Happy International Day of Women! In Italy, it is celebrated with mimosas. Blaine bought these for me.
So almost every day, we walk into someone else's house and sit down and talk. In a strange tongue, one that, though by most standards I speak well, I still do not speak - or often hear - from the heart and mind together. It throws me off continually, and that's good. It keeps me vulnerable.
It keeps me open to see things from unexpected perspectives. I notice little things. Like the lacy table runner (that when I exclaimed over it, was given to me despite my protestations; I just have to stop saying I like things!), or the spice rack over the range, or the utterly italianate vintage photos or pictures. Like the way people say things and what it might indicate about the way they think.
It makes me listen better, because superfluous conversation by itself is too taxing and therefore not worth it, so meaningful conversation is all we have left.
It makes me wonder, at how much we have in common! It makes me appreciate every person and every situation for himself/herself/itself.
Blaine observed the other day that our missionary experiences usually resolve themselves in two different directions:
1) We study, pray, discuss, and pray again about the people with whom we are concerned, and about what would be best to share and discuss with them. We prepare and pray over those topics and those people. We do our part, and when we visit, the Spirit is there, testifying. We have a profound spiritual experience together. We invite them to act, and they agree. And they come through.
2) We study, pray, discuss, and pray again about the people with whom we are concerned, and about what would be best to share and discuss with them. We prepare and pray over those topics and those people. We do our part, and when we visit, the Spirit is there, testifying. We have a profound spiritual experience together. We invite them to act, and they agree. But they don't follow through.
Number 2 happens much more often than number 1.
So what does that mean? From a point of view of our personal success, it really doesn't mean much at all. As I read somewhere recently, Heavenly Father didn't remove our agency from us in the great pre-earth conflict (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/war-in-heaven?lang=eng), and He is certainly not going to do so now. As Elder Bednar is fond of stating, we can take our message "unto the hearts of the children of men" (2 Nephi 33:1), but each must make the individual choice to take it into their hearts.
The important thing is that we do all we can; that we first of all love, then serve, with all we've got. And leave the harvest to the Lord.
So it's a great experience to be in a strange land with strange customs and a strange language. It makes me a better person and a better servant. And every day this work brings us joy. We pay to come here and do this; but we are benefited beyond any price, now and in the long run. As Elder Charles (http://www.lds.org.uk/christopher-charles-is-new-area-seventy-for-greece-and-the-adriatic) shared with me after he spoke at the Rome West Stake conference Sunday, "They don't pay me much, but the retirement benefits are out of this world!" A bit cheesy maybe, but utterly true.
Every now and then we get a chance to go into the Napoli we used to know. This was one of those times. We were with a couple of the young missionaries, going to visit some members, some active and some not-so-active. It was like a walk back in time.
I'm pretty sure those plants are actually growing out of the window sill; as in, from it. As far as I could tell, this particular building is not in use.
Blaine does this a couple of times a week; this is supposed to be the best water around,
and it's right out in our piazza.
The next two are from GANS activities - that means Young Single Adults. The top one has all of our Napoli elders/missionaries and also our Pozzuoli sister missionaries, as well as three marvelous YSAs from the Napoli Branch, and two "simpatizzanti" - people who are not [yet] members. The bottom one is one of our crazy minute-to-win-it games. Everybody has a hoot playing them.
Can't think why I didn't have someone "drop" me a photo of the sister missionaries in the Napoli zone, but anyway, here are the elders, including Blaine and President Pickerd, after our most recent zone conference.
These little cuties constitute the only pic I took of the Flegreo/Pozzuoli Branch's Carnevale celebration a week ago. They're all Americans, coincidentally. We have a lot of Americans in this branch, as well as a good number of Africans, along with the basic core of Italians. Very interesting dynamics.
Sunday I rode in a pullman (travel bus) to Rome, with members from Pozzuoli and Napoli, to the Rome West Stake conference (Blaine wasn't feeling well but wanted me to go anyway). Afterward we drove by the temple construction area. We stopped, and I could have taken some pictures from a windowed-off area...but my phone died! Everyone was super excited to see the progress up close. If you want to know when it will be ready for tours and dedication, go here: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/rome/
Yesterday on a jaunt into Naples, we found a free parking space, which meant that we also had the benefit of walking down umpteen flights of stairs, and back up again. A delight.