Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Last week found us in Galati (pronounced Ga-LATZ), a small city situated on the eastern border of Romania where the Danube River flows into the plain called the "Danube Delta". Galati is known for its shipyard and for a gargantuan iron and steel factory built during the communist era and now privatized. When we first noticed it, we thought it was another city on the other side of the river. Our driver told us it is the second largest steel factory in Europe. It makes Geneva in Utah or Kaiser in Spokane look like vegetable stands.

Our trip was planned to meet with four deserving NGO's who are doing what they can to help the underprivileged. It is always a rewarding experience for us to visit with kind and giving people who have organized foundations to deal with desperate needs. They are the cream of humanity.

As we pulled out of town, we snapped this final shot of the Blue Danube. It really isn't that impressive but it is the BLUE DANUBE, for heaven's sake!

This picture was taken in the living room of another senior missionary couple who serve in Galati. Their apartment is new and they have a beautiful view of the water. We pay the same amount in rent but we are not jealous! Why would we trade this boring view for ours? We have the benefit of watching our neighbors shaking rugs n' things and hanging out their colorful laundry!

This is the staff and some of the patrons from a Sports Club for the handicapped. They will be distributing 100 of our wheelchairs.

The handicapped come to this center to learn skills, receive physical therapy and to socialize. This woman is a Para-Olympics world champion power lifter.

Our next appointment was to visit a home for the elderly. They have been limping along with limited funds and need our help to refurbish their deplorable bathrooms. Upon first glance, it doesn't look that bad but then...

On the other side of the wall, there's wet, and mildewed and crumbling plaster. We will step in to help before the government closes this place and sends these people to an institution.

There are 10 women and 10 men who live here. They sleep in these lumpy beds, lined in a row.

Outside, we met them. The guys on one side...

...and the girls on the other side--just like a Stake Dance!

Shoes lined up so orderly.

These shoes were outside for a different reason. They belong to teenagers in a group home and placing the shoes outside helps with "odor abatement" (if you get my drift)!

On to a home where severely mentally disabled children are cared for by 5 compassionate "mothers" who take turns spending night and day doting over the children. The "children" are actually 20-23 years old with the mental age of 3 years.
This girl wanted to hold my hand and was so afraid to touch me that she would not let go of her caregiver's had for mine. Then, she started to cry. After a few minutes, we were friends.

In contrast, this girl came running to us and literally climbed me until her caregivers could un-peel her.

This boy did the same and our driver carried him around like a toddler. All these children have been rescued from institutions where they were neglected and bedridden. Our project is to build a shelter for them in their own backyard (where they cannot climb on people) and where they can sit in the shade during our HOT Romanian summers.

This van was actually a donation from our mission 10 years ago and it is held together with band aids and duct tape! Doors don't close, the driver enters from the passenger side...you get the picture! We were transported in this to the different organizations. (Next time you step into your late-model car, think of us in Romania!)

We noticed this scene from the window of our church building. It is an abandoned open-air theatre where Communist indoctrination took place. It is totally walled off and inaccessible. In fact, it is so tucked away in a neighborhood that, we're sure most residents don't know it exists. Seedlings are growing between the rows. Just being here is amazing. In our imagination, we thought we could hear Russian marching music! There is great history here!

Imagine this place filled with saluting Marxists.

This is the immense steel factory.

And finally, the "This is Romania" picture of the day...
Denny is holding a baggie full of eggs, placed conveniently near the chicken! Everything is tough here...the meat, the people, the missionaries, the egg shells!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


If we had to choose a week of our mission that we have enjoyed the most, it would be this week.
It started with the approval of a major wheelchair project that we have been working on for two months. Our proposal made it through committees on two continents and we got the go-ahead that will keep us bustling until September, and beyond. In addition, we also got approval for three area initiatives. We'll be buying computers for an employment training center, Braille writers for a school for the blind, and goats for poor families. Our life is a Primary song, "When We're Helping We're Happy..."

Work aside, we left for a "Bucharest Mission Senior Conference" held in the little city of Brasov in the Transylvania Alps. We spent three days with six other couples and enjoyed classes and workshops and a heavy dose of sightseeing and levity. As we got acquainted, we realized that we had many common threads among us. It is a small world, after all! Bragging about grandchildren was a common topic. We totaled up the numbers and among all seven couples there are 57 children, 153 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren! That's a lot of righteous pride!

After enjoying the old city center of Brasov, we headed for the castles of Transylvania. The countryside of Romania is breathtaking, especially in the spring. There are rolling green hills and farmhouses teetering on snow-capped and jagged ridge tops that remind us of the beautiful Cascades in Washington State.

Peles Castle is a magnificent centuries-old castle tucked away in the mountains. If you have an imagination, (we do) you would think you hear the soundtrack of "Beauty and The Beast" as you walk the reception halls and elegant dining rooms.

In contrast but just as enthralling is Bran Castle. We got the heebie-jeebies touring this spooky place since this is Dracula country and the setting of Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula". This is big business here and Vlad Tepes' enthusiasts come from all over to tour this castle and some ruins of his real castle not far away. "Vlad the Impaler" was the character that contrived "Dracula". He was really a ruthless and cruel ruler who had a creative way of punishing his enemies. Quoting from our Lonely planet tour book: "A wooden stake was carefully driven through the victim's anus, to emerge from the body just below the shoulder in such a way as to not pierce any vital organs. This ensured at least 48 hours of unimaginable suffering...." You think?

Here we are standing on a "lookout" in Bran Castle with the beautiful Romanian countryside in the distance.

We really did do some "work" at the conference.

We all had an assignment. Here, Denny is explaining what we do as humanitarian missionaries. Sora Lundberg looks very impressed as the President stares into Space. Everyone else was excited! I had to speak on the culture of Romania and how we can love and serve the people.

This is Peles castle. It is furnished and decorated to the nines. It's magnificent!

The king and queen in a rare appearance.

This is our group of senior missionaries.

This picture hangs in Bran Castle and it portrays Vlad the Impaler's favorite torture method. Notice the little figures impaled.

The walk was a tough one but the castle was within view.

The happy bunch. What's on your tie, Denny? (Gets him every time!)

13th Century Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Denny entering the secret staircase

This was spooky!

Four of us stopped to rest and take pictures.
Our mission president and his wife--Presidentele si Sora Lundberg.

Our group and some missionaries in Brasov after church today.

And finally, a view of the beautiful Romanian countryside taken from a castle turret.

Now that we are back in Bucharest, we feel rejuvenated and ready to go back to work. It was so nice to "get away" and enjoy some different scenery and sit at the feet of our mission president and some amazing couples. We feel so blessed to be in Romania. We wouldn't want to be anyplace else (except maybe with our grandchildren!).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Senior Couples

Along with the 86 or so missionaries in Romania, there are also six "senior" couples like us with various mission duties. Three couples serve in Bucharest-- one in the mission office, one heading up the Young Adults and the Institute program, and of course, we are Humanitarian missionaries. Luckily, we have a lot in common and we get together whenever we can to celebrate birthdays, or other events we can think up. This week we celebrated Sora Dummar's birthday by going to an out-of-the-way restaurant that turned out to be a real hit...until the end.

This is the specialty dish Elder Linerud and I ordered, for 2. It had a little bit of everything...German sausage, steak, chicken, grilled vegetables, pickled vegetables, baked potato, cheese balls. It was delicious but we couldn't eat it all so we asked for a "doggy bag". The waiter told us he would pack it up and he took the platter. About 6 steps from our table we heard a tremendous crash and saw our sausage rolling on the floor and the platter upside-down near the door of the kitchen. Two waiters scrambled to clean it up, one even kicking the sausage further into the kitchen. A few minutes later, a take-home box was delivered to our table, complete with the rolling sausage and the scrambled vegetables! Wearing name tags that say we are representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ tempers us in situations such as this. Looking into the box we all broke into wild laughter and said the one word that explains it all: Romania! We left the box balanced on a fence and smiled at the thought of a homeless person thinking he had struck gold!
As we waited for the bill, Elder Dummar had a little problem getting out ONE toothpick. The entire container exploded onto the table and floor. The trick was to try and stuff the toothpicks back before the waiter noticed. This is a new party game you can try at home! (No, we didn't stuff the toothpicks from the floor back in. That would be gross!)

The night before Easter Sunday, throngs of people crowd the streets about 11p.m to walk to their nearby Orthodox church to celebrate the Resurrection. At midnight, after some chanting and some singing, a large flame appears and candles are lit in turn until everyone in the crowd is holding one. The flame signifies the light of the Resurrection of the Savior. It is a nice tradition and Romanians are very earnest. After the lighting, we all walked home and watched the throngs of people from our apartment. The mission president gives the missionaries special permission to attend this celebration, as long as they're in by 1:30a.m.

You buy red candles on the street and bring your own. The sea of red candles is impressive.

We had the other Bucharest couples over for dinner and to watch General Conference on Saturday night. We can get all the sessions on the Internet. This was Saturday morning session, live.

Chinese Haystacks, Romanian style!


Denny and I have 13 beautiful grandchildren. We love and miss them more than words can express. If we had to put in order our challenges being on a mission, missing these children would be at the top of the list. That said, we also know that our example serving will help them commit to becoming missionaries themselves. Everyday we get "payback" for being here. To know that 13 grandchildren (soon 14) will want to be missionaries someday... that is the ultimate "payback".

Endure the pictures.

Grandma and Grandpa Wednesday.
Julia's and Steve's kids.


Joanne and our first-to-be missionary, Cameron

Drew and Joanne's kids went door-to-door in their neighborhood in Duvall selling cookies for the Humanitarian fund of the Church. They raised over $50 in one day and donated it to the fund. We love these children and feel their support.

Holly and Darrin have 3 children, Olivia, Owen, and Mallory. Thanks to Skype, we watch them grow!

Mallory, keeping an eye on the fishing worms!

Owen is listening to every word in Holly's lesson, "How to cast like a pro with a Spiderman rod and reel set from Walmart".

Olivia wants no part in threading on the worm!

Jonathan and Suzette are lawyers in Austin and will give us grandchildren when they think the time is best. We don't bug them!
This picture is taken on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington DC.

If you want fun and excitement, stay close to these two!

Logan and Julia have 4 beautiful children and live in Spokane. Soon after we arrived in Romania, little Henry Jon was born. We consider him our Mission blessing!

George, Jane, Lucy, Henry

We missed this Nativity Story put on in the Ditto home last Christmas. This picture is priceless!

Steve and Barb have 2 children and live in Sandy, Utah. Another great blessing of our mission will come in July as a baby girl will be added to the family. We are excited!
Just last week, Steve received acceptance into the BYU Graduate School of Business. By the time we get home, he'll have 1/2 of an MBA! We're proud of you, Steve!

Izzy and Jon all dressed up for Easter.

Izzy and Jon on Easter morning.