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, February 20, 2017

Hitchhiking, Bucuresti, and Smiling all the Way!

Happy almost spring!!

It rained in Alexandria instead of snowed, which is a sure sign that spring is coming in Romania! Boy am I glad because I need some constant sunshine in my life. This week was a whirlwind. Like woah. I don't think I could've even dreamed up this week even if I tried! 
The pose lives on!

Just enjoying a rainy, cold Sunday evening!

So a little diddy about Alexandria, where I currently live. This is city has COMMUNISM written all over it! Literally this city was erected for the purpose of housing people to work in the nearby factories... which are now abandoned and creepy. The majority of the town are 8 story communist blocs, that wreak of mold and are literally cement blocks stacked on top of each other. They look gross on the inside and out. We also live in one of these bloc. We live on the 4th floor and I have to plug my nose as I go up the first two floors because it smells so bad. The stenches of Romania are unreal! We walk everywhere, and Elder Forsyth literally knows everyone since he has been here for 6 months. I kinda feel bad for him.
Sora Emanuela and the missionaries... a stellar woman

Comp pic...So grateful I am serving with Elder Forsyth

Abandoned factory in Alexandria

Heading on into Alexandria
Alexandria centru

Alexandria at Sunset

The lucky thing about me being here is that we are moving March 1st! Or so we hope. We are indeed opening the area of Otopeni (north of Bucuresti). It is a very nice little city and has so much potential for finding people who are truly ready to hear our message. I had the chance to spend two days there this week, and we walked the streets, getting ourselves familiar with everything, and looking for opportunities to get involved in the community. I really love it over there- it feels kind of home-y and the people are kind and have a future ahead of them. 
Soon to be our new home...
Look mom...I'm at IKEA!

That is the sad thing about serving in these other cities like Alexandria- a lot of people don't really want to change or don't even have a future. This sounds bad, but it is true. Which shows the need for my efforts in offering these people a new way of life. It is just really hard for Romanians to do this, especially when their culture and traditions of everyone is centered around the orthodox church. It makes me think about the Book of Mormon and how so many people were stuck in the "wicked traditions of their fathers." The only good thing I have gotten out of the orthodox church is their cool churches and this weird dessert called "coliva" that they make in memory of loved ones that have passed away (A lady randomly gave us some when I asked what was in her basket the other day). haha 
Romanian Orthodox Cathedral... unreal

Inside a Romanian Church. Pretty creepy but cool

Creepy crows above the church

Beautiful architecture

Anyways, I had a lot of great experiences this week that helped me reflect on my testimony of the Book of Mormon, how the Lord is using me as one of His disciples, and some adventures that probably shouldn't be shared but they are just too crazy to not to!
A farm house in Romania

Classic country-side gypsy means of transportation

So it was a beautiful, sunny day in Alexandria, and Elder Forsyth and I planned to go out to the country side a visit a member that we heard had just returned from Germany. How are we going to get to the country side, you might ask?? Well, we hitch hiked. As in, stand on the side of the road, and stick out your thumb in hopes that a decently-sane Romanian driver will have a heart and pick up two tall white boys who want to go into the heart of Romanian culture. So ya, we did that! Luckily, going out to this town, Laceni, wasn't too bad. A micro bus ended up stopping and took us all the way to the little village. We walked to the man's house, only to find that he had not returned yet. We ended up talking to some really humble people, and decided to take some photos of the area, which also stemmed to talking with a very, very Romanian man (see picture), and gave him a Book of Mormon. 
Classic Romanian Man

Then, we walked about a mile, a quarter of it in the snow, to a potential investigator's house. They live on a crazy-horribly smelling little farm, with a ton of chickens and their house consists of cement blocks and a stove to keep it kind of warm. We had a fantastic lesson with this lady about the Book of Mormon, and will return next week to talk to her family. After the lesson, we trekked all the way back to the highway road through the mud and snow, and then stuck out our cold little thumbs, praying that we would be able to get back to Alexandria.
Hitchhiking Part One

As we were waiting on the side of the road, I couldn't help but think about how crazy and cool it is, that here I am, in a place that 99.9999% of people in the world have never been, on the Lord's errand- sharing the glad message that everyone...EVERYONE needs in their lives. Then my mind turned to gratitude and awe as I was blessed to be raised in a family who's foundation is built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that I will be with them for eternity. The Lord has sent me to Romania to give these people an opportunity to find joy in their lives! He loves the people that I met in the little village of Laceni, in the south part of a country that most people think is in South America- just as much as he loves me and you. 

Truly being in that little village testified to me that God is our loving Heavenly Father and that he has prepared a plan- a perfect plan- for every single person on the planet, and I am here to deliver it to a few. WOWOWOWOW. That is so humbling and amazing. 
Good thing it was still light outside...

Hitch hiking selfie! Notice the homeless man in the back

Well, after about 15 minutes, a nice old man stopped his Opel and told us to get in. We were with two other women, who we thought were related to him, but learned that they were just fellow hitch hikers. What a nice old man! I said a little prayer in my heart, thanking Heavenly Father that we were not with a crazy driver, and that we were going to make it home safe. A short while later, the old man stopped again, seeing that there was a homeless man just plugging along the side of the road. I was like, there is no room! But the old man had a plan! He opened up his trunk of the station wagon and told the homeless man with 3 teeth and a grocery bag with random stuff (classic homeless Romanian thing to have) to get in the back! So he did just that and our little band of 5 hitchhikers and a kind old man made our way into the little city of Alexandria. 

Funny story? Yes! Random? Yes!!! Tender Mercy? You know... I think it was! 

So that was the time that I hitchhiked on my mission. I won't be surprised if I had to do it again to be honest... yup! You just never know what the mish will throw at you.
Disgusting meat-filled intestines

Well I have other stories, but to keep it short, Elder Forsyth and I made our way around the insane city of Bucuresti by ourselves with public transportation (ew not going to describe the smell of some of the buses) a couple of times this week, which is actually pretty impressive, considering we don't know anything about that city. 
On the Micro Bus heading out to the countryside

Romanian Parliament Building in Bucuresti

I guess I am just a regular Romanian traveler now! It is such a blessing to be able to understand and speak to people kinda comfortably after 5 months of being here. The Lord is truly watching over me, and helping me find success.
Varstnicul Ditto. Of course, I had to take advantage of this mustard colored wall.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. I love each one of you and hope that everyone has a action packed week of awesomeness!!!

All my love,
Varstincul Ditto

Turf field in the middle of the city.

Cheesy Missionary Pic with the Book of Mormon

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Changes, Crazies, and Opportunities

My, what a crazzy week I had... this week was a week of changes, and some faith-building/ trying experiences. I expected this last week to be my last in Arad (so sad) and so as we did our visits this week.  I had to say some very difficult goodbyes. I have already decided that I am coming back to visit Romania ASAP when I get home. I have learned to love these people with all of my soul. Each one of them has a special part in my heart and I have learned something from each one of them as well.
I love this woman!

Beautiful handmade tablecloth

The idea of leaving Arad was kind of fake to me. This has been the only city that I have served in, and it is all I know. It feels like home. We call it Aradsterdam. I just have so many memories here! I have also grown beyond believe in this little city. From making life-long friends, freezing my toes off, knocking on endless doors, avoiding mentally insane people, experiencing the death of a loved one, learning who I really am, how I can become better, and the reality of God's plan for each of us, and the truthfulness of this gospel.
Sora Lidia and Constantin

Sora Muscan, Luca, Sergiu

Crazy Luca and me

One of the biggest epiphanies that happened to me in Aradsterdam is that being a missionary doesn't take away trials or my weaknesses, in fact it enhances them :) BUT THAT IS OK. Because the Lord is chiseling away- bit by bit- shaping me into a better man of God. I am grateful for trials. Wow. That is crazy to say, but I feel like I really understand the purpose of them now.

Joseph Smith said it the best, "I am a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and chisel was never heard on me until the Lord took me in hand. I desire the learning and wisdom of heaven alone." AMEN. When we come to understand that God has a plan for us, and let him into our lives, our struggles and life itself, begins to become a powerful source of growth and improvement.
Zone Conference in Cluj

District Selfie with President Ivory!

With this in mind, the Lord is pounding at me some more. After a great Zone Conference in Cluj, we took a 6 hour train ride back to Arad, and we ready to have a great last Saturday as companions. We got a call Saturday morning saying that President Ivory needed me in my next area as soon as possible, so I would need to take the next train asap. Where too? A little town just south of Bucharest called Alexandria. If you look it up on google, you won't find anything... because there's not anything there! I'll explain later.
Beautiful Cluj

So Elder Wilstead helped me back up my bags... and I realized that I had collected a few items during my stay and ended up having to borrow a suitcase from him... I blame it on the minimal time I had to pack... So we sprinted to the tram station and then to the train station, only to miss the train by 3 minutes. Noooo!! So we looked at our options and the next train that could get us to Bucharest was from Brasov... Well if you know me and if you know Brasov, well we kind of just go together... because MOUNTAINS. So this was just gonna be a cool opportunity!
Fresh Do's

Elder Wilstead and I... Bros forever

Our nine hour train to Brasov was ok, but it was nine hours- that is like going from Yakima to Utah! I had three suitcases and a guitar, and turns out that at midnight the baggage holding place is closed, so we waited in the heater-free train station for 4 hours. A 4 HOUR LAYOVER AND I COULDN'T EVEN SEE THE MOUNTAINS. Well, there was only one thing to do- play the guitar! As I played, I ended up attracting some... ehem... strange... people. Aka a drunk man and a paint-huffing lady that was literally so insane that she would just wail randomly and ask me to play the "cantare" (not even the word for guitar in Romanian... she literally did not have a functioning brain any more). So here I am, not playing the guitar anymore, with a man who wreaks of alcohol to my right, trying to ask my who created God, and an insane lady right in front of me. It was quite the sight, considering we were the only ones making noise in the whole gara! It got so uncomfortable that we picked our stuff up and moved. And then more crazy people came up to us and it was just bad. We were cold, had just eaten microwaved french fries with a chicken-like substance, and still had 2 hours till our train. Woahoo!! Brasov!!! I decided that I am just not going to associate that night with Brasov. Only plus was that I did see the big "Brasov" sign in the hills. That was kinda neat!
On the way to Buch

So we finally get onto our train, dump our luggage onto some empty seats next to us, and hit the hay. We woke up right when we got into the gigantic city to find that Bucharest is still covered in snow... looks like I didn't escape winter yet! By that time, we had gotten maybe 4 hours of sleep on the train the whole night, and it was now  6 am. We had to take two separate taxis from the train station to get to the "auto gara" (the greyhound of Romania), and ended up being totally gypped by them and payed a crazy amount. We then took a 1.5 hour bus ride to Alexandria, my new home. The city is literally just run-down communist blocks with a little city square type thing. Let's just say it is the least-desired area to serve in all of Romania. THAT'S OK THOUGH! Because 1) I am going to make it awesome. and 2) I will only be here for hopefully 2 more weeks and then my new companion and I, Elder Forsyth, will be opening up a new area- the Otopeni area- a wealthy suburb just north of Bucharest. We will have a brand new apartment and everything! Let's just say that we will be jumping for joy when that time comes.
Elder Forsyth and Ditto= Powerhouse!

We will actually still commute to Alexandria to go to the branch there every Sunday and every Tuesday we will go for English. Lot's of travelling for us! So right when we got to the musty, moldy, grungy apartment (these are all true descriptive words of the current apartment).  

So on Sunday we went to church. Guess how many members there are?


A woman in her 40s and a man in his 50s. That's it! Crazy right? I was pretty skeptical about how church would go, but as soon as the members walked in, it just felt like home. The members are strong. They kind of have to be considering they are the only ones!  Get this...the branch president lives in Germany!  Sacrament meeting ended up being a testimony meeting, and the same lady who talked for 20 minutes at the very end of sacrament meeting taught Sunday School, which ended up going 30 minutes over. Who'd a thought that a branch with two members could go 30 minutes over? Not me! haha Besides that fact that I was so tired, I still really enjoyed hearing the testimonies of these righteous members. It reminded me that the spirit is truly the same, anywhere in the world!

I know I have complained a little, but mainly it just feels uncomfortable to be in a new area, away from a city that I love and people that I hold dear.

BUT I NEED TO GET TO WORK! I know that the Lord needs me here, and I am using this new start to recommit to being an obedient, hard-working, happy missionary. This is gonna be awesome. I have a stellar companion and I know why I am here. That's all I need! Elder Forsyth has been on his mission for 3 months longer than me, so we are both still pretty new. I actually love this because I can feel our fire-we want to be good missionaries, and we want to share the gospel. We also want to get better at this language, so it will be fun to help each other out.

The word's of Paul have been on my mind lately, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith". I want to be like Paul. I want to be able to say that I have done everything that I could to truly do the Lord's will, and to help others in their journey as well. That is my drive this week- to simply be a little better each day and humble myself to the will of our Master.
So, that was my week in a nut-shell. I am basically in a whole 'nother world, with a whole 'nother set of trials, but that is ok. I am a rough stone, and the sound of the Lord's hammer and chisel is upon me.

Everyone of you are in the same situation as I am- each day we fight our own fights, and our faith is tested. Remember to keep positive, serve others, and let the Lord  hammer and chisel away!

I love you all,

Varstincul Ditto
Turkish Kebab

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Gospel of Relationships

Man, for the first time in about 4 weeks nothing really crazy happened this week! Kind of a weird change of pace, but it was a nice time reflect and refocus my efforts as a servant of the Lord. Today I want to share some success stories with you all!
Streets of Arad

Sister missionaries in our district

Romanian man enjoying the afternoon

First of all, our investigator with a baptismal date is no longer... after texting us multiple times if we wanted to join him in drinking Jack Daniels and getting some Thai women, we decided he is not ready. What a bummer! I am glad that he wants to share with us, but He is clearly drunk a lot and not ready to make the big sacrifices that will help him get to know His Savior better. That's ok! I still love him and pray that some day he will be ready. It is important to remember that the Lord's time is different than ours! I have learned to love this. I am so glad that I can be a missionary and witness His timing and plan for the people in Romania. 
Alisia drew a portrait of me!!!


On the flip side, we have been meeting with a really special 14-year old ever since I have gotten to Arad. He is the grandson of some members here but has not been baptized. I hit it off really well with him when I first got here but he hadn't shown much interest in the church. If there is something that I have learned since being a missionary in Romania, it is that sharing the gospel is so much easier after becoming someones friend. That is really key, especially in Romania. People are so closed off, but once you get to know some one, and become friends, they will be your friend for life. The pivotal point of the relationship is when they ask for your Facebook... haha!
Manu loving his Kendama sticker that Tyler sent him
So we have done many fun things with this boy, Manu, and have really gotten to know him. He was also very close to Elder Day, he was basically Manu's mentor and best friend! It was very hard for him to hear about Elder Day's passing. I really admired Elder Day's vision and love for Manu. He saw potential in him that maybe was hard to see at first glance. I noticed how looking in the inside of somebody- into who they really are, is how we must interact with them. This is essentially looking through the eye's of God, because He see's our true potential. 
New sign at the church

Elder Day always believed in Manu, and he told me that he was confident that one day, Manu would recognize that He needs the gospel in His life. Well, we met with Manu this Friday and had a fun time playing sting pong, watching Tyler's YouTube videos, and hanging out like any bros would. Towards the end, he asked us why he hasn't been able to feel the spirit before. Wow! This was a really good question! We talked about it for a second but had to catch a taxi. In the taxi, Elder Wilstead leaned over to Manu and was going to explain his question a little deeper. Manu replied-let's meet up another time so you can explain it better! Hallelujah!!! Manu has a new desire to feel the spirit. And we are going to help him feel the love that God has for him- that Elder Day has for him, by helping him see his potential through God's plan for him and for all of us. What a little miracle! I testify that having a true friendship with someone makes sharing the gospel natural- they will be interested because they see the difference of our countenance!
Traian and Maria... A wonderful couple!

A similar story with a couple that we tracked into the first week of the transfer- Traian and Maria. They are in their 70's and ever so faithful. It is wonderful to see truly faithful people here, who love God and have a real relationship with him. The first time we went to their house we were fed liverwurst and this time, we expected the same thing... LUCKILY we were served surprisingly yummy meatballs with not so yummy (but bearable) cold mashed potatoes. But that's not the important part- the important part is that we strengthened our relationship with them. We got to know what they hold most dear in life, we shared scriptures with one another, and were uplifted. Ya, maybe we didn't teach a run of the mill "lesson" but we were able to exchange truths, and help them see what we Mormon's are all about- that we aren't actually weird! Traian invited us to his farm so we are going to go with him this next Saturday
Spreadin the Kendama love in Romania!

Remember this red door from an earlier picture when I arrive in Arad?

As we continue to be their friends, the gospel will come up, and we will have the opportunity to share these essential truths with them. If they are ready to expand their vision of the plan of our Heavenly Father for us, then that time will come. I have confidence in the Lord's timing and all I can do is continue to love them and share what I hold most dear to my heart.
Kabob House - we eat here way too much

Our favorite car

Another cool thing is that they commented that my Romanian is WAY better than when I last saw them... dang I guess I have been improving! During our meeting with them, I truly felt gifted with the Gift of Tongues. My words were just flowing out of my mouth and I could understand them pretty dang well. Man I am so thankful for the help of God in this work! He is truly watching over me, and everyone!

Timisoara Train Station 


Thank you to everyone who has sent me letters, emails, packages, etc. I feel way too spoiled but your words of encouragement have gotten me through some very rough times! 

The Gospel is REAL. Our Savior LIVES. Joseph Smith, through the power and authority of God RESTORED the church and TRANSLATED the Book of Mormon. Let this knowledge guide us every single day! Make this a part of who you are and people will notice your joy.



Package from home!!!!!!!
I literally teared up when I opened the package!  All Cool Runnings themed.  I was SO pumped!

I can't even believe this shirt!!!!

Literally Erv Blitzen's scarf!