Monday, January 19, 2015

And This Chapter Comes To A Close . . .

...with the end of the reign of Queen Smith. She was the longest reigning and most beloved of all the rulers of Arad. Her scheduled execution will take place on the twenty-first of January at 07:00 Wednesday morning, Eastern European Time. Her chariot will carry her to the executioner's office tonight at the hour of 15:00 EET. Many tears were shed as the subjects of her kingdom greatly mourn the loss of their beloved monarch. She will continue to rule with an iron fist (a.k.a. a great love for the people in Arad), into the eternities...

Thank you for the extra spot of money, it'll help a lot on the way home.  I've also realized my mathematical error in calculating the travel time... I leave at 7 A.M. and arrive in SLC at 2:00 P.M.... your time. So it's like 11 p.m. my time. So it's not as short of a journey as I thought it was :) Oh well.

The weather has been the same here, I have been getting away with a light jacket. It's even raining today and it's spring rain, not winter. GLOBAL WARMING!

I'll be interested to see if I ever get my Christmas package, too :)
Well the rest of this I'll have to keep brief (I spent too much time writing my own obituary at the opening of this email...) but you'll get to hear all the full details soon enough anyway :)

Member/Investigator updates:

Dan and Florita: Doing great. Dan just received the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday. I've never seen him so happy.

Maria: Doing awesome. Was so sad to see me go. The Elders are teaching her husband in prison. He says he hasn't seen Maria so happy in a long time and he wants to get baptized when he's released (summer of next year). If it has made such a difference in her life, there's no way this isn't the true church.

Ghiti and Mariana: Had another lesson, and Ghiti 100% wants to be baptized but is waiting for Mariana so they won't create a problem in their marriage. After a really powerful lesson on Saturday, she now sees the importance of our message and what it has to offer her. She says she knows the BOM is true. She committed to praying about baptism and said that if her prayer is answered she and Ghiti will both be baptized. Woo hoo!! She was also so sad to see me go.

Stefan: I don't know if you remember this investigator from a long time ago, but we saw him again briefly and he says he's been reading the BOM. That's why we plant seeds!

Ioana: We celebrated her birthday with her with tennis and cake (no, it was not blue). She's doing great, and excited to be out of school :)

Everybody else: There was a good turnout on Sunday and I got to say goodbye and get lots of pictures with a lot of the members. There were tears shed. It was sad. But it also feels okay.  Fratele Piper (1st counselor) talked to the branch about me and said I was the longest term serving missionary to ever be in Arad. Well, that's cool! I certainly loved it and wouldn't have wished to have gone anywhere else. I AM THE ARAD SISTER AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

I will miss all of these wonderful people!
My Second Family in Arad
My Wonderful Arad District
Me and Sora Routson

I gave a talk and pretty much half the congregation started crying when I said that Arad will always be my second home.

I talked about what I thought could be the best words/advice I could leave them with, and what I ended up talking about was becoming saints. I shared the end of Moroni Ch. 10, his final words and final admonition. I encouraged them that they're on the right course and they are the saints of the Arad branch and soon enough, with the help of the atonement of the Savior, they will be able to cast out the Babylon from their midst and the church of Christ will reign for ever and ever.  I told them how they are much like the beginnings of the church in Joseph's time, and how big that church is now. They're at the beginning but if they live up to the standards they know and love, to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that soon enough they will see Arad become a Zion.

Anyway, I've got to go now and get ready to take the train to Bucuresti... this is all really weird.

I'LL SEE YOU ALL SOON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sora Smith


(Last week's email)
Yay, I got my travel plans!

The weather has been weird here, too. It's been rainy and sunny, and if it were only just a little warmer it would be Spring. All the snow has melted, and in fact today we played basketball comfortably in shorts. It was nice. But weird.

I never got to see my Christmas package :( Well I hope I will at least get to look at it before I board my plane :)

Speaking of jobs, I am going to try to apply to teach Romanian at the MTC. That would be awesome and I definitely don't want to forget the language after all the hard work of learning it.

A Glance Back at My MTC District

Sooooo.... this week went as follows:

We met with Florita and Dan a ton this week to prepare him for his baptism. She made us food every time, she refuses to let anyone out of her house without eating something. Which is funny, because we couldn't come for a lesson on Thursday so we asked the Elders to go for us. Apparently Florita made the three of them a big plate of food, but left Dan at home to pick up something before they arrived. By the time the Elders got there, the plate was bare. Dan is as skinny as a pole so I don't know where he put it all. :)

We also met with Maria to continue the recent convert lessons. She is so sad that I'm leaving.. I'm a little sad, too.

We've also been meeting with Mariana, and we brought Sora Piper to the lesson. She loves Sora Piper, it went really well and Sora Piper testified like a boss.

We told the Elders that we left for an exchange on Wednesday. Little did they know our exchange was actually on Thursday. We showed up at their door in the morning with a surprise cake for Elder Robinson's birthday! We even had little confetti poppers that were defective and just made a papery mess on the floor (I guess that's what confetti is, anyway). I'm glad Elder Chatterton and Elder McArthur didn't say anything about how blue the frosting was on that cake. That sure put the "P" in "SURPRISE" if you catch my drift :) If you didn't get that one here's another hint: We made it a HA-PEE BLUE-THDAY.

Two for two. Moving on.

Sora Birau makes amazing pasta. Every time.

We left for exchanges on Thursday to Oradea and I was with Sora
Bastidas in her... I think 7th transfer? She's killed off (sent home) three missionaries and so she helped a lot with the pre-going-home anxiety. We also met with a less active who I met with while I was serving there, and she remembered me and was so happy to see me! Her name is Sora Tudor and we had a really powerful lesson about making the commitment to make the change to become a saint.

Sora Bastidas

Sora Tudor said that the last time she felt good was long in the past when she and her whole family were active and reading the scriptures and praying, and now that doesn't happen anymore. She said the difference was like heaven and earth. What we told her is that it's hard to make all the changes immediately, and that it's not necessary. You can make the tiny steps, and a little way down the road some day you'll look back and see just how far those little steps took you. When you look back, the difference will be heaven and earth. " small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." (Alma 37:6) The spirit was really strong.

Back to Arad. We met with a few less actives, had a few meetings, did normal missionary stuff, and then closed the week with a BAPTISM.

It was a great baptism. Everyone was holding their breath when Dan, who is very very tall, almost hit his head on the rail of the font. But he made it in and out of the water okay, and was grinning ear to ear after he emerged.

Ghiti, the Elder's long-term investigator, was talking to President Banatean about the temple trip this month. President Banatean told him if he and his wife want to go, they'd have to be baptized. So Ghiti said "Okay! We'll be baptized!" and his wife, our investigator Mariana, was rolling her eyes and shaking her head 'no'. After the excitement of the conversation settled a bit, I asked Mariana how she feels about all of this, " is very beautiful," she said softly, and she put her head down to hide the fact she started to cry. "I like it all so much."
"Me too," I told her.

No promises, but I think the two of them may be baptized soon.

Well, Sunday was nice, and one member came back to Arad to visit for a month. She really wants to help with missionary work/visits so that's a plus! And Relief Society went well, thankfully.

It was awesome to play basketball today.
I started packing because this week is going to be very busy. It was weird.

Well, here's to the last days,
Soon to not be Sora Smith

P.S. I don't know if I'll have a chance to email next week because we'll be going to Bucuresti Monday evening. So, this may be my last email, it may not. In any case, I will see you all so soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2015 un An Nou Fericit ( . . . and a Happy New Year!)

I haven't heard anything about travel since I received that call about which airport I was going to a long time ago... maybe I'll call the office or something. That would just be too bad if I can't go home because someone forgot to make arrangements :)

This week I don't have much time to report so this one will be a bit shorter. Sort of.

Ghiti's wife (Mariana) is doing well, she is involving her daughter in law and sister with her lessons and that's been awesome. She has one of those personalities where she acts like she doesn't care, but you can tell she loves it and she loves to have us over and talk about the gospel. My goal is to get a baptismal date with her before I leave, because Ghiti is convinced I'm the only one that has enough convincing power to do it. Hopefully that will be good for their marriage, too. He isn't baptized yet because he is married to Mariana but has a girlfriend (which Mariana knows about). We're hoping that her getting baptized could influence him to do the right thing and follow in her footsteps and the message of the plan of salvation will be enough to make things right. That's what the gospel is for.

Sora Routson, Me and Mariana

We've been meeting with more people, but it got really hard right around New Years because everyone was busy celebrating and we couldn't get much done those few days. Our New Years wasn't that spectacular, in fact I was feeling pretty ill and we were all told by President to be inside by 9, so we ended up going right to bed and slept through midnight celebrations. We had wanted to do something with Ioana but she wasn't getting in town before 9, so we really didn't do anything.  The next day the streets were deserted. We were able to meet with Mariana and Maria (who is also doing great).

Well, that was the end of the black-out year. What a crazy year it's been. A little anti-climactic way to end it but holidays just can't be the same, I'll be home soon enough to party the right way :)

We've also been trying to teach Dan to prepare him for his baptism this Saturday, but it's been really hard to teach him. Normally if it's spouse problems, the spouse is against the church. Well his wife wants him to be baptized. So what's the problem?  She doesn't want us to teach him, she wants to teach him, and she's not understanding that we have to if he's going to be baptized.  It's great that she wants to help out. It's great that they're doing this together. But, it's been frustrating she's not been letting us teach.  She takes over the lesson, and tells us we aren't doing it right. But, we've hopefully figured out a solution and we can finally get him taught and ready before Saturday. It'll be a lot of work... but that's what I'm here for.

I'm starting the Book of Mormon again from start to finish, but this time I'm doing a "red-letter edition". I read about it and thought it was cool so I'm trying it out. It's when you read through and mark every time Christ or God is speaking in red.

Well, that's all the big stuff, and unfortunately all I have time for. So Happy New Year, and two more emails!

Sora Smith

Christmas, caroling... sarmale and nasty food (what's with all the food all the sudden?)

I didn't know they made a movie of into the woods, I'm really excited to see that one! I've been telling my companion the plot line of it in Romanian as a part of language practice. It was nice until we got to all the... well, you know. The second half. :)

The Christmas branch party turned out great! So many people attended - members, family, friends and co-workers, and everyone was invited to come to church. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and there was a ton of sarmale (even vegetarian sarmale which was nasty, by the way). I sang the songs with Brother Moldovan that I translated. I was a little sick, though so they could have been better. Bro. Moldovan wants to record the songs now... haha so I guess you get to hear them. 

Branch Christmas Party
Brother Moldovan playing Christmas songs

This one guy pulled me aside and told me he enjoyed my songs. I talked to him for a bit and he asked me if I'm from Arad. When I say I'm American, he goes "What! But you look Romanian and you speak it perfectly! I thought you just knew English really well!" VICTORY!!!! Well, I'm sure he was exaggerating a little bit, but that was a fulfilling compliment. But then he talked to me about America for a half an hour and now he wants to give me his prize collectable signature something or other from America, and I'm just like oh jeez... Well, I invited him to church :)

Tuesday was a little bit of a resting from getting a little sick day, so I took the time at home to organize through the area book and less active member work. Later we had English class, but only one guy came. Two days before Christmas and I wasn't really expecting many to show up. But Clara came later and we had a nice little Christmas thought with her.

Wednesday was busy visiting and caroling to a ton of people. First we door bell ditched some stockings to the Elders. Then the five of us traveled out to Sora Krista in the hospital and brought in some Christmas cheer. She needed it, she looks so sick of being in that hospital. They don't really know when she'll be able to get out.
Well, since all the members in Arad live so far spread out, the rest of the day was spent visiting the Bacanu family, Ioan (the English student who took us to the concert), the Piper family, Sora Forita, and Sora Birau. It was a great way to spend Christmas eve, however everyone gave us Christmas treats and by the end of the day we felt pretty nasty!!!

Romanian Christmas treats = Cozonac and Salam de Biscuiti mostly, other cookie like things and Romanians love to rum flavor practically everything.

Salam de Biscuiti

Christmas was a little weird waking up. We got permission to sleep in until 8, so I wake up and I'm like thinking... well, there's nothing to do for two hours. So you know, I took a shower and I read the scriptures. The exciting rush of Christmas morning just never came, ya know? But as uneventful as the morning was, Christmas turned out being pretty great. We went to the Smith's at 10 and I made everyone french toast with my signature cinna-syrup. The Elders made eggs (but not without my supervision, haha.) and it was nice. Then we exchanged gifts. Sora Smith is a Coca-Cola collector so that's where the Coca Cola board came in.

The gift I gave to McArthur was a little figurine of the girl from Brave. He's like in love with her. I gave Elder Chatterton some Legos. And Elder Robinson got a Star Wars "breakfast set" haha they were all excited. They gave each of us a stocking with... heheh, tons of kinder eggs and other candies and a couple of hackey sacks. We've been playing hackey sack a lot. I've never played it before but I now have the hang of it and it's actually pretty fun.

We watched Ratatouille. It was actually really weird, I haven't seen a movie for a long time. Haha and I told everyone that movie was my inspiration for going to culinary school. Well, it wasn't really but it did make me miss it a little bit. 

Watching Ratatouille on Christmas

Then we played games a little and all started Skyping, I got to say hi to everyone's family. I Skyped last and it was great, haha as you already know. It's kind of weird, though, being so close to home. But it was a great way to end Christmas.

Skyping with my family

Friday we went less active hunting and made some more progress on our never-seeming-to-end list. Then we saw Maria and her oldest son was there, and he intently listened on the whole lesson. He's totally interested in hearing more, however his wife is a little against the whole thing. With time, though things will work out. Apparently a lot of Maria's family, including her husband, want to follow in her footsteps. The Elders have access now and are going to visit him in prison. That's been super exciting. And I'm a little jealous they get to go prison teaching.

Saturday we went back to Lipova for some follow-ups and to see Sora Vancu. She was at the Christmas party and seemed to enjoy herself a ton. Our visit went pretty well too, but she fed us mici (soooo nasty...) and we all felt pretty sick by the end. Her husband is a hunter, too, so it was freshly hunted deer and boar meat. Yum. :) but it was a nice visit anyway.

Then we went to Sora Floritas. Normally she feeds us okay and pretty good food. Normally. But it just so happened that that day, after already forcing mici down myself, she serves us this spinach puree and chicken livers. OH MY I felt sick the rest of that day and the entire next... Dan wasn't even there so we could teach him. He went to bed early so he could come to church the next day.

Which, he didn't end up coming because of the weather. In fact, there weren't that many people and no one from the party came. Well, it was the coldest day so far and halfway through it started snowing!  And the snow was perfect for snowball fights. We had a mini one outside of the church. Seriously, though, one hour after the snowing starts and the city is covered in thick snow. It was awesome!

I had to teach gospel principles again, but it actually was a cool lesson because I just had everyone talk about the plan of salvation and I "scribed" it on the board. Yeah, that's how good lessons are made. You make everyone else do all the work.

Haha anyway. Relief society fell back to its usual boring self... we're still trying to figure out what to do without hurting anyone's feelings. It's kind of a really touchy matter.

We bloc-knocked the block we live in with wrapped up Books of Mormon and banana bread. We were going to be all, "Hey, we're your neighbors and we brought you a Christmas gift!"

Well, only one little old lady actually accepted our gift. No one else even opened their door, and the ones who did refused it. I mean, seriously. Who refuses Christmas cheer? And we're their neighbors. Boo. You know, bloc knocking in Arad really is not like in other cities. Well, we've got other success elsewhere. Goes to show there are different modes of going about the Lord's work in all places.

Today we wanted to spend with the Elders, so we got Saorma and then doped around at the mall. It was actually kind of boring. BUT.  Actually, but nothing. It was kind of a lame pday. Even the snow has gone all froze-y and powdery. Oh well. Back to work.

We're going to be meeting with Ghiti's wife tonight. Ghiti is one of the Elder's long-time investigators that really wants to be baptized, but he has a few hurdles to get over first. However one day we ran into him at a McDonalds when we needed the bathroom and met his wife, and he told me he's been asking her to go to church with him for weeks and she's always said no. So he told me to ask her, and I did and she said "...okay." Well, she came, and now Ghiti really wants us to teach her. She's not too excited about it, but Ghiti tells me that I'm super convincing and I'm the only one who can get her on board so I need to convert her before I leave. Haha, well, I'll do what I can.

Anyway, that's it for this week. It's been great but really long. I'm looking forward to New Years, but I'm a little bummed that we're not allowed to stay up for it! Oh well. I'll write to you next week.

Sora Smith

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Baptisms, Pranks, and Goliaths

Well, it looks like I won't have my package before Christmas but that's me and two other of our Elders here in Arad so I'm not the only one :) I don't mind spending a later Christmas, but I'm just worried I won't get it until it's time for me to go home.

We actually haven't had the party yet, that's tonight. But it sounds like there is going to be truckloads of saramale, cozonac and caroling so it'll be, you know, Romanian.

Branch Christmas Party
We had a great turn out for the Branch Christmas Party
Brother Moldovan playing his music at the Christmas Party and
I sang some of the songs in English that he had me translate

Well, this week was pretty darn fantastic.

More important things first. We pulled another kinder surprise egg prank. I'm not sure if I've kept you updated with all of them, though so I'll start from the beginning:

1) We gave Elder Chatterton and Elder McArthur kinder eggs where we carefully opened them, took the toy out, and resealed them. They were very disappointed. We promised a toy in the next one.

2) We stole the toy out of them again and put in a rubber band. We promised a real egg next time.

3) We took the chocolate and the toy and wrapped actual eggs. They gave up on expecting a real gift.

4) We baked brownies in the foil...... well, I guess you'd call them blue-ies from all the methylene blue that was in them. Ha ha ha ....

5) Now we have Elder Robinson in our district. We gave all three of them kinder eggs and the others turn to him and say, "It's not real. Don't expect a surprise in there." Elders Chatterton and McArthur open theirs first, and we put in black rocks and a note that said "You are not on the nice list. This is a warning from Santa." Well, a few minutes later Elder Robinson opens his and... it's real. He pulls out his toy and says, "Whoa, this is really cool!" and the other Elders go, "WHAT!? They gave you a real one??"

LOL they're a little upset with us. For Christmas, though, we're finally giving them real ones. Haha...

Elder Chatterton and Elder McArthur

So on to what really has been going on this week. It started pretty slow not being able to get into people's homes. The people whose homes we did get into we've been sharing a video from the church about Christmas, "He is the Gift". Then on Wednesday we drove out to Lipova to do some follow-up contacting. Well, Georgi didn't even come to his door, so we left him a note for when we're coming back. And contacting the rest of the day was pretty unfruitful. BUT. The day wasn't over, so we tried to seek out a less active who lives out there. She had just returned home and was a little surprised to see us (the not good kind of surprised). She let us in anyway, and we chatted a bit and she warmed up to us pretty quickly. She is such an awesome lady! She calls herself a rebel and she's very funny. She got a little offended at something a long time ago, but after our visit she said she really wanted to come to church that Sunday. She hadn't been for years. Unfortunately she couldn't make it because the rain delayed the train too much, but she is coming to the branch activity tonight. SO COOL!

We also have been working with Dan (Florita's husband). Even though he isn't capable of expressing himself very much, you can tell that he's excited to be baptized. We're excited too. Sora Routson is a lucky duck because she's getting a monthly baptism here at the start of her mission :) Haha, well it's a nice way for me to end anyway.

Ioana's doing well, too. She's gone home now though for the holidays.

Ioan, an English student and friends with the Smiths, invited us to a Christmas concert. It was really nice, the first half a decent choir sang a bunch of traditional Romanian carols. The second half the orchestra came out and they were AWESOME! It was a nice concert.

Attending the Christmas Concert

We've also been holding "concerts" of our own (and by that I mean caroling). We went to the government building, where there are a lot of shopping booth-cabins set up and lots of people, and sang and had crowds come by and listen. It was great. We got talking to a few of them and passed out wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon. Merry Christmas.

Caroling for Christmas
Handing out wrapped gifts of the Book of Mormon

And then we had Maria's baptism. It was amazing. She told me she has been feeling really calm and the love of God all week. It was great preparation for a great event. She brought 20 friends and family to it, and the spirit was very strong all throughout. It was awesome. I still can't really comprehend that it actually happened.

Maria's Baptism
The Smiths, my companion and me, and Maria
A lot of Maria's non-member family and friends came to her baptism
Maria at her Baptism
Visiting with the guests after the baptism

It's been pretty wet and rainy here, too. However, on Saturday evening I woke up at 2:00 A.M. and there was snow DUMPING outside. Sora Routson had been up before that because there was a thunder-rain storm right before the flakes just dumped. Normally snow gently floats, but these were huge and they fell like hail. First snow!

Well, it didn't stick and it stopped snowing by the time we got up at 5:30 (because the Brasov sisters came in - Sora Cox included - to see Maria's confirmation). But, it snowed! And we're hoping and praying it will snow for Christmas! There was enough snow collected on the cars, though that I could make a snowball and throw it at my companion :)

Church was well attended, and Maria was confirmed. She wanted Elder Smith to do the confirmation, though, which meant I had to translate. That was one of the most nerve wracking translations I've ever had to do... I think I did well though. Later I sang for the branch "This is the Christ." Brother Piper gave an excellent talk on the birth of the Savior. It was a great meeting.

Maria's Confirmation on Sunday

Relief society was actually nice, too. Normally the RS teacher just reads out of the manual and gets mad when people want to comment/talk about it (we've been working on that...). But this week it was great, there was no arguing and everyone participated and commented and discussed and it was really nice.

Today we played basketball (it was that nice outside. So much for the snow), but it was so much fun.

This week I've been reading about David. There's a ton you can learn from his life. I really love the story of the lowly shepherd boy facing the giant Philistine armed only with a staff and a sling who was able to take the opposing champion down in a single blow. I think one of the most prominent lessons from this story is that everyone has Goliaths, but not everyone is a David. Who is going to have courage enough to attack opposing forces head on with so much faith in the Lord? With all the doubts and shadows and risk that hangs over the obstacle needing to be defeated, who will step up and fight for the cause of good? Not everyone.

Maria was able to defeat her Goliath of forgiving the people responsible for hurting her son. What a courageous feat, and for that she was able to receive the sacred ordinance of baptism and feel so much peace like a river. If she had been baptized with that Goliath still there, I don't know how well she could have felt the spirit even after receiving it. It's wonderful she's overcome that. What a great woman.

Anyway, we have a Christmas party to crash so I'll leave you with that. Nobody go pulling any pranks. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! I look forward to talking with you face to face, even if there's a couple of screens and a few hundred miles in between :)

Sora Nicalled to Serve

Romanian Smile
Sunday Dinner at the Smiths

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Full Week of Being Full

Family, friends, and fans,

This week we started by meeting at a member's house to prepare some Christmas songs for the coming branch party. Brother Moldovan is lead guitarist in a rock band and he wanted me to translate a couple of Romanian songs into English and sing them. One of them is called "Vis de Iarna" and it's about spending Christmas away from home, haha...

Merry Christmas from Our District!

I actually did not get the package, and apparently there's a ton of missionaries that haven't received theirs, either. There must be something wrong with the mail system because a lot of missionaries here will be have to get their Christmas packages late this year. Which is a bummer, really, because by the time I get it it'll be time to go home :/ Oh well, it's always the thought that counts, right? :)

There was snow in Bucharest last year, I saw snow for about a total of seven nonconsecutive days haha. There's apparently been snow there this year, too, but so far I haven't seen any. It's weird because this is actually strange weather for Romania, it should be snowy every winter. But it's been warm. I've been getting away with a light jacket. Haha, still dreaming of a white Christmas...

Arad City Hall with Christmas Lights

I haven't received travel plans but the proposed itinerary is that I leave on January 21st from Bucharest to Paris France, then Paris to Salt Lake City, arriving on the 21st of January :)

So for Skyping, does it work to do Christmas morning my time, Christmas eve your time? I don't know what your plans are going to grandma's house and everything but let me know if there is time your Christmas evening that we could try Skyping, and we'll finalize it next week.

So we just had transfers and our district is the same but we have a third elder, Elder Robinson.

Full story #1: (Based on the title of this email)  We met with another member who made us Carbonara Pasta and it was delicious... but she gave us probably about two servings too much and we got really full but we ate the whole plate.... and then she pulled out some clatite (Romanian crepes) and expected us to eat those, too. We talked on the phone with Sora Smith later and she said we sounded full. We didn't eat again that day.

We got into a less active's house! I've gone to this lady many, many times before and she's always rejected us. Well, we were in the area and felt impressed to stop by. She let us in and started telling us how much she has been needing us to come, and the only reason she rejected us before was because her family was around and they are super against the church. We caught her at a time when she was alone at home and she was relieved to see us and told us the times when she's alone so we can come more often. Goes to show you that you never can give up, ever, and to be super in-tune with the spirit and to do everything He says even if it makes no sense.

Wednesday was a little bit of a resting day because Sora Routson caught a bad cold and we wanted to take time for it to get better, but we were working even in the apartment. We took an extra map of Arad and marked all the sister members on it, and we're going to take rounds now to try to visit as many as possible before I'm gone.

We've been doing a lot of bloc knocking this week, however it didn't turn out being all too successful. We still go out and do it without getting discouraged, but I read a story from a past Liahona issue about Elder Holland on his mission that made me feel better. He shared about being a missionary on his first Christmas from home, and him and his companion knocked on doors all Christmas without any success but kept that Christmas memory of it's true meaning close to his heart. I related to it well, especially last year when I was in the exact same situation opening up a new area with only two members :) Here's the talk:

We went to Sora Florita's house, and talked to her about her husband who is turning 75 in January and also has cancer. He's always sat in on all the lessons, and now he's decided he wants to be baptized. We attempted a first lesson with him, however Sora Florita took over a ton and we didn't make it all the way through :) But we scheduled a date with him, so Dan Ciosu will be baptized on January 10th, and they even talked about plans for the year after that to be sealed in the temple, woo!

Full story #2: We hadn't eaten for a long time on Friday, and as soon as we get home we ordered a couple of small pizzas and ate it all, usually we can only eat half but we were that hungry. Then we went to Florita's a little later. Bad move. Well, she feeds us a bowl of tomato soup, which isn't bad I mean, you can fit in soup. So we finish it and we're really proud of ourselves, but then she brings out the real course. Some potato sausage thing... oh my gosh I could not finish it I tried so hard. Fun fact of the day: Whenever you can't eat any more, Romanians will always serve you seconds.

We played pool (silly, missionaries can't swim...) for a sort of youth night activity, but the only ones who showed up were Ioana and the Piper's grandson Manu. It still was fun, and I forgot how really horrid I am at billiards but I started to get the hang of it and sunk a couple of pretty great moves.

We met with Maria again, and, well . . .  This week she is getting baptized!  She doesn't want to wait any more, even to talk to her husband. She will be baptized this Saturday the 20th and be confirmed the day after. This is it, what we've all been waiting for.  This will be the best Christmas gift, for me and most especially for her.

Sunday was really nice at church. I've been working with two less actives ever since I got to Arad, Elisabeta and her granddaughter Eve, and they brought Eve's parents who are also members to church. It was the first time I've even seen them, because they've always been rejecting us. It was awesome! And Maria came and we announced her baptism and the whole branch got way excited.

It's kind of unfair in a way, it's like finally things are really getting started and I've only got a month left :) There's still just so much to do and I want to make sure it all gets done, you know?

Full story #3: We were starving after church but we didn't get home and to eat until about three. So we eat a lot, forgetting that we are having dinner together as a district at five. Well, I prep the food (it was my turn to make the main course, I made ranch chicken and potatoes) and everyone else is starving but we're just kind of like, meh. But then we go ahead with this three course meal... it was delicious but MAN. I am sick of eating!!!

Which is weird considering I actually lost a couple of pounds over all this.......

After district dinner we had a debate about stars and wise men, which was intervened by watching the Christmas broadcast. I loved President Eyring's talk.

I'm sorry I've been slacking with sending you photos... I'm just always busy and then I forget and then I don't have time... but you'll see them all soon enough so... :)

We bought a foot and a half tall live tree and decorated it with lights and popcorn, and it's actually the cutest darned thing ever. I'm excited for Christmas.  Still have to bully the Elders into caroling with us, though.

Full story #4: Not full of food food, but spiritual food. This was a good week. I love what James E. Talmage shares about the Christmas event in Jesus the Christ. If you haven't read the book, I strongly urge you to read at least the scenes about Christmas.

Anyway, that's about all the exciting stuff that's been going on. Thanks to everyone for their love and support, I feel it strengthen me every day and these upcoming baptisms are in part thanks to your love and prayers and sacrifices. Everyone have a good week, and I will write again next Monday before Christmas!

Sora Smith

Sunday, December 14, 2014

ZĂPADĂ! Stai... nu. Numai e ceață = Snow! Wait No, Only Fog.

Well, we haven't seen snow yet but other parts of the country have. It's definitely not warm, though. The warmer days are like fall but it's still pretty chilly most of the time. I'm guessing there will be snow soon, I mean, since I never saw it last year I wouldn't mind snow at all :)

The Arad Sisters and Elders

Well, we've been teaching Clara and she understands well, the only hurdle really is her family which is posing to be a pretty big hurdle.

Things with Maria are going well, she wants to be baptized no matter what.  This week we're going to see her with Sora Smith to talk about when and the details surrounding it.  She may however wait until after seeing her husband in prison, though, before deciding when.  I hope I get to see it but even if no, whenever the right time is for her is the right time.

I didn't get my package but the Elders are going down for transfers and hopefully they'll bring it up with them.
Sora Smith Senior's New Granddaughter

Kinder eggs aren't really a tradition, they're just chocolate with a toy inside from Germany that are available year-round :) David Mayhew brought some over once a long time ago, they don't sell them in America though. I love them and I collect all my toys in a jar on my study desk. The chocolate is good, too, but we all know the real reason we buy them...

This year for Skype we can really do anything. We're pretty flexible on this end so I say find a time when the whole family can be there and we'll schedule around that.

This week went pretty well, I'm going to be completely honest though I don't exactly remember everything we did this week but it went something along the lines of the past 15 months of emails. We met with people, we endured the piercing fog, ran into some wild dogs, you know. The usual stuff.

I made some pancakes from scratch after church last week
I didn't make quite enough though.

We have started to teach our convert the post baptism lessons and we are involving Cristina. President has asked her to be a member friend/guardian. I think it'll help the both of them.

We also have been taking care of members who need financial help... a lot, actually. Now that the leadership has been grabbing a handle of the branch money problems, ropes are getting tightened and so that leaves us with quite a bit of work to do :)

On Thursday we went to Oradea for an exchange. I was with Sora Merrill again and we met a guy on a bench who was so grateful for a gift of the Book of Mormon. It's been a while since someone who I gave the book to actually expressed sincere gratitude to receive such a precious thing.

We also did carol contacting. I haven't been with anyone who's wanted to sing for a while, lol my current district isn't too excited about singing but it's the Christmas season so I'm going to force them out anyway.
Here is our District Christmas Greetings Photo
Saturday we had zone conference, and it was a great one. It's got me all pumped and ready to finish this last transfer with a bang. Christmas is going to be great, too, and we have a lot of things planned but you'll just have to wait to hear about those :)
Zone Conference
President Ivory giving us a great message at Zone Conference
Our Zone Conference Dinner
Saturday evening we had the Christmas program in Oradea. It was actually a lot of fun and everyone did such a great job. It was fun learning the different Romanian carols (and even a couple in Hungarian...) and a ton of people showed up so I'd say it was a huge success.
Singing my solo in the concert
Singing in the choir at the concert
We were even filmed by a local news station

Anyway, we found out about transfers and the district is staying pretty much the same except our elders are getting a third missionary so that'll be different:)

Well, here is the start of my final transfer. I never thought I'd get to where I could say those words.

You know, it gets a little weird when you expire before the milk does...

Anyway, have a great week and may the spirit keep you warm and happy! (Although it sounds like in Utah you don't really need that) ;)

Sora Smith
Getting ready to take our Christmas photo