Wednesday, December 25, 2013

12.25.13 {week 22}


Okay, so I am in the process of sending all of you a little gift.  And when I say little, I mean little.  They're Christmas themed, but I haven't been able to get them sent out yet.  Hopefully I'll be able to drop them in a mailbox this afternoon.  So just be on the lookout for those in a couple of weeks and Merry Christmas!

This has been one of the best Christmases of my life.  Yeah, I'm shocked to be typing those words right now, too.  ;)  And I don't even know how to explain it.  Christmas is so different as a missionary, as most of you know.  But I wouldn't trade it for anything.  We've caroled a TON (and talked to/hopefully brought the Spirit to a ton of people) down at the Duomo.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love this city.  I love this ward.  And I'm so glad I'm here for Christmas.  

Last night, the six of us headed to our incredible Ward Missionary Leader's house.  He does so much for our ward and especially for us as missionaries.  He's awesome.  So he had Sorella Russell and me over for lunch with his family and then the six of us surprised him with a little treat and a "Buon Natale!"  After that we headed to a ward member's house - Milca and Kevin.  They were so nice to have us (and Giulia) over for Christmas Eve dinner.  It was the closest I could get to home with the closest I could get to a family.  It was perfect.  Then we got home late, received our first "Merry Christmas!" phone call from the Anziani a little after midnight (they headed down to the Duomo to go to midnight mass - and we totally would have if Cologno Monzese wasn't so far away from the center of Milano.  Darn it all.), and headed to bed.  We got to sleep in for a half an hour this morning and then I made Christmas crepes!  Now we're here at Giulia's house doing emails (cuz she's the BEST), we're about to have lunch with her family, and then the three of us are heading to a movie theater down by the Duomo to see "Frozen."  I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we're all allowed to watch one Disney movie on Christmas day.  So we're going all out and heading to the movie theater.  I'm pretty excited.  :)  Then we'll come back here and I'll get to see your lovely faces.  How strange!

Random things about this week: I've had roasted chestnuts multiple times and they are SO good.  And every time I ate them, I just couldn't help but sing.  It's been really rainy this week.  Well sometimes rainy and sometimes just...misty.  It's so weird.  Like, an umbrella does nothing because the air is just cold and wet.  It's definitely interesting.  Anziano Sexton has been writing a Christmas poem every day leading up to Christmas, so every time we get together with the Anziani he reads us his most recent poem.  They're GOOD.  I'll have to send you some once I get a copy.  And the one he wrote on December 8th is even birthday themed!  I can't believe I almost forgot!  We saw "La Traviata" last week and it was incredible.  I love this place.  I love these people.  I love Christmas!

I know that Christ lives and that this is His work upon the earth.  I'm so grateful to be a part of it.  I know that our Father in Heaven loves us more than we can imagine.  And that it's because of this immense love that He sent His Son to die for us.  We are so lucky to have such a loving Father and such a giving Big Brother.  I love you all and hope that your Christmas season has been wonderful.  But, most importantly, I hope that you've been able to focus on Christ this Christmas.  :)  AMORE!

Sorella Gunnerson

La Traviata!  La Scala!

Our District Christmas picture!  Also, Christmas Eve at Milca's and Kevin's house.  :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12.18.13 {week 21}

It's comin' on Christmas, they're cuttin' down trees...

One week until Christmas!  Can you believe it?  It basically already feels like January here.  Until you go to the center of Milan and there are lights everywhere and it's beautiful and Christmas-y.  Ugh I love it!  I love Italy, guys.  You should all come here someday.  It's the best.  As far as Italy and Christmas go...Italians are not the biggest Christmas fans.  It's pretty interesting actually.  For being so obsessed with Mary, you'd think they'd be all over it, but it's just another holiday here.  It's definitely a bigger deal in America, I've come to find out.  But it's still a beautiful time of year and you can feel the Christmas spirit.  Our ward is doing a Christmas program this Friday night, so that should be fun.  I love this ward and I never, ever, EVER want to leave Cimiano.  Sometimes I forget and I think that I'll just be here for the rest of my mission.  And then I remember that I'm probably leaving after this transfer and it makes me so sad.  But, such is mission life, I suppose.  We'll see what happens.  You never know!

This week was super weird.  We did, in fact, end up moving apartments this week.  So we spent Friday and Saturday and a good chunk of Monday packing and moving and cleaning.  It was CRAZY.  But now I live in an Ikea catalog, so that's pretty exciting.  Also, we're right next door to this church that has bells!  So we get to hear bells in the morning while we're studying.  Sometimes the songs don't make any sense and I think a child has gotten a hold of them, but it's fun nonetheless.  And we live on the cutest little Italian street.  There are Jehovah's Witnesses EVERYWHERE, but that's okay.  We just smile and wave and they think we're one of them!  

Last Thursday was a pretty exciting day though.  We ended up getting three new investigators that day and setting a baptismal date for December 26!  His name is B., he's the father of a lady in our ward, and he's in his 80's.  He is the most adorable old man.  Basically the Italian grandfather I never had.  So he decided he wanted to be baptized and we were stoked.  So we were like, "Okay, how about the 28th?"  And he was like, "Actually, how about the 26th?"  And everything was perfect.  And then his daughter called us on Saturday and said it was cancelled because he talked to his son who is contro and now he has all of these doubts and he doesn't want to be baptized anymore.  He refused to come to church on Sunday and he won't meet with us this week.  We are heartbroken.  Seriously heartbroken.  So that's that.  Hopefully we'll be able to see him soon and just see how he's feeling and what's going on.  That ended on a somewhat depressing note.  Sorry about that.  We were handed buckets and buckets full of referrals this week, so we're working on sorting through those and seeing which of these people are ready to change their lives and come closer to Christ!  Speriamo.  We've been doing a lot of caroling this week down at the Duomo.  The six of us in our district go, and then whichever GANS are available.  And then a couple of us walk around handing pass-along cards and talking to whomever stops to listen to those of us who are caroling.  It's pretty awesome.  I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE THIS CITY.  I love it.

Anyway, I've got to cut this a little short because we're going to the opera tonight!  (I know, Mitch already told me I'm spoiled.  I know.  ;)) We got a little group together to wait in line today and now, in an hour we'll be sitting in La Scala watching "La Traviata."  :)  And a week from now, we'll be skyping!  How strange.  We'll be spending most of Christmas day at Giulia's house and then basically trying to see any members that will have us.  We feel a little unwanted, but that's okay.  ;)  I'm sure it will be a beautiful day.  I hope you all have a wonderful week leading up to Christmas.  Being on the mission at this time has really reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas.  The fact that our eldest brother, Jesus Christ, was born for us.  That he lived for us, died for us, and lives for us again.  I'm so thankful for this knowledge.  I love you all!  Buon Natale!  AMORE!

Sorella Gunnerson

Our new home!

Our cute little street and piazza!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12.11.13 {week 20}

Family and Friends!

What a week!  Thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes!  My week has officially been made.  :)  Also, thank you so much for the December letters!  I got them at zone conference on Monday, so I got to open 9 of them all at once.  It was basically like Christmas.  Actually, I opened the first one when I was on the metro heading home from the conference and that was a mistake because the first one was from Jill and totally made me cry.  ;)  So there I was, crying on the metro.  Haha talk about embarrassing...  I don't think Sorella Russell knew quite what to do.  But thank you thank you thank you.  It makes waking up every morning a little bit easier knowing that I get to open a letter from someone I love.

This week was full of birthday festivities!  Man, I am one spoiled missionary.  This ward goes all out for birthdays.  Basically we showed up for Serata Familiare on Thursday night and Fratello Guerrero and Giovanna said they needed to talk to Sorella Russell alone for a minute...  I hate to say it, but I'm not very good at being surprised.  I'm pretty observant.  (I'm pretty sure it comes with being the youngest child.  ;))  So I basically knew what was going on but played along, of course.  So we watched a biography about President Hinckley and then they took me in to this dark room and then the lights turned on, there was a loud pop of confetti and everyone was wishing me "Tanti Auguri!" and singing.  It was awesome.  They even had pizza and a cake!  It sounds like you have all become friends with Giulia, so you've seen the pictures.  It was the best!  I love this ward.  Then on Sunday morning, for my actual birthday, I was greeted at church with a present and card from Giulia.  She's the best.  I adore her.  And then everyone started noticing that it was my birthday, so I got a couple of other random gifts - some perfume from Sorella Acevedo and a seashell from M. (the sister of N.).  It was so sweet of everyone.  And THEN in Sacrament Meeting, Fratello Guerrero announced that it was my birthday in front of the whole ward and asked me to go up and bear my testimony.  So then everyone knew and we got invited to lunch at a member's house (whose father we're teaching right now) and it was amazing!  (Minus the fish patties - we were a little ill for the rest of the night.)  The next day we had the Christmas Conference (which was more conference than Christmas, but that's okay) and Sorella Harward surprised me with a homemade cake and the two zones that were there sang to me.  That Sorella Harward - I love her.  (She and I also sang "O Holy Night" for the conference!  So much fun!)  That night we went to Sorella Acevedo's house for FHE and she also made me a cake!  So, don't worry about whether or not I got enough cake for my birthday.  I think we have enough leftover cake to last us...the week.  ;)  So between all of the birthday festivities here and all of the birthday wishes from overseas, it was an unforgettable birthday!

A couple of miracles to mention:  A couple of weeks ago, during the ricerca, we ended up talking to the brother-in-law of this meno-attiva we were looking for.  She wasn't home, and he wouldn't give us her number, but gave us his instead and said to come back another time.  So we were finally able to make it there this last Friday and her brother-in-law, who we had actually set up the appointment with, wasn't there, but she was!  She's 18 and was super open to letting us come in and talk to her.  The part that broke our heart was that she said she hadn't seen missionaries since 2005.  We were shocked.  And so sad.  This ward is so big and there are so many meno-attivi members that a lot of them get lost.  It's awful.  So we were glad we got to see her and we're going to try to get her more involved in YSA stuff and get her coming back to church.  One of our goals for this transfer is actually to split the member list up more efficiently between the missionaries, so that every single member is accounted for.  It'll take some time, but will end up being worth it.  Another random miracle came about only because I was stupid and accidentally got off at the wrong metro stop WITHOUT my companion.  Okay, don't freak out, this is what happened:  The windows of the metro were covered in graffiti.  You literally could not see out of the windows.  So I knew we had two stops left until we had to get off and I just...lost track.  We were talking with Sorelle Harward and McPeek and I thought we had gone two stops, but we had really only gone one.  So I say goodbye real quick and just jump off the train.  Right as I jump off I realize what I've done and I turn around just in time to see the doors close.  Yeah.  Luckily, Sorella Russell and I had made a plan for this exact instance.  The plan was that whoever ended up staying ON the train just gets off at the next stop and waits for the other person to get on the next train and meet up.  Unfortunately, Sorella Russell forgot the plan.  Haha, so I took the next train, got off at the next stop and she was nowhere to be found.  Turns out, she had thought the plan was the opposite.  So she had gone back to find me and it was just a big mess.  She had the phone at the time, so I just...didn't know what to do.  So I wait for a while and then I realize I should be intently staring at every single window of every new train to see if I see her.  I didn't end up seeing her, but I DID end up seeing two of our Anziani!  So the train stops and I try to get to them before the train pulls away again.  But it starts pulling away and by some sort of magic, Anziano Parker just happens to look up and catch my eye RIGHT as it's pulling away.  So I'm standing there on the platform, he's in the moving train and all I can do is make the sign of a phone and mouth the word "CALL."  So they called my companion, told her where I was and we met up again and neither of us died.  :)  Miracle, I tell you.  Ah, the adventures of being a missionary.

To answer Mom's questions:  We still haven't moved.  We moved a bunch of big things yesterday, like desks and chairs and our washing machine.  We thought we were moving everything else tomorrow, so we spent all morning packing, only to find out that we probably won't be moving for another two weeks.  We were...less than thrilled.  So we'll probably just be living between the two apartments for the next two weeks.  Sigh.  Oh well!    Unfortunately, M. fell off the face of the earth.  We're not happy about this.  And we have every intention of fixing it.  I'll keep you updated.  How am I doing?  Well enough.  :)  Monday was hard because we talked about the rules for Christmas and everything.  I don't know, I guess that was when I realized how different it will be.  But it will still be awesome!  Just a different kind of awesome.  A more missionary, Christ-like kind of awesome.  :)  But seriously, I'm doing well.  The transfer has started off a little slow, but things are picking up and I'm getting more used to sharing the responsibility.  I like it, actually.  That whole "greenie" thing was not my favorite.  I really like being pushed with the language.  It forces me to learn it quickly and to always be on my toes!  So, all is well!  I'm proud to report that the church is growing, even here in Italy.  :)  I'm doing my best to be a miniscule part in this work.  I love it.  I am thankful every second of every day to be able to serve a mission and serve my Lord.  Even in the hard moments.  :)  I love you all and I'm so thankful for your love and support.  'Til next week!  AMORE!

Sorella Gunnerson

The Milano Est Zone!  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

12.04.13 {week 19}


Happy Thanksgiving last week!  I hope Thanksgiving was fabulous for all of you.  From your various emails, it sounds like it was a fun (albeit tiring) weekend!  Just as it should be!  Of course I'm sad I couldn't be there, but it's all good!  Thanksgiving was just a normal day here in Milano.  It was really weird, actually, because we basically forgot all day.  And then it was, like, ten at night and we remembered and basically just wished each other a happy Thanksgiving and that was that!  Ah, the life of a missionary.  ;)

So this week has been crazy.  I got a new companion on Thursday (Thanksgiving...).  Her name is Sorella Russell and she's from Layton, Utah.  She's 20.  She's two transfers ahead of me and only slightly ahead of me in the language, so we're learning really quickly.  Our first lesson ended up having a lot of awkward pauses, but we're learning how to actually make conversation with people (for both of us, our previous companions always did that...).  Also, I never made any Italian phone calls in the last three months, but this last week has definitely made up for the lack.  It's so hard not being able to see people's mouths!  But it's actually been easier than I thought it would be.  It's hard to see my own progress with the language since I'm so caught up in my own brain and I'm really good at comparing myself to other missionaries, but sometimes I catch a glimpse, and I realize that I have come a LONG way.  Yesterday morning we had a new, golden referral that we went on an adventure to visit.  We got to the right city but then we just couldn't find the street.  So I started asking people on the street and then they would give directions and we would both basically just nod and smile and then they would walk away and we would look at each other with the exact same confused faces and start busting up laughing.  But we finally found it and we learned some useful vocab in the process!  (Also, M., the golden referral, is now a golden investigator with a baptismal date!)

Another random thing, we were living in four again this week!  It was the best!  Poor Sorella Harward and Sorella McPeek didn't have power in their apartment for a week, so they got to come hang out with us!  Mamma mia, no words can express how much I love the two of them.  They are just incredible people and missionaries.  It was probably TOO much fun, and now they're gone and life is just normal!  ;)  We also did some more caroling this week at the Duomo!  The Anziani in my district are super into it.  It's pretty hilarious actually.  They're always calling us up asking us to go caroling with them.  It's a pretty effective finding method actually.  We just have one of us not singing and waiting until people come up and listen to us, then they give them a Christmas pass-along card and start chatting with them.  I love it.  We did it this last Sunday night and it made my week!  Some of the YSA from our ward showed up and did it with us.  It was the best.  Oh how I love this ward.  I'm going to miss it when I leave (which will hopefully be never.)  I'll have to send some pictures in another email.

We'll be moving into a new apartment this week!  I'll actually miss my little, moldy house.  I liked it!  But now we're in this fancy, brand-new apartment with hardwood floors.  I'll be sure to send pictures next week when (if) we've actually moved in.

So basically it's been an exhausting week.  Although I'm not technically senior comp, since I know the area, and since we're pretty equal with the language, we're both basically co-senior comps.  I'm just glad I wasn't thrown in to training or something.  But it's been a good, busy week!  We've seen lots of less-actives and investigators (some more progressing than others), and we're looking forward to learning and growing a TON this transfer.  We might need some extra prayers!  ;)  My faith in Jesus Christ grows every week as new experiences are thrown at me.  I know that only with His help can I be the missionary I need to be.  So I'm working on it!  :)  Thanks for your love and support, as always.  Oh, and for the birthday messages!  Thank you!!!!  AMORE!

Sorella Gunnerson

Random pictures from Sorella P's last night here. 
Giulia and Milca!

N's  family. 

Our district. 

Sorella Russell and me at the Duomo!  Christmas tree!

Giulia and me!  LOVE HER. 

The caroling group!! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

11.27.13 {week 18}


Holy smokes, so much to write about!  First things first:  the opera!  Yes, I have officially seen an opera at La Scala and it was AMAZING.  Just amazing. Our seats were awful, but I suppose that's to be expected from 13 euro tickets.  So we just ended up standing in the back.  But it was seriously incredible.  I recommend it.  ;)

Second, we finally heard about transfers late last night and my dear trainer is leaving me!  Sorella P has been called to be a Sister Training Leader in Rimini.  So I am staying here in Milano and getting a new companion!  Her name is Sorella Russell and all we know about her is that she will be starting her fifth transfer.  I'm freaking out slightly because, although I won't be the senior companion, I know the people and the area, so a lot of the pressure falls on me.  So it will be an interesting week!  I'm scared but excited also.  I know that this will give me the opportunity to stretch and grow even more - especially with the language.

This week has been a busy one (I seriously don't know where the time goes).  On Sunday night, the six of us in our district (and ward) decided we were going to go caroling.  So we went to the castle, a couple of metro stops away from the Duomo and we found a spot and just stood there and started singing Christmas songs from the hymnbook.  And then people would stop sometimes and we'd talk to them and give them pass-along cards.  It was fun but SO COLD.  It is so cold here.  Obviously because it's more humid.  But I seriously need to invest in some fleece-lined tights or something.  And a face mask.  Also, gloves would probably be a good idea.  Gosh, you'd think I've never lived in the cold before!  It's just a different kind of cold.  So I'm trying to get used to it.

We taught a lot of lessons this week!  We don't have any solid investigators at the moment, but we're working on it!  It feels like every time we start teaching someone who could be solid, something ends up happening that makes it hard for them to meet with us.  So we try to be really good about daily contacting and trying to get them to at least read a little something in the Book of Mormon each day.  And then we say a lot of prayers.  ;)  What else did we do this week?  Oh!  I made some zucchini cake!  Thanks to Clark's recipe!  I actually have some in a bag with me right now because I'm taking it to Serata Familiare right after this.  AND I experimented with apple instead of zucchini with one of the batches and, not to brag or anything, but it was really good!  And yes, the bishop and I ended up singing at the ward activity on Friday night.  It went well!  I had no idea our bishop could sing like that!  I think everyone was blown away.

Well, that's about all I have time for, but thanks for all the emails this week! I'm still convinced that I have the best support system around.  Try not to have TOO much fun without me for Thanksgiving.  ;)  AMORE!

Sorella Gunnerson