Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Missionary Christmas 2010

Christmas in the mission field is oddly incredible. Missionaries are well aware that their commitment to serve will take them from home and family for two Christmases yet, they are fine with it! They teach harder, sing carols louder, eat heartier, and in the end, say it was their best Christmas ever! It's a Christmas Miracle!

This is our District on Christmas morning. We ate a traditional American breakfast of Grandpa's hotcakes, ham souffle, hot chocolate and fresh oranges.

Always searching for a creative pose for the classic District picture, these Elders opted for the pyramid. (top: Elder Johnson; middle: Elders Schanck & Frandsen; bottom: Elders James, Simmons, Betteridge.


About a week before Christmas, Sora Lundberg asked us if we could arrange for all the Bucharest missionaries to visit an orphanage on Christmas Day. You would think a simple phone call to the orphanage would be all it would take but we soon learned that every visit needs the approval of each Sector's mayor. Emails went out to all six Sectors and after 4 days, we received no responses. Why wouldn't they want us??? We promised small gifts for the children and entertainment for their dull lives provided by 25 smiling missionaries!!! Finally the break came as one of our wonderful members helped us gain permission.

Traian was raised from the age of 2 in this orphanage. He was educated in Bucharest and attended a university here, obtaining a Masters degree in music. He is an absolute genius at the piano. A little over two years ago, he noticed two missionaries on the street and stopped them to ask why they were so happy. When he heard their answer, it rang true to him and he wanted what they had. He is one of our favorites and one reason we will find it hard to leave in March.

Traian and missionaries getting ready to spread Christmas.

This is Sora Lundberg, our Mission President's wife. She is telling the children (through Traian's interpretation) that "No matter what, your Heavenly Father loves you. Never forget that". She told the children that we wanted to have fun with them and invited them to share their talents with us. Without prodding, some jumped up and sang and danced and played instruments. It was a wonderful experience to watch them perform.

This couple did a ballroom dance number.

This boy sang an opera piece.

Missionaries performed as well. Elder James is holding his rugby ball which he gave to one of the little children.

We're pretty sure the little children had never seen anything like this! Elders Simmons and Frandsen did a Beat Boxing routine, complete with crazy dance moves!

Sora Lundberg roped me into a skit where we pantomimed going to the movies. It was a huge hit! (What's a "movie"?)

This little girl won our hearts as she wore the scarf and hat we gave her and played with her new Barbie doll.

She held her "treasures" with such care and ate everything in her baggie.

The missionaries were remarkable. Wherever I pointed my camera, I saw missionaries loving the children and giving them small gifts.

Elders Mathis and Boehme were super heros to these little boys.

Soras Olson, Mullen, and Fraser shared their joy.

You can't buy this excitement!

Our "good sport" President Lundberg speaks into a toy cell phone, to the delight of this little boy.

This is a picture of jubilation. Our missionaries will never forget visiting an orphanage in Romania on Christmas Day. We hope the children will never forget that they were showered with love by the missionaries and that their Heavenly Father will never forget them.

On a more frivolous note... This is the gift I gave Elder Linerud for Christmas. As luck would have it, it can't be shipped to America. A boat that can't be shipped?? Think about that!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Romanian Cuisine

WARNING: The images in these pictures are larger than they appear.

Holiday eating in Romania is not for the unenthusiastic! It's also not for Vegans! Since we are tons of fun to have as dinner guests, we had our share of dinner invitations during the holidays. As you look at this blog, feel fortunate that you only had to LOOK at the food. We had to EAT it!

Last Sunday, we were invited to this nice home in the suburbs of Bucharest. The Brinaru's live in a real, free-standing home, not a bloc building! Brother Brinaru owns his own printing company and is very successful.

Once the food is brought out, the serving begins. There is no such thing as asking for a small portion--you can ask but it's not what you get!

Mamaliga is a cornmeal mush that is served with Sarmale. I stopped Gabriella after the first and got two more scoops! Sarmale is a cabbage roll--sour, pickled cabbage stuffed with minced pork and rice then cooked in a pot for hours. It is delicious! Also, to round out the plate, you need more pork, in the form of a chop!

While this looks like "Fritos", (only in our dreams), it's really pig hide. When the pig is butchered, the hair is burned off with a blow torch (you can't make this stuff up), and then the hide is cut into strips and placed in a brine. If you chew it long enough, it becomes tolerable! We can't believe we ate it!

Bro. Brinaru reminds us of Keven Campbell but instead of holding up a King Crab, Bro. Brinaru shows off a pig kidney!

You can only imagine the size of the "donor" pig!

As if we were meat-deprived, we also have a vat of curing sausage. Luckily, this was not on the menu! It was being prepared for Christmas.

Continuing "show and tell", we have pig stomach and other "parts" in brine. Yum!

Now, this was on the menu and we were all given a big slice of LIVER encased in intestines! Bro. Brinaru was so very proud of this dish and he explained it was not only pig liver but also onions and livers from assorted birds. Don't ask.

Elder James (left) is new in Romania and you can tell he's less than enthusiastic about what he has in his mouth at the moment. Elder Johnson eats everything! (Notice the bowl of fruit!)

Finally, something we recognized! Dessert! Amazingly, it was disappointing.

We love the Brinaru family. They were so generous to invite us for dinner. They are wonderful examples of how keeping the commandments and embracing the gospel brings joy and prosperity.


Today, after church, we were invited to the Viaduva home for some home cookin' (since we are starting to look emaciated!).
Elena Oroz (on the left) was also invited and we were happy to have her along as she speaks English and could translate when we got into a bind.

First course was ciorba de curcan--Turkey sour soup! It was delicious, if you could avoid the arteries and pin feathers!

Then came the Sarmale and Mamaliga, which I found impossible to eat. Talk about rich!
Luckily, Denny helped to "dispose" of what was left!

Just when you think you can feel a Sunday nap coming on, this plate is placed before you. We summoned all our will to eat at least a portion of this fare. Seriously, do we really need all this meat? Here we have more pork, sausage and something so terrible I have blocked the name for it in my memory. It is pieces of chicken and a layer of chopped garlic suspended in a very salty and garlic laced gelatin. The question I wanted to ask was, "Why so much?". Eating food like this brings missionaries blessings!

Finally, it was time to sit around the table and Romanian, my least favorite activity. It fits somewhere between getting a root canal and riding a night train with drunk people. The bread in the foreground is Cozanac--a Christmas bread with a swirl of cinnamon and nuts.

As you can see, we are having a great time learning the customs and developing our tastes for Romanian delicacies. Although the gelatin dish will never be in the running for one of our favorites, we have come to appreciate most foods, in moderation! What we crave is a tossed salad or fresh broccoli or a veggie tray. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, it IS too much to ask! Don't mess with Sora Florica!

(She's actually the nicest lady--just not real photogenic!)

This is the last Christmas we will spend in Romania. Next year, another missionary couple (the Wolsey's from Edmonton) will enjoy the cooking of these wonderful Romanians.
(We intend to clue them in on the Gelatin thing!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's early Christmas morning in Romania and as a surprise to us, Steve hijacked our blog and posted this video of all our fourteen grandchildren sleeping. Although we are thousands of miles from these children, we feel like they are right here with us. Thank you all for filming these angels and, thanks to Steve for making the video. Christmas morning can't beat that!

Silent Night from Steven Selden on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Turbo December

Our mission continues to be a challenge and a blessing. A CHALLENGE because we're shuffling about as fast as we can go and a BLESSING because ...we're a part of the great army of 52,000 Mormon missionaries who serve all over the world. Our clothes are starting to fray and our shoes are wearing thin, but we wouldn't have it any other way. This post represents all we did in just one week.

Our final project for the year benefited a special AIDS intensive care unit. We went shopping to IKEA with the social workers and trusted partners, Mary Veal and Ana. The project called for soft comforters which would keep very critical patients warm and cozy. Humanitarian funds bought 40 of these.

Our taxi driver assisted in the stacking and delivery back to the hospital while we caught another taxi back. The logistics involved in a simple shopping trip make our job very grueling.

A week later, we stopped by the hospital and we were able to snap this picture of one of the comforters spread over the bony body of a very critical young adult.

She looked so peaceful and we felt money had been well spent.


This is Nina. We were able to spend some year-end money to buy this sweet woman a walker. We found her six months ago when we delivered a wheelchair to a neighbor and she asked if we also had a walker. Ummmmm no, but... and we finally just went to a pharmacy and bought her one. We jumped in another taxi and with a partial address and our good memories, were able to find her again. Imagine her surprise when we appeared at her door! She was flabbergasted and immediately started to cry and hug us. Denny adjusted it to fit her and we kissed her good-bye. This is why we love our mission. We have experiences like this almost every day or, at least every week!

Denny turned 64! We had a party with all the senior missionaries and President and Sora Lundberg at Ruby Tuesday and had a real American hamburger!

A few days later...

A container arrived from the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City. We called on the army of young missionaries to help us with the unloading. Hundreds of boxes of hygiene kits, school kits and home-made quilts were unloaded in under 2 hours--a record! We all have bruises from flying boxes but it was great fun to work side by side with these exceptional missionaries.

Two days later...
We jumped on a train and took an 8-hour ride to Timisoara to meet with an NGO. Luckily, our wonderful friends and missionary couple serving with us in Bucharest also had business in Timisoara so we made the trip together. (That's our story, and we're sticking to it!)

The Dummars.
Here we are in Timisoara.

The week ended with another great baptism bringing the total for the year to 129. Iulia is a medical student and decided to be baptized as a Christmas present to Jesus Christ, to herself, and as a surprise to her mother, who was baptized almost a year ago. Sora Holden and Sora Olson are great missionaries. Sora Holden just completed her mission this week and is now home in Redlands, California (my stomping ground!). Sora Olson is in her last transfer.
And finally...
As Elder Ferrin's last learned missionary skill before returning home...he mastered popcorn catching! Elder Ferrin, WE MISS YOU! Transfer week is always exciting and very busy. This week, we said good-bye to missionaries we have come to love like our own children (almost!). Eleven more arrived in Romania and the work continues. We love being missionaries!