I'll start with an Angela update. We see her almost every day (she absolutely loves it when we come over to her house and teach her, she soaks it all up) and she is still doing great and working towards her August 6 baptismal date.
She came to church and her daughter Sofia went to primary and loved it! She was the only little kid in primary so she had one-on-one play time with the primary teacher and it was great. The next day we went over to their house and they had Sofia's primary artwork (pictures of Jesus and the church and temple) glued on their door. Hooray! In the middle of church, Angela leaned over to me and pointed to one of the elder's investigators, Riccardo, and said, "I know him!" Afterwards, Angela immediately went to talk to him. I walked by just in time to hear her say, "..and you need to come to church every Sunday..." Sorella Olsen told me afterwards about how Angela had taken it upon herself to tell Riccardo (who just met the missionaries a few days before) everything he needed to do: read the Book of Mormon, pray to know if it is true, come to church every Sunday, etc.
Angela has also decided that she has a personal role in Adriano's conversion. Angela has started specifically praying for Adriano, that he may prepare himself to be baptized with her on August 6 and understand the truth. It is hilarious! Angela's husband drove all of us, including Adriano to a baptism in another part of Rome on Saturday. As we got in the car, one of the first things that Angela said to us was "I am not drinking tea, coffee, or wine" and she turns to Adriano and explains to him, "I didn't know that tea was bad for you but apparently it was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith". I love it!
Angela really is incredible, I love watching how her life has changed, simply because she read the Book of Mormon and understood immediately that it was true. She was explaining to us yesterday about how much more she understands about the purpose of trials in our life. She explained that she has gone through some really hard trials and how she used to wonder about the justice of it all- how can people who don't care at all about God sometimes live such easy lives while those who have faith and live their lives according to His commandments are given severe trials? She explained to us that she finally understands now that she is being tested and tried and it all makes so much more sense because of the Book of Mormon and the things we teach her. It truly is incredible because I don't think we ever specifically talked about the purpose of difficulty and the injustice in this life with her. Rather, from the things she has learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, she had put it together all by herself. To me, the purpose of trials and how to face them is one of the most beautiful gifts we have because of the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. It was a very neat experience to watch someone else come to the same conclusions and understanding of something that I have a very strong personal conviction of. Wow!
So the other good news is the progress we have seen in Adriano! He is now reading the Book of Mormon every day and preparing to be baptized on August 6 with Angela! He is fascinating to work with because he has such a rational mind and difficulty in trusting the feelings from the Spirit. But in just a month we have seen great changes in him. He has gone from being very incredulous and telling us that it would be a waste of time for us to meet with him, to believing and desiring to be baptized. He told us this week that he feels in his heart that the Book of Mormon is true and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world,even if he can't explain it rationally. As he reads the Book of Mormon, he tells us that it has taken on much more meaning for him. Passages that he has read before now have much greater significance to him. We are so excited for him! Adriano, who has frequented the Church on and off for 10 years, is finally having his heart softened!
One of the highlights this week was on Monday as we rode the metro through Rome to go to our missionary district meeting. I happened to talk to two Catholic priests, one on the way there and one on the way back!
The first one immediately started telling me about how sorry he was for me that I wasn't apart of the Catholic Church (haha) and how all Prostestants have ruined everything. He lectured me for a little bit about Peter being the rock on which the church is built and how the Catholic Church is the only true church in the world. I tried to explain a little bit about our idea of apostasy and restoration but he quickly shut me down and told me that was ridiculous. As he got off the metro, he said to me, "God bless you and may he help you find the truth".
The second Catholic priest was a little nicer, he was studying for his PhD in theology. I explained a little bit to him about the Book of Mormon but when I showed him the picture of Christ appearing in the Americas, he laughed out loud and interrogated, "Where is your proof? Where are the witnesses?" I tried to explain to him how the Book itself was a proof and a witness but he just continued to laugh. We then discussed for a few minutes about saints and why we dont pray to saints ("have you ever asked a friend to pray for you? It's like the same thing" he told me). As I was about to get off the metro, he still had the Book of Mormon in his hand. He asked me, "is this a gift?" I asked him, "will you read it?" He said sure, so I left him with the Book of Mormon. The next day we got a phone call from him, he wanted to meet up with us again and we set up an appointment for Thursday. We are a little wary that he just wants to convert us or prove us wrong, but we will see how it turns out! I am excited!
President Kelly challenged us to come up with an idea of how we can find more joy in missionary work and I determined that I need to talk to more Catholic priests. Its fascinating!
I have been learned a lot about prayer this week. Sorella Olsen and I have started praying together much more often, before and after lessons we now say a quick prayer together. We have seen many great things happen; we are still working hard just as we were before, but I notice how Heavenly Father sends us directly more often to the right people as we come before him humbly in prayer. One day this week we prayed on the street just before we started doing some finding. Right after, Sorella Olsen chose the street to walk down and I chose the house and we were led directly to Monica. The first door we rang, 20-something year old Monica opened up and told us that she didnt believe in God and wasn't interested. We begged her to give us just 5 minutes and she hesitated, we begged for 3 and she let us in. In three minutes, Sorella Olsen and I shared the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. We have never ever taught so well together, our words were seamed together flawlessly, switching back and forth with who was talking. We opened up the Book of Mormon to the pictures in the front (we love using the pictures in the front of the Book of Mormon!) and Monica said, "Wow, I have chills!" The Spirit was so strong! At the end, she eagerly accepted a Book of Mormon and agreed to read. She wasl leaving the next morning to go on vacation for a month and we will see her when she comes back. It was a very spiritual experience.
One last thought on the subject of prayer. We are reading the Book of Mormon together as a mission and I have noticed how much the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon teach us about prayer. Through prayer, we have visions, dreams, revelation. The Lord can soften our heart through prayer. He can fill our heart with joy. He can give us great power and strength. Also, He teaches us how to pray. We need to express much thanks and gratitude and pray very specifically such as Nephi, expressing our faith and testimony to God, even when He already knows our heart.
I want to leave my testimony that I know that prayer is real. I know that through faith-filled prayers, miracles happen. I see in the Book of Mormon and I see it in my life.