The following is a letter I wrote home during my mission right after Christmas. I still look back at that humble Christmas in Moldova as one of the most poignant and memorable of my life. Enjoy this walk with me down memory lane. And Merry Christmas! God bless you all.
|Downtown Chisinau with a bunch of the youth from Church on Christmas Eve|
Craciun fericit from Chisinau, where the sludge piles are big and the fur hats are bigger. I haven't given in yet, but a number of my colleagues have purchased the stereotypical Russian furry hat. The kind that looks like a giant raccoon is just sleeping on your head. They're quite urban and hip here, but I doubt they'll ever catch on to western fashion. And by "I doubt," I mean, "I hope they never do in a million gazillion years."
|Hat Party on Christmas day at the mall|
Moldovan Public Transportation Spotlight: Maxi Taxis. Maxi Taxis are about the size of the big white YMCA vans we used to take on field trips. There are 15 seats on a Maxi Taxi but anywhere between 30 and 800 passengers. I have spent a fair share of time traveling across Chisinau literally smashed up against a window or smothered in the cavity of a large Moldovan man's armpit. During moments like these I am particularly grateful that it's not summer. There are no Maxi Taxi stops---you can get on or off wherever you want. But the drivers are maniacs and hardly slow down enough to let you get through the door. A ticket is 3 lei (about 20 cents) and you just pass your money up through the hoards of people until it makes it to the driver, then he passes back your change and it eventually makes it into your hands. A couple weeks ago, on an extra crowded ride, someone had the nerve to fart. I won't even bother to describe how joyful the rest of the ride was.
|Elder Goodwin celebrating the only way he knows how|
Christmas: On Christmas morning, I decided the best thing I could do to feel the Christmas spirit would be to read the story of Christ's birth in Luke chapter 2. As I read, I was overwhelmed with the simplicity of it all. A simple young woman, a simple carpenter, a simple manger, some simple animals and simple shepherds, and a simple holy infant. Despite such a humble setting and circumstances, the birth of our Savior was nothing short of the most glorious event in the history of the world. I thought about what we have turned Christmas into. A big, expensive, flashy, materialistic disaster. Why do we have to make things so complicated? Every Miss America, presidential candidate, and grocery store produce stocker has longed for world peace. But do they really? Do we even know where to start to attain such an ambition? Reading Luke 2 was a sobering reminder that true peace is in the simplest of forms. Never have I felt so peaceful---never have I felt the love of my Heavenly Father so strongly---than when I was reflecting on the simple birth of Jesus Christ, who came into the world to redeem the world because of a simple, pure love. My challenge to all of you is to read Luke 2, in a quiet place, free from distraction, and ponder on the implications of the Nativity and how it directly affects your life---how it was indeed a personal, individual Christmas gift to you from a Father in Heaven who loves you.
|My sweet, CRAZY Ukrainian companion, Sora V.|