Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So, I'm still in love with Italy!

I love my dear companion!

I can't even handle how much I love this country. Seriously. It's perfect. Except . . . did you know they don't tip? Blew my mind . . . more on that later.

We started out this week helping Alberto translate his resume for a job interview that has to be done in English. Sorella Stewart and Anziano Malzone prepped him for the interview and helped him right a cover letter. Anziano Garner and I translated the resume into English. Let's be clear here, by this I mean he translated and I occasionally looked up words for him. This was made so much better by his constant "Assistant to the President" everytime Malzone said "Assistant President." Was my day made? Yes, yes it was.

Anabella is still the greatest ever! We taught her a lesson on service. She just completely accepted it with an "if God tells me to, I'll do it" attitude. I love her!

The size diffrence.
I WENT TO GENOVA! So in the morning it was raining like crazy in Milano, so we assumed it would be the same in Genova. FALSE! It was beautiful. I loved it! First, I bought myself a baby bible. This might not seem like a big deal, but believe me, it is. The thing is tiny! Most importantly, it's a King James Italian Bible. So the translation is so much better than in the bibles they gave us at the MTC AND all the verses are there. Yay! We went to pick up what we thought was my comps permesso. No, we received a paper with an appointment time for us to pick it up, in three weeks. So we each spent 40 euro and a total of 4 hours on a train to receive an appointment time. I'm not complaining though, it means I get to go to Genova again! 

In Genova, we met this super nice man who just wanted to tell us how great it is that we serve missions. He said that he is so proud of us and how much we sacrifice. Basically he's the sweetest! Later that day, when we were back in Milano, we had English course and FHE. Only one lady came to the English Course, but she's awesome! She sings and teaches opera! So of course we're now best friends. 

Sorella Stewart finally made me call Sorella Wolfgramm about the headache I've had since LAST Monday. I wasn't really worried about it, because I know it's stressed mixed with never understanding anything anyone is saying. She agreed with me, but it was still nice to talk to her. I did promise her I'd get a blessing on Sunday. I cannot believe how much I've grown to love this sweet woman since I've been here. She truly is like a second mom to me. I'm so blessed to have gotten to know her and to be near her in Milano. 

I finally found a pizza with potatoes on it!
Life is perfect!
Later that night we ordered pizza. My comp has been wanting to order pizza forever! Also we found a place with a potato pizza. Score! My comp can eat a whole pizza in one sitting, pretty much everyone here can. Me? I can barely eat a fourth of it. So that's fun. Before we ordered the pizza, I asked Sorella Stewart how much she tipped. She doesn't! Apparently that's not a thing in Italy! My mind was blown. I actually didn't believe her, so I had to call Anziano Payne, to see if she was lying to me. She wasn't. This is crazy!

Sunday, Anziani Young and Scalese gave me a blessing. I instantly felt better! The headache didn't go away, it still hasn't. But it was lessened, and I felt an incredible amount of comfort. During the third hour of church, I was asked to translate in Young Women. TERRIFYING. It's ok though, because it was for the sweet girl in Norway. She maybe got about 60% of the lesson. But I'm calling that a win!

I had another opportunity to witness the priesthood power, because of a less-active member who wanted a blessing for her son. We had to be there for Garner and Malzone to come over. It just amazes me how lucky we are to have been chosen to live in this time, with the authority from God on the earth. Day by day, I grow more and more appreciative of this power.

On Monday, we had a sweet family home evening with some of the members and Alberto. At the end, Alberto asked to accompany us home. At first we told him it wasn't necessary, but it was late so he insisted. THANK GOODNESS! Do you remember the guy on the bus last Sunday who followed us until the Anziani came to meet us? Well, he was on the bus. SKETCH. He would have tried to follow us again, but Alberto was there. I'm so grateful for the protection sister missionaries have, because I definitely felt protected that night.

Don't judge my terrible art skills,
but this is a map of  where I serve!
Find a map of Milano, and compare them!
Yesterday was crazy! This whole week will be crazy! We have so many appointments we're actually have difficulties scheduling more. This is the best! I also got to talk to Sorella Wolfgramm again. She gave me the greatest compliment someone could give me. She told me that she greatly appreciates that I am always happy. Those of you who know me well, know this is not always the case. It has been my mission goal to change this. I am so grateful that it's beginning to pay off, and I truly feel like a happier person every single day. 

We're starting to eliminate our finding time, and spend that time meeting with members. Both to get to know them and to offer help for the month of inviting - which we are so excited for! Yesterday we met with a sweet family. We taught a brief lesson on how happiness is the purpose of life and how everyday we make the choice to be happy or not. This family is the greatest! I know I say that about everyone, but it's because I love them all so much! 

This next week will be fantastic. We have zone conference, and we're combined, so I'll see both Holloway and Bollwinkel. This will be the greatest day ever! Also I was asked to sing for it. Unfortunately I have a terrible voice because I haven't practiced in three months. Oh well, that's why God blesses us right? 

I love you all, and I can't wait to hear about all the wonderful things happening in your lives! 

Vi Voglio Bene!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

My comp and I have matching baby bibles!

One day I found a bug in my hair.
I named the bug Fred.

Unfortunately, Fred is now dead.

On the train for Genova!

Ticket for Genova!

Ticket to Genova!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hello, Beautiful People!

I had this amazing realization this week. I. LIVE. IN. ITALY. I know I've been here for three weeks, but for some reason it didn't hit me until now. I'm so grateful to be able to serve my mission in this beautiful place, with all of these beautiful people. I'm not sure why God chose me to be here, but I'm so thankful He did. 

Before I go on, I have a small piece of advice for those of you who have been called to serve in Italy. I guarantee that people are going to start telling you that Italy is a hard mission. They'll tell you that you'll have to fight for baptisms, and members won't want to help you. DON'T LISTEN! Please, don't let these words discourage you. I had at least 50 people tell me these things. Want to know a secret? They didn't serve in Italy. Talk to those who did. They loved it! I love it! You will love it! Be excited to meet these sweet members. They are special people and have so much love in their hearts. I can't tell you your mission will be easy, mine isn't. But I can tell you, that I am without a doubt, the happiest I have ever been.

We got to teach Alberto a lesson about the Priesthood! It was a truly beautiful lesson, because of how excited he is to receive the priesthood. Later in the week we taught him about the temple and how in one year he will be able to go. As we started talking about what a blessing the temple is, I found myself so thankful that we live in this time. We have been blessed to have temples all over the world and every year they build more. We truly are a blessed generation.

We had a lesson with a sweet member in the ward. Her name is Sorella Finotta and her sweetness is unparalleled (except maybe by Sorella Pace.) The fantastic news? I understood about 95% of the conversation. Lets have a party! Scherzo... But really, it felt so wonderful to be able to really communicate with this sweet woman. Earlier this week we took her to the bank. If you need anything, "Ask the missionaries." We were so happy to help her out and I know your missionaries will be happy to help you too. If they can't do it, they'll find someone who can. Just get to know them and become their friends. They'll love helping and learning from you, just like we love dear Sorella Finotta.

So apparently Italians don't play hangman . . . but we played it for Family Home Evening Friday night with Alberto and Fratello & Sorella Ramos. I did not know it could be that fun! When you play it with three super fun Italians who've never played it before, it's the best game in the world. These sweet people are the best! Also, they told me I make perfect cookies . . . so I love them even more! Unfortunately, we got home late . . . so I had to call our zone leaders. Oops! But I wrote them a song and sang it to them to make up for it. Be jealous you didn't witness its awesomeness.

One day, Alberto had us over for lunch. We brought a member, Carmen, with us. She's fabulous! Our lesson was about missionary work, which is great, because Carmen is working on submitting her paperwork to become a missionary! We all got to share why we want to serve and how we know the Lord is there to help us every step of the way. 

I had the opportunity to talk to both Anziano Scalese and Anziono Payne on the phone this week. Biggest blessing ever, because they both told me they love how I'm happy all the time. You probably know this, but usually I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I'm not always the most happy person. I'm working on changing that through, so hearing from these sweet Anziani that they think I'm always happy and uplifting made my week! The Lord truly blessed me when he put them in my district!

Anziani Garner and Malzone are also a blessing in our district. Let me just tell you a little story. We had an unfortunate experience when we were followed by a creeper. So we're on the bus on the way to church Sunday when we noticed a man staring at us. Staring more than people normally stare. This was sketch. We made our way off the bus, but he decided it would be a good idea to follow us. He was wrong. We're walking as fast as we can to the church but he just keeps on following. So we call the Anziani and they come meet us to take us to the church. The man jets! The Anziani are angels! I feel so much better knowing they're around when we need help. Lets just hope we don't need bodyguards again anytime soon.

In church that day, I had real conversations with people and actually set up a few appointments. By myself. In Italian. The Best! Also I figured out Anziani Scalese and Young's Disney look-a-likes. Scalese = Prince Phillip. Young = Lewis (Meet the Robinsons) oh my gosh, these are perfect.

I'm sure by now you are all aware how clumsy I am. So, I'm sitting on my bed Sunday night, on the phone with Anziano Payne to give him our weekly numbers. I reach to grab my planner and I just fall off. So now every time I talk to Payne, I sit myself on the floor at the start of the conversation, just in case.

Monday was my two-month anniversary! So excited about that! We spent the morning at the Questura so I could be fingerprinted for my permit to live in Italy. We got there an hour early, they called me in exactly at my appointment time, and it only took ten minutes. BLESSED! So many missionaries have tons of problems. My comp for instance [Sorella Stewart]. I'm not going to complain about that too much though, because we get to go to Genova this week for her permesso. YES!

We were invited to a Family Home Evening with some members in the ward, a less active family and a part member family. It was the best! I understood nothing, because I can barely understand Italian, they were speaking half Italian half Spanish, but it was so much fun! I love our members here; they're just so open and loving.

District Meeting yesterday was incredibly. I love the Anziani in our district, pretty much some of my favorite people. I was asked to talk about how the atonement helps us in missionary work. So I shared 3 Nephi 27:13. This shows that the Lord suffered the Atonement so He could learn how to help His people through times of trial. 1 John 1:7 tells us that when we follow Christ, we're joined together in fellowship. This is really special to me as a missionary. Because I truly believe Christ knows exactly what will help our dear investigators, because He knows it would have helped Him. So, when we're living our lives in a way that we're aligned with Christ, He will help us know what they are feeling and how to help. I think this is such as gift as a missionary, because I can't understand how some of these experiences affect people, because I haven't gone through it. But the Lord has, and He will help us. Always.

So I'm pretty sick. This doesn't seem like it would be a blessing, but Sorella Wolfgramm sent me to bed early yesterday. I slept for FIFTEEN HOURS! Oh man, I've missed sleep.

Last thought. I learned this week, that riding the bus in Italy is basically the same as longboarding. Seriously. Once I learned that . . . riding the bus is supes easy.

I love you all! Thank you so much for your emails and letters. I can't express to you how much they help! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So, I basically love Italy!

Sister Stewart, Anabella, and me - after Anabella's baptism.

I've seen and been blessed with so many miracles this week. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to the Lord for what I have been given. 

Last p-day after I had the wonderful opportunity to write all of you wonderful people, I had the opportunity to go to La Scala. Let me just say this one more time. I. WAS. IN. LA. SCALA. If you don't understand why that is important, let me just enlighten you. La Scala is without a doubt is one of the most beautiful, historic, and famous opera houses in the world. Lives have been changed there. Hearts have been touched. Dreams have been fulfilled. I know this is completely ridiculous for most people, but that building is almost sacred to me. Many of my personal heroes have worked in this wonderful place. I feel that when musicians work, or any artist for that matter, they put so much of themselves into their work that it leaves a mark. I could feel that mark. Most importantly, I was able to stand in front of a piano, that my hero, Giuseppe Verdi, owned and played. What joy! This man has blessed my life so much; it was incredible to stand so near a place he worked. Also, fun fact, the man at the ticket office gave us free tickets to the museum because we're missionaries. PERKS! And by perks of course I mean blessings from God. Honestly, I had been having a really rough time, but having that opportunity helped me feel so much better. 

I had zone training on Thursday, so I was able to see Sorella Holloway AGAIN! How wonderful is that?! Also, Frat Dean was still in Milan, and he stopped by. What a gift to be able to see and talk to two of my favorite people in the world!

Sister Stewart, Alberto, and me
On the way home from training we met a man on the bus. When we started getting ready to get off, he got off, but realized we hadn't yet and got back on. Sketch! He then got off at our stop and started following us home. Super sketch! I was freaking out just a bit and wasn't really in the mood to handle it, because all I wanted in the world, was a sandwich. True story. Well, this man stopped us, and we started talking. Turns out, he just felt something special while he was talking to us. We had a prayer lesson and set up a lesson with him for the next day. He accepted our invitation to be baptized in the next lesson. How amazing is the Lord?

It rained on Friday! Yay! I miss rain SO MUCH!

This is Anabella. We love her!
Saturday was the baptism for Anabella and Alberto! We made banana bread and my chocolate chip cookies for the baptism. (I've never given anyone the recipe before, but the sweet women in the ward really wanted I guess it's no longer a secret recipe.) The font takes TWO HOURS to fill up. So basically we were in the church all day! It's okay though, we practiced the musical number for the baptism and met with Anziani Garner and Malzone to talk about the area. They are opening a companionship in our area. The baptism was absolutely beautiful. There is something so peaceful about witnessing a covenant being made with God. A sweet woman came and asked if she could sing with me for the baptism, so we changed things around and we sang a hymn instead of the number we had practiced. This woman is precious. Right before we started singing, she whispered in my ear, "Ti voglio bene." I feel such love for the people in my ward and am so grateful for the love and kindness they have shown me, even though I only understand about a quarter of what they say. 

Mother's Day was perfect! Church was tough, because I still don't really understand what people are telling me, but I've been blessed with an amazing ward. Also, Gospel Principles [class] is made up of mostly missionaries because of how many there are in the ward; so that's nice. It's hard to believe I can learn Italian; I feel lost most of the time and my brain continually hurts. But then I remind myself of 1 Nephi 17:50. The Lord commanded me to do this, so I am able to do this. Maybe not immediately, but I can learn Italian. I got to talk to my mom and grandma! Oh my perfectness! Seeing their beautiful faces was so special. I could have talked to them forever, but I'm so grateful for the time I did have. Skype is a gift from God!

I love district meetings! Mostly because my district is incredible! So embarrassing story - Sunday night I was talking to our district leader, Anziano Payne, on the phone to give him our numbers for the week. I went to grab a post-it and tripped over myself, a chair, and ended up on the floor with a twisted ankle. I thought I had left my clumsiness at the MTC. I was wrong. Anyway, Anziano Payne didn't even hear it happen! Thank goodness!

Yesterday we had a new missionary training. Not only was I able to see Holloway, but also Haslem, Lemmo, and Bollwinkel! I have missed them SO MUCH! As we sat around eating at lunch, I realized how much I love them. I am so blessed to have these beautiful people in my life. I also slammed my foot in a door, so yes, the clumsiness has definitely returned. Too bad, I was really enjoying not injuring myself.

Perhaps one of the best blessings of the week is the Priesthood. I was having a really hard time; it happens. Don't think I don't love the mission, because I do, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. But it's still hard. We met Anziani Garner and Malzone at the church last night so they could give me a blessing. I am so grateful for worthy priesthood holders. I can tell you now being here would be almost impossible if I didn't know they were there and worthy to give blessings. 

I love you all so much. I can't even begin to express how much I appreciate your letters and emails. All my love, -Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Anziano Scalese!


Me and Garner. Don't judge the face, I didn't know this picture was being taken.

Young and Garner

Scalese, Malzone, Carmen (a woman in the ward), Stewart, Me, Garner, Young

La Scala!

our house

our house

Always have to have a post-it wall!