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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Happy Birthday to Elder Brown

A picture for mom on his birthday.  Senior missionaries are the BEST.  I'm always so happy to get pictures of my boy.  Happy Birthday Zach!  You are my joy and my song.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mission-Wide Hour of Finding

Hi mom and dad, I'm sorry I can't report on your package yet, I'm obeying the orders not to open it until my birthday.  Actually it's been sitting at the post office for a while now because it's a lot harder to find time to go and get that when I don't have access to a car.  I will get that soon, though.  Yes, the Slovak translation in your email was strange ha.  Good old Google.  You're right about contact lenses, I'll be needing those fairly soon here.  I'll make them last to whenever you're able to send new ones, so I'm not super bothered about when you send them.  That's something we get from the English a lot: "I'm not bothered."  They mean to say they're not interested, but it doesn't really make very much sense.

Things this week were super tiring, but it was great anyway.  On P-day we played football (soccer in American) with a bunch of the Slovak young men, who destroyed us Americans.  One of them is a pretty epic player.  I was quite impressed.  We also have a baptism coming up this Saturday, because J passed his interview!  It's great because he's a really good guy and he's very ready to keep on the path to God.  Also this week we had our mission-wide hour of finding on Monday.  Leading up to this we've been doing a lot of praying and planning, and then fasting on Sunday to have it be effective and successful for the whole mission.  As far as I've found out it went pretty well for most of the teams--President Pilkington went finding with Elders Sindylek and Krylborne, and they ended up teaching a lesson afterwards were they found three new investigators and scheduled somebody for baptism.  I guess there were like 17 Slovaks all in one home, a home of some recent converts who told everyone they knew that the mission president would be coming to their house.  The basically had their own church meeting on a Monday ha.  President Pilkington said he would be coming to that baptism.  Elder Misselwitz and I had a lesson with R and D before we went finding, who are some recent converts who joined the church a little before I got here.  At the end of the lesson I asked if they had any family that might not mind us visiting them, and they referred us to R's cousin who happened to live in the area we were planning to go finding in.  We went up there to contact them (obviously), but they turned out to not be home.  However, right then we saw a couple of Slovak boys go to the house next door, so we talked to them and asked them if their parents were home.  They weren't, but now we know where two Slovak homes are right in the area where we had decided to go finding.  God definitely heard and answered our prayers, and I have a feeling it was the same throughout the mission.  Elders Williams and Frahm also found two new families in the Pittsmore area, teaching one of them a lesson that went really well.  So this week was a miracle one, including the part where a Muslim guy decided to set us up with early entrance to his half-price Chinese and Indian buffet this Thursday!  Woohoo!

That's my week in a very small nutshell.  I love you lots and want you to know that the sacrifices you are making and have made to let me be out here are blessing my life and the lives of many others.  Talk to you next week and have a great week yourselves!

Elder Brown

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hooray for A!

Hi mom and dad :) .  

Thanks for the pictures, I like them.  It's good to see my family.  Dad has to be in the next one, though!  Thanks for putting together a package for me, I know I don't make it easy.  I just don't know what to ask for.  You know how limited I am here with things.  I also know it's quite expensive for you, so thank you so much for it.  It means a lot to me.  Your words mean the most, though; I love hearing from you.

This week went really well with teaching and finding people to teach.  Somehow we've been able to street contact a bunch of people I've never met before who live in Darnall while walking along Staniforth.  It's weird because I've been walking up and down that street every day virtually the whole time when we travel since I was with Elder Frahm.  One of our biggest miracles this week was in a lesson with Aa, the daughter of Z and A.  We were over at the house to help A prepare her first Relief Society lesson (which she did fantastic on--I generally translate for Relief Society, and I was so happy for her) and Z prepare his talk for sacrament meeting.  A was pretty nervous about things, but we were helping her to understand what to do, and Aa was actually helping as well . She's very smart as to gospel principles and has been regularly coming to church and staying in the lessons for several weeks now, and the only barrier has been a reluctance to be baptized.  As we talked, we mentioned that Aa would make a good teacher, and she clarified if it would have to be after she was baptized.  We confirmed that and she then told us she had been praying about being baptized and had recieved an answer that she should.  She isn't sure about a day yet, but it should be coming in not too long, so we're pretty excited about it.  A's lesson ended up going really well; two member women from Bratislava visited the branch, and one of them told me that the humble and powerful testimony and faithfulness of our devoted women in this branch was just what she had needed that day.  Hooray for A! 

J's baptism is also coming up very soon here, which will be great :) .  He's a very prepared and sincere man--after we'd taught the principle of tithing he was ready to pay it the very next day at church!  That's a lot of faith.  We let him know that it was something that he would do after baptism, but we were quite amazed by his willingness to give to God.  He's also still steadfastedly reading the Book of Mormon in spite of a busy work schedule and heart problems, which he could easily use as excuses not to read.  I'm always impresses when I see people who don't make excuses to get out of doing good things, and he's one of those kind of people.

That's a bit of my week's highlights this time around, so I'll write next week as well and let you know how it goes this time around.  I love you all very much, and my prayers are with you every day.
Elder Brown

Monday, May 12, 2014

Day After Mother's Day

Hi mom and dad :) .  

I loved talking to you this week, too.  It was strange for me to see how Tamsyn and Jaalah are growing up.  To be honest, Tamsyn is starting to remind me of me at that age.  I agree with you about the vitality of where I am now and what I'm doing.  The growth that I can see in myself is colossal, and it isn't slowing down.  It will carry with me for the rest of all eternity.  I'm so grateful to you and dad for giving me that chance to take this step, because this is largely thanks to how you and dad helped me find and walk on the right path throughout my life at home.  You are both so blessed for that, and you'll be seeing the blessings flow if you haven't already.

There were several very interesting things this week, a couple of which I already told you (like some Hungarians trying to hook me up with there daughter five minutes after meeting them...).  One of the best miracles of this week involved one of our investigators named D.  She and her husband have been investigators for around a month now, and we've had some really good things happening with them.  They aren't married yet, so after we taught them the law of chastity they set a goal of getting married in September.  That was great, of course, but another miracle followed later.  We taught the Word of Wisdom, knowing that D smokes, and she listened very carefully the whole time.  During the lesson I translated for Elder Misselwitz so that he could say something, and he bore testimony of how the giving up the harmful substances advised against in the Word of Wisdom can really bless a person's life.  He had only been a member for two years before he came out on a mission, and so he saw a big difference in his life when he gave up things like alcohol.  That visit went well, and they commited to live that commandment, but when we went there for our next appointment, we were astounded to hear what D had to tell us.  After hearing Elder Misselwitz's testimony, she decided that she could change too, and that day she completely gave up smoking.  She said it made her really sick and that it was really hard, but she said she wants to follow God and she knows what she has to do, so she did it.  That's some serious willpower right there; she's one strong woman in her faith in God.  Obviously we were quite amazed by that, and once again I have to tell you that miracles have not ceased here in Sheffield.

I love you very much, and I pray that miracles come your way as well.  I know God will send them if you ask in faith, being willing to do what he asks of us.  Write you next week,

Elder Brown

Elder Frahm and I after a lovely uphill walk without umbrellas in a rainstorm (plus a car drenching us in a tunnel)

Some interesting food

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Changes and Baptisms

Hi mom :) .  I'll get you the details soon here about Skyping you, which I should be doing from the Allens' home.  I'll have Sister Allen send you the information, because I currently don't know.  No worries about your heart leaking through the eyes, it happens sometimes.  I can't wait to talk to you all :) .  It's going to be good, real good.

Things changed a bit in the branch and district this transfer; I got put with Elder Misselwitz, a German who doesn't speak Slovak and has been serving with Elder Williams for this transfer.  Elder Frahm is now with Elder Williams.  The other two Elders in my district are both gone now, one went home (Elder White) and the other got transferred.  Things'll be interesting, that's for sure.  It means I'm doing literally everything now--teaching, finding, planning, taking care of district leader responsibilities, etc.  Crazy.

This week's been another amazing one.  I know I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record saying that, but it's true every week.  This week M was baptized, and she wanted me to baptize her.  She tells us every time we go over there how blessed we are going to be for bringing what we have to her home.  She's got such a testimony of how God answers prayers, and she's got the experiences to prove it.  She even bore her testimony at her baptismal service and also in sacrament meeting, and everybody listened to her, riveted by the Spirit.  It's amazing what living the gospel of Jesus Christ can do for a person.

We also had some really strong lessons with a man we've begun teaching recently, and he ended up walking to church with us on Sunday.  We said we'd come by his house at 9:30, and when we were walking up the street at 9:10 he was already outside and waiting.  He ended up enjoying it a lot, and when we asked him in the next lesson we had if he would be baptized, both he and his 14-year-old son accepted.  The wife and son would've come to church as well, but the mother was stuck in bed becuase she was sick.  They all are planning on coming to church this week, though.  The wife even referred us to her friends the other day as we were walking down the street and stopped to talk with her.  They are people we're also teaching, and I guess they mentioned that to her and they got talking about it.  We were supposed to have had an appointment with them the previous day, but they weren't home when we went by, so this lady told us to go by right then.  We did and got a return appointment.  Everybody seems to know everybody around here.

That's my week, and I have to say that it was pretty good.  I'm looking forward to seeing all of your faces Sunday :) .  Love you so very much!

Starsi Brown

The baptism of M and the G family

my first district as district leader

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mailbox Letter!

Dear Family,

It's me again.  The only one who writes you handwritten letters... it's kind of funny about that.  I don't know that handwritten letters are very commonly sent nowadays except between missionaries and their families.  Interesting fun fact:  as of March, it's been a year since I got my mission call.  I didn't remember it being such a long gap between that and my entering the MTC.  Mother's Day is coming up in not too long here, so I'll be talking to you face to face pretty soon.  England faked me out a bit ago- I saw a sign announcing Mother's Day as Sunday March 30th, and this was about a day or two after I'd already emailed you.  I was like, "Great, I haven't made any arrangements for that or told my mom anything."  Then I started thinking about it and I remembered Mother's Day for us in the USA is in May, so then I was fine, but it had me going for a minute.

Congratulations to Grammy and Papa for their new calling as ward missionaries!  It means we're adding even more missionary strength to our family.  :)  I love it!  I know many miracles I see out here are a result of the prayers of everyone at home.  I was able to recover from the chicken pox relatively quickly which certainly was influenced greatly by your prayers.

You mentioned going around to the English temples when you come pick me up, and I've got to say that I'd love that.  I miss the temple a lot and I'm glad we went a bunch before I left.

I know what you mean about needing a project, Dad.  When I didn't have anything to do while I had the chicken pox I was going crazy.  You said you have more to dig though...what more could you possible have left to dig up?  I have always thought it would be cool to have a moat around the house, of course.

I liked your story about following the promptings of the Spirit before the colorguard competition, Mom.  It was pretty good because it made a big difference for Jaalah and her team.  Way to go, Mom!  You are also doing a lot of great things for the Youth Council which is a lot of work.  That kind of service doesn't go unrewarded by our Heavenly Father, and I know you're also a blessing to all of those kids.

I also like how you are studying Christlike attributes with me, mom.  I've been studying knowledge for awhile now but I think I'll change it soon.  I'm not sure to what yet, but it'll be fairly soon here.  In the email I just sent you I told you about the baptisms from the past couple weeks, but I didn't have time to tell you about some other miracles that I wanted to.  I like to share these experiences for so many reasons, but there are a few main ones.  I want to bring hope to everyone that cares to read that there are still people on this earth going in good directions and doing good things.  There is a great deal of darkness and evil all around and it's only intensifying, but so is God's work.  Miracles still happen.  People are changing for the better.  The Lord is establishing His kingdom everywhere and it is no small thing.  I have stories and miracles more than I can even tell you, and what I'm doing is only a fraction of what is going on all over the world.  I also want you to know that you as my parents did things right with me.  The fruits that are coming as a result of my decision to serve can be directly linked to a couple of people who decided to raise a family in God's way.  I want to show you what effect you've had on the world through me.  I want you to see how much I love God and His children and what comes of it.  Keeping those two commandments will bring more souls unto God than any other.  I also want you to recognize that it's not limited to missionaries either.  The vast majority of the miracles I share have come about thanks to the efforts of members of the church, most recent converts, and even non-members who are making their way towards God.  I want my words to you to inspire, encourage, uplift, and bring the spirit.  I want you to be just as much a part of this experience as I am.

Let me tell you about S.  S was baptized not too long before I arrived here, maybe a month or so.  His children have one by one followed his example, and he continually supports and encourages his wife to do the same.  A few weeks ago he had the opportunity to go to the temple and do baptisms in Preston, along with a handful of other amazing recent converts.  All of them had the greatest experience there and loved it.  They of course told everyone about their experience there and how beautiful the temple is, and S was no exception.  However, he didn't just stop there.  The spiritual exuberance  led him to have a friend over with him one day when we came to teach a lesson with him, expecting the usual family members to be present.  To our surprise, S introduces us to his friend, D, and starts telling him about the gospel.  The time we spent there was probably half taken up by S emphatically bearing his testimony about various foundational principles of the gospel.  By the time we had to leave, S asked his friend if he wanted to walk to church with him on Sunday as well as start having us over.  D asked us if doing the things we'd talked about would make him happier and help him with his personal problems in life.  We told him from our hearts and speaking from our own personal experiences that it indeed would.  He agreed to come to church and have us over, and we left utterly amazed at the boldly heartfelt sharing of the gospel that had just come from S.  A few days later, guess who came to church?  D with his 9 year old son!

Some of you (probably mom especially) might be surprised to know that I've gotten fairly decent at cooking.  Eggs, pasta, mushrooms and pancakes.  I'm branching out from the frozen foods I was living off for a long time.  It's probably healthier.  The main reason I didn't bother before was because of time constraints, but I found out that I can put together a meal of pasta, sauce, mushrooms and grapes in about 15 minutes, so that's not a problem anymore.

We found a little place to play basketball in the mornings for exercise that's a 3 minute run from our flat, tops.  We're getting a basketball today so that will be a lot more fun than doing hundreds of crunches.  It's really hard to find motivation to do that in the morning.  Doable, but difficult.  Basketball is a much better option.

I wanted to thank you for the extra little note you sent me the other week, mom.  You're right, I had a lot of stress from the many new demands placed upon me, and it was really uplifting to read what you wrote.  Thank you very much for that.  :)

I have a goal for myself to translate for General Conference after I get home, and I am continually working hard to expand my fluency further and further.  My vocabulary level is growing increasingly more complex, which I thoroughly enjoy.  The language is natural to me now and doesn't feel uncomfortable for me to speak and I just love it.  I can't really do much with French now having not used it for awhile.  Foreign language mode form my brain is completely wired to Slovak, so French requires a lot of effort for even simple phrases.  I'll pick it back up when I get home though.  Still, Slovak by my standard is the best language other than English currently spoken.

As always I close with my deep and abiding love for all you members of my family.  It's such a powerful and special thing we have among us, and I'm so glad to have you all be such a large part of my life and to have the chance to be a part of yours.  The best part is that it lasts forever.  :)

Elder Zach Brown