Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Music, Movie, Magic

THE CALENDAR CONTINUES. Christmas is weird, because everything up to Christmas is a normal workday with anticipation of Christmas.  Then everything after is just a normal workday.  So buildup-buildup-buildup-CHRISTMAS!...back to work.  That was a little disappointing.  (Note from Mom: I feel your pain, David)  But I quickly got back into the routine.

UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS. I went on Scambio (exchange: working with a different companion) Monday to a place called Cuneo.  We had been through about 24 hours, the normal duration, when the other Anziani said they couldn't take the train down because of an appointment.  So we'd have to come up to them.  Or we could wait for the rest of the day, and just come up on P-day.

I initially wanted to come back right away, but upon further consideration, I felt prompted to stay the rest of the day.  So I opted to continue the Scambio until P-day.  During that exchange, I tried to be the best example of finding work, and we did pretty well.  Three people gave us phone numbers, and one asked when we could come visit him.  I like to think that's because I stayed.

CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY TREAT. My exchange companion likes (the card game) Magic, so I played with him.  It was fun; I hadn't played in a little while.  And, he has some gooooood cards :)

For Christmas we watched "Wreck It Ralph," and I had forgotten how good movies are!
We got to the test-drive scene with the girl's car, and "Shut Up and Drive" came on, and we were thinking, "Yeah, good music!"  It was a lot of fun.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Skype!

Christmas Day: December 25, 2016

We got to Skype with David on Christmas Day!  And there was much rejoicing.  He is doing well, now 2 weeks into a new area: Torino.  Here is Mom’s summary of a few highlights from the conversation.

ORANGE PEEL TRADITION. They spent Christmas Eve (4 missionaries) with an Italian family from the congregation.  One of their Christmas traditions was to bring out a bag of oranges for dessert.  “Save the peels,” they told the missionaries.  (?!?!? Okay…)  After the oranges were eaten or just peeled, they started the ORANGE PEEL FIGHT!  Yes, that’s a tradition he might bring home with him.

People in Italy call Santa Clause “Babo Natale,” or Father Christmas in English.

COMPANION QUIRKS. David has had quite a few companions.  One of them snored.  David spent those 2 transfers (3 months) wearing ear plugs to bed.
Another one woke him up at night with “Click….click….click.”  He couldn’t figure it out, got out a tiny flashlight and walked around the room…”Click…click…click.”  It took him awhile, but it was his companion, biting his teeth together in his sleep.

HAIR IN ITALY. Popular men’s hairstyles in Italy have turned toward a modified Mohawk…the sides are shaved, then the top is a little longer.  Not SUPER-long, but longer.

Even the missionaries are doing it some.

David cuts his own hair.  He had a frightening mishap in the beginning, since in Italy they measure the razor in millimeters.  #3 razor, U.S., is about 9 millimeters, so when he asked for “#3” they thought he meant 3 millimeters.  It was SOOOO short!  Now he says 9 millimeters when somebody else does it, and if there's a razor in the apartment, he is actually comfortable trimming his own.

MEALTIME HABITS. In Italy they don’t spread butter on bread.  They mix olive oil and kind of balsamic vinaigrette and dip the bread in.  Yum!!

The missionaries eat dinner with church members once every 2 weeks or so.  On a normal day, David eats a decent-sized breakfast, then the main meal is a big late lunch.  They basically work 3p.m. to 10p.m. and have a smaller snack before bed.

Torino is fairly flat.  This is a bus/train area for him, so he has a monthly pass.  No bikes to worry about this time around!  (He’s had a string of bike challenges lately, repair after repair, then a Grand Finale of the bike being stolen, for Pete’s sake!  Taking the bus is probably a small relief.)
It was 46 degrees there (evening) when we talked.

PICTURES OF CHRIST.  Interesting how even different Christian religions have their own images of Bible stories.  We have pictures of John the Baptist standing in the River Jordan with Jesus, because in our church we baptize by immersion and both of them were standing in the river.  David says the pictures he’s seen of Jesus’s baptism have John standing on a rock on the shore of the river, holding a cup.  Jesus is standing near him, and the baptism is pouring a cup of water on him.
It was so good to see David!  That definitely made it a Merry Christmas for us!  :)


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Buses, Kids and Speaking Assignments

REACHING THE BORDER. Well, I'm now in Torino, one of the largest (2nd? 3rd?) cities in the mission.  There are 3 districts in my zone, which covers from Cuneo, Torino, Novara and Vercelli.  It goes out to France, so one day I'll take a picture on the border of France :D

It's been a good, busy week this far.  We take the bus everywhere, so I'm working on talking to people on the bus.  The other guys in the apartment are Anziano Huessner in his 3rd transfer, and Anziano Thomas in his 9th transfer, from my district in Bologna.

IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. We had a conference yesterday, a Zone Training, so P-day got moved to today.  Again, though, as zone leaders we had to do all the preparing, and a 30-minute presentation.  So I got to work on my presenting, and group teaching skills.  I'm presenting to 20-30 people now instead of my district of 6, but it's the same idea.  I've had lots of public speaking opportunities as a missionary, as well as in the church (talks, skits, presentations...).  But I enjoy it.  And having a companion makes it easier.

We will be Skyping on Christmas Day, probably from a member's home, in the evening.  We're finalizing details on Sunday, so I'll let you know next week.  At least we don't have to make it fit around odd church times this year.

INFLUENCE OF CHILDREN. We're working with a 9-year-old boy who has a neat story.  His mom was less active, but when he turned 8, he wanted to be baptized.  So she started coming back, and now he'll be baptized in a few weeks.  So, happy ending.

I'm stoked to Skype in a week!  I got a package yesterday, which was nice.
 I haven't opened it yet, I'll wait for Christmas.  The manila envelope didn't get to me at mission conference, to I expect it to arrive this week and they'll bring it to me at our next mission conference, Jan. 4.

Love you!
Anz. Whitesell

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Video and Leaving So Soon?

SHORT STAY. Well, I have some surprising news today: the last 4 weeks in Como were my only 4 weeks in Como!  I'm doing a "One-and-Done," just one transfer here.  So I'm leaving tomorrow to go be a Zone Leader in Torino. (the number "5" on the map below. "Torino" is the traditional Italian spelling of the city. "Turin" is the westernized name.  This map combined the two, I guess...)
My new companion is Anziano Cortes.  I've heard he's also of South American descent and from New York, so I'm not really changing companions, just areas!  I'm looking forward to Torino, but it was more than a little disappointing to hear that I'm going away after just a month.
Lake Como (David DID take this picture)

We had a "miracle less active pass-by" last week...unexpectedly knocked on the door of a lady who used to come to church!  She is a Peruvian lady, getting ready to leave.  She invited us in anyway and we talked about the Christmas video "A Savior is Born."  She still loves the missionaries, but doesn't feel like coming back to church.

Sunday we talked with members, who I only somewhat knew after 3 other Sundays, and I had to just say, "Well, I'm leaving, I know this is part of the Lord's plan, the Book of Mormon is true!"  It's even weirder to leave so soon, since I've been in every other city I've been in, for 5-6 months.  A couple of members commented that missionaries don't seem to stay as long, since I'm leaving after 1 transfer, the last one got put in to the office after 2 months, and the one before him was here for 1 transfer.

FROM SOUTH TO NORTH.  A man stopped us at the bus stop and asked us if we were the missionaries.  Yes, that's us!  It turns out he took the lessons in Sicily and then moved up here to Como.  So hopefully, the next missionaries can teach him.  There are many Southern Italians who move up here to Northern Italy; we have several in our ward congregation here.

My companion and I are Zone Leaders, and we only do exchanges with District Leaders, but there are 5 district leaders in the zone.  Hence, 5 exchanges.  District leaders are supposed to do exchanges with each elder in their district, but a couple of these districts just have one companionship of elders and one of sisters.  So 2 from my DL and 4 from the other DLs, and that's 6 exchanges in a transfer.
"dedica" book

FRIENDS IN THE NEXT LIFE. Yes, I've run into a bunch of people I'd like to keep in contact with after the mission.  Mostly missionaries, but also some members.  I have a "dedica" (English: "dedication") book
where people can write down a little note when we're about to leave the area for somewhere else, and they usually leave Facebook and email information for after the mission.  But now that I'm getting "old" (further along in the mission), all the missionaries who were my senior companions have gone home.

Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Non-Holidays, Belated Birthdays and Heated Floors

HOLIDAY CELEBRATION OF SORTS.  Thanksgiving was this week!  So of course we American missionaries had to celebrate.  We didn't have a day off, but we went to Roadhouse for lunch, a burger place with burgers half-off on Thursdays.  Convenient, no?  So that was fun.  I got a huge burger.  Eat too much on Thanksgiving, right?  Everyone else ordered two burgers, but I may still have eaten just as much as they did.

(Note of explanation: usually transfers are every 6 weeks.  This time, however, the 6th week falls on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  So to make Christmas more peaceful, this month they are having a 4-week transfer, followed by an 8-week transfer.  As zone leader, David has to push all of his responsibilities into 4 weeks this time.)

Aaaaand, continuing this crazy 4-week transfer, we did another 3 companion exchanges (working with different missionaries, to train) in the last week.  The only day I was with my own companion all day was last Sunday.  We even did 2 in a row, back to back...both were with "greenies" (brand new missionaries), reminding me of the last transfer, when I was training.  (One's Italian was fine, even good considering he'd been out 8 weeks.  The other's was atrocious:( )  And for the 3rd scambio I went up to Switzerland :D

THE SWISS ADVANTAGE.  Everything works differently there.  It's much cleaner, and more organized. Back when Dad thought about moving the family to Switzerland,  (note from Mom: I do not remember this opportunity...) I thought it was a place where everyone spoke French, German, AND Italian.  No, it's divided into the Italian section, the French section, and the German section. People are very polite: I was buying bus tickets, and the machine ate my card.  So when the bus came, we asked the bus driver for help.  He called for assistance, and a guy showed up in 20 minutes to get my card back.  I've never received that level of service in Italy!  The missionaries there also have a very nice apartment.  Heated floors, a small backyard, and plenty of space.  I also saw their bunker -- everyone in Switzerland has a bunker -- two stories down.

At a member's house last Wednesday, we were talking about missionary work, and the son brought up some concerns about going on a mission.  So I pulled up President Hinckley's talk, "Of Missions, Temples, and Stewardship," and read the (appx) "25 Promises of going on a mission."  There was a wonderful spirit in the home as I testified of the truth of those promises, having seen some of them already fulfilled in me.

BIRTHDAY BOX MYSTERY SOLVED. And that package that didn't show up last week apparently simply got overlooked in the office after all.  I should get it in a couple of weeks.  Possibly today, since my district leader is going to pick up some other stuff.  I was talking to the office missionary when I called about something, and he said, "Oh, your mom emailed about that package.  Yeah, we just overlooked it and we'll get it to you when we can."

Transfer news is this Saturday, since it's a shortened 4-week transfer this time.  I don't expect to leave, but I'll let you know what happens.

Love you!  Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Roommates, Statuettes, and the Case of the Missing Birthday Box

EXCHANGES. This week was all over the place.  Normally transfers are every 6 weeks, but due to the normal transfer day falling on Christmas Day this coming month, they bumped it up 2 weeks this transfer.  So I have to do all the exchanges with other missionaries within about 3 weeks (instead of 6).

Varese...not David's photo. Internet image
I went to Varese with an Italian elder, and I exchanged with the District Leader here in Como -- thank goodness I could still sleep in my own bed!  He's in the same apartment with me and my companion.  And I have another 3 exchanges the next week, and 1 exchange the week after that.

As a Zone Leader, I either go to the other companionships' areas or they come to mine, and see how they do missionary work, or I show them how I do missionary work.  I'm supposed to set an example of missionary work in this zone, and encourage the other elders to be productive and spend their time wisely.

NEW ROOMMATES.  The other people in the apartment are fun.  My companion, Anziano Valencia, is Mexican-Columbian from New York.  He has been out about 22 months.  Anziano Pesci is a talkative guy who loves sports.  His ancestors are Italian.  Also, his sister married Dylan Shearer.  Small world, huh?  That was a weird surprise: "Yeah, Brother Shearer was my home teacher."  He's been out about 14 months.  And Anziano Barragan has Mexican roots and is from Arizona.  He's a convert of about 1.5 years now, so he's learning as much as he's teaching.  This is his 2nd month in Italy.

CHURCH MEETINGS IN COMO.  Here in Como there are 2 congregations, or "wards."  We have a building that used to be a cardinal's villa or something, so we're not allowed to remove the statuette of Maria out front (the Virgin Mary).  But it's a nice building, up on a hill.  I'm in the smaller ward, and there are usually about 70-80 people in church on Sundays.  The members are very willing to help, but we don't have many people to work with right now.  So we'll work with members when we can, and visit them to talk about the Christmas video, and working with their neighbors and friends in the Christmas spirit.

iPAD TRAINING.  We had a conference on Tuesday, where the Zone Leaders presented.  As Zone Leaders, we each led a 70-minute training session on using the iPads for "teaching" (the gospel) and "finding" (people interested in hearing about the gospel).  We focused on especially using the new Christmas video.  It wasn't so bad...just get the audience participating and you don't have to talk solid for 70 minutes, thank goodness!  It is strange being the presenter now.  I remember watching the Zone Leaders present, at each conference, and now I'm the one doing the presenting!  I also remember calling the Zone Leaders, to check in when I got home later than our appointed coming-home time.  Now, people call ME when THEY arrive home late!  It's a lot of fun, though.

NO BDAY PACKAGE.  Also, I did not get a birthday package at this conference.
 I'll ask the office if they happen to have it sitting around, but I don't know what might have happened to it.  Hopefully it was just left at the office in some confusion, because there have been so many conferences lately. (Note from Mom: I sent the box on October 10th. I just checked tracking and it was delivered to the Mission Home back on October 21st.  Really.  I sent it in time!!?!?!)

Have a good week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bikes, Buses and Crossing the Border

This week has been pretty wild.  It started right after I wrote the last email.

BIKE PROBLEMS. As we were writing, Liu's bike got stolen.  Straight up gone, with the helmet left on the ground.  So that put a damper on the day!  We fixed up another bike and were back to normal in a half hour...after walking back from the church.  ALWAYS LOCK UP YOUR BIKES!

Then I ran some errands and I packed, and all in all it was a hectic P-day.  But I'll miss that district.  That was one of my favorite districts I've had so far.

MINI-REUNION. The train ride to Milano was uneventful.  At transfer circles I saw several people from my MTC (Mission Training Center) district, from the VERY beginning. It was nice to see them: Friedbaum, Keller, and Russsell.  I also saw my companion from a few transfers ago, Fabiano, who is going home now.

MY NEW HOME.  Here, I've seen some of the paperwork that goes into mission work.  As a district leader, you do some paperwork, but as a Zone Leader, I keep track of 30 people in my zone.  It's been fun, though.  This is my first "bus city," so I don't have to worry about bike problems.  I'm living with 3 other elders, so that's been fun living with 4 of us again (I started out with a 4-person apartment, in Udine).  On P-days, you automatically hit critical mass for most activities, and there are shenanigans in the evenings.

SWITZERLAND.  Included in my zone are the areas of Varese, Busto Arsizio, Como, Lugano (Switzerland), and Milano.  I've been up to Lugano already, to give a baptismal interview to a lady up there.  It is beautiful.  During the train ride up, I just stared out the window the whole time.  They also have a Blue Fanta flavor that is pretty amazing.

Today we went to a Swiss chocolate factory, Schokoland.  They gave us some free samples, and I bought other stuff too.

It is good to be here.  Also, last Saturday (the first Saturday I was here), there was a baptism.  He is an African man named Wisdom.

Love you!
Anz. Whitesell

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Italian Sign Language and Motorcades

CHANGE IN ASSIGNMENT. There's a lot to do this week!  So I'm just sending a mass email.  Last week, we were expecting transfer calls, the upcoming Saturday.  Usually the President calls those who will be training new missionaries in the morning, and the Assistants call in the morning for those who will be first-time zone leaders.  I was expecting a morning call, assuming I'd be put in as a zone leader.  Nothing came, so then I expected a call from the zone leaders in the afternoon, simply telling me where my new area would be, and who my new companion would be.

Instead, I got a call from assistant Fabiano (my 2nd companion, so very long ago...he's excellent).  He said I'm going to be a zone leader in Como (by Lake Como), closer to Milano.  My new companion will be Anziano Valencia, who I think is in his last transfer.

LEARNING FROM A DEAF MAN. A service opportunity our district gets to do is learning LIS (Italian sign language) once a week for several weeks, then go "talk" to some deaf people at an activity.  We're learning LIS from a man who is nearly blind (he can sort of make out silhouettes) and completely deaf.  He types words on his computer, then shows us the motions for each word or object or idea.  It's really interesting.

CELEBRITY VISITOR. Also, the Pope came to town yesterday.  Many streets were shut down for his motorcade in the morning.  He held a morning mass at the Duomo.  Apparently it's the first time it's been free of Africans selling selfie sticks, or gypsies begging.  Then he held a 5:00 mass at Campo di Marte, and we had an appointment on the other side of it!  We rerouted past traffic, and on the way back the flood of people was like leaving Fenway Park after a game.  We biked behind a police car, so we made pretty good time.

The saddest part of leaving was saying goodbye to Henry and Julia.  We went to his house and he was there, plus Julia and his brother Anselmo.  It was sad to say goodbye, but I'll see him again when I come back.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has really helped that family.  They have so much more love in their house now.

I was packing up, looking through old letters, and I found an old MTC envelope.  Inside was my temple recommend, which I had misplaced a long time ago!  It is now safely in my wallet.

Vi voglio bene! (I love you!) Off to pick up my last group of ties, see a few more people, and run a couple of errands before leaving tomorrow.

Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Birthdays, Bikes, and Flossing

Well I started off the week with a scambio (exchange...where we switch companions for a day) with Elder Hansen.  Reminds me of when Anziano Liu was just starting off, only with a worse American accent.  But we had a good day!

FEAST OR FAMINE. We started off talking to a lady in the park who spoke six languages.  We also met with Henry, who fed us "lomo saltado," a Peruvian dish.  Then we met with a part-member family to talk about family mission plans, and talked about praying for "missionary opportunities:" when you can share your faith or testimony about the gospel with someone.  Another missionary activity for them could be to give a Plan of Salvation pamphlet to those who have had a birth or death in the family.

Then they fed us, too!  I can't seem to spread these things out...meal appointments always end up being double-booked, or not at all.
"Buon Compleanno Anziano Whitesell"

BUON COMPLEANNO A ME.  I had a birthday!  Yay, Me!  We had a lunch in church after meetings, so it was sort of like a birthday celebration by the whole congregation.  How kind of them!  Angela was at church on my birthday, so I got to talk to her.  She gave me M&M type candy.  From France.  She said Mom asked her to bake something, but she didn't have time...I hadn't seen her for awhile, though, so it was good to catch up.  A man from English class gave me a jar of honey.  It was good!

I got some letters from people stateside, which was nice!  And the Hydes (senior couple) said they found baby pictures of me on facebook :)  And at our District Meeting, I got a Halloween skeleton mask to wear.  I think THEY think I'm getting old.  I'll get my package from you at the Zone Conference around the 20th.

TWO-WHEELED CHALLENGES.  More bike problems.  Anziano Liu's (bike#1) bike chain started falling off on a regular basis -- every couple of pedals -- so we took it to the bike shop and used a spare (bike#2) that was condemned awhile back.  We found out why it had been condemned: the pedals take a few cranks to catch properly, and if you stop pedaling while the bike is moving, the pedals, after a few seconds, keep going forward.

We swapped that one for another bad one (bike#3) that another elder had left at the church, but it rubbed really bad against the back fork.  Meanwhile, the original bike (bike#1) got fixed, but mine (bike#4) got a flat.  So I traded it for the bad one (bike#2) now left at the church, rode it for a few days, tried to fix the flat (bike#4) but didn't have
superglue, and ended up swapping a wheel and tire lying around, onto (bike#3), so now I have (bike#3) in wonderful condition.

GOOD HABITS.  I will have you not worry: I have not lost weight!  Anziano Liu has lost 30 pounds, but I'm still the same.  I eat fine, cook for myself fine, and have plenty of physical activity, brush my teeth, floss (sometimes), eat vegetables, clean the'd be proud, I'm sure.

I'm down to one more P-day in Firenze.  Have a wonderful week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Holidays, Belts, and Fingerprints

It's raining pretty hard right now, but fortunately I have waterproof gear.  I mean, this isn't particularly intimidating after Udine right next to the rainiest city in Italy or after the tornado.  But it's still not optimal.

Pistoia duomo piazza

I hit my 16-month mark last week, my birthday this week, Halloween, and Christmas fairly soon!  All sorts of good things this time of year.
another artistic street sign

SEARCHING. We got a new ward (congregation) list, so we've taken the opportunity to do less-active pass-bys.  These are visits to those who have not been to church in awhile, to see how things are going for them, and in some cases, to make sure they still live there.  Not much success has come of it.  We had a woman yell at us and tell us the man we were looking for was dead.  Another man lived in the apartment complex we visited, but only one other person there knew him, and only knew he lived on the 2nd or 3rd floor.  And for a couple of names, there was no trace of them!

BATMAN RETURNS. I feel like the police: two guys with tags show up.
"Do you know this individual?"
"We know she's in the apartment building."
Batman: "Where is it?  Wheeeeeere is it?"

(Side note from Mom: okay for those not familiar with the Batman movies...Bruce Wayne/Batman has some serious anger management issues going on in those scenes.  For the Record: Missionaries do NOT beat people up to get information!?!?!)

WARDROBE ADVICE. I was told my pants were too loose by a member who used to work at Men's Wearhouse.
"Have you lost some weight, Elder?'
No, it hasn't changed in awhile.
"Then you bought your pants too big, they shouldn't bunch up like that with the belt."
"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "If you worked at Men's Wearhouse, when was the last time you saw a pair of 30-waist/34-length pants??"
sushi with me, Liu, Random Guy, Cunningham, Hansen

BATTLE OF THE RED TAPE. Aaaannnd...more shenanigans at the Questura (police headquarters).  We missed the original appointment to start Anziano Liu's Permesso process, so we came back the next day and they said come back on THIS date.  So we did, and took fingerprints, and thought that was it.  Then we get a call from the office saying we missed the culture and integration class, which apparently was scheduled for the day we took fingerprints.  We had no idea.  So we went back to the Questura, waited in line for an hour and a half.  We didn't want to miss district meeting, so we up and left, to try again later.  The Questura is a miserable place.

When our family comes to Firenze on our Italy trip next summer, be sure to plan a Sunday in Firenze.  Half the ward is Peruvian, and I'm sure some of them would enjoy speaking Spanish with you.  Several Peruvians, an Ecuadorian family, a Mexican family, and a Cuban.

Love you,
Anziano Whitesell

P.S. (written after 1st note, after he received his mom's email)  Thanks for the note.  I'm uploading some pics right now.  I got the music, thanks! I'm not supposed to "chat," or back-and-forth email, but I would like to add to your thought of the Celestial Room in the temple being your favorite room of all, because it's so peaceful.

My favorite room of all is that room in the Visitor's Center, Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where you go up the spiral ramp to the statue of Christ in the middle.  There is a backdrop of space: stars and planets.  It's a peaceful, beautiful place.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Free Museum Entrance, Free Lunch

VISITING A NEW TOWN.  Well, today we went to Pistoia.  Quite frankly, it made me count my blessings of being in Firenze and having Anziano Liu as my companion.  Pistoia reminded me of Ferrara in size and level of being interesting.  They had standard small town sites -- a duomo, a market, some parks, a castle, and some small museums.  Maybe I've just gotten picky after 5 months in Florence, with 2 companions for 2 transfers each.  I'm so lucky to be here!

We went to a museum that gave us free entry as students.  But it was disappointing -- the subjects were poorly done sculptures and sketches of horses and female nudes.  Very glad I didn't pay money for it.  At least it gets us a discount on other museums, some of which are in Florence.

PRACTICE WRITING ITALIAN. Padre mi ha chiesto di scrivere un po' in Italiano, quindi faccio quello adesso.  A un po' dificile perche l'Autocorrect non vuole ch'io scrivo in un'altra lingua, ma se vado pia lentamente, posso evitare quelle correzioni.  Ho sentito di un museo di Galileo, quindi penso di andarci la settimana prossima o quella dopo.  Oppure potremmo andare a Vinci, la citt dov nato Leonardo.  Si trova abbastanza vicino a Firenze.

(Translation for the above paragraph: Dad asked me to write a little in Italian, so I'll do that now.  It's kind of hard because the "autocorrect" doesn't want me to write in another language.  But if I go more slowly, I can avoid those corrections.  I heard about a museum of Galileo, so I think we'll go there next week or the week after.  Or we could go to Vinci, the city where Leonardo was born.  It is close enough to Florence.)

We met with Henry as usual last week, but today we're having a Family Home Evening (FHE) with another family and his family. That's when members of the family get together weekly for a spiritual thought or gospel lesson, or just having fun together building relationships together.  We're trying to get Henry better-integrated into the congregation ("ward").  Because as much as we love him, he has to be a part of the ward group, not just the missionaries'.

VARIED RESPONSIBILITIES. Yes, being a district leader is fun -- I feel connected to my district, especially since we 6 are all in Firenze.  Earlier in my mission I wanted to be a District Leader (DL) and also train somebody new.  And now, here I am doing both!  The way things flow in this particular mission, I might become a Zone Leader eventually, but I could also go to the office instead. That would be an interesting change in the type of work I'd be doing.  I'll know if I'm going to the office by next week.  Any other changes I'll know by November 7th.

FREE LUNCH. Here is a nice thing that happened to us: We had a baptism planned at exactly the same time as a stake youth activity.  We still had a good showing of support, thankfully.  It was the other Elders' baptism; the people getting baptized were Austin and Ike, who are Nigerians.  Some of the church leaders said, "Hey missionaries, we have these frozen pizzas left over.  You can take them!"  So we had pizza for a district meeting lunch on Monday.

(Side note from Mom: David asked for the music from the CD "From Cumorah's Hill" for his birthday, so I uploaded that whole CD's music to an internet site:  He can go to that site and retrieve the music.  That's the same site where he usually uploads his PHOTOS, for ME to retrieve them.)

Ah, I see you want to trade: "From Cumorah's Hill" music, for pictures! Clever :D ha.  I'll get over to the church and upload those.  It'll be next week, since I'm on a train right now.

Vi voglio bene!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Puzzles, Chains and Finding Your Inner Baker

POWER PRESENTATIONS. We had an interesting activity for our district (6 missionaries in the same area).  We "blitzed" the Ward Council Meeting!  Ward Council is when leaders of the congregation meet to discuss the needs and concerns of the congregation.  All 6 of us missionaries (with the Bishop's permission of course) showed up to the Ward Council meeting and presented a few possible ways to help the church members...

1) Getting "Meet the Mormons" (an American-made documentary) shown in Italian.  Our mission got the go-ahead to do that.

2) Getting more ward (congregation) unity by having activities together.  Right now there is a divide between the Peruvians and the Italians.  This is in the interest of fellowshipping new converts better.  And

3) Dedicating some time for the church members to learn from the Preach My Gospel manual (that's the manual we, the missionaries, use primarily in our teaching: "PMG").  We could do that either by teaching some from it during our monthly Fast and Testimony day, or we could have an ongoing PMG class.  We could ask 5-6 families to attend for 6 weeks at a time, and explain how the lessons work, during the Sunday School block of time.

view from Pitti Palace
These were some of our good ideas, well presented, that hopefully will get implemented after the Bishop confers with his counselors about them.  We're getting a fire started in Firenze!

TEACHING TOOLS.  One thing we are encouraged to do is to make "scripture chains:" a series of scriptures on a certain topic. One scripture chain I have is about light. I have used it for member visits, to help them think about the scriptures and how they apply to us individually.  I have probably over-used this one, so it's time to put another one together, but here it is for you.

Genesis 1:3-4
John 12:35
Matthew 5:14-16
Proverbs 20:27
Doctrine & Covenants 50:24 That book is additional scripture that we use, with the Bible and Book of Mormon.  If you don't have one, here's a link to the scripture from for this scripture chain.  And, I'll just include it:

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."

I like the progression from light, to us, to our spirits, to a perfect light.

P-DAY PUZZLES. My activity today for P-Day was called Fox in a Box.  It was a puzzle escape-room challenge.  It was a lot of fun, but more people would have helped.  I had in mind that all 6 of us missionaries would do it together, but they fizzled with the broke-college-student mentality.  So just my companion and I did the puzzles.  There were some good puzzles.  We didn't finish in the allotted hour, but with all 6 of us we totally would have finished. (When you come to Firenze, keep that one in mind as a fun activity that our family could do.)

Next p-day, I'm planning the trip to Pistoia (just 25 miles away, still in our zone). Mom you mentioned the zoo, and the underground tunnels near the hospital.

HIDDEN TALENTS.  I keep finding out more about my Inner Baker!  I'm collecting a lot of recipes now, and experimenting a bit.  I tried Rice Krispee treats, but they only had chocolate Rice Krispees, and marshmallows are really hard to find.

I also picked up a wonderful tiramisu recipe, and one for apple turnovers.  Only problem is ingredients, although I have been tipped off about a place to buy vanilla...#winning!

I think the box you sent should get to me in early November...maybe it would be better to get it after I've moved to the next city, so I don't have to try to fit the contents into a suitcase! Ha.

Also, when I do end up getting transferred, please update my address when I leave.  For the past 4 months, we've been getting the mail from one missionary's mother...and he hasn't lived in this apartment for 1.4 years.  Let's avoid that.

CLOTHES. You asked if my shoes were holding out.  I bought some Italian shoes in July, since the ones I brought with me wore through.  Not so much in the heels or soles so much, but the tops were nasty and shredded.  My other clothes are fine.  Maybe I can get another pair of  pants or 2, but that can wait until Saldi (a sale) :)

IMPROVING ITALIAN.  For Language Study, I read the Book of Mormon out loud in Italian, translate English articles into Italian, use the verb book and the dictionary to find new words, or read conference talks in Italian.

WHAT MAKES A STELLAR MISSIONARY?  There's a file being passed around between missionaries about a really admirable missionary named Elder Ricciardi, from 21 years ago.  It's called the "Ricciardi Letter."  His admirable quality is lack of fear, and his willingness to bear testimony to everyone he encounters.  This elder 21 years ago set an inspiring example of letting our faith outshine our fears.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Conference, Parks, Haggling

CONFERENCE WEEKEND.  As for your questions: General Conference was good.  We watched a session live Saturday evening, then 3 sessions the next day.  We were at the church for about 9 hours, to beat last week's 7 hours!  I do like the new Apostles, even if I wasn't expecting any of them.  I do remember a couple of talks, but I'd have to look at my notes to remember them better.  Someone recommended that I read President Uchtdorf's talk from the Relief Society session, and it was really good.

TEACHING.  Well, this week has, as always, been an eventful one.  We met with a man names Pier Paulo for the second time yesterday.  I found him 2 months ago with Elder Jensen on exchange.  Then he left for a month on vacation.  Now he's back, and has allowed us to present our message.

The first meeting, strangely enough, was also on exchange -- with two elders he had never seen before.  But they taught him about the Restoration and showed him "Mountains to Climb," (church video) which made him cry and feel the Holy Spirit.  And promptly get defensive, saying, "Look at all these things I'm doing with the Catholic Church."  But still, he's asked us to come back twice since then.  Still encouraging him to pray about Joseph Smith, being like the lamp salesman rather than the bee swatter.

BEAUTIFUL GARDENS. Most of our finding-people-work comes from street contacting or park finding, but after endless rounds of the same two parks (which my last companions had done too...), we decided to make the "finding" time blocks less repetitive.  We found other green ares on the map and visited them, in the hopes that one of them might be a suitable park for us to visit regularly.  We found one really nice garden area close to us, and one further away, where we could go in between lessons, or if we were just in that area.  And we started doing some house-to-house finding, starting close to us.  That way if someone lets us in, it's not a huge journey to go back for each lesson.

SOME STAY THE SAME. Transfer Day was a bit weird, since for many it involves a change of everything: area, companion, level of responsibility, but for us this time, nothing was different.  (I am still training Elder Liu. Both of us stayed here with the same companion, each other.)  So there were goodbyes for the other companionships, sleepover arrangements for the other Anziani who had to get to Milano early to pick up greenies, and yet we planned a normal day.

But we still got pulled into it, babysitting one of the Zone Leaders while he waited for his companion.
We stayed at the train station to make sure people got through, got to their trains, etc., then went to the market.  Anziano Vasquez (Zone Leader) wanted a leather jacket, but they were either too pricey or not good quality.  Makes sense, but sometimes you can get both good things.

HAGGLING. Dad, I'm sure you would like the market/Duomo for haggling with vendors and getting more-or-less deals.  There are a bunch of salesmen (who close up shop really quickly when the police roll by) who sell 3-foot-by-2-foot prints of various scenes of Italy, landscapes, or points of interest.  We showed interest on accident once, and he started following us.

"30? These good pictures."
"No, too much."
"20?" We start walking away, but Liu is new and guiltily says, "Sorry, we can't."
"I give you for 10. Good price, good price."
"No, we're not interested." But Liu is clearly wavering.  The guy got up, rolled up a print that Liu had pointed to and followed us about 30 feet.
"fine, fine, I give you for 5."  Liu looks at him, thinks for a moment, then decides "No, not today."
So clearly, haggling is easier with some people than with others.

TWO DECADES.  I haven't thought too much about my birthday (coming up on Nov 1st), though it's pretty weird to think that I'm already about to turn 20.  Teresa thought it was weird, that she'd be 18 and I'd be 20 next month.  Just shows how time moves along, I suppose.  You asked about a birthday box, and I really don't know what I would want in it.  Not things, because I have enough things in my suitcase already, and I've been out 15 months...I don't think I'm missing anything.  So that leaves food, and maybe a small photo album of friends and family, tho that would be just as good if you emailed me a bunch of pictures (I can put them in a folder on the iPad).

Don't worry about me, I'm doing great! :D
Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Transfers, Visits, and a Long, Long Day

Well, some interesting happenings this week!  It's the week of transfer calls and transfer information, so there were a loooooot of speculation calls: "Have you heard anything yet?" and quite possibly betting, by some of the more apostate missionaries. (joke :) )

TRANSFERS. But we got the news, and no surprise for me: I'm staying another transfer in Firenze.  Another six weeks of fun times and teaching and good things!  So I'll take Mom's letter and try out Montevarchi or Pistoia (on Pdays) this transfer.  Those towns are still in our zone, so we can visit them on Pdays.  Although, since we have to stay in our zone, Firenze is by far the best city in the area to go for Pday, so I lucked out there.

One elder in my district is training, and one sister is leaving.  She'll be replaced by Sorella Hogan, who was in my district in Bologna for a transfer. It will be nice to have her in my district again.

PAPERWORK.  I picked up my permesso ("permission") after more nonsense at the questura ("police headquarters").  I had to get a certain sheet of paper they had given me, which I had forgotten to bring, although fortunately I kept it with my 'stack of permesso papers.'  So now I'm legal until 8 June 2016, which is when my ministerial certificate expires.

We've visited some members to work on family mission plans.  In our mission it's not allowed to just visit a member for dinner, share a spiritual thought and ask for referrals.  No dinner appointments unless there is an investigator (someone taking gospel lessons) or new convert present.  Fortunately, Henry and Julia love having us over, or we wouldn't get fed by members...I love that family, and not just for the food!

SCAMBIO. I did three companion exchanges (where we go teach with a different missionary than our companion: "Scambio" in Italian) in the past two weeks.  It was nice to get back to normal, having my greenie around, normal training and missionary work.  Although during one Scambio, other missionaries met with a man I found 2 months ago (on a different scambio), and got his phone number before he left on vacation.  And they had a good lesson with him, so that was nice to hear about.

FAMILY TIME. We met with a Nigerian man on Scambio (exchange) who lived in my regular area, so we met with him the next day once we switched back to our own companions.  We had an address, so we walk along and from the street we see "'s-a-lot-of-Africans-at-that-house-up-ahead ...43...45...47...oh-that's-the-address-we're-going-to.  We stop, look at them.  They (6 men) look at us.  "Is there a Chuks here?"
"Yes, he's inside."
"We came to meet with him. He told us to stop by."
"We will get him. Who are you?"
"Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ."
"Oh, most of us are Muslim."
"Oh. Well, Chuks said to meet with him."
'Chuks' comes out.  I've never seen him before.  They invite us in, we sit down, they pull up chairs.
"Who told you to come here again?"
"This is Chuks. He says he's never seen you before." (They are speaking pidgin amongst themselves and English to us.  There are 6 Africans around the room, and we 2 missionaries.)
"Well, the man said his name was Chuks, and to come here."
"Call him again, then.  We will see who it is."

We call, and after a few rings, he picks up.  We talk for a moment, and I put him on speaker.  One African man motions for the others to be quiet.  They listen to the voice and one says, "Oh, it's Papa J! He says he's coming shortly."  After a few more minutes, he arrives.  We teach a nice gospel lesson, with a bit of Praise-Jesus-Hallelujah Baptist preaching in there. And we leave.

LONG DAY. One more story, less elaborate. We go to church.  Church is the normal 3 hours.  After church is a lunch, because an ExPat family living in Italy for awhile, is having a baptism for their 8-year-old.  Big to-do.  They have a lunch, but hadn't planned on half the ward showing up.  But they do, and everyone is worried that the food will run out.  Somehow like the loaves and the fishes, if not 7 baskets left over!
 That finishes, behind schedule, taking another 2 hours.  Then the baptism service, where both speakers decide they'll make up for not having been invited to speak at General Conference by subjecting the attendees to 20-minute lessons on Baptism and the Holy Ghost.  Then the service. Then the confirmation. Then a group picture.  And we finally leave, around 4:45. We got there at 9 in the morning!  There were some ruffled feathers, let me tell you...

Angela invited her roommate to church, which was neat, but probably scared her off as the first time she ever came, it took SEVEN HOURS.

Ok, that's enough for today.  Have a great week!
This is our last District picture, before the transfer.
**The number of chairs we're sitting in, is what transfer we're in! (You can CLICK on this photo to make it BIGGER.)
I have just finished 10 transfers, so I sit on 10 chairs.
I am still training Anziano Liu, who sits on just 1 chair.
Left to Right: Bastian is staying, Cunningham is training, Liu, Whitesell, Skinner to Pisa, Jensen to Ancona.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bargains and Undercover Policemen

TIE MARKET. In the Firenze market, there are many merchants.  We have 2 guys we go to for ties: "Tie Guy" who has historically given the missionaries a 5-for-10 deal, though a year ago that went down to 4-for-10.  the usual price is 1-for-4, or 3-for-10.  Then there's "New Tie Guy" who didn't give us the deal, but has a better selection.  So we have frequented his store much more of late ('we' being the Anziani of the Firenze Zone).  But one of our missionaries talked the "New Tie Guy" into giving us the 4-for-10 deal.  So now we have 2 Tie Guys.

Anyway, funny experiences with tags: we talked to a guy on a park bench -- an Irishman -- who recognized us as Mormons.  I say I'm from Boston, and he starts talking about the Patriots, not wanting to talk about God.  I try to change the topic, but he's pretty insistent on not talking about God.  Teaching in English is weird...I'm used to the phrases and words in Italian.

UNINTENTIONAL INTIMIDATION. Also, people keep thinking we're police.  We get on buses, and people who look sketchy (probably don't have tickets) get off quickly.  Or we walk around talking to foreigners who don't speak Italian or English (Chinese and African people) and they'll take out their passports and show us.  Or one couple asked us if there was something wrong when we approached them.  Oh, well.
passport please?
We had to drop an investigator (person learning about the gospel and church) of almost 2 years, because he wasn't focused on baptism.  It was weird...he stopped smoking, drinking, and drinking coffee (the idea being to take care of and respect your body, and avoid addictive substances).  He was also willing to obey the law of chastity (no sexual relations outside of marriage), and pay tithing (10 per cent of your increase to the Lord).  But it felt like he was mostly doing it for the missionaries, rather than because of a testimony of gospel principles.  So with his motives in question, we are leaving him for awhile.

We're trying to get more member work going. That's the focus the high councilman gave us.  So we'll work on that this month.  Training is going well.  I can't believe it's been a transfer already.

SEASON CHANGE. It is definitely fall: the weather is crisp in the mornings, and it's getting darker WAAAYYY too early.  Daylight savings can't come soon enough.  And at General Conference next weekend, our schedule switches back to regular schedule -- waking up at 6:30 and going to bed at 10:30.  I like that schedule better.

GRATITUDE. I'm thankful for the routine parts of the week -- District Meeting, Pday, church.  Every week I think "Wow, it's {insert activity} again!"  It's surreal.  I did an exchange with a "dying missionary" -- he goes home in 9 days.  It was weird being with him, since he's so close to going home, all excited.  Then he says I'm not all that far away from that, which doesn't help.

Have a great fall, and get psyched for General Conference!  Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Knuckle Cracking and Making Our Mothers Proud

Hello again!

TEACHING GOALS.  Another week has passed, believe it or not.  So in trying to hit our 21-lesson goal for last week, we got up to 14 lessons.  Which was much better than the lesson counts I've gotten over the last several weeks, so I was excited about that!  And that was with 8 lessons being cancelled on us (In Italian, "bidone" means trash can.  Missionaries say we got bidone if we show up but the interested party does not.  8 no-shows.  Boooo!)

But as a missionary, the culmination of your week is Sunday at church, where you see if the people you are working with have come to church, where you set up "encounters" with church members, and make everyone feel welcome.  So in spite of our many lessons, nobody came to church, which was disappointing.  But there is always this week.  I am proud of our work last week.  Now the challenge is to keep it up.

BEHIND THE SCENES. I'm always amazed at how much background work goes on in the church.  Sacrament preparation is one obvious aspect of that, but also missionaries getting people to church, ward council, correlation meeting, and that's just misisonary meetings.  Also, these background preparations are only obvious when they DON'T work right.  On Gospel Library we can download Handbook 2: Administering the Church.  I've skimmed through that just to see some of the guidelines of the church (not quite as intently as I have read the Dungeons & Dragons, or Magic rule books...).  It's pretty in-depth.  Then there's Handbook 1, which is private to Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc., which would cover those issues that the rest of us don't have to worry about.

SPIC AND SPAN.  We had apartment inspections today, which in theory happen once a quarter, checking for cleanliness and to see if we are missing items.  I have been inspected 3 times now, so it's not very regular.  Anyway the senior couple said, "Your mothers would be proud."  So you can be proud of your missionary son's cleanliness!  The only things noted were: 2 beds were missing slats, a couple of broken chairs (cheap plastic ones), and we need to clean off the grease from above the stove.  We're pretty on top of our cleaning once a week.

I bet that's harder at home now, with only Kara around to help clean.  In a few years you can move to your dream house in warm Arizona and not bother with renovations and large houses anymore.  How does that sound! :P  (Side note from Mom: When Frank and I think of a "dream house" in a "dream location," we are at a loss.  Thus far, we have no plans whatsoever for our "empty nest" in 3 years.)

TECHNOLOGY. OR NOT. Congrazzles on having smart phones.  I have a flip phone, with 10-digit texting.  It's inconvenient.
 And, I have never had an Instagram, so I don't know what that's like.  But I'm sure it's nice to keep up with TK and Kara.  Dad has always beat me in technology know-how, but right now I'm especially far behind!  I hear facebook is dying down, but I don't know.  It's very strange.

Pday today is stopping by a couple of Nerd Shops I heard about, to be in a familiar atmosphere.  We went to the Medici Castle last week, which was pretty neat.  I liked it better than the Uffizi, since it wasn't all Madonne and repetitive.  It took about 2 hours at my (slower) museum speed.  Unfortunately on Pdays, we can't leave the zone.  So although Pisa and Cinque Terre and Modena and Siena are close, we don't go there.  We can go to basically Prato, Pistoia, Firenze, and Montevarchi.  And the areas just around them.  We can't even do San Gimignano (beautiful town by Florence) because it's in the next zone.  So if you see something I can do in those cities, let me know.

ANNOYING HABITS.  You'll be pleased to know I don't crack my knuckles anymore.  Or my neck.  Knees sometimes (I'll join Dad's club).  All of those are ongoing projects, but very much improved.

We have a bunch of youth at English class who said they'll come to church, so we'll see how that goes.  I would be stoked to teach them the gospel, but they could also simply want to do English class.  Vediamo (we'll see).

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Angels, White Shirts and Liquorice Fudge

(Side note from Mom: Angela, our "adopted daughter," is our good, good family friend.  She graduated from Wayland High School the same year as David, then her parents moved back to Taiwan.  She is studying abroad for her junior year of college, in...Florence!  She is actually in the same congregation David is assigned to as a missionary right now, at least until he gets transferred.  She says, "I keep telling people that I picked Florence long before David got his mission call..."  She arrived in Florence about 10 days ago, but sick.  That's background for David's first story.)

Each week I jot down a few notes of things I want to send to people in emails, and this week was about being forced to change, or rather, growing through pressure.

COMMUNICATION MISSES.  So the week started out with an email from Angela, saying how she is sick and needs a blessing. I think ok, and I email back thinking it's just a minor cough or something, not to worry.  Late on Pday I get another email: it's bronchitis and she's had it for a week, and needs help sooner rather than later.  So communication being lame, since I have a dumbphone and no address for her, and I'm gone all day to a conference, I can only contact one of the youth in the ward with a smartphone, and get him to contact her to get me her phone number.  Apparently that was the wrong number, then later we contact her with the right number, and she says that through she has contacted the other missionaries and got one of them to give her a blessing.

So I was left feeling defeated--I'm glad it was solved, but I felt kind of useless.  It was a silly situation, making me feel like there was some obvious thing I missed (Google "xkcd: have you tried knocking; Dad, you'll feel this applies to you sometimes...)

In any case, Angela is good...we saw each other at church.  Her voice is raspy but she's alive.  And, I got the church magazines you sent with her, thanks!  Also the lemonade story letter.

STEP IT UP.  At the new missionary training, they focused on what President Kearon had said -- attacking the day, planning ahead, as well as general mission life in Italy: rules, budgeting, etc.  The invite was to get a 21-lesson week this week.  We've been averaging about 10 lessons a week, so that would really be stepping it up.

So I made a lot of calls, had things planned out before-hand, and am learning useful skills now that I have to work at a higher level.  Because what President Dibbs said made me think: I haven't changed much in Firenze so far.  I need to step it up to grow this area.

This has led to more calls, using finding time more productively, calling members ahead for lessons, and a few things I've struggled with.  Those include calling outside my comfort zone (other than the members I'm used to calling), calling in advance rather than procrastinating until the day before, and not holding off on calls until I know more or have called some other person who's not picking up.  So progress through change (a conference talk from awhile ago) is good for you.

RANDOM FOOD ITEM.  After I finish the list at the grocery store, and I want something different, I look around...this time I got Liquorice Fudge.  English liquorice may have alcohol, as opposed to licorice, which is fine, but I checked the ingredients and this fudge was fine.  I got it, and it's delicious.  And there was much rejoicing. :)

Mom, to answer your questions:
BIKE REPORT.  The bike is fine.  I actually gave it to my companion Anziano Liu, since he's a bigger guy and that's the sturdy bike.  My current bike is sketchy.  It looks classic and is very basic, no gears...and only one brake.  The other snapped.  I need to get that fixed sometime.

ITALIAN FOOD I LIKE.  Italian tortellini/ravioli is good.  Lazagna is good.  I think Italian food is just whatever an Italian makes...much of the food here is "Italian."  Panino is just a grilled sandwich.

My personal study has focused on increasing my scriptural awareness, with scriptures on various topics being easier to reference, like Families, Faith, Prayer, etc.  I'm also reading the New Testament.

BAPTISM.  Also, Henry baptized Julia, it was great!  A lot of Peruvians showed up to the baptism and we had a party.  It was neat to watch him (the ordinance was in Spanish) since he practiced a bunch beforehand.  He was concerned about getting it right. :D

ANGELS IN WHITE SHIRTS.  And Mom, we fixed an old couple's tire.  We were biking past, and see them on the side of the road.  We pull over and ask if they need help, though it's obvious the tire is flat.  They accept, and we do it in about 10 minutes (5, once we find the wrench and tire jack), white shirts and all.  They are very grateful, and as we fix the tire they are talking on the phone. Their friend was looking for a mechanic for them, but they told him, "Two angels stopped, and they're fixing the tire right now."  So thanks for teaching me how to fix a flat!

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Good Habits, Gratitude and Overcoming Obstacles

LEARNING TO TRAIN. Trainers work with "greenies" (brand-new missionaries) for 2 transfers, so 3 months.  It's a little weird, now that I'm older than my companions age-wise and more relatively.  I'm in my 10th transfer, and then the others in my district are 8, 5, 3, 2, 1.  But I'll confer what wisdom I have on "my greenie!"

Anziano Kormylo was very outgoing, a Type-A personality, so even though I was more experienced, we talked about the same amount.  Now, with Anziano Liu, I'm the outgoing one, besides knowing the language better, so I'm the one prompting him to talk.  We also do role plays so he can learn more, and I encourage him to teach in lessons.

For example, yesterday we found a name in the area book (record of people contacts in the area over time).  We set up an appointment and met him at the church, and he seemed legit.  Not wanting to mess up this first encounter, I had to fight the urge to teach the whole lesson myself, and skip the 10 points and baptismal invite, so as to avoid scaring him away.  But I resisted, and let Anziano Liu teach his parts as planned, switching off, refraining from correcting everything although I did re-explain some pieces.  It went well!  It was a testimony-builder for me, of teaching as a companionship and using the inspired Preach My Gospel (teaching manual).

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.  We met with a Muslim man a couple of days ago.  Obviously you have to be careful when you teach Muslims, because A) they tend to be pretty "set" in their beliefs, and B) if they were to convert to Christianity, it could be very dangerous for them.  But we met with this one, who was referred to us by the sister missionaries, and we talked.  We gave him a Book of Mormon, and ... he gave us a Quran.  Whaaat? Yep, the whole thing is in Italian, and "Interpretation of the Last 10th of the Quran" in English.  It's just a novelty to have, like a Jehovah's Witness Bible, or a Scientology book, like collectibles.  Silly missionaries.  But it was a surprise to receive his gift!

SIDE NOTE: We usually use the word "investigator" to describe someone who is investigating the church and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ. They're just not baptized yet.  We had a conference recently, and the speaker brought up how strange a word "investigator" is!  Instead, I'll use the French method, of calling them "friends."

OVECOMING OBSTACLES. One of our friends we're working with is from Albania.  He went back there for 2 weeks, and while he was there he stopped smoking.  I don't remember if I told you about him already, but he's worth mentioning again.  Having overcome that obstacle (, that's a Big Deal), he wants to be baptized.  We're planning on the 26th.  That is an exciting development!

Julia's baptism is this Saturday.  Looking forward to that.

TRAINING for ALL. At the conference, our focuses were Planning (deciding how best to use each day), and Attacking the Day, by exercising, breakfasting, being up on time, being to studies and out the door on time.  Along the lines of that Marine's talk about making your bed. It was inspiring.  And, I saw some missionary friends from these 14 months, and it was a good time.

My best time of the day is whenever things are planned.  Other than "finding" activities (looking for people who are interested in learning about our Savior) or phone calls, that is.  I can "find" just fine, and in spite of bad habits (wandering sometimes instead of finding), it is a time-filling activity, if not particularly engaging.  So, having Ward Council (a meeting discussing the needs in the congregation and how we can help meet those needs), or teaching lessons, or teaching English class...all of those activities are nice parts of my day.

BEING THANKFUL.  I'm grateful that I can speak the language. And that I have cool people in the district, and cool zone leaders.

ADVICE FOR NEW MISSIONARIES. I would tell new missionaries to be prepared to talk to a loooooooooooot of people.

Love you, you guys are amazing,
Anziano Whitesell

P.S. Let me tell you about Saldi.  It's Sale Month, twice a year in July and February.  Prices are slashed all around, and missionaries go to town!  Shoes, suits, ties, jackets: SALDI.  So the nice suit I got? 100Euros.  I didn't feel the need to get Boggi, even if they dropped their prices to 600Euros. Not impressed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Companion, Training

new companion: fresh perspective!
TRAINING.  Well, I have a new companion: a greenie (new missionary) named Anziano Liu.  He's a gentle giant, very polite and not wanting to disturb or bother people, and a big guy.  He attended a year at Utah Valley University before coming here.
Anziano Whitesell with the Duomo off in the distance

The thing I'm noticing, working with/training a brand-new missionary, is how many things I just take for granted -- having a companion who knows how to cook, what we do on P-days, knowing the systems of the mission for asking for reimbursements for travel, how to do email, even teaching basic Italian Restoration lessons.  It's taught me a lot about how much I've grown, though I'm pretty sure I had a better hang of it when I first came on my mission (one can always hope).

after the tornado went through
In any case, I'm working a bit more than I've had to in the past, explaining this or that, and initiating conversations, teaching lessons, etc.

tornado debris
NEW CHURCH MEMBERS. Henry received the Aaronic Priesthood last Sunday, which was neat.  He actually asked me to do it, which is neat on the one hand since they treat us like family (tears were shed when Anziano Kormylo left).  But it means I'll have to work to get him more integrated with the rest of the ward (congregation), since as much of an honor as it would be for me to do things like baptisms or ordinations, it should be someone from the congregation, who will be here after I leave.  So, I'll work on that too.

LEARNING.  Julia is on track for a baptism the 5th of September.  We are excited about that, and getting the family ready.  The brother has sat in on several lessons, and while we are not yet sitting down with him and giving him the lessons personally, that will come shortly.

FRESH PERSPECTIVE.  I have seen some nice things come from the last week.  When someone is being trained, people may comment that they have "Greenie Fire." That is their idealism, and eagerness to talk to everyone, spread the good word, and be involved in things.  Their energy and excitement has not been dampened by anything!

MEXICO MEMORIES.  So in the rush to 'talk to everybody,' we ran into some neat people.  Cristina is a lady who lived in Mexico 20 years ago.  She is Mexican, but speaks Italian fluently.  She already read the Book of Mormon, because a friend invited her to do that when she was a teenager.  Also, she recognized the ASF (American School Foundation: the school we attended when we lived in Mexico City), when I said I had attended a private American school there.  I guess there aren't that many...

We also met __________, a weird guy (think 'crypto nut') who we ran into, and before we could say anything, he told us to read a verse from the a book that wasn't actually included in the Bible.  Since I was carrying the Bible, I took it out and he couldn't find it.  But he had me write it down and said I needed to read it.  Then he left, muttering about the number 7.  Then we ran into him again in the grocery store.  He was still wearing shades.  As I was looking at detergents, he says behind me, "Si, quello va bene." ("Yes, that is fine.")

Tes and Savio are a Filipino couple who knew a member of the church and had taken lessons from the sisters in the past.

Life goes on.  It's the 25th today!  It's another month-mark of being away.  Time just ticks away so fast.  I finished uploading pictures to Box.  There's one in there of my scrape, from the bicycle wipe-out.
bike mishap eeeewwww

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell
Oh, P.S. Teresa found where I'M ON THE NEWS: google "Firenze lo Pulisco Perche" and it's the first result.  Here's the link.