Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 40: Arad, Romania

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Today's highlights:
   -Saw Andra, Timi and Emi
   -Sora Mogos' house
   -Tamas family
   -Sharin the gospel!
   -Gabi's help

Buckle up, this is a long one! (AKA Angie's Mission Memories Vol. 1)

Today was the craziest, busiest day we've had in awhile! Today we got to spend the day in Arad, where I (Angie) spent the last three months of my mission. It is a very special place to me for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I think the last area you serve in always has special meaning. But I also had amazing companions (Ania Popa Tamas and Allison Jensen Jepsen), there was an amazing branch there, we had a great district that played hard and worked hard, and we taught an amazing woman that remains my closest friend from Romania, Florina. It is just such an amazing, special place and Robbie and I were able to see so many of the people that made my time in Arad so special, and we did it all in one day! It was a whirlwind to say the least. 

Also, I forgot to mention that yesterday, I woke up with a scratchy throat which by the end of the night last night had exploded into a full-blown, hurty-throated, stuffy-nosed, sneezing-every-second, yucky-headed, middle-of-the-summer COLD. Who gets a cold in the middle of the summer?! I demand to know the meaning of this. 

So knowing that this cold was just starting its path of destruction through my respiratory system, and knowing that we had only ONE day (this day) to see all the people from this city I really cared about seeing in this whole trip, I was more than a little nervous about how things would turn out today. I said a prayer that morning that somehow it would work out. That I would be able to make it through the day with enough energy to see them all and be able to focus on visits with them rather than drift away mentally in a stuffy-headed mess. And guess what?! 

My prayer was answered. 

I am here to testify that miracles happen. Without the added strength I gained from that prayer, I know I would not have made it through like I did. I kid you not when I say that I felt terrible before we left for church and I felt even worse as we traveled back home at the end of the night, but miraculously in the in-between time I barely felt the effects of my cold at all. I can't even describe what a blessing it was. So so grateful for answers to prayers! I love the gospel!

So as for the actual day today, we headed to church where I really hoped I'd be able to see all the members I loved so much. I was actually a little scared that they wouldn't remember me since so many missionaries come through there. Well, I could not have been happier when Jany, the middle-aged, mullet-sportin rocker that I loved so much came up to me as soon as he saw me and gave me a big hug. This guy is the best. He's obsessed with music and the walls of his apartment are covered with floor to ceiling posters of Black Sabbath, KISS, The Doors and more that have been up for ages. And then between each huge poster are little pictures of Jesus and Joseph Smith all around that were added when Jany found the church. He is so great. 

I also got to see Mama Mogos and she gave me the biggest, longest hug I've gotten in a long time! She is one of the most amazing members of all time! More about her in a minute since we got to visit her at home after church. 

We saw some other great members, but sadly a lot were missing. Either gone for the summer on vacation, or they just don't come to church anymore for whatever reason. Breaks my heart. But there were also some new faces so the church is definitely still growing! And we were able to track down some of the ones I couldn't see at church. 

One of the people we wanted to see the most was Florina, the woman I had worked with the whole time I was in Arad. Florina was found by my good friend and MTC companion, Brianna Griffith Jensen a few months before I got to Arad, and after a long road of quitting coffee and quitting smoking and coming to terms with a lot of personal trials in her life, she embraced the gospel and was baptized on February 3, 2008, my last day in Arad. She is amazing and truly one of my best friends. Unfortunately, she is working in Italy now. We tried so hard to work out a way to see each other but we couldn't make it work with her schedule and our location. That was seriously the biggest bummer of our whole trip. But I am confident we will see each other again sometime soon! 

We did get to see three of the young member girls I had worked with a lot in that city. We caught Andra briefly as we walked through the city on the way to the mall, where we reunited with Timi and Emi (who were working in the mall) and it was so great to see them! They were so fun and such good good girls. We got to visit for a half hour or so before they had to get back to work, but I'm so glad I saw them!

Emi and Timi

We then had to get quickly to Sora Mogos' house (Mama Mogos) to meet her and her husband for a quick visit. Since we were running late and didn't have a lot of time to spend there, we broke our cardinal rule of this trip.

We caught a taxi. 

We swore we wouldn't do it! We would make it through this whole trip going the cheap way, not wasting precious money on crazy taxi prices, but alas, with only 5 days left, we failed. Sad, but worth it in the end. We got to see Sora Mogos AND  catch a train to Timisoara (a nearby city) to see another friend, which we could not have done without our taxi friend. Plus, he serenaded us by singing Simon and Garfunkel the whole ride, so really we won in the end.   

Now, let me take just a second to explain why Mama Mogos is so incredible. This woman is one of the most faithful, diligent members I ever met in all of Romania. As an investigator (years before my time), her first time attending church was when they were showing General Conference. As she walked in, President Hinckley was on the screen speaking and she says that as she sat there listening to this foreign man she didn't know anything about speaking, she was overwhelmed with the feeling that he was speaking the words of God. She knew without even being told that this was a prophet of God. And she has never given that up. And what's more, she totally lives the gospel! When I was serving there 5 years ago, Sora Mogos lost her job. Instead of being angry or frustrated, she put her situation in the hands of The Lord and decided that since she had enough to live on for awhile, she would use all her extra time to serve people. She made a full-time job (every hour that she would have been at work) out of doing service for others. She is amazing! So we sat and talked with her and I just remembered the admiration and respect I always felt for her and the other strong members who were such amazing examples to me, and was overcome with feeling all over again. I love Romania.

Finally, we left Sora Mogos' house to make one more stop. We took a 90-minute train ride to a neighboring city, Timisoara, to see two of my favorite member missionaries, David and Ania Tamas. They are two more amazing members who sacrificed a ton for the church. In Romania, members of the church can choose to serve a "mini-mission" which means they become temporary missionaries for one full transfer (6 weeks) if there is a need. They basically sacrifice everything they have going on in their lives to help us out for 6 weeks and live the missionary life, finding people and teaching the gospel. Both David and Ania served not once, but several times as mini-missionaries, and I was lucky enough to serve with both of them at different times. Ania was my companion in Arad (she was Ania Popa back then) and kept me laughing every second. We got to be together for most of the Christmas season and it was the most authentic Romanian Christmas I could have gotten as a missionary. And I served with David twice, in Cluj and Ploiesti. I will never forget when that sweet boy made fried chicken for our whole district one P-Day, and my poor companion bit into it to find the entire thing raw on the inside. It was an accident, but David could not stop laughing! Oh man, good memories. Anyway, I loved them both SO much, that when I found out after my mission that they had started dating and then got married, I could not contain myself, I was so excited! They now have two kids, are still strong, amazing members of the church and live in Timisoara. Needless to say, it was a joyous reunion. Not only what it amazing to see them just because they were good friends, but we also were able to reminisce about crazy missionary life together. They are so so great!

Also, sidenote, I forgot to mention that on the train to Timisoara, we were both so fired up with all these mission memories that we got talking to a fun couple next to us and told them a little about the gospel. And they were super curious! The guy kept asking us questions! It was awesome and such a perfect way to end our time in Romania :)

So after hanging out with the Tamas family for as long as we could, we had to catch the train back to Arad. On that ride, my cold came back full-force and I realized for the first time how blessed I had been all throughout the day. We were pooped and ready for bed, but remembered on our way home that we still needed to finish the laundry that we had started at Gabi's house that morning. We stumbled into the house around 11pm to find that Gabi had washed all our clothes and folded them neatly on the couch. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Is there no end to this guy's goodness?! Then he spent the next hour helping us figure out our travel plans and flights for the rest of the trip.

Let's just all say it together:

Romanians are the best. 

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