Monday, March 3, 2014

With My Own Eyes

Can you believe it? We still can't. 

All week we were like: 

"Hey, remember when we met Luca on the bus and he denied us and NOW he is getting baptized?
 (Read Letter from January 1)

It was one of the best baptisms I've ever been to.. (after Carol's... I mean it's only natural, right?)  The spirit was super strong and he was SUPER happy.  

He invited a TON of his high school friends to come and we got to meet his family for the first time.  That was the best part: while the elders were helping him get ready, Sorella Wiltbank and I got to talk to his family. 

They were really exited for Luca and couldn't believe all the changes he had made in his life. This is the kid who plays rock music and refuses to cut his long curly hair... getting baptized at age 17.  They were so shocked and so proud of him.  

They were asking a lot of questions and we started explaining to them the blessings of the temple and his parents started crying and were clearly touched by the Spirit.  Sorella Wiltbank gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon and we set up a Family Home Evening with them for this week.  

It was one of the strongest times I've felt the Spirit in my mission, at his baptism.  We were worried that he might not be ready yet, but the Spirit confirmed to me many times that he was ready and he knew the path that he was choosing to follow and how he is going to bring so many people with him.  

He asked Sorella Wiltbank and I to give the talks at his baptism which really touched us.. especially since we had passed him to the anziani a while ago.  

The best part, though, was his confirmation on Sunday.. it was one of the most beautiful blessings I had ever heard. It talked about him serving a full-time mission and being an example to his friends and family and about all the people that he had promised to bring the gospel.  

Sorella Wiltbank and I were just in awe. He truly is so special and people kept coming up to us saying "good job sisters" like we even did anything.. That's the thing.. all we do is invite... and we invite SO many people every day... The ones that make the difference are the ones that ACT on it.  

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for theLord aseeth not as bman seeth; for man looketh on the outwardcappearance, but the dLord looketh on the eheart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Lord Looketh 
And it just reminded me that sometimes it's the most unlikely people that accept the gospel. That night we had an incredible conversation with the bus driver and Luca just happened to walk on and we just gave him a pamphlet because he had been listening to our conversation... not thinking anything of it.. and the bus driver never accepted an appointment with us while LUCA GOT BAPTIZED.. 

It was really all him.. we just feel SO blessed to have played that small part. 

We had a really great rest of the week too. The ward organized this huge carnival activity for the primary and invited a TON of families to come. They asked us to set up a table with the "Family: Proclamation to the World" and other materials about the family. 

We worked ALL day setting up everything and helping the ward with the activity and it turned out so well. There were a ton of families who came and it really helped the ward to get involved in missionary work and share with their friends our beliefs about eternal families.

Torn Apart and Put Back Together
ALSO we had Elder Steven B. Allen and President Lisfardi come this week for our Zone specialized training.. They brought up all the missionaries from Napoli and the Rome zones to come listen and it was SO good. a huge answer to prayers. 

He tore us to pieces and then somehow put us back together again all in 3 hours.  Sorella Wiltbank and I were having a rough time because we both got critical emails from President about our work. 

We were REALLY down about it.. like crying in the back of the bus torn up about it (and I've only cried 4 times on my mission from sadness:  twice in the MTC, once when Maria Rita dropped us and this time).

Is That Everyone?
Then the next day we had this meeting and he started off by talking about how we only had 16 baptisms in Feb (the most we have ever gotten in our mission is like 21 or something in one month so we were feeling pretty good).

He asked us if we believed that the Lord had only prepared 16 people in ALL of southern Italy? and if not, then WHY don't we have more baptisms?  

But then he really helped by telling us HOW we can improve.  He was really positive and it really helped us to build up our faith and to WANT to work harder and see more success.  He helped us to raise our standards and make good goals to improve. It was just REALLY good.

Invitation for Happiness
As far as our investigators go though, we got another baptismal date this week:  a 21-year-old girl named Simona.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation this week and it went REALLY well..  

At the end, she just kept thanking us for sharing this knowledge with her and talked about how it made her so happy.  

So we invited her to be baptized the 29th of March and she said she is going to pray about it.. So the ward is really excited about her.

It was a really long and a really good week. 

Last pday we went bike riding in Villa Borgese and it was REALLY fun.  We wanted to just relax, but we didn't want to stay inside.  So it was the perfect pday because we just took big blankets and sat in the sun and wrote letters.

ALSO the Stuerers took all the missionaries out for Burger King and it was really fun.  But made us all drowsy for the rest of the day... American fast food.

Love Fest
& shout out to Carol, who is still the best new member.  

She moved apartments this week and we went to her new place last night.  I feel guilty going to teach her because we just love her so much and it's so much fun.  It was just a big love fest because we just talked all about how much we love each other and how close we have all grown through this process and how we will never forget each other. Like I said, love fest, but it was the best.

The gospel is so true. It works. It really does. I've SEEN IT WITH MY OWN EYES.  

As we follow the gospel of Jesus Christ and do all we can to share it with others, there is greater happiness to be found than can be found anywhere else.  I have never felt so guided by the Spirit and so led by the Lord.  

I couldn't have imagined the happiness that I have found by sharing the gospel.  I thank Heavenly Father EVERY DAY for the truth he has blessed me with.  

To know that God loves us enough to restore his priesthood power on the earth and to speak to us through living prophets and to give us a member of the godhead to teach us truths and guide us personally.  It's all just so incredible.  It's just so real. 

& the best thing is that it's true for EVERYONE.  

People always tell us "That's YOUR way, and this is MY way, but it doesn't matter because all roads lead to Heaven."  

But there really is one way, prepared for all, and it's through Jesus Christ.  I feel so blessed to put on my name tag every day and to know I am His representative.

With Love From Rome,
Sorella O'Connor

p.s. How crazy is it that I went to Paige's companion's farewell here in Italy?  She has the best family.  

I apologized ahead of time if Paige is mean and told them to tell their daughter just to feed her if she gets irritable. jk. I didn't.. but I thought about it. 

(Email Sent - March 3, 2014)

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