Monday, 25 November 2013

Meeting with a "Big Cheese" of Romania, the Minister of Cults

Here's a picture of me and Elder B. at the Romania vs.Greece game.
Sounds like Elder Phelps had a good week. Apparently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is considered a "cult" in Romania! Here's the story:

Well this last week was good. We stayed busy as usual. Just preparing all the paperwork for the new missionaries who arrive tomorrow. We had a cool experience today though. So there is this huge stack of difficult to obtain documents that every missionary needs in order to apply for a visa. One of those documents is an invitation from the Ministry of Cults for each missionary to stay in the country for the duration of their mission. Usually we drop the documents off, and then come back about a week later to pick up the papers. This time, the papers didn't come through. The lady told us she'd call us back this week. But, we have so much stuff hinging on these documents that we needed a specific time. Because if nobody has the document, they can't apply for their visa before they leave to their different cities around the country. We went in on Friday, the guard said the lady had already left. So, we went back today, same guard told us that she wasn't there. This time we brought a Romanian missionary with us, and he said if we can't talk to her, we need to talk to someone. Right at that time, a man with a bag and nice suit asked us what the problem was. Elder G. (the Romanian) explained it to him as well. Then he invited us upstairs. Turns out that guy was the assistant to the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Cults. He leads us upstairs to a really nice office, then a conference room. We sat down, then the well dressed man said, "Gentlemen, The Minster of Cults." And an older guy walked in and sat down with us. He was the real Minister of Cults. The head honcho, big cheese, boss of bosses. He's actually the boss of the guy that signs our papers. He asked us what the problem, Elder G. explained and he told the secretary and his assistant to call the lady. They told him that it was on the computer in the office and it was locked and they needed a flash drive and so on. He basically said that he doesn't care about the computer or the office, just get the documents. He was really nice to us and said that he was Orthodox, but he respects all religions, especially because that's his job, to promote unity and cooperation between them. After about 10-15 minutes of him asking us how people treat us here and how it is as missionaries, the documents came and we were on our way. When we got out of the office, Elder G. explained to us that we just met with a VERY high ranking government official. They also left us with both business cards, the Minister and his assistant, and they told us to call them if we have any problems or want to discuss something and we can set up an appointment. Probably one of the most important people I've ever met in my life.

That's the cool story though. The next few days are going to be super busy for us. We have to take missionaries to a ton of different places around the city in order to get them applied for their visas. We are just running around all day tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday. get up early, stay up late, sleep all day Friday... haha. Not. We're always busy doing something.

Monday, 18 November 2013

You Would Have a Heart Attack if You Knew What Driving was Like Here.

Q: How are things in the Romanian mission office? So, what's new with you? Tell me again why you have a group for church instead of going to the branch and why it's shorter? 

A: Things are just fine. More paperwork, more problem solving, more crazy driving. I'm telling you, you would have a heart attack if you knew what driving was like here. Serious.

In the past (before I was here) there were branches for every sector in Bucharest (6). But as people stopped coming, the branches slowly closed. Now we have 2, and one group. One chapel on the west side, and one in the south east. The district president thought it would bring people back to church to have a group in the north (where the mission home, and office are). Because apparently there are many members up here, and they suspect that the distance was keeping some members away from attending church. So they formed the group in northern Bucharest. And we only have 2 hours of church, because it's like a satellite branch. All the donations are taken through the branch in the west, and they have "group leader" not a president. It's all under the direction of the other branch.

The weather here just cooled off really quick. It's been pretty cold the last couple of days. Still no snow or rain though. We are currently working on our mission slideshow to show at Christmas zone conferences. We have to sort through about a thousand pictures and put music to them and make the presentation for everyone to watch. And we have transfers next week, so we are in the middle of preparation for the new missionaries to come into the country. Staying really busy like usual. We played soccer in the park today. And it was Elder O's (my last companion) year in the country mark this week, so we ate at the Hard Rock to celebrate. Great burger, but kind of expensive.

I'm getting kind of tired of having 4 people in our apartment. Too crowded and hard to keep things clean. The other elders are moving next week though, that will make things easier. I dunno if I told you, but Elder O. has a native companion. A temporary missionary from Iasi. He's a funny kid named Mihai. He doesn't speak very much English, so we've all been able to practice Romanian a little more than normal.

I hope they don't make me go to the singles ward when I get home. Too much pressure to get married there. Maybe I can get a calling in our home ward and stay. We'll see I guess.

Well I'm really tired, and still have 20 bazillion pictures to sort, some health insurance claims to file, and maybe some grocery shopping to do. Sorry it wasn't too epic this week. That's how it goes in the mission office!

Dragon statue advertising the Hobbit 2

Monday, 11 November 2013

We Get to Have Turkey on Thanksgiving!

Q: How are things in the office? Did you do anything new and different/exciting this week? What's the weather like there? How is your health?? Are you staying well?

A: Nothing much new here. Just paperwork, errands, the usual. We did have a skype lesson with a recent convert though. He lives in the Czech Republic and he speaks Romanian a lot better that he speaks Czech. He just got baptized over there, I guess the office elders before me were kind of teaching him through skype on and off. That's about as exciting as it gets. We have to start running all over the city this week, because we have new missionaries coming in a couple weeks. All of their paperwork needs to be taken care of. On Saturday, we did go out to this member's house, like 30 kilometers from the city and we did some service in her garden. Cutting down some trees, turning dirt over, just cleaning up for the winter. We had 3 cars of missionaries full go out there, so there was good company. That's basically it though.

So you know the couple who works at the embassy I told you about before? They invited the whole office staff over for Thanksgiving this year. So we'll be at their house. And, cool thing is, we'll get to have Turkey! They don't really have whole turkey's here, but we're ordering one from the embassy. It'll be just like Thanksgiving dinner back home. My companion makes really good pumpkin pie too.

My health is just fine. The weather is cooling off here. Fast. It was really cold this morning, and apparently it's supposed to stay cold for the rest of the year. Up until now, it's been warm, but not anymore.

That's about it for this week. We are going paintballing today too, us office elders and most all of the other missionaries here in Bucharest. And, on the 19th we got permission to go the Romania vs. Greece World Cup Qualifying game. I'm pretty excited about that. It's at the National Arena, a big, brand new soccer stadium. It's gonna be a good game, and we get to go with a bunch of my friends in the mission. Our tickets were only about 15 dollars each too.
At the mall they had a coke stand, and you could type in something to put on your can.  I put PHELPS, and this other missionary, Elder R., his first name is Austin too.  He put AUSTIN on his and I stuck ours together, and took a picture.  (It translates to say, "Share a Coca-Cola with...." and whatever you write.)

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Official Office Elder

You're officially an office elder now---how is it going? How many people are in your branch and how many come on Sunday? Who is you new companion and how is that going? How are things going with the new investigators (the renters of the sisters' apartments)---did you have to hand them off?
Things are going busy. We have lots of stuff to do all the time. We actually go to a group, not a branch. And depending on the week, between 5 and about 15 people. For church we had fast and testimony meeting, then for the second hour we watched the last 3 talks from the priesthood session. Since it's a group we only do 2-2.5 hours of church. It was cool, because we had two native Romanian missionaries there with us. They are both in our district. They are both on "mini missions." I'll explain further down. They both bore their testimonies and it is awesome to see people with that kind of strength, because it's super hard to be a member of the Church here, let alone go on a mission.

My new companion is actually one of the first 18 year olds who came into our mission. His 19th birthday is next month and my 21st birthday is in January, so I'm about two whole years older than him. It's kinda weird. He's from Southern Michigan. We get along great. We've had an interesting situation the last couple weeks. So I was with Elder O and Elder C. (my new comp) was with Elder G. Elder G. left last week, which left us as a tri companionship. But yesterday, Elder O. got a new comp, a member from Iasi is going on what we call a "mini mission." That's super mission lingo, but it means he is a temporary companion for the rest of the transfer. Usually mini missionaries only stay for a transfer, and they come when we have an odd number in the mission. In this case, he came because we have an odd number, and this member wants to serve a mission, so he's gonna see how it goes for a few weeks. We also have 4 people in our apartment still, which is kind of annoying. The other two will move out in about a week though, they have another apartment which is being remodeled right now.

As for our investigators, we passed them off. They live pretty far out of our area, so we gave them to some other elders to teach. That's how it goes sometimes, but we're all on the same team.

Other than that, we've just been busy doing all the things required to run the mission. If someone has a problem in the mission, they call us. We have a ton of stuff to do. This week, monthly vehicle reports are due to Germany, stack of health insurance claims to file, cars to fix, cars to sell, cars to wash, car insurance to be renewed, finances to do, my to-do list is getting longer and longer, and stuff doesn't get checked off very fast..... haha. I like it though. we have an appointment at the Porsche dealership this week. That's where some of our mission vehicles get fixed. And we're in the process of replacing cars, so we have several to sell. We are also in charge of the Christmas DVD for the mission, we'll start that this week too. Crazy crazy.