Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Volcanos, conference and pizza


Guess what we did today for P-day?? We hiked up Mt. Etna! Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and Catania is right on the base of Mt. Etna. We can't see it from our apartment because it is obscured by all the buildings, but sometimes when we are in the car with the elders driving around Catania, Mt. Etna pops up into view. It always has this cloud of smoke coming from the top and it erupts fairly often. So today we decided to go hike Mt. Etna! Don't worry though, its totally safe and a huge tourist attraction. Although there are lots of cool pictures in the tourist stores of the last time lava came all the way down to where we were in 2011, surrounding all the shops and parking lots. Yikes! We went up with the elders in Catania and the sisters from Ragusa, another city in Sicily. You can take a bus from the station in Catania to the base of a bunch of trails and then we hiked up for a little bit to reach the top of a big crater. It was so neat! You are just hiking on volcanic rock, there are no trees or anything, just clouds and black rock. Great fun!

We had a great week, especially with general conference!
11-year old Giorgia is all ready for her baptism this Saturday. She is such a cute 11-year old, she sings and dances and has a great understanding of the gospel for being so young. This week we taught her about tithing using a cute example with small wrapped candies. We tell her to close her eyes and stick out her hands. We gave her 10 candies and then asked if we could have one back. She said yes and we took one and told her to close her eyes again. Then we filled her hands with treats so that they were overflowing. That is just how tithing is! Heavenly Father gives us everything, he has given us our lives, family, work, all our blessings. Then he asks for just one tenth in return. Why? He doesn't need it, He is all-powerful and could find another way to provide for his Church if He wanted to. But instead he asks for just a little bit to allow us to sacrifice and receive even more blessings, both temporal and spiritual. Nice!

Lidia is still preparing for her baptism as well. She has a lot of desire to be baptized and is reading and coming to church and making friends with the members. For a few days we were worried that she might have still been smoking after she told us she stopped. We weren't sure what to do because she smelled of smoke but would deny it if we asked her straight up. We did our best to help her understand that we were here to help and that she could be very honest with us if she ever relapsed. We also had her interview with the bishop to get a second opinion. We think she is doing okay now though because we have seen her a few times without her smelling like smoke. Yay! It's so funny too because we bring members to help us at the appointments with Lidia and instead of a lesson it turns into a "Lidia sharing her whole life story and all her woes" session. We are always struggling to find the balance between being courteous and building relationships and listening vs actually teaching and taking control of the situation. We usually listen for a few minutes and find some way to direct the conversation back to the lesson. Lidia will focus and listen for about 3 minutes but as soon as she finds a pause, she will turn to start talking to the member about something completely unrelated, haha. It is so typically Italian and I love it. We are learning great conversation-directing skills on the mission!

We found a few new investigators this week! I think I am known as the sister who loves finding work and I think I can blame it a little on my lack of patience and my desire to get things done efficiently, haha. I just have the attitude of "if our investigators aren't progressing and they aren't keeping commitments, that's fine, let's move on to find someone who will". I actually used to dwell a lot more on investigators who weren't acting and it was almost painful and definitely frustrating. As I've gotten older in the mission, I am more and more willing to let people go and move on to find those who are truly desirous and ready to hear the gospel. I have a strong testimony that these people are out there and we just need to find them, look at Adriano and Angela! Finding work can be tedious and hard but I have done so much of it that it has become easy and almost automatic. I love it!
Anyways, we found two different awesome awesome people on the buses. One is Grazia from the Dominican Republic. She is searching for God and studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses and wants to find out what church is true. The other is Angelo, a 20-something year old university student who believes in God and is mostly curious about "the Mormons" and willing to do our experiment (read, pray, come to church and you can know for yourself!). Both are awesome and willing to see us often (that's hard to find in Rome where everyone lives such hectic lives and is so busy with work).

General Conference was incredible!! I've found that general conference is always great but so much more incredible to watch as missionaries. It's a huge event and we literally count down the days for weeks leading up to conference. Ah, to listen to the words of prophets and apostles. It's a stark contrast to the confusion and depression and indifference of the world. We actually have a living prophet!! WOW!
We did things a little differently here in Catania (I couldn't help but think about Rome and my people and my Rome investigators who I knew were attending conference there. I miss them!) The elders and us drove to an American family's house to watch the Saturday sessions on Sunday and then we went back to the church to watch the Sunday morning session live. We ate Cinnamon rolls and an American lunch with this family from the branch and it was so strange to spend so much time with Americans. Ah! What am I going to do when I go home??
I loved all the talks but especially President Uchtdorf's and President Eyring's.

On Monday, I was assigned to give the training in our district meeting. I decided to simply talk about some of the things I had learned about missionary work and how to be a more effective missionary. I was shocked that I easily talked about it for an hour and could have kept going! Tomorrow we have zone conference and because this will be my last zone conference, I have to give a "dying testimony". That is, they make all the missionaries about to go home stand up and bear testimony. It's making me reflect a lot on my mission and the blessing it has been in my life. Maybe I'll share some thoughts next time but I KNOW that this was a necessary thing in my life and an incredible incredible thing that has changed me forever. How far I still have to go, and yet how far I have come!

One last cool thing from this week. We ate pizza at a member's house on Friday night. This member family actually built a brick oven in their garage, the type of oven that they have in Italy for making really really good pizzas. They had literally dozens of pizza dough balls prepared and for an entire hour they made pizza after pizza with all sorts of unique toppings on it (including a dessert Nutella pizza!). It may have been the best pizza I have ever had. And I must build a brick oven just like that in my garage one day when I grow up. Yum.

Love ya all!!

Sorella Askew

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