Monday, 29 October 2012

Giving Away My First Book of Mormon

Austin sent a great email today about his Romanian missionary adventures.  We are always grateful to hear from him and know that he is doing well.

"We finished watching conference the other day. The missionary age announcement was cool. Our mission president said it could potentially double the amount of missionaries in our mission over the next year. So that will be interesting to see how it plays out. I also saw that the applications have increased 400 percent. It's crazy. They are getting 4000 applications per week now. There are going to be a lot of missionaries. I dunno how they are going to do it, because the MTC only can hold about 3000 at a time, hopefully they have a plan that includes that sort of stuff. I'm sure they do. The elders behind me came into the country last week as I finished my first transfer in the field. Time flies when you're having fun I guess.

The weather here decided to cool off finally. It rained all day yesterday. Pretty heavy rain too and it was freezing. We had daylight savings time here too so it gets dark at like 5 PM now, that's kind of annoying because people think it's dark they can't leave their houses and meet and talk and stuff. Oh well. It's pretty cold today too, I wore a sweater and gloves today. The cold here is a bit different than the cold in Utah, it's a little more humid here so it feels colder. All the leaves are falling off the trees and winter is showing up finally. I'll take cold over hot any day of the week. The heaters in our house are super annoying too. We have no way to control them. The government just turns them on and off as they please. They work by running hot water through coils of pipe. Super inefficient, they could save a ton of money if they didn't do it like that, but then again, all the blocs were built during the communist era, and I guess that's how they did things. But basically our house gets either super hot or super cold, kind of annoying. Anyways.

So we will start another round of English classes on Saturday. We've been trying to get some more students to come. The first attached picture is our poster. We paid the government here to let us put them up at all the government owned advertising pillars and boards across the city. And we stuck some at the university here and at the library. And we hand out our little flyers to people too. (OK, so I am not as techno savvy and this blog won't let me insert the copy of the poster because it's a PDF file and not a JPEG---go figure! If anyone has any suggestions that could help this "old" mother, it would be appreciated -- haha!)

But yeah, here's the interesting story about how I gave away my first Book of Mormon to finish it all up:
We were on the tram on Wednesday on our way home for the night and this guy comes up to us and says "My name is..." and then kind of went off and looked out the window. About a minute later he came back and said, "My name is...." (trying to speak English with a puzzled look on his face). I said "My name is Elder Phelps." Then he pointed at my companion's name tag and asked us where the church was. We told him where and then he said it doesn't exist. And we said it does. He said no. And then he proceeded to tell us how we were the anti-Christ and how we were all trying to be greater than God. We said no, of course. He then said he had been called by God (we were beginning to think he was a little crazy by now) and received power through prayer and he could touch people and heal them and command sticks to turn them into serpents, stuff like that. By this time in the conversation 3 other teenagers on the tram are listening in. The crazy guy asked us if we had a book, so I pulled out my Book of Mormon (my companion gave his away earlier that day) and gave it to him. He started flipping through it and said it was anti-Christ.
And we asked how. He pointed at the cover and said it again. Then, one of the teenagers, I'll call him curly haired kid, asked what the book was. We told him and he said he'd heard about it before. And then, he told the crazy guy that the Book of Mormon talks about Jesus, just like the Book of Isaiah, the Book of Job, and the other books in the scriptures.

While he was saying this, my companion took the Book of Mormon and opened to 2 Nephi 25:26 and told the guy to read verse 26. The curly haired kid chimed in and said "verse 26!" The crazy guy took the book, and pointed. Then, the curly haired kid stood up and came over. The crazy guy started to read a different verse, and then curly haired kid took the book, said, "no, verse 26," and proceeded to read verse 26 out loud which says:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
While he was reading he emphasized the word "Christ" each time he said it. The tram stopped at our stop right as he was finishing up, but not all the way done reading the verse. The crazy guy tried to get off the train quickly but the curly haired kid stepped in front of him to make sure he heard the whole thing. As we were getting off the tram, the curly haired kid went to give us back the book and we said he could keep it if he wanted and he said, "Please! Thank you very much!" and he kept it and we got off the tram. As we were walking the guy was kind of walking behind us, he said he was just going home and he's not following us to our house and that he was sorry and it's good to be preaching of God and Jesus and then we gave him a card and said to call us if he wanted to learn more.

Pretty cool experience. A Romanian (probably Orthodox) basically made our point for us, even though he had only heard about the Book of Mormon, recognizing that it taught of Christ just like the other books of scripture. And I gave out my first Book of Mormon, so that was a plus. It's not every day that a random person on the tram will back you up on what you're saying when someone is accusing you of being an anti-Christ."

Isn't that a great story! Wow...a testament to how the Lord guides the work of His servants!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Being a Missionary is Awesome!

Austin and an elder who was going home to New York

We got a great letter from Austin today!  He is doing awesome and seems to be loving his mission thus far. Here is the scoop:
"Anyways, things here are good, Transfers are this week, and I will be staying here in Oradea for another 6 weeks.  Until the 5th of December at least, could be staying here for half my mission, nobody knows..... haha.  We had a big district conference yesterday.  All the missionaries and some members from Timisoara, Arad, Cluj-Napoca, and Deva came to the city for a big meeting that the mission president presides at.  It had 2 sessions, Priesthood/Relief Society, and the general session for everyone.  It was super long, the whole thing lasted about 4 hours.  The meetings were longer because the talks given in English had to be translated into Romanian line by line.  Like for the mission president and his wife, they both spoke and don't speak Romanian.  There were a few other people who gave the talk in English first too.  It was a good day though.  We got  to visit with the other missionaries from other cities and we had interviews with the president.  They finished off a week long of driving, Oradea was the last stop, they had already been to Arad, Deva, Timisoara, and Cluj-Napoca before the conference.  So they left pretty quick to drive to Cluj-Napoca to fly back to Bucharest today.  They are doing all the exit interviews the next couple days and interviewing new missionaries coming into the country.  The president's assistants get to drive the car all the way back though, while they fly, that was funny."
The other 3 missionaries in Oradea in the park -- Austin took the photo
I asked him about some specifics of what days he does what, what they do on P-day, and about what they eat, how he is sleeping etc.  He replied,
"Our service at Caritas is on Thursday and Friday from 12:30 to 2.  And we just serve the food and clean up the cafeteria and wash the dishes after, we don't usually cook anything, it's all already made when we get there.  We teach English classes on Tuesday and Saturday.  For about  1 1/2 hours, depends on the day.  My companion and I taught the advanced class this transfer, so we might be teaching beginner next transfer, but we have an Elder coming into the city who is a Spanish native, but is also from Romania and doesn't speak very much English at all, so he and his companion will probably teach the beginner class.  Another elder got on a train to go back home to New York on Saturday.  The first picture is me and him. .  P-Day, we study in the morning as usual, then we usually go grocery shopping. Then we go to an internet cafe, or the library, to email and such.  Then we just go shopping places, go to the tailor to get clothes fitted.  That's awesome, we have a tailor right next door to our bloc, so basically all of my clothes are tailored now.  It's super cheap, it's like 4 dollars to take pants in and hem them and only like 2 dollars to slim shirts up.  But after that we usually play basketball or soccer at a park or something.  We just do laundry when we need to, we have a washer in our apartment, so it's not necessarily on P-day.  I just went to the gym once,  I was on an exchange with an another elder, and he got permission to go, so we went while I was with him for a day.  We don't usually go, my companion and I.  As far as food goes, we still eat at Mama Ana's once a week.  And usually at McDonald's once a week too, the prices are about the same as they are in the US so that's kind of annoying, should be cheaper.  But it tastes good when we go.  Other than that, we just buy groceries and make food at our apartment.  Cheaper that way, and we can make what we want.  We had pancakes for breakfast this morning, and sandwiches for lunch.  Usually stuff like that.  We make fries a lot, noodles, chicken, rice.  A lot of stuff.  We eat bananas and grapefruits often too and yogurt.  Pretty much whatever we feel like.  We usually only eat out for snacks.  They have chocolate filled soft pretzels here that are amazing.  I'd say we buy those the most.  There's all sorts of food to get on the street here.  The gelato is pretty good, they have these things called shoarmas, look that up on google, that have just everything in them.  All these things I don't like, but somehow, it tastes good.  They have like chicken, mystery sauce (it's different everywhere you go), cabbage, tomatoes, onions, more mystery sauce (different than the first sauce), lettuce, and whatever else they have which also depends on where you buy it.

I sleep fine, we obviously don't get enough sleep, but that's how missionary work is.  Long days and seemingly very short nights.  Church is good, still hard to understand a lot of people, but church is a good place to learn the language and I have been learning a lot there.  I don't have a calling, sometimes I bless or pass the sacrament, but that's about it.  They don't even have 2 counselors in the branch presidency here, just a first counselor.  We have watched all of conference except  the sunday morning session.  So we are going to do that soon, probably in Romanian though, because of the new elder coming into the city who doesn't speak English.

But yeah things are great, I'm still learning a ton.  I bought a new camera so that's taken care of.  I haven't got the packages yet, they only brought mail with them.  But one of the elders is coming back from Bucharest on Thursday and he should bring them, so hopefully I'll get them on Thursday.

I wish the weather would make up it's mind here.  One day it's freezing, the next it's too hot.  Winter just needs to come.  The work is good, but slow.  It's tough.  I just got a letter from Mike shepherd that said Carson teaches 30 lessons a week in Brazil, and Brian Nance does similar in South Africa.  Very different here.  People don't want anything to do with it.  Pretty interesting.  The whole mission only has 4 people on the list to be baptized in the next 2 or 3 months.  Crazy.  But we just get out and do it, that's what matters.

Things are great, being a missionary is awesome!"

The following are some pass along/calling cards that Austin sent to Jensen:

Monday, 22 October 2012

Lost Email. . .Found!

Austin re-sent the lost email from October 8th.  He is doing well. . .here's a bit of what's going on:

"Things are good, we have taught more lessons this week than any other week in the mission so far.  Mostly to less active members and recent converts.  We have 3 investigators right now, so it's kind of exciting.  The Church is definitely small in this country.

I haven't seen general conference yet, we are downloading the sessions right now and we are going to watch them another time at our house on our DVD player.  I'm excited to watch it.   With the time difference, the Saturday morning session didn't start here until 7 PM and we were busy so we didn't get to watch it.  And, everything is closed on Saturday except the crappy computer place that my phone back home is faster than basically.  So, we didn't watch it, but we will.

We met with a guy yesterday.  He has been in America for the last 4 months working.  He'd talked to missionaries before, and remembered us when he got back here and called us.  We set up a meeting and it was pretty cool.  He's 23 and is currently going to college in Oradea.  He is studying theology and English.  And he is super curious about the Church and Joseph Smith.  He is going to Moldova this week and said he would 'definitely' read and call us when he gets back.  So, hopefully he does.  Super nice guy.

It's still hot here, and now we have to wear our jackets (suit coats), because it is between conferences.  Hopefully it cools off soon, I'm ready for the cold to happen. (Speak for yourself Elder Phelps)

It feels normal to be here now, I'm pretty adjusted to the schedule and the time change and stuff.  I dunno if I've told you about the service we do twice a week?  Anyway, we volunteer with the Catholic Church here and help them serve food to the homeless and needy people and stuff.  We go every Thursday and Friday.  Super humbling experience.  Everyday in this country you see people that carry all they have in a grocery bag and see people picking through the dumpsters.  They actually have cages around most of the dumpsters so people can't go through them.  Super sad to see.  But it makes me even more grateful for where I come from.  We are really blessed to live in America.  People here dream of moving there.  When Romania joined the EU (European Union), many citizens moved to Germany and Italy and France to work, because they didn't need a passport.  They are very proud of being part of the EU.  All of the products they make here say 'produced in the European Union' on the back instead of 'made in Romania.'"
"Me next to a hearse, check out the license plate."

Our Kitchen

Monday, 15 October 2012

3 Months Already!

It's hard to believe that Austin left for the MTC 3 months ago already!  Time flies and yet seems to stand still...funny phenomenon how that works.  For some reason,  a couple of his e-mails haven't come through, so we didn't hear from him last week.  Here is the latest update:

"I'm doing great over here.  The language is making more and more sense.  I'm learning a ton by just listening to what people say, then asking my compnion and then having him tell me, and then it usually makes sense.  I can order my own food places and stuff like that, encounters where I do most of the talking and less of the understanding.  We still go eat at Mama Ana's house once a week.  Romanians use a billion tomatoes in everything they make, especially soup, they are starting to grow on me I think.
The weather is cooling down here as well.  The leaves are changing colors and stuff.  There is like no grass in this country so that's kind of unfortunate.  And there are no mountains in my city either.  Hopefully I get to go to Brasov or Sibiu sometime during my stay here, they are both in the middle of the mountains.
We have some people we're talking to right now, we teach them English lessons privately and then share a spiritual thought at then end.  And we have several investigators right now too,  I explained them in my other letter. (That's the letter we didn't get.) It's hard to get appointments with people because everyone goes la tara (basically to the countryside) every weekend, and some people don't say when they are coming home.  As far as the whole door to door thing, we don't do that very often.  Because it's very ineffective.  Everyone lives in blocs here so we call it block knocking.  Many people just don't answer the doors because they all have peepholes and they see us and don't open.  We knocked a staircase of a bloc and went 0 for 14.  One lady said she couldn't listen because she has a kid.  People give all sorts of irrelevant excuses like that.  And everyone here is Orthodox too.  Look up some stuff about that religion, it is VERY different from ours.   So we try to focus on working with the members and contacting former investigators as a way of teaching people.
The last 4 days in the city here, they have been having the Oradea Days Festival.  The big park in the middle of the city is filled with booths and rides and stuff.  It's like a super big carnival with concerts and food and everything. There was even a guy selling honey at one booth.  We went there to help Caritas (the place where we serve the food) set up their booth and we visited them there a few times.  They are all super nice people that work there.  But yeah, there was a ton of people in the park the last  few days for that.  I'll send you some pictures another day, I forgot my memory card reader at the apartment.
Funny story of the week.  The other day, we were coming back from the homeless shelter, and we were on the wrong tram, but the tram we needed to be on was right in front of us.  So we hopped off, and did a 400 meter dash, (yes we measured it on the map when we got home), and caught the tram stopped at the light at the next station.  It was nuts we were like dodging people and cars and running in the road, it was crazy.  But we got on the train and it saved us probably a 10 minute wait. And we got our exercise for the day... haha"

He asked us to send him some honey---imagine that?!?  He said it's expensive over there and he's never had to buy honey before.  I'm sure it doesn't taste as good as Phelps Honey either!  I do think, however, that he is not doing the math of expense and forgetting  that it costs us around $50 to send anything over to Romania!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

3 Weeks in Romania

We didn't hear from Austin last week and so Derk and I both gave him a bad time and told him he'd better get in touch.  Turns out (his side of the story anyway LOL) that he did send an e-mail and for some reason we didn't get it.  So, he sent it again and so we got two yesterday.  Here are the highlights:

September 24, 2012
There is just so much stuff to say and no time to say it all! haha.  But things are going well.  My companion is awesome.  We get along super well.  He has a sense of humor similar to mine, so we always understand each other's jokes and stuff like that.  So we get along great.  He's from Orem, Utah and graduated one year earlier than I did.  He's been in the mission for 10 transfers so like a year and 3 months.  We workout in the mornings like situps and pushups and pull ups and stuff.  Some mornings we run over to the park not far from our house and do some stuff on the benches there.  As far as English classes go, we had our first one on saturday, and only 6 people showed up.  So we told them that we can't teach if there are only six, so we have another class tomorrow and hopefully more people will show up.  We go to a different sunday school than the rest.  The branch president teaches our class and we bring investigators and such to it.  There are only a few youth that come.  One girl who is 16, and the recent baptism, who is 19.  But that's it.  There's only 2 kids in the nursery as well.  The language is still tough.  I understand lots of words, but I don't really put them together very well.  But it's coming slowly.  I hear it all day everyday so that helps too.
All of the blocs here have like a little deck, but ours is all closed in, that's where the sink and stove and fridge are.  We have a washer in our apartment, but no dryer, so we have a drying rack for that.  Kind of a pain.
It's way fun here. Crazy thing here is, everyone cares more about their cars than what/where they live.  We saw a Ferrari last night and I've seen Porsches all over and Audi's and BMWs and VW are everywhere.  People just buy super nice cars with all their money.  I've also seen a few Maseratis around as well.  And, every car here is diesel.  All the cars use it.  And gas is expensive.  It's like 6,40 lei per liter.  That's like 2 dollars a liter.  So way expensive, but somehow, everyone drives cars still.  Also, not very many American cars here.  I've only seen like 2 Dodges, there are some Fords, but not a lot.  Mostly European made cars, some Asian made ones too, but hardly any English made or american made.  There's actually a Porsche dealership right across the street from the mission office in Bucharest.  People are also always cleaning and washing their cars too, there are so many car detaling shops.
There are tons of stray dogs around too.  Some of them look super scary, but none of them ever bother people.  They just bark at stupid things and at each other.  There's a big white one that looks like a wolf that lives by our bloc, we see him every morning walking to the tramvai station.
For General Conference, we are supposed to have an internet connection at the church so we can watch it there, but it's not for sure yet.  So we'll have to watch it on delay at a computer somewhere if we don't get the connection.  They'll set up a projector in the chapel if we get that connection though.  Hopefully they can get it set up.
I've only really had one real Romanian meal.  We eat at this lady, Ana's, house once a week. She's a professional cook and feeds us tons of food for only 15 lei.  She's a non-member, but has been feeding and taking care of missionaries for over 10 years.  She loves having us at her house.  And the food is awesome.  They make a lot of tomatoish soups here, but they are way better than the United States tomato soups.  When we went there, we had a tomato based soup with potatoes in it, then lasagna (which was good) and this "banana salami" for dessert.  It was this chocolate dough with cookies in it, that was wrapped around a banana.  The way she described making it, the method  was similar to cinnamon rolls.  It was good.  She says she is our mom in Romania and she needs to take care of us.  Funny lady.

October 1, 2012
Well contrary to popular belief,  I did send an email last week.  But I sent it to you again so hopefully you'll get 2 for this week.  Anyways. Things are going great here we don't have very many people we are teaching right now.  But we have several people who we teach English to, with a spiritual thought at the end of the lesson.  And the seem to be interested in what we say in the spiritual thoughts.  We invited them all to Church, but they were all busy this week, so maybe next week.  Also, Saturday night, we met with a man who has talked to the missionaries before and he read the Book of Mormon.  He said that what we believe is very similar to what he believes a member of the Orthodox church.  He said all the religions he has investigated have the same vision and purpose.  Which is good.  So we invited him to church and he was busy too.  So maybe next week.  He told us a lot about his son. His son works for the EU in Luxembourg.  and he speaks like 4 or 5 different languages and his daughter in law who is married to him speaks like 7 or so languages.  That's the crazy thing of Europe.  Most people speak more than one language.  For example, here in Oradea, many people don't speak Romanian and only speak Hungarian, since we are close to the border.  And many speak both Hungarian and Romanian.  So it's pretty interesting.
Cool thing of this week.  We made an ad for the Church and had it put up in one of the busy bus stops at downtown.  I attached a picture of it.  That's not what it looked like when we took it to the agency.  We showed them what we wanted and they put together an awesome looking ad for us and put it up there.  We had the mission president approve it and the office payed for it and everything.  So hopefully we can reach out to some more people that way.

I bought a coat today at a secondhand store.  only 52 RON, which is less than 15 bucks and it's plaid grey and black.  They have second hand stores all over here with cheap clothes. 
That's all for now!  Love and miss everyone!
Elder Phelps