Bună ziua!!

I’m writing to you from an internet cafe here in Braşov (brah-shohv), my first area! There is so much to update you on, so I’ll try to keep things short while still going into a little bit of detail. (Warning: I didn’t keep things short, sorry!)

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(Us with Fratele Boynton, one of our teachers. I’m missing all of the other pictures with our teachers, but hopefully one of my companions send them to me!)
 

The end of the MTC was bittersweet, but I was ready to go. The Italian elders all gave us blessings the night before we left — it was nice to hear the comforting words that Heavenly Father will help with all that I ask for and that there are always those around me that love me. We had to wake up at 3:30 am to get ready to leave for our bus at 4:30. To our surprise, all the anziani had woken up to come say goodbye to us!! Every night when we split up to go to our apartments, we would make up some song that basically said “Goodnight elders” that we had heard another district sing, and so they sang their own rendition the morning we left, “Goodbye sisters” and it was so cute haha. The Rome sorelle also saw us off, but they live with us so they probably woke up more from our walking around haha. But it was so great to see them one last time. It’s hard to believe that all of them are in Italy now!

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We went on our bus, took the Frontrunner to the airport, and that’s when I called! We had a layover in MSP then the long flight over to Amsterdam. I was able to fall asleep pretty well, so I haven’t been all that jetlagged. There was a man between Sora O’Brien and myself on the flight to Amsterdam, so of course he heard all about the Church being the only person seated by the three missionaries on the plane haha. It was weird to explain things in English since I’m so used to teaching about the Gospel in Romanian…but it was a nice break haha. After we landed, we got over to our gate and waited for a while for the plane to Bucureşti. The flight had no problems and we met Preşedintele Hill şi Sora Hill plus the APs at the airport! The Hills are SO nice and they instantly made us feel at home. We drove over the the mission office and spent all day running around doing things like signing some papers at a notary and getting a health check (“We need to check if you have any diseases like hepatitis or tuberculosis. Do you have these diseases?” “No.” “Okay, great.” End of visit.) After that, we went to dinner at the mission home. It was both a dinner greeting us and saying goodbye to two sisters who were leaving the next morning. The dinner was SO good and then we had a little testimony with the sisters who were leaving. It was interesting to hear everything from the other side, at the end of the mission.

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After dessert, our naşes (nah-shez) came to pick us up. The word naş in Romanian means literally godfather and is the name given to the people who you stay with for your first night in the country. Our naşes were Sora Polaitis and Sora Lund who were both so awesome. It was fun to get to see their apartment and get a liiiittle taste of what was in store for us. We finally got to take a shower and get to sleep in a horizontal position…it was awesome. We started the next morning by meeting with President and Sora Hill at the place where the dedicatory prayer for missionary work in Romania was offered and we read the prayer. It was amazing to hear the exact promises given to the people of Romania by an apostle of the Lord. After that, we met lots of elders and sisters and went to Pizza Hut for lunch. Pizza Hut here is a nice fancy sit down place haha and it wasn’t too bad! Then we went to go wait to apply for our visas — 3.5 hours in line UGH. But while we were in line, one of the elders started talking to a man who seemed interested in the church and he had Sora Merkley and I bear testimony in Romanian about why we were there and why we were learning Romanian — my first lesson in Romania!

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After finally getting visas, we went to the mission home to meet our trainers! My companion is Sora Drotar, an absolutely sweet girl from Arizona who is from a Romanian family so she is fluent since she grew up speaking Romanian. It’s been helpful when I have a MILLION questions on how to say things haha. We traveled over to the Gada, the big train station, and met lots of missionaries waiting for their trains. We left with our district (the two of us and Elder Reid and Elder Montoya) at 9:20ish and finally made it home by 12:30 at night. The apartment is really nice and Braşov is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous! We are surrounded by mountains and our area includes the countryside.

(The view outside my window!)
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I started my first day of missionary work with a lesson with Alexsandra, this really smart and sassy 21 year old who lives in Săcele, about 20 minutes away from our apartment. She is Pentecostal and feels like the Book of Mormon is a good book from God, but she doesn’t see the need to be baptized when she has already been baptized in the Pentecostal church. I was able to actually say a couple sentences and share some scriptures, which is great according to Sora Drotar who says new missionaries usually say a memorized sentence or two, if that much. Sora Drotar is super supportive and encourages me all the time which is just super helpful to have.

We managed to blow a fuse in our apartment by accidentally burning part of the toaster cord with the stove…oops. But we got it figured out and only went a couple hours without power haha.

The next day (Friday), we went and visited Cristina, the branch president’s wife who just had a baby last week! Anima 🙂 She is soooo cute and it was funny to hear Romanian baby talk (“What a little precious you are, what a little pink angel, my little precious angel!”) Afterward, we had a lesson with Ioana, a recent convert. She is a sweet older lady who just fits the look of a classic Eastern European grandmother figure. In the middle of my part of the lesson, she asked if I was married since I guess the right hand is the marriage hand here in Romania. I have since changed my ring to my middle finger to avoid confusion haha. Afterward, we went to go teach Elisabeta, this really wonderful lady who had a baptismal date, but doesn’t feel prepared yet. We may have to push back her date. It was really cool though to be able to teach about the Atonement and feel the Spirit in the room. Even though I speak slowly and simply and I make many mistakes, the Spirit can still testify to what I say if I prepare and rely on the Lord through prayer.

On Saturday, our district went to the Powells’ apartment — they are the senior couple here in Braşov. They made us a great breakfast and we watched part of the Priesthood session from conference. So great!! Afterward, we all went to English classes. Here in Braşov, the missionaries teach English — easy, medium, and advanced. Sora Drotar and I took the easy class and taught about mealtime words (salt, pepper, plate, napkin, table, etc) and taught about objective pronouns (me, you, him, her, etc). It was so endearing to see these grown men and women ardently copying the word for “glass” in their notebooks — I’m sure that’s exactly what I looked and sounded like at the MTC haha. I can’t wait until I get better at Romanian to be able to really help.

After English, we had a joint lesson with the elders with Castel. The sisters used to teach him and his family but his family kept being too busy to join in and sisters can’t teach teenage boys by themselves, so this lesson was a kind of passing-off of the baton/investigator to the elders. I think he was a little intimidated with FOUR missionaries cornering him, but I think it will be good once he meets with just the elders haha.

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We also teach piano lessons at the church on Saturdays and 3 people came, 2 of which (whom? My English grammar instincts are waning) were brother and sister, Cristina and Andrei. They are the children of a less-active member, Fratele Borbea, who doesn’t come to church because he works on Sundays, but he still sends Cristina and Andrei to church without him. Both of them are over 8 but neither feels ready for baptism. I got left to teach Andrei and it was probably the most frustrated I’ve felt on my mission yet. He is super hyper, as 8 year old boys tend to be, and didn’t have the patience to listen to try to understand my broken Romanian. And I couldn’t understand him and didn’t have the words to explain any basic piano concepts. It was really trying, but after he found out I could play “I am a Child of God” really well on the piano, we spent the rest of the time with him copying what I did to learn how to play the melody himself.

After piano, we went home with Cristina and Andrei to teach them a lesson. We played a game, the one where you blindfold one person, set up obstacles around the room, and then the others in the room give you directions to guide you safely from one end of the room to the other. We likened this to faith and I think it helped them understand it a little bit better.

On Sunday, we were running a little late to church, so I walked in and immediately had to play piano for Sacrament meeting — I am now officially sacrament and Relief Society pianist haha. You can tell Sister Beck that all those years of lessons are really paying off now! Church was a bit of an overwhelming experience just because of how quickly everyone spoke, but I was able to understand generally most of what was said and I could pick out the scriptures used in talks and lessons. Sora Drotar and I taught Relief Society and taught a lesson about the Tree of Life. When I say we taught, I mean that I drew my interpretation of the Tree of Life on the board while she did the lesson. I did do a little section on enduring to the end and bore testimony of that, but I was mostly an assistant haha. It’s hard to teach deeper doctrine with a basic vocabulary, but I’m learning more each day.

After church, we went out to Feldioara, a small town in the countryside (la ţara) where they were holding another sacrament meeting in a member’s home. They aren’t big enough to be a branch yet, but with about 2 or 3 more worthy Melchezidek priesthood holders, they would be able to be upgraded from a group to a branch. I LOVED seeing the faith of the people in Feldioara — sacrament was just 17 people crammed into a small living room singing “I Need Thee Every Hour” a capella, members had handwritten talks about faith and loving others — It was cool to be able to see what the Church looks like at its earliest stages.

We drove back quickly to have a 30-30 lesson with Ligia, a woman from English. 30-30 means we do 30 minutes of English tutoring one-on-one and then 30 minutes of a Gospel lesson. Ligia has really great English (we mostly just spoke with her to help her with her accent and some idioms) and she has an interesting religious background. She basically has tried all religions and really the only people she doesn’t like are people who don’t believe in any sort of God. She seemed eager to read the Book of Mormon to better understand us, but she seemed hesitant to commit to any kind of action.

Basically that’s a HUGE summary of everything that has happened over the past couple days. Sorry for it being so long — I just had so much to describe! Hopefully I won’t be this verbose in the future.

But I miss each of you so much! I found out that it’s just easier for you to write letters to the mission address all the time — I get those letters every couple weeks. Since I might be changing addresses every 6 weeks, it’s more reliable to send it to the mission office. Also, I usually get 2 hours of email a week, so you can send emails and I’ll have more time to read and respond than I did in the MTC. I miss you all and love you. I hope all is going well!

I love you and think of you daily!
Sora Amy
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