Monday, August 25, 2014

Scambio in Ragusa

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily
In front of the Main Cathedral in Ragusa
This week we went on scambio (exchanges) to Ragusa Ibla, a little town southwest of Siracusa.  The windy 3 hour bus ride is a challenge for even the steadiest equilibrium, but once you've arrived on steady ground, the charm of the place captivates.  It is so pretty.  The shot of Ragusa (above) is just as big as it looks, and it has over 300 churches.  Yeah, 300.

When walking down the main street, we passed by the main Cathedral (right), and there was a wedding going on inside.  The organ was playing (sounded like something from Phantom of the Opera) and people were singing. For a second I closed my eyes and thought about how easily this moment could have been plucked from 500 years earlier.  Awesome.

Every Now and Then a Little Door Must Slam
I was with Sorella Sofia Nagliati from Brazil (her ancestors are Italian, hence the Italian last name).  We did some Finding - street contacting and casa in casa (knocking doors), and Sorella Nagliati got her first official door-slam in the face.  Alright!  We laughed it off and had a good time together telling each other our favorite stories from the Bible.

In the meantime, I got to see a little of Ragusa.  The steep topography of the town makes for a great deal of stairs everywhere.  I suppose that's one of the things that makes the town quaint.

Since Ragusa is inland, the weather is much drier than coastal Siracusa.  Regardless, though, Mediterranean summers are tropical.  I constantly have a sheen of sweat all over me, and my clothes are always damp.
(I think this must have been something like what mom went though on her mission in Puerto Rico :| ).

Let me show you a few more pictures of Ragusa Ibla.
Whimsical Sicilian Baroque Balcony on Palazzo Cosentini

Merchant: Power of Commerce
Nobleman: Feudal Rule
Three Powerful Ones
At Palazzo Bertini, 3 intriguing sculpted Arab heads (encased in mesh boxes to prevent damage) hang over some doorways.  Apparently, they are known as the "Three Powerful Ones," and are meant to symbolize power for a newly rebuilt town that had been devastated by the 1600s Mt. Etna eruption.
     The Nobleman, symbolizes Feudal Rule.
     The Merchant, Power of Commerce.
     The Pauper, Having Nothing to Lose.
Interesting.  They remind me of busts from Disneyland's Haunted Mansion in California, USA.

Southern Comfort
Earlier in the week, Sorella Kippen and I met with a relatively new convert named Giusi.  She is pretty cute, middle-aged and engaged to be married to Luigi, another new convert.

We were going to meet with her because we heard she wasn't quite understanding some doctrine, mainly in regards to the Holy Ghost.  So we planned our lesson accordingly, but once she began talking, we realized she just needed some comfort.

Turns out, she is discouraged about how long it is taking for her and Luigi to save money to be married.  In Italy, the cost of civil marriage is A LOT.  So we talked about patience and the Lord's timing, and how these are troubles that will pass. In the meantime, there are things she can do that will bring peace of mind and the presence of the Spirit.  I think it helped. No - I know it helped.  The Spirit was strong.

Emma from Benine
After that, we met with Anna Maria (a sweet woman with MS) and her nurse/helper person named Emma.  Emma became an investigator in my first few days of being here, so we have been working through the lessons with her, and we decided to follow-up on her prayer to see if she had received a response yet.  Emma ended up bearing testimony and telling us her story.

Her Story:  She has 3 kids living in Benine Africa, while her husband took a job in France.  One family. Three countries.  Rough.  Yet, this is the only way they knew to have any sort of income to live and save for their ultimate goal of building a home in Benine.  She does not have resources to simply rent a house in her country, so she is working to build one of her own.  Good for her!

She said she prays every day that she will save enough to make it back home with her family.  But up to now, her prayers have not yet been answered.  "I must wait patiently," she said, "The Lord has His own design and plan for me.  I just have to wait for when He says it is right.  I know I will be with my family again.  The Lord wants for me to be with them."

Pray with Faith
That's when we turned to the Book of Enos (the prophet who's a great example of prayer).  We read his story with her and explained how sometimes we must pray a long time (like Enos), and pointed out where the Lord answered Enos' prayer because he "prayed with Faith."  We then asked if she prayed about the lessons she has already heard.  She said she had, "But I did not pray with faith, so I did not get an answer." What great understanding.

Anna Maria was sitting with us and pitched in on occasion (but her mind is not really there - she is like a little child anymore).  Then at the end of the lesson, something special happened.  Emma grabbed Anna Maria's hand and one of Sorella Kippen's, and we all prayed holding hands in a circle.  The Spirit was so strong during that prayer, and we all felt incredibly close.  Even though our lives are worlds apart - Kippen and I from the United States, Anna Maria the Sicilian woman with MS, and a woman named Emma from Benine - we, at that moment, were sisters in the gospel, daughters of God, united as one.  Beautiful moment.
Me and Allison

Thanks for the Ride!
Tuesday we were given a ride to a train station by some Jehovah's Witnesses.  That was not expected.

Isabella and Allison
Good news: Isabella finally had a breakthrough and realized how awful her ex-boyfriend was, and said ENOUGH and resolved to leave it (and him) in the past.

Bad news: despite promising to come to Church, she backed out on Sunday.  So we hope to see her tonight to get it sorted out.

Allison, my buddy, is doing great though.  In the picture (right) she was trying to run away when she saw the camera, "Aiuto! Aiuto!" (Help! Help!), but I finally caught up so Kippen could get the shot.

Love this little girl.

Miracle of the Week: Giuseppe and Katia Family
This family of 7 is poor, but they are extremely wealthy where it counts - family love.  The minute you step into their home, the love they have for one another permeates the air and makes you feel like a member of the family.  It is a beautiful thing.  We love being with them (it's just that Katia works every day except weekends, so we are limited on visits).

Giuseppe has read the Book of Mormon up through 3/4 of Alma.  The miracle for the week was when we asked him yesterday if he would be baptized if he felt it was true, he said Yes!  And then he proceeded to ask the same question of every member of his family, and they all agreed.  I LOVE THEM.  IT WAS SO COOL.  Before we left, we all knelt in prayer.

"I Can Feel the Change in My Family"
Giuseppe said he would come to church this week with 2 of his kids (they have 5).  We hope to help organize rides for the following weeks so they all can make it.

They love us.  Giuseppe one time interrupted a lesson by saying, "Can I just say something?  I want to bear my testimony on you sisters.  You do things from your heart.  You are doing a great work and helping lots of people.  I can feel the change in my family.  Thank you."  Wow.  See what I mean?  So that is the awesome Giuseppe and Katia Family.

Speaking of Missionary Work...
The Dynamic Duo
I gave a talk on Sunday!  I was told on Friday of my assignment, and the topic was, appropriately enough, Missionary Work.

Uh, I think I can muster up some info on that topic.  So I talked on the 3 ways members can help with missionary work.
     1.  Being a Friend
     2.  Inviting
     3.  Testifying
I think it went well.  At the very least, the missionaries in the ward were pumped by the end.

Well Friends, I love being here on the Lord's errand in spreading His Light and Love.  I'm working hard and feeling the blessings.

Love to All,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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