Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Month of Invite

Roman Forum with Colosseum in background
I'll Get Back to You on That
Last Monday we saw the Colosseum, and all I could think about was the movie Gladiator.  Then we headed next door to the Roman Forum, which turned out to be a LOT bigger than I thought.  It is huge.  The acreage of ruins just keeps going and going.  We were there for hours and didn't see everything. But I did catch the most important things, and finished our tour with looking out over the Circo Massimo - the giant racetrack that reminded me of Ben-Hur.  It's a big park now.  Why am I skimping on the wonderful details? Well, the internet point we are using today to email is not allowing me to send pictures (so editor will insert extra pictures from last week).  It's really unfortunate because I had some good ones for this week :((((       I will report the amazing history of these places next time.

Lord, dost thou wash my feet?  John 13:6
Mosaic from St. Peter's Basilica
This week was filled with hastening the work in a variety of ways.

Service Maze
Tuesday, we helped some girl from Como find the Ghana Embassy to get her passport.  The problem was she didn't know anything about Rome, and got lost.  We were told she was supposed to arrive at Termini - the center of transportation for Rome, but she arrived instead at Tiburtina, and we had to guide her in.  But she got lost doing that as well.  Eventually, we met up with her, but found it difficult finding the embassy ourselves since it was sort of tucked away. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was too late for her to pick up her passport, and we had to find her accommodations to stay the night in Rome.  Our unplanned service took 7 hours.

From Understudy to Genealogist
The next day, some film makers were here to do a Mormon Message on the young adults in our ward, and they said they wanted to cast Kippen and I as missionaries "teaching" some of the people for the story of their conversion (I know, a stretch).  So we arrived to the Church first thing in the morning, along with the rest of cast and crew, but they eventually decided they didn't need us after all.  Bummer.  Luckily while in the office, I started talking about Family History with the peeps that were hanging out, and got one of the elders in particular really excited about it. There was a computer available, so I went to the Family Tree site and showed him a few things.  He ended up discovering that he had noble ancestry.  This excited him so much that he left the Church telling an investigator about how awesome family history was.  Also, Kippen found a common ancestor with a senior missionary, Anziano Kimball.  It is a small world.

Come, I will make you Fishers of men.  Mark 1:17
Mosaic from St. Peter's Basilica
I had 2 very bad nosebleeds this week that just wouldn't stop.  The first one erupted at a bus stop when we were already running late for an appointment.  The bus came, and we hopped on, me holding tissues under my nose.  I bled the whole way to the Church and got lots of fun stares from people.  Good times.  A couple of days later, it bled for an entire hour.  We think that my blowing my nose must have burst a couple of blood vessels.

I've been congested from what I thought were allergies, but the decongestants have not been working, and every day the sinus pressure has been increasing, and headaches are getting bad.  In Church Sunday, I kept getting really light headed and verged on the point of passing out a couple of times.  So following our meetings, we went home and I slept the rest of the afternoon (5 hours!), ate a little something for dinner, and then slept the whole night.  This morning I hoped to be feeling better, but I'm not.  I think maybe it's a sinus infection.  So I plan on visiting a doctor to get this worked out.  I hate being sick.  We have too much to do!

Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Matthew 17:4
Mosaic from St. Peter's Basilica
Nearer My God to Thee
Despite the crazy weird and the sinus whatevers, Arianna is going great.  We had a really awesome lesson with her on Wednesday during which we watched the Restoration DVD and talked about the priesthood, and invited her to be baptized 14 June.  She accepted!

Remember how I told you a while back that the hymn Nearer My God to Thee has been following me around?  Well, that has been consistent my whole mission.  And a really cool example happened with Arianna.  After she accepted her baptismal date, she offered to say the closing prayer for the discussion, and the Spirit was super super strong in the room.  While she was saying the prayer, Nearer My God to Thee started playing in the next room.  It was a really great moment. (Editor's note:  Without knowing this story, Ashley's brothers have performed this song twice in the last 2 weeks: Landon, sang it for his Zion Choir audition; and both Connor and Landon sang it in a quartet on Sunday for Seminary Graduation).

A Warm Welcome and a Jig of Joy
I give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom.  Matthew 16:19
Mosaic from St. Peter's Basilica
A couple days later, we had another lesson with Arianna during which we read 3 Nephi 11.  An awesome young couple, the Verdeus, joined us.  Arianna is already really comfortable with reading the scriptures and applying them to herself, and has a strong sensibility to the Spirit. The Vardeus were impressed and invited her to sit with them in Church.  Arianna's mom, however, has been a little apprehensive.  So much so, that she came after Church to meet the Bishop and see what the Church was all about.  She ended up having a very warm welcome, and you could tell she was a little disarmed by how friendly everyone was.  The Celestini family even invited her to Family Home Evening, asking us along as well. So we will be teaching the Plan of Salvation Monday night to Arianna and her mom, with the help of the Celestinis.

Arianna was fretting so much from her mom coming to judge the Church, but when her mom started making friends with the bishop and the Celestini family, she had to walk around the corner (out of mom's view) and do a little dance.  It's fun to see her so excited.

"Month of Invite"
All the less-actives we have been working with came to Church this week!  So exciting.  And, it just so happens that June 2014 has been designated by the Area Presidency as the "Month of Invite" where members are to invite less actives back and friends to come to Church.  Good things are beginning to happen already.  This ward is super on the ball - it seems like most of the members here are experiencing the fire of the gospel as they are all working hard to do everything they can to love and serve.  Very inspiring to see.  For instance, one of the less actives we visited this week is named Beth, and she has a son who is not a member.  We asked her if he would be open to a visit, and she said, "Well, I don't know because the Bishop, and his counselor, and the Elder's Quorum President have each all tried to meet him already!"  It's great when ward members step up like that to reach out to everyone and befriend and invite.

Test of Christ's Passion
Mosaic from St. Peter's Basilica
Opposition in All Things
Last week there were miracles daily that were overwhelmingly cool.  Just one thing after another. Kippen and I hardly knew what to do with them all.  But this week there has been something every day to put a damper on the work, at least how we expect it to go.

But, as I was getting down on that fact, it occurred to me that Hastening the work of the Lord comes in many factors: missionary work, strengthening members, service to strangers, family history work, friendly interactions, and being willing to "act" in a Church video. Service opportunity filters through all aspects of the day - even in the interruptions and the mundane.  Yes, there will be opposition, and even an occasional nose bleed, to slow things down, but that's when we must look even deeper for ways He is using us to bring light into that moment.  Every circumstance carries an opportunity, as far as the Lord is concerned.  So it falls on us to look for how He is Inviting us, in those moments, to elevate the ordinary into extraordinary.  Month of Invite, indeed.

I learned from my last area that Satan will continue to try and frustrate the work however he can, but thankfully the Lord still pushes His work forward.  Despite setbacks, good things still happen and the Lord still gets His work done.

In spite of feeling blucky, I felt upheld by the Lord this week.  And I can see blessings surrounding me:
     I figured a new way of approaching scripture study that has blown new life into my morning study hour.
     My method of teaching has been improving.  
     Sorella Kippen and I get along super super well.  
     This District is full of incredible missionaries.  
     The Ward is absolutely fantastic. You experience the meaning of the word Zion here - they really 
          are that amazing.
     And though not feeling my best, I've been feeling the Spirit strongly and still able to go forward and 
          do good things.
I think I'll look for a doctor now.

Love to you All,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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