Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goodbye...three kisses and a baptism!

Hello family!

Well, the time is dwindling down, we'll be seeing each other soon! It has been a really good last week of my mission and even though we can talk in a few days, I'll let you know what happened now.

One of the first exciting things that happened was that we tracked down someone that Gary Denning had baptized on his mission! His name is Massimo Celso, he is not currently active but we found his number in an old ward list and gave him a call. I told him who I was and asked if he remembered Anziano Denning. "Of course! He baptized me!" he responds and I explained to him that I am his niece and would like to meet him. We set up an appointment and a few days later the elders drove us to his house and we all went in together. He was wonderful! He was baptized when he was 20 years old, 20 years ago, and he is now married with three daughters, 16, 9, and 5. The whole family welcomed us warmly and soon the two younger girls were climbing all over Sorella LeCates. We shared pictures, Massimo shared his baptism photos and I shared pictures of the Denning family, and he told us about his conversion. It was pretty funny because he kept telling me, "you look just like Anziano Denning" but we aren't blood-related! Massimo has a gorgeous family, and the home has a very special spirit, with church books and pictures floating around. The anziani are going to start working with him to get his family reactivated! We left a spiritual thought at the end and Massimo jokingly yelled "trucco, trucco" (trick trick!), saying that we had tricked him because I had called to ask if I could meet him and share pictures and we ended up reading scriptures. Well, of course, we are missionaries and we have to share a spiritual thought! He really felt the Spirit and was hopefully reminded of his conversion years ago.

On Saturday we got permission from President to attend a soccer game! It was Catania vs. Napoli and we won! It was quite an experience, there were 6 elders, us, and 2 members and we sat in the "curva", the really cheap section of the stadium where fans have been known to get pretty rowdy sometimes. There was a group a few sections away that throughout the entire game took off their shirts, waved giant flags and yelled cheers. Everytime something exciting happened, they lit some type of firework and there was a big fireball with smoke for about 5 minutes. Haha, security is a little more lax in Italy. Also, the opposing team section was completely covered off with a net so the fans of Napoli couldnt throw fireworks onto the field. I got pictures of everything :)

We met a lot of really great people this week. Agata and her grown daughters. We talked about familes and read the family proc and one of them started crying. Agata said, "I told her not to marry him but she did it anyways" and explained how her daughter's husband was good for nothing and selfish and he wouldnt even take care of his own child. Poor Santa was desperate and so sad as we read from the family proc of the roles of a husband and wife to love each other and care for each other and their children. I shared with her pictures of my family and talked about how that even when the situation seems desperate, it really is possible to create this type of family if we have a vision and keep the faith.

We taught Giovanna and she was desperate because she couldnt find a job and her 17 year old daughter ran away when she was 12 and is now married and wont talk to her. We shared the story of Mosiah 24 and having patience in affliction. We taught her friend Margherita, an older Sicilian woman who has lived in the same tiny house her whole life. She was married when she was 13 (in church too!) and had 7 children. Holy Cow! I cant even imagine what my life would be like growing up in Sicily. Giovanna actually had a really cool experience with the Book of Mormon though and when we went back to visit her, she told us how she loves reading it because she gets into the story and she feels really peaceful when she reads. If she feels a panic attack coming, she just picks up the Book of Mormon and reads it. She is so sincere!

Yesterday was my last full day of missionary work. It is so bittersweet and strange but at the same time so normal, just like any other day, going out and working. God gave me a really nice gift though and we had a wonderful day.
We met with a crazy hilarious Albanian family who reminds me perfectly of my Albanian family in Ostia. We teach the two teenager kids and the grandpa sits in on the lessons but doesnt understand a word of Italian so he just smiles and interrupts with random Albanian comments or pinching our cheeks or asking to see our pictures.
So an Italian tradition is that everyone kisses each other on the cheeks as a greeting. We do it all the time with females, but are not allowed to with men. It happens all the time where non-member men lean in to kiss us on the cheek because it is just a normal thing to do to say hi or goodbye, and we have to pull away and explain to them that it is against the rules. Sometimes its really awkward and they feel stupid afterwards, but we just have to do it anyways.
Well, in leaving the Albanian family, they all knew that I was going back to America and this would be the last time they would see me. The son leans in to give me a kiss on the cheek and before I know it, its done and I didnt say a word! I couldn't explain to the father and grandfather that I couldnt kiss them because I had already done so with the son! So I thought, what the heck, there is nothing I can do! And I got kisses from the son, the father and the grandfather. Three farewell kisses from men on my last missionary work day in Italy!

We ran to the church for a final appointment with Angelo. We asked him what he thought of all the things we have been teaching him and he started off explaining all the things he was reading, the Book of Mormon, the New Testament study manual, ect, ect. We interrupted him, "No Angelo, this is what you are reading, but what do you THINK about these things? What are your feelings toward them? Do you believe its true?" He told us that he was struck by the doctrine that we teach, that he feels that it is right. Especially the plan of salvation and the eternal nature of the soul and the purpose of life and how beautifully it all fits together. He told us about how much he liked the idea of modern revelation, that the scripture canon isnt closed but that God continues to talk to us today for our problems. He told us about how he sees the apostasy, just looking at the history of his own Catholic religion and it all makes sense. We talked about baptism and asked if he would like to start preparing for baptism. "I would" he said simply and we set a date for the 10th of December. I cant tell you how happy I was in that moment. It was a wonderful wonderful way to finish my missionary service. What an incredible experience, to watch someone that I found on the bus just a month before desire to be baptized! I remember him sitting on the bus with his beard and his hat and thinking "hmm, this is kind of an interesting guy, but I will talk to him anyways" and he is progressed in just a month to know almost more about church doctrine than we do! He is wonderful and it breaks my heart to leave before he is baptized but it was the greatest gift God could have given to me before I left.

As I finish my service here in Italy, I am profoundly grateful for this privilege. I think the best way to sum it up would be in Ammon's words in Alma 26. I might be changing a few words here and there, hehe, but most of it is the same...

Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Utah, we go up to the land of Italy, to preach unto our brethren, the Italians, and they alaughed us to scorn?

For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Italians to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Italians of the aincorrectness of the btraditions of their fathers, as cstiffnecked a people as they are;

But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the land of Italy not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.

Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to aturn back, behold, the Lord bcomforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Italians, and bear with cpatience thine dafflictions, and I will give unto you success.

And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their churches and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks

And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our ajoy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

Now behold, we can look forth and see the afruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are bmany; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men or women that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began;

Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a bbranch of the tree of Israel, and has been clost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, dwanderers in a strange land.

President asks us to make a list of 30 blessings we have received from our missionary service. I will share some of them....

1. determination to get back up again after everytime I fall down

2. understanding of the power of prayer

3. ability to overcome discouragement

4. faith- a strong belief in a loving Heavenly Father that leads me to act

5. hope- having a vision of a bright future when it seems impossible

6. acceptance of my weaknesses and strengths

7. righteous desire- much more desire to serve God no matter what the cost may be

8. teaching with the Spirit

9. ability to share the gospel with ANYONE

10. confidence in talking about our beliefs with anyone, now I know what to say

11. patience and love for those who are different than me

12. understanding that to overcome the natural man is a long long process, dont give up

13. overcoming bad habits to compare myself to others

14. anything worthwhile will take sacrifice

15. diligence- work with enthusiasm even if you are tired

16. ability to control doubts

17. courage when confronted with fear about the future, dont be afraid

18. gratitude- dont feel it? count your blessings until you do

19. a change in core motivations- my drive to act has become more selfless

20. understanding of how grand and marvelous the Lord's work in the latter days really is

21. desire to do missionary work and succor the less actives for the rest of my life

22. understanding that the Atonement can heal us from sins of selfishness

23. ability to recognize and follow through on promptings of the Spirit

24. praying specifically for specific answers

25. ability to teach english- overcome fear of public speaking

26. testimony of the word of wisdom- eat healthy and exercise so you can have the energy to work and serve, our body is a gift!

27. ability to speak italian!

28. stewardship, more responsibility for the things I have stewardship over

29. realization of how important the family is and desire to create my own!

30. our heart and nature can be changed through the atonement

These things are not just trite phrases of testimony, but things I learned on a very personal level through sweat and tears and hard work and determination.
I know that this is the only true church of Jesus Christ. I know there is great joy waiting for people who walk forward with faith and determination, not faltering. I know that God loves us and answers our prayers. I know this is his work. What a privilege it was to participate.

See ya soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lava explosions and Greek temples


Things are great, always doing great in Sicily. I just have to say again how much I love this place. Rome is my home and my mission, but Sicily is magical! Sometimes I stop and think about how great it is to be a missionary in Catania right now. We stop people on the street and they stop to talk, we smile and wave and people respond and are so openly friendly. We knock on doors and sometimes people really do let us sing to them and invite us to come back! We have much more success here in contacting people than we did in Rome; Sicilians have such a warm, accepting culture. Now, it is still a lot of work finding people who are sincerely interested and desire to act, because most of the people we talk to are not very interested, even if they do invite us back. But finding work is so much more fun here! It's an adventure! So yup, just like every week we are talking to people around us, giving away tons of passalong cards and pamphlets, knocking doors and singing hymns, helping people to feel the Spirit and desire to act on that feeling. Mamma mia, it is a great life!

Also, great news. Angelo is stinkin' awesome! Every time we meet with him, he grows on me more and more. He is for sure going to be baptized. He is incredibly brilliant, I think he already knows as much about our doctrine as we do. We were talking with him in the church last night before Institute (yeah, he started going to institute! wohoo!) and asking him about the different pictures hanging up in the church, quizzing him to see if he knew what the story was. He did, almost perfectly! There was a picture of the restoration of the priesthood (which he knew and described to us). Trying to trick him, I asked Angelo who the other person was besides Joseph Smith. He struggled a little with the pronunciation but managed to spit out "Oliver Cowdery". WHAT?? Where did he learn that? I can't remember if I already shared this, but Sorella Buma had a theory that Angelo was one of the three nephites, coming here to test our gospel knowledge and help us grow. But, he is actually tall and skinny and light skinned with a dark beard, so we are trying to decide if maybe he is John the Beloved instead.
He came to church on Sunday for the first time and the members were amazing with him, totally welcomed him and invited him to all sorts of other church activities. We finally discovered his age, he is 30, so he still can go to all the Young Adult activities in the ward. Wohoo. The members think he is great and love that he studies Sociology at the University. We were just a little bit worried about sending him to priesthood because sometimes in Sicily, fights break out between the members and they start yelling and making a scene during priesthood/relief society. BUT, we trusted in the Lord and sent him off with the anziani and everything turned out okay! We taught him the Word of Wisdom after church and he already knew about it, accepted it, and lived it (rare for Italy where EVERYONE smokes). They also made some kind of announcement in church about stake conference in a month and Angelo asked us if he needed to tell someone if we wanted to go. Yeah!
Just think, we found him on a bus just a few weeks ago, talked to him for just a minute and invited him to general conference. He called to tell us he couldn't make it and we set up an appointment and now he is practically a member! Miracles happen!

Random other stories from the week....

On Sunday night Sorella LeCates and I were at home planning for the next day. The Anziani called us a few times and we didn't answer because we were in the middle of planning. Finally when we finished, I picked up the phone and Anziano Hill says "drop everything you are doing and go outside to find a good view of Mt. Etna. It's erupting and lava is spewing out the top and it is a once in a lifetime experience". AH!" We ran to the top floor of our building and found a window that looks out over the sea instead of at Etna. Then we ran outside and for 30 minutes ran up the hill trying to catch a glimpse of Etna but to no avail! I swear we live in the only place in Catania where you can't see Etna! Discouraged we finally went back home. There was no hope. The anziani from another city in Sicily call us as well "have you seen Etna?? Go look, its erupting!" Garg, we couldn't see it! Finally, we decided to try the top story window one more time, bringing with us a chair from our apartment. We climbed out through the window and onto the roof and behold, there was Etna with lava running down the side of the mountain!!

Today we drove across Sicily with the anziani to Agrigento, where there are some beautiful 600 bc Greek temples. Nice!

We ate lunch this week with a member, Fratello Giardina. He gave us each a huge heaping bowl of spaghetti to start off. Now, in America, this bowl of spaghetti would have been more than enough for lunch. But, we are in Sicily and Sorella LeCates and I knew that more was coming. Sorella LeCates was prepared and brought napkins and plastic bags to hide under the table, haha. Next, Fratello Giardina gave us each a giant plate with 5 chicken breasts drenched in oil and covered in salad. 5 chicken breasts each!!! We really physically couldn't do it and resorted to stuffing pieces of meat in the bag under the table when they weren't looking. To finish it off, each of us got a heaping bunch of grapes. Yum!

Lia, a new convert we work with, makes us laugh. This week we were saying the closing prayer and the phone rang. Sorella LeCates paused for a moment to see what Lia would do. She answered the phone, talked for 10 minutes (!!), and we finished the prayer when she got off.

How much my mission has refined my desires. They are still so far from perfect but much much more righteous than when I started. How grateful I am!

I had before my mission, and it has only been strengthened, a testimony of God's perfect plan for us. Yes, we have weaknesses, yes we have problems, yes there are struggles and pain and suffering and unhappiness. But I know that it is always for our long term happiness. I know that if we turn to him and ask him to guide us and seek to do his will, our life will unfold and become so much more than we could do on our own. And much more importantly, we are creating something that will continue to progress through all of eternity. It's a perfect plan!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Short email!


Sorry, this will be really short because I have no time but I wanted to leave you all with a little something!

Quick notes:

Lidia was baptized on Saturday! Everything went well, she bore a beautiful testimony and a lot of members and family members showed up. We started filling the font a few hours before and went to check on it after an hour and realized that we forgot to put in the drain! Haha, so quickly fixed that and then had to spend a little bit of time filling the font with water from the bathroom and kitchen using buckets so that it would be filled in time. We made it and everything went smoothly.

Angelo is awesome! We had a lesson with him last week in which we simply asked him at the beginning if he had any questions. He pulled out a huge list of questions he had written down, it was intense! He had been studying the Bible and wanted to know what we thought about all sorts of questions. We talked a lot about eternal marriage (anyone have a good explanation for the NT passage about the woman married a bunch of times and no marriage in the resurrection?) and plural marriage and the law of consecration and what hell is and what happens in the millenium and what it means to have a perfect church. Phew, it was amazing! He is so smart! He is doing so well though, he knows pretty much everything about our doctrine already from his own study and for the most part loves it. He is just working on some concerns and we really need to get him reading and studying from the Book of Mormon.

We met a great filipino named Sonny who just moved here and speaks no italian and little english. He is searching for a job and loves to meet with us, but we need to find a Tagalog speaker!

It was Sorella Lecates bday on Sunday, wohoo!
Sorella Buma left us on Monday morning, she took a flight all by herself to Rome (isnt that so cool that she can just fly to another part of our mission??) We are managing without her ok so far!

I hear that missionaries start to fall apart as they get near the end. My body is doing okay but my stuff isn't! My bag broke a month ago, the zipper broke off and it gapes wide open. And then the button on my shoe popped off this week and the strap of my shoe just flops around when I walk and it is really annoying, haha. They are my last pair of shoes so they are going to have to make it 2 more weeks!

We did a new thing called gesso, I love it! Gesso means chalk. We draw things with chalk like the First Vision and the Plan of Salvation in a public piazza and talk to the people walking around us about it! I LOVE IT!!!

I have been studying the Atonement from the Book of Mormon this last month; reading all the sermons and parts that teach us of the Atonement and writing down notes. It has helped me to become a lot more familiar with references and appreciate the Atonement. Why do we have so much information about it? Ether 12:41. So that we will be convinced to seek after this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles wrote. How do we seek after him? We must give away all our sins to know him, just like King Lamoni's father. For must of us that is a process and the Christ comes to us as we slowly become more and more sanctified and like him.

Love ya!

Sorella Askew

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I love Sicily!

Hello dear family,

I love Sicily! We went to Taormina today for P-day, its a little town on the side of a mountain about an hour away. It has an ancient Greek theatre in an absolutely spectacular setting. That is, on the side of the mountain overlooking the beautiful Sicilian ocean. From the top of the theatre you can see the town, the ocean, beach, Mt. Etna, and even across the ocean you can see mainland Italy! It is just incredible, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I sent pictures!

This week was great! We had one really really good day full of appointments where everything seemed to go perfectly well. Each day had at least one really good moment, but the highlight of the week was that Giorgia got baptized!!!

On Thursday we had zone conference, my last zone conference of the mission. I love our mission president and his wife and pretty much all the missionaries in our mission. They are wonderful people. I loved sitting and listening and taking notes, just as at every other zone conference. But this one was particularly special to me. As I sat there, I had a very strong feeling of satisfaction. It's hard to explain but as I reflected back on the work I have done over the last year and a half and the thousands of people I have shared even just a piece of the gospel with, I felt satisfaction and joy. I felt that I had accomplished a great thing and that the Lord was pleased with my work. No matter how imperfect I was or how much I wasn't able to do, I could feel very clearly that the Lord accepted my mission. He accepted my sacrifice and was pleased. I remember back to some more difficult times when I wondered if what I was doing really made much of a difference, if I could really be here for a year and a half. And now I am so filled with gratitude that I was blessed with enough faith to keep moving forward and working and talking to people. It is as if all the small things I did that seemed useless at times all of a sudden added up to one complete mission of hard work. On Thursday, God gave me the vision so that I was able to see this. How wonderful!

On Friday night we went to the US military base, Sigonella. It was a little piece of America!! Big cars, English, grass yards, bikes out front, it was so cool! We met a less active member of the Sigonella branch, Aubrey, and her non-member husband and left them with a spiritual thought. They were so kind and actually asked us to return as soon as we could! So, we are going back this Friday! Afterwards we ate at an American member's house: breakfast for dinner! Pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, yum!

Saturday was 11-year old Giorgia's baptism! It is officially counted as a convert baptism and we taught her all the lessons before, but the ward was heavily involved and planned the entire baptismal program. All we had to do was show up early and fill up the font! It was a beautiful baptism and Giorgia was so excited.

The other great news is that Lidia is all ready to be baptized this Saturday! The more we meet her, the more I love her. She has a huge desire to follow Jesus Christ and even asked us this morning if she could serve a mission like us! She passed her interview on Sunday morning and we are doing all we can to get as many members possible to her baptism. The members have been great too, really taking charge to help her find the right size for baptismal clothes, and volunteering to do musical numbers for the baptism. An involved ward makes a huge difference! And I honestly do love this ward, just as I have loved every other Italian ward I have been in. It's hard to explain how uniquely special Italian members of the church are. One of my favorite things to do is participate in ward council, as we did this Sunday afternoon. Oh to sit with the leaders of the church and watch as they seek and receive inspiration to help others, wow! They argue and laugh and say some of the most inspired things, all in one breath.

Well, Sorella Buma is leaving us on Monday to transfer to Ladispoli mid-transfer. I am a little terrified that we are being left in the big city of Catania all by ourselves without a sure knowledge of the buses and no existent bus map or schedule. Sorella LeCates and I have some of the basic buses figured out, more or less, but as soon as we get lost on the other side of Catania, I will have no idea how to get out!! It's not as easy as "find a metro station" like Rome, haha. Things will be okay!

I love the work here, we are finding and teaching and baptizing and that makes us happy!

I am especially excited for Rosario the evangelist, Angelo the brilliant socially-awkward student, Dora the gorgeous searching-for-answers mom, Mary the Nigerian, and pretty much everyone else! Good things are happening here!

Love you all!
Sorella Askew

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pizza Oven in the garage!

Volcanos, conference and pizza


Guess what we did today for P-day?? We hiked up Mt. Etna! Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and Catania is right on the base of Mt. Etna. We can't see it from our apartment because it is obscured by all the buildings, but sometimes when we are in the car with the elders driving around Catania, Mt. Etna pops up into view. It always has this cloud of smoke coming from the top and it erupts fairly often. So today we decided to go hike Mt. Etna! Don't worry though, its totally safe and a huge tourist attraction. Although there are lots of cool pictures in the tourist stores of the last time lava came all the way down to where we were in 2011, surrounding all the shops and parking lots. Yikes! We went up with the elders in Catania and the sisters from Ragusa, another city in Sicily. You can take a bus from the station in Catania to the base of a bunch of trails and then we hiked up for a little bit to reach the top of a big crater. It was so neat! You are just hiking on volcanic rock, there are no trees or anything, just clouds and black rock. Great fun!

We had a great week, especially with general conference!
11-year old Giorgia is all ready for her baptism this Saturday. She is such a cute 11-year old, she sings and dances and has a great understanding of the gospel for being so young. This week we taught her about tithing using a cute example with small wrapped candies. We tell her to close her eyes and stick out her hands. We gave her 10 candies and then asked if we could have one back. She said yes and we took one and told her to close her eyes again. Then we filled her hands with treats so that they were overflowing. That is just how tithing is! Heavenly Father gives us everything, he has given us our lives, family, work, all our blessings. Then he asks for just one tenth in return. Why? He doesn't need it, He is all-powerful and could find another way to provide for his Church if He wanted to. But instead he asks for just a little bit to allow us to sacrifice and receive even more blessings, both temporal and spiritual. Nice!

Lidia is still preparing for her baptism as well. She has a lot of desire to be baptized and is reading and coming to church and making friends with the members. For a few days we were worried that she might have still been smoking after she told us she stopped. We weren't sure what to do because she smelled of smoke but would deny it if we asked her straight up. We did our best to help her understand that we were here to help and that she could be very honest with us if she ever relapsed. We also had her interview with the bishop to get a second opinion. We think she is doing okay now though because we have seen her a few times without her smelling like smoke. Yay! It's so funny too because we bring members to help us at the appointments with Lidia and instead of a lesson it turns into a "Lidia sharing her whole life story and all her woes" session. We are always struggling to find the balance between being courteous and building relationships and listening vs actually teaching and taking control of the situation. We usually listen for a few minutes and find some way to direct the conversation back to the lesson. Lidia will focus and listen for about 3 minutes but as soon as she finds a pause, she will turn to start talking to the member about something completely unrelated, haha. It is so typically Italian and I love it. We are learning great conversation-directing skills on the mission!

We found a few new investigators this week! I think I am known as the sister who loves finding work and I think I can blame it a little on my lack of patience and my desire to get things done efficiently, haha. I just have the attitude of "if our investigators aren't progressing and they aren't keeping commitments, that's fine, let's move on to find someone who will". I actually used to dwell a lot more on investigators who weren't acting and it was almost painful and definitely frustrating. As I've gotten older in the mission, I am more and more willing to let people go and move on to find those who are truly desirous and ready to hear the gospel. I have a strong testimony that these people are out there and we just need to find them, look at Adriano and Angela! Finding work can be tedious and hard but I have done so much of it that it has become easy and almost automatic. I love it!
Anyways, we found two different awesome awesome people on the buses. One is Grazia from the Dominican Republic. She is searching for God and studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses and wants to find out what church is true. The other is Angelo, a 20-something year old university student who believes in God and is mostly curious about "the Mormons" and willing to do our experiment (read, pray, come to church and you can know for yourself!). Both are awesome and willing to see us often (that's hard to find in Rome where everyone lives such hectic lives and is so busy with work).

General Conference was incredible!! I've found that general conference is always great but so much more incredible to watch as missionaries. It's a huge event and we literally count down the days for weeks leading up to conference. Ah, to listen to the words of prophets and apostles. It's a stark contrast to the confusion and depression and indifference of the world. We actually have a living prophet!! WOW!
We did things a little differently here in Catania (I couldn't help but think about Rome and my people and my Rome investigators who I knew were attending conference there. I miss them!) The elders and us drove to an American family's house to watch the Saturday sessions on Sunday and then we went back to the church to watch the Sunday morning session live. We ate Cinnamon rolls and an American lunch with this family from the branch and it was so strange to spend so much time with Americans. Ah! What am I going to do when I go home??
I loved all the talks but especially President Uchtdorf's and President Eyring's.

On Monday, I was assigned to give the training in our district meeting. I decided to simply talk about some of the things I had learned about missionary work and how to be a more effective missionary. I was shocked that I easily talked about it for an hour and could have kept going! Tomorrow we have zone conference and because this will be my last zone conference, I have to give a "dying testimony". That is, they make all the missionaries about to go home stand up and bear testimony. It's making me reflect a lot on my mission and the blessing it has been in my life. Maybe I'll share some thoughts next time but I KNOW that this was a necessary thing in my life and an incredible incredible thing that has changed me forever. How far I still have to go, and yet how far I have come!

One last cool thing from this week. We ate pizza at a member's house on Friday night. This member family actually built a brick oven in their garage, the type of oven that they have in Italy for making really really good pizzas. They had literally dozens of pizza dough balls prepared and for an entire hour they made pizza after pizza with all sorts of unique toppings on it (including a dessert Nutella pizza!). It may have been the best pizza I have ever had. And I must build a brick oven just like that in my garage one day when I grow up. Yum.

Love ya all!!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Sicily, it is a dream!

Where to start....?

First of all, I have this terrible feeling that I may have lost all my pictures from the last 5 transfers of my mission, ugh.... The memory card that they are on isn't working in any camera or on the computer. It can't read the pictures and it just tells me that I need to reformat the card. I tried to get the internet point person to burn it on to a CD but he said I have to reformat the card and lose the pictures. That gives me a horrible nauseous feeling inside, could I possibly have lost my pictures? I am going to try to not think about it right now....

Alright! On my last P-day in Rome, other than packing and organizing the area book and updating records, Sorella Dall and I visited Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the biggest churches in Rome. BUT, we didn't go just because it is a big, famous church. Do you remember Veronica? The investigator we had in Ostia who is our age and who restores old churches? Right now she is working on Santa Maria Maggiore, and we went to visit her! It may have been the coolest thing ever. We walk into this church and there are probably literally hundreds of tourists inside. The church is gigantic, with several smaller chapels on the side as you walk down the nave towards the main altar. One of the side chapels was blocked off with a big white tarp. As we approached it, there were several people looking through a little hole in the tarp and taking pictures. As we peeked in the hole, you could see this huge chapel covered with scaffolding where a few people were working on restoring the old frescos on the wall. THAT is where Veronica works. We called her and she came out from behind the tarp and let us through the locked entrance for a minute to talk to her. Can you imagine how special we felt with all the tourists looking on? I love Rome!!

On Thursday morning we went to the main train station in Rome for me to catch a train to Sicily with several other missionaries. Angela came with us to say goodbye and I was able to see Sorella Tutt for a few minutes too! The train took us all the way from Rome to Catania, no need to switch trains at all. So how did we get across the sea to the island of Sicily? They took apart the different cars of the train and stuck it on a ferry to cross the water. How cool! The ferry ride is only about 30 minutes and we are able to leave the train and walk around the ferry boat. It was gorgeous!! The sun was setting over the island of Sicily, the city of Messina, and the temperature was perfect. I fell in love immediately with Sicily, its beautiful mountains and hills and ocean.

We arrived in Catania about 9:30 and the elders gave us a ride to our apartment.
Everything is wonderful! My companions are Sorella LeCates from Highland and Sorella Buma from Sandy, and they are both great. Sorella Buma knows the city very well and Sorella LeCates just arrived from Bari. They are both great missionaries and we get along great. There are also two elders serving in Catania and just one ward, and the elders have a car and give us a ride sometimes!

Let me tell you a little bit about Sicily now!

Everything I have heard about it is true. There is a huge difference between the people in Sicily and the people in Rome! I loved Rome but Sicilians are so warm and easy to talk to! Doing "finding" and talking to people around us has become one of the easiest things. There is no more need to work really hard to break past someone's shell or worry about them feeling awkward or being rude to you. Nope, all I have to do is ask them how they are doing or if they are from Catania, and they will start talking. It's incredible and so easy! I LOVE IT! There are of course a lot of similarities, but it is almost like all the Italian traits or stereotypes are magnified 10 times in Sicily. People in Rome are Italian, yes, but people in Sicily are really really really Italian.
I had a stubbornness contest on the bus with someone that made me laugh the other day. I started talking to a guy and he was seated and I was still standing and he kept telling me to sit down next to him so we could talk more easily. I kept telling him no because I wasn't sure if I wanted to talk to him the entire bus ride or talk to someone else. He asked me again and I told him no again and he stuck out the pass along card I had given him and said "fine, you can take this back, I dont want to talk to you". Haha. I took the card and said "fine" and we stood there for a minute in silence (I wasn't going to give in!!). I started talking to him again and he slowly opened up. After a few minutes I asked him if he would like the pass along card back, and he said yes. I never did sit down :)

Catania is nothing like Rome but its fairly big! We live about a 20 minute walk away from the church (a real church building, wow!) and we spend most of our time waiting for or riding on buses. There is no metro or train like in Ostia/Rome and the buses here are waaaaaay less reliable than Rome. We honestly have no idea when they will arrive, they could come one right after the other or there could be over an hour wait between buses. I am very lost in the this city! I know the buses can be really frustrating for planning appointments, but I love sitting at the stops and on the buses and talking to people. If we get stuck far away with no buses, we can always call the elders to come pick us up!

The ward in Catania is big and full of drama, so different than Ostia! The missionaries here have been having a problem with the ward leaders- they have been telling several of our investigators that they aren't allowed to come to church anymore, for ridiculous reasons. What?! Also, the bishopric has come up with a "ward mission program" this month with a long list of restrictions for the missionaries. According to this written up program, we are not allowed to talk to people on the streets or buses because who knows who we might be talking to (um, welcome to a mission!). Before we teach someone, we must ask for their documents and they must have a job. If they don't have a job, or if they live in a certain part of the city, we aren't allowed to teach them (!!). They are some of the most ridiculous rules, but I am not too bothered because I feel fine to simply ignore most of them. But I know how important it is for the missionaries to have a good relationship with the ward leaders and it does create a big problem with they actually forbid investigators from coming to church. I think we will be able to work something out, I am not too worried! What an adventure!

Our apartment is huge, 4 rooms and a balcony with the best view of the ocean. We live right above a bakery and our apartment always smells like fresh bread, it is a huge temptation. It is strange being so far away from Rome, my home for over a year. I feel like my mission has made a circle, I have returned to the old Catania mission territory. I started in Taranto with a Catania missionary trainer and then spent a year in Rome and have finally returned back south. My trainer Sorella Stevenson served here and it is so fascinating to go back through the old investigator records and see these people I have heard about from her and Sorella Pickett. It just feels like being in Taranto again and it is surreal.

The food is wonderful. They eat gelato with brioche, a sweet bread. It is literally a gelato sandwich and it is heavenly.

I dont understand their dialect, Siciliano. It is a whole different language. Some of the old people only speak in dialect. Ahh!!

We have two baptisms coming up, a cute 11 year old girl and a woman name Lidia! Lidia prayed to know if this was the right path and had a dream about an angel presenting to her white plates and telling her that what was written on them was true. When she woke up, she felt like she had started a new life and all her past mistakes were wiped clean.

There is a US military base in Catania and they have a branch with a few American families that meets in the same building. So we attend church for 6 hours on Sunday, it is so long! It is also so strange to see the vast differences between Italians and Americans, wow, I will miss Italy so much. Cool to be missionaries for an American branch though!

I love this place and am excited to be here!!

Love you all!
Sorella Askew

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Last transfer...

And the news is in! Where will Sorella Askew be serving her last transfer......??




The beautiful Sicilian city of Catania!!! A city in southern Sicily on the coast, at the base of the largest active volcano in Europe, Mt. Etna. Booyah!
I am just a little bit kind of sort of excited. YAY! SICILY!!! Wohooooo.
I leave tomorrow morning on a 10 hour train ride and arrive tomorrow night.
And who is my new companion? Well, it is actually a little tricky, I will have two companions! Sorella Buma who has been in Catania for 4 transfers and both Sorella LeCates and I are joining her. Sorella Buma will stick around with us for a few weeks, show us the city and the work, and then she will leave in the middle of the transfer and come up to Ladispoli. So, I will have two companions for the first two weeks and then just Sorella LeCates for the last few weeks. It will be so much fun! I already know Sorella LeCates, she started her mission in Rome and we did lots of Pdays together. She is from Alpine, UT and is a cute girl. Guess who is taking my spot with my darling Sorella Dall? Sorella Tutt!! She and I are following each other around, we have had pretty much all of the same companions in our mission and served in a lot of the same cities.
Oh how exciting transfer time is! Especially in Italy, where the mission is so big you can fly on an airplane from one city to the next! And I am finally going to Sicily! I have heard so much about this magical place from my other companions, I have heard about the amazing food (both quality and quantity), the beautiful country, the new language (they all speak Siciliano!! What??), and most of all the warm, generous, and quirky people. What an adventure it will be! Strange thing too, 98% of the population of Catania is Italian! What a change that will be from Rome and all the foreigners I have taught here. Ahh!

So, more than one year after arriving in Rome, 9 transfers later, I am leaving, headed back down south to finish my mission.

Oh what to say now? Rome will always have a very very special place in my heart. Its my home. I dont remember what it is like to be anywhere else, I am so accustumed to the people, the food, the metro system, the ruins, the churches, the permeating influence of the Vatican (I am sure that will still be in Catania, no worries!). I love it here. I love this city and this people.

And I especially loved Ostia. There is no better place than Ostia for contacting, talking to hundreds and hundreds of people each week from all around the world. Some of the most incredible experiences ever have I heard from the mouths of these members. They are a chosen people, they are firm and steadfast and when they talk of the gospel they are filled with the Spirit of God. I have learned more from these members and investigators than I have ever learned from anyone. They are a living example of how the restored gospel can make you into the extraordinary person that the Lord wants you to be.
Angela and Adriano, what treasures! They are both elect people; Angela with her absolute desire to follow the Lord no matter what the sacrifice and the great joy in her life that has come because of it. Adriano because of his brilliance and humility and kindness; so full of goodness and kindness!
What a privilege it was to know them and help them along their spiritual journey!

I am trying to think specifically of things I have learned in the last few transfers. Most of what I have learned I have already shared. I have learned to have the faith to get back up again every time I fall down. I learned of how extremely important fervent and specific prayers are. I have learned of having a vision and looking forward to the fruits of our labors. Sometimes we lose sight of the vision, of what its all about, and we have to remind ourselves. I have learned how infinite the Atonement is, how thoroughly it covers all of our weaknesses no matter what they are or how serious we perceive them to be, if we have faith and continue to repent and submit ourselves to His will. I learned to find much more joy in missionary work. Catholic priests, fig trees, rain, singing, lessons with Adriano, Miscia the next door neighbor cat, bruschetta, finding the one person who is searching in a crowd of people distracted by the world, baptisms, speaking Italian - all of these bring me joy! I learned discipline and overcoming the natural man. That takes a lot of work but its possible and its right. I have learned about listening to the Spirit and remembering and trusting in experiences from the past. I have started to figure out how to love God with all my heart, mind, mind, and strength and to work for Him and His glory. For some people like Angela, that comes naturally and easily. For some of us, it takes many years of discipline and good habits to come to know and love our Savior. I've come to an obvious but true conclusion that we reap the rewards according to how much work we put into it. Duh! If I expect great things, I must put in great effort. No laziness!!

I think I will finish here. I love you all, thanks for all your support. I know that this is the true restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that through it we can achieve all our dreams and become who we want to become. I know we must learn to trust Him enough to submit our will to Him.

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



So on Sunday, Sorella Dall and I were walking around Hotel Satellite (where we have church), waiting for church to start. We stepped out from one of the hallways into the lobby of the hotel and there was a very familiar face looking back up at me! I wasn't sure if I was seeing things right and I stopped and looked at Sorella Dall and then back at this familiar face, which was still staring at me. It was real! It was my Uncle Charlie!!! I guess he had a few extra hours in Rome for a business trip and decided to come find me at the Hotel.
Wow, I was shocked to see him there, it was quite the surprise. He stuck around for the first two hours of church and I loved being able to show him the members and investigators and especially introducing him to my two favorite people, Angela and Adriano! What a joy!!

Other than that, lots of random things this week. We crashed a Filipino party on Sunday, where our Filipino friend Linda kept trying to get us to sing karaoke and dance. I ate so much food that I literally had to sit down on the side of the street when we left and wait for the nausea to pass. Mamma mia!

Luca is still sort of progressing. He reads when we push him to read and is still waiting on his "conversion" experience, where God will give him a new heart and take him out of a pit of mediocrity. We have tried so much to help him understand and feel the Spirit, but he has no trust in the way that a person feels, saying that we all have wicked hearts and the only thing you can trust is the Bible. We have decided that the best thing to do will be to let him be for a little bit, see him less often but pray really hard for him.
I've reflected a lot about conversion as we have worked with Luca. I have always learned that our conversion is a process, but its never been such a personal, meaningful truth as it is to me now. How quickly I become frustrated with how slow the process seems! How easily discouraged I have been in the past when I see all the things that I lack and how much more progress I still need! But thanks to the restored gospel, I have something that Luca doesn't. I understand more about my responsibility to act, the role of faith, and the fact that we don't receive this "new heart" and are filled with righteous desire immediately. IT TAKES TIME! And hard work. And how grateful I am for that! To change my heart and desires and grow more love for God and others has taken tremendous effort on my part. And how much I have learned of patience and faith and maybe above all else, diligence. God doesn't change all our desires in an instance, leaving us with our bad habits that will quickly cause us to stumble and fall. Nope, rather he lets us work to develop these divine attributes along the way; so that as our desire to do righteous things grows, so also does our capacity. How much more prepared will I now be to be a wife and a mother and a friend and a ward member because of this! Of course it is so hard to see this eternal perspective in the moment when we are struggling and wondering why we cant have this converted heart all in one instance :)

I talked to a woman on the train this week and had a list of the "questions of the soul"; things like "what is the purpose of life?" and "where do I come from?" and what happens after we die. I asked her if she had ever wondered any of these things. She told me, of course sometimes she wonders. But there are two problems. One is that these questions without answers "disturb" the soul, the other is that there are too many distractions in the world and when you are distracted, you don't think about these things. That was a wise woman. I am so convinced that that is one of the great tools of Satan. Distraction. I look around at the people on the trains and the streets and I am overwhelmed with how distracted they are. Oh if only we convince them all to take a little more time to slow down and reflect on the things that really matter!! Something we all need to do in our own lives!

Love you all!!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Singing successes


Not much new to report, we are still doing a lot of finding and we are finding new investigators but then quickly sorting through them as well (we hear a lot of "I'm too busy" or "I'll call you" or "I have absolutely no intention of ever joining your church" excuses, haha). That's okay, we are working through it and inviting lots of people to read the Book of Mormon and pray along the way!

One new thing we started doing this week was singing hymns to people when we are doing house. It was an idea that came to me during zone conference, a spiritual impression. I remember that President Kelly was talking about knocking on doors to find people, he wasn't even encouraging us to do it, he was just talking about it as a side note, but I felt this tingling sensation and this idea that I thought we should do some more house in trying to find people! Later on in the same conference, the idea came to me to sing to people at their doors and help them feel the Spirit. So we decided to try it!

On Friday night we had a lot of extra time so we chose a street in Ostia and off we went to do some casa. They would open the door, we would ask if we could sing a short song for them! Most people still say no, some people listen to our sing and smile and thank us. One of the first few doors, an Italian woman answered. She said, "no thanks, I am Catholic" and we countered, "that's okay, we just want to sing to you!" She hesitated and then invited us in to sing to her, her 20-something year old daughter, and the Spanish girlfriend of her son. The three sat on the couch and we stood and sang one verse of Sono un Figlio di Dio (I am a Child of God). When we finished, we looked up to see all three with tears running down their faces!
They invited us to sit down and asked us a lot of questions about who we were and what we were doing here. They explained to us how the woman's son (and the other girls' brother or boyfriend) was in prison right now and how they were going through a really rough time and how we were sent to them at just the right moment. We shared a little bit about how we are all children of our Heavenly Father and how he loves us and has a plan for us and our happiness. They invited us to come back and share more and we set up an appointment. It was a very touching moment and a testimony to me how God prompts us to do things so that we may be more able to more fully serve his children.

Other random moments:

Yesterday Rome public transport went on strike from 9 am to 5 pm. We live in a neighborhood, far from everything else and if we get stuck in our neighborhood with no way to take a bus or a metro out, we were left doing casa or street finding all day long! So we decided to go to Ostia in the morning before the strike started and spend the whole day there. After eating lunch, we walked to the library to study Italian for an hour and found that it was closed for the strike as well! With no better options, we camped out in front of the library on the steps and studied the language. It turned out to be a great finding activity! Every one who walked up, we would inform them that the library was closed and then when they stood there, not knowing quite what to do next, we would strike up a conversation. Two phone numbers taken from that, yes!

We are helping Adriano prepare to get the priesthood. He is taking his time because he ran across a few verses in the Doctrine and Covenants that have him worried. One of them is D&C 84:42
42 And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.
Adriano read this to us and he said "I don't want God to warn his angel army about me if I don't fulfill my priesthood duties!" Haha, he is a little nervous now, but we are working through it :)

There is a place called Circo Massimo in the center of Rome by the Colosseum. It is an ancient chariot race track and now it is just a huge empty field you can walk around in. Luca is working in a different city outside of Rome now so if we want to meet with him after work, he takes the train into Termini, the central station in the middle of Rome and we have to get creative about where to meet up with him. Last week, we decided to meet in Circo Massimo. So the three of us plopped down in the middle of this ancient chariot race track and read from the Book of Mormon. I love Rome.

Spiritual thought for the week:
I have been thinking about the grace of Jesus Christ and how we are "saved". We have so many commandments we need to keep. Sure, it might be relatively easy for us to never drink coffee or wine, or to go to church every Sunday. But to honestly love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? To direct our thoughts to the Savior and pray always? To be fully converted until Christ, being born again as a new creature? We know that these too are requirements for the celestial kingdom. But it all just seems so impossible sometimes!!! I am not always filled with love, not all my thoughts are heavenly, I am not always filled with great desire to serve God and glorify Him. That is a lot to be continually working on. But that's just the point! Yes, we know that these things are required, but as long as we are working on it Christ's grace makes up the rest! Even if we simply have the desire to change our desires, that is enough if it is sincere, and we can be made perfect in Christ. We can't look at all our weaknesses (which God gave us coming into this life) and think to ourselves, "I'm not filled with love like the scriptures command me. I fail. I am not a true disciple." Instead, we see where we are at and we have the faith and hope that one day, thanks to Christ's perfect and infinite Atonement, we can have that perfect love, and He will help us get there. Discouragement is a tool of Satan to keep us faithless and much below our true potential. But we choose to believe in and follow Christ when He tells us that it is all possible thanks to Him.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fruits of the baptism street

Hello dear family!

Do you remember last week how we found "baptism street", the street where we talked to everyone on it and in 45 minutes, 7 people gave us their contact information?? This week we have been meeting with some of the contacts from baptism street! It's such a blessing too because they all live really close to each other- we can set one appointment right after the other and just walk down the street. What a change from the usual Rome traveling where it takes an hour or more to get from one appointment to the next. Instead we found this little niche in our prostelyting zone, a little town called Vitinia where you can walk from one side to the other in 20 minutes, that seems to be full of people who are willing to meet up. And where we find gold, we keep digging! We are going to continue to concentrate our efforts in Vitinia.

Vitinia success story number 1:

One of the people we met in the miracle 45 minutes was an Albanian man named Pietro. We stopped and talked to him, but he spoke very little Italian. We explained to him briefly the Book of Mormon and told him that we have a copy in Albanian, could we bring it to his house? He said yes and left us his address. Now, in the past I haven't had great experiences with Albanian men and I will admit that I was a little skeptical. I figured that he didn't speak Italian very well, and didn't really understand what we were saying or have much interest, but invited us over because we were two young American girls.
We decided to pass by anyways a few days later and walked down the steps of the address he gave us to find a kind of junky yard and a basement apartment. Sorella Dall and I were a little unsure if we wanted to keep going or turn back but we swallowed hard and walked around the corner to find an open door. Hmm, now what to do? We called inside "Permesso?" and an Albanian woman popped out from behind the corner.
"We are looking for Pietro"
"He's not here right now," and she asked us "Who are you?" We explained how we were missionaries and met Pietro the other day on the street and he agreed to let us bring him a book. She looked at us a little waryingly but muttered under her breath "Pietro does like to read". We talked to her for a few minutes at the door and discovered that she was Pietro's wife (sigh of relief, he has a wife!), but during our conversation, we were literally hopping up and down, swatting at our legs because the doorway was covered with mosquitoes. Finally we asked if we could come in and get away from the mosquitoes and she surprisingly said yes! She let us in and we quickly discovered that their house was like one giant shrine to everything Catholic. All the walls were covered in the pictures of Padre Pio, other saints, the Pope, crosses, figurines adorning all the dressers, a giant statue of a bleeding Madonna, and even holy water at the door (the wife blessed us with the holy water!). Pietro's wife (Veronica) warmed up to us a lot and introduced us to one of their children, a daughter our age who was incredibly nice. She teaches catechismo (the class for all the Catholic kids before their first communion). After getting to know us a little bit and deciding we were harmless- I think Sorella Dall's broken Italian and sweetness soften anyone- Veronica agreed to let us come back and share our message.
We went back on Monday night to find Pietro waiting for us at the table, Albanian Restoration pamphlet in front of him. He had read the whole thing and was very curious. Even though he didnt speak much Italian, with the help of Veronica we explained very simply the whole Restoration. He listened intently and asked a few questions, and at the end told us he would immediately start to read the Book of Mormon. It was a simple lesson but I was amazed at the Spirit that was there. I know he will read the Book of Mormon, and we are praying that his heart will be touched. What a difference from our first impression of Pietro to our powerfully spiritual experience teaching him of the restoration. It turns out that Pietro was a deeply religious, well-read man with a beautiful family. We finished our lesson and I didn't even want to leave their house, there was such a special spirit there.

Vitinia success story number 2:
Silvia! I can't remember if I talked about her, but she is an older woman with health problems that loves meeting with us. She almost almost came to church on Sunday, came out of her house to tell the members that were there to give her a ride that she wasn't feeling well and couldn't make it. She felt so bad though that she sent us a text message apologizing and called us after church. We need to help her get hooked on the Book of Mormon though!

Several other people from Vitinia as well that are looking great!

Other randomness from this week:

I gave a talk in church about the value of the scriptures. I don't know why I still get so nervous speaking in front of other people and how to get over it! The talk stressed me out the entire week and I though about it a lot and prepared well. But I decided to bring to the stand with me just a list of bullet points to go over. Somehow I managed to do it and I think it turned out okay! Now I know that if I can give sacrament meeting talks in Italian with only bullet points instead of all written out, I can certainly do it in English! We used the fact that I was giving a talk as an excuse to make Luca stay for all three hours in our church rather than escaping to his baptist church the last hour :)

Luca is doing about the same. Sorella Dall and I determined we just need to help him feel the Spirit and the way that we can do this is to jump start him reading the Book of Mormon. He has commented several times how strange and different our church is with our whole idea of the Restoration and other scriptures, but has said, "I guess I just need to read the Book of Mormon to understand a little more". Yes! But we tell him that every time we see him and he still isn't doing it. How are we going to help him? A reading calendar!

We came up with a new idea: when we are doing house, we are going to offer to sing a hymn for them! It worked once beautifully since we started trying it. Also, when we go home at night, we started singing I am a Child of God to the lone person working at the train station. It always makes them smile and we hope that more than that, they feel the Spirit.

We had zone conference this week and they gave each companionship a DVD player!! AHH!!! There is a set of missionary training DVDs called The District 2. A year or two ago, they had a camera crew follow around a real district of missionaries in San Diego and now they use the clips for training us how to teach better. But it is so wonderful having a DVD player that every night Sorella Dall and I get home and after nightly planning, we "treat" ourselves to 10 or 15 minutes of The District 2. Haha, its the best!

This week I have been thinking about the power of specific prayers again. I know that when I have very specific prayers, I get very specific answers and then my faith in Heavenly Father grows and I feel more love and gratitude towards him. It really is a remarkable concept and my testimony of prayer has increased tremendously. Try it! Pray out loud and pray very specifically! Counsel with God! Tell him about your desires and how you think you could reach them with His help! Or, if you are like me, you can also pray that your desires will change and become more righteous. Slowly slowly, they will, and your heart will become more converted to Him.

Love you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Progress of Italy Temple, August 2011

It's warm!

It's warm but we are drinking lots of water (and eating lots of fruit too, don't worry Mom!)!

We have been doing a lot of finding this week because most of the people we teach or want to start teaching are on vacation or too busy right now. I think I have heard probably 37 times in the last few weeks, the phrase, "Call me in September". Good news, September is just around the corner! We are pushing through it though and the great thing is that I love when we have set aside time to do finding work.
We've seen some good results and are following up on some of the potentials.

Random moments:

Remember the Catholic priest, don Serafino? As we went into Rome for our district meeting I told Sorella Dall about how we once went to go teach this Catholic priest in his church, close to where we have district meeting every Monday. Her eyes got all big and I asked her if she would like to go back and follow up to see if he has started reading the Book of Mormon. "Absolutely!" she said and we gave him a phone call and stopped by. He has not started reading the Book of Mormon yet (he says he is too busy right now) but Sorella Dall bore a beautiful testimony to him and we agreed to come back next week and talk more. I told her to bear her testimony on the apostasy and restoration ("I know that this is the only church with the authority of the priesthood, etc) but luckily Sorella Dall didn't listen and she stuck to the more tactful testimony of the Savior and the Book of Mormon and the peace it brings into her life. Don Serafino is now officially an investigator! Does he know that? Haha, I think not.

We are teaching a new woman named Silvia who was a result of our awesome baptism street finding experience on Saturday (see audio recording). She has been going to different churches for her whole life but has never been to ours. She is currently meeting with the Jehovah's Witnesses (we can't get away from them!) and is impressed with them because they seem to really live their religion rather than simply professing it in church. I think she will like our church as well then! Although we had kind of an interesting church experience last week with Angela's husband Angelo. Angelo is the not-religious Italian husband of the new convert Angela, and he has been coming to church every week with Angela. Elder Larcher told us about how in priesthood the other week the bishop asked for volunteers to help someone move and no one raised their hand. "Monday?" no one. "Tuesday?" no one. "Wednesday, Thursday, Friday?" no one. Angelo spoke up and said, "this is ridiculous. I smoke weed, I don't go to church, but if someone needs my help, I am there instantly to help them." Now, I personally know these members really well. I know that they are charitable, wonderful people who are willing to sacrifice for others, and that they really were probably very busy that week. And I also have gotten to know Angelo pretty well, and I know that he has had a hard life and avoids the sister missionaries when we come over, but I know he has a heart of gold. It was a striking example to me of how we have to be careful not tto judge others, whether Angelo judging them, or the members judging Angelo.

The best part of this week by far has been working with Luca, the 26 year old Romanian baptist who is coming to church and meeting with us, but full of skepticism. We have been praying and studying hard for him this week and on Monday night had a very spiritual experience. After a family home evening with him and some members (singing spiced up hymns with the guitar!), we sat down with Luca on a bench at the train station and talked for almost two hours. He really opened up and told us everything about his life, his doubts, his feelings of inadequacy, his concern of not being converted or a real Christian. He described to us how he grew up Baptist but always felt like a hypocrite because he would always go to church and participate in the choir but never was converted in his heart. And then he quoted from the quote written in our pamphlet on the Restoration. There would be a famine in the land, not a famine for bread or water, but a famine for the word of God. He described how in the last year, he has felt this famine in his own life personally for the word of God. His desire keeps growing but the emptiness cannot seem to be filled.
We know that at least part of the reason that he feels this emptiness is because he was being prepared to meet us. It is so difficult for me to describe how clearly I know that the gospel truths we have will fill up this emptiness he feels. I know that. Sorella Dall knows that. Luca doesn't yet believe that what we offer will help. But to hear him express how much he wants to know God and how his church cant seem to fill this emptiness was glorious and frustrating at the same time. Glorious because we have the solution. Frustrating because we cant give it all to him at once, he must begin to pray sincerely and search the scriptures and find out for himself how the restored gospel is the answer to his need.
We both felt so much love for him that night, so much desire to help him, and it was a clear answer to my previous prayers for charity. It was also a bold confirmation, clearer than I have ever received before, that right now Sorella Dall and Sorella Askew are called to be
Ostia for a very specific purpose. Never have I been so sure that I was supposed to serve in a particular city, with a particular companion at a particular time. For all the other people I may feel inadequate or incapable of teaching, I know that right now we are the best two missionaries to be here helping Luca at this exact moment in his life. His concerns have touched our lives and we are the ones that God very specifically chose to help him.
And so the work continues!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New missionary fun!

Cara famiglia,

My new companion is Sorella Dall from Holladay, UT, just arrived in Italy. She is great! Sorella Dall is studying physical therapy and went to BYU Hawaii before coming on a mission and she is a ballerina! She is exactly what I imagined when I picture having a new missionary as a companion. She doesn't speak Italian and I love it! It has been such an adventure running around Ostia and Rome, helping her learn basic phrases like "I got to Italy 3 days ago", pointing to random people on the street and telling her "Your turn, go talk to them!" And she is wonderful!
I picked her up at the train station in Rome on Thursday. Our new convert Angela and one of our investigators Antonella came as well because they wanted to see Sorella Olsen off. It was so chaotic, saying goodbye to my companion, talking to Antonella and Angela, entertaining Angela's 3-year old, and getting to know my new companion, who had no idea what was going on! As soon as we left the station, all the feelings of anxiety and stress just simply left. It was such a blessing. Sorella Dall and I brought her bags back to the apartment and left to go to the Relief Society activity with our 27-year old investigator/neighbor Silvia. Sorella Dall understands little of what is going on (it reminds me of my first transfer in Taranto! It is a miracle to think of how much I have learned in the last year and how much easier it is to understand these fast speaking Italians now), and it is a big change from Sorella Olsen who bounced all over the place, talking to everyone. But I love it. I don't even know why. It has been the easiest transition and a great week.
That first night, we went finding together, her first time preaching the gospel to the Italians!! We talked to people on the train and on the street and picked up a gelato before heading home. Usually I would start talking to someone, tell them how my companion just arrived in Italy and was learning Italian, and ask them if she can practice and tell them about why she is here. No one can say no to that! It works beautifully! Then, Sorella Dall in broken Italian explains that she is a missionary and she came to Italy to teach about Jesus Christ. I'll then pick it up from there, explain a little more about our message and turn to Sorella Dall and ask her to bear her testimony. In the last few days, I have been pushing her a little more, approaching someone and standing there to let Sorella Dall talk for as long as she can - getting to know them, introducing the gospel message, explaining the Book of Mormon and when she runs out of things to say, I'll finally join and help out! It is the best thing ever! Sorella Dall is great, she is so willing to talk to people, whether on her own initiative or someone I point to, saying "that person wants you to talk to them!"

August in Italy is vacation month, and a lot of people we teach are either extremely busy working for the vacation season or they are out of town. So we will get to do a lot of finding this month! That's okay, its probably my favorite part of missionary work. We have seen some spectacular things. I have been praying more sincerely recently to find people who need to hear our gospel message. One day in particular, we said hi to an older woman and asked how she was. She looked at us with tears in her eyes and said "bad. My husband died 4 months ago" We sat down next to her in the lobby of her apartment building and talked for quite a while. She so desperately wanted to know about where her husband was now, what he was like, if he remembered her, and if he was suffering, and I have never been so grateful in my life to be able to answer all her questions with complete confidence in the reality of the Plan of Salvation. I have never been so struck by how truly incredible it is that we have all the answers. All the other people in the world have ideas, they hope, they have the faith that things are okay without the details. But to see this suffering woman look at me with earnestness as we told her about where her husband was and what he was doing, was a whole other experience. Even something as simple as the fact that he had the same personality, she would look up at me and ask "really? is that so?". And I could promise her with all sincerity that it was.
That same day as we were going home at night, we talked to a woman sitting on the bench with a suitcase. She was probably 30 years old, so full of life and kind, very religious. She had been married for just over a month and her husband started hitting her. She was hurt and sad and didn't know what to do, so she was escaping to stay with her parents in Calabria. We talked together and gave her a Book of Mormon, promising her that she would find comfort and answers in the words of that book. She clutched it to her chest and thanked us profusely. I know that we were led to these people.

As always, I have very few minutes left and much more I would like to say.

Luca our investigator is doing great, he came to church, hung out with the members at the beach the day after. He has been religious his whole life (he is 26) and gone to church and done the right things but he doesn't feel converted in his heart. He still has doubts and doesn't know if God listens to him and he doesn't know how to know what is true.

I have had several really spiritual experiences this week, especially in working with the members. Marco, 37, from a poorer family, little education, living at home, and yet watching how absolutely inspired he is and how much God has blessed him with wisdom and the Spirit because he is a humble seeker.
It is incredible watching how much Adriano still grows from week to week. His testimony is growing, his understanding is increasing. The gift of the Spirit he just received is truly working in his life.

I love this work, my love for it is growing. I know God answers our simple, humble, sincere prayers. I know we must desire the right things to have the right results.

Love you!