Monday, October 16, 2017

From splits in Székesfehérvár to stepping up my chef game with fruit soup and chicken hearts, this week was full of good times and lasting memories. There are only 2 weeks left in this transfer if you can believe it! Just a heads up, the next two pdays will be on Tuesdays, due to a Hungarian national holiday and transfers.

I've tried to mix up my cooking a little bit, because dino nuggets, sandwiches, and various forms of noodles can only sustain a growing 19 year old boy for so long. This week I tried cooking chicken hearts, which turned out... okay. I guess there's a reason why regular chicken is more popular hahaha. But I did make up my own fruit soup recipe and it was delicious! It tasted like apple pie and icecream. Call me Elder Ramsey.

We went on splits in Székesfehérvár with the other elders in our district and had a blast. For dinner, we went to KFC and we each got our own bucket of chicken. It was a disgusting amount of chicken, but we all had to manifest our manliness in some way. I also got a pumpkin spice shake because my inner white-girl was calling out for it. 'Tis the season for pumpkin spice everything, and I am NOT complaining.

Székes is a beautiful city with tons of churches. You can see 7 church spires from the window of the elders' kitchen! I was with Elder Phillips, who was my trainer's companion in the MTC. When we were deciding what to do for the day, we felt impressed to visit an active member, a bácsi named Emil, and talk about General Conference. We went over there at about 6:00 and asked him if we could share a quick spiritual message with him and he let us in. After talking for a few minutes, we found out that he was feeling pretty bummed out about life. He said that his time on earth was going quickly and he was afraid of the future. He also expressed concern over his declining health and inability to sleep at night. My heart broke as he explained his feelings of abandonment from God. He was frustrated because despite trying his best, reading scriptures every day, praying constantly, going to church, and keeping the commandments, he still felt lost and hopeless. I asked him if he had ever asked for a priesthood blessing. He said that he hadn't thought about it, but that he would love to have one. We called the branch president, since he speaks Hungarian a bit better than we do (and by a bit I mean we're like 5 year olds and he speaks perfectly). The branch president just so happened to be a 2 minute walk away. Within 5 minutes, his hands were on this faithful member's head and he was using his priesthood to administer a beautiful blessing. After the blessing, Emil explained that he knew that God would help him out. He said that he knew that God had a plan for him. He knew that despite tests of faith, blessings would come and everything would work out. It was beautiful.

I learned a few things from this experience that I hope to always remember. The first thing I learned was that as holders of the priesthood, we must always be ready to respond to the calls we receive. Like the faithful branch preisdent, we must always be willing to drop what we're doing to help another soul along the path. It was a simple act of service, which took no more than 15 minutes, but it made a great difference in the life of Emil.

The second thing I learned is that God will use us in our weakness to help others. I was worried about this teaching because I was feelin inadequately prepared and nervous about the language. As I listened to Emil describing his concerns, I didn't have to worry about what to say. I felt the Holy Ghost speaking through me. Words just came and I found myself shocked at what I was saying. I wasn't just fluently using words I had never used before, but I felt like my mind was quickened and my ability to speak more fluidly and clearly was greatly amplified. It was the gift of tongues being manifest through me, and it was a powerful demonstration of the promise made by President Uchtdorf in General Conference just recently. He said that no matter what our weaknesses are, God will use us if we are willing. I felt a confirmation that God was using me to do His work in that moment.

The last thing I learned was that sometimes our faith really is tested. Like Emil, sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we never thought we would be put in. We may feel lost, abandoned, and hopeless. We may feel like we are trapped in a whirlwind, unable to find relief or a way to escape the seemingly unbearable waves and trials surrounding us. Sometimes, all we can do is put one foot in front of the next and act in faith.

We recently studied faith in Jesus Christ as it applies to self reliance. Elder David A. Bednar said this about faith:

"Taking action is the exercise of faith. The children of Israel are carrying the ark of the covenant. They come to the River Jordan. The promise is they will cross over on dry land. When does the water part? When their feet are wet. They walk into the river—act. Power follows—the water parts. We oftentimes believe, “Okay, I’m going to have this perfect understanding, and then I’m going to transform that into what I do.” I would suggest that we have enough to get started. We have a sense of the right direction. Faith is a principle—the principle—of action and of power. True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action."

As we push through the trials that seem at times overwhelming and unbearable, we must always put our faith in Jesus Christ. When does the water part? After OUR feet are wet.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Don't let Satan discourage you. Press forward with faith in Christ and let nothing waver!

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

Hungarian word of the week: "Csirkeszív" which means "chicken heart". If that doesn't quite tickle your fancy, you might try "gyümölcs leves" which is "fruit soup". 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We met with two new investigators, Ica and Erika, this week and they're both really sweet nénis (grandmas, I think). Ica has been coming to church every week since we had our Plan of Salvation fireside last month, but we haven't been able to meet with her due to conflicting schedules. She's amazing and just one of the sweetest people I've ever met. She already gets along so well with everyone in the branch and she says she feels like she's home when she's there. She's been through a lot in her life, but she has smiled through it all! She's had a lot of health challenges and says that God must have a pretty good reason for keeping her going.

Erika was found by the sisters, who streeted into her. Since she lives in our area, we get to teach her, despite the fact that the sisters are the ones who found her. She is really accepting and loves the Book of Mormon. She told us she really wants to learn more, which is always a great thing to hear from an investigator! While we were meeting with her, she said, "So they call the girl missionaries 'Nővér', what do they call the boys?" and Elder Biesinger said, "Elder." and then Erika was like, "No, like, what do they CALL them?" and he again said, "Elder." then she was like, "No, you don't understand. I mean what do they call them that means that they're missionaries?" and I butted in with, "Elder is a title that they use which means that we're missionaries." Then she was like, "Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhh I understand now."

Aren't language barriers fun?

We were able to go to Tihany, which is a little village on the lake Balaton (I think, I might be completely wrong. You should always take my information as a grain of salt to be honest haha) with some of our investigators, Udit and János. They are super nice and saw that the weather was nice and invited us to spend our pday with them sightseeing. It was beautiful! We went on a really pretty hike through some thick woods and up to a lookout tower that overlooks the lake Balaton and the surrounding villages. My camera really doesn't do the scene justice. It was really quite a sight! We passed a church which was over 600 years old! Some of it had been restored, but the bottom half of it was original. We also got to see some of the old fashioned Hungarian houses and markets with thatch roofs. There's a lot of history and beautiful sights here.

We also were able to have a meeting with our branch president and his family and the Bradshaws, who are the self reliance specialist senior missionaries. We were there to help translate for the Bradshaws, but we really didn't have to do much because President Fehér and his wife, Isabella speak wonderful English! This was a huge surprise to Elder Biesinger and me!

 The self reliance program is truly inspired and I'm so excited to be able to be a part of it. The Bradshaws related a story, or in Sister Bradshaw's words, "A truth", which happened in Romania, just next door. There was a branch which decided to start the 12 week self reliance program and they started out with a group of just 7 people (I'm not sure if they were members or not). They had so much fun together that they started posting about what they were learning and doing on Facebook. Over time, their friends saw what they were doing and wanted to join them. Now they have a group of 200 people participating in the self reliance classes every week! Can you believe that?

In Albania, there was a group of 6 non-members who started taking the classes through this program as well. Before the 12 week program was finished, 5 of them had already been baptized. It's amazing to see the Lord's hand in His work. It surely is being hastened!

The program teaches fundamentals which will help people become self reliant, both spiritually and physically. There really is something for everyone as there are classes which focus on education, finances, starting a business, and finding a better job, each taught with underlying principles and truths which are spiritual and will help others come closer to Jesus Christ and become spiritually self reliant as well.

I am so excited about the work and the sharing of the gospel! I'm grateful for the blessed time in which we all live. Consider how lucky and blessed we are and count your blessings today. You may be surprised at how much you have! Have a wonderful week!

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

Hungarian word of the week is Kukac. They call the "@" symbol a "kukac" which also means worm. 

Also, a quick disclaimer for anyone who has been paying attention to my Hungarian words of the week or for anyone who speaks better than I do: I have realized as I've learned more about the language that some of my previous words of the week have had slightly different meanings and translations than I thought or have said, so forgive me and try not to cringe too hard at my mistakes hahahaha.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another session of General Conference has already come and gone. Can you believe it? We had a wonderful week, and I hope you did too!

Watching Conference was an amazing spiritual boost, but it was a bit different from how it was back home. We watched the Saturday morning session live at the branch house as a district. The four of us sat around a computer and listened in English while some of the Hungarian members watched the broadcast in Hungarian in the chapel. It was really weird to be watching the Saturday morning session at 6 p.m. I felt a surprisingly powerful sense of unity as the session started, knowing that all around the world, members of our church were gathered together to listen to the words of the leaders of the church. I felt this unity especially as we bowed our heads and listened to the opening prayer. I knew that over 5 thousand miles away, my loved ones were doing the same thing at home. It was such a cool experience!

On Sunday morning, we watched the priesthood session with all of the other priesthood holders in the chapel. It was all in Hungarian, so I'll be honest... I didn't get the most out of it, but we downloaded the audio files for the talks and we are going to listen to them throughout the week. We also had some technical difficulties getting the videos to play smoothly. We were watching it on an ipad since we couldn't get the broadcast working on the computer. The wifi signal was fairly weak so every few minutes, the broadcast would skip back about 15 seconds and play the next 15 seconds on a loop for another minute. The session ended up being quite a bit longer than we had planned... Maybe all of that replaying would be an effective retention tool if you understand it, but it was more of a funny inconvenience for me. The final hymn was nearly 10 minutes long, but we endured it hahaha.

During the breaks between sessions, we did some family history work, played football (American football that is), and ate with the members of our branch.

We didn't get to finish the final talk by Henry B. Eyering because the internet stopped working. This experience has really helped me appreciate how easy it is to watch it in America!

Funny story: As we were locking up the gate to the branch house, I was trying to unlock the huge padlock when I noticed a gargantuan spider crawling across the gate, right next to my hand. I took a step back, processed the situation, and instincively screamed. I'm not even ashamed. That thing was big enough to beat me up and take my wallet! Someone else finished locking up while I recovered from my intense case of heeby jeebies. We all laughed pretty hard about it as we walked to the bus.

We had interivews with President Szabadkai in Dunaújváros on Friday. It was about a 3 hour bus ride. On our way back, we picked up the Duna elders, who are our zone leaders, for splits. I was with Elder McKim from Australia. While on splits, we taught Zsolti about the Restoration, tried to play fetch with a massive dog who brought us his ball and tried to push it through the fence (unsuccessfully) while we were tracting, and we set up a whiteboard in the city center and tried to get people to write what makes them happy on it. It was a great time and a fun week!

I am so grateful for the opportunity that we had to watch General Conference. I loved hearing the talks. I noticed themes of not being overly self-critical, serving others, steady progress, families, and studying the Book of Mormon. We are so blessed to be able to hear from leaders who are called of God to direct the restored church here on earth!

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

The Hungarian word of the week will be "általános konferencia" which means general conference.

Monday, September 25, 2017

We had another solid week here in Veszprém! Both of us got pretty sick, so we spent some time resting and recovering, but we still got out and worked hard. It's actually kind of funny because the Hungarians are all convinced that if you don't wear a coat at all times, you're going to catch a cold. Well, guess who else caught colds? All of the Hungarians. They kept on nagging Elder Biesinger to wear a coat, and they were always saying that I was the smart one because I always wore my coat, then, ironically, I caught a cold first and Elder Biesinger was fine. Since we spend 24 hours a day together, it was only a matter of time before my cold spread to him. Poor elder. I feel bad, but I tried so hard not to spread it!

Besides getting sick, we also had zone conference which was great. We are implementing self reliance classes that we will be teaching each week, so that should be fun. We are also focusing a bit more on family history as a way to find people this transfer. I'm personally pretty excited about it! People love to talk about their families, especially the nénis.

We had a soccer match with one of our investigators and some of the Veszprém youth. It was half court and poor Elder Biesinger was all time goalie. He got smacked pretty good a few times and the soccer ball we used was NOT soft!

My first week here in Veszprém, we tracted into a woman who happily let us in. Her name is Udit. She's a teacher and last time we came over we had a great conversation, gave her a Book of Mormon, got stuffed to the brim with fruit, and she sent us off with two jars of jam. Well, we asked her if she wanted to meet again sometime and she said she would call us after talking with her husband. Guess who called this week? UDIT! She invited us over for dinner and that's where we ate last night. We had stuffed peppers and stuffed rolls (Hungarians love to stuff stuff) and it was delicious. After that, János (Udit's husband) showed us his coin/currency collection, which was incredibly impressive. He had one of every bill that Hungary has pretty much ever had, or at least that's what it seemed like to me. He told us the history of the currency of Hungary and all sorts of cool stuff. He had some coins which were used in the year 1000! It was crazy!

Fun fact, Hungary had the worst year of inflation in recorded history, according to János, when they used the "Pengő". In ONE YEAR, they went from using one pengő bills, to ONE-HUNDRED-MILLION-TRILLION pengő notes. I thought it was just a myth until I saw the notes myself. In 1946, one U.S. dollar was worth 460,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő. That's pretty bad. After the forint was introduced, they literally just swept the pengő up in the streets because it was worthless.

We also talked about family history with them and they're really excited about it! We're going to come back to talk about family history and why we focus so much on it in our church. I'm super excited!

I just wanted to say thank you all for your love and support. It means a lot to me! I hope you all have a wonderful week! My unsolicited advice for the week is to look up at the sky more. It's pretty dang pretty sometimes!

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

Hungarian word of the week: "Meg fogsz fázni!" which means "You're going to freeze/catch a cold!" We hear that about a million times any time we walk outside without a coat on.

Monday, September 18, 2017

We had a pretty good week which included splits with the Székesfehérvár elders, apple pie, and meeting some really amazing people! 

While we were on splits, both companionships were able to get let in and teach a short lesson. Both companionships were also able to collect some contact information and we're going to go back to visit both of the people we found this week! The other elders got let in by an older woman who told them that when we come back, she's going to try to trick people into coming over so that we can teach them. She said she'll invite some youth over for dinner, without telling them that we're going to be there, and then surprise them with a spiritual lesson hahahaha. Her reasoning was that youth these days don't want anything to do with religion and it makes her really sad so she wants us to teach them and be good examples to them. I don't really know what we're supposed to do in this situation, but this should be pretty interesting.

Some pics of what an apartment in Hungary looks like:

The woman who came to our fireside a few weeks ago (or maybe last week, idk time is hard to remember sometimes) has been coming to church and staying the whole time. She said that she just feels like she's home when she's here with us. Can you say golden? She's such a sweetheart and we're going to meet with her on Thursday.

The weather has been pretty rainy and cold, but I'm not complaining. It's better than the blazing heat if you ask me. A few nights ago, there was a huge bolt of lightning which struck closer than I've ever seen before. I've never heard a more intense clap of thunder either! It was so close that our power went out for a split second. I love stormy weather!

I was also reading out of the Liahona and came across one of my favorite talks of all time: Stand Up Inside and Be All In by Elder Gary B Sabin. It's a super good talk full of humor and great teachings. If you have 5 minutes, go read it. You'll surely get something out of it.

I am so excited for the next session of General Conference. We are so blessed to be able to receive modern day revelation through a living prophet! It's a huge testiment to me that this is the Lord's true church on the earth. We can gain so much from studying the words of the Prophet and Apostles. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

Hungarian word for this week: Aranyhaj és a Nagy Gubanc. This translates to "Golden-hair and the Big Tangle" which is how they translate the movie title "Tangled".

Friday, September 15, 2017

Well, we had another pretty good week here in Veszprém! I'm really loving it here!

We went to a little village called Berhida about 30 minutes outside of Veszprém to have dinner with a cute little néni named Erzsika. We got STUFFED! Her house was interesting because all of the doorways were about 6 feet tall at their highest points, so I had to duck under every doorway. The house was on a big plot of land, with lots of fields and farmland. Erzsi was telling us that they recently harvested whatever crop was being grown in the fields out back and then it rained really hard. She said that the rain had caused a handgrenade from World War II to surface in her field! She called the local police and they came and roped off the area and then put a big rock on top of the grenade until further notice. I guess that's probably the best solution for now, considering Berhida probably doesn't have a bomb squad. We laughed pretty hard about it. Erzsika also has an ancient dog named Pongo. He's 17 years old and looks like a bad taxidermy!

While we were there, we ate sandwiches with peppers, cheese, and lunch meats. Then we had a little spiritual thought and after we finished, we went back in for the main course. She started us off with a bowl of home made chicken noodle soup, then stuffed peppers (imagine bell peppers stuffed with a meat loaf type thing, drenched in a tomato based sauce), and then finally lángos (fried bread with sour cream, garlic, and cheese). It was so delicious, but I was painfully full! Erzsi told us that now we would never have to tell anybody that we starved in Hungary (no pun intended, Hungary in Hungarian is Magyarország).

We also went tableing with some members and it was great! We were advertising a fireside that would be happening on Saturday where we would discuss the Plan of Salvation. Elder Biesinger and I had a small part where we explained what happened in the pre-earth life. Only one investigator showed up, but that one investigator loved it! She was an older woman who says she was Roman Catholic. She participated the whole time, answeing questions and even asking some. The next day, she came to church and stayed for all 3 hours and we set up to meet with her this week! It was very cool.

One thing that I learned this week is that pride is a very misunderstood sin. A lot of people think that pride is just thinking that you're better than everyone else, constantly being competitive in everything you do, and finding joy in being above the rest, but there is another part to pride which we often overlook, in my opinion. Pride also includes putting our own will above the will of others, including God's. A prideful person has the attitude of, "My will be done, not Thine." When we are prideful, we sit and wish that God's will would just change to allign with ours. We may justify our wrongful behavior, thinking that our ways are greater than God's ways. We may receive a clear answer to our prayers, yet refuse to accept it because it wasn't what we expected. When we receive an answer and refuse to act on it, we are doubting God in a prideful way. I had never really thought of pride in this way until this week. We need to trust in God and His perfect plan. We need to be willing to act with faith, doubting nothing, even if we may not understand. We need to obey with exactness and never justify our wrong behaviors. If we do this, we will show God that we love Him and we will show meekness and humility. I know that God's plan is perfect. I know that He loves us and knows each of us personally. We will be blessed as we say, "Not my will be done, oh Lord, but Thine."

I hope you all have a great week! Stay strong and always look for a reason to be happy.

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

I learned a pretty funny saying this week while we were eating at Erzsi néni's house. "Tele vagyok, mint a déli busz." Which means, "I'm as full as the noon bus!"

Monday, September 4, 2017

I'm here in Veszprém now and things are going great! It's super pretty here and I'm really glad to be outside of Budapest for a bit. It's so green here and there are so many beautiful buildings and rolling hills. We have a pretty good sized branch here. There were 37 people at church! Everyone is so nice! We got 3 dinner appointments for this week within 5 minutes of walking in the door. It was fast Sunday so I got up and bore my testimony and introduced myself a little bit. I just know it's going to be a great transfer!

My new companion is Elder Biesinger by the way. He's awesome and we get along super well. He's really funny and he's a great cook! I'm so blessed to be here serving with him! He's also great at asking questions and he's always interested in learning more about what interests me, which I find very nice.

Our apartment is great! Much nicer than the apartment in Pest, in my opinion. I didn't take any pictures this week, since everything was kind of scattered everywhere after the move, but I'll be sure to have some pictures next week. We have a working washing machine so no more hand washing all of our dishes! Also, the shower doesn't have a shower curtain, which is kind of interesting. I was pretty worried about it, but Elder Biesinger very kindly said, "Don't worry about it so much. Water will get out, but that's why the towel is there."

Sometimes I find myself feeling overly critical of myself and feeling frustrated at my imperfections. I get pretty stressed out when things don't go right, and as I was taking a shower, the thought came into my mind, "Don't worry about it so much. Water will get out, but that's why the towel is there. Don't worry about everything so much. You're going to make mistakes, but that's why the Savior is there." I never thought that I would be comparing the Savior to a towel, but there you go. It definitely brought me peace.

So we don't have any investigators right now, but we set a goal in faith to find at least one person to teach this week. When we went out, we just kind of went to a random street and started tracting. A lot of the people here have already been tracted into, but we're going to give them all another opportunity, just in case. The first day, the last door we tracted into was a middle aged woman who was super excited to see us. Her name is Udit and she is a teacher at some sort of school (I didn't really understand all that well, to be honest). She said that she used to have missionaries over, but she hasn't seen them in a long time. She let us in and we talked on her porch, surrounded by a beautiful garden. We talked about her beliefs and we were able to teach her about the Restoration and give her a Book of Mormon. She was just incredibly nice, and brought us a ton of fruit and drinks. Everytime I stopped eating her grapes, even for a minute, she would say, "Go ahead, eat the grapes! Eat them!" it was super funny. She insisted on giving us something in exchange for the book, but we assured her that we had plenty of them and that it was truly free. She wouldn't have it that way though, so she gave us two jars of jam made from home grown fruit. Before we left, she asked us, "So do you usually come back?" We misunderstood and thought she was asking if we usually go back to a city that we have already served in, but she said, "Like, do you come back to people's houses to talk with them?" and we just looked at eachother and had this moment of nonverbal communication where we both telepathically said, "Is this really happening?" Then we told her we would love to come back and she said she would call us after she talks with her husband. It was one of the most pleasant lessons I've ever had and she may become a new investigator!

I'm just loving it here. It's different, for sure, but it's great. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve a mission. It has changed me in ways I didn't think were possible! I'm so grateful for the gospel in my life. I just feel so blessed. Thank you all for your love and support! 

Sok szeretettel,

Burnett Elder

Hungarian word of the week: "vörösáfonya" means "cranberry" but directly translates to "red blueberry"