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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Snail Mail!

Dear Family,

Well, my year mark is here and perception changes.  From here on out it's not an uphill climb but rather a downhill run with what I'm sure will be increasing speed.  I'm becoming a senior missionary as all my older friends and role models depart and it's strange to see.

As for the work, I'm still covering Darnall.  I think I've probably set a record for most steps walked on Staniforth Road, and counting.  Elder M and I are working really well together, and I'm grateful for him and his buoyant spirit.

Not too long ago a Slovak girl straight up offered herself to me.  This was on the street!  Like, WHAT?  I was halfway down the sidewalk in 3, Elder M trailing behind and asking what just happened.  The girl was offended by my rather blatant rejection and was swearing at me as we hastened away.  Nice, right?

The past few weeks every new person I've spoken to has thought I was Slovak until I told them otherwise, which is obviously a great sign for my language progression.  I love knowing my fluency has gotten to the point where I'd always hoped it would be before.  I'm of course still picking up new vocab all the time, but it's gone from basic and ordinary things to unusual and less common things.  My French is very faded now, which makes me sad, but I'll pick it up again.

Driving lessons have picked back up again.  My instructor was in the hospital for 11 weeks or so, suffering from  multiple illnesses and having multiple operations.  I don't know how he survived it but somehow he did so I'm once again taking lessons.  The hardest part is mastering all the different kinds of roundabouts and such that they have here.  Other than that, things are fairly simple with the driving.

There was one funny experience I just remembered.  We were walking up the hill to Manor and we saw a guy ahead of us who was struggling to carry a bulky 24 package of beer and a couple large grocery bags.  As we neared him, the beer package broke, spilling out cans of beer on the sidewalk, one even bursting.  The guy, who was either partially drunk or really, really tired, started to gather everything up into the grocery bags. We stopped to offer help and Elder M picks up one of the last cans, bent over a bit, offering it to the guy kneeling on the ground.  The guy didn't immediately notice so Elder M stood there for a good few moments, offering a can brightly emblazoned with the Carling label to someone else for all driving by to see.  This was a busy road too, probably the busiest anywhere near us, and to imagine the thoughts of people passing by who noticed is just funny.  Elder M says he's the first missionary to publicly offer someone a beer.  haha

The work continues onward here in Sheffield and I'm glad to be a part of it.  There are many great missions out there but this one is the best one.  There are plenty of areas in this mission, but this one is the best one.  Thanks for helping me to be here.  People are listening, growing and changing.  I'm striving to do so myself and I can see a huge difference between me from before and me now.  I'm making each step count.  I've always looked forward to being where and who I am now.  Thank you for that.  I want you to know that I love you very much.  I think about and pray for you every day.  The things I've learned from you ring true in what I say to others.  You are a greater part of my work out here than you might think.  You are a continual joy to me, and every letter from you adds a reminder in my day of that joy. You are all the best of the best.

With love,
Elder Zachary Brown

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Successful and Exhausting

Hi mom and dad :) .  I'm glad to have your email and picture.  It's good to see my parents.  By the way mom, I've showed your picture from when you met the Williams family to some Slovaks, and all the women say you're very pretty.  Just so you know ;) .  You're right about having a lot to handle these last couple weeks, and I've for sure had to stretch and grow to maintain all the many things I have to balance.  I've made it, though, and we've had a pretty successful week, if absolutuely exhausting.  Success comes at a price, I suppose.

We've seen a multitude of miracles this week in connection to a great deal of effort and trying really, really hard to come up with new sources of people to teach.  God's blessed us with two people scheduled for baptism, both of which I've been working with for a very long time.  Only one of them made it to church (N), but she thoroughly enjoyed it and told her family she'd be coming continuously from now on (her parents and brother-in-law are members).  She understands things really well, and our lessons there have been awesome every time lately.  When you come to pick me up you'll have to meet her baby daughter--it's the cutest little girl I've ever met.  She always wants to shake my hand, even though she's only a year old.  Just me looking at her makes her happy ha.  Gotta love that!  Also, we were able to go to Doncaster like we planned, and we've got about 15 potential homes to be teaching in.  So far we've only had one lesson, but it was with a guy who's really epic.  He's extremely well-studied in relation to the scriptures, and was telling us about how people misunderstand the Godhead all the time because of a few scriptures in the Bible.  Then he explained to us how those verses support what we believe.  Plus, he's already read the Book of Mormon, which was given to him by a friend, though this guy's never met with missionaries before, and he likes it.  How's that for a person prepared to meet us?  There are a whole bunch of other people there who are totally ready to be hearing from missionaries that are now potentials (some of whom we'll hopefully be teaching today), and we've only barely scratched the surface of one of three areas with many, many Slovaks in Doncaster.  If things really pick up and go well with this, they'll need to get another Slovak-speaking team in the mission and put them in Doncaster.  The biggest obstacle for us was travel there, but we've got bus passes now that work on trains, too, so travel's a lot faster that way.  We've also found some new people in Darnall who we had a good lesson with in spite of the time ban in place (Nadia also lives in Darnall).  So, though we're very tired and probably could have used an extra P-day to recover, we've got good things happening all over the place.  I think God used the time ban (which has been somewhat lifted now) to help us find an area we wouldn't have ever gone to without being absolutely desperate.  Which we were.   It's exceedingly difficult and draining knocking totally English neighborhoods just to try and find a single isolated Slovak family that probably doesn't even exist for hours on end.  That's what we were doing before we tried Doncaster.  Anyhow, God got us there, and I think we'll see some good things come of it.  We're praying very hard and doing our best every day, and those labors of faith are definitely seen and aided by our Father in Heaven.  Thank you so much for your prayers, they're absolutely priceless.  Also, thank you for your weekly letters.  They are truly bright spots in my week.  I've got to go, but remember I love you very much.  You are always in my prayers.

Elder Zachary Brown

Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing Everything I Can

Hi mom and dad :) .  I can't believe I've lost another relative while out here.  I really hope I don't lose any others.  I didn't ever really know Great Grandpa Knuteson super well but I have a great deal of respect for him as the patriarch of my family line.  He did live a devoted life, and me, dad, and grandma Brown are evidences of that, faithful members of his posterity continuing the family's service to God in just one of his lines of his posterity, with many others doing the same as well. The Ogden temple looks fantastic--I didn't realize they'd redone it until this week.  That'll be something on the To Do list when I get home.

This week has been exceedingly interesting.  There've been a lot of things going on, and basically one of the results of some of these things is that we're not allowed to be in Darnall after 1 in the afternoon.  That's the place where we spend the vast majority of our time, so it's forced us to try and look for other places to be that have Slovaks living there.  The other Elders cover the other areas that we know of as having a large concentration of Slovaks, so we've been forced to try searching English areas again like Elder Misselwitz and I did a little bit.  It's not turned up anything at all, really, but we have plans to try Doncaster out this week, a place where I guess there're about 700 Slovaks living.  It's a ways away by travel, but we don't really have a ton of choice.  We're praying we can get something going there--it's mostly untouched thus far by Slovak-speaking missionaries.

We did have one especially remarkable miracle this week--we scheduled a lady for baptism!  She's actually an adult-age daughter of some recent converts, and recently arrived from Slovakia to live with them.  She came to church last week without us even teaching her yet, and this week we followed up on that, teaching a couple of really solid lessons.  She's really sincere, and has a great motivation to do what's right.  She'll also be a positive influence on her family, who've been struggling lately.  I think she'll bring some new strength into the branch, and we're excited.  Our week this week is going to be quite an unusual one--we won't be able to see a lot of the people we were, so we're going to have to focus on those progressing the most and in need of the most spiritual upliftment, and we'll also hopefully be opening up a new teaching pool in Doncaster.  I'm unsure of what to expect, but prayers are being sent by the bucketload (I also fasted on Sunday--I've got to do everything I can for this to work out).  I'm sure we'll be seeing some more miracles out of this here shortly, so I look forward to being able to let you know about them next week.

I love you all very much :) .  My prayers are with you every day in great strength, and I know God will be with you as He has always been.  Keep the joy, keep the faith.

Love you much,
Elder Brown

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Fantastic, Dead Beat Tired Week

Hi mom and dad :) .  Thanks for the pictures, I can't believe how much my little sisters are growing up.  Yes, my release date is June 25.  It is early, but it's because we came into the field mid-transfer, and so we either go home a month earlier than we entered the MTC or two weeks later, which would mean missing the deadline for school and losing all scholarships.  Obviously that wouldn't be good.  I love that the Whites met the Allens--and in Paris of all places! 

(the White's are from our ward and the Allen's have just left Sheffield where they were serving as senior missionaries.  They ran into each other on the way to church in Paris and made the "Brown" connection)

I'm working on a letter, but I can't promise it'll be overly soon.  I'll do my best.
This week has been absolutely fantastic.  We have had loads of miracles and cool experiences, and I am so excited for the week coming up.  First off, there was a huge miracle with a family we were tecaching in Darnall that moved.  We lost contact with them, so on Sunday (not this week, but last week) we were fasting for them to come to church, since they had the address.  They didn't come to church, but on Thursday night I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize, and it turned out to be them!  They only had our phone number because I'd randomly decided to write it on the paper with the church address, but when they moved they actually lost the paper.  The mother of the family spent all day Thursday looking for it, and ended up finally finding it and calling us.  They'd moved pretty far away, but we made the trip to get there and see them, not wanting to give anything up just becuase of distance.  Turns out, the area they'd moved to (Gleadless) is an isolated area of council housing with multiple Slovak and Czech families living in it.  Because of the odd location, none of our missionaries had ever been there (at least, not the Slovak-speaking ones), nor are any other churches involved there whatsoever.  In other words, it's a totally fresh area with people ready to accept the gospel.  Our lesson at our investigators' house went very well, us finding another person who's living with them and teaching him as well.  After we finished, the mother gave us 3 specific referrals to some nearby families and another complex to try on top of that.  Needless to say, we're really excited for that and are going back tomorrow to give it a go.  Along with that, we've found a couple new homes to teach in, one fairly close to our flat and the other in the Manor area.  The guy near our flat is super great and is very receptive to what we teach.  Elder Moreira and I are quite optimistic for this transfer, and despite being dead-beat tired every day this week (and sometimes without meals), we've done a ton of good work, and it's all worth it.

Have an awesome week, I can't wait to hear from you :) .  Thanks for the letters and such--I'm so pumped to hear about Micaiah.  Make sure you get me her mailing information when she leaves.  Love you lots!

Elder Brown

Me and Elder Moreira being Mafia.  There's enough of it around, so we may as well fit in, right?

Some VERY interesting-looking food.  I'll let you guess what the purple stuff was.

Finally is some dessert we ate that was pretty good.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Losing Weight, Speaking Roma and of course, Miracles

Hey mom and dad :) .  That's so epic that you met Jeremy Evans!!  Man, I wish I could've been there for that.  Thanks so much for getting that t-shirt, though, I'm way pumped about it.  Cool stuff with my good old coach, too--congrats for him, and tell him I said hi.  I thought the package was great--I opened it up at a point during the week when I had no snack food, so the crackers were fantastic.  I enjoyed the pictures, too.  It's good to see your happy faces :) .  By the way, I weighed myself yesterday and came in at 165 lbs--I've dropped 15 since coming out!  That's not too shabby, is it?

Well, this week's been a really interesting one, and I'm loving my new companion (Elder Moreira from Portugal, who's lived in England since he was 11, so he speaks with a proper English accent).  We have a lot of fun together, and it's made the old routine a lot more lively.  He's putting in a lot of effort to learn the language, and he's doing a really good job.  I'm glad of all that, and I'm hoping he'll stick around for a while.  

We have had some great miracles this week, and one of them was on our first full day together.  In our first lesson that day we actually scheduled a couple for baptism, so we were obviously pretty excited about that.  Then later we found a new family of people that moved in with some of the best members of our branch (one of whom is a branch missionary), the woman being the members' oldest daughter.  In our first lesson with them things went really well with great support from the members.  They were talking us up quite a lot in Roma, but I understood them (I'm getting quite a bit of that language down), and responded to some things in Roma.  The new people were pretty impressed and listened very well to what we had to say.  The man said at the end of the lesson to the member (in Roma) that he saw like light coming off of us, and clearly had been feeling something strong during the time we were there.  Then we had another lesson there later that week and taught about the lesson, and that also went really well.  The man seems the most connected to what we were teaching, but the woman did, too.  That was all pretty epic.  In addition to this, we had one of our investigators that we've been working with for a long time (since I was with Elder Frahm) come to church with all her kids.  Her husband had to work this week, but plans on coming next week.  She had a great expereince there, and it turns out she's related to some members and even knows the branch president, but somehow had no idea of their involvement in the church.  So that ended up being fantastic fellowshipping while she was there. 

That's all I've got time for right now, but I'm ready for another great week.  Thanks for all of your love, whether it's sent through mail or prayers or emails, and I hope you have a fantastic week along with me (I already know it will be ;) ) .  Love you lots!

Elder Brown

Here's a picture with Elder Allen before he and Sister Allen left.  Elder Moreira (my new companion) is the guy next to me.  (Elders Frahm, Williams, Allen, Moreira and Brown)