Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FROM NOV 23, 2015
 So I’m now in Kecskemet with Sister S. and I love it and I love her! I already love all the art nouveux  here and the members, too!  My first comp and former trainer lives here, so I’ve been to her and her new husbands home-- haha! So crazy to end my mission this way! I wish i had more than 2 weeks, but oh well :(

We had stake conference on Sunday, so I got to see a lot of my old pals from Szekes and Szeged, so that was so fun!

Saying goodbye in Buda was kinda hard, but like Mom said-- technically I’ve already been a missionary for 18 months (crazy that Sister S. and i hit our 9 months together and now we are hitting 18 together!) so it’s just a bonus :)

We met with photographer R. and we talked about the Plan of Salvation. He said "You came to Hungary, and maybe you didn't do anything else, but you helped me start believing in God again." It was really touching. He had great thoughts and we had an excellent discussion about the Atonement. He said he felt bad for Christ, that he would pay for the sins that we did. We talked about how he did it because He loves us. He said, “Okay, so the main point of the plan is to become better every day?" He had a lot of questions about repentance, and it was just really good. He said the prayer and thanked God for sending us to his door. He was emotional after the prayer, and talked about that good feeling he always gets from meeting. Super cool experience.

We did our final zone training, and Sis. L. and I did a white handbook Jeopardy. It was fun :) I gave my departing testimony and could hardly give it, I was crying so much. It was really short, probably like 2 minutes. I just talked about how I know that I am a child of God and that we all are. That He loves us and that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us. I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a much simpler, more amazing way. I know that repentance is change, even if that change is small. Even if that change is saying a prayer for the first time in your life. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. It was so strange to give that and know I was pretty much done.

We met with E. and it was so good. She was crying, talking about how she feels guilt and sadness. She feels like she isn't worthy of repentance. We had a great discussion about repentance and the Atonement, how we are ALL worthy of receiving the Savior’s grace. The Atonement is for everyone. I have gained a testimony of this. We testified of God and Christ’s love for her.

We got to Kecskemet and Sister N. still had the keys in Buda—hahahaha-- so we had to stay with a member! Great way to start it off! Okay, sorry I don’t have much time to write this week, i love you all!


FROM NOV 29, 2015
 I don't really know what to say. I can't believe this is my last week as a missionary. My heart is kind of breaking. I don't ever want to leave this weird little country with its strange beliefs that if you don't wear tights you will become infertile and the smell of bakery goods in the morning when we go running. I can't do this. I can't bear not hearing the hymns being sung in Hungarian by the 40 people that come to church every Sunday, or just hearing everything in Hungarian in general. And I can't bear the thought of not being able to share the Gospel in Hungarian. I love it-- it has been the biggest blessing of my life. I won't start my goodbye just yet, though...I still have this precious week left!

I love Kecskemét! I wish I had more time here :( (and it doesn't hurt that we get fed a lot---- add Hungarian food to the list of things I will miss :) We teach a lot of older women and for some reason this week, they all got really emotional as we met with them. We asked R. to say the closing prayer, and after we looked up to see tears in her eyes. We also taught M. the

Restoration and she came to church on Sunday. She cried when we left, even though she knew she would see us in church on Sunday. it was sweet. Another lady, J., cried telling us about how she wished she had a better relationship with her family. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and talked about how God is always there for her. She bought us chocolate snails and hot chocolate after; I really hope that our message could help her. We met with I., too, and she also cried. It was so touching; she really misses her husband and is taking his death really hard. So it was kind of strange that they all were very emotional this week, but it felt good to be there for them and to let them know God is there for them.

We also teach this part member family, and they came to church for the first time in a long time! They also are starting to read the scriptures together as a family, which we are super excited about.

We also had thanksgiving because the bishop and his wife were so kind to make us turkey and mashed potatoes!

Okay, so best part of the week... we did splits in Székesfehérvár and Szeged!! It has honestly been SUCH a tender mercy... no.... MIRACLE to be able to serve in Kecskemét with Sister S., and to be able to go to my old areas for splits. Two of my old areas! It was SO great! Going back to Székes with S. was so fun, and it was all decorated for Christmas, so that was especially exciting! And the lights turned on for the first time that night. :)  I loved meeting up with the members, who threw us a pizza party with a cake that said "You are the best"-- Haha! We LOVE them! It was cool to see how much they really care about us and miss us! I also got to meet with my old investigator D., which was great because he hasn't met with the sisters for months. He wants to start meeting again and he feels like prayer has helped him so much. We talked about getting back into reading-- he just thinks reading is boring. But he really wants to go to church more, too. Such a tender mercy. Sister S. and I just cried as our train drove out of the Székes train station.

We planned splits with Szeged too, so that I could go to G.'s baptism! It was great to be back in Szeged--especially because it was all decorated for Christmas, and the lights had just turned on the night before, so it was just how it was when I got there exactly a year ago. We went streeting and gave out a Book of Mormon to this mom and her daughter. I forgot how easy it is to talk to people there, and how much more open they are there for some reason, haha! Ohhhh, blast from the past. I didn't really think people were going to remember me in Szeged, but they did! IT was so great to be able to see those members and some of the RCLAs I met with there. :) 

G.'s baptism was great. :) He was super happy! It's crazy that almost a year I asked him if he would be baptized, and now he was able to! It was a long time getting his parents to give him permission, but they did and his whole family was there, and it was a great day. I feel so blessed that I got transferred to Kecskemét for these last two weeks and was able to do splits with the Szeged sisters in time to see the baptism. Another huge tender mercy from God. He is good.

So many blessings. I am feeling overwhelmed by them all. It’s a little too much to take in, how much I love this place and these people. It's not really describable. This Gospel has changed my life, and these Hungarians have, too. I have made so many amazing friends, and will forever be grateful for their friendship and for all they have taught me and done for me.  

 Sorry, this is going to be a long email...

I don't really know where to start. The Dunaújváros sisters came down for splits, and we went to Szeged again for interviews. I ran into one of my old investigators in Szeged, and then a Pápa member came to Kecskemét, so it was a blessing to be able to see both of them. On Sunday,  an RM who was actually a branch president when he served in Kecskemét, came back and brought a ton of cakes, and so we had a cake party after church, haha. Poor Sister S.'s feet have been killing her, but she insisted on working! She's a rock.

This week was a week of lasts. Last time tracting (we got kicked out of a building, and in the next building everyone was mean to us... haha-- at least we ended on a typical note!). Last time talking to people on the bus (which I have really grown to love, honestly) and I pretty much taught a guy the Restoration on a bus, so that was nice. Last time streeting and tabling. I'm going to miss it so much. Last time teaching programs in Hungarian. Last Church service as a missionary, looking out at everyone sing while I played the piano, tearing up as I played "God Be With You till we meet again" and tearing up hearing the Sacrament prayer in Hungarian. We ate at a member’s house and sang Christmas carols with them. It was sweet.

As I was reading in Mosiah one day I realized that being a missionary has helped me in many ways fulfill my baptismal covenant... "Mourn with those that mourn...comfort those that stand in need of comfort...stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places." (Mosiah 18:8-9)

I have grown to love so many things on my mission. I Love Hungary! And not just because the food is amazing (please tell me you can find good pickled stuff in America... otherwise it'll be a hard time). I love Hungarians and their sometimes annoying honesty and realistic-ness. I love that they could go on for years about how Hungary used to be twice the size it is now, and how they can just talk your ear off about anything. I love their frugality and their superstitions and the fact that just about any Hungarian can for some reason cook super well (well... most of the time :) I love that they love karaoke and they cook ALL their food in at least half a bottle of oil (or, ya know, pig fat works too). I wish they had more hope and confidence. Religion isn't a huge part of their lives, especially because going to church was forbidden during the Communist era, but the fact that many Hungarians still believe in God is always inspiring. I will miss the nénis that are still out and about in their hats and skirts even though they are so old! I will miss the sound of kids blabbering off in Hungarian, and I will miss all the funny sayings and quirks of my Hungarians. Sometimes they just need a friend; they need support, someone to tell them it's gonna be okay.

I love being a missionary! I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to share my testimony with so many people and sharing with them something that I love so much and that has truly changed my life. I love teaching about the Gospel, and especially about Jesus Christ and his Atoning sacrifice. I am so thankful for all the moments I've felt the Spirit as I have taught or talked to people, and for the moments I have seen the Spirit working in the hearts of people, and for all the times they have also experienced blessings from the Gospel in their own lives. I know that any change is good change if it brings us closer to God, and I am thankful that He has helped many people make these little changes in their own lives. I love the Book of Mormon, and my testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His divinity has grown so much because of the testimonies and records of those ancient prophets. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith and his sacrifices to enable us to have this amazing testament of Christ. I know that he was a prophet, the prophet who restored Jesus Christ's church to the earth. My testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the priesthood has also grown so much this year and a half.

I love finding! It's not always easy, but it really is just another form of teaching. I am again so grateful for the opportunity to talk to people about the Book of Mormon, or about the fact that God is our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. I know a lot of people don't know that, but I do, and I am thankful for that knowledge.

I love prayer...Prayer works :) I know God has given me all those things... especially trials... that I needed to grow and become better. I know He never gives us commandments "save He shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7) There have been so many times I may have doubted being able to do something, but companions have helped me learn that having faith that God will help us follow Him has helped me see that it is true. I know it's so oversaid, but God helps us follow the commandments and blesses us for doing so!!

I am thankful for the Holy Ghost and the many times it has testified of truth to me (even when I bear my testimony in an email!) and to those I have taught. I’m grateful for the times it has made up for my mistakes or when I've fallen short. God will not leave us comfortless.

I have gained such a deeper understanding of the Gospel. It makes sense in so many ways that it never did before. But more than that, I have developed a LOVE for the simple, basic principles of the Gospel. That God IS our Heavenly Father. We are His Children. He loves us. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Because of Jesus Christ, we can return to live with our Heavenly Father, with our families. We can feel peace and love, and we can change. I am thankful for Jesus Christ.

I know that it's time for the next part of my life, but I don't really feel ready to end this part of my life yet. I guess I'll never really be able to express how grateful I am for the opportunity I had to be a missionary in Hungary. I am so grateful for all the amazing people I met and all the amazing friends I have made. I have learned countless things from them all and they have all been such great examples to me. Whether they just show kindness for others, or go out of their way to come to church every Sunday even though they have a lot going on, or just being friendly and patient with me. It's hard to think of this end, but I know the Gospel is all about starting over and continuously becoming better every day (as one of my investigators once put it.) Again, I am thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ, He tells us all that it's gonna be okay.

Magyarországnak mindig lesz helye szívemben. Nem tudom mondani hogy mennyire hálás vagyok a Magyarokért, a missziómért, a barátaimért, Jézus Krisztusért. Tudom hogy Isten él. Ő szeret minket... nem is tudjuk képzelni hogy mennyire szeret minket. Ez az evangélium az egyetlen dolog, ami tartós boldogságot hoz nekünk. Tudom hogy Jézus Krisztus engesztelése miatt, szabadak lehetünk.

Sok szeretettel,
VanDenBerghe Nover