Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Directions Game

Robinson, Bradford, me, Wiltbank
Sick as a Dog (Where does that term come from anyway?)
This last week - not much has happened.  Part of the reason being that I came down with the same thing my companion had last week - a super nasty cold!  It's mostly gone now, just mildly congested at this point.  While it was at its worst, I was needing to stay inside and sleep.  That thing had me beat.

The Directions Game
But I still managed to go to all of our English Course classes, which were great.  This last week, our class theme was on giving people, or asking for, directions.  So we set up a couple of mazes and treasure hunts in which the students had to either give or take directions in English.  Some faltered a bit, needing help and practice, while others made it more easily.  Of course, those who knew English best, breezed through.  But, ALL students had an absolute BLAST.

Holstered Guns
Super good news:  Josie surprised us this week.  We had a lesson in which we discussed Priesthood and Authority, and everything made perfect sense for her.  We were ready to go in with guns blazing and blast the lesson into her, but we didn't need to.  We simply explained the Restoration over again (lesson 1), emphasizing how the Lord has ALWAYS worked with prophets.

The Lord has Always Worked with Prophets
From Adam to Abraham to Moses and onward.  We read a verse from the Old Testament.
Surely the Lord God will do nothing,
until he revealeth his secret
unto his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7



painting by Rembrandt

Same Prophetic Pattern throughout Time
We talked about how the same pattern has always occurred with prophets throughout the centuries: A man is chosen of God and sent, in the power of the Priesthood, to preach and administer the gospel. People eventually reject the gospel and kill the prophets, which temporarily causes the gospel to be lost among men.  But God loves his children, so he sends another prophet to restore the Truth and Power that was lost.  This occurs again and again in the Bible.

Jesus Christ Established His Church and Called Apostles
Then we cited forward a few centuries (from Old Testament times to New Testament) to when Christ established His Church with apostles and prophets.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,
but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
Ephesians 2:19-20
Christ Ordaining the Twelve Apostles
painting by Harry Anderson
And he (Jesus Christ) gave some apostles; and some prophets;
and some evangelists (patriarchs); and some pastors (bishops) and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God...
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro,
and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
Ephesians 4:11-14
Then we talked about how after Christ and the Apostles were killed (an Apostasy occurred), there were no more apostles and prophets upon the earth.  Like in the past, the Authority and Power of God were lost (meaning, it was removed from the earth and taken back to heaven from whence it came).  During those dark ages, Christians tried living the gospel as well as they could remember, but in time, without the guidance of a prophet and apostles, much of the Truth was forgotten and skewed, and many different churches began to emerge.

Truth and Authority Restored
God, the Father, and Jesus Christ
appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith
painting by Del Parson
Eventually, God called a man, Joseph Smith, as a Prophet to restore His Truth and Power to the earth, just like in ancient Biblical times.
     "This is why baptism in the Catholic church is not the same as baptism in our Church," we told her,  
"It's not that baptism in this Church cancels baptism 
in the Catholic church.  It's simply that we believe that baptism must be done with the proper Authority."

We explained further with an analogy:
Just like a man can't decide, one day, that he is a Judge and can mandate decisions in a Court of Law on behalf of the state - the same holds true with the Priesthood.  No man can just decide to be a priest.  He must be called of God and authorized to do His works, and that includes baptism.  "That is why this is important," we told her.

It all made perfect sense to her, and she even re-explained the concepts back to us.  Unfortunately,
our lesson was cut short because it was right before English Course, but we invited her to read the Book
of Mormon and come to Church.  She agreed to read, but said that this Sunday, she was unavailable.

"Why Not Give the Sisters a Surprise"
However, Sunday rolled around and, lo and behold, Josie surprised us by walking into Gospel Principles class.  The lesson was on the Atonement, which captivated her.  She asked the question, "What exactly does the word Atonement mean?" and by the end of the lesson, she was able to define it, "The Atonement, then, is the sacrifice of Christ of His life for us so we can resurrect and become like Him."  Perfect, Josie. She then stayed for Sacrament meeting.  It was the children's Primary Program, which, of course, she loved and even said she'd like to bring her daughter next week.  Her visit was made more complete by making friends with a couple of the members.
     When I asked what changed her mind about coming to Church, she told us, "I was reading the Book of Mormon and the thought came that I should go to Church.  Why not?  I thought, I'd like to give the sisters a surprise!"

The Miracle of Testimony
We attribute this miracle to the incredible Intermediate English Course Class.  Sorella Bradford and Sorella Robinson have somehow collected all of the investigators into their class:  Giuseppe, Josie (from us), Francesca (from Anz. Nickle and Duffin), Miriam, Michela and Valentina (their own investigators).  During their spiritual thoughts, in the past couple classes, they have opened it up to a question and answer session in which Francesca (who is close to baptism) bears testimony on many aspects of the gospel (fasting, scriptures, missionaries, sacrament meeting - you name it), and the others pitch in on what they know or have learned.  Even though she is not yet baptized, Francesca is already an amazing missionary.  She continually bears powerful testimony on the fact that since meeting with the missionaries, her life has been transformed, and she loves helping others to feel the same.  Sorella Wiltbank and I believe it was Francesca's testimony on Thursday that helped Josie feel the Spirit's promptings to come and see.

Utah's Twin City?
That's all the news I have work-wise.  But I am going to take some time now to explain a developing theory of mine.  Hem hem.  Sicily is like Utah.  Yes, after spending some time up close and personal with the Sicilian culture, I can't help but notice some striking similarities.  Let me splain:

There is a Church on every corner.
Outside the Opera House, they have statues that look like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith.
Politeama, the plaza around the Opera House
Ruggiero Settimo, Diplomat and Patriot
photo: 123rf
Carlo Cottone, Principe di Castelnuovo

Statue on left looks like Joseph Smith from afar.

Statue on right looks like Brigham Young from afar.

This "Y" sweatshirt (color and style of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah) was in Sicily's H&M Store.  Go Cougars!

They have large families.  Not long ago, the average number of kids in a family was about 10.
I have seen many pictures of families with 13-14 kids.

(right)  Christ in Gethsemane by Del Parson

Latter-day Saint artist, Del Parson, paintings are displayed in their Cathedrals!

This made me laugh out loud when I
saw it.  We have this painting in my home.

They make Fry Sauce to put on their French Fries (one of the 4 main food groups at Brigham Young University).

They put odd things like hot dogs in their rice salads.

They play the tune Come, Come Ye Saints to some of their songs (lyrics are different, but still).
Joyful vendor sharing food with a growing crowd.  Party!

If there is food, there is a party.

Yep, there you have it.  The list is actually longer, but this is all I could remember right now.  Utah and Sicily are the same.  That's my theory.  After hearing some of the evidence, don't you agree?

So, obviously, this place is bursting with potential.  We will see what we can make of it these next couple of months.

Hello President Waddoups!
Alpha Scarf
Yes, THAT scarf (Mission President's scarf held hostage - first mentioned in post: What Happens in Palermo Stays in Palermo).  The Santa hat was a gift to the District from Anziano DiCaro.

For Christmas, our District is doing a Secret Santa gift exchange, and I have received one of the Elder's names.  I am only allowed 5 euro to work with, so I will have to get reeeaaally creative.

As far as Skyping home for my family Christmas call, we are not allowed to use members' computers, so we have to find an internet point that has web cams and wont be too inconvenient.  Fingers crossed.

The Directions Game of Life
Sad news: Giuseppe has fallen out of all contact with us. We tried calling him a few times, and he never responded except to say that he would talk to us at English Course.  Only, after class, he left immediately, saying he couldn't stay.  Then, later in the week, he didn't answer his phone and he didn't come to Church.  We are hoping this is a passing phase.

I wish Giuseppe could realize that, just like in the English Course Directions Game, the gospel gives us the proper Direction in life.  When we enter the Path, we are no longer "children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14) because we have Divine direction.  All we need to do is follow.
     When we follow the prophet (the Lord's mouthpiece)
     When we abide by Christ's teachings (found in scripture)
     When we keep the covenant path (living the commandments)
     We simply cannot go wrong.  
Life is a Directions Game.  Our Heavenly Father has not left us here to flounder and blindly feel our way through the maze of existence.  He has a Plan.  And that Plan includes precise Directions to - not only better ourselves - but to get us safely Home.

That's why He restored His Church and gospel upon the earth.  That's why He gives us Scripture.  That's why we have a living prophet.  He loves us too much to leave us lost and alone.

I'm so grateful for this time of year that directs our thoughts to His Son who came, in the humblest of circumstances, to live a life that would show us the Way.

Buon Natale!
Sorella Ashley Nef

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