We read in the newspaper today that Romania has not seen this much snow in one Winter since 1938. Don't tell the Romanian Mafia but I'm pretty sure the blame can be placed on the invaders from the West, in the picture below. It was about a year ago, after a record-breaking Winter in Spokane, that we had the first thoughts about serving a mission. We fantasized about being assigned to beach cities in Mexico or Florida. We dreamed about Samoa or Tonga or the Canary Islands or Santorini. The Virgin Islands would be nice, thought we! We even were brazen enough to mention to the Bishop in our interview that we loved the Polynesian people and would enjoy a mission serving them. When our mission call came, you can imagine our shock when we were assigned to Romania. How cold CAN it get in Romania? Don't get us started....
We really have no idea how many inches of snow has been measured. We only know how hard it is to walk in it. We're masters at scarf-wrapping! Thank you, Joanne, for your hand-knitted one. It is my favorite!
The whole snow-winter-thing wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the wind. Drifts like these make for finding the stairs to your apartment mecca challenging, to say the least.
This is a scene from our window. We watch the plows (circa 1938 storm) build the wall around these parked cars. There's a Mini Cooper that won't be going anyplace until sometime in April!
Digging one of these cars out takes hours. Being the "neighborly" sort doesn't matter here. You just pile it behind the car next to you. Romania!
It's hard to see in this picture but there are 12 street crew workers with garden shovels who have just finished throwing snow in the road from the tramvai platform. A few minutes later, the plow came by and threw it back on the platform! It's all very entertaining!
It has snowed now, parts of every day, for a week. Romanians think it is just snow but the missionaries of the Romania Bucharest Mission think of it as "Angel Tears". We are healing from the loss of two of our missionaries and, thanks to your prayers on our behalf, we are stronger than ever. Our mission president had the wisdom to call all the missionaries to Bucharest for a Memorial for Elders Davis and Burrows. Elder Linerud and I were asked to organize the luncheon to serve 100 and we were happy to do anything we could to help President and Sora Lundberg. Somehow, we pulled it off--without a car, without Costco, without Marylou Nowels! One hundred potatoes were carried all over Bucharest, first raw, then hot! Eight Texas sheet cakes were lovingly made just so we could give the missionaries "a hug from home". Serving times changed four times, due to some scheduling glitches and flight delays of Elder Kopischke, the General Authority assigned to come. All the missionaries arrived by 9am after riding night trains and maxi-taxis. The memorial was to begin at 9:30, followed by the luncheon. We soon learned that Elder Kopischke would not arrive until 4:00. Forget about keeping 100 baked potatoes hot! The real challenge was, what do you do with 100 missionaries for 6 hours? You work them! The great Assistants and Zone Leaders sprang into action and planned an activity that will long be remembered. In honor of the two dear Elders who died (who were hard-working, bold missionaries) all 100 of them were assigned areas in the heart of Bucharest in groups of 20 or so. They were so pumped and so blessed that in three hours (in 20-degree weather) they returned with remarkable stories and close to 300 phone numbers and addresses of people who wanted to know more about the Church. It was exciting to over-hear their stories as they filled their plates.
Elder Kopischke finally came at 4:00 and we had a wonderful experience talking about these great Elders. President and Sora Lundberg spoke along with 6 Elders who had served with Elders Davis and Burrows, and Elder Kopischke. Afterwards, the President and Elder Kopischke sprinted out the side door so Elder K. could catch another plane. The Elders stood while he exited and then sat down again. Sora Lundberg came off the stand and stopped and announced, "I'm giving hugs!" For the next hour and a half she hugged every missionary. It was another one of those, "I think I'm touching heaven" kind of experiences.
Missionaries getting ready to hit the streets of Bucharest
Soras Richards, Hardy, Gaughran, and Smith
Some sang, some just talked to passers-by.
Then, they ate!
We feel it a blessing to be serving our mission in Romania. It's beginning to feel like normal life here. It's "normal" not to have a car and to walk everywhere and to wear scarfs and boots and tights and hats and button up! And, we are loving the people. Their hearts have been softened over this tragedy and they are recognizing our name tags and talking to us more. Everyone we have talked to, from taxi drivers to neighbors to people in the buses and subways, have followed the story on TV and they are very sorry this happened in their country. Romanians are like that. They feel responsible and they almost apologize.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Church's presence in Romania. Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated this land to the preaching of the Gospel and promised 20 years ago that the hearts of the people would be softened. It happened 3 weeks after Communism fell during a bloody revolution. Is it more than a coincidence that 20 years ago, all these great missionaries were born and for 20 years, they have been preparing for this day?
We love this work!