Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Old Friends, Movie, Receiving Packages

(**Side note from Mom: he took a LOT of pictures of the museum and the Chocolate Expo, which he talks about in the previous post.  I'll just include some more of those photos in THIS post, even though he doesn't talk about them here.)


This week was a pretty good week; on Friday we had Zone Conference (with just missionaries and mission leaders).  On Saturday and Sunday we had Stake Conference (with multiple congregations from around the area, plus missionaries).  The Venezia-Mestre Stake is made up of (mission-wise) the Bologna zone and the Mestre zone.

OLD FRIENDS. During Stake Conference, I had a nice surprise when I ran into Ann Sykes and Bettina, from my last area, and was able to talk to them.
chocolate couple
Also our ward mission leader from Udine, and several members of the congregation there.  It was nice to talk to people with whom I had associated with at least once a week, for the first several months here in Italy.

Zone Conference was even better than Stake Conference, because I ran into some of my most favorite people: Anziano Keller (who is now serving in Udine: not my companionship but the other one), Anziano Wright from the MTC (training center back in July), and Anziano Fabiano (still in Udine, not with Keller)!
more chocolate...engines and wrenches

So I got to talk with them, 2 old companions and Wright from the MTC.  It's always nice to hear from old friends :)

MOVIE. Actually, another thing at the Zone Conference was that we watched Meet the Mormons.  Super exciting to see a not-missionary film, even if it was church made.  It had some pretty neat characters, and was an enjoyable movie.  I think a lot more people ought to see it, to understand us better.

PACKAGES. I did get some packages: can't imagine where they came from!  It was funny that one of them was mailed January something, and the other one was mailed February something.  Since the Zone Conference was later this month, we didn't have a regular Zone Meeting the first week of the month.  So I didn't get either of those packages until now.
Anziano Robinson

I made blondies for district meeting (with the yellow cake mix you sent) and people loved them.  And no, I haven't finished the peanut butter; it's Special-Occasion stuff! :D
And thank you very much for the English Conference Ensign (church magazine with inspirational messages), since I hadn't heard most of the talks before.  AND thank you for the Espeonage hoodie.  I'm more of a fleece/hoodie guy so it feels like 'Me' again.

People we taught the gospel this week: one lesson fell through,
chocolate sheep!
but while walking around, we talked to someone named Simone about the Restoration.  And we taught that Romanian group again.

My favorite part of being in Ferrara is the growth potential.  Really, this place could use some work.  We've gotten to the point of having something planned almost every day, so that's an improvement from last transfer.  Still not a busy place, certainly, but looking up.
chocolate coffins

I'm thankful for Conference talks, and Liahona magazines.  The Ensign is better, though, because it's all aimed at over-30's, instead of mashing together the Friend, New Era, and Ensign (church magazines for children, teens, and adults).  I'm also thankful for friends I have made here on the mission.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Duomo, Messages, and Chocolate Galore

(**Side note from Mom: the rest of the family was in Dubai for the week of February break, so we told David about some Muslim customs we were learning.)


ISLAM EDUCATION.  I love how you guys are getting another perspective of Muslim people.  We have a decent number of Muslims here in Italy, immigrants from Morocco or Tunis, or from Egypt.  Mainly people I wouldn't usually walk up to on the street, from outward appearance.  But when we do, sometimes it goes well, and sometimes they just tell us about how the Quran is all anyone needs, and we just say thank you and keep walking.

There is also a large language barrier, since for the most part, "they" don't speak Italian very well.  But there are a few standard jobs that the Pakistanis and Iranians have here: Internet Cafes for one.  The man downstairs at this place that we come to each week has a couple of translated phrases from the Quran on his wall, next to the prices.  They're mainly nice people, though, I'm sure.

Anziano Robinson
We went to the Duomo in Ferrara today.
 It was a really beautiful building, with frescoes on the walls and ceiling, and statues of saints throughout.

 There was an alcove next to many of the saints, and Jesus, and Mary, and Padre Pio.

CHOCOLATE EXPO.  We were in town over Valentine's Day (obviously), and there was a large Chocolate Expo in Centro.
 They had things made of chocolate -- owls,
shoes, small motorcycles (to go on a coffee table),
nuts, bolts,
wrenches (the nuts and bolts had working ridges!).
And then of course, chocolate in bite-sized form.
 So I got many chocolates for me to eat, and I ate them.

One had 'pepperocino' on it, which I first thought was peppermint.  Nothing wrong with that.  Then Anziano Robinson points out, "That's HOT pepper, like hot tamales!"  Still, good! :)  And then there were a few caramel or vanilla based.

(Side note from Mom: a "Ward" is a congregation, with a Bishop + 2 counselors for leaders.  A "Branch" is a very small congregation, with a Branch President + 2 counselors for leaders.  In Ferrara, the church is very small, numbers-wise.  Ferrara has a branch with a Branch President.)

SHARING MESSAGES.  We are involved in the Home Teaching here in Ferrara.  ("Home Teaching" is like it sounds, when you visit someone in their home, and share an inspirational or spiritual message.)  We home-taught the Branch President last week.  Our companion, the Ward mission leader, did most of the talking.  Not because "I don't speak Italian," but because most of the chit-chat was in Italian, and they spoke faster than we (as missionaries) usually do.  But, the message and interaction went well.  And Sorella Cataluddi (the Branch President's wife, or "First Lady," ha) made hot chocolate.  It was delicious: thick and rich!  Mmmmmm!

CHANGE FOR A DAY. I did a companion exchange this past Monday with the greenie (new missionary) from Bologna.  It was cool to be able to talk to him, share some advice (today is my 1/3 mark, did you know?), and see his enthusiasm for everything.  He also had his wide-eyed "I'm in Italy" expression, looking around at everything.  It was lots of fun.

For service, we went to a food kitchen around 7:30 in the morning to help prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless/unemployed.  It was coffee, tea, pastries/bread, and fruit.  Nothing fancy, but the people were grateful, so that was cool.  The mission president said we could do that every 2 or 3 weeks.

I uploaded a TON of pictures to dropbox.  My favorites include our silhouettes, a model of a castle, the chocolates from the expo, and my half-melted ice cream cone.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Castles, Gratitude and Speaking in Church


CASTELLO di SAN MICHELE.  I'll start off with today, actually the past 2 hours, we went to the castello here in Ferrara.  The "Castello Estense" or "castello di San Michele" - "St. Michael's Castle" is a moated medieval castle in the center of Ferrara.  (Side note from Mom: I'm excited that he went, so I won't complain to him that he did not send a photo!  I will include one from the Internet.)
St. Michael's Castle

aerial view of Ferrara
I had forgotten how much fun museums can be, so there I was, reading everything.  The pictures/artwork came with captions in Italian and English.  I was able to read both, the Italian being much slower, but because of time I just read them in English.  So I learned about the development of Ferrara, some of the feudal history with the dukes and marquises and popes.  The whole city is laid out very nicely from an aerial view.

So it showed how that came about, from reclaiming area A, then area B, then cultivating area C, and building, etc.  There are frescoes on the walls and ceilings of the living quarters -- might think about that for your room, hmmm?  Then there was an art exhibit in the last several rooms, which was comparatively boring.

SPEAKING IN CHURCH.  This week at church, I think we had about 10 people in attendance.  (Side note: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to church for 3 hours each Sunday.  One hour is Sacrament Meeting, where we partake of the Sacrament, then listen to inspirational messages about the scriptures or other teachings of Jesus Christ.  The other two hours are Sunday School-type classes, discussing and learning scriptures and gospel principles.)  So, funny story: we go through the first 2 hours no problem: Priesthood and Gospel Doctrine.

Third hour comes around -- Sacrament Meeting, with the sacrament and then typically 2 or 3 speakers.  (They try to go right up until the hour with ending, so if speakers have short talks, the Branch President or Bishop gets up and gives a few closing thoughts).  The Branch President is checking over details for the Sacrament Meeting: who's passing the sacrament, who's speaking, interval hymn, etc.  Around 11;15 the sacrament finishes and the first speaker gets up.  She finishes about 11:22.  There are 2 speakers planned.  I was the second one.  So the interval hymn goes until about 11:26.  I get up, and give my talk about continuing revelation by President Eyring (talks can be based on General Conference Talks).

I had my notes down, a few scriptures prepared, and had read the talk so I knew what stories were inside.  When I sat down, it was 11:46 -- I talked for 20 minutes!  I had not planned on a 20-minute talk, but since there wasn't anybody else after me, I had to stretch -- I talked long enough that the Branch President didn't have to fill in at the end.  Yay, me! :)

GRATITUDE.  This week, I was thankful for getting into a house.  The missionaries here all know it's extremely rare to get into a house when you're going door-to-door.  But a nice Nigerian lady let us in, and we explained a bit of the Restoration, and she made an appointment for us to come back next week.  That's the 4th time I've been invited in.  So that was a neat occurrence.

MUSIC. Nice to hear about Kara improving on piano.  I've emailed her about how much I miss piano, now that I only infrequently play it.  So, back to basics when I get back!  I still have most of my songs in muscle memory.  And I can sight read music slowly, so with a couple of play-throughs, I can play the basic songs (0 sharps, 1 sharp, 1 flat) alright.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dinners, Doors, and Count Your Blessings

Hello Dad, Hello Mom!

I read a General Conference talk (or something) that came to mind, about "Your Life is Now." They talk about living your life always, and not saying "When I 'm in college, then my life will begin," or "when I have a job or am married or have kids, then my life will begin." We should always live in the now.  Not in a hedonistic sense, but always magnifying whatever calling we have the blessing of filling right now.

HELPING WHERE WE ARE.  There's a Preach My Gospel passage that talks about being a blessing, not a burden, to the Bishop.  You two seem like that, and I get to be that help, here in tiny Ferrara.  Our Bishop called us the other day and asked if we could go "home teaching" (visit a family or individual in their home, with an inspirational message) with him on the 17th to a less-active member of the congregation.  So of course we say yes.

We don't get invited over for dinner quite as much as the stateside elders. but hopefully we still bring a good message.  Anziano Fabiano got a couple of messages from stateside missionaries.  One story was, "We rang 15 doorbells, and nobody let us in, so I stormed off and waited in the car for 20 minutes."
Our Italian response was, more or less: "Try 1500 doors without getting in, and forget about the car :/ "  Some people.

Another group made it their transfer goal to get a dinner appointment every night of the transfer.  And they did.  We all have our burdens to bear--

DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES.  Your missionary comp sounds similar to mine, Dad.  Anziano Robinson and I are somewhat classic representatives of our respective areas.  I'm all "educated" and more closed and formal; he's more outgoing, doesn't care about grammar/speaking correctly (more out west: he's from Utah).  Still smart, but in a different way from me.  He actually is a skater, and looks exactly like our younger ex-cousin Zak when he's wearing a beanie.

MULTI-CULTURAL EXPERIENCES.  "Strange" moment from last week: we ran into 2 Romanians on the street.  The lady spoke Italian to us (both speak Italian), and the man, who was out of it on medication, spoke in broken English.  They talked to us and asked for a Book of Mormon.  So on Sunday, we went to their apartment and gave them one in Romanian.
They invited us in and when we got to their flat, there was another Romanian, a Ukrainian woman, and 2 Albanians waiting for us to teach about the message of Jesus Christ.

So with some language difficulties (they spoke broken Italian), we attempted to explain the Restoration of the Gospel.  It went meh, about 2.5/5.  They got that the Book of Mormon is important, but they didn't seem to grasp "So, are you the Orthodox Church? Or the Catholics?"
"No," we just explained, "we're the church that Jesus Christ created."  "Oh, so the Catholics?" No we're different.  "You're not Jehovah's Witnesses, are you?"  "No we're not them."  But they want us back, and we'll bring a book of Mormon in Albanian too.

GOOD FOOD. Anziano Robinson cooks pretty well.  He has a vomit-reaction to the texture of fruit for most of his life, so his recipes don't have that.  But he makes lazagna.
And he made me realize I could make grilled cheese sandwiches as a snack in the evenings.  Brilliant.  On another note, I made coffee cake for district meeting, and they LOVED it!  3 people asked me for the recipe. So kudos to whoever came up with that recipe.

OUTINGS.  Yes, we need to do things on Pday.  Starting next week, either a castle or a museum here or in Bologna.  It takes some energy to get over the inertia of "I can just sit in the apartment today," but you guys were always saying, "Let's go on a hike," or "Let's go to Boston," so I suppose I have a history of doing things on weekends.

BLESSINGS.  Great News: Bettina from my old ward was baptized on the 25th! She said the hiccup with the baptism date that fell through (when I was still there) ended up being for the best.  It made her evaluate whether this was actually something she believed.  But she was baptized the 25th, and probably confirmed this past Sunday.  Happy Day!

And I got your letter.  Thank you!  I always love stories from Conference, and the Liahona magazines.

Love you, and have a great week!
Anziano Whitesell