Wednesday, May 21, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

Final District Picture: Sorella Jackson, Mikesell, Marsh, me, Anziano Burnham, Prete, Kasper, Rigby
More Final Goodbyes
It was so hard to leave Palermo.  It's strange to feel both excitement and dread at the same time.  I wanted to go to Rome, but I also did not want to leave Palermo.  I love it.  And I really love the people in it - the Simoncinis, John, Sorella Giambona, among so many others.
Marta, Marsh, Nef
Marsh and I with the some great Palermo Sisters (that's Riccardo Giambona in back)
Erika made me a cake!
She even colored it pink because she knows it's my favorite color

Goodbye to English Course Students
In front of the Church with our English Course sign
Giorgio - He's like a living Muppet.
We said goodbye to our English Course students.  Giorgio, what a character.  He decided to hug me and Mikesell.  We were the ones who found him on the street.

Ciao to Palermo Chow
Tuesday we had our last run of Palermitano food - pane panelle at Nino u' Ballerino.
Me with Nino
Apparently, Nino u' Ballerino is the most famous street food vendor in Palermo and in all of Italy, for that matter.  He's quite the character.  People from all over Italy talk about him.  The missionary from Torino, Anziano Quaresima, says Nino's celebrity is because of YouTube videos of him.  But the food is good. Especially the pane panelle, my favorite food.  Had my last one drenched in lemon. Yum.

We ate at Ballerino's with some of our English Course Students. That's Giorgio in the middle telling a good story.
Cartocci. Yum.

This pastry is my favorite in all the world.  Known as Cartocci ("cones"), but Mikesell and I call them donut cannoli.  Mmmmmm.

The Last Supper - with John
Wednesday, we got our things finally packed, went to say our final goodbyes, and then headed to John's for our last supper (last pronzo) with him.

We thought his mom was going to be there to make the food, but it turns out John was the chef and made pasta alla carbonara - one of the only things he knows how to make.  It was pretty good too.

He did finger-breakdancing (a trademark of times in Palermo), and we took a couple photos.

Then he offered to help with our bags at the station. Good thing too - I had 3 bags and a backpack myself.  Mikesell had 3 bigger bags, and 3 others sacks besides.

Riccardo came and helped out as well.

Stationary Farewells
My final cannoli, courtesy of Sergio

So, we get to the station and the infamous Sergio was there with a variety of sweets for all the departing missionaries.  I didn't leave a gun, but I did take the cannoli :) .

Big hugs to Jackson
Then we loaded our things, said final goodbyes (rough)...

...and got on the bus.

Will miss Riccardo and John (heart of gold, this one)

Going to miss my Awesome companion, Marsh

Goodbyes are the WORST.  We all teared up.
And then we left.

Traveling Up the Boot
A 3-hour bus ride took us to Catania, where we stayed the night (got to see Sorella Marquis from my last transfer in Cagliari), then took a train the next morning from Catania to Messina where the entire train was ferried to land in Reggio Calabria, then we sallied on up to Rome.  It was a long ride, leaving at 8:45 am, and arriving at about 7pm.

We were going to get pizzas in Napoli (known for having the best in all of Italy), but it turns out that it was a holiday and all pizza shops were closed. Luckily some fellow passengers shared chips, pepsi, and fruit with us to tie us over.

Aaaaand, guess who boarded the train in Napoli? Anziano Duffin!  Guess who his new companion is going to be?  Anziano Di Caro!  Guess who are going to be my new zone leaders in Rome?  That's right - I have a feeling this is going to be gooooood. Wish I had a video of our arrival in Rome because the moment the train stopped and doors opened - Di Caro jumped on the train and grabbed Duffin in the biggest hug, while screaming "DOOFIN!  DOOFIN!"

My new companion is Sorella Kippen - we are getting along great.  We have common interests, and she is bright and bubbly.  Pretty fun.  She has Josh Groban, Les Miserables, and Lord of the Rings on her ipod, so we've set our alarm system to music that wakes us with pleasantries like "You Raise me Up."

Little Signs of His Presence
Looks like the Doctor is in town.  Cool.
Lots of little miracles in Rome.  I can tell the Lord is very present in my life.  It's the little personal reminders that keep popping up. Adele songs come on as I pass by shops that remind me of friends in Palermo.  Ladybugs show up on me and Sorella Kippen.  We discovered the Tardis just around the corner from the Temple grounds.  It just makes me smile.
Ladybugs greet me in Rome. Good things are going to happen.

SPQR - It's a Republic Thing

SPQR, the motto of the Roman Republic, is everywhere. Even on park fountains and sewer drain covers.  What do the initials mean?  Good question.

It's an acronym from the Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus, or, "The Senate and People of Rome," and originates with the ancient Rome Republic government.

But this is no out of date insignia because it clearly remains a prolific symbol in Rome today.

Public Drinking Fountains
The water in Rome is drinkable, and Rome has cool water fountains.  Watch and learn...
1.  Here is the Fountain...
2.  Plug spout with finger.  Water shoots up...
3.  Voila!

Loving Your Neighbor - The Best Missionary Tool
The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane
I finally was asked to give my first talk on my mission - my very first Sunday in Rome.  I was excited.  I love speaking. My subject: I talked about loving our neighbor and how friendships are the best way to do missionary work.  Since we are all brothers and sisters, our Heavenly Father does not want to save us just as individuals, but as families. Together.  In fact, His gospel and Church was established as a means to unite us into one fold, one family, and get us back to our Heavenly Home.  And He does this by having us reach out and serve one another.  But the irony in that principle is that as we look to save others, the very process ends up saving us as well.
"He that findeth his life shall lose it: 
and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 10:39
The work of the Lord is to save men and women, which means that our work as His disciples is to do the same.  The whole purpose of the Church is one of looking to each others' needs.  You help me.  I help you. We look to serve someone else.  All for one and one for all.  It's a group effort to leave no one behind.

I think this is the principle many people in the world misunderstand about the Church and "organized religion." Many think they don't need religion because their goal is self salvation.  It is true that if we were religious just to save ourselves, organized religion does seem a little silly.  Couldn't you and God just work it out alone?  

Tools of the Trade
But the truth of the matter is that God works through others.  All blessings and ordinances involve more than one person.  You cannot baptize yourself - someone must perform the baptism and there must be 2 witnesses.  It's the same for every other ordinance.  Deacons pass the sacrament.  Elders lay their hands on your head to confirm you a member of the Church.  You cannot give yourself a blessing of healing.  No one ever lays hands on his own head.  We are simply tools in His hands to bless and serve each other.  Here's another example.
"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 10:17
How do we hear the word of God?  Through people bearing testimony, prophets writing scripture etc.  Our faith is grown by listening to each other speak of God.  Something very very important I have learned on my mission: Salvation is a group effort.  Yep.  We're all in this together, friends.  It does take a village, and aren't we all children in need of raising? Well, the Lord's goal, and therefore His Church's purpose, is to have us help each other Home.
"I'll lift you and you lift me, and we'll both ascend together."
John Greenleaf Whittier
Anyway, that was my thinking this week, and I talked a little about that, but more of my talk was on the idea of friendship as a necessity in missionary work.

It was a good week.  Today we are off to see the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.  I am SO PUMPED.
It dawned on me how little of my mission is left.  Less than 4 months remaining.  Where is the time going? So happy to be in Rome.  Next week I will have lots of pictures.  Be prepared!

Maximus Happius Missionarius,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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