Christmas preparations at St. Peter's Square
This was a really good week to be a missionary. We got to see Carol four times this week! I'm obsessed with her. She loves Downton Abbey and Gossip Girl and Friends and I'm pretty sure we are soul sisters.
We had a really fun FHE with the Bosco family. They invited us over and we gave a spiritual thought about the Book of Mormon and we got to play with their two beautiful children.
Nativity Scene at a member's house
Then we had a lesson on Thursday and we invited Sorella Steurer to come with us (the Steurers work in the office, and since we teach in English we thought it would be a cool option for her to teach with us) and it went REALLY well. We taught the first part of the Plan of Salvation, and as we were teaching about the purpose of the Savior and his life on earth I felt impressed to talk about baptism.
Sorella Steuer (right) with Sister Ballard
So we read Jesus' invitation to be baptized in Third Nephi and it was so powerful.
We invited Carol to be baptized and she said she wants to but she is going to keep praying about it. There is no better spirit than when you are extending an invitation to follow the example of the Savior... especially when you love them so much. Then on Saturday there was a baptism for a little boy and we invited her to come and she did! Then we saw her again at church on Sunday.
My dream is to go to her baptism on Christmas -- celebrating the Savior's birth with a spiritual rebirth. What could be better?
We love seeing her so much. She is just one of those people that come prepared. Our ward mission leader saw her at church and was like, "Who is that? She just has this light about her." and she does. Anyway, enough about my girl crush.
Last pday Sorella Foster and I decided to try "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" because it seems like the Christmas thing to do... and so I asked this old Italian man how you eat them... and so he takes one in his hands, cracks it open, and starts to hand feed it to me haha. Then he went in for a "baccino" or to kiss me on the cheek and luckily I got away. Sorella Foster wasn't so lucky. He did the same thing to her and I just watched as he went in for it. so funny.
chestnuts roasted on an open fire
Sorella Foster has this funny face she makes when she is scared and doesn't know what to do. I just laugh (because it's funny) but it makes her mad. The only other times I've seen that face was when a member started breastfeeding during an appointment and another time when I made her sit by herself on the bus to talk to people and she got approached by a drunk guy... good times.
Tuesday we had an incredible specialized training with all the missionaries and I learned so much. We really focused on working in unity... as missionaries and with the members. At the end we did a nativity scene!
It was so great. It really brought the Christmas spirit. There is no better time of year to be a missionary.
Don't I Know You?
Also I saw this Italian lady who reminded me SO much of Ashley's mom... so I just HAD to talk to her. It felt like I was just sharing the gospel with someone I know.
We did a lot of finding this week because we made a goal to get 20 lessons (because I'm competitive and want to do whatever the Milan missionaries are doing). So we had a lot of other lessons and miracle people that had tons of great questions and seemed so interested... but none of them really made any sort of progress.
Ready for Happiness
That's why I really want to focus on working more with our members: because they can be an extra support that we can't be as missionaries. A lot of times members have a fear of doing missionary work because they feel their friends aren't "ready"... when in reality everyone is ready.
All we are doing is inviting them to make changes that will make them happier. We are inviting them to come to know why they are here and how they can fulfill their purpose. Maybe they aren't ready to make all of those changes at once.. no one is. If that was the qualification, we wouldn't have need for missionaries or the scriptures or church or prayer. Inviting a friend to know about the gospel is inviting someone to make small changes in their lives to be happier.
I loved Elder Ballard's talk he gave in conference.
It describes perfectly how and why we do missionary work. THAT'S WHY WE ARE HERE PEOPLE.. All of us. We are here to take part of the Lord's work and his glory. As we serve others to help them come closer to Christ, we can't help but come closer to Him ourselves. It's a beautiful gift.
A Little Help from My Friends
Lastly, my favorite story from the week:
We had ALL of Saturday open because we only had one appointment scheduled (who stood us up anyway) so we planned on visiting some people that we've talked to before. We were on the bus and this sweet old lady asked someone to help her get her shopping cart (not the american ones.. they are smaller with two wheels) off the bus.
So I asked her if we could help her take it to her house. Usually people decline our offers of assistance, but I insisted and she agreed to let us help.
So we got off the bus and there was this HUGE hill to her apartment building. She kept thanking us because she didn't know how she would have been able to get up the hill.
So we got to the top of the hill and she thanked us and told us we could go, but there was about 20 stairs up to the apartment building, so I told her we were going to take it up the stairs. She protested but I started walking up anyway. She thanked us again, saying how hard it is for her at 85-years-old to walk all those stairs.
She said, "I can take it from here."
and I said, "Signora, what floor do you live on? "
"Oh no don't worry about it."
"Signora, which floor?"
"Third.." which in America is actually the 4th. So we take her groceries to the top floor of her apartment as she tells us how long it takes her to walk all those stairs with her bag of groceries.
Then when we got to the door she told us that we were angels sent from our Heavenly Father and that she had been praying for someone to come help. I laughed to myself as I remembered all the times she had denied our help even though she had been praying for that help.
Let the Savior Help
How often do we do the same thing? We pray for help or guidance and then when it comes its hard for us to swallow our pride and just let someone help, let the Savior help.
I've been thinking about that idea a lot, especially with another investigator who, when we went to teach her this week asked, "I know that there are people who believe and those who don't believe.. but what about the people who believe and don't want to follow?"
I believe that THAT is the danger that we find in the world today, and those are the saddest stories that I hear every day: those who believe, those who know that true happiness comes from making the Savior the center of your life, but choose another path anyway. Those are they who find the most disappointment,.. but the invitation of the Savior is always there.
How grateful I am everyday to serve. I know I say it a lot, but I really mean it. I have grown so much and I have felt so much joy. Most days I walk down the street and I just yell,
"I LOVE IT HERE!"--not too loud though. Sweet is the work.
Hitting My Stride
I was talking to another missionary I served with in Cagliari and who came to the baptism, and we agreed that at first the work seems so hard and there is so much to do and become. Then when you start getting to the end is becomes a walk and then a stride and then it's done.
I'm still far from being done, but I was wondering the other day if I am sacrificing enough because I am so happy... it doesn't seem nearly as hard as I used to think it was... I know that it will change and it will get hard again, but for now I'm happy knowing that not all sacrifices have to be hard.
Love you guys.
With love from Rome,
P.S. I ALMOST FORGOT. I JUST FOUND OUT THAT GIUSEPPINA HAS A BAPTISMAL DATE FOR THE 22ND! (mom of Maria Rita) so happy.
(Email Sent - December 9, 2013)