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

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.  :)