Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baptismal date and Carnivale!

We set a baptismal date with Giovanni this week!! He still has some serious obstacles to overcome, especially the opposition from his family that keeps him from coming to church on Sunday. He really wants to come to church and read and pray but its hard because he works 12 hours a day and has very little time with his family (wife and 4 year old daughter) and is very tired. He is willing to make the sacrifice however, but of course we dont want to cause conflict in his family. He also talked to his dad on the phone and told him that he wants to be baptized, but his dad told him not to do it! He is still cautious and has lots of valid concerns that we try to work through with him. We are praying hard for him to be able to receive his answer and prepare for his baptism, this will be a miracle if everything works out!!
We had our Carnivale party on Saturday, it was great fun! Lots of people came and it was pretty chaotic, but great. And some members brought friends, yay!
Talked to lots of people, as always. We have been using a survey to try to talk to people, asking them about their beliefs.
We got transfer calls and both of us are staying in Ladispoli for another transfer. I am relieved about that, we are working well together and have lots of work/potential work.
English course is always a highlight, we had a couple of new students who came who brought us Frappe, a carnival treat in Italy. I really think my students feel the Spirit when I give the spiritual thought at the end. They are much more open and receptive because they know me and have a little more trust in me.
Last night we went to one of my favorite less active families, the Del Core family. The mom has a strong testimony, but has health problems and is kind of lazy; she knows she should go to church but never makes it there. She has three kids who are less active as a result and there is a lot of potential with them. They are a hilarious family, all of them speak with a heavy Roman accent (they cut off the ends of their words) and the kids (they are 13, 19, 25) are great. We are going to go to their house on Sunday morning and make them breakfast and all go to church together.
Things are going well!
I have been thinking a lot about how I need to focus my personal study time more on our investigators. I feel pretty comfortable with the doctrine and the Italian in the lessons we teach, but if I really prepared more specifically for each person, I would be able to receive more inspiration from the Spirit on their specific needs.
Not much else to say. Trying to be a more consecrated missionary. I want so much to help our branch reach the goal of 10 baptisms this year. Its a big goal, but our God is a God of miracles, I know it!

Sorella Askew

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The week of Families!


Good week! Especially Friday, I'll go over what happened on Friday.

First, we went to go visit Elena Nusca, a less active member. We see her for about 20 minutes once a week at her office where she works as a vet. She is a very very bright, nice woman who has a strong testimony of the church, and it is different teaching her than most people that we work with because she understands everything she needs to do but lacks the strength to do it. She is married to someone who is not a member and they have two kids and over the years she has made her family and work a priority over her relationship with God. As she says it, she is just tired by the end of the week on Sunday and would much rather stay at home with her family than come to church. She says it is hard to do without someone to help her along, without the support of her husband. I believe her, it is hard. She also says that when she does go to church, she enjoys it, but she doesn't feel the absence of it in her life when she doesn't go. She said she felt the absence of it more when she first started going but not so much now.
As she told us all this, we didn't really know what to say. She knows she should go but lacks the motivation to do so. Then, ideas started coming to my mind and I went from not having a clue what to tell her to having specific things I felt I should say. I told her about my own story a little bit growing up in Arizona. From age 10 to 15, there were a lot of Sundays where I did not have a direct parental influence waking me up and telling me to go to church. But every Sunday, I still did it. I don't exactly know why, I just felt like it was the right thing to do. And a lot of times I didn't really enjoy church, a lot of times I felt alone and the girls my age said mean things to me, but I still went.
Isn't it interesting how life is that way? There are so many times when we don't get an immediate reward for the right things we do. We don't ALWAYS feel super thrilled to be in church or get the amazing spiritual reinforcement that sometimes comes. But this life is not designed to be that way, we have the bigger picture knowing that this life is a test. We understand that it would be too easy if we got an immediate reward for every good act or an immediate answer to our prayers; it would leave no room for growth and learning!! We couldn't develop the character we need. There would be no test. Instead I believe a lot of what really counts is how we act when the circumstances aren't in our favor, the fact that we still choose what we know is right even if we don't feel like it.
President Eyring told a story once about how he was studying for a physics exam and he knew without a doubt that a certain equation was true, he knew as he studied it that it was right, that it worked. However, he still got a B in the class. What does that teach us? The test isn't in what we know, it is how we use it.
Anyways, with Elena, there are so many people who are silently suffering because of her decision to not come to church. She has two beautiful children who are not being raised in the gospel, a less active mother who says she will come if Elena comes, and many many friends who trust her and with whom she could share the things she knows to be true if only she had the courage. It goes so much further than her decision to not come because its not worth the effort to bring the family to church on a Sunday morning.
She was touched and cried and I really thought she was going to come on Sunday. And she didn't. I don't know what else we can do for her but we will keep trying!
Phew, that was just the morning!
We had a lesson with a funny Buddhist lady we met doing casa. We had a lesson with a wonderful new convert named Erica. Then we went to bring brownies to an old investigator family, Barbara and Angelo and their two children. We were on their street and said hi to some people outside who as soon as we passed started whispering "Mormon missionaries". We turned around and were like, yes, thats us! They were carrying things into their house so we offered to help and they invited us in. Cute cute Peruvian family who used to meet with the missionaries a long time ago and would like to meet with us again! AH!!!
Then we went to visit Barbara and Angelo and they were FANTASTIC. They were so kind and generous and Angelo specifically was interested. Perfect Italian family we can start working with. Family number 2!

Then on Saturday after English course, a few of my students stuck around and asked some questions about what we believed. There is a beautiful Italian family who comes every time, Ilaria and Angelo and their two kids. We gave them a pamphlet and a Book of Mormon and cant want to talk to them again. They were really excited to learn more!!
Family 3!

We also ran around with a giant sign on Saturday morning that said "Corso d'inglese gratuito", free English course and passed out a bunch of fliers. People thought we were funny, we looked pretty ridiculous but it worked!

Another English course student stuck around class on Tuesday and told us that she used to meet with the missionaries and likes the Book of Mormon and feels really good when she reads it. Ah, where are all these great people coming from? This is exactly what a missionary wants to hear!

Lots more happened but I have to go!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cervetori Etruscan Necropolis and Bar Hopping

I am tired this week! Phew! And we don't ever seem to have time for naps on Pday because we are busy seeing the beautiful sites of Italy.

Wednesday: Pday, we saw the Cervetori Etruscan Necropolis and saw lots of really old tombs. They were pretty sweet, it was in this little valley/ravine type thing and there were mound hills of dirt with tombs you could walk in. It was in the middle of the countryside so no one was there so we ran around with the Rome 2 sorelle and took pictures. My guidebook describes it as like a background scene from an Indiana Jones action sequence. My favorite part may have been finding a dog and her puppies using one of the tombs as a den, haha.

Thursday: finding and dinner with a less active family. We want to work with the teenagers and help them gain testimonies again! The mom talks a TON

Friday: One year anniversary from when Sorelle Tutt and I received our mission calls! We celebrated our anniversary by "bar hopping";that is, running around from bar to bar (bars are not the same thing here in Italy as in America) trying to find our favorite type of Magnum ice cream bar. We succeeded. We did some finding in Santa Marinella, another city on the coast, and had a family home evening with a member and her nonmember husband, Arcangelo. He has been an investigator of the sorelle for years and loves the missionaries and is always willing to listen but not making much progress. We probably won't be working with him very much then.

Saturday: AWESOME. We decided to plan a party for Carnival for the ward members to invite their friends and for us to invite our English course students! We don't know anything about the holiday, so we aren't quite sure what to do for it, but we've pretty much just delegated out activities and food and music to people in the ward. We asked our branch president what the best way to encourage members to bring friends would be and he answered "with a pistol. Or a baseball bat. It worked for the Crusaders!" Haha, so we are left to our own inspiration on that one!

For our entire time in Ladispoli, I have had this goal to meet Franco Gentili. His name was written on the intercom (citofono) outside a palazzo and we rang it our first week here. He said that he couldn't see us right then but we could try some other time. We get that excuse A LOT when we are doing casa (knocking on doors), but for some reason I made it a goal to get him to let us in. So every week we have gone back faithfully to his intercom and tried again, always with a different excuse. Finally, we brought some panettone (a sweet bread) and told him that we brought him a treat (haha, totally random) and he let us in! Turned out he was this really really sweet old man who has talked to the missionaries before and was really kind but kind of confused on why we were bringing him panettone. Goal accomplished!

We tried to do some finding on a train but got stuck in Civitavecchia and it was almost time to go home. We were exhausted but decided to go out into the city for the 40 minutes we had to wait for a train and talk to people on the streets. The first people we stopped actually stopped and talked to us!! They were an adorable couple named Silvano and Cinzia and we talked for about 20 minutes. He shared some of his beliefs, that he was Christian but not super convinced of the Catholic Church, but at the same time wasn't bitter and didn't want to talk to us only to vent his frustrations. He worshiped Christ but didn't think we should worship saints and the Madonna (that's a rare belief among the Catholics here!) He said he read and believed the evangelists but thought that the post-evangelists were more led by the ideas and mistakes of men and so things kind of fell apart afterward. I was freaking out while he was talking, I was so excited! He was talking about the apostasy, he already had a testimony of it!!! We talked about the restoration and modern day prophets and the book of Mormon and we let him "borrow" one with the promise to read some of it and call us when he was done. It was special to me because a few weeks ago I made a special Book of Mormon with my testimony and highlighted parts with tabs and my thoughts and I have been searching for someone to "lend" this Book of Mormon too. I have been carrying it around and asking lots of people but no one would take it. I found him and he was exactly who I was looking for! Someone open and curious and smart and humble all at the same time! He accepted it with the challenge to read the highlighted parts and call us when he was done, and when we bore our testimonies at the end, he said, "Wow, I would like to have a testimony like that" We are praying hard for him.

Monday: Bracciano. Little town on a lake. Castle in the middle of town, the cutest most Italian town center I have ever seen. Amazing place. We did finding there. Some woman asked us if we wanted to come see her apartment she was reconstructing and she showed us around. It was literally right next to the castle and she told us that it used to be apart of the castle. Hahahaha, so cool. Same castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married, randomly. I am in love with the town. We did finding in the area.

Giovanni is still progressing. We meet with him once a week. We are making progress with some other potential investigators. It comes slowly here but its coming!

I still love Ladispoli!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Zone Conference and Such

We had zone conference on Thursday in Rome. I am in the same zone as when I was in Rome and we have zone conference in the Rome 2 church. I love being close to and going back to my old area. Zone conferences are always the best in the mission, interviews with president are great and I am so thankful that we have a time to all gather together as missionaries and reinforce each other in our goals and how to accomplish them.
Kind of special moment after President's interviews. He had told me that I was a good missionary and I felt that his approval came directly from Heavenly Father. Of course life isn't always like this, but I felt the perfect balance in the few minutes afterward between contentment and acceptance of where I was at, with also the desire and motivation to improve. I recognized that if I could feel this divine approval more often, or recognize it more clearly, I am more motivated to keep improving than if I feel inadequate all the time. I've been studying about pride and humility recently. I like what President Uchtdorf had to say about it in the last conference.

"Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up. Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value. Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us. We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves. It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman."

I am realizing more clearly that you can be humble AND confident at the same time and if we can reach this point, our efforts and success will be multiplied lots and lots!

Doors close and open and close (and open?):
We had an appointment with our investigator we found a few weeks ago, Paola. She is a middle aged Italian woman who walks along the street next to the beach every single day for exercise. We had planned to walk with her to the church and show her where it was, and we were meeting at a certain spot along the beach. While we were waiting for her, we started talking to a Romanian woman named Silvia who was sitting by herself looking out at the ocean. Paola showed up and joined our conversation and started talking to Silvia and it was so entertaining for me to watch but difficult to describe why. Paola was so completely Italian, she talked expressively and incessantly and quickly and complained about her husband and her health. Silvia was so completely Romanian, a lot more quiet, meek, spoke slower and with the rise and fall of the voice tone that only Romanians do when speaking.
Anyways, Paola told us that she couldn't see us anymore because her husband was too controlling and didnt want her to. We were very disappointed. (Door closed) Paolo left and it was just Silvia and us and I was thinking, "well, we planned to take someone to the church and show them around. Might as well be Silvia!" So we invited her to come with us and see where our church was and she did and we were able to teach her some wonderful principles based off the pictures (such as the first vision) hanging up in the hallways! We left her with a Romanian Book of Mormon and the invite to start to read it. (Door open!)
We ran into her a few days later on the street and was very happy to see us, but gave us back the Book of Mormon, saying she didnt want to be baptized for a second time. We didnt even talk about baptism with her, although she had no interest to listen when we tried to explain the concept of priesthood authority. (door closed).
She did tell us though that she was very happy to have met us because she was having a hard day when we started talking to her and we brought joy into her life and she wont forget us. That warmed my heart :)

It is so interesting how our experiences are like this. We see a lot of disappointments here, but then another door opens and we can try again and we keep the faith that there is someone out there who is ready to say yes when we invite them to do things.

We listen to church talks now (we found a collection of them on CDs in the cupboard) during lunch. I LOVE Henry B. Eyring's talk at BYU in 1983 about searching for truth. LOVE it. Also, Neal A Maxwell's talk, The Inexhaustable Gospel.

I offended my first Italian in our gospel principles class on Sunday! We were talking about the Creation and I made a comment about how the world was perfectly created for us to have experiences here and progress and such. A member in the back said "Whoa, I disagree. This world was not created perfectly" and continued to argue about why I was wrong. Haha, good fun. She later got into an argument with the teacher and I was stressed out because there was a potential investigator in the class. I just kept thinking to myself "read a scripture and bear testimony, read a scripture and bear testimony" It was the only way I knew to get them to stop arguing! So I did and it worked... for about 20 seconds until they started arguing again! Bah!

We ate lunch at the Squarcia home after church, this would be my former companion Sorella Urban's aunt and grandma and cousins. It was great, finally all the stories I have heard about "nonna" (grandma) make sense and come together!! I laughed so hard through it as S. Squarcia was yelling at Nonna because she is deaf and Nonna is yelling at us (well, trying to tell us stories about her dog peeing on missionaries and her making missionaries throw up because she fed them too much, but she was speaking really loud!).

We went to Cervetori on Monday to visit a family. Cute little town on the side of a mountain with a view of the ocean and Ladispoli. We did some finding and set up an appointment with a Philipino woman for Saturday! We also visited the Zorzi family (an intense intense single mother with a bunch of inactive kids) and played an FHE acting out the Book of Mormon stories activity. The rebellious 15 year old wasn't too happy to act out stories, much to her mother's dismay, but we kept the peace by inviting her to be our narrator.

Yesterday, we had a second appointment with Maria Anna the old investigator. I am now convinced that she really might be kind of crazy. It is IMPOSSIBLE to teach her, she interrupts us every 20 seconds with a random question or comment. Most of them were random but still religion related. My favorite part was when she interrupted us to tell us that she can't trust men anymore but she loves music. (???) When Sorella Tutt told her she loved music too, she asked her, "Whats your zodiac sign?" Haha, good lessons in patience.

One pretty much amazing thing from that lesson though. She randomly tells us that she has a picture with a leader from our church and runs to grab a box and pulls out this huge photo. It was of President Uchtodorf shaking hands with some people (I guess he came to Rome years ago). The first thing I noticed was President Uchtodorf, the second thing I noticed was my cousin, Rebecca Bishop!!! I started yelling in English, "Thats my cousin, thats my cousin!!" My companion told me to calm down and Maria Anna was really confused. My cousin Rebecca Bishop was one of like 5 people in this picture, two others being our investigator Maria Anna and President Uchtdorf! RANDOM!

Yesterday, I was also separated from my companion for a little bit, ah! We were on the bus and I was on the phone with someone and concentrating really hard to understand what they were saying. My companion was poking me and telling me to get off the bus but I wasn't paying attention because I was so focused on the phone. So she got off the bus and I had no idea. I got off the phone and turned to talk to my companion and she wasn't on the bus anymore!! Ah! I got off at the next stop and we walked to find each other. Phew.

I still love teaching English course. A couple new students came last night. Sorella Tutt taught intermediate so I was left alone to teach basic. Scary! Its hard explaining grammar principles in Italian! Love it though


Sorella Askew