Monday, January 19, 2015

And This Chapter Comes To A Close . . .

...with the end of the reign of Queen Smith. She was the longest reigning and most beloved of all the rulers of Arad. Her scheduled execution will take place on the twenty-first of January at 07:00 Wednesday morning, Eastern European Time. Her chariot will carry her to the executioner's office tonight at the hour of 15:00 EET. Many tears were shed as the subjects of her kingdom greatly mourn the loss of their beloved monarch. She will continue to rule with an iron fist (a.k.a. a great love for the people in Arad), into the eternities...

Thank you for the extra spot of money, it'll help a lot on the way home.  I've also realized my mathematical error in calculating the travel time... I leave at 7 A.M. and arrive in SLC at 2:00 P.M.... your time. So it's like 11 p.m. my time. So it's not as short of a journey as I thought it was :) Oh well.

The weather has been the same here, I have been getting away with a light jacket. It's even raining today and it's spring rain, not winter. GLOBAL WARMING!

I'll be interested to see if I ever get my Christmas package, too :)
Well the rest of this I'll have to keep brief (I spent too much time writing my own obituary at the opening of this email...) but you'll get to hear all the full details soon enough anyway :)

Member/Investigator updates:

Dan and Florita: Doing great. Dan just received the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday. I've never seen him so happy.

Maria: Doing awesome. Was so sad to see me go. The Elders are teaching her husband in prison. He says he hasn't seen Maria so happy in a long time and he wants to get baptized when he's released (summer of next year). If it has made such a difference in her life, there's no way this isn't the true church.

Ghiti and Mariana: Had another lesson, and Ghiti 100% wants to be baptized but is waiting for Mariana so they won't create a problem in their marriage. After a really powerful lesson on Saturday, she now sees the importance of our message and what it has to offer her. She says she knows the BOM is true. She committed to praying about baptism and said that if her prayer is answered she and Ghiti will both be baptized. Woo hoo!! She was also so sad to see me go.

Stefan: I don't know if you remember this investigator from a long time ago, but we saw him again briefly and he says he's been reading the BOM. That's why we plant seeds!

Ioana: We celebrated her birthday with her with tennis and cake (no, it was not blue). She's doing great, and excited to be out of school :)

Everybody else: There was a good turnout on Sunday and I got to say goodbye and get lots of pictures with a lot of the members. There were tears shed. It was sad. But it also feels okay.  Fratele Piper (1st counselor) talked to the branch about me and said I was the longest term serving missionary to ever be in Arad. Well, that's cool! I certainly loved it and wouldn't have wished to have gone anywhere else. I AM THE ARAD SISTER AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

I will miss all of these wonderful people!
My Second Family in Arad
My Wonderful Arad District
Me and Sora Routson

I gave a talk and pretty much half the congregation started crying when I said that Arad will always be my second home.

I talked about what I thought could be the best words/advice I could leave them with, and what I ended up talking about was becoming saints. I shared the end of Moroni Ch. 10, his final words and final admonition. I encouraged them that they're on the right course and they are the saints of the Arad branch and soon enough, with the help of the atonement of the Savior, they will be able to cast out the Babylon from their midst and the church of Christ will reign for ever and ever.  I told them how they are much like the beginnings of the church in Joseph's time, and how big that church is now. They're at the beginning but if they live up to the standards they know and love, to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that soon enough they will see Arad become a Zion.

Anyway, I've got to go now and get ready to take the train to Bucuresti... this is all really weird.

I'LL SEE YOU ALL SOON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sora Smith


(Last week's email)
Yay, I got my travel plans!

The weather has been weird here, too. It's been rainy and sunny, and if it were only just a little warmer it would be Spring. All the snow has melted, and in fact today we played basketball comfortably in shorts. It was nice. But weird.

I never got to see my Christmas package :( Well I hope I will at least get to look at it before I board my plane :)

Speaking of jobs, I am going to try to apply to teach Romanian at the MTC. That would be awesome and I definitely don't want to forget the language after all the hard work of learning it.

A Glance Back at My MTC District

Sooooo.... this week went as follows:

We met with Florita and Dan a ton this week to prepare him for his baptism. She made us food every time, she refuses to let anyone out of her house without eating something. Which is funny, because we couldn't come for a lesson on Thursday so we asked the Elders to go for us. Apparently Florita made the three of them a big plate of food, but left Dan at home to pick up something before they arrived. By the time the Elders got there, the plate was bare. Dan is as skinny as a pole so I don't know where he put it all. :)

We also met with Maria to continue the recent convert lessons. She is so sad that I'm leaving.. I'm a little sad, too.

We've also been meeting with Mariana, and we brought Sora Piper to the lesson. She loves Sora Piper, it went really well and Sora Piper testified like a boss.

We told the Elders that we left for an exchange on Wednesday. Little did they know our exchange was actually on Thursday. We showed up at their door in the morning with a surprise cake for Elder Robinson's birthday! We even had little confetti poppers that were defective and just made a papery mess on the floor (I guess that's what confetti is, anyway). I'm glad Elder Chatterton and Elder McArthur didn't say anything about how blue the frosting was on that cake. That sure put the "P" in "SURPRISE" if you catch my drift :) If you didn't get that one here's another hint: We made it a HA-PEE BLUE-THDAY.

Two for two. Moving on.

Sora Birau makes amazing pasta. Every time.

We left for exchanges on Thursday to Oradea and I was with Sora
Bastidas in her... I think 7th transfer? She's killed off (sent home) three missionaries and so she helped a lot with the pre-going-home anxiety. We also met with a less active who I met with while I was serving there, and she remembered me and was so happy to see me! Her name is Sora Tudor and we had a really powerful lesson about making the commitment to make the change to become a saint.

Sora Bastidas

Sora Tudor said that the last time she felt good was long in the past when she and her whole family were active and reading the scriptures and praying, and now that doesn't happen anymore. She said the difference was like heaven and earth. What we told her is that it's hard to make all the changes immediately, and that it's not necessary. You can make the tiny steps, and a little way down the road some day you'll look back and see just how far those little steps took you. When you look back, the difference will be heaven and earth. " small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." (Alma 37:6) The spirit was really strong.

Back to Arad. We met with a few less actives, had a few meetings, did normal missionary stuff, and then closed the week with a BAPTISM.

It was a great baptism. Everyone was holding their breath when Dan, who is very very tall, almost hit his head on the rail of the font. But he made it in and out of the water okay, and was grinning ear to ear after he emerged.

Ghiti, the Elder's long-term investigator, was talking to President Banatean about the temple trip this month. President Banatean told him if he and his wife want to go, they'd have to be baptized. So Ghiti said "Okay! We'll be baptized!" and his wife, our investigator Mariana, was rolling her eyes and shaking her head 'no'. After the excitement of the conversation settled a bit, I asked Mariana how she feels about all of this, " is very beautiful," she said softly, and she put her head down to hide the fact she started to cry. "I like it all so much."
"Me too," I told her.

No promises, but I think the two of them may be baptized soon.

Well, Sunday was nice, and one member came back to Arad to visit for a month. She really wants to help with missionary work/visits so that's a plus! And Relief Society went well, thankfully.

It was awesome to play basketball today.
I started packing because this week is going to be very busy. It was weird.

Well, here's to the last days,
Soon to not be Sora Smith

P.S. I don't know if I'll have a chance to email next week because we'll be going to Bucuresti Monday evening. So, this may be my last email, it may not. In any case, I will see you all so soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2015 un An Nou Fericit ( . . . and a Happy New Year!)

I haven't heard anything about travel since I received that call about which airport I was going to a long time ago... maybe I'll call the office or something. That would just be too bad if I can't go home because someone forgot to make arrangements :)

This week I don't have much time to report so this one will be a bit shorter. Sort of.

Ghiti's wife (Mariana) is doing well, she is involving her daughter in law and sister with her lessons and that's been awesome. She has one of those personalities where she acts like she doesn't care, but you can tell she loves it and she loves to have us over and talk about the gospel. My goal is to get a baptismal date with her before I leave, because Ghiti is convinced I'm the only one that has enough convincing power to do it. Hopefully that will be good for their marriage, too. He isn't baptized yet because he is married to Mariana but has a girlfriend (which Mariana knows about). We're hoping that her getting baptized could influence him to do the right thing and follow in her footsteps and the message of the plan of salvation will be enough to make things right. That's what the gospel is for.

Sora Routson, Me and Mariana

We've been meeting with more people, but it got really hard right around New Years because everyone was busy celebrating and we couldn't get much done those few days. Our New Years wasn't that spectacular, in fact I was feeling pretty ill and we were all told by President to be inside by 9, so we ended up going right to bed and slept through midnight celebrations. We had wanted to do something with Ioana but she wasn't getting in town before 9, so we really didn't do anything.  The next day the streets were deserted. We were able to meet with Mariana and Maria (who is also doing great).

Well, that was the end of the black-out year. What a crazy year it's been. A little anti-climactic way to end it but holidays just can't be the same, I'll be home soon enough to party the right way :)

We've also been trying to teach Dan to prepare him for his baptism this Saturday, but it's been really hard to teach him. Normally if it's spouse problems, the spouse is against the church. Well his wife wants him to be baptized. So what's the problem?  She doesn't want us to teach him, she wants to teach him, and she's not understanding that we have to if he's going to be baptized.  It's great that she wants to help out. It's great that they're doing this together. But, it's been frustrating she's not been letting us teach.  She takes over the lesson, and tells us we aren't doing it right. But, we've hopefully figured out a solution and we can finally get him taught and ready before Saturday. It'll be a lot of work... but that's what I'm here for.

I'm starting the Book of Mormon again from start to finish, but this time I'm doing a "red-letter edition". I read about it and thought it was cool so I'm trying it out. It's when you read through and mark every time Christ or God is speaking in red.

Well, that's all the big stuff, and unfortunately all I have time for. So Happy New Year, and two more emails!

Sora Smith

Christmas, caroling... sarmale and nasty food (what's with all the food all the sudden?)

I didn't know they made a movie of into the woods, I'm really excited to see that one! I've been telling my companion the plot line of it in Romanian as a part of language practice. It was nice until we got to all the... well, you know. The second half. :)

The Christmas branch party turned out great! So many people attended - members, family, friends and co-workers, and everyone was invited to come to church. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and there was a ton of sarmale (even vegetarian sarmale which was nasty, by the way). I sang the songs with Brother Moldovan that I translated. I was a little sick, though so they could have been better. Bro. Moldovan wants to record the songs now... haha so I guess you get to hear them. 

Branch Christmas Party
Brother Moldovan playing Christmas songs

This one guy pulled me aside and told me he enjoyed my songs. I talked to him for a bit and he asked me if I'm from Arad. When I say I'm American, he goes "What! But you look Romanian and you speak it perfectly! I thought you just knew English really well!" VICTORY!!!! Well, I'm sure he was exaggerating a little bit, but that was a fulfilling compliment. But then he talked to me about America for a half an hour and now he wants to give me his prize collectable signature something or other from America, and I'm just like oh jeez... Well, I invited him to church :)

Tuesday was a little bit of a resting from getting a little sick day, so I took the time at home to organize through the area book and less active member work. Later we had English class, but only one guy came. Two days before Christmas and I wasn't really expecting many to show up. But Clara came later and we had a nice little Christmas thought with her.

Wednesday was busy visiting and caroling to a ton of people. First we door bell ditched some stockings to the Elders. Then the five of us traveled out to Sora Krista in the hospital and brought in some Christmas cheer. She needed it, she looks so sick of being in that hospital. They don't really know when she'll be able to get out.
Well, since all the members in Arad live so far spread out, the rest of the day was spent visiting the Bacanu family, Ioan (the English student who took us to the concert), the Piper family, Sora Forita, and Sora Birau. It was a great way to spend Christmas eve, however everyone gave us Christmas treats and by the end of the day we felt pretty nasty!!!

Romanian Christmas treats = Cozonac and Salam de Biscuiti mostly, other cookie like things and Romanians love to rum flavor practically everything.

Salam de Biscuiti

Christmas was a little weird waking up. We got permission to sleep in until 8, so I wake up and I'm like thinking... well, there's nothing to do for two hours. So you know, I took a shower and I read the scriptures. The exciting rush of Christmas morning just never came, ya know? But as uneventful as the morning was, Christmas turned out being pretty great. We went to the Smith's at 10 and I made everyone french toast with my signature cinna-syrup. The Elders made eggs (but not without my supervision, haha.) and it was nice. Then we exchanged gifts. Sora Smith is a Coca-Cola collector so that's where the Coca Cola board came in.

The gift I gave to McArthur was a little figurine of the girl from Brave. He's like in love with her. I gave Elder Chatterton some Legos. And Elder Robinson got a Star Wars "breakfast set" haha they were all excited. They gave each of us a stocking with... heheh, tons of kinder eggs and other candies and a couple of hackey sacks. We've been playing hackey sack a lot. I've never played it before but I now have the hang of it and it's actually pretty fun.

We watched Ratatouille. It was actually really weird, I haven't seen a movie for a long time. Haha and I told everyone that movie was my inspiration for going to culinary school. Well, it wasn't really but it did make me miss it a little bit. 

Watching Ratatouille on Christmas

Then we played games a little and all started Skyping, I got to say hi to everyone's family. I Skyped last and it was great, haha as you already know. It's kind of weird, though, being so close to home. But it was a great way to end Christmas.

Skyping with my family

Friday we went less active hunting and made some more progress on our never-seeming-to-end list. Then we saw Maria and her oldest son was there, and he intently listened on the whole lesson. He's totally interested in hearing more, however his wife is a little against the whole thing. With time, though things will work out. Apparently a lot of Maria's family, including her husband, want to follow in her footsteps. The Elders have access now and are going to visit him in prison. That's been super exciting. And I'm a little jealous they get to go prison teaching.

Saturday we went back to Lipova for some follow-ups and to see Sora Vancu. She was at the Christmas party and seemed to enjoy herself a ton. Our visit went pretty well too, but she fed us mici (soooo nasty...) and we all felt pretty sick by the end. Her husband is a hunter, too, so it was freshly hunted deer and boar meat. Yum. :) but it was a nice visit anyway.

Then we went to Sora Floritas. Normally she feeds us okay and pretty good food. Normally. But it just so happened that that day, after already forcing mici down myself, she serves us this spinach puree and chicken livers. OH MY I felt sick the rest of that day and the entire next... Dan wasn't even there so we could teach him. He went to bed early so he could come to church the next day.

Which, he didn't end up coming because of the weather. In fact, there weren't that many people and no one from the party came. Well, it was the coldest day so far and halfway through it started snowing!  And the snow was perfect for snowball fights. We had a mini one outside of the church. Seriously, though, one hour after the snowing starts and the city is covered in thick snow. It was awesome!

I had to teach gospel principles again, but it actually was a cool lesson because I just had everyone talk about the plan of salvation and I "scribed" it on the board. Yeah, that's how good lessons are made. You make everyone else do all the work.

Haha anyway. Relief society fell back to its usual boring self... we're still trying to figure out what to do without hurting anyone's feelings. It's kind of a really touchy matter.

We bloc-knocked the block we live in with wrapped up Books of Mormon and banana bread. We were going to be all, "Hey, we're your neighbors and we brought you a Christmas gift!"

Well, only one little old lady actually accepted our gift. No one else even opened their door, and the ones who did refused it. I mean, seriously. Who refuses Christmas cheer? And we're their neighbors. Boo. You know, bloc knocking in Arad really is not like in other cities. Well, we've got other success elsewhere. Goes to show there are different modes of going about the Lord's work in all places.

Today we wanted to spend with the Elders, so we got Saorma and then doped around at the mall. It was actually kind of boring. BUT.  Actually, but nothing. It was kind of a lame pday. Even the snow has gone all froze-y and powdery. Oh well. Back to work.

We're going to be meeting with Ghiti's wife tonight. Ghiti is one of the Elder's long-time investigators that really wants to be baptized, but he has a few hurdles to get over first. However one day we ran into him at a McDonalds when we needed the bathroom and met his wife, and he told me he's been asking her to go to church with him for weeks and she's always said no. So he told me to ask her, and I did and she said "...okay." Well, she came, and now Ghiti really wants us to teach her. She's not too excited about it, but Ghiti tells me that I'm super convincing and I'm the only one who can get her on board so I need to convert her before I leave. Haha, well, I'll do what I can.

Anyway, that's it for this week. It's been great but really long. I'm looking forward to New Years, but I'm a little bummed that we're not allowed to stay up for it! Oh well. I'll write to you next week.

Sora Smith