Monday, May 26, 2014

More Pics

Shout out to mom!!!

Buda from the top of a mountain

Szeged Week 10 Pic

His very first door! He's growing up so fast!

The "family"! Elder Miller got another "son"!

Seriously though, aren't we so good looking? My son and I! #narcissim

Both "greenies" fell asleep on the train: love jet lag!

On top of the Buda hills! All of Budapest below us!

Lizard fatality :()

On splits with the Buda elders!


The church in Buda castle

Szeged Week Ten (Week 59)

Right now, it is raining so hard outside that the buses cannot move. Oh my.

Well, this past week was truely a different one from the rest of them. I'm a dad! I'm super excited! I'm training Elder Mellor! He's from Washington and he is super cool! He also looks just like my brother, Vincent. It's absolutely crazy. He really likes sports, and when we played soccor on Saturday he was all over the place making goals. He's awesome! 

SO. We have had a fun last week. Lots of new things, like this cool things called the "12 Week Program", which is pretty much an awesome guide for Trainers and Trainees. If you thought that I just taught him every day in our apartment from just my brain, that is so not true! The church has this thing DOWN. It's really cool. 

Today we had New Missionary Training in Buda at the mission home. It started at 7:45 AM. When I discovered that, I realized that we would have to leave Szeged at like 4:00 AM, because three hour train ride. Instead, we just left on Sunday night. We weren't really excited about it, because we had to leave a baptism a little bit early. When we finally pulled into the train station, I got a phone call from Sister Smith, the wife of President Smith, and she knew about our weird situation regarding trains, so she kindly invited us to dinner with her and President! It was really fun! I had really missed homemade cooking...sigh. 

The next day (today), I got to pretend to be a tourist while my new missionary was in training and doing offical document stuff at the city courthouse. So, I got to hangout with the Buda elders and they showed me around the city! There are two sets of them, and I was older than all four of them! Weird stuff...but, I saw Buda castle (seat of the Hungarian government since like 1200), went on top of this tower that was just freakishly tall and dominated the landscape of Buda and Pest (yes, they are two different cities...), and we got to gaze over the entire capital! SO.COOL. Then, I finally got re-united with my companion and came back here to good ole' Szeged. I'm exhausted! SO MANY TRAIN RIDES.

So, I also gained a strong testimony regarding something really random this week: about my mission president truely being called of God and loving us, as missionaries. I had to call President Smith the other day about a situation regarding one of our investigators, and we ended up laughing on the phone for like 15 minutes! I knew that President was a funny guy, but I was laughing like REALLY HARD. Then, when we had dinner with him and Sister Smith, I was saying how I was feeling all nostalgic and everything with training and not feeling up to it necessarily, and he said how he remembered an email I had sent him LAST JULY about an amazing experience I had while tracting as a new missionary in Szolnok, and he said that he knew that I am always capable of doing great things because of my faith. The Spirit kind of just kicked me and said "hey, he really does care for you!" I know it sounds really weird, but honestly, as a missionary it's important that you can trust your mission president and be yourself around him, because if you trust him, he will trust you. 

Well, I loved this past week. Change is hard sometimes, but we grow from it. We figure things out, and most importantly, we GROW. We become stronger and work harder. In the moment, I personally do not like change, but I always-ALWAYS-seem to look back on my problems or trials with fondness, and gratitude to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to learn and to grow. It's a weird thing, definitely, but essential to our development as children of God. 

I love you all! Be safe, and for those kids getting out of school-DO NOT FORGET TO PUT ON SUNSCREEN OR YOU WILL FRY SO HARD. 

Ok, that's it. I love you!

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Szeged Pics

An English Class Member that reminds me of my Grandpa

This was above someone's apartment door: "For those that come in, leave all hope behind!"

Water fountain...What?

Hanging out with a member

Szeged Week Nine (Week 58)

Holy crud. My world just got thrown upside down.

Transfers came! This is how the traditions go regarding the dreaded "phone calls" on transfer morning: if you get a phone call from the APs, then you are just moving cities to another companion. Nothing special. But, however, if you get a call from President, then you are either 1) going AP, 2) going Zone Leader, or 3) training. As we waited with dread for our call, the phone rang. I flipped it open (shout out to old Samsung flip phones) and saw that it was President Smith! And...
I'm training! 

Freak out. So, tomorrow morning I go up to Budapest to the mission home and get my "greenie". Elder Shoop, my current companion, is going to "whitewash" my mission-best-friend Elder Neely out of Kecskemét, and Elder Neely is going to Székesfehérvár (try saying that one!). So much craziness.

So, we'll see how it goes! I'm going to have to shoulder the load of the work for the next few weeks until I can get my new missionary on his feet. It's going to be fun :) 

Our week, on the other hand, went great! We decided to work our behinds off and try to throw out an insanely crazy work day! We beat our goal of eight hours and did a nine hour work day, with seven of them being programs! We slayed it! I also did another baptismal interview this week, and she is ready to go! The work here in Szeged is on fire! The branch is getting really excited with all the new convert baptisms, and the members are just letting the referal floodgates open! It's been AWESOME.

Funny moment of the week: When we tract here in Hungary, most of the time (like 80%) you will find yourself faced with the dreaded "csengő box", or the...doorball box(?) where you have to ring in to have someone buzz the door open for you. Sometimes they let you in right off the bat, other times they say...funny things. I've heard some funny things during my mission this far, but the other day was just great. Elder Shoop was buzzing in, and immediately a lady answered and just screamed, like literally SCREAMED: "SHUT UP!!!!!" And then hung up. 

Sooo funny :) I laughed for like ten minutes! I've learned that you just have to laugh these things off, or else you get stressed.

Well, that's about it for this week! The weather has been great, there is a massive beer and wine festival going on in the main square and we accidentally walked into it the other day. Absolutely terrifying. But, whatever, all part of the experience.

And it just keeps getting better and better! I love every day! Make your week a good one! :) 

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Szeged Week Eight (Week 57)

Another fun week down here in the Szegedlands. Thanks for the package, Mom and Steph! :D

We had a baptism!!! The man that I interviewed was baptized by the Branch President. It was so cool! We did it in a Adventist church, because we don't have a fount to use. It was a very pretty building and it went great!

Hungary had it's Stake Conference last week! There is only one Stake in Hungary which takes up the middle half of the country and the cities around Budapest, and the remaining six cities are on divided into two Districts: one is on the far western part of the country centered on the city of Szombathely (this includes the city of Sopron, where I served), and the other one is in the far east centered on the city of Miskolc (this includes the city of Debrecen, mentioned by Pres. Monson in one of his conference talks). Szeged, my current city, is part of the stake. Dang, don't you feel so informed right now? :) 

The Stake President has been in office for like eight years and he's rocking it. The common joke running throughout the members is that he is the "best Stake President ever", but then again, he's also the only Stake President. Ever. Lol. There were talks from members throughout the stake including youth speakers from Szeged, the new Branch President in Kaposvar (where I served!), and some really solid members from Buda, Pest, and Kispest, which are all parts of the city of Budapest. So yeah, the meeting was broadcasted to the Szeged branch house and we got to watch it on tv. So fun :) 

Because the Summer is here, all the ice cream stores are opening up in Hungary! Here there are two kinds that you can buy: "fagyi", which is like a gilato type soft-served ice cream, and "jég krém", which, directly translated, is "ice cream" or the kind you would get at Baskin Robbins. ALL of our investigators want to go get ice cream with us and then sit on a bench in a park and then talk about the gospel. We gladly did it! It's been great, I don't think I've had more ice cream in one week than this past one! The weather has been beautiful!

Last night, I realized that I now need a new planner. You know what that means? NEW TRANSFER. And it's next week! I cannot believe how fast these past nine weeks went! I'm a little nervous, but I think it will be a good one next week. That also means that I will be emailing on Tuesday instead of Monday, so just a heads up. 

Sweet moment of the week: Missionaries have been meeting with "A" since last Fall. He has had a few obstacles to his goal of baptism that he has been working on, and has been hesitant to set a date. This last week we met with him and talked about his scripture reading. Normally, it's a good thing if he read a verse or two, but when we met with him he had read EIGHT CHAPTERS. He looked different,too. Lots happier. Absolutely crazy. We (Elder Shoop and I) both felt it would be good to bring up baptism with him. We told him that we both felt it was time to set a date and to work out his problems. He looked at us, and then said it was time! So...August 4th! Woo! We're so excited! We also got to Skype at his house for Mother's Day, and so my family got to meet him! He loved seeing you all! :) 

I'm so grateful for my mission. I love it. I got to talk to dad on Skype for a few minutes after my mom had to go take all my brothers to church. He talked about making this last year count. I feel so tired nowadays, but it's a good tired! It's the kind of tired that makes me know I'm working my butt off! I'm excited for transfers next week. I have a feeling it will be a good one :) 

Have a great week! :) 

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Monday, May 5, 2014

Szeged Week Seven Pics

Kid's park in the middle of Ten-Story Land

Szeged at night!

We made, we are SUCH great chefs!

Sunset after the storm

Lunch @ KFC with our investigator...he even dressed up! :)

Festival in the park for Mother's Day!

Szeged Week Seven (Week 56)

Currently playing in the internet cafe: "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry. "So you want to play with magic?" Lol. She's crazy.

In case you were wondering, it rained so hard last week that my umbrella almost caved in from the amount of water hitting it. What is life.
Other than the excessive amount of water falling from above, we had a grand week! Number wise, it was one of our best. But, numbers don't mean success! That's for sure. 

Whilst tabling last week in the main square, I was kind of zoning out and staring at a tree or something because EXHAUSTION when suddenly I heard a voice from my left. "Hey, hey man. Like...hello?" "Oh hi! Sorry, I was just..erm..staring at this tree...(face palm)" "Hey no problem! So, my name is 'B', and you guys are the Mormons, right?" (I nod yes) "Sweet! So, my sister lives in Australia and she told me about you guys. I thought I would never find you, but I just saw you and, well, do you guys teach people about your church? I'm willing to give you my phone number, and I was thinking maybe Friday at noon? We can go get ice cream?" "...yeah." "Oh, great! I'll see you then!" 

So, we met with him like two times last week and he's super, super cool. He's studying tourism here in Szeged, dresses like the classiest 23 year old ever, and all of the single women in the branch are dying to be member presents in our programs with him. 

So, he's cool. :) Hooray for random finding moments!

Another fun thing, I conducted my first Hungarian baptismal interview! I guess District Leaders have to do it, and since I am District Leader (flips hair) I got to do it. Haha. I had no idea what I was doing, to be honest. But, you just follow the Spirit and do your best, you know? He passed, and will be an awesome member of the Szeged Branch! 

I also get to Skype my family next week for Mother's Day! It's awkward, because on that day we have 1) Stake Conference 2) Regular church meetings and 3) a baptism! So, it'll be an exciting Sunday to say the least! It's also awkward because Hungarians celebrate Mother's Day on the first Sunday of the month, not...whenever Americans do it. So...yeah. Don't really know where I was going with that.

Also, in the branch they called some people to be "branch missionaries". They called not one, not two, but EIGHT people to be missionaries! What does that mean? Basically, they are to help us in our programs, bring less-actives back, and also to look for people to teach! We are so excited!

My district meeting last week was on "Becoming Perfected in Christ". I used the example of a trapeze artist and his partner in a circus. There are a few things that the artist has to do to make "his act". He has to 1) Actually let go of his "bar". I likened that in our lives to letting go of things that would hold us back, like fear, doubt, or insecurities, and 2) he needs to "trust in his Partner" to grab his hand when he jumps. I think that we all in our lives under go times when we are called to do unexpected changes that we aren't used to. Heck, I wasn't really anticipating what my mission would be like, but I've adjusted. I've grown. I've learned so much from my Heavenly Father. I had to "let go" of things that would hold me back. It was hard at first, and I was unsure. But, He took my hand, and showed me what could become of my life. That sounded really cheezy and poetic, but it's true! I know it.

I love you all! Have a g r e a t week. Do good things! I know you all can.

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Szeged Week Six Pics

Szeged's "Gold Mine"


Out in the boondocks of Szeged


Sis. Dinehart chopped her hair off!

Szeged Week Six (Week 55)

First of all, "Payphone" by Maroon5 is on right now in the email place. Shout out to Summer 2012. And Happy Birthday Vincent! Big 15! One more year until driving and dating! Haha!

Secondly, we had a great week! Lots of fun moments finding, coupled with some great programs! And on top of it all, Szeged is experiencing some seriously beautiful Spring weather! So good. 

I guess I'll just start out with our finding stories. I feel like this is where the fun experiences come from in missionary work. To spice things up a bit, I'm going to do it in list form! Woo! 

Monday: Ok, so on this day nothing really exciting happened. I think it rained? 

Tuesday: This is the funny day! First of all, we went streeting in the morning. We usually hangout around the center of the city, where all the people are bustling around and being cool. Elder Shoop stopped a girl around our age and did three funny things: 1) He accidentally formalized her. For those of you who don't know what this means, in the Hungarian language you have two forms of communication: one for an older person whom you've never met before, and another for people your own age. In America, the closest thing I can think of is saying "Good Morning!"and "What's up". It's really just totally different. Anyway, so he did that. It was pretty funny, and the girl was all confused. Immediately following that, 2) He said that we were Catholics. That made things even better. And to top it all off 3) he realized his mistake and just started English, though. NOW the girl was totally lost. It was hilarious, and I was on the ground laughing!

Also on this day, I chatted with a kid around our age. He was a university student (shocker) and was studying physics. As a response to my question "If you could ask God any question, what would it be?" he said that he was an atheist. Ok, cool. Next question, "How do you find happiness in life?" Response was that he didn't know. Then, he started to get really frustrated with himself, he said that he hated his life. He hated living in Hungary (<==== we get this statement a lot, actually), his family didn't like him, he hated school. Rough response to come back from, but I asked him if he wanted to be happy. He said of course, who doesn't want to be happy. Then I said "Ok, what about real happiness?". He looked at me for a second, and he said he'd give this "God thing" a chance. Lol. Cool kid. 

Rest of week: I realized half-way through this that I forgot which days things happened on. Wow...that sentence made no sense. Anyway, Elder Vanderpool and I went on splits on Saturday, and I was able to go to the city of Hódmezővásárhely. Directly translated, the city's name is "Beaver Field Shopping Place". Yeah, I have no idea. It's the Szeged elder's responsiblity to go to this city, because at one point it was open to missionary work and had a branch. Then, it was shut down. I don't know why. So there is like twenty members out there that go to Szeged every week for church, and the elders go on Saturday to check up on them. Fun time! I saw a wild turkey! Woo!

Also, last thing: it was like 8:30 at night and we were streeting right before going home. We didn't really have a lot of success, and so we decided to make one last round through the city center before walking home. As we were crossing the street, we noticed a younger lady pushing one of those double-child stroller things. It was really bulky and awkward, and she wasn't that big. One of the two twins inside was shrieking her head off, and the lady was looking quite flustered. We walked past her, and then the weirdest thing happened. It was like a mental slap in the face of "Hey, you need to go help that lady. Right now." Well, I've learned that you don't ignore these types of things after a year of being out here, so we went back. Of course she was pretty hesitant about it all, with us being some weird Americans coming up to her in the night. But she let me push the stroller while she held her daughter. Elder Shoop chatted with her, while I used my best baby pleasing faces and noises to calm the other twin down in the carriage. It was probably a really funny sight to look at. When we got her to the tram, she was grateful for our help, but before we could say anything else, she just got on and left. It didn't really phase us, though, we were beaming from ear to ear :)

Well, I still can't believe how long I've been out. I feel like we get cooler and cooler things every week, and I'm learning how to be patient with myself. It's been a good week, and I'm excited for this upcoming week! 

I love you all! :) Smile! 

Sok Szeretettel,
Elder Giacalone