Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm an old man! Also, Happy Easter!!

Hey everybody thanks for the happy birthday wishes!

My birthday was really fun! We had a district meeting with just the elders because one of the sisters was sick. But it went really well.

Then after the district meeting we went to KFC for a birthday lunch. Then we went to go check out an Easter târg to try to get some traditional Romanian Easter stuff. Then when we were leaving, there was this Easter demonstration going on, so we stopped to watch a little of it, and then it started moving!!!

It turns out it was this thing called "Drumul Crucii," (the road of the cross) which was basically a demonstration of the crucifiction. It was pretty intense. It turned into basically a parade-type thing that went all down centru. We didn't stay for the whole thing, so we didn't see him get put on the cross, but what we did see was crazy and helped to show what He went through and kind of give more of a real-life visual of what happened. Maybe a little much, they really focused on the cruelty and beatings and stuff, but it was interesting to watch nonetheless. After that, we got to watch an Easter/birthday movie! We watched Despicable Me 2 and that movie is awesome! So funny.


Also this last week marked me officially only having a year left as a missionary! Next week I will have done more than I will have left. It doesn't feel like that at all; I still feel like I just barely got here. But I only have a year left. It came way too fast, and from what I've heard, it just keeps getting faster. It has been going like that the whole time already so that shouldn't be too big of a surprise haha. But it's just weird.


For P Day yesterday we went to Timisoara! We were going to play laser tag, but because Easter was yesterday, everything was closed. So instead of that, we ended up just hanging out with the entire zone in a really cool park and slacklining, then playing games at the church there, and we even saw a little bit of a soccer game! It was a super fun day. Then we took a train home! So super fun P day!


Also this week was obviously Easter, and Romania really celebrates Easter all out, even more so than Christmas. It's basically a 2 day holiday; Saturday was învierea (the resurrection) and Sunday was Paștele (literally the passover, but Easter). And Saturday night they have a midnight mass. And we got to go!

So we went to that and it was really cool. They had the main priest who sang the Easter story in the style of a monotone chant. And then they passed around fire to candles which everybody had, and the goal was to get home with the fire in the candle still glowing, which basically means a lot of luck for the next year, from what I've heard. It was really cool.


Also, Skyping! We get to do that again and hopefully this time we won't get interrupted haha!  Just let me know when everyone can, we can do it either on mothers' day or around there. We can use the church computers here so scheduling shouldn't be to much of an issue.


Also I got the new camera, because of the freaking last one breaking, and it was a great deal and it's a pretty good camera! And I have been taking a LOT of pictures haha. Proof:


Inline image 1



So yeah! That's about the week! We also did some contacting and we had a lesson set up, but he bunged us. We're trying to get the branch to start having activities again. I think right now we're going to make strengthening the branch a priority right now, because of many reasons. But yeah there we go! More pictures following!


Lots of Love,


Elder DeGraw

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Same old stuff is happening. But a heroic story of long ago!

Hello all! So yeah not too much has been happening!

This last week was the week of transfers, but me and Elder C didn't go down because we're just staying together, and we didn't have English classes to break things up, so this week was a lot of English contacting! Although this week we did get 2 new potential investigators! Our best week so far in that regard! Wow just saying that makes me realize how slow the work goes here... but yeah. We were happy!

Other than that, just had district meeting and watched a little bit of conference! It was kind of sad... the branch had planned an activity to watch conference at the church villa, but nobody but the branch president, one of his counselors, and maybe one other person, so they decided to just cancel it and all went home. So then it was just us missionaries watching it. Basically the same thing happened on Sunday, although that time it was supposedly because they couldn't watch it live in Romanian, even though Elder P (ZL) had found out how to do it, the branch president told him that it wasn't possible.

So the branch met at 5 pm, to have a testimony meeting and watch conference, and then didn't even watch it. But either way, I really liked conferece! I always do haha. I feel like though that especially as a missionary it's just a great occasion! This is my second one out here and both times it's kind of felt like the missionary superbowl haha! We all get to gather together, meeting in the church with some snacks, and listen to modern day prophets! And as always, I got some answered prayers, some motivation, some guidance. I hope each and every one of you watched it!
So yeah that's basically it! Althought I have a story from a couple weeks ago that I just remembered about! We saved a kid from getting beat up! This happened about midway through last transfer, and I'm pretty sure I haven't mentioned it yet. If I have I'm sorry. 
We were walking to the church for something, when this lady yells out to us to walk with this kid to the end of the street. Being the nice mormon boys we are we gladly offered to, though without fully knowing why. Talking with him (he's about 10, I believe) we find out the situation, which is that some kids were trying to beat him up because they thought he did something which he didn't do.

He was close to his house, but he was scared, and rightfully so. We walked with him for a while, and the kids emerge from behind a car and try to charge at the kid, giving their BS excuses for trying to beat the crap out of him. Me and Elder C stood in between them, and I calmy but firmly adressed these little punks and asked what they were doing, to which they replied the exact same thing that the kid told us was happening. I told them that as long as I was there, they weren't going to touch him, but they persisted. For some reason, our boy tried to start to get away, so he was no longer behind us, and the kids ran over to him, knocked him down, and started kicking him. I ran over there and threw the kids off of him, gave them a stern talking to, and took our kid and left. Don't worry, they didn't hurt him too bad, but they were brave/stupid enough to go after him when 2 clearly more capable, larger than them Americans were there to protect him.

As we were walking away the kid kept looking back and saying "they're following us!" to which I reassured him that we wouldn't let anything happen to him. "So you'll hit them?:)" he said, to which I replied that I would not, but I would make sure they didn't touch him.

So yeah. After that everything was cool. He went to his house, the bullies went the other way, and he was okay. We've seen him a couple times since then. He's such a cool kid. I hope he'll check out the church someday. I felt weird inviting him to do anything because he's a kid, but I did give him an english card and I'm sure he'll remember that event for a long time. I finally felt like I was doing something haha! But yeah. Cool story for ya.
Okay so you remember how I left my charger in Craiova? I finally got it back! So my camera has been working. I took a few pictures, I was so happy. Then one day I turn it on to take a picture, and the lense won't show any images. The screen works just fine, I can go back and look through all the pictures that are there already, but it won't let me take any new pictures. So long story short I'm probably going to need a new camera....... They're pretty relatively cheap, but I'm still freaking ticked. Just when I finally get to use my camera again!! Oh well. I'll just have to continue using other peoples' cameras for things...
Also I haven't gotten a new cheap suit yet, for the main reason that nowhere that has good cheap suits has my size! I didn't think I got that small yet, but I can't find it anywhere. Or I can in a suit that I don't want to buy. But I'm still on the lookout. I may not even find one. If I don't find a good one within a reasonable amount of time, I'll probably just hold off for only the really good suit towards the end. But we'll see.
So that's pretty much everything! I got pictures from last transfer so I can finally send some! I'm sure the blog's been looking pretty bland lately without pictures haha.
Anyway, love you all, have a great week, and remember that you're all in my prayers!
-Elder DeGraw

I'm not changing anything!

First off,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you!

Of course the family would go to freaking Cancun when we can't go... haha I have missed so many family vacations out here it's like it was planned... No but really maybe we'll just have to go to Cancun by ourselves when I get home ;)
Now, for the news about transfers! I'm staying here with Elder C! This will be my first companion I've had for more than a transfer, and I'm really glad that I get to stay with him, because he's one of my favorite companions. It was kind of funny, we were on the way to go check the new transfer board, when I got a call from Elder M, my old MTC companion, freaking out because he was going to the office (which means he will be there for when the new mission president gets in), so it seemed like the transfer board was going to be crazy. So me and Elder C started freaking out and I literally ran the last little bit to the church. It's always like this at the end of transfers, because you never know what could happen! Anyway, then we get there and see that we weren't changing anything and it was just really anticlimactic haha. But I'm glad I get to stay with Elder C, because we get along great and have no companionship issues. I'm stoked to see what next transfer holds in store!
Things have been going pretty average lately, meaning slow. We had an almost-experience this week though, haha! We were walking down the street, on the way to meet up with others for some district contacting, when this guy stops us to talk to us. He apparently has met with the missionaries before, and he lives near us. He then asked us to come over and help him with a "problem," which he wouldn't tell us what it was. I asked him several times what he wanted help with, but he wouldn't really say anything other than "it's something to do with my living situation," and "we'll be talking with somebody." He did make sure to say that he didn't want money, but out here it's really good to know the people's intentions, so when this happens, we're kind of wary. But anyway we agreed to go over the next day, still not quite knowing what would happen. Long story short, we went over and either he wasn't home, or we found the wrong address. But nothing happened. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened this week.
In other news, my suit got a huge hole in the butt area! The one that I had a ridiculous amount of tailored after I lost a whole bunch of weight and still doesn't fit me. So basically, I could get it re-tailored, and continue wearing a suit that doesn't fit (and you can only ever tailor so much while still looking good), or I could do what many missionaries do out here, which is buy a cheap (I'm talking less than half of what you'd see in your generic suit store back home), great fitting, great looking suit, and use that out here, then save the really good looking one for later. So I think I'm going to do that soon. Maybe an early birthday present from myself:)
Haha speaking of me losing weight, I've taken pictures of me wearing some pants that I came out here with to show how loose they are now. Also I did the same thing with my belt and the belt loop I used to wear it on, because I think that shows better contrast. I'll upload those probably later today or in the week to the Google drive. But I weighed myself at the beginning of the transfer and am officially at 140ish. That's down from 170 in the MTC. 30 pounds.

Haha combine that with the European style I see all the time out here and Nick would be so proud of me; I'm finally learning how to have style! But yeah. I've decided that when I go home I want to get started at going to the gym like right away. Because I really, REALLY want to get in shape. I've done the hardest part already; losing weight. Now I want to get my muscle tone back. So I think I want to start at like day one back home going to the gym in the morning, maybe to one of mom's early morning class things. I don't know. I just want to get good habits like that as soon as I get home. I also really want to get back into martial arts. It can be a really good work out and it also will reteach me how to fight, which is a plus! We'll see.
Anyway, I'm doing great, I love everyone back home and miss you all, I'm doing great and I'm stoked for next transfer!
Stay sweet!
Elder DeGraw

Congrats Coleman! Also, I'm royalty.

California San Francisco/Oakland! Nice! You're going to be a great missionary, bro! If you want any tips not related to your specific mission, shoot me an email! And I actually do have something to ask you, but I don't have your email haha.


Anyway, things are going great here! And when I say great, I mean slow like usual. There was somebody new at church this week though! The sisters from Cluj talked to a guy on the train who lives near here, I called him on Saturday evening, and because we were running a little late to church, the other elders had a lesson with him and he stayed for sacrament meeting! So he's going to be the ZLs investigator. So hopefully something can happen with him!


Other than that, this week went pretty well, continuing to get better bit by bit. I was able to have an exchange with Elder W (one of the ZLs and also was one of my Nasi my first day) during which we worked hard and had a lot of fun. This week we also went to the funeral of a member's father. We got to talk to several less-active members there who are friends with that member and his daughter. Other than that, the week has been pretty routine. Contacting and English classes!

The classes have been going well, though I want to try to put a bigger emphasis on the spiritual thoughts. Last class only one person stayed, for various reasons. But at the one previous, we gave out about 3 copies of The Book of Mormon and they seemed to be interested, but none of those people were at class the last time so we weren't able to follow up with them. 


We're still trying to get better contacts. I really like the new family history contacting cards we got recently! When I first heard of family history contacting, I honestly thought it was kind of weird, but seeing it in action, it's been pretty cool! I might actually get to use that fan chart they told me to bring out here haha! Even when I decided to try to use family history contacting, I thought it would be kind of weird to show people my chart, but after having experienced contacting this way, I can see how useful it can be to actually show people what they can do! I'm really wanting to put it into more use!

Haha so I was just looking at the website that we refer people to for that,, and I found out some super cool stuff! Like that I'm related to Charlemagne! Him and by extension quite a few other royals from a long time ago! I'm also related to A Heleno de Troia, as in, Helen of Troy.... I don't know if it's THE Helen of Troy, but there are also other kings and queens of troy, such as Priamos III, also Zaberian Of Cimmerians Gaberiano, King of Troy; also of really cool old sounding places like Antenor of Cimmeria; Bernard, King of Italy; royalty from Inglaterra (i.e. REALLY old England); and Vermandois, Neustria.

I discovered that, through one line (and this is the coolest part is that it's just through one random journey through a guy on the DeGraw side), though it is mostly from England, I have roots in Italy, France, Germany, as well as Turkey, and the Crimea, which is where the riots are happenning in Ukraine. How cool is that! I highly recommend that everyone check it out.

Sorry. Anyway, I just think that's freaking cool! Today for Pday, we watched The Best 2 Years and it's so weird seeing that movie from a missionary point of view haha. The key indicators they get are literally impossible. But all that aside, it is a really good movie!


We find out what happens next transfer this week! I seriously can't believe this transfer's almost over already. Time goes by so freaking fast out here it's absolutely ridiculous. I think this next coming transfer is the most uncertain I've been yet about a transfer board. Every transfer up until now, I've had a general idea of what I thought would happen, but right now I have no idea.

This is the time when I could have to actually start doing things, i.e. I'm old enough and experienced enough that President could make me a ZL or something. But I'm also young enough to not necessarily need to. I could just go stay DL or even go back and just be other Elder. The point is, I have no idea what's happening. I'll let you know what happens!


That's about it!

Love you all!


-Elder DeGraw

Zone Conference!

Things happened this week!
Okay not too much, but we did have Zone Conference today! Haha I know I said I'd email later in the week, but we decided to do our emailing today and then do the rest of our PDay later. So.
So yeah Zone conference! It was here in Arad so we didn't have to go anywhere which was nice. I always love Zone Conferences. I always feel motivated afterwards. My favorite parts are always the dying testimonies, which are when missionaries who will be going home before the next zone conference bear their testimonies.

And it was really weird this time because it was two missionaries who I've been around my whole mission, who are from the same MTC group. One was Elder R, who was one of my first ZLs and is now the AP, and has literally been both in Bucharest and in a leadership position above me for my entire mission. The other was Elder H, who served with Elder R as ZL in my second transfer, and with whom I have gotten pretty close in this time out here.

Elder H has been a huge influence in my mission and it was a really spiritual thing for me to see him speaking about his experiences out here in such a setting. Honestly he was the missionary who really showed me how to be a missionary; how to effectively contact, how to study well, how to be diligent in the work, and he taught me many things about the language. He seriously is a genious and knows the language better than many Romanians haha. He still has one more transfer, but the fact that he just gave his dying testimony means he's pretty old. And neither of them were old when I got into the country. In fact I'm only 2 transfers away from being where they were when I got out here. I feel like I'm going to freak out next transfer because I will hit both my halfway mark and my 20th birthday. I don't like thinking about either of those facts.
The district's still doing great! We've been doing something ocassionally recently to the extent of a "district language study," which basically means that we move our language study and get together for an hour and the sisters and my companion ask me grammar questions and I answer them, because the sisters are both young and need some help, as well as Elder C has been wanting some help. It's been amazing for me to see my progress in the language in that so far I have been able to answer every single grammar question they have thrown my way. I'm still working on getting better at grammar, but I have been able still to help these younger missionaries. It really has been a testimony booster to me of how the Lord gives us gifts to share them.  For whatever reason, the Lord has blessed me to able to learn the language relatively easily, and I feel like that's because I can use that both to bless the lives of Romanians through teaching them, as well as to help other missionaries to communicate better. That as well as to work my gospel knowlege into contacts and to try to be able to put good information into my contacts that will provide a good base for when they decide to meet with missionaries.
Also, ATTA BOY ZACK! You're up on the wall! I'm so proud of you! You too Jacob! You're next! Who would have thought wrestling would have turned into your sports but that might be it! I also hear Zack's planning on doing football in high school. YES. It's about time:)

Also way to go Nick for My Fair Lady! I've never seen it so I don't know what it's about. But knowing you I know you did a great job:) I wish I could have been there to see it.

Also Coleman's getting his call this week?!?!! I can't believe that! I'm stoked to hear where he goes!
I love you all. Remember, Jesus died for you. Use his sacrifice.
Everybody have a great week!!
-Elder DeGraw

We actually had some lessons!

Hey everybody! I'm still doing great here in Arad! Our english classes have started, and they've been going okay. Not as good as last transfer, but that's kind of hard to compete with. We actually did get to have some lessons this week, too, the first of the transfer! And our investigator came to church! He still says that he will stay Orthodox. He seems sincere though. I think if we can help him see the importance of the Book of Mormon, which is his main question right now, he could be baptized. He's a very nice guy.

We also got to meet with a less active member with the sisters, because she wanted a blessing. She's in a very tough position. She actually has had a mission call, but she's had to back out of going like 3 times. Her family, specifically her mother, is very against her being in the church. Her mom tore up her mission call when she got it. She's been threatened with disownment if she goes on a mission. She is such a great person, though.

It was a few transfers ago when she was supposed to go on her mission and didn't show up to the train, and she hasn't been back to church since. I think she's just afraid of members looking down at her or really is just kind of scared. It's completely understandable, it's just sad. She really has a strong testimony and a lot of faith.

We gave her a blessing and the sisters said that that was the most open about the whole situation she's been since they've been meeting with her. So hopefully she can get on her feet again spiritually. It's just a really tough situation.

Today we went paintballing! Most of the zone came up, as well as the APs, and it was super fun. It was in an abandoned warehouse basically. It was super legit. I'll have pictures soon so I'll send those when I get them. It was super fun.

Other than that, not too much going on! Haha I feel like I always say that! During the week I always think of things to write home about and then I always forget when Pday comes. But really not all that much happens here. We just go out every day and try talking to people and usually nothing comes out of it. But its always worth it for when things do happen. But yeah. We'll have zone conference next week so that should be fun! It'll be on Monday so I'll be writing home on a different day next week just heads up.

I'm sure people know about the stuff going on in Ukraine! We are too haha, especially being right next to it. But at least as of now, it's not affecting Romania too much. So we don't think we have too much to worry about. But this last week we did discuss what we'd do if a zombie apocalypse happened so I think we'll be ready if anything goes down.

The only real effect the situation has had in any way on our mission was that a member from Orhei, Moldova, who was serving in Russia, was actually transferred into Ukraine. Weird. But yeah we're not involved in that in any way so there's no need to worry.

Also I hear Coleman should be getting his mission call pretty soon! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you bud! I'm super proud of you for choosing to serve. It's the best choice you'll have ever made! I'm excited to hear where you're going to serve!

Oh and I've been thinking about what to send in that birthday package, and really the only things I can think of are good American treats like the ones I said, or maybe some Chik-Fil-A sauce, or maybe a journal. Haha I've gone through 2 and a half already. But yeah I'm good with whatever. Or just like tell me what to get out here and put money in my account. Or maybe like film something and put it on my google drive. Or just don't get me anything because I really don't need anything!

But yeah I'm doing great! Hope everybody else is. Good job Zack and Jacob in Division!!! I'm super proud of both of you! That means your name's on the wall now, doesn't it, Zack?! That's super cool!
Okay bye. Love you! Talk to you next week!
-Varsticul DeGraw


Hey so first things first.  Yes I finally got the Christmas package! it was all good and everything was in it as far as I know! So we can all rest easy now. I think it accidentally got sent to the wrong place or something and went through a weird process but it's here now and that's what matters! I have pictures of the package that I was going to put here as the proof but this computere won't accept my usb but I have it!


But yeah. Things are going great! Me and my companion are getting along great! We have very simliar thought processes and it sometimes feels like we're the exact same person but just with different life experiences so we act different. Haha it's kind of hard to explain. But he's awesome haha and we're doing well. We've been working really hard lately too! In my records of the district, this last week had the best numbers of the entire book! So something about this district motivates everyone to work hard! I'm feeling great too, feeling like I'm doing a lot more than earlier in my mission. This transfer and last have been really good for me.


So today for p day we went to these super cool ruins of a fortress! It was in a little village called Șiria. It's an old fortress that's been falling apart for probably hundreds of years and it's left completely abandoned. So anyone can go there any time and just explore, which is what we did! It was super fun. We got to climb on it and just have a super fun time. We played some oldschool games like kick the can and bunny ears and stuff in the ruins of a fortress. How cool is that!? We have pictures but, as I said before, the computer won't let me use my thing. Also, My camera doesn't have really anything on it because it's dead and I left my charger in Craiova. So. Yeah.


I'll try to respond to the letters from the family thing next week when I have a little more time! I"m a little rushed today; we spent a lot of time at the fortress and it took a while to get back because the travel system in Romania is great but sometimes unreliable. But yeah. I'll have to think about what I want in the birthday package but I'll have some answers next week. Thanks for everyone back home and not for everything!


I love all of you!!


-Elder DeGraw