Monday, December 29, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

Add caption
I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!  The rest of the pretty rough but all that didn't matter since I got to Skype with you guys for an hour-ish.  Thank you for being the best, awesome supportive family an Elder could ask for.  I sure do love you guys.
Christmas PJ's (he asked for no Christmas PJ's
 so I just sent warm socks full of candy)

Christmas Morning

Christmas Dinner (SOOOOO much better than last year's Goat Stomach)

The Dog I spent all Christmas playing with

Temple Trip

This week, what I've been trying to figure out what it is that I can do to be a better help to Elder Kummerman and our District, and I knew that this week would be a good week to go and get an answer since President Weston gave our Zone the Christmas present of going to the Temple the day after Christmas.  Sitting through the session, I kept my question in my head and by the time I was done, I knew that the answer was be 100% obedient.  After all, we can only receive blessing based off the rules and commandments we obey.  Selective Obedience brings Selective Blessings.  I didn't think I was very disobedient, and I'm not, but as I've been going through the Missionary Handbood, I realized that there's some small rules that I've slipped on and could improve.  I know that as we obey all the rules in the mission, not just the one's that make perfect sense or the one's that are "convenient" that all the blessings will come and the work will explode in our area.  
The temple trip was amazing.  It was exactly what I needed, on top of a Skype call home, to give me more strength to carry on.  Training Elder Kummerman is hard, but I know there's a reason that I'm with him and that I was assigned to be his "dad".  I'm grateful for the testimony that I have of the truthfulness of this work.
I hope all is well with you!  I hope you have a happy new year!  
Lots of love,
Elder Zack
Merry Christmas from the Crete Mill

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Skype!

Elder Paddock

Paddocks at Home in our new Nebraska gear that Zack sent us.
Mom's post:

We got to Skype with Elder Zack on Christmas for about an hour and 15 minutes.  It was awesome!  I love having my family together for that little bit of time!  Here are some of the highlights of our chat:

He is disappointed that he did not have a white Christmas last year or this year.

Zack is training a new missionary and has also been called to be a District Leader.  He is handling a lot of challenges with those new responsibilities, but is very upbeat about it all.  He told a story about Elder Kummerman's first day out tracting.  They knocked on the door of a crazy Guatemalan man who invited them in.  He spent over 1/2 an hour telling them a crazy story that jumped all over the place and even burst into song at one point.  Then he said, " I'm sorry I didn't get to hear your message, but I've got to go to work now."  So they left wondering what just happened. Elder Kummerman hadn't understood most of it and Zack had been trying not to laugh.  He says you only have crazy stories like that when you are getting trained or are a trainer.  

Meg & I were bantering about something and Mason complained to Zack about being girl-trapped and left alone with the ladies for 2 years.  Zack told him to be tough and hang in there, that he'd be home in just 9 months.  9 months!

He said he likes all the silly things we send him, but when I asked what he would like us to send, he said "more ties".  It sounds like he has about 50 ties with him now, but we could always send more.

Mason asked if he'd be burning something else at the 18 month mark.  He said he was not going to be burning a suit.  He said that his mission president has banned fire from the mission.  No more tie or shirt burning and no candles and no flame throwers made from bug spray.
Elder Paddock & Elder Kummerman

We got to briefly meet Elder Kummerman.  He was very nice.  Then all 4 missionaries that were there came in to sing us "Feliz Navidad".  Zack showed us that he still has his awesome dance moves.
Feliz Navidad

He says he's down about 5 pounds from when he left home, but thinks he's grown taller.  I asked if his pants were getting short, if you could see his socks.  He said he's gotten lots of compliments on his Christmas socks, so maybe it's true. ;)

Overall, he looked good, sounded good, is very focused on the work he is out there to do, but is still the same silly kid that we love.  None of us cried, at least not during our chat.  It was just so good to be together!  Only 130 days or so until we get to talk again on Mother's Day!

Maybe my favorite part was when we had a family prayer together near the end.  Sending Zack out on a mission has been a good experience for all of us.  We are focused more on the gospel and the important part it is in our lives.  We are trying to build each other up and be supportive.  We tell each other how much we love each other and realize how important family is to us all.  I'm so thankful that he chose to go, but I am also very much looking forward to having him back with us next Christmas!  It was so good to see him and hear him and I'm sure he felt the same about us.

I sent a preview of this post for Zack to approve and he said, "Sounds good!  And yep I felt exactly the same way."

Meg & Zack

Monday, December 22, 2014

Being a Proud "Parent"

Merry Christmas from Elder Paddock and Elder Kummerman!

Training is by far the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do but it is also one of the most rewarding.  I have heard its a lot like being a real parent.  I have to teach him how to talk (both in English, like what to say, and in Spanish of how to say it correctly), I have to teach him how to walk (teach him the area, know where to go, how to tract, etc.), and how to take care of himself (like the daily schedule, buying groceries, etc.)  Luckily the last one's pretty easy since he went to college for 2 years in Oregon.   I've never been so tired though.  Constantly watching over someone to make sure they're doing alright and adjusting and are continually progressing takes a lot out of a person.  
But luckily this week's been pretty rewarding.  It's been really cool to teach him something and later that day watch him use it.  
For example, we went to go try to visit a guy named Rene.  We've seen Rene a couple times and this time when we went to try him, a lot of his family was there.  Earlier that morning, Elder Kummerman and I had talked about the very first minutes after we enter a home and how important those are to set up the rest of the visit and how its going to go.  We had talked about the importance of inviting every one in the home to join in the conversation and as we were sitting there with Rene, his mom walked into the room and Elder Kummerman jumped on the opportunity and invited her to join us.  She accecpted and actually ended up participating way more in the lesson than Rene did.   
We've also had many other occasions during knocking or talking to people during service where I see him go over and just start talking to people.  Its been really cool to watch him grow just in one week.  I'm pretty sure this must be what a parent feels like watching their children accomplish things.  Training has been a completely different experience than anything I've had these past 14ish months and I'm thankful for the opportunity.  

On a completely side note, I convinced someone I was from Spain this week!  I've been practicing my accent and he totally believed me for a bit!  When I told him I was kidding and that I was from UT he was really surprised.  I'm probably going to keep having fun with people like that for the rest of my life :)  

Anyways this week was good!  We had a super good Zone Conference focused on our responsibility to talk to everyone.  We talked a lot about the scripture in 3 Nephi 5:13 that says "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."  I know that is true.  That really is our responsibility and I'm grateful for my calling as a full-time missionary. There's no where else I'd rather be.  

I love you and I'm sooooo excited for Thursday when I get to talk to you for a little bit.  I've been counting down the days since October :)

See you soon!  Have a great week!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack
Sis Weston's photo from Zone Conference:
Elders ?, Holman, Garff, Paddock, & Kummerman

Sis Weston's photo from Zone Conference:
Elders Kummerman, ?,?, Garff, Paddock, ?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Transfer of Big Changes

Elder Holman and me
Thursday morning, Elder Holman, Elder Garff, and I were sitting around the table and the phone began to ring.
"Its President...,"said Elder Holman and he threw the phone at me.  The conversation that proceeded went something like this:
"Hello, this is Elder Paddock."
"Elder, its President Weston.  How are you doing?"
"I'm doing well, President.  How are you?"
"I'm well.  Staying obedient?"
"I'm doing my best."
"Will you commit to exact obedience?"
"Elder, the Lord has called you to train.  Do you accept?"
Instantly my heart started beating like drum, and somehow I managed to stammer out,   
 "Yeah, President.  I can do that."
Well in order to cut the rest of the story shorter..... ITS A BOY!  I'm a "Daddy" now.   I'm training Elder Kummerman from Portland, Oregon.  He's 20 years old and has only been a member of the church for about a year and a half.  He's surprisingly fairly half-way decent at Spanish (But he thinks he's better than he actually is, so that's been fun) and he's got a great love for the language and the Hispanic culture.   He's definitely got "Greenie Fire", which means he's so excited to get out and work and teach and share the Gospel.   My goal is to work that as hard as I can and just use it to propel this work forward.  Hopefully both of us can stay humble and patient.  We'll definitely need to.  Should be fun! 
Yo y mi hijo: Elder Kummerman & Elder Paddock

Back to the story though.
10 minutes after talking to President, the Assistants called.  
"Elder Paddock, the Lord and President have called you to be District Leader."
I guess the Lord's got a lot for me to learn this transfer.  I'm excited but nervous about all the new responsibility that I've got now, but I"m excited to be able to serve in new ways.  
In other news, Elder Holman was sent to open up the Columbus Spanish area that's just in the neighboring zone and only about an hour away so we'll get to see him every now and then.  I'll miss that kid like crazy.  He's definitely been my most favorite companion.
Also Elder Garff got sent to Grand Island to be with Elder Hill again and Elder Shipley came to Lincoln and is now part of our district.  It'll be fun to go on exchanges with him in the future.
Overall, I'm doing alright.  Just trying to get used to the new comp and the new responsibilities.  Should be an interesting transfer!  
The Paper I got telling all
my fun responsibilities

Elder Kummerman's paper telling
him he'd be getting me

I love you and I'm excited to see you in 10 days!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack

Monday, December 8, 2014

8 December 2014

The final District Picture of the transfer.
  Elder Paddock is on the left, Elder Garff is sitting, not sure who the photo bomber is,
standing: Elders Lambert, Pearson, ?, Taylor & Zack's companion, Elder Holman, is sitting in front of the podium.  
This week was a pretty good one!  We did so many exchanges!  But I guess that's what happens when the leaders (My companion and the Zone Leaders) decide to put them off until the last two weeks of the Transfer.(Transfers are this week....)  So as much as I don't like Exchanges for a couple reasons, it was good to be able to learn from Elder Pearson and Elder Lambert.  We had some pretty awesome experiences those days too! 
A lot of what happened this week is really not very possible to explain. Maybe in the future I can tell you about it.  Everything that did happen this week pumped me right back up though and even further proved to me that this is the work of the Lord.  Lots of things happened and I'm so happy to be in Crete to see these things.  Is the work moving super fast?  Not really.  But its through small and simple means that great things are brought to pass. 
Here's the update on the things in Crete:
Basically we're having to drop investigators, meaning that they don't really want to talk to us any more, and we're doing it to probably half of the people we talk to.  Chances are that whoever stays this transfer, (its like a 70% chance that Elder Holman leaves and a 29% that I will, and a 1% chance that we'll go another transfer together)  will have a lot of work in re-building the area back to where it once was.  We've gone from teaching around 20 lessons a week to 8 just because no one is ever home or every time we come over they come up with some excuse for why they can't talk to us and then schedule an appointment for later and the cycle starts over.  We're just sorting the Wheat from the Tares I guess.  I'll keep you updated if I stick around. 
GOOD NEWS THOUGH!  Saturday night we went over to visit our friend Kevin, who's a 17 year old High School Senior.  When we got there he said, "come on in guys." and sat down on the couch, but didn't look too happy.  After talking to him for a bit about what's going on, he told us that thinking about college hurts his head and I just laughed because I had told Elder Holman that exact same thing earlier that day.  Kevin said he was nervous about the future and he didn't know what to do.  A scripture came to our minds thats in 2 Nephi 32:3 that says " Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."
And he sat there thinking and we talked about it and we asked him, "So what does that say to you?"
And he sat there thinking again and said, "Well if I want to know what to do, I need to read the scriptures more and do what God wants me to do."  That's exactly right!  God has a plan for each and everyone of us and He tells us what that is through the scriptures.  It was really a cool lesson up until that point, but it got so much cooler when he said, "I'm going to be at church tomorrow!" and his dad said, "And I'm going to take him."   And guess who came walking into the ward right as the Sacrament was about to start!   Kevin and Jose!  Elder Holman and I were sooo happy.  In the 4 1/2 months we've been together, we haven't had anyone Spanish go to church, which was really kind of a bummer, but in come Kevin and Jose and they stayed for the whole first two hours of church!  Kevin said he liked Sunday School and Sacrament meeting so hopefully they'll come next week too!   My whole week was made when I saw them come walking into the Chapel.  Its funny how things like that can make us as missionaries so dang happy.  
I love this work.  
I hope you all had a great week too.  I love you!
Lots of Love, 
Elder Paddock
Their Christmas Tree with 24 days
of Christmas presents from home
for Zack & his companion

Elder Zack wearing his cheesy Christmas socks sent from home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Very Happy Thanksgiving Week

The Pioneer Ward Missionaries (Elders Quayle, Holman, Garff, Peason, Paddock, and Howell) and the Olivers 

This week was awesome!  I loved the whole week!  We've been having LOTS of fun, ate LOTS of food, and have seen LOTS of little miracles.  Let me tell you about each of those highlights.
Lots of Fun
Elder Holman and I have amped up our fight against the cockroaches.  We had noticed that every  time we would try and get close to them to smack them with a shoe, they'd climb into a little hole or a cabinet or something and be lost forever so last P Day we decided to get creative and we bought some PVC pipe and some nerf darts and made blow dart guns to be able to get them at a distance.  Needless to say we're pretty much professional blow dart shooters and the cockroaches don't stand a chance now.  Every night we've been playing games of horse in the living room too where one of us will shoot something across the house and the other person will have to hit it too.  Have I mentioned how I really enjoy serving with Elder Holman?  We've had a good 4 months together and its been lots of fun.
The Cockroach Killer

Lots of Food
Sometimes being a missionary has some pretty good days.  One of those was Thanksgiving.  Don't worry, we didn't starve at all.  We had one dinner at 12 in Seward with the Lieske Family, another in Lincoln at 2 with the Oliver family where we had planned to do service so we even got to eat in not proselyting clothes which was completely fine by me, and then a Hispanic Thanksgiving dinner of Tamales at 6 with Hermana Chairez and her family.  I'm fairly certain that all the weight that I've lost since I got to Crete came back in just one day.  Oh well.  Eating with the Olivers was by far my favorite though.  We ate soooo much food and then in between food and pie we all went and played games downstairs and tried to recuperate before we went off to eat with Hermana Chairez.  
Recuperating from Dinner #2

Lots of Miracles
The biggest miracle of all this week was with Fernando and Veronica.   There we were one morning doing studies and we hear a big knock on our door. They live in the apartment right above ours so they come down and knock our door a lot to ask questions or favors or stuff like that.  We open the door and there stands Fernando with this big, huge smile on his face!  After talking to him for a little bit, he paused for a second, and then said,
 "Oh and Veronica got an answer!  We were sitting there on the couch talking after you guys left that night (See last week's email) and all of a sudden I look over and she's sitting there praying.  I let her finish and all of a sudden she says ' Fernando! He is!'   And I said, 'Who is what?'  'Joseph Smith!  He's a prophet!  I was praying and I asked God and before I even finished asking I felt something say He Is.  He is, Fernando!' "
As Fernando was telling us this he had the biggest smile on his face and you could tell that he'd gotten an answer as well!
It was just another testimony builder to me that when you pray with faith, God gives you the answer.  If people actually do what we invite them to do, the answers come, testimonies are built, and conversion takes place.  Its a really cool thing to be a part of and its one of the many reasons I love being a missionary. 
I'm glad that you all had a great Thanksgiving.  This year as I thought about the many things that I'm grateful for, I realized that this past year the Lord's blessed me with lots of miracles.  I'm grateful for this chance that I have to be a part of this work.  I know its true.  I'm grateful for the blessing that I've had to grow up in the Truth with a family that loves me, cares about me, and has the same eternal goals as I do.  I love you!  I hope you have a great week!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack

Monday, November 24, 2014

Grateful To Be A Part of This Work

This week was really good!  Actually it was really hard... but in the end it was really good!   You could say that I hit a pretty rough patch where Satan was working pretty hard on me... but then the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of two awesome lessons that remind me of why I'm out here. 
#1 Abel
Elder Holman, since he's all big, fancy, and District Leader-y, had a meeting in Omaha that he had to go to for the day, so I got to hang out with the Lincoln Spanish Elders, Elder Garff and Elder Pearson.  They had planned to go and visit a less-active man named Abel and his family.  Apparently a while ago, Abel had asked the Elders not to stop by for a little bit, but after 4 months of waiting, they felt prompted to go back.  WE show up and Abel lets us right in and invites us to sit down.  It was super awkward for a little bit since Abel wasn't saying much and would answer our questions with one word answers like,"si" or "no".  Hard to have a conversation like that.  Elder Garff didn't really know him much and I've never met him so we were asking him questions like "Where are you from?"  or "How long have you been a member of the Church?" when all of a sudden he cut us off and said, "Ok I know what you're really asking.  You want to know why I'm not active in the church."  Elder Garff and I were stunned (Elder Pearson's still pretty new and doesn't understand a lot of Spanish yet so he saw we were shocked and was even more confused).  That was what we were wondering actually!  HE starts telling us the normal excuse of "well I want to go but every time I think about going to church something comes up and I just can't."  We shared with him 1 Nephi 3:7 in the Book of Mormon that says
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for Iknow that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they mayaccomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
Elder Garff bore testimony that God has given us the commandment to come together and to sanctify the Sabbath Day.  He'll always provide a way for us to keep His commandments, we just have to be willing to make sacrifices for the blessings sometimes.  While I was halfway through testifying that what Elder Garff had said was true, Abel cut me off again and said, "This week we have a family thing and we'll be out of town but next week and every week after that I PROMISE you I'll be there.  With the words of a man I promise I will be there. Thank you so much for not giving up on me.  You don't know what this means to me."  
Once again, we were shocked.  The Spirit touched him all of a sudden and he knew what he had to do.  It was powerful and amazing to see and be a part of.  I guess they liked us as people too since they fed us some absolutely amazing Honduran tamales afterwards as well!  We walked away incredibly grateful for the blessing of bringing the Spirit into that home.

#2 Fernando and Veronica
We've been meeting with Fernando for a LONG time and helping him to gain an even stronger testimony than he already had, but his wife has never been interested.  Everytime we've gone over, she's always grabbed the cat and hid in the other room until we left.  A couple of weeks ago however, after teaching Fernando about Priesthood blessings, he requested that we give one to his wife, Veronica, who was about to go in for surgery, and after that she's really been interested. (side note:The surgery went great.  The Priesthood is real).  This week was the first time we met with Fernando and Veronica together.  We listened to President Monson's Oct 2014 talk "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" and were able to talk about Prophets and Priesthood Authority.  After asking a question about where the Prophet lived, we said Salt Lake Utah and pulled out the only picture of Salt Lake that we have: The Temple.  This led into a discussion about temples and families being sealed together for time and all eternity.  That's when Veronica asked what I believe was a very inspired question.  She said, "What do we have to do to have that?"  
"Well the first step towards that would be being baptized." We responded.
"I'd like to be baptized." She replied.
"Me too," said Fernando.
Instant smiles came on Elder Holman's and my faces.  From there on, we told them the steps to get there and we set them for the 3rd of January.  Watching the Spirit work in them and helping them to see their divine potential was an experience I will never forget.  The Spirit's been working on them for a long time and I'm excited to see where this goes.
I love this work.  I love the joy that I receive by diving into service head first.  Are there hard times? You better believe it.  I had one this week.  But the Lord makes every struggle, every doubt, every disappointment totally worth it when He reminds us that He's watching out for us and is completely involved in His work. None of that hard stuff is even comparable to the joy that comes from seeing the Spirit work on people.  I'm so glad I still have as long as I do left in the mission field.  I wouldn't change these opportunities for the world.

I love you all!  I hope you have a fantastic week!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

And have a very happy turkey day!

Also!  Tomorrow the Church is launching a new, Christmas Centered Website.  Since I'll be inviting people all over Crete to check it out, I'd like to invite you as well!  
Check out!  It's supposed to be super cool!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Feeling Enabled to Do Hard Things

Two frozen missionaries: Elder Paddock & Elder Holman
Its begun.... Last Monday the weather decided to become freezing.  Tuesday we woke up and there was snow all over the ground!  I was hoping it wouldn't come for a while but I guess the time has come where we start freezing.  I hope you can have patience with me if the occasional St Georgean comes out of me and I complain about the cold weather.  
The Beginning of the snow.  It snowed 4 more inches after that.

Along with the snow came terrible road conditions in Crete, especially since they do nothing but dump sand on top of the snow in hopes of reducing chances of sliding.  It doesn't work very well.  Our car got "grounded" this week and we weren't able to use it until yesterday which meant we were like little pioneer children and "walked and walked and walked and walked..."   I've come to learn this week that Elder Paddock and ice don't get along.  We'll be walking down a street and a small patch of ice will be hidden under the snow and it'll take me right off my feet.  I fell 7 times just in one day!  Elder Holman gets a pretty good laugh at it, but my body is sore and tired from all the falls.  Especially the one time that we were walking down a hill and I slipped and ended up rolling all the way to the bottom of the hill.  I fell so bad one of those times that I lost the name tag that I've had since the beginning of my mission somewhere in the streets of Crete... hopefully it shows up.  
Despite the terrible weather, we still had a pretty great week!  We had the awesome opportunity to have a Zone Conference with Elder Brent H Neilson of the Quorum of the 70 (Here's a talk of his from Conference a while ago) and it was great!  He came and talked to us a lot about the Enabling Power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is something that we don't think about a lot.  A lot of the time when we think about the Atonement, we think about Jesus Christ suffering and dying for our sins which allows bad people to become good people, which is the Redeeming Power of the Atonement.  The Enabling Power of the Atonement is what allows good people to become better people, working towards perfection.  Its what helps us through hard times, what gives us peace, what pushes us forward.  I've definitely felt the Enabling Power throughout the mission and throughout my life.  Neither life nor the mission is easy, and God knew that when He sent us here, and that's why He gave us Jesus Christ, to help us to have a helping hand through the times that really aren't the greatest (even if that means walking and walking and walking through the snow and falling down every other step).  I know Christ lives,  I know He loves us, and I know that this is His Gospel.  I hope you have a great week!  I love you all!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Doing the Little Things

We decided to take a back country road home from Stake Conference. 
This view right here is EXACTLY what I thought my mission would look like.
  Driving tons of miles on an endless dirt road with
 only one house for every mile of road. 
This week was an interesting one for sure.  The work has started to pick up again this week, thank goodness!  We were only 1 lesson shy of our 20 lesson a week goal.  We're working hard and the Lord is continuing to bless us beyond measure.  

This week was full of little moments that just made me smile.  Those are usually the kind that end up in my journal every night so I thought I'd write home about them as well! 

The first of which happened Monday night when the AP's gave me permission to call the Brisenos!  I hadn't talked to them since I left Sioux City more than 3 months ago!  Hermana Briseno answered the phone and said, "Who is this?"  and I just replied "Elder De Vez en Cuando" and she flipped!  She got so excited and yelled at her husband, "Hey Viejo (Old Man)!  Guess who's on the phone!"  Oh was so great to talk to them and find out they're doing well.  Apparently now they're fully active and have gone to church every Sunday for the past 6 weeks!  She told me, "We're going to keep going to church until God tells us not to"  and I promised her that He would never tell them that.  It was good to talk to my favorite, old, sarcastic Hispanic couple again.  I've missed them a ton.

The next moment was just the other night when, by some kind of miracle, we had a member come down from Seward and another come down from Lincoln and we were able to do what's called "Splits", where one missionary goes with one member  and the other missionary with another.  I've never done those before in the whole year I've been out so it was fun to try something new and be able to do twice the amount of work in one night.  Brother Thompson from the Seward Branch and I were able to go and teach a few of our English investigators and Barbara and it was just another testimony builder to me of how essential the members are in this work.  Brother Thompson was way better at relating to the people than I could ever be since he is a "normal" person with a job, a family, life experiences that I haven't had yet.  There was a connection that he was able to make that will help those people to be able to progress better.    That was a lot of what was talked about during this week's Stake Conference, which Elder Holman, Elder Robinson, Elder Pulver, and I were in charge of translating for the Spanish members  of the Stake.  

This was the first time that I've ever really translated.  I've done a couple testimony meetings in the past, just because that's always when it ended up being my turn to do it, and those aren't too bad, but yesterday, translating full-on 15 mintue talks was something new.  I've decided there's nothing quite as humbling for a US Spanish speaking Missionary as is translating.  I thought I was doing fairly well on Spanish, but when the guy I was translating got up and started talking about Navy Seal Boot Camp and comparing the excercises to the Gospel.... I got lost.  Luckily the Spirit was able to give me some kind of words to say to be able to help the people I was translating for make sense of everything, but I definitely learned that there's still a lot of things in Spanish that I don't know.  I'm thankful for that.  I translated the whole first half hour of the meeting, Elder Holman the second, Elder Robinson the third, and Elder Pulver the fourth.  I highly enjoyed it and I hope they'll give us the opportunity again.

But I think the lessons that were shared about Missionary Work during this Stake Conference were very important.  I really enjoyed one of the one's that I translated for that talked about doing the "little things" and strenghtening our own testimonies before we help others.  The Little Things can usually be summed up using "primary answers" like prayer, scripture study, tithing, going to church, going to the Temple, FHE, etc.  Things that sometimes we don't realize are quite as important as they really are.  I really like the scripture that was shared from Alma 37:6 that says, "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass"  

It's true.  100%.  My invitation to you this week is to think about the "little things" and pick one to work on this week, whether it be scripture reading, or prayer, or going to the temple.  Whatever it may be, I can promise  you that your week will be better.  Will you do that?

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!  

Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy Halloween!

My Halloween Costume: going as Elder Holman
It truly was a happy Halloween!  Transfers were the same day and I'm still in Crete with Elder Holman (Transfer #3), which I'm completely OK with.  Hopefully we can still get some good work going in Crete and get ourselves out of the temporary slope that we're in.  The work's been struggling recently in Crete but we're working on getting it back to where it can be. 

Halloween for us was pretty alright.  We weren't allowed to be out after 6 unless we were with Members, and since all the members were at the Ward Trunk or Treat we went there.  I thought I was so creative and dressed up as Elder Holman, who likewise dressed up as Elder Paddock (He wouldn't cooperate for a picture though, sorry).  After that we went to some other Elder's apartment and roasted Marshmallows and then to Lincoln Spanish's apartment to carve.... a Pineapple.  It would've been a pumpkin, but walmart was sold out and Pineapple sounded really tasty.  

I absolutely loved Daylight Savings yesterday at 5:30 AM when the alarm on my clock went off and I realized I still had an extra hour of sleep... however at 5:30 PM it was already dark, and nobody likes to open their doors when its dark.  For example, we knock the door of one of our investigators and he answers and tells us, "Well the hour moved back so it's darker earlier which means that I get less sleep so I have to go to bed now."  I was under the impression that if you went to bed at 9 and woke up at 5 that that would be 8 hours of sleep no matter what time of year it is.... I guess I'm wrong.   Hopefully we'll be able to find some investigators that think the same way we do and that'll be awake and willing to talk after the sun goes down.
A lot of the lessons we taught this week were taught to people that you would be changed so much by the Gospel.  For example, troublesome teenagers, depressed adults, and people just going through downright hard times.  The amazing thing about the Gospel is that it changes us.  It gives us a new perspective on life, God, ourselves, the world, eternity, etc.  I'm grateful that I've always had the Gospel in my life, that it gives me guidance and helps me know that there is so much more to life than work, food, and sleep.  I'm reminded of the words of Lehi when he's talking to his son Jacob and says, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy."  That's the purpose of this life.  God's given us the way to find joy in this life and ETERNAL joy in the life to come, and that's the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know it changes lives.  I know it enriches lives.  I know it helps us to live our lives to the fullest and be able to really find that true eternal joy.  
I love you all and I hope that your week is very joyful!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
Also Elder Holman and I were able to reach our goal of handing out one Book of Mormon for everyday of the last transfer!  Granted those were maybe 4 a day here and 1 a day there and 0 for a couple days, but that still equaled out to 42 Books of Mormons loaned out with a return appointment during the last 42 days.  We're hoping to be able to see lots of fruit coming from that.

Answers to a bunch of Mom's questions:
No snow yet and hopefully not anytime soon.  We haven't done a lot of walking, but we're probably going to have to.  Yes I have sufficient to eat.  No, no one feeds us.  We're 30 miles from the members willing to do that, but we are going to have a regular Monday night, post P Day meal appointment with a family in Lincoln that I'm pretty excited about.  She cooks similar food to you so its almost like being home.... but not at all.

The new decorations to the Crete Elders' Apartment
"Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Be Thou an Example of the Believers

I don't have a lot to say about this week except that it was great.  We've been working really hard this week to keep the work continually getting better.  We've been trying to use the energy that two baptisms gave us, and I think that its working!  This week we found 5 new investigators!  That's awesome!  
We knocked this one door, and the lady came out and just said "Hola" with a look on her face that told me, "Ha ha I speak Spanish and you can't talk to me," But then we said, "Hola" back and she was so shocked she didn't know what to do.   Quickly she turns around and yells at her husband, "Hurry and put a shirt on so they can come in!!" and she hurries back inside to tidy up a bit. Elder Holman and I just about busted up laughing right there on the doorstep!    They let us in and we had an AMAZING first discussion with them about the Restoration and The Book of Mormon.  We got to the part about Joseph Smith and she said, "I know this story!  He went and prayed and God came to him and gave him an answer.  I love this story!"  Then it was my turn to be the shocked one.  I just sat there thinking, "Well huh....ain't that something great."  I looked over and Elder Holman and it looked like he was thinking the same thing.  They seem really promising and I'm so very excited to continue to teach them.
This week more than anything though I learned about the importance of being a good "example of the believers."   Here in tiny, little Crete, we have very few members.  About 10 to be exact.   Only 2 1/2 are active (One is coming back).  But it seems like everyone we teach knows all the one's who aren't the active ones.  They know they're members of the Church and they see the examples that they give them.  They can see that they're using their agency to not go so its hard to motivate them to "Come and See" like Elder Bednar said in General Conference.  In Timothy it says "be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." I'm thankful for the family and friends in my life that have been just that.  Who've helped me to see the blessings that come from living the Gospel the way that its intended to be lived.  I consider myself pretty blessed to have grown up with such great and faithful parents, family members, friends, and leaders who have shown me the way and have helped me to want to continue along in it.  Thank you all for everything you've done for me personally. I know that you're examples are helping many more people than just me.  I know that as we give people examples of righteousness and truth, that it helps to encourage others to "Come and See" what it is that we strive for.  It helps them to want to find that path that leads to the everlasting happiness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I pray that we may be those "examples of the believers" that the Lord wants us to be and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love you all and I hope you have a great week! 
Elder Zack

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Halfway!

Happy Halfway with Elder Garff and Elder Robinson (Both came from Mexico with me)
There's no way I'm halfway!  I absolutely refuse to accept it!  This past year has gone by WAY too fast for me to accept the fact that its already been a year.  I already know I've grown and changed so much and I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for me in this next year.   I loved the package you guys sent from home!  It was probably the greatest package I could've asked for and I definitely continue to feel all of your love and support from home.  I love you guys!
Burning the shirt. (Dumb Halfway tradition.
  I found a shirt left by an older
missionary and thought, "why not?")

This week was probably the greatest week that I could've asked for to be my halfway week.  The things that happened just in this week described all the ups and downs of missionary work and I absolutely loved it... well maybe not the "downs" (getting dropped by 3 investigators for example) but the ups were pretty darn great!  So I'll just write about a couple of those
Jonathan's doing great!  He's loving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and says that he's already felt the influence of Him a couple times just in this past week! 
We've had a couple miracles in knocking and the Lord has led us right into a couple of people that I'm pretty sure could have some great progression in the future in the Gospel.  I'll keep you updated on them throughout the next little bit. 
And lastly, and most greatly, BARBARA GOT BAPTIZED!  It was probably the most powerful Baptismal service I've ever been to. I'm grateful for the opportunity that I had to baptize her.  Barbara was so prepared.  Every time we taught her something, she accepted it right off the bat and gained her own testimony of it.  I'm excited for the progress that she'll continue to have through being an active member with the Gift of the Holy Ghost playing a role in her life as well.  I love that lady and I'm exceedingly happy for her.  

Barbara's Baptism

Only problem... now that both Jon and Barbara are baptized, we're back at square one.  We've been working really hard with those two and we weren't thinking that we'd have any progressing investigators at the end of this week.  But the Lord does provide.  A Less Active who hasn't been to church in probably 8 Months walked into Sacrament Meeting bringing with him two of our investigators (One of those being his daughter).  Our area is having a lot of success and we're just happy to be a part of it.  Our goal is to get the Spanish part of our area just as successful as the English part.  Wish us luck!
Also this week we moved to a much nicer apartment with a lot fewer cockroaches AND we had the opportunity to take a tour of Nebraska's pride and glory, AKA the Husker Memorial Stadium.  

The beautiful trail we ran this morning.

(Be sure to click on this one)
We thought the billboard was  funny so we took a picture.

Its been a great week!  Lots of fun and lots of experiences with the Spirit.  I know this is the Lord's work.
I love you all! 
Elder Zack

Pieces of our other emails:

New Apartment is great.  The first few days there were still cockroaches but we're down to killing only two or three a day now.  The only problem is that these ones are twice the size as the old ones.  

I sent President Weston an email last week about how Jon got baptized and how Barbara was about to be and this is what he sent in reply.  Needless to say Elder Holman and I are smiling right now.

President Weston

Who said Crete cant baptize? Hard work has paid off, and more sure to come! Doing well keep it up! Love, President Weston

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing the Blessings

Elder Holman, Jonathan, and Elder Paddock
Jonathan, Bro Harris, and us

IT HAPPENED!  Saturday afternoon, Jonathan stepped into the waters of baptism and came out a new and happier man.  I've never seen a smile that big in my entire life.There came a point in the time that we were teaching him that we weren't sure if he was going to go through with it or not, but the Lord strengthened him and showed him that he knew it was right.  
There's been lots of things that have shown us this week that the Lord is involved highly with the work that we're doing in Crete.  We do all we can and then the Lord takes over the rest.  The work in Crete is picking up like I've never seen before.  We're teaching close to 20 lessons a week, which is the mission goal (Neither Elder Holman nor I have ever been able to hit that yet, but we're pretty determined to this week).  Things have just been picking up pace in Crete like I've never seen in my mission yet.  We just keep finding people and talking to people and we're having contact with people  like I've never before seen in this past year.  The Lord is definitely involved in His work.  I'm just excited for the next year that I have to work even harder. 
Sorry I don't have much to say this week.  Just know we're happy, having fun, working hard, and seeing lots of blessings.  I love you all!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
The war (with the cockroaches) is over..... but maybe that's just because we're retreating.... We're moving this week! 

I've been collecting little flags of the countries from the
which I've taught people from.
 I can't find any for Cuba or la Republica Dominicana!
Proof that Elder Holman and I can feed ourselves just fine :)

The AMAZING Nebraskan Sunsets from this week