Monday, July 28, 2014

Păianjeni... vă urăsc...

Title Translation:  Spiders . . . I hate you!!

Hi all,

To answer your question: Last week I sent a picture and video of a music group which was called C Project or J Project or something like that. This sort of thing happens all around Arad, some random aspiring group will just set up in some park and play a free concert.

The "Les Miserables" Web Album was awesome! Ahhhh, it was just like I was watching the show. I could actually hear the music, haha. I think I'll watch it again in a minute. It looks well done, some of the pics with the Thenardiers look perfect, haha. And I recognize a few of the people, Fantine looks super familiar but I can't place her... Jeff and Adam look great!  Thanks for sharing that with me, haha :)

On Monday we went to one of the Elder's investigator's place with Elder P and B. His name is Emil, and he knows English very well. We watched a video about Jesus called "Jesus." It was good, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. It didn't quote the Bible at all, and it wasn't entirely accurate. But there were some good points in it. Although, later we hear from Emil that he only hangs around us because we're American and he's not too interested in our church at all. Oh well.

Thursday we had a branch activity about family history. We talked about it and showed off and it went really well, although there were only 3 members, but we did have like ten investigators so that was cool. An investigator of Elders B and M brought his teenage kids and they were all super interested in the family history idea, more so than any of the adults.

Speaking of which, I went on to familysearch and Grandma Smith and her side went missing completely :) I fixed the problem, but it was kind of sad when she disappeared. Another funny story, I was playing around on familysearch, I got all the way back to Adam. Not even kidding. Actually, more like I got to Methuselah but you can infer the rest from there. ♪♫Family history, I am doing it...♪♫

Anyway. We were able to meet with a few people, but for the most part nothing big happened. We weren't able to sit and meet with Ioana to talk more about baptism, we're hoping this week. But she  and Cristina came to church so that was exciting.

A spider must have been crawling around my face last night, I woke up with my brow swelling over my eyelid from two little bites. It's super dumb and hurts pretty bad. It's also been super hot. The last weeks of July are when it gets the hottest in Romania and it stays that way until the end of August... :p I hope I can survive...

Train Station in Arad

Sorry this email's a bit shorter, I hope to have some super exciting news for next week :) If we still had the Hills, we'd find out about transfers this coming Saturday, but we don't so no one has a clue when we find out. Transfers are August 6th, so they're coming up. Elder Baielli says he thinks I'm going to train. Again. Elders P and M will be dying (going home) at the end of this transfer, so we'll be getting new Elders for sure.

Anyway, that's about it. Everyone have a good week, be safe, and go onto familysearch and try to get down to Adam.

Sora Smith

Monday, July 21, 2014

Stalkers, Bungers, Balance and . . . Baptism?!?

Now that I've got everyone on the edge of their seats, let's finish last week's email that I didn't get to.

Zone conference. Well, we were meeting in the Arad building and I was talking with some past missionary friends when dun, dundun, duuuuun! Up pulls the President's car, and in walks not President Hill. I remember almost having a heart attack, and like everyone is standing up straight trying to look super professional. So President Ivory starts shaking everyone's hand, and I'm sweating, I'm so nervous. I wipe my hand on my skirt so I don't freak him out for a first impression, and he gets to me and shakes my hand and squinting at my name tag says:  "I haven't memorized everyone's name yet. Don't leave your tag home next time."  Lol I didn't forget my tag, but I had put a jacket on over the top and... it was embarrassing :)

Anyway, the Ivorys are super cool and they love Harry Potter so they're even better. We had zone conference and President Ivory has taken a new approach on the work here, that instead of putting a major focus on contacting, we've started a 'balance approach' between less active visits, member visits, and investigators. He's also started a "most positive mission in the world" trend and it's booming like fireworks. At least, for me it is :) What's nice about all of this is that I'm not really doing anything different, but the outlook has changed and suddenly things start progressing really well.

Last Friday we went to Simona's civil wedding, it was the first time we met her but she knows who we are and it seemed like she appreciated the support.  Just so you know, Romanian weddings aren't all that exciting or different. It was in a church, the brown one I sent you a picture of, and we just sat there while the preacher talked for an hour about love and God. Then the couple kissed, and released doves. There is one tradition that's mostly in western Romania that is unique though. After the ceremony, everyone gets into their cars and drives to the after party. Normal. But here everyone's car is decked with ribbons and flowers and the wedding line honks all the way to the party. 

Weddings usually are Saturdays, so it's normal to hear car horns constantly going off all day long. I'd take this tradition home, but...

We went to a farm on Monday. It was Daniel's Uncle and he breeds his own fruits and animals. He has these weird cross-breed chickens and spike-less blackberries he pretty much created himself. Crazy. But the family was super nice, the aunt and their child. They fed us ciorba and these ham sandwiches they made from their own pigs and chickens... haha honestly they were a little weird. But we played songs for them on their piano and it was a nice trip.  

The problem with Daniel is he got way too attached to us way too fast. In other words, you were right haha. It was a nice trip to the farm, but afterwards he started calling us every morning multiple times to invite us out with him here or there and for late at night events and we turned down every one of them. Eventually we had to tell him thanks for his friendship, but not to call anymore. It's too bad, but at the same time I'm a little relieved to not have to worry about him anymore.

We had exchanges on Wednesday, I was with Sora Merrill and we had a blast. She is one group ahead of me, and she's great and likes to sing. For part of the exchange I introduced her to "sing contacting" in a bloc, and we started out by asking if we can sing people a song and we actually were told no... like, three times :) So we get in front of this one door and I say, "Okay, changing tactics. Here's our note, we're just gonna sing as soon as the door opens."  Well, the door opens, and it's a man who is hiding behind his door because he's clearly naked . . . We didn't just start singing, instead we quickly left.

We met with Sora Florita, and we tried talking about paying tithing in a very nice and careful way, but she got very defensive and it didn't really go anywhere. We tried talking about how God always provides ways to keep his commandments, and she said she believed us, but she just couldn't pay her tithing. After a solid hour of trying to help her, she just wouldn't agree to even praying to find a way she could pay her tithing.  It's sad because we know she could be so blessed, and she knows it too, but she's not accepting it. Agency, I guess.

We also got bunged a couple of times, but we scheduled a ton of lessons so we did get quite a few in :)

We met with another LA (less active), Alexandra, and we role played Sora O'Brien being an investigator and Alexandra was my companion, and we taught the restoration. I've come to learn it's a nice tactic to see how much the LA remembers/believes. It went really well, until the closing prayer... we had the lesson in Mcdonalds because it suddenly started pouring buckets outside, and on the opposite end was a meet Ronald Mcdonald thing going on that we were ignoring. Well, I'm saying a quiet, hopefully unseen prayer in closing when I hear a "louder!" so I start praying louder when I open my eyes, and Ronald McDonald and his posse of little children are holding hands, singing, and parading right through the middle of our prayer. We couldn't stop laughing for a good five minutes. Then I started over and I learned my lesson.  Clowns and the gospel don't mix.
We also met with Mihaela again, and her mom recently had surgery in Timisoara for her ears. It was just us and Mihaela, and we were going to review the restoration but both of us feel prompted to talk about the plan of salvation instead. After the first five minutes, she opens up to us and tells us about how she's not sealed in the temple, and that she's scared it's too late and her family who is all active and are good people will never get to the temple.  And I'm like, ahhhhh! "It's never too late!"  We talked to her for a while and had a really sweet heart to heart about how we know her and her husband want it so bad, and if there's a will, there's a way. The spirit was so strong and Mihaela seemed very encouraged over our discussion.  We talked to the Timisoara sisters to go see Mihaela's mom in the hospital, they went and sang for her and her friend was there (the same friend that came to church) and Mihaela's sister who lives in Arad and now is showing interest in the church that she's never shown before. It was way awesome!
On Sunday, Ioana came to church again for like the fourth week in a row. (She's the 18 year old English student). No one else was there for Gospel Principles or Relief Society, so we talked to her about temples and eternal marriage. I don't know why, but I just felt really prompted to talk about it. She already knows about the restoration and plan of salvation. But she loved the idea of being a family for forever. We talked about any and every question she had, what she liked, what she didn't like, why she was coming to church, etc. etc. and at the end I offered her a baptismal commitment....

...and she said YES!!! OHMYGOSH a year out on my mission and I'm finally getting to progress someone to baptism! I'm so excited, and nervous because I'm trying not to get my hopes too high :) Ioana is so great. She started reading the BOM all by herself and loves every bit of it. She came to church the first time without being asked and she loves it. She has been meeting with us and she loves it. She told us that it's just so different than anything she's ever felt and that she feels everything is true.

Anyway. those are the big things. We had a really good week.

I'm nervous that I hit my year mark in just a couple of days. It's like, I'm not ready to be there yet! There's still too much I have to do!

Well, I don't know what much else to write now that I have all the time in the world this week. I guess I can talk a little about what I've been studying lately. It's kind of a weird subject but it'll make sense.

I've been studying about the Sons of Perdition and the Holy Ghost. It started with the Bible dictionary definition of "earnest", which when referring to the Holy Ghost essentially means that his accompaniment is a foretaste of the joy we'll feel in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Well, as we know the Sons of Perdition are those who deny the Holy Ghost.

Also we know in our church that the definition of "hell" is more so a state of mind lacking the presence of God whether in this life or after. We read in the scriptures that in outer darkness there will be a "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth", and this is the "hell" that hasn't a spark of light. I remember a story someone told me a while back when they prayed to ask what it felt to not have the Holy Ghost with them, and it really was a form of hell. They immediately prayed for his presence again, and feelings of peace and joy ensued. We also read in the scriptures that the fruits of the Holy Ghost are all things good, so it makes sense that without the Holy Ghost, the absence of all things good leaves nothing but bad.
I read an interesting article in the Liahona that put the Holy Ghost into a new perspective for me (sorry, can't remember which one it was). It talked about how even the little thoughts popping into your head, "Don't forget your car keys before you leave the door!" can be promptings from the spirit.  I also read an article in a Liahona, sorry I don't remember who or which issue, but it was by a member of the 70 who participated in a disciplinary council and was exposed to such evil acts that the person committed that the 70 had to excuse himself to settle his thoughts. He describes the feeling as though there was a giant pit with a covering over it, and that there was a small opening in which he saw into the depths of what evils and sins exist in this world and how overpowering and overcoming they are, and he wondered how in the world can we overcome such evil?  And then the scripture in John came to his mind where Jesus says, "I have overcome the world" and suddenly, every drop of darkness had been replaced by a light that was greater.

That's kind of why I've been studying the Sons of Perdition. I personally can't imagine being so overcome with evil that one would deny the sun shining right in their face for their own gain. But, at the same time, it also illustrates the opposite, that the peace, happiness, and joy in the world to come are more than anything we can imagine right now. We have an idea, thanks to the presence of the Holy Ghost, but it's the tip of the iceberg. And it is all possible thanks to the everlasting atonement of Jesus Christ, who has overcome all the evil in the world that we cannot comprehend, and has handed to us the opposing joy if we so desire it.

So yeah, that's what I've been studying. There's a lot more to do with the Holy Ghost and "earnest" and a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott, but maybe I'll get to that another day :)

Have a good and restful week!

Sora Smith
Some musicians we watched

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week of Bungs!

Dear Family and Friends,

Yeah I got to meet the Ivorys!  Sora Ivory told me that from what info was left behind, we are the #1 district in the mission. More about meeting the Ivorys later.

I have been feeling a lot better about things lately. One thing that is really nice is that at the end of last transfer, Elder Myler had us all write down something we liked about everyone in our district, and I kept those papers of what my district said about me. Every single one of them said I was positive, happy, and a hard worker. I was really grateful to re-read those.  Sora O also told me that I am one of the hardest working missionaries she's ever worked with.  Thank you for those scriptures, they really helped.

I loved the pictures from Les Mis! They are great, Adam looks way different with a beard :) Jeff looks normal, lol. Haha, that was weird when you said Katie Erickson because it's still hard for me to think of her with a different last name... I hardly recognized her in the photo. I noticed Carson Davies and Miss Kate in the background of one of the photos. Also I know Allen (if i remember his name right), the guy standing left of Adam in the cast shot, he is so nice! That is great news about Cosette's mission.

Anyway, this week was pretty uneventful until the end. Normal things happened, contacting, we tried to get a lot of lessons in but we got bunged a lot... like, a lot, a lot. Like, every lesson we set up, but one. But hey, that one went really well so I'm not complaining, a lot a lot.  We also sort of got bunged by our sister training leaders... lol. We thought we were having exchanges on Wednesday but when we called them Tuesday evening to check when they were getting in, they were like "Oops, exchanges are next week..." lol.

Well, when it rains, it stops just long enough for you to leave your umbrella at home and then the sky's like, "Psych! Here's some more rain." (true story) :D  Yeah, it's been rainy. It's kind of more unpredictable than Utah (se poate asa ceva?!? is such a thing possible?!?) You look outside one day, blue skies, not a cloud. You hold English for an hour, outside it's pouring buckets. You walk home in the rain in time for it to stop again by the time you reach your front door. Haha, I actually started leaving a spare umbrella at the church.  The bright side is now I know what to expect. It's always exactly what doesn't make sense.

Our investigator Daniel did take us to his Uncle's Farm.  Here are a few pictures from our visit there.

We've been doing carol contacting, and it's been super awesome. People let us in. Every. Single. Time. I have never been let in so easily before. Even if we don't see eye to eye later, or they don't accept anything we have to offer, hey, WE GOT IN and we left them with a spiritual experience! So I don't know why I never tried this before!
...we only had time to do that once this week, so no really cool story or contact from it. But this week we'll do it more.
Playing the piano for a church meeting

I'm so, so, so sorry, I really want to talk a lot about the zone conference and how awesome it was, but I really have NO TIME left, but know it was really awesome, the Ivorys are awesome!  I'm super excited for the work to come, and don't let me forget to tell you about it because I want to, I just ran out of tiiiiiiiiiime!

Okay I have to go. Be safe. Read holy books. I love you all.
Sora Smith

Monday, July 7, 2014

Good News and Bad News and Sad News!

Well, I haven't met the Ivorys yet but the ZL's have and they tell me they're super cool. I'll get to meet them this week when they come up for interviews and a zone training meeting.

Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get a hold of Marianna since, so we don't know... we'll try to get in touch with her soon.

That actually caught me off guard hearing Daniel is home for medical care, I mean I was reading his emails but I was a little surprised. I hope and I pray he can get back out again and soon. Someone was telling me that nowadays any time off your mission you take at home counts as mission time, in other words his return date would stay the same as if he didn't take time off. Is that so? I know it's for good reason, I just hope everything can get resolved and resumed real soon.

I met the love of my life!
He died over thousands of years ago though . . .
And, I'm not exactly sure he's the kissing type . . .

It's super hot here now, and super humid so I feel like I want to sit in the fridge for a few hours between outside times... but you can't find investigators there so I guess it's a no go.

In other news, I found out something really upsetting the other day and the moral of the story is DON'T GOSSIP.  It doesn't matter who you are or who you talk to. If you have a problem with someone, talk to THEM about it and maybe they can clear it up for you.   I've also been feeling especially lonely lately.  My companion is a good friend and good to me, but our District isn't very united and the lack of solid investigators that I can really love, and the whole gossip drama on top of that has put me in a dark corner by myself and has let in a lot of feelings of loneliness and homesickness.  Don't get me wrong. I only want to correct this and continue working. But please pray for me, this may be the hardest trial I've faced on this mission so far. I'll pray for the things going on at home, too.

I'm trying to keep it chin-up as much as I can and we've still been out working positively, and it's only getting more positive from here. We had a district meeting after the ZL's had a leadership meeting in Buch with the Ivory's and we've got some really good things planned out. We're going to start a free Bible Study Class were we connect things to the Book of Mormon. The thing is, English classes don't really work in Arad. The church villa is so far away from civilization, no one wants to travel that far and the only way we advertize is through cards and sometimes posters. BUT. We've been talking with people who would be interested in a bible class and the elder's investigator has offered a central venue, and through connections we already have a potential 50 people that would come. So if it all works out, it may just replace English. That would be awesome.

The Romanian Soldiers Monument

Also we're giving family history a lot of headway. Things for family history have been picking up in Romania. I mean, who doesn't like family? Just so's ya know, I've been showing like, everybody our family photo so there are quite a few Romanians who have seen your faces :) Mom you'll be happy to hear that everyone says we're such a beautiful family. Although, about 50% of people will mention off the bat that none of us children really look like we're really siblings.... lol.

We also had Mihaela, a Romanian member living in England, show up and introduce us to her mother and a friend who's interested in the gospel. Well, her mother was super closed off, "I'm orthodox and going to die orthodox." But we gave them a spiritual lesson, and invited her to church and she promptly said no. Well, Mihaela's friend was running late, so to pass the time we sang them some hymns and she had an old guitar I used to accompany. Mihaela's mom started to cry and said it was so beautiful, that she never felt so much peace. Her friend ended up not being able to come, so we thanked them and left with another invite to church.

Mihaela lives more in the countryside
so, we met some sheep
And, cows on the way

And then, Mihaela's mother came to church! It was the first time ever, and Mihaela and her husband (also a member) have been trying for years. Her friend was there, too, and in Sunday School Elder Myler gave a good lesson about the plan of salvation, and both the mother and friend said it was so beautiful, that they want to hear more.

Like Dumbledore said, "Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here."

Sora O'Brien and I are planning on doing more sing contacting and I'm excited. We watched David Archuletta's thing on where he talked about how he sang hymns at people's doors and they let hymn in. WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT BEFORE?!? So we're going to do it.

My ukelele

We also met with Daniel, a very charismatic guy who's been all over the world (even to temple square, he said it's one of the most beautiful sights he's seen!), and offered to teach us a lot of Romanian history. We learned a lot, tasted a lot of traditional Romanian cakes (which weren't really that great....), and gave him the first lesson. And he agreed to a soft baptismal commitment... and he came to church.... and he got the P of S lesson with Myler.... and he still wants to meet. He wants to take us out to his uncle's farm where it's really culturally enlightening, as he puts it. Haha, well he's been a very good friend and his interest in the gospel is increasing so this is positive. Did you know that salami was invented by the Huns, where they'd travel miles and miles on horseback, and to feed themselves they'd stick raw meat between the saddle and the horse and what seasoned it was the sweat from the horse's back? Nasty. Not how salami is made anymore. But interesting nonetheless.

It was Elder Myler's birthday. I made him a cake but ignore the edges because I ran out of frosting...

Here are some pictures of the Romanian Flag.  It is cool, but unfortunately I couldn't capture the coolest part about it.

You know how the Moldovan flag is like Romania's but it has an insignia in the center? Romania's used to have one, too, but during the revolution people cut it out and this flag in Arad is one of the few originals that remain. If you look closely at one photo you can kind of see a small hole but it's a big circle cut out. Unfortunately, they tied the flag down so I couldn't get a photo of the full flag. But I'll keep trying...

This White Building is the Primaria (government building)
The brown building is a church... I think it's catholic?
Our friend Daniel wants to take us there sometime.

Anyway, that's the big news of the week, kind of dramatic and annoying, but also positive.

Everyone have a good week. I hope everything gets resolved with Daniel and he can get back out. And good luck Jeff and Adam with Les Mis!  And I hope Lara and Dave keep having fun with my past co-worker playing games at their new apartment :) And everyone else, that good things and blessings come your way.

Sora Nicole Smith

P.S.  We saw a U.F..... oh, it's just a remote control helicopter.

Want to hear more about the "Bug of Mormon?"