Tuesday, 29 March 2016

No we are not whining.

Mar 29, 2016. Another busy day of running around. We were taking thank you cards around to some city officials, helping with English classes and trying out our BillionGraves app- worked fine on the Ipad, not on my phone, we will need to trouble shoot. Of course the pun was intended. We also found marshmallows tonight, unheard of here. Trouble is , no Rice Krispies in Moldova. As with many things, there will be an alternate choice. Oh for a can of soup- none here. So the pictures which follow are from the largest winery in Moldova, about 20 minutes out of Chișinău. We visited here on Monday morning. It has 200 km of tunnels which were carved out for the limestone blocks which are a major building material here. Why Mormons in a winery? Good question, as as soon as we think of a good reason, it will be recorded. It was very interesting and there was no tasting. This winery, Mileștii Mici, is state run and just enormous. It has 200 employees and the tour was a driving tour with stops. Hard to be here and not see some sights after all.
At the entrance of the winery, an interesting decoration. Very unique and appropriate.

Deb near one of the huge barrels. Red wine is in the oak barrels, white wine in the stainless steel drums. 

The tunnel which can be driven in. These were cut out with huge stone cutters and the blocks are used throughout Moldova for building. I guess Chișinău is called the White city because of the limestone blocks. As you can see, the tunnels are quite groovey.

The huge line of oak barrels, some empty and some full. They use 55 km of an available 200 km. of tunnels.

This is the actual wine cellar, temp about 10 C, and abut 70 m underground. At present , there were 1.5 million bottles of wine here of various ages.

Guide is to Debs left. A lot of these bottles were covered with mold, apparently that is good to preserve them. There are a number of private collections, we were even shown spaces we could rent. I do have that grape juice downstairs.

Hard to see, but a map of all the tunnels, like a maze.

Stefan cel Mare și Sfânt, the hero of Moldova. In the 1400s, he protected this land from the Ottoman empire. Every town and village has a Stefan cel Mare street and many have a statue. It means Stephen, the great and holy. Reminds us  of a good friend.

I finally found a friend, note the resemblance.

The sisters in a group. Note the neat rock wall and especially the top. 
It was interesting to see and visit. We now see where all the grapes go from the thousands of vineyards in this country. By the way, all the piațas have people selling home made wine, mostly in pop bottles- old ones. It just looks like nice grape juice. Oh for some of our nice grape juice. No  it was never fermented.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

A grave situation

March 27, 2106

This is the second post for today. Deb and I have been trying to figure out how to do the Billiongraves project here in Moldova. We were uncertain how to begin, so we talked to some members  and they suggested we simply go to city hall. Which is not just one building , I might add. So on Thursday we took our Zebra elders, Elder Allphin and Bekker, who speak both Romanian and Russian, to city hall, and got referred to a very kind lady, Maria Diaconu, who was a consilier. She was very helpful and had us return the next morning. At 8 am on Friday, we met with the deputy Mayor of Chișinău, Vladimir Coțet, who had a stern look, but a heart of gold. He asked several questions and as soon as he realized this was a service to Moldovans, he was incredibly helpful. He gave his approval, asked to see our results and sent us to the director of cemeteries, Ludmila Boțan. She again was a very helpful lady, who was excited to us to do this. We did find out Chișinău has 500,000 graves and also the largest graveyard in Europe. Whoa! Her assistant then gave us a tour in the smallest cemetery, only 11,000 graves, and many of those are one on top of the other. Again, a very helpful man who showed us around , answered questions and gave his approval. Nice people. It is interesting, many look stern to start with, but it is an Eastern European trait that hides the goodness underneath. We were worried about the bureauocracy, but had no need to worry.
Sorry, this is a double, did not figure out how to remove. It is Vadul lui Voda

These pictures are all from the Lazar cemetery, the largest in Europe. At least 200,000 graves here. Note the table and chairs by the graves. Families come on holy days, or other occasions to visit and have a picnic. By the way, 5 lei to enter the graveyard.

 Deb on one of the tables, with a sepulchre in the foreground and an Orthodox church in the back. Some of those sites near here were all cemented, just waiting for people to fill them.

                Any white monument is for a doctor who has died. I think it is our angelic personalities, or maybe just the old white coat thing.

Just an example of the huge monuments on each grave.

There are long roads in these cemeteries, hard to walk to the graves. They are packed in as well. About half are in Romanian, half in Russian. The area behind her was all children.

If you look close, you can see multiple tiers, for burials now and in the future. Most of the cement tombs have 4 tiers.

Right on the edge of the city. As we left the cemetery, we realized what an monumental undertaking this was. But we were excited to start and have the Young Adults help with their smart phones.


Mar 27, 2016

So this may be a boring post for some, but too bad. I had the opportunity to give a talk in Church today , in the Chișinău 1st branch, and it was all in Romanian. I worked on this for 2 weeks with the help of Inesa Bezede, who corrected my grammar, sentence structure, made suggestions and then listened to me speak. Okay, I hope this works.  
    Sunt foarte recunoscător să fiu astăzi cu DVS aici să vă vorbesc și voi încerca s-o fac în limba Româna . Deci, astăzi voi vorbi despre importanța de a urma profeții. În primul rând, o să vă povestesc o întâmplare,iar mai apoi voi continua cu cateva gânduri relatate de Vârstnicul Ballard, care a fost aici toamna trecută și pe care mulți dintre voi ați avut ocazia să-l cunoașteți.                                                                                                Ceea ce vreau să vă povestesc s- a întâmplat primavară trecută, când am mers la pescuit la lacul din Saskatchewan nordic, o provincie din Canada. Lacul are lungimea de 60 km și lațimea 3 până la 5 km. Am călătorit spre destinație cu un avion mic  . Acest lac este un loc foarte bun de pescuit, și zona  este foarte frumoasă. Am pescuit întro barcă mică de aluminiu. A doua zi am avut mai puțin noroc și am pescuit pe timp de ploaie. Ploaia nu a încetat toată ziua și valurile erau din ce în ce mai mari. în partea de nord a Canadei, apele lacurilor sunt foarte reci, deci ar fi fost o prostie să sărim în apă, . Am mers 15  kilometri mai departe să pescuim.  A început să bată foarte tare vântul și  ploua cu găleata. Eram foarte uzi, dar am prins mulți pești. Dupa 6 ore, valurile erau forte mari, și vântul foarte puternic. Barca se unpluse cu apă , noua ne era foarte frica și frig. Am întrebat dacă putem să ne punem vestele de salvare pe noi,iar ghidul ne-a spus că nu avem nici-o vestă în barca. El a spus că este un șofer bun . Crediți că trebuie să sărim din barca atunci când vremea este rea? Nu! Ne-am ținut în barca și ne-am rugat să ajungem în siguranță în tabăra. Ne-a luat mult timp să ne întoarcem, dar ghidul nostru a fost foarte competent . Dupa o oră și jumătate, am ajuns în tabăra uzi până la piele ,înghețați de frig, dar  teferi. Eram nemulțumiți  că nu am avut veste de salvare, și am vorbit acest lucru cu ghidul .
     Vârstnicul Ballard a vorbit despre faptul că trebuie să stăm în barcă și despre Vechea corabie Sion. El a comparat activitatea noastre ca membri ai Bisericii cu o barca mare,care se numește Sion. A comparat experiență noastra în această viată cu  apele înspumate și rapide, si a spus că ghizii experimentați care cunosc bine râul au trei reguli, 1. Stai în barcă.  2. Poartă întotdeauna o vestă de salvare  3. Ține-te mereu cu ambele mâini.  Președintele Brigham Young a fost primul profet care a făcut aceasta comparație - El a spus odată: „Suntem în mijlocul oceanului. O furtună se apropie şi, precum spun marinarii, aceasta trudeşte din greu. «Nu voi rămâne aici», a spus unul; «Nu cred că aceasta este „corabia Sion”». «Dar suntem în mijlocul oceanului.» «Nu îmi pasă, nu voi rămâne aici.» Acesta îşi dă jos haina şi sare peste bord. Oare nu se va îneca? Ba da. Aşa se va întâmpla şi cu cei care părăsesc această Biserică. Este «vechea corabie Sion», să stăm în ea!” M-am gândit la aceasta când eram pe timp de furtună cu barca pe apa  foarte agitată.Nu, se va îneca.  Președintele Young a spus, de asemenea, atunci când apa se va liniști, oamenii se vor duce afară, sau să înoate și nu se vor mai reîntoarce în barcă. Ar trebui să rămână în barca adică Biserică.
     Atunci când Vârstnicul Ballard a repetat regulile când suntem în  barcă. 1. Stai în barcă. El a comparat aceasta cu faptul că trebuie să urmăm sfaturile  profeților și apostolilor, care sunt ghizi cu experiență. El a spus- Am descoperit pe parcursul slujirii mele că cei care s-au pierdut [şi] au devenit confuzi sunt, de obicei, cei care au uitat cel mai des… că, atunci când Prima Preşedinţie şi Cvorumul celor Doisprezece vorbesc într-un glas, acela este glasul Domnului care dă instrucţiuni pentru acea perioadă. Domnul ne aminteşte: «Fie prin propriul Meu glas, fie prin glasul slujitorilor Mei, este acelaşi lucru» [D&L 1:38]”5.

Conducătorii locali ai Bisericii, asemenea ghizilor experimentaţi care cunosc râul, au învăţat din experienţele vieţii, au fost instruiţi şi au avut ca mentori apostoli şi profeţi şi alţi oficianţi generali ai Biserici şi, mai ales, au fost instruiţi de Însuşi Domnul. *  Când eram în barca mea în timpul furtunii, am fost foarte bucuros ca avem un ghid care ne-am condus îin apoi în tabară, și care a putut să vadă calea în ciuda furtuii și  să conducă barca în siguranță. Eu nu aș fi putut se fac aceasta.Eram foarte fericit că am avut un ghid competent. Membrii Bisericii sunt binecuvântați să aiba un profet astazi  pentru ca să-l îndrume în  viețiile lor.
   Regulă 2. Poartă întotdeauna vesta de salvare. Aceasta regulă reprezintă cuvintele și mesajele profeților, care le avem în scripturi. Câteodată credem că nu avem nevoie să purtăm vestă de salvare, dar când vom întimpina greutăți, vom vrem să avem vesta. În viețile noastre, noi deseori uităm să citim scripturile, dar când noi avem nevoie de cunoastere de la Dumnezeu, ne dorim să fi citit scripturile. Fără vestă de salvare, îmi era frică. Fără scripturi, suntem vulnerabili în aceasta lume. A citi scripturile este mai  important decât o vestă de salvare, pentru că ele ne vor aduce  mai aproape de Salvatorul nostru și ne-ajută să avem Spiritul cu noi. Nu este corect să nu citim scripturile în fiecare zi .
    Regulă 3. Ține-te mereu cu ambele mâini. Vârstnicul Ballard a comparat aceasta cu postul și rugăciunea. Vârstnicul Ballard ne-a spus că trebuie să fim asemenea fiilor lui Mosia și care au dedicat mult timp rugăciunii și postului. Atunci când DVS veți nimeri într-o furtună, cred că vă veți ține cu ambele mâini. Avem nevoie de rugaciune în viețile noastre, pentru că deseori avem furtuni care ne amenința fizic și spiritual.
      Știu că suntem conduși  la un profet și apostolii. Știu că atunci când îi auscultăm pe ei, vom fi binecuvântați și vom fi mai fericiți. Iubesc Biserica și profetul și încerc să urmez sfaturile lui. Am învațat să stau în barca, și sper că toți o putem face.
     Just so you dont think we sit around and do nothing, we also do some serious religious stuff. I invite any comments on the material, but only from close family and friends. Thank you. If you are a Romanian or fluent in the language, there may be the odd spelling mistake.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Humanitarian day

This was a humanitarian day. We were in Vadul lui Voda, a town right next to the border or river with Transnistria, the breakaway province assisted by Russia. By the way, to start the blog today, we were just saddened to hear of the death of Jim Hillyer, the brother of Russell, our son in law. Our condolences to the family and especially Beth and Russell, Jim and Maryann.
 This is a view just as we were coming in to Vadul lui Voda, about 20 minutes east of Chișinău. The river, seen below, has become an unofficial border. As we approached the bridge, there were barricades, armed soldiers and a tank. Scary stuff. We turned into town just in front of these guys and it was a little frightening to be so close to a conflict zone. We dared not stop for pictures, we did not think we would get smiles.
 I am just standing beside the Nistria river, a beautiful river, but an unofficial border.

This is a picture of the Vogelsbergs, the missionary couple who coordinated the whole project. They are arranging the donation of 550 wheelchairs in Moldova. A motivated, wonderful couple.

Wheelchair assembly room
Elder Sparhawk and Gunn near the ramp.

The picture above is near the campground where we were working with the wheelchairs. It was a campground from the Soviet era that was for children. It has become a resort and is used in the summer. The Church along with a disability society had the use of the facility to train volunteers, hand out wheelchairs. They were to be there for a week. There were 2 couples who came over from the USA to help, the Johnsons from St. George and the Jones from Houston, Texas. They travel around the world distributing these wheelchairs. Wow, there are some good people in this world.
 A picture of Elder Gunn and Sparhawk  with Elder Johnson from St. George, trying out the ramp so the elders can assist those coming in for wheelchairs and also leaving. The picture  that is 3 above that  is the room where wheelchairs were fitted and volunteers were showing families how to use them. The wheelchairs were put together after coming in boxes and had to have minor work to be functional. There were 2 type of wheelchairs, regular and rough-riders, made to go over rough roads
Elder Cooley showing the ramp
. A TV crew interviewing Elder Johnson and Doina, the other vehicles around had brought people for the wheelchairs. We spent some time getting people in and out of vans. The other pictures show people coming in and out for chairs. for a couple of hours, the place was hopping. The young missionaries helped with language, both Russian and Romanian. All the recipients were incredibly grateful and said thank you again and again.

 Wonderful, kind people. I tell you, after today, we were grateful for many things. For great health care, for the ability to get aids without desperation, for good health, for a Church which does humanitarian work globally. There was no active proselyting done here, just charity and it felt good to be a small part of it. I was very grateful for legs, and also grateful to not live near a war zone, or to have soldiers and barricades by my home. Hey, kids, we are rather lucky to live where we do. And for those who contribute to the Humanitarian Fund, it is money well spent. The looks of gratitude will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


March 22, 2016, this post will have a lot of talk and only one picture. The picture is of Pres. Reshetko of Bălți and his son Boris. They stayed in our apartment overnight on Saturday when they travelled down for the Chișinău district conference. The older brother Reshetko speaks only Russian and might be one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He joined the Church at age 73, and is just genuinely kind and nice. Boris speaks 8 languages and often just likes to speak, but we had an enjoyable time together. Boris gave us lots of life advice, some rather interesting.
      On to the news. Good news for the family, Brendan has arrived in New Mexico after many delays, rerouting and much more time than expected. We have heard he is safe and there and we feel blessed that he was able to travel safely. It is a shame he gets to enjoy nice weather before us, but soon here, flowers are starting to push thru the ground. So on Saturday and Sunday we had the afore stated District conference, which was for all Moldova. The previous high was 110 attendance, on Sunday there was 144 and the building was packed. 25 of those there were not members, we also had an Area authority Seventy, Elder Dryden from Leeds, England. He had a translator from the Ukraine who was unbelievable. So in our meeting we had Russian as the predominate language, but also Romanian and English. It was all wonderful, and we met many we have travelled around to see and visit. Truly a wonderful day. The only issue- in a self reliance meeting after the main session, I was introduced as one of the brightest minds in Canada- I did loudly say nyet. I think when they said brightest, they were talking of the reflection off my head- not too many baldies over here. Anyway, progress is being made and it is nice to be a part of it. We have been asked to formulate a plan for Senior couples to teach English and I have begun to get some lectures ready on medical topics- all at our mission presidents request. Things we never expected to do. One of his favorite sayings- there is no comfort in the growing zone and no growing in the comfort zone. Well, we are not comfortable.
  Then Monday we were involved- spectators only -in a conference sponsored by the University of Utah Business school. They sent 3 people over for a conference for business people here. A survey had been done and they are trying to foster good business practice and enable people here to begin businesses and kick start this very poor economy. All the leaders from Utah were LDS, all are brilliant and well spoken. As an aside, the main TV stations gave this a few minutes of news, Deb and I were on TV here in Moldova, just our pretty faces. They told these business and government leaders that several things were needed here, open banking with transparent financial statements in English, a marked decrease in the corruption and depotism, a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending  and a stable government. They were open, frank and still managed to show optimism for change. It was a breath of fresh air and they promised to help this nation. It is all good and this country needs some help. We have now been here almost 2 months, and are feeling good and busy. There is more to do. Tomorrow we will help with a humanitarian project supplying wheelchairs- should be interesting. Today I am finishing up a talk for Sunday, I am to speak in Romanian. Wow, does that take some work. The lady who is helping me with Romanian, Inesa Bezede, is reviewing my talk, correcting my grammar and syntax and listening as I speak. She is a gem. She and her husband Cris, go to Kiev in 2 days to do some temple work, it is marvelous to see.

Friday, 18 March 2016


March 18 2016. Oh my , a lot of pictures today, One day I will learn how to label them individually, Until then, any readers will get to suffer. Sorry, the prototypical Canadian response. Until we were around so many Americans, we thought that was a normal response. By the way, Deb is developing a passive aggressive stance with drivers, she is wishing for a tank to drive over those rude drivers who risk all of our lives. Particularly she detests double parkers, those who park in active lanes with their flashers on and block traffic. There are many. So if you get a letter from Deb, saying tanks, ignore it. She is not stuttering, just expressing the secret wish of her heart. On to happier things. We had a safe trip back from Bălți Thursday and we really enjoy seeing the country side. As it greens up, it gets more beautiful. Summer will be fabulous. Tonight we had a bunch of youth over for a home evening, we had a lot of fun. They are wonderful to be around, members and non members. They can eat and eat, especially home baking. So explanations of pictures  1. a farmer out in his wagon. We just love watching these guys and they are everywhere out of the city. Horses are very useful and used here. 2 and 3. It is amazing to watch flocks of sheep and goats- nary a fence to be seen, just a shepherd watching over the flocks. They are on an edge, occasionally behind and keep them off the roads. We still have not seen a wire fence in the country. The houses in the villages and cities , on the other hand , have huge ominous fences. Odd. 4-6, spring is coming, flowers are in bloom and the forest floor is carpeted with mostly purple and a few yellow small flowers, It is beautiful . 7 is a group of people pruning grape vines- we saw hundreds of people doing this. the amount of vineyards is staggering. However, we will not whine about it. 8 is a mafia game at our place, from Left, Elder Findley, Nina Scurtu, Vitali, Tolic, Sevghi Savran, Sergio Popa, Elder Seiche (new from St George). An odd game that they love. 9 shows Ben Giles, an American doing a business internship here and Nina. Nina , by the way, is one of those people that is just a joy to be around. She has infectious happiness and makes everyone around her better. By the way, a fabulous musician. Ben does a lot of media work for the Church, and is heavily depended on, Ho goes home in 5-6 weeks and will be missed. 10 shows Nina, Ben, Mihai Z., Sevghi and Vitali. Great people. Mihai lives up near us, and is a cookie monster- the man has no fullness with home baking. Totally fluent in all 3 languages here. Nina is also very fluent in all 3 and is learning Korean for fun. Amazing, we feel quite dumb around these bright people.  11 is just a candid shot in our place, Deb and I holding up the wall for a few minutes. Deb brought the people from the Church tonight, the traffic was  terrible and it took 50 minutes, usually takes 30. We are quite tired, but had a great day with all the youth. I think we are getting younger, although one asked me today- how old are you really? Hmm.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016


Well, sorry as there are a lot of pictures today. We travelled up to Bălți to teach a class on temple prep, before some new members go to Kiev next week. We have now been to 3 cities doing this, improvising lessons as we go. The members in Bălți all were Russian speaking, with a 17 year old, Sasha, who speaks fairly good English. We had Elder Savage translate for us. We were met here by Boris Tocan, a member who speaks 8 languages and who helped us avoid a bad hotel that we had booked. A very nice gentleman whose wife is a lawyer in London. Wow. There are amazing people here and it has been a blessing to meet so many new people. Sasha had stayed overnight in our apartment in Chișinău a few weeks ago. As we travelled today, we saw literally hundreds of people out in the vineyards pruning the grape vines, I really think I could get some lessons. It was a cool day, but sunny. The highway, well, I am sure it was smooth 25 years ago. It reminded me of highway 61 near Manyberries. The first 2 pictures were on the highway, a very interesting set of statues. No placard or sign, just 6 men hugging each other. ? I dont know why, maybe they survived a war or something. #3 is just a very interesting sign to Dumbravita, with a big stork. We saw several nests today, but no birds. #4 was an amazingly elaborate church with a monastery in the back. Interesting thing, it is beautiful and was in an impoverished village with dirt roads and horse and buggy.  #5 was the Church graveyard there. We were looking for graveyards to photograph, at least 3/4 of the graves were unmarked. Half the names were in Romanian, half in Russian. #6 is the branch President in Bălți, teaching Elder Morgan on the L and Elder Kramer on the R, their Russian for the day. He spoke only Russian, and was a wonderful, kind man. # 7 is sister Edwards with Elder Savage, our translator on the L and Elder Kohler on the R. #8 is the Church building, 2 stories, rented and incredibly spacious. It was a bankrupt liquor store, I heard the members prayed it away to get the building. Nice and ironic eh?  # 9 is a rat trap, about 4 times the size of a mouse trap. Luckily or unluckily, no rat yet. I think it could easily catch a cat. Bălți is a city hit hard by the economic downturn of Moldova. It has lost 30,000 people in 15 years. As you drive around, you see tough times. This country still has some major challenges. Mostly Russian spoke here, hence no Romanian elders or sisters here. We will drive home in the morning, but feel grateful to have met some more amazing members. Deb learned not to talk about people, she was talking about a guy, a nonmember, who was working on family history. He seemed to understand no English at first, until she said something about him, Then we realized he spoke excellent English. Luckily what she said was positive.