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

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