Wednesday, January 21, 2015

01.21.15 {week 78}

Hey Family,

Well it was a pretty great week here in Prato!  I was able to say goodbye to a bunch of people.  It's been kind of strange "dying" in a city that I just got to.  I really did love the people here right off the bat (a perk that comes with the calling, I think).  Everyone's just confused as to why I'm already leaving, even though I just got here.  :)  I learned a lot in this city.  I was able to meet a few people that I know Heavenly Father placed in my path for a reason.  And I hope that I was able to be that person for others.  I was supposed to have my last three REAL hours of missionary work tonight in Prato.  But then we got a call from the APs yesterday morning and our travel plans for transfers are a little complicated...  Basically, this afternoon we have to head to Pisa, where I will say goodbye to Sorella Gregg so that she can head to Firenze with one of the Pisa sorelle.  So I will spend the evening in Pisa with Sorella Griffin (whom I ADORE).  Unfortunately, she and I won't actually be spending time together because she will be in a culture class from 5 to 10 and I will be waiting for her outside in the hall.  :)  Haha, not exactly how I expected to spend my last night in the mission, but I just do what they tell me to!  And then she and I will drive to Milano tomorrow morning.  I'll drop off the car in Cimiano and then I'll head with all of the other dying missionaries to the mission home.  We'll have our exit interviews and have dinner and all sorts of fun stuff that are currently...unknown to me.  There will probably be lots of tears.  And then we'll spend the night in Milano and head to the airport on Friday morning.  After guys know how the rest of the story goes.


It's a really strange thing, writing my very last email home from my mission.  I have a lot of thoughts and a lot of feelings and a lot of...just...everything (literally though, I'm still working on getting my luggage to weigh less...).  But how do you sum up a year and a half of learning and growing and stretching?  You don't, I guess.  This is one of those experiences that I'll never be able to fully describe to anyone.  It was incredible.  It was awful.  It was life-changing.  It was uncomfortable.  It was exciting.  It was just so worth it.  I can't imagine my life without it and I'm glad I don't have to.  A few mission consiglios ago, Sorella Dibb was doing a part of the training and she read a quote by C.S. Lewis that I loved and I want to share it with you guys:  "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different..."  That is truth, right there.  Looking back now, everything is different.  My whole eternal perspective has shifted.  My priorities have changed.  But, to be honest?  I don't think that I, as a person, have changed that much.  What I'm trying to say is you don't have to worry about seeing a stranger step off that airplane.  It's hard to describe.  In Abraham, it mentions something about being "added upon."  I guess if there's any way to describe how I feel or the ways in which I've changed, it would be with that phrase.  I truly do feel "added upon."  And I am so grateful for that, because I was lacking.  I'm still lacking and I'll continue to be lacking for a very long time.  But the beauty of this whole experience (life) is to be added upon and added upon, continuously.  Over and over and over again.  And aren't we lucky that the Atonement of Christ gives us the opportunity to be added upon.  To start over, learn, experience, grow.  All of it is "grazie a Lui."  I have grown closer to my Savior throughout this experience.  I have seen Him perform miracles in the lives of those I've taught and those I've served with.  Isn't it crazy how a sacrifice that was made so long ago still provides us with miracles today?  THAT is the infinite power of the Atonement.  I know that He lives.  And I know that He loves us.


Sorella Gunnerson

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

01.14.15 {week 77}

Hey Family!

Last week started off with a scambio in Pisa!  I was with Sorella Griffin and it was definitely one of my favorite scambios.  She is so awesome and so on fire.  She's only in her third transfer but she is so put together.  She understands her purpose and has no fear.  I really did learn a lot from her.  And it was lots of fun.  She kept quoting my dying testimony, so at least someone listened and liked what I said!  :)  Unfortunately Sorella Gregg got super sick from the sister that she did the scambio with.  So we've been inside off and on since then, trying to giver her some rest.  Somehow I haven't gotten the sickness yet.  (Someone please knock on some wood.  Thanks.)  It's some sort of flu/cold thing.  She had a fever for a while and now she just has a bad sore throat.  Anyway, but we have been able to go out and work a little bit, which has been nice.  I'm not sure if I told you guys about this friend of a member - F.  She is really interested in the gospel, so we've been teaching her.  And this member is literally one of my favorite people on the planet.  And she is just so excited about the fact that her friend keeps wanting to come back and learn more.  The people we know really are ready to hear about the gospel.  We just have to have the courage to talk to them about it!  And we have to follow the Spirit about the WAY in which we talk to them about it.  Anyway, it's been a good week.  We've been able to build relationships with the members and talk to them about their missionary work.  It's been really nice.  There are so many Italian families where the parents are totally active and all of their children are totally inactive.  It's really sad.  Anyway, I'll be starting my very last scambio in about ten minutes.  And then the rest of this week will be pretty normal...  It'll be after next P-day that things get really weird.  This week will be full of lasts, but I'm going to try to just...act normal.  I'm still a missionary.  So I'm gonna keep acting like one.  And it's gonna be awesome.  :)  Alright, gotta run.  Love you lots!  AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Firenze from the top of the Duomo!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

01.07.14 {week 76}

Dearest Family,

Wow, time is just flying by.  It feels like yesterday I was skyping you guys.  But nope, it's already been two weeks.  It's hard to believe.  It was a great week!  On New Years Day we had a nice little (and by little I mean "huge".....welcome to Italy) lunch with two of our members and the Hyde's.  It was really nice.  We talked about our New Years Resolutions.  Friday was Consiglio!  So basically we left the house at 6 in the morning to make the 3.5 hour drive up to Milano.  Then I was in consiglio all day (oh my goodness, one of the best consiglios of all time.....just so many funny, random things.  one of which is a video that i HAVE to show you guys right when I get home because it is HILARIOUS.).  Then we drove the 3.5 hour drive back down to Prato.  Let's just say I was really tired when we finally got home that night.  :)  Monday morning was exciting because we had zone training.  I've loved being able to train a little bit while I've been STL.  And then the moment came that I thought would never actually come.  At the end of the zone training I had to bear my "dying testimony".  It was rough.  I cried a little bit.  I quoted Dumbledore a little bit.  And then it was over.  And I was like, "Wow, that means I'm actually leaving soon."  It was definitely surreal.  Last night our ward had a Befana party.  I'll have to explain what that is......someday.  It was super fun but we had to leave early to head to Pisa!  So last night we drove to Pisa and spent the night there.  Then we had studies together this morning, headed to the LEANING TOWER OF PISA.  Oh my goodness, I'm obssessed.  And then we came up here to La Spezia to see Porto Venere.  It was probably one of my favorite P-days to date.  It's about time for us to run to catch a train and then I'll start a scambio with Sorella Griffin here in Pisa.  It will be great!  Anyway, there won't be anything super exciting happening this week, but that's okay.  To be honest, this city has been pretty hard for me.  We're working on finding new people to teach.  Anyway, I hope you're all doing well and that you had a lovely New Years!  We set our alarm for 11:55 in order to be awake for the festivities.  There was this lady on the balcony below us setting off HUGE fireworks.  We kind of thought we were going to die.  Don't worry, I have a video of it.  Anyway, I have to run but I love you all a lot!  Have a great week!  AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Mission Consiglio

Sister Training Leaders

The sisters of the Firenze Zone

Everyone in my MTC group that is now STL/ZL (plus one - Sorella Bringas who will go home the same time we do.)


Me and Sorella Gregg

Pretty self-explanatory

On our way to see Porto Venere

Porto Venere

Porto Venere

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12.31.14 {week 75}

Happy New Years Eve!

I'm so sorry, but this email will probably be super short, seeing as I have zero more time to write.  And, hey, I got to see you guys last week!  That was awesome!  I guess I'll just start from there.  After skyping I headed into the other room and started watching Tangled.  :)  IT WAS THE BEST.  I was watching the first half all by myself because that's when Sorella Gregg skyped.  I literally was, like, giddy as I was watching it.  Laughing outloud, singing along, trying to relax...  (I may or may not have forgotten how to do that.  I'm sure it'll come back to me quickly though, don't worry.  ;))  Then we finished it together that night after going to eat MORE FOOD with another part-member family.  The food is so good, but there is just so much of it.  I'm pretty sure my stomach has grown three sizes this Christmas.  On Friday it was back to work as usual!  I headed down to Montevarchi to do a scambio.  It was great!  Learned a lot.  Taught a lot.  Laughed a lot.  Good times.  Then Sorella Gregg and I tried to drive back in time for her to make it to an interview with President Dibb.  Unfortunately, we tried and failed.  We had a good 20 minutes of cushion time, but then we got stuck on the freeway for THREE HOURS.  Wanna know how far we got in those three hours?  SIX KILOMETERS.  Man, it was crazy.  Luckily, the Dibbs were understanding and she'll do her interview this Friday.  Then Sunday was normal.  Monday we did another scambio and I went to Siena.  Oh my goodness, Siena is beautiful.  (SIDE NOTE: While in Montevarchi we had a few lessons in this town called Arezzo - where that movie ("La Vita è bella") was filmed!)  Then we got back last night and now I'm here writing you!  We have to stay inside tonight starting at 5 pm because New Years gets kind of crazy in Italy.  So that should be fun!  And we might be heading to Firenze for part of P-day today.  (How great is that?  I MIGHT be going to Firenze today.  That's just an option for me all the time.  What is my life?)  Then a normal day tomorrow.  Consiglio in Milano on Friday and then Zone training on Monday and then it'll practically be P-day again!  Sorry this email is so short.  Happy New Year!  AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12.24.14 {week 74}

Buon Natale, Famiglia!

Wow, can't believe it's Christmas Eve already.  This week just flew by and now here we are!  And I'll be seeing you guys tomorrow!  Woohoo!  Okay, so let's rewind to where we left off.

Last Wednesday, after emailing, we took a train to FLORENCE, ITALY.  It was literally a 15 minute train ride.  We are SO close.  And can I just tell you?  I AM IN LOVE.  Florence really is just as amazing as everyone says it is.  It was so beautiful.  We got there and walked around lost for a little bit until we found the David.  We walked in and there were all of these huge paintings in the room and then you turn a corner and you're in this long corridor and there he is.  At the end of the corridor.  In all his glory.  Haha it was awesome.  And, can I just tell you guys?  It is amazing.  Like, sometimes I see pieces of art that are pretty famous and I'm like, "Hmm it's alright.  It must be cool from, like, a smarter person's point of view."  The David was totally not like that at all.  It is just massive and beautiful.  So detailed.  So REAL.  To sum it was incredible.  There.  Then we headed over to the Florence Duomo.  We went inside and got to see the preseppe that they have in there.  The Florence Duomo is MASSIVE.  I want to go back sometime and go up to the top.  Maybe next P-day!  :)  Then we headed over to Ponte Vecchio.  Mamma mia, it is beautiful.  You know, it's the famous bridge that you always see paintings of.  So we got a good view of it from the next bridge over and then we walked down it and got to see all the shops.  It's mostly just covered in REALLY expensive jewelry shops.  And then the day was basically over and I was in love.  The end.

Well we saw some pretty great miracles this week!  First:  I parallel parked perfectly TWICE.  I didn't even know it was a talent I had.  And I should probably knock on some wood really quick.  ...  Done.  Second:  I'm finally getting used to the Tuscan accent.  I had always heard about the Tuscan accent up there in Piemonte, but I didn't believe it could actually be real.  It is.  Basically down here, they just substitute all of their "C" sounds with "H"s.  So instead of saying "queste cose qui" ("these things here") it sounds like "hweste hose hui."  EVERYONE does it and it's actually really funny to listen to.  My favorite one?  "Hoha Hola."  (Coca Cola)  Third:  We had an incredible lesson with this member's friend on Thursday.  Her name is F.  This member, Sorella F, asked us to come over last Monday night just to talk with her a little bit about her missionary work.  Umm yes please.  So we went over there and she and her husband already had a list written down of friends/acquaintances they wanted to share the gospel with and then they basically just wanted our help in brainstorming how to best share the gospel with the different people.  They even got their 12-year-old daughter involved - talking about one of her friends.  I was BLOWN AWAY.  I've never seen a family so...willing and ready to do missionary work.  I was seriously just ecstatic.  Anyway, we went over again on Thursday to share a little Christmas message with this friend, F.  She is just pretty confused and trying to figure out what is truth and what is not.  She was actually Buddhist for a long time and doesn't know what to believe.  So we had shared "Egli è il dono" and then read some scriptures.  And it was a really spiritual experience.  She shared her feelings about everything and we (and especially this member) bore testimony about the birth and life of Christ.  Then we felt really impressed to talk about personal revelation and how you can read and pray to know the truth.  We gave her a Libro di Mormon and she was really touched.  She's excited to meet with us again and continue learning more.  This whole experience was just really great.  Especially so close to Christmas and everything - meeting someone who is so ready to learn more.  But more than that, I was just so taken aback by this member - her desire to share the gospel and then her willingness to ACT.  It really made me reflect on the member I want to be when I go home.

Other than that this week has been full of Christmas fun!  We've been doing LOTS of caroling.  (I totally talked the Anziani into it and now they're addicted.)  And for the last two nights, some of the members even got involved!  It's been a lot of fun.  This week we don't have a full P-day since President wants us in as many homes as possible.  So we have a lunch appointment today with members and then a few more tonight.  THEN IT'S CHRISTMAS!!  We bought ourselves stockings this morning.  Haha we're classy like that.  I just wanted to leave you with this little talk that I printed off about a month ago, that I've re-read all season long.  It's really short, so give it a read: 

"Keep your faith.  Look for the good in your situation.  Do something kind for someone.  Seek Christ devoid of wrapping and tinsel.  You will find that despite external circumstances, Christmas - like the kingdom of God - is 'within you.'"

Also, my classic Christmas message that I've been sharing with everyone this Christmas season:  Alma 7:10-13.  Let's remember the reason Christ came to this earth.  The holiday will mean a lot more if we do.  :)  AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12.17.14 {week 73}


Well, here I am in the lovely city of Prato!  Where to begin?  I guess where I left off.

On Wednesday night, Sorella D'Ambrosio and I went to visit with a few more people before we left.  First stop was the L. Family.  Then we went to see the C. Family.  Man, that was a really hard goodbye.  I love that family SO much.  They are seriously so special to me and I just didn't want to have to leave them.  Little S. said the closing prayer and asked Heavenly Father to make the trains not work the next morning.  Haha.  I miss those girls so much already.  Then we were able to go be with my dear, dear friend A.  I just love her so much.  But at least I'll be heading home relatively soon and there's skype and stuff.  (Meno male!)  That night we stayed up wayyyy too late trying to finish getting everything done - packing, organizing, writing information.  Just everything.  And then we got up the next morning and got on our way.  

Luckily two of our Anziani also had to head to Milano on Thursday morning and they offered to help us get our bags there.  Oh my goodness, I literally have no idea what we would have done without their help.  Haha it would have taken us HOURS.  This is why sisters just should not be white-washed.  We both have too much stuff!  I'll send pictures in a few minutes of the journey.  We were a sight to behold.  We got to Milano and quickly headed to Milano Cimiano.  We got to the parking lot and I got the first look at my NEEEW CARRRR!  And then we watched as they tried to stuff all six of our suitcases into it.  It was pretty funny.  Then I went with Anziano Harmer to the gas station so that he could show me how it's done here in Italia.  (I still wasn't allowed to drive yet because I still needed to be trained.)  Anyway, we headed back to the church and I was finally trained.  Then I headed out to the car and had to move the car so that the Dibbs could get there car out.  YEAH.  I had to back into a parking spot in front of the APs, Anziano Harmer, and President Dibb.  I think I might have been freaking out a little bit.  But they were all just laughing and I'm pretty sure they got lots of pictures.  Then President Dibb gave me a lot of pointers about how to get out to the freeway, how to turn on the lights, and all that good stuff.  I'm so glad that day is over!  Haha.  The Cimiano church is also where all the new trainers and trainees go to be placed together on their first day.  So we were there while all of that was happening and therefore I got to meet my granddaughter!  I don't think I mentioned this last week, but Sorella Tokarski is training this transfer!  So I got a picture with them, we ate lunch, and then we headed on our way!  Driving in Italy is basically the same as driving anywhere else, except for the lanes are miniscule, the parking spots are miniscule and there are a million one-way streets.  So Sorella D'Ambrosio and I drove a good three hours to Bologna.  And then we just cried a lot when I dropped her off and picked up my new comp.  I miss her a ton.

Anyway, ever since Thursday night, we've just been here in Prato (and Pistoia) trying to meet with people and get to know the city.  They have two baptismal dates set, but I still haven't met either one of them yet...  Anyway, the work has been a little slow.  I think Sorella Gregg is just trying to find her bearings as the companion who knows the people and the city the most.  And I'm just trying to learn as quickly as possible!  Oh, funny story.  On Saturday night we had a ward Christmas party.  SOMEHOW I got roped into being MARY for the Nativity skit.  Hahahaha it was awful.  And I was reminded of how horrible of an actress I am.  Anyway, I feel like I have so much more to talk about, but no time!  We're heading to Florence in a few minutes!  Hopefully I'll be seeing the David today!  :)  Anyway, love you all lots.    AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12.10.14 {week 72}


Wow, it has been a CRAZY five days, guys.  Okay, so Saturday we both woke up so ready to get transfer news.  Our bet was that I was leaving and Sorella D'Ambrosio was staying.  Well, President knows how to surprise us!  Sorella D'Ambrosio was really nervous that she was going to leave and I was going to stay, so when we got the call from President he talked to me first and said that I'm headed to Prato!  (Don't worry - I didn't know where it was either...)  He quickly explained that it is 15 minutes from Firenze and it's the old apartment of a senior couple who just headed home and apparently there's a nice parking lot and stuff.  (Have y'all heard?  I'm getting a car tomorrow!)  So I mouth to Sorella D that I'm leaving and she gets this look of relief on her face.  So then I pass the phone to her and he started talking and ... I knew something we weren't expecting was happening because of her face.  Well we're being white washed!  Sorella D is heading over to Bologna to open a companionship!  She is going to be with a sister two transfers ahead of her and they are going to be AMAZING.  So tomorrow, we'll head to Milano, we'll have an hour long training for the car.  And then I'll drive her over to Bologna.  (Seriously, some extra prayers tomorrow would be greatly appreciated...)  In Bologna will be our new comps!  So I'll drop Sorella D off, pick up Sorella Gregg (my new comp!  She came in D'Ambrosio's group, so I'll be bottle breaking her) and we'll head down to Prato.  President said that the drive from Milano to Bologna is easy.  The drive from Bologna to Prato is a little more difficult.  I think he said something about around 25 tunnels???  And lots of hills.  Anyway, it will be interesting.  Haha.  I have a feeling the first impression my new companion has of me is going to be ... psycho driver lady.  Sorella D, on the other hand, can't wait for the drive tomorrow.  :)  I will be over the sisters of Pisa, Firenze, Siena, and Montevarchi.

We had our last day at church on Sunday and I sat by my dear friend, A., and we both just bawled as Sorella D got up to bear her testimony.  Leaving Alessandria is really hard for me.  I can't say that I'm shocked - I was 95% sure I was heading to a new city, but this little city is just so special to me.  I really have made lifelong friends here.  I'm sure Prato will be great.

My birthday started being celebrated at lunch on Sunday!  Ever since C. found out about my birthday a couple of weeks ago, she's been reminding us of this lunch appointment.  So we went and she had a couple of adorable, hand-made gifts at our places.  Then a lovely lunch and a cake after!  With candles!  I think there's a video somewhere of them singing to me.  You guys will watch it someday.  Anyway, it was just really sweet.

On Monday morning I accidentally woke up early and then couldn't get back to sleep because I was so excited that it was my birthday.  #fiveyearsoldontheinside  Mostly I was just itching to open that awesome package that my sisters sent me that I had been saving.  And it was TOTALLY worth the wait.  So awesome.  I also opened a card from Mom and Dad (THANK YOU!) and then there was something else new there.  A letter from Tokarski!  And a gift from my two daughters (Tokarski and D'Ambrosio) that they bought MONTHS ago when they were on a scambio together.  Ha!  I love these girls so much.  It was really touching.  Then Sorella D made birthday crepes, but we couldn't eat them.  (The nutella jar shattered on the ground a few days ago...  Sorella D tried to salvage the nutella but......there was still glass.  As we found out that morning.  Hahaha.)  Then I started getting phone calls and texts from missionaries and members and investigators and EVERYONE.  It was awesome.  (And also due to my dear little Sorella D who apparently sneakily texted everyone to remind them and then erased the texts - all while I was in the shower.)  After studies we had a district meeting and the Anziani brought me cake!  So I got to blow out more candles.  After that we searched for and found sushi.  SO YUMMY.  I forgot how good it is.  And there were lots of Asians there, so you KNOW it was good.  (SIDE NOTE: Apparently Prato is full of Asians!  Literally three different people have told me that.)  After that we went to have a last lesson with our dear investigators C. and F.  We all just cried a lot.  And then we visited Sorella Borromeo one last time and also C. (the Sunday woman).  Then we headed to centro to carol with the Anziani!  After that we all went to a birthday party that the Fillipini threw for me.  (In my defense...I thought we were going over for an FHE with that family.  Haha and then ALL the Fillipini were there and there was a cake with my name on it and it was amazing!  I LOVE ALESSANDRIA.  Have I mentioned that yet?)  And then we went home that night, attempted to pack and slept.

It was an amazing day.

Tuesday was full of more goodbyes and tonight will be the same.  It's kind of the worst.  But I guess I should just be thankful that I know so many wonderful people who making saying goodbye so hard.  Anyway, thanks for all the nice birthday messages!  I'm one spoiled girl.  I'll talk to you guys next week - from Tuscany!  :)  AMORE.

Sorella Gunnerson

Saturday started off like this - I'm going to Prato!

Me and S.

Us and random members.  :)

Birthday lunch after church on Sunday - with C. and L.!

Sorella B. came to lunch too!

C. gave us presents.  :)

Cake #1  (Yeah, I was a little spoiled...)

Me with N., O., and kiddos!

Woke up birthday morning to crepes!  (They came to be known as "death crepes" after finding glass inside them......long story..........)

I also woke up to an incredible package from my lovely sisters!!  Here I am with the banner.  Also, just ask Sorella D'Ambrosio - I was, like, screaming and jumping around when I found the April 18th present.  :)  SO EXCITED.

I would like you all to meet my son, E.  I love this boy SO MUCH and we have a special bond because we look exactly like each other and he looks nothing like his parents.  We're best friends.

Last night with GANS.  :(

Cake #3 (at the birthday party all of the Filippini threw for me!)

#selfie (after caroling the night of my b-day)

Birthday lunch!  Sushi!

C., F., and A.!  Love them.

Me and D'Ambrosio in Acqui Terme - by la bollente!

Me and E.

Me with D. and little S.

Us and F. (her 10 year old daughter was taking the picture haha)

Us and A. and D. at the pizzeria!

Cake #2 (after district meeting)

District Picture - last District Meeting of the transfer