Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 1 - Rimini

Me and Renata - my mom in Milano! 
Last Wednesday was probably one of the hardest days of my entire life. I had to say goodbye to so many people I love so much. After e-mailing home, Sorella Stewart and I went on a walk through downtown Milano. Mostly so I could go shoe shopping, but also so I could say goodbye to the beautiful city. Don't you worry; I did buy my very first pair of Italian shoes. Saldi season is my favorite season! God gave me a wonderful blessing while on this walk. We passed Renata on her bike. She told us she wasn't going to be able to make it to Family Home Evening that night because she had a test. I am so overcome with gratitude that I was able to say goodbye to her. This woman has been like my mother in Milano. She always calls me figlia and gives me a wonderful hug. She reminds me of my mom in so many ways. I can't imagine Milano without her. 

Me & Sorella e Fratello Ramos
So many members came to FHE. The Anziani gave a really sweet spiritual thought about temples, and then we split up into teams and made temples out of dry pasta and marshmallows. I would love to say my team won . . . but this apparently is not our game. Afterwards, we did what any good Italian missionaries do. We ate. The members brought so much food! They really went all out. We also took about a thousand pictures. Oh my goodness, I miss these people so much. There is just something so wonderful about them. Every few seconds, someone else embraced me. I honestly didn't know how to say goodbye. This ward is my family. I love them with every fiber of my being. I ache being away from them just as much as I ache being away from home. They have taught me so much, most importantly about love and member missionary work. The day I am able to see them again will truly be a great day.

Here's the fun part of Wednesday. We got home and I needed to finish packing. It should have taken me about a half hour . . . no, it took me and almost two hours. Why? . . . because we didn't have electricity. I had to pack my whole life into three suitcases, in the dark. I finally managed it, and I went to bed.

Nothing better than seeing my sweet girls at the train station.
Sorella Holloway, Me, Sorella Baer, & Sorella Haslem
We had to be at the train station really early the next morning because my companion had to go to the meeting for trainers and their new trainees. So I just got to spend almost the whole day at the station. I loved it! I saw so many people I love with all of my heart. Sorella Baer, Sorella Holloway, Sorella Haslem, and Anziano Axson were all there, along with tons of other people from our MTC group. I also was able to say goodbye to Anziani Payne, Heaton, Malzone, and Garner. Oh my heart broke saying those goodbyes. After four long hours at the station, it was finally time to head to Rimini. Instead of Sorelle Alley and Burkman coming up to get me, I just travelled down with Anziani - possibly one of the weirdest experiences of my mission. I travelled with our new zone leaders who will be serving in Ravena and with Anziani Miller and Mustafaraj, who are in my district serving in Ancona. The first train ride wasn't too bad. It was about four hours long, but we had seats and air conditioning. Thank goodness. The next train ride was only two hours, but we stood the whole time with no windows and no air conditioning. Thank goodness for the Anziani who kept me sane. When we finally pulled into Rimini, I was astounded.

The city is absolutely beautiful. It's so tiny compared to Milano. It's by no means a small town, but it feels so much different. It's so much farther south as well. It's by the sea, so we get a nice little sea breeze, but it's also a thousand times hotter then Milano. I love it though. My companions are wonderful. Sorella Alley arrived in Italy the same time as me, and Sorella Burkman arrived the transfer after me, so we're all pretty young in the mission. Next transfer, they're going to send another sister as well, so they can open a new copia here. 

Our branch is fantastic. I was really worried about church on Sunday - not because I didn't think I'd like them, but just because I thought it would be so sad not to see the ward I've grown to love so much. Yes, it was sad, but my branch was so welcoming and loving. They're so excited to have three missionaries and even more excited that next transfer there will be another one. I was told over and over again that I speak beautiful Italian. I personally think the heat was getting to them, but I appreciate the compliments anyway. 

Our branch mission leader is amazing. He's absolutely hilarious, and he obviously cares so much about the missionaries. Monday afternoon, Sorella Burkman got really sick. We called Emilio about 8 p.m. to ask him to come give her a blessing because she was really starting to worry us. He called another member to come with him and was over in just a few minutes. He then called doctors for us, drove around for an hour trying to find and open pharmacy, and bought her medicine. The other members have really been amazing as well. One member brought us a box full of vegetables so we could make Sorella Burkman soup. Sometimes it amazes me how much people love the missionaries. Sometimes it's really difficult to do what we do, but members who show you unconditional love make it so much easier.  

The bike situation in Rimini was a wee bit sketch for a few days. Not only am I the clumsiest person in the world, but also I was riding a broken bike. I almost died a few times, but now my bike is fixed and I am only a slight hazard on the road. So thank you for all of your prayers on my behalf; I'm sure that is why I'm still alive. 

I'm excited for this next transfer. In the last week, I've learned an awful lot and I'm so looking forward to learning even more. I was terrified to leave Milano; it was just so comfortable to me. But now, I would be heartbroken to leave Rimini. God knows exactly who and what we need. If we depend on him, everything will turn out okay. I believe that 100%. I can't wait to tell you about this upcoming week. I'm not sure what, but I feel like something incredible will be happening. I love this work; I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

I love you all.
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Last day as companions

Maria Luisa and me

Me, Alex, and Sorella Ramos

Me and Sorella Ramos

I love these missionaries!

Me and Anziano Garner

Me and Anziano Malzone

My first pair of Italian shoes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Milano Navigli to . . . RIMINI!

Sweet Alex kisses me anytime he gets the
chance. Every time a camera comes out,
he tries to kiss my cheek, true story.
So, we received our transfer news on Monday. I'm getting kicked out of MIlano and sent down south to Rimini. I'm heartbroken and excited all at the same time. But, more on that later.

This week has been truly amazing, and I've seen a lot of miracles. Granted, some super strange things have happened, as well. For instance, by now I'm sure you're all aware that I am without a doubt the clumsiest person in the world. I don't really think you could even find enough to argue with me about this fact for more then 5 minutes, because then I'd just pull this out of my back pocket . . . last week I sprained my ankle while standing up during companion studies. No, really, this happened; I got out of my chair, twisted my ankle, and then confirmed appointments for the day while lying on the floor. My comp took a picture as proof, but no one will ever see it. Here's the deal: when you're a missionary, you can't really afford to have a sprained ankle. Hence the fact I just pretended it didn't exist, because we can't just cancel every appointment. Well, that was one of my worse ideas. But, now my ankle is all healed, and I know how to say ankle in Italian. So it was good for something.

Saturday was my four-month anniversary! Yay! Four months ago I entered the MTC. I didn't think I could get to Italy fast enough. Now I realize that all seems like it was only yesterday, I still don't speak Italian well, and I wish I had more time to study. Time is moving way too fast. I feel like every time I blink, I jump forward in time. 

The spirit is such an important part of this work. Saturday morning, we were preparing to do Parco, and we were checking the map to make sure we knew how to get to the parco. I felt like we should go to Parco Basiliche instead though, so we did. We were in the parco for less than five minutes when we met a man who was truly interested in the message. He said he was praying at that moment for a miracle, a sign from God everything was going to be okay; then we walked up to him and told him God loves him. His name is Antonio, and he's a really wonderful person. He came to church the next day, and in our lesson on Monday agreed to be baptized on August 24. I keep imagining what would have happened if we hadn't gone to that exact parco at that exact moment. The best way to do this work is through the guidance of the Spirit. If we don't, we will miss out on so many incredible miracles that are just around the corner.
On Sunday we had five investigators in church. The Anziani had two! I'm not sure if the Assistenti had any or not, but our ward had at least seven! We usually feel lucky to get one or two. I love to see the work moving forward in this ward. The members are becoming incredible missionaries themselves. There was never a moment when our investigators didn't have anyone to talk to or just stood by themselves in the corner. The members made sure of that; they are truly incredible. 

Over a month ago, I asked Anziano Payne to write me a song. He's been putting it off, but realized the end of the transfer was coming up, so he had to do it. OH MY GOODNESS! He and Anziano Heaton wrote a rap and sang it to me over the phone. I laughed so much I fell off of my bed. Granted, this is not exactly abnormal for me . . . but still. I don't know what I'm going to do without my district! They bring me so much joy every single day. 

Last day as companions . . . Duomo
Well, Monday finally rolled around. My companion and I were both stressing out. Starting at 10 am we were waiting for the assistants to call. It was transfer-cleaning day, and our house was already incredibly clean, so we were having problems focusing and not just freaking out.  Anziano Payne called and told us they're getting white washed! Crazy! He's going to be a zone leader in Padova, and Anziano Heaton is opening and training in Alessandria. At that moment we realized anything could happen for transfers. Then we went to Alberto's house with Carmen! They made us lunch, and it was wonderful. Carmen noticed we were both preoccupied and I wouldn't let the phone out of my hand. Alberto started laughing because he had the assistenti over for lunch the day before and he had tried to get them to tell him where we were going. They gave absolutely nothing up. It was easier to not stress around Carmen and Alberto, but I still don't think I let go of the phone once. Finally it was time to leave because we had ward correlation [a meeting of congregation leadership to talk about the needs of ward members]. 

My first pair of Italian shoes . . . pictures next week
We got off the bus and started walking towards the church. The phone rang; finally, the assitenti were calling. I was talking to Anziano Money; he told me I was called to serve in the beautiful city of Rimini. Let's be honest here. Right at that moment, in the middle of the street, in Milano, I started to cry. I didn't even think it was a possibility that they would pull me from Milano after only two transfers. My heart broke. Yes, I'm so excited to serve in Rimini; it's beautiful, by the sea, and everyone who serves there is in love with it. But, I was not prepared to hear that I would have to leave my perfect ward. Then Anziano Money told me I was going to be in a threesome with . . . Sorella Ally and her companion! Oh what joy filled my heart! Sorella Ally and I were in the MTC together, and she is by far one of my favorite people in the world! I passed the phone to my companion, and she found out she would be staying in Milano and training again. 

We walked into the church and Anziani Garner and Malzone were already there. Garner saw me crying and said, "Well, I guess the assistants finally called you." They had just gotten a call as well. Garner is staying and training in Milano again. Malzone is headed to Lugano. Not really surprising, because it's the only city in our mission that's in Switzerland . . . Americans can't serve there because of issues with our visas . . . so it was only a matter of time before he was sent there.

We had our last correlation meeting all together, and then Sorella Stewart and I headed off to Monica's. I finally stopped crying right after correlation, but when we walked to the bus stop Alberto was there and wanted to know if we had heard anything. He was so surprised I'm the one leaving. He spent the whole bus ride telling me how much he was going to miss me - such a sweet man. Then I had to tell Monica and her family I'm leaving. This was even harder, because they were devastated. In fact, in many of the pictures we took that day, Kevin was frowning because he's so sad. He even gave me a little stuffed animal to take with me so I can remember him. 

My comp is five years old and still likes to chase birds.
Later that night, I called Sorella Bollwinkel to see if they had heard about transfers. She and her comp are staying in Milano as is Sorella Holloway. Also, Holloway's new comp is Sorella Haslem, as in, her MTC companion. When I told Winks I was leaving we both got super sad, because we realized we wouldn't be able to see each other as much. Then I pointed out I'm going to a city with bikes. Her response, "Ervin . . . you can't even get out of bed correctly." Yes, they are sending the clumsiest person in the world to a bike-riding city. Pray for me please.

I don't even know how I feel right now. Today is my last in Milano. Tomorrow I'll meet Sorella Ally at Centrale [train station], and we'll head to Rimini. On the upside, I'll be there forever and get to see so many people I know at the station. I already miss this city. I miss the people I've grown to love so dearly, my wonderful district, my perfect ward. I never expected I'd have to say goodbye to them all so soon. I was born in paradise [born=missionary slang for first assignment]. I'm so grateful tonight is English Course and Family Home Evening so I'll get to say goodbye to many of the members. I look so forward to the day when I will see them again.

Sometimes during English course, my comp
thinks it's a good idea to take a picture.
The next time you hear from me, I'll be in Rimini. I really am excited. Excited to see Sorella Ally, excited to meet our other companion, excited to meet our branch. I know I will love them just as much as I love the sweet members in Milano. I'm going to one of the prettiest places in Italy. How could I possibly have been so lucky, to be born in one of the music capitals of the world and then next go to one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Our members keep saying they're sorry I'm leaving and they don't want me to go. But the Lord has a plan for me. It's so much more perfect then what I could ever have planned for myself. I've seen that already in my first city and I know I'll see it in my next as well. God knows everything. There is a reason for me to head to Rimini, I'm not sure what it is now, but I have faith that it's incredible. So I'll answer dear Lord, with my hand in thine, I'll go where you want me to go.

All my love, always.
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

This family is the greatest!

I love them!


Monica's lovely family and Alberto


The boys love Alberto so much!

When the Anziani heard about the sign,
they made us show them.
I will miss these sweet people with all of my heart.

Sweet Anabella, I'm going to miss her so much!
The Torres girls!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blessings of the week

Marta loves taking pictures!

My companion and I were extremely blessed this week, truly. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I distinctly noticed myself being guided by the Lord in where to go or what to say. We were, without a doubt, the busiest we've ever been. We had struggled last transfer and the first few weeks of this transfer to hit 10 lessons. This last week we taught 19 lessons! I can't even express how big of a deal this is for us. I love teaching; it's the best part of this calling. In every single one of our lessons the Spirit was so strong. I am completely aware, that I am never actually the teacher. The Spirit is always the teacher; I just say a few words He picks for me. 

The Muslim man we are preparing for baptism is doing so well. We're meeting with him almost everyday, and each day he is so much more willing and ready to do whatever it is the Lord will ask of him. Last Wednesday, we had planned to meet him before English Course, but he didn't show up. Sorella Stewart, Elvira, and I were really sad, but then he showed up two hours later. It turns out he had been lost for two hours and even asked the police to help him find the building. This is how much he wants to learn. If I were being honest, I would have given up and gone home! We skipped Family Home Evening to have a lesson with him. I actually left during the lesson to call President Dibb and set up an appointment for them to meet. When I came back in, I had no idea what they had been talking about or if they had followed the lesson plan. As I sat down, he read a scripture about the atonement. We sat there in silence, and then I bore my testimony to him. He was so interested in what I was saying, and I could feel how much he yearns to have this same knowledge. 

The next day we brought Rami to the lesson with us. He's a recent convert from Egypt, and so he speaks Arabic. He was helpful in translating for us, but, by far, the most important thing he ever said was his testimony. I love listening to the testimonies of our members; they are extremely beautiful and touching. At our next lesson, Kamau bore his testimony on baptism. As our investigator listened to his words, he was absolutely beaming. I've never met a man who responds to testimonies in quite the same way. He is extremely spiritual, and he puts God first in all things. Yesterday he reminded me so much of Nephi. He told us that he wasn't going to come to the lesson because he was running late and needed to go to the Mosque. But God told him he needed to be at the church, to continue learning, and so he came. He told us, whatever God tells him to do, he will do it, no questions. That's why he's preparing for baptism. I'm so grateful for his example. In his situation, I don't know if I would continue to meet with us. It is dangerous for him, but he so wants to do whatever the Lord asks. His faith is so beautiful and strong. 

We set a baptism date with our other investigator, Jimmy. It's been so amazing to see the changes in this man's life. In our first lesson, he didn't believe in God. I didn't even understand why he wanted to meet with us. Alberto has been coming to all of his lessons, and his testimony has really helped.  In every lesson, Jimmy has become more and more open. Almost every time we read a scripture with him, as he finishes, he says that it's true. He responds so well to the written word. We read so much with him, and it's beautiful to see how he applies it to his life. He is a different man than when we first started teaching him. He's more tranquil and feels the spirit so strongly. I love how much the Gospel changes us for the better. It makes us the people that we would always hope to be. We're so blessed to live in a time when we have the restored Gospel.
Alberto found a sign for Giardino Primo Moroni!

After one of our lessons with Jimmy, Alberto stayed and we taught him about the title of liberty and Captain Moroni. It was such a fun lesson! At the end, we each made our own titles of liberty and put them in our scriptures next to the story. Then, Alberto told us there was a Giardino Primo Moroni very near the church. So we took a field trip to find it! It's not so much of a Garden as it is a tiny square of grass with absolutely nothing in it, but still. 

Payne finally got his corn dogs!
We had our last District Meeting of the transfer. It was so sad! Most likely, next transfer, half of our district will be gone. Here's the fun part of our meeting though. I always ask at the end of a phone call with a missionary, if there is anything I can do for them. I won't take no for an answer. Anziano Payne likes to ask for impossible things. Three weeks ago, he asked for corndogs. You can't get corndogs in Italy, and apparently he loves them. So, I wrote my mom and asked for a recipe. Everyone in our district knew, accept for Payne. He just kept asking for corndogs, and I just kept telling him it was impossible. Sunday night, I made corndogs. Granted, I had to change the recipe, because you can't find all of the ingredients in Italy. I'll be honest, they looked whack, but it was the best I could do. Sunday night I was talking to Payne to give him our numbers, and he asked me to bring corndogs to the meeting. Of course I said no. When I asked him what I could do for him, he told me during the meeting, everything I said had to rhyme. I was so not excited for this. But Anziano Heaton saved my life. I heard him yell to tell me if I didn't want to rhyme, I had to bring corndogs. I told Payne I'd be rhyming all day. In the meeting I was talking, and Payne got mad at me because I was just talking normally. He didn't believe us when we said we brought him corndogs. After the meeting we went into the kitchen, and I thought he was going to die of excitement. True story. Apparently they tasted good, even if they looked cray, so that's a plus.

Then we decided to do March Madness for transfers. Everyone in our district is guessing where we're all going to serve. Almost everyone has guessed I will be training in Milano. All of the Anziani are adamant about this. I'm terrified, so if it turns out to be true, I'm going to need all of you to pray like crazy for me. I don't think they're right though, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

There is so much more I want you to know! For instance, one night when I was calling Anziani telling them about miracles we had seen, I spoke in all Italian. It was good Italian, too! Yes! Granted, it was to other missionaries, so I'm not sure if it counts . . .

I love you all so much, thank you for the letters and the support. I could not do this without you. 

Ti Voglio Bene
-Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Sweet Anziani

My comp takes so many pictures!

After district meeting

This is abnormal.

Missionary shoes!

So this is my district (except for the assistants). Basically
they are some of the greatest people ever. Anziono Heaton,
Me, Sorella Stewart, Anziano Garner, Anziano Malzone,
and our capo distretto, Anziano Payne. I would just like to
point out, Anziano Heaton is not taller than I am. He is
most definitely standing on his toes . . . 

This is Anziano Payne's model face. Please help
me convince him to choose another career.