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.
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.
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!