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, 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

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