Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ladybugs, Lots and Lots of Ladybugs!

Last week we met with Maria Rita and talked about President Thomas Monson and the importance of
prophets.  She talked about how much she was enjoying reading the Book of Mormon (including the Testimonies at the beginning), and she had all kinds of questions about baptism and what to expect.
  We were pleased that she was
  onboard to discuss baptism, since
  she had a date set, so we talked over
  the ordinance and read through the
  baptismal interview questions in
  order that she would know what it
  meant to be ready, as defined by the
  Lord through the scriptures and First
  Presidency.  She seemed to be
  comfortable with all of it, she just
  had some questions about the Word
  of Wisdom, which we promised we
  would talk about the next lesson.
  She was just so happy.  Sorella O
  and I talked about the difference we were seeing in her - how good she was looking lately, and how happy she seemed, etc.  She ended up canceling our appointment Saturday, but then she came to Church!  She was making friends, she was participating in the lessons, she even said the prayer in Gospel Principles!  Everything was going well.

Who Brought Out the Repellant?
And then she called Monday morning and said she didn't know if this was the right path for her or if she wanted anything to do with religion.  She said she wasn't going to meet with us this week, but that she might call us in a few days.  Sorella O was the one who took the call, and she bore testimony about God's love for her, and how we knew this Church was true, and that we still wanted to meet with her even if she wasn't ready for baptism.  She said she knew.  And that was it.

Sorella O and I had to fight away tears on our way to District Meeting after that.  And yet, at the same time, we feel at peace about it.  We know that she is in the Lord's hands (much more capable than ours), and that He hasn't given up on her.  This isn't the end for Maria Rita or Giuseppina.  We just don't know how much more we will/should/can be involved after this.  We are going to give them a few days space and see if they call.

We are back to zero investigators again.  Welcome to transfer 3 of Cagliari (oddly enough, we've hit zero investigators after every transfer).

Seeing My Spots
Let me tell you about what else has been happening at the same time.  Up to this point in my mission, I have been trying to figure out how to be a better missionary.  Every day there is something that I do wrong, and it becomes more and more painfully obvious with every passing day of the mission that I am superbly, incredibly, sometimes unbelievably flawed.  It's pretty rough any day of life, but it's especially tough when you are a missionary to see these GLARING ERRORS with each passing minute of the day because you want so very very bad to do the right thing and serve the Lord well.  And no matter what you do some days, you see that you are the worst at serving the Lord.  Either your heart's not in the work, you screw up explaining the Apostasy to someone, or you fail to talk to someone the Spirit pointed out, or you are late in getting out of the house after lunch, or you forgot to extend a commitment invitation, or any one of a million things.  And so you come home at the end of the day feeling like a failure.  At least, this was how I have felt my first two transfers in the field.

"You're Boring!"
And then I remembered some very good advice a woman gives a depressed friend in one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun. 

Katherine is talking to her friend, Frances, who is looking for romance and having no luck after a rather traumatic divorce.  Frances had moved to Italy in hopes of finding new life, renewed hope, and true love, yet hadn't found it at all.  And now she was depressed again.
Katherine and Frances, Under the Tuscan Sun
"You are so boring!" Katherine says to her.

"Excuse me?" says Frances.

"I said you're boring. Look at you - you are sad. Again!"

Frances splutters a little bit, and then Katherine gives the best advice in the form of a parable.

"Listen, when I was a little girl, I used to spend hours upon hours trying to look for ladybugs in my mother's garden, and I wouldn't find a single one.
Finally, I dropped down in the grass and just took a nap.  When I woke up, they were crawling all over me."

"So?" asks Frances.

"So I want you to go home...and forget about it.  I said GO!"

Spoiler:  This advice works.  In the movie and in life.  If you try too hard looking for something, you wont really find it.  However, if you stop torturing yourself about it and just go about your day, then it all comes.

It's Not About You
So, how does this apply to missionary work?  Truth is, I have spent all this time focussing on how to become a better missionary, and I wasn't getting anywhere, and that is precisely what was making me so unhappy.  Fact: While on the mission, you are NOT supposed to make your first priority becoming a better missionary.  Because its not about you!  The mission never was and never will be about you.
     Sorella O's grandma recently sent her this piece of advice (paraphrased): People always tell you to 
     serve so that you will have no regrets.  This is stupid.  You will have regrets, no matter what you do.   
     So just serve.

The combination of these two things somehow turned a light on in my head.  I was focusing all on myself.  Everything was about me and my performance.  And the truth is, my performance doesn't matter so much (meaning, I'm not the Lord's MVP).  Fun Fact:  The Lord's work goes forward, no matter what we do.  The works and purposes of God are never frustrated.  The only thing we can do is decide if we will be involved in the process or not.  So just serve.  Just do what you can each day, and then move on.
     Obviously recognize things you do wrong so you can fix them.
     Obviously try to do better than you did before.
     Obviously give the Lord your all.
But don't make self improvement the reason you are on a mission.  Missions are about doing work for the Lord.
     Not because you are capable (because you aren't as much as you think you are).
     Not because you are smart (because you have a lot to learn).
     Not because you have a testimony (because it will always need to grow).
You do work for the Lord because He asks it of you, and all you can give is your heart.

"Ladybugs, Katherine, Lots and Lots of Ladybugs!"
Somehow this flipped a switch in my head, and the past few days, I feel like I am walking on sunshine.
Frances, in Under the Tuscan Sun, figured it out.
      Frances:  "Buongiorno!"

       Katherine:  "Buongiorno!"

     Frances:  "Do I still look sad to
     Katherine:  "No."

     Frances:  "Ladybugs, Katherine,
     lots and lots of ladybugs."

     Katherine:  "Lovely!"
I feel happy - just very happy.  Despite the inexpressible heat (110 degrees F this week, with unbelievable humidity), despite Maria Rita dropping us, despite having to start over with finding all day - every day...again.  For some reason, I have a new spring in my step, and I realize the mission is the best thing in the world.  I mean, I knew that before, but I know it really well now, and I feel it.  I love being a missionary!  I get to go around talking about Jesus all day every day!  I get to see the blessings of the Lord in my life and the lives of others in super-hyper focus ALL THE TIME.  I get to help people feel the love and light of the Lord and His gospel by allowing the Lord's spirit to speak through me.  How can it get better than that?

Important Fact: You Are in Italy!
I can now see clearly what my very wise teacher, Fratello Jeter, told me in the MTC (Missionary Training Center).  "There will be days," he said, "when everything is terrible.  Doors slammed in your face, cancelled appointments, terrible weather.  When those times come, just remember this very important fact: You are in Italy!  Add that to the end of every sentence, and everything becomes instantly a million times better.  You just lost all your Italy.  You have been doing casa and casa for Italy.  People don't even want to look you in the face on the streets...of Italy.  Just remember how blessed you are to be serving in the most beautiful country on earth, and go about your day a happier person."
Great advice, brother Jeter!
Tuscan Landscape
So, let's see what week 1 of transfer 3 in the field brings Sorella O'Connor and I in Cagliari, Sardegna in Italy.

As two very cool missionaries once said, "Hurrah for Israel!"
Sorella Ashley Nef

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Did You Have a Question?

Qual'e la Scopo Della Vita? What is the Purpose of Life?
Thursday, we visited our elderly friend, Adelle, the elderly lady who called us angels (initial visit in post The Stuff of Legend).  Our morning visit caught her right after she got out of the bathtub (she was in her bathrobe!), yet we were still invited in.  Our visit turned into a discussion about the Plan of Salvation.  She was convinced that God must be cruel to send Christ to suffer and die for a bunch of sinners because she couldn't imagine sending her own son to die.  In explaining the Plan, we spoke of our divine nature as sons and daughters of God, and the nature of agency in Christ's decision to die for us, and God's great love in offering His Only Begotten as a sacrifice in order to get us all back Home.  It is an act - not of cruelty - but of love: love from our Father in Heaven and love from our Savior.

Near the end of our thoughts, her friends came - a young family from Porto Torrez (up north near Sassari).  They were very nice and asked about who we were.  We gave them info on English Course, but they told us they were from far north.  "No problem," we said, "there is another English Course run up there taught by our colleagues," and we handed them a flyer and the number for their local missionaries.  They seemed very excited about the class.  As they flipped over the flier and saw the pass along card we stapled to the back - a picture of the Salt Lake Temple which says, "Qual'e la scopo della vita?" (What is the purpose of life?) - the mom asked us, "What happens after death?" Aha! we thought to ourselves.  Sorella O said, "You know, our companions up north, in your area, can explain it more in full, but..." and then she bore powerful testimony about eternal families.  The Spirit instantly filled the room and the mom just lit up!  They said they would call the missionaries.
"If you want a wise answer, ask a reasonable question."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sei Mormoni?  Are You Mormons?

Saturday, Maria Rita and Giuseppina cancelled our appointment.  So instead, we got on a bus heading to Quartu and ended up finding an American lady from New York vacationing in Sardegna who asked, "Sei Mormoni?" (Are you Mormons?)  "Yes," we answered enthusiastically.  When she realized we were Americans, she switched to speaking in English.  Conversation with her was so intriguing, we stayed on the bus for the next hour, forgetting our other plans, as we explained the importance of Christ to us, and who Joseph Smith was, and the significance of the Book of Mormon, what happens after death, and so forth.  She kept asking question after question until she reached her destination (the beach to meet her friends).  Luckily, I had an English pass along card that I gave to her and recommended the site to visit and learn the answers to any more questions.
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God;
because, if there be One,
He must more approve of the homage of reason,
than that of blindfolded fear."
Thomas Jefferson
Who's the Real Mastermind Here?
It's interesting the way the Lord works.  He needed this woman to encounter missionaries, so he got the closest missionaries in the area (us) to have a free morning (cancelled appointment) so we would get on a bus to Quartu (at least half an hour trip that we usually make only in the afternoons), and had us sit in seats right across from where she was so she could see our tags and ask the question, "Are you Mormons?"  This is why I say that we missionaries don't do much.  Missionaries are not the brilliant masterminds in the work (if that were the case then Cagliari would be in BIG trouble).  Oh sure, missionaries fill themselves with scriptural academics, and lesson formats, and language skills and, most importantly, the Spirit, but, let's face it, we are NOT the geniuses behind the work.  No.  The Lord does all the work, all the complicated coordinating, and we just show up - in the right place, the right time.

We received yet another referral from!  Again, they didn't want to meet with us, but we gave them a Book of Mormon, all the same.

Random City Pics
Hey, my companion and I were not transfered from Cagliari.  We're here at least six more weeks.

His listeners look completely captivated
Street sign with a New York 9-11 tribute.  Interesting.

I Hope They Call Me on a Mission When I Have Grown a Foot or Two
After Church we were invited to a member's home to eat pronzo (lunch).  There was an American
family there who has been vacationing in Sardegna.  They arrived a few week's back, brought all the missionaries candy from America (clearly the best family ever), and they have really adorable children.  
Primary kids holding their pictures of missionaries. Works of art!
The mom of the family is originally from Sardegna, so everyone knew her.  Since her kids had a hard time with the language - we sister missionaries were called to translate for them in Primary (toooooo cute - and the lessons were on missionary work!)  Behold their works of art.

Oh, Don't Mind Him, He's Just My Companion
For lunch, we had maialetto - which is roasted piglet.  And, I mean the FULL pig - the boys in the family were fighting over who gets the brains and the tongue.  I stuck with the normal pork parts, which were all super perfectly cooked.  Delicious!  Afterwards, Fratello Vicedomini (the dad) swapped mission stories with the American dad (forgot his name).  Vicedomini served in Italy, the other dad served in Korea.  They seemed to have endless stories of crazy companions.  Vicedomini, for instance, had 17 companions during his mission because the Mission President knew he was fluent in the language (obviously, he's Italian), and that he was a hard worker, so he sent him all the nutty, not-so-great missionaries.  One companion, in particular, liked to play the flute as they walked down the street, or recite a scripture aloud like, "I AM JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD," or would give blessings to other missionaries saying they would die at age 33, or would say the Lord had told him he needed to nap for an extra 8 hours, or that he needed to go to the hospital in Rome (even though it was in a different zone), and would say that the Mission President approved it even though the Mission President definitely did not approve it, and so on and so on.  He told story after hilarious story of this guy, and it turns out he was only with him one transfer.  So this was a daily thing.  Hahahaha.  Yikes.  Makes me so grateful to be serving with Sorella O - she's the best!

Good Question Maria Rita and Giuseppina!
Sunday, Maria Rita came to Church! Yay.  She showed up at 8:45am, before the members.  She stayed for all three meetings, wants a manual for Relief Society and Gospel Principles, and loves the members.  So exciting.  Last week, we hadn't seen Maria Rita and Giuseppina at all, until Church on Sunday.  Frankly, we were a little concerned, and then we had our lesson yesterday.
Sorella O, Giuseppina, Maria Rita, Moi
Martina Sanna (daughter of President Sanna - soon to be married) came with us at the request of her dad (who wanted to make sure a member came with us who would not try to take over the lesson and dominate conversation).  Our history with Maria Rita and Giuseppina revealed, after the first 3 lessons, that they had a working knowledge of the important things - enough to gain a testimony.  So, we wanted to check up on that: were they reading the Book of Mormon and praying?  And we had another goal in mind: the baptismal invite.  We wondered how to handle it and what date to suggest as their goal.  We settled on August 18th.

Alex, the Answer: What is Baptism?
So, we go into the lesson with our goals in mind.  We start with the Book of Mormon.  Maria Rita says she likes it a lot!  She has been reading it and had several questions about the context and setting of the book, "How did they know about Christ and are talking about Christ if they lived 600 BC?" she asks.  Great question Maria Rita!  Answer: PROPHETS.  We ask them a little more about how they are feeling about everything.  Maria Rita says she wants to know if it's all true, but doesn't yet, but she likes what she has come across.  She loves Church.  She loves the Book of Mormon and says, "It makes sense".

Her mom, Giuseppina, told us that she hasn't been reading.  Even though she's been a strong Catholic her whole life, she likes our Church meetings and what she has heard from the Book of Mormon.  Her big question was, "What am I supposed to do once I know it's true?"  Great question Giuseppina!  Answer: BAPTISM.  We explained the concept of covenants and action as a means of building testimony.  We talked about the importance of honest intent when approaching the Lord to know if something is true - that we must show we are willing to act on the answer given.  And then we asked the baptismal invite as written in Preach My Gospel: "Seguira l'esempio di Gesu Cristo, facendosi battezare da qualcuno che detiene il sacerdozio di Dio?"  They said Yes.  We then proposed the baptismal date goal and asked, "If you get your answer by then, would you be baptized by August 18th?"  They said Yes!

BOOM.  It's as easy as that, my friends.  Once again - ALL the Spirit of the Lord.  We just invite according to what the Spirit directs and trust the Spirit to testify to their hearts.  And He does.
"We should not only master questions,
but also act upon them, and act definitely."
Woodrow T. Wilson
I love questions.  Questions are important.  Questions are the gateway to truth and knowledge. Because of questions - life's most important innovations in art, science, literature, and throughout history and scripture have happened.  Jesus even used questions as pivotal teaching tools in his ministry.  It was a question that brought about the restoration of the gospel with its priesthood keys and saving ordinances.  And it is through questions (like "What is the purpose of life?" and "What am I supposed to do once I know it's true?") that we are led to personal revelation, inspiration, and answers.

So, do you think Maria Rita and Giuseppina are well on their way?  That's a good question.

A Presto,
Sorella Ashley Nef

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Transfers and the Kinder Egg of Revelation

In District meeting this week, we made our predictions for next week's transfers.  To help us out, we each purchased our own Kinder Egg of revelation.
This is a candy egg with a surprise toy inside that my former companion swears by as a means of receiving "revelation" for the next transfer.  Hahaha.  So with great anticipation and egg in hand, we each carefully folded back the foil wrap and gently broke the chocolate shell to reveal the yoked toy of destiny.  I got an inexplicable paper disc launcher thing with a blue tiger on it, as did another elder in my district (we assume this means we will be in the same city).  Sorella O'Connor, however, got a Flying thing.  Which seems to indicate she will be leaving.  NOOOOOOO!!!  Vediamo (we will see).  

Good Luck Comes in Threes
In the last week we have received 3 referrals.
Don't know what's happened all of a sudden, but three different women within our area all asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon online.  Alright!  We called the first woman and she doesn't know if she wants to actually see the missionaries, so we are mailing her a copy of the Book of Mormon along with a DVD and pamphlet on the Restoration.  Speriamo bene (we hope well)!  The second woman seemed pleased we contacted her and asked us to return again later.  The third woman we haven't seen at all - just her mom, who told us to come back another day.

District Meeting moved this last week to Tuesday, so Monday for us became Miracle Monday during which we taught 3 lessons in the morning (that's never happened).  One is a definite pass by again.  We'll see with the others.  We actually found these people while doing casa (knocking doors).  Sorella O and I have been doing lots of finding with not much success, but the Lord will provide.

But we have 3 steady investigators in our teaching pool.  Maria Rita and Giuseppina are wonderful.  Saturday, we had a cool lesson with them in the park.  They are excited about returning to Church, but they didn't make it last week.  Something about filling out paperwork with the dad.  Our goal for the next discussion with them is to get them to commit to baptism and set a date.  Fingers crossed.  Maybe we should consult the Kinder Egg.

While in the park, we frequently bump into Francesco, an English Course student, who has been showing interest in the gospel.  We sometimes wonder if he strategically plants himself there in anticipation of seeing us.  We're hoping the motive is conversion to Christ rather than crushing toward Americans.  But no matter, in our impromptu encounters, we've taught him lessons on the Plan of Salvation, The Gospel of Christ, and we've read and explained 2 Nephi 31 about the Doctrine of Christ.  He's even been to Church.

Beautiful Bonaria Cemetery
Bonaria Cemetery was the first cemetery outside of church grounds, where, traditionally, they buried their dead.  Because of the plague and other matters of health, they thought it would be a good idea to designate a special burial area separate from city dwelling.  For that reason, Bonaria Cemetery was built in 1828 and opened in 1829.  We visited Bonaria because we heard that it was known for its beauty.  In fact, French writer/traveller, Vuiller Gaston described Bonaria as "a rare beauty."  I agree.  The exquisite artistry of the monuments is breathtaking.  Take a stroll with me and see for yourself.
Bonaria Cemetery, built in 1828

This monument has a poignant history.  The woman laying down is Francesca Warzee, wife of a Belgian businessman, who died in 1894.  Her son raises the covering to give her a final kiss.

One source said that the son had found his mother dead and kissed her in an attempt to wake her from sleep.  So sad!  Parts of this cemetery look as if it were a museum of fine art.  Many of the statues are from the great sculptor Giuseppe Sartorio.

Parisian Banker Victor Ferrier draped by an angel 1898
Birocchi-Berol Mausoleum painted with murals

Maria Ugo Ortu
died age 2
Giuseppe Todde's wife mourns her husband, 1897.

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."
Henry David Thoreau

The grounds are HUGE and GORGEOUS with a strong smell of pine.  White monuments peek out from large, beautiful cyprus trees, creating a quiet reverence that's striking.  The song Christine sings in the graveyard in Phantom of the Opera kept going through my mind:  Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.
Me, still alive and kicking

Will the Real Convert Please Stand Up
I'm just scared about having to take over Cagliari if Sorella O leaves.  But, as my studies have been pointing to this week, this isn't my work, it's the Lord's, and He does everything.  I am just a tool.  Preach My Gospel talks about the role of the Holy Spirit in teaching.  As we teach by that power, the
Holy Ghost will:
    •  Teach you new truths and bring doctrines you have
         studied to your remembrance. (John 14:26)

    •  Give you words to speak in the very moment you need
         them. (D&C 84:85)

     •  Carry your message to the hearts of people you teach. 
         He speaks when we do not. He reaches hearts when we
         can not.  (2 Nephi 33:1)

     •  Testify of the truthfulness of your message and confirm
         your words.  He is an additional witness. (D&C 100:5-8)

    •  Help you discern needs of the people you teach. (Alma 12:7)

Partnering with the Spirit, missionaries teach the gospel to build faith in others.  In the process, we end up developing our own faith to rely on the Spirit.  It's a win-win (or faith-faith) situation!  The mission is really about converting yourself, but that's not your goal as a missionary (and if it is, you are doing it wrong).  The Lord's work goes forward, but it's our decision whether or not we will participate, and it is through that participation - that service and love for others - that ends up converting you...closer to Him...more like Him.

It is a dream come true to be here, serving the people in this beautiful area of the world.  Inexplicable paper disc launchers, blue tigers, and flying thingers aside, no matter what transfers may come, this is simply the Lord's work, and I will remain or transfer wherever I am needed most.

Ecco a Vita,
Sorella Ashley Nef

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Benvenuto President and Sister Waddoups!

New Rome, Italy Mission President
Michael G. Waddoups and Anna Kay Waddoups
Our new Mission President and his wife arrived Thursday, July 4th in Cagliari.  Michael G. Waddoups is former President of the Utah State Senate.  I'm proud to say that he's an Idaho boy, just like my dad (Anna, his wife, is from Wyoming), and he learned to speak Italian from serving as a missionary in Italy.
After receiving an Associates degree in Accounting from Rick's College, Idaho, he attended BYU in
Provo, Utah where he earned his BS in Business Management.  When he and his wife were interviewed about their new calling, they stated that
it would be difficult leaving family, especially a granddaughter with Leukemia (pray for them, will you?), but they are ready and willing to serve the Lord - especially with the recent age-change and massive influx of missionaries entering the field.  "They may have decreased the age," said Sister Waddoups, "but the spirituality and intellect of these young people has increased significantly.  They are prepared."  And it's very apparent to me that the President and his wife are prepared.  When they arrived in Cagliari on Thursday, they attended one of our free concerts at the Church, then Friday we had Zone Conference.  It was really great!  President Waddoups is very humble (I love him!) and he has some terrific ideas.  He told us of his interview with President Eyring for his calling as mission president and how much of an incredible experience it was.
My District with President and Sister Waddoups
Hey, We Know That Face!
My favorite story was about them traveling through Italy about a year ago (if I remember right).  They
were here for some sort of public relations conference (with regard to his position in the Utah Senate) that was taking place in northern Italy.  After the conference, they decided to tour around a little with some friends.  When they were in Rome, their friend (who had some connections) scheduled an appointment with the Pope (former one), but the Pope ended up canceling all appointments that day, which really upset their friend.  Instead, they went to the Colosseum.  As they were looking around and enjoying the history, they saw a familiar face walking towards them.  "Hey, we know that face," said President Waddoups to his wife.  Turns out it was Elder Jeffrey Holland, who was vacationing with his wife for their anniversary.  So they missed meeting the Pope, and instead encountered an Apostle.  I think that's more than a fair trade off.  :)

If You Build it They Will Come
One of the more inspiring ideas from conference was about the Rome Temple.  President was telling us that the Lord does not just put temples in countries with only 25,000 members, half of whom do not even have recommends.
Rome Temple Rendering
Rome Temple construction site
He said we have about 18 months until the temple is dedicated - which means we have 6 months to get people at a point where they can be temple ready by the time of the dedication.  But he said that a lot of our work will not be just in baptisms.  Working with and preparing the less actives for temple worthiness will be vital.  Looks like I have my work really cut out for me.

Gnocchetti, Sardegnan Pasta Dish
The Sauce is Buonissimo!
The Lunch for Zone Conference was a potluck where every companionship brought something.  We were assigned to bring a main dish, so we made Sard pasta!  The pasta itself is called  gnocchetti - a traditional sard pasta (like long shells) with red sauce that has basil and onions and some awesome Italian sausage we got from the market.  It turned out soooo good.  Everyone loved it.  We felt really pleased with ourselves when Presidente Caravagna (the Branch President of Oristano) told us the sugo (sauce) was buonissimo!  SUCCESS!

Dessert has a Curfew?
American Apple Pie a la Nef and O'Connor
So, for the 4th of July, we made apple pies for the students in English Course (which took us practically all day to do it: a labor of love).  They were good, though I don't think Italians are accustomed to dessert at night, which makes no sense to me.  Several of them actually said they couldn't eat it at that time of day.  What?  It was barely 7pm!  You're kidding me, right?  We, at home can eat dessert ANY time.  Though, maybe they are a tad wiser than we.  I learned that out of all Europeans, Italians have the longest life-span.  And, out of all Italians, Sardegnans have the longest life-span.  Could the longevity of Sardegnan life-span have something to do with the curfew on desserts?  Please say it ain't so!  Since it was the 4th of July, we sang our National Anthem for the class and it surprised us when everyone joined in and sang with us.  Why Italians know the American National Anthem, I just don't know.  Another fun fact:  Most instructors of English in Italy are actually British or British trained.  So usually, if an Italian speaks English, they speak it with a British accent, which is way cool!

2 Important Things in Missionary Work: Repentance and Brownies
Monday was District Meeting, which is always a riot when the Oristano elders are around.  Last District Meeting, they told us about their brownie scheme, inspired by District President Angius.  President Angius says, "There are two important things in missionary work: repentance and brownies."  He was baptized because of some brownies missionaries made him with a pass along card baked inside.  He still has the card, 30 years later.  Well, turns out it works, because the Oristano elders have 9 new investigators!  They have just been making brownie batch after brownie batch, and putting them on their nice plates to give to people.  "Always leave the plate," they say, "a guaranteed return appointment!"  The remainder of our day was spent on scambio (exchanges) with the Sassari sisters here in Cagliari.  It was tough because we couldn't get a hold of anyone for appointments, and the afternoon was just straight finding with no success.  I think we need to make brownies.

Maria Rita and Giuseppina
We had a lesson with Maria Rita and Giuseppina again in the park (initial meeting in post "The Stuff of Legend").  We invited the Relief Society president to attend as well.  She bore her testimony a couple of times, once about her conversion, and then again about the influence of the Atonement in her life.  Maria Rita and Giuseppina really felt the Spirit - they even talked about the feelings of peace they felt.  We explained that what they were feeling was the presence of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony of truth.  We went on to teach the Plan of Salvation, which especially interested them because of a poignant experience they had when Giuseppina's mother passed away.  Just before her passing, her mother talked about seeing a light and lots of people, and then she called out "Mamma!" before finally closing her eyes.  They asked a lot of questions about whether we would meet them again, if they could see us, etc.  We explained everything, and they seemed comforted and pleased.  It's exciting to see how much their testimonies are growing.

Mostra in the Piazza
That evening we had our mostra in the Piazza Yenne again (where we set up a table with signs and fliers and pamphlets).  Beginnings were rough.  A crazy man came and yelled at us for a few minutes before he finally left, but this only set me on fire.  I really went at it, giving out several copies of the
Book of Mormon.  Sorella O and I had set a goal to contact 50 people; we doubled that!

It Feels Just Like Family
Sunday Maria Rita and Giuseppina came to Church!  We were worried when they didn't show up for Gospel Principles (the first meeting of the block), but it turns out they had parked the car waaaaay down the street, and ended up walking all the way back.  Somehow, they didn't realize there was parking at the Church.  Luckily they made it to sacrament meeting.  It was a very nice testimony meeting, and Maria Rita said afterwards, "Everyone feels just like family here." (Yes!).  After Church, the Relief Society sisters came up and introduced themselves (thank you, branch members!).  Maria Rita and Giuseppina made friends fast with the sisters, laughing it up and everything.  We didn't have to do anything!  Maria Rita and Giuseppina even said that they would come again next week.  Score!  They are leaving town, but will be back in time for a lesson again on Saturday.  What a relief that everything is going well.  Don't even have to do much (as it should be) - the Spirit is preparing them.

My hope is that we will be able to find and help prepare others, not just to meet the goals of our new mission President (which are GREAT goals), but to unite families and bless lives, so that everyone will be able to say, as Maria Rita, "Everyone feels just like family here!" (because we are).

Che Buonissimo,
Sorella Ashley Nef

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Looking for Diamonds in Carbonia

We took a nice trip to a town called Carbonia to visit ex-simpatizzanti (investigators) and less actives.  Carbonia is the western most suburb in Cagliari, about an hour's train ride.
Carbonia, western most suburb of Cagliari
photo by canpao
Carbonia is a relatively young city that was established in 1938 by Mussolini for the specific purpose of creating a booming community for the miners.  In fact, the name Carbonia refers to the Italian word for carbon or coal, which was abundant in this region, making it one of the main mining centers of Sardegna.  Since the mine's closing in the 1970s, however, the area went from thriving city to sleepy coastal town.  Reminds me a little of some towns along California's coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey (though not quite as pretty).  Just small and quaint.  Tranquillo as they say in Italian.
Roma Square
Main Piazza in Carbonia
Carbonia residential street

We arrived around 5pm, reviewed a map to see where our intended visits lived, and of course, they were clear across town.  So, Sorella O and I start walking and walking and walking.  Everything is spread out and it takes forever to get anywhere.  We eventually arrived at our first location, and no one was home, nor were the next few.  But on our way back, we ran into two cute ladies who were taking a break from yard work and chit-chatting over the fence.  We stopped to ask them directions and got to talking about the Church.  They seemed more curious than interested, but we left them with a prayer, and they left us with some plums.  Sorella O and I found a park to sit down and enjoy the fruit while we waited for the elders to pick us up in their car for a dinner appointment with a member in town.  As we sat, we couldn't help but make fun of ourselves on how difficult life was at that moment (Gosh, so hard to be in Italy where the weather is gorgeous.  So hard to see appointments fall through only to have a lesson fall into our laps, then be given fresh produce - which was very delicious.  Life can be so hard). ;)  And, that was the noteworthy thing last week.  Mostly, it was nice having a change of scenery.

President Sanna Rocks and We're Ready to Roll
SUNDAY WAS THE BEST.  First, back up the story.  On our way home from an appointment on Saturday, excuse me for saying, but I had to use the restroom.  Since there are no public restrooms whatsoever in Italy (weird, huh!), we dropped by my favorite family, the Sannas.  They remind me of my family - Sister Sanna is just like my Mom, President Sanna is just like my Dad, except short.  They, very kindly, let us in AND gave us gelato.  Yes!  We got to talking, and Sorella O brought up The Work of Salvation broadcast from Salt Lake that aired June 23rd (that we did not get to see or hear about from anyone in our mission).  President Sanna (counselor to the mission president) said that the Italian re-broadcast was going to be on Sunday, June 30th. We asked if he thought we could come to see it.  "Sorellas, dovete venire!" Sisters, you HAVE TO come! he says.  Sorella O and I partied with this news.  Though we wonder once again why we are the last to learn of this.  I think our zone leader was supposed to tell us, because when we called him to say that missionaries were invited to the broadcast, he was like, "Yeah I know."  Oh, okay, elders.  Thanks for the heads-up.  19 year olds, Honestly.

The Work of Salvation: Operation Excavation
When it came time for the broadcast Sunday evening, President Sanna had set up two viewing areas: one in English for us missionaries (the 2 elders, and me and my comp) so we would get the most out of it, and one in Italian for the local leaders.  The broadcast was magnificent.  I loved the power of the apostles' words.  Such a spiritual recharge.  
From The Work of Salvation Broadcast
Ward councils working in tandem with missionaries
Click to view Broadcast:

Noteworthy Gems
     •  Moving the Church forward in this digital age, missionaries will use computers and the internet in
         their service.  Computers will help missionaries contact, work with local priesthood leaders, give
         and receive referrals, confirm appointments, receive and answer gospel questions, and reference
         Church sites.
     •  Door-to-door tracting will be replaced with more effective finding methods: computer interaction.       
     •  They mentioned Facebook pages for missionaries (Church headquarters will contact each mission
         letting them know when it is time to begin this new program).
     •  Mission Presidents will monitor computer use to keep missionaries safe.
     •  Church buildings will be open during the day for tours and teaching by the missionaries.
     •  Stronger emphasis on ward members and ward councils working with missionaries.
     •  New Church website: Hastening the Work of Salvation
        Website gives ward members and ward councils ideas for helping missionaries.

The broadcast was great.  After the talks, testimonies, and personal experiences, we 4 Cagliari missionaries were ready to take on the world!

Knocking Doors Doesn't Pan Out
And then Monday happened.  Monday was the prime example of everything the Apostles talked about in the broadcast - how finding people needs an update.  Sorella O and I planned to find some less actives and see if we could meet with them in the morning.  Stopping by all of them took a total of 30 minutes.  We proceeded with street contacting and publicity for English Course, handing out every one of our fliers in just over half an hour.  No one paid us the time of day.  Since we were in the city center, we tried to do bus giros.  NIENTE.  After lunch, we decided to locate a few ex-simpatizzanti we had selected beforehand.  Nothing.  And guess what - we still had millions of hours left to fill.  We then resorted to doing casa (knocking doors).  We found only one person mildly interested, but he was a man home alone, so we couldn't actually enter and teach a lesson!  We asked if we could pass by another time and he said that his wife would not be happy to have missionaries around.  Gah!  We still managed to share a little something inspiring and have a prayer with him.

Missionaries are servants of the Lord to carry out
the missionary work of the members
So Monday was frustrating.  But the events of Monday are not uncommon.  Missionaries run themselves silly doing what we can, and we are extremely limited in how far we can reach and who we can affect.  This is why we need member help.  One of my fav things the apostles said in the broadcast is that the full time missionaries are the servants of the Lord to carry out the missionary work of the members.  We should be following their lead.  They find.  We teach.  A tandem effort is so much more productive.  Before, I thought the idea of member help was a good suggestion.  Now from experience, I can say that it is so much more than that.  Member help is a necessity.

Italians Love America
In English Course, we've been prepping for the 4th of July by talking about American pass-times, foods, and traditions.  They've never heard of apple pie, so to celebrate the 4th, we are making some for the students to enjoy.  Last week we talked about baseball and ended up singing to them Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  They loved it, but I don't think they believed us when we said that every American knows that song.

 Sards are funny when it comes to
 America, though.  I think they
 forget how big the United States is.
 I tell them California is the same
 size as Italy, and they don't believe
 me.  Actually, California isn't the
 same's bigger: 1.41 times as
 big as Italy, to be exact.

I am happy to report that they LOVE America here.  Everyone owns a pair of Nikes and something with the American flag on it: purse, phone case, shirt, anything with the stars and stripes.

American TV shows are very popular here.  They love love the Simpsons. In fact, everyone and their dog has (of all things) a Duff Beer t-shirt.  No joke.  I've not even seen the shirt back at home, yet it has somehow found its way into the wardrobe of the majority of the population, even ward members.  Hahaha.
Seldom do you pass a store that does not have merchandise with Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, or Audrey Hepburn.
Two drinks dominate the market:  Ichnusa (a Sard beer.  Ichnusa is the Sard name for Sardegna), and Coca Cola.
They love brownies. Elders from Oristano in our district suggested we take a plate with us on door approaches to bribe our way in.  Could work.  I'll let you know.
Seems to be the ultimate dream of most to go to America.
It's charming.
Italian store window w/Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe

A wardrobe must in Sardegna?

Changing of the Guard

Zone Conference is on Friday (July 5th) with our NEW MISSION PRESIDENT!  WELCOME PRESIDENT WADDOUPS (pronounced Wah-dups).  I will formally introduce him in the next post.  Sardegna is first in the line-up of Zone Conference gigs.  Very excited to hear what all he says about integrating the Brethren's ideas in the Hastening of the Work.

The Stone Cut from the Mountain without Hands
When you think about it, the Church is one large family scattered across the earth.  There are 58 new missions this year.  405 missions total in the world right now.  The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel will be as the stone cut from the mountain without hands that would roll forth and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-45; D&C 65:2).
The keys of the kingdom of God
are committed unto man on the earth,
and from thence shall the gospel roll forth
unto the ends of the earth,
as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands
shall roll forth,
until it has filled the whole earth.
D&C 65:2

In the broadcast, when they gave the number of 70,274 missionaries currently serving (50% more than ever before), I thought to myself that us four missionaries sitting in the room were the last 4 on that large number.  What a blessing to be called and counted in that grand total.  So great.  An amazing miracle is taking place before our eyes and I am thrilled to be a part of it.  Here's to members and missionaries, alike, stepping up to survey, mine, and quarry deep.

Uno dei Quattro,
Sorella Ashley Nef