Alex's Mission Address:

Elder Alex McLean Ditto

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

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Missionary Work- Romanian Style!

Salut! Nu pot crede ca stam aici pentru 3 luni acum! Hello! I can't believe I have been here for three months now! 

Man time is flying by!  I am now in my 3rd transfer in the beautiful city of Arad. My wonderful trainer, "father" in mission language, prepared me well for a new adventure with a new companion. Elder Giron left for Bucaresti on Sunday evening and I was left waiting in Arad with another missionary till my "bubble popper" arrived. Drum role please... Elder Wilstead is my new companion! 
Elder Wilstead

He has been in the country for 9 months now, has served in the town of Galati and Bucaresti, and is probably one of the best speakers in the mission. He lived in Germany for 8 years, speaks 4 other languages, and is a hoot to be around! He has brought a new dynamic that will be very good for me and the people here. He loves people and building new relationships with others.
So cold!!!!

This week has been by far the coldest week so far. Every day has been between -10 and -20 degrees Celsius... with a very chilly wind! The first deep breath you take once going outside freezes your nose hairs instantly! And on top of the cold, our "centrala" (central heating system) is broken! It broke Sunday night and we have not had warm shower or a warm apartment for a week now. A new one will be installed on Tuesday, so in the mean time, Sora Ivory told us to stay in a hotel! That is where we are headed tonight. I also have also caught a cold too! The winter time is dang hard here! 
Making the best of a freezing day!

This week of new changes and trials has brought to me new perspectives and insights on missionary work and learning to be a team with someone who you have never met, who is very different from you. Let me just share a few thoughts of what I have learned this week.
Beautiful Arad

First of all, something that might blow you minds, or maybe not, is that being a missionary is different that what you might imagine! My view of missionary work before coming to Romania was very... I guess Mormon naive. All you every hear about is the amazing experiences and the lowest of the low points. What you don't hear about is the day-to-day life. I am also convinced that each mission is very unique- equipped with unique trials and experiences.

To give you a glimpse of what a "regular day" in Romania is like, here is a pretty typical day in Arad.

6:30... Arise, say morning prayer, and start exercising.
6:45... Unfortunately when exercising has typically started for me... I am trying to work on this!
7:00...BREAKFAST! I am an eggs and salam with toast kind-of-guy, or some days some oatmeal with raspberries. I always think of Dad when I make oatmeal!
8:00... Personal Scripture study. This is my favorite time. I have recently been reading from the Teachings of Joseph Smith and in Alma/ preparing for lessons.
9:00... Plan with Elder Wilstead and talk about our lessons/ what we have been thinking about.
10:00... Get out of the apartment! Start villa knocking, bloc knocking, contacting, ANYTHING to try and find people who might be interested in learning english or maybe even learning about our church. 
12:30... LUNCH Top Ramen maybe, a sandwich, or maybe even get a kabob!
1:30... Get out, meet with a member or two, look for an inactive, and wait for the super inefficient tramvai system for like an average of 15 minutes each time.
5:00... Maybe another member lesson, or more contacting time in the freezing cold.
7:00... DINNER... I made a mean fried rice this week!
8:00... Language study. Elder Wilstead has truly helped me so much already with Romanian. I am so lucky to learn from a master!
9:00... group prayer with the sister missionaries via phone and then play the guitar/chill with Elder Wilstead.
10:30... BEDTIME

Of course this schedule varies sometimes, but my point is that sometimes finding ways to stay busy, warm, or both can be hard. Some days we will go without even talking about the gospel with people! Usually we have 2 lessons with a non member a week. Sometimes this is really hard for me- especially when my purpose is to bring others to Christ through teaching them about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. 
On the tram with Elder Wilstead

Now at first glance this just seems discouraging and almost pointless! BUT. I am beginning to learn that this mission is so much more than just teaching people the restoration. In fact, that isn't what it is about! To really make a difference, you must become their friends. Romanians are very rough on the outside but when you gain their trust, you make a friend for a life time. Once this friendship is established, sharing the gospel is so easy and natural! They then want to listen and will take thought about what you have just shared. This isn't just for Romanians though, this is universal! We all have friends that need our message that God loves us and that he has a plan for us. 
Mid-day snack with the Sister Missionaries

So, right now, we are trying to make friends, and bearing our testimony when appropriate. I am truly grateful that the gospel is about relationships, and that I get to be at the forefront of witnessing God work in other people's lives, as well as mine, as I make friends.
Visiting an inactive member with the Sister missionaries

That being said, sometimes it feels so weird not always being the "classic missionary" and the most difficult thing is not always being able to feel the spirit as often as I would like. I think this is where obedience comes into play. I am learning a lot about obedience too, and let me tell you, we have so much liberty here, and it is hard to always be exactly obedient! 

This is why I love being a missionary, there are challenges and there are opportunities for even more growth. I know regardless, I am on the Lord's errand!

There is also success here! We were villa knocking one morning, and freezing cold. A kind old man let us in to his house, and his wife served us liver wurst and some other meats that I have no clue what they were. The are a strong orthodox family, and we are going to meet with them again, trying to strengthen our relationship with them and share why we are here as missionaries. Hopefully she doesn't serve us that meat again, because it made me sick for the rest of the day!

We also met with a lady who is usually mad at the church, but she let us and the sisters come by, and served us a delicious ciorba, and DISGUSTING potatoes and "cordon bleu." It was so gross that I almost threw up and she saw me shivering in disgust and asked me if I didn't like the food. I just said I was a little cold ☺ I finished it though. That is a must! As we left, she gave Elder Wilstead and I some old winter clothes and dressed us for the cold. I got an old lady scarf and a newsie hat. Score! Romanians are some of the most kind people you will meet. 
So sweet of this sister to share some winter clothes with us -- loving my new Newsie's hat and scarf!

Ready for a funny story? A lady in our branch needed a blessing, and she wanted me to give it... Woah! First chance to give a blessing in Romanian! This was such a need opportunity and a time where I really exercised all the faith I could muster, praying that God would guide my words in Romanian. Now, something I have learned about the Gift of Tongues is that it does not necessarily mean you will speak perfectly, but it does mean you will convey the message that God intends to give to one of his precious children. It was a really incredible experience, as my mind was thinking in Romanian. Towards the end of the blessing, I felt prompted to end it by reminding her that she is a daughter of God. "Esti un.... o... un fiul... lui Dumnezeu." In numele lui Isus Hristos, Amin. And it was over! The spirit was there, and as we continued to talk with the lady, I was reviewing the blessing in my head. It was at that moment that I realized I had said FIUL instead of FICA! I had called her a son of God rather than a Daughter of God! I just started laughing out loud, and then told Elder Wilstead and her why I was laughing. Oh, we had a good laugh. 

I promise that I am getting better at Romanian though! I love learning this language and feel like everyday I am getting a little better.

I love all of you, and pray that God will protect all of you and help you all through your trials!

Live is a journey, not a destination, and its a pretty dang awesome journey!

Love,  Elder Ditto
Elder Wilstead and Elder Ditto
So cold!!

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