What an incredible week!!! I guess Ill start from when I last wrote:
On Wed, I made us Mexican chef salad, but we made burritos out of it and it was super good. I didnt make it as good as Dad does, but they were pretty good :) I am sorry that I am getting Slla Riffaldi hooked on American food, because she is going to be stuck once the mission is over and she has to return to pasta.
Thursday, the assistants had a baptism of Luciano and Marina, an Italian couple who are being evicted from their house at the end of the month, their car doesnt work, and they are both unemployed. They live in what could be called a shack. Theyve been coming to church for less than a month, and they were baptized on Thursday night and theyve been paying tithing since they heard about the commandment. What amazing faith. The Anziani and the Bishop were freeaking out bc they couldnt find any clothes that would be big enough to fit Luciano, but it all worked out beautifully when we wrapped him in a sheet :) They had to put chairs in the water, where he sat, and all he had to do was lean back till his stomach was completely under, and it worked! The moment Marina came out of the water she practically shouted "E cosi bello!!!" Its so beautiful! Everyone laughed. What a great spirit that was there that night.
The Bishop told us that Emiliano (a man who met the church a week ago- he looked up mormons online and then came to church and had to leave his house at 5:00 am to make it on time...etc) has decided to be baptized on the 24th!!!!!!!! Since Sandra was scheduled for that day, he asked us to bump it. We were a little nervous bc Sandra thought that the 24 was too early, so thinking about asking her to be baptized earlier got us a little nervous, but we talked to her and she said she had been thinking about it too, so we are having Sandras baptism this Saturday night!
Most of the day Thursday was Zone Conference, and the most amazing thing happened. I was blessed with the gift of tongues- From 10 to 4:00 pm I was translating all the trainings, and Ive never been able to keep up with the speaker, like in Relief Society. Usually, I listen and then translate and then catch onto the next sentence, but this time, I was able to translate without hesitating and it was a constant flow. Its not like I used words that I didnt know, but how easy and the fluency of it just amazed me. Heavenly Father knew Slla Riffaldi was in need of hearing all the great things we heard that day, and He helped me. The Zone Leaders, Anz Cardiff (Mom, the one that sings) and Anz Reyez spoke about families, that we are here to do two things 1) help people change and 2) seal families. They asked us to visualize a family that were waiting for us, and then a beautiful family of 5 sons walked in and they all shared their testimonies with us. Everyone was crying- I think I have permanent goosebumps. Slla Riffaldi and I have so much work to do, there is always room for imrpovement, there is always more that we can sacrifice to do the work better.
On Sat, we went to teach a Bolivian (?) family, Laura, the mother, is baptized, and she has a 9 year old and a 13 year old daughter. We taught about faith, repentance, baptisma, and enduring, and then we invited them to be baptized. Camilla, the 9 year old, stood up and asked if she could be baptized the next day! We all laughed and I love how excited she is- they go to Rome 1 even though they are in our boundaries, bc they have friends in that ward, so she is going to be baptized there this Sunday after sacrament meeting. We have permission to go for it; they have promised us that they wont start till we get there. Caroline, the 13 yo, doesnt want to, so we have some more work to do with her. Im sorry they arent getting baptized together, but I know Camillas enthusiasm is contagious and its just a matter of time. Carlos, the husband, is always at work but we managed to meet him while we were there. We hope that with the baptisms in the family, he will be able to find time to meet with us. He used to forbid Laura to pray, but now Laura told us that he has seen the good that the gospel brings, and now they pray together before going to bed. So amazing.
THEN, we have another baptism on Monday!!! We found out last night- Sharon, a girl from the Philippines. Her sister is a member, Peachy, and she is the one that is an instrumental tool in teaching Deacon (Vincent, the one who was 2 months from becoming a priest and then he cancelled it and is now taking the lessons and talking with Peachy about having an eternal marriage!). And we have a baptism on the 24th. So incredible.
The best part of the week is coming up:
Yesterday, we had an appt at 11:00 with Maddalena. She is a contact that the Elders passed onto us. She barely speaks any Italian, she is from South America. She hasnt shown up to appts 4 times in a row, and then the 5th time, we caught a glimpse of her and she started walking away bc she was late for work. We had to CHASE her down to set an appt with her for the coming week. That next week, we taught her part of the restoration. I say "part" bc she got a phonecall 10 mins into the lesson and stayed on the phone for 15 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!!! The best part was that when she did get off the phone, she stood up and said she had to go! Ay ay ay..
Well. We met up with her yesterday in the park at Piazza Sempione, right next to the church and the mission home. Ok, the first miracle was that she was punctual. We sat down on a bench and started talking about how her week went, etc, and just as we said the opening prayer and were starting to talk about the plan of salvation (Maddalena was sitting at one end of the bench, Slla Riffaldi beside her, and then me), Slla Riffaldi and I were trying to teach in Spanish, and I looked off to one side bc I was trying to rack my brain for a word, when I saw a man staring intently at me. He was sitting on a bench about 10 mtrs away, and I dont know what happened; I dont even remember thinking about whether I should talk to him or not, bc I was in the middle of talking, but before I realized what was happening, Id raised my arm and waved him over. Slla Riffaldi turned and stared at me and asked what I was doing, and she tells me that I stood up and said "keep going with the lesson, Im going to talk to him" but I dont even remember saying that or walking over to him. But somehow, I found myself standing infront of him and he asked me what religion I was with, and I told him and I introduced myself and shook his hand and took a seat beside him.
He said he was Piedro, from El Salvador. He shared with me briefly that hes been in Italy for a few years and that he has a daughter here, and that he just got fired from his job as a gardener. Then, he told me that he knew that the Book of Mormon goes hand in hand with the Bible and that its the word of God, and that it was translated by a chosen prophet, Joseph Smith. If my jaw wasnt dragging, then it should have been. I dont think we even talked about how he knew this- Im not even sure what contact he has had with the church, but I taught him about the Restoration and then, seeing that Slla Riffaldi was deep in conversation with Maddalena still, I proceeded to teach him the plan of Salvation with primary images that I laid out on the ground. We talked for an hour and a half- it felt like less than 60 seconds. In the first few mins of talking to him, he said that hed come to the park to pray, to beg God to send some peace to his heart. He had been sitting there, praying and crying, when he looked over and saw us on the bench. He had to blink and look twice, becuase my "face had a light on it" and he pointed to the yellow of a painting on the pamphlet and said that it was like that color. I asked him if hed ever felt the Spirit, and he said that he doesnt think so, but that when he looked over, he felt something tell him to go talk to us. He fought the idea because he thought it would be inappropriate or taken wrong for a man to approach some women, so he just sat there, fighting the persistent voice telling him to get up and walk over to us.
I told him that when Id seen him, I didnt even have time to think- the Spirit had pushed me to go talk to him. I bore testimony that I knew that the fact that we had met this way was an answer to his prayers. I asked him if hed been sitting there if he hadnt lost his job. He said no, and thats when I told him that theres a reason why he is unemployed right now- Heavenly Father knew he needed to find the truth at this point in his life, and he made it so that he would find himself in a park, questioning about life and searching for some peace.
Piedro kept whispering "amen" as I spoke; I asked if he prayed and he said that he would like me to pray becuase he knows that God listens to my prayers. I told him that Heavenly Father is just as willing to listen to my prayers as he is his, and I helped him say a prayer and then I said one, and then he said one again, this time without my help.
Tears were streaming down the both of our faces as we prayed and shared our testimonies with eachother. Because he didnt have other impegni (appts?), I asked him if itd be alright for him to come to church with us to get a copy of the Book of Mormon in Spanish. He eagerly nodded and we walked over to where Slla Riffaldi and Maddalena were- Piedro introduced himself to Maddalena and told her a little bit about his life and what had just happened, and Slla Riffaldi started crying too. It was just beautiful hearing him share his experience of finding us, how hed felt the need to talk to us and how our faces seemed to shine as if lit.
We walked to church together and got him the book, and we showed him where we take the sacrament and the baptismal font. He is coming to find us at the park on Friday morning bc we have an appt with Maddalena that morning, and hes coming to the baptism of Sandra and to church on Sunday. When he left, Slla Riffaldi and I felt exhausted- what an incredible spiritual experience! We want to invite him to be baptized the next time we see him.
I know that its not just by chance that I am the one who spotted him. Piedro speaks English better than he does Italian, and I was able to respond to some of his questions that maybe Slla Riffaldi wouldnt have been able to. While I was speaking with Piedro, Slla Riffaldi shared with me that she had talked the entire time in Spanish- neither of us speak Spanish, but we get by.......and Slla Riffladi told me that shed used words that she doesnt even know. The moment the lesson was over and Slla Riffaldi was introduced to Piedro, she struggled to speak Spanish with him. The gift of tongues is real.
Jumping back in time-
On Thursday night on our way back home from the baptism, we were walking home from the end of the busline towards home (about a 20 min walk straight downhill; its fun walking TO the bus, straight uphill) and we bumped into Gloria, a recent convert. She was talking to a friend of hers, Mario. We asked Gloria if shed be at church on Sunday, and then we invited Mario to come too, so we exchanged numbers. On Sun morning, we called Gloria and she was still asleep in bed, but when we called Mario, he had just left the house and was on his way to meet up with us at the bus. He brought a friend, Pietro- they are both from Romania. Pietro is 26 and is here by himself and Mario is 19 and is here with his family- he wants us to meet them! Well, we rode the bus together and then the Elders took them to Priesthoood. When gospel principles was about to start, our cell started ringing and I saw that it was Mario calling- I answered, wondering if he was lost in the building or something, but he said that Pietro had left his cell and wallet on the bus and that they were headed back to find the bus we rode to ask the driver and track down his stuff. AH. We felt so bad. They even apologized for having left church!
During the lesson, I prayed "Heavenly Father, I know that I should pray "Thy will be done" but right now, Id really like it if they could find his walled and phone. If they dont find it, Im afraid theyll take this bad luck as a sign that going to the Mormon church isnt the thing they should be doing. Im asking for a miracle". I know I was probably out of my mind- a public bus, in Rome, .......a cell and wallet. Who would NOT take them?
Guess what? Mario called us about 10 min later that theyd found the bus, and that a passenger had turned the stuff into the driver, and the driver gave Pietro his phone and wallet back. NOTHING was missing from the wallet.
I know Heavenly Father listens to prayers. Even when we give Him advice :)
The other evening we had time for an appt, so we met with him and Pietro at the bus station, and they showed us a park that we thought was a run down area. Its a beautiful park with a pond that has turtles!!!!!!!! I thought Id died and gone to heaven. After I could get over the shock of discovering this amazing little world so close to home, (Slla Riffaldi and I are imagining scripture study near the bond, watching the sunset..........) we found a table and started talking about who Mormons are and we believe. Gloria shows up out of nowhere! We hadnt even invited her bc we thought she would be too much of a distraction, but having her turned out to not be that bad. Plus, we had a lesson in the presence of a member, which is our focus this week! While we were about to start talking about the First Vision, 3 young men from Bangladesh who know Mario came up and joined us at the table. One of them seemed the type to Bible bash; I summarized what we were talking about and he made a few comments that were meant to intimidate us, but Slla Riffaldi and I just bore our testimonies about the reality of a loving Father in Heaven and that he DOES have a son, Jesus Christ, who atoned for all our sins. I dont know much about Hinduism, but they told me that they only believe in a God, but now in Christ. Im so proud of Slla Riffaldi and how bold we are as a companionship- we did it in such a way that wasnt offensive, and we felt the Spirit in our presence, and they shut their mouths and sat and listened. I dont know how much we planted, bc they had to leave a little while later, but I think we left them with a good impression. Pietro asked us "If someone wanted to be baptized next week, what would they have to do?" We smiled and said that we had to make sure that we taught them all the lessons and there was stuff that had to be taught before that could happen, etc, and Pietro liked that we make sure that someone has a testimony before they are baptized. They live super closeby (they actually live next to the Elders, but we have their blessing to keep teaching Mario and Pietro bc we found them, we should enjoy the fruits of our success) :) So in that one lesson, we had a lesson in the presence of a member, we got a number (Pietros) and we have 2 new investigators!!
Tonight, we have an appt with Ive, a contact the Elders gave us. She is from the Dominican Republic :) Slla Riffaldi made a comment that basically sums up who we are working with "....they are either foreigners or crazy"........ :) Its true, but one day, we will see some success with Italians. The only Italians that seemed interested are the bus drivers...... this morning, after doing our spesa with our granny handcarts, we had to walk in the opposite direction of home for a few minutes bc one certain bus driver is intent on getting our house address. Viscido..........(creepy).
Its fun getting all sweaty and nasty- its all part of the experience. Sometimes, when we are lucky enough to pass by the house for lunch on our way to another appt, we peel off our wet clothes and change. Im sure that August will be even hotter, but Slla Riffaldi thinks that the heat is messing with my brain. She thinks that it cant get hotter. ha. Shes in for a surprise.
Well, thats what Sorella Urban and Sorella Riffaldi are up to....which includes visiting an old woman (I take that back, we thought she was 80 but she told us she is 58!!!!!!!!!) who gets upset with us whenever Slla Riffaldi tells her what I made her, like mexican chef salad, bc she wants us to bring her food too. Uh...its usually the member feeding the missionary, but ok :)
I love you all and thank you for your prayers and support. Its unbelievable that we were at Marvine last year- how has everything thats happened since then fit in just a 12 month period?! I read from Gramps journal that Dad is planning a trip towards the end of next July "bc he promised Nerina one last trip". One last trip? For who? Since when do things have to come to an end?! Well then, Ill just hike up by myself if no one else wants to continue on the tradition. Im eating pasta with sardines, I guess I could manage off of aluminum fish for a week on my own. (Oh, to honor Marvine, I made Slla Riffaldi an aluminum foil dinner) :)