“Sister Sisters,” New Era, Sept. 1996, 28
A grove of trees can be the perfect place to think and pray. Quiet and secluded, it provides solitude, beauty, and peace. The prayer of one boy, who later became the Prophet Joseph Smith—and the results of that prayer—are well known to Church members everywhere.
Of course other prayers are also offered in such quiet places. In Hungary, in a grove of trees at the top of a mountain overlooking the city of Budapest, two sister missionaries are quietly seeking answers.
They open their scriptures and bring out a typewritten copy of the dedicatory prayer—newly translated into Hungarian—that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve pronounced on Hungary in 1987. It was here on Mt. Gellért that Elder Nelson originally gave this prayer, asking the Lord to pour out his blessings upon the nation and its people. For a few moments as they read, the sisters are enveloped with a feeling of warmth and peace.
Sisters. They love the sound of that word. There’s no family relationship between Sister Nagy Erika and Sister Pálinkás Bernadett. (Hungarian surnames are used first, followed by the given names.) And they met for the first time after becoming missionaries. But no sisters could feel more united in purpose and spirit.
Sister Pálinkás is from Dunaújváros, where there were no churches at all until just recently. “My parents are not believers in God,” she says. “But somehow I felt close to him and felt that he loved me.”
When she was almost 20, two American missionaries came into the store where she sold office supplies. “My co-workers and I could tell from the very first that these young men were different from others,” she remembers.
Bernadett and a co-worker arranged to hear the first discussion. Although her friend soon lost interest, Bernadett attended sacrament meeting the following Sunday and, after being taught by the missionaries and converted by the Spirit, was baptized a month later, on August 22, 1992.
Sister Pálinkás is grateful for letters from branch members—especially the youth—back home. And she has a lot of support around her in the mission. Her first zone leader was the missionary who had baptized her in Dunaújváros a year and a half earlier! “I felt very fortunate to be able to work at the same time with him,” she says.
In April 1992, Nagy Erika was 20 years old and was living with her family in the city of Nyiregyháza when a friend encouraged them to listen to the missionaries. Erika’s father, who is a devout Christian, had taught his family about God. “But when the two elders came in the door and greeted us—my parents and all eight of us children—we felt a surprising feeling of happiness because of the spirit that came from them.”
After the second discussion, the family suddenly lost contact with the missionaries. First, one of the elders was transferred. Then, unexpectedly, Erika’s family had to move to Budapest.
Two months after moving to Budapest, Erika had one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. First, she missed her bus. Then she had to walk a long way in the rain. When she finally reached a subway station, she was feeling pretty discouraged. “Then, while waiting for the subway, I suddenly noticed two elders—and one of them was the one who had taught us in Nyiregyháza! I couldn’t believe it—in a city of more than two million people!”
The discussions immediately resumed with the family, and Erika was baptized on September 13, 1992, just five months after her first meeting with the missionaries.
A year after her baptism, Erika received her mission call to Hungary. “I was happy to be called to serve my own people in my own language. But I worried whether I was worthy to be the first Hungarian citizen to serve in Hungary and if I would be able to give the people what they needed. I prayed about it and felt many special feelings that night. I knew that God loved me and my family. I felt very close to God.”
As the two sisters reminisce about experiences they are having as missionaries, it is obvious that they are being richly blessed by the Lord in their efforts. “When I went to my first city as a new missionary,” says Sister Pálinkás, “my companion and I looked in our planners and there was nothing scheduled. But we went out and worked hard. I learned that when there’s an empty day in our planners we can say, ‘No problem; we’re going to teach three or four discussions.’ I’ve learned that if we ask with real faith and real intent, the Lord will help us with it, as long as it’s according to his will.”
As these sisters see it, the preaching of the gospel in Hungary is both a beginning and an end. “The gospel gives us Hungarians a new start,” says Sister Pálinkás. “Maybe this means an end to the feeling some people have had that they needed to be apart from everyone else, that they couldn’t love each other.”
“Big walls are falling down and gates are opening up because of the gospel,” says Sister Nagy. “Over the years, we’ve built walls to protect us from things that were going to happen in our lives, and love and brotherliness were missing. But the gospel helps us open the gates to love and service.”
With that love and service comes lots of prayer—a principle that Sister Nagy and Sister Pálinkás have put to the test. First, they prayed to gain their own testimonies of the gospel; now they pray to help others develop theirs. These missionaries don’t always climb to a grove of trees on a mountaintop to say their prayers, but they know they can rise to great heights wherever they are by listening to the answers they receive.