Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May 2012 Letter (Bekescsaba)

Dear Family,

We are back to 2 hours of emailing today.  Yesterday was ridiculously busy, like we thought it would be, so we aren't going to get a P-Day this week.  We're emailing today, will shop tomorrow, and might go see something for an hour or two later in the week.  With more time available today, I'm able to finish last week’s email and hopefully all of this week's.  Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, 17 May
This evening the sun was actually shining down upon Bekescsaba for the first time since Sunday morning.  That alone makes today a fairly good day.  In addition, we went flyering for a couple hours, met with M and discussed the tale of Naaman, and also met with G.  G's program was again half-english, half-gospel, and he is still continuing to read and pray.  We are beginning to give him bigger portions to read.  This week in Angolora I taught Profi.  It is definitely my favorite type of English group to teach.  It was smaller, with only 4 others.  Afterwards, our only program dogged us.  Today's miracle is my gratefulness that God, along with Prophets and Apostles, old and modern, seems to have a sense of humor.  At times, even within the Gospel, that can be needed.

Friday, 18 May
Today was beautiful.  It was sunny all day long, but at the same time, never hot, nor too cold.  We met with E again and shared a past conference talk on 'temperance'.  We went tabling for my first time since coming here, and had some decent success.  Institute was tonight, focusing on Samuel and David.  For a miracle, I have found it great that although knowledge (worldly knowledge) can make one prideful, stubborn, or unwilling to listen to the counsel of the prophets, it is a Christ-like attribute and we are told "to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."  Many tools are given for our learning and mental growth and development.  We just need to make sure to use them in righteousness.

Saturday, 19 May
We had two programs and one cancellation today.  We met with B, a member, and discussed obedience; then Elder Vandermark extended the calling for her to serve as First Counselor in the Relief Society.  Our second program was with M, which was mostly just visiting, and had a short lesson on Potiphar's wife.  Like last week, we cleaned the Branch House for an hour or two.  We also took advantage of the nice weather and went tabling.  My miracle today is music and its power to uplift.

Sunday, 20 May
Today, our only activity was church; but between meetings, setting aparts, and a few other things, (like a broken window), we were there from 1:30 - 7:00.  I took a bunch of pictures of Bekescsaba afterwards.  There was also a running and biking marathon today.  There were a bunch of small miracles today: the callings and sustaining went well; we had eight males in Sacrament Meeting (three missionaries, the one member here, and four visiting from other cities); E came to church; and we had two investigators come – B and K.  I have yet to be in a program with either, but am glad and grateful they came.

Monday, 21 May
Today was Jonathan's 13th Birthday!  It's strange to think he's a teenager now, and I'm not.  He is my miracle today.  We've had numberless experiences and memories together, surpassed only by the other three members of my family.  During P-Day today, we went to the bank and post office as always, shopping, then biked out to SzabadKigyo ('free snake'), where Elder Vandermark and I accidentally biked too far, taking a twenty minute scenic detour.  Overall, we spent about two hours on our bikes.  We met the Sisters there, saw an old church, and toured the grounds of an old "castle" (more like a mansion).  We took a good number of pictures, and ate lunch afterwards, having a picnic on the grounds.  We biked back for a program with K.  It was a fun program.  She hasn't been able to meet recently because of finals and exams, which are still going on.  Our goal was mostly to help de-stress, relax, and uplift her.  She and M both came to Csaladi Est for 45 minutes.  We had a 25 minute spiritual thought and played a short game of "Timber".  Beautiful weather today: sunny, warm, with a slight breeze.  (We think the Sisters got sunburned.  I'm glad I don't burn easily.)

Tuesday, 22 May
We had three programs today.  First was D.  She leaves for Italy tomorrow.  She prayed most of the time this past week, but said she missed a day or two.  We discussed Alma 7, which she read and challenged her to read and pray every day while in Rome.  After meeting with her, we got Elder Vandermark's bike fixed, which I forgot to write, got a flat at the start of our return journey yesterday.  Next was E, a member.  We discussed and shared an Ensign article about Hope in the Atonement.  Last was M, where we talked about Acts 19, Matt 17, and the priests of Baal and how they relate to authority and faith.  In the evening the Szeged District (Elder Moffett, Elder Nealy, Sister Papritz, and Sister Kramer) arrived for the blitz.  My miracle is being with Elder Moffett, my "Dad" in the mission, now being almost halfway through my mission.

Wednesday, 23 May (One Year Left!)
As long as I don't extend, but go home after my 15th Transfer, I have one year (365 days) left from today.  So wierd.  So fast.  The Zone Leaders were here with us today.  I split with Elder Moffett.  We didn't have any programs today, so we had a full day of finding: tabling, streeting, and flyering.  Mildly successful; Utah-like weather, strangely – it went back and forth from overcast, to rainy, to sunny.  In the evening I got to practice piano more.  Elder Moffett and Elder Nelay both said I've greatly improved.  Elder Vandermark and I just had the most unique hour-long conversation about Mythology and Mystical Creatures – Dragons, Pegasuses, Genies, and Calypso.  Also, today I realized that at the end of next transfer, three of my four companions, and many of the people I've served around and communicate with, will be gone.  The mission will drastically change and probably feel empty.  Today's miracle was the conversations I had with Elder Moffett.  It was very good to talk with him.  We've both changed and grown.  I got to get some advice from him, and hear how he and his family are doing.  I've asked a couple missionaries about whether or not they feel they've accomplished everything they were supposed to.  It's been interesting hearing responses that have, for the most part, varied greatly.  Currently, I feel like I have a lot that I am still meant to and still need to not only do, but also learn.

Thursday, 24 May
Today we had three programs which all went through.  The first was with G.  For a lesson we read and shared a message about 2 Nephi 11.  Second was M.  We haven't met with him since my first day here.  When we last met, he had been planning and preparing to move to Austria; however, today we learned things changed and he is now staying.  So, we'll get to meet with him more in the future.  In the evening was Angolora.  This afternoon, Elder Vandermark and I went tabling, during which two unique things happened.  The first was that a man approached us, giving us each an ice cream cone, told us he was an investigator years ago, and that he and his two sons are moving to the States next month.  He let us know he took all the lessons, likes the Church, hopes his sons will join it, but he isn't ready to give up drinking wine yet.  The other was I finally got to meet B.  He's one of our investigators from the United States.  My miracle today is The Armor of God.  It's always been a little cooler to me, I feel, because of my love of fencing.  The miracle, more particularly, is that we can receive and put on the "whole" armor of God.  We don't just receive one or two pieces; we don't get a kinked, worn, hand-me-down vest.  God loves us and is willing to give each one of us our own shining, radiant, full-suit of defense.

Friday, 25 May
Like yesterday, we had three programs.  First was E.  Her son is so cute.  She also had a 110 year-old piano I got to play.  For a lesson, just as with G, we discussed and read 2 Nephi 11, pointing out all the different titles and how many references there are to Christ.  The Book of Mormon is scripture and really does testify of Christ.  We had a program with G and shared a message about prayer, scripture reading, Church attendance, and testimonies, using an object lesson.  Last was Institute which was about friendship, using the story of Jonathan and David as an example.  We also made new Angolora flyers between programs.  The miracle of today is that I just read an Ensign article about Gratitude.  Gratitude is an attribute and habit that I need to develop, and the article helped me try to think of someone I haven't given enough thanks to.  The ones that first came to mind were my fencing coaches: Julie and Bethany.  Fencing has been such a big part of my life and they have been such a big part of fencing.  Thank you Julie, and thank you Bethany, for always supporting and helping me during my 14 ½ years of fencing.

Saturday, 26 May
We spent some time this morning cleaning for inspections, during which I discovered that the ants had reappeared at a different part of the apartment.  I am grateful for vacuums and insecticide.  The actual inspections went well.  Afterwards the Adams took us to Tesco to shop.  It made me grateful for cars.  They also drove us out to Gyula to visit a member with them and help translate.  There are three K's in the Branch.  This one has been a member for almost 17 years and is currently the Primary President.  We shared 2 Nephi 11 once again.  Elder Vandermark and I biked out to a different member's after to deliver the Baughmans' talks for tomorrow, as that member will be helping to translate.  We met with G again and talked about putting off the natural man to become a Saint.  Her program was followed by cleaning the Branch House.  D arrived after and will be staying with us until Tuesday.  He's a member from Veszprem and served a mission here in Hungary (he's Hungarian).  While he was serving, he was the Branch President here with Elder Moffett as his companion.  My miracle today is the fantastic inventions of pen and paper that allow me to so conveniently keep my journal and write in it each night.

Sunday, 27 May
The main part of today was Sacrament Meeting.  President and Sister Baughman came and spoke to our Branch.  Sister Baughman spoke first about “Looking to God During Adversity”.  President Baughman then spoke.  He started by giving me a very large and uplifting compliment.  He said that earlier during the meeting he had envisioned himself twenty years in the future walking down the streets of Salt Lake and meeting me, who had graduated from BYU, become a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, was married and had several children; then he said his first thought while walking towards me was remembering back to sitting in the Bekescsaba Chapel, witnessing one of the most courageous things he has ever seen a missionary do: me trying to play the piano.  He thanked me twice, once at the stand and once after, for trying to play the piano and provide music for Sacrament Meeting.  (Now it's my personal opinion that that is a lot easier to do than some of the other things I've heard or seen other missionaries do, but I am very grateful for President Baughman's comment.  It was the most powerful, most sincere, and most uplifting comment I have received concerning my efforts with the piano, as well as one of the compliments I have received on my mission which I consider most precious).  President Baughman continued by sharing how there is no true sacrifice for us in the gospel.  He gave several examples of how the Lord has fulfilled his promises that those who give up friends, family, and home will receive a hundred-fold.  Before his mission, he had a couple children, and a good number of neighbors; however he says he now has a couple hundred Missionary sons and daughters, and several hundred neighbors.  The main talk was on personal revelation.  It is both necessary for each of us and sets us apart from other religions.  That was the main part of today.  We had three investigators at church today: G, B, and B.  After Sacrament Meeting only four members stayed for Sunday School.  After church we had a program with D and M on Patriarchal Blessings.  My miracle today is the variety of birds here in Bekescsaba.  There are more different species here than the rest of my mission combined.  It's a smaller thing to notice, but I think it helps give life to the town.

Monday, 28 May
So, yesterday I left off talking about animals; well, today they were everywhere – and not just birds.  First, I've forgotten to write previously that we see storks almost every day.  Their nests are everywhere: on roof tops, on school chimneys, and most often on telephone poles.  I'd say we see two to three a day on average.  When we went to the mansion, we passed ten to twenty (each way).  They are my favorite birds here, just because they are so huge.  I'm pretty sure I'll see more storks here than I will in the next 80 years of my life.  In addition to the usual storks, cats, and dogs, we also saw two giant stag beetles, a bright lizard that was greener-than-grass, several dozen large snails (bigger than my big toe), and two porcupines.  All of them were on the sidewalks!  (One of the porcupines was on our street too).  We had five programs today.  First was M, who didn't want to talk to the missionaries, so we shared a very brief spiritual thought and left so D could stay and talk to him and get him to open up.  Second was J.  We had Rokott Krumpli for the third time in the past week.  I led a lesson on the Sabbath Day and Sacrament.  Next was K (M's wife).  Like M, we had been unable to meet with her; however with D here, they both managed to find time in their day.  Once again, D took charge; but this time we were able to stay.  Hopefully the two programs help build bridges between them and help heal things.  D is a good teacher, gave powerful messages, and put his heart into it.  Fourth was E.  This was the first time her whole family was there.  It was also the second time I've had two feeding programs in the same day on my mission.  Way better than the first time in Nyiregyhaza.  All three of her children are so happy and fun.  The last program was Family Home Evening.  Normally today would've been a P-Day, but we had absolutely no time at all.  My miracle today is member missionary work.  Having the former Elder D here has allowed us to accomplish so much.  He adds a third testimony, fluent in the language; can speak better and faster, adding more to the lesson; and, because he's here, more people were willing to meet, such as K and M, both of which had stubbornly refused to talk to us during the past couple weeks.  Members are necessary for missionary work.

Random Note:
The bed here is 3 inches too short for me, so I've learned to sleep diagonal each night.  It gives me just enough space.  Elder Vandermark just curls up slightly instead.

That's all I have for this week.  May is almost over.  On June 3rd, I will be perfectly halfway through with my Mission if I don't extend.  Enjoy summer.  The weather still isn't summer weather here yet.  It rained the other day and was quite cold and windy.  That's it for now.  Email you all next week.

Sok Szeretettel,

Shipp Elder

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