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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