Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tanti Auguri e Buon Natale!

Where here it is folks, Natale. It's the best time of the year no matter where you are in the world. The streets are lit up with lights, folks are walking around open markets looking for last minute gifts, the ice skating rink is full of children young and old, people literally are roasting chestnuts on open fires, but most importantly, the churches are full of families ready to welcome the new born Savior. I can honestly say I have never loved Christmas so much. I've always heard people say that the Christmases they spent on their missions were their favorites. I've never really understood how being thousands of miles away from your family could make for a happy Christmas, but now I do.

I'm not saying I'm not a little sad. I'm so sad to be missing Christmas with my family. But I have another sweet little family here in Vercelli. Our four person district had a beautiful district meeting. We watched Christmas videos through Mormon Messages and then talked about how precious a gift the Savior gave us. A little while into the meeting, Paolo stopped by to give us Christmas gifts. Seriously, Paolo bought us all presents. I can't even stand how sweet that is. I know gifts aren't the most important part of Christmas, but it's really nice to know that there is someone in our ward who thought of us, who wants us to feel like we're home. 

The Christmas Concert on Friday was fantastic. The young women did a tremendous job, and I felt incredibly honored to be a part of it. The spirit was strong as these young women shared their testimonies of the Savior through song. I don't know if I've ever felt the spirit so strongly in my life. I will never get over how beautiful a sung testimony is. It's as if our souls are speaking directly to one another. It might be my favorite thing in the world.
Our Societa di Soccorso (Relief Society) really knows
how to take care of us.

I honestly don't have much to say this week. I witnessed many miracles, and yet all I want you to know is how much I love you. I honestly miss you. It's like a part of me is missing with all of you so far away. Yet, I know in nine months when I have to leave this beautiful country, it will be like that forever. I'm so grateful for all you have done for me, for the love you have shown me, and the prayers you have said. 

This year, we've been truly trying to remember The Reason Behind Christmas. I'm sure it won't surprise any of you that this video made me cry. I want to invite you all to think of something you can give the Savior for Christmas this year, something that will make a difference in the lives of those around you. This year, for Christmas, I'm going to talk to more people about the beautiful restored gospel. I will talk to as many people as I can, and I will strive to take every opportunity. A lot of you have sent me emails asking if there is anything I want for Christmas. There's really only one thing I can think of - send me an email and let me know what you'll give to the Savior.

I love you all. Tanti Auguri e Buon Natale!
Sorella Ervin

Tina and Ralf - two of the best people in the world!

Sorella Walch and me with Michela, our new convert
who gave us these beautiful sweater.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Buon Natale!

One of our new converts gave us matching sweater sets
for Christmas. Will we be wearing them Sunday?
Yes, yes we will.

Buon Natale! Ok, I know it's not quite Christmas yet, but I'm really excited. Every day just gets better and better. We bought ourselves a Christmas tree, decorations, stockings, and some presents. But let’s be honest here, that's not why I'm excited. I'm excited because the most important thing to me is love, and that's what Christmas is. A day dedicated to love. I love it!
We bought a Christmas tree!

So Paolo is still a super amazing ward mission leader. He's super excited to help us out in whatever way he can. He taught one of the English classes last night because the Anziani weren't going to be there. I love having a young ward mission leader that served a mission not too many years ago. It really helps out, because he already understands a lot. He expects a lot of us, which I really appreciate.

Friday during weekly planning, the Vescovo [bishop] called and asked us to do something for him. There was a paper work mix up a few months ago, and we're still trying to deal with it. That morning, we needed something that the capi zona [zone leaders – missionary leaders for a small area] had, and then we had to get it into the office. The vescovo really needed everything done that night. So, in the morning we had to call the capi, get them to email us a copy, and get everything filled out. Then later we had to have it signed by another member and fax it into the office. I've never been so stressed out, but in the end we got everything figured out. 

Saturday was the baptism of a boy in our ward. His name is Giona, and he's super great. The really wonderful thing was to see how many people in the ward came. One of our investigators even came. I love how loving this ward is; they're just a big family. Everyone is important to them, and they want to do whatever they possibly can to help others. I hope someday I can love people as much as they do.

We got to watch the Christmas Devotional Sunday night, and then we got to go to GANS [Giovani Adulti Non Sposati – Young Single Adults, a church group for non married adults 18-30 years old]. Okay, I think I liked the Christmas Devotional; I don't really remember. We had just been in a car. It's been a really long time since I've been in a car, and I got really carsick. I wasn't doing too well. But a little while later I started feeling better. I love our GANS. They are truly, truly great. I wish I could just bring them with me everywhere I go. They are super open, love our investigators, and just have fun all day long. 

MTC reunion. Anziano Axson was there, too, but he was
talking to President Dibbs so he missed out on the photo.
Monday we had a Christmas conference. It was wonderful. Let’s be honest, anytime I can see the missionaries I love, I get extremely happy. There were so many missionaries there. Obviously, I was happy the entire day, especially at lunch, although it was kind of weird. They had us eat with our district. Our district is two sisters and two elders. Awkward. On the upside, Anziano Scisci had to serve us. President Dibb came by and told the Anziani he had to talk to them later. 

Anziano Scisci stopped by to give us our Christmas gifts
since he was transferred and won't be here for Christmas.
How sweet.
Turns out, Anziano Scisci is getting space transferred [moved to a new area in between the regularly scheduled transfer dates]. He left this morning. It happened all over the mission. Our new elder is Anziano Reese. I met him for about five minutes a little bit ago. He seems awesome.

We forgot to put on our coats though,
so we were freezing.
Yesterday I had a scambio [companion exchange] with Sorella Vardeu. She's from the southern part of Italy. I just love her. But let me tell you something she said that made my day. She told me I speak beautiful Italian. WHAT? Later today, Anziano Scisci told me the same thing. I know I don't speak beautifully. But, at least my two sweet Italian missionaries think I'm pretty good. Best thing I've ever heard. It was my miracle yesterday.

I hope all of you are looking for the Christmas miracles. They are there, everyday. I'm sure you'll find them.

I love you all!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin
I forgot Sorella Bennet was going to be at zone conference.
We were pretty much the most excited people ever when we
saw each other. Love her!

Sorella Egbert played the piano for me. Basically
she's one of my favorite people in the history of the universe.

MTC reunion - just the sisters.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Full, Blessed Week

There is nothing better than p-day
with some of yourfavorite sisters.

I love Vercelli more and more every single day. The people here are amazing. It's not a big town, but I love the small towns in Italy. They are so wonderful! I feel like I've already talked to everyone who lives in Vercelli, but people here are so nice as you pass them on the street. 

At the Egyptian museum in Torino, we
found this random head. What?
Wednesday, we went to Torino to see the Torino sisters and the Collegno Sisters. We mostly just walked around all day. Torino is gorgeous! It made me miss Milano a little bit, but at the same time, I felt very lucky to be in small town with practically no traffic. After lunch and some mindless wandering, we went to the Egyptian museum. It was probably one of the coolest things I've done in Italy . . . which is weird, but still. I just love history. My love of it grows more and more every day. It must come from living so near all of this wonderful and beautiful history.

On the way home, we stopped to see a sweet member family. I love member visits. It's one of my favorite parts of the mission. Getting the opportunity to hear so many conversion stories and to see how the Gospel has blessed so many lives is something I wouldn't trade for the world. This family is excellent.

Il Compleanno di Sorella Walch!
Sorella Walch finally got her permesso, which meant that we were in Bergamo all day Friday. We had lunch with the sorelle in Bergamo and then we had a good old time sitting in the questura waiting for her name to be called. On the way to the train station, we stopped to get some snickers gelato. This resulted in us almost missing our train, sprinting down the platform, and jumping on just as the doors were closing. It was worth it. We also had an extra 18 minutes in Milano, so we stopped to get Burger King. Again, we had to sprint through the station, and again we made the train. There weren't any seats left, so we definitely ate while sitting on the train floor. Classy.

Sunday night there was a concert at the church. It was all music by Berlin or Gershwin. Was I in heaven? Yes, yes I was. Sunday was filled with music. Remember how we're singing with the young women? Well, Eliana keeps giving us more music. We practiced for an hour Sunday. It's going to be so good! I love that we get to sing with the young women. Last night Eliana asked me and a woman named Tina who is in the ward to sing a duet. I'm pretty much stoked. I've missed performing so much. Now, I'm singing in a concert, with a bunch of Italians, in Italy. When did that happen?

Monday we had a super sweet miracle. We went out to visit a less-active woman. We had called, and she had said we could come, but later we learned that a few years ago she had asked to not be contacted by missionaries. She's not interested in coming to church right now, but she said we could come back with the Relief Society President. Miracle!

We finally have a ward mission leader. Paolo's the coolest. He served his mission in London a few years ago, so he's always speaking English with us. It's weird, because I have a hard time having a real conversation in English, I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm an idiot who doesn't understand English Grammar. That's cool . . . it's pretty much the truth. Anyway, Paolo asked us to start teaching Victor, one of my English Class students who's been coming to church for a few months. Victor is super solid, and he bore his testimony in church my first week here. Normally we're not allowed to teach men if we have Anziani in the ward, but President Dibb gave permission as long as Paolo is at every lesson. We're stoked because Victor is probably one of my favorite people. 

Advent calendar in centro Torino.
I love you all. As Christmas is getting closer, I'm praying for all of you to see Christmas miracles. Of course, the biggest Christmas miracle already happened. I want to invite you all to remember why we celebrate. It's more then the presents or the decorations. It’s even more then the Savior's birth. It's why the Savior was born. His birth was indeed a miracle, but it was only the beginning. Remember this year, that Christ came for all of us; he came for each one of us, individually. This means he came for you. He came onto his own. You are his. We all are. Take some time to think about what that means. 

Vi Voglio Bene
Sorella Ervin

These are our anziani. Sorella Walch took them one day when we were waiting for corso d'inglese (English course).

At a wedding Saturday, look at what the
lucky couple drove way in.

Just some late night proselyting on a
completely empty street.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wow, I'm in Vercelli.

Me and Sorella Walsh with surprises for our anziani.
Wow, I'm in Vercelli. I can definitely say that I love it here. My companion is Sorella Walch and she's pretty much the greatest. We have so much fun every single day. Here's the deal though, she's only been here two weeks longer then me. She was space transfered two weeks before then end of the transfer. Basically we have no idea about anything in the ward or the area. Luckily, our town is pretty small, so it's hard to get lost. Wonderful news, we have Anziani working in the ward! I have missed working with Anziani so much. I love that President Dibb is really trying to have sorelle and anziani in every ward. I know it's going to bless the work so much.
Wednesday night, the Draghi's had us over for Thanksgiving dinner, since we were leaving Thursday morning. OH MY GOODNESS! Words cannot express how much I will miss this sweet family. We sang Anima Mia for them and then prayed before we left. Tears filled my eyes and a sweet and simple prayer was said by Fratello Draghi. As I looked up, the family started laughing at me, like always. I realized in that moment, how much this family and the others in Rimini have become a part of me. I wasn't expecting it to hurt so much everytime I'm transferred, but you really love your area, every person you know. It's like a tiny part of your heart is ripped away everytime you have to leave. But, it is an opportunity to meet more people, to have more love in your heart. I feel like my heart is constantly being torn apart and then rebuilt. I never expected to be able to love so many people at one time. Something I've learned, is that your capacity to love is always growning. Sure, I miss all of you, my family, my friends. My love for the people here doesn't take away from the love I have for you. Now, I just love more people. I'm starting to understand how God can love every individual person equally. Don't get me wrong, I know I'll never truly be able to understand God's love. But, I know how much I love all of the people I've met in Rimini, individually and yet equally. They've taught me so much, most importantly they've taught me how to love.

Sorella Strong making fun of my pose,
come sempre.

Thursday morning, Emilio and Ilaria showed up to take us to the station. Oh my heartbreak. Saying goodbye to them one final time was like saying goodbye to my mom at the mtc. I wish I could have held on to those brief moments forever, but then, it was time to let go. Sorella Strong and I sat on the train and cried as it left. We read letters from the people we have served with and talked about how much we loved Rimini. A little over two hours later, and it was time to say goodbye to her too. Leaving your companion is like leaving behind a part of yourself. It's the strangest sensation in the world. But before I knew it, I was with my sweet Sorella Walch, walking to my new apartment, and admiring tiny, little, beautiful Vercelli.
One last picture as companions.
In Bologna, where we first met.
Sunday I was overjoyed to learn that the ward in Vercelli is a lot like the branch in Rimini. They have a lot of love in their hearts too. It felt like coming home as all of the women pulled me into their arms and told me how grateful they are thay we're here. We got to sing with the Young Women, they're having a concert in a couple of weeks and we get to sing with them. Yay for music! Also, Emilio and Ilaria have friends here in Vercelli. How wonderful! I love them already, they're pretty much wonderful.
A couple of nights ago, we were passing by some members, because we want to get to know everyone. We found a sweed less-active woman who was overjoyed to have us in her house. We shared a message with her and just got to know her. People are incredible, let me tell you. She's not really interested in coming back to church, but she was so kind and so happy to see missionaries. She told us to come back in a few weeks, when her whole famly is home for Christmas.
I can't wait to tell you more about Vercelli. I can't wait to learn about it for myself. This town is so wonderful I can already tell.
Vi voglio un sacco di bene!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin
One last look at the arc (in Rimini).

Saying goodbye to the sweet Aguilera family.

Thanksgiving dinner

Pasta for . . . dogs?

Guess what? We live next to the alps . . . no big deal.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Rimini Family

Ciao tutti!
Instead of writing a normal letter, this week I'll just be sending pictures. I want to introduce you to some of the amazing people I've met here in Rimini and tell you what I've learned from them.

I'll miss our beautiful arc. It's been there since before Christ was born. I feel
so blessed to be in a country with this much history.
First though, I know some of you have written me asking me about transfers. Well, I'm leaving my perfect little Rimini and my wonderful family here. We were all expecting that, so we weren't too surprised. I'm headed off to Vercelli to be companions with Sorella Walsh. I don't know her, but she came in with Sorella Strong. We were a little surprised at the rest of the news. We knew of course Sorella Lofley was going home. Taking her place will be Sorella Palumbo. But, Sorella Strong is leaving too. She's going to Firenze to be companions with my sweet Sorella Holloway. I'm so excited for her. We're both sad, but excited. Taking our place here in Rimini will be . . . Anziani! Not just any Anziani - Anziano Young is coming to train. I feel very blessed. Once again, people I love are going to be together. It's hard to leave Rimini, just like it was hard to leave Milano, but Anziano Young was there to take care of Milano, and he'll be here to take care of Rimini too. I'm so excited for him and for Rimini. There are a lot of changes, especially because on Sunday, Emilio was released as our branch mission leader; now he's the branch president! Great things are going to happen for Rimini, I can feel it!

I had a feeling I'd be leaving on Sunday, so I just started crying. Please ignore my tear stained face in these pictures. We all know I'm an emotional wreck.

Sometimes we just study hymns for a while. I'll miss living
in four with musical sisters.
Our dear little church. I''ll miss riding down the hill to our pink church.
It's my favorite church I've ever seen.

This is Emilio's new desk as branch president. I don't think he's ever been
as excited as when we showed him this picture. "My daughter in my desk!
How Beautiful!" Oh, Presidente Babbo!

Babbo and Mamma. I don't now what I'll do without them.
These two people have changed my life. I thank my lucky
stars for them each and every day.

This is Fratello Asioli. He's a spiritual giant and blows my mind. Like
everyone else in Rimini, he loves the missionaries. He loves the work.
He loves the Lord.

Luigi came over for dinner with us and the Zufolini's last night. It was
such a blessing to get to say goodbye to him.

I'll never forget these two people (Emilio e Ilaria). They've changed my
life in so many ways.

Emilio is so much more than a branch mission leader. He's a friend and a
father. He's taught me how to smile when I'm sad and how to smile
when my heart is broken. He's taught me how to find ways to show I care
when normal ways are out of reach. He's shown me more love than almost
anyone I've ever met. We don't just call him babbo because it's a cute
nickname. He really is our dad.

Mamma and Babbo making a wonderful meal for our last night with them.

Babbo made this. It's the three kingdoms of glory. How great is he?

Ilaria is so amazing. I've seen her show more love and kindness to people
than anyone else I've ever met. She's taken care of me in my hardest
moments, and she's taught me how to serve. She thinks of things no one
else would. She's taken me shopping, come to lessons, fed us dinner,
and dried my tears.

Babbo making the finest focaccia in the world.

Alan is one of my favorite people. He's getting ready to serve a mission, and
in two years, he's going to be one of the best missionaries there ever was.
He came to a baptism with us once in Ancona because the two youth
getting baptized were going to be the first two young men in the branch, and
he wanted to welcome them. He's all about the service, and it's so great.

Marco! He wants to share the Gospel with everyone he knows. I've learned
so much from him about the reasons for serving. It's all about the love.

We had a sweet cultural night with so many people! The sisters from Forli
were there for awhile because it was a district party. Sorella Andromidas is
in her first transfer, but she gets it. She knows what needs to be done, and
she does it. Sorella Jameson is one of the sweetest people I know. She cares
about making people feel loved and welcomed. It's impossible to not feel
the spirit while in her presence.
Sabrina and Louisa! These women have shown such a beautiful desire
and faith. All they want is to do their best. I love them with all of my heart.

Our third missionary, again! (Me, Emanuele, and Sorella Strong)

Sorella Manola! This woman is so sweet! She called us to ask about transfer
calls once, just to make sure we were staying. She was heartbroken we were
leaving. The love in her heart for the missionaries is astounding. Once, she
made us tacos, and it probably made my life. Have you ever tried tacos with
Gouda! It's surprisingly perfect.

The Canuti's! They are a family with light in their eyes. I've never met
anyone who gets more excited to talk about the Gospel than these two
wonderful people. Every time they share the Gospel, they are overjoyed.

Emanuele! I don't know what to say about him. His conversion story is one
of the greatest I've ever heard, and he makes the best food I've  ever eaten.
He's waiting for his mission call, and he'll be a bravo missionary. He helped
us out a lot in any way he could think of. I learned to always look for the
silver lining from him. He surely knows how to make beautiful things
happen out of sad circumstances.

Julia is the bomb! I don't have words to describe her. Every Sunday in
Gospel Principles, she always takes notes, and the she'll ask me about them
later. She's one of those people who's eager to learn. I love it!

Okay, so this is Sunny. This man is such a missionary. He invited both Joy
and Abraham to listen to the lessons, and look at them now! He knows the
Church is true, and he wants everyone else to know it. I hope someday I'm
even half as great as a missionary as he is.

Sorella Adriana is the sweetest! She didn't know what she could do to help
the missionaries, so she invited us to learn Italian with her once a week. It
brings her such joy to help us. She's one of those people who will give
everything they have. It's the greatest.

Olga taught me a lot about the desire to have faith. She always tells us to
pray for her to have the faith of Abraham. Let me tell you, she already
does. She acts upon every prompting, even when she doesn't know what
the result will be.

This is joy. She's so incredible. Sometimes we'll ask her a question, and she
blows our minds with her answer that is so above and beyond anything
I could ever think of.  She loves people, and she's really strong. Every
Sunday she is so excited to see us and will hug us for five minutes just
looking into our eyes.

Anziano and Sorella Jefferies have blessed my life a thousand times. I
cannot even begin to tell you everything they have done for me. Mostly
though, they just love people. They take care of us as missionaries, and they
take care of their branch in Forli. I wish I could swerve with them forever.

So this is Abraham, our new convert. These pictures pretty much
describe our relationship.

Let me tell you, this man has a beautiful desire to follow Christ.
Sometimes he just says, "I don't know everything I need to do, that's why
you're here; what do I need to do to follow Christ?" How great is that? I
learned from him what faith means: not that we understand everything, but
that we try hard and we act on what we do know.

Well, that's it from Rimini. I've loved my time here and it's all because of the people. My life has been changed in Rimini; I have been changed in Rimini. I hope you all are able to come and see my perfect little town someday. If you do, they'll welcome you with open arms. This branch is a family. I'm greatful that God let me be a part of it, even if it was only for four months. I'm heartbroken I'm leaving, but I'll never forget what I have learned here. I am excited for Vercelli. I can't wait to tell you all about it next week.

Con tutto il mio cuore
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin