Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sorella Oakes to speak Sunday, February 10

Sorella Oakes will speak Sunday, February 10, at 9:00 am in Sacrament Meeting.

The address is:
1260 West 1150 North

Last letter from Italy (Verona)

Dear Family,
 I want to tell you a few of my thoughts and feelings, since I'll be leaving in two days. Sorella Padula has helped me to concentrate and work hard every day and so I feel great! Sometimes I feel this peace and joy fill me up when I think about the people that I love here, that I've not only served but have served me! I love each one of the companions that I served with more than ever.  Sorella Padula is a true GEM because she has helped me to endure to the end! This week she told me during the 13th point of our weekly planning session "Sorella Oakes I tell you what I told Sorella Simpkins the week before she went home- this week, Satan will try his best to tempt you to relax and not work, or to become stressed and nervous,etc. He'll do anything he can to tempt you so that you will not be as effective as you can be. Don't give in to him!". She then added with a smile, "I know that you won't."  It was a spiritual power statement that had a great effect on me. All week long it goes through my mind. Thanks to her, this week has been one of the best work weeks of my mission. I feel so good and grateful to her. I've said it once and I'll say it again, Sorella Padula is converting me to Jesus Christ. I love her! I appreciate her!
I haven't told you anything about her, but one of our investigators will be baptized on friday! It's the day after I leave and I wish I could see her but I'm just happy for her! She's nine years old and her family is reactivated. I love their family so much. I'll tell you all about them in a few days.
   I still have many imperfections and weaknesses, but I know that I have gone up on the conversion scale, because I have a strong desire to share the gospel with everyone and when I think about going home, I want to serve others. I want to be busy introducing my non-member friends to the missionaries, cleaning, babysitting, fulfilling callings, studying, etc. I want to keep progressing and being converted, and converting others. My entire perspective about life and what makes me happy has changed. I'm not worried at all, I'll just take everything one day at a time.
I know I have spent a lot of time talking about me, but I hope that it will help Elder Oakes as you continue working hard!
I'll share one miracle story of the week!

I'll tell you about two miracles that occurred at the same time! 
As we got on the bus and began to sit down, the spirit told me "talk to those two young girls in the back!" It was so clear. Right then, Sorella Padula said, "I feel like we need to talk to this man behind us." We both felt so strongly and this urgency to talk to these different people that we agreed that we'd have to split up. The young girls that I talked to were very sincere and happy to talk with me. They asked me lots of questions about what we do as missionaries. When I told them about the restoration one of them lit up. She seemed very touched by the spirit. She asked me "do you have an internet site that I can read and learn more about this?" I asked her if we could pass by her home with a Book of Mormon. She then seemed sad and said "I wish, but my parents would never let me. I'm sorry". When I offered to give her the Book of Mormon I was holding in my hand she said, "really, are you sure it wouldn't be a problem?" I was thrilled and said, "of course not! If you'll read it I'll give it to you right now!" She said, "I love reading the bible. I'll read this! Thank you so much!"    She was one of the most elect people I have ever met. I feel that she'll join the church in the future.  
   Meanwhile, Sorella Padula approached this man that she had felt prompted to talk to. As he lifted up his head she realized he was our investigator, Collins! He seemed down. As she talked with him he told her, "I just finished working. My boss offered me a few hours of work tomorrow morning, but it's sunday. I don't know what to do." As they talked more, Collins said that instantly after his boss had talked to him he received our text message that read "like Nephi, God will help us to obey the commandments if we put our trust in Him 1 Nephi 3:7".  (Wow, daily contacting points!)    As he read the text message he knew that he should come to church, but it was really hard to turn down an opportunity to earn money that he desperately needs. Sorella Padula bore testimony to Him about the power of God and that He'll take care of us when we have faith to obey His commandments.
    It was amazing how the Lord led us to talk to these people in this moment. If both of us would have approached Collins, we wouldn't have talked to the young girls, or vice versa! I'm grateful for the guidance and promptings of the Spirit. 
I know this is the one and only true church of Jesus Christ. He's in charge of every aspect of this work. A living prophet, Thomas S. Monson is His servant. The Book of Mormon is the word of God! I know these things are true and no one on the planet could ever convince me otherwise!
 Sorella Oakes

2nd to the Last Week in Italy

Dearest Family, 
  It was a great week! One of our investigators had a break through! She has been attended our church for years, but has always been doubtful about why we obey certain commandments, such as the word of wisdom, or keeping the law of tithing, etc. We have taught her a few times about the basic and foundational principles of the gospel- the restoration, the importance of the priesthood and the significance of the baptismal covenant. After teaching this things in a very simple and clear way, she still could not understand why she needs to be baptized. 
   Due to chronic illness, she has not been able to receive us or come to church these last few weeks. But one of her friends, a faithful sister in our ward told us some exciting news two days ago- this woman now wants to be baptized! A few members in our ward have been visiting her to clean her home, to pay her visits and some priesthood holders gave her a healing blessing last week. After she received the blessing, she immediately felt better and was able to sleep through that night. She told this sister in our ward, "Now I understand the power of the priesthood. I'll do anything it takes to be baptized, I'll give up my coffee and drink orzo instead." She wanted to ride her bike all the way across town to attend Institute Wednesday night. The member advised her to take it easy and not push her body too much. 
    When I heard the sister in our ward recount this experience, I was filled with excitement and joy! While a sure testimony of the restored gospel is based on diligent reading of the Book of Mormon and having daily spiritual experiences, I was happy that this woman received an understanding of the power of the priesthood by experiencing its influence for herself. I am happy that she had the faith in the priesthood so that she could receive its healing power. Heavenly Father's love is truly manifest through the power of the priesthood. We're 
( members) all preparing this daughter of God to receive a fulness of His blessings on earth- the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, and eventually the blessings of the temple. 

    This week I learned a few things about humility. Sorella Padula said something that I love, "Humility is not acting inferior or coming off as if you are of less value, or less intelligent, less talented, etc. than others...humility is developing and sharing/radiating the gifts that God has given you to praise Him and to bless others. And with this, to always give the credit to God for what you have been able to perform. It is thanking Him in prayer for increasing your capacity to serve others." 
  She is an outstanding example of humility in this way. She lets her light shine, and its pure because she always uses her talents to praise God, and never to build herself up. She just wants to bring others unto Christ. 

   I hope that a few things that I have said will boost you up this week. Love you lots! 
  Sorella Oakes

Saturday, September 22, 2012

10th Week in Genoa

Dear Family,
  I just want to tell you all that you are incredible! The service that you are all rendering in your lives, the faith that you have, the optimism for the future...I am amazed by how wonderful you are. Thank you for your example to me.

  For a week and half Sorella Hanks is sick with a virus and possibly strep throat. She will probably be sick for a while longer, we are not sure. Poor thing. She never complains! Fortunately I have not gotten sick. I received permission from President to call up sisters in our ward to do exchanges with me. One woman will stay in our apartment for a few hours while I go out with another to teach our investigators.

Monday we had an incredible Blitz with Sorella Jones and Sorella...drum roll...McNamara! I love them both so much. Being with Sorella McNamara, I felt at home. She has grown and matured even more into a beautiful woman. She was already so mature and amazing before but it is neat to see how much three transfers and serving with different companions changes you. Luca whom we taught in Varese is getting baptized in October! I am so incredibly happy for him.

Once again, I got to serve with Sorella Jones and learned a lot from her. We went to two appointments and no one was home, neither responded on the phone. But that night we taught a man from Peru who is golden! I never want to forget that hour that we shared with him in his home. The spirit was so strong, our hearts were filled with love for him and for the Lord. When we presented and gave him a Book of Mormon he flipped through the first few pages and tenderly said, "I am content to have this book. I have read the Bible but I have never had the opportunity to read this. Now I can. I thank you both. I know God loves me because He sends people like you to teach me His word."

In Preach My Gospel there is a section entitled, "How to Begin Teaching." There are ten phrases that are suggestions of things we can say during the first meeting with an investigator, such as "We will guide you so that you can know personally if our message is true. But it depends on you to accept and act upon the message..." As Sorella Jones and I asked questions and just listened to this wonderful man he seemed to have memorized and recited these ten points from the manual! He said, "You both can guide me to know if this is true. But I need to read and pray about this and repent. I want to change and find the right path and follow Jesus Christ..."  

When we left the lesson we yelled for joy for a half hour! We could not feel our bodies anymore, we were in heaven. I would not trade these experiences that I have had serving here in Italy for anything in the world. I cannot describe how fantastic it is to serve a mission, to learn from and to give love to companions and different people that I meet. My heart is full to the brim with gratitude for all of these opportunities. Challenges?! Who cares! They are nothing.

 Love you all!
Sorella Oakes

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

9th Week in Genoa

Dearest Family,

  My heart is filled with love and gratitude. I have an amazing companion and the work is growing. We have a lot of new female investigators who are really interested in meeting us. Each day Sorella Hanks and I become more united in purpose and the spirit is truly guiding our every activity. During nightly planning we prayerfully decide where to do casa the following day. Within these past two weeks I have taught more first lessons in people's homes during findingwork than I ever have on my mission. Sorella Hanks expressed the same is true for her.  I never preferred knocking doors. I would rather do street or bus contacting, but I remember thinking in my head, "We'll do this because our leaders have counseled us to." NOW I am seeing why.

Haha, Friday night we knock on a door and yet ANOTHER sweet Romanian kid answered the door and let us in. We followed him into his living room of four other family members- his mom, sister, girlfriend, and cousin. They are all so humble and down-to-earth. I love them soo much. We taught them again yesterday. Our meeting them was surely an answer to our prayers, to get into a home and teach a family, and an answer to my prayer this past week to teach more young single adults. There are four of them! I hope they will let us come back again, and read the Book of Mormon we left them.

   I want to tell you about a beautiful Peruvian woman whom we are teaching. Her name is Fanny Fernandez. She has three young boys who live in Peru, and she takes care of elderly people here to send money home to her family. She has lived here for 7 years. She has a really hard life between a bad work environment and missing her family. As we talked to her, she only spoke words of faith and optimism, but her eyes continued to well up with tears. She was very excited to receive a Book of Mormon. When we invited her to be baptized she said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" I was surprised with how happy she seemed about accepting a baptismal invite. She said, "I am very shy and do not like talking with people like you on the bus. But when Sorella Hanks looked at me and started talking with me, I felt something here," she pointed to her chest. She had felt the spirit, which helped her to feel comfortable enough to talk with us.

I have so much respect for Fanny. When I think about my mother and how hard it is for her to let my brother and me serve missions out of the country for two years, I realize that that sacrifice that we make is small compared to Fanny's life. Fanny said she will have to wait for another 5 or more years before she can save enough money to live with her boys. She is such a good woman, why is her life so hard? I do not know, but I am certain that everything is in the hands of the Lord. This gospel will bless her life immensely. I pray that her boss will let her come to church Sunday mornings. She was not able to come last week.

Well, I love you all very much. I pray for you daily. I know that when we serve others we are fulfilling our baptismal covenant to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, (Mosiah 18:8-10). As I have  tried harder to live my baptismal covenant,  I have felt the presence of the spirit more in my heart and feel love from Heavenly Father. I think that of all our goals, dreams and desires in life, more than anything, each one of us yearns to feel the love of God. I know that as we seek to love and take care of others, we will be filled with that love for them, and also will feel God's love and appreciation for us. We are His beloved children. He sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we can receive peace and strength in this life and return back to His presence pure and perfect. I know these simple things are true.
   Sorellina Oakes

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

8th Week in Genoa

Cara Famiglia,

Let me tell you about the three elect Romanians we found this week:

Luca is a middle-aged man who has lived here in Italy for 12 years. His greatest lot in life is to earn money for his daughters so that they can continue their education at the university in Romania. While he is a workaholic, he is very honest, kind and spiritual. Even though he is very busy, he marks us in his agenda and is committed to meeting with us. He said, "I know that I need to put God first in my life and make time for him." For the first three lessons we tried to get him to agree to meet with the anziani because he is a single man, but he said he wanted to meet with us because he knew us. We felt it was  because we are around the same age as his two beloved daughters. This week we explained to him that we feel it would be better if he meet with the masculine anziani in our ward. I was very pleased that he readily accepted meeting with them. He made sure that they had his number and set up an appointment Wednesday. They are so blessed to be able to teach him! He could very well be baptized. Luca is like a brother to me. I wish I could tell you more about his life and beliefs.

Now, about the two other amazing people we met:

It was Monday night around 7:30. Three of our first lessons had fallen through, and it seemed as though we would teach no lessons. After doing casa for a few hours we took a 5 minute break to sit down on a park bench. There was this woman sitting close by who would look at us occasionally. She seemed miserable, maybe even angry. We walked toward her and began a conversation. To our surprise, she was very pleasant and welcomed a conversation about Jesus Christ. This woman, Anna Maria, is from Romania, she attends the Pentecostal church though not yet baptized. She expressed her deep desire to know which religion teaches the complete truth of Christ. She yearns to feel closer to God in her life so that she can overcome personal trials. When we asked her if we could pass by her house with a Book of Mormon this week, she said, "Yes, I will walk with you to my house now. If you want, you can come teach me a little right now." I wanted to jump and shout, "Yes!! Yes! We would love to!!!" and do a cartwheel, but we maintained our composure and just smiled. Her beautiful 5 year old son Mario accompanied on his bike.

When we were inside her small, darkly lighted home, we knelt in prayer. The spirit was so sweet and still. Sorella Hanks and I felt prompted to sing them a hymn, "Abide with me, Tis eventide". Those two minutes were one of the most special moments on my mission. Anna Maria was beaming as we sang, as if the spirit was healing her soul. Mario, who had been full of energy outside, was now cuddling up by his mom, resting his head on his hands and watching us intently with his big brown eyes. He was calmed by the spirit. My heart was so full of love for them that I could barely sing.

After we finished, we explained a little bit about what the Holy Ghost feels like. We asked Mario "Do you feel the Holy Ghost?" He quietly nodded. Anna Mario said, "It feels so good in my heart." We got to know Anna Maria a little more and taught her about the Book of Mormon. It was very simple and very spiritual. We have a return appointment with them tonight! I am so thankful for Heavenly Father's guidance so that we could find this humble family! He is surely mindful of each of His precious children.

Sorella Oakes

Monday, September 3, 2012

7th Week in Genoa

Dear family,

   This week has been great! Sorella Hanks is such a sweetheart, I feel so good being around her. Sorella Hanks is the perfect exemplar of "preaching the gospel of peace". When we contact people and teach investigators, she listens with her heart and soaks in what that person is saying. It has been wonderful to see how others respond and open up when we take a little extra time to listen to their opinions. I feel inspired to be a more attentive listener myself to her as well as others. I am learning a lot from her.

  Miracle!  Last night after the sorelle conference we decided to contact and set up an appointment with at least one person before we went in. President's little training about the "miracle fence" kept me hoping that we would find a potential investigator!  As we got closer and closer to home we contacted and contacted, and 10 minutes before 9 we talked with a South American couple. They did not seem interested, but when we asked them if we could come to their house this week they said yes!  L'ultimo sforzo brings blessings. We will not accept any less than hoping for, and even expecting miracles every day! We are going to make our dreams a reality here in Genova 2! This is the great and marvelous work of the Lord.

  We had an awesome district meeting on Monday. That morning I told Sorella Hanks, "We are doing everything in the manual, but how can we increase our faith that we can actually meet our goals, and baptize people?" I was befuddled. Well, in our meeting the zone leaders, Anziano Lenhart and Rodriguez gave an inspired training which answered our question! I will bullet point what I learned:
   -happy people tend to be more successful!
  -our habits affect our attitude. Meaning what we say, what we eat, exercise, thought processes, etc.
   -Keeping a gratitude journal (Remember, Remember by Elder Eyring) helps us recognize the Lord's hand in our lives
   -the difference between a puddle and a geyser is enthusiasm, haha
  -2 Ne 2:25 the purpose of life is to have joy. Enjoying life is a daily decision, regardless of the circumstance!

It was awesome and really pumped me up to be more grateful for the blessings we see each day. I know there is a lot of power in just putting a smile on each day. The Spirit is a lot more present in my life when I have a good attitude. I am grateful for all that Sorella Hanks is teaching me about enjoying each moment. She is like Mary and I am more like Martha, we both need each other to have the right balance of working hard AND having a happy attitude.
   Sorella Oakes