Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD!

what a special day it was to get so many letters, several from ryan, a really good one from mom, and even one from janelle!! how amazing! thank you all sooo much. i really appreciate it. and i am not even mad when you don't write me, so don't feel guilty. that's how much i love you all. 
i want to quickly speak to janelle- thank you for being who you are. thank you for your support and prayers and i pray everyday that you will be waiting for me when i get home, but if not we know that God knows what He is doing!!! i love you so much and i am so grateful for the beautiful memories that i have of you. i think my first memory of you we were in tuesday morning and you were buying these shoes with forks, knives, and spoons all over them, and i thought 'i wanna be as stylish as aunt janelle!' and i still retain that. even in the picture of you that my mom sent you can't hide those betsey johnson earrings from me!!! hahaha thank you for being so generous and complimentary. it really is inspiring to be around you and you make everyone feel like a million bucks. thank you!!!
i feel very touched right now. people are so nice to me and i totally don't deserve it. i am glad that you all like my letters so much cuz i do it for you. sometimes i dont like writing the emails, but over the last six months its gotten better and better. so i will keep doing it because, it makes you all happy and because its in the white handbook. :)
this was one of the best weeks of my mission, and that is saying something. the biggest news so far: WE HAVE A BAPTISMAL DATE that i really think is going to happen!!!!!!!! our sweet sweet investigator, loredana, has a lot of saddness in her life. she was the caretaker of the sister of one of our members, and this sister died almost a year ago. loredana was heartbroken because this sister was so important to her. when we had the first lesson with her last friday, she cried and cried. she shared some very personal experiences about this woman and it was just a very touching experience. also the member talked about her sister. the member, sister gurrieri, told us that her sister was the reason that she found the Church. her sister never joined the Church because her husband was contrary or she would have. sister gurrieri told us about a little while after her sister died, she felt her presence in the house, and she heard something fall in her sister's room. the picture of her niece (her sister's daughter) was knocked over revealing behind it a secret copy of the Book of Mormon with little notes from the sister missionaries tucked in pages that sister gurrieri's sister had kept from when she was taking the missionary lessons secretly years before.  wow. lorenzo snow profisied that many italians would receive the gospel through dreams and visions and that has certainly been true. italians are very sensitive people and they are open to receiving answers when they really want to know. i love italy so much. anyway so that was amazing to hear. loredana has dreamed about this dead sister too and she is ready to receive all the blessings that come from being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. she is getting baptized on june 24. but listen to this. as we left the house yesterday, we said, hey what date are we going to give lorendana? june 24. ok sounds good. when we proposed the date to her she said 'what? june 24?' and she looked over at sister gurrieri. june 24 is the day that the sister died last year. amazing. AMAZING the way God works... that's how i  know that it has to work out. it's just too wonderful. so please pray for loredana that she can quit smoking and that she will be able to come to church every week.
last week we had the most spiritual experience that i have had in my whole mission. for me this meeting was even more powerful than the ones with loredana! PAOLO. this man is incredible. here's what happened. paolo works in a bar near our house and one day we were passing by. he and his coworker were outside and we started to talk to them. paolo told us that he feels too impure to pray to God but that he knows that God answers prayers because his very faithful friend has prayed for him and he has been blessed and now we were sent to him. that was about two weeks ago that we first met him, and since that day we have been trying to actually fix an appointment with him. even though he is at work 24/7 so we haven't had a real lesson with him, we have seen him twice at work while he is closing and we have been able to 'teach' him a bit with no other customers there. last week, we were talking to him about the plan of salvation and how he can know the truth. i think that morning i prayed for someone who is looking for the truth. and paolo said word for word, 'sto cercando per la verita' 'I AM SERCHING FOR THE TRUTH' i bet i looked like a fool as a huge grin spread over my face and i said 'l'ha trovata' 'you found it' i can't explain how i felt. i was in ecstasy. for weeks i had been praying for someone with desire, someone who was looking for the truth, because i have come to the conclusion that that is the answer. THEIR desire. this man WANTS the truth. he has a young son and a beautiful wife and they have been in love since he was 17 and she was 13. and now he needs some answers. he needs to know that there is a God and that he can be cleansed and forgiven and that he can have the fullness of joy. as we left his bar i was walking on clouds. it wasn't even a quasi answer to a prayer. it was a 100% this is what you asked for and this is what you are getting. i just started crying. we ducked into a little alley and prayed with grattitude. i could have kept crying the whole night, but there were people out so i made myself stop. please pray for paolo. 
k let's talk really guick about how the Spirit works. 'sorella lewis. close your eyes and point to a spot on the map' we go there and there is no one home, but across the street there are two men working. 'hey, we are missionaries and we are looking for someone who is interested in our message. would you or anyone you know like to hear more?' 'no we aren't from ragusa. go ask at the bar down the street.' we go to the bar 'hello! we are missionaries and we are looking for people who are interested in our message. would you or anyone you know like to hear more?' 'no, thank you though' we walk outside, there is a pretty woman with a beautiful dog. 'ciao! come sta?' 'bene' 'noi siamo missionarie per le Chiesa di Gesù Cristo dei Santi degli Ultimi Giorni' and then we start talking to angela. she was amazing. very bitter about the hand that life dealt her. we talked and i felt the Spirit soooo strongly and i told her that. and she said she felt it too. with tears in her eyes, she thank us, but said that she was too angry with God to accept Him right now. i said, i'm really sorry that's true. but He cares and wants the best for you. and then she was gone. i know that we were supposed to be there at that moment. we made a difference in angela's life and she in ours and God will not forget about her. 

saturday we had a really fun experience. saro, one of the english course students, invited us to his house. his house was massive. (it was normal for america....) it was outside the city and frankly reminded me of my house in siena with the garden and the openness, but it was even better. it was sooo pretty i took some pics which i will be sending very soon i promise. they have a wood stove outside their house where they make focaccia ragusana. i think i am going to buy you guys some focaccia and send it in the mail, it is that good. anyway that was just a super fun cultural experience. saro and his wife are a geologist and a biologist respectively. they go on caving excursions and they keep trying to convince me to come but i think i have been clear about what we can and can't do. we even had to subsititute some time from p-day to saturday so that we could go to their house. missionaries just aren't normal people.... but they invited me back when i am 'FREE' and i can stay at their house. hahaha

i have only five weeks left in ragusa. by the time i leave, i will have been here for over 7 months. i huge part of my soul will always be in this tiny city. every street has a different scent and a different memory that you just have to exerience to understand. there will always be the corner where we singing the national anthem of italy at the top of our lungs on independence day, the bus driver who said i want to be happier but i'm not ready to do anything about it yet, the bakery where the man who gives us free cornettos works, and the telephone booth where we met emiliano one night when it was freezing but we had to wait for him because we needed to say hi to him. i can't descibe the affection that feel for ragusa, but i think the best thing to say is it's like my little sister. every once in while we just didnìt get along no matter how hard we tried, but in the end i am overwhelmingly grateful for the things we experienced together. ragusa is, as far as i am concerned, another member of my family, just like siena. i am grateful. that is the best word. it is with extreme gratitude that i thank my Father in Heaven for even allowing me this opportunity to be here, to find the siblings that i wish had been born into my family, but  if they were, the story would be much less exciting. this work is true and Jesus is the Christ.
sorella ashman

Transfers!

no transfer for me this week!! yet another transfer in RAGUSA!!!! this is my fifth transfer here and i finally feel like i am learning how to be a missionary. and on 29 june i will be transferred to another city and have to start all over.... hahaha i love this mission. 
it was SOOO wonderful to talk on the phone huh? we will figure out how to skype for christmas. i got the letter from nick and from dad. wow! 20 of june you have to start there babbo? that's so exciting! it sounds perfect and with the fat stack of cash that they give you we can go to and from italy as we please! hahahah jk jk jk you and mom can go on missionsssss!! 
last week we had zone conference and it was WONDERFUL! i got to transalate the training from the mission president and it was really fun. it is WAY easier to translate from english to italian than from italian to english.... the thing that i really took away from the zone conference is DESIRE. that we need people who have a DESIRE to know the truth. we have started saying in some of our street approaches that we are looking for people with a desire to improve their lives, and it gets some good responses! 
last saturday was an incredible day. we went to comiso, a little city outside of ragusa, for the entire day! it was really fun. as we were leaving town walking to the bus stop, a man walked past us, and i felt like i has to talk to him. i ran after him then we talked to him about the Book of Mormon and families and he gave us his address and phone number! his name is biagio, and we are meeting with him friday :) he is very special! then we got to comiso to meet with a young muslim boy, mahad. we are always careful about meeting with muslims, because in extreme cases they can be killed if they convert.... anyway the way we found this boy was at the bus stop in comiso a week earlier. we gave him a pass along card, and didnt think anything of it--until he called us three days later. let me just put this into perspective how much of a miracle this is. NO ONE EVER CALLS US. i spend about 30- 40 minutes on the phone everyday organizing everything, but i have NEVER in 6 months had anyone call US without us contacting them first in some way. so we felt the urgency to see this boy. we met him at the bus stop. teaching muslims is particular because they don't believe that they are the children of God. that is that first point of the first lesson!!!! so when we asked him if we could pray with him and he said no, we just kept on teaching him. we asked him why he called us, and his response was so pure and innocent. he doesn's speak a lot of italian (he speaks well enough, probably about how i spoke the first time i came to italy) so when it comes down to it, all you can say is the most basic thing. he said 'voglio sapere la verità' and that was enough for me. we taught him about God literally being our father, Jesus Christ literally being the Son of God and out Older Brother. i have never met a person so humble and calm. he just listens. he soaked it up. we then invited him to pray and to come to stake conference with us in catania the next day. he said he would like to come! it was unreal. i didn't know if he would actually do it. we had to pick him up at 8:30 in the morning and he would stay with us until 4. he agreed. and he came. but let me finish saturday. after mahad, we ate lunch with a less active, and then we took at cat nap at the park.... it was HOT and she made us eat sooooo much food i could hardly believe it. then we went to see mary, our african investigator, and then we went to see mary galesi. she is very likely my favorite investigator (besides emiliano and mose the catholic priest who is moving to america!!! more on that later) we just decided to stop by and she if she was there. here's what happened. the anziani from gela found her doing house one time. i have nooo clue why they were doing house in comiso---wait yes i do. that sentence whould say 'i have nooooo clue how we got so blessed to have elders so great that they responded to the promptings of the Spirit and found this woman' so we went to her house during my second transfer. we are talking at least 2 or 3 months ago. she LOVED everything and felt the Spirit so strongly. and she agreed to everything we told her. when we called the next week to confirm the appointment, she said that her husband was against this idea and that she couldn't meet with us. she is a young mother of two, very pretty, VERY nice. and she was soooo excited to see us!! she kept saying 'hai fatto bene! hai fatto bene!' she WANTS to meet with us. DESIRE!!! and what's more, she told us about her cousin, angela, who works in ragusa, who also WANTED a  copy of the Book of Mormon. AMAZING. AMAZING. this woman. i have no more words. 
so lets pass to sunday at STAKE CONFERNCE in CATANIA!! it was very fun and it was very fun to have mahad with us. i think he enjoyed himself. he is very quiet, but we are meeting with him again on saturday. we had a fun ride on the bus, except i discovered a VERY BIG PROBLEM. remember rapposelli, the onld drunkard who has come to the knowledge of the truth? well, as always, nothing can ever be perfect. rapposelli has taken to talking to us about things that are a bit too personal and i just told him straight up that talking about that makes me very uncomfortable. it was really unpleasant. and what's worse ok let's just lay this out in the open.... rapposelli has mistaken the Spirit that we bring for something else and he thinks that 'he is in love with someone. but it is impossible and he should just forget about this woman.' so long story short, rapposelli is no longer in love with his 'wife' (who is not actually his wife!!!) and he thinks he is in love with me. now what the heck am i supposed to do? why is life so complicated people????  hhahaha oh well. so anywat we are trying to work with the bishop to have him excommunicated because he was baptized not living the law of chastity NOR the word of wisdom. im not actually sure that he understands what he said when he said he knew the Church was true. a lot of people we meet think the things we say are true, but they don't understand that this is not just some fluffy conversation about a vision and a book. this is LIFE. this gospel is the way we live, think, eat, speak, behave, dress. it's not a religion. it's practice for the Celestial Kingdom. how am i supposed to communicate that? yeah. we'll see.... 
anyway hahaha sorry that was kind of a rant. but things are going great. i told emiliano that i would REALLY like him to get baptized in the next six weeks.... and i also told Heavenly Father. 
so karim, miriam's boyfriend, was supposed to go to ireland for a few months. he is a talibani from afganistan, and as soon as he landed in ireland, they took him to jail syaing his passport was false. he stayed there for four days. poor kid. he is 19 years old!! and he is such a great person. he is sooo smart, so fun, so kind. i never expected to see him again, but they sent him back here. and then i saw him! he said in 2014 he will have italian citizenship and then he can go wherever he wants and i told him he has to come to america and visit us. he said he wuold :) he is one of my favorite people here. 
ok just a quick update on mose and then i gotta close. sooo funny. i just saw him here at the internet point!! hahaha anyway so he's good! haha he is figuring out how he can move to america. now according to the white hand book, i can't tell anyone to leave the country where i serve, and my family can't help with it either. but man if we could.... lol that's ok he is a big boy. (is that a fat joke?) and he can figure it out. either way, he is going to come to the general conference in october 2012. family be prepared for a fun month! all my mission buddies are planning on being there, including emiliano too. 
ok i need to go. this is a very long letter, but it was a very good week. :) thank you for the support. please pray for rapposelli. he is VERY confused at the moment... i love you all, i love being a missionary, i love these people. i LOVE these people. i love having friends, and i am excited to make more friends in my next city. thank you for sending me on a mission, parents. i love you all.
sorella ashman

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I might be leaving Ragusa!

alright everyone. you all know how much i LOVE ragusa, and if i havent made it clear enough, let me just say it once and for all I LOVE RAGUSA. during my stay of over 5 months so far, i have also worked in mistretta, catania, and siracusa, and i am still just in love with ragusa. the other cities are all wonderful too, and i know that wherever i get sent, IF I GET TRANSFERRED, i wil love it, and i will be in the right place. im literally at 50\50 right now, but if i dont get a letter out next week its cuz the Lord needed me somewhere else. :) i am praying very diligently that i will stay one more (and only one more) but my whole mission has been in ragusa so far. on saturday i will know for sure. also do not send anything else to the house in ragusa until i know for sure! for now letters and stuff can be sent to the misison home and i will get them. :)
miracle of this week: raposelli. he has been dealing with so many issues in this personal life and has been so stressed that the other day, he went to the store and bought three bottles of wine. he put them in his room and then came to his senses!!! he took the wine back and bought 6 bottles of soda instead! this would be like me going to costco and buying three of those DELICIOUS chocolate bundt cakes, then returning them for 6 bunches of bananas. that would be hard....
we have a new invetigator named mary. she is from ghana. we asked her to read the Book of Mormon and she said she needed to ask God if it was ok. AHAHAHAH!! i was like YES! ASK HIM!! its so great. i love telling people to test us....
alright well im so sorry this is short, but we have very little time. im in catania right now for zone conference and i need to get going. i love you all and i know that this work is real and i am sooooo grateful that Heavenly Father didnt let me settle for less. thank you all for your support and it was so great to talk to you all. until next week! (hopefully.....)
sorella ashman

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MOTHERS DAY CALL!

alrighty folks. its true. i have been out 6 months. its unreal. i never want to come home!!!!!! i love it more and more everyday. so for the mothers day call i will be calling probably around 9 am your time (las vegas). i hope that is ok! we get to talk for one hour. :) just like christmas. they said we could skype, but i dont know how to do it. maybe next christmas i will do it. i just dont really want to deal with it when its easy to use the phone and yeah... sorry if that upsets anyone.
this has been a wonderful week!!! some really awesome miracles... lets start with yesterday and emanuele.... man this was AWESOME. ok so friday we went to the immigration office to get me legalized and my documents still weren't ready. sister lewis was just chatting with everyone, male and female, muslim and christian, young and old. which is awesome. her little baby greenie spirit cannot be squashed, even in a throng of hundreds of egyptians and tunisians who frankly scare me, shes just chatting away, trying so hard to speak to people who speak significantly less italian than she does. anyway, she gave a pass along card to an indian guy that literally speaks no italian.... the good thing is that we never know what plans Heavenly Father has so we just talk to everyone and let Him do the rest! anyway so this guy called us and i had NO idea what he was saying. but he kept calling us. he wanted to meet up with us and then we tried to explain that we are missionaries and the whole nine yards. he said he lived in chiaramonte, which is an adorable little town about 30 minutes out of ragusa. he called us all the time and finally we came to the conclusion (after MUCH prayer) that maybe if we went to chiaramonte to explain to him face to face who we are he would get the message and leave us alone. so we decided to go. we took a hindi Book of Mormon and called one of the members in ragusa that has a house there and we went. we got there around 2:30 and we had to meet him at 3. the member there wanted to feed us, so we started eating but there was hardly any time. at three we went to the meeting spot and he wasnt there. at 3:20 we called him and he said 20 minutes but we had to get the bus at 4. we told him to hurry and finally at 3:40 he was there, we gave him the Book of Mormon and we booked it to the bus stop for the 4 oclock bus. at 4:08 i was getting nervous that it wasnt coming, but at 4:10 (after a desperate prayer) there it was!! i was stressing BIG TIME because we had an appointment with emiliano at 5:15, rosana at 6, and english course at 6:30, like there was no wiggle room.... we got on the bus and i asked the driver if the bus wasn't supposed to leave at 4. he said no, that it left at 5 (he said FIVE in english, to which i snappily replied, "grazie. io parlo italiano") then something amazing happened. the bus driver apologized that we had been misinformed. he really was so sorry and i told him there was nothing we could do and it wasn't his fault. then the phone rang and it was rosana. she said she couldnt come to the appointment. ok. then i called emiliano and i told him what was happening and asked if he could come at 5:45. he said yes. the bus driver was so upset that we had to change our plans that he pulled out the schedule and showed us, and he said next time to take this bus and that bus. pretty much he was genuinely concerned. anyway we started talking and long story short, this bus driver emanuele is AMAZING. he knows the Church, he has been before, he has read the Book of Mormon and he said he wants to come to church on Sunday. and he continued to refer to the Church as "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." i asked him if he believed the Church was true and he said yes. he gave me his phone number and we continued to have an incredible conversation for the whole bus trip, about the restoration, the apostles, repentance, everything!!! we all ackowldeged that it wasnt an accident that we came to chiaramonte that day. then to top it off when we got back to ragusa, he literally dropped us off at the door of the church building!! hahahah how blessed am i!!! i can't wait til he gets baptized!
its not what you know, its who you know.... that is sooooo true in sicily.
ok family i love you all. i must close now, but i cant wait to talk to you all on sunday morning!!! especially spencer.
love from sicily
sorella ashman