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, December 26, 2016

Christmas X Romania

Craciun fericit si La multi ani!! 
Elder Ditto and Frozen Willows

I hope that everyone had a magical Christmas and was surrounded by family. My highlight of the week was definitelyyyyyy skyping the fam!!! It was a surreal feeling as I went throughout the day, thinking about how I am actually going to TALK and SEE my family! 
Skyping with family

I tried to fill Christmas day with things that I would have done on Christmas at home that would help me to not miss the great traditions that we have at home. I made banana pancakes for breakfast, played with the children at the Christmas activity after church, ate lots of junk food, and visited members with Romanian carols! Finally the hour came to skype, and was the best hour ever!!! 
Caroling with the Sisters and Sora Mogos

We got a lot of oranges as we caroled!
After church on Christmas Day we had a light lunch and played games with the kids

Little Kevin Dabbing

Elder Giron taking an afternoon Christmas nap

I later thought about how crazy it is that we only get to skype twice a year. To everyone who thinks it is crazy, well in my opinion they are right! But there is a reason. I went to the Doctrine and Covenants and read over some of the blessings that God gave his chosen disciples and missionaries as they were called to go and serve missions in the eastern countries (love that!!). 
Frozen trees in centru

Icy cold tram

In the early days of the church, these men were called to leave everything behind- even their wife and children- to go and proclaim the fullness of the teachings of Jesus Christ to people all over the world. They did not necessarily know how long they would serve for and all they had was their testimonies, the truest Book on earth (the Book of Mormon), and the strength of the Lord. Gosh, wouldn't this be hard??!! I have often thought to myself if I could really do that. To an extent I am, but I don't have a family of my own, I can write home every week and have the support of other missionaries and many resources to help me along the way. 

So, why in the heck would these noble men leave everything behind to share this same message that is still and will be forever shared to God's children around  the world? Well, it is actually kind of simple. It is because they know that God's church has been restored to the earth in these last days and their lives have been forever changed because of the blessings they have received from the knowledge of God's plan for them. That's why they went. 

So back to "why in the heck can we not skype more than twice a year?" Well, to keep it simple, it's because I know that this church is true, just like why those missionaries left their families for years at a time to proclaim the gospel. I guess that is a little extreme, but that is truly the root to this question, and the root of why I am even on a mission!

As a result of having this testimony, and knowing that I can be with my family forever, made this time to skype with them that much more special! The gospel of Jesus Christ truly brings families together- that is the wonderful thing. I saw evidence of that again as I skyped- seeing the support and the gratitude of my service from every single one of my family members. Yes, I miss them, and yes, some days are just dang hard without them, but knowing that they are supporting me and want me to be here makes it all worth it. All because of our faith in Jesus Christ and the desire to have others have the same joy that we have. 
Bros.. check out my guns!! Jk, ROMANIAN SOCCER JERSEY!!!

This week before Christmas was so wonderful. It was spent bringing Christmas cheer to everyone that we came in contact with. We caroled till out mouths fell off and visited many members, eating their thoughtfully prepared food. We were treated like kings, and almost felt guilty as these humble members truly give us their very best. In turn, this gives me the desire to be the very best missionary I can be. 
Sausage, Wild Boar, and Masked Potatoes!!!!

Going along with the food thing, we visited one member in Lipova who had told us we needed to fast before coming to her home. Well, we kind of forgot and had eaten lunch just before. We arrived at her house and she quickly began hauling out the piles of food that she had prepared for us. PILES of mici (some sort of pig sausage), STACKS of meat from a freshly killed wild boar, and GLOBS of mashed potatoes. And she expected Elder Giron, Elder and Sister Days, and I to eat it all. I usually cover for the other missionaries by eating their portions that they don't want (It is disrespectful to not finish all of the food that Romanians prepare for you). The cool part is members really like me because of the fact that I DO eat all of the food and I try to be animated with my "thanks." Anyways, I could not finish this lady's food for us. I tried so hard, but after eating five brownies and then seeing another tray of them being brought out, I knew I met my match! To make it worse, they watch you eat and won't take a bite. We rolled our way back into the car after that hefty meal and were a little shaken up for the rest of the night!
Ping pong

Pingpong District plus Ioana

We also went to Cluj-Napoca for Zone Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday. Lots of traveling, but such a wonderful experience as we got to hear form President and Sister Ivory. I had my first interview with President Ivory and expressed my desire to really become a better missionary teaching and language-wise. He told me that if I did three specific things my language would "explode" in three weeks. This really impacted me and could feel that this was a promise inspired from heaven. I have been working really hard on doing these three things, all of which are helping me improve my language and teaching abilities. I have faith that this promise will come to pass! I am truly thankful for the care the God has for each one of his children, and know that he wants us to be happy and to progress. Through him, we can do this!

We almost missed our train coming back from Cluj, but thankfully we found found a taxi as we sprinted throughout the city trying to locate one! This is just one big adventure and I love it!
Alex Aionanei

Alex and I

Elder Giron and I on Christmas morning

Arad Branch

I have loved every moment of this Christmas season, and have truly felt the love and reality of the Savior as I have tried to focus my thoughts and efforts on serving others and doing what Christ would do. Thank you all again for you thoughts, prayers, and letters. All of these have given me great strength!

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

Love,  Alex

Sora Idiart

Sora Purstchert

Arad Branch on Christmas Day

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas Comes to Life

Craciun fericit si la multi ani!!!

Currently typing my email with a haze of vaping smoke (I think blueberry flavor) over me as the smecer [guy] to the right of me is getting his hourly dose of whatever kind of addicting drug vaping contains... ahhh the life of typing emails in an internet cafe!
Arad in the snow

It has been fa-reezing in Arad! Just like Yakima apparently! It snowed one day and now there is alot of ice and snow! Yesterday we were doing some villa knocking during the evening time and by the end of the time, I couldn't actually walk right because my toes were so frozen! This was actually kind of a cool feeling because that evening was like the classic example of what I have always imagined missionary service to be like in Europe. I also thought about our ancestors who crossed the frozen plains of America. Because of their sacrifice, I am in Romania, preaching the gospel and bringing others to the knowledge of Heavenly Father's wonderful plan for us. Truly, we are all apart of Daniel of Olds' prophecy that the Lord's Kingdom will fill the whole earth, as a stone cut out of the mountain without hands...US!
Selfie with the Dacia... the most common car in Romania!
Elder Ditto in a very European-esque field
Old man thinks he can keep up with young drivers.

A couple funny moments... We were bloc knocking one day and a man came to the door... with no pants on! I threw-up in my mouth a little. I also "puped" three times in two minutes... No not that kind of pooped! A common greeting between the older generation of Romanians is to "Pup" one another... just kisses on the cheeks... one on each side of course! Well, during the Christmas activity, the ladies of the branch expected me and Elder Giron to pup them! I am basically an expert puper now, I can even do the fake lip smack! Hahaha ohhhh I love Romanian culture!
Beginning English class I help teach each week as part of our weekly community service we provide.

Ever since I came into this world I have loved Christmas. I just love the feeling of Christmas, the smell of Christmas, the sights of Christmas, etc. Arad has all of those, especially in the center of town. A ginormous Christmas tree, the smell of cinnamon cortos kalacs filling the air, Romanian families taking selfies and us missionaries sharing the Light the World video. On top of all of these wonderful things, the real reason why I love Christmas is because of the time that we have to really focus on Christ. Yes, I have always strived to focus Christmas on the Savior by serving others, reading Luke 2, etc... but this year as a missionary was a little different.

The thing I love about being a missionary is that I basically don't have any worries except for finding people to teach the message of the gospel. This lack of "extra worries" allows me to try and focus all my thoughts on the Savior and how I can follow His example. I have really tried to do this a little extra during this Christmas time. I have nothing but time to serve right now! This is truly a great blessing as I get to strive to do my best and walk in His footsteps. Walking in His footsteps can mean many things, but I have tried to focus on not being judgmental towards others and "departing of my substances" and giving to others. 
Banana Bread for everyone!
Cartea de vizita

Elder Giron and I had many wonderful "light the world" experiences as Christ did. Some noteworthy things to mention include baking banana bread and attaching a "Light the World" pass along card to the baggy. We gave the bread to people who we have had good conversations with and to people who looked hungry.
Arad Branch Christmas Activity- Sarmale!

We also helped plan and prepare for our branch Christmas activity. We made 300 sarmale's!!! Crazy. Sarmale is sooo good and the Christmas staple food here. It is fun to make, as you put the meat and rice mixture into a pickled cabbage leaf, wrap it up, and cook it in water for a while! I will make it for you guys when I get back :) We had such a fun time with the members- all are so wonderful. I really enjoyed this time as it felt like I was back in Summitview Ward prepping for our party! The missionaries and Sora Mogos sang a bunch of carols during the party- even one in Hungarian!

We also visited a sweet little old man that I found out didn't have a working heating system in his little home. I remembered that we had an extra little space heater that we have never used. The next day, we delivered it to him and visited with Him for a little. He was so thankful, and we were so humbled. 
Christmas Tree at Primaria

Elder Giron and I also prepared some bags that had clothes that we found in our apartment that weren't being used. We spent one evening walking around centru in search of homeless people and beggars to give these bags to. Normally, we avoid beggars, but today was the opposite. There was one that we have seen before and doesn't have shoes on. We gave him a pair of dress shoes that fit him perfectly and also the bag with clothes. It felt so good to help somebody that has so little, and to not judge them by their looks or their actions. 
Free tea at our favorite bookstore... tea is very common here. Don't worry- it is just fruit infused!

These experiences of service is what has brought me a feeling of lasting joy that I have never quite felt, in a time where I was sure I would be homesick. Why does serving others make you feel so good? Well, the answer is in Mosiah 2:17

 "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

Yup- when we serve others we feel the confirming love and approval of the One who never forgot the poor, the needy, the sick. We feel the love of God!!! This scripture has truly come to life this past week. I know that when we choose to shine our light with those around us, we won't only bless the lives of others, but our lives will be blessed in return! 

I love the Savior and am so thankful for His perfect example.

Let's all go out and find ways to Light the World this week! I cannot wait to facetime you guys in 6 days!!! 
Surprise lunch with Sora Mogos and the Sisters

Ciorba de perisoara... YUMMM

All my love,
Snow on Arad buildings
Beautiful primaria during Christmas time

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Tale of Faith

Buna ziua prieteni și familie!

This week was a crazy week! I want to start this letter off with a topic that was on my mind all week...Faith in Jesus Christ! This week I really tried to get a better understanding of this principle and how I can really show my faith in Jesus Christ.  This all started with a million dollar question... What does faith in Jesus Christ even mean? Take a moment to think about what faith in Jesus Christ means to you..........................................................................................................................

So it all started with bumping into an old man on the tramvai [train], who after a nice long conversation, ended the conversation by offering to hook me up with his grand daughter! Now, a couple of weeks ago, I would have just shook my head like an innocent little boy, but I know some Romanian now and I understood the offer... As good looking as she was (hahahaha - just kidding I am a missionary) I kindly declined saying that as a missionary I need to be focused! The blessing of this experience is that I could understand what the dude was saying! The Lord is truly helping me (in His time) learn Romanian. I feel like I am a little better everyday and try to use Romanian at every opportunity. I even translated for Sora Day in sacrament meeting! I am determined to grab this language by the horns.

Another funny little story, I decided to talk with a little gypsy family while waiting for the tramvai, hoping that they wouldn't just lead the conversation into money... and they did... the lady was trying to sell me Disney princess perfume! Ha! 
Ping pong with Rafi

So this week was a balance of missionary work and branch presidency work. I have really enjoyed learning about how the leadership of the church works ( I am even reading Handbook 2!) Elder Giron and work pretty closely with Elder and Sister Day (The incredible senior couple) to visit members, make sure the church building is functioning properly, we do tithing, tithing settlements, prepare financial audits, amend the member list, etc. 

We visited some great members this week. The members here are so strong, and I have been so blessed by their examples. We visited one lady who is the only member of her family, and her parents basically disowned her for choosing to go to church. She has some crazy boys and her 7 year-old, Luca, is a ball of fire! He and I did math equations and played tic-tac-toe while the others talked. So fun!
Pizza night with the Manus and the Days

We also had a pizza game-night for two less-actives boys. We watched The Hope of God's Light and then had a serious game of Jenga with delicious homemade pizza made by the Days. We had so much fun and one of the boys texted us after saying that he felt closer to God during the game night.  SUCCESS!!! I did a little heal click because that was the whole purpose of the event! It is wonderful seeing the changes, small yet profound, that people have made as we strive to love them and help them build their relationship with God.
31 blocks high!

Manu focusing

During church a lady asked for a blessing and I had the opportunity to anoint her with the oil. For some strange reason I put the oil on the top of her forehead and straight from the vial... well, by the end of the blessing, she had gold "sweat" running down her forehead! I felt really bad but it was also kind of funny. Elder Day reminded me of the proper way to do it and I can promise you that I will never make that mistake again! During the blessing, though, I could feel the power in Elder Days' words and I received another witness that the priesthood power is REAL.  I felt that confirmation so strong. I am so thankful to be a holder of the power of God. This is the greatest responsibility!

On Friday, we got a call from the Sisters that Sora Sabou died. (The One who I read to and she fell asleep).This was very sad news and the next two days were spent in preparation for her funeral. Elder Giron and I ran around like crazy designing funeral programs, translating for Elder Day as he met with the family to establish plans, attending the funeral, etc... Several things did not go our way, but the funeral ended up being a success, and the family was very appreciative. Although those days weren't really spend doing much proselyting, we were serving a family in need, and I had moments where I couldn't help but smile, knowing that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, and am ministering as He would minister. This was I think the second funeral I have ever attended and the first one I have helped plan haha. The family pays a funeral company to host the funeral service and also takes the body to the cemetery. Everyone buys huge "crowns" (big wreaths with flowers and ribbons) and pile it on top of the grave during the burial part of the service. There was a lot of weeping but the talks were given by members of our branch and there was a feeling of hope and love, that comes from knowing of God's plan for His children. 

Oh, there was so much running around and serving and praying and enduring and it was awesome. However, I was so exhausted the past couple of nights that I started snoring during one of my prayers before bed and Elder Giron had to wake me up! That was actually an incredible feeling because I knew that I had served the Lord with all of my might. Sleep goes by way to fast but I am so thankful that the Lord gives me strength to do all that He would have me do.
a relaxing pday... jamming on the guitars!

And the last sight I saw as we walked back to our apartment from a funeral in Romania was a dude peeing on a building, saying "Scuze baieti!" Oh, just another day in Romania!

As I thought about all of these events, I realized what faith in Jesus Christ means...and how I can show my faith in him. My FAITH in Christ- that he is my Savior and trusting that His way is the best way- is what leads me to my service that I render to His children here in Romania. Because I have faith in Christ, He is using me to do His work in Arad, and He is molding me into a more Christlike person. I am thankful that I can see my faith in action everyday, and for the opportunity to serve the Master every day!

Think about how you can strengthen your faith and put it into action this Christmas season!
I finally got my VISA!!!
Permis de sidere

I love you all, and Merry Christmas! I sure miss celebrating it with you all!

Love, Alex

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Magnitude of a Missionary

Holy moly, I feel like I was in this internet cafe like a day ago! That's good, because if time flies by it either means I was in a coma or I just had an incredible week...don't worry it was the second one 😊

Elder Santa Claus
Christmas time in Romania is HERE!! And boy is it wonderful. The lights in the city are up, the Christmas music (yes, they play american Christmas music!) blasts from Primarie every evening, the shops are all decorated, and of course, our apartment is full of Christmas music and a nice little Christmas tree-equipped with lights and ornaments! Special thanks to Ami for sewing me a darling stocking that even has my name tag on it!!! Thanks Ami!! 
Christmas decorations at the apartment
December 1st memorial
Arad Lights
Concert for Ziua Romanilor
Freezing cold but celebrating freedom!
I love the Christmas season, and we are doing many things to help spread the joy of the true meaning of Christmas with others. It is all about CHRIST. If you haven't watched the Christmas video from the church- watch it! I love it because it is all about service, and that is basically all I do as a missionary!
I want to share a couple ways that Elder Giron and I gave service to others throughout the week. 
Beautiful zinnia bouquets that we delivered to sick and lonely sisters in the branch 
Bought some flowers for a member... Romanians hold their flowers UPSIDE DOWN!
There is a lady that is less-active, who is on her death bed in the creepy Romanian hospital. We had the opportunity to visit her a couple times this week, giving her a blessing, delivering her flowers, and just being there for her. The last time we went to visit, we went with the Elder and Sora Day and she asked if we could read to her from the Book of Mormon. As I read from 3 Nephi 18, she totally just started snoring!!!! She was out like a light bulb, which was actually a miracle because she hadn't gotten any sleep the night before. As I spent time with her, I thought about how if Christ were on the earth he would be visiting her and giving her flowers, a blessing, etc. I then thought about how much I have grown to love her, and then how much more God loves her! I know that we are all children of a Heavenly Father who LOVES us. 
First big snow
Old man feeding pigeons
Train set exhibit
I had another impactful experience. We visited a sick little old lady with the sister missionaries and we talked about the Resurrection. This is a really personal doctrine for me, as we have had friends and family pass away over the years, and knowing that I can be with them again brings me so much comfort. It is my own testimony and experiences that really bring the spirit into the meetings. I shared about Grandpa Ken and how I am so happy to know that I can see him again! This was a very tender moment for me and it really brought the spirit in. This lady is actually a very emotional person and has what we call a "weeping and wailing cry" and she did just that as we talked about her family and concerns. As I thought about what could comfort her, I prayed to know how I could help this lady. Eventually, the thought came into my head, "Tell her that God loves her." I did just that and she again weeped and wailed. Awkward,,,but I really felt God's love for her, as well as for me in a very strong and profound way. I never knew I could have love for people I barely even know but this is the wonderful thing about being here.
The mures river
Studying the scriptures on the train
Happy Holidays!

As I thought about this experience, I realized that my words had even more meaning than I realized. I told her that God loves her. I know this to be true. I also know that I am called of God to teach and to minister to his children. Therefore, I was being God's mouth piece to help comfort that sweet little old lady. After that realization, the magnitude of my calling hit me. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ and have been called to help his children in Romania. This is a pretty dang big deal! This calling is so humbling, and although I don't always feel qualified to be a disciple of the Master Teacher, I am so grateful that I have the opportunity try and do what Christ would do if he was on the earth, even though I am no where near his level of awesomeness and goodness.
Lots of forest but not as green as the Pacific Northwest
Christ is the perfect example.  His teachings, his attributes, his love, his sacrifice... EVERYTHING he has given us shows us how to have the most happiness in this life and in the next. I am so thankful that we are on this earth to learn and grow and to become more like him. 

Finally, I just want to give a little shout out to my wonderful family... as well as my extended family... It is because of you guys that I am where I am at! I have had the opportunity to share about how the gospel has strengthened my family several times this week and I just get more and more grateful that I have you guys as my family...forever! The gospel has truly blessed every aspect of our lives and I find myself DAILY thinking about how grateful I am for my mom and dad and their example to me. The family is very important in Romania and I am grateful that I can help them strengthen their families as I bear testimony and serve them. Mom and Dad, you truly are raising us in a house that is centered around Christ, even a house of prayer, and fasting, and service...thank you. I will be forever grateful for that and the righteous habits you have helped me establish. SIBS and CUZ's LISTEN TO YOU MOMMY AND DADDY. THEY KNOW WHAT'S UP!
Sarmale at the Banateans
In other news... I had my first meal of Sarmale (cabbage rolls) this week at a members home...HEAVEN!! 

I also made a wonderful language mistake. I was explaining to a member that we were going to the fortress for pday (cetatea), but instead I said we were going to chastity (castitate)! hahaha
Cetatea Soimos
It's so old!!
Alex in his natural habitat...exploring!
So ya, we had another INCREDIBLE P-day! (Of course) We got a referral from the MTC that a guy in Lipova (30km from Arad) wanted a Book of Mormon. 
Village of Lipova
Village in Romania
Streets in Lipova

Elder Giron and I in the ruins
Elder Giron
Hiking in my echoes has become a regular thing... the are indestructible!
Inside cetatea
The pose... taken to Romania

Prepping for a sick picture
Tomorrow is St. Nick day where the kids get candy in their shoes if they were good! The main tradition for Christmas here is making SARMALE (cabbage rolls). Sooo yummy. There are various concerts and activities that go on in centru as well.


Lipove is also home to some fortress ruins... So we went to give the guy a Book of Mormon and it turns out that he had already read the whole thing but returned the book to his friend, as well as read a Liahona (magazine that the church puts out internationally) that he had. He like gave us a whole summary of the Book of Mormon and told us that he took Moroni's promise and prayed to know if the book is true and receive an answer! WE SET A BAPTISMAL DATE FOR JANUARY!!!!! I am so humbled and grateful that God is using us in amazing ways and that he prepared a great and humble man, who has a single room and a dog to keep him company, to hear the gospel. I feel on top of the world! Afterwards, we climbed to the ruins and it was an unreal feeling to think that I was in a place that is older than all of the US.. 1400's people!!! I am so grateful to be serving in Romania. I know this is where I am supposed to be!
The front part of fortress

Castle ruins


The Lord is really blessing us with great experiences here. Our teaching pool is really growing and we are working hard!

We had a "4th floor last door" experience (in reference to a talk that Elder Uchtdorf gave at the General Women's broadcast). We knocked a whole block and talked to one lady who didn't seem interested. When we were walking back down we saw her smoking outside and had a little conversation with her and invited her to English language class that we teach each week. She also said that she wanted a Restoration pamphlet! It was just a great experience because we got to share our purpose and have a meaningful conversation. We are going to check back with her this week to see if she is interested in learning more about the gospel!

I love you all! Share that Christmas cheer with everyone!

Love, Elder Ditto
Selfie at the fortress