Monday, December 28, 2015

Dec 28 Merry and Bright

my baby brother...growing up so fast
Merry Christmas from us! Another Christmas together!

We just got transferred--sister parsons went to blava with sister russell and I am staying in Trenčin for my last transfer with Sister Ratcliffe! we are excited!

What a beautiful Christmas week! We saw so many miracles and were surrounded by people who were really a big family for us on this beautiful holiday.

We spent the week running around with this video on a little tiny dvd player and sharing our testimony of Christ! We received so many gifts and so much love and felt the spirit everywhere that we went.

Our beloved members fed us an amazing traditional Christmas Eve dinner! We started off the meal with a tradition of eating a thin wafer with honey on it and an entire clove of garlic. That was really something. Sister Parsons just about died and I just swallowed mine in a few pieces like pills. Then we had kapustnica, a traditional cabbage soup with mushrooms and sausage in it, and I absolutely LOVE that stuff. Followed by a main course of potato salad and carp. The carp was not so bad besides the gazillion little tiny bones we had to pick out, and then when she started telling about picking it out on the main square and the man cutting its head off, I lost my appetite a little.

All week everyone has been giving us pastry after candy after cake and we are so overwhelmed with
food that we are swimming in it! I have never felt so loved! People here are so kind and so thoughtful.

We also got to go to Brno for training, and that was really great because we got to visit the Christmas markets and sing there. That was so much fun! I was grateful to see everyone and have a wonderful time and learn about Jesus. It was great. (Also, here is where I saw a carp gruesomely killed with speed and precision right on the main square)

We had an amazing experience with our neighbor mom this week--we visited her with some christmas cookies and gave her the english website to look at, and when we visited her again this week, she was raving about the website and about the videos of mormon families she had seen. She had literally torn the internet apart afterwards and had, within four days, decided that catholicism was wrong, and that she should only be praying to god and nobody else, and that she wanted a family like a mormon family. She had even prayed about the Book of Mormon and said she had not gotten an answer yet. I have never met someone so prepared in my life or been more grateful for modern technology!

Lastly, I just had the greatest experience with Christ this week. I really know that the Atonement works for every pain and weakness and sin and mistake and anything that we have! I am constantly confused and amazed at the love that He has for me and the limitlessness of His mercy. I cannot believe that so quickly hearts can change and burdens can be lifted. How incredible it is! I could not be more grateful for it. He truly lives and is still our Savior and Redeemer! I love him with all my heart!

Happy New Year!
s laskou,
Sestra Abbott

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dec 21st Bud´ Santa´s Elves or Ježiško´s Anjeli

I have recurring confusion whenever I sit down on Pdays to email because it really feels like I just stood up from writing my last email! Honestly I have no concept of time anymore.

But looking back at the week, it was a great time. We are going a little crazy with Christmas and it is SO GREAT. We have been making gifts out our ears and running around everywhere trying to prepare for (I almost just wrote the second coming...) the 24th. I love Christmas in Slovakia. It is just the most traditional, beautiful thing. The people here have held onto their traditions with their lives through the last 40 years and it is very admirable. I am so grateful that they always want to share them with us!

We got to have our culture event this week! We ate at a fancy ish restaurant and then took a trip up to our beautiful Trenčianský hrad. The castle is always magical and it was especially cold this time! Who knew it was so much colder up in the air above the city.

We had a great opportunity this week to go and talk with some people at a nearby homeless shelter.
They have an incredible organization up and running! The man at the head is incredible. They provide meals and beds for homeless people that will follow their standards--so they cannot smoke or do drugs, and cannot be drunk at all when they come in and they are seperated men from women. We visited with the sweet women there and had a really spiritual conversation. It was very interesting to observe how easily they could feel the spirit because of their humility. It was a great experience. The best part haha was that a nun brought some donations over and stayed for a second to visit, and she was uncharacteristically smiley and introduced herself as Sestra. The most hilarious thing was her face when we as well introduced ourselves as sisters. She was confused.

Then, our Christmas celebration was this week! We had a concert and a dinner afterwards. At first, we really thought not many people were going to come. There were a few members and investigators there that we love, and we were happy to have our little concert with them. We started, and the best moment was when our favorite older couple who didnt know if they would come stumbled in late and smiled these huge smiles at us. It felt like our grandparents had just walked into the room! They were clapping and singing along and taking picures of us the entire time--we just really felt like we were with our family. Afterwards we had the traditional cabbage soup and lots of goodies and it felt like a family Christmas party! Everyone that we love was there and we were so grateful.

We also decided this week to take neighbor gifts to everyone in our apartment building. We made a whole ton of sugar cookies and packaged them up (this was a production...I sometimes get a little too
neighbor gifts
creative) and went door to door. The slovaks are so great in this way. They were very confused and very cautious about taking food from us but we ended up creating relationships with most of our neighbors and now we feel like we live with all our friends!! Our favorite mom who lives down the hall from us let us in and we had a really incredible conversation with her. I love Christmas and families and talking about Christ! It is all just a bunch of incredibleness.

Lastly, yesterday we had the most fun caroling door to door with the elders. It was very successful and we have a lot of return appointments! Everyone gives us food and tries to give us money, so it is really great. Caroling as a missionary is probably one of my favorite things ever. The best was when a woman tried to give us some egg liquor, and we really couldnt take it....

"We dont drink alcohol, sorry!"
"but this one is okay, it is holiday liquor!"
"No, no, we really cant, we really--merry christmas!"
"Please, just take it, it only has a little bit of alcohol in it, it is very delicious"
"Our present for you is that you can drink the delicious liquor! Merry Christmas!"

It was pretty great.

Well, I think that is pretty much it. We are running around like crazy and are heading to Brno today so I do not really have time to think of much else! Happy Christmas!

Lastly, Merry Christmas! I have a testimony that the Jesus is Real. He was born and he died for each one of us. I know it! I feel it! I cannot deny the power that I feel when I read about Him and when I pray I can feel the power of His atonement. Every week when I take the sacrament I am never more grateful then I am in that moment when I can feel the confirming Spirit around me and telling me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, Redeemer, and King. I am so incredibly grateful that I am able to represent Him at this wonderful time of year and serve others to show my love for Him. I want to show to Him my gratitude by following the great advice of king Benjamin: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”. I know this is true. I hope we can all take moments this week to reflect on the Saviors birth and life, and then act by showing our gratitude and serving those around us. Veselé Vianoce!

s laskou,
Sestra Abbott

Friday, December 18, 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas

Pani Halakova and her homemade oplatky
I love Trenčín!

This week was great in our little Trenčín. Everything here is merry and bright. I love Slovak christmases more than anything. Everything just seems so magical all the time! We are seeing so many miracles this transfer. I think we have found more new investigators than ever before. You would think that in a little town where missionaries are constantly on the streets, all the people to be contacted would be contacted.

But if you would think that, you would think wrong.

Every day we are finding new people who want to meet and grab a tea and talk about God! It is incredible how strong the spirit can be even in little cafes. God helps us wherever we are to feel His presence, and the spirit always testifies of the truth of the restored gospel.

Anyway, so this week the Košice sestry came to us on exchanges, and that was the most fun! I got to work with Sestra Ratcliffe. She sure is a power house! I learn so much more from the sisters on exchanges that they would ever learn from me. We saw so many miracles. I think we ran into almost every less active in Trenčín, and a member from Bratislava! Things I am confused about in life. It was seriously great. One of the best parts was, at the end of the day, we four sisters got together right in front of the Christmas markets and sang! It was great and sounded really so lovely. There were kids dancing and people clapping and everything was so veselé. Christmas is really here!

We also had this great relief society activity where we learned how to make these paper star decoration things and I guess I should have taken a picture because I realize now that I cannot really describe what they are like.
Well, they are little like basket weaving! Anyway. Picture soon.

This week I got sick for the very first time on my mission! It was pretty interesting. I was so worried when I had a fever (Well, I was actually a little out of it, but Sister Parsons was worried), and I just decided to pray and lay down and go to sleep early. I thought for sure I was getting strep throat and that our whole Christmas season was about to be ruined! But let me tell you, miracles happen, and I made a lot of really strong ginger lemon tea, and now I am feeling perfectly fine! Hooray! Christmas is not ruined!

Some other great things that happened this week include that it was our dear Sestra Alžbetas birthday

making oplatky!
this week. 81 years! She sure is a remarkable lady. She lived as an atheist in communism, and was completely against the church when her son joined, but was converted by a senior slovak couple who came back to slovakia when they were not really sending out missionaries still. She is now the sweetest, strongest lady I know! I want to be just like her when I get older. She is always riding her bicycle everywhere, and she has a huge smile on her face that never goes away. She had us all over for dinner to celebrate. We gave her a little doll that Aunt Kristi sewed me for Christmas (Thank you so much!) (And yes, I know, I opened the package too early on accident, but thank goodness because it was really the perfect gift for our Sestra Alžbeta). She renamed her Eliška and said it was for her next great granddaughter. She is so wonderful.

We had the opportunity as well to go visit our investigators and learn how to make homemade slovak christmas wafers! they are seriously so yummy and quite unique. And really hard to make. She really has a skill to make these. She uses a 50 year old wafer iron to do it, and she let us try, and it was just scary. haha but I love Slovak traditions! they have so many at christmastime, and they are so meaningful. I guess I did not know was real, old, heart-deep tradition was until I came here to Slovakia! these people really live according to tradition.

Speaking of tradition, I read this great scripture in Mark this week about how Christ sees them:

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

this is medovnik, the most delicious honey
walnut cake that we always have on birthdays.
I really have been thinking about the why behind our conversion. Why do we believe in God? Why do we believe what we believe? Why do we celebrate Christmas? I have confidence that each one of us can find personal answers to these questions and know that when we do, we find motivation, happiness, and a God that we can rely on. I am grateful that we all have the agency to choose the commandment of God over the tradition of men when it is necessary, and that we can find strength in Christ when we try to choose Gods path.

love you all!

happy twelve days of christmas!

Sestra Abbott

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mikulaš príde!!

gifts for mikulaš
Wow I really cannot believe it is monday!! I was so excited for it to be december, because I bought this advent calendar that seriously has some delicious chocolate in it. Unfortunately, the days have gone by so fast that I completely forgot to eat the candy and I am already five pieces of chocolate behind! škoda. It feels like I just barely emailed this morning.

Anyway, this week was one of the more exciting ones (asi that is why it went so fast). Well actually looking back at it, I have had seriously some exciting weeks. ANYWAY. We got to go on exchanges this week with Bratislava, and sister Russell came over to do some great things in Trenčin, and WOW it was really wonderful!!! We met with a great mother who was very open and very prepared. She accepted a baptismal date in her first lesson and gave us some great cookies. Then we had a really powerful lesson that focused on the apostasy. Sometimes here in our little catholic country we are a little afraid to talk abou the apostasy. We even had a lesson with a teenage girl the other day who read the brochure, and came back and pointed out the word "odpadlictvo", or apostasy, and said, " I do not like this word." It is pretty funny.

But we were really able to be very bold and clear in this lesson and it really brought the spirit! It reminded me of our district prezidents talk last week. He said that the things of the gospel are really simple, but it is sometimes hard to find the simplest words to describe them. I think the only thing that can really illustrate fully the simplicity and truthfulness of the gospel is the Holy Ghost. If we can speak with the voice that testifies to peoples hearts, they are much more likely to understand and accept the message of the Restoration.

Then, Sister Parsons and I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Prague for our leadership conference! It is always quite the journey for us, we are always gone for three nights, but it is so worth it! It was longer this time, a five hour conference, because we got to spend the entire time talking about Jesus Christ and how to follow His example of leadership. I think that I could not feel the spirit stronger than I do when we read the stories in the New Testament of Christ and of His example. I think what I loved most about it was talking about Jesus and the Individual. If you look through the New Testament, you will really discover that the stories of His life are compiled of a bunch of people. Many of them were pretty much people with no influence and people who were looked down on by society. And yet their stories are included in Holy Scripture that people now revere and refer to every day to find solace and guidance. It is truly incredible! Jarius´ daugther or the woman with the issue of blood or even the enemy who gets his ear cut off are all important lessons for us about how Jesus will always look to the individual first.

We also talked in the meeting about sharing spiritual experiences. We enjoyed our car ride home because we shared a lot of our spiritual experiences. We talked about why we came on a mission and
sväty mikulaš prišiel
how we got here. It was great! Of course, I bawled during Sister Parsons´ because I just love her, and really felt a boost of strength in my testimony when I heard the Elders testify so powerfully that despite everything that was preventing them from coming or wanting to come, that they know they need to be here. It was so great that Sister Parsons and I decided that we were going to start to share really important personal experiences on the street with people when they applied. Even if they were really small, like a warm feeling, we began to make our contacts a lot more personal this week. And boy, did it make a difference. I have never felt the spirit so strong on the street than I have this week. And people see us a lot differently now! It can be a little scary, but sharing your testimony and sharing your personal experiences is always worth it, because it seriously strengthens everyone in the conversation.

ANYWAY COOLNESS I am just apparently in a writing mood so I am going to go ahead and skip to Saturday and Sunday because it was mikulaš!! Hooray! Christmas part one in Slovakia! It is a great holiday where Saint Mikulaš brings treats for the good kids. It was real dramatic here in Trenčín because they do a whole ordeal of a show on the namestie on saturday, where Mikulaš comes and has a full out war with the devil in order to save the children from Hell. We took our dinner hour to go down to the cute markets and see all the ruckus.  I have to say it was quite the cultural experience, there were angels throwing presents to children, and also children bawling everywhere when the devil came out with his fire, and then Mikulaš coming in on a bicycle looking a whole lot like a glorified Pope. Ah man. I really really love Slovakia. Plus everyone gave us food for Mikulaš so that was the best thing ever. I will try and send the best pictures of this we got. It was altogether really an interesting experience.

Lastly, I just want to say one bitty thing about the Book of Mormon! We are still are reading rapidly, and are now in Helaman 9. There is so much power that comes from this little book! We all fasted on Sunday for the Czech Republic and Slovakia because they are SO close to a stake in the Czech Republic. I really feel such a sense of power and unity behind us right now--and we are so excited to see the miracles.

Love you all!
Sestra Abbott