Saturday, June 5, 2010

MAY IN MILAN - Models, Misadventures, Member Help, Men'sVolleyball...May 26th, 2010


Here's a summary of the goings on this past week of May in Milan.

Models - I pretty much told you all about Sydney already. It really was so so nice to have someone to teach for a week that had a desire already to be baptized and a firm testimony of the Book of Mormon and had free time to see us! It was so sad to see her for the last time on Sunday. She was proof that there really are people out there being "prepared" to hear the message and be baptized. She explained to us one day all the miracles that happened that honestly just made right now the perfect time for her to join the church. For example...every January for the past few years she always committed to being dry for the month (as in not drinking alcohol). It was in the beginning of January that she first met the missionaries and so was able to have a clear mind during the whole process and feel the spirit easier. Plus it was easier for her to start living the word of wisdom. The other day I translated a conversation between a member that was baptized 3 years ago and Sydney. The member, Lucia, was explaining all the miracles that led to her conversion too...she had been working in a model showroom, was living with a lawyer in some town by the ocean, theoretically "living the life" but got to a point where she knew something was missing from her life and from the Catholic church. She left her boyfriend and moved to Milan and a few days later a missionary handed her a pass along card. She came to church that Sunday and was baptized a month later (her version of the story was obviously a lot more emotion and detail filled, sorry.)
Anyway, It is currently "model season" in Milan, apparently, so I have been trying to find us a new Sydney to teach, or at least more wife options for Cory. So, I try to talk to every thin, pretty girl I see. A few days ago we got the phone numbers of one model from Poland and one from Slovakia...hopefully we can get in contact with them and set something up!!

Misadventures - I kind of told you about this already too. Our bike adventure last P-day was a disaster. The bike was too heavy or something for my companion so we walked around the city with the bikes. I really would not have been a good older sibling. Good thing I came on a mission where I can learn patience, love, charity, etc. I've also learned that everything happens for a reason...because we walked the bikes we were super late to the dance recital of Ana's little girls and for that I am SOO grateful. I guess I hadn't realized how removed from the world we are as missionaries. I almost was in tears at the end of the 10 minutes we saw of 6 to 11 year old girls dancing like MTV dancers to songs like "Womanizer". It was horrible!!

Mexican Food and Member help - After our the bikes and dance class we rushed off to a Mexican dinner at the church for Relief Society. Kind of an odd choice of theme since there are no Mexicans in the ward but people from every other Central and South American country. Four investigators came, 2 less actives, and a friend of a member...probably one of the best nights everrrr. The ward honestly has changed so much in the past 5 months as far as helping out with missionary work goes. Our goal at the beginning of the transfer was to have 8 different member families working with 8 different investigators regularly and helping them in their progression...we are already at 8!!! This work is so so much easier and so much more fun when the members are involved.
Weird thing though is that 2 days later we took Sydney to an American member's house for dinner and FHE and they made Mexican food too?!?! I'm pretty sure Sydney never ate Italian food while she was here at all.

Men's Volleyball - Nope, that's a lie, there was a bit of Italian food (tomatoes, cheese, bread) at the Men's Volleyball fireside. Mostly the fireside was really long because we had to translate everything. There was one really sweet talk though that one of the married players gave. They were all talking about how the principles in the gospel are related to principles of sports. He told a story about a coach in high school that constantly yelled and him and told him what he was doing wrong. One day he yelled back and the coach took him aside and explained that he only treated him the way he did because he could see his potential and wanted him to become the best that he could. He compared that to hardships in his life and the knowledge that God is just helping him grow and become more refined as a person. He then gave a shout out to my companion and I and noted that we should be so grateful for the time we have on our mission because looking back, it was the hardest time in his life but the time when he was closest to Heavenly Father. It was a good reminder to appreciate every day here on the mission.

Here's a another good spiritual thoughts from a talk I read in the Liahona this week...mostly I liked it because it made me laugh but it has a really important message too.
When you stop and think about it from a diabolically tactical point of view, fighting the family makes sense. When Satan wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he doesn't poison the world's peanut butter supply (this is where I started giggling), thus bringing the Church's missionary system to its collective knees. He doesn't end a plague of laryngitis to afflict the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He doesn't legislate against green Jell-O Casseroles. When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and he attacks God's plan for His children. He works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical. That's all it takes, because Satan knows that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord's work is to diminish the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home." Ballard
Soo...make sure you are all doing all that you can to fight back!!!

Much love,

Big Glass Bubble of Air - June 2nd, 2010

So my companion pretty much summed up the week with this one fantastic comment she made while we were walking past Sri Lankan trinket vendors at the Centrale Station who were trying to convince all the businessmen and world travelers without children that a container of bubbles was exactly the thing they needed for their trips...
She says, in the most sincere and joyous voice possible,
"It is so so nice to see bubbles as we walk through here!"

Honestly, her ability to not think negatively about anyone, not doubt, etc., blows me away daily and reminds me that the purpose of this life is to FIND JOY.

This morning I studied joy and happiness while trying to figure out what to teach an investigator, Miriam, who cries every time we come (sometimes I wish I were an Elder, I'm really just not good with knowing how to react to people crying, and women do it alll too often - more often these past few weeks it seems) and has had a pretty rough life. Basically, the simple conclusion (once again, a conclusion that most normal members of the church figure out without having to spend a year and a half on mission but whatev) I came to is that the only way to real happiness is living the gospel. Go check out 3 Nefi 17:17-18. That population felt JOY more than anyone had every felt before, an incomprehensible joy, when they were in the presence of Jesus. The way we today can come unto Christ and become closer to him is THE GOSPEL. Also read 4 Nefi 1:15-16. Pretty good script about joy. We all rush around trying to find happiness and fulfillment in life through so many different activities and rob ourselves of the things that will give us enduring joy. From what I understand in the scriptures, though, the enduring joys come trough spiritual growth, service, and hard work. I still am going to have to strengthen my testimony of this, though...I'm not going to lie - a day at the beach, a sailing trip around the world etc. still seems ridiculously more appealing to me than hard work.

Although I still have a long way to go to completely having a testimony of this concept, I've been blessed with a lot of experiences this week that have helped me really see the truth of it. For example last week on Pday I was pretty bummed after emailing because of the news about Mason and another letter I received with some un-expected news. Luckily, we had planned to go visit Ana in the middle of our Pday time because it was the only day and time during that week she could see us and we knew she needed the help, since she is trying to stop smoking and her life is simultaneously falling apart in 10 million other ways . So,about two hours after emailing, once we walked out of her house I was completely full of joy again and had 100 percent forgotten about all the bummer news I'd gotten earlier. It honestly was such a release to be able to sit there and just listen to her concerns and really feel like a mouth-piece for the Lord as we gave her advice and encouragement.

Then, of course, it just doubled my joy when Sorella Casa and I left the lesson and went on our hunt for the park of the week - Park Forlannini which ended up being super quiet, calm, green and a perfect place for p-day exploring and relaxing.

We also did Scambi, or exchanges, this week with the Sisters from Bergamo. When we got the news from the District leaders that I was YET AGAIN staying in Milan for exchanges I was probably more bummed than I was after all the bad -mail news. I have heard Bergamo is beaaaautiful. But, of course I found during the quick 24 hour scambi that being in the service of others brings even more happiness than...sit down for this one and save this email cuz I'm probably not ever going to say this again...traveling to new places. The Sister who was with me for Scambi has only been here for 4 weeks and has apparently been having a rough time...apparently her trainer is kind of lazy and isn't helping her much to get over the fears she has of talking to people. Sooo, I had 24 hours to change this Sister's view about the mission and help her learn how to talk people and I honestly was on a high the whole time. It was so fun helping her, encouraging her, seeing her change within hours, etc. Haha, not to mention how awesome it was when the man we were talking to on the metro stood up, took off his jacket to reveal a shiny tight blue shirt, then started demonstrating the belly dancing moves he was learning in his belly dancing class. He proudly claimed to be the only male belly dancer in Milan...I sure hope so!!

I've also seen the joyous fruits of hard work. Heavenly Father works in such a weird way though. We worked really hard and had really "high numbers" this week and had lots of success...but none of the success came from any of the hard work we did. For example, we must have invited about 4 people to baptism this week, trying to arrange to achieve our goal of getting one baptism during the transfer. We set a few baptismal dates but no one really felt prepared to get baptized in the next 3 weeks (before the end of our transfer). But then...Sunday the bishop called us into his office and introduced us to a woman that showed up from El Salvador. She has been going to church for the past 7 years, has had her 2 daughters baptized, has taken the missionary discussions at least 2 times, but could never get baptized because she was living with the father of her children who didn't want to get married. They finally got married last month, then she moved out here to arrange for everything for the rest of the family to move out here, and she wants to get baptized. We said sure. The last week of our transfer we're baptizing her. Good deal, eh? I honestly just feel like people are coming to us these days. Andrea, Sis Prina's cousin, called and asked us if he could come stop by the church and visit us there last night. Then, Louis, another guy we've been having a hard time getting appointments with, but who has been reading the Book of Mormon, called us last night and asked if he can meet with us tonight....

Life is good. Life should be joyous. You all should write to me and share with me the joy in your lives.