Monday, January 5, 2015

Boldog Karácsonyt és Új Évet!

My dad informed me this week, that the bishopric (in my ward back home, I'm guessing) asked him to talk about missionary work and about some of I've learned and some things I do, as a missionary in the Hungary Budapest Mission. I figured I would just make that the topic of my blog email this week. I know... I've been out for almost ten months and I'm just now getting these things out, but hey, better late than never, right?
Honestly,  I'm not a very good writer, so don't be surprised if this email is everywhere!!

 What do I do in Hungary?

We spend a lot of time finding, my companion and I have about ten people in our "investigator pool" right now. Ten active investigators. Five of those ten are progressing. Lately it's been really hard to meet with people because of the Holidays and such. There are many methods of finding that we can do here. We tract (knock on doors--ten story buildings with five doors on each floor, give or take), street (walk on the street), table (set up a table, put flyers on it and talk to people walking by), bus find (ride buses and talk to people). Those are our main sources of finding. We are expected to get ten hours of finding time in a week. That sounds like a lot, but really, it's not. We usually don't have a problem achieving that. Time goes by super fast, when you tract a few ten stories or ride a few buses to get somewhere else in the city. The rest of the time is teaching programs to people. We don't have a limit of how often we can meet with anyone, so sometimes we have one program a week with a certain investigator sometimes we have three programs a week with the same investigator. It all just depends. We usually meet at the branch house, which is in a rented out building on the second floor. It's nothing fancy, but

As far as on my pdays and stuff. 
Sheesh, we do everything. We recently went to a members house for Christmas and they live really close to the Balaton, which is like the biggest lake in Central Europe. It's beautiful and huge. Christmas Eve, my companion and I were off, but there was nothing open so we decided to go shoot some hoops at a basketball court for a few hours. We met a really nice little boy, who just started learning how to play soccer. Good thing my companion is super good at Soccer. They played together for a while, and then I just shot hoops. You know... this is what we do in Hungary. Then again later, we met with him and played again. it was super good. On Christmas we had dinner with the Elders and then skpyed our familes. It was so great to see my family!

New Years, our branch had a New Years Eve party, we eat, and did karoke. It was super fun! We had a really really good time! Then the day after, we got some of our branch members and investigators together and we went ice skating. It was super fun.

 What have I learned?

Okay, first of all, I've been in Hungary for almost eight months! I can't believe how fast the time has gone by. I am officially running downhill now. I passed my half-way mark last year, and as I reflect on the things that I have thusfar experienced I am blown away and humbled by them. Hungary is absolutely stunning. It's truly beautiful, filled with much history. I look around me everyday and am just in awe with my surroundings. I could talk all day about the things that I've seen or places I've been, but really, I didn't come here to enjoy the scenary or be a tourist. I came here to be a missionary, and as a missionary our purpose is to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End." Although, I'll admit it's easy to forget your purpose as a missionary. I can't even tell you about all the cool people I've met since I've been here. For example, right now I am in Székesfehérvár (second transfer here--fourteen weeks and counting). It's safe to say that I've gotten really comfortable with the area and people here. We actually meet with a lot of young people right now, and I'll admit, when you talk to young people on a daily or weekly basis, the desire to just hang out with them is there. We talk often and they're just so willing to help us with the language and anything we need. All of our investigators at one time or another have said to us, if you need ANYTHING just call me! It's so nice! I often have to remind myself that I'm not out here to make friends, but I am here to teach them about their Heavenly Father who loves them so much. I really love these people and I want them to find the same peace, joy and happiness that I receive from this gospel, so that's what keeps me going and as much as I would love to be best friends with all of my investigators, and just chill with them, it's equally important that they form that relationship with someone who knows them better than I do, better than I could ever know them, honestly. 

A little about teaching: We are actually teaching two people right now, that are super religious. One of them is baptista (baptist), we will call him (SA) and the other is pünkosdi (pentacostal), we will call him (SI). It's not been easy. We actually went to our pünksodi investigators church the other week and it was really really interesting. SI's dad is actually the preacher and the leader of the pünksodi church here in Székes and we talked with him on the way over there and he was telling us about how God told him that he needed to build a pünkosdi church in Székesfehérvár. When we teach about the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, we obviously talk about prophets and the two things God gives prophets which are Revelation and the power to act in Jesus Christ's name. We have definitely had interesting conversations with SI. Of course we respect each others beliefs and have an open conversation about things, but recently we've just had a rough time. SA is another one of our investigators that is very devoted to his church, but he investigated the church for a while, he had a set baptism date and everything and then a few days before his baptism he called it off and said that he needed to think, then joined the baptist church. Basically, my point with all this is that I've met a lot of people here in Hungary who are very devoted to their religion. Two-thirds of the people in Hungary are Roman Catholic. Then, of course, there are other religions too. I think I've learned that people in Hungary are very open to speaking with us even if they're another denomination, and they're interested in what we believe as Mormons. SA and SI have both told us that they are open to speak about our beliefs and such but that they would like to stay baptist/pünkosdi. I heard before I came to Hungary that Hungarians are closed off and not very open, but honestly, from all my experiences so far, I feel like they are more open than people give them credit for. There have been a few times that my companion and I would go tracting and we would tract into somebody who is roman catholic, methodist, baptist, some other religion, but we would still talk about the Book of Mormon and at the end we ended up giving them a copy of the Book of Mormon with them commiting to read it. Do we always get a phone number or let in from it? No, but they accepted it.

We have another investigator, we'll call him NT. NT met with the missionaries about three years ago. The first contact he had with the missionaries was on the street when he had an Angol Ora (English Class) flyer given to him by a couple of elders. He told us his story and it's quite interesting. Three years ago, he got an English Class flyer, he put it in his pocket, with the intent of throwing it away when he got home. When he got home, he reached into this pocket and pulled out the paper. When he went to throw it away, he said, he just couldn't let go of it. Eventually he came to English Class for the first time and met the missionaries, he felt really good when he was around them, eventually it became winter time and the weather got really bad, but NT still wanted to go to English Class, even when it was blizzarding. He just had such a strong desire to go to English Class. He told us of one time that the weather was so bad. It was snowing and the wind was blowing really hard, but he knew he needed to go to English Class. He went out and the wind would literally blow him off his feet, causing him to fall on his butt, on the ice. He said he literally slid all the way to English Class on his butt. He would get up a little ways, cautiously walk on the ice, and then it would blow him down and he would slide a little way, he did that all the way to the Branch House. He was the only one who came to English Class during that weather, but he came. The missionaries had a lot of one on one time with him, and started talking to him about the gospel. Although he hasn't yet accepted the gospel, he still to this day believes that God gave him those missionaries, who gave him the English Class flyer and since that, his life has changed a lot. We are still teaching him, but he realizes that he has changed since meeting with the missionaries, a good change.

There are people here in Hungary searching for the truth and their run-in with the missionaries is not just an "accident." God knows, he knows who we need to find and who needs to find us and then he provides a way so that happens. 

I want to talk a little about member missionary work.
EVERY MEMBER IS A MISSIONARY AND SHOULD BE ENGAGED IN THIS WORK. I have a HUGE testimony of member missionary work and how important it is. I'll admit, when I was back at home I didn't go on splits too much with the missionaries, I didn't give referrals to the missionaries back at home, but I SHOULD HAVE. Us, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints , have the responsibility to bring others unto Christ. One of my favorite general conference talks of my life is Elder Ballards "Following Up" talk in the April 2014 General Conference. He talks about how each member can be a missionary he says this, "To help you in this process, I invite all members, regardless of your current calling or level of activity in the Church, to obtain a copy of Preach My Gospel. It is available through our distribution centers and also online. The online version can be read or downloaded at no cost. It is a guidebook for missionary work—which means it is a guidebook for all of us. Read it, study it, and then apply what you learn to help you understand how to bring souls to Christ through invitation and follow-up. As President Thomas S. Monson has said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”I love this so much. You don't need a black nametag to be a missionary in this church. Just by our actions alone as members, we can serve the Lord as missionaries. I
I want to share a quick experience that I had a few weeks ago when I went to the Pünkosdi church with our SI. First of all, all of you who don't know SI, he's probably the sweetest person ever. He loves God and Jesus Christ and has grown up in a very religious family. When he invited us to his church, I was excited. I really wanted to go. Before we went, he explained to us in the car what it would be like, and what they usually do. It made us feel a lot more comfortable knowing what was going to happen than to just go into it blindly. As we pulled up to the church and SI parked the car, we walk to the door and SI goes in first, I think we were expected because when we walked in, everybody (literally) came up to us and said hi to us. The younger people (our age) all came up and shook our hands and were just so incredibly nice. I was so amazed. Everybody was just soooo nice. We sat down and after the service all of the younger people came and pulled their chairs next to us and we ended up just talking for an additional hour. They had a lot of questions about us and what we do as missionaries, etc. When my companion and I went home that following night, we realized how important it is on the missionaries and members part to make the investigator feel welcomed. I can count a number of times that, I saw somebody new back at home, at church and I just said to myself, "hmm, I've never seen her before...she must be visiting," and that's it. I didn't make any attempt to say hi or introduce myself or anything. I have seen this in Hungary too, but we all do it. I just know now how important it is to make people feel welcome. Having your investigator come to church is one of the greatest moments in your teaching, because it really shows their faith, in what your teaching and in their Heavenly Father. I would hate to bring an investigator to church and then have them go back to their friends afterwards and say, "Yeah, I went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and nobody, besides the missionaries said hi to me..." 
Now that I've been in Hungary for a while, I know how much harder the work is when members do not participate in missionary work. It makes it a lot harder. When people willingly help, they show their support and love for the missionaries, but more importantly God and His work. 

I wear a name tag, everyday that says Whitaker Nővér and it doesn't just have my name on it, but it has Jézus Krisztus on it as well. By wearing my name tag, I represent Christ just like every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Shouldn't we all be Christ-like in words, thoughts and actions? I've met too many people here that have been offended by someone's words or actions. Be smart and act as if Jesus Christ was standing beside you.

Do you notice the difference in length. I definitely feel like I've learned a lot more than I've done. You definitely learn a lot in the mission field. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission. It's been one of the biggest blessings in my life!

I could stay here all day and tell you about experience and lessons I've learned since being in the beautiful country of Hungary, When I get back I will definitely fill all of you in! These are just the ones that come to my mind now. I hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks everyone for emails, letters and the support

Szeretlek benneteket,
Whitaker Növér

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