Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another Week of Miracles and Love

Hello again, my dear family and friends. I hope you're all doing just smashing, loving life and all. I know I am; I've seen an abundance of blessings in this last week. Let me tell you something - God loves us. He wants up to be happy. He puts little as well as big miracles in our path everyday. Sometimes they're hidden a little bit, but I suspect that's mostly because we're easily distracted. 

If you try to take a picture of the surrounding area, an
Italian will probably insist on taking a picture of you.
Speaking of easily distracted, let me tell you a story. One time I was riding my bike when I noticed something shiny on the ground. I glanced at it, only to realize it was a piece of garbage, so I looked ahead . . . and ran into a stop sign. Don't worry though, this happened three years ago. I haven't crashed my bike in a good three weeks! This is one of those miracles I was telling you about. Without God's help, there is no way clumsy me would be able to ride a bike in Italy without getting killed. True story. Poor Sorella Burkman had a little crash. She did something to her hand, and it's been wrapped for a week. She's a pro though. Doesn't even let it slow her down. 

After I emailed last week, we had another lesson with Christian and Valentina. It was amazing! They thought the plan of salvation was beautiful . . . which, lets be honest, it is. Their two-year-old daughter was there this time as well. Oh my goodness this child is adorable. What I appreciate most about them is how much they really want to understand. Christian writes down questions for us as he reads. It's the best! Even better then this lesson, Christian came to church on Sunday. Valentina had to work, unfortunately. We walked into the church, and Christian was already there. He was being welcomed by members in the branch. Everyone was excited to greet him and tell him they were excited he came. We left him in Priesthood and went off to Relief Society. When he came into Gospel Principles [a basic Sunday school class], he was so excited about what he had learned and even more excited for the next class. As he walked in, everyone invited him to sit with them. He ended up sitting with Emilio, which was great because Emilio explained things to him. We talked about the Word of Wisdom [commandment regarding health]. The teacher asked Christian what kinds of things he thought God might tell us not to eat or drink. He immediately gave the perfect answer. He and Valentina are so concerned about being healthy and natural. He thought the Word of Wisdom was just the greatest thing ever. Then we went to sacrament meeting. Again he sat next to Emilio, who helped him out the whole time. At the end of church, members swarmed him. He loved it! He started planning activities with them, and he was invited to come to a family home evening with us. Before he left, he asked if he could be baptized sooner! 

The next day we taught them about The Gospel of Christ. Emilio came to the lesson with us, which was really helpful. Christian had a list of questions about everything in the world. We can explain things, but there is something really powerful about having a member bear testimony on something your investigator has a question about. Valentina was curious about the word of wisdom, and we talked about it briefly. The spirit was so strong throughout the lesson. This family is so ready. We got permission from President Dibb to move their baptism date up. Usually they need to come to church three weeks. Unfortunately Christian has to work this Sunday. President Dibb said as long as Valentina comes Sunday and they both come the next week, they could be baptized the week after. They were ecstatic! 

This is Emilio and Ilaria's backyard. 
Sunday night we had dinner at Emilio and Ilaria's house. Another couple from the ward came as well. They made us pizza! Mostly, I'm just grateful for any time we have to bond with our members. I never understood how much missionaries really rely on members before. Not just for the investigators. We need our members for ourselves. They give us strength. There is nothing better then knowing one of your members loves you, that they are there for you. It's hard to be away from home, but we are able to have all of these new family members. I love them, with all of my heart. 

Sorella Padula, one of our traveling sisters [sisters who have been serving longer and help with training] called me Monday night to see how I was doing. That's it; she just wanted to check up on me and ask about my family. We were talking about how special prayer was and she reminded me of something important. Missionaries are servants of the Lord; our prayers sound a little stronger in his ears. This is something President Wolfgramm told me in my first meeting with him. It's still blessing my life. I feel like it's true. Maybe it's because I'm closer with the Lord then I have ever been before. Maybe I just notice my responses more. Regardless of the reason, I become more and more grateful for this mission everyday. I am so much closer to my Father then I have ever been. I also feel closer to my family here on earth. That seems strange, because I'm on the other side of the world, but it's true. I feel closer to my friends as well. I know part of that is because of your prayers on my behalf. Thank you for those. I feel them lift me up every single day. 

Vi Voglio Bene
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

So this is the Gelato sandwich Emanuele made us . . . heaven.

This is a normal sunset in Rimini . . . Second Coming?

Family [me and Sorelle Burkman & Alley]

My sweet district: [back] me, Sorella Alley, Anziani Miller,
Simcox, Anderson, Valentine, & Kekoolani
[front] Sorella Burkman and Anziano Mustafaraj

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Great Things Await You"

Me and Sorella Alley
Last Thursday was Ferragosto! [This is an Italian holiday; the name means, “August rest.”] We went with some of our members to a river and had a beautiful picnic. We brought Luigi and two less active members came with us. I'm so grateful to our branch for how they take care of our investigators. They invite them into their lives immediately.

I wish I had been better at that before my mission. I know I could have done a lot more for the missionaries and for those they taught. I don't think I ever realized how much members make a difference in the lives of these people. All anyone really wants is to have a place where they belong. Church should always be that place, especially when we consider that we are all brothers and sisters. No one should ever feel left out of this family, because I'm too busy to let them know I love them. These members have definitely made realize how much better I can be.

Sorelle Burkman, Alley, and Elena!
Anyway, Ferragosto was absolutely incredible; we had so much fun. I was really grateful because I got to talk to some of the members I've never really been able to before. After we were at the river for a while, we started on our way back home. The members wanted to stop for food, but pretty much everything was closed. They decided to take us to The Ghetto . . . a restaurant owned by a less-active member, but it wasn't open yet so we spent some time at the park eating Gelato, before heading over. OH MY GOODNESS. Number one we got to finally meet Paolo. He owns The Ghetto and is a super amazing man. He actually introduced two of the members to the Church when they worked for him two years ago. Now they’re married and have been to the temple. Really, this man is gold. Also, the food was incredible. Most of you know I don't like eating meat. I don't really have any moral objections to it . . . I just don't want to eat it. Well, Paolo makes the best hamburgers! Really, it's probably the best hamburger I've ever had in my entire life. We all basically ordered the same thing, because it's apparently the best. I can't really imagine anything better. When we were all done eating, we went in to pay. Paolo refused to let us (le sorelle) pay. How nice of him! He told us he'd see us at church on Sunday. He didn't come, but we decided we're going to have to go see him again soon.

Saturday was a pretty great day also. The Anziani in Ancona were having a baptism! Two actually - brothers, the first young men in the branch! We were planning on taking Luigi, but he ended up not being able to come. We still had to go though, because when they found out we were coming, Anziani Miller and Mustafaraj asked me to give one of the talks, since not a lot of members were going to be there. We decided to bring two of our members with us. Alan is one of the young men in the ward and we thought it would be nice if there was a young man there for the baptism, even if he's from a branch an hour away. We also brought Emanuele, because he's the young men's president. This baptism was so wonderful! These two young men are extremely incredible. Next week, they are going to be given the priesthood, and then they will be blessing and passing the sacrament each Sunday. How incredible is that?

I was so grateful to be able to go, because it was the first baptism I've been able to go to since being in Rimini. There is nothing like a baptism to remind you of why you're serving a mission. There is something incredibly sacred and special about witnessing someone make a covenant with their Father in Heaven. During the baptism, one member turned to me and with tears in her eyes said, "Posso ricordarmi il mio battesimo." [I can remember my baptism.] Then of course I started to cry, no surprise there.

Sunday was surprisingly wonderful as well. President and Sorella Dibb were in Ancona in the morning so President Dibb could set apart a sister leaving on her mission. On the way back to Milano, they stopped in Rimini to interview one of the members. We were at the church having lunch with this member and had no idea he was coming until she told us 30 minutes before he got there. While he was in the interview, we talked to Sorella Dibb for about an hour. She was so very sweet as always. She loves being a part of the missionaries’ lives. I'm so grateful for her and for how much she obviously cares about the missionaries. Since President Dibb was already there, he decided to do our interviews. For some reason, mine went on for about 30 minutes. But it was really nice to get the chance to talk to President Dibb - to talk about the work, about myself, about how wonderful it is to be here. He's so assuring and lets you know that you, specifically, are important and needed. I really needed that talk with him.
Sorella Burkman had a wee bit of an accident. She's not too
badly banged up, though.

Now for the best part of the week. Monday we had a beautiful miracle. Last week, Anziano Dowling called me with a referral from one of their investigators. I called the next day, but Valentina was at work and told us she would call us back. She didn't, so we called her again Sunday night. Her husband was so excited to talk to us and said he would call us back when Valentina got home. They called about ten minutes later and made an appointment for the next day. I have never been in a lesson where the spirit was more powerful then this one. From the moment we got there, everything was perfect. We were able to completely be ourselves and connect with them, which is sometimes really hard to do when you don't speak the language very well. Christian told us they just really want to be apart of something. Which led in perfectly to the first point of our lesson, that we have a loving Heavenly Father, and we're all family. We taught them about the restoration and the Book of Mormon. They eagerly accepted the invitation to read. Then, we invited them to be baptized. Again, eagerly they agreed. We're meeting with them again today. They are so excited to come to church this Sunday, and we're excited for them to be welcomed into the branch. 

God watches over all of us. He leads us to where we need to be. Everyday, we are being prepared for the next step in our lives, whatever that is. I don't know where I'll be a year from now, or even three weeks from now. (Although let’s be honest, I'll probably be right here in Rimini) But I do know that wherever I am, God will have prepared me for that time. Just like he prepares people to hear and accept the Gospel. I can't imagine living my life without this knowledge; it just seems too difficult. I love you all, and I'm so grateful for the love and support you have shown me. We each have an incredible journey ahead of us; I have no doubt of that. 

"For verily I say unto you, that great things await you." D&C 45:62

Until next time,
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just Another Week in Paradise

Love them!
(me, Sorella Alley, Sorella Burkman)

This last week has been absolutely incredible. Honest. I have learned so much about God and about myself. Everyday, I'm more grateful that I decided to go on a mission. I'm a different person then when I first left, a better person.

This last Thursday, we had a zone training meeting. I will never get over how much I love district and zone meetings. I was able to see Sorella Bennet for the first time since the MTC! I had forgotten how much I loved her. Really, she's amazing. I started talking to her about how I'm quite possible the clumsiest person in the world. Soon the whole zone was listening to my crash story. I'm glad they're able to find so much joy in my inability to ride a bike. Really, at least it's good for something. We all decided it's a great finding tactic, and whenever I crash my companions should talk and try to teach the people who stop to help. Well, I've only had the one crash, but we might have to try it out one day. Also at the training, our zone leaders Anziani Dowling and Anderson asked me to share a mission experience/testimony to start the meeting. I'm really glad they did, because it gave me the opportunity to think about all the miracles I've seen in the past months. I haven't really been in Italy very long, but I've served in two beautiful cities, with a wonderful ward and branch, met some of the very best people in the world, and have seen the hand of God in my life each and everyday. I think sometimes we just need to be reminded of how lucky we are.

We have a new investigator named Ivo. I absolutely love this man! He reminds me of my grandpa, so every time I see him I get a little sad because I miss my grandpa, but it's also such a blessing. We've met with him a few times, and he's scheduled to get baptized in September. He came to church this last Sunday, which was a huge blessing. He seemed to really enjoy it, even though he had to leave a little early. It amazes me how people are able to meet with us one day and just decide to join us at church the next. I don't know if I could do that. We ask people to change their entire lives, and because of their faith they do. I know that's because they trust the Lord and they listen to Him, but I am still in awe of how incredible they are. I don't know if I were in their situation, if I would do those same things. I'm so grateful for their examples. 

So one night Luigi invited us out to see his boat. He works in Riccione, and his job is to take the sand that builds up out farther to the sea so it doesn't get too high. His boat is crazy awesome, really. Well, it was like a 15-mile ride out to go see him - definitely worth it, though. Sorella Burkman led a really beautiful lesson about the Brother of Jared. Then we talked about how he met the missionaries. He just met them in the park and when they asked if they could come teach him, he said of course. Oh my goodness! His faith has grown so much in the past few weeks. He adores the gospel, and he really loves learning about it. After the lesson we had to bike back to Rimini. We bought ourselves Gelato after though, so it wasn't too bad.

Sunday we saw a really amazing miracle. We were at church and a man we've never seen before came up to greet us. After a little bit, we found out he's Fratello Bruni! We've been asked by the branch to visit this family, and we haven't been able to! But they came to church! They haven't come to church in months. They explained how to get to their house, and we're going to visit them soon. 

Monday morning we had a wonderful district meeting. Why was it wonderful? Because the zone leaders came and they brought letters! I have never been so happy as when Anziano Anderson opened his bag and handed me that beautiful mail. Thank you all so much. You're all so inspiring! You have uplifted me and given me strength to keep doing this. So thank you.

I'm exhausted. Everyday is a little more difficult to get out of bed, to keep going. But everyday, I see more miracles. I learn more about this beautiful gospel. I've definitely learned that the hardest days really are when you see the most miracles. Satan pushes you most right before something beautiful is going to happen. If you ever have a moment when you just don't want to go on, DON'T QUIT! There is a miracle just around the corner. Satan doesn't want you to have it. But I promise, if you can just move forward one step at a time, you will see beautiful things come to pass. I can promise this, because once, Fratello Weller promised this to me. His promise came true. His words gave me strength to get through the difficult days. Look ahead, with faith in Christ. Hold His hand, and He will never cease to guide you. I love you all, and I know you have the strength to do whatever the Lord asks of you. I pray for you daily. 

Until next week,
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

We maybe stole Emilio's helmet. Oh, well.

Sorella Burkman's birthday in Italy! The Zuffolini's had us
over for dinner and surprised her with the cutest birthday bash ever!

Emilio shaving chocolate into Sorella Burkman's
anxiously awaiting mouth.

A stimulating gam of chess, if you will.

Sorelle Ervin, Alley, Burkman and Elena!

On the way home, already late, and we come across this.
Blew my mind.

The Anziani from Ancona brought Sorella Burkman a present!
Woo, a creepy little bunny thing . . . 

The three amice at San Marino, while the
anziani from Albania is chillin' in the corner.

This is where we do strada, nbd.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Two Hundred Percent

Sorelle of the Ravenna Zone: Me, Brown, Montagnoli,
Jefferies, Burkman, Alley, and Bennet
[picture borrowed from Sorella Jefferies - Thank you!]
I used to think I need to give 100%, and God would make up the difference. But that's not really how it works - God will also give 100%. Together, we work our hardest. This is His work He is allowing me to help with - of course He will give it everything He has.

I've also learned when you do 90% of the work, you receive 10% of the blessings. But, if you give just a little bit more, go the full 100%, you receive the other 90% of the blessings. I've seen this happen time and time again. You just have to keep going.

from a letter to my mother, dated 31 July 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Living in Paradise

Sunbeams in Italy.

Rimini is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life. I adore this city with every fiber of my being. The members in this branch have very quickly grabbed hold of my heart. I love them so very much. They have shown us so much love and care in the last two weeks. I can't even express how grateful I am for them.

Sorella Burkman was unfortunately still sick last Thursday, so we stayed in the house one more day. However, something new and wonderful happened. We called one of our appointments to cancel with him, and we ended up having a lesson with him over the phone. We just sat on our couch with the phone on speaker and handed it back and forth. I wasn't expecting it, but it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. When we asked Sunny if we could pray with him and then asked him to say a prayer at the end, he acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. I'm so grateful for him and his beautiful testimony. He's a new convert and every time we've met with him, I've been amazed at how he puts his trust in the Lord. He's incredible!

Sorella Alley, Me, Sorella Burkman
Fun fact about Rimini, we get to have Italian class! Once a week, one of our members, Emanuele, teaches us Italian for two hours. I love it! Yes, we have our lingua studio everyday, but having a native Italian sit down with you and teach is so helpful. He's really great in general, because he speaks English really well, but he makes us speak Italian. A lot of people who speak English prefer it if you speak with them in English, because they want to get better. Emanuele gets that we are really trying to learn to speak well, so he tries to always speak in Italian, but also make sure we understand him. He's the best! True story.

Thursday after our Italian class, we taught a man named Luigi. Luigi has been working with the missionaries for a while, and he's wonderful! He wants to be baptized, but he thinks he needs his answer about whether or not to get baptized to come through a dream. We taught a lesson about receiving answers. I loved this lesson, because it's really difficult to teach when you're in a trio. It's hard to have a good equilibrium with two companions, let alone three. But during this lesson, it felt like we were all able to participate and connect with our investigator. I don't think all of our lessons will be this easy to teach, but I'm grateful that this soon in our trio, we were able to have that experience. 

Here's the deal. We all know I'm the clumsiest person in the world. It's okay; I've learned to live with it. I'm not quite sure why God chose to put me in a city with bikes, but I trust him. Well, we were riding home after a lesson, and I had my chain in my basket. One end slipped out and wrapped around the wheel. I was on the ground instantly. Luckily, I didn't get too banged up, but let me tell you about how Italians and Americans differ. In America, if someone does something stupid, everyone laughs. In Italy, everyone stops whatever they're doing and comes to see if you're okay. It's almost more embarrassing, but it's really sweet. One man stopped and kept saying "Fa male?" even after I told him I was fine. He was so concerned. My companions, on the other hand, doubled over laughing. It's okay, I don't blame them; I would be doing the exact same thing. I was, actually, because this was possibly the funniest crash ever. Don't worry; I'm just fine! Thank goodness God's protection covers stupidity and clumsiness. 

Saturday morning, I was having a really hard time. It was the day we had set with Mohammad as his baptismal date back in Milano. I don't know what's going on with him, if he's still meeting with the missionaries, if he's getting baptized, or if he's even still in Italy. I was just feeling so sad and I couldn't get rid of the feeling. But then, Anziano Molinari called from the office. This is probably one of the best phone calls I've ever received. He first said he and Sorella Molinari really missed having me in Milano. He wanted me to know how much they love me and how grateful they are for me. Is that not just the sweetest thing you've ever heard? But wait; it gets better. He then told me about a sweet little pile of mail I have going on at the office. He told me he knows my family and friends from home love me too, because he has a box of over 20 letters for me and a bunch of packages. So thank you all! We're pretty far south in Rimini and we only get mail once a transfer, usually at the end. So it will be a while before I get to read these beautiful letters. But it means so much to know that you care. I love you all. Sometimes it's just hard to do this. It's not that I don't love it, or don't think it's important, but I miss you all. I miss being able to call you on the phone, and I miss your faces. Without your support I could not be here. Saturday Anziano Molinari was a big miracle, but all of you who have continued to write me, you're pretty great miracles too. Thank you.

Like I wrote earlier, the branch is just fantastic. Church is always the best part of the week. The members are wonderful! As soon as they see you, they shower you with love and kindness. I love talking to them so much. Sunday we saw a few miracles. We had three investigators in church, two of which we weren't expecting. We also had a few new converts come who hadn't been there for a while. After lunch we always have church with the Canuti family and this week they invited Luigi to join us. Luigi brought Buffalo Mozzarella; apparently it's the best kind. It was pretty delicious I must say. Fratello Canuti bore his testimony to Luigi and it was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I've ever witnessed. This man is alive with the Gospel. He's been a member for almost a year now, and he and Sorella Canuti are getting ready to go to the temple together. Oh my goodness it's so exciting. You can really see in his eyes how much he loves the Gospel and how much he loves God. I am amazed daily at how the Gospel can change someone's life. This is why we all serve, to help people find this joy. There is nothing more wonderful in the entire world.

Sunday night we went to our branch mission leader’s house for dinner. Before dinner we went to pick a blueberry like fruit in the field next to their house. Yes, we picked berries in the Italian countryside. It was a wonderful moment. Even more wonderful than this however, was the incredible night we had together. Emilio and Ilaria are like our parents. They care for the missionaries so much and they just want to take as much care of us as they can. Let me tell you something about this couple, I have never seen a more happy or loving couple in my life. We asked them to share their secrets. Here are just a few of the beautiful things they said. 1) Don't look for a perfect man, but look instead for a man who has potential. 2) Don't expect the Lord to choose for you; instead, make a choice that he will bless. 3) Pray with each other every night, and then hug, even if you're angry. It's impossible to stay angry when you do this. Aren't they just the sweetest!
Emanuele and his delicious Oreo-like torta.

Sunday, we were celebrating Sorella Burkman's half birthday; when we tried to explain it got a bit muddled in translation, so everyone thought it was actually her birthday. We didn't try to explain; they were just too excited. So with the Canuti's we learned a fantastic Italian tradition. Instead of a pinch to grow an inch or birthday spankings, they pull your ear for every year. This was found out when Luigi just started pulling Sorella Burkman's ear. Fun times. Emilio and Ilaria made a delicious dessert that had candles in it. Sorella Burkman was so touched she started to cry! I love our branch family!

Monday night, we went to Emanuele's house and he taught us how to cook some pretty impressive meat. His sister Elena is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. She taught us how to play some Italian card games, and then we all ate together. Also, Emanuele made a birthday cake for Sorella Burkman. It was incredible. It was like this giant Oreo only better. Oh man, I love Italians. We just had a really great night with them, and I love them a lot. Having families here who just kind of accept you as part of their family is really incredible. They love so deeply and quickly. We are definitely blessed.

I got really sick yesterday, so mostly I just slept. But if I didn't know the branch cared for us before, I definitely do now. Emilio and Emanuele called multiple times to check up on us as did our senior couple, the Jeffries. Oh my goodness, I can't express how grateful I am for them and my companions. 

Anziani Miller & Mustafaraj
Today, we met up with Anziano Miller and Anziano Mustafaraj from Ancona and we went to San Marino. It was incredible! It's this awesome little town and you can go up to the old towers and battlements. We spent a few hours there. I still miss my Anziani in Milano, but these Anziani are wonderful. They're just so much fun! Italy is incredible. I'm amazed that I have been called to serve in this country. People are incredible here and there is so much history. I hope you all get the chance to see it one day. 

I love you all and I can't wait to tell you about this upcoming week. 
All my love, always,
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Birthday! How sweet, the Anziani got her a
creepy bunny with a beard for her birthday.
[Anziano Mustafaraj, Sorella Burkman, Anziano Miller]

Sorella Burkman, me, Sorella Alley