Alex's Mission Address:

Elder Alex McLean Ditto

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

Email -

Monday, October 31, 2016

Life isn't a pony farm... it's better!

Hoorah for P-day! I always stress out a little because I want to write detailed and meaningful letters to you guys. To do this, it requires timeee which I don't really have! So I am limiting myself to 30 minutes. I have literally prayed to Heavenly Father to help me be able to write effectively and efficiently in this allotted time that I have. Here goes nothing!

Looking back at this week, I did so much. I traveled to 2 new cities, went to the Hungarian/Romanian border, went to a wine festival (no wine was drunk), mountain biked, may or may not have had a turn at a rock climbing wall in a park, ehem..., played pool, saw way too many drunk people and paint huffers (yes they do what the name implies), offered to buy a gypsy skirt for 3000 lei ($800), got my first Romanian haircut, ate way too much delicious Romanian food, and a whole lotta other stuff. I'll try to cover the most meaningful things that happened in this letter! 
Crazy donuts -- crazy expensive and not too good

First haircut in Romania - going European

Festival Vinului

At festival with Pavel (not a member of the church)

Festival Vinului

Festival of the Wine (no drinking)

Festival during the day

Hungarian pastry.. curtos calacs HEAVEN

Enjoying curtos calacs

Rock climbing wall... I couldn't help it -) I did get a cool contact through this! I try to find people through learning about things I am interested in.

So Zone Conference was this week. It was all the way in Cluj-Napoca...a 6 hour train ride! Elder Giron and I first took a train to the beautiful city of Oradea, where we stayed with the elders there, and then we went to Cluj (another 4 hours) in the morning. Elder Giron and I did not bring any rain equipment, and this turned out to be a big problem-o! It POURED! Thus, we were SOAKED. All part of the fun! We went all the way back to Arad that night. Crazy but wonderful day! All of the missionaries in our zone are incredible people. It was great to hear from President and Sister Ivory as well!
Inside of Arad Gara (train station)

I have learned so much this week- about myself and about my role in helping others come unto Christ. This week we taught Cati and her sister the first lesson. I shared to first vision, and although it was kinda choppy, the spirit was very strong. Cati said she got the shivers! They seemed like they were progressing and I was really growing to love them. Then, two days later, we visited with them, they had kept their commitment and everything seemed to be going great! Until... they said that they were not willing to change religions. This is a big problem in Romanian. If you are Orthodox (almost everyone is), it is considered a sin to change religions. Thus, most peoples brains are brainwashed with this idea. I was so heartbroken that they were not wanting to continue with learning about Christ's church. They said that we are always welcomed to come and see them. It is so hard when you have something that you know will bless someones life tremendously, but they decline the offer. So, I was pretty bummed out for the rest of the day. Elder Giron helped me realize that we succeed when we invite, and that we did help them come closer to Christ as their faith was strengthened. Nonetheless, no more teaching Cati. :((( The rest of the day was difficult, as nobody seemed to want to hear our message. As we were walking, I saw some graffiti art (very popular here in ROU) that said "Life isn't a Pony farm". I just had to laugh out loud and say Amen! Missionary work is super hard and discouraging at times. Life in general is like this! So... how can we get past this discouragement?

Life is BETTER than a pony farm!

Well, I got my answer the next day. Elder Day gave us a call, asking if we could come to Nadlac with him, Sister Day, and Sora Krnacs (member of the branch), to move a stove into Sora Krnacs home. We of course accepted this opportunity to help out! Sora Krnacs lives right on the border of Hungary (believe me, I wanted sooo bad to run over really quick to Hungary). If you saw where she lived and went in to her house, you would feel like a king or queen. Literally. She has no running water, electricity, plumbing, etc. It is just her, and her 60 chickens, some annoying geese, a couple goats,  and some dogs and cats. 
Sora Krancs street... SOO CLOSE to Hungary

Sora Krnacs home

Sora Krnacs (sorry its so blurry)

She has been literally freezing at night, as her stove that was made with the house (built in the 1800's) was broken. One day she decided to break it down and haul it outside. Elder Day found out about this, and decided that we need to get her a new stove. This stove, that was delivered to her driveway, is 230kg... about 600lbs. INCREDIBLY HEAVY. We had to get it off the truck, and into her house. I am pretty sure we had some angels helping us, because a couple times... well I won't get into details :) I am honestly not sure how we got it off the truck. We had her neighbor helps us, and he found 2 metal pipes in which we slid the stove slowly down. Sora Krnacs was soooo grateful. This woman is so independent, and it was hard for her to accept so much help. She told us at the end that she will think of us when she is warm at night. This just overwhelmed me so much. Here I am, depressed because I miss my family and people won't talk to me, yet I have everything I could possibly need and want, and I still go out and get covrige everyday!? It almost makes me sick thinking about how much I have. As I left Sora Krnacs humble aboud, a feeling of joy and gratitude swept over me. I felt true joy! 
Near death experience trying to get the stove off of the truck

Celebrating a bit too soon.

Inside a beautiful Hungarian church

These saints in Romania are truly the salt of the earth. They are pioneers. They sacrifice everything to be able to partake of the sacrament and be closer to the Savior. Some people, Sora Krancs for example, have to bike in the freezing cold, and then take a train to get to church, and then go do the same thing back. And we complain about 9 am church!

We all have so much to be grateful for. So how can we get passed feelings of self-pidy and discouoragment? S E R V E WITH L O V E. That's it! And that is what I am trying to work on while I am here in Romania. There are so many ways to serve, and not all of them have to be heavy like moving a 230kg stove. Just start with a smile or talk to someone!
Fancy meal on transfers day

Drumat... Romanian dish. INCREDIBLE!!!!

Really quick- I also gave my first talk in Romanian this week at church. Elder Giron helped me translate my talk during the week, super grateful for his help. I could feel the spirit testify of my words, and I am very grateful for the opportunity that I had to address the wonderful saints of the branch. I received many compliments :)

Pday [Preparation day - that happens once-a-week where the missionaries do laundry, grocery shopping, emails, and have some fun!].. Today... was INCREDIBLE! We found a Specialized Bike Shop this week, and made friends with the owner. He invited us to rent some bikes sometime, and that is what we did! 
Specialized bike store... rad! (this pictures is especially for Mike Stapleton)

We ended up doing some mountain biking in "la tara"... the country side. SO RAD!!! I felt like I was in Ireland or something. We biked along the River Muresi in fields of green and beautifulness. It was so nice to enjoy the great outdoors. I felt at home. I BIKED IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OF EUROPE. HOW COOL IS THAT? I still can't get over it. Mike (Bro Stapleton), we'll have to do a bike trip  to Romania sometime :)
Bike ROU!

River Muresi

Funny Minon hay tarp

Missionary life is just the best. It is hard but sooooo worth it- and I even fit in some time to have some fun! 

I still pray for each one of you every day. I love you all so much, and am glad all is well in good ol' Yakima.

We are winning the world series of family awesomness for sure!

All my love,

Elder Ditto

Tennis Courts -- CLAY!!!

Oradea Centru 2


Track in Arad

Pool with Manu

Monday, October 24, 2016

On the Lord's Errand.. and Time!

BUNA DIMINEATA!!! Wohooo dawgy that was a crazy week. CRAZY AWESOME!!! Being a missionary is fantastic. I had so many experiences this week where I felt a reassurance that this is what God wants me to be doing. Although this week was crazy awesome, that is not to say that it was also a very hard week. That is the interesting thing about being a missionary- it is hard but also amazing. 

It is not like I did anything really cool this week (although I had some incredible pastries and viewed some stunning sunrises and sunsets, and also walked some jaw dropping streets of Arad). 
My favorite picture of the week!

Gypsy Mansion

The thing that made it so awesome was that I talked to people and learned their story; I ministered to families of the branch; I taught the gospel to people who are ready to make commitments to follow the Savior; and I even got doors slammed on me. 

Everyone does have cool doors in Romania!

Wait. What? Yes even getting doors slammed in the face are awesome experiences because when I endure these "not successful experiences," I am showing God my COMMITMENT to teach repentance and baptize converts.
What I am trying to say that I've learned is that attitude is everything. If I go out with an attitude of "everything and everyone is awesome," with the desire to talk to people and serve them, then BAM! I can find joy, even on the darkest days. This is something that applies to everyone! 
Church near our apartment
Podgoria at dusk
Statue in centru

The way of life in Romania is very different than America. Almost everyone is poor- we are talking 1 to 3 bedroom little communist block apartments. They do not have much! This has really put my life in perspective.  Anyone who reads this letter has more than a Romanian has (minus the corrupt people who have Bentleys or Porches). We have SO much to be thankful for. This humility has really made the Romanian people rely on God for comfort and strength. The cool part about this is that as a missionary, I can help them receive even more comfort and blessings in their lives! I am just giddy to help people see this. 
Beautiful building in Arad
Teatru at night

Much of the days here in Arad is spent contacting, where we are trying to have "meaningful conversations" (this does not have to be about the gospel, although the hope is that by acting like normal people, others will notice us and wonder why we are here... then BOOM! Gospel conversation.) Even though my Romanian is still poor, I try my best to talk to everyone. I have had so many awesome experiences already by just "opening my mouth." One day, I was talking to a man on the tram and I was asking him about some sort of tree... random... but when I got off the train, a kid my age stopped me and said that he noticed that I was trying to speak Romanian. We chatted for a while (in English) and I ended up giving him a Book of Mormon, and we are meeting up with him this week! Little things like that remind me that God has prepared his children in Romania to hear the gospel, and all I need to do is open my mouth, or be a friend.
Love the reflection of the building in the street puddles.

Many awkward situations have come from my tactic of "opening my mouth"... such as when I was talking to a bunch of punk teenagers who laughed at everything I said. At one point I was referring to my companion, Elder Giron, and said "colega mea"... which means my female companion. HA!!! They were laughing so hard. I didn't even realize that I made that mistake until Elder Giron told me when we got off. That was a good laugh!

Which leads me to the next subject... my companion! Elder Giron is from Oregon in a little town outside of Portland. He enjoys photography, music, and running. He is Mexican! He knows Spanish as well haha. Thankfully, he is not a duck fan! He is a fantastic missionary, and a pro trainer. He knows Romanian really well, and is so good at helping me learn from my mistakes. He gives constructive criticism, which is so crucial for me to be able to progress.  

Another struggle this week was I got a nasty head cold thing on Tuesday... It was pretty bad but after some medicine and an extra hour of sleep, I had enough energy to go out and do the work. Thankfully, I am feeling so much better now! First time being sick away from home... check!
Arad at dusk

Since I am the branch clerk, I had a clerk finance meeting with some MLS (member and leader services) representatives that came down from Germany. It was a great training meeting. I really enjoyed learning about how sacred tithing funds are, and how to properly record financial transactions with the church programs. I am being prepped for being a financial adviser and future ward clerk! 

We also got to visit many members of the Branch this week. I have loved getting to know them and build a relationship with them. I truly love ministering to the members of the branch. I just think about how Christ would do the same thing! I love the branch, and we are currently seeing some growth in church attendance! Yesterday we had 25 people! 

I am giving a talk in Sacrament next week.. in Romanian! Prayers please! 

The language is... super tough! I have been hard on myself this week. Elder Giron shared a scripture with me in Mosiah 4:27, which talks about how God does not expect me to "run faster than I have strength", he just wants me to do my best. This really hit me! I need more patience for the language, my teaching abilities - everything! I am trying to have a more realistic perspective this week and work towards smaller goals that will lead to great things! 

The miracle of the week... I am going to try to keep this simple. In the MTC, one of my teachers shared with us about her investigator, Cati, who was never baptized because she randomly disappeared. My teacher one day remembered that Cati may have moved in with her daughter, and she was going to email the sister missionaries in Arad with the possible addresses of where to find her. So I got called to serve in Arad, where Cati supposedly lives, and I got the info from the sister missionaries about Cati and her Investigator record.

One day, an appointment didn't fall through, so we decided to go and try to find Cati. Apparently she is a "golden investigator," but nobody could seem to find where she lives! So, after walking a bunch and not finding her, I kind of got a little discouraged and thought to myself, "I'll just look for her again in a couple months." We decided to go to one more possible street, Strada Dornei, and look there. We approached an intersection and decided to pray as to which way we should go. I felt like we should go left, and Elder Giron felt the same. We walked a ways, trying to find the cross street, Ghica Voda, and finally found it! 

Centru Street 2

We passed a couple that was sitting on these steps outside of their home, and we didn't talk to them, but instead talked to a guy who was sticking his head out of a window... not sure why we chose him haha. We asked him if he knew a Cati that lived on this street, and he motioned for the lady who was sitting on the steps to come over, that these dudes were wondering about her sister. I was like NO WAY WERE WE SERIOUSLY LED PERFECTLY TO CATI!? She yelled for Cati to come out, we explained who we were and she was a little confused at first, but after I showed a pic of my MTC picture, she was like no way! 
Me, Iuliana and Cati

I got kind of overwhelmed, just so humbled that God would lead us to find this lady. Cati invited us in to her home (which like never happens with strangers in Romania) and she said that she, her daughter, and her sister (the lady that was sitting on the steps), were interested in our message. We had a great visit and scheduled to go back the next day (Sunday). We couldn't believe it... three new investigators!!! I said a great prayer of gratitude that night to Heavenly Father, for guiding us to these three individuals. 
Me, Cati and Mia (Cati's daughter)

So the more I thought about what I knew about the Cati from my teacher at the MTC and what I learned about the Cati that I met on Strada Dornei, the more that the two didn't seem to mesh. After much pondering, and talking with Elder Giron and some of the Sisters who knew Cati, I realized that I don't think we met the same Cati! This is weird for a lot of reasons (too long to tell), but after I get some more details, I will confirm. Regardless of this mystery, God did lead us to these individuals, and they want the gospel. So I am super grateful for that! 

Hopefully that all made sense. Sometimes missionary work is like being a detective. Super fun!

God's hand is so evident in my every day life. As I strive to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and be obedient, God will work miracles through me, a servant of the Lord. I know that because I have seen this and it is also in the scriptures, which makes it a guarantee haha. 
Gyspy on a carriage.

So now I will answer a couple questions about Romania that I have gotten...

I either write my emails at the church, or at the Internet Cafes. There are lots of them in Romania. The one that I have been to smells like smoke so bad- even worse than Rick's house! I used the computer for an hour and a half and paid 4 lei, so a dollar! Super duper cheap.
Cool home

Brohans... There are SO MANY NICE CARS IN ROMANIA. Bentely's, Porsche, Renalt, Range Rover, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, BMW, Audi... these are almost typical to see in Arad. The economy is very corrupt, so either you are rich, or you are poor... almost everyone is poor. You guys would drool if you walked through the streets!
European chocolate mixed with American candy=Heaven

We eat out a little too much :) The food is so cheap here, and delicious! Covrige is my favorite, especially Chocolate Covrige. It is a soft dough in a circle shape filled with nutella. Need I say more?
Chocolate Covrige

Shaorma is soooo good too. All the pasteries are just incredible. Pizza is really big here. Sometimes we will go and get pizza for dinner. It is way better as it is less greasy and lighter than American pizza.
Cool street in Arad

Centru at dusk

Most cities in Romania are like other European countries where they have a "Centru." A center of town where most of the shops are and there are beautiful buildings and churches, etc. Within most of the big buildings that surround the Centru, are little communities that are inside the walls of the buildings. You can only get into the little communities if you can get through the door, so when we contact these places, we have to ring a random person who lives there and ask them if they will press the button to let us in. Sometimes nobody will let us in... lame!!
Cool building
Beautiful church

Almost everyone smokes here... it is kind of ridiculous! 

I bought a pomegranate at the market.

The smells of Arad are... interesting. When you walk past a bakery or restaurant, it smells amazing! But then you go past a sewer drainage and it smells like puke and poop and it is just horrible. Some of the smells are indescribably bad!

One day we were on the tram and there was an old man that was making puking noises... super weird and creepy, but I couldn't help but chuckling! 
Hungarian church at night

I am so happy that everyone is doing well back in Yakima. I miss all of you, but know that we are all being blessed for my service! Glad the water heater issue got solved!! Thank you all for your prayers and emails- they make my day!

I am happy and working hard, and pray for you guys every day!

Till next time. ATTACK THE DAY!

Love, Elder Ditto