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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas week


Seeing that its alot easier writing in bullet points....:

Last Wed night, we had the primary program at our house. It went well despite it being just the 8 of us, and I think each of them were at some point or other in our kitchen. Meee. (strange sound that Sicilians make that Im getting to like). Pres. Porteras family brought a pandoro (italian christmas cake) and they gave it to me to prepare- under the watchful eye of their youngest daughter, Lucrezia (Im making a list of names I definitely DO NOT want to use for my children, and Lucrezias at the top of the list!) I tore open the plastic bag around the pandoro and out fell a packet of powdered sugar. Ooops. Lucrezia was sweet enough to point out that I shouldnt have tore the bag and now "How will you put the sugar on?" Ah ha. Thats when the dormant part of my brain kicked in (Mom, "I like to use both sides of my brain" :) ) and I managed to avoid breaking the cake as I put it into a cardboard box, poured the sugar into it, and then shook it. It worked! But the best part was proving to Lucrezia that I can redeem at least some of the stupid things I do. I could just tell from her expression, "Oh, Americans arent that stupid."

Friday, Christmas Eve. We drove to the train station and seeing we had a few minutes before the Elders arrived, we walked to the beach and somehow I cut my finger open, so SR told me to wash it off in the water....I carefully approached the water and bent down, waiting for a little wave to roll back towards me, but a giant wave came instead and washed me up to my ankles. I stood there and laughed, and SR apparently got it all on video. Now I have salt marks on my new pair of shoes, so I switched to my old pair because Ive been too lazy to shine them, and ... I have mold marks. haha.

The Anziani from Trapani (one of the three points of Sicily) arrived, went to Angelas and interviewed her, ate Mexican Chef Salad burritos (Liria, Antonios sister (the man who always feeds le sorelle) was there with us and she kept suggesting what I needed to do for the salad. Like adding salt into the meat. I love how blunt I can be with people here. I was able to flat out tell her that Id made it before and knew how to make it and she didnt have to tell me how to make it (of course, in a nice way) and she understood and shut up. I think I was made to live among Sicilians. Theres really nothing I could say that would offend someone, just if I didnt eat what they give me.

When we walked into Angelas house, Liria said "I have to talk with Anz Rolland!" and pulled him into a different room. A few minutes later they emerged, and Anz R asked if he could speak with me. Liria had told him ALL of Angelas problems and said that she wasnt ready for baptism. He went ahead and interviewed her and the baptism is... still on? ... for tomorrow, but Angela needs to live the law of chastity! So maybe its not going to happen tomorrow. We dont know, and we have been trying to meet with her but she went to a different city for Christmas and yesterday when we were supposed to meet, she had to go to the emergency room for ...........drumroll..........her toe. A toenail had fallen off.

SR and I made stockings for eachother; shed always used tights because "they can fit more!" so we did. It was alot of fun carrying our stockings to our bed and taking turns opening them. We just got alot of junk food for eachother. And I bought her a thing of shaving cream so now she has no excuse. Now I just need to lock her into the bathroom or strap her into the tub. She thinks we have bed bugs (which the sister prior to us did :S) bc she feels something biting her legs- I told her to save her lamenting till AFTER the shaves to see if the bed bugs stop biting. I know its just her hairy legs.

We went to bed and I started to not feel so well..........

and Christmas was spent in our bedroom. It was killing me the thought of having just one christmas in the mission and spending it under 10 blankets, but the thought of going out wasnt appealing. We did have a lunch invite with the Purparis to eat pig head pasta, which might have played a role in my decision to not go.......

We talked with our families and then SR dressed up in a Santa outfit and sang hymns for me while tring to keep the moustache on her face.

A couple members stopped by the wish us a merry christmas and they found out I wasnt feeling too well, so on the way to church the next morning, this is how the conversation went;

Antonio (we ride with him and Liria) : "Sorella Urban, if I may be so intrusive to say... you know what you have to do for your diarrhea? Eat white rice or bananas. Actually, I dont think you should be upset over having diarrhea. I consider it a blessing when I have it because I usually have a hard time going" and this whole time is looking in the rearview mirror at me, and Lirias next to him, nodding. Who said I had diarrhea? SR hadnt said anything about why I wasnt feeling well! But that wasnt the best part.

Guess what was said over the pulpit?

"Thank you all for coming today. We are happy to see Sorella Urban with us, and hope that she can get over her upset stomach soon and that she can soon eat food without it giving her problems. (then turns and looks at me) You know what you should eat? White rice or bananas. Theyll help you get over the diarrhea. We will now sing hymn number.........."

yes. It really happened.

And I had to then stand up and go play the keyboard.

And then Daniele and Renzo and Nino, (why all men?!) each asked me a dozen times how I was doing.

Guess what Antonio handed me during English class last night? A bag of bananas. Really? Why did everyone jump to that conclusion? Oh well. And everyone has been asking me how Ive been and all I have to say is "SR made me white rice" and they all nod their head approvingly. Its easier just to go along with it. The moral of the story? Be grateful your bowel movements havent been announced from the pulpit during sacrament meeting.

After church, since we unfortunately missed out on eating pig head, we went to the Purparis and ate pig thigh lasanga. Luckily, since everyone knew quite well about my upset stomach, they didnt force me to eat anything. We then drove to their piece of land in the countryside and Vito showed us his plans of what he will do with the land. He and his wife, Lina, and their son Daniele (who brought us a bag of a green plant that looks alot like dandelions but they boil, fry, and then eat them- the last bag he brought, I boiled them and made an omelet. I cant help but feel like a cow most of the time) disappeared for a second and SR and I peed behind a rock. One of the most liberating moments of our lives. I almost felt back at Marvine, except for being in a skirt.

On Sunday night there was a little bit of drama with Francesca- she moved out of Ninos house and is now back with her "husband". Theyre still techinically married but hes under police watch becuase of the things Francesca filed against him. He had a dream that he had to go save her from her current situation, and Francesca believes him and has moved into a different house where he comes each night in the dark and in secret, to deliver some food for her.

Last night, Pres. Portera wanted to see where she lived so we went with him to her place and then she wanted to "confess" and Pres begged us not to leave him alone, so we sat on the stairs and tried to not eavesdrop while they talked. She needs to gain 4 more kilos and then shell not be considered anorexic. Whenever we are with her, we bring cookies or something and make her eat it. I love Francesca- she has the faith and humility of a child.

While we were at the track running (we found a "track" here in Mistretta that we have started going to during our lunch hour, seeing that SR is incapable of functioning at 6:30 am) we met a Mario who has met with Elders in the past and invited us to come over to meet his family. YAY! We found his record in the area book last night, and we are really excited.

Yesterday, we stopped at Lirias and she said that she and Antonio can give us rides, but now refuses to give a ride to Angela because "shes so big and heavy that she broke the motor". ?!

It makes me think---------what are some stupid things I do or say that limits me?

Now we have to find Angela a ride to church. Sonia could, but she doesnt want to come bc of Francesca.

No one else has a car.

.... MIstretta has alot of problems, but I am loving it here.

I am so excited that I have one more week with SR and then, on the 5th, Ill pick up Carla in Catania and get to serve till the end of Feb with her. A whole transfer and more!!! Im excited to spend the coldest winter months with her. hehe. What precious memories we will make here together. If I had a blast in London and that was just 10 days, I cant imagine being companions with her for 7 weeks.

On Monday, we got a delivery. THe postman pulled out a box that I thought was a new fridge- it was a package from the Riffaldis. We now have matching pjs- mines flaming orange. I feel like a mandarino in it.

Last night as I was in bed writing in my journal, I looked down and saw a giant, black spider crawling up me. I wailed and think I tossed it to SRs bed and she came out of the bathroom and we TURNED THE ROOM OVER looking for it. We couldnt find it so we moved our beds. bahaha. It reminded me of sitting on the lawn at Grandpas house with Carla and Lenora and they suddenly looked at my neck, jumped up, started screaming, and pelted off. I do not like spiders on me.

We were speaking with someone and somehow we got on the topic of names and I asked "Nerina, do you like the name Nerina?" and she got this face and shook her head. haha. Then SR said "Do you like the name Noemi?, its better, isnt it?" and they both nodded. Why grazie :)

Ok. We need to run off and go....home. I think we are going to go pack a picnic lunch, come back to santo stefano and eat lunch on the beach, and then go to Sant Agata to look for shoes for SR. Her mom sent her the UGLIST shoes. We both were horrified as we pulled them out of the box. To make her feel better, I put on brown tights with my black skirt and shoes. Thank goodness we dont run the risk of bumping into Pres Kelly here.

Vi voglio bene. Happy new year!

Sorella Urban

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

how is it gia natale?!?!

I can kick myself for forgetting my plannner- Id made a list of things I HAD to include in todays email. Ill do my best without it.

This morning we woke up early and ... put on JEANS!... walked to Ninos house and went together to his land patch. We cleared out pokey weeds and I "mowed" the lawn with a scythe. I loved it. Reminded me of Kazakhstan. Ill try attaching some pics at the end. Its been a good morning. Its my first time wearing jeans in the mission, and its quite comforting that I can still fit into them.

I had a disturbing dream that I was with Lenora and she kept complaining about her weight and I remember getting really annoyed because she didnt seem to notice that I should have been the one complaining. Haha. Apparently Lenoras been having crabby dreams about me, and Im starting to have dreams about her where I get upset. Lenora, Lenora

I cant believe I dont have my planner! I cant remember what I did yesterday, how am I supposed to remember whats happened since last Wed?!

Ok. Last Wed, we left Catania and Sorella Riffaldi and I headed back to Mistretta. Luckily, ALOT of the snow has melted and is almost gone, so we dont risk breaking our necks every time we leave the house.

Its great being back with SR. She loves Mistretta and Im starting to fear because she might convince President to take my spot and I get kicked down to her spot in Siracusa ;) The members love seeing an Italian sorella.

Guess what? Angela is getting baptized the 30th!!!! This is her 6th baptismal date but she really is going through with it this time. We really feel it. She feels it, too. I asked her why she thinks shes going to go thru with it this time, and she said that while she was sitting there, listing to us teaching her parents last week, it hit her that she cant keep putting it off. Shes taken steps to observing the law of chastity so she should be ready for her 3rd interview on Friday. She has been out of work for more than a year, and the past few days she ran out of wood; the members are WONDERFUL. They got together and pooled some money and bought lots of groceries for her and went to the forest and cut wood. Angela was in tears when they delivered it all last night. Sorella Riffaldi and I were at the point where we were clearing out our own kitchen shelves to donate to the cause but the members wouldnt have it. I love them, they are so incredibly generous and humble.

At church, we Sorelle teach young womens (the daughter of Pres. Portera) and then we teach primary (the other 2 daughters of Pres. Portera). They are putting on a Christmas program tonight at our house. I decided to make brownies for it last night, seeing that we thought wed be spending all of PDAY doing yard work, ... our oven doesnt have degrees on it. I have no idea how Sorella Miller baked banana bread, but something weird happened to the brownies and smoked our house out. So, I think even the wall paper has a permanent smell of charcoal. Maybe if I continually burn food, the members will get sick of it and decide to stop using our house for activities....now, thats an idea :) This past Sunday, as church finished and I was walking out towards the car, Francesa pulled me aside and told me my slip was showing. Slla Jones then says, "Oh yeah, I noticed when you got up to play for sacrament but I forgot to tell you". I had my skirt tucked up and my slip showing for ALL of church. All of it. Nevermind that we had a member of the stake there. Nevermind that I get up 2 during church to go to the piano. mamma mia. che figura.

Monday stands out in my mind for some reason. We decided to take the train from Santo Stefano (half hour from our house, where church is) to Palermo to have a district meeting with the Anziani and Zone Leaders. Thank goodness we left early:

9:00 am: leave house

9:05 fill up on gas

9:07 left gas station

9:07.15 heard strange noise

9:07.20 pulled to the side of the autostrada

9:08 our front tire was propio flat

9:09 finished laughing and very slowlyyyy drove the car to a gravel road

9:15 realized that neither of us knew how to change a tire. Decided to pray to get revelation in hopes of being enlightened on how to change a tire.

9:18 no vision on how car mechanics worked...so we called up Antonio and he came over and fixed the tire :) We love Antonio. He loves us.

10:00 left gravel road.

10:02 Got pulled over by police. Handed over my UT license. They looked at it, whispered to eachother, and handed it back.

10:07 I started breathing again

10:08 not more than 200 meters later, I got pulled over again by 2 other policeman. This time, they asked me to point out where my name was on the license and DOB.

10:15 Sorella Riffaldi snapped a picture of me talking to the policeman

10:16 One officer told us we needed to teach about Christ to the other.

10:17 Took off again. SR and I were soo tempted to just turn back and head home and lock ourselves in for the day. We feared what else was in store for us.

We got to the station and the next train to Palermo wasnt leaving for another 2 hours. The Anziani asked us to drive there. We did, and I have to say this. I thought driving in Armenia was bad. There is NOTHING that compares to how Sicilians drive. I dont think I should be allowed to drive for at least a year once I get back to the U.S. I dont think any officer would take my excuse of having served here as being an excuse for my bad driving.

Somehow, we missed the toll highway and we took the street that got us home at 18:30. DDM ended up being a 9-6 trip. The waste of time was painful. Im pushing towards doing DDM twice a month, not every week. We can do it over the phone if we really needed to. Otherwise, its not worth the time or the cost.

Yesterday, we had an appointment to go meet and teach for the first time a man that Sorella Miller and I had met doing house about an hour from Mistretta, in Sant Agata. We finally made it to the right street after parking the car and making it on foot, and then I called him up and asked him where he was, and he said he was at 171 on Via Nazionale. I told him we were there, and he said he was there too. He wasnt, so I jokingly said "Well, there are two streets with the same name. How are we going to find you?"

Turns out we were on the right street at the right number, just in the wrong city.

We got back in the car and drove about 20 min to the right city, and this time, he was at 171. He was the only one home so we stood at the door and taught him a few principles and we want to go back with a member, Renzo.

Renzo has been inactive for a super long time but in the time Ive been here, hes been to church every sunday and he comes to institute and Sorella Miller and I felt really good about him being the possible next branch president. Guess what? Pres Portera pulled us aside last night and said that he feels like Renzo is being prepared to the next church leader here. YAY!!!

English class is fun. Daniele, (24 y.o. young man who served a mission in Milano for 2 months and then returned to Mistretta, the nephew of Antonino and the brother of Beatrice, the 18 y.o. with 2 kids) insisted and insisted that we eat the pringles hed brought. I finally ate one to silence him but he kept at it so I had to be a little "firm" with him and then ....... he left our house and came back with a huge poinsetta for us. It is strange and something I need to get used to having people in our house. We came home and were putting our shopping away while institute was going and we were in the kitchen trying to eat something and Daniele KEPT knocking on the door and poking his head in to ask the most random questions. Finally, I had to tell him to stop asking questions and to leave us alone till English class started in an hour. He seemed to understand until there came a knock at the door no more than two minutes later.

I have to try a little harder to love Daniele than I have to with Angela :)

I just love it here. Its awesome. And times running out so I need to attach some pics.

I really had thought Id have time to write everyone Christmas letters and find a place to develop pics to send, but somehow Natale has snuck up on me. Oh well. Know that I love you all and that Im thankful for all of you and your examples.

Carla cant come down till the first week of January, so I have to call Pres today and ask him if SR can remain till after Angelas baptism on the 30th, then we will drive to Catania and spend New Years there. From what Ive heard, they launch fireworks from every balcony. Im excited to not get a wink of sleep that night! And then.... Slla Squarcia a few days later, so I think Ill just be in a threesome with the Catania Sorelle.

Now we are going to head home and get out of our muddy jeans and get the house ready for tonights program. We dont have a christmas tree, but thats ok- Sorella Riffaldi and I are going to have stockings :) maybe we will end up having to use our tights, but thats ok- theyre longer and stretchier- even better. Too bad Dad wont be around to fill them with oranges :)

I have to be honest- Im really not that excited about Christmas phone calls because Im really not sure what to say.......so please be the ones to talk or ask questions if you want to hear about anything in particular. I can just see it as being the same phonecall I made from the airport where I had just too much to say that I couldnt say anything.

I love you all. Buon Natale. Isnt it wonderful having faith in Jesus Christ- knowing that he was born to die so that we might live with our families for eternity? Heavenly Fathers plan is so detailed and perfect. It continues to astound me. Im so grateful for the people He has put in my path- Im learning alot.

2010 has been an incredible year. 2011 can be even better. Lets all set goals that will make us stretch and grow.

Sorella Urban

p.s. can someone fwd this to amanda miller?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sicilians are crazy!

It would be alot easier if I didnt have time to write today. How can I put into words the experiences of this past week?

I guess Ill start off with Sorella Miller. She took a trian back to Rome about two hours ago. We drove to Catania yesterday afternoon after making a round of Mistretta all morning and saying goodbye to members and investigators. We slept at the apt of the Catania sorelle and then we got up at 6:00, drove to lungomare (sidewalk running along the entire coast) and ran and ran. It was raining and we were freezing but it felt really good. We wanted to go on forever, probably because we didnt want to accept the fact that our time together was drawing to a very abrupt end, but we climbed back into the car, changed and picked up her bags, and then got stuck in traffic. Driving is insane. I thought it was bad in Rome? At least Romans have a sense of "lanes"! Everything is acceptable, .... so thats why we went through a red light to get to the train station JUST IN TIME for us to run to the platform and stick her bags on. The doors were closing so the sorelle booked it off and it shut on me and the doors locked- I secretly was rejoicing inside because that meant Id have a few hours with Sorella Miller, but then I realized it prob wasnt the best thing if I got stuck on a train, so the sorella that were on the platform started freaking out and the conductor came off the train and motioned for me to walk through a few carriages to a door that he opened and let me off. We went to the bus station and picked up Sorella Jones and Sorella Riffaldi. It is raining outside and my umbrella broke. We drove to a market to buy fruit, and only when we got out did I realize that my skirt had been half outside the car- its brown and soaked. Today has started out well.

Im having Sorella Miller withdrawals. These past two weeks have just been too good to be true. We have had the most incredible week- as strange as this sounds for me being a missonary for a year, these past two weeks I have felt more of the potential I have. Ill try to explain: The power and authority of a missionary is so underestimated. I have felt more guided by the Spirit in lessons this week (more particularly with Angela and Beatrice) then I ever have before. SM feels the same way. We really worked so well together. During lessons when I didnt have anything to say, SM (Sorella Miller will now be reffered to as SM). would say something that was perfect for that exact moment. And then, Id say something and SM eyes would get wide and she said the same thing about me. TOO cool.

This week.

Francesca is a 31 italian woman who s Miller found doing park one day in August. She had a dream that Jesus told her that she had to do everything that we tell her to do, and she does. Thats why she got baptized two weeks ago, and Mistretta sees about one baptism a year, but theyve all gone inactive or moved away. The last person who was baptized and is still active iS Antonio, who was baptized 22 years ago. He used to bring the sisters food twice a day, but thats come to a stop, thanks to the efforts of SM.

All the members were against her being baptized. She is not crazy but everyone thinks shes messed up just because she has an eating disorder. When the sorelle met her, she and her husband were on the verge of a separation. Today, her divorce is getting finalized. She lives with a member family, the Purparis. Nino Purpari is 60 and his wife is American; she went to the U.S. for vacation a couple of years ago and never came back. Nino took Francesca under his wing and offered her a place to live- she sees him as a father, but he proposed to her....so thats caused a little bit of drama. She sleeps in a little hut next to his house, and twice we have gone to teach her and we end up waking her up after pounding on the door for 10 minutes. How do people sleep in till 11:00?!?! That kills me. Such a waste of time. Anyways. We pound on her door till she opens up, and the only thing in her hut is her giant bed, so we sit on her bed and we teach her. Yesterday we went to go see her and teach her about temples- we need to teach her the difference between personal and public prayers. Her prayers are, no joke, at least 15 minutes long. I timed yesterdays prayer- 23 minutes long. At one point my neck couldnt do it anymore, so I straightened up and looked over at SM and she was completely flat on the bed- smart woman. Shes learned from experience. From now on, when we go in there to teach, Im going to get really comfy before asking her to pray. Shes so sweet. She used to be super catholic and she often forgets that we only pray to Heavenly Father; she gives the voi form, as if praying to all 3 of the Godhead. Little by little we will get there.

When I first arrive, SM told me something I thought was hilarous but ridiculous: we keep track of her menstrual cycle. Not only here, but 3 others. I wondered why......

and now I get it. Francesca has been super moody all week and in a bickery mood, and we didnt take it personally because the calendars right :) The calendar is faithful and accurate- yesterday she was in a good mood :) We just need to follow the calendar to know when it would be best to see less of her.

So Francesca is our recent convert. Then, there is Angela. SM found her as well. Up till when I arrived, shes had 4 baptismal dates. This past week has been crazy but amazing. We fasted and prayed with as to when she should be baptized, and she chose the 14th. For the past 5 days, we have been seeing her every morning and every evening. Each time we saw her, shed changed her mind and wanted more time to get prepared for baptism. Each time we left, she was excited about her baptism. Sunday morning, I woke up in the middle of the night to find SM awake and reading her scriptures with the cell phone light. When we got up, she told me that shed woken up with the strongest impression that she had to pray. She was going to pray in bed bc it was cold, but again, she felt pushed to get on her knees. As soon as she started praying, she felt she had to open her scriptures and read the first passage. She did and it was a highlighted verse so she thought "thats too easy" and turned a few pages but then felt prompted to return to that one verse, and she did. Alma 29:5. We read it and discussed it and it fit Angela perfectly, or so we thought.

we called to wake her up to come to church, and she said that she wasnt feeling well and wouldnt be coming. SM and I hurried over (15 before Antonio was to pick us up) and she opened the door in her pajamas and looked sad. We sat down and told her the experience SM had had and we read the verse and applied it to her- that she knows she has to go to chuch and shes being held accountable for her actions because she has the knowledge of good and evil. After about 20 min of talking, she still said no. SM and I felt the Spirit guiding us in that lesson. I knew it wasnt me when I said "Angela, we are taking you to church". She sat and stared at me for a second, and then got up and went into her bedroom and got dressed and we quickly got her breakfast started. She was the most darling thing- the second she decided to go to church, she got a huge smile on her face and I just wanted to hug her and cry for good of an example she was to me in that moment. She scarfed down breakfast and we went to church. There were 8 of us. Rumor has it that we are getting an electric keyboard soon. Everyone is so excited. President Portera has asked me to help him relearn how to sight read- I told him Id be happy to as our weekly service we render, but he probably should consider having his daughter learn to play. pres Portera practically does every calling in the church, he doesnt need to be the pianist too.

On Sunday evening we went to go see Angela, and we talked with her why she doesnt feel 100% ready for baptism. She said that shes waiting for another confermation. Anglea has had TONS of experiences and miracles to confirm that baptism is the right thing, but this is where the members come in. They tell our investigators that they have to be not only 100% sure, but they have to recieve a witness like they did. Antonio and Francesca dreamed about baptism- Francesca described to the sisters the location, the font, and clothes, the program, everything of the baptism and shed never seen it before! We have tried to help her understand that most people gain their testimonies little by little, like Alma 32.

SM and I, all week, have felt strongly about her having to be pushed to be baptized on Tuesday for several different reason which I wont go into detail here. But, we went sunday night with the purpose of helping her realize the confirmations shes recieved. Towards the end of our lesson, I remembered that SM had told me that Angela had refused to take down her Padre Pio images. (If you dont know the story of Padre Pio- hes a saint how claims to have taken 1\3 of the worlds sins because Jesus Christs Atonement wasnt enough- doesnt that make your stomach turn?) and so, (again, feeling more that the Spirit was guiding us in all our words) we told Angela that she had to take them down. She struggled and we read Mosiah 13 and then she closed her eyes for what felt like an eternity, and then opened them and nodded. We went around her house and took down her images, and there was one that was nailed in pretty tight. SM and I looked at eachother in alarm, fearing that shed take it as a sign that it wasnt meant to be, and that shed change her mind, but I hurried and grabbed my gerber (thanks again Tommy!) and she climbed onto a wobbly chair and after a few minutes, the pliers got the nail out.

The next morning, we took her a picture of Christ being baptized by John- we hung it up and then she told us that when shed pulled the last nail out of the wall and wed walked out with Padre Pio stuff, shed felt the biggest sense of liberation. A knot in her stomach untied and she felt so happy that she couldnt sleep till midnight. We helped her see that 1) you didnt want to go to church because you felt bad, but then once you decided to go, you felt really happy and 2) you didnt want to take down padre pio but you felt great afterwards that following Gods commandments bring only blessings.

We rushed around, calling members to invite them to the baptism and none of them were helping. Antonio, who would bend over backwards for any Sorella, said he couldnt help us because he had a backache. It seemed like everyone was working against us. We finally called Vito Purpari, the father of....8 kids? who all have moved out of the house bc the youngest, Beatrice, is someone whos really hard to get along with.(Beatrice just turned 18 and she has 2 kids and her boyfriend is our most progressing investigator, Pasquale. He cant get baptized for another year and a half because he used to be under house arrest, but now he just cant leave Mistretta till next year. That was another incredible experience this week when it hit me really what I am capable of doing with the power and authority Ive been given when I was set apart as a missionary- SM and I really called her to repentance. It had the potential the most tense lesson Ive ever been in, but we felt the Spririt strongly in giving us the right words to say to her. Beatrice is a delicate person to talk and interact with, and although shes really mad at us now, we dont regret what we said. We sat with the family and taught about eternal families, and then invited her to church. She came up with excuses that we came up with a solution to each one, and then she finally was honest in sayng that she wouldnt come bc she has something against the member and the branch president. We said that we dont go to church for the members- ALOT of people would be inactive if that were the case, but we go to church because we love the Lord and its what Hes asked us to do. It ended with us telling her "You and Pasquale have expressed the desire to get married and be sealed in the Temple. That takes action. Pasquale is trying to quit smoking- he does everything we ask him to do because he knows its what it takes to bless his family. Beatrice, you say we shouldnt worry about you, but we do. YOURE the one keeping your family from being eternal. you need to repent." To sum it up, she did not like what we were saying, but at least she held her peace. It was her mom who interrupted and told us ease off and that shed come around when she wanted to.

This is the biggest frustration of Mistretta. The members say they want to help with missionary work, but theyre our biggest obstacles! Everyone in mistretta knows who we are and who all the members are, and so many have come sooo close to baptism but then they bring up "you say you try to live the commandments, but like at the Purpari family" and everyone just concentrates on the bad examples they see. How sad! And how restricting! How different things would be if we all realized how infinite and necessary the Atonement is.

Ok. I think I got sidetracked. So we were trying to get Angelas baptism programmed, but no one was helping, so we went over to her house and asked her if shed be ok with just getting baptized in the ocean that evening. Her countenance had changed in the hour we were gone. She said she needed to feel more ready. I guess it was all the work, worry, and effort on our part for Angela that just got to us. We stood in her kitchen and tears ran down our cheeks. We asked her flat out "What is blocking you?" and she said that it was nothing, she just needed to be sure.

We were so confused. We had felt to strongly that it was tuesday or never. We have seen too many people procrastinate their baptism and they digress sssooo rapidly.

We went back that night before returning home, and again we read the Alma verse that Heavenly Father gave SM, and .... she said she did have a block. Immediately, the law of chasitity came to mind, and I said "The law of chastity?" and she nodded.

In most any other situation, Id groan inside, but it was a relief to hear it. weird, eh? It was so good to know that there WAS something blocking her, bc SM and I were getting super confused as to why she wasnt feeling ready. We discussed the gravity of the sitation- shed lied to us, shes had two bap interviews and lied to the Elders, (when you lie to missionaries you lie to God because we are here in His place) and now, we know how to teach her to her needs. Shes accepted to live it but she doesnt really want to take the steps to reach that goal. Oh well. Little by little. At least we know what her needs are.

So there was no baptism yesterday, but I trust she will be soon. I just dont envy her. Mistretta is SOOO cold. The ocean might be warmer then the river. Bo.

We went yesterday morning to say goodbye, and smelled coffee the moment we walked in. She looked at us and said "I cant hide it from you, I just was drinking it today because I feel nervosa" and I took her mug and poured it down the sink.

Really, Im doing alot of things Id feel hesitant to do, but like I said, I really have felt the Holy Ghost guide me more in these past two weeks then Ive ever felt before. Reading the scriptures, about Alma and the other missioaries, is so fun because I can relate so well to them!.

We did go over to Pres Portera and tell him "we need the members to trust us! They say they do but their actions and words dont reflect it" and he apologized bc he too had tried stopping Francescas baptism. He had called up Angela and toldl her that she could wait to be baptized.

its never cool to have members telling our investigators something contrary to what we feel. it makes them think that we dont recieve inspiration or revelation for them.

Va bono.

Sorella Jones and I are driving back to Mistretta, and then we will come back on Monday and I will pick up Sorella Riffaldi, who will be my Christmas companion :) Then, on the 26, we will drive back here and I will pick up Sorella Carla Squarcia :)

Have to go. Buona settimana!

Sorella Urban

Thursday, December 9, 2010


ps can you send this to tommy i dont know which is his email right now
1) Mom, I havent seen Dima yet. I think I will if he didnt get transferred the day I was. Tomorrow we are spending all day driving to Catania for Zone Conference, and then coming back.

I have SOOOOO much to say but so little time.
The trip here was awesome. The train BOARDED the ship and we went outside and stood up at the top and ferried across to Sicily. Sorella Riffaldi, Foote, Hansen, Miller EVERYONE was there waiting and it was SOOO great. We sorelle loaded my bags into our car (!) and we walked down a few streets to a gelato shop and had gelato while we talked. Sorella Riffaldi lost an earring so we started looking for it on the sidewalk and it turned out to be a good finding activity-people stopped and helped us look! We found it :)

Then we parted ways and Slla Miller and I started out trip home........ 3 hours drive and I couldnt see out the window because it was too dark. BUT. Tomorrow we will be making the same drive and we are leaving at 6 in the morning to be there by 9, so Ill get to see it all.

We live in an apt building, - our door opens and theres stairs that go straight up. We have institute at home, english class, and seminary and church activitites- its more like a church building and our home is one of the rooms. we just always keep the door shut and the members know its off limits. the house is cold. our room is warm. We open the door just to go out to the kitchen. Sorella Miller loves eating fruit and she is going home next week so we are eating healthy.
Guess what? Theres too much to say about Mistretta that I dont even know where to start. Its A.W.E.S.O.M.E.
Thursday morning, we woke up and went running. Slla Miller is a hard core biker- we live on the outskirts of town (basically EVERYTHING is the outskirts, theres nnothing to make a town out of!) and.... I just wanted to stop and soak it all in. Let me try to paint a picture for you of where I live. Take Beauty and the Beast Village. Or the movies of like Lord and the Rings where they scan over the geography- imagine New Zealand. dark green mountain after dark green mountain with lots of green green green, out in the middle of nowhere, and then the dark crystal blue ocean. This is my home.

I am living in heaven.

I felt like I was running in ...yeah, New Zealand is the best description I can think of. I wish I had pics ready to send! And the sun comes up at the end of our run and its just incredible. Mistretta is what I consider heaven. Its just snowed once but its ok. Its really not too bad. I just need to start wearing hiking boots instead of my shoes (which are quickly getting broken in).

How do I describe Mistretta? Its a little village on the slope of the peak of one of the many mountains. The streets are all small little alleys that I dont know how Im going to find my way around here without slla miller. Theres one main street and a labyrinth that branches off of it. everyone knows eachother. my first day, sorella miller took me around to meet the members. I met everyone in 24 hours. The car stays parked till we have to leave Mistretta. Thats the cool thing- everything is so close. We do walk alot, and its all either steep uphill or steep downhill. Its amazing to me how no ones on crutches or suffering a sprained ankle- I have yet to see someone in high heels here. I think its impossible.

Church is in santo stefano, a city 30 min away. to get there we have to take this long road thats a bridge\ramp and it goes over the coast, so we just look out the window and are almost over the water. its incredible. church is a rented building, and we were in 12 this Sunday. It reminded me so much of being back in Almaty! The branch president, Fllo Portera, is incredible. He has to leave church early to get back to work on time, so there were a few testimonies and then we ended. They have a keyboard (like the small 2 octaves one) that I played and they were going off on how incredible it is that an angel has been sent who plays the piano. They are the most humble people! I taught primary (fratello porteras daughter) and sorella miller taught young womens (another one of his daughters).
It was such a good sunday. Coming from Rome, where no one would have noticed if Id been there 10 years and disappeared, to here, where EVERYONE prays and mentions the sorella missionaries in their prayers and talks. Its so neat. They love us.

Why is Mistretta known as the city where sorella gain 20-30 lbs just in Mistretta? Because thats what everyone does here. They live to eat. They work just enough to eat. Their lives revolve around meals. Slla Miller has been really good at paving the path for me and trying to teach the members that they cant expect us to eat as much as they want us to- we leave EVERY door we walk into with some food. Its shocking. I dont know how they do it. But they are so generous. Slla Millers the first missionary to lose weight in Mistretta. It takes real self control, and shes my hope. Antonio, a member of 22 years, used to drop things off for the sorelle to eat EVERY MORNING and EVERY EVENING. Im glad slla Millers changes some things. But Antonio is so great! Antonio Bartalotta I believe. He has facebook and would be ecstatic if you Lenora found him. He chats with missioaries parents every day thru google translate.

So im writing so late and so grammatically incorrect because we are on the run. slla miller has been in all of sicilia except for the 3rd point, Trapani, so we called pres and got permission to go so thats where we have been all day. we left this morning at 6:45 and we drove thru palermo and walked around trapani (there really wasnt much to see, most of our walking was looking for our car) and we drove to erice- incredible. A much cooler Pompeii, and people still live there! its a mini mini city ontop of a hill and we walked down a back train and entered a half destroyed castle- then as we were looking at postcards, we realized that the castle in the pic wasnt destroyed. it must have collapsed not too long ago- oops. we could have been hurt....

we got stuck in traffic and now we just have 30 min to head back home and teach english class (at home, yes...its weird! all the members have a key to our house!) and then we are going to see angela. angela has a bap date for next saturday but she isnt excited about baptism- when people ask her what shes doing with us, she replies "oh nothing, im not changing anything. theyre just friends". so we are focusing on helping her not be embarassed about the gospel.

real quick- the biggest differences that have shocked me? Sicilians are NOT italians! They are such different people! 1) I know whats its like to be a greenie and not understand what people say. holy smokes, siciliano is sooooo weird. Im picking it up a little bit, but its weird that they struggle when speakign italian with us. Its like in armenia when people were embarassed to speak in russian with us bc we knew it better (or so they thought).
2) they are so bold! theyll tell you exactly what they think of you, and whats on their mind.
3) there arent foreigners here. Ive seen ONE romanian. so strange. I thought Id finally be teaching italians. I dont think Sicilians can be considered italians! I love it!

Mistretta hasnt seen a baptism for several years. the general attitude has been "in mistretta, you strengthen the members and then you get transferred out and baptize". Im so grateful for sorella miller and that she has the same goals and vision as I do. Shes GREAT. iF it were anything but Christmas time, shed extend her mission so we could serve longer together. I love her.
Shes been here for 6 months, and she says that its the hardest place shes ever been, but the most gratifying. I already can understand that.
Francesca got baptized last saturday. Ok. Before I can really talk about the individuals, I have to say....that.... the people in Mistretta just arent very normal. Im not sure if its just the village life that does it, but I have yet to figure it out. Francesca was very disliked by the members up till her baptism, bc they call her sick. Shes not, shes just anorexic and shes getting help. She went out with us sunday night do introduce us to her friends. she tells them shes a missionary. when a friend tried kissing her cheek, she stuck her hand out in his face and said "no, i cant kiss guys. im a missionary".
(ahhhh theres so much to say but no time!)
we are teaching pasquale- hes 40, living with his 17 year old girlfriend.... and their two kids. hes not baptized because he is under house arrest and cant leave mistretta for a year and a half. He is incredible.
theres nino- almost blind. about 60 years old. is in love with francesca and is upset she wont marry him. hes a retired chef and ....I love him.
Angela. With a bap date. That cant see us in the morning because shes too busy. we found out its because she sleeps alot.
Daniele. 24, went on a mission for 2 months and came home. He used to be really into drugs and now hes not entirely there. Its really sad, but he is great too. So friendly.
There are so many more. But we have to go. I love being here. I laugh to think that I thought for a moment "Ooh, Mistretta- its a prize for my past few transfers, I get to relax a little!" If anything, this is the late place to relax. so much potential here. so much work to do.
next pday should be wed but im not sure when im picking up my new comp or taking s miller to the airport.
Love you!

mail is
149 Corso Umberto 1

slla miller said mail is really good here. yay!!! you can even send packages here without any problem!!! but i dont want packages.
ok, love you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

little town, in a quiet village :)

Well, Mistretta, Sicily it is. "Hello President!!!" (The saturdays we recieve transfer calls are always the longest. He had called me in the morning and I thought it was because he already knew where he was sending me, but it was just to ask about some other sorelle..... and then he finally called us at 20:00 and S. Askew and I stopped in our tracks (we were on our way home, walking in the rain) and I stuck him on speaker phone for SA)
"Hello Sorella Urban....etc. etc. You are going to Mistretta, Sicilia to be with Sorella Miller. When she dies in two weeks (Catania and Roma are still on different transfer schedules) you will be getting a new companion but I dont know who it will be yet."
I squeal and thank him and then he goes on to tell me that it is the city where every Sorella requests to go- its a beautiful little city near Mt. Etna, and its said to come from the Beauty and the Beast movie. Ahh. Im excited.
Itll only be Sorella Miller and I in that area- we have a car!!! (everyones been telling me "Youre going to gain alot of weight not walking!") and apparently we work alot in other cities as well. We are an hour from Palermo, and I think there are 4 Anziani there. I thought Sicilia would be warm, but Mistretta has snow! So I guess itll be a white Christmas for me after all :) I am so excited. Mistretta has a population of 5,000. Fidene, our neighborhood here in Rome, has more than 11,000. Ill get to know all the old people and know every city dweller by name! Itll be Sipicciano all over again, but smaller!
Sorella Pickett, my MTC companion, is going to come up here and be with Sorella Askew!

Ive finally started wearing the new shoes Dad brought me- breaking in shoes is not my favorite thing, so its a good thing Im going to have a car soon :)
I leave bright and early tomorrow morning. Ive managed to get all my belongings into one suitcase- its not that I have too many clothes, its all the books I dont want to leave behind. Im going to make the trip by train with 2 Anziani and 5 greenies; they arrived about an hour ago and we got to meet them on our way out of the church. It seems like yesterday that I was in their place. Itll be fun having a 10 hr train ride with them and getting to exchange stories and insights. The train pulls in ONTO the ferry where we get off and ferry across to Sicily for 30 min. Ill definitely take pictures. I wonder if I can see Africa from there? :)

Elder Causse is coming next week, so every missionary in Sicilia will be in Catania next Wed for zone conference- Ill get to see Slla Riffaldi and Foote and Anz Larsen from the MTC! Oh, Pres also told me that theres a very good chance Ill get to serve with S Riffaldi again! I feel guilty. I should let others have the wonderful experience of serving with her.

Well. I guess I should stop talking about transfersand talk about some of the things that have happened this week.

Fumi, the Nigerian woman I met on the bus a couple of weeks ago, had a baptismal date and everything was going great....till she called on Sunday and told us she couldnt see us anymore. It felt like Laurent all over again. I could hear her sister in the background making comments against the church, and Fumi was giving excuse after excuse of why she would no longer be able to meet with us. I asked her to stop and think for a moment, and Fumi said that she feels really good meeting with us, but she couldnt....in the end, we got her to agree to talk with us face to face. Our appt was for this afternoon- she didnt come. I seriously underestimate the adversary.

Daniela, the 35 y.o. Italian young woman we met doing house, invited us to come over for breakfast on Tu morning (yesterday). We hurried over and found a bag hanging from her door "To Daniela, From Urban" and took it to mean that it was to me, so I opened it and found ... 2 bags of coffee and a package of pasta, with a note apologizing that she had something come up.
We walked away shocked at how considerate that was of her. Not because she left a gift, but because she even thought to let us know that it was cancelled. Shed lost our number, so that was the only thing she could think of doing. We went back home and I wrote her a letter, and then we slipped it under her door and started ringing door bells, and then Daniela returned! She will be meeting with le sorelle soon. Im so happy. Shes so nice.

Dad, something that you could get me is a copy of General Conference. We still havent recieved them and arent sure if Germany will ever get around to sending them. We have a feeling that we will get them by the time April conference rolls around. Im just yearning to read and hear those talks over again

We saw Nelson yesterday so that I could say goodbye to him. Nelson is my Roman Laurent. I love him. Guess what he brought me? 2 huge mens sweaters and a glittery tshirt that might fit Lillo. I love it! Last month he gave me a mens undershirt that was too big for him- hes bigger than I am, and this undershirt was, no joke, triple XL. He makes me laugh. I wish I could take the sweaters with me, but I have to see what fits in my bag. One of the sweaters Id like to give Andrew, but maybe theres an Anziano who needs it more.

After teaching him about temples, we headed to over to Yolandas. Shed recieved her months wages and gone over to a bank to have the money wired home to Equador. When the account was set up and she pulled out the money, she found that her wallet had been stolen.
700 euro. Her entire months wages gone.
I can see why its a rule that we cant financially help others. My heart goes out to her. I cannot imagine how hard that would be to go through.
And guess what she did as we said the closing prayer and got up to leave? She went to her room and returned with a silver necklace and pendant, and put them into my hand. Thats when I lost it. Yolanda had just lost all her money. She didnt know what she was going to do or how she was going to make it. She could easily pawn that necklace and get something out of it, but she gave it to me. I could only stand there and cry and she cried.
ahh, just writing this is making me cry. It has been incredible serving here in Rome. Last night as I was laying in bed, I thought of all the things that have happened to me here in Rome. First meeting Sorella Riffaldi, walking into the house, meeting Yolanda, meeting Nelson at Beths house, his baptism, Sandra, Gina, ALL these people who have taught me from their incredible faith and example.
I cannot imagine my life without these people a part of it. Im overwhelmed with gratitude for my Heavenly Father who loves me enough to let me be a part of this. To have these people in my life. Its too incredible. Im torn about leaving Rome, but I know that there are many more people out there that Ill learn to love and just have yet to meet.

We spent this morning waiting for a bus that never arrived, so we walked to the mall.......I am looking for things to layer with, and bought some snacks for the trip tomorrow. We went to the church and Fumi didnt come, so we waited around to meet the MTC arrivals. Two new sorelle, and one of them has CRAZY blond hair. Its great. I hope shes the one to go down south- can you imagine being her companion? Finding would be so easy.- just walking down the street and people would stop us to talk!!!

For Thanksgiving we had a scrumptious meal- Before heading up for lunch, we bought bleach and sprayed down moldy parts of the house. Sorella Askew has a raw throat and Ive been lightheaded all week. Thus, she sleeps in the hall on a mattress and Ive been sleeping on the kitchen couch.

On Friday, we went up to Bochignano (a hill city) with all the senior couples and we put on a thanksgiving feast for the english students. It was really fun. I made mashed potatoes, and I have to say so myself...they were delicious. And I made cheesecake. Also delicious.
We talked about Christlike attributes this week in DDM. I think I should concentrate on humility.
Times up. Sorella Askews ready to go. Im not. But thats my life.
haha. WELL. Arrivederci Roma! Next pday will be Tuesday, so please write me on time! AND, seeing that Ill be getting letters every 6 weeks or so,...(I guess I could send my house address, but I feel that its more risky of losing mail that way,...we shall see. Ill check out the mail box and then let you know next week if it passes inspection :) ) maybe you could inform others to write me via email instead of letters :)
p.s. another thing I could use? Taco seasoning! The Urban legend of Mexican Chef salad is spreading across the face of Italia!