Monday, January 14, 2013

Baptism Week

I am just fine, don't worry. So are all of us. Happy happy happy. There's a group of young men in Stara Zagora who are giving the missionaries and the Church a lot of trouble. I think there's been like 10 incidents in the past 15 days or something? The Elders got punched and kicked one day on the street. They weren't hurt, really. They said the punches didn't hurt but the kick in the ankle kind of injured Elder Forshee's ankle for a bit. But they're fine. We sisters haven't had any trouble ever. But they also wrote on the Church door, "Death. This is not America" and crossed out the Church's name in permanent marker. So we cleaned it off. Then their "leader" came and talked to Elder Forshee last night and kind of threatened the Church a bit. And Saturday night they wrote on the Church again. They wrote, "You can't stop us." It's not that big of a deal, I don't think. But President Wilstead's first concern is for our safety. So this whole week we haven't been able to wear our nametags. It sucks!!! How are people supposed to know why I'm smiling at them if I don't have my nametag on?! Without it, I smile at people, and they just think I'm some weird happy girl. They don't know why I'm happy!!!! Also, we can't contact on the street. So we have been a hard time finding new investigators. We've been doing lots of tracting, from apartment to apartment, but this tends to be less effective. We won't be able to wear our nametags for another week or so. We're also supposed to take taxis to get everywhere......and sometimes we actually do this...... Everything is just so close in Stara Zagora. Plus, our phone has been broken so if we can't find a taxi we just walk. Apparently President is going to talk to Church headquarters tonight and they're going to make a decision about what to do. Stareshina Forshee thinks they might pull missionaries out of Stara Zagora! I don't think they will....they can't---the Branch is completely dependent on us and without us it would probably dissolve. I think it will all just blow over. The Elders compiled a report at the police station and President Wilstead has contacted the US Embassy and everything. What a big mess because of some stupid men. Just leave us alone! We're just trying to give people eternal salvation with their families!!! But no worries--Sisters are never hurt in Bulgaria. So I'm just fine. They'd better not take us out of here. And I want my name tag back on. And I want to be able to street contact.

Bad news. And good news. One baptism this week. One, meaning not two. It was really sad and tears have been shed. Andre was so excited and ready to be baptized. He had dreams confirming that the Church was true, for heaven's sake! But the morning of his baptism he got a feeling that he shouldn't get baptized. He really trusts his feelings, and so he called off his baptism. He is waiting for further instruction on what to do. It really confused him because he really knew that baptism and this Church were true and things he needed to do. We're praying for him and hopefully he'll get his answer. I want him to come back so bad.

On Saturday, Xristo got baptized. He is so cute. He's my new grandpa. :) Here's a story that illustrates Xristo. When we taught him the Word of Wisdom, he accepted it immediately even though he occasionally smokes and occasionally drinks alcohol. We asked him if he'd stop smoking and quoted Mark Twain, saying, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a hundred times!" Get it? Xristo is always quoting authors and he is the sweetest mustachioed man in the world. When we called and told him about Andre he said, "don't worry, I'm not going to back out." And the morning of his baptism he called us just to let us know he was still strong and ready to get baptized. The baptismal font at teh Church is made out of blue tarp and strung up on a metal structure. The water was nice and warm because we heated it up. After President Mixaelov said the baptismal prayer, Xristo KNELT DOWN in the water. It was kind of funny, because that's not what people do....but it was also sweet because it showed his innocence and submission before God. Then he put his hand over his face----he didnt' plug his nose, he just put his hand over his face----and President Mixaelov put him in the water. He might have held him under the water a bit too long.....but they did it right the first time and that was that. He was given the Holy Ghost on Sunday. Hurray for Xristo!!!

Also, I got my first letters this week!!!! I got a postcard AND Christmas card from Beth!!!! Oh dear Beth, THANK YOU!!!!! President brought them to me the day Andre's baptism was cancelled and they were a little light on a pretty sad day. So thank you for your sweet cards. They only took about 2 weeks to get to me--I was suprised by how fast it was!!! Thank you!!! I love you!!!

The other night we were walking home and Sister Shumway said--let's walk this way, there's more light." So we walked a different way. On the corner of the street a man called out to us "Hey, you speak English?!" His name is Boris and he's from Greece, just visiting Bulgaria for fun. He had perfect English which I always appreciate! We explained that we're missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ and gave him a pass along card. We talked for a bit, and then as we were leaving I said, "God loves you!" [which isn't weird because I say this to pretty much everyone....This is what I say when people reject us and are shutting their door on us--God loves you!!!] He turned to us and said, "God does not love me. He punishes me. He took my son. My son died last year and God was punishing me." I had so much pity and love for this man because he just needed to understand God's plan ofl love!!! So we taught him that he will see his son again. God does love him. God loves him so much that He gave His son to die for him. And through Jesus Christ, he and his son can live together forever with God. He said, "You have given me new hope tonight. I did not have hope before. Now I have some hope that I will see my son again." He promised to look up and to contact the missionaries in Greece. I really hope he does!!! It was just so fantastic though. This is what following the spirit looks like. You have no idea what you're doing. You choose to walk down a street, thinking that it has more light. But really God is just guiding you to someone who is waiting for the light of the Gospel. It's just crazy.

We met with Petko for the second time this week. The first time we met with him was my first week in Bulgaria. And in the past three weeks he's read half the Book of Mormon!!! Crazy!!! I just don't know why he's interested....if he's just curious or if he's actually pondering the message. For example, in the lesson I think he told me about 5 or 6 times how beautiful I am. And he told me how fashionable I am. And he kept on making off-topic comments like that. This usually means that the man isn't actually interested in the Church, he's just interested in gettting to know these religious American women. But he read half of the Book of Mormon!!! And he asked some really good questions. We'll figure it out. Oh, he also told me that I BEAM when I smile. Beam, like a sunshine ray. I wanted to be like----that's because the Church makes me so happy!! Its not me beaming, its the light of the gospel!!!! I don't think he understood though.

We met with another man in his apartment and I don't think we'll meet with him again. I'm pretty sure he's just interested in the Church as a study---he doesn't really believe in God, but he studies lots of religions as a hobby. He told me how beautiful I am. He told me how big my eyes are. He tried to kiss us as we left. And I don't want to go back. The spirit was nonexistent as we were talking with him, and if the spirit isn't there, there is no point in teaching.

There is lots of work to be done. I am learning to love the work more and more. Sister Shumway is a wonderful trainer because she LOVES working. So we try to work as hard as we can and be exactly obedient. Lots to be done. I am trying to become a good missionary. Lots to learn. Lots to do.

Love you much. Thank you for your love and prayers!!!

Sister Stenquist

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