Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's Day, Mazes and Good Changes


Happy Father's Day, Dad!  It's a few days behind us, but I have had it in mind the last week or two.  I just didn't know which Sunday it was.

NEW COMPANION FOR A DAY. This week has been pretty different, since I did two exchanges (going out to work with a different companion) in the past several days.  Each transfer, the District Leader (myself) does an exchange with each elder in the district, and the Zone Leaders with each District Leader.  So I did an exchange with a greenie (brand-new missionary) in my district Friday-Saturday, showing him around my area, teaching people, being a good example, etc.  Several times in Ferrara I also took a new missionary around my area, so it was similar to that.  We talked, and had a pretty good day, but it was good to have my companion back again.

Then Monday-Tuesday I went with one of the Zone Leaders to Montevarchi.  That was a lot of fun.  We started off visiting a family who has known the missionaries for awhile.  I was able to show off my (crumbling) piano skills, talk to this nice family, and share a spiritual thought.
Panorama of the view from our apartment

CHANGE OF HEART. Then on Tuesday, I did the baptismal interview for two people the elders have been teaching for a couple of months.  They were both Africans, and it was neat to talk to them, and hear some of how the Gospel had changed their lives, and see "that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil."  The baptismal interview questions may just be 6 points, but it means a lot of change for some people, and watching a testimony grow is a rewarding experience.  So I'm happy for them.

The Zone Leader I was with was the person whose place I took in Ferrara, and he had been there for four months, so we could reminisce about that.  And we have a lot of overlapping interests, and he's going to BYU when he gets back in a couple of months.  I enjoyed talking with him during our down time.

TEACHING METHODS. Maybe I'll try using stories in my district meetings.  I used a maze for the last one, drew it up on the board, and it went over pretty well.  The maze then tied in to how we teach the Restoration, and what we can do during studies to teach more effectively.

Regular camera...yes it has pictures on it, but I don't have the connector cable anymore, and most computers don't have SD ports.  Also Dropbox got nixed by President Dibb.  But I do take some photos on the iPad.

This week we had a good lesson on tithing with Henry, assisted by the 2nd Counselor, Fratello Borjas (also Peruvian). That went well, and it's nice to have member involvement.

Love you!  Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dictionaries, Humidity, and Crystal Light

Ciao, tutti! (Hello, Everyone!)

SUMMERTIME WEATHER.  This has been another good week in the beautiful city of Firenze (Florence). For the past week, the days have taken turns being hot and sticky, or just plain rainy.  I didn't think I would have to break out the rain jacket again before fall, but I used it a couple of days ago (and still got soaked). But when the sun is out, it has been a comfortable, if humid, 85 degrees or so.  So in biking and walking around every day, it is necessary to drink a lot of fluids.  Example: last week during grocery shopping, I bought 8.5 liters of drink...milk, juice, and some Fanta.  It's all gone now.  And that doesn't include the water I drink throughout the day.

MAIL. Mom, thank you for the letter, I got it yesterday.  I appreciate the picture.  Now I can stop using the leftover pictures on the camera to explain my family (there were some on the SD card of when we went mini-golfing, with the grandparents, last summer).  I was thinking about American food (I don't know, maybe someone mentioned it, or a type of food in particular or something), and I figured since I'm in a new city, I might as well build a new stash of American food.  That pile from a couple of months ago dwindled to just a Payday, a SweetandSalty bar, 2 packages of Keebler crackers, and some mints.  Also 2 jars of peanut butter, but I brought that with me!

The items that came to mind were Crystal Light flavoring packs, Kraft Mac N Cheese, Cinnamon Graham Crackers, and Wildberry pop-tarts. But even without specific American food, I am enjoying Italian food.

We contacted a referral yesterday, from or from elsewhere in the mission.  When we get someone's number who doesn't live in our proselyting area, we pass it along to the office, who sends it to the right missionaries, the closest to them.  He was about a 25-minute bike ride away, and this was the third time we had passed by him.  It turned out he was a Jehovah's Witness who wanted to tell us we were wrong.  He had previously had a paper with a list of problems in the Book of Mormon, and would have shown it to us, but he misplaced it.  It's exasperating, talking with them, because Bible-bashing never gets anywhere, and it just brings contention.

WEEKLY TRAININGS. As district leader, I'm still working on the "presentations" part of the job.  I'm in charge of encouraging and inspiring my district and looking after their well-being, as well as keeping them in line and effective.  Part of that includes a weekly District Meeting, where I do a 40-minute training, usually on a topic from Preach My Gospel.  I can plan for it just fine.  It's easier than a talk because I can ask questions and draw on the whiteboard, and include role plays, but it still feels dry.  I'm not the most engaging speaker.  But, I've done 2 so far, and I think they'll just get better from here.
Firenze (Florence) from high up

Also, on the teaching note, I was asked the night before church to teach Gospel Principles (a Sunday School class the next day).  That felt a lot like District Meeting.  But seriously? "Gifts of the Spirit?"  The lesson plan in the manual is to talk in detail about several of the gifts mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 46.  No help.  So I talked and asked questions about the parable of the talents, and how we can grow our talents.
Anzianos Kormylo, Jensen, Rojas, me

LEARNING MORE ITALIAN. For language study each day, I have several options.  Now that we have iPads, we can use DuoLingo.  I can read out loud to myself from the Book of Mormon in Italian.  I sometimes take the same Liahona (church magazine) issue in Italian and English, and translate from English to Italian, and compare translations.  Or I can focus on a section of the visual dictionary, like animals or bicycles.

I think I don't need you to send the New Testament guide here.  In Ferrara I was reading more in the evenings, but here it's more alive and moving.  I feel more engaged in the evenings, talking with my companion, writing in my journal, etc.  I do have an Old Testament guide and a Book of Mormon guide when I do want to read something (and endless conferences on Gospel Library).

RELAX. I think from my companion now, Anziano Kormylo, I'm learning to be more relaxed.  My past 2 companions were relaxed, but in an "I don't want to work and these rules are restrictive" way, so we clashed.  Here, I feel like even if things go off schedule, I'll be alright.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Broken Keys, Vespas and People from Peru

MY NEW COMPANION.  I'll start with Anziano Kormylo.  He's pretty cool, still 18 yrs old, and he was enrolled a semester at BYU before coming here.  He likes outdoor activities and DIY (Do It Yourself) projects, especially motorcycles.  There's an old Vespa in the garage, whose owner we don't know, but he always comments on how easy it would be to fix up.
 He's played a lot of the same video games as me, and was able to fill me in on "the good movies" of up to 5 months ago.  He's from San Diego, likes Ultimate (although his main sport is water polo), and has three younger sisters.  And he's a Mormon. :D

I've enjoyed having him as my companion thus far; these two weeks have flown by.  He was trained by another elder in my group.  He cooks pretty well, and he wants to go and do things, take advantage of the city, and be anxiously engaged in exciting activities.  All good things.

OUR WARD.  For finding here, we usually go to a park pretty close to our apartment.  I haven't spoken in this ward (congregation) yet, except for the initial introduction/testimony.  And I don't expect to, since there are about 150 people in church, not including tourist groups and BYU study groups.  It's great.

iPad is fine as is...I can still type about as fast as I can think of things to write.  And the big secret of writing multiple people is...I'll tell you later.  But in any case, I can do some writing throughout the week and then send it Wednesday.

It's neat that you could go to the temple with family, to do work for family members.  We figure they're about out of baptism names unless people bring their own, but for other ordinances there is always more work to be done.

THE IMPORTANCE of BAPTISM. So an interesting encounter we  had last week was with a man named Greg.  We met him in the park, and had contacted him by phone, so we didn't know what he looked like.  As we were looking, the nearby homeless man called us over.  He said he wanted to be baptized, and had read the whole Book of Mormon.  So we started to explain all the standards and prerequisites and he says, "No, no, I just want to get baptized."
(He was smoking as he said this.)  Apparently he understood that baptism is important, but not that the purpose is to commit to repentance.  And apparently he's reading the Doctrine and Covenants too (revelation given to the prophet Joseph Smith as the church was being restored in the 1800's).  I don't know where he got the Doctrine & Covenants.  Maybe he'll realize the other requirements later.  Then he asked us if we knew the 3 Nephites.  Then he asked us for money, and when we said no, he left.

REUNION OF SORTS.  Also, we had a church conference last Saturday, with members from about 10 cities in this area.  This meant that the missionaries from those cities also came, and I got to talk to a lot of friends I've made here.  Some people I've met during layovers when we're going to different cities.  Some people have been in my zone before.  Others are friends of other missionaries, so I got to know them.  But it was nice seeing about 40 missionaries (out of about 220 in the mission), and being able to chat/recognize about 15-20 of them.  It was also weird to realize that, of the people there, I've been out longer than most of them.  I will hit my halfway point next Wednesday.  I'll have been gone a year on June 25th.  I know I have almost a year left, but it feels like it's flown by, in retrospect.

SUNDAY JOBS. We're working with a Peruvian man named Henry.  There are a lot of Peruvians here, and many, when you talk to them, already know who Joseph Smith is and have had a couple of lessons with missionaries back in South America.
 He has been taught most of the lessons before I arrived, but he works on Sundays, like many people here, which prevents him from coming to church.  But we're hopeful for him, to be able to change his work schedule.

SMALL OBSTACLES.  We have had a couple of other bike problems, but nothing a patch couldn't fix (for me, anyway).  My companion's brake cable snapped, so he took one from another bike and re-wired it to his bike.  Our house key also broke, fortunately not IN the lock, so we went and got the spare from the other Elders' apartment, then had it copied.  So, nothing too bad.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

P.S.  Pictures next time.  For now, here is the cemetery across the street, viewed from our balcony.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Florence, New Accent and Mosquitoes

Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!

FLORENCE.  It's super cool to be here in Firenze (in English it's "Florence") these past few days.  I've done some sightseeing as we walked around, so we ended up in the Centro area, by the Duomo once or twice, and from parts of the city I can see Tuscany countryside, which is beautiful.  We also have a great view from the apartment.

I'm going tie shopping today, but I'm sure I'll go again while I'm here.  What kind of tie should I get you, Dad?  Any particular colors?

Also, there's a place here in Firenze that binds books.  Most missionaries get their scriptures bound, but my companion and I were talking and we thought we could get The Inferno (in Italian, Dante Alighieri is from Florence) bound in red leather.  And also Machiavelli's The Prince, bound in a cool way.

DIFFERENT DIALECT.  The people here speak with an accent, where they replace hard 'c' sounds with an 'h.'  So "Ciao" turns into "Shao," and "Come sta?" turns into "Home sta?"  It's fun to try and talk with that accent.

So I'm typing this on the iPad right now, and it's not horrible.  Once I found out how to type like texting, it's not so bad.  So I can work without a keyboard...the initial impression was not entirely accurate.  And I type well enough that the autocorrect is actually useful, rather than a hindrance.  And as it turns out, we may do some email sessions from the church, which has real computers, so that helps too.

WHAT WE CAN DO WITH THE iPAD.  We can use "Gospel Library," "Gospel Music App," "Duo Lingo," and a selection of other apps for missionary stuff and language stuff.  For a lot of it, it works better if we're connected to the Internet, but most of it is useful regardless.  I would recommend, though, just getting a laptop and a phone instead of a tablet, for home use.

UNWELCOME RESIDENTS. I have gotten a lot of sun these past few days.  It is pretty hot down here, especially because Firenze is in a little divot that apparently traps heat.  Some rain is coming next week, but other than that it's sunny.  Also lots of mosquitoes.  I probably have twenty or so bites.  They're annoying, but I'll survive.

Oh, and one thing my last companion commented on about me...he said when I talk about my parents, I just say "Mom..." or "Dad..." where most people say "My mom..." or "My dad..."  I say it in the way that people do when they are already talking to family, and don't need to specify whose parents.

My address: via degli Artisti 11/C
50132 Firenze (FI)

iPAD DETAILS. It's an iPad mini, but for now don't send a keyboard.  I'll see what it's like without one.  It's one iPad per person in the mission.  American keyboards would be better (less confusing) than Italian, but I could put up with whatever.  And yes, we have covers.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

P.S. About pictures...the second microSD, which I put into an adapter and then into the camera, got buggy.  Stupid Internet points.  So I lost a few pictures there.  I'll take pictures and video with that new SD card you sent, but only send them to you from the church, or just keep it in the camera.  Also, pictures on the iPad can be put directly into emails.  So I'll experiment with that, doing the whole iPad camera thing.