Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Building up Stara Zagora

This week flew by so fast! I feel like I learned tons which is always a good thing.

We had exchanges with the sister trainers and I got to work with Sister Wild which was so fun! I love her! She's from England, she's older than the other sisters, and she is a FANTASTIC missionary. I want to be just like her.

Sister Wild taught me about what it means to work for real growth on the mission. We're not only here to bring people in, we're also here to make the branch stronger. I've been organizing the primary, finding members to help me teach, planning fun activities, and its been really fun! Zarko prayed for the first time yesterday which I count as success because he's kind of a little rebel. Little Ina, his sister, is an angel. I really want her to grow up in the Church because she would just be such a strength to the Church. There is such an advantage to growing up in the Church because its easier to believe and accept things when you're a kid, rather than have to change your way of thinking when you're older.

I'm also trying to organize Young Women's for Elena, who's 16 and was baptized this spring. I absolutely love Elena and she loves me too which is good. We're going to start having fun activities twice a month so she can invite her friends and we can teach them. I'm really excited. I realized that I really do love teenagers and working with the youth. I'm extremely excited to be a young women's leader someday! Right now I'm kind of primary teacher, young women's teacher, pianist, activities director, visiting teaching coordinator, and missionary. So in the future, any calling is going to be a pinch!

Sister Wild also taught me about consecration of all of our talents and time. We were given everything we have in order to share it with others. It made me realize that my whole life I need to recognize and develop my talents, and then prayerfully use them to bless the lives of others around me. I think we all have lantent talents that are just sitting around when we could be using them to bring more beauty to the world, our families, and the Church.

This week I also realized that I am completely spoiled! I have always had a house, food, and a supportive family. After talking with these people, I feel so awful and spoiled. So many of the members and investigators are hungry with no food, about to get kicked out of their apartments, some don't have electricity, they're literally living on the edge. I wish I could eat half as much and move into a cheaper apartment in order to give the extra money to these starving, poor people! I'm so spoiled! Never in my life am I EVER going to be able to feel sorry for myself. I am extremely blessed and pampered.

It is now HOT in Stara Zagora although there were a couple rain storms this week. I don't know the temperature, I just know that it is pretty hot. We got to go out to selo/village to visit a member baba, and we helped her pick cherries off of her tree which was funny. Ha ha, climbing a ladder in a skirt to pick cherries was not what I was planning on doing, but oh well. We divided up the cherries and brought them to all of our poor friends.

Last Monday we went to a really beautiful cathedral in a little town (Shipka, if you want to look it up) which was amazing. We also climbed a mountain to go to an enormous deteriorating structure that was a communist headquarters. Its called Busluzhba. We went in, and it is enormous! It looks like a big space ship, and the inside is full of mosaics. It was really creepy and cool. We went with 6 Elders and they crack me up, they're so funny.

And that's all the news from this week. There is so much work to do and so we just keep on taking baby steps. The Church here is going to grow! Everyone here might think that we're a cult right now but its going to grow! I have hope of there being a stake in Stara Zagora someday. Someday......

Love you!
Sestra Stenquist

Monday, May 20, 2013

I love Stara Zagora so much!

This week I have just been loving Stara Zagora! Yes, the work here is hard. But the city is adorable. I'v never worked in another city, but having Sister Bingham come from other cities helped me to appreciate the uniqueness of Stara Zagora. For example, Sister Bingham is blown away by how small it is, and how many trees there are! There are trees lining all the streets and it gives us nice shade. Its really pretty. Stara Zagora is pretty small and has more of a town feeling than the bigger cities. I love it. :) Everyone kind of knows each other here and the people are nicer (for the most part) to missionaries than other cities. I'm happy to still be here. I love my little Stara Zagora.

I also found out that Stara Zagora is known for its crazy people! Ha ha! There are quite a few crazies here. There's a crazy woman who goes on the glav and screams,"ISKAM BANITSA!!!!! DAI MI EDIN LEV ZA BANICHKA!!!! AHHHHHH!!!" or in English, "I WANT BREAD!!!! GIVE ME A DOLLAR FOR SOME BREAD!!!!!" And then she cries really loud. Sometimes she's carrying around a Bulgarian flag (how patriotic of her!), and I heard she used to carry around a plastic machine gun.

I found a lost, crazy member this week. I saw a large woman talking to herself in a mousy voice, and realized that it was Snezhina. Oh Snezhy. She's special. Then later in the week I saw her again, talking to herself and cracking herself up. At least she's happy.

There's also quite a few crazy guys who just lean against the wall, staring into space, holding out cups for money. I heard a missionary put some change in his cup once, and coffee plopped out. Awkward.

Another unique thing about Bulgaria in general is the stray dogs and cats. There are dogs and cats all over, just wandering around. They're completely harmless, which surprises me. They mind their own business and they're kind of fun to have around.

We got a really cool new investigator this week and I like her a lot. She's sane (always a good quality), curious about the Gospel, she listens, AND, she brought her friend to learn too! So now we're teaching both of them and they're really neat.

We also taught a new woman named Christina Vampilla. She's unique. She has bleached blonde hair,  is really tall, wears heaving platform black boots, and is a designer/artist. She gifted us some necklaces that she made which was really nice of her (mine has a big metal spike on it). Her boyfriend apparently looks like a vampire. She's unique.

And that's a little about dear little Stara Zagora. Its such a special little place. :) I love it!

Chao for now!
Sestra Stenquist

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rejection!!! Yay!!! I love getting rejected!!!

Ha ha, the theme of this week is probably rejection. We got rejected a lot. The good thing is, I know my message is true, I know that God loves these people, so I just try to kill them with kindness when they're unkind to me. Sometimes people yell at me, tell me I'm brainwashed, or are really unkind, and I just say a pray for them in my head, smile, wish them a good day and walk away. Oh Bulgarians. 

Interestingly, the most kind people seem to be the Muslims and Atheists. They usually talk to us, listen, ask questions, even though they aren't interested to be taught. A lot of Christians are so stuck to the Pravoslav Church and all of its traditions that they aren't very nice to us. I smile and say hi to everyone. 

We were taking a bus from Varna to Stara Zagora and a woman was staring at me. I said, "Hello! Where are you traveling to?" And then she started yelling at me in English about how they don't need our religion and we need to leave Bulgaria. It was kind of awkward because we were surrounded by people waiting for the same bus. Later, on the bus, a man asked us how our Church was different and we explained the restoration and Book of Mormon to him. He was very nice to us and we talked to him for quite a while. A woman sitting in front of us turned around and said, "You two are God's people, aren't you? It is so great that you are here to help people and to serve Jesus Christ! I believe in Christ and so does my son. I'm really glad you're here helping people." The funny thing is, the not-so-nice woman was sitting close by so she heard all of our conversations with the nice people. 

So even though there are some mean people, and a lot of people don't want to listen, there are also a lot of nice people, and some few miracles ready to accept the Gospel!

I know I can't be discouraged or feel bad for myself when I am rejected. Christ himself, the Savior of the world, was rejected by his own people! His own apostle sold him for some money. And the people who do listen and receive the blessings of the Gospel are so precious and miraculous that they are worth every effort to find. I am so honored to know all the wonderful members and hear their testimonies. They are like diamonds!

I love you all and hope you are all happy no matter what hard things you have this week. 

Sister Stenquist

Monday, May 6, 2013

Happy Easter! Chestit Velik Den!

It was Easter yesterday! Happy Easter!!!

Some members brought some colored hard boiled eggs to Church to share with everyone. Instead of hiding eggs and finding them, they each hold an egg and bump the tops together. Whoever's doesn't crack gets luck for the next year. The first egg that challenged me, I conquered. Yeah, that's luck for a whole year! The next one cracked my egg, though, so I don't know if it reversed the luck. We also got lots of cookies from members that they make for Easter. They're called Korabi and they're kind of like sugar cookies. For dinner we went to an investigators house where we had lamb. Everyone eats lamb for Easter, and they cook up a whole lamb to eat. Reni gave me lots of meat, mostly the meat pieces of the spinal chord and ribs. She gave Sister Bingham an eyeball, some lungs, and other weird stuff, so I was very happy with what I was given to eat. The rice had liver in it which isn't my favorite but I thought the pieces were mushrooms until the very end, so I really didn't even notice. It was really a memorable Easter.

Since it was Easter missionary work was really hard this week. A lot of people are out of town in Selo---country villages. No one answered their phones for lessons, there weren't very many people on the street to talk to, so I kind of felt like I was just wandering around the city a lot of the time. One day we contacted 9 hours! That's the most I've contacted in one day. My feet hurt so bad! I've gotten a few blisters this week, but oh well. I just remind myself that I'm doing it for God, and even if it accomplishes nothing, I'm showing my love for Him.

Today is Saint Georgiov Day!!! He's the St. George who killed the dragon. A lot of stores are closed for the holiday. Everyone was really excited for this holiday. There's a statue of St. George and the dragon one of the parks by our house and I think its funny that Bulgarians love St. George so much.

Sister Bingham is here now! It is kind of shocking because she is OPPOSITE  of Sister Shumway. I think Heavenly Father is just trying to teach me a lot, to send me the two opposite extremes of missionary work to work with. Sister Bingham is really nice and happy and I enjoy being around her. I keep on feeling like we're not working hard enough, though, even though I know we are working. There is just so much work to do and I feel guilty if I'm ever not working! Ah!

One exciting bit of news is that we have 4-5 families we want to meet with this week! I've been trying to talk to families and its frustrating because you can bet 99% they will reject you. But you do it anyway, just to try. And this week we found some interested families we can meet with! I'm super excited and hope I set up appointments with them! It just goes to show that you have to show your faith, even through a bunch of failure, until you receive a miracle after the trial of your faith.

Happy Easter and Happy St. Georgiev Day!
Mnogo Obich,
Sestra Stenquist