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, December 11, 2017

Strange Land....learning NOT to be a stranger

Buna zuia de la Chisinau!!!!

Man this week has just opened up my eyes to a whole new way of thinking... Did you know you can buy milk in a bag, or pay a dude 30 cents and you can go literally anywhere in the city along with the other thirty people crammed in to a little bus, or the fact that Russians and most Moldovan celebrate Christmas on the "new day" (7 Jan) instead of the "old day" (25 Dec)? I think it is safe to say that I feel like I am in a whole 'nother world over here in the Republic of Moldova. Have you ever looked at a map of this place!? We are literally bordering Ukraine! 

Elder Quist and I!

I live in the capital city - Chisinau

I'll just start back in Bucharest when everything was normal. We met up with Elder Baker and the three of us got on to a train that would take us from Bucharest to Chisinau in 15 hours... we left at 7:15pm and arrived around 9:30am the next day. I don't know what you imagine when you think of a train, but it probably was not the kind of train that I was on. This bad boy is straight from the communist regime, where everything is written in Russian, and you can bet 1,000,000 Moldavian lei that somebody has probably peed in the little cot that I was sleeping in. We had a TON of luggage, and thankfully it all fit our little room with three other sweet communist bunks. We made ourselves at home, which gave us the weird feeling that "home" was in 1960 when these trains were probably pretty cool.
Chillin' in our bunk

Elder Baker... my cherished friend

Elder Baker and I played a little guitar, we chatted for a little, and then we were off to sleep. Come 2am, we were woken up by the train lady saying that we were on the border of the two countries. 4 hours later we had made it through customs, and they had lifted up every single car and switched the European train wheel thingys to the Russians ones. It was pretty neat to see how they did it, but man, I would never want to be the worker do that at 4 am in the morning in December...


We finally made it to Chisinau feeling 50% rested, but excited to see our new home. We parted ways with Elder Baker, and some of the Russian missionaries helped us get our bags and everything to our apartment. It is a huge one, kinda old, but I absolutely love it now that we put up a Christmas tree and lights :) 
Some fellows walking home on a snowy day.

Elder Quist and I got right to work by looking at the Area Book, setting up some companionship goals and what not, and then got out and contacted because, well, we knew no one! I felt pretty overwhelmed because I am a man of order, and I felt like so many things were out of my control at that point. Everything was foreign, and even the Moldovans who speak Romanian don't even claim that it's Romanian- its Moldovaneste! Just think speaking English with a Russian accent and that is it. I thought it was the ugliest thing! The first guy I met was speaking to me in this weird language and I was just in shock that nobody had a pure, beautiful Romanian accent. Thankfully, this nice fellow guided us to a currency exchange place where I got rid of all my Romanian lei and switched it to the Moldovan stuff, which is worth even less (17 Moldovan lei to a dollar) This brings up the next concern... Elder Quist and I had no clue how much to spend on groceries! Everyone says you can just eat out everyday here... but it is hard to just drop 40-60 lei every time you want to eat something!
Stefan Cel Mare... the center of Chisinau

Centru lit up

Chisinau itself is a fairly beautiful city. It is the capital of Moldova, and is built on 7 hills... I like to dream that they are mountains! Just yesterday as we were walking home through the dirty streets, it dawned on me as to how foreign this land really is. I honestly could have never dreamed about something like this. Moldova is not part of the European Union, and that means that there is even more corruption and illegal things going on... like riding those maxi taxis around the city holding on to dear life, even if it means jamming your rear end in between the dash board and windshield... true story. In America, we have it pretty dang good- don't forget that! Amidst all of these little quirks, the people of Moldova are truly special, and I had many experiences this week that helped my heart grow a little bigger to make room for these humble people.
This is what Moldova really looks like...

Being that we started with 1 investigator from a previous companionship, Elder Quist and I had a lot of time to go out and find somebody to teach. The first night it was so dang cold, but I felt like we needed to go out and contact, to show the Lord we are ready. Almost no one was willing to stop and talk with us. We went out the next day and had a much different experience. I felt a strong urgency to just talk with everyone, and to testify to everyone that I could. We taught many people about the Book of Mormon that day, and found a family that wanted to learn more. We are going back tonight
Having a great conversation with Nicoleta

The next day we did the same, and talked with a nice 24 year old guy by the name of Nicolai. He accepted a Book of Mormon, and then we met up with him the next day. We have met up with him every day since, and have taught him the doctrine of the kingdom. Nicolai has had a very rough life, and has had to work to provide for himself his whole life. He now works 7 days a week from 8 to 5 and then travels outside of the city where he is staying. He used to drink and smoke, but felt like he needed to change, as well as change his friends. So there he was, walking down the main street, and we felt prompted to stop him. Nicolai is full of humility and has a strong desire to repent and come closer to God. He asked us when he could be baptized. We set a date for the 30th of December, but a lot is going to have to get straightened out in his life. His first step is asking his boss if he can get 2 hours off on sunday to come to church. We are praying for him, that God will make it possible for him to be baptized soon! 
Nicloai

Even after 3 days of meeting with this awesome guy, I have seen a significant difference in his countenance. The gospel truly is giving him hope, Jesus Christ is truly healing and bringing him peace. I felt a great love for Nicolai as we taught him the gospel of Jesus Christ, and know that God has a great plan for him. I am humbled to think that even after  week of being here, the Lord is using us as his hands to bring people into the fold. I feel true joy being one of his missionaries here in this rad country. 
Elder Coberly learning about this nice lady's children

Sweet little lady... she has a rough life.

Look at that rug!!!

My love for this country also grew as we went to an old folks home and sang for them and chatted with each one of them as we delivered little goodie bags to each one. there are like 20 missionaries and 3 senior couples in this city so this makes service projects fun! I really loved sitting and talking with some of the old ladies, letting them give me big juicy kisses on the cheek, laughing with many, and comforting some that just have had plain hard lives. The spirit of Christmas was just bursting as we brought tidings of great joy to all! 
Walking home on a snowy day.

The boys

I am reminded that it truly doesn't matter where you are, there are always people that need the gospel, whether that means actually learning the the doctrines, or just receiving an act of kindness- it is because of our Savior! We all have a great duty and privilage to light the world this Christmas season. Man, being a missionary during this time really is the best... and to think I get 2 more weeks after the 25th since they celebrate on the 7th!!!

Many more great stories to come, I wish you all a great week and a Craciun Fericit! Can't believe we get to facetime soon!!!!

Love,
Elder Ditto 



Monday, December 4, 2017

Basarabia e Romania!

La multi ani Romnia!

This week my Romanian pride went up ten fold. You know how the July 4th is super awesome and we all can't wait to party as a family on that day? Well that is the First of December for Romanians! The only problem is that it is kind of cold, so instead of a BBQ, we make a sort of baked beans and dance the hora till we can't any longer! 
Posing doing the hora... a traditional Romanian dance where you hold hands and dance in a circle.

A traditional dish - fasole_

Elder Jacobson and I spent the day speaking numai limba romana (only speaking Romanian), because we were just surrounded by so many activities that involved speaking Romanian. After a whole day of pure romaneste, your brain starts to hurt, to be honest! It was such a neat experience being in the capitol on this greatly anticipated day. We went to the military parade and saw the president of Romania, learned a lot about cool airplanes and tanks, and spent some time with our new investigator, Claudiu who we found block knocking. 
Feelin some American pride! (look behind the union jack)

Enjoying the parade!
Favorite part of the parade

It was PACKED!

One of my favorites shots from the parade.

The president of Romania was here in person! On the screen he is two from the left.

That evening, we went to a combined branch celebration where we did dance the hora and eat and watch a classic Romanian movie called "Amintiri din copilarie." Elder Jacobson and I went home bursting with love for this country, and more importantly, a greater love and understanding for the people of Romanian
Iconic
 
Sora Leavitt is a dream cook!

Ziua Romaniei feast with my friends.


We held a mini zone meeting to talk about how we can better reach the hearts of the people of Romania through understanding the Romanian culture and implementing that in the way we teach, speak Romanian, interact with members, and help others understand the importance and empowering effect of accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

1 Corinthians 9:20And unto the ROMANIANS I became as a ROMANIAN, that I might gain the ROMANIANS; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

Paul truly understood his divine call as a missionary of Jesus Christ, and that is what I am continually learning and realizing. Romanians cannot be taught an American lesson. They need to hear the gospel from their point of view! The beautiful thing is that the principles of the gospel are the same where ever you go, but the way in which people recognize that this message is for them may be a little different. That is the cool and humbling challenge that we face everyday- to teach to the Romanians! We had a lot of success as we went and tried new things, as we strove to live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and to serve these people with all of our hearts. 
Some of the happiest people I have met!

Our English class

Elder Jacobson has really helped me understand and apply this principle into the way I do missionary work. I am truly grateful for his example and love for the culture of Romania and each Romanian that he comes into contact with. Truly, my love and appreciation for this people is great. I admire the grit and the humility that they have. Romanians are the most giving and welcoming people I have ever met, and I truly feel connected to this culture, and feel blessed to have made so many wonderful connections with so many superb people.
Sora Gorzo. She is truly a wonderful friend who sure knows how to cook some good Romanian food!

Sora Marilena making some Christmas crafts

Dani always wants a picture with "her boys."

Now... do you remember the title of today's letter? Translated it is "Basarabia is Romania!" Basarabia was a region of Romania that was annexed from the Romanian motherland after World War 1. It is now known as the Republic of Moldova and is controlled by some pro-Russian politicians. It is also the poorest country in Europe. And the Lord has trusted me to go and serve there! 
Amazing how two years of stuff can fit two suitcases, a backpack, and a guitar case.
My summer shoes... toast! 

That is right. All of that Romanian pride is going to have to take a pause, 'cause I am headed out on a night train to live in the Republic of Moldova! I am honestly shocked and was expecting to stay in my city of Bucharest. President Hettinger felt last minute that he needed to send me and my new companion, Elder Quist, to "white wash" (meaning neither of us have ever served in this area) into the great capitol called Chisinau. When I heard this, I was shocked, but as a prayed and thought about it, a peace came into my mind and heart. I know that the Lord has a great work for me and my new companion over there! Chisinau is known as the "promised land" over here. Every says that the missionary culture is so great and that there are so many prepared people. I am really excited, yet sad to leave my people here in Romania. 
This was just the best transfer ever!

Well, I could talk more about Chisinau, but I would rather just experience it for myself and then tell ya'll about it. Elder Jacobson asked me what is the first thing I will do when I leave the apartment on Tuesday. I honestly have no clue... Pray for me!!!


1 Corinthians 9:20 And unto the MOLDOVANS I became as a MOLDOVANS, that I might gain the MOLDOVANS; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

Love you all, and hope you guys have an adventurous week like mine will be!

Love,
Elder Ditto
One last contacting hurrah with my favorite elders

A fun morning with these people


Fratele Lucian Frimu... an excellent man whom I look up to.

Fratele Paun's fiance came to visit from America. We love Daisy!

Gheorghe

Ionut

Love this guy!

Classic Vio again
Mihaiela

The Leavitt Family. I will be forever grateful for their love and influence in my life!

Sorin Cartof Mici

We made chili boats!
Luand un pranz turcesc with Vio

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankful and Joyful

Buna buna!!

I gotta say, I have a lot to be thankful for after this week! Elder Jacobson and I have been focusing on learning and using the scriptures better this week. We find a reference each day and try to use it in a teaching scenario. I have really enjoyed diving in a little deeper into the scriptures and I have also realized how much more knowledgeable I am in the scriptures than a year ago. Many people tell me that reading a book can't help you increase your faith and that they would rather find God themselves, or that they just act how they think God wants them to, and pay no attention to the stories found in the scriptures. 
Arcul de Triumf! Commemorating the three parts of Romania uniting together.

I love the passage in 2 Nephi 25:23
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
Anteneul Roman... where they hold some fancy concerts or something 

I love the architecture!
A great way to spend a pday

Of course! God gives us guidance through the scriptures. He commanded the prophets to write the revelation that they receive so that they might know to what source they can look to for salvation... and to teach us what "all we can do" really means. This is the same reason as to why God has commanded us to worship him at church every week... to learn about the Savior, to feel of His love, and then to receive inspiration as to how we can improve our lives and come closer to Him.

D&C 19:23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.

I truly do feel this peace that the Lord has promised us as I try to do my best to live the way that he has commanded through heeding the voice of his holy prophets. In President Hettinger's [mission president] email this week he talked about being a consecrated missionary, and how often success comes after a trial of our faith, or after "all that we can do." This is a pretty cool principle because we do our part, and the Lord will always do his. We can always do more so this permits a plethora of blessings that we can receive! 

Yesterday we had our weekly zone contacting activity, and we decided to do it at the entrance of Cismigiu Park. It was by far the coldest day so far, and not too many people were out. Elder Jacobson and I did our best and met some cool people as our toes were freezing. Just before leaving, Elder Krieger asked if they could join us for the rest of the evening. We decided that we would do some block knocking and then have sweet and sour pork for dinner. 
Amazed by how big this thing is and how little they use the inside.


As we traveled on the metro, we challenged ourselves to talk to at least one person on the metro about the gospel, and that ended up with us giving away two copies of the Book of Mormon. After that, we went home, grabbed some more copies, and set out for a good one hour to find someone to teach. Elder Jacobson and Elder Ward went out and ended up finding a roommate of an investigator who was super interested in strengthening his faith of Jesus Christ. Elder Krieger and I went out together just like old times. We first tried to visit a guy that I had met a week ago, but to no avail. Our back-up plan was to carol, so we got right to it! The third door that we knocked was a nice lady who allowed us to sing to her. We sang Angels We Have Heard on High. I had just learned the alto part so I was giddy to sing! The lady loved it and we introduced ourselves and quickly refused the money that she offered us. (In Romania, it is tradition to give the carolers money or food). We continued to talk, and she opened up about her religious beliefs and how one of her sons had just converted to the -Seventh-day Adventist church as he learned that the Sabbath day should actually be on Saturday... and that she wasn't really even sure what to think! By some miracle, she let us in to her home to hear our message. Elder Krieger and I were speechless! 
Thankful that I am serving around one of my best friends!

Smecher

We walked in and there were her two other sons (28 and 29 years old) and her husband. They were all so welcoming, and we chatted for a little. They were so impressed that two boys could learn Romanian so well and that we would spend two years here away from our family. We asked if we could begin with a prayer and turn off the soccer game. They quickly did so and we began to teach them the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were listening so intently and as we showed them the verse that Joseph Smith read in their giant bible that they were so proud of, they pondered deeply. They were beginning to understand that this verse in James was indeed to persuade them to believe in Jesus Christ. In fact, it was an invitation to act! Oh how humbling it was to see this family having their souls awakened to the fact that God still loves us, and has revealed more truth to us in this confused world! I could tell that the parents truly raised their children with love and the God inspired them. What a marvelous opportunity to bring this prepared family the gospel of Jesus Christ... the exact thing that has brought our own family so much peace and hope in our own lives.
Potato on a stick is what I like to call it.

Notice the giant Cathedral they are building next to the Parliament Building... crazy!

This experience came after not just a long and cold day, but after much fasting and prayer and hard work. I know that the Lord is preparing his children here in Romania to accept the blessings that come from taking upon themselves the name of Christ. My joy comes from being apart of this great and marvelous work! 
Spending some time with Fratele Gabi and his friends Cristi and Iona

Teaching them how to play Rummykub

Thanksgiving with the bros!

So, yes Thanksgiving was incredible and I had the opportunity to eat two feasts with great people.
Daniela graciously received us for a thanksgiving meal.

Enjoying some incredible homemade pumpkin pie!

We even had sweet potatoes and marshmallows!!!

Making the peach cobbler

Missionary Thanksgiving feast!

And yes, we spent all of pday exploring Bucharest and enjoying each other's company, and yes our house is all decorated for Christmas and it is exactly how I was imagining, but my real joy comes from helping others strengthen their faith in Christ and His atonement. I love being a missionary!
We bought a start today to complete the look!

We are decked out!
The classic mirror companion picture... lucky to be serving with Elder Jacobson!

I am thankful for you guys... and I am so glad that Oregon was awesomeness.

LOVE YOU ALL!

Elder Ditto
Cheesn'
We went to the international food market thingy. Elder Kreiger was in heaven!


He wouldn't tell me how much he paid for this ice cream!

Kaufland is the store of choice for groceries

Notice how happy Elder Jacobson is to have some Haagen Dauz!

Elder Ward.. stand out guy!

Four peas in a pod