Saturday, March 30, 2013

30 March 2013 Letter (Szolnok / Budapest)

Tuesday, 19 March
Two dogs and five cancellations today.  We might’ve set a record, and not a very good or desirable one.  Our only lesson to successfully go through was with E.  E came to the program and helped us as we taught about the Word of Wisdom.  The only problem that we are going to have to work on is coffee.  Not bad!  During Angolora we focused on living Christ-like lives.  My miracle today happened while we were tabling.  What I thought at first was an older couple (but later learned was a brother and sister) approached us.  What makes them the miracle is that we saw them drive past us, turn around, come back, park, and then come over to us.  They asked if we were selling Bibles, to which we said we were sharing Books of Mormon for free.  During a good conversation, we learned they both want to begin learning about God, having never been religious nor even possessing a Bible.  They each took a Book of Mormon and one for a friend who they said they would introduce to us later.  We also got both their names and numbers and they told us they’d love to meet later.  I’m hoping this does indeed go somewhere. 

Wednesday, 20 March (Three Months Left)
We got up this morning and left for Budapest.  As soon as we got there we went to the Leadership Training.  The main points there were to increase involvement and accountability.  Part of those two steps is to promote more exact obedience to the rules.  Afterwards followed the Zone Conference.  At the start President Smith announced a change in the email policy that now gives missionaries more time to email as well as permission to email any friends.  That’s quite a change, but came at an awkward time for me.  Being over 21 months into my mission and only having 3 months left, how would I even begin communication with any of them?  What would I even say to start?  During the rest of Zone Conference President Smith gave a training on the Missionary Purpose and Filter; Sister Smith gave one on Vision and the Book of Mormon; the Assistants gave a training on Managing Time; and the Zone Leaders gave theirs on the Book of Mormon.  At the start of the conference, I was announced to be the second-to-last missionary to be interviewed, but we ran out of time right before my interview.  However, after the conference had ended, I indicated that I had some questions.  So, President Smith pulled me into his office.  While we couldn’t talk about a tenth of what is on my mind, I am grateful for what we did get to talk about and that President Smith was willing to talk for a minute.  All of my “living” companions (meaning those still in the field) were there today, with the exception of Elder Headrick.  In the evening we came back and made calls.  Two notes I’ve forgotten since Monday are that the snow storm last weekend was a lot bigger in the west side of the country and caused all kinds of accidents, and that I’ve reached the current end of the playable Conference Recordings.  Also, today during the travel and evening I read an entire Liahona as well as over half of “Our Search for Happiness.”  The miracle of this day is that I went to Zone Conference with several questions in mind (some of which I’ve expressed in recent entries), hoping to receive answers.  The majority of these questions I planned to talk to President Smith about, and likewise, receive most my answers there.  However, while the interview was just brief, and while the five trainings barely so much as grazed a handful of my questions, I somehow still found answers to most of them.  Now I need to change those answers, which were mainly received in the form of impressions, into organized thoughts.  And then, for some of them, begin applying the answers in my life.

Thursday, 21 March
All four of our programs went through today.  Zero dogs and no cancellations.  Not one!  Our first program was with G.  Elder McCurdy took the lead for the English part.  We then finished the Plan of Salvation.  G has been reading all the chapters we’ve been giving him.  He’s also coming to the Easter Concert on Saturday.  After his program our landlady swung by, and said everything looks great and that she’ll bring some light bulbs.  We then met with E.  E came to our program to help teach about the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath Day.  Other churches’ teachings that E’s learned make it harder to teach her.  She reads and prays daily and will also be coming to the Easter Concert.  We met with T, talked about American Holidays, and about Faith.  My miracle today is that at the end of her program, T said her first prayer.  In the evening we met with Z.  He is still smoking and still hasn’t been paid, but now he has a new job.  B is also currently a candidate for a new job as well.  We talked about the Family Proclamation and temples.  Lastly, a second miracle: if someone were to ask me what I love about life right now, my answer would probably involve the fresh strawberries sitting in my kitchen.  I think they might be the first fresh strawberries I’ve eaten in 2-3 years.  To my recollection I haven’t had any on my mission besides today, nor do I remember having any at Penn.  I may have had some with my family at either Christmas Break or before leaving for my mission.  Anyways, strawberries are delicious.

Friday, 22 March
This morning we met with A.  She ended up feeding us breakfast as we shared a lesson on service and enduring to the end.  All of her family is coming to Szolnok next weekend for Easter.  She’s going to invite all of them to her baptism.  Afterwards we met with E.  We had lunch with her family and shared a thought about the Resurrection.  After her program, our day was empty.  So we streeted around Szolnok for three hours.  I think I may have literally been everywhere in Szolnok now.  My miracle today is that I finished reading “Our Search for Happiness” and the two newest Ensigns.

Saturday, 23 March
At 7:00 this morning I got a call from President Smith.  I’ve been called as the new Secretary, and have been asked to pack and get in to Budapest by tonight!  Surprise!  I did not think that I would be dying in the office.  I had to call and cancel all our programs so I could have time to pack and because we won’t be here after this afternoon.  We did still meet with G and talked about Faith.  Despite what we learned at the beginning about him and all his family (immediate and expanded) being atheists, G said that he does believe in God and that these things are important.  After his program we had the Easter Program.  In the program the choir sang for 45 minutes, and at the end I bore my testimony.  I then spent the next two hours saying good-bye to and taking pictures with almost every person there.  After the Easter Program we came up to Budapest.  I am so tired.  Things are going to be crazy here.  My miracle is that the Lord knows what’s best, and now I’ll actually get to see someone I taught after their baptism.  Hopefully I’ll see S tomorrow.  Well, here’s the beginning of the end; the start of my dying grave.  On to my last experiences in Budapest!

Sunday, 24 March
Blaugh, I’ve overloaded.  Being the Secretary is not going to be easy.  Going to Church was strange today.  There were so many familiar faces.  I didn’t see S, but I saw lots of familiar members as well as B (from Bekescsaba) who is not only baptized now but also married and the Ward Chorister.  I also saw Elder W, the Immortal Missionary, who I found out, has been living in Budapest for a couple months now.  After Church we had a program with a new member, L.  Today I received a lot of training from Elder Pendleton.  The trainings today mostly focused on the Hivatal (which deals with Visa’s and Residential Cards), Power of Attorney, and the Mission Newsletter.  No P-Day this week.  We’ll (as secretaries) be having our Preparation Day on Saturdays every week.  I had time to unpack a little in the evening.  My miracle today is that two people at church said I look happier now (in addition to speaking the language better).  When I was here with Elder Reese I had 4 transfers behind me.  Now I have 14, three and a half times as much experience.  But more exciting than the improved language since last time is hearing that I appear happier.

Monday, 25 March
More training as Secretary today.  I spent a whole lot of time reading through handbooks.  This morning we had a Staff Meeting with the Carpenter’s and the Smith’s.  I learned how to use a fancy number calculator on the computer, as well as put together the Mission Newsletter except for the Departing Testimonies and Baptisms which I will complete tomorrow morning.  I got to prepare several things, papers and forms, for the sixteen new missionaries who will arrive tomorrow.  The Hivatal (Residency) Packets are pretty crazy and confusing.  Elder Pendleton has been a huge help.  He has both prepared things before I got here, as well as helped train me how to be the secretary and answer questions since I arrived on Saturday.  Taking over the Mission Office would be near impossible without these few days of training.  My miracle today is that while I am anything but in love with the Hungarian keyboard, I am extremely grateful for technology and the great and many conveniences it provides.

Tuesday, 26 March
Well, tomorrow Elder Pendleton will be leaving and I will be going solo.  Today’s agenda was filled with more errand-running type assignments than the last two days.  Also, in the evening we even made it out tabling for two hours, which was nice despite our little success.  The most important thing I did today was to prepare for the new missionaries.  Tomorrow is likely to be one of the two busiest days this transfer (and possibly remaining on my mission).  To make things harder, my internet didn’t work hardly at all yesterday, and for less than five minutes all of today.  It has been a huge inconvenience and we have no idea when we will be able to get it fixed.  One of these days I will write about my new companion, Elder Bowen, when we actually have a real chance to talk to each other.  The sixteen new missionaries (five elders and eleven sisters) arrived tonight.  The largest group our mission had ever seen before them (well, at least within the past 3-4 years) was a group of thirteen, and only four sister missionaries at once.  Unfortunately, over half of them (9) had at least one suitcase get lost (13 suitcases).  They seem like a fun, friendly, and ready-to-go group.  My miracle is that I am on good terms with all the other Missionaries in the office.

Wednesday, 27 March
Crazy, crazy, crazy!  That’s the only word other than “busy” I have to describe the events of today, which was my busiest day as secretary yet.  We got into the office early to try to get a head-start.  Unfortunately, with the exception of a tiny window of time, I had no internet all the day long.  We were working all morning and afternoon.  The internet finally and briefly connected for a few minutes, just long enough for me to send my family a quick email before all the new missionaries flooded my office in a sudden storm that even Noah would’ve had a hard time staying on top of.  I was, however, somehow able to get all sixteen of their passports scanned, have each of them individually check some twenty different categories of crucial information for their Visa’s, and got all the necessary pictures and stamps (for now at least).  I still have nearly one hundred (ninety-six to be exact) places I’ll need to sign later, with an additional 64-80 places they’ll need to sign and date.  Oh the joys of politics and governments.  Six of the missing suitcases arrived at 3:00, but by 6:00 none of the other seven bags had been recovered, so President Smith asked all missionaries to depart for their areas.  Around 8:00 PM, the rest of the lost bags came.  Later we received word that one of the main trains had broken down and the missionaries on it were expected not to arrive to their new homes until around 3:00 AM.  I guess Elder Alldredge and I will have a fair amount of company when talking about crazy and long first training days.  My miracle is how much we can accomplish in life and how much we can grow, progress, and improve through our experiences and tasks.  Even after all the events of today and the past couple days, I still have a massive “To Do List” with over 50 significant and individual things I need to do on it.  However, all of it will be possible with some time, a lot of work, and the help of the Lord.

Thursday, 28 March
To begin, let’s talk about the weather today.  It’s been snowing since Monday and finally stopped today leaving about three inches on the ground.  Next, my internet was working for most of today; however, it was pretty slow.  I’m glad it worked though.  Because I actually had the internet I was able to update all the phones, the email lists, and deal with some of our packages which are stuck in customs.  I still had to call Elder Pendleton a couple of times for help.  During our lunch break, Elder Bowen and I cleaned our apartment and I finally unpacked more since we are supposed to have apartment inspections tomorrow.  In the evening we set everything up for Angolora, and then, a couple minutes afterwards, while we were waiting, we realized it was cancelled because of Easter.  However, four students showed up.  Three left as soon as they heard it was cancelled, but we convinced the fourth that it would be worth meeting with us privately.  She did, and afterwards liked it enough that she would like to continue meeting privately, learning half-English half-gospel.  Yay!  We have a new investigator, A.  We’re supposed to meet with her again next Tuesday.

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30 March 2013 Pictures (Szolnok / Budapest)

Pictures of the latest snow storm to hit Hungary...

All Six Szolnok Missionaries

With the Branch Presidency in Szolnok

At my new office desk in the Mission Home

Monday, March 18, 2013

18 March 2013 Letter (Szolnok)

Sunday, 10 March
At church today we had 43 in Sacrament Meeting, including A, E, Z, and a family of seven from Miskolc.  After Sacrament Meeting, all the Brethren brought in flowers to give to all the Sisters for Women’s Day.  After Church we went to have lunch with A.  We also talked about appearance and setting an example.  We then met Z and A.  After talking about Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, we invited him again to come to Church.  A said he still has waterpolo matches every weekend. 

My miracle is that we had very little downtime today and quite a busy week.

Monday, 11 March
Today was a half P-Day.  This morning we got our hours of studies in, including the new Mission Challenge of reading Alma 26 every day.  We also made it shopping, emailing, and Elder McCurdy received a haircut from Sister Herd.  We then worked until the end of the day.  During our emailing time, my main focus was on class registration, as it opens on Thursday.  Since over half my time was on that, and it was only a half P-Day, I had little other time, and wrote very short emails. It looks like I’ll be going for a Math Major, and a double Minor in Actuarial Mathematics  and Statistics.  I feel very good with everything my Dad’s found and put together.  In the evening we went to G’s.  After a spiritual message we helped put together posters for this Saturday’s Relief Society activity. 

My miracle today is my Dad.  He did and is continuing to do a lot for me concerning class registration (in addition to everything else he does).  It’s great to have a caring and helpful Dad!  Thank goodness for his role in my life.

Tuesday, 12 March (100 Days Left!)
Two cancellations and two dogs today.  Blaugh.  Our first program was with A.  Z came to the program and we talked about covenants and ordinances.  Later we met with E in a program in which E helped us teach about Church organization.  Angolora went well in the evening.  E came and shared a 15 minute thought at the end about the Relief Society.  I found out tonight that Sister Behunin has a terrible ear infection.  Hopefully she’ll recover soon.  

My miracle of this day is that so far I’m two-for-two in reading Alma 26.  I was told that President Smith and the Assistants said this challenge is going to change our Mission.  We’ll see how that happens.  Only 9 hours until I get to read it yet again.  

Oh, one other note of the day: this afternoon we got a knock on our door.  I opened the front door wearing full suit, tie, and nametag to see two older Neni’s from Jehovah’s Witness.  They refused to take a Pass-Along Card (since it’s against their religion), but insisted I take one of their flyers before closing the door.  Maybe I should’ve offered to exchange phone numbers…

Wednesday, 13 March
Three dogs and one cancellation today.  We taught at the school today.  If I leave at the end of this transfer, then this will have been my last time there.  In the evening was Seminary.  Other parts of our day included studies and tabling in our nice 18° C  (~64° F) weather. 

My miracle today is that I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing with my journal.

Thursday, 14 March
One dog and one cancellation today.  Our first program was with I.  During the program he openly expressed that he is afraid to receive an answer to his thoughts and prayers.  He wants to attend the next baptismal service, whenever it will be.  We then went to Kecskemet for our District Meeting.  As they are switching Branch Houses we were able to use neither.  However, we did find room at the library.  The Kecskemet Sisters were unable to make it, being at the hospital instead to try to help Sister Behunin’s ear infection and to help her not cough up any more blood.  I gave a tri-training on baptism, chastisement, and humble prayers. Upon returning to Szolnok we met with M.  She approached us while we were tabling on Tuesday and said that she’s gone from church to church looking for the truth.  We gave her a Book of Mormon and set-up today’s program.  In the program today we taught the first half of the Restoration.  She had already read a couple parts from the Book of Mormon since we’d given it to her, but said it was hard to understand.  Yet, the program went marvelously, and she said she’ll try to come to church on Sunday and would like to continue meeting. We had to rush the end of M’s program and then run non-stop to barely catch our bus to Besenyszog where we met with B and Z.  We talked with the two of them about the laws and connections between blessings and obedience to the commandments.  They both said that they’ll be coming on Saturday and Sunday.  The weather today was quite crazy.  Within the past 24-32 hours, it’s dropped 20° C (~36° F) going from the 60’s to the 20’s.  It’s also been incredibly windy with the drastic temperature change, accompanied by a changing torrent of rain, to hail, to snow.  Tomorrow’s holiday will be interesting at this rate.

My miracle today is something I’ve been doing for a long while now, but never wrote about before (to my recollection at least).  I’ve been reading from the Book of Mormon, “Preach My Gospel,” the Missionary Handbook, and doing recitations daily.  I’ve also been making it through all of the Handbook every transfer since Szombathely.  It’s been a long time since I’ve missed any of them.  Also, I’ve begun re-watching all the sessions of the last General Conference in preparation for this coming one.  I’m sure it’ll be a good one.  It always is.

Friday, 15 March (Szabadsag Napja - Hungarian Independence Day; 21 month mark)
Opening miracle: today is the anniversary of a lot of things!  It was also an extended P-Day.  During our studies and meal breaks I watched two sessions of conference.  There would’ve been activities and programs in the town square today except there is now several inches of snow and it’s still snowing.  So, rather than packed, all the roads and parks are empty and abandoned.  So, we spent our time playing games with the Sisters and the Herd’s.
Saturday, 16 March
Today was a slower day.  It’s been really sunny and over half the snow has melted.  Two of our programs cancelled.  It’s quite saddening that in the course of this week we never met with A, J, E, either H, or T.  Today we did manage to meet with G.  We talked about the first half of the Plan of Salvation.  Afterwards was the Relief Society program.  It went really well and we had a lot of people there.  We finished our day with Area Book work and finishing my review of the last General Conference.

Sunday, 17 March (Saint Patrick’s Day)
All the missionaries and the Branch Presidency wore green today.  During church both E and Z were there.  A is with her family in Szekesfehervar.  Choir practice was after church.  In the evening we met with A.  E came to help as we talked about baptism, the Holy Ghost, and the Liahona. 

Today’s miracle is that during church today Eva bore a three minute testimony about the Book of Mormon, and later A bore his testimony for the first time in our program.

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18 March 2013 Pictures (Szolnok)

Me at work in the evening....the kitchen got cleaned later (so don't worry Mom)

The four of us Missionaries

Us on the national holiday all patriotic

Monday, March 4, 2013

4 March 2013 Letter (Szolnok)

Monday, 25 February
Today we spent up in Budapest. After Elder McCurdy finished his visa work at the Hivatal, we took off on our own to do some shopping, emailing, go to Parliament, the bridges, and Buda Castle. I once again made it to Fisherman's Bastion, which remains my favorite place in Hungary. As we started to make our way back to Szolnok, both Elder McCurdy and I realized neither of our cards was working. Luckily we had some cash.

My miracle is that Heather has been accepted to BYU and is also a finalist in the Quinney Scholarship.

Tuesday, 26 February
One dog and three cancellations today. We met with I. It was just the three of us this week. We talked about his anxieties for the future, and how to prepare. We're still working on getting him to church. He kept his commitments this week, reading Alma 32 and praying for knowledge concerning when to be baptized. He's still waiting for an answer.  Later we went tabling for a couple hours. Angolora went well. Z came to our class with a friend. Afterwards we met with H. She did her reading, understands faith better, and has begun to learn about repentance.

The miracle today is that H said a beautiful closing prayer.

Wednesday, 27 February
Studies and calls this morning. One reschedule. We taught at the high school today. The classes went smoother this week than possibly ever. We had time to go streeting. Despite the rain, our efforts in finding were very successful today. Later was Seminary/Institute. Afterwards we had a meeting: the six missionaries and the Branch Presidency.

Thursday, 28 February
First off, my miracle is something I’ve been doing for a while, but have failed to write about. I’ve been trying to cook Hungarian dishes recently. I bought a cookbook a while ago and have already made four different meals from it. 

This morning we were supposed to meet with A, but we both went to the wrong location. We went to her house sure that we were meeting there, and A went to the Branch House thinking it’d be easier for us. By the time we found out, it was too late and she needed to go. Oops! Our second program cancelled. Next was E. Both members were out of town, so it was just us today. We focused on repentance. Also, she will not be able to come to church because her children and grandchildren will be there from Friday until Sunday.  In the evening we met with B and Z. We met with B and talked about the Atonement and grace while E talked to Z about the new program. Today was the first time I’ve tried to explain grace in Hungarian. Also, Z accepted the program. He needs to come every Sunday so he can meet with E to continue it. Lastly, today is Sister Suranyi’s birthday and we went out to dinner to celebrate, and the Herds made a cake.

Friday, 1 March (Over 18 Months in Hungary!)
Miracle first again. I’ve been in the country for over a year and a half now.

We had our District Meeting this morning. The training was on Service. At the end we set three goals: to street the very first and last person each time we leave our apartment; to study a scriptural chapter together each District Meeting; and to plan and carry out one planned service activity.  No programs today, our only one cancelled. So, we got full studies, and I made another Hungarian dish. The Zone Leaders are here tonight so we can start splits tomorrow. Also in the morning I’m getting a buzz before we take off --- in inches!

Saturday, 2 March
This morning I buzzed my hair, and it was indeed a good length. Elder Greaves and I then took off to Szeged for splits. Both companionships had four programs planned for today, however, our four programs in Szeged all fell through. So we went tracting all day instead, until we returned to Szolnok in the evening. On the other elders end, they met with all four people. A passed her interview and will be baptized a week from today.

My miracle is that this will be the first time I actually get to see someone I helped teach get baptized. In the past, I always left my cities before any baptisms.

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