Monday, April 28, 2014

Consistency Pays Off

Hey guys,

    For those of you who attended my farewell talk, you may remember that I always seem to receive revelation in the shower. Well, here I am again. I started realizing something right before, and when I was in the shower it really hit me and I decided to rush out and write it down. This thing that hit me was "Being Consistent in Your Work Towards Something." 
Elder Houk and Elder Bliss with the light of Christ

I've heard this before, but I never really took it to heart until I saw it for myself. All this week I've been trying to do and hold this squat thing with my heels on the ground. I realized that everyone seemed to be able to do it, but I couldn't. I had always wanted to do it, but when I saw that everyone else could do it already, without even trying, and I couldn't, I just thought, "Oh well, I guess if I can't do it now, then I guess my body just isn't meant for it." But this past week I decided, "okay, I'm just gonna give it a try." The first time I basically just kept falling over and had to hold on to something. The next day, I decided to try it again, not really thinking it would do much. I did this for about three days and it got a little bit easier. The fourth day I decided to try it again, thinking I hadn't really improved at all. I let go and fell over and then I tried it again and "Boom" I did it. I was pretty amazed, because I thought I would never be able to actually do it. Then when I was in the shower, I started to realize that it's not how much you can do something but more of how consistent you are doing it and trying to improve. I started realizing things that I have been more consistent with in my life as a missionary. I realized how much I have grown in my testimony. As I study the scriptures everyday for just an hour and ask people and Heavenly Father for help on my lack of understanding, this has helped my testimony of the the gospel and Book of Mormon grow so much, without me really noticing it. I remembered the saying "If your not strengthening your spirit, then it is weakening." I always thought the apostles were asking us to spend all our time doing something that will increase your spirituality extremely, everyday. I thought that I just didn't have the time or desire to spend all my time on a big extreme spiritual study, that it would take up a lot of time and that I could be doing something else. But, instead, I realize now, they are asking us to strengthen our spirit consistently everyday, just as much as you can or want to, as long as you do something. It doesn't have to be anything big. It can be as simple as watching a Bible video or reading a little out of the scriptures, or even visiting the site and reading a talk or something. It's just a little boost for our spirit that day. A little something to help us grow. And if you imagine just doing a little bit each day, without even noticing it, you will one day look back and realize how far you have come without even doing that much. I always thought that I could just do something really big one day and that that would change me somehow, and when I didn't see much result from what I did, I would get disappointed and just think that it would be impossible. But it's the little consistent things that build you to be stronger and I can testify to you that it's so true, because I didn't believe it for myself until I actually tried it. So I invite you guys to just take a little time out of your day to just do something for yourself spiritually and I can promise you, already, that it will help and bless your life a little bit everyday. 

   Okay, for this week, I had two lessons on the same day with two different investigators. And one (his name is Gabi) accepted a soft baptismal invitation (an invitation to be baptized  but not on a specific date). A hard baptismal invitation is when you set a date with them to be baptized. But Gabi doesn't want to be rushed into it. 
On the bus to Bucharest
This week was district conference where all the members of a district meet. 
(Think of stake conference.) We (the members and missionaries) bussed down to Bucharest for the event on Sunday. On Saturday, they had the start of the conference over skype. We were able to view it. During Elder Axel H. Leimer's (Area Seventy from Germany) talk he said, "if you ever feel prompted to call someone or visit someone then do it." At that moment I thought about my investigator, Gabi. I just thought I should call him, but I kind of shook it off because I didn't think it was a prompting, for some reason, and I didn't know why I would be calling him. After it was over, I got a call from the branch mission leader of Brasov, who was in Bucharest attending the conference. He told me he tried calling Gabi to invite him to the conference tomorrow but couldn't get a hold of him. (We later found out he had the wrong number) I said, okay and I did. Through my terrible Romanian, he understood me, and quickly wanted to attend, even after I told him that he would have to be at the church by 6am he said he would be there at 530am. Later that day, the branch mission leader called me back, after I text him that Gabi was attending. He told me that he had felt a prompting to invite him during Elder Leimer's talk, and I told him what I had felt and together, we both kind of freaked out on the phone. Gabi attended the Conference on Sunday and even though I could just barely communicate with him, I was able to grow a relationship there and I can say that we are friends and that that invitation was definitely inspired.

    Thanks for reading guys and I hope you have a great week. Talk to you soon.

-Elder Houk
Inside the church where they attended Easter Midnight Mass

A picture on the wall in the church
This is the church we attended. Right by a KFC.  Priests walking back to the church
The District with the Holy Fire
Walk way into centru
Romanian Easter Eggs

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!!

Hey Guys,

   Happy Easter! My Easter, this year, was definitely a lot different than all of my other

Easter's. So this week, on Friday,
the Church had an Easter activity. Unfortunately, only a couple members showed up, but it was still great. They really spent a lot of time on the boiling of the eggs process. It took almost 3 hours to boil about 60 eggs. We didn't have to help on this process, but they would have a special blend of salt and oil and a slow boiling process until the eggs are just right and right before they crack. After they finished, I got to paint some of the eggs, Romanian style. First you would put on plastic gloves and then they would put a little dye in the palm of your hand and you roll the hot egg around in your hand until you cover the whole egg with dye. It was pretty hard actually, because it was a really quick drying paint and it took me a couple eggs before my eggs started to look really bolnav (sick) sau, mişto (or, cool). haha After I painted some eggs, we sang some songs and watched some bible videos. After that, we ate some traditional Romanian bread and then dueled eggs.  

    A common Easter expression in Romanian is "Hristos a inviat?" (Christ is risen?) and you answer with "Adevărat a inviat" (True, he rose) as the answer. I'm not exactly sure if it is Orthodox, but it is part of their culture for Easter. People on the streets would also just say it to you like their Easter "hello." So, before you eat the egg, you pair up with someone else and you both have an egg in your hand. One person says, "Hristos a inviat?" The other person says, "Adevărat a inviat" and then one person hits the other persons egg and whosever egg breaks, eats it and the other person wins. You then go around to everybody until you lose and eat your egg and if you're the last one standing with your egg, you win!

    Another cool thing that happened that day is that we found out that Reese's had come into the country. So after the activity we headed to the nearby Kaufland and picked up some Reese's. 

    The next day was Saturday and we went over to the senior couple's apartment for some breakfast and watched the end part of Sunday's General Conference. We then taught English and then went back to the senior couple's apartment to watch our Easter movie. We watched "The Croods." Then we waited for the night time to come for the Orthodox mass. 

    So the background of this event is (you might want to fact check this information, but this
is what I heard) that the church in
Jerusalem has a candle and the priest prays for fire and the light or fire on the candle appears as if out of nowhere. They believe that Jesus touched the candle and the fire appeared. So some priests go to this church and get the fire from it and then spread it to all the other Orthodox churches. Then on Midnight Easter, when Christ was risen, they spread the "light of Christ" out to the people. So we found a church and went in. They began singing and saying "take the light of Christ" and they would walk down the middle of the aisle and give the fire to the people's candle and then everyone would share it with everyone else. After you had your candle lit, you would start to move out of the church. They then do some singing and what I believe was like a little service. They chanted "Hristos a inviat?"  "Adevărat a inviat" a couple times and sang a song that everyone knew, and after about 10 minutes, it was over. 

So, the belief is that if you get home with your candle still lit, you have good luck. We had about a 40-50 minute walk back. So my candle went out twice and I was able to ask people on the streets if they could light it back up, because there were certain candles that you could share easily but the ones that our group had were in a plastic cup and we couldn't share them with each other because they would just go out if you tried to pull it out of the plastic cup. So by the end, mine was the only one lit and we were almost home and then of course, I look away from the flame for about 2 seconds to cross the street and my flame went out. A little later I found one person with the right kind of candle to light me back up. He tried three times but my candle wick was too short and my cup was almost destroyed. So, I never made it back with the light of Christ. 
Brasov District
 The next morning, on Easter, I woke up and our water heater went out in the night, so I thought I was cursed. haha But the rest of the day turned out to be a good day. We went to church and there were more investigators there then there were members. We had one hour of church and then had some more traditional bread and eggs. That night we had a little Easter dinner as a district of missionaries. We all made a little something. We had pizza, pasta, salad, chocolate and eggs. It was a pretty great Easter, here in Romania.
I hope you all had an awesome Easter with your Family and I love you all! Have a great week!

-Elder Houk

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why is it Raining and Snowing Here in Spring?

Hey Guys,

    This week contained a lot of walking around trying to contact for our English classes. Unfortunately, this week decided to rain and snow on and off, so not too many people were out and about. But when it snowed this week, the snow flakes were HUGE and my companion and I caught them in our mouths and just had a ball. It was a great reminder to enjoy the little things in life.  
    This week was fast Sunday and I bore my testimony in Romanian for the first time in the Country. It was rough in my opinion, but everyone said that they enjoyed it. I decided to just go for it because even though I knew that I'd mess up, that isn't what's important in bearing your testimony.
    For Easter, I will be able to attend a massive Orthodox Mass. Easter is as big as Christmas in Orthodox-ism and their culture here. I get to go at night and stay out late and sleep in the next morning! We may also be able to watch a Disney movie or see a movie in theaters, so I'm pretty excited.
    This past week was a good normal week of missionary work. I'm doing great and taking things as they come, and I hope that you ALL have a GREAT & HAPPY EASTER CELEBRATION OF CHRIST. And I hope the Easter bunny comes for all of you too. Have a great week and I'll talk to you soon.

Elder Houk

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Romanian Livin'

January 25, 2014

Here is a video of the first apartment Elder Speyer and Elder Houk are staying in. This is an old apartment with old furniture and old beds. Eventually they will look for a new apartment.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Apartment

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Second apartment in Brasov. It's newer, in a nice area. Blair gets the queen bed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sapte Scari

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The Seven Ladders Canyon (RomanianCanionul Șapte Scări) is a mountainous canyon carved by the Șapte Scări Brook in Romania in the county of Brașov, south of Timișu de Jos village. It is considered to be one of the main tourist attractions from the Piatra Mare massif.
The canyon has been carved in limestone and is composed by seven waterfalls, the tallest having 35 metres (115 ft) high. The trail within the canyon is arranged with metal stairs and platforms.

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