Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Be Thou an Example of the Believers

I don't have a lot to say about this week except that it was great.  We've been working really hard this week to keep the work continually getting better.  We've been trying to use the energy that two baptisms gave us, and I think that its working!  This week we found 5 new investigators!  That's awesome!  
We knocked this one door, and the lady came out and just said "Hola" with a look on her face that told me, "Ha ha I speak Spanish and you can't talk to me," But then we said, "Hola" back and she was so shocked she didn't know what to do.   Quickly she turns around and yells at her husband, "Hurry and put a shirt on so they can come in!!" and she hurries back inside to tidy up a bit. Elder Holman and I just about busted up laughing right there on the doorstep!    They let us in and we had an AMAZING first discussion with them about the Restoration and The Book of Mormon.  We got to the part about Joseph Smith and she said, "I know this story!  He went and prayed and God came to him and gave him an answer.  I love this story!"  Then it was my turn to be the shocked one.  I just sat there thinking, "Well huh....ain't that something great."  I looked over and Elder Holman and it looked like he was thinking the same thing.  They seem really promising and I'm so very excited to continue to teach them.
This week more than anything though I learned about the importance of being a good "example of the believers."   Here in tiny, little Crete, we have very few members.  About 10 to be exact.   Only 2 1/2 are active (One is coming back).  But it seems like everyone we teach knows all the one's who aren't the active ones.  They know they're members of the Church and they see the examples that they give them.  They can see that they're using their agency to not go so its hard to motivate them to "Come and See" like Elder Bednar said in General Conference.  In Timothy it says "be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." I'm thankful for the family and friends in my life that have been just that.  Who've helped me to see the blessings that come from living the Gospel the way that its intended to be lived.  I consider myself pretty blessed to have grown up with such great and faithful parents, family members, friends, and leaders who have shown me the way and have helped me to want to continue along in it.  Thank you all for everything you've done for me personally. I know that you're examples are helping many more people than just me.  I know that as we give people examples of righteousness and truth, that it helps to encourage others to "Come and See" what it is that we strive for.  It helps them to want to find that path that leads to the everlasting happiness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I pray that we may be those "examples of the believers" that the Lord wants us to be and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love you all and I hope you have a great week! 
Elder Zack

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Halfway!

Happy Halfway with Elder Garff and Elder Robinson (Both came from Mexico with me)
There's no way I'm halfway!  I absolutely refuse to accept it!  This past year has gone by WAY too fast for me to accept the fact that its already been a year.  I already know I've grown and changed so much and I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for me in this next year.   I loved the package you guys sent from home!  It was probably the greatest package I could've asked for and I definitely continue to feel all of your love and support from home.  I love you guys!
Burning the shirt. (Dumb Halfway tradition.
  I found a shirt left by an older
missionary and thought, "why not?")

This week was probably the greatest week that I could've asked for to be my halfway week.  The things that happened just in this week described all the ups and downs of missionary work and I absolutely loved it... well maybe not the "downs" (getting dropped by 3 investigators for example) but the ups were pretty darn great!  So I'll just write about a couple of those
Jonathan's doing great!  He's loving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and says that he's already felt the influence of Him a couple times just in this past week! 
We've had a couple miracles in knocking and the Lord has led us right into a couple of people that I'm pretty sure could have some great progression in the future in the Gospel.  I'll keep you updated on them throughout the next little bit. 
And lastly, and most greatly, BARBARA GOT BAPTIZED!  It was probably the most powerful Baptismal service I've ever been to. I'm grateful for the opportunity that I had to baptize her.  Barbara was so prepared.  Every time we taught her something, she accepted it right off the bat and gained her own testimony of it.  I'm excited for the progress that she'll continue to have through being an active member with the Gift of the Holy Ghost playing a role in her life as well.  I love that lady and I'm exceedingly happy for her.  

Barbara's Baptism

Only problem... now that both Jon and Barbara are baptized, we're back at square one.  We've been working really hard with those two and we weren't thinking that we'd have any progressing investigators at the end of this week.  But the Lord does provide.  A Less Active who hasn't been to church in probably 8 Months walked into Sacrament Meeting bringing with him two of our investigators (One of those being his daughter).  Our area is having a lot of success and we're just happy to be a part of it.  Our goal is to get the Spanish part of our area just as successful as the English part.  Wish us luck!
Also this week we moved to a much nicer apartment with a lot fewer cockroaches AND we had the opportunity to take a tour of Nebraska's pride and glory, AKA the Husker Memorial Stadium.  

The beautiful trail we ran this morning.

(Be sure to click on this one)
We thought the billboard was  funny so we took a picture.

Its been a great week!  Lots of fun and lots of experiences with the Spirit.  I know this is the Lord's work.
I love you all! 
Elder Zack

Pieces of our other emails:

New Apartment is great.  The first few days there were still cockroaches but we're down to killing only two or three a day now.  The only problem is that these ones are twice the size as the old ones.  

I sent President Weston an email last week about how Jon got baptized and how Barbara was about to be and this is what he sent in reply.  Needless to say Elder Holman and I are smiling right now.

President Weston

Who said Crete cant baptize? Hard work has paid off, and more sure to come! Doing well keep it up! Love, President Weston

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing the Blessings

Elder Holman, Jonathan, and Elder Paddock
Jonathan, Bro Harris, and us

IT HAPPENED!  Saturday afternoon, Jonathan stepped into the waters of baptism and came out a new and happier man.  I've never seen a smile that big in my entire life.There came a point in the time that we were teaching him that we weren't sure if he was going to go through with it or not, but the Lord strengthened him and showed him that he knew it was right.  
There's been lots of things that have shown us this week that the Lord is involved highly with the work that we're doing in Crete.  We do all we can and then the Lord takes over the rest.  The work in Crete is picking up like I've never seen before.  We're teaching close to 20 lessons a week, which is the mission goal (Neither Elder Holman nor I have ever been able to hit that yet, but we're pretty determined to this week).  Things have just been picking up pace in Crete like I've never seen in my mission yet.  We just keep finding people and talking to people and we're having contact with people  like I've never before seen in this past year.  The Lord is definitely involved in His work.  I'm just excited for the next year that I have to work even harder. 
Sorry I don't have much to say this week.  Just know we're happy, having fun, working hard, and seeing lots of blessings.  I love you all!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
The war (with the cockroaches) is over..... but maybe that's just because we're retreating.... We're moving this week! 

I've been collecting little flags of the countries from the
which I've taught people from.
 I can't find any for Cuba or la Republica Dominicana!
Proof that Elder Holman and I can feed ourselves just fine :)

The AMAZING Nebraskan Sunsets from this week

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Blessing of Prophets

I hope you had a lovely Conference weekend like I did!  All the things that happened this week were miracles and General Conference was the absolute best way to top it all off.  When I was trying to think of what I could write to you, the reoccurring theme of Prophets from General Conference kept coming back into my mind.  As I thought about it, I realized that a lot of the lessons we taught this week were centered around the blessing of having Prophets, so I thought I'd give you an example of that from this past week.
This particular lesson was with a Guatemalan man named Jose (One of the 5 Jose's we are teaching).  Last week we met this family and they let us in and we shared a quick message with them and got a return appointment.  During that whole lesson I noticed Jose was really quiet and his girlfriend did most of the talking, so when we went this week and only Jose was home, I got kind of nervous that this would be a potentially awkward and silent lesson.  
My worries weren't necessary and Jose opened right up and talked to us as much as he could.... the thing is that he's from a part of Guatemala that speaks dialect so he speaks a little less Spanish than I do.  So while we were teaching him, we had to use very easy words, very simple ones, and compare parts of the Gospel to things that he uses everyday, like a light switch or his glass door.  The Gospel is simply beautiful and beautifully simple though so it wasn't too hard.  One of the questions that came up a lot with him and his girlfriend was if the Bible says that there will be lots of false prophets in these last days, how are we going to know if a prophet truly is a Prophet of God.  We told him there's a couple ways.  
#1 Christ always taught that "By their fruits ye shall know them."  If a tree sprouts apples, its an apple tree, right?  Bananas to a Banana tree?  Pineapples to a Pineapple tree?  So if something brings forth something good, then by following what Christ says, we can know it is good as well.  So if Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, his "fruit" would be the Book of Mormon, you could say.  So if the Book of Mormon really is from God, then Joseph Smith would've been a prophet.  The Book of Mormon is something we can read, we can search it and then take it to God in prayer and ask Him if it really is true.  Which brings me to way #2
#2 James 1:5 says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..."  That's exactly what we should do if we ever have any doubts or questions or we don't fully understand why something is the way it is.  Doubts, questions, and misunderstanding are completely normal things that happen, so we should take those things to God in prayer.  Ask him personally if things are true.  Ask Him if Joseph Smith was a Prophet, if Thomas S Monson is the Prophet of God in these days, if the Book of Mormon is true.  God's promised that He will answer.
At the end of our lesson, we all knelt down and Jose offered the prayer.  For the life of me, I have no idea what he said in his prayer due to the fact that it was in his native language, but the Spirit was strong and told me that he was receiving answers to prayers.  That's all we care about.
This weekend in Conference, couple of topics kept appearing as the inspired men and women that lead and guide this Church spoke to us.  One of these themes was how we, as members of the church or non-members, should strengthen our own personal testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ and the men that He has called to the office of Prophet.  I don't know what is coming in the future, but I do believe that there will come times in our lives where people, maybe that includes ourselves, will question our beliefs.  I, along with many of the General Authorities of the Church, would like to invite each of you to strengthen the testimony that you have. Doubts and Questions will come, but answers never come with out questions.  Spiritual Questions deserve Spiritual Answers.  Pray to God and ask Him.  I want to share my testimony that I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, called to restore the true church of Christ.  I know that Thomas S Monson is that man called of God to hold that sacred office of Prophet in these days and that we should always strive to follow his counsels as he receives them from the Lord.  
I love you all and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

We're having a baptism this week!  and next week!  
If you could please keep Jonathon and Barbara in your prayers, that'd be much appreciated.  I love you!