Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sightseeing in Cefalu and Saying Goodbye

Mikesell and I riding the train to Cefalu

Just an hour train ride east of Palermo is the small town of Cefalu.  Cefalu is one of Sicily's finest beach resorts and, in the summer, attracts scads of tourists from all over Italy and Europe.

In February, however, we found it calm, relaxing, and very charming.

We sisters went last Monday.  After an intense week, it was nice to get away for an afternoon.

La Rocca in Cefalu

The Rock
Cefalu is most memorable for the giant granite outcropping, called La Rocca (the Rock).

La Rocca juts up vertically alongside the town and holds the ancient ruins of the Greek Temple of Diana on its peak.  We did not venture to the top to visit the ruins.

Cefalu Cathedral, built 1131
The Cathedral
Prominent in Cefalu's skyline is the twin-towered Cathedral.  The Duomo is reminiscent of Monreale's, built in the same century (12th), by a different king of Sicily (Roger II).

Legend says that Roger II built the church in 1131 as a monument of gratitude to God for sparing his life in a violent storm off of Cefalu's shores.

The Inside
Cefalu's Cathedral is built in Norman style, and like Monreale Cathedral, it features a Christ Pantocrator above the altar, Arabic influences, Roman columns, and Bysantine mosaics (actually older, but somewhat less impressive).  The ancient church is simple (as far as cathedral standards) and beautiful.

The Streets
We spent most of the day meandering through town.  Walking the curvy alleys becomes a very cool experience when it dawns on you that you're on stone streets dating back to ancient Roman times.

The Coast

These Boots Were Made for Walkin'
Sorella Bradford and me

Arrivederci Bradford!
We said goodbye to Sorella Bradford.  She has successfully completed her mission and will be heading back home to Switzerland Tuesday morning.

She has been such a great missionary and an awesome friend so goodbyes were extra tough.

Getting her stuff organized and together, we almost pulled an all-nighter last night, then woke up at 4:30 this morning to leave by 5am to get her to the airport in time for her 7:45 flight.  Now she's off in Rome for the interim before flying home.

I am losing a fantastic companion, but know I have gained a life-long friend.

More Goodbyes with Transfers
Anziano Nickle and me
 Three elders are leaving:
 Anziano DiCaro, Anziano Nickle, and Anziano Garner  (Garner was only here for one transfer! "One and Done"  as we say, poor guy).  Rigby stays.

 Besides Bradford going home, one sister is being  transfered: Sorella Robinson is going to Cagliari,  Sardegna!  I have been telling her all about it.
 Mikesell and I stay.
Anziano Di Caro and me

 I love these guys  -  they're like family to  me.  Truly, the  hardest part of the  mission is having to  say goodbye.

 Super good friends  here.  Great  missionaries.
Anziano Garner, DiCaro, Nickle, Rigby, moi, Sorella Mikesell, Bradford, Robinson
That's Chowder the dog (who is afraid of cats)

Training a Greenie
Even though Mikesell and I are staying in Palermo, we will be getting new companions who will arrive on Thursday.  Her companion will be Sorella Jackson.  I will be training a brand new companion (Greenie) from the MTC.  Woohoo!

I am honored, blessed, and excited to be training.  On the phone, President said, "The Lord has asked you to train a new missionary in the field.  Are you willing to accept that responsibility?"  I accepted, of course.  I like that it is an invitation like a calling. 

Welcome Elder Burnham and Elder Kasper
Palermo District with our Ward Mission Leader
Anziano Burnham, Garner, Bradford, Michele Boscia, Robinson, me, Mikesell, Kasper, Rigby
As DiCaro and Nickle were the first to transfer to Rome, we welcomed Anziano Burnham (who was in the MTC with me) and Anziano Kasper.  Both elders had been serving in Rome for FOREVER.  And, let me tell you, Palermo is not Rome.  The work is very different down here - the character of the people is different, the ward situation is very different - so these elders are having to adjust.

L'autista - The Driver
When Burnham and Kasper arrived, they had to go through Palermo 1 initiation - Sorella Giambona's "L'Autista" (The Driver, in English).

Here's how it goes:
You eat your typical, ginormous Sicilian meal (pasta, meat, veggies, fruit, cheese, dessert) and then Sorella Giambona juices a bunch of lemons - enough to fill a tall glass about 1/3 full, add a little water, and then you set it before the victim who holds it ready to chug as a spoonful of baking soda is very quickly stirred into the cup.  After about 3 seconds it starts to expand and foam and you CHUG THAT SUCKER DOWN!!!

Bar-none, every missionary who comes into the ward is required to experience Giambona's l'autista.  The look of horror on Kasper and Burnham's face was PRICELESS as they drank that thing as fast as they could.  SO FUNNY!  By the look of Kasper's face in this picture, I think he's still feeling the effects of the Driver.
Back: Mikesell, me, Burnham, Kasper
Middle: Ricardo (investigator), ward members
Bottom row: Robinson, Bradford, fantastic John, Garner, Rigby

Sad Songs Say So Much
Meanwhile, students in English Course are having a hard time with the transfer of two favorite teachers. One student named Sergio (who has a wife and kid) is absolutely inconsolable.  He ran through the Church calling for Nickle the day Nickle left.  He came the next day and refused to go into Nickle's former class, but instead attended the sisters' class.  Then he printed off song lyrics and sang them to us, telling us this was how he felt about Nickle ("Everything" by Michael Buble, and "I Can't Live if Living is Without You" by Mariah Carey).  He then came to Family Home Evening and sang "Home" by Michael Buble.

Also at Family Home Evening, another investigator put together a video slide show (from pictures she took from our Facebook pages) expressing love for DiCaro and us missionaries.  Can you tell it was Valentine's day this week? - Amore is in the air!

"God Giveth No Command...Save He Shall Prepare a Way"
On the way to meet us for a discussion, Chiara ran into one of her friends who asked what she was doing.  She told him about the missionary lessons, which sparked some interest, so she invited him to come to Church, and he agreed.  "I hope that is ok," said Chiara.  Uh, YEAH THAT'S OK!  GET HIM IN HERE!  How cool is that?  I am really excited for Chiara because I can see that she really does want to know the truth of all of this.  I haven't yet taught an investigator with this much interest and real intent.  It's wonderful.

When we taught Chiara the Restoration, the Spirit was strong.  She's already read up through 1 Nephi 8 and has highlighted passages that strike her.  One of her favorites is from the prophet Nephi.
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded,
for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments
unto the children of men,
save he shall prepare a way for them
that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
1 Nephi 3:7
When she brought up this verse, she testified to the fact that - no matter how difficult the trial or how trying the circumstance, God always prepares a way for us to do His will.

God Has Done it Before, He Will Do it Again
David fights Goliath
I agree.  Throughout scripture, God, the Master Weaver and Miracle-worker, redeems people in the most crazy extreme circumstances.  And, if He can prepare the way for others, can't He prepare the way for us as well?

I mean, life has a way of throwing curve balls and sometimes we wonder how we'll get through it.  A lot of times we fear we won't.
     We fear the money will never come
     The darkness will never lift
     The pain will never subside
     The strength will never last
We feel cornered, locked-in, set up for failure.  Is there a way through?  Yes!  Scripture is written to show us - God has done it before for the faithful, and He will do it again for us.

The Raising of Lazarus by Jeffrey Hein
There is A Way Up and Out
I have a friend who is left with scars from some pretty intense darkness, and I want him to know - there is always a way up and out.  Recall the stories:
     Out of the pit and prison for Joseph
     Out of the lion's den for Daniel
     Out of the furnace for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
     Out of Jerusalem with the brass plates for Nephi
     Out of the whale's stomach for Jonah
     Out of Goliath's grip for David
The stories are endless and testify of God's power over life's extremes.  I thought of more reminders.
     Out of the storm for the Disciples,
     the Dungeon for Nephi and Lehi, 
     Disease for the lepers, 
     Darkness for the blind, and
     Death for Lazarus
The lesson again and again?  God gets us through stuff.  Through is a prominent word in scripture.  Listen to this verse from the Old Testament.

When thou passest through the water, I will be with thee;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
Isaiah 43:2
You'll get through this.  Heavenly Father never promised that it would be painless, but He would get us through.  He never said the hard stuff would pass quickly, but He would work it out for our greatest good. He would re-weave the pain for a higher purpose - for our greatest growth and blessing.  All we need to do is ask Him to prepare the way.

One thing is for sure - when we're in the pits, it forces us to look up.

Grazie for your prayers this week.  Man, we have needed and felt them!
Sorella Ashley Nef

No comments:

Post a Comment