Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas happened


Hey everybody!
 
So last week was really interesting! It was great to talk to everybody, sorry the skype call was really interesting, haha I'll make sure the next one will be better, more well-planned, haha and all that jazz.

But yeah! So after we skyped home, we came back down to Craiova, and celebrated Christmas down here! We got back on Christmas eve evening, and EVERY SINGLE store was closed. Haha so we weren't able to get any groceries, or anything like that. But we improvised and it went great! I kind of improvised, but we made cinnamon rolls and they turned out really well! Haha we didn't have any yeast, so I used baking powder, and then I accidentally used nutmeg instead of cinnamon because the words are pretty similar and so was the packaging, but I resolved it and they tasted freaking good! I almost burned them too but I pulled them out at just the right time to be perfect!
 
So we all met at the church in the morning and ate those, exchanged our gifts, and had a great old time. Then we went to deliver some cookies and sing for some people. It was really fun! Then we stayed and sang a whole bunch of hymns at the members' house. Then we had Christmas dinner at McDonalds. Great Christmas!
 
Then on Friday we went and watched The Hobbit 2! It was amazing!! Haha it felt so weird to be in a movie theater but there we were! Haha President is so cool.  We had a great christmas week. We get to watch one more movie for the Holidays, so we're going to watch Frozen either tomorrow or the next day! And it's dubbed in Romanian so it'll be really interesting.
 
So yeah that's how the holidays go out here! We get to stay up on New Years Eve and sleep in a bit on New Years day as well. And outside of that we work as much as we can. We should have a lesson today, so we're super excited about that! We've also gone to the hospital a couple times lately to sing for people and brighten up their day

So we just did mission reports the other day, which signifies the end of the transfer and telling President what we would like out of the next transfer. Which means this transfer's almost over! Which is freaking weird. Transfers don't even feel long anymore... Haha this mission is going by so fast!

Hope everybody had a great christmas, and will have a great new years!!

Love you all!

-Elder DeGraw

Foggy visual effect

Hospital in Craiova - We visited to sing carols

McChristmas Dinner

President let us see a movie - Hobbit 2

The coolest guy ever
 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm still alive!

Hello, people of Earth! Craiova's still going on! Still going slow, but it's still fun. This week has been pretty bland, as per usual here in Romania, but it's been fun.

Church was interesting this last week, being that the Branch President was gone, leaving the only members being us 4 missionaries, one of the 2 only active members in this branch, and an american who happened to be there on a business trip.

But the "best" part was when me and Elder M taught the Sunday School class. It wasn't awful, but we just probably weren't as prepared as we could have been, and the class is very small and doesn't contribute very much. So the class was really just boring haha. Church is really different here, in Craiova especially, but also just in Romania as a whole. But here, we have 2 members, 2 hours, pretty boring, pretty quiet. Although sometimes, in branch meetings out here, in branches other than this one, things can get pretty heated. I've heard of fistfights breaking out in Priesthood session, people yelling at each other, haha it can get pretty intense.

I've also seen it happen before where people get up on the pulpit asking for money, just preaching straight up lies, or it happened one time where a member of the branch presidency was teaching the investigator class, and told them all that lying wasn't a sin. We had to get on him and tell him to stop. He wasn't allowed to teach the class after that haha.

Anyway, other than that, the coolest thing this week was that we met a cool guy while block-knocking! We set up a lesson!! Haha, it's kind of sad that we're rejoicing over one potential investigator, but it's really that rare out here. Anyway, we knocked on his door, he answered, and we start into our shpeil, and he looked kind of like he was going to tell us that he was busy and not interested, but he just kept standing there, and so we were kind of flustered and didn't know what to say, because usually by that point they turn us away, but he let us keep talking and was actually interested! So we figured out stuff to say, namely that we started talking about the restoration. He was super cool and interested and we took his number down, and I called him yesterday and we have a lesson set up for this week! We're really excited about him.

So yeah! That's about all! One thing about the skyping, I'll either call you guys this week (if possible) or email about when we can skype. We can literally do it whenever, and there's not really a time limit either. We just need to set it up. We were thinking of doing it next tuesday, and I think either way it will need to be relatively early in the morning for you guys, around 8 or something. But I'll try to call you guys this week to set it all up.

Cool! I love you all, remember the reason for the season in Christ!! Have a fantastic week!!

 

-Elder DeGraw


Us havng our fancy drinks at a dinner with the Branch President.
Don't we look classy.
 

Christmas party!

So things are going pretty well! This last week was really busy! On thursday we had our exchange with the zone leaders, which consisted of nothing more than studies, district meeting, lunch, and a train ride to Buc! Haha so it was a pretty interesting exchange. But it was fun.

Then when we got up to Bucuresti, we slept at an apartment where there was no room, like at all. Me and Elder M "slept" on the floor. I put that in quotations because I probably got a maximum of 20 minutes of sleep. It was fun haha.

But then the next day we had our Zone conference/Christmas party, which was super fun. We had like an hour of Zone training meeting, a tie exchange, watched a slideshow with pictures from this year, and had an amazing lunch, then had an hour of Zone Conference, and then listened to testimonies of departing missionaries. And we found out some cool information in Zone Conference! OUR NEW MISSION PRESIDENT'S NAME!!  He's really young too! Like Dad's age or even younger! He will also have their 10 year old son come out here with them if that shows his age more. Haha and I'm also pretty sure that I went to school with one of his daughters. He seems like he'll be really cool. He'll be here in June or July.

We were all kind of worried about who the next mission president will be because this mission has historically gone through cycles of awesome and less-awesome mission presidents, and President H is definitely ridiculously awesome. So we were worried that the next president would be the over-strict and overbearing kind, but we're all kind of thinking now that he'll be really cool.

Other than that, we got the farewell testimonies of some of the coolest missionaries out here. Four of them kind of have huge reputations for being both crazy and amazing and good missionaries. Haha the testimony meeting was like a mix of a comedy hour and a super motivating, spiritual meeting.

After the meeting, we actually got to go and stay the night with those four crazy awesome people. Haha, that was an interesting night. I love those guys.

So then we came back to Craiova, got to the church like 5 minutes before the branch Christmas party started. And there we decorated cookies, ate sarmale, and watched The Christmas Oranges. And that's about our week, other than contacting!

Haha Elder M got a huge package from his family, and he's been goofing around with it. He got this video from his ward with them all wishing him and all the other missionaries from his ward good luck and stuff, and it is hilarious haha. There's so many people that he doesn't know, nor do they know him, haha it's really funny.

We're all getting ready for Christmas down here. Craiova is putting up some really cool Christmas lights, they built an ice skating rink in centru, there are all of these little shacks selling Christmas stuff, it's really cool.

Oh! And so tell me next week when would be best to skype you guys! We can do it pretty much whenever, just let me know when would work best for you guys. For me, it would work best on wednesday, thursday, or friday, in the afternoon/evening here. We can literally do it whenever this month though. And I may or may not be able to call you once outside of that, to set things up better, but I'm not certain. But to coordinate the skype we can go a little outside of the normal regulations to communicate. But I'll figure out exactly what we can and can't do, and we'll find out haha! Oh, also thanks very much Grandpa for the Christmas donation! I really appreciate it!

Well that's it for this week! I love all of you guys! Also, I do have a request; if you feel like sending me a package, I could use some winter socks. Haha I have no idea where to find those.

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing awesome!! I love you all! Please continue to be super fantastimagical!!

Love,

Elder DeGraw

Thanksgiving week was really weird!

Hey people!

So Thanksgiving week was really interesting haha. We brought the sisters from the gara on Wednesday, and showed them all about Craiova, and we've been showing them the city, and all that jazz. And the sisters are freaking awesome! As I said, Sora R was in our MTC group, and she's hilarious! And Sora S is super awesome too! She's two groups below us, and she speaks Romanian really well!

So Thanksgiving!

Well, Thanksgiving was the day after transfers, so things were still a little crazy. But so we were planning on going to the church and having a sort of feast, and watching our Thanksgiving movie. But when the sisters went home after we were showing them around a little bit, they were locked out of their apartment. My old apartment, where this had actually happened to me and Elder H once last trasfer. But so we called the Proprietar like we did last time, but he was out of town! So we called a whole bunch of people to see about getting a locksmith or something, but we couldn't find anyone. So then we just went back and I tried to open it, like I had a lot before, but I put a random key (that still wasn't the fitting key) into the lock, and forced it to open, and got the sisters into their apartment! We were so happy.

So then we finally went to the church, but we were still pretty full from lunch, so Sora S just made some brownies for us. Haha every time I've seen brownies made out here with American brownie mix they've gotten burned! But just barely every time! It's so weird.

But there were also a whole bunch of "just really?" moments on thanksgiving. Like us sitting in the stairwell for like an hour waiting for the Proprietar to call us back. But then we just ate brownies and watched "The Pirates" and relaxed and it was awesome.

And then the next day was Sora S's birthday, so they were going to make a cake. Now keep in mind that this was my old apartment, and we had never had anything like this happen. But so how we had always lighted the oven was to turn the gas on low, and stick the safety lighter down there and turn it on. It was out of fuel so it was just a spark, but it would always catch and be fine. So this is what we directed the sisters to do. But it wasn't working. So they just kept trying, and trying, and then..... BOOM!!! There was a huge fireball that exploded in their faces.

It apparently knocked them both backwards, singed off some of Sora R's arm hair, and burned the curtain a little bit. But let me just stress that they both are completely fine. It was scary but they were laughing about it soon after. But we got kind of chastened by the "Mission Mom" Sora H and so they will definitely just be getting a new lighter and not use a sparker anymore!

But neither of them were hurt so we've learned the lesson.

Other than those fiascos, the week's gone great! With Elder M, we balance each other out really well. He has an easier time talking to people in contacting/social situations a lot, but I speak the language a little better. Other than that, we're equal in pretty much everything. He's the district leader, but even then we still both kind of deal with stuff here.

And he's a great DL, too. Our district meeting last week was awesome, really pumped us all up. And yesterday at church, since I'm supposedly the best at the language in the district (weird), I translated for the Spooners for the Romanians in church... And I shocked myself at how smoothly and fast I could translate their testimonies! I only had to pause to think like once or twice! I translated one time in my third transfer and I did pretty well, but this time I felt like I actually knew Romanian! Haha Then in Sunday school I didn't do as well, but it was still really cool!

We're all like normal missionaries now! Haha I don't really feel like a newbie anymore! It's really weird. But also really cool.

Well this is getting kind of long, so I'll say Mom and Dad, have an awesome time in Hawaii!! You guys deserve it! Love you all! Also can someone send me Nick's email? I don't know if he uses the one I have. I love you all and have an awesome week!!!

Love,
-Elder DeGraw




Waiting for the LandLord to unlock the Sora's apartment




Yup, It's been snowing!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Either We're Getting Old or Craiova is Getting Really Young

So we just found out transfer boards! I'm super excited for next transfer!

I'm staying here with Elder M! We were both in the same group in the MTC and he's a really cool guy! We're also getting sisters here, and the senior companion of them is Sora R, who was also in our MTC group!!! We were a really big, really close MTC group and so I am really excited to serve with all of these people. Haha but this also means that we're the oldest in the district... Four people our mission age, including my new companion, are now going to be DLs, and one is training! There's only one person our age who is with someone older! Haha it's so weird! We're going to work hard and have a lot of fun this next transfer.

So, other than that, things are going about the same here. One of our great investigators just moved to Bucuresti, and our other ones are kind of moving along slowly, but we've had a good week!

Elder Hi has already left for Buc with Elder Ha, they have to go up early when they're going home, so I'm already with Elder M and we're having a great old time!

We've been cleaning out my old apartment, which feels like it hasn't been cleaned since they opened it like 6 years ago, for the sisters to live in.

Right now we're sitting in an internet cafe that smells like smoke, and we're going to go out grocery shopping, after which we will finish cleaning the apartment for a while. And that will probably be our Pday haha. But I'm loving this transfer already, and I'm so looking forward to it!

Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANA!!!!! And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Haha for thanksgiving out here we basically get to have a longer meal, and watch a disney movie. YAY! Haha I'll be spending all of the holiday season with Elder M and the new sisters, and It's going to be great. But it will be so weird not being at home! I've lived away before but I've always celebrated the holidays at home. I'm sure I'm going to miss the family even more this season. We have such a great family!

You all are so blessed that you get to spend this time with family. Family is one of the few things we get to keep after this life, so it's so important to love each other. I wish so much that I could be there for Thanksgiving, and all the other holidays, but I know that this is where I'm meant to be.

But I will get to skype home in a few weeks! I don't really know all the details on how that'll work, but I'll let you know!

Well that's about all for now! Love you all and have a great week!

-Elder DeGraw

Monday, November 18, 2013

We had more Romanians than Americans at church this week!

Hey people that read this!! This week has been pretty good!

We've been doing a lot of contacting as usual, and we've had some really good lessons! And it was amazing at church last week! We actually had more Romanians than Americans! We had the district president (basically the stake president for the branches here) from Bucuresti, as well as our two active members, and three investigators eventually were at church!

The district president is so cool. He has so much faith, and isn't afraid of telling people how it is. Haha the other elders had an investigator there, who knows the bible really well, and has been being pretty stubborn and disagreeable, and the district president was just talking to him and answering many of his problems and just resolving a lot of his concerns. It was... beautiful.

Haha sidenote about the culture here. So you know how in America, if someone's talking, and someone else starts talking louder, eventually someone will give up and let the other one talk. Yeah they don't do that here. Meaning they don't give up. So it seems really rude to us, but they just cut each other off and it's not considered rude! And so they do that in lessons too, so a lot of our lessons are just the investigator talking our ears off.

But so they were talking like that and just the district president was being nice but still saying his point and getting it across, and so the guy actually understood a lot of the stuff that he was just being really standoffish about! So that was really cool.

Then after church, we went with the branch president to meet with a less active to see if she was there, if she still believed in the church, and stuff like that. So we get out there, and after a little bit of confusion, we found her. And it was so bittersweet.

We asked her if she still believed that the church was true, and she responded immediately with an "Of course, I know it's true!" She just has so much faith. Her husband is the problem; he's a drunkard, is mean, won't let her leave for church or pretty much anything, so that's why she hasn't been to church in so long.

But she's planning on leaving him and going to Bucuresti in the spring. We left her with a prayer and she said that she felt the prayer go straight into her heart. She's such a wonderful lady. There are many more situations like this out here, but I just had that experience yesterday.
 
Our lessons have been pretty great, we've been getting more bold with our commitments, with one of our investigators who's been kind of weefy about praying about baptism, but who knows and has told us that he knows that the church is true. 
 
We also had what was going to be a drop lesson with a guy and it turned into a lesson about each of our respective intentions, and I found myself having to be bold and stop him from cutting us off all the time, and just him talking all the time.  So we might meet with him again at some point but for now we'll just invite him to the activities and stuff.
 
But yeah everything is going great! This is Elder H's last week in the mission, and I'm going to do my best to make it one of his hardest working! We're going to get so much done! 
 
I love all of you so much! Remember to love each other like Jesus asked you, and to remember that we all have stuff we need to work on, so to open up, forgive each other so that you can be forgiven, and let God mold you into who you need to be!

Have a great week!

Love, Elder DeGraw
 
Big Teddy Bears
 

Pretty normal week

This last week has been pretty normal. A lot of walking around, we had a few lessons, and we got a new investigator! His name is Marius and he's really awesome. He was at english class, in the advanced class that we teach, although he is a beginner with a problem in his ear from a fever as a child. But he came up afterwords and talked to me thanking me for being nice to him in the lesson and stuff, and he said some other stuff about the church he liked, and so I set up a lesson and it was awesome! 
It was supposed to be a half and half of English and the gospel, but we ended up just talking about the gospel and the church! He had some questions, but most of what he said was in complete agreement with the church! Even down to the belief that you shouldn't drink coffee! 
Haha obviously there's still a lot to cover, but he seems very promising! Then yesterday we had a lesson with a guy named Alexandru who is also VERY in agreement with what we believe, his only problem is that he's living with his girlfriend, and that he works a lot so it's hard to come to church. 
And we also had an investigator at church this week! We were so happy! And this last week was great for the mission, there were 3 baptisms in Bacau last week! The mission is so happy!
So that's about it! Love you everybody!

Stay sweet!

-Elder DeGraw

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This one will probably be short!

So hey! We came up to play paintball in Pitesti today and it's like a 2 hour train ride so this email will be a lot shorter than most because of that.
But this week has been pretty bland, with the exception that we got 54 people at our first English class!!!! For comparison, that's probably more than all of the students I had in my first three transfers combined! So it was super cool. We only had one of them come to church though. And oh my gosh, he must have felt so uncomfortable. Because it was us two missionaries at the sacrament table, Elder Ha playing the piano and Elder Hi conducting, with President S (the American BP who just found out that he gets to stay another year!) and Fratele (the only actual active member) all up on the stand. And then this potential investigator in the audience. He was the only one for like 20 minutes and then this eternally drunk eternal investigator came. But that was it. It was so weird.
So yeah I'm doing great I just went paintballing again and this time it was in this little village just outside of Pitesti in "Union Jack's Bed & Breakfast and Paintball." It's run by this super cool british couple who just decided to move to Romania on a whim basically because they were sick of britain. They were so cool. It was such a fun P-Day. Other than that, just chilling, still need to buy a coat, but it's been pretty warm lately so it's alright.
The week's just been a lot of contacting and walking around. We actually did get some lessons too but neither of the guys who said that they'd come to church came... Oh and we ran into a guy (for the second time, the same guy) who wanted a Book of Mormon just to burn it. He took it the first time and told us right after he took it that we were going to hell and that he was going to burn it as he had before, because he had taken books from us before. But we ran into him again and he tried to play it off like he didn't remember who we were and that he just wanted the book. Then we called him out on it and he just gave us the most devilish smile and rode off on his bike. So that happened.
Sorry I don't have any pictures right now, well I do but I can't figure out how to upload them on this computer so I'll just do that later. Well times running short so I gotta go!
Love you all!


-Elder DeGraw

Monday, October 28, 2013

Craiova is cool!

So hey! Craiova is cool! Haha I'm still liking it more than Bucharest. We've had quite a few lessons, and we've been getting tons of phone calls for our english classes, so I'm expecting a lot of people to come tomorrow. The church is quite a bit smaller here even than in Buc, but the people here are so prepared and they just don't know it! This week we had a few lessons, and had some people coming to our activities, and I can easily count at least 5 people who I could see baptized this transfer, which would almost triple the active branch membership haha. It's crazy. But the problem is that none of them will/can come to church! I don't know if a single one of them has been to church. But I firmly believe if we can just get them to come to church, then I can see them all getting baptized. They just need to see the importance of it.
 
Other than those lessons/people, the week has been contacting. What we usually do every transfer is that in the first two weeks we contact almost solely for our English classes. So that's what we've been doing. It's probably the easiest form of contacting, and it's a good way to start the contacting juices flowing with a new companion. Then, in the third week, when we actually start teaching English classes, we switch over to normal gospel contacting. So this week will be a lot of that. We've been pushing to have 20 hours of contacting each week. In a mission like ours, especially in an area like this with like 3 members, you contact a lot haha. So we're trying to work harder to have our contacting time be a bell curve this transfer; we'll work up the hours and eventually we'll have too many lessons so our contacting hours will decrease! We've been working a lot harder than I got to last week, so that's good.

So as you know, there are like 2 active members in this branch. And the church in general in Romania has a pretty high inactivity rate right now. It's such a weird thing because the language/culture is so abrasive to many Americans (for example you don't ask for things you just say "give it to me" and it's not rude at all, things like that are very common; you can say pretty much whatever you like as long as you use the right tense) and they'll say all the time that we get offended over little things, but most of the time when people go inactive here it's because of some small offense done to them that they can't get over.
 
It's hard for them to find forgiveness in their hearts. I have found this in myself that I'm trying to work on, and seeing how it all works out it this environment I just have such a strong testimony about forgiveness. We need to forgive others. I've found so far on my mission that there will be things my companion will do that I will, for whatever reason, take offense at. And I've found that it does nothing good at all to harbor feelings of bitterness or to hold a grudge. It just burns in the back of your mind like a cancer and stops the spirit from taking place in your heart. I've had a lot of opportunities to forgive so far on my mission. I haven't always taken them and used those times to forgive as I should have in that moment. But I've learned that when I let things go, I find peace! It sounds so corny but it's true! It does no good to hold grudges. We need to let things go. Even those things that seem too big or too much to forgive, we need to forgive. Looking back, there were lots of times that I've been upset or angry or holding a grudge, and didn't even know it. We need to pray to God to give us the ability to forgive and let things go. Life just goes so much better when we are free from the burden of anger or bitterness of a grudge.

So yeah. My testimony has grown so much since I've been on a mission. I just realized that this week will mark 6 months as a missionary for me. Yeah it still feels like I left the MTC a week ago. This is my companion's last transfer and I already know he's handling it much better than I will when I'm in that position haha. I'll be freaking out the whole time. But we're working hard to make his last transfer his best one yet.

And holy crap these pictures of Zack and Jacob are freaking me out! They look so old!! In the one of both of them after the track meet Zack looks just like Nick! Zack's looking so tall! It's going to be so weird when I get home...

Anyway I love you all and I wish you all happy days and love and sunshine and rainbow puppies and unicorns and to also happy halloween I hope you're all dressing like Dracula because he's the coolest ok bye.

Elder DeGraw

Train station out in the middle of nowhere where we went for a lesson.

The pumpkin I carved for the halloween activity.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I may or may not have been kissed by a man this week.

Hey so I'm in Craiova! It's really pretty here. Especially compared to Bucharest.

So on Wednesday afternoon we took a 3 hour train from Bucharest. Haha I was officially the last one out of my MTC group to ride a train out here. It was everything I've ever imagined. We got in kind of late, took a taxi to my new apartment, and then we got ready. We've been walking a lot. There's really no reasonable form of public transportation out here in Craiova, especially compared to Buc, wherein you couldn't get anywhere without it. Yesterday we walked like 3-5 miles out to a lesson, only to find out that the person we were going to meet with lived in a completely different town. But we ended up having a lesson with a different family anyway! It was cool.


Oh. And Craiova has some... interesting... people. Haha on my first day I met like four crazy people. So yeah, about that title. So they do the whole, double cheek kiss thing over here. Women do it a lot, and men and women will do it as well. Men will do it to other men if they are like the best friends in the world. Well anyway, yeah! We were trying to contact but this one semi-crazy guy was following us trying to talk to us. We finally got rid of him, but not before he "pooped" both of us (a pupa means to kiss, they'll say te pup a lot, which basically means "kisses!"). Blagghsshsashglakhglkaalgdjgla. I can still feel the stubble on my cheek... I keep blocking this encounter out of my brain, but it keeps coming back. But yeah. That's as bad as I've got out here, so far!
Probably the weirdest thing (for me, anyway) that I've noticed about Craiova, is the branch... So, the branch president is an American who works for Ford out here. So there's him and his wife there. And yesterday at church, want to take a guess how many Romanian members there were there?
...
...
...
...
1.
...
...
...
Yeah. There was one native member there. Mind you, there was also one "eternal investigator," as well as a great potential, but that was it! Haha the church is really small here in Craiova. We meet in a little villa which shares space with another organization. Haha. It was... interesting. But the Spooners (the branch president and his wife) are really cool. They made lunch for after church, and that included chocolate chip cookies!!
I had way too many. They were so good.
But yeah, not too much else to report! Pretty city, we're going to baptize someone, I can feel it! Elder H is one away from his mission goal of 10, and this is his last transfer! We're going to make it happen. This is the calm before the storm. Missionary work is going to explode soon. We'll make it so.
Love you all, and Oh! Family! I have put all of the pictures that I've taken on a google drive, I'll send dad the information so you can see them all. So dad just the pictures that I send in this email will be the ones for the blog, unless you find others you like too which is fine.
Yeah. So that's all for now!
Much iubire! Now for some pictures!
Yeah! Love you!
-Elder DeGraw

View from my new apartment in Craiova














Train ride to Craiova - Just like in the movies














I thought this looked cool














We call him "Uncle Rico"















Some flash mob type thing in centru. "I don't want to be a merchandise/property."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm going to Craiova!

So hey we just got transfer boards and I found out I'm going to Craiova, as implied in the title of this email! It's a bit smaller than Bucharest, physically as well as missionary-wise. It'll be a 4 man district. So this will be the first time in my mission where I don't serve in literally the biggest district possible haha, including the MTC. 
 
My new companion will be Elder H.  He's a very hard-working missionary, a very nice guy, and I'm super excited to serve with him. We're going to get some work done! Haha my district is going to be super fun. It'll be us two, as well as Elder M, who was in my MTC group, who will be senior companion to Elder H, who is one group younger than us, and both of them are hilarious and good workers. We're going to be a great district. I'm super excited. 
 
This past transfer my companion has had a lot of stuff he's had to do, so we haven't gotten to work as much as I would have wanted to. But Elder H is known as one of the more diligent missionaries out here. It'll be really good for me and I'm excited to get back to work haha.

This will be the first time since getting here that I'll be in a district with all new people! And probably the weirdest news this transfer, is that Elder L, who has been my district leader since I got here, and who is one of those who I know I'll still be friends with/keep in touch with long after the mission, just got called to be a branch president in the city of Bacau! He's both excited and really nervous, as could be expected. But I totally saw it coming haha. He'll be a great branch president.

So many people from my MTC group have changed cities, and like half of us are senior companions with the group under us, which is weird to me haha. We're movin up! Pretty soon it'll be our group that'll be all the zone leaders, BPs, and APs! It's ridiculous to me how fast this mission is going. I'm already 1/4 done with it... That's both weird and scary.
 
Other than transfers, I'm doing great! And just a heads up, so dad knows, I plan on getting a coat and boots in the coming weeks so you'll see some money come out of my account. I don't plan on spending more than around 300 & something Lei for the coat, or more than like 150 Lei for boots. But in case my tastes/desires change, the max that I've seen a coat was like 500 Lei, and shoes the max I've seen that I'd even consider buying were like 300 Lei. So those are the prices you could expect to see come out of my account. A missionary did leave a nice trenchcoat-like coat & scarf in our apartment, so I do have that already. But I need one that will also work out of missionary clothes and in missionary clothes. So that's what I'm going to get soon. 

I got everything you said you sent, so don't worry! 

I'm super sad to hear about John Kimball. He was a great guy. Give his family my condolences. He will be greatly missed.

Also, one last thing in case anybody is having ideas about sending me stuff for Christmas... Tell them to just not. Haha well I mean if they really want to, I won't stop them, but the money is not being put to as good of a use as it could be. For how much it takes to buy something, and send it all out here, I could get a nice suit, nice clothes, and more. Seriously with what the last package cost to get out here I could have. So if they REALLY feel like spending money on me, tell them to just put it in my account and I can get three times as much with it haha. I love getting letters and packages from you guys, they make my whole transfer, I just don't want you wasting all your money on me! So unless it's something that I can only get at home, just have them put the money in my account and tell me what to get haha. I know you guys love me:) 
 
Just my recommendation. I say this also because President told us to tell our families that if they wanted to send us Christmas packages they need to be here before thanksgiving anyway. So I thought I'd just tell you that instead so you don't have to worry about it! So yeah!
 
Love you all! Talk to you soon!
-Elder DeGraw

Monday, October 7, 2013

That's weird

So this week was good! Conference was fantastic, and all that. Just some little stuff, I now have a better way to send/share pictures with you all back home! I have permission to use a google drive, wherein I can upload all my pictures/videos and stuff and so they are both backed up, as well as shared with you at home because I'll give you the password info and stuff! So I'll get that all set up this week and send you the info soon.
 
Also mom just to let you know I did get the package! I got it on the 2nd, I believe. I have been getting fat ever since;) Little weird info, Oreos exist out here, but they're not even kind of as big of a deal as they are in the states. And they for sure don't have double stuf! It's a similar situation with peanut butter; they have it but it's not the best, and it's not as big of a deal. And those peanut butter cookies were just fantastimagical, and I am so excited to make my peanut butter chip brownies! :)

-SPECIAL BIRTHDAY PARAGRAPH BEGINS-
Happy birthday J! Hope you're doing great and loving life! Just remember that just because you're a teenager doesn't mean you're too cool for Mom and Dad;) stay sick  bro!<editors note: "sick" must be Romanian for "awesome">

Also happy birthday to all of my family members who've had birthdays that I've missed! Sorry I didn't say anything before but happy birthday!
-SPECIAL BIRTHDAY PARAGRAPH ENDS-

Yeah so we just realized that on the eleventh of this month I only have a year and a half left. O_o So that's weird. Also I realized that now my youngest brother is a teenager and my next younger brother will be driving in like two months. And I've been a missionary for like 5 months now. That's weird... I've found that I think that's my catchphrase haha. I don't think I'll ever be used to the fact that time is a thing, so every time something happens and I realize that time has passed I'm just in awe like, "that's weird..." Every transfer has felt about half as long as the one before. The MTC was actually so short, but while I was there it felt like forever, but now everything has just been shooting by! Pretty soon I'll be home and that'll be really, REALLY weird. But yeah.

So we watched both morning sessions live, and here that meant going to church on Saturday at 7 in the afternoon to watch it, and then we watched some other ones all day on Sunday. I love Conference:) It's such a good, uplifting, spiritual experience. It was fantastic. My companion said that this was his favorite conference he's seen since being a member, because he got so many questions answered. I did as well, answers both about things here and at home. I'm excited to read all of the talks again in the liahona when it comes out!

This past week, we had a lesson with Nick, and I think it's a definite that we're going to give him to the North Elders. He lives like 10 minutes away from their apartment, he would be in their North Group, and they all speak English, the language he wants to have the lessons in, so I won't have to be teaching the lessons all by myself. Plus Elder E was with me when we started teaching him, so it still makes sense that way.

I'm doing great, I'm excited for what next transfer will bring, and I'll do my best to end this one with a bang!

I love and miss all of you and command you to have a fantastical week!


Love,
Elder DeGraw

Monday, September 30, 2013

It's getting cold!


So it's getting really cold here, as hinted by the title. It's also raining really badly today. And has been since yesterday afternoon. It's also windy. Very windy.  So that's fun.
Anyway, this week has been an interesting week. We met with Nick a few times, and the meetings went well, but he sent us a text the other day telling us that he still would like to meet up, but that he doesn't want to talk about religion anymore. So we're going to follow up with that.
 
Other than that, we met with a friend of Elder G, whereat we were served some really good food and invited them to come back to church after several years of inactivity, which he did, by having us pick him up in the morning. So we were at his house two hours before church to bring him there.
 
By the way, Elder G was really sick while we did this. He was apparently up all night vomiting, and he said he woke me up to help him or something, and I replied (in Romanian) "Leave me alone, I want to dream, let me sleep." But here's the kicker -- I didn't do that! I never woke up that night at all. That means I was sleep talking! And it's actually not the first time he's told me I sleep talk! Although the last few times it was in English, but this time I answered in Romanian, in my sleep! So that was weird. 
 
And other than that, this week has been kind of bland. I've been refamiliarizing myself with my guitar, and I actually feel like I play better now than I did before! Haha something about absence makes the heart grow fonder maybe?

And now some sad news, we just found out that someone from our MTC group has gone home! We're all really sad about that. Our group was really close and we all miss him. No one saw it coming either. Nor does anyone know why! He was always one of the most upbeat out of all of us. It's weird that he's not out here anymore.
 
It's been making me think about why I'm here, what I'm doing, and why I'm staying out here. And I realized that ever since I entered the MTC, I haven't had the thought to go home. Sure, homesickness has been there, I miss all of my family very much, and my friends and possessions and all that jazz, but I realized that since I've had the title of "Elder," my perspectives and focuses have changed.
 
I was worried before the MTC that it would be really hard for me to be away from the lifestyle that I was used to; going to school, working, goofing around on technology, wasting time one the internet and tv, but from day one, I haven't had a single problem with that. The first few days of nonstop study and work were a change, for sure, but I was never hindered by a desire to be anywhere else. It's hard for me to even think back to my life before the MTC. My mind is out here, and that's where it needs to be. I've been learning so much about being proactive and making things happen instead of just wasting my time. I still have a ridiculously long way to go to get where I want to be, but progress has been and is still being made.
The Gospel changes people. I've seen that happen out here. Even though a lot of people out here aren't interested at all, there are those who are, and when they apply the gospel principles in their lives, they change so much for the better. But here's the important part: for those who don't want to change, who don't want to be better, they never will. I've had companions, seen members, and even seen myself in this position of being too comfortable in the position I was in. But when I say "I want to be better," find a way to do so, and act on it, I better myself.
 
I've learned that you need to never, EVER, be satisfied with the kind of person you currently are. Even the greatest people on the planet still have room for improvement. And I've been learning that if I want to touch the hearts of the people in this country, I need to be the best me that I can. It's hard.
 
Right now I'm with a companion who, whether he knows it or not, is helping me in a few ways. I'm learning with him that if I want to see change, I need to address my problems head on, rather than being content with the way things are, and letting people walk over me. I'm still trying to apply these principles, but I'm progressing.
 
I guess that's the thing I've recognized most since being out here, is that although the main and really single purpose of missionary work is to bring souls unto Christ, I can't do that if I'm not the best that I can be, because I need to be a representative of the perfect person. So every day I try to improve myself a little more. It's hard. I'm only starting to come to this realization and it's hard to push past my comfort zone. But it needs to be done if I want to be the best missionary, and by extension the best person I can be. And it's not just something having to do with missionary work.The principles I'm trying to apply to myself are such that I always want to keep in my mind and work on, because we are always representatives of Christ, so we should always try to push ourselves to be better.
 
Haha I guess this letter has turned more into a self help seminar, but I've just been thinking on this subject a lot lately. But I just feel so strongly about this, that we need to keep pushing ourselves past what we feel is comfortable, to better ourselves.
Okay well now that my incoherent ramblings are over, here's a weird factoid about where I'm serving: Adult rollerblading is a huge thing out here. Every time we go to a park, we see dozens of them. There are some who take it really, really seriously and go really fast and do tricks and stuff and I feel like I'm living in the 90s.
Okay well that's about it for me!
Now here's some proof that I'm not starving myself:


I made nutella cookies with homemade frosting to make homemade nutella oreosand they were so good that I ate them all at once...
 
 
Also, poorly lit picture of my new guitar and me


Okay bafta!
-Elder DeGraw
(p.s. I printed off all of your letters and I'll try to respond to them all next week! Love you all!)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reunited and it feels so BUN!

I got a guitar! I've been brushing back up on all of my songs that I've forgotten, and soon, actually tonight I think, we're getting together with another companionship to go in the park and I'll guitar contact again! Haha I didn't know I'd miss playing the guitar so much, but man did I miss it haha. It was so much cheaper than mine back in the states, but it plays as well or better as that one does. I just need to grab a capo, and my arsenal will be complete!

Okay so this last week was a pretty slow week, nothing that huge happened, with the exception that we finally met with Nick again! His phone had broken and he got a job, so he had been too busy to meet up with us, but we finally got back in contact and had a lesson with him and his friend! 
 
And because he likes/wants to learn English and we've done all of our lessons in English, we taught in English, and because my companion doesn't know any English, I taught the lesson all by myself! The spirit was so strong, I could feel how I was being guided as to what to say. I had been praying hard earlier that day to be able to answer all of his questions and to guide him to take the right path. 
 
He had a lot more questions this time than he did in our previous lessons, probably having to do with him asking his mom how she felt about him getting baptized (to which she was against, although I'm not sure of the extent), as well as he had some questions brought to his mind when he came to church a few weeks ago. 
 
But I went in as his friend, answered all of his questions based on the scriptures, and was able to reassure him of the truth while not simply stating my opinions. Haha he actually had some tough questions, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, I knew exactly what to say! 
 
In the end his last question was such to where the answer was that the only way he could know for himself was to read the scriptures and pray about them, which I instructed him to do. It was one of the better lessons I've had. I was able to bear testimony on the truth of the Gospel, about prayer, faith in Jesus Christ, as well as other things. The lord truly allowed me to be an instrument in his hands.
 
We also had district conference (basically stake conference) yesterday! The church was absolutely PACKED. It was like nothing I'd seen in quite a while. It looked like our ward back home! I swear I was the future of the church in Romania this past Sunday. I want the church to look like that every Sunday! It was beautiful.
 
Also I've been getting into cooking a lot! Last week I made all of my meals! Including some pastas, rice, I made two different kinds of pancakes completely from scratch, and I made some really tasty hot chocolate from a packet of cocoa that had been lying in our apartment since I got there. 
 
Oh and I also made saltine crackers. Yeah. They're not bad at all! Haha we have some recipe books in our apartment and I've been starting to use them and make my meals nice and tasty. It's so cool to turn some dust, liquids, and seasonings into something tasty and beautiful haha. I'm enjoying myself:)
 
Well that's about it! Same old same old! Long hours, hard work, but loving it all the time!
 
Laters!

-Elder DeGraw

Monday, September 16, 2013

Words go here...

More words are going here.

HEY. So guess what I did yesterday?! 
 
Yeah I went guitar contacting nbd. Haha a guitar was in transit to a member and the ZL had it and he was like "Hey DeGraw want to play" and I was like "I so want to play" and so I played/sung in a park while the other missionaries around talked to people who stopped or walked near us and it was super cool and effective too! 
 
Haha this last week we all tried different ways of contacting. I did that, Elder G did ping-pong contacting, Elder E did Chess contacting, and the whole district is trying to get people in for the sisters to teach a children's English class. And yesterday we all did all of that and it was super fantastarific haha. 
 
So I decided I'm going to get myself a guitar like some other missionaries have out here and do more of that. I'll put an advertisement for the English classes on my guitar so that whenever I play it people will know that I'm not asking for anything, quite the contrary I'm offering a service! 
 
One of the elders from my MTC group, Elder C, and his companion, are both super into music, so they contact like that all the time and apparently it's usually a pretty darn effective form of English contacting I mean think about it: a guy singing songs in English, advertising free english classes, if anything else that's going to make an impression.
 
So yeah other than that, this week we had a lesson with Elder G's cousin, to whom we showed the restoration film, as well as another lesson with Iancu, who is still nice and active just in case anyone had forgotten about him;) And yeah that was pretty much my week, that and contacting!
 
I've found myself trying to push myself harder every day to do more work. Lots of missionaries out here are really discouraged because we usually have low numbers. But I've seen that just turn into a vicious cycle of no work, no lessons, no baptisms, discouraged, so no work. 
 
But I've been trying to push myself and my companion to both work a lot harder than we have, and I've found myself enjoying the work much more. Not necessarily the actual contacting, which let's be honest, sucks. But with feeling like I'm actually doing my full part in bringing the Gospel to these people. I feel more satisfied with my output at the end of the day; I feel more like I'm doing what God wants me to do. I still have a LONG way to go, for sure, but I'm moving there.

I'm so happy to hear about all these happy things happening at home! You are all in my prayers every day and I'm so glad to see that so many are being answered. I miss you all, and I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two Down!

Welcome to Romania, the place where people always carry flowers upside-down for some reason.
 
So last week I realized that Romania is really cool in this one specific way: if you want something, you can find it literally just about anywhere. For example, say you're out of bread, you want some new shoes, and have a hankering for a shaorma. You can literally hop on a random bus, get off on any random stop, walk five minutes in any direction, and find all of that, plus get the latest newspaper, stop into a bakery and grab some fresh made swiss roles, grab a watermelon, whatever you need or want is ridiculously cheaply available EVERYWHERE.
 
Another cool thing I discovered last week is the piatas (pronounced piatsaz). This word can actually mean several things, but in this case it means marketplace. As in a huge, gigantic, fresh, all natural, superidiculously cheap super tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. We got 10 corn cobs for 5 lei (about $1.50), I got a kilogram of cucumbers for 1 leu (about $0.30), some small super tasty watermelons, some prunes (surprisingly very tasty -- I've never really had them before), and a whole bunch of other stuff. I love Romania :)
 
I'm pretty much done with my second transfer, and will be a trainee no more! We just found out transfer boards! My step dad is leaving me!.. Kinda! Haha he's staying in Buch but opening that northern group I was talking about earlier. I'm staying where I'm at, and getting a new companion named Elder G. He's... (wait for it)... ANATIVEWHOSPEAKSNOENGLISH!! Haha i'm actually super excited! I've met him before, briefly, and from what I've seen and heard he's a really cool guy. 
 
Haha I did say at mission reports that I wanted to learn the language. And what better way to learn than being with someone who only speaks that language?! Haha it'll be 24/7 SYL (speak your language, MTC thing) which I've actually been wanting to do a lot more of. I learn best from experience, and I'm hoping to make the most out of this situation and be fluent by the end of this next transfer! I've got the grammar pretty much down, now it's just a matter of a lot of vocabulary, which a native speaker will be an amazing help with. I'm super excited for next transfer!
 
So both of our investigators have been pretty busy, so we haven't really been able to meet up for a while, but as far as I know both are still going well!
 
Anyway that's about all I've got for today! You all are in my prayers. And remember, with faith in God, anything is possible. When I have something that I have to do, and I know that I have to do it, even when it's hard, I pray to God for strength. I do my best, put a smile on my face, and somehow everything works out, even if not in the way that I'd planned.
 
Va Iubim pe voi toti!!!
 
Laters.
 
-Elder DeGraw

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is this what it's like in South America??

Hello from the țară of a million smells! I am in my last week of my second transfer! It's ridiculous how fast this transfer has gone. We just did mission reports wherein we said how we're doing and like what we want out of next transfer. I swear we just did that like two days ago!

Haha I'm probably going to be like that for my whole mission; like marveling at how long I've been here. It's nuts.

So some cool things happened this last week! Remember that really cool guy who contacted me last week? Yeah we met with him every day and he's like the coolest guy ever! His name is Nick. He's just awesome. He met missionaries in England and they recommended him to talk to us. He says he loves a lot of things about our church and he feels good when he reads, prays, and came to sacrament meeting! He loves the social aspect of the church out here.  So we'll see how he goes!

Also we have another investigator who accepted a baptismal date but because he's very understandably concerned about his physical welfare, as he's unemployed and doesn't know if he will live to that date. But he's basically ready to be there.

Haha I'm wondering if this is what it's like working in an area where the church is well established! We had a lesson almost every day and that's VERY rare out here. We didn't have time to go home and eat once because of a mix of how long it takes to get to our apartment (around 40 minutes) and that we were always there for lessons so we ate out for lunch every day!
 
But it's okay because we hardly spent any money on groceries because we are frugal! But haha don't worry I'm not starving! It's just that we buy the ingredients and they're super cheap so we save a lot of money! Like, I spent about half as much on groceries as I did my first transfer. We're frugal :)

Oh and I went soapboxing last week:) Yeah we went chalk contacting and me and Elder H and Elder R (ZLs) read from the pamphlets and also just soapboxed. It was super cool! We didn't really get anything out of it but it was a great experience.

Also there's a sister out here who's elementary school teacher was Grandma DeGraw! Her name is Sora Cook. Haha she told me that a few weeks ago but I just remembered. So. Yeah.
 
Anyway it's going great out here! I've seen lots of great things out here in this last week, as well as one really crazy lady. Haha but the good easily outweighs the bad.

I love and miss you all so I command you to have a fantastic week! Till I write again!

Love,
   Elder DeGraw
 
I'm a Pepper!

Sunset over Bucharest

Elder Swan

Elder Cat
 

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm almost done with my second transfer...

Ce mai faceti from the land of adorable puppies and the cutest babies in the entire world. No. Seriously. This last week we saw like 5 puppies that I just wanted to steal and raise as my own. And don't even get me started on the babies.

So I'm more than halfway through my second transfer! And that's really weird. It still feels like I just got here yesterday, I can just speak a little better.
 
Oh some cool news, where we are they are starting a new group! Right now and for a while there have just been the two branches, and both are actually pretty close together, and also both are in the south. So, the District President decided to make a new group in the north, which will hopefully become a branch in a transfer or two. And it just so happens to be in the area I'm serving in! So if I'm still here next transfer I'll be able to help start up a new branch! How it will actually work is a lot of reactivation of inactives, as well as a few members from the existing branches will go there because they live up north. We're starting in on that this week.
 
Recently I've seen a lot of really cool things! I've been praying to become better at both contacting, and being approachable. Last night I realized as I was entering in my latest contacts into the area book, that like 5 in a row were people who contacted us! It hardly ever happened last transfer, but this transfer it's happened a lot! Just yesterday as we were walking into the metro after district contacting (where it also happened that we were contacted more than once), this young teenage guy walks up to me and tells me that his friend who lives in England told him about us and to talk to us. He had been to the church but he said it was at like 3:00 and everyone was gone by then. But he specifically told me, before I said anything, that he wanted to set up a time and meet! 
 
I don't know what it is, but people have been contacting me lately! We were on the tramvai the other day when this guy talked to us and asked if we could get him a Book of Mormon in Arabic. He came to english class the next day and we gave it to him and he read it very intently the whole class. 
 
We also have an Investigator who is really cool. I don't know what it is! But this transfer, I've been seeing more people being interested. Maybe it's just me. It's probably in large part just what I'm seeing myself. But it's really cool.
 
Last week I decided to read my patriarchal blessing and compare it with the scriptures. I can't begin to express how amazing patriarchal blessings are. I have seen in mine evidences of the truth of the gospel time and time again. It brings me comfort all the time. I went in and studied about specific topics in it, and I had one of the best study sessions I've had for a while. It brought me peace and helped me feel the spirit. It helped me to know what I need to do, what I will need help with, and most importantly, who I am. I have a very strong testimony of patriarchal blessings.
 
Me and Elder E have been doing really good money wise this transfer. Last transfer me and Elder R would EACH spend about 100-150 Lei on groceries. This transfer, it's been about 50 lei per person. We cook most of our dinners, (usually the same 3 delicious dishes) and the ingredients are so cheap, and they last us for so long, that that's all we need to spend! Haha one of the best things I've noticed about being out here is being able to experience learning how to use money without just falling flat if I'm a little short. I've learned how to cook a couple very cheap, very tasty meals, and I can tell I'll use them after my mission. It's just really great not to have to worry that much about where the money is coming from, and learn how to use it effectively.
 
Anyway, I'm doing great, loving it, and missing you all. I'll talk to you in a few!
Love,
Elder DeGraw

Monday, August 12, 2013

2 Months down in Romania!

Buna Ziua from statistically the third saddest country in the world!

So yesterday marks 2 months of me being in this country. So that's weird. It still feels like yesterday we were hopping on the bus from the MTC to the airport. This whole transfer has gone by like a week did in the MTC, which at that point felt like nothing. I'm already almost halfway done with my second transfer. Time's weird, man.
 
So last week was pretty cool. Last P-Day we went paintballing!! It was so fun. Haha but on the way there the taxi driver played literally the filthiest song I've ever heard in my life. We had to have him turn it off. Haha the Romanian rap out here is really cool, we hear it all the time in stores and taxis and stuff, and it's usually always really appropriate and clean, at least from what I've heard. But the American music they play is just ridiculous. 
 
Anyway. Paintball. It was awesome. Oh and on wednesday we went and performed a puppet show at an elementary school. There were two shows, one about hygiene and one about smoking. They both went over great! Afterwards I saw the kids playing games and acting out things like trying to kill the evil germs and stuff. It was super cool.
 
And I've found myself not hating contacting as much. We do a lot of contacting out here, because we don't get a lot of lessons because nobody likes to talk to us. And last transfer I detested it. We'd leave in the morning, contact for a few hours, come back & eat, contact for a few more hours, come home and eat, and that would be our day. We have been able this transfer to figure out better ways to do it. We have district contacting a lot, and some other things. But the biggest part of it is just that now I've figured out a way to contact that is so much easier than what I did all of last transfer, and I've found myself wanting to get better, pushing myself to talk to that one more person, and almost, even... kind of... enjoying it! It would still be a stretch to say I like contacting. But it's now gotten to the point that I can do it with confidence and I'm starting to be less picky about who I feel comfortable talking to. 
 
Last week I had another experience like the week before with silent prayer and a guy coming up and talking to us, and I got his number, and it was a super legit contact! And I did almost all of it! I keep feeling my contacting walls coming down and it makes me so excited to be able to just talk to everyone.
 
So, I'm in the process of writing/sending some physical letters. I have some people who've written to me that I need to write back to and it's about time I sent my family something. But I'm still trying to figure out how it all works out here. So it might take a little while. But just so you know, I'm working on it!
 
I love you all, and I'm loving it out here!
I'll talk to you next week.

Love,
  Elder DeGraw

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hi

Howdy-ho, from the best-granola capital of the world!
Second transfer continues to go swimmingly. Elder E is a superbly awesome guy. Had kind of a generic week, but it was super cool. We had an investigator lesson, met with Iancu and his family, and did some stuffs.
 
Yesterday after church we went back to Herastrau park and district contacted, and I kind of did a little mini-exchange with our new zone leader, Elder H. He gave me a lot of great advice about contacting, which made me feel a lot better at it, and he helped me to lower that barrier a little bit. And I want to say a thing about something that happened while we were there. I was walking down the path, saying a little prayer in my head. I was praying that the Lord would send us to, or send someone to us, who wanted to hear what we had to say, because most Romanians don't. Well, I didn't even finish thinking the words before I heard someone yelling "Hey, misters!", and this guy called us over to talk, because he wanted to hear what we had to say. He was a little defensive, kind of wanting to bible bash (to which my companion responded simply by answering his questions and destroying his arguments), but it was amazing. I don't care who you are, that's an answered prayer right there.
So this transfer we pretty much have the best district in the world. There I said it. They're all good, hard workers, but they're also all super fun and happy and nice and funny and awesome. Our ZLs are insanely fantastic (and in our district), and fulfill the ideal required of them of being good examples to the zone, and very well I might add.
We had our interviews with the president last week, which went awesomely. Haha he told me he's never seen anyone pick up the language as fast as he saw me, which made me feel really good! And then we had some training by the APs on using scriptures more and better in lessons. It was a great week.
Also, I've been asked a bunch if I get all of the family letters, and I'm pretty sure I do. It's just that our P-day schedule is kind of tight so It's hard to answer them all and then write my general letter. But I appreciate every single thing I receive. Oh and also I heard my friend Nicole got a mission call! So congrats on that! Mexico seems like a fantastic mission.
Alrighty then, gotta go, but here are some cool pictures!

University Facade

Pretty Graffiti

Monday, July 29, 2013

Elder E's Transfer of Awesomeness

Greetings from the odd smell capital of the world!

My second transfer has so far been one of the best weeks of my mission. Haha just because my new companion is pretty much the best guy ever. Elder E just came back to Romania after being home for three months because of surgery on his shoulder. He had been dying to come back, and now he's back home! Haha but he's seriously one of the funniest guys ever. And ridiculously smart. He knows the bible inside and out. He can find pretty much any scripture he needs and have the reference memorized. And he has/had similar interests as me so we get along great.

This last week has been great! Transfers was fantastic, got to see all but one of my MTC pals, met my new companion, said my fond farewells to my former, it was an interesting day. Oh and really cool news! I got to Nas (pronounced Nosh)! Meaning I got to be a "godfather" to an incoming missionary!

It was super cool. And also pretty surreal knowing that I'm not among the youngest in the mission anymore. We took the new boboci (our word for greenie, which means basically baby ducks) out and contacted at Herastrau park, took them for some Shaorma, and took them home.

Oh and there's a sort of tradition here where Nases will give their godsons ties. I found a really cool one in a piata for 10 Lei (that's like $3). I got complemented on the tie I gave him for days after. Just call me the king of the Nas tie.

Our district this transfer is full of some straight up amazing elders and sisters. Also they are all really funny. I'm excited for this transfer.

Sorry I'm kind of short on time today but I am doing well, still progressing with the language and learning more new things every day. I love you all, miss you all, and am loving Romania!
Love,
Elder DeGraw
Rainbow over Bucharest

New Companion - Elder McAwesome

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ce a facut, mă?? 1 transfer deja? (What the heck?? First transfer already??!)

Greetings from the cheap bread capital of the world! (seriously we get like super good quality European style bread for the equivalent of about $0.30 US. Anyway.

We just found out transfer results! I'm staying here in sector 1! But Elder R is off to the city of Orhei, Moldova! So I'm going to get a new companion here. His name is Elder E, and he'll be coming straight from America because he had to go get some surgery done. Had he not gone home though, he's still one of the "older" missionaries.

Cool week! Iancu got the priesthood on Sunday, so he'll probably be passing the sacrament next Sunday. He's really excited. The awesome thing about him is that he just loves the gospel so much. His testimony is getting stronger every day. We gave him one of those picture-Book of Mormons, you know where it has the Book of Mormon laid out like a comic strip kind of with pictures and simple captions. He loved it, and he's shared it with his siblings and his parents, who can't read.

Iancu sat in on a little mini "lesson" we had with a member who has some small mental issues. Basically the equivalent of a savant. He's really smart, but has some autistic-type tendencies. Anyway, he's very active, and missionaries will have lessons with him occasionally and he's always interested and loves to learn. In our lesson with him, out of nowhere Iancu just turned into one of us. He was asking him gospel questions, being his same old normal self but also acting really missionary-like. Me and Elder R got him a shirt and tie, and when he was trying it on he grabbed my tag and put it on and he looked just like a missionary. Don't worry I got a picture:).

Oh mom, you'll be so proud of me. I played the piano for the church service last week. Kind of. I used the thing where you just push any key and it plays the song. But still! Oh and yesterday we sang in church, and I had a solo! So that was cool. And later in the day, we went to Sora Gorzo's:) She's a member in the other Bucharest branch who always has missionaries over at her house and feeds them/us. She makes really good food, and we sang some hymns, talked about cool things, it was a blast.

Haha so I got a bit of an ego boost the other day, we were in a contact and a lady told me I spoke better Romanian than my companion! He was just talking really fast, whereas I talk more normal, so that's probably all she meant. But it made me feel cool.  I've made it a transfer, seen the fruits of missionary success, and am excited to see more. I've improved my language ability to the point where, weirdly enough as it is to say, I am basically functionally fluent. Meaning I understand about 90% of what is said, and I can respond pretty well about 75-80% of the time. That should not be possible. The gift of tongues is real, guys. Super excited for next transfer, and more to come, I'm going to do my best to be the best missionary I can be. I love all a y'all, my prayers are with you.


Elder DeGraw

"Elder" Iancu

Orthodox church - either being built or remodeled

Iancu's family

Transfers - Elder S., Me, and Elder R.

Zone Conference