Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weather in Bulgaria is as bi-polar as Utah. For a couple days it will be SO HOT AND HUMID and then the next will be cold with thunderstorms. Its awfully strange. Today is cloudy, so I'm carrying around my rain jacket just in case. I want to make sure I never get Bronchitis ever again!

Not a lot happened this week. People in Sofia are a bit less friendly than in Stara Zagora. The Church has been here the longest, so pretty much everyone knows who we are and that we want to talk to them, and they blow us off. I try to smile big and say hi to everyone to show them the light of Christ.

We got a new investigator this week named Katia. She is so nice! She invited us over to her house, fed us homemade pizza, and immediately loved us like her own grandchildren. It amazes me how open hearted some people are. We didn't get to teach her very much, because she talks a LOT, but we'll go back and teach more. She also wants us to teach all of her family. Fine with me!

We are teaching a young man named Efgini who is really cool. He's pretty quiet, but really sincere. He was supposed to get baptized a few weeks ago, but his family is really against the Church and so it didn't happen. Apparently his dad even threatened him with a gun. So, for the time being, we are waiting on baptism. He still comes to Church on Sunday and YSA activities though, which shows me he has a lot of faith.

Another investigator is this beautiful girl named Deia. The Elders used to teach her, and I don't know how they did, since she's so pretty. She's going to college, studying English, really smart, and has been investigating the Church for a year. That's a long time! The missionaries have been trying over and over and over again to get her baptized but she won't budge. We had a good lesson with her, and discovered some of the reasons why she won't commit to baptism. I like finding people's problems so I can find solutions to resolve them. Its like a puzzle, led by the Spirit.

Its wierd, but I often have really spiritual experiences when I'm in the metro system. This week we were sitting on the benches, waiting for the metro, and I was watching all of the people. It is just amazing to me how different and unique each person is. People walk around each other, not talking, barely even noticing each other. But when I observe people I can feel God's love for them and it makes me want to run up and get to know them! I want to give them a hug and teach them to have a personal relationship with Heavenly Father, so that they can light and purpose in life.

It is sad to me that people reject my message without even knowing what it is and how good it is. I feel like most people are running around with their hands over their eyes shouting "no! I don't want to open my eyes! I don't believe in sunshine!" Just open your eyes, have an open heart, and you'll find the beauty of the light!  I always have to remember the eternal perspective, to have love and patience, so that I don't give up. They'll open their eyes with time.

Jesus is the Christ. He has a living prophet on earth today. These are very very good things. I love that I get to work with God for the salvation of His children all day every day. I love it a lot.

Much love,
Sister Stenquist

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My first week in Sofia

First and very important, I got my package!!! The cheezits made me so happy! I didn't want to share them, but then I thought of what Jesus would do, so I shared my cheezits. They've got the best, most powerful cheezy flavor! Bulgaria just doesn't have crackers like that. I also trimmed my hair, and the cds are great. Thank you! Blagodaria!

Sofia is big and beautiful. I forgot how much I love big cities. The streets are like complicated mazes, the buildings are tall and elegant, and it feels like Europe. I really love it. Plus, the members are amazing. There are a lot of YSA and they're all really strong and excited about missionary work. The Branch had about 90 people at Church on Sunday which is pretty good. I want to help Sofia become a ward. Wouldn't that be amazing!

One other exciting thing is that there is a member from Taiwan! I spoke in Chinese with her and her daughters. It was so hard, like trudging through mud. I can think Chinese in my head okay, but speaking it is difficult. It was fun trying, though. My Bulgarian is WAY better and more natural than Chinese now.

There are also lots of men from Ivory Coast who the Elders are teaching and baptizing which is so cool and exciting. They speak French, but one of them knows English, so he translates. They are so nice and I am so excited that they found the Church in Bulgaria!

Ben mentioned trouble in Turkey and if its affected Bulgaria. I don't really know what's going in the world right now....I know that there are troubles in Turkey, so President's been going there a lot. There have also been lots of protests in Bulgaria but they seem pretty peaceful. I've just seen people blocking the streets, holding Bulgarian flags, and blowing whistles. We avoid them to be safe.

One of the really cool thing about working in Sofia is that I get to work with some of the best missionaries in the mission! The assistants to the president, zone leaders, and district leader are all in our district. I love working with good Elders! They're so amazing and I am so grateful for the way they serve.

One of our goals for the mission right now is to minimize contacting time and focus more on member referral lessons. President Hinckley said there is a better way, and that is through the members. Contacting's been pretty unsuccessfull lately and I think it might be because Heavenly Father is encoruaging us to find people in different ways. I'm really excited about member referral lessons because it strengthens the members as well as being a finding tool. Its really exciting.

Really exciting things are happing in Bulgaria to bring light and hope to all the people. I hear miracle stories every day that just astound me. I know that God really is hastening His work and we've just got to put in our plows and get to work! All of us! I heard the Church is having a worldwide training by the First Presidency on Missionary Work and I am so excited for it! Training for all members on missionary work, by the prophet himself. How incredible is that! The light of the Gospel cannot be stopped and it is lighting the world. I am so happy and excited.

All the best,
Sister Stenquist

p.s. I forgot to tell you I have Bronchitis again. I got a cold a couple weeks ago, went to the doctor on Saturday and found out its Bronchitis. I don't really feel sick at all except that I cough and my lungs hurt a bit. The doctor said I can work like normal as long as I take my antibiotics, which I am faithfully taking (along with my daily vitamins!) In the future I just have to be more careful about staying warm when I work so that I won't get sick anymore. All is well!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Here I come SOFIA!!!

We got transfer calls on Friday and I'm going to SOFIA!!! The capital of Bulgaria!!!! So big!!! Wow. I am super excited and I have a ton of stuff to do. Today is my last day in Stara Zagora so I have plans, and this email will be pretty short. In Sofia my companion will be Sister Turnbow who has been out for a long time and knows French (hurray for France!). The Branch there is huge and the work is really busy so it'll be a big learning experience.

Ha ha, when I told Hristo I was leaving (my beloved mustachioed man who got baptized in January) he said, "You're leaving! Half of Stara Zagora is going to cry when you leave. And it'll be all the men!!!" Ha ha, he is my favorite!!!

The party was great! We had all the members help us with decorations and food and the spiritual thought which was great. We had chili, chips and salsa, apple cake, and peach cake. I pretty  much made all of the food. :) I just love cooking! The chili was a little spicy but the members ate it all which is surprising (Bulgarians don't like spicy food.) We danced to country music which was so enjoyable. I miss dancing! I taught them how to dance like cowboys. After the fun, we went to the Sacrament meeting room where we watched the end of 17 Miracles. Then Brother Denev got up to testify of faith in Christ. His testimony was so powerful, backed up by all of his emotions, and it was really good. At the end Minka said she never wanted to leave the Church, because it feels so good to be there.

Minka has a baptismal date! She's the homeless woman with a mullet. She is awesome. Since we've started teaching her, she's changed. She looks happy. She smiles. She glows! At the end of one of our lessons, she said, "Can I ask a question? Why do I feel goodness in my heart when I read the Book of Mormon?" Ha ha, what a good question! She has a baptismal date for July 13 and I'm so happy for her. She is a sweet heart. She told me her dream is to have a job and her own apartment to live in. I looked in her eyes and told her that she is a daughter of God, and that God has mansions prepared for her in heaven, as long as she lives worthy of it. She smiled, glowing, and said she was going to cry. God is very good to us. Minka is so special. I love her a lot.

I've been thinking a lot about how people have changed as I've taught them and they've developed faith in Christ. Reni, the mom with the sick child, still only has small faith, but she has changed. She smiles more. She is more humble. She prayers with humility and sincerity instead of yelling at God. Her daughter used to have fits of violently rocking and looked very upset and uncomfortable. Now, whenever she comes, she grins and laughs and prays. Its really cute. She is so joyful, it makes all of us laugh and rejoice too.

Baba Vera is also different. When I first met her she was always on the bridge of tears, she was so sad. She lives alone, her daughter died when she was young. She was so lonely and sad. Now, she is so beloved by the Branch and she loves the people there too. Stara Zagora is a little family, and now they have Baba Vera to love. She doesn't cry anymore, except when she talks about me leaving. She's so adorable. She even reads the Book of Mormon in her spare time and continues to pray every day. She came to the Branch party with a bright red cowboy hat and even danced like a cowgirl with us. She's adorable

I am so grateful to have served in Stara Zagora! The members here are amazing and I love them with all my heart. I am sad to leave, but it feels right too. I know I'll love Sofia and there is a ton of work there to do!

Talk to you next week!
Sister Stenquist

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blister on my baby toe

Random fact. I have one blister on my feet, and its on the bottom of my baby toe. It won't ever go away! Its so random. Anyways....

This week we started teaching a woman named Minka. She may or not be homeless, I'm not sure. She's got a great mullet. She always wears some sweat pants and an army camouflage shirt. She seems a little rough around the edges, but she has such a sweet heart. I just smile at her and she grins back like a sunbeam. In our second lesson I invited her to be baptized. She said, "Ok. Tomorrow?" Ha ha!!! We explained that we had to teach her everything first. She read the first six chapters of the Book of Mormon in just a few days, and also came to Church on Sunday which is great! You can't judge a book by its cover. And you never know who will receive the Gospel.

We're also teaching two women named Krasimira and Milena. They are so much fun! Although they still don't read or pray on their own, which we're working on. They are curious and have lots of questions about life and Christ. One of their favorite questions is, "How do I find my Prince?" Ha ha. Don't ask me, I haven't found mine yet!!! Watching the Joseph Smith film with them was really fun. Joseph keeps on asking questions like, "How do I know if I'm saved?" "How do I know what Church is true?" And every time he'd ask one of these questions, Milena would turn to us and say, "Yeah! How do you know?! That's my question!!!" I love the Joseph Smith because its really easy for investigators to relate to and it explains everything so well.

On June 1st was Children's day. The whole glav and park was full of families and children. Each child was carrying around a balloon. It was so fun and chaotic! Unfortunately, noone wanted to listen to us. That morning I had read about the stripling warriors of Heleman and how fearless they were, even though they hadn't ever fought, and their desire to fight for their freedom and God. I thought of them, and said to myself, "I have nothing to fear! I have a great message to share with these families! I need to be like the warriors of Heleman!" And then I went around trying to talk to families. I got rejected a lot. Ha ha. I think I only gave out two pamphlets in a whole hour. But oh well. I tried.

The Priesthood Quorum in Stara Zagora is way bigger than the Relief Society now. There are hardly any women! And all of the women have awful problems. One has depression, but shared the best testimony in Sacrament Meeting. One has cancer, but comes every week to Church and is always working hard to serve in the Church. All of them are really poor. One's mom is about to die, and she's just about the most wonderful member I've ever met. They are all true disciples of Christ even though their lives are stormy.

I am terrified that President Wilstead is going to transfer me to another city. Some sisters will get transferred this week and I don't want to leave! I have so many plans for Stara Zagora! I know and love all of the members and they know and love me too. It terrifies me to think of leaving the Branch in the hands of other missionaries. We'll see. Hopefully I get to stay! I have more work to do here!

Also, this Friday we're having a big party! The theme is Cowboys and Indians because Bulgarians LOVE cowboys and indians. We're getting costumes so people can take pictures as cowboys and indians. I'm going to teach them a country line-dance. We'll eat salsa and apple cake. And then we're going to watch a clip of 17 miracles and talk about having faith through times of trial. All of Stara Zagora is invited! We're inviting a lot of people, but who knows how many will actually show up. I'm way excited though! I love planning parties!

I love you all! Have a fantastic week! Scatter sunshine all along your way,
Sestra Stenquist