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Brenda’s Mission Farewell Talk

Brenda's talkI first would like to thank, our family, friends and members of the Ward for sharing this memorable time with us.  And for the love and great influence that you have been to me.  We are especially touched by those who have traveled so far to be with us today.

A few years ago Bishop Funk invited my husband and me to attend some senior missionary preparation classes.   At the time, we had not thought about serving a mission and so we went to just one session.  Sometime later, Bishop England called us to meet with him, and he asked if we would be interested in an opportunity as senior missionaries.

My husband was still very much involved in his career, and the timing did not seem right.  About that time, the Draper Temple opened and we were called to be ordinance workers, along with some of you.  I told myself this was kind of like a mission.  But, little did I know that this wonderful spiritual experience, to be serving in the Lord’s House on a regular basis, away from the cares of the world was   preparing me for what was to come.

I must confess that I had never really before thought much about a senior mission.   I guess I first had to accept the idea that I was a senior.  Even my silver hair was not a clue.  I thought it was very noble when other senior couples went on their mission, but the time never seemed right for me.

That changed, very early one morning this past June.  I awoke with the most powerful feeling that Bob and I should go on a mission.  The words of my favorite hymn kept going over and over in my mind:

“Because I have been given much, I too must give,
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live,
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
Who has the need of help from me.”

I could not deny how strongly I felt about serving a mission.  And surprisingly was actually very excited about an idea that I had been resisting for some time.  I later told my husband what I had experienced in the wee hours of that morning, and we made an appointment with the Bishop that week.   Then we told our children what we were up to, they were very excited and gave us much positive encouragement.  I am so grateful for being prodded to recognize what I could do to give something in return for the many blessings that I have received.  I feel that two Bishops planting the seeds, and my calling as an ordinance worker in the temple has prepared my spirit to listen to that still small voice.  I now enthusiastically and sincerely have the desire to serve a mission.  And I am thrilled to be standing here today at our mission farewell.

We feel that Budapest Hungary is the best mission assignment that we could have received.  It is a place that we had not even remembered being on the list of possible missions.  We have never traveled to that part of the world, and had wished to go to a foreign land somewhere we had not been before.

We, of course, had a general idea of where Hungary is, but immediately went to our globe to check it out.  It is a landlocked European nation touched by eight other eastern block countries (Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia/ Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria).  I wanted to know more, about the people, history and culture of where we had been called to serve.   So I began a search into the history of Hungary.  I would like to share a little bit of this with you, as It gave me a greater appreciation of why all Churches, to this day, have met so many challenges in that part of the world.

The earliest Hungarians arrived in Eastern Europe around 600 BC (about the time of the prophet Jeremiah, and the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem) becoming one of the oldest settlements in the Ural mountain region of Russia.  They eventually migrated south to where Hungary currently is, and was officially established as a kingdom in 896 AD.  These early Hungarians worshipped idols.  But a little over a century later, the country was converted to Christianity.

As Hungary became a Christian nation, an order was sent out by their king that one in every ten villages should build a church.   That change, however, did not sit well with some who still followed the old ways.  Following a heathen uprising, Bishop Gellért was shut in a barrel and rolled off the cliffs in Budapest.  Eventually, however, the Hungarians did become devout Catholics, even participating in the Crusades.

Things went well for the Hungarians for awhile.  Then the Mongol Tartars under Attila the Hun continually laid siege upon them.  Then the Turkish Ottomans took over Hungary when Hungary’s military was obliterated and her king killed.  The end of the Ottoman’s rule in Hungary brought the Austrians.  The Hungarians then simply switched from being ruled by the Turks to being ruled by the Austrians for the next 150 years.

As a result of the Hungarians helping to start World War l, and being on the losing side in the side when it ended, Hungary lost two-thirds of her land, one-third of her Hungarian-speaking people, and 90% of her natural resources.

Crippled from the treaty and the war’s end, Hungary entered into an alliance with Germany in 1939, but later declared her self neutral when Germany invaded Poland.  In 1941, the Nazis occupied Hungary.  Once again, Hungary was drawn into a war and ended up on the losing side.  Consequently, after World War II, the Russians took over Hungary and remained there until 1991.  To this day, Hungary is still fighting to overcome the vast problems and many consequences caused by living under communism for over 50 years.  With the exit of the Russians in 1991, many factories closed their doors, and anything of value was taken out of Hungary.

There is now a large rate of unemployment and the cost of living seems to almost exceed the average income.  In referring to his people, the Hungarian National Poet, Sándor Petöfi in the late 1800’s wrote, “We are the most forsaken of all peoples on the earth.”

Upon receiving our mission call, we realized that we had never heard much about Hungary, except for Hollywood stars, Zsa Zsa and Ava Gabor.

Then I remembered ‘Margaret’, a woman whom we met on a cruise ship.  While we were enjoying lunch one afternoon, she came in from off the deck, and asked if she could join us.

We happily invited her to sit at our table.  We enjoyed conversing with her and detected an accent.  I asked where she was from, and she replied Boston.  But I could tell it was not a Boston accent, then I asked where she came from before Boston.  She said, “the former Czechoslovakia.”  We eventually got into politics, at which time my husband excused himself.

I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with my new friend Margaret.  She then said something that led me to believe she was Jewish. I expressed my feelings of great sorrow for what had happened to the Jews under the Nazi Regime, and inquired about her family.  Most of us have heard many stories of the horrors of the holocaust, but I had never before spoken with anyone personally affected by this tragedy.

This is what Margaret tearfully told me had happened.  When the Nazi’s were advancing on her homeland of Czechoslovakia her father put together all the money he could, and gave it to Margaret and her older sister who were at that time, 14 and 19 years old.  Her father told them to go to Hungary where they would be safe, and to come back home at the end of the war.  They both spoke fluent Hungarian, and they could easily go unnoticed in the large city.

Their father bribed someone to get them papers and change their names, so they would not appear Jewish.  They then boarded the train to Budapest, while her brothers, two other sisters and parents remained in Czechoslovakia.

She and her sister spent several weeks in a small apartment in Budapest. They each found jobs, and did not get too friendly with other people.  Then someone became suspicious and turned them in.  The Gestapo had a system where they paid informants a sum of money for persons they turn over to be interrogated as being spies or Jews, and because of the poverty, at that time, some felt the need to do this.

Margaret and her sister returned from work one evening to find the Gestapo in their apartment going through their belongings.  After being questioned and burned with cigarettes to obtain a confession, these two frightened young girls were then taken to the German prison in Budapest.  They were later put on a train that took them to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

After a period of time, a group of prisoners from Holland were brought to the camp and a girl about Margaret’s age was among them.  The new girl was none other than Ann Frank.  They became fast friends as they were the youngest in their barracks at Bergen-Belsen.

Then there was an epidemic in the Camp and Margaret’s sister fell ill from typhus, along with starvation, and she was near death.  A short time later, Ann Frank became despondent and lost complete reality.  Margaret tried to comfort Ann by telling her that it was up to the young people to make every effort to survive, so they would be able to tell theWhen the Sky Rained Umbrellas world what took place in that terrible camp.  Those are the last memories Margaret had of Ann Frank, as she too became deathly ill herself.  She later learned that Ann had died, and felt that she and her sister would soon join her.

Margaret and her sister were on their deathbeds when the British paratroopers dropped into the camp to liberate those who had survived.  They were taken out of the camp on stretchers and then transported to a Swiss hospital where it took several months for them to recover their health.  Everybody in Margaret’s family who stayed in Czechoslovakia perished at Auschwitz – all who she loved and held dear.

For many years, Margaret’s children told her she needed to write down her experiences during that time in history.  She always felt that the memories were just too painful to think about.  But in 2001, she finally told her story in a book she wrote entitled When the Sky Rained Umbrellas (Royal Literary Publications, Laguna Niguel, CA), referring to the paratroopers falling from the sky to liberate her and her sister.

I shall never forget the emotions that I felt that day as I sat with Margaret, and so fully realized the extent of the pain of those who suffered through this blight on history.  And now, ironically, we are to go to the very place, Budapest, Hungary, where Margaret and her sister were arrested for merely being Jews.

To think that a memory of a chance meeting on a ship, a few years ago, had given me such insights and a greater understanding of what the people from that part of the world have been through, helped to prepare me for this next chapter of my life.

The Church in Hungary is not without its challenges.  Initial interests in religions and freedoms have, unfortunately of necessity in some cases, given way to economic pursuits.  As a consequence of the Soviet Union’s occupation for over 50 years, generations of Hungarian people have had little, if any, exposure to God or religion.

Our Hungarian language tutor, whom we have been studying with these past 4 months, told us that it was not uncommon when contacting a Hungarian, for the missionaries to be told “We are not interested, we don’t believe in God.”

In spite of the invasions and occupations by other countries, the Hungarians are a proud people, and have maintained their unique language and culture in spite of how fate has dealt with them over the centuries.  They have truly developed the art of endurance and survival.  I understand that their ‘bounce back’ spirit is still as alive as ever.

I am greatly humbled by our calling to serve a people who have been so down-trodden, and who have had religion banned from their society for three generations.  They so badly need to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives to give them hope, security and happiness.  I pray daily that I may be able to have an influence for good, and to be an instrument in furthering the work of the Church in Hungary.

I already have a great affection for these people whom I have not yet met.  I would like to bear my testimony to you, as I would to them:

Drága Kedves atya a mennyben
Tudom, hogy az evangélium igaz.
Hálás vagyok az eló profétánkért.
Hiszen, hogy a Mormon Könyve, a igaz és Isten szava.
Szeretem a mennyei Atyámat, és tudom hogy O él.
Ezt mondom Jézus Krisztus nevében,

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