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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