man i am super exhausted so i apologize in advance if this letter is incoherent and short like im predicting. this morning we drove half way across sicily with some elders (sicily is really small.... it took like 2 hours) and we went to the valley of the temples, anceint grecian temples on the tops of some hills. it was BEAUTIFUL. they also had a ton of modern sulptures all around that (forgive for saying this!!) i liked even more than the temples.... wooops. they were incredible though. the best part of the day though was when we were coming back from the temples, we stopped at the beach and had a picnic!!!!!!!! i love the beach!!!! even though water is 100% vietato as a missionary (except when you are baptizing). ok i will recount our adventure from last p-day. we came and used the computer first thing in the morning, and then by 1 oclock we had everything done!! so we said, lets rent bikes for a few hours and have some fun! so we went to the bike shop to see how much it cost and it was super cheap, so we said lets do it! we wanted to go to modica. so we started out smooth sailing, loving life, riding right along with the cars. we got to modica!! then we turned around immediately becuase we were going to be late, but we were set on getting back in time.... things were going fine, then all of the sudden we turned the corner of this gorgeous green hill and the sky was completely BLACK. it started trickling, then raining, then pouring. i couldnt see cuz i had my glasses on, so i put them in my pocket. i was checking to make sure they were there about every 30 seconds, and maybe 10 minutes later, they were gone!! i told slla zeller we needed to stop, call the guy who rented us the bikes and tell him i lost my glasses. we started looking for my glasses but it was really raining hard.... anyway francesco, the bike man, said he was going to come pick us up! he came and we were saved and i couldnt stop laughing about how ridiculous we must have looked and how happy we were to have him pick us up. anyway, he started asking us immediately about what we teach and stuff and it was really cool. a few days later we gave him a book of mormon, but we were a bit scared because we don't think that he is married and its always touchy teaching an unmarried man.... but we are going to go back this week to see him and see if he has read and if he is interested in the message! i was thinking it over and i realized that i had to lose my glasses or we never would have called him, and he never would have picked us up or asked us anything about the church. now the good side is i have an excuse to get a pair of italian glasses and i still have my other frames (i lost the zebra ones. ow! it hurts me to say that....) alright lets get spiritual here. back in my first transfer, slla foote and i felt like there was a family with two daughters that was ready to hear th gospel. i haven't forgotten that feeling. slla zeller and i a few days ago felt very compelled to do some finding in a certain zone. so we were in that zone and it was almost lunch time. i told slla zeller to go ring the citofono and i had to watch for the bus. as she was ringing i heard someone open the gate, and so i scampered over there. there was a woman inside and she was very nice. we told her who we were and that we had a message to share and that we would like to come back and share it with her. she said ok and we set the appt for a few days later. when we went for the appt, she told us that she had been praying that day for God to send her someone to teach her. we explained the first vision, the book of mormon and a bit about who we are. the only thing that she didnt agree with was that we have sunday as our holy day when the Bible clearly says saturday....(she isn't catholic--she's adventist! finally someone who thinks outside the box!) well that saturday and sabbath being the same word thing only happens in italian so.... yeah. she's got nothing. after we finished the lesson we sang 'i know that my Redemer lives' and the Spirit was so strong!!!! we set another appt and i asked her if she had any other children (beside the one daughter we had met.) i knew what she was going to say and she said she had another daughter!!!! soooo cool. man the mission is fulllllll of miracles and things that i couldnt learn any other way. i think that is the number one thing that i've learned from slla zeller. there are things that we can't learn any other way. she is dying next week and i am going to miss her terribly. man. i depend on her so much. having a companion is so great. i love slla zeller!!! i love you all as well! thank you for everything. the package is at the post office mom!!! i have to go pick it up because we weren't home when they tried to drop it off. thank you in advance for everything. all my love from ragusa sorella ashman
alright, i'll say it. im really glad that Heavenly Father knows what He is doing. saturday was such a hard day, but by the time i am writing to my family it's all water under the bridge hahaha and now it doesnt even seem like anything bad happened. basically i'll just sum up by saying that emiliano is not getting baptized on friday. we fasted, we prayed, we felt really good about it, we have been doing a sugar fast for three weeks, everyone in the ward is praying and i know you are too but there are two forces that are more powerful even then prayer- agency and the will of God. and neither of those two things was in line with what we wanted. and isn't that great? i kept telling emiliano that we want trials because trials are what make us grow!! after a trial we can look back and see what God was making of us. the main thing that upset me was that i had felt a spiritual confermation that he was ready and then he decided he wasnt and i was realllllllly sad that what i was so sure about didnt come true. i asked sorella zeller why in the world this would happen.she in her infinite wisdom said, 'we needed to work for this baptism as if it was going to happen, with no doubts about it. if we had been unsure about it, would we have worked as hard as we have been the last few weeks?' aaaaaahhaaaaaa!!! man she is good.... things are still progressing with emiliano. he is still elect, it's just going to take him a little bit longer than two months to change his entire life by himself. i don't think thats asking too much. aurelia is doing great, but we have to move her baptism back quite a bit because her fiance is still not officially divorced so they can't actually get married. we taught her the law of chastity and she thought it was so funny that these two twenty something year old girls were teaching HER about intimacy. she literally cracked up! i thought it was going to be hard to teach emiliano the law of chastity, but instead the 52 year old was less mature! hahaha we have been instructed to work more closely with the members, and so we have been! we teach lessons to members and do more service with them. it's been slow seeing results, but i know that "there is no subsititute for a member oriented missionary program" like it says in PMG. last night we taught our english course, which is always a highlight of the week. it was awesome because first thing, this guy walks in and he asks, "what means santi degli ultimi giorni?" (latter-day saints) and so we explained the restoration very briefly and then we talked about the secret to happiness and it was interesting to see what people thought. i said three things: my relationship with God, having the answers to my questions, and the knowledge that i will be resurrected and live with God and my family for eternity. and then i added gelato.... they know i'm obsessed with gelato (even though i haven't had any for three weeks cuz i made this sacrifice that that emiliano would get baptized!!! hahahah) alright i love you all. im so grateful to be a missionary. im so grateful for the Holy Ghost and i am so grateful that my parents raised me in a home where It's influence was constant. keep praying for emiliano. keep on working hard, at work, weight watchers, school, whatever. i love you and support you. sorella ashman MOM-I GOT THE BANK CARD!!! i knew it had come, it was one of the lame elders who had it forever and had 'forgotten' to give it to me. thank you!!! and i love the cd, especially my solo hahahahah!!!! also, will you tell trisha to give me her address in alaska NOW! and ill have a letter waiting for her. thank you!!!!!!!!!!
I'm gonna try to keep this one short cuz i'm already crying hahahaha i've just really been feeling the Spirit so strongly the last few days, but i cry all the time anyway. sunday was INCREDIBLE. last thursday emiliano still wasn't sure if he was going to make it to church. he had to take a step forward and ask his boss to switch the shift, which required some actually effort on his part. up to this point, everything has been totally natural for him, but i told him i was so excited that he had this trial because God was giving him a chance to grow. i wasn't worried at all. the Spirit is amazing. i feel like a fortune teller because i know things that are going to happen before they happen. i think i already said that. oh well. anyway. we started singing the opening hymn. sorella zeller was playing the piano and i was conducting and he still wasn't there. then, as we started the third verse of 'sunshine in my soul' in walks our little sunshine EMILIANO!!! and i think i probably had the most idiotic smile on my face but oh well. it was ward conference and we had the entire stake presidency in our ward! this week is also the 150th anniversary of italy, so we practiced all week to sing the national anthem because we didn't know it, and slla zeller had to play the piano. in sacrament meeting we all stood and sang the italian national anthem and i was so happy!! i am italian at heart. even if i think its insane that everything closes right in the middle of the day for 3 hours.... but our inactive member who hasnt been to church for 30 years came!!!!!!!!!!!!! it was incredible. he sat right next to me, and emiliano on the other side and behind me sat our other less active that we have been working with and i thought 'thank you Heavenly Father for these people that you have entrusted me with. i can't believe that i- hillary ashman, regular blond american girl- have been prepared called and set apart to care for these tender souls in this amazing country.' can you believe that i am here? i can't. and at the end of the next transfer (in 3 weeks) my mission is FIVE MONTHS OVER. i have been talking to Heavenly Father so much. not just praying. just chatting sometimes. emiliano has to come to church this sunday or he can't get baptized. i've been talking to Heavenly Father about it. cuz He knows how it's going to work out. i have no doubt whatsoever, that right at the last moment, emiliano is going to say 'LET'S DO IT!' because i know the future and i know he is going to get baptized. i trust the Spirit. one more cool experience and then im gonna go. the other day i was studying the map of ragusa and praying to know where to go. i felt really good about a street 'maiorana' and so we decided to go there. well for reasons that happen on the mission, we didnt make it there. two days later, we saw one of the members and she asked if we needed a ride. we of course accepted and we told her where to go and she said, 'oh this is where my son lives!' her son is named davide and he is the boyfriend of another member. so his gf and mom are both members and i felt like there was someone on that street ready!! well he wasn't home at that moment, but now we know, and we were lead there and i am sure that the countless prayers of these women are being answered. thank you everyone, a special shoutout to dad and toonchic. i love your letters and and so grateful that you spoil me with them. dad thanks for the poem. i remember the first time i heard you recite and i have always remembered that thought 'it might have been' you never know what impact your example has had on someone else. i love you all!! janelle- i will see you next year. love sorella ashman
yesterday we had zone conference and i am newly commited to the obedience that i vowed to myself (and have done a pretty good job at maintaing if i might say so myself....) at the conference, the first missionary who served in sicily spoke! it was so cool to hear about him starting from NOTHING and having 14 baptisms in 3 months!!
it was an amazing conference and i learned so much. my companion gave her dying testimony and i cried so much thinking about the day i will have to do that too... my mission already seems too short...
last night when we got back from catania, emiliano came past the church and brought me and slla zeller a gift for "festa della donna"! it was women's day yesterday and its tradition to give women memosa flowers. he is sooooo nice!!! he is really really scared about getting baptized though.
well aurelia came to church! she seemed to enjoy it. and she brought her boyfriend! we will see her tonight and get to know her a bit better.
we fasted with emiliano and i was super proud of him! he did it! however i wasnt proud of him for lying to everyone that he was fasting though. its like he's ashamed of what he's doing! mama does NOT like!! but he is changing his life for this, so i try to have patience. as we fasted i felt very sure that emiliano really will be baptized on the 25. i have no idea how its going to happen, especially since HE is the one having doubts and its his choice, but i SURE that it will.
one of the highlights of the week was seeing the change that we can make in someone's life. we have this inactive member fllo rapposelli who has about 3 teeth, smokes and drinks, hasn't been to church for literally YEARS and says that the people from ragusa can burn in hell. seems like a lost cause. but for some reason i just like him. we go and visit him and sing hymns with him. i have gone once a week for the last three months. a few days ago, he told us that he was so grateful that we have really showed him the true love of Christ and he said he was going to come to church for the next two weeks!!!!! honestly it started as a selfish desire to make him come to church, but i proposed to him that we do a special musical number, and he agreed!! we will sing the 20th of march. plus this week is italy's 150th anniversary of independence and so the congregation is singing the national anthem (which is GORGEOUS) and he said he would like to come!!!! unreal... he got choked up as he thanked us and he asked us to never stop visiting him. we are the only happy thing he has in his life right now, and everytime we go, he tells us that he feels the Spirit while we are there. i NEVER expected this. i just kept going because i knew he had nothing and no one and i enjoyed the opportunity to sing. how blessed we have been...
family, everyday i know more that the church is true, but especially when we get a big group of missionaries together. its AMAZING. we have power! it's cool! and we are united in the desire to spread the truth to our brothers and sisters. man i NEVER thought this would happen, but im here in italy with the little black nametag and a book of mormon with tears in my eyes becuase im overwhelmed by the beauty of my life. i wouldnt be here if this wasnt true. it is. a 14 year old boy had a question, and he saw God. and now im in sicily to tell everyone!
mom if you havent sent the package yet, you should put a note for emiliano.
so yesterday was a crazy p-day so we didn't have the chance to write, so now we are taking our lunch break today. sorry if anyone cried for not getting my letter.... so this has been a roller coaster week. i think the mission is totally a roller coaster becasue my emotions are always so close to the surface and so many things happen that have a more profound effect than what they usually would. first things first: emiliano! seriously one of my best friends in the world right now. let's talk about the Holy Ghost for a minute. having it, and being in tune, is like being able to tell the future. you just know things. so when emiliano told us a few days ago that he got a new boss, i knew at that moment because of a feeling that i had, that this boss was going to create problems with emiliano's spiritual progression. a couple days later, emiliano told us that the new boss decided that the store was going to be open on sundays. nevertheless, we set a date with him!! MARCH 25 but the only problem is, he has to come to church every week before that or he can't be baptized. but tonight we are going to have FHE with a family in the church and the lesson is going to be about fasting and this suunday we are going to fast that emiliano will be able to be baptized on the 25th. :) i know it will all work out. i think its only fitting to relive a day with you all. you will love it :) monday started fine. we went to rita, one of the new converts, and she wasn't home, but we had district meeting, where the elders in the closest city come and we all help each other. it was the first time with a new district leader, elder scotchi, and he was AWESOME!! the training was great. we had decided to have a potluck. they brought some yummy rice, and we brought sausage and cauliflower. yum! after we had a nice full afternoon planned. we were going to go to our investigator silvana, then we were going to have a lesson with a new investigator federico, then we were going to have FHE with emiliano at one of the member's houses. so we went to silvana, she wasn't home. we called federico to confirm, he said he couldn't come. then we went to see emiliano at work, and he wasn't there. so we called him and he said he couldn't come. so we'd been walking around in the rain for a few hours by this point, and i was really really sad. we had this awesome day planned i was so cold and just upset. so we said, ok let's do some house! as we were walking to the predetermined palazzo, i was praying 'Heavenly Father, i am so frustrated right now. why did everyone cancel their appointments? please help me understand. i'm just so frustrated by this. please give us some reason for this to have happened.' i had tears in my eyes and i was really feeling low. we approached this palazzo and it was so foggy and cold. the gate was open, and the door into the stairwell was open. (just those two things right there are miracles!!) we walked up to the top floor and knocked on the first door. a woman opened the door. we explained to her the Book of Mormon, and that it gives us the answer to our questions. she said 'no no no i have read all the books, and nothing will give me back my husband.' her husband died 7 years ago.she was very angry and very closed. i started praying in my mind 'Heavenly Father, please us help her.' we kept talking. and she started opening up. after probably 10 minutes in the door, her phone rang. because of that, she told us to come in. we sat on her couch and started to talk with her more about the gospel. we then proposed a program of 4 weeks, in the which if she would read and pray everyday and come to church, by the end of four weeks, she would know the truth of the gospel and have the opportunity to be baptized. SHE ACCEPTED. she agreed to put it to the test, to really see if we had something different to offer. so she agreed and she also accepted to be baptized on March 25. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS??? she wanted nothing to do with us, and now she has a baptismal date....aurelia and emiliano! monday was one of the hardest days ever....but God had to clear out our schedules or we never would have been there right at that moment with aurelia. we went back to aurelia yesterday and she already seemed like a new person. the gospel is amazing my dear family. thank you for your prayers and support. read the Book of Mormon. it changes lives. it's changing mine more and more everyday. it's changing emiliano's and aurelia's. there are so many more things i could say, just know that this work is true and it's going forth. in the rome mission this year alone, there have already been 18 baptisms!! we are going to add two more people into the true Church of Jesus Christ in about 3 weeks. keep your prayers coming. pray for emiliano, aurelia, mose and the battaglia family. thank you all. i love you. sorella ashman ps i bought a present for spencer!! so i need his address