Monday, June 30, 2014

Soare și niciun nor pe cer? Probabil va ploua (Sun and not a cloud in the sky? Perhaps it will rain)

Hello all,

Actually, I don't know if I've received the package you sent yet because nobody from my district has been down to Buch because no one was switched out, and no one's come up here so I won't find out for a couple more weeks, even.

President and Sora Ivory
The New Mission President and his wife, the Ivory's came in.  I have yet to hear anything about them though, but I have an old companion in Buch that's going to give me all the details when she goes on an exchange with Sora Ivory tomorrow. lol.
I can't believe I'm almost to my year mark, too. I still feel like a new missionary. I realized (did I already mention this?) that after this transfer is over, there will only be three missionaries ahead of me in the mission. THREE. I thought I was a boboaca (Freshman) but really I'm just a baba! (Old Woman) D:

Haha, is there a convenience store near where I live? Haha........In romania there are these "alimentars" which appear pretty much every other street. You are within 5 minutes walking distance of an alimentar at any given moment and at any given location, unless you're in the boonies, in that case it's like a 30 minute walk. They've got the necessities... milk, bread, chocolate, poufflettes. Kind of like 7-11 without the magic of Slurpee and cleanliness (did she just call 7-11 clean?).

No, my companion doesn't have a blog, but I'm stealing her photos anyway, we're just both really bad at taking pictures -_- ...I've been trying, I just always forget :)  Here's some photos we took with the Elders at the last Zone Conference with the Hills.

ADAM HAS A BEARD? I audibly gasped when I saw the pictures... the yard looks super different, too, it took a second for me to realize where that was. THAT SCARES ME.

Eight missionaries per side of the family! I don't think it's just a coincidence that my age group has the most in cousins, and that the age change happened at our convenience.

Picture I tool of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Arad

Here are some thoughts about revelation and the church: I've seen a lot of church corruption here in Romania. The orthodox church, which is run by the precepts of man, makes people pay if they want a blessing. Baptisms cost money. If you want a public opinion, you have to be orthodox (and you have to have money). And the doctrine they teach, although there is truth, it's filled with lies (I read passages out of an orthodox bible the other day, gosh I was shocked at the things they added that I've never even heard of before.) Even if you're not orthodox, you fund the church through taxes. The rights of the people in the orthodox church are overlooked as the people in high positions seek more power. (Sounds a little like the later chapters of 2 Nephi, doesn't it?)  So it makes me sad when we have people at home pushing the church about "rights," when they don't realize what a beautiful organization is God's one and true church. Yes, man is imperfect, yes, man is all God has to work with in running His church on earth. But God's church is designed to be perfect when it works as it should.  I really love what M. Russel Ballard said about this in a Liahona a while back:

Anyway, on to my week.
We visited a referral given to us by the elders, it was a gypsy woman named Mariana who they met when they were trying to buy gypsy skirts for a leaving missionary. Well, she was really cool and loves Jesus and loves to study the bible, and one thing nice is that she was really excited to hear about another book about Jesus Christ. That doesn't happen very often in Romania. She and her 10 yaer old daughter both gratefully took a BOM and we're going to go have a picnic with them later this week. Yay, we have an investigator!

We also have been meeting with an English student, Vera, but things don't seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon with her. We're doing 30/30's with English, but she's only interested in the free English lessons, and she's very strong orthodox so she's willing to argue every point of doctrine. But, she's taught me something very valuable. Through teaching her, I've realized that it doesn't matter what proofs you can make, what arguments you have, how cool a "no duh" statement is, none of that is going to convert a person. You can be a smooth talker and good debater, but that doesn't mean anything compared to the simple whispers of the spirit to the person's heart. We can argue with Vera all day long, really, we've spent a good sum of seven hours arguing with her this week. But that's not how conversion happens. You just need to state the simple truths of the gospel, you don't have to be a rehearsed scholar of doctrine and speaking. And the spirit will do the rest. If they still don't convert, it's because they don't want to and you've done your part.

So we're probably going to drop with Vera because we've given her a fair warning, and until she's willing to listen to the spirit, we don't have time to sit and argue because that does nothing. That, and she's trying to convince us to rub chopped onion on our skin because it will prevent cancer.

Possibly the Doorway to Nicole's Apartment?

We met with a couple of less actives. Paula, again, who works on Sundays and we talked about God providing ways for us to keep His commandments, and if she can find any way to allow her to come to church, and what we can do to help. But she's insistent in saying there's no possible way, and she doesn't want our help. We still offer her our love and try to work with her.
Also we met with Florita, who can't come due to having cancer. Apparently the sisters used to go to her every week, but for some reason dropped it and I was never informed about her, and she calls one day really angry saying, "I'm lonely, why aren't you coming to me anymore?!" Sorry! But she is so nice and gives us weird health food. Soy patty bagel sanwiches are.... so nasty.

Well, I brought up to our district leader that I think we could be a more united district and that I want to be better friends with all of them. He said he agreed, but nothing's really changed. They invited us to go out and get sandwiches today, though, that was nice.

At the kid's service, I presented a spiritual thought about the armor of God where I drew a soldier who didn't have any armor, and I had envelopes with the pieces of armor inside and as I read Ephesians 6, the kids would open the "faith" envelope and stick the little shield on. It was really fun.

Anyway, those are the big things of this week. Things are slowly improving, I've been healthy, it's been really hot and humid except for random 10 minute rainstorms, and I can't believe I'm so close to one year! This isn't real!

Your #1 fan, Sora Smith

P.S. Shout out to O, you little blog stalker

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Amazing Grace, Romanian-American Gospel Music Style (se poate asa ceva?!)

Hi all,


To answer your question, yes I've been getting some cooler clothes but it's been like, a shirt here, a skirt there, and then we're out of time on p-day so it's a monthly process :)

Yes, I also sang "And So It Goes" while playing for the Hills, I actually heard some other missionaries joining in too so that was cool.

President and Sora Hill at Our Last Zone Conference

We actually just found out about transfers, it seems like this time it kind of just sneaked up on me. But not much is changing. Actually, nothing is changing. Our entire district is staying exactly the same.

Anyway, this week nothing happened. I got some bad congestion in my sinuses and it ended up causing me hearing problems, and this led to being really sick Tuesday-Thursday, we ended up staying in. It was the worst- it completely knocked me out. But that got all healed over and we were back to work Friday.

We had district meeting, contacted, and we had been organizing another youth activity but everyone (including our elders... *cough*) ended up bailing and it was cancelled. The most frustrating thing about that is we're not able to retain that great spirit that the youth felt last time we had an activity. It just all seems kind of like a hit or miss.

Saturday we found out about transfers, had English classes, cleaned the church (by ourselves because the elders bailed... *cough*) and there was an American Jazz music festival we went to with our English student, Ioana. It was awesome, there was a gospel choir, although... they were Romanians singing American gospel music. They were good but you can imagine it was a little strange :) and there was a big band with one of the funniest conductors I have ever watched. I can't even explain it without being in person.

Sunday I gave a talk about the importance of the mission of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I decided for this talk to try something I haven't tried before, which is just to write down the points I want to get across and scriptures to read and talk off the top of my head, not reading anything, in Romanian. I was really nervous, but it actually turned out okay. I probably made more grammar mistakes than I would have if I had actually written out the whole thing, but eh. I was understood, so it was all good.

That was this week. The atonement is really important. Nasty sicknesses are no fun. We're all in this missionary work together. And I love nightly snack runs and getting $20 worth of junk food for only like $5, thank you Romania.

Have a safe week, nobody get sick or married, and I'll write again next week hopefully having done more than sit in my apartment...

Sora Nicalled to Serve

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Searching Out Inactives and Last Zone Conference With the Hills

Hi All,

In answer to your questions:  Romanians at least have a Fathers Day, but it's not like in America. On the calendar there's a day marked "Day of Mothers" and "Day of Fathers" and even a "Children's Day" but they're not extremely well observed, at least in the western part of Romania. But Father's Day was back in May........ but Happy Fathers Day anyway to the best dad ever!! I've just been celebrating for a month, that's all.

I heard a past coworker is going to hang out with Lara and Dave at their new apartment, lol. Have fun with JD, he's really cool but you already knew that.

I'm sorry that there's not a whole lot of time this week, so I'll have to brief over the events real quick. The weather has been REALLY hot. Today is the first day it's been slightly cool, and that's only from the storm blowing in that will blow out soon... then it'll be more hot.

View from Bridge in Arad

We've been doing a lot of less active finding, and we've learned that there are a LOT of LA's that are on our branch list that no longer live in Romania...... here's what happened. A couple of years ago our mission requested someone's records from church headquarters, and basically HQ said they can't send any names unless they send all of the names processing from Romania, in other words people that moved away but their records aren't where they are currently. So we were sent 700 records of people who no longer live here in Romania. We've been sifting through this list and finding who is here and who isn't... it's been very monotonous. And frustrating because we walk hours in the hot sun to find no one lives in their apartments anymore... well, someone has to do the work.

Elders in our District

We also had zone conference this week. It was one of the better ones :) It was also sad because it's the last one we'll have with the Hills... I played Sora Hill "And So It Goes" on the piano, she told me a few transfers ago it was one of her favorite songs, so I thought it was appropriate :)

Last Zone Conference with President and Sora Hill,
we will really miss them!

Cristina came to church again, and we also had an investigator from English, Ioana! She's 17 or 18, and she speaks English very well and we're hoping to have a real lesson with her this week, but she came to church and stayed! So it was an exciting Sunday.

That's all I have time for, but really that's also all that really happened. Have a good week... and be safe and stuff :)

Sora swimming-in-my-own-sweat Smith...

Picture of Lipova
The Lipova Area
Picture of me taken at the Ruined Castle in Lipova
This picture with me wearing weird clothes...
haha, there was a lot of old sister clothes in our apartment
so I took the liberty of dressing in them

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

YSA's and Leaping Over . . . Hurdles I Guess

Here is picture of me with brown hair again... I'd say it's pretty close to where I used to be. Oh yeah, and I gave myself bangs again... looks like I just went back to square 1 :)

That's interesting to hear a lot of us had a rough week last week. This week was definitely a lot more positive, even with things still being a little difficult.

Yeah, Arad had a lot of different missionaries before I was transferred in. President tells me that we "have an uncommonly good district here in Arad," I guess he's noticed how the branch has been struggling and sent some of his best troops in here. Which doesn't explain why I'm sticking around... :P

NOOOOO, Nathan was supposed to come to Romania... oh well. I'm sure San Jose will be a great place for him. Is he going Spanish or English speaking?

Sorry I still don't have many pictures with the city or apartment or church... that will be next week's goal! The picture taking starts now. (In other words, I'm horrible at taking pics...)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MELISSA! This is 31, right? I'll eat a covrig with chocolate for you...and by for you I mean for me... :)

This week our first English class had one student, Ioana but she is really cool and we're hoping she'll be interested in investigating the church... this week we're going to try meeting with her. 
We also have been meeting with some of the Arad members, like Sora Piper and Sora Lidia, who are both such amazing and strong women. Sora Piper calls me "draga mea" (my sweetie) all the time, it's cute :) I love the members here but I can see why the branch is struggling. It's missing a lot in unity. Seldom anyone stays for all three hours. There's apparently all these stories of how the branch used to be so powerful. Well, Sora O and I have been delving into a lot of less active work, and finally we're getting somewhere.

Wednesday we went to do service with the kids again. It was normal. Tons of crazy kids, stealing our name tags (we never found Sora O's, we figure one of the kids must have made off with it...) and playing games. Normal.

These photos with little kids in them are from our service activity, the one wearing my nametag is Irina and she's the sassiest... but I'm her favorite:)  Below are some photos of the elders playing soccer with the boys.

We held a YSA and youth activity on Friday, and after making a million phone calls, people showed up and it was actually an awesome activity. Five less actives showed up, and two non-members. We played soccer and badminton and frisbee, and everyone was included and just having so much fun. Each of the less actives talked about how they were excited to come back to church. It was amazing!

Saturday's English class, we had five people there so that was nice. We did a mock trial, it was super fun and everyone in the class participated. It was kind of like clue meets how to host a murder mixed with English class. It was awesome.

We also got in lessons with two other less actives, one of which we committed to coming to church. However, she has made so many commitments in the past, but every time she fell through so we didn't know if she'd really show up or not.  Well, come Sunday and she showed up for the first time since November of last year! The members accepted her and she did so well and was so happy. I was impressed with her participation in Sunday school, she still seems to have such a strong testimony. Oh, it was so great.

Unfortunately, none of the less active YSA's or youth showed up to church, but the activity was still a great touch for them that, if we continue these activities and rekindle what they felt with the church, they will come back and help strengthen this struggling branch. Things are starting to work, slowly, but surely.

So this week I'm looking at things with a lot more hope than last. I think that what the branch needs, is a little more help. We just need to help them help themselves, because when they are strong it will be easier for us to bring in new members, and things will just take off from there. Even if it'll be years from now when that will happen, the great thing is it will happen, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Today, being p-day, our district went to Lipova (pronounced Leep-ovah. Oh, now the email title makes sense.) There are castle ruins at Lipova that we got to hike up to and climb all over, it was really cool and really fun. Don't worry, I actually got a lot of really cool pictures. Poor Elder Baielli is a little scared of heights, and it's a lot of rock climbing with big drop offs, so it made sense that he was a little nervous :) but with a little coaxing and encouragement, we helped him get over his fear and we all made it to the top of the highest tower together. It was awesome!  But coming down it was EXTREMELY hot....... :p   Moral of the story is, districts are good for helping you overcome your fears ;) (reference to the germ thing...)
Ruins at Lipova
Ruins from up above
Lizard at Lipova

Another Lizard at Lipova

Climbing the Stairs at the Castle
Elders Myler, Boydstun, and Baielli on a Ledge

Me in Front of the Castle
Overlooking the Castle
Well, that's the big news for this week. I'm looking forward to the next while in Arad with more hope, and the lesson here is how important church attendance is. As important as it is to go and renew your baptismal covenants and be nourished by the word of God, it's more than just about you. Your appearance at church affects the whole ward/branch. Fulfilling church callings is super important, too. I mean, if you don't, the missionaries have to do it, and we have enough on our plate trying to bring in more members to your branch, so please, do everyone AND yourself a favor by going to church and fulfilling your calling. It's so worth it, and God does bless you for all your efforts.

With love,
Sora Nicole Even-I-have-to-be-branch-pianist Smith

Monday, June 2, 2014

The End of the Reign of the Redhead

Sorry that this week I don't have as much time to write, but not a whole lot happened anyway so you're not missing much :)

As far as the language is coming... sure I'm getting fluent (whatever that means.) If people talk, I understand them. And I can communicate and get my point across, so sure, you could say I'm fluent :) A lot of missionaries say I'm good with the language, but a lot of Romanians say not so much, so you know.  I mean, at least I understood them making fun of my language skills.  Didn't see that coming, didja???

English classes have started, and despite the hard work we put out getting all of our cards out and talking to everyone about classes, we only had 5 students show up both days. It was disappointing, but sometimes you have good turnouts and sometimes you just don't. So we'll see if the classes pick up more as the transfer goes.

New contacts, not really. We've been out contacting a lot with little luck. The people here are a lot more closed off than anywhere else I've served. I'll just have to find a way to get around that..

My companion Sora O'Brien

About the title, yeah, my hair's brown again. I finally got every tint of red out by balancing it with a greeny tone. NO, my hair's not green. It's actually really close to my natural color, maybe a little darker. So, the red was fun while it lasted but I'm glad I'm back to base one.

This week was actually quite a difficult one. We've both been working our tails off with little result. It's been really frustrating, and we're at a loss of what to change to make things work. Things just aren't working, and the branch is struggling big time. I'm trying not to feel discouraged, but when you've been working so hard and have nothing to show for it, life becomes a little harder.  This area hasn't had an investigator for months. Whether that's an area or missionary problem, I'm not sure, but since we've come in and been working so hard, I'm inclined to think the people here are especially disinterested.  So we're still trying.
Main Street in Arad
It's also been a little frustrating serving here because it's like pulling teeth trying to get the elders to do anything with us. No contacting with them, no p-day activities, nothing. It's like we don't even exist until they need us for something. Oh well, I'm over it. 

This week I guess has kind of been like trying to get through a maze but we keep running into walls. We'll get out of it soon, but in the meantime it's a little exhausting running in these circles...

On the good news of things, I bought a cute shirt today for under $10.

Sora Smith

P.S. again, sorry for the lack of photos. I found my reader, but I don't have my camera... next week for sure.

Here is a message for the ward:

Romania has had a difficult history. The mission only recently opened just over 20 years ago, right after Romania had succeeded in overthrowing their communistic leader. The early Latter-day church in Romania grew rapidly and began to spread to other cities, but as soon as the government signed with the European Union, those that could afford it moved away promptly, harming the branches and leaving most cities with less than 20 members. However, the members that remained are some of the strongest, most faithful people I know.

Missionary work in Romania is difficult because most people are Orthodox and going to stay Orthodox. Romanians also generally are closed off and do not trust other people. Can you blame them with having just gotten out of communism? So getting them to open up and let a little of Christ's light in is difficult, but once you get to see that, you get to learn how great these people are.

Orthodox Cathedral in Arad

One of the greatest things I've learned from serving out here is how much God loves all His children. With the small struggling branches, hardened hearts of its citizens, corruption in its government, and little hope that exists for a brighter future, Romania has been blessed in the small and simple ways that has helped her scars fade and begin to build a new foundation from the rubble of a difficult past. 

As it says in Alma 37:6-7:
"...behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
  And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."

Those small and simple things are what are picking Romania back up on her feet, and every by every mean God is reaching out to show His love for them who He loves so much.

I bear record that this is the true church restored to this earth, and that God does love us His children. I have seen so many miracles during my mission that cannot be mistaken for anything but signs of God's infinite and eternal love. Through this love He has reached out to us again to teach us of His plan for our eternal happiness that we can return to Him, our Father, again.

I hope all is going well with everyone at home, and that we can all unite in delivering this special message to those that need help finding that love that is so readily available to them. I miss you all, and I'm grateful for the great examples you have all been for me.

Love, Sister Nicole Smith