Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Adventures in Finding

Remains of the Church of Santa Maria dello Spasimo
One evening we had some spare time before our next appointment.  Why not search for less actives?  We selected two that were kind of in the middle of nowhere, but generally where we needed to be later on.  So we set out with our map, ward list, scriptures, coats, scarves, gloves, and walking boots.

We walked tranquillemente to our first address.  Turns out they live in one of those complexes you need a code to get into.  So that was a dud.  Continue on to the second address.

Why Did the Missionary Cross the Road?
Palermo Highway
According to the map, the only way to reach the street of the less active was take a course around a rotunda called Piazza Kennedy.  After about half an hour of walking, we find the Piazza.  Turns out, it is THE HIGHWAY.  But, lo and behold, there is a sidewalk for pedestrians on this highway.  The only catch is that we needed to cross the freeway crosswalk (yeah, didn't know those existed, did you?) TWICE to get to the other side.  I felt like I was the brunt end of one of those Chicken-road-crossing jokes.

We braved the oncoming traffic, in the dark, and made it safely across the highway, partly thanks to a kind Italian man who took the lead and stopped the cars so we could cross.  When we thanked him, he said as he walked away, "e stato un piacere!" (It was a pleasure!).

The Walk to More-door
Albergheria neighborhood, Palermo
Then we found the road where the less active lives. "Ok, here we are at number 1. What number does she live at?" I ask.  "92."  Of course.  It's always at the end of the long, dark, lonely road.

I told my companions we needed The Lord of the Rings music for walking to keep us motivated.  So, whistling the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings (extended version), we walk all the way down the long, dark, lonely road until there is this apartment complex (without a number) right before a private road that leads to a very abandoned looking building in partial ruins.

We look at the numberless complex and don't see the citofono (the doorbell for entrance).  Luckily, a man drives up and we ask him if this was number 92.  "No," he says, "it's over there," pointing to the ruins.  Perfect.

Determined, we hop over the chain marking "Strada Privata" (Private Road) and notice just to the right of the abandoned building that looks like the perfect setting for every horror movie ever (it lacked only the lightning striking behind it) are two cute houses.
Sign reads: "For Sale - Apartment Partially Restored"

So we find the one that has the name of our less active and ring the doorbell.

An elderly man answers the door and informs us that his wife (the member) is 93 years old, slightly out of her mind, and in a house of repose.  He was very sweet.  We asked if there was anything we could do. He told us to pray at home, he couldn't let us inside.

So we turned around and walked all the way back, braving the highway crossing once again, and we survived to tell the tale, while Mikesell video journaled the adventure for her mom.

So began our Adventures in Finding.  This last week, we spent much of our spare time doing some meno-attivi hunting.  Here are a few results.

ADVENTURES in FINDING! (finding...finding...finding) - Less Actives Edition
We met with Catarina.  She hasn't been to church in 15 years and says she doesn't want to come back. But for some reason, Mikesell and I feel that we should still try with her anyway.  We felt inspired to offer a small thought on the Atonement.  We shared a scripture in Alma.
And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions
and temptations of every kind;
and this that the word might be fulfilled...
And He will take upon Him death,
that He may loose the bands of death...
And He will take upon Him their infirmities,
that His bowels may be filled with mercy...
that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people...
that He might blot out their transgressions
according to the power of His deliverance.
Alma 7:11-13
We taught that through Christ's power, not only can we overcome all things, our hearts can be healed as well. The Spirit was really strong.  Even the dog stopped barking.  "It's because he knows that God is here," was what Catarina said.
Stone Angel Graffiti
We can tell that Emmanuella is very lonely and very much in need of company.  We hope to get the Relief Society involved to help her feel loved.

Familia La Rizza
We met with a less active family in Bagheria that the Anziani have been having a hard time getting to.  The family La Rizza.  The daughter is a returned missionary who went less active a few years ago.  Mom was less active, but has begun coming back.  We directed our thoughts to both and shared a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants.
Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you;
seek me diligently and ye shall find me;
ask, and ye shall receive;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
D&C 88:63
The daughter knew all the right answers, you might say, but just needed a reminder of applying scripture to her life.  Turns out, she feels that she has not been receiving the blessings due her from having served a mission and from being a member generally.  As we talked, though, she came to realize (even if is was for a moment) that God works in His own time and in His own way, and since He is all knowing and all loving, He clearly knows what's best for her and what will help her grow.  There was a good spirit.
Olga is an ecuadorian member here in the ward who has been struggling to become active once again. She feels lonely and abandoned by the ward and almost left in the middle of sacrament meeting because she was so upset.  We got her to come back.  During our visit, we talked about the importance of persevering even when times are difficult and setting an example for her children (her daughter and son have also been struggling).  We are hoping that in strengthening Olga, she can, in turn, help her kids.

Our new investigator, Luigi, showed up very late to his appointment, apologizing (his work made him stay late).  Even though we only had 15 minutes before English Course started, he said, "Ok!  I'm all ears.  What can you tell me?"  We introduced him to the Book of Mormon, testifying how it is the springboard to faith in Christ and personal revelation.  Luigi is more curious, and not explicitly searching for answers, but we think that he will find very good things in the Book of Mormon that will spark further curiosity.  He agreed to read.
Albergheria neighborhood
Mapping our Course
We have been hitting our map and ward list, searching for those who have lost sight of the Church.  The goal is to work through everyone on the list and see which people are actually still around and which aren't. We found that many don't live at the listed address and others are just so old that they actually cannot come to Church.  It's a process of finding and updating and nurturing.  Some people may have lost sight of their faith, but Heavenly Father has not lost sight of them.

Infinitely for You
I was in bed last night, and through the ceiling skylight, I looked into the night sky at the stars and I got to thinking about how beautiful and GINORMOUS the universe is.  God could have just put us on earth, put earth in a box and we wouldn't have been any wiser.
Instead, He suspends us in this gargantuan infinite cosmos - bigger than 93 billion light years in diameter (and still expanding) - full of stars, galaxies, nebulae, supernova, comets, neutrinos, pulsars, black holes, quasars, etc. etc. etc.  Mind-boggling volumes of matter dangle in a balance of laws, physics, and power while insane amounts of energy fringe our universe, and, look.  Here we are.  Gravitating in the midst of it all.

How small and insignificant are we in relation to everything else?  Let's face it, we are puny, weak and powerless compared with God and His galactic-level billions-of-light-years creations.  Even so, I couldn't help but think about how cool it is that all of this breathtaking enormity was created for you, and for me.

A Chip Off the Old Block
That's right.  God's greatest creation isn't the brilliant stars or the expansive galaxies.  His greatest creations are His children.  We may be miniscule, but we are also children of God.  And what makes us great is our relation, and therefore potential to become like our Heavenly Father.
Lagoon Nebula
Now, there is a vast difference between where we are and where God is, but the coolest thing in the whole universe is that that gap can be breached through the power of Christ.  We have such GRAND potential, bigger than the universe itself (which is a mind-blowing idea on its own), and God is doing everything He can to help us realize that potential.

Yep, the Power behind the rotating seasons and the orbiting planets is the same Power that has enacted a Plan to help His children return Home.  We have every opportunity to succeed because God didn't put us here to fail.

We May Be Miniscule, But We Matter
If anyone wonders if there is a God, just take a look at the order and symmetry of the heavens.  Look at the miracles and beauties of life.  God is very much in the thick of things in our world.
     He has not taken up residence in some distant galaxy.
     He has not removed Himself from history.
     He has not chosen to shut the door on humanity and
     seclude Himself on an incandescent throne in a remote castle eons away.
     He is here.  Among us.
Since He wants us to succeed, He involves Himself even in the mundane 9-5, commute traffic rat race, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, heartaches, final exams, and funerals of our day.  Why?  Because we matter.

If you have trouble believing that - simply remind yourself - the Power that ignites the sun is the same Power that can come into your world and light your path.  Just "draw near unto" Him.  "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."

We may be puny, but we are precious.  We may be miniscule, but we matter.  We may feel infinitesimal and stuck, but our potential is grand and limitless.

And no matter how far some may stray, He never loses sight.  For that reason, I think my companion and I will continue to be on the Lord's errand and search for those who have lost sight, and remind them that they matter.  So resumes our Adventures in Finding.

Where's My Map?
Sorella Ashley Nef

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