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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