Saturday, December 10, 2011

December and Loving The Hungarian Life

Christmas Time in Békéscsaba

December 27, 2011

Dear Family,
MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I love you all SO much! It was so great to talk to everyone this week! I'm so glad you all are doing well, and that you had a good Christmas.
Okay, so transfer calls came this morning and some crazy things are happening this transfer! Sister Johnson is going to be staying in Békéscsaba, and I will be going co-senior with a sister from my group in the MTC- Sister Kramer in Kispest!! It's sad to think I will be leaving this city because I have grown to love it so much. And kind of scary that Sister Kramer and I will be serving together in only our 3rd transfer. I know we both still have so much to learn when it comes to the language and missionary work- but I’m such we will learn a lot together this transfer. I think its going to be a really great growing experience. Sister Gallion (my MTC companion) is going to be coming here to serve with Sister Johnson. I'm not exactly sure why the Lord wanted to have her come here and me go to Kispest instead of me just staying here... but I’m sure He knows much better than I do. I know that the Lord will help qualify both Sister Kramer and I for what is ahead of us. 
Well, alright so now that you have the update... let me tell you about how our week went! We had a great week spreading lots of Christmas Cheer! We went back to the hospital again this week to visit our friends in the rehabilitation center! We sang some songs, shared some scriptures and even gave a Book of Mormon to the nurse there, Agnes. Monday night was our Christmas party. We had quite a few people come actually! We decorated Christmas cookies, drank hot chocolate, played pin the nose on the snowman, and cut out snowflakes! It was quite a party I’d say. The best part was everyone was talking with everyone, so I think our investigators ended up having a really good time. :) 
Wednesday was zone conference so we took a train up to Budapest. We had some trainings and then watched the end of the year slideshow (Sister Johnson don't worry I'm mailing one to you!) and had a really nice lunch together. In the evening we did a white elephant exchange and Sister Baughman read us all some Christmas stories. It was a really fun day! 
On Thursday we thought it would be a good idea to go tabling and hand out flyers for our Christmas concert. Sister Johnson decided to bring the hymnbooks so we could do a little caroling on the street. I had never really sung on the street before so it was a new experience for me, and at first i was a little nervous. We got all sorts of reactions out of people, but mostly we just made a lot of people smile. By the end i was really enjoying myself. I could tell that we were helping everyone who passed us feel a little bit more of Christmas cheer. When it was time to pack up, i asked Sister Johnson if we could just sing one more. She of course said yes, and we decided to sing "silent night." We sang in Hungarian, and just after we started singing a man walking by stopped in front of our table to listen to us sing. Once we had finished his eyes filled up with tears and he thanked us for our song. We talked to him about why we celebrate Christmas, and who it is we remember during this time. We gave him a Book of Mormon and a pass-along card with our name and number. I'm hoping he will read it. He walked away with a smile on his face, and i know we were able to help him feel the spirit and make his day a little brighter. It was a really great experience. 
Friday was our Christmas concert. Elder Rummler and I did a duet to "Oh Holy Night" and i played my guitar. We had a great crowd there too!- which was really exciting for this little city. Lots of our investigators came, the members brought their families, we had a few inactives show up, and even a few people from English class or off the street! The program went really well and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards I decided to introduce myself to the people i didn't recognize. It was kind of scary doing it with out my companion- she was busy talking with other people. So I went around saying hello and I met a lady Eszter, who has come to English class a few times and took one of our flyers from our singing the day before. She thanked us for our music and said it was a beautiful concert. I talked to her for a bit about her family and what her plans are for Christmas. I asked if she had a Book of Mormon and she said no. So I told her I would be right back. I went into the next room and grabbed one of the books with a pass along card. I boar a simple testimony to her about the Book of Mormon and told her i wanted her to have one. She was so grateful to receive the gift and said she would read from it. She also said she would try and make it to church next week! I won't be here, but I’m hoping that she will come. 
This weekend was great too. We spent a lot of the time just relaxing since we don't really get to do that very often. President Baughman gave us permission to go to midnight mass, which was really interesting. The church was freezing cold!- but I’m pretty sure every person in the city was jammed into that Cathedral. It was a nice experience though, and it was cool to see how other people worship the Savior during Christmas time. The music was pretty too. 
We had lunch with Erzika Néni on Christmas day. She's an older lady who didn't really have any other family to go visit her. She made us so much food I thought I was going to explode! But we have to eat everything we are given or some people become offended here. Hungarians take a lot of pride in their cooking. 
Some people have been asking me about Károly and László- the men we found on the street about a month ago. László didn't really work out. He didn't ever show up to any of our appointments we planned with him and wouldn't ever answer his phone. But we did happen to bump into him on the street again! We gave him a book of Mormon and talked to him for a bit…but he didn’t really seem interested in the church. Maybe later he will be ready. We are still meeting with Károly. He is a really nice man, but is progressing very slowly. I think all this new information is a lot for him. He is really solid on his testimony of the bible since he once was a reformatús preacher- but I think the thought of another book as a second witness is strange to him. We have talked to him a lot about prayer, and how it's important for him to find out for himself. He keeps saying he will come to church, but hasn't made it yet. I still think there's a lot of hope for him though. He is beginning to recognize we believe in a lot of the same things. 
I guess that's pretty much the update. Transfers are on Thursday, so my next email I will be in my new area with my new companion!! Sister Kramer is really nice and I think we are going to have a lot of fun together. I'm a little scared since both of us are so young in the mission, but I know we will do great things with the Lord on our side. I love you all lots! Take Care!! Talk to you on Monday. 

Sok Szeretettel, 
Johnson Nővér 

December 19, 2011

Wow.. I can't believe it's almost 2012! How exciting! This week has been INCREDIBLE! So much has happened. Miracles from the Lord! That's all I can say.
So, last Monday we didn't have a p-day, since we went to the baptism last Saturday. We still emailed.. but after emailing we went right to work. We decided to go to the hospital to visit one of our investigators there named Marika Néni. She had been in the hospital for a while from her diabetes. We brought for her a message to share about Christ, and some Christmas Hymns in Hungarian to lift her spirits. She wanted to get out of bed, so we went into this sitting area in the hall. A family was sitting at the table next to us. A father, a mother, a son, and 2 daughters. We taught our lesson and then sister Johnson pulled out the music to sing- right there in front of everyone. We asked the family if it would be alright if we sang a few songs and they said it would be fine. And so we did. Then we said a prayer with Marika. After our prayer Sister Johnson began testifying to the family next to us about the gospel. She is fearless! She even recited to them the first vision! I could tell the family was somewhat standoffish from all this new information, and i was feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Maybe because I’m not use to preaching to so many all at once.. I'm not exactly sure why? But the father ended up coming over to our table to talk to us some more. His brother had just passed away, and he was asking a lot about what we believe about life after death. The son got up and walked into a different room and the daughters were reading from a magazine. We talked to the father for a bit. He spoke really fast, and it was hard for me to catch much of what he was saying. He ended up having to leave to check on something with the nurses, but we gave him a book of Mormon and a pass-along card with our number on it. He seemed to have enjoyed the conversation with us but didn't really seem interested. We said goodbye to Marika, and as we were walking to the elevator one of the daughters caught up with us. She asked if she could hear a little more about what it is we teach. She said she didn't know what it was, but as we were sitting at the table talking, she saw and felt that there was something different about us. We began talking to her about what we do as missionaries, and a little more about what we believe. She ended up giving us her phone number so we could meet again and talk some more. As we walked into the elevator I was amazed at what had just happened. I thought that she wasn't even paying attention to a thing we were saying, but yet she was. And best of all she wanted to learn more. It taught me a really important lesson about how you never know who is listening, or who may be impressed by the spirit when you are unafraid to bear your testimony. I felt somewhat disappointed in myself. I had thought that this family wanted nothing to do with the gospel; I thought we were making them uncomfortable by preaching to them about the gospel. But this experience taught me that I need to be more bold and unashamed of what I know to be true. As we walked down the halls of the hospital, my companion talked to me about the importance of being a witness at all times, in all things, and in all places. I learned it is important not to be so concerned about what others may think of you- whether they think you are a crazy person or not. Because we never know who is listening, or how others may be influenced by the spirit as we are unafraid to be a witness of His name. 
While there in the hospital, we decided it would be a good idea to go around to different rooms and sing some Christmas songs to people. We weren't sure if that was allowed, so we went to the front desk to ask permission. They ended up telling us to go to some service building...which we tried to find with not much success. We ended up walking around until we wandered into a rehabilitation center- which we thought was the right place, but wasn't exactly the service center. We told the nurses there that we just wanted to sing some Christmas songs to people. One of the nurses Agnes, asked if we wanted to sing right then we said, sure! Then she told us to just wait a few minutes and she would get everyone assembled in a room to hear us. So, Sister Johnson and I had our own little acapella concert in front of all the old people in the rehabilitation center. I was somewhat nervous at first, there were probably about 20-25 people all gathered in the tiny hospital room, but as we began to sing my nervousness melted away. Sister J and I just sang our hearts out and smiled as big as we could. I think we really left an impression on the people there. We were able to bring them closer to Christ through our singing, and you could see it! At the end their faces were brighter. There was an old man who had been sitting in the room when we walked in, we had tried talking to him, but he seemed sad and didn't smile at all. But though out our singing he began to smile, and by the end he had the biggest smile on his face as he walked out of the room. It was a really special experience for me, to see that I was able to help others feel the spirit through the talents the Lord has blessed me with. As we were leaving, Agnes thanked us for coming and told us we could come back anytime. We gave her a pass-along card with our number on it before we left. The next morning we got a text from her again thanking us for singing. She said that God smiled through our eyes. She told us she was Catholic but would like to talk with us some more about our church! :) We are meeting with her again tomorrow. 
The Lord is helping us see amazing things happening here. Yesterday, one of the inactive members Erika, came to church with her son Laci after not coming to church for 8 months! It was a great surprise! We told her we would walk with Laci to church, because she had said she couldn't come. But when we came to her house to pick him up she came outside and decided to come as well. I can't even tell you the change that i saw in her countenance. She was shinning and so happy as she headed home with her son that evening. She said it was great to be at church again after so long. I'm so happy she had a good experience. She is singing with us in the choir for the Christmas concert too! So I’m so excited she is finding her way back! It’s really exciting and I know its good for Laci as well. 
I gave my first talk this Sunday!!! Yes, in Hungarian. Haha Since our branch is so small there aren't many people who can speak in church- and so, Elder Weston asked me to give a talk on the atonement. For 10 min!! I was so nervous. But I think it went alright. I practiced A LOT teaching the wall. I think it helped later in the actual execution. 
For the Christmas concert i am for sure playing the guitar!!  Elder Rummler and I are doing a duet to Oh Holy Night... Just in English. We practiced yesterday and it sounded really good! He has an awesome voice and the harmony sounds really pretty with the guitar. I'm really excited about it! And... I know I said I found this sweet guitar that's travel size and great for 30 dollars.. but I think I might buy the one i saw the other day at the store. Sorry... I’m super indecisive sometimes. But I just really love it and it's not too expensive. I just think it would be a really great thing to have from my mission to always remember. and I don't want to regret not buying it, because I know I will use it! Even after my mission. So I hope that's okay. 

December 12, 2011

Well HELLOOOooOoOoOoOO!!! :) 
I'm trying to remember everything that happened this week!- It's been a long crazy week and we've done a lot! 
Last monday we had P-day as always. Suprisingly, P-days as a missionary are just as crazy as everyother day. We spend a lot of time running around to the grocery store and things. We have this Chinese restraunt we got to about every P-day. Yes, Chinese. It's really awesome. The people there are really funny.. and they heat up your food in the microwave before they give it to you. haha gotta love Hungary. 
We had a small miracle happen last monday though! Every friday we take a bus out to a small town to visit one of our investigators Klára in Szabadkigyós. I love taking the bus because we always meet the coolest people, and it's a great opportunity to talk to others about the gospel. Well, last week Sister Johnson and I met a man on the bus named Alex. He spoke some english and seemed interested in our message. We gave him a Book of Mormon, but before we had a chance to ask for his information we reached our stop. My companion quickly pulled out a pass-along card and told him if he was interested in learning more he could call us. Then we got off the bus. Now, normally when we give out our number on a pass-along card we rarely, if ever, get a call back. Sister Johnson and I figured we probably wouldn't hear from him again, but atleast he had a book of mormon he could read from. We prayed that night that he would call, and last monday- he called! He said he wanted to learn more about the book we gave him! Sister Johnson and I were so excited. We met with him and he seems like a really solid investigator! He said he would read Moroni 10, and we should be meeting with him again tomorrow. I hope he will read and pray about what we are teaching him.
Well, anyways, Thursday was Zone interviews in Seged. President Baughman talked about the Christ-like attributes chapter in Preach My Gospel. I think this is probably one of my favorite chapters in Preach my Gospel. All the other chapters talk alot about missionary work, and how to make the work more effective. But this chapter is about how us as people and as missionaries- and how we can improve ourselves to be more like Christ. I'm going to preach for a second... i normally don't do this in my letters, but bare with me... 
One thing i really think is interesting about the Christ-like attributes is that really, they are a goal we can never fully attain. Instead they are something we have to be constantly striving for and constantly working at. We will never be humble enough, or patient enough, we can never have enough charity and love in this life, because there's always more we can give. And the closer we come to having these attributes, the farther away we feel from achieving them. Christ says we must be perfect, even as He and our Father in Heaven are perfect- why would he expect us to be something he knows we can not be in this life? Well, I think that perfection isn't really a destination, but instead it is the constant striving to grow, learn, and be better than we were the day before. I think perfection is constant improvement, and that is what Christ is asking us to do.
Anyways, Interviews were really great and not scary at all. President Baughman is really awesome and didn't even really ask me many questions. We mostly just talked about how much i am loving Békéscaba and how i'm liking my mission so far. 
OH!- Saturday i went to my first baptism! i didn't know the man being baptized, but Sister Johnson had known him from back in Miskolc. She served there for 5 transfers! It was a really great experience. My old companion from the MTC sister Gallion is serving there! It was really fun to get to see her again. Sister Gallion, Sister Barnhart, Sister Johnson and I sung a special musical number at the baptism. We sang "Lord, I Would Follow Thee"- the first 3 verses in english and the last verse in Hungarian. It was kind of a suprise for us- we practiced about 5 min before. But it turned out really great and i think the people there really appreciated it. Hungarians are really touched by music. It was really exciting to see them light up from hearing our song. The whole baptismal service was a really great experience for me. There was a really speacial spirit there. I remember during one of the talks after Barnabás had been baptized, Sister Johnson turned to me and said- " i don't really know why but I'm crying." I just smiled and said, "this is what it is all about." We are here to Find those people who are ready to take that step and to come unto Christ and accept the gospel in their lives. I feel so blessed to be a part of it all. I am so excited for the day when Katalin or Julcsi or Zsuzsa, or our other investigators i have come to know and love so much finally takes that step! And i get to be here to support and encourage them all along the way! It's amazing to watch as others progress- we get to see their testimonies grow, and watch as they begin to make and keep certain committments and change their lives. I already am seeing the gospel work in the lives of others. I can see how it lights them up and helps them to be happier. There truely is no other work on earth that is more important than lifting others and helping them to find more hope and purpose in their lives. 
Sister Johnson and I are having a lot of fun! I am learning so much about myself by being out here on a mission. It's really exciting. She's helping me to think more about what it is I want out of life and what kind of person I want to be. She's a really great example. I have been blessed with such AWESOME companions, and i am learning so many important things from each one. 
I bought a guitar! but not the one i saw in the store last week. That one was kind of expensive, so i decided to wait a few days before i bought it. Elder Conklin (one of our zone leaders) called me a few days later and told me he was selling his guitar. It was a travel sized guitar and he was only asking for 6000 ft or like 30 dollars. :) So, i he brought it when he and Elder Nielson came up for splits and i got to see it and i really like it! Plus, its easier to carry around since it's smaller, which i think will come in handy- especially since i want to use it a lot in programs and finding and things.It feels really great to get to play guitar again! We have a Christmas concert coming up so i think i will probably perfom something with my guitar for that! :) 
Okay, I guess that's about all for this week. I wish i could write everything detail in my emails, but then we'd be here all day. i have been a very devote with writing in my journal though!- haven't missed one day yet! So don't worry, all of my experiences are being recorded!
I hope all is well. Love you lots and i'll talk to you next week! 
Sok Szerettel,
Johnson Nővér 

P.S . i attached some pictures with our investigators and things. Katalin is the lady with the red hair! i just love her- she's got a lot of spunk. and Julcsi and Zsuzsa are the mother and daughter in the other picture. They are so awesome!! Also, Sis.J and i, and a merry christmas picture from us. :)  i'll try and send some more pictures next week. LOVE YOU TONS!!! 

Julcsi (Mother) and Zsuzsa (Daughter) and Tiffany

Johnson's Nővér with their Christmas Bundles

Katalin and her Missionary Angels

The World is full of WONDERFUL Sisters

December 5, 2011

Hello family! I hope everything is great on the other side of the world. Things are wonderful here as always! I am just loving Békéscsaba and my companion and i are having a blast! I am suprised with how well we get along! It feels like we've been friends forever!- but we just met last week. haha We laugh a lot. Which makes the work that much more fun. :) We have some really awesome Elders here too, and of course amazing investigators. 6 of them came to church on sunday!!- 2 were a complete suprise! it was really exciting. The spirit in fast and testimony meetings here is always so strong! i love listening to everyone bear testimony. it's amazing to think each one of the members here are converts, and they all have such solids testimonies of the gospel. It's exciting being able to understand a lot more than i could my first few weeks- it was an incredible sacrament meeting. i hope our investigators all were able to feel the spirit as i could- because it was definitely there.
Ok.. so I am now officially addicted to tea! don't worry.. the good kind of tea. We drink fruit tea, herbal tea, and camomille tea basically every morning. And we go through a jar of honey in about one week. But i think its keeping me healthy because i haven't been sick at all yet this winter! (knock on wood).
Our investigators are doing great. One of our new investigators from last week came to church! Her name is Edit. She's an english class student of ours. We've only met with her twice, which is why i was amazed that she showed up to church on sunday. She seems to be accepting everything really quickly- she's reading from the Book of Mormon, and now she is praying in the name of Jesus Christ too. Its really exciting to see her progress! i'm hoping she will continue to meet with us and maybe come to church again next week!
Julcsi and Zsuzsa invited us over to bake and decorate ginger bread cookies! it was so fun! they had all sorts of shapes and ideas. Zsuzsa made the cookie dough from scratch. And we helped cut out the shapes and frost them. She gave me the reciepe!- although, its in Hungarian. So hopefully one day i'll be able to read it. We had a great time decorating and talking together. I think this might be a new tradition i will start with my family every christmas. We had to bump thier bap. date back to January. They are both still doing awesome! and progressing and coming to church each week. But Julcsi has a swim competition on the day we planned for- she asked if she could move it to next month. I'm hoping i will still be here, but if not i will travel back so i can be here for there for Katalin's and their baptism.
What else... oh! i started P90X! haha it's pretty intense. I've been doing it by myself... but Sister Johnson says she will try it with me this week! i will be ripped by my birthday! (i hope).
I want to tell you all about the people we are teaching!.. but we are meeting with a lot of people and that would take a while to talk about each one. Right now we have 11 progressing investigators! We have a few others, but its hard to determine who isn't progressing and who we should meet with less. It's hard for me to see people who know its true, but don't act on the witness they recieve from the spirit. I just know lots of our investigators have a testimony.. but for some reason they won't come to church. Sis. J and i are working on a plan that will help get our investigators coming to church.
One of the men we've been teaching Károly- i talked about him in an email a while ago. He is the one who appraoched us on the street. He's an older man and is a former preacher for the reformatikus church. He loves the bible and is a super nice man. We've been teaching him almost every week. We had a really amazing lesson on the plan of Salvation with him this week. When we were talking about the Spirit world he asked about people who have never heard about the gospel. We told him about how they will have an oppurtunity to recieve it in the next life. and talked to him a little about temples and the work we do there for the dead. A church magazine about temples happened to be sitting on the table at the branch house where we were sitting. We flipped through the pages and showed him the pictures of the temple and talked about why they are so speacial to us. The spirit was really strong, Károly told us he would like to read some of the articles, and said he would try and make it to church next week! :)
Well, I should get going. There's lots of things to do on P-days. I found a guitar i really love! its 2400 ft which is like 120 dollars. It's somewhat used but it has a really pretty design and just seems to fit me perfectly!! i think i'm going to buy it. It was so fun just being in the store today and getting to play all the guitars! I forgot how much i really loved playing. I've been practicing piano too! i'm hoping when i get home i will be able to read notes. I LOVE music! I don't think i mentioned this in my last email.. but we just got brand new Hungarian hymn books! Nice ones! With all sorts of songs in it! They have all the great songs from the english hymn books and even come thou fount!! Its really exciting to get to use them. I think the members and investigators are really excited about all the new songs we have to sing.
Okay, i'm off. Love you all! Thanks for the emails. Dad and Holly, i hope you are both feeling better. I'm glad you were able to spend sometime with Sophie. I will try and send a letter to G-ma this week. Mom, you are so great! Don't worry about sending me tons of things- i just enjoy reading your emails and hearing how the family is doing. Maybe if Dave has sometime i could hear from him! i'd really like to hear how he's doing. I am planning on sending everyone something little for Christmas. Its not much, but i think you will enjoy it. :)
LOVE YOU ALL TONS! Take Care. Talk to you again next week!

Sok Szerettel,

Johnson T Nővér

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