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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

post we missed.

there was a mistake and I missed a few weeks, so I'm posting now the weeks we missed.
most of them are of May, but there is one of April and one or march.enjoy

Maggio 2011
66.6% Urban companionship
Maybe it's an after-effect of having had Lenora around, but I feel like I shouldn't even bother writing emails because I only have precious little time left and I don't want to use it at the computer.

Having Lenora with us for two days has been quite the adventure. We picked her up on Monday evening and headed straight to Patrizia's. Patrizia was tickled seeing Lenora and "my goodness, why is she alot skinnier than you?". Thanks Patrizia.
She said the closing prayer and it was a, no joke, 6 minute long prayer dedicated to Sorella Hashey- she was talking to her about how much she's going to miss her and how she needs to reply to the letters she'll write. When we said "amen" we added, "Patrizia, that was a beautiful prayer. Remember, we pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ." Oh, Patrizia. She is still smoking what she claims to be one cigaretta a day. We decided to have her baptismal interview tonight and then the Anziani will be the ones to judge whether to go forward with the baptismal plans for this Monday night, or if we need to set it back again to give her more time.

I have had trouble sleeping since Thursday night, so none of us slept much on Monday night and we were all a little sleepy Tuesday but it was a miracle day! We met Ozile, a referral from the Rome 2 Sorelle. We waited at a bus stop for more than an hour in the rain waiting for her, and she finally showed up. She is from ...Tongo? I need a map of Africa. We taught her about prayer and then she said the most animated and full-of-emotion prayer. THEN, on our way back home, we bumped into Mira!! She's the one we met on our second day of being here in Rome 3, the one who came to church with us our first sunday. We haven't been able to meet with her since. She is always working or things come up when we are supposed to meet. It was such a miracle. It does not happen often that you bump into people in Rome, but it did and it was with Mira! We know it was a miracle.

Lenora brought some american candy, like reeses peanut butter cups, and I carry some in my purse and it's perfect because it's so handy to have candy handy. Just today we were called to help accompany a member mom and her little girl home. We were on the bus and it would have been a nightmare had I not had candy with me :) Speaking of nightmares-- 3 year olds are nightmares!

We met a Bible basher. He joined us where we were sitting on a bus and we didn't realize he wanted to bash till towards the end. He asked us to read Hebrews 1. When we got home we did, and ... we were even more confused. We aren't sure what he was trying to get at. But the conversation with him reinforced my testimony of how perfect the gospel is.

We have discovered the best Chinese store and we bought hula hoops!!!! Sorella hashey wanted them so that she will have an excuse for when people will ask "How did you get so out of shape on your mission? What did you do for exercise?" and she'll chirp, "Hula hooping!".

On Sunday, I accompanied a Sorella member to the busstop to pick up some women who were coming to church. I greeted Alina and I was leaning to the left to kiss her, she leaned to the right (my left!) and kissed me full on the lips. I had forgotten that only the people in mistretta kiss opposite sides of how they do it here. I shot back and started laughing and Alina was unfazed and didn't even miss a blink. I can't believe she thought nothing of it. It was sooo funny for me.

I really enjoyed doing scambi last week with Sorella Giordano and enjoyed that we went to have lunch with Zia and Nonna. Nonna's first words were "Sei ingrassata!" I wanted to be like, "Thanks Nonna! you look rounder too!" .................. :(.
Then, on the way our, she shoved a bar of chocolate into my hand. Tsk tsk. Some people's kids.

Tomorrow is Zone Conference and Sorella Hashey will be sharing her dying testimony. We have been brain storming a list of things she needs to eat\do before her time is up. We had a rude awakening when we realized that last week was her last fast sunday in Italy. I only have one more. Agh!!! Time in the mission is the strangest thing. A day feels a week long and a week feels like a day. Or a second.

The Hashey's are arriving next week and we will see them a couple of times, depending on the needs of the investigator, aka Brother Hashey :) We are excited and also wishing we could slow time down, but we also know that we would never feel completely "prepared" for these lessons. We know we will be helped along, and I am excited to report next week how it all went :)!! And if Patrizia was baptized!

Va bono. I love you and thank you all for the uplifting letters you send. Think white thoughts!

Sorella Urban

p.s. Um... the spiritual thought this week is...I have Hebrews 11:6 written in my planner and I can't remember what it says...so read it and hopefully it's a good one!

oops, how did I forget to add that we saw Tommy and Debora?! We met up with them at Termini and sat on a bench while they waited for their train. It was fun to catch up and see for myself that they really are alive and breathing. Alex is so big!

maggio 2011

I hope I get an Oklahoman accent

Eeekk. I'll begin listing the reasons why I have butterflies in my stomach.

1) Sorella Hashey and I have 24 hours left together. I don't want her to leave, but it'll be an awesome reunion when we do see eachother in Florida :) I'll tell you when I'll be seeing her in FL in next weeks email.

2) I have to report to the High Council after being released? Can I just be released and then take a flight out and disappear?

3) The only fun thing about being released is that it will be July 4th :) I want to do sparklers that night!

4) I had lentils for breakfast

5) Patrizia got baptized and her brother, Guido, came. She had to be dunked twice because her skirt was floating (at least she was wearing white underwear!) and when she came out the first time, she was choking and spluttering. I guess no one warned her to plug her nose. haha.I thought "Oh great, if she has a burping and coughing attack, I might just die laughing." But thankfully she didn't and was baptized completely. THEN, to make matters even funnier: We missionaries preformed a musical number (S. Hashey and I agree on this: there's NO WAY we would sing for an audience in America, but in Italy, we're considered to have good voices) and we sang hymns while Patrizia was changing. We were in the middle of a hymn when she entered and charged her way to the pulpit. The Bishop had to jump up and tell her to sit down and bear her testimony when she was invited to do so. She refused to sit down so she just stood up there with her head bowed and her arms crossed, and then when she got up to the pulpit, she shared how excited she was and her love for us "angelotti". It was so neat having Guido there. He has schizophrenia and doesn't like being with people, but he said he really enjoyed his time in church (he stayed all three hours and only had to take 1 cigarette break!) and when we went to go see Patrizia yesterday, he asked if he could join in on the lesson. Guido getting baptized will be next transfers miracle. Patrizia will be confirmed this coming Sunday- she works 2 days out of the month (sells crafts she makes at a bazaar) and sunday is one of those days. She has decided to show her faith and not work this Sunday- we know she will be blessed for it. We're praying that people will buy her stuff on Saturday- she makes the strangest things. I don't want to call them hideous...they're just...particular. She is VERY creative, let's just say that.
She confided to me that she was hoping Sorella Hashey would give her something to remember her by. I told S Hashey and she gave her one of her headbands that has a huge white bow on it. It so fits Patrizia; she told me "Urban, I want something from you too!". Uh.......I didn't want to tell her that I have nothing ugly that she would find darling. What do I do?! Go to a chinese store and pick out something I wouldn't be caught dead wearing?

6) Maria Teresa, a single mother member who lives near us, asked us to come with the Anziani to move a cabinet. We needed to push the cabinet a few inches against a heater. The Anziani pushed and we pulled on "3", and....we were so unexpectedly strong that we moved the cabinet so far that it cracked through part of the heater. We made a nice big hole in it :) (Lenora, she's the lady you met with the terrible Greta). I need to stop thinking about it because I am disturbing the public peace of this internet cafe.

7) Our ward is having a talent show next Friday night. Sorella Hashey graciously volunteered me and my new companion. The sister in charge approached me and asked what I was going to present. I told her "I have no talents that I can present" and she scoffed and said "Im putting you down for something!" so I said, "I can only count letters in a sentence". She wrote that down. AGH. I'm presenting that at the talent show?!

8) Maybe I should add something about transfer calls. 20 new missionaries arrive tomorrow from the MTC, 3 of which are Sorelle. I knew I wasn't going to train. It wasn't possible- I've already trained and there are a dozen sorelle who should be training now. Well. I'm training. I'm picking up my little greenie tomorrow at 12:00 when I drop off Sorella Hashey at Termini station.

9) I think number 8 is the main reason I have butterflies in my stomach.

10) Odile (pronounced Ozila), our African friend we've been meeting with for the last couple of weeks, came to church on Sunday! She was dressed in a colorful traditional African costume and she really enjoyed all of the meetings except for sacrament meeting (it was on sealings and baptisms for the dead). Later that evening, she asked us if we could help her with something. When we met with her at the station, I asked where we were going. "Orte" was the reply. I started to laugh- that's not even in our zone! But after a phonecall for permission, we went to Orte with her to bring back some suitcases from her old apartment. She is so great. She told us flatout "I don't want to be baptized" and we rejoiced because it goes to show that she understands exactly why we are here! She'd also told us that we couldn't teach her at her house because she rooms with someone who doesn't want white people in the house, but she had us meet this roommate and she seems really nice.

11) Alina is a new convert and her husband, Luciano, isn't. The Elders can't get him to respond or interact with them (he just closes himself in the bedroom) and he has been more responsive to us so we go see them a couple times a week. On Sunday, Alina told us at church that Luciano had dreamed that we were in the act of praying for him and when he awoke, he told Alina, "I know I need to be baptized". Miracle! We went over and tried talking to him about his dream (his favorite chapter is 2 Nephi 31 about Christ's baptism; he doesn't like being seen with the Book of Mormon, though. He'll be reading it and then stuff it under a couch cushion when we walk in) and he needs to get over his timidness. We feel like he's going to need some time, but we are positive he will be baptized.

12) Yesterday, at the end of teaching Patrizia, she literally jumped on Sorella Hashey and started attacking her with kisses. By the time I freed S. Hashey from Patrizia's lips, I was sure she was covered in hickeys. She wasn't, but oh my.

13) We have three Muslim girls coming to English course. We usually start and close with a prayer, but they told us that they can't participate. We asked them how they pray and they showed us the 3 positions of a prayer they have to do 5 times a day, and each time, they need to wash themselves and do specific things to prepare themselves. It was really interesting, and I really respect them for standing up for their beliefs. The oldest is 16, and her sisters are 9 and 10. They'd make great members.

14) Mira wouldn't be able to get rid of us even if she wanted to. We were on the trenino yesterday and she was in the carriage infront of us- she tapped the window and we got off and joined her in her carriage. She is always so busy working, but she came to church last sunday! One more Sunday till she qualifies for baptism, and we haven't even taught her the Restoration yet!

15) For our District meeting treat, we brought a can of lentils for each of us. The Anziani thought it was the grossest thing that we eat lentils straight out of the can. They acted like it was torture, but once they took their first bite, they confessed with a surprise "these aren't that bad!". I invite all of you to look for a can of lentils at a grocery store near you (am I sounding like a commercial?). They are amazing.

16) I think those are the main reasons why I feel queasy. I've sure enjoyed this transfer with Sorella Hashey. I know we were meant to be together to teach her Dad. Patrizia could have been baptized with any missionaries, but her Dad needed our particular companionship. I'm really grateful that I am getting a fresh, strong companion who'll be able to hoist me up as we walk from appointment to appointment. Sorella Hashey's body has been breaking down and I've seen it time and time again in "dying" missionaries, so I'm just expecting it will inevitably happen to me. Good thing I'm getting a fresh Sorella :) She won't be so fresh after carrying me around for 6 weeks. eheh.

This has been an incredible and miracle-packed transfer. I am very excited for what miracles await for the next 6 weeks.

Sorella Urban
p.s. Pray that I get Sorella Hicks.... she's from Oklahoma!!

maggio 2011,
transfer call week....and lots of conferences

This week we have had miracle after miracle. Mira called us and asked if she could bring her brother to church. We just hope it's for the right reasons and not to get her little brother married off.

Patrizia passed her baptismal interview and is getting baptized this Sunday right after sacrament meeting. She and Anz Acerson made a deal and she has to stop smoking 2 days prior to her baptism......
When we first met her, she said prayers the right way but slowly they have transformed into dedicas to us. She says some pretty funny things in her prayers that are directed at us. We went to her house yesterday and had her write down the steps of prayer and we think she's got it down :) Prayer is a good thing to master before baptism.

Zone Conference went really well and it was a little disturbing having Sorella Hashey giving her departing testimony. I am sure going to miss her. It's been like a "vacation" serving with her because we are both at nearly the same point in our missions and we can talk about most anything without fearing that the other will get homesick. Ormai, we've been away from home for so long that we could go another 10 years without getting homesick :) Just kidding. It was really fun to see Mom and Lenora at stake conference on Sunday. Lenora is worse than a primary kid. I couldn't focus on what the speakers were saying! It was so neat to sit there and look over all the people and be able to either name them or recognize the majority of them. I feel so at home in the Rome stake. Why can't I give my homecoming talk here? No one will recognize me in the singles ward! (wait, maybe that's a good thing.......)
After conference, we sat in moms car and ate sandwiches and fruit salad. Then, we went to meet up with Sorella Hashey's parents. We have seen them everyday this week. We have been teaching Papa' Hashey and it is going well :) They are leaving for Venice and Florence on Friday, and will be back next Wednesday to pick up Sorella Hashey and return to Florida. We've eaten out more this week than in my entire mission combined. Their apartment is right above the spanish steps- Sorella Hashey and I have gone up and down those steps more than two dozen times. I don't think I'll ever return there as a tourist :)

They reserved a tour at the Vatican, so this morning we went to St. Peter's and watched the Pope as he rode around in his Popemobile. (It's really called that. Rumor has it that he was gifted a Ducati in 2009. Who gives an ancient Pope a ducati?!?! He sold it. haha. Smart Pope.) We did a 3 hour tour of the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and just about everything else. It was really nice having a tour guide because I actually learned something new. Like the Nile river is 16 meters deep. Don't ask me how I learned that from looking at a Roman statue.

What else? Michelangelo painted a picture of the angel of hell and the visage of the demon is the face of one of the Pope's who criticized his artwork alot. Isn't that hilarious? I think I would have gotten along well with Michelangelo.

Oh, for stake conference, we were going to meet with Patrizia halfway and go to the hotel together. We left our apartment early in the morning and got on a tram, but it kicked all the passengers off a few stops later so we were all forced to wait and take a bus. The bus was PACKED and we called Patrizia to let her know that she needed to wait at the busstop and to get on because we weren't (and couldn't) get off. She freaked out and yelled at Sorella Hashey about waiting at the busstop for more than an hour, etc,etc, and she said she was fed up and going home. She didn't answer our phonecalls for an entire 24 hours. And then she called and admitted that she never even reached the busstop.
The moral of the story? Don't blame people for how public transport goes. mamma mia.

Sorella Hashey, while walking arm-in-arm on our way home one night, said, "You make perfect boyfriend height".
Each, EACH of my companions has told me that. (Except for Sorella Olsen- she was taller). It was funny. And it makes me feel manly.

Mizzica. I wish I had something spiritually awesome to share with you, but speaking of not blaming others, it's Lenora's fault because she distracted me the entire conference!
Oh, and we also started english class last week. 5 people showed up. Haha. We need to advertise it more.

Ok, here's for the spiritual thought: When you have doubts- be patient and remember your spiritual experiences: feed your faith, starve your doubts.


Sorella Urban

aprile 2011

Pasqua weekend

I'm going to Ladispoli today for exchanges! I chose to stay and have Sorella Hashey go to a different zone, but President Kelly asked me to go with Sorella Giordano- she is from the North and is a new missionary. I am really excited about returning to Ladispoli and am hoping we have time to make a quick stop at Zia Cecilia's to say hello to her and Nonna. I'm assuming they won't be coming to stake conference next week, so this will be my chance to say hello and goodbye to them, seeing that I am not sticking around after I finish.

This proved to be an interesting Easter. We assembled candy we'd recieved in packages and put them into baskets, made a zucchini bread cake, and attempted to doorbell-ditch the Anziani at 6:45 am. They live a couple of blocks from us- we tried doing it undercover but we weren't even sure which apt building was theirs. We tried one of the doors and couldn't get it opened, so we called and said "buzz open your door. pretend this conversation never happened" and a door buzzed open but it was to the apartment complex behind us. Good thing we called! We imagined that the Anziani were at the peephole, watching for us to approach their door, so we rode the elevator to different floors and then finally slinked up to the door, pressed a finger against the peephole, left the baskets, and then slipped away. They actually didn't discover them until they were leaving their apartment to come to church. I was very impressed that they didn't try to cheat (even though A. Acerson did confess to having stood outside the door waiting for us).

While we were on the curb waiting for Mira to join us to walk to church together, she texted us that she wouldn't be able to make it. Patrizia couldn't come to church either. But it was good to see that the members hadn't left for the Temple trip yet- we heard uplifting talks and all the members were really excited about going to the Temple. It's really neat because it's not a stake organized activity. Rather, it's just most of Rome 3 who organized this together. They will be returning from the Swiss Temple on Saturday. The Anziani had showed up to help the members load their bags onto the bus- we can't let the members fawn too much over them. We are checking in to when they'll be returning and we want to be there to meet with with plates of freshly baked cookies. eheh. Alina Chilut is from Romania and she was baptized last year. She asked us to check in on her family once in awhile. The Elders have been teaching her brother and husband for the past year, but they aren't making progress. Adrian, her brother, is here for work and his family is still in Romania. He likes to bible bash when we are there, so we've handed him over to the Anziani. Luciano, Alina's husband, is very quiet and doesn't respond to the Anziani but, when we are there, he seems to be more receptive.The Anziani have walked in on him reading the Book of Mormon, and he quickly shuts it and sticks it under something, trying to hide that he was reading it. It's pretty strange and funny. We combined our efforts and made a "Thanksgiving" meal for them, which the Anziani delivered last night. We think that what those men need right now is just our friendship and love. Teaching them with words will come later.

During sacrament meeting, a really old woman with no teeth and her daughter (who we think has a disability) stood up right after the sacrament was passed out and went up to the pulpit to speak with the bishop. He tried to wave her away, trying to signal "we'll talk later!" but she didn't notice and turned around and started blowing us all kisses and waving her arms and yelling "Buona Pasqua!". She reminded me of the times when Dad would have to stand up and try to restore order in our sacrament meetings :) (Remember when Mikhail wore my slippers that had the platforms and there was a bunch of dry #2 he was dragging around while passing the sacrament?) Those were such funny experienes. Well. We didn't have any invites for Pasqua, so guess what we did? We came home, ate lunch and studied Italian for an hour, and then went to go find this adorable, crazy old woman. She has a son who is 50 and stays in his room and listens to american music. They have had to pay more than they were expecting for their light bill, so they only have pasta to get them through the rest of the month. It was inspiration to take them zucchini bread. It was really nice to see how much she loves Heavenly Father. She showed us all of her church materials and whenever she came to a picture of Christ, she would say "You know what? I love you" and kiss him a dozen times. She asked us if we would make sure that her daughter gets accompanied to and from church after she dies, because she can't be by herself. They are good examples of dedication. They leave at 7:00 am to make it to our 9:30 meeting, and they leave sacrament meeting early to make it for the bus.

In Gospel Principles, the lesson was on the Atonement and after the closing prayer, Sharon (from the Philippines) turned to us and asked "Sorella, what does "espiazione"mean?" We felt SOO bad that she had gone the entire lesson without knowing what the word "atonement" meant. It's something I need to work on- remembering to explain the most basic and simple things, because often, it's needed. Sorella Hashey and I were reflecting on this the other day- how being missionaries, we teach the basic things of the doctrine that we forget things we knew, like how the celestial kingdom has three levels. I think I knew that before, but it was an interesting rediscovery!

We have been having interesting run-ins with men on the trains. We've stopped talking with men altogether, which has helped a little. It's a little sad, because there are undoubtedly good men who are looking for the truth and who need the Gospel, but we just pray that the Anziani will bump into those ones, since we're "passing them by". Really, if it weren't for Dad and the good men I've had in my life, and having had personal relationships with, I'd become a nun just so that I wouldn't have to deal with them. I feel like Nonna :S

Last week, we wanted to visit Marcella, the Romanian less-active who lives in an abandoned building. We asked the Anziani to go with us because it was getting later in the day. We waited, and waited, and Marcella didn't show up for our appt. It was very strange because it wasn't like her at all- she hardly receives visits so she makes sure to be there on those rare occasions. While we were waiting, a couple drew near and the man said "Fratello, brother!" He pointed to himself and then to the Anziani and repeated "Fratello!" They're from Romania, and from what we understood, he was baptized a few years ago. It was so neat to come across another member! He and his girlfriend live on the floor above Marcella. He came back down with all of his church materials and we gave them the address to the church but he wasn't able to make it. We hope to teach his girlfriend and get him to return to being active. It was a small miracle. There was a reason why Marcella didn't show up.

The Burts is the senior missionary couple who work in the Rome office. We had them over for Pasquetta dinner (Pasquetta is just as big, if not bigger, a holiday than Pasqua and is always the day after).We made Mexican Chef Salad (I've been prounouncing "chef" wrong all this time!) and their visit makes me really excited to serve more missions in the future as a senior. They do so much for the mission here. There used to be 2 other couples helping them with it all, but now they are the only ones left and it's a miracle how they accomplish everything in a timely manner. I am very grateful for the Burts, and for the senior missionaries who selflishly served missions and set good examples for me. (Thank you Radmalls and Drennans! and Grandma and Grandpa Urban!)

Monday was like being back in Mistretta. We had a lunch appointment with Maribel, a new convert who is amazing in giving the missionaries referrals. She had invited Marcella, and it was so good to see how she has taken one less fortunate under her wing. We had fried meat, tuna with rice, and, no joke, a plate heaping with different types of ham, salamis, and cheese. I've never had so much meat in one sitting. We had to race from their to Patrizia's to meet with another homeless Albanian member we'd met the day before, Almada. We walked to Patrizia's together and had apple pie and salami&cheese panini. We'd been planning on doing a picnic but it was overcast and drizzly. Patrizia is still working on giving up smoking ...her baptism is in less than two weeks. We told her that I am giving up apples and Sorella Hashey is giving up chocolate to help her give up cigarettes. This isn't an easy sacrifice for any of us. I love apples. I don't know what I'll do in the U.S. without my Melinda Golden.......
then we rolled home to host the Burts and eat with them. it's a good thing we're doing Marvine this year- I definitely need the exercise!

Patrizia was very kind and offered Almada to, if she doesn't find other housing, move into her vacant room with her 2 daughters. I am grateful for how united the members and investigators are here. They are from all over the world and could easily have "reason" to not intermingle, but they are very close to eachother and look out for one another.

Patrizia lives with her brother, Guido, who has schizophrenia. He is so nice! Sadly, he is a chain smoker and the house is always cloudy with smoke. To make my head and S. Hashey's throat worse, Patrizia lights....incense (sp?) to improve the smell of the air. Ha! We feel that we lose a few dozen brain cells every time we visit, but it's all for a good cause if she gets baptized, right? :) She has seen a change in herself since she has been meeting with the missionaries. She describes it as having more love for others that she used to not even care about the well-being of people she didn-t know. It's true- the purpose of the gospel is to help us become more like Him. We can't reach that goal on our own. We need eachother. That is why it's so important to keep that in mind- we are His hands; I have been directly blessed as a result of someone being willing to put my needs ahead of theirs. I need to make it a conscious, daily effort to make a difference for good in someone's life.

We are going home to write a few letters and then to the Vatican area to do some souvenir shopping for Sorella Hashey. I am really excited to serve with Sorella Giordano, even if it's just for a day. She met A. Squarcia at the Madrid MTC :)
A special thanks to those of you who still write me letters- we get mail maybe twice a month here, so if it takes a while to reply, that's why. We have Zone Conference on the 5th and Sorella Hashey will be giving her dying testimony. And then it'll my turn at the next conference. Oi oi. In the last transfer, the misisonary gets a "dying packet" that includes a list number to 30 that you need to write down 30 blessings of the mission. I think I'll share that in my last email.

Well. This is a summary of my life this past week. It's great being here. We are still in coats half the time, but the sun is shining today and I can't wait for the adventures of this coming week. I am really excited for Lenora to come join us for a couple of days and then to see Mom next week at Stake Conference. It's going to be a great week!

Grazie per tutto! It's May next week!!!

Sorella Urban

marzo 2011,
Italy's 150th anniversary

Sorella Olsen's brother is going to Russia, Moscow West!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If it hasn't changed, then that means he's probably going to serve in Almaty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have spent some time guessing as to where he would be sent. Oh, and we didn't do email yesterday so that we could find out today, rather than get ulcers from wondering.
This morning we went running in t-shirts! It is summer here. It is beautiful. We turned off the heat. Life is so good.

Saturday night was the windiest night of my life. We couldn't sleep because all the windows and doors were banging. We went to church and everyone else looked as sleep deprived as we did- :)
Scirocco has arrived (the African wind) and I'm ok with giving up some sleep for some warmth. Yesterday, for our preparation day activity, we met up with the Anziani of Palermo 1 (Anz. Roe and McDaniel) and we went up to Gratteri to show them the house of Vincendo di Francesca, and to the cemetery. We found his grave by peering through the grate of the "Di Francesca Famiglia" grave house, but.........it said he died in 2006 or something. No one has to know though. We can triumphantly say that we have been to Vincenzo's grave. Just, not the Vincenzo.

Last week, we decided to do our weekly shopping at a store outside Mistretta that we had never been to. Sorella Olsen does not like driving up hill and after some groaning and hysteria, we reached the parking lot and parked. We walked into Brico Bell, took one look around, stepped back out and burst out laughing. It was a hardware store. Where was all the food? Bo. We might return to look at microwave prices- Sorella Kelly gave us her blessing in looking for one. What a luxury that would be!

Lucrezia is our one primary kid- Sorella Olsen had the inspirational thought of talking about the importance of not repeating vain repetitions in our prayers. I enthusiastically agreed that it'd make for a great lesson because Lucrezia says the same prayer, using the same words, all the time.
Sorella Olsen did a great job teaching the lesson and we asked Lucrezia lots of questions and she seemed to understand the concept of what we were trying to get her to understand. Then, we asked her to say the closing prayer. I could not help but giggle all through it because it was the exact same prayer she always says! After 50 minutes of trying to get her to change her wording..................... :)
She started coming to the 8 y.o. english class we teach in the elementary school basement, and we asked her to say the closing prayer at the end of yesterday's lesson. She asked "The usual one?"
"No Lucrezia, say something about english class. Ask Heavenly Father for help that you and your friends will be able to remember what was taught today."
She said the usual prayer but added that phrase in. I want a daughter like Lucrezia.

Every morning we go running past the cemetery out into the countryside, and we pass one farm with a few dogs in a cage that always bark the entire time we are running. We hop a fence near them that continues down towards the river, and then we turn around, hop back over the fence, pass the ferocious dogs, pass the cemetery, and run back home. Well. Last week, we were on our way back and we were about to climb back over the cow fence when we saw that a dog had escaped and was sharpening its teeth in preparation for our ankles arrival. We knelt down and said a prayer, and when we stood up, the dog was gone. Nowhere to be seen. His evil friends were still barking in the cage, but he was nowhere to be seen. Heavenly Father even cares for our ankles.
I used to like dogs, and I might think of having one in the distant future, but I completely understand why dogs are a missionary's worst enemy.

On Monday morning, we went to do some service- cleaning up a house that Beatrice and Pasquale want to move into when they get married this summer. (Pasquale is our investigator who can't get baptized because he is under Mistretta arrest, and Beatrice Purpari has 2 little girls with him and is inactive). We showed up in our sweats (so strange to be out in public in something other than a skirt!) and ...... they warned us that the woman who lived there did not throw away anything, but we didn't fully understand till we started going through the attic and filling up trash bags. She did not throw away anything. Mom, Nonna doesn't have any hold-onto-junk disease. This woman saved the wrappers of food she ate! I found half a dozen dead lizards and really wanted to send one to Lenora, but didn't. We also found some spiders on steroids that Sorella Olsen squealed over as she attacked with a stick of wood. I am proud of her- she hates spiders- but she kept at it. We spent an hour filling up the trash bags, and then pulled up the car and loaded it up and followed Vito to the dump. He is such a crazy driver! And he chose the narrowest streets. mamma mia.

While we were running this morning, discussing Stareishin Olsen's destination, an older, larger man on a scooter passed us and gave us a funny look- a minute later he headed back in our direction and said "run faster, run faster!" and honked as he zoomed past.

We have been really happy with Maria Grazia and Tiziana (the 31 y.o. women who we teach English to) because they keep the commitments we leave them and they are so nice and sincere. In our last appt we were doing some follow-up and asked them how their prayers were going (we gave them prayer rocks to remind them to pray kneeling every morning and night) and they said, "Good, good! I say Padre Nostro and ......"
What? Padre Nostro? No...............................
It's funny how we thought we had made it very clear to them that we wanted them to pray the way we taught them to pray, but apparently we weren't clear enough. We cleared it up and they agreed to pray the way we pray every morning and night. haha. We walked out of there really glad that we'd discovered this now and not later down the road. How can you find out the truth about principles of the gospel if you say a written prayer?

We met Isabella Purpari, Beatrices sister. She is 22 and moved out of the house more than 6 years ago because of the situation at home. It amazes us how we can feel so much love and concern for someone we barely met. We walked to the beach and sat down and talked about her life. She wants to return to church but is finding it hard to figure people for some things in the past. We are very grateful she is so open with us and wanting to make changes in her life. She has changed her mind about the Sisters. She hadn't wanted to meet with us because she didn't want to be pushed to go to church, but she said she's glad now that we are meeting with her :) On our way home, we stopped and did weekly shopping and ate half a kilo of prunes on our way home. I won't go into detail, but we are never doing that again!

Tonight, we are having a dinner at our house for the Relief Society anniversary. I wish Grandma were here to help! We are the ones putting it together because no one else takes the initaitive to do branch activities. Out of all the Italians who could make pasta, WE are providing the pasta. Pray that Sorella Olsen will be able to recall something she learned during her cooking internship in Siena!

Today is the 150 anniversary of Italia being united! It's really neat seeing all the flags from the balconies. Everyone has stuck out Sicilian flags as well; Sicilians are such proud people.

Mom, I gave Maria Purpari the letter you wrote her. We've been waiting for the right moment and it was the right moment last week- she confuses us because she will say things like "Ive been waiting 30 years for an answer" and then "I know the Catholic Church is right for me because I feel satisfied when I go to mass"..... ai ai . We don't know what we can do for her.

Francesca is going through a really tough time right now and doesn't want to see any of the members. Angela is the only one she will let into the house. I heard that Laurent, my miracle man in Florence, was offended and doesn't want anything to do with the church.
These are the things that make a mission tough. Seeing people make decisions without keeping in mind eternal perspective and how that will affect them and their families in the eternal sense.

We do not know much of what is going on in Japan, but we heard that all the missionaries are safe. What an incredible miracle. Presidente Portera spoke on Sunday about how we should not fear, but we should prepare. 2 Timothy 1:7 reads "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".
I know that is why we need the Gospel in our lives. That is why we need a living Propeht, the scriptures, the commandments. So that we can have peace of mind in all the things we affront (face?) in life.
I am grateful for the peace and healing the Gospel brings.

Sorella Urban

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