Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Visit from Utah Friends!

Austin and Elder A.

Ranell, Austin and Elder A.

Ranell, Butch, Austin and Elder A.  Ranell said, "This is the one we took for FaceBook.  So fun!"

On August 20, I received the following text and photos from my friend Ranell Johnson who was traveling in Romania:
"Aneisa: We were able to meet up with Austin and his companion, Elder A.  We had a nice visit over dinner.  They are both doing well.  After visiting with Elder A. we found out that my husband, Butch, knows his father.  Small world! The other small world thing was that Butch thinks he went to high school with Austin's best friend's father, Mike Shepherd.  We are so glad that meeting up with them worked out.  We had a guided tour & we didn't know what time it would end---but, it all worked out."
She goes on to say: "It was the highlight of our day.  He really looked good.  He has a great attitude and a love for the people.  I told him I wanted to give him a hug, but knew it wasn't allowed, because that's what you would want to give him!"
Wow!  What a wonderful gift for a missionary mom!

Here is Austin's update:

Things here are hot still. It's been cooling off a smidge, but not too much. It's cloudy right now, and it was cloudy yesterday. I asked her husband what he does. He is an attorney, but he owns a big law firm and manages the business side of it. He went to law school, but doesn't really practice law. So that's what he does. They are both super nice people. We went to eat at this super popular restaurant in the old part of Bucharest. It's super touristy, but at the same time, it has good prices and it's in this really old building. They bought us dinner, they just said order whatever we wanted. I got chicken cordon bleu with potatoes and cheesecake for dessert.

We didn't teach any lessons this week, and no new investigators either... haha. It's been super hot lately. We had 2 companion exchanges this week as well. One with the other set of elders and one with the zone leaders. So it was kind of a jumbled week that just ended up in contacting most of the time. And yeah, I played the piano again. I'm fastly running out of hymns I can play. And that's from the easy hymn book.. haha. Students at english is a very interesting subject. We had a lot at the beginning, but our medium class only has like 3 or 4. We are in the last week for that though. I think total, we are at about 20, for all 3 classes. Not a whole ton. I'm pretty sure the gift card thing is only in the US. I've never seen one gift card for sale anywhere here. I'd say don't send one, the reason being, that lots of places still don't take credit cards here. They have to pay taxes and report income like that. It's still a huge cash based economy.

Other news is, we found an apartment. Finally. The contract should be signed either tomorrow or today. I haven't called the office yet. We should move in this week though. Just in time for someone to move out, we find out transfers this weekend. No idea if I'll stay or go or what. We'll have to wait and see.

That's about it, happy late birthday! Till next week,

Me in front of the Hard Rock Cafe

Monday, 19 August 2013

I Played the Piano in Sacrament Meeting

As far as this week goes, it was kind of slow. We are still on the apartment hunt. Nothing has come up yet. We'll keep trying though. We just did a lot of contacting this week. Gave away some Book of Mormons too. We had District meeting on Thursday as well. Also, English on Tuesday and Saturday. I played the piano in sacrament meeting on Sunday. From the simplified hymns of course. I can still read music for the most part, but making it play on the piano is a different story. I make tons of mistakes, but it's better than nothing. And no body else can play in the entire branch. Maybe I'll stay here long enough to learn how to play real hymns! haha.

We kind of did a different approach on contacting this week. We went and got a bunch of chalk, and wrote questions on the sidewalk and drew book of mormons and stuff. Kind of breaks the ice for you, because more people just come up and talk to you.

Oh, I'm not sure If I've told you. But there's this lady in the branch here who feeds the missionaries every week. We pay her 10 lei each and she cooks for us. I'm not entirely sold on the food yet. Yesterday was pretty good, but other times, not so good. We had this spinach and cheese soup, wow. That was hard to eat. Anyways. We usually go there with a bunch of other missionaries every sunday after church.

Funny thing of the week. We were crossing the street by the mission office, and I stumbled up the curb, and kinda hit my leg into one of these posts they put every where to keep people from parking on the curb. and, smashed the phone in my pocket. So we had to have the office elders get us a new one. haha. It still worked, but you couldn't see anything on the screen.

Austin likes cars. . .here's a Maserati!

What a great looking bunch!

Monday, 12 August 2013

"It Was an Intense Week, But We Made it Out Happy!"

I don't really need anything right now. Just plugging along. Maybe some hi-chew candy. Or if you could figure out how to send me a chicken sandwich from Chic-Fil-a, that would be great. Or an Apollo Number 10? haha I'm just being ridiculous. The only american restaurants here are Subway and McDonald's for the most part. We also have Pizza Hut (way expensive) and Dominos (also expensive). But believe it or not, we have a Hard Rock Cafe here, and a couple Ruby Tuesdays. But all way too much for a missionary budget. I have eaten at Ruby's a few times, but it's not frequent. Anyways.

Still haven't got in touch with investigators this week. We got a few phone numbers from Book of Mormons we handed out. That was about it. We taught English twice too. Our class is cool, it's mostly just young people. We are in the middle of finding an apartment still. We were supposed to move in to one today, but the owner went behind the real estate agents back and rented it to someone else. Our schedule needs to be flexible, so we've been looking at apartments and meeting with realtors and trying to contact and stuff in between.

This week was pretty interesting. We had 3 seperate people on 3 different occasions tell us we're going to hell and that we're liars, right to our faces. I'll recount for you:
1. We were in on of the biggest parks in Romania, contacting for English. This man comes up to us and wants to know what we preach. Before we get to that, this other lady comes up. She then just starts asking all these loaded questions. Turns out, she was a member of the church for 6 years, and had been to the temple and everything. She told us that we're with the Free Masons. I've never heard that one before. Her reasoning was what happens in the Temple and how they're built. We kept trying to steer that conversation another way. She had a couple friends with her and she started to just get really pokey and rude. I took the bulk of the flak, and one of her friends kinda peeled off and talked to my comp, they actually had a constructive conversation, and this other lady felt it. While I was "occupying, distracting" whatever you wanna call it, the other people who were just out to get us. So that's number one.
2. We had just got on the metro took it one stop, and then this guy gets on. He proceeds to say, "Look at these guys wearing ties on the metro, where are you from?" We said the US and he was speaking English, he was from Chicago. Before I go any further, we are pretty sure he wasn't drunk,. but it seemed like he was impaired some how. We are thinking something along the lines of narcotic drugs, but we're not sure, he may have just been a jerk and a bit peculiar of a person. Anyways, he asks me, "What does having a relationship with Jesus Christ mean?" So I explained my opinion. Then he just said you're wrong. So I asked him. And he said that it's something we need to develop and cherish and grow (which is basically what I said). Then he asked my comp, "What does 'in the name of Jesus Christ mean'?" He told him and said,"nope, wrong, Mormons are smart people, but you two failed me." WHAT. This guy was nuts. We told him that that's not how Jesus did things, and he said, "You're right, but I'm a sinner." OK, aren't we all?? Then he said "I might end up in Hell, and you might very well end up there too, you can't express yourselves." We just told him we're here to help the people and teach them. We had to get off, so we shook his hand and he told us, "Too bad you have to leave, It was just getting fun, I love doing this to people." WOW. Gotta try to love some people, eh? He was rejoicing in telling us we're liars, and that we're wrong.
3. The last experience. After church on Sunday, we were walking out and the other elders said they got invited by a preacher guy on the street to go to his church . Started at 3 and it's 2:30, nothing better to do, sure we'll come with you. We get there, there's guitar music, loud prayers, another Evangelical church. So we thought. The guy that invited us was really cool, he was in prison for years in LA, should have died of AIDS and rotted in prison for the rest of his life, but he gave his life to God, and now is a preacher. He had some crazy stories. Waking up with syringes in his arms not knowing what he shot into himself. Talked about beating people up, stealing, learning how to be a criminal, that sort of thing. Anyways, that's the guy that invited us. Now the other guy, apparently it's his church. He's American and has a bigger family with 4 little kids and one on the way. Our friend did the first part of the sermon, then the younger guy did some. It was pretty standard to start. Then he just started being ridiculous. Telling about putting his hands on people and watching their legs grow in seconds, casting out multiple demons from people. Whew. Needless to say, it was getting a bit uncomfortable, so we got out of there. But, another person from the congregation (I mean 3 other people plus us 4) followed us out and started talking to us. He was cool, and didn't really believe what the guy was teaching. The point is that, we stayed out in the foyer for long enough for the sermon to get over. Then the guy (younger one) comes out and starts talking to us.  It was nice at the first. Then he said (speaking of The BOM) "How can you believe in something that isn't true?"  Then he got hostile and said, "We're here to destroy the Mormon Church, we love you guys and we're gonna destroy you, God Bless." That's a little abbreviated, but he said he's read enough of the Book of Mormon and that it's (His words here) "Scary" that we listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and walk by faith. We walked out and were like WHAT?  He passed around a donation bag and right before he did he said the following: 
"Well we were in the service back in the United States, and the church was only bringing in about 200 dollars a month. You can't live there on that, heck, you can't even live here in Romania on that. I pay my ten percent, sometimes more, if God asks us to pay 100 percent, we need to do it. I had a prompting one time to pay 20 percent, didn't even have any money to really pay, but I did it with some hardness of heart, but then I got a check for 1500 dollars. So we need to be generous with our money, time, everything, and God will be generous back. So if you feel so, you can put some money in the bag." CLOSE QUOTE. That sounds like taking money in the name of God, and using to for yourself.  There's a moral for these experiences:
When it comes down to it, every religion is backed in that corner of Faith. Every one has a loop hole that is bridged by faith. Every single religion on the planet. In each of these experiences we just bore testimony, that's the most powerful tool. When we do that, people feel it, and they know, even if they seem like they don't. I prayed for all these people that condemned me and my comp, and I feel better about it. We can love everyone, even if they tell us we're liars. It was an intense week, but we made it out happy.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

"I Might Have to Learn to Play the Piano"

Me in the ruined little castle thing at Cismigiu Garden

1) How are things with your new companion?

Things here are good. Elder A. and I are getting along fine.

2) How many people come to Church there in Bucharest where you are? Do you have chapel or a rented house like in the other areas?
We had about 60 people at church yesterday. Big jump up from what I'm used to, but it's good because we don't really have any responsibilities in the branch. They can handle it all by themselves. We have a chapel here, that the church actually owns, so that's cool. It is right across the street from a metro stop, and has a big grass field with it. I imagine it was probably pretty expensive

3) Have you taught any lessons this week? How is the contacting done there in the bigger city? Is it still English classes and service or what?
We were supposed to have one lesson this week, but he didn't show up. Apparently we have some investigators coming back into town this week, so we're hoping to meet with them after we start English classes.

It's been really hot. We finally went and bought 2 fans on Saturday. Makes a huge difference, but it's still way hot, because our apartment is on the sun side of the building all day long, we're just trying to find a new one as fast as we can, so we can move. It's getting kind of prolonged and it's starting to bother me. I've talked to like 50 realtors in the last 72 hours and none have called me back. We're gonna head to Coldwell Banker today I think. Maybe they can help us speed up the process. We want to move out this week, so we'll see.

For this week, it's been basically English contacting. We had our zone training meeting on Tuesday, and interviews with President and Sister Hill on Wednesday. Our district set a goal to give out 1 Book of Mormon per companionship per day. We're on track so far, so that's cool. It was a slower week, the heat is just nuts.

Leading the music sounds like a good time. Speaking of music. I might have to learn how to play the piano. I can still read music pretty well. There aren't any piano players in the branch, so I played from the Simplified hymns in priesthood, and that might have doomed me to play in sacrament meeting next week. We'll see. I could learn, and I could get permission to practice, i dunno yet though.

As far as sharing the gospel goes. I've learned here that the worst people can do is say no (most of the time). And that's fine. We can't take away other people's agency. If they say no, then that's that. We can't get discouraged. That's my two cents. Just go for it and if she says no, she says no. We're promised that everyone will receive an equal chance to accept the gospel. That means it's different for every person.

The sunset from our apartment.  The sun is right behind Casa Porporului.  "The People's Palace"

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Transferred to Bucharest (Capital of Romania)

1) You're in Bucharest in the southern part of the city, right? How do you get around---by car, walk, tram? 
Well here I am in Bucharest. Biggest city in Romania. Little bit different from what I'm used to, but hopefully it'll grow on me. We live in the southeast part of the city, Bucharest is kind of divided in half by a metro line, and we live on the east side. It also divides the 2 branches here, we are in the Mihai Bravu branch. We live like a 15 minute walk from the chapel and the metro station. It'a pretty big change from anything that I've done here in Romania before. Larger branch, more members, big city. It's cool though. Car, hahahaha. We walk everywhere and use the metro. We'll start using the trams and buses as well this next week. Traffic here is crazy, faster to use the metro usually.

2) How do you like your new companion and what is his name?
My new companion is Elder A. He's from all over but most recently Farmington, he graduated from Davis. He's in his 2nd transfer here in Bucharest. We get along so far, it's been a bit different from my other companions though, we'll be great i'm sure though. Just have to warm up to each other.

3) What is your new apartment like?
As for the apartment, the one we live in now is terrible. We are going to find a new one. The owner is done having missionaries there. He has been renting to the church for the last 6 or 7 years and now he's done. So we're starting the hunt this week. It's not a very good apartment either, I dunno why they kept it for so long. We'll be cleaning and stuff this week to get ready to move. Hopefully we'll find another place that's convenient to the chapel and a metro stop.

4) How many missionaries are in your district and what are your duties as district leader?
We have 8 missionaries in our district, 10 if you count the senior couple. 6 elders and 2 sisters. I just have to do district meeting every week, and report stuff from the zone leaders to the rest of the district. Not too big of a deal.

But, this week went by pretty slow with transfers and moving and stuff. We have just been English contacting for the most part. Apparently there are a few investigators here who are out of town right now, but we're gonna meet with them when they get back. Also, last night this random guy called and said he was an investigator, but his name wasn't in our phone, so we're meeting with him on Wednesday. We have our zone training meeting tomorrow, interviews with Pres. and Sis. H. on Wednesday, and district meeting Thursday. We'll be pretty busy. And it's the hottest time of the year. I sometimes wish I got called to the north pole. But, maybe they'll have a mission there by the time i'm ready to serve as a senior missionary. That's all for today.

"I Think I'll Learn Spanish When I Get Home"

This was from July 22 (We were at Bear Lake that week, so I'm just getting to writing the blog post)

1) Did you get a second meeting with the Orthodox guy from the tramvai, and if so, how did it go?
No, we didn't set up a meeting with the Orthodox guy, we have been busy getting things ready to leave and wrapping up English classes, and going to visit some members with the branch president.

2) Are you staying in Timisoara for another transfer, or are you off to another area?
We got the transfer board, I'm going to be leaving Timisoara, and I'm going to.... yup, you guessed it: Bucharest. I'll be district leader for one of the districts there. I'll be living in the southern part of the city. My new companion will be starting his second transfer, he came in the country with my current companion, Elder R., and his name is Elder A. Word on the street is that he's from Farmington, and graduated from Davis.... We'll see how it works out.... haha I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm pretty easy to get along with I feel like.

3)What's been the best part about your mission so far?
The best part... That's tough. I dunno if there is a specific part that's the best. Ask me again in like 6 months. I've just learned a ton, made friends, talked to lots of people, all those are pretty cool, it's tough to put a finger on one thing.

I thought a letter in Romanian would throw a curve ball. I decided i'm gonna learn Spanish when I get home. I've had some contact with it over here, and I understand a ton of it. I also understand a little Italian, not as much as Spanish though. But not Russian, don't understand a lick, or French, lots of French over here. I figure Spanish will be easy enough to learn, and it will be way more useful back in the states than Romanian will be. I read the blog, lots of it is wrong, oh well, haha.

Well this week we had a lesson. It was with an English student, who started coming to FHE at the church. So we decided to try to set up with him. He accepted and we had a good lesson (in English), too bad I won't be here to continue teaching him, that's Elder R's and his new companion's responsibility. Speaking of him, he is going to get Elder M. for his new comp, my old comp from Sibiu, who left the mission for back surgery a few months ago. He's coming back, and taking my place in Timisoara. So that's cool, a pretty good friend of mine is coming back to the field. We had a visit with a member this week, with the branch president, Elder H. She fed us these beans, almost like chili, but not really, the first two bites were interesting, the middle was pretty good, but I had a little struggle with the last few bites. We brought her a watermelon, and she turned around and gave us each about 1/4 of it. A HUGE piece. The members here are too nice. Speaking of watermelon.... That stuff is EVERYWHERE here, and it's only 1 leu a kilogram, we get one every week, sometimes 2 a week. But we finished off English for the transfer this week, and have been getting everything ready to go. Yesterday, we had a going away dinner with the Hunts, our senior couple missionaries here, we also had a member over to celebrate at the same time. Baked potatoes, chili, bacon, cheddar cheese (a delicacy) the works. It was super good. There were tons of leftovers, so we had lunch at their house today too. But that's about it, just getting ready to go to Bucharest tomorrow night. That's about it!
Oh, and this is the Hunt's mission blog, they put us in there all the time http://thehuntmissionchronicles.blogspot.ro/
Dinner with the branch president and his wife