July 27, 2014 - Six Months!

Hungarians love their fresh ice creams.  Warm weather sees an explosion of ice cream parlors and kiosks selling freshly made ice creams by the gomboc (a scoop), sometimes a bit bizarre flavors:  poppy seed, green tea, pear, buttermilk, plum, grapefruit, cranberry, currant, Russian cream (?), green apple, to name a few.  This place that turns their scoops into rose petals is rather famous and well patronized.

Another busy week has passed quickly.   Monday we had a good group for Family Home Evening, so enjoyed the young women and the elders and played Uno.   Two of the girls were non-member friends of the members. 

Monday morning we received a call that one of the medical warming units that the BYU Chamber Orchestra and NuSkin purchased had not yet been presented to the hospital in Tatabanya and would we come for the presentation on Thursday morning. So we quickly made some calls and found a couple of places in Tatabanya we could visit while there to make our trip more efficient. On Wednesday afternoon we met with a county home for the elderly and disabled.  They have four buildings; one is for elderly who have no family or other place to go. The other three buildings are for disabled adults, each of varying degrees.   We met twin boys, age 20, who have spent their life in bed.  They do not speak, but were smiling and were happy for the attention.  They are very close to each other and when one has problems or pain; the other is very sensitive and caring.  One was just a tiny, misshapen form under the sheet.   We are so very blessed. 


The next morning we attended the presentation and press conference at the hospital as they accepted the bed warming unit (which is used to stabilize body temperatures in ICU or surgery).  The hospital director said that they were planning to get one of these units, but it would take two years to have the money ($2,500) to do so.   We were interviewed by both TV and newspaper -  click the above link for the TV interview.  Thank goodness for Zoli (next to Sharon), the Church member who speaks perfect English and from whose company the warming units were purchased.  He was our interpreter and go-between.    

The hospital had a lovely buffet set up.  Too bad we had just eaten breakfast.  The man over the nurses commented that his daughter had been taught by the missionaries.

Afterwards we met with a day care facility for disabled adults.  We actually met with the residents; they were very friendly.   We learned that these men and women used to work, but are no longer allowed to do so; the facility does not have a license and proper credentials for that.  When asked what they would most like, the residents said they would like to work!   We suggested several ways in which we could help them to help themselves; but they think they cannot get the proper paperwork.  

One activity they have each morning is crafts.  Some are quite good and creative.  They made these very cute cards. 
I especially liked this ballerina tutu, which is a creative and clever use of cutout snowflakes!

The old, but nice hotel we stayed in had a nice feature.  The hallway was at angles, so every two rooms had this spacious sitting area.  The wall opposite the room door was all windows – so not a long, dark hallway.

On Wednesday after our meeting we had a little time, so were directed to see the bird on the mountain overlooking the city.  The Turul (hawk) is the most important bird in myth of Hungarian people.  It is a divine messenger, symbolizing power, strength and nobility and is used today on the coat of arms for the Hungarian army.  The Turul represents God’s power and will and is seen as the ancestor of Atilla the Hun.  He is often carrying the flaming sword of Atilla and bearing the crown of Atilla who is considered the first king of Hungary. 

From the hill -- the birdseye view of Tatabanya -- red tile roofs are very standard in Hungary.

Because seeing the Turul only took 5 minutes, we decided to take a walk down these inviting paths. . . .

. . . .we looked over the fence into a hole.   

 Continuing down some steps less traveled, we were soon inside a large cave.  

In the evening we walked around a beautiful city park that was full of families,  had several soccer fields, many different play areas and some unique teeter totters.

On the drive we took this photo of one of the many Soviet apartment buildings which are scattered around the country - emphasis on vacant and colorless cement structures.

And when we go and come toward the north, we always cross this high, beautifully built bridge.  This time we stopped and took a picture. 

We arrived home on Thursday afternoon and quickly fixed dinner for company that evening – the German family in our branch.   They brought their adult son who speaks English and translated for us throughout dinner. We had a nice and enjoyable evening.

This week was transfer week and we received two new missionaries – one from Great Falls, MT and the other from Queen Creek, AZ.  The two we have are from Spanish Fork, UT and Richmond, VA.

Friday we worked on humanitarian projects – our interpreter came over to make calls and do some researching of online items that are requested so that we can submit some more projects for approval from the Area Welfare Manager.. 

In the evening we were in charge of the Young Single Adult (YSA) activity.  We had 4 attend besides missionaries and President and Sister Balint, our branch president.

Saturday we went with the missionaries to a village about 50K away to visit a member lady who has been sick. We visited with her less-active son and daughter-in-law and a neighbor who is interested in receiving the missionaries. 

On the way we passed several tree/wood farms. It was interesting to see the trees so straight and uniform.

Afterwards, Stan took me to eat at Gecco, a Mexican restaurant that we pass each day as we walk to town or to the branch. We have been skeptical because the Mexican restaurants we tried before have been very Hungarian infused.  These vegetable enchiladas and Stan's fajitas were very good -- real Mexican flavor.  In fact, the menu was actually translated into English and Spanish correctly – which should have given us a clue.

Afterward we walked into town to get a game for FHE and YSA – Jenga is big here.    All week we had noticed youth teams in uniforms walking around town.  Today we spoke to some boys from Chile and then to a team from Scotland taking pictures of their cup and learned that this week was the International Intersport Youth Football (soccer) Tournament right here in little ole’ Kaposvar!   Scotland won the cup, Italy was second , but they couldn’t remember who was third.  

Speaking of games – does anyone have some good ideas for group games for young adult ages.  We need some good ideas that transcend language barriers.   We have played Five Crowns, Uno, Slap Jack, Murder and Pictionary, but need some ideas that don’t require buying the game.  We would love some ideas from you.

I spoke in Church today commemorating pioneers (not well known here) and talked a bit about these young and new Church members also being pioneers in Hungary.   In this month’s Liahona, which must also be in the Ensign, is an article about the Church in Brazil.   I compared the two:  The first mission in Brazil was established in 1935.  Thirty one years later the first stake was organized.  The Church and mission have been in Hungary 24 years and we are hoping for our second stake.  Hungary is ahead!  During the first 30 years, Brazil (which has about 20 times more people than Hungary) had 1,454 members.  After 24 years Hungary has 5,000 members.  Hungary is ahead!  Brazil’s first temple was dedicated in 1978, 43 years after the mission opened.  Hungary is not behind!

The Church is young in Hungary, about 50 years younger than in Brazil.  Pioneers are just beginning their trek here.  It will be wonderful to watch the next 50 years in Hungary!  May Heavenly Father bless and strengthen His wonderful children in Hungary.

July 20, 2014

In our travels this week, we drove through several towns and villages that have these lovely flower baskets hanging on the telephone poles on both sides of the road -- sometimes for several miles.  It is so inviting.

Since the Hungarian calendar weeks start with Monday, we can truthfully say we are at the end of a very busy and fulfilling week.  

We went north Tuesday to Pápa to close two projects.  We arrived at the Sunshine Nursery where two commercial-type vacuum-carpet cleaners had been delivered, and the director was ready. 

The vacuums were set up on display, a lovely table of refreshments, and some flowers and plants in the hallway. 

Even though the school was closed for cleaning, the staff and some children and parents were invited back.  The vice mayor and another lady from the city office, as well as the local TV station were there to interview and make note of the vacuum cleaner gifts.  Elder Miller did the honors with the TV station, the director and Elder Ray as the interpreter. 

The director then had a speech prepared for all in attendance.  She thanked the Church and commented that as you arrive at the facility, you see the yard with colorful play sets.  She then continued, “And then when the children and their parents come in, they trust us to keep and maintain the facility to be as clean as possible.”   She quoted a cute section from Murphy’s Toddler Laws:
If it's mine it's mine,
if it's yours it's mine,
if I like it it's mine,
if I can take it from you it is mine,
if I am playing with something ALL of the pieces are mine,
if I think it is mine it is,
if I saw it first it's mine,
if I had it then put it down it is still mine,
if you had it then you put it down it is now mine,
if it looks like the one I have at home it is mine,
if it is broken it is yours. 

We then arrived at Erzsebetraros Oroda (a day care center) with the art supplies which they requested.  We had a great time shopping for these.   Here is a sample and you can see how excited Sister Ildiko is to get these.  It is because of her—a Church member—that we learned about this facility.   They showed us the paper (backs of used) that the children use to write on (and they will keep using these), and said that they save all scraps and when they are doing art projects they often ask each other “do you have a piece of that color left.” 

This facility will also get sheets for their napping cots.  They are so quiet while a teacher is reading them a story.

We then headed to Decathlon in Györ (a much larger city than our Kaposvar) to buy a trampoline and basketball standard for a children’s home in Sopron.  They requested some sort of activities to keep the children occupied when not in school; and since most of them are teens, we thought these two items would be better than playground equipment (which was a bit pricey anyway).

Then it was off to Budapest with a stop on the way into town to pay for the above mentioned sheets.   They can now be made and delivered.

The next morning we backtracked a bit (because it closed at 4 p.m.) to pay for a therapy bed for a home for the disabled in another city.   If we haven’t mentioned previously, it is possible when buying at a retail store to use a credit card.  If it is any other type of business, the item(s) must be paid in cash before the order can be placed.   As you can imagine, there are times (such as this week) that we travel fairly loaded to accomplish our purposes.  

And, may we pay tribute here to the miracle of the internet/satellite/GPS – that gets us to each destination.   That morning the GPS guided us to an area in a Budapest suburb with a very small street only big enough for one small car.  Where to park?   I looked at the house and panicked, “We can’t pay 500,000 forints (about $2,500) to that house!” I said to Elder Miller.  Thank goodness it was the next house.  We found a small weathered sign on the gate, rang the bell and were escorted inside to a lovely office where they found our order, took the money, showed us several therapy beds and massage tables in production, and we chose the color for our bed covering.  On the wall was a map of Hungary with a hundred plus map tacks showing the areas where this company has placed its’ products – just two men who do the manufacturing/building. 
We never see zoning of any kind.  You can set up a business wherever you find a spot, live or desire.   It doesn’t matter where or what is on either side of you.  When we left, the owner said to us, “Go this way and take the first right.”  The first right turned out to be an even smaller alley way, but it (and the GPS) took us right back to the freeway and back to Budapest. 

At the end of the week we also went by bus (via googlemaps.com) to another place of business.  Again, we went farther and farther away, getting slightly concerned as we left all visible places of business.   Then there was civilization again.  The bus let us off; we walked a few meters on a residential street and there was the business.  And we made that payment of 471,000 forints!  Each transaction is truly an adventure and never ceases to amaze us!!!!

And then it was Senior Conference.  It is nice to get together with the other senior couples from around Hungary.  We heard testimonies from a couple just arriving to be the area auditing couple; they will be assigned to a small town like we are (different from the outgoing auditing couple who lived in Budapest their entire mission). We also heard from another couple who is leaving.  I liked a thought from Benjamin Franklin that she quoted:  “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”  We also heard from Elder Ryan Beaumont, a former Hungarian missionary who was in town on his honeymoon.  So, when his wife, Josie, posted about them being here, another senior couple (who are friends on Facebook with Ryan) came and told us that Michelle Wilwand (my niece) told them to tell us hello.   We did get to meet and talk with them for a few minutes.  Josie said she is from Mike Wilwand’s home town and always babysat for them when they were visiting.  Small world!

We heard from Sister Smith and instructions from President Smith.  He reviewed the recent Mission President's Seminar and some of the changes that will affect the missionary work (i.e. teaching all 5 lessons to the investigator again after s/he is baptized, staying close to them and keeping in touch with them even after returning home.)

We then heard from Elder Axel Leimer, an Area Seventy of the Europe Area, who told us some interesting things:

  • The Gospel is still unfolding; the restoration is not complete. 
  • And because of that, we all need to be alert and stay up to date.
  •  A spiritual awakening is beginning in Europe.  It has been stagnant, but that is changing.  Germany was dedicated 4½ years ago, Switzerland was dedicated a few weeks ago.
  • Cape Verde has seen a 50% growth in the last year.  In some places they were meeting in tents because buildings could not be built fast enough.  The only place in the country large enough for a stake conference was the parliament building and one of the Church leaders was brave enough to ask.
  • Portugal had 25% growth last year.
  • Baptisms and reactivations are increasing.  One mission has a motto of “bring one in, bring one back.”  One stake had 34 reactivations in a year – and all are preparing to go to the temple.
  • He told us about a lady who was tending her sheep.  The fence broke, the sheep got out and she could not get them back.  She was so distressed that she knelt down and prayed and asked for help with her sheep.   Suddenly there were two men there who helped her bring in her sheep and mend the fence.  She then asked them who they were.  They answered, “We are angels sent to help you.  And by the way, Richard is fine.”   In a few days she was in town and saw two missionaries.  She was drawn to them, introduced herself and told them about this experience.  They are teaching her.   
In the evening after the conference and dinner, we attended a Hungarian Folk Dance concert.  The men were fun to watch, and their stomping and slapping reminded me of the Samoan Slap Dance.  They were much more energetic than the women.  

The next morning we toured the Jewish Synagogue.   This is the largest synagogue in Europe and second-largest in the world, second only to the one in New York City.  However, this synagogue seats 3,000, which is more than NYC.  Why so many?  When the building was built (1854-59) there were 23,000 Jews in Budapest.  After World War II when so many were killed, many left the country, quit practicing, or did not let others know they were Jewish and their younger generations did not know or practice. This is a Neolog congregation, not Orthodox – meaning they are more liberated; they wanted to assimilate more.  The building is the first synagogue built in the Oriental Moorish style.  It was so successful, many other synagogues have followed suit. 
In the front is a reading table from which is read the Torah three days a week.  This synagogue has an organ (which is not orthodox) and concerts are often held.  In fact, Franz Liszt played at the opening of the synagogue.
During World War II, the building had 27 bomb hits.  It was restored in 1991-1996.  During the War, 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.  In this garden are 2,000 buried in mass graves.  These are markers for many of them -- all with the death date of 1945. 
And here is the Tree of Life.  In 1991 actor Tony Curtis built this with names on the leaves of many of those who died in the Holocaust.
After the Conference, we did some further shopping and meeting with two new agencies before returning home. 
Elders Chambers (Phoenix), Depallens (California), Larson (Spanish Fork), Loveland (Richmond, VA), Miller
Today we had the elders over for a ‘last supper.’  It is transfer week and at least two are sure they are being transferred.
This is getting mighty long.   May we close letting you know that we are fine, we enjoy what we are doing and pray that we might be instruments to help the work in Hungary progress. 

July 13, 2014

In case one doesn't get enough bread with one's bun, here's a special 'burgi' -- it has an extra slice of bread in the middle! Remember, this is the country with pékségek (bakeries) every few feet!

Apparently Hungary is having some unusual weather this year.  We arrived in the middle of a very mild winter as opposed to the year before which was quite cold.  Last summer the Danube flooded and we are told horror stories of the temperatures being at 114ᵒ with hardly any rain —especially July and August. This June was fairly cool with plenty of rain.  And now it’s almost the middle of July and again this week it was rainy and was actually cold a couple of days.  In fact, Hungarians had on coats and scarves.  We will take it!  Oh. . . there’s thunder!  And when it rains, it pours.

This week was a shopping week.  We went several places to compare prices for art supplies for one of the pre-schools that we visited in Pápa on the last trip.  And then it was fun to buy: tempera paints, paper, scissors, watercolors, brushes, glue sticks and colored pencils – lots of them!   Hope they’ll be set.

A lot of our shopping is done online and by telephone, especially since we moved.  Purchases this week included vacuum cleaners, a therapy/treatment bed, trampoline, basketball standard, and sheets (envelope style) for the pre-school cots (they had one they had made just like the 200+ Kelli and I made before we left).   It is an interesting experience shopping in Hungary.   Most places do not stock supplies of things.  And they want to be paid in cash first – no matter where their company is located.  So this week, after we drop things off at the pre-school, we have to go by a couple of companies and pay for items we are ordering.   We were trying to find industrial-type vacuum cleaners, but the company we found is way out of the way and it could only be cash up front.  We kept searching and found a company that would actually take a credit card online and they would deliver the next day!  WOW!  That is a first!   When we go this week we will see if it all works out – and then maybe we can steer some more business their way.

This was apartment check week for the five missionary apartments to which we are assigned -- two here in Kaposvár and three in Pécs. Tradition says that you take them food for a reward if they pass the inspection -- so had a cooking/baking day also. 

The drive to Pécs was very pleasant; there's much green in the countryside.  There we had zone training -- 16 missionaries.  The zone leaders did a good job.  A couple of thoughts:

  • Investigators will only progress if they are reading the Book of Mormon, praying and attending church.
  • Everyone on this planet is attracted in some way to the gospel.  After all, they accepted it in pre-mortality.

 Afterwards we went together and had lunch and then to inspect apartments.

This contrast was right outside one of the elders’ apartments.  On the left is a government building  -  updated and maintained.  Right next is the other part of the old building which has not been maintained. This is a very common sight.  One little part of a very old building might be updated, remodeled and have a business, but the rest of the building is still in the 16th -17th century.

The recent rains have brought out the sunflowers. Sunflower seeds and oil are big products here.

Another field was identified.  These are sugar carrots, used like sugar beets to make sugar.  We picked one.  They weren’t ready yet, but the white carrot-shaped vegetable tasted very good.

Saturday we had a branch social.  We went by bus to a member’s wife’s sister’s home for a  bogrács gulyás party.  A bogrács is a very large kettle or cauldron used on a open fire to make gulyás (goulash) soup. The member’s (who used to be in the branch presidency -- in blue shorts) wife and her sister were the ones cooking the goulash and they are not members, so we were very appreciative of them. 

We arrived at the church at noon, finally got away around 1:30 p.m., got off at the wrong stop (not our fault).  By the time we arrived at the party, it was around 2:30 p.m., the soup was just started.  One by one, people brought out the dish they brought and it was eaten, along with the bacon left over from the last party.  By the time the goulash was done, it was around 4:30 p.m.  We arrived home after 6 p.m. – so it was quite a day. 
 A recent convert and her friend who attended.

This is the only family that comes with children.  He is the branch clerk and just lost his job.  They are moving to London at the end of the month.  We also learned this week that the elder's quorum president is moving to Budapest in August.  Our struggling little branch is getting smaller.  We have work to do.

For interest's sake, this is a typical parking lot -- never asphalt, but paving tiles/bricks -- individually laid.  And the parking lines are inset with colored bricks.  

To use a shopping cart, one puts in 100 forint coin to get the cart.  The coin is returned when the cart is returned.

This evening we went with one set of missionaries to visit a sister in the branch.  She was a convert earlier this year and  probably one of the most faithful.  She is very sweet, wants to feed the missionaries, and I just wish I could carry on a conversation with her.  

We were asked this week to start a young adult program here.  That will be great.  We have several young adult age new converts who need the support and 'nourishment.'  We will start having something for them each Friday evening.  The Church in Hungary is young.  There have been numerous young adults baptized in the last few years.  We've mentioned that there are several young, single branch presidents currently serving.  Looking to the future when these young adults serve missions, marry and begin to raise their families in the Church, there will be a boom in Hungary.   We pray for that day.  Right now, the next step is a second stake (soon maybe).

We love you all.  We miss you, too.  We are happy doing the work of the Lord and hope that (in spite of the language difficulty) we can be instruments in His hands to help and influence someone to make good changes in their life.