Friday, June 21, 2013

Errand of Angels

How she writes it...
(photo cred:  Dylan Ross Lamb)
I don't even know where to begin with this week.  Seriously it's been so crazy.  Mostly crazy good, but also some just weird crazy. 

So Thursday we started our first real work day without Sorella Cojan, which was just weird.  But the Sassari Sorelle came down because they were here to pick up their new greenie from the airport. (They are doing what we did last transfer: being in a threesome with the trainer leaving the next transfer).  

Four Sorelle
It was really great to have them here because Sorella Winward served in Cagliari for three transfers before I got here.  She helped a ton, explaining certain people in the area book and giving us a whole list of people that she wasn't able to contact but that we could potentially go see and try to teach. 

Then they came back that night and said the new missionaries hadn't come and they were staying an extra day... and then the next day they came back from the airport again without the new missionaries.. and then they did the same thing again for the next day... seriously. 

for Three Days
Three days in a row the assistants had been so busy and all over the place getting transfers figured out (and getting the Kellys ready to leave and the new mission president ready to come) that they forgot to call us. 

THREE DAYS in a row they didn't tell us that there were problems and that they had to take a different flight.  Luckly they were able to come in Saturday night, but we literally spent Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday morning trying to figure out things to do and people to see with the Sassari sisters.  I felt bad because I could have planned a more productive workload for us if I had known we would be working with four all week.  But hey... we figured it out.

Strike Out
Also Friday we had a bus strike day which made us 20 min late to the ONLY appointment that we had scheduled for the week (a referral from the anziani) and she never answered her phone when we called to tell her we'd be late.  

So I was feeling prettttty awful when she wasn't there when we showed up.  AND I got a blister the size of Mount Everest having to run/walk there when we found out there were no buses.  

But it was still a good day because we had a lesson in the street on our way home.  I dont know what has happened to me, but I've become a lot more bold on my mission.  Like forcing people to pray with me in public kind of bold. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Saturday was a long day of finding.  We walked the entire perimeter of Quartu... LONG day.  On Saturdays and Sundays there is usually no one outside, so we just tried to find some ex-investigators and less actives and we ran into this girl named Anna.  

Finding Miracles
Finding her was pratically a miracle because she was the only one in the street where we were.  I stopped her to give her an English course pamphlet and she started telling us how she had met with the missionaries in the past and invited us over to her parents' house Tuesday morning!

Sunday we ran into a guy at the bus stop who is good friends with the Relief Society president in our ward, and he said that he was really interested in the things that Sorella Safina had been telling him. So that was ANOTHER potential we found in the middle of no where. 

Sunday night a member called and asked us to come to the Genealogy Center in the church.  There were two non-members there, and we were able to have a mini lesson with them (with a member there!) about genealogy and the importance of temples.

THEN... Monday DDM was canceled because our District Leader had to fly to Messina for permesso stuff, so we had a WHOLE day of finding to do. We decided to do a little park giro and we walked up to two women on a bench.  

Change of Countenance
As soon as we walked up, the older one groaned and rolled her eyes... until she heard "Facciamo un cordo d'inglese gratuito." which means, "Hey we do a free English course.  Then their faces lit up and they got all excited.  

Then they started asking who we were, and one thing led to another and they walked away with two copies of the Book of Mormon.  We walked away with a return appointment and two new investigators! 

Sorella Nef and I were Walking on Sunshine.  We literally had lost all investigators and we were starting from scratch with no trainer, and then out of the blue we had two new investigators! 

Then later that day a man who owns a jewlery shop in Quartu gave us his number and said to call him because he wanted to meet with us!  

Then we were looking for some ex-investigators to see if they had any interest in meeting with the missionaries again, and we met this cute old lady named Adele.  She was SO excited to see us.  She said missionaries hadn't come for 4 years and she had missed them.  

Errand of Angels
We think she is just really lonely, but she was really nice and kept calling us "angels."  Her sister called and she said, "I can't talk right now because I have two angels in my house."  

We had a little lesson with her about faith in Jesus Christ and she kept saying funny things like "Poverino, Gesu" which means "Poor Jesus..." and "I just want to go around and kiss every place where Jesus has walked, I just love him so much" was really entertaining.

THEN Yesterday we got TWO MORE investigators!  One is a woman from our English course. We met with her once in the past and talked about the Restoration and she really didn't seem like she had any interest.  I thought she was just meeting with us because she liked us as people and as her EC Teachers.  

Invitation Only
But Sorella Nef and I have been going through the 12-week program and checking our progress to see which of the points we weren't doing very well on. The one thing that I had never done on my mission was to extend the baptism invitation on the first or second lesson... I've actually never done it, ever.  So we made a goal to start being exactly obedient on every point.  

When we realized that, it meant we had to extend the baptism invitation to Rosella in our next lesson.  We were freaked out, haha, but we prepped ourselves and we prayed a WHOLE lot. The lesson was on the Plan of Salvation, and it couldn't have gone any more perfectly.  

It was so cool to feel the way that the Holy Ghost was guiding us to say what we were saying and inspiring her to share some really personal feelings with us.  When the time came for us to extend the baptismal commitment, it felt really natural.  Of course she was really hesitant and didn't say yes...but she didn't say no either.  

I just realized what exactly we are asking people to do and all the changes we are asking people to make as we meet with them.  Here, even if you aren't practicing your religion or even if you don't believe that church is right, it's still a cultural aspect that these people have had their whole lives.  A lot of people we talk to don't even know there are other options.  A lot of people know about Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses and that's it. 

Rosella asked me "So if I get baptized, does that mean I have to stop being (the religion I was raised in) and I have to be Mormon?" and I just said "Yes".  

Yes, that's what it means... you have to change your WHOLE life and everything you've known for 70 years.  BUT we promise blessings.  We testify that we know that our message is true.  We testify of the love Heavenly Father has for these people and how he wants them to have this eternal joy that is made possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fullness of that gospel is only found in this Church. 

Missionary work is so hard. We ask people to do really hard things.  But when you realize the importance of the gospel... when you realize that it's the only chance people have at eternal joy... when you know the peace that comes from the Gift of the Holy Ghost in your life... and when you love people enough to want them to have those same gifts that you enjoy, you realize that you have to ask them to do hard things.  

When you realize the real purpose of life and why we are here and where we are going, change and repentance are the most important things we are asked to do and the most important things we ask others to do.  So Rosella is still meeting with us and officially became an investigator, and I'm honestly just glad she didn't kick us out, haha.

Later that night we went to try to visit some people and no one was home and we still had an hour of work to do, so I thought of this man that Sorella Cojan and I had gone to see about a million times and he was ALWAYS busy.  I thought we should try him (mostly because he lives kind of far and we could take up the rest of the time with that.. bad, I know).  

What do we do now?
Then when we showed up, he let us in!  I was so shocked, I turned to Sorella Nef and said "Now what do we do?"  Turns out he has been reading the Book of Mormon we left and he is at Lehi's dream!  

WHAT?!  I had no IDEA where to begin, so I folllowed the advice of Elder Holland when he said "If you don't know what to talk about, talk about the Restoration."  So we did and we have a return appointment and I am still just shocked.

Fears Become Reality
Four investigators in two days.  I told Sorella Cojan before she left, "I'm not afraid to handle the rejection.  I've been dealing with that for 12 weeks.  I'm just afraid I won't know what to do if someone lets us in!".... Fears become reality over here in Cagliari..  Luckily they are good fears.  

We are growing a lot.  We are being incredibly blessed.  Thank you for all the prayers at home.  It really gives me comfort to know that I have so much support.  

Boy do I need it--Especially since the Pope announced he is coming to Cagliari in September and everyone is just beside themselves with excitement.  Wahoo.  

Anyway, my time ALWAYS goes too fast.  I'm just very grateful for the help of the Lord in this work.  My weaknesses have never been so apparent, but the guidance of the Lord has never been so strong either.

With Love from Cagliari,
Sorella O'Connor

(Email Sent - June 19, 2013)

Train or Be Trained

So Sorella Nef and I are taking on Cagliari together! 

In Charge
I'm really happy that I am staying here.  I had a little moment where I thought I might be transferred and I was really sad about leaving all my friends.  But alas, I have at least six more weeks!  Everyone told me that I would be finishing the training of Sorella Nef, and yet when the call came I still freaked out a little.

I was hoping for some comforting advice like, "President really feels that you are strong enough to do this." or "President received really strong revelation that..."  But no... all I get for comfort is, "First of all, we really have no other choice." haha. Thanks assistants!  

But really--There are SO many greenies and not nearly enough people to train them. There are 14 missionaries on the island and only 3 of them are older in the mission than I am.  

So Long, Cojan!
I was feeling pretty good about it until Sorella Cojan left yesterday.  I was really sad having her leave, more sad than I thought I would be.  

It was weird coming home without her and even weirder leaving that afternoon without her to guide us.  Not going to lie, I almost had a panic attack thinking that I was in charge of the work here in Cagliari.  There is so much to do and we are basically starting over in our teaching pool... again. 

Sorella Nef has been so patient with me and I am so glad that she is here.  She is a lot stronger than I am and she is patient with me while I'm still trying to figure things out.  

I've gained a lot of strength from my prayers.  I am so grateful for the knowledge that as long as I am trying my hardest, Heavenly Father will make up for my many weaknesses.  It's hard because I realize how important this work is and how much I want to be a good missionary.  

Knowing how many weaknesses you have and how often you fail makes it really difficult.  I always thought a mission was just physically demanding, but really it's ALL emotional exhaustion. Ahhh.

Retail Therapy
I'm feeling much better about it today (probably because I went to the Zara), 

But a few extra prayers our way can't hurt.  Like I said, I am so lucky to have Sorella Nef because she is very dedicated to the work and she makes up for a lot of the characteristics that I don't have.  Just check the news occasionally to make sure I haven't burned the city to the ground.

On a much more positive note... we had a really great final week with Sorella Cojan.  Everyone wanted to have us over, and we even were able to meet with some ex-simps and they said they want to start meeting with us again!  Also, all the members had us over for dinner.  Monday I literally ate myself sick.  

We had DDM and since two elders from my district were also leaving, everyone brought food.  Presidente Caravagna surprised us by bringing us food too. THEN we had  FHE with members, and I literally couldn't fit any more food in me.  I felt really rude telling them I couldn't eat any more, but it was physically impossible. It's a rough life.
District with Presidente Caravagna

One of the highlights was last week's p-day.  After I emailed, we met up with the elders and Walter (a member) and two English course students to do a hike to "The Devil's Saddle," which has this INCREDIBLE view of the city and the ocean.  

I took a million pictures but they really can't do it justice.  I've never been so tempted to go cliff diving.  

Doesn't it make you cry I can't get in that water?

No doubt I am coming back to Sardegna after the mission.  They have all these small hidden beaches that you can only get to by boat or by rock climbing down to them.  There is also an old watchtower from the 13th century that they used to look for invaders coming from Africa.  

Sandro took us up.  He is an English course student that lived in Miami for a while.  But he took us on the "path less traveled," which was really, really cool.
Kaitlin and Sandro

Other than that it was just a good week.  We got to visit a lot of the members, which was great for me because now I can remember everyones' names (that's how small the branch is).  I don't have Sorella Cojan to tell me what they are now that she is gone.  

Rafaella, one of my favorite simps that we visited before Slla. Cojan left

Also I am trying to learn piano a little bit for Relief Society.  Apologies to my piano teacher that I fired in middle school... should have stuck with that.

Sounds like life is beautiful in California. Please go to the beach for me... please please please.

With love from Cagliari,
Sorella O'Connor

(Email Sent - June 12, 2013)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Four Months! Scambi in Sassari

Ciao Ciao!

We have had a really busy week here in Cagliari, well actually not in Cagliari because we were able to do our first SCAMBI this week! (scambiare-exchange).  

Because the train schedules are so limited from Cagliari to Sassari, all three of the Cagliari sisters took the train to Sassari and we spent about two days there.  We left Thursday afternoon and took the three-hour train ride, which was absolutely beautiful. 

The countryside of Sardegna is amazing. They have tons of nuraghi (small stone castles) just scattered all over the green hills. 

The landscape of Sardegna is really diverse: it has beaches, valleys, and then mountains in the middle.  We saw much of it on this trip (except the beaches... which is the best part).  

Actually, we weren't able to see a ton on the way there, because we had two lessons on the train!  Slla. Cojan had one with a French tourist. 

 I tried to give him an English course flyer and he told me he was from France and I told him my companion was from France (all in Italian which he didn't understand, which explains the confused look he had on his face).   

Then Sorella Nef and I taught a woman sitting next to us on the train for about an hour about the Restoration.  She is (from another church) and pulls the whole "Yeah, just like (my) church" and we are all  "Yeah, actually not quite..."  

That's one of the most frustrating things about a lot of people here is that they agree with our message, but they think it's the same message as the their church.  I don't want to offend someone by telling them that they don't even know what their church preaches.  How do you do that politely?

We had a great time in Sassari.  It's a lot smaller than Cagliari, but it's also a lot older.  

Therefore it's much more like the Italy I imagined I would see from watching movies:  small alleyways and moss growing in the cobblestone streets... big piazzas with packs of old men sitting on pizzas boxes... tiny scooters whipping past you and the smell of fresh pizza in every corner with loud laughter echoing down the alley.  

It was magical... but at the end of the trip I was happy to be back in Cagliari. 

Weaknesses Can Become Strengths
I was lucky because I got to go to most of the lessons they had and didn't really have to do any finding.  I learned a lot about both my strengths and my weaknesses.  I have a lot I really want to work on and really no idea how to get there... so that just means a lot of praying to figure it out.  

Transfer Calls
I better learn fast, though, because we get transfer calls on Saturday and everyone thinks that I'll be staying in Cagliari to finish the training of Sorella Nef.  

That would be cool because I love Cagliari, and I really don't want to leave yet... but it's scary to think they will just leave me here to be in charge.  I'm definitely not that responsible yet.  

I just want to call President and say "Umm... are you aware that you are putting ME in charge of people's salvation and the training of a greenie?" (which I still happen to be myself until the next transfer starts.) 

I think that might put things into perspective.  But we will see when Saturday comes.

Comunque (anyway), some more highlights...

Death by Roller Bag
I had to use an old carry-on I found in the apartment which happened to be the WORST.  Imagine me trying to drag this thing down the street.  Everytime I'd cross a road with a bus coming, my suitcase would flip over and almost cause my death--but really funny looking back on it.

We met this old lady at the bus stop and talked to her for a while.  When we got on the bus, the kids in front of her whispered that we were Testimoni di Gehova and she started yelling at them saying that we weren't TGs, because if we were she would have been swearing at us. haha.  

Thanks for the publicity signora.

Awkward and Confused
We went to a Catholic baptism party on Sunday. Wahoo. One of the member's infant grandaughters had her baptism and she invited us over basically for support.  

It was super awkward because we just had Moroni 8:10-15 stuck in our minds and they were confused about why we were there.  But it turned out great because we got two appointments out of it!  

Also, the mom started breastfeeding her daughter at the party and Anziano Walker was seated right in front of her, so I just watched his reaction for a good five minutes as he tried to figure out how to place his body so he wouldn't see anything... soo funny.

Sweet Moment
I bore my testimony on Fast Sunday and one of the members came up to me and told me that he thinks I'll be a really good mom one day and have a really great family.  It was a really sweet moment.  He is really shy and never talks to anyone, so it was sweet of him to come tell me that. I love the members here.

Me and Sabrina.. one of the members that I always hang out with because she likes to practice her English...

Finding Miracles
Yesterday we had two miracles from our afternoon of finding!  We went and passed back that apartment where the kid answered the door in his underwear, and they let us in and we had a lesson with them!  

He was still really embarassed, so he stayed in his room hah but the rest of the family listened and seemed really interested.  Their older son said he wants to come to church on Sunday!  

We can't technically call them investigators because we need a specific return apointment for that and Italians hate making commitments to times, soooo... we'll see. They said we could come back though!  

The other miracle was a lesson with Ritta and Paolo.  We've stopped by their house a number of times and it's always been a bad time.  (We even left brownies in his mailbox when he went to the hospital, and they ended up sitting there for three days... ooops.) 

Anyway, they let us in and they both were there, and we had a lesson with them too!  He kind of made fun of us for the Word of Wisdom (which always comes up because everyone offers us coffee), but other than that he seemed pretty open.

Anyway.. another great week in Cagliari.

Hopefully I'll have another six more weeks at least, but we will see on Saturday!

With love from Cagliari,
Sorella OConnor

(Email Sent - June 6, 2013)