Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bracciano Castle

Next P-Day adventure: Bracciano, the castle where Katie Homes and Tom Cruise got married!

I am Bagnata!

I am bagnata!! That means soaked in Italian. I am soaked because we left our apartment not knowing it was raining and when we got outside it was just sprinkling and we thought we would be okay without umbrellas. We walked across town (didnt realize how far it would be) to find a referral (who wasnt home) and it started pouring! We didnt want to go home and changed so now we are sitting at the internet point and we are soaking wet and cold. BURR!! Our apartment is freezing too, its always in the 40s and when we turn the heater on, it gets up to the low 60s. We turn the heater on in the bedroom and refuse to leave it while we are home studying. If someone forgets something in the other room, we take turns running out into the dark and dreary wilderness of the rest of our apartment. Good mission memories.

Ladispoli is still great, just a little colder this week.

Last pday we went into Rome because Sorella Tutt hadnt seen the city yet. I wore a ridiculous brightly striped skirt I found in the death closet (where past missionaries leave clothes they dont want) We were walking down the street and saw this mini parade of dancing Hare Krishnas coming towards us. It looked awesome and so I pulled out my camera and started recording just as they were approaching. Then, one of them grabbed me and another one grabbed Sorella Tutt and pulled us into their parade and started dancing with us. We didnt know what to do, we were taken by surprise! Another one took my camera and recorded the whole thing. It is a hilarious video, I will have to find a way to send it to you.

Thursday: finding and running away from African men who started following us. I didnt know they were creepy until after we approached them and started talking!

Friday: Taught an old investigator Maria Anna who tells us that her picture of Jesus broke without falling and it must be a sign that we are meant to come into her life right now. I didnt quite see the connection. I would have thought that a broken picture of Jesus would be a sign to avoid us if it was going to be a sign at all.
We met with two spectacular members who fed us pasta carbonara (pretty much the best thing ever), Martina and Maurizio. They have only been married for two months and are ridiculously in love and they have a fantastic story, just like in a film. Martina was working in a supermarket at the time and something fell over and she bent over to pick it up and Maurizio was there doing his shopping and went to help her. As they both bent over, they bumped heads. It was love at first sight for Maurizio but Martina had no interest at all. Maurizio kept stopping by the store to ask her out on a date and she finally said yes to get him to stop bugging her. She had this brilliant idea that she could tell him all about her religion and the rules that she lived like not drinking and the law of chastity so that he would lose interest. So she did just that on their first date. However, instead of being turned off, Maurizio was like "wow, that is great. I really respect you for that". As she kept telling him more, he become more and more interested and then took the missionary lessons and was baptized!! Martina fell in love and they were married a year later in the temple. They are adorable together.

Saturday: We started english course for Ladispoli Saturday night. We do a free english course in the church on Tuesday and Saturday. We had spent hours doing pubblicity, and we passed out over a hundred fliers to people we talked to and received a whole bunch of phone calls asking for more information and a whole bunch of people we talked to said they were coming. We were so excited and prepared ourselves well, expecting a good turn out. A member from the branch came as well to help out. We received a phone call 20 minutes before 5 from someone who was already there so we ran to the church. People were already showing up!! We talked to them and they couldnt attend that night but said they would come back on tuesday. We waited and waited and 5:00 came and went and not a single person showed up! Crazy!! Of all the people who seem so excited and interested and all the people who said they wanted to come, not one actually came!!! It was a big disappointment for us, but at the same time a little bit of relief to know that its not just on gospel-related appointments that people dont follow through on their commitments. I think something Sorella Pickett once said is true; Italians are people of habit which is why it is hard to get them to change. But if you can, they become very faithful and strong members of the church for the same reason. Our member friend consoled us with stories from his mission.

On Saturday we also had an incredible lesson with our friend Giovanni. We had two young members with us, one an RM and the other waiting for his call, and they helped us so much. I am still convinced that bringing members to appointments is the best idea ever. Giovanni talked and talked and talked (all of them deep, valid, thought-provoking concerns) and we together taught him principles from pretty much every missionary lesson. At the end, we decided together with him that he would read the Book of Mormon (for the second time) and since he now has a more sincere desire (rather than mostly curiosity), he would retry the promise in Moroni 10. He is spectacular.

Sunday: Worked with Ermana Alicino and her husband (a family in the branch) and she told us everything about all the less actives in the area. We have a lot of good work ahead of us. I am still amazed at how incredible Italians are. They are so full of life and passion and express themselves in incredible ways that I have never seen an American do. Phew. She is one of my new favorite people ever. Her husband and she have this crazy relationship where they are constantly fighting but almost in a loving, teasing way, where they both are ridiculously stubborn. They are just incredibly Italian, there is no better way to describe it.

Tuesday: Success!! 15 people at english course and it was wonderful! We taught and laughed and played games together. I am amazed that you can throw two american girls into a little town in Italy and they can put together an english course from nothing and teach it with no experience. We can do incredible things with the Lord's help. Sorella Tutt gave a perfect introduction to the Book of Mormon at the end as our spiritual thought. Things are picking up!

Lots of other good things to talk about but I have to go!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ladispoli is adorable!

I am in love with Ladispoli in every way! Its an adorable little city on the coast, about a 30 min train ride from Rome . Its a lot smaller than the other cities I have served in and a lot more calm and peaceful. All the Italians we talk to tell me that the city is "tranquillo". We live in the ideal place of the city, we can see the ocean from our balcony, it's a 3 minute walk to church, 6 minutes to the city center, 5 minutes to the ocean, 4 minutes to a bunch of parks and piazzas. Its PERFECT. The people are friendly, the weather is great, the beach is beautiful, everything is so much more peaceful than Rome . Its actually strange, sometimes we walk to certain parts of the city and it feels like we are back in the United States . There is an area with a few stores and a large open parking lot (this doesnt exist in Italy ) and some of the apartment buildings are more modern. No worries though, it is still definitely an Italian town and I love it.

The branch is big for a branch, 60 to 70 active members. They want to become a ward soon. Great, solid families, a lot like Rome 2. A lot of the members live within walking distance (what?? unheard of!) and they want to help with the work here. The ward mission leader has started a program for this year where we meet with members and give them a calendar of scriptures to read for a month and several invites along the way with the ultimate goal of bringing one person to church at the end of the month. Families are open to try it.

The apartment is huge and beautiful. We've had two other sorelle with us for the last week, one of them being Sorella Laws who was just transferred out of Ladispoli and has helped us get to know the area and the work here. She has been sick though so she and her companion stay inside all day and we wander around the city discovering where things are on our own. Its sure great to come home to dinner or brownies though and its entertaining having all four of us in one apartment. How do the four anziani apartments get anything done??

Review of the week.

Thursday: Spent time at the train station picking people up and dropping people off. Traveling back and forth from Rome to Ladispoli several times to get things there and worked out. The wheels on my big suitcase are broken so its a pain to lug around. We are only about 12 minutes away from the train station though.

Friday: Weekly planning with Sorella Laws explaining the investigators (we have a handful of them) and the less actives and the members and the city. We met Valentina, a less active member, and tried to go to visit a member but the member cancelled on us while we were on the train. We started talking to a woman and by the time we get off, we were in Tarquinia, near the border of the Milan mission. We expected that a train would come every 20-30 minutes because that is how often they come in Ladispoli but because we were past the main train stops, we had to wait two hours to get home! It was great though because we talked to a woman there and then set some transfer goals together.

Saturday: Met Carmela who has a baptismal date but she felt too pressured by the last missionaries and wants space. Had an appointment with a past investigator named Giovanni. He is great. Our lesson lasted for almost 3 hours because he talked and talked and talked and talked. All we did was get to understand his background and answer his questions. He is young and bright and wants to find the truth although stuck on some small points and we want to help him understand the importance of having a prophet to guide us. He came to church on Sunday.

Sunday: I had lost my voice entirely because I was kind of sick and it was hilarious because I really wanted to talk to everyone and introduce myself but all I could do was whisper and squeak. And then they asked us to stand up and introduce ourselves in sacrament meeting so I whispered and squeaked into the microphone! At least it was memorable! I also help members remember my name and learn how to pronounce it by turning "askew" into a fake sneeze. They think its funny and so do I. There is an American family in the branch that just moved in. The Italian woman I was sitting next to pointed to them and whispered to me "Look, 5 kids!" They arent used to that many children in Italy . We had dinner with them on Sunday. I realized how much easier it is to make friends with someone in english. What a different mission that would be, to serve among english speakers!! I am so glad I am in Italy though.

Monday:District meeting in Rome . Anziano Parry from the MTC is in our district. English course fliers and publicity. Garcia family at night

Tuesday: Finding finding finding. Correlation with the branch mission leader. The ward missionaries are Sorella Urban's cousins, haha.

We have been talking to a lot of people. We are trying to put into practice what Elder Cause taught us as a finding approach. Ice breaker, teach principle, ask question, testify, testify, invite. We use the Book of Mormon as our approach these days. It has been wonderfully fun and entertaining. We met one woman Paola who we have an appointment with next week. She walkes by the ocean every day (yes, we proselyte on the beach and it is pretty much amazing). She was perfect, asking after we talked about prophets, "How can we know that Joseph Smith really was a prophet and that Thomas Monson is a prophet today" Um, the Book of Mormon and prayer!!! She is very curious.

I love being with Sorella Tutt, we have the same background and the same vision and a very similar teaching style. We are on the same page and we are going to rock Ladispoli this transfer. We throw shoes at flies in our room, laugh about the creepy men that we accidently start conversations with, and we eat a lot of yummy pizzas which is healthy for our soul.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Transfer to Ladispoli!

I am being transferred! Tomorrow morning I am headed to Ladispoli, a little town near Rome on the coast. Sorella Tutt (my MTC companion) will be my companion and we are being blown into the city, which means neither of us have served there before. Only sisters serve there and there is a branch of about 70 active members. It will be a big change, as so far I have always served in bigger cities with really big wards. And I will still get the benefits of visiting Rome for P-day! Ah! Lucky me!
We've been preparing the last few days for Sorella Pickett to take over Rome 2. Its a large area that Rome 2 covers and it can be sometimes tricky keeping track of all the buses, trains, and metros needed to get places. Also, there are lots of members, less actives, investigators, contacts and past investigators to keep track off. She has learned quickly though and knows almost as much as I do after three transfers. We are especially preparing because S. Pickett will be training, so she will have a lot of responsibility! I know she will do great!

Veronica update; We went to visit her last week on Wednesday and taught a fun lesson on authority and apostasy and the Restoration using our cup pyramid game. I felt really good about it until at the very end, we asked her if she had any questions.
She said, "Um, I just want to tell you one thing. I decided to go back to the Catholic church and stop seeing you two"
WHAT. That came as a shocker. I didnt know what to say. Luckily, S. Pickett chimed in with "Thats okay, thanks for every thing. It was great getting to know you."
In that moment I was torn. I have been taught to try my hardest to keep investigators, to do the best we can to work out concerns rather than just giving up. I want to pry more into it and figure out how she reached that decision. Part of me want to beg her to not let go just yet, to keep meeting with us and praying about it and searching for truth. And as soon as Sorella Pickett spoke, I felt part of me saying "No, no, dont let her go so easily!!". But I too simply thanked her for being willing to meet with us and accepted that she was done. We gave her and her family the invite to continue to read the Book of Mormon and come to church and left.
I felt okay about it afterward, I think it was the right thing to do. We wonder how much of an influence her mom was in this decision, as it sounded rehearsed and her mom is very Catholic. But at least they are good family friends with Bishop Celestini and his family, so if in the future they feel ready to listen again, they have a constant connection to the church.
This is something I've wondered a lot about on my mission. I wonder for everyone at one point we keep trying and pushing people to keep commitments and fighting to get appointments when they just seem to busy or not super interested and at what point we just let them go and accept that it is not their time. I know that we should be using our time most effectively and if someone isnt progressing, we should move on to find someone who is more interested. But its a little different actually putting this into practice. Perhaps especially here, where investigators are difficult to find. We can talk to people on the streets, on buses, on trains, at their front door for hours and days and try all sorts of different approaches, but it simply is difficult to find anyone who sincerely would like to listen to our message of peace and joy. I think I am relatively tough (haha, or atleast pretend to be!) when it comes to facing rejection. But it does begin to wear on you after a while.
Anyways, to have a investigator who is making progress and is sincerely interested has been difficult to come by in my experience so far. So even with the people who are willing to meet with us but are not super-motivated to keep commitments, I dont want to let them go! I've worked with several people here in Rome where we have tried for months to help them progress and have spiritual experiences and begin the process of wonderful change that I know the gospel brings but that I have yet to see in the lives of anyone I have worked with. And we have finally let them go, probably to their own relief! Haha.

I know there are lots and lots of people out there who are ready to let the gospel of Jesus Christ change them. Even if it is only by pure probability, I know they exist here in Rome because it is an awfully big city! But for some reason (okay, maybe for our own personal growth), the Lord lets us struggle to find them :) Managgia! I also know there is a lot more that I could do on my part. I try every day to talk to people, to do the right things to find them, to seek inspiration on which members to work with. BUT, there is always more that I can do. Perhaps when I get to the point when I am doing enough, when I truly make this great work my passion and my heart's desire, maybe THEN I will be able to see the miracle of change in a person's life.

Sometimes its hard too because I know that other missionaries in other cities in the mission and even missionaries in this city are having a lot more success with finding investigators and baptizing than I have found so far. I think the Lord is too busy working out some of my rough spots though, haha. That will take a lot longer than a year and a half to work out, so I hope I get a little bit of mercy from Him!

One of the things I am working on is faith. Remembering the experiences of the past and having the faith to move forward. Faith is a principle that underlines absolutely EVERYTHING that we do. Time for me to actively choose it a little more often.

Other random happenings of the week:
We were walking with a member Angelo Protopapa through a parking lot on Thursday night and the parking bar that lets cars in and out came down right on his head. It may have been the most hilarious thing I have ever seen. He jumped forward and rubbed his head and looked up in surprise. I couldnt stop laughing for days.

Sweetness of Italians. They have a tough exterior sometimes but are extremely generous and kind.
I show up to church on Sunday, I did my hair and tried to look nice and brought my camera to take pictures with members before I leave. We show up a little early and one older woman pulls us aside and asked for my shoe size. I tell her 40 and she pulls out a box of shoes and tells me to try them on. They are black high heeled tennis shoes. Now, Italians are usually very fashionable people but there are a few things that they dont have quite right. High-heeled tennis shoes are one of them. For S. Pickett and I, it is our least favorite fashion style we've seen here. And this older Italian member gave me a pair. To make it even better, she told me to take off my boots and give them to her and she was going to try to get a thicker sole put on them (So kind!!!), which left me with green knee high socks and my black high heeled tennis shoes to wear for my last Sunday in church and all my pictures. Haha! It was so extremely kind of her though, I have never even talked to her before but as she said "it was for the work of the Lord".

We met one university student this week who thought we wore only long skirts and long hair and bonnets. We tried to convince her otherwise (our appearance didnt help) and by the end of it she said "Now I dont hate you anymore!" Wohoo, good progress made!

Love you all!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trevi Fountain with Sorella Pickett

Happy New Year!

Hello Everyone!
Updates for the week of the New Year: We had to be home at 6:00 on New Years Eve, all of our neighbors went crazy with their huge bomb fireworks from 6 until after midnight. I don't think any type of firework is illegal here and they were sooo loud, it was nuts! Our windows shook and we jumped every time they went off. I am so glad we were inside! We made a nice New Years dinner and I started my new years resolution of writing in my journal every day. We tried to sleep at the normal time but there was a huge karaoke party going on upstairs and all the fireworks going off around us so it was a long night! And then New Years day was one of our designated apartment cleaning days! So we cleaned all day :)
Good fresh start to the new year!
On Sunday after church we had a party at Ben the Philipino member's house and ate huge amounts of Philipino food. We programmed for the week and did some casa (knocking on doors) in Fidene by where we live. I learned something from the new elder serving here in Rome. Every apartment complex (palazzo) has a ringer (citofono) outside the door (cancello) and we have to ring to get into the complex. Sometimes we give them our approach over the citofono, sometimes we find a palazzo where the door is left open. This time, they asked "Who is it?" or "chi e?" and I said "Its Sorella Askew, can you open for me?" and they did! Then we got to knock on doors and see people face to face which is a lot more effective. It was funny though because several neighbors came out of their apartment and asked menacingly, "Who let you in?"

We tried something else new as well. We have a picture of the design for the Rome temple that is being constructed. When someone would answer the door, we would immediately ask them if they knew what the picture was. Sometimes it worked and people would say no and then we got to explain to them what a temple was and how it was a place where we could be married for eternity and how there was one being constructed here in Rome! Good fun!

Good news for this week, Veronica is making progress! Veronica is our 14 year old Italian investigator. She started off a week or two ago not believing in God and when we met with her on Monday, we asked her if she felt her faith was growing and she said yes. She said that she now knew that there was a God and when we asked her how she knew, she said (pointing to her heart) that she just felt it right here. Ah, how exciting! This is the first time I have ever seen someone make progress like this and it is awesome. What does it take? Someone who is humble and desirous and willing to try to experiment of Alma 32. We are seeing her again today.

Random finding stories of the week:

We tried to find a Romanian friend of ours to give her a Book of Mormon but we couldn't find her. So we were going home for lunch and I was still holding this Romanian Book of Mormon with a pamphlet in Romanian inside. I decided I wanted to find a Romanian to talk to on the way home while I had this book with me. I saw a woman sitting with an empty seat next to her on the bus and thought, "Hmm, she looks kind of Romanian. I'll give it a shot". So I sat next to her and asked her where she was from and she said Romania (yes!). I showed her my book and said "This is in Romanian" (haha, duh! kind of a dumb introduction). She asked if it was the New Testament and I said no and explained to her about the Book of Mormon. She had to get off the bus really soon but I gave her my Romanian Restoration pamphlet that was inside the book. I hope to hear from her, she was sweet and humble and open. Small miracle! It was awesome.

We were looking for a woman named Emanuela from our ward member list who we had never seen before. Her address was unspecific and included about 6 big apartment complexes. We searched for her name on the citofono on all of the buildings but it didn't exist. We called the phone number listed for her and the person told us that she doesn't live there anymore. So we decided to give up and just do a little bit of casa in the area. The very first complex, the very first door we knocked on, they asked through the door "who is it" and we just responded simply "le sorelle". He mumbled something like "Emanuela doesnt live here anymore, just a minute." We were thinking, "What? Did we hear that right? Did he just say Emanuela? Why would he say that???" He opened the door and it turned out to be her brother! He told us that she moved and he gave us the right number for her. What a miracle!

The prophet game is still very entertaining and effective. A lot of people say no when we ask them if they will play but its still a good ice breaker. One older grumpy woman said, "A guessing game? I don't want to play a game" so I just started talking to her with the gospel art book in my lap. A few minutes later she said, "So what is this book you have?" and we played the game and talked about Joseph Smith. Her curiosity got the better of her after all :)

Two first lessons this coming week, I am excited! One with a girl we found on a bus and one with a referral!

I am so grateful for my life and all the blessings I have. I am so grateful for this experience as a missionary, no matter how hard it can be sometimes. It IS difficult being rejected over and over again, but what a faith developing process it is for us.