Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sorella Olsen and Ostia!

I love Ostia!! It is a great city outside of Rome on the coast, bigger than Ladispoli. Our area covers part of Rome and down south about two hours on train to Latina. Our apartment is in between Rome and Ostia, in a suburb called Centro Giano. We live right next to the Tiber River and we go running sometimes in the morning along a trail right next to the Tiber (sweet!). The apartment is beautiful, two stories and in a really quiet part of town. Pretty soon we are going to make brownies for all our neighbors to get to know them :) The elders lived in the apartment before us and they had only been there for a few months but they are still missing lots of supplies! Sheets, towels, cups, all sorts of things we had to buy our first few days in Ostia. Its a great place to live though, just a 10-15 min walk to the train that takes us either to Rome or to Ostia.

I love Ostia and I love Sorella Olsen!!! Sorella Olsen is from Alpine Utah (yes, she knows Katrina Lewis) and plays volleyball and is 6 ft tall and studies languages at BYU. She had taken years of Italian at BYU before the mission and did a study abroad in Siena so even though she is only in her 4th transfer, she speaks better than me!! She is an extremely nice person and an incredible missionary. I have never seen a missionary that talks to everyone around her like she does, its amazing!! Its exactly the companion I've prayed for, someone who loves to do finding work all the time and she makes it so easy! She is such an example to me and we already have lots of good contacts and potentials (how does she get so many numbers from people?? wow!).

Ostia is also great, although we havent worked much in Ostia since we have been here! A lot of the members live outside of Ostia, so we are often traveling into Rome and talking to people on the buses or metros in Rome rather than Ostia. It kind of feels like serving in Rome 2 again! But I really hope we will get to work in the city of Ostia as well because I really like it. Its kind of like a mix between Rome and Ladispoli, bigger and busier than Ladispoli, but also quieter and nicer than Rome. The ward here is a small ward and they just got a new bishop on Sunday who we have heard is really motivated into missionary work. One of my favorite parts about the ward is that they have specific goals they are working towards. I like goals a lot and it makes it a lot easier for me to feel love for and know how to serve the ward I am called to serve in when I can work specifically for the same things that the members want. Right now our Ostia ward meets in a hotel every Sunday because we dont have a church and the members in this ward really want a church. The stake presidency is looking around for a spot to build a church but the activity in the ward will have to increase from about 50 members every Sunday to 70 members before they can. So, whether it is through reactivation or baptisms, we have adopted this ward goal as our own and I love having something concrete that we can work towards.

So Sorella Olsen and I were dropped off at our apartment on Thursday morning and after we dragged our suitcases in and had a snack, we looked at each other and said, "well, what do we do now?" Both of us are brand new to the area and we are opening up the city to sisters, so any people we have to work with are women that the elders have given us. Luckily I have heard a little bit about the area from the elders and some of the people we would be working with.

After a few hours of sorting through the area book and trying to get to know the work a little bit, we went to Ostia for the first time with the elders (before there was just one set of elders in the city, now it is us and the elders) for a family home evening for several members. The elders told us that it was in a kind of bad part of town and that we wouldn't be working there very much, but as soon as we got there, I fell in love with it. Yes, the people there are poorer but it really isn't that bad of an area, and the people are so much more humble and friendly. Several members of the church in Ostia live there, including a few new converts and several of them come from really bad drug filled backgrounds. They are already some of my favorite members though. We walked into the room with the FHE and there is a big guy with lots of tattoos who gives us a huge welcome and introduces himself as "Carmelo the investigator". We sang the opening song and Carmelo had this booming voice that we all had to yell the hymn out to match him. He was an incredible singer though and sang with all his heart, with all of his emotions written on his face. Wow. Afterwards we find out that he isnt an investigator, he was just joking (haha), and he pulled out his cellphone and listed off about 10 numbers of ex investigators and his friends that we needed to call. He would find a friend in his cellphone directory and call them up and ask them if they wanted to meet the sister missionaries. I have never seen anything like it, it was incredible!

On Friday we met the Ostia elders in a park and they told us all about the investigators and people we are working with. That night we met our first investigator, Veronica. I'll describe her quickly because she is great.

Veronica: Italian, 23 years old, she is dating a member of the church who is currently in Idaho going to BYU-I but she is meeting with the missionaries and is reading the Book of Mormon and comes to church every week. She is solid, she almost for sure will be baptized sometime. The coolest part is what she does for a job. At 23 years old, she has a job as a restorer of old churches. So she works in the really old churchs in Rome and restores frescos and other paintings and parts of the building. Right now she is working on Santa Maria Maggiore, a huge famous church in Rome. How incredible is that?!! Its amazing! We had a great lesson with her and another member who is 20 (who also brought a friend to church on Sunday who is also reading the book of Mormon, ahh!) and she wants to take things slow but is doing great.

There is so much more to talk about, so many people but I am running out of time. One more quick story, last night Sorella Olsen and I set a baptismal date!!! Her name is Laura, she is the friend of a member and she is very angry with the world (especially Italian men) but very open to the gospel. We just have to help her understand that she can look past all the bad experiences she has had and find joy and the positive. She is someone who is really searching for peace and to change her life around, so she is perfect!!! Our baptismal date goal is June 25 (John, that is your birthday!!)))!!

There is so much more to say but I have to finish up.
To summarize, the ward is thrilled to have sisters in it and we are getting lots of referrals from people, I have never seen such involvement in missionary work from the ward! We have talked to so many people and we have seen so many miracles this first week. Wow, this will be an incredible transfer.

I read this morning about the apostles in the New Testament and how they were amazed when Jesus walked on water because they considered not the previous miracles he did and their hearts were hardened. How often are we like this. How often am I like this!! Like always, I am working on remember the blessings and the miracles that God has already given me so that I will be more humble and open to the miracles he gives me now.


Sorella Askew

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arcangelo and his daughter, Sara

Water, water, water!

PHOTO: Cristian (our investigator) and Natalia (a member).

Hello! It was a good week, lots of water related news and activities.

1. We went three days without water in our apartment last week! There was a problem with one of the tubes (although we didnt know what was going on at the time) and no water was making it to our apartment. That means no showers, no flushing the toilet, no water in the sinks to cook or wash our hands with. Nothing! A member in our ward works as a plumber so he sent his team of workers out to our apartment, but after a full day of three plumbers working in our apartment, they couldnt figure out what was wrong. They went home on Friday with the promise to come back on Monday (what? we will have to wait until Monday?) The mission office sent in another plumber Friday night who couldnt help us either and then finally our landlord sent a plumber on Saturday who fixed it in 10 minutes. Haha, what was everyone else doing??
We survived though for the three days without water. We ran to the church at 6:30 in the morning to wash our hair and brought back buckets of water for cooking and toilet flushing. We got to know several of our neighbors a little better as well when we went and asked them if we could fill up our water buckets at their apartment. The mission office wanted to move us out of our apartment to live with the sorelle in Rome 2 for a few days but we told them no :) We would much rather live without water than waste all the time traveling to and from Ladispoli to work!
It was a hilarious experience and we made a tape which I will attach.

2. I am being transferred! Tomorrow I am moving to Ostia, which is really close to Ladispoli, just one prostelyting zone over and about 15 miles down the beach. Its a town on the coast just outside of Rome, like Ladispoli, although our apartment is actually between Ostia and Rome, right on the Tiber river (this is why I can categorize this news with "water"). It is also not an apartment but a house and one of the nicest in the mission, wohoo! They just bought it for the elders a few months ago although they are kicking the elders out and putting in the sisters. My companion will be Sorella Olsen and she is coming all the way from Sicily where she is currently serving with my last companion Sorella Tutt. I've met her once and she is wonderful, I am so excited to serve with her! This will be her fourth transfer in the mission but she studied Italian before and already speaks really well.
Also, we are opening up the city to sisters! That means that right now there is only one set of elders serving in Ostia and no sisters but both me and Sorella Olsen will be brand new to the city! This is kind of like what Sorella Tutt and I did with Ladispoli, except in Ostia there aren't any sister missionaries serving there right now. I am thrilled!!!! I LOVE being blown into a city with no prior mindsets or limits. Everything is new and we can make it just how we want it to be.
Also, it will be great fun because I will still be in the same district as Sorella Giordano. That means that every Monday when we gather together as a district of 8 missionaries in Rome to have a meeting, I will get to see her and hear about the wonderful people in Ladispoli. YAY!

3. Okay, last point having to do with water.... how have we been preparing people for the waters of baptism... aka, hows the work in Ladispoli!
The biggest news of this week was that on Sunday, the branch of Ladispoli became a ward!! We had a ton of people from the stake there and there wasnt enough room in the chapel so we set in the hallway and listened in. It was also a great Sunday because a less active family I have been working with from the beginning, the Del Core family, finally came to church!! They are some of my favorite people in Ladispoli, the mom who talks A TON and is just hilarious and half her face is paralyzed so she looks find of funny when she talks and is 50 but dresses like she is 20 and is friends with half the town of Ladispoli and loves us and has a testimony but tells us she is too lazy to come to church. We have spent many Sunday mornings calling them or knocking on their door to wake them up but they've never made it. And FINALLY, my last Sunday, they make it to church!!! What a wonderful surprise! Sorella Del Core walks in late to Relief Society and announces to everyone, "buongiorno" right in the middle of the lesson. And then the rest of the church she repeats to us "did you see? I made it to church today!" because she was so proud of herself. Haha, I love that family.
Also, our investigator Cristian had told us before that he wasnt coming to church because he had to go to Rome with his mom, but instead he wanders in right before sacrament meeting because he was "taking a walk in the neighborhood and decided to stop by". He is a little strange but it is awesome that he came. I sat by him during church though and he was way distracted, talking to the people around him and asking questions. Good fun :)
So.... the big news about the changes in Ladispoli. The new bishop is going to be Giacomo Armillei, exactly who we hoped it would be! Giacomo is only 29 and just barely married but he is INCREDIBLE and way focused on missionary work. Also, we got a new ward mission leader, Diego Marchetti, who is only 26 and awesome. I am so happy to leave Ladispoli and missionary work here in such good hands.

I wish I had more time to reflect on my experiences in Ladispoli. I love this city, I love this ward and our investigators. I will miss them all.
Giovanni who is golden, just a little scatterbrained, but wants so much to do the right thing
Arcangelo who stopped smoking finally and is really close to baptism! Its been almost two weeks that he hasnt smoked (that is HUGE for him) and we tried to set a baptismal date with him but he refuses. He has been coming to church for years and reads the scriptures and likes the church, but he puts on this front and pretends to not really care. It has been so neat to watch him progress and the miracle of him not smoking
Tiziana and her family.
Cristian who has come to EVERY church activity since we met him a few weeks ago and is already good friends with the members. I've never met someone who immediately became as involved as him.
Lilian and her three kids from Nigeria who so desperately need our love and support. She wants so much to follow God but has faced so many hard things in her life and opposition
So many others. All the people that we have talked to on buses and trains. All our friends in the stores.
Especially my english course students, I will miss them so much! Some of them are people who started coming from the beginning with Sorella Tutt and I first arrived. Especially Raffaella and Carmine, the cute couple. I gave them a Book of Mormon as a parting gift with a note and some of my favorite parts highlighted and Raffaella was really grateful. Who knows, maybe she will start reading again and remember the feelings she had!

I learned in Ladispoli about choosing joy and enthusiam, even when you are tired and discouraged. I learned about thinking of others and working for the Lord instead of working for my own personal satisfaction and blessings and success. I learned so much from my two companions and love them dearly. It has been so hard and so wonderful, even if it is impossible to see in the moment. I am so grateful I could serve here!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


There has been talk this last week of an earthquake in Rome. It is supposed to happen today or tomorrow. Hmmmm, we haven't felt anything yet! We think it is all just rumors.... we hope!

Family, it was great talking to you on Saturday! I am glad you are happy and doing well and you got to talk to my Italian companion as well!

I am trying to think of what happened this last week, nothing too exciting! We need to do some more finding because most of our investigators stopped answering their phone or we can only see them once a week because they live or work out of town.
Some highlights...

We haven't been able to see Giovanni but we met his wife!! When we did exchanges, Sorella Giordano and Sorella Urban ran into Giovanni outside his apartment complex so we finally learned where he lived. When we ask, he always told us the zone of the city where he lived, but never the address. Also, we have heard a lot about his wife from him, but we have never met her and he won't let us come to his house or invite her to church. Well, we decided it was time to take action. So yesterday afternoon we went to his apartment complex and knocked on all the doors looking for Giovanni. At one door, a tall, pretty Romanian woman answered and told us that Giovanni was at work. Perfect! We introduced ourselves and left an article for Giovanni in Romanian on the Book of Mormon (and if she happens to glance at it as well, that is just fine!). We finally met his wife and she seemed great!!! We hope to be able to go back and start working with her as well. Transfer goal accomplished!

Arcangelo (the husband/father of a very active member family, he comes to church every week and has met with the missionaries for years. he is wonderful but is a stubborn man and claims to not have a testimony but we don't believe him) hasn't smoked since Friday! His biggest obstacle has been the fact that he smokes and doesn't want to quit. On Friday, he got deathly ill and didn't leave his bed until Sunday. When we saw his family in church, his wife told us about this and how he hasn't been smoking since he has been sick. We called him on Sunday and even though he was feeling much better, he still didn't start smoking again! We have talked to him every day and are encouraging to keep it up and he is! We are convinced that he really does want to stop smoking but he never thought he would be able to do it so he just tells us he doesn't want to quit. He knows how much it would be to his family and how much they hate that he smokes, so we figure he just doesn't want to let them down if he tries and fails so instead he takes on this nonchalant attitude of he doesn't really care. But we know better, he loves his family so much and he would love to stop smoking for them.
Anyways, when we ask him every day if he has smoked, he just kind of laughs and tells us "no, cigarettes smell". Well of course they do, Arcangelo!
It is honestly a huge miracle that he hasn't been smoking and we are so excited, even if the price was that he had to be deathly ill for 3 days! Haha!
If he can keep it up, we can make a lot more progress with him and he might finally be baptized!

Cristian, our new 26 year old investigator from Ecuador, is doing great! He came with other YSA (young single adults) to stake conference in Rome on Sunday and really liked it! Ahh!! He already has become good friends with some of the YSA. One of them told us that on the ride back in the car, Cristian asked "how long does it usually take for someone to get baptized?". Haha, WHAT? I have never heard that question before! It was before he was even able to have a real lesson with us. But he is willing to meet with us, he goes to Institute, he is already friends with the other youth and he went to stake conference! I've never had an investigator like him before! At this point, he still believes that all the Christian churches are pretty much the same and is looking for a church where the people who attend are good people (thank goodness we have a bunch of spectacular YSA in this branch). Thats okay, its a good start and we will work on strengthening his testimony of the doctrine of the Restoration as well. Its so fun to have someone who actually wants to meet with us!

Stake conference was wonderful, there is an incredible stake president here. President Defeo. He talked about the story of Peter walking on water. He had to do three things
1. leave the boat.
aka leave behind whatever was holding him back. what is holding us back?
2. step out on the water.
we have to leave behind all fear and move forward with faith
3. keep our gaze on Christ
when the storms rise, we have to keep our sight on him and not be distracted by the storms around us

We also had zone conference and talked about focusing our teaching on the invite at the end. Everyone we meet with has to be invited to action because action is how we gain faith. Also, we focused a lot on the need to practice!

Sorella Giordano and I need to do more finding in these days. We need to find the people who are searching instead of the people who need to be dragged to meet with us and don't act on our invites!
Life is good. I am blessed. I am grateful that my faith in the Savior is growing.
I am working on changing my thoughts to think more about others. Thats hard to do!! But very important!

Love you!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ladispoli Rocks!

Good week for the work in Ladispoli!

We had two lessons with him this week. The first one was on Thursday night and we brought Eugenia, a member, with us. Just as with most of our lessons with Giovanni, we don't actually teach much of a lesson. Instead, Giovanni talks for most of it and expresses his doubts and concerns and thoughts and we try to jump in every once in a while to address these concerns and help him out. On Thursday, he talked about one of his concerns that we have been working with for a while. Summed up, he doesn't feel that he should be praying to know which church to join because he has other things he needs to be focusing on with his relationship with God. He feels like it is much more important to work on fixing his vices and minor sins from day to day such as patience or not having meaningful prayer and scripture study (he does read and pray every day, but is easily distracted and it is never as good as he wants it to be). We have tried to explain to him how a testimony of and participation in the restored gospel will help him to overcome these things and he has the rest of his life to do it! After baptism, we get the gift of the Holy Ghost which is given to help us continue in our progression in these like this! But explaining this hasnt helped much up to this point.
This time, Eugenia shared her experiences and the second half of 2 Nephi 4 - Nephi's psalm. We read it together and Giovanni was reading from a Romanian Book of Mormon we borrowed from the church for this lesson because he left his at home. We finished reading and Giovanni simply said "Can we finish the lesson here? And can I take this Book of Mormon with me?" We said sure and he folded the page of the Book where we had read, we prayed, and he practically ran out of the Church. It was obvious that he was really touched by what we had read. Eugenia was all nervous that she had scared away our investigator but Sorella Giordano and I were thrilled that something had finally hit him!
We talked to him the next day and he told us that he really felt the need to be reading and praying and commiting himself more. Perfect.
The second lesson was last night, we simply watched the Restoration film with him, two members, and another investigator who randomly joined us after english course. The moment it ended, he said "That was wonderful". I was worried about watching it with him because he doesnt fully understand why we focus on Joseph Smith so much, but it turned about absolutely perfect. The Spirit was strong and we talked about what we liked from the film and we all bore testimony. It was short and simple and powerful. As soon as he walked out, we danced around and cheered and were absolutely thrilled that it went so well. He is close to baptism, I know it!

We found a new investigator! His name is Luciano and he is a 7th day adventist and extremely religious. He comes to church often, but the members told us not to work with him because he is fairly argumentative and confrontal. Well, we finally set an appointment anyways and it turned out great! He does have a ton of questions and knows the Bible very well, but he was not confrontational at all! He had already read and studied the entire Book of Mormon and D&C and gave us a nice overview at the beginning. He studies hard and sincerely wants to know the truth, although he is extremely detail oriented, which may be a little bit of an obstacle. It all has to fit together perfectly for him. It is awesome having a lesson with him though; I like people who are detail oriented and precise! Good fun! We want to work with him more but he lives very very far away.

We also have another new investigator, Cristian the kid from Ecuador who comes to english course. He was the one who stuck around and watched the Restoration film with Giovanni. He is already making friends with the other young adults in the branch.

Also, they announced that the Ladispoli branch is going to be made into a ward in two weeks! Its amazing how I have only been here a few months but I feel like this branch is my own and I feel the joy that the other members feel at this announcement. It is HUGE! The entire organization of the branch will change. It is also a huge success because in the last ten years, the branch has had several close calls of being closed down. This is a dream for some of the members who have been here from the beginning.

I had a cool experience. I woke up one morning this week with the thought "Work with the husbands". It was a very strong impression. I made a list of husbands of members afterwards, whether they werent members or less active. I dont know which ones will be the right ones, but we are going to start working with some of the husbands a little bit more.

Random story.
Yesterday, we talked to a man on the street outside of his house and it went really well. We finished up and asked his name and he told us "Luigi". We had just turned and started walking away when a neighbor walked by and said to the man "Ciao Vincenzo!"
Ha! Caught!

Love you all!

Sorella Askew