Thursday, September 26, 2013

Obedience Brings Success. Exact Obedience Brings Miracles

Last week we never connected with Maria Rita and Giuseppina because they weren't coming to Church and not answering their phone.  Basically, I decided we'd give them one more lesson in which we'd ask about their commitment level, and if it wasn't there, then we'd move on. Then Monday came.

"He Doth Immediately Bless You"
During Monday's District Meeting, after talking about our work and explaining the failing situation with Maria Rita and Giuseppina, Anziano Davids gave a great addestramento (lesson) on Obedience.  At his conclusion, he proposed a challenge. As a District, commit to 100% obedience (already doing, but there's always room for improvement), and each night he'd call for a percentage of how obedient each companionship was for the day. The percentage was not for him, but was an accounting (chapter 8, Preach My Gospel). We all agreed. Challenge accepted.

Anziano Davids shared that when he had done this in Sicily, they'd call each other daily to talk of miracles they began seeing. The sharing was motivating in two ways:  1) It showed the results of strict obedience.  2) It revealed the power in the principle.  Sorella Marquis interjected with a great scripture that emphasizes the power of living this Law of Heaven.
[God] has promised you that if ye would keep His commandments
ye should prosper in the land;
and He never doth vary from that which He hath said;
therefore, if ye do keep His commandments...
He doth immediately bless you.
Mosiah 2:22, 24
Ring Ring: A miracle is calling
Anziano Davids shared how this scripture proved true in Sicily. The very day they committed to obey 100%, they began seeing miracles - but he didn't finish his sentence when my phone started to ring.  Everyone said, somewhat sarcastically, "Oh, here come the miracles!" Someone added, "It's probably Maria Rita calling."  And, wouldn't you was!

Everyone was a little surprised and very pleased.  I stepped into the hall to take the call. She asked how I was, and I said Sorella Rost and I were great and were both anxious to see her.  She said she really wanted to see us too, that she missed us.  "We'd like to meet with you," she said, "When are you available?" "This afternoon and tomorrow is open," I said. "Let's meet today!" Immediate Blessing #1!

Immediate Blessing - Part 2
Sorella Rost and I agreed that the best way to approach the lesson was to turn the tables and get Maria Rita and Giuseppina to teach us. Ask questions and let them tell us what they know and testify to us. So, we did just that. We asked about obedience and why it is an important principle. They explained it well!  We asked a series of questions, and eventually I asked, "What is your testimony of Jesus Christ?"
     Giuseppina and Maria Rita both explained, "He was the Son of God, who atoned for our sins."  
     "What does that mean?" I asked.
     "It means that we are saved by Him," they answered.
     "What does it mean to 'be saved'?" I asked.
They were stumped. They had no idea. So, we explained the Plan of Salvation to them again. Where did we come from?  Why are we here in this life?  Where do we go after this life?
Christ came to this earth, lived, and died, to teach us how to find the Way back Home. The only way to enter the Celestial Kingdom, to live with God again, is to live the gospel - meaning to have faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, keep covenants, and receive the Holy Ghost (who will help us to continue on that Path to eternal life). I explained that this was the reason we were there teaching them.

We wanted them to be in the Celestial Kingdom with their Heavenly Father. The Spirit was very strong as I testified of our being called by a prophet of God to invite them to come unto Christ. Living His teachings is The Way to eternal life.
     We finished by asking them another question: "What do you think you need to do?"
     "Read the scriptures," they said, "Pray and come to Church."  Maria Rita was curious as to why she wasn't receiving her answer.  So we read Moroni's Promise again.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you
that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ,
if these things are not true;
And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart,
with real intent,
having faith in Christ,
He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost
ye may know the truth of all things.
Moroni 10:4-5
We talked about what "real intent" means. What are you going to DO about your desire to know? It's a whole-hearted decision to earnestly seek. Then, moving forward with a resolved purpose, what are you going to DO about what you know? The Spirit was strong. Maria Rita described how she felt, "When talking with you, I can't help but feel I've found something I didn't know I was looking for before."  Miracles come when we obey. For missionaries.  For those seeking truth.

Sesella Balleto, Artist
We met with a less-active named Sesella Balletto, who is a rather famous artist in Sardegna.  Her works (oil on canvas and wood) are exhibited in museums, halls, and events throughout the island.  She's known for her rustic, colorful depictions of traditional Sardegna life.  Take a peak at a few of her pieces:

I wonder what she'd turn out if she painted scriptural characters and scenes. Sessella Balletto lives in a little paesino (village) called Flumini, and has, in recent years of her inactivity, become Buddhist, and then left Buddism (after 8 years). This time, she agreed to give the Book of Mormon another go. In the course of our visit, we found out that she is one of the traditional Italian Dreamers.

Italian Dreamers
I don't know if this is generally well known, but Italians are dreamers.  They have dreams, and those dreams have dramatically profound meanings (maybe this is where my mom gets it).  Many, many
members here in Italy knew they needed to join the Church because of a dream they had.  For instance, Sorella Pistidda dreamed that the priest of her old church, who had passed away, came to her and told her that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true and she needed to tell everyone else in her former congregation.  With Sorella Balletto (our artist), she dreams all the time - things that end up happening.

There is another story of a Catholic woman who dreamed that there were two missionaries in white shirts carrying a blue book that she must read. Unfortunately, when this woman finally encountered the missionaries, she decided to stop talking to them when they identified themselves as Mormon because she said she was awaiting "Catholic missionaries with a blue book."  HELLOOOOOO.  YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FIND CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES IN WHITE SHIRTS WITH A BLUE BOOK OF SCRIPTURE!!!  Anyways, being a Dreamer is in the blood or something.  Whether or not they respond to those visions is another matter.

Carbonara.  Yum.
Carbonara in Carbonia
We took another trip to Carbonia. It's a cute little town. One of those places that I go to and think - 'If it weren't for the mission, I don't believe I would ever in a million years have ended up here.' We had a member dinner appointment with Carbonara as the main course (You thought I'd let a post go by without mentioning awesome Italian cuisine? Not on your life!).

Italians make Carbonara, but, from what I've heard, it was actually invented by American soldiers in Italy during World War II. It's an easy dish. Fry some bacon.  Make Pasta.  On the side, whip raw egg and parmesan cheese together.  When pasta is cooked, drain, leaving some pasta water in the pot.  Return pasta to pot, add in egg mixture and bacon. Cook on low heat until egg is cooked.  Delish!

Pronzo with the Puddus
Pronzo on Sunday was spent with the Puddus - a great family with 2 kids who have a wicked sense of humor (they're awesome!). They LOVE missionaries. Their daughter, Aurora, recently turned 8 and will be baptized this Sunday. We're excited for her.

Pope Francesco's Visit to Cagliari
Crowds outside Bonaria Church
With preparations for the Pope's visit,
this week has been very interesting trying to navigate through the city with re-directed bus routes and shut-down streets. He came Sunday, while we were at Church, and directed mass at the Chiesa di Bonaria (To learn the Pope's connection to Cagliari's Bonaria Church, see post The Stuff of Legend). After Church and pronzo, we headed on down from Via Roma and watched the spectacle that was the Pope's meeting with youth in an outdoor concert setting.

  Before his appearance, the opening
  stage acts were a series of singing
  and dancing performed in a manner
  that only a parent could truly

  As the music got progressively
  better, the Pope drove up in his
  plexiglass-roofed pope mobile.

Various Sardegnan youth read prepared speeches asking questions - mostly about the ongoing economic crisis here.  Then the Pope stood and gave his speech.  He spoke of the necessity to hold onto hope, looking to Christ for faith and salvation.

It was a very good speech.  We missionaries agreed with everything - everything, that is, except the salute and prayer to Mary at the end, but what can ya do?

Traditional Sardegnan dancing and singing rounded off the evening.  A very interesting thing, indeed.  Throat singing during which they can hit 2 notes simultaneously.  Strange and cool at the same time.

Sard dancing is a series of bouncing baby steps in a line.  The outfits are very cool! (sorry friends, no pics were taken of the traditional performers).

Let me tell you, lots of people were clogging the streets of Cagliari.  And when the Pope rode away to the airport, all of Cagliari ran after him.  Meanwhile, we walked back to the buses and waved to the departing cardinals who were in big army green buses.

Other church monks and fathers just walked down the street in their black robes with their gold rope belts swinging away in the breeze.

Clarity Comes When Faith Becomes Action
Had a lesson Tuesday night with Erica Loi (our less active with 2 girls, who tried out for Italy's Got Talent - and got through). She said there were a few things she wanted to talk about.  It was about the Pope.  She was confused. When she heard his message, she felt good and thought that was a sign that she needed to head back to the Catholic church.  BUT, she's conflicted.
"Can't it be," she said, "that God calls people all over the world, of different faiths, and that he inspires lots of people to speak his word?  I just don't understand the origin of Christ's Church and how the Catholic church is different from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

We answered by teaching the Restoration with a diagram emphasizing priesthood and the authority to speak in God's name. We explained that Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist because He
had to go through the right authority. We read Ephesians 2:19-20 and explained that when Christ and the Apostles were killed, the foundation upon which the Church was founded (foundation of apostles and prophets) was gone, and there was no more Church of Christ upon the earth. We re-explained the Apostasy and Joseph Smith.
     "The only way you can know for sure of the Church's truthfulness," we said, "is to read the Book of Mormon every day, and come to Church" (that's the "real intent" thing).
     "But, I know it's true!" she said. When we asked about it, she bore sweet testimony of her baptism and the Book of Mormon.

She KNOWS it's true! What muddies the water is the guilt she feels for not living what she knows is true. She needs clarity. Clarity comes when faith becomes action - when we live what we believe. Obedience.

What Are We to Do When Others Speak Truth?
Let's go back to the trigger of Erica's conflict: the Pope's inspiring message, and let me ask a few questions.
     How do we respond when we see a good heart from a different religious faith?  
     What do we do?  
     If they speak truth, does that mean they carry ALL truth?  
     Does their truthful message somehow diminish ours?  
I think you know the answers to the latter two, but for the previous - Here's my answer:  I LOVE faithful people! If a person is spreading the light of Christ - be grateful. There is so much darkness and destruction in the world, so much hurt and hatred. Be thankful that there are good people everywhere - yes, even outside of the Church - who make it their mission to spread goodness. After all, don't we have the same Father in Heaven? Share a common Savior?

If their trust, like yours, is in the loving Atonement of Christ, aren't we covered with the same grace? Heaven knows, the world needs more good-hearted Christians. So, any time I come across another who is spreading the light of Christ (even if he drives in a plexiglass-roofed golf cart), my heart is grateful.

Obedience Brings Success, Exact Obedience Brings Miracles
Obedience is a Law of Heaven. When we receive any blessing from God, it is by obedience. You know the verse.
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven
before the foundations of this world,
upon which all blessings are predicated -
And when we obtain any blessing from God,
It is by obedience.
Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21
When we do what we can to live the Law, then life, and works, and desires, thoughts, and feelings - have a way of falling into a sort of harmonious balance.  Clarity comes, and, yes, Heavenly power trickles down like dew, giving life to His work. It all comes down to obedience.

In a recent talk to missionaries at the MTC, Elder Russell M. Nelson made this declaration, "Obedience brings success.  Exact obedience brings miracles."  I believe it.  So, I'll do my best to obey, with exactness, and, tell you what, you keep checking this missionary's blog, and we'll both look for miracles.

Vedremo (We will See),
Sorella Ashley Nef

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Elder Ballard Lights a Flame in Rome

Elder M. Russell Ballard
The Sassari sisters arrived on Saturday, bringing the grand total of sisters in our apartment to 6, which I think is some kind of record.  Since our flight to Rome was leaving Cagliari at 6:30am, we were up dark and early at 3am. Yes!  And it's a good thing because Large Group of Missionaries (elders and sisters) plus very Small Car equals 4 trips the Anziani had to make to get us all to the airport.  But, alas, no fear, we all made it on time, and our flight went well.  Inflight snacks included a beverage and crackers.  I had apricot juice and super good crackers from Taranto.  Fun Fact: they call crackers salty cookies here.  After an hour, the plane touched down in Rome at 7:30am, and since the meeting started at 8am, and they only had one van, the Anziani very chivalrously told us sisters to go first.  In a mad dash, we shot through town and ended up only missing the opening prayer and first speaker.  The 8am meeting was actually a pre-meeting EXCLUSIVELY for MISSIONARIES with ELDER M. RUSSELL BALLARD.  So exciting!  We were blessed to have this opportunity because not all missionaries in the mission were invited to attend.  Only the ones that work in the Rome East and West stakes.  SO COOL.  Some of the major points of the meeting were these:

"We're Not Here to Take Away, but to Add to"
In a Catholic country, Lesson 1:  The Restoration is the most important lesson.  They need to understand about prophets, dispensations, and the pattern of apostasy.  They need to understand about the history of the priesthood and how the Catholic church does not have it.  The best response to someone who says, "We are not interested, we are Catholic," is to say, "That's great, and we are not here to take away your faith, but to add to it..." and then transition into discussion on the role of prophets and dispensations.

Raise Your Sights
"The future of the Church in Italy," he said, "is found in the youth." Apparently, nearly all leaders in Italy found the Church when they were between the ages of 12-40.  This is the age bracket we should target.  He suggested going to universities, cafes, and to places where youth and young adults hang out, but they must take priority when doing Finding.  He ended his remarks returning to the idea of raising our sights and our expectations of ourselves, our leaders, of members, everyone really.  Greater faith in the Savior's Might and Power will spearhead the work from here on out.  Emboldened with this perspective, he rallied us to Go and Do.  A rockin' talk!

That Makes Two!
Then he shook the hands of every missionary as we left the room.  That now makes 2 apostles' hands I have shaken.  The other being that of Elder Neil L. Andersen at a BYU devotional a few years ago (though my younger brother, Landon, has me beat.  He hugged Elder Andersen when he made an Apostolic visit to the Saratoga, California Stake a few years back.  Then, during the following General Conference broadcast when Elder Andersen was speaking from the pulpit, Landon pointed to the screen and declared, "I've hugged that man!")  It's a great feeling to have a personal encounter with an Apostle of the Lord.

Lighting the Flame: New Stake Leaders Announced
Then for Stake Conference, the new stake leaders were announced.  Here is the presidency for the new Rome West Stake:
Rome West Stake Presidency
Piero Sonaglia (1st Counselor), Alessandro Dini Ciacci (President), Giuseppe Viglietta (2nd Counselor)
All the new leaders for both stakes bore their testimonies, which was super cool.  Elder Ballard then spoke of the need for everybody to now step up.  Having a temple built in Italy is a very big responsibility.  The Lord expects a lot of the leaders and the members.  He then had the new stake presidencies stand up with President Waddoups and told them, in essence, "In your calling and areas, you are now charged with building up people and leading them in building up the kingdom of God."  He asked for a  raise of their right hand to signify that they agreed and were ready for this call.

Are You With Me?
He then asked the full time missionaries to come and line up in front of the pulpit (I was off to the far left).
photo from Sister Waddoups' Mission Blog
I think Ashley may be outside the boundary of the shot
Elder Ballard (at the pulpit) looked out to the members and said, "These missionaries are here as full time servants of the Lord.  They are here to work.  Use them.  You leaders, put the missionaries to work.  You members, work with them. Let them help you share the gospel with your neighbors and friends."  We, too, raised our hands in agreement.

Rally Call
And, in a sweeping rally call for the work and a rallying together, he then had all of the branch presidents and bishops stand up in the audience and told them that they were charged with working with us all to build up the wards/branches in which we were working.  "The Lord is expecting every one of you to prepare people for the Temple," he said.  Elder Ballard emphasized that if we work together, these 2 stakes could expand to become 3, 4, 5, or even 6 new stakes.  But it will take a unity of heart, mind, and might.  Quite a sight...and a feeling!  The Spirit was powerful, the room's energy - exciting.  Everyone felt it.  But the feeling only seemed to crescendo to an epic moment of reverence when Elder Ballard pronounced an Apostolic blessing on the members in Rome.  The exquisite sweetness of the Spirit was incredibly palpable.  What a moment.

It was a magnificent meeting, and it was fun to look out into the audience and recognize lots of members from Cagliari.  Every branch president from the island was there.  I was proud of our group of Sards!

Fanning the Flame
Not too long after, we headed back to Cagliari.  On the plane, I was able to chat with the two ladies sitting next to me, and got both their phone numbers.  Speriamo bene!

In the wake of that awesome rally by Elder Ballard, we have been really working on setting up appointments with members.  We want to fan the flame while it's hot and get these members to work with us.  Yesterday, we went through a long list of meno attivi (less actives) and ex-simpaticos (dropped investigators) and set up lots of appointment for this week and next.  We're hoping that we can get this ward pumped up (yes, we are now a ward - don't know what's going to happen with a possible leadership shift - the stake president has a long list of interviews, I will update you).

Warming Up to the Gospel
Rita and Sara had another lesson with us on Monday (initial intro in post Feragosto in Agosto).  We taught Lesson 3 - The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Super good.  The Spirit was there.  We also gave them the 20 October as a goal for baptism.  We asked them to think/pray about it.  They said they would.

English Course is on Fire
I love teaching English Course!  In the course re-structuring, we now teach in small groups of 5-10 people.  For 20 minutes, we speak only in English and work on building people up.  Then we ask questions and have them talk about themselves for a sort of get-to-know-you time.  Next, we do some practice activities, and then end with a spiritual thought.  Often the spiritual thought turns into a mini lesson as people start asking questions about scripture and/or the gospel.  We teach twice a week.  It is the coolest thing!  In my first lesson with my new companions (Sorella Caramia teaches with me), we offered a mini Lesson 1, and every student in the class took a copy of the Book of Mormon!

My Companions are the Coolest!
I love my companions!  Even though we're technically in two companionships - we feel like a companionship of four, which is why I call them all my companions.  Sorella Rost (who is from southern California, Valencia) is so great!  She can approach anyone and instantly generate frienship.  She can get anybody to talk to her - a real gift.  Also, she is a great cook - she was actually training to become a personal chef before the mission.  The other day, she made the best salsa I have ever eaten (sorry Brother Perry).

Sorella Caramia and Sorella Marquis are rock stars.  I am so glad to be working with three great sisters. We have become fast friends and love spending time in each other's company.  Sorella Caramia does not know English super well, but she does know a few songs in English, including one about peanut butter and jelly that is consistently stuck in my head (no pun intended).  Part of it goes like this:

         I'm peanut butter and you are jelly,
         sitting oh so happy on our little piece of bread.
         I remember the first time that I saw you,
         sitting 'cross the cupboard with your other jelly friends.
         You're so sweet, and I am chunky.
         You're low fat - well, I'm working on that -
         Cuz, I'm peanut butter and you are jelly,
         And we're oh so happy on our little piece of bread!

Cute song.  She found a recording of it on her phone, and in dull moments, we break it out to lighten up our day.  So glad to be in a companionship that works as well as peanut butter and jelly.  Here's the link to Peanut Butter and Jelly Song by Insideout a Capella:
The flame has been lit.  We're attempting to fan the flame in working with our good members so that we can spread the warmth and light of the gospel.  

L'amore e il Calore di Tutti!
Sorella Ashley Nef

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Recipe for Success

Sorella Rost,  Sorella Caramia,  Sorella Marquis,  Me

Meet the Mix of Cagliari Sisters
My Companion, Sorella Rost (from Valencia, California) is a ray of perpetual sunshine and is really good at approaching people.  Hopefully I can pick up some of her easiness in starting up conversations.

Sorella Caramia (from the coastal town of Rimini, Italy - which is between Milan and Firenze) has served 13 months of her mission, all in Rome, which she loved.  Her last companion was Sorella Omer, a sister with mental handicap.  Sorella Caramia absolutely loooooved her companion and talks about her all the time with such love, but then again, Sorella C is full of love for everybody.  Additional qualities already apparent: she has great wisdom, a gift for reading people, and some of the culinary skills of her professional chef father have rubbed off onto her because she is also a terrific cook.

And finally, Sorella Marquis (from Utah) is kind of quiet, but that's understandable since she is a brand-new greeny suffering from jet lag and getting used to Italian culture, missionary work, the city, and three new roomies.

Cooking Up a Plan
They all arrived without problem last Thursday (the 5th), and we went about getting things in order in the house.  Sorella Marquis was still in the throws of jet lag, so while she rested, the rest of us talked.  Sorella C had served as the Sister Training Leader in Rome and told us all about Rome, the missionaries she has served with, and about working with the Mission President.  In coming to Sardegna, he told her that the big focus, even before investigators, should be working with less actives.  It is a huge problem here: 400 less actives on the island, which is a lot for 4 branches.  So targeting the less-actives is going to be the aim of this transfer (the next 6 weeks).  We will be meeting with the Branch President on the 12th to cook up a plan amongst the 8 missionaries here in Cagliari for the Rescue, as President Monson calls it.

An Appetite for the Work
As wonderful as it was serving as the Sister Training Leader, Sorella C found her last area quite stressful (she lost 10 pounds in two months).  But now that she is here, she is blissfully happy. "You sisters are so great," she keeps saying, "I have never seen sisters work so peacefully together!"  We haven't even done anything special.  But now that she is stress-free, her very large appetite has miraculously re-surfaced.  This has made a bit of a problem for me.

Ok, so up to now I have been pretty good with my diet.  I eat fruit for breakfast, get in a veggy every day at pronzo, along with maybe some meat, and then I might eat a small something when I get home in the evening.  But then Sorella C sails to Sardegna with her resurrected appetite and vast knowledge of how to make a million different delicious pasta sauces, and I find myself in HUGE trouble.

Every day for pronzo since her arrival, Sorella C has made a pound of pasta to divide amongst the 4 of us, along with some terrific sauce.  This would be fine if this were it, but it doesn't stop there.  No. We come home at night and she makes another full meal - a big piece of meat with veggies or potatoes.  All so delicious!  And, of course, I must taste it all, but, dang it, I don't want to become a marshmallow!  And yet, for all of this, Sorella C is constantly saying, "Ho fame! Cosa mangiamo stasera?" (I'm hungry! What are we eating tonight?)  All.  The.  Time.  It's so funny!  We poke fun of her for it.  And yet she is thin as a twig.  I think coming down from stress hill has been great for her, not so great for the rest of us.  At least not for me.  Pasta is one of my faves.  So I am making goals to slow waaaaaay down on the pasta.  Eat smaller portions.  But on the plus side (not plus size), I am learning a lot about Italian cooking!

Recipe for Basic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
For instance, here is a basic recipe she has made for a tomato basil pasta sauce:
photo: freerecipehub.blogspot

1.  Dice large tomatoes into 2" pieces. (Round are best. They're juicier.  But Roma tomatoes still work, you just need a few more of them).  Good rule of thumb is one large tomato per person.
2.  Put chopped tomatoes in large pan with some olive oil, and turn on the heat.
3.  Add chopped onion, garlic (optional), fresh basil (if you don't have fresh - dried will work), salt to taste.
4.  Simmer on med/high for a while.  As it cooks, smash tomatoes to break down pieces and let out juices.  Add a bit of water to keep tomatoes from sticking to the pan.  Simmer.
5.  Pour over fresh cooked pasta and top with parmigiano and chopped basil.  Buono!

Optional:  Add a tiny bit of sugar to make things more interesting.  Add paprika to give it a little spice.  But that's really all it takes.  One thing I have learned about Italian cooking in Italy: No dish is super complicated.  Italians use the fewest ingredients possible, and the process itself is fairly simple.

Maria Rita and Giuseppina
I'm a little concerned.  Maria Rita has been coming less to Church.  During our lesson, Giuseppina asked, "So, if I've already been baptized in the Catholic church, why do I need to be baptized again?" Looks like it's time for the Restoration lesson again!  Hopefully this time it'll make more sense.  I think I will put added emphasis on prophets and authority.  I want so much for them to receive the blessings of the gospel.

Here Comes the Bride
Marriage of Martina Sanna
Saturday was the wedding of Martina Sanna, President Sanna's daughter.  Marriages are a little different in Europe.  Apparently there is some sort of law that makes it so everyone must be married civilly before they can be married in the Temple.  And because it has to do with the law, they don't have to wait a year to go to the Temple.

It was fun to go to an Italian wedding.  They feed you lots, throw rice, and then the wedding party goes off to another grand feast at a restaurant.  Apparently, the Sanna's wedding party stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.  This, I am told, is typical of weddings in southern Italy.  Sometimes, they will even stay up all night celebrating.

Another fun fact: At weddings, everyone comes in their own car to the wedding, files behind the wedding car, and in one large procession, they wail on their horns the ENTIRE WAY to and from the Church.  There are some variations on this tradition.  A few weeks back, we saw a wedding couple arrive to the church with the wedding party in a giant bus which was wailing on the horn the whole way.  It's great!  You can hear it coming from 1/2 a city away.

When Life Gives You Baking Powder, Make Pancakes
I tried to make ricotta rolls using lievito, but mistook the varieties of lievito and used lievito perdolci (baking powder) instead of lievito di birra (yeast).  So we didn't end up having ricotta rolls, but did have some very nice ricotta pancakes.  Delicious!

New Blend of Instructions for English Course
Last Zone Conference, they announced a new English Course Program designed by the Church.
Zone Conference
They tested the new English Course curriculum out in America to see how it helped immigrants adjust.  It was a success!  Now we are the first mission outside of the United States to implement it.  Last week we had our first official English Course lesson with this new program.  In my group we have Rita and Sara (our mother/daughter investigators!), as well as several others.  I concluded the lesson with a spiritual thought that included this verse.
For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through Him
might be saved.
John 3:16-17

Recipe for Success:  Believe and Receive
I bore testimony on God's love and the Atonement.  The Spirit was super strong.  This verse of scripture outlines a recipe for eternal life.  Believe.  Repent.  Receive.  But, mostly, it's a proclamation of a Heavenly Father's love for us.  A love so profound that He gave us everything, including His only Begotten, to help us progress and find a way back Home.  So, if you ever wonder if anyone loves you or if anyone cares - listen to Heaven's response.  You have a Father and Savior who love you powerfully and personally.  Ground yourself in the Savior's love; come to him for comfort, for peace, for forgiveness, for knowledge, for inspiration.  Then filled with the Savior's love, we can do and see and understand things that we could not otherwise do or see or understand.  Elder John H. Groberg said as much when he wrote, "Filled with His love, we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us."
Sorelle Caramia,  Rost,  Marquis,  Me
Paired with sisters who are filled with the love of the gospel, we are sure to find those seeking truth, and inspire less-actives to believe and receive.

Now, Let's Get Cooking!
Sorella Ashley Nef

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rome is Enlarging the Place of Thy Tent

Sorella O'Connor's birthday was last week.  We visited a couple of members, watched the Restoration with Maria Rita and Giuseppina and bore testimony on Joseph Smith and then ate cake that was made by our friend Michela from our Pizzeria (it was very yummy).  We finished the day at Sorella Safina's house and ate a cake that she and her daughter created.  Covered in whip cream and candied cherries, it was a celebration on a plate!  We loved it.

Transfer News
During our lesson with Maria Rita and Giuseppina, the call came from the mission office.  Sorella O is being transfered to Rome 2, the same area as the assistants and President Waddoups.  She will train a greenie (new missionary).  She was pleased, but wondered how in the world she would do it.  As for me, I am staying in Cagliari (yes!) with a Sister Rost (who was in my Zone in the MTC, so we are the same age in the mission).

Graffiti Artist at Large
The mouth is around a hole in the wall
From the first day that Sorella O was in Cagliari, she has wanted to find the man whose prolific graffiti is throughout the city: the fish, the whales, the eyes etc...

This piece is actually quite large
Many refer to the eye graffiti as the Eyes of Cagliari
Federico Carta: Laboratorio 1984
Laboratorio 1984
Per caso (by chance), we found the artist's studio last week on P-day.  We recognized the art on the building outside and on the canvases inside, but it was closed.  Friday, we decided to pass by again, just to see - and it was open!  We finally got to meet the artist - Federico Carta is his name, also known as Crisa.  He's in his late twenties, likes Indie music, and was pleased to have met a couple of fans.  Turns out, we're the first missionaries to don his doorway and talk with him, so we had a nice chat.  He used to be Buddhist, but calls his art his religion now, which led him to open his own studio in 2012, Laboratorio 1984.  Though one of his passions is his little girl, whose artwork also hangs in the studio, his main creative influences are graffiti art and primitivism.
Inside Federico Carta's Studio,
Laboratorio 1984

He's not interested to hear our message, but he did accept a copy of the Book of Mormon, saying, "I probably won't read it, but maybe I will paint on it."  But, hey, he has a Book of Mormon in his studio.  So glad we met him.

More News:  Cagliari Doubles-Up on Missionaries!
Along with Transfers, there was more news: Cagliari will receive another set of Elders and another set of Sisters, making the total number of missionaries in Cagliari - 8.  So, in addition to me and Sorella Rost, there will be another set of sisters sharing our apartment.  Sister Caramia (whose name, incidentally, means My Dear) will be training a greenie straight from America.  Sorella Caramia is famous in the mission for being a "fireball missionary" - she had 8 baptismal dates set up in her last area.  She is Italian, from the North, is nearly done with her mission, and has spent a lot of it in Rome with a Sorella Omer, another Italian.  Sorella Caramia's father is a professional chef, so she also has a reputation for being an AMAZING cook.  Really excited for that!

Still More News:  Sardegna is Becoming Part of Rome West Stake
And more news: Sardegna is officially becoming part of a new Rome Stake, and Cagliari will change from being a Branch to a Ward.  The new Stake is coming from the current Rome Stake that is really big right now.  They are dividing Rome down the middle, with 2 new Stakes forming from the old one: Rome East and Rome West.  Obviously, Sardegna will be part of Rome West (along with Napoli).  They are holding a giant conference in Rome for it on 15 September, to which every member is invited (actually, not just invited, but strongly encouraged nigh short of commanded to come).  All the missionaries from Sardegna are being flown in to Rome for the conference (so I will see Sorella O again and Rome!)  Elder M. Russell Ballard is going to preside at the meeting.  Presidente Sanna, counselor in the mission presidency, and Presidente Dessi (branch president) bore their testimonies on Sunday on how every member of the branch should make every sacrifice necessary to go to the Rome conference.  This is a big deal - a monumental event, really.  Sardegna has only ever been a district, and now it will be a part of a stake.  Big things are happening in Sardegna and I get to be here for it!  So exciting!

"Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent"
The Church is growing in Italy, and as numbers multiply, the Lord tells us how to handle the growth.
Enlarge the place of thy tent,
and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations;
spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.
For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left.
Isaiah 54:2-3

Ancient Tabernacle in Moses' time
The tent reference is reminiscent of the Tabernacle of Moses, a tent to which all of Israel was invited to come.  It's from this Old Testament verse that the Church draws the word stake for naming our ecclesiastical unit of 6-8 wards.  Here in Sardegna, we will become part of the Rome West Stake.

Now, when you want to put up a tent - the primary items needed are tent stakes.  Stakes ground the tent walls and secure its position.  President Ezra Taft Benson said that ancient prophets likened the latter-day Church to "a great tent encompassing the earth.  That tent was supported by cords fastened to stakes.  Those stakes, of course, are the various geographical organizations spread out over the earth" (Come Unto Christ, 101).

When numbers are multiplying so rapidly that the tent is "breaking forth on the right and on the left hand" (ie: the current Rome Stake), what needs to happen to make the tent larger is to pull up stakes and move to a further distance from the center pole (ie: "lengthen thy cords").  And, the more the cords are lengthened, the stakes are driven deeper and made stronger to secure and stabilize the tent.  What can we do to strengthen those stakes?  Isaiah tells us in the verse.  Check out these verbs:
     Enlarge:  Through missionary work.  Sharing the gospel.  Make all feel welcome.
     Stretch Forth:  The key word here is stretch.  Reach out a hand of compassion, love, and kindness.
     Spare Not:  All are welcome, doors are open.  I also see this as - don't hold back.  Give your all.  
                         Be generous of time and talents.
     Lengthen:  Lengthen your stride.  Pick up the pace.  Is there more you can do, give, or be?
     Strengthen:  Strengthen those around you in word, testimony, service, and kindness.

As the tent of Israel continues to broaden, its fabric extended, its cords lengthened - we have a responsibility.  Our responsibility is to secure and strengthen our ward and stake.  And as we strengthen the stake - it serves, in turn, to protect us.
Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth,
that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion,
 and upon her stakes,
may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm...
D&C 115:5-6

That protection will come as we extend those cords and unite together under the tent of the gospel, which is secured, in part, by the wards and stakes.  What a blessing.

Goodbye Sorella O!
District with Fratello Caravagna
I said goodbye to Sorella O on Tuesday.  I have the remaining Sorella from Sassari (Sorella Kippen) here to keep me company.  We are thinking on going hunting for a Sardegna cookbook and making Tiramisu this afternoon.  Yum.  I am going to miss Sorella O'Connor a lot.

We have become very good friends, but I know that she is where the Lord needs her, as am I.  But I must admit, I am excited to be in Cagliari for this next transfer with so many cool changes and things happening.  I get to be here for General Conference, and the Pope, and the forming of the new Stake and Ward.  What a time it will be!

Sempre il Lavoro del Signore sta Andando Avanti (Always, the Work of the Lord is Going Forward),
Sorella Ashley Nef