Friday, October 4, 2013

Crying at this Internet Point

...the happy kind of crying ... for multiple reasons.  

First of all because the owner is playing Coldplay and Bon Iver and my heart is so happy and I'm distracted because I just want to listen, and secondly because it really is so great to hear from you guys and hear about silly little things and bigger greater things! 

(Dev and Di are pregnant! AHH YEAHH I didn't know!  I literally said yesterday, "NOW people can start getting pregnant because I'll be getting home about when they have babies.") 

So I'm happy happy happy. 

Have I Done Any Good?
This week has been kind of a roller coaster week for me.. just emotionally.  I realized that I am coming up on my half-way mark and was thinking, 

"What have I done so far?"  "What miracles have I seen?"   

President has been really pushing to have higher expectations for baptisms and I started to really get down on myself for still not having any baptisms.  I've always been really hard on myself, but this week I was especially hard on myself, feeling like I wasn't living up to my own expectations. 

I know it's not all about baptisms, so it wasn't just that, I was just feeling like I wasn't good enough.  As a missionary, negative thoughts like that just keep working on you to weaken your faith.  So I was having a couple of hard days and wasn't feeling the spirit in the work (which only made it worse).  

Where Do I Turn?
One of the good things about being cut off from the world is that when you have a problem like that, you really only have one person to turn to:  Heavenly Father.  I can't turn to my music, or my blog, or my best friends, or my family.  So you turn to the scriptures and prayer.  

I felt impressed that what I needed to do was to continue working on exact obedience (sometimes I fall asleep in my prayers and miss 15 min of my work out.. oops) and looking for small miracles every day. 

As I started to reflect on the small miracles every day, the Lord really showed me in small ways that I am doing good, and that I am having success, and that miracles take time and faith and that they will come. 

One of the elders got an email about some mission in California that now has the iPads and they are skyping members into their lessons and having 80 lessons and week.  I told Sorella Foster, 

"It's like we are the handcart company among a group of saints and the others are crossing the West in jet planes.

We still use paper maps and get lost and are lucky to have 8 lessons in a week.  

Greater Faith
Then we started watching 17 Miracles again before bed and there is a part at the end where a man from the handcart company says that even though it wasn't the most efficient way and it was much harder than for the other saints,  they grew closer to the Lord and saw greater miracles because they had to show greater faith.  

Anyway, that's just a long way of me explaining that even though I had a hard time, I feel like that Lord has been closer to me and helping me to see the miracles in my work here. 

Weekly Miracles
So.. I thought I'd continue to share the miracles that I've seen here this week--

Anna got baptized!  The sisters were working with Anna before we came here, so the elders just finished up her last lessons before her baptism.  But we got to work with her a little and we are now teaching her daughter.  

Her baptism was so sweet and special.  She was very excited and all her kids came.   The bishop talked about them following the example of their mother and the great gift they gave her in supporting her in her baptism.  

She is friends with a family in the ward, and a couple days later Fratello Di Cosimo calls and tells us that the OTHER daughter (the one we haven't been teaching) wants to get baptized too.  I was so shocked because she had seemed so hesitant.   

We started teaching her when we first got here and she wasn't really sure if she wanted to keep meeting with us.   Now she wants to get baptized.  So we are going to start meeting with her more seriously, which we are way excited about. 

We had a lesson with another investigator.  The sisters have been meeting with her for about a year (Sorella Cojan, my trainer, found her doing casa in casa when she served here) and she has never committed to a baptismal date.  

Well Sorella Foster and I have this goal to get ALL our investigators baptismal dates... which was scary for Maria (this investigator) because she specifically told us before that the sisters have tried to give her a date before and she would never agree to one.  

BUT the spirit in the lesson was super strong as we talked about faith in Jesus Christ.   At the end of the discussion, we asked her to set a goal to be baptized the 24th of November and she said YES!  

We were so shocked!  She still has a lot of progress to make, but she really opened up to us about her fears and why she hadn't been progressing in the past.  So now we can really plan our lessons to help with her concerns.  We were so so so excited. 

We went and saw another investigator (kind of) named Patrizia who literally calls us 15 times a day to see us.  She lives in a home for the mentally handicapped, and Sorella Caramia told me that they go to see her once a month to give her a Liahona magazine.  

I was kind of unenthusiastic about going because I felt like we could be doing other things and it takes a long time to get there.  Anyway, it turned out to be a really good experience.  

She was so sweet and was so excited for us to come and read from the Liahona together and she asked if she could give a copy of the Book of Mormon to another friend who lives there.  So she gave it to this old man with no teeth and he was so excited to have his own copy.  

It doesn't seem like a huge miracle, because none of them can really get baptized, but there was such a sweet spirit there.   You just knew how happy they were to read the scriptures and have us there that day. 

We went and saw a less-active and when we got there, there was another member there!  She is the sweetest lady... 85 years old and can't walk because she has bad back problems.  She was one of the first converts here in Italy in the 70s.  

We had a sweet lesson with them and this less-active sister bore her testimony of how she felt when she was baptized and how she knew it was true.  

Then we got to walk this sweet member lady home because she can't do it alone.  She just kept making me laugh because she would say things like, 

"Every day I just wake up and I'm like 'Really? Why am I still here?'  I'm so ready to be over there."

She doesn't say it in a sad, depressing way, more like a "I guess I have more to do" sort of way. 

We visited this cute Peruvian member living here in Rome and she kept mixing up Spanish and Italian words, which made me laugh.  We had a sweet lesson with her and she shared her conversion story and about how badly she wishes her family were members of the church.  

It's always a blessing to meet with the members and remember how blessed we are to have the fullness of the gospel.  It's amazing to hear the changes that these members have made in their lives and the sacrifices that they've done in order to have the gospel.  

There were a couple of small miracles from that day, just from people we met on the bus or in the street asking for directions.   Later I had the impression that it was important for us to meet them... even if they were tourists or had no apparent interest.

streets of Rome

AND Yesterday:   Yesterday morning we did finding in my new favorite park, Villa Ada... seriously SO beautiful.  I told Sorella Foster,  

"I REALLY want to teach about the Restoration in this park."  

 "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun
 which descended gradually until it fell upon me." JSH 1:16

It's so beautiful and they have these HUGE trees that are filled with light.. perfect place to tell Joseph Smith's story.  

So we talked to one couple and they weren't interested.   Then I saw these two ladies and they looked super intimidating, so I'm like, "Yeah, I've got to go talk to them."  

So we did and one said, "Well, I'm an atheist so I'm not interested."  

But her friend said that she would listen to us, so we talked about the Book of Mormon and how it answers life questions like:  

"Why are we here?" and "Where are we going?

We bore our testimonies and it was really perfect.  There are some moments where you can tell they probably aren't going to accept the missionaries or the gospel, but you know you are still supposed to be there anyway.  That's how it was with these two women. 

The first lady then opened up to us and said she was atheist because she felt like God had never answered her prayers and that her church had never helped her in her times of need.  The spirit was so strong as we talked testified that God does know her and he does answer her prayers.  

Then we even got to teach them about the Restoration because of other questions they had.  It was a beautiful small answer to my wish.  

They didn't express any interest to meet us again or to know more, but we did tell them about the temple that they are building by the mall. 

Rome Temple construction with the mall in the background

They said that there aren't Mormons in Italy, and I said, "Umm, yes there are.  In fact, they are building a temple here in Rome by the mall.")  So now every time they go to the mall, they will see the temple and will remember the truths we told them. 

Final miracle:  I got a letter from Maria Rita in the mail!  She explained how much Sorella Nef and I have touched her life and how she is still praying to know if she should be baptized on Oct. 13th.  It was a sweet reminder that I am doing my part, and I am helping people, and that the Lord is proud of me. 

Attitude of Gratitude
I'm grateful for difficult times, because without difficulty we have no chance to show our faith.  I'm grateful for the JOY that comes from bearing my testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, and that it is only in this church that we have the fullness of Christ's gospel.  

I'm grateful to be a missionary. 

I'm also grateful for strawberry grapes... that they exist and that they are grapes that taste like strawberries. 

By the way, I hit 8 months this week. so weird. Also general conference is this weekend!  IT'S LIKE CHRISTMAS.  Seriously, I love conference on the mission.  It's weird that I only have ONE more after this one. 

Anyway. out of time again.  Thanks for all your love and support and your prayers.  It means the world to me and gives me a great strength. 

thank you thank you thank you. 

With love from Rome, 
Sorella O'Connor 

(Email Sent - October 2, 2013)

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