Tuesday, December 18, 2012

18 December 2012 Letter (Szolnok)

Tuesday, 11 December
Two cancellations today.  With I, we again talked about the "gate of baptism," as well as the Higher Law of Christ.  In our program with J we talked about different theories of men and God (such as Nehor, Korihor, and King Benjamin).  We met with Z one last time to have a formal dropping program.  He showed up with a list he'd made saying how he'd only met because we're American; how he will never be a religious man; how God does not help us, but leaves us on our own to help ourselves; and the eighth and final point, that he just "does not care about God."  Bummer!  We did let him know how much his friendship and lessons meant to us, and left on good terms.  In the evening was Angolora.  We sang and translated "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer."  My miracle today is that there are many Kingdoms after the judgement, not just heaven and hell.  I think that it is yet another way God's love is manifest for us in the Plan of Salvation.  He provides the Telestial, Terrestrial, and other degrees in the Celestial Kingdom so that all those who fall short of exaltation may still receive a state of peace, of glory, and of paradise – much preferable over the abyss of Outer Darkness.

Wednesday, 12 December
This morning I planned out District Meeting assignments, the training, and a very unique set of role plays that I'm looking forward to.  We had one investigator dog us today.  We had four hours of finding but without success in the finding part.  We met with Z in the late afternoon and helped her prepare for the Christmas Concert.  In Seminary we studied Mark.  My miracle today is enduring.  A mission is a great time and opportunity to learn how to endure, and to learn how to endure well.

Thursday, 13 December
This morning and afternoon we taught at the school again.  Since today was the last time we'll see these three classes, we talked about Christmas.  We had a very similar lesson as with our two classes last week.  In the groups, once again, from about 90-100 students, Family Time, Food, and Presents came out as the "most important parts of Christmas."  One group today said "The Spirit of Christmas" which made me happy.  Once again, there was very little thought about Christ.  So, what did I do?  I took ten minutes in every class and talked specifically about the "Spirit of Christ."  I also learned from all three classes that there are no traditional Hungarian Christmas stories.  The majority of them had never heard of “A Christmas Carol," Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, "The Gift of the Magi," and a fair amount didn't know anything about the Nativity Story (Christ's birth).  Nor did they have any new stories or traditional folk lore about Christmas.  In the evening we met with I.  Once again E was unable to come.  We had a chance to talk about Jacob 5, the Family Proclamation, and Elder Nelson's dedicatory prayer, all of which he'd read; then we commenced discussing Matthew 24.  The program got really interesting when Z walked right in, saying he'd seen the lights on inside.  So, he invited himself into our program.  I found out that he too, has a very good knowledge of the Bible and religious history.  Our two investigators taught each other for over an hour at a pace and level that, frankly, I struggled to keep up with.  I wish it had been in English.  Crazy and strange things happen on missions and this was one of them.  My miracle today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; "gospel" meaning "good news," or the joyous message and teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Friday, 14 December
We had our District Meeting this morning.  The Zone Leaders came to it.  Elder Loveday gave an insightful thought on being unified within ourselves.  During the training we focused on using many unique role plays to learn companionship unity.  Our District Goals are going well.  Everyone is doing all of them.  In my opinion, this was our best district meeting yet.  We all felt very good afterwards.  I also went on splits with Elder Clavel after the meeting.  We went down to Szeged and had two programs.  The first one was with E and V.  We talked about Tithing as well as following the prophet.  Our second program was with M.  We talked to her about Humility and Obedience.  Afterwards we went and split back.  Overall, Elder Clavel and I had about five hours in the car to talk.  We had to take a ferry across the Tisza.  That was a fun experience.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera.  When we split back, I learned both A and Z had dogged the other elders.  Ouch.  My miracle today is Faith.  Faith is a principle of power, and we receive it through the gifts of God as results of our thoughts, our actions, and the actions of others.  Faith is the foundation of everything we do.  It's something the majority of the world just does not understand.

Saturday, 15 December – 18 Months on My Mission!
One cancellation today.  We did a lot of work on our Area Book today, making over 150 calls and organizing it for nearly six hours.  I'm totally re-vamping our book, and when we're done, she'll be a beauty that radiates and shines.  During that time we found six interested people.  My miracle is that I've begun a study of Christ's parables.  Christ really was the master teacher.

Sunday, 16 December
First off, this morning the shower head fell off.  Rust had completely eaten away the inside of it, and when I turned it on this morning, the top shot off!  Anyhow, we had our usual Ward Council Meeting this morning.  During Church, I blessed and confirmed A a member of the Church.  She came in during the Sacramental Hymn, so after, we confirmed her, then proceeded straight to the Sacrament.  It was the first time I can remember anything being between the Sacrament Hymn and the Ordinance.  Not many members were there today.  Z didn't come.  However, the Adams's were there and they gave departing testimonies.  Choir practice today was a disaster.  Only two people stayed.  In the evening we met with A and discussed the apostasy.  We also began to talk about baptism.  The first thing he said was, "I've already been baptized."  I know like that sounds like a common thing, but I was a bit caught off guard.  The last time anyone said that was back in Szekesfehervar, one year ago.  However, we were able to partially address it and he knows it wasn't valid.  My miracle today was A's confirmation.  I've never had the opportunity on my mission to baptize anyone, but now I have had the chance to confirm someone.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

10 December 2012 Letter (Szolnok)

Monday, 3 December
Transfer calls came today.  As always, there were surprises.  Elder Hunnicutt and I are staying together.  We were both glad to be able to stay and this will be the first time I’ve remained with a companion since Elder Reese, almost a year ago.  The Sisters, on the other hand, will both be leaving.  One Missionary returned home from the MTC, and one other changed the date, so we currently have a threesome of Elders and a threesome of Sisters, and were forced to close two companionships, with the Sisters’ here being one of them (and the other in Eger).  In other news, Elder Alldredge is coming to Kecskemet and will be in my District again; Elder Headrick has been called as the new Zone Leader in Miskolc; and Elder Walker is replacing Elder Reese as an Assistant.  So, the major change for us is the Sisters.  We will need to absorb their work, their roles and responsibilities with investigators, English class, teaching at the school, meeting with members (such as the newly baptized A), and other odds and ends (like playing the piano in Church meetings and having a larger role in the Christmas Concert).  Blaugh.  There is no way we will have time for it all.  This could very well be the busiest transfer of my mission!  We still had to go shopping and emailing.  We went through Christmas Village and all the Advent shops with the Sisters.  At Csaladi Est, all the members were depressed due to the Sisters’ departure.  However, my miracle today is that yesterday I wrote that I felt I was still needed here, and the fruits of my efforts were hard to see; well, now I’ve been gifted another six weeks time to finish my work here and accomplish whatever I’m meant to do.

Tuesday, 4 December
One cancellation and two dogs today.  We met with I.  We talked of baptism and he said he would never be baptized.  Upon further questioning, we learned it was because he thought there would be numerous new commandments after baptism, and that it was necessary to have a perfect faith and knowledge before baptism.  So we continued discussing baptism and faith, but we need more time.  Towards the end we got a referral from him: another I, imagine that!  We’re going to try to meet with him this week.  Later, Z dogged us.  That hurt.  We had lunch with the Sisters and used it as an opportunity to hand-off records and information about their work.  In the evening was Angolora.  No one came to Kezdo or Profi today.  We only had four of my Halado students.  For 20 minutes or so we talked about Lehi’s vision and all four students committed to read 2 ½ to 3 pages daily this next week.  We had a couple funny parts.  One older gentleman asked what “Google” was, and the rest of the class tried to explain it to him in Hungarian, but he still couldn’t quite grasp it.  My miracle today is this marvelous missionary work we are involved in.

Wednesday, 5 December
Transfers were today.  Elder Hunnicutt and I went over to the Sisters’ this morning to help them with their luggage.  We were able to help them get everything loaded and take off.  In other news, it snowed today.  Not much of it stuck, but it was nice to have more white.  We taught at the school today.  Two interesting parts were that hardly any of the students had ever heard of Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer, and that in the classes we divided them into groups and at the end, those groups, (made up of 16-18 year olds), voted on what the single most important part of Christmas is.  Out of 9 groups of 4-7 students each, one said “no school,” two said “food,” two said “presents,” and four said “time with family.”  Despite it being His birthday and Him bringing the gifts in this culture, Christ was completely forgotten among the youth of Hungary.  After school, we met with the two I.  The new one is an English professor.  He had only read negative views of the Church in the past, but we had a fair conversation.  Afterwards we spent awhile just talking to I.  That was followed by Seminary.  In the evening we made several calls.  I called and talked to A.  The Elders in Pest had not yet talked to him, but he told me that he is very busy with his new job, and is too tired the rest of the time.  I told him there are about twenty Missionaries in Budapest and at least one companionship would gladly match his schedule, but he said, “no thanks.”  I asked if he still wanted to be baptized, which received a, “not really, but thank you for your time and concern.”  And that’s about how our conversation ended.  He said he has a life now, and is content with it.  In my mind I can hear Elder Holland’s voice, “Is this all my love meant to you?”  Now, my biggest hope is that in a month or two, the Missionaries will look him up, and he’ll open back up.  We’ve begun contacting all the investigators the Sisters gave us.  So far three of them are unable to meet in the near future (due to the Advent).  Tomorrow Sister Hudspeth from my MTC group returns home.  I’m about to become a Mission Bacsi and start my 12th transfer.  For today, the miracle is the Spirit World.  That is probably my favorite part of the Plan of Salvation.  Most people believe that after death we go directly to Heaven or Hell.  However, we know that there is another world, a world of spirits, where everyone from all ages of the Earth will have a chance to hear, learn, and accept the gospel, and thus qualify to enter the Celestial Kingdom.

Thursday, 6 December (Mikulas Napja – Santa Claus Day)
Today is Santa Claus Day!  We had one cancellation today.  This morning we met with A.  He is a new investigator from an old finding sheet.  Z came to his program, and we learned he knows her parents and uncles well.  A has a personal religion, but we talked about why the Church is important (such as to strengthen our testimonies, serve, preach the Gospel, have leaders who receive modern revelation, and participate or perform in ordinances), as well as Moroni’s promise, and prayer.  I then had a short time to plan District Meeting assignments and the training.  Our second program was with B.  He is from the Sisters’ English class, and they met with him twice, but, he said he has met with the Missionaries several times across the years and has told them (and again re-emphasized to us) that he will never, ever join the Church.  So, we’ve already dropped him.  So, out of the eight investigators from the Sisters, only three are left.  Elder Hunnicutt and I met with J and E afterwards.  We taught J the entire Plan of Salvation.  We also talked to him, like A, about the importance of the Church.  J continues to pray daily and read often.  Our last program was with I.  E was unable to come.  We talked of missionary work, families, and the living prophet.  At the end, strangely, he gave us a commitment to read Matthew 23.  My miracle today is temple work.  We cannot be saved without our ancestors, and they cannot be saved without us.  (Likewise with our posterity).  Temple work and vicarious ordinances are such a necessary part of salvation, and are especially crucial for those beings in the Spirit World.

Friday, 7 December
Two cancellations today.  This morning we went to Kecskemet for our District Meeting.  There we set five goals and I gave training on the triumph of good over evil.  Soon afterwards, we got a call from Sister Smith and learned that we needed to go to Budapest.  While on the train there, I called Z to follow up on his reading and praying.  During the phone call he said that he’s made his decision; he doesn’t want to be baptized or be any kind of religious person.  My miracle today is the resurrection.  One day we will all be united with a perfect body.

Saturday, 8 December
To celebrate someone’s birthday today, we had two cancellations and a dog.  We finally got a full morning of studies today.  This afternoon was our first choir practice for the Branch Christmas Concert.  And, with the Sisters gone, I am the only one that knows how to play any Hymns.  So, once again I am the Branch Pianist.  Today’s miracle is that we shouldn’t judge others.  One day we will all be judged, but it will be by a fair and just judge, our Heavenly Father.

Sunday, 9 December
A wasn’t at church today, so she still hasn’t been confirmed.  However, one member, P, just returned to the Branch from serving a full-time mission in Spain.  After church was choir practice.  I’m starting to get a good grasp on playing most of the songs on the piano.  Afterwards we had weekly planning.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

3 December 2012 Letter (Szolnok)

Sunday, 25 November
A and Z came to Church.  It was great to see both of them there.  Today was actually my first time meeting A.  Like Z, he said he was coming to Church last week, but didn't make it until today.  I found A off a Finding Sheet from three years ago.  Like Z, all we knew was his name (and just his first name, not his family name) and that the Missionaries tracted him three years ago.  Both Z and A stayed for all three hours of Church, during which we learned about Eternal Marriage, the Law of Chastity, and the Word of Wisdom.  We gave A a Book of Mormon and already have two programs scheduled.  After Church we stayed an hour for choir practice, then came back and did lots of planning.  My miracle today is that I am thankful that the great apostasy ended, the truth was restored, and that the earth is beginning to bathe in a radiant light of knowledge.

Monday, 26 November
Another early train this morning.  We went down to Szeged today for an extended P-Day to celebrate Thanksgiving, and headed there early to help the Adams cook.  Elder Hunnicutt and I were the first to arrive.  Around 11:00, we had two giant three-kilo loaves of french toast (a total of six kilo's before the eggs, milk, and toppings).  After brunch we went to play football and whip for a couple hours.  The Sisters started watching "Hugo" and we made it back for the second half.  Then came the full Thanksgiving dinner.  I was so full by the end of it.  Afterwards we had no problems catching our train back.  My miracle for the day would be the Restoration of the Priesthood.  It's quite something to be able to act in God's name.  Life and salvation would be kind of impossible without it.

Tuesday, 27 November
Today was crazily awesome.  We started our morning with I.   I asked about his wife and started working more for referrals.  While his wife isn't interested in meeting, and has what sounds like quite the negative view of the Church, I hope to find a way to get her to come to A's baptism this Saturday (and I too, of course).  Also, I is going to try to arrange an appointment between us and one of his friends this next week.  Hopefully it goes through.  We went to the bus station immediately after and barely caught a bus with the Sisters to go visit A.  The main purpose of our visit was for me to meet with her for her baptismal interview.  She passed!  She will be baptized this Saturday at 4:00, and this Sunday I will confirm her a Member of the Church.  Upon taking a bus back, (well, before the bus we found a Neni and her goat which Sister MacKay absolutely loves), we immediately ran into Z.  We actually split up for 30 minutes, and then met again in the Branch House for our program.  We discussed the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  We also talked about baptism again.  He said he's thought about it and doesn't care to be baptized currently.  I tried to challenge him to a baptismal date in January, but he still said no.  I asked him if he had prayed about it, to which he said he's prayed, but never about baptism.  We gave him a challenge to pray sincerely three times this next week just about baptism.  Then, we'll ask again next week.  We'll be praying for it too.  Finally, after Z's program we had an hour to plan and study.  (We left our apartment around 7:40 this morning).  Angolora was tonight.  We didn't talk about the Articles of Faith at all, but I shared a 10-minute Spiritual Thought and successfully committed each of my students (A being one of them) to read 1 Nephi 8 by next time.  Lastly today we met with A.  I have to write "Wow!"  He has a baptismal date for December 15, in two weeks.  Right off the bat I asked if he'd like to be baptized and he said yes, and asked how soon it would be possible.  We outlined all that we need to teach and all he needs to do to be baptized.  We are planning on nine programs, three a week.  Tonight we taught him about the Godhead (he previously believed in the Trinity out of tradition).  We also taught every single part of the Restoration.  It helped that he had already read all the prefaces since receiving the Book of Mormon on Sunday.  We asked about the lessons from Sunday about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity.  He answered that he's already and will continue to keep both.  We have another program set up for tomorrow and he's coming to Seminary.  We committed him to read at least 10 minutes a day from the Book of Mormon and to pray daily, particularly about Joseph Smith's First Vision and the Book of Mormon.  He said he probably will have time to read the Book of Mormon an hour a day!  Lastly and most importantly, we taught him how to pray.  He said his first personal and uttered prayer.  For today's miracle can it get much bigger than that?  So, today was awesome!  I hope your day was/is too.

Wednesday, 28 November
Two cancellations and two dogs today.  Ouch!  A was one of the two dogs, but two hours later we managed to get a hold of him and find out that he's in Pest for three days.  So, we made a couple hours of calls today, and had Seminary in the evening.  Not much else today.  My miracle is that like today, life is all a part of a bigger plan.

Thursday, 29 November
I am currently in Kecskemet on splits with Elder Moses.  The splits began this morning in front of the Szolnok Train Station.  After taking a train back to here, I had a baptismal interview with M, one of the Sisters' investigators who will be baptized at the end of next week.  Like everyone else I've ever interviewed, he was awesome, prepared, and excited.  We then met with P and taught about Repentance, the Atonement, and Prayer, and extended the commitment to pray daily.  Next we met with K.  A man whose dream for 10 years has been to sell one of his houses so he can afford to travel to Salt Lake City and be baptized there.  We talked about the Word of Wisdom and Fasting.  I enjoyed meeting with him, but he is extremely stubborn.  There was going to be a Missionary meeting tonight, but it was cancelled.  Elder Moses and I took two hours to organize the Area Book instead.  My miracle for the day is the Pre-Mortal Existence.  It is that we actually dwelt with God before this life, talked with Him, and learned His Gospel.  Now we're all here working to learn it again and remember it.

Friday, 30 November
Elder Moses and I caught a train with Sister Kimball and Sister Kennedy this morning to come to Szolnok for District Meeting.  The training and goals appear to have gone very well.  Our two programs today both cancelled; so, we made calls and studied.  In the evening was a youth activity that we went to to support.  They went over some basic kitchen and cooking tips and made pumpkin pie.  Today's miracle is the gift of our bodies.  Our bodies are not only temples, but are even more precious and can be even more holy than any of the other temples constructed by men.

Saturday, 1 December
One cancellation and one dog today.  We met with Akos and talked about obedience as well as faith, hope, charity, and what kind of people we try to be and why.  Attila was unable to meet again!  We've had to push his date back to the 22nd instead.  We met with Baksa Istvan.  He is very talkative; especially about the Bible (he knows a lot about it).  It was very good that Biro Elnok was there too.  Aniko's baptism has been postponed to tomorrow, and her confirmation to next week.  We'll see if I'm still around to confirm her.  Today's miracle is that there are eight investigators who have said they are coming to church and the baptism tomorrow, with another three who said, "possibly."  It will be wonderful if that many show up.  We'll find out soon enough.

Sunday, 2 December
So, today was a bit of a depressing day.  Only I came to church today, and only for the first half of Sacrament Meeting.  No one came to the baptism (well, none of our investigators).  It is cool I came for some though.  He's been investigating for over 3 years and today was his first time attending the meeting.  I also talked to A, and learned that he has moved to Pest.  I gave all his info to Elder Headrick.  Hopefully he still gets baptized by the 22nd.  After church was A's baptism.  It was wonderful to see her nephew be the one to baptize her.  For miracles and closing notes today, this afternoon I feel like I caught a glimpse of what Christ might have felt when, during his ministry, he used his time, his energy, and his faith to work, teach, and even perform mighty miracles, only to have thousands reject his efforts and, by the end, leave him standing completely alone.  I have worked hard, and for a while have had quite tangible results, but now at the end of the transfer and contemplating the possibility of leaving, they aren't so visible.  I know there are still blessings and many things I've accomplished; they just aren't in forms the eye can see.  Lastly, transfer calls come tomorrow.  I'll accept whatever the Lord calls me to do, but I am hoping I'll get to stay one more transfer.  We'll find out in the morning.

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3 December 2012 Pictures (Szolnok)

Aniko's Baptism

I found Sister Kennedy (from Brigham City)

Merry Christmas!