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!
The Milano Est Zone! Merry Christmas!