Monday, September 29, 2014

Awesome Lessons for Investigators and Awesome Lessons for Me

Hi there!
This week has been full of greatness.  After talking with our zone leaders we found out that Crete is the most progressing area in the zone, which kind of surprised us since we felt like we weren't having tons of luck.  I guess we are though and this week definitely proved to us how much the Lord is involved with this work as we set goals and work hard and diligently.
 Like I said in the title, this week's been full of good lessons to our investigators and a pretty good lesson to me.

Lesson #1 - Efrain
Last week while we were teaching one of our investigators named Efrain out on his porch, a giant pack of mosquitos came flying through and began eating us like candy, so Efrain grabbed a near by phone book that no one was ever going to use and began ripping out pages and lighting them on fire since apparently smoke keeps them away.  So the next time we went, I brought a bag of marshmallows and we roasted them over a burning phone book!  Sitting around by the "fire" and talking about the importance of church in building our testimonies was probably one of my most favorite lessons that I've ever had on my mission.  It was super laid back and lots of fun and it brought our investigator-missionary relationship to a whole new level.  Too bad the marshmallows had a weird, phonebook-y taste to them...
Lesson #2 - Barbara
We've been teaching our friend Barbara for a while now and she's been going to church and everything but has never accepted a baptismal date because she wanted to read the entire Book of Mormon first (not that that's bad or anything but at the rate she was going she'd be baptized in about 4 years).  So this week we read in Alma 32 with her and talked about the importance of Faith and how if we can feel our Faith growing when we are trying something like reading the Book of Mormon or going to church, then we can tell that that thing is good and from God and that we should act on it.  We talked about how Faith is not a perfect knowledge and how by acting on the faith that we have, the lord blesses us with more and more knowledge along the way.  In the end we invited her to act on her faith and be baptized and she said Yes!  We've got her set for the 18th of October and we're excited to help her continue to progress towards that! 
Lesson #3 - Elder Paddock
I learned something pretty important this week.  I've had the opportunity and blessing of really studying the Christ-like attributes chapter of Preach My Gospel recently and I've noticed that one of the most important ones that is sometimes easier to slack on is Diligence.  Its easy to say, "you know what, no one wants to talk to us in this area, lets go home and have dinner early" or "It'd be a lot easier to not go finding" but if that's what's neccesary, we have to do it.  PMG says that Diligence is "steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work"
and this week as we were knocking and trying to find people to teach, and trying to find those who were prepared to recieve the Book of Mormon, I was taught a lesson on Diligence.  We talked to probably 40 people on the front door step this week.  Do you know how many of them were actually interested?  7.  Seven people.  That's it.  I'm thankful for finding those 7 people.  We found 5 of them right at the end of the hour and a half we had planned to go finding.    The Lord blesses us as we continue diligently and obediently in His work.  It was kind of a big week long lesson on Enduring to the End as well.
Over all a great week!  We had the best numbers since I've been here and the work is really starting to progress! 
 I hope you have a great week and that you enjoy General Conference as much as I do!  I love you and I keep you in my thoughts and prayers all the time. 
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Prepared" People & The War...

The Last "District Conference" in the 4 Elder District.   
Elder Hill went to Grand Island and Elder Garff, who came out with me, is now training.

This week was a fun one.  As far as transfer news goes, nothing changed for Elder Holman and I except that he's the District Leader now.  We're excited for at least another transfer in Crete and we've got some really good goals and plans for the upcoming 6 weeks. 

Lots of things in Crete could happen in the next few weeks, and about half of them are good and the other half are not.  Crete, first off, is a very challenging area.  Its 30 miles from the nearest church and there's only 1 active member.   Not only is it hard because of that, but not a whole lot of people actually want to live in Crete, and more than half of our investigators are thinking about moving to Lincoln or other little towns soon, and then we wouldn't be able to visit them.   We're trying to prepare for that by doing lots of finding and knocking doors (and yes, people do slam lots of doors in our faces (mostly ornery white people)).  Its been quite the week as far as that goes and not a lot of success has come out of it yet. 
Except one! 
At the beginning of the week, we knocked a door, a lady answered (a nice Hispanic one), didn't seem super interested but told us we could come back later.  So we did!  Little did we know that she would be AWESOME!   We sat down and immediately she started telling us about how she has an aunt and uncle who are active members in California and she attended Church with them for a couple months while she lived there and how she has a cousin on a mission and all sorts of other good stuff like that.   She then told us the entire story of the Restoration and how she believes that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is led by a prophet of God today.  Its very rare that we find some one who's prepared in general, but someone who is THAT prepared is even more rare.  She is awesome and we immediately set her for baptism for the 18th of October.  She said she'd have to talk with her very Evangelical husband but she wants to be baptized!  She already knew it was true and we hadn't even opened our mouths yet!   I'm still shocked about that but I'm incredibly grateful that we were led to find her.    The Lord definitely answers our prayers. 
Another cool thing I learned about "prepared people" this week is that sometimes we as members of the Church or even sometimes us as missionaries try to judge who is "prepared" for the Gospel and who is not.  When the Lord sent his disciples into the world to preach the gospel he said, "Go and teach all nations..."  He didn't say "Go and teach only the people who you think are prepared"   EVERYONE.  Everyone deserves to be invited to hear the truth. Everyone deserves to have the opportunity to use their agency to say yes or no.  By inviting someone to learn more, we're at least letting them have the option even if they smoke or drink or don't have very good language or do something else that might be a little outside the standards of the Church, they deserve to know.  They deserve to feel the love of their Heavenly Father more abundantly in their lives.  Maybe they're not going to be like this lady that we found this week and maybe they'll say "no thanks" or do what they do to us and slam a door in your face and say "Not interested. Don't come back." but at least you gave them the opportunity to say that.  It's kind of a random side note that I'm throwing in here at the end of this letter, but it's something that hit me strong this week. 
I know that as we reach out in love to those around us and invite them to learn more about the things that we've come to know are true, the Work and the Truth will spread the earth.  I know that it is all of our responsibility to put in that little effort to help out in the Work of the Lord and I want to invite you to think of someone, whether they're "prepared" or not, with whom you could share the Gospel this week, and then do it.  Pray for those opportunities and they will come if you look for them.  It sounds scary but it's not that bad, I promise :) 
I love you so much and I hope you have a good week! 
Elder Zack

The War...
They've come back in full force.  They're everywhere, including inside our microwave somehow... I'm still trying to figure that one out.  Its a fun life we live in the dark and dreary and cockroach infested wilderness we call Crete.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Miracles After Miracles in Finding

Winter Quarters Temple

This week was one of those weeks where not a whole lot of awesome lessons happened because no one was home (everyone in Crete goes to Lincoln all the time since there's nothing in Crete).   While our numbers were low, the Lord gave us occasional moments with the Spirit that made us feel successful nonetheless.  
That's what I wanted to write home about this week is some of those moments.
Miracle Uno
A couple of weeks ago we received a referral from saying that a girl named Sasha wanted a Book of Mormon, but sadly all the contact info they gave us was a P.O. Box and a Phone number.  So we called the phone number and some lady answers the phone.  I explained why we were calling and we heard her say "Did you order a Book of Mormon?!"  next thing we knew, the phone had been passed to someone else and they were speaking to us in Russian, which, believe it or not, neither of us speak.   So we kind of gave up on it, thought it was just a joke that people play on the missionaries (it happens a lot more than you'd think).    
But then as we were walking around I decided to give Sister Weston a call to see if I could go see a doctor about my stupid knee that's acting up again and while I was talking to her, we were walking around Crete.  When the call ended, we were standing on a street corner and we picked one house on that corner, and some 16 year old girl answered and started talking to us.  Guess who it was?!  It was Sasha!  I couldn't believe.  I don't believe in coincidence so I knew that the Spirit of the Lord had led us there, even without us noticing.  She told us that she had recently been reading about the church online and decided that she'd give it a shot and read the Book of Mormon.  Sadly, her mom is super against it but we were able to give her the Book and she said that if she ever figures out a time we could talk to her, she'd let us know.  Isn't that cool though?!  I thought it was!
Miracle Dos
One thing that I've learned is that sometimes the Lord can guide us to his children that are prepared in many different ways.  The way that he guided us for this one was none other than my bladder....
As we were walking down the street, a couple miles from our house or the car, I realized I really needed to pee.  We looked around and realized that the smartest and easiest place to go would be the local FoodMart that was about 3 blocks away.  So we ran over there, I used the bathroom, and we were on our way out.  To get out the door, you have to walk right through the cashiers so we went down some non-busy aisle and were on our way out, when the cashier stopped us and said, "What's that?," pointing to the Books of Mormon that were in our hands.  "I've been wanting one of those," she said.  She went on to tell us that she has a cousin that was recently baptized, is now going to BYU, and is thinking about a mission, even though her family is super Catholic and doesn't really like the idea.  "I'm really impressed by her testimony and I'm thankful for her example, " she kept telling us.  
We were able to give her a Book of Mormon and she said she'd call us within these next few days to set up a time when we could come over and help her to learn more. 

These are only two examples of what kind of things happened this week. Others include teaching my Physical Therapist and Elder Holman's dentist's assistant about the Book of Mormon and knocking doors and only having half the people we tried slam the door in our faces. I truly do have a testimony that this is the Lord's work.  You've heard me say that probably in every email of mine that you've read.  I wouldn't say it so much if I didn't believe it.  The amazing opportunities that we had to be led by the Spirit and the blessing that we had of going to the Temple this week (which was AMAZING!)  were both testimony builders and faith strengtheners. As I was sitting in the Celestial Room of the temple, I became more grateful for the blessing I have of sharing what I've come to know is true with the people I've come to love here in Crete.  It's been a good 6 weeks and I'm excited for however long I have left here.
I love you and I hope you had a great week as well!    
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
The bugs are so bad in Crete that they literally drive a truck around that sprays Bug Spray out the back....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rough Week/ Spanish Conference/ Bikes

This week was pretty rough.  It seemed like everyone we had appointments with canceled and no one seemed to be home, which left a lot of time for us to go and knock.  Apparently I'm one of the weird missionaries in that I really like knocking doors.  I think its fun to go and show up at someone's door and tell them you have the truth and invite them to learn more.  A lot of missionaries don't like tracting because they don't believe that its successful.  It's as successful as you believe it can be.  I know that as we put our trust in the Lord, He'll bless us in His work.  Its a nifty promise that he's given us but its true!  
Also this week was hard because we've been running low on miles... again.  Thus we had to start walking everywhere we went.  That's a lot of walking!  Lucky enough though we've got an awesome investigator named Manuel who saw us walking one day and the next time we went over, he gave us bikes!  They kind of suck but a bike is a bike, right?  No more walking for us!  I like when people are super nice to us and give us stuff.  It makes the work a lot easier. 
The Bikes
Two other neat things happened this week:
#1 Spanish Conference
#2 I received a stronger testimony of the Spirit
Spanish Conference
#1 Like always Spanish Conference was amazing!  The Spanish missionaries in NOM are clearly the coolest ones in the whole mission.  The cool thing that I've always liked about being a Spanish missionary is that, because we're such a small group (there's only 30 of us out of the whole 280 missionaries in the mission), there's a tight bond that we all have.  We're all going through similar trials, we're all trying to learn a language, and we're all out here to serve the Lord and have a good time while we do it.  Getting to see everyone like Elder Shipley and Pulver and Jensen and all those who I've served around (or will eventually serve around or with) was a fun time as well. 
Elder Pulver and Me
Side Note:  Apparently things in Sioux City are going great!  After Jenny and Fernando's baptism, their brother Javier got the Priesthood as well as Fernando and they've been going to the temple together!  You have NO idea how happy I was to hear that!  I miss all those people in Sioux City.  I miss them a lot but I'm glad to know everyone's doing well.  
#2 The Spirit hit me hard this week.   I already had a pretty strong testimony of how strong the Spirit was but this week that just grew.  I've noticed that there's always something that keeps me going.  There's always something that says, "just knock one more door" or "read this scripture" or "keep up the good work" and its the Spirit!  It's brought such joy and peace into my life this week that its hard to explain but its strengthened my testimony that this is the Lord's work.  Fernando (an investigator) helped me realize how strong the Spirit is with us in this work when he said, "Guys, I could be having a terrible day but there's something about you guys that makes me feel good, that makes me want to talk even if I don't feel like it, something that says 'this is important, talk to them.'" I guess I never noticed how strongly the Spirit is with us until then.  I feel blessed to have this opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. 
I love you!  I hope you had a great week too!  
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Go Huskers?

Crete Main Street during the Husker Game

Its begun.  Husker season kicked off this week and everyone went crazy.  Crete practically shut down and there wasn't much we could do during the 4 hours of the game because everyone was glued to their screens watching it.  I think its funny.  We just went and talked to Spanish people during that time.  None of them cared and they're more fun anyway :)

Besides the Nebraska Cornhusker craziness, this week's been very good.  It was that way for a couple good reasons but I want to talk about two: a great lesson, and a great challenge.
The Lesson:
We've started back up teaching a guy named Dustin that was dropped a while ago.  Dustin is incredibly smart.  That guy knows the Bible so well and applies it to himself... but he wasn't always like that.  He used to be the guuy that made fun of the people who believed in God.  He said he was like that fo a long time... until God made him know he was there.  We started talking to him about his life and about his faith and all of a sudden I realized I was talking to someone just like Alma the Younger from the Book of Mormon!  If you don't know, Alma the younger was the son of a prophet, but he was working as hard as he could to destroy the saints of God, leading them away and telling them false things.  This happened up until an angel came, knocked him around a bit, and Alma repented and became a changed man.  We decided right then and there we were going to read Alma chapter 36.  As we were reading, Dustin just opened up and told us so much about his life that we wouldn't have guessed.  I've never seen someone apply a scripture to themselves more than Dustin did.  The Spirit was there strongly and I'm very hopeful about our next visit with Dustin.  
As we were leaving he made the remark, "You know guys, everytime I pray to the Lord for guidance, Mormons keep showing up at my door not too long after."  
We just looked back at him and said, "Maybe that's a sign, Dustin.  Pray about it."  And then we smiled and left.  
I'm personally not one to believe in coincidences.
The GORGEOUS sunset after/during a downpour

The Challenge:
Recently we, the missionaries of the Nebraska Omaha Mission have been given a challenge to read the Book of Mormon before December. The way we've been doing it is to read it and mark any reference to Jesus Christ that is made, mark any scripture that talks about the Atonement, or him suffering for us, and circling every time it says the word "heart".  I'd like to invite all of you to join in with us.  Its about 6 pages a day.  Thats not a lot at all.  I can promise you that if you'll join in with me and the rest of us 280 NOM missionaries that you'll see the blessings of the Book of Mormon in your lives.  You'll see that it truly is another testament of Jesus Christ and you'll feel closer to him and to our Heavenly Father than you have before.  The Prophet Joseph Smith said it this way:
 “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
I know that is true.  Try it out.  Try it with me. 
I love you all and I hope you have a great week! 
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack Paddock