Monday, May 26, 2014

Hello from Varstnicul Hauc

Hey Guys,

I got a name tag with the "more proper title" Varstnicul.
It literally means "old person" in Romanian.
And got my name spelled phonetically in 'limba romana." (Romanian language)

This week we had zone training meeting again for the beginning of this transfer. We had to get up at 4:20 am to catch the 6 am train to Sibiu (see-be-ew). We spent most of the day there and learned a little more on how we can keep improving ourselves as missionaries. The city just got a new Subway [Restaurant] there and we were all excited to get some because it has been so long. After the meeting and lunch we came back to Brasov. 

Cool fountain by the church in Sibiu.
On Thursday we were greeted by a lady on the street who wanted to talk to us about her kids and what they did for a living and that we should watch the Seventh Day Adventist channel on the television. We kept, slowly, taking steps back as she just kept moving more and more forward. After she talked for a while and answered her own questions, she said goodbye in a few different languages and left without us really getting a word in the conversation. haha

I also had the opportunity to teach the Law of Chastity this week to our investigator Gabi. Gabi said that my face was red as I was trying to explain it. haha 
Taking selfies while Elder Bliss takes a look at the cloggage
Also, The sisters had a problem with their bathtub clogging up and we got permission to go over there and check it out for them. We were unsuccessful in our endeavor and I had wished that my studly father would have been there to fix it right up! Luckily, they found that there was a plumber in the branch and he went over to fix their problem yesterday. 

Other than those things, the rest of the week we just tried to invite people to our English classes. I hope you guys have a great, loving week and an awesome Memorial Day and I'll talk to you next week.

Elder Houk (doar traind este sus afara aici) (just living it up out here)

Another cool view from my study room.
Some cool graffiti we found in Sibiu.
A closer view of the cool statue by the church in Sibiu.
Sora Huffaker and I eatin some Clatite (crepes) and hanging loose.
She's eating the chocolate and nuts filled clatita and I'm eating chocolate and apple filled clatita.
Beware of wallet grab, LOL.
It really means "pay attention to your pockets,"
or more literally "attention to pockets" but I like this translation so much better.
View out of the Sister's apartment 1/2
View out of Sister's apartment 2/2

Monday, May 19, 2014

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Hey Guys,

    This week I heard about the fires going on back home and I hope everyone is safe. The weather over here has been really weird lately. It stays about the same temperature, in the 70's, but will just start raining randomly and then stop for a while and then start raining again. Or it will just be a rainy day or a beautiful day, I can never tell.
The moon and the castle, cool combo.
Last Tuesday, some funny/interesting things happened. We were contacting home and two older men (who were Jehovah Witnesses) stopped us. They asked us a question about worshiping Mormon. We explained that we don't worship Mormon, but that we worship Christ and that Christ is the head of our church. They told us that we are the Church of Mormon and not Christ because we use the Book of Mormon. My companion tactfully explained that they use the Bible, but they aren't the Church of the Bible. From there they moved on to ask us another question or two about the Old Testament and my companions favorite Prophet. At the end of the questions, they gave us some pamphlets to take with us. The one who was passing the pamphlets out looked at my companion and gave him an anti-suicide pamphlet. The man said to my companion, "You like pretty girls? (Handing him a pamphlet with an appropriately dressed attractive girl) That's a reason to live!" Then the man looked at me and said, "You're tall, here's a pamphlet about praying." They then complimented us on all the good things we do and we were back on our way home. I have to say that that was one of the most interesting/weird/funny conversation I have had over here. Later that same day, we met a man who asked me who would come down for the Second Coming. I replied that Christ would. He said, "Mistake!" and started to explain that God would send Lucifer instead of Christ. We wished him a good day and left pretty quickly. haha.

Group Selfie

 Among all the chaos this week, we received a new sister missionary from Australia (Sora Honey) and another District Leader (Elder Lybbert).

    I guess I can say that we have been contacting a lot this week because I even had dreams that I was contacting as a missionary. It's really weird actually. haha. But despite the fact that I am tired everyday, someone seems to help me to keep picking up one foot and putting it in front of the other until the day is done. Happy to be a missionary for the Lord and I will talk to you guys next week! 

-Elder Houk (cel mai obosit)(most tired)

Elder Crane left the district this week. He is going up to Sibiu to be our Zone Leader.
Got to sit on the GOT throne!
It's a bear, the Ursus Beer bear haha.

Beer in Romania comes from the long tradition of Romanian brewing, being introduced in Transylvania by the German colonists. A national association of beer with mitten (ground meat) came into existence during the 1877 Independence War of Romania and after that it saw a spread of beer pubs throughout the Romanian Kingdom. The beer pubs (berării) became a place of social and business meetings for the Romanian urban middle-class. Currently, Romanians are amongst the heaviest beer drinkers in the world, with an annual consumption of over 100 litres per capita in 2007.[1]

Romanian law considers beer and wine to be foodstuffs and therefore they are not subject to the usual tariffs and restrictions imposed upon alcoholic beverages.

Some of the most appreciated Romanian beers are: Ursus (Latin for "bear")....       ~Wikipedia

Monday, May 12, 2014

Romania thru the Powell's Eyes

Elder and Sis. Powell are the senior couple that just finished their mission in Romania. I hope to meet them someday to thank them for watching over my son and loving him while they were serving in Brasov. I am going to miss the blog posts from this sweet couple. 
Here are a few pictures with captions from their blog that give a glimpse into a little bit of Romania.

The streets in Romania are typical narrow European streets. 
Sometimes they look scary at night but we have always felt safe.
We traveled out to a small town called Hoghiz (about a 2 hr drive north of Brasov)
to find a member that had just moved there from Rome, Italy.
Snow removal is not a high priority. The main roads get plowed eventually but they don't seem to have a lot of snow removal equipment. We noticed the city workers using a "claw" to try and remove some of the piles of snow.
It didn't work so well - very little snow actually made it into the dump truck.
The "claw" works great to pick up scrap metal -- not so good for snow removal.
We have noticed this fellow walking in different places all over the Brasov valley. 
We have never talked to him but he is always dressed completely in black - we call him Elvis.
The sidewalks don't get shoveled. 
A lot of the parents pull their little toddlers on sleds since it is so hard for them to walk in the snow.
This is the portable font that the church uses in their rented buildings.
One of the [humanitarian] projects…was a request we made to help this family build pig pens so that they can breed pigs.  There are 5 families (21 people) living in this home and they all work together trying to survive.  They are recent converts to the church and we have grown to love them.
We have passed this piece of art several times in our travels thru Onesti and finally stopped to take a picture of it.  It is made out of welded steel forming two trees but the branches create a face.  Elder Powell loves it.
This is a sculpture of a lady kneeling before the Mother Mary which is typical of the predominant religion here.  They seem to focus more on the Mother Mary than they do on the Savior.
March 1st is the Romanian holiday called Martisor. It is a celebration of the coming of spring and new life. One of our members explained the tradition to us. It is for both men and women to pin a red and white string on their clothing over their heart and wear it through the month of March. At the end of March, they tie the string around a branch of a fruit tree. The belief is that you will then enjoy good health through the coming year.
For the past year, we have seen these balls of growth in the trees and we thought they were bird nests.  We found out that they are actually mistletoe. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to other plants.
The entire neighborhood has to carry their drinking water from a well back to their homes.
So many of the people pull little wagons or carts like this to carry their groceries, etc back to their homes.
It's spring and everyone is out working in their fields preparing and planting.
So much of it is done by hand. They work so hard.
They are doing lots of pruning and tying up the vines. The weather has been very mild and everything is starting to grow. 
The Romanians love the storks but occasionally, the storks cause problems by building their nests on top of their chimneys. We thought about Pres. Kimball's story years ago in England about "Storks in the Chimney".
We have seen this fellow walking all over the Brasov area. Sister Powell finally stopped him and asked him if we could take his picture. We told him he reminded us of 'Elvis' and he said "NO,  I'm Sylvester Stallone". He was very friendly and we enjoyed visiting with him - he was excited to practice his English and loves America.
Along the way we took some pictures of houses. They love to use bright colors.

The Gypsies are one of the ethnic groups in Romania. We often see them in colorful long skirts.

It's spring and the countryside is beautiful. The canola fields are in full bloom and everything is so green.
Sister Powell

Happy Mother's Day!

Hey Guys,

    So this week was great! We had three lessons with Gabi, in a row! On Tuesday, we taught him about how praying daily is important and at the end of the lesson my companion asked him if he would pray daily and he said that he would try. I then asked him, if he would, in his nightly prayer tonight, ask if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet. He answered with "Am rugat" (I Prayed) (pause for effect) and he said "E, e adevarat" (It's, it's true) My response was "Bine" (an expression used like "alright") And my companion was like "Whoa!" and then it hit me, what he actually said, and I was like "Whoa!" It was so awesome and so unexpected. From there he wanted to learn more about tithing and prophets and said he wanted to meet more often. We asked him if he would pray for a date to be baptized and he said that he would. He was also having a health issue, that we noticed throughout the lesson, and we asked him if he wanted a blessing and he said he did. I anointed and my companion sealed the blessing. It was a great experience and was definitely the best lesson I have had on my mission! 

    The other two lessons we went over some commandments and things. He said that he just doesn't have enough courage right now to set a date for baptism. He hasn't even told his family about his decision to get baptized. So we are hoping to meet with him more this week and continue to teach him about the gospel and build his faith in Jesus Christ, so one day he will take that leap of faith in entering the waters of baptism.
    I'm starting to actually build relationships with people now, because I can finally figure out, somewhat, what people are saying to me and its really cool! And I will be living here, in the same place in Brașov (Bra-sh-o-v, long o) for the next six weeks with the same companion.

    The rest of the week was fairly normal except I got to talk to my family via Skype! So fantawesomagnifisant! Hope you all have a great week!

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all you moms!!!

-Elder Houk

Message from his mother~
Getting to Skype with Blair was the highlight of my weekend. I was so impressed by his enthusiasm and positivity. He is learning so much about himself and how to be independent and budget his time and money, as well as learning about the Romanian culture and language. As we were saying goodbye he said the closing prayer in Romanian. I was overwhelmed with emotion at his ability to speak so quickly and fluently. 
As much as I miss my boy, there is no other place I would want my son right now. He loves the Lord and is His obedient servant. I love him with all my heart!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hard To Say Goodbye

Hey guys,

This week was another regular week being a missionary. Nothing too exciting happened. I did however get interviewed for the last time by my current Mission President and will definitely be saddened to see him go. 
Mission Pres. Hill and his wife will be finishing their calling in Romania.
Some senior couples are going home this week also, and it is always hard to say goodbye, especially when I have been with one of the senior couples, The Powells, my whole mission in Romania. 
Elder and Sis. Powell have been with Blair from the beginning.
We are just walking the streets everyday, trying to find anyone who is interested and sometimes among the no's we get someone who seems to be interested and it is always a nice little jump starter to keep us going that day.

I'm still the happy missionary I've been, but sometimes missionary work can get repetitive and that's okay because it's important to keep the hope that all your work isn't going to waste. Someday, maybe even past my time, it will all pay off and maybe not even in this life, but after.

Thank you guys for the support you have given me and I hope you all have a great week!
This is a good pizza place over here. They are advertising "Pizza with Torrents (Pirated movies)"
Thought that that was funny.