Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Because of Him

Picnic Day at Bishop Ganci's home.  Sorella Bradford and her brothers visit (front right)
photo: Melissa Bradford (Sorella Bradford's mom)

This week was a great one of strengthening members and supporting fellow missionaries.

Welcome Andersons!
Me with the Andersons
A senior couple arrived this week - the Andersons from Vernal, Utah.  They are pretty great, but had a pretty rough welcome.  Sickness set in the day they arrived in Italy (from which they have not yet recovered), which made the ride down from Rome to Sicily even tougher, diciamo (we will say). Unfortunately, the apartment our landlord said was set up (yes, him) and promised was "ready for them" when they got here - was "ready" alright.  The water heater was not on, nor the gas, nor the heater, and there were no blankets, or sheets, or covers, or food, or drinking water, nor garbage can, or towels, or washcloths, or soap, or anything to make the place livable.  And, though the Andersons got in touch with the landlord a few times asking for help, he did nothing :| .

Luckily we showed up with a house warming gift and Mikesell has turned into quite the handyman.  We were able to set things straight in the house, and then we bought them food and other living supplies.  Poor things don't speak Italian, and Palermo is NOT Vernal.

Hazards of Sicilian Driving
Italian Traffic - an adventure in survival
Take driving, for instance.  Elder Anderson had never driven in Italy, and then he was put in PALERMO with a set of keys and a Good Luck!

He was a little overwhelmed.

You see, driving in Sicily is a venture in survival. Every day behind the wheel, you take your life in your own hands. There are no rules nor rhyme nor reason to the chaotic mess that makes up the Palermo roadways.  Look at the picture.  It's a crazy free-for-all!

Freeways, for example, have two lanes. If there is even the slightest traffic, most Sicilians solve the problem by driving along the hard shoulder of the road, making 3-point turns in the middle of the highway, or simply putting the car in reverse. Sometimes there is the occasional car traveling on the shoulder in the wrong direction breaking land speed records.

City Traffic
City traffic fares no different. Double-parking, triple-parking, pot holes, gridlock. The shoulder on your right has a red Fiat zooming past, while a 10-ton truck is overtaking you on your left, thus testing the emergency braking powers of your white Fiat, and hoping the driver of the silver Fiat behind you (with rosary beads dangling from the rearview mirror) has sharp enough reflexes to go from 60-0 in 5 seconds flat while talking on his cell phone which, since he's Sicilian, makes him look as if he's conducting Beethoven's 5th with both hands.

Pedestrians - the Final Hazard
Pedestrians are the final road hazard in Sicily. Most of the population is sensible enough to keep clear of traffic, yet you will find there is a steady supply of the logic-deficient waiting to jump in front of you as you barrel toward them.  Most often, though, the ones who defy any Fiat to cross his path will be a little old man about 4 feet tall, carrying a colossal box of lemons, or bread, or eggplant from his delivery truck to his shop. You don't know if he has a death wish or if he thinks the dozen or so pictures of saints posted in his shop is protection enough.  (added source: siciliangodmother)

Ya, Elder Anderson was a bit overwhelmed with driving in Sicily.  I think Sorella Anderson was expecting Tuscan countryside, but they don't put missionaries in the countryside.  Senior couples especially are always in big towns.  And this is Palermo - one of the biggest cities in Italy.  It's urban. So I think that was a shock to them both.

To help them settle in, we took them to get their Permesso paperwork done at the post office.  I also made them soup a couple of times as they are still recovering from their illness (soup always makes things better).  Hopefully they will soon be out and about and comfortable with Sicily.  In the meantime, they have been very sweet and grateful for the help were able to offer.  And we have been happy to give it.

Church is a Hospital for Sinners, Not a Retirement Home for Saints
We have a less-active we met with this week: Lorella Albamonte.  She hasn't been to Church in 20 years, and her reason for leaving the Church was seeing hypocritical members - people who said they lived Church standards, but she knew weren't.  She thought members of the Church should be above all that. Well, that's the ideal.

But really, people will be people whatever church they attend.  Just because you belong to the true Church does not cloak you in perfection and make you immune to trials, nor invincible to temptations.  Isn't this the reason we all go to Church?  We're all just trying to be better people.  So, we have started working with her.  She has 3 teenage daughters who love Sorella Marsh and I because we are American (hey, we'll take our cool points where we can get them :)).  Lorella is a seamstress who has recently had to move, so we have been helping her set up house as well.  Just call us the Move-In Committee.

Back to Seminary Class
We have been enlisted to help an 18 year-old in the ward named Riccardo.  He is the son of Sorella Giambona, but he does not have a testimony, has no desire to attend seminary, or serve a mission, or commit himself to anything churchy.  His mom is afraid he'll go less-active when he leaves home, so we've been asked to accompany him to Seminary and participate in class with him (he's actually the only student right now, so this is helpful for the teacher as much as Riccardo).

This week, our lesson was on 3 Nephi 1-7, discussing the importance of the Book of Mormon generally. Since Riccardo didn't have much to say, Giusi, the teacher, asked me how the Book of Mormon has affected my life, so I got to bear testimony on how the Book has helped me to know the Savior.

Finding Christ in the Book of Mormon
Christ in the Americas by Walter Rane
You know, we always talk about Christ, and know who He is in the sense that He's the Son of God, that He came to earth and died and was resurrected; but do we really know Christ?  Know Him?  As in personally?  Intimately?

I talked about how the Book of Mormon, through my study of it and application of what it teaches, has helped me to come to feel that I actually know the Savior, at least on some level.  The great promise of the Book is that by study and living the principles everyone can feel that too.  I may not be the stature of an apostle or prophet of the Lord, but in my own way, I can say that I know Christ lives. And even more important than the historical events surrounding His actual death and resurrection, I know that through studying and following Christ's teachings, we can have a fuller life.  A more meaningful life.  A more joyful life.  And the Book of Mormon is the key to all of that because it contains Christ's teachings and it shows example after example of people who have and have not followed those teachings, and the results in their lives from those choices.

Followers of Christ prosper, are happier - they still face trials and hard times, sure.  That is a fact of life. But they face them with greater help, ample support, and mightier power to back them up.  This helps them find peace instead of torment in life.  I love bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon.  The Spirit was there. Don't know if it helped him, but I hope something struck a chord.

Uprooted Again - The Continuing Saga of Landlord Troubles
Speaking of trials and torment - We got a call from the Elders on Wednesday, "Hey...uh...[your landlord] didn't tell you, did he?"
     "Tell us what?"
     "That you are moving today."
     "No.  No he didn't."
     "Dang it!  I just knew it!  Well, don't worry, we are coming over right away to help."
We asked Elder Burnham why exactly we had to move on that particular day and he said he'd tell us in person.  So we cancelled all Wednesday appointments due to the emergency move. We didn't know why we had to move suddenly. But we did it anyway.  To be honest, we just want it to be over.  So this threw the day off a little.  Thankfully the elders were a great help and we got things upstairs in a couple of hours.

Surviving the Eruption
Eruption of Mount Vesuvius
The reason why we had to be out of the house? According to landlord, it was "because some people were coming over to buy the apartment." And they couldn't see the house with us in it?  Well, after the rush of moving, guess what?  No one ever came to the apartment, and no one is living there. :|

But, I'm happy to tell you -  I had something of an emotional breakthrough on Wednesday.  A week before this happened, I probably would have exploded like Mount Vesuvius.  I'd been smoking and oozing lava like Etna already.  But when we got the call from the elders in the morning, I just started laughing and laughing.  And the bright mood continued all day.

Now, you might be thinking that I officially lost it, that I was only in hysterics.  But, no, what really happened was that I finally left the barren landscape of indignation and reached the peaceful valley of perspective. Here is what I finally discovered: it doesn't matter.  That's right.  It does not matter.  The landlord is a Class-A Jerk in every sense of the word, but that shouldn't affect me.  In the long run, this is only a small chapter of my life.  I will be leaving Palermo and never see him ever again.  So, I can step away from the smoldering mountain of exasperation, take a chill pill from the Spirit, and enjoy the view of what's ahead. Ah, perspective.
Easter lentil dinner at church
photo: Melissa Bradford (Sorella Bradford's mom), pictured on right
Claire Bradford, Mikesell, Jackson, Marsh, Nef, Prete, Kasper, Dalton Bradford
photo: Melissa Bradford
Marsh, Jackson, Mikesell and Nef with Chocolate Baci Eggs

Easter Processions
We had a lovely Easter. We went to Sorella Giambona's home for dinner and watched the Easter processions from her balcony.

During the procession, they have station points marking the various episodes of Christ's journey. Under our balcony was the 4th station of the cross.

They would sing a song, say a prayer, and recite the history of that station - when Mary met with Christ along the way of the cross.

Pasquetta - A Holiday for Picnicking
Sorella Bradford came back with her family to visit Palermo for a few days, so we were with them in Church on Sunday, then dinner later. Monday was another holiday - Pasquetta.  You know, I think Italians make a holiday for the day after every major holiday (the day after Christmas, St. Stephen's Day, is big).

Anyway, Pasquetta is a day for picnicking, so we met up with Vescovo Ganci's family and the Bradfords in Monreale.  It was everything you ever imagined a picnic in Italy would be - in the country, with a light breeze, crystalline sunlight, a lovely view of Sicily, good food, close family, and a crazy grandma (she has Alzheimer's and sings a lot. Pretty darn cute). Today we are climbing Mount Pellegrino with the Bradford's. Looking forward to it.

Conference Catch-Up
We finally saw the rest of General Conference this week (Sunday afternoon session).  Elder Packer's talk, The Witness, and Elder Christofferson's talk, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, ROCKED!!!!  They bore such strong testimony of the Savior.  How perfect for Easter.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
I did my Easter reading schedule again that I created last year (a series of scriptures leading to Christ's Atonement).  One thing struck me.  I was reading through the chapters talking about the Second Coming (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13), when Christ was detailing the Signs of the Times to the apostles (the destructions, the tempests, the wars, men's hearts failing them etc), and then I read a verse in John.
"Let not your heart be troubled:
ye believe in God, believe also in me."
John 14:1
What I didn't know, until I read that verse, was that in reviewing the Signs of the Times, I had become anxious and a little tense.  But when I read the words "Let not your heart be troubled," a peace filled me up. It was a sweet, reverent, subtle thing, but so penetrating and touching all the same. The idea came that:
     Christ is there for me (omnipresent)
     He is in control (omnipotent)
     He is all knowing (omniscient)
An unstoppable trifecta!  These bible verses reveal how He already knows the bad news and is giving us the heads-up.  And if Christ can predict the problem, then He can prepare us and solve it. Because Christ is all present, all powerful, and all knowing - we don't need to fear.

The Easter processions this week (and most religions for that matter) focus on Christ's death.  But, guess what?  He arose again.  He lives.  And, because He lives - He is in control.  Let not your heart be troubled.

Because of Him
Because of Him, not only do we have nothing to fear, but we have everything to hope for.
Love to All,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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