Monday, September 29, 2014

Bittersweet


So this week was an absolutely crazy emotional roller coaster and I cannot begin to describe how hard it was... and I honestly don't have the emotional energy right now to go through all the details but I'll try to get you the overview.

So this whole week was dedicated to preparing Maria for baptism and we went over often. Once we brought Sora Piper and they got along well. On Tuesday she said she only smoked 4 cigarettes that day and she was planning to be off on Wednesday. Well, she opens up completely and tells us about her husband in jail and we ask if she would be okay with us going out to see him and she thought he'd be so happy to see us and tell him we were baptizing his wife. So we talked to a friend to have him help us get into the jail to visit her husband, and he needs to ask her some info to get us in. So he calls and talks to her and it ends up she isn't able to contact her husband so we decide to leave it to next week.

Well, we go to see Maria on Thursday and suddenly her whole disposition has changed and obviously something is wrong. She tells us that the person who was helping us get into the jail said to her over the phone, "We don't want to give the government the wrong idea. Do you believe you are getting baptized into an American Church and that you'll receive a monthly packet or money by being baptized?"

She was very upset by that. We talked to her a bit and she said she still wants to get baptized, but she doesn't want to do it with that pain in her heart. We understood and we tried to help her understand that he is not a member and we have only love to offer her and the church is still true. We called the Elders over to give her a blessing and Elder Boydstun ends up interviewing her for baptism and she passes. We give her time to think over whether going through with her baptism for Saturday or not is the right thing to do. It was a very emotional night.



Friday she said she was going to her son's grave, so it was perfect chance to let the spirit testify to her. She said she'd call us after, but she never did. It turns out she went to her niece's and wasn't at the grave very long.

Saturday morning we go to see her, still holding onto a little hope the baptism will still happen, but ready to make last minute changes. She basically tells us all is lost, she won't come to church anymore. There is now a hostile environment and a complete 180 from the light and love that we used to get from her. 


I have never seen or heard of any story like this before, and I still can't believe it. We bore solid testimony, tried resolving the conflicts in her heart, and did everything we could, but in the end God's answer was that this is just not her time, and she's going through a really painful and dark period right now. It was so hard, I never thought a mission was anything like this.

We canceled the baptism, but worried about some members showing up without being able to get word. We put on an activity (without the help of the Elders and all we wanted to do was go home and forget it.) It was a really difficult weekend and I cannot begin to describe the difficulty and emotions that came out of it.

I've dealt with a lot of really hard things on my mission, I'd say this is definitely in the top three hardest weeks if not the hardest. Forget everything else I've gone through, the pain of seeing her fall so hard is enough alone to make me want to give up. Now, of course I'm never going to give up. And especially not with Maria. But by the end of this week, I was ready to run away and forget it all.


I do know it's all in the Lord's plan, and I do know that all things are for the greater good, and I do know that no effort is wasted. But this weekend I had to allow myself to grieve for the events that led up to now. Never losing faith or hope, however to be honest my courage suffered a bit.

This next week will be a rocky pickup for me, but if anything all of this has given me a fiery determination to prove everyone wrong. Maria, the Elders, Satan. He thinks he's won. I've been reading in the war chapters of Alma and I feel very much in the heart of a very serious and vicious kind of war. Of course, we win in the end but there are still many scars that come out of it. Maria's suffered a pretty serious battle wound and it'll take a lot of time to heal. But I never knew how much something like that would affect me so much, as well.


I'm sorry this email is much different than any other I've ever sent, but man I've learned a lot this week and feel I've come a very long way down a road that I never knew existed or imagined that I'd ever have to cross. And it's not very beautiful. I've learned a lot about the world, darkness, evil and Satan. And with all of this is the contrast how much heaven, light, love and Christ make up for it in measures incomprehensible.

In less words, it was all very bittersweet.

I do hope and pray everyone has a good week and success in their endeavors, even if the success is unseen in the present or even in this life. Because we do know the turnout of this war, despite the wounds and heartaches of the passing into the light provided for us by the everlasting love and mercy of the Son of God.


Sora Nicole Smith

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 60

Hi all,

Sorry I told you about transfers and then completely forgot to tell you what was happening at transfers... :) I'm staying in Arad with Sora Cox, and the Elders are staying the same except we actually lost the ZL's to Oradea, so now we're a "babysitting district," with a senior couple who apparently was told by President that they were to be "unofficial chaperons," LOL.

Here are some photos I took recently of some of the buildings in Arad:



Hobbits?

Before I forget, could I maybe get the gooey rolls with cheese recipe? OR is that so super confidential that transporting it over email is too dangerous? :)

This week I don't have as much to report, we've been busy with helping Maria with her coming baptism and looking for less actives. I don't know if I mentioned, but our Relief Society President gave us (via Sora Smith) a list of less actives to go through, locate, and see if we can't get them reactivated or on a do-not-contact list. So that's been some pretty busy work but we've made really good progress.

This week was transfers but nothing's changing so we've been hanging out in Arad. Four transfers here and I am officially the Arad sister. I know anything and everything about this city. And if I don't know it, then it doesn't exist.

We got ice cream with Ioana. She's great, she showed us some targets from when she went shooting. Which is like, every day.  Watch out, world. :)
Here are some photos I took on the day we went with Ioana and her 2 friends to Lipova:





We went to see the Bacanu family, who is a huge less active family of seven kids which both parents and five kids are baptized. They live 20 minutes out of Arad and are poor, so they can't come to church. But apparently the father died four months ago and no one's been out to visit them for four years and the mother told us she loves the church and the gospel is true, but she doesn't believe in the Arad branch. It's sad, I mean it just goes to show how important home and visiting teaching is. We brought the family the sacrament on Sunday and had a nice little visit with them, and since the father died they've lost all interest in going to the temple anymore. They thought that it was too late, now that he is gone and they can't be sealed together. It's great to know the gospel is a lot greater than that :) So we shared with them how they can still be sealed as a whole family and they want their children to be baptized.  Needless to say, it was a nice and spiritual visit.

Maria is doing well and we've been trying to get in lessons with the members too to fellowship her. The only thing in the way of her baptism this Saturday is she's been struggling to quit smoking. We've been fasting and praying for her, and giving her some aids to clean out the nicotine and such. We're seeing her tonight so we'll see how that's been helping. She told us she doesn't want to quit smoking just to be baptized, and then fall back into smoking again after, so that's great news. Satan's going to try really hard this week to keep her from being baptized, so a little extra prayer power would be appreciated :)

I've been a little frustrated the past little while with the Elders.  There's totally an attitude of "We're Elders and we hold the Priesthood and you're just in the way," except with this coming baptism which they're suddenly all eager to help us out and acknowledge we are actually working with them in this city...    It's hard because it makes me frustrated and it's hard to feel the spirit when you're frustrated. If any missionary or pre-missionary reads this, I beg you to NEVER EVER treat your sisters like second class missionaries.  Anyway, maybe now that there will only be two Elders and us and the Smiths, things might be different, but I don't want to get my hopes up like last time :) haha.

Anyway. That's this week. Things are cool. It's been rainy and cooling down fast, I've actually broken out my wintery gear. Some of the Elders had to ask me what the weird knit cloth was on my ankles.   Lol, they're leg warmers...

Anyway, I hope this week goes well for everyone at home. Stay safe, read the scriptures... and I'll write to you next week!

From the #1 Smith Missionary in Romania
...I guess I can't say that anymore.


P.S.

I'm sorry. I forgot. Two more things.

1- My hair is different now. We went "contacting" to a hair salon and now it's different.
New Haircut

The disco shirts that we were given worn over cammies to improve modesty ;)

2- One day on our way to Maria's, we're passing by this thicketous forest of briars and overgrown grass when a wild and scruffy dog pops out and runs off. So we look into the mass of green weeds and there are two little puppy heads popping out, and I think I melted into a puddle of d'aww. I called out to them and they wagged their little bums over and cuddled and rubbed their disasterous furry bodies on my legs.... I couldn't help but pick them up and cuddle. My companion asked if they were clean.   "Definitely not," said I.   But dang, I really missed puppy cuddles and that made my entire September.

In the end, I had to part with the disease bearing love muffins. At the side of the road, with the thought in mind of whether or not they're still alive. I mean, their mother is, so who knows. But man. I love puppies.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

This. Arad Is On Fiiiiiyarrrr!

Hi All,

About my return date ... I actually have known since I got into the MTC and I must have forgotten to say anything... haha oops. Well.. um yeah I get back January 20th :) so mark yer calendars.

Speaking of the MTC and Elder Scott, he actually spoke to us while I was there. I guess this is a sign we can repeat talks because that's exactly what he talked to us about :) [Personal Prayer with Heavenly Father].  It was such a beautiful talk though, and I read it again published in a Liahona a few months ago, and I'm still trying to milk out everything I can learn from it because it's such a good message.


Okay. Here's what you've all been waiting for. Dun dundun DUUUUUN:   The past two weeks.


We've been seeing Sora Krista periodically who has been in the hospital. She doesn't seem to be getting much better, but she doesn't seem worse either so we keep praying for her. She's been in for about two months now.

Also been meeting with Maria, who is still progressing really well toward baptism. She bore her testimony during testimony meeting and it was so powerful and moved some of the members to tears, one member came right up to her and hugged her after the meeting. She is so ready. Although we had to move the date to the 27th because of transfers and district conference.

Ioana is also doing very well. Last Monday when I didn't have any time to write home, we were with her all day. The missionaries in the zone came to Arad to play paintball and we invited Ioana to come with us because she's always wanted to go paintballing, and she's a shooter.  So it was perfect.  After that, we went with her and two friends from school to Lipova because they've never been. So we drove the drive, hiked the hike, and climbed the climb and Ioana conquered the heights like a champ... and I'm so grateful she didn't die because the way she was running across the foot-wide ledges 60 feet in the air kind of scared me :) It was a nice trip.




Afterward, Ioana asked us how long after you're baptized until you can serve a mission. I asked her why and she thought going on a mission would be fun :) So we're going to start involving her in proselyting and teaching and it'll be great. What's awesome about all this is she's already planning on being baptized, she just doesn't know when.


Sora Mogos, our relief society president, gave Sora (not me) Smith a list of less actives to seek out, so we've been working with her on that list and very slowly picking off the LA's. It's been a lot of running around in circles, but our efforts are slowly getting through the list and already we've been finding a few people that have been out of contact for a long time, and that's been really cool.

Lesson of the week: never ever give up. There is one less active sister I've been trying to contact since my first transfer in Arad. I'd periodically call her number, but she'd never pick up. I didn't even know if it was her number anymore. So I'd try morning, day, and night, and nothing each time. We tried going out to her house. Neighbors said they moved a long time ago. Well, three transfers later and I come across her name yet again and think, "I've called this number a million times and she's never picked up. There's no use in trying anymore." So I called anyway.   AND SHE PICKED UP.  And she was happy to hear from us. They've been vacationing in Greece the whole time, and if I had given up on calling we never would have known. So lesson learned.

I don't know if you remember me talking about Sora Piper, we visited her a lot my first transfer in Arad and then she left to Italy for a few months. Well, I got this feeling the other day to call her randomly, so I did it and she arrived back in Arad only a half an hour before I called. She was so happy about it, too and it was so nice seeing her and her grandson Manu again.

Sora Gerhardt's daughter is having a baby, so we got together with Cristina and tied a baby blanket to take to her in the hospital. She is also a LA member, so we think it will be great.

We had a sports night and played soccer with some of the Elder's investigators, from Africa, who of course are really good at soccer and made me look like an idiot. It was super fun.

We went out and visited a very dedicated and humble member who lives a 30 minute walk, 45 minute train ride, and a 30 minute bike ride away in a city named Nadlac. We went with the Smiths in their car. :-)  She is a great woman, living in the humblest little dwelling I have ever seen with so very little and all by herself. She says what gives her joy and keeps her going is the church. Sometimes she doesn't have enough money to get to the church, so it's so humbling and awe-inspiring to see her come to even the European women's broadcast on the 9th. I never want to complain about walking 5 minutes to church again.

The Smiths, Sora Cox and Me with Sora Lidia Tarnaveanu

We saw a free opera night by Filarmonica again, and it was spectacular. I was singing opera all night after that.... and of course annoying my companion :)

Filarmonica in Arad

I love hedgehogs. Apparently they're native in western Romania but I have yet to see one....... a real one, anyway.

So I don't know if I ever mentioned Letitia before. She's from English classes and we tried to meet with her a few weeks ago but she talks a million miles a minute so we didn't manage to make it a lesson. She was kind enough to give us some shirts, though. For the disco-tech. Super glitzy and immodest, and something I'd never wear my entire life, but a gift is a gift. She wanted me to try it on right then and there, lol. So a couple of days ago we see her again and this time she had a gift for the Elders.  They get ties. Lol.

Friday evening we left for Oradea for District Conference. I had my ukulele on the train and all the Timisoara Elders had fun messing around with it. Saturday we had zone training meeting, and we found out about transfers. In the evening we had a cultural night that Sora Geambasu had put together and it turned out really awesome. We had a ton of people representing different countries and singing or dancing from that country, Australia, Poland, Tonga, Romania, Hungary, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Italy, Ireland, I can't remember any more. So I pulled out one of my old arias and sang for Italy, and yes, I already know that I'm not Italian. :-)

We ate at the missionary"s favorite American Grill a few times I got a little sick of it. Remember American Grill back from transfer 2? :)

Sunday was District Conference in Oradea, and we had to take all of our stuff to the church because we checked out of our hotel. This is important because halfway through the conference, everyone could hear the little plucking sound of my ukulele which one of the children had found hidden among the missionary belongings. Well, there goes my uke.   I'm joking, I actually was able to get it back after the meeting unharmed *phew*. Not before everyone had to try playing it first, though :)


The conference was good, we had six members from Arad that were able to show up.  President Ivory seems to be very happy about the great progress in Arad. It used to be a dead zone, and the missionaries who served here knew that you don't get investigators in Arad. Well, now we have one baptism and two potential baptisms well on their way and the work is definitely being hastened in this great city thanks to the plan of our wonderful Father in Heaven.

Then we take the train ride back to Arad and I beat the Elders in a game of Hearts. They cannot stop my shooting the moon :)
Langos

Okay that's pretty much it. So now that I've written a novel, I really must go because we're going to try what is apparently the best Langos in Arad. So everyone have a good week, and I will write again.


Sora Smith

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Busy is the Life of a Missionary . . .

 (This week's post is very short because pday was spent in an all day activity, but there are a few new photos of Nicole and her mission area taken by the Missionary Couple in Arad.)

Hi all,

Sorry, yesterday was really busy, but I'm a alive and doing really well!   I don't have much time to say much of anything... again...   But here are some photos from my mission.

Centru - Town Center in Arad
Centru - Town Center in Arad
Our Church Building in Arad
Two Sora Smiths and Sora Cox
The 3 Sister Missionaries in Arad

Maria's still doing great despite a dream I had about her, and Ioana is doing great, in fact we spent all day with her yesterday.

District Meeting
District Meeting

And, that's about all I have time for, I'm sorry I will get in all the details next week because we're planning on not planning ANYTHING!

Sora Nicole

P.S.  A few more photos from past activities:



Waiting to Tour the Water Tower Museum
Still Waiting
Inside the Water Tower Museum
Our District in the Water Tower Museum
video
The Ducks at our Branch President's Farm

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm All Out of Alliterations . . . But Not Spirit!

Transfers are in two weeks on September 17th, we'll probably find out about them on like the 13th. I sure hope I stay in Arad! I feel I've gotten to know and worked so hard in this branch and I am NOT ready to leave any time soon!!! :)

Here are some pictures I took of the water tower museum and of Arad from up in the tower:
Water Tower Museum
Looking up at the inside of the roof
The water storage area
Looking out over Arad from the tower
Another view of Arad from the tower

SO anyway, a lot has been going on and I don't even really know where to begin! I guess I can start with Hunedoara and Lipova.  We went to Honedoara and Lipova. :-)  We toured a really cool castle.

The Castle at Honedoara





Lipova from the castle
Lipova from the castle

Moving on. We've been working the hardest I've ever worked my entire mission, and so many blessings have been happening right and left.
We've been working with Ioana, but she hasn't been able to be in Arad much because she has had to stay at home in the countryside. But we still stay in contact with her and she's as cool as ever. She was able to come to church this last Sunday and we re-committed her to a soft baptism commitment (without a date). This week we plan on setting a date with her, so cross your fingers!
 
Visit to our Branch President's farm in the country

Also, Cristina. She's so great. She has been really good with regularly meeting with us, and she was hoping to get her mission call re-issued. Well, she was told that if she comes consistently to church until the end of the year, she can go on her mission. We were worried when she then didn't turn up to church on Sunday. So we called her and she had work. BUT, she told us she was able to schedule Sundays off from then on and it won't be a problem anymore. SO AWESOME!

Pictures of the place we have church meetings after we fixed it up.
Sora Smith and Elder B

Sora Florita has been coming regularly now. Also, we found out she used to be a smoker and gave that up a while back. PERFECT connection for Maria. Sora Florita has also lost a son in the past, and we think she'd be a perfect fellowshipper for her.

We visited a member who is unable to come to church because of her age, Sora Gerhardt, and she is so funny. She's a little frail old woman who takes in and care of stray animals and has little knick-knacks all over her home and... is an online gamer. Haha, she says all her friends think she's 32 and they love her, and that's how she's learning English............... bahaha. She's great. We're going to try to get the sacrament taken to her weekly.

Maria. So. She is so awesome. Our first lesson with her, she told us all about her story the previous year how her son had passed away. (The full story is actually very long and very sad, I would have to tell you the details in a better setting.) We had an amazing lesson about the plan of salvation, and Sora Lidia was boldly telling her how she needed to be baptized so she can be baptized for her son. She wanted that so badly, I'll bet her son was right there telling her it was true. The next lesson was the Restoration, and I'm sure he was there too because the spirit was strong and she accepted being baptized on September 13th. Unfortunately, with exchanges and me getting a bad cold, we haven't seen her much, but we're calling every day to see how she's doing and give her reading assignments. She's been reading the BOM to her children, who both wanted their own copies. We sent the Elders in our place the day I was sick, and it went well apparently :)

We've been visiting a sick member in the hospital, Sora Krista, and she's having a hard time. She had a stroke. We came and sang to her and it was very sweet.
 
Me, Sora Cox, and Sora Smith
P-day
Treats
 
For Zone Conference we talked a lot about boldness and giving commitments and Cristina came because President Ivory thought it would be nice to invite her.

It's weird being one of the old missionaries anymore...

So that's pretty much all that's been going on.
I feel like I'm forgetting something important so be expecting a "p.s." email soon.

Anyway, awesome things are going on and God is good! I've been learning a lot, too.  We've started a Branch project of reading the Book of Mormon, starting today (September 1) and ending by January 1. Two chapters every day, and that's the whole Book of Mormon. I'm excited. What's scary about that is, as soon as i'm finished with the book, I'll have 20 days left!
 
Here are a few more random pictures I took:
 
The Primeria (Government Building) at night
A sign that says,  "Attention this property is patrolled and guarded by: CATS"
An alley decorated with umbrellas
The Robin Food Truck

Anyway, I hope all things go well this week, and I'll write again next week!

Sora Nicole Smith