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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Successful and Amazing Week

Hi mom and dad :) .  As you've probably guessed, this week was transfers, and things were pretty interesting as to what happened in the zone.  President has taken into great consideration the amazing miracles happening in our branch, and has reassigned me as a district leader there to make sure all focus is placed on making sure the growth in the branch continues.  He spoke to me much longer than a usual transfer call lasts to let me know that my reassignment is in no way a poor reflection on how I served in zone leadership, but rather that he considers me one of his senior leaders in the mission and wants me to continue attending Mission Leadership Council.  He also wants me to prepare the other Elders in the district for my departure.  In other words, I can now wholly focus again on the branch, implementing all of the skills and qualities I've developed through serving as a zone leader to build this branch up as much as I can before returning home (my release date is the 29th of July).  That's exactly what I intend to do.

Our week was quite successful, and we had some amazing miracles.  O and D have been the continual highlight of this week, the first miracle being when they came teaching with us for the very first time.  We talked to them about what we wanted to teach the people, and explained that we needed O and D to testify especially about church.  We'd hardly gotten in the door and sat down when O started bearing his testimony of the truthfulness of the church and how there are things in this church that aren't any other church.  We hadn't even had a prayer yet and they were all listening to O and giving him their full attention.  We had a fantastic lesson, and D was the perfect friend for the mother of the home, named V and being about the same age.  The family was familiar with who O was, knowing him from the days when he was a preacher in their church in Slovakia, so they gave his words great credit.  Sincere concerns were expressed that they never would've told us, and O and D resolved them easily without even a word from us.  This family has been taught for ages off and on, and they've never progressed at all really, just enjoying the fact that we speak about God.  In their conversation, they arranged amongst themselves for them to follow O to church by car, without any prompting from us to spark that line of discussion.  This is a massive testimony to me of the power of members in our work.  It changes a family with no progress in more than a year to a family seriously considering baptism, reading the Book of Mormon, and with concrete plans to attend church.  That is a miracle.  On top of that, virtually all of this discussion between O and D and this family was done in Roma, yet I understood all of what went on with complete clarity.  The district leader I'd brought with me on exchange that day just sat in awe with me, realizing the import of what was going on despite not speaking the language.  Even better?  Present in that lesson and equally involved in the discussion were some of V's adult children, and the total of investigator households affected by this lesson totals three, all previously in the same situation of no progress as their mother.  If this is not all a miracle, I don't know what is. 

This week we also found out from R, O and D's son, that his manager has agreed to give him Sundays off from now on, and R was able to come to church on Sunday.  He has many friends there, enjoyed it thoroughly, and is scheduled for the 7th of March for baptism.  He is the father of A and M, the two girls baptized with O and D, so we're helping complete the family.

Church attendance stayed at the same high as last week, increasing by one; we ran out of sacrament cups for the first time that I can remember since arriving here.  It's one of the best problems to have at church.This pattern of strength is exactly what President Pilkington is trying to support with all resources available.  This weekend Elders Williams and White will be having a baptism (Lucia), who's interview I did on Saturday.  She's overcome smoking, and though it's been a real battle for her, she's finally done it and is so excited to finally achieve her goal of baptism.

All in all, this week has been filled to the brim with miracles, and I am amazed by the beauty of it all.  This work brings such joy to me, and I love seeing how many other people are able to experience a joy quite similar.

I hope you can see many miracles as well this week, and I am so grateful for the prayers you send in the way of our investigators.  I know they are heard, and we will keep working hard to make good things happen.

Love you so much :) ,
Elder Brown

O + family (including R) came with us for a family home evening at P and M's house, which was quite fun.

Us, Bro. Stanton, and R at Bro. Stanton's house for his superb cooking.  R loved that!

Our Taco Bell Valentine's day dinner. Yep, we found a Taco Bell in Sheffield. I'm not going to mention how expensive it is, especially in conversion to American dollars, but hey, for once in 2 years it was fun.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Super Good Week

Hi mom and dad :) .  

I haven't got the Valentine's day package, but that's because it's been sitting in the post office for a couple days.  I'll go pick it up today.  No worries, it doesn't make a ton of difference when Valentine's Day falls--it's not like I get to celebrate the typical spirit of the holiday in earnest anyway.  Just in the truer sense of love that the world usually misses--charity, serving other people.  In Slovak, "charity" translates as "true love".  Fun fact :) .  Congrats on the game wins, mom.  Enjoy it while you can, because eventually the game guru (me) will return and assume his rightful place at the head of the point board.  Ha.  Thank you so much for praying for people, you're awesome!

This week has been super good, and we've definitely seen some impressive miracles.  One happened just a couple days ago, and is much more of a literal miracle.  We went to our branch president's house on Saturday, who was in a ton of pain.  He has had hemorrhoids for multiple years, and when we went by, he couldn't sit down because of the pain and had to pace like a cripple as we taught his wife, unable to pay attention.  We offered to give him a blessing, which he accepted, and we left shortly after.  On Sunday he came up to me and thanked me for the blessing, which I said was no problem.  He replied that he was serious, and that only a half an hour after we left, all his pain was gone and he was perfectly fine.  He then started to relate the story to everyone in the hallway, and Milan remembered his own similar miracle healing from a couple months ago from a blessing Elder Vogli and I gave him.  To be honest, before coming out here and being a direct part of these things I'd never seen anything like this, and hadn't paid much attention to the knowledge that such things are going on in the church.  The faith of these people must be massive.

A couple other cool things is that both O and I are due to give talks in church in the coming month, which is exciting for them.  I, M, and F all received the priesthood this Sunday as well, which is fantastic news.  D contributed to a superb lesson with the women at church, headed by A.  Our investigator, Z, has made some surprising progress over the last month or so.  Missionaries have been teaching in her home for years now (her parents and husband are members, and her siblings are L and N, (names you'll recognize), but she has kept herself quite distanced.  She's been to church the last two weeks in a row, though.  She's never attended church before this except for Christmas of this recent year.  The Primary Program that week really touched her, and I think it helped give her the desire to come later.  She's never been willing in the past to read the Book of Mormon, but she's actually committed to do so now.  It's honestly stunning, because I've been able to see the long and slow process leading to this seemingly sudden shift.  Church really makes all the difference.

Speaking of church, Ludo didn't make it, but his boss said he'd need to think about letting him change his shift, so we're still praying for him there.  M is working hard against coffee, but she's finding it very difficult to kick it.  We're going to be getting a few members involved in teaching this week who'll be great supports for her because they themselves conquered the same addiction.  Keep them in your prayers, and I know things will turn out well in the end.

I've got to go, but I love you lots!
Elder Brown

Monday, February 9, 2015

Record Attendance and a Pretty Good Week

Hey mom and dad :) .  This week has been pretty good--plenty of meetings and other zone leader stuff, but MLC was super good.  Every time I go I'm amazed by how important things come up in the least planned of ways, brought about by the Spirit and people being willing to voice what they're prompted to share.  

This week's efforts were culminated and shown to be quite fruitful by our once again stunning attendance at church on Sunday.  Basically, we broke the record again (attendance was 69 this time), and this time with less English members/visitors and more Slovak people.  Elder Bowen and I had 10 investigators attend, as well as 5 less-actives, one of whom we're considering re-activated.  We had the most Slovak women at church at once than I've ever seen since being here, which was an absolute highlight.

O and D continue to be their amazing selves, being the driving force behind getting their son and his partner to church for the first time since I started teaching them with Elder Moreira (months ago).  They also loved our lesson about the temple, and plan to frame the picture we gave them of the Preston temple and have a goal to go there as soon as they can. 

M also loves the idea of being sealed to her family forever, and also has a picture of the temple to help her remember her baptismal goal and future goals as she strives to overcome coffee.  She's been working really hard at it and has progressed with it faster than we planned on her calender, and though she had a bit of a relapse Sunday, she's determined to get through strong.

We've had a lot of fun teaching the Word of Wisdom by playing a game with the families where they pick out little laminated pictures of various foods, etc., and have to decide whether to put them on the table or toss them into the trash.  That's brought a lot of success, and I've quite enjoyed playing it along with them.

L, one of our really good investigators that hasn't been able to be baptized or progress for a long time because of work commitments, came to church this week since he had a holiday.  He had a great experience, brought a bunch of family with him in his car, and agreed that evening when we taught him to try once again to get his work schedule changed to allow for Sundays off.  We'll be praying for him and Elder Bowen and I will also be fasting on the day he's planning on asking, and I know a miracle can happen here.

Lots of miracles are happening, and I think this week we'll see some new people accept baptismal dates and start progressing even more.  I'm excited for it, and I hope that you will continue to pray for these people--they need the help, and it'll be a great blessing to them.  Please pray for M and L in particular :) .

Love you lots, and I hope you have a fantastic week!
Elder Brown

Me and one of the district leaders I was with on exchange the other week--yup, it was snowing.  For like the 5th time.  This year's weather has been so weird.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Family of Baptisms

Hello mom and dad :) .  Driving's going fine (I'm still alive and haven't ran anything over yet, so don't worry).  Sleep...that would be nice haha.  Some nights get quite late, but that's ok.  I'm healthy and all and have mastered the technique of sleeping while driving.  Kidding, don't freak out!  And yes, I do sometimes eat food.  Thanks for the forwarded email, and I'll thank you in advance for what you've sent me in the mail--I'm excited to read it now.  

This week has been absolutely amazing!  O, D, A, and M were all baptized on Wednesday and received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday.  The baptism was probably the best we've put together, us putting a lot more time and effort into the planning ahead of time and getting things organized.  There was a bunch of their family there as well, including people who have previously expressed to us that they're not interested, and everyone had a positive experience.  I personally baptized D and A, and gave M the gift of the Holy Ghost, which all were great privileges that I'm grateful for.  Our sacrament meeting attendance held strong at the high level it's climbed to, and we had a surprise attendance from a couple we haven't seen in ages (the wife is a member, the husband not).  I was of course curious as to why, and I found out that O is the cousin of the husband!  I don't think that's a coincidence.  Even better?  O bore his testimony both at his baptism and at sacrament meeting on Sunday.  Even more?  He and D were fasting for the first time, too.  F from Rotherham was also baptized, the son of a couple Elder Sindylek and I baptized about a year ago, which was lovely to see.  Elders Crabb  (my fellow zone leader) and Diaz also had a baptism in the English area over the weekend, making this week very good for the zone.  A miracle for them came at our baptismal service (which they came to with an investigator):  a less-active member of their ward was driving by the chapel at the time we were there for the baptism, saw people were there, and decided to come and see what was going on.  He ended up having a very good experience there and felt the spirit during the meeting, so that was a great unexpected miracle.

This week should be pretty good with another Mission Leadership Council coming up, along with whatever miracles God chooses to send our way.  We'll be continuing to work hard and help people prepare for baptism.  Someone to pray for is M, who is trying to quit drinking coffee and will be working towards a date at the end of this month.  She can really make it if she can just overcome this last hurdle, so keep her in mind.  Also pray for O and his family to have missionary opportunities, because we'll be teaching them about how they can do missionary work, and they can truly have a massive impact among their friends and family.

I reciprocate all the love you send with my own, and pray for you all the time.  I hope you have an amazing week as well!

Elder Brown