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

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