Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Love your enemies..."

Hey there! The work here is going strong.  Every week I feel myself becoming a more effective tool in the Lord's hands.  This week was especially good.  I learned a lot about focus and love for the people.  It was a hard lesson to learn but I'm glad I did.  I'll get to that in a minute.

First off, I've finally learned I hate dreaming about home.   I started to get feelings of homesickness again so I started praying to have dreams about the work instead.  Every night is different.  For some reason, every night I have a different investigator show up in my dream... and every time they're wearing their white Baptismal clothing :)  Some great things are about to happen here in Sioux City, I just know it.  

I had the AWESOME opportunity to go on exchanges with our ZL's this week. Elder Cabezas and I went around and visited some of our potentials and were able to teach two really awesome lessons.  He's a really smart missionary. He really taught me a lot about teaching people, not lessons.  The lessons we had that night were powerful.  One such lesson was with one of our investiagators named Genie.  Her mom and sister are both members but she just has doubts and questions and thinks we're weird.  We came over and she came in and sat down and just started firing questions at us.  We, along with her mom and sister, were able to answer all her questions, teach her, and testify with conviction and with the Spirit.  So many of her questions came up.  When we talked about her prayers/reading the Book of Mormon she said she hadn't done either.  When we asked her why, she said, "I don't do it because I'm afraid of the answer I'll get."  She already knows its true!  She just doesn't want to admit it.  In the end she sat back and said, "ok.  I'll read."  Elder Cabezas and I walked away with giant smiles on our faces.  
My biggest lesson this week was yesterday.  Lately I've really been struggling to love one of our investigators.  Everytime we go there he ends up making fun of me for my baptism or my spanish or anything in between.  It just ends up leaving me frustrated for some reason.  Yesterday I was frustrated with it and I was almost tempted to tell Elder Juan we should just call and cancel our appointment... but then I read Matthew 5:44-45 which says, 

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

Don't you love when the Scriptures smack you upside the head  and tell you to stop being stupid.  I know I sure do :)   Immediately I said a quick little prayer, asking for my Heavenly Father to help me love this man that makes me frustrated.  I didn't feel any different until we walked in his door and saw him.  I immediately felt this genuine love for him and a desire for his spiritual well being.  I couldn't help but picture him in a white baptism jumpsuit and I just smiled.  Our lesson with him and his wife yesterday ended up being our best, most productive lesson with him.  

 I'm so thankful for the opportunity I have to serve and love these people here.  This really is a labor of love.  If we don't love them, we can't help them.  I thankful for the people the Lord has placed in our way for us to help.  I pray everyday that we can be able to say something to them to help them come unto Christ and want more than what they have.  I know the Gospel can fill anyone's spiritual hunger if they give it a chance and seek the truth.  and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Last thing.  I ate seafood yesterday.  Lots of it.  We ate this catfish, octopus, clam, crab soup..... it wasn't awful.  
Here's a picture of the fish's head :)  I thought you might want to see what I ate this week :)

Love you!  Have a great week!

Mucho amor,
Elder Zack

OH!  Actual last thing.  I want something from you :)  Its kind of a homework really.   Write down the moments you knew the Church was true and your testimony.  Copy it and keep the original, put it in your journal or something, and then send me a copy :)  I'll do it too and put it in the mail this week some time. If you don't know yet, find out.  Read the Book of Mormon and pray sincerely to know.  I promise you you'll know.   Love you and hope to hear from you soon!
(This challenge is for everyone, not just my family)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 17 Points of the True Church

Part of a letter we got in the mail from Elder Zack (postmarked 15 Jan 2014):

The REAL reason that I'm writing this letter is because I've found something cool that I want to share with you but don't have time to type it.  Its pretty much proof, from the Bible, that this is the true church on the Earth today.  (You should post this part on the blog :) )  I think its by Wilford Woodruff...

The 17 Points of the True Church
1. Christ organized the church.  Eph 4:11-14
2. The true church must bear Christ's name.  Eph 5:23
3. The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets.  Eph 2:19-20
4. The true church must have the same organization as Christ's church.  Eph 4:11-14
5. The true church must claim divine authority.  Heb 5:4-10
6. The true church must have no paid ministry.  Isaiah 45:13 , 1 Peter 5:2
7.  The true church must baptize by immersion. Matthew 3:13-16
8. The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  Acts 8:14-17
9. The true church must practice divine healing.  Mark 3:14-15
10. The true church must teach that God and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct beings.  John 17:11, John 20:17
11. The true church must teach that God and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone.  Luke 24:36-39,     Acts 1:9-11
12. The officers must be called of God.  Heb 5:4, Exodus 28:1, Exodus 40:13-16
13. The church must claim revelation from God. Amos 3:7
14. The true church must be a missionary church. Matt 28:19-20
15. The true church must be a restored church.  Acts 3:19-22
16. The true church must practice baptism for the dead.  1 Cor 15:16 & 29
17.  By their fruits ye shall know them.  Matt 7:20, Galatians 5:22-23

Why are these things important?  Hebrews 13:8

I testify that God has once again restored the true church of Jesus Christ upon the earth.  I testify that this church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I testify that we have a true, living prophet named Thomas S Monson who has been called by God to lead and guide His church.  I know that the Priesthood authority to act in God's name was lost for a time, but through the prophet Joseph Smith it was restored again by our loving Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.  I know the evidence of ALL of these things is in the Book of Mormon, because if that book is true, then we have a prophet today and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church upon the earth today.   I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I know you can too by reading it, pondering the message it contains, and then asking God, in the name of Jesus Christ if they are true.  I promise you that ANY man or woman who does this will know, by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true, that Joseph Smith was, in fact, a Prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God's kingdom upon the earth in these latter-days.  I challenge you all to read just a little bit of the Book of Mormon, maybe just the introduction, and they pray about it.  And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Almost Christian Soldiers"?

Hey there!  Can you believe I've already been out 3 months?!  I sure can't.  It's going by way too fast.  I keep having dreams about the day I come home in 2 years.  If any of them are even close to what's going to happen in reality, I'm going to be a super awkward RM.  I hope you're ready for that in 21ish months.  
This week the work has been pretty slow.  Almost every single appointment we had cancelled on us.  Luckily none of our food appointments cancelled on us so we're still getting fed really well (and my weight may be starting to show that...) 

This week the weather took a turn for the weird.  One day it was perfect.  Sunny, warm, and calm... and the next day we had Hurricane speed winds of 65+ mph and blinding snow.   Lucky enough for us, we didn't have a car that day!  We walked roughly 84 blocks in this weather (we counted so we could brag later :)) knocking doors, trying Potentials, and freezing.  It definitely helped having a little goofy, Guatemalan companion with me the whole time.  He kept pretending to be a weather man, singing songs, and cracking jokes as we trudged through the hurricane.  He's so weird but I love the guy.  One time I was listening to him sing and I was a little confused by what he was saying so I asked what in the world he was singing.  
"My favorite hymn!"
"Which is...?"
"Almost Christian Soldiers!  Duh!"
I just about died.  I was laughing so hard and ended up sucking it a lot of the falling snow.  It took him a while to figure out it was "Onward Christian Soldiers" and not "Almost."    Elder Harrison says we're going to make a band called "Almost Christian Soldiers" two years from now :)
Also the members think its so funny how white I am.  Everytime its cold my cheeks and nose turn bright red so now instead of asking each other if its cold outside they just ask if Elder Paddock is red.  The answer is always yes and then they bust up.  I love hispanics :)

Two other things happened this week that were noteworthy.  
1) I gave my first Spanish Priesthood Blessing.  A lady in our ward was sick and so we offered her a blessing of healing and comfort which she gladly accepted.  Apparently she didn't really understand the Priesthood though because when we asked her who she wanted to do it, she pointed at the Sister Missionaries.... After we explained that only the men in the church hold the priesthood, Elder Cabezas and I were her second choice.  I was scared out of my butt.  (Is that a term in Utah?)  I've only given a few blessings in English so giving one in Spanish was a little intimidating.  The Spirit was guiding my thoughts and words though.  Everything just seemed to flow.  It was really a cool experience.  The next day she told us she was feeling 10X better!   I love the Priesthood.  I happy I live worthy to hold such an awesome power.
2nd experience)  I got attacked for the first time.  Not physically but mentally, don't worry.  We were teaching one of our investigators about Baptism and he started asking us at what age we were baptized.  Elder Juan's only been a member for 4 years so he was baptized when he was 17 (in some river near Manti!  Cool right?).  When I told him I was baptized when I was 8, he flipped.  He started telling me about how wrong that was.  How its a promise with God and I was just forced into it by my parents without knowing what I was doing.   I'll admit I got a little frustrated. Usually when people attack us, they're really just attacking the church, but this was a little different.   I'm glad I was baptized when I was.  I'm glad that I've grown up in the true church, with the true doctrine.  Nothing, not even a confused and angry man, can tear me away from my testimony of this Gospel.  The only thing that our investigator really needs to figure out for himself is if Joseph Smith really was, in reality, a prophet of God.  If he was, then he did, in reality, receive revelation and that 8 years of age is the age when we start becoming accountable for ourselves.   It was an interesting night.  I'm really excited to visit him this week and talk with him some more.

Thanks for everything you do for me.  I love you more than you can know.

Lots of Love,
Elder Zack  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Esta Bien Frio!

Hi!  This week's been really really good!  Our numbers may have been small as far as lessons taught or anything but the people we do teach are so great!  I'm just going to jump right in, so here we go!
First things first: I don't understand Cubans.  I can carry on a conversation with pretty much any hispanic except the people from Cuba.  Even people who speak spanish as their native language can't understand Cubans half the time!  They drop off important parts of the words and talk funny and I usually end up lost.  Elder Juan usually takes the lead in those conversations because he gets lost just a little less than I do. 

Guess what!  I crossed something off my bucket list this week.  I literally walked an old lady across the street arm-in-arm!  Pretty much one of the highlights of my week.  She flat out rejected talking to us about the Gospel but was exceedingly grateful for our  "youthful serviceableness".  I'm not sure that's a word but I was grateful for the compliment!

We met with Martha again!  We walked in, sat down, started just talking a normal conversation and she said, "OK.  I'm ready.  Teach me something."  She's so great :)  We were babysitting another Elder for the day while he was waiting for his new Companion to come from Transfers (I'm staying in Sioux City for at least another 6 weeks by the way) and he was just floored by how much she wanted to learn.  I'm so excited for her.

Another AWESOME family of investigators that we've found is Jose and Emma.  One day we were looking through papers of Past Investigators that the missionaries stopped visiting for one reason or another and saw Sister Walker from the 1st Ward as a Fellowshipper.  So we called her and she said, "Oh them!  Yeah they don't want to talk to you.... but I have a really really good friend who might!"  So we went over, knocked on their house, they let us in, and now we're teaching them multiple times a week with Sister Walker coming with us!  Our lessons are really entertaining though because Jose doesn't speak hardly any English and Emma speaks both so we just teach them in Spanish and Sister Walker just sits there confused until I tell her what's going on in English and she'll bear an awesome testimony.  I think its funny that she has no idea whats going on and then she'll bear an amazing testimony that ties it all together.  The Spirit speaks all languages so she just trusts in that and miracles happen.  Jose is awesome!  He reads all the assignments from the Book of Mormon that we leave him and asks lots of questions... but he asks them to us, not our loving Heavenly Father who's just waiting to give him the answer.  Emma is just the opposite.  She prays to know if these things are true... but she doesn't read the Book of Mormon.  The two HAVE to go hand-in-hand.  That's the only way someone can know if its true.  If anyone reads the Book of Mormon, even if its just a page or two, and prays to know if its true or not, they'll know. 
Are lessons with them are our most effective lessons.  Its not because my Spanish is on fire during our time with them.  Its not because we're great teachers with perfect wisdom.  Its because their friend Sister Walker loved them enough to introduce us to them and bring them the Gospel thats brought so much happiness and peace to her and her family's lives. 

I love you all so much!  I hope you have a good week!  

Lots of love, 
Elder Paddock

PS My companion speaks to Squirrels.....
PPS As to the title: that's what the hispanics say when its cold outside.  It literally translates to "Its good cold."  I got a kick out of it when I first heard it and now we say it all the time :)

From Zack's letter to Mom:
Knocking doors is easy.  There's weirdies and druggies and drunks and just your average ornery old man, but each one of them is a Child of God.  When I remember that, there's no reason to be afraid. 

 Winter here's not too bad. I'm used to the cold. We played soccer when it was -2 last week.  My knee got really angry about that but I got a blessing and some ibuprofen and now I'm fine.  

Guess what!  I've been taught my whole life to follow the prophet and guess what!  They went camping. (1 Nephi 2:4.)  Thanks for keeping on the straight and narrow :)  

Monday, January 6, 2014

First Transfer Done Already?

Hey there!  Happy New Year!  This week's been a pretty good one!  As far as what we did on New Year's Eve... nothing.  Mission rules never change so we were in bed at 10:30 and slept right through the New Year.  Super exciting, right?  Also all the snow was melted on Christmas but I did get a White New Years!  That's a thing, right?  
Speaking of snow, the weather here's been crazy!  It got so cold yesterday (-16 but with wind chill -50) that they cancelled church!  I'd never even heard of that happening!  It's crazy out here in Iowa but its great!  Plus my body is used to the cold now.  When its above 0, it feels like a great day outside :)
What's really crazy is that I've already finished my first transfer (6weeks) in the field!  The time is flying!

We've had a few great experiences this week that I'd love to share with you!  

First off, Walter:  Elder Juan's back's been feeling a lot better so we've been back to work this week, and one day, we both felt like we should go and visit a Past Investigator and see if they might be interested in talking to us again.  So we go there, knock on the door... no answer.  We were a little confused.  We both felt like we should go visit her but she wasn't even there.  Then something President Weston said came into my mind.  He said, "Sometimes you'll receive promptings to go visit someone and they won't be there.  Maybe that means really you should talk to the guy you pass on the street getting there or to one of their neighbors.  There's someone everywhere who's been prepared by God for His message."  I knew this was the case this time.  I could feel it so strongly.  And while Elder Juan just wanted to go back to the car to try someone else, I knew we had to knock on one house, and especially the house in front of our car. So we did.  And guess what!  No one was home there either.... but we could hear a hispanic man talking to his baby in the apartment next door!  So we knocked it and the guy let us in and sat down and talked to us!  His name is Walter.  He really likes how the Gospel is centered on Families, especially since he's got a 2 year old and a 10 month old daughters.  He said he'd start reading the Book of Mormon right away and talk with us again tomorrow! We're pretty excited to go see him. 

Second Experience, Martha!  She didn't have a whole lot of time when we went to go visit her again but it was still such a great visit!  She's so great!  She said since we last saw her, she and her son have both been reading the Book of Mormon and praying!  It was soo great!  Then she started telling us about all the service she does because she knows that God likes it when we show love to His children.  She's so great.  I walked out of that house with the biggest smile on my face just because of how prepared she is for the Gospel :)

Last experience is named Luiz Nefi.  Our branch President suggested us to go visit him.  He served a mission in Pocatello Idaho a few years ago but since then, they haven't really seen him at church.  We went and visited him and talked to him about his mission and what he learned.  He acts like his mission was just a good mentally challenging learning experience.  How in the world is that possible?!  While, yes, that is true, I've only been out for two, almost three months and my testimony gets stronger every day!  I've already been changed by my mission and I can't even imagine how I'll be after 21 more months!  Talking with him really helped me to see the difference between an Ex-missionary and a Return Missionary.  I plan to be the latter.  

Anyways, besides the freezing cold, and cancelled church, this week's been a great one!  I really love it out here.  Thank you for all your love and support!  Until next week,

Lots of love,

Elder Zack

PS I'm 95% sure I've grown since I left home.  I can easily grab the rim with one hand on a 10' basketball hoop now :)  

PPS I'm sorry I've got no pictures this time... I'll try to do better this week!  For now, here's the sunset from the other night!