Monday, December 24, 2012

Vesela Koleda!!! Merry Christmas!


Holy cow. I can't believe there is a world outside of Bulgaria. Utah? What? I lived there? How in the world did I have a normal Christmas last year? It's crazy.

I just got back from visiting Marena and her family. Her and her husband are members, and they have a little boy and a little girl. Neither one of them has a job, and they go out all day looking for some kind of work. They live in a little apartment and I think they only have heat in the kids room. They have zero money. They don't have anything to give their kids for Christmas. Plus, Marena is really sick because she stays up all night worrying about her kids and how to get a job. So today we went grocery shopping with Marena and bought some groceries for her. That's all she wanted for Christmas--some food for her family. She has so much faith!!! She loves the Lord so much. She has no doubt of His watchful care, even though her life is so desperate. I wish I could help her in some way. Her dream is to go to the temple in Kiev with her family. When she was talking about it her eyes lit up with joy. This year for Christmas, I want Marena's husband to get a job. That's all I want.

Life is just crazy.

The members here are awesome and hilarious. There were about 10 people at church on Sunday. The members are so sweet. They seem like little kids in some ways. The Branch President is a Bulgarian man who was just put in a couple weeks ago. He's really nice. He has short spiky white hair, and a dark black unibrow. its fantastic. Before him, a missionary was Branch President in Stara Zagora. The branch pretty much depends on the missionaries. I wish there was some way to make the Branch self-dependent, but I think that will just come with time.

The mission president--President Wilstead--is awesome!!! Holy smokes, he is in charge of the Church for two countries--Bulgaria and Turkey. So much responsibility! He is so kind and awesome. It was really fun to be with him and his wife in the mission home the first couple of days.

Tomorrow for Christmas we are caroling at members houses in all of our free time. For lunch we're going to Marena's to be with her family. Then, for dinner, we're going to Maria's house. I've heard she is a fantastic cook so I am excited to go there!!! She is a sweet heart. She was speaking to me in Bulgarian, and I didn't understand very well, so she smiled and patted my cheek like a little kid.

So I'm in Stara Zagora, which is a fairly small city. It has some beautiful European buildings, and then it has some ugly bloks (apartment buildings). Pretty much all of it is really dirty and run down. It could be really beautiful if the buildings would be kept up. The people are friendlier than I expected them to be. Maybe that's because its Christmas. When we stop people in the street, sometimes they just wave their hand and walk on, but quite a few stop and talk with us for a bit.

I've only had a tiny bit of Bulgarian food---I've had bonitsa bread and a gyro. Its ok. Its really greasy. I like it, but I don't love it yet. I'm sure I'll love it the more I eat it. this morning I tried this drink called Boz and it is........disturbing. The flavor isn't so bad, but when you're drinking it it smells like refried beans. I don't want it ever again. The fruit is delicious. And so is the juice. I really like the cheese too. Most of the time Sister Shumway and I eat at our apartment. We'll just make spaghetti really quick, or an egg, or something like that.

They have kugelhopf here!!! I saw a pile of them at the grocery store!!! Crazy!!! They're from germany, because the writing was all in german, but they have them! It made me so happy to find kugelhopf. :)

We have two investigators with baptismal dates and so far I haven't taught either one of them. There was another investigator--Raicho--who was scheduled to be baptized this last Satuday, but Friday we called him and he said he didn't want to get baptized anymore. Satan works so hard on people right before they are baptized! Its so dumb! I think Raicho will come back and be baptized sometime in the future though. Sister Shumway was really disappointed, but I think she is doing better.

Sister Shumway is so awesome!!! She kind of reminds me of Maddie because her heart is so sweet and pure. She's such a hard worker! And she has so much love for Stara Zagora. I am so lucky to have her as a trainer. I love being with her and working with her.

Everyone here notices how happy I am. We were talking with some boys who had just gotten out of school, and they were laughing at me because I was smiling so much. They said, "why are you so happy!!!?!" I told them, "Because I know that God loves me and that I am a missionary of God!" And then I smiled and they laughed some more. I love that smiling is contagious. I am trying to smile at everyone I pass on the street. I smile and say, "vesela koleda!!!" Smiling is sharing the Gospel without words.

We had two lessons with new investigators this week---with Petko and Emil.. Petko is awesome!!! He came from a different city to meet with us, and he brought us this little plant in a plastic cup as a gift. So sweet!!! I love our little plant!!! We taught him about the restoration and he wants to meet again. He is so nice and awesome. Emil is really cool too! He seems so ready to have the Gospel in his life. He feel slike he's ready now to commit to Jesus Christ, and he's excited to learn more about our Church. Its awesome. I think they are absolutely fantastic.

We are so busy. We definitely never are bored. There are too many things to do and not enough time!!! I have never slept so deeply in my life. We get up at 6:30 and then we run around and study and plan until 10:30. Its so crazy.

This is what Christmas means to me this year.
Life is hard. For some people it is way harder than it is for others. There is so much suffering, sadness, and difficulties. But God sent His son Jesus Christ to earth to go through it with us. We are never alone because He came to Earth and atoned for us. Because of Jesus Christ, no matter our circumstances on Earth---no matter if we don't have presents for Christmas, or food to feed our families, or clothes to stay warm---we can return to our Heavenly Father as long as we are good and kind and have faith. Through Jesus Christ all people can have eternal happiness with their families. God has so much good planned for us, we just have to have faith. Faith and hope and charity. I am so grateful for the babe who was born in Bethlehem, who lived to serve others, and died so that I can return to God.

Merry Christmas. :)

Sister Stenquist

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

LAST DAY:)


Hello!!! It's my LAST DAY at the MTC!!!

Its absolutely crazy. I would be more excited about it if I could actually fathom leaving this place. But I can't. I've been brainwashed by the MTC. Me and my Elders always joke: "I keep on dreaming there's like this outside world out there. That's a crazy idea. We all know that there's only the MTC." And my mind is already so full of the rules. The other day my teacher was telling us how after class (which ends at 9:20), he was going to take his wife to the movies. Elder Breeze said, "But, you don't have any time! Bedtime's at 10:30..." Oh how the rules change our minds, ha ha. The good news is, I asked the travel office and they said our visas are here! So unless they lied to us, we're actually leaving together. Elder Breeze and I will be flying together. My Polsky Elders already left this morning and goodbye last night was sad. It was really awesome, though, because I love those Elders a lot and I know they are going to do awesome work in Poland.

I found out this week that mail in Bulgaria sucks. And because of that I only get mail every 2-3 months-at zone conferences. Sad!!!

Funny about Bulgaria I heard this week: My teacher was serving in a small branch and the only piano they had was an electronic keyboard. The pianist wasn't very skilled, and would just use two fingers of each hand to plunk out the hymns. Then, when it came to the Sacrament Meeting hymn, the pianist had the keyboard play one of the pre-recorded percussion beats while he plunked out the sacrament hymn. The effect was something like a beat boxing hymn. The missionaries had a hard time not laughing. And after the meeting they tried to explain to the Branch President that that was inappropriate--the Sacrament hymn is supposed to be....reverent. So, the Branch President's solution was to have the Elders play the piano! Even though neither one of them had played since kindergarten.....so my teacher learned to play the piano! Crazy! I'm assuming this means I'm going to play the piano quite often at Church in Bulgaria.

This week we had an awesome Fireside and Devotional so i will share some thoughts from that. Relief Society yesterday was really awesome too! Sister Dalton from the General Young Women came and spoke to us.
The Gospel teaches of POTENTIAL in this life and the next.
Raise your vision as to who you are!!!
This is the time for GREATNESS.
We don't have to do it all. In fact, sometimes I wonder if we do anything. God does most of it.
Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don't expect it and often feel they don't deserve it.
Smiling is preaching the Gospel without words.
I also have two happy quotes about Sister Missionaries that I LOVE.

"The influence of the Young Women of the church, like a sleeping giant, will awaken, arise, and inspire the inhabitants of the Earth as a mighty force of righteousness. Young Women, arise, and take your place in the glorious events that will shape your future and the future of the world. Now is the time!"

"Heavenly Father loves and trusts His precious daughters, and now, as never before, is the time to flood the Earth with their virtue, their strong spirits, and their light. They are worthy and prepared to serve the Lord. They are incredible. And they are changing the world."

So cool!!! I am so excited to be a sister missionary right now!!! Especially when the world is seriously going to be flooded by us!!! And at the same time, I not disappointed at ALL that the change of age happened when I was 21. In fact, I am so grateful that I didn't go on a mission until I was 21. Between 19-21 I got to go to China twice, met the best people in the world, and had so many fun adventures. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. God knows what He's doing.

I am so determined to be a good missionary who is completely obedient. As President Brown said yesterday, "You have a short time to do it, and a lifetime to think about it." And really, I have an eternity to think about my mission. So I am going to make it good. I have two goals for my mission. First, to bring hundreds or thousands of people closer to Jesus Christ. Because even if baptisms are few, just seeing me, will make them a little bit closer to speaking to missionaries later in their life. And just smiling and helping people will be bringing people closer to Christ. which is why I am going to "stand as a witness of God at all times and all things and in all places." And on the other spectrum, baptisms may be few, but then those people will have a huge influence! They will have kids, grandkids, they will teach their families, and you never know how much influence that one person will make. Its awesome. My second goal is to have no regrets. I am going to follow the rules. I am going to work hard. I am going to smile every day. I am going to do my absolute best! It would suck to spend the rest of my life knowing I could have done better.

Smile and pray people. Smile and pray.

Love,

Sister Stenquist

















Monday, December 10, 2012

Straveite!!



I have an awkward story for you. Its about an Elder. I'd met him once before, a brief hello, where is your mission, where are you from, goodbye. Then yesterday he came bounding up to me at dinner and started talking to me. It was one of the most awkward converstions of my life. To keep the description short, he had a dorito chip stuck in his throat so he'd stop every other sentence, unable to continue talking (hello, I'm pretty sure this is fate telling you to back off because its not gonna happen...) and he told me a weird story about missionaries' bottoms sweating on their bikes. It was awkward. And it all ended with him getting my address so he can write to me. Yay me. So excited.

I've seen Sister Breanne Naylor a few times!! I saw her her first Sunday and gave her a big hug. ITs cool that we've studied the gospel together from primary to young womens, and now we're in teh MTC together! So cool!

So, I have a problem. I think I speak Bulgarian with a Chinese accent. One of my teachers pointed this out to me after a lesson. I didn't believe him. How could I speak Bulgarian with a Chinese accent?! But then, yesterday, my Branch President had interviews with me and Elder Breeze and in each one he asked us to tell our testimonies in Bulgarian. After I bore my testimony, he said, "You know, its funny, because the language almost sounds like its an asian language." Oh no. And then after Elder Breeze's interview and testimony in Bulgarian he told him, "Yeah, you and Sister Stenquist sound very different the way you speak Bulgarian." So I speak Bulgarian with a Chinese accent. How weird is that. I'm really hoping I'll pick up a good Bulgarian accent once I"m over there.

Which, guess what?!!! I'm going to Bulgaria next Tuesday!!! Hopefully. My visa still isn't here, but everything else is in place. So as long as my visa comes I'll be flying to Bulgaria on Tuesday December 18. I meet at the travel office at 8:00 in the morning to go to the SLC airport. My plane departs at 11:35 from SLC to Chicago, then I fly to London, and then to Sofia. My plane landsin Bulgaria on Wednesday at 1:25 p.m. And please, please pray that my visa will get here in time. I want to go to Bulgaria!!!

This week in class I learned the longest word in Bulgarian. It is непротивопоставяиконститутствателтвуванията. Romanized it would be NEPROTIVOPOSTAVYAIKONCTITOOTSTVATELTVOOVANIYATA. Isn't that a fun word!!! It means "actions not going against the constitution." Whattever that means. I can't believe how long it is though. A lot of Bulgarian words are sooo long! Its so different from Chinese!!!

Speaking of Chinese, I got another present from my Mandarin Missionary friends today!!! They had an extra Book of Mormon that has characters, pinyin, and English, and they gave it to me!! I've always wanted one of those!! And they're about $25 at Deseret Book so it was super wonderful to get one for free! Yay!

My teacher told me that every missionary in Bulgaria finds his/her Baba (grandma, or really old Buglarian lady who takes you under her wing and loves you). So I'm on the hunt to find my baba. She will be my Baba, and she will help me with everything, and I will love her, and she will be mine. I'm on a Baba hunt. This is serious business.

This week was kind of hard because.....I don't really know why, it just was. But I got so many packages and letters it was wonderful!!! I got 5 packages in 8 days!!! Yes!!! I got 2 from mom, one from Jessica, one from Annie, and one from Kris Harvey. I also got a really nice letter from Brother and Sister Larkins which was so nice!!! My Elders tease me so much because of all the love I get from home. What can I say, I just have great family and friends!!! So thank you for all of the food and fun things. Oh my goodness the avacadoes are lovely. I've shared the gingerbread boys with a few select people, and they said they are teh best gingerbread cookies they have ever had. I love my little cookie men!


I am so excited to be a missionary. I still can't get over the fact that I am a missionary! Its crazy!!! I absolutely love it. Sometimes I miss home a ton, but then I remember how many people I am going to love and serve and help in Bulgaria. Yesterday in Relief Society the speaker said--if you think leaving home is hard, just wait till you have to leave your mission!! Talk about heart break!!! So I am super grateful that I am still at the beginning of my mission and I still have so much time to enjoy. Its goingt to fly by and I want to enjoy every moment of it!!!

This week I am going to be studying the Atonement all week in English and Bulgarian and I am super excited about it. I love studying about Christ. It really shows me how much I have to improve on, and makes me feel extremely grateful for the blessings of the Atonement. I am so grateful for Jesus Christ. I love Christmas season because of the wonderful spirit of Christ in the world.

I love you!!!!

Much love,

Sister Stenquist

Monday, December 3, 2012

Narnia Holes and Miracles!!


Dear family!!!

So I should leave to Bulgaria in about 14 days!!! Normally the groups leave on a Tuesday morning but we might leave the 19th, we really don't know. The travel office is kind of annoying because you never know anything that's going on with your stuff. So I have no idea if they have my visa, or when they'll get it. I guess I won't know if they have it until I get to my departing time and show up at the office. Hopefully they'll give me my passport and visa on time. Or, if its like my companion, I'll get a little note in my mail box the night before I think I'm leaving, informing me my visa still isn't here, and then I'll spend a few more weeks at the MTC basically doing nothing. So pray that my visa comes in time.

Bulgarian is fun, I really like it. I'm not very good, but I can feel myself improving. I have a few funny stories about mistakes in Bulgarian though.

The other day in a lesson I was getting annoyed with an investigator because he wasn't reading the Book of Mormon. If you want to know if its true, you HAVE to read it. So I wanted to ask him, "Do you want a testimony?!" And instead I said, "Do you want a family!!!?" We all bursted out laughing after that. They're really close, though. Family (sounding out with the roman alphabet) is semestvo and testimony is svidetelctvo. So they're kind of similar.

In another lesson we were talking about Christ and his life. Elder Breeze said, "After Christ and his apostles killed people...." instead of "After Christ and his apostles died..." So that was bad. I hate to think of the blasphemies that will come out of my mouth just because of my poor brain. I keep on working on it though.

A funny story about a crazy Church member in Bulgaria. So when the missionaries first went to Bulgaria, they baptized a lot of crazy people, because those were the only people willing to listen to the strange religious missionaries from America. So now there's lots of crazy members in Bulgaria. I told you about Mufasa in the clouds telling a man to follow Jesus, right? So this one member, named Ogi, tried to burn the church down by pouring gasoline all over the cement foundation. It didn't work, so thank goodness he's crazy enough for his plans to be flawed.

Two exciting stories!

I found a Narnia hole!! A big one with lots of treasures!!! At the MTC, Narnia holes are magical things. In vents, holes, electrical sockets, etc, missionaries hide treasures like notes, candy, and cookies. There's one narnia hole in my classroom from Greek missionaries in like 1993 or something. And I found a narnia hole in my room! It was in the heat vent. It was filled with chocolate candy bars, oreo cookies, laundry detergent and drier sheets, a huge bag of christmas candy, a huge bag of easter candy, and other random things. It was so exciting!!! However, there were also some problems with the treasures I found in my narnia hole. Most of the food had been there......a while...... And because of the laundry stuff the chocolate tasted like laundry detergent. And that's after the chocolate re-hardened because it was melted from being in the heat vent. So even though my narnia hole had its issues, I was still so excited to find it. I'm trying to send a picture of it so you can see my treasures. Also, as a note, notice my Christmas nightgown I'm wearing?

My second exciting story is that Thursday was a miracle day!!! It was so cool!!! My companion, Sister Nelson (going to the Philipinnes, super cute, from Sandy, studying painting, visa was delayed so she's been with me for the past couple weeks, and she leaves tomorrow morning) was trying once again to find her wallet, which had all of her travel money, driver's license, credit card, etc. She couldn't find it anywhere. She also had lost some fudge that she wanted to give to her teacher. After she looked in all of our room, she asked if we could pray about it. So we kneeled and prayed. After we prayed I asked her if she would have brought her wallet to the temple. She said no. I asked if she would have left it in her last room. She said maybe. So after breakfast we decided to go try and look in her old room. Only our cards don't work there anymore, since we don't live there. But we went anyways. And lo and behold her card actually worked!!! It let us in!!! That wasn't supposed to happen. And when we tried her card the next day it didn't work. Crazy. So we got in the residence and then we found one of the custodial workers. Which is also crazy because I never see them in their office. But she was there and she gave us a key to the room. So we went to the room, Sister Nelson opened a drawer, and there was her wallet!!! Awesome! She opened another drawer and there was the fudge!!! It was awesome. We prayed after, saying thanks, and in the prayer I said, " Thank you so much for helping us find Sister Nelson's fudge...and her wallet." Sister Nelson teased me after that because she said I certainly have my priorities straight about which was more important to find.

After we found the wallet and fudge we declared it to be a day of miracles. And what do you know, but after lunch Sister Nelson found out her district's visas were here! They'd be leaving within the week! Awesome!!! There were also other little happy miracles. And it was awesome. God's hand is certainly working in our lives.

I got to watch the Christmas devotional and I loved it. It was so good!

I am still healthy and still happy. I am trying to work my hardest. I am very blessed because i don't have any health problems, and I have loving friends and family who support me. Missions are so much harder for people without those things. I am so blessed and I feel a weight on my shoulders to work hard because of the blessings I have.

I love you all very much. I hope you have a very happy, wonderful week.

Love,

Sister Stenquist