Monday, October 10, 2016

The Beginning of the End

Buna tuturor!

The only reason for the dramatic title is that, well. It's the beginning of my last transfer. It's crazy to think about, but I know that it's going to be a great one!

Sora Gubar and I found out on Saturday that she will be serving in Sibiu, and I will be staying here in Iasi to train another new missionary, Sora Langenstein! It was a total shock to us both, especially because she's the only new sister coming in this transfer, and I will be doing only the first half of her training before going home. But I'm excited to finish strong with boboaca foaca! Serving with Sora Gubar was absolutely amazing and so much fun. I know that she's off to do great things in the west!! (if you're reading this Sora Gubar, it means you survived the 13 hour train ride... маладецы!! сукчэс!!! тэ убэск!!!! :)))

I'm writing you this e-mail from Bacau.. super random, but Sora Kitchen and Sora Gleason are nice enough to let me stay with them until Sora Langenstein gets here on Wednesday!

I just wanted to share the unexpected miracle that happened this morning.

     It started out with Sora Gubar and I waking up at 5:30 instead of 3:30. I was supposed to already be on a train to Bacau, and Sora Gubar's train to Bucuresti was leaving in 30 minutes. We flew out of bed, grabbed our bags, said a prayer that we would be able to make it for Sora Gubar's train, and headed out the door to grab a taxi to the gara. After calling every taxi number we had and eventually resorting to running up and down the big street in front of our bloc, it was 5 minutes to 6:00. We eventually got a taxi, told him that we had a train leaving in five minutes, and he sped off. Sora Gubar took her ticket out to check the time, and we found out it actually didn't leave until 6:10. We made it just in time to get her suitcases on as they blew the whistle.
     After I waved goodbye, I was left in the gara to figure out how I would be getting to Bacau. I had a feeling there was a reason we didn't hear our alarm go off, and that there was someone I would need to meet on the way to Bacau that I wouldn't have had I taken the earlier train. So I said a prayer, felt good about taking the next possible maxi-taxi headed to Bacau, and went across the street to buy the ticket. I was one of the first people to claim a seat, and I just hoped and prayed that the person that chose to sit next to me would be open for a conversation that early in the morning.
     I was writing in my journal when two gruff-looking guys stepped on to the maxi-taxi, one of which asked me if the seat next to me was taken. I politely said no, and he sat right down. Having had sketchy experiences with Romanian guys in the past, my first thought was, "Great. I'm going to be stuck next to this guy." I didn't make any attempt at starting a conversation with him for the first hour of the ride, knowing that he was probably just as tired as I was. Sure enough, he fell asleep, and I started taking pictures out the window as the sun came up. He eventually woke up, and I noticed he was watching me take pictures. I looked at him and said, "E frumos, nu?" He quietly agreed and smiled. I thought he was going to go back to sleep, but he started telling me about how much more beautiful the countryside of Romania would be if it weren't a constant reminder of how undeveloped it is. He went on to explain that he loves all nature, but he especially prefers the mountains of Torino, Italy where he works. He pulled out some pictures of his own to show me what he meant, and we ended up talking for the rest of the drive. He told me about his family, how he came to Iasi for the weekend to be with them for his son's birthday. He asked why I'm here, and I explained a little bit about what it's like to be a missionary. We had some good laughs about the fact that I don't have a boy waiting for me at home (thank goodness haha). 
     We both got off in Bacau, and he (Petru was his name) helped me find a taxi. Before saying goodbye, I told him that I knew it wasn't an accident that we had met that morning, how everything that had happened with the alarm and missing my train was the reason we had met. He agreed. I asked him if I could give him something, and I pulled out a personalized copy of The Book of Mormon. He was so happy, and told me he would definitely read it and keep in touch. We exchanged numbers, headed our separate ways, and I was left amazed at the way God works. I didn't do anything special, except to pray to be in the right place at the right time. God is the one making this amazing work possible. I'm so grateful that He lets us play a small part.

Love and all the best for the coming week!

Cu drag,

Sora Rich

Bucurie, not just the name of Moldovan candy

Oct 3, 2016
Allo tuturor!!

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Puppies! (We named them Rața and Boboc :)))
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Podaru fam (Traian loves his hats)
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Going for the goats
I hope this update finds you all well with spiritual batteries charged to the max- what an awesome conference! My favorite talk was definitely the one given by Elder Nelson about JOY (in Romanian, BUCURIE). He said, "happiness has more to do about the focus of our life, and less about the circumstance." I've definitely discovered that, especially as a missionary, you can be strikingly optimistic even on the hard days, or you can find 1,000 good reasons to hate the world. It all depends on what we choose to focus on. Jesus Christ is joy, and I am so grateful to know that.

Sora Gubar and I are really hoping that this isn't our last week together. (We find out transfers on Saturday). It seems like all the things we've been striving for these past eight weeks together are finally happening; things are coming together, we are coming together as a companionship, district, and branch, and we have investigators that are really progressing. Hopefully we can use these next six weeks to keep building relationships with the people we're helping come back to church and progress towards baptism.

We had the awesome opportunity to meet with new and old friends, and are seeing real change in their attitude and openness about the gospel, especially Maria and Traian Podaru. We went over and visited them with Sora Genoveva, (they haven't been visited by other members since 2011 when F. Podaru stopped letting Maria come to church). For the second time in a row, Traian sat in on our spiritual thought, and was happy to share his thoughts on grace and the Atonement. It was super cool!

Although Florintina and Adrian weren't able to meet this week because of work, we did talk to them several times on the phone; they are reading the Book of Mormon, individually and together, and are really starting to understand it for the first time! They are also planning on getting married at the end of this month, and are grateful for the support of the missionaries and President Stoica in their decision to turn their lives around. Florintina told me last night that I have to be here for the wedding haha. She's had a hard time connecting with missionaries in the past, but Sora Gubar and I have been able to help her start progressing for the first time in a long time. We're super excited for her and Adrian!!

Shoot me a message if you can telling me about your favorite talk from conference, I want to hear your guys' thoughts! Love and all the best for the coming week,

Cu mult drag,

Sora Rich
Sept 26, 2016
Buna tuturor!!

For those of you who haven't yet heard, there was an earthquake in Romania on Friday- we woke up around 2 am here in Iasi (it was about a 5.3), but it didn't do any more damage than a little bit of freaking out and some lost sleep. But Sora Gubar and I are now doing just swell!

We started this week off by going up to a monastary by our house with our friend Lucian! Part of the adventure was finding a couple abandoned puppies at the side of the road along the way, and helping them find a home. The short amount of time they were in our care was an excellent reminder that missions are preparing us for all sorts of things, including parenting! Even though I'm still training Sora Gubar, watching her take care of them made me realize she's going to be a great trainer (and mom) someday. She's awesome!!

Getting to meet with our favorite people is always the highlight:

Our lesson on the Book of Mormon with Adrian and Florentina was awesome. They've been having a hard time understanding everything they read, so we gave them a picture BOM to go along with their reading. Ever since meeting with Radu and Dominika last week, they are showing real desire to learn and gain a testimony- it's super cool!
Maria and Traian Podaru, the inactive couple we're working with, are making small steps as well. The first time we went over there, Traian said he would never come back to church. Yesterday, after sitting in on our spiritual thought for the first time, he said he'll come back to church when the time is right. We are so stoked!! We love visiting them. After every time we're over there and waiting at the bus stop across from their block, Traian peaks his head out the window and waves. I will never forget his free spirit and Maria's patience and love for him!!
After teaching english on Saturday, one of our students, Adrian, randomly came up to us and asked us where he could get a Book of Mormon. It was super cool because he's one of the people in the class always smiling during our spiritual thoughts. We are excited for him to read the Book of Mormon and discover for himself why we're always so happy! 

I love the people here in Iasi, and am grateful every day for their hearts and their desire to do good. They are teaching me what it means to be brave, to gain a testimony, to have patience, and to find a reason be happy every day! 

All the best for the coming week!

Cu drag,

Sora Rich

The drought ends when you pray for rain

Sept 19 2016
Buna tuturor!

Friendly weather update from Romanians here in Iasi: seasons no longer exist. We have jumped straight from summer into fall with a big rainstorm, and Sora Gubar and I have no complaints saying goodbye to sweaty buses and hello to cardigans. 

This week was a testimony to me of the incredible impact one prayerful individual can make. After returning from Bucharest and at the instruction from President Uchtdorf, our 24 year old branch president is calling us and the members to step up and work together, something that is definitely needed here to get missionary work to another level. He challenged us to have a member at every lesson, to focus on teaching as often as possible, and to leave the majority of finding new investigators up to the members. We made a lot of bold commitments to follow through on these things, and hope that we can see some cool things happen with the members' help!

Now for just a few of the miraculous people we've been lucky enough to meet with:

We are excited to continue helping our friend Paula as she prays about baptism, and are grateful for the support of Sora Padure in teaching her. We just taught her the Plan of Salvation, and was really touched to know that she can be with her family forever, including those that have passed on and her family that is still with her. But, she's struggling with having to give up smoking in order to get baptized. Pray for her to have the strength to quit!! She is such an awesome lady. 

We are also excited to be teaching a less-active member and her boyfriend (Florentina and Adrian) as they prepare to get married; after weeks of running into them all over the city, they called us up last week (finally) and said they want to learn more about coming closer to God! They understood the message of the Restoration for the first time this week, and are now reading the Book of Mormon together. We are so excited for them!

I wish I could write more about all these awesome people and everything I'm learning from them, but that will have to do for now. Thank you as always for your love and prayers!! Sa aveti o saptamana minunata!!

Cu drag,

Sora Richt

The Mission Boom

Sept 12, 2016

Mission Conference Pics (aka Mission Family Reunion :)))

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 Buna tuturor!

I know you're all wondering how it was to have President Uchtdorf visit.. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!! 
I honestly don't think there's any other way to sum it all up, but getting to shake his hand and talk to him, sing Savior, Redeemer of My Soul with Sora Green and Sora Stanley again, and receive answers to questions I've been praying about for a while were some of the highlights.

He encouraged us all, members and missionaries, to do three things:

1. Focus on the core of the gospel 
-the Plan of Salvation is the core, and we should use it to help our friends see with their hearts 
-CTR=choose the right=current temple recommend
2. Walk with humility and confidence
-be grateful, recognizing where the blessings and success come from, and use the talents/abilities/challenges you've been given to bless the lives of others
3. Use the power of prayer
-when we pray, we are more than just blessing the food or thanking God for a blessing we have received. If we draw close to Him and communicate with Him, conversing and opening our hearts, not just to share, but also to listen, He will teach us.

One of my favorite things about getting ready for this conference was going up to people on the street and asking them, "have you heard of a German pilot named Dieter F. Uchtdorf who is an apostle of Jesus Christ?" We got some pretty strange looks at times, but getting to share how our church calls on ordinary people to take part in the Lord's extraordinary work was super cool! It was also amazing to be reunited at mission conference with friends and past companions, and to finally visit the famous Peles Castle every Romanian has been telling me to visit since I've gotten here! 

Mission conference was amazing, but it's so great to be back in Iasi! We came back inspired and uplifted, and have already seen miracles happen since returning. One of our friends, an 18 year old named Vlad who we met after he asked us about the Book of Mormon at a bus stop, reminded us yesterday of the power of prayer. He thought he was going to have to sleep on the street after getting kicked out by his aunt, but we prayed with him and she ended up letting him stay! We also met a super cool lady block-knocking that happily accepted our invitation to read the Book of Mormon- Sora Gubar got to give her a copy with her testimony in it! We're excited to meet with her again!!

Still on a spiritual high from this past week, I hope this update carries you through whatever lies ahead this week! 

Cu mult drag,

Sora Rich

The Day of Silence (Lessons Learned)

Sept 5, 2016
Buna tuturor!

Hope this update finds you well! Sora Gubar and I are in Iasi until Wednesday morning, and then we will be taking a plane to Bucuresti to kick off mission conference with President Uchtdorf, President Kearon, and Elder and Sister Boom. I could not be more stoked!! This past week was one of the most interesting and adventure-filled ones of the last 16 months. We had a lot of cool experiences bloc-knocking, finally had an investigator come to church, and had someone at the bus stop randomly ask us about the Book of Mormon! I've also been especially inspired by something I read this week called the Ricciardy letter, my favorite quote being, " The Lord tells us in Alma 38:12 to be bold, but not overbearing. Ricciardi defined overbearance as “boldness without love”. When people know and feel your love, you can never be too bold!”' 

To explain the title of this email, I want to share a quick story:

After I realized I was getting sick Wednesday night, Sora Gubar and I read 20 pages in the Book of Mormon anyways- I've never been sick on my mission before, so I figured it would just go away. When I woke up the next morning, I realized that this was something more than just a sore throat from reading aloud. By the time we went out for the day, I had completely lost my voice. For the rest of that day and part of the next, Sora Gubar was the voice of our companionship. She did all the talking on the phone, in our lessons, at the visa office, at the print shop, everywhere. She even said all our companionship prayers. I did my best to communicate with her and everyone else by keeping a pen and sticky notes in hand; we communicated a lot through notes and sign language. Although it was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced as a missionary, of which the core is speaking to people, I learned a lot from it:

Sora Gubar is a beast missionary, sometimes you have to take a second to slow down and take care of yourself, and when you have the chance to speak to people, you should never pass it up!

Love and all the best for this week,

Sora Rich

Just Enjoy Every Day

Aug 28, 2016
Allo tuturor!!

It's hard to believe this first transfer with Sora Gubar has already come to an end, but I'm convinced that we managed to cover six weeks of adventures in three and a half weeks! Although we've have had some hard lessons learned, I'm so grateful for every single day that I have to learn from her and from the people we meet and the experiences we have. She is a great support to me as I struggle with the fact that I am not a perfect trainer or a perfect missionary- her motto is "just enjoy every day". Through all the adventures and misadventures, we definitely find ways to do that!

The highlight of the week was meeting with a new friend named Irina we met music contacting. She sat us down in a cafe on Wednesday night and told us to tell us everything about our church! She's at the crossroads in her life, with a two year old son and the possibility of moving to Bucharest soon; but she told us that as long as she's here in Iasi, she wants to meet with us and learn more about our church and what makes us different. She is so open and obviously searching for something more. It's been a long time since I've met and taught someone like her, truly an answer to our prayers! We are excited to teach her the full Restoration this week and invite her to see President Uchtdorf speak!

What an amazing opportunity we have to share this invitation with all of our member, less-active, and investigator friends. We've been using one of President Uchtdorf's talks from last conference to get everyone stoked for his visit next week. One interesting experience that came from this was going to visit an elderly inactive couple, Maria and Traian Podaru. They're such an interesting pair. I'm confident that if it weren't for her husband, Maria would be 100% active, which is pretty sad and frustrating. A few years ago,Traian got offended by another member, lost his faith, and is now against even just Maria going on Sundays. But the cool thing is, despite all of that, she is strong and faithful. Maria read the Uchtdorf talk we gave her, and was excited to talk about it. She also showed us a book she had compiled of hymn lyrics she had been inspired to write while taking care of her grand-kids. We hope that by continuing to visit them, Traian will start to soften up and at least let his wife be active in the church again!

Speaking of church, Sora Gubar gave her first talk in church yesterday about virtue- she is killing it with Romanian! Sora Stoica surprised us after church by inviting us over for lunch- we sat with her and talked about everything from her dream she had about President Ivory visiting her house to the power of righteous desire and sacrifice. She is the coolest person ever!! It was the funniest thing getting to know the new group of BYU girls in relief society with her and Sora Genoveva; she started proudly talking about her son Radu, the branch president here and said, "e tanar, are 24 de ani, a slujit in misiune, si e casatorit." (he's young, 24, an RM, and married). Sora Genoveva quickly confirmed, "da, e casatorit!" (yes, he's married!) It was hilarious. I love the members in the branch here, and I'm grateful for their strong testimonies and examples!

Thank you all for your love and prayers, all is swell here in Iasi! Spor la school, Las Vegans :)))

Cu mult drag,

Sora Rich