Tuesday, December 29, 2009


They say that a mission is a great place to spend Christmas. That statement took a while to sink in but once we realized that our grandchildren really were not on their way to Romania to pay a surprise visit, we began to enjoy the season. Bucharest is a beautiful place in the winter, if you look at the big picture. We were "blessed" with a beautiful snow storm which provided the ambiance.

This is a view of the center of the city. In the summer this is a green park and in the winter, it's a wonderland, complete with ice skating. In the distance is the "Palace of Parliament" built by the Communist leader, Ceausescu in 1984. It is the world's second-largest building (after the US Pentagon).

Mr. and Mrs. Claus

One of our NGO's invited us to a fundraiser Christmas concert in a beautiful Catholic church. We invited along all the senior couples serving in Bucharest to add to the donation. We started with dinner then walked 1 mile in the snow to get there. Then we walked back!
It was all worth it!

Our Christmas spirit spiked in an unexpected way.
Since including a short video clip in this blog of a little boy with a lamb on the Metro, I have been asked many questions. Yes, he was begging. You can pet his lamb for a price or just give him money. His mother was on the same train and she kept an eye on him. When someone gave him food or money, he would deliver it to his mom. As missionaries, we are told not to give money to beggars. This would make every missionary a target. In Romania, there are many poor people and many beggars and some of the poor stand on the sidewalk in the snow and try to sell carrots or radishes or flowers or cranberries. Sometimes, we buy just to buy. Our name tags have a special designation under our name: "Reprezentanta Umanitara" and it bothers us that we have to look away when a truly needy person asks us for a favor. We don't feel very "humanitarian"!

About a week before Christmas, my faithful Visiting Teacher in Spokane emailed me a quote from this month's message. She said it reminded her of us on our humanitarian mission. Thank you Lori, for this thoughtful gesture. It changed our mood, our purpose, our Christmas, our Mission.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
"Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion . . . In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance.
Let us open our eyes and see the heavy heart, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers."

So, on Christmas Eve day, we left our apartment with baggies that contained 2 oranges, some chocolate dipped pretzels, and walnuts. We also cashed in a larger bill for some smaller ones. We boarded a bus and started looking for people to cheer. To some we gave the food and to others we gave 3-5 Ron (a buck or 2). We gave nothing to beggars (to be perfectly obedient to mission rules!). Our goal was to bring smiles to faces of the downtrodden. It was the best Christmas Eve we've ever had. I had my camera ready for some but mostly, taking a picture would have ruined the moment. Enjoy the two pictures below.

The smile....she just couldn't believe Denny just walked up and handed her money! A whole $4!

This woman had a shopping cart full of Tripe (stomach of sheep). Her smile was our thanks!

We have so many stories from that day that will be in our Christmas memories forever.
It is true...A mission is a great place to spend Christmas!

Finally, Christmas Day ended with the missionaries calling home. Twice a year (Christmas and Mother's Day) missionaries are allowed a phone call home. Every room in our little apartment was occupied. As I watched the drama unfold, I was reminded how very special this phone call was and I learned something that disturbed me. Parents in the States look forward to the sound of their son's or daughter's voice. Missionaries, not so much! At the end of the hour, they acted unaffected. What's with that?

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Mission Holiday Tradition...making a mess in the senior couple's apartment

We love our missionaries and to show our love, we invited them over for some old fashion sugar cookie decorating and gingerbread house creating. (Notice how I'm switching verbs and nouns in a sentence...It's what happens when you learn a foreign language!) They had fun and we enjoyed the centerpiece for a few days until Christmas morning when they couldn't wait to destroy it and eat it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

PRIMARY SINGING TIME and how a simple FLIP camera saved the day

Today in Primary, I found myself as the one and only adult who showed up to teach four lively boys. My Romanian language skills are lacking for the moment and I wondered how I would keep their attention for two hours. I considered my options: stand on my head while teaching OR share my disco dance moves OR use modern technology in the form of a video camera to keep them entertained. After the video "choir practice", it was downhill from there!
It was a rough two hours but then I thought about other Senior Missionaries in developing countries who struggled today with similar circumstances. This is what we do and somehow we get by and love it, (when two hours finally end).

Monday, December 21, 2009



(If you click on the link above, and the planets align, you somehow will go to "facebook" (don't ask why) then to the Church News site. It's all a mystery to me but it's the only way I know to do it!)

This week, in the Church News, we were thrilled to see coverage of the production, "Minunata Dimineata" in which we played very important parts. Denny was in charge of gracefully opening and closing the Book of Mormon "door" and I was in charge of the lights. It really was a wonderful event and the missionaries have had much success as a result. As always, when people stop to really listen to the message of the gospel, truth is recognized and miracles happen. There are 80 missionaries in the Bucharest Romania Mission and about 22 million people who live in Romania, a country roughly the size of Oregon. As we travel around this big city every day, people strain to read our name-tags and then they watch us. We ask some for directions or help in pronouncing a word and they are very helpful and curious. They ask what we're doing here and then most of them thank us for our humanitarian efforts and wish us good luck. After our conversation, we give them a "Pass-along Card" and explain how they can learn more. We have found most of the Romanian people are gracious and wonderful. As is in any big city, there are grumpy ones and some that look at us with disgust. We smile more broadly at those! Somehow, our little army of missionaries will attempt to reach everyone. If you think this is an impossibility, you don't know our missionaries!

Below are some pictures from the production "Minunata Diminata".

This is Bro. Florine who played the part of "Nephi". He is currently awaiting his mission call.

The cast

Friday, December 18, 2009


I just could not wait for P-Day to share the fun we're having in a typical Romanian winter. We're out in this every day but today we decided to make a video to get our minds off the misery. We needed to ship some signed documents back to our financial planner, Joel White. He sent us a pre-paid UPS folder and all we had to do was find UPS! Sounds simple? Watch the video!

I recommend this to anyone suffering in winter weather. Just park your car in the garage and use public transportation, run errands and film it. You could add more fun to the outing by taking along small children and shopping along the way. We feel sorry for snow-birds in Arizona. What a boring life! Don't forget your sense of humor.


Monday, December 14, 2009



As we sit at our dining room table staring out at the block building across from ours, we watch Romanian women shake rugs, tablecloths, mops, and cigarette butts from their balconies. This is great entertainment and we watch this dance every day and secretly wonder what the inside of their apartments are like. . . behind the faded draperies, aluminum foil and hanging laundry. We know rich people live in some of these because, we're told, only the rich can afford air conditioning. We sometimes make eye contact (or so we think) and we're sure they wonder why we watch them (sometimes with binoculars) and what kind of kick we could possibly get out of this daily practice! Most of the 2 million people of Bucharest live in 'block' buildings like these. This city is Europe's most crowded capitol with over 8,000 people per square kilometer (that's less than a square mile). It is 10 times more packed than Paris! The blocks were built by decree of a Communist dictator, Ceausescu in the 1960's to house the poorer people as he bull-dozed a fifth of the city to make way for his Parliament buildings and wide boulevards. The blocks are made from concrete and lack any hint of architectural design. Fifty years later, these buildings are grey and crumbling. We call our block, "HOME".

Our view.

A rug shaker in action.

It has turned very cold here and now we're understanding the scarf mania that started two months ago. Romanians are good at bundling-up because they practice for two months before the temperatures go below freezing. The high humidity and wind brings back memories of shivering in the fog of San Francisco, only colder! Well, it's Christmas time. It's supposed to be cold!

Christmas is in the air! We've had carollers at our door and have plans to do our share of the same.

We meet with the head of the Peace Corps tomorrow and plan to uncover possible projects for next year. Our 250 wheelchairs arrived in Constanta last week and after the first of the year, we'll be busy with the distribution process. This is an exciting and fulfilling work. Wish you were here!

Monday, December 7, 2009


We have learned so much in our nine weeks of our mission in Romania. Learning a different culture, not to mention a different language is an ongoing process and we have delighted in all (almost all) our experiences. Our specific assignment is to be humanitarian missionaries. We spend our days contacting agencies, hospitals, charity organizations, orphanages, etc. and we look for ways to help. The projects we write may be as simple as buying desks for one school room or toys for an orphanage or a washer for an AIDS clinic. We have major projects that take months to plan and complete but in the end, we'll have provided wheelchairs for 250 or water for a village. You can imagine our feelings of satisfaction.

That said, let me share a very important word and it's Romanian meaning:
IMMEDIATE~~3 or 4 days or 3 or 4 weeks.

Yes folks, we have also learned the meaning of PATIENCE. Maybe it's because we're new and fresh and have endless energy but we have learned that we can only do so much and then the wheels of Romanian business start slowly grinding. We wait more than we work. They say that December is the slowest month and that absolutely nothing happens the two weeks before Christmas. Missionaries are warned to have a supply of food because even the grocery stores are not stocked and sometimes close altogether.

So, what's so bad about that, you say? You're right. Just go with the flow and enjoy being a missionary tourist. It's a great life! This is what we do in the "down time":

Spend 10 minutes decorating for Christmas. This is our tree! Ghetto!

Hit a Romanian Craft Fair. We ditched our "companions" and had a blast last Saturday at this authentic Romanian Crafters Show. The only reason we didn't buy out the place is that you have to carry it home!

This is my favorite purchase. I collect Nativity Scenes and this one is now my favorite. There is no doubt it's Romanian!

Have you ever seen a husky Joseph with a beenie?

The shepherds look "wise"...

...and the wise men look like shepherds!

Pretzels on a string, anyone?

Masks are big here...and I do mean BIG! I was too scared to buy one.

Wood carvers are everywhere. Spoons are especially popular (and Romanian). I bought one. The carver told me each spoon takes 6 hours to carve. It cost $13.

These spoons take 10 minutes to carve. I bought one of these salad bowls.

In my usual disjointed blogging method, but keeping on the same day...

We rode the metro across town just in time to attend a baptism in our branch. The font was not filling fast enough so 8 missionaries formed a bucket brigade and filled it. Where there's a will, there's a way!

The newest members of the Church in Romania, Mbapou and Dudu (and I'm not making up the names!) Mbapou is a university student from Africa and Dudu is the last of a Romanian family to be baptized. It was a wonderful event. The Church is growing in Romania and we are a part of it!
We love being here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We love being in Romania. We often look at each other and privately marvel at all the experiences we're having. We learned how to say this the first week, and every week since, it has brought new meaning:

"Ma bucur sa fiu un misionara aici in Romania. Iubesc aceasta tara!"
"I'm happy to be a missionary here in Romania. I love this land!"

The highlight of this week was preparing and serving a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner to 11 missionaries. As each one entered our apartment, we were paid for all our labor by hearing these words, "Ahhhh. Just like home!" or "My mom...." or "It smells delicious!" or "Homemade rolls!!!!" or "I love Thanksgiving!" or "I'm so hungry!" The meal was not easy to prepare, however as turkeys (for some reason) are not common here. Ours was imported from Brazil! Only the big stores have them and they are tiny (10-12 pounds) and expensive ($25 each). Yams are also rare as is sage and cranberries (non-existant). Just forget about brown sugar for the yams! Somehow we pulled it off! The missionaries are always fun to be around but when they bring flowers and show their best manners, they are especially endearing! As we finished the meal, we each shared an experience or lesson from our mission that we're thankful for. It was a Thanksgiving to remember!

Left to Right: Elder Manzione (Utah), Sora Hardy (Utah), Elder Stomberg (Utah), Elder Linerud, Sora Gaughran (England), Sora Linerud, Elder Martineau (Utah), Sora Ostler (Utah), Elder Vekony (Hungary), Sora Gibbons (Virginia).

The smiling group as the carnage began. This group devoured 2 turkeys!

This was dessert~ pumpkin pie and missionary cheesecake. It doesn't get better than this! I don't recommend the pumpkin pie-making process which included: buying a pumpkin in a neighborhood outdoor piata, baking it, puree-ing it, de-stringing it, traveling across town to pick up a package that arrived in the nick of time from my mom and sister that contained pure gold in the form of ginger and cloves (nowhere to be found here!). The crust is made from butter because Crisco is lost at sea. The process was completed without my Kitchen Aid or a pastry blender! This pie was delicious!

Denny had the most important job of the day. With a flashlight, he kept constant watch on the oven temperature, adjusting and re-adjusting to make the most perfect rolls. I made a double batch to allow for sampling! (side note: I will never make rolls again in Romania!) We cooked two turkeys using this process. If you have to have a man in your kitchen, I recommend this job for him!

After Thanksgiving, we prepared for a trip to a small city in the mountains, Brasov. Denny is on the District Council and as such, has a speaking assignment every month. Brasov is a beautiful city in the Transylvania Alps and a FOUR HOUR TRAIN RIDE! We always meet the most interesting people as we travel and these three women in our compartment were a kick. They spoke 3 words of English and we had quite the discussion. We gave them "Pass-along" cards and the first discussion! (sort of)

This one talked the whole time, as if we understood every word. As we got ready to go, I packed up our lunch garbage and she asked me for the bag! Evidently, Zip-loc bags are hard to come by!

This is the Branch building in Brasov.

Brasov is a tourist town with a rich European flavor. This is the main square and in the summer months, it's filled with tourists. The yellow building is the Council House, topped by a Trumpeter's Tower, built in 1420. The last witch burning in Europe happened here! If you come to visit us, we'll take you!

More of "Piata Sfatului"

This woman finally succeeded in selling us a tablecloth, but not after some serious haggling.

If we look cold, it's because we are! Brasov is usually covered in snow by this time. Behind us is the "Black Church".

Biserica Neagra is Brasov's main landmark. It is the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul and still used by German Lutherans today. They give tours and we'll catch one on our next trip.

It was built between 1383 and 1480 and its name comes from its appearance after a fire in 1689.

A "must see" for every tourist is the smallest street in Europe. We walked it!

Elder Linerud!

Call us crazy but the highlight of the trip was eating in this Mexican restaurant!

We really miss Mexican food so these Fajitas tasted divine! This picture is for Nancy!

The missionaries told us not to miss the donut shop. Mini donuts are piled in a box and then toppings are liberally squirted all over. Lean over when you eat them!