Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Every Week, More Miracles

We had some beautiful miracles this week, as well as some very . . .  interesting moments. That's okay though; we're used to it because we're missionaries.

Last night after English Course, Emilio was getting ready
to leave and he put on his helmet, but it got stuck. We told
him he looked like Megamind, and he was so excited he
made us take a picture. is amazing, no doubt. We visited our first media referral this week. Let me tell you, it was a little adventure. We've had this referral for a while, but the number wasn't active. He lives a little ways from town, so we were having a hard time getting out there. Ilaria had told us she had the day off Monday, so we decided to ask her to take us. After district meeting, I called her. I asked her if she wanted to come on an adventure with us. Of course she did! I explained that we only had an address, we didn't know if it was correct, and it might just be a long time in the car without ever finding him. She was really excited.

She came over and we put his address in her GPS. It turns out, it's in a small town way closer to us then we originally thought. So we went! It only took about 15 minutes to get there. But, we were at some kind of factory. We decided to look for this man anyway. We went up to the citofono and asked if they knew Eugenio. They directed us to another entrance. When we got there, a man was walking out to us. It was Eugenio! He invited us into his office and was really excited for us to be there.

He said he had been looking for the church for his mother-in-law. He is a practicing Catholic. We asked if we could share our message with him anyway, and he said yes. So we taught a lesson to him, in his office, in a factory, with Ilaria. It was amazing! Sometimes the best lessons are those in very odd circumstances. Ilaria bore powerful testimony, and I was so grateful to witness it. At the end of the lesson we asked if he would be baptized when he comes to know these things are true. He said yes!

As we were going home, Ilaria was so excited. She kept talking about how grateful she was that we had invited her to come. We were grateful she was there. We have another lesson with him for next week, and Ilaria and Emilio are both going to come. 

One night last week, we decided to go out to visit one of our families. We went after correlation and actually had to run to the bus stop because we thought we were going to be late. Don't worry; the bus was late, so we had enough time. We had asked them for the directions, and they told us to get on bus 7 and get off right before the border of San Marino and they would pick us up. Well, it was the wrong bus. We took the last stop before San Marino and then we had to wait for them on a dark corner . . . for about a half-hour. It was a little sketch. But they finally came and found us. Now we know the right bus to take when we go out this weekend.

We had district conference this weekend. Our branch loved it! It was quite brilliant actually. Anziano Reina came for the conference [Elder Jose L. Reina, an Area Authority Seventy from Spain]. President Dibb also came, which was great because he interviewed Emanuele for his mission! Yay! Emanuele's papers are done and now we just get to wait to find out where he goes. I've never been so excited than when I found out he finally finished his papers.

Saturday night we had a beautiful session about missionary work and how members are also missionaries. President Dibb stood up and asked for all of his missionaries to stand. We were spread out throughout the room and there weren't very many of us. Then Presidente Caramia [the district president] asked for all of his missionaries to stand. Every single member in the room stood. It was absolutely beautiful. Anziano Reina talked about how together we can do so much more good. I was of course crying and Alan kept looking back at me and laughing. That's okay though, because at one point I saw him wipe away a tear of his own.

Sorella Draghi might be my hero. She asked us if we thought we'd be able to come for Thanksgiving dinner. We told her we couldn't come without an investigator. She was kind of sad that rule didn't change for Thanksgiving. Saturday night she walked in and asked where President Dibb was. She said she was going to get permission from him if it was the last thing she did. I was un po nervous, but we pointed him out and off she went. After the conference she walked up to me and quietly chanted, "Cena, Cena, Cena!" So she got permission. We may be in Italy, but it looks like we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving just the same. Thank you President Dibb!

I'm so excited for this next week. We have almost every hour scheduled with appointments. That's so rare! I'm just so grateful to be here; there are days I wish I could stay forever. This branch is so wonderful; I have learned so much about love from them.

Vi Voglio un sacco di bene!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. No Really, It Happened!

My Italian parents. I honestly consider Emilio and Ilaria
to be my family. I love them so much!
This week was a little sad, a little happy, a little strange, and one of the most beautiful weeks of my life. It was sad because Thursday morning I had to say goodbye to Sorella Alley and Sorella Burkman. They left early in the morning, and afterwards I went inside and curled up next to the heater. I just thought about how lucky we have been. We saw a lot of miracles together. I know they'll love their next areas, but I'm sad to see them go.
Thursday afternoon we picked up Sorella Lofley and Sorella Gjika. They're wonderful! We took them home for an hour, and then we went to correlation with Emilio. He was a little sad; he misses the other sisters as much as I do. I think it's beautiful because we can see how much he truly grows to consider us his children. He pulled me aside to tell me he was sad, but he didn't want me to think it meant he wasn't happy we're here. Even in the midst of his pain, he still puts us first; this is what makes him wonderful.

My sweet companion and our dear Sorella Gjeka.
Friday we saw some really great miracles. We had two lessons where our investigators brought friends they thought would be interested in the message. We also went out to visit Sorella Zufolini. She was talking about how we must testify of Christ. She then said, "Siamo testimoni di Geova" Fun fact, the translation for Jehovah's Witness is testimoni di Geova . . . so that happened. She thought it was just about the funniest thing she's ever said. On Sunday she kept coming up to me and saying, "Siamo di . . ." "Geova!" I replied. Good moments with our members. 

Searching for chestnuts.
Saturday was possible the most wonderful day of my life. Emilio and Ilaria picked Sorella Strong and me up early in the morning. We drove to meet other members and their friends and to pick up Emilio's father. Then we took an hour and a half drive to a cute little farm where we . . . searched for chestnuts. This is a really big deal here, apparently. You have to hike through the mud and find chestnuts on the ground. It's not easy! Especially when your sweet Italian father keeps throwing half of them away because they're not good enough. They have to be the perfect color, with no holes, the right size, and perfectly smooth. Chestnut hunting is not a talent I have, but we had so much fun. I talked to Emilio for a really long time. He thanked me for how much I love Rimini. I don't know how anyone could not love Rimini. 

After a very long day, they drove us home, and we had about an hour to get ready for the next part of the activity. We went onto one of the Italian military bases and roasted chestnuts! Have you ever done this? If you haven't, you need to. The Italians all thought it was wonderful how excited we were. We had a beautiful dinner with them, and we were able to talk to so many of our members. 

The Draghi family is one of my favorite families.
Look how beautiful they are!
Monday night we had a family home evening with the Draghi family. Emilio has asked us to visit every member and present a lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel. We asked the family to pretend this was the first time they had ever heard these things. At the end, there were tears in my eyes. It's one of the most beautiful lessons I've ever taught. The son is two years away from serving a mission. He was so moved by the power of the Restoration. Last night he told me he cannot wait to serve. Fratello Draghi thanked us for reminding us how important the Restoration is. This family is powerful, and they have an incredible spirit of love in their home. Sometimes on your mission, the best moments are those with the members. 

This last week was so focused on the members. I'm grateful for them and the opportunity we had to spend so much time with them. I truly adore this area. I look forward to my next five weeks working with these members. They are so loving! I wish you could all come meet them. What is most beautiful is how they find any excuse to bring up the gospel. They have been my miracles everyday this week. Emilio and Ilaria especially have truly blessed my life. I can't imagine not knowing them. I don't think I was called to Rimini because anyone here needs me. I truly believe I was called to serve here because I need them. 

Come sempre, vi voglio un mondo di bene! 
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

This is where we were all day searching for chestnuts. Have
you ever tried to search for good chestnuts? It's not easy, my friends.

This is part of my Italian family. I love them all so much.

This is our dear Massimo.

Yes, his name is Massimo . . . and . . . yes, he is dressed in those
wonderful clothes.

This is my babbo. Words cannot express how grateful I am for Emilio.
He's by far one of my favorite people in the world.

This is part of our branch here in Rimini.
The best part is that they truly are a family.

Just a perfect little alley. No big deal.

This bridge is over 200 years old. We were waiting for
my bike to fixed and the light was perfect.

My companion went a little crazy and made me pose for her.
Really, though, this is the Rimini I love.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rimini, Again . . . Just What I Wished For

Sorella Alley and Me (Thanks to Alley for the picture!)
So this was without a doubt the longest week of my life. Okay, I say that about every transfer week, but this week it was definitely true. It's impossible to concentrate when you don't know what's happening to your life. But don't worry; I'm staying right here in perfect little Rimini with my dear sweet Sorella Strong . . . more about transfers later.

We had the coolest miracle this last week. We had planned to do casa [knocking on doors], so we did. But after one apartment complex we both had decided we wanted to go to the park. Neither of us wanted to, but we both felt really strongly about it. When we were at the park, we didn't know which way to go or who we were supposed to talk to. So we just chose a direction and started walking. We talked to a man who was with his young son. After saying hello, he said, "Buongiorno Sorelle, come state?" We had no idea who he was, but he knew us. We asked his name, and he told us it is Hugo. Instantly I knew who he was. I have been trying to contact this man for the last 12 weeks. He's a less-active member of the church and every time I saw his name, I thought we were supposed to meet with him. We had a beautiful lesson in the park and he told us why he doesn't come to church. It's a long and complicated story, but he knows the church is true, and he loves the gospel. I'm super excited to work with him. Sometimes God leads you to exactly where you need to be. It's a beautiful gift.

Sorelle Strong & Alley, Emilio, Sorella Burkman & me
(Thanks again to Alley for the pic.)
Sorella Burkman and Sorella Alley had a baptism on Friday. Abraham was baptized! It was a beautiful baptismal service. About two hours before Sorella Alley called me. She said Emilio had put it in the program that the sorelle would be doing a special musical number and she needed us to come to the church to practice. Sorella Burkman ended up playing and I sang, “I Know That My Reedemer Lives.” I love having the opportunity to sing in this branch often. GiGi has started calling me Sorella Callas. So that's just about the most flattering thing that's ever happened to me. There were some very beautiful talks at the service. Anziano Jefferies gave a beautiful testimony. He spoke directly to Abraham and explained that as a member of the Church he has a beautiful opportunity to share the gospel now, just like Sunny shared the gospel with him. He told him he was receiving a new name - the name of Jesus Christ - that he would carry forever. I can't tell you how beautiful this testimony was. I was crying the entire time. Granted . . . that's not too unusual for me.
Sorelle Burkman & Alley, Me, & Sorella Strong
(once again, thanks to Alley for the pic)

After the baptism we went to get gelato at our favorite gelataria. Then Sorella Alley and I went to pick up piadas at Lella's and Sorella Burkman and Sorella Strong went home. Lella's was packed! It was the first night they were open, because they just moved locations. Most of you don't know what a piada or a cassoni is or why Lella's is super important. Let me just tell you, I hope you all have the opportunity to come to Rimini someday so you can discover this beautiful place. Lella's is pretty much the best little restaurant ever. The Rimini area supposedly has the best piadas in Italy. It would not be surprising. It's kind of like a thick tortilla, only way better. Sorella Alley and I were so excited to stop by the grand opening of the new location for a few minutes. It's a big deal in Rimini. They kept giving us free food and taking our pictures. Lella was even there. She's so much fun, and she loves the missionaries. 

Sunday, I sang with an Italian man! Sorella Burkman and I sang “O Mio Signor” with Fratello Draghi for sacrament meeting. Sorella Strong played the piano. It was so much fun. I love music! It opens hearts like nothing else. I'm excited I'll be here another transfer; we're hoping to do something fun with music. Also at district conference (as in stake conference, not district meeting), all of the missionaries in this district will be doing a musical number, and they asked us to sing with them. It will be wonderful. 

So transfers. Monday the assistants called Sorella Alley and Sorella Burkman. They told them that Sorella Alley would be going to Lodi with Sorella Killpack. (FYI, the Molinari's serve in Lodi, so she is one lucky girl to get to serve with two of my favorite people.) Sorella Burkman is pretty lucky as well. She's going to serve in Varese (near como) with Sorella BOLLWINKEL! I can't even handle how excited I am for her. They will do great things. We were told Sorella Strong and I would be staying in Rimini together . . . alone. No anziani and no other sorelle coming in. 

Well, yesterday we got a call from our zone leaders. Apparently we weren't told correctly. We are staying here, but we're getting two sisters as well . . . two sister training leaders! We're really excited because we know the branch will love these sisters. It's nice to know we won't be all the way down in Rimini alone. We're a little sad we didn't get Anziani, but maybe next transfer. 

Other news, my dear Sorella Stewart is a sister training leader in FIRENZE! How did she get to be so lucky? Also serving in Firenze is Sorella Holloway, so that's beautiful. Sorella Brown is going up to Como to be with my lovely Sorella Baer. Anziano Miller is going to Milano Navigli! That's right, he's going to my birthplace, lucky man. Basically, everyone I love is going to serve with or near someone else I love. I'm so excited for them all.

Mostly though, I'm just grateful I get to be here another transfer. I feel so blessed to spend at least another six weeks with Sorella Strong. We have learned so much from each other, and I love her more every day. I'm so glad I don't have to say goodbye to this branch yet. The members here are incredible, and they are really getting excited about missionary work. Last night two of the older young women told me they want to go on missions so they want to come to lessons with us. How fantastic! 

I love you all, and I hope you're continuing to see miracles.
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Master Painter

Remember when I asked you all to send me your daily miracle? Today when I logged on, I was stunned with the amount of miracles you have seen in the last weeks. Thank you! I haven't read them all yet, but I've taken pictures of all of the emails so I can read them later. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to know how many miracles you are seeing. This sister missionary could not be one ounce more happy right now. So thank you for that.

San Marino di Nuovo
Speaking of miracles, I have a story for you. Approximately twenty years ago, our branch mission leader joined the church. Emilio is the greatest, true story. His mom also joined the church, and now she's the branch Relief Society President. For twenty years, they have both tried to get his father interested in the church. He's Catholic and never really had any interest. Well, last week, he and his wife invited us over for lunch. We had a beautiful time with them and then we shared a short message about the Book of Mormon. We invited him to read. When I told Emilio I had invited him to read, he just laughed at me.

Well, last night I was talking to Emilio, and he gave me the most wonderful news. His father has started to read the Book of Mormon. Let me tell you, I started crying, screaming, and jumping, all at the same time. I may or may not have accidentally thrown our phone (the new smart phone we're supposed to have a cover for...but don't) across the room. Later, I was talking about transfers. Emilio told me I'm not allowed to leave. He said that we're the first missionaries who have ever been able to get his father to read and we can't leave now. I realized something in that moment. Yes, his father chose to read after a lesson with us, but it wasn't our lesson. First, if you're doing your job, you don't actually teach that much. The spirit teaches, you just allow yourselves to be an instrument. 

But it's more than that. Twenty years worth of missionaries have met with this wonderful man. I'm sure that each one of them has left an impression upon him. Every time they bore their testimonies, they gave him a part of themselves, something precious. He may not remember all of their names, but I know that every one of them has played a significant role. We are just the last in a long line of missionaries. The most important missionaries have been his family. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if he'll decide to join the church, or how long it will take if he does. 

What I do know - missionaries have moments when they feel they aren't doing any good, aren't making a difference. But that's just not true. It's hard to remember there is a bigger picture we can't see. Only a small part of the canvas is visible to us. God is the master painter; he holds the brushes in his hands. He knows exactly what he's doing, and He knows the best way to accomplish it. Someday, I'll see finished work. But for now I'm content to see just my little part of the canvas. It may not seem grand or significant. But that's okay because it was created for me specifically, by One who knows everything. I know your part of the canvas was created just for you as well. It's beautiful, and it's important. Just like you.

I love you all. 

Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

The sorelle in our district.

The sorelle in our district.
San Marino di Nuovo

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It's Hard Work To Be a Missionary in Italy ;)

Look at what Ilaria made! She's the best!
I love Rimini. Everyday I love it more and more. I wish I could stay here with these wonderful people for the rest of my life. Really.

Friday night we had an activity with the branch. We've been planning it for a few weeks to give members the opportunity to bring friends to the church. Emilio decided they were going to have a bake-off and the missionaries would be the judges. Of course we weren't complaining. Here's what he forgot to tell us; we would be sitting in front of everyone while we were judging. Fratello Draghi and Alan would bring in the cakes, walk them around the room so everyone could see them, and then bring them to us. We were sitting on a stand in front of everyone. It was just the slightest bit awkward, but the branch loved it! They went all out too. Our dear Ilaria made a Book of Mormon cake. 

It's hard work to be a missionary in Italy.
We had a few members bring friends. It was so much fun to get to talk to them afterwards. Our members really are the best. They were explaining the church to their friends and inviting them to meet with us. We've already met with one of them, and we're setting up appointments for the rest of the week. 

Fratello Draghi was our torta model. He does good work.
I have some exciting news! I'm not really sure if I'm allowed to share this. I hope so . . . Anyway, right before this transfer, I was talking to Emilio and he told us he was asked to find a new apartment in Rimini . . . for Anziani! We've been hoping he'd find one this transfer, so we could have Anziani the next. He hadn't really been having much luck though. Last night, he said he found one! He has to go back and take pictures for the office, but hopefully it will all work out. In two weeks, we might be welcoming two Anziani to Rimini. This city needs them because the majority of our investigators are men. I'm just hoping I'm still here next transfer. I'm not too worried about it because there's nothing I can do and it's still two weeks away. All I know is I want to be here for four transfers. Or five. Or the rest of my mission. 

Hardest decision we've ever made.
When our members want to have a bake off, they go all out.
Here's my miracle for the week. I was on scambio with Sorella Hoppe. She's a cute sister from Germany. We were walking back to the apartment when we looked up and said hi to a woman on her balcony. When we asked her how she was doing, she didn't answer at first. Then she said, "Venite, venite" and buzzed us in. WHAT? We ran up stairs, and she pulled me into her arms. That's unusual . . . we sat down with her, prayed, and then asked if we could share a scripture with her. Her answer? "Of course, let me go grab my Book of Mormon." Again, WHAT? Turns out this sweet woman met with the missionaries a year ago. She's going through a hard time, and now she really wants the gospel. The next day, I came back with Sorella Strong and invited this sweet woman to be baptized. She said yes. I don't know how to express my love for her. She's absolutely incredible. I'm not sure if she understands everything we say, but she understands the spirit. That's pretty much all you can ask for. This woman's name is Milagros, and that's exactly what she is.

I love you all. I have a favor to ask of those of you who write/email me. This week, will you try to find a miracle everyday? Then, tell me about them. I promise if you're really searching, you'll find them. I know the Lord is blessing all of you. Thank you for being wonderful.

All of my love, Always
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin
So I live in Italy, which means I see things like this
everyday. I love it!

My companion gets to wear my old helmet.
Poor girl.

Spumoni doesn't really exist here. That's okay, though.
At our favorite little gelateria, they make it for me.

Emilio and Ilaria are basically my parents here in Rimini.
Honestly, I don't know what I'd do without them.