Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Full-Time Missionary/Part-Time Dog Groomer

Ciao famiglia. I can't believe that I'm writing you again. The weeks pass like days. 

The work is still going here in Siracusa.. Still no new investigators.. but things are going well with the ones we have. Adriana came to church this Sunday for the first time! She is our investigator from Romania. 

We went and visited her this week with Maria, her friend that referred her to us, and it was a really sweet lesson. We talked about Alma 32 and helping her faith grow.  

She has a friend staying with her right now and she doesn't speak any Italian so Adriana translates the lessons for her. 

Nervous Habits
Things aren't progressing so well for Anna Maria.. she is still having a really hard time quitting smoking.  We have her on a program right now to help her, but her son has been in and out of the hospital, so it makes her really nervous and she picks up smoking. 

We decided we just need to serve her and love her and not make her feel like we are pushing her into it.. 

So this week when we went over I asked if I could give her dog a bath.. she said yes, but the bidonte (caretaker?) said no.. but I beggggged Ghadi (the caretaker) and she said I could... 

Princess Gets a Bath
So we gave her dog Carlotta a bath and I cut off all her hair because it was really long and gross and she couldn't see anything...

 I realized I'm not a very good dog groomer, but Anna loved it.  Her daughter called while we were there and she said that Carlotta looked like a “principessina”..
Cool People
We are still doing a lot of finding, but I like finding because we always meet cool people.

 Everyone in Sicilia is really nice and really open to talk, but even people who have doubts about their faith or believe their church is corrupt still don't want to meet with us. It's a lot about tradition here. 
We met a lot of cool people this week. This one girl from Poland kept us for like an HOUR on the street talking to her.. or more just like listening to her talk. 
Life's Difficulties
When I tried to bear my testimony about the power of the atonement helping us through our trials, she rolled her eyes and said,
You are only in your 20's, you've never had difficulties in your life.” 
and it's true. I've had a pretty great life... so that started to bug me for a couple of days just thinking, 
“How can I tell people that Jesus can help them with their problems when I haven't really had any huge problems in my life?” 
Gospel Protection
I still haven't come to a full conclusion, but as I reflected, I realized that most of the greatest difficulties in our lives are prevented by living the gospel of Jesus Christ.. 
I was blessed to have a Christ-centered home and friends that encouraged me to choose the right, and because I always sought to live the gospel, I was protected from a lot of things that I saw others suffer from. 
It was a big testimony to me of the truthfulness of the gospel in my own personal life, and I know that more trials will come.  I know that even good people who make good choices endure great trials, but it helped me to understand how the atonement has strengthened me my whole life.
Travel Plans
I also had a mini freak-out this week. I have a lot of freak-outs. But it was seriously a bad idea to put Pace and I in the same house because we both "die" together.  So when one of us freaks out, then both of us freak out..   (They got their travel plans this week!! August 5th is her return date.)
But I've just been reflecting a lot about the successes of serving a mission, and the ways the Lord has helped in my work here. I remember reading all of my friends' emails and thinking that every moment on the mission was just like a movie, like missionaries were superheroes that constantly had the spirit whispering where to go and what to say.. 
And I don't know, maybe it's still like that for some people, but my mission hasn't been that way for me. Especially here in Siracusa, my last city I feel like I should have all these super mission skills and be seeing all these miracles. 
Definition of Success
And after a full transfer of finding and not having much success, I've been changing my idea of what success is. It's been really positive for me, because little miracles start to seem so much more important. 
Like when we met with Giusy and Luigi this week to talk to them about missionary work and the topic spun of (as it usually does with any lesson) and we shared a scripture that they needed to hear. Luigi almost cried as he thanked us for always being inspired to know what to say to help them. 
Or a sweet experience sharing a lesson with our English course students and watching it touch their hearts. 
Or just spending time with a member and letting her sing hymns off-key to you for 30 min because she is lonely. 
I'm just learning to appreciate the little things that I love about Siracusa.. There is so much character here. 
Like today we were walking to the church and we talked to this old man who invited us to his house for water and to meet his whole family.. almost everyone is like that here.
I'm learning a lot my last few transfers.. I'm really happy to be here in Siracusa, its duro (hard)... but It's beautiful and we have a good district. 

Prank War
This week we played another prank on the anziani.. We set up a lesson with Graziano. (He is an English course student that already knows just about everything about the church.)
We set up this whole scheme where we were going to have them come in for a lesson and to go over the baptismal questions because we told the anziani we were trying to figure out when his baptism was going to be.
Well the original plan was to have him say he moved to Siracusa because he heard that here you didn't have to pay tithing.. 
But we got there and Graziano changed the whole lesson and made up some story about how his wife cheated on him and he wanted to get baptized because it would look good in court and he could use it to send his children to an orphanage... yeah.. heavy stuff.. 
So Williams and I are like.. Okay, guess we will have to go with it.. So Graziano lays out this whole scheme for the anziani and they are looking at us like “You want to BAPTIZE this guy?”  
They are trying to talk to him and tell him that he is crazy without being rude and Anziano Hansen says “Graziano, I don't want to hurt your feelings man, like we are here to help you, but, I don't think Jesus would want to destroy anyone.” 
In the end we told them it was a joke and they are “planning” revenge but all of their attempts have failed. So we will see. 
Also we nominated Sorella Vickers as district leader and she commanded that we all wear pink to DDM. 

"On Tuesdays We Wear Pink"
Poor anziani serving in a city with 4 sisters.
Power Hour
Also, I met a cute family from Buenos Aires in Ortigia the other day.. We do an “hour of power” where all the missionaries go to Ortigia for an hour to do finding and then meet back up at the end.  We bring copies of the Book of Mormon in every language because there are so many tourists. 

Anyway, we found this cute family and I told them that my parents served in Argentina.. meno male they spoke Italian because all I remember in Spanish is “Can I go to the bathroom?” and “church,” so whenever I find people that only speak Spanish I give them a card and say “church” and send them on their way.
I Live Here

Okay well I love you all! Thanks everyone for the letters and things!!
 It's fun to see all the pictures of everyone getting married and having babies and stuff. 
It freaks me out a little, but I love it. I loveeee you guys.
With love from Siracusa,
Sorella O'Connor  
(Email - Sent May 26, 2014)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


So it's been a bit of an adjustment having half of our district leave. The ward took it pretty hard because both anziani got blown out AND Sorella Rossell.. we took it pretty hard too. But all the missionaries who came down are cool too, so that's always a plus.

For pday on Monday we spent it all together with the giovanni at Giuseppe's house and then went and got gelato.  

We also went to a member's house for dinner, SO I wanted someone to roll me home after all the meal appointments this week #foodinsicilia 

Tuesday we had our last DDM all together, which just turned into us all telling each other why we love each other and how we changed each other's missions. 

Lots of love. 

We also had all 3 of our new appointments stand us up that day, so that was a low.  BUT because it was the last English course, our creepy English course students wrote Slla Rossell a song.  It was so funny because they are so creepy and we got it all on video.. maybe one day I'll show you. 

Wed we went to the Amadli's for lunch and we made homemade granita. Then the three missionaries had to leave for Catania and Vickers stayed with us in Siracusa.. 

We had correlation and our ward mission leader shows up and says, 

"Okay, so instead of talking about our work, let's talk about the jokes we want to play on the new elders.. I have the keys to their apartment"... more to come ;) 

We also went to this lady's, Silvana, house who is the other sisters' investigator and she is the textbook definition of a Sicilian woman:  she force fed us cookies, spoke in dialect, and then slapped my behind on the way out the door. 

Thursday we went to Anna Maria's, but she was smoking when we got there which was really sad because we have been working so hard on helping her to quit smoking.. so that lesson didn't go really well... 

We did more appointments for the other sorelle, and on the way to English course we passed by a pesceria and saw a GIANT swordfish head... 

So our wheels started turning and the sisters talked me into asking them how much it costs.. and they said they would give it to us for free... so after English course we were really sketchy and passed by the store with all the blinds closed.. 

They stuck their hand out the door and handed us a big black garbage bag that smelled SO bad and we walked back to our apartment so that the next day our ward mission leader could pass by and go stick it in the anziani's house before they got here... #welcometosiracusa

Friday we had a lesson with our new investigator, Adriana, from Romania and it went really well.  She is so sweet and I think she is going to really make some great progress.  

Bonzai for Books of Mormon
On the way home, Sorella Vickers waved at the police men.. it's a greenie thing: you still think it's okay to wave at everyone and say "Ciao," but really it's just asking for trouble.. or for free things.. 

luckily for us we got the second option.. because the police men came back and pulled over as we were talking to a Chinese man selling bonzai trees... 

So the police man bought us all bonzai trees and we gave them copies of the Book of Mormon.  Now the police man is trying to text Vickers and get at her. good luck, bud.

Then we did more finding in the afternoon.  It was really funny because the best way to find people in Sicily is to just ask them random questions and then they open up and tell you about their whole lives.

The Opposite
So we met this man by the church and he started asking us the difference between our church and his.  We teach him the Restoration and he goes, 

"Okay I get it.. you are like Catholics, but not practicing..

and I'm like "Ummm, no it's the opposite.. we are practicing, non-Catholics." 

and he is like, "Okay I get it.. you guys are like part of the Catholic church but you don't practice the church." 

and I'm like, "Nope. The other way around."  So that's what people in sicily think missionaries are: non-practicing Catholics.  He also told me that I should marry a Sicilian man. bad idea. not happening. 

Anyway, then we did other things... but I'm running out of timmme to write it all down. 

To the Death
The work is moving really slow here.. but it's moving. I'm working really hard on dedicating my whole might, mind, heart, soul, time, body--everything in these last 2 transfers. 

I don't want to leave anything behind.. but it's also a lot of fun.  

mafia (watch out)

Sicily is so beautiful and the people are incredible.  Even though most people reject us, I see miracles every day and there is nothing I love more than just bearing my testimony to people. 

Anz Smith brought down my "death papers" with him and I've been avoiding them (the papers you get when you are about to finish and you have to tell all the things you learned on your mission and stuff) but it's also helped me to reflect on my mission and think about how I've changed and the things that I've learned.  

Truly Converted
I think one of the biggest things I've learned is what it really means to be converted to the gospel:  not to just know the gospel or live the gospel, but to really be converted by the gospel. 

I have been so blessed to really learn from and experience the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

How blessed are we to have that knowledge and understand the real role of Jesus Christ and to have the fullness of the gospel, which just really means that we have the fullness of what faith means, how to repent, true baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end.. 

I've been blessed by each one of those things individually, but together we have all the things we need to find happiness. So today I'm just feeling blessed. 

Vi Voglio bene bene 

With love from Siracusa,
Sorella O'Connor 

p.s.  (separate email)

Also tell Chad congrats on the mission call! Lima, Peru sounds SO cool.. I always say that If I didn't serve in Rome I'd want to serve in Peru.. there are TONS of Peruvians here and they are my favorite.

 He will see a lot of success and a lot of humble, beautiful people.

The babies are getting so big! I love themm I can't wait to hold them.

 My friends are so handsome! I miss them.

Love you and thank you for everything Mom! 

(Email Sent - May 19, 2014)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Feels Like I Just Talked To You

Skyping with the Sorelle on Mother's Day!!

I don't know how much time I have today, I want to try and get back on at the church later, but for now I only have a minute and wanted to send you a quick letter with things that happened this week. 

So without further adieu. 


Boat Tour

Gave a Book of Mormon to the guy who makes our timbro. 

Stopped two old ladies on the street and they were headed to the hospital to see their mother who was in bad condition.  They were waiting for one of their husbands to pick them up and we got to talk to them for a minute and give them some comforting words.  

Really sweet experience because in the last training, Elder Kearon talked about Christ-like love in action and being true Christians. 


Finding. English course. stopping by the plant guy. correlation. finding. 


Scambio in Ragusa.. welcomed at the station by a really drunk guy who kissed our hands and then grabbed my head to try and kiss me.. but because he was so drunk it was an easy dodge.  When the sorelle came to pick us up with a member, the guy followed us to the car and tried to get in.  

The member was so scared she took us to gelato to calm down.  Not a scary drunk man, but she said she has never seen anyone like that in Ragusa her whole life. I believe it.  Most tranquillo city ever. 
We just attract all the crazies.

They don't have extra beds, so we broke the rules and tried to share the same twin beds pushed together.. Slla Rossell and I tried to share a pillow.. best friends. 


Rest of our scambio in Ragusa.  We did finding and walked to Ibla:  the most beautiful city I've seen on my mission. look it up. 

Got my camera stolen on the ride back which is really unfortunate mostly because it had a PRICELESS video of an English course student who wrote a song for me.. 

"Sorella O'CONNOR I LOVE YOU.  YOU ARE WELCOME.."  Pretty good. 

Talking about English course students, one of them asked me if I wanted him to scratch my arm with his creepy long thumb nail.  I asked why he only kept his thumbnail long.. "work" he said. 


I called every bus driver in Siracusa to see if anyone had found a red camera. no luck.  But I made lots of new friends and all the bus drivers know me as the stupid American who got her camera stolen and thought someone would be nice enough to turn it in. 

We made two appointments with students from English course who said they would be interested to meet with us! Miracles.


Miracle Morning.  We stopped by this sweet less-active sister and when we got there she cried and told us she had been praying for someone to talk to.  

As soon as we walked in she said "I know, I have to go to church tomorrow".  

It was a really touching experience because we just wanted to stop in and share a thought with her, and she had just been praying for help.  

She was so moved to know that we had planned to go visit her and that we had walked all the way to her house to go see her. The next day she came to church and told all the members what we had done. 

We taught Giusy and Luigi about eternal marriage. (You met them on Skype!  Giusy is the lady who sat in the back and watched the whole time and Luigi is the man that tried to speak English to you.)

They are getting married but have to wait until he can get a job.  The lesson turned into them talking about why they loved each other. so sweet. 

Then that night, Slla W was really sad after her Skype call, so I told her I would go buy her gelato and let her cry (because it's better than going home to cry).  

It was another miracle because we started teaching the lady at the new gelato place we found. gelato finding.. mmm my favorite.


We got a new investigator!  One of the members referred us her friend from Romania who is going through a rough time.  She invited us to go meet her in the park and we had a really sweet lesson and she said she wants to meet with us!  

Then I talked to you guys.  

Then we went and saw Anna Maria and she cried because we started singing to her for Mother's Day and she was so happy. She is the sweeeeetest old lady and I love her. We are really hoping that she can get ready for her baptism at the end of the month. but she is still having a hard time quitting smoking.

THEN on the way home we took the long way because we had time and I wanted to see the ocean.

When we got to the lookout point, we just sat for a minute to watch the moon over the ocean before turning home.. 

As we started to leave, Sorella W turned and said she wanted to talk to this lady who was there too. 

So we turned around to talk to her and she started venting about all her problems and doubts because the bible has been changed and some churches change doctrines to fit with what they want and basically teaches US the apostasy.. 

Sad thing is is that whenever I tried to teach her about the restoration, she would interrupt and talk about her doubts again.. and mostly just her sadness because she feels really alone. 

So we decided the best thing to do was just to show her some love because she didn't feel very loved.

We walked her home and invited her to meet with us, she wouldn't give us her number, but I have a feeling she will be back. It was a really cool experience

The Lord is preparing people! and we are finally starting to find them! The work is really picking up here. It's going to be a good week. 

I'll probably get back on at the end of pday to finish my time and write a couple more people.  So write me or something :)

Vi Voglio Bene

With love from Siracusa,
Sorella O'Connor

(Email Sent - May 12, 2014)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

People Underestimate Me


& Happy soon to be birthday SCOTT. 


I love you all and I'm sending lots of love your way. <3 
(It took me so long to figure out just how to do that heart again.. haven't done that since middle school) 

Long week this week, but it was a LOT of fun. I literally was on scambio the entire week. 

Last Monday Sorella Williams and I headed up to Catania so I could catch my plane to ROME!!! 

Roman Return
It was so crazy because I had to be by myself for a long time. The sisters had an appointment to go to so they left me at the check-in line... which turned out to be a huge mess. 

They had two flights trying to check in at the same time and all the people for Rome were about to miss their flight so they took down the lines to get the Rome people through which just ended up being a HUGE fight.. 

I may have done some pretty unchristian-like things.. but mostly I just followed all the other people yelling and it got me to the front and God answers prayers. I made it. 

But then I found out the assistants were on flight after me and the office elders coming to pick me up wanted me to wait the 2 hours until their flight came in... so I kind of just wandered around the airport trying to find people on my own for a while.. super awkward. but really liberating. 

Then they took me to my old home and I almost cried a little and I got to stay with Sorella Wiltbank and Kippen. 

Missing You
Tuesday I got all my permesso stuff worked out and I got to stop by the Ferrari family and then we met up with all my Rome friends for lunch before I had to head back to the airport. 

I was SO SO happy to see them again.  I miss them a lot a lot, so it was nice to be with them for a little before President took me to the airport.  

Although when he volunteered to take me,  I'm not sure President realized that I was going to take the 30 min car ride as an opportunity to tell him all of my thoughts. 


And then he was worried that I wasn't going to get on the plane, because I smuggled 15 copies of the Book of Mormon into my bag/backpack... People underestimate me. 

Exchanging Things Up
From Wednesday to Friday we had all the sisters from Palermo come to Siracusa for a scambio! They are the only sisters in their zone so Anz. Kasper organized it through President to send them to us :)

So that was really fun because we were housing 8 sister missionaries for 3 days.  

Plus with the fact that we have only one investigator meant we had to do a LOT of finding... we got a couple of contacts.. but not much... just goes to show that even with 8 sisters doing JUST finding for three days still doesn't get you very far.. 

BUT we are staying POSITIVE and HOPEFUL. or at least trying to. I got to see Sorella Neff again and Sorella Mikesell, so that was realllly fun. 

Friday we headed up to Catania for a specialized training for the zone.  Then Sorella Rossell and I stayed in Catania Saturday for a scambio with the sorelle there. 

The specialized training went really well.  It was actually a huge answer to my prayers. 

Hard Times
I've been really really discouraged lately. I try not to write home about it because I don't want you guys worrying unnecessarily or anything.. but I've been having a really hard time lately.  

I've been really discouraged, and as a result I was losing a lot of faith and desire to keep working.. But as Sorella Rossell and I were praying about what we should talk about for our addestramento, I felt impressed to talk about discouragement. 

We read together the story of the Jaredites crossing over in their boats from Ether Chapter 6 and pulled from their example and tied it into missionary work along with some quotes from being a successful missionary in PMG. 

The Healing
It was really healing for both Sorella Rossell and me; we both really really needed it.  Then we got to the conference and saw that everyone else really needed it too. 

So even though we STILL have no new investigators.. it was great to feel so guided by the Lord to prepare our addestramento for the missionaries. 

Works Every Time
Also, cool little story.. so I told you how Anziano Gardenhire gave us that idea to do finding:   We are supposed to pray before we go to bed and when we wake up and try to imagine the person we are supposed to find that day. It works every time. 

So on Sunday I had this image of a pregnant lady wearing a hot pink shirt with her husband who was wearing a shoulder bag.. super specific.. and I was thinking "Wow that is REALLY specific, I don't know if I'll find them."  

Then that night we were walking down the street and Sorella Williams and I stop at the same time and look at each other and we said "IT'S THEM!" because walking down the other side of the street was the couple.. exactly how I imagined them.. 

We Always Find Them
So we tactfully turned around to cross the street and walk up the other side.. because running across the street to chase them seemed like a bad idea... 

& I was SO excited because I just KNEW they were going to be our family to teach.  I walked up and I said, "Excuse me.. Are you from..

and the lady gives me the MEANEST look yells "NO!" and walks around me as if I had a contagious disease. 

I just stood there for a good 30 seconds thinking 

"Should I run after her? GOD TOLD ME TO TALK TO YOU!".. 

So we always find them... they just don't always want to talk to us. 

Make Up For It

Anyway.. all of the hard things are usually made up for on Pday... because Siracusa is one of the most beautiful places ever.  

Today we went on a boat tour of Ortigia and got to go inside some cool caves. 

I was really tempted to jump into the water.. like really really tempted. 

Hope all is well on your side of the world. I'm excited to talk to you guys.. My companion wants to skype her family on Saturday but I can do it whenever.. Just have Paige decide and then I'll call to make sure its all set up.. Just DON'T pick Monday, okay Paige? 

Thanks for all the pictures of my cute babies. The other day in church a member threw her baby at me and I almost dropped her because I'm not supposed to hold babies and it scared me that she was throwing a baby at me. So I'm excited to hold THOSE babies pretty soon. 

Building Character
All in all, things are going pretty well.  I really can't complain.  It's probably the hardest area I've served in, just because it is so small and we have so many missionaries here, but it's good for me.. builds character right? 

I've learned a lot about the enabling power of the atonement during this transfer.  

I've been really overwhelmed and I've been so grateful for the power of prayer and healing through the atonement. 

I'm grateful to know that Im here for the right reasons.  

I'm grateful that I get to be a representative of Jesus Christ and to bear his name and to heal the broken hearted. 

Vi voglio tanto bene. See you sooon. 

With Love from Siracusa,
Sorella O'Connor 

(Email Sent - May 5, 2014)