Monday, November 24, 2014

Grateful To Be A Part of This Work

This week was really good!  Actually it was really hard... but in the end it was really good!   You could say that I hit a pretty rough patch where Satan was working pretty hard on me... but then the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of two awesome lessons that remind me of why I'm out here. 
#1 Abel
Elder Holman, since he's all big, fancy, and District Leader-y, had a meeting in Omaha that he had to go to for the day, so I got to hang out with the Lincoln Spanish Elders, Elder Garff and Elder Pearson.  They had planned to go and visit a less-active man named Abel and his family.  Apparently a while ago, Abel had asked the Elders not to stop by for a little bit, but after 4 months of waiting, they felt prompted to go back.  WE show up and Abel lets us right in and invites us to sit down.  It was super awkward for a little bit since Abel wasn't saying much and would answer our questions with one word answers like,"si" or "no".  Hard to have a conversation like that.  Elder Garff didn't really know him much and I've never met him so we were asking him questions like "Where are you from?"  or "How long have you been a member of the Church?" when all of a sudden he cut us off and said, "Ok I know what you're really asking.  You want to know why I'm not active in the church."  Elder Garff and I were stunned (Elder Pearson's still pretty new and doesn't understand a lot of Spanish yet so he saw we were shocked and was even more confused).  That was what we were wondering actually!  HE starts telling us the normal excuse of "well I want to go but every time I think about going to church something comes up and I just can't."  We shared with him 1 Nephi 3:7 in the Book of Mormon that says
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for Iknow that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they mayaccomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
Elder Garff bore testimony that God has given us the commandment to come together and to sanctify the Sabbath Day.  He'll always provide a way for us to keep His commandments, we just have to be willing to make sacrifices for the blessings sometimes.  While I was halfway through testifying that what Elder Garff had said was true, Abel cut me off again and said, "This week we have a family thing and we'll be out of town but next week and every week after that I PROMISE you I'll be there.  With the words of a man I promise I will be there. Thank you so much for not giving up on me.  You don't know what this means to me."  
Once again, we were shocked.  The Spirit touched him all of a sudden and he knew what he had to do.  It was powerful and amazing to see and be a part of.  I guess they liked us as people too since they fed us some absolutely amazing Honduran tamales afterwards as well!  We walked away incredibly grateful for the blessing of bringing the Spirit into that home.

#2 Fernando and Veronica
We've been meeting with Fernando for a LONG time and helping him to gain an even stronger testimony than he already had, but his wife has never been interested.  Everytime we've gone over, she's always grabbed the cat and hid in the other room until we left.  A couple of weeks ago however, after teaching Fernando about Priesthood blessings, he requested that we give one to his wife, Veronica, who was about to go in for surgery, and after that she's really been interested. (side note:The surgery went great.  The Priesthood is real).  This week was the first time we met with Fernando and Veronica together.  We listened to President Monson's Oct 2014 talk "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" and were able to talk about Prophets and Priesthood Authority.  After asking a question about where the Prophet lived, we said Salt Lake Utah and pulled out the only picture of Salt Lake that we have: The Temple.  This led into a discussion about temples and families being sealed together for time and all eternity.  That's when Veronica asked what I believe was a very inspired question.  She said, "What do we have to do to have that?"  
"Well the first step towards that would be being baptized." We responded.
"I'd like to be baptized." She replied.
"Me too," said Fernando.
Instant smiles came on Elder Holman's and my faces.  From there on, we told them the steps to get there and we set them for the 3rd of January.  Watching the Spirit work in them and helping them to see their divine potential was an experience I will never forget.  The Spirit's been working on them for a long time and I'm excited to see where this goes.
I love this work.  I love the joy that I receive by diving into service head first.  Are there hard times? You better believe it.  I had one this week.  But the Lord makes every struggle, every doubt, every disappointment totally worth it when He reminds us that He's watching out for us and is completely involved in His work. None of that hard stuff is even comparable to the joy that comes from seeing the Spirit work on people.  I'm so glad I still have as long as I do left in the mission field.  I wouldn't change these opportunities for the world.

I love you all!  I hope you have a fantastic week!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

And have a very happy turkey day!

Also!  Tomorrow the Church is launching a new, Christmas Centered Website.  Since I'll be inviting people all over Crete to check it out, I'd like to invite you as well!  
Check out!  It's supposed to be super cool!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Feeling Enabled to Do Hard Things

Two frozen missionaries: Elder Paddock & Elder Holman
Its begun.... Last Monday the weather decided to become freezing.  Tuesday we woke up and there was snow all over the ground!  I was hoping it wouldn't come for a while but I guess the time has come where we start freezing.  I hope you can have patience with me if the occasional St Georgean comes out of me and I complain about the cold weather.  
The Beginning of the snow.  It snowed 4 more inches after that.

Along with the snow came terrible road conditions in Crete, especially since they do nothing but dump sand on top of the snow in hopes of reducing chances of sliding.  It doesn't work very well.  Our car got "grounded" this week and we weren't able to use it until yesterday which meant we were like little pioneer children and "walked and walked and walked and walked..."   I've come to learn this week that Elder Paddock and ice don't get along.  We'll be walking down a street and a small patch of ice will be hidden under the snow and it'll take me right off my feet.  I fell 7 times just in one day!  Elder Holman gets a pretty good laugh at it, but my body is sore and tired from all the falls.  Especially the one time that we were walking down a hill and I slipped and ended up rolling all the way to the bottom of the hill.  I fell so bad one of those times that I lost the name tag that I've had since the beginning of my mission somewhere in the streets of Crete... hopefully it shows up.  
Despite the terrible weather, we still had a pretty great week!  We had the awesome opportunity to have a Zone Conference with Elder Brent H Neilson of the Quorum of the 70 (Here's a talk of his from Conference a while ago) and it was great!  He came and talked to us a lot about the Enabling Power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is something that we don't think about a lot.  A lot of the time when we think about the Atonement, we think about Jesus Christ suffering and dying for our sins which allows bad people to become good people, which is the Redeeming Power of the Atonement.  The Enabling Power of the Atonement is what allows good people to become better people, working towards perfection.  Its what helps us through hard times, what gives us peace, what pushes us forward.  I've definitely felt the Enabling Power throughout the mission and throughout my life.  Neither life nor the mission is easy, and God knew that when He sent us here, and that's why He gave us Jesus Christ, to help us to have a helping hand through the times that really aren't the greatest (even if that means walking and walking and walking through the snow and falling down every other step).  I know Christ lives,  I know He loves us, and I know that this is His Gospel.  I hope you have a great week!  I love you all!
Lots of love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Doing the Little Things

We decided to take a back country road home from Stake Conference. 
This view right here is EXACTLY what I thought my mission would look like.
  Driving tons of miles on an endless dirt road with
 only one house for every mile of road. 
This week was an interesting one for sure.  The work has started to pick up again this week, thank goodness!  We were only 1 lesson shy of our 20 lesson a week goal.  We're working hard and the Lord is continuing to bless us beyond measure.  

This week was full of little moments that just made me smile.  Those are usually the kind that end up in my journal every night so I thought I'd write home about them as well! 

The first of which happened Monday night when the AP's gave me permission to call the Brisenos!  I hadn't talked to them since I left Sioux City more than 3 months ago!  Hermana Briseno answered the phone and said, "Who is this?"  and I just replied "Elder De Vez en Cuando" and she flipped!  She got so excited and yelled at her husband, "Hey Viejo (Old Man)!  Guess who's on the phone!"  Oh was so great to talk to them and find out they're doing well.  Apparently now they're fully active and have gone to church every Sunday for the past 6 weeks!  She told me, "We're going to keep going to church until God tells us not to"  and I promised her that He would never tell them that.  It was good to talk to my favorite, old, sarcastic Hispanic couple again.  I've missed them a ton.

The next moment was just the other night when, by some kind of miracle, we had a member come down from Seward and another come down from Lincoln and we were able to do what's called "Splits", where one missionary goes with one member  and the other missionary with another.  I've never done those before in the whole year I've been out so it was fun to try something new and be able to do twice the amount of work in one night.  Brother Thompson from the Seward Branch and I were able to go and teach a few of our English investigators and Barbara and it was just another testimony builder to me of how essential the members are in this work.  Brother Thompson was way better at relating to the people than I could ever be since he is a "normal" person with a job, a family, life experiences that I haven't had yet.  There was a connection that he was able to make that will help those people to be able to progress better.    That was a lot of what was talked about during this week's Stake Conference, which Elder Holman, Elder Robinson, Elder Pulver, and I were in charge of translating for the Spanish members  of the Stake.  

This was the first time that I've ever really translated.  I've done a couple testimony meetings in the past, just because that's always when it ended up being my turn to do it, and those aren't too bad, but yesterday, translating full-on 15 mintue talks was something new.  I've decided there's nothing quite as humbling for a US Spanish speaking Missionary as is translating.  I thought I was doing fairly well on Spanish, but when the guy I was translating got up and started talking about Navy Seal Boot Camp and comparing the excercises to the Gospel.... I got lost.  Luckily the Spirit was able to give me some kind of words to say to be able to help the people I was translating for make sense of everything, but I definitely learned that there's still a lot of things in Spanish that I don't know.  I'm thankful for that.  I translated the whole first half hour of the meeting, Elder Holman the second, Elder Robinson the third, and Elder Pulver the fourth.  I highly enjoyed it and I hope they'll give us the opportunity again.

But I think the lessons that were shared about Missionary Work during this Stake Conference were very important.  I really enjoyed one of the one's that I translated for that talked about doing the "little things" and strenghtening our own testimonies before we help others.  The Little Things can usually be summed up using "primary answers" like prayer, scripture study, tithing, going to church, going to the Temple, FHE, etc.  Things that sometimes we don't realize are quite as important as they really are.  I really like the scripture that was shared from Alma 37:6 that says, "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass"  

It's true.  100%.  My invitation to you this week is to think about the "little things" and pick one to work on this week, whether it be scripture reading, or prayer, or going to the temple.  Whatever it may be, I can promise  you that your week will be better.  Will you do that?

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

Lots of Love,
Elder Zack

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy Halloween!

My Halloween Costume: going as Elder Holman
It truly was a happy Halloween!  Transfers were the same day and I'm still in Crete with Elder Holman (Transfer #3), which I'm completely OK with.  Hopefully we can still get some good work going in Crete and get ourselves out of the temporary slope that we're in.  The work's been struggling recently in Crete but we're working on getting it back to where it can be. 

Halloween for us was pretty alright.  We weren't allowed to be out after 6 unless we were with Members, and since all the members were at the Ward Trunk or Treat we went there.  I thought I was so creative and dressed up as Elder Holman, who likewise dressed up as Elder Paddock (He wouldn't cooperate for a picture though, sorry).  After that we went to some other Elder's apartment and roasted Marshmallows and then to Lincoln Spanish's apartment to carve.... a Pineapple.  It would've been a pumpkin, but walmart was sold out and Pineapple sounded really tasty.  

I absolutely loved Daylight Savings yesterday at 5:30 AM when the alarm on my clock went off and I realized I still had an extra hour of sleep... however at 5:30 PM it was already dark, and nobody likes to open their doors when its dark.  For example, we knock the door of one of our investigators and he answers and tells us, "Well the hour moved back so it's darker earlier which means that I get less sleep so I have to go to bed now."  I was under the impression that if you went to bed at 9 and woke up at 5 that that would be 8 hours of sleep no matter what time of year it is.... I guess I'm wrong.   Hopefully we'll be able to find some investigators that think the same way we do and that'll be awake and willing to talk after the sun goes down.
A lot of the lessons we taught this week were taught to people that you would be changed so much by the Gospel.  For example, troublesome teenagers, depressed adults, and people just going through downright hard times.  The amazing thing about the Gospel is that it changes us.  It gives us a new perspective on life, God, ourselves, the world, eternity, etc.  I'm grateful that I've always had the Gospel in my life, that it gives me guidance and helps me know that there is so much more to life than work, food, and sleep.  I'm reminded of the words of Lehi when he's talking to his son Jacob and says, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy."  That's the purpose of this life.  God's given us the way to find joy in this life and ETERNAL joy in the life to come, and that's the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know it changes lives.  I know it enriches lives.  I know it helps us to live our lives to the fullest and be able to really find that true eternal joy.  
I love you all and I hope that your week is very joyful!
Lots of Love,
Elder Zack
Also Elder Holman and I were able to reach our goal of handing out one Book of Mormon for everyday of the last transfer!  Granted those were maybe 4 a day here and 1 a day there and 0 for a couple days, but that still equaled out to 42 Books of Mormons loaned out with a return appointment during the last 42 days.  We're hoping to be able to see lots of fruit coming from that.

Answers to a bunch of Mom's questions:
No snow yet and hopefully not anytime soon.  We haven't done a lot of walking, but we're probably going to have to.  Yes I have sufficient to eat.  No, no one feeds us.  We're 30 miles from the members willing to do that, but we are going to have a regular Monday night, post P Day meal appointment with a family in Lincoln that I'm pretty excited about.  She cooks similar food to you so its almost like being home.... but not at all.

The new decorations to the Crete Elders' Apartment
"Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"