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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