Monday, April 30, 2012

Excerpts from The Book of 1000 and 1 Testimonies

Dear Family,

So, this is the reason behind there being no blog post.  Instead I decided to type up and e-mail you all spiritual thoughts I wrote down in my little thought book.  This is supposed to take the place of this week's blog.  I hope you (and everyone else that reads it enjoys it).  I'm not sure how often I will do this in the future.  I hope you enjoy it.

Excerpts from the Book of 1000 and 1 Testimonies

The missionary effort is a wonderful one.  It is filled with trials to overcome and progress, sacrifices to be restored ten-fold, and tears one hundred-fold, lessons to be learned, good habits to develop, principles to practice, messages to share, faith to find, testimonies to give, and two years of life to live.  The work is always bountiful, although the results not always so.  Endless opportunities open to obtain better hope, closer kindness, caring charity, or introduce the Lord's saving grace to a spiritual sibling in need.  Any member, missionary or non, may strive as we bring people unto repentance, unto prayer, unto the waters of baptism, unto the congregation of our local ward or branch, unto great understanding and exceeding joy, unto endless love, and unto Christ and eternal life; the greatest of all the gifts of God.

One part of the Sacrament that I fear is often neglected is what the bread and water represent.  His body (the bread) was given and resurrected so that we too can overcome the first death; the physical grave.  His blood (the water) was shed as an endless, infinite atonement to open all the doors of Heaven and redeem us from the second death; the spiritual hell.  In the weekly Sacramental Prayers we covenant to always remember "and witness” of these things.  Jesus Christ is real.  He is the LORD and through him we can be saved.

"I cannot go beyond the Word of the Lord my God, to do less or more." (Numbers 22:18).  While the previous words were said by Balaam who was later punished, cursed, called a soothsayer, and killed, the words are still so true.  Since the beginnings of mankind, the Lord has spoken to his children, to us.  He has revealed thousands of miracles and commandments that have been recorded and thousands that have not.  The greatest and most famous of these are known as the scriptures.  In these holy texts are written all manner of commandments concerning what we should or should not do.  Each of us, having learned of the Lord's basic doctrines and having embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, has a knowledge of what the Lord our Savior has commanded and requires at our hands.  We know of their importance and that we should "do no less", lest we should disappoint our Heavenly Father with our lack of diligence or obedience, and stand guilty before him at the last day.  At the same time, "we cannot do more" than the Lord has commanded.  One thing that has often amazed me is the exceeding inclusiveness of the gospel.  The latter-day prophet Brigham Young described the phenomenon by saying that the Church embraces any truth, where ever it is found.  When truths and light are found, whether it be from prophets, members, or other outside organizations, the gospel includes it and the Church lays claim to it.  "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."  With such a clear, yet deep gospel, is it any wonder that we would be unable to go beyond the words of God, doing anything less or more?

There is a saying used in olden times, especially in The Pearl of Great Price and in the Old Testament that has stood out to me and that recently I have come to love:  "Here am I".  It may appear strange at first that this is most often used in response to a question.  When the LORD calls out from the burning bush saying, "Moses, Moses", the ancient prophet answers, "Here am I".  Likewise, Samuel gives the same response while living in the Tabernacle.  Even our beloved Savior in the premortal existence when asked "Who shall I send?" replied "Here am I.  Send me."  My favorite recording of that short phrase is one of the very first times we read it, in Genesis 22.  While climbing to the place where Isaac would soon be sacrificed he calls out, "My Father" to which Abraham answers "Here am I, my son".  On this occasion there is a footnote to offer an alternate, more clarifying interpretation.  It reads, "Yes, my son".  Think about that.  The duality of "Here am I" announcing our presence, whether physical or mental, accompanied by "Yes" verifying our understanding and willingness.  Each of us, along with anyone else who has ever drawn breath, has had dozens, to hundreds, to thousands of questions posed to them on quite the regular basis.  Among the most important of these are those related to a more eternal nature.  Be it a question in a Sunday School Lesson, a question from a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or even a family member about the Book of Mormon, where we came from, or what happens after death.  One of the most important questions is the one that prophets, the scriptures, and most significant of all, our Heavenly Father asks us each day: “Will you keep and live the commandments?"  When asked any of these questions, are you there?  Do you stop any temporary distractions, give them your undivided attention, and reply "Here am I"?  Do you give them a giant "Yes!" as you respond with pure, unrestrained testimony answering with all the energy of your soul and the penetrating power of the Holy Ghost?  I would challenge all of you to decide within yourselves and to make the resolve to hold this answer in your heart the next time a situation or question arises.  I would ask you to awake, arise, and respond as our Savior by saying "Here am I."

"Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given them; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them."  This verse, written within the Book of Mosiah describes the Nephites' feelings of joy towards their judges and liberty.  Comparable to the laws and society of the Nephites, we have many similar freedoms both temporal and spiritual in which we can and should rejoice.      We do not have the same government and system of judges of the ancient Americans; however we are equally blessed in our leaders.  Regarding civil and political society, we, like the Nephites, vote and elect our leader, the President, by common consent.  Within the governments of the Church, we have various presidencies, bishops, stake presidents, general authorities, and apostles who have been elected by God to be our leaders.  What a blessing that is, that our leaders are not chosen by "the height of their statures", but instead by the Lord, who "seeth not as man seeth, but looketh on the heart."  Ultimately the greatest and most important judgement we will face will be that final judgement after the resurrection, of which God Himself will be the judge.  Who could be better?  Or who could we be more blessed as having for our judge?  Just as this verse in the Book of Mormon relates to the rich blessings of our judges, it also connects to the grand gifts of freedom and liberty which we have received.  Today our land is praised for the various forms and wide degrees of freedom it provides and that laws that exist ever protecting that freedom; freedom to vote, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and one I'm sure we all appreciate, freedom of religion.  It was this freedom that allowed the Church to be restored and come forth in divine glory nearly two centuries ago.  It is this freedom that continues to allow it to grow.  Likewise, as we experience all manner of physical freedom, we are blessed with spiritual liberty as well.  The supreme Atonement of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, makes it possible for us to repent and saves us from spiritual death and sets us free from the bonds of sin.  We are given commandments to protect us from the wily traps and snares of the devil.  Yet, we don't have a Law of Moses restricting how many steps we may take or how we must sacrifice.  Even salvation, which we know can only be obtained by and through Jesus Christ and baptism in his name, still allows us great degrees of freedom, as we can keep his commandments by loving one another, offering forgiveness to our trespassers, caring for someone in need, or sharing and teaching those around us.  We have so much liberty to be thankful for.  We have blessings in judges and freedom, like the Nephites, to rejoice in.  Let us then rejoice in the gifts and in the divine giver of the gifts, our loving Heavenly Father.

NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

30 April 2012 Pictures (Budapest)

An Hungarian Ambulance

Monday, April 23, 2012

23 April 2012 Letter (Budapest)

Monday, 16 April
I'm tired and don't have too much to write today.  We went with the Senior Sisters to T's to celebrate my birthday (they brought a cake with a giant sparkler in it.  It was pretty cool).  We also played basketball with eight others, and had dinner with the two Elders Christensen and the Sisters.  My miracle today was I learned that after six years K was released as the Branch President in Nyiregyhaza; S was made President, with V as First Counselor.

Tuesday, 17 April
Today was crazy, and unlike yesterday, I have a lot more I'd like to talk about.  Our first program was with D.  In his program, we learned that five years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and told that he'd have two to three years at best to live (with medication).  Since then, he's made an unexplainable full recovery and it has given him more motivation in why he's living and his priorities.  He's to Jacob in his reading and today we taught him the Plan of Salvation and the third lesson.  We've set up to meet again tomorrow.  Our second program was with I.  We found I from the Area Book and he really is quite one-of-a-kind.  So, I'd say by far the biggest thing others have trouble believing about the Church is anything concerning Joseph Smith, the Golden Plates, and especially the First Vision.  I is the unique opposite.  He fully believes and has a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, the First Vision really happened, Christ and Heavenly Father are separate personages, that the priesthood has been restored; also that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  So, I'm sure whoever is reading this is probably starting to wonder why he hasn't been baptized or at least been given a baptismal date?  Well, how should I put it?  He believes in Joseph Smith a little too much.  He worships, believes in, and prays to Heavenly Father, but frankly believes that Jesus Christ, the Son, is overrated; that God, of course, is necessary, but Christ, not so much.  In fact, he was very quick to tell us not just once, but two or three times that Joseph Smith did more for mankind than anyone (except God), and gave us more than Christ.  Who would've thought that a missionary would ever encounter this problem?  (…and not even with a member, but with a new investigator?!?)  We still don't know how many of the commandments he keeps, and he says he works on Sunday and doesn't need church (the Sacrament doesn't mean much when you believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon more than Christ and the Atonement).  I'll just end saying it'll be interesting to continue meeting.  Other events include one dog, one cancellation, and one day more with my reading.  Last of all, the miracle today is uplifting music and its power to invite the Spirit and a good mood.

Wednesday, 18 April
It's done.  It's finished at last.  After 40 Days I have finished reading the entire Standard Works.  I also have 21 small pieces of paper filled with verses to mark.  Our first program today was with G, who was one of the new people in our Angolora class.  He received a Book of Mormon over a decade ago from a neighbor, but hasn't read it.  At the same time, his tale is somewhat comparable to Joseph Smith's in that he's investigated and studied all manner of churches looking for the true one, has read multiple religious books, and has about given up trying to find it.  However, he's already committed to start reading the Book of Mormon and continue meeting with us regularly.  Our second program was with D.  A attended the first half of the program to help us today as we discussed obedience and the 10 Commandments with S.  Other than that, we had palacsintas for the first time in forever; one cancellation; I saw a big fencing sticker on the back of a car; only one Hungarian (or one person for the matter) was at Hungarian Hour tonight, so we practiced Hungarian for only 15 minutes, then talked about the gospel for nearly an hour.  Last of all... pajamas, how comfy they are, and (today’s miracle) I finally finished my reading.

Thursday, 19 April
Today was Zone Conference.  It was probably the last Zone Conference that President and Sister Baughman will have (next transfer is their last, and they're currently planning on visiting each District separately instead).  President Baughman gave a really good training focused around "The Fourth Missionary".  Today's miracle is the amazing and very helpful ability to share and receive knowledge with each other.  Life would be so much harder if we couldn't pass to each other the things we know.  (It'd make my job as a missionary near impossible).

Friday, 20 April
We had the warmest weather today since quite some time.  We had two cancellations today; and only one program, which was with K.  The last time I talked about him, I mentioned that he never got baptized "due to working every Sunday".  Unfortunately, that is still the case.  However, today we talked more about Christ and even watched "Finding Faith in Christ".  K also read and prayed since the last time we met, and gained a testimony of prayer.  The second time we met, he briefly mentioned a friend from Austria; this man he had not seen or talked to in over a year, but he kept thinking about him.  So he prayed about it, and told us within three days the friend randomly showed up at his door!  He said he's been able to talk to his friend, help him, and re-establish contact.  It was quite a random, but cool story.  Afterwards we went tabling with the Sisters and the AP's.  Elder Schwieger and I had some not-so-fun people approach us while we were tabling.  On the way back, a cat nearly head butted or pounced on my head.  I guess my miracle today is that despite the stuff that goes on, that I see and that I hear every day, I am not "used to" bad language, filthy language, immodest women, or many other of these things.  There is a danger when one becomes familiar or numb/indifferent to sin, and I'm glad that that has not happened to me, but that I still find it all extremely wrong and flat out in open rebellion against God's Holy Commandments.  Last of all, I've begun going back through the Standard Works, marking all the scriptures I found.

Saturday, 21 April
Today was slower and empty, but wasn't necessarily a terrible day.  We started with Angolora, and actually didn't have a class for the first twenty minutes, then a new guy came (so, we had a class of one).  Towards the end we found out he's religious and at one point thought about being a preacher.  We've already set up to meet with him later.  We then met with K again.  We helped him with some English today, teaching him the Alphabet.  We then reviewed the Restoration, taught him about prophets, straightened out that Christ was not Adam and Eve's son, and taught him what Wi-Fi and Google are.  He is interesting to teach.  He's continuing to read and pray regularly.  We then went tabling with the two Sisters and the two Elders Christensen.  Hardly anyone was out today.  My miracle today is the quality of the scriptures (in its wide variety and level of teachings, its descriptive and unique language, its power, etc).  There have already been all sorts of things for me to highlight.

Sunday, 22 April
So, my thoughts about today are very, very scattered and hard to recall.  We went to church this morning.  An American came and sat by me (he's a member, and here as a tourist for a couple days), and so I got to try translating the whole meeting.  Afterwards we had a small choir practice for something going on this Saturday (to be honest, I actually have absolutely no idea what it is; I just know it's at 3:00, and we're singing).  This evening we had dinner with A.  We spent about three hours talking to him, and I really enjoyed the conversation.  He's given a lot of thought to many of life's questions, found his answers, has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and will always defend it.  Overall it was quite the uplifting.  My miracle today was adding a couple pages to my small Book of Testimonies.

No Blog Posts next week.

Have a great week.  (May is just around the corner and it's bringing summer along with it!)

Sok Szeretettel,

Shipp Elder

NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

Monday, April 16, 2012

16 April 2012 Letter (Budapest)

Tuesday, 10 April
I'm currently in Kispest on splits with Elder Lindelof.  Today we had one dog, we finally made it emailing, we spent a little time cleaning Elder Christensen's apartment to prepare for his Greenie, and we had two programs.  The first was with one of Elder Christensen's investigators.  The program got started really late, so we didn't have much time, but he seemed like he was a great guy and could make some promising progress.  Our other program was with the C family, (a single mother of a teenage daughter who lives with her boyfriend, and of two young sons).  Because we showed up unannounced (we only had their address), we kept the encounter short.  They are members and rotate through cycles of activity and inactivity.  We are going back on Friday to help establish Family Night as a good and faithful habit.

Wednesday, 11 April
Today on splits we had several hours of finding accompanied by two programs.  The first was with D.  He's a relatively new investigator and had only met with the missionaries twice.  He speaks English, has been exceedingly faithful in reading the Book of Mormon (he is in 2 Nephi), and has a lot of questions.  We taught him part of the Plan of Salvation, and the entire third lesson, accompanied by an explanation of the Godhead.  At the end, we tried to offer him a baptismal date.  He didn't accept the date, but said he has a few questions he needs answered first, and that he'll continue to investigate, and if he finds that he can believe our answers, then he'll get baptized then.  Due to three programs cancelling on us, we had a lot of time to go finding, and finished by meeting with D and her grandmother.  Her grandmother has been a member for years.  D committed to baptism long ago, and knows all the lessons, and keeps the commandments, however her parents are totally against it, so she is waiting until she is 18 to get baptized.  In the meanwhile, missionaries meet with her now and again to check up on her and be a fellowshipping support.  Today we all read the story of Daniel in Babylon and compared it to the Word of Wisdom.  In the evening we split back.  Elder Christensen's Greenie, also named Elder Christensen, came this morning, so we are back to just me and Elder Reese now.  Elder Skiba's Greenie is still in the MTC for at least the next 4 weeks.  My miracle is today I found out that K from Szekes has been put on Baptismal Date.

Thursday, 12 April
So, the last post left off with the miracle of K's baptismal date, and I have today's miracle to add: four different companionships here in Budapest all committed different investigators to Baptismal Dates today.  Our companionship committed D to June 2, and the two Elders Christensen committed Z's wife (we met with her in the threesome on the 3rd) to the same date.  Yep, so, we had two programs, the first one being with D.  He brought a photo album from his youth to share with us; then afterwards, shared that he's near the end of 2 Nephi, and that he also (surprised us by having) watched "The Other Side of Heaven" and really enjoyed it.  We taught half of the Plan of Salvation as well as the third lesson; he agreed to start meeting more often; come to church each week; as well as to baptism as mentioned above.  He also asked if it's possible to move the date closer, and we decided we'll talk about the date more in a week or two.  The program with D was a very fun one to be in.  Our other program was with A.  It was a pass-over program to the Pest Elders out in the Pest building.  During the program A had read the five chapters we'd assigned him in the Book of Mormon, and we tried answering his questions.  We also went off on a huge tangent on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, Fallen Angels, the Flood, and the Scroll of Enoch, all of which (with partially the exception of the flood), I know next to nothing about.  At the end we were able to get things on track enough to teach him concerning the Word of Wisdom.  He keeps all of it except for coffee on occasion.  He shared that he does try somewhat to avoid coffee, said he's already somewhat noticed that he's happier when he's not drinking it, and at the end he committed to live the Word of Wisdom.

Friday, 13 April (Friday the 13th)
For today being the 13th, it sure wasn't at all unlucky.  Today was Zone Conference for two of the Zones; and being in Buda, we went to the Mission Home and got to see all sorts of familiar faces before and after our programs.  I also got a few new songs on my MP3 Player.  We had two very active programs today.  The first was with K.  A (the first counselor in the bishopric) came.  While K was on a Baptismal Date two years ago, he didn't get baptized due to working on Sundays.  Thanks to A's fluency in Hungarian we taught K about: Adam and Eve, Christ and his birth and life, the Godhead, the Church's name, Apostasy, the Restoration (watched the video), and the history of the Book of Mormon; all of which he knew nothing about save some of the Book of Mormon's history, that Christ is our savior, and that he performed miracles.  He was absorbed in every part we (mostly A) brought up, and said he doesn't know much about all of this, but he always feels good and feels "energy" whenever he does anything that involves the Church.  He'll be interesting to continue teaching, but I'm looking forward to it.  The other program was with the C family again.  We helped the mother host their first real family home evening; took a Children's Book of Mormon to give them; read the first chapter of it together; shared a short spiritual thought; watched a Mormon Message; ate a small meal; then just talked and visited.  Both her sons are extremely energetic.  Surprisingly, both of them, though just young children are incredibly good singers, keeping rhythm, pitch, and memorizing several verses of songs.  It was quite the enjoyable evening (we were there for almost 2 hours).

Saturday, 14 April
Today is my last full day as a teenager.  That just looks weird.  We had Angolora today and broke our trend of a class-size of three, having four come instead.  The fourth member was new and we managed to set up with him.  Afterwards we helped clean the Mission Home, and helped F some more with English.  We went streeting for a while (no success), and had our Correlation Meeting.  My miracle is my journal.  This morning I read from the start until I entered Hungary.  It really is something to be able to reread several weeks of your life as told by yourself in just a matter of minutes.  One part that stood out to me was trying to read what my priorities used to be according to my past entries.  I'd say that in the past 11 months a lot has changed for the better.

Sunday, 15 April (20th Birthday)
Today was my 10th month on my mission, as well as (and more importantly) my 20th birthday.  I opened my package from Home to celebrate.  Alas, I am not a teenager anymore.  There's still way too much for me to learn and do before I could really consider calling myself an adult.  I have two things from yesterday and from today to report.  Yesterday I forgot to write that I saw my third fencer in Hungary.  Next, for today: D came to church.  He only, but amazingly, came to Sacrament Meeting.  The reason it is so cool and significant is that he was working from 7:00PM last night to 8:30AM this morning.  Church started at 10:00AM.  He postponed any sleep so he could come.  (It reminded me of K in Szekes, when she came to 9:00 Sacrament Meeting despite only getting 2~3 hours of sleep).  To those that desire the gospel, their eyes and hearts are opened, and they appear to make larger sacrifices than most members would to do, and try everything in their power to embrace it.  The second thing and my miracle (although the last one deserves to be), is that I have three days left to finish my 40 Day reading goal.

Sok Szeretettel,

Shipp Elder

NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

Monday, April 9, 2012

9 April 2012 Letter (Budapest)

Dear Family,

Happy Easter!  I have a whole lot to type today, so I'm going to jump right into the blog:

Monday, 2 April
It doesn't feel like anything really happened today, but I'll see what I can come up with.  This morning we went shopping and emailing, which both went well but not great.  We sat at the mission home for two hours not really doing anything except 'resting', which isn't bad; it's just not productive either.  One thing I've forgotten to write so far is that Elder Szabo finally departed for the States this morning, so Elder Christensen has joined our companionship until his Greenie arrives.  Our only program dogged.  In the evening we went to Janos Hegy a second time, but with a completely different group.  It was also cool to be there later in the evening, after sunset.

Tuesday, 3 April
We are still in a threesome, and thanks to our combined work, our week is full.  We had two cancellations today, but still managed to meet with A in a program in which we asked a good amount about his church.  Towards the end of the inquiry we shifted into the third missionary lesson.  At the end, we asked him if he would ever consider being baptized, and learned two things from his response: 1) his religion encourages them to study and learn about other religions; 2) while they encourage exploration, and even church attendance to different faiths, each of their members covenant to never be baptized or partake of the Sacrament in any of those churches (ours included).  Our second program was with a new investigator named A.  She's meeting for English; however, she also said she doesn't know anything at all about our Church, and would be fine learning.  It's too soon to tell anything else.  Our last program was with Z, who was baptized just two Saturdays ago.  We discussed temple marriages with him and his wife.  The highlight, by far, was learning that since her husband's baptism the wife has strongly felt like she needs to be baptized.  She volunteered herself to take all the missionary lessons and do what she has to in order to be baptized.  Their family (which includes them and their two sons, both toddler-ages) has already set a sealed, eternal family and marriage in the temple as their ultimate goal.  I found that I like the missionary work the most when it's like this!  The miracle today's a little strange.  In addition to falling nearly 150 pages behind in my scripture reading due to Conference and P-Day, I haven't felt terribly well spiritually as of late.  Reflecting on it, one conclusion I came to was that even with General Conference, something can be missing without sufficient personal scripture study.  Now I am halfway caught up (I had to read all of Luke, and all of John, and half of Acts today), and am feeling better; but part of me, for whatever reason, feels like life would be going better now if I had spent more time the last three days studying the scriptures.  I thought I'd be fine with 8 hours of Conference, but I guess I was wrong.  It is still a little confusing.

Wednesday, 4 April
Today was my Mom's Birthday.  Happy Birthday Mom!  We only had one cancellation today.  We had a pass-over program for F with the Pest Elders and A.  My miracle was within that program, we watched the Restoration film in Spanish which A had found.  Despite not being able to understand the language, it was surprisingly still just as powerful a message as always (even without the words).  We went and helped teach at a high school today.  It was a little weird since the class consisted of seven girls and one boy.  We discussed the differences of Hungarian and American schools, and nearly all the class voiced that they wished they could go to the States.  There really are so many hidden advantages and blessings.  We then taught an inactive member, E, who has not attended church for over 10 years.  Amazingly, she's going to try to come this weekend.  Our usual Wednesday night "Hungarian Hour" was cancelled.  We met A because he said he needed help and advice for some problems with his roommates at college.  Lastly, we spent 45 minutes or so speaking with Sister Smith's son.

Thursday, 5 April
We began today with a service project.  We helped a member for nearly two hours by digging up and weeding a heavily weeded area, about 10x6 feet.  The yard work made me think of home.  We had a program with G, one of Elder Christensen's investigators.  He had a lot of questions after reading about Nehor in the Book of Mormon.  He's actually said that he'll get baptized once he receives confirmation that the time is right.  We had one cancellation, and four people dog.  Because we are in a threesome, we got to help with Angolora again.  I gave the Spiritual Thought on the Resurrection.  My miracle today is that despite not having too much time, too many tools, or not really being a cook, I have somehow managed to keep a good variety to all my food and meals (and also pretty healthy).  I'm sure that last bit will make my Mom happy.

Friday, 6 April
We started our day by receiving three cancellations all before 10:00am.  However, we still had one successful program with D.  Both Elder Reese and I feel like we probably could've committed him to baptism today, and decided that it will be one of our goals for next week.  Our evening consisted of several hours of flyering, a correlation meeting (the first one we've had in almost a month), and attending Gofri Est.  In other news, two other things happened:  I finished the Bible today, and am now into the Book of Mormon with my reading.  Less than two weeks are left for me to finish.  Today's funny miracle was that I had a little free time, so I Googled Elder Christensen, and immediately found his mission blog.  I noticed that his emails from his whole mission were on there, including all of his investigators' full names and a bunch of pictures.  I congratulated him on it, and told him I would use it to learn all his secrets, and his reaction surprised me.  He asked what I was talking about.  I explained a little and he immediately hopped on the computer to look at it.  Pretty much, he didn't know one of his sisters had started a blog for him, and got fairly stressed-out when he realized that she had copied and pasted all his letters for the past 15 months without editing or filtering them.  So that's my accidental and hilarious (for me at least) miracle today.  Lesson to be learned: If you are going to put someone else's life on the internet, please let them know first.

Saturday, 7 April
We had four programs today, and everyone came (compared to yesterday's one out of four).  Our first was with D.  He's in his mid-twenties, works at an ice cream factory (I was a little jealous), doesn't really believe in anything, and today was the first time he's met with the Missionaries.  Despite his not being religious, he appears open enough that I'd say he's more promising than most.  We then held Angolora, and only three showed up again (two were new).  Then we met with K, a really 'intense' person from Szekesfehervar.  He had met with the Missionaries about a year ago, he's read a chunk of the Book of Mormon too; it's just hard to keep him in a spiritual lesson.  We then met with D from Couch Surfing.  It was his third time meeting with the Missionaries, but this was the first time we met at the Mission Home.  The program was all in English, went fairly well, and we're going to meet again to see if he'll actually progress.  We went shopping today since Monday's a Super P-Day.  Last of all, and the miracle, I'm now in the Book of Jarom and have finally caught up to where I am supposed to be in my reading.  Also, I found Jacob 6:8, which I thought could be a cool verse to hear someone read to a failing or dropping investigator.

Sunday, 8 April - Easter (US)
Today went well.  We went to both wards in Pest and in Buda.  On the way to Pest, I saw a giant billboard in the metro of a picture of fencing and a list of all the Hungarians competing at the Junior World Championships.  In the Pest Ward, half the speakers were in English and the other half spoke in Hungarian.  Also, not only F, but his inactive girlfriend came to Church and Sacrament Meeting.  It sounds like she's been inactive for nine years, but she said she'd like to begin moving closer to the Church again.  We then went to the second half of the Buda Ward, where something even more surprising happened.  At the end of Priesthood I was approached by a man in his twenties who I didn't recognize (but who looked familiar).  He realized that I wasn't sure who he was, so he removed his glasses and told me to ignore his beard.  I finally recognized Joe C., one of the only other LDS students who attended UPenn.  We talked for a while and I learned that he's studying abroad in Berlin, Germany for this school year; and since he's in Europe, he's been visiting the surrounding countries in his spare time.  It was really cool that I was able to be stationed in Budapest, specifically Buda, at the one time that he chose to come to Hungary.  It was great to see him and made my day, (although, I will admit, it was weird for a while, as he is the only face I've seen from past experiences since leaving the MTC).  What a small world.  Today was Easter back in the States.  Apparently Europeans celebrate it on Monday (so we will get a Super P-Day tomorrow).  I do feel a little bad in the fact that I won't be able to email anyone sooner.  I was hoping to wish my family Happy Easter.  (I hope everyone back home enjoys it.)  Elder Reese and I were invited with the other Elders in Buda to celebrate a little by going to the V’s family dinner.  It was fun and enjoyable.  Last of all, I only have 10 days left in my reading to finish the Standard Works.

Monday, 9 April - 300th Day on Mission, Easter (Hungary)
Yep, I've been serving for 300 days now.  That's today's miracle.  Today was a Super P-Day, so all three of us slept in, then joined 10 other missionaries for 3 hours of football, followed by a 3 hour break of games and a movie, and concluded with 2 hours of basketball.  It's been a very physically strenuous day; and most, if not all, of us will be sore tomorrow.  I'm tired.  We'll finally get to email tomorrow.  Happy Easter!  Good night.

That's all for this week.


Shipp Elder

NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

9 April 2012 Pictures (Budapest)

Elders Cox, Shipp, Reese, Abram, and friends

Elders Reese and Shipp

Caving - Group picture

A tiny little hole we had to crawl through...

... and the next hole to attempt.

Stuck!  Just like Pooh Bear.

Group shot at Janos Hegy

Our threesome atop Janos Hegy

Sunset in Budapest, Hungary

Me and a lit up Janos Hegy  (pronouced "yah-noe-sh  heh-j")

Monday, April 2, 2012

2 April 2012 Letter (Budapest)

Dear Family,

The past two days have been great.  I had the opportunity to watch four of the sessions of General Conference, (two of which were live).  I hope you all enjoyed them as much as I did.

Monday, 26 March
Transfer calls came today.  Like I had guessed, Elder Reese and I are staying together.  That’s today’s miracle.  Elder Christensen and Sister Skiba are each getting Greenies.  Elder Austin is replacing Elder Smith as AP, and Elder Carlsen is replacing Elder Christensen as Zone Leader.  For our P-Day, we went to a Tourist Center “Fuvamter”.  I found a good number of items I would like to get, but didn’t actually buy anything.  Instead, I recorded all the prices as Elders Mathews and Reese said they know a cheaper place.  Later, Elder Reese and I ran to our only program; however, when we got there, we found out she had dogged.  We ended our evening with a Riverside Walk that Elder Reese and I did at the start of last transfer, but we went with a group this time.

Tuesday, 27 March
So, a couple of things today.  I learned that if we didn’t have to hand off our two main investigators last transfer, then number-wise, last transfer would’ve been my second-to-best transfer.  However, as it was, Elder Reese and I got the worst numbers last transfer in the entire Mission.  Yet, I know we were obedient and tried just as hard as a lot of the other companionships and Missionaries here.  Unfortunately, once again, we have to hand over our two best investigators, so I’m not entirely sure how much better this transfer will be for us.  Two of our lessons called and cancelled this morning.  Our only successful program was with F.  Antonio came to help out.  He bore his testimony and shared his experience with the Book of Mormon, and his conversion story for a good thirty minutes.  All of us felt like the lesson went well, and F has read all the prefaces and some of 1 Nephi already.  The whole lesson was on the gospel and we didn’t bother teaching him English.  Things are looking good thus far.  The program was today’s miracle.

Wednesday, 28 March
Today was transfers.  We didn’t spend all day there as neither of us got transferred, making today a work day for us.  However, we did take some time to say hello, and went to lunch at ‘Arribas’ with a group of almost twenty.  We then met with a new investigator named D.  The lesson went well.  He is one of our three Angolora students; and despite being found through that, we spent the whole time discussing the gospel.  He’s never been religious before and it is really interesting to him.  He’s already in 1 Nephi 9, and said he understands it all well enough that he doesn’t have any questions.  We went to the “International Hungarian Hour” group for the second time.  There were only 5 of us this time: me, Reese, two of the mathematicians, and a new girl from Texas, who’s here majoring in “Transylvanian History”.  We spent twenty minutes at the end speaking in English (despite it being “Hungarian Hour”) about our Church.  The girl seems pretty interested.  She said she is “Protestant, but open”.  We then took A out to dinner, since he took us out last time.  He’s finished and submitted his paper, and said we can read it sometime.  When I told him about General Conference, he said he wants to come to as much as possible.  Despite being Muslim, he continues to say he’s amazed with our Church, and he expressed great interest and appreciation in our teachings of God’s Love and of Sacrifice.  For my miracle today it has to be in two parts – we are up to five investigators: D, I, A, A, and F (although we will have to give the last two to the Pest Elders, Abram and Cox); and, part two, all five of them are from English Class.  English really is by far our most powerful tool for finding people to teach and get them interested in the gospel.

Thursday, 29 March
So, first off, something I forgot to record yesterday was that, although we are supposed to have two Greenies here in Buda, one hurt her wrist and the other his knee, and both are still back at the MTC, leaving Sister Skiba and Elder Christensen Greenie-less.  It will be at least two weeks until either of them is able to come.  Today we met with a new couple: the M’s (we originally tracted into the Bacsi (the elderly gentleman) back on the 10th).  We met with them for two hours, had a surprisingly good program, and gave them a Book of Mormon.  Afterwards, we went tracting and streeting with no success other than building our patience and leg muscles.  In the evening we taught the other Elders’ Kezdo class, as they were unavailable.  It’s the biggest class I’ve taught in, but really, here in Buda, it should be bigger.  Last of all, my miracle, I’m on Day 20 of my reading and am at the end of Amos.  Halfway there!

Friday, 30 March
I’m in the New Testament now, halfway through the book of Matthew.  I’m on the second half of my goal.  Speaking, or rather, writing about goals, we had a District Meeting this morning, during which we only set one goal: to have more RCLA’s (Recent Convert/Less-Active Lessons).  Afterwards, we went out to lunch as a group.  Eating out is always significantly more expensive, and we’ve gone out a fair amount recently.  Our only program was with F.  We had Antonio help us again as we talked of The Plan of Salvation and of Faith.  He gave Antonio some Hispanic music, which made Antonio the giddiest and the most excited I’ve ever seen him.  My miracle today is in two parts.  First, we taught F how to pray; second, I had the opportunity to see and hear him pray for the first time.  Now, I couldn’t understand what he even said, as the prayer was in Spanish, nor have I baptized anyone; however, thus far, I would have to say that being present as an investigator says their first real prayer, communing and beginning a new chapter in their relationship with their Heavenly Father has to be the best and most spiritual and important experience that I’ve had the opportunity to share with anyone whom I have helped teach.  On a less spiritual and more random note, today was a “Garbage Day” of sorts.  From what I understand, for the next while it is legal to litter on any level, even an extreme level.  Pretty much, a large part of the population takes any garbage, any old books, papers, furniture, doo-hickies, thing-a-majigs, etc. and throws them in front of their apartment, and as people go digging through it, squads of garbage trucks make rounds, trying to scoop up what they can.  It’s quite the messy event, and oft-times has already resulted in us having to walk in the road instead of the sidewalk.  Sometimes there’s a strong stench.  This afternoon was windy which really made it fun.  That’s it today.

Saturday, 31 March
So, a quick run-down of today.  Today, we had Angolora Class for the third time, and like last week only three people attended: F, D, and one new person.  Afterwards we met with F (without Antonio this time), and talked about the trials and difficulties that he’s experienced while here, and a few before coming.  We then met with A to teach him the Plan of Salvation.  He asked a good number of deeper doctrinal questions, like whether or not it is possible to progress between kingdoms.  In the evening, we went to the first session of Conference.  A and D both came.  I really enjoyed Elder Oak’s and President Eyring’s talks.  Last of all, my miracle is that I’m trying to write 2-3 short testimonies in a little book every week.  I’ve realized that my little miracles have turned from what I originally wanted them to be.  Instead of searching and reflecting each day, outside of what I would regularly record, to find a hidden miracle from the Lord, it has turned into just giving the label ‘miracle’ to one of the main things in my day.  I’d like to change and shift it back.  So, today’s hidden miracle was the book, and a second is that, like my family has joked about in the past, it always rains during Conference – even on the other side of the world.

Sunday, 1 April
Well, no April Fool jokes from the Apostles during Conference.  In this journal (or for now at least) I’m not going to record my Spiritual thoughts about it.  Instead those are all recorded on five other pages (I might put them in here later).  However, I will include some other short tidbits.  This is the first time I’ve seen Elder Packer chaired; I loved Eyring’s polishing quote; everyone here in Hungary got an enormous laugh out of Elder Christofferson’s “Translate that!” remark; and I thoroughly enjoyed Elder Bednar’s and Elder Nelson’s talks.  I thought Nelson’s talk was one of the most humorous and practically presented.  Overall I’ve seen all but the Sunday Afternoon session.  It was an awesome day, and Conference took up our time from 9:30 this morning to 9:30 at night.  Also, A came to one session, F to two, and D to all eight hours.  During a break between two of the sessions, I talked to F, and was asked if he could join the Church, and when could he be baptized.  I went over all the baptismal interview questions with him and discussed with him the things he would have to go through.  Also, in a few short minutes I taught him the Word of Wisdom, which he said he already lives, except for the occasional cup of coffee.  With the baptismal questions he said he was good with all except he felt he still needed to change a little (he’s not completely sure if Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson are real prophets) and he still needs to learn the Law of Chastity and Tithing.  Can I just say I love Mexican investigators?  It really is sad to think that we have to hand him off to the Pest Elders.  I introduced the three of them to each other at the end.  The pass-over will happen pretty soon.  Conference was great.  My miracle is continuing Divine Revelation on both a Church-wide and on a personal level.

I hope you all enjoyed General Conference.  It is a much more special treat for me since I’m here as a Missionary.  It was also really nice to listen to them in English rather than Hungarian, like in Nyiregyhaza.  One talk that stood out to me was Elder Uchtdorf's talk on the importance of understanding "the Why" of the gospel and not just "the What".   I thought this one was probably the most applicable to missionary work.  Reflecting on the reason why we teach investigators and share the Gospel is our most powerful motivator to continue the work.  Also, the often quoted scripture in Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” shows that as we strive to bring others to Christ, we are literally doing the Lord’s work, and glory.  We are trying to bring about the eternal life of man.

That’s it this week.  I’ll talk to you all next week, and hope you have a good day.


Shipp Elder

NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.