April 5, 2015

Forsythia or Hungarian aranyeső (golden rain) is trying hard to bring spring.

Boldog Húsvétot or Happy Easter!   We celebrate this most sacred day Because He Lives. And, we are so grateful and blessed.

Packing and unpacking has become second nature.  First stop this week was right here in Kaposvar to ‘close’ a project.  Last summer we visited a large facility a couple of hours north of us, a home for 200 mentally and physically handicapped adults. 

They needed a wheelchair ramp for their van, but at the time it appeared more expensive than we were allotting to each project.  They tried unsuccessfully to find donors to help with part of the expense.  However, by the end of the year when there was money left, it seemed right for them.  It turned out that the installation place is about ½ kilometer from our apartment in Kaposvar.  It took until this week for the Ford dealership and the institution’s van schedule to match times for installation.   It was only the van driver, but he seemed very happy to now have a secure and safe way to transport their patients in their wheelchairs. 

Directly from that appointment -- Kaposvar in the southwest part of the country -- we headed to Debrecen and Miskolc in the northeast part of the country to visit organizations that might need help there. 

We arrived in Debrecen in the evening, checked in to our hotel and took a cool and rainy walk to stretch our legs a bit.  We ended up going the wrong way we intended, but saw this large building that is one of the science buildings of the University of Debrecen.

Tuesday was a delightful first!  We met with two facilities and did not need a translator – because someone at each place could speak English.  It was so nice, and by the end we felt like friends because we could actually communicate with them.

First was a small nursing  home or hospice that is licensed for 10 beds. The director worked at the hospital for 40 years before starting this home.  They are ready to move into a larger home (as soon as they get the government license) which will house 25 beds.  Her daughter is helping her and takes a salary, but the director considers this her ‘hobby,’ she said with a smile because they cannot afford a salary for her.  We then visited a day care with 160 children, 22 of whom are autistic.

After these visits we met Elder and Sister Broadhead, the senior couple who live in Debrecen (and who had just returned Monday night from a family history assignment to Greece) for lunch.  We enjoyed a nice visit and then they assured us we needed to get on the road to Miskolc in time to visit the castle. . .

Elder and Sister Bailey, the Europe Area auditing couple who live in Miskolc, met us as we came into town to direct and accompany us to the castle before closing time.   This castle was built after the Mongul invasion of 1241-42 which destroyed the previous castle.  It reached its importance in 1342-1382. 
The queen's bathtub and a dress.
Later it became a wedding gift for the queens of Hungary, which it remained until the Ottoman invasion in the 16th century. 

By the end of the 1600’s it was in ruins.  Archaeological excavations began in the 1960’s, and last year the castle was re-opened with reconstructed rooms furnished in medieval-style furnishings.
One original tower was preserved for comparison.

Elder Miller had a little fun in the armory.

A view from the top of the castle shows only a few of the many 10-story Soviet-era apartment buildings in the background in this once industrial city of Miskolc.

The next morning Elder and Sister Sharpe, our Europe Area welfare supervisors from Germany arrived to accompany us to our humanitarian visits and closings.  We first visited a home for 50 autistic adults and then a home for the elderly which houses 437, 1/3 of whom have dementia.  Because this home is owned and operated by the city, the public can use it.  There was a group of retired persons having a meeting in the cafeteria.  They wanted to sing for us. They immediately went on the stage and gave us a mini concert.

There truly is no end of the need in this country.  It is always amazing how grateful these caretakers are for their work, how long they have worked at a location, and how much they love those they care for (we see it in their interactions).   We always thank them for their care to those with difficulties and tell them how much  Heavenly Father loves those with handicaps as well as those who so tenderly care for and love them.  

On our way to Budapest, we stopped about halfway to close a previous project – a home for 350 mentally disabled adults, ages 18 to 91.  Many of their beds were very worn and sagging.  The humanitarian fund provided 15 new beds.   Because they have many in each bedroom, this is a desired style which lifts up from the side with storage underneath. 

Budapest was very cold, windy and rainy.  Perhaps March didn’t get all its traditional wind and it began last Friday to blow  and 'go out like a lion' but continued into April, adding the rain. 

Thursday morning we met our translator and went to a large school for 219 children who are mentally, physically, visually impaired or autistic, ages 3 to 23.  Some live there, some come for the week and go home on weekends, and some come daily to school – from kindergarten age to training for some type of work that disabled adults might be able to do.  There is a new online speech program that helps the disabled and autistic learn to speak and they asked for 6 tablet computers to access the program in the classrooms for this purpose, as well as some CD players for music purposes.  Thanks to our son Devon for his computer knowledge that helped us on this project.  We arrived just at spring break time, so they told the students there will be this blessing/gift waiting for them when they return.  

We then stopped by the Easter markets, quickly checked them out, and tried the hot chimney cakes (one of our favorite Hungarian snacks). Because the weather was so bleak, we spent the remainder of the day on the Hop On Hop Off bus for a sightseeing tour to give Elder and Sister Sharpe a taste of Budapest – only we never hopped off.   The route took us past many very old buildings (80% were destroyed in WWII), churches, squares, statues (of which there are scores), and the Puskás Stadium (built in 1953 to hold 72,000 and named after their famed soccer player).   We had not ever taken this tour, and although we have seen most of the sights, we learned some interesting history:

  • This small country of Hungary (which used to be three times larger than at present) has a good showing of Nobel Prize Laureates, especially in chemistry and physics.  Education is very important in this country to those who can afford it.
  • Hungarian athletes have won a total of 482 Olympic medals, with fencing as the top medal-producing sport. Hungary has won more Olympic medals than any other nation that has never hosted the Games.  Hungary is also the most successful football (soccer) team in the history of Olympics.

  • Hungarians played a major role in the beginnings of Hollywood and American cinema.  Hungarians were the founders of Fox and Paramount Studios, invested in Thomas Edison’s sound and picture inventions and Hungarians received Oscars on such films as My Fair Lady, A Double Life, and Ben Hur, and a Hungarian directed Casablanca.  We well remember Zsa Zsa Gabor, but Tony Curtis and Houdini?  Who knew? 
  • There are 25 districts in Budapest, each of which has its own mayor, who answer to the Lord Mayor of all.

  • The Parliament building has 365 towers, one for each day of the year, 601 rooms, 27 gates, 88 statues, 40 kilos of gold leafing, and cost enough to build a city for 60,000 people.
  • The Danube is not really blue, only romantics think of it as blue as did Johann Strauss.

  • Hungarian composer Franz Liszt is the father-in-law of composer Richard Wagner.

The next morning the Sharpes took a tour of the Parliament building, and then we were off to a small village outside of Győr, where we closed another project.  In 1982 Mr. Makk took an old house with 4 rooms and provided a home for 50 people.  He then began restoring, adding on and fixing up some outbuildings to build their ‘campus.’  The Győr branch president’s wife works here and she invited us to meet these people. Again, many of their beds were old and sagging, so they received 15 beds.   These residents told us how grateful they are and how wonderful the new beds are. 

At that point, the Sharpes headed home to Germany and it was time for us to head home.  However, the day before (after missionary transfers), an elder mistakenly took an apartment key to another city with him; we picked up that key in Budapest and now needed to take it to Pécs, an hour or so south of Kaposvár so the elders could get into their apartment.

Elders Winkel (Manti), Martineau (Santa Clara), Parkinson (Boise), and King (Orem).
We covered a lot of ground this week, missed our weekly home evening, young single adults, district meeting and missionary transfers.   We will miss a couple of our good elders who were transferred, but we received two new ones – Elder Parkinson, whose mother and family was in our Oak Hills Ward (Provo) years ago and whose aunt is my current Relief Society president and Elder Winkel, who aunt and uncle are friends of ours.   It’s a small world.  So we look forward to working with them.  

Because the satellite broadcast of General Conference at the branch house was in Hungarian, we and the elders watched the sessions on the computer at our apartment.   Again, what a magnificent conference!   And the temples announced; what a blessing to those saints.   It’s time to pray for a temple in Hungary.  These saints have to travel 16 hours by train to Germany, and right now their Freiburg Temple is closed until next year.   Yes, we need some more baptisms and strength; we are praying for that also.

Oh, last week when our branch president (who has been a member almost a year and a half) was announcing General Conference and saying how much he looks forward to hearing from prophets and apostles, he mentioned a couple of names of his favorites, and then said, “. . .and Elder Holland.  When the devil goes to bed at night, he checks under his bed to make sure Elder Holland is not there!” Elder Holland is a master wordsmith and speaker, and he really could intimidate the devil!

We continue to be very blessed and acknowledge the Lord’s hands in our daily lives. We know that we have received of the enabling power of the Atonement many times with help and power beyond our own to accomplish His work which we are privileged to be doing in Hungary.  


  1. Great post! It is so interesting to see the variety of projects you are involved in. So much behind the scenes service that most of us have no idea about. I loved seeing the castle! And I want to try one of those chimney cakes! I had no idea about the Hungarian influence in the film industry. Fascinating. Keep up the great work! Love from the Lisonbees in Brazil.

  2. Whew! That is quite a report. Sounds like you will be busy right up to the end. Do I understand correctly that your projects all have to be closed before you leave?

    I hope you have learned how to make chimney cakes for us. Expectations are high, you know.

    Enjoy your week.



  3. Lots of interesting facts about Hungary I didn't know. You have done so many worthwhile projects while you've been there. Its too bad no one is coming to replace you! Glad you've been able to see some of the countryside & tourist spots in between your projects. Hopefully you've learned to cook a few Hungarian dishes. These next three months are going to fly by!!

  4. Hi! I was wondering, if I give you credit, if I could share your picture of the 10 story buildings on my son's blog about his mission that I'm updating while he's gone.

    Deborah Bunker