Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Week of Changes and Packing

(*Reminder: you can click on the pictures to make them bigger!)

Well it was a week of big news. Transfer info: I'm going to Merate, a small town by Lecco, by Milano, to finish my mission.

Scaffolding, Anyone?
SAYING CIAO TO MANY FRIENDS. So the week was busily spent saluting friends and recording contact information. I'm not sure what it is, but this time, maybe due to being near the end and being more confident and personable, or maybe the people, but there are far more people I plan on keeping in touch with here in Torino than in previous cities. So thank goodness for facebook and email, because with letters I would be hard pressed to keep track of everyone.

(I understand there is something called an "Address Book" at home, but that's just for Old People. :P Ha! -- he says after having used it for every thank you note he has ever written...)

SWITCHING TOWNS & COMPANIONS. My new companion will be Anziano Richardson. I've heard some about him, and met him once or twice. I'm really looking forward to it because I've heard he's really cool. He's been out for about a year and a half. And obviously, I'll find out more about him over the next 5 weeks! Funny thing, last transfer was a 5-week transfer, and I had Anderson as my companion for his last transfer. Now I'm going to be one-and-done for my last (5-week) transfer.

Packing, as usual, is difficult, but I still don't have to toss much. I remember when I left Boston, with a checked bag only half-full, and a carry-on (which turned out to be too big to carry on). My things have built up a little at a time, but I'm only now having to toss anything.

One of the hardest parts was saying goodbye to the missionaries in this district, but fortunately it's easier to keep in contact with them because most of them are going to one BYU or the other. I know I'll have a bit of traveling to do when I'm at BYU Provo (up to BYU-Idaho, to visit!).

DEDICAS. We have a missionary tradition of writing 'dedicas' to each other in little notebooks at the end of each transfer, with the people who aren't going to be with you next transfer. So in leaving, I had a lot of memories and emotions sealed into my dedica, along with contact info from those who liked me.

(**It's not obligatory to leave your info, or what info to leave. For example, if I only leave my facebook info to someone who won't finish their mission for another 15 months, that doesn't say much for our relationship during the transfer.)

MY FAVORITE PEOPLE HERE (Mom's question). It's weird because as a whole, the ward congregaton was fairly lukewarm. But there are lots of specific people I'll miss:
1) The Zapata family
2) a Peruvian couple who work in the Primary and he plays the piano amazingly well
3) Robin, a Nigerian man who has come back to church while we've worked with him
4) Sarah, a Sicilian girl studying here who has been super cool, also she's a Whovian so bonus points

(Note from Mom: we had to look up "Whovian..." top definition according to google:

Whovian: A fan of the popular sci-fi show Doctor Who. Whovians are the epitome of awesome, with good grammar and better knowledge. This knowledge stems from their interest in space and time, and the information gained from many viewings of the show. Without Whovians, your life would be very dull indeed. They secretly run the world's major services, and insert Doctor Who references into every piece of popular culture available.

5) Simone, a Napolitano kid who was baptized roughly 2 years ago.
Just cool people I got to know and want to keep getting to know.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Challenges, Chairs and Change

Ciao, All!

EXERCISE REGIME. (describing our apartment) We don't have a couch. We have two recliner-type chairs that are super comfy. These chairs lead to my companion WATCHING me do my P90X workout, deciding life is difficult and the exercising just isn't going to work today, and telling me he'll start tomorrow. What a goon :P I just sit in them in the evening, and listen to music.

Hearing from the mission president at mission council, talking with ward leaders, etc., gives me the impression that the youth are being prepared for a lot of responsibility in these days. Like how they've re-vamped the Young Men's 'On My Honor' program, and lowering the missionary age, etc.

LOCATION CHANGE COMING. Transfer calls come in a couple of days. It's the last one that matters for me! o.O But I'll be sad to leave this area -- I've made a lot of friends. Fortunately, I'll have FB and Skype in a couple of weeks, to keep in touch with them. Having the heads-up from President Dibb (that I'm moving, next transfer) was nice, so I can feel sad about leaving for a little bit, and one girl will be gone next week, so if I hadn't known I wouldn't have been able to say goodbye.

WHAT WE DO. Work is moving along. We're seeing more success with reactivating current members, than with new investigators, but that part is up to the Lord. Our missionary work is about strengthening the ward (congregation), not just baptizing.
And I've definitely learned some stuff about wards and organization during my time here. Actually, one of the congregation members works as a church building administrator for the stake (group of congregations), so talking to her we learned a lot. I would enjoy an organizational position, in the church or otherwise.

Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lessons, Bus Rides, Maybe Yoga


(Reminder: you can click on the pictures to make them bigger...)

PRODUCTIVE DAYS. This week was pretty awesome. We were really busy; we taught 27 lessons last week. If we can keep that up, it would probably result in this area getting a car. It's difficult to make it across town to one lesson, then travel 40 minutes by bus to another lesson, then go back home for lunch. Our studies are pretty shot; morning activities take the place of those, most days. But spending most of our time outside the apartment is better.

STRESS MANAGEMENT. We had interviews with President Dibb last Monday, so I talked to him about feeling stress from the workload, and feeling like everything has to be perfect, and people not making the choices I'd like them to make. I go through waves every couple of days, first feeling like everything is awesome, then...we miss a bus and show up late, and somebody can't meet this week, and some plans change last-minute, and I start stressing out again. I need to find an outlet, because I figure if I'm working hard, I'll always be in a potentially high-stress position. I'll try some things to see what works; there's a new missionary handbook that has some pages with suggestions on stress management.

In any case, President Dibb said what he usually does with missionaries near the end who have been Zone Leaders 6 months (4 transfers) is have them finish in a normal companionship, just elders helping each other work hard as the "dying" missionary (near the end of his mission) finishes his last transfer. So, I expect to do one more move, for the last transfer. Don't know where yet, but a transfer is coming. 2 more weeks here, so I'm cleaning up the bookkeeping and organizing, so it can be perfect for the next guy to walk in and keep going.

TRAIN STATION. Other than that...we were at the train station looking for a lady we were going to meet with, and this guy walks up to us:

(Yes, this is us.)
He asks if we have a Book of Mormon in Spanish. "Not on us, but we can get you one."
"Okay, good. I've been inactive for awhile, but I want to come back to church."
"Excellent! Can we get your number?"
"Yes, and I live at this place..."

Wow. Things like this happen and I just realize so much, that this is the Lord's work.  I just show up, and put in effort and faith, but if He wants something to happen, that's when things change.

VARIED HOMETOWNS. Missionaries in my zone are from California, California, Las Vegas, Netherlands (born in Belgium), Boston (me), Florida (born in Venezuela), Idaho, Utah, Australia, Utah, Utah, Utah, Utah, Colorado, Utah, and Phoenix. Too much Utah. No, really...when the members ask where you're from and you say somewhere else (besides Utah), they say 'Oh, good.'

Have a great week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hiking to the Basilica and..."The Doorman"

Ciao, All!

Well, we have some weird apartments sometimes. I'll start with a couple of experiences using my climbing expertise to solve certain apartment problems.

LOCKED IN. In our current apartment, you can lock and unlock the door from the outside but not from the inside. Which is fine if you are the only companionship. But sometimes, if you're not careful, someone gets locked in. So with Anderson, the other guys left one time, and then a half hour later we try to leave. And find out we're locked in. Hmmm.

The first idea is, "How far away are the other guys?" But they're in a lesson across town. The members with our spare key are at work. So Anderson says cancel our appointment and wait. I say, I've always wanted an excuse to climb down from the balcony. So Anderson refuses to watch, but I go over our third floor balcony, shimmy down the next couple of balconies, and get down to the ground, then come up the stairs and unlock the door from the outside. ('Just call me...The Doorman.')

I THOUGHT YOU HAD THE KEYS. The other story was when we forgot the keys. We got the spares, go back to the apartment, and find out that while the spares include a house key and a stairwell key, they don't include a gate key. No problem; I wait for the passers-by to pass by, and hop the fence, going up to the apartment to get our normal keys.

CONFERENCE ADDRESSES. Other news. General Conference was this weekend. Every six months, we have "General Conference," where we get to hear inspirational messages and counsel from church leaders and our prophet. We watched the Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Priesthood session, and Sunday morning sessions. There were many inspiring talks and humorous comments. President Uchtdorf is a riot, in addition to being an excellent speaker.

A couple of favorites were Merlyn B. Arnold's talk about going to the rescue with haste, not wasting time, and bringing to mind the quote, "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." (General George S. Patton)

I also liked Stephen W. Owens talk about following an example we trust, like his father hunting, or Jesus Christ day-to-day. And Bonnie L. Oscarson's talk about "is your belief in your head, or in your heart?" I look forward to re-reading those talks and those I missed from Sunday afternoon, in the Ensign (church magazine). And speaking of which, I refer you to the article in the April 2016 Ensign, "A Worn, Marked Conference Ensign."

GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Today we went with a bunch of elders in the zone to the Basilica of Superga. We knew that the tram didn't go there, so we planned to hike it. But about a quarter-mile in, and discovering a bus that made trips to the top, half of the group went back to the base to wait for the bus. Four of us kept hiking up the road. It took about an hour, but it was an enjoyable hike. Often when walking around town I don't talk with my companion, just thinking or going on autopilot. But with 4 of us, we kept conversation going the whole way, and switching off talking one-on-one with each member of the group, I got to know them better. We made it to the top and saw the cool Basilica, at about the same time the other guys arrived, they having waited awhile for the bus.

COMING BACK TO GOD. And, a cool house-to-house experience happened. On an exchange, we were knocking doors and a youth opened, maybe 16 years old. He said his family was evangelical, but he had never been baptized. During the past year he had drifted away from those religious roots, but he decided he needed to come back to God. In a few months he wants to be baptized. We showed him A Savior is Born, from Christmas. We'll talk to him again, to see when we can meet.

Have a great week! Happy Birthday Mom--your letter is in the mail.

Love, Anziano Whitesell