Monday, July 29, 2013

Chinese in Sofia!!!

I finally get to email pictures today so I took advantage of it. I want you to see how beautiful Bulgaria is! See the sunflower field! Its blurry, since its taken from the bus, but they are beautiful!!!

I have so many stories about Chinese people this week!!! Hoot!

First, a couple weeks ago Sister Shumway talked to a girl from China in the subway. I tried so hard to tell her I wanted to meet and teach her about Christ, but she was kind of just confuse why I was talking to her. Well, after that, I got a Chinese booklet about the restoration and put them in my purse. A couple days later we were on the escalator going down into the subway, and Sister Cross pointed out that the EXACT SAME GIRL was right in front of us!!!! I tapped her on the shoulder and I gave her the book I had!!! It was so cool! I felt so redeemed for not having anything to share with her the time before.

The next morning, I went back to the supply garage and got 12 booklets in Chinese about different things. I was planning on leaving them in our apartment that night and just taking one with me until I gave it away. Later in the evening, while we were walking down a random little street contacting, a large group of Asian teenagers appeared in front of us!! I grabbed Sister Cross and freaked out, "There's a whole group of Chinese!!!" As we passed I listened to see if they were speaking Chinese, and they were! So I turned to them and started talking to them! Their faces were so shocked as they saw me, this little white girl, speaking to them in Chinese. It was so funny! They're from China, here to see some tourist stuff, and they're Christian! So I gave each one of them (there were 8) a book from the Church. It was so amazing. So cool.

On Saturday night we were walking through a park and I saw two Asian men, (I feel like I'm just stalking all the Asians in Sofia.....) so of course I tried to talk to them. They were from China too! They were both strong Atheists. One of them was really rude to me, yelled at me, and was completely against any idea of religion. The other one was really nice. I told him that I knew if he prayed, he would know there was a God because he would feel God. His eyes got big and he said, "Really?!" "Yeah!" I promised. I gave him a pamphlet in Chinese and I hope he kept it even though his friends were all being rough and rude.

Since Sofia has a lot of foreigners, we have tried a new thing contacting. One of us will take a Bulgarian Book of Mormon, and one of us will take one in a different language. Every time we've done this, we've talked to someone who spoke the different language and were able to give them the Book of Mormon. This week we talked to people from Russia, France, China, Germany, some African countries, and Iraq. I now have booklets in a variety of languages which I keep in my purse. I taught a man from France how to pray last night! Its really cool getting to help everyone from around the world learn more about Christ and His Church.

As for missionary work with Bulgarians....not a whole lot has happened. We are looking for a good strong woman to join the Church and strengthen Branch Sofia becuase right now the Priesthood is stronger than the Relief Society in the Branch. Its strange to me that in Bulgaria all the men are more interested and more spiritual than the women. I always imagined it being the opposite way around.

One cool thing about Bulgaria that I've thought about lately is its relationship with the 12 tribes of Israel. Last year a Patriarch came to Bulgaria and in the 20 blessings every tribe was mentioned. All the lost tribes! President reminded us that we are literally fulfilling the commission to gather the 12 tribes of Israel which is a huge honor and privilege. I know the people here are so special and have such great potential. I think in time the Church here will be enormous. It will just take time.

Lots of love from Bulgaria,
Sister Stenquist

Pippi Longstockings and rats

This week Sister Cross came to Sofia and its been great working with her! She's super cute and we get along really well. Sister Shumway worked with us for a few days as she waited for a new sister from the MTC to arrive, since she's training again. I was scared to work in a three-some, but it was actually wonderful. I learned a lot, and it was really powerful working with Sister Cross and Sister Shumway because they're both really good, strong missionaries.

Now that its summer there are lots of tourists in Sofia. This week I talked to a family from England, a girl from Moldova, a couple from France, a man from Switzerland, and a girl from China!!! I met the girl from China in the subway, and tried so hard to talk to her, but it was like swimming through mud. I basically just told her i was a missionary, I teach about Jesus Christ, and that I wanted to give her a book about Jesus Christ so she could have faith in him. She wasn't really interested, and seemed confused why I wanted to give her a book, but oh well.

I braided my hair the other day into two tails and the Bulgarians' reaction was so funny! Quite a few people told me that I looked just like Pippi Longstocking. I don't know why, but Bulgarians LOVE Pippi. I see the book all over, and everyone associated my braids with her. I asked one man why he loved Pippi and he said, "I don't know, I haven't read the book. I just like her, with her braids, and how she lifted a cow above her head!" It was so funny. I've got to wear braids more often!

One day when I was contacting with Sister Shumway and Sister Cross, Sister Shumway saw a big rat run into a little paper shop. She went to tell the shop worker, who then got edgy and scared. Sister Shumway and I stayed outside of the shop with her while Sister Cross chased the rat around the room. It was really funny. And really gross.

On Saturday my friend Minka in Stara Zagora got baptized so I got to go down for the baptism. It was like returning home to Heaven!!! I walked into the Church and little Elena (15 years old with
curly blonde hair, new member) hit me with a huge hug. We hugged and hugged, both on the bridge of tears. I love her so much! Then I hugged Minka and congratulated her, and she was pretty quiet but happy. Then I went into the congregational hall and there was Baba Vera!! She was so happy to see me and I was so happy to see her! She called out, "Oh, milichka" or, "Oh, little deary!" which is what she always calls me. She said she keeps a picture of me and my card in her room where she can see it. Then there was Hristo!!! My favorite mustachioed man! He bent down with his arms open so I ran up to give him a hug and he lifted me off the floor! Ha ha! I love him so much! I am grateful there is nothing in the rules about hugging friends. It felt like dying and going to heaven. Both Baba Vera and Elena told me I am welcome to live with them in Stara Zagora if I ever want to, so I have two homes there.

Sofia is hard because the Branch runs on its own and without working with the Branch I don't know what to do with myself! I am used to running and organizing and guiding  Stara Zagora. There's just not a lot to do here in Sofia, or rather, not much gets done no matter how I work. Every day our schedule is full with plans and hopes, and often at the end of the day our numbers are all zeros. I know numbers aren't everything, but it sure feels good to see that I've accomplished something when I count up. Oh well, I'll keep working and fighting even if I get 0's.

We did meet a couple cool people this week. One girl we said hi to, turned and stopped us to ask us what we were doing. We said we were missionaries from the Church and it turns out she's lived in Idaho and knew some really nice mormon families. She said she really wanted to learn more! We haven't been able to meet with her yet, but she came to Church on Sunday with her husband which is so miraculous! Principally, getting people to Church is one of the hardest parts but she came before we had even met! I have great hopes for her.

There was another man who we tried to stop, but he said he was busy and kept walking. So I ran to catch up with him and said, "Well, if you don't have any time, please just read this pamphlet about the Plan of Happiness. I know that God loves you!" He took it, said, thanks, and kept on walking. Then an hour later we were talking to another man when the first man came up to talk to us again. He was done with his business, and wanted to talk to us more about our message. He's really cool, successful, kind, with a big heart, and I am so excited to teach him.

I really do know that God lives, He loves us, and He guides us when we follow Him.
Much love from Sofia,
Sister Stenquist

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Last Monday we celebrated the 4th of July by going to an American family's house and having hamburgers and hot dogs. I realized I really don't miss American food that much. The two big things I miss are cheese crackers and refried beans. So the family gave me a can of refried beans as I was leaving. :) They were so good!

On the actual 4th we went to a Bulgarian member's house to eat French crepes. I thought that was pretty ironic--eating french crepes with a Bulgarian to celebrate America. It was really fun though! All the  members here are so humble and so giving. Their apartments are falling apart, but they feed us such good food.

I have a funny story about a member. There is a really funny, energetic, enthusiastic member who is just a hoot. On Sunday she came up to Elder Forshee to give him a biography on Thomas Jefferson. She said, "I prayed very hard to know which missionary has a big love for Thomas Jefferson so I could give him this. I received the revelation to give it to you."  Ha Ha, she's fantastic. Maybe a bit eccentric, but a gem.

Transfers! I am staying here in Sofia and Sister Cross is coming here. I'm really excited to work with her! She's a great missionary, and this will be her last transfer, so it will be a sprint to the finish line! I'm excited to work really hard!

On Saturday there was a baptism of the Elder's investigator, and after the baptism I was super happy. I came out of the room and this guy was like, "Whoah, you're shining!" Ha ha, I think he meant I was happy, hopefully. It made me laugh.

This week I learned to be grateful for where I am and what I'm doing. Two women who served here twenty years ago came to visit, and told us how different the Church is now. When they were here Church was basically a club for women, with no priesthood. Missionaries were Branch Presidents and Relief Society Presidents. The missionaries would get thrown in jail all the time so they had to carry toothbrushes around with them! Bulgaria might not be an "easy" mission, but it certainly is advancing. There are lots of things that have caused Bulgaria to be behind in progress (post-communism isn't the richest enviromnent for the Gospel) but its growing. I'm really grateful I don't have to worry about getting thrown in jail or beaten up. I'm so grateful for all the priesthood in Bulgaria. So many men are joining the Church and now all the Branch Presidents are Bulgarian! Its amazing. The members are really growing and learning to run the Church themselves. Its so amazing to have them have their own Church, instead of a Chuch run by missionaries. I am really grateful to be here now.

Budete zhivi i zdravi (May you be happy and healthy)
Sestra Stenquist

Monday, July 8, 2013

A cold week of rain

How funny that Utah is burning hot. Sofia is freezing cold. It has been raining for days straight. Right now there's a bit of sunshine, but a hard wind that's blowing in lots of gray clouds. It feels like February weather, its so strange.

This week we had our Branch party and it was fantastic! The biggest success I could've dreamed of! We planned on about 75 people coming (well, we hoped that many would come, but had some doubts), and planned the food accordingly. We had chips, shopska salad, enchiladas, brownies and ice cream. However, about 120 people came!!! How amazing is that! 120 people at a Branch party in little Bulgaria! It was a miracle. And even more miraculous, the food fed all the people. We hurried making as many plates of food as we could while the Elders delivered them to the people. When they told us everyone had a plate, there were about 5 plates of food left over. I call that a miracle. After eating we moved the chairs to the edge of the room and our amazing African members did some African dancing. Then a young man from Virginia did some dancing/juggling/tricks which were really impressive. Everyone had a really good time. Half an hour after the party, there was a baptism, so a lot of people stayed to see the baptism. It was so good!

I don't think I've told you about the Africans in the branch. There's quite a few African refugees in Sofia and they're joining the Church! Most of them are from the Ivory Coast. They only speak French, a couple speak English, so there's a lot of translating for them. Only a few are baptized, but the Elders are working with quite a few more. They are so nice, so happy, and so faithful. I think it is just so beautiful to see their faith and diligence as African members of the Church in Bulgaria. God really does know where all His children are and how to help them.

We still haven't found any investigators so I suppose God is teaching me patience and diligence. Sometimes I think of Elder's Holland's question, "Do you have the faith to fail?" to remind myself that I need to have the faith to work, even when there are no results and it looks like failure. Just keep swimming, just keep working. Maybe investigators will be found when the sun comes out.

This week is transfer calls and I'm pretty sure I'll be staying here but who knows. I'll let you know next week.

Much love,
Sister Stenquist