June 29, 2014

A very large apartment building in Kaposvár.  This is a typical apartment building built during the Soviet years.  They moved people from the country to cities (for more control).  Now many of these large apartments are sitting empty throughout the countryside of Hungary.  This one looks to be full. 
Every week can't be full of action and adventure.  It’s been a rather quiet and slow week and a cooler one also.  The day and a half of rain did wonders for keeping the temperatures from climbing and certainly helped the agriculture all around us.  

What are you paying for gas these days?   Here gas is around 416 forints a liter, which makes it about $7.20 per gallon!!  That's why we liked public transportation in Budapest.  So, we try to walk wherever we need to go here, also.  Twice Sharon has walked to the grocery store alone – a most liberating feeling!   

The zone leaders were here this week; which made 8 at our district meeting.  

Several teens who are friends (a recent convert, one to be baptized next weekend, and an investigator) planned a branch party for one of the elders’ birthday on Saturday.  We opened with a hymn, prayer, and a spiritual thought. Then the eating—it was all dessert as you can see!  Then they had a game in which they read verses from the scriptures and the teams had to guess the chapter and verse.  And then some ‘Minute-to-Win-It’ type games.  When the birthday elder didn’t accomplish his task in a minute, he had to invite someone else to try. 

Here Sharon had to take tiny washers (nuts and bolts variety) off a spaghetti noodle and stack them without touching them.  

Success!  That noodle did come out. 

Because our branch president is out of town this week, Elder Miller conducted church – in Hungarian.  And then he spoke – in English (and used a translator).

Speaking of language, there are a few things we understand -- they are the same in any language:

  •  Babies crying
  •  Babies laughing
  •  Children playing
  •  Siblings running around their mother’s legs at a bus stop
  •  Children wanting something at a store
  •  Teens and young adults with earphones
  •  Teens and young adults on cell phones
  •  Teens and young adults in love
  •  Teens and young adults dress the same the world over

We used this week to finalize paper work (which is labor intensive) on previous projects and make appointments for upcoming visits and potential projects.  We are headed out in the morning to a couple of new cities (for us) to meet with agencies and also do some pricing and shopping for other projects.

Not a week for lots of happenings and pictures.  But all is well here. We are very blessed and know that Heavenly Father is watching over us and guiding us in our work -- which is His work.  May He also bless and keep you this week.

June 22, 2014

Typical home in a small falu (village).  The homes are quite close together and the front is right next to the road, so the home is extended (or added onto) back and back and back.

Vinegar has become our ‘go to’ product here.  It takes off minor rust, dissolves hard water deposits and leaves the chrome shiny, stops and prevents mold, disinfects, detoxifies, and if you put a little vinegar in water and soak strawberries (and any other fruit) for 10 minutes, it will keep them from molding and going bad (which they are prone to do here in a day or two)!!!!  Good stuff.  Try it. The other discovery is to use shampoo on ring-around-the-collar -- a great way to use up old or inexpensive shampoo.

Last Sunday Elder Miller was sustained as 'the' counselor in the Kaposvár Branch.  After the meetings, they promptly had a three-hour meeting (training on MLS, etc.) while the wives and one family were waiting. :)

We then headed to Budapest to meet with Elder Dennis and Sister Donna Smith, Church Wheelchair Specialists, who would arrive that night.  Like the Cullimores, they travel Eastern Europe and the Philippines to oversee these church projects.  FYI: They arrived here from Iraq, where they were just 50 miles from the rebel fighting. There is one missionary couple serving in Iraq as a public relations couple.  They are looking to do a wheelchair project there. 

The next morning Elder and Sister Smith went with us to ‘close’ a project at a Home for Disabled Adults.  They were provided some faucets (as theirs were squirting water out into the room), this  table, a dresser, a cabinet, a vacuum cleaner, . . .

. . .and some pots and pans.

With the Smiths we then met with the Red Cross organization to discuss further the possibility of doing a wheelchair project in Hungary.  This is a big undertaking for the Church and the Red Cross, and as a partnering organization, the Red Cross must be totally ‘on board’ with their commitment. They are hoping to do the project in the northeast part of the country where the need is greater and will benefit the Roma (Gypsy) people.  Their responsibility is to get the wheelchairs out of customs upon arrival and they are working to find out just what that means. We are told that items to be donated will not have a customs charge, but then they could sit on the dock or in a warehouse for several months until papers are signed, thus requiring a rental/storage fee.  Ever heard of red tape?   We and they need to be prepared for such costs!  We are working on these details.

The next morning we drove to a Székasféhervár, about 60K from Budapest, to meet with another home for disabled adults and talk with them about needs.  This lady is their director.  She is disabled physically, but not her mind!  She has ‘volunteered’ for 35 years!

They actually had a nice facility.  We are learning that a foundation might ‘win’ a grant from the government to build a facility, but then not ‘win’ their grant request again for money to equip or maintain the facility.

The physical therapist is demonstrating some of their therapy for upper arms and body.

The branch president (left) translated for us, and we actually found a Mexican restaurant for lunch on the walking street of Székasféhervár.

President Szabo told us the lovely pedestrian street had just opened a few days before. 

The pedestrian street was rebuilt using inserts with stones from the castle, which is no longer standing.  Székasféhervár has 100,000 people and  used to be the capital of Hungary; 37 kings and 39 queen consorts (wives) have been crowned in the basilica there.  Fifteen rulers are buried in Székasféhervár.

At the end of the street was a working 'flower' clock and the city's name.

The next day we had an amazing zone conference at the mission home.  Here are a few tidbits:
  • Charles Francis Adams, a grandson of President John Quincy Adams, was a lawyer and was driven to excel.  He recorded his activities daily in a journal.  One day his entry read “went fishing with my son today – a wasted day.”    His son, Brooks Adams, also kept a journal.  His entry for the same day: “Went fishing with my dad -- the most wonderful day of my life.” Our attitude will determine what we expect or what we ‘get out of’ each event in our lives!
  • The Assistants showed a scene from “Facing the Giants.”  One of the players makes a comment that shows his attitude stinks.
  • The Lord called us to Hungary as indicated in Hungary's dedicatory prayer, “May the future servants,  foreordained before the world was formed, take their paces here in thy earthly kingdom. “
  • “A vision without a task is just a wish, a task is mere drudgery; but a vision and a task is a dream  fulfilled.”  Anonymous
Back to Kaposvár, we went to visit a family who was active for several years and have now not attended for several months.  They admit they know the branch needs them, they need the branch, their children need the teachings; however, they live about 25K away from the city, have 6 children and do not all fit in their small car (if it is working), cannot afford to attend each week, and the mother is waiting to hear this week results of some medical tests whether or not she has cancer.   These are the obstacles of so many of the members in Hungary.   And those who ride a bus to church sometimes have to leave before the block of meetings is over or it will be hours before they can catch a bus home.

We did have several investigators and some members we haven’t previously met at church today.   We continue to pray that these great people will learn who they are, whose they are, and know that Heavenly Father loves each of them and desires that they learn of Him, His Son, and His gospel.  A few more lines from the dedicatory prayer:  "Humbly we recognize that as individuals we are frail and few in number.  Yet in thine own way and in thine own due time, thy purposes will be brought to pass both on earth and in heaven. . . .Oppression and depression have plagued its people from time to time. . .Now we foresee the emergence of new light and power.  Wilt thou look with fresh favor upon this land that its people may be blessed with rays of divine light of the gospel and a future of fullness that restored truth will bring.  Previous scattering of Israel's blood has sprinkled that choice seed in great number throughout this land.  Yet, they know not who they are.  May the promised gathering of thine elect bring them safely back to thy fold -- that wards and stakes may one day dot this land."

We are so grateful for that gospel and the calling and opportunity to share it in the country of Hungary.  

June 14, 2014

It looked like first class restaurant, but we were fooled!

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our life.  We love you.

We took a walk one morning exploring near our home.  We discovered a very old church. . .
and very big and old cemetery.  All the graves had large headstones -- new and old ones.

Also a stadium only a couple of streets away.  We haven't heard any games yet, however.

Monday we took a drive to Kurd, about 40K away, to visit a member family as Sharon was assigned to be Ingrid’s visiting teacher.  Brother and Sister Gutchow are from Germany and retired in Hungary because they could afford to have a horse here.  He only speaks German, she speaks some English and some Hungarian and they have a 38-year-old son who lives at home who speaks German and English, which he uses in his internet business.  She served us huge pieces of German apple pie with a giant bowl of whipped cream!   We had a wonderful visit with the family.

This week we had a recent convert and 4 missionaries to our home evening!   We had plenty of interpreting help.  We did have a lesson and Abigel was very knowledgeable.   We have to start somewhere; but hopefully in time this FHE will be successful.  

Tuesday morning we headed to Sopron, about 3 hours northwest to visit a children's home suggested and  arranged for us by the senior couple serving there.  The drive up was picturesque and pleasant.  We saw fields of corn, wheat, and this one is sunflowers.  Will show it again when the flowers are on.

And the first cutting of hay (or straw).   What is amazing are the huge tractors and machinery these village farmers have.  They have to be worth more than their homes! 
Sopron is a lovely city only minutes away from the Austrian border.   It is obviously economically doing much better than most other Hungarian cities.   Many Hungarians work in Austria because they can make more money there; and many Austrians come to Sopron to shop because it is less expensive.  Both add to the economy in Sopron.  In fact, in that town of 55,000 people there are 300 dentists because the Austrians also come to Hungary for their dental work.
Elder and Sister Brown live in a lovely twin home.  

In the evening we had dinner and then walked around the town a bit.

Sopron dates back to Roman times.  Walls of ruins are still visible.

The next morning we took a drive to the Pan European Picnic Park at the border.  Previous to August 19, 1989 invitations had been sent inviting people to a picnic and a 3-hour temporary opening of the Austria -Hungary border fence for visiting.  Ten thousand people came!  It was not planned, but several hundred people rushed through the border fence and the guards did nothing.  This became a historic event that was the beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany.  Many took a piece of the fence with them; and many left their belongings and their cars at the border when they walked to freedom!  This is a replica of the fence.  There were several rows of electric, barb wire fences, with dogs and freshly plowed areas in between (so footprints would be visible).

 We took a step through the ‘door’ to Austria.

This is the monument depicting the walk ‘up’ to freedom. There is an actual piece of the Berlin Wall in the upper center of the monument.

There is still one guard tower left as a reminder.

After that the Browns took us to Esterháza Palace.  In the 16th century the Esterházy family owned an estate of more than one million acres.  A son of the wealthy owner had been to Versailles and felt rich enough to build his own ‘Hungarian Versailles.’ 

The glory of the palace with its 126 rooms took place between 1766 and 1790.  It is still being renovated and updated; and this is one of the most beautiful Ceremonial Halls of all Hungarian baroque castles, which still hosts classical music concerts in the summer. 

The Austrian composer Joseph Haydn spent 24 years at Esterháza.  Some of his most famous works had their world premier in this concert hall.  An opera house was build especially for Haydn; every month a new opera was produced and presented to the more than 400 guests, all free of charge.  Alas, the opera house burned in the 19th century. 

The park was about 700 acres, a French park, like in Versailles.  The forest for hunting was behind.  In the 18th century there were statues, fountains, and 60,000 flowers were exchanged monthly.  

Ceramic stoves sat in the corners of the rooms for heat.  There were hidden doorways so that the servants could light the stoves from behind without coming into the room to disturb the occupants.

Since the nobility all had their own rooms, there were also hidden doorways to get from one bedroom to another.

This was in the room for playing dominoes.  Cute and practical little pull-out 'shelves' for the dominoes.  The dishes are the Esterháza signature design.  

Back in Kaposvár, our goal is to visit with and get to know the members.  With the elders we visited two sweet sisters in the branch, and had a couple over for dinner on Friday evening, and in between worked on paperwork for humanitarian projects.  There is always much paperwork and accounting – before, during and after.

Saturday was a branch activity.  We rode a bus to a small town just a few miles away where there is a nice yard and fire pit suitable for a bacon cook-off!   The 25-year-old branch president (in picture below) was the most excited about the bacon! Check out this slab!

There was food, volleyball, relaxing and visiting.  Nice fire pit -- a cement table with benches and the grate and  fire in the middle. All around the fire are holders for the roasting 'sticks.'  Nice idea. 

We're off to Budapest tomorrow right after church as we have our 'wheelchair specialists' arriving.

Life is good.  Much love to all.

June 8, 2014

A blast from the past!

Summer has arrived in Hungary!  And we’re told it is only going to get worse – hot, humid days and hot, humid nights!  Can hardly wait.  

We had one sweet sister come to our Family Home Evening last Monday (it has to start somewhere.) She was very proud of herself when she learned she had actually climbed 96 stairs!  It didn’t take long to use all the words we know in getting acquainted and then we sat with our dictionary carrying on a conversation for the next 45 minutes until President Balint stopped by and translated.  Éva actually has had some interesting things happen to her and her family and some great conversion experiences to share.  We hope we have more come to FHE tomorrow.

Tuesday we went to Budapest to 'close' a couple of projects.  It sort of felt like ‘coming home’ to be back in Budapest riding the public transportation from one end of town to another accomplishing our humanitarian work.

We presented educational games, puzzles, flip charts, special mattresses, a mirror and two  computers (Church surplus) to the Bliss Communication Foundation.  They teach special needs children ways to communicate using a variety of such tools.

Seven of the children that were in class that day did a special presentation for us.  The brother in the pictures is from the stake presidency.

Tuesday evening we had a nice treat.  Kimbralee, who is our grandson Bryson’s birth mother, was in town for the week with her school class  from Utah State University.  They were visiting businesses each morning.  We planned to spend the evening with her, but her teacher changed their plans at the last minute and the group went to eat together to a business ‘etiquette-type‘ dinner at which they would be graded.  We did spend an hour or so visiting with her in her hotel lobby before she had to leave with her class.

The next day (with our interpreter, Timi) we purchased a pavilion and camera for the Family Castle Foundation.  We had previously given them the breast pumps, but had some money left over (which we could not transfer to other projects), so we bought her two other items which will be used for their family group activities.  The lady from whom we purchased the pavilion asked questions and expressed a desire to bring her children to church.  

After that we went on a shopping spree – vacuum, deep fryer, TV and router from one store and then were able to get the rest – tables, dresser, cabinet, faucets, pots and pans and an umbrella – all at Ikea for a home for disabled adults.  These will all be delivered and the next time we are in Budapest, we will go to the home for a ‘closing.’

When we finished that we had dinner with Elder and Sister Heath, another senior missionary couple (who will be leaving for home soon) and then we headed home to Kaposvár . . .

In the ‘red rocket,’ the car assigned to us.

On the way to and from Sharon was reading The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister.  We HIGHLY recommend this book!!!!   It is truly amazing.  There are so many things to quote, but would be quoting the entire book!

We both had assignments in district meeting on Thursday morning and Elder Miller conducted church meetings today (with an interpreter) as President and Sister Balint are out of town.  Tomorrow is a national holiday (Day of Pentecost) and they went to spend it with his extended family.  

We visited a county institution for the blind here in Kaposvár and offered to help.   The lady indicated to us that they have about 1,500 visually impaired people in this county that they try to help in various ways.

This is the name of our street.  The street signs are on the sides of buildings. . . 

 . . . or not -- which is more often the case!  It makes finding an address with the GPS quite interesting because you can't see the street names until after you turn the corner and maybe there's a street name.

Notice this very fresh garlic bulb.  Had to buy and take a picture.  It was so large, fresh and soft; they are usually very dry (and peeling) by the time they are in the stores.

Just for interest sake, things Hungarian are not so expensive, but anything American is quite pricey – shoes, clothes, food items. There are a few things that are non-existent here:  chocolate chips, brown sugar, Ranch salad dressing, Crest toothpaste, molasses, trail mix, mint and maple flavorings, syrup.   For a high price (because they are American), if you look hard enough one can actually buy peanut butter and peanut M and M’s – in small quantities.  Obviously none of this is life altering, so we will ‘go’ Hungarian for this time of our life.  However, there are three things (so far) that are here that would be nice to have in America:

Love the muesli cereal, which is actually German.  Reminds me of what we had in England years ago – and not full of sugar and fat!

These outside window blinds are such a practical and grand idea.  You can pull them down when it’s raining or storming and keep the windows from getting dirty, or just to darken a room – nice for when a baby or child (or adult) needs to sleep.  Anyone want to go into business and market these in the States?  Blaine, you are the blind man.  Interested?

Not much for canister vacuum cleaners, but ours has a cord feature that automatically retracts! 

We are hoping for visits soon with some branch members.  Unfortunately we need to go with the elders  so we can communicate – just a small issue!   They have been busy and are trying to make appointments.  President Balint does not want us to just ‘drop by.’   Hope that opportunity comes soon. Plus, only full-time missionaries can ride in a mission car -- which is understandable, but proves to be frustrating and inconvenient at times.

This is a rather random post, but all is well.  We miss everyone, but are here because we love the Lord and His gospel and want to serve Him.  We are grateful for so many blessings in our lives, and actually may be asking for a few more!  Love to all!