ciao tutti carissimi miei!!! i got an AWESOME letter from suzanne with tons of great questions that i havent responded to yet, so lets do it! 1. how are you?- FANTASTIC. i live in italy. 2. are you walking, driving, or riding a bike?- we walk EVERYWHERE. we are currently visiting and inactive family that literally lives at the edge of the city. but the city is small. it takes about 45 minutes to walk all the way. 3. have you had to use any money?- yes a little bit. getting settled always costs money but now we are settled so i should be ok unless i want to do some shopping for myself, and until i decide on some glasses frames.... 4. are your shoes holding up?- yes! i brought like 10 pair and i switch out all the time so they are getting pretty evenly worn so far. i wear my boots that i got at DI for $7 more than anything else since its cold here. 5. do you get calls or visits from the mission home?- not really. we are the furthest city from the mission home (except malta, but that is a different country...) 6. what is christmas like in ragusa?- its not as big of a deal as i thought it would be. i actually loved it because people are just not ashamed whatsoever to celebrate the birth of christ. but few houses were decorated, people werent stressed out about gifts and making the family christmas card with everyones biography.... it was all about the food. as it should be. 7. have you had anytime to see the history?- no not really. one day we went on an impromtu tour of a town called vittoria with a member, but we thought it was going to be a lesson.... miscommunication but it was cool to see some of the parts outside ragusa. the main church here is INCREDIBLE. the design in sicily is very muslim inspired, since we are so close to africa, so the cathedrals have onion domes, and they are made of a uniform sandstone, not like by baby, the gaudy striped cathedral of siena. 8. is it big population wise? is it crowded?- YES and i think that every person in the city feels it necessary to own a car. the streets are PACKED all the time with cars. there arent usually a ton of people out (since italians are so whimpy and refuse to leave the house when its cold), except on via roma. its the swanky downtown district that spans all of about a kilometer. but people are out in giro on via roma every night, especially sunday. there are lots of old men out often. they are always in groups of 3-5 dressed to the nines: hats, vests, canes, clean shaven, shoes polished. and they are all about 5 feet tall. usually they watch me and sister foote probably thinking they woke up in the twilight zone. who knows if they have ever left ragusa in their lives! and usually slla foote and i say 'BUONGIORNO!' and they smile. sicilians are very respectful of our choice to serve missions. 9. how goes street proselyting?- i LOVE doing street. yesterday we stopped a man named salvatore (like probably 50% of other males in sicily) we talked to him about a profet, and he gave us the same response and most italians. i believe in God, and anyone else who does too is saved. doesnt matter what church they go to. it was fun talking to him because he was saying that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. so we told him that it why we have a profet, because there was a profet 3000 years ago, and there is one today. he was also talking about how he doesnt need to be baptized by water. he can be reborn spiritally. when he said that, i just said, 'interessante. jesus was baptised, and if God is always the same, shouldnt we have the same baptism?' then i told him that WE have the same baptism, we have twelve apostles, we have the same authority that Jesus Christ did. you know that you were relying on the Spirit when you can silence a sicilian.....good moment. 10. our man with a baptismal date- if you will read back to the email two weeks ago, about my week, he was the one who didnt want to study with us anymore. well we kept praying for him and visiting him. on saturday, we saw him and he said he wanted to study with us again! so we saw him on monday but he wasnt not being very nice. he was actually quite rude to slla foote. in this moment, i dont feel like hes really into this. i dont think he is making the best choices. i dont really know him at all, but its hard for slla foote who has been teaching him from the beginning. 11. have you had anymore contacts?- oh yes! tons. we talk to people all day everyday (excpet when we have to sit on our fat butts in the smelly internet cafe....) we have an indian friend that we found while we were knocking doors. he came to the ward christmas party. we are teaching a new african family, gloria (the wife) uyi (the husband) and joseph (the son who is less than 2). we taught them the first lesson, and uyi said 'i already know what you are telling me is true.' hahaha africans make this work seem easy.... but i really want to be teaching italians. everyone needs the gospel of course, but the africans are usually here in a period of transition, and we need to build up this city!! 12. what is church like?- church is hilarious. relief society is awesome because the sisters will often get into.... 'dicussions' about the doctrine. (they are all italian women, what can you do...) sunday school is great, and often slla foote and i end up in the english class, which is the class for all the africans (they are the only non-italians in the ward besides us). this is where we hear things like 'we have our white sisters here, so we need to listen to their words' and 'daddy, open our brains and put your knowledge in.' sacrament meeting is great. its so nice to have a ward and not a branch. usually slla foote and i translate/ babysit in the back. one of our new converts has a very active two year old. he is SOOOOO cute but loves to run up to the pulpit during the middle of a talk. but church is always great. everyone is so short though, i can just imagine what church looks like to everyone else: a sea of tiny little sicilians, a few africans, and then sorella modella, almost 2 meters tall!! (one of the members in a nearby city nicknamed me sorella modella ahahhahaahah) so thats it! thanks for the letter. thanks for all the letters everyone! you are great! i love you and i am so glad i got to talk to you all on christmas. my vote for the baby is Luca. its italian. and its the perfect mix of luke and lucas. Luca William Ashman. its perfect. the gospel is true. otherwise i wouldnt be in this smelly internet bar wearing a frumpy flannel skirt on the 28 of december 2010. i would probably drive down to the strip, watch the bellagio fountains and go to the prada store to drool over everything. but i wouldnt change switch the two scenarios if i had the chance. i have 16 months left to change the world and Heavenly Father himself asked me to do this work. sometimes i dont think of it that way, but when i do, i really feel humbled. He asked me to do this work, because He can't do it Himself. i know this work is ordained of God and that we have a profet today. we need a profet more than ever, and because God loves us, He gave us Thomas S. Monson, a righteous man with no desire for accliam or laud. invite your friends to partake of the fruit, family! help the missionaries in your city. we need the not full time missionaries to help us. love you all!! sorella ashman
hey famiglina!!! what a week what a week.... so that you get an idea of how things go in the mission, our planners have two columns in them, one for our plan, and one for a back up plan. well we get stood up so often that we decided to now use one for our plan, then write what actually happened. and the plans turn out immensely different and its great :) last tuesday was the last time i wrote so lets go back to then. tuesday night we left on a bus for catania, about two hours away. wednesday we had a zone conference with elder kause of the 70 (he's FRENCH!). the conference was great and made us all sufficiently feel like terrible missionaries. elder kause asked for a companionship to volunteer to contact him, so of course i volunteered us. i had been in the mission for less than a week and figured that if i messed it up i could use that as an excuse. well we did a good job and then he told us what we could do better. it was pretty humbling to get critiqued in front of the whole zone and mission president, but it was very helpful. that night we came back (after getting a fantastic gelato) and planned and went to bed, nothing special. the next day (thursday) i really began to learn what it means to be a missionary. we had an appointment with our investigator Silvana around 10,30 which in italy means sometime before 12,00 but we try to be as punctual as possible. we had a member couple coming to the lesson, the puglisis. they are probably over 70 and drive really frighteningly and fight a lot, but they are hilarious and really good to us missionaries. well they showed up at our house about an hour late, then fratello puglisi wouldnt listen to my companion's directions so it took like another 1\2 hour to get 10 blocks away and then by the time we showed up (after wasting over an hour of the Lord's time) it was nearly noon and we knocked on the door and Silvana didnt answer. we called her and we heard her cellphone ringing in the kitchen. we still arent sure if she was home or not... after that we went home for lunch and then prepared to go to comiso (a tiny pasese about 30 minutes away) to visit Angelo, our investigator who had a baptismal date. again, we had prepared for a member to come with us. Sorella Cascone is AWESOME. last week we helped her move in to her new house. she is the wife of the first patriarch in Sicily, who we lovingly call White Feather cuz he looks like an indian chief, and her son is the bishop. Bishop Cascone has a 2 year old son named giorgio who is my companion's boyfriend. he is soooo cute. pretty much the cascone family rocks. anyway, so sorella cascone was coming to visit Angelo with us. he didnt come to church on sunday because we offeneded him, so we knew that this meeting was going to be rough, plus he hadn't been responding to our calls. BUT he still had his baptismal date. so we show up at the bar where he works and the first thing he says is 'ho smesso di studiare con voi' which means 'i quit studying with you.' then he goes on to explain how badly we offended him, and how the Church is just trying to take his money to build the church in America and how he is going to do his own thing and he wishes us no ill, but he can't be part of a church that sells its message. even writing it now i feel so sad for him. i know he doesnt believe that. Angelo has seen miracles. he quit smoking AFTER 40 YEARS at the flip of a switch, and he was healed by a priesthood blessing, and it was all through the power of the Holy Ghost and he knows that but he was too scared to accept that he had to change his life. but we were so blessed to have Sorella Cascone there. she really smoothed the whole situation over and left us all on good terms. that was a really hard experience, but we are praying for angelo still. after about an hour with angelo, we saw isaac, our new convert from ghana. Isaac is incredible. he always says 'wooooow' about everything. we taught him about the temple and just had a good time with him. after we got back from comiso, we stopped in at a member family, the iaconos [the husband is actually inactive :( ] they were so happy to see us and so nice. then we went to visit our other new convert (Also african) Rita, because the appointment we set up showed us up. she is so great. she always says 'you are welcome' about 6 times when she opens the door, so hospitable. pretty much it was a hard day that thursday, but it could have been so much worse. friday was good. we had a good lesson with sister maloku, our investigator from albania, but she hardly speaks italian so its really hard to teach her (where is giulio when i really need him???!!! hahaha) then saturday. this was definitely the hardest day in the mission so far, it was awesome. first off it was FREEZING the whole day. just keep that in mind. so first thing when i wake up i pray for a long time, usually about 20 minutes, for the people that we are going to see that day. then i spend an hour preparing a lesson to teach them. then we go out in to the freezing cold and no one is home, and if they are home, they tell us they dont want to meet with us anymore. hahahaha. so that happened. we found this woman who had been invesitgating for a long time. we talked to her and she pretty much told us that she enjoyed visiting, but she didnt want to change her religion. she was content how she was. ok good. at least we don't waste anymore time with her. then we wanted to go find some ex invesigators and find out what happened. it took about 1 hour to walk where we were going, and on the way up this hill my comp got the feeling that we shouldnt be going there. so we pull out the area book and found out that there was a previous investigator right on the street where we were. so we went to find her. her name was giusy and she works in a bread store (all the old contacts from the elders work in food establishments....) well we found her! we taught her and her coworker for a good while and then said we would come back next week (which is now this week). we left the bread shop and were already late for lunch then had to walk back for like 45 minutes! we had lunch and then we had the appointment we had been waiting for!! the miracle man, giovanni zaffarano, who works at the codice fiscale who had read most of the book of mormon and wanted to set up an appointment with us. we were so prepared. we practiced the invitation to baptism and prayed to have the Spirit because we knew he was looking for the truth. so we went to the church and after giovanni was about 20 minutes late, we called the member who was coming to appointment to tell him not to worry. we continued to wait until he was an hour late, and then i realized that no matter how prepared and excited i am, we all have our angency. i can pray to see a miracle, but the people who are going to be my miracles have to be willing to do their part too. i was really discouraged. we had been talking about giovanni for the last week and then in the end he didnt want it badly enough. but here's the real miracle. in the regular hillary life, i would have been upset about this huge disappointment for at least the rest of the day. on the mission, the disappointment lasted oh say bout oh bout i'd say about 15 minutes. there is no reason to lose hope! see ether 12:4 maybe giovanni got in a car accident or maybe his wife died. who knows. but we are going to find him this week and ask. we spent the rest of the night street contacting and it was soooo cold, but i loved it. sunday was great. im really growing to love the ward more and more. in the evening we went to visit a less active brother. he HATES the members here because his daughter married a member and he commited adulterio. so fratello raposelli will MAI MAI MAI MAI MAI (never never never never never) set foot in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in ragusa. he told us his whole story and it was so interesting to see how people respond to the challenges that God gives them. 'i giveth to men weaknesses that they may be humble'. all the trials that we have in our lives are for our own good! we should relish in the fact that God wants us to return to Him so badly that He is willing to teach us! He could just toss us aside and not care, but no, all these things shall work together for our good,and IF WE HUMBLE OURSELVES then weak things will become strong unto us. monday we went to a little dumpy town called Gela to do a service project. the branch there has about 7 active members and the poor elders have such a hard time. they DID just have a baptism last week, and their new convert is AWESOME. his name is Nicola and he used to be a friar!! hahahaha the people in Gela welcomed us with open arms. we were doing a food drive, then distributing the food to needy faimilies. there were some teenage boys who lived in the area who had set up a huge nativity and they were part of the food drive too. some priest came and blessed the nativity and sprinkled holy water everywhere. it was awesome. in that moment i thought how cool it is to be in a country that is so open about their belief in God. this nativity was right on the street and tons of people saw us all there. catholicism is just part of the culture here. italians are catholic. its just that simple, the words 'italian' and 'catholic' are practically synonyms. it makes the idea of switching religions really difficult for them, but it really makes for some fun stories. monday night we had FHE with an awesome family, sorella campo and her daughter Yolanda. we read, 'you are special' a really cute kids book, and we had one of our new converts, Tina, there. it was just great. tuesday was a great day. we had an appt with a creeper at 10,30 but he didnt show, which was fine with us and we were expecting, but we had to go just in case he really was interested in the message and not... other stuff... hahahah we then decided to go find this inactive family. they lived super far away, in the same place where we found giusy at the bread store. well we made the journey there and they welcomed us into their home. we had a great visit and found out what happened to them. they were baptised 6 years ago, and then a year later their son was killed in a car accident and at that time brother camissa stopped believing in God. we invited them to pray, to try to rekindle their faith. but for people who dont believe that God exists or that there is life after this, that's a pretty big request. this family is important. they are elect. fratello camissa is amazing. he has the priesthood, he has baptized several other people. he looks healthy and young. he doens't even smoke! we are really expecting a miracle with them. they like us and invited us back for lunch next week! im really looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use me and sorella foote to help this family. we got home an hour late for lunch, after stopping in at the bread shop with giusy and veronica. then we got showed up for an appointment so we did house contacting for a long time. 2 people let us in! mostly because they didnt have speakers on the outside of their houses so they had to answer the door. hahahaha one of the people we found though his name was harry. he was from india and he was awesome. he said he would come to church on sunday and we want to teach him again. he was very open minded and he in younger, which is something we have been looking for, younger people to help make the church grow. then we taught english course which was super fun. after the course we visitied for a while with the students and they were shocked that we didnt drink coffee!! maybe 'italians', 'catholics' and 'coffee drinkers' are all synonyms..... wow this is a really long letter. i hope you enjoy the week in the life a missionary! hours spent praying for and preparing for the people who arent even home, and if they are home, they just tell us they dont want to see us! hahaha jk jk jk but i am really so happy. everyday when i walk down the street i just think 'im in italy!!! i've have been being prepared for this my whole life and its finally happening!!!' i'm freezing cold all the time, but i know that someday someone is going to ask me to prove that i am a disciple of Jesus Christ, and i have made these tiny sacrifices, i have suffered a miniscule amount all for the love of my Savior. i AM a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Sono stata chiamata a proclamare la sua parola al suo popolo affinche essi possano avere la vita eterna. (see 3 nefi 5:13) thank you all for the love and support. i need it! and i feel it and your prayers. you are all in mine as well. con tanto amore sorella ashman ps the mailing address is via m. buonarroti 201 97100 ragusa, rg
So i made it safely and happily. we are all tired and ready to sleep after over 24 hours without a bed, but we have just gotten our first area assignments!! my first area is........ make a guess!!!!
if you guessed sicily you're right!!!! my first city is ragusa, pretty much as far south as you can get while still being in italy. check it out. its the southeast corner of sicily. so i get another LOOONG day of travel tomorrow! my trainer's name is sorella foote.
today was great. we got into rome, and i felt so at home. the disgusting bathrooms, the smell of smoke, the weird high heel sneakers. and i ate a meat lasagna! all of us greenies get to stay at the mission home tonight, and sister kelly made us din din. the mission home is an incredible old house built in 1924 for mussolini's daughter! how the church got a hold of it, i don't know, but it is stunning.
the Lord has blessed me so much. when we got to the mission home, they showed us the map of all the cities in the mission. (perugia isn't an option, but we can always visit there in summer 2012.) but there were only two choices for sisters, on one sicily, and the other way in the south. so either way i was gonna be glad because it is WARMMMMMM down there!!! but i knew i was going to go to sicily because Heavenly Father loves me so much for some reason, and He knew i wanted to go there.
i just want to share a short story about how much God loves the missionaries. while we were on the long flight, from dallas to london some baby started crying. i was trying to sleep, knowing that i don't get a day to catch up for the next 18 months, and so i prayed, "Heavenly Father, please calm this baby so that her mother doesn't have to worry about her waking up the other passengers." and she stopped crying. it was amazing. she didn't even cry the rest of the trip.
well i've already taken too long to write, but i'm ecstatic. the mission president and his wife are awesome, and we met the stake patriarch!! fratello calbrese. he is awesome. anyway, i'm leaving here at 6:30 so i got to get to sleep (it's 10:45 already....)