Sunday, March 30, 2014

Zone Conference, a Funeral, and Contacting

Hello all,

First off, tell Lara congratulations on her job!  Good management is just what that Kneaders KNEADS so I'm sure it will be actually really great!  If only you were my manager while I was working there...


On Tuesday we used it as our make-up P-Day since we were in Arad for zone conference practically all day Monday. 
Sister Lee and I in Arad after Paintball
Learning Activity at Zone Conference: I am blindfolded
and being guided through the maze by the Holy Spirit
Sora Hunsaker from Orem High at Zone Conference
We were going to play soccer, but the elders never told us when or where we were meeting, so we're on our way home from grocery shopping when I get a call asking where we are.  "We're on our way home, where are you?"  "We're at the soccer field."  Oh well, there was already people playing there, anyway, so we ended up not playing soccer that day. Bummer, because I really want to learn how before we meet to play with some investigators this Saturday. I don't want to embarrass myself...      ...however I don't know if there is any helping that.

So we ended up at the church... and none of the elders were there anyway so we got some covrig (pretzels) and came back for English and FHE. Lamest p-day ever. But I'm over it.
Sora Mitin last year

Wednesday we got a message from our Elders. Sora Mitin had passed away the night before, and her viewing was today. It was sad, but really, she's probably so much happier right now.

I had my eye appointment and it was just like any other eye exam office in America. I even had to wait by myself in some dark room for 30 minutes while some doctor was doing something, I don't know what. One of the doctors spoke a bit of English, and he was helping me out with selecting a pair of glasses when he asks about our nametags. I tell him who we are, and he asks what we do. I say we talk with people on the street.
"How do you do that without knowing any Romanian?"
 "Vorbim în limba Româna" (We speak Romanian.)
"Ce? De ce n-ai zis până acum?" (What? Why didn't you say so?)
"Pentru că nu știu vocabular de a cumpăra ochelari" (Because I don't know the vocabulary for picking out new glasses.) 
That was pretty funny. So we talked about our church a bit and figured everything out for my glasses.

After my exam, we rushed over to the cemetery for Sora Mitin's viewing. We were there to represent the church, and also to make sure that everything was in order so she would be buried correctly. The problem was, I just got out of an eye appointment so my pupils were extremely dilated. It was overcast, but I still had to wear sunglasses. I looked like a tool, haha.

Sora Mitin's Funeral

We stood around Sora Mitin and her daughter asked us to sing. We sang a few hymns, did a few magic tricks with her grandson Claudiu, and made our way back home.  Sora Mitin looked very peaceful and at rest. As sad as a death is, I'm so happy she is not having to struggle through her physical problems any more. We all said she's probably having a blast at the disco-tech in heaven.

That night the STL's got in. We had our exchange on Thursday, I was with Sora Tanner who actually is in her 3rd transfer. With the majority of sisters training right now, there had to be some young STL's made. 

Sora Tanner and I on Exchanges
Bega River and Orthodox Catheddral

The majority of the transfer though was spent at Sora Mitin's funeral. It turned out really well, Sora Mitin's daughter let our church put on the entire program. Sora and Elder Hunt both spoke, and I sang Salvatorul si Mantuitorul "Savior, Redeemer for my Soul" for her.  I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I sang that song for Sora Mitin once when we went to read for her. Both her and her daughter started crying, and 10 year old Claudiu was even touched by it. Sora Mitin said it was one of the most beautiful hymns she'd ever heard and she made me promise to sing it for her again.  Well, I did. Then the funeral-goers, who aside from our members, none were LDS, laid the flowers on her and she was wheeled to the burial spot and lowered into the ground. 

It was interesting to watch the people there. Those who weren't LDS had been bawling and the expressions on their faces were so sad. Then you watched the members. Even though sweet Sora Negriu, someone who loved Sora Mitin very much, had been crying, she seemed at peace and still smiled through it.  I guess this is nothing new, that members from our church have such a bright outlook upon even such a sad separation as death. But to see the difference in the eyes of those who believed in eternal life and those who didn't know exactly what it means was interesting. I'm just really thankful to live in the circumstances of having the knowledge that there is a life after death and we will see those we love again.

We were invited to eat out with Sora Mitin's family. More magic tricks with Claudiu, talking with her daughter and relatives, and then we went on to having an almost normal exchange.  We went contacting, we ate out. Again. And we took the STL's to the place where you can get hot cocoa so thick it's like you're eating hot pudding.

The place where we get hot cocoa as thick as pudding
Spring in Timisoara

While we were contacting we met this woman who spoke English and was very interested in our message. She lived in New York for 22 years, so she spoke very well. I was flipping through the restoration pamphlet when I ran over the picture of Joseph in the sacred grove with the two personages, and she says, "Hold on, that looks so familiar..."  She flips back to the page and tells me a story of a time she went to a meditation class. She said she'd never meditated before or since, and that she doesn't really believe in that stuff. But a friend dragged her there and at one point she was told to imagine the most peaceful serene place. She imagined a small grove, and there she was with God and Jesus and she spoke to them. It was bright and warm and she said the most spiritual she had ever felt. Then she pointed to the picture of Joseph.  "This is exactly what I saw in my vision. This exact beam of light, in this exact grove, with God and Jesus."  I told her how it had actually taken place in New York and she about fell off the bench. She talked to us about signs, and how she believed this was a sign for her and that she needs to meet with us. I even handed her a BOM and told her that it had changed my life.  "It has? This is exactly what I need, a change in my life."  "This book is yours, we want you to read it."  She held it up to her chest and so sincerely thanked us for it.

We're going to be meeting with her this week. It was the best contact I've had in transfers. It's those little moments in the mission that keep you going. Even just a little touch like that reminded me of exactly what I'm doing here. I'd been feeling a little discouraged lately, so seeing that little moment was just what I needed to get me back on my feet.

Demonstration activity in English Class

On Friday we had district meeting and kids English, and I taught institute. I taught Mosiah 17-18, about Abinadi and Alma. I also spoke a lot about baptism, and the promises we make and what God makes to us. I bring this up because two of the three girls were there, and we still haven't talked to Edina about baptism. The subject has been coming up a lot with them, so I wonder what they're thinking about it.

The three girl investigators and me and my companion

Saturday we went to Oradea again for a Relief Society activity with the whole zone. We sang, did crafts, played Jeapordy... and Sora Geambasu surprised us all with a service project making bedsheets for a kindergarten. It was a lot of fun... but it also wore us out. traveling always kills me. But I loved being in Oradea and seeing the members there again.

Sewing sheets in Oradea at a Relief Society activity

Sunday two of the three girls came to church! The third had a lot of homework... normal haha. But it was great to have two of them there and we even had a young women's class with them. We're starting them on personal progress. Even if their parents say they can't be baptized yet, doesn't mean we can't act like they're already members lol.

That evening we went to see Familia Crap. I finally got to meet their third and oldest son, Florin. He is very nice and speaks English very well. Their son Adrian is able to work again since his accident, so they are doing a lot better than the last time we saw them.  We talked to them about the plan of salvation. They seemed to agree and like everything that was said. Gah, I just love that family so much. I can't even describe to you how great they all are.  The parents are so funny. The mom, Elisabeta, was talking a lot about the Russian government (she loves to talk politics because we are the only outside world she gets. She has to stay home 24/7 to take care of her mother who has dementia, however you spell that). There was a hole in the center of the table cloth that Ormsby said she shot a hole through. Then she says something about wasting the shot she could have used on the Russian president. It was so funny.  We're hoping that the three boys Lonel, Adrian, and Florin can come to play soccer when we have the activity on Saturday.

My companion, Sora Lee

Today we spent cleaning the apartment, but later we have a soccer match to go see. I guess serving with Elder Montoya gets a lot of soccer in your life. I think I've talked more about soccer in this email than I ever have combined.

My District

Anyway, that's about all that's happened this week. This transfer feels slow but has gone by fast, I'm actually surprised that we find out about next transfer this Saturday. I'm probably going to stay here in Timi with Sora Lee though, so there's no anxiety there :)
I miss you all! I hope all is going well! And I'll write again next week!

Sora Smith

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm Alive I Promise!

Hello Family and Friends,

I'm here! I'm alive, I promise! We were in Arad again all day today for Zone Conference, so I'm only just getting to email.

Picture from Transfer Day
Arad, Romania

Yes, I got the package and thank you so much!! The Avatar Card Game that Lara and David made for me was so awesome! That was so cool of them to make a game for me based on my all time favorite characters and the cards looked professionally made!! Tell them thank you again for me!!

The weather in Timisoara sounds like the weather over there. Really nice, warm sun on some days, but also really windy. Normally I actually kind of like the wind. However, not when you're a sister missionary and your daily outfit is a skirt.

Glasses. So, in Romania it's a little hard to find a good optometrist, but luckily for me there seems to be a pretty decent one in the same bloc we live in. I scheduled an appointment and will be meeting for an eye exam on Wednesday. The money you gave me should be more than enough, but we will have to see.

The lantern lighting thing is not really a tradition. Sora Merkley was able to get pictures though, so I need to get those from her. Speaking of pictures, with the Christmas and Birthday money I hadn't spent yet, I decided to get a new camera. The other one's pictures were all bad and blurry, so the good news is I should be sending more pictures now. Should is the key word. I tried today, but for some reason the computer is not reading my card and I'm going to have to get the computer guy, Elder Ormsby's help.

Speaking of which, I should tell you all about the new arrivals to Timisoara. Elder Stinson's new companion is Elder Ormsby, who has by now told me that Sora Lee and I are his favorite sisters he's ever served with, lol. He's really a smecher (wise guy) but this transfer has been a lot of fun. He's from Idaho, he swims, he worked a lot with kids with mental challenges.

My boboaca (duckling, it's the nickname given to the new missionaries) is studying to be a dermatologist. She's really into the missionary work. I don't feel like I'm actually training most of the time. She's from California and pulls the funniest faces. 

I am really doing just fine. I had a bit of a rough patch where I was getting really stressed out and overwhelmed, and a lot of stress just happened all at once which was a little hard to deal with. Now I'm over it all and things are back to normal.

As far as the work and investigators is going in Timi...

I wish there was better news I could tell about it. Some of the members are moving - a whole family and one of the sisters for work. And one of the members left to go back to his Baptist Church.

Sora Mitin is in the hospital, and has been for the past few weeks. We all thought that this might be her time, but like the last 50 trips she went to the hospital, she's been hanging on pretty tight. She seems well again.

Hospital in Timisoara

In other news, we're not meeting with the taxi driver anymore. We've let the elders take over contacting him, and he seems disinterested anymore since the sisters aren't the ones making the phone calls.

The three girls are still coming to activities and such. We haven't had a sit down lesson with them for a long time, though. We've been trying, but school and homework and the fact they're teenage girls keeps it from happening.

Our other investigators are... well, no one seems to be progressing and they all are losing interest. I'm just hoping and praying we can get a good handful of new investigators to work with really soon.

I don't mean to sound like a downer and all depressed this week. Sometimes you get a bunch of hits, and sometimes you get some misses. Lately I've seemed to be missing a lot, but that just means there should be some pretty good swings coming up.

I've been learning a lot spiritually, though.

For instance, one thing God's been trying to teach me is that we really are all doing better than we think we are. A lot of stress and emotional pain comes from ourselves telling us we're not doing as good as we think we should be. But really, a message like that will not come from God, unless of course we're consciously doing wrong, and we know we need to correct ourselves. Even so, we always tend to beat ourselves up more than we deserve. I was talking to a past companion about this once. She was upset over not being able to forgive herself. I remember telling her, "if someone does you wrong and asks you for forgiveness, do you generally forgive them?" She told me, "Well, yeah." And I told her, "Well, imagine yourself out of your body, as if you were someone different looking at yourself. And you came up to yourself and said, "Will you forgive me?" How should that be any different than someone who wasn't you?" If that made any sense, the point I was trying to get across was that we are people too, and just because we're inside our own brains doesn't mean we're any less deserving of our forgiveness than anyone on the outside.

Well, as of recently, I've had to take my own advice. I was really upset with myself and my imperfections when I was reminded of what I said to my past companion. I was reading a story written in that cookbook I got for my birthday, (yes, out of the cookbook, lol), that was about the benefits of realizing tha, really, you're not perfect. The benefits that come from that is that it takes a lot of pressure off your back. No one has to be perfect right now. Sure, maybe you could have done that better, or said that a little kinder, but you didn't so big deal. In the words of Elder Ormsby, "Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it." I mean, if it's so easy for Christ and for Heavenly Father to forgive us, why do we need to be so hard on ourselves? They know that we're trying hard, and that we're not perfect yet. If today is not the day, try again tomorrow. Someday we'll get it right.

Anyway, I really appreciate the Elders here in Timisoara and how they've been taking good care of us.

Hot Wings the Elders made for us

So a lot has happened in the past few weeks, but I don't know if I can remember or write it all down. So I'll just get the big stuff. English classes have started up and Sora Lee and I have been teaching medium level English. We get a good turnout and we've been having a lot of fun. We played paintball again in Arad last week. My skills have improved since last time and I walked away with only ONE welt. *High five*

Contacting. We've been doing lots and lots of contacting. And, we are doing 12 week training again for my trainee companion. I never missed that.

Orthodox Church near a square where we proselyte

Elder Ormsby showed us this great place to get hot cocoa that is basically like pudding. We've been there twice.

And that's all I have time for today. I'm sorry for the past couple of weeks, it's all been a little crazy. But things are back to normal and I'm really doing fine.

And, Elder Montoya is going to teach me how to play soccer.

Sora Smith

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Goodbyes, Transfers, and Training

Hello Family and Friends,
So, I think I need new glasses. Mine have gotten un-cleanable spots all over them, so I've stopped wearing them and I keep getting bad headaches. 

On Tuesday we visited Sora Mitin for Sora Merkley to say goodbye. She has been doing really well lately, it's amazing.

Most of the day we spent at the apartment so Sora Merkley could pack. We then meet at the church for institute, and the three girls say a sad goodbye to Sora Merkley. We lit a lantern outside and sent it off. Then we went on our way to Buch.

Victoria, Me, Amalia, Sora Merkley, and the three girls, Elida, Edina, and Damaris
Wednesday was transfer day, and we spent a big part of it with a huge group of missionaries singing outside of the mall. We sang hymns and I talked to a lot of people.  Then I went to the training meeting, and got my new companion. Her name is Sora Lee from California. That night was back on a train to Timisoara.

Me and my new companion, Sora Lee
Thursday I took Sora Lee to meet Sora Mitin. Thurs is normally the Elder's day, but I messaged them that we would take their place. They didn't get the message, though, so the four of us ended up in her cramped home reading to her.  Then, of course, I get us lost. I don't know what this glitch is in my brain, but I have a problem navigating sometimes......... my MerkleyGPS had been left in Mihai Bravu, what can I say?  We took a nap. We started the training program.

Friday we had district meeting with Elder Montoya as the DL. Later we had kid's English, but the kids would just run around and not listen, so that was a blast. Then the three girls came to institute to meet Sora Lee. I'm glad they're still coming.
Saturday I took Sora Lee contacting for the first time. She was scared to get started, but I got her to even say a full sentence to a Romanian. And we've been studying. A lot.

Sunday I got to go home to Oradea. We had district conference, and I saw everyone there, it was great. Sora Geambasu and I sang an impromptu song we had sung together a long time ago in front of everyone. I still remembered it, though.

Today we played Laser Tag. I've upped my game, because I took 3rd and I was the top on my team. Then we ate hot wings made by Elder Ormsby at the church.  So, I've always had problems sharing drinks with people... spit and germs just gross me out. But today, I am proud to say I drank out of a bottle that all the elders also drank from. . . And that is how I got mono. . . Just kidding, I hope.

I've really been struggling a lot these past couple of days, I'm sorry this message is a little less than usual.
Sora Nicole

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I'm . . . Expecting?

Hello all,

I haven't received the package yet, it's probably sitting in the office collecting dust. I'll be able to pick it up this Wednesday, though, because:

Dun dun dun duuuuuuun!
We've got transfers!

I'll tell you what's going on with that in a minute.

Vlad is just looking for a way to make a quick buck, so I mentioned that I sing and he perked up and was like, "Oh, let's put you on Romania's got talent or something, I'll be your manager." And every English class he reminds me about the "deal" we made. It's pretty funny.

Our church is held in a villa. The only cities that have actual church chapels are two in Bucharest, and one in Brasov. Everywhere else, villas. But they're nice and church-y inside, so that's cool. I don't have any pictures on me.. though... but I think there actually are some online. I dunno. It's not like I can check, haha.


This week... what happened this week...
Everything's going by so fast, I don't even know anymore. Um...
So Tuesday we were at Sora Mitin's again, and she seemed to be doing a lot worse. We read to her, and her daughter was gone so she asked us to heat her up some soup. So remember: the word for microwave and stove are the same. She asks us to use the "cuptor" to heat the soup from the fridge, so Sora Merkley starts it up on the stove. Sora Mitin says, "I don't hear the cuptor. Are you heating up the soup?"
"Well, it's been there long enough. Take it off, I don't want it hot."
"But it's still cold."
"What? I didn't even hear the cuptor."
Oh, she wanted us to use the microwave. We didn't even realize they had a microwave. She starts laughing, saying, "you were heating up the whole soup? I just wanted a bowl in the microwave!"

It was funny.

Later that day we met with Tibi the taxi driver after a few days of having to reschedule. We thought we were going to sit down for a lesson, but next thing we know Sora Momo, I, and Elders Montoya and Morby are in his taxi driving to meet his daughter. Okay, we can work with this, talking to both of them. So we meet her outside of their block, say hi, and it's back in the taxi. He drives us back to the church, and that was our "lesson."  Next time, we're hoping to mention prayer or the Book of Mormon or something.  But hey, at least it was a step forward.

Wednesday we went with Elder Bliss and Morby to Familia Popescu, two members from the branch. They like to host all the missionaries, so we went and ate SO MUCH FOOD. That's what "hosting" means. You sit in their house and they bring out all this food and watch you eat. Closely. So when you're done, they can give you more. Ciorba, bread, potatoes, more bread, chicken AND pork chops, clatite. And as always, suc. There's always suc.   Lesson learned: eat slow, then you don't get force fed as much. It's a good tactic.  But I'll admit, if I were a male and grew to be as old as he is, I'd love to have Brother Popescu's hair.

Then we went to Sora Hunt's house (the couple missionary) for visiting teaching with another member of the branch, Sora Gabi. I can't remember what the lesson was supposed to be about, though, because the conversation got off topic as per usual talking with Romanians. But hey, it keeps life interesting.

Thursday I taught seminary again. It turned out to be a good lesson, and a lot easier to teach about Jacob than about Isaiah.

On our way back from teaching seminary, we passed by these two women and a small boy, and the small boy was sticking a cracker through a fence feeding it to a dog. The women were watching, saying "How cute!" until the dog takes a bite and the kid puts the same cracker in his mouth and his mother goes, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!" It was so funny.

Friday, adica, VALENTINES DAY, was so much fun. We went about business as usual, and Sora Merkley and I prepared a nice dinner for the six of us to have between us teaching Kid's English at 5 and Institute at 7. We made beef Stroganoff (however you spell that) and veggies and cheese bread... it was a legit meal. And turned out really good, all of us sitting together eating and talking about awkward date moments. The best part was when we gave all the elders Homemade Valentine Cards with stupid sayings inside and signed "From sisters who love you!  With little pop-out stick figures of me and Sora Momo  Yeah, we're only the best sisters ever. It's too bad this transfer is over. Those elders are gonna miss us.

Saturday we get to the church at 11 to see what was happening for transfers, because that's when transfer boards are supposed to come out, but they came out early and Montorby (the nickname we've given Elders Montoya and Morby) were already there.

So here's the news:
I'm staying in Timi! AND I'm going to be training a new missionary! Which means I'll probably stay here for two more transfers to train her, maybe, you never know.  

 Sora Merkley is going to Buch to second half train another sister, Sora Johnson. So we're sad we're splitting ways, but now we both have babies to take care of!  Which is why I say I'm expecting. Have I told you about the lingo yet? I don't know if I have.

Apparently in this mission, if you train someone you become their parent. So I'm having a daughter. If you second half train someone, you're their step-parent.

There's more.

The district leader is the father of whoever is being trained by a sister. And since elder Montoya is the next DL, he is my husband and my trainee's father. And the oldest sister in the district is always the mom if an elder is training.  Sora Gerhartz is my mom and Elder Conover is my dad. Elder French is Sora Gerhartz's son, so he is my brother. I have more siblings, too, just can't keep track of them all.  And this isn't just me. This is mission-wide. We're all serious about this lingo. It's kind of crazy, because then you get missionaries who are brother/sister marrying each other, and uncles step-dadding their nephew's son, and so on.  Missionaries are weird.

So yeah. With all of that, I'm going to be a mom. Lol.

Elder Bliss is also leaving, and we'll be getting Elder Ormsby who is in like his 11th transfer or something.

Anyway, then we had our final English class, so our class played Bananagrams. Vlad was getting frustrated with losing, so he said, "Let's play it in Romanian and then see who loses."  So we play in Romanian, and know who wins?  Elder Hunt, who knows the language the least out of all of us.  Hahaha, that was funny.  And then we watched Emperor's New Groove as a final English activity. I love that movie.

Sunday Tibi the taxi driver came to church! He lives outside of town, so he didn't have time to change into formals, but he was there for the sacrament and everything, AND he still wants to meet! So that was awesome!  And he was there for when we sang our song. It turned out really great, especially considering Elder Montoya and Sora Merkley don't really read music, we went ahead with four parts anyway and it turned out really good. At least, I think. So I'm hoping my boboaca (missionary lingo for trainee, it means "duckling" lol) sings or something. If not, we can learn her just like Momo and Monty.

Tibi the Taxi Driver, Elders Morby and Montoya, Sora Merkley and Me

Then Sora Merkley had to say goodbye to everyone. It's weird, I've never stayed behind while someone else had to leave before. It's sad, but that's what we do on these missions. Get to know people really well and then go somewhere else.

We also went to see Sora Mitin again, because Sora is leaving. It was a surprise to see her sitting up on her bed. I've never seen her sitting up before. Then she says, "Watch, I can stand now," and Elder Stinson helps her up. She was standing! It used to be an accomplishment for her to lift her an inch off her pillow. She says for Elder Stinson to let her go, her legs are wobbling all over the place so he keeps a hold of her. Then she throws her arms in the air saying "Look what I can do!"  Then we help her back down again, haha.  So then we start joking with her about "going to the disco-tech". She likes to joke about that a lot, "When are we going to go? I only go at 2 in the morning."  She got a call from her sister when we were leaving, and we hear her say, "The boys and girls came over to see me. The boys gave me the sacrament and the girls are going to take me to the disco."  She is so funny, I love that lady.

So this Tuesday evening we'll be boarding a train to Buch, spend the day there on Wednesday, and we'll be back in time to... okay this may or may not happen, but we've been thinking of doing an "initiation" to welcome the new sister in the mission. I'll have to see how she'd react when I meet her, to see if, us chanting "Errybody in Timi gettin' baptized" would scare her or not.   We'll see.

She's on the plane right now, probably thinking about who her first companion will be.
Actually, probably not.

Anyway, I hope you all at home have a good week, and I'll write back after I've had my baby!


Sora Smith