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!