Monday, February 25, 2013

No news....

Well, this letter is going to be very boring.

Last Monday I went to the doctors and found out I had Asthmatic Bronchitis.  It turns out the hives were part of the bronchitis. The doctor gave me lots of medicine and Sister Wilstead, the mission president's wife, instructed me to stay in ALL WEEK LONG. So, between last Monday and today I was in my apartment nonstop. I ventured out one time on Thursday to taxi to the church and get a blessing. Besides that, I've been sleeping in, spending all day long reading scriptures, Bulgarian, Chinese, napping, and water-painting. Thank heavens I bought some watercolor paints right before I was commanded to stay inside! They saved my sanity! Its been a pretty boring week. No lessons, no receives, no work at all. So......I don't really have anything new to report. I didn't even get to go to Church which was sad.

Transfers are this week and I will be staying in Stara Zagora for the next two months. Yay!

I am feeling better....not all the way but somewhat better. I'm going to the doctor again today to see what she thinks. Sister Wilstead says we can work this week though! Just not at nights. So we get to teach our friends the Gospel! So exciting!!!

I still haven't gotten any other cards from the family. I got one from Sister Winters which was so nice of her.

This week I was reminded at how entertaining the Old Testament is! I read it for a while and holy smokes the stories are so crazy and funny! Also, I am so grateful for Church magazines! I read 3 of them and they are so wonderful. They have such good stories and are really uplifting. I am grateful for the beautiful world and for paints to paint it with! I am grateful for medicine to heal our bodies. I am grateful that bodies know how to heal. I am so grateful for all the materials in Bulgarian to study and that I have a couple Chinese books to read too!

Thank you for your love and all of your prayers. I love you!

Sister Stenquist

Monday, February 18, 2013

Best and Worst Times

This week was so good and so bad!  Good news or bad news first?

Well, I still have my cough and its gotten worse. I got the flu on
Valentine's day and the next. And for the past four days I've been
getting hives all over my body. So....I think my body's trying to kill
me,  ha ha. Just kidding. :) All the members are way worried about me.
One investigator brought me over a pot of special tea to help me get
better. Xristo bought me some cough drops and tea also. They are so
sweet. A member is taking me to her doctor today so this week I should
get better. Yippee! The members and investigators are so loving and
kind and they really take care of us.

But the good news!!! drum roll..........

Both Andre and Raicho got baptized on Saturday! I've been working with
them since I first got here. They're the two flake outs who missed
their first dates, and then they both got baptized on Saturday and got
the Holy Ghost on Sunday! It was so cool!!!

When Raicho came in he was smiling so big. He is so funny. He's
probably in his 50's, single and kind of awkward, but we love him a
lot. Oh man he's a hoot. He was smiling all day long. He's been
waiting forever to get baptized!

Andre is this awesome young man with all these crazy cool spiritual
experiences and insights. The whole day he was just staring into space
with deep contemplation and peace on his countenance. I asked him,
"are you  happy?" And he said, "Yes, of course, I feel very full
inside my chest." He is the coolest. He has these big dreams of
serving people and changing the world and by golly I bet he'll do it.
Someday Grandma will be watching the news and she'll hear about Andre
Ganchev Ivanov over in Bulgaria, saving all the people. He's the
coolest guy ever.

When I went to Sofia I didn't get any letters from home, just two
letters from my Polsky Elders. We have training in Plovdiv this
Wednesday so I might get mail then.

My visa only has to be renewed once a year. I have to go
into Sofia a few times while I'm being trained, though, to do
paperwork for my lichna carta--its like a identification card to live
in Bulgaria. I'll probably go to Sofia again in the next couple weeks.

I don't have many other stories to tell from this week because we
haven't done a whole lot of work....we've been trying to get better.
Hopefully next week I'll be completely healthy and working hard again.

I love you all!!!
Sister Stenquist

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy happy happy

So, there are 5 kids in primary and sometimes they all come but sometimes none of them come. Primary is hard because a couple of kids are completely spoiled and don't listen at all. The leaders think that primary is just play time so the kids don't know how to have a primary lesson. They just run and yell and barge into the sunday school class screaming "I'M THIRSTY!!! I NEED WATER!!!" So, the fact that we ever have a lesson, even if its only 10 minutes, is a miracle. I honestly don't know how to communicate with them AT ALL which is another barrier with Primary. We have one of the books that we use and sometimes we can get the kids to listen. And no, we don't have a Bulgarian songbook.

We went to Sofia Monday-Tuesday and stayed at the Sofia Sister's apartment. The bad news is.....I forgot to bring my passport so we didn't even accomplish anything. Oops. I didn't know I  needed  my passport.....But the good news is I saw the beautiful Church in downtown Sofia, I ate great Chinese food, talked to a man from China (and the sisters are going to bring him a Book of Mormon!), and I got to see Stareishina Breeze!!! Oh I  miss him!!! It was so good to see my buddy from the MTC. He looked so happy, he was glowing. I was so happy to see him again!!! We're going to drive in again tomorrow morning at 6:00 am with my passport to get my visa work done. Hurrah for 3 hour bus rides to Sofia.....

My birthday was very good and also not so good. First, I got sick. I've been coughing and hacking and whooping all week long. I think its getting better now. Our first lesson didn't show up, neither did our third. Our second lesson was the WORST lesson Sister Shumway and I have ever had. It was pretty bad. Our phone kept on going off, one of the men kept on falling asleep, I don't know if either of the men are even interested, a member came 30 minutes late for the lesson, and the spirit was just there. It was bad. After that we had an unplanned lesson with Andrei---the 28 yr old man who was supposed to get baptized in January. He asked me to say the opening prayer and as I folded my arms and closed my eyes I just started sobbing!!! Oh man I love Andrei so much and I just want him to have all the blessings of baptism and other ordinances. I prayed, "Heavenly Father, We are grateful for love......" (We teach Andrei in English which is SO NICE!) After the prayer Andrei looked up at us and said, "I am going to be baptized this Sunday." SILENCE. WHAT? "I don't know what it was, but when you said something about love in the prayer, I just got this feeling, and I want to be baptized this Sunday." WHAT?! SILENCE. So, after a lesson and figuring things out, Andrei's going to be baptized. Sunday was too fast, there wasn't time for his interview and to quit smoking and such. But he's working towards it and has a really strong desire to be baptized. So, that was a pretty darn good birthday present. It was amazing.

After we saw Andrei  we planned for a bit and talked with Deon, a funny man in his 20's with HUGE eyes. When he found out it was my birthday he jumped over and grabbed me in a hug! It was so shocking and funny! And then he held me at arm's length and pulled on my ears, explaining that that's what some Bulgarians do for birthdays. It was hilarious. I got a picture with him just so I can always remember that moment.

Then we went over to Blagoi's apartment at 8:00 for our dinner hour. His daughter has my same birthday, so we celebrated the birthday of his daughter and me. We had chocolate, tea, juice, nuts, prayed together, and they played the guitar and sang in Bulgarian. Oh I love those men so much!! They are just so nice. They gave me flowers, a vase for the flowers, a necklace, nylons (why?), and a bouquet of fake flowers. Blagoi is so kind and generous and he won't let us refuse anything he gives us. He says we're like his daughters and he is just so kind to us. It was an awesome way to end my birthday.

I've realized this week that I really love a lot of these Bulgarian people a ton. Xristo, Andrei, Boris, Blagoi, Raicho, Zladka, Mirena, Maria, Mariana, Zoya, President Mixaelov, Tanya, smokes I love them so much!!! Oh and Vera!!! I want to keep her with me forever! She's this tiny little Bulgarian baba (probably in her 80's or older) with a high voice who just wobbles around chatting about Christ with us. I love her! I can't imagine leaving these people and never seeing them again. Luckily some of them have computers and skype/facebook, but some of them I'll probably never communicate with after I leave Stara Zagora. Its so sad. I'm glad though, to know that I love people here because they deserve to be loved. I wish I could find jobs for all of them so they could have more comfortable lives. I'm happy to be able to share with them a message worth more than all the gold on earth though. That's pretty wonderful.

I love you all lots!

Sister Stenquist

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me. :)

Okay, so guess how much God loves me? SO MUCH!!!! I've been thinking that I wish I could go into Sofia for passport work before my birthday so that I could get mail and see if there are any birthday cards for me. And guess what? I'm going in today to tomorrow!!! And then I'll be in little Stara Zagora for my birthday with any mail that has come for me. :) That is how much God loves me, he sent me to Bulgaria for Christmas, and he's sending me my letters for my birthday. I've already got Jessica's card but perhaps there will be more in Sofia.....

Facts and figures for Benjamin. There are 3 zones in Bulgaria and then I guess Turkey is a zone. I am in Zone 2. I have only seen my zone leaders at zone conference. My district leader is Elder Hoi, he's Chinese from Canada, and yeah he's way cool. He loves the work which is awesome. This week we got five lessons with members and five without, which is the mission goal for each week. Sometimes we only get 8 or 9 lessons though. This week we got 120 successfull approaches!!! That's when you talk to someone on the street, teach and testify of a principle, and give them a pamphlet with our address and number on it. 120!! Yeah!!! And, we beat our previous record and got 20 receives this week! Hopefully these numbers will turn into actual lessons and progressing investigators....we'll see. And, the mission had 15 baptisms in January. Yeah!!! Hoot hoot!

Bulgaria has lots of handmade lace things which are pretty cool. I also love these baba socks--socks knit by old Babas and sold on the street on cardboard boxes. I've bought two pairs, and I want to buy more. Bulgaria also has lots of rose oil, chocolate, painted plates, and other random things.

I have two funny stories.

First, in the chapter THE BOOK OF MORMON inthe Bulgarian Preach my Gospel there is this line that is so funny!!! In Bulgarian it says "The Book of Mormon is a trampoline to revelation." Did they translate that right? I don't know.....I really want to use that line in a lesson or on the street though. Ha!

Second, I want to tell you about One-toothed Charlie. We don't know his real name........but he's known as One-toothed Charlie. Because he has one tooth right in the middle of his upper jaw, and I think that's it.  But he's got this huge grin! He smiles so big with his one little tooth sticking out! Oh I love him! He's slightly crazy.....but he comes to Church every once and a while. One day Sister Shumway and I saw him on the street and when we saw him we smiled and said "zgravei!!!" And he smiled so big at us!!! He was so happy to see us!!! He had just bought some apples and mandarines and started pulling them out to give them to us. So sweet! This poor man has nothing, is crazy, I don't even know if he has a place to live, but he wanted to share his fruit with us. Oh little Charlie. Next time I see him I am getting a picture with him.

Wednesday is my birthday! Yay! And yeah, I think you should have a party in my honor with me gone. :) Take a moment of silence while the candles on the cake melt away, and think of me. And then eat the cake. Ha ha, that would be awesome. On Wednesday there is district conference so we'll have a little party with baklava for me. Because I LOVE baklava. Oh my gosh it is sooooooo good!!! I eat it all the time. It is my favorite desert in the world. I don't think baklava in America would even be that good, but here it is HEAVENLY!!!! Oh I love it. Then, we have some lessons lined up and hopefully people will show. And then that night we have English class which is always fun. Thank you for your love and thoughts! I'm excited to open my present!

On Sundays Sister Shumway and I teach primary. It is kind of hard and stressful because we have two hours to plan out, not even knowing if any of the kids will come, and we don't have time to plan it well. So usually we end up with an hour of time left and no idea what to do with the kids. So I made some bean bags!!! Well, rice bags. Two of the bags Aunt Annie gave me came in little miniature bags in super cute fabric. I filled them with some rice, and sewed them up to make these perfect little square adorable bean bags that we can play with with the kids. (thank you Aunt Annie!!!) I came up with the idea because I thought, "What would mom do with these kids to keep them quiet and entertained? She would bring bean bags!" So I made some. I always think of what mom would do in the primary class and I've come up with some genius solutions based on what she would do. For example, one day the kids were way loud and screaming and we didn't have anything else for them to do. So I remembered how mom would play button-button-whos-got-the-button with us and I tought them the game. It was perfect! Because its quiet!!! And they loved it. So, thank you mommy, for your wise genius. You've taught me more than you know!

This week I really learned how important it is to be kind to everyone we are around. Because EVERYONE has problems. Most people have huge big problems, bigger than any I've faced. When I first meet people, they seem normal and I don't know what problems they have. But as a missionary I get to know people's deep problems--depression, sin, weaknesses, poverty--because missionaries are the ward council, the visiting teachers, the home teachers, everything. I need to be better at being extra kind to everyone I meet. Because everyone of us is a child of God who can inherit a heavenly throne. That's some really great worth right there! And along with all this divine worth, everyone has tremendous trials and struggles. Its just crazy the problems people have. I don't know how God takes care of us all and doesn't just destroy the earth. But we're here to have joy and the best way to do that is to choose to be kind and cheerful and help other people. I've been losing my patience with some people on the streets and I need to be kinder and more charitable. For example, I got kind of annoyed with this drunk man who talked to us for 40 minutes, wasting our time, telling us that we're stupider than him and we don't know Bulgarian well enough to do our job. Yeah, I got kind of annoyed with him. But I could have been more charitable and  I'm working on it. I can always be more charitable.

I love you all!

Love you!

almost-22-yr-old-Sister Stenquist