Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scambio, Chinese Buffet with Pizza, and Zone Conference

Sorelle Hoppe, Walsh, Ervin, and Vardeu
So Wednesday we got a call from the travelling sorelle and they said they wanted to do a scambio Thursday, so they'd be there that night. STRESS. They were both coming to Vercelli, so we had to set up another day’s worth of appointments. We called everyone we possibly could and finally set up a fair amount of appointments for both coppia for the next day. We were expecting the sorelle to come at around 9ish that night, but instead we received a call. Turns out, they missed a train, so they were coming the next day, but they were still going to be there in the morning. About 15 minutes before our first appointment on Thursday, we received another call. They boarded a train that went to Torino . . . but didn't stop in Vercelli. Sorella Walch and I taught our lesson, and then we ran back home to let them in. They finally showed up, poor things. They were so exhausted; trains will do that to you. So we ended up only doing a three-hour scambio because they had to be in Varese that night. But we did have a scambio miracle.

Sorella Hoppe and I went out to visit Fratello Manenti's grandmother. She's so cute! We could only stay for about twenty minutes, but she invited us to come back again. We called Sorella Manenti while we were waiting for a train, and she was super excited. They're going to come with us the next time we go out to visit her. 

Saturday was the best day of my life! Ok, that was a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. Ralf and Tina took us to a Chinese buffet in Novara. ALL YOU CAN EAT! Also, SUSHI BAR! You know how in America, Chinese buffet's always have really random food as well, like macaroni and cheese. Well, in Italy, they have little pizza's. That was different. After lunch we went to see a potential from the Anziani. She's a super sweet Nigerian woman who really was interested in the Book of Mormon. We have another lesson with her this Friday, and we're really excited.

On the train home from Novara, we started talking with this really sweet woman from Romania. A few months ago her 22-year-old son was in a  motorcycle accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. She said she would love to meet with us, but she doesn't have time right now. The next day we were going back to Novara, and we saw the same woman. On the train ride, she told us all about her son and his amazing faith. He's been the one keeping the family positive while he's the one in the hospital. She was so proud of his strength. It was such a simple miracle, but seeing this woman the next day really increased my faith that we are always led by the Lord and we can be where we are needed, if we but listen. 

We had a mini-zone conference yesterday. Fun thing, no one told us it was zone conference. We were told it was just interviews. So yesterday morning capi zona called to let us know what time it would be over. That wasn't so bad. While we were on the train, however, we were called by the assistants who asked where we were. Apparently they wanted us there an hour early for our interviews, but no one told us. Whoops. It was all okay though. 

It was a tremendous zone conference. Anytime I have the opportunity to talk with the president, it always seems to come when I need it most. Our leaders are inspired, and they know what we need to hear when we need to hear it. President Dibb is our president for a specific reason. I am in Italy for a specific reason. Even more, I am in Vercelli, right now, for a specific reason. I don't know what that reason is, but I know I'm supposed to be here. I'm so grateful to know that our Church is led by revelation and inspiration. I don't have to doubt; all I have to do is trust. 

Zone conference = mail! All of you who wrote me, thank you so much! It's true, you get less mail once you've been out for 9 months, so every single letter is precious. Thank you!

Vi Voglio Bene

Sorella Ervin

Random movie filming in centro Torino.

Best Shirts in the universe? Yes.

Catching up on area book. Always a good time.

New shoes, never a bad idea . . . especially when they have a little Italian flag on them.

Italian boots. Saldi season is the best season.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Miracles, When We Need Them Most

God sends us the miracles we need, when we need them the most. I'm not even going to sugarcoat it; this week was tough. We were dropped by one of our favorite investigators . . . in a text message. Afterwards, we were just sitting in the living room, on the floor, by the heater. Sorella Walch said, "I feel like we just got broken up with." A lot of other weird things happened too, but that's okay!  God sent us a lot of extra miracles to help us through, most of them were members, come sempre.

Wednesday night, we went to visit the Simoncini family. They're so great! Sorella Simoncini made some amazing pizza, and we talked about families and how the gospel has helped us. Then, her neighbor came over, and we taught a lesson about prayer. That would have been a great miracle in and of itself, but there's more. Sorella Walch hadn't worn a jacket that night because we had a long walk. Well, the Simoncini's neighbor wasn't happy about it, so she made Sorella Walch wear her coat home, which meant we had to bring it back. Two days later, we brought her coat and some banana bread. She was so touched, and we talked with her for a while and taught a lesson. She told us to come back anytime we want and to always stop by if we're visiting the Simoncini's. It was so sweet of her, and we can't wait to go back this week.
Me and Sorella Walch with the Machados and their cat.

Friday night we went to visit the Machado's. I can't get over how great they are. We were there a little early because of the train times, so we waited for Fratello Machado for a while and talked with the family. We talked about how the kids want to go on missions, why they know the church is true, how they found the church, everything. We followed up on the family mission plan with them, and they are so excited to share the gospel with their friends. They invited us back Sunday after church to have lunch with them. I love Ecuadorian food! It's wonderful. But what is even more wonderful is watching this family interact with each other. Everything they ever say, is said in love. I want my future family to be exactly like that.

Sweet Temple made out of Legos (at the Machados).
We went over to Tina and Ralf's to do a family mission plan with them, too. They're so great! They have a friend they want to invite to family home evening with us. Ralf tried to convince us it would be okay for us to come and watch Star Wars with them and then teach a lesson about the Holy Ghost. He was so insistent it was perfectly fine for us as missionaries. We promised him after our missions we'd come back and watch it with them. I just love them so much! They kept naming off people they wanted us to meet, and then Ralf asked for a Book of Mormon to give to a friend. I hope after my mission, I'm as good of a member missionary as they are.

Monday night we had family home evening with a single mom and her three daughters. We talked about the iron rod and played a game with them. As much as we loved how excited they were about the game, the best part was that they really paid attention and participated during the lesson. They were applying it to their own lives and talking about what they've learned from the scriptures. 

I cannot lie; sometimes Italy confuses me .  . .
okay, all the time.
Poor Sorella Walch had a tough night. We were walking to an appointment, and there is a place we have to step over a chain about a foot off the ground. As we were walking towards it, I thought I was going to trip; lets face it, I'm clumsy. Sorella Walch was stepping over and the back of her heel got caught. At first I thought she was going to catch herself, but suddenly she was face down on the ground with her hands at her side. She didn't even try to catch herself. She rolls over, and I swear I was trying to say, "Are you okay?" but all that comes out is, "Get up, get up, get up." I'm the worst companion in the world, but it's okay because I made her pancakes.

I love you all. Every week I become more grateful for you and for your many words of love and encouragement. I couldn't be here without you. Thank you.

Sorella Ervin

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Good Lessons & Fun in Primary

Study shot
This week we saw a lot of seemingly tiny miracles. In the end, I've never felt the love or the guidance of the Lord so much during my mission. We were trying to teach a certain number of lessons last week and were really close at 7 p.m. Sunday night, but we needed one more. We tried to see a family who is less active, but they weren't home, so we decided to go see one of our active families who lives really close. We knew it wouldn't count as a lesson, but we wanted to be able to share a message with someone who could use it.
When we called to see if we could come over, they were ecstatic. When we walked into the house, his daughter who is not a member was there. We ended up teaching a really simple lesson about prayer. The members were so excited we had stopped by at that time. The daughter ended up giving us a ride home, and the whole ride we talked about the gospel. She's not really interested in the Church, but it is such a testimony of how the Lord definitely knows better. 

We've also been trying to visit a woman who is less active for a really long time. The number we had for her wasn't right, and no one was ever home when we stopped by. We left a note every time, but it never seemed sufficient. A couple of weeks ago, she and her husband were home. They couldn't meet with us then, but we set up an appointment and got her new phone number. She cancelled the appointment because she had to work, but she really wanted to reschedule. 

Well, this Sunday she came to church and brought her daughter! It was so beautiful. The members were so excited to see her, and they just embraced and her daughter completely. Her daughter even sang with the Primary [children, age 3-11] during Sacrament meeting. I can't even express how grateful I was in those moments. The next day we had a beautiful lesson with her and her family. She's really open about the fact she goes in and out of activity. She wants to be a fully-active member; she just needs a little help and a little love. The members are more then willing to give her as much love as she needs. 

On a lighter note, our Primary kids think we're the best missionaries ever. We were asked to do Sharing Time [a group lesson/activity with all the children ages 3-11] with them on Sunday. We didn't really know what to do but we wanted it to be something super active, so we played fruit basket. You know, everyone gets a fruit and when your fruit is called you have to change places with another person. Well, we changed it a little, so they all had tribes from the Book of Mormon: Zoramite, Jaredite, etc, etc. We read a few scriptures with them, and then we played. I love these kids. I really love that we've been in Primary every week. It's probably my favorite hour of every week. 

We know there are going to be a lot miracles happening in Vercelli. We've just seen the start of them. This ward is ready to make miracles happen. I've never seen a group of people so ready to do missionary work. The ward itself is a miracle. 

I love you all. A dopo!

Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin
So we left our bikes at the station; when we came back we
were missing a wheel. Normal day for a missionary.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rekindle the Light

Me and Anziano Betchi
Another transfer gone. This is the first time transfer week has never stressed me out. Lets be honest though, it's because I knew exactly what was happening - no need to worry. I get another transfer here with Sorella Walch. I'm feeling super blessed about it. Vercelli is quickly earning it's place in my favorite cities in the world list. I've come to the point where it feels like I've always been here and I'm always going to stay. Those are my favorite points in cities, when the city starts to become part of you and the members are truly your family. I'm also extremely grateful to have Sorella Walch again. We're ready to see miracles.

Thursday we had zone training. As always I love seeing missionaries. Anziano Betchie gave us little Canadian flag pins for Christmas. He's the greatest. The best part of zone training was definitely the end. MAIL! I received probably the best gift I ever could have gotten. Letters from all you wonderful people. I didn't have time to read them then, obviously. We went to the station with the Sorelle from Torino, and we grabbed a quick lunch. Sorella Walch and I had a few extra minutes before our train left, so we walked into a bookstore and saw . . . Disney movies, in Italian, on sale. We each bought one. I'm not quite sure why, because we won't be watching them for at least nine months, but I'm excited comunque.

Anziano Valencia and his favorite tie.
On the train I started reading letters. At last I came to a fat envelope. I opened it and all at once there were tears in my eyes. Twenty-five letters from some of the people I love most. Thank you. My mom had meant it to be an advent calander for December, but I didn't get it until January. I'm counting that as a miracle. I received those 25 beautiful letters exactly when I needed them most. I read all 25 on the way home, and my heart was filled with so much joy and so much love for you, my family and friends. Thank you. 

Last night at English Course, I taught my class, "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Yes, I'm the best English teacher in the world. Ok, lets be honest, I'm probably the worst. Paolo had walked into class and was standing in the back watching. When I told them what we were going to do, he started laughing and said, "That's a kids game." Well, yes, but I maintain that it can be fun for anyone. My English class is the best; they just went along with it. At one point Stefano closed the curtains because he didn't want anyone to see us. Oh, Stefano. I think Paolo might hate me because I made him join us. Oh well, he's still letting us come over for dinner tonight. 

We had a super beautiful experience with one of our investigators. She called us one morning while we were studying and asked us to pray for her. Later, she called us again and asked us to pray for something more specific. At the end of the day, we set up an appointment with her for the next morning, and she also asked if we could find someone to give her a blessing. The anziani were, of course, more then willing. It was a beautiful lesson, and in the end she received a beautiful blessing. Time after time on my mission, I am reminded of how beautiful the priesthood power is. A blessing is truly a miracle. The opportunity to hear God speak to one of His children through the blessing is something I hope I never take for granted. The next day, this sweet woman came to church. There was such a change in her. It wasn't that everything she was worried about went away, but she was able to better face it. There was a beautiful light in her eyes.

This is what the gospel does. It restores the natural light into our eyes. I think we're all born with this light. Babies and young children have it; I'm absolutely certain. But throughout our lives it begins to be dimmed as we go through the tests and trials all of us must face. Our burdens weigh down upon us, and we begin to feel alone, even when surrounded by people who love us. But when we have the gospel, those simple sacred truths we hold to be most dear, the light comes back. We're reminded of Gods love, reminded that there is someone who shares our burdens, who has walked through every test and every trial by our side. If we let Him, He often carries us. When we recognize Christ as our Savior and every beautiful truth that goes along with His Gospel, there is hope and joy in our lives once again. The light in our eyes is rekindled and burns bright.

I love you all. Thank you again for the letters and for your prayers. I pray for you daily and I can't wait to hear what happens in your lives this next year. 

Vi Voglio Bene
Sorella Ervin

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Buon Anno Tutti!

 Buon Anno Tutti!

Midnight Mass
The new year always makes me super excited. I love thinking about all the amazing things that I've seen in the last year and looking forward to all the amazing things that are yet to come. This year has definitely been the best year of my life, yet I'm sure the coming year will be even better.

It's true what they say, Christmas on the mission is the best christmas you could possibly have. Christmas Eve was incredible. First we made the anziani sweet stuffed animals, but we forgot to take pictures (next week, don't you worry). Then we went to midnight mass at a sweet church behind our house. My comp thinks it looks like Hogwarts. Of course everytime we walk by it we yell, "Dieci punti per Gryffindor. I know, we're the greatest. Mass was super brilliant. There were nuns singing all night long, and the spirit was really strong. It was beautiful to be with a group of people we didn't know, celebrating the savior's birth. 

The sweet Machado family. I love them!
Christmas was a little crazy. After opening our presents, we ran to the station to meet the anziani for a few minutes to give them their gifts. They also brought us Aladdin. Thank you President Dibb for letting us watch a Disney movie. After we watched the movie and ate way too much chocolate, we rode our bikes to Sorella Frezzato's house. We ate the first course of lunch with her, but we started late, so we ended up having to go before we could finish. They packed us food to eat on the way. We rushed back to the station to catch a train, and we barely made it. On the train we talked to a really nice guy and shared a Christmas message with him. I love Christmas miracles.

The Machado family made us fondue!
At the Machado's we ate a second Christmas lunch. Wasn't expecting that. They were so sweet and welcoming. They were just so happy we came to their house for Christmas. They made us fondue and we probably had the best time ever. Right before we skyped our families, they gave us each a packet of tissues. Obviously I used a ton of them. Skyping home was wonderful, but it was really weird to speak in English for that long. When I was introducing Michelle to my family, I kept doing it in Italian and she would whisper, "inglese." Whoops.

The day after Christmas is a pretty big holiday in Italy, too. We went to the Urelli family's house for lunch and were able to spend some time with them. Sorella Urelli showed us all of her mission pictures; there were tons of them! It doesn't matter what happens on my mission, my favorite part has always been the members - their conversion stories, their examples, their fellowship of others. They're incredible, and I feel so blessed to know them.

Right before Skyping our families, the Macados gave
us another Christmas present. haha
Saturday we went out to see Romeo and Jane. They're awesome. They made us a bomb lunch, and then Romeo played the accordian for us. We talked about having a family mission plan. Jane only speaks English so she's having a hard time because she really wants to share the gospel, but doesn't quite know how. Her desire shines through though, and she tries as hard as she can. 

Sunday night we went to GANS (meeting for Young Single Adults, age 18-30). At first only Victor and Manuel were there. They creamed us at Ping Pong. I think I might actually be getting worse. Oh well. A little while later Matteo showed up, and after dinner we played this sweet game called CooCoo. Remind me to teach you how to play when I get home. Let's hope I can remember. 

We're teaching a super sweet teenage girl named who's amazing. We had a lesson with her Monday, and we went through the baptismal interview questions with her. Gianella really wants to get baptized, and one of the reasons is because she wants to go to the temple. How sweet is that? We're hoping she gets baptized next week; it all depends on whether she gets permission from her mom. This girl has a solid testimony, and we're super excited for her.

Last night we had a rockin' New Year's party at the church. It was so great! Victor brought his mom, which was wonderful because we love her. I also got to talk a lot with Eliana. She's definitely one of my favorite people in the world. We talked about everything. I love our members, I just keep finding more things I love about them.

This week was really special because we had the opportunity to get to know more of our members. It was probably one of the best weeks of my mission. Never underestimate the good you can do for the missionaries of the church. Your love for them helps them so much. Your examples and your fellowshipping of their investigators will push them to be better missionaries, better members, and it will without a doubt strengthen their testimonies.

Vi Voglio Bene! Buon anno e tanti auguri!
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Christmas morning at a missionary apartment.

Christmas morning studies!

Waiting at the station Christmas morning
so we could give the anziani their presents.

Disney morning!