Friday, November 28, 2014

Life in the Slow Lane and Giving a Talk


(Side Note: David surprised us with an email a day early--actually it threw off his mom, who always sends an email HIM on Tuesday.  This time I opened the email account and already had a note from him--meaning, of course, that he did not get a note from ME that week. :(  )

EARLY PDAY. So I forgot to mention that in addition to having a tour by Elder Fingerle, it's on Wednesday.  And travel makes it take all day, so we're taking our P-Day today.  Hence the Tuesday letter.

We went tracting near a shopping center, Terminal Nord, which has a nice covered 1/3 kilometer walk with all the shops off of it.  Its nice for finding work on Friday-Saturday afternoon-evenings, especially if it's raining.

GO BACK! Anyway, in talking to people, I got my first "Go back to your country!"  It was an older guy, who called it out at us after waving us away.  No harm done, it was at least funnier (even though he meant it) than "No me interesa" or "Sono credente...en modo mio."  Or better yet, if we tell someone we're from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they say, "I'm not part of that church," and walk away.  Oh, really?  Well, I guess I didn't mean to talk to you then.  But we also have interesting conversations with people who are fairly nice.  So, it's not all bad.

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE. I don't remember if any families back home were Italian, but one thing you figure out is that the Italian pace of life is pretty slow.  For the older generation, they're used to taking their time about everything.  For example, biking.  When we go biking as missionaries, we are trying to get somewhere.  When you're stuck behind someone who's biking just a bit faster than I walk, it's annoying.  Also when they interrupt the conversation for a 5-minute phone call.

But a nice thing about Italian culture is that they're friendly.  Not necessarily everyone here in Udine, but they are willing to talk for awhile.  Once you break the ice or get them to like you, they will talk for the whole afternoon.  So we have a few "friends" who we run into occasionally, older people who will stop and talk to us if we run into them.

SWEATER UPDATE. 'Package update:' the distribution company says that the package with sweaters in it was sent back to wherever it came from.  This confused me because it didn't come from America and I don't know if it had a return address.  But maybe you could call/email the company you bought it from and they could try to send it again, preferably to the mission home.  Sorry and thank you.

Lots of Love,
Anziano Whitesell

P.S. Oh, and also I gave a talk last Sunday, on the Plan of Salvation.  I didn't memorize it, or even prepare a talk.  Not in the sense of "I prepared it during the Sacrament," but I just looked up a few scriptures that went nicely and gave the talk from my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation.  It went really well, even in Italian.  I could use a bit of work on public speaking, but it went well nonetheless.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Water, Hope, and the View from the Apartment


(Side note: Mom sent David a "Cool Italy Story" we had heard in a church meeting here.  It's on this blog, in the previous post.)

To answer your questions first: yes, I did receive the story about President Uchtdorf and the Italian government.  It's neat to hear about some of the travel and meetings that the First Presidency and the Twelve do to keep things running with the everyday business of the church.

READING. A favorite scripture I've read this week...none in particular come to mind.  In the Book of Mormon, I'm reading through 2nd Nephi right now, with all the Isaiah chapters (pretty dense reading), so that may be why.

(Another Side Note: In our church, we refer to some church leaders as "Elder," just as we refer to most men missionaries [just not in Italy] as "Elder."  The ones David mentions here are church leaders assigned to different areas of the world, and those giving the talks he references are from the 12 Apostles.  We have a First Presidency [our prophet and his 2 counselors], plus 12 Apostles at the head of our church: patterned after the church organization of Christ when he was on the earth.)

We have a "mission tour" by one of the 70s, Elder Fingerle, coming up on the 19th, so we're supposed to read Matthew in preparation for this presentation, as well as 3 talks: "Seek Learning by Faith" (Elder Bednar), "Roots and Branches," (Elder Cook), and "To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood," (Elder Bednar).  They're very powerful messages about using new technology to bring forward the Lord's work, and increasing our capacity to learn through the Spirit.

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE.  Highlight of the past week was every time we used our rain jackets.  From the last time I wrote you, I haven't seen the sun until this morning, and now it's raining again.  Thank goodness we decided to get warm rain jackets when we did, 'cause sweaters wouldn't have been much help.  Apparently all across Italy there's not-so-great weather, and there are floods in Genova.  But we've remained fairly dry, even on bikes and walking places. So yay for that.

GOOD EXPERIENCES. Some uplifting tales from the mission, but not sugar-coated: not everything turns out perfect.

Awhile back we were knocking on doors (ringing doorbells) and were let into the house.  Now this doesn't happen very often, and Anziano Fabiano (my current companion who has been out almost a year) tells me it's maybe happened ONCE to him.  We taught the Father and the son there a nice lesson about the Plan of Salvation (God's plan of happiness for His children -- us -- to be able to return to Him after this life).  Then we came back a few days later and taught the entire family.

Those kinds of experiences give us a lot of hope when they happen.  When we taught them the second time, the mother wasn't very interested, which led to the father being less willing to meet with us or come to church.  We've met with them twice since then, over the period of a month-and-a-half, which is not very productive for them or for us.  But these things happen, and at least we left a good impression when we first met with them.

MEMBER MISSIONARIES. One new convert in our area (someone who's been baptized within the past year) is a very outgoing lady, and has many opportunities to talk about the gospel and the missionaries.  One of her friends was having difficulties in her life, so she came to Ann's and we talked to her and gave her a priesthood blessing.  That lady has since met with us once a week for the past five weeks or so, and is preparing to be baptized on the 23rd or the 30th.  No guarantees, but I'm looking forward to the next few weeks.

I hope this message finds you healthy and happy, and ready to face the falling leaves :D
leaves outside my apartment...won't ever match our yard in New England!!

I'm going to send a 4-part panorama that you can photoshop to make sense.  It's the view from my window as it stopped raining.

view from my apartment, Udine

Also, in the previous message, my companion, Anziano Fabiano, is the one awake.  Anziano Kendrick is closest, and Anziano Minor has the backpack.
Staying awake...or not :)

Another thing, could you email to find out where Cameron Cozzens and Braxton Allred are serving missions? I'd like to hear from them, see how they're doing.  It's really cool to email other missionaries and hear from them and about how the experience is different in other places.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Cool Italy Story

Vocabulary words: in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a "ward" is a congregation.  A group of "wards" is a "stake."  Church leaders are sometimes referred to as "Elder," just as missionaries are referred to as "Elder." (It has nothing to do with age...just how you are serving.)

Here is a cool story we (David's family) heard at Stake Conference (Boston Stake) in October, from Elder Gordon H. Smith.  Elder Smith used to be a U.S. Senator for Oregon.

He says that a few years ago, President Uchtdorf calls him and says that the church does not have the status of being an officially recognized church in Italy.  The members are allowed to meet and worship, but by not being recognized as an official religion, 30,000 Latter-day Saints in Italy are not getting the benefits of other organized religions (like marriages and baptisms being recognized by the government, etc.).  President Uchtdorf says to Elder Smith, "What can we do about this?"

Elder Smith says, "Let me make a few phone calls, and see if we can talk to somebody."

So he calls the Italian government and gets an appointment with the Italian equivalent of our cabinet member for the Department of the Interior.  Elder Smith calls President Uchtdorf and says, "I'm meeting with the (Minister of the Interior) in Rome on this date."  President Uchtdorf says, "I'll meet you there."

They go to the Italian government offices, and are led into a big room with a long table.  After they are seated, in walks the Minister of the Interior.  She has an assistant minister with her and he is a professor who teaches religion.

They exchange polite greetings with these two Italians who speak perfect English.  President Uchtdorf explains the above situation, and says how it would help these citizens of their country if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was recognized as an official religion.

The Minister turns to the professor and asks, "What should we do to help them?"

He says, "You know, two summer ago I was in Western United States, and I visited your headquarters in Salt Lake City.  We took a tour of Temple Square, and the tour guides were two lovely young ladies from our own country.  They were so kind, and thorough, and answered our questions.  They were really impressive examples of what a woman from Italy should be.  If your church develops our young people in Italy to be of that caliber, then I am wholeheartedly behind you."

Then the professor says, "One of the places we saw and learned about in Salt Lake City was your temple.  It was just beautiful!  If we make yours an official religion, can you build one of those here?"

President Uchtdorf smiles and says, "We'll start tomorrow."

With the typical challenges of large government and politics, it took 1 1/2 more years, but the church did receive official recognition with the Italian government and the members in Italy now receive all of the rights and privileges which that recognition affords.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Companion, Fleece and My Birthday

Hi, Mom!  Hi, Dad!

A bit of a slow week this week. I'm still figuring out being sort-of-senior-companion.  I know the area better, even if Anziano Fabiano has been in Italy longer.

WEEKLY ACTIVITY. So we spent a lot of time doing "finding" work: going door-to-door, talking to tons of people, that sort of thing.

Anziano Andersen was definitely a good trainer.  In fact, he "went Zone Leader" for this transfer (as "Zone Leader, Anziano Andersen will help multiple missionaries), over in Muggi by Milano.

I've now been with Anziano Fabiano for a week.  He's very upbeat, and it's his first time being "Senior Companion" (the companion who has been on his mission longest, of the two).  He's in his 8th transfer (one transfer is 6 weeks).  I'm sure we have a lot to teach each other.

HAIR CUTS.  I don't think I'll need to go to the barber shop; actually I haven't seen barber shops.  I've seen a lot of salons though.  Anziano Kendrick has an electric razor that I was unaware of (it was Anziano Gibbons' that wasn't working well), so I can use that the next time I get a haircut.
"before" photo...more haircut pics in previous post!

We have talked to investigators, though apparently meeting with investigators to say goodbye to the old companion works better than meeting with them to say hello to the new companion.  This is why we were going out and talking to people on the street, and working with members for referrals.

(Side note: Mom asked David which Christlike attribute he was working be a better missionary, and even a better Christian, for that matter, we work on trying to be more like Jesus Christ.)  I have worked on several Christlike attributes, but the one that I'm going for now is humility.  I need to accept that I can learn from other people (more or less my age), so for that I need to be more humble.

NOVEMBER 1ST BIRTHDAY. And birthdays...well it was kind of a lame birthday. I'm not big on drawing attention to myself, or maybe I was just trying to have the birthday go by without anyone noticing.  For whatever reason, I didn't tell hardly anyone, so my apartment-mates didn't find out until they saw me opening letters the evening of my actual birthday.

(Which, by the way, the birthday cards were awesome!  Thank everyone for sending cards! The photo does not include all of them...)
some of my birthday cards :)

At that point, we had already started fasting (One time a month, we "fast" -- go without food for two meals.  We believe that fasting, when combined with prayer, can help us grow spiritually, and help us feel closer to Christ.).

At any rate, it was too late by then to bake a cake!  I'll live it up better next year.  I got your package, though.  Thank you so much for music I recognize!  (Side note: "approved music" for the missionaries includes religious music, and music that invites the Spirit of the Lord -- makes it easier to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost.)  I didn't recognize all of it, but there is some good music in there.  I really like "Step by Step" from the Living Scriptures movies, and the Hilary Weeks was good.

WINTER WEAR.  Also, I picked up a good waterproof coat with a fleece liner, and some gloves.  Now I'm set for winter.

Until next week!

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Transfers, Hedgehogs and Snail Mail

Hi Mom! And Dad!

To answer your questions first, Mom... (about any miracles I have seen): I have seen miracles of the sort where it's not super-obvious, but nice things happened to make the work move forward.  Since Anziano Andersen is leaving, he arranged lessons with a few investigators (vocab: investigators are people who are taking lessons from the missionaries, and are interested in the church) who we haven't seen for awhile to say goodbye to them.  So in a sense, I can re-activate them with my new companion.  That's definitely a plus.

TRANSFERS. Apartment-mates (before this week's transfer) are Anziano Gibbons and Anziano Kendrick.  Of course, my companion has been Anziano Andersen for the first 3 months of my mission.  Gibbons and Andersen are leaving: Gibbons to Padova and Andersen to Muggio, by Milan.  I get a new companion named Anziano Fabiano (American).

The ones leaving have been packing for awhile now.  Anziano Andersen tells me he's always surprised at how much stuff he picks up in each area.  Fortunately for the suitcases, some things started to get holes in them, so he threw them away and had some extra space.  I hope to be pleasantly surprised when I leave that I still have plenty of space for all of my things.

In the picture, the senior couple, the Keefers, are on the sides.  Then Anziano Kendrick above Andersen, Johnson above Gibbons, me above Andersen, and Sorella Kras above Curtis.  The people leaving our district are sitting down.

HEDGEHOGS. This is a hedgehog I found hiding in the grass.  It hid a bit better before I could get a decent picture, but it was just sitting there.

SNAIL MAIL. Letters have started to arrive for my birthday, which is nice.  There are some from all over the U.S.; I'll lay them out and take a picture before I open them.

A note about mail: while it's nice to receive letters at the apartment, when I get transferred on the six-week schedule or if I get "space-transferred" -- moved without prior notice in the middle of a transfer -- letters will get lost.  So if you could tell people to send them to the mission office, that would be wonderful.  And if you send packages, please also send them to the mission office.  It's much more convenient.  I'm willing to wait a couple of weeks for letters and packages with them being sent to the office first.

Anziano David Whitesell
Missione Italiana di Milano
Via Antonio Gramsci 13/2
20090 Opera (MI)

Other news: it's been about 3 months since I got a haircut.  And I was starting to have to comb it (actually HAVE to, not just it's-convenient-so-I-should-but-I-never-get-around-to-it). So I cut it.  Here's before...
...and after.
The razor wasn't working well, so this was done with scissors that worked about 70% of the time, in the mirror.  I think it turned otu fairly well for those restrictions.

I made coffee cake, which was pretty good.  I know it sounds like I'm here on a Baking Study-Abroad, but I get real work done too.  I just like making treats! :D

PUZZLE PIECES. And another thing...we have some lessons that we do with visual aids, "object lessons." There are some puzzle patterns I could use in a journal back home.  In the cupboard under the mirror, pretty close to the right side, are some journals.  In a big red spiral notebook, if you flip through a bit of it, there are patterns for a sort of puzzle.  Could you take a picture and send it to me?  The dimensions aren't important, just the shape.  Thanks!

EMERGENCY SUPPLIES. One last thing: I know I haven't asked for anything, which is probably driving you crazy, but I really don't need more "stuff."  So if you must send something, peanut butter and frosting are pretty cool.  American candy (you could even wait until after Halloween and send the cheap after-Halloween candy), and office supplies.  Yes, really: they don't have Sharpies, colored or otherwise, Post-It Notes...also maybe a few pens and notebooks and scotch tape.  Small things like that.  If you already sent a package, don't worry about it.

Also, right after the last message, about the storm, it got super-cold for the next few days, and after dark it's cold.  Fortunately, I have sweaters and a trench coat.  I'm going to buy myself some gloves, though.  Real Italian gloves!  Cool!

Thanks for listening to me ramble a bit.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

P.S.  In that hypothetical box, could you put a few Ensigns (a monthly church magazine with inspirational messages), older or more recent?  They make for great reading material, along with Jesus the Christ.