Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fruits of the baptism street

Hello dear family!

Do you remember last week how we found "baptism street", the street where we talked to everyone on it and in 45 minutes, 7 people gave us their contact information?? This week we have been meeting with some of the contacts from baptism street! It's such a blessing too because they all live really close to each other- we can set one appointment right after the other and just walk down the street. What a change from the usual Rome traveling where it takes an hour or more to get from one appointment to the next. Instead we found this little niche in our prostelyting zone, a little town called Vitinia where you can walk from one side to the other in 20 minutes, that seems to be full of people who are willing to meet up. And where we find gold, we keep digging! We are going to continue to concentrate our efforts in Vitinia.

Vitinia success story number 1:

One of the people we met in the miracle 45 minutes was an Albanian man named Pietro. We stopped and talked to him, but he spoke very little Italian. We explained to him briefly the Book of Mormon and told him that we have a copy in Albanian, could we bring it to his house? He said yes and left us his address. Now, in the past I haven't had great experiences with Albanian men and I will admit that I was a little skeptical. I figured that he didn't speak Italian very well, and didn't really understand what we were saying or have much interest, but invited us over because we were two young American girls.
We decided to pass by anyways a few days later and walked down the steps of the address he gave us to find a kind of junky yard and a basement apartment. Sorella Dall and I were a little unsure if we wanted to keep going or turn back but we swallowed hard and walked around the corner to find an open door. Hmm, now what to do? We called inside "Permesso?" and an Albanian woman popped out from behind the corner.
"We are looking for Pietro"
"He's not here right now," and she asked us "Who are you?" We explained how we were missionaries and met Pietro the other day on the street and he agreed to let us bring him a book. She looked at us a little waryingly but muttered under her breath "Pietro does like to read". We talked to her for a few minutes at the door and discovered that she was Pietro's wife (sigh of relief, he has a wife!), but during our conversation, we were literally hopping up and down, swatting at our legs because the doorway was covered with mosquitoes. Finally we asked if we could come in and get away from the mosquitoes and she surprisingly said yes! She let us in and we quickly discovered that their house was like one giant shrine to everything Catholic. All the walls were covered in the pictures of Padre Pio, other saints, the Pope, crosses, figurines adorning all the dressers, a giant statue of a bleeding Madonna, and even holy water at the door (the wife blessed us with the holy water!). Pietro's wife (Veronica) warmed up to us a lot and introduced us to one of their children, a daughter our age who was incredibly nice. She teaches catechismo (the class for all the Catholic kids before their first communion). After getting to know us a little bit and deciding we were harmless- I think Sorella Dall's broken Italian and sweetness soften anyone- Veronica agreed to let us come back and share our message.
We went back on Monday night to find Pietro waiting for us at the table, Albanian Restoration pamphlet in front of him. He had read the whole thing and was very curious. Even though he didnt speak much Italian, with the help of Veronica we explained very simply the whole Restoration. He listened intently and asked a few questions, and at the end told us he would immediately start to read the Book of Mormon. It was a simple lesson but I was amazed at the Spirit that was there. I know he will read the Book of Mormon, and we are praying that his heart will be touched. What a difference from our first impression of Pietro to our powerfully spiritual experience teaching him of the restoration. It turns out that Pietro was a deeply religious, well-read man with a beautiful family. We finished our lesson and I didn't even want to leave their house, there was such a special spirit there.

Vitinia success story number 2:
Silvia! I can't remember if I talked about her, but she is an older woman with health problems that loves meeting with us. She almost almost came to church on Sunday, came out of her house to tell the members that were there to give her a ride that she wasn't feeling well and couldn't make it. She felt so bad though that she sent us a text message apologizing and called us after church. We need to help her get hooked on the Book of Mormon though!

Several other people from Vitinia as well that are looking great!

Other randomness from this week:

I gave a talk in church about the value of the scriptures. I don't know why I still get so nervous speaking in front of other people and how to get over it! The talk stressed me out the entire week and I though about it a lot and prepared well. But I decided to bring to the stand with me just a list of bullet points to go over. Somehow I managed to do it and I think it turned out okay! Now I know that if I can give sacrament meeting talks in Italian with only bullet points instead of all written out, I can certainly do it in English! We used the fact that I was giving a talk as an excuse to make Luca stay for all three hours in our church rather than escaping to his baptist church the last hour :)

Luca is doing about the same. Sorella Dall and I determined we just need to help him feel the Spirit and the way that we can do this is to jump start him reading the Book of Mormon. He has commented several times how strange and different our church is with our whole idea of the Restoration and other scriptures, but has said, "I guess I just need to read the Book of Mormon to understand a little more". Yes! But we tell him that every time we see him and he still isn't doing it. How are we going to help him? A reading calendar!

We came up with a new idea: when we are doing house, we are going to offer to sing a hymn for them! It worked once beautifully since we started trying it. Also, when we go home at night, we started singing I am a Child of God to the lone person working at the train station. It always makes them smile and we hope that more than that, they feel the Spirit.

We had zone conference this week and they gave each companionship a DVD player!! AHH!!! There is a set of missionary training DVDs called The District 2. A year or two ago, they had a camera crew follow around a real district of missionaries in San Diego and now they use the clips for training us how to teach better. But it is so wonderful having a DVD player that every night Sorella Dall and I get home and after nightly planning, we "treat" ourselves to 10 or 15 minutes of The District 2. Haha, its the best!

This week I have been thinking about the power of specific prayers again. I know that when I have very specific prayers, I get very specific answers and then my faith in Heavenly Father grows and I feel more love and gratitude towards him. It really is a remarkable concept and my testimony of prayer has increased tremendously. Try it! Pray out loud and pray very specifically! Counsel with God! Tell him about your desires and how you think you could reach them with His help! Or, if you are like me, you can also pray that your desires will change and become more righteous. Slowly slowly, they will, and your heart will become more converted to Him.

Love you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Progress of Italy Temple, August 2011

It's warm!

It's warm but we are drinking lots of water (and eating lots of fruit too, don't worry Mom!)!

We have been doing a lot of finding this week because most of the people we teach or want to start teaching are on vacation or too busy right now. I think I have heard probably 37 times in the last few weeks, the phrase, "Call me in September". Good news, September is just around the corner! We are pushing through it though and the great thing is that I love when we have set aside time to do finding work.
We've seen some good results and are following up on some of the potentials.

Random moments:

Remember the Catholic priest, don Serafino? As we went into Rome for our district meeting I told Sorella Dall about how we once went to go teach this Catholic priest in his church, close to where we have district meeting every Monday. Her eyes got all big and I asked her if she would like to go back and follow up to see if he has started reading the Book of Mormon. "Absolutely!" she said and we gave him a phone call and stopped by. He has not started reading the Book of Mormon yet (he says he is too busy right now) but Sorella Dall bore a beautiful testimony to him and we agreed to come back next week and talk more. I told her to bear her testimony on the apostasy and restoration ("I know that this is the only church with the authority of the priesthood, etc) but luckily Sorella Dall didn't listen and she stuck to the more tactful testimony of the Savior and the Book of Mormon and the peace it brings into her life. Don Serafino is now officially an investigator! Does he know that? Haha, I think not.

We are teaching a new woman named Silvia who was a result of our awesome baptism street finding experience on Saturday (see audio recording). She has been going to different churches for her whole life but has never been to ours. She is currently meeting with the Jehovah's Witnesses (we can't get away from them!) and is impressed with them because they seem to really live their religion rather than simply professing it in church. I think she will like our church as well then! Although we had kind of an interesting church experience last week with Angela's husband Angelo. Angelo is the not-religious Italian husband of the new convert Angela, and he has been coming to church every week with Angela. Elder Larcher told us about how in priesthood the other week the bishop asked for volunteers to help someone move and no one raised their hand. "Monday?" no one. "Tuesday?" no one. "Wednesday, Thursday, Friday?" no one. Angelo spoke up and said, "this is ridiculous. I smoke weed, I don't go to church, but if someone needs my help, I am there instantly to help them." Now, I personally know these members really well. I know that they are charitable, wonderful people who are willing to sacrifice for others, and that they really were probably very busy that week. And I also have gotten to know Angelo pretty well, and I know that he has had a hard life and avoids the sister missionaries when we come over, but I know he has a heart of gold. It was a striking example to me of how we have to be careful not tto judge others, whether Angelo judging them, or the members judging Angelo.

The best part of this week by far has been working with Luca, the 26 year old Romanian baptist who is coming to church and meeting with us, but full of skepticism. We have been praying and studying hard for him this week and on Monday night had a very spiritual experience. After a family home evening with him and some members (singing spiced up hymns with the guitar!), we sat down with Luca on a bench at the train station and talked for almost two hours. He really opened up and told us everything about his life, his doubts, his feelings of inadequacy, his concern of not being converted or a real Christian. He described to us how he grew up Baptist but always felt like a hypocrite because he would always go to church and participate in the choir but never was converted in his heart. And then he quoted from the quote written in our pamphlet on the Restoration. There would be a famine in the land, not a famine for bread or water, but a famine for the word of God. He described how in the last year, he has felt this famine in his own life personally for the word of God. His desire keeps growing but the emptiness cannot seem to be filled.
We know that at least part of the reason that he feels this emptiness is because he was being prepared to meet us. It is so difficult for me to describe how clearly I know that the gospel truths we have will fill up this emptiness he feels. I know that. Sorella Dall knows that. Luca doesn't yet believe that what we offer will help. But to hear him express how much he wants to know God and how his church cant seem to fill this emptiness was glorious and frustrating at the same time. Glorious because we have the solution. Frustrating because we cant give it all to him at once, he must begin to pray sincerely and search the scriptures and find out for himself how the restored gospel is the answer to his need.
We both felt so much love for him that night, so much desire to help him, and it was a clear answer to my previous prayers for charity. It was also a bold confirmation, clearer than I have ever received before, that right now Sorella Dall and Sorella Askew are called to be
Ostia for a very specific purpose. Never have I been so sure that I was supposed to serve in a particular city, with a particular companion at a particular time. For all the other people I may feel inadequate or incapable of teaching, I know that right now we are the best two missionaries to be here helping Luca at this exact moment in his life. His concerns have touched our lives and we are the ones that God very specifically chose to help him.
And so the work continues!

Sorella Askew

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New missionary fun!

Cara famiglia,

My new companion is Sorella Dall from Holladay, UT, just arrived in Italy. She is great! Sorella Dall is studying physical therapy and went to BYU Hawaii before coming on a mission and she is a ballerina! She is exactly what I imagined when I picture having a new missionary as a companion. She doesn't speak Italian and I love it! It has been such an adventure running around Ostia and Rome, helping her learn basic phrases like "I got to Italy 3 days ago", pointing to random people on the street and telling her "Your turn, go talk to them!" And she is wonderful!
I picked her up at the train station in Rome on Thursday. Our new convert Angela and one of our investigators Antonella came as well because they wanted to see Sorella Olsen off. It was so chaotic, saying goodbye to my companion, talking to Antonella and Angela, entertaining Angela's 3-year old, and getting to know my new companion, who had no idea what was going on! As soon as we left the station, all the feelings of anxiety and stress just simply left. It was such a blessing. Sorella Dall and I brought her bags back to the apartment and left to go to the Relief Society activity with our 27-year old investigator/neighbor Silvia. Sorella Dall understands little of what is going on (it reminds me of my first transfer in Taranto! It is a miracle to think of how much I have learned in the last year and how much easier it is to understand these fast speaking Italians now), and it is a big change from Sorella Olsen who bounced all over the place, talking to everyone. But I love it. I don't even know why. It has been the easiest transition and a great week.
That first night, we went finding together, her first time preaching the gospel to the Italians!! We talked to people on the train and on the street and picked up a gelato before heading home. Usually I would start talking to someone, tell them how my companion just arrived in Italy and was learning Italian, and ask them if she can practice and tell them about why she is here. No one can say no to that! It works beautifully! Then, Sorella Dall in broken Italian explains that she is a missionary and she came to Italy to teach about Jesus Christ. I'll then pick it up from there, explain a little more about our message and turn to Sorella Dall and ask her to bear her testimony. In the last few days, I have been pushing her a little more, approaching someone and standing there to let Sorella Dall talk for as long as she can - getting to know them, introducing the gospel message, explaining the Book of Mormon and when she runs out of things to say, I'll finally join and help out! It is the best thing ever! Sorella Dall is great, she is so willing to talk to people, whether on her own initiative or someone I point to, saying "that person wants you to talk to them!"

August in Italy is vacation month, and a lot of people we teach are either extremely busy working for the vacation season or they are out of town. So we will get to do a lot of finding this month! That's okay, its probably my favorite part of missionary work. We have seen some spectacular things. I have been praying more sincerely recently to find people who need to hear our gospel message. One day in particular, we said hi to an older woman and asked how she was. She looked at us with tears in her eyes and said "bad. My husband died 4 months ago" We sat down next to her in the lobby of her apartment building and talked for quite a while. She so desperately wanted to know about where her husband was now, what he was like, if he remembered her, and if he was suffering, and I have never been so grateful in my life to be able to answer all her questions with complete confidence in the reality of the Plan of Salvation. I have never been so struck by how truly incredible it is that we have all the answers. All the other people in the world have ideas, they hope, they have the faith that things are okay without the details. But to see this suffering woman look at me with earnestness as we told her about where her husband was and what he was doing, was a whole other experience. Even something as simple as the fact that he had the same personality, she would look up at me and ask "really? is that so?". And I could promise her with all sincerity that it was.
That same day as we were going home at night, we talked to a woman sitting on the bench with a suitcase. She was probably 30 years old, so full of life and kind, very religious. She had been married for just over a month and her husband started hitting her. She was hurt and sad and didn't know what to do, so she was escaping to stay with her parents in Calabria. We talked together and gave her a Book of Mormon, promising her that she would find comfort and answers in the words of that book. She clutched it to her chest and thanked us profusely. I know that we were led to these people.

As always, I have very few minutes left and much more I would like to say.

Luca our investigator is doing great, he came to church, hung out with the members at the beach the day after. He has been religious his whole life (he is 26) and gone to church and done the right things but he doesn't feel converted in his heart. He still has doubts and doesn't know if God listens to him and he doesn't know how to know what is true.

I have had several really spiritual experiences this week, especially in working with the members. Marco, 37, from a poorer family, little education, living at home, and yet watching how absolutely inspired he is and how much God has blessed him with wisdom and the Spirit because he is a humble seeker.
It is incredible watching how much Adriano still grows from week to week. His testimony is growing, his understanding is increasing. The gift of the Spirit he just received is truly working in his life.

I love this work, my love for it is growing. I know God answers our simple, humble, sincere prayers. I know we must desire the right things to have the right results.

Love you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Angela Drobynko and Adriano Lai were baptized on August 6, 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It was wonderful.

Sorella Olsen and I went to the church a few hours early to fill up the font and waited in anticipation. The baptism was at the stake center in Rome (there is no baptismal font in the hotel at Ostia where we go to church!) and a lot of people showed up! There were a lot of members from Ostia who came (even if it is over an hour away) and other missionaries and their investigators and friends and family of Angela and Adriano. It was such an adventure! Adriano couldn't find a pair of pants that fit him and we ended up putting him in a jumpsuit, much to his dismay. The baptism started much later than we thought and last for over an hour. It was wonderful though, what an incredible thing to watch two people enter the waters of baptism and come out clean and ready to start their new life following the Savior. I am particularly struck by how the baptism is a covenant, bound by the priesthood of God. There are so many other people in the world who follow Christ, even Angela before she met us had committed to living a life following His teachings. BUT, that event was the sealing promise, the everlasting commitment to pattern our lives after His. It is the one covenant that is "legally" recognized by God and the one way that He can in return bless us with the gift of His Spirit and His cleansing power. Angela before was Christian, the Holy Ghost had touched her heart and profoundly influenced her life, but with her baptism, she received the remission of her sins along with Adriano, and the two of them now can stand clean before Him at the last day. Even in the simplicity of the ceremony, I am struck by the power of the covenant that they just entered.

We gave Adriano a tie to wear for his confirmation the next day in church but he didn't wear it (the excuse that he has no shirt that matches, which is true unfortunately). They were both confirmed on Sunday by our bishop, who promised them wonderful things in their blessing. And they are both doing great! We are going to stay close to them in the next few weeks to reteach them the lessons and make sure that any concerns or questions they have are resolved.
We are so blessed to be able to take part in the miracle of Adriano and Angela's conversion.

Other big news. On Saturday night at 10:20, Sorella Olsen and I got transfer calls. We were sure that I would be going to Sicily and that Sorella Olsen would stay and train. Sorella Olsen answered the phone call from our mission president's wife and she told her to sit down and get ready. Sorella Olsen would be transfered to Taranto and I would stay in Ostia and train! I can't believe it. I thought for sure I was leaving and in the last few weeks I have been preparing myself to go. Instead, I will be in Ostia for another transfer tomorrow I will have a brand new missionary from America as my companion. Its difficult to describe everything that I feel. I am so overwhelmed, unprepared, and inadequate. Sorella Olsen is an incredible missionary that will leave a legacy of love. I have seen a lot of tears in the last few days as Sorella Olsen has had to tell Angela and the members that she is leaving. I will now be responsible for trying to follow in her legacy and keep up the pattern of love and hard work that she has created here. And I will now also be responsible for a brand new missionary and helping her to understand how to be an effective servant of the Lord. Ever since Saturday night, my head has been spinning with all the things that I need to do and my stomach churns with anticipation. I have tried to copy down the lists of things I need to do from my head onto paper but end up instead with sticky notes scattered through the apartment. Sometimes I feel like I am about to explode with all the emotional stress of it all, of all my weakness and fears. And then I realize that there is no way that I can do it all and that is okay. That's okay because that is exactly what the Atonement is. It is helping us to realize the desires of our hearts when our abilities fall so short. I will not be able to do everything I feel that I need to with my new companion, but it will be okay anyways. But I have to have faith in this power. I have to believe Christ when he tells us that no matter how severe the weaknesses, I can be made perfect in Him. All my sins of selfishness, all my self-doubts can be wiped away clean if I just trust in Him and desire and search to follow Him. It brings peace to my heart in the moments of distress. I have a much firmer testimony of Ether 12:27. Weakness are given to us by God for this life of probation so that we will come unto Him. When I feel so overcome by the natural man, tiredness or laziness or doubt or selfishness or insecurity, it literally brings me to my knees in fervent prayer. And I know that my pleading prayers are heard by a loving Heavenly Father and consecrated for my benefit. I know that I will be just fine.

I love you all!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Baptisms this week!

We have two baptisms planned for this Saturday, Adriano and Angela! What an incredible week!

It has been amazing watching him progress from when we first met him and he told us, "I don't want to waste your time" to him being baptized this Saturday. I have learned about trusting in the Spirit from him. He started off telling us that he studied all world religions and wanted to judge rationally which would be the right religion. He thinks so much with his head and wants to analyze everything. But we have worked together and he has come to understand faith as trusting in the feelings in your heart as well. As he told us a week ago, he doesn't have all the answers, but he feels in his heart that the things we tell him are true. And he is now willing to put his faith to the test and follow through on those feelings. Just like D&C 11:12, we must learn to trust the Spirit. It requires a lot of humility and searching and practice though!
Angela as well passed her baptismal interview with flying colors. What a wonderful day it will be!

Quick update from last week as well, we did meet with the Catholic priest (his name is don Serafino). He invited us to his church and when we arrived, he led us back to his office, saying that he wanted to finish the discussion that we had started on the metro. He asked us a lot of questions about the things we believe and challenged us on them as well, but I love how a humble testimony can so quickly bring the Spirit and eliminate any trace of contention. I was shaking when we taught him though, I don't know why I was so nervous! We challenged him to read the Book of Mormon and he agreed, although mostly out of curiosity rather than sincere interest. Then he invited us to lunch and we ate with him in his parish!

Love you lots!
Get excited for next week when we can tell about our two baptisms, ahh!