This week has been a lot of goodbyes and hellos! Last Monday, after internet, we went to the train station to send off Elder Lex who went back home to Austria on Wednesday. Lots of pictures to be taken — it kind of felt like a wedding cause it kept being different combinations of all of us haha. When he and Elder Boydstun got on the train, they waved little white tissues out the train window and we sang a little bit of “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” in Romanian haha. It was sad because I probably won’t really see Elder Lex again since he lives in Austria…with most other departing missionaries, I know I will probably see them again at some point if I make the effort. But after that, we soras went out to dinner with Nina, a member here, and it was lots of fun.
We have been just doing a lot of Christmas-y things this week — for almost every investigator, we shared with them the video on lds.org, “He is the Gift.” And starting today, there is a shortened version (in Russian) running on all the buses that have television screens here in Chișinău! Sora Gibson and I already saw it like 3 times today and we were SO excited to see it!! We have also made some really beautiful pass-along cards referencing people to the video so we are excited to do lots of Merry Christmas contacting.
On Thursday, we welcomed in the new missionaries — Elder Bateman, who is new to our district, fresh from his 3rd transfer in Brașov (we bonded talking about all the members and life there) and Sora Bird, a sister one transfer below me who will be serving in Orhei and has already served there once before. With the arrival of the missionaries came the remaining documents for me to apply for my visa so I set up an appointment at the Romanian embassy for the following day. We go there and the man tells me, “I can’t give you a visa.” I was absolutely crushed as he told me this, but he further explained that literally there are no visas for American citizens to Romania because an American passport counts as a visa which is why we have those 90 days in the beginning. His verdict was basically either my 90 days renewed immediately after the permit expired or they will renew after a certain amount after my permit expired…but either way, there was no way to apply for a visa as an American citizen.
So I told this to the office elders and they called the Romanian Border Police to better understand the policy and they said that my 90 days renew after 90 days out of the country. So in January, I will be allowed back into Romania as if nothing happened!
We had a lot of great lessons this week that just make me so happy! We met with Tatiana, the hesitant 30/30 student who knows what she needs to do. Great news: She read from the Book of Mormon! She was confused about some things so we talked with her about it and really encouraged her to keep reading, emphasizing that answers come through reading and prayer. She said she would continue to read and we have a meeting with her again this week! We also are meeting with 3 awesome 20-somethings, Valeria, Veceaslav (who looks like the Moldovan version of Harry Potter), and Adrian. The three of them came to our English classes last transfer and will be going to the United States next summer for an exchange program so they asked to meet outside of class. We had a really great lesson with them about Christmas and another one about the Plan of Salvation. We asked them what they thought about where we came from. Adrian explained how he is about 50-50 between science and religion in believing where we came from. All three of them are very science-minded: electrical engineering and computer programming. I was able to share my testimony of how I see how science complements my religious beliefs, how science maybe can explain the how or the when of creation, but it has yet to be able to explain the why. It was one of the times on my mission when I felt like I was just myself, explaining some of my deepest beliefs to my friends. It was really wonderful. We also got a call out of the blue from Nadejda, a 20ish year old girl who came to our English classes a couple transfers ago. She had even stayed for family night and gave really great answers during the spiritual thought part. She stopped coming when she got really busy with school but we ran into her in the park a couple weeks ago and let her know that she should call us whenever she gets a spare minute and if she wanted 30/30s. And we were surprised when she actually did call us! Sora Gibson and Sora Allen taught her because Sora Bischoff and I were away in Orhei, but Sora Gibson said the lesson went so well and we will probably be teaching her again this week which I am SO excited for!
On Friday, Sora Bischoff and I went with the zone leaders to have a huge big exchange down in Orhei — 8 missionaries in a city smaller than Alexandria! On our evening maxi-taxi ride over, our maxi gets a flat tire…so we were stopped for about 30-40 minutes on the side of the road in random small-town Moldova. It was not the best. But we finally made it in that evening and I had such a great day with Sora Bird that next day. We did a lot of English contacting and Merry Christmas contacting, directing people to the Christmas video. The other set of sisters ran into a Peace Corps worker from Indiana and we ended up having lunch with her. We did some bloc-knocking and just got to get to know each other better. I love the opportunity that I have to learn about so many people and to make friends all over the US and the world. It’s a really amazing side-effect of a mission that is absolutely great.
It has been a great week here in Moldova and I can’t believe I will talk to you SO SOON! I love this Christmas season and the feeling of love and happiness in the air. I miss you lots and can’t believe this will be my second Christmas out here in the mission field, but I know I am exactly where I need to be. I love you so much and think of you always!
Lots of Christmas love,