Monday, October 21, 2013

Three Months Out!

Three more days marks three months! That's like, 1/6 of my mission right there! Holy cow, time goes so fast. Not that I'm counting down or anything...

Like I said, we had transfers and Sora Gerhartz and I (along with Elder Conover and Lake) are staying here in Oradea. I think it's a good thing because we only were just able to get started by the end of the first transfer, now we can actually get to work with what we've set up!
Here is a picture of a fortress in Oradea that's shaped like a star from birds-eye view.
We were going to tour it, but it was closed.  The second picture is of us standing in the fortress doorway.
On transfer day we had to go down to Bucharest to get my visa (I'm legal now!). We went on a first-class sleeper train, but the driver was extremely slow so what was supposed to be a 12-hour train ride turned into 16 hours.   Here is a picture of Elder Lake (left) and Elder Conover (right) on the train ride to Bucharesti for getting our visas.
Anyway, I missed seeing my whole district from the MTC! Apparently, they were all together at the visa station EXCEPT me because I was still hours away :(  I still ran into Elder Sookhoo, Elder Brown, and Elder Lybbert, and I even got to chat with Sora Newell for five minutes. The others I missed seeing. Oh well, I have many more chances to see them.  Apparently, the missionaries in this mission all know each other and are really close.  I like that. 

Every new missionary group on their first day in Romania goes to a hill to where Romania was dedicated as a mission and reads the dedicatory prayer. But, since my group was in a tough circumstance with losing luggage and rain and everything, our group didn't get to do that. BUT! This last transfer day, three of us were able to get together and read the dedicatory prayer.  Here are Elder Lybbert, Elder Brown, and I on the place where the Romanian Mission was dedicated 20 years ago.

A lot of cool things happened this week. We've been meeting with one woman, Mihaela, who is accepting our lessons very well. At the end of our third lesson with her, we asked her to come to church and she seemed a little dodgy about it. Initially we thought it was because she was afraid of her husband finding out she was meeting with us. She said he is "împotriva", meaning against religion. However, we found out the real reason she is hesitant to come to church is because she's just scared. And really, it is a scary thing going somewhere so unfamiliar with a different culture and language. I should know, I'm in Romania. So we asked her and she gave us a "I'll come if... if the weather's nice," and we prayed that she'd come.

As far as Maria goes (the lady we went to church with), we haven't talked to her since we went to church with her and so we were wondering if she would come with us to ours or not, since she is so attached to her church.  We're thinking it's just not time for her yet but the time we spent with her was not wasted.  So, Sora Gerhartz and I prayed Saturday evening as to what we should do about Maria.  
We had decided it's close to time for dropping her as an investigator.  However, I got a response from Heavenly Father that told me if Maria were to come to church this week, He would pour out His spirit on her and in the future she will recognize that, that is what she's missing in her own church and want to come back. 
So guess what?
Yesterday (Sunday), Maria, Gabriella, AND Mihaela came to church for the first time. I was so happy to see all of them there! Not only that, but an investigator of the Elders' came as well. Four investigators at church this Sunday, it was so great! It was the first time in a LONG time that any investigators came to the Oradea branch,  proof that something good is happening here!

So we have three progressing investigators now, four other investigators, and three potentials. Our work the first transfer has been paying off!

The other four investigators are Kevin, the 8-year old boy we're teaching English to, and his family. We had another lesson with them, and though we haven't had one of the "official" lessons with them yet, they're getting more and more interested in us. Kevin has a lot of energy and likes us a lot. His 17-year old brother Eric knows English pretty well and seems to have his head on straight, which isn't common in Romanian 17-year olds. Their mom asks a lot of sincere questions, and she may be more open to the gospel than the grandma who we initially had the lessons with, so we'll see.

I have really been learning a lot of things about Romania while living here that you really can't look up on the web, either because it's hard to explain or because no one wants to. They're a very interesting people. All of them are so faithful and are really open about their religion. It's interesting, though, because they don't really understand completely what faith means. It's kind of like, they believe they know everything already, and what they believe is correct, but incomplete and they just need the fullness of the gospel and they'll be happy!
No one's really that happy here. It makes sense, having just come out of communism only 20 years ago. The really sad thing, though, is that a lot of people are content about feeling sorry for themselves and not doing much to make the country better. We ask to help people all of the time, but they always reject our offers. It's like, they don't want help, they just want our pity.

We talked to a Romanian man a few weeks ago who was moving to Florida and he spoke about these things. He mentioned how Romanians are all about their outward appearance - which is so true. You'll see Romanians wearing fancy clothes driving expensive cars, and they are left with not enough money to even put bread on the table. It's so sad, and it makes me want to work even harder to bring light into this country!
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a lot of really great people here, too. We waited for forty minutes one day for the tram because it was broken, and the old woman we were talking to left us with her departing message, "Deci, în sfârşitul, tramvai a venit." (Well, in the end, the tram came). So that's my message for this week. No matter how long it may take, in the end the tramvai will come and you can be on your way.

I can't wait to see how the gospel will heal this country. It's only just beginning to pick up here, but when it gets rolling, I'm excited to see how it will change the people. I can see already the seeds we're planting every day.

Enough with serious things. I have a funny story.
So normally when we leave our apartment, there are some gypsies outside. Some days we hand them a piece of fruit or something, but we didn't have anything today. As we were walking past, a young gypsy girl approaches us and Sora Gerhartz (thinking the girl is going to beg,) says to me "It's your turn." So, the girl says something to me I didn't understand at first, and I gave the usual response "Nu pot" (I can't), because we can't hand money directly to beggars, it turns us into a target, (which is why we have tithing and fast offerings). Two strides later, it registers in my head what the girl said. "Cât e ceasul?" (What time is it?) and I felt so bad! She just asked me for the time and I said "I can't!" hahaha... so I turned and gave her the time. We've given her some old shirts and things before, so she's turned into a little friend.

Anyway, that's about it for this week. Things are coming along! I'm working really hard. I sleep really good every night, because I'm so tired at the end of the day! I've worn through my boots already...

I miss Pepper.  I hope things are going well with everybody. I'd love to get recipes if there is any time! (Like zuccini bread, fox brownies, Becky cookies, stuffed peppers, some yummy and simple things!) But I still have things to cook, so really it's only if you have time.

Don't forget to have fun while you're working so hard! Go golfing. See a movie. Start a puzzle, I dunno.

And I'll write again next week!

Cu Drag,
Sora Smith

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