Friday, October 31, 2014

Coming Home

Well, I think it's probably about time to post this. I've written a lot of thoughts down, but I could't bring myself to post anything. I couldn't bring myself to admit that my mission really is over, that I'm at home and not in Italy . . . that I no longer get to wear the name tag or go out finding, or invite people to be baptized. Like it or not things change; our lives are meant for more than just a handful of experiences. They're meant for many. Now I am by no means sad to be home with my wonderful family - just the opposite in fact. I just keep hoping someone will create this new world, where Italy and Washington are much, much closer. But I'm pretty sure I'm asking for the impossible, in this life anyway.

My last few days in Italy were truly amazing. For our last p-day, Sorella Curtis and I went to visit Lisa. We walked around her cute little city for hours, ate gelato, and just enjoyed Italy. Then we went to the church. We said goodbye to the Anziani one last time, and then we headed home.

I'm a big fan of transfer circle. Always have been. There is something so beautiful about the opportunity to see other missionaries, to know that you're not alone in Italy. This transfer circle was by far the hardest. I had to say goodbye to many of my dearest friends, but I found myself overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to do so. These people are amazing. They're changing lives everyday, just by being the happiest and kindest people you ever did meet. I count myself lucky to have served among them.

All of the departing missionaries hopped on a train together, and, before we knew it, we found ourselves in the mission office waiting for our departing interviews. I went first, and, as I sat across from President Dibb, I thought back to the very first time I met this inspired man. He and Sorella Dibb came to our ward his very first Sunday; we were expecting them and so excited to finally meet them. I sang that Sunday, Be Still My Soul. It's a favorite of mine. After Sacrament meeting, as I was talking with some of the members, President Dibb walked up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for singing. Then he said something about Sibelius. Well, that was it, the moment he earned my respect. It may seem silly, well, because it is. But the fact he knew the composer of Be Still My Soul wasn't why he gained my respect. It was his desire to connect with his missionaries, his desire to understand them, to know them, and to love them. President Dibb is a strict man; there's no denying it. He expects a certain level of dedication and obedience. He expects 100%. But he gives 100% every single day of his life. In the last year I have seen him change as he has accepted and understood his calling. He's not perfect, but he tries to be, just like we all should. Every single time I met with him, I felt as if I was meeting with a new man, a better man. As if everyday he changed for the better. I believe that's just how he lives his life.

My last interview was everything I expected. Like we've done countess times, we counseled together, but this time it was a little different, because we weren't talking about the work anymore, at least, not in the same way. We were talking about my future life, who I want to be, what I've learned from the mission, and how I can apply it in my own life. I felt the love of our dear mission President as he thanked me for my service and throughout the night as he thanked all of us. I am incredibly blessed to have served under the leadership of this inspired man, and I will forever be grateful.

That night, we each had an opportunity to share our testimonies. Many tears fell as we, one after another, shared what we have learned, who we have become, and how much we love our missions. I wish we could have just kept that moment forever. There was so much love in the mission home that night.

The next morning, we awoke way too early and piled onto a bus to the airport. Half of us took a flight to London. Unfortunately that flight was late and arrived 10 minutes before the gate to my connecting flight closed. I waved goodbye to my missionaries and started running. I got to security, and they pushed me through as fast as they could so I could make my flight. I'm pretty sure the lady who checked my ticket was LDS. As she handed my ticket back she looked into my eyes, grabbed my hand, and said, "Now you're going to have to run really fast if you want to make this flight. Thank you, sister." Even with the running and the nice people, I made it out of security 15 minutes after the gate was supposed to close. I just kept running. Then I noticed a really cute older Italian couple from my first flight; they were struggling. I asked them if they were headed to Seattle, and they were! So I told them to take it easy, that I would lay in front of the plane if I had to, but I would get us there. The older man stopped to help his wife, and told me to run as fast as I could. As I rounded the corner, they were closing the gate. The man saw me and asked if I was headed to Seattle. I couldn't breathe or talk, and I just started crying for joy and nodding my head. What a sight I must have been. I told them about the couple coming, and a few seconds later they rounded the corner. The woman gave me a hug and thanked me as we boarded.

I had a lot of time to think on the flight home. Especially since I didn't sleep, thanks to the adorable baby screaming next to me and the fact that no one around me spoke English or Italian. Seriously? So I thought and prayed for eight hours straight. At one point during my meditation, the flight attendant came up to me and said, "You know, I've never seen any women." I was confused at first,  you know, since that's impossible. But then he said, "I have been on countless flights with you missionaries. I've watched you leave and come home, but I've never seen any women, good for you!" He was a sweet older Englishman, and he was surprisingly very proud of me. After we talked a little, I went back to thinking.

Here's what I came up with; I AM THE LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD! Literally. I absolutely love my father in Heaven and am so grateful for the experiences that he gave me in Italy. I learned so much about myself, and I became the person I always wanted to be. I have come to know my Savior, Jesus Christ on a much more personal level. I feel more than ever that he is my brother and my friend. The opportunity to serve as His missionary has been an incredible one. I have seen His hand in my life and in the lives of others. I have had moments in which I have been able to serve as His hands. There is nothing more beautiful. The lessons are numerous, and in the next few weeks, I'll share some of them with you. But there is one lesson that stands out above the rest. Love is the most important thing in the world. It is the reason we are here. Everything comes back to the love of our Father and our Brother for us. It is everything. Our sacred calling is to share that love and help it to grow.

After eight hours of meditation, we landed. It took me an hour to get through customs, but then I was finally headed up on the escalator to my family. I saw my grandma first as she ran up to hug me . . . while I was still on the escalator with three suitcases. Therefore, I fell over my suitcases and barely avoided pushing every single person behind me down. Graceful as always. As I untangled myself, I looked up to see my mom, holding a Welcome Gnome sign. Ahaha! I've missed my mom! Look at how cute she is. But skip over my face . . . I'm a mess. I did not want to let go, but they finally convinced me with an offer of Thai food.

 I don't remember the rest of the day very well. I was out of it. I know Bishop Bressan, his wife Rebecca, and my second mom, Kendra went with us to eat Thai food. They talked a lot as I mostly just focused on the food. Then somehow we ended up at the stake center. I don't know how. Seriously, I'm missing so many hours.

President Smith is amazing, and we had an absolutely incredible talk. Which ended in tears of course because he released me as a missionary. He forgot to ask me to take off the tag though, and I just kept hoping he wouldn't notice and I would be able to take it off when I got home . . . so no one else would see me cry . . . no such luck. He remembered, and as I unclipped the name tag tears streamed down my face. I don't think I understood until that moment what was happening, and then suddenly it was over. I was giving the Stake President a hug and numbly walking out of his office.

Over the next few days and even weeks I had many incredible opportunities to talk about my mission and what I have learned. As sad as I am that this part of my life is over, I really am excited to start the next part of my life. I'm excited to see where I end up and how I get there. I have full faith in the Lord that everything will turn out just the way He wants it to.

Thank you for following my journey, for the prayers, the letters, for everything really. I am so grateful to have you in my life, all of you. Even though my time as a full-time missionary has ended, I feel as if my real mission has just begun. I'm excited to share these next experiences with you as well, because whoever you are, wherever you are, we're family, and nothing will ever change that.

Vi voglio un mondo di bene!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Last Week

Sister Missionary shoes at their finest.
Well, here it is . . . my very last email home. It's all so surreal. I can't even begin to explain how I'm feeling right now . . . so lets just talk about the week instead shall we. 

Friday we did a good amount of biking. We rode about 25 kilometers. It wasn't too bad. Everything was beautiful, and we were able to see a few members. We were a little early for an appointment, so we stopped to get gelato. I know, so surprising. Suddenly the biggest bee I've ever seen landed on Sorella Curtis' hand, and before we could do anything it stung her. Well, that was Sorella Curtis' very first bee sting. Auguri! She was a champ, I'm so proud. 

Saturday we thought we'd try biking to Dardago and Budoia. So, it's not really that far from Pordenone; it took us about an hour to get there, maybe a little less. BUT, then we were there, and let me tell you we forgot one important detail. These two towns are at the base of a mountain . . .  correction, above the base. So it was just a little bit steep. And by a little bit, I intend it was ridiculous. The people we were visiting thought we had taken a bus, and when they found out we rode, they were like, is that even possible? The next family thought we had left our bikes at the bottom of the mountain and walked up. So, apparently only serious mountain bikers bike in this town. We are now respected so much more. We are also still in pain. We rode a bunch more because we had to go out to another little town. So we're thinking in two days we rode about 60 kilometers. I'll miss the bikes. 

Just our little bike trip.
We had this super sweet activity with the Italian ward. It was an Oscars night. Whoa! Amazing. The amount of work they put into it was super impressive. Best activity I've ever been to. I will be stealing it. 

Sunday was brutal. They made me bear my testimony in sacrament meeting. I cried . . . a lot. You all know how much I cry so . . . lets just say it was about 50x the usual amount. It's okay though, because I'm fine, really. And the ward knows I love them so . . . worth it. We also had a sweet family home evening Monday. Mostly it was just great because we got to share with the members how much we love them. Also, our anziani are pretty rad. Shh! Don't tell them I said that. 

Yesterday was tough. There were two missionaries who came home from the Rome mission. One of their families invited us to come when they were released so we could meet them. I literally saw missionaries walk away with the stake president and come back as normal people. WHAT? Is that even a thing? It was really great to talk with Sorella Fossa though. She's adorable. Also, I needed to see how happy the families were to have the missionaries home. I think the Fossa's wanted to remind me it's a good thing to go home and see your family, even if you're sad about it. 

So, I am sad. Heartbroken. But digging my feet in the ground and refusing to go isn't going to do any good. I've been thinking a lot about why it's so hard to go home. When you're a missionary, you see things other people don't get to see. I'm just not quite ready to let that go yet. But the beautiful thing is that you get to take with you all you've learned and all the relationships you have made. Add that to the wonderful family that's waiting for you at home, and I think what you've found is better than anything you could have ever imagined. I love my mission. I love this country. I love these people. But most importantly of all, I love the Lord. I feel blessed to have served him.

I love you all. Don't think that because I'm sad to leave it means I'm not excited to see you, because I am. SO EXCITED. Thank you for everything . . . all of your support and all of your love. You helped me be who I am now. I couldn't have done this without you. See you soon!

We're pretty much the coolest people in the world. You're welcome.

Last district meeting.

After the district meeting we found this dead bird outside the church. Sad.

Anziano Dean. I don't know what he's doing . . . or what I'm doing. We're awkward people.

Valentina! Just the cutest thing you've ever seen.
Miriam! I lover her SO much.

Zia Lietta!

Me, Cynthia, Rubin, Nobel, and Sorella Curtis.



Anziano Tymczuk! Canada . . .

I don't know what's happening, but it seems like a normal moment in our lives.

Gotta love the Anziani.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

There Is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart

Just the coolest mask you ever did see,
straight from Venezia [Venice].
This week has truly been full of many emotions. As we've worked this week, we've seen so many miracles. I realize more each and every day how much I love my mission. We were visiting a member of our ward this week whose husband has been inactive for over 40 years. He is usually content to visit with us, but leaves as soon as we start to share a spiritual thought or lesson. This week, however, as he got up to leave we invited him to stay, as always. For the first time in years he decided to stay! As we were leaving, he thanked us for always coming and told us how much he appreciates it. I adore this man. He and his wife love opera, and we were all singing together. Can there be anything better than this lesson? 

Saturday we rode our bikes literally forever. We were up in the mountains searching out members to give brownies to. We found every single one. God truly blessed us because we were without maps and had never been there before, but we found them. Many miracles happened this day, but two truly stand out to me. First, we were riding our bikes down a little tiny country rode, and a car was behind us. After a few minutes they passed us, slowly, and then stopped ahead of us and got out of the car. I've been a missionary long enough to know that this means you are either about to have a miracle or you are going to have to ride your bikes very quickly as you call the Anziani to come help you. Meno male [thank God] it was a miracle. This man asked if we were the Mormons, and then said he had been looking for us. He had been doing family history, and when he went to the city for information, they told him to find us because, "The Mormons take the best care of this work in the world." How cool is that? He was so excited to find us, and of course we were thrilled. 

Later in the evening we were visiting our ward mission leader for the military ward and his family. He wasn't home when we first got there, but his wife let us in, and we had a really good visit. As we were getting ready to leave, he pulled up on his motorcycle. He came into the house, and we were able to share a message with them. The next day during fast and testimony meeting he gave the most beautiful testimony. That evening he had been planning to go to the commissary, but something told him to go home instead. He fought it, because he was in the mood for some good food, but he felt like he just needed to go home. As he pulled up he saw our two bikes in front of his house and then, as he put it, "looked into my front window to watch two servants of the Lord teaching my family in my home." His eyes filled with tears as he told the story. I felt at that moment a great love for my calling, that I am able to help others feel this spirit.  

My three beautiful companions. Please ignore my
tearstained face.
Well, Monday rolled around, as did my very last zone conference. I felt so blessed to have with me many missionaries I have served with throughout my mission . . . three of my companions - Sorella Strong, Sorella Russell, and Sorella Curtis - Anziano Johnson and Sorella Bennett from my MTC group, and Anziano Heaton from my very first district, not to mention my zone and district now, AND President and Sorella Dibb. What a very bittersweet day this was. We were spiritually fed and inspired. At the end of this conference, Sorella Bennet gave her dying testimony and then it was my turn. WOW, I cannot tell you how beautiful this moment was for me. My heart was breaking, and yet I felt the most beautiful outpouring of love for these missionaries and this country. As I was allowed to reflect and share on the most important lessons of my mission, I truly realized how much I have learned. At the same time, I realized I really do have to go home. I felt so blessed for this experience.

Last night we were able to go to a Europe area conference for women. Elder Ballard and Elder Bednar both spoke to us via satellite, and I was definitely in need of things they shared with us. One of the speakers talked about broken hearts, and she shared with us a Jewish Proverb. There is nothing so whole as a broken heart. I know exactly what this means and how it feels. My heart is breaking inside of me, because I have to go forward with my life. As excited as I am, this means that I must say goodbye to the mission that has meant so much to me these last 18 months. After Monday, I know that its time, even if I would like to stay another 18 months, now's the time to go. I feel so blessed for what I've learned here and so blessed that I have one more week to learn even more. But I am excited to come home, to see you, my family and friends. I truly have missed you. I love you all so much, and I'll talk to you next week!

Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

My beautiful zone.

Me, Sorella Curtis, and Sorella Bennett

Reading letters on the way home from conference.
Me and Sorella Curtis.

I'm sure going to miss riding along fields of beauty.

Remember him? Little Anziano Heaton from my first district.

Sweet Sorella Bennett

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This week was stellar. Really, it was just a major miracle week for me. Even if things didn't work out the way we had planned, everything just kind of fit. For example, Thursday all of our lessons cancelled. Every. Single. Lesson. So we made brownies to take to members. We also did a ridiculous amount of biking. I think I'm still tired. Anyway, we had extra brownies so we wrapped them up, took them to the church, and put them on the cars/bikes of all the members and missionaries. Yes, we are the most loved missionaries here. We try not to boast. 

Friday we went out to visit a member. Fun fact, she got the times of the return bus wrong so we waited in the middle of nowhere for a few hours. It's hard to do missionary work amongst the cows. BUT, this member is amazing. I adore her. When we sat down she asked if we wanted lunch. I will never turn down free food, mostly because then I don't have to cook. She was real glad we said yes, because she had already made the food. Italians are my favorite. 

We then had a sweet lesson with a new investigator. Chiara is rad. I know I over use this word, but sometimes it's the only one that fits. She has had a hard life, but she's ready for things to change. At one point of the lesson she said, "I sure hope you're the miracle I've been searching for." I can tell you, I will miss being able to say what I then said. "As a representative of Jesus Christ, I can tell you that we are not the miracle, but the message we bring is." It was an amazing and spiritual experience for me and Sorella Curtis. We've been able to see Chiara a couple of times now and have an appointment for tomorrow. She is really searching, and it's beautiful. 

Yesterday we went to do service for a group that helps people with Down Syndrome—coolest experience of my mission. Companies send things to this group to finish because it gives them something to do. So we went to help them. We spend an hour and a half putting little rubber bands over these metal screw-like things. I don't know what they were for, but it was really fun to talk to the people there. People just want to be loved. It doesn't matter how you show it; they'll appreciate it. 

Do you want to know a secret? Venezia [Venice] is the coolest place in the world. True story. We went today for p-day and I will be eternally grateful we did. I love that I get to be a tourist in Italy, but I get to speak Italian at the same time. I think you start to understand things in different ways. You also have amazing experiences with the people. As beautiful as Venezia is, talking with the people who live and work there is definitely the best part. We were looking at an art stand, and the man came up to talk to us and started speaking English as I was telling Sorella Curtis what I liked . . . in Italian. He was caught off guard that we spoke Italian, and he asked me if I was Italian. When I said no, he told me my accent was perfect. Yes, I know, he was flattering me so I would spend more money, but I appreciated it anyway. We talked for a very long time, about why we're here, about why he once went to America to study art, and about why we love Italy. Then he asked us if we'd ever been to Rome. He was surprised when we said no and started talking about how much better it is than Venezia. A couple near us started laughing, and the wife said they were from near Rome and how they feel the same way, but reverse. We had been talking to all three of them for a while when the artist turned to the husband and said, "Did you know they're from America?" The husband was astounded I wasn't an Italian. Again, flattery that was much appreciated. As we said goodbye and walked away, I realized that this is why I will miss this country. As much as I love the art, the music, the architecture, what I really love is the people. We also walked into a little glass shop where I watched the man as he made a little glass elephant. Coolest thing I've ever seen. 

Today was a huge miracle for me, just to remember why I love this country. I love you all too. I hope you are passing through the best week of your lives!

Love Sorella Ervin

Loving Venezia.

The moment I realized gelato doesn't exist in America.

Picnic in the park.

Well, apparently I still stress bake. That's ok though, because
our members like banana bread and . . . 

. . . we like pizza.

My companion hides when there are bugs in the house.

The first view of Venezia from the train.

Venezia [Venice]

You cannot tell but this Gondolier looks exactly like
what's his face from White Collar. I wish I could remember
his name! Mission fail.