30 September 2009

cha ching!

I will start by telling you all this is the only time I get to really think in English (or american as all the Italians call my language). My companion and I have started a forty day fast ... of English. It is going to be a challenge with plenty of temptations to turn stones into bread, ma ce lo faciamo. I am excited about it too, because this will really improve our skills and our work. We spend morning, lunch, and evening in almost near silence as we do not have all the vocabulary to just "tell stories" in Italian. Our work is getting focused, and we feel good.

Italy is wonderful. We have a surprise everyday as to what the weather will be like. We dress for cold weather in the morning, then out pops the sun halfway through your day and you are dragging the coats behind you. It is a little entertaining, because EVERYONE comments on it. They are never satisfied here. It is too hot, too cold, too wet, no rain. I have yet to talk to someone who was happy about the weather, until yesterday. A man, hanging out at the park, loving his life and the sun. Life is so much better when you talk to someone who is happy and has a good attitude. Therefore, something I am learning to do as well.

Our past week was full of magic. (I will compare it to our family song. Starting out with a little "the system is down." The week moved on and we got a "knick knack I want my panty hose back." Then I wanted to "marry it, marry it, marry it." Finally we really got our groove on!)

Sunday was the most magical for me. I love Sunday. My favorite day of the week. (Except when I get to hear from my loved ones.) We got a honk on the way to church from Mister Di Franco after he dropped Maria off, which started it all off with a smile. We walked into church to find an American couple visiting. The wife did not speak Italian and asked if I could translate for her in Relief Society. After a quick five minute meeting with the ward mission leader and church began.

I already knew our lesson was going to be great for relief society since we had received a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott the week before about the temple. Yes, I miss that place. (First request upon my return...family trip to the temple?) Sorella D'Uggento prepared a lesson perfect for me and our investigators. I have never felt the spirit so strong in a relief society meeting here in Italy. Time at the end was left for others to bear testimony of experiences at the temple. It was so special to hear all the experiences of our faithful members. It touched my heart and I know it touched the hearts of our investigators who were wiping their eyes. I was reminded about how grateful I am for the blessings of the temple and that I have an eternal family. In fact, I thought about my sister who will soon start her eternal family and I got really happy. The blessings of the gospel and being obedient are truly far greater than anything else one could ever find.

Then came sacrament meeting. This was also a special meeting for me as I got to see an ex-missionary (the American couple) and the man he baptized 32 years ago bear their testimonies. This missionary only baptized one man on his mission and it was two weeks before he returned home. That did not matter though, I saw the joy of this Italian member and look at "his family" who is happy in the church. I saw the joy the gospel truly does bring. I saw the joy and love one has for "his missionary." I am so grateful to have this privilege to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The cherry on top of the day was Katiuscia's baptism. Katiuscia made it, was baptized, and bore a beautiful testimony. It was like I watched my little girl grow up. Except for the fact that she is older than me ... Despite a little Italian drama, the evening was perfect. Sorella Huber and I made ten cakes for the celebration and man can those Italians eat! Katiuscia will be confirmed in church after conference weekend. She is still going strong!

My Father in Heaven has blessed me beyond comprehension since I have been here on my mission. I hate to say that time is moving too quickly. We are helping three other investigators work towards their baptismal dates in October and November. Did you know that October begins tomorrow?

I love being a missionary. I can not say it enough.

I love you all.
Sorella Frédérique Stone Carroll

23 September 2009

here comes the sun.

I return to the old tradition of starting you off by reading a quote. A quote that helped me understand an event that happened yesterday.

"The Lord's way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. 'There is opposition in all things,' everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love and joy, or we can go some other way, whatever other way, and go it alone -- without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?"

Which way really is easier? Yesterday my companion and I walked into the apartment of an old investigator. Beatrice. I may have mentioned her a couple months ago but since she left on vacation and returned we have yet to see her. I always loved visiting her because she would put a challenge in your face the second you stepped in the door. At the same time it could get frustrating because she has a hard time accepting our responses. Anyway, yesterday we wanted to talk to her about prophets...ancient and living. As if she hardly listened to anything we said, she asked me, "Have you ever doubted that God exists?" I said yes. I said yes, because I did at one point. I never said He does not exist, but I let doubtful thoughts clutter my mind. But then I looked her in the eyes and said (something of the sort), 'God and His son Jesus Christ live and love you. They want only the best for us. We will all have trials in life, there must be opposition in everything.' I began to cry, because I was feeling the truthfulness of what I was saying. I know the best thing I can do is bear testimony, even if our listeners do not recognize immediately. I left her house yesterday afternoon a little upset. But that does not mean we are giving up.

I understand completely when people look at our world today and ask "Why?" I understand that they are confused. I also understand that God loves them just as much as He loves me. I want to help everyone have "the eternal perspective" of life. Rather than dwelling on today's struggles, look at what we will be able to accomplish tomorrow. Even if my struggles in life are but minute compared to what our Savior went through, they are still struggles that have helped me better understand my purpose in life. Because I have one. We have one. The best term I can think of is magical. It is magical.

Maybe I should tell you the news ... We have now followed a series of Maria Di Franco updates. After I wrote you last week a few things have changed. Her husband still loves us, but does not want to learn anything about the gospel. (Keep the faith and prayers). We went to dinner last Thursday again, and right when her Husband walked in she said "do not talk about the church." We said, alright as usual. Not but thirty seconds later she turned around and said "I want to get baptized." Giovanni did not even think twice and said, "yeah!" Part of that response probably came because we were present, but also because he really is a nice guy. Then he made some comment about already being baptized, typical Italian. Maria said right back to him that his baptism was a "terrible error". (I see where some of our problems come in. We will work on the PR of sharing the gospel with her husband.) The end of the story is ... Maria Di Franco is getting baptized. October 31st. If I had my penguin costume I would wear it to the event in honor of Halloween, but mostly Maria. We are excited!

I want to tell you all thank you, thank you for helping me understand, helping me gain a testimony, and always encouraging me. I am glad I understand the Lord's way really is easy. It is time for everyone else to understand. Keep working hard!

do do do dooo,
Sorella Frédérique Stone Carroll

16 September 2009

a golden bird that flies away.

The leaves have begun to dance to the song of the wind. Three days have been spent walking through a mist of the most glorious cloud. I think I would love to live in Seattle. I turn into a completely different person when the sky turns grey. And it is not a depressing Riqué, but maybe too crazy to be a missionary Riqué. It is almost as if I were a child again.

The change of the seasons came sooner than I expected, but not too soon to stop and enjoy every moment. Last week we were hot hot hot and humid, this week we are wet. (At least I have some cheetah rain boots to splash puddles with!) We have remained happy all the same. Although my companion and I are going to start looking like we are attending a funeral in our all black get-up, we are excited about the adventure that lies ahead. We are living to the fullest the motto, "if you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong." True about the mission, true about life. Puh-lease, "Adam fell, and men are, that they might have joy."

Remember how I told you I had two marvelous weeks? Well, it was about time the hard time hit. Last week. I wonder if we got too caught up in our pride, thinking "look at us, we are such good missionaries." I will not lie, I thought we were doing pretty good. Relying on the Lord is what we needed to be doing. We can work hard, with the help of the Lord. A good humbling came and I really learned this is not my work, even one bit. I know/knew it was not mine, but every once in a while I guess I need a reminder. I am grateful for these repeats though, something that keeps me in line. We are all imperfect people, so the reminders are greatly necessary.

Last week I ate dinner with my dear friend Maria Di Franco and I will have you know her husband loves us! So much in fact that we have been invited over for dinner tomorrow night. Although Maria does not have permission to get baptized, we are still seeing the miracles that faith brings into our lives. I love being a first hand witness. I do not want to speak too soon, but I firmly believe one day Maria's husband will one day accept the gospel as well. Even if it takes a little time.

I cried on Monday when we were knocking doors. Well, just let my eyes fill with water. It was my turn to knock and as soon as the woman opened the door I was so happy to share with her the message of the restoration, then she stepped out and pointed at me saying "Which happiness. It does not exist. I just lost my grandson this morning." I attempted to explain to her that we have knowledge of the plan of salvation but she shewed us away all too quickly and slammed the door. I stopped and stared for a couple minutes, left a note (which may or may not have been accepted), and continued. At that moment my heart broke for her. I plead with my Father in Heaven that He would help her understand. Sometimes it is incredibly hard watching people you love, yet hardly know, reject the greatest blessing that they could ever experience. I am just glad that there are those who will accept now, and I pray for the others that one day the message of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ will ring true.

Being a missionary is important. More important than anything. Sharing the gospel, being an example of Christ, raising children, obeying the commandments, going to church and so on are all forms of missionary work. We are all enlisted, and happy are we!

I love you, more than you know.
Good luck with this next week and all the crazy you are doing. Keep living righteously and being strong. I appreciate you all for who you are and what you have helped me learn.

Did I tell you I love you?

Ever there,
Sorella Frédérique Stone Carroll

09 September 2009

i got soul.

family.

I want to tell you I love you. I want to tell you I miss you. Finally, I want to tell you I am grateful for you, all.

I am glad to hear that, even though two vital parts of the family are missing, you keep moving on with life. Do not get tooooo sad we are not around. We are happy. (Robert I speak for you too.)

I have been thinking much about my work and how I have been as a missionary. At this very moment I hope the rest of my mission goes the way it has been going. Yesterday my companion stood up at zone conference, at the request of President, to bear a testimony. I will echo what she said. "I'm happy." I have never worked so hard as I have the past two weeks, and even though I am dead tired by the end of the day, it is worth it. In fact, I secretly hope Sorella Huber will be my companion for the rest of the mission. We know what we like!

The past two weeks have been very successful weeks and I am feeling satisfied for the work I have been accomplishing (along side my partner.) Although I am happy, I know that I can still do more. I know I can always improve, always work harder. This is a principle I began to understand in my mission prep class at BYU. We were talking about how God has standards for us, that we are striving to reach. But, once you reach them, they go even higher. There is no roof. If we really are working towards exaltation, then there can not be a lid to the jar. We can always be better. I am grateful for this principle and the potential God sees in us. It humbles me a lot because I know I still have so much to work on, but I am also grateful that I can see some of the blessings of even climbing halfway up that ladder God has built for me at this point in my life. I hope that the ladder can keep growing because that would mean I have been striving to align my will with that of my Father in Heaven. At times I find that difficult, being a natural man, but I know it is possible.

Maybe I already shared this: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. This spotless and perfect state will result from a steady succession of covenants, ordinances, and actions, an accumulation of right choices and from continuing repentance. 'This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.'”

This is why I love being at the service of my friends her in Italy. One day they will be able to meet our Father in Heaven again, and how much more enjoyable would those moments be if He looks at us with clean countenances.

The latest.
Our dear friend Katy is still progressing and is in such bright spirits. She is ecstatic about the baptism. In fact, sometimes Sorella Huber and I feel it is too good to be true. It is amazing when you find someone so prepared for the gospel that you do not even know what to do. It feels a little like you are living in a dream.

My heart is growing more and more each day. I finally decided I do not want to leave Torino. I will go where ever, but here in Torino I have made some very lasting and even eternal friendships.

I found a spontaneous poet who recited a little treat about my eyes. Hard to not laugh on the spot, I managed to stay composed.

I watched The Restoration a total of five times last week. I could probably recite it to you in Italian.

I made a friend on the bus and managed to miss my stop, 5 times. The most entertaining part about our conversation was that I could no longer explain who I was and what I was doing in English. She was Italian but wanted to speak to me in English and preferred that I did too. Therefore I stumbled over my words more than once forgetting my own native language. Odd how that happens. (Do not worry, I still have a lot of work in the Italian language.)

but i am not a soldier.
Sorella Frédérique Stone Carroll

02 September 2009

there is only one thing I can say.

Something that rings true to me. This week and this moment.
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore it is vital that we serve each other." -- President Spencer W. Kimball

Missionaries are in the service of others twenty four/seven. Or at least we all should be. We go around day to day declaring the good word of God and offering service. We talk to those around us and invite them to come unto Christ. We often times will be that person who helps meet the needs of the others. That is, if they take the time to listen and to accept.

I witnessed a miracle or two or three this week. It was because the spirit helps us missionaries recognize those who are ready for our good news.

Maria. A woman in a yellow blouse on the nine o'clock bus home. She was the first person I saw when I got boarded only six stops from my home. I saluted her and took a seat. Thirty seconds passed while the argument went back and forth in my head. "Talk to her. No you are about to get off. Just ask her how she is. She is not Peruvian therefore she will not listen. What is the worst that could happen. She will reject me. Who cares, she is a daughter of God." (or something of the sorts.) Finally I stood up and looked at her again. I started the conversation just asking how she was doing. Eventually it got to the fact that I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Maria looked at me and asked, "Why me? There are thirty or forty other people on this bus and you chose me." I was surprised and responded with whatever came to my mouth. In all honesty I do not remember much of the conversation, but I know (possibly for the first time) Maria knew she was something in the eyes of her Heavenly Father. That was what I had to tell her. That her Father in Heaven loved her so much as to design a plan just for her. In the end, she would not accept a visit from us but we left our phone number and address of the chapel. Even if she did not accept me now, I pray that she considers what I told her and recognized who she is. A daughter of a king!

Anna and Eliana Oliveira. Two crazy ladies from Brazil. Nearly two months ago I was in contact with Eliana over the phone. All I knew is that she was baptized in Brazil. She eventually stopped answering our phone calls, until Saturday. The Anziani ran into her mother, a non-member, who said we could come over. Our evening was free so we stopped by. Anna welcomed us in and we began to talk. Eliana came home to a surprise visit from the missionaries. Sunday morning we were at their house at 8:15 to take them to church. This could have been Anna's very first time in an LDS church service and Eliana probably has not been for atleast 18 years (since she has lived in Italy). They loved it and we love them!

Katuscia Lamalfa. She walked into church for the first time last Sunday with one of our members. She set an appointment with us and we went to visit her. She came to church again this past Sunday and we visited Monday night, spur of the moment. I have never seen an individual so excited about what we have. In fact so excited that a baptism date was set and she could not stop smiling. She is recognizing the testimony she once had of our plan and purpose and is so excited about what changes she is already making in her life. At this point in her life, she needed the missionaries and the Gospel. Her member friend was brought into her life so that she could meet the church. The Lord is working through others to reach those who are searching.

I love being a missionary because you get to witness the love, the experience and the change. We must be doing something right to have seen so many miracles and blessings. Of course I see miracles every day through the grace of the Lord. I am grateful for experiences such as the ones above to help me remember my purpose as a missionary. Even my purpose as a member. We are all so important in the lives of others. There are people waiting for us to put the fear behind us and invite them to church. Who knows, they could be a Katy.

Happy September. Crazy. I love you all. I love your letters. I love your love. Thank you for being the wonderful missionaries that you are and keep it up. I promise that the joy you feel when you help someone come to Christ is enough to fill a lifetime. The promises of the Gospel are true and beautiful.

will you stand by me,
Sorella Frédérique Stone Carroll