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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bits of the LAST Email

Yep the last Sunday at church went super well, and I was really happy to see some people make it that haven't been before (R and P, the non-Roma Slovaks I told you about a while back, they're the ones in the picture).  They enjoyed it, too, which made me happy.  

My plans this week: say goodbye to some more people, teach as many lessons as possible in doing so, and ideally find somebody new.  Wednsday I leave to Leeds after district meeting, and I have no idea what I'll be doing the whole day there.  I start flying Thursday.  I've got some good company the whole flight in E. Hillock, so I should be in high spirits when I see you.

I'm glad Sis. Crowley got in touch with you.  She's doing great things for the sisters in Relief Society, and I've enjoyed getting to know her. 

Editorial Note:  Here is part of the message from Sis. Crowley that Zach is referring to.
I get to work with Elder Brown. I just wanted to tell you that it's been a privilege to know him. He is an amazing and talented missionary. This must have been a very difficult mission. The language is very difficult to learn and it must be exhausting having to translate from one language to another for 3 hours on a Sunday. I don't know how we will manage without him. He truly deserves a medal! I could go on and on singing his praises. I bet you can't wait to get him back. Thank you for sharing him with us for 2 years. x

This mission is the greatest thing in my life in every possible way. The greatest joy, the greatest trial, the dynamic for the greatest growth, the greatest accomplishment, everything. I do not know how I would've or could've faced life without what I have become here. I stand all amazed. Thank you so much for supporting me throughout all of this. I love you so much and am excited to see you and express my love in person.

Zatiaľ sa majte, a čoskoro uvidím vaše krasné tváre :) .

S mojou nesmiernou láskou,

Starší Brown

Monday, July 13, 2015

Goodbyes and Pictures

Zdravim vas,  rodicia moji :) . 

I've had to say goodbye to some members of my Slovak family here this week, which was sad.  Many people are leaving to Slovakia over the next couple weeks to go visit during the holidays.  O and D left, as did V (the elder's quorum president).  More families are headed out this Saturday, like Z and A, and also the P's from Doncaster.  E. Frahm's going to be walking around a ghost town as far as Slovaks are concerned once I leave.

This week has been good, but we haven't had a ton of people coming to church in the last while as far as investigators go.  Some people are being lazy and need to get motivated.  We did have a good miracle while we were in Doncaster to see the P's for probably what was the last time.  P was across the street outside talking to another man when we started heading down the street, and invited him to come in and listen to what we had to say.  He came in, and he actually enjoyed what we were able to teach him a lot.  However, right at the end when we were introducing the Book of Mormon and were about to give it to him, his wife started yelling at him from outside so he ran out the door and didn't come back.  We left a Book of Mormon with P to give him, and P said he'd try and bring him to church as well.  The guy didn't make it to church, but it was still a good experience.  P's great about inviting all of his friends to listen to us.

Sorry about the shorter email this week--I had a lot to write to President today, so hopefully the pictures make up for it.  They speak 1000 words each, right?

Love you lots, I'll speak to you soon ;)

Starsi Brown

Me with V (the Elder's quorum president), M (the relief society president), and some of their family

A sister missionary named Sis. Chee came up to me and gave me a note from my Aunt Elaine, who is from the ward she gave her farewell talk in (American Fork), so we got a picture.

The third picture is me with O and D's grandchildren

O and D and I

Monday, July 6, 2015

I Feel Happy, Happy All the Time

Hello, mom and dad!  

That is good news about the Regent Scholarship, I'm glad that's all worked out.  I feel like I'll be able to apply myself a lot better to my schooling now than I was prepared to do before I left on my mission, so it's good that things have worked out all right for my scholarships, too. 

We've had some interesting changes this week, one being that E. Rogers is now serving in a different ward because a missionary from there unexpectedly went home and they needed someone to pop in and cover for him.  E. Rogers was in a trio and close to the area, so he was the obvious choice to move in there.  That happened the day before MLC, so the zone leaders took the guy going home to Leeds, then just stayed the night there to avoid unnecessary travel.  This left me and E. Frahm out in cold as to having transportation to the meeting early in the morning, and it looked for a minute like we wouldn't be able to make it.  Bro. Stanton saved the day by offering to drive us all the way to Leeds early in the morning, which was quite the sacrifice of time, sleep, and petrol (which is much more expensive here than in the States).  What a champion.  The meeting was super good, and I think E. Frahm gained a lot from it as well.  He's doing a great job with district leadership.

We had M and V come to church this week together with their kids, and that was fantastic.  They all enjoyed it a lot, and I feel they'll be attending as regularly as they can.  We've had a couple great lessons there throughout the week as well, to both of which we had the great blessing of having members there to support.  Bro. and Sis. Crowley came the first time, and they connected easily with the couple in spite of the language barrier.  V was already friends with Sis. Crowley from Relief Society, and M had the chance to meet Bro. Crowley, who he seemed to really respect.  Then Z and A came with us later in the week, and that went great as well.  I think it's what helped M the most in finally coming to church as well, because he was comfortable in knowing he would have friends there at church.  M and V are also making plans to get things rolling with their marriage, so though I won't be here to see it, I'm very happy for them and the progress they're making.

You asked how I'm feeling...I'm feeling torn to be leaving all of this.  I love church on Sunday here so much.  There is the most special spirit here with people whose fires of the Spirit are newly lit and growing rapidly.  They value the sacrament so much, and the reverence is unbeatable.  I love the kids running up to shake my hand in their homes, on the streets, at church, wherever, calling "Starsi Brown, Starsi Brown!"  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to be with you, my family, again.  It's just going to be very hard for me not to be involved every day in strengthening the faith of these people who I love so much and have served my entire two years.  In many ways, I don't want to leave.  Home is where the heart is, and so much of my heart is here, woven into the lives of these people.  How do I feel?  Joyful for these people and their progress.  I feel inclined to do as much as I possibly can with what yet remains.  I feel glad to have a family that loves me to return to, otherwise I would have no reason to even go back.  I feel happy, happy all the time because I've learned how to be truly happy out here.  It's one of the most valuable things I'll be taking home with me.  It's my hope I can take that and share as much of it as I can with you and everyone else I can.  

You're the best, and I love you so much.  

Talk to you soon,
Starsi Brown

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Good Week for the Most Senior Missionary

The trio is going great, we're doing fine with it.  It's funny because when E. Frahm first came in, we were in a trio for a couple weeks as well (just with E. Sindylek, not E. Rogers).  I wish I could hear E. Williams' homecoming talk; he's guaranteed to make you laugh.  Enjoy it, because you'll not hear anything like it from anyone but him.  I've already seen him for the last time before he leaves; we both attended the transfer meeting this week to bear our departing testimonies because we're both leaving before the next transfer meeting.  It was strange watching all these other guys get up to give theirs, guys I've known my whole mission, knowing they'd be home by the end of the next day while I'd still be here.  You might remember E. Baird, who served with me as zone leader, and also E. Jaeger and McKeon who were in the same flat as me for a while.  All home now.  E. Crabb left last transfer.  Once E. Williams goes this week, I'll be the most senior missionary in the mission.  

This week has been a good one, and our biggest miracle for sure was that we were able to schedule M, the father of the family I told you about last week, for baptism.  If things work out, he'll hopefully be able to make his goal while I'm still here and I'd be very happy to make it to that.

This week will be quite a busy one with some meetings going off like MLC.  President wants me to attend this one despite my reassignment out of district leadership, so I'll be going up with E. Frahm for my very last one.

Church was great on Sunday, and a couple we're teaching named J and Z are doing fantastic.  They're very excited to join the church and have been asking our branch president about when they can get married.  It was one of the ones we were working on in the past, but they moved house and such, which threw off the plans we'd set, but now they're all settled in and it seems like we should be able to get things arranged soon here.  I'm afraid they'll end up married and baptized after I've left, however, because of a requirement in England to wait a month following their interview at the registrar's office before they can be married.  Still, I'll be happy to get the news when it comes.

V was also at church again with her daughter L, and they're both making friends and enjoying things.  I'm happy for them as well.

The members of our branch who're the family of the man who died in Slovakia were at church this week, and they all seem to be doing better as time goes on.  I think church helped them a lot, and also some visits we made to let them know they're loved and we are praying for them and have been even while they've been away.
I'll talk to you next week, but good luck with everything this week :) .  I love you lots!

Elder Brown

Me with E. Jaeger, Williams, and Frahm

Me with E. Wilkes (he went home with the transfer and I've known him since the beginning because we'd play basketball on p-days)

Me with E. White (he served in the branch for a couple transfers with E. Williams).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Another Good Week

Hi mom and dad!  

Happy Father's Day, dad, even though I'm a couple days late.  I'll make it up for not being around for it, we'll have to go see a movie or something.  R's baptism this week was great, and he's got a fantastic heart.  He's just a genuinely nice guy.  

This week has been another good one.  I was in Rotherham again on an extended exchange, which went well.  I think I was able to help get things ready for transfers, which here are the results for:  E. Frahm will now be district leader in my place, and will be coming to Darnall with me and E. Rogers to be in a trio until I go home.  E. Bowen will be now serving with an English-speaking missionary named E. Schaeffer, who I don't know at all yet.  E. Pohorelicky and Fielding stayed in Rotherham.

I was sick for a couple days this week; my last night in Rotherham I was up all night throwing up, which was unpleasant to say the least.  It wasn't anything I ate, because E. Pohorelicky and I ate all the same things and he didn't get sick at all, so I don't know what brought that on.  I'm ok now, though, and so don't worry.

One very positive thing going on is with one family we're teaching that's starting to make some progress.  We taught them a long time ago when I was with E. Misselwitz I think, and we didn't see them for a long time because they weren't willing to really go anywhere with things.  E. Frahm and E. Jaeger (our zone leader at the time) saw them while E. Jaeger came on exchange while E. Frahm was on exchange in Darnall, and they tried by the family.  E. Jaeger connected with them really well and layed a great foundation with his explanation of the Apostasy to them, which they finally understood.  We've continued teaching them since then and just yesterday they accepted a Book of Mormon and agreed to read it, which they had in the past refused to do.  They're also due to come to church, and seem pretty committed to doing so.  I'm really happy about this, because I saw the potential in them from the beginning, but they just weren't ready yet.  I'm hoping now things will continue to connect and move forward with them.

Thanks for your continued letters and love :) .  They really pick my days up.  I'm only 5 weeks behind in my journal now, so maybe without having leadership responsibility I'll be able to get all the way caught up and send you a letter, too.  I'll do my best :) .  I love you very much, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder Brown

So we replaced the Ferraris with this new mission vehicle--I've always liked Jaguars.  It's too bad I don't have long left to enjoy it, but while I'm here I'll make use of the horsepower.

E. Rogers had his birthday so we lit the ordinary candles sent for my birthday in cupcakes and Twinkies and took pictures.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Standout Moment, Updates and Exchanges

Hi mom and dad :) .  

The definite standout moment of the week was walking off the elevator on Sunday into church and seeing a couple little daughters of a less-active couple who've not been to church in a year or so.  We've been trying to help them get back the whole time, and so far they hadn't made it until today.  Seeing the daughters, I knew that the parents had made it to church and I almost couldn't believe my eyes.  I had to have had the biggest smile on my face, which they saw and I think it was contagious.  That was definitely my happiest moment this week.

An update on the man I told you about last week who was in the hospital in Slovakia: he passed away this week.  His family members who'd gone to visit him found out while they were boarding the airplane back to England, so they just  turned around to return for a funeral.  It's a sad thing, and I'd just ask that you keep remembering them in your prayers.  These people have very close family relationships, so losing this family member is very difficult for many people.

The exchange we had going in the district this last week proved to be very successful, and all the missionaries involved really benefited from it.  We're doing the same setup again this week to continue where we left off.  E. Pohorelicky and I scheduled a bunch of people for baptism, and church attendance was pretty good as well.  I enjoy working with him--I've always had the best unity in teaching with Czech missionaries (Sindylek and Pohorelicky).  E. Bowen did a great job in Firth Park; he was with E. Fielding, so it was E. Bowen's first time running the area with an English-speaker, and he did fantastic.  E. Frahm got into Darnall with E. Rogers and worked proper hard, turning up a great miracle with some people we stopped teaching a long time ago who now seem ready to progress.  Sindylek is living at the branch president's house right now for the summer to work, so I got to see him a few times this week and that brought back happy memories.

Unfortunately, the appointment at the registrar for a wedding permit fell through again...ugh.  I'll just tell you when the wedding actually happens.       
Next week is transfer calls, my very last one.  After that, I begin the final bit of my mission, a partial transfer to do as much good as I can before coming home.  I keep telling myself and others who ask that I have two months left (you know, June and July, never mind that June is half finished and I'm not staying for all of July)...I guess I'm in denial.

This week there are a couple good things happening.  There should be a baptism Friday from E. Frahm and Bowen, a man I interviewed yesterday.  He is more dedicated to scripture study than anyone I know; all day he reads the scriptures, the only other events in the day being taking his children to and from school, and praying.  His wife and children all have disabilities of some sort, and he does a great job caring for them as well.  He's at church every Sunday, and fasts about every week.  He's only been investigating for a month, but he's also completely given up smoking and coffee, and his wife has also quit smoking to help support him.  It's a miraculous path to baptism, isn't it?

I've got to get going, but I love you lots!

Elder Brown

Us with A, daughter of Z and A who visited for a couple weeks.  She's gone back to Slovakia, but she took her Book of Mormon with her and will be praying to know if the church is true, as well as living according to gospel standards.  One day she'll get a chance to continue investigating the church, I'm certain.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Change is a Miracle

Hi mom and dad :).  

I'm guessing at this point you've got my travel itinerary as well.  It's funny because those are the same airports I hit on the way here.  I'm going out the way I came back in, just with different people and being a bit different myself.  Getting people ready for my departure is going really well.  I'm actually in Rotherham now on an extended exchange with Elder Pohorelicky while Elder Rogers works with E. Frahm in Darnall and E. Fielding works with E. Bowen in Firth Park.  It started Sunday after church and will last until Thursday, and we'll do another one next Sunday.  There are lots of facets to it, but it's all going well and I'm happy with it.  Lots of work, but it keeps us busy and that's always a good thing.

This week went pretty well, and involved some interesting things like MLC.  I enjoyed that a lot, and it's my last one since this is my last full transfer, and next transfer I'm only in for a few weeks before going home.  I can't really be in leadership if I'm leaving right in the middle of things that transfer.  Highlights of my week...we finally are going to the Registrar's office this week to get a wedding set up for P and T from Doncaster.  For real this time!  We're super excited for this; I've been going to their home for a very long time.

Our branch has a lot of people that are related to each other, and this week the brother of four of them was hit by a lorry in Slovakia while he was riding his bike to work.  This resulted in about 15 people jumping on a plane to Slovakia to go be with him in the hospital because he's in a coma and a very bad state.  Please keep these people in your prayers, because it's a very difficult time for them.

A funny quote from E. Rogers this week (this is what he comes up with while we're trying to plan one night) :  "It's like I'm double concentrate and you're water."  It's in reference to how we balance each other.  It made me laugh. :) 

I'm glad of what I've come to learn over the course of my mission, and there's still plenty more left to go.  I've had some good moments of reflection on it a couple times last week, and I'm really pleased with what I've been able to add to myself and to others.  Change is such a miracle.  Testimony meeting was impressive this week as well.  A couple people recently baptized bore great testimony that shows a lot of spiritual development.  A was one of them, and she talked about how when she was 40 she had a blood vessel burst in her head and begin dripping on her brain.  It's a life-threatening event, but she has a firm testimony that God was the one who preserved her at that time.  I don't think it was just chance either, as she was able to eventually find her way to England, discover the church, and join it.  God's patterns are spectacular.  O talked about how because of some difficulties he and his family had been having, they'd been very close to stopping coming to church.  He bore testimony, however, of how the Savior always goes after the one who leaves the other 99 sheep of the fold to lead it back to safety.  He knows that this is true.  D's been involving her friends in lessons, and has helped the other young women in the branch be firmer in their own activity.  The youth group has been pretty weak for a while, but she's proven to be a very positive influence, and things are looking up there.  If the young women are there, I'm sure the young men will shortly follow.

There are many miraculous things happening, and I know that as we continue to strive to reach higher, God will be with us and guide us.  I hope you can strive for that guidance in your own lives as well.  Love you lots, and I look forward to hearing from you next week!  You're the best :) .

Elder Brown

Me at MLC with E. Boyer.  It turns out, my tie is approved.  And it's been sitting in my closet all this time!

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Birthday, Church and Continuing Work

Hey mommy and daddy!  (cue flashback to many years ago when I used to maybe call you that, even if I can't really remember)  

I'm glad you liked the pictures, I love your pictures and emails, too.  Thanks for keeping me up to date on the goings-on of Jaalah and Tamsyn.  I'm always a bit surprised to see how much they've changed since I've been around.  Sometimes in my head, the only thing that's changed all this time is me, and when I get home things will quit being on pause.  I know that's not how it is, but sometimes that's how out of touch I am with what's going on.  Thanks for saving that one ding-dong. (Editorial note:  Zach celebrated his 20th birthday last week and we sent him a box full of "20's".  That included 20 ding dongs, 20 candles, etc. He is referring here to my comment that his Dad tried to eat one of the ding dongs before I sent it.) I think dad just forgot that I don't need to pay tithing right now, and was trying to fulfill his calling as ward clerk (they say clark in England; weird, right?).  The package was great, and I really loved the things you'd written for me.  It's always interesting to see what qualities of yourself stand out to other people.  Sometimes they're not the ones that stand out to yourself.  Thanks for that :) .

Things went really well this week, and a couple people who'd accepted a baptismal date last week came to church with us on Sunday by bus and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Her name is V, and her daughter L and son R came, too.  They all connected with what was being talked about, and definitely felt the Spirit there.  V hasn't been in Darnall too long and doesn't have any family here, so she doesn't really know anybody here, and coming to church gave her the chance to get to know some new people.  She recognized our branch president's wife from the grocery store they both shop at, so that was great.  When I was off translating for something, she invited Sis. Crowley (one of the English women I'd asked to go sit by her) to come visit her sometime, speaking a little English.  Also at church was the mother of Z, our first branch missionary.  She wanted to see how our church was and though she's returning to Slovakia this week, she said she'll go home and praise this church to everyone.  That's how much she enjoyed it.  It's amazing what the Spirit can bring to people's hearts when they come ready to listen.

Some other fantastic things going on have to do with one of the less-active members we've been working with.  He's been less-active for about three years, and since then ran into a lot of challenges.  In the past couple weeks, though, he's began reading his Book of Mormon again, and quit drinking despite the poor influence of some of his friends. His determination is to the point of even leaving a house he was at where they wanted him to drink with them, which is quite a big step from typical culture.  I'm really proud of him, and he's planning on coming back to church soon, bringing one of his friends who's investigating.

That about sums up my week, I hope you have a great one as well :) .  I love you very, very much!

Elder Brown

So, Elder Rogers made me waffles with peaches and ice cream on top, my favorite birthday dish.  We hadn't noticed the candles in the birthday package I was sent yet, so he put a bunch of matches on top and this was the result.  It's a bit more like an inferno, but hey.

Me with a family going back to Slovakia soon. The kids will always run all the way down the street when they see me just to shake my hand. ha.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Prayer Builds Bonds

Hello, mom and dad :) .  Thanks for the pictures and package; it actually arrived this morning while we were still home, so we were around to answer the door and I didn't have to go pick it up from anywhere.  Thank you for sending it :) .  But most of all, thanks for bringing me into the world, and doing it at the right time with covenants to make it last.  You are the best!  

Well, this week has been good.  There was a zone conference that E. Williams was at, so we got some pictures together.  Here in Sheffield we've managed to get things pretty much resolved with all the problems that popped up last week, and things seem to be in decent order.  We actually saw a lot of success near the end of this week in finding some new people and scheduling them for baptism.  Our mission's been working on using the resource of a baptismal calender properly, and we've been applying those principles the last coupe weeks.  We saw it have a really fantastic effect this week, and we're excited for the people who've accepted the goal to be baptized.  The thing is, none of them made it to church, so some prayers to help encourage some effort in that direction would be very valuable.  Just to make the point that people are blessed by your prayers and appreciate them, I wanted to share something that M said this week.  We've gotten her a coffee glass marked with levels of how much she can drink as she works her way off of it, and she made a comment in the lesson that really impressed me.  She said she's determined to stop, both for God, but also in part for Tamsyn, who's been praying for her in specific for a long time now.  I've told M this in the past and mention it every once in a while, and that knowledge is a strength for M who has never once met my sister.  Prayer builds bonds, and it's a great progressor of love and well-doing.

I love what our stake president recently said in regards to our branch here.  He said he doesn't compare it to the English wards and branches, because it's quite simply in a different set of circumstances.  He likes to rather look at it it's growth in relation to where the early restored church was in the same time frame of it's establishment, because that's essentially what's going on here.  Building this branch with these people is bringing the Restoration of the gospel finally to them after all this time.  When he looks at things in those regards, he's very pleased with the progress and state of the branch.  He said he knows things won't be perfect and there will be some challenges, but the overall trend is positive and good.  I agree wholeheartedly.  What's going on here is a miracle, and it's one that's only just beginning if we look at the bigger picture.  That thought really makes me smile.

I love you very much, and I feel your love for me often.  I am frequently struck with gratitude for things you've provided me with and and taught me, and I'd just like to give a blanket thank-you for those.  If I tried to list them, I wouldn't have time and I'd miss some anyway.  So thanks :) .

Elder Brown

Me and the rest of the Slovak-American crew (Elders Bowen, Frahm, and Williams)

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Baptism, Fighting Fires and Gratitude

Hi mom and dad :) .  

It has been a good week, thanks!  No worries, I sent the pictures to you from the baptism, plus a couple others. 

This week was good in a lot of ways, the highlight being of course D's baptism.  As you might have noticed from the picture, I have a new companion from transfers last week named E. Rogers.  I knew him way back at the beginning of my mission while he was in Sheffield as well, so I was super excited to have him here.  He goes home a few weeks after me, so he'll likely finish his mission out in this area.  We're getting along really well and are getting a lot done.  He's a great help, and I'm grateful for him.  

D's baptism went very well; she's an impressive young lady who'll go do much good in her life.  She was very ready for baptism and is going to be a tremendous strength to our sparse group of active young women and youth, and I hope it's a sign that the youth group will continue to grow.

We've seen some great challenges come up with members and investigators and nonmembers alike this week, and opposition has taken a surge in the Darnall area.  We're fighting fires, but I know God can help us all through it.  Opposition to God's true church is nothing new, and is a dynamo to growth if we handle it right.  If you could pray for the members here, it would be very much appreciated.

I've got to get going, but I love you very much and hope that your week will be a good one.  I'm so grateful for the letters you send.  They sometimes come in the most needed moments to uplift and help me remember I have a family at home who loves me.  You're the best!  I pray for you often, and I know God's looking out for you.

Elder Brown

Me and E. Rogers (my new companion) at D's baptism.

Us at O and D's house so E. Stulen could say goodbye.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Things Rolling

Hi mom and dad, 

So this week has been pretty good, and we've been able to get some new things rolling.  D is doing fantastic--she passed her interview Saturday with ease and an impressive understanding of what we've taught.  Hopefully her father M will be baptizing her if we can help him overcome his shyness in front of people.  There's more good news concerning M, and F as well; they've both been called as branch missionaries, so that will be brilliant.  It'll be an excellent opportunity for them to learn and grow, and they are both excited and willing to serve in their new calling.  

At one of our member's homes, S, we ended up finding a potentially very good influence to help his family start being more interested in the church.  His granddaughter, D, has recently turned eight, and expressed a desire to be baptized.  She's always been in the lessons there when we teach her grandpa, so she knows what she's talking about when she makes a statement like that.  We said we needed to get permission from her parents, and I was a bit doubtful on that to be honest.  They are a younger couple who have sort of investigated in the past, but have been on the lazy side of things with continuing to learn or keep commitments.  Well, when we talked to D's mother about it, she actually said that it would be ok to teach the daughter, and I said we'd need her help in explaining things and teaching her.  S could do this too, but I wanted to help her mom be involved and because of that feel the spirit and want to start progressing as well.  Hopefully things go well; we did set a baptismal goal that both D and her mother agreed to, so our prayers are hopeful.

I've got to get on my way, so I'll let you know how the baptism goes and all next email.  Love you lots!

Elder Brown

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Super Amazing Week!

Hello mom and dad :) 

This week was super amazing!  A got baptized, but we also had a surprise baptism in the form of Pres. D's son, J.  He turned 8 on Friday, and E. Stulen and I had happened to stop by on that day in time to answer his question whether he could be baptized this Saturday as well.  I answered that he could if he passed his interview, which he did, and it turned out to be a big miracle for Pres. D, who then bore his testimony on Sunday that he had needed something to boost him up this week because it had been especially trying with many people talking bad about the church.  He said that being able to baptize his son was an answer to his prayers and gave him the spiritual upliftment that he needed.  

On Sunday we had a couple miracles, one of which that L came with us to church.  We've been working with him for a long time, and he's just never made it to church, but on Saturday we had a great lesson and rescheduled him for baptism, and then he took us to church with him in his car.  Ace!  Also, T and H came again, and they're looking to be married as soon as they can.  They said they don't really want to bother with a big celebration, but just want to have their wedding so they can quit living together out of wedlock.  Not only did they come, though, but they came by car with another one of our investigators, Ir, who is related to them.  It was his first time, and he said after that he'll come every week he has the opportunity.

Yesterday had perhaps the biggest miracle yet, which was in a lesson at M and M's house.  D, M and M's 16-year-old daughter, made her way to church without the rest of her family, who were sick, coming by bus where she usually is able to go by car with her dad.  That showed a ton of commitment, and we felt that she was ready in every possible way to accept a baptismal date to be baptized before her mother, even though she's been waiting on her the whole time we've been teaching the family.  When we went by on Monday to see them, her father wasn't home, so we couldn't go in the house.  I asked if her uncle, F, was home next door, and she said he wasn't, but we tried by because I felt like we should, and found him there with M with a group of other guys in the backyard.  All of the men were drinking, but M and F were not (Milan was even sat like 10 feet away from the table).  We went back to the house and had a fun Family Home Evening with a scripture chase activity, and in the end I felt impressed to invite D to be baptized on the 16th of this month.  She shocked both E. Stulen and I by saying yes without hesitation, and we were honestly stunned.  She's always told us in the past that she'll wait for her mother, but something has changed and we're ecstatic.  That was definitely the happiest moment of the week.

I tried a new Slovak dish yesterday called zemiakove pirohy, which is a bit like ravioli, but filled with potatoes and topped with bacon and sauce.  It's probably my new favorite Slovak food.

Love you lots!
Elder Brown

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hard Work As Usual

Hi mom and dad :) .  I'm healthy, well, happy, and...safe...um...I've made it this long, so I should be fine ha.  

This week has been full of hard work as usual.  That's what keeps us happy, right?  We had some good miracles come from unexpected directions this week, which is always great.  For example, Elders Pohorelicky and Fielding had two couples move into Rotherham from the Birmingham mission that were referred to us that they can teach now.  They aren't married, unfortunately, but it's still a good miracle.  Our dedicated branch missionary, Z, has been at it with us, and ended up bringing quite an unexpected face with him to church.  It was one of his cousins who we had been to teach together when I was with E. Bowen, but they teaching hadn't continued beyond two lessons because they said they hadn't made their minds up about it and needed to decide still.  At the time I remember thinking that even though I may not be the one to continue teaching them, I felt they would eventually investigate and join the church.  The man of the couple (J) told Z he'd decided he wanted to come to our church, and came this week with Z and his family, so that was a super good miracle.  He enjoyed church and we'll be teaching them this week with Z in accompaniment.  We'd left them Czech Books of Mormon (they're a Czech family, so shout out to Starsi Bitner, my brother in the Czech Republic), and I think they've been reading them.

This week we've found a sizable number of new investigators to be teaching, but frustratingly none of them have been accepting the baptismal challenge, or they're not married yet and can't be scheduled at the moment for baptism.  On the bright side of things, A passed her baptismal interview this week (that was a miracle), and will be baptized this weekend with a couple from Rotherham (the husband was supposed to be baptized the other week but had to be rescheduled) I interviewed this week.  We're of course very excited for that.
That's the essence of my week. 

I hope your week goes well with everything; I love you very much and wish you loads of pleasant things!

Elder Brown

Monday, April 20, 2015

Obstacles and Miracles

Čauky, mom and dad :) .  My week's been pretty crazy and we've been working hard with some unexpected obstacles facing members and investigators alike, but we've seen some good miracles despite this. 

 E. Pohorelicky is now back in Rotherham (serving with E. Fielding, an English speaker).  E. Bowen and Frahm are now together in the Firth Park area,  My new companion is named E. Stulen, who is from Norway and is a really chill guy.  I like him a lot; we already knew each other from a while ago when he was serving in this zone, and we get along great.  Thanks for the pictures, they're super good :) .  I'm glad to see your happy faces.  The flower picture looks professional.

There was supposed to be a baptism in the branch this week from Rotherham, but he had to be rescheduled because of a Word of Wisdom hiccup the day before his baptism.  However, his wife came to church for the first time on Sunday and told me afterwards that this is the true church, that in no other church is there what's here.  She's now scheduled for baptism with her husband, so that's super positive.  They're going to be trying to schedule their son for baptism as well, which would be fantastic.

As for me and E. Stulen, we had some disappointments this week as well, with M rescheduling herself for baptism next week and then not making it to her interview this weekend because of coffee in spite of E. Stulen and I fasting on the day she was having the hardest time with it.  Because of that her children didn't want to be baptized without her and we had to cancel all the interviews.  They'll all come around, it's just a matter of patience and continuing to help them overcome these challenges.  We have found some new people that we're excited to teach, which should be great.  Hopefully it will far outweigh the recent loss of several people who have stopped investigating for various reasons.  O and D are still on fire as far as missionary work is concerned, and they've laid the foundation for teaching some new people both in Firth Park and in Darnall.  Iv has been super good with it as well, actually getting an extended family member to take him to church by car along with another member and another investigator.  J and Z should have now received an e-mail concerning their appointment at the registrar, and so their marriage is in the works.  They were also at church on Sunday again, and seem to be enjoying it more and more every time.  P and T also have an appointment scheduled for the end of this month, so there are two marriages solidly in the works right now.  That's super exciting :) .  We reintroduced the third hour of Sunday meetings this week, which is fantastic news as well, and the temple prep classes for some of are key member couples are in various stages of completion.  This year we should have multiple couples attending the temple to be sealed as families forever, and they will be the absolute first ones from this branch ever to do so.  I dearly hope it happens before I leave, but there's a chance that I'll miss it by a couple of months.  I am excited for it, and I can see a bright future for these families if they keep going strong towards this goal.

I send you my love with the hope that things are going well at home :) .  I pray for you always, and think you are the best family ever!

Love you much,
Starší Brown

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Typical Day at Church

Hello mom and dad!  

About the Ferrari--its not even the nicest car I've seen out here.  I see all sorts of sports cars and super cars all the time--Aston Martins, Audi RAs, Mercedes, Lamborghinis, Porches, Jaguars, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and so forth.  It's a massive gap, though--either the cars are really nice, or they're hatchbacks.  There's like no middle ground. 

I probably won't see the sessions of conference I missed, unfortunately.  There's no way to effectively work that in.  A typical day at church involves us arriving by bus with some members and investigators, saying hello to a few people, then getting started.  I usually am involved in translating, be it from English to Slovak or the other way around, and if it's not me, it's one of the others.  There's always a mix of English people speaking and Slovaks, but the Slovaks are getting more and more involved, taking more responsibility in teaching or giving talks.  When I first came to the mission, it was usually a mix of Slovaks and missionaries or English members taking care of the sacrament, but now it's just the Slovak members :) .  Hooray!  It makes me so happy to see men who I've helped change their lives now able to bless and pass the sacrament.  I don't attend priesthood quorum classes after splitting from sacrament meeting, but rather translate in Relief Society.  I've been doing that since serving with Elder Frahm.  Hearing women like A teach the women from the manual is the most amazing thing, because she couldn't even read when we first started teaching her.  She has such a great testimony, as well, and so even though she's not the most fluent with words or the most familiar with where things are in the scriptures, the Spirit is really there when she teaches.  I always make sure to have said hello to everyone in the branch before leaving, but lately that's been getting harder and harder to do since the attendance has been increasing (a positive thing, for sure).  I used to play the piano often for the Sunday meetings, but I've not been doing that for a long time because John Nettleship (son of Greg and Brenda) does that.

A bit of sad news is that M didn't make it to her interview because she ended up drinking coffee in spite of the replacement drink we got her (called Inka).  Her daughters want to wait to be baptized with her, so they're all going to have to be rescheduled and give it another go.  It's really hard for her to quit drinking coffee, so keep her in your prayers.  Her son, M Jr. (about 13 years old), though is now scheduled for the end of April--he's a really good kid and has been attending church regularly for a while.  He's just very active and rarely is in the lessons we have.  We talked to him the other day in a lesson about that, though, and so we're going to try to be seeing him quite often this week to get him ready for an interview on Saturday.

Some good news is that S (over a year ago called as a branch missionary but got a job that required him to work on Sundays) should now be coming to church again with his family because he seems to have gotten the opportunity to have Saturdays Sundays off starting this upcoming Sunday.  We had a great lesson there last night with him and his kids (a couple of which are baptized as well), and that's the picture I've attached.

I mentioned last week the good things happening in Doncaster, and we went there this week and ended up scheduling the couple for baptism that came to church last week with L.  We didn't see them at church this week, though, so I'm not sure what happened there.

I've got to get going pretty soon here, but I want to remind you that I love you very much and am working my hardest out here.  Many missionaries tend to slow down at the end of their missions, anticipating their return home.  That's not me, though; it's not in my nature to be like that.  I've never been a waster, nor do I intend to ever be one.  So no worries there :) .  I hope you have a great week!

Elder Brown

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Funny Story and Some Unexpected Miracles

Hi mom and dad :) . 

 I did have a super good Easter with conference and all--it was great!  I didn't get to see all the sessions, unfortunately, just because of the time difference and us having normal Sunday meetings this week, but what I saw was great.  

The funny story I promised is pretty short, but here you have it:  on the bus back fro conference Saturday evening, a drunk guy got on and started talking to us.  He told us he wanted to share a song he'd written, and it goes like this:  "It's just like heaven" (repeated several times with irregular hand claps) "When we're together" (less often than the first line).  It was a two-note song as well, and I was a little bit tempted to ask if he'd written a guitar part to go along with it.  Ha.  

We had a super good Easter Sunday attendance at church this week (Elder Bowen and I ended up with 12 investigators there, which I think is our high together), and M was one of those!  She's doing super well and has cut down her coffee drinking down to part of one small cup a day.  She's got to stop by Wednesday, so Bro. Stanton gave her a blessing after having her and her daughters over for lunch (I sent you a picture of us outside his house).  She's going to give it her best, and I know she can do it.  We're praying hard.

Transfers were this week, so that means Elder Bowen will now be serving in Firth Park with Elder Williams, Elder Pohorelicky will be coming to serve with me in Darnall, Elder Frahm is staying in Rotherham and getting an English-speaker (Elder Fielding), and Elder White is leaving to Huddersfield.  It'll be a good transfer, I'm sure.  It'll be fun to have another Czech companion again.  I am still district leader, though with my impending death (so we call our release date), that may change next transfer.

We've had some recent and unexpected miracles in the Doncaster area--we've pretty much only been working with the member family there and the couple living with them that's getting ready to get married, but there have been two new households this week that have suddenly turned up.  We've scheduled one of the people we taught, and the other two were introduced to us at church by good old L, our 2nd counselor on the branch presidency.  He basically brought them to church and handed them to us, so we'll be seeing them this week and hopefully we can get things going there as well.

I've got to go, but I love you lots and pray for you constantly!

Starsi Brown

Fish pie from Bro. Stanton (so good!)

Me in my new suit