Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Crossing Another Threshold

"Love unlocks doors and opens windows that weren't even there before."
Mignon McLaughlin
Buona sera tutti!  It was soooo gooood to see and talk to you all yesterday (Mother's Day).  It was dee Bayst!  I sure do miss you guys - I'm glad we get to Skype twice/year and email weekly.  I can't imagine what it was like to live back in the day when you could only mail letters, waiting (in foreign countries) weeks for a reply. O_O

Miracle Baptisms
The biggest thing this week was that we had 2 BAPTISMS ON SATURDAY!!!  And, not just any baptism either - 2 miracle baptisms: Riccardo Carta and Veronica Ferdico.  Let me tell you about them.

Riccardo Carta
Riccardo (front left) at Susy's baptism
One was for Riccardo Carta.  This kid has been attending church since he was a child - he would come with his aunt because none of his immediate family are members.  His Sabbath day routine was to get up and go to catholic church at 8am with his family (because they required him to), and then would go to our church afterwards - 5 hours of church for a young child.  So he has wanted to be part of this church for a long time.  Then he grew up, and was kind of a punk - not super obedient to his parents, hung out with a rough group of friends, and even though he turned 18, he wasn't ready to be baptized.

Riccardo started making improvement when Anziano Di Caro dedicatedly worked with him in his months serving here.  Then with Anziano Kasper and Prete he really made the final turn around. Then there was the battle to get his family to approve his baptism (not for legal reasons, but to make Riccardo's life livable).  It took forever - many dates were set and pushed off.  But finally the date of May 10th was set and, despite every effort to make it not happen, it stuck.  It was a beautiful baptism, performed by his uncle who chucked him unto that water like he was trying to make 100% absolute sure he was baptized, no questions asked.  When Riccardo gave his testimony, he was giddy like a 5 year-old.  It was adorable to see.
"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."
John Barrymore
Veronica Ferdico
Then the baptism of Veronica.  She was a friend of some members in Palermo 2 and then started dating another semi-active member named Dennis.  She has been taking lessons for almost a year now, and knew she wanted to be baptized early on, but her mother would not approve the baptism, and so Veronica at 17 had to wait until her birthday on 9 May to cross that threshold.  She was finally baptized May 10th like Riccardo, and her baptism was performed by her boyfriend.  The Spirit was sweet and powerful.  I teared up too.  She said in her testimony that she could feel God's presence as she entered the font.
Palermo 1 Missionaries: Kasper, the Andersons, Marsh, me, Jackson, Mikesell, Prete
Since it was Veronica's 18th birthday the day before (now she has 2 birthdays!), the Relief Society threw her a birthday party with cake, treats, music, balloons, all a surprise as we sang happy birthday.  We then partied to the music and danced with the primary kids by holding hands and going in circles.  It was a blast!

The Most Powerful Book Ever Written
This week I have been pondering the Book of Mormon and why it is that it's the most powerful book ever written. I was thinking of it particularly in comparison to other books of scripture: the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants - and what I decided was that while all scripture testifies of Christ, only the Book of Mormon keeps the Atonement of Christ as the central focus.

The Bible
The Bible testifies of Christ and His Atonement, but the greater part of the book references Christ in symbolic manner or talks of his mortal ministry.  In the entire book, Old and New Testaments, the word atonement is used only once (Leviticus 23:28).

The Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations describing the Doctrine and administrative facets of the gospel, and the Covenants we make as members of Christ's Church.

The Book of Mormon
But in the Book of Mormon we find not only references to Christ and His Atonement, but full discourses on how the Atonement can elevate our lives.  It shows example after example of people who came to know Christ and embraced the Atonement. The central purpose of the book is stated on the title page,"to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ."  
"Go to your bosom: Knock there,
and ask your heart what it doth know."
William Shakespeare

There is a Reason We Have These Words
The Book of Mormon was written by prophets centuries ago specifically for our day (many of whom gave their lives to preserve the record). That should be reason enough to prize it for the gift that it is.  But there is a reason we have these words and are counseled to read it daily.  It's the same reason we hand it to investigators in the first moments of meeting and invite them to read it.  Reason: Coming to Christ invites a Spirit and power into your life.  That power and Presence brings peace and change for a better life.

Of course, as with anything worthwhile, you get what you put into it.  Gems of goodness must be searched out and found within the pages.  Like Christ says in nearly every book of scripture:
"Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
Seek, and ye shall find;
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh, receiveth;
he that seeketh, findeth;
and to him that knocketh,
it shall be opened."
3 Nephi 14:7-8

The Anticipation is Killing Me!
Transfer Prediction Board
Up until Saturday, the week was packed with stressful anticipation of transfer calls - I am not kidding.  I'd wake up every morning, "Ahhh, a new day :)" ...then 5 seconds later I'd remember, "3 days until transfer calls!" "2 days until transfer calls!" etc.  I knew they could send me anywhere, anything was possible.  

The call finally came Saturday.  I said a prayer in the morning that we would get news early to put me out of my misery, and the call came at 10:30 - about as early as they come!  We were in the Church, cleaning and setting up for the baptisms when I heard Jackson and Marsh screaming the next room over, and then Marsh answered the phone. "Hello Sorella Waddoups, this is Sorella Marsh."  She put the call on speaker phone so we all could hear.  Marsh was told she was staying in Palermo and getting a new companion.  
     "Do you know what that means, Sorella Nef?"
     "It means I am being transfered!"
     "That's right.  You are being transfered to ROME 2!"  We all started cheering.  I am so PUMPED.

All Roads Lead to Rome
Let me tell you a few things about Rome 2.  Rome 2 is the heart of the mission and the center of Rome.  At the shin of the boot, you will find:
     The mission office.  
     President and Sorella Waddoups' home ward. 
     All the historic sites.
     The Temple grounds. 
You can't get any more Rome than Rome 2!
While there is only one set of sisters in Rome 2, there are a million anziani - the Assistants, office elders, and another couple sets of anziani.  The ward grows like crazy - it has split every few months because of its rapid increase.  Sorella Waddoups said the GANS (Giovanni Adulti Non Sposati - "Young Single Adults") program is amazing right now.  So I can expect some work.

My companion will be Sorella Kippen, a fellow Sardegnan. She served in Sassari while I was in Cagliari and we did exchanges a few times (see posts: Faith and the As-If Principle 8/19/13; and Miracles Happen 8/29/13).  Her last companion was Sorella Wiltbank, one of my former companions!

Mikesell is being transfered to Rome 1.  She didn't want to go, but will be comps with her friend Sorella Ghio with whom she served in Puglia, so that's cool.  And we will be Rome neighbors :) happy about that. Anziano Rigby will also be going - to Pescara.  So all of the old group will officially have left Palermo.

I Will Miss Palermo
I am going to miss Palermo so much.  I love this city.  It has been good to me.  From the moment I arrived, it welcomed and embraced me.  The people are warm and generous.  The island is beautiful.  The food, fantastic - the best in all of Italy!

But I know that this change is right.  It is time for me to go.  And, being excited for my destination certainly makes it easier to say goodbye.

I Will Miss My Companion
Me, Erika, and Marsh
Sorella Marsh has been an excellent companion. She is awesome - a dedicated missionary, a good friend to everyone, always upbeat, and I love her to death.  We've laughed a lot together, done good work together, and, no doubt about it, she is going to go on and do GREAT things.  Let's just say I've loved being her trainer and have been very blessed to be her companion.  She made it easy.

Erika (in the picture) is a funny one.  She cried when she learned I was leaving.  Now she says she wants to read the Book of Mormon with us, even though she still doesn't want to discuss baptism.  I leave her in good hands.

Some Goodbyes with Members
Let me introduce you to some of the great Palermo members that have blessed my life.
The amazing John
Irene Aiello

The Maurici Family is one of two families who will be featured in the Rome Temple Visitor's Center. Sweet parents.

Sorella Ganci, the Bishop's wife is with me on the left.  This sweetheart of a woman is going straight to the Celestial Kingdom.

She is an award winning poet on national level, though, her current life doesn't allow much time for writing anymore: raising 3 kids, tending to a mother with Alzheimer's, and her job as a Police Commissioner.  She's simply amazing.  My heart warmed when she, too, cried when she found out I was leaving.  So sweet.

Sorella Madonia, Bishopric Counselor's wife,
Relief Society President, and one of the BEST cooks ever!

Giusi Aloisio, Opera singer, LOVES missionaries
Sorella Giambona and Sorella Simoncini

Sorella Giambona and Sorella Simoncini (right) the day they learned that Mikesell and I were leaving.  After the party when we just had the night of our lives, they were sad to see us go and sweetly leaned over the stairs, like Angels watching, to see us off.  We had to get a picture.

Simoncini Family.  LOVE them!
Emilio, Giusi, Alessandro, Laura, Daniele, and Sophia

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls."
Joseph Campbell

Doors of Sicily
I leave you with beautiful doors of Sicily.

"Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door
and serves as a stepping stone to other things."
Pablo Picasso

"A very little key will open a very heavy door."
Charles Dickens, Hunted Down

"The doors we open and close each day 
decide the lives we live."
Flora Whittemore

I will continue to say my last goodbyes this week to my wonderful city of Palermo, then it's off to Rome.

Ciao Tutti,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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