH!! Our flight plans should come this week, so stay tuned:) One of our teachers, Sorella Lewis made predictions on where she thought each of us would be "born" (our first city in Italy) and what type of comp our trainer would be. She predicted I would be born into a really small city, such as Mistreta or Ragusa. These are "two sister cities" meaning that there are no elders in the city, only one set of sisters! I would love to go to a small city of course! She also predicted that I would have a trainer that was fairly young in the mission and hadn't been out too long. Fratello Auna though told me a few weeks ago that he thought I would start off in Rome. We'll see!!

We had a wonderful lesson this week from Fratella Silva, one of the other Italian teachers. He entered the MTC 4 times before he actually got to go out in to the field and had to go home each time for health or other reasons. He had 3 different mission calls and finally when he was 26, he served in Rome Italy. He testified of the how we are meant to serve in this mission and how God knows how things will turn out and he knows we will succeed. At one point during his 7 years of trying to go on a mission, Brother Silva talked to a general authority who told him to forget a mission and go to school and get married. However, Brother Silva found out years later that at the same time he told that to him, the general authority told his parents that he would serve a mission. The Lord works in mysterious ways sometimes but we can't forget that He knows how things are going to turn out, so we should just trust him!

I can testify this week of how we have a loving Heavenly Father. He is anxiously waiting to bless us!! Anxiously! I didn't feel this for a long time, but I am learning quickly that the times I feel like He isn't eager to help me out are because of my own pride and hard heart. But I am learning that everything we do, everything we have, is because God loves us. It is literally the motivation for everything. And even more wonderful, we can be as close to him as we want to be. It is up to us!

Funny random story. I had a bit of cold this week and my nose was running like crazy. I was sitting in the TRC after my lesson watching on a TV screen some of the other missionaries teach Matteo. I had to blow my nose but I didn't want to leave the TV, so I grabbed what I thought looked like baby wipes sitting on the counter next to me. I blew my nose and my poor, tender nose started burning like nothing else!! They turned out to be heavy duty medical disinfectant wipes. Ouch!!
Oh, I gave a talk in Italian on faith in sacrament meeting! Found out about 5 minutes before, eek!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Week Six in the MTC

Hey Family!

So much to tell! Where to start? I'll start with our awesome experience yesterday with Matteo in the TRC. I can't remember all that I told you last week but Matteo is from Italy and he moved here a few weeks ago and he is here for a few months going to school. He took the missionary lessons in Italy and now comes to the TRC every week as a volunteer. He knows the gospel is true, he has read a lot of the Book of Mormon and goes to church every Sunday and is here going to school because he loves the people. However his family back in Italy is very opposed to the church and this is a big reason why he isn't baptized. He is 20 though, so he doesn't need their permission.

Anyways, our district (3 companionships) takes turns teaching him every week and yesterday was our turn! We spent all week praying for him and preparing, so we felt great love and concern for him, although we were also nervous because the whole lesson would be in Italian! Normally we follow a scenario in the TRC and teach a specific missionary lesson, but for Matteo, we were to teach him just as he is, no role playing or anything. So we prepared questions in Italian to get to know him better and understand his needs and also a lesson on faith and acting and making covenants and the blessings that come from making covenants. We had heard from our teacher the day (our teacher is friends with Matteo now) that he talked with Matteo before and Matteo said he felt that he was ready to be baptized. Wow!

The TRC has two parts, the first 15 minutes are for practicing Italian in an everyday setting, such as getting to know someone and then we take a break and go back and teach a lesson. We went in and talked to Matteo and got to know him better, where he was from, why he was here, what he had learned before about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was great, so helpful with the language and open and friendly. Then, we came back for the second round and taught him. We started off with singing for him Lead Kindly Light in Italian and asked him some more questions about his background and beliefs and his testimony of the gospel and the things the missionaries have taught him. We asked him if he had the desire to be baptized and he said yes, he was pretty sure we did. We talked about his concerns with his family and maybe a few other concerns he had. I asked him if we could set a date and he wasn't sure he was ready to do that. I asked him once more if we could pick a date right now for in the future and prepare him for that, but he said he wanted to make that decision on his own. Although we were pretty bold with him up to that point (scary!), I felt that that was okay and that he was just about ready and didn't need us to push him and we went ahead with our lesson. At the end, we asked him to pray and counsel with Heavenly Father about what He wants him to do. He eagerly accepted and I have little doubt that he will keep this promise. We understood a lot of what he was saying in Italian and we could express our own thoughts to him as well, which was amazing. It is really a gift from Heavenly Father to be able to teach people His truth and help them find joy in it. And it is a gift that we could have Matteo to teach right now; it almost never happens that we have a real Italian investigator in the TRC!

Okay, what more? We are doing 100% SYL (speak your language) and our district speaks almost entirely in Italian all day. It’s tough but I have already seen huge changes in some of the missionaries, especially the ones who are really diligent about it. Sometimes during class, we go into the hallway and each choose a brick on the wall and we spend 15 minutes talking to the brick in Italian about whatever we want to say. It's rather hilarious and the other missionaries think we are crazy but our teacher tells us to do it and it is way helpful in working on the language. The bricks don't judge us! We have a goal as a district to bear our testimonies to other missionaries 20X a day!! It is a tough goal but I feel it is one of the best preparations for Italy we can do and I have had some really good experiences with it. Sunday was a little bit of a rough day and I had no desire to bear my testimony but I made myself start doing it during our temple walk and it completely changed the way I felt. There was an undeniable light that came when bearing testimony of truth and it was wonderful. That is the light we need to have all the time in Italy! I can feel the moments when I really teach or bear testimony with the Spirit and strive to make those occur all the time.

We had a devotional for July 4 and got to stay up late to watch the fireworks from the MTC parking lot, haha. Funny story with the language…we were practicing teaching each other in Italian in class one day. I was teaching Anziano Parry and it was the end of the short lesson and I really wanted to express to him that God appreciated his efforts (in reference to keeping the sabbath day holy). I didn't know how to say that in the moment so I tried to think of some other way to tell him that God appreciated his efforts. All I could spit out was "Dio dice grazie", which means God says thank you. We laughed about that one for a while. But that's how it goes! We can't say everything we want to, so we try to express it in different ways and sometimes it’s a struggle, haha. But what matters is that we mean in and that it’s true.

I know that the Restoration of the Gospel is really, it was a Restoration of light and truth and authority. I am learning how everything is a gift from God. We are entitled to pretty much nothing and yet He blesses us with a lot! I am working on recognizing and appreciating it!

Love, Sorella Askew