Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Africa, Alarms and Armor


NIGERIA. This week was another busy week! A man approached us on the street, said he had been taking the missionary discussions in Nigeria, and told us he wanted us to keep teaching him. Sure, we can do that! Our friend group continues to grow, and we can teach even more people. It just means we have to always get better at bussing around the city to fit in the appointments we have. This has definitely been the busiest area of my mission.

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. The embarrassing moment of the week was last Friday night. We had gotten to bed and were trying to sleep, when someone rings the doorbell. We assume it's a prank and ignore it. But they ring again, and a third time. So we go see who it is: 3 of the young men from the ward (congregation). Two live out of town and came to the third one's house for the weekend, but his mother had already invited guests. She told them to find somewhere else to stay. So they came to us and asked if we could open the church for them to stay the night.

I thought sure, we can do that. They asked for the keys and I said no, we can't give those out -- but we can walk you to the church and let you in. So we walk over, about 20 minutes, and I open the church and we walk in around 11:20. But there's this beeping noise. We look over and see the alarm. Uh-oh. That, I didn't know about. So after a minute of looking at it, it went off: air raid siren, lights flashing on the grounds.

We panicked and left the church, locking the door and walking away (because running would be suspicious, obviously). It keeps going off and I think "Well, I've got a problem. Better call someone before a neighbor calls the police."

So I call the Bishop, and he doesn't answer. Fortunately, one of the youth has the Bishop's wife's number, so we call her. She picks up, and passes the phone to the Bishop. I explain the situation and he tells me how to shut off the alarm, but also that we can't let people stay in the church. Never, never, never. Hmmm. I wasn't aware of that. Oops. In any case, I turn off the alarm and tell the youth they can't stay there, sorry. And we walk back home. Got back around midnight (they end up staying at the Bishop's house).

Last chapter: in the morning I decide to call President Dibb, let him know that we messed up. He was, understandably, pretty mad. He made it very clear that we are not to let anyone stay in the church overnight: missionary, member, or anyone else! Also, being out so late doesn't fly as a missionary. So, a note to those going on missions: follow the mission rules and you won't get into trouble. I didn't know that we couldn't have people stay at the church overnight, but if I hadn't left the house after working hours, it wouldn't have been a problem. Even if it seems like a good the Bishop and have him deal with it; he knows more than you.

That was my "face palm" moment of the mission! Hopefully you got a laugh out of it, and not just a groan...

EASTER DAY. Also, Happy Easter! That's a happy event. Hopefully yours was good. We had ours at home, alone (with a "gift" meal from a family). This was not due to rude members, but due instead to me working hard and not realizing that Easter was coming up, and it not coming to mind that one ought to spend Easter with friends or family. It was a calm Sunday, nonetheless.

LANGUAGE STORIES. And yesterday, on the train, we ran into some Mexican exchange students. They were 2 girls, studying French and German (living with host families), were visiting a friend, studying Italian. It was cool to share language stories, and fortunately they spoke English. So I would listen to their Spanish, and ask my questions in English.

Embarrassing, though, that all I could manage in Spanish was "Soy americano. He vivido en Mexico por un ano, pero se me olvido casi todo. Entiendo pero no hablo." (I'm American. I lived in Mexico for one year, but I forgot almost everything. I understand but I don't speak it.) They were cool, though.

(SIDE NOTE FROM MOM: We told David to focus on the Italian and not worry about losing his Spanish -- a year in Mexico and 3 years of it in High School. We think when he comes back he'll be able to review his Spanish, and it will come back to him.)

TURIN SIGHTS. Today we saw the Royal Palace, Royal Armory, and an art gallery. Seeing that I'm not returning to Torino for awhile, I should take advantage of the museums and such. The armory was really cool: displays decked out with swords, crossbows, guns and armor. And the rooms in the palace were also really cool, full of chandeliers and gold and fancy frescoes on the ceilings. In the gallery, though, my favorites were the landscapes. Mountains, forests, seascapes, villages, just beautifully rendered. The paintings of people, meh. The nature scenes, super cool!

Have a lovely week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trams and Choosing to Change

Hello Again!

It's been a fun week with some different experiences.(Remember, you can click on these photos to make them BIGGER.)

CUTTING IT TOO CLOSE. First off, as we were driving home from an appointment one evening, I look to the side and see a tram slam on the brakes as a car tries to cut across an intersection ahead of it. The tram doesn't slow enough, and hits the car. The car gets knocked back a few feet, loud noise, and then we pass and I don't know what happens next. Probably a lot of yelling and the cops being called. What excitement!?

INSPIRATIONAL CONFERENCE. The big event last week was the Christofferson conference. Elder D. Todd Christofferson came to our mission and talked to us, about 1/2 of the missionaries in the mission this time, rather than all of them. It was a neat experience, since I don't really know him as a speaker -- he isn't as tenured as Elders Bednar or Holland or Ballard, who have some usual themes. So we gathered and listened, and he taught us about being better missionaries, yes, but more importantly about being better people. About repentance and choosing to change, as well as letting other people choose for themselves to change. We as missionaries can't "make" anyone make decisions. We can just encourage, and tell them what blessings they'll see as a result.

Later, I made a phone call to a man whose number we got about a week ago. The son picked up, and I asked if his father was there. After a brief pause and some talking in the background, the son comes back on and says in Italian, "My dad's not here right @!#@!##%!" And he hangs up. Some people! I've had some really polite people on the phone, interested or not. And then there are encounters like that. Ugh.

DOWNTOWN VIEWS. Anyway, today (P-day) some other missionaries from the zone came over and we went around Centro. It was neat, some cool buildings, and we decided to go to the top of the Mole, the building with the National Cinema Museum. Good view of Torino.

I like Torino because it's nice and big, so there are lots of people. It has a big Centro.
My biggest challenge here is to keep the paperwork organized and up to date for everyone. Another challenge is trying to love some difficult individuals.
And my companion's birthday is in August.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Getting Organized and Meeting People on the Tram


(Here are some photos of our apartment and the views we have.
**Reminder: you can click on the photos to see them BIGGER.)
study area

closet area


NEW COMPANION. It's been a great week with my new companion, Anziano Sanchez. He is from Florida, originally from Venezuela. We've gotten along really well so far, and I'm looking forward to the other six weeks.

main room and kitchen and Sanchez
Our work has been interesting -- aside from the usual workload of people to visit from my area, they closed the other companionship in my apartment. So we're taking over their area as well. That requires getting to know a new set of buses in the area, a new set of people, and some condensing of visits and reorganizing, so that nobody gets forgotten. If people were getting visited unnecessarily, then we have to stop doing that, so we have time for everyone.

BOOKKEEPING SKILLS. Also, it turns out that the other companionship, and we, were not good bookkeepers. So I have a lot of organization to do this week! Still, it's nice to have a fresh set of people to work with.

Talking about "sets of people" is sort of weird, but it helps me keep it all straight if I keep the people I work with in "boxes" (and I let them out twice a day for an hour, and I feed them, and make sure they have bedding :P) -- it helps me keep it organized in my head. We have "the people the other missionaries were working with," or "people who haven't come to church in awhile." I do enjoy working with the people here in Torino, even if there are lots of crazies here.
view from apartment

COOL BUS EXPERIENCE. We're on the tram, and a lady is looking at Sanchez's tag. So he asks her if she's seen missionaries before, and she says no. So he starts explaining who we are, and she responds with some interest. So we take her number and she asks us to call her this week. Yay, people on trams! Also, a few days ago we got a call. A man recently moved in from Ghana, where he had been meeting with the missionaries. He still wants to meet, so we went to see him and he wants to be baptized. So in a few weeks perhaps, hopefully he can.

On Thursday, Anderson left in the morning and Sanchez arrived. But we also had an Elder Martin with us who was waiting for his companion, who would arrive late in the evening. So we went around as 3 that day. Transfer day is always somewhat surreal, so having another missionary around wasn't all that strange. I assume it would be strange for several weeks, but for a day it wasn't bad.

view with snow
MISSIONARY PARENTS. A lot of families here have kids on missions. There's an RM (Returned Missionary) from the Japan, Kobe mission, two RMs from the Salt Lake City Temple Square mission, one family has a son in England, another in Florida, another family has a daughter in the Italy, Milan mission, and another has a daughter in Chile.

Last Sunday we went to one such family's house for lunch, and then we went for a roundabout walk around town to the station, just talking. It felt really therapeutic; I think it was nice for them to talk to someone like their son (Florida, Jacksonville mission) for a bit. "Just going for a walk with the boys."

Here is our "Toy Box," even if we're just 2 in the apartment now.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Learning About People & Attending Mass

I'm not exactly sure I said "Happy Birthday" in the letter I sent to Dad. So, Happy Birthday! I hope there were surprises and cake and decorations and everything.

NEW COMPANION. So my companion is about to go home. In 3 days. It's been the best transfer of my mission, just a blast to be with the guy, in our apartment of 4 (3 goofballs and me :D), getting work done. Now they are closing the other area, so it's back to 2 people: me and a new companion, Anziano Sanchez. He's from Florida, with origins in Venezuela. I guess President Dibb likes assigning me Spanish-speaking missionaries, as this is the third.

ANALYZING PERSONALITIES. The last transfer, I learned about getting to know people. Anderson is a fantastic people person, and as he said, the reason we get along so well, is that he has the most energy I'm able to handle without getting annoyed.

Among the first things he did were: rearrange the furniture in the apartment, ask us all about our life stories, clean the apartment, and initiate a challenge: visit ALL the members in the next couple of weeks. President described him as a "natural leader." And it is true.

A defining moment of the transfer was last week. After several weeks of observing him, I told him about his personality in a way he hadn't considered before.
I just explained a few aspects of him in a way that helped him understand why he did some of the things he did, and how he could improve as a person and as a missionary. And it blew him away that I had read him so well. So, 10 points to observation skills! And quite possibly inspiration. Probably that. In any case, it was a bonding moment.

But now I'm back to figuring out how to keep it fun with just 2 people, when we're not pranking the other companionship or talking in a group of 4. For 6 transfers: about 9 months of my mission, I've been in an apartment of 4 people. Lots of fun. But I'll keep it going well.

SATURDAY MASS. Also, we went to Mass last Saturday with Vinicio. It was the first one I had ever attended, and it was an interesting experience. Lots of repeating phrases, standing up, sitting down, wafers and wine, with some similarities to our services. They sing. There was a prayer and talking about scripture. Not as much congregation involvement. Yes, the people said things, but it was still the Priest and his views on the scripture, as opposed to each member taking a turn throughout the year to give a talk on a gospel topic in Sacrament Meeting, like we do. The cathedral was beautiful, though. Amazing woodwork, gold leaf, paintings, chandeliers, altars, paintings on the ceilings.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell
#87 days, not that anyone's counting

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Word of Wisdom and Meet the Mormons

Well, I'm doing good here.

HEALTHY LIVING. Mahdi is on track to be baptized next week, hopefully Wednesday. If not, then shortly thereafter. He was great: in introducing the "Word of Wisdom" (taking care of your body, including avoiding addictive substances like tobacco, alcohol and caffeine), he was like, "Yeah, that makes sense. I already don't smoke or drink, and over the next few days I'll decrease how much coffee I drink."

INJURY RECOVERY (NOT MINE). This week we finished up the exchanges for this transfer. The first exchange (trading companions for one day) was with Robinson, my old companion from Ferrara. It was strange because he got a concussion and went home 3 months ago, and now he's back, in my district. So he got a taste of life at home, and is back now for the last 3 months. He will probably finish with me. It was weird because he wasn't the easiest companion to get along with, but on the exchange I was trying to help him get a missionary mindset again and work hard for the last block.

Then I went on an exchange with an Australian, Anziano Holder. Cultural differences. Australia is very much a 'drinking and swearing' culture, although he says he's improved a lot. Great guy, but the language wasn't what I would have used...

RECOMMENDATIONS. as Zone Leaders, at the end of each transfer we tell President Dibb which elders in our zone we feel are ready to be District Leaders, Zone Leaders, or train new elders. So we look at the elders who are responsible and mature and good at doing missionary work. This time around, I was pleased to recommend a handful of people in the zone for various leadership roles.

And we went to "Meet the Mormons" (movie), showing at the church in Cuneo, in Italian. It was well attended, and it was fun to talk with people about their questions and about the film.

Love, Anziano Whitesell