Elder Zachary Brandon Brown
England Leeds Mission
Lister House, Lister Hill
England LS18 5AZ

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This Week's Email

Hello mom and dad!  Merry Christmas and Boxing Day, and a Happy New Year on top of it all :) . 

This week I found something interesting about something I ate a couple weeks ago.  At an investigators house, they gave us some really tasty beef that I enjoyed a lot.  Afterward when I mentioned it to my companion, he said they had told him it was pork.  I told him that there was no way, because it had the texture and taste of beef 100% .  I found out yesterday that it was actually horse meat, and they were just too embarrassed to tell us, but still wanted to give us something.  I actually liked it, but I'm sure both of my sisters will be horrified that I ate horse.

As usual, God has blessed us, his servants, with some great miracles.  The first is that our investigators in Rotherham, F and A, finally received their passports and other ID back from the government after eight months of waiting!  This means that they can finally get married, and then be baptized as well.  They're already as good as members, doing everything they need to do, so we're excited for them.  It'll still be a while before they're baptized because the marriage process takes a bit of time, but things have finally lined up for them.

Another of our investigators, A, has been working on giving up coffee for the last couple months, slowly drinking less and less every day.  Two days ago, she gave it up completely, showing great faith and amazing progress.  She will be getting baptized very soon, hopefully in the beginning of January.

Overall it's been a fantastic week, and we're very excited about the miracles we've seen.  Christmas was great, and the goals our branch and mission have set for the new year set our sights high.  We're optimistic, and have faith that the Lord will provide us with what we need to meet our goals.

It was great talking to you all on Skype--I loved seeing your faces and hearing your voices.  Next time it'll be Mother's Day :) .  Love you lots, and I'm excited for your letters. 

Elder Zachary Brown

Monday, December 30, 2013

Boxing Day in England and a trip to the Peak District

 A Thanksgiving meal on Boxing Day

Watching the Emperor's New Groove

Elder Brown and Elder Juran helped me and Brenda clean up the dishes. We needed someone tall to put away things on the top shelf. This is where Elder Brown comes in. ~ Debbie Allen

During Christmas and Boxing day the missionaries are allowed to play a few video games. We were able to let them use our IPad's during the time. They LOVED it! ~Debbie Allen

Here are the Elders that work with us in the Slovak Branch. They REALLY enjoyed a day off. ~Debbie Allen

I saw some interesting buildings at a nearby dam too. One is like an overflow drain, the other's like a caretaker building, but they look really neat.

We also found some random carved stone that we don't know the meaning of, but it looked interesting.  Ha :) .

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day Celebration!

In England, Boxing Day is a big deal.  It's the day after Christmas.  Zach's great grandparents came to Utah from England and brought with them the Boxing Day traditions.  We have always had a Boxing Day party with the Dunn's the day after Christmas.  For Zach this year in England as a missionary, he wasn't allowed to proselyte so the senior missionary couple put on a special celebration for them complete with crackers!  Thus the crown on top of his head.  :)  It's awesome to know that even oceans away, we were all celebrating Boxing Day together!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Email Before Christmas!

Hello mom and dad :) .  Sorry that last week's email was cut so short.  The librarian made me get off a few minutes early, and that's when the most of my organization happens.  Hopefully it doesn't happen again.  First off, I'll be Skyping with you!  Just be ready a little beforehand, and don't freak out if it's not exactly on the hour ;) .  I'll be doing it from the Allen's home, and I'll have an hour to speak with you.  I got a package this week from aunt Elaine, so if you could thank her for me that would be great.  Also, I got many cards from ward members, I'll make a list and let you know who to thank when we talk or when I email next.

This week has been brought many miracles and happy things.  First off...J got baptized!!!  Hooray!  I'm so happy for him, he's really come so far, and I've seen a lot of happiness enter his life thanks to the changes he's made.  His confirmation in church on Sunday was also powerfully spiritual.  He's quiet and shy, but the Spirit is in him, and he's truly a great person.

We also had another miracle yesterday with a man named T.  He's somehow related to J (I'm not sure how yet), and he's investigated the church on and off in the past.  He's been taught all the lessons, but never was able to be baptized because he struggled to make the changes in his life that he needed to.  Then yesterday we went to J's house, intending to have a lesson with him, and T was there (he lives with them), and we ended up teaching him.  He told us early on in the lesson that he wants to be baptized next Saturday, and explained that for the past couple months he's been changing how he's been living so that he can be baptized.  All that time that he was making those changes, the missionaries had no idea, and weren't even teaching him.  Instead, it was the members who were giving the support, helping him a great deal to turn his life around.  We had a couple options that night before we decided to see J, but we felt like it would be a good idea to go there.  Turns out it was :) .  We let T know that he needed to come to church for the next couple weeks before being baptized, and he readily agreed, happy to do whatever he needs to.  This miracle shows how powerful of an effect the members can have in a person's life, how they can affect a person more than even the missionaries sometimes.

Love you lots, I've got to get going now, but I'll talk to you very soon.  See you in a bit!
Elder Brown

J's Baptism

Here's another picture of something I ate this week. It's called halusky (there's supposed to be an accent over the s), and it was pretty good. It's the national dish of Slovakia.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baptisms and Pictures

Hello mom and dad!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!  (Sorry that I couldn't do it on the exact day)
First of all, I've been enjoying the daily gift from your package.  It's fun to see what each day brings, and the scriptures to go along are very clever :) .  I also received one from Grandma and Grandpa Brown, so please thank them for that for me.  I haven't opened it (I figure it's most likely something I should save until Christmas day), but thank them for their generosity.  Also thank the Udys for me, they sent a Christmas card as well, and I really appreciated it.  I still don't know what's going on with Christmas communications, it's a new mission president than last year, and he hasn't given any word on how it will be yet.  Grammy wanted to know how to send me fish and chips, and the best way would just to put money in my card's account.  It's the least risky and the most convenient.

For P-day last week we went to a place called Peak District, and it was a lot of fun.  I'll send some pictures next week, I don't really have time this go-around. 

This week was a fantastic one, as my pictures should show.  J and P got baptized!!!  Woohoo!  I'm so happy about this.  They are really great guys, and they've done a lot of amazing things already.  I know they will continue to strengthen in their faith.  I actually had the privilege of baptizing P, because he chose me to do it :) .  That made me really happy.  I also assisted in the baptism of J (he's a bigger fellow, so Elder Juran needed some help getting him out of the water) .  It was a great day, to say the least.  Then both of them bore some wonderful testimonies in sacrament meeting after their confirmation.  I loved that sacrament meeting.
I had a lot more of miracles this week, but I wrote them all in a letter I sent on Sunday, knowing that I wouldn't have a ton of time today.  Sorry about that, I just had a lot to do today.  Out of time, love you lots!  Bye!

my completed Book of Mormon project

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Week of Miracles!

Hello mother I love!  Thanks for the pictures and the email :) .  Looks like the usual Utah ha.  I'm glad you enjoyed my letter, I always enjoy yours.  It's nice to see a letter on the entryway floor that has my name on it.  I got your package this week, so I'll be opening it today :) .  I'm excited!

This week has been absolutely full of miracles, so much so that I can't even begin to fit them all in this email.  I'll just have to send a few of the major highlights.  This coming Saturday we'll have a baptism (actually two people on the same day)!  Peter and Jalos; hooray!  And another one the following week, as well, maybe more if things go really well.

One powerful experience we had was with a man named Milan, who lives in Rotherham.  When we went to teach him this week, the rest of his family was gone, and so we just taught him.  We talked about the Restoration of the gospel, and at the end we invited him to pray to know if it is true (if Joseph Smith was called of God to be a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is true) .  He said that he already knew it was, but that he hadn't actually prayed about it yet.  So for the closing prayer, we invited him to pray about it right then, and he agreed.  He offered a warm, sincere prayer, and waited for an answer.  Then he said another and waited.  Then the same thing again.  I open my eyes in time to see him sit back on his knees and open his eyes very wide, with a deep intake of breath.  Then he kind of shivers, and looks at us.  We stand up and he begins to tell us what happened, tears beginning to stream from his eyes.  He told us after the third prayer he heard whispers telling him that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he needed to read the Book of Mormon, and saw Elder Sindylek and I standing in front of him with a blue background behind us.  He opened his eyes, thinking that we had said it, but we were kneeling across the room from him, of course not saying anything.  He said he also felt a great warmth come over him.  I know that he had this answer because of his great faith and patience in asking, as well as his diligence in keeping the commandments, including reading the Book of Mormon.  This man now has a firm testimony and a solid witness of the gospel's truth.

We also had a surprising lesson with one of our other investigators, Jan, who has been unsure for a while if he wants to be baptized or not.  At one point during our lesson, we mentioned that Peter and Jalos are getting baptized.  Turns out, Jalos is his uncle (which we didn't know beforehand), and when he heard that, he asked us if he could be baptized as well.  The soonest we could schedule him for was the week after, and he agreed.  Since then, his newfound real intent has lead to diligently keeping commitments he struggled with before, like coming to church and reading the Book of Mormon.  I'm so excited and happy about this.  He's got a great spirit in him that I can see in spite of how shy he is.

That's all I've got time for this week, but I'll put the rest in my letter home.  I love you all so much, and I'm excited to speak with you on Christmas.  It'll probably be over Skype, but if not, it will be a phone call.  Thanks for all you do for me, you're in my prayers each and every day.

Elder Zachary Brown

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Big, Long, Letter!

Dear Family,

I'll answer a few questions first, because that way I have a topic to focus on and I can write it down faster.  I go to the library to email, which I only do on p-day.  I go to an actual church building about every p-day as well, to play sports or watch movies.  There's actually a lot of movies we can watch- basically any PG animated film, and some other movies that are on the President's approved list.  Tron, Remember the Titans and the Princess Bride are movies we've watched.  The sports we play are volleyball, basketball and floor hockey (I haven't played this because I play basketball instead).  I also play the piano while I'm at the chapel on p-days now since you sent me music.  :)  The place where the Slovak branch goes to church on Sunday isn't an actual church building.  It's a few rooms of this office type building that are rented for our time every week.  One of the rooms is like a presentation room, which is where we have sacrament meeting, and the other meetings are done in more classroom sized spaces.

I do get copies of the Ensign so you don't need to send those at all.  Thanks though!  Grammy asked me, in keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit (which doesn't exist in England) what I am grateful for.  Definitely people who have been prepared by the Lord for us to teach and then sent to us.  There's really not much else better than that possible in missionary work, because it means we can devote all our time to fulfilling our calling by teaching.  So, that's what I'd say I'm really grateful for right now.

Thanks Grammy and Papa for the letters you send and the thoughts you share- they're great to read.  Also, thanks Grandma and Grandpa Brown for your words as well.  I hope things work out for you to serve a mission, I'll pray for you, too.  Thanks Alysia, as well, for your letter- I know people will be very blessed by your efforts to do missionary work as a member and eventually serve with Ryan.

The adult session of conference sounds fantastic!  I'm glad they are encouraging member missionary work because it's one of the biggest aides to us as full time missionaries.  When they come with us to teach the lessons go much better.  The best investigators we have are the friends of members who wanted us to go teach their friend.  I know it's hard to find time with school, work and such but if you make some time to go with the missionaries to teach it will bless both the people you go to teach, the missionaries and our own family.  The Lord recognizes the sacrifice and will really bless you for it.

You asked why the Slovaks would want to leave Slovakia and go to England and you also asked what they do for work.  The answer is, the Slovaks (the native ones) aren't leaving Slovakia, it's the Slovak gypsies.  The reason is basically government benefits.  They get much better benefits here in England, and many if not most, don't work.  Some of them do have jobs (many of the church members, interestingly) but most are living off benefits.  Their children do go to school and are learning English.  Many adults do as well (it's more like an English class) and the ones who do are usually motivated because they have a job and need to be able to speak English.  Actually, it's really a good thing that so many of these people don't work during the day.  It means we can teach people the entire day and we never have times where nobody is at home.  It's easy to schedule appointments but usually don't ever have to do that because  we can just stop by and they'll almost always be home.  As of today's end, I have taught 201 lessons!  (I'm writing this on Nov. 26th)  There's no way I could have done this without being able to teach all day long.  I feel so blessed to be teaching so much.  Many missionaries don't teach that many lessons their entire mission.

I'm sorry this letter is taking so long to get out.  These past few days have been ridiculously busy.  We've eaten at home a lot less, and it's during the extra time I have during meal times that I write the most.  The time at the end of the day  has had little to offer besides a few spare moments to write in my journal, thanks to lengthy planning sessions and other things (like transfer calls).  I wish the day lasted another hour or so.  Then I'd have enough time to take care of things like letters home and to spend time writing in my "small plates" journal.  It's been rather sadly neglected lately.  I could really use some more time, but it's a rather inflexible resource to work with.

My personal studies are coming along very well.  I've read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Preach My Gospel since I've been out and I'm nearly finished with the New Testament and Bible Dictionary.  Have you ever read the Bible Dictionary beginning to end?  It's really quite interesting and is full of great information.  I read it in the mornings while I eat breakfast and then while I wait for my turn in the shower.  Like I've said before, I make use of every single second I have.  I can't afford to waste any time at all- there's way to much I need to get done.

One of the reasons I'm trying so hard to read through all of the books of scripture is so that I can use them in unison as effectively as my companion.  He knows the scriptures very well so when we run into someone who's making up their own doctrine and trying to tell us it's in the Bible, he's able to confidently say, "That isn't in the scriptures at all," or "show me where it says that", knowing they can't support what they're making up.  It actually happens a lot.  I want to be able to testify of what is and isn't in the Bible with the exactness and confidence that he can so I'm focusing my studies on this.  My scriptures are filling with marked verses, cross references and notes and I love to look at what I've accomplished, what I've learned.  Marked scriptures look so much better than blank pages.

One thing are whole mission has been asked to study by the mission president are Christlike attributes.  We're supposed to choose one to focus on per transfer (every six weeks) and learn as much as we can about it, and strive to apply what we learn to how we act and think.  It's really good idea because I've noticed how interconnected every Christlike attribute is with the others.  When one is studied in depth, the others become clearer as well.  If you are looking for something new to study, this is a great way to provide a focus and keep things interesting while reading.  Pray about which attribute to study and one will come to mind.  Then pray for inspiration when you study.  When we invite God to give us revelation on a specific subject that we put effort into learning about, it comes.  We just need to ask and then do our part.

This wraps up another letter home.  It's a busy, constant work I'm living.  you are in my thoughts and prayers every day.  I bear testimony to people all the time about how much my family has blessed my life thank to our connection to God and His gospel.  People always feel the truth of it when I do and it's something that nobody can deny as being good and true.  Thank you for that.  You are wonderful examples of the kind of family Heavenly Father wants us to have, and your examples shine through me to these people here in England.  You probably never thought about that kind of possibility when you decided to build an eternal family dedicated to God, but there it is and here I am.  I love you so much.  These people here know it because I tell them.  I tell them of the joy my family brings me.  And I'm telling you, too.  Love you!

Love,  Elder Brown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love and Joy

This week has brought miracles just like every other--it seems to be part of being a missionary for doing God's work.  The first I'd like to mention is of both of the families that we are teaching in Rotherham.  First, we went over to one of their houses to teach them about fasting.  We start talking about it and ask if they'd already heard about it before, and surprisingly they had.  Then they explain to us pretty much every aspect that we normally teach before we even tell them about it.  It was a pretty easy lesson, that one, and they were completely willing to fast on Sunday.  How much better does it get?  Then we head over to their neighbor's house, and follow up on their Book of Mormon reading, expecting that they've read, but expecting it not to be a whole lot.  Turns out, in the week since we've seen them, they've read from the introduction page all the way through Jacob 2!  That's over 105 pages!  Even better, they understood and remembered what they read, and were telling us what they thought certain symbolisms meant, and were 100% correct.  For example, they were telling us how they had the overwhelming feeling as they read Lehi's dream that the Tree of Life just had to represent Christ.  We've only had three lessons with them total.  Amazing?  I think so.

The man we baptized last week (Miroslav) went teaching with us this week.  He's a really smart guy, and we'd had a lot of success teaching him.  He remembers everything we teach, and is always sharing what he understands from his scripture reading, which is a lot.  When we take recent converts to teach, they usually contribute a lot to the lessons, because they have really great testimonies, and also are able to answer questions well.  When we asked Miroslav a question, he didn't just answer it.  He taught part of the lesson to the people, explaining concepts that are right out of Preach my Gospel (which he's never read, and I doubt he even knows it exists) .  Really, it's impossible to ask for anything more.  We recommended to the ward council that he recieves some kind of calling where he can teach, because he's already great at it, and could become truly amazing if he were given the oppurtunity to grow.  We're excited to have him as our newest member of the branch.

 That's all there's time for this week, and I'm glad to report a very good one.  I love the people, and I love the work.  You're an amazing family, and you are an immeasurably valuable treasure in my life.  Irreplaceable and utterly lovable.  Until next week!

With joy and love,
Elder Brown

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Late Posting of Last Week's Email

Dear Family,

This week has been really amazing. We first of all had a baptism!!! Miroslav was baptized and confirmed this week, and it was a fantastic experience for everyone there. This was even better because we had several investigators who attended it, and they all felt the Spirit very strongly. The branch president gave a talk, and part of it was pretty boldly encouraging Miroslav's wife to be baptized soon as well, saying that a husband and wife should be together on things. It was great! We followed up a couple days later, and we're now teaching her as well. The baptism really sparked her spirit and her desire to learn and come unto Christ.

We also have been teaching the family I spoke about last week that I was really impressed with, and every single lesson with them has been exceptional. They continually progress, and are reading the Book of Mormon every day, including Peter, the husband, who started out not being able to read. A miracle? Absolutely! His wife (Marta) also told us that she has been praying every day to have an answer about if she should be baptized or not (this has been for a couple weeks now), and she told us that she hasn't yet. We had a couple of great recent converts there, and one of them bore her testimony about her own baptism. Since these two women were friends in Slovakia, it made her testimony even more personal. We are praying that soon Marta will receive her answer.

Also, Jalos, an investigator of about two years thanks to his fear of water (and thus reluctance to be baptized), told us yesterday that he wants to be baptized on the same day as Peter and Marta! It's a huge miracle, because we were actually wanting him to try a fake baptism to get used to it, and he decided that he didn't even want that and just wants to be baptized! Hooray!

I love you all very, very much. We don't have much of a Thanksgiving here, but my family is at the top of my thankful list. Remember that always! It's been an exceptional week, and I can't wait to continue to watch these people grow. Once again, I love you!
Elder Brown

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mailbox Letter!

Dear Family,
Hello!  I hope this letter finds you all doing well.  The work here in England continues ever to progress.

You might like to know that we're getting a car.  I will not be driving (I don't have any desire to do so) but Elder Sindylek will.  He doesn't have to test for an English license because his Czech Republic one is valid here as well.  Having a car will aid us greatly.  We have had to spend a great deal of time traveling out of our day previously, which decreases how many lessons we can potentially teach.  By having a car, our ability to visit more distant investigators is opened up, which will really help us spread membership beyond Darnall into places like Firth Park and Rotherham.  Elder Sindylek is very excited to drive- he's been requesting a car for some time (before I even got here).  This will be really good for us.

Mom, you would love the little gypsy children.  They are so cute, all plump and dark.  There's this one little girl who only knows how to proclaim her name, which she proudly does over and over.  Frantiska Dunkova!  Again and again, once every few minutes.  It's so funny.

Everyone plays soccer here (or rather, football).  Basketball not so much.  Especially the gypsies; they love playing football, but I'm not sure they've ever played basketball.  They certainly haven't ever played American football.

In our zone we send miracle messages to the phones of every companionship in the zone to their answering machines whenever a companionship has a miracle.  It's fun to hear the experiences of others, and I love sending our own experiences.  This week the zone leaders asked us to focus the messages on Book of Mormon related miracles, which I was excited about  because that's where we've been having a lot of our miracles.

You would not believe how expensive some things are here in England, especially American things (like peanut butter).  Also, gas is ridiculous here.  You think it's bad in America, but Europe has it worse.  Some things are really cheap here though, like soda.  You can buy a 2 liter bottle of cheap, no name cola for a little over a half a pound.  Not bad at all, really.  Needless to say, this is what the Slovaks are drinking and thus it is what we are often given when we go by.  However, some things just aren't the same.  English cream soda is disgusting.  (I found out after having bought a bottle) so if you want the good kind you have to buy American cream soda in cans, and since it's American and canned, it's more expensive.  I was lucky enough to have some at a member's home with dinner, which was happy for me.

I got a Slovak hymnbook of my own finally!  They were out at the MTC the entire time I was there but they have them in this ward and they received a new shipment the other day.  They asked us missionaries if any of us wanted one and I of course did.  They're much smaller than the English hymnbooks, having 35 hymns and 10 songs from the primary songbook.  It's interesting to look at the translations and see how the words have been changed to fit the music notes.  Sometimes the differences are really large.

In the mornings we have a half and hour to exercise after we wake up and before breakfast.  Elder Sindylek and I go running every morning and distance wise it's about a mile and a half.  There are so many hills though; so that makes it a lot more work.  I haven't been running this past week since I've been sick (Elder Sindylek goes with Elder DeShazer instead).  I've just stayed here and done tons of ab workouts.  We don't really have the opportunity to play sports except on P-days, if we go to one of the chapels as a zone.  The chapel gyms here are really small so they don't even have room for half a basketball court.  It makes playing volleyball rather interesting.

I met a member this last week who touched my heart more than anybody else has done while meeting them for the first time.  His name is Peter and he's an older guy who lives by himself in a house filled with CD's and cats.  He's as lonely as can be- ever since his mother died, his family hasn't been seeing him.  He told me that the church save him from being lonely.  I think people judge him poorly because he's not 100% there in the head, even his own family, which is so sad.  He said one of the sweetest prayers I've ever heard at the start of the lesson, which included thanking God that the missionaries could come, and asking Him  to help us come again.  I want to visit this man every week.  He's a lonely son of God with nobody who cares except God and the missionaries.  We who Heavenly Father sent to find him and care.  The whole time we were there I felt the strongest compassion for Peter, and I was continually praying in my heart for blessing to be upon him.  He needs a friend and I'm so grateful that I've been given the chance to be that.  I will be that.  Nobody should have to be so alone.  But it shows that Heavenly Father knows His children and knows what they need and will provide for them.  Peter's acceptance of the gospel has led to finding people who care.  God has blessed him for being willing to listen and accept.  I know that every person who does the same will be aided in whatever they need because God knows them and their needs, and can and will help them when they heed His words.  Peter was also telling us how Elder Juran (the other Czech missionary) said that he could write him after he goes home in January.  Peter was so pleased about this and I'm thinking I'll do the same thing when I return home.

The family I told you about a couple weeks ago is still doing great.  They're progressing very well, and continue to gladly accept the messages we bring them.  You should see how excited the children get when they see that we are coming to visit them.  The 13 year old girl (the one who loves the Book of Mormon and now is reading it to her family every day) especially gets excited and it's just heart warming to see how they value what we bring to them.  Their 11 year old boy has read the New Testament three times over and wanted a Bible.  (his got lost in transition from Slovakia to England)  We brought him one and it made him so happy.  How many 11 year olds have read even a single verse of scripture of their own choice let alone the New Testament three times through?  Tell me that's not amazing.

Thanks for the letters you send me- it's the only connection I have to home, really.  I'm praying for you all individually, and I know God hears both my prayers and yours.  Time passes so strangely sometimes.  In the moment if feels so long, but after we're past it, we look back and realize it's over, that we've moved onto the next step.  One day we'll be in Heaven, looking back on our earth life and we'll see how short this time really was.  Yet it's so important how we act, how well we endure as time passes.  Despite being in different places, doing different things, we're actually walking on the same path together.  We're all walking the straight and narrow path that leads us back to God.

I've got to finish with the most important thing I send:  my love.  You are a wonderful family and I value each and every one of you.  You are doing things that please the Lord and when I hear about it, it warms my heart.  You are doing the things that I'm trying to help people out here in England to do.  Thanks for telling me about things- what's important to you is important to me.  I love you so much and I know Heavenly Father does too.  I know He hears our prayers when we pray from the heart, and by walking His path we open the way for answers and blessings.

With Love,  Elder Brown

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Zone Conference

Elders on back row: Sindylek, Brown, Hillock, Van Alfen, Vickery, Juran, DeShazer, Williams, Misselwitz, Vogil, Rogers, Thygerson, Johansen, Donalson, Westergard and Orr.
Sisters and couple: Staheli, Hedstrom, Allen, Allen, Beesley and Harrop

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18th Email

Hello again!  Thanks for the picture, I always love to see the family!  I'll be starting to write another letter home today, but I'm not sure when I'll finish it.  I did get the piano music, thank you so much!  I'll be playing it later today, and I'll think of you :) .  The rule about sending packages to the mission home is just so that I don't change residence and then the package doesn't get to me.  This way, the package will always get to me.  Tell papa thanks for sharing his spiritual experiences with geneology work, I enjoyed that a lot.

We didn't have any baptisms this week, we had  to bump it to next week, but now it's planned for sure (this will be for Miroslav, but we are hoping for a few more shortly following his baptism).

This week we had a couple of amazing experiences from referrals.  One started off when we went to see our investigators in Rotherham (Frantisek and Rast'o), and when we got there, Fero (the short form of the name Frantisek) told us to come with him to see someone.  It was actually someone he had met that day who was having a hard time.  He told them he knew some people who could help change his life (us) and brought us over.  As we talked with these people, Fero bore his testimony about how for seven months he had no money for his family.  He said that despite this, he had contined to pray and read his scriptures and have faith.  He then said that now things were all right, and that he now has money to support his family. Then he bore testimony that it was 100% thanks to his decision to follow the Lord, and the Spirit was so strong in the room.  Then Rast'o, our investigator of only a few weeks, bore testimony of finding strength in following the Lord.  It was like Elder Sindylek and I didn't even need to be there!  We scheduled this family for baptism at the end of the lesson, and we're excited to work more with them.

Another family we met this week was referred to us by a recent convert, and the father actually came to church last week before we even met with them.  We went to see them this week, and my first impressions were very very good from the moment I walked in the door; it didn't smell like smoke, and come to find out they don't smoke or drink at all!  This is totally unique for a Slovak gypsie family--they all smoke and drink.  But not this one!  We taught them the message of the restoration, and they accepted the baptismal challenge as well.  As we continued to meet with them throughout the week, they've continued to progress as fast as we can teach them.  The husband (named Peter) is reading the Book of Mormon every morning and evening.  He didn't know how to read before this, but we challenged him to try anyway and to pray for help, and he definitely has received it.  He came to church again this week (the rest of the family wasn't able to make it, but they will this coming Sunday), and had a great experience again.

So that's the miracle message for the week, I hope it's uplifted your day.  Miracles are all around, and the world is being filled with the light of this gospel in all nations among all tongues of people.
Love you all very much, I'll get that letter to you as soon as I can.  Thank you for sending your love and support, it means so very much to me.  You're the best!
Loads of love,
Elder Zachary Brown

And this from the senior couple (Elder and Sister Allen) serving in Sheffield with Zach and his companion:


That elders from Sheffield 4th branch asked us to go with them to Rotherham to teach Fero, Anna and a cousin. We went there to teach them about the law of chastity. To our surprise Fero met us at the door and told us we were going a few blocks away to visit a man he had just met. We didn't quite understand at first what we were doing. We thought that perhaps this man needed an interpreter but that was not the case. Fero met this man and his family and they were having hard times. Because the Gospel had changed his life so much he knew that the gospel could help and change this man. When a person is living the way they should their life is always brighter no matter what. Bad things happen to good people but it is the atonement that helps us to deal with life's problems better.

This man and his wife have been married for 30 years and have 10 children. Some of them live here and others live in Slovakia. He came with his wife to England to have a better life. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and a little bit about the restoration of the gospel. He agreed to read the Book of Mormon and come to church on Sunday. Elder Brown challenged him to be baptized. When he knows the truth and the spirit speaks to him then would he be baptized? YES! I tell you these people are amazing people.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Email 11-11

Hello mom and dad!  I'll be sending another letter today, just so you know.  I can't believe you sent that music already.  I didn't mean for you to do that!  Thank you much though :) .  I will enjoy it a lot.  And I love you too :) .  (Do you know that you're supposed to send packages to the mission home?  I think it will be ok if you didn't, but just so you know)  I don't need a water bottle, I can quite easily get one today.  Actually, we might have one back at the flat.  I'm glad you liked the letter, I tried to put as much into it as I could.

This week I want to write about an investigator we have who has been progressing rapidly, and has shown some miraculous things in lessons we've taught.  One day we went over to teach her, and she mentioned that she had some family member's who lived nearby that were intersted.  We went over there with her, and we began to speak with and teach a couple of guys and a woman.  The man and wife were the relatives, and the other man was their neighbor.  As we taught them, they were really interested and accepting of what we had to say.  They listened carefully to everything, and asked some really great questions.  The whole time, our investigator, named Alzbeta, was helping us out, giving a bunch of input and answering their questions.  I was amazed at how well she remembered lessons that we had taught quite a while ago.  At one point, she likened our goal of getting back to Heavenly Father to the Tree of Life in Lehi's dream, and explained the significance of the rod of iron as the word of God, testifying that the scriptures are vital.  It was so amazing.  This woman's only been meeting with the missionaries for a month and a half at most, and has only even been to church once.  Obviously, she's reading the Book of Mormon every day, and a lot of it.  It's great to watch.

Also, we finally got one of our investigators to church who needed to go one more time before baptism!  There have been all these barriers the last few weeks that have prevented him from coming, but this week he made it!  I should be sending word of another baptism here pretty soon for us.  Even better was that one of his friends from work is another investigator of ours who has struggled with the motivation to go to church.  When this one found out his friend was going, he came too.  Not only that, but he wants to be baptized as well, and if he's ready we'll try and do it the same day as his friend.  Not only that, but these two brought one of their friends to church with them that we had never met before!  We set up an appointment with him later today.  These people are so great here.  They refer us to all their friends and family, so our teaching pool continues to grow.  I see the Lord's hand in this, because as these other people we have been teaching near baptism, we'll have time to begin seeing new people.  These new people are being provided as fast as we can handle them, and it's such a blessing.  Truly, the field is white, all ready to harvest.

That's all I've got time for this week :( .  But next week I will write again!  Thanks for reading, writing, and loving :) .  You're the greatest family I could ask for.  Love you lots, hopefully my letter gets there soon!
Elder Zachary Brown

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Super Long Handwritten Letter! Best Day Ever!

Dear Family,

There's a lot of questions you have been asking in letters and such that I need to answer.  I don't have time during emails, so I'll just do it like this.  I can't send very many letters like this, my funds are somewhat tight, but I'll send as many as I can.  Next month will be better money wise.  haha  :)

Grammy sent me a letter with a bunch of questions that I'm sure you all have as well so I'll answer those and add some other things too.

The first question was about the gypsy people I teach, whether they are a poor class of people or they are an actual ethnic group.  Though they don't have much money, this isn't what makes them gypsies.  They are absolutely their own ethnic group.  They originated in Europe and over a lot of time have been making their way eastward.  They were in Slovakia for a long time but recently have been moving to places like England and Canada (basically places that they can get good social benefits in).  They actually have their own language, which I don't understand a word of.  When I first got here (for the first couple of weeks, minimum), I thought they were only speaking Slovak so I felt really lost when they would speak to each other in gypsy.  I thought I understood Slovak much worse than I had originally believed.  Also, my companion speaks a lot of Czech rather than Slovak (him being from the Czech Republic) which didn't help in the beginning either.  However, once I realized these things, my mind was able to process what was going on much better.  I'd put myself at about 80% understanding the Slovak and Czech at this point.  Gypsy 0%.

Grammy also asked if I would ever be transferred.  To be honest, I have no idea.  My companion has been in this area the entire time he's been out (a year and a month), and I know it's because he speaks the language which is so needed here.  I will likely spend at least the majority of my time here in Sheffield.  As for teaching/knocking doors outside of Slovak people, no.  Everyone we teach in Slovak.  I street contacted a teenage boy (an English one) and got his information but we referred him to the English speaking elders.  We don't really knock doors, either.  Our teaching pool is constantly growing because these people are all somehow related and refer us to other family members.  Which is awesome because support from members is what helps people stay strong after baptism.

My companion, Elder Sindylek speaks English pretty well, but you can certainly tell he is not a native English speaker.  His questions sound like statements 90% of the time because of word order, and sometimes his statements sound like questions.  I've been able to explain the meanings of words and phrases to him as well as what English is colloquial.  He's reading "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder", which is written using old-style educated English, and sometimes there are words in there that we never use in normal conversation, so I help explain that to him.  Of course, he helps me a lot with Slovak.  Because of cases, which English doesn't have, there are about 444 ways a single word could change it's ending.  I've almost got the application of these down (I've had them memorized since the 3rd week in the MTC, it's just the matter of fluency changing words at conversation speed that is hard).  Anyhow, he helps me when I case things wrong and also helps me with sentence structure which is much less flexible than English.

There were also many questions about my apartment.  It's more like a flat that I stay in, and it's pretty small space-wise.  There is another companionship in here with us, too.  (Elder Williams and his companion, Elder DeShazer)  We have one washer and dryer as part of our flat.  As for the cooking in the flat, it's pretty decent.  However, we rarely have time to really cook something, so a lot of our food is fast and easily prepared stuff that's also cheap.  We probably have about 3 meal appointments a week.  Yes, I have a warm blanket that was here upon arrival.  It rains very often here, as expected, but I have an umbrella, so it's alright.  We walk a lot here and there are many, many hills.  Sometimes we use the bus but they are rather unreliable as to what time they arrive at the stops.  A lot of the time it's faster to walk than to wait for the bus.

I met the mission president on Oct. 23rd.  He's a good man and I can tell that he's very pressed for time.  Our interview was rather brief, but I was glad to finally meet him.  I have no idea how far away the mission home is.

Sundays we walk to church about 2 miles away, gathering members and investigators along the way.  With this branch being young, the Sunday meetings are a little different in that it's recent converts teaching lessons and giving talks and such.  Other than that, the setup is pretty much the same.  I am indeed playing the piano- I am the only Elder who can in our zone, and only two of the branch members play the piano (they are English, and are aiding the Slovak branch's development by serving in leadership positions).  As for going to the temple on my mission, that one's a no.  It's not a part of my mission boundaries, so I can't.

Yes, I had fish and chips for the first time just the other day and it was excellent!  Much better than the intestines, which were disgusting, and the pig tails, which were mostly fat, skin and bone.  I probably won't have fish and chips again on my own budget- it was over 4 (pounds), which I could buy like 4 frozen pizza's with.  My companion really likes doner kebubs, which are cheap Pakistani  fast food (there are a ton of Pakistani people here, and thus many Pakistani restaurants and shops) that I wasn't overly fond of.

Being a Slovak speaking missionary, we don't really have exact boundaries.  Basically wherever Slovak people are, we go.  most of our investigators live in Darnall, which is like a section of Sheffield, sort of a sub-section.  We also teach in Firth Park and have one family in Rotherham.  The Rotherham family is hard to travel to because  we can only get there in a reasonable amount of time if we go by car, so we've only really taught them when the Allen's (the senior missionary couple that send you pictures) can go since they have a car.  The majority of our time is spent in Darnall, which are flat likes right on the border of.  The rest is almost entirely spent in Firth Park.  These are both sections of Sheffield.  Rotherham is the only city we've taught in outside of Sheffield and just that one family.

I've been doing something with my Slovak Book of Mormon that I'm pretty excited about.  I've been going through the sections of Preach My Gospel that have applicable scripture references, and then marking them in my Book of Mormon.  I also have those scripture tabs (I think Grandma Brown gave them to me?) that I've been sticking on the pages so as to be able to quickly flip to them when needed.  I write on the tabs the main idea of the scripture and they are color-coded to the 5 lesson categories.  When it's done, it will be a great resource for teaching with the scriptures effectively.  When I'm finished getting it all marked, I'll send a picture.

Traffic here is pretty crazy, and the roads are a mess.  I honestly don't ever want to drive here; it scares me too much.  The other day Elder Sindylek and I were crossing the street and this parked car suddenly shot back in reverse, right in between us.  We were both maybe three inches from the car.  I know we were protected, for sure.  I've been sick this week too.  My head has been killing me.  I've still kept working though.  That's why I'm out here.

Hopefully this letter helped give you a better idea of what I'm doing here.  I love hearing from you.  Letters are the best way to hear from you, that way I don't have to spend as much time reading during email time.  Thank you for writing me.  I send this with all my love, and I hope things are going all right back home.  You're all amazing, every single one of you.  Look for a miracle this week- I promise you'll find one.  You may not be on a mission and "living and breathing" the gospel like me, but you are still children of God dedicated to Him and He will bless you.  I pray for you every day and I know Heavenly Father hears those prayers and will bless you.  I love you so much!  Always remember that.  :)

All my love,
Elder Zachary Brown

Monday, November 4, 2013

Today's Email and a Picture

This week I wanted to talk about a family that we have been teaching that is yet another miracle I have the opportunity to be a part of.  It's actually the very first family that I taught when I got out here in the field, and this week we were able to go by and teach them again.  They are, as my Czech companion says, epic.  They are completely ready for baptism, having been taught all of the lessons, and are also keeping all of the commitments they are given.  They live in Rotherham, so the church is a ways away and it takes a lot of effort for them to get there on Sundays.  However, they've overcome so many things that have opposed them from coming (truly, they are so faithful), and have been having great experiences.  All that we're waiting for is for them to get their passports back from the government so that they can get married and then baptised.  When we went to see them this week, the brother of the Fero (the man of the house) was there.  His name is Rast'o, and he is already progressing so well.  He was reading the Book of Mormon diligently before we even met with him, thanks to the influence of Fero.  Fero has the strongest testimony, and while we were teaching Rast'o, he brought such a great spirit when he spoke.  Rast'o is living with Fero, so it's fantastic because it means that Rast'o constantly has that good influence all the time.  Fero is going to be a great teacher one day--he really knows well the things that we've taught him, and he isn't afraid to bear testimony about them. 

We've also been working with a man who is very, very afraid of putting his head under the water, and thus has a big barrier to being baptised.  He's been ready for like a year, and honestly is a stronger member than some of the people who are actual members.  I shared with him Ne. 3:7, emphasizing the part that the Lord will prepare a way to accomplish all of his commandments, and he really felt the Spirit there.  We invited him to do a practice baptism with us some time so he could get used to it and such, and he liked the idea.  Hopefully it will really help him feel comfortable with actually being baptised.  He is the nicest guy--he's like a big old teddy bear, and he even talks like you might expect a big teddy bear of a man to talk.  He always has his shirt off when we come, his big old belly just hanging out free.  He's so funny, and has the biggest heart; I really love him.

Thanks for your letters and the promised of more :) .  I love to hear from you, and that is best way to do so.  I'm thinking that I'll send home a package of some sort for Christmas with some things from you all, and maybe I'll put in the letters too (like I did with the ones from the MTC).  If you would like to send me my Ludovico Einaudi piano music book for Christmas, that would be awesome.  On p-days, we're usually at the chapel, and I don't have all my songs memorized to play them on the piano.  Love you all lots, I think of and pray for you every day!
Elder Brown

Fero, Anna, Rast'o, Elder Allen (in hat, senior missionary) and kids
They are eating red vines which they have never had before.  :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zone P-Day Pictures

Here are some of the photos from Sheffield A & B Zone P-day.  (Thanks to Sis Allen)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm a Little Late Getting This Posted but Here it Is!

I only have time to write about like one experience every week, so here's this week's miracle:
This week we've been really praying for everyone to read the Book of Mormon, because we know of the good it does in people's lives, and it's something these people really struggle to do.  The miracle is, almost every single one of them began to read!  It was the most amazing thing, because they started to change.  Their homes became different in the course of a single day; lighter, more comfortable, because the Spirit was there.  They also have been keeping other commitments because of it, like going to church.  This week was the most amazing Sunday yet, because of how many people made it to church.  We totaled 13 investigators from just my companion and I, and there was a overall total of 85 people at sacrament meeting!  This is the most this branch has had yet, and we are so close to our goal of 100.  One of the families that came was the one I told you about last week, and they didn't even have shoes.  We found some for them so that they could walk with us the 2 miles to church, and they did, and they loved it!  They've also been reading the Book of Mormon (which they also dearly love), which I know makes all the difference.  Another one of our investigators is prepared for baptism, and should make it to church this Sunday and be baptized the following Friday.  Hooray!  He's also been reading the Book of Mormon.  Truly, that book works miracles in people's lives.  It's wonderful to watch.
Love you tons!
Elder Brown

Monday, October 28, 2013

P-Day Fun

CHAIR SCOCCER: How this game works is every person starts out with their chair setting up right. You have to protect your chair from getting hit from the ball. When it does get hit for the 1st time you turn your chair over, upside down. 2nd time you out and have to turn your chair back over and sit in it. You can still play but can't leave your chair. You try to get the ball and hit another persons chair and then you are back in the game. Last man standing wins.

And one of the missionaries playing volleyball.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 21, 2013

Hello mom and dad :) .
First I wanted to thank you for the things you've sent me in the mail.  It is so good to hear from you!  Also, thank you dad for the letter about your mission, I'm glad you were able to do that for me, and I really enjoyed reading it.  Thanks for the picture!  It's good to see your smiling faces :) .  Tell Jaalah she had better be in the next one, I want to see her smiling face, too.

I'd like to share another miracle that happened this week (seriously, they happen every day, but I only have time to send the best of them).  Yesterday we found a Slovak family that had just recently moved in a week ago.  Elder Sindylek and I were walking down the street, and some kids across the street started calling us over to come and teach them.  We of course went over to them (we'd have been really dumb not to have), and they welcomed us into their home.  Their dad was there, named Gejza, and we began talking with him and his children.  He told us that the rest of his family arrives this Thursday (his wife and some other kids) .  As we spoke with them and began sharing with them who we are and what we do, they got increasingly focused and interested, to put it lightly.  Even the children were so tuned in.  Everything we shared with them they just soaked up and accepted.  I've never seen or heard of a family so prepared for the gospel.  We shared with them some scriptures from the Book of Mormon, which they absolutely loved.  Elder Sindylek knows the scriptures super well, and had the most applicable verses for these people.  The girl who was holding it (her dad has bad eyesight, so she was reading the verses for him) was cradling it in her arms, and when we gave them their own, she acted like we'd given her a bar of pure gold.  I watched her a bit while Elder Sindylek was talking, and she was flipping to random verses and reading them under her breath with the biggest smile on her face.  Then, when we gave them the baptismal challenge, they all individually, immediately, and emphatically accepted.  This was such a shock to me because the father had previously mentioned that he had been baptized in another church.  They didn't even care though, and asked us if they could be baptized like the next day.  We were like, "We need to teach you a little more first..." and then we made a baptismal calender with them and set a date for them to work towards.  At the end, we explained how to pray from the heart rather than using a memorized prayer, which I thought they might not be open to changing, but they wholeheartedly accepted it, and wanted to try.  It was so amazing.  They want us to come every day, but we have other people we need to teach, too, so we can't really do that.  But we will certainly be going by often--they are an amazing family, and I can't wait to see them grow and progress!  This is exactly what is meant by people whose hearts have been prepared to receive the gospel that will lead them back to our Heavenly Father.  I am so blessed to be a part of this--it is such a privilege.
Love you all lots, I hope you have a fantastic week!  I'm excited for your letters, I will love reading them.  Until next week, with much love,
Elder Brown

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Picture of a Boy and a Pastry

Elder Brown eating a Slovak chocolate pastry.
Every time Elder and Sister Allen send a picture of Zach it makes my heart so happy.  I am so grateful for their kindness.  Doesn't he look good?!  I love that boy.  :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week Two in England!

Hello mom, I love you very much, I just wanted to start off with that :) .  What do I want to hear from you?  Anything that has been meaningful to you, really.  Things that brought you joy, spiritual experiences, things that are hard so that I can pray for you.  Thank you for the letter you sent, it was good to have something to hold in my hands like you said. 
This week has been super busy with all sorts of experiences happening every day.  Everyone loves to hear about weird foods, so I'll start with that.  I ate pig tails one night, and goja (which is intestines stuffed with this potato-type stuff).  It's not Slovak food or English food, but gypsie food.  I expect I'll have more such things to come, seeing as that's who I'm teaching--the Slovak gypsies.  Once again, these people are so awesome here!  They have amazingly open and willing hearts, and are so prepared to receive the light of this gospel.  I would like to mention a couple of the people we are currently teaching that are really quite amazing.  One is Helena, the mother of Marek, who is the boy we baptized last week.  She hadn't attended any of her multiple family member's baptisms prior to his, and hadn't been interested in the church.  However, after Marek's baptism, which she attended, things changed in her heart.  When we went over to follow up a bit with Marek, we ended up teaching her a full lesson, and have met with her multiple times since then.  Here's the amazing thing: she watched the Restoration video one night on her own and loved it so much that she watched it 5 more times!  since then she watches it 3 or 4 ttimes every night before bed, and she says that she's never slept better in her life.  The crazy thing is, the video is in English because they lost their remote control and has no way to switch it to Slovak!  So she understands none of what is said, but simply feels the Spirit that the story of Joseph Smith brings.  Of course, when we found out about this we immediately taught her the lesson of the Restoration and explained what was in the video.  When I related to her the words of Joseph Smith about his experience in the Sacred Grove, the Spirit was so strong in the room.  She knows that it is true, and feels it so strongly.  We asked her to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and our message to know if it is true, and I can't wait to follow up with her about it.  I feel that she soon will be joining her family as a member of the church, and we plan to give her a baptismal date the next lesson we have.

Another person we are teaching is named Martin.  He just recently began meeting with us, but already his growth stuns me.  After only a couple lessons, he accepted the commitment to live the Word of Wisdom and completely gave up smoking and drinking, just like that.  He'd been smoking like 3 packages a day, but now nothing and he doesn't even want to.  He soaks up everything that we talk with him about--his heart is so open.  We took him to see a baptism of a different investigator from another district, but we ended up missing the actual baptism thanks to heavy traffic making the bus very slow.  However, we took him to see the baptismal font, and talked with him about how the baptism works.  He told us that his heart keeps telling him that he needs to be baptized, which was so special.  He really feels the Spirit very well.  We suggested a baptismal date to work towards, but he told us it was too late and that he wanted to be baptized the very next day.  Of course, we have to teach him some things still before that, so we told him to think about a different day and we would talk to him the next day.  We have him scheduled for the 26th now, and I am so excited to continue to watch him progress.
General Conference went really well with these people.  We chose just a few talks for them to hear out of all of them, because we only had a single two-hour block to show them it.  The people I talked to really loved President Monson and President Uchtdorf.  To get to the building where we are meeting for church as the Slovak branch, we have to walk about two miles as the missionaries, because we go around and gather the people so that they can follow us to church.  For them, it's more of like a mile and a half walk.  We do a lot of walking here, and there are a ton of hills.  I don't have to worry about losing my athletic abilities anytime soon, I guess.  We also use the bus system a lot, but depending on where we need to go and when we need to go, sometimes we can't use it.
I haven't got much time left now, so I'll finish up now.  I'm doing well, no worries about anything.  Busy, busy every day.  Love you lots, I hope things go well for everybody this week!  you are a fantastic family, I am so grateful to have you.  Truly, you bless my life so much.
Elder Brown

The first are the pig tails that I ate.  Yes, I ate it.  No, I didn't like it.  It had a ton of fat and the skin was really weird.

The second picture is goja, the intestine meal with potato stuff inside.

The third is of Marek's baptism, with a bunch of other Slovak children and some ward members.  The Elder I'm standing by is Elder Williams' companion, that's just how the order ended up, I don't know why.

 Me on the top level of a double decker bus!  I can check that one off the bucket list.