Friday, June 30, 2017

2017-06-28 Carla, Lolita, Matteo

Hello tutti!

This week has been another work of miracles and working through the hours of blank schedules to be able to find them. I will focus on three main miracles - all having to do with investigators!

So first, Carla. Carla is mid-thirties and wants to be baptized (yes!)....that's kind of it, we have an investigator who wants to be baptized. This is a miracle for missionaries, ok?? 
Carla has been being taught for years, she originally met the church through the free English class we do. The cancer her younger sister got recently has caused her to become closer to the church and often shows up to church and English class late because she was with her sister but expressing to us, "I wasn't going to come but I just felt a real need, I just need to come." She is so real, she totally gets it. She works at a conservatory of music and is super sharp, so she's awesome. She's the sort of person who will get baptized on her own, on her own time, she just needed simply to be taught things that her church hadn't taught her and then she took that and ran. Anyways, we're not able to see her this week but definitely next week and hopefully in the next few weeks she will be baptized. I made a crazy promise to my mission President when I got the call to come here that there would be a baptism, I think this could be her!

Next, Lolita!! K we need to thank our Anziani for all the work they've done because a lot of this we just walked into without having done anything to prepare these people. Instead, the Anziani have had a couple lessons with Lolita and handed her off to us bc she is a woman. She's from Madagascar and her and her daughter, who is Calabria now, have been meeting with the missionaries recently. The cool thing is that we've never met her, from as far as we could tell the daughter was more into the church than the mom, and we weren't even really sure we would get to see her on Sunday when we did.
But, we went over to her house, chatted with her a little bit, said the opening prayer, finished the prayer and sat in silence for a good 3 minutes while she cried. Finally we asked her, "what are you thinking Lolita? Happy thoughts or sad thoughts?" Hahaha. Well, she said she was so touched that we went out and visited her when everyone else in the world is taking a nap on Sunday afternoon. She said she had been making excuses to not come to church but that she knew she needed to go this next Sunday.
Well, we could have ended there! "Yes Lolita, you do. We know that coming to church this Sunday is the right thing to do and will bless your life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." I mean, honestly. We didn't even teach anything, the Spirit did everything. We barely even used words! Incredible. Anyways, no, we did teach her. We read Alma 32 with her which talks about faith and how her praying and coming to church will prepare her to be baptized, which she also said she would do when her daughter gets back from Calabria!! Che incredibile!!

And finally, Matteo. Wow. Matteo is quite the miracle. So, we met him finding 1.5 weeks ago with our member friend. Meno male we brought a member with us!! Members change everything!! He stopped our member, asked us about the name tags, we get to talking. He's an older Italian guy which, if you know anything about older Italian guys, means that instead of a 30 second explanation of who we are and an invitation to know more, we actually ended up sitting there with him for 20 minutes while he told us his life story and we ended the whole thing by playing the violin for him and offering to bring him a Bible. Anyways, I mentioned that all last week. So after that we brought him the Bible! And the Book of Mormon! And he gave us ice cream! Said he would come to church!!! Look, this is not super mega rare in Italy but it is kind of rare! Lots of times people will tell us that they will come because it's good to learn about other churches but that's it and often they don't come. 
But Matteo totally came! He came and the members were so nice and the Anziani's investigator also came for the first time ever and Carla also came so we had THREE investigators in church!! How dope is that? So we got to see Matteo again yesterday but this time it was with Francesca. Guys, I swear to you, the Spirit was so strong that we could have given him a bap date right then if it wasn't that we were mega short on time and already running late. A bap date! To an old Italian catholic man! And his wife who both said they want to come to church! So many cool things happened in that lesson. They ate up Francesca's testimony on the Word of Wisdom (we asked her to bare her testimony on the Book of Mormon but ok hahaha), they talked about how they felt something different in all the times they've met with us or come to church, and he said he'd already been reading the Book of Mormon!! What the heck?? But in my opinion, one of the coolest parts was when they were expressing a desire to come to work but he works often on Sunday. He had mentioned this several times, which is often unavoidable, but then for some reason it came to the surface that he has to actively seek opportunities to work and that includes on Sunday. SO we were able to make him a super cool promise that if he puts God first and sets that time aside to come to church on Sunday, their lives will be blessed.
They said yes! Guys the Spirit is so real because literally they know so little about our church (bc they're Italian so it's hard to say anything bc they are typically doing the talking so, seriously, we haven't taught anything yet haha) but they're already letting the Spirit into their hearts and are repenting, coming closer to God, without even really understanding why!! It's so so cool and this is truly how I know that God is there because I've never seen his body with my eyes but I've felt the Spirit burn inside of me and I know that He is there.

Lots of other things happened too this week but you're a champ for making it this far so I'll end here! I love you all so much! Have a good week!

🇮🇹 Transfer 12 with Sorella Hurst 🇮🇹

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017-06-21 Busy Week in Ancona

Ciao a tutti! From Ancona!

Probably few to none of you have heard of Ancona before. This is also evident based on how few American tourists there are here compared to Florence. #blessed. The few who come, come to bum out on the beach. It's a beach town.

I will give you a bullet-point run-down of this week! I'm sure you're all dying to hear what it has been like being the first Sorelle in this city ever!

- got off the train Thursday , Anziani were there to meet us and took us to our apartment which used to be the senior couple missionary's apartment's really nice ;)
- we have no phone!
- did grocery shopping
- went to English class and met some of our potentials and our one investigator who is close to being baptized
- lots of people we talk to do recognize the fact that we are the first women missionaries they've seen here. Pretty much everyone has seen the Anziani over the course of 40 years being here

- Friday, we did weekly planning with the Anziani because we know no one and nothing
- went and passed by a member and got to know her, Violeta
- met with our branch president during missionary correlation! He's got some big ideas! He's from the filippines and is super..........
- hung out with branch president's filippino friends and in their daughter's beauty parlor and some random Italian girls who were there, too. Got home at 10:30pm
but, we gave out two book of Mormons and they all wanted to come to this activity we have planned! And we got several numbers!

Saturday, we worked on filling out a map of the members because there's 100+ inactive members and like, 20 active :(
- tried to meet up with a member, without a phone
- ended up at the wrong bar and waited for her on the beach for :30 until we had to leave
- met with a different member who can't come to church because she works on Sunday. She has a really strong testimony, and also no shame in showing us her kidney stone that she keeps in a little bottle on her armadio
- ate some food in a train station while we kept working on the map and then went home

Sunday!! Got called as relief society president! I have no idea what I'm doing! Also, the lady we tried to see when we didn't have a phone is my counselor! And this other Violeta, who is Mexican. Very interesting and still have no idea what I'm doing. I'm thinking I should meet with them. So...I'll try to do that
- went home to help me relieve some stress because we also were called to be activity coordinators and primary teachers. O! I thought I was a missionary! Haha just kidding. We knew this could happen because it's a really small branch so we will do whatever president asks us to do.
- had a DOPE finding experience! It was a long story getting there but there's a couple American guys here, one of whom is a RM who served in Ancona. Them and the Anziani and us and an Italian member sister went finding at this big monument on the seaside. They played cards with some Italian kids to get in with them and we (meaning my comp and this member) played the violin while I tried to contact people. Talked to a couple of really cool younger people! Both men! It's so much easier for Anziani to find girls who are interested and vice versa. I wonder why! Anyways it was so cool for our member. She was like, "I've never seen an evening like this with the missionaries. I need to stop having miracles!" Because she was feeling the Spirit so strong haha. After, she took us in her car up to a cathedral on a hill and we watched the sun set over the ocean

~~fun fact! Ancona is one of the only cities in the world where the sun rises and sets on the ocean~~

Monday, we planned a little in the morning and finished up our map. Then, after lunch, we had an appointment with an investigator. We're probably going to drop her next time. Sometimes it's just really, really obvious when someone's not ready to accept the gospel. 
- did a bunch of pass-by's and tons of walking! Not much came from that other than a cute little Peruvian lady saw us, told us her brother is Mormon, and asked us if we could come over and teach her. Ummm no (jk, YES)

Tuesday we mostly spent in Rimini because we had a beginning-of-the-transfer meeting so I got to meet the whole zone. I've always thought the Rimini zone must be tight because it's so small and I was right! I got to meet the entire zone in one day and it did feel like we were all homies. Really good trainings, one of which on positivity which I think will be one of my last goals for the mission is to practice positivity and not wearing my emotions on my sleeve.
- after that meeting when we got home, we successfully obtained a Bible to give to a catholic man who has never read the Bible (most here haven't) and went to English class. There, we met with one of our investigators Carla who is close to baptism. We will see her next Thursday
- And we finally have a phone! We can start moving down our list of all the people we need to call and maybe actually be able to see them! How exciting is that!

Anyways, today we are going to San Marino which you can google. I'm loving this city and my companion and this transfer. Here's hoping the miracles keep coming. Have a good week, all.

🇮🇹 Transfer 12 with Sorella Hurst 🇮🇹

(no pictures sent this week)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2017-06-14 Leaving Florence, Off to Ancona

I'm leaving! In few words, I have been in Florence for 5.5 months now and have been reassigned. It's a little city with a little church and President is really excited to see what happens. I'm excited, too! Tomorrow morning bright and early I will leave to go meet my new companion, a sister I actually used to do exchanges with here. She's done half of her mission and is a really good egg. I have one transfer left, which translates to six weeks. On July 28 I go home.

Me ne vado! In poche parole, sono stata a Firenze da 5,5 mesi ora e sono stata riassegnata. È una piccola città con una piccola chiesa e Presidente e emozionato di vedere cosa succederà. Anch'io sono emozionata! Parto presto domani mattina ad incontrare la mia nuova collega, infatti una sorella con cui ho fatto degli scambi qui. Ha fatto una metà della sua missione ed è molto brava (in inglese diciamo una uova brava, non so perché). Io ho un trasferimento ancora, che sono sei settimane. Il 28 luglio vado a casa.

There's been so much that's happened over the course of four transfers. I started with the amazing and wonderful Sorella Garcia. She is from Argentina originally but lives in Rome. She's the epitome of relaxed. She was an example to me of having fun and working hard. I love her and miss her a lot, she taught me a lot of things and was always there for me when I needed to be cheered up.

C'è stato così tanto che è successo durante questi quattro trasferimenti. Iniziai con la fantastica e molto brava Sorella Garcia. Lei viene originalmente dal'Argentina ma vive a Roma. È l'epitome di scialla. Era un esempio per me di divertirsi ma anche lavorare duro. Le voglio bene e mi manca, mi ha insegnato tante cose ed era sempre lì per me quando avevo bisogno di un 'tiramisù' (non il dolce, tipo, letteralmente).

Then I got Sorella Smedley! She's one transfer behind me and has literally been following me around my entire mission, thank goodness! We've had very similar missions and became good friends, so I was interested to see how it would be being her companion. It was everything and nothing like I expected! But I'm glad for our two transfers together.

Poi, ricevei la Sorella Smedley! È un trasferimento in dietro di me e mi ha seguito per tutta la missione, meno male! Abbiamo fatto missioni molto simili e siamo diventate tante amiche, quindi mi interessava sapere come sarebbe essere la sua collega. Era tutto e nulla come aspettavo! Ma sono grata dei nostri due trasferimenti insieme.

In short, nearing the end of the mission (but not having reached it yet!!), it's been interesting to notice how much missionary work helps me. Teaches me. When I first noticed it, I thought it was a concentrated effort on God's part to teach me some cool, useful lessons considering I'm trying to help His sheep. But more recently, I've realized that the lesson-learning isn't a concentrated effort on God's part as much as it is a natural consequence of helping others walk the path that leads back to God. 

Insomma, avvicinandomi alla fine della missione (senza esserci arrivata ancora!!), è stato interessante notare come la missione aiuta a me. Insegna a me. Quando lo notai all'inizio, pensai che fosse una sforza concentrata da parte di Dio di insegnarmi delle lezioni forti, utili, visto che mi sto sforzando di aiutare le Sue pecore. Ma più recentemente, mi sono resa conto che l'apprendimento delle lezioni non è una sforza concentrata da parte di Dio quanto è una conseguenze naturale perché aiuto gli altri a camminare sulla via che ci conduce di nuovo a Dio.

First of all, I've learned that ugly dogs are often the cutest (Ciocurro). I learned how to straighten my companion's hair without burning her. I've learned that Florence is really hot in the summer. I finally learned to use a certain kind of conjugation. I've learned that Sorella Smedley doesn't like seafood, and that the only thing cooler than the Davide is the massive skeleton hiding out on the edge Florence. I also learned how to do my own graffiti tag from my Bishop.

Per iniziare, ho scoperto che i cani brutti spesso possono essere i più carini (Ciocurro(?!)). Ho imparato come fare la piastra ai cappelli della mia collega senza bruciarla. Ho imparato che Firenze davvero fa caldo d'estate. Ho imparato finalmente come usare passato remoto (hai visto??). Ho imparato che a Sorella Smedley veramente non piace frutta del mare, e che l'unica cosa più fico del Davide è lo scheletro gigante nascosto sulle confine di Firenze. Ho anche imparato come fare il mio proprio tag di graffiti dal mio Vescovo.

But the more important lessons I've learned are that God's plan is imperfect to the eyes of humans...because we are imperfect. I've learned that pride is difficult to notice within ourselves, especially when that pride exists because we want what's best for others but we don't know the best way to get it. I've learned that without the Spirit, we cannot convert. And I've learned that not many people have ears tuned to hearing it, and many others choose to ignore it. 

Ma le lezioni più importanti che ho imparato sono che il piano di Dio è imperfetto agli occhi degli umani...perché siamo noi che siamo imperfetti. Ho imparato che l'orgoglio viene notato difficilmente in noi stessi, sopratutto quando quel orgoglio esiste perché vogliamo bene agli altri ma non sappiamo il modo migliore per adempiere questo. Ho imparato che senza lo Spirito, non possiamo convertire. E ho imparato che sono poche le persone che hanno le orecchie sintonizzate a sentirlo, e tante altre scelgono di ignorarlo. 

In reference to the subject line of this email, "the cemetery of the elephants," you know how when elephants die, they leave their herd and go into the distance to die alone? Yeah, President has sent me to the farthest corner of the mission to die (or, as Sorella Allen prefers, 'twinkle'). You can find me in Ancona, an awesome place for working until my allotted time is up. I will work like an elephant! With strength and diligence and patience and remembering well of my Creator with every step I take. I love you all! Write me if you have any questions, thoughts, updates on Michael Phelps, etc.

In tanto riguardo al titolo di questa email, sapete quando gli elefanti muoiono, come lasciano la mandria prima e si trovano lontani e in solitudine? Sì, Presidente mi ha mandato al angolo più lontano della missione per 'morire.' Potrete trovarmi ad Ancona, un ottimo posto per lavorare finché il mio tempo distribuito non finisca. Lavorerò come un elefante! Con forza e diligenza e pazienza, ricordandomi bene di mio Creatore con ogni mio passo. Vi voglio bene! Scrivetemi se avete delle domande, dei pensieri, o aggiornamenti su Michael Phelps, etc.

Florence Missionaries 
Saying Goodbye to Friends

No idea what prompted this

Jill is on her last Transfer chair.

Sorella's she served with 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

2017-06-07 Tons Happened

Wow, we had a great week! It's funny, truthfully day-to-day is pretty hard but every Wednesday when I write this email I'm like, "wow, tons happened!" So I try to focus on the positives because every week I get this reminder that lots of miracles do happen. Maybe not every minute, but every hour and every day and every week until it adds up to make my mission just a sack of miracles.

So, let's see, some not-so-cool things happened like getting three bidones (last-minute cancellations) in one day, but they were made up for by three other awesome lessons! 

First, a less-active girl (the one we took to the gelato festival a few weeks back), called us! Cheers to chilling with people at gelato festivals during proselyting hours because friendships! So she called us because she knew we wanted to see her and told us she was free the next day and we could come over (FYI: this NEVER happens). So we went over and the two active members she's living with were also there and helped us with the lesson! This girl works with kids who come from rough homes - just like her - and we did a really cool teaching technique. We had her write down all the feelings she feels for these kids she works with. She wrote a big range of emotions and then we asked her when she feels the negative and positive emotions. We were able to compare this to God and how He feels the same way. The Spirit was super strong and whereas at first the active members were just kind of wandering around the house (dang it!) they were like, drawn in by the Spirit and said some really cool, relevant things. So at the end of the lesson the Spirit was so strong that we asked this completely inactive girl to start praying every day, reading the Book of Mormon every day, and to come to stake conference on Sunday, and she said yes to all three things!! We as missionaries are literally nothing, we need the Spirit to be able to function as good teachers.

Another experience with the Spirit is we went to visit another less-active who does come to church sometimes. We visit her a fair amount because she had depression so she needs someone to get her out of the house sometimes and thinking positive thoughts and feeling the Spirit. But the last two lessons I've sort of felt like inviting her to go to the temple...I didn't do it the first time but this last lesson my companion also mentioned that we should talk to her about the temple. So, we texted our bishop to see when the next ward trip is to go up to the temple in Switzerland (this isn't Utah, folks) and to see what he thinks. He responds and says he's already been doing temple prep with her to get her ready to take out her endowments (Another type of ordinance and covenant that members of the church take upon themselves in addition to baptism and confirmation of the Holy Ghost)! 
No way!
We literally had no clue about this. The Spirit just guided us! It's so cool! We showed up at the lesson and started talking about temples and she asked us if bishop had been talking to us about how she's getting ready to go. When we told her no, she just sat there stupefied. The Spirit was present for that lesson as well, my friends.

The last experience was with our investigator, Carolina! She's the niece of a member here. She has a little boy named Christian and a boyfriend :) so we've been teaching her for a little bit and she's just accepted things really easily...but we could tell she hasn't really been feeling it yet. She just sort of, "uh-huh. Ok." 
But she came to church last week! With her boyfriend! And she liked it! I think it was definitely a game-changer. But anyways, we had been planning on teaching her about baptism and confirmation but the same day we were going to teach her, in the middle of studies, we both really felt like we had to switch our focus to repentance.
Guys, it was an amazing lesson! She wasn't just "uh-huh-ing," she was totally into it. We asked her if she's ever stopped doing something she knew was bad for her and she said that she used to have friends that were bad influences on her so she stopped hanging out with them. We asked her if it was hard at first and she said yeah because she felt alone and stuff, but we told her by the smile on her face that she was glad she made that choice and she said yeah. We told her that she's already started changing because she's praying now and reading the scriptures a tiny bit. We then talked about being forgiven and if she's ever needed to ask for forgiveness and she said yeah. We talked about how we feel right before and right after we do it. So bad then so, so good! We told her that to receive full forgiveness for our sins, we need to be baptized. She has said no in the past but...this time, after a long silence during which she physically squirmed because she knew she was feeling the Spirit, she subtly nodded her head "YES!" She has a bap date of July 1!

So cool!! So, we didn't have tons of lessons but we have been trying to pray more often and be more guided and it's totally working!! We've definitely seen the blessings of not following our own logic but following the plan of God, a plan that doesn't always have sense to us right now but always works out in the end.

This Saturday I will receive my last transfer call of the mission...after this, it's homeward bound...will I stay in Firenze for five transfers, or will I be transferred out to a different city to die? Stay tuned! We'll find out next week!

🇮🇹 Transfer 11 with Sorella Smedley 🇮🇹

Martha's Note - see bottom picture of map for Jill's new area

New Area - Ancora!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

2017-05-31 Life Changing

Sorry I didn't send my parents anything last week - it was a good week and this last one was pretty 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼 as well :)

Hey so look, I really just want to share an experience with you that has really changed life, my perspective on pretty much everything.

I first off want to say that God has been nourishing and tending to my little testimony always in the most perfect way. Just, from the beginning of my mission until now and I'm sure until the end of my mission (I'm assuming also after??), He's given me the right trials and the right companions and experiences and everything in just the right moment to the point that I seriously do feel like a rough stone that got pushed down a hill and I'm gonna be super polished when I get to the bottom - not because I'm awesome at all! I'm saying God is awesome. Because without even wanting it or willing it or expecting it, my mission has polished me in real and specific ways right when I needed it and they're changes I'll carry with me forever.

So, this week was one of those instances. Something I've been finding out a lot these last 9 weeks is that I'm a perfectionist. I like things done perfectly. Now, I know perfectly well that my way is not always perfect but...when I think things should be done a certain way, I really don't understand why it should be done any other way! In other words, I have a very low level of trust in others and like things to always be in my hands. I've realized this because my companion is exactly like me. Don't you think it's perfect that I'm learning this lesson right before I go home and have to face the stress of college? Yeah, help me, Lord (He did).

So I have a hard time trusting my companion's opinion but an even harder time trusting God's. Why? A myriad of reasons. Because maybe I don't trust spiritual promptings always/am not close enough to God therefore don't have a super close relationship with Him, because I have had a vision of missionary perfection that I've created for myself that isn't necessarily bad but also isn't perfect, and other things. 

This week was an instance where I had a vision of perfection, I wanted it my way, and didn't trust that God maybe had a different plan in mind. 
The scene: two days before an exchange with some Sorelle from another city
The problem: nobody is available to see us and we have like one appointment and 24 hours with two companionships. I started to think, "maybe God doesn't want us to have appointments!"
The solution: stressing out and busting my hump trying to call every person under the sun who I have ever met so that we can get more appointments for this scambio
Now, you have to understand that I was doing this because I wanted this Sorella to have a good, uplifting scambio and not because I wanted her praise. I seriously just felt bad if she was gonna come and we'd have to do finding for 24 hours. Poor girl! So I had righteous intentions but I didn't realize that God's plan was more perfect.

I finally find an appointment. It's with a less-active. I didn't feel any particular need to see her, I just took a shot in the dark and she was finally the person that said yes. Good. Pday ends. I get on the tram with my scambio companion to head out to our appointment. On the way out there, I find out all kinds of things about this sweet Sorella that I didn't know before. She has been going through an incredibly difficult time for the last five months. She cried a lot, and I cried some, too. She told me she was considering heading home. I confessed to her that I had had an insane amount of difficulty finding appointments for this scambio and... that I was right. God didn't want us to have appointments and I was too hard-headed to have asked Him what He wanted. She didn't need to teach people, she needed to go home and chill out after one of the most emotionally draining days of her mission. We got off the bus and I asked her if she wanted to go home as we walked to our appointment. She said yeah, so we did, and I cancelled that appointment that I hard-headedly made at the last minute. She found an answer to her prayers, made a decision, and I am happy for her and that she's peaceful now.

There's a lot of things this taught me. Above all, it taught me to include God more often when I form opinions of perfection. Who would have thought that a scambio without appointments would be perfection?? But it was.

The coolest blessing of me being polished is getting to share my experiences with others. Not only is God teaching me this lesson right when I need to, but He put someone in my path who needed to learn the same lesson right after I did. Yesterday, we were at the house of a family of members. We shared a message with them on missionary work. The whole lesson was sort of awkward and strained and also way too long haha, but at the end of it the mother of this family starts talking to us about how bad she feels since her and her husband have had to start working sometimes on Sunday and they feel like they're becoming less-active. So random! So, I was able to share this experience with her that our idea of perfection isn't God's. If He knows you can't make it to church, but that you are trying, he will tell you if that is "perfect" or not. When I told her this, the Spirit was so strong. At the closing prayer, she thanked God because we were an answer to her prayers.

God is so great!! I just think this is a way cool experience and I want you to know that my mission has just been peppered with experiences like this right since the beginning. Trust more in the Lord, pray to Him more often and with more intent, and don't be so fixed on what you think perfection is because frankly, despite however much we think we know, we don't know everything yet. 😉 thanks for sticking with me to the end of this crazy long blog post and I hope you have a good week!!

P.s. Shoutout to Fratello Walden, congratulations on meeting the love of your life! ❤

So - Italy is the fashion capital of the world, right?


Missionary Work Does Not Stop for Hunger

Ward Activity - Graffiti Art 

The Sisters