Sunday, January 31, 2010


Sometimes, life is so raw that words or pictures cannot express the feelings we are experiencing. Today we awoke to an early morning phone call explaining that there had been a tragedy in our mission. Two young Elders had been accidentally asphyxiated by natural gas in their apartment in Timisoara. Our thoughts immediately went to their families in Utah and Nevada and then to our missionaries here, grieving beyond expression.
As we gathered for church, the mood was somber but it wasn't until the Mission President and his wife entered the building that the flood gates opened. One by one, the young missionaries were hugged tightly by President Lundberg. Sora Lundberg could not hold back the tears and sobbed as she met each one. We watched grief beyond description today. There are no pictures with this blog post because only your heart can take a picture of the suffering we saw today. If you can, imagine a loving Mission President and his wife consoling their "children". Please include our Mission in your prayers. Our prayers are with the parents of these fine young Elders. This is an "unexpected transfer" and in the coming days, we will understand it all. For now, we're very sad.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Our trip to Cluj was three-faceted. We visited the boarding school that received a shipment of quilts and other items from Salt Lake City in October.

We visited a respected NGO representing the disabled who we will work with to bring 350 wheelchairs here in July.
We visited the largest and oldest School For The Blind in Romania where we had done a project in 2009 giving them sound equipment for their programs. They invited us to be their guests at a special celebration they put on just for us!
If you asked us to name our favorite moment or experience, it would be impossible to identify. We loved our visit with all three groups and we will never be the same.

Our visit to the Blind School was amazing. Again, it is a boarding school from kindergarten through 12th grade. Some children are totally blind and some are so sight-deficient that they cannot go to a regular school or function in society. We took along 4 missionaries who they had invited to come with us in hopes the missionaries could volunteer to teach piano and guitar one day a week. The missionaries were excited for the opportunity.

We toured the school and met the students and then were given seats of honor at their little performance. The video follows this post. Keep in mind, most of these performers are totally blind yet they can dance and smile (sometimes). After the day, the missionaries were sobered and thankful for the experience.

On the tour, we were shown fourth-graders using Braillers. The Church bought these Braillers for them in 2008 and the kids wanted to demonstrate their skills. They typed out beautiful thank-you notes and then read them to us. If you touched them on the hand they would grab you and hug you. It brought tears to our eyes they would never see.

We will endure any weather Romania throws at us for moments like these!

A kindergartner

Reading Braille

Each Brailler costs about $650 and each child is assigned their own. They value them and take care of them. Their skills are amazing.

There are 6 dots that make up a letter and their fingers fly over the paper as they talk.

This was our thank-you note!

The little boy near the wall was the fastest "typist" in the class.

Reading Braille

Speaking as she's typing

Sora Smith speaking Romanian with a student.

Elene Bucur is the head teacher at the school and she arranged for our visit. Here, she is showing us where the children sleep--about 20 of them in this room! (Disregard Elder Linerud's "attitude" expression!)

Our missionaries got an education this day as they sat through some "business talk". We will write another project for this school. Hopefully it will be accepted by our Area Welfare in Germany so we can bring in more Braillers. The missionaries are scheduled to teach piano.
It doesn't get much better than this!

The Blind School Celebration Program


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Romanian Countryside


This week, we visited Cluj, a city in northern Romania about the size of Spokane. We took the day train for 9 hours and thrilled with the views of the frozen countryside. It was our pleasure to visit with three groups (NGO's as we call them--Non-Governmental Organizations). The first visit was to a boarding school for 4 through 10 year old disadvantaged children. Think about that.
Twenty years ago when Communism was overthrown here, some landowners were lucky enough to be given back the land that had been previously taken away. The land where this school sits belongs to a kind old man who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children in villages. He built a school and now about 60 children live here, going home on weekends and holidays. They are from poor families who gladly give them up so they can have a hot meal, a clean bed and an education. The children were so young and all I could think of was our own grandchildren and how they would feel leaving their homes. As we rode home on the train we talked to a friend who shared our cabin and she said she went to a boarding school when she was 6 because her parents were poor and...she cried every night. This is Romania.

I tried a new trick in this posting...a slide show. You will see pictures of quilts and wonder why. This school received part of a shipment from Salt Lake City giving them school kits, hygiene kits and quilts. Mormon women make these quilts! If one looks familiar to you, you probably tied it! Thank you! Romanian winters are brutal! This week the temperatures are below zero.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Ten or more years ago, when we sent our children on their missions, we could only imagine what a mission was really like. Are they happy? Are they warm? Are they obedient? Are they finding success? Are they good missionaries?

There are so many great things to be said about our Mission. We are discovering new energy as we travel throughout Romania, meeting with charities and the greatest people you can imagine. We're fighting the computer dragon and we're winning! We have been so tired, so frustrated, so cold, so hot, so hungry, and so happy. . . all in the same day. BUT, the greatest part about serving a mission is watching the Church grow through the day to day efforts of our young missionaries. They are amazing and we love working (and playing) with them. For the most part, they are happy and warm and obedient and finding success and, they are oh so good!

So, I have collected the emails of the parents of the missionaries in our district and I have in invited them to our blog. I hope they like seeing their son or daughter in action!
For the rest of the family and blog addicts, bear with my love affair with missionaries. It might pass, or not.

Our purpose as missionaries is to: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." (Preach My Gospel p. 1)
Missionaries try everything to accomplish their goal. This is an approach that works well and is a lot of fun. We sing, people listen, we teach. Sounds simple. It's not!

Elder Clonts from Arizona explains the Book of Mormon.

Sora Hardy, Elder Johnson, Elder Ott

Soras Smith and Hardy

Sora Gibson

Elder Martineau (our District Leader)

Sometimes, Elders stop and join in singing with complete strangers. There's not much teaching going on here but they are having fun! Elders Hale and Collier finished their missions in December.

These shoes are typical. Our missionaries walk everywhere and wear out their shoes. There is mud and "other debris" everywhere and it's a constant battle to keep shoes and pants clean. (this Elder gave up the battle, as you can see!).
I love shoe pictures because shoes tell the story. Your missionary son or daughter is working hard here in Romania. We are watching them like hawks for you, so quit worrying!


Friday, January 15, 2010


We have been living in Romania for three and a half months and mostly, we have enjoyed every minute. The minutes we have NOT enjoyed involve restless nights in a double bed, unrecognizable food, the popular game, "What is that smell?", and stairs, (and stares).
All the above are dimmed when we are invited to share dinner and conversation with a wonderful Romanian family.

Last Sunday evening, we were invited to the Doru's. President Doru is our District President in the Bucharest District. He is the equivalent of a Stake President (and he would be if we only had a Stake, which we don't, yet). We met him on our second day in Romania. He met Elder Linerud not with a handshake but by picking him up, bear hug style after which, Denny returned the gesture! They have been buddies ever since. President Doru is a great leader who loves everyone and has faith and vision of Church growth in Romania.

The evening with the Doru's will be forever etched in our memories. The food was the most delicious we've had and sitting-around-the-table afterwards was journal worthy.

The Doru Family

Every good meal starts with Romanian suc (juice). It's all delicious.

Ana-Maria is a wonderful cook. Here she is delivering Salata de buf which is like a potato salad
that has been decorated with the skill of Julia Child. It's as Romanian as our double bed! It is also very delicious.

This is what it looked like before the carnage.

Romanians eat in "courses". Bread is placed in piles on the table and you begin by spreading an eggplant "spread" and piling on the ham and cheeses. Honestly, the eggplant tasted like guacamole! There was also a mushroom dip/salad that complimented everything.

Lucky the plate was small. It would be easy to go overboard here!

Next, the Sarmale or cabbage rolls and pickles and picked peppers, picked! The pork/beef/rice mixture is rolled in (you guessed it) pickled cabbage leaves and then cooked all day. It is really delicious.

This is a plate of corn mush. There's a Romanian name for it, but some things you want to forget!

Just when you think there's no room for another bite, this plate of sausage and pork arrives. I'm glad there is an unwritten manner rule that says you have to try everything because this sausage was to die for. (and I usually don't like sausage!)

Finally, the cake! It was as delicious as it looks!

After we ate, we sat at the table for another half hour or more and just talked. President Doru is so amazing. The Church is growing in Romania largely because of his vision of the future and his leadership. The video that follows this post shows President Doru giving advice to the world and also six missionaries who will never forget this evening.

Here we are after dinner, fat and happy.


As we arrived on Romanian soil, it wasn't long before we
met President Vasile Doru and heard his story.
Searching for a better life shortly after the Revolution in
1989, he along with 4 others nailed themselves in a
shipping crate bound for the USA.
They survived 13 days at sea undetected with only
dry salami, dry bread, biscuits and 8 liters of water.
As they neared the end, they rationed the water--
1 cap full, 3 times a day!
Once in America, they headed to Canada where they
were protected by emigration law and it was in Montreal
that he made friends who would introduce him to the

It is said that our trials make us strong and that
adversity introduces us to ourselves.

Enjoy meeting President Doru:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Now that the holidays are over, we are excited to get rolling as humanitarian missionaries. The Romanian people really know how to celebrate Christmas and nothing gets in their way...not business, not weather, not poverty. Most of our business contacts left Bucharest for Christmas, visiting family or just vacationing in other parts of Europe or Romania or the USA.

This first week of January, things are picking up. Our emails are getting answered and we have plans for a train trip to the north of Romania. We're excited!

By way of explanation concerning the video clips...

New Year's Eve was an experience that only a video camera could capture. At about 11:45 p.m., all heck broke loose and fireworks like we've never seen (so up-close and personal) started to light up the sky. The war-zone atmosphere lasted for an hour with fireworks shooting out of windows, off the roof, and as far as you could see.

I took some flack over the statement I made last week about the missionaries not really "being affected" by their calls to home on Christmas day. I remembered how I loved, loved, loved talking to my children for that special hour and I thought there should be more gushing as I watched the missionaries end their calls. I found out that they really love it as much as their mothers (for the most part), as the rebuttal video shows. So there.