Friday, July 10, 2015

Goodbye Idaho!

Dear family,

Sorry that this didn't come on Monday. I wanted to leave a brief summary of my mission and I wasn't happy with it and we ran out of time so I used our dinner hour/ time to send this.

I'm so grateful for these last last two years here in Boise. I've changed so much from my service here and will never be the same. I'm glad I was called here, it's really a blessing to go somewhere you didn't at first want to go.

Last week went well, we saw Rob and Gina and had a really good lesson with them. It's incredible to me how incredibly strong they are in their faith in God and in the Catholic Church. They follow the teachings of the Church exactly and teach their children to do the same. In a lot of ways they see themselves how we see ourselves, the only Church that has the Priesthood authority and a Fulness of the Gospel.

We started the lesson with Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart ; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths". We addressed one of their concerns about the Eucharist, their version of the Sacrament. It's similar in many of the effects it has on us, including receiving the Spirit and being cleansed from sin. To them it literally and physically becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, while we see it as the essential ordinance whereby we renew our baptismal covenants and receive His promises of salvation every Sabbath.

We taught the doctrine behind the Sacrament and how it's the most sacred ordinance in the gospel because it's the one most closely associated with the Atonement. As we partake of the bread and drink the ward, we remember His body being bruised and torn for us. We see him sweating great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as he endured the incomprehensibly excruciating pains.

We see ourselves as completely dependent on his grace and forgiveness, and our hearts swell with gratitude for His Atonement and the resultant glorious resurrection. We see partaking of the bread and the water as directly receiving the Atonement and it's marvelous blessings if we're worthy. From John 6 (KJV)

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 
58 [Pointing to himself] This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

I'm going to miss meeting with them, they're really a dictionary for catholic tradition, I should've got a picture with them.

We saw Tammy and Austin last night, and they really like us and want us back. Austin is twelve and is the only one at home right now and she wants him to go to Church and get involved in Church activities. She's receptive to what we teach, but doesn't want to go to Church yet. I really hope we Austin will want to be integrated into the ward, his Mom would follow if she sees the influence it would have on him. 

Ja sam mogao učiti jednog Bosanskog čovjeka o obnovljenom Evanđelju! Riding down the street we saw someone in their yard, so we pulled over and introduced ourselves. We started to talking to him and was really friendly. He said his name was Sefko and I asked him where his name came from. He replied that he was from Bosnia and we started talking in Bosnian. He came to America in 1990 and converted to Christianity. I showed him the Restoration pamphlet in Croatian and explained the message to him and he was really receptive. We're going to go back and hopefully they'll be interested in meeting with us. Hopefully we could teach them in English or bring a translator.

It was good to finally use my Bosnian to teach someone about the Restoration, almost all of them I've met have been Muslim and not interested. It was so much fun getting to know him.

We got to see Karrie from the Boise Stake, please pray for her that she will be able to quit smoking. She's so strong spiritually but is really really struggling with that addiction. She has so many difficulties right now but is pushing through them. I'm sure she'll be baptized soon.

We also did lunch with Crystal and saw Brandi Anderton and her family. It was good to see them one more time.

I'm satisfied with my mission. I know I found, taught, baptized and reactivated every one that the Lord saw fit to give me. It's been filled with trials of every kind, but I'm so incredibly thankful for them and how I've grown from this experience.

I served first in the Mitchell and Kingswood Wards in the Boise North Stake (4.5 months) there we started teaching Michael, Tyler and Anna (Anna was baptized a year after I left.) three unbaptized children in a divorced part member family. We taught them the lessons and Michael and Tyler were baptized. My first transfer with Elder Dearborn we started contacting part member families and we knocked on Brandi Anderton's door. It was a very difficult time for them (he had been unemployed for some time) and they started taking the lessons. Five months later she baptized. She had a very good time

Then I went to Eagle in the Eagle 4th Ward (6 months) there I trained Elder Nelson for 3 transfers. My time there was incredible, the people there were pretty wealthy and with the help of the members and particularly the youth we found 16 investigators in 6 months. Only 4 of those were found through our own efforts (tracting and street contacting). We had Crystal Poland's name come up on our phone as a referral. She had had a very difficult life with absolutely no family support and a 2-year old child. She had been homeless and was subrenting from someone in Eagle.

With the help of some visiting teachers in Kuna, and an LDS friend she had found faith in God and after she came here she wanted to take the lessons. She kept almost every commitment we extended to her. After four weeks she was baptized.

Then I went to the Meridian Amity Stake in the Riva Ridge and Desert Wards (3 months). Then I went to the Meridian West Stake in the Havencove Ward (4.5 months). Kelly Bowen was baptized after about a year of investigating the Church. She has a member husband Seth who came back to Church and baptized her. She had an incredible gospel knowledge and understanding and is really solid.

With Elder Palencia and Bowler we saw a woman cleaning out her trash container, we pulled over and started talking with her. After about a half hour we scheduled a time to come back and share more of what we believed and 3 months later she was baptized. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of her right now, I need to email Elder Palencia and get it.

Then in the Boise Stake I served in the Collister Ward for 6 months. We found 13 investigators while there, most significantly Karrie who pulled over on the side of the road and scheduled an appointment with her. She's had one of the most difficult lives I could imagine and has a thyroid disease from all of the stress she has gone through. She's felt a lot of guilt from her mistakes but after keeping the invitations to read the Book of Mormon and to pray she felt all of that guilt lifted from her. She's really been struggling the last 3 months with trying to quit smoking. Please pray for her, she's very close to being baptized. I got to see her a couple times this transfer. 

After four transfers President sent me to the Meridian East Stake for my final 6 weeks. Elder Edralin lost a ward and we didn't have any investigators in the Ginger Creek Ward so we started tracting and talking with members to get referrals. We found two families to teach (one should begin taking the lessons shortly) Rob and Gena the Catholic family and then Tammy and Austin both I mentioned previously.

I can't possibly recount all of the investigators, members and less-active members that have inspired me and have helped me to grow in the gospel as we've met with them and worked with them. I've (mostly) only included the names of those that were baptized, to show that even in Idaho there are specific people that you are meant to find and teach. It's incredible to see the miracles that come into their lives as they start to come to Church and further live the Gospel. 

I'm grateful beyond measure for my call to serve here in the Idaho Boise Mission. I've had the most incredible time here and can't wait for my next mission call. 

I'm thankful for my testimony of the Restored Gospel. It's the most precious possession I have. With it comes that calm assurance that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, this life is part of a divinely-appointed plan, and that His Church has been Restored (brought back) to the Earth.

I know that this is the Savior's Church. It has all of the doctrines, principles and ordinances of the Gospel that we need to have happiness in this life and Eternal Life in the world to come.

May I end this with the final invitation of the Book of Mormon in Moroni 10, "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God."

May we choose to trust Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and strive more faithfully to follow them is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Pic: The mission conference we had with Elder Nelson.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

19 more days

Hey fam,
Hope you guys have been doing well.
We had another lesson with Rob and Gena and we were able to answer their concerns. He had read 3 Nephi 11 as we had invited him to and he asked about that.
We mostly talked about the Great Apostasy. They believe that it was the bishops that carried on the Apostolic ministry, who ordained more bishops who ordained others etc... Both they and the Greek Orthodox Church and it's derivatives have that claim. Which is impressive really.
The way we explained it was that because of the apostasy of members of the Church and Roman persecution the Lord removed His Apostles and Priesthood authority (2 Thess 2:3). They had continued to ordain other Apostles after the death of Judas and others but eventually all had been martyred or died of natural causes. The Apostle John was the last one and banished to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the famous apocalyptic book of Revelation.
From that time on the Church was governed by Bishops who did not hold the office of Apostles.
I had an experience with a modern apostle last Sunday. We got out of the PEC meeting and Elder Oaks passed us in the hallway. He was trying to go to Priesthood, Relief Society and Young Women's so he didn't have time to stop and talk but he did wave. The Spirit came upon us so strongly that I knew he has that same Apostolic authority that the original 12 had.
Thank you so much for everything, I love you, missionary work and the Savior that leads this Church. I'm going to miss my mission greatly.
Elder Szendre
1. Me and "Vedralin" He's a vegetarian ehh we have so many vegetarian dinners
2. Our new mission vehicle haha



Monday, June 1, 2015

Meridian East!

Hey fam, I got transferred over to McMillan and Shamrock, which is really close to my first area, in fact almost bordering it. I'm excited to be here, Elder Edralin is a really obedient and diligent missionary and we're going to get so much done here.

It's been a trying time for Karrie these last few weeks. Her son has continued to struggle and she's had every reason to give up and stop trying. But she's continued to rely on the scriptures and prayer, she's been coming to Church very consistently and has kept her desire to be baptized as strong as ever.

We set goals with her and made plans at our last lesson. Her goals were to be baptized and to quit smoking - 6 cigarettes per day for 1 week. We made a list of reasons why she wants to quit smoking and had her put it on the fridge. Yesterday she had had only 3 cigarettes by 5 pm which was a success for her. We've really been praying that she'll be able to do it.

We had a lesson with Brother Gonzales there and we felt strongly that we needed to read from D&C 1 with her, and invite her to read through it. The Spirit was so strong as we prepared for that lesson. I know God will comfort her and help her overcome her addiction.

She's been reading through the Doctrine and Covenants now, and absolutely loves it. She says it sounds more like the Old Testament and we explained that it's because they are literally the words of Jesus Christ and that throughout the Bible the Prophets declared the Lord's voice to the people.

Goals and plans are so important for us to realize our full potential wherever we are in our lives. At different parts of my mission I've emphasized different things, depending on areas of needed improvement and promptings of the Spirit.

It really helps to share your goals with others and review them frequently. I'm going to make transfer goals tonight and tomorrow with Elder Edralin. We've got to make the most of it.

The Spirit has been pouring out so strongly on me as I've entered into this transfer. We're going to baptize. I know that and am anxious to get out there and find those people that the Lord has for us to teach. We currently only have one investigator, Jessica who's grandparents are strongly encouraging her to wait to be baptized. She firmly believes it's true and has a boyfriend that soon will leave on a mission.

One of the great messages of the Book of Mormon, secondary to it's unshakable witness of the divinity of the Savior of the World is of the Gathering of Israel. In fact Moroni 8:15 gives one definition of God's glory and one of purposes of the Book of Mormon, for "the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord." God has not forgotten His people.

As Sister Wendy Nelson taught powerfully in Mission Conference, we made sacred covenants even before we came to this earth. One of them was to gather Israel and to build up the Church and Kingdom of God in latter-days (Isaiah 11:10-12).

One of the sternest rebukes in the scriptures is to the modern-day Gentiles that deny any scripture but the Bible but have not sought to recover the Jews who wrote it. Or in other words to gather them, spiritually as well as physically (2 Nephi 29:3-7).

I know that this Church is true, that the Lord Jesus Christ lives and that He guides His Church today. I love you all and am so excited to see you all again.

Elder Szendre

Elder Edralin and I

The Halls, Karrie and the Youngbloods yesterday. I took off my jacket and forgot to put on my tag ehh...

Monday, May 25, 2015

7 weeks...

Hey fam, it's been an eventful week. Lots of good things have been happening.

May I remind you that my first guess was Albaquerque NM for Jake's mission call? Yeah buddy. I didn't even know there was a Farmington mission. We were talking about it with some people that live 5 hours south of there last night. It's the most densely LDS populated city in the state, with lots of reservations as you know. It's got some pretty nice suburbs evidently.

Karrie is doing well, she continues to strive to quit smoking and she feels awful when she does and feels spiritually far from God right now. Please pray for her. She had a period for about 2 weeks when she felt all her guilt and temptations go away, but all of the old temptations have come back. She's determined to quit and we're going to try to help her reduce the number of cigarettes more gradually.

We also helped clean up the apartment next to Karrie that had recently been evicted. I felt really bad for her and her ex-husband, she was so physically and verbally abused by him she tried to commit suicide and he left some time ago but even when they were together the place was atrocious. I didn't even bother to take pictures. We mopped up the walls and Elder Thompson the second day made the kitchen floor spotless. It was just unbelieveable the way they lived. It's looking (and smelling) a lot better. We were able to get to know Frank the landlord pretty well. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he said he'd look at it.

Thank you for all of your support on my mission, it's unreal only having seven weeks left. I hope that I stay here for my last transfer, we have too much going on for me to leave. But I felt that way in my last area and the missionaries there have done a tremendous job reactivating, teaching and soon baptizing.

My deepest love,
Elder Szendre

p.s. This is Tiffany Scudder, who I helped teach at the Book of Mormon class every Thursday.

Then the Book of Mormon class missionaries-last transfer.

Monday, May 18, 2015

8 weeks left!

Hey fam, we're doing really well right now.

Jake you're a stud! I totally guessed New Mexico haha. It will be such a fun, exciting and challenging mission for you. I'm excited for you, to use the Book of Mormon for whom the writers primarily intended it for.

Karrie has really struggled this week with quitting smoking. She tried starting Wednesday night and suffered through so much on Thursday it was unreal. Her personality was different when we were with her. We weren't able to see her for two days after that with zone conference the next day. She had caved and felt pretty shaken from the experience. The nicotine has such a hold over her body it's just unreal.

She's trying to quit again so please pray for her. We have the grapefruit and it's juice and cinnamon gum to help.

We had a pretty incredible miracle this week. We met the Skaggs a young family that hasn't been attending Church for what I can gather over a year. Their four year old Marshall was crying with the Mom and we were in an apartment complex and Elder Thompson started talking to her. Normally when kids are crying I'd just walk by. He gave the kid his drumsticks and said we could come by later and pick them up.

She gave us their apartment number and we went and visited with Tiffany Makee again, a good visit in itself. Then we went back and saw them and they invited us in. They recognized it as a miracle that we had run into them at exactly the right time. They still believe in God and the Church, they've just been struggling with some of the weaknesses of members in a previous ward and the difficulty of allotting the time to go to Church in a busy life.

We have an appointment with them on Tuesday. He said their goal is to be sealed as a family. That was incredible to hear that. They're not far from coming back.

My last zone conference came and went last Thursday. I don't want to leave this mission just yet. I want to come home but I don't want to leave. It's a really weird feeling.

Elder Alder of the Seventy (the area authority for much of Idaho) came to zone conference and presented the training that he received from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. For two days before each conference all of the Seventies, around 350 come to Salt Lake to receive training from the Apostles as how the Lord would have them build up His Church.

He said that normally they have 5-7 priorities to emphasize to the Stake Presidents and members and missionaries, but that this time for two days the training focused on how to enhance the spirit and power of the Sabbath Day.

He described how for the last 6 weeks he has taken the training to heart and has woken up a half hour earlier and read from the scriptures about the Savior and that has made gospel study a priority. He said that instituting that has made the Sabbath day a much more sacred day.

Our attitude and behavior towards the Sabbath day indicate a sign between us and God. The Lord has called himself the Lord of the Sabbath, and it is uniquely His day.

Thanks for all of the support, I love you all and will see you soon.

Elder Szendre

Zone Meeting, note Conference

Monday, May 11, 2015

2 month mark

Hey fam!

Mission call in hand! Yeah buddy you'll work miracles wherever you serve. My three guesses Albaquerque, NM; Boise, ID; Moscow, Russia;

We had a really good week. Karrie is getting closer to quitting smoking, she's able to go almost a day now. She's had a really difficult life turning to smoking and alcohol and other drugs at an early age for reprieve from how she was feeling up until literally this last year.

Her son was imprisoned for a crime that was set up in a sting operation and had a very publicized trial and all of her friends and family stopped communicating with her. Her husband left her, she lost her house and all of her belongings were stolen. Homelessness ensued and she suffered beyond imagination for years. She now babysits for her daughter that has a higher paying job and lives in a modest duplex.

This whole time she's felt like she was being led somewhere, out of her lifestyle, and that she needed to do something before she died. She went to calvary chapel and other churches but when she brought up that she had certain things revealed to her by the Spirit they would explain it away as mental illness or imagination. Belief in modern revelation is often a distinguisher among our Church, that cite the Bible as the She felt like she couldn't turn to any of those churches and felt really alone.

She had a lot of powerful experiences with Chruch members. She witnessed a blessing of a disabled woman from her father and she felt God in the room. Then she talked with our bishop once and felt like she had spoken with God. We explained to her that that was the priesthood power that was Restored through this Chruch, and that she had talked to one of His representatives. Her son was visited countless times in prison by Church members and they had come to her several times. He read the Bible and Book of Mormon 10 times in prison along with a lot of other literature and gained a testimony of the Gospel. He was able to help her understand our doctrine when he got out on Paroll and which helped her ease her concerns.

Please pray for her son. He and his wife have been working through a lot of marital and other stressors right now and he might go back to prison today. The warrant hasn't been issued yet, which is a good sign. If the Paroll Officer sees enough commitment to get back on track he might work with him. 

It's been such an incredible experience working with Karrie. We're going to have a barbeque/smore "fireside" at the Church tonight.

The greatest advice I could ever give a missionary or anyone that wants to give service in this Church is to get the Spirit. It will lead you to know what to do and what to say. Added to our own careful study and diligent preparation and planning it will be the determining factor in our success as full-time and member missionaries. "If ye have not the Spirit ye shall not teach" (D&C 42)

From D&C 11,
12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. 
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; 
14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

May we all do the Lord's will and qualify ourselves for the sublime blessing of the Spirit. I can't wait to see you all again.

Elder Szendre

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4 2015

Hey fam!

I'm so excited for Jake's mission call. He's going to be an incredible missionary. There's nothing like holding that letter from 47 East South Temple Street from the First Presidency holding the next two years of your life.

We also had a miracle with a woman named Valory. We knew from her neighbor that he had recently given her a Book of Mormon and that she had no interest in organized religion. We met her when she was doing some yard work two weeks and didn't bring up the Church. We saw her again on Saturday night and she asked us what our mission was about. We taught her part of the Restoration, comparing it to her own beliefs about the corruption of organized religion. She's willing to learn more just doesn't have a lot of time at all.

We've had a really good week. Karrie continues to grow in her testimony of the Gospel every day. Her family continues to be more and more receptive to her. They're happy that she's happy. She feels like she can point her children to the right place now, whereas she had no ability to before.

She really desires to be baptized, she really feels the Spirit at Church and has come 4 weeks in a row now. She had a very powerful spiritual experience after we went through the baptismal interview questions and decided to join the Church. She has suffered so much from her family and friends afterward, but she's found a place where she can be with people that are also striving to follow Jesus Christ's example.

We invite others to join the Church so that they can make and keep sacred covenants with their Heavenly Father. In the Church we have the covenant of Baptism, the Covenant of the Priesthood that comes with ordination to the Priesthood, and the covenants made in the Endowment and Sealing ordinance.

Each of these helps us to found ourselves upon Jesus Christ. Through baptism we covenant with God that we will serve Him and keep His commandments, stand as a witness of Him and bear each other's burdens. In return for our willingness to obey and serve Him, He promises that we will be redeemed from our sins, rise in the first resurrection with the righteous, and have eternal life in His presence (Mosiah 18:5-12).

That is the great test of this life, is whether or not we will come to consistently obey God and follow Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21, Abraham 3:23-25).

Thank you for everything. I love this great work, there is no work of greater importance than helping those around us to feel God's love and desire to follow Him.

With all my love,
Elder Szendre