Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mini Missionaries

Going to ROME today!  I'm taking the bus in about 40 min so I don't have much time to update today. 

heading back to Rome (for a permesso and maybe a gelato)

I'm reallllly excited because Slla Wiltbank said she made appointments with all my favorite people for the one day that I'll be there. Can't wait. 

I've been mad at all the elders that got to go up for the conference and then brag to me about getting to see everyone. 

This week was a really great week. I'm starting to really feel at home in Siracusa and the work is starting to pick up.  We saw a lot of miracles this week.  Still no new investigators... but a lot of good changes are happening.  

The phrase "the church is the same everywhere you go" doesn't always apply to Sicilia, but we are seeing a lot of small miracles. 

So I've been frustrated about finding new investigators and Anziano Gardenhire gave me some really great advice that I applied this week.  

He said, "Before you go to bed and right when you wake up, take some time to sit and pray and imagine the person you are supposed to find that day.  Then when you go out, you know who you'll be looking for."  

So I decided "Hey, why not?"  

So the night before I had this image of a lady in her 40s, shorter than me, and standing by herself... not much to go by.. but that morning we were walking to the church from a less active's house and I saw her!  

So I stopped her to ask her a question and the first thing she said was "Hey, are you the Mormons who do that free English course? I've been wanting to come, but I wasn't sure how it worked".  So we stopped and chatted for a while and she said she is coming to English course tomorrow. 

Spirit Animal
In English course we usually do some introductory questions.. This week was "What is your spirit animal?".. best question to ask the creepy Italian men that come to basic course... especially the Buddhist man with a bald head and a long rat tail. 

Mini Mission
Saturday we did a MINI MISSION with the youth. I was really annoyed with Anziano Davids because he told all the youth to be at the church at 6:30 am because he wanted them to do a FULL day as a missionary.. 

...but that also meant that with 4 sister missionaries, we had to wake up REALLY early to all take showers and get ready to go to be AT the church at 6:30... where I was SURE no youth would actually show up until 7:00 at the earliest. 

And on top of that, the day before I got two huge blisters on the bottoms of my feet, making it really painful to walk.  

But despite my pessimism the day before, the Lord gave me strength to get up at 5:00 am and still be cheery the whole day walking on bubble blisters... and how grateful I was for that power he gave us, because it was such a beautiful day. full of miracles. 

The youth came and the girls all did yoga together, then the elders brought cornetti (pastry) for breakfast and we did personal/companionship study in the church. 

In the morning I was with Naomi, who is one of the other sisters' investigators.. her parents are members, but her mom is inactive and won't let them get baptized until they can convince her they have a testimony.  The sisters have been working with her a lot and we have all been praying that she can get baptized.  

So she came with me in the morning to go to an appointment with this sweet, old women with MS who is one of our eternal investigators named Anna Maria.  We decided to teach the Restoration again and Naomi shared the part about the Book of Mormon.  At the end I felt prompted to invite her to baptism, and she said YES! 

...as long as she didn't have to do it naked. Yes, please keep your clothes on Anna Maria. 

We were really excited because after 5+ years of being an investigator, she has a baptismal date!  

Selling It
At lunch we all came to the church to eat pizza and the spirit was so sweet as everyone shared their experiences from that morning and told their best rejection stories.. 

"I'd cut my head off for Saint Lucia" or 

"Hey, are you selling drugs? ohh wait.. Jesus Christ!  I'M SORRY I DIDN'T REALIZE" or just the plain old finger wag. 

We went out again in the afternoon and switched up the companionships.  It was funny because the girl I was with kept turning corners because she would see people from school and get embarrassed, ha. 

sweetest thing
At the end we had a sweet testimony meeting and ending it with a baptism for one of the primary kids. It was the sweetest baptism I had ever seen.  

After he got the Gift of the Holy Ghost, he stood and hugged his dad for a full minute, not exaggerating.  

They showed some of the bible videos because a lot of them were filmed here in Sicilia and they used members from the ward as actors. (Link to Bible Videos: HERE)

By Chance
ALSO yesterday we ran into LUCA again. The potential from last week who we gave a Book of Mormon to. Totally by chancce.. I mean NOT by chance.  

They came to Siracusa again to celebrate a friend's birthday.  They wanted to go to Catania, but the friend chose Oritiga instead.  So it was great because we got to talk to them again and I got to answer some more of his questions.  

We set up an appointment for before English course on Tuesday.  We won't actually be there because I'll be coming back from Rome, but the anziani are taking care of it.

Doing their best "Sorella O'Connor" pose.

Lots of Miracles.

got to go,
love you ALL.

With Love from Siracusa,
Sorella O'Connor 

(Email Sent - April 29, 2014)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Finding, Fetishes, and My Own Personal Witchdoctor

Hi Mom. Happy Birthday. 

It's coming up thisss week!  I sent you a little something in the mail--just some things I found at the market by our house.

So last week we did a lot of finding.  Are you surprised? 

He Always Answers
Not going to lie, it's been wearing on me a lot because we still don't have any investigators. It's hard to want to go out on the streets for 8 hours a day to talk to people.  

(I make my companion do casa in sketchy places - candid photo)

But I've found a lot of strength through prayer. Heavenly Father ALWAYS answers my prayers.

...just not always the way I want, and sometimes I think he is poking fun at me. 

Like the other morning we were doing finding... and there is no one on the streets and we are just walking and walking and we see a little market with a bunch of people, so I say to Slla Williams.. 

"Either we can walk AROUND the market where there are no people, or we can stroll THROUGH the market and do finding the Italian way...by just chatting with people." 

finding in the market.. sea urchins that you put in pasta sauce.. mmm 

The Italian Way
So we decide to do things the Italian way and we head towards the market.  I'm just so tired of stopping people, so I say a little prayer in my heart like 

"Heavenly Father.. can someone just PLEASE stop US for a change.

and right as that phrase crosses through my brain I hear someone say, "SORELLE!!"  

So we turn around and see this Middle Eastern shop keeper waving us down.  We start to talk to him and he tells us how he has talked with the sisters before and how he loves talking about religion.  

I'm thinking "THANK YOU, THANK YOU."   

Then he says "You know it's my dream to marry an American girl..." and starts talking about how we are all so beautiful and blah blah blah..  

Real Funny
It's like I can hear God chuckling and I'm like "Yeah, real funny."  But it was still an answered prayer, so I guess I can't complain. 

Then a couple of days later.. same story... morning of finding and I say a little prayer...

"Heavenly Father, please, just help us find someone who WANTS to talk to us.

and right then I hear "Ummm, excuse me.. do you speak Italian?" (in Italian obviously) and I say "Yes

Best Feet Forward
and he says "So this may sounds strange but I have this weird obsession with feet.. may I take a look at your feet?" 

and I'm like umm yeah sure.. so I show him my foot and he is like "Okay, the next time we meet I will bring my camera so I can take a picture of your feet"... 

& I'm wondering why he is so sure we will meet again and then I remember how small Siracusa is and the fact that we are now standing right outside the church.  If he wanted to see us again, it wouldn't be that hard. 

produce from the members (and sandals - only in the apartment from now on)


So moral of the story:  God answers prayers. 

But now I'm being more specific with my prayers. I've been praying so hard for a family to teach, it's not too much to ask right?

Messina with an Accent
Other than finding, we did cool things too.  Sorella Rossell and I did a scambio in Messina!  I fell in love with cute little Messina.  I was with Sorella Arnold for the day.. she is the cutest. 

Kaitlin in Messina with Sorella Arnold

She is from London and she looks like Kiera Knightly and I warned her ahead of time that sometimes when I am around English people, I start speaking with an English accent, but not on purpose. Things I inherited from my mother. 

New Moon Moment
So we had a great scambio and we were doing finding in this cute area of town and she turns to me and says "Sorella, what time is it?!" and I say, "Ummm, almost noon". and she says "Hurry.. we have to go".. 

and I'm like, "Okay, I thought we didn't have any appointments this morning, but yeah why not?

And we start fast walking to I don't know where and we walk up to this big piazza and there are a TON of tourists and a big water fountain and the bell tower is ringing and I had a sudden flashback to the scene in the Twilight movie when Bella goes to save Edward from the Volturi..  

Don't ask me where it came from but it came and I felt the immediate need to find Edward Cullen.. Anyway, it was a good scambio.

Hour of Power
Another miracle.. So one day we were doing finding ALL DAY.. and our one appointment in the afternoon got canceled.. AND we were all fasting for the other sisters' investigator, so we were tired AND hungry... so we decided to go with all the missionaries to Ortigia to do one last "hour of power" -- all of us finding in Ortigia.  

At this point I was just dead tired.. and we had a 45 min walk to get there and as we pulled up we ran into a less-active member we had been trying to contact earlier.  It turns out they moved... so we got her real address and set up an appointment with her!  Miracle Number One

Then we got to the main piazza in Ortigia and I was so exhausted, I asked Sorella Williams if we could just sit down for a minute.  So we find an open bench and I sat down and looked over to the man next to me and he said  "Oh hello there.. I'm sorry I didn't even recognize you." all in English.  

Go With It
I'm thinking, "Just go along with it" (because all the missionaries look the same to people so they think you are the same missionary who served there 5 years ago). 

We started chatting in English and he says "Oh you have to meet my friend here... You need to teach her about the gospel" and right then his friend walks up and he tells her to come sit down next to us and is convincing her that she needs to meet with us.. 

So we got her number and she told us we could come visit her at work (she sells homemade bracelets by the fountain in Ortigia.. so she is always there) Miracle Number 2. new potential. 

THEN after they talked our ear off it was time to meet the other missionaries so we could all walk home because it's sketchy and dark.  

Can I Know You?
So we said our goodbyes and stood up to go when we hear another voice say "Can I know two nice girls like you?" in English.. which is an Italian phrase that doesn't translate well into English..  

Sorella Williams starts talking to him and I introduce myself to the friend who doesn't seem nearly as excited about two American girls as the first guy.  He asks which church we belong to.. so I start teaching him the Restoration and I give him a Book of Mormon and his face just lights up as I start explaining the book.  

So we exchanged numbers and we are going to try and set something up with him and the elders. MIRACLE Number Three. 

Still no new investigators for US, but I'm still praying big time for a family to teach. 

Buona Pasqua
Lastly.. we got to do Easter Italian style -- which is the best way to do Easter.  They have Easter AND Pasquetta, which is a holiday the day AFTER Easter.. 

so TWO days of member appointments and so much food that we wanted to die. But so much fun. It was a good chance for me to start bonding with the ward members. 

At the Villa
Yesterday we went to this member's villa out in the countryside in the middle of a giant vineyard.  

They played bad Italian karaoke songs and one of the sisters in the ward pulled me up to dance with her and it was just a lot of fun.

Then we cleaned all day. DEEP CLEANING DAY. my favorite. I know you don't believe me, Mom, but I love cleaning. it's a weird thing I developed on my mission. Stress reliever. anyway. 

I love you allll. Sorry the email is a day late.  They switched pday with the holidays. Next week I don't know when I'll have time to email because I have to fly up to ROMA for my permesso. yeahhh.  

Also those photos of my Rome friends you sent me made me cry a lot.  

Then Anziano Kasper just called me to organize a scambio with the Palermo sisters and asked for suggestions for housing and I just cried again to him because HE got to go to Rome to see them last week. 

bad timing, poor kid. 

Allora. Vi Voglio Bene. Pray for my Siracusa people. 

Sorella O'Connor 

p.s. SORRY I'm spending so much money.  I have to travel for scambi every week, so it's expensive and I have to SEND my reimbursements to Rome instead of bringing them into the office, which means we have no money for food.  So I've been pulling out of personal funds because all I can afford is pasta (and I'm trying to eat healthy food). 

Also I forgot to explain the "witch doctor" in my title. Sorella Rossell has "doterra oils" and has been using them to fix all my ailments. Whenever I'm in pain, she says "let me get my oils" and they work, they really work.  

It's good because I'm in a lot of pain, haha.  My body is seriously messed up.  When I get home we are going to have to do a lot of doctors appointments haha.  Don't be alarmed though, not that bad. 


(Email Sent - April 22, 2014)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Finding Joy in Siracusa

So I feel like I don't have much to say this week because ALL we did was finding. Hours upon hours of finding.

No one to talk to

We had 2 investigators when I got here and now we don't have any because I made us pass one of them to the elders because he is a single male.  I feel the elders here could take care of him better than we could.  The other is a little on the crazy side. 

Come to Life
Siracusa is absolutely beautiful, but it's also kind of dead... 

Ancient Tomb

There aren't many people walking on the street.. so when we go out to do finding we literally talk to everyone because we could walk for hours without finding someone to talk to.  

Empty Roads

Empty Streets

At least we know someone's been here...  #wordofwisdomproblems

The prospects aren't looking too good for us either because we only got three phone numbers of people that might, maybe, could be interested.  

One of them was an optometrist who said he wasn't really interested in our message but gave us his number in case we had any eye problems. So I'm thinking about faking an eye injury just to call and set an appointment with him. 

But despite our huge lack of success, I feel really hopeful about Siracusa.  I just KNOW that there is someone here that I'm supposed to find.  I've never had this strong of a conviction my whole mission that there is someone here for me.  

I asked the anziani for a blessing yesterday and it was really sweet because they confirmed all of the impressions that I've been having:  that I'm supposed to be here, and that everything that I have learned thus far on my mission has been preparing me for this city.  It's taking a lot of faith from me, because after all of this work we still aren't seeing results.  

Plus it doesn't help that in my personal study of the Book of Mormon I've been reading 4th Nephi... and man can I relate.  Not much of a story you want to relate to.  So it's kind of depressing.  

But one of our district goals is to remain positive. This Sunday the anziani made little bigliettinis that say "sorridi, ti fa bene"  which means 

"Smile, it's good for you!" 

and we gave them out to all of the members on Sunday.  They seemed to really like it and almost everyone who bore their testimony talked about it. 

Also I had a really crazy dream that we found a family doing finding on the beach.. but only the 12-year-old daughter wanted to be baptized and the parents said she could. I don't think it's a real prophetic dream or anything.. but it is a nice excuse to do finding by the beach. 

Come out, come out, wherever you are...

So I guess for a little update on my week other than finding:  We are working with these two new converts named Giusi and Luigi.. they are realllly cute. They are about mid-forties and they are going to get married. 

The only problem is that he has to find work (impossible) before they can get married because they are both still living with their parents...  They are getting really down right now because he hasn't been able to find work, so they asked if they could meet with us two times a week because they need that spiritual uplift. 

See God
I also got to do a scambio in Catania this week which was really fun, because I have a lot of friends that are serving there right now (4 sisters and 2 elders).  I was with Sorella Marquis and we taught a lesson to this sweet man named Salvatore.  We taught him the Restoration and he told us about a time he saw God in the clouds (common occurrence here) and when we started to recite the First Vision he started to cry. 

It was fun being in Catania because I got to do real finding... I met these cool girls from ARGENTINA  and they are here playing field hockey... and we also met this really sweet Italian mom who took a Book of Mormon and said she wanted to read it and then give it to her friend. 

Share it with a friend...

I love finding.  You have the coolest miracle experiences.  

So yeah, it's been a good week. We met a lot of cool people and the members here are really great too.  I had a couple chances to meet with some of them and establish how we can help more in the ward.  

Playing EFY games with the youth 
(because I miss being a counselor)

pistachio arancini 

I think it's going to be a good transfer.  A lot of hard work. Like a lot. 

But I know it's going to be a big testimony builder and I know we are going to see a lot of miracles. Pray for new investigators. "Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach." --PMG.  Literally.  ANYONE. 

Vi voglio bene.

With love from Siracusa (PLEASE don't call it Syracuse.. scifo) 

Sorella O'Connor 

(Email Sent - April 14, 2014)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Goodbye Roma, Hello Siracusa

Hey guys. SO I forgot my old planner with all the cool things that I wanted to tell you about.. ooops. sorry. 
Farewell visit to the Trevi 

Last week in Rome was really crazy.  It never really hit me that I was leaving.. still hasn't.  Sometimes I just feel like I'm on another scambio and that I'll be back in a day or two. The hardest thing was saying goodbye to all the members and the people I love.  

I love Rome 2 with all of my little heart. 

The beginning of the week was mostly spent with goodbyes and packing all of my things. It was so strange because I left a suitcase with all of my winter things that I am taking home.  I'll only be here 4 more months and I won't need winter clothes. I really can't believe how quickly time flies.  

My hardest goodbyes were definitely Carol, Jomar, Jerwin, and Luca... I had to say goodbye after English Course on Wed. night and it just about killed me.. 

Thank heavens for modern-day technology, right? 

Take the Train
Thursday we took the train ALL day down to Sicily. It was a long trip but really beautiful. The train follows the coast so we got to see the ocean all the way down.  

Then once it gets to the tip of the boot, they load the train onto a boat to take it across to Sicilia.  So we all got to get off the train and head up on deck to get fresh air and see the sea. 

It was also really fun because when you are on SUCH a long train ride (circa 12 ore) you make friends with everyone on the cabin and have really great gospel discussions (they can't really run away can they?) and we got some referrals for the other cities. 

Love at First Sight
So first off.. I LOVE Siracusa. Seriously it is SUCH a beautiful city. Way different than Rome. Like completely opposite. 

It's a little seaside town and there is this beautiful little island right off the coast.  I convinced Sorella Williams to go running with me in the mornings... So we run to the coast and back, and it is the most BEAUTIFUL view of the Mediterranean Sea. My life is a dream, I know. 

New Companions
Also I really love my roommates.  I've never lived with other sisters before, so it's really fun.. maybe too much fun.. I'm living with Sorella Rossell who was in the MTC with Paige and she is from Southern California and she plays the harp. 

Paige and Sorella Rossell in the MTC

Like she HAS a mini harp in our apartment and she said she is going to teach me how to play.  She is my STL companion this transfer so we already have all of our scambi planned out and it's going to be so fun. 

I may have not served in very many cities in my mission.. but with all of the scambi that I get to do with the sisters, I will have seen almost all of them. Her companion is Sorella Vickers.. It is her second transfer in the mission and she is on fire. 

Sorelle Vickers and Rossell with their Italian "little sisters" from the ward
(photo cred:  Sorella Rossell's blog)

She is 23 and from Idaho/Utah and is dating a football player and left to go serve a mission.  She is here because she had some really incredible genealogy experiences that led her to go on a mission.  It's crazy because in every area I've served in, I've left feeling like I was there for a certain person.. and coming here I feel like she is here for ME. 

I have had the strangest impressions over the last several days that I am here to work with Family History.  I know that sounds so strange.  But I just know it.  The mission has been talking a lot about using genealogy in finding, and we all feel like THAT is the thing that we have to use right now to help Sicily out.. because, being honest, it needs a LOT of help.  

Help Me
So Sorella Vickers is here to help ME with family history..  So I need you guys to help me out and send me some names and dates on Dad's side of the family..  Mom's side goes back really far, but I have nothing on Dad's side.  We started a family history class here in the church on Wednesdays, and it's still getting started, but it's going to be a huge tool here.  We just know it. 

My companion is great too, her name is Sorella Williams and she is from Canada.. She really wants to work hard and for me that's the best thing you could have in a companion. 

We have literally NO investigators right now.. so we are in for a lot of finding.  But for some reason, I am really excited about it.  I have never really been super passionate about finding.. because it's the longest and hardest thing about missionary work (reference Elder Holland's talk from this General Conference).  

Find and Seek
But at the same time, it has the potential to see the most miracles. I am really confident that we are going to see a lot of miracles down here.. I don't know how to describe how I know, but I just know. The other day I just couldn't wait to leave the house because I KNOW there is someone out there we are supposed to find.. we just have to FIND them. 

So I'll just end with a little story from this weekend. We had a full night of finding to do and so we walked outside and a bus passed by.  Here in Siracusa there are NO buses.. we walk everywhere (meno male) and so to see a bus stop at the bus stop was surprising.  So we decided to take it to wherever it went.  

Take the Bus
While on the bus I was talking to an old Sicilian man with no teeth and Sorella Williams waved at this lady who walked on and happens to be a less-active member.  She asked her if we could go to the church together and have a lesson.  So we went and shared a little thought on faith and then headed out. 

When we walked out the door there were three people just standing outside of the church looking really lost.  So we asked if we cold help them and they said "We are trying to get to Ortigia, could you help us get there?"  

We had just been planning to go to Ortigia, so we told them we could walk the 45 min walk with them.. Turned out they were there for a karate competition and were just going to be there for three days... 

We asked where they were from and they said it was a paesino in Lazio (a little town in the province of Lazio) but that the girl had recently moved to Rome.. She happens to be living in my old area!  (Backstory... I felt impressed to put Rome cards in my bag and told myself that that was crazy, so I didn't.. bad move.) 

Second Chances
So we got to talking and she told me that she is a lawyer and she defends delinquents. She said that most people judge her for defending these kids who have committed pretty serious crimes in their lives. 

But she said that she believes that everyone deserves to have a second chance:  that even though they have made serious mistakes, they should be able to start over in their lives.  

I just bore my testimony to her that that was the same message I was here to bring:  that Jesus Christ came to earth so that we all have that chance to repent.  It was a sweet experience and I left her with Rome's info and told her to call my companion when she gets back. 

Also conference was realllly great. I loved all of the talks. It's hard for me to pick favorites.  But Bednar and Holland were up there.. also Linda Reeves. So so so good. anyways I'm out of time as always. 

But I love love love you and you all need to take conference advice and study PMG and send me your studies. 

Siracusa is beautiful and I'm really excited to serve here. 

With love from La Sicilia,

Sorella O'Connor 

(Email Sent April 7, 2014)