Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Reason for Everything

This week has really reminded me that everything happens for a reason. I know that we as missionaries are placed in specific cities and specific times because we are meant to be here. We don't always understand why, but when we can acknowledge the hand of God in our lives, we have more strength. 

At the zone conference, Anziano Fuller gave me a letter for Victor, so I was able to see Victor Friday. He's pretty much one of my favorite people on the planet, and I forgot how much I loved talking to him. Here's the deal with Victor: he has an incredible talent. He can take any subject and bring it back to God. He has an uncanny ability to find lessons in daily life. I don't even know how he does it, but I love speaking to him about anything and everything. I always learn something new, true story.

Monday night we were able to go visit Marcella. I love being inside that house; it's almost like being home. There is a love in that home that enfolds you as soon as you enter. I'm so grateful for every moment I am able to spend with this perfect family. Marcella is wonderful; she pulled out a box of old letters and names. She has kept a list of everyone she has every shared the Gospel with and copies of letters she has sent to people. It was such a sacred moment to look through these records. Her testimony is amazing ,and I was brought to tears as I read some of these letters.

We had dinner with her and Salvatore. They weren't planning on us being there, so they didn't have anything in the house. We ate leftovers. I don't know why this meant so much to me; I think it might be because I just felt like I was with my own family, pulling random food out of the refrigerator, trying to make a full meal out of bits of things. I don't believe there are perfect people (other than Christ, of course) perfect places, or perfect almost anything. I do, however, believe there are perfect moments. I think we pass opportunities for perfect moments by and we don't take the time to notice them. They're little moments, full of love, peace, joy, and every good emotion in the world. This was one of those moments. How grateful I am for these little examples of God's love.

My heart broke a little this week. I'm not going to lie, it's been harder to hope, to keep moving forward. But then I asked one of our members how she was doing. "Andiamo avanti" is always her response. She's facing a lot of trials and yet she still has hope everything will always work out if she just keeps moving forward, just keeps following God.

At first I wasn't sure why I was placed in Vercelli. It wasn't that I didn't like it, because I love Vercelli with all of my heart. These people are so important to me. I just didn't know why I was chosen to have the wonderful opportunity to serve here. Why was I so blessed? I knew God had a plan, but I couldn't see what it was. I didn't know how I could find people to help. Well, maybe I wasn't put here to help anyone specific; I don't think I was put here because I have an extraordinary gift that will help all of these people. I think I was put here because I needed them. The members in Vercelli have changed my life. Investigators in Vercelli have also changed my life. I look at the world in a much different way then I did four months ago. I'm a better missionary then I was four months ago; I'm a better person.

Vi voglio bene!

Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Victor has become one of my best friends!

Nick came to Vercelli on Sunday. I love surprises!

There is a Chinese car company in Novara. Please look closely at the picture of a wall on their logo. The Anziani always talk about it, so every time we see something that reminds us of it, we get a little too excited.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

13 Going on 30

So . . . usually we teach about 13 lessons each week. That's not bad, but it could definitely be better. President Dibb asked those training to teach 21 lessons last week. As we were planning I jokingly said, "l think we should teach 30." Note to self: don't joke with a greenie. She said, "Okay!" Well, I couldn't back out then. So we decided to teach 30. Let me tell you, longest week of my life. But we did it. Sunday afternoon we taught 8 lessons in about 3 hours while doing strada. God definitely blessed us this week; I've never had so many people willing to stop and talk to us.

While doing strada, we met this amazing man named Constantine. He has a beautiful testimony of our Savior. We ended up teaching him a half-hour lesson about the restoration of the Gospel. He doesn't know how he feels about it, but he wants a Book of Mormon. I find it so beautiful when people just have the desire to learn about the Savior. 

We found two investigators for the Anziani and about 1,000 referrals. We can't really find any women who are interested. But that's okay. At consiglio last night we were talking about how we keep finding the Anziani people to teach. I decided that we can do all the finding for this ward, as long as they just keep baptizing. 

Saturday night, an investigator of the Anziani was baptized. His wife and daughter came to the church for the first time that night. Baptisms are my favorite part of the mission. There is something extremely beautiful about seeing a child of God make a commitment to follow Him for eternity. I have felt more love during baptisms then at any other time in my life. I truly believe there are choruses of angels singing every time we make a covenant with God. 

Speaking of baptisms, I was able to go to Milano this week for a scambio with Sorella Gillette - not just any Milano . . . MY Milano Navigli. I was able to see my church AND Anabella and Alberto. These two people are so special to me. They mean everything to me. It was such a blessing to be able to see them again, even if I was only there for a day.

We had zone conference on Monday. As always it was incredible. I'm just so grateful for everything I've learned on my mission and all those who I have come to love. I can't imagine not having been here for the last year. I don't even know who I would be; I can't imagine it. The best part is I have six months left . . . six more months to devote everything I have to God and these wonderful people. Nothing could make me happier, nothing. I love it here.

Vi Voglio Bene! 
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Anziano Miller serving in my birth city [Milano].

One of my favorite families! Just look at my sweet Anabela.

We got to go to Monica's for lunch on her birthday!

 End of scambio pictures with Gillette and Egbert!

Sister Gillette.

Sister Egbert.

Anziano Day and I are always so awkward.
I don't know why, we're just awkward people. It's a problem.

It's always a good day when I get to see Sorella Bennet.

Rimini Zone Reunion!

Sorella Lyman's going home at the end of this transfer.
I'll miss her so much.

Anziano Betchie!

Waiting for the train, across to binarios.
Look at our beautiful missionaries.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pictures from February - Awaiting New Missionary to Train

This is Ellen's mom posting. I just loved these pictures from the Italy Milan blog and thought I would share them. They are from the Thursday, 20 February 2014. If you'd like to see more pictures of the new missionaries arriving and of the missionaries who were finishing their missions, you can see them at

New missionaries entering the room for training and to be matched up with their trainers.

Trainers awaiting to be matched up with new missionaries [I just love how happy Ellen looks!]

And the training begins!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Beauty of Your Eternal Soul

Guess what? You can do difficult things. Did you know that? I don't think I did, not really. As I reach my year mark in the mission, I look back at all of the things I have done in the last year. It was difficult, but I'm still here. How grateful I am for every single experience I have had.

About ten minutes ago, we taught a lesson to Michela. She's wonderful as always. We talked about prayer and how God will never fail to answer us. Then we read Mosiah 24:10-15.

10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.

 11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.

 12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.

13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

I love this. What I love most is that the Lord did not take away their burdens. Sure, this would have been great, but what happened was better. The Lord strengthened them, and they were able to carry their burdens. In the end, they were stronger. The Lord could have taken those burdens away, but He didn't, He knew the better way was to help his people gain strength.

Most of you know about my headache. I've had it since my second week in Italy. It's terrible, really, and when I first had it I couldn't even function. It was so hard to get through the day. I went to doctors, I went through treatments, and I took pain killers. Nothing really works; my dear little headache is still here. During the lesson, I was thinking a little bit about it.

If in my call letter had been a little piece of paper that said, "Sorella Ervin, you have been called to serve in Italy; however, for at least one year of your mission you will have a continual headache." what would I have done? I would have stayed home! If I had been aware of the pain I would face, nothing would have persuaded me to come on a mission. But guess what? I'm okay. Pain that once made me want to cry is now, most often, little more than an annoyance. But why? Is the headache any less? No, but I'm used to it. It seems strange, it seems crazy, but I'm just fine. Would I like the headache to go away? Of course! But at the same time I'm extremely grateful I'm so much stronger then I was a year ago. I can do difficult things, but only because the Savior is here to help me.

In life, we have to face difficult situations. We have to keep moving forward or somewhere a long the way, we will get lost. But if we keep pushing forward, we will become incredible people; when we rely on the Lord, we gain a portion of His strength.

President Dibb sent me this quote last week, and I really needed it.

"I have seen valiant missionaries brave icy wind, resist torrential rains, slosh through slippery, muddy streets, and conquer fear. Often they bear a powerful testimony, only to be rejected and roundly criticized. I have seen them struggle to communicate truth in a new language. Sometimes the listener stares in puzzled silence. Then there dawns the shattering realization that the message is not understood. But I wouldn't change any of it, even if I could, because there are those golden moments of success that make all of the hardships worthwhile. Such rewards come when the Spirit touches a heart for eternal good because someone like you was there. To share truth in difficult circumstances is to treasure it more. When you push against the boundaries of experience into the twilight of the unknown, the Lord will strengthen you. The beauty of your eternal soul will begin to unfold" - Anziano Richard G. Scott.

Think of the last year of all the trials you had to face. If you had known then what you would go through, what would you have done? I would have been afraid. But guess what, here you are. You made it. Ben fatto! [Well done!]

Vi Voglio un mondo di bene. Thank you for everything you have taught me and for all the support you have given. Thank you for the prayers; don't worry, I pray for you too.

Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

The Molinaris!

One of my favorite members!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Love You All

My baby, Sorella Jones
First things first: I just want to tell you all how much I love you. This week has been difficult, and I'm so grateful for those of you who are out there praying for missionaries. We need it. It's difficult to keep going, everyday, but your prayers help us to do it. Without you, I don't know if I could do this work. Your prayers and love mean more than you will ever know. Thank you.

Even though this week was tough, it was still extremely beautiful . . . also extremely embarrassing. I'm going to go ahead and tell you a story about it. So it's Sunday afternoon. We're down doing casa by Paolo and Marcella's house. We've rung about a thousand citofonos; no one's interested. Suddenly, I have the intense desire to throw up. We'd go home, but home's about a half-hour walk away. I decide to hang on a little while. We're outside a large apartment complex, and this man walks up to go in. I have Sorella Jones ringing the doorbells so I need to talk to him. My brain's not quite working and so instead of a nice smooth conversation starter, I just say. "Siamo missionarie, possiamo condividere un messagio?" [We are missionaries, can we share a message?] Yeah, he was obviously not going to be interested off of that. Good work, I know. He says he's busy, but then he turns around and says, "Siete Americane?" Yes! He's met missionaries before and wanted to know if we still taught English Class; he's coming this week. Miracle. But don't worry, my awkward moment hasn't happened yet.

I realized I was probably going to have to throw up very, very soon. So, I thought we could just do a pass-by with Paolo and Marcella and then I could use there bathroom. Sono furba, lo so. [I’m smart, I know.] I texted Paolo to tell him we're coming over. But his parents weren't home. Great . . . we can't enter the house if another woman isn't there. It was obvious to Sorella Jones that I wasn't going to make it home, so she grabs the phone out of my hand and called Paolo. (Remember Paolo speaks English, thank goodness.) "Hi this is Charlotte . . . I mean Sorella Jones. Here's the deal, Ervin is sick. So we're going to come over, you're going to wait outside, and she's going to use your bathroom." Paolo agrees immediately, GEM. 

We're almost at his house when we run into this man. I thought about walking on by for a split second, but I have this habit of imagining everyone I meet in white, so I knew I had to stop him. He's super nice, but didn't have a lot of time. I asked what he would think if I told him we have living prophets today, he kind of laughed, but then he invited us over to teach his family next Sunday. Miracle.

Okay, so we get to Paolo's; he's already waiting outside. I can't even say hello to him, I just walk straight in the house. I don't come back out for a while . . . feel kind of bad about it. But Paolo's the best; he just waited outside like a champ. I walk out and start gathering all of the things I threw in random places in my desperation to get to the bathroom: coat, scarf, bag, Book of Mormon, random pass-along cards. Then I look at Paolo's face. He asked if I was okay, but he was laughing. Sweet. Then he gave us a bag of food . . . because that's exactly what I needed. I felt super awkward, so I just gave him a quiet little "thanks, you're the best" and walked right on out of the house. Thank goodness Paolo's such a chill guy.

Anziano Colemere!
A lot of other really great things happened this week. For example we had the new missionary training meeting yesterday, so I got to see so many of my favorite missionaries. All of us trainers are exhausted, but we're having a blast, so that's great.

Like I said, I love you people. Thanks for everything.

Sorella Ervin

My sweet Sorella Strong!