Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rome-- Week 3--Please see Previous Posts

What? Italy is a hard mission? Who have you been talking to? Okay, so my companion got a letter from a friend in South America. He kind of made us sick when he mentioned getting 200 contacts in a month. But honestly, Italy will grow. When they opened Italy, the prayer that thousands upon thousands will receive the gospel. The number of baptisms in this mission are going up. And they will continue to go up. Italy will grow. I know it. I know it with all my heart. We are standing at the brink of a new era. The temple is coming. The people are being prepared. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more natural disasters, but with or without, the people will be humbled and prepared. I have so much hope for Italy.

This last Thursday we had Zone Conference. It was so good. I feel pumped and ready to try a little harder.

Have I really explained who Marco Antonio is? Marco Antonio is the portiere. I don’t know how that translates. Anyway, he works in our building. He’s a member of the church, but he’s inactive. His wife is active, and she’s awesome. This morning we were doing a small thing for his wife Monica, so we ended up talking a lot with Marco Antonio. I guess I’m writing about this because it’s fresh on my mind. He astounds me with his wisdom. And yet he lets things hold him back. I don’t understand all his reasons, but I feel like he has good reason. Well, as in his concerns are real, but that doesn’t mean he should let it keep him from enjoying all the blessings of the gospel. I hope for him. I don’t think he’ll stay away from the church all his life. I truly feel that there will come a day when he will come back to church.

Saturday we had a festa in church. It was a South American Party. It was a lot of fun. There were a lot of people there that I didn’t know. However, I still don’t know half the ward, so that’s not saying much. From what I understood, a lot of nonmembers came, and a lot of inactives came. Marco Antonio also came, but he didn’t join the festa. He never left the foyer of the church. Still, it’s progress. It was a good turn out and I hope that we will be able to work with some of the people who came.

There was an American who came to church on Sunday. He spoke to my companion. Apparently he wants us to get his girlfriend ready for baptism by December (when he comes back) so that he can baptize her. We’ll see where this goes.

Also we had an awesome lesson with a woman named Olivia. She’s amazing. I think she’s searching for truth and I think she’ll find it.

And I want to tell a story.

The Game of Life: A Parable of Member Missionary Work

Okay, so I’m going to first tell you what happened, and then I’ll explain the parable. Monday morning, our District Leader calls us to ask if we’re okay with having lunch in the church after DDM. Okay, that sounds fine. Then he says, “Elder Torres is going to try and call you, but do not answer the phone.” “Why not?” “I’ll explain later.” Sure enough, shortly thereafter, Anziano Torres calls, and we did not answer. In fact I think Sorella Swenson hung up on him. Then they called again. We did not answer. We continued to get ready to go. Besides, we thought, we’re going to see the elders in a few minutes because DDM was in a half hour. The phone rang again. This time it was a private number. My insides squirmed. It was most likely the elders, but why was it so important for them to reach us and why did our district leader want so badly that we not listen? Again we did not answer.

Okay, in actuality, at this point my companion figured it out. However, for purposes of the parable we are going to say that we were still in the dark.

Again the phone rang as a private number, and we did not answer. And then, Marco Antonio called. We couldn’t not talk to Marco Antonio even if we knew that he was probably trying to relay a message from the other elders. Marco Antonio informed us that were to bring UNO so we could play in the church.

Our District Leader represents a priest of another religion. Me and my companion represent normal people who do not know the church. The other elders represent (dun dun dun) missionaries. Marco Antonio represents a member of the church and our friend. UNO represents a game that I love and would be sad if I realized that I had unknowingly passed up the chance to play it.

Anziano Nielson (our district leader) hates Uno. Other leaders of other religions do not understand the joy that comes from the true gospel. They tell their congregation not to listen to other religions. People can be confused. They will hold tightly to what they know (their district leader told them not to answer the phone) and are hesitant to open the doors to unknown (whatever it was that the other elders wanted). However, when you bring in member missionaries, the work moves forward. People trust their friends. Through their member friends they can be brought to the knowledge of the gospel. They can be told what they have to do to receive Eternal Life (or to have a great game of UNO).

I hope you enjoyed that. Today I received a bunch of mail saying that my mailbox is full. It makes me sad, but I guess I’m going to have to start deleting letters. I forgot that that happens.

I mailed dad a Happy Birthday card, but in case you haven’t gotten it, my address is

Sorella Aubry Bjarnason
Via Peragno 3/15
00166 Roma

Love you all. Keep smiling:)


Rome-- Week 2 Pictures--See Previous Blog

Us, Giovanni, Elder Smith, Paolo, Walter and Anziano Pace is the tallest. I think that's the order but the picture I was just looking at was too small to tell. Sorry.

Our balcony where we've been sleeping

Sorella Swenson's Birthday

Rome-- Week 2

About the elders...there are four in the apartment. At the time when it happened, we didn't think they were serious. But the other elders were there to help out anyway. No, I don't think they went to the hospital. Missionaries are kind of like that, they never want to call more people than they have to. Anyway, when I saw Anziano Torres' cut, he didn't have anything on it, so I assume all is okay.

Thank you for your testimony. It's good to hear. And it's good to hear people who believe in their local leaders. This week, we found out that a woman's son died. We told Marco Antonio. One of his first reactions was, "Does the bishop know?" It surprised me. Marco Antonio has been inactive for a long time. From what I understand he was inactive since he came home from his mission. However, he seems to know all the members here and he still goes through the line of authority. He then commented how he'd call the bishop later because the bishop usually isn't home at this time. That means he's called the bishop before. It made me feel good that even this inactive member had a relatively good relation with the bishop.

Okay, about the week. One thing I forgot to write about last week is that we sleep on the balcony at night. Our apartment gets really hot in the summer and the walls just absorb the heat. So we would take our mattresses outside and sleep there. Well, one night, it rained in the middle of the night. At first I just wanted to hide under my blankets and continue to sleep. Then I noticed my companion starting to wake up. “Okay,” I said, “We should probably go inside.” As we moved our mattresses inside, it started to rain harder, and I realized it really was better this way. Now it’s getting a little colder at night, so we decided to move permanently back in the apartment.

Sorella Swenson’s birthday was this week. The elders called me and said I had to make sure that we didn’t plan anything for Friday night other than what was already planned (which was a member meal appointment at 5). Then they said I had to get Sorella Swenson to Sorella Coca’s house. We had an appointment with Sorella Coca Tuesday. How do I come up with an excuse to go again? Friday morning the elders called and said they had an appointment with Sorella Coca but couldn’t go. However Sorella Coca needs us because she just got out of the hospital. So we surprised Sorella Swenson at the Coca’s with all the elders there and more food. When Anziano Botta (who’s Italian) asked me how I was, I responded (full). “Did you have another meal appointment right before this?” “Yes.” He shrugged his shoulders. “You’re in Italy. You have to eat.” Why do you have to eat everywhere you go? They get offended if you don’t eat something. It’s all good. I may have been full into the next morning, but fast Sunday soon followed so all is well.

We do a lot of chalk in this district. You know the people in San Francisco who stand still and wait for you to give them money. Well, where we do chalk, there are three people who do something similar. There’s an Egyptian something or other, a Statue of Liberty, and a guy with a gun who sits next to a trash can. The latter probably looks the coolest. Anyway, the other day the Statue of Liberty came up to us while doing chalk. He and his friend said that elders in the past promised them a Book of Mormon in Hindi. So, the next time we were in the area, we gave the Statue of Liberty a Book of Mormon. How many of you can say you’ve shaken the Statue of Liberty’s hand? Welp, I can. The only thing is, he doesn’t really speak English or Italian so I’m not really sure how we’ll move forward. Well, if they’re interested, we will find a way.

I’ve learned something recently. It seems sometimes that Heavenly Father wants things done His way instead of ours. Sometimes it seems we are going on our own path. And we can even do a good job on this path, but we can’t go the entire way on our own. And before we can continue we have to raise our hands and put the Lord in charge. Often times this means starting from the beginning. This isn’t a good example, but this is what I was thinking about. I learned Russian before the mission and I always wanted to teach a Russian. However, I think my eagerness to keep Russian inhibited me from fully learning Italian. So I got sent to Sardegna where there aren’t many Russians. Now I’m in Rome, and I feel like I meet a Russian speaker almost every day, but I can’t say what I want to say. But I know that Heavenly Father is there. I know that if I do my part, the Gift of Tongues will be there. And I still hope that I will be given the opportunity to teach someone at least in part in Russian. There’s a lady who lives in our building who is from Moldavia. She is so cute and in need of love. I hope we can work with her.

Yesterday we decided to check out a park because I want to try doing park more. Well, we went and there weren’t many people, but it looked nice, and we thought we could do P-day there or something. Then we had correlation, and our Ward Mission Leader said we shouldn’t go to that park just the two of us. Well, I figured if we went back we’d go with the elders anyway, so I wasn’t concerned. Then the elders called us at lunch. “You know that park that you went to this morning, well I don’t think you’ll be able to go ever again.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because we’re here, and it’s on fire. Look out your window.” True enough, we saw a great cloud of smoke in the distance and helicopters flying in to offer a supply of water. All in the same day, who’d have thought.

Yesterday I learned something new. We were doing chalk (big surprise). A lady came up. My companion started talking to her initially. There came a point when I just felt like I needed to say something. However, she asked a question at the same time. Well, long story short, I realized (after a year in the mission field) that parallel conversations work! She would say some things, and instead of responding directly to what she was saying, I bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. In the end, she didn’t accept it, but I think she felt the spirit. We ended friends anyway.

Oh, and Sorella Swenson has a blog too. It’s at we think. Anyway, if you ever want to check it out, feel free. She said she’s having her sister put me as a link on her blog. I think she’s also linked to Sorella Hansen’s blog, so if you want to check up on my last companion, you can do that too.

Thank you for all that you are. I couldn’t ask for a better family. Life is great. We have a lot of work to do here in Rome. Thank you for all of your prayers. Keep smiling:)


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rome-- Week 1

Okay, 1st week in Rome. Goal: Turn the members against the missionaries. Check!
Okay, not really, but let’s start the week where we left off last time.

Last Wednesday my travels included a train ride from Cagliari to Olbia. In Oristano, two more elders joined our voyage. Elder Smith is here in Rome 1 with me and filled me in on the fact that I am his mom in the mission. There are no sisters in Oristano, so this is his first district with sister missionaries. It’s kind of cool because I traveled the boat with him when he was born. So even though he wasn’t my kid when he was born, I feel like I’ve watched him grow up. (I’m only three transfers older than him, so it’s not that impressive…but regardless…I have my first child).

Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned Russian. Anziano Bryant asked me “Wait, you speak Russian?” I gave my usual response that I try and that I don’t speak very well. I’ve lost it. “We have been promised that if we study something and we live worthy of the spirit, it will come to us in the hour when we need it,” Anziano Bryant responded. “You speak Russian!” I’m really glad he said that.

I mentioned my new companion is Sorella Swenson. She is awesome. One day I’ll send a photo or something. She’s from Pleasant Grove, Utah. I don't know, I never know what to say about companions. I'm excited for this transfer. I think we'll be able to do a lot of good here in Rome. It's interesting because I feel like we're a lot a like. She's not as quiet as me, but she's probably as calm. It will be good to see what we can do together.

Okay, as far as investigators go, it seems we are few in number. There is a Romanian lady that we turned into an investigator together. Her name is Monica. She is great. She recognizes that we are here to help her. There was an elder passing out English class fliers. She says she didn’t really need English, and so she doesn’t know why she grabbed it. Now she knows, it was to meet us so that we could help her. She’s great, but she’s going through a rough time. If you need someone else to pray for, pray for Monica.

Sometime on Friday the elders called. Sorella Swenson asked what they were doing because it seemed like the elder speaker was half asleep. His response, “I cut my wrist open and my companion fainted.” Well, I didn’t really think much about that because normally people don’t cut open their wrists just for fun. The next day we met the elders in church and saw the big gash along Anziano Torres’ wrist. And then they recounted how, yes, indeed, they were joking around. Anziano Torres crashed into a window I think and cut his wrist. Then there was a lot of blood, so his companion, Anziano Botta, fainted, hitting his head against everything in the way, including their toilet seat which broke.

Now to the good stuff. Why were we in church you ask? The elders needed to tell us something. (Sorry, I use elders a lot without differentiating. Four elders in the district, Anziano Nielson, Smith, Botta and Torres). This was Saturday and Sunday morning; all of us were going to perform two skits for the ward. (I’m in a ward now!) They wanted to do them on The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. That’s great, I’m excited. We want to make it applicable to everyone. Sounds great. So, for the Good Samaritan, Anziano Torres is going to pretend to be a new convert from South America, and no one will sit next to him in church. The person who ends up sitting next to him isn’t a member, but a shy Italian investigator with a baptismal date. For the prodigal son, Anziano Torres will be a recent convert who gets offended because he doesn’t have a calling and he hears people talking badly behind his back. He comes back because his home teacher calls him up and invites him to church. We attacked a lot of things in the ward.

Both skits, Sorella Swenson, and I got to be evil gossipers. It was fun. It struck a lot of people, and some were not happy at all. However, I was exaggerating when I said we turned the members against the missionaries. We definitely broke some boxes, but I hope it was all for the good. Hey, I’m new to Rome 1. I can’t really say anything against it. I just remember turning to Anziano Smith and saying, “This is our first week, and we’re going to turn all the members against us.” But most people really liked it.

Man, there’s more to say, but I’m out of time. There’s a Moldovian family in the ward that speaks Russian! Yay! Then there’s Sorella Shakir. She is from Egypt. Apparently she’s been a member for 11 years. It was sad, because she’s struggling to make ends meet. She said that she thought about selling her home here and moving back to Cairo. The money she’d get from selling her apartment isn’t much for here in Rome, but is a lot in Cairo. She could have a bigger house and even a servant to do everything for her. The only thing that would keep her back is the church. If she goes back to Cairo, it would be dangerous for her to go to church. All her family are Muslims, and they seem to have turned their back on her now that she is Christian. She said, “I choose the hard way. There is peace in the hard way. There is joy in the hard way.” She is amazing.

Okay, gotta go. Keep smiling:)