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

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