Alex's Mission Address:

Elder Alex McLean Ditto

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

Email -

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Seeing the Lord's Hand in all Things

HELLO!!! I AM FINALLY WRITING A LETTER HOME!!!! It feels like I haven't wrote in forever, which is kind of bad because that means this letter is going to be a little bit loooong. But for the best reasons possible because the past two weeks have been some of the most miraculous and humbling yet since being in Romania.

Where to start... well I guess the 22nd of March. Sheesh that seems like ages ago!

Friends for life!
Being the last full week of the transfer together, the bros and I were committed to make this the best one yet. We were going to eat like kings, work like mules, and have fun doing it! We had planned to do many fun contacting activities like eating at Ikea, using a survey geared towards families, chalk contacting, and many others.
The cooking trio

Eating like Kings!

The most delicious meal I have made since leaving America - homemade naan bread and thai peanut chicken

On Tuesday, we met an incredible old couple at Ikea which we taught the restoration to and discussed our beliefs. That was a miracle in and of itself because old people here can be pretty stubborn!

We decided to use our survey that afternoon and had several good conversations. Being the boys we are, we were getting hungry and were getting anxious to get home, but we knew we had to do a little more, to show the Lord that we are committed! So, we chose to go a little further down our street, Strada 1 Mai. It was my turn to present the survey and rang the doorbell to an incredible villa that looked like it was worth a million euro. A kind lady opened the gate and when I told her we were doing a survey about how our families can be strengthened she let us right in! Wait what!?!? The lady ushered us to the patio and her two cute kids came right out and were super interested in us (we Americans apparently are very charming).

Too keep it brief, the father also came out with his big belly but no shirt and together we all had a great time with the whole family; eating amazing Greek quesadilla things, watching their kids sing and perform Michael Jackson with the jacket and all, enjoying the warmth of their open outdoor patio- man it was a missionary's dream! During the night, we ended up sharing with them the restoration and had an incredible conversation about this man's turning point. Hearing about his story made me realize that God truly loves ALL of his children, regardless of what their beliefs are. So many people are on a good path, striving to follow the example of the Savior. That makes me so happy! Why I am here then? Well, I believe the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ ENHANCES what one already knows about our Savior and God's plan for us. This has blessed my life and the life of my family in countless ways, so I know it is true! Though the family ended up having some different views that they were not interested in changing, we were all uplifted and left as better individuals with a greater love for God that night. A success in my book! (He also may or may not have taken us home in his Mini Cooper with a V8 engine...)
Spring is here!
I'm embarrassed I don't remember the name to this flower -- orchid??

The next day, we were determined to use our energy from last night to our finding efforts that day. We used our same survey, and set out at 10:00 am to search for those who would accept us. We were a little hesitant in going out in the morning on a week day, but what the heck! We are weird anyways! That morning we had a couple of good conversations, a couple of close calls with rabid dogs, a couple of mean words from once nice people, etc. By 12:30 pm we were getting hungry and a little discouraged. The beautiful thing about a trio is that one has a little bit more energy when the others lack. Though we did come to the consensus that we would go home to eat, Elder Baker suggested that we do a "spiritual finding" activity while we walk. (We had been talking a lot about how to include the Holy Ghost in our finding efforts the past couple of weeks). So, we said a little prayer, and started on the dusty path towards our little hobbit village thing! We each had a couple of promptings, but nothing came out of it. Finally, Elder Forsyth rang a door bell. 

A lady came out from her balcony, and we explained that we had a survey about families, if she had 2 minutes. I am not sure if she came down because she couldn't understand our Romanian, or if she just couldn't hear us, but she came down... and she took the survey! One of the questions was "Have you ever asked yourself where you came from, why are you here, and what happens when you die?" She quickly responded EVERYDAY. Then she talked about how she things maybe we are reincarnated after we die. I watched her expressions as she told us all of this, and really felt like she was interested in our message that answers just those very questions! We close the survey and were about to part ways, when I had the clearest thought to ask if we could come back and answer these questions that she has wondered about. Much to our amazement, she said that right now her kids aren't home, but if we came back this evening around 8, that would be great!


Now, maybe your first thought in this situation would be "Oh, she probably just said that because she figured that they wouldn't come back, she wasn't interested." For some reason, I never had that thought cross my mind that whole day! We prayed earnestly for her and her family, we prepared a lesson about God's plan of happiness, and I was just so excited all day!

7:30 rolled around and we headed towards the lady's home. We rang the doorbell and she and her ten year old daughter came to the door. I think she actually was a little surprised that we did come back, but she let us in!!! Woah. Two times in two days being let into a FAMILY'S house!?!!? WHERE ARE WE BRAZIL!?!?!? Their home was beautiful. I liked it more than the other family's that we were at the day before. It was very modern, and filled with fun toys and gadgets for the kids. (yes they had a hover board and yes I ended up riding it by the end of the night) Her two kids Alex and Eva were darling, and eager to make us feel at home. The mother, like any good mom, was embarrassed that her son's hockey equipment was spread out on the ground, but I insisted that it was ok, and I wanted Alex to show me his helmet anyways. (if you know me I love cool uniforms and helmets, so that was a very sincere excuse :))

Our conversation was so natural, and we got to know the mom and her kids, learned what is most important to them, about their experiences as a family, and we shared with them we decided to leave our families for two years. And then we shared with them what we believe to be God's plan for his children: the Plan of Happiness! Now, teaching in a trio is hard, and when no one has ever taught the plan of salvation to a real person, you could imagine how it might go, and the nerves that we had. Something that I have really learned since being here, however, is that the SPIRIT is the real teacher, and though words help, they are not everything. We didn't teach the Plan of Salvation perfectly, but we did teach it with the Holy Spirit. I remember the feeling that came when I testified that I know God loves all of us, and that our families can be together forever... so sweet and so right. I know that each one of them felt something that night. How awesome is it to know why they had that feeling and what it is! So after Alex showed me his sick mini crotch-rocket, and I showed them my kendama moves, we set up a return appointment and went on our way. I think that was the happiest moment of my whole mission, that walk home! We couldn't stop talking about how perfect it was, and how excited we are to continue teaching them! We all took turns doing a newsie heal click as we walked on Strada 1 Mai. That street has a special place in my heart!

Centru of Otopeni

The rest of the week I couldn't help but smile as I thought about being in Otopeni. I just love that city so much. One day we wanted to do some chalk contacting in the park, where we would write "Ce inseamna Pastele?" (What does Easter mean to you?), but weren't quite sure if we were allowed to draw in the park since it is so nice. After asking a security guard and having a good conversation with some workers in the City Hall, we were suggested to ask a man downstairs. As we waited by a pair of big doors, a man in all black, who looked like an orthodox priest without the traditional gown, with the face and hair of Vector from Despicable Me and the beard of a lego man, asked how he could help us. Turns out we had been send all the way to the Mayor's office, to ask if three young guys could draw with chalk in a park! We ended up becoming friends with this nice man but alas, were told that we could not draw in the park, but anywhere where there was asphalt. (the paths of the park were brick).

We left the City Hall with a new friend and permission to draw with chalk from the most powerful man in Otopeni, so that was a good feeling! As we designed our question, we ended up having help from a boy and a girl who had just finished school, and their friends even came to help! Pretty soon one of the girls was doing our job for us and asking people who past by what Easter means to them, and why we were doing this project! Man that was just so cool to watch. That day of chalk contacting in front of City Hall turned out to be an incredibly unexpected success, and we were able to share our beliefs with our new friends and spread joy to the people in Otopeni.

Missionaries AND artists!

Our chalk drawing gang.

What does Easter mean to you?

I really couldn't ever see myself leaving this incredible city. I was sure that I would stay for months! There is so much potential and through God's hands, we had just scratched the surface.

Saturday morning, the transfer boards came out. I walked in not having a doubt that I would remain in Otopeni, and probably even with Elder Forsyth or Elder Baker, which would have been so awesome! Instead, I saw my name in the top left, under the city of Craiova. CRAIOVA!?!?! I was shocked, even mad. I was not prepared for this news. I just couldn't wrap my head around leaving this area that I helped begin, and had grown to love so much. I had friends, a FAMILY to teach, I loved living in the villa and being where everyone was wealthier. Why in the heck would President have me leave!?

The rest of the day was kind of bum for me, and I felt pretty down. I tried to look at the bright side, but it was hard. I felt like God needed me in Otopeni.

Sunday rolled around and it was daylight savings for Romania, and we had forgotten! This caused us to be late for church in Alexandria, as we had a very long commute to do. It pains me that I said this, but I asked Elder Forsyth and Baker if there really was any point in going to church this week. Elder Forsyth replied in a loving way that we need to go for the members, that we are their only contact of the church and that they need us. Well that humbled me a little bit! I stopped complaining after that. Our excursion to the auto gara was exhausting and confusing, and the maxi taxi ride reeked of alcohol and I witnessed a girl throw-up, but I was happy to find our two members happy and ready for sacrament meeting.
Oldest bus I have ever been on.

So there we were, three young missionaries and two of the strongest members in all of Romania, joining together to take the sacrament and renew our promises with God that we had all made at baptism- to serve him with all our might and to always remember him. I really enjoyed the time I had to meditate and reflect on how I can improve as an individual and missionary. Sora Emanuela gave an incredible talk, but what impacted me the most was just her beginning remarks of her gratitude for her health and the opportunity that she has to come to church and grow together. This lady was filled with gratitude from the bottom of her heart, yet she has so little. She is truly filled with the love of God and has true happiness, yet has no family near. How can this even be!? Well, it is because of Jesus Christ. She is living proof that through Him, we can be comforted and find peace in any circumstance.
Sora Emanuela. An incredible lady who I will always be grateful for.

As I thought about this, I realized how selfish I had been for pitying myself that I was to leave Otopeni and all of the people who I have met and built relationships with. I was even discouraged because I had to leave the nice villa! And then it hit me. Why in the heck should I be discouraged!? I am on the errand of the LORD! HE is the one in charge and has a perfect plan. I needed to have the faith the Sora Emanuela has. God knows what I accomplished while in Otopeni, and will bless me and those who I met for that. BUT, he needs me in Craiova now. The things that matter most like the relationships I made with last forever, the people who I offered the gospel to will be watched over by the hand of the Lord, and the temporal things like where I live... well that doesn't even matter one bit because...

JST Matthew 6:27 And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.
That's right, he's watching over me! I am on the most important adventure ever, and I have been called my God! By the end of sacrament meeting, I had a new found courage to not be afraid of what is to come, because I know that the Lord will provide.

"GO FORWARD AND NOT BACKWARD, COURAGE, BRETHREN- ON TO VICTORY!" This shall be my battle cry. I love the Lord and know why I am out. That is what matters.

After church we said our goodbyes, took some pictures, I got a little personal with Valer as he intruded as I was peeing... he ended up sitting himself on the toilet before I could finish washing my hands... ya that was a little gross. What can I say, I love that funny, faithful man to death!
Me and Valer. What a guy. He is all about being free and loving nature.

Three hours later we were home and ready to collapse. That was an incredible Sabbath day, if you ask me.

Training in Bucharest - photo courtesy from Sister Ivory
The next week was transfer week and that was full of craziness. My new companion, Elder Miller (more on him next letter), came in late Monday night, and then we had training meetings all Tuesday and Wednesday. This is Elder Miller's second transfer, so he is still in training. I have been called to finish that up- a great responsibility and blessing! I truly felt like the Lord had been humbling me over the last week so that I would be ready for this new assignment. I am grateful for his hand in my life!
Elder Miller and me

Our train ride to Craiova was smooth, and we got to know each other and talk about what we wanted to get out of this next transfer. Elder Miller has a strong desire to do what is right and become great. That is going to get him far. I am really excited to help him improve with the language, though it is a daunting task!

As I was unpacking that night, I realized that I had left my backpack on the train! I was very frustrated but accepted that I wouldn't be able to get it back. A missionary suggested that I should go and inquire with the security at the train station if there was any way they could locate it. We went down that night, and the nice police man made some phone calls and ended up locating the bag! We were to return the next day at around noon to pick it up from the returning train. That eased my nerves a little but I am in Romania. You never know what is going to happen with your lost stuff! I said many prayers the next couple of hours. I slowly realized what was in my back and a sense of anxiety filled me: all of my toiletries, my journal, mini scriptures, my shoes, running clothes, and my passport. MY PASSPORT. Well shoot. That would notttt be good to loose......

So the next day, we went about our regular schedule and got to the gara around noon. We had a nice conversation with an old lady and another younger lady, and they weren't too sure with the thought of getting my backpack back. The train finally came and a conductor came out wearing my backpack. IT WAS A MIRACLE!!! I quickly ran over to him, showed my ticket, and he handed it right over. My bag was left on that train- from Bucharest to Cluj and almost all the way back, and nothing was stolen. That was such a big blessing, and I am so thankful that Heavenly Father was looking out for me.
Love the lighting

After that incident, the rest of the week was smooth and amazing! Elder Miller and I had some incredible experiences as we went out and worked hard. We played billiards with a member, went to a friend's kickboxing match to support her, had a game night, ate good food, and watched a lot of conference in Romanian and English fortunately!
The most peaceful fighters you will ever see

Cheering on our kickboxing friend


One dude that we are focusing on came to conference with a question. We had been fasting for him to be able to feel God's love for him and receive an answer to his question. After one of the sessions, we talked with him about his questions- why he would need to be baptized- with the other three members who were with us. It was truly a wonderful experience, and I know that God will bless our friend for his sacrifice and desire to learn more about him, We committed him to the lessons today after playing some pick-up basketball with him, Yup, I think I will like Craiova just fine!
Big church in the middle of the centru

Elder Miller and I

Opera House in Craiova
Craivoa is beautiful
Conferinta General in Craiova! 

The Lord is truly watching over all of us, and is itching to bless us! We just need to do our part. I know that God lives and is the source for all good in our lives! I am also so thankful for his son, Jesus Christ, and the role he plays in my life. Hallelujah!


Elder Ditto
Let the Lower Lights keep burning

Muzeu Satului (Museum of the Villages)

Old Romanian architecture

Pday Basketball with our bro Vali

We ran into a scooter competition!

No comments:

Post a Comment