Wednesday, July 27, 2011

27 July 2011 Letter (MTC)

Hello Family!!!

Here's my weekly email, beginning with the blog posts:

Wednesday, 20 July
The Residence Hall is crowded again.  Elder Swett and I welcomed 19 new missionaries, including the new Albanian District.  We checked the Narnia holes (Narnia does exist, but I must refrain from saying more, lest I lose my memory of it, or cause harm to fall upon it), and passed along the boxes from the previous Albanian District.  They seem like they should be a good group, although, for now they walk into their rooms and close their doors (aren't very sociable).  They'll probably open up and socialize over time.  This afternoon we cleaned the temple for 4 hours, wiping down walls, dusting shelves, cleaning lockers, and moving furniture.  Elder Swett and I got lucky and the worker we were with gave us a tour for a short break halfway through.  We got to see all over the temple including the furnace and ventilation room, the Sealing Rooms, stand directly under the chandelier in the Celestial Room, find the workshop in the basement, see the Brides' Room, and we also stopped to talk to three of the workers and hear what they did and how it was going (for example, in the Celestial Room we spent about 10 minutes talking to the man in charge of all the gold leafing on the ceilings and walls, and heard some cool stories).  Lastly, we taught Gyula today.  We had another member join the lesson, Bea, and we asked about Gyula's prayers, reading, and testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Most importantly, we finally got him to commit to working towards being baptized on August 15!  Happy Day! =)  We plan on working hard to help make sure he's worthy and ready by then.

Thursday, 21 July
Today was yet another, full, busy day.  Funny how life is actually busy during a mission... Anyhow, we taught Lilla this morning, focusing on Christ, his baptism, resurrection, atonement, and love, and concluded by asking her to be baptized, to which she again replied "possibly".  This evening we had TRC, where we taught Jared, Cece, and Gabor about the restoration.  We finished the evening giving the Day 2 orientation and a tour of the MTC to all the new missionaries in our Branch.  I'm starting to remember their names and faces. 

Friday, 22 July
Surprise! Yet another busy day!  We taught Gyula tonight, checking up on his feelings and commitment concerning baptism and taught him about listening to and following the prophet, as well as keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  We also talked about stress this morning and ways missionaries can recognize and cope with it.

Saturday, 23 July
Not a whole lot happened today.  I've started memorizing the First Vision in Hungarian and we taught Lilla the first part of the Plan of Salvation (Pre-Mortal through Earthlife) and tried to set up a baptismal date (third try in a row).  She's changed from "possibly" to that she would like to, but not for another 2-3 months.  At least we're progressing.

Sunday, 24 July
Today was Pioneer Day.  I gave the District lesson (an hour long) on Humility.  Just as its opposite, Pride, is the universal sin, Humility leads to all other Christ-like attributes, including the magnificent "Charity".  This evening we watched "Legacy" (not my favorite church film) and listened to a Fireside given by Stephen B Allen (one of my all-time favorite speakers).  He used multiple Mormon Messages in his lesson, and finished by having us sing "Come, Come Ye Saints" with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (on CD).  The second verse stood out to me especially: "Gird up your loins, fresh courage take, our God will never us forsake.  And soon we'll have this tale to tell, all is well.  All is Well!"

Monday, 25 July
41 days down, 35 to go!  I have officially mastered behind-the-back shots in 4-Square, and wrote my testimony in Hungarian.  Tonight we taught Gyula about following the prophet.  Today was Sister Barker's Birthday, and the night ended with me creating a new fencing drill: popping bubbles with the collapsible pointer. =D

Tuesday, 26 July
Today we taught Lilla about the purposes of our Earthlife and keeping the commandments.  I retook the Christ-like Attribute Assessment, and saw a lot of progress.  It's good to see how I'm improving in more than just the language.  Tonight the Devotional was given by Dennis M Simmons (Emeritus Seventy).  (We seem to listen to a lot of speakers that are Emeritus Seventy, which isn't a bad thing, just something interesting I noticed).  He spoke of the two purposes of a mission: Serving the Lord, and Sanctifying Ourselves.  He mostly focused on the latter, listing the long cycle of sanctification, using the "gift" of the Holy Ghost, and remembering who we are; Children of God, each containing a spark of deity.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow: going to the temple (since it's finally opened again), getting our Kicsi, and sending off letters and emails.

Oooh! Our first Kicsi just walked in, and I have 30 seconds left.  Tell you more about him later!

Hope you enjoyed this email.  Please keep sending me mail. J

Love you all,

Shipp Elder

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

20 July 2011 Letter (MTC)

Hello again!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Today we taught Gyula and asked him to be baptized.  He's having a hard time understanding that other churches don't have the priesthood.  We'll have to continue trying.  Our temporary companion, Elder Kay, received some really exciting news this morning.  They announced over the intercom that he will be leaving tomorrow morning for Albania!  He'll arrive only two days after the rest of his district.  Tonight (literally two minutes before I started writing this) I heard someone call my name, "RJ?".  I turned around to find Elder (Cyrus) Penrod, who arrived earlier this afternoon.  He is serving in the Los Angeles, Spanish Speaking mission and will be in my hallway for the next nine weeks, so I'll definitely be seeing him around.

Thursday, 14 July 2011
We started off today by playing kickball, Kicsi vs. Osi.  Although this was their last gym time and found hard, we still managed to win =).  We didn't teach any of our usual investigators today, but in the evening, we had TRC (Training Resource Center), where we met James and his wife, Zaphne.  We helped them move a little, and ended by teaching them the first half of the Plan of Salvation.  The rest of the evening was spent as Elder Swett and I helped Elders Knight and Walker give a planning orientation to the new missionaries, along with a tour of the MTC.

Friday, 15 July 2011
Today felt long and empty.  The Osi spent all day in departure lectures, which made gym especially empty.  Elder Swett and I taught Andi today.  It was not our most spiritual lesson, but I managed to lead a discussion of the Plan of Salvation, teaching about everything from the Pre-mortal Existence to the Atonement (the furthest we've gotten in one lesson).  We also taught Gyula about Gospel Dispensations, the Apostasy, and the Priesthood.  We are continuing to work towards baptism, and committed him to come to Sacrament Meeting.  We ended the day interviewing the District Leaders, yet another step towards taking over as Zone Leaders.

Saturday, 16 July 2011
We had the opportunity to teach Lilla, in which the lesson was really short, but went well.  We had a chance to discuss Alma 32, focusing on faith and how, if we pray, attend church, and read the scriptures, our faith can grow like a seed.  Like a seed, faith needs to be nourished and cared for to not only grow, but to survive.

Sunday, 17 July 2011
Today was our last full day with the Osi, but I'll come back to that at the end.  Branch Council this morning went fine.  We'll have two new districts (and 19 new missionaries next week).  In Priesthood, Brother Thompson talked of the Atonement, and the three things that block peace: Our Sins - lifted through repentance; The Sins of Others - lifted through forgiveness and thinking of Christ; and Circumstances Out of Our Control - lifted by being thankful and finding happiness in the many blessings each of us have received.  During Sacrament Meeting, the Osi sang a Hungarian Medley, and President and Sister Gamette spoke on repentance.  During the Fireside, President and Sister Sonne spoke on staying focused and "unweariness".  So, tonight was goodbye and the transfer of power from Osi to Kicsi (we also went and took group pictures at the temple).  We received that Flag and the Ark, learned of Hungarian History, visited one last time, and finished with the "Talpra Magyar".  Overall, a very powerful and draining night.

Monday, 18 July 2011
The Osi are gone.  Our hallway is empty.  However, Elder Rosen and Elder Snyder moved in with us today, and Wednesday we'll be receiving 19 new missionaries (17 Elders, 2 Sisters) into our Zone.  We also had the blessing of teaching Gyula today.  We had a good lesson, and I was able to do plenty of talking again.  We finished the lesson (which was on the Spirit World, Baptism, and the Holy Ghost) by asking him to be baptized, to which he replied that he would think about it and talk to us on Wednesday.  Hopefully the spirit touches his heart and convinces him to be baptized.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Today was a full day and tomorrow will be as well (despite it being P-Day).  This morning we gave our first lesson with a member present, as we had Christy attend our lesson with Lilla.  Lilla attended Sacrament Meeting and committed to coming to waffle night later this week.  We talked about the blessings the gospel brings to families, gospel dispensations and apostasies, and Christ's Baptism.  We asked her to be baptized, to which, she replied "probably".  While I know Hungarian well enough to give the lessons, I wish I knew it better so that we could've asked her if it was alright to set a day 3~ish weeks down the road to work towards.  Hopefully it all works out.

During Personal Study Time, I looked up Bednar's talk on "Choosing to Take Offense", Uchtdorf's talk on "Potential", and Wirthlin's talk "Come What May and Love It".  All of which are talks that I have, and will continue to remember.

The Devotional tonight was given by F Melvin Hammond (Emeritus Seventy).  His wife, Bonnie Hammond, spoke of Elder Peterson from BYU's football team, leaving their championship team to serve in Bolivia, and his interviews with Sports Illustrated, telling them why he chose to serve a mission.  She also asked all of us to always "Be Cheerful".  Elder Hammond spoke of how the Book of Mormon is the Keystone to our religion.  He mentioned the 4 promises made in the introduction that come from reading the Book of Mormon:  Knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, gain a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true, know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and know that the Church is the Lord's Kingdom on the earth.  He also told of Parley P. Pratt's conversion and finished with a story from Bolivia. These two lines stuck out to me the most: "How do you know the Church is true?" "Because I have the Book of Mormon. Read it. You can know too."

That's everything. 10 seconds left!

Love you all!

- Shipp Elder

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

13 July 2011 Letter (MTC)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011
I have now been in the MTC for three weeks!  I saw another familiar face today, Sister Perry, who is preparing to serve in the Argentina Mission.  Also, and more importantly, all the Osi came into our class today and each bore their testimony on the importance of the work and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It was a very powerful and spiritual experience.  They started their Consecration Week after lunch, and will only be speaking Hungarian until next Wednesday, so communicating with them will be fun and probably involve lots of body language.

Thursday, 7 July 2011
Today was a very emotional and crazy day.  Everything from this morning feels a little distant.  I’ve always liked to think of Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son, and Heavenly Father as our Eternal Father.  Sometime soon I hope to explore Mosiah 15 and better understand how the Nephite prophets referred to them, so I can better understand the scriptures.  This morning one of my companions, Elder Harvey, received word that something has come up back in Michigan which required that he return home.  We spent the evening taking pictures, singing, hugging, and wishing him the best of luck.  It is strange to think that I’ll be in a companionship of two tomorrow.  It feels strange and sad, and made me wonder if this is partially what some of the transfers out in Hungary will feel like.

Friday, 8 July 2011
This morning, at the start of class, we just sat in silence and thought for a little while before moving into the lesson.  Near the end of class, President Gamette came and pulled a couple of us aside.  Sister Hudspeth has been called to be a coordinating advisor; Elder Rosen has been called to replace Elder Swett as District Leader, so that Elder Swett and I can replace Elder Walker and Elder Knight as Zone Leaders.  I’m excited for the opportunities this calling will bring to work with new missionaries, but am also a little sad to lose the many hours of Personal Study Time each Sunday.

Elder Harvey should be in Michigan by now.  In three days all of the Albanian District will be leaving, and the following week all the Americans in our Zone, and all our beloved Osi will be leaving, leaving the four of us: Elders Swett, Rosen, Snyder, and me as the only ones in our Zone!  Quite possibly the smallest Zone in the MTC!  However, these next two weeks won’t be completely sorrowful and empty.  Two days after the Osi leave, we’ll receive a new Albanian District and probably a new American District.  The following Wednesday our Hungarian District (our future Kicsi) will arrive, filling our hallway once again.  But, for now, that’s 2½ weeks away.

Last, but not least, Elder Swett and I taught two lessons today.  The first was with Andi.  The lesson was great and both of us did a lot of talking with very little confusion or misunderstanding.  It was the most spiritual lesson we have taught since our second lesson with Jozef.  The other lesson was with Gyula.  That lesson proved equally as spiritual, with both of us talking large amounts as well.  While the language was not as fluent as with Andi, we accomplished everything we aimed for, and he has started keeping commitments!  He read the scriptures, prayed, and committed to continue reading, praying, and plans on coming to Family Home Evening, as he cannot attend Sacrament Meeting.

Saturday, 9 July 2011
There was little out of the ordinary today.  It was our second day in a companionship of two.  We taught Lilla her second lesson, teaching her of prayer, faith, the Holy Ghost, and the Atonement.  She seemed to understand what we were trying to tell her about prayer and the Atonement, but at the same time, she said she wasn’t sure if she actually has faith in Christ.  We’ll teach her again on Thursday.  Today was also our last gym time with the Albanian District, and resulted in an amazing game of 4-Square, which I was able to stay in the King’s Square 21 turns in a row! J  I will miss their District.  Tomorrow’s schedule seems incredibly busy as I will have to attend five additional meetings for being called as Zone Leader.  Finally, I wish we got mail on Saturdays.  (And I’ve found the downside of Girls’ Camp.)

Sunday, 10 July 2011
Today was a busy, but good, Sunday.  Brother Pinegar was the speaker during our Priesthood Meeting.  I really enjoy him as a speaker.  This week he spoke of Adam and The Fall, explaining that Adam was preordained to be the first man, the first Prophet, the Archangel; presiding over mankind and over the priesthood, both Aaronic and Melchizedek, and preordained to fall.  It was under his instruction that John the Baptist, along with Peter, James, and John restored the priesthood to Joseph Smith.

The fireside proved equally as interesting with Richard Heaton being the speaker.  He spoke of Daily Repentance and how over time Satan has changed the sound of it from the positive Hebrew “Schub” meaning “Turn towards God”, to a neutral Greek “Metanoia” meaning “A change of mind”, to a negative Latin “Paenitieve” meaning “To feel regret or contrition”!  Lastly, all the shadowing of Elder Walker and Elder Knight at Zone Leader meetings went well.  We also found out Elder Kay will be heading to Canada to serve until his Visa comes through.

Finally, I found the answer to my question of Christ being referred to as “The Eternal Father”.  While Heavenly Father is the father of all things spiritual; Christ, as the creator, is the father of all things physical.

 Monday, 11 July 2011
Today was the last day with the Albanians.  4-Square was empty and many pictures were taken this evening.  Also, my pictures and multiple letters came today =).  Elder Swett and I had a chance to teach Gyula today.  We focused on the Creation and Purpose of Our Life Here on Earth, and introduced the idea of baptism.  As with the previous couple lessons, I was able to teach as much of the lesson as Elder Swett.  I think I've finally caught up with many parts of the language (but he still has better grammar and a slightly bigger vocabulary).

Tuesday 12 July 2011
Today we received a third companion again.  While it will only be for the next two to six days, Elder Kay (one of the Albanian missionaries) will be in mine and Elder Swett's companionship.  This morning we had the opportunity to teach Gábor.  Once again, it was a good lesson, and I was able to keep up in all the conversations, and give a large part of the lesson (which was on the Restoration and Baptism).  Unfortunately, Gábor is not a religious man, and it looks like it may be some time before he even considers baptism.  The Devotional tonight was by Richard H Winkel of the Seventy, who spoke on the Atonement and Crucifixion.  While it is incredible (overwhelming) how much physical pain Christ endured, it is even more unbelievable what spiritual pain he must've gone through.

Wednesday 13 July 2011
This morning, Elder Kay, our temporary companion was called over the intercom in our residence hall.  They announced that he has been cleared and will leave tomorrow morning to Albania, arriving only two days behind the rest of his District!  He's been excited ever since.

Serettel (with Love),

Shipp Elder

Saturday, July 9, 2011

9 July 2011 Pictures (MTC)

Posing with "The Missionary" statue

Us and our Osi (minus the Sisters)

Having a lightsaber battle!

Our District at the Temple

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

6 July 2011 Letter (MTC)

It's P-Day again, and time for another email.  Here's an update from this last week:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Today was our second P-Day, which was much less stressful than our first.  Today we did laundry, got haircuts (my hair is super short), and had our second trip to the temple (and our last one for 4 weeks, as the temple will be closed).  We also taught Gyula how to pray.  I have now been in the MTC for exactly two weeks and have exactly two months left.

Thursday, 30 June 2011
Thursdays are not nearly as relaxed, fun, or fast as the first half of the week.  Today we had our first TCR.  It went fairly well, and we taught Ashley (our newest investigator) an hour long lesson on the Book of Mormon and the Restoration.  I am definitely starting to pick up and understand the language, but at the same time I have a whole lot that I don't know (the majority of the language) and am in dire need of expanding my prayer vocabulary.

Friday, 1 July 2011
Today I got to show off my fencing skills by going against the rest of the Hungarian missionaries in a fencing drill for 40 minutes.  We also taught Andi today.  I didn't have much to say at all in our lesson.  We'll teach her again tomorrow.  Hopefully, it will go better.  It just goes to show that the Spirit is not a constant thing.  Today was, hopefully, just one of the lower fluctuations.

Saturday, 2 July 2011
Today went much better than yesterday.  While there was no gym today, we started our day by teaching Andi.  Although our lesson was short, Elder Swett decided that after yesterday's lesson, he'd do less talking, so I gave the majority of the lesson, and we managed to find out a lot more about her personally, and take some time to better introduce ourselves and explain our purpose.  By the end, we all thought it was a successful lesson.  Because there was no gym, we had an hour at the Residence Hall.  We decided to play a giant game of Sardines, with the entire building acting as the boundaries.  Finally, tonight was the Stadium of Fire, a special devotional, and our 4th of July Celebration.  We started by singing "Yankee Doodle" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy", which, when women were mentioned, caused a lot of shouts.  The speaker for the Devotional was Steven Stutterd.  He served as an assistant to three Presidents (US Presidents, not Church Presidents), and is currently a Branch President here at the MTC.  He gave a very powerful talk about the Spirit of God being behind Freedom.  He spoke of our nation's motto: "In God We Trust".  He spoke of a couple marine stories and of their faith and dedication, and also a very sorrowful story of a Serbian family, whose father had to strangle his three year old daughter so that the other fifteen members of their family could remain hidden, and eventually live in freedom.  We finished with a parade of flags and a group on the bagpipes as they played, and we sang "Praise to the Man".  Afterwards, we headed outside, got ice cream, put on a bunch of the glow sticks my family sent me, and watched the fireworks from Stadium of Fire.

Sunday, 3 July 2011
Today was Fast Sunday.  The day started with Mission Conference, at which President and Sister Bratasso spoke.  President Bratasso spoke of Enduring to the End and being saved by grace, something members tend to overlook the significance of.  During Sacrament Meeting, all the Albanians, and some of the new missionaries, got up to share their testimonies.  This past week has amazed me at how many missionaries come here while being the only member in their family.  The Fireside tonight was a little different.  The speaker was Jenny Oaks Baker, who is a renowned violinist, and Elder Oak's daughter.  She played "Amazing Grace", "I Need Thee Every Hour", and two other songs, and her three daughters (ages 6, 8, and 9) played a violin/piano/cello trio of "I Am A Child Of God".  We finished the evening by watching "Mountain of the Lord" on the building of the Salt Lake Temple.  Lastly, while we no longer sing "Called to Serve" or "I Believe In Christ" at every meeting, we have switched.  We now have sung "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" at three meetings in a row, and "We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet" at the last four meetings in a row!

Monday, 4 July 2011
Today was the 4th of July! Yay Independence Day!  Other than that, nothing impressive happened today.  The main event of the day was the 20 minute lesson we gave to Gyula on the Plan of Salvation.  Unfortunately, he claims to have forgotten how to pray, so we'll have to teach him again when we see him on Friday.  

Tuesday, 5 July 2011
I love Tuesdays.  They go by fast, you learn a lot, and get a short, but great, Devotional.  Today we got a new investigator, Lilla.  She is from Pest (in Hungary, the residential side of Budapest), is 21 and a student studying Psychology.  One of her friends, Nefi, is a member of the church, and gave Lilla a Book of Mormon.  Although she has not read much of it, she's interested in learning about the church, and we've already scheduled our next lesson for Thursday morning.  Lastly, we had an amazing Devotional tonight by Cree-L Kofford (Emeritus Seventy).  He spoke on obedience and the Spirit, teaching that faith is given as a gift from Christ for being obedient, have regular silent meditation to hear, feel, and recognize the Spirit, and also that success in a mission will come through sharing Feelings of the Spirit.  He finished his talk by sharing the journal of Colonel Kain and his visit to the abandoned Nauvoo.  Those entries are something I'd like to look up when I come home.

It's hard to believe that I was dropped off here exactly 3 weeks ago.  The Osi (older Hungarian group) leave in a week and a half (they started their Hungarian-language-only week today), all the Albanians on Monday, and my group leaves in less than 2 months. 

Hope everyone is doing well, and I'll talk to you all again next week.

Love you!

Elder Shipp