Alex's Mission Address:

Elder Alex McLean Ditto

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

Email -

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Learning and Becoming, Through Serving


Eu am avut un saptamana cel mai bun. For all you Americans, that means I had a great week! I cannot believe that my time here at the MTC is coming to a close. We leave for Romania in 11 days!!! I am super excited, nervous, and humbled. This has been a time of great learning and becoming for me, and I will continue to work as hard as I can, and carry that momentum into the field! I kind of like to look my experience here as being "primed". This is the layer before the actual coat of paint! The better priming job I do here, the better the actual coats of paint will look in Romania. I will greatly miss the MTC, especially my wonderful teachers, but I know that the Lord has so many wonderful experiences and challenges waiting for me in Romania!!!
Colegi lui Romania

I want to share a story about our dear friend Cati, that will also testify of the things I have learned and worked on this week spiritually . As mentioned in a previous letter, we have been teaching Cati for a couple of weeks now. We have had a roller coaster of emotions with her during our lessons- some have been really great and we have felt the spirit very strong, and other times we feel like Cati is not understanding or that we haven't satisfied her need. This is probably the biggest focus as a missionary- identifying the need of the investigator. Every investigator has a need that can be fulfilled through learning the gospel of Jesus Christ. So we decided to fast for Cati, so that we could receive some extra insight and revelation for her. Since we didn't go to meals, we had more time to study and discuss the needs of Cati. So we went into the lesson with a plan of relating the story of the restoration with her. To some it up, the spirit was really present, and she committed to baptism, when she gets a confirmation that the church is true. That was SUCH an exciting moment for us. She was one step closer to baptism!! So the next lesson we decided to teach her was about the Plan of Salvation. 

We thought it went well, but our teacher Sora Long, told us that Cati told her we looked very "sad" and not a lot of energy. Well, one thing was certain: we were SUPER tired that day! Keep in mind that these are not actual investigators, but our teachers are playing the role of actual people who they have taught on their missions. The spirit works the same in each situation- it is really cool! So we were pretty bummed that it was actually not as good as we had hoped. I am so thankful that we were made aware of this, however, because the Lord was able to help us add a lot more primer to us! We learned several things from this experience: 

1. No matter how tired we are, we need to at least act awake and happy. Our appearance to our investigators is a very crucial element to teaching. A good way to think about this is "How would the Savior be behaving in this situation?" and the answer then becomes clear. The reality is that missionary work is exhausting, but we carry on and receive strength from the man upstairs! 

2. I need to have FAITH in my calling as a missionary. I have received SO many great blessings and promises for being a missionary work. I was reading my patriarchal blessing this week, and a certain part really stood out, "I will be given the right words to say to each person who I teach." WOAH! That is an incredible blessing. I realized that in order for this promise to take effect, I must have FAITH that the Lord will in fact bless me with this great gift. I am working hard having more faith in this and all other blessings that I can receive as being a missionary. The scriptures are filled with blessings for us! Praying for these daily is also key for us to receive these blessings.

3. LISTENING is key to missionary work. I have caught myself at times either not focusing intently to what my investigator has to say because I am trying to come up with something good to say in response. This can hinder my ability to listen and act to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I shared this scripture last week, but it also applies to this thought...
 D&C 84:85... "Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man."
As I prepare for my investigators through reviewing lessons, studying the scriptures, praying, etc, the Spirit WILL give me the words that I need at that moment! I know that this is true because I have applied it to my past few lessons. I have really made an effort to do this with Cati specifically. I have also noticed that as I listen to her with real concern, my love and concern for her has increased. I have been inspired to share certain scriptures and experiences, testify, etc. I know that because I applied D&C 84:85, the Lord has blessed me with His spirit! I have also worked on praying for my companions as they teach, and listen with real intent to them. All of this has really helped our lessons become led by the spirit!  

An awesome quote that I heard the other day was, "Our actions as missionaries are inspired if we are living worthy." That's pretty dang comforting! 
As close to the mountains as I can get right now!

It is really humbling to reflect back and see how the Lord is working on me, through me working to help investigators. This is the beauty of missionary work! "Each missionary will have at least one convert by the end of their mission (as long as they work diligently)- that is themselves!!" Amen, Elder Bednar, Amen. 

Ok, so back to the story of Cati. This has led up to the "Miracle of the Week"!! So after applying these three attributes (WOAH I JUST REALIZED THAT THESE ARE ATTRIBUTES OF CHRIST), it was time to teach Cati again. This time we were coming in with more love, more faith, and more preparation, with a goal to listen better. We taught one of the best lessons we have ever taught (meaning the spirit was really present) through relating the "Living Waters" (see John 4) to the JOY that comes from living the gospel. Joy is an everlasting feeling that only comes from Christmas (hehehehe) and more importantly living the Doctrine of Christ "Doctrina lui Hristos". We were able to help paint a picture of how Cati could have- not just joy- but an everlasting fountain of J O Y through living Christ's gospel. We bore testimony and did everything that the spirit wanted us to do. At the end, I was prompted to invite her to baptism again. And here is the miracle... She said Y E S. AH SO EXCITING!! The spirit was so strong and Cati received her witness. Wow I love this gospel. We said "Noi simtim fericit (We feel very happy) and then Cati replied, "Ne, e bucurie" (No, it is joy!). Ah how wonderful it was to hear that!!!

So this was our miracle of the week. Through accepting the Lord's time for Cati as our time, and developing greater faith, listening skills, love for Cati, and learning with her, the spirit was able to help Cati come closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. She is now ready to make the next step! It has been fun teaching her about the commandments now.

Something Sora Long explained yesterday was the contrast of how investigators receive spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Those who honestly seek to know the truth either receive it in the "Alma 32" way, or the "Moroni 10:5" way. The Alma 32 way is gradual, just like how faith starts like a little seed (meaning planting the word of God in their hearts). When they do so, it slowly grows until eventually they have enough faith to begin making covenants with God and be baptized. This was the case for Cati, I feel. The other way is through receiving a distinct confirmation from the Holy Ghost relatively quick. Each way is perfect- perfect for every type of individual. 

There were so many other great experiences this week, but I feel like this story best describes how the Lord is using me and "priming me" haha!
Fratele Brundage... best teacher ever!

I am so excited for conference. I was able to print out some talks and am studying them throughout the week. I love our prophet and his apostles. I know that they are called of God and receive inspiration for each us, and we need to be prepared to listen and act on those feelings that we get! A little quote that gave some great insight on the importance of the Holy Ghost in missionary work is by Elder Hales. He says, "The Holy Ghost is a medium for God's work... 'Through the Holy Ghost, we experience the multitude of [Christ's] tender mercies and miracles that do not cease." Boy this spoke to me! The whole them of my week was basically this! I am going to miss our monkey bread, eggs and POG, on conference, though. I will be thinking of you guys while we watch conference!

So, tomorrow I get my flight plans!!! We all guessed our flight route, and the winner gets a candy bar from the others in the district. My guess is Salt Lake to JFK to Paris to Bucaresti! When we get the flight plan it's going to feel even more real. Then next week we will begin packing!! Yikes!!
Guesses for flight plans

To prepare for the culture of Romania, Vasrstnic Baker and I (V. Loder refused to participate.. you'll see why) decided that we would start drinking mineral water (club soda) so that when we get to Romania we will be used to it! Apparently mineral water is big in ROU, just like throughout Europe. It started out pretty rough, and we'd only drink about a quarter of a glass, but these days we are just going pure Mineral Water, baby! It's really not too bad besides the fact that it makes me burp after drinking it, haha.
The most positive district on the planet!

Something that I have really been focusing on for the language is memorizing scriptures in Romanian. (I think I talked about this in a past letter). Anyways, this week I memorized Filipeni 4:13 și Iacov 1.5. Daca vreunia dintre voi îi lipsește întelepciunea, s-o ceara de la Dumnezeu, care dă tuturor cu mâna larga și făra mustrare, și ea îi va fi data. If you couldn't understand that for some reason, it's James 1:5 ha ha. I have been able to use the scriptures that I have memorized in lessons this week. This goal of learning a new scripture each week has stretched me, but is such a blessing as well. 
Rainstorm at the MTC
Mount Timpanogas

Two funny language mistakes this week-
One is actually from a couple of weeks ago, but I just remembered it. We were teaching Cati I think in the first lesson, and we gave her a Cartea Lui Mormon, but she said that she didn't have money to buy it. We didn't have a clue how to say it's free, but then I remembered that "agency" is "libertate de alege", so I decided to just say, "Este libertate" (It is freedom!). HA! She cracked up and then we realized what I said and we all started laughing. Note: I do know how to say "free" now: gratuit!

The next one was I think after we committed Cati to baptism. After she said "yes" to being baptized, I said, "Suntem foarte agitate pentru tine!" Cait immeditately started laughing and then motioned to me what I said, scratching herself. Then I realized that I said "I am very agitated for you" HA! Agitate is basically the negative way to say excited and it made no sense. 

If there is one thing I am good at, it is just trying to speak the language, regardless if I sound like a crazy agitated missionary haha! I feel strongly that this is the only way that I'll learn Romanian- through trying and making mistakes! So it is with becoming like our Savior- we try our hardest, committing sins along the way, but we learn and eventually can become perfected through Christ's Atonement. Wow! The Atonement applies to learning Romanian too!!
Zone 22 - the best ever!

So we attended the temple this afternoon and as we were walking to the beautiful house of God, I saw a couple that looked familiar. Any guesses who it was?? Hint: Mom was a HUGE fan of her a couple years back. I'll reveal who it was at the end of the letter. (THIS IS ACTUALLY REALLY COOL)

I am happy and well here at the MTC. I appreciate all of the prayers and thought that have come my way, they have truly blessed me! 

So who did I see at the temple? Well, when I was walking up the stairs, I saw them and almost walked past but I knew I had to say something. I was like, "Are you Nienie?" And she was like "Yes!" And I said something that I don't remember because I was so in shock that I just met someone that I really admire. That's right- I met Stephanie Nielson and her husband!!!! I got to shake her and and everything but I didn't get a picture- UGH! And now that I think about it I wonder if she thought it was weird that I said Nienie- that's the name of her blog hahaha. 
Alex may not have gotten a picture but ironically Stephanie Nelson posted this picture on her instagram account the same day as when Alex introduced himself to her.  

All my love, Va iubesc,

Vasrtnic Ditto

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Refiner's Fire

Howdy y'all!

Another week in the books!! Time is flying by and I can't believe I've been gone from you guys for 3 full weeks! Only 3 more to go till I get on one of those big 'ol 747's and fly to the best country ever. Throughout the past 3 weeks, I have developed an even deeper love of the people of Romania. I know that the Lord has called me to bring certain people to the fold there. He knows who they are and as I work diligently and stay worthy, he will help me find those precious souls. I have already seen so many evidences of The Lord's hand in my short time of being a missionary, as well as how he has been blessing our family. 

I would like to start with a "miracle of the week." In a devotional on Tuesday night, the wife of President Clayton (Senior President of the 70's) promised us that one of the ways that I can get the most out of my mission is to "Note the miracles." Miracles happen everyday, and we just need to sit back and recognize them!! 
Elder Krogue and me

So.... there were a lot of little miracles this week. A small one was when I ran into former Elder Krogue! I know it wasn't by chance that we crossed paths. I remember really looking up to him when he served in our ward, and it was great seeing a familiar face at the MTC. There aren't too many of those here for me, so each person I know here gives me a little taste of home! 

Probably the best one this week, though, was the miracle of my companions and I not getting sick. The cold bug is still going around here, and there are a lot of anziani getting it in our zone. We have all been diligent in staying sanitary, and I have been using the essential oils twice a day. On Tuesday, Varstnic Loder woke up feeling pretty crappy. We were debating whether or not to stay and sleep longer to try and help him feel better. We decided it would be better for us to go about our regular schedule, and it was hard for Varstnic Loder, as he still felt pretty bad. I had been praying with a lot of faith that He would heal him so that we could continue our normal studies here at the MTC. I have learned that EVERY day hear is vital for my preparation for the field.

Doctrine Covenants 88:84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;

I liken this to the MTC by adding "Tarry ye in the MTC, and labor diligently..." So I need to use every moment I have to better my ministry as an ambassador of the Lord. So.... I really don't want to get sick as that would hinder my ability to study with all my might. I have complete faith that Dad's prayer that I will be healthy in the MTC will continue to come to pass, as long as I am doing all that I can to become a better missionary.

Back to the day- Varstnic Loder... I had been praying for him all day, and also for Varstnic Baker's and I's health. We all were feeling a little under the weather by bed time, but we got to bed promptly and slept like babies. Fast forward 8 hours and we all woke up feeling refreshed and healthy. Truly the Lord answered my prayers, and is blessing us for our obedience and diligence. I recognize that Heavenly Father will not always bless us like this, but for us this is what we needed and I am thankful for his great watch care over us. I have had many other wonderful experiences with prayer throughout the past couple of weeks, and my relationship with the Savior and my Heavenly Father has greatly increased. I know that Heavenly Father loves each one of us, and wants so badly to bless us, but we need to do our part in being obedient to Christ's commandments!! 

This week has had it's fair share of trials for me too! At times I have been struggling to remember that the mission isn't about me. It is much easier said than done! I have caught myself judging my companions at times, and realized that this really hinders our companion ship unity, and if we don't have unity, than the spirit can't dwell with us constantly. I have learned that I am naturally inclined to do things my way, but I need to let go of "my way" sometimes, and respect other's ways of teaching and living. When I have been selfish, I have noticed that I am less receptive and keep to myself. THIS IS NOT GOOD!!!  A couple of days I caught myself doing this and prayed to Heavenly Father that he would give me a greater love and appreciation for my companions. He helped me, but not until I created a  plan of action! I decided that I would listen with more intent to what my companions, and that I would compliment what they did good in our lessons. Immediately after I started doing this, the mood of our companionship changed. I felt a greater love and value towards my companions and we could better listen to what the spirit would have us say. I have learned that everyone has quirks and everyone lives life a little differently, but the sooner you can learn to respect their differences and short comings, the better off both people will be! (mom you might want to record this in a special place so that you can bring it up when I complain in the future haha).
Three Musketeers

This week I also learned the importance of goal setting. When we WRITE our goals down, we have an exact road map of where we want to go, and how we can accomplish them. This has been a great blessing to me, and I think this is a skill that I will use throughout my life. I encourage all of you to take some time and create some family and personal goals for the week during FHE. When we make and keep our goals, we will progress faster and be able to recognize how we can become more like Christ. 

I have a testimony of the importance of exact obedience. I KNOW that when we show the Lord that we can obey his commandments (and for me the missionary rules with exactness) He will bless us more than we can imagine, and He can entrust us with his power. There is a reason that this gospel is centered around obeying Christ's teachings. When we do this we are ENDURING to the END! "When obedience becomes our quest, we are endowed with power"!  Being on a mission, if nothing else, is about showing that Heavenly Father can TRUST me, and can use me to serve others in other callings throughout my life.

We watched Ephraim's Rescue Sunday night, and man I forgot how awesome and powerful that movie is! You guys should watch it Sunday night. I cried three times and once was because I was reminiscing when we first watched it as a family. Alysee, I thought about you when Albert was talking! haha. Learning about our ancestors is so important. Our testimonies of God's love for us can greatly increase  as we learn about them. I hope that I can have the faith that Ephraim had as he used his Priesthood power to bless those around him, and even preform many miracles! The opportunity to exercise the power of God itself is a miracle. I am so thankful to be entrusted with that sacred responsibility and blessing. 

We taught about 8 investigator lessons this week. Many of them were really awesome, but we have been struggling about how to meet the needs of one of our investigators, Căti. We have taught her 6 times now, and she is still interested, but I felt like we have been missing something. We talking with our teacher last night and came to the realization that we were not teaching her complete lessons, rather parts of the restoration, and part of the plan of salvation. Essentially, we were giving her pieces of the puzzle, but we need to give her the whole puzzle! We feel like she needs to have a better understanding of the restoration and what the significance is of having Christ´s church back on the earth, and why it is so important to have prophets who give us modern day revelation from God. I am excited to help her, and feel confident that the Lord is guiding us and showing us how to better teach his children.
The field is ripe and all ready to harvest
With this experience has also given me an understanding of the importance of patience. I think this is one of my biggest weaknesses- it always has been a challenge for me. There is a reason why one of the main virtues is patience! Christ was patient with those who he taught, and so should I with my investigators, my companions, and myself. Wow I think I am now going to study about how Christ was patient during his ministry for my next personal study!!! Ah I just love how much the spirit is teaching me here at the MTC. I just get giddy learning about how to make myself a better tool in the Lord's hands. That is truly all I want in this life- to be the kind of person that the Lord can always trust with assignments- whatever they may be- I pray that I might be ready to accept, and not a week or a day after, but the moment He calls me to do something. I am so thankful for this opportunity to be refined through being one of the Lord's missionaries! 

So as far as the language, I am steadily cruising along! I learn so much everyday, and am grateful that I have the opportunity to teach so much throughout the day in Romanian. I testify that there is no way that I can learn Romanian this fast, save it be by the grace of God and the gift of tongues!!! I have also felt nervous while speaking, and I talked to my teacher about this one day. I explained to her that sometimes I felt like it distracted me from feeling the spirit. She told me to read:

Doctrine and Covenants 84:85 Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.

Personal Study Time
Ok, now for some funny/interesting happenings...

Each Tuesday morning we have the opportunity to do some service! Our assignment is to clean one of the residence halls. This week we had the wonderful opportunity to... you guessed it- clean 64 toilets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAY SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! haha it was a scaring experience, considering that there are like hundreds of young men using them each day. Ya. I'll just leave it at that. It makes me appreciate my Saturday job of cleaning one toilet! Siblings- remember to keep the bathrooms clean!!!

Thanks to loving family members, we have received many wonderful packages full of "nutritious" foods... Just kidding not nutritious but definitely delicious!! So we had like 3 'fiestas' this week full of chips and salsa, hi-chews, cookies, the works!! One of the times we had a fiesta, our whole entire zone came barging into our room yelling "FIESTAAAA" haha it was pretty funny and crazy considering there were like 30 people in our room again. The anzioni just really love us haha. 

Also, I just wanted to say how much I love and miss Washington... I truly love it there and enjoy every moment being in the great northwest!! Washington will always be my home. Please go on some beautiful hikes for me so you guys can enjoy the majesty of God's creations!! Doing the Little Naches Peak Loop in October would be incredible. Maybe you guys will have a free day an can go do that!?

One more story- the food here is- well let's just say I miss mom's cooking. So one day this week we were pretty hungry but weren't really feeling MTC food. Luckily, a restaurant called "Aloha Plate" was catering. WE HAD ALOHA SHOYU CHICKEN AND REAL RICE AND EVEN GOOD MACARONI SALAD!!!!!!!! It was HEAVEN. Not as good as mom's Aloha Shoyu chicken but it was definitely good enough to remind me of what hers tastes like. I had 3 servings it was that good. Needless to say we took advantage of the good food and our tummies were full and happy!
Aloha Shoyu - BEST soy sauce!

Thank you all for your love and support in this adventure. I love you guys so much, and I extend my love to all friends and family!!! I pray for you guys everyday. 

Till next week, Keep winning the World Series of Family Awesomeness!!!!

Love, Varstnic Ditto
MTC Intersection

Beautiful Provo Canyon

Dying to make this into a t-shirt logo

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Saptamana Doua!

Buna ziua!!

Before I start this letter- please know that if I write in Romanian throughout the letters I will most likely not be able to use all of the symbols that are required to use... so just use your little Romanian imagination!!

Also, MANY THANKS TO ALL OF YA'LLS PACKAGES/LETTERS!!!! I feel so so so so blessed to have such a loving a supportive family. The Ditto family is blessed for our determination to be obedient to all of the Lord's commandments. I feel bad that I am usually the one to get the letters and packages from my district, but man does it feel nice to get so many!! They are literally like gold here at the MTC.
I LOVE getting packages! - Two week anniversary package from Aunti Leah
I love the MTC. Even though every day is basically the same- wake up, shower, eat, go to class, study, go to class,EXERCISE, lunch, class, class, dinner, study.... the experiences we have are so enriching and valuable. I have learned SO much about how to effectively teach to others the gospel of Jesus Christ, about Romanian, about myself, and most importantly the Savior. I have come to cherish my personal study time- I honestly feel like I don't get enough. I started a study journal as I thought about how Tyler keeps one, and this has been a huge blessing in my life. I am not too good at thinking about questions as I study, but I am trying to get better at that- when we write things down, we have the opportunity to learn even more and really think about the teachings. Also, when we write things down, the Spirit will bring these things to our remembrance when me need them most. 

The language is coming around really nicely! I am most definitely being stretched to my capabilities, but something about that makes me giddy, knowing that the Lord is on my side and shaping me into a fine piece of cutlery... The rumors are true.. Apparently I sleep talk in Romanian, and my companions joke that this is why I am doing well with the language haha. I love Romanian. It is such a beautiful language. I cannot wait to be immersed in the romanian culture and meet God's wonderful children there. Apparently Pres. Uchtdorf came to visit the ROU/MOL Mission this past month, and he told them that "Romania is on the tipping point, and one day there will be a temple in Bucharest". AHHH!!! Doesn't that just make you so excited!? I am going into Romania at one of the most exciting and promising times in it's history- for the field is truly white, already to harvest. 
Love my companions - Ditto pose at the Provo Temple

Ah man there are so many good stories to tell this week.. I'll start by answering some of Dad's questions that he had from last week's email.

I forgot to mention that Mele was a role playing investigator. At first I struggled with this thought, but I came to the understanding that the spirit testifies the same, and that by teaching "Mele", she is coming closer to Christ, which is what my purpose of a missionary is. Sora Long (Mele) is actually one of my favorite teachers- she is full of life and has so many good insights on how to be the best missionary ever, not to mention her ways of learning romana is super fun.

In the morning on P-days, we wake up at 6:30 and shower, then bring our laundry to the laundry mat (I've never seen so many washer and dryers in one place in my life haha), and then we go eat breakfast while we wait for our laundry to finish. Today we went back to our residence while we were waiting for our clothes to finish drying and I took the time to study. It was quite nice. 
Headed to do laundry

Laundry Time
Then we go email, and today we are getting haircuts.... I am like really nervous since Mom has been the only one to give me a haircut. Hopefully it looks half as good as the ones you give me mom! I'll miss the back scratches after, though ;) At 12 we are going to go to the temple cafeteria and have lunch, and then go to an endowment session at the Provo Temple. Such a big temple!! Last weeks session was really great- it was fun to be with my comps there, but I gotta say- I missed Dad's insights! I love having the opportunity to attend the temple each week here- the spirit at the temple is so unique and strong. After the temple, we have a little bit of time before dinner, and after dinner we go to class from 6-9. Such a great day!
Provo Temple

... And I just got back from my haircut! It was actually a super great experience. The hair stylist was super nice and she did exactly what I wanted! I am super happy about it- now I can go to the Turkish barbers in Romania with confidence and swagger. haha

Another clarification- My name tag does indeed say "Varstnicul" This means "The elder", however, if I am refering to myself or talking to another elder, I would say "Varstnic", meaning elder! Interesting stuff!

So the week started off kind of hecktik- We forgot to set our alarm the night before and ended sleeping in till 7:20... and I had a Leadership training meeting at 7:30!!! Yikes!! Needless to say, we did not shower that morning and were booking it to our class room so that I could be on time... I was only 4 minutes late and wasn't the last one... Mission accomplished! As Varstnic Baker puts it, we felt bad, but don't regret it. Ha! We had a great Sabbath, the whole day is spent with personal study time and fantastic talks- both in devotionals and sacrament meeting. At 11am we go on a temple walk (see attached pictures). So nice to get some much needed fresh air! for sacrament meeting we are all expected to prepare a 5 minute talk, because the branch president randomly calls on one elder and one sister to give talks. 
Walk around Provo Temple

So now on to the devotionals... have 2 devotionals each week- one Sunday evening and the other Tuesday evening. We have been fortunate enough to hear from 3 APOSTLES. I can't believe how blessed we've been to hear from so many apostles of Christ. Each time they walk into the room, I can just feel of their special calling from the Lord. I know the apostles are called of God! This week we heard from Elder Ballard and Cook. Both gave fantastic talks. I don't have my journal with me, or else I would totally share some of the notes I tool. One quote that Elder Cook said was, "The Lord is not trying to protect us, he's trying to perfect us". I love this because all of us are asked to do things that may be out of our comfort zones- anything from individual trials, family struggles, health, learning a new language, etc. As we trust in the Lord, and pray to our Heavenly Father that he might "consecrate our afflictions for our gain (See 2 Nephi 2:2, 32:9), we will become who he wants us to be! The MTC has most definitely stretched me, but all in good ways. I love pushing myself, and the beauty of doing the Lord's work is there are no boundaries! Becoming a converted disciple of Christ is a life long journey, and beyond. 

This week we got 2 new investigators. This is pretty intimidating for us because that means we need to do twice as much praying, studying, and preparing, for our investigators, not to mention we need to learn new vocabulary and role play in Romanian so that we can actually say what we feel like we should say to our investigators! While we were preparing for our first investigator, Cati, we just couldn't figure out what she needed to hear. The challenging part about learning a new language and talking to investigators is that if the spirit prompts us to teach about something different during the lesson, it is hard to do that as we don't always have the vocabulary for that subject. Because of this, we feel like it it very important to prayerfully study what our investigator needs. Anyways, Sora Langenstein wanted to help us so she showed us the mormon message called "Refiners Fire", I think. It really brought the spirit into the room and we all decided to individually pray for what Cati needed to hear. After praying, I opened up my scriptures to where I had been studying before and was miraculously about the refiners fire. The spirit literally said to me "trials". At that moment I knew that what Cati needed to hear was that God can help us overcome our trials, and that trials make us stronger. Varstincii Loder si Baker had the exact same impression. It was such a tender mercy. Our lesson with Cati went very well. Such a cool experience!! 
My District
One funny story that I'll share- Mom sent me some golgosi (the Moldovan peach cookies) I shared them with my district and teacher (she said that they were totally authentic, but in Moldova they don't do the fancy decor) they were SO good. The only problem was that Varstnic Baker is allergic to hazelnuts, and apparently there were hazelnuts in the golgosi... long story short we had to go get his epi pen (fortunately he didn't need use it) and took some Benedryl. He was WIPED out and lethargic that night, but he said that he'd eat another one in a heart beat, haha.

Eating golgosi, Moldovan peach cookies, that my mom sent us

As a district, we had a goal to memorize the 1. Scopul Nostru (Missionary Purpose) 2. Primul Viziune (First Vision) 3. Moroni 10:5 and 4. The baptismal invitation. I have now memorized all of them and it has been so neat to apply these into lessons. There is great power in memorizing scriptures, as the spirit can then bring them to your remembrance when you need them. Also, it's another great way to learn more vocabulary words! We also do this program called "Basic Core", where we have a list of about 250 words, and like 25 phrases that we needed to have memorized by the 14th of September. This was a great way to always have something to study for. We all made flashcards where we put all of the words that we are learning. It is incredible how much I've learned in 14 short days. The gift of tongues is truly with me, and as long as I stay worthy of that gift and seek it through prayer and diligence in learningromana, I will continue to be blessed by it!

A cool language story- I was role playing as an investigator for Sora Long as she was demonstrating how to teach the first lesson. My job was to act as an investigator and to SYL (which means speak as much romanian as possible, and when you get stuck on a word say the english word and continue inromanian. I spoke like 98% romanian during the lesson- it was SO cool!! When you are teaching the gospel in a new language, you have to pick out what matters most, as you don't have the vocab to say all of the "extra" stuff. This opportunity to speak Romanian has helped me reflect on the most important matters of the gospel- the stuff that will mean the most to my investigators.

Speaking by the spirit has definitely become easier! As I really focus on the investigator, the words seem to just flow from my mouth in Romanian (but of course I probably shank every 4th word haha). But the point is that I am speaking by the spirit- and that's THE most important thing. "The Holy Ghost is the concrete to our investigator's conversion". 

So we have really become good friends with all of the Anzianos in our zone. During our exercise we always play a huge game of soccer with them, or other days some of the anzianos and us will go play indoor volleyball (our favorite). Exercise time is honestly the highlight of the day. It is sooo important for us to go and get all of our energy out so that we can focus for the rest of the day. The gym where we play volleyball is converted into the conference hall where the devotionals are held- it's CRAZY huge and when it's converted to the conference hall, it looks nothing like the gym. It is crazy to think that it is transformed twice every week. The MTC takes SO much work to run- it's incredible, really! 

Back to the Anzianos- the Varstnicii and I were in our rooms, having a chat with our zone leader, Anziano Smith. He was sitting by our door and kept peaking out for some reason, but I didn't think much of it. Then he's like, "Varstnic Ditto- you are are the District leader, right?" I'm like, "Ya...?" then he says, "Will you go grab some paper towels?" I thought it was kind of weird but I just assumed we needed to clean something up in our room or something so I said yes and walked over to the janitor's closet. Right when I opened the door, about 25 people screamed at my face and I FREAKED out! Varstnic Loder  recalls that I literally jumped 6 ft past our door haha. I turned around and for like 15 secondsAnzianis just kept coming out of the room! I couldn't believe my eyes!! We all had a really good laugh haha. 

I forgot to share this last week, but my cough completely subsided around day 3 of being at the MTC. The sick bug has started to go around at the MTC, and as President Whiting of our branch presidency said, "The MTC is like a pitri dish- once a sickness goes around it's almost inevitable to get it!" Keeping this in mind, every time we go past a hand sanitizer thing we lather up, and make sure to get a good amount of rest. (like we have a choice, right? haha) I have always kept in the blessing that Dad gave me before I left, blessing me that I would be healthy during my time here at the MTC. I have really felt blessed that I have not gotten any sicknesses.

The Lord is blessing me so much, and I am just giddy to go out and serve the Romanians... 4 more weeks!!! 

So as you can see, the MTC is a great place, and I love it so much. So many miracles have already happened while being here, and cannot wait to see what is in store for the next 4 weeks!

Thank you for all of your prayers, I pray for you guys every single day! You guys are the best. 

Varstnic Ditto

One week anniversary present from Leah - homemade Mounds Bars!!  DELISH!

President Taylor and Sister Taylor

Elder Loder - prepared for life

Moldovan Cookie Package from my mom

Thursday, September 8, 2016


... And not only did I survive... I am thriving!! haha I secretly pumped my fist in my mind when I got to the MTC because Mom had always stressed for me to be careful and safe during our summer adventures so I would be 100% ready to learn and grow in the MTC. Well, I'm here with no broken bones and have memories from this summer that I will cherish for eternity! 

I don't even know where to begin... First off, thanks to Matt and Jessica/fam and Leah and Geoff/fam for having me stay with them until I got to the MTC. IT was the perfect way to transition to the MTC. I was super glad that you guys weren't there to send me off to the MTC because it would've been SO hard to leave you guys like that. Instead, I was super happy and excited.

Right when I got my name tag I knew that I was going to be stretched of my abilities to learn Romanian. My name is now Varstnic Ditto (pronounced Verstnic, clench your teeth when you say ver and you'l get the sound right! haha) The MTC is a truly sacred place that is filled with the spirit. I could feel that spirit immediately. I was excited to learn that I would be in a trio with two other elders (Varstnic Baker si Loder). I was even more excited to find that Varstnic Baker LOVES to climb and mtn bike (he's a dirt jumper, and Varstnic Loder is a surfer dude and longboarder, Coop would love him). We got to our classroom to find that there is only one sister (sora in Romana) here at the MTC going to Romania. So that is our District, and that's who I spend my whole day with every day of the week! It is fun being the only Romanian elders as everyone thinks it is super cool and unique. I love thinking that out of 3,000 missionaries here at the MTC, I was one of four that the Lord called to serve his children in Romania. Our branch/ zone consists of us 4 Romanians, and then 43 italians!!! So crazy. The Anzianos (elders in italiani) have been so friendly to us, and we spend our exercise and meal times with them. It's also fun to hear the similarities with the limbas (languages). 
Varstnic Ditto's Name Tag
Thursday... might have been the longest day of my life! It is insane how much you learn if you are in a classroom for 6 and studying for 4. I remember feeling very overwhelmed tired the whole day. Our District is blessed with 3 fantastic teachers, all of whom served in Romania and got back within the last year.

That night, the branch presidency met with our district and we all had interviews with the Branch President, President Taylor, I had a nice interview with him and shortly after the interviews, I was assigned to be the District Leader. I was humbled by this assignment and also excited to improve my leadership skills. If there is one thing I have learned here, it is that being a missionary means losing yourself in serve to others. (I'll talk more about that later) I have already participated in some leadership training meetings and a branch council meeting. I thought a lot about Dad as I attended these meetings, and how he would participate and discuss with fellow leaders. 

Each morning we wake up at 6 and do our push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, and then shower, get ready, and go to breakfast by 7:20. The food was so good at first- I couldn't believe there were donuts and muffins and P.O.G. (passion, orange, guava juice) etc EVERY DAY! haha ...but don't worry Mom I have restrained myself to only one donut at breakfast hahahahaha But I actually am holding myself back. I'm sticking to salad for at least lunch each day and eat lots of fruit... and drink POG like ever meal because wouldn't you guys???  Yesterday though, the "prophecy" that an elder randomly gave us concerning Jeremiah 4: 19-20 (read at dinner and you guys will CRACK UP)... came to pass. Oh my bowels! We were late for an appointment with our simpatizant (instigators) because the bathroom was calling our names... yikes. Anyways, I'm recommitted to rationing the good stuff and eating the healthy stuff haha. 

Now getting spiritual... being a missionary is honestly different than I had envisioned. Although it is different, it feels so natural. I am so glad that I prepared in so many ways for this, and that our family is so dedicated to the gospel. Mom and Dad, you guys ROCK! Thank you for being such great examples and parents. Tyler, Alysee, Nate, Coop, and Chloe, YOU GUYS ARE ROCKSTARS! Thank you for being the best siblings ever and teaching me Christ-like love. Everything is focused on the missionary purpose, which is, well I'll give it to you guys in Romanian and you guys can decipher. The only problem with writing romana on the computer is that I can't use accents so ya'll might have to look it up. De-i invita pe altii sa vina la Hristos, ajutundu-i sa premeasca Evanghelia restaurata prin credinta in Isus Hristos si ispasirea Sa pocainta, botez, primirea darului Duhului Sfant, si indurarea pana la Sfarsit. (basically inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through the doctrine of Christ.) THIS is what the mission is all about. It's not about me, it's about God's children who are ready to become converted to Christ through His restored gospel. That is my purpose, and everything I do is centered around that- learning the language, personal and companionship study, exercising, teaching, ALL OF IT! 

This is probably the biggest thing I have learned while hear this week. All I am doing is focusing on others, and because of that I too am becoming a more converted disciple of Christ. 

With that being said, the MTC is not about learning the language. Crazy right? Learning the language simply helps me fulfill my purpose as a missionary- bringing others to Christ! That is the beauty of being a missionary.  That is not to say that I haven't stressed about the language or have doubted my ability to learn it- because I definitely have! It has been a struggle for me to convey my feelings about the gospel in Romanian, when I have gotten so good at doing that in English! I've thought, being an English speaking missionary would be so easy! (NOTE: I am not saying anything negative about English elders, I am positive there are many struggles they have that I will not have) This past week most of my personal study has been focused on recognizing the spirit and how to always have the companionship of the Holy Ghost with me at all times, as the Spirit is the teacher, not me! I can lecture all I want and testify all I want, but if the Spirit is not there with me, then it will mean nothing to the investigator, and they won't come closer to Christ. SO HOW IN THE HECK CAN I HAVE THE SPIRIT WITH ME IF I CAN'T SPEAK ROMANIAN? This was the question of the week for me. In class one day we watched a video of some English elders teaching an investigator about how to pray, and I got pretty discouraged because I wanted so badly to do what they did- to be able to speak freely without the restriction of trying to speak a new language! I just wanted soooo badly to speak with the spirit in Romanian, and say things that the spirit prompts me to say in Romanian. As I studied and pondered about this, I realized some very important things that have given me a new sense of confidence and purpose. The Lord knows my strengths. I feel like I have been blessed with a powerful testimony and a way to convey truth with the spirit. But, the Lord is using this new "trial" of learning Romanian to shape me into a more effective tool!! He has given me this opportunity to become more humble, and rely on the Lord to make my weaknesses into strengths through him- Oh ya I just gave a talk about that 3 weeks ago and I am already seeing more evidence of the truthfulness of this scripture!!! I can't copy and past on this computer, but read D&C 88: 76-84. The Lord has promised me SO many blessings as humble myself, work diligently and
"tarry" here at the MTC. Such beautiful promises that have given me a new sense of strength with learning the language so that I can fulfill my purpose as a missionary.

I know that as I continue to work my hardest and rely on the Lord, HE WILL HELP ME LEARN ROMANIAN! It is already so incredible how much I have learned in one week. Last Sunday I decided to bear my testimony in romana. I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to go up and do that, so I did! I was able to say many things, even if it I butchered some words, but the important thing is the spirit was with me. I have learned that the best way to learn a new language is to speak it, so I use every opportunity I get to use Romanian. I got a lot of compliments after bearing my testimony as the italianis were impressed that I could do that after 3 days at the MTC. 

In all honesty, the language is coming along nicely for me. I have been able to understand most of what our investigators say, and each day as I practice new words and phrases, and memorize new things, the spirit helps me with the rest. 

I had the best experience in the whole wide world yesterday concerning the language and teaching our investigator. We had our last discussion with "Mele" (our 4th lesson) and we decided that instead of creating a lesson outline and translating it, we would create some questions to help fulfill her needs, and have more of a discussion with her, rather than a lecture. We felt like we needed the spirit with us more than in the past, so thus our outline was basically "teach by the spirit" with a focus on baptism and repentance. We were all pretty nervous going into the lesson, but once we asked her a question, the spirit took the lesson from there. We were able to answer many of her questions and I got to tlak to her about baptism and the covenants we make when we are baptized. I then had a strong feeling that it was time to invite her to be baptized. I had practiced memorizing the baptism invitation in romana for the whole day, so I was able to look her in the eyes and invite her to baptism. It was so cool!! .. but then she said that she couldn't because her family would basically disown her. I was super bummed but then I remembered a scripture that we had talked about earlier that day in Mark 9:23 about all things are possible through the Lord, and then we bore testimony of this. she started to get teary and then said something like "I know I need to get baptized but I can't because of my family". And she kept saying stuff but we were like oh man, what do we do? And I testified again and then she asked for a piece of paper and she wrote something down... SHE WAS SAYING SHE WOULD BE BAPTIZED ALL ALONG! haha We were STOKED!!!! An incredible feeling of love for Mele and joy just over came me. The spirit was so strong and I started crying too!!! It was one of the happiest moments of my life, honestly. There is no greater feeling in the world than having an investigator accept the invitation to be baptized- to get on the path to eternal happiness! I am so glad I had the opportunity to feel this so early in my time as a missionary. It was one of those times where I just couldn't help but say "I  love being a missionary! I cannot wait to have so many more of these sort of experiences for the next two years.

I have so much more to say, and sorry if some of the sentences don't make sense, I'm trying to write fast so I can give you guys as much deets as possible!

Some exciting things that happened this week...
-Chad Lewis (former BYU and NFL player) came to speak to us Sunday night... INCREDIBLE! It was such a motivating talk. 

-I saw Mason at the MTC! Super fun to see how he has grown as a missionary.
Elders and Friends Forever! Mason Barduhn and I
-Blayre sent me a package!! THANKS AUNTIE!! I love you! I use the highlighters so much and the snickers bar came in clutch last night haha.

-The most exciting thing... MY FAVORITE APOSTLE GAVE THE DEVOTIONAL TUESDAY NIGHT!!! Can you guess who it was? Elder Christofferson!!!!! He gave an incredible talk about teaching repentance and the sacred role of being a missionary. Something that he said that really stood out to me was that the apostles need ME to help with their commission to teach all nations of the gospel, but most importantly, the Savior NEEDS me. There are people that he needs my talents and abilities to teach and invite them to come unto Christ. Ah there is so much more I could say about the talk...

And some funny things that happened.. mostly language mistakes hahaha)

-The funniest one from me was as I was teaching about the "fruits of the spirit", but instead I said the Spirit gives us fruit. Then Varstnic Loder leaned over to me and said, "I think you said the spirit gives us fruit!"" hahaha We all laughed at that one!

- The funniest language mistake was while we were teaching about the apostasy. Varstnic Baker said, "Jesus Christ MURDERED His apostles", and then me and Varstnic Loder repeated the same thing making sure it sounded right. We didn't even know we made the mistake until Mele, our investigator, told us yesterday! We laughed so hard!!!

I gotta go! I've spent a little to much time writing this week! Just know I am happy and am working my hardest. 

I love you guys so much. We really do have the best family on earth, and are winning the world series of family awesomeness!!!

Till next Thursday,

Varsntic Ditto

Cream Soda Tree

Picture I like...Jesus Walking on Water

Classic MTC Picture

Comps and Romanian Flag

First Lesson Outline

How Romanian sit while waiting for the bus

The Trio
Varstnic Ditto

Varstnicii In Room

ROU Classroom
ROU Flag In Room

Studying With A View

The Classic MTC Pose

The Trio