Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Italy, Week 70 (3/9/16) - The End of Another Chapter: The Mission

Well, this is it. I have officially served my 18 months as a full-time  missionary for the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. How do I feel about that?


That's really the only way I can describe it.
, I'll give a quick summary of the week and then get on to the sappy, emotional stuff.  Wednesday we went to Trento, expecting to go on a hike. Instead we got there and realized that there was no chance of getting to the hike. So we just hung out and walked around Trento. The worst part was that we were in pants. I felt so scandalous. We ran and put skirts on as soon as we got home.
That night the Sorelle from Mestre came over for scambio! We saw Giulia and talked more about recognizing the Spirit and really letting it enter and touch our hearts. It was gooood! After lunch we did some role plays in Italian for lingua study (the Mestre Sorelle is a training coppia). After, Sorella Burgess and I went to go do finding and while we were at the door praying, we felt inspired to ask that we could find someone to whom we could teach the restoration and set a bap date with. We went to a little park near our house to discover that there was pretty much no one there, and the five people that we tried to talk to wouldn't listen. So we started heading out when we saw a woman sitting on a bench down yonder, so we went to talk to her.  And guess what. Yup. We taught her the whole restoration. And she loved it! She said she was going to come to church! So for weekly planning Sorella Bradshaw and I picked a date for her :)  And then the rest of the week was spent visiting people and eating gelato and everything I could get my hands on. Nothing new :) 
Well, it's strange. That's really the only way to explain it. I can't really believe it's over. Like, this is my life. I don't know anything other than this. Normal life has become a thing of the past, something I can hardly remember.
This past year and a half has been nothing less than amazing. It's funny looking back at all those times where I would cry about how hard it was. You forget the pain, really. It's like when you stub your toe.  A day later you remember that you stubbed your toe, and you've done it multiple times, and it hurt like no other. But you don't remember the
pain. That's how it is now. I remember crying and why I was crying, but it wouldn't make me cry now thinking about it. It was just for a small moment in reality, although it may have seemed like an eternity.  But the most beautiful moments I remember so clearly and they still have an effect on me. It's because those moments were able to touch my heart. Even if all those moments weren't so beautiful. It was in those moments that I turned to the Lord, that my heart was opened, and the Spirit entered. Those moments still bring me to tears because they were so powerful. It was THOSE moments that changed me. That made me into who I am today. Sorrows only make you grow when you open your heart and just follow the Lord.
I have met and come to love so many people here. I can officially say that my heart is scattered all around Busto Arsizio, Trieste, Milano Cimiano, and Verona. And there will forever remain a very large part of my heart here. A part that I can never get back, mostly because I don't want it back. That spot had been filled with those people, with
those cities.
It's hard to go because you truly are leaving your heart behind with these people. You put so much of all that you are into this work, into trying to help these people. You're number one worry is their salvation and happiness. What greater work is there?  But I know that this chapter must come to a close. They're not kidding when they say these are the "best two years" of your life. What other set of 18-24 months of your life teach you so much? Humble you so
much?  The more you give, the more you get out. That applies to everything in life! The more time and effort you put into your studies, the more information and education you have. The more effort you put into your callings, the more joy you get out of it and the more you benefit others. I'm not saying it's easy. The Lord doesn't ask us to do a lot of easy things. Because He knows that we will only grow if we overcome difficulties. But it's all so very simple and beautiful. And with the Lord's help, we can do it.  I don't even know what to say more, what really is there to say? I
love my mission. I can say without a doubt and with 100% conviction that this was the absolute best choice I have ever made. I love my mission. Yes, it did do so much for me. But I love it even more for the COUNTLESS number of opportunities I had to do so much for others.  And above all for my Heavenly Father, who gives me so much, and for my Savior, to thank Him.
For you missionaries still out in the field: DON'T STOP. Give all of your heart might mind and strength. Do all you can to overcome your natural man that tells you to go home because your feet hurt or literally no one will listen. THIS WORK IS NOT AN EASY WORK.  It requires diligence, patience, obedience, humility, etc. but especially love. Find what you love about the mission, be it the people, the city, the companions, whatever it may be! Work off of that and  make the best of every moment you have and learn to love the rest.  For everyone back home: always remember what you've learned in the past. Like the prophets in the Book of Mormon always say, remember the tender mercies of the Lord, towards you and also your fathers. Let every experience push you forward toward God in the path of life,
don't go backward and have to relearn things.  Remember that God loves you and He is there for you to help in all
things. He sent His Son to Atone for our sins, and in the process Christ chose to also suffer our afflictions, so He can know how to succor us. To help us. To comfort us. To guide us. Use that gift.

I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You have all given me so much love and support. I can say that each one of you has personally helped me in some way during my mission, whether it be from your mass emails, or even just a little note of encouragement. You are all so wonderful and I love and care for each of you so very much.
Thank you.
Vi voglio davvero un mondo di bene.
La Sorella Hawks :)

 Last Pizzas in Italy!


 One last rainy day 

District meeting with the Italians!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Week 69 1/2 (3/5/16) - Reminiscing on Danielle's Mission Call

As Danielle's mission draws to a close, I thought it would be fun to share the video where it all began.  Always fun to see people learn where they are going.  Danielle studied Italian from 8th through 12th grade in school then took a semester at BYU.  She would have been happy to serve wherever the Lord wanted her, but we all knew she was going to go visit Italy at some point in her life!  What better way to visit than as a missionary in the service of the Lord!  Here's the video where she got her call:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Italy, Week 69 (3/2/16) - FINALLY!

We had a lot of "FINALLY!" Moments this week.
Wednesday we FINALLY got to go to Bolzano.
Thursday we FINALLY got gelato and set a bap date with Giulia!
Friday we FINALLY got to see a less active we've been trying to meet with since I got here.
And we FINALLY got to meet with Bishop's family!
Saturday we FINALLY made contact with a less active pass by a member gave us, so now we know when to go back.
Sunday we FINALLY got to attend all three meetings for Verona 2 ward.
Monday we FINALLY got to teach an investigator the restoration and it went so well!
Tuesday we FINALLY finished weekly planning by making goals for the week and doing comp inventory.
And Wednesday (today) we're FINALLY going to Trento to do a hike!!
Well that was basically a summary of the week.... It wasn't super exciting... We keep getting bidonies, but then it gives us the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people! And although most of them aren't accepting the Gospel right now, they've now had their first or second encounter with missionaries/the Church and they know that whatever it may be we're offering is good. More times than I can count, we'll try to stop and talk to someone and when we say we're missionaries for our church, they groan or shut down instantly. But that doesn't stop us! We keep talking to them and they see that we're almost normal and that we're truly happy, but also that we respect them. They may have to run off in the middle of our sentence or tell us that they really have no interest. But now they know that when they meet someone wearing a tag, they should talk to them and they don't need to be afraid. They meet these young people who have chosen to devote 18-24 months of their life to God and this work. It sticks, it makes an impression. We're far from our homes and families, we had to learn a language that is nothing like our own. That's not something that a person forgets like that. It's so cool! I'm grateful for this responsibility and privilege.
In my studies this morning I was reading chapter one of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price and that chapter is filled to the brim with gems! Let's take a look shall we?
1 The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,
2 And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence. (God has a body)
3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless? 
(God declares His identity is and His power)
4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.
(God tells Moses his identity)
5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.
6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.
(We are created in God and Christ's image. We only worship Heavenly Father, no matter how great other things may be)
12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? 
(Moses received strength, council, and teaching from God according to his needs to prepare him to face the temptations of the devil)
14 For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?
(Moses calls Satan Shirley)
15 Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.
16 Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.
(Same as verse 13)
19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
(The irony! Christ, who is actually the Only Begotten, never tried to steal the glory from God. Everything He did was to fulfill the Father's will and He always commanded men to worship the Father, never Himself)
20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
(In times of fear and temptation, no matter how bad, even if we're literally looking in the depths of hell, we will receive the strength necessary from God to overcome all things.)
23 And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men.
Well this is extremely long and I apologize. But it's not like anyone is forcing you to read it sooo... I won't blame you if you don't. BUT I just wanted to share with you how amazing these verses are! God comes, declares His identity and then immediately after declares Moses'. Or ours we could say. We are children of God and that is so important to Him! And to us! When we fully understand that we are made stronger, we know that we are special. And God teaches Moses the things that He knows he needs to face Satan. And it's so simple! Moses receives the strength he needs from knowing his identity. That's so beautiful!
And then we see in the last verse that all of these beautiful simple truth contained in these chapters were hidden from the world because Satan saw what power Moses received from it and he didn't want others to have that advantage over him. Guys!!!! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, GOD, THE ALMIGHTY. He has asked you to turn to him as you would to an earthly father, mother, friend. He knows your name, He sent you here and He has a plan for YOU. I promise you as you come to learn and fully understand this, Satan will never gain power over you. You will know your self worth and no temptation, no lie from Satan will deter you or trip you up or lead you astray. 
I love you all sooooo much! If any are curious, yes, I will be writing next week. 
Vi voglio bene!!!!!
La Sorella Hawks :)

Bolzano - A town with everything written in Italian, German and English! 

Bolzano Plaza

Bolzano from the outside