ONLY 5 DAYS 'TIL ITALY!!! (said in the Grinch-countdown-to-Christmas-voice!)
Well my dear folks, fam, and friends-- here's to the last MTC email!
I figure I'll start out I'll share some wondrous/humorous things that happened and then take us home with spiritual insights from the week and MTC in general!
1) Karma stinks. I slammed the back of my head on the bookshelf, yes, the very bookshelf in fact that my sweet companion whacked hers on. Darn that thing. But hey, now I'm sportin' this goose egg on the back of my head... I take it as my MTC souvenir. We laughed though--It's actually a running joke that we're all going to chip in and buy a helmet for Sorella Ervin because my sweet companion, darn it, can't keep her head off hard objects! Please bless Italy is chocked full of fluffy pillow-like things for her.
2) Another HILARIOUS companion story. Prolly the funniest one yet. I don't know what I did in the Premortal Existence to deserve my companion who makes me laugh so hard constantly, but I'm sure glad I did it! OK. PICTURE THIS: it's late at night (not too late... I'm obedient...) You and Sorella Bollwinkel are up talking about deep, doctrinal, inspirational stuff. All of your other roommates are fast asleep but the light's still on. You see your sweet companion, Sorella Ervin, out cold on her bed. But you notice that her leg is hanging off the edge. You're scared that if she continues to kick that leg around in her sleep, she'll have so much momentum that she'll just propel herself right off the bed! Well, folks, that's exactly what happened. Sorella Bollwinkel says, "Baerster, can I share something special with you?" then BAM. You hear commotion-- your companion torpedos/dive rolls right out of bed (fully asleep, mind you) and wakes up to the sensation of slamming into the the floor. Like, she totes did a 360 in the air. it. was. awesome. I've never been so proud of her. I rushed over and made sure she was ok, but mercy, WAS I LAUGHING! We all laugh about it! Sorella Ervin was BUSTING up, too! Whenever there's a quiet moment, I just replay the memory in my mind, and I'm in all sorts of glee. World's.best.comp.
3) Just a small funny little moment: we're teaching the Gospel of Christ as a class to our teacher, Fratello Weller. Anziani Axson and Lemmo were talking about Enduring to the End (Perservando Sino alle Fine). Anz. Axson testified of how members needs to feel welcome and to make friends. He didn't know how to say "friendship" in Italian, so he just said, "Amici-ship..." oh.my.the.hilarity.kills.me. Maybe this is one of those "had to be there" moments, regardless. It was awesome.
4) Another that made me smile? We were working on TALL as a district. (TALL is this online computer program that we do.) I'm just minding my own bizz, listening, and speaking Italian into the little headset. Out of the blue, I hear Anz. Lemmo say, "I'm a rebel, Dottie!" Where the crumb have I been?! ANZIANO LEMMO CAN QUOTE PEE-WEE HERMAN AND I JUST FOUND THIS OUT?! Needless to say, we've been quoting Pee-Wee ever since. Although it took us 5 weeks to find yet another random, yet incredible movie we both love, I sure am appreciative!
And now for the two spiritual things that have been weighing on my mind this entire week:
The first one has to do with baptism: While teaching our investigator Salvatore about the Gospel of Christ, I felt prompted to share the experience of my own baptism. I found myself reflecting on one of the most special and significant moments of my life. I don't know how I was able to share this thought with our investigator, other than that the Lord filled my mouth with the very words in the very moment I needed them.
I shared how I remember being 8 years old and being relatively scared to be baptized-- I understood how big of a decision it was. The only thing that brought me comfort was knowing that my big brother, Devin, would be baptizing me. I remember us practicing where I would put my hands, and how I would be dipped into the water. He was only 16, I was only 8. But we were ready.
I remember vividly being in the white jumpsuit and heading down the steps into the font, and I saw my dear brother and hero already in the water with his hand extended. I was instantly filled with comfort and peace because I knew who was leading me and who I was following. My big brother and best friend was there waiting for me, and because I trusted him, I knew that my decision to be baptized was right.
After, I shared this experience with my investigator, I then shared a portion of 2 Nephi 31:13 which says, "[you will be] following your Lord, and your Savior down into the water."I testified to Salvatore that we have no need to fear of baptism because our loving Older Brother Jesus Christ is already into the water with His hand extended. We can have comfort and peace because we know who's leading us into the waters of baptism and who we're following. He's our Big Brother and we can trust Him into the waters of baptism.
--Anyway, this was just the sweetest, most profound, most special parallel for me to draw as it made me reflect on my relationship with Dev and how tender the experience of my baptism is for me and also how involved our Elder Brother Jesus Christ is with our decision to be baptized.
"[His] hands are outstretched still."
The second insight I had is regarding the love of God. One of our teachers asked us about the different ways in which we feel the love of God. Answers such as: reading the scriptures, through prayer, through feeling the Spirit were shared. It then dawned on me that a significant way that I feel the love of God is through His children. This is what I wrote in my journal about it: "I've realized that I so often feel His love through others. I have such a testimony of the goodness of mankind. Through a kind word, piece of good news, good deed, or compliment, we can feel of the love of God for us. And naturally so because every good things comes from Him. This makes me think of then the privilege that I have to be a vehicle of His love for any certain person. And that I can show them how apparent His love and mercy has been in their own life and how familiar the feeling is. I want everyone I meet to leave feeling the Lord's love for them."
Friends and family, brothers and sisters, I testify, and feel to do so, of the Lord's love for us. of the Lord's CONSTANT love for us. It surrounds us. It encompasses us. I recommend reading "The Love of God" by President Uchtdorf, it beautifully teaches and testifies of the prevalence of His love-- I keep this talk in my bag with me at all times to read and remind myself of His love for me:) I challenge each of us to look outside of ourselves. To notice love and brotherly kindness in all aspects of our lives, be it: the man that helps the woman lift her stroller onto the bus, the teen who held the door for you, the individuals that smile and whistle "just because"--these are examples of the light of Christ, and further, His love. We can then, realize that we are endowed with the same. We have the same privilege and duty to share this light, to spread abroad this message of goodness and kindness with all we come in contact with! May we desire to be loving, to be happy. Because we then can be the answer to someone's prayer to feel the Lord's love that day.
I have a testimony of missionary work. That this is His work and His glory. He's behind everything that I do. I couldn't feel more fortunate to have the companion, district, mission call, MTC experience and opportunity to go to Italy than I do. The Lord's blessed me. He's blessed us all, and if we pray to have eyes to see His tender mercies in our lives, I know that He will open them up to our understanding and recognition.
I love this gospel and will declare of its truthfulness for the rest of my life. It's a message of joy and gladness, and that's exactly how I feel.
Nel nome di Gesu Cristo, amen.
Tutto il mio amore,
p.s. I love you.
p.s.s. Hermana Israelsen shared with me this quote: "You are called to serve in the language in which you can testify most powerfully." WHAT A MAGNIFICENT QUOTE! I know that my testimony in Italian is not perfect, not even kinda. But oh, how I love Italian. I feel like this language is what I was born to speak, it's coming. Naturally. So to all of you- receiving mission calls and who are getting ready to go-- remember this! The Lord knows what He's doing, the language you're called to, is FOR YOU! love you all!