Monday, December 7, 2015

Week 76: Fin.

Well, all, this is it. My final email home. It doesn't even seem real. But and dad are on a plane and they are somewhere over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean RIGHT NOW so I guess this is happening. I don't know what emotions I am supposed to be having.

Even though this was the last week of my mission, things were as crazy as ever. Catania is a city that never rests! Haha

So for pday we went to this church, la chiesa di San Benedetto, which was pretty cool. It's part of a convent of nuns that cloister themselves so once they go in they never have contact with the outside world again....except for once a year during the festival for the patron saint of Catania when they come to the gates of the church and sing to the statue of Sant'Agatha as she gets carted around the city. I've heard that it is really incredible....but for some reason I don't know if I would actually want to be there. But the church was beautiful! We ate dinner with Sorella Catania and her family, I love them. We helped Laura with some English but she had lost her voice, so we had her write Facebook messages to our moms in English. It was a lot of fun:)

I made cinnamon rolls for DDM this week because I had promised them to Anziano Pope before I went home. Then the district made predictions on how soon I am going to get married....the average was about a year. They also gave me a big plant of poinsettia flowers and a card, they were so sweet! I had to leave the flowers behind but they will Christmas decorate the Catania house :) also, poinsettias grow wild here, we were at Jennifer's house and there is a tree in the courtyard that had flowers on it! Haha

We spent most of the week saying goodbyes, which is always hard. We saw Nicoletta and she also accepted a baptismal date! For Jan. 9th. I'm really happy for her. We had dinner with Kiran and Manuel on Wednesday and we didn't eat all day Thursday because of it, we were soooo full! And then we also met up with Rossella. She is so sweet :) English course was fun this week too. I love the people that come to our English course! We took a picture all together :)

The latter end of the week was absolutely NUTS. there was an emergency transfer and one if the sisters in Messina was asked to go to Rome 5 (!) so they spent Thursday night with us so that she could take a flight from the Catania airport. The problem was that she had to be at the airport at 5:30 and we live an hour away, so we had to take public transportation to get there. In short, we woke up at 3:30 so that we could get the right bus and be on time. And then we had to wait with the other Messina sister at the airport for six hours until her new comp came down from Rome 5. We were so tired and I was super antsy because we were supposed to see Gabriella so I could say goodbye to her, but we didn't end up making it. I called her before I caught the train to Rome Saturday so that I could say goodbye to her. She is such a sweetheart, she was so worried that there wouldn't be anyone to help her prepare for her baptism and help with the wedding and stuff. I can't wait to see the pictures of her baptism!!

Anyway, after we left the airport (finally) we met up with Rossella and then went to lunch with the Battezzatos. They had a funeral service for me and it was really cute, I think they got the videos of it to mom somehow, boh. Also, they informed us that Mt. Etna exploded this week, once on Thursday and once on Friday. It sent a plume of ash 4 kilometers into the air and it reached all the way to Messina. We had ash raining down all weekend, our balcony had this fine layer of black covering it. It was the craziest thing. There was no lava or anything, just smoke and ash and a haze over the city. Did I ever mention that it is one of the most active volcanoes in the world? Then once we got back from the Battezzatos we just went home and I got all packed up.

The Siracusa sisters came Friday night so that Sorella Flansberg wouldn't be by herself after I took the train. They got their transfer calls and Sorella Flansberg is staying in Catania! I'm happy for her, she is gonna do so much good. Plus she knows the city so well already and this way Gabriella and Nicoletta don't get dropped.

Saturday morning I got on a train at 8:43 and left for Rome. I met up with Sorella Furia who was serving in Palermo at the Strait of Messina and then we rode the ten hours up "the boot" together. Sorella Gates and Sorella Anderson picked me up at termini, they are both serving in Rome 3! So that where I have been since I got to Rome. 

Sunday was crazy. We went to church and Presidente and Sorella Urban were there visiting from the stake! So I got to see her before I left which was so happy for me :)the bishopric member who was conducting was American military, they have been in the ward for just a few months. I was talking to them after and they said that they were the Huber family. And I asked if they had a cousin or someone named Taylor, since I had a friend at BYU named Taylor Huber.'s his family. WHAT. And the elder in my mission who was also in my BYU ward just happened to be serving in the Rome 3 ward too! It was just the craziest coincidence, and I was so happy to meet them! :)

My interview with president was one of the most incredible experiences of my mission. I won't write all that happened, but I am so grateful for my mission president and inspired leaders.

In the end, I am excited to be with my family and spend the holidays together. I am trying to not think much farther past that cuz I start to freak out, but I am so peaceful and happy. I know that I served the mission that Heavenly Father and my savior needed me to, and that although I might not see all of it, there will be fruit from my service.

I am so sure that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and He loves us. I know
that His atonement has forever changed me and that it can help every person overcome every obstacle and trial. I am so thankful that I have had these 18 months to serve as His representative.

I will see you all soon! Vi voglio tanto tanto bene!!!!

Sorella Decker

Week 75: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! (and Thanksgiving was good too)

Wow. Already Monday again....and this is my last one in Catania! Next week I will be at the mission office. I actually leave Catania on Saturday and I'll spend the whole day on the train going up to Rome, then Sunday I'll stay in Rome three with Sorella Gates and Sorella Anderson (they are living in the same house!:), next Monday all the missionaries who are finishing with me are going caroling in downtown Rome somewhere for pday, and then we have exit interviews with president, farewell dinner, and then....that's where I stop thinking about things because there are too many emotions at that point. Mom and Dad, I could literally pee my pants because I am so freaking excited to have you here!!! But I'll also be an emotional wreck while you two are handling jet lag. It's gonna be a fun little gita :)

It was a slow week honestly. We spent our pday in Siracusa with all the sisters in the zone, which was a blast. I think I mentioned it last week, but we went to this little island called Ortigia which is the home of Ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes. Siracusa used to be one of the most important green cities in the world. It is also one of the places where Paul stopped to preach as a prisoner on his way to Rome. There are these big rock formations right across the street from the church which is one of the places where they say he taught. It was incredible! Ortigia was also a lot of fun, I loved being with all the sisters. We went and got sandwiches from this guy named Andrea and it was the experience of a lifetime, I will just send pictures because words can't even describe the goodness that was contained in them. Plus Andrea was an absolute ham.

We got back to Catania and had scambios which is always a good time, I was with Sorella Fransden and we got a few bidones and then had to do correlation which was a year and a half long. We just got a new ward mission leader and the old ward mission leader was made a ward missionary with his wife, and things are a little tense and awkward as one tries to take on the new responsibilities and the other tries to let go. But I love that in our church the calling doesn't matter. My mission president and his wife were primary teachers before they got their call as mission president:) it is so wonderful to be a part of such a big group of volunteers! :)

Wednesday marked 17 months from the day I left for the MTC. We got to see Angela and Jennifer that evening which was awesome, Jennifer's boys were so sweet and so reverent! It probably helped that Peter Pan was playing in the background....but we talked about temples. Guys....I am so excited to get to go back to the temple. After 18 months of preaching the gospel and God's plan for our eternal happiness, and after doing a lot of my own family history research, I cannot wait to be back inside the walls of that sacred place. We taught Jennifer about covenants and temple work and it was awesome. I just really love the plan of salvation and that it shows us how much God loves us :)

Thursday for thanksgiving we were invited with two of the elders to go to Sigonella which is the naval Air Force base here in Sicily to eat lunch with a member family, the Foulks. We had so much fun! They made a turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, smoked pulled pork, Mac n'cheese casserole (still delicious, btw)... And there was an Italian sister there with her two boys and her mom, because her husband is American and he is currently deployed for a year. So she and her mom made lasagna. And then there was pumpkin pie, cannoli, mini pecan muffins, and this chocolate dream bar thing that had coconut and almonds in it which was to die for. And they had A&W root beer. It's the first time I've had American food since I left the's a lot heavier than I remembered, I actually had a stomach ache from it. But I loved every second of it and it was delicious. The Foulk family was wonderful too, they have the tradition of sharing something that they are grateful for as they eat thanksgiving dinner, and a very common theme was gratitude for America and the freedoms that we have there. It isn't like the rest of the world is on lockdown, but there are illusions and copies of American governments all over the world, and I am so full of gratitude to be a citizen of "one of the only countries that currently enjoys real freedom," as Brother Foulk put it. Living in a foreign country has been really eye opening in that regard.

Our thanksgiving adventure didn't stop after lunch, though. We took a bus out to the base, and let me just say that public transportation, especially in southern Italy, is not always the most reliable. Bro. Foulk dropped us off at the bus sto and then headed home for his turkey nap. And we waited. And waited. And waited. For over an hour and a half, in the freezing cold (ok like 45* with 90% humidity...and wind), with two big containers of thanksgiving leftovers. When we bought the tickets to get out to the base, we asked about the bus to get back and they said it would pass at 3:30. By 5 we were still waiting and so we woke Bro. Foulk up and he came to drive us home. In the meantime the anziani flagged a random other bus down, and we were informed that there were no buses back to Catania today. It switches off so that one day the buses leaving from the station go to Siracusa and the next day they come into Catania. Why? I have no clue. I do know that it was super inconvenient for everyone though and that we would have been super late to the baptism that was supposed to happen at 4:30 if it hadn't been cancelled. We got to the church just in time to teach english course and it went pretty well :) but I started getting heartburn from all the fatty American food, which wasn't too fun. It stuck around for a while too :P

Also, our house doesn't have any heat and there is a window right across from our bedroom that is stuck open. The wood around it swelled and it won't close...So things have been particularly cold at home. I have been sleeping with three quilts on my bed. I don't know what I am doing to do when I get back to America and there is snow on the ground....but it is much more humid here which causes the cold to seep through everything you are wearing straight into your bones. It's a lot of fun;) (mom and dad, pack a few warm layers. The cold gets worse the further north you go).

Everyone is getting all decked out for Christmas and we have been doing street finding with the Christmas video from last year and the new one for this year. And as we were out and about, we saw that all the shops have put up their Christmas lights! :) plus downtown is all decked out with lights running across all of Main Street, hung between the shops on either side. And they are in the process of constructing a great big tree of lights right in front of the main piazza. I'm in love with it. I just really like Christmas lights :) Christmas hit pretty early, it's weird that they don't have a holiday here between Halloween and thanksgiving. And they don't really celebrate Halloween anyway...they do the day of the dead, which is a big Catholic holiday. So after the first week of November all the black gets put away and all the red and green comes out! Well, more red and green, they are the national colors so they are already everywhere all the time ;)

I just can't believe that my time here in this city is already practically over, I have fallen I love with it so quickly, much faster than any other city I have ever served in. And the lord shows me a little every day why He sent me here and that it wasn't just a place to wait out the end of my mission, but that He had a work for me to do. And it ain't over yet! :) :)

I love you all!!! Have a wonderful week, and you'll hear from me in
Rome next time!

Sorella Decker

Sisters Weekend!
Temple of Apollo
Thanksgiving Dinner
The Nativity set of a member who lives close to us

Ceiling of the San Benedetto church that we went to today

Week 74: There is so much to be Grateful For

Well, this was a week of miracles. So many beautiful, wonderful miracles. It's so good to see the hand of God operating in the lives of ordinary people and to start understanding a little bit of how much He loves them.

First miracle: Gabriella. She is our super progressing investigator right now, and she is devouring the Book of Mormon. She has told us several times that she feels like she has finally gotten the answers she has been looking for for her whole life! And she is halfway done with second Nephi in the Book of Mormon already. She has to get married before she can be baptized, but we told her that they could get married at the church if they wanted to and she fell in love with the idea! She wants to do it as soon as possible too :) I am just so excited for her, they have so many hard things going on in their lives right now ( per fiancé is on daily dialysis), but she is coming to understand the personal peace that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings, even in the midst of hardships.

Second miracle: Marieanne. She has sooooooo much faith!! She is having a hard time with the friends that are hosting her here and is looking for a different living situation, and she just feels really along because no one speaks her language and she isn't living with members...but our member here who speaks French has been helping her a lot and she loves to be with the missionaries. We got to help her get to zone conference so that she could see the Anziano who speaks French that put her in touch with us. And that was a big miracle in and of itself. I really wanted French fries on Thursday but I didn't have any cash, so we got cash out and I bought French fries. Then as we were making our way home she called and asked if we could meet up with her just to chat for a minute because she was feeling down, so we make our way over and then Angelo, our French speaking member randomly showed up because he was in the area and wanted to see how she was doing. We got her some food and stuff so that she would last out the week and made arrangements to talk to the bishop about all that has been going on and then Angelo left and we just sat and talked with her for a bit, she said Anziano Grisel had called and told her he would be at the zone conference the next day if she could make it, and she was super excited. She asked how to get to the church by bus and stuff, and she got really pumped to go. Then her face fell as she remembered she didn't have any money for bus tickets. I had the change from my French fries, and so I gave her what she needed to cover the bus tickets and she just cried. I had the biggest feeling of love come over me for this woman who is so far from home and so out of her comfort zone, and I felt like Heavenly Father just squeezed is both. She made it to the conference and it went really well, she was so happy to come :)

The day after, I was doing a scambio with Sorella Embley and we got stood up, so we were waiting it out in the park where we were supposed to meet this investigator, and then Marieanne passed us. She said hi and then turned to go, but then she came back and asked for our help sending this message in Italian to a friend who she hopes can help her. The fact that we were sitting I that particular park with nothing to do was very uncommon, but I felt so strongly that Heavenly Father is watching out for her and just making sure that she feels loved and taken care of.

I was honestly really bummed when I found out that Gabriella couldn't be baptized till after I went home...I thought I was here for her and that it was going to be this wonderful end to my mission. But I have come to feel that I am here for Marieanne, there are people here that the Lord needs me to love and serve and it is such a joy:)

Third miracle: #sicilysisterweekend2015. So this weekend all the zone sorelle are together for stake conference and we are all doing pday in Siracusa. And it has been one of the most beautiful weekends of my life. We did this thing last night where we all go around and say why we love each other (don't judge the first year girls camp things we do), and they all told me that they feel like part of my mission call has been to serve other sisters here. I am apparently known as the sisters therapist. Not that I mind that at all;) but it was so incredible to see that they have all been affected by my service just as much as each one of them has affected me. I feel so blessed by my associations with these incredible people and for the rich friendships we have developed. I am sure we all knew each other in the premortal life and planned on serving together:)

Fourth miracle: revelation comes through inspired leaders guys. All the worries and questions I have had about coming home were answered at zone conference this week. Heavenly Father loves us so much!

I am really excited to come home, but also have no desire to ever leave Italy. It has become my second home and my refiners fire and I wouldn't give it up for the world :)

I love you all! Have an awesome week, and I will be home for Christmas!;)

Sorella Decker

Catania zone sorelle at stake conference!
Bus ride to Siracusa with the Messina sorelle Embley and Fuller
Comp photo from zone conference
Bombe with the Ragusa sisters
Service selfie at Jennifer's new house. We helped her move in :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Week 73: The Last Transfer

Well, it's official. I have started my final transfer. How did that even happen? I know I keep saying that but seriously I cannot wrap my brain around it. However, if I think about it, it also feels like I have been here since I was born. Boh. My perception of time is really messed up. The days are getting longer and longer but the weeks just fly by and before I know it's Monday again and time to write the ongoing saga that has become my mission. Haha.

Well, it was a pretty solid week. A little screwy with transfers thrown in the middle because we hosted the Messina sisters so that Sorella Brunson could go to Bari without leaving her comp all alone...but other than that it went well. We taught Gabriella the word of wisdom and she really liked it. She came to church on Sunday too! We were so happy for her and she was so excited to come! We called her Saturday night to confirm one more time and give her the address, and she kept telling us how excited she was and that she felt anxious but happy to be coming....and it went so well. She brought her husband too, we really want to teach him but the only time we see her is when he is at the hospital doing therapy, because that's when they come in to the city. She was really excited to meet the members and stuff though. She is right on track and we are going to help her get to stake conference on Sunday next week :)

We got to help Marieanne, the sister from the Mauritius islands, learn Italian. She is so sweet! Her real story is that she has been a member for ten years, her husband is a branch president there and they have a son who served a full time mission and was sealed in the temple. She speaks a bit of English but her native language is creole, and then French. I've been studying a little French and being with her, a LOT of stuff came back to me. I could feel my brain struggling between the usual Italian verbal vomit and wanting to heave out French instead (sorry for the graphic, best way to describe it), it was a bit struggle haha. But a really cool experience. She's having a hard time adjusting and she misses her family, and so she loves to be with us. She told us (in an adorable French creole accent): " seeing you make my you say chaude?" My language-wearied brain pumped one last time, and kicked out "Hot!" "Oui, oui! You make my heart hot!" It was so sweet :)

Also, Jennifer found a new house that is waaaaaay closer to her work and where the boys go to school, so we are helping her move after pday today.

We got to see Iole and Gesualdo, they are the ones who told us about what happened in France. We were stunned. My first thought was for the missionaries there because a family on the ward, the Battezzato's, have a son in the France Leone mission. He is ok, just on lock down until the mission president says that they can go outside. For me it was the punctuation on my study of obedience because the attack happened at 9:30, which is the absolute latest we are allowed to return home in the evening. Knowing that the missionary rules can keep us safe is one thing, but put into the perspective of a terrorist attack it becomes literally a matter of life and death. It is the same thing with any commandment; that's what they are for. The lesson with Iole and Gesualso was about ten minutes long....out of the two hours we spent there. They just really love to chat and I love chatting with them, but try as we might sometimes they will just not let us steer the conversation into our lesson plan. Or stay in the lesson once we are there! Gesualdo said he feels like he can do more good in bringing people to the church as an ex-member because people see him as having an outside view and is therefore more credible. He calls himself a "Mormon on vacation." Sorella Flansberg told me when we left that she really wanted to ask when he was planning on coming back. We love them....

We actually had pranzo with the Battezzatos, they are doing pretty well. Both parents served missions so they know how it all works and trust infinitely in the promise that the Lord takes care of His missionaries (super true). It was good to spend time with them, and it is always a good meal. Plus, Roberta is planning a funeral for me for my last week. I am gonna wear all black; it should be fun;)

Our big Sunday miracle was Nadia. She was baptized 25 years ago but has been inactive for 15 years. We had planned a lesson a few weeks ago and just haven't been able to see her. But we went over and talked about temples and brought her the temples magazine and whatnot. She said she never made it before she went inactive. Then she started talking about how she has always known the gospel is true, but she has distanced herself all because of a small problem that she tried to resolve on her own instead of taking it to the Lord, and consequently took a job that required her to work on Sundays. Now she has a second child with marriage problems, she's struggling with the word of wisdom again, and all sorts of other things. She said sometimes she prays and prays for help, but she recognizes that she isn't doing all the things the Lord asks her to. She had a crying breakdown this week because of all of it, and then started looking for the quit smoking program the missionaries had given her. So she asked if we could bring one by, to which we absolutely agreed. She has a really strong desire to come back right now, and we are so happy for her. She said "non ci riesce mai a davvero farlo (I can't do it)", so we invited her to pray for the strength to make the changes for the better in her life. It was beautiful. God does know each of us and wants all of us to make it home to Him, and I am so grateful to be a part of the effort to get them there :) like I said to mom, God' s work is this big: |---------------------------------------------------------| and He can do it all by himself. He lets me do this much: |-|. And he does everything else when we aren't there. That's when the miracles happen. We just get to be there to see all the chips fall into place.

I still love it out here and it is good to know that the Lord still has so much that He needs me to do :)

Sorella Decker

Sending Sorella Brunson off
Backup planning at a cafe with some really dark hot chocolate

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Week 72: Parties, Poop, a Phone Call, and a Lame Public Transportation System

As I am sure you can tell from the subject line...this week was really fun.

A phone call...transfer calls came!!! AND WE ARE STAYING TOGETHER!! We were so excited, we screamed and hugged each other with the assistant still on the phone. Our transfer calls work a little differently than other missions, everyone gets a phone call and they tell you where you will be and who you'll be with on the Saturday before transfers. So Saturday morning is usually not super productive.....but we get to stay together! I love Sorella Flansberg, we are so similar in so many ways. We like so many of the same things and have similar opinions on almost everything. It's beautiful. I'm so glad that she gets to kill me, I really didn't want a new companion for the last three weeks of my mission. Plus I still don't know Catania very well and training someone on the city would have meant getting lost every day. Not that I am not usually lost anyway...which is why we are sticking together!

Parties: Sorella Flansberg turned 20 on Sunday! So we did a little something every day this week to celebrate. Then yesterday we had several surprises. Her mom (through another sister's mom who has family in the Catania ward) sent a video of them for her birthday and one of the ward sisters made brownies, so we went in to young women's after relief society finished and they all sang, and then this sister, Roberta, showed Sorella Flansberg the video and we filmed a reaction video to send back to her parents. Sound familiar? ;) it was awesome. Then for lunch we went to see Kiran and she made us Cantonese rice, garbanzo beans in broth, and couscous with veggies. And that was just the "primo piatto" (yeah. Three first courses). Then they had fried potato things and crepes filled with melted cheese and prosciutto. She also made a really beautiful cake! And they gave us fermented aranciata to was like orange wine. But they didn't realize it was fermented. I couldn't stomach it, so while they were back in the kitchen, I poured half of it into someone else's cup and filled mine up with water to dilute what was left. That was fun...needless to say we were stuffed afterword. Then we went to go see a less active family, and they had just made a dolce for us, so we had to eat that. Then one of the sisters in the ward, Sorella Catania (yep) invited us over for dinner. We had agreed because dinner is a light affair here so we didn't think it would be a problem.....but guess what she made. LASAGNA. Guys. Italian lasagna is DIVINE. also, the G is not useless, just throwing that out. Anywho, lasagna, a meat side dish, and another cake. A tiramisu. Literally, we got home and I almost threw up. SO FULL. But she had a good birthday and that's what was important to me :)

Poop: so. We went to go see Gabriella at the hospital Tuesday morning where her husband is doing dialysis, and she couldn't see us because she was talking to the doctors all day. So we walked all the way out there (2 miles) and then had to walk all the way home for lunch without getting to teach her. In the afternoon we were supposed to see Ann and David (we confirmed like four times) and then when we got there we called her so she could buzz us in, and she said she wasn't home. They live about 4 minutes from the hospital, so another mile and a half there and back (we decided we walk like 7 miles a day on average). As we were walking back, I felt something fall into my hair. I reached up to brush it off, and my fingers hit something warm, sticky and wet. Oh no, oh please no. "Sorell......what's in my hair?" " might be bird poop..." Awesome. So we hurried home, I jumped in the shower, and then we headed to the church to teach a lesson. It was a great morning. But the evening was even better.

Lame public transportation system: a bus ticket here costs €1 and the piazza where we take the bus from has a ticket counter where we usually buy the tickets. Well, we went to buy tickets so we could get to the church and the ticket office was closed. We figured it would be their fault since they didn't have the ticket place open, and they never check the route to the church anyway, so we hopped on the bus. One stop later, guess who walks on! Transport system people. We both got slapped with a €60 fine for not having a ticket. The good news is that if we pay it by the 15th, they will give us a "free" €40 bus pass, so it's only €20 out of pocket because the pass is reimbursable. But it didn't put us in a very good mood. Ugh.

Other than that, the anziani had a baptism on Saturday! We were super stoked for them, it was the wife of a less active guy who hasn't come to church in years. They set the goal for the husband to be the one to baptize the wife and that's what happened! It was super cool:) there was also an American girl in church yesterday, she's here on vacation and she came to dinner at Sorella Catania's with us, which was a lot of fun.

Yesterday marks one month until the end of my mission, and it makes me so sad. I am working and praying really hard to stay focused and keep giving my all up until the very end. Guys, I have never been happier in my life than I am right now. I love where I am and who I've become, I am so grateful for all the blessings the Lord is showering me with even though I don't understand all the reasons why. I'm not perfect by any stretch, but I know that when we try with a sincere desire to do what is right, the Lord will make all the difference so that our efforts earn the blessings that we need.

My Christlike attribute for next transfer is humility, and this is the scripture I found to be my theme, it's Acts 20:19 and 24: "Serving the Lord with all humility of that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."

Vo voglio tanto bene!! (I love you all so much!)

Sorella Decker

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Week 71: Rain, Halloween, French, and more Rain

Another week...gone. Seriously y'all. Time is freaking me out.

Well, Monday we shad the coolest pday ever. There is an ancient Greco-Roman theater hiding in the middle of the city, so we went and toured that. It was SOOO cool. We are both history dorks so it was a lot of fun :) we also went to a building that used to be a monastery and is now part of the Catania university. It was beautiful. There are lots of little treasures that we are discovering here in the city :)

We had scambios with the Siracusa sorelle on Tuesday, it was so much fun. Sorella Thorpe and I went to a members house to eat dinner which was an adventure that I will never be able to accurately describe in words. Let's just say in the end she started talking about temple ceremonies in front of her whole nonmember family and it was really awkward. email will never do it justice. All our appointments ended up cancelling which always happens on scambios for some reason, so we got to just visit and learn from each other and it was really good. I also got us super lost and we ended up out on the coast looking at the Mediterranean instead of at our appointment. Oops. It was pretty though!

We went and saw Ann and David (finally!) and taught them the plan of salvation, which wasn't the lesson we had planned but it worked out perfectly. Right when we got there Ann told us that David's sister had just passed away back in Nigeria, and when we taught her the plan of salvation last time he wasn't there. So we were going to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ , but it worked out really well to switch it. They still aren't 100% sure about being baptized because they were both baptized by immersion in an evangelical church and they don't want to make a mockery before God, which is absolutely the right way to feel. So we invited them to read the Book of Mormon and pray together, because the real concern is whether or not the priesthood has been restored and there is only one way that they will ever come to find that out. But a prayer for their family wouldn't go amiss, they are definitely having a hard time.

We got to teach Gabriella the plan of salvation too, she loved it! Right when we got there she told us that ever since we invited her to be baptized she has been thinking about it a lot and it just makes her really happy. We told her that it was the spirit that was telling her it was the right thing to do, then she started asking her usual bajillion questions about how our church works and we worked it around to the lesson plan. It was awesome :) she had lots of questions and understood a lot. Plus, because we had taught it to Ann and David the day before, I kept feeling to turn the teaching over to Sorella Flansberg and she rocked it! It's been cool to see her confidence and trust in herself and the spirit grow since I got here, I am so proud of her.

Our Halloween was quiet, Friday night they put out a weekend weather warning so it was a pretty stormy day. Actually, the whole week was pretty drizzley. It was lovely :) but on Saturday all our lessons cancelled on us because of the weather, so we decided to go put English course posters up around the church. We went to the church to print them off, but there was a skyped stake leadership meeting going on so we couldn't use the computer. So we helped the YM president put up decorations and blow balloons for the Halloween party that they had for the youth. Then the downpour started. Literally, the lightening cracked and the heavens opened and a sheet of water came crashing down. It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. Once it subsided enough to make going outside without instantly drowning a possibility, we braved the storm to go wait for the bus. Needless to say, without coat or umbrella we got soaked (or inzuppate as they say, which means "souped"). We saw a bat flying, we ran across a black cat, and there was thunder and lightening and a lot of wind. It was the perfect setting for a Halloween evening, so we sang thriller and the Addams family theme and this is Halloween as we waited for the bus. It was a good time :) it took us an extra hour to get home though because people are pansies in the rain.

Then on Sunday we had the biggest miracle of my mission. We got a call last week from the anziani in Reggio Calabria and they said they had a new convert who had just moved to Catania but she is from the Mauritian islands and she doesn't speak Italian...but she wanted to come to church and she had asked for a blessing in French. We found a member to get her to church but we couldn't find anyone who spoke French for the blessing. We were waiting for her in the foyer when a young couple came in, obviously from out of town. They were talking to us in English with American accents so I was absolutely floored when they said that they were from PARIS. I immediately asked the husband if he could give a blessing to Marieanne after explaining the situation to them. They were equally shocked at the "coincidence" of it and immediately agreed to help. It turns out that they were on their honeymoon and had been staying in the Messina area, but her mom surprised them by sending them to Catania for the day so they decided to come to church. Sorella Flansberg and I both thought about how cool it must be for Arielle, the wife, to know that she has married the kind of person who is worthy and willing to exercise his priesthood authority whenever he is asked. Then we got another shock when our member Angelo came in with Marieanne and was fluently conversing with her in French. He translated sacrament meeting for her, Arielle bore her testimony in French for Marieanne, and I didn't understand a word of the blessing that Samuel gave to her but I did understand that Heavenly Father knows His children perfectly and individually, and that He will always take care of us. It was a beautiful experience :)

We also had the best member Pranzo I have ever been to on Sunday, they made homemade basil pesto and I wanted to cry because of how good it was. We also had horse, which was actually pretty good, albeit strange to think about.

I love you all! I want to leave you with a thought from one of my studies this week, it's a quote by Neil L. Anderson: "As you ask yourself, 'what thinks Christ of me?' you will know that you are His disciple; you are His friend. By His grace He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself."

Vi voglio un saccone di bene!!!
Sorella Decker

The roman theater from pday:

View from under the theater seats:

Accidentally found the Mediterranean Sea. Oops:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Week 70: A Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, and two Mormon missionaries walk into a cafe...

This week has been a lesson in patience and perseverance. We had a bunch of appointments and things planned, but in the end we only taught seven lessons this week...which is an average of one a day but that isn't how it turned out.

Let's start with pday. We went to the mall here in Catania and did some window shopping which was a lot of fun. In the morning we went and saw Sorella Casella, a less active widow in the ward. We shared Pres. Uchtdorf's talk from women's conference, a summer with great aunt Rose. She really liked the story..but sometimes people have a hard time with the whole "likening" concept. The point of the scriptures and talks and such is to apply them to the way that we live and try to improve from them, not to notice such flaws in others. She's such a sweetheart though, it's like having a cute Sicilian
grandma :)

Tuesday was rainy and gray (yay!) and we did district meeting in the morning. All the buses were running late because people don't know how to drive in the rain, so we showed up a little late. It was a good district meeting though :) we saw Rossella before English course and one of her friends from the ward came with us which was cool. We talked to her about her personal religious beliefs and she talked about how she likes a lot of things from lots of faiths, but she definitely is a Christian. We shared the eleventh article of faith and talked about religious freedom, which was perfect since she had been asking about early American history as well. I've become really grateful that I've always loved history because I can teach it to other people and help put certain events like the apostasy or the
restoration in perspective. I think it's one of the talents the Lord has let me develop on my mission :)

Wednesday was supposed to be the best day of the week....but there was a torrential downpour that was of the same proportions as the flood of Noah, and all four of our teaching appointments dropped like flies. One by one and in order people texted and called saying not to come because of the rain. Our street flooded, and we live on to of a hill on the higher end of town, so I can only imagine how bad the flooding was elsewhere. One of our anziani is 6'6", and he had water up to his knees at one piont. So we were stuck at home all day, cleaning and taking care of the area book and whatnot. It was fun though, it rained for about 13 straight hours, let up a little in the evening, and then rained for the rest of the night. The sound of it knocked me out and I slept really well :)

Thursday we had lunch with the Battezzato's, they have a granddaughter serving in my zone right now:) Fratello Battezzato's is 4'7" and the most adorable little man I have ever met in my life! I wish we had taken pictures with them so that I could show you all. He is so sweet and funny, I just want to adopt myself into his family. He calls us his "nipotine" which means little granddaughters:) they made us a traditional Catanese dish called pasta alla norma which is red sauce with fresh basil, fried eggplant, and fresh ricotta salata. I loved it! The story behind it goes something like this: Vincenzo Bellini, one of the most illustrious citizens of Catania, known for his operas, wrote one opera called Norma, which was his masterpiece. He came back to Catania and someone made him this dish, and he loved it so they named it after his masterpiece, but it's ironic because for whoever made him the pasta, it was a normal thing. So it's like a play on words I guess. Or at least that's what I understood....legends in your second language are hard. Someone should google that for me haha.

Friday we had an awesome weekly planning session. One of the things that has been cool as I get further and further into my mission is recognizing when the Spirit is inspiring us according to the needs of our investigators, or understanding what he says to me. After weekly planning we went to go see Angela Maglia in centro and teach her a lesson but she had two university friends with she helped us share a spiritual thought with them about seeing God's hand in our lives. She watched the Mormon message "oh remember, remember" by Pres. Eyring and then spent four hours over the weekend writing in her journal about how she has seen the hand of the Lord in her life. One of the friends she brought with her is from Iran and the other is from Vietnam. Aida (Iran) is a journalist by profession and studying international politics here at the Catania university. She is Muslim and it was cool to do some comparative religion stuff while talking to her. Mo is also studying international politics and isn't super religious but believes in some Buddhist traditions. We went and chatted with them and Angela at a cafe over fruit juice and then went on a little walk of the city. While we were at the cafe I leaned to Sorella Flansberg and said "this is like the start to a bad joke..." Hence the title this week:) we then took a half-day pday (with permission from president of course) and climbed to the top of one of the church domes in centro, Badia di Sant'Agata. The view was incredible and we had so much fun with the other girls! We could see mt. Etna (the active volcano in our backyard), the ocean, and the whole city. It was awesome!

Saturday was another bust, we had a lot of appointments cancel again. It'll all work out though :)

Sunday was a lot of fun, it was the youth super Saturday for all the seminary kids in the stake (which is the whole island of Sicily). So they were in our ward building for church on Sunday, and they made the building extra rowdy. It was a little chaotic but lots of fun :) then we went to Sorella Bacchetti's for lunch. Her daughter is married to the son of the Battezzato's, so they were there too. They have a son serving in the France Lyon mission and they both served missions as well, so it was cool to listen to their stories. Fratello Battezzato served as assistant for 13 months!! He had some really cool stories. Sorella Battezzato served in Milan and trained Sorella Fasano who lives in the Foggia ward now:) she is a riot, we were laughing the whole time from her mission stories. We all ended up crying in the end....Fratello Battezzato looks kinda like dad if he had sideburns, and knowing that they were fiercely missing their missionary son made me think about my own parents....cioe waterworks haha. It worked out really well though :) we also got to see Kiran again last night, I love her dearly. She is the sweetest woman and she has been through a lot in her life, but her testimony hasn't wavered. She can't come to church at the moment but I know she misses it a lot. 

Other than that, it was a slow week, but I am loving every moment of this Sicilian adventure! Oh, speaking of which, I almost got run over by a moped this week. We were walking on the side of the road since people park on the sidewalks, and these two girls came tearing down the street on a Vespa. They were swerving and screwing around and ran straight into my hand. That was fun. But I'm fine :)

Anyway, love you all! Have a fantastic week!
Sorella Decker

matching companionship bracelets