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.