Monday, June 23, 2014

Welcome to Tornado Season

The tornadoes (not from my camera so don't worry)

This week has been a week to remember.  Monday Afternoon as we were having our P Day games at the church, the tornado sirens started going off and we took cover at the ZL's house.  We ended up staying there for the rest of the day and overnight since it wasn't safe to go outside.  We came to find out that not one, but two tornadoes had struck a town called Pilger that's about 45 minutes from here and had destroyed 90% of the town as well as many of the surrounding areas and crops.   We immediately began to make plans to get ourselves down there and start helping out.  Wednesday morning we headed down. I never really believed that tornadoes could do such damage until I saw with my own eyes.  Trees had been completely stripped of branches.  Trucks, cows, and houses had been thrown like it was nothing.  In the crops you could clearly see where the tornado had ripped through, leaving brown trails rather than green corn leaves.  The community had instantly jumped into action making plans and helping each other out.  We ended up spending almost 2 whole days helping out people down there.
A glimpse of the damage

There used to be a house here.

Project name tag

Rocking my summer burn lines
I was especially amazed with one woman who we were helping.  She was in Lincoln, NE when the tornadoes touched down.  Her husband called her and said, "The tornado is coming right at us.  The kids and I are in the basement.  I just want you to know I love you."  and the line cut off.  The husband said that everything got dark, the windows started to shake, him and the kids huddled together in the basement bathroom, he felt a change in pressure, looked up and saw the sky.  Their entire house was taken away and scattered all over their closest neighbor's crops a mile away.  She seemed surprisingly happy though.   Like it didn't even matter.  When we asked her how she was so smiley she said, "I was praying that only 3 things would come out of that house and all 3 walked out without a scratch."   
She's not the only one.  Most of the town has this same, "the crops are dead, the house is gone, but my family is alive and that's all that matters," attitude.  Its amazing.  I love how humble and faithful these people are, even if they're not yet members of the church. 

The tornadoes aren't all that have hit this area.  All this week with all the storms, the Missouri River began to rise, coming dangerously close to hitting a few houses.  President Weston instantly had us jump on helping and we ran over to help sandbag around people's houses.  No damage was done however and the water has begun to recede.  

I took a good picture of the morning time on the freeway on the way to Omaha.  

The Hispanics at Spanish Specialized Training

In other, slightly happier news, we had Spanish Conference again this week!  What's crazy is that was the last time I'll see some of my favorite missionaries like Elder Cabezas and especially Elder Juan.  I miss that little Guatemalan.  He called me last night to say goodbye and it sucked.  I really hope to see him again after the mission.  
"Padre" e "hijo"  Elder Juan & Elder Paddock

Elder Cabezas and I

That's really all for this week!  This week coming up is transfers and I'm in danger of leaving the area.  We'll find out Wednesday I guess.  We've also got lots of service again helping out in Pilger and with de-sandbagging the area.  Should be fun!  
I love you all!  Don't worry about me.  I know the Lord is in this work and will protect those who serve him.  I love you!

Lots of Love 
Elder Zack

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Little Miracles and Big Storms

This week was full of little things that made a huge difference.  I'll explain quickly a few of the stories that came from this week that have helped me to realize that this truly is the Lord's Work.

Miracle #1
I was on exchanges with Elder Blanck again and this time we were working in their area.   The 2nd Ward was/is struggling.  Their investigator pool is almost down to zero and while I was on exchanges with Elder Blanck I was hoping and praying that we could change that.  One problem kept coming up: Elder Blanck hates knocking doors.  One thing I've learned from my mission so far is that if you knock 100 doors, you'll find at least 1 person ready for the Gospel.  So being a sneaky little bugger, I somehow managed to convince Elder Blanck that we should walk to the potentials houses and talk to people on the way.  So we walked and walked and walked and walked (like Pioneer Children) and the potential that we walked to wasn't home.  So I got to choose the next one and I chose the one furthest away.  While we were knocking we looked at our watches and realized we had 15 more minutes until we had to head home so we decided we weren't going to make it to the Potential's in time and we could knock 4 more doors until we were done.  We then said a prayer right there on the side of the road and asked our Father in Heaven to help us find someone prepared for the Gospel in these next 4 houses.  Elder Blanck chose 2 houses where we were and I chose 1.  Both of Elder Blanck's choices were Hispanic (The kid is like a Spanish bloodhound.  I need to take him in our area) and the one I chose wasn't home.  So we started walking.  Along the way, both of us just got really quiet and stopped walking.  I still don't know why.  But we looked to our left and saw a house and knew we needed to knock it.  So we did.  An older lady named Billie answered the door and said that she'd just been thinking about how her whole life she'd been taught that she needs to love Christ with all her heart and she wanted to know how that love plays in with the love that she has for her family.  Our message has EVERYTHING to do with Christ and Families!  She loved that idea!  She then quickly asked us to come back later in the week so she could learn more!   
Lesson learned: The Lord answers our specific prayers if we have faith to recieve the answers.

Miracle #2
Elder Shipley and I had an awesome lesson set up with Jaime and Araceli.  We were planning to watch the Restoration video with them and help them to understand the story of Joseph Smith better.  Multiple times Elder Shipley asked me if I had the movie in my backpack. Every time he asked I just said, "I've always got it.  Don't worry."  We show up to the appointment, I open my backpack to pull it out.... and it wasn't there.  "Well there goes that plan." I thought.  After a few awkward seconds of me looking through my backpack to find nothing, We decided to just talk about the Restoration rather than watch the 20 minute movie.  While Elder Shipley was talking, I got the impression to look at their movies that they had.  What I saw was in between 5 rated-R movies was The Restoration!  I couldn't believe it!  I walked up, grabbed the movie, they popped it in, and we had an amazing lesson with them.  They felt the Spirit, were asking inspired questions, and really came to understand who Joseph Smith was and what happened to him.  I'm thankful that Lord always prepares a way.  I have no idea how that movie got there but I'm so very thankful that it was.  That lesson wouldn't have been the same.   
Lesson Learned: The Lord will prepare a way.

Big Storm #1
This week was pretty much just a fun way of saying, "Welcome to Iowa Tornado Season!"  Saturday night while on exchanges with Elder Pulver (ZL) a big ol' storm came rolling through, and Elder Pulver started to get worried.  I thought it was just a normal, heavy, Iowan rainstorm until I looked up at saw giant swirling green clouds.  Apparently thats a good sign for a tornado.... After getting absolutely soaked with rain we ran back to our house and tried to wait it out.  We ended up just calling it a night an hour early and sat there watching the rain.  No tornado touched down in Sioux but one of the neighboring cities called Wayne got hit.  No huge damage from what I hear.  This should be a fun summer!
2 Soaked Missionaries
Green clouds in the Storm

Thats all from this week!  I love you!  Have a greet week!
Elder Zack

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fun Little Moments with Elder Shipley

This week's been a blast.  There's lots of little things that happened this week, spiritual experiences or funny moments, that I'll probably remember for the rest of my mission.  What I want to do today is just give you a brief outline of how our week has gone with these moments. 

Wednesday night, we had a really good appointment with Jose lined up and ready to go and about half an hour before we were supposed to be there... he canceled.  He had to work.  Suddenly that last hour of the night was open and we decided to go find people to teach.  It was Elder Shipley's turn to decide where to go.  He chose the park.  Little to my knowledge, but very well known to him, a group of people get together and play basketball there everynight and he wanted to play sooooooo bad.  So he called up the 2nd ward Elders to come play as well and we had missionaries vs. the 4 Black guys that were playing in the park.    We played hard, but whether it be because we were in Proselyting clothes or because I'm only 5'9 or 5'10" and super white and skinny(ish).... we lost.  BARELY Final Score: 21-19.  We're trying to go do that every week now and we'll hopefully be able to find people to teach out of it.  

Thursday was an AWESOME lesson with Brenda.  Just to make sure we wouldn't get rained-out again, we took to of the Young Men from the area who are both leaving on their missions this month and we went to visit her.  Two things impressed me about this lesson.  First off, I'm amazed at how prepared these two young men are.  They taught only a little less than half of the lesson.  They were pulling out scriptures and teaching so that she could understand.  When I was getting ready for my mission, I don't feel like I was half as prepared as they are.  They'll be amazing in Las Vegas, Spanish Speaking and Sweden.  
The Second thing that impressed me was Brenda.  She's so prepared for the Gospel its amazing.  We taught her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, The Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End) and she loved it.  She agreed to everything we taught and really wants to learn more.  I can't wait to see her again. 
Tornado Warning

Later that day our phone started going off like crazy.  It was raining out side and the winds were blowing and Iowa was doing its stupid Iowan weather thing and we didn't think much of it until our phone started going off like crazy sending us Tornado Warnings.... I bet you haven't had one of those in a while.   When you get a text in the middle of an awesome lesson that says "Tornado Warning in this area.  Take shelter now."  It kind of throws you off a little.  It took a lot of concentration to get back on track with the lesson but the Spirit was still there and the Investigator, Norberto is progressing faster than ever.  

Saturday the other missionaries in our branch had a baptism.  A brother, taught by the Elders, and his sister, taught by the Hermanas, were both baptized on the same day.  I so badly wish I could've gotten a picture of the 2 Elders and the brother and sister all in white.  It was a beautiful baptism service.  I hope I never forget the feelings of love and joy that I felt as the two of them entered into the true church together.  
My favorite part was that Norberto was there to see it all.  He wants to be baptized.  You can see it on his face.  You can tell by the way he is at church and the way he is changing for the better.  The progress I've seen in him is incredible.   PLUS The whole branch loves him!  He came to the Baptism Saturday afternoon, the branch activity Saturday evening, and church the next day!  PLUS He's reading from the Book of Mormon everyday.  Sooner than later, he too will be baptized.  I hope I'm around for that.  

So that pretty much sums up my great week!  I love you.  I hope you have a great week!

Lots of Love,
Elder Zachary Paddock

Here's some pictures for your enjoyment :)

Elder Shipley's Personal Study of Lehi's Dream Yesterday

Happy Missionaries with a full meal calendar for the week

Friday, June 6, 2014

Random Text Pictures

While we were out to dinner for Mason's birthday we received these pics & text from someone in Sioux City, "Your son is the best!"  We were glad to see that Elder Zack got a treat for his Dad's birthday.  We were glad to just randomly see his face!  Thanks to the sweet lady that sent these pics!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away.....and Take the Humidity With You.

Beautiful Iowan Sunset after a rainstorm.
Hi there!  This week's been crazy, great, wet, and spiritual and all of these can be explained in 2 good stories that I want to share, and both of them involve the terribly frustrating Iowa weather :)

Story #1
The random, lesson cancelling, rainstorm.
We were super excited to teach our potentially awesome new investigator named Brinda on Friday.  Elder Shipley found her with Elder Pulver on exhanges and she was super excited to learn more about the Gospel and the way to find more happiness in her life.  The only problem is that she's a single woman so the only way we can teach her is if we bring a male member with us (which were all working at the time) or teach her in a public place like a park.  So planned to meet up at a nearby park but right when she showed up, the big ol' Iowan sky started to sprinkle down rain.  This park was dumb and had no pavilion cover thing so we, being smart and using our heads, asked her if she wanted to meet us at the church, where there this is a pavilion cover thing.  (What are those even called?)  So we met at the church and were getting ready to start talking to her when the "sprinkling" turned into buckets of water falling from the sky with 40 mph winds, which blew the water at us like giant waves.   We quickly hurried and rescheduled the appointment, ran back to our car, and went home to dry our clothes off before another appointment.  My pants were drenched, my shirt was see-through, and my tie was dripping.  It was like I'd been thrown into a pool.  As soon as we got home to dry off, the sun came out, the sky stopped dumping buckets and the 40 mph winds turned into a nice breeze.  Apparently Heavenly Father didn't want us to teach that lesson...  

Story #2
As missionaries, we have a certain amount of miles that we're allowed to drive every month and Elder Shipley and I were almost out, forcing us to start walking more.  However we still had appointments scheduled, one of which being at the church which is a little less than two miles away.  So we started the trek towards the church in 82 degree weather with 50ish% humidity which feels like a summer day in Saint George.  We got to the church wet with sweat and tired and realized that we still had a 1 and 1/2 hour lesson with Jose before we could go home, shower, and crash.  But one thing I've learned on my mission is that the Lord blesses those who make sacrifices for the progress of His work.  That hour and a half with Jose was the most powerful hour and a half we've had with him in a long time.  We just sat back and let the Spirit teach him.  We literally sat in the Chapel in silence for 5 minutes and just allowed him to focus on his feelings and think.  When he was ready, I asked him, "How do you feel?" 
"Good," he said," Really good.  I feel lots of peace."
Elder Shipley and I bore witness that that was what the Spirit feels like, and that is what he could feel if he came to church.  We asked him how he would like to have that feeling with him forever and he said he'd like that a lot.  We then invited him to be baptized on the First of January, 2015, AKA the day his probation ends.....AND HE SAID YES!!!   He said he'd been doing lots of reading in the Teachings of the Prophets books, looking for where it talks about those on probation cannot be baptized and what he found had nothing to do with that.  What he found said that Baptism is a commandment and that its necessary for Exaltation.  He said, "Well if its like that, I'd better be sure I'm ready, huh?  I think I'll be ready by January."  

The nice thing about being in an area for 7 months is that I've been able to see seeds of faith be planted in these people and be able to watch them grow.  Jose is the greatest example of that.  Seeing his progress that he's had in the past 5 months since we begun visiting him has made lots of trials worth it.  I hope I'm around Sioux City somewhere in January so I can be here for his baptism.

I love this area.  I love you.  I love serving the Lord.  There's no better thing to be a part of than His work.   I hope you have a great week.

Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
Elder Shipley crashing during personal studies.