Bloc-knock and it shall be opened unto you

What a crazy week that started with me going to ROMANIA!!!!! I never really thought the day would come when I would step on Romanian soil again. Monday night Sora Gibson and I went to the other sisters’ apartment and stayed the night. At 4 am, the Flanders came to pick me up to take me to the airport to go to MLC. Normally I would have gone with Sora Bischoff, the other STL here, but she has yet to receive her green card for Moldova and neither have any of the other sisters so I went solo down to Buc. My companions for the day were Elder Daland and Elder Hammer, the zone leaders. It was pretty weird and I felt kind of lonely at random parts of the day without a companion. Just a preview of life post-mission when I won’t have a companion around me 24/7. WEIRD.

IMG_2500​Just me and my companions on a plane. It’s whatever.

MLC was great — I loved seeing missionaries I haven’t seen in such a long time and it was really edifying to talk about all the things we are doing as a mission and how we are going to move forward. I am so excited to see the three Europe area goals come to pass: doubling the active membership, having each member prepare a name for the temple, and increasing the spiritual and temporal self-reliance of the members. I can hardly wait to see all the progress that will come because of these goals! We flew back that same day but we almost missed our flight. Our flight was at 4:30 and the meeting was still not over by 3:15. Finally at about 3:45 we left the mission office and Sora Ivory sped down the streets of Buc trying to get us there on time. We were already checked in, but we still had to do security and passport checks. I had my shoes untied in the car, ready to leap out. When we finally got through the passport check, we SPRINTED the entire length of the airport (of course our gate was one of the ones that was farthest away) and we arrive huffing and puffing to the gate to be told that our flight was delayed about 20 minutes! We would have barely just made it (we got to the gate at about 4:08 with the doors closing at 4:15) but thankfully instead we got to sit at the terminal for 20 minutes and catch our breath. We made it safely home but we were greeted by -10 C weather.

The next day was one of the hardest days of my mission. It was about -15 C all day with crazy winds and it was also Russian Orthodox Christmas…AKA everyone was busy or out of town, nobody wanted to meet, nobody was on the streets, etc. The combination of holidays and weather just made for a day where we didn’t know what to do. We tried to find less-actives and ended up in some really weird places. We were trying to find apartment 2 in a certain bloc but the bloc had like 10 different doors and none of those had apartment 2. Sora Gibson just randomly dialed an apartment number on one of the intercoms, 106, and we got a response! He let us in to the bloc and we started climbing the stairs but there were no doors for apartments…for at least 5 flights. We wondered where apartment 106 could possibly be and instead found what we are pretty sure is where Gollum would live in Moldova. We left the bloc before we could find any of the apartments so that will always remain a mystery…

IMG_2504​Gollum’s lair

We went bloc-knocking that night as well and met some really wonderful people and it was a testament to me that if I just try to do what I know I need to be doing, I will be blessed even if it seems a lot easier to just go home and call the day a bust.

We had another cool bloc-knocking experience. We got to a bloc and we prayed when we got to the top like we normally do. We prayed that the people would be prepared for the gospel, that their hearts would be softened and that they would be able to feel that we were meant to meet them. On the third door where we knocked, an older woman rejected us through the door (“Who are you?” “We’re missionaries and we have a survey!” “What? No, thanks.”) But then as we were walking away, she opened the door and said, “What kind of survey?” We asked her the questions and in the middle of it she goes, “Come in, it’s cold!” We ended up at Gheorghe and Larisa’s house for the next 45 minutes where they gave us some fruit tea, lots of baked goods, and they told us all about their family. They were so so so welcoming and I felt so much like I was at home instantly. We shared a spiritual thought with them and they were just the nicest. We invited them to English (they had been before so they could learn English for when they visit their daughter in Florida) and they said we were welcome back any time. They were some of the nicest people I have ever met and I felt like we could see their hearts softening in a matter of seconds.

We had an AMAZING lesson with Tatiana this past week. We haven’t been able to meet with her for about 3-4 weeks and so we were interested to see where the lesson would go. We asked her about how her Book of Mormon reading had been going and she says, “Well, I’m only up to 1 Nephi 9…but I have a LOT of questions.” She remembered everything so so so well and it was apparent that she was really concentrating and excited as she was reading. We talked about Lehi’s dream of the tree of life and all the history of Lehi’s family. It was funny because we normally do 30/30s with her, but when she arrived she says, “Let’s do the gospel part first” and we got so into our conversation that we didn’t even have time for the English which she didn’t seem to mind 🙂 I feel like I have really watched her progress over my time here in Chișinău and she has really become a good friend to me.

A lot of our lessons fell through this week, but I still feel like I can see the blessings all around me. I love serving a mission and especially serving here in Chișinău. Know that I miss you and I love you and I can’t believe I will see you so soon! I am a week away from my last transfer…CRAZY. I plan on making the most of this little time that I have left. But until I see you again, I think of you often and love you even more!

Love always,
Sora Amy

IMG_2501​FINALLY found a BRAY car! I can go home happy now

Week 70: The beginning of wisdom

IMG_2494Our Disney princess apple cider

This week has been a weird one, but a good one. We had New Year’s which was awesome! For the holiday, we decided to have our Chișinău sisters exchange the following day so that we could all have a reason to sleep in the same apartment. We stayed up until midnight and did a tradition that Sora Allen had done before where you write your wish for the new year on a little slip of paper and then burn that paper and put the ashes in the cup you will drink out of at midnight. The soras had bought some apple cider (they could tell it wasn’t gonna be alcohol because of the Disney princesses on the wrapper haha). We all had trouble getting our wishes to burn because a huge chunk would burn, then it would get too close to our fingers and we would end up dropping the whole thing into the cup and half would be un-burned but soggy…but it eventually worked out and we had a great celebration! From our 8th floor apartment, we could see fireworks all over the city! And they kept going for at least a good hour or two…Moldova may be the poorest country in Europe, but the firework industry must be booming based on what I’ve seen.

IMG_2499Me and Sora Allen, leaving our Cokes outside so they could get cold while we studied

My exchange the following day with Sora Allen was so GREAT! This was our 4th STL exchange together (plus another one we had when our companions went down to MLC back in October) and it never gets old! I love Sora Allen so much and it has been so amazing to watch her grow since I have seen her since her very first transfer in the mission. We had a great time contacting and just talking about everything. I told her about how I worry that with the end of my mission coming, I will leave and it will be like nothing happened, like I had no effect or made no difference. I worry that members will forget I ever was there and I know the day will come that not a single missionary in the mission knows who I was…and of course, that is how it should go. But she was so sweet and let me know how much of an effect our time together has had on her and how she is sure that other sisters I have served with and worked with feel the same. She talked about how Olea will never ever forget me and how that family will always remember me. It was so sweet and just what I needed to hear.

We met with a new investigator this week, Galina. She is from our English classes and is so great! She is a young mother who is a dentist that has a Ph.D. and is working on a master’s as well. One time during a spiritual thought, she kept asking lots of questions about what we believed so after the thought, we asked if she wanted to meet one on one and she said yes! We went over after church on Sunday and she was so great. She is super friendly and was really open to the message we had. She said she would read from the Book of Mormon and wants to meet again. Her adorable 8 year old daughter was OBSESSED with us…she painted a little ceramic monkey magnet for us and as we were leaving she goes, “Are you coming over tomorrow? Or the day after? Please say yes!!” Her big eyes just kept getting bigger as she excitedly asked us. They are such a beautiful family and I am so excited for us to be working with her.

I don’t have much time left, but there was a baptism here in the Russian branch! It was so wonderful to see someone make that covenant of baptism…and she still did it even in the cold water! Valea is such a sweetheart — she kept talking to me and Sora Gibson in Russian…one of the Russian elders told us later that she totally thought we understood perfectly. I guess I have learned to fake like I understand foreign languages pretty well. The mission just helps me grow in so many ways!

This Tuesday is Russian Orthodox Christmas, so I am excited to have Christmas part 2! I miss you all lots and can’t believe I will see you so soon!! Have a great week and know that I love you always. Thank you for all you do to support me, even if it’s just to think of me every once in a while 🙂

Love always,
Sora Amy

The title for this email comes from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk from the priesthood session that so simply stated, “Seeing ourselves clearly is the beginning of wisdom.” This is my resolution for the year, to try to see myself clearly and truly understand my weaknesses and work on them while still recognizing my strengths in the process.

Attack the New Year!

I don’t have too much time to write, so here are some of the highlights from the week!

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-Christmas! On Christmas Eve, we got permission for all of the Moldovan sisters to stay at our apartment so we all had a fun sleepover together! We did a gift exchange so we didn’t all have to buy 5 presents, so I gave Sora Bird a sweatshirt with an American flag on it (she’s a diehard America fan) and Sora Allen got me a book of Romanian poems and dog socks! She knows me too well 🙂 After that, we all went to the Flanders’ apartment to have a big Christmas feast. You better believe the cream corn was there, and it was GREAT! After our meal, we watched The Book Thief which was great, but kind of intense at a lot of points. Mostly it made me sad about the inhumanity of people and it just kind of depressed me in that way, but it was beautifully done and I can’t wait to read the book when I get home. We hung out a little bit with some of the youth that came over after that and then we went to the internet cafe to Skype home! It was so fun to see you and to talk to you and I can’t believe it is only a couple months until I see you here!

-Christmas Eve! Sora Gibson and I spent a while in the morning making sugar cookies for lots of members and less-actives but things were getting stressful. The frosting wouldn’t harden, the plastic wrap was ruining everything, the cookies were getting smushed, the buses were full and super late, and it seemed like everything was going wrong. We ended up getting to Sora Berdeu’s house an hour late and as soon as we walked in and apologized, we were crying. She looks at us and goes, “What’s wrong??! What happened??” And we tried to explain that nothing was wrong, we were just really really stressed and overwhelmed. She calmed us down and ended up just supporting us and letting us know how much we have helped her, especially with this branch split. She made us some gingerbread and sugar cookies and even left us each with a bag to take home and to open on Christmas day. She is the sweetest and the visit at her house helped us continue on with our day. We also visited Sora Covali, Eugenia, and Olea. It was a busy busy day with lots of running around, but it was great.

IMG_2475​Snow this morning!! Looking windswept

-Zone Conference! We had our Christmas zone conference on Saturday and it was so good to see President and Sora Ivory. It is weird…in President Hill’s time, any missionaries going home before the next zone conference would bear their “dying” testimony and if we still did that, I would have born mine then. President made a couple references to the fact that I would be leaving soon and it still hasn’t quite hit me yet. I think I am in the blissfully ignorant stage of denial and I am going to hold onto it as much as I can. But in my interview with President, he thanked me for being a leader and a great example in this mission. It made me tear up…most of the time, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything substantial, just going about doing my work quietly, but to know that it is acknowledged and appreciated really means a lot. He said that I will leave a legacy in this mission because of all the sisters I have influenced for the good. It was a really sweet and tender moment for me. I loved the conference in general and I always love hearing from the Ivorys.

IMG_2467Celebrating our 100-day anniversary on the 26th! All 9 of us have been in Chișinău/Orhei for the past 100 days together, if not more in the case of me, Elder Hammer, and Elder Daland

There is so much more that happened this week, but now that we are encouraged to only take an hour for emailing, I will have to be more succinct these last weeks. Sorry! But know that I love you and I am so glad to be here. I miss you lots and I can’t wait to see you again, but until then I will be working as hard as I can. I love you always! Hope you have a happy new year!!

Love always,
Sora Amy

Crăciun Fericit!

IMG_2419With Little Mo (short for Little Moroni), the cutest stray puppy EVER!

Lots to update for this week! One of the things we did this week was work with a lot of members gearing up for the Christmas activity we had on Saturday. We spent 3 hours on Tuesday helping Sora Gorgos sew little outfits for her grandson’s kindergarten. They are doing a Christmas program and we are making little Santa outfits for them. But we felt a little deceived because we thought we were making clothes for like homeless children in need, not costumes for them. But oh well, I guess it’s more that we are doing service for Sora Gorgos with her project. We were all sitting there (us four soras, Sora Flanders, and Sora Cooley) all just sewing away madly. We are going over on Tuesday to finish up the last little bits of that.

We also visited with Tania — we had a great lesson about how to share the Christmas spirit with others this season and she helped us learn a verse of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” in Russian. We had a fun time with Sora Berdeu this week as well. We were helping her brainstorm ideas of games to play at the activity. Every time we suggested a game she would say, “That’s…nice. But I just have in my head a different vision of what I want it to be like.” After a while she finally got to an idea she liked, so if nothing else, we were there to help along the brainstorming process haha. We talked with her about faith and how it can be strengthened and then carry us through whatever our trials might be. We had a visit with Sora Gordienco and her daughter Palina. They are so sweet and made us dinner and dessert! People always said, you won’t get fed in this mission, and yet time and time again, people force the food on me! It was a great time and then we had a lesson about prophets and how we can sustain and follow the prophet. We talked about the branch split and how it was hard on her and how she still struggles with it a little bit. But I felt like in this last lesson that she opened up to us more. She isn’t super good at Romanian but she gets by well enough and we are still able to talk and I feel like she started to trust us more too. We are excited to help her come back to full activity and to come to fully accept the branch split. We also had a lesson with Olea who we have not been able to meet with for a couple weeks now. She has been doing some things at the university so her free time has been limited, but we were able to come over and have a really great lesson about missionary work. She teared up when we read D&C section 4 together. She and Anatol both asked President Covali for them to be more involved with missionary work — they are just the best members ever. They have such pure, righteous desires and I feel like they just understand the Gospel so well. Olea and her example inspire me all the time and I dread the day I have to leave her 😦

IMG_2423With Diana!

We also met this week with some of our investigators. We met with Diana once and talked with her about needing to read and pray. It is kind of sad, we feel like she is losing her desire. I feel like so many obstacles have been thrown in her way and they just keep coming. She was in the hospital, her phone was gone with her dad for a whole weekend and she couldn’t talk to us, she is staying with a family friend for a while and has to take care of the kids, her tests for school are all stacking up…and it feels like all those things are getting in the way of her progression. We emphasized to her that reading the scriptures, even for a little bit each day, and praying will give her the strength and the ability to do all the other things she needs to do. She just seems to have lost that crazy, enthusiastic desire she had at the beginning when she started meeting with us. We are not sure how to get it back, but we will help her as much as we can. We also met with Nadejda, a great investigator we met through English classes. She is seriously so wonderful. She just gets things so quickly and she is such a true seeker of the truth. We had a lesson with her on Saturday, right before the branch activity.

Things were pretty crazy leading up to the branch activity. We had a lesson with some of our 30/30 students at 2, but we were still fiendishly baking cookies up until that point and still were baking when they arrived so we just kind of finished up while teaching them some English haha. Then we met with Nadejda right before and had to finish quickly because people kept interrupting and needing the room we were using. Nadejda stayed for the activity and it went really well except that all the kids of the branches kept going CRAZY! They were all just walking where they wanted to haha. We did a live nativity as the missionaries/youth and it went really well! Sora Gibson and I sang some Christmas songs on the ukulele and we even did one verse in Russian which we had learned from Tania 🙂 We surprised all the Russian members with that one! After all the festivities, we had lots and lots and lots of food. It was so fun to celebrate all together with the members.

DSCN2640​Sora Gibson and I performing

One last thing about this week: Elders Bateman and Boydstun have been working hard to get us to be able to show “He is the Gift” in the park because there are electrical plugs outside. So last night, we brought out a projector, a laptop, we hung up a white sheet between some trees, and we put on a show, complete with speakers! It was a really really awesome experience — some people stopped and sat on the benches to watch and others only saw for a couple moments, but it was so amazing nonetheless to be able to share the Christmas spirit with others.

IMG_2440​Me and Sora Gibson in front of our little set-up in the park

Merry merry Christmas to everyone back home! Hope you have a happy holiday season and know that I am thinking of you!! I miss you, I love you, and I hope you are all happy, home, and safe, surrounded by your families. I am so glad to be here surrounded by my Moldovan family and to be a missionary. I can’t imagine anything better.

I love you and I miss you!

Lots of Christmas love,
Sora Amy

Veceaslav and the Goblet of Fire

IMG_2411​Our last district picture at the train station

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.

IMG_2401​Are Coke bottles like this in the United States? Here, you can turn the wrapper into a BOW! Brilliant marketing…it makes me want to buy more Coke…

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,
Sora Amy

Third time’s the charm!

IMG_2406​Chișinău Romanian district with the elders doing “serious” faces

Big news first: transfers!! We were all freaking out about what transfer boards would bring and we were pretty upset because the transfer board came out at 9 AM on Sunday…which would normally be fine for anybody, but we are the only branch in the whole mission with church at 9 AM (they changed the times when our branches split). So we weren’t able to know transfer boards until after sacrament meeting. And the verdict is…WE ALL STAY THE SAME! I will be with Sora Gibson for a third and Sora Allen and Sora Bischoff are staying together for a third as well! All the Russian elders are the same and the only change will be Elder Lex who is finishing his mission. Elder Bateman will be coming to take Elder Lex’s spot. Sora Bischoff and I will both be STLs, even though we aren’t companions. We don’t know what that exactly means, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

This week has been eventful — exchanges both with Sora Seare and Sora Bischoff and then getting sick in the middle of all of that! On Thursday night, the Orhei sisters came down and Sora Gibson and Sora Bynum went back that evening. All day Friday was a day with Sora Seare and I absolutely loved it!! We went to go teach Olea in the morning but she wasn’t home so we were stuck outside in the freezing rain…literally rain that had frozen in the middle of the air and were little balls of ice when they were coming down. We came back home for lunch and then had a lesson with Diana and then one with Tatiana before heading back to Orhei. With Diana, we introduced her to family history and temple work and she was SO excited by it. She took a picture of my family tree so that she could go on FamilySearch.org right after the lesson and get started. With Tatiana, it was really interesting. She is a 30/30 investigator who is actually pretty interested in the Gospel but she is very hesitant to make any commitments. I asked her if she had the chance to read at all since we hadn’t seen her for about three weeks and she says, “Well…I had the chance, but I didn’t take it.” Then she talked about the video “The Restoration” that we had watched the time before and how she understood from it that we need to ask and then ACT if we want any answers to questions. So she understands what she needs to do, she just needs to DO it now! I think she will actually read from the Book of Mormon this week, so I am pretty hopeful!! Sora Seare and I hurried over to the maxi-taxi station and I was pretty worried about the timing of everything. The last maxi-taxi from Orhei to Chișinău is at about 6:15 and we were projected to be in Orhei at about 6…but then we kept hitting terrible traffice leaving Chișinău and I was worried we would have to spend a night over there. But thankfully, it all worked out for the best and we made our way home that night…just in time for us to switch with the other Chișinău sisters so I could have my exchange with Sora Bischoff.

IMG_2403Trying to fit in with the popular people in the popular party

At this point I was getting pretty sick, but I tried to keep pushing on. Sora Bischoff and I had such a great conversation that night, I absolutely loved it. My favorite part of doing all these exchanges is getting to know so many sisters on a deeper level. It’s like my circle of companions gets to expand every time 🙂 We had our last English class on Saturday and for our spiritual thought, we gathered everyone together and watched the new video on lds.org, “He is the Gift”. It’s awesome if you haven’t seen it yet! We also had come early and put together little bags of candy for all the English students to wish them a Merry Christmas! Afterwards, we went to a museum with a lot of the missionaries and Olea. It was supposed to be her with Anatol and the kids, but circumstance didn’t allow for that, so we just went with Olea instead. It was a really interesting museum about the history of Moldova, but during the trip I was feeling worse and worse. Sora Bischoff and I had planned to do some bloc-knocking after that but I needed to go home and get some sleep instead. I felt better yesterday and I’m feeling even better today. I feel so bad that Sora Bischoff got the short end of the stick since she had sick Sora Bray, but such is life sometimes.

Some fun things from this week:

-successful bloc-knocking and contacting! Sora Gibson and I have been lucky to keep running into really awesome people. We met a super sweet man named Valentin while we were bloc-knocking. We were able to share the Book of Mormon with him and he seemed really interested in it. We accidentally ran into Sora Tiukafkin in the same bloc! We had no idea she lived there and she was just as surprised to find us there at her door. She let us in for a couple minutes and we met her adorable granddaughter 🙂 And in traditional Moldovan hospitality, she sent us away with some food. We also met a really awesome guy, Iuliu, at a bus stop. He asked us, “Are you Mormons?” in English. We talked to him a little bit and it turned out that he had spent a year in St. George, UT as an exchange student and he had gone to church a couple times and had also been to activities. We are excited to invite him to activities here! We also discovered a new contacting technique — this coffee place called Tucano that reminds us a LOT of Starbucks. The girl who took our order asked us in English if we were Mormons and we talked to her as well as a couple of the other workers about our English classes. It is always fun to talk to someone in English cause I can fully be myself. We are excited to go back!

-visit with the Vizitivs! We went over to their apartment after church yesterday. It was funny because President Vizitiv had to go do some district president things for about an hour so he left us alone with Sora Vizitiv who knows pretty minimal Romanian…but we shared our family pictures, she shared hers, and we got to hear a lot about her life which I absolutely loved! And she did SO much better in Romanian than she gives herself credit for! When President came back, we had a lesson about how to share the gift of Christ this Christmas season, focusing on Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk from this last conference. After that, we broke our fast together eating some sort of Ukranian-style stroganoff-y thing that was super good and then some pumpkin cake for dessert. Everything we ate, even the apple juice, was all home-made and home-grown. We talked for a little bit more and then we were off. As we were getting all of our things together, they mentioned how we were pretty much like their daughters 🙂 I love them so much!!

IMG_2410
-seeing Centru all lit up! We made sure we made our way through Centru one evening to see the huge tree and all the lights. They even have an ice-skating rink right there for everyone. I hear the ice-skating is actually pretty expensive, but I love the atmosphere of the Christmas spirit that is everywhere.

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Everything is so great here in Chișinău! I love life so much and I am so excited for Christmas in just a couple weeks! Sora Gibson and I realized we will hit our 100 day together mark 1 day after Christmas haha. It will just be a week of celebration!! I love you all and miss you all so much, but I am so happy to be here as well. I think of you often and hope you have an amazing week.

Love always,
Sora Amy

Inima mea e Moldova

DSCN2469​Thanksgiving! It was so fun to have dinner again with Elder Montoya since we had Thanksgiving together the year before in Braşov!

This past week was great!! Thursday was Thanksgiving and we moved our P-Day to that day, as you saw. It was so fun to eat all together and the food was SO GOOD. We had 20 of us younger missionaries and our 3 senior couples all together in one big room. I couldn’t stop smiling and saying, “I am just SO happy right now!” The cream corn was a success — Elder Flanders said, “Wow Sora Bray…this corn is pretty bad. We’re gonna need you to practice every week and bring over a nice big batch for us every time…” hahaha. We spent most of the day just hanging out all together and it was one of the best P-Days ever! After that, Sora Bynum and I went back to Orhei to have our exchange the next day. We had a great maxi-taxi ride except every time it stopped, it would turn on these BLINDINGLY bright lights above all the seats. We spent Friday celebrating the one-year anniversary of sisters coming to Orhei with a good lunch and even cake! Orhei was opened to sisters just a transfer or two before Alexandria — crazy to think that almost a year ago I was going to Alexandria for the first time! We had a great lesson about the Restoration with the sisters’ investigator, Ludmila. She had the cutest little dog named Lika — she reminded me a lot of Nikki so I gave her LOTS of love. After that, we got my things and went to the church for game night. I learned a new card game that was weirdly fun once you got over the fact that you would be bad at it the first couple rounds. We met our companions at the maxi-taxi station and Sora Gibson and I made our way back home.

This week we taught Diana twice and both times were great. But we haven’t heard from her for a couple days now — radio silence can be really frustrating when you are a missionary!! We are still not sure when she will be baptized because we want to be sure that she is really ready and prepared, but hopefully it will be within the next couple weeks. We just want to make sure that she is ready to be committed to coming to church every single week. She has such a great desire and faith, but like any teenager, sometimes putting your priorities in order when it comes to time can be really hard. But when we taught her about the temple, she absolutely LOVED it. I can hardly wait for her to be baptized and to keep progressing in the Gospel.

We had a cool lesson this week with the Cooleys, the new senior couple. We went and taught two men who work for this media company that will be working for the Church to do some publicity — kind of like the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, but for Moldova. The Cooleys were meeting with them and invited us to come and teach them about the Plan of Salvation to help them better understand who we are. Sora Gibson had taught one of them, Alexander, before with Sora Bischoff when we were on exchanges last transfer, so she told me about how weird yet awesome it was. It basically felt like a business meeting with the Spirit there. They were really receptive and listened to our message and I feel like part of it spoke to them. Liviu, the other man who Sora Gibson hadn’t met before, said he really liked the idea that there isn’t really hell, just that each person will be where they feel most comfortable, whether that is the celestial kingdom or elsewhere.

IMG_2396​The four soras in front of Stefan Cel Mare!

We met with a couple members and less-actives this week as well. We met with Eugenia and challenged her to give out a copy of the Book of Mormon to a friend or co-worker. She is such a faithful member and we are really excited to get her more involved with our missionary work. She had some food waiting for us — salad that was BRIGHT pink. We asked her what was in it and she goes, “….mice…” Sora Gibson and I both look at each other with big eyes, wondering what we are about to get ourselves into. But then she started explaining in Romanian and we realized it was a translation error and we weren’t actually going to be eating mice, thankfully. The salad was pink because of the beets in it. You would not believe how many vegetables I have eaten out here on my mission — one time I even ate an olive, pit and all! We also met with Sora Gasnaş, the member who basically runs the office for the missionaries out here in Moldova. She met us outside her apartment building and took us to a different door than usual. Turns out, she was taking us over to her sister’s apartment! She has 3 sisters — two of them live in the same apartment building, one floor apart, one lives in the building next door, and the other lives across the street. They are all SO close and it was so cute to see them all together. We got to know Doina and Nina better, the oldest and the younger middle sister. I had seen Nina maybe once before at church (she is a member) and I had never met Doina before. They are such tight-knit sisters and it made me so happy to be spending time with them. Sora Gibson and I also loved that it felt like Sora Gasnaş trusts us a lot, enough to have us over at her sister’s home for dinner!

This Sunday were elections for Moldova. It is crazy to get ads for the communist party in our mailbox and to hear that the split is about 52-48 in favor of democracy, with the other part in favor of communism. But nothing too crazy happened to threaten our safety as missionaries, so we had a normal day of church and proselyting. Church was strange in the smaller Romanian branch — it reminded me of all the other branches I have served in with about 25 people there. I had to translate during Sacrament meeting when Sora Cooley gave a talk. It was pretty intimidating since most people there are much better at speaking Romanian than I am. I also gave the Relief Society lesson which was fun and terrifying all at the same time. After church and lunch, we went streetboarding! We didn’t have that much success because it seems like nobody was outside (it was pretty freezing so I don’t blame them). But we still had fun and I FINALLY got to streetboard. Streetboarding is basically having like a science fair poster with information about the church with pictures and then you wait for the people to come talk to you! But when people don’t come talk to you, it makes it a little harder haha. But all in all, a good day.

SAM_0635Streetboarding in action! Explaining to a young 7th day Adventist about the Book of Mormon​

This has been a great week and I absolutely love being here. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be in Romania and Moldova. I am so so so happy every day and I can’t wait to share this joy with you. I love you so much and miss you even more. Hope you have a great week and a great beginning of December!

All my love,
Sora Amy