Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 19, 2016


Elder Priest has completed his mission to Budapest, Hungary and has made it home safely. We are so grateful to all those wonderful people in Hungary who took such good care of our missionary and welcomed him into their country.

We love you, Elder Priest!

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016

Well, here it is.

One last email from here in Hungary.

I could say a lot right now about how the week went and who we met with or didn't meet with or how we knocked on lots of doors, but we'll skip all of that for today.

I know that God is real and alive, and He loves us. I've felt this many times over the past two years, both in good times and hard times. I know that He wants us to be happy and help other people to be happy as well. I am indescribably grateful for the chance to have served here in Hungary. The church members here are so humble and kind, and the people has a whole will always have a big piece of my heart.

I look forward anxiously to when I'll be able to visit again and see all of these friends who have become part of my extended family. I hope they know that I love them.

As I sit here at the computer screen typing my last email as a missionary, these are the thoughts that seem the most important to share.

Love you all lots, and I'll see you soon. God bless the Hungarians.

President Szabadkai let us go to visit an ancient Roman temple in town with our favorite American member here in Szombathely who's working here for a little while. Thanks to Bro. Shulte for the great afternoon and helping us teach in a lesson afterwords!

Emailing one last time with these goofy elders... I'm gonna miss them!

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016


Another quick one. Here's the rundown, as usual!

Highlights of the week...

No more exploding castles this week, which was definitely a plus! We didn't have to worry about any crazy things like that, although we did have a few people get mad and kick us out of buildings with threats to call the cops. Can't be too upset at that, since I'm sure if they would have given us a few moments to explain why we knocked on their door at 6 p.m., they might not have been quite as worked up about it.

We had a fairly normal Thursday and Friday, and we met with our friends Magdi and Peti on Thursday morning. It was great to see them again, and we shared a message about how it's never too late to return to their faith. Although poor weather prevented them from coming out to church this week, it was very good to see that they are both doing well. We also met with our friend, Zoltán, on Saturday morning. His friend, Mária, also happened to be there with him when we came to visit, so she stayed and tuned in to what we were sharing with him on that day. She liked what she heard, and they both ended up coming out to church yesterday! We were very happy to see that they enjoyed the testimonies shared during sacrament meeting, and that they were glad to have come out!

Yesterday's highlight was getting to go back to the Szombathely hospital, the first time that any of us has been there since the salmonella poisoning incident of July. One of the kind members here, Kati, asked us to visit her mom with her in the hospital. Her mother, also named Kati, has become very old. Now in her later 80's, she always enjoyed the fact that we visited them once a week to sing hymns for her and share a simple message. Since she forgets things very easily, she didn't take too much interest in the topics that we brought to share, but she always loved to have me play the piano as different companions over the months would sing a hymn from the church's songbook to her. She had asked her daughter to have us visit her in the hospital and bring her a blessing (and her piano). We couldn't bring her the instrument that she wanted to have in her hospital room, but we did visit her with the younger Kati and gave her a blessing. That was easily the highlight of the week, since it had been a few weeks since we'd last seen her. Her physical condition isn't promising, and we're not sure how much longer she'll be here, but it was good to visit her at least once more.

Now, we're starting off another busy week! We're having splits with our zone leaders from Győr, heading up to Budapest for a training, and then traveling back to finish our week here in Szombathely. All the best to you back at home. Good luck with the elections. God bless America, our home and haven for the free. May He aid and guide those charged with the direction and governing of the nation.

Visited the Sárvár castle last week on P-day as a district!

Inside the castle was a museum based on the Hungarian
 cavalry and Hussars. Pretty cool stuff! Really old castle.

Apparently, the Hungarian cavalry was even active as late as the 1950's.

This was a cool family tree of the Hungarian counts 
that lived in this castle, painted on the wall of one of the 
rooms. Kind of looks like Serius Black's family tree from Harry Potter.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 2, 2016

Hey, there, everyone!

Have to be fast. Time is, yet again, in short supply!

We had a busy week, filled with zone training in Budapest, tracting and looking for new people to meet with, getting dogged a ton, talking to more people, Elder Lowe and Elder Graham getting a little bit sick and then mostly recovering, prepping for an open house at the church with a showing of "Meet the Mormons" in Hungarian, and lots of other things!

It was a great week, and I think it's also one of the weeks that I've walked the most distance-wise. We've been trying to get out to places that we haven't been to before to look for new people, which includes the areas just outside of the city-city part of Szombathely. Lots of miles, which is always fun!

Yesterday was Day of the Dead! It was neat to stop by the cemetary along with almost everyone else in Szombathely. Almost everyone, especially Catholics, get the day off and go to the graveyards to pray and decorate graves with red and white candles. It's quite a sight in contrast to the dark, cold, starry night.

The weather's been starting to get a little bit cooler, and we're putting on coats again and trying to stay warm with gloves and all that jazz. We're working hard and having a great time doing it! More to come next week!

Yesterday was "All Saints' Day," or "Day of the Dead."
 These are the candles and flowers that they decorated all the gravestones with.

A memorial to Jesus had, by far, the most candles and gifts.

Stormy day over Szombathely

Tracting at sunset. Crazy how it gets dark at 4:30 already!

Fall is definitely here in full color...

The lake in Szombathely is my favorite part of the town,
since it's got so many big trees and it's good for running
in the morning. It's also looking pretty fall-y.

"Sör" means "beer"....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 24, 2016


Lowdown for this week is as follows:

Tuesday was a busy day of getting everything ready for the transfers. Elder Fitzgerald got himself all packed up and ready to move to Dunaújváros, and I spent some time cleaning our house. We visited our good friend Zoltán and our landlord, Éva, so that Elder Fitzgerald could say goodbye.

Wednesday morning started at about 4 am, when we showered and got dressed and called a taxi to take us to the train station in Szombathely. We rode the first train we could get on to Budapest, where we journeyed in to the mission home and unloaded suitcases. It was strange to be at one last transfer and to have to say goodbye to most of my friends, since I won't see most of them again until someday back in America. Elder Fitzgerald was probably the hardest one to say goodbye to, since he was such a great companion and friend, and it really was quite enjoyable to serve with him. We'll for sure have to see if we can hang out in a year or so when he finishes his mission.

We had an orientation meeting where we met the new missionaries who came into the country, and they told us all who would be our new companions. I currently have two, since they're both going to stay here in Szombathely after I leave to go home in November. Elder Graham has now been in Hungary for four months, and Elder Lowe just came here to the country. Also of note is that another elder arrived to Szombathely (also fresh from the homeland) named Elder Garrett--we're going to see if there's any cross-overs in our family trees sometime. He's from Oklahoma. Elder Graham and Elder Lowe are both great missionaries and it's been good to be with them so far! It's quite a change, and they're by far the youngest companions I've ever had, and living and working in three's is always a whole new ballgame, but it's working out well so far!

We've had a few busy days so far, including such activities as trying to get Elder Graham legally registered to Szombathely with the government, doing a service project out on a farm to dig up and transplant rose bushes to another property, meeting with our friend Zoltán and teaching him, and studying lots and lots of Hungarian. Especially because these two are both so young in their missions, we're trying to speak as much Hungarian as possible so that they'll be comfortable and stable when it's just them in a few more weeks. It's been fun so far to teach them everything that I can and try to help them better understand what's going on.

That's mostly all the news! Keep you updated on more next week. Love y'all, have a good week!

We went out to the forest outside of Szombathely by a
little village called Dozmat to help someone on their farm on
Saturday. The drive out to the farm with member
Takács Gábor was quite a refreshing sight!

I think the sign that I can see daylight through the bottoms
is a pretty good indication that they're ready to be retired.

Finally had to splurge and buy some new dress shoes... 
The old ones are pretty wrecked at this point.

Some big 'ole Hungarian longhorns out on the farm

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 17, 2016


So this week was fast. Again. It's unbelievable how quickly the time is passing now. The week was filled with activity, as the Sopron elders, Römer and Gabel, came here to Szombathely for splits. We had a fun little three-way split where Elder Gabel and his trainer, Elder Rodgers, also got back together for a little bit of time, so it really was a good opportunity to get to see all kinds of people here in our city!

That was Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday was a pretty fast day because we had a few people to meet with, and we also had our English class in the evening time. 12 people ended up coming out, which was huge!

Friday and Saturday also passed quicly, because we were on splits in Tatabánya with the elders there. I had a chance to work with Elder Szuch who actually has Hungarian family and is from Idaho. He was awesome to work with, and it was a great split there!

We came back and had church yesterday in Szombathely. It was an awesome day at church, and we and the other missionaries from Szombathely had gotten together and planned to teach the class to the young men in the branch here. We talked about missionary work and what it means to be a missionary, and even shared some special experiences and stories from our own missions to the three young men who were in attendance--Barni, Marci, and Levi. At the end of the class, we all took off the ties we were wearing and gave them to each of the boys as a special gift from the missionaries. All three of the boys, who are 16, 10, and 15, respectively, were excited about serving missions, and they seemed to like the lesson that we shared. It was a neat experience!

Yesterday, we had family night with the Takács family from the branch here in Szombathely. They had also invited the family's grandparents, Magdi Mama and Peti Tata to come as well, and we had a good lesson about how sharing the gospel is one great way to be happy!

And today is our p-day. We're getting ready for the transfer tomorrow, since we just received our transfer calls this morning. We were surprised to hear that Elder Fitzgerald would leave Szombathely, since he's only been here for two months, and he's going to serve in a city called Dunaújváros. I'm really sad to see him go, because he's been such a great friend and companion, and it's been great to work hard with him and have many good times along the way. I'm also excited for these next four weeks, though, because I'm getting two new companions here in Szombathely! One's name is Elder Graham, who I've actually never met before. I think he's been here in Hungary for about 4 months now, and then a new missionary is also coming here from America this week, which should also be fun! It's always interesting learning how to work with three people on one leash, but it's going to be an adventure!

Talk to you all soon again next week! Stay tuned!

Elder Fitzgerald and I with our good
friends, Magdi Mama "Grandma Magdi" and Mariann!

We came across this little gem this week.

Our lovely English class here in Szombathely!

We made waffles this week with banana bread batter, and let
 me just tell ya that they were the best thing since Kraft Mac n' Cheese!

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016


Another week's lowdown's coming right up.

Monday was a good p-day last week. Kinda quiet, but we ended up going to the branch house with the other elders from here in Szombathely and our mission correlator here in the city, Zoli, and we threw a football and frisbee and played some basketball in the afternoon. We had a fun time, and somehow we managed to get the frisbee stuck on the branch house roof in the process. The good news is that Elder Shepherd is exceptionally tall, and with the help of his height and our throwing skills, we used the other balls to get down the frisbee to a point where he could grab it from off the shingles. It was a good day!

Tuesday was a fairly normal day, and we just did our normal work of looking for people to meet with. We did actually end up getting let in by a lady in her 80's named Zsuzsanna, who told us that she would talk to us for about ten minutes, and that then she would be done. In the end, we spent almost a full hour in her apartment, sharing a message about the Restoration of the original gospel with her. We then asked if she would be interested in learning more, and she replied that maybe she would call us back when she decided.

Wednesday was busy mostly with going to the "hivatal," the Hungarian governmental offices that take care of all kinds of official things. We were given a packet of paperwork by President Szabadkai to fill out, and were told to update our residency information with the Hungarian government. It took about 5 hours of waiting in lines, talking to immigrations officers, asking for validation of our documents, and making photo copies of everything on the other side of town, but we are now officially legal residents of Szombathely.

We left early on Thursday morning to go to Győr, where President Szabadkai held interviews with our zone. We were there to check up with the missionaries while they were arriving and make sure that they were also doing alright. After interviews were finished up, we started splits with the elders who were there, Ure and Gentry. They're both awesome missionaries who are working as hard as they can and doing great things there in the city, so it was a good experience to be there with them! I got to serve with Elder Gentry, who happens to be a young 18 year-old who's signed to play football for BYU when he goes home. He's HUGE. It was quite a fun time to be around such a big guy and serve with him for a day.

Friday and Saturday were spent back in Szombathely, and we also had splits on these days. This time, it was with the assistants, Elders Evans and Heaps. I had a chance to be with Elder Heaps again, which was really fun because he was my companion right before Elder Fitzgerald came here to Szombathely at the beginning of August. He's doing really well and loving life in Buda, so that was good, too!

And then Sunday was spent at church, where we finished watching the Sunday afternoon session of conference. (We get the conference a little bit later here because of the time difference.)

The weather's been REALLY cold for the past week. I think it dropped about 25 degrees Celcius, and we're all freezing and breaking out our coats already. No snow yet, but it's definitely cold outside.

Hope you all have a good day! Love ya!

Splits in Győr with Elders Gentry and
Ure--they're awesome missionaries!

Elder Heaps and Elder Evans came to visit us in
 Szombathely for splits, and we met up with our
landlord, Éva, who took a picture with us all!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 3, 2016


It's P-day again. So here's the jist of our week! (Did I spell that right?)

Monday was a good day last week! After finishing running all of our errands and emailing, we headed out with the other elders from here in Szombathely (Rodgers and Shepherd) and hopped on a little train going out of town to Kőszeg, a little village just by the Austrian border on the Hungarian side. We took our bikes with us on the train, and we biked around the city and got to see some of the cool sites of that old town. Part of that included taking our bikes up a steep hill and seeing the "Chapel of Calvary" (Kálváriai Kápolna) on the edge of Kőszeg. After that, it was starting to get dark already (fall is here already) and we needed to get back to Szombathely to finish our day with work, so we saddled up and rode our bikes back in caravan formation. That was for sure one of the highlights of the day--riding bikes all in a row looking super fly in our missionary white shirts and ties, flying down the road on our bikes with ties flowing graciously in the wind as we cruised through other smaller villages in the rolling hills between the two towns. We made pretty good time, and the 30-some-odd kilometer trip was finished in just about 45 minutes.

Tuesday was a busy day, and we spent the whole thing on trains and in Budapest for a zone training. Unfortunately, it was more of a business-related zone training dealing with things like obtaining new residency permits in Hungary (since the laws regarding foreigners has changed here) and bicycle safety (one of the missionaries was accidentally involved in a car crash, and the police came to talk to us). By the time everything else was taken care of, the training itself was only a few minutes long, and then we were back on another train to return to Szombathely.

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty normal days of trying to find people to meet with in Szombathely. It was a slower week for meeting with people, because the few people that we normally teach were either busy or out of town for the week.

Friday was fun, because we met with two of the very nice people here in Szombathely, Magdi Mama and Peti Tata. After teaching them, we headed out for Pápa, another city in our zone where we had splits. We finished our splits with the elders there (Smith and Biesinger, who were both great) and came back to Szombathely just in time on Saturday night to ride to the branch house and watch the first session of General Conference.

Sunday was spent at the branch house as we watched General Conference with all the members there. It's always a fun time because everyone brings some kind of something to share with each other, so we made some really good banana bread to bring to the branch. Tell ya one thing, it was superrr good.

And that brings us back to now!

Gotta run, but love y'all and hope you have a good week!

The Szombathely missionaries and Brother Shulte, our
 American member friend who's living in Szombathely
 for work for a while! :)

Neat Catholic church in Kőszeg

The "Church of Calvary"

Riding back through the Hungarian
 countryside to Szombathely from Kőszeg

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 26, 2016

Hey, family!

Really fast email for today, because we planned to go to a nearby village to see the town and work this afternoon!

The week was good and busy. We were in Budapest for another MLC meeting, where a church psychiatrist from Germany came down to train us in how to help missionaries struggling with mental difficulties or depression. Useful stuff!

We spent Friday and Saturday on splits with the elders in Sopron, which was also good! They're both impressive missionaries, and they've improved in their skills in the language since the last time that we were around them, as well!

This coming week will be another busy one, with a zone training in Budapest and splits in Pápa, as well as General Conference on Saturday and Sunday.

Gotta run, but we'll talk more next time!

Skyline and chimneys of Szombathely!

Someone's door while tracting in a ten-story here.
The window is blocked with cigarette boxes.

Made some pretty good duckbreast salad this week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 19, 2016


Fast email this week. Not much time, since I swear that p-days get faster and faster (as do the weeks) the closer we get to the finish line!

The first half of the week was filled with normal missionary work--lots of doors knocked, lots of people talked to on the streets, and lots of calling people to try to set up with them. We meet with a few of our friends here in Szombathely, among which were Németh Kati and the Bartos family with Emese. In the second half of the week, we were kept busy with going up to Budapest for MLC meetings on Wednesday, then another normal day on Thursday. Friday and Saturday we had splits again with the elders in our city here in Szombathely, both of which are awesome missionaries! And then on Saturday, the branch put together a little activity where everyone got together and went to a little village outside of Szombathely called Velem. We actually ended up biking the whole way there (we were told it was about 26 km) with a few of the cool members here in the branch, Barni and Dani. In our little bike caravan of 6 riders, we cruised through the little Hungarian villages on our way to catch up to the group in cars at the rendezvous point. They had a little fire there, went on a little walk in the forest, saw a cool little chapel that overlooked the mountainside, and then packed up to head back to Szombathely after a fun morning of getting to know everyone better. The bikeride back into town was much faster, because the whole thing was downhill, and we ended up making it back in almost half the time.

Then we finished off our Saturday with some more finding and meeting with our friend Zoltán, and church yesterday!

We'll have another busy week filled with traveling back to Budapest for more meetings and then splits with the missionaries in Sopron. Gotta bounce now because the time is almost gone, but I'll send more updates next week! Love y'all!

The group outing to Velem this week with our branch.
This is the group of cyclers who made it out on bikes!

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016


It seems like every time I start to write another email, I start with, "It's been another fast week!" or something of the sort. The same is true of this week! The low-down goes like this:

Monday was another pretty normal p-day for us here in Szombathely--we had lots to get done, so that day flew by pretty fast.

Tuesday was also fast! We had splits with the two other elders here in Szombathely, Elders Rodgers and Shepherd. They're probably two of my favorite missionaries who are here in the mission right now, because they're both hilarious and so much fun to be around, but they also balance that with a good work ethic and they know how to get things done. I was with Elder Rodgers for this split, and we ended up spending our whole time finding and walking around the city looking for people who might want to talk to us. We found one! Granted, he was probably the most alcohol-saturated man I've ever met, but he was at least kind and spirited, and he wanted to talk. We ended up talking to him for about half an hour or so on the street. The conversation for sure had its ups and downs (simply because he could talk in a straight line about as well as he could walk in one), but he ended up sobering up a little bit towards the end and actually shared some good personal insight.

Wednesday and Thursday were, again, normal days for us after we finished our spits with the Szombathely elders.

Friday afternoon, after meeting with our friends Emese and Zoltán, we hopped on a train to go up to Budapest for splits with the assistants, Elder Heaps and Elder Evans. That was a cool time as well, because I got to go tracting and meet with people in the same area that I served in just a few months ago.

We came back to Szombathely later on Saturday evening, and we had church yesterday! This week should be just as busy, since we have more splits and a little branch hike activity on Saturday, as well as another trip to Buda for a missionary meeting on Wednesday.

Hope y'all have a good week again. Love y'all and talk to you again soon!

Riding bikes this week, and Elder Fitzgerald and I caught a frog!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 5, 2016


The weeks are going by so fast. Each week seems to be a little bit quicker than the one before, and it's a little bit scary that there's only ten more of these left! Anywho, it was another good week filled with business and adventures.

Monday was a fairly uneventful, normal p-day. We shopped and cleaned our house, and got everything ready for the week.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the elders from Tatabánya came over to Szombathely for splits. They seem to be doing well, and we had a chance to do some good finding work with them!

Thursday was a fast day, because we had a district meeting and a few appointments of people to meet with. We finished off the day by teaching English class in the evening and then doing some more finding.

Friday and Saturday were also a blast because the elders from Győr came to Szombathely for their first splits this transfer. Elder Ure is currently training Elder Gentry there, and they're both some of the best missionaries I've met out here! Elder Ure is simply very solid and is a really good example for Elder Gentry, and Elder Gentry is a younger missionary who's been in Hungary for about three weeks now and is just a very hard worker! It was great to work with them, and they went back to Győr after helping us to move a new member family into their new apartment here in Szombathely. Saturday was topped off by an awesome Cultural Celebration broadcast from Germany, since the Freiberg Germany temple has just finished its remodeling. Youth from Germany, Austria, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland participated in a musical, dance, and video production presentation that ended up being really good! It was neat to see some of the kids from Hungary that we've met throughout our missions in Germany as they traveled there and were part of the broadcast.

Then, Sunday morning was the rededication of the Freiberg Temple! All the members here were really stoked and excited about that, since the next-closest temple that's currently open is either Kiev or Switzerland.

And now it's Monday again! The next few weeks shouldn't be any less crazy or busy--they should also probably be full of lots of stuff to do, and we'll be kept on our toes!

Love y'all and talk to ya soon!

Photos for this week--splits with the elders from
 Tatabánya and suiting up with Elder Fitzgerald on our bikes!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 29, 2016


This week was a good one. We spent a good part of the first bit of the week working on getting things ready for our zone training, which we gave on Wednesday in Budapest.

We were given "finding" as the basis for the training, so we decided to make a little obstacle course out of the material and have practice scenarios that everyone could use to improve how they approach people to talk to them. We got the idea to do these little obstacles from Elder Lymer, who visited the mission back in April or May, and introduced to us the concept of an "elevator approach," in which you only have a few precious seconds to get out your once-in-a-lifetime, important message to people you meet. To capture that idea, we had everyone actually use the elevator in the mission home in Budapest and practice talking to people and using power-statements to introduce important, meaningful messages to people. We also devised some roles for each of the people participating to play, so that no one approach would be the same. The office secretaries, the Simkins (senior couple) and the Szabadkai's all helped in making the project a success. In the end, hopefully it was a good training and something that the missionaries can use!

The rest of the week consisted of normal missionary work here in Szombathely with Elder Fitzgerald, with the exception of Friday andSaturday. The Pápa elders came into town for splits, so I had a chance to work with Elder Smith for a day. He is incredibly intelligent and very knowledgable when it comes to just about anything. Needless to say, it was a great split and I learned a lot from being around him! His companion is a new missionary named Elder Biesinger who is just as great as Elder Smith is.

Szombathely also put on its annaul Savaria Carnival this past weekend. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were packed, and people came to the city from all over Europe to see the festival. The whole city dresses up and has something similar to a Roman renessaince festival. (Did I spell that right?) The large crowds and many shopkeepers who set up booths around the city made circumstances good for missionary work, and we tried to talk to lots of people as we were in the area.

I think that's most of the news for the week! Love you lots and we'll talk more in 7 days.

Elder Fitzgerald and I spent some time this week riding our bikes out to a little village outside of Szombathely up on the hill. We saw lots of really old, run-down farming houses, but only a few people, and none of them really wanted to talk... it was worth a shot, though!