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