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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stake Conference

Hi mom and dad!  

So I'm finally recovered from this ridiculously inhibiting sickness, and I'm now back in action.  Hooray!  I was a little sad to lose the beard, though.  Thanks for thinking about me as you played that song :) .  We didn't actually do it, I guess they just did it last week for Ward Conference while I was sick.  Ah well, it's the thought that counts, right?

Stake conference was pretty interesting--I even got to translate for it!  Elder Sindylek and I tag-teamed it, and I'm actually starting to enjoy translating.  It was set up like this: all the Slovaks had earpieces, and then the translator had a microphone to speak into as the English people were giving their talks.  Everyone who had an earpiece heard whatever was said into the microphone. It was a neat thing to be a part of.  I also rode the bus there with the Slovaks, which was fun.  They would speak in a mix of Slovak and Roma, which I'm beginning to understand pretty well.  They like to joke around with each other a lot, and I even got some of the jokes they made in Roma.  I was so proud to sit with them all during stake conference and represent the Sheffield 4 branch.  I think it opened a lot of members' eyes to how big it actually is, and we only had a portion of the branch there.  I think the Slovaks liked it a lot as well, and I think they now have seen that this church is here in Sheffield more than they thought, too.  The talks were all very good, and everyone I talked to said they had a positive experience there.  A few of our investigators were able to attend, as well, which made me really happy.  They all enjoyed it, too.

There's not a whole lot to tell about this week thanks to the chicken pox that I've been stuck with, but the one day that I had something to tell about was pretty great.  Thanks for the letters you've sent, I really enjoyed all of them.  I'm glad you enjoyed my letter to all of you as well :) .  Talk to you next week, and I love you lots!

Z mojho srdca,
Starsi Brown

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Extra, Extra! (a letter in the mailbox!)

Hello Family :)  Thanks for the letters I've been getting from you!  I always enjoy reading what you send me, and I'm so grateful to have you as part of my life.  You're really the best.

To start, I of course have to respond to the letters you've sent.  In one letter you told me about the Superbowl, but I actually got to watch it on P-day at a member's house who recorded it.  It was a pretty lame one, probably the worst I've ever seen.  Ah well, what can you do?

I watched Frozen on P-day a couple weeks ago, which I think you all saw, right?  It was a pretty good film; I enjoyed it.  It had some really good messages, the characters were relatable, the music was well done and the animation was great.

Thank you for sending me the note from Grandma Brown and the pictures.  I really appreciate that.  I'm glad the funeral all went well enough as far as funerals are concerned, and I'm sad that I couldn't be there to show my love and respect for her.  I guess I'm just showing it a different way by being out here and serving the God who is taking care of her.

There are four of us in the flat now.  (Elders Williams, DeShazer, Frahm and I)  Elder Sindylek moved to a different one.  I am doing the planning and scheduling now.  I am learning to be a pretty effective planner.  We're of course not able to teach as much now because of travel time, but we've also been able to street contact some good people who want us to come and see them.  My daily planner is well used and fully organized, which is exactly as things need to be to have a successful day/week/mission.

I think I am finally at the point where I can say that I'm fully fluent in the language now.  The transition is hard to notice because I am constantly improving, and I can see that God has helped me.  It's not just with gospel terms either, thanks to the fact that I do a lot of translating for many different things.  This ranges from government forms to doctor's office visits to conversations with landlords and repairmen to old, very educated men giving rather difficult talks in sacrament meeting (quoting from medical professors and the suchlike).

Roma is the first language of the Slovak people I teach.  I've begun to dream in Roma and the other day I spoke with some Hungarians who didn't speak Slovak or English, but were gypsies and had the same base language of Roma.  I'm by no means fluent, but I'm getting there.  I can sometimes understand as much as 50% of what they say to each other in Roma, which is quite a lot considering that there's not a book written on how to speak Roma.  This understanding of their language has many benefits, but one big one happened just recently as we were walking up the hill home for the night.  A couple of younger men were walking toward us, and before we said anything to them, one called out "kaj dzas", which is Roma for "where are you going?"  He was just making a joke to himself, thinking that surely a couple of white guys wouldn't understand.  I, however, did understand, and answered his question as he passed by, saying we were going up.  Then I followed it up with asking him if he spoke Roma.  This guy was totally caught off guard by my being able to respond, and we stopped to talk for a bit.  He gave me his contact information and I'm excited to go and meet with him again.

I also wanted to let you know that I'm having fun out here.  There are some really amusing things that happen fairly often (generally involving Elder Williams and DeShazer).  For example, at D's baptism when we got there the font was only half filled, so we had to fill it back up.  We couldn't figure out why the English speaking Elder's would have done that, seeing as they'd done it mulitple times before.  Brother Nettleship and Elders Williams and DeShazer went to look around and see if there was a problem somewhere, and there was.  They discovered that somehow the font was leaking and the basement below us was completely flooded with wather.  So while the baptismal service took it's course, the two of them wer downstairs bailing out water with plastic buckets in their white shirts and ties.  I thought it was pretty funny.  Also, recently, our beloved Flatscot, Mike Wazowski (the green punching balloon you sent me for Christmas) passed away.  We had quite a moving farewell service for him one night, which Elder Frahm recorded on my camera, but you won't get to see until I get home.  It was pretty funny, I must admit.  Elder Williams has also taken to writing almost poetry that nearly makes sense, which is always good for laughs at the end of every night.

Mom, you mentioned how the primary kids are learning "I Stand All Amazed" which I found really cool because our branch choir will be singing the Slovak version "Uzansuty Laskou" in stake conference March 23rd.  I'll be playing the piano for it just like you play it for the primary kids.  Cool, no?

I just wanted to finish by letting you all know how much I love you.  I'm out here doing what I'm doing because God has taken care of me through a wonderful family.  I tell people this all the time, and they feel it's truth and commend you.  Each of you mean so very much to me, and I love to hear from you about whatever you have to say, quite simply because it's from you.  You're each doing your very best, and it adds yet another line to the list of reasons why I should do the same.  When I'm giving my all, I can then see the blessings flow, and then I can testify to others that it works and they should do the same.  Keep sending your love because I feel it and it always brightens my day.  Here's my love to you too.  :)

All my love,
Elder Brown

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Chickenpox

Hey there mom and dad!  I'm writing you from the Allen's house, covered in chicken pox and calamine lotion.  It's really a pretty miserable thing to catch this late in life...I'm not sure what exactly I did to warrant this kind of punishment.  In the Old Testament they had to practically rebel against God to deserve being smitten with skin diseases.  I thought I was doing a lot better than that! ;)  Oh well, there's not a lot I can do about it.  Don't worry about my flat mates getting it, they've all already had it and are therefore immune at this point.  I don't need you to send me anything, I have the things here that can be done to help, so I'm all right for now.  The chicken pox are everywhere, yes.  That means EVERYWHERE.  It's the ugliest, most uncomfortable thing I've had to suffer yet sickness-wise, I think.  Before the spots showed up I was unusually exhausted for like three days in a row, and I couldn't figure out why.  Then within a day my chest and back were covered, and it continued from there.  My head started hurting a lot, too, but I have paracetamol that I've been taking, and that helps a lot.  The vaccinations I don't think did a thing to help me in all honesty.  As for where I got the chickenpox from, it was definitely from one of a few families whose kids have had it over the last while.  As for what I'm going to do for the next while, I really have no idea.  I'm already dying to get out there and get back to work.  I just sleep a lot, read the scriptures, and I've been with the Allens, and we'll watch some (approved) movies I think.  Sister Allen already sent you a baptism picture I think, and it was better than the one I had on my camera, which I forgot anyway.  I'm glad you got my letter.  I'm not sure what to put in another letter to you now, though, because I just wrote you one, and there's not much going on at the moment while I'm down with chicken pox.  I'll see if I can get something together, though.

Before I end this email, I do have to let you know of one of the miracles that happened before I got sick.  Elder Frahm and I were walking home one night after a lesson against traffic on the sidewalk of a busy highway.  It was dark, and nobody was out and we honestly weren't expecting any kind of finding experience on the way home.  Well, God had a different plan, and a car ends up pulling over with a couple of Slovak Roma men in it that somehow recognized us as being able to speak Slovak and as people who teach about God.  How, I don't know because Elder Frahm and I don't look gypsie at all, and these guys didn't even know exactly what religion we were.  They talked to us for a bit and ended up inviting us to come over sometime, giving us their address.  It was completely unexpected, but a huge miracle.

That's all I have time for now, so I'll end here.  I'm doing ok, don't worry, just keep praying for me :) .  I love you all very much, and I'm so grateful for your prayers and other support.  You're the best!

Talk to you next week!
Elder Brown

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Work in Darnell and a Baptism

Čau, matka a patka!  Thanks for the forward on the blog post, first of all.  That was really nice of that woman to say, and it makes me feel good to know that I can even make a difference somewhere by what I'm writing home.  I'm excited to get your letters, and I've been working on another one to send home to you.

This week has been filled with help from heaven at every turn.  As we've been on foot now, we've had the chance to talk to many of the Slovak people on the street.  God has put in our path a great many people who are ready and willing to hear the message of the gospel, and I'm really excited about it.  I wasn't sure in the beginning if we were going to be able to find a lot of people to teach in the Darnall area because the missionaries started out here working with Slovaks, but I've been shown that there's quite a lot to do still in this area.

This Friday D was baptized!  Don't kill me, but I forgot my memory card to email, so I'll send you the picture next week.  It was a great experience for everyone there, but most importantly D.  She was so happy afterward, and then on Sunday when she was confirmed she was even happier.  She's the shyest, humblest girl you've ever met, but she expressed very quietly how she felt about it, and it brought the Spirit's testimony of the truth of her words to my heart.

Another of the miracles I've seen was with who came to church this and last week.  P, the one baptized a couple months ago, has a bunch of sons, and they've never wanted to come to church.  After a while, we found out it was becuase they thought that everyone at church was just older people, no youth their age.  We let them know that there were indeed youth who came as well, and then we brought one of the member youth with us in a later lesson.  They still didn't come for a while, so we just kept encouraging them to come.  Last week they finally came to church (and also brought a friend), and the week they chose to come ended up being one where nearly all of the member youth were there.  It made for a great experience, and they all really enjoyed it.  This week they all came again, and once again everyone was there.  They all are pretty set on coming to church now, because the youth there have made great friends for them, and it also is encouraging all the other youth to be there, too.  It's so great to see, because we've been trying for so long to get them to come, and they finally did and it confirmed what we'd told them would be there.  Also, one of our new families that we've been teaching came this week and last week as well, and have some strong desires to be baptized.  They have a lot of faith, and even though things are really hard for them financially right now, they still hold their firm belief in God, and they know that he can help them.  I love going to these families' homes because the Spirit is so strong there, and it just makes everyone's day better.

That's all time allows for this week, but I feel like it's a pretty amazing bit anyway.  I can't wait to see what this new week brings, because I know there'll be miracles there.  I love you all so much, and I hope you have a miraculous week, too :) .  Don't doubt it, because you can!  I'm excited to read your letters when they come, mine will be on the way soon.

Love you!
Elder Zachary Brown

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Letter From the President

New Miracles

Ahoj, matka a patka moje :) .  Thank you for the letters this week!  I'll begin working on yours shortly, I just had to finish one to Marissa this last little while.  I need you to tell some other people thanks, too, including grammy and papa for their weekly letter that they send (well, I guess that's mostly grammy haha): Aunt Tiffany wrote me, which was really nice, and the Argyles sent me a card again as well, so if you could let them know that I appreciated that, that would be great.

This week has been a really good one, which I am very happy to say.  We've been working hard, Elder Frahm and I, but we've had a lot of miracles this week that I'm really grateful for.  The first starts with a member referral--V and M, the two longest active members of the Slovak branch told us about a friend of theirs who recently moved in across the street from some other members (R and D).  They said that this woman wanted us to come over, so we got the address and went over there right away, having some time right then to do so.   We brought with us D, the member across the street, and ended up having a great lesson with them.  We gave them a Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment, leaving with high hopes for another great lesson upon our return.  The next lesson proved to be even better than the first:  We followed up on if she read the Book of Mormon, which she had and enjoyed it, and we once again had D with us. We ended up scheduling V and her two sons for baptism at the end of that lesson.  We found out as I was helping them fill out a form (translation is a form of service we do a ton of here) that neither she nor her husband smoke, which is so unusual but so amazing.  Her husband at this time hadn't yet arrived from Slovakia, but on Sunday he came to church along with the rest of the family, and they all enjoyed it.  It was so great to see them all there.

Another miracle was with young D (not the member one, but the girl who was in our miracle lesson last week).  This week we actually scheduled her for baptism this coming Saturday, and she's so excited for it.  She passed her baptismal interview with flying colors on Sunday, now completely prepared for this amazing step towards God.  She's so shy, but she's the got the nicest heart, and she really loves the gospel.  This week she said again to us what I though I'd heard her whisper to herself last week, that this faith is the true one, and that it feels different than anything else she's ever been around.  She wants me to be the one to baptize her because her dad can't (his stomach doesn't allow him to put any strain on it because of something to do with his intestines being in the wrong place).  Next week her family should be one step closer to being a family united in the gospel, and we're all so excited for them.  It's certainly a miracle, and God is continually proving to me that miracles truly never cease when we are in his service.

That's all I have time for for this week, though there have been more miracles that I wish I could share.  I'll make sure and put them in my letter home :) .  I love you all very much, and I hope that this week brings some miracles for you, too!
Love as always,
Elder Brown