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

Friday, September 27, 2013

A letter and some pictures!

I just got back from the temple, so I don't have my travel plans on me right now, but I'll get them to you during laundry time.  They actually got revised, and the flight plans have changed.  I am allowed to call from the airport, so that'll be later in the morning or early to mid-afternoon.  I'm going to call you from the SLC airport because that's when I'll have the most time. 

 I've taken a bunch of pictures that I'll get to you during laundry time as well.  By the way, the dear elder system can't print out Slovak characters haha, so I only got about half of what you wrote me in Slovak (these emails process it fine though, so you can talk to me in Slovak all you want here :) ).  I did understand that you were tired, wanted to go to bed, killed 6 flies, and that you love me.  That's what's important, right?  Thanks for the socks and the thought about puzzles and how they apply to the gospel.  All of us really liked the thought. 

I'm so excited to get out to England.  I know I'm going to love the people so much, and I can't wait to finally get to work.  I know that I'm going to see miracles happen while I'm out serving, and I'm ready to give my all to the Lord so that he can work through me to accomplish his purposes.  We have had a lot of awesome lessons and training meetings this week, which have built a lot of anticipation in me for what I get to be a part of here very soon. Looking back on where I was when I got here I can see so much growth it stuns me.  The MTC has been awesome for teaching me a great deal that I know I am going to need.  The Spirit has opened my mind to learning in ways I have never experienced before.  I love it, and I am always looking for more to learn.  God is very generous when we seek his will, and he continually gives me new things to learn and work on.  I pray continually that I will be prepared here for what I encounter out in the field, because that's what my time here has been for.  Even though I only have a few days left, I plan on soaking up everything I possibly can.  I love this gospel with all my heart, and I want to share it with all who are willing to listen.  It is truly an honor to serve one of God's missionaries. 

I must say that you are my favorite mom.  Ever.  Amazing.  Incredible.  All of that :) .  I'll write more in my letter home, I have a request for dad that I want to ask him, but remember that I love you very much and that you are with my in my heart while I am serving.  You are just as much a part of this as I am.  I only get two years to serve, and you only get two years to have your son serve as a missionary.  What I'm doing out here directly blesses my family at home (that is right from a general authority).  So take as much joy in it as you can.  The only tears you should cry are those of happiness and joy.  Once again, I love you.  You are fantastic!
Zach (aka Elder Brown!)

Elder Brown with one of his teachers, Bro. Fish

The whole zone!

The Slovak District

A bunch of us from different districts that have become close in the last few weeks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hosting and Travel Plans

Thanks for the emails, I do like them.  I forgot to mention you last package in my letter last week, but thanks for it!  I haven't had a chance to use the swords yet, but I imagine we will one of these last nights here.  I saw Garrett this Wednesday when he got here, which was great.  Yeah thanks a lot for telling me he was here when he wasn't!  All that diligent looking for nothing :p .  That's ok though haha. 

 I hosted this Wednesday instead of doing gym.  Remember how there was an Elder that greeted me when you dropped me off at the MTC and helped me with my bags and where to go?  That's what I did, and it was pretty fun.  I got to show the new missionaries where to go and stuff, and I enjoyed it a lot.  At this point, there aren't any missionaries here who have been here longer than the people in my zone.  We are the "experienced" ancients who are wise in the ways of the MTC in everyone else's eyes.  I feel exactly the same as I did the third week here as far as that goes haha, but I guess when I was at that point I saw the older missionaries in the same light.  It's funny because we're all truly just newbies here at the MTC.  8 weeks is a long time to have been here, but in comparison to how long some missionaries have been in the field, it's nothing at all.  Where you are in that time frame changes everything about how you perceive things ha.  I didn't get to host Garrett like I was hoping to, but that's ok. 

Salsa sounds really good--I probably won't get any for a long time.  It's more of a Mexican food, and England is pretty far removed from Mexico.  Can you believe I'll be in England in 12 days?  I only have one more p-day at the MTC!  Crazy stuff.  I'm so excited though, I can't wait to get out there and get going.  I want to start applying the things I've learned.  I'm really hoping that I'll be able to use my language a lot throughout the mission.  I want to have it completely mastered by the time I get back.  If I don't get to speak it much, I'm worried that I won't keep progressing in fluency. 

Elder Williams and I got to take a field trip of sorts to the InstaCare this week (don't worry, we're fine).  I'll tell you more about it in my letter because I'm about out of time, but it made things interesting that day haha.  Thanks for your support :) .  I love you so so much, and to have your love with me as I'm out here means everything.  Vy ste všetcí užasné.  S láskou, Starši Hnedý.

So I depart October 1st!  I go to the SLC airport, then fly to Atlanta, Georgia.  I have a 4 and a half hour layover (which I'm not overly excited for), and then I fly to Manchester.  I'll arrive in England at about 10 in the morning October 2nd. (I'm not sure if that's their time or our time).  I'm flying Delta, so they're charging $100 for my second suitcase.  I have enough cash to do that and still have my $200 emergency fund.  I've been frugal with my money, you would be proud :) .  I was even able to pay for my dry cleaning with my MTC card because I haven't been spending the money I get every week on it ($6 a week), so it built up enough to pay for it and still have some left over for laundry day.  Elder Williams and I are the only members of our travel group, so I'm the travel leader of two people haha.  I'm so excited now!  I thought I'd let you know today instead of waiting to send it in my letter :) .   Thanks mom, love you lots!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Some Questions Answered

Dear Family,

I'll start off answering your questions.  :)  We have choir practice on Sundays in one of the MTC buildings (where we have Sunday devotionals) at 5:15pm.  We only sing at the Tuesday devotionals at the Marriott Center (where BYU plays basketball).  However, the sister missionaries will be singing in one of the sessions of General Conference.  Elder Williams only came with me the first week and since then I've had to go on splits either with Elder Jardine or Elder Garlick.

The barber shop is fine, I've only had my hair cut once so far.  It's pretty generic with the haircuts.  I would cut it myself...but that's against mission rules.  For good reason- I saw how one elder's hair turned out when he had another elder cut it.  Pretty horrible.  haha

I haven't heard too much about the food in England but one English elder told me a couple things about word differences in England.  Pants means underwear there so you say trousers instead.  Cookies are called biscuits but they are also called cookies too, so yeah.  I'll let you know if I find anything else out.  My favorite food here so far... hmmm....that's a tough one.  I like the sweet and sour chicken with an egg roll and rice pretty well.  They have some good pastas too (but they're not as good as mom's alfredo).

My favorite hymn is "Come, Thou Fount" even though it's not in the hymnbook anymore.  Another song I really like is "The Morning Trump".  It's on one of the CD's we put on my iPod before I left- you should listen to it because it's awesome.

As for getting access to Facebook and iPads, I have no idea if that will be a part of mission or not.  I wouldn't say I'm excited about it- I probably won't be until it brings something great about for me on my mission.  I feel like there are better ways, but who knows.  If I ever use it, I'll let you know.

My jobs are the same every week.  We have jobs every Saturday.  Our job is to do the janitorial work for our entire residence hall and the tasks we do vary from week to week.  Usually I change the garbage bags and take them to the dumpster, but last week I had to clean the toilet bowls.  :(  I've seen other missionaries doing weeding outside in the garden areas (which are all over the place) but my district hasn't ever done anything except clean our building.

I was amazed to hear how the ward is contributing to my mission.  I had no idea.  That is such a blessing- people so generous are truly rare.  It makes me want to do the same thing for missionaries in my ward someday.  Please thank everyone for me and let them know they are loved.

I'm glad you got the Slovak keyboard!  I already have the luggage scale, I think.  They  have a bunch of scales in all the maintenance rooms here anyway so I'm good there.

Something I wanted to tell you about that I'm really excited for is what I'm using my second journal for.  I decided to look for and try to remember the times when I have received revelation, miracles or blessings that show the Lord's presence in my life.  As I thought on it, I realized there was more than I thought.  As the days went by, I kept finding more and more.  I have a feeling that being able to review my journal after I have written it will bless me immensely.  It will help me remember what's important and where my testimony comes from.  It will help me to build further upon what I have because that is how the Lord works.  He helps you build upon what you know, little by little, sharing His light as He touches your life.  Eventually you come to see his finger everywhere in your life.  Then, one day, we will meet Him again and witness the fullness of His glory.

I also wanted to give you a bit of an idea how my teaching and language skills are coming.  All of this last week we have taught every discussion without even bringing any notes.  Our plans are more like general topics that we role play as a companionship until we feel like we can talk about the subject comfortably.  Sometimes we've gotten to a lesson and realized that (after we were done) that he spirit led us to talk about things completely unplanned.  That's really what needs to happen in order to teach people though.  So, things are progressing well.

That's about all I have to share for now.  If you have any more questions, I'm happy to answer them!  I love you all very much and I hope things continue to go well back home.  I know you are working hard- all of you.  Remember that my heart is with you while you labor.  :)  Thanks for everything you do; my family is the first of my blessings.

With Love,

Elder Brown

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Low Down on the Schedule...

 I have a lot that I'm excited to tell you about this week, but I think I'll reserve much of it for my handwritten letter.  I did end up seeing Bryan Tanquary this last week, which was awesome.  I saw him in the lunchroom (actually I happened to be checking anyone who possibly could have been him's name tags, and saw that it was him haha).  We talked for a while about things, and wow it has been a while.  I'm really glad I was able to see him, I had prayed that I would.  I have actually seen several people from Bear River here (most of them a grade older than me), so it's been cool to talk to them or say hi.  I haven't seen Garrett yet, but I'll keep looking for sure.  I'm really hoping to talk to him.  

You asked how my typical day goes for me, and the order of events varies each day, but the things it's made up of stays pretty constant.  I wake up at 6:30am, go to bed at 10:30pm.  I have two 3-hour class blocks every day (except Tuesday and Friday when I only have one).  I have about an 2 hours worth of personal study every day, which is broken up in the in-between times.  I also have an hour and a half of language study every day where I work on whatever I want that has to do with the language.  I also have something called TALL, which is a computer program that is really good for learning vocabulary that we aren't taught in class.  Actually, we don't really learn much vocab in class anymore, it's mostly teaching principles and grammar things, as well as meeting with our investigators (we had one get baptized this week!  My companion and I were the first out our whole district to do it, and there still hasn't been anyone else who's done it yet.  So cool :) . Now we have a new investigator that we got to contact, which was fun).  We also get a little under an hour of gym time every day except Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday.  Tuesday is Personal Physical Exercise instead (which I hate, because I'd much rather play sports :p).  Thursday nights we talk to TRC investigators (usually return missionaries, but we did have a native Slovakian girl a couple times).  Tuesdays we have our devotional at the Marriott center (we got heavily rained on the way back from it a couple weeks ago, that was the night BYU lost, but I thought it was fun walking back in the rain).  Sunday has a lot of study time and usual Sunday meetings, as well as a temple walk and devotional. Friday is p-day (you already know that ha), which I go to the temple, do laundry, clean up, write letters, and finish the day with class.  That about sums everything up.  I'll answer the other questions in my letter, and tell you about some other stuff too.  I love you so much, and I am so glad that we have these ways to stay in touch.  You're the best family I could ask for :) .  Talk to you later!  S láskou, Starši Brown.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Of Choir, Prayer and Fasting...

Dear Mom and Dad,

First I wanted to tell you about my choir experience this last week.  (I know I do every time, but they're always so awesome.)  We sang "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and the choir director had us do something that made it so much more meaningful to me.  He said to think of our most powerful, treasured prayer as we sang it and to apply the lyrics of the song to our feelings during the prayer.  the first thing this did for me was to make me think about all my prayers and to realize which one meant the most to me.  This was shortly followed by the realization that, much to my surprise, mine was a prayer of gratitude.  The spirit was so strong for me when I was pouring out my heart in joyful thanks.

Two days before choir was fast Sunday and I had decided to make my fast completely devoted to expressing my gratitude to my Heavenly Father.  That ended up being the most valuable experience I've ever had with fasting.  All day long the spirit was right there and the slightest spiritual topic, thought or prayer immediately brought it's warmth.  I also kept having more and more things come to mind that I was grateful for.  Really, the blessings in life are virtually endless.  There are definitely hard things, but those are insignificant when compared to all the good thins we have.  Every good thing I know comes from Heavenly Father.  He wants to bless us and looks for every opportunity to do so.

We had some new Polish elders come on Wednesday (the old ones left on Sunday).  I'm so excited to get to know them!  One of them is from England!  I really want to get to know him and learn about England (maybe pick up a bit of an accent early on haha).  Another one is from Switzerland so that's really cool too.

I've been learning a lot while I've been here. So much.  We have some of the best teachers here, I think.  I have loads to work on, obviously, but every day I end having learned many new things.  It's a really awesome thing to experience.

I want to let you know how much I love what a knowledge of the gospel's core truths brings to my life.  I strive to live up to those values and to prepare to share them with all of God's strength.  Sweet is the peace the gospel brings, truly.  There is no fruit sweeter than the love of God and that love abounds and readily surrounds us if we allow it.  I know this church is true.  I can't wait to go out and fulfill my purpose and calling in England.  I'm halfway there and continually prepare.  I know the Lord will lift me up to accomplish his work set out for me if I always give my all.  That I have done, that I am doing and that will I always do.

I love you all so much!  I love hearing from you so thank you for that and your support.  :)


Starši  Zachary Brown

Friday, September 6, 2013

At his mother's request...Pictures. :) Of the Cutest boys ever.

Hi mom :) .  Of course I will email you!  I'm thinking the email won't be quite as long this week because there's not quite as much to say.  But I will do my best :) .  And yes, I will get you a picture or two during laundry time.

As for things that I need...not really much.  I have plenty of pretty much everything.  Grandma Brown keeps sending me cookies and stuff every week. She made the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had, not going to lie.  I'll be sending her an email thanking her for that one for sure. Congratulations to Jaalah on her color guard routine, I hope it went well for her.  I always loved going to the sports games and cheering with all my friends. 

I wanted to bear my testimony to you in Slovak :) .  I doubt Google translator will be able to handle it--it's pretty flawed in the way of Slovak already, and between that and my mistakes it probably will make absolutely no sense.  But here goes :).  

    Viem že cirkev Ješiža Krista je pravdiva.  Boh bude pomahať jeho luďia ak oni budú vierí.  Viem že Boh nás miluje, a on može robiť všetký.  Nasledujem Boha aby som pomahal jeho luďia prisť mu.  Tiež, chcem sa vracať na Bohu jeden deň.  Nasledujte Boh.  Viem že bude vás pohžehnať či budete.  Hovorím tieto veči v mene Ježiša Krista, amen.

 I thought you might like to see some kind of indicator of my progress with the language, even if you can't understand or pronounce it.  It's certainly coming along, though there's still plenty to learn.  There's a lot of very intricate grammar principles that we have begun to delve into.  Did you watch Star Wars and listen to the Polish-speaking aliens?  I hope so ;) .  I'm still waiting on a letter from Jaalah (I got Tamsyn's yesterday), so I guess I'll write her back whenever I get her response (possibly today when we pick up the mail after lunch?).  Anyhow, I'll write your letters today.  Thanks for all your love, I'll get you those pictures later today.  I love you very very much.  Vás milujem!  Dovidenia!
Starši Zachary Hnedý (Slovak for Brown haha)

So one is with Elder Williams smiling, one is with us both (he's smiling like you wanted, but I thought it would be funny if I wasn't).  The third is the picture you actually asked for.  Also my purple friend joined us for the companionship pictures.  He feels like he's a part of the work, too.  Even though he hides under my bed all day haha.  I have your letter written now, so I'll be putting that in the mail later today.  I still have to write Tamsyn's.  Hopefully you like the pictures, we're just in our P-day clothes because we took the pictures today.  Love you lots mom!  You're the greatest :) .

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In which we learn a few Slovak words...

Dear Family (especially mom and dad),

Thanks for the words you send, it's good to remember that I am loved.  I love you very much and am always glad to hear from you.  Grammy asked what my calling involves; all it is is asking elders to prepare, bless, pass and take down the sacrament.  We're sacrament coordinators, not sacrament meeting coordinators (who do most of the other stuff).  The branch presidency randomly calls on people to give talks that we're supposed to prepare during the week on the weekly topic.  You don't find out you're giving the talk until they announce it over the pulpit.  I haven't had to talk yet but I probably will soon enough.

I've been doing choir every week, which is great.  We sing at the Tuesday devotionals at the Mariott center.  This week Neil L. Andersen came.  We are so lucky to have had two apostles already come to speak to us.  The devotional was broadcast again to the other MTC's and the choir sang "Lead Kindly Light.  It was really good to be a part of that.  A couple elders said they saw me on screen (I didn't know because we are not supposed to look at it while we are singing).  Maybe some of my friends in the other MTC's saw me; that would be pretty neat.

I'm sorry that I can't write you more often.  I just keep getting busier with how many lessons I have to prepare.  We now have three investigators we are teaching.  One of our investigators is really difficult right now- he doesn't believe in God or that prayer is important to him.  We also have to prepare lessons for TRC, which is where members (usually missionaries) and occasionally nonmembers come to be taught by the missionaries.  We've had a girl come in a couple times who is actually from Slovakia.  Her mom helped translate the Slovak book of Mormon and is now working on the Doctrine and Covenants.  The girl's name is Natalia (she's like 21).  She's kind of hard to teach sometimes because she gets off topic really easily and she likes to talk in English.  But she is really nice and is very helpful if we don't say something right in the language.  We've also taught a few return missionaries, who stay in Slovak the whole time.  That is good for us because even though sometimes we don't understand, it's what helps us improve our comprehension.

I know you are all working very hard in your jobs and school.  Thank you for doing that.  It gets tough to work constantly all day, every day and to some degree I understand how you feel.  So thanks for being strong and continually doing your best.  I pray for you all every day and I know you can rely on the Lord for strength.  He knows what we need and will give it to us if we turn to Him.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Slovak words.  :)  Oblúbený (which means favorite),  stľp (yes, that's an L not an i haha.  A word completely made with consonants!  How can you not love it?  It means pillar), hlupý (means stupid-obviously I looked that one up haha),  smrt´ (death)  krst´ (baptism) and srdce (heart).  You're going to love listening to me when I get home.

The other languages I can understand are: Czech (almost completely), Polish (mostly), Croatian (a lot) and Russian (very little and that is only on religious topics.  The rest is totally different).

I've mostly covered everything I wanted to say between this and my email.

Lots of Love,

štarši Brown
(Brown is hnedý in Slovak)