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Sister Bailey’s Mission Report

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

Brenda at End of MissionI am happy to be able to report on our experiences in the Hungarian Budapest Mission.  It was one of the greatest opportunities of my life.  I absolutely loved our mission.  I have gained many insights into how one can have happiness, strong testimonies, charity, sacrifice and church service, with so little in the way of material things.  Some of the Hungarian members sacrifice so much just to get to Church; many times some of them cannot even afford the bus fare to go. They also have to travel 13 hours to Freiberg, Germany to attend the temple.

We had a Young Adult who actually did his own genealogy, coming up with 120 family names to take to the temple.  There were few cars owned by members of each of the Branches we served in, and our car was very well used for many situations.

As you know, the Hungarians have a sad history of often being occupied by invading countries.  They are still trying to overcome the damage of the Nazi German occupation and then the Russian’s control of their country for over 50 years, which just ended in 1990.

We were recently asked if we felt safe in Hungary.

We were told in advance to leaving on our mission that we must at all times keep $400 cash in a safe place in our apartment.  When we arrived at our mission and had our orientation with the president he gave us the following information: “We needed to be alert for a security evacuation that would come by telephone.  It would be a coded message basically telling us to pack all our belongings and prepare one small carry-on bag with food and water for three days along with our medication and change of clothes.  If a second coded message came we were to leave all our luggage in the apartment (which the Church would have shipped to our home).  We were to take only the small carry-on bag with us and leave immediately to a designated place. We were not to tell anyone including the Branch President and members.  And we were not to go to a bank!”

Fortunately, we never received this call. But the anticipation of it was a little unsettling.  However, I did have the experience of being evacuated from a mall in Pecs and then again in Budapest because of bomb threats.

When we arrived at our first assignment in Szombathely, each morning we took a walk around the neighborhood.  We noticed that no one would make eye contact or acknowledge our Hungarian greeting of “jo reggelt kivano” (I wish you good morning).  After about four weeks when they became familiar with us, the neighbors would then greet us first, they finely felt comfortable with us in their neighborhood.  Some people are still suspicious of strangers and live behind locked gates and doors with big dogs.

Missionary work is slow and difficult for proselyting.  Some of the missionaries do not even get one baptism their entire mission.  There are few priesthood holders in Hungary so the missionaries helped with the sacrament. Our first Sunday here at home brought tears to my eyes as I saw seven Deacons, Teachers and the Priests passing and administering the Sacrament, all of them young men.

We were especially blessed for our first assignment to be in the Szombathely Branch.  It was the first LDS chapel to be built in Hungary.  They had about 50 attending members.  We were thrilled that the chapel had air conditioning; but most Hungarians don’t like it because they think it will make them sick – so someone always turned it off.

Our weekly assignments consisted of:

  • Assisting with free English language classes two times a week for the general public as well as members.
  • We  had sports activities one evening a week (called sportsnap),
  • Activity Night for the young adults one or more evenings a week,
  • We organized and held Family Home Evenings for the Young Adults, and
  • There was Institute once a week.

We also gave many talks, lessons and helped with the music (often accompaniment was on a keyboard, or with recorded music played on the computer).

In addition, we had to inspect the Elder’s apartments every two transfers.  We also helped in the branch in any way we were asked to.  We were assigned to Home Teach and Visit Teach nine families, some of them being two hours from our home.  This was really a great opportunity for us to get to know some of the members more personally.  We often were needed to assist them in many ways.

Eva, a widow, who had many health problems lived in a two room house without plumbing.  She lived way out in a village and needed help with transportation to or from church sometimes and to the medical center.   She also occasionally needed groceries that had to be delivered to her home.  Her appreciation to us was so overwhelming, with lots of hugs, kisses and tears.

We also had the opportunity to help one of our families move as they were forced to leave their apartment.  Our car was small so we made many trips with their meager belongings.  Beatrix was the mother of three children, Marci 18, Veronica 15, and Hunar 10.  Right after they moved in with the grandmother, someone stole their three bicycles from a shed in the yard while they were at Church.  This was the main transportation for the three children, and they were devastated.

Because of their strong faith they knelt together in prayer asking for help in finding the bikes.  The following day Marci was returning home from a doctor appointment.  When he got off the bus he saw a gypsy riding his bicycle.  He stopped him and told him that was his bicycle.  The guy said he had just purchased it and it was his.  Marci then said, they should go to the police and let them decide.  At that time the gypsy decided he did not want any more trouble with the police and handed the bicycle over to Marci.  Two days later, Marci had a similar experience with getting a second bicycle back. He recognized this was an answer to his family’s prayer.

One of our main functions as senior missionaries was to set up a Young Adult Center (ages 18-30).  This program is instituted throughout all of Europe with the purpose of keeping the Young Adults that are members active in the Church; as well as helping them develop leadership skills, as they will be the future Church’s growth.   The Young Adult program is also important in having a place for the missionaries to bring investigators to meet the members and share in the activities.

One of the most memorable activities we had was to make children’s blankets for the victims of the earth quake in Japan.  We had been thinking about a meaningful service project when we heard of the earthquake.  I felt that something, no matter how small, in the magnitude of this disaster could be done.  We found beautiful fleece fabric with children’s prints on them.  The young adults and missionaries worked hard tying fringe to the edges of these blankets for the little Japanese children.

We could never locate the Japan mission address and wanted to send them directly there to be sure they were given to those most in need.  I remembered that Rob Bigger (from our Dimple Dell Park ward in Utah) was on a mission in Japan so I contacted his mother, Diane, who emailed me the information to get the blankets where they needed to go.  In addition, Diane sent a sweet email to our Hungarian Young Adults to thank them for their service project for her son’s mission.  There was another sister in our Branch who worked for a radio station and arranged for our project to be announced several times on the radio, doing some good Public Relations for the Church.

We got a very nice email from the President of the Japan Mission telling us how much these blankets were needed and what comfort they would bring to those precious little ones who received them.

We have had some personal and very touching experiences with some young adults joining the Church.  One, in particular, was Aron.  An 18 year old who learned about the Church by attending an English class taught by the missionaries at the Chapel.  He lived in our neighborhood and was often at our apartment and riding with us to church and activities.  He was very bright and a great help to us in telling us important facts and historic places to visit.  He loved going out with the missionaries tracting and was fully active in the Church.

But he just kept putting his baptism date off!  He was from a catholic family and was concerned his grandfather would be very upset.  My husband finally suggested that he be baptized on April 6, the day the Church was organized. That appealed to him, and he decided that would be the date and was baptized.

Aron had watched General Conference on TV and was so impressed with all the beautiful flowers.  He loved gardening and had vegetables as well as many flowers in his yard.  When our District Conference was scheduled he asked if he could make our chapel look like General Conference.  The Saturday before the conference Aron called us to see if we could pick him up to take some flowers over to the Church.  When we got to his house, out he came with a big frame that he had made from an old door screen.  It had wire mesh stapled to it, and we could barely get it to fit into our car.   He also had buckets of water full of beautiful flowers and greens.  I helped him wire the frame to the pulpit and placed the greens in the mesh on the frame.  We went early on Sunday morning to help him arrange the flowers to finish his project, as they had to remain in the water over night.

His floral display turned out beautifully and I was very proud of him.  Aron looked so pleased when President Baughman said that it was the most beautiful floral arrangement that he had ever seen.

When Aron was ready to go off to college, he asked my husband for a Father’s blessing; he had heard him tell in a talk how he had given our sons blessings before school started each year.

While serving in Szombathely we were also assigned to work with two Elders in opening up a new area in the city of Zalaegerszeg.  Sundays were very busy, we would attend all three Church meetings in Szombathely, and then rush to our apartment feed the four Elders lunch along with one or two of the young adults, or Branch members who would be helping us out in Zalaegerszeg.  We then quickly drove 1.5 hours to be there for the afternoon meeting.

After about six months, we were excited to receive another assignment, and went to a part of Hungary that we had not yet seen.  We were assigned to Pecs, the most beautiful city in Hungary. They had a very active Branch also, with about 50-60 members attending each Sunday.  The Pecs Branch did not have a Chapel and met in an office building, but it was the entire bottom floor, so had lots of space and a piano.

We had pretty much the same assignments in Pecs as we had in Szombathely.  Except that the Branch President asked me to also teach piano lessons to three of the youth: Patrick was 10, Veronica was 15, and Zita was 17.  I felt totally inadequate to do this, but again, my prayers were answered.  The two girls now take turns playing in Sacrament meetings.

We had a large number of Young Adults in Pecs (for Hungary).  We would have as many as 14 attending our programs.  They were a great group, and willing to try anything.  We introduced the idea of a Christmas Play.  None of them had ever been in a play before and they were very excited about it.  At that time we had a newly baptized young adult named Laszlo, who was very shy and withdrawn.  He would arrive at our meetings and sit in the back by himself, never speaking to anyone, although we all tried to include him in our activities.

When we read through the play for the first time, we asked him if he wanted a take a part.  He said he would.  This was miracle in itself.  He was the first to learn his lines, and cues.  He loved being rather dramatic in his part.  He even started picking up the chairs at the end of the evenings, and putting the hymnals away.  He was now one of the group.

I would like to add, that the hymnals were newly translated into the Hungarian language, and had arrived two months after we got to Pecs.  They were very precious to the Hungarians, so much so, that they had the youth cover them in clear plastic to protect them, and collected and put them away after each use.

The kids had so much fun, laughing and teasing one another during the play rehearsals.  We even had two investigators participate in the play, and one later joined the Church.  We decided we were so good that we would go ‘on the road’ with our performance.  We put it on at the Budapest Mission Home and at the Kaposvar Branch, as well as for the Pecs Branch Christmas party.  It got raving reviews.  Our youth we so proud of their accomplishment!  Many members and the missionaries brought non-member guests.

In our Pecs Young Adult group we had another young man who had been recently baptized. I am sure he will be a Branch President someday as his ability to take charge and lead our programs was incredible.  In addition to his native Hungarian, he spoke English and Italian.  Marci was also the one who had his bicycle stolen and retrieved it so quickly. He had earlier gone to Italy as an exchange student, and then hosted an Italian exchange student in Hungary.  When his friend, Mario, came to Hungary for a week, Marci wanted to have a Young Adult activity that was totally ‘Hungarian’, including the food.

I left the food selection up to the Young Adult committee, and when we had our planning meeting I asked what the menu would be.  I was quite surprised when they said it would be bread, spread with lard, onions and paprika peppers.  I thought they were teasing me, and said you mean butter not lard.  No it was really lard!  That is what they are used to, and that is what they like, so that is what we had.  Everyone seemed to love it.  However, I didn’t have the courage to try it.

In addition to serving in the Pecs Branch, we again served in another Branch at the same time.  That Branch was in Kaposvar about 1.5 hours from Pecs.  Bob served as a counselor to one of the young Elders who was the Branch Leader.   He was there to give guidance and direction.  My husband suggested that each member of the Branch be given a calling, instead of having the missionaries doing everything.  It made such a difference in the personality, and attendance in that Branch.  When we arrived to work in Kaposvar there were only about 15 members attending on Sunday.  When we left, we had as many as 40 members attending.

Our Elders worked so hard reactivating members and there were many new baptisms – with more baptisms scheduled to be done after we left.  Also in Kaposvar, I was asked to be the Relief Society President, to set up that program and train the sisters to be able to take over when we left.  I did not know how I would manage this; as my two counselors only spoke Hungarian and my limited Hungarian was not enough to even conduct a presidency meeting.  In fact, few in that Branch spoke any English.

Heavenly Father helped me out again.  A young adult college girl named Lilla, who spoke good English, joined the Church at that time.  I immediately asked that she be called as my secretary.  Things then moved ahead nicely with her as my translator.  It was also necessary for me to play the keyboard for Sacrament meetings as there was no one else who could.

Our last baptism in Kaposvar was performed in a lake.  It was really a beautiful experience.  The lady baptized was Zsuza, and her 14-year old son had previously been baptized.  He found the Church through the Young Adult sports activities.  At the baptism, her 8-year old son asked me when he could also be baptized.

While on my mission I have felt Heavenly Father’s love for me in so many sacred and unforgettable ways.  I have also seen how Heavenly Father has poured out his love and miracles on the people of Hungary.  I want you to know that serving a senior mission was an experience that I would, without hesitation, encourage anyone to do.  It was such a great adventure.  Our 18-month commitment was over so quickly that we were not quite ready to leave.

As time drew near for our departure from Hungary, I had two very conflicting emotions to deal with.  First:  I was really looking forward to coming home and being reunited with my family and friends.  Second:  I had a very heavy heart to be leaving Hungary and all the wonderful people that I have such great affection for; knowing that most likely I will never see many of them again.

I feel that I have been blessed beyond measure to have served in the Hungarian Budapest mission.  I felt very emotional and had big tears when President Miles released us as missionaries.  It was a real loss as I felt the mantle of that assignment being lifted from me.

When President Miles said, “Thank you for your sacrifice in serving this mission,”

My reply could only be, “It was not a sacrifice, it was not a sacrifice at all.  It was a privilege.”

Jezus Kristus neveben, amen

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