Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mamma, Did You Know I Am a Daughter of God?

My desk and study wall.  Inspires me.
It's been Ferragosto holiday this week, so we stayed inside and did one of our tri-annual DEEP cleaning days.  Our place is officially sparkly and clean!  It's great.  Now, let me tell you a little bit about Siracusa.

History of Siracusa
Piazza Duomo
I gave a brief history of Siracusa when I visited a few months back, but for those of you just joining this missionary's blog, here's a bit of a refresher lesson.

Once upon a time in 733BC Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) was colonized by the Corinths and soon became the most powerful city in the world.  Ruled by famous tyrants like Dionysius the Elder, and home to Archimedes (one of history's greatest mathematicians and engineers), it was the last stronghold of the Greek Empire in Sicily to fall to the Romans.

With the fall of Rome came a slew of conquerors: Arabs, Normans, and Spanish, to name a few.  That's when Sicily's capital was moved to Palermo.  Being here is like taking a trip back to the ancient world.  Here are a few pics:
Ancient road with ancient wheel impressions still embedded
Ruins of The Temple of Apollo 570BC
Ortigia, the Heart of Siracusa
Ortigia (Greek for "quail") is the heart of Siracusa.  This island extension of Siracusa is where the majority of historic sites are located: ancients roads, massive Greek and Roman Amphitheaters (I hope to get to those soon), and the ruins of the Temple of Apollo.

In fact, the entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It's amazing so much history still remains considering the fact that it has survived countless invasions, crippling earthquakes, a devastating 1600s Mt. Etna eruption, and World War II.

Ya, this quaint city has staying power.  While strolling down narrow ancient streets, you barely walk a block without seeing another Greek ruin, Roman building, Jewish fountain, or Baroque church.  Fantastic.

P-Day Fun
Sorella Kippen and me

Flying my broom for a Quidditch Match in Cappuccini Park
Church with a giant statue of Mary.  Sign on the left states one of the
10 Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me"

Meet the Investigators
Siracusa apartments
She is a single mom who is trying to overcome heartbreak from a very abusive boyfriend.  Even though he was no good for her, she still feels heartbroken and keeps pining for the dirtbag.  Isabella is a wonderful, sweet girl with a daughter, Ellison, who I adore.  Isabella loves church, is reading the Book of Mormon and really liking it, but she's wishy-washy about what she wants and needs.

Emma is our new investigator from Africa.  She speaks French, so we gave her a Book of Mormon in French.  Yay.

Other investigators
Giusi, 13 years-old, is reading the Book of Mormon.
A family of people on the poor side of town who don't seem to quite get what they need to do yet.
A woman who can't come to Church because she works in a tourist shop on Sundays.

All investigators are in a great variety of situations and backgrounds, and many of them are sooo close, I can feel it, but they just aren't quite there yet.  Fingers crossed and prayers amped.

Obedience = Power
The water is stunning.
I can't help but feel that it was our fault that no one really progressed this week. Satan is the worst.  So we are trying to counter his influence by being more militant about our own obedience.

As a missionary, Obedience = Power.  If you don't have power, you don't get anything done.  So I am really working on getting back to going to bed on time, exercising well every morning, not talking to Kippen during personal study, and not going over on P-day time.

But it has not been a bad week.  Despite the 110 degree, high humidity, freaky crippling heat, our house keeps pretty cool.  What a life saver.  We drink lots of water.  LOTS of water.  And then we sweat ALL OF IT out.

Miracle this Week:  A New Friend
Siracusa street kids
My miracle this week was Allison.  Allison is Isabella's 4 1/2 year-old daughter.  All cute and super wicked smart.  Very, very sharp.  Sharpest 4 year-old I have seen.

The first couple of times I saw her she was turned off to missionaries.  Didn't seem to like us at all.  But then one day, when Isabella was confiding to Kippen about her break-up woes, I could tell I was not needed in that conversation, but noticed Allison needed attention, so I hunkered on the floor and started talking with her.  We became fast friends.

In fact, when it was time to go, she kept hugging me, not wanting me to leave.  Adorable.  Anyway, every time we have since gone over, I have attempted to teach Allison about her precious value.  Knowing the abuse she and her mother have undergone, I hoped to share something that would sink in and help her feel loved.

You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important
The few times I tried, Allison didn't seem to be listening.
     Once, I shared, "You know, God is your Father and is always watching over you.  You can talk to Him whenever you feel alone and He will listen and help you - even if no one else is around."
     Another time I said, "Allison, Jesus is your Brother, and He loves you so very much."
I never knew if any of my words ever reached her.  Then, after our last visit, Allison said to her mother, "Mamma, did you know that I am a daughter of God, Jesus is my brother, and they love me?"

SUCCESS!!!  My heart warmed to the glow of a thousand suns when Isabella, the mom, told me that. Made me the happiest person alive.

Daniele and Sophia Simoncini
So Allison and I are buddies.  For a present, she gave me a flashlight key chain.  Sometimes she even calls me on the phone to talk :).  Love this little girl.  What a treasure (my aim is to let her know she is).

If anything, I hope Allison proves the reason Isabella chooses to be baptized.  She'd be a great member. And the blessings...well, let's just say it would be a Godsend for these two special gals.

A Visit from Old Friends
The Simoncinis of Palermo came to Siracusa on Sunday :).  They were headed to Ragusa, but decided to reroute their journey so they could see me. Wow.  Doesn't that make me feel good!  Daniele and Sophia, the youngest of the family, gave me big hugs.  So good seeing them.  I LOVE THEM!

Happy, Focused, and Buckling Down
My shoes are officially destroyed.
That's what a year and a half does.
That's the biggest news lately.  Wish I had more time.  I watched the most recent Mormon Messages.  They just keep getting better and better.  Check them out everyone.

I am slightly freaking out here in Siracusa with how close I am to going home.  President has been sending some cool messages my way.  Here is the latest (I told him about Lauren's mission call to France):
"France - Lyon is good if you can't go to Italy, Rome. Congrats to her.  I am so excited for Siracusa and the Zone. You two together are just what is needed. You will change the culture and the spirit there. I am so proud of all you have changed and become on your mission.  Keep progressing and sharing. Remember teaching with love is the Savior's way.     -President"

That's the good word this week.  Anyways, I am doing well.  I am happy, focused, and trying my best to buckle down and wear myself out in service (like my shoes).

Title of Ashley's birthday poem for mom
Glad your birthday went well, mom.  I thought about you all day while scrubbing our kitchen down.

(Editor's note: Ashley wrote a fantastic birthday poem published on our family blog nefchronicles.wordpress.com, Buon Compleanno August 2014.  She's so great!).

That's crazy that the boys (Ashley's brothers) are already starting their school year.  How is it possible that when I left Connor was still a Sophomore and now he is a Senior?!  And Landon a Junior?!

Ciao Tutti,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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