Monday, May 31, 2010
They say that just when you think you've seen it all, something more astonishing occurs. That's exactly what happened Saturday when 5 senior missionaries went shopping at an outdoor piata in Bucharest. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that we're different--we look different, we speak different, we act different, WE ARE DIFFERENT...we are American Mormon missionaries, and you can't get more different than that! Whenever we're in public, we are dressed in "Sunday best". "Sunday best" in Romania is loosely translated into "semi-clean jeans" so we feel a bit overdressed about 99% of the time. That said, you can imagine the stares we get in a crowded outdoor market that would put Istanbul to shame! We were having a blast buying skirts and shirts (you can never have enough), and spoons and strawberries and tomatoes.
Sora Turner needed spoons for gifts. She is going home in 3 weeks! Sora Van Orman got "caught up" in the spoon frenzy!
As we were making our way out, Sora Van Orman seized the opportunity to give a Pass-along card to a gypsy woman who was staring us down. It started with one and it snowballed as a crowd of 6 or more huddled to see what she was giving away. Missionaries love this kind of thing and we fantasize that hordes of people would genuinely be interested in our message. As fast as she could pull one out of her purse, another hand would come forward. I took a picture because it was such a great moment.
It was about that time that I felt a little more than a nudge from behind and noticed out of the corner of my eye that a man was making his way past me tucking something under his t-shirt. At that moment I remembered something I had been told about gypsy skirts...that they had a secret pocket in the front, made especially for the purpose of tucking away pick-pocketed items. I strained to watch him as he fled but I was blocked by another man who wouldn't let me pass. I turned to warn the others but it was too late. Sora Van Orman's wallet was gone, along with her passport, visa, drivers license, credit card and about $45. I was the only one who saw "the man" and Denny and I went on the hunt to find him. It was hopeless. Now what?
We decided that this crime should not go unreported and as laughable as it seemed to call the police after we had just been "had" in the den of thieves, we would report it. What could it hurt? After a short wait, two policeman came and listened to our sad story. They had heard it all before and reiterated what we already knew...we were targets in the wrong place at the right time. If, by any miracle, this wallet would be found and returned, a police report would need to written at the police station. The Van Orman's agreed and while one policeman left to get the car, the other stayed with us. Out of the blue, he said something in English that floored us. "While we wait for the car, tell me something about Jesus Christ."
Elder Van Orman began by telling the story of Christ that is taught in the Book of Mormon...how this book is a second witness of Christ, along with the Bible. Elder Van Orman pulled a copy that he had tucked in his belt, and gave it to him. Sister Van Orman promised him that if he would read it, he could know for himself if it was a true story. She quoted (by heart) the scripture known as "Moroni's Promise" found in Moroni 10:4. He listened and said he would read it. She asked if he was married and he said he was engaged and would be married in October. She told him he could be married for eternity and then asked him how he felt about loving his soon-to-be wife for eternity. I have watched Sora Van Orman play the piano like a master but I have never seen a more masterful explanation than what I witnessed on that curb facing "the den" that hot afternoon.
Later that evening I called to see how the "reporting" went. I was still frustrated that the thief worked right under my nose and I couldn't stop him. Sora Van Orman was happy and calm and she explained that before they left home that morning, they prayed that they would find someone who would listen to the message of the gospel. She was not concerned about her wallet, just happy that a prayer had been answered. We can learn many things by hanging out with the Van Ormans!
Now, for the rest of the story. This morning three policeman walked to the door of the mission home. Sora Lundberg watched them in her pajamas and was terrified that they were bringing bad news. When they handed her Sora Van Orman's wallet, she was relieved and surprised. The only thing missing was the money! Someone had found it in a garbage can and returned it to the police. When Sora Van Orman called to tell us the good news, we could hardly believe it. This is Romania, land of the pick-pockets! Who would ever think that a wallet would be returned? Sora Van Orman explained that Sunday they fasted and prayed that someone would find it.
We can all learn from the Van Ormans. With faith, miracles do happen. Stay tuned for the young policeman's appraisal of the Book of Mormon. This story can only get better!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Numara binecuvantarile. Count your blessings.
Recently, we traveled to Cluj where we officially presented five Braille writers to students in the third grade in the oldest school for the blind in Romania. It was a thrilling experience to be among these 9 and 10 year-old children who, in spite of their handicap, are happy and thriving. They live together in this school, sleeping under quilts made by Mormon women in the United States. They are smart and sensitive and very appreciative. When we entered their classroom, they were typing away, proud of their new skills. For the first time, third graders have their own Braillers! If you have ever donated to the Humanitarian Fund of the Church, consider yourself a hero. This is an example of where your money goes. We are ever aware that these are sacred funds.
The school is more than a hundred years old!
This little boy was writing us a thank-you note.
The concentration level is amazing, especially for a 9 year old.
The teachers are very patient.
This is the Principal of the school, Vasiliu Vanda. He is totally blind.
After the closing ceremony at the school, we traveled to Brasov to inspect missionary apartments. Just knowing we were coming spurred these guys into action. You can tell by the shining floor that their apartment was immaculate! We are proud of you Elder Marks and Elder Guest. You rock!
The sister missionary apartment was pristine as well! Way to go Soras Mudge and Owens!
No trip is complete without a walk through the old part of a city. Could our smiles be any wider? We love our mission!
The train ride home was spectacular. As you can see, the rain has nourished the lush growth.
The cows were having a feast!
Romania is knock-down gorgeous right now. In fact, we've decided to live here . . .
until March 14, 2011.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Last week we attended a track meet and a wheelchair basketball tournament hosted by the Organization for the Disabled. It was an amazing day and we are constantly awed by how these brave people meet their challenges. We were given this watercolor painting of us, to thank us for being their champion. If they only knew...these disabled people are OUR champions and our friends.
We're not sure who this coulple is but we ARE sure we're not that fat and bald!
The event was covered by the media. This was the awards ceremony.
We were invited to ride the bus to the next event which was the basketball tournament. It took about 1/2 hour to load this bus with wheelchairs and their riders. We just hopped on! We felt very blessed.
These basketball players are very skilled. Imagine a "fast break" in a wheelchair!
Elder Linerud giving some coaching advice. Some habits never die!
After the game, we were invited to take a "walk" with the team. They boldly weave in and out of traffic and it doesn't even phase them. We were nervous wrecks!
Posing for a picture in downtown Bucharest.
My companion is a computer whiz! Last week he noticed particles of who-knows-what in the keyboard crevices so we went shopping for a bottle of compressed air. He was out of my sight for just a minute and then I noticed 15 screws on the desk! Oh my!
These are direct quotes:
"If they didn't want you to get into it, they would have put rivets."
"I shut the computer down."
"But, I got a bunch of stuff out of it!"
It's a good thing I have a handyman for a companion although his toolbox contains one tool: a Leatherman! It's also a good thing that the keyboard still works! It's really a good thing that my Mac has rivets!
Sunday, May 9, 2010
In addition to learning enough (to get by) of the Romanian language, we also have learned "Missionspeak". For example, when you are assigned to your first area as a new missionary, you are "born" there. Likewise, your last area is where you "die". Your trainer is your "father" unless you are a sister missionary, in which case, your trainer is your "mother". If you are a sister serving as a senior companion in a district and a new Elder is "born" in your district, he is your "son". If you are a sister, your first district leader is your "dad". You can have brothers and sisters if you share the same "dad" (da). New missionaries are lovingly referred to as Boboacas (sisters) or Bobocs (Elders). The root word is "Boboci" and it means "duckling". The ducklings are "green". If you spend much time with missionaries, you hear random words like, "weefy"--flakey, "bunged"--stood up, "noshed"--initiated your first day, and of course, "trunky"--thinking about home. There are AP's and ZL's and DL's. One word that is constant is "President". Don't abreviate! And we thought Romaneste was difficult!
Last week, on two consecutive days, there were Zone Conferences for 1/2 the mission at a time. Along with another couple, we served lunch to 100! The missionaries love being together and we took pictures to prove it! If you are a parent of one of these missionaries, this blog post is for you! Just know we love these servants! They are happy and bright and oh so hard-working.
Elder Lyons is just a boy in a tie who loves licking the bowl!
This is Cristina who taught us Romanian ON THE PHONE before we left Spokane. She teaches at the MTC and came home to visit family in Bucharest. She came at the end of the zone conferences both days to see her missionaries and you can imagine the mobbing she got! She is the reason all these missionaries know Romanian and they all love her! We love her too!
I love this picture. This book belongs to an Elder who loves his scriptures!
Sometimes, just for the fun of it, we will sit around a piano and sing.