Christmas Highs and Lows

This week has been full of so much happiness!! First, I got to Skype home on Tuesday!! It was so fun to get to talk normally and not have to write out all of my thoughts — and of course it was great to get to see my family, hear their voices, and hear what has been going on in their lives. We only get to Skype twice a year, usually Christmas and Easter or Mother’s Day. It was such a treat to get to see them!!

Right before the Skype session, I was at dinner with Lygya, our investigator, her mother, and the Powells. Lygya wanted to thank us for helping teach her English and also wanted us to have somewhere to spend the holidays. I thought the first course was the whole dinner so I filled up on cheese, bread, and meat thinking that there wouldn’t be any more…little did I know that ciorba and grilled meat would follow. Oops. But it was SO good and I was full for days afterward. After Skype, Sora and I came home and wrapped each other’s presents…then opened our presents immediately afterward. Sora got me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Romanian! HOW PERFECT!! I’m so excited to read it when I get off the mission! Until then, I’ll carry it around with me as a reminder of how awesome she is 🙂 I got Sora Drotar a journal and on each page I wrote a memory we have together so she can remember all of our funny times. She loves journals and journaling so I think we both had great success in buying good gifts!
The next morning, Sora Drotar did her Skype session with her family. She was supposed to do it at the Powells but the call kept dropping so they hurried us to the chapel and she was able to use the computer there with no problem. We came back to the Powells and had a great breakfast with the elders there as well. We had gotten the elders PERFECT presents: we got Elder Montoya a gray scarf because he has been using a gray hoodie as a scarf up until now and we got Elder Brown intense hand moisturizing cream because his hands literally bleed from being so dry. Also, Sora Drotar’s camera has some function where you can “touch up” pictures but it basically makes everyone look like a scary Barbie doll…so naturally we touched up a couple pictures of the elders, printed them out, and used them as our Christmas cards to them. It was fantastic. The elders gave each of us a calendar (with their birthdays marked on it, of course) and socks full of candy. The funny part is that the day before I had said, “I really don’t care what sort of present I get, as long as it isn’t something like SOCKS, ya know?” I think I worried the elders with that statement, but they gave us fun colorful socks, so it is obviously much better than just getting some white Hanes tube socks. We gave the Powells a cute hand-written card and a framed picture of us — something to remember us by! After a really good breakfast (pancakes, French toast, eggs, ham), we watched some inspiring YouTube videos and Sora and I made our way to visit Marian, the man we met on the street the day before who was a member. It took us a long time to get to his apartment so we only had about 20 minutes, but we went over the pedigree chart he had and translated the words from English to Romanian for him. He was leaving the next day for the holidays and he comes back this week so hopefully we’ll meet with him again soon. 
We hurried over to the gară to go with the elders to Marius’s house. Marius, our branch mission leader, is so nice and invited us over for dinner and games with his family. His parents are not members, though he served his mission in England and came back about a year ago. His parents were SO FUNNY and sarcastic — I wish I understood Romanian fully so that I could catch all the jokes they were making. We ate lots of good Romanian food, played Rummy (there is a specific Romanian way to play which reminded me of lots of different card games I know all rolled into one), and looked at lots of Marius’s mission pictures. We also shared a spiritual thought with his parents about the birth of Christ. Marius was so grateful to us for coming but we were even more grateful that we could be somewhere with a loving family on Christmas day. 
Sora Drotar, Marius’s mom, me, Marius’s father, Elder Montoya, Elder Brown, and Marius!
The next day, we got back to work as usual. We had a lesson with the Borbeas and Alexsandra. Our lesson at Alexsandra’s went differently than expected…their preacher/missionary friend from their church was there and we ended up having a conversation/lesson with him. He taught a lot of things we agree with until he started using scriptures from the Bible about how women are not supposed to talk in Church…ok sure buddy. He also had a lot of wrong ideas of what our church believes so it was nice to be able to straighten those out. Sora was a champ in taking over a lot of the talking — I tend to be pretty quiet when things drift away from what we have planned. Because if we go away from what we’ve planned, there is no way to be sure that I will know the vocabulary for the specific situation or know how to say anything. I was able to talk a little bit, but I’m so impressed with Sora Drotar’s ability to handle any situation that comes her way.
Later in the week, we also had a great lesson with Teo and Levy, two of the members here in Braşov. We’ve been having lessons with the members to help them become better teachers so we can use them for sitting in on lessons and also so that we can start setting up home teaching and visiting teaching (which is basically defunct here). We talked with them about teaching simply, using scriptures, and not getting off track — especially since Romanians have a tendency to TALK. They were so open and willing. They are such strong members and we are blessed to have them here in the branch. They also have two adorable dogs that spent the whole time on my lap hehe. 
When we came home, I wasn’t feeling too well and we ended up spending the next day in the apartment all day because I got pretty sick. I’m doing much better now and I’m able to eat more. I think having a day off definitely helped me recover more quickly. But basically Saturday was a lost day which I feel bad about, but I know it was necessary. Don’t think I would have been of much use otherwise. Wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get really sick!
On Sunday, Alexsandra and her sister Patricia came to church! It was awesome to have her there and to see her mingling with the members. Granted, she came because we agreed to go to her Pentecostal church in the evening but I hope that because she came, she was able to feel the Spirit. We were kind of low in numbers (as usually happens the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s when everyone is out traveling), but it was still great to have her there. At church out in Feldioara, we had a new investigator Elena come to church. She is friends with the landlord and was visiting her when we arrived for church. It was super cool to have her there as we watched the Christmas Devotional and she agreed to have us come over to teach lessons. I have a lot of hope for her!
We went out to Săcele for the Pentecostal service. The only word I can think of to describe it was LOUD. Everyone prays out loud at the same time, shouting, crying, yelling praises to God. The music was turned up super loud considering how small the building was. The main leader, while preaching, was basically shouting into his microphone — buddy, you have a microphone! You don’t need to shout too! Pick one or the other. However, it was very inspiring to see the strong faith these people have and how much they believe in Jesus Christ and God. They see His hand in their lives and they acknowledge it fully. One thing I mentioned to Sora Drotar a couple weeks ago is that I am so impressed with how faithful the Romanian people are. Sure, we aren’t a super successful mission compared to others, but that doesn’t mean that the Romanian people aren’t very faithful and devout. Going to this service only strengthened my convictions. 
I am so grateful for so many blessings this Christmas season and I am especially thankful for all of you. I miss you lots and think about you all the time. I am so thankful for this mission and how much I have already grown in this short amount of time. It is hard to be away from home, but I know that all of you, as well as many people here in Romania, will be blessed because of it.
I miss you and I love you. La mulţi ani for 2014!!
All the best,
Sora Amy

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