Monday, August 19, 2013

Faith and the As-If Principle

Welcome Back Maria Rita and Giuseppina!
Maria Rita and Giuseppina called us last Monday to see if we would meet with them.  I sounded ominous, like it was going to be a final meeting - exchanging contact info etc.  But we showed up on Thursday to the appointment, and they began asking about Tithing and Fasting...what?  So, we talked
Giuseppina, Maria Rita, and Sorella O
about it a little, while Sorella O and I exchanged glances like, 'Did we just misunderstand them on the phone?'  Finally, we asked them straight out, "What happened?  Why did you back away?"
     They became a little timid and said, "Well, it was because we didn't think we could be ready for baptism by the August date you set."
     "That's completely fine," we said.
     "Really?" they looked surprised.
     "Well, of course!" we said, "We thought it was clear that the date was just a goal and not something set or fixed."  They were relieved.
So, they are meeting with us again!!

The Trenino Verde to Sassari
Trenino Verde
Thursday evening we headed north to Sassari for our scambio!  Yay!  Sassari is, again, a beautiful city.  Small, but beautiful.  The ride by train is about 3 hours one way, which means we could actually go to Rome and back by plane quicker than a trip to Sassari.  To get there, we take the Trenino Verde.
     Author D.H. Lawrence said of Trenino Verde, "It's a strange railway.  It shoots up hills and down into valleys and races around sudden curves with the greatest nonchalance..."

It's a very long ride, but the plus side is we got to see the GORGEOUS Sardegnan countryside.  Lots of sheep, lots of farms, lots of cattle, and lots of green.  Really beautiful!  Here are some pics:
Cactus, typical in Sardegna
It was even stormy during some parts of the ride.  The dramatic storm clouds made me think of Zion's Camp, beside the Little Fishing River when God sends a storm to stop the malicious mob from attacking the Saints.  In a dramatic video rendition I once saw, the brethren gather in a little cabin and Joseph says to them, "Brethren, God is in this storm."  And He was - protecting them through their journey.  Nothing terribly dramatic happened on our trip up, but the reminder was a good one; the Lord is always with His servants.

Sassari was nice.  We did a lot of less-active search, with not much success.  But we were quite successful in lightening the attitudes of some people on the streets.  Some people walk around and look as if they'd kill you as soon as look at you.  However, when you smile and say 'Hello,' then the mean expression dissolves instantly.  Love it!  At least we were successful in that.  We ended the day by helping ward members clean the Church for an activity.  They needed extra hands - sisters to the rescue!  By evening, we headed back  to the apartment and discovered that just below, on the street, was a band playing.  They were singing songs in Sard (the language of the island - but this was specifically in the Sassari dialect called Sassarese).  It was sooo cool!  Folksy, with Spanish flavor, and a dancing cadence.  So we danced!  A neighbor peeked her head over and started translating a few songs for us.  One was about his first love, Catarina, and another was about frying eggplant.  Ah, the songs of Sardegna!  We slept on the sisters' giant balcony, felt the cool night air, and awoke to gorgeous cloud masterpieces.  It was the best.
Mostly, I feel like Sorella O and I were there to help the Sassari sisters feel better about themselves.  They are both fairly green (two on far left), struggling with the language, and we could see that they were a little giu (down) when we joined them for this scambio.  Attitude is all a matter of focus.  So, we attempted to turn attention away from what they thought they could not do, and shift it to focus, instead, on the many blessings the Lord was handing them every day.  We all need these types of reminders.

If You Could Ask God Any Question, What Would It Be?
Saturday and Sunday, we had another Mostre - this time in the Park.
The Secci Family helped with the Mostre
Sorella O and I went through the park conducting surveys to promote a little conversation.  Questions were:
Our Pass-Along Card
     1.  If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
     2.  If there were a book that answered this question,
          would you read it?
The second, of course, was a lead in to the Book of Mormon (because it does answer every question).  We ended up having some interesting conversations.  One lady actually accepted the Book of Mormon and said she would read it.  Another lady (with whom we had almost exactly the same conversation as the first - the Spirit was so strong, and both Sorella O and I testified as powerfully as we could with that Spirit) - this second lady rejected the book and our message entirely.

The next day we did the same thing, and one young man accepted a copy while his girlfriend said, "I promise you this book will not change my life, but I am happy for you."  Isn't it interesting the various ways people respond to this message?  Exact same Spirit. Exact same message.  Exact same missionaries giving the pitch.  Different responses.  Sorella O and I did everything we could to testify and invite with the Spirit, but in the end, people have their agency.

Sharing and Agency
To be a great missionary does not mean people will listen, it only means that we share and allow people a choice.  People didn't listen to Jesus or His Apostles.  They didn't listen to prophets throughout the dispensations.  People decide what they will allow into their hearts and what they will send away.  It's simply our job to offer truth and give them the opportunity to choose.  If we didn't share, we, in essence, interfere with another's agency.  Any time we hold back what we have, we are essentially making the choice for someone else.  So, our job is not to judge who will or will not accept, but to open up with everyone.  Bottom line: my success does not hinge upon whether or not they accept.  I am a success every time I share, because as I do, others are handed a chance to use the greatest power gifted to us in this life: agency.

Ci Sto - I'm Down with That!
The past couple of days have been pretty peaceful.  Not too much to report, really.  We have received 3 referrals.  The assistants in the mission office laugh at us every time they call with another one.  Apparently, only we and the sisters in Rome get referrals.  We have no idea what is happening with the women in southern Sardegna, that they are all requesting copies of the Book of Mormon, but ci stiamo (we are down!  I like these Italian expressions that really only translate into English slang.  There's no other way to translate it in English.  Ci Sto - I'm down!)

Faith...As IF
I gave an addestramento (Lesson) on Monday for District Meeting.
The topic I chose was Faith and the 'As If' principle.  Faith is a principle of Action and Power, meaning, we must Act and then Power follows.  Which basically means that Faith is tied inextricably to Obedience (no wonder obedience is a Law of heaven).  If we want the Lord's help, then we must live what we believe to be true.  But how do we obey if our faith is not great?  How do we act on faith when we are not sure of things?  We ACT AS IF we were sure.  We set goals for where we want to be, and ACT AS IF we already possessed that gift.

For instance, I want to be able to hold a conversation with anyone and everyone by the end of my mission (except in teaching, I am downright shy when it comes to casual conversations).  How do I get to the point of holding conversations with anyone and everyone?  Answer: I must talk to everyone.  I must do (right now) that which a person at that level would do.  Obviously, I won't be good at it.  Obviously, I will mess up and fall short.  But that's why the Lord wants humble people.  We just do what we can, and He makes up the rest.  He's our wing man.
     FIRST, we Act on Faith (even if it's the smallest effort).
     THEN, the Lord fills us with Power.
And by His power, He not only magnifies the gifts we seek - He ends up magnifying word, in conversation, in deed.

Benedizioni a Tutti,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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