Monday, January 30, 2012

30 January 2012 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Monday, 16 January
Today was indeed more of a day of rest.  We got dogged once, and then met with C.  In our lesson with her we discussed the Law of Chastity, which doubled as both something that was good for her to hear again as well as a practice for our lesson with R tomorrow.  My miracle today was an article President Baughman had forwarded of a non-member's testimony.  He recorded a few of his experiences with the Church and its members.  It was a great testimony of the truthfulness and amazingness of the Church.

Tuesday, 17 January
It snowed all today.  I liked it; it wasn't cold.  In addition to making everything white and brighter, it also made the ravens everywhere seem much more beautiful.  Normally, ravens are fairly ugly birds, but their black feathers became slicker and they looked almost classy in the snow.  Dogged thrice today, but B discussed the Restoration with us, and we reached the long-feared Law of Chastity lesson with R.  It went smoothly.  She had a question or two that were easily answered, said she understood the rest, my miracle today, without hesitation or resistance and agreed to start living it immediately.  Wow!  It was much easier than we had supposed, and needless to say, I felt very content afterwards.  We are now completely out of all our Pass-Along Cards and fliers.  In the evening we had a two hour meeting with the other Elders and our new Branch President.  He wants to do things much differently than they've been done.  He has some big goals; changes are coming.  We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 18 January
Like yesterday, we got dogged thrice; however, we only had three lessons planned...ouch!  This morning I wrote over three pages for my talk to send home.  This evening the Zone Leaders arrived for splits and we had a good District Meeting.  The most interesting part is that there have been workers doing construction on the floor below us.  Two nights ago we learned it will be a Night Club (Club Revenge).  Tonight, during our meeting, they installed and tested the speakers.  The entire floor of our Branch House was vibrating the entire time.  The music speakers were loud and powerful enough that not only could we hear the music in the Branch House, but we could also see all the chairs in the chapel vibrating as well.  When Elder Molnar and I returned to our apartment a couple minutes away, even up on the 9th floor with all the windows and doors closed, we could not only hear it, but could tell which song it was.  Things will definitely be interesting to say the least.  So, while we couldn't meet with the three lessons we planned, we had a miracle.  Around 5:30pm we went out streeting, and the first two people we talked to, two men in their mid-to-late twenties, stopped to listen.  One had never heard anything about the Church, while the other had met with the missionaries once before and had received a Book of Mormon.  We talked for a few minutes, and then asked if they had a half hour to watch the Restoration Film.  They answered yes.  They came with us to the Branch House.  So, we not only had an hour long restoration discussion with them, but they said they feel like visions and angelic visitations are possible, and while they aren't sure it's true, they at least think everything they learned is a possibility.  We got their phone numbers and plan to meet again on Monday.  Hopefully they stick around.  They really helped save our day today.

Thursday, 19 January
Today we had two lessons and only one dog.  However, both the dog and the second lesson told us that they don't care to meet in the future.  In other words, they both dropped us.  Interestingly, though, the second of the two said he read two chapters of the Book of Mormon, thought it was unique and wants to continue reading, just not meeting.  Our other program was with G on dispensations.  My miracle today is that he has become one of our two best investigators, the other being R.  Last of all, today I found a cinnamon-orange-nut Milka, which is by far the most Christmas-y tasting chocolate ever.

Friday, 20 January
So, today was a day of failures, more so than any other day of my mission.  Not only did we have another person drop us, nor did just all four of our programs today dog, nor did just one person show up to our "Big" Branch Activity that the Branch had been planning for 2 1/2 weeks, but we also biked an hour and a half to a store to replace a piping valve, only to be unable to find the size we needed; and also, we spent so much time trying to get something to work, that we didn't do any proselytizing.  So, today we had no programs at all, lost an investigator, no streeting, tracting, flyering, or tabling, a branch activity outrightly failed, and our piping still isn't fixed.  From all perspectives it was a failure of a day.  Yet, strangely, and my miracle today, I don't feel bad.  Not that I feel great about today, but I don't feel bad at all either.  I'm sure in large part it's because we did what was in our power.

Saturday, 21 January
I only have one thing to write about today.  It is that we met with K, N, and L again.  This time we discussed the Plan of Salvation.  They not only thought that the questions "Where did we come from?" and "Where are we going?" are important (L especially said she thought about it a lot), but they also all participated in the lesson, as well as each one of them prayed and read a part of the Book of Mormon.  That was my miracle.

Sunday, 22 January
Today our Landlady came over.  Things went a lot better than we thought they would, and she complimented us over and over on how clean our apartment is.  Hopefully they can have our washing machine fixed by next week.  R came to church for two hours today.  We are still hoping to put her Bapt. Date in our next lesson.  So, this week we were dogged eleven times, and didn't have any new investigators...however, my miracle today was that this evening we managed to arrange two lessons, with two different Is, successfully meet with them, arranged a second lesson with each, and finish last minute with two new investigators!  We also have seven potential investigators lined up for next week.

Monday, 23 January
The water in our bathroom, in addition to our laundry machine, is not working, so we did laundry and showered at the other Elders' apartment.  While showering for the second time in 3 months, I really, really felt like going swimming.  My miracle today was Faith, the topic of my talk.

Tuesday, 24 January
Today was Zone Conference.  I didn't enjoy it as much as past conferences.  It was a very basic overview of “The Plan of Salvation” and “How to Teach Investigators”.  I didn't learn nearly as much as past trainings, only a small handful of new scriptures.  While there, we picked up another 44 Books of Mormon, and 500 Pass-Along Cards (half of what I wanted).  Within the past couple days (5 or so), I have developed a love for oranges that didn't exist before.  Lastly, (and the miracle today), Elder Crandall gave his departing testimony and I met and talked to Elder Runnells, who is also from Orem, and who, for some time, lived in my home-Stake.  That makes three of us from Orem. Yay!

Wednesday, 25 January
Another half and half day: two dogs and two programs.  We met with B and reviewed the Plan of Salvation.  Our second lesson was with A, one of the people I spoke of in my talk on faith.  We talked with him briefly and then went into a lesson I had prepared.  He expressed last time that he likes short films with lessons or life teachings.  So, I brought the Mormon Message CD and we watched 30 minutes worth of the spiritual thoughts and testimonies of the Apostles.  Twice we stopped and asked him how he felt, and he thought a moment, then insisted we continue and he would tell us at the end.  Three or four times during the clips, he took off his glasses and wiped his eyes (although, I never actually saw any tears or anything).  After thirty minutes, we paused the video and told him we had one last one we wanted to watch.  We said it was about Joseph Smith's martyrdom and the Book of Mormon.  We then commenced watching Elder Holland's "Testimony of the Book of Mormon".  After, we again asked him how he felt.  I am sure he felt something.  That much is certain.  When we asked the question, he sat there a while in silence.  We waited for over a full minute (though, less than three).  Finally, he said there are a lot of churches, they all have good messages; then unfortunately, built into his same rant as last time, that God could be anything, that we can never know, that faith doesn't exist, nothing is important, etc.  Dang.  Well, Elder Molnar and I shared our testimonies.  I told him we can only invite others to come unto Christ.  I bore testimony that I know God lives, that He loves us; that I prayed and received a powerful witness that the Church is true, and that I invite time to learn and ask as well.  After finishing our testimonies we quickly departed.  I did, for some reason, ask if he learned anything from the Mormon Messages, to which he replied, "of course", and said that they all were good ideas and philosophies.  He just doesn't count them as being alone in the truth, or more important than other theories of the world.  My final impression, both in the lesson and looking back on it is that, as told to Nephi, the churches of the world would become a great stumbling block to many.  I truly believe that the apostasy and the abominable churches and religions of the world have destroyed this man's faith.  Other than that, I have had one thought and memory come to me that I never before thought about on my mission, nor while at college.  It was my Dad's weekly Sunday evening call, "Waffles are ready!!!"  (Sometimes with Jonathan running up and down the hall yelling it, and Buddy barking.)  It's been a long time since I've heard that.  My miracle is my family.  One of, if not the greatest, blessing Heavenly Father has given me in this life.

Thursday, 26 January
Four dogs today.  Our only program was with I (the second one we had met with last Sunday).  We spent all 45 minutes answering questions he had about the gospel and our church.  I thought it went quite well.  Today was supposed to be the day that we gave R a Baptismal Date, but, she missed the bus and called us.  Not only was she unable to meet, but we learned that something has come up and she has to travel to and from Pest every Sunday for the next several months.  So, she won't be able to come to church until Summer or Fall.  It definitely put a damper on the idea of Baptism and on our day.  I'm still thinking about it trying to figure out what's best.  Luckily, she's still keeping commitments, the commandments, and will continue meeting with us each week.  My miracle today was that the repairmen came, and we have a working washing machine, as well as both hot and cold running water in the bathroom for the first time in several months or even longer.  Also, it was Elder Peterson's birthday, so, I rebelled against mission rules and gave him a pet rock, along with a family of oranges with some funny faces drawn onto the peels.  Last of all, while talking with Elders Molnar and Remy, I quoted and referenced some things that came out during my time at University of Pennsylvania, and when noticing they didn't react, I realized how many things they've completely missed or are unaware of during their isolation out here.  It reaffirmed that I'll miss a thousand and one things during my mission.  Oh well.  They are all just insignificantly temporal anyways.

Friday, 27 January
Today was a day of dropping.  One of the three Is dogged us for the third time, so we're dropping him for a couple weeks.  We met with a different one, K, who said he was atheist, laughed at everything we said, then after twenty minutes, got up and left saying that "he was bored".  Needless to say, we won't be contacting him again.  A third person called and said they don't care to meet in the future either.  In the evening we met with G.  The big struggles with him are that he thinks Peter is the first pope and wants to read the entire Bible and Book of Mormon before committing to baptism.  He said he thinks and feels the Church is true, but needs to make sure by completely reading everything.  Gyuli Buli bombed again, with next to no one showing up.  Lastly, in the late afternoon, we went streeting, and while the first person we stopped was actually a Catholic Priest, the second person we gave a Book of Mormon.  That's my little miracle today.  Hopefully it changes her life.

Saturday, 28 January
So, right now I'm pretty depressed.  Although I charged my MP3 player this afternoon, it died a few hours later mid-song.  I've tried charging it, and doing what I can to revive it, but have been unsuccessful.  I'm not sure what all I'm going to do.  Anyways, another dog and drop this morning.  We met with K, N, and L.  L read a little and K read the entire Plan of Salvation pamphlet.  All three have begun to pray weekly.  Things are going well with them.  We tried to meet with I.  We had scheduled a time with him, but, when we showed up at his house, we learned he had forgotten, and he asked us to return later.  My miracle today was the opportunity to perform service.  I have been hunting for opportunities to help with a bigger project, and one of the member's relatives needed help moving; so, Elder Molnar and I spent over an hour (almost two) helping a 60-70 year old man move.

Sunday, 29 January
Today in church Elder Molanr gave a talk on sacrifice.  The main event today was a humbling miracle that was a sad way for me to learn a few of my weaknesses.  This morning, my MP3 player was still dead.  I had tried charging it overnight.  This morning I performed the standard procedure of what to do when an electronic device starts failing and began whacking it against things.  When it still didn't turn on, I whacked it some more and tried again.  After that, I went N64 style: took it apart, opened it up, blew inside it, and put it together again.  Nothing.  After church, I tried it again; still nothing.  Several hours later, before Weekly Planning, I simply picked it up, slid the button, and it turned on!  I hadn't done anything.  It is still working.  It is a miracle.  However, shortly afterwards the whole experience made me feel like a fool.  I am a missionary.  I try to be a good one.  I pray for my investigators and my companion.  However, when my MP3 player broke yesterday, one of the first things I did was pray.  I repeated including that in my prayers this morning.  I put a fair amount into worrying about how to replace it so I could listen to MoTab again.  I was saddened, even at church thinking about it.  I was so happy when it amazingly started working again...WHY?...Why was that so important to me?  While I pray for many things, including investigators, why is it that I immediately drop into prayer over a $40 music device, when I never do or even consider doing so when someone drops or rejects us, putting eternal salvation at stake?  Every time we get a phone call from someone who's not interested or doesn't want to meet anymore, why do I not drop onto my knees and pray for their heart to be softened, their mind changed, and the gospel suddenly becoming everything to them?  Why do I not pray each time for each and every one of their salvations, yet I make it such a priority to pray for my MP3 Player?  Am I that materialistic?  Where are my priorities?  I'm always asking and hoping that others will constantly consider these things more important, yet am so blatantly failing to do so myself.  "Can [ I ] be so foolish?"  Anyways, I'm happy I have my music back, but was just disturbed that I cared more about listening to "Come Thou Fount" one more time more than praying for someone to change their heart, pick up their phone, and call us back asking to meet.  Hopefully this motivates me to be better.  I'm still thinking and reflecting upon it all.

Overview for the last two weeks:
Just one thing to add in while writing these and looking back in hindsight; things are topsy-turvy.  We had some really high points a little while back, however, now we're hitting some lows.  Both weeks we had more lessons fall through than succeed.  Also, G and R, who had become our top investigators, are vanishing.  We haven't met with G for over a week and a half, and he hasn't picked up his phone since we last met with him.  R is in a type of internship for training to be a police woman (her dream since childhood).  She at least says she'll still be able to meet with us, but everything is being pushed back.  Also, I wrote that this last week we started with seven potential investigators.  Not a single one went through and they all dropped (with the exception of two who told us to call them later this week).  Hoo-haa... Well, we are still finding new people, but it just goes to show, nothing is stable in predicting missionary work.  On to this week!

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30 January 2012 Pictures (Szekesfehervar)

Monday, January 23, 2012

23 January 2012 Talk on Faith

Dear Family,

So, I wrote the talk for Bishop Borup.  I had thought that I had read that it should be “at least 10 minutes”, so I wrote a 12 ½ minute talk, went back later, and read “at least 5 minutes” (so I guess I had figured if I wrote a 7-10 minute talk I’d be good, but later combined the two)….oh well. 

Tomorrow is a Zone Conference in Budapest.  I’m sure I’ll write about how that goes in my next email.  I’m about out of time.  Hope you all enjoy the talk!  =)


Shipp Elder


Dear Brothers and Sisters, it is great to have the chance to write you all while serving a mission out here in Hungary.  During this short time that I've been enlisted by the Lord, I have had many opportunities and experiences to build and solidify my faith.  Sometimes these take the form of more common circumstances that are constant in almost, if not, every day; such as witnessing the gift of tongues in this language, the daily miracles I remember and reflect on each evening, or simply feeling the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis.  Other times it's a little bigger or less common event; seeing troubled hearts calmed by the hand of God, recent converts or maybe even non-members bearing testimony of the gospel, unexpected success in finding and teaching those we encounter.

With faith being one of the most recognized Christ-like attributes along-side Hope and Charity, I would like to share a few reflections as a reminder of what faith is, the different roles it plays, its importance within those roles, and ultimately, a few of the grand blessings for which faith is a requirement.

While in the Missionary Training Center, one of the speakers, Gerald N Lund, an Emeritus Seventy and well-known author of many books, such as The Work and The Glory gave a presentation of the process of gaining a witness of the gospel.  Within the presentation, one of the first things he introduced were a few short points describing faith.  He started with the words of Alma, who said, "Faith is a hope for things which are not seen, which are true."  Faith is a principle of power and action, which is developed by obedience and righteousness.  Faith is a gift we must earnestly seek.  It is a process, not an event.  Is it personal.  It is something we need, to save ourselves as well as those around us.

While in the MTC, I also had the opportunity to devote much of my time to studying the book Preach My Gospel.  Within the sixth chapter of the book lies my favorite section: a discussion of the nine Christ-Like Attributes, the first of which is identified as Faith.  My favorite page in Preach My Gospel is the very last page of the chapter.  The page is titled an "Attribute Activity", which contains a list of 57 short points that both summarize the chapter, as well as provide a way for the reader to evaluate themselves, learning their own strengths and weaknesses, then finding ways to improve.  I spent many hours studying that page and would like to share the first nine points, which all focus on the reader's faith; and with each point, add to it many feelings that we express each week through our beloved hymns.

1) I believe in Christ and accept him as my Savior
            "I believe in Christ - my Lord, my God!  My feet he plants on gospel sod.  I'll worship him with all my might; He is the source of truth and light."  (Hymn #134)

2) I feel confident that God loves me.
            "I am a child of God, And he has sent me here.  Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear" (Hymn #301)

3) I trust the Savior enough to accept his will and do whatever he asks.
            "I will go, I will do the things the Lord commands.  I know that I will find a way.  He wants me to obey."

4) I firmly believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can be forgiven of all my sins.
            "In humility, our Savior, grant thy Spirit here we pray...Let me not forget, O Savior, Thou didst bleed and die for me, When they heart was stilled and broken, on the cross at Calvary." (#172)

5) I have enough faith to obtain answers to my prayers.
            To this one I actually ask you all to remember Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, to which everything in this church can be tied back.  As a missionary, each day I am sharing the story of
            Joseph Smith with the people of Hungary, telling them that God lives.  He hears and answers prayers.  He heard and answered Joseph's prayer, and He will hear and answer theirs.

6) I think about the Savior during the day and remember all he has done for me.
            "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.  Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.  I tremble to know that for me he was crucified.  That for me a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died." (#193)

7) I have the faith necessary to help make good things happen in my life or the lives of others.
            "I would be my brother's keeper.  I would learn the healer's art.  To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart." (#220)

8) I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.
            "What glorious scenes mine eyes behold!  What wonders burst upon my view!  When Ephraim's records I unfold, all things appear divinely new." (#16)

9) I have enough faith in Christ to accomplish anything he wants me to do --- even miracles if necessary.
            "Go forth with pow'r to tell the world the Gospel is restored.  That all may gain eternal life, Thru Jesus Christ, the Lord." (#263)

The words of those hymns have often been a powerful reminder; a way to invite the Spirit of the Lord into my life; to both maintain and strengthen my faith.  As the Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants section 25, "The songs of the righteous is a prayer unto me".

Here in Hungary, I have encountered a certain situation weekly, if not daily, which, I never really experienced in Utah.  Out here, where our church is new, there are many other churches and religions that have been around for centuries, such as the Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical, or the most common having been dominant for over a millennium, the Catholic Church.  While only the smallest percent possess much knowledge of our church, nearly everyone has some background in one of the other religions.  In each of these different religions lie different views concerning Grace, Faith, and Works. 

Like in Joseph Smith's time, many argue that by grace alone we are saved.  For others it is through our faith; and the remainder claim we must save ourselves through our works and actions.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times, in my short stay out here, I have heard people say to me, "Don't worry, God will save me", or "No thanks, I have enough faith," or "It's okay, I attend church".  In the restored gospel, we are blessed to know, as taught in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, that we need all three.  In the Bible it is recorded, "For by grace are [we] saved through faith" (Eph 2:8) and "Faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).  Just like the Godhead is made up of Heavenly Father, His son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, all together; or the present made possible by the Creation, Fall, and Atonement; or the mighty Plan of Salvation containing the past, Pre-mortal Existence, the present, mortal earth-life, and the future Kingdoms of Glory; so are Grace, Faith, and Works tied together, bound by the everlasting laws of heaven.

Faith is really such an important and powerful topic that it is knitted into nearly every aspect of the gospel, insomuch that it is hard to try to comprehend the gospel without it.  Two weeks ago, on January 12, my companion and I taught a man who had a very disturbing view of things.  During our time with him, he not only said, but heavily and aggressively insisted and pursued ideas that the scriptures are not important, but are ink on paper and nothing more; that the gospel is just a philosophy and is not important; that God may or may not exist, but if He does, then God is God, and there's nothing we can do about it, so He is therefore not important; that our families and actions are not important either; and that the only important thing is ourselves.  Our own lives are the only thing we have that matters.

Also among the things he said was the statement that there is no such thing as faith.  That it doesn't exist, either you know something, or you don't.  We can try to imagine what we don't know, but we can't actually believe in it.  He continued telling us that there is no way that we could even know that God exists, know that the gospel and scriptures are true, or know anything that we cannot see, hear, or touch.

I have two remarks that I would like to share about that experience.  First, in the Hungarian language "faith" and "belief" are the same word, "Hit" (pronounced hee-t).  To have faith or to believe are likewise the same verb "Hinni" (pronounced hee-nee).  I've found many good thoughts within the idea that having faith and truly believing in something are one and the same.  My second remark is that to those who have learned and embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, a life without faith or belief seems not only ridiculous, but also impossible.

Now, away from the grumpy man, and onward to a more joyous tale.  Five days later, my companion and I taught one of our other investigators.  Although she has progressed magnificently up to this point, keeping the commitments we have given her with excelling diligence, things had gotten slightly harder recently, and we finally felt like it was time to teach her the Law of Chastity, the lesson we had been most dreading, even from our first program with her nearly eight weeks earlier.  Yet, she opened her heart.  She not only understood everything we taught her after a question or two, when the time came after twenty minutes when we asked her to live it, without a moment to pause or doubt, and with only a promise of unseen blessings to come, she exercised the faith she had developed to begin living this great way, starting that very instant!  What a change.  What a marvelous and beautiful change in Spirit, light, and life from the faithless man.  I know that these are only written words, not even verbally spoken, recounting these two encounters, but I hope anyone reading this can obtain a glimpse of the immense difference, the complete change that faith will make in each and every one of our lives, no matter who we are, where we're from, or what we do.

I have two last thoughts that I wish to write concerning faith.  The first is that all things must be done in order.  Long before faith can be obtained; there must first be a desire.  In the eleventh chapter of the first book of Nephi, in which he recounts his great vision, the Nephite prophet records at the very start of the first verse: "For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen."  In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains the next step.  "How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?"  Hearing is necessary as the next step, whether it be through the scriptures, through other people, or through the Holy Ghost.  In the same chapter, Paul writes that after Hearing the gospel, we can finally begin obtaining our faith.  He wrote, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

The second and final thought is that even after obtaining faith; our faith must still be tried.  Each one of us will face the refiner's fire.  Brigham Young once wrote that anyone who desires exaltation must battle every day.  I end with my testimony -- that maintaining our faith is not always the easiest thing.  Sometimes we may be called upon to battle every step of the way; until we finally reach that glorious threshold, where our Heavenly Father will say to us, as He said to Enoch of old, "Walk with me". 

These things I write and share in the sacred name of our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

16 January 2012 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Monday, 9 January
Today during our P-Day we visited a Catholic Cathedral, which, while not the biggest or the grandest, was still pretty sweet.  We also went bowling in the evening as a Branch Activity.  That was today's miracle.  Despite bowling less than ten times in the past decade, and less than fifteen times in my life, I still managed to avoid the gutter (all but twice), and also break 100 in both games.  We met with C today, who, I am happy to write, is returning to activity.  Our other program was with a man named W, who seemed really cool, and we were really hoping to meet with him, but he dogged and we don't have a way to contact him to reschedule.  Maybe we'll find him again someday.

Tuesday, 10 January
I finally got my bike fixed (one of today's miracles).  It was only about $30 to replace both tires, the chain, buy a new cover (for the chain), fix the back brake, and tighten the front brake.  With it being less than half of what I expected, I was very excited over it.  We also spent today fasting for K to find a new job.  While we had two dogs and only one successful lesson today, we received four new investigators with another three set up for tomorrow.  (Another miracle today.)  Hopefully they all turn out well.

Wednesday, 11 January
Yay!  We managed to not only successfully meet with four of our five programs, but we also got our three new investigators.  (Today's miracle.)  We met with B, who taught us on the Restoration; J and her friend J for the first time; G also for the first time; and with C and L together in the evening, where we discussed the Plan of Salvation.  Csaladi-Est failed miserably, and we did absolutely nothing tonight, so I went off and read.  We also made over 2,000 Angolora and Pass-Along Card fliers.  This week is going well so far.  Hopefully it continues to do so and the fliers bring us some success.

Thursday, 12 January
We met with R today.  We followed up on her scripture reading, then began to introduce her to the commandments, beginning with the Ten Commandments, which she committed to live.  We hope to talk about the much feared Law of Chastity.  I hope we are able to follow the Spirit and are able to teach her about it without scaring her off.  Time will tell.  We also had another lesson with a new L.  We spent almost the entire time talking about the Book of Mormon and the Bible.  He said he's not really looking to join a church, but he did agree to schedule to meet with us a second time, so I'm hopeful.  He seems like a smart and happy guy.  We'll see how the second meeting goes.  I'm not going to mark a specific event as a miracle today, but I will remember how great and incredible it is that I'm able to be here in Hungary serving a mission.  Last, but not least, here's just a line I found in the Teachings of Brigham Young that I would like to share, "The men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day."  We are always fighting against sin, and as members, we have an obligation to always do so.  (Also, I smiled about wielding a sword every week before, and hopefully, after my mission).

Friday, 13 January
I spent all of today on splits with Elder Remy.  We spent nearly six hours handing out fliers and managed to give out and share over 500 Pass-Along Cards and Angolora fliers. I don't think we quite reached 1,000, but we definitely broke 500 (and probably 800).  That was my miracle today.  Our one program was with a member, G, who said she didn't really feel like she knew anything about the priesthood, and that they haven't really talked about it in Relief Society.  So, we abandoned our planned lesson, and I shared everything I could within an hour with her.  She took particular interest in Patriarchal Blessings.  She's been a member for some time and is an active, full-time member.  However, she said she's never heard of a Patriarchal Blessing.  If that seed of an idea was successfully planted during the conversation, then I would definitely consider the lesson a success.  Patriarchal Blessings are amazing!  Last of all, during Gyuli Buli, I learned how to play "Rummycube".  I took an immediate liking to it.  It's quite a strategic game.

Saturday, 14 January
Today we had one dog and one program.  We planned on teaching R about the Law of Chastity, but she was in Pest.  So, that's been postponed to next week.  We spent more time cleaning.  My miracle today was a realization of my progress concerning cooking and playing the piano.  Our one program today was with K, N, and L.  I fear the latter two have little interest in the gospel, but K has been reading from the Book of Mormon like we asked, remembers the Restoration film in great detail, and seems fairly interested in learning more and wanting to believe in it.

Sunday, 15 January
So, in my first three transfers I found a total of 14 new investigators (not counting any of the tabling find in Nyiregyhaza.  I heard that 13 came out of mine and Elder Moffett's efforts my last week there.  However, I wasn't there for that, so....).  This week alone, we found eight new investigators.  That's a miracle to me.  Other than that, today at Church Farkas Elnok was released as Branch President, and Tibi took his place becoming Szabo Elnok.  We have also been asked and have received permission to begin teaching S, the excommunicated member, as he has expressed a desire to be rebaptized.  It's an uncommon, but pretty cool situation.  Separately, our washing machine broke earlier during this week.  Elder Molnar and I have heard many tales about our landlady and are not looking forward to meeting her, but between our lack of cold water and the washing machine, we figure that we can't really avoid it.  Tomorrow's another P-Day.  I'm not sure what we'll do yet.  It might just be a day of rest. 

That's all for this week.  I can only think of three other things to include:

1)  I've heard multiple times that the nice weather we have been experiencing here is finally drawing to a close, and we're going to start entering that bone-chilling Hungarian winter that we heard about before I came out here.  Luckily, I have yet to have to really bundle up, and have only worn my thermals once.  It's also nice that I'm in the southern part of Hungary rather than the northern most part of it, like Nyiregyhaza.

2)  Thanks for updating and keeping the blog for me.  It's a good feeling to know that other people have the opportunity to get a glance at some of the experiences I'm having out here.

3)  President Baughman sent out an article to all the missionaries.  I plan on forwarding it.  I thought it was pretty cool.

I'm not sure how much I'll get to write next week in addition to the story for Bishop Borup.  Guess we'll find out.  Talk to you then,


Shipp Elder

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Monday, January 9, 2012

9 January 2012 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Dear Family,

I'm not sure what is so different today, but I am really tired.  There are also many things I wish to bring up in my email today, so please bear with me as a jump around a little.

Monday, 2 January
We had two programs today.  The first was with L on temples.  The lesson made me realize how different things can be concerning temples while in a place like Hungary.  It's been a great blessing and miracle of how convenient it has been for me to attend a temple prior to my mission.  Out here, the nearest temple is a day's journey away in Germany.  L, being young and the only member in her family, has not had the opportunity to ever visit a temple, nor is it likely that she will have that opportunity even in the next couple to several years.  In Utah, it was so convenient that one afternoon, after finishing an AP test, I was able to make an impromptu decision with a group of my friends and we all went to the temple within an hour's notice.  We were done within the next two hours, and still had half the day to hang-out.  It's an entirely different scenario here.  I pray that one day the people of Hungary can be prepared, receive, and then attend a temple in their own land.  I pray that L will have those opportunities that I enjoyed with my friends and neighbors as a teenager.

The second lesson was with R.  We discussed the importance of “Desire” and the role it plays in our conversion and testimonies.  We asked her of her desire to be baptized and to become a member of the Church.  She responded in the affirmative, with a "yes", but also said she doesn't feel ready yet and needs more time.  We marked March as a goal to work towards, and challenged her to really make prayer a priority, especially concerning the authenticity and divine origin of the Book of Mormon.  We have her promise that she'll begin tonight and work towards that knowledge and testimony.

Last of all, we had a District Meeting today.  We were unable to plan everything, so we have another scheduled for Thursday.  I cleaned our apartment for a couple hours and believe I'm the first one to have cleaned the bathroom in over nine months.  I also sent out over eight pages of emails this morning.  It's quite possible the most I've ever typed in that amount of time, the longest email I've ever sent, and the most exercise my hands have had on my mission.  Unfortunately, I forgot to send my weekly email to President Baughman.  Oops.

Tuesday, 3 January
I don't have as much to write about today.  My miracle today was our one program.  We met with a man named Z for the first time today.  He's 30~ish, has a job, doesn't have many religious beliefs, but is interested in learning more.  We already scheduled a second program.  Having T at the lesson with us was a huge help.  He and Z talked at a rate far beyond my level in this language.  Other than the program, I took more time to clean the apartment and am about done for a while (only the kitchen is left).  For the rest of today we tracted and streeted with only moderate success, collecting three phone numbers over the course of six hours.  Hopefully these three prove promising in the future.

Wednesday, 4 January
We did not have any programs today.  Today was my first real day of tabling because Elder Molnar is not at all a fan of tabling.  However, within an hour and a half, I had given out six copies of the Book of Mormon, and collected names and numbers for five.  This morning I finished "The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith".  It's a great book, and I have three parts recorded to look up again in a month or so.  In the evening, we played Nephites and Lamanites again during Csaladi Est, and had a crowd of twelve instead of just eight this time.  It went really well again. Last of all, and my miracle today, was a train of inspired thought that I had, recorded, and titled "I Know Ye Not!"

Thursday, 5 January
This week is continuing to look really good.  We had a dog, but successfully met with three people.  Our first was J.  She's always so vivid and fun to talk with.  B taught us our second lesson.  She really enjoys studying "Preach My Gospel" and did an incredible job sharing the many things she learned in chapter six, my favorite chapter.  R was our last and told us that she prayed about the Book of Mormon and didn't receive an answer.  I talked about how most the time we don't receive an answer right away, how life is a test, and we need to continue in faith.

Angolora started up again today, but we only had five people come.  At least all five were new.  While streeting we found a man named W who really got into a conversation with us.  We scheduled to meet on Monday.  I really hope he shows up.  A surprising miracle today was learning that after this week, we no longer need to record and report finding and working hours.  It will feel strange and take some getting used to.

Two last things I have forgotten to mention in previous entries: after Christmas, all the Advent Shacks switched to masks and fireworks, with a few costumes.  While Halloween doesn't exist here, they dress up for New Year's.  Also, there is a small shack called "Sutikucko", meaning "Cookie Cottage", which I am quickly developing a small love for.  The woman that owns it makes 15-20 different European pastries and desserts every day and sells them for the forint equivalence of 55-75 cents (where, in the States, they'd probably cost $2-3).  I really wish there were more places like it, especially back home.  I'm starting to turn into a regular customer.

Friday, 6 January
Today half our programs dogged, and due to last minute splits I wasn't in our two programs with Z and G.  From what I was told, the program with Z went really well and he committed to come to church and has already read part of the Book of Mormon that we gave him during our last encounter.  G had a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that Peter wasn't the first Pope.  During Gyuli Buli, we had a game night and a lot of members, but unfortunately, no investigators showed up.  My miracle today was a series of thoughts on apostasy.  Some reasons, if not the vast majority, of why people leave the gospel just seem plain dumb to me.

Saturday, 7 January
Today we once again had two successful programs and two dodge.  However, my miracle was that in the first program we met with three 18-19 year old girls, which went fairly well.  One of them has read some parts of the Book of Mormon already.  (By the way, the three girls are all less-active Catholic.)  The second lesson was also with a new person, L.  He doesn't believe in anything, but that's something we are hoping to change.  We scheduled to meet with both parties again next week.

Other than that, we had our first Profi Angolora class of this year, which consisted of four old members and one newbie.  We gave the newcomer a Book of Mormon.  He actually seemed the most legit (open) of anyone we talked to today.  We'll have to see how far he goes.  I'm already over a fourth of the way through the Teachings of Brigham Young.  It's my experience that a lot of members are slightly afraid or evasive of Brigham Young and many of his teachings, but I quite enjoy them and find them very blunt and straight-forward.  He was in many ways "The Lion of the Lord".

Sunday, 8 January
Not much happened today.  I attended church and enjoyed the usual two hours, as well as the new third hour they added for the New Year, beginning today.  While no investigators came to church, three of the less-active members we've been visiting attended.  Our only program today dogged.  Today was also the last day we needed to record working and finding hours.  My miracle today was the third hour of church, as well as being over half done with reading the Teachings of Brigham Young.

I have a couple of last thoughts I want to include:

Here's a thought I jotted down in my planner that may be worth sharing:  “Many, a lot smarter than me, have tried to disprove this church and all have failed.  No one has ever disproved our doctrine and those who have tried to disprove the church and left, either left without having found any fault at all, or they have found their faults in the members.”  This seems simply ridiculous to me.  You cannot disprove a church through the faults of the members.  To seek to do so means that the entire congregation would have to be perfect, which is impossible.  We are human.  We are not perfect.  We each have our faults.  The only way to improve a church is through its doctrine, and no one has ever or will ever disprove the doctrine of this church."

Here's a quote I read in the "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young" that I thought was pretty funny:  "It is true that man is first.  Father Adam was placed here as king of the earth, to bring it into subjection.  But when Mother Eve came, she had a splendid influence over him.  A great many have thought it was not very good; I think it was excellent."

Well, that's all I have for this week.  Elder Molnar and I are going to try to visit some cathedrals today (I'll try to take some good pictures).  Also, tonight we are going bowling as a Branch Activity.  Hope you are all doing well.

Email you again next week.


Shipp Elder
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Monday, January 2, 2012

2 January 2012 Letter (Szekesfehervar)

Dear Family,

Happy New Year!  It was great to talk to all of you over the past week.  I enjoyed the five Super P-Days, but am ready for the work to pick back up.  Things have been slow missionary work-wise for the past 2 1/2 weeks.  However, people should now be able to start meeting again.  Despite the work being slow, it's still been pretty dramatic and stressful (outside of the Super P-Days, thank goodness).  Anyways, I have a lot of blog posts to do, and letter responses.  Hope you enjoy the first email of the year!

Tuesday, 20 December
Today was the Christmas Zone Conference in Budapest.  I'm only in my third transfer, but I'm already getting to know and become familiar with a lot of the missionaries.  I received all sorts of Christmas gifts, including two packages from home, five letters, two Ensigns (one of which is the long-awaited Conference edition), a tie bag from Sister Hudspeth, and a hand-made leather bracelet from a White Elephant exchange.  The packages and letters I won't open until Christmas.  During the 2 1/2 hours of trainings before lunch, the Zone got into a large discussio, or rather, debate over the importance of numbers in missionary work.  Afterwards we ate lunch and watched the mission slideshow for this year.  Elder Saunders taught me a game he invented himself, called "100% Epic".  Last of all, we returned, unwound, and I went through the 78 ties and picked out 14 new ties for myself.  Yay!  Today was full of miracles and many of them are talked about here.  That's all for now.

Wednesday, 21 December
This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise, along with a very, very crimson sun.  We got dogged twice, but also had two good lessons with R and L on the Apostasy and Living Prophets.  During Csaladi Est we played Hide and Go Seek, during which Elder Nealy and I were often the last two.  At the end of the day the Zone Leaders came down for a District Meeting and to begin our splits: Me with Elder Krandall, and Elder Molnar with Elder Braman.  Last of all, my miracle was that today was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  I'm looking forward to all the days starting to get longer now.

Thursday, 22 December
Today I spent on splits with Elder Krandall.  He and I took off this morning to go to Dunaujvaros, but upon arriving, learned that we had forgotten to get the keys from Elder Braman, so we couldn't get into our apartment or the Branch House.  So we streeted.  Between streeting, lunch, and the drives there and back, we had plenty of time to talk.  Because he was Snyder Elder's trainer and is currently my Zone Leader, I knew somewhat about him, such as that next week he begins his last transfer.  I had a great time talking to him and it was really cool to find that we had a lot in common.  In the late evening, after splitting back, Elder Molnar and I scheduled a quick, unplanned, impromptu lesson with F.  While there we discussed the Ten Commandments, the Word of Wisdom, and Revelation.  It was great to hear that he doesn't smoke, do drugs, or drink tea or coffee.  Last of all, Duna is the most densely populated city in Eastern Europe, and while there, I had my miracle today; my first "significant" amount of Hungarian snow (3/4 inch - 2 cm), enough to make a snowball. }:-)

Friday, 23 December
Today was a unique day.  I set up a Facebook account and pages for all the activities in a third of the time it took in Nyiregyhaza.  It still has some ways to go, but is looking good.  We biked for over three hours today.  The majority of the biking was to a hill overlooking Szekesfehervar. Overlooking everything for that matter.  (The area is so flat here, that a hill that takes 2 minutes to climb is the highest point for miles.)  We also biked out to the Super Tesco and Muller.  The Tesco is the biggest store I have seen here, by far.  Neither had LadyBaby, but I found four unique flavors of Milka.  On the way back, as a result of a ditch, some ice, and my back brake being broken, I biffed it on my bike, breaking the aluminum cover for the chain into four pieces, kinking the chain itself, and popping my front tire.  Luckily, I'm perfectly okay and just got a little muddy.  Needless to say, it was a long walk back.  Tonight our Branch had a Christmas Party.  It went really well.  There were treats, plenty of members, music; and R, N, and K all came.  Elder Nealy made three batches of the cinnamon rolls again, and won over half the votes in the baking contest.  Tomorrow begins the first of three Super P-Days.  Yay for Christmas! J   My miracle was the hill, which was significant not only because it overlooked everything, but because it was on the hill that the first European Constitution was signed and was the second step to democracy, only after the Magna Carta, which was signed seven years prior in England.

Saturday, 24 December
Tonight is Christmas Eve, and today was the first of my three Super P-Days.  Elder Molnar and I went over to the other Elders' apartment so we could all open presents together, so I opened one of the two packages I received (and am saving the other as a surprise for tomorrow morning).  Today we slept in until 10:00am, played games (mostly Monopoly), watched 'Mulan', and I experienced my first sajt (cheese) night.  The four of us ate two kilograms together!  Last of all, and my miracle today, I got to talk to my family.  It was good to hear that they are doing well.  It sounded like they peeked through the cracks of my package and knew most of what it contained, however, I'm sure they'll still enjoy it.  They've been having an interesting Christmas Break, and I'm sure it will continue for the second half of the break.  I really enjoyed hearing from them, and am sure I'll continue to hear plenty through their weekly emails.  Despite their expectations of only speaking for 30-45 minutes, I somehow managed to help the call last for nearly two hours.  Time is spinning by as always.  It was interesting to me to hear that they also had a hard time grasping that it's been 6 1/2 months since we last saw each other, and almost 4 months since we last talked.  That's all I have for tonight.  It's after 12:30am and I'm ready for bed.  Staying up past midnight becomes slightly weird and really tiring when you live on missionary schedule, going to bed at 10:30pm everyday for six months.

Sunday, 25 December
Merry Christmas!  I'm currently in a small town called Karcag.  Elder Molnar and I are out here visiting his relatives.  This morning upon getting up I opened my second package.  I now possess an entire hoard of American Candy.  I also read the five letters I received.  Church was only an hour today, but, due to transfer calls being this coming Tuesday, it may well have been my last Sacrament Meeting in Szekesfehervar.  After church we watched 'UP' with the other elders.  It was my second time seeing it, and while it is a good movie, I realized the greatness of the Disney Classics, and greatly preferred the much older 'Mulan'.  Afterwards, Elder Molnar and I quickly departed to the train station and left for Karcag.  We arrived around 8:30pm.  I've had the opportunity to meet and talk with his aunt, uncle, and one of his cousins.  We had a great Christmas Dinner and talked for several hours.  Once again it is almost 1:00am.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! J   (My miracle today is Christmas)

Monday, 26 December
Well, the Super P-Days and my Christmas Break are drawing to a close.  Something I forgot to include yesterday was that in Szekes, it did not at all look like we would be having a white Christmas, but there was a fair amount of snow in the northeast and Karcag to grant us a white Christmas.  This morning Elder Molnar's uncle took us on a tour of Karcag and to the cemetery so that Elder Molnar could visit the graves of many of his ancestors.  Afterwards we met and visited with three more of his relatives, had lunch, and began our return journey to Szekesfehervar.  The journey and experience of Karcag was my miracle.  (This morning we actually spent an hour answering questions and talking about the Church.  None of them were members, and we hope we left something there through our words, example, and the two Book of Mormon's we gave them).  Upon returning we had 2-3 hours to play games with the other Elders.  It's a little earlier than the past two nights, but still after midnight.  Transfer calls come tomorrow morning.  I guess we'll see what lies in wait for me in the coming weeks.  Funny how much life can change by a quick two minute phone call.

Tuesday, 27 December
Whew, what a day.  So, transfer calls came this morning: I'm staying with Elder Molnar.  I'm about the only one that called that (but, even then, I only put it at 70%).  In other news, Elder Nealy is going to white-wash train in Szolnok, Elder Remy is coming to replace him (Elder Remy greenie-d here, so he's familiar with the city), and Elder Moffett is going to be the Zone Leader in Szeged, which was his #1 choice, and one he never thought he would get.  Other than that, two other defining things happened today: K lost his job, and two members who were in a long relationship broke off their engagement.  We spent a couple hours at the Branch House trying to talk to and comfort one of the members.  My miracle was staying with Elder Molnar for another transfer.  We still are both needed here.

Wednesday, 28 December
Today's been an equally dramatic day as yesterday.  As today was Elder Nealy's last day here, some members put on a large breakfast for all of us of waffles, fruit, palacsintas, and, at Elder Nealy's request, muffins.  We also did our own short, private party with just us and the other Elders in the evening.  After the breakfast we had a great lesson with B on our Heavenly Father's love.  We also gave her a copy of "Preach My Gospel", and told her that we would like her and B to team-teach the two of us the first five lessons during the next couple weeks.  It should go really well.  We met with K and discussed the situation with his job.  We brought up faith and trials.  I hope everything goes well.  We ran into L on the street and he asked to reschedule for tomorrow.  We then spent two hours with the member again.  She's still super depressed, but I feel like she's beginning to move towards getting better.  Last of all, we taught R, N, and a new friend they brought, S.  My miracle that I want to remember was the opportunity to serve around and my experiences with Elder Nealy.  I get to meet my new district member, Elder Remy, tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 December
Today we met with L, where I conducted a lesson on "Knowledge".  In addition to our one successful lesson, we had some (3) dogs today.  We also tried going to the internet cafe so we could advertise the New Year's party on Facebook.  However, their internet connection is currently broken.  While our programs faltered, Elder Molnar and I experienced much more success than usual while streeting.  Elder Remy came today and I got to meet him for an hour or so in the evening.  Last of all, Elder Molnar and I found a Turkish restaurant today, and having lived in Turkey for five years, Elder Molnar insisted that we try it out.  So, our District got to try some pretty good Turkish food tonight.

Friday, 30 December
Well, all of our lessons dogged today so it was a long day of finding.  We had two people in different buildings yell at us and tell us that they were calling the police.

Saturday, 31 December: 200th Day and last day of 2011
So, today was yet another Super P-Day.  We played games with the other elders this morning and afternoon, and I won every game (but not necessarily every round).  I also saw "Prince of Egypt" for the first time.  It was New Year's Eve, so there was a small branch party.  Apparently fireworks are legal in Hungary.  Yesterday and all throughout today people have randomly been setting off large fireworks.  Tonight I watched out our 9th floor window as fireworks went off across town (and even could see some from neighboring towns).  They continued pretty much nonstop from 11:30pm to after 1:00am.  It's now 2012!  A new year has begun.  My miracle today is the start of a new year and that I've been on a mission for 200 days.  Time's moving along!

Sunday, 1 January
It's 2012!  Happy New Year!  We went to church this morning (L came again), and then used the rest of our last Super P-Day to relax.  For the rest of the day we played games.  I won at least one round in each game and am still the undefeated champion of Scotland Yard and Monopoly since coming out here.  2012 is the miracle today.

Well, that's all I can think of to say today.  It's been a long email and possibly the most exercise typing it that I've had in a while. J   Hope you are all doing well, and excited for school to start back up.  Have a wonderful new year!

Sok Szeretettel,

Shipp Elder

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