They say that going on a mission changes you and there will be a time when you realize that you will never be the same again. That time has come. With one month in Romania under our belts, we have already had experiences that will change us forever. We hope our hearts can take all that is ahead of us for the remaining 17 months.
The week started with visit to Cismigiu Gardens, a beautiful park in the center of Bucharest. It was here in February 1990 (six weeks after the revolution and the fall of Communism) that Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated the land of Romania for the preaching of the gospel. When new missionaries arrive to begin their mission here, they are taken to this hilltop where the Mission President reads the Dedicatory Prayer. Knowing that this land has been blessed by an Apostle changes everything. Now we look at people differently. Some are more ready than others to hear the gospel message but on the other hand, some are frantically searching for the truth. Even though we are Humanitarian Missionaries and do not proselyte as the young missionaries do, we strive to be good examples of Christianity and spread good will.
(If you're reading this thinking that I've lost my normal flippant sense of humor and gone preachy on you, this is REALLY me! I love what we're doing and I love representing the Lord and His church here in Romania. I am still sarcastic and funny and witty and nutty and I'm a missionary and I love it!)
Enjoy the pictures and commentary for the week.
The photo op at Cismigiu Gardens. L to R: AP's, new missionaries, President and Sora Lundberg, Elder and Sora Dummar, Elder and Sora Linerud.
After the park we headed for an appointment with an NGO that represents the Roma (Gypsy) population. We know it's a good organization if they don't spend money for things like "curb appeal". It was a great meeting.
On the way home we ran into hundreds of flower vendors along a street. People were gathering in lines and we found out it was a "All Saints" holiday. Followers buy flowers by the bundle to take to the Saints (not Latter-day!).
Then there are the vendors who use every opportunity to display their goods. I bought 3 hand-carved spoons($1 each) and had a blast with my Romanian vocabulary. You can tell by the stares how good I am!
The members and the Mission put on a program telling the story of the Book of Mormon. Practices started the week we arrived and the program was Saturday afternoon. It was a huge success as you can tell by the smiles.
This is President Dragoi and his wife. His is our Branch President and played the part of Moroni. The huge Book of Mormon was actually a door from which all the "actors" emerged. Denny was in charge of opening the door gracefully and turning on the special effects (smoke machine). I was on the lights. Shirley Millar would have been proud!
The Missionaries sang beautifully.
Romanians played all the parts.
District President Doru and Sora Turner (the Director).
Today was the absolute best! We were called this week by a member of our District and asked if the Church had an extra wheelchair from the last shipment that could possibly be given her grandmother in a village outside Bucharest. Her grandmother had broken her hip a year ago and was confined to her bed because no one could lift her. Imagine staying in your bedroom for a year! We were lucky that four wheelchairs were still available and that one would fit her. The granddaughter arranged to have her boyfriend drive the 1 1/2 hour trip and we went along to make the delivery. When we turned onto a dirt road I knew this would be a home to remember. In my life, I have never been so close to poverty as we were today. Imagine a tiny mud home where you have to both duck and step over the threshold to enter. The kitchen is in the entry with a wood stove and a counter and no running water. It is about 4' x 6. The bedroom is about 10X10 with 2 beds, a table, a stove. The floor is dirt covered with blankets and rugs. The bathroom is in the back 40. That's the whole house! I hope no one noticed my eyes bugging out of my head!
This is grandma. She is 80 years old and looks 100.
Here we are walking the wheelchair to the door.
Grandma's house. Notice the tiny window.
When we brought the wheelchair in, she immediately began to cry. She hugged us so tight we thought we might fall into her bed. Our cheeks were wet with her tears, and ours. She thanked us over and over and over, in Romanian.
We helped her sit down and she just loved it!
Who would have guessed that a simple wheelchair would have brought out so much emotion?
Ioana, the granddaughter and our new friend. She is a University student who learned English in Utah where she had back surgery as a young teenager.
To our horror, food was served to us as we visited in the bedroom. It was a cheese/pastry thing and we had no choice but to eat it happily. I broke a piece in half and raved about how good it tasted. My cup of juice had something besides juice in it. Bonus! It was actually delicious (Fast Sunday!).
The bowl of pink stuff and flies bothered me but, get over it!
This is the kitchen. It photographed beautifully but really, it was horrible!
This is the cook!
The chickens ran wild in the courtyard.
The happy dwellers plus Ioana and her boyfriend, Christy. What's not to smile about?
After the wheelchair delivery, we were invited to dinner at Ioana's home. Her mother, Elena, made a Romanian potato salad called "Salata de Beuf". It has a little bit of everything including the usual plus, peas, carrots, olives and something else I couldn't put my finger on! It is then formed on a plate and skillfully decorated. Below, Elena is serving Ardei Umpluti or stuffed peppers. It was all delicious.
We look so happy because our eating marathon is almost over. Actually, now that I look at this picture, I can see a nervous smile. Could it be we're feeling something coming on? Stay tuned. This could get even more interesting!