Monday, March 31, 2014

Szeged Week Two Pics

Szeged's main square flowers. Hungarians really pride themselves in their floral arrangments

View of Szeged from the river. The spires are of the "Dom", or the Catholic church

Szeged University Library...massive!

District party for my birthday!

Szeged Week Two (Week 51)

Ciao-sztok everyone.

Haha. Sometimes, the people here say "Ciao" (if that's how you spell the Italian word for "hello") because they want to be cool. It's ok, they're already cool. Actually, a lot of Europeans say "ciao" for "hello". Just some food for thought...

Well, still here in the Szegedlands. I love it! Right around now the flowers are blossoming, the weather is gorgeous, and the people all want to meet! The branch is super awesome. One of them just came back from a mission to Finland last fall, and she gave a talk about "enduring to the end". She gave a super cool analogy of God being a "firm tree" that we can always rely on when life gets "windy" I thought it was super cool! I thought she was a great example of that as well: when she went to the MTC she had to learn English to learn Finnish. Talk about craziness! But, she did it! 

My birthday was super fun! I got to go to Burger King for lunch (I know that I talk about BK a lot, it's just know?) and my district threw a surprise party for me that night! Yay! We also had English class that night and I went out of the room to grab an extra chair, and when I came back everyone was singing Happy Birthday to me! It's super weird to be 20 now, but I wouldn't have wanted it celebrated any other way than how we did it here in Hungary. Mission birthdays are the best!

We've had a lot of cool things start to happen! So first off, geography lesson for you all! Szeged is actually only like a ten minute drive from the border with Serbia, so sometimes we run into Serbians on the street. Last week we were tabling in the main square, and we stopped a guy and told him about the church. He said that he had been looking for a religion, and now we are meeting with him. He is a Serbian, but says he is Hungarian, because the part of Serbia that he lives in now was once a part of Hungary. Wow...does your head hurt yet? Haha! And then LATER THAT DAY we were streeting on the bridge over the Tisza river and we stopped this GIGANTIC man. Turns out he's going to school here in Szeged playing American basketball with an American team! And he wants to meet! But get this: he's SERBIAN. But speaks English! SO MANY CULTURES. It's so cool! 

On top of all this fun stuff with foreigners, we are meeting with an American living here in Szeged! He's actually from the East Coast in the US, and he's going to school here studying to be a pharmacist (spelling?). He's had a rough past with his family and everything, and he had an experience where he knew of the existence of God in his life, and he wants to know more. We met with him in the park on a bench (typical missionary meeting technique *sarcasm*) and we started talking about Jesus Christ (super weird doing it in English). He said he knew Christ was important, but he didn't know a whole bunch about His life or what he did. I read Matthew 11 with him and we talked about what Christ did for us. When I finished reading, he was smiling and just quiet. The Spirit was so strong. Finally he said: "I know that what you said was from God. Thank you." Missionary work is the BEST. Hands down. I love where I am right now, and I know that miracles are REAL.

I love you all! That's it from my side of this wonderful Earth. 

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Monday, March 24, 2014

Szeged Week One Pics

Szeged! This is in the City Park.

There's hipster stickers like these all over the city

Neely and I getting some last-time-as-a-companionship Starbucks...

Szeged! The yellow car thing is a "villamos", or a fast little car thing we ride around

Szeged! View from the bridge on the Tisza

Elder Shoop and I!

Szeged Week One (Week 50)

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful week, as always!

So, I live in Szeged now! I. Love. Szeged. I have been here a total of five days now, and I am absolutely in love with the city. It's cleaner than all my other cities, it's bigger, we ride all sorts of fun city trams (called ""..?), buses, and trolleys! The spring flowers are blossoming and every night there is a pretty sunset. There are six of us here: two sets of elders and a set of sisters, with the other pair of elders (not us) being the Zone Leaders. They have a car, I guess that makes them cool. Whatever. Haha. There is more restaurants here than my other cities, and they have a Burger King and a Subway! I haven't had a Subway since like Utah! Crazy. Szeged also has three colleges and a university, The University of Szeged, so there is like a billion and a half cool young Hungarians running all over the place. 

And, weirdly enough, a lot of them are interested in religion! The branch itself has a thriving YSA group, and it's always growing! Actually, there's a lot of single adults in the branch, including the branch president! Oh, guess what! He's in a Liahona! It's the April 2013 edition, and he's the guy that they talk about with kayaking! He's super cool. I still haven't met most of the branch, but our branch mission leader is very devoted to his work and he is a great helper! 
Here is the link to the article about Joe's Branch Pres.

It was super beautiful weather until last night when it started to downpour! It's been raining for like 48 hours straight! Unbelievable. Also, my first morning in my new apartment we woke up to no power! That was cool. So, I got to call our land lady, who is actually pretty nice. It was tons of fun, because I didn't know the vocabulary for "switch", "voltage", or let alone "power". Super awkward, I pretty much read out of a dictionary to her and conjugated as I went. It was pretty interesting, but now we have power and life is dandy!

Ok, cool story of the week: as many of you know, I really enjoyed studying history before my mission. I learned a lot about Hungary before I left, too. It's been fun chatting with people, mostly members, about what Hungary has gone through, but I never thought I would actually use this knowledge until, well, yesterday! We were tabling in the city square (huge place) and a guy came up to me and asked me what the difference was between the Mormons and the Amish. When I finished explaining, he asked if we meet with people. I said yes. He said he was interested, but he would only meet with us when we "showed interest in his country." I didn't really say anything after that, then he said "Did you study Hungarian history in school?" I said a little. He said, "Tell me one thing about Hungarian history with a specific date, location, and the groups involved." Oh boy, this was right up my alley! I talked about the creation of the Hungarian state in 1000 and King Stephen. I didn't really know what I was saying until I finished, and then he looked right in the eye and said "I can tell you really love this country, can I give you my phone number?" He's a funny guy, I'm excited to see what he says about everything. 

Well, my time is almost up. I say it a lot, but I really am grateful for everything I experience on my mission. One of my old companions called me last night and told me that my year mark is in a few weeks. What! That's insane. Also, I turn 20(!) this week! What the heck? All of a sudden I'm super old! 

But, I'm super loving where I am. I love Hungary! We are also meeting with one of my old investigators I had back in Szolnok, "B"! I was walking down the street the other day and suddenly the thought popped in my head "Hey, 'B' is here somewhere!" So, I called the Szolnok elders and got her phone number and called her: she was so excited when I got a hold of her! She kept saying "I don't believe it...I've been hoping you would come here, but I never thought you would!" Sometimes, cool things happen, and most of the time it's meant to happen. I believe in miracles! I love you all, have a great week! 

And that's all from my side of the world!

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kecskemét Week Nine Pics

Flags for March 15th! These were in the town square

Elder Neely and our youngest investigator, "Z".

Celebrating March 15th!

Monument for the middle of Hungary!

View of Kecskemet!

Kecskemét Week Nine (Week 49)

Wow! It feels like I was just emailing for this past week. I cannot believe how fast time is going. It is literally so fast!

Wow, so first off, TRANSFERS. We were at the branch house with the other missionaries playing the piano when our phone went off! It was the APs. It was there that I found out that I was leaving Kecskemet. I was a little sad to hear that, but then I found out where I am going to be! I will be serving in the city of Szeged! It's the most southern city of the mission, and it's really big! It will be the biggest city I have served in. I will also be the district leader for the city! I'm very excited! It's gonna be great! 

We went up to Budapest last week for a Zone Conference with Elder and Sister Dyches of the European Area Presidency. After the conference, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Elder Dyches. Absolutely amazing interview. But hey, being interviewed by a General Authority has to be amazing! I loved it and I got to see a lot of old friends. 

This past week was also the 15th of March. On this day in 1848, Hungary rebelled against Austria. It's a great story of freedom and warfare, and I encourage you all to Wikipedia it. Unfotunately (spoiler alert!), they failed. Darn it. But, it's very special to the Hungarians, and on this holiday they fly their flag everywhere and they have a big party! 

Awkward moment of the week:
We were at a member's house for dinner. They were talking about the holiday (March 15th) and what the city was doing for it. I was talking about how Elder Neely and I had seen the city setting up a stage in the town center, but then it got windy and they had to take it down. As I was explaining it, I realized I didn't know the word for "take down", so I through out the verb "lecsinálni", or "to do something down". The members started busting up laughing and I was totally lost. The mom, "A", explained that that verb has a couple different meanings, one being "to poop". So, I said "Yeah, and then we saw the workers poop on the stage!" Way to go, me. I've learned to laugh these things off though. Heck, when you're learning Hungarian, you have to! 

Spiritual moment of the week:
Elder Neely and I were waiting by the bus stop for our bus, when we noticed a kid leaning against a pillar. He looked ok, like he wasn't crying or anything, just very quiet. We both felt very strongly to talk to him, not necessarilily about anything specific, just to be his friend. So we went over and chatted for like two minutes, because then our bus came! I don't even remember what we talked about, but the Spirit was there and he was all smiles when we left! We knew that we had helped one of Heavenly Father's children feel loved that day.

I loved serving with Elder Neely. But, it's time to "grow up" and head to a new city! Insane, but I'm so ready for it. I'm super excited to go to Szeged!

I love you all! Your Heavenly Father loves you more, though! Don't you dare forget it. 

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kecskemét Week Eight

At a festival for Nő Napja!

Catholic Temple. It's big

Making some legit "ghoulas!"


There was a festival for Woman's Day. I found this cool guy.

Kecskemét Week Eight (Week 48)

Hey errbody. Hey-sztok. 

Hungary is still a party. We see more and more interesting things everyday, but it's the best!

For example, they just recently celebrated a day called "Nő Napja", or "Woman's Day". On this day, usually at the beginning of Spring, all the guys in Hungary buy flowers for all their loved ones who are women. That means: grandmothers, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, co-workers...the list goes on! The city threw a big party in the center of the town to celebrate! There was home-made soups being brewed, dried meat, and swords! It was VERY Hungarian! Haha! I bought a sick t-shirt, and a pin of "Old Hungary" for my suit coat. 

Neely and I had a fun experience: one day, we had a couple hours of free time, so we went and tracted out an entire building. Disclaimer: we talked to all 50 DOORS through the csengő ( think that translates as doorbell?'s like that apartment buzzer thing...IDK) we didn't even get in! After a while, Neely got kind of frustrated and when it was his turn to try the last one we gave our beautiful opening talk of "Hello! I'm sorry for the interruption, but my friend and I are doing a public opinion survey and we were just curious if he/she would let us into the building?"..."No." So, we left said building and in his rage of anger, my blessed comp turned to the building and double flipped it off. At the same time, an old, ancient lady came out and saw it! She gave Elder Neely a confused look, but we just booked it out of there! HILARIOUS. I couldn't stop laughing! 

Awkward moment of the week: we were meeting with "E" at her apartment in the downtown part of the city. We were teaching the Restoration, but taking it pretty slow with her so she could understand. It was going great! Then, her little apartment phone rang. She excused herself to go get it, and came back saying that her good friend was coming up and asked if that was ok. We were like "Of course!". Then, "E" explained that she was of a certain other religion that doesn't really like ours...the room got pretty quiet. When they knocked on the door, she came in with her...I don't know, companion? "E" went up to greet them and said "Well, this should be great! The Mormon boys are here, and now you both are here! Come on in!" I turned to Elder Neely and just said "Say a prayer, right now!" I had NEVER been as nervous on my mission as I had then. They sat down by us on the couch, and just started to attack us. They picked at different parts of doctrine and used really crazy vocab that both Neely and I didn't understand. During this whole ordeal, I felt strangly calm. We both didn't escalate the situation by fighting back, but when they attacked "E", she fought back. She bore a strong testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and it was amazing! I was fighting back tears the entire time! The two ladies just listened, and eventually just left, saying that they would "come back when the boys aren't here". 

When it was all over, Neely and I were just like "What just happened? How did we get through that?" It was probably like an hour. It just made me that much more grateful for the Spirit and the calming feeling it has, and to help us not become angry in delicate situations. I was definitely humbled that day.

Well, transfers are coming up next week. Odds are that my short transfer with Elder Neely might be coming to and end. But, if not, I'd love to stay for one more :) I love this city. It's beautiful. I feel like this is "my work". I found so many of our people, and it's one of the first times on my mission where it wasn't a senior's work. I love it. One of my inactive members that we FINALLY got back to church gave an amazing talk on Sunday. He was so happy back up there, and I felt so grateful to have been able to bring him back home! 

I love the work. I love my Savior. Miracles are REAL. 

Sok Szeretettel,
Giacalone Elder

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kecskemét Week Seven Pics

We go shopping here. It's French?

We made paprikás csirke..

Hipster bus stop

Hanging out in church

Going shopping!

Hanging with "T" at church with...a baby. Yes, a baby

Kecskemét Week Seven (Week 47)

Well, hello everyone! Cool things happen sometimes, you know? And by sometimes, I mean like all last week.

First of all, Spring is HERE! Scoree. It is so bright and sunny nowadays, and it really has a way to get you going and motivated to WORK. Because of this weather, our work has been soaring! Suddenly, people are totally fine with meeting us in a park or what not, or stopping on the street to chat for a bit with us.


Fun things this week: 
-We killed a giant spider in our apartment a few days ago. Like, I was freaking out. I thought spiders were like a South American mission problem only (shoutout to Elder Fowers...). Appartenly NOT. 
-We got a new baptismal date with "T"! We hadn't really planned on giving him one until we got there with him. We did a great job explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ to him on the whiteboard in the branch house, and he said "Well, this is great and all, but like when can I get baptized?" Elder Neely and I were just like "Uh...oh. Well, let's shoot for like April 26th?" And he's like "Sounds great, boys! Let's do this!" 

I love Hungary. (heart emoticon)

Continuing on...
-On Sunday in Ward Council Meeting (I still can't believe that those exist here...), Bishop (who had served a mission here in Hungary like a millenium ago...and if he's reading this right now... szeretlek! ;)...) gave the ward council a challenge to get to know the first names of ALL our investigators! All the quorum presidents and auxiliaries were just like "Ok. We got this!" So, all day at church yesterday they were running all over the place talking to people! So funny! 
-Neely and I went tracting in a ritzier(spelling?) part of the city the other day and went through an entire apartment building with just doors slammed in our faces. No one was interested. As we neared the bottom, I honestly was thinking that it would be better if we just booked it out and made our way to the street to see if more people were out there. Neely thought we should finish the whole building. So, we did it. The last door (isn't it always?) we knocked on had a SUPER hipster guy come out in like his 20's. He started by saying "Oh hey guys! I know who you are. You talk about God right? Sweet, like I'm Catholic and everything, but I want to talk about it with you guys! So, I work a lot and now isn't the best time, but can I give you my phone number and you guys come back later, ok? Sweet! Bye guys!" Door closes. 

Cool. So cool.

Our Hungarian is doing so well. Both my companion and I understand just about everything that is thrown at us. That in of itself is a miracle. I know that God will always be there, and that He loves us. I know that Christ is our Savior, and that if we make just the slightest effort, and just barely push past our comfort zone, then the blessings flow. 

Never doubt the faith, and keep going! 

Sok Szeretettel,
Giacalone Joe Elder (Lol)