Crăciun Fericit!

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE EVE!! I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas!

 
Last week we visited Bran, the castle of Vlad the Impaler, said to be the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The views were beautiful and the information translated poorly from Romanian into English of course brought lots of entertainment. I think our favorite quote was probably written by someone who believes in vampires with their whole heart. The paragraph was discussing the rumors and lore behind vampires and the next sentence said, “But, in reality, vampires are not visible in mirrors or pictures…” We all looked at each other…”in reality”? Okay, sure, why not. Also, someone else visiting the castle at the same time had the same hat AND scarf as Elder Davis (one of the APs) and we tried and failed to inconspicuously get a picture of the two of them together.
 
The next morning when we woke up, Sora was in a LOT of pain. The elders came over early to give her a blessing (they are so sweet) and we spent the majority of the day with me playing Mom/Nurse. She thankfully is much better now, but spending the day around the apartment was both needed and so weird at the same time. It felt weird to just sit and write letters or read Church magazines instead of being out and about. But Sora Hill is very clear that we need to take care of our bodies first before worrying about missionary work. I’m glad Sora is much better now!
 
The next day when we were bloc-knocking, we found a family with the last name Rotar…suspiciously close to Drotar. When talking to the woman who answered the door, we learned that her husband came from the same town as Sora Drotar’s dad — WHAT ARE THE CHANCES! We bet that she is probably somehow related distantly to the family. Sora just kept wanting to talk to the people — the lady wanted to close the door but we wouldn’t let her haha. How cool is it that we probably ran into some distant relatives of Sora Drotar!! 
 
We had some great lessons this week with new investigators we found, Mioara and Lenunța. Mioara is the landlord of the building we rent in Feldioara for church. Her son is always so helpful and has come to some of the youth events in Brașov and București. We had previously shared the Restoration with her and this time we talked with her about our living prophet today and shared “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” She was very attentive and asked many questions, like how to know what we were saying was true, where were people that had died and how could she see them again — many questions of the soul. Her father also sat in on the lesson and her kids came in and out of the lesson. At the end, we invited her to read from the Book of Mormon and to pray to know if it was true. We followed up with her yesterday and she said that she had! We might go out to see her tonight and I am so excited. We asked her to offer the closing prayer of our lesson and she was hesitant, but her daughter jumped right in and offered a beautiful prayer without us even asking. I’ve never had someone so enthusiastically jump on the chance to pray aloud — many Romanians faithfully pray, but usually alone or just in their hearts and minds. Many are uncomfortable praying aloud with others around, so it was really cool that her daughter Gabriella was so willing to jump in.
 
Lenunța is a woman that Sora started talking to on the bus to Săcele who agreed to have us come over and teach her more. She lives far out in Săcele, in the more country-side parts of the town. The landscapes were beautiful as we walked the 20 minutes from the bus stop with her son Adrian. I of course fell on the ice — classic me. Wouldn’t expect anything different. But the lesson with her was so focused. She talked about how her parents are Pentecostal and she doesn’t really go to church but she would like to change that. She was very open and receptive to what we taught and promised to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. The one difficulty I see is that she does not have enough money to buy a bus ticket to come into Brașov once a week for church. She wanted to come this week, but she said she barely has enough money for wood in the winter. It is very humbling to meet people who want to make the Gospel part of their lives but are stopped by something like 4 lei (a little over $1) that they cannot spare. It makes me all the more grateful for the things that I have in life. I am really excited to work with Lenunța and see how she progresses.
 
This week we did hot chocolate contacting! I had heard the idea from other people before — basically we stand outside the church building and offer anyone who passes the opportunity to take a tour of the chapel and have some hot chocolate. Lots of people still turned us down, but we got a couple people who expressed the interest they had always had in the church they passed daily on their way to work or the store. Levy also stayed with us the whole time — he was so funny in contacting. He asked a couple people walking, “Are you in a hurry? No? Perfect, let’s go inside!” And just like that, he was telling people all about the church. I am so impressed with the members here — they are such good member-missionaries! We also had the opportunity to talk to this really awesome girl, Florentina. She talked about how she was closer with God when she was younger and how she misses that connection now. She even teared up a little bit — I’m so glad we were out and able to talk to her. I have high hopes that we will get to teach her soon.
 
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All of us together at church!
 
This Sunday we had a Christmas party at the church! We had like 4-5 investigators come which was awesome — Lygya and her mother, Lidia, one of our English students, and the Pavels’ grandson Leo. We had a normal sacrament meeting — in which I played the organ?! I didn’t do any of the foot pedals cause I do NOT have those sorts of coordination skills yet, so I basically played piano except on the organ. After that, we had Relief Society/Priesthood and the third hour was food! Teo and Emma, two members, had spent all Saturday making sarmale and salat de bouef (kind of like potato salad) as well as cozonac (sweet bread with other things swirled in like cinnamon or Turkish delight). It was fun to see the branch members all mingling and laughing together. Afterward we watched the Christmas Devotional translated into Romanian. Then the Primary kids did their presentation and I played piano for them. They did so well – I was so proud of them! Finally, Moș Crăciun showed up to bring presents to all the good boys and girls! Fratele Herghelegiu made such a good Santa, except for when the extra stuffing started coming out of his jacket hahaha. It was such a fun time and I loved seeing the branch all together. It was such a wonderful meeting.
 
We have a lot of things coming up this week. We are going caroling tomorrow with the branch members and Lygya invited us over for dinner. Caroling is a big deal here in Romania – you can only do it on Christmas eve, otherwise its really weird. People will give you food, money, whatever you want. Lots of people do it, not just religious groups — usually groups of friends will just get together and do it. On Christmas day, we are going over to Marius’s house for dinner and to teach his parents (who aren’t members) a short lesson. I am so excited for this week! It should be really great.
 
I miss you all lots and love you lots! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Romania! I’m thinking of all of you this holiday season and hope you’re keeping warm!
 
Much love,
Sora Amy
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