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

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Baptism and Snow

Hi mom and dad :) .  I'm glad you're home and safe!  I loved talking to you and getting to see you all again.  It's easily the best part of my Christmas time here.  You're all just too awesome...it's hard to keep up ;) .  I'm glad I look good--don't be afraid to tell lots of beautiful single young ladies that. 

I don't have a ton of time to write this week, as I had to write a quite lengthy e-mail to President Pilkington, so my apologies :/ .  I told you about one of the biggest miracles of the week (the extremely successful exchange with Elder Williams), which was amazing.  The baptism was our highlight for sure, and in spite of the opposition from the weather, we were able to get things to work out with people and have it go through.  Little V Jr. didn't make it, unfortunately, because his father decided that he's not ready yet, but he'll still be learning from us and going to church.  We'll be working hard to get our newly scheduled people ready for their dates, with faith and work on their part, too, it'll happen.

I love you very much and hope you have an amazing week.  You are in my prayers (I've said a couple extra special prayers for you this week, I hope you felt them).  Much love, and Happy New Year!

Elder Brown

F's baptism (as well as R and F's from the other Elders).

I wore the hat for our trip to the Peak District with the Nettleships in honor of aunt Tiffany

Finally is me out in the snow--we had to walk home in that after being at the Nettleships because the roads were to bad to drive on.  Ha.  I thought I'd escaped the snow when I left Utah.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Loaded Week and a Brave Baptism

Hi mom and dad :) .  

I'll just answer questions first...not!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!! :).  The only gift I have for you is my love, email, and pictures, but I hope it's enough.  I love you very much; congratulations on making your way up on the seniority chain by another year.  Ha.  My driving test will be this Wednsday morning, so if you could keep me in your prayers that would be awesome.  I'll be fasting as well, because I really need this license to be honest.  I'll be Skyping from the N's on the 25th for 40 minutes, but that's as far as I know yet.  When I find out more details, I'll let you know, perhaps through Sis. N.  Our missionary Christmas party is on Thursday, and Elder Williams and I will be singing (he'll play the guitar and I'll play the piano in an arrangement of the song I asked you for).  I have a bit of a cold, but nothing severe.  I think it's mostly from lack of enough rest.  I get to bed much later than 10:30 some nights because of zone leader business, especially Sundays (when we collect and report the key indicators for the zone from the week to the assistants).  

I've been enjoying the days of Christmas idea you had with the word themes--I liked the poem in today's about Christ's area of service being a small one (Bethlehem and Galilee), but how it has the biggest impact of all.

(editorial note) Here is the poem he is referring to:

“Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then he pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.”
And the word he spoke, it was not stern; …
“Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

Right, so basically this week was loaded with lots to do, but we did indeed have a baptism!  M and A from Doncaster were baptized by their father, P.  A impressed me immensely with her great courage; she's 12 years old like Tamsyn, and terribly afraid of the water.  She was brave enough to accept a date, and stayed strong working towards it.  When the day of her baptism came, she told me she was scared, but she never once said she wouldn't do it.  Going into the water, she was crying from fear, but held her resolve strong and was baptized by the strong hands of her father, coming out of the water up the steps into the arms of her just-baptized mother.  After changing into dry clothes, she came into the room where we were waiting (just a small group of missionaries, her immediate family and aunt and 2 cousins), where I was playing my very best interlude music on the piano (my variations of a few hymns). I could see in her a light of happiness and satisfaction that she had conquered her fear to do something for God.  She will be bountifully blessed for her diamond courage, and she shone even brighter the next day at church after her uncle gave her the gift of the Holy Ghost.  What a beautiful event.  Truly, I'm impressed.  Sometimes I think we as people need to "man up" as it's said, do what's right even if it's hard, and conquer the fear that's in us.  A's really set the bar this week, I think.

I'll talk to you soon enough; remember that I love you lots and that I feel your love and support every single day.  Thank you so much for everything.  You are the best.

Elder Brown, your ever-heroic son

Monday, December 8, 2014

So Much To Do

Hi mom and dad :) .  Updates first: I'm not sure when my next driving test will be; I meant to book it today, but I couldn't remember this morning in the 5 minutes before we left where I'd put my debit card, so I have to look for that later.  I got your packet and package, so no worries there.  In spite of intensive pressure from my flatmates to open the package now, I am indeed waiting until Christmas.  Endure to the end, baby!  Just so you know, Christmas calls will be much shorter this year: only 30-40 minutes.  So basically, have everything ready that you want to talk about so we don't waste any time :) .

With this zone leader calling I have so much more to do, it's insane.  Writing in my journal has turned into a morning-only thing with the 10-15 minutes I usually have before studies start after I've gotten ready for the day, this being because of follow-up calls in the evenings with the district leaders.  There are over 40 missionaries in our zone, so it makes for a lot to handle.  We have the responsibility for attending planning sessions, studies, doing exchanges with companionships that need some help, etc., and it's a big time commitment.  These last few days have been some of the most stressful and exhausting of my mission, which is saying something.  Still, I'm alive and loving the chance that I have to serve in greater capacity than ever.  I especially loved the Mission Leadership Council meeting I attended on Friday--it's with President and Sister Pilkington, the assistants, and all the zone leaders and sister training leaders from around the mission, and it made for an inspiring meeting.  We basically discuss various aspects of the mission that could use improvement or adjustment, and come up with plans and ideas to keep things headed in the right direction.  I've never been a part of such an important church meeting where I was able to give my own input, and watching the way the Spirit directed things was amazing.  I've never seen anything like it.  There were probably 20 of us in the room, with differing thoughts and opinions on how things could be done, and yet everything eventually came together on every point to create an inspired solution.  It was truly amazing, and I know with far greater understanding than ever before that the leadership of this church is led and directed by God.  This doesn't just happen in our mission, I'm certain, and takes place in profoundly greater and greater measure amongst the leadership of the church as a person considers further and further along the chain until the prophet and his personal communication with God Himself.

Though this week was packed with running to and fro to various meetings and so forth, we still had room for miracles.  For example, M and A made it to church from Doncaster yesterday, so they'll be having their baptism this Saturday!  That was awesome, and thank you so much for your prayers.  They were heard.  Plus, while we were helping out some members who live in city center, a couple guys walked in and we started talking to them.  It turns out they live in Doncaster and are really interested in our church; not only that, but they have a car, so it's possible for them to come to church.  That was good, and also we were able to schedule the grandson of our Elder's quorum president, who recently turned 8 and told us he wanted to be baptized.  He's been attending church for years already with his grandpa, so we asked his non-member parents for permission to teach him.  They said it would be ok, so V Jr. is now scheduled to be baptized just after Christmas!  We've had some good lessons there already with him (in a mix of three languages: Roma, Slovak, and English) that have kept him entertained at the same time as teaching him the basics, so he's doing really well.  Also, Elders Williams and Pohorelicky had a fantastic baptism this weekend, and it was a beautiful experience for everyone there.  His confirmation at church also touched many people (including him), and made sacrament meeting that much better.

I'm excited for the coming week, and I'm grateful for your constant support through prayer, letters, and love.  You are the best parents ever, and I can't tell you that enough.  Love you lots!

Elder Brown

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A New Call and a Baptism!

Ahoj, matka moja a otec moj!  Well, bad news first--I didn't pass my driving test, though I only had 4 faults, 3 of which weren't serious (the national average is 9, and it takes 11 to fail, I think).  The last was that I forgot to check my mirrors while turning off a roundabout (I'd missed the correct turn, so I was a little flustered), so that was considered dangerous and I failed :( .  Next time it should be better, though, it was a silly mistake and one I won't repeat.  Transfers have shaken things up a ton--I have been called as a zone leader, and will serve in that position with Elder Baird.  However (and this is entirely unusual), I will still have Elder Vogli as my companion for all non-zone leader-related things, and Elder Baird will also have a non-zone leader companion in his area.  Crazy, right?  Elder Williams is now filling the district leader position that I've left empty.  This means lots more work, but it'll be manageable as long as we have lots of help from heaven :) .

The absolute best miracle this week was the baptism of M--it was fantastic, as was when he received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday.  He wanted me to perform both ordinances, though we tried to suggest other options of branch members, and I have to say that I've not felt the Spirit so strongly during any other confirmation I've done.  The words I spoke were not my own, but right from God to him, and there were some powerful promises given, including that he will lead his family one day to be sealed in the temple.  Ma didn't end up getting baptized, still feeling unsure of things, but she really enjoyed the baptism of her husband.  She's told us that she thinks she needs a month or so, and will tell us when she's ready to have a date.  If you could keep her in your prayers, that would be fantastic.  She reads the scriptures every night and prays, and she's living all the commandments, so I know she'll get her answer if she keeps it up.  Mg and Aa (from Doncaster) had their baptismal interviews the same night M got baptized, and both of them passed.  They're scheduled for the 13th, but they have to come to church on the 7th; their car was in poor condition this Sunday and they couldn't make it, so if you could also pray that they can get that worked out this week, that would be fantastic.  They're both so good, and they're excited for their baptism.

Mom, I wanted to thank you for the prayers you send on prompting from the Holy Ghost.  I have felt that support on multiple occasions and wondered where it came from and why.  Thank you so much for that.  Thank you, dad, for the email as well. You're the best parents ever, and I'm so glad to have your support and guidance.  You are one of the greatest blessings I will have in my entire life, and I love you very much.  I'm looking forward to talking to you :) .

Elder Brown

After M's Baptism

Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend Miracles

This week has had some great miracles, which I think was definitely kicked off with talking to the Slovak lady while e-mailing last week.  When there's a good start like that, you know the rest of the week will have miracles as well.  What essentially happened was that I heard her speaking Slovak with her mother, asked where they were from (in Slovak, which shocked them), then got into a conversation that led to her asking if I would be willing to teach her boyfriend some Slovak because she found it hard to explain (Elder Sindylek had the same problem with me) and the university here only offers Czech.  I haven't met with them yet, but I'll let you know what happens whenever things work out there.

We had the best miracles over the weekend, I think.  Mi and Ma (the couple referred from the Elder's quorum President) passed their baptismal interviews this Saturday, and it was a miracle in itself.  Ma has been very solid, reading her scriptures diligently, giving up coffee in exchange for Ovaltine (the stuff really works great--counting her husband, that makes four people who've had no problem swapping it for coffee), and overall being excited and set on her baptism.  Then, the night before her interview, multiple barriers suddenly popped up.  Her mother called from Slovakia and told her that it wasn't right to be baptized into this church, that it would be a sin.  She then had a frightening dream about people dying and being destroyed because of her baptism.  When we came to do her interview, she told us about these things and let us know she wasn't sure if she still wanted to be baptized.  We read some scriptures with her and calmed her down, reminding her that she had always had only good feelings while we've taught her, and that good things are from God.  We also let her know that Satan doesn't want her to be baptized and will do whatever he can to stop it, the dream and resistance from her mother being evidence of that.  We invited her to go and pray about it while we did her husband's interview, sending the Book of Mormon with her.  Mi passed, and when she came back in we asked how she was feeling.  She said that she had prayed, and that she received an answer from God that where her husband goes, she should go also.  She said that she would be baptized, and passed her interview with brilliant answers.  We encouraged her to keep her connection with God strong and constant through prayer and scripture study, as well as coming to church on Sunday, warning her that the obstacles weren't over.  Well, come Sunday morning she almost didn't make it to church because of some barriers that came up, just as anticipated, but we worked out a way for her to come with help from some fantastic English members.  At church, she had a great experience, and all of her children but D were able to come as well.  N was also supposed to be baptized this coming Saturday, but she dropped her interview on Saturday, saying that she wanted to come to church more first.  I was honestly expecting after that no attendance from her at church, but she ended up coming despite having thrown up all night long.  On top of that, she brought one of Mi and Ma's children with her who otherwise wouldn't have made it.  Also at church were M and A from Doncaster, the wife and daughter of a solid member who drives from there every week.  It was A's first time at church, and she absolutely loved it, telling me several times that she would for sure be coming next week.  We had a couple lessons with them over the weekend, and they are now to the point of being ready for their own baptismal interview, scheduled to happen this coming Saturday.  We had as well four member youth at church, two boys and two girls, which was so good to see.  I hope they get back into the habit of attending every week.

So there you have it--my week's greatest highlights.  I'm excited for this week's baptism and baptismal interviews; keep the people in your prayers.  You're always in mine.  I love you so much and hope you have an awesome week!

Elder Brown

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Very Good Week

Hey mom and dad :) . 

 I'm glad you liked the extra email I sent this last week, it was good conference.  I'm excited for your letters, as always.  Bummer weather, but I find it hard to pity you.  It's been rainy and foggy all week, actually for a couple weeks.  I've forgotten what the sun looks like.  

Our week has been a very good one, and we've had some lessons that I've really enjoyed.  One of them was just yesterday with a new couple I've never taught before.  I'd contacted the husband at a bus stop late one night near transfers a few weeks ago as we were travelling home, and we hadn't been able to get a hold of him since then.  Turns out, they went on vacation and recently returned, so yesterday when we tried by they were home.  They aren't too familiar with religion (pretty unusual for Roma people), but I guess they recently started reading from the Bible every day together from the beginning, which is in itself really impressive.  We're trying to help many members have such diligent scripture study, and these two haven't even been taking lessons and started doing it.  They also speak quite fluent English with a pretty good English accent, so Elder Vogli was able to take part in the lesson a lot more than usual, me not having to translate what he said (except some gospel vocab that even an English person likely wouldn't be familiar with.

Sorry that this email is a bit shorter, I contacted a white Slovak woman sitting across from me at the computer and she was overjoyed that I could help teach her boyfriend Slovak grammar.  Talking to her meant sacrificing some of this time, but I guess since you got an extra email earlier and you'll get a letter soon, it should be ok.

Love you lots!
Elder Brown

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Spirit of God is an Attractive Force

This week was quite good with all that we've been able to accomplish with lots of aid from heaven.  The results were largely evidenced in our church attendance on Sunday, which was about the same as last week except that some new people came in the stead of others who weren't able to make it this week.  Amongst those people were some of the family members of the family I've been telling you about that was a member referral.  The father, M, was able to gain access to a car and bring some of his family with him to church that way.  His wife was sick, but one of his sons came who we were able to also schedule for baptism this week.  The lesson where that happened didn't actually involve any of the rest of his family, but was a couple doors down the street at his uncle's house (J), who's the member that referred F (our most recent baptism) to us.  In that lesson we re-scheduled J's daughter for the same day, and we're looking forward to the miracles that will come along with all of this.  Also at church was M's daughter, D, who's as of yet undecided about being baptized, but she had a fantastic experience once again at church.  She's really enjoying it all, and is progressing a lot.  Along with them, we had four other youth at church, two boys and two girls, putting our youth attendance at 6 total, the most in a long time.  One of these youth was a total miracle that he was there; we were nearly at the bus stop to head to church in the morning after having stopped by virtually everyone we teach in Darnall and found him close to the bus stop.  We asked him if he was coming to church, and intitially the answer was that he was going to work.  Then his friend came up (the one we've been trying to prepare for a mission) and said he was going to church, so the first decided that he'd come, too.  They're both about 18 years old.  His father is the one who was at the baptism and had such a great experience that we've been working with, so this is a great sign for that family.  Another family we're working with is a part-member family living in Doncaster.  The wife and daughter are both scheduled for baptism and are still working towards it even though we've been unable to see them for a while because of circumstance.  Good things are happening all around.  F has also been on fire with his own personal missionary work, talking to his friends about his baptism and how he felt.  You can see in him a lot of light, and he's happier than he's ever been.  There are a lot of people who've been and are being very positively influenced by him, and it's amazing to see.

Another interesting and unexpected miracle was when we went to teach some investigators we hadn't seen in a while.  Upon the door opening, we found out that they'd actually moved and their relatives are now living there.  They invited us in, asked a load of questions (which is unusual, to be honest--usually we end up having to speak a lot more than them), and had a pretty good lesson.  In the end, the man of the house told me we should come every day, that I'm gold and blessed, and that he believes we'll convince him to go to our church.  Fair enough.  Many people have been saying similar things along the lines of that we're good people and such, but what I think many don't realize is that it's not exactly us who they like so much and feel good things from, but rather the Spirit that we carry.  The Spirit of God is an attractive force that leads people to experiencing good feelings of peace, happiness, and comfort, so when we speak about God and allow that Spirit to be there, people feel it.  They just often don't realize what it is that they're feeling and just assume it's because we're extraordinary people or something.  What I'm getting at is, if we want people to like being around us, the best thing we can do is anything that invites the Spirit (i.e. read the scriptures, pray, go to church, and keep the commandments).  It's as simple as that.

I've got to go now, but I hope you have an awesome week.  You're the best, just like I always tell you.  I say it because it's true :) .

Elder Brown

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Love Our Members!

Hello, mom and dad, beloved and thought about :) .  

I'm just about better from being sick, but I've been able to follow the usual schedule this week (except morning exercise) despite the sickness, so we're doing good!  Nice pumpkins!  We didn't do one.  For Halloween we handed out Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlets instead of candy because we don't have any money haha.  We had to be in early so as to be safe and avoid people encouraged to do foolish things because they're wearing a mask.  Make any gospel connections you like out of that :) . 
This week was clearly fantastic as the pictures I sent will surely show.  We had a baptism!  F, a man who's been investigating the church for about three years but had stopped for a period, about a month ago had his heart telling him that baptism was something he needed to do.  He told his brother, who was baptized last December, and his brother told us.  We then had a lesson with him and his brother there as a support and set a day for him to work towards.  As we've taught him, he's made all the neccessary changes to get ready to be baptized and hasn't missed a week of church since the first lesson.  His baptism had a huge spiritual impact on many people, including all of the 8 investigators in attendance and the less active we got there as well.  In fact, this particular less active hasn't been to anything to do with the church in over three years, and we were able to get him to come to this baptism.  Even better?  He came by car with his non-member friend who we've been teaching in this less-active's house!  Everyone there was so happy, and the Spirit of God was very strong.  I ended up doing the baptismal ordinance because the member who was supposed to do it was unable to come, and it was a true privilige.  At church the next day we had a higher attendance from Slovaks than we've had for many weeks, giving the room a pleasant feeling of being more full.  Every seat will be full one of these days.  We'll get there.  We also scheduled a new couple for baptism this week, and they're a wonderful family.  They're relatives of some branch members and moved to the same street as 3 member or part-member families, including their relatives, who then referred us over there.  Our first visit was exceptionally good, our Elder's quorum president coming to teach with us (one of their relatives), and since then they've been doing great.  I love our members and the good work that they do.  That about covers our week, so I wish you a good one as well :) .

I'm excited to hear more from you next week and in your letters; thank you so much for them.  They really help a lot.

You're the best, love you!
Elder Brown

The baptism of F!  Elder Vogli, my new companion, is on the end.

Elder Moreira and I with Bro. Nettleship, who helps out in our branch as branch mission leader and 1st counselor on the branch presidency.

Elder Williams and I mourning the loss of our dear old flat.

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's His Work, We Need Not Be Afraid

Hello, mum and dad :) !  They don't say "mom" here in England, apparently it's quite American.  As for my health, I'm still sick because it turns out I have the flu, not just your ordinary cold.  Doctors here are rubbish.  All they do, no matter the illness, is tell you to rest, drink fluids, and take paracetamol.  Ok.  Still, though I had some rough patches this week, I'm doing a bit better now and we were still able to get some good things done.  I'm coughing a lot, but I'm breathing fine thanks to the inhaler.  

Transfers proved to be interesting again.  I've lost dear old Elder Moreira, who was sent off to Grimsby (the name doesn't make it sound very happy--good luck to him haha) and my new companion is Elder Vogli, from Albania.  He was in the Sheffield 1 ward for nine months when he first got into the mission (not long after I arrived), so he's quite familiar with the area and we already knew each other.  Now he's here in Sheffield 4 with me and the Slovaks, so it'll be good.  He arrived on Saturday and bore a short testimony on Sunday at church in Slovak and introduced himself (his name and where he's from) all day in Slovak as well, so he's doing very well already.  He's quite energetic and without a doubt totally Albanian (if you know any, you'll know what I mean--I've become acquainted with several Albanian missionaries during my mission).  One of our zone leaders also left to a different area, so there are two new people in the flat now.  We all get along well, and I think it'll be a fun transfer.  The flat itself is just fine, though I do prefer the one I was in before.  The toilet room is so tiny that we can barely step in and manage to squeeze the door shut.  I guess they can't ever send anyone very large to this flat--they'd never make it out of the toilet after getting in ha.

One of our biggest miracles this week was a continuation of one from last week.  Remember the non-gypsy Slovak who came to church last week with one of our members?  Well, we had a lesson with him this week and it went fantastic.  We basically taught about the Restoration after getting to know him and all, and he definitely felt the Spirit throughout it.  He'd already read a bit from the Book of Mormon, having recieved one from the member who brought him to church, and had no problem agreeing to keep reading and pray to know if it's true.  Not only that, but he accepted a baptismal date to work toward, and is now scheduled!  He came to church again this week as well, this time making his own way (the member he came with last time had to go to work this Sunday).  Another miracle was with one of our scheduled investigators; he passed his baptismal interview on Friday!  This means he should be having his baptism this Saturday, and we're all excited for him.  He made it to church again as well, showing some good dedication.  He had until now caught a ride with the branch president, but the van was full this week, so he had to find a different way.  Instead of using this as an excuse not to come, he agreed to come with us by bus even though it hadn't been previously planned on and we had a very small amount of time to actually get to the bus stop.  This week at church our Elder's quorum president and his wife brought their new-to-England relative to church for the first time as well, and we'll be going by there this week to teach them (she enjoyed church a lot).  In additon to these people we've found a few other new people (also all in the Darnall area) through various other methods.  Though there is a lot to deal with right now to keep the branch afloat, God is providing miracle after miracle, showing us that this is His work and we need not be afraid.  Rather, we'll keep working our hardest and we know good things will happen.

I love you very much, and I'm so grateful for all of your support, but most of all your love.  You're the best parents for me in the world, but I think you already know that.  If not, now you do :) .  Write you next week!

Elder Brown

Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving and Miracles

Hi mom and dad :) .  This week has been a good one, but pretty crazy at the same time.  I've been sick for the past for few days with a cold which unexpectedly triggered asthmatic symptoms (which haven't bothered me for the longest time until now--I think because of the lack of sports thanks to recent rules banning them [a bunch of missionaries went and got injured :p]).  I didn't have a working inhaler, so I got one on Saturday and that improved things a lot.  I'm on the uphill now, and we kept working through the sickness anyway.  We also had to move to a new flat on short notice, which required a lot of time and effort on our part.  The zone leaders (who we now live with) and the assistants all helped us move.  I'm not sure how long we'll be at this address, as it's actually up for sale.  Just so you know.  Plus, this week will be transfers, so who knows what will happen. 

 I loved all the stories I recieved from you all, and I've begun translation of one (dad's).  They're fantastic!  I've highlighted parts of each story that I've liked, and will be sharing these examples with people I teach.  I already have been doing so.  Please thank everyone for me who's helping out with this.  I'm taking driving lessons every other week and haven't booked my test yet, but I should be doing that tomorrow.  I am working on a letter, but I am currently very behind with a lot of things because of moving and illness, so I can't promise it'll be out to you anytime soon.  Thanks for your pictures, though--I've sent a few to you.

One of the fantastic miracles we had this week was actually yesterday at church.  We had good attendance, first of all, (hooray!!) and then one of our members walks in (L, the 2nd counselor on the branch presidency) with a non-Roma, Slovak friend!  Have we ever had one at church like that before?  No!  He enjoyed the meetings and was glad to invite us over to see him later this week.  Way to go, L, and wow, what a miracle!  The non-Roma Slovaks are usually not as open to hearing about God as our beloved members are, so this was quite a good miracle to see.  Also this week we had some great lessons involved in encouraging members to write their conversion stories so we can make a book out of them, and we've had some very positive responses.  It's going to be a good book :) .  
One man we're working with who's preparing for baptism is doing absolutely brilliant.  It should be the first of November if things work out right, so we're excited with him.  He's waited a long time, unsure if it's something he should do or not, and he's decided and is ready now.  There's plenty of good news from this week, and we're ready for another successful week this time around to finish off this transfer strong.  Hopefully Elder Moreira will stick around with me for a while longer--he's a great help, looks like a gypsy, and makes work fun (just look at the picture I sent).  We'll see what happens, I guess.
Love you lots, and I'll catch you next week!

Elder Brown
P.S.  You're super awesome!

Monday, October 13, 2014

God Works in Mysterious Ways

Ahoj, mom and dad :).  

Thanks for the awesome responses to the email I sent you, this will be awesome.  I'll be using them for sure, and I may make it into a book translated into Slovak with my language study time--we'll see :) .  All the Slovak missionaries are supposed to be working on it, so it should be fantastic.  By the way, I passed my theory test this week for driving, so soon I'll be moving on to the actual driving test.  I'll let you know when I get an exact date on that.  I did get your package, which was quite good.  Thank you so much!  The fruit leather turned out great--you could be making money off of that.  I ate it all already.

This week was pretty awesome, if packed with a lot of extra meetings.  They did, however, do a load of good, and our branch has seen some great things from all the work and new ideas.  As you've gathered from the email I sent you, we're working on getting people inspired to action by using some things they've not encountered much of, then applying it to them.  Using the couple stories I already had heard and could remember about our ancestors, I've already been sharing a message about the effect people can have on their posterity.  Church attendance this week was up, including a less-active member and several of our investigators.  It was interesting to see that as we shifted our focus to sustaining the members and rejuvenating the less-actives this week, our investigators progressed along with the members.  We've also found a couple new people to teach thanks to the efforts of our amazing Slovak recent converts.  Lessons were down, but progression was up.  God works in mysterious ways. 

In Doncaster this week, the English missionaries had a baptism, and we wanted our investigators there to be able to come and see how it all is.  One of them ended up being able to come, and she absolutely loved it.  She told everyone that she was "very happy" (she has some decent English skills), and had a lot of other positive things to say.  This included telling me that if she gets baptized she would want me to baptize her, she'll come to church next week, and that my rendition of "Nearer, My God to Thee" (I've played around a bit with some of the hymns on the piano and have my own versions that I sometimes play during the prelude before meetings, which is what I did at this baptism) is just like something she sang in her church in Slovakia and that she loved it.  Wow.  Another one of our investigators in Doncaster who couldn't make it had us over for a lesson after the baptism.  It was the same one we had an outdoor lesson with the other week, so we did the same thing again and had similarly good results.  One of her neighbors came over at the end of the lesson, and we invited him to come pray with us.  Our investigator convinced him to say the prayer, and he ended up nearly in tears by the end.  He had previously gone to a different church, but left it after some things happened that he didn't like and hadn't prayed since.  He was so happy after this prayer that I think if he'd been smiling any wider, his eyes would've disappeared.  He's going to come over to her house from now on whenever we're teaching there, which has the added benefit of being able to go in the house since we'd not be alone with a woman.  Two of our investigators who came to church are now beginning to work with us to arrange their marriage, which should happen at the end next month if everything goes according to plan.  Their baptism would then follow in the weeks after sometime, and both we and them are excited for it.  One of the other people we're teaching who came to church is getting very close to his own baptismal date, so we were overjoyed to have him at there on Sunday.  This next week is sure to be filled with miracles as well, so we're praying, planning, and working hard to play our part in bringing God's children closer to Him.

Thanks for your help and love :) .  You're truly the best, so don't forget it!  Have a miracle filled week, too.

Elder Brown

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Special Project that Needs Your Help

Hiya, mom and dad :) .  I've just been in a special meeting with President Pilkington (our mission president), and he's given me some specific instructions to make an exception and e-mail you today.  We have been discussing some branch needs and have devolped a series of plans that we are now going to be implementing.  One of these involves compiling a book of people's conversion stories (including those who are less-active) and getting some excitement back into them. 

This extends even further, however.  We want them to realize what kind of legacy they are leaving for their descendants, and thus need some help from you.  We need the stories of those descendants of ours who had very humble beginnings.  They do not have to be church members.  We need the stories of how they began making decisions and choices that put their families in a better position for the future, leading down to us and the good standing we are currently in.  They were not electrical engineers, secretaries, nurses, businessmen for large corporations, or anything like unto it.  Rather, they would have been the lowest of social classes who desired a better future for those who came after them.  Farmers, factory workers, laborers.  We are here today with the oppurtunities we have thanks to them.  I need to know about them. 

Who are they?  Where are they from?  What did they do?  Why did they do it?  How does it connect to us and our oppurtunities that we now have?  How have you yourselves played a part in doing the same thing for your posterity?
I will be sharing these stories to these Slovak people here in England, showing them what an effect they can have on their families though the beginnings may be small.  We are showing them what their best efforts can actually do.

We have been instructed to e-mail you today so as to enable us to have this information by next Monday when we do our weekly e-mailing.  This is a way for you to become involved in a very close way with the work we are doing, and it's also an oppurtunity to learn of how we came to be so blessed.  Get the whole family involved in this, if you can.  Let everyone know for me (aunts, uncles, cousins included), and forward what you would like of this e-mail to them. 

This will play a huge part in building not just individual people but a whole nation that has for centuries been downtrodden and looked down upon.  We are giving them a chance at a better life, and over time this will change an entire culture of people's fate.  It all starts now, though, and we need the stories of those who did a similar thing for us.  Please help us out and get as many of these stories as you can to us by Monday, as we need to get this rolling as fast as possible.  You can continue in following weeks to send stories (I will print Monday's off from the computer, and can do so with following ones or they can be sent through the post), and I will gladly begin using them.  Here's a chance to be a direct part of a Sheffield 4 miracle--don't let it slip by!  You'll leave your own mark on the beginnings of these people's legacy.

Please share this with the whole family--all input will be treasured.  E-mail time has recently been extended to an hour and a half, so don't worry about reducing what you receive from me in my weekly e-mails.

I love you so much and hope you can help us out with this :) .  I'm excited to see what awaits on Monday.

Much love and thanks,
Elder Brown

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Pretty Awesome Week

Hi mom and dad :) .  

Thanks for the email and pictures, I love seeing you :) .  I can't believe I've lost another relative while I've been out here.  It's all happened within these two years (well, really the past few months).  My prayers are with you and the family.  So...I prayed for you to have some huge apples this year, and look what you get...HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!  Ha just kidding, but that would be pretty funny.  Hooray for another missionary friend!  I'm excited, she'll do way good.  My companion's uncle opened up the stake she's going to, fun fact from Elder Moreira.  

This week was pretty awesome in a lot of ways.  We ended up finding and scheduling 3 new people for baptism, one of whom we haven't even taught yet.  What happened was that we were teaching a lesson about the Restoration with the brother of member (who was there in the lesson and actually referred us to him in the first place), and also in the lesson was another one of our scheduled investigators.  After we asked the brother (somewhere in his 50s) if he would be baptized and he agreed, we were talking about a day to do that.  Then the already-scheduled guy (the member's 27-year-old son) tells us to wait a second, goes out the door and calls someone to come over.  A guy I'd street contacted a couple days ago comes in, and is told to sit down by the son who called him in.  The son then asks him when he's going to get baptized.  We scheduled him then and there before even having a lesson because of another member's work that was going on.  This man recently arrived from Slovakia to live with his brother-in-law, who happens to be our Elder's quorum president, who then started telling him about the church.  They were reading the Book of Mormon together when something from it came up in discussion and led to this man's decision to be baptized.  Essentially he'd decided to get baptized before we'd taught him anything as missionaries because a member was talking about what he knew to be true.  That's epic.  Another cool lesson was taught in Doncaster outside on the sidewalk in front of a lady's door.  We couldn't go in becuase there was no man in the house, so we set up a couple chairs outside while she sat in her doorway, and we went from there.  It was one of the most interesting lessons I've taught for sure, because the whole street is basically full of Slovaks, and they kept wandering by to listen.  One man stayed in the lesson for most of it, agreeing with everything we taught and vocalizing it.  Another man came out of his house a couple doors down, sitting in his own doorstep to unobtrusively and discreetly listen in.  One of the most miraculous moments was when I was about to tell the Joseph Smith story.  At that moment, the noisy street was rather suddenly clear of people, and we were able to teach and testify about it in an environment where the Spirit could be present in earnest.  Coincidence?  No way.  I call that a miracle.  Our church attendence was a small bit better than last week, so progress is being made.  We're still working hard on that one. 

I can't wait to hear more from you, so I'll look forward to your letters.  Love you lots and talk to you later :) .

Elder Brown

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reactivation and a Fireside

Hi mom and dad :) .  Thanks for the email and inspiring picture.  I'll be sure not to fly into any glass doors this week.  There was a baptism this week (M) from Elders Williams and Pohorelicky, and I was taking the pictures, not having them taken of me.  I'll see if he can send me the pictures or something.  Thanks for the package, I can't wait to get it :) .  Any mail puts a positive spin on any day.  Even the food advertisments.

This week has been good, and has involved shifting some of our focuses.  We've been working more with the members and less-actives, trying to really lift them up and imbue them with some strength to endure trials and such.  It's been a lot of work, but there have been some great miracles.  One of them was with the mission President's fireside on Sunday evening.  We invited tons of people and many commited, but only 4 ended up coming.  Three daughters of a member couple came with us by bus, and F from Rotherham came with Bro. N.  He's the one who was the first branch wedding we had, and he's so solid.  He has like 3 different hard-labor jobs, but he still comes to church even if he's dead tired after working all night.  He absolutely loved the fireside, and then got to meet President Pilkington and shake his hand.  It was an inspiring meeting for him, and the whole car ride home he was telling us how he knows this church is true and that people need to take it more seriously than they do.  He said you don't find people like this just anywhere, and that it's something to be treasured.  What an amazing man.  The three daughters (one who's investigating, one who's a recent convert, and one who's like 6) made the effort to even come to the fireside early. We as missionaries had to be there to practice a song an hour early, and these three came that early with us so they would know the way.  It was some real dedication, and they all enjoyed the fireside as well.  I wish more people had come, but those who came left spiritually filled, uplifted, and content.  We've also been working with a less active man who is planning on coming back to church in a couple months time.  He wants to work some things out with where his life's at first, but then he wants to start coming back to church.  In the meantime, we're working with him, keeping in contact and striving to uplift him and give him strength to overcome some big challenges.  He would have a big impact on many other people if he were to return to activity, so we're really hoping he keeps going strong with these changes.

Those are two of the highlisghts, and this week we'll be working hard again to finally bring a full room of people to church.  I love you very much and keep you in my prayers as I strive to build God's kingdom here.  When you see blessings in your lives, let me know about them because I know they're coming.

Elder Brown

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nine Scheduled Baptisms!

Hi mom and dad :)

This week's been really successful with our teaching, finding, and scheduling.  We currently have nine people scheduled for baptism, four of which we gave dates this week.  Each one of them has a unique story about how it led to that (it's four people and three different households), so I really don't have the space to tell you about it here.  I'll go for a brief-but-awesome summary.  The first is an 18-year-old who moved to Darnall about two weeks ago from Slovakia.  One of our other scheduled investigators is friends with him and referred him to us, so we took her with us to the lesson and it went great.  He accepted the baptismal challenge straight away as well as a date, and he seems really excited about everything.  The next is a lady Elder Frahm and I found a long, long time ago but never were able to teach because of various reasons (including that she was NEVER home), but she recently moved to a different house.  She's friends with one of our other investigators who lives on the street she moved to, which was a really good common ground to talk about.  Throughout the whole lesson about the Restoration I could see her connecting with thing after thing that we were saying, the Spirit of God really lighting her up.  She was so happy by the time we left, and she also accepted a baptismal date.  The last two, who we scheduled yesterday, are the wife and daughter of a member in Doncaster.  They both have been taught for a while now, and they both love the Book of Mormon and have testimonies about it.  Our lesson was about that, and in the end we tied it to what they needed to do because of it.  The mother accepted the challenge first, and then her daughter did as well.  Also in the home is a couple who also wants to be baptized but just need to get married first.  In other words, we're teaching some really great people who want to do some great things.  The absolute biggest focus we have is to get them to church, which is something we're praying, fasting, working, and teaching for with all the tools we can.  Hopefully we see some resulting attendance.

Thank you for your prayers.  They were very much heard this week.  I thought about it through the whole week that someone must be praying really hard for us and our people, because miracles have been flowing in earnest.  I'll have to let you read my journal about it sometime.  Thank you so much.  I love you with all my heart and pray for you as well.  Look for the return blessings, because they're on their way.

Love you!
Elder Brown

Monday, September 15, 2014

Many Difficulties but Plenty of Good

Hey mom and dad :) .   

I don't know if I like how transfers went.  My companion is still the same as last transfer, which is really good because I like him and couldn't handle a difficult companion on top of everything else.  There are a lot of struggles in the branch right now, and a huge portion of the load falls on me.  There are many things out here I never thought I'd ever encounter on my mission, but there it is.  By the way, Leeds (where Elder Frahm got sent) is really far away from here, so anyone found and taught there won't be a part of this branch.

In spite of the many difficulties and challenges we face, there have also been plenty of good things to be grateful for.  We taught a lot of lessons this week, scheduled some surprise people for baptism, and found some new people to teach in both Sheffield and Doncaster.  Church attendance was a huge disappointment (easily the most difficult commitment to get people to keep), but the rest of the week was pretty successful.  In one lesson in the Gleadless area of Sheffield we were teaching a lesson with some people we found there a while back when their 22-year-old son came in, who we'd not taught before.  He stood there for a bit, listening, then sat down.  He asked us why so many people said bad things about this church, and this led into a really good conversation.  He listened well and asked further questions that were also quite good, in the end telling us about an experience he'd had with another church (the one preaching against us).  Basically, the pastor of that faith showed up at their house one day before church and verbally forced L (the name of the guy we were talking to) to come.  Immediately upon entering the building, L felt terrible about the atmosphere and things that were going on there, so he ran outside and walked all the way home alone in the dark.  He asked me what that was, and I explained that it was God warning him to leave, and that he'd done well in following the prompting.  L listened more to what we taught, and when we invited him to be baptized, he readily agreed, accepting a date as a goal as well.

We also ended up scheduling the 25-ish year old brother of a lady we scheduled a couple of weeks back, which was a total surprise.  We went there with Brother N to teach her, but she wasn't home and her brother was, so we started teaching him.  Our Elder's quorum president wandered into the lesson partway through and ended up bearing great testimony of baptism.  Also present was Ludo's (the one we were teaching's) father, who was baptized back in December, and he was a fantastic support as well.  God was there in strength, so it felt quite right to offer him the baptismal invitation as well, which he accepted, and then accepted a date as well to work towards.  In essence, good things are happening in our teaching, but we need people to be taking steps of their own by doing things like coming to church.  That's what we're really working for and having a hard time coming up with results, so we'll keep pursuing that as best we can.

This week's been busy, but it's been good as well.  I know God will help us with the things we need as long as we keep striving to do and be our best.  Thank you for your prayers; they are heard by God and felt by me.  I'm so grateful for you, and I love you very much.  I look forward to reading your letters :) . 

Love you lots!
Elder Brown

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Big Changes and a Full Planner

Ahoj, mom and dad :) .  You're right, this is transfer week, and holy cow!  Things got crazy.  Elder Sindylek is going home, so Elder Williams will finish training Elder Pohorelicky in Rotherham, leaving the flat we've been together in our whole mission.  Elder Frahm got transfered to the Leeds 3 area to build a Slovak area there--that one was a huge shock to us all.  He'll be in a tripanionship, which means he'll for sure be training the new MTC-trained Slovak-speaking missionary coming in mid-transfer.  What does this mean for me?  I'm all of a sudden in a 2-man flat, the area Elder Williams and Elder Frahm have been covering now has to be absorbed into either our area or Elder Pohorelicky's, and I'm losing my mission father (E. Sindylek), twin (E. Williams), and son (E. Frahm) all in one fell blow.  Dang.  This'll be a really interesting transfer.  We're trying to get things arranged for the Rotherham Elders to get a car, because that way I don't have to take on an entire area (leaving me to cover two entire large cities and 14 individual areas by myself) and Elder Williams can continue teaching his investigators.  Crazy stuff, but I'm sure it'll all work out.

Aside from all that, our week has been really good.  We've found some good success both finding and teaching in all of our areas, which is fantastic.  I've never had so many potentials in my planner--I've got the rest of this week to try and fill the last page available, because that's what I'm on.  We scheduled a couple more people for baptism this week, and as for the others who were all previously scheduled, they all still are.  We had to reschedule a couple of them because they needed a bit more time, but they'll come around soon enough.  I'll send you pictures when it happens.  Our last branch baptism from a while back ,Pavol and Margita, came to church this week after a couple weeks of missing, which was fantastic to see. Margita's doing a lot of missionary work with her friends and family, and she also brought a lot of great thoughts up in Relief Society.  Hooray!  It's always great to see things like that happening.

That's all I've got time for this week (sorry for the shorter email, I had a lot more to read from other people's emails this week).   Thank you for all of your love and support.  It makes the hard times easier and the good times better.  I'm excited to hear from you next week and tell you what this new one has brought for me.  Love you much!!

Elder Brown

My current mission family

Elder Sindylek's last week at church group picture.

Us with the Sheffield 2 Elders, one of which is leaving the zone

Monday, September 1, 2014

Doncaster, Darnall and Amazing Things

Hi mom and dad :) .  Thanks for the pictures and email.  I'm glad you liked the letter--I thought the beer story was funny too, but I wasn't sure if it would be as funny on paper.  I'm glad it gave you a laugh.

I have to say, this week has held some amazing things.  Doncaster has picked up a bit, us finally getting a couple of lessons out of the loads of potentials we've street contacted.  The very first lesson ended up being one where we scheduled the lady for baptism, which is a fantastic sign.  The second lesson was with a guy who's basically an assistant pastor or something, and he was actually really receptive and willing to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it (which is extremely uncommon from people of that kind of religious position).  He could make a way awesome fellowshipper for people there.  I have also been really impressed by one of our Darnall investigators, who's progressing very well towards her batismal date.  I have a lot of admiration for the effort she's putting in, and God will be blessing her a great deal for it.  I have learned a lot about different styles of finding people the past couple weeks, thanks to the different nature of the people of the Doncaster area we're in.  The approaches I used in Darnall don't work very well, but I quickly found some ways that do work. 

I'm also pleased to report that nobody believes that I'm American when I tell them, one man saying I speak better Slovak than he does.  Then another guy was floored by my ability to speak a little Roma, half-jokingly asking me if I wanted a gypsy girlfriend, pointing at a couple of girls next to him (which I obviously turned down).  

We also were able to visit a family that recently moved into the Sheffield 1 ward (we're in Sheffield 4) from Portugal who were having a rough time.  President Pilkington gave us specific instruction to go visit them (Elder Moreira being Portugese) to help lift their spirits.  It was a great visit--they're super friendly and were overjoyed to see us.  They spoke in Portugese the whole time with Elder Moreira, but I was remembering bits of Spanish all over the place, speaking it a bit and understanding a bit as well, able to make a few connections to what they were saying to French.  It was actually kind of crazy.  I never put a specific effort into learning Spanish in any way, yet I was able to keep track of where the conversation was and say a couple things once in a while.  I think it's safe to say that I've seen God blessing me with the gift of tongues in several ways, having it come to special light this week.
Things will be pretty interesting this week with things that are coming, so I'll look forward to letting you know about it.  As for now, I've got to go, but remember that I love you very much.  You're the absolute best, so don't forget it!

Love you much,
Elder Brown