Monday, December 19, 2011

19 December 2011 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Dear Family,

I'm short on time today.  It's not a real P-Day, because we this weekend to celebrate Christmas, so we need to get full working hours today.  However, I do have some spiritual thoughts that came to me this past week:

About a week and a half ago, I stumbled upon an interesting thought.  While teaching the Plan of Salvation and discussing the Pre-Mortal Existence, I tried thinking of why a whole third of the hosts of heaven would choose to follow Satan.  The answer that occurred to me was a lack of trust and a lack of faith.  Not a lack of trust and faith in Christ or in Heavenly Father, but rather in ourselves.  I'm sure that when the plan was presented and explained during the grand council in heaven, that it was more thorough and better explained than a drawing and quick 40 minute lesson by two nineteen-year-old boys.  We all knew what was lying ahead of us; what the temptations of this life would be like; the trials we would have to undergo.  I really believe that during the council, many spirits felt like this life, that the plan would be too hard for us.  That we might fail.  That something may go wrong, we would fall into temptation and be lost forever.  And because of that fear, spirits were willing to prefer Satan, who promised to force us to obey and that we would all be saved; they would rather have that forcing them through, than try to get through with Christ as our Savior.  To a degree it is comparable to taking a hard class.  They wanted a parent or teacher to force them to do all the homework and projects correctly, force them to study, and strictly force them to pass; rather than strive to overcome it through their own diligence, motivations, and choices with the tender love and support of a parent and guide like Christ and Heavenly Father.  I think that's why a third fell away.  It's hard, if not near impossible to doubt Christ or to doubt our Heavenly Father's love and power, but to doubt ourselves, and our own power, is by all means, a common thing.

I'm mostly done reading "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith".  He truly was an amazing prophet of the Lord.  The more I read and learn about the early years of the church, the more amazing he, and all the pioneers and saints, were.

Monday, 12 December
Another P-Day.  Today we met with R and N to discuss faith, baptism, and repentance (the first half of Lesson 3).  I felt like it went really well.  During the lesson, we gave N a Book of Mormon, and the one Elder Molnar grabbed happened to be one of the two that I had written a short testimony in.  Elder Molnar continued to make more decorations to spice up our apartment for Christmas.  I finally got caught up on three weeks worth of emails.  Also, I realized next week is the last week of the transfer.  Last of all, and my miracle, is that we rode our bikes out to a castle today.  It wasn't open for us to go inside...aww...but it was still really cool to see.  I've now seen a real castle for my first time!

Tuesday, 13 December
Today was an interesting day. We went on last minute splits from 9:00am - 6:00pm, and I went with Elder Nealy.  We spent most of our time organizing the Area Book and making cinnamon rolls for B's birthday tomorrow.  All of it (including the frosting) was from scratch and turned out AMAZING!  Those rolls are my miracles today.  I hope to make more again later.  While studying the teachings of Joseph Smith, I found some stuff about the 'Spirit of Elias'.  I hadn't ever really heard of that before.  Last of all, Elder Molnar and I went to a big civic center in the evening, where we heard Geza perform for half an hour, and two girls give a presentation on Christmas and Christ.  It was a unique and fun opportunity.  Also, afterwards, we got a lot of attention right before leaving.

Wednesday, 14 December
Well, today was very..."missionary-y"?  We tracted for 4 hours and got rejected by all but one who said come back in January.  We taught J again and gave her a snowman Elder Molnar had made out of rice, a sock, and some random decorations.  We taught R and N on faith, baptism, and the Holy Ghost.  They read Alma 32 like we asked them, and came prepared with some great questions.  They're both progressing really, really nicely.  They stayed for Csaladi Est (Family Home Evening), committed to pray daily, and also both said if they feel the gospel's true, then they'll be baptized.  During Csaladi Est, we broke out the cinnamon rolls and celebrated B's birthday.  Last of all, Elder Molnar, Istvan, and I spent 2 1/2 hours discussing deep doctrine, from Kolob, to the tribe of Levi, to exaltation, to the Second Coming, etc.  It was interesting to hear some of the more abstract stuff.  My miracle today is how logical and flawless the gospel is; how complete, deep, and encompassing; how we can understand so much and at the same time so little.  It always makes me wish I could see into the minds of some of the Apostles or Prophets (past or present).

Thursday, 15 December - 6 month mark (my miracle)
I've now been on my mission for exactly 6 months.  I'm not sure why, but today's really been a huge day of reflection and calling up great numbers of all sorts of memories, and now, for the past hour, pictures of the future.  It's all so vividly powerful and wild. 

Today, Elder Molnar and I had three programs.  The first was with K.  He talked about how he's trying to find a new job, committed to come to church, and we discussed the Plan of Salvation.  Today we also rode back out to the M family, which, with today being the second to rainiest day since I came to Hungary, resulted in us getting soaked.  However, after a very muddy journey, we made it, had a good lesson and they too committed to attend Sacrament Meeting.  Last of all, at 6:00 two girls walked into the Branch House.  They didn't realize that Angolora (English Class) doesn't restart until January.  However, since they came, Elder Molnar and I were able to meet with them personally.  N (20) and L (17) are sisters, religious, currently Catholic, but open to learning about other religions.  They value family over everything else and the program went well enough that we were able to schedule again for next week.  We're really having success with young women.  P.S.  N loves animals and has been working at an animal shelter for over 2 years, and L is ranked 2nd nationally in bowling.

Friday, 16 December
Today three of our four lessons dogged, and we had 2 1/2 long hours of unsuccessful tracting (not a single find).  Yet, gyuli buli in the evening went really well.  R and N came again.  My miracle today is that a past investigator called us and said they wanted to meet us and talk about Christ.  I like it when investigators find us.

Saturday, 17 December
Today was a day of pranks.  This morning I pulled one on Elder Malnar by having him call an "investigator named Eszter", who turned out to be the Eszter in Nyiregyhaza.  Then, later tonight, Istvan and Brigi called and said they had found someone interested in the gospel, so, we ran over and were actually able to have a program with a 20 year-old girl named Rebekka.  Molnar jumped right into a 45-minute lesson on the Restoration with her.  Within the first 5-10 minutes, I wrote a quick note in my planner.  At the end of the lesson, Elder Molnar gave her a Book of Mormon and committed her to come to church tomorrow.  He was so excited to find such a golden investigator.  At the end, everyone else, including myself, burst out laughing.  The small remark I had guessed in my planner was right.  She told us that she's been a member for quite some time.  She's been in England (we think at college) and came back yesterday (after the fall semester ended).  Other than the two pranks (both of which worked well), we went streeting for 2 1/2 hours without a single find.  L cancelled last minute on us again, but we did manage to meet with R and N.  We discussed the First Vision and committed them to read daily.  My miracles today were the pranks.  Yay for harmless fun.

Sunday, 18 December
Well, I'm now entering the last week of this transfer.  We had 3 investigators at church today: K, R, and L. We met with L afterwards to discuss prayer.  We had two other programs scheduled, but they both called and cancelled.  (They would've given me 'standard' for the first time, but I guess that will have to wait).  How close we were to standard was my miracle today.  Last of all, we were invited to attend an event and went not quite knowing what it was.  Once we got there we learned it was a scripture story re-enactment of Christ's life by the 7th Day Evangelists.  They have quite an established organization here, and it was pretty fun to see.  It was a 2-hour event, but we only stayed for 45 minutes, and then left to a District Meeting with the other elders.  Last email of the year tomorrow (as Christmas is a week from today and I highly, highly doubt the internet cafe will be open).

Last of all were three scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants:

D&C 78: 18-19
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.

D&C 6: 13
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.

D&C 6: 36
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

(The second one makes me think of how salvation is the greatest gift.  While thinking about it, I felt like part of what makes Salvation so great is that salvation isn't quite true salvation without containing the salvation of others: all the blessings to see friends, Christ, Heavenly Father, and family throughout time and all eternity).

Next time I email may be in a new year, with a new companion, from a new city; or all three.

Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS (boldog karacsony!) and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Szok Szeretettel es Kivannasokkal

-Shipp Elder
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Monday, December 12, 2011

12 December 2011 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Dear family,
Monday, 5 December
Healed at last!  We went emailing this morning, and tried to go to the castle afterwards, but couldn't get the bike fixed in time.  So, we went looking at game shops for stuff to do during the Super P-Days in three weeks.  I copies pictures onto some CD's in-case something happens when I send my package home.  Last of all, Elder Molnar and I met with M, a member.  He speaks good English and seems like a good member, but hasn't been to church in a while.  My miracles were feeling better and the CD's.

Tuesday, 6 December
Today we met with K and F, both of whom are very good investigators.  Both pray, ready, and said they will come to Sacrament Meeting.  In other news, a bird pooped on my head while we were streeting.  Also, we saw a group of ten school girls trying to take pictures.  We offered to take them for them so they could all be in the pictures.  While talking to them, we learned that they all spoke English, and none of them knew any Hungarian.  They were here studying for a semester, but were actually from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan, Portugal, and Bolivia.  They were really nice and open and two of them took Pass-Along Cards so they could visit  It will be cool if any of them ever meet with the missionaries again.  My miracle today was managing to finally send off my Christmas packages.  Hopefully they arrive home safely.

Wednesday, 7 December
Today had a lot of potential, but not a lot happened.  We had five lessons scheduled; all but one (who was a member) dogged, so we did some streeting and got my bike repaired.  During Csaladi Est (Family Night), we all wrote testimonies in a dozen Books of Mormon, followed by practicing a new song to sing in Sacrament Meeting.  My miracle is that today was my 100th Day in the country.  It feels so fast.  Yay timewarps!

Thursday, 8 December
Today was a good day.  We met with J and got her to commit to coming to church for the first time in a couple months.  We also met with R and Mt.  Both lessons went well.  V came to R's lesson with us and was a huge help.  I'm pretty sure he did as much as Elder Molnar and I put together and almost doubled.  We had two programs dog us...oh well.

Friday, 9 December
Today Elder Molnar and I tracted for 4 hours.  We managed to get two phone numbers, but not much else.  However, the evening was the interesting highlight for tonight.  We had Gyuli Buli (a small ward party every Friday, similar to Family Night).  R and her friend N had said they were coming, so we tried to put some more thought into the activity.  I had the idea to play Nephites and Lamanites, a game (a sort of sock-war/capture the flag) that I had only played once while on a Fathers and Sons camp-out with Uncle Mike's ward about 8 years ago.  We used stacks of chairs, leaned up tables, moved around the ping-pong table and the white boards to create obstacles and things to hide behind in each room.  Although only two members came (less than usual), we still had enough to play 4 vs. 4 and it turned out really well.  The two investigators missed their bus, so we stayed, played ping-pong, talked, and watched Mormon Messages until their next bus came two hours later.  Hopefully the 4 1/2 hour Gyuli Buli helps them move towards the idea of the church.  I'm glad that my idea worked and everyone else said it was a success.  The Gyuli Buli was my miracle today.

Saturday, 10 December
Where to begin today...This morning we skipped our studies so that we could bike an hour and a half to a less active (probably inactive) family.  When we arrived, they were there, but said two of their three children were sick, and they also didn't want to get us sick.  (By the way, we had tried calling, but the only phone number anyone had for them was way out-dated and didn't work).  So, we got their current number and said we would come back another time.  We then had a woman call us saying that she was an old investigator, had met with missionaries in the past, received their help, and now needed our help.  She said she had 10,000 Forint stolen and the police had refused to help her, then she asked us for a couple thousand to help her.  Elder Molnar told her that we didn't have any money to give her, but that we could meet, talk, and see what we could do to help...When the time came two hours later, she didn't show up.  Tonight we had our last Angolora for the year, which went well.  Afterwards we met with L.  My miracle of the day was that L brought his son, B.  The two of them committed to come to church tomorrow and to read from the Book of Mormon for ten minutes every day.  When we asked him, L also replied that if he gains a testimony that the church is right, which he hopes it is, then he will be baptized.  Last, but no least, I finished reading "True to the Faith" and have begun studying "The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith".  It's a big book. 
P.S.  M's baptism had been schedule for today when I left Nyiregyhaza, but she leaves for Germany tomorrow morning.  So, her baptism is currently scheduled for January 7th, a month away.

Sunday, 11 December
Today three things happened.  The first was that we had our first palacsintas since I came here. (As a side note:  We have not had a single meal appointment since I've been here...quite different from Nyiregyhaza).  Second, we taught P on the Restoration and Priesthood.  He's not one that we can meet with often.  Last, an my miracle, was that we had invited five investigators to attend Sacrament Meeting, and three of them showed up.  L came for Sacrament Meeting for the second time, and R and N came for both hours of church.  The members were very good about it.  They were excited and many of them talked to and welcomed our investigators.  All three of them said they enjoyed it.  J also came for the first time in several months.  Yay for progress!

That's about it for this week.  Despite having eleven lessons fall through, dog, or cancel, this week went better than last.  (If the lessons hadn't cancelled, we would've easily made 'Super-Standard' and would've had one of the 3 best weeks out of the entire mission).  Anyways, Christmas is only in two weeks.  Europe is a fun place to be for the holidays.  They really like to celebrate and party in the Belvaros (Town Square).  We didn't make it to the castle last week, so we're trying again today.  Also, I almost have "Come Thou Fount" memorized on the piano.  That's it for me this week.


Shipp Elder

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Monday, December 5, 2011

5 December 2011 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Blog posts (much, much shorter than last week)

Monday, 28 November
Today was a Super P-Day, although, many of our plans fell through.  We went to a pekseg (bakery) and took a tour of part of the town, where we found a cool hideaway park and the coolest clock ever, which is my miracle today.  Finding a clock that does an entire show each hour, tells the second, minute, hour, day, month, constellations, Zodiac, sunrise, and time of the sun set (and is also hooked up to a dozen bells).

Tuesday, 29 November
Today was average, well, except the evening.  We met with K, G, and B today.  I felt like K's lesson on prophets, priesthood, dispensations, and apostasy was the most successful.  I had herbal tea for the first time at G's.  My miracle today was the funnest part.  This evening, Elders Nealy, Peterson, and I recorded a bunch of videos of us singing.  It was pretty 'inspirational'.  Also, we streeted a Neni that had met with and loved meeting with the missionaries before.  It will be cool if something comes out of that.

Wednesday, 30 November
Today was a busy day.  We met with a 17 year-old girl named R.  We weren't sure how interested she actually was in the gospel, but she seems to be pretty interested.  We set up another lesson and hope to move things along at a good pace.  While tracting we found an old investigator named G.  The missionaries never got a phone number for him, so no one had been able to meet with him for a while (that was my miracle today).  We met with a less active Neni, and talked to her about the importance of the sacrament, and she committed to come to Sacrament Meeting.

Thursday, 1 December
It's December!  Things are still continuing to get colder.  Today we met with M and discussed dispensations.  We also had Angolora and met with R, where we discussed the Book of Mormon.  I woke up this morning sick.  My miracle today was only a half miracle.  Elder Molnar got a call from a new investigator, who really seemed legit, and is the first person I've had who's actually looked us up (as opposed to the other way around).  Unfortunately, Elder Molnar thought it was a prank call at first, said some things he shouldn't have, and we lost her.  She also used a private number, so we can't call her back.  Hopefully some missionaries find her in the future.

Friday, 2 December
Today was Interviews and a Conference in Budapest.  It was long, but good, focusing on Christ-like Attributes.  My miracle today was that, despite not getting the Conference Ensigns yet, we did receive new Christmas Pass-Along Cards.  My sickness is getting worse, and I think tomorrow will be the worst day of it, so I'm going to bed.  (A second miracle was that I saw my first skiff of Hungarian snow while in Budapest)

Saturday, 3 December
Well, I'm still sick, and, as I guessed, I feel even worse than yesterday.  I'm tired, ready for bed, but, I do have many great things to write about.  Today was Elder Nealy's Birthday.  A member baked him a cake, we brought ice cream, and another person brought soda, we sang and played "Deal, or No Deal".  We set-up with three investigators today, but only met with R.  We did a long discussion on the Plan of Salvation, and at the end, she committed to coming to church.  We also called up some of our other investigators, and two more said they would come.  So, we have a potential of 3 coming to church.

Sunday, 4 December
Well, I'm finally feeling better, but still have an inconveniently annoying cough and runny nose.  By tomorrow they should both stop.  Two highlights of today: We had french toast as a District, which was really good; and my miracle was that L, an investigator we were seriously considering to drop, was the one investigator that came to church.  He said Sacrament Meeting was interested and that he wanted to meet with us on Thursday night.  We are a little disappointed that R and F didn't come, but are happy L chose to and that we are scheduled to meet with all three this week.

Some other random thoughts:
I spent half of this week sick and am just now finally recovering.  I also spent some time this week pounding in the basics and the amazingness of the simplicity of the gospel (I read True to the Faith, Gospel Principles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, The Living Christ, and parts of Preach My Gospel).  Still no Conference Ensign, but we should be receiving it this month.

It's Christmas season! Yay!

Today we are going to try to fix my bike, and then go to the white castle, and go bowling afterwards.  I'm hoping to have my Christmas package sent off by tonight.  Let me know when you receive it.  Also, I received my visa while in Budapest earlier this week.

Last of all, this is a short thought I remembered this week: At the MTC we learned about the declining of the idea of "repentance".  Originally in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "schub" was used, meaning "turn (from sin towards God)."  In the New Testament, it was changed to the Greek "metanoia" meaning simply "a change of mind".  Around 400 AD, it changed again to the Latin "paenitieve" for "to feel regret or contrition".  The speaker spoke of how over time, the efforts of the devil had changed the general opinion of repentance from good to neutral, to bad, where it is today.  He asked us all to look at repentance as a good thing, the partaking of the atonement and turning towards our Heavenly Father.  I think that sounds right, and like it is a great perspective to view and approach the abandoning of our sins.

I hope you are doing well, and I will email you again next week.  Have a great week!

Sok Szeretettel,

Shipp Elder

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Monday, November 28, 2011

28 November 2011 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Dear Family,

So, with my moving to a new area and having a new companion, I have a lot to write about today.  Get ready for a long series of blog posts that I hope will answer questions you have.

Monday, 21 November
Wow.  I am tired, and today has been a long, stressful day.  First of all, I guess I should write that on Wednesday I will be going to serve with Elder Molanr is Szekesfehervar.  During the first three of the four transfer meetings, it had been decided that I would stay here and that Elder Moffett would go to Miskolc, but last night, at the last meeting, President Baughman decided to change everything.  In the entire mission, only four companionships (not including senior couples), are staying together.  Elder Moffett was changed and will now be staying a fifth transfer in Nyiregyhaza, and I'll be going to Szekesfehervar.  Oh, Elder Swett, my MTC companion, is the one coming to take my place.

I have very mixed emotions about this transfer call.  I am excited to explore a new city and am happy to be able to serve with Elder Molnar, but, at the same time, I love Nyiregyhaza, I won't be around to see what happens to our investigators, I'll miss M's baptism, I now have one day (actually, only a few hours) to pack, and I know absolutely nothing about my destination.  I'm sure I'll be more excited and happy once I actually get there and the initial shock and surprise pass.  For now I think my biggest concern is just packing.

This evening we visited the S's for my last time.  The lesson was long, but good, focusing on the Restoration.  I'm hoping that prayer and sleep will help comfort and calm me, so I'm going to go do both.  My miracle today is my new transfer call.  "Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."  The Lord knows what I need better than I do.  I can only try my best to follow Him.

Tuesday, 22 November
Well, today's been full of ups and downs.  Currently, I feel at peace leaving Nyiregyhaza and going to Szekesfehervar.  I have a good amount of feelings I'd like to write about today, but am not sure how organized I can make them.  First of all, winter is my least favorite season, not because of the cold or because it usually means I'd be in the middle of school, but because it can get dark and gloomy.  The weather really can suppress everyone's mood, including mine.  At this point, I'd gladly welcome snow.  In past winters, I've always loved the holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas; it provides plenty of excuses to stay inside with family and friends; you are able to do many winter-only activities, like sledding, snowball fights, ice skating, and see ice castles and sculptures; it's better weather to snuggle up, and, when it snows, it can become far brighter than even a midsummer day and I would gladly welcome those white, bright, snowy (and if lucky, sunny) days that I've loved in the past.  I have many great memories of winter, and I know there are going to be times when it's just the gloomy, dark days, but I still can't help but hope those white, lightening days come.

Today we were supposed to meet with Z, but he called and said he couldn't come and would be returning to England two weeks early, so, in two transfers’ time, we will have only met with him once.  We did manage to meet with M.  It sounded like I would have been asked to take part in her baptism and confirmation if I had stayed instead of Elder Moffett, but there's nothing that I can do about it.  M accused me again of spoiling her cats by petting them and said she only took them in, fed, and took care of them, but now they all want to be petted and "cry" if she doesn't.  And supposedly it's all my fault!  I thought crazy-cat ladies were supposed to spoil their cats more than physically possible, not the other way around!  Anyways, she said she was really sad to see me leave and offered to take us out to lunch at McDonalds (although we didn't end up going.  We had other things to do).

Well, today I decided whoever said "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" really hit the nail on the head.  It also makes you appreciate what you had/have more.  It really seems like I just got here yesterday, not twelve whole weeks ago.  It's ridiculous, and feels much faster than the MTC or school ever went.  My time here is gone after the blink of an eye, yet I still have a long ways to go.  Tomorrow, I will have a year and a half left on my mission.  It's nearly 1/4 done, yet 1 1/2 years is still a very, very long time in some aspects.  Well, I now end my last entry from Nyiregyhaza.  My miracle was my many happy memories of winters past and also that I packed all my stuff in under 3 hours.  Oh, I also got a haircut today.  Time to bring this to a close.  Tomorrow I will be in a completely different area.  I hope one day, when I speak the language better, I'll be able to serve here again.  Whew.  Here we go; on to Szekesfehervar!

Wednesday, 23 November – One and a half years left! Woah! (still a long time):
Welcome to the start of my Szekesfehervar entries.  It's going to be a busy transfer.  First off, something I forgot to write yesterday; it is much, much colder outside with 15 weeks-worth less of hair.  Anyways, this morning we were up by 5:00 to catch an early train, but missed it by five minutes because we chose to wait for Elders Wright and Forsyth, who were running late due to a half hour shower by Elder Forsyth, with an additional 15 minutes styling his hair.  While it was annoying at first, it did give us an hour at the train station to take pictures.  I had my first real transfers today.  It went well and I saw a lot of missionaries, new and old.  I saw my entire district, my Osi's entire district, half my Kicsi's district, among other missionaries.  At the train station, after visiting for a good amount of time, Molnar arrived and we started getting to know each other.  After about 4 1/2 hours in Buda, we departed with Elders Nealy and Peterson to Szekesfehervar.

Once here, we dropped off my bags and headed off to Csaladi Est (family night).  There I met five members, including the Elder's Quorum President and the Branch President, who is a 23 year-old RM from Germany.  He's married and can speak English fairly well.  For Family Night, we found three boxes of the new hymn books, that they've been working on for 15 years!  So, we sang new hymns until 9:00 at night.

As far as the city goes, I still have much to see.  It's slightly bigger than Nyiregyhaza.  I'm pretty much unpacked, with only my backpack remaining tomorrow.  About my companion, I am now with Elder (Jacob) Molnar.  His dad's in the Air Force and he's lived all over.  He attended BYU, trying to major in Business.  His last name is Hungarian, and he's half Hungarian (like Elder Swett).  He loves to talk about Elders Moffett, Braman, and especially Elder Wright.  The craziest part is that he's as ambitious as a greenie. 

Tomorrow we have a ton of programs planned, it's my first full day here, and Elder Molnar wants to SYL (Speak Your Language; so speak just Hungarian all day long), do full studies, give the phone and all the calls to me, as well as give me three people to always be in charge of teaching.  He also wants to do a bunch of memorization, role plays, and other things.  So, yeah, things are going to be busy.  At least it will help me grow.  Well, I've already been roped into being the pianist for the next two weeks.  I'm happy and much more relaxed to be here, but despite tomorrow being my first day, as well as Thanksgiving, I have work to do and am very, very tired, so I am going to bed.  Today my miracle is changing areas and that missions are able to so smoothly and quickly transfer areas.

Thursday, 24 November
So, today was Thanksgiving, but was no holiday for me.  Today we had 7 programs.  The first was with a less active member of the Branch called B.  We focused on the Book of Mormon and on testimonies.  The lesson went well, and I felt like it was the best one today.  The second was with a man named F.  After five minutes, I knew everything he was going to say and do.  Elder Molnar had found his number in the Area Book from a long time ago.  About five minutes in, the guy said "all roads lead to heaven," and, almost immediately, I realized he was one of the investigators Sister Moody had talked about dropping and he had been dropped twice before.  He openly admitted that he will never join the Church and is only meeting for English, so we'll be dropping him soon.

Our third lesson was just as unique.  We met with the Branch President because he said he wanted to talk with us.  When Elder Molnar asked him what was up, he said he didn't feel like the Church was true, that he never had a testimony, and that after reading some things online, he had no idea how the Book of Mormon could be true.  He and Elder Molnar got in an argument and shortly after, the Branch President shoved a pile of hymn books off the table and stormed out of the room.  Elder Molnar chased after him, and then I heard a bunch of laughing.  I quickly learned it had all been a prank.  Pretty much everything had been a lie.  The man is a member named Istvan, is 20, not an RM, not married, and not the Branch President (although, he is first counselor in the Elders' Quorum).  Anyways, he, Elder Molnar, Elder Nealy, Tibi (the Elders' Quorum President), and two other members had decided to pull a prank on me.  It didn't work quite as well as they had hoped, but it definitely surprised me.  They hope to improve it and do it again if Elders Nealy or Molnar train next transfer.  Poor Greenie.  It was an interesting experience and made me think about what I would do if something like that ever happened.  I really hope it never does.  Still, I guess it's a way to grow.

Out other lessons were with M, L, A, and L.  They all went okay, but none were fantastic.  However, we'll continue trying with all of them.  At Angolora we talked to a crazy bacsi, who refuses to come to church or do anything religious.

I have three last thoughts and miracles.  The first is in Hungarian "bun" means sin, "buntetes" means punishment, and "bunbanat" (literally meaning 'sorrow of sin' or 'sin sorrow') means "repentance".  I think it's cool that punishment, sorrow, and repentance are all directly tied to sin.  The second is thinking about how amazing salvation and the celestial kingdom are and contemplated how important and how desirable it is to take the straightest, shortest path there.  Third of all is Thanksgiving.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh, P.S.  During Angolora, we spent some time on the alphabet, and came up with 3-4 words beginning with each letter.  When we reached 'G', I wrote, pointed at, and loudly said "Gooorilla".  The class repeated it back, to which I replied "Gor-ril-la".  I am able to write with a smile that someone in the audience got the reference and yelled back, "GOR-RIL-LA!"  Yay Tarzan. I thought it was funny and it got everyone else there to laugh. J

Friday, 25 November
I'm going to predict right now that today's going to be another long entry.  First off, one thing I forgot to write about Szekesfehervar is that my one problem with it is the apartment.  Many times you hear about places with no running hot water.  Well, we have no running cold water.  To drink water, you need to cool it off in the fridge first, and showers scorch and burn your skin, so I think I'll just have to stick to baths and give the water 30 minutes to an hour to cool down.  We also have very few working light bulbs (just like when I first arrived in Nyiregyhaza) but that shouldn't be hard to fix, and we don't have a microwave, a strainer, or any big pots (and our fridge is half the size of our last one).  So, much is to be desired, but it's still a fairly nice apartment, has good chairs, good beds, as well as working heaters.

Couple random thoughts: today was the coldest I've been on my mission.  It was cold, windy, and humid.  A little disappointing for me was the news that it snowed an inch in Nyiregyhaza, right after I left, and I'm the only missionary I know that wants snow!  Also, now that it's after Thanksgiving, it's time to break out the Christmas songs.  In music is my miracle of the day.  Among the new songs in the Hungarian Hymn book, I discovered "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"!  That's not even in the English hymn book!  It's a miracle, and now I get to learn how to play it on the piano! Yipee! =D

Today we had five lessons planned, but three of them fell through, so we only met with K and M.  According to Elder Molnar, they are our two best investigators.  Both are receptive to our message and K's been searching many religions for the truth for a long time.  We committed both to continue reading the Book of Mormon and to pray about it tonight or tomorrow.  The hard part about them is that they both work on Sundays, so K can only come to church every-other week, and M says he can't come at all.  In the evening, we were sitting in the Branch House, and a Bacsi came in asking about Angolora.  We told him that we didn't have it today, but I told him we could teach him personally right there.  So, we did.  He told us his life's story, which was saddening for him since his mother died at a young age and his grandparents soon after, his father abandoned him, he never heard from his siblings or cousins, and has only talked to one cousin in the past 14 years.  I was very happy to tell him about heaven and eternal families.  He said he had never been a part of any church, which I was glad to hear, as well as that he hadn't opened up like that for a long time.  We gave him a Book of Mormon and he asked if we could meet again.  We scheduled again for tomorrow and said we would be happy to meet often, to which, he asked if we could meet every day.  So, he's showing intent and interest.  I was happy that he happened to wander in today, while we were there and available.  Hopefully he really is sincere and goes somewhere. (The man's name was F).

Saturday, 26 November
Today we only had one program which was with F.  It went well, I thought, but it's hard to read what he's thinking.  He did read the first seven chapters of the Book of Mormon since we met last night, and he asked many thoughtful questions.  He's definitely interested.  The biggest flaw I currently see is that he wants us to prove it with science.

I have three short notes today: 1) "The Fifth Elephant" is a very, very strange book. 2) Szekesfehervar means "Chaired, White Castle".  It was the capitol of Old Hungary, back when it was an empire, and the castle contains the Giant Throne, which was the "seat of power", like other nations, such as the Nephites and their "judgement seat".  3) The Hungarians celebrate the advent, but stranger is they spend one day (not Christmas) celebrating Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, and then they spend 2-3 days (including the 25th) celebrating Christmas, during which Jesus Christ brings the toys and presents!  It's much more different than the US, and the small varieties celebrated there.  My miracle was the 2nd and 3rd points.  That's all for today.

Sunday, 27 November
First Sunday in Szekesfehervar went well.  Today, our Branch had a Primary Program that was cute.  We spent a couple hours weekly planning in the evening, and this coming week looks fairly good.  Two things happened back in Nyiregyhaza: President Baughman went today and spoke, but the exciting part for me was hearing the M came to church and joined I and the Baughman's for dinner.  She's coming back!  The last thing I want to record are the 4 baptismal covenants that are listed in the "Gospel Principles" book:  1) Come into the fold of God;  2) Bear one another's burdens;  3) Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places;  4) Serve God and keep His commandments.  While I believe and know that all four are important, I feel as though the second one is often forgotten.  I hope I can help others, and remind myself, that serving and helping others is part of our Baptismal Covenant, and one we renew with the Sacrament each week.  That's all my thoughts on the matter.  My miracle is the amazingness of the sacrament and the opportunity I've had to partake of it.  Tomorrow's my first P-Day here!

How was that for length?  I'm about out of typing energy, and out of time.

Last notes:
Elder Molnar and I are getting along great and started talking with each other right off the bat.  He's more aggressive than any of the missionaries I've served around up to this point, but at the same time, he gets embarrassed the easiest.  The work here is slightly better than our success in Nyiregyhaza.  Despite there being big celebrations to the east, south, and west today for Thanksgiving, I'm not going to get to celebrate it.  All the places the various zones are celebrating it are a little too far to be worth it as it would take up too much money and time.  Concerning, Elder Nealy, he has had a very had mission, and experienced very little success.  He's only had one to two new investigators in the past three transfers, and has never been in a companionship that has baptized someone, or even found someone who was baptized latter.  With him being more than half done with his mission, he's a little depressed about thinking if he'll ever get, or even find a single baptized investigator.  Elder (Eric) Abram was one missionary that you have mentioned about being from Orem.  He's currently Elder Wright's companion, and as soon as I heard his first name, I realized, he went to Oak Canyon and PG with me.  I never really saw him at PG, but at Oak Canyon he was in my Honors Biology Class with Mr. Curtis.  So that was fun to talk to him.

That's all I really have for this week.  It will be December next time I email.  Hope you enjoyed the long blog posts and had a Great Thanksgiving!


Shipp Elder

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Monday, November 21, 2011

21 November 2011 Letter (Nyiregyhaza)

Monday, 14 November
Another unique P-Day.  Today, my companion and I tried to meet with a new investigator with whom we had scheduled a meeting, but when we arrived at 9:00am, she wasn't home.  We taught M in the evening about Service.  Her Baptismal date was moved to December 17.  I met my first "Hit Gyuli" today at Tesco.  (Hit Gyuli is the only religion we aren't allowed to visit or associate with).  She was aggressive and pretty rude.  The main event of today was that I went Christmas shopping.  Lastly, we cleaned our apartment for inspections tomorrow.  My miracle was getting Christmas shopping completely done in a single afternoon. J

Tuesday, 15 November
We met with Z today.  He did quite a bit of reading while in England, came back with questions, and is still Golden (although I wish he didn't cling to the Bible as much).  The H's came for inspections in the afternoon.  Our only flaw was forgetting to defrost the freezer.  In the evening, we ate dinner and shared a lesson with the S's.  Currently the AP's are here, will be with us until tomorrow night, then with the other companionship until Thursday night.  My miracle was meeting with three awesome people today.  Just a fun fact:  One of the biggest regions in Nyiregyhaza is called "Sostohegy" meaning "Salt Lake Mountain", and the giant zoo we went to last transfer is called the "Sostozoo" or in English "Salt Lake Zoo".  I found that really ironic, and a reminder of home that I can see "Sosto/Salt Lake" multiple times a week.

Wednesday, 16 November
Well, splits with the AP's are over, and I really liked it.  Today, I tabled with Elder S for about four hours, during which the two of us gave out 48 Books of Mormon, as well as collected 42 telephone numbers, far more than I've done in my mission so far (the previous eleven weeks combined).  I managed to give out 20 and get 20 of the numbers, although with three of them Elder S had to step in and help a little.  My companion isn't too happy about us giving away so many Books of Mormon, but I figure that the AP's are better suited to make the calls, and with only 2-3 investigators, we need all the numbers and work we can get.  In the evening, the AP's left and Elder M and I split back.  We taught M about the Word of Wisdom again, mostly trying to convince her that it doesn't matter how smart her doctor is, or what he says; Heavenly Father still knows better.  Afterwards, we traveled out and met with S.  The lesson went well and we luckily made the bus back.  For my miracle today, it would have to be the results of us tabling.  It was the most solo I've been for a while (outside of my talk) and I felt like five of the finds may prove promising.

Thursday, 17 November
Today we didn't get near the results of yesterday.  This morning, I spent a long time on my knees and had a great experience with prayer.  I really do need to always put more effort into my prayers.  My companion and I went streeting today, but didn't give away any Books of Mormon or collect any phone numbers.  We met a guy who said he would meet us at the same spot an hour later, but we watched him hop in a taxi and drive off, figuring we probably would never see him again.  However, I made the decision to keep streeting and be there, just in case.  An hour later, he didn't show up, but I saw a Neni in our Branch, I went over and talked to her a little, until my companion caught up.  Then we learned she was trying to meet two other members but was lost.  We discovered she had come to the complete wrong part of town and we walked with her the hour and fifteen minutes until we met up with the other members.  I guess it's a miracle that the guy had told us to be back there an hour later, or we would never have been able to help her.  It truly was a miracle. 

Two last notes: the ravens all gathered together in one part of town.  I tried to estimate them, and counted over 200 ravens in a single tree, and the horde had filled over 80 trees with more on the buildings and in the air, so I'm guessing there may have been up to 20,000 ravens in a couple block radius, by far the most I've ever seen.  It was incredible!  My two regrets are that I didn't have my camera and that a car never drove down the road honking a really, really loud horn.  It would've been stunning to see them all take flight.  Last of all, we taught M tonight about church callings.  It went pretty well.  I feel good about her baptism.  Her Baptismal date is a month from today.

Friday, 18 November
I'm on splits yet again, this time with Elder F.  Today I went tabling for another hour and gave out three Books of Mormon and received three numbers.  Our only scheduled program was supposed to be with Z, but he cancelled.  However, on splits, Elder F and I met with B; and in the evening we met with L's two daughters.  Other than that, while tabling, I streeted five Jehovah Witnesses (whoops).  There are so many more of them here in Hungary than in the US.  My miracle today was just finding ways to be happy.

Saturday, 19 November
Splits are once again over.  Today, the only real event was a Branch Activity where we sang, listened to some quick spiritual thoughts, and ate desserts.  Also, for the first time, M's baptismal date moved forward.  It is now on the 10th, because the building is not available on the 17th (so it is just three weeks from today)!  My miracle was that Z's sister randomly showed up at the activity today with I.  Random, but now we've met and can setup a lesson with her.

Sunday, 20 November
Transfer calls are tomorrow.  Today at church, Elder F gave a 10 minute talk on obedience.  M didn't come this week, so we're pretty nervous about what's going to happen with her.  Next week President Baughman is coming to visit and will be speaking in church.  Elder M and I spent some time this evening helping V apply to BYU.  Last of all, my miracle today was finding a couple answers to questions I had, while reading the "Gospel Principles" book.

Monday, 21 November
Whew!  Today has been and is going to be a crazy day.  First off, transfer calls came this morning.  With transfers, the AP's, secretaries, and President Baughman meet 3-4 times to discuss and decide what happens.  This time all four meetings were held, and up to the very last one, Elder M was leaving and the rest of us were staying, just as I had guessed.  However, around 9:00pm last night, during the second half of the fourth meeting, President Baughman decided to try a new tactic.  This morning, when we received the calls, we learned that I am leaving to serve with Elder M, Elder W is leaving to serve with Elder A, and Elders M and F are staying to serve with Elder S (my MTC companion) and Elder D (who is on his last transfer).  So, I'm leaving.....didn't see that one coming.  I'm a little stressed out about packing, and I didn't say goodbye to anyone in the branch, but there's nothing I can do about that now.  I'm excited to serve with Elder M, but also know absolutely nothing about the new area.  I've heard other missionaries talk about over half the areas in Hungary, but never heard anything about that area.  So, I'm more surprised and anxious than anything else.  I'll just have to wait and see what happens.  At least it should be warmer there (although, not too much.  Probably somewhat comparable to moving from Salt Lake down to Orem), and the work should go a little better, but I won't really know until I go.  The reason I said earlier that President Baughman is trying something new is that, at the last minute, he decided to move nearly everyone around.  Only four companionships in the entire mission (outside of senior couples) are remaining together.  Nearly everyone is moving cities or changing companions!  So, that's what my morning has been like.  Craziness.  The only additional information I've been able to find out about the new area is that the Branch is slightly bigger and that the other missionaries in the area are Elders N and P.  So I'll get to meet and work with one who Dad asked me about, and the other is one of my Osi.  Anyways, that's all the thoughts I currently have on that subject.  (Once the initial shock and surprise passes and after I get past the annoyance of packing, I should be more excited).  Oh, the other parts about it are that I won't get to see what happens with our current investigators, what happens with the 56 Books of Mormon we gave out this week, and I'll be gone for M's baptism.  L

Well, I'm really not sure what's left to write other than "Happy Thanksgiving!"  I hope you all end up doing something fun and enjoy the holiday (and the break from school).  President Baughman decided to not give a Super P-Day on Thanksgiving, so I'll be spending my holiday working outside with a new companion.... =P.  With him not giving a Super P-Day for Thanksgiving, like usual, all the missionaries are wondering if we're going to lose our P-Days on Christmas and New Years too.  Only time will tell.

Have a great week, enjoy the holiday, and I'll email you next week from the new area.


Shipp Elder

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Monday, November 14, 2011

14 November 2011 Letter (Nyiregyhaza)

It's starting to get colder here.  This morning we woke up to frost on the ground, but still no snow thankfully.  I'm going to jump into the blog posts.  I don't have too long of posts this week, nor too long of letter responses.

Monday, 7 November
I feel great!  Today was a good P-Day.  It was relaxed, but nice and things still got done.  My companion and I cleaned our apartment, got more supplies, printed off some pictures at Media Market, and stopped by the Post Office where I found how I'll be sending Christmas packages home.

Tuesday, 8 November
I guess pretty much every day in Hungary is an adventure, although, today we didn't get much work done because of it.  We borrowed the other Elders' bikes to travel to our program with X, but within the first five minutes, my companion collided with a Gypsy on a bike.  Both bikes had some minor damages, but weren't bad; however, the man was a drama queen and was trying to get money out of my companion for about any excuse he could come up with.  We ended up losing over and hour and a half because of the whole affair.  Luckily, X was okay having the lesson an hour later, and we talked about the Restoration, watched the 20 minute Restoration video, gave her a Book of Mormon, and challenged her to read it.  In the evening we went to meet with the Ks, but they had forgotten and weren't there.  The worst part was that the returning train didn't come until over an hour later, so we lost another 2½ hours on top of the 1½ from the biking incident.  I guess in a way it's a miracle that I wasn't the one that (and that I haven't yet) had a biking accident.  Something else, I learned I'm much, much better at biking when I have a real reason to ride.

Wednesday, 9 November
This morning we began splits.  I'm currently with Elder W.  We had two programs scheduled, but both fell through (sadly, they both were with members too).  We spent a lot of time at the internet cafe, and I made a fair amount of progress on the Facebook profile.  For a miracle today, I would like to write that we had two people stop and show real interest while we were tabling, the most we've had in several weeks.  Hopefully we actually hear from either of them again.  Lastly, we finished our evening by eating palacsintas and talking about fencing.  It's been quite some time since I last fenced and will prove interesting after my mission.

Thursday, 10 November
I liked today.  We all left at 7:00 in the morning to go to E's High School.  There we taught English for 2 1/2 hours, and did a good enough job to be invited back in the future.  I continued my splits with Elder W until the afternoon, and then in the evening we all went to Angolora.  Today was the last Angolora for the next 3 weeks, but 3 good things happened: four people in my class showed interest in meeting privately, Z returned, and I met a group that had found out about the class via Facebook.  (The last two are both my miracles).  The last two things today are that the Zone Leaders are staying with us for the District Meeting and M's baptismal interview tomorrow.  Today Elder W dropped M as an investigator to give her some time to think about baptism.  I talked to her at Angolora and she was really depressed, but said she was still coming to church this weekend to hear me and my companion speak.  Hopefully things work out with her.

Friday, 11 November
What a magical day today.  There are only two times a century when there are twelve of the same digit in a row between the date and time, and they both happened today.  Some people say you are supposed to make a wish at 11:11:11, so I guess that today must've been a super wish at 11/11/11-11:11:11, especially since it's 36,160 times as rare!  I'd love for my wish to come true.  (The rarity and speciality of today was my miracle).  Today we spent most the day with our Zone Leaders.  We held a District Meeting, followed by M's baptismal interview.  She seems to have a slight struggle with the Word of Wisdom, but she passed!  We went tabling and streeting with Elder D, and then had Out-Reach.  My talk for Sunday is mostly done, but one page still needs to be translated.

Saturday, 12 November
Today had three main things happen.  We taught D for the first time today.  The lesson went well and he said that he's interested in hearing more about the gospel.  We had a big Out-Reach Program today that went from 3:00pm – 8:00pm.  The first two hours consisted of a talent show, followed by a short ping-pong tournament, then V spent two hours teaching dance lessons, and we ended with an hour of food and mingling.  I enjoyed it, but wish that any of our investigators would've shown up.  We had about 20 people there, but 9 were missionaries, and the rest were members.  Last of all, I finished my miraculous talk.

Sunday, 13 November
My talk has been given. Yippee!  I really didn't feel any stress about giving it.  Writing it was the harder part for me.  I'm glad to write that it lasted the full 15 minutes.  The sad part about church was that M didn't show up.  Hopefully dropping her doesn't backfire on the other companionship.  This afternoon I went on splits with Elder F to visit H.  For all that I heard about her, she was pretty lively, and when she talked she was very, very vivid.  I really enjoyed taking the sacrament to her.  This evening we went tabling and the only people we talked to during the two hours were a group of nine 18-23 year old boys. It was strange, but we talked to them about the gospel for over half an hour.  My miracle today is that after Sacrament Meeting I got many congratulations, and when E congratulated me, she shook my hand.  Sounds silly, I know, but E rarely, rarely shakes hands with missionaries.

Lastly, my calling as pianist disappeared as quickly as it came.  I may still practice little bits and pieces from time to time, but I won't be playing during church any more.

That's all I can think of this week.  I hope you're all doing well.  Talk to you all again next week.


Shipp Elder

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Monday, November 7, 2011

7 November 2011 Letter (Nyiregyhaza)

Monday, 31 October
Well, I'm honestly not sure what I feel.  First off, we had a lesson with M today, and after the program my companion said he's seriously considering dropping her.  M has good intentions, but there are many key principles that she just doesn’t understand.  We've been over and also reviewed all the lessons, yet she still thinks that baptism is sprinkling a baby's head, that other churches have the priesthood, and is willing to keep the commandments, although she doesn't really understand why.  I hope we don't lose her, but we also don't want to baptize her in ignorance. 

Tuesday, 1 November
November 1st is a national Hungarian holiday.  During the day and evening it's sort of like a Memorial Day, where they visit graveyards, but they leave lit candles on the graves instead of flowers. 

Today I thought I'd record some points unique to Hungary and my mission.  The entire country of Hungary is a valley, so the weather is fairly consistent.  This past week and a half, smog rolled in and has been trapped in since.  In Hungary, the trains provide a lot of public intercity transportation and the buses and vilamoses provide plenty of local transportation.  Food is a lot fresher in Hungary, but perishes quickly, forming a cycle where you have to shop on a regular basis and buy fresh food multiple times a week rather than buying in bulk.    Meats and oils are guaranteed in almost every Hungarian dish.  Just like as in the states, building size varies.  In central Budapest there are hardly any buildings with less than 5-7 floors, and many are over 10 stories tall.  In Nyiregyhaza, the vast majority of buildings are 1-2 stories, all the ones in the center are 3 stories (almost without exception), and then about 30 minutes away is a 10'er district with about 12 buildings between 10-12 floors.  One has 14 and is the tallest building in this part of the country.  While tracting (with the exception of the 10'ers), we never knock on the front door.  There is always an 8-9 foot tall metal gate and a csengu (doorbell) to ring.  With the metal plate gate, you almost never know if someone's going to open it or not or who they may be.  Last of all there are two main classes in Hungary.  The vast majority of the population is either Hungarian or Gypsies.  That's all I have concerning Hungary for the moment. 

My companion and I met up with twelve other Elders in Budapest this morning.  After visiting for an hour we broke up into two groups.  One group started going to the Chinese Pioc and the other went to the mission home.  Elder F, Elder M, and I ran to hand our bags off to the mission home group and then went to join the Pioc group.  However, I was the last to hand off my bags, and got stopped by a red light.  When Elder F and I finally crossed, we couldn't see anyone.  So....Elder F and I were lost in the middle of Pest, an hour and a half away from the Mission Home, by ourselves, without a phone, without, we went exploring.  I got some pictures of St. Istvan's Basillica, saw the Opera House, and also the only Subway restaurant in all of Hungary.  After two hours of wandering we finally found a place to break up some change, find a pay phone, call our senior companions to learn the name of the metro station nearest the Mission Home, find a map, figure out where we were, and finally figure out our way back to the Mission Home.  Elder F speaks even less Hungarian than I do and has absolutely no experience with public transportation, so I got to be in charge.  Well, at least we made it.

I met many of my Kicsi and Osi today.  It was Sister C's birthday and Elder F and I went with her and her trainer, Sister B, to an enormous graveyard and saw the many thousands of candles that had been put on the tomb stones.  I loved the experience.  The graveyard was unbelievably big and went up and down multiple hills.  The tombstones were all different and many had designs or even full statues.  The only light was from the stars and the candles (otherwise everything was completely dark) and because of all the candles everything smelled really nice.  This has been one holiday I think would be cool to have in America.  Well, Zone Conference is tomorrow.  My companion and I are sleeping over with some other Elders here in town.  My miracle today was having everything we needed when we got left, and being able to make it back to the Mission Home.  On to tomorrow!  (I almost forgot: the name of the holiday was "Halottak Napja" meaning "Day of the Dead".)

Wednesday, 2 November
Today was my first Zone Conference.  President Baughman started the conference by talking about 11 highlighted points concerning "The Inevitable Apostasy".  He was followed by Sister Baughman, who spoke on stress and relaxation.  After a quick break for lunch, the AP's gave training on Area Books, the Zone Leaders did training on helping our investigators receive revelation, we did some role playing, listened to the testimonies of all the departing missionaries, and finished with some concluding remarks from President Baughman.  I enjoyed it, but it was long, taking over 7 hours!  The miracle for today: as President Baughman was talking about the apostasy, things made so much sense, and appeared so obvious; and the Restoration and the gospel we have today seems all the more wonderful.  As you strengthen your testimony and understanding in one area, the rest build and grow as well.

Thursday, 3 November
E spent most of the day with me and my companion.  She came to the internet cafe, copy center, and tabling with us.  We taught her in the evening, and then she stayed for a member-present lesson with A, who committed to read and pray.  E even stayed for Angolora and then hung out afterwards.  Only one week of Angolora left this transfer.  My miracle today will actually be fulfilled over this next week and a half.  I was volunteered by Elder W to give a 15 minute talk next Sunday.  So, trying to actually do so will be my miracle. 

One last thing:  Today I spent some time wondering "What is Love?"  How would you define it?  Are there different kinds of love?  What are they?  How are they actually different?  How does Heavenly Father love?  I'm going to end there and I hope you (the reader) dedicate some time and thought to thinking about those questions.

Friday, 4 November
Today my companion and I had to stand guard at the Branch House while a worker changed all the locks.  It took several hours and gave me enough time to read nearly all of 2 Nephi.  We met with X today, who is progressing along nicely.  Our other lesson is with M and went much better than the previous lessons.  Personally, I think she just needs a stronger testimony that President Monson is a true, living prophet, then she should be ready for baptism (although my companion is still somewhat considering dropping her, he's not sure if he wants to try to push her baptismal date back or just leave it instead).  We'll see what the Zone Leaders say next weekend.  I found some good scriptures in the Isaiah chapters to keep me thinking for the next while.

Saturday, 5 November
So, first off, a random note – about a week ago, something unexpected happened: the city became filled with Ravens.  A bunch of massive black ravens can be seen nearly anywhere you go, and since they appeared, I've seen less and less pigeons.  I see ravens multiple times a day; they're big, and also smart from what I've seen.  I have no idea how long they will stick around.

Today we had Besyelgetesi Club, met briefly with N, and then spent the rest of the day (3:00-8:00) at M's.  We spent three hours helping put together a new bookshelf she bought, ate dinner, talked with her, and spent more time with her cats.  The two highlights for me were that we met her sibling that she lives with and takes care of, and that during the past five months my companion has assumed it was a brother, when we learned it's actually her sister!  The other was at the end, M brought out and showed us a really cool Bow (with 22 arrows), a Pistol (from colonial times; Pistol and Ball), a set of 11 Daggers, and coolest of all, an old Crossbow.  Fast Sunday is coming tomorrow and we began Fasting with lunch today so that we can go with M tomorrow after church.

Sunday, 6 November
Another Sunday, another good feeding day.  While it was Fast Sunday, we broke our fasts early to eat lunch with M, and two hours later we ate dinner with T.  The other Elders left for Greenie Training.  One week until my talk in church.  My miracle is that I am able to communicate with my family every week and know how they are doing, even though I'm spending two years on the other side of the world.  A second miracle is that we can always learn, and I'm guaranteed to find something new each time I study the scriptures.

Only two other things I can think to include:  I'm pretty sure I only have two weeks left with my companion and that he'll leave at the end of this transfer.  The other thing is I asked some questions about love, and I'm actually curious to hear someone else's opinion of them.  If any of you would like to try to answer any of them and send them to me, I'd be interested to read them.

Well, that's all I have for this week.  Hope you're all doing well.


Shipp Elder

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Monday, October 31, 2011

31 October 2011 Letter (Nyiregyhaza)

Dear Family,

I don't have an incredible amount of time today, but at the same time I don't have too much to say.

Monday, 24 October
During today's P-Day I had the opportunity to do something I haven't really done before.  My companion and I went with the other Elders to the Botanical Garden for over two hours.  M had arranged for the head caretaker to give us a tour of the entire place and explain about many of the plants as we went along.  The three parts I enjoyed the most were the Carnivorous plants, a hedge maze, and most uniquely, a plant (looked like a normal tree) whose petals would close if you touched them.  Similar to the zoo a few weeks ago, the diversity and beauty of the many plants Heavenly Father created was my miracle today.  The night finished with dinner at M's and I am stuffed again.

Tuesday, 25 October
We had two lessons dog us, and two went through.  Both D and R failed to meet today, so we tabled instead and were unsuccessful.  However, we did teach B, where we got fed lunch and in the evening we taught M.  Tonight was the first time that we've taught M at her house, and will probably be the only time.  While she claims to only have two cats, she's picked up 12 strays for a total of 14, and spent much of the time showing us them, and trying to give one to H.  We didn't even manage to talk about baptism.  Afterwards, we went over to the other Elders' apartment and had palacsintas for the first time since my first week in the country.  For a miracle today I chose to think about Heavenly Father's unlimited love and power, and likewise, our endless potential as His children.

Wednesday, 26 October
Another two programs fell through today, but we still managed to teach J (who brought us donuts), M (no cats this time), and S along with her daughter.  S is a member of the Branch, but isn't very active and as far as I can tell, her daughter has never been a member.  Lastly, a funny miracle is that I had to actually cook a real dinner for myself for the first time is five days.

Thursday, 27 October
Well, things are continuing to go downhill.  Finding has still been ineffective, and, while we only got dogged once today, we did manage to meet with B.  However, she brought the Book of Mormon we had given her back, said she wasn't interested, and that her mom had enrolled her in a "language school", so it would be the last time we would meet with her.  So, we got dropped.  M is now our only progressing investigator.  To make things worse, I somehow got called as our Branch pianist, and was volunteered to play four songs this coming Sunday.  So, now my companion and I will get 4-6 less hours a week while I practice, and with there being little to no member missionary work, and only two missionary companionships, things are going to start going even worse each week.  My only consolations about the calling are that I am supposed to dedicate all my time, energy, and talents to the Lord (although I've never counted piano among my talents), and that I'll get to learn piano out of this.

Friday, 28 October
Well, our hours are already starting to hurt.  I have tomorrow to learn how to play 4 hymns (I did get started today, but have a ways to go).  I missed our program with K so I could practice, and will miss another 2 programs tomorrow as well.  We did manage to meet with X today and spent 45~ish minutes talking about prophets and the scriptures.  We'll give her a Book of Mormon next time, but currently it's hard to tell if she'll keep commitments and read it or not.  Lastly, the miracle for today was that all 4 of us went to M's work and had a 18 minute interview on Live TV, where we briefly talked about Halloween in America, then also why we are here.  It was a cool experience, and I'm hoping we get something out of it.  Now I can officially say I've been on Hungarian television.  Funnily, they spelled all of our names wrong except Elder W's.  They spelled mine as "Roys".  Oh well.  Long day ahead tomorrow.

Saturday, 29 October
Our working hours for this week stink.  I'm constantly busy, but am not actually getting any proselyting hours.  This morning we played soccer with B again and shared a quick spiritual thought and two lessons.  The first was with M where we (actually, just my companion) talked to her about baptism.  She started crying when he told her how big a commitment it is and that she'll have to break some ties to her previous Evangelus church.  However, she did say she wishes to continue with her baptism.  The second lesson was with A, but I had to go on splits, and Elder F went to the lesson with my companion so that I could stay at the Branch House and practice piano for tomorrow.  Last of all is my miracle.  Today we were not completely obedient and broke some fairly basic rules.  Also, all of today, my piano practice didn't go even half as well as yesterday, when things just started to flow.  I can't help but think that these two are connected to each other, and that it also shows just how weak I am without the Lord and how much I need His help.  (Which, if that is the lesson I need to learn, struggling with playing the piano in one Sacrament Meeting isn't a terrible situation to learn that lesson from).

Sunday, 30 October
Looks like I'll continue to be the Branch Pianist.  They originally said they were going to try to call someone else, but apparently that effort never got made.  The only other significant thing today was that we went to one of my companion's Angolora student's place for dinner.  Pasta was served as an appetizer and that was the first time I've been served noodles at a Hungarian's house.  We came back with enough food to last us two more meals.

Well, after typing up the blog post, I realized how negative this week sounds.  It's been interesting recently.  Our hours have decreased and work has about stopped.  Yet I've been having the most unique experiences (like more meal appointments, Botanical Garden, TV, ect.)  In a way we're back to square one.  Our only progressing investigator is M....exactly how it was when I arrived here nearly two months ago to the day.  Anyways, this week will be fun, but not much work is going to get done.  Today's not an actual P-Day, but we have 2 hours to email and shop.  Tomorrow's a Super P-Day, and Wednesday is Zone Conference in Budapest.

That's all I have for this week.  Love you all.

Shipp Elder