Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Romania Week 3

Dear Family and Friends,

Yes, we're still teaching Maria and Gabriella, however they've been out of town so we haven't seen them for a while. We're planning on scheduling a lesson with them for this week, which we're going to focus on Gabriella and talk about "Choosing the Right" and I'll give her one of those 'Allege Ce E Drept' (CTR) rings. We think that if we show Maria and Gabriella how much we really care about them, it will give them more of a connection with this church. What Maria needs really, is to see how much she and her daughter need this church. So that's our goal.

We use pre-made lesson plans out of English Class books made for missionaries, and we have the classes at our church (which, really, our church is only a Villa). However, we've had two English classes already and I haven't taught anybody because no one is advanced enough for my class ha, ha. One of the church members, Brother Weber, has been coming to help because he is good at English, but we've just been sitting in my class and talking about Romania and Oradea because I have no students. I've learned a lot, though!

Here's some Oradea history:
Oradea is very close to the border of Hungary, so most people here are Hungarian and speak fluently in both Romanian and 'Limba Magyar', and some are trilingual knowing English too. Over time, the territory of Oradea has been owned back and forth between Hungary and Romania. Eventually after Romania had claimed it for the final time, a man had posted a sign on a large bridge that says "This Territory is Christ's Territory!" and the fighting over the area stopped. Brother Weber says that outside of the ward, Hungarians and Romanians don't like each other very much.

Sora Gerhartz was really enthusiastic to hear about Oradean ancestry because her ancestry only four generations ago is from here. She met a woman in her English class whose last name is the same as her ancestors, and that made her really excited.

I appreciate our President's adding the finding hours and BOM's handed out too because now we're not turning in zero's every week. And yes, I read Daniel's email. Sora Gerhartz was not happy hearing how he has so many baptisms lined up bahahaha. There are only 14 baptisms lined up for the next three months in ALL of Romania. None in Oradea. BUT! We have two investigators and SIX possible investigators, which is really good for a mission like this!

We've only done the singing contacting once, but it wasn't really effective because we just walked around singing and it didn't seem anything exciting was happening, so we'll be changing the way we do it for next time. And yes, Sora Gerhartz sings and I sing and singing just happens all of the time in and out of our apartment. And sometimes we have to make an extra effort to remember that "Before He Cheats" is not inviting of the spirit, Lol.

The Modest Circus Attendants
The circus was kind of silly ha, ha. Naturally, it was geared toward kids (which was surprising, really, because the women were dressed terribly). The first act was super boring, but the second act they pulled out all the lions and Orlando did his signature act which was balancing on tall stacks of round things and that got pretty exciting. Although, because it took so much time out of what was supposed to be a relaxing P-day, I'd say I wouldn't do that again :) he, he. This week we're not doing any special activity and just taking it easy. You know, as far as taking it easy goes as a missionary.

We're always worried about the men here. It seems like some days it's no worry, but some days we have to really be cautious. Like today. Before we got on the bus, there was this old man who walked up to me and started saying how pretty I was, but it's different than when people would say that in the States. You just feel so unsettled, so we got on the other end of the bus. This kind of thing happens frequently. The rest of the day Sora Gerthartz has been telling me that guys have especially been watching me today. I think I'm gonna get an ugly haircut.  Which is kind of weird, because last Monday the men in Oradea were giving Sora Gerhartz problems, and now this is my problem day I guess. We've come to the conclusion though, to not wear yellow. She was wearing yellow last week and now I am this week. No more. 

I've definitely been feeling much better this week. Nothing's really changed, either, so I figure I'm just adjusting to all of these new situations and scenarios. I caught a bit of a cold, so Wednesday was a little slow with the work, but I've been fine otherwise. Of course, I don't think I'm completely adjusted still, but Sora Hill is really good about reminding us that we have her to call if we're struggling,  so I have a good support system.  One thing I realized that has made this adjusting a little hard for me was remembering that, for my very first transfer, I am white washing AND opening a new city, which isn't easy for ANY transfer. Once I realized that, though, it relieved a whole lot of stress and I actually feel pretty good now.

Ralphita, our investigator for role play!
We've been doing a LOT of finding. We got 11 hours this week, which is a lot even considering I was sick on Wednesday and we also have to take time out of every day for my 12-week program (which every new missionary has to do).  I LOVE 12-week.  I can't say anything bad about it (...because I told Elder Lake I wouldn't, lol).

So here's something important: if anyone sends me something (packages, letters) it gets sent to the mission office and NOT my residence, meaning not only will it take time to get mailed there, but then it will be a few weeks before I see it. SO. If you'd rather email, I'd rather you email.  
Also, as for the Christmas package, Sora Hill says:   Christmas packages need to arrive early-before American Thanksgiving (November 28) to ensure you’ll get them in time. They should be mailed as much as 6 weeks before that.  If you miss your package at zone conferences, you’ll miss it until January transfers.  Just ask your family to write “Do Not Open Before Christmas” on it! Tell them if they do, you’ll be exactly obedient!"  - I'll be exactly obedient.

Spiritual Story Time!
One day, before we headed out to do contacting, Sora Gerhartz told me it was my decision to choose where to go. So, we got on the bus, and I prayed for God to let me know when to get off and where to take us. I had made no plan where to go. Then, once we reached a stop we'd never been to before, I felt my heart burn and I thought to myself, Okay I feel it, I feel it! We got off and I walked straight into a park that seemed pretty empty. There was one woman on a bench, I walked straight up to her in confidence and started talking. I don't even remember what I said, I just spoke about prayer or something and I actually talked to her for the majority of that contact. Sora Gerhartz usually talks and I insert a phrase or two, but not that time, I led that entire contact. And guess what? We got her number out of it. We got three more numbers in that park, which is pretty rare because Romanians are stingy about their numbers.  So yeah. That was pretty cool.  Heavenly Father has a way guiding us exactly where we need to go if we just ask for it.

Later that day, we went into a Xerox store to get some copies made, but the man's store was out of power. Before we left, we left a pamphlet about the Plan of Salvation. When we came back to that store another day to see if he read it, he not only read it but he MARKED IT UP and really STUDIED IT and had his Bible out comparing verses and he immediately said to us when we walked in, "Hey, I have a few questions!"  For 45 minutes, he just asked us a lot of things, like who Alma and Nefi are, who holds the priesthood, etc. but never bad questions, he just sincerely wanted to know more. His name is Marius, and he's just so ready to hear about the restored gospel. We'll be visiting him again with the elders this week.

Side note: In Romanian, you say "Vreu sa fac copii" (I want to make copies) but you need to pronounce it 'CO-pi' rather than 'co-PI' or else you're saying "Vreu sa fac copiii" (I want to make children). Lol.

The members in our branch are so great. Even though the branch is small, it's just as strong as any other ward.  Sora Gerhartz and I got to visit the Relief Society president and share a message with her.  She even had a non-member friend over, and we're hoping to get her more interested. The president, Sora Costea, shared her story about her conversion and it really is inspiring, and I'm sure many of the members are just as great. We're having family home evening tonight with another sister from the branch. President Hill tells me that the members are really excited to have sisters now, and it seems like they all like us and are very friendly.  It's nice to know that we have a good branch that we'll be bringing others into.

I really don't get discouraged over how slow this mission is progressing. I see other missionaries who do, but I really feel like Heavenly Father is pleased with my work and as long as He is pleased, then everything that is happening is how He wants it, right? And even though we don't have a million baptisms lined up every week, I can still see how little by little the faith is growing in these people.
Daniel mentioned a difficult story where the man wouldn't listen to what he thought were contradictions.  Well, that's kind of what we deal with here everyday. That, or they're really just not interested because practically everyone and their dog are Orthodox.  I wasn't kidding about the dog part, either. I see maybe 50 dogs a day.  Orthodox.  All of them.

But one thing I do respect is how religious the people actually are. Everyone does believe in Jesus Christ, and that's a huge thing. It's really different than in America where everyone hides their religion and you don't ever talk about it or show it outside of your church houses. There are so many crosses and religious monuments everywhere, and people are open about their religious beliefs (I'm sure the fact that everyone's orthodox influences that, but you know).

Okay, I think that's everything. I actually wrote down a list of things to remember to include in my email because I always forget a million things, and Sora Gerhartz joked that I would forget the list when we got to the Internet cafe for email time. Well guess what? I forgot it.  So I hope I included everything ha, ha.

I hope that everything goes well, and that your hard work in the yard and the basement will pay off! I was studying about sacrifice today when I came across the lyric in "Praise to the Man" which reads, "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven."

Deci, noroc si aveti grija! Va iubim!

Sora Smith

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