Alex's Mission Address:

Elder Alex McLean Ditto

Romania/Moldova Mission
Bdul. Primaveril Nr. 19-21 Et.1 #13
Sector 1
011972 Bucharest
Romania

Email -
alex.ditto@myldsmail.net

Monday, April 16, 2018

Coming Closer to Jesus... Helping Others do the Same

Hey everyone!

This week was a whirlwind- it was transfer week so we were doing a lot of buying tickets and ensuring that everyone safely arrived to their necessary destinations. Think about this- it may be easy to organize 70 peoples travel, but imagine doing this but everyone must be with another person at all times! This is the tricky part of travel as missionaries, and we get to work out all of those kinks. Pretty fun, and sometimes joggles your brain! I have been enjoying learning more about the legal and logistical part of the world, something that I haven't ever really seen. 
Love this crazy guy!

On another note, I sent home Elder Bontempo as he arrived to the close of his mission. I spent 4.5 months with that guy, it was fun to reminisce all of the good times that we had, and the good that we did. I have made some amazing friends here in Romania. 

Besides the crazy beginning of the week, we actually had more time than usual to get out on the streets and proselyte, as well as have a couple of great lessons. One was with a man who is a professional rower, and is like 6 foot 7 inches! As we got to know him, I was pretty intrigued by his moral standards that he had, and the vision that he had in his life. We testified of the role that the Book of Mormon can have in our lives, and invited him to discover that our for himself. 

I was reflecting just today about the role that the Book of Mormon has had in my life. I know that the Book of Mormon is true because of the impact it has had on my relationship with God, as I have tried to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ. Most recently, I was reading in Alma 7, and the spirit witnessed to me of probably the most important role of the Book of Mormon.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

I felt a peace inside and a clarity of mind as the thought came to my mind, It's all because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." A lot of the teachings of Jesus Christ are not rocket science, and you don't even have to be religious to live some of the divine attributes of Christ. It is the knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement- His life, suffering in the garden, and on the cross, the Resurrection- that give these teachings value and direction to our lives. That is why the Book of Mormon is so crucial- in plainness we learn how this all works together for our good, and why we need faith in Jesus! I know that Jesus Christ for me individually, and each one of us so that he can comfort us, forgive us, and give us hope! Because of him, we will all live again.

Two days ago, we were in Cismigiu park doing spreading the good word, when a couple came by. We stopped them, and engaged in a conversation about if they believe miracles happen in our days. A little into the discussion, they realized that they had seen us in Piata Unirii earlier today, and were wondering what we were doing. I told them that it was a miracle that they found us again! As we got to know each other better, I felt the spirit begin to guide my responses and questions. I felt prompted to share about Elder Day's passing, and how God helped me in that time. Shortly after, the woman opened up and said that her father had passed away four years ago and she still hadn't received an answer as to where he was. We shared the Book of Mormon with her, and testified that life after death is REAL, thanks Jesus Christ. We parted ways, both uplifted. I know that God was with us in that moment, and that we were able to bring peace to their hearts.

So many amazing experiences here, and in the process the Lord is shaping me. What a special opportunity!!!

I love you all, and hope that each of you will take some time to ponder on your relationship with Jesus Christ.

With love,
Elder Ditto

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pastele... o singura zi care ne influenteaza pana vecii veciilor!

Hristos a inviat! Adevarat a inviat!!

Despite my western-christian heritage, this year I became like the Romanians, that I might celebrate with the Romanians! That's right, this last Sunday was the Orthodox Easter- the second biggest celebration in the year next to Christmas for this nation. 
In my traditional Romanian garb

Enchanting fountain in the middle of the city
Paste Fericit! Cu drag, Elder Ditto si Elder Trottier

Last year both of our Easters happened to fall on the same day, but not so this time around. I am always impressed to see the pride and that Romanians have regarding their traditions and heritage. The Orthodox church's holidays/dates can vary widely compared to those of the Catholics. During the course of this whole week the country as a whole prepared for the big Easter weekend, that they might all celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
A giant painted egg... Romanians love their painted eggs!

Elder Trottier is always composed.

You ask one Romanian what they are doing for Easter and the answer is spending time with the family. My heart was happy for them because people here work incredible hours and to have two or three days off means everything to them! I think about the many friends that I have here who are doing everything that they can to support their families, that their kids or even themselves might live a little better. 
Masa de Paste

We had a beautiful Easter meal thanks to Sora Gorzo, the missionary Romanian grandma of Bucharest. She is always eager to feed us and have a good time. Sora Gorzo and I go way back to last summer, when I first met her. I am really thankful for her wisdom and selfless attitude- she not a half bad cook either! The meal consisted of the classic hard-boiled eggs, an AMAZING ciorba de vacuta (soup with calf meat), mashed potatoes and some really good veal (apparently that is the word for baby cow meat in English), followed by tiramisu for dessert. I love going to Sora Gorzo's house because it is so Romanian. Not too big, not fancy at all, but it feels like home. 
One of these weren't all the way hard-boiled

Elder Krieger... love being around him!
The Elders and Sora Gorzo

Savoring every bite

This week I was working on pondering. I just want to share a little snippet from my email to President Hettinger that I feel like captures my main thoughts for the week...

This week I was way better at pondering- something that I have been wanting to improve at for awhile now! I mainly pondered about how my relationship is with the Savior, and what I can do to improve as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The recent health issues of some of the missionaries have reminded me how fragile life is, and what really matters most. I am reminded of the words said by Pres. Monson- never let a problem to be solved become more important that a person to be loved. I think this really is portrayed best, of course, by the Savior. His whole entire life he lived in selflessness- always turning out, which in turn prepared him for the ultimate act of love, as well as impacted lives before, during and after his. For me, faith in Jesus Christ allows me to go forth with hope and peace, and takes out the feelings of doubt and fear. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I am able to be forgiven of my sins, and help others on the path that leads to these same blessings that I have.
Piata Unirii 
Really love serving with this guy!


The Mihai Bracu District Number 2

The more I am out here the more I realize how reaching the Atonement of Jesus Christ is. Sure we are told that Jesus Christ can help us all, and that following him brings happiness and strength in the hard times, but once your faith is actually tested, and once you see and help others to discover for themselves this power- it becomes tangible; your gratitude for the Savior and for everyone that has helped you along the journey begins to grow and grow. 
Super mean salmon and tates for lunch at the Shurtleffs!

Just basking in the sun!

So Easter has come and gone, but the feelings that we have for our Redeemer must carry on through our actions the whole year! 

All my love,

Elder Ditto 
Springtime is the best!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Conference in a Cottage

Buna Dimineata! 

I hope all of you feel as rejuvenated as I do after an incredible weekend of listening to General Conference. This was my last conference overseas on a mission, and it was quite a special one for me. 
Elder Vashchenko is headed back to Moldova for the last part of his mission. I really enjoyed serving around him.

On Saturday, Elder Krieger and his companion had a baptism at Panduri, so we supported the new convert, Radu in this exciting day. It was a marvelous sight seeing a young man rise up from the ways of the world and commit to following Jesus Christ. 

Following the baptism, we had an Easter concert at Mihai Bravu. FYI, Panduri is the location of the meetinghouse on the westside of Bucharest, and Mihai Bravu is the location of the meetinghouse on the eastside of the city. I attend the branch in Mihai Bravu, the same branch that I was serving in last summer. I love that branch, and it has been a great blessing to build relationships there. The location of Mihai Bravu is a lot more accessible, so that is why the concert was held there. 

I was really impressed with the missionaries who put the shin-dig all together with the little time they had. My job was to promote the concert on Facebook, as well as to put together a little sneak-preview of one of the sisters singing in the concert.

I was excited to meet people there that had heard about the concert via Facebook- missionary work 2.0! haha. The concert was incredible, thanks to the amazingly gifted singers and instrumentalists that brought the spirit into the chapel. The whole concert was focused on Jesus Christ, and I was reminded that as disciples of the Lord we are expected to share our talents that others may come closer to Him! 

Although it may have been Easter weekend over in the states, we don't celebrate till this Sunday! I think it was a good thing, because Romanians sure love there Easter traditions, including making tons of delicious food and doing spring cleaning... come to think of it- mom and dad always had us cleaning up the yard while listening to conference growing up! 

This year was special as it is the first that Romania received a LIVE broadcast in their native tongue! This was really big, as in years past, they had to wait a little to get the recorded broadcast. What a blessing it is to be in a day of technology. The first session was Saturday night after the concert (Saturday morning session in the US).

Sunday morning, we snuck in an hour of contacting in the rain before we had to be at the church for the priesthood session at 12:00 pm. I always love watching this session on my mission, because it makes me appreciate all of the times Dad and the bros and I went together. After watching another session in the afternoon, I put on the second bi-annual Scripture Chase Championship. It is basically Pictionary but guessing a reference of scripture instead. All the missionaries loved it and I had fun hearing them all relate the scriptures to their own life (that was part of the game). We had a trophy waiting for the winners along with some Ukrainian cookies and a kendama sticker. 

Sunday night was what really made the weekend, however. Elder Trottier AND I took off in our little car into a little village just outside of Bucuresti called 1 Decembrie. The Brinaru family lives over there- one of my favorite families in Bucuresti.  I was greatly anticipating this opportunity to be with a Romanian family in their home, watching the prophet and apostles speak! In the little "sat" (village) we saw some families having BBQs, and even a bunch of dude skinning a sheep! Arriving at their doorstep was kind of surreal- muzica populara (Romanian traditional music) was being played by the neighbors who were also having a BBQ, the sun was setting, and we were standing in front of a cute little cottage in a place that only a handful of people in the world know about. We felt so at home- I love the Romanian culture.

We were warmly greeted by Stefen, their twelve year old grandson and Fratele Branaru- a big classic Romanian man. Sora Branaru was in the kitchen in the middle of the process of cleaning the chickens that they had slaughtered that day yet somehow managed to serve us dinner! She prepared an incredible ciorba de gaina, homemade schnitzel, amazing bread, and tiramisu for dessert. Mmm! After some dinner table chats and lots of laughs, we plopped onto the couch, and listened to the words of God's chosen leaders of His church. 
Nicaieri nu-i ca acasa. Watching General Conference with familia Brinaru.

This is what the gospel is all about- happiness in the family because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I felt so at home because I knew this was the exact same thing my family was doing clear across the other side of the earth. No Dad had not finished butchering twenty chickens (at least I don't think...), but I can assure that mom had a TASTY breakfast for everyone! Similarly, we all have different situations, but the gospel can bless families- everywhere! 

So here I was, on the couch, enjoying being with this great family, watching conference, and conversing in the Romanian language with pleasure. Wow. What a crazy adventure up until this point! I am so grateful for the progress made and things I have learned here in Romania. I know that I was called to Romania by a prophet of God, and what a miracle it is to help build the kingdom in so many ways!

I didn't even get to the things I learned from conference, but I want to say that I know President Nelson is a prophet of God, and that following his council with bring us happiness, and protection from the ever growing bad around us.

This week my testimony that Jesus Christ is my Savior was strengthened. I know that he rose from the dead, and overcame the world that we might do so as well!

Love,


Elder Ditto

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Adventure of a Lifetime

Hey all!

'Bout time I get this email out. Kudos to mom for being ultra mega patient. Well, I have a pretty good excuse for writing this so late- the past two weeks have been craziness, but the good kind! Elder Trottier and I participated in an opportunity of a life time- helping the church make Mormon Message videos of members of the church here in Romania! 
The filmin' missionaries

Before I get in to the nitty gritty of the project, I want to share a missionary moment, that helped remind me of my true purpose as a missionary. Sometimes I feel a lack of time to do "good 'ol fashion missionary work." This is what gives me the greatest anxiety here while serving in the office! One day about two weeks ago, we were looking for a less-active member on an exchange. We asked for directions from a cute little family, and they we very willing to help us. At the very end, I invited them to hear our message of Jesus Christ. They accepted the invitation and we exchanged numbers. 

Fast forward a week, the family invited us to there humble little one-room apartment. Elder Trottier and I were so honored to teach this little family! They listened intently and while caring for their precious little one year old son. I could not help but think how special it is teaching a family. Families are ordained of God! When families learn and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, peace and love abide! 

This was a big moment for me because we haven't been able to teach a ton of lessons since serving in the mission office. It reminded me that the Lord is in charge and knows the desires and intentions of each one of our hearts!

Two days later, we began a five day adventure with two Italians that are in charge of making videos for the church here in Romania! Elder Trottier and my job was to ensure that everything ran smoothly and to translate for them. What a cool task! 

We picked them up from the airport right after a massive blizzard that hit Romania hard. The whole entire weekend we drove "Long John Silver" (a gigantic ford van) all around the big city. By some miracle we remained unscathed!  After picking up the film crew from the airport we rushed to the office and filmed Sora Colts interview. We mostly just played with light and filming locations because the city just been destroyed with snow right as Massimo (cinematographer from Italy) arrived. Light didn't work in our favor so we went back to the office had a welcome dinner made by Sora Hettinger
The whole team

Around nine people were interviewed from Romania and two of them were missionaries. I had the honor of being one of the interviewed missionaries (it was really nerve racking). For the first three days, we traveled to different locations around Bucharest and filmed the other people.  Filming a short video consists of two things: the interview and B-roll. B-roll is just footage of the subject doing stuff that can be paired with the dialogue from the person being interviewed or with music.  

Massimo, is an amazing man from the south of Italy, who is spear-heading this project. Aside from Romania, they have nine other countries for which he is doing the same project. I was very impressed with his patience and positive outlook on everything. I can't even count how many times something went wrong and Massimo just kept his cool and made do with what he had. It was a real treat to be right by his side for five days, observing and learning the tricks of cinematography.

Saturday we picked up Massimo early and went straight to filming at 8 am with a member from Issi. Our jobs were as follows: Massimo directed, told people what to do and told me what questions to ask the person being interviewed. I would sit right next to the camera so the subject had someone to talk to (it looks weird if they look right into the camera). Elder Trottier had headphones on and made sure the sound was good. If a car drove by or a bird was too loud or an airplane flew over, we had to start over filming. Their microphones pick up EVERYTHING. 

Elder Trottier stood far enough away from the microphone so it would not pick him up, but close enough to hear the subject and live translate to Massimo through an earpiece. We did Nicu's interview and some B-roll of him walking the streets and through city to doing normal stuff. Then we finished Sora Colt's interview and then I did my interview by a park by a lake.  I was able to use some B-roll video of me hiking back in America before I left on my mission. We made B-roll of Sora Colt dancing. We cruised over to Panduri branch and filmed Dani's interview and some B-roll of him playing piano and the viola. It was a really great interview. We went out with the film team and got a late traditional dinner and brought them to the hotel.

Sunday we woke up and rushed to get Massimo and headed to church. He got B-roll of myself, Sora Colt and Lucian in sacrament meeting. (Massimo says he hates filming in sacrament cause people judge). We then did Lucians interview. Lucian speaks a little Italian so they had fun. We rushed over to Panduri branch to catch the last of church and got B-roll of three other subjects at panduri. We then did four more interviews after church with some members and B-roll of people playing together and B-roll of us contacting at the mall and people walking etc. Afterwords we went to dinner at the Hettingers house with the Doru family who we made a film with starring President Doru. It was a great evening.
Working with Massimo!

For the last two days, we spent our time editing the interviews. For TEN HOURS STRAIGHT, we were on the computer, translating, cutting, revising, etc. so that the interviews would be in a way that invite the Spirit and testify to those who are watching that we are followers of Jesus Christ! Ten hours went by in an actual blink of an eye both days. Massimo made sure that we took fun breaks as well. 
Editing away

Alessandra is Massimo's trusted side-kick, and she has great talent in film-making and editing. A year ago she returned from her mission and it really shows in the way she carries herself. Through her example, I realized that it doesn't matter what your situation is in life, we can always live with the purpose of helping others come unto Christ. It takes a little more will-power, but being a missionary is never a "one and done thing!" Of course, the way we live is a great start, but we can invite others to come unto Christ in so many other ways. What can you do to live the missionary purpose?
Always keeping us entertained
Elder Trottier was editing partner with Alessandra

Elder Trottier and I have been reminiscing of our time that we had with our Italian friends.  We were very sad to see our Italian friends go. We learned a lot of skills and heaps about how to be happy in your career. Although doing different stuff, Massimo and Alessandra always kept in mind the fact that we are doing this to bring people closer to Christ. 

We "worked" for like fourteen hours every single day, doing a lot of things that we had never done before, and it created a lot of stress. 
A wee bit tired

We also ate incredible food, laughed a ton, and got to know some special people here in Romania. SO COOL!!!! We were dead-tired every single night, yet we did our best and enjoyed the ride. We realized that it doesn't matter our situation, WE ARE TO HAVE JOY! God gives us our own unique adventures and trials and wants us to discover that we actually can have JOY no matter what! That is why living the gospel is so important. We are able to live with humility and are constantly looking for the ways the Lord helps us, while we are striving to do the same for those around us. 

Now that the adventure has ended, we are catching up on some of the other important things that need to be done, but I pray that the memories that I have of this, and of my mission will continue to be a force of good and motivation for change throughout my life, and those around me.

Have a great week, talk to ya'll soon! Thank you for your love and support- each one of you!

Love,
Elder Ditto

Monday, March 19, 2018

Livin' the Dream

Hey fam!

Well, its a bummer but I am going have to write my first meh letter... the funny thing was that this week was not a lame week at all, especially this preparation day! We headed out to to Brasov and another little town next to it called Rasnov, to see some of the country side of Romania. I feel super blessed to have had the opportunity to see the truly beautiful parts of Romania in terms of nature throughout my mission. Today was no disappointment!
Breakdancing in Brasov

Brasov

Inima Carpatilor 


The 5th narrowest road in the world!

Stemming
Biserica Neagra

Just a 2.5 hour drive from Bucharest, you can enter into the heart of the Carpathian mountain range. If I was not a missionary, I would have gone skiing or mountain biking or rock climbing in a heartbeat, but doing some exploring was amazing!
Adventure is out there!

Hai Romania! 
Hipster pic


Love these guys!

Nicaieri nu-i ca acasa!

Posin' at the top of the fortress

Some o' the bros

Strada Sforii

The Dacia flag


This week we also participated in a little activity for Syrian refugees. Brother Frimu helped put on the event. It was a really cool experience to be with a bunch of little kids that didn't look Romanian, yet spoke Romanian! 
Playing with the Syrian refugee kiddos!

Elder Trottier being a goof!

Elder Dahl roping Elder Trottier


Though their original home is far away from Bucharest, it made me smile to see that they are happy and enjoying their new home. It made me think about our relationship with God, and how no matter where we are on this earth, his love is the same for us! 
Checking out the Ion Tiriac Collection

Ferrari F40

The collection!

Amidst office work, a couple of film sessions, and zone conference- we also got out on the streets and in the blocks, talking with everyone! I have felt a new surge of energy for finding those who are ready to receive the restored gospel... I know that when we have a correct understanding of God's plan for us, we are happier and have greater purpose in life. People notice this in us!
A creative lunch created by us.

Love you all, have a rockin' week!

Elder Ditto