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, April 24, 2017

So much more than a teacher, but nothing without The Lord!

Hello my friends! 

I hope you all are enjoying this spring season and the warmer weather that comes with it. Thankful that Romania is on the same longitude as Washington, because I feel right at home with how the weather is here! This last week was one of those weird fluke weeks where it was rainy and then sunny and then windy, etc. BUT this week looks like it will be full of blue skies and sunshine!!! 

I realized this week that I don't think I will ever be able to live in a place where it rains everyday... I feed off of the sun! Thankfully the Lord knows this and even though the weather didn't always cooperate, he blessed us with miracles this week. MIRACLES.
It all started on Monday morning. Elder Miller had just finished his 2000g protein whey jug thing and needed to get some more. This was obviously a need that needed to be replenished. It poured rain all day, which meant our regular sport activities for P-day were cancelled. We hopped on a bus and started our journey to what we thought was just to get protein. 
Our friend Vicky... went for a nice walk and some afternoon tea!

We had no clue what bus we were actually supposed to take and after asking a man for directions, we realized that we were going the wrong way. Something I love about Romanians is how friendly they are when you ask for directions. This man went out of his way to walk us IN THE RAIN, to the bus stop that we needed. What a guy! We are going to meet up with him and his family soon I hope. 

So we then waited for our bus stop. It was just us and another older lady. I struck up a conversation with her, and soon she was telling us about her grandaughter, what she does for work, etc. The conversation then turned to why we are here in Romania. For the whole us ride we talked about God, and at some point she mentioned that she was "separated from her husband a couple of months ago." I assumed that she meant they got a divorce, but then she asked me what I believe happens after death... Our stop quickly arrived, so we rapidly exchanged numbers and were on our way to get our protein. 

I was super excited to meet up with this lady, but didn't think much about the magnitude of our meeting. 

The rest of the week was just golden! We were blessed with finding some more individuals who are wanting to make changes in their lives and strengthen their relationships with God. I taught probably six lessons to our friends this week... that is more than I have EVER taught since being on my mission!

This wonderful opportunity to teach so many more people (ok "so many" means like four, but that is a whole heap in Romania, and four more than we started with!!) has reminded me that this gospel is for EVERYONE. The gospel of Jesus Christ and God's Plan of Happiness is designed for every single person who has and ever will live on this earth. Though universal, it is also designed to meet the needs of YOU individually. As a teacher and a representative of Christ, it is sometimes daunting to help your friends recognize the personal benefit that it has specifically for them. That is why in the Missionary Training Center we spent so much time focusing on teaching towards the NEEDS of those who you are teaching. 

Elder Miller and I had some great conversations about how to teach towards the needs of our friends. I have really enjoyed the challenge of teaching and learning how to be more effective. Preparing to teach is only half of the game, though. Without the Spirit of God to testify of the truth, it is almost near impossible to help the person being taught be truly touched by what I am saying. Often in my case, it is not even so much the words that are said, but the feeling that is manifested through my own desire and love towards the specific person or the testimony that I already have about something. 

Doctrine and Covenants 50:14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

I truly felt like the Lord guided my words as I taught these wonderful children of God about their divine heritage and about eternal truths that will truly benefit them the rest of their lives and beyond. So thankful that at every hour, that which the Lord needed to have me say was given to me. 

So amidst other crazy happenings that just come from being a missionary in Romania, Saturday came around and we had scheduled to meet with the woman, Victoria, that we had met on that rainy Monday morning. 

We met up in the biggest natural park in all of Europe- Parcul Nicolae Romanescu. The weather turned out to be in our favor, so we decided to go for a little walk and then sit right next to the lake. We got to know each other a little more, but then the conversation quickly turned to what was really on her mind... her husband.

So first biggest piece of information- I found out that when she said, "separated" from her husband, she meant that her husband had passed away. And just seven months ago. 


And she started to get teary. As I looked at her and listened to her deepest feelings, it was clear that she just felt lost, in fact, she said, "I don't even know if I will see him again." My heart ached for this broken-hearted lady. 

Elder Miller and I had just had a talk about how the Plan of Salvation gives us so much perspective and comfort in our lives, and that we honestly don't know how we would live without the knowledge that we can live with our family's forever. To see the exact opposite of this was just moving.

As we sat on that bench with the sun reflecting off the pristine lake, I testified to her that I know she will see her husband again. Right when I said these words, she broke down. Those were probably some of the most important words that she will ever hear in her life... FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER. How is this possible? Through God's perfect plan and because of Jesus Christ!!!

We then taught her the Plan of Salvation and she loved it. It makes so much sense and that is because it is TRUE. We were able to comfort this lady when the whole world seemed to be crashing down on her. But it wasn't truly us, we were on the Lord's errand- being His hands and healing this woman's soul. This lady is so ready for more. I am just counting down the hours until I can help her have more peace and help her see the importance of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I have reflected a lot about this experience, and I am just more and more amazed at how the Lord, in his own way, sent us to this lady on a rainy day, to tell her that she would see her husband again... and it was so much more that just that! Aside from being this lady's friend, she is now on the path to finding more peace and happiness than she has ever had in her life. This is all a result because of God's great and merciful plan for us. 
This picture... would require a lot of explanation. Just enjoy laughing at it.

I know that God is REAL and loves us individually. This week I saw evidence of this. How humbled and honored am I to be on His errand and do His work. Being a missionary is so much more than being a teacher, it is about doing what Christ did while he was here on this earth: healing, comforting, ministering, serving. Each day I get to strive to be more like the greatest missionary of all. Hallelujah! 

BEING A MISSIONARY IS THE BEST WITH ALL CAPS. My heart is bursting with new found joy that truly comes from only being in the service of our God. Serving a mission is the best decision I have ever made in my life... and I am only a quarter of the way done!!! 
Games night with our friends (the two members of the branch in Craiova)

I love all of you and pray that we might always be worthy to be the Lord's servants!!



Monday, April 17, 2017

Stil românesc de Paști! Easter... Romanian Style!

Hristos a inviat! Adeverat a inviat! This is the traditional greeting for Romanians in this special season of remembering the resurrection of our Savior. What a beautiful greeting, "Christ was resurrected! Yes he was!" This week was full of wonderful experiences and miracles, that helped remind me that Christ is my Savior, and paid the price for my sins, and overcame death for me, and everyone who ever is to live on this earth. Hallelujah!
Happy Easter

This week was set up to be a crazy one, and boy did it turn out to be one. We had an Elders only Leadership conference in Bucharest on Thursday which meant that we would have to leave Wednesday and then we had exchanges on Friday... so we weren't in Craiova for too much time this week! Whenever I am gone from my city, I feel a little sad because that means I have one (or two and a half) days of not being able to connect with some of God's children here. 
What do you do on a long train ride_ I sew!

The finished product

Elder Miller and I had planned to have an incredible and productive Tuesday and then visit a couple people on Wednesday

Tuesday was one of the most special days of my mission. 

It was about 11:30 AM and we had just finished our planning session. We were trying to decided if we should just have lunch now or go out and do some work first. Being the hard-working missionaries that we are, we decided to take a lap in the park before we were to have lunch. We had talked about the benefits between direct approaches where we just ask them about a religious subject/The Book of Mormon and connect in a form where you don't necessarily present yourself as a missionary at first, and try to establish a friendship before. Both have their benefits but we decided that today we would ask people about what they know about The Book of Mormon.
A great big building in great big Bucharest

So, we asked many people about what they knew about this book. We had a couple of good conversations, some not so enjoyable, and finally we found ourselves next to the pond. It was Elder Miller's turn to start the conversation, but we both looked at this father and his daughter, and had an inclination to walk over to them. The man was just looking at the pond, while the daughter played in the plants surrounding the calm water. 
Romanian Orthodox Cathedral... looks more Indian!

Elder Miller then asked the question in his progressing Romanian... "Ati auzit vreodata despre aceaste carte?" The man stared at it and then replied "Yes...about 10 seconds of silence.... I have a big problem." We were silent for a little and then the man went into detail. 

His son was just diagnosed with epilepsy and was currently in the hospital undergoing tests. He didn't know what was to happen and didn't understand why God would let this happen to his boy. He was tearing up as this happened. Holy cow. What am I supposed to say to that?? 
In love with the beauty of Romania in the spring

The man was totally lost in despair. He needed comfort. Well, what better way to find comfort than from the words of Jesus Christ himself? I opened up to a chapter that Elder Day once had me share in a hospital to a dying member who wanted peace. 

3 Nephi 17 
5 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them. 
6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

This is Christ himself preforming miracles to his "other sheep" in the Americas. This is Christ showing charity and a perfect act of compassion to his fellow brothers and sisters of God. I testified to him that although we might have difficult times and experience trials, through faith in Jesus Christ we can be comforted, relieved, strengthened, and made whole again. I told him that God has a plan for him and his son. 
In love with old architecture

As I read, the spirit was filling the area around us, and a profound sense of compassion and love for this man enveloped me. Truly the love of God for this man was being manifested through our words, and the words of The Book of Mormon.

I then, at that moment, realized that God had sent us to this man to give him a portion of His love to him. We were literally on the Lord's errand and missionaries of not just truth, but of peace and comfort that comes from truth. 
Missionaries are always looking for directions...

I felt inspired to tell him that we are servants of God, and have been given the authority to give blessings. I offered to give his son a blessing. I didn't really see that coming but the spirit prompted me to say that. He then explained that they aren't from Craiova and are just here to get the tests done. He went to this park to clear his thoughts. And that was when we came.

Elder Miller testified that if he read The Book of Mormon, he would find peace and more happiness than he had before. He graciously took the book. Man, I wanted to help this guy in any way I could. This dude was wreck and his tears wouldn't stop. I asked if I could offer a prayer. Again, as I spoke, the spirit was so present and the man started to cry even more and say some things, probably his plea to his Heavenly Father. 

I closed the prayer and it was time to go. The man thanked us and told us that he would read The Book of Mormon. I had so much love for this man. Instead of shaking his hand, I gave him a hug, telling him God loves him, again reassuring him that God has a plan for him and his son. 

We parted ways and just looked at each other in unbelief, and then cast our eyes on the man and his daughter. They were walking side-by-side and then disappeared around the bend of the pathway. What a miracle!! I literally had just witnessed and experienced God working through his called servants to bring peace and comfort to his children in Romania. Wow. 

A prayer of gratitude was said and a feeling imprinted forever in my heart. I know that I am on the Lord's errand.

I just get the shivers sharing this experience. This is one that is so dear to my heart and one that I will hold onto forever. I hope one day I will see that man and his son again. This was a giant miracle but miracles like this happen in each one of our lives, everyday. We just need to look up!

Due to lack of time, I will sum up the Elders Conference real quick. This was an all-day event that took place in the beautiful JW Marriot Hotel in Bucharest. President Ivory focused on the importance of establishing a vision, goals, and plans, in not just our missionary lives, but for our whole lives and beyond. We talked about the importance of having a balanced life, and how we can be consecrated missionaries. I was asked to give a little diddy about working with all of my heart, mind, might, and strength. I was pretty nervous to give it, but my words were truly led by the spirit. It was wonderful to see all of my friends, especially my past companions Elders Giron, Wilstead, and Baker. I have so much respect and love for each one of them. It was particular wonderful to see Elder Giron, as he had such a huge impact on me as I struggled in my early months as a missionary in Arad. It was so great to catch up with him and laugh, talk about shoes, etc. How grateful I am for the relationships that I have made here on my mission!
Elder's Conference

The conference was incredible, and I am so thankful for President and Sister Ivory. They do so so so much for this mission. They are outstanding examples of working with all of their heart, mind, might, and strength. I was particularly amazed and grateful for the council and wisdom that they shared during the conference. They aren't just helping me become a successful missionary, but a successful man of God, even a future successful father and businessman! They have so much experience and definitely know what works and what doesn't. I am glad that I get to hear their insights. This mission is perfect for me.
Me and my brotha Elder Baker... Love this kid.

President Ivory and I... had to get a shot together!!
"My father"... This man will forever be my friend.

Our exchange on Friday was really incredible, Elder Bontempo is a great missionary and I learned a lot from him. We met so many cool people- even a guy who is the Prince of Kazakhstan's personal assistant! They are going to meet up again to learn about how he became a successful businessman. By 10:30 PM we were safely back in Craiova and POOPED.
Elder Bontempo and I on a beautiful spring day in Bucharest

Saturday we had English classes (we teach beginner and advanced). The advanced turned out to be a gospel lesson, as only one person showed up- the lady who is a kick boxer! Last English class we showed the restoration movie, and she was very impacted. As we were sharing about the goal setting principles that we had learned from President Ivory, it naturally switched to God's plan for each of us. Turns out they both have the same outline! We taught this wonderful lady the whole plan of salvation, and also the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we testified of the truthfulness of the plan, and of the importance of Jesus Christ as the central part to His plan- the spirit was just so strong. She almost couldn't contain her emotions. We invited her to pray about what we taught her and to read The Book of Mormon to learn more about God's plan for us. What a little miracle that her heart was softened enough to listen with intent! Can't wait to visit with her again.
A day full of laughter and testifying

And now to the biggest day of em all... EASTER! There are so many Romanian traditions for Easter, like going to a sermon at 12 AM and receiving the flame from the holy mountain in Jerusalem so that they will have peace in their homes, cracking dyed eggs on each other while saying "Hristos a inviat! Adervarat a inviat!", confessing their sins to the priests (I witnessed this while in Bucharest... a little creepy, as another priest was shaking incense on everyone and people were kissing the knees of a statue of Jesus, etc.. So ya. Romanians take their Easter seriously!!! I am so thankful to be in a part of the world where Christ is still the center of their culture. It makes for many similarities, and opportunities to connect with the Orthodox culture. 
Love the traditions of Romania

Our Easter was a little different than everyone else's in Romania, but had the spirit present, which is what they are missing! After partaking of the sacrament, a member gave a talk, followed by all of us standing around together singing "I know my Redeemer Lives" in Romanian as I played the guitar. Such a cool experience! I then gave a talk about Christ and my gratitude for him. It went pretty well for not having too much time to prepare! 

We then had a BBQ with everyone. We cooked a ton of meat and did the egg cracking activity, followed by playing some scum. It was a great way to celebrate even though I knew I was missing out at home! More importantly, we spent our time with some men who don't really have much in terms of relationships. I was so thankful that we could be there for them in this special time where everyone is with their families. I feel like their brothers! 
It took us way too long and way too much lighter fluid to get this grill going...

Leonard...grill master with style!

Easter Feast! Men style...

This week was a gift from God, truly. I am so thankful that he is giving me so many wonderful opportunities to share my testimony with others. Most of all, I am thankful for my Savior, for his selfless sacrifice for me, and for all of us. 

Hristos a Inviat! Adeverat a Inviat! "Crack" Elder Miller won!

I found out that I love hard-boiled eggs after being too scared to try one for 18 years

Datorita Lui, vom trai din nou, ii vom vedea celor care au murit, putem avea pace si speranta in oricare situatie pe care o avem. Datorita Lui, ma pot intoarce in prezenta al Tatalui meu Ceresc!

Va iubiim, si sunt reconoscator pentru sprijinirea pe care mi-le dati. Sa aveti o saptamana plin de fericire si iubire!

Varstniul Ditto

PS I just tried to translate the Romanian into English on google translate and it is a horrible translation.... good luck!
In love with the beauty of Romania in the spring
The Cismigiu Clock Tower
Piata Victoriei... where the biggest protest in Romania was held just a few months ago
An actual white wolf that is now some dude's pet
Piata Victoriei... where the biggest protest in Romania was held just a few months ago

Monday, April 10, 2017

I still have a beam in my eye, but it's a little smaller!

Paste Fericit! Happy week-before-Easter everyone!!!!
Not quite as many tulips as in the Best Two Years, but still oh so beautiful!

My this week was packed full of goodness and learning experiences, but at the same time it felt a little long! First of all, I love Craiova. It is a bigger city in Romania, but still kind of has a small town feel- reminds me a lot of Arad. The people are generally friendlier here for some reason. There is a good diversity of age- there is a big university here so lots of young adults here. Something that stands out about Craiova are the parks. They have one of the biggest parks in all of Romania! All are kept very clean and provide lots of opportunities for fun and conversations. We live by "gradina botanica" which is the most beautiful park I have ever been in. It is perfectly kept to the point where it is forbidden to step on most areas of grass! Elder Miller and I have spent a lot of time contacting in this park. 
Elder Miller using his talents (he was a college Quarterback) to spread joy to the kids!

Something that I have really come to know to be true is that it doesn't matter WHERE you serve, but HOW. You could be in the most beautiful city in all of Romania, but not have any fun, and visa versa. 
One of the most well-kept parks I have ever been in

I have a confession to make. When I was younger, I had a problem with judging others. I would judge by what they wore, how they talked- mostly by their "cover." I mean, I guess that is probably a problem for most people at some point, but I realized that I really didn't feel good making judgments about people. 
A member's father grilling us some mici for a Sunday afternoon BBQ. Mici does not exist in America. SO good though

For the past couple of weeks, I have been studying the New Testament- the earthy ministry of our Savior! Man, every chapter seems to be filled with experiences of Christ showing charity, love, compassion, service, to those who, to the natural man, might seem unworthy of attention. 

From Matthew 71 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Man, I just love how clear Jesus paints this picture! I am not at all perfect. That is why I am out on a mission, which is weird because you would think that God would want strong and more perfect people to do his perfect work. Well, it is just the opposite!!! I love the mission because through my service to Him, he is blessing me in ways that I could not even imagine. THIS is evidence of His love for me! 

This week I started to realize one way he is blessing me, I think a big part was a result of moving cities. 
A nice little find in the streets of Craiova!

Orthodox Cathedrals are very unique

The beautiful entry doors

In a new city, it can be a little daunting because you know zero people, have no idea where anything is or how to reach the hearts of the people hear, etc. There are three active members- all male- in this branch here. 

The first thing I did? Got to know these awesome dudes. The cool part about being in a small branch is that you can really grow close to each one of them. We have game nights together, play billiards, have barbecues, branch council, lessons, etc all together. I truly feel like I have brothers here in Craiova! As I have gotten to know each one, learning about their lives and including them in missionary work here, I have grown very fond of them. I have felt the spirit testifying to me that God loves each one of them so much, and is looking out for them. Each one of them has a unique story, but I have already seen the POWER that comes from combining our talents and abilities when we try to help others come unto Christ and serve others. 
Adam. A man with a great heart and determination to hitch hike around the world. I think I might do this one day! 
He let me play the guitar! Didn't make him any money thought

Another amazing experience was visiting famila Boboc. They are a gypsy family who may or may not have been baptized for the right reasons. I wanted to go and visit them, to see for myself. We were looking for an older lady in-particular, but ran into the whole family in their very run down and make-shift home. They live in a seemingly different world than the rest of Craiova and the world; garbage everywhere, no running water or air-conditioning, etc. It broke my heart to see three little children- beautiful little children of God to be raised by their grandma and forgotten disabled mother in such horrible circumstances. 
Found Sora Boboc at the piata today... She gave me some liliac and zambile!

This really touched my heart as I witnessed all of this. I really tried to connect with each one and see where they were coming from. As I talked to the old lady, who had a fake eye and weathered wrinkly skin and a horrible back, my heart was overfilled with love for her. Maybe when I was a young teenager I would have been scared to even look at her or be thoroughly authentic with her. 
Familia Boboc's meager living situation. Crazy. You wouldn't believe the inside.

BUT. The Lord has been shaping me into a new and improved Alex Ditto and in that moment I realized the change that was taking place. 
I was swatting a fly!

So much garbage in the gypsy part of town

We talked about the hand of God in our lives and how we can always partake of the goodness of Christ. We left her with an incredible feeling. The last thing she told us was that she had been waiting for "the boys" to come visit her for a long time. Man, how amazing is it to be on the Lord's errand! 

I remember someone explaining to me the importance of my calling here in Romania. He told me that every home that I visit is touched because I have a light that has been unknown to the people of Romania. That light is the knowledge and gratitude I have of the restored gospel of Christ! Hallelujah. 

After that experience, I started to notice how much I truly do love the people of Romania. Each day my love for them deepens as I try to find way to serve, to smile, laugh, and share my light! It doesn't matter if they are gypsy or Romanian, have good smelling breath or are missing half of their teeth- I care not for their mote in their eye, but love them as I love myself. When I do this, the Lord starts to cast the beam out of my own eye!

How grateful I am for the way the Lord is shaping me as I strive to do my best. 

This type of change isn't just for missionaries but for all who desire to come unto Christ! Do it!

In other news, I got to play tennis on clay this week, played tenis de picior (tennis with a soccer ball and your feet), basketball, shared many Book of Mormon's with people, made some dang good pizza, and just loving life! 
Chef Alex... Ya I've got some skills!

Elder Miller's creation

Thanks to some 1 leu dough called "coca," the pizza wasn't too hard to make)

I love each and everyone of you! Keep on being the best you. 

Love,  Varstnicul Ditto

Best buds
One of the milllion florarie in Craiova

View from my apartment

A perfect Sunday evening
An open produce market on a busy Monday morning