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Elder Bailey’s Mission Report

[A report on his Hungarian mission delivered at the Dimple Dell Park Ward in Sandy, Utah on October 14, 2012]

Introduction

Bob at End of MissionWhen we arrived in Budapest, we were met at the airport by the Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Baughman.  We spent the first night sleeping at the mission home.  The next day, we met with the mission president who gave us our assignments; and we rented a car from the mission.  We then packed the car with our luggage, and using a map and our GPS headed for our new home in Szombathely, Hungary.  This was a city of about 200,000 people that was located three hours away from Budapest, and just fifteen minutes from the Austrian border.

Our mission was truly a life enriching experience, at least partially because we were able to live in Hungary for 18 months.  Sister Bailey and I learned enough Hungarian to say prayers in meetings, greet people, hold simple conversations, and to shop for groceries, gas and other items.

All of our church meetings were in Hungarian.  The first Sacrament Meeting we attended, we were expected to share our testimonies in Hungarian – which we were able to do.  However, when we gave talks in Sacrament Meetings, which was about once a month in a branch somewhere in Hungary, we would use a translator.

The Church in Hungary

The Hungary Budapest Mission was created only 22 years ago.  The mission now has about 100 missionaries, and around 150 baptisms per year.  While on our mission, we were closely involved with 14 convert baptisms.  Each one was unique, and each one was a special experience.

The Church in Hungary continues to grow, and now has about 5,000 members.  Although Hungary has one Stake and six wards, most of the LDS congregations in Hungary are smaller branches, usually ranging from 20 to 60 people.  But they could be much smaller.  Our last Sacrament Meeting speaking assignment was in a new unit that had only two investigators, and four missionaries present on the day we spoke.

We spent much time working with many of the Young Single Adults in Hungary.

One of our young adults was Barni.  Barni was mentally a little slow, had trouble hearing clearly, and had difficulty in school.  However, he could read the scriptures, and he could easily talk with the other young adults.  Also, he was a very good basketball player – we were usually on the same team.  His parents had both died, and he lived with his sister and her husband who were members of the Church.

Barni was 20 years old, and I was puzzled as to why he was not a member of the Church.  One day I said to Barni, “we would like you to join the Church.”  With a big smile on his face, he replied, “OK”, and after a few lessons, and the appropriate interviews he was baptized.

He now participates fully in the Church, and faithfully carries out his assigned duties in the Aaronic Priesthood.  Barni had never learned to speak any English.  One day, while he and I were waiting for Sister Bailey after a meeting, I taught him to say in English, “Sister Bailey, it is time to go.”  He then found Sister Bailey in the church, and said in perfect English, “Sister Bailey, it is time to go.”  Everybody was amazed, and he felt so proud that he was able to speak English.  After that, he always was reminding Sister Bailey about the time.  I miss Barni.

First Christians in Hungary

For one of our Young Adult activities in Szombathely, we had a ‘museum night’ where we toured different museums.  Toward the end of the evening, we ended up in the basement of a large white building that contained many old gravestones.  The curator showed us one large gravestone that was dated 200 A.D.  He then surprised us by saying that the person in this early grave in Szombathely, Hungary, 1200 miles from Jerusalem, was a Christian.

He showed us a symbol etched on the gravestone, Chi-Rho Image - First Christian Symbolwhich he said was the first symbol ever used to indicate that a person was a Christian – long before the Catholic cross.  It was an abbreviation used to designate the first two letters of ‘Christ’ (Christos) in Greek – the combined ‘Chi’ (X), and the Rho ‘(P)’.

The museum curator told us that Christianity came first to Hungary through an early Roman province (Pannonia), which now contains the town of Pécs in southern Hungary.  Two months later, we were transferred to Pécs.

Early Christian Burials in Pécs

Pécs is a beautiful city in southern Hungary, and is located not far from the Croatian border.  Pécs has many churches, including a 500-year old Moslem mosque thanks to the Ottoman Turks, a large 1,000-year old Catholic basilica (the first in Hungary), and a beautiful Jewish synagogue.  Because of the Nazi death camps during World War II, the Jewish population who had built the synagogue was reduced from over 4,000 Jews down to 400.

One of the most interesting places to visit in Pécs is an underground archaeological excavation area called the ‘Early Christian Burial Sites’.  When they were first constructed almost 2,000 years ago, each burial chambers or vault was located under a small, family-sized church (archaeologists have now found 17 of them).  When we visited the burial chambers, we saw that some of them had the original Christian (chi-rho) sign painted on the wall, showing that they were the burial sites of early Christians.

The original Church of Jesus Christ had grown very rapidly after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The apostles were excellent missionaries.  It is estimated that by 100 A.D., there were as many as one million Christians.  By 200 A.D., that number had doubled!

Unfortunately, as the number of Christians increased in the Roman Empire, so did the terrible persecutions of the Christians.  For this and other reasons, many new members would seek out congregations that were more isolated, which most likely led many of them to southern Hungary – where 2,000 years ago they would have been our neighbors in Pécs.

Keep in mind that at this point in time, there was not just one unified Christian Church, but many independent congregations.  There was no pope, and thus no papal line of authority.  All bishops had equal authority.  With two million members in the Church of Jesus Christ, there could have been as many as 2,000 independent congregations.

The apostasy began around 100 A.D., when the last known apostle died.  When it was completed, the apostasy resulted in loss of priesthood authority, loss of revelation, loss of the gifts of the Spirit, and a perversion of Christ’s teachings and ordinances.  Most people do not realize that the apostasy did not happen immediately.  The apostasy took place in stages, and in different congregations, over a few hundred years.  In fact, there is good evidence that some of these congregations maintained Christ’s original teaching for another two or three centuries.

The questions that I found most interesting as we saw these graves of the early Christians in Pécs,

  • Did they belong to a congregation that had not yet apostatized?
  • Is it possible that these early Christians in Pécs were members of the original true Church of Jesus Christ?
  • If so, these first Christians in Hungary belonged to the same Church that we belong to today?

We should also keep in mind that, like the apostasy, the restoration also occurred over a period of time.  The restoration began in April, 1830, yet at that time there was no Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, no Quorum of the Seventy, no baptisms for the dead, no endowments, no sealings, and no keys for the gathering of Israel.

The Szabadkai Family

Shortly after we arrived in Pécs, we were invited to the home of a member of the mission presidency (President and Sister Szabadkai and their three children) for dinner.  They had all six of the missionaries serving in Pécs to their home for dinner every fast Sunday evening.  When we ate dinner with them, and most other Hungarian families, we always ate without them.  They would eat first, and then serve the food, and talk with us while we ate.  This was the Hungarian way, primarily because they had small rooms, small tables, and few chairs.

After dinner, President Szabadkai quietly asked me if I could drive him to the hospital because he had broken his right foot earlier in the day.  I was puzzled because he owned a car, and had others in their home that were old enough to drive.  This included his wife, a son (who had recently returned from serving a mission), and a daughter who was attending a local college.  Later, I found out that the only one in the family with a driver’s license was President Szabadkai himself.  While we were in Hungary, we dealt with at least 25-30 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30.  Not one of them had a driver’s license, except one who got her license just before we left.

Sister Bailey and I drove President Szabadkai and his wife to the hospital, and agreed to come back and pick them up when they were done.  He called a few hours later (at midnight), and we picked them up at the hospital and drove them home.  He was in a cast, and used crutches for the next few weeks.  Hungary has socialized medicine, so there was no cost for his visit, but there was a very long wait for the service.

Opening Zalaegerszeg

We were assigned to help open a new city for missionary work, Zalaegerszeg.  This city was located about 1½ hours south of where we lived.  Along with two very talented Elders (one from Bulgaria, and one from Switzerland), we began by contacting people who were already members of the Church, and who lived in or near Zalaegerszeg.

The first day out, after driving an hour from Zala’s downtown area, we arrived in a small village on the Serbian border.  We parked the car and all four of us went to the door and knocked.  It was early March and cold outside.  A small woman (Maria) came to the door and the Elders introduced us.  The 60-year old lady that lived in the small house broke into tears – she was so grateful that someone from the Church had taken the time to come and see her.

The next member we contacted lived closer to Zalaegerszeg, but on a farm in another small village.  When we arrived at his home, he introduced us to his ex-wife, and their daughter.  He then introduced us to several small piglets, and one large dog.  It was a very interesting household.  He had joined the Church in Sweden, but had not attended church since moving to Hungary several years ago.  He said that he still read from the Book of Mormon, and showed us his worn copy.  He said that he and his family would try to come to the new Branch, but they never did.

After we had held Sacrament meetings in Zalaegerszeg for about a month in a downtown office building conference room, the Elders were interviewed by the local newspaper.  An article was published, and was read by a member we did not know about.  He lived alone in a village about 30 minutes outside of Zalaegerszeg.  He called the newspaper to find out where the Church was meeting.  The missionaries contacted him, and a couple of weeks later, we all went to visit him at his house in his small home.

He served us Hungarian goulash made with wild boar meat.  Many wild boars are hunted in this part of Hungary.  They can weigh 400 pounds (or more), and are very dangerous if encountered while walking in the forests.  He started to come regularly to our Sacrament meeting services.  Later, I was able to ordain him to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and he in turn baptized the first new member of the branch.

Dressing Nicely for Church

In another small branch of about 30 active members (Kaposvár), Sister Bailey was called to be the Relief Society President.  One of her first responsibilities was to encourage the women in this small Branch to start wearing skirts and dresses to Church on Sunday, and to stop wearing pants, Levis and jeans – in other words, to dress up for church.  She had all of the women dressing-up within a few short weeks, at least partially by giving them some of her clothes, and encouraging them to find other dresses that looked nice on them.  The women loved to dress up for church.

Sister Bailey organized the first visiting teaching program in this Branch, and a Relief Society choir that sang in Sacrament Meeting once a month.

She also was able to get the Mission President to rent another room in the building so that she could create a true Relief Society room, with appropriate pictures, and a table with a white linen tablecloth.  The sisters loved their room.

Every Sunday, Sister Bailey greeted each sister with a traditional Hungarian kiss on both cheeks.  At the end of the meetings each Sunday, these Hungarian sisters ‘lingered long’ and responded back to Sister Bailey with kisses.  They loved Sister Bailey, and all that she did for them.

Giving a Blessing

Our landlady in Szombathely was named Agi – everybody in Hungary seemed to have a nickname.  The members of the Branch would add ‘néni’, a respected term like ‘auntie’ in English, to Agi, and so she was called, Agineni.  Agineni loved to make Sister Bailey and me Hungarian food, and she would bring it up to our apartment at any time of the day.

One day Agineni asked the Elders (one from France, and one from Rigby Idaho) to ask me if I would give her a blessing.  She had been to the doctor and found out that she had a brain tumor.  Before she went to a hospital in another town for further tests, she wanted a blessing.  She spoke little English, and I spoke even less Hungarian.  This caused a slight problem when pronouncing a blessing because she would not know what was being said.  So we had one of the two Elders step back from the circle, and act as the translator.  The other Elder anointed her with oil in Hungarian, and I sealed the anointing and pronounced the blessing in English.  It seemed to work OK, and she felt comforted by the blessing.  Her faith was the main ingredient, however, and enabled her to have a successful brain operation a few months later.  Today, she is strong and healthy; and we hear that she is still cooking.

Conclusion

When we were in the Mission Training Center (MTC) prior to leaving on our mission to Hungary, we were told that only one out of every five couples who could serve a Senior Mission would actually do so.  We can now say that had we remained in Sandy, and not gone on our mission to Hungary, we would have missed out on many, many new and priceless experiences.

And the blessings continue …   Since returning home, we already have had a party with the mission president and his wife, and other senior missionaries that we knew in Hungary.  We have attended a reunion with over 100 of the proselyting missionaries who are now home from their Hungarian missions.  In addition, one of our young adult sisters (Maja) from Pécs was married in the Manti temple two weeks ago, and we were able to take another one of our young adult sisters from Pécs to General Conference at the conference center last week.

Our mission was a wonderful, educational, and heart-warming experience.  We will never forget the Hungarian people, and the beautiful countryside.  We will never forget the many meetings where Hungarian was the only language spoken, and singing all of the familiar hymns in Hungarian.  We will never forget exploring the old castles; and touring Budapest, particularly having dinner high on Castle Hill while overlooking the beautiful Danube River, watching the boats, viewing the ornate parliament building, and admiring the lighted bridges.

As He had promised, by serving this mission, the Lord has blessed us, and our family, tremendously.

Isten alda a magyar népet (May God bless the Hungarian people); Jézus Kristus nevében (In the name of Jesus Christ). Amen

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