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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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Week That Made My Year

Was up familii!!

It didn't even occur to me that today is Memorial Day... probably because I am absorbed in the Romanian life style. True to my American heritage though, Happy Memorial Day!!

Celebrating Mirela's (investigator) daughter's graduation!

My Romanian pride increased 10-fold this week as I had the most wonderful experience to explore and see some of Romania's finest scenery it has to offer. Every time I think about what I did, I can't help but smile!!! We got a call from this American couple that is staying in Pitesti right now, asking if we wanted to go see the Statue of Decebal... A flashback to a year ago, when I got my call, struck me. YES! One of the fist things I saw as I looked up Romania was this statue, and I remember putting it on my bucket list. I while ago I learned that it wasn't really close to anything, which would make it almost impossible to go and see... unless an incredibly thoughtful couple invites you, that is!!!

After getting permission from the Mission President, we eagerly awaited our adventure. Friday rolled around and I was so giddy as I put on my favorite pair of hiking pants, shirt, and shoes. We began our journey by stopping at a nearby city along the Danube River, where we saw the remains of a footbridge that the Roman's used to get across Serbia into Dacia (old Romania)... this bad boy was 2000 years old!!! The craziest part of it all was the fact that I could literally throw a rock (well almost) into SERBIA!!! How cool is that!?!?! 
Roman footbridge! 2000 years old. Now just imagine these things going all the way to Serbia across the Danube!

Next, we started driving into the mountains through the city of Orsova. The Romanian wilderness (from what I have seen) is somewhat similar to the PNW, but has a lot of differences as well. If you look at the pictures, the mountains are much more forested with not evergreens, but some other sort of tree. I literally was sticking my head out of the window, catching as much fresh Romanian air as I could. 
This is my happy place!!!

We finally made it to our destination, and I was honestly taken back. I haven't been in a forest for almost a year, and I forgot how much I missed it! I am so thankful for Dad and his love for the outdoors, because it has definitely been implanted in my soul. For  me, being in nature is where I relax and feel closest to God. 
Adventure gang on the Danube!

Far awayyy in the mistyy mountainssss 

Ditto Pose in front of Decebal

The statue was incredible, but what really made the adventure memorable was our boat excursion up the fortile de fier, or "the Iron Gates" of the Danube. The Columbia River Gorge is cool, but there is just something about steep granite faces being sliced away by one of the biggest rivers in the world! To make the adventure even cooler is the fact that we probably crossed into Serbia. The river is divided, half to Romania, and the other to Serbia, so we at some point had to have crossed over... With the cool waters of the Danube, the sharpness of the cliffs, and a calm feel to the area... Ya. I was in my happy place. 

Dreams really do come true!

In some parts of this river, you can find the water swirling around because of how narrow the Danube gets!

How cool would it be to go to church here!

Paradise in Romania

Romania on the left, Serbia on the right
The adventure gang - so much fun

Of course I had to share this story first because this literally made my life. This was my dream- to hike in Romania!!!! This opportunity was truly a tender mercy, because I have been anxiously awaiting for an opportunity to see the true beauty of Romania. Not only was this a dream come true, but it was a time where I got to reflect on how I am doing, what I can do better, and even relax a tiny bit. 
Inside a fortress

We went into this cave!

Something I learn every single week is that I am not perfect, and this is why I come out with learning so much every week. When Christ tells us that through our weaknesses we are made strong, he is really not kidding! There were many ups and downs to this week, and I have come to a better understanding of how much divine help we can receive, even in every moment. 

A scripture that has been in my mind all week is one that Mom shared with us and made us all memorize a couple of years ago (it was an incredible lesson!!)

Doctrine and Covenants 6:3636 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

Funny because I just looked it up and it wasn't the exact scripture I memorized... eh, it works!

There were a couple times this week where I felt very stressed, sometimes lonely, and even a little helpless. Thankfully, all of those moments were washed away because I remembered to look unto Christ. 

These feelings of stress and despair can come for a lot of reasons, but they are not meant to stay. Sometimes it feels like we just can't get them to leave! True, it takes a mental paradigm shift to change your attitude, but this "shift" can be much richer and permanent, that is, through our faith in Jesus Christ. A big quote that is going around the mission is "Faith is the power that causes the things that need to happen, happen." This is mainly used for our investigators, but reaches so much farther. I have struggled at times learning how to truly exercise my faith. I pray, read the scriptures, do good works, etc, but I always feel like I could do a little more!
Mirela... makes me remember to laugh at the little things

Our beautiful eggs... Romanians celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ- 40 days after he was resurrected!

Helping color the eggs (photo courtesy of Mirela)

Then it hit me, I was not putting as much emphasis on the most important part of faith... BELIEVING. Do I truly believe my words as I testify? Do I pray with all of the energy of my heart? Am I doing my works with belief that what needs to happen, will happen? This was the answer that I received from God. As soon as I began to practice this, I saw a clear change in the results of those three things mentioned above. 

As I testified this week the spirit was more abundant because I truly believed, and reflected on personal experiences that I have had. This happened on three specific occasions- two as I testified of the reality that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, and the other as I spoke in sacrament meeting about prayer. The witness I bore were without doubt or concern as to what others might think. I doubted not, and I feared not.
Make me more goat cheese!!

Elder Krieger is a great example of fervent prayers, and as we prayed this week, we had faith that our prayers would be answered. We have the opportunity to teach five English classes each week, and almost every time it is daunting to come up with a lesson plan that is engaging. Each time we were completely stumped. And that was when we looked unto Christ. We prayed and decided to not fear. Each time we did this, our minds were enlightened and we came up with, might I say, incredible lesson plans. Each one was thoroughly enjoyed by each of our students, and we had so much fun teaching. We recognized that it was because of our faith and prayers, that God blessed us with more understanding and added knowledge. Indeed, our faith was what caused the things that needed to happen, happen!
Love this guy

Amidst all of the goodness that was around me, sometimes it was just plain hard to have a positive attitude as I went through the days! This affected some of my works. I tried to have a paradigm shift, but I would eventually slip back into a grump state. That is, until I tried to make my actions more in harmony with Christ's. Even doing things as simple as coming up with compliments for others helped me have a better, more sustainable attitude. 
Selfie with Serbia in the back

These things that I learned are not just good principles, but they are the laws upon which, if followed, will cause the things that need to happen, happen. Our lives will be richer and filled with more love for ourselves, and those around us. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this is what I am helping others learn, as well as myself. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that through his grace and pure love for us, we might summit any each and every mountain that God has prepared for us to climb.

I love my little adventures in Romania, it's just the best!

I also love all of you, and am thankful for your prayers, as well as everyone's prayers. Prayer is dang real and God really does hear and answer every single one!

All my love,


P.S. I hope you google the Iron Gates of the Danube, this is a place that we need to go visit!!!!
A soviet graveyard

"Pastorul" The Shepard

Trying to feed the goats but didn't have any luck
Drobeta Turnu Severin
My name is Elder Ditto and I love nature.
The iconic Elder Ditto hiking picture
Decebalus Rex (King Decebal in latin)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sometimes it takes a blogpost!

Hey Fam!!

Hope you all had an incredible week. Mine was crazy up the wazoo! We did a ton of travelling as it was zone conference this week. Elder Krieger and I woke up at 3:30 AM to get to our train on time that was heading to Bucharest. We got there right on time, only to find that the train was an hour late... grr!!! I never like staying in the train stations in Romania because they are gross and filled with lots of homeless people and beggars. Kind of sad! Finally our train came and we were off to Bucharest. 
Our train back from Bucharest... no AC and we stood for 3 hours because it was so jam packed. We did meet a cool Nigerian though!

That day we had our last Zone Conference with the Ivory's... so sad! It was a great meeting and it was fun to see a lot of friends. The next day we did exchanges with the zone leaders, a lot of fun and good experiences, but Elder Krieger and I were pooped and ready to go back to our comfy beds! 
A orthodox church in the heart of Bucharest

Admiring the House of the People

Beautiful interior architecture

This week I did a lot of reflecting about myself, how I am as a missionary, and how I can truly help my investigators make the next steps in the journey in coming closer to Christ, because that is what this mission is about! At the beginning of my mission, I didn't have a whole lot of intense love for the people of Romania. With regards to this, I feel like I have made so much progress. Every day I find a new reason to love Romanians. In fact, sometimes when I talk to foreigners and then switch to a Romanian, I just feel way more connected to them! I know that I was called to serve the people of Romania, and I am so thankful. Romanians are some of the most welcoming and friendly people I know, especially here in Craiova. 

So I have this burning love to serve the people here; I feel like my testimony of the gospel and of Jesus Christ as my Savior grows by the day, but then I go and try to teach a Romanian and somehow the simplicity of this calling just gets lost. I think this is a common worry for all missionaries, regardless of where they are serving. There are a lot of factors to teaching the gospel- how the message is presented, my own personal testimony, the receptiveness of the listener, and most importantly, the presence of the spirit. 

The message that I bring to the world is so simple- that God still gives us guidance in these latter days so that we can be happy and prepare to return to His presence. And we have a convincing evidence that this is true- through another witness that Jesus is the Christ... the Book of Mormon. I testify and invite the person to read, ponder the words, and then pray to know if it is true. The spirit will testify of the truthfulness to those who are truly seeking the truth. That's the nutshell of the message! Some people will accept this invitation and read with sincerity, and others will reject. My job is to find those who are ready to accept this invitation that will truly enhance and bless their lives. 

That takes care of the presenting the message part, but it is just sooo much more than that. I have found that the most important part is the relationship between the teacher and the listener. Now, the listener has a little bit more power because they are the ultimate decider on whether or not they will accept the extended invitations, but my role as a teacher is sooo important. I have kind of been struggling (in my mind), whether or not I teach by the spirit. I think I am naturally a little harder on myself, but I truly want to do this right. I think a big factor of my self-criticism is the fact that I haven't seen anyone become fully converted to the gospel, which is kind of frustrating sometimes because I want it for them so badly!!!! Now, this is a dangerous thought, and I do not measure my progress by baptisms by any means, but a boy has got to wonder sometimes! 
Rockin' our shades on a beautiful evening in Bucharest

First thing is first, I know that I have made a difference in so many peoples lives here, regardless if they have accepted the gospel or not. I have learned that making any change that brings you closer to God, even if it is just something as simple as reading a passage in the Book of Mormon or saying a prayer, is actually huge! 

So the biggest question I posed on myself is if I am teaching and being guided by the spirit? Sometimes I feel like I just shank the lesson and that if I had been more conscious of the spirit it would have gone better! THIS IS ALSO DANGEROUS.

Elder Krieger said something really profound the other day. He is a man of incredible faith and determination, which is something that I have missed in a companion. I tell him is in on fire! He told me that "holy ghost is the absence of doubt." That kind of just clicked in my mind... of course!!! If I doubt my words, then the spirit probably won't be with me. The fruits of the spirit are peace, joy, confirmation of truth, etc... ALL come because doubt has been diminished. I learned that I need not have doubt or be shy as I teach the gospel, what I am teaching is TRUE and has blessed my life... and if I have the FAITH and confidence that it can bless the lives of those who I am teaching, the spirit will be so much stronger. This is the relationship between doubt, faith, and the spirit. 

You know, the fact that all of this clicked to me, and that Elder Krieger was in a state of clarity and helped me is evidence that God is helping us in the work here, and that he has a plan. That gives me a lot of peace!

Before I talk about my next realization this week, I want to share a little tender mercy/on the Lord's errand story. Elder Krieger and I were on our way home for lunch the other day, when I ran into an old lady that Elder Miller and I had block knocked a while ago. I remembered that she had dementia and was probably lost right now. I offered to take her to where she wanted to go. She told me she just had to cross the street to go get some medicine from the pharmacy, but I insisted to escort her there. It was a good thing, because she didn't have too much recollection of where she was, which was manifested by her repeated questions of where I was from and why am I here. In response to the second, I told her the we are servants of God. She immediately crossed herself, as any faithful orthodox old person would do and we continued on her way. 

Even though this lady had a full-on mustache and beard and was five times my age, I realized that SHE MATTERS TO HEAVENLY FATHER. He sent me to her because she was in need of help. Would God do that? In the words of Elder Bednar, "Absolutely. In fact, he does it all the time." I just smile when I think about all of the people who saw this act being done. Not because I was a great hero but because maybe it touched one of their hearts to do something nice to someone else. Remember that video we watched for FHE that one night about the chain reaction that happens when someone does a good thing? It was kind of like that. This was something that Christ would have most definitely done if he had been in that situation. We ALL have this opportunity every day, to minister to others- to go out of our way to help someone in need. That little old, bearded lady has a special place in my heart. 

Any time we are enlightened or are inspired to do good, means that it is from God, which is also evidence of the spirit. Another way that we can be influenced by the spirit is from the words or actions of others, like what the words of Elder Krieger did to me. During Zone Conference Sora Ivory said something that made me realize how the gospel has actually blessed me and the life of us- our family!!! This may sound so simple, but for me it was complete evidence that what I am doing is truly the work of the Lord. 
Vali's graduation!

They even do it in Romania!

I realized that because of the life and decisions of mom and dad, of our grandparents, and all those who have come before us are the reason why our family is so awesome. Think about it! We are all happy, have enough for our needs and wants, we love being with our extended family, etc. This is not common with all families! I found the answer! It is because of the choices that each person in our family tree has made... and that is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. What happens when we do this? Well, God promises us more blessings that we can even handle!! I just want to repeat this. THE GOSPEL BLESSES FAMILIES. I now can truly say this and I see evidence of it every day, as I think about you guys, and observe the family life of those here in Romania, who don't have the gospel yet. 
The Craiova Branch - we had eight people including two investigators. Elder Krieger gave his first talk and it was incredible. I had to give an hour long lesson on the Plan of Salvation for Sunday School and boy was it tough! There was a lot of individual opinions that I felt detracted from the spirit.

This letter has been all over the place, but as I have written down my thoughts, I have realized that the Lord was really guiding me all along this week. Sometimes it just takes writing a long email to you guys to realize it! Being a missionary is hard but the blessings and the things that I learn erase all of the tough parts of this experience. All of our experiences are for our good. I know that!

I pray that we will all have the courage to keep to the faith and hold fast to what we know is right! Never forget to do the little things, because that is how we see the bigger results!

Mirela showing me a new delicious snack- ceapa cu branza! Onion with cheese!
Prepping for an AMAZING BBQ with Mirela


I love each one of you and pray for you daily. Also, thank you to all those who read this personal account of my experiences. I hope that we have all been touched and moved to be a little better!

All my love,

Varstnicul Ditto
My buddy Elder  Boud