La mulţi ani, România!

Lots of news this week! First of all being transfers and our new district! Transfers were Wednesday — Sora and I needed to be at Bucureşti by 8 in the morning to get to the visa office with the office elders and pick up my visa. The problem is that Braşov is a good 3 hour train ride away from Bucureşti…so we either had to get in the night before or leave at 4:45 in the morning. The train the night before would get in at 1 am and we decided it would be a really big inconvenience to the sisters we would be staying with if we showed up at 1:45 am at their door so we opted for the 4:45 am train. To say that the morning was a struggle is an understatement. We didn’t have any change for the taxi driver, only a 50 lei, and he refused to accept our 3 lei for the 5 lei ride. So we ran around the gară trying to find anyone with change for 50 lei but no one was being very charitable — the lady at the ticket window was so mean…WE CAN SEE YOUR STACK OF 10 LEI BILLS! We finally decided that we would just give the taxi driver our 3 lei and our phone number so that he could get 2 lei from us later. But when we came out to find him he was gone…we felt pretty bad — we didn’t mean to stiff him! He must have thought when we ran in to the gară to go ask the lady at the ticket window that we were running away, never to be seen again. Oops.
 
After our 3 hour train ride, Sora and I made it to Buc where the office elders were 45 minutes late…glad we got up at 3:45 in the morning for that. But I got to see Sora Merkley and Sora O’Brien!! It was so good to see them and hear all about their experiences the past 6 weeks. After the visa office, we went to the mission office to get some reimbursements and we ended up staying a while to talk to lots of the missionaries there. Transfers are a funny day — everyone (if they are switching companions or areas) comes from all over the country and spend most of the day in Buc. We take over a whole part of the gară in Buc, right outside the McDonald’s (classic Americans). People leave their baggage, we get letters and packages, and you are guaranteed to always find at least a couple missionaries there waiting for their trains or talking to their friends, even if it is super cold like it was on Wednesday. After the mission office, we went to one of the malls in Buc and ate lunch with lots of the missionaries. It was good to see people I had met last time and get to know other missionaries better. We went shopping a little bit and then made our way over to the gară to wait for our train. We picked up Elder Brown, the newest addition to our district, a missionary in his third transfer who spent his first two transfers in Moldova…he is shocked at how much Romanian he hears (as opposed to the Russian he heard all the time in Moldova).
 
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Romanians aren’t always the best at centering pictures…aşa-e. But, you get a good view of my winter boots!
 
As a district, we are already planning on how to make contacting fun in the winter…talking to people on the street is hard when it gets to be negative degrees outside, so we do “bloc-knocking” where you get let into a bloc (the communism-style apartment buildings all over Romania) and then knock on every single door in the bloc, trying to get let in for a lesson or to get a phone number to come teach the people later. Lots of people HATE bloc-knocking, so Elder Montoya’s ideas for making bloc-knocking and contacting in general more fun include “Bloc Wars” — different things have different points, like a door slammed in your face is 5 points, lady who yells at you is 3 points, someone with tattoos is 2 points, etc. Each companionship goes into a bloc and when we come out we tally the points and see who wins. We also have ideas for bingo — making a card with the squares being filled with things like contacting 5 families, contacting a lady with neon hair, getting 2 investigators to come to church — basically making our goals accountable in a fun way. I’m excited to see how it goes!
 
We’ve been doing a lot of English contacting — basically advertising the free English classes we teach. We paused our English classes last transfer but they are back on this transfer and we are really motivated to make them awesome! I’ve heard of other districts not having any time for contacting because they get so many lessons out of English classes — which would be especially ideal for the winter months. We are trying to contact younger people which makes it kind of easier…because we see so few young people, it makes it easy to know who you will go up to and talk to…no time for you to hesitate on who to talk to. We also do “Marius’s wife contacting” where we contact girls who look to be between 18-25 to find a wife for Marius, our ward mission leader. No success yet…but we’re not giving up yet!
 
We had a great district meeting this week and I wanted to share some of the thoughts Elder Montoya shared with us. He first talked about Acts 5:41, a scripture that talks about the apostles after they had been beaten and stoned and forced to leave. “And they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his [Jesus’] name.” I am so impressed by the courage of those early missionaries and I hope to become even a little bit like them. I love the idea that we must be worthy to suffer shame for His name — it is not a punishment when I get rejected or yelled at or made fun of, it is an honor to be worthy enough to suffer for His name. Sometimes it is hard to rejoice after being rejected, but keeping the example of the apostles in my mind has helped me have a positive attitude. Not that I didn’t have a positive attitude before, but it keeps my spirits up even more. Elder Montoya also shared Jeremiah 16:16, “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” The metaphor of missionaries being fishers is very common — “I shall make thee fishers of men.” But I love that here is mentioned hunters. We are a mission of hunters — we do not just cast a net over the side and pull up hundreds of fish. We wait all day diligently, work hard, and maybe don’t have any success, or we may only get one success. But our efforts are still valuable and the Lord needs us.
 
We had an interesting lesson this week with Raluca, this really cool 17-year old girl, who took us all around to the sights to see in Braşov — we ended up doing a lot more hiking than intended haha. We managed to fit in some Gospel stuff, but she seemed much less interested in that than talking to us about high school and what life is like in America. It was still fun and we got some good pictures out of the experience.
 
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You can see the snow on the roofs — it started snowing Tuesday night and was pretty cold for a couple days but warmed up recently. It’s just a rollercoaster ride over here weather-wise. But look at how warm I look in that new jacket!
 
This Sunday was our last Sunday with Elise, this super cool Australian member who was been volunteering at a hospital here in Braşov for the past month and a half. She knows no Romanian but still came to church every week — she even gave a talk out in Feldioara last week! She was so sweet and wise and it was always fun to get to speak English with her haha. I’ll miss her presence at church.
 
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This Sunday was also Romanian Independence Day — La mulţi ani, România! I loved it because there were flags EVERYWHERE! And if you know me, you know that I love when everyone is unified behind a cause and waving flags. For the opening hymn in church, we sang “Deşteaptă-te, Române!”, the Romanian national anthem. One of the bishopric printed out some music for me but it was only the melody so I just played the melody in octaves haha. Not skilled enough to harmonize on the spot.
 
Sorry that I didn’t have too much time to write about our lessons this week, but we had some great lessons and Simona came to church again this week! We are going to ask her to be baptized this week and give her a date for early January — she already reads, prays, and attends church. I think she is just scared to take the final step, but we’re hoping that the example of her mother will help her make the decision. 
 
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Us with Alexsandra [center], our investigator, and some of her sisters — she is the oldest of 10 kids!
 
Thanks for all of your emails and updates! I love reading about everything that is going on at home. I love you each and I can’t believe I hit my 3-month mark in a couple days — already 1/6 of the way through?! It really does fly by. I hope you all have a great week and know that I think about you every day! I love you and miss you even more!!
 
Cu drag,
Sora Amy
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