Hello! I want to tell you about a miracle this week! This has to do with Veronica, but not the Veronica that I have been talking about the last few weeks in Ostia. Instead, this miracle is about Veronica in Rome 2, a girl we taught right around Christmastime.
This Veronica was a 14 year old girl that Sorella Pickett and I started teaching. Her family was friends with the bishop's family in Rome 2 and the bishop brought them to the ward Christmas party, where Sorella Pickett and I got their contact information and started teaching Veronica, the only one interested at the time. We were so excited too because she was Italian and young and open and there was so much potential. We had several lessons with her that were very spiritual, and we watched her progress from not believing that God exists to believing that He is real and that He loves her. I had put a lot of hope in her! And then one day we went and taught a lesson and at the end, we asked if she had any questions. She told us that she had decided to go back to the Catholic faith and stop meeting with us, although she was grateful for the help in gaining a faith in God. We were devastated and not sure how much of her decision was based on what she wanted to do or the influence of her family. But we let her go with the hope that atleast she would have the connection to the bishop's family if she ever changed her mind in the future.
A few days ago, I got a phone call from Sorella PIckett, who is still serving in Rome 2. She told me that Veronica and her family all just set a baptismal date!! They are planning on being baptized in the middle of July! Sorella PIckett went on to explain to me how in the last several weeks, Veronica started attending church activities and she become friends with the girls her age in the ward and Sorella Pickett and her companion started teaching Veronica's family. They came to church on Sunday and soon after, all of them agreed to be baptized! Wow!!
Sorella Pickett told me that Veronica also told her about how one of her concerns was that she wanted to feel the Spirit again as strongly as she did when she first met with us, months ago. That was such a comfort for me to hear, because sometimes I feel like we do our best to prepare and bear testimony and bring the Spirit into lessons but it seems to have little impact on the person. BUT, we cannot underestimate the long lasting effects that the Spirit can have. It is also incredible because Sorella Pickett and I had the goal to find a baptize an Italian family, and now we are able to see the fruits of our work together. Even better, we are both still serving in the Rome zone and are around to really rejoice in it! It was a lesson to me on how the things I do here really do make a difference, even if we dont see the results right away. I know that if Veronica follows through on her baptism, her life will be absolutely changed forever. Italy is a hard place to grow up, and most of the teenagers are making bad decisions with their lives. But, with the principles of the gospel and the support that Veronica now has from other girls her age, she will be able to avoid so much of the misery that I have seen from bad decisions. That is incredible!
Also this week I found out that Cristian, the investigator we found from english course just a few weeks before I left, has a baptismal date and is making some outstanding progress! There are good things happening all around the Rome zone and I am convinced that one of the reasons I was called to stay in the Rome zone and serve in Ostia was so that I would be able to see all these great things happening with people that I taught. If I stick around for the next transfer as well, I will probably be able to go to their baptisms! I am very very grateful for the success that I was able to have a small part in, and have a greater testimony that this is God's work and that He is guiding it.
Phew, so what is going on in Ostia anyways?
Laura is still going strong, still getting ready for her baptism on June 22 (she moved the date up). She came to church on Sunday and we are so glad because it was a very powerful fast and testimony meeting. We are helping her to focus on the positive things in her life and realize that although her circumstances might not change right away, thanks to the Atonement, she has the ability to change herself and have a new perspective on life. Her hard times have left her bitter and cynical towards people, although they have also humbled her and I believe prepared her to have the desire to change. We are working on helping her understand how important her desires are: instead of having desires based of off a successful singing career (she wants to move to America and sing professionally) or a man in her life, she can turn her desires to those of serving God and fulfilling His will. Because a professional singing career as a foundation for happiness is very uncertain and unstable, but she can find the happiness that lasts if she has desires instead to keep His commandments. She is still going strong though and keeping her commitments: coming to church, reading, praying. We will teach the word of wisdom today!
Antonella, the girlfriend of a member, is still one of my favorite investigators. She is really cute and happy and smart and we have really good lessons with her because she understands really well, but its funny because we get to the end of the lesson and we think it went really well and then we ask her to do something and she always says no! But she is so nice about it that she is still one of my favorite people, haha. The first lesson, we asked her if she would be baptized when she received an answer and she said no. Yesterday we taught her and she pulled out her Book of Mormon and notes that she took while she was reading it and she shared with us some of the things that really stuck out to her. It was incredible because the things that hit her the most were some of the scriptures that we use all the time in the church! And without any prior bias, she too was touched by the passages about Nephi's determination to go and do and how God always prepares a way, or about how Nephi went forth and was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand what he would do. Antonella would point out a verse and Sorella Olsen and I would look at each other in shock, "how is she so awesome?". So after talking about the Book of Mormon and how incredible it is, Sorella Olsen asked Antonella if she would pray to God and ask Him if it was true. Antonella surprised us by saying "No." What?! She told us she is just reading out of curiosity, haha. That was a surprise, especially because she came to church on Sunday and was clearly touched by the Spirit in fast and testimony meeting (she was crying!). Anyways, we still love her lots and she still wants to meet with us and we are praying that something will touch her heart and help her have more desire to search to know if it is true.
Other random fun parts about serving in the Rome area... (and even though our proselyting area is called Ostia, we spend more time inside the city of Rome than we do in Ostia!)
On Monday we were on our way back from district meeting and our metro back stops right at the Colosseum. So we decided to take our lunch and hour to study the language at the Colosseum! We sat on a grassy hill right next to the Colosseum and laughed at tourists while we studied Italian. Only in Rome!!
One night Sorella Olsen and I were on the bus home and I convinced her to sing a hymn to the bus driver with me. It was crazy and really strange but afterwards the bus driver laughed and told us how much we had cheered up his long day at work. Hymns bring the Spirit!
We are teaching Tea, a 20 year old very stylish Italian girl who comes to church with her best friend who is a member at Ostia. She is awesome and way into dreams and visions although not a huge supporter of commandments yet :) But she is very open and we are working on it!
We got a new investigator, Maria. She stopped the elders on the street and asked them to come teach her and they referred her to us instead. She is evangelical although wants to know what we believe. She is suffering serious depression right now though and wants to escape Italy with her children. We taught her once and went back yesterday and when we showed up, her ex-husband was there. He was a less active member we met randomly our first week here!! We were shocked! We had a lesson with them but it was more difficult because I am pretty sure he was drunk and they were arguing throughout the whole lesson and he was arguing with us a little about church doctrine. That's not the best environment to be teaching Maria in! We deal with some of the strangest things as missionaries, but I love it because it keeps everything interesting!
Another neat experience. We were in Rome on Monday and we had two bidones (when people stand us up) and were trying to do some knocking on doors in the area but were yelled at and kicked out of the complex. We weren't having the best day and we weren't very happy. We pass someone on a bench as we were walking to a bus stop and Sorella Olsen tells me, "we need to go back to talk to that person". We went back and sat down next to her and she immediately told us she wasn't interested. But we sat and talked with her anyways and she was so friendly and kind and eventually our conversation turned to religion. Her name is Barbara and she doesn't have a lot of faith, but was interested to hear why we were so convinced and we explained the Book of Mormon. We ended up leaving her with a Book of Mormon and exchanging numbers to meet again and talk more! It was a miracle and a wonderful experience to show us how God does bless us and send people in our path and prompt us to talk to them.
There are so many other people to talk about but I am out of time!
Love you lots!