Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pickpockets, Sugar and Hieroglyphs

Egyptian Museum
BAPTISM DETAILS. I realized that I glazed over a baptism in the last email. Recently, we had the baptism of a 9-year-old kid named Allesandro. That was neat. His mom was baptized about 2 years ago and then went inactive (stopped going to church). Then when he turned 8, he wanted to be baptized. So for the next year he was bringing it up, and now his mom is active again and he got baptized. Aren't kids great fellowshippers?

BIG CITY PROBLEMS. Less fun were a couple of sobering events that remind me that I grew up in a couple of very safe, small towns. We were walking around Centro on an exchange, and as we turn a corner I see a man right behind some lady make a quick move with his hand and put something behind his scarf. I'm like, did that lady just get pick pocketed? I watch him, not sure what to do. He turns a corner, but the lady keeps walking on. What to do?

I took too long deciding, and was rewarded by seeing the lady start looking for her phone. And all I could tell her was "Sorry, some guy just stole it." Plans for the next time: Yell, draw attention to him, chase him down.

Then in the past couple of weeks, we came home twice to our door wide open. Freaky. We don't think too much about security, but we close the door when we leave. Duh. So, that was disconcerting, since both times the bathroom window was open, and wasn't shutting (we figured out how to close it).

Nothing seems to have been taken, but we're feeling a little paranoid. We set things by all the windows and doors that will move if someone comes in, so we can know for sure if there's been an entry. We're also looking into getting a new lock. All our documents seem to be in order, still hidden away, and it's not like a group of missionaries have a ton of valuables. But we are being more cautious about taking different routes home, watching for suspicious behavior, etc.

INSPIRING BROADCAST. On a more positive note, we had a worldwide missionary broadcast. It came from Salt Lake and had several General Authorities speaking about missionary work. Elder Bednar led an inspiring discussion about letting the Spirit teach during lessons, and not getting in the way ourselves. We need to focus on being conduits for the spirit, rather than just teaching with the spirit present.

peach cobbler
SWEETS FOR THE SWEET. And, we made peach cobbler!
Sort of. It was an apple crisp but with canned peaches substituted for the apples, because for Christmas in the ward's (congregation's) present to us, were 2 cans of peaches in syrup. I had a lot of sugar last night -- the topping of apple crisp, and drinking the syrup. Went to bed fat and happy :D

EGYPTIAN MUSEUM. We just finished with the Egyptian Museum. It was a good, large museum with an interesting layout. Long enough to be tiring at the end, though.

At church, there are about 100 people who come to Sacrament Meeting. We have a decent-sized youth group, with an English and an Italian Gospel Principles (Sunday School) class.

WHAT IS YOUR WORKOUT? For workouts, I alternate cardio days, followed by alternating sets of push-ups and cool-down stretching, with abs days. Sundays are rest days.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Setting Goals and Scraped Knees

Excellent, I got the letter with suggestions for P-day. Still waiting on the other one. I'll start with a nice story from this past week.

FAMILIAR VOICE. While I was in Ferrara, I worked with an inactive lady (doesn't come to church regularly anymore). I met her at the Christmas party when I first arrived, then never saw her until, 6 months later, I ran into her on the train to my last District Meeting in Bologna.

Random chairs in the park: comfortable, but cold.
Ciao, Anziano Taylor from Novara!
In the meantime, we kept up text communication.  I'd ask how she was doing, etc. It turns out, she introduced a woman here (in Torino) to the church, 1.5 years ago: the mother of the 9-year-old boy we baptized this past Saturday. This mother mentioned the Ferrara lady, and I was like, "Hey, I know her!"

So the mom called her on the phone, and I talked with her for a bit. That really made my day! That's my miracle for the week :D

ATTAINABLE GOALS. This week, we visited a couple of members and talked about goals for the New Year. Obviously we want to make goals that stretch us, but we don't want them to be "to easy" or "too hard," as to be unreachable. And we encouraged the members to mix temporal and spiritual goals.

My goals are mixed as well, from following a more rigorous workout schedule (the last 4 transfers are named "Six Months to Sexy"), to learning something new from each pers
onal study. I want this year to be a year where I grow a lot, even in this last 4.5 months in the mission.

Night City Lights
SAFETY IN QUESTION. Also, I wiped out while running.  Twice. So maybe it's not good for me. But I'll keep trying.

Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Funerals, Flexibility, Feeding Friends

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE. This week has had some cool experiences. On Sunday evening we decided to do some proselyting in an area where a member said she felt someone was ready for the gospel every time she passed it.  So we went to the street...and nobody was there.  It was 7:30 p.m., so it was dark, and the one person on the street was not interested in a gospel discussion.  So we decided to go house-to-house.  We said a prayer and started on the apartment closest to us.

We rang the top 5 bells before someone said we could enter the building (not unusual). The lady who let us in gave us her number but wasn't willing to invite us in.  So we knock the rest of the doors, from inside.  The penultimate door (2nd-to-last, for those like his Mom who needed a new vocabulary word) had a man named Giovanni in it. He invited us in, we showed him the video "Because of Him," and set a date for a return appointment.  That was neat, because in my 18.5 months, I've only been let into someone's home to teach about 6 times.  So, that was a good experience.  Admittedly, he didn't show for the return appointment, but we still have hope.

CHANGES IN PLANS. Today (P-day) we had a rough start.  We had planned to go see the Basilica of Superga, but some members of the church called to change our plans. Someone needed the church (on the opposite side of town from Superga) unlocked for a meeting with the Stake President at 3, in the middle of our P-day. And we were asked to go to a funeral in the Deep South part of town at 9 a.m.

So we started out at the funeral, which took and hour and a half to arrive at.  A lady in the ward died 2 weeks ago.  I didn't know her, but the Bishop said it would be nice if we came. It was a small service, with lots of "Plan of Salvation" explanations thrown in, to clarify for members of other religions.  Maybe the 3rd funeral that I've attended.

Having finished there, we went to Centro and had planned on the Egyptian Museum as a backup, but they said it would take 2 hours minimum (2nd largest in the world and all), and we had to be at the church (40 minutes away) at 3 p.m. So we just went to a few stores, looking at Saldi shopping.  I got a nice grey-silver scarf.  Then back to the church, groceries, email. Boom.

TOP 10 SITES. (For Mom, the wannabe-travel-agent:) If you research any cool places I might go on a P-day, feel free to recommend them.  The list right now is: Basilica of Superga, Town on the border of France, Teach-us-how-to-make-lasagna activity with a church member, Egyptian Museum, Royal Apartments by Piazza Castello

And yet due to bad planning, and differently-minded apartment mates, all we've done on P-day is played soccer a couple of times, and wandered around Centro.  Still, it's not for lack of trying, and it certainly has not been disagreeable.  Relaxing a bit once a week is fun, too.

(Side note from Mom: Poor David! Brainwashed his whole life by his parents, that you must take advantage of EVERY POSSIBLE sight and experience when you are in a different place! You must go DO THINGS when you can. I promptly researched "Torino, Italy" online for the next hour.  I sent him Best Places to Visit in Torino he should put on his "P-day list," complete with maps and phone numbers and hours of operation. Next Task -- I must repeat to myself: Soccer on a P-day is also acceptable! Ha :) )

THE FACTORY. (Mom's question to David: you said Vinicio wants a Massachusetts postcard.  Right after you told us that Vinicio is blind.  WHAT WILL VINICIO DO WITH A POST CARD?
David's answer:) Vinicio wants the card to show off to grandkids and houseguests: "Look where this missionary came from!"

I get that a lot, actually.  Church members guess I'm from Utah, also dubbed "The Factory" -- because that state sends out so many missionaries.  Then they guess Idaho.  Then I say I'm from Boston, and they are pleasantly surprised. #Bostonstrong

COOKING FOR 4.  I have made a piadine (think sandwiches on tortillas, what we might call quesadillas but my Mexican companion said those aren't real quesadillas) for my apartment-mates.  I have also made Chinese Sundaes and sloppy joes.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Nicknames, Train Rides and Chess

It's good to hear about your Christmas.  Our holiday season has been pretty good too.

CHRISTIANITY BASICS. I'll start off with a neat story that took place over one week's time.  After P-day last Wednesday, we were on the bus and a man asked what kind of missionaries we were, in English.  We answered, talked for a little bit, and invited him to meet with us Thursday morning.  His name was Mahdi, from Tunisia.  We met with him the next morning, and had an excellent lesson.

He was Muslim, but had studied a bit in depth about Islam and didn't like the history of violence and some other things, and so he was studying Christianity.  He came to our New Year's party at church, and met with us almost every day this week.  Unfortunately he's going to France today, for an undetermined amount of time.  So now we'll send him to some French missionaries, but it was neat to teach him as much as we did.

Another person we're working with is Vinicio.  He's about 65, and blind.  But he's super nice to the missionaries, and loves having us over.  He has a huge rack of CDs, with Braille titles taped on.  We read the Book of Mormon with him.  He's Catholic and doesn't want to change, but enjoys our presence.

HIDDEN TALENTS. Vinicio has nicknames for the missionaries, or he calls them by their first names.  He calls me "The Voice" because I speak in a low volume.  Also the first time I went over he had me sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," and I did my country proud, so he thinks I can sing (...)  Hence the Sinatra nickname. (History note from Mom: Frank Sinatra was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrants.  His first album was called "The Voice of Frank Sinatra.")

HOLIDAY...SORT OF.  New Year's was weird, because it was a holiday for everybody except us.  We had a New Year's Eve party at the church that started at 8:30.  We could only show up and introduce a few investigators to congregation members, then we headed home.

I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAYING. On the way home from an exchange, we were standing next to the doors of the train, across from two girls.  We were planning (in English) a couple of lessons, and I hear one of the girls ask the other in Italian what was written on my tag.  So I turned and answered her :P  She was all embarrassed, but we had a good gospel conversation with them.  I thought it was hilarious.

Tuesday was a long day, though.  We taught 5 lessons, one of which was with a fairly obstinate individual.  It made for a long day.  But we have borrowed a chess set for the time being, and have started playing some chess in the apartment.  We're all beginners, so it's fairly even.

PACKAGES.  I got the package with wrapped food.  I got the banner signed by the ward.  I got several letters from the Relief Society.  I'm looking forward to meeting the Pazolli family.  Do they still speak Italian?  And I got Kara's sweater.

I know there was a package that showed up in Firenze, but they couldn't sign for me, so I don't know where it went.  And one that arrived in Como but the Anziani couldn't sign for me there either.  The Christmas card, they said, is probably among their letters they haven't gotten to yet.  So it sounds like half the stuff has gotten to me.

Vinicio asked for a postcard of Massachusetts.  Can you send me one the next time you write?

Thanks!  Love, Anziano Whitesell