November 30, 2014

"Floating Island" -- and Stan was so curious he had dessert first.  It was meringue in custard.

Monday we left early to drive cross country to Szeged.   Before our project appointment, we needed to stop at a carpet store and pay for the carpet (which they were kindly holding) so they could deliver it to the school for the handicapped children the next day. 

At the closing we delivered the screen, two massaging machines and the blankets we had made last week. 

The residents were very happy with the brightly colored blankets.


We took a walk through Szeged to get the elders a treat and thank them for translating for us.

On our drive, we went through 4 different fairly long tunnels.  You will notice that the ‘mountain’ through which they go is not very high.  We were surprised that they would build tunnels instead of roads over the 'mountain'.

Here, like everywhere else in the world, we drove through road construction.  Just wanted you to notice the very large stop sign. . .

We drove past beautiful fields of green – even this time of the year. I thought it might be winter wheat, but they call it autumn wheat because that is when it is planted.  Fields that are not planted are nicely and neatly plowed; and we passed many of these fences in the fields – to keep the snow from blowing onto the highways.

On to Budapest that evening where we attended the young adult family home evening – a  special family history evening, so we helped do some indexing with them. Tuesday morning we headed to Veszprém to deliver sheets to a hospital there and ‘close’ that project.  
When we finished there we found a quaint little restaurant where I had delicious guylas (goulash) and Stan had cream of garlic soup and a yummy potato turkey dish.  The only waitress spoke English and we were taken with the myriad of memorabilia on the ceiling and walls.   Notice the stove (upper right); that is just about the actual size of stoves in Hungarian kitchens!

Because it was Stan’s birthday this day and because The Piano Guys were in Budapest this night and our anniversary was also in November, we celebrated by going  to dinner and their concert with Elder Nathan and Sister Sandy Broadhead  (originally from Aztec and Farmington, NM) – and who know several of my family members. 

We were so surprised at the turnout to the concert – a large arena was sold out!  Apparently they have become well-known just through their YouTube videos.  In the concert they mentioned a fan club of 12,000 in Hungary.  Amazing!  They are amazing musicians and the concert was fantastic.  

Wednesday we made one stop to make a payment for an order that will be delivered next week and then on home to Kaposvár.

Always after a trip and project closings, there is much accounting and paper work to be finished, so that happened on Thursday – while all of you were enjoying turkey dinner and family.  We hope you had a meaningful and memorable day.   That evening with the elders we attended a program to a very nice and personable family with a small but lovely American-style home.  It was so nice.  We hope and pray they will be interested and will continue discussions.

Friday at our Young Single Adult evening we celebrated a birthday for one of our girls.  Évi, one of our young women, made her a beautiful, professional-looking cake.   We had a good turnout and a fun time. 
At the end of the evening, Évi brought out another cake and they sang “Happy Birthday” to Elder Miller!

We had planned our Thanksgiving dinner for today (Sunday) with the elders.  Yesterday just as I took a pumpkin pie out of the oven, we had a call inviting us to a pig slaughter today.  Yes, you read right.  Erzsi, a fun and delightful member has been telling us about it for several weeks.  I thought it might be some sort of a party with dinner. So we and the elders postponed our dinner and decided to support her. 

It turned out that it really was just a pig slaughter – or a three pig slaughter.  It was wet outside, so we just took a picture of the tubs of meat and the fat hanging up to dry – that they really use -- and then went inside.  

Erzsi’s daughters were cooking up a storm and she served us meat, cabbage salad, liver and cooked blood!   I tried the meat, the salad (like sauerkraut) – it was good, had one little bite of liver, but I couldn’t bring myself to try the cooked blood (above).  The elders were brave and did; but they had a few comments about it on the way home.  The elders did share a nice message with Erzsi.

This evening we walked to the town square to watch the Christmas lighting ceremony.  There were lots of people, and since it was lightly raining, there were also lots of umbrellas. There was a short program and then music and the kiosks were up – so the Christmas market has begun.   

We did try some chestnuts roasting on an open fire,

saw this fun potato spiral, but will go back when it is not cold, rainy,  dark and Sunday and check out their wares.

We have so very much for which to be grateful – our Savior and His Atonement, the restoration of His Gospel, and the opportunity to serve a mission and bear testimony in His name. We are grateful for family and friends who love and support us, for our health and strength, and for miracles and tender mercies every day.  

As December comes tomorrow, we hope you all enjoy the true Spirit and peace of this Christmas season.

November 23, 2014

Have you heard of Sharon fruit?  We discovered it this week and it is deliciously sweet and crisp.  One website says it's in the persimmon family; another says it is often confused with persimmons.  Persimmons are oval and Sharon fruit is round and called 'fruit of the gods."  May cultures call persimmons and Sharon fruit 'kaki.'  It was advertised in the store as Sharon fruit, but the person we saw eating it called it kaki.

After being gone last week, Monday was a catch up day – washing, shopping, baking --  but we were still ready for home evening.  We welcomed one member and four non-members. 

Tuesday we drove to Pécs as we were asked to inspect the three missionary apartments there before their transfer this week.  That was the reason for baking the day before – a loaf of pumpkin bread for each apartment.  When we returned that evening, we did the inspections for the two apartments here in Kaposvár.  
Christmas decorations were up in the Pécs Mall.  Notice that the carriage is pulled by moose!
Remember I mentioned that the appliance store here sold their refrigerator and raised the price on the washer that we had budgeted for.  So, while in Pécs we went shopping at a larger store in the mall.  We chose what they had in stock (because no store ever knows when they will get additional items once the current stock is sold) and they delivered the next day.   That’s an amazing tender mercy!

Speaking of a tender mercy, we are grateful for one this week.   The director of a disabled children’s home in Szeged had requested a screen (shown above).  She sent us a website and we located the screen at a store in Budapest.  We planned to go pick it up last week when we were there; however we ran out of time.  So decided we would pick it up this week as we left Budapest on our way to Szeged for the project closing.  And then our Monday 9:00 a.m. appointment called and postponed, so we don’t need to go into Budapest  tomorrow; we will go straight to Szeged.  Now what to do about the screen?  We had previously shopped here in Kaposvár and only found one screen with palm trees and birds.  That did not seem appropriate to me.  We went several places here in town asking about a screen and showing them a picture.  We went to all suggested places and the only place left was Pratiker – the screen with palm trees and birds.  When we walked into Pratiker, we saw the very screen that she requested!  She was supposed to have that screen!
Now getting it in our little car. . .

 Necessity is the mother of invention – tied to the ceiling!

Wednesday our translator left and moved back to Texas, USA.  Rather sudden and sad news for us.  He has decided he needs to get on with his education.  Currently his wife and child are still here.  The hope is that they will follow him soon.  But it has left us scrambling for someone who can translate for us.
Thursday Péter, an investigator, served as our translator at a closing in Nagykanizia. He did a fine job, but was rather surprised when we didn't accept the offered coffee.  It gave us a chance to have a Word of Wisdom discussion.   Here, the hospital had a waiting area in the Pediatrics Department, but no chairs and no tables in a small eating area and their very small refrigerator for medicines was going out.  Again, we find that with grants the government will fund basic salaries and maintenance, but nothing to enhance or improve.  
Friday evening, some of the girls (and Evi's mother) came early and helped finish some blankets for the project in Szeged.   I’ve learned since the last blankets we did.  

A few tips if you are making fleece blankets:  1)  not tying them means no hard knots to lay on or to get caught, especially in hospital tubing and machines, 2) rounding the corners is nicer, and 3) making a tiny slit and then slipping the fringe through and pulling it down tight leaves the finished edge much softer and consistently nicer looking.
Saturday we cleaned the church and then later went with the elders to visit two less-active sisters.  One sister’s husband just got out of the hospital and she is caring for him; the other is not well herself and has a hard time getting out.  But both are very sweet sisters.

Church attendance today was good.  We had 12 in Relief Society -- that's a record.  

All is well here.  We are grateful for our testimonies and for opportunities to share them.  We have been to two programs this week with the elders -- two girls who speak English.   We pray for the elders and those they are teaching.  This is not easy work.  Have you heard that for every door missionaries knock in Europe, someone in Mexico is baptized!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

November 16, 2014

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . "
Just returned from our travels this week, have unpacked, checked emails and phone and am now ready to write a note.  

Monday we left for a day trip to Kecskemét – via Budapest – to deliver some items to another senior couple and to get our new GPS fixed.  Both accomplished we went on to Kecskemét and bought some vent pipe fittings for 3 wood stoves we had purchased earlier and had been delivered to the Red Cross there.  We arrived for the closing, which turned out to be an almost two-hour program -- their annual one commemorating St. Martin’s Day.  

Some cute children sang a song and recited some Hungarian nursery rhymes.  A Catholic bishop spoke about living a life of service and St. Martin, the patron saint of Hungary.  St. Martin, a son of a Roman tribune, was born in Hungary around 316. On a cold night, while serving as a soldier in France, he saw a scantily dressed beggar and offered half of his cloak so he wouldn’t freeze.  That night Jesus appeared in his dreams as the beggar dressed in his cloak.  The dream confirmed his faith; he left the army to serve God.  His good deeds and empathy for the poor have become legendary and he was appointed as bishop in Tours, France. Martin was so humbled he hid in a stable full of geese to avoid being found.   However, the geese made so much noise he was discovered and ordained.  He dedicated the rest of his life to helping the needy.  According to folklore one should eat fried geese on November 11 at 11:11 a.m. as “one who does not eat goose on this day remains hungry throughout the year.”  Oops, we’re in trouble! 

Back to some noteworthy things about the gift of the stoves.

One of the wood burning stoves was displayed and actually presented to a family.  We were told that because of the gift of three stoves, the Red Cross used that as a springboard for a fundraising campaign and people donated money so they could buy more stoves (for people who cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter, the government will provide wood free of charge if they have a wood-burning stove).  The branch president (who served as our translator) emailed us to tell us that the next day, the other two stoves were presented to a single father with four children and a mother who had just had a baby and could not take the baby home because they had no heat.  When the Red Cross director called President Mércséri she reported, “as we speak, the baby is being released from the hospital to go home”

We returned home much later than planned, and our repaired GPS brought us across the country on very narrow, country roads.  Unfortunately it was dark and we could not see much of our adventure, but arrived home just fine. 

We went one day to buy some appliances that we had priced and had approved for a project here in Kaposvár.  As we walked in the only appliance store in town, and over to the small refrigerator we had determined to purchase (and had approval to do so), the salesman moved it out and sold it to another customer.  That was their last one and they have no idea if or when they will get another one of that particular (inexpensive) model. And the price we had approved for the washing machines was now raised 7,000 ft. this week!  Welcome to Hungary!

Thursday we left again – to Szombathely – to close a project at a disabled home for adults.  They received a sewing machine (so they could mend clothes), a microwave, mixer and toaster.  The district Relief Society president has a sweet daughter who is a resident there, another daughter was our interpreter.  They are very impressed with the staff and care there.  It was a sweet experience to be there.  They presented us with a poinsettia and a lovely bundt cake. 

Someone's creativity in this village with bales of hay.  Her skirt goes all the way around.
We then headed to Sopron to the senior couple’s home there to pick up the damaged ‘skirt’ from the trampoline earlier given to a children’s home there.  We put in the address on our GPS and were enjoying the scenery.  Suddenly we were in a town that caused me to exclaim, "These are lovely and well-kept homes."  And then we noticed the signs were in German.  The GPS had taken us through Austria, the shortest route.  Oops!  That's a no-no!  We were out of our mission boundaries.  Two other senior sisters were there visiting in Sopron (had come for dental appointments), so we brought in our cake just in time for high tea!  

On our way to Budapest we stopped at the sporting goods store to return and get the replacement for the trampoline skirt – and hope the next one lasts longer!  

Friday we drove to a town about 45 kilometers north of Budapest to pay for some sheets ordered for a hospital project.  Typically, we must pay cash and then the order will be processed.  We try to juggle these trips for the least amount of gas expenditure.  Lo and behold, when we arrived at the company, they said the sheets were ready and we could take them with us!  That saved another trip or a delivery cost.  A good company we will hopefully use again!

We then met with a new potential partner – a home and school for autistic children.  Their building is 100 years old, the school has been in operation since 1926, and just as other places we have visited EVERYTHING was clean, neat and orderly.  We were impressed again with the staff and their care.
We then bought blanket fabric for a project – and then I had a dentist appointment.  Unfortunately, I had an abcess.  So I ended up having a root canal!  I was very impressed with the woman dentist, who was very gentle and spoke perfect English.

Saturday morning we closed a project at a children’s home in Budapest, where we gave them tents, sleeping bags, pads and backpacks.  The home is in a wooded area and they like to take small groups out for some camping experiences and their equipment was very worn.  Bishop Southwick (Buda Ward) accompanied us, both to translate and to represent the Church – because the home is in his ward area.

Saturday evening and Sunday was the Hungary Budapest Stake Conference.  Elders Patrick Kearon (Europe Area Presidency) and George R. Donaldson, Area Seventy, were the visiting authorities to make a change of the stake presidency.  The Hungary Budapest Stake is 8+ years old and has only had the current stake presidency.  So this is a new experience for the Hungarians – kind of like when Brigham Young succeeded the Prophet Joseph Smith.   In fact, our branch president said to Stan the other day, “Can anyone else in Hungary do this job?”   There's no way we would know the new presidency.  Surprisingly, Bishop Chris Southwick (who had been with us the day before) was called as the new stake president.  (He is from Oregon, age 33, was a missionary here, married a Hungarian and lives here teaching at an international school).  The first counselor stayed on in the new presidency. He went with us to a project closing a few months ago.  The second counselor we got to know when we took Elder and Sister Cullimore (Church welfare specialists) to visit the gardens in Vesprém earlier this year. 

No, there was no voice heard of the former stake president (as at the time of Brigham Young's sustaining); but there was a lot said about the changes and the need to pray for both the outgoing and incoming brethren and their families. The world would give someone a celebration for an outgoing position.  However, we raise our hands and say ‘thank you.’  On one hand that seems not nearly enough, but other the other hand, these men did not serve for praise; they served for love, for Heavenly Father, for the Savior and for each member of the stake.   Raising our hands for the release and sustaining is symbolic of our hearts and souls – lifting, caring, loving, supporting and praying – and so much more.

Elder Kearon showed a rose that was there by the pulpit ­­- how beautiful it is.  But under a microscope, it can actually be ugly.  Do not put these new brethren or their families under a microscope or they can be ugly, too.  Pray for them, give them time, distance and patience to grow into the mantle of their calling and they will be beautiful also.  Nice advice.  Great meetings with a wonderful spirit and the stake center was completely full with some standing on the sides and an overflow room.  (We were told that at the first stake priesthood meeting, there were nine brothers present.)

Carlee is doing well.  She had her stomach drain removed, a feeding tube inserted and started on breast milk yesterday -- very slowly.  This is way earlier than thought.  

We are so grateful for so many blessings and tender mercies in our lives.  Our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.  We know He and His Son, Jesus Christ are concerned about the details of our lives and bless us daily.  

November 9, 2014

You'll never guess about these pictures.  We came across this in an upgraded area of the city.  
The tree roots are covered with a 'cork like' substance.  It looks almost like it was
 poured over and then it hardened -- clean and nice.

Another busy and full week at home in Kaposvár with wonderfully warm weather.

Monday we attended a funeral for a member of our branch.  It was held at the mortuary in the cemetery.   His family did not want anything LDS; they felt that "he was taken by a cult.  They were very nice people and cared for him, but a cult nonetheless.”  In the funeral, a woman (I think this is her occupation) read for about 8 minutes, another woman got up and recited something and then the original woman read some more for several minutes, and closed her book.  Three men came in to get the flowers.  The wreaths were put on top of the hearse, the urn (he was cremated) was put in the hearse, and then

we all walked behind the hearse as it slowly drove through the cemetery to the burial site.  This all  took 15 minutes.  At the grave, the woman read some more, and then our branch president was given three minutes.

He sang a hymn (he has a beautiful tenor voice) and prayed.   And then they put the urn in the crypt, sealed it and placed the many flowers around.

Monday evening was FHE again with a good crowd – six investigators; one new one.  We had a lesson, and then an activity and games; and of course, refreshments.  Again, all seemed congenial and had a good time together. 

Tuesday, the senior missionary auditing couple arrived to do a branch audit.  They came over for dinner afterwards before leaving to go on to Pecs.  Actually, Elder and Sister Bailey (from Sandy, UT) served a mission here and while living in Pécs, drove to Kaposvár a couple of times a week to serve as the branch was beginning in Kaposvár.  They have now returned as the auditing couple and travel to several countries in Eastern Europe for auditing purposes. 
Wednesday we met with a children’s home here in Kaposvár.  You may think you’ve heard that line before.  You have!  Children’s homes are plentiful in this country.   Children can be removed from their home because of parental abuse, neglect, alcoholism, poverty or their own delinquent behavior.  And all those things happen frequently.  In these homes they are expected to attend school until at least the age of 16, help with the chores and maintenance of the home and participate in the activities in their ‘family’ group.  We have visited many of these children’s homes and find that although their facilities are old, they are clean, orderly and seem to be well managed with caring staff.  Only a couple have we had negative remarks made by the staff about the children.  One place told us the children were ‘mean’ and they destroyed the computers they had.  We did not approve them for a project. 

And then the rest of the day we helped a branch member’s family move – back to where they moved from a couple of weeks ago.  Long, emotional story.  But where they are is a better place for them.

Thursday we met with the Kaposvár Red Cross.  They are very involved – in this county they support a homeless shelter, a family shelter and a day care for mentally and physically disabled children -- plenty of needs there.  

Friday, November 7, 2014 we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary – by putting a 'love lock' on our apartment deck.  They don’t have a public place here, but here is where we lived at the time – so we found an appropriate place.  We were wished 44 more years!

Friday is always district meeting in the morning and then we typically grab lunch with the missionaries before we come home and I’m in the kitchen the rest of the day to prepare for Young Single Adults.   We celebrated Evi’s birthday, one of our sisters.  She is gluten intolerant, so I made a cheesecake.  It was not beautiful and I didn’t have a spring form pan, but the looks and shape did not keep it from being eaten.

At one of our home evenings a lady attended.  She and friends help feed some of the homeless on Saturdays.  We visited that sight on Saturday. This day they made s a large kettle of mostly pasta.  Not sure yet if we can help them; we cannot provide food or money as they are very temporary.   And we must meet with an actual organization/foundation – to know that the donations will be used properly and will be long lasting.    She and her friends are definitely doing a great service as they also brought donated clothes and some mattress pads.  They all went very quickly.  

Today we had two branch sisters, Erzsi and Eva (and Erzsi’s grand daughter), to lunch.  The elders always need to come to translate.  These ladies are very fun and quite the talkers, so it was a delightful and chatty time.

We have a busy week of traveling ahead – stake conference in Budapest next weekend.  

Little Carlee Miller had the procedure to close her abdomen opening on Friday.  She handled that well.  Erin was able to hold her on Thursday.   She is stable, her color is improving; we are praying for her intestines, bowels and her body to grow and do well so that she will be able to be removed from the ventilator and her nutritional supplement as soon as possible.  Her future will depend on how she heals and grows in the next couple of months.

We know that the power of the Priesthood is real.  We know it is the healing power.  Of course we hope and pray for Carlee to be healed by that power.  But we also pray for Heavenly Father’s will to be done, and for the strength and faith to accept His will always.