Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun and Miracles and . . . a Little More Rain

This last week has been truly amazing. Literally, we have had so much fun, and we've also seen so many miracles. But don't worry; my normal awkward moments remain always.

This is us. These are Grazia's clothes and shoes.
Last Wednesday it started raining as we were leaving Torino, but it wasn't that bad. We went home for about five minutes, and it stopped raining. Our next appointment wasn't really far away, so we decided not to take an umbrella or a jacket. WE CHOSE WRONG. It started sprinkling as we walked to the bus stop and by the time we were at the bus stop it was raining pretty hard. Don't worry the bus came quickly. That doesn't really help us though because when we got off the bus we had to walk up the hill in Rivoli. It's about a ten-minute walk to Grazia's house. IT WAS POURING. Kind of like walking through a lake, let me tell you. A river was running down the hill, and we had to walk through it . . . there's not usually a river there. It took us about 20 minutes in all the rain, and by the time we got there not a single part of me or my clothes were dry. Grazia didn't answer the door . . . but the man at the bar told us to come stand in, and he tried to dry us off. Then Grazia answered her phone, and we were able to go up. As we turned the corner of the stairs her face just dropped, and she ran away to find us towels. But her generosity didn't end there. She found us clothes. Let me just say, she is very short and the dress she gave me didn't work out so much. But we were a little warmer at least. We weren't too embarrassed because she was the only one home, but after a little while, her husband, three sons, and three grandsons were all there. Awkward anyone? She fed us hot chocolate, and then she and her son Alessandro gave us a ride home. As we were going downstairs, Alessandro stopped and forced us to let him take a picture. Then he told me I looked like a hippie. Good. 

Thursday we had a super great lesson with Angely. I love her; she's for sure one of the raddest people I know. Also, we decided my last p-day in Italy, she'll cut my hair and do our nails. Miracle. Rest assured I won't look like a complete wreck when I come home. Bless her. 

On our way to the station we met a really interesting woman. She wanted to know who we were, but when she found out she was a little freaked out. She doesn't like Mormons. It was a miracle in disguise, because we had the opportunity to testify that the Church is true. We talked to her for over an hour. In the end, she wanted to "save" us. She didn't understand how two young, intelligent girls could be so misled. It's because we're not misled. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of Christ restored on the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is true. There is nothing more beautiful that this knowledge. We were able to remember that on Thursday. 

We had a sweet activity at the church Sunday. We went at 5 p.m., played games for a while, and then had dinner together. I spent the first two hours walking around with our cute little two-year-old honorary missionary. Mostly she just liked watching the anziani play soccer. But then Sorella Russell and I played soccer with the cutest 8-year-old in the whole world. We had so much fun! Okay, he destroyed us, but in our defense we were wearing skirts. This activity will happen twice a month now . . . the ward gave us permission to wear pants. Good call. 

Yesterday we were finally able to see a woman we've been trying to visit for a while. It just never seems to work out. But she invited us over for dinner with a friend. He's also really cool. During dinner we all just talked a lot, about everything. He was impressed with our Italian . . . doesn't seem like a big deal, but it makes us feel good about ourselves. However when the lesson started he changed, he became so intent, so willing to understand. When we gave him a Book of Mormon he was so touched, because he hadn't expected it. It was an incredible experience, and we're so excited to go again. 

I love you all so much. This week I have my final transfer call day. Won't miss that! I can't wait to find out what will happen this last transfer; I know it will be perfect. 

Vi voglio bene!

Walking around paesini [villages], my favorite activity,

The cookies the Anziani mad us (see last week's post).

Everyone told me my shoe obsession would go down on my mission . . .  I think they forgot I'm serving in Italy.

My beautiful district.


I love Italy!

Today we ate pizza, in a piazza, while an Italian played the accordion.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Church in the Corn

So listen to this fun miracle. On Sunday, I was feeling really sick. I barely made it through church, and then at the end of church I was trying to walk through a door . . . and I walked into the door. Graceful. Anyway, we get our bikes to leave, and we start riding to the gate, but there's a man on his bike just stopped at the gate looking at the church. Turns out, he had just decided to go on a bike ride that morning, and he saw a building poking up through the corn. (Yes, our church is in the midst of a cornfield. We're sure lucky.) Anyway, he wanted to see what it was so he came on over. We invited him inside and gave him a little tour of the church and explained a little bit about what we believe. We taught him a lesson and then introduced him to our bishop and the anziani. He was super interested in learning about the church so he's going to come to church this Sunday. How cool?

Poi, we went home, and I slept for hours. Then the next morning we went to district meeting, during which I fell asleep. So we went home and slept some more. Fun fact: Monday was Sorella Russell's birthday. She wouldn't let me tell anyone . . . but because we couldn't leave the house we watched a pioneer movie . . . also I taught her how to play bang. Ok, I slept while she watched the movie, but we made smoothies.

We had a meeting yesterday morning, and the anziani brought us cookies. Anziano Beaulac had made four cookies that spelled FEEL, then he wrote BETTER SOON on a card below them. It was real sweet. After the meeting I slept some more. I finally feel like a normal person again, but I'm still really tired. Annoyed about it. Oh, well, eventually it will get better. 

So we've had a real full week. Ahaha. No, really cool things happened. Last week we went to a small town a little ways a way and found all of the less actives and members who lived there. Then yesterday we got a call from a member in Torino who is bringing a friend with him to our ward this Sunday. We've had lots of little miracles and a few big ones too. It's been a really good week, even if I did sleep through half of it. 

I hope you all are having a fantastic week. Vi Voglio tantissimo bene!

Sorella Ervin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gelato on a Mountain

I love Italy!
So, I've been having a hard couple of weeks. Stress, tiredness, end-of-mission freakout, call it what you will . . . it's just hard. The last two days, God knew I needed a little something to help me. These two days were perfect, and I've never felt so close to my Father in Heaven. 

Yesterday we were walking home for lunch. We were going to take the bus, but at the last minute decided to walk instead. As we were walking, I saw a woman whom I thought I recognized, so I decided to go talk to her. As I got closer, I realized it was a woman from one of the other wards in the area. She was having a really hard time. She was crying, and she just wasn't okay. We sat with her for a while, and then we helped her get home. We thought she might need a blessing, so I called the anziani in her area, and later that night they came over with her home teacher and his wife. We were with this sweet woman from 1 p.m. until about 7 p.m. when we left with the anziani. I have never felt more like an instrument in the hands of my Savior than I did yesterday. She needed to remember she wasn't abandoned, and in a moment of feeling that way, she turned and saw missionaries of the Lord walking towards her. This is what our work is. To cry with those who cry. Sometimes I think we get so focused on the numbers we report, how many lessons we teach, how many baptisms we've had. Those things are important, but what is so much more important is just how we are living our lives, how we help people. There is nothing better that feeling as if the Lord has used you to fulfill His purposes. 

Awkward moment of the week . . . or my life:

So, he was the only person who would let me talk to him
when we did Parco.
Last night I was on the phone with Anz. Pagano. Here's the conversation . . .

"Ciao Anziani, come state?"

"We're sweaty . . . but good, really good."

"I'm glad . . . not about that other thing, but that you're good."

. . . .

"Sorella Ervin, can I just ask you a question?"

"Of course, anything you'd like."

"Do you just live for awkward moments?"

Don't worry, my friends; I fully intend to come home just as awkward as I've ever been. 

Okay, so back to the spiritual. Sorella Russell and I have really wanted to get out of the city. We just wanted some nature. So we knew there was a hike up to a really beautiful church on top of a mountain. We passed a sign once that pointed to it. So . . . we decided to go. Keep in mind we didn't know anything about it, how steep it was or how long it would take. We just wanted to go. So we did. We start walking up this hill. There are rocks paving the trail . . . real tough to walk up . . . also super, super steep. BUT, it was the most spiritual hike of my life. There were a series of crosses we passed showing from the time Christ was lifted up to Him resurrected. It was so incredible. Then you arrive at the most beautiful little abbey I've ever seen. People's devotion to the Lord is incredible. I felt so close to the Lord out there in the mountains, thinking about what He did for us. We sat on a bench for a while and just thought. It was truly incredible.

We went into the bar before heading back down to pick up some gelato. What did they have? BEN AND JERRY'S! Oh my goodness, we've never been so excited. We talked to the couple who own the bar for a little bit, and then we had to run back down the mountain. We were running out of time, but we made it to the station just as the train was pulling in. MIRACLE. We ate bread and cheese on the train. We might be too Italianized . . . if that's possible. 

This hike was so incredible. It wasn't really that long, just steep. Guess what . . . it used to be a mule train. We feel like champions, but mostly, I think we're just truly grateful that we were able to leave the world behind for a little while, to focus only on the Lord, and to come to know him better. It doesn't matter what we know, there is always more to learn. 

Vi Voglio Bene!  

Getting lost in Torino you see some pretty things.
This is a view from the base of the mountain . . . looks hard . . .
. . . but we're real excited.

Still loving Italy!
Admiring the view for a while . . .

. . . and, oh, what a view!

San. Michele

Okay, so there were a series of crosse on the hike. Each one had a depiction of the Savior either on the cross, being lifted onto the cross, or being taken down. So, as you walked up the hill . . . you saw the whole process.

When you get to the end of the first part of the hike, there is a stone to symbolize the one that was in front of the tomb.

On the other side of the stone is a depiction of the resurrected Christ.

At the end of the hike we were at Sacra San Michele and a piece of an old monastery.

I wish pictures would do this place justice.

We found Ben & Jerry's at the top of the mountain!

This is lunch . . . bread and these on the train home.

Real tired . . . but real satisfied!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Week of Surprises

Ok, this was possibly one of the most random weeks of my life, complete with little surprises. I loved it. I wish I could relive it. True story. 

Me and Sorella Russell.
Friday we went out to this little town called Alpignano. Guess what? It was raining . . . a lot. Also, we didn't know where we were going because we were just doing some pass-bys. We also didn't have a map, so that was fun. We just walked around looking for people to ask and finally we found the houses. It took a really long time; we were lost a lot, but we found all three houses. We also saw some truly beautiful things, like a beautiful river we didn't know existed and a tiny open, one-room chapel. It was gorgeous. It was getting late, and we were looking for the last house; no one knew where the street was, so that was disappointing, but finally a lady knew where it was. She even gave us a ride because it was a little far away. We gave her cookies to thank her, and she was so touched. I love little miracles. Best part of the day . . . when we got home, wet and shivering as we were, we found a map for Alpignano next to my desk. Helpful.

Sunday starts off the surprises. We went to church late because there was a Gans [Young Single Adult] activity in the morning, so we had church at 3 p.m. I'm walking towards the church, and I see someone who looks a little like Anziano Scisci . . . because it was Scisci. He had been at the activity and was just leaving. Kind of weird because the last time I saw him he was a missionary . . . but it was wonderful to see him nonetheless.

Awkward moment of the day, a man visiting the Torino ward came up to talk to us. This is kind of how it went. 

"Ciao sorelle."


"So, where are you sisters from?"



"I got confused by the English" - yours truly

"We can speak in Italian if you'd like"

"Si . . . meglio cosi."  [Yes . . . better that way.]

Chris at church. Best surprise ever!
I'm sorry but I probably won't be able to talk to any of you when I come home, unless you've magically learned Italian. English is hard. 

Surprise number two. I walked around the corner after Relief Society [meeting for women] and ran into one of my favorite people in the world. Chris Dean! He came for the activity and stayed for church. It was so weird to see him - weird, but wonderful. That makes the second time I've seen him in Italy. And there was the other time we were on the same train but didn't know. Weird miracles. 

My Sorella Gunnerson. Gotta love her.
Monday we had zone training. Good stuff. I always walk away feeling so inspired and ready to get to work. Sorella Gunnerson and I went to the station for our scambio [change in companions for the day] in Alessandria. We stopped to get lunch and ran into the Vercelli Anziani again . . . with Victor. Suprise number three! It was so good to see him, and we got to talk to the anziani for a while after he left, but then we had to catch our train. 

Our scambio was crazy amazing, we rode all around Alessandria on bikes and only got lost a couple of times. Mostly, I just loved being with Gunnerson again. We're real lucky she didn't go too far away from Torino. 

Yesterday we came home, and we went to visit the Vicedomini's. They had friends coming over for dinner so they just invited us over. I will never turn that down. We ended up getting to teach them a little lesson. It was super fun and we ate delicious food. Also, they think we're fluent in Italian . . . they also started teaching us some dialect . . . I remember nothing. 

I love you all! Until next week,

Sorella Ervin

Best Italian parking job I've ever seen.

Gotta love Italian graffiti.

It was raining so hard the flag just fell over.

Cutest little chapel

The little beauties you stumble upon in Italy.

This is what we do at member's houses. I make Melanzane . . .
what's that called in English? Sorella Russell told me eggplant . . .
what a stupid name.

Sorella Russell just takes pictures of herself. Why is she terrified?