Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Pday in Orbetello

I am sorry, we dont have much time today!! We are running off to Orbetello for Pday, its in our prostelyting zone but we decided we have to go there because it is in Tuscany and Tuscany is a dream :)

I recorded something about our musical number on Sunday, haha. We got applause from the congregation. I dont think they are used to having musical numbers.
Tiziana and Lucio came to church!! It was wonderful!! I am so excited for Tiziana especially, she is so kind and warm and open and bright. They are a beautiful family. Wow. So much more to say about them and no time to say it!

I cant tell you how excited I am for general conference. I have never been more excited.
Found some neat people this week, some nice Jehovah's Witnesses (good thing they were nice, because I had some not nice encounters with them earlier in the week. Sometimes they can be really mean!), and a unversity student who I am convinced I was supposed to meet. It is a cool story, there were a series of promptings that led us to find her and talk to her. I have been feeling like I needed to write out a few quotes on notecards to carry around. One of them was about the universe and the greatness of our God and His purpose. I met someone else a month ago and wished I had this quote with me. I felt like I should write it out again but I forgot. But then we ran into him again and I still hadn't written it out. And then a few days later we ran into him and I thought to myself "Wow, I really need to follow this prompting now!". So I wrote it out finally along with another quote about adversity and the influence of Satan in the world. Then, the day before, we picked out the type of person we wanted to find. Someone in her twenties, Italian, with brown hair and glasses. Thursday morning we were finding on the street and we decided to run and catch a bus. We were running to catch it and we passed this girl who matched the description. I though, darn it, we should really stop and talk to her but I dont want to because if we do, we will miss our bus! So we kept running until I finally decided we had to follow through on this prompting and we stopped and turned around and talked to her instead of catching the bus.
She started off very skeptical. She was atheist. She was studying astrophysics. The universe quote was absolutely perfect for her. She talked about the ugliness of the world and all the suffering. The other quote was great for her as well. We talked for a long time about suffering and the purpose of God and the message of the Restoration and how the Book of Mormon was tangible proof for skeptics like her and me. I was so grateful for the experiences I had had in my life that led to me to understand why she thought the way she did ("maybe you only believe because you want to believe" I understand that point of view very well). She completely changed from the beginning of our conversation to the end of it. She went from skeptical to curious and accepting. She said she would come to church and look at the internet site and maybe read some of the book of mormon online. It was really neat to see how following a series of promptings (writing out the two quotes, one of which Heavenly Father made sure I wrote out by having me run into the other guy several times, running to catch the bus, stopping to talk to the girl we were looking for that day) led us to a great girl who listened.

I love you all! I am so grateful for the Atonement that allows me to wake up every day and decided who I want to be and what I want to accomplish, regardless of past choices or not living up to my potential in the past.

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miracles and Disappointments

It was another good week! We had some really neat things happen and some disappointments as well.

Awesome things that happened:
Tiziana and Lucio are new investigators. They are a really special Italian family with two kids. They are incredibly warm and open and bright. If they keep progressing, they would be an absolute miracle. She had read all of 1st Nephi after a few days and understood it very well. They understand what the Restoration means and said to us, "If this is true that would be great, but do you know what kind of force you are going up against here in Italy with the Catholic Church? Do you have any idea?" Haha, yeah, we have an idea. Their story is on the voice recording.
We did "mostra" (a display we set up on the street that has several canvas sheets explaining our beliefs with pictures, and we try to stop people and have them look at the mostra and listen to us) on Sunday and 6 members came to help us. Mostra is a hard thing to do, but it can be very effective (big display drawing people's attention if they are interested), but with the help of the members it turned out great! They stopped and talked to lots of people and two people were interested enough to leave their phone numbers with us, yeah! I love the youth of Ladispoli, they are fabulous!

Okay, so I know I talk about a lot of different people and get excited about them and then you never hear about them again. I want to tell you a little bit about the disappointments we face here at times, to help you understand a little bit about what happens I am not discouraged right now (thank goodness), but missionary is a difficult difficult thing at times!

I'll use Raffaella as an example. We had a second lesson with her on Friday, a member came and we taught the Restoration and showed the Restoration film. It was so wonderfully, the Spirit was strong, she understand clearly and eagerly accepted every commitment we gave her. She was happily going to come to church with us, she asked us at the end "when can we meet again?", she eagerly accepted invites to read and pray to know if it was true. She had already been reading and she really liked it and understand the lessons that it was teaching us. Sorella Tutt and I were so thrilled afterward, I have never taught anyone that seemed so perfect, so willingly and so likely to gain a testimony and be baptized. We talked about it the whole day and planned carefully for her and our next lesson. Then on Saturday after English course, she came up to me and said "About our meetings... I decided not to change religions. I am sorry, please take the Book of Mormon back" I told her she could keep it and she said no, she didn't want to. It was a complete shock and a huge disappointment. We have no idea why and we couldn't talk to her about it because we were surrounded by other English course students.

The Catholic Church and the tradition of it in Italy is much bigger than I imagined it to ever be. Even if most people don't attend church or believe in it. There have been so many times we have talked to people on the street and in the same breath they tell us about the corruption they see in the Catholic church and also how they will never ever change religions. It is incredible, its a tradition that is so strong here.
This week I talked to a woman, probably 35 years old, at the bus stop. She was telling me about how she thinks Italians don't have the spirit of research when it comes to religion, she said that she thought they should teach more about the history of other religions in Italian schools so that at least young people could know what was out there and make a choice about what was right for them. She said that instead though, they teach only about Catholicism. And no one has the spirit of searching what else is out there. After we talked for a few minutes, there was an older Italian woman sitting next to her who interrupted. The older woman was really upset and told my friend how ridiculous that was. If people wanted to learn more about other religions, they could learn from TV or go to their worship place. She said Italy already allowed other religions to practice, but Italy's religion was Catholicism and that was that. She kept repeating "Italian Catholicism, Italian Catholicism." She was really upset at my friend. To her, Catholicism was just as much a part of Italy as the language or any other part of the culture and to dare undermine that in any way was a threat to the culture. Wow. It was fascinating to watch their exchange, it so perfectly demonstrated the traditionalist older culture of Italy contrasting with the newer more modern and Western culture.

Another example. We taught a lesson to someone on Sunday. We talked about apostasy and restoration and she thought it was really interesting and "seemed right and true". But when we invited her to come to church she said no. We talked for a while. She explained and kept repeating how difficult it was to change. Her daughter was involved in catechisms and it would be a huge huge life change to attend a different church. She said she liked what we said but she did not have the desire to change because it was a very difficult thing. She recognized clearly that it would take a great desire to really find out if this was true and change religions, a desire she did not have.
And it would be a huge change for anyone. I feel for the people here who convert. Catholicism is so much a part of the culture. We walked by the main square in Ladispoli this week and there was a mass going on. It was a huge cultural event for the city, commemorating the patron saint. It is everywhere.

So yes, there are so many people who refuse to listen for even a moment. There are many others who feel that it is right and good but will not make the commitments needed to develop the deep and lasting testimony that will help them change their lives. They will not scratch below the surface. There are so many indescribable things that happen that cause people to not come to church or not see us anymore. There is great opposition.

BUT, there are people like Giovanni. There are people who are working to develop a testimony and although sometimes it comes slowly (like it is for him), they are willing to make the sacrifice for the truth. Giovanni is so filled with concerns and questions and it is wonderful to watch them being resolved (although slowly and over time, haha, but still resolved). He is developing his testimony, he is reading and praying and coming to church (this Sunday all dressed up in a suit too!)

I am convinced that there are more people out there. There is opposition but I feel hope and am excited! Also, I have never appreciated the beauty of the gospel and all it has to offer or the grandness of our Church until now. Many times I get caught up in small things and limited perspective, but then sometimes I see the bigger picture and it clicks! This is a gospel of great truth and progression. Wow.

Love ya!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Miracle week!

Lots of great things happened this week but I have little time to tell about them!

We got a referral from the elders in our district, her name is Barbara and she is the ex-wife of one of their investigators and she lives in the far north boundary of our area in a little town in the countryside called Capranica. We set up an appointment for Saturday morning and took an hour bus and then a train and then she had to give us a ride from the station because it was still several kilometers away. The trip there was gorgeous, beautiful country! Her friends picked us up and were shocked at how young we were. They warned us that Barbara's dad had just died last night so they hoped that we had something good to offer her (ahhh! pressure! good thing we have the plan of salvation!). We arrived and her house was full of people who were waiting for us to come and talk to them (ahhhh!!!). They sat us down at the table and a bunch of adults and kids gathered around to listen. They were all open and sincere and we taught the plan of salvation. They drifted out one by one, having to leave for various reasons, but we were left 45 minutes later with Barbara and her friend Ilaria. They listened to the plan of salvation and a brief overview of the Restoration and asked questions. One of my favorites was "How did people react to Joseph Smith? Did they believe him?" and then they turned to one another and said "Well, the people rejected Jesus now, didnt they, so that doesnt mean too much". They agreed to learn more and to begin their search to know whether it was all true or not. They thanked us many times and asked when we could come back (tomorrow morning!) and told us it was a beautiful message. As Barbara dropped us off at the station, she asked "If I have friends who want to listen, would you like to teach them as well?" Um, yes, I think so. Wow, she was a little miracle that was dropped into our lap!

Miracle number 2: Raffaella from english class. 27 year old shy girl who comes to english class with her boyfriend, she told me a few weeks ago that she used to meet with missionaries in Rome and she feels good when she reads the Book of Mormon. I finally had a chance to talk to her after class again (I brought brownies to class on Saturday and made my students stick around and socialize, haha) and invited her to meet with us and she accepted! It was kind of funny because I kept waiting for the right moment, somehow to lead into it so it wasnt so awkward. But that moment never came so I just decided to ask straight out and I did so randomly and she immediately accepted and was excited!!! We met with her on Tuesday and it was fabulously. We will meet with her 3 times a week and she is coming to church with us. She is filled with so much faith and a sincere desire to learn more. How did someone like that end up in my english class? A blessing straight from heaven!

We are still working on Giovanni (he finally came to church again!) and helping him be baptized on April 2 now. He is progressing but moving very slowly, haha. That is good, he will be solid!

Lots of other good stories but I have to go. I helped one of my english students resolve his love life problems (I didnt know what he wanted when he asked for the favor, haha) by talking to his Turkish girlfriend on the phone in english (they dont speak the same language, hahaha).
We saw Sorella Ryan today, she had to come to Rome from the Milan mission because her comp needed to go to the embassy. What a wonderful riunion from the MTC! A blast!! We would have never ever thought we would see each other.

I am doing well! Trying to appreciate the miracles when they come and be more grateful and humble. I feel the responsibility I have and how precious these people are!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Zours from Zach!

Chocolates with toy surprises


This week I have noticed more than any other week how I have been prepared to serve here in Italy with these people. I have noticed it with two people in particular. One, Vittorio, is the boyfriend of the mother of one of our wonderful members, Natalia. Did I ever mention how great this branch is with people our age? The word for YSA (Young single adults) in Italian is GANS (giovanni adulti non sposati) and we have a whole bunch of them in this branch. Two are about to leave on missions, four more are working on their papers. They are all adorable, kind, funny people and I would love to be their best friend if I weren't a missionary here. Anyways, Natalia is one of them and we met with her mom and boyfriend. He has read a lot of stuff about Mormons on the web and has a lot of questions and doubts. I was so grateful for my experience as I was able to understand, relate to, and address every one of them. We ran into them last night. The most recent concern since he started reading the Book of Mormon is that horses didnt exist in the Americas so long ago (absolutely and completely debatable). Haha, he is fun to work with.

Second person is Arcangelo, the eternal investigator who comes to church every Sunday but makes no progress because he has these deep rooted issues about the ability to come to know things spiritually and his relationship with God. So many of his doubts and questions are ones that I have had and thought about for years and understand how to work through them. It makes it one of my favorite experiences in the world teaching him. We grab him during Sunday School at church and teach him in the corner outside the bathroom, haha, because all the rooms (including the kitchen) are being used during church. We talk to him about why God would ask us to walk by faith in this life. What benefit would it be to us to not be able to see the things we believe in? (character building through faith-the whole purpose of life, duh-, not condemned if we know something but choose not to do whats right, access to the power to work miracles, ect) BUT, God doesnt want us left in confusion so he confirms the truth of things to us through the Spirit, through our feelings. As I teach him, I understand these things and the perfection of Gods plan and process of learning and perspective much more thoroughly. Sweet.

Catia is crazy. She is our Buddhist investigator. She pretends to want to listen but doesnt really and immediately cuts us off in everything we say. She finds great joy in debate and this time she brought some friends to debate with us, haha. Yikes. One of them seems sincere though (Tweety) and although we are pretty much done trying with Catia, we want to track down her friend and try to meet with her. Funny story. We do "Kinder Predictions", which is when we buy a chocolate with a toy surprise inside and ask a question and open it up and interpret the response according to the toy inside. We asked a few weeks ago "Who will be our baptism here?" And opened it up to find a strange looking action figure woman with long purple hair. Tweety has long purple hair. She could be our baptism!!! Haha.
Catia also particularly attacks S. Tutt everytime we meet. She called her a word I didnt know and so I wrote it down. During language study yesterday we looked up the word fifone. It means "wuss". Hahahaha, great vocab from Catia. For whatever reason she called S. Tutt a wuss. We laughed pretty hard about that.

One more thing. I am working harder than I ever have before in the mission. I am receiving all sorts of inspiration for people and praying for miracles. Its neat to see. We still need a miracle, despite everything we can do, it is not us that changes people and converts them to the gospel. We are trying but we are still so imperfect and miss all sorts of opportunites to invite or dont explain the importance of things as clearly as we should. But we are getting divine help on how to improve and doing our best to put it into practice.

I am praying for April 2. We feel there should be a baptism that day.

We are running off to visit Ostia Antica!

Sorella Askew

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Breaking Boxes


I am happy to be in Ladispoli!

Thursday: stuck in Rome! It was transfer day and we made a trip to the mission office in Rome to get more supplies. I ran into Sorella Riffaldi (my Italian companion several transfers back) and she told me that my Italian has improved (yay! sometimes I wonder). We were stuck at the train station for hours trying to get home because there was some kind of accident and all the trains were delayed. We ate pretty much all of the candy from Bethany's valentine day package (thanks!)

Lately we have been doing some more finding on bus with a survey. We ask someone if we can do a survey with them and then ask three questions.
1. Do you believe in God?
2. What are your feelings towards Jesus Christ?
3. What do you think the purpose of life is?
Works great! About half the people are willing to do the survey with us and its a great religious conversation starter.
We got on a bus Friday evening and there were three people on the bus. Three teenage Italian boys sitting in the back of the bus, all with headphones in and all of them kind of looked like punks. With the help of Sorella Tutt, I got the courage to start the prophet game with them and it was wonderful!!! They all took out their headphones and participated in guessing who the prophets were in pictures. Afterwards, they were curious about who we were and what we believed so we explained it. They were great! I was glad that I found the courage to talk to them, although sometimes we have to be careful because three punk teenagers will just mock us instead of listening. It shows that you really can't judge though and you have to give everyone a chance.

Miracles in English course this week, I feel so grateful. On Saturday, there were over 15 students who showed up to my beginning English class (intimidating because I don't really know how to teach English and especially when I have to teach it in a different language!). But somehow I am getting lots of help because I always manage to make it through the hour and it is pretty fun!
For the spiritual thought at the end, we planned to talk about the Restoration. So, I put up a picture of Joseph Smith on the board and explained what happened to him and briefly touched on the Book of Mormon. Once again, intimidating to teach to a room full of Catholics about the Restoration and about how there was no true church on the earth. Especially humbling because I have really grown to love my English students, they are so beloved and I try to approach the gospel with them carefully. Anyways, I bore my testimony to them and afterwards there were a bunch of people that stayed around and asked questions! It was amazing, they really were open and curious, and I was running around grabbing Books of Mormon and pamphlets and trying to answer questions. Its the good kind of stress, the stress we love having as missionaries!
So that means that now, there are at least ten of my students who have stuck around and asked questions and have "borrowed" a copy of the Book of Mormon or have pamphlets. That is HUGE!!!! I am so grateful for this success and pray fervently that good things will continue to come of it. I am so convinced of the power of the Book of Mormon, that as soon as someone has a borrowed copy (I highlight favorite verses and the beautiful promise of knowing its truth and I write my testimony and tab all this in different copies to make it personal and more readable), I feel a big stress relief. If they are ready and if they are sincere and have real intent, the Book will do the converting.

There is a phrase in Italian "rompere le scatole" and it literally means "breaking boxes". They use it all the time here to mean when you go into a situation and you stir the pot, or when you tell someone just what they need to hear without sugarcoating it.
On Sunday, in church, I broke some boxes. We have been announcing for a while about the need for members to come to English course. The members ideally should be the connection between the English course students and us, they should be the ones who come and help people who have interest transition into learning more about the restored gospel. But we rarely have members who show up and Saturday was an example of that. There were too many people who wanted to know more that we didn't have time to talk to everyone before they left, we can't do it without the help of the members.
So on Sunday we made an announcement again in Relief Society and in Priesthood and talked about the miracles that were happening in English class but how there are still no members who come. We were pretty straightforward about it. Afterwards, one of the members thanked us and said "it was clear and precise and what we needed to hear". Tuesday, however, no members showed up for English course.
I am growing to love Ladispoli and my desire to help make this branch become a ward and to bring the gospel to people is growing. The members are wonderful and many of them are trying to share the gospel as well. But I don't know how to make them care even more. I don't know yet how to help them pray as hard as we are praying for miracles to occur.
There is a lot of opposition here. We haven't seen Giovanni since we set the baptismal date with him. He is in the process of moving and VERY busy. He isn't going to be ready in 2.5 weeks for his baptism unless something changes right now.
We met with another old investigator, Carmela. She is wonderful, such a strong faith in God and so sensitive to the Spirit. But she told us that she doesn't want to change religions. She is facing a lot of confusion and doesn't have the strength to commit herself to find out whats true. She thinks that this might be it, at least she recognizes that it is something very good, but she sees goodness in other churches as well and other people who claim to have truth and it scares her. It rightfully should, she should be cautious, she should take it seriously. But as she admits, she lacks the strong desire at this point to really commit herself to study and pray.
Lots of opposition but I am becoming more and more convinced that miracles can happen.
And the power of prayer is becoming more real to me!

Random funny story. Some guy was trying to flirt with me yesterday and I wasnt in the right mood to deal with him so I instead pretended to not speak Italian. Sorella Tutt came to the back of the bus (she was only like 10 feet away but not apart of the conversation at first) and ended up teaching him all about the Restoration and left him with a Book of Mormon. He seemed really interested but I am not convinced of his sincerity, haha. I just sat there listening and laughing inside because I couldn't participate.

Sorella Askew