Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"You really believe in this stuff, don't you?"

Mine and Elder Holman's vocab words project.  I'm Blue and he's Red.
Oh what a week.  What a confusing, disappointing, happy, miraculous, week.  Lots of things happened this week that would maybe have gotten me frustrated if my companion wasn't as funny as he is.  Every single time we set up an appointment with someone, they weren't home.   Every appointment canceled, no one feeds us, Jonathon's baptism was set back since he felt he wasn't ready yet,  and the cockroaches still exist.  HOWEVER, we still were able to have some amazing experiences that strenghtened my testimony and have kept us going.  
I want to share two.
The first one was with Jonathon. 
This week, like I said, Jonathon told us he wasn't quite ready yet and that he'd like to wait a little bit longer.  Like I said last week, he's really been coming a long way against his addictions but dang Satan keeps getting him to fall back into them after so much progress!   This week we talked to him about what the Priesthood is, about how a Priesthood blessing is literally help from our Heavenly Father to help us with whatever it may be that we're going through.  He just looked at us and said, "Could I maybe get one of those blessing things to help me with this?"  
Some of the most amazingly spiritual experiences have been in receiving and giving Priesthood blessings.  With Jonathon it was no different.  During the blessing, the Spirit was so strong that it couldn't be denied and when Jonathon lifted up his head afterwards he had the biggest, happiest, smile on his face that I've ever seen in my life.  He was so full of joy and peace, and he definitely made sure we knew that, telling us multiple times about how much better he felt and about how much he knew everything would work out and how happy he was that he got the blessing he got. 
"This is what the Spirit feels like!" he randomly yelled to us.  
"Yeah!  It is!"  we replied.  
Experiences like that really help strengthen my own testimony and I know that the Lord will continue to help Jonathon in his struggles. 
The next one was with a lady named Evy. 
Evy was a referral from a friend of hers thats a member.  All we had been told is that she was super nice and she'd probably let us in.  And that was true!  She let us right in without really knowing who in the world we were, why we were dressed so weirdly, or why we were knocking on her door!  She let us in and sat us down and began to talk to us.  When she found out who we were the first thing she said was, "Oh I'm catholic."  to which we responded "Thats great!  Why are you Catholic?"
One thing I've come to learn is that a lot of the time people are only in a church because they were born into it.  Their parents, when they were growing up, took them to church but thats only because thats what their family has done for centuries.  They go because they feel they should, but not because they know its true.  One thing I've learned from my own life is that even though I've grown up in this church, there came a point where I needed to know if it was true or not or if I just went because "Thats what our family does."  
Lots of people don't know why they are what they claim to be.  Such was the case with Evy and right after we explained to her who we are and told the story of Joseph Smith she looked right at me and said, "You really believe this stuff, don't you?"  The question has been ringing in my head ever since and I'm so happy that I was and am able to respond with "Yes.  Yes I do."    The
Gospel, to me, makes sense.  Not because I've studied it a ton, not because that's just what I've been told, but because I've gotten my own personal witness that its true.  All we have to do is ask God for it.  Its so simple and yet a lot of the time we don't do it.
My challenge to you is the same that it was to Evy:  to ask.  Pray about it and ask God if the Church of Jesus Christ is true or not.  The Promise in the Book of Mormon is real.  I know it is.  It says,

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:3-5)

Try it.  Put it to the test.  I know you'll receive an answer just like I have and millions around the world.  God loves ALL of His children.  Of that I'm 100% sure and I testify of it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

I love you so much and I hope you have a good week!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack

A Runza Sandwhich.  Exclusive to Nebraska.  Pretty gross.... but I had to try it, right?
According to WikiPedia, a runza (also called a bierock) is a yeast dough bread 
pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and
 seasonings. They are baked in various shapes such as a half-moon, rectangle,
 round (bun), square, or triangle. In Nebraska, the runza is usually baked
 in a rectangular shape.  It was gross though.   I wouldn't suggest it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

El Sombrero

$1.07 for a GIANT sombrero is probably the best Thrift store decision I've ever made.  Elder Holman and I have had a lot of fun with it :)

Elder Paddock


Elder Holman


Feliz Cumpleanos!

The package from home and a very tired Elder Paddock
Elder Holman with the muffins made from the mix in
Zack's package & his birthday banner.
Also, notice the traditional Paddock birthday
streamers on the door in the background.

First off, you guys are the best family support system a missionary could ask for.  My birthday was awesome!  Having a birthday on a mission is kind of weird, especially when its in a brand new area.  Birthdays really aren't that different from any other day!  It was kind of nice.  You guys are great though.  The packages were just what I needed to make my birthday amazing.  I loved all the little notes and letters from friends and family.  That was probably my favorite part.

To give you a little update on the war.  The cockroach army is slowly decreasing in numbers.  The home fort is being invaded by a much smaller number.  We went from killing 20+ everytime we walked in the house after a day of work PLUS  all the brave ones that come out during the day to now we're only killing about 15 a day.  That's good, right?

Something awesome is happening here and I just kind of walked right into it.   One of our investigators named Jonathon is getting baptized this week!  He's so ready!  He's made a lot of changes in his life so that he can come closer to Christ, including giving us his lighter, coffee and tea cups so the temptations not there!  Most people won't do that!  Its awesome!  Its a little weird walking right into it but I'm glad the Lord is blessing me with the opportunity to be here for it.  Its the first baptism Crete has had in a long time since we're 30 miles from the closest church.  I know that this is going to help the work keep going.

Last thing I wanted to share is that this week I've really learned the importance of keeping our testimonies strong.  
This all came from a El Salvadorean woman named Patricia.  As soon as she opened the door, she just started going off about how big of a "nuisance" it is that we come by all the time to talk to her son's friend since all we do is talk about a "book from the devil."  One thing I've come to learn is that there's two ways that  we can respond to people who just want to argue like this: 1) Argue back or 2) calmly testify.  For me personally, I hate contention and would much rather do #2, and thats what we did.  As she would come at us with some heated remark about how the Book of Mormon is false and the Prophet Joseph Smith was a crazy guy claiming visions, all we did was look at her in the eyes and talk calmly and tell her that we know the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was a true prophet.  Its funny to me how people can think of a million and two different reasons why this church is a church of lies, but they never pick up a Book of Mormon and read it and see that it only talks about Christ.  A book of lies wouldn't bring me such true happiness.  A book of lies wouldn't help me feel my Father in Heaven's love everytime I pick it up.  That wouldn't be possible.  My Heavenly Father wouldn't answer my prayers in the way that he has if these things were a bunch of false teachings.  I'm thankful for my testimony.  I'm thankful that my Heavenly Father has made me so sure that these things are true that I can look an angry person in the face, share what I love with them, and not even hesitate to tell them that its true.   It was a real testament to me that we all need to strengthen our testimonies all the time.  We all need to read the Book of Mormon.  We all need to pray to know if its true.   This world is full of crap thats always going to try and tear us down.  Every time the Lord has had his true church on the Earth, there has always been opposition against it.  And there always will be.  Of that I'm 100% sure.  People can say all they want against what we know, but they can not take away a testimony. 
I invite you all to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  Even angry El Salvadorean Patricia agreed to ask God if the Book of Mormon is his book.  I know you'll get an answer if you ask for it. Of that I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I love you all.  Thank you for all the Birthday wishes.  You're the best!
Have a great week!
Elder Zack

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Birthday Party and Crete / New Comp, New Town, New Challenges, Lots of Fun

Elder Holman and I.
Well it happened.  After 9 months of being in the promised land, I've been assigned to serve in a little town called Crete, Nebraska, about 30 miles outside of Lincoln.  Leaving Sioux City was really hard, to say the least.  My love for those people is so strong that saying, "see you later" to them was not something I thoroughly enjoyed.  We found out Thursday and spent the whole day packing and running around like crazy people seeing people.  Definitely not something I liked doing.  

However, I am supper happy to be here in Crete.  I know that the Lord has something planned for me even if I have no idea what it is. 
Let me tell you about the area.

Crete is a smallish town and we're the only missionaries for 30 miles.  We cover part of the Seward Branch that meets in Seward and the Pioneer Ward that meets in Lincoln.  We teach in Spanish and English so all of our English investigators go to Seward and all the hispanics go to Lincoln.  Teaching in English feels weird.  Anyway.  My companion is Elder Holman, who was Elder Shipley's  MTC comp, and Elder Shipley's new companion's trainer.  He also served with Elder Juan for a transfer so I've heard a lot about him.  Us Spanish people are all related somehow.  
HIm and I are crazy similar.  Our teaching style is the same, our likes and dislikes are super similar,  and we both really want to help small little Crete have some big success.  I'm excited to be working with him.
The area is great.  The Apartment... not so much.  We're infested with Cockroaches like you wouldn't believe.  Every 2 minutes you'll hear a SMACK as a flip flop gets swung at a nasty little cucaracha.   We also live pretty far from anyone that would want to feed us since there's a total of 2 members who live in Crete.   Maybe I'll lose all the weight I gained in Sioux City!  

I don't have really anything to report on at this point, PLUS the computer time here is pretty small so I just want you to know I'm doing great!  I'm really really happy and having a good time.   I love you.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Thank you for all the Birthday wishes :)
Elder Zack
These are some of the families that we saw my last day and throughout the week.  I love these people so much.
The Ramirez Family

Norberto (yes his jersey is on backwards.  He usually
doesn't wear shirts unless a camara is pulled out :) )

The Lagunas Family

The Lima Family

The Brisenos 

The Alvarados

The Adams

The Florys

Vilma found out Hermana Thompson and I were leaving Sioux City and since Hermana Thompson's birthday was the 9th and mine is on Wednesday, she made us a birthday cake.

However Spanish Tradition is that you take a bite out of the cake... I let the picture tell you what happened next.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Elder Paddock is moving to Crete Nebraska! Awesome Random Text Pic From Iowa

Mom note:  
Yesterday was transfer day and we've been wondering where he was moving and then tonight I got this random text, "Your son's going to Crete, NE.  We are really going to miss him. You have a wonderful son."   Thank you for sending me a picture of my boy and letting me know where he's headed.  I'm glad to see he hasn't changed much in the 10 months he's been gone.  I love that goofy kid!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

This is the Lord's Work

This week has probably been the most spiritual week of my mission.  That's a fairly big statement but I can't think of any other way that could accurately describe what's gone down this week.  So many miracles have happened and my testimony that this is the Lord's work has strengthened 100 fold.  I wanted to pick up a phone and call you the other day just to tell you about how amazed I was, how happy I am, and about the Spirit that I feel powerfully each and every day... but sadly, I can't.  Darn rules.  
I'll try to explain a few.  You'll have to read my journal when I get home to really know more about this week.   Everything kept getting more and more amazing leading up to the happiest day on my mission - Jenny and Fernando's Baptisms!  

Their baptisms were amazing.  As missionaries, we wake up at 6:30 every morning, but that morning I for some dumb reason woke up at 6:00.  Normally I'd be irritated and think, "Gosh dangit I've still got a half an hour!" but I just laid there and smiled knowing that that day was going to be amazing.  And it was more amazing then I can even describe to you.  
Fernando and Jenny Trigo were baptized August 2nd, 2014 by their cousin, Angel, and their uncle, Presidente Lagunas.  The baptismal service was beautiful.  I'm so very incredibly thankful that the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of their coming unto Christ and His church.  These kids make me want to be better in every way.  Even if I end up leaving the area this week, these two kids will always hold a special place in my heart.  I thank them for the miracles we have seen.  

Let me tell you about one.  

I was on exchanges with Elder Mckenzie, and english elder who serves in Haywarden (Our companions were at a District Leader Meeting in Omaha).  We planned to go see Rosa and David, two investigators that I think I've written you about before.  When we knock the door, David let us in and sat us down.  He said that Rosa has been in a lot of pain with her back, that she hasn't been able to get out of bed since Saturday and that her back is on the point of breaking.  Very faintly we heard Rosa call David into the back room.  When he returned, He told us that she would like us to come back.  When I entered that room, I saw probably the saddest sight I've ever seen.  There was a woman who was in so much pain she couldn't even move.  She was pale, weak, and all she wanted was another blessing from the Priesthood like the one we had given her one week earlier.  I felt something for her that I haven't felt quite as strongly since I said, "see you later," to my family in the St George airport 10 months ago.  The Spirit came in strong and I felt prompted to ask her if she had the faith that this would heal her.  "Yes.  I do," she replied.
We place our hands upon her head and pronounced a blessing of health, telling her that if she put her faith in the Lord, he would heal her and she would walk.  
Upon finishing the blessing, the Spirit was heavy in that room.  Probably stronger than I've felt it before, outside the walls of the Temple.  All of a sudden the story of Acts 3:1-8 came to my head.  So I went with it and said, "Rosa, do you have the faith that that blessing will heal you?"  
"Yes."  She said again.
"Then will you put your faith in the Lord, take my hand, and stand up?" I asked.
I had no idea where this was coming from.  This lady hadn't stood up in a week!  Her back was about to break! But the Spirit was strong and guiding me in everything and I knew she could stand if she took my hand and put her faith in Christ.
"Yes," she said, quickly grabbing my hand.  
Using me and the door next to her bed, she pulled herself into a seated position on the side of her bed, somewhere she hadn't been in 6 days. 
But then a tiny twinge of pain came, a tiny distraction came, and she let go of me.  
"I can't do it." She said.  

I knew she could!  I knew that if she would put her trust in the Lord, anything was possible and she would walk.  But just like Peter on the water, she got distracted, worried, and fell.  

"I can't do it." She said again.

The Spirit was so strong,  Elder Mckenzie looked at me and said, "I need to say something, can you translate for me?"   He bore the most beautiful testimony on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  He told her that Christ suffered for us so that he could help us through our pains, sicknesses, and problems.  We then shared Alma 7:11-12 and I had the opportunity to bear my testimony as well.

No, Rosa did not stand up that day, but the Spirit was so strong that there's no way you could have denied it.  I know the Priesthood is real.  I know that the Lord knows us personally and individually and that if we will put our trust in Him he will bless us eternally.  I know that Rosa will walk.  I know that she will be healed, all she has to do is put her trust in Him who knows her best.  Of that I am certain.

This is the Lord's work.  There is not one doubt of that in my heart.  I love this work.  I love the Spirit.  None of this week would've been possible without Him.   This Church is true.  Of that I testify in the name of Jesus Chirst. Amen.

Lots of Love,
Elder Zachary Paddock