Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Won't It Cool Down?

Hey everybody!

Greetings from around the other side of the world! I thought about that today, I'm all the way around the world from Utah! Cool stuff.

So stuff went down this week:
We had a baptismal service on Sunday! We had three awesome people go into the waters of baptism and take that step towards coming closer to Christ! We held it in a pool in a hotel across the city from the branch house. The fun thing about this though, is that on the wall of the pool there is a mosaic of some mermaids or somewhat just flapping around in some water. It's a pretty mosaic and what not, but the mermaids are like totally....well, they aren't wearing clothes. Yeah. So I got to hold a towel in front of them for the entire service so no one else would see them! That was my contribution! Haha. Super funny. But it was such a special event: there is nothing like seeing someone that you have grown to care about coming out of the water just beaming with light. Such a neat thing to witness.

I went on splits again down to Kecskemét and this time I was with Elder Christensen. I think he's only been in the country for like eigth months or something, which I guess is a while, but still considered young in missionary years. We had a really fun time down there, and he is a great elder! And when we split back to Szolnok, to my surprise we had a new senior couple waiting for us: the Smiths! They are from Randolph, UT up by Bear Lake. And they have a CAR. HOORAY FOR AUTOMOBILES OF GREATNESS. We were way excited by that haha. Elder Miller and I took them shopping at the local Auchan for food and what not. They insisted on buying us dinner afterwards, so we went and showed them our favorite spot in Szolnok to grab a bite to eat: the gyros spot! :D

So, whilst tabling, I was called "Satan" for the first time by a passing fellow. That was fun. Also, another unexpected moment: in a programme with one of our investigators, I was talking about something and then "K", our investigator, just says "Hey, Elder Giacalone, your Hungarian sounds really well!" I wanted to hug him right then and there! In all seriousness, I have see how I can understand people a lot more now. It's still a little tough to express myself, but I can listen pretty well, I think. 

I also recited the First Vision in Hungarian in a programme for the first time the other day. I know I've been here for like a transfer already but it was still my first time. It was so neat. I can see why Preach My Gospel emphasizes bearing testimony about Joseph Smith and the First Vision- it brings in the coolest spirit to every single lesson we use it in! One of the prophets referred to the First Vision as when the iron ceiling between man and God was "shattered" forever. Such a cool way to phrase it. 

Szolnok is just chugging along! The branch is great, the food is fantastic, and the people are super funny and great- I LOVE them! Next week is transfers! I'm excited to see what will happen with everyone around the mission. We've got a busy week this week, lots to do! Thanks for all the prayers, I appreicate them! 

Have a great week everybody! Isten aldd meg a magyart! (God Bless the Hungarians!)

Giaclaone Elder 

Sunflower Fields

Elders and Sisters at a Branch Party

Random Shoes
Our family received this email on Sunday!  

** We have met your missionary son this week.  He is an amazing elder.  He and Elder Miller work so hard.  His language is coming along nicely.  We just arrived in Szolnok Tue.  Your son and Elder Miller took us shopping to teach us the ropes of shopping in Hungary.  They also invited us to attend some programs with them and to visit an inactive family.  They have been so kind to us and have made us feel so welcome.  Your son interpreted for Elder Smith today in priesthood meeting. 
     Thank you for raising such a wonderful son.  He is an excellent missionary.
                                                                                          Love, Elder and Sister Smith

Monday, July 15, 2013

Month Mark!!!

Hey everyone! 
It's my month mark in Hungary! Super weird...feels like I just got here like last week. Well, we had a busy week. Lots of fun people we talked to, lots of Hungarian that I have learned. We've had some fun. We had a programme with a lady and I showed her pictures of my family and she kept saying "How old is your sister?", which was really confusing to me. When I asked her who she was talking about, she pointed to the only girl in the picture, which turned out to be my mom! Awkward explaining that to her, but we got a kick out of it! So Mom, I guess the Hungarians think you are really, really young looking!

We got to go down to the city of Szeged this past week for zone conference! It's like a three hour train ride from Szolnok, so we got to talk to our sisters in the train ride down and pass the time. Super fun ride! Szeged is the biggest city in our zone, and it is absolutely gorgeous! However, the Hungarians refer to it as the (roughly translated) the "hick" area of Hungary, because they pronounce their vowels super weird, so they all sound messed up. Super funny listening to them! I got to eat Fruit Soup down there for the first's so yummy! It's like a cold, thick soup with chunks of fruit in it-really nice on hot Summer days!
So we've had a few rough days where we didn't get a whole lot accomplished we felt, but we had a few miracles towards the end of the week that made up for it :) One of them was after our Angol Ora class and we met with this super classy guy and his wife. We watched the Restoration film with them, and a really cool spirit filled the room. Afterward, they were really interested in what we had to say to them, and my companion and one of the branch members started to talk to them in really rapid Hungarian, kind of leaving me in the dust. When there was a lull in the talking, I told them that I would like to share my testimony with them about what we had talked about. They looked at me, and I had the stage for a good five minutes in Hungarian. Literally I don't remember what I said, but the Spirit was so strong there, and at the end we committed to baptism the wife. First lesson, too. Tender mercy!
Miracle Number 2- We were tracting and ran into a lady that gave us that "I'll listen but I'm not really interested in what you have to say" kind of face. I said (literally) like a ten second prayer in my heart, and I watched this ladie's complexion literally melt away and she let us in! We are going back to teach her in a week :)
Hungarian is coming along slowly, I'm picking up more and more as time goes on. It seems like that Eastern European language that you see on James Bond movies, it really is! We actually got to see a Hungarian wedding this past week (we had permission from the President), it was so neat! It was very elegant. Also, I had a branch member come up to me on Sunday and say how cool it was that I was on YouTube-DANG IT THEY FOUND ME! They all thought it was way cool, but I was a little embarassed!
Also, Hungarians like to tattoo English sayings to their arms because they seriously love America over here. However, sometimes I don't think they realize what it says: for example, I saw a big guy on the bus one day with "Listen to your heart" tattooed to his right bit cray.
For my thought today, I've been reading a lot in those teachings of the presidents of the church books, and I found this cool quote from Joseph Smith: "...let what will, come; don't deny the faith, and all will be well." Love this quote! I think it's so neat to know that I know that Heavenly Father has my life known, and He knows what is best for me!
Well, that's about it. It's still humid here, but it hasn't been boiling hot. So that's good. The rain is nice, it's been raining for like a couple days. Szolnok is gearing up for a big wine festival down the street, we might go checkout the fagylalt (Hungarian ice cream, it's kind of like a gelato) stands. So yummy!
Well, that's about it for now. I hope you all have a great week, and I send lots of love from Hungary!
Sok Szeretettel,
Giacalone Elder

yummy pekseg!!!  I love them!!!



This happens a lot...oh sisters...gotta love Sister Oberhansley and Sister Grigg!

A cool statue right by our apartment. Szolnok is full of them.

This statue actually talks about how Hungary was conquered by the Turks so....not quite sure why it's still here....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Am King of Szolnok...Just Kidding

Szolnok had it's first pinewood derby last week! We didn't have a whole lot of time to work on our it didn't do so well. Oh well. :) The kids loved it!

Hungarian currency is so colorful. Come on dollar, it's time to get blue or something! And they always have this sparkly little band going down the side. I don't know, it's pretty cool.

Oh look who I ran into at the training...hmm...a little familiar? I miss serving with this kid! Gotta love Neely Elder!!

The lighting isn't so great...but this is me rolling around in my 150 plus new ties. Fun night. :)

Godderidge Elder (Joe's District leader in the MTC, he says he's a spiritual giant!) and Joe-

HAHA ok so this is Sister Nabatnikova, from Moscow Russia currently serving in Finland. She was in my MTC zone, I don't remember if I have sent this one home or not, but it's her and me doing our "serious russian faces". So funny! 

Sziazstok csaladom es a barataim :)

I apologize for the one day delay on this. I'll explain why later :)

Well, another week down the drain. Literally time doesn't exist here anymore. We've been so busy that we just forget about stuff and then the sun is going down and then we're in our apartment just staring at the clock and thinking "What the heck did we do today?!". So fun stuff has happened this week:

I keep forgetting to talk about Angol Ora. It's one hour on Tuesday afternoons where we teach Hungarians English. Literally it's the best because I can speak English to them and they have to think of how to convey what they want to say back! Hah! How the tables have turned...
Anyway, with the Herds, the older couple, leaving I am teaching the "Profi" class now, which is like five or six really talented Hungarians and we just play games with them and just shoot the breeze with them in English for an hour. Sooooo much fun! 

Something I forgot to mention like four weeks ago: on the plan ride from SLC to Dallas, there was some General Authority on the plane that bought everyone in my district the deluxe popcorn that they serve to only the first class passengers. So I was sitting in my seat and then the flight attendant came over and said "There is a Mr. Baxter in first class that would like to buy you some popcorn." Since when do cool old guys buy me popcorn?!?! Perks of being a missionary (the sequel to Perks of being a wallflower ;) ). 

Still slightly obsessed with Milka chocolate bars...I just had my first Oreo one...oh dear. Incredibly good stuff there. Also, Coke is fairly cheap here, so I frequent that a bit, and also Madartej, or Bird Milk. Yes, the Bird Milk. It's like a vanilla milk drink that is absolutely incredible. So there's my healthy diet for you all! :D

I also saw the Fowers in the Liahona, I was so surprised! Shout out to them: you are awesome. Woo go Fowers family. 

We have this younger investigator who is like 15, but is like six feet tall and plays on the national Hungarian water polo team. He knows a little English, so I was able to talk a bit with him in his programme we had last week. He started talking about music and what kind I liked. I didn't really think of anything right then and there, so I said I'd think about it. Then he said that he really enjoyed Katy Perry's song "E.T" and started playing it on his iPod!! Now, before my mission I absolutely loved that song, but it felt so...awkward hearing it now., Oh how I was of my favorite songs but whilst on my was way hard!! But, I said we will listen to it later with him, and I felt so much better after he turned it off. Hey, obedience brings blessings!

Our branch continues to amaze me every week. They just got back from their monthly(ish) temple trip up in Freiburg, Germany. Their enthusiasm and joy for the temple humbled me immensley, and they can only go once a month, if they can afford the train ride up there anyway. They all bore their testimonies on fast Sunday about the temple, and it was the neatest spirit. Some of them it was their first time, and they were absolutely full of light! It was way neat. 

Fun stuff: I went to new missionary training yesterday all day in Budapest (which is why I wasn't emailing at a normal time) and I got to hangout with my Elders from the MTC for a full day! Ah it was so much fun getting to see them and hear about their experiences thus far! We all have different companions and we are scattered across all of Hungary. We all don't know the language, which was good to hear for myself, but everyone is trying! Everyone had had some cool experience out tracting or what not, and it was just nice to see them all! While in Budapest, Elder Miller bought a "tie bag". A tie bag is just a big bag with like 300 ties in it that can be bought (from maybe a sketchy dealer that the elders know in Buda) for only like 10000 forint, which is like roughly 100 dollars. We split it, and now I have 150 new ties! SO MANY TIES. 

I gave my first blessing a couple days ago too! It was in English and it was an awesome experience. Sorry, but I'm going to be a little vague here for privacy reasons and just say that the Spirit was way strong there and that it literally felt like Heavenly Father was standing right behind me while I gave it. Missionary blessings are just special I guess :) 

Well, I think that's about it. We've got some programmes planned tonight, Angol Ora, and some tabling with the sisters. I need to go buy some pekseg (soooo good homemade pastries) and then go head out. This work is so real. It ain't my work by any means, this is the Savior's work. He is here in Hungary. He is in our little branch house. He is with our small branch. He is with YOU right now. One of my favorite pictures is the one of the Savior with outstretched arms and He is floating on like a cloud(?) or something, but we have to reach BACK to Him if we want to get closer to Him. And that's why I'm here! 

"Shall we not go on in so great a cause?"

Giacalone Elder

Monday, July 1, 2013

Szolnok-Week Two

Where I spend much of my life here! Tracting these big guys! My greenie magic helps us get in to the building, but then we have to actually ring in at the people's doors. We have this approach where we have a survey about life and families and ask people's opinions on them. It's been fairly succesfull and we've got in a few times! 

Joe's happy!!!

Our gorgeous table of love.

Tabling crew! Sister Oberhansley, Sister Grigg, and Elder Miller.

Eating gyros! It's a thick tortilla with BBQ chicken, lettuce, rice, and this yummy sauce stuff! Really good food!
Did you know grandpa is on for some article he wrote about his conversion? He's famous! 
A note from the family:  Yes, we did know Grandpa wrote an article!!! When I, Heather, first met Joe and Ann (Joseph's grandpa and grandma) it was the first thing he showed me, his article in the Ensign.  He's very proud of his conversion.  He's a great man and a great example to everyone of loving as the Savior loves. 

Hey everybody! It's been two weeks since I left America. Super weird to think about that. The halfway point for our transfer is this Friday! Soon I won't be a super-new greenie! Yay.
So, lots has happened this past week:
We had a programme (lesson) with this fun kid named P. We watched the JS Restoration video with him, and even though I couldn't understand it in Hungarian, when the part where Heavenly Father and Jesus appear to JS I literally started bawling. It's the same Spirit, guys. No matter where you are, Heavenly Father's Spirit is still the same! Loved that moment.

So another fun moment of the week: we taught this part member family clear the crud out in the middle of nowhere over by the Romanian border. They hadn't met me yet, so I introduced myself and then the wife asked me what my parents did. So I explained that my dad was a doctor. She then asked what my mom did for a living. I told her that she had nothing, the word is "nincs". The wife got this super sad look on her face, and the husband looked really embarassed all of a sudden. I was still smiling and talking though, and then my comp leaned and said "Elder, you just said that your mom was dead." So, I said that my mom was dead in a lesson. Go me. 

Another fun moment of the week: I stopped this old "nani" on the street and asked if she knew about our church. She was all smiles and said she hadn't. I got really excited and started saying how we believed in God and Jesus and then suddenly her smile vanished and she started screaming "NEM. NEM. NEM." People started staring at me, so I just walked away from her! What else was I gonna do?! She went away and then CAME BACK TO ME. I was terrified, then she explained that her entire family had "been taken by God" and that He was evil. I didn't really know what to say, so I just nodded my head until she left. Super awkward.

Our first week out we hit the Mission Standard! I was super happy about that, and we got our names on the weekly email and everything :) We almost hit Super Standard this week too! But, our investigators didn't show up like they said they would to church, so we barely missed out on that one. So we've been super busy lately, and time is just cruising by! We got to the point where we almost ran out of Mormon Könyvek, or Books of Mormon. So we had to start rationing our supply of them! Pretty embarassing. Also, remember my one Facebook post about "bird milk"? IT IS DIVINE. It's this milk stuff and really sweet and this week it was ON SALE! Only 249 Forint (Yeah, the Hungarian currency ain't so strong right now)!

Fun story: the tallest apartment building in all of Hungary is here in Szolnok. After district meeting last week which was down in Kéksemét, we decided to tract it! 22 FLOORS LATER, and 3 hours of walking down flights of stairs, we arrived at our last door. A nice old nani answered the door, and we got talking with her. Sure enough, we are meeting with her again next Sunday. Funny how Heavenly Father works sometimes, but I will never question Him or His will for me.

I want to testify really quick about the power of prayer. Because of my circumstance (living with strangers in a foreign city, foreign country, buying my own food. No biggie), Heavenly Father has become my closest friend. When I wake up in the mornings, sometimes it is way hard to get going. One morning was WAY tough. I felt so homesick that morning for some reason. I tried to get my mind off of it during studies, but it wasn't working so well. So when my companion went to shower, I went over by my old dingy closet and prayed. I haven't prayed that hard since my first day at the MTC. Literally it felt like I was picking up my heart, full of anxiety and fear, and just pouring it out to my Heavenly Father. Then, I started crying. When I was finished pleading to my Father, my heart felt...full. It wasn't heavy, it was LIGHT. It was so full and felt healed almost, like someone had taken their hand and placed it right on it and just massaged it. I don't know, kind of weird to explain, but I DO KNOW this: He hears every prayer. He hears prayers when we walk down the street, before we go to school, or before we start a lesson in a strangers home. I don't know this language very well or these funny people, whose men sometimes wear short shorts when they go biking and you see a little too much, but I DO KNOW that God knows everything. We just gotta trust the captain.

I love you all and pray for you every night!
Giacalone Elder :)