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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