Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Breaking stuff for kicks and giggles.

Hi there!  This week was great!  Some really cool stuff happened and I've learned a lot so I'm just going to do a little bit about a couple of stuff

#1 The sad part of the Week.
We lost Martha.  Ok technically we didn't lose her.... she just left the country.  She was my most favorite person to teach, so accepting of the Gospel, so ready to learn, and SOOOO close to being baptized.  Saying "We'll see you later" to her was hard.  She won't be coming back until August and there's a pretty large chance I won't be here when she gets back.  There's a happy note to this story though: She lives across the street from an LDS church in Mexico!!  That's a HUGE miracle!  Chances are she'll get baptized there but if she doesn't Elder Shipley will probably still be here for when she gets back.

Us and Martha

#2 The Destructive Part of the week.
Hermano Ignacio Bustamante called us the other day and asked us if we could come help him tear down his brick garage that he had in his backyard.  Because we're missionaries and representatives of the Lord we said yes because we like serving others.  Because we're 18-21 year old young men we said yes because we like breaking stuff for kicks and giggles and swinging sledge hammers at brick walls would definitely fill that desire.  7 hours into the project we finally had all 3 walls and the ceiling torn down and mostly cleaned up.  The next day we couldn't even lift our arms above our heads.  Easily the most fun service that we've done yet.  If you've got any service like that coming up, call the missionaries.  They'll love you forever.  

Beginning of Project

During Project

#3 The Family Part of the week.
We had Zone Conference this week and the whole focus of these next few months in our mission is The Family.  I'm so thankful for the family that I've been given, that I was raised in the true church, and that I'm sealed to those crazy people for time and all eternity.  There's nothing else I'd want more. I'm grateful for the church's big focus on Families and how the Family is the center of everything.  Since its something that we'll be teaching a lot more often coming up, I invite you all to read The Family: A Proclamation to the World which is basically the Church's beliefs about the Family.  I've already provided the link, just click on it :)

I love you all!  I hope you're week is great! 
Elder Zack

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sticking it out in "The Promised Land"

Sioux City District last Transfer (Only Sister Gomez (front left) was transferred)
I'M STILL HERE IN SIOUX CITY!!  Holy cow I feel so blessed to still be here.  The days before transfers I was worrying pretty bad that it'd be my turn to be transferred out of "The Promised Land" of the Nebraska
Omaha Mission but prayers are answered and I get to still be here for at least 6 more weeks.  Also I'm still with Elder Shipley!  I'm pretty excited to get to work with this kid for a little while longer.  The growth that both of us have had during the past 6 weeks is amazing. Both of our Spanish has increased a TON and our testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ have never been stronger.  I'm thankful that the Lord has blessed me enough to work with Elder Shipley a little while longer.  I know that there's still a lot I can learn from him and I'm excited to figure out what it is.
Me and the poor guy that's stuck with me 24/7
I'm also very blessed to be able to work with these investigators and members for a little while longer.  Some of these people I've been teaching since my very first transfer here.  I feel such a love for them its ridiculous.  These people have become like family to me over the past 6 months that I've been here.   They feed us, take care of us when we're sick, celebrate our birthdays with us, come to lessons with us or allow us into their houses to share a message about the true Gospel that we love, and they feed us!

Let me tell you about the great lesson that we had last night.

Last night we went and visited Jose again.  This lesson made all the stress of Transfers, all the hard times, all the other stuff that happened this week totally worth it.  When I think of anything awesome that happened this week, I just think of him. Let me explain the 3 reasons why this was such a great lesson.

1) Lately Jose has been arguing with us a lot because of some confusion that he's been having with some certain requirements for baptism (He's on Probation until January and therefore has to wait) but there was no arguing last night!  He just sat, listened, and soaked it all up and learned.

2) Hermano Zobell, one of our favorite members came with us and was able to share his testimony multiple times throughout the lesson, which only helped to enhance the Spirit that was there with us.  He wasn't only occasionally adding a testimony like a lot of members do but he was teaching and asking questions.  It was awesome!

and 3) The most important reason.  Jose truly came to know more of what his Savior, Jesus Christ did for him.  Almost everyone that we talk to knows that Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins, but he did so much more than that as well!  In Alma 7:11-12 it says:

 11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Notice how it doesn't even say "sins" once in there?  He did so much more than that.  He suffered all of our pains, afflictions, temptations, struggles, sicknesses, doubts, hard times, and so much more so that he could know how to make it easier for us.  He knows our problems better than we do.  All we have to do is turn to him.   Trust in his Atonement and it will carry you.   I've seen that so much just during my mission.  Jose saw that last night and even said, "He really does know me, huh?"  to which we bore testimony that he does.

I love these people.  I love seeing the progress that they are having as they come closer and closer to their Savior Jesus Christ.  I love my Savior.  He knows each and every one of us.  Of this I bear testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love you.  Thank you for being the best "Support Team" a missionary could ask for.  I hope you have a great week!

 Elder Paddock

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Miracle After Miracle

Me and Part of our area

Elder Shipley and Part of our area
Hey there!
This week was full of amazing events that climaxed with being able to Skype home!  I'm so grateful for our inspired mission leaders and their advice to us to help us improve the work here in NOM.
This week at Zone Training, every single training was focused on being humble and having the faith to receive miracles.  They left us with a Zone Commitment to plan for, look for, and keep track of the miracles
that we see every single day.  Today I want to tell you about a few.

#1 Jaime and Araceli
Araceli is a SUPER less active that was baptized when she was 8 in Mexico and hasn't really come to church since, even though she reads the Book of Mormon and has Visiting Teachers and all that good stuff.
Her new husband, Jaime (pronounced Hi-May) is a catholic born and raised and for that reason its very hard for him to accept some of the stuff we invite him to do.  This week we planned for the miracle of
him to be more accepting of the stuff we say and really want more.  Our lesson with him was AMAZING.  Going in to a lesson with miracles planned and expected is a great feeling and it helps so much.  During
the lesson about the Plan of Salvation, he really opened up about how he's Catholic, how he doesn't really know how he can be sure, and about how he thinks there's no way he would change.  Then Elder Shipley shared part of his conversion story and his testimony.  The Spirit poured down on that room so heavily there was no way to deny it.   Feeling prompted, I looked at Jaime and said, "You feel that don't you?  Like something in your chest?" "Yeah," he said, "like something different." Elder Shipley and I bore witness and testimony that that was the Holy Ghost testifying of the things that we say that they're true.   There was no way he could deny it.  At the end of the lesson, he wanted to really learn more and read the Book of Mormon.

Emma's baptism with almost all the missionaries who've taught her
(Minus Elder Juan because he's 5 hours away)
#2 Emma
The highlight of my week (besides Skyping home).  I've seen Emma since the very beginning.  Elder Juan and I were the first ones to really teach her, but noticing that her and her husband, Jose, have very different Spiritual needs, we gave her to the Hermanas while we continued teaching Jose and focusing on him.  Emma has always been very acceptive and ready to learn.  She's put the things she's been taught by us and the Hermanas into practice, taking step by step in the true path until her baptism.  The Miracle that happened this week was truly a miracle indeed.  Thursday night at our appointment with Jose, they told us that Friday Morning they would be heading to New Mexico.  Emma was scheduled to be baptized on Saturday.  Jose was going down there for business (to sell 4 cars that he'd fixed up) and Emma to go for her family that all live down there.  That night Elder Shipley and I prayed harder than we have before that those cars would not be ready.  That they'd be broke and they couldn't be sold.  Friday Morning Jose calls us to see if we can come help him fix one of the cars that wasn't working right.   Little did he know that we know
nothing about fixing motors or carborators or whatever the heck that thing was called.  Needless to say we just stared at that thing all wondering what to do with it for an hour and then ate burritos and called it a day.  Prayers are answered!  (tiny happy miracle in there where we got free food too :) ) Saturday Morning, Emma entered into a covenant with her Heavenly Father as she was baptized.  Sunday Afternoon, she was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.   Emma is amazing.  I love her and her family so much and I'm so excited for this amazing step that she's taken.  I know she'll be an amazing example to her husband and her kids and she endures to the end and keeps keeping the commandments of God and letting the Holy Ghost guide her. I can't wait to see what will happen to their family in the next few months.

Funny Little Miracle #3 Hermana Ramirez
We get a call early Friday Morning from Hermana Ramirez saying, "Elders come quick!  I need to move something and (phone goes staticy) and I'm scared!  Please come quick!"  So being the incredibly heroic
Elders that we are we hurried over to her house to help her with whatever it was.  We get there and she says, "Oh good, you're here! Can you go get the mattress from the basement for me?"  Elder Shipley looks at me with a look that says "We seriously came for this?"  so I asked her, "Hermana, why are you scared of a mattress?"  and in a quiet, scared, slightly ashamed voice she says, "...there's a bat in the basement and I don't know where it is."    So after trapping the bat, moving the mattress, and saving the day, she bought us lunch :) Free food is always a tiny little miracle for hungry Elders.

Three crazy yahoos that I love
Thats all for this week!  Skyping you yesterday was amazing!  I love you.  You really are the best support I ever could ask for.  Thank you for everything you do for me.
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Skype (written by Mom)

We got to Skype with Elder Zack on Mother's Day for about an hour.  It was so great to see his face and hear his voice, and just to be together as a family for a little bit!  We laughed and teased each other and had a great time being together.  Nobody cried.

Here are some tidbits that I remember from our conversation:

He told us more of the story of the snake that the other Elders left in their apartment.  He said they came home and found it in a Tupperware container on Zack's bed.  He thought that they had left them some cookies and opened it to find a snake!  They then went to the other Elders apartment and left the snake in their microwave and the open container somewhere in their apartment.

He said that the Tyson chicken factory is in Sioux City and they have thousands of employees.  Many of them speak Spanish, so there is a lot of work for the Spanish missionaries there.  There are 4 Spanish speaking Elders and 2 Spanish speaking Sisters in Sioux City.  There are also 4 English speaking Elders and 6 English speaking Sisters. He said they could use some Hmong missionaries.  They have transfers this week but he thinks he'll be staying where he is.

He said he is very busy with the work of spreading the gospel.  He likes being busy.  He said that he & Elder Shipley get up early and exercise.  They found a stadium where they run stairs.  They have lots of appointments and they also knock on a lot of doors.  He says they are getting pretty good at picking out the Spanish homes.  He said that they've had their own car since January, before that they were sharing with the other Elders.

He said that the Spanish Branch only has about 30 people attending on Sundays.  He said that the youth combine with the Sioux City 2nd Ward for Mutual activities and that they invite that ward to all the Branch activities.

Meg asked him to say something in Spanish.  He told her to say something in English.  Later we asked him to bare his testimony in Spanish.  He didn't hesitate at all.  He seems very fluent.  He bore a beautiful heartfelt testimony.

He said it's getting warm there.  90 degrees and 90% humidity.

He said his eyes have been bugging him and his back is out of whack. We sent his glasses at Easter, but even with them his vision is fuzzy.  He said he needs to see an eye doctor and a chiropractor.  We told him to please do that.  We want him to feel good.  The mission office called on Monday to ask for some info before his eye appointment that afternoon.  I'm glad he made an appointment right away.

He said that the Sister who sorts the mail at the mission office said that he is one of the missionaries who gets the most mail.  Thank you to everyone who writes to him!  It means a lot to him.  He loves getting all the news from home.

He seems so happy to be where he is, serving the Lord.  He always sounds happy in his emails, but it's nice to see it in his face when he talks.

We loved talking with Elder Zack!  I may start counting down 'til Christmas!

Thanks to everyone who writes to him and prays for him.  We really appreciate all the love and support he is getting!


Monday, May 5, 2014

A Week of Great News

Vaaaaaaaca Santa (Hooooooooooly Cow) this was a good week!  We've had so much good news come to us in the 7 days that I really can't stop smiling.  Let me tell you about how awesome this week was.

Wednesday we had interviews with President Weston.  Basically what goes down in these is that President asks how we're doing, how's our companion, how's the area, is there any thing we think we can work on,
and then he opens it up for any questions that we have.  I came prepared this time and was just asking him question after question trying to figure out in which ways I can improve as a servant of the Lord.  He's so great.  He answered every question I had and after the interview I felt like a million bucks and was ready to hit the streets again.   He just talked to me about the ways our area can improve, how I shouldn't ever doubt myself, and how if I really want to help Elder Shipley improve is just to love him more.  Since interviews the work here has boosted and I know that as we take the advice of our inspired leaders who have been called of God that this work will Hasten like it should be.

Now I've got news about two of the people we've been teaching.  One scared me to death for a moment and the other brought me exceeding joy.  Let me explain.  So Martha is awesome.  I've already established that I think.  This week as she was feeding us some AMAZING floutas (kind of like tacos), she was telling us all about their trip to Mexico that they're taking this Summer.  It sounds like lots of fun!  Beaches, relaxing, having fun with family, all that good stuff.  She even invited us to go with them!  (which sadly, we can not...) However she didn't tell us that they'd be leaving on the 26th of May.....and they're not coming back until August.... My heart dropped.  I won't be here in August.  We only stay, at most, in an area for 9 months, not 10.  We've worked so
hard with her and she's progressing so well.  But then we got a revelation, checked the phone calendar, and realized that if she came to church the 4th, the 11th, and the 18th, she could be baptized on the 24th, confirmed on the 25th, and leave to Mexico with the Holy Ghost as a constant companion on the 26th!  All of it just depended on if she came to church this weekend or not.  I'll get to that in a moment.

Other Great news involves Emma, Jose's Wife!   Elder Juan and I used to be teaching the two of them together but realized that they have VERY different needs and that as we taught them together, we only were able to focus on Jose's questions and needs and not her's, thus we gave her to the Hermana's a few months ago, AND GUESS WHAT!!! SHE'S GETTING BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY!!!  I've never been so excited about a baptism.  I feel like we've played even a little part in her conversion.  Elder Shipley (as the DL) interviewed her for baptism on Friday and she passed with flying colors.  She chose him to baptize her and chose me for the honor of confirming her.  She'll be baptized on Saturday, confirmed on Sunday, and then Sunday night I can Skype you and tell you all about it!  Neat, right?!  I'm so happy for her and I can't even explain all the nifty feelings that I get when I think about it.
Celebrating after Emma's Baptism Interview
Last cool thing of the week.  We had Stake Conference yesterday where 2 General Authorities of the Church came to call a new Stake Presidency and speak to us.  It was AMAZING!  They spoke all about the Hastening of the Work.  Missionary Work is not just for the missionaries as a lot of people may think.   Its for all of us, and I testify that as the members work together with the missionaries that more souls will come unto Christ than by any other means.  I challenge all of you to not only pray about the missionaries in your area by
name, but also pray to find ways that you can help them personally in this Work.  This Work is for all of us and I promise you that as you get involved that you will find more joy than you have ever had in your life.

I love you all and I hope you have a very fantastic week.  Can't wait to see you on Sunday!

Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Bonus bit from his email to me today:
Feliz Cinco de Mayo a ti tambien!  I totally forgot about Cinco de Mayo until I read that so thank you for the reminder.  As far as I know, no, we don't have any plans since we've been so busy running around spreading the Gospel.  Heck, I think I'm making Spaghetti tonight.... shoot we're so white.  We'll just call it Espageti like all the hispanics do and call it good :)
Bonus little email: Funny Quick Story
This week I went on a quick exchange with an English Elder named Elder Wilson while they were here for stake Conference and took him to meet the crazy old Mexican family, The Brisenos.  He knows ZERO spanish, like he didn't even learn any in school or anything, and the Brisenos know ZERO English.  The whole night we taught the Brisenos easy english words like colors and stuff and taught him Spanish words along
those same lines.  That night Elder Wilson and his companion Elder Hansen stayed at our house and in the middle of the night, Elder Wilson woke us up because he was talking in his sleep....IN SPANISH!  He was just saying random Spanish words that he must have heard throughout the day!  Crazy, right?  He didn't remember any of his dream the next day, but all three of us heard him speak in Spanish.