Saturday, December 28, 2013

From December 23, 2013

This has been such a great week. We now have two baptismal dates set now for Michael and Brianna for February the 11th, and that was on the first visit. She trusts Michael so much to do that. 

That appointment went super well. We taught the Restoration (, and Michael really opened up about his experience with the Book of Mormon, how it's the most powerful book he's ever read and that he's understanding more about war from the war chapters at the end of Alma. Brother Hunter, their neighbor, was able to bear witness of his experience with the missionaries and how he knew that the message was true before the second lesson. He prayed about the Book of Mormon and then read from it and while he did he felt this intense feeling of joy and peace wash over him. It was amazing because Michael K. had had that same exact experience 3 months ago sitting there in 1200 acres of silent forest, not unlike the first vision as well. At the end we invited both of them to be baptized and they accepted, and then the question came up as to why they would need to be baptized again. Brother Hunter, again, jumped in with how the missionaries answered that question, that with the death of the apostles and God taking John away from the people no one had the authority to baptize. He related his experience of being baptized 10 years earlier in a different church and the tremendously different experience it was in being baptized by restored priesthood authority. However they are living together, so February 11th may not work. 

We had another visit with Nicole and Billy a less-active member and her boyfriend, we were able to shovel their driveway and really connect with Jordan their son on Friday and we set a return appointment this coming Thursday.

Brandi A. is coming along, although she wasn't quite ready to be baptized so it was postponed. It's so important that when they do make that covenant with God that they've developed the faith to fully repent and have made lasting changes in their life.

As a mission we're trying to get 500 new investigators between December 6th to January 6th. As of today we're up to 216, with 384 left to get in the next two weeks. We're really praying hard and working hard to get there. I like what Elder Martino said about the hastening, that it's not about working harder, but smarter.

With that hastening of the work, the 16 Stakes of Zion in Boise, Meridian, Eagle and Star are having a combined fast to hasten the Work of Salvation in 2014. We all need to prepare ourselves for the many opportunities that God can open up for us to open our mouths to share His Restored Gospel with His children. It is a matter of prayer and humility and it may be as simple as giving someone a Finding Faith in Jesus Christ DVD. A member invited the Anderton family for a discussion and they felt an  incredible outpouring of the Spirit. Another time a member invited their neighbors in for a discussion and they felt that their neighbors' daughter's spirit was there trying to get her parents to accept the Gospel.

Last night we taught a lesson after dinner and the Spirit descended into the room so strongly and I felt so much joy that words cannot even describe. There is truly no end to the joy we can receive in this life and in the eternities, all trial and pains that it took to get there have been forgotten.

This work is true, I love being a missionary, there truly is no more rewarding work than among God's children. It's my prayer that each of us will anxiously desire to serve and enjoy the blessings of the Holy Ghost this Christmas season. May we ever be true and faithful.

Elder Szendre

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Live Nativity in Eagle, ID

Courtesy of the Fry family (the home where Elder Szendre and Elder Nelson live).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hello, thank you for the packages Grandparents! That came in well, the snack food has been our lunch today since p-days are always super busy. The bontrager gloves will come in super handy this winter. There's been 3 inches of snow on the ground for the last week, which is super irregular for Boise. The Farmer's almanac predicts another bitter cold winter and we won't be surprised if we see it dip to single digits for a few weeks. Members are driving us all the time however, and we've laminated maps with all the members plotted and then we'll mark all the people we need to see on the laminated portion using a marker, so if our plans to see them fail we can visit with members in the area. We also found a path through a wooded area separating two neighborhoods we cover. It's been quite a challenge covering a large area without being able to ride, but we've found solutions to all of our problems.

It's been pretty cool seeing answers to our prayers, one morning we prayed to get rides and the first four people called were available at the times we needed that day.

Eagle, in the past, has been a challenging area because of the wealth that's here. There are some really really nice houses here, but the people still seem pretty humble.

Training Elder Nelson has been super rewarding, it's super nice having another hour to study and stay out of the cold. It's incredible how much there is to learn and apply in missionary work and the gospel.

Michael K. is doing super well. He had another really good experience at Church this Sunday and he brought his girlfriend with him and her two children (not his). She was emotional at Relief Society, they did their lesson on Elder Christofferson's talk about the moral authority of women.

We're continually finding more people to teach. We have so many part member families, less active members and members that want to share the gospel with their friends. We found Billy this week, he came to a lesson with a less active woman we visited on Wednesday. The Restoration lesson went really well, and they committed to reading the Book of Mormon as a couple every day. After this week we should have 3 investigators in the first 3 weeks, truly a miracle in this very rich part of the Vineyard. 

With Michael's baptism many investigators will see a hardened ex-Marine be baptized after making many many greatly needed changes to his life. Michael's mother is very not interested, but very supportive, having seen the incredible amount he's changed by reading the Book of Mormon. With his baptism the people we find and the other investigators in the 6 companionship district will see this ex-Marine enter into the covenant, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, and that he's made many necessary changes in his life. It's amazing.

It was a good friend of Michael who introduced him to the Church. His friend simply gave him a Book of Mormon and an invitation to go to Church with him. It was an hour north of his home and so he started commuting two hours every Sunday to go to Church. He quickly realized the power of the Book of Mormon and when he got to the war chapters he really felt how true the Book is. He's seen a lot of terrible things as a Marine, and he's been able to process a lot of it by pouring over those chapters in Alma 43-60. We are the only Church to understand that Christ took upon himself our pains so that he could "succor" us (Alma 7:11-12). I've felt that power this week, I was hurting pretty bad last night in my own trials but felt his healing since then and I'm fine, smiling and moving forward in this work. Michael's felt healing as he's gone to Church and his life is much more manageable.

Let's pray for an opportunity this Christmas to share the gospel with our brothers and sisters: it can be as simple as handing them a "Finding Faith in Christ" DVD. They need that faith in His Atonement, they have wounds much deeper than we can imagine, whether due to sin, trials or others' poor choices. They need forgiveness and the Saviors' peace, and only a fullness of it can come through His restored ordinances and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

I'm humbled by the call to train Elder Nelson, his patriarchal blessing talks of a "paramount" mission, and I just have so many weaknesses. Also our efforts seem to be so small sometimes when we can only see 8 people in one day due to the inclement weather, but I think of the Savior feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, He didn't ask if they had enough to [successfully complete their missions] - - He asked how much do you have? It was enough. 

Brandi A. is being baptized this Saturday, she is doing super well. Elder Sumrall told me that at their lesson last week they were beaming with light, they have "received his image in [their] countenances" (Alma 5:14). It's rather incredible, I'm going to be the one to baptize her this Saturday, words can't describe the happiness I feel from that.

The Schumaker children's baptism has been postponed to January 4th :(

Thanks for the letters and love, there's so much waiting for us if we'll repent and keep his commandments. Take the gospel seriously in your youth! Don't put life on cruise-control. There's so many spiritual experiences and joy to have in living and sharing the gospel. The work is true, the Savior lives and hears my soul's complaint. Everything in my life has led me to this point and the work that I'm doing and it will be the same for you. Take care! Out of time,

Much Love,
Elder Szendre

P.S. The first photo is of me and my step-dad (follow-up trainer) Elder Sumrall right before we met our firstborn sons :)

The second is Brandi and her family visiting Temple Square.

Elder Szendre and his "step-dad" Elder Sumrall.

Brandi and her family visiting Temple Square.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Received on Dec. 16th: a letter from Brother Smith and a candid photo shot of Eagle missionaries.

Brother and Sister Nelson & Brother and Sister Szendre,

I'm forwarding a picture of two fine young missionaries serving diligently in the Eagle 4th Ward here.  Tonight our Stake had a Christmas concert and I snuck a picture of them sitting in the chapel listening to the beautiful music being presented.

Elder Nelson has a very special spirit about him.  We're glad to have him here. 

Elder Szendre (Nelson's trainer) is doing a great job. 

We haven't had any investigators in our ward for quite some time.  But since these two came in, we've had a couple with a third getting ready to come.  Its really exciting.

They are working hard and obeying all the mission rules.  I hope my son is doing the same on his mission.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.  Thank you for sending your sons to us.

Brother Dan Smith

Here's Elder Szendre with his new companion, Elder Nelson, and with President and Sister Winder.
December 9, 2013

Wow this week has been amazing. We got in to our new area Tuesday night, and get this Rachel and Ryan: Elder Nelson is from Minnesota, and has been to the state fair many times. He worked for two summers before coming out, and is, after 5 days, pretty well acquainted with the work and is really taking it on.
I love how with this new age change the stigma behind going at 19 is gone. I am so glad I went when I went, there's no way I would have been able to work with my companions, investigators and members that I did without the experiences I had with roommates and people at BYU. Also some people take longer to learn diligence and hard work than others...
So the new area only contains one ward, but it stretches from almost downtown Eagle to the rolling hills north of Eagle. It's a pretty big ward, with almost 450 people. Our bishop is a prominent banker for a rather large bank and is very committed to hastening the work here in Boise.
They're excited but at the same time reluctant to have us, because the last missionaries did almost nothing in the area. One of them is very out of shape and did not want to do work in the 4th ward because it would require more riding. I was stunned when I saw the area book, there was nothing in there from the last 3 months! I've forgiven them, and the Lord knew the situation, and He waited until we arrived to give us some special investigators, who are very important sons and daughters of His.
The first is a Michael K. The day after we arrived we got a call from Bro. Nielsen, our ward mission leader, that he had gotten a call from the bishop about a man that wants to be baptized as soon as possible. He's read the Book of Mormon 3 times, and has made very significant changes in his life. His has been very rough, a life of very loud parties, "riotous living" (see prodigal son Luke 15). In a very personal way we're all like the prodigal son, and need not judge others because we sin differently from them.
We also have one recent convert, a returning member, 13 prospective elders (men to yet receive the Melchizedek Priesthood) to contact and try to teach, 5 Relief Society sisters to work with, one lady who lives out on the end of the ward who is super friendly and could use weekly visits/service, and many youth that can be involved in the work.
We're getting rides frequently from the members, since it's been 15 degrees and snowy every day for the last 5 days, but it should warm up soon. Our ward mission leader and another member bought us matching boots and gloves for the winter, we're going to look like brothers, haha.
This last Sunday we had talks from the ward High Councilor and a missionary that had just returned home. The returned missionary went first, I'll summarize his talk later. During the High Councilor's talk, I felt what Joseph Smith calls "pure intelligence", flowing into me, I learned that Michael K., despite all the shame of his youthful lusts and and the reckless lifestyle from the past, would go on to serve many of his brothers and sisters here in this area. It was a powerful experience, where it was not just the still small voice, but pure light and understanding from God.
From Joseph Smith, “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 151.) 

It's incredible being a missionary, for occasionally our faith is bolstered immensely by similar experiences that let us peer for a moment into the life of these people, how incredibly stalwart they are despite their current appearances. It doesn't always happen, for surely God wouldn't let us become dependent on spiritual promptings to have faith in the converting power of the gospel, but rather to lift our sights occasionally when appearances indicate otherwise.

I can see now why missionaries often have a hard time going home, we are lifted from almost all earthly problems, thoughts and considerations, filled with the Spirit to accomplish God's work among His children, and then a portion of that is taken away. That privilege will not stay after my mission, at least until I have my own family :)
Back to the returned missionary who spoke about the Atonement: he shared the Redeeming and Enabling aspects of it. Most of us know that we can be cleansed from sin, but not so many of us understand the enabling power. If you look up the word "grace" in the Bible Dictionary, the word itself appears often in the New Testament, and it refers to strength from heaven to accomplish good works that we otherwise could not do on our own power. He shared experiences about a Japanese businessman that prayed every day for the power to quit smoking, and he was able to never smoke again. Read the talk sometime, it's called "In the Strength of the Lord." by Elder David A. Bednar it's under BYU Talks.
The work is true, there's so much hope and reason to carry on. God really does have everything under control no matter how chaotic life can get in our lives and the lives of our families. He truly does work in mysterious ways and He will, like for Abraham, remember our families forever, because of the covenants that we know of through the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know it's true, particularly the Book of Mormon, and because of the temple, which has been especially meaningful to me. There's so much awaiting us if we will endure to the end,
From President Eyring: "We acknowledge that your path will at times be difficult. But I give you this promise in the name of the Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength . . . . My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now! Of this I [and Elder Szendre testify] in the sacred name of our Master and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen." (From his talk "You can do it now" October 2013 General Conference.)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 2, 2013

This last transfer just flew by. My time with Elder Sumrall has been incredible, but it's coming to an end. I've been transferred to Eagle, I will be shotgun (a new area) training a new missionary. There's no end to wealth there, so it will be fascinating seeing how the work will go forward with this change.

The mission will be up to 201 as of tomorrow, and so it's amazing to finally see the transformation as it's shrunk from 45 to 16 stakes over a 6 month period. There's such an incredible density of missionaries in Ada County. In southern japan there was 100 missionaries for 13 million people, we have 200 for 500,000, approximately 50 times per capita here in Boise.

There were so many tender mercies being poured out upon us as I've prepared to leave this area. Just to name a few:

On Saturday we were able to serve Billy B., the husband of a very active woman here in Kingswood ward. I left him my parting testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration, and for the first time he listened to us. You could see the Spirit working on Him as I bore my heart-felt testimony. Yesterday he came to Church.

"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men." (D&C 11:21)

Annette K., the foster mother of Thomas who has become more interested gave a fireside last night where she discussed her trials and tribulations as a foster mother. She didn't like how Ada County did things, saw a need for the more misbehaved children with aggression or other problems and has been housing the worst behaved children for a long time. She's seen everything, every kind of evil patterns that families tend to pass on in this world. Yet they do it, even with their biological children there. They've been able to adopt a few, reunite many families and help struggling parents become fit for the State to reunite them with their children. The theme had been leaving the ninety and nine and going after the one, and they have truly exemplified charity. It was the most incredible form of service I've seen. Truly one that has impacted and will impact tens of thousands of people as many of them would have ended up in jails, drug addictions, and preventing them from spreading them to future generations.
They have sacrificed so much, they don't go out and do things because they have to watch the children constantly. such incredible sacrifice and love was manifested as it's a constant battle to watch these children. Keep in mind this is therapeutic care, not the traditional foster care for well-behaved children.

In the Church many of us shelter our children from the evils their peers are introduced to, and for seeming good reason. However these people have acted on faith rather than fear, meeting the tremendous need of the community. She had a heart attack two Fridays ago, drove herself to the hospital not thinking straight, and then a week later had another one, only this time she woke up her husband.

The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us and the inhabitants of Boise so strongly, it's truly the baptism of fire spoken of 3 Nephi 11.

While I've been here in Boise North A very close relationship with investigators members, recent converts, less actives. I've told everyone as I've departed to come to the baptisms of the Schumaker children and Brandi A., and so I'll be able to see everyone come December. The members have loved us so intensely, parting was just so difficult. Whenever we had a need they would fill it or find someone to fill it. Anything and everything has been taken care of. It's been such an example to me for love, and it's one I'm trying to emulate. It's not easy to love but it's worth it.

We're instructed to share with you our spiritual experiences. It's so wonderful being on a mission, we can look at spiritual experiences and start checking off ones that we've had.
After we went to the temple two Fridays ago we were serving an older lady in my district leaders ward, and something was pulling at me, I listened to the Spirit and felt in my heart I heard Charles J White thanking me for what I did for him in the temple. I am anxious to help my family history along, but don't have the opportunity to do much, only an hour a week. Take the opportunity, you need them pulling for you on the other side of the veil!

With a small step of obedience to a counsel in my patriarchal blessing, the promise to the Lord's servants in His vineyard was fulfilled, 
And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance. And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance. And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you; And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth. And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord. And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth. And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season— Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last; Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified. Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made.

He truly does visit His servants, this occurred after I had received my mission call, the Spirit was poured out upon me without measure for the whole hour.

The work is true, the Lord is mindful of us and wants to pour out His Spirit upon us. Wait upon him! The hours of the trial of our faith will end and we will have the righteous desires of our heart answered.

I love the Lord, His help and power to lift us from sin back to the path of discipleship is infinite. He has overcome every trial, bore every burden, and felt every pain in His truly infinite atonement. May we all turn to him and with faith say to Him, "thy will, not mine, be done."

I pray for you every day,
Elder Szendre

Monday, December 2, 2013

November 25th letter:

First off, thanks for the letters and emails! It's seriously good to hear from home.

I got a picture of Willie B. and us. It's sad because he's no longer interested, but it's hard with his background in Babylon if you will. The many influences that were around him had a lot of influence on him. 

Trials and Atonement. He's there when we deserve it or not, whether we feel it or not, his love and help are simply there. It is opposite to his nature to withhold his help and strength. He's already been through whatever trials or effects from sin we endure. Even in our unworthiness and trials.

Failure unfortunately is a part of this life. "If we fail we fail with glory," has been a bulwark for much of my life. The Spirit has been poured out with such grandeur for some of our biggest flops.

I've learned that the greatest sins we commit come later in life. He beckons us back our duties when we spend whatever amount of energy "feeding ourselves". He is so quick though to help us repent and regain the path to discipleship.

There has been so much light on my mission as I've kept the covenants (however imperfectly) made in the temple. But despite the greatness of my God in giving me such great spiritual experiences, I am constrained to lament with Nephi, O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; (2 Nephi 2).

I marvel though at the strength of the Lord! My guilt and sorrow have been swept away forever. I am happier and more appreciative of His sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

"The Apostle Paul taught that 'godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation … but the sorrow of the world worketh death.' Godly sorrow inspires change and hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Worldly sorrow pulls us down, extinguishes hope, and persuades us to give in to further temptation." ("You can do it now!" President Utchdorf, November 2013)

That is so important in repentance! Turn to God, feel sorrow for offending Him, try to love Him no matter the separation you might feel from Him, and quickly He will heal you.

I'm forever grateful for the Atonement. I almost wish we weren't in a fallen state, but that would thwart God's purposes for us. To us has been given the power to act, and we need His help to learn to choose right
consistently. We can be happy, we can receive tender mercies even while we feel the guilt from sin.

The Savior lives! The work is true! He truly does have power to cleanse us from sin. It's unfortunate we sometimes have to fall to rise beyond where we were. We may "not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until [we] are perfected." (D&C 67:13)

Trust in Moroni's promise, no matter how wretched we may feel, no matter what responsibilities we have been given, we can successfully complete our missions here on earth, if we will. 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.

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

I know that's how I will succeed in my mission despite living under the fall of Adam.

I love you all, I want to share His message of hope for the lost and for those who are sick with everyone I know. He truly has "overcome the world." His grace will carry us through this world if we will repent, to a "far better land of promise." (Alma 37:45) Repent, there is such incredible joy waiting for us and additional strength in overcoming our trials. No matter where we are He can redirect our lives back to Him.

I love you all and I'm praying for your welfare daily,
Elder Szendre

November 18th letter

I feel like my mission is just flying by. This whole transfer is becoming a blur.

I'm learning an important lesson. While at college for the most part I did those things that I would want to do that would further my professional career or were part of Church callings or just social activities that I would want to do. I was stunned this morning when I read in John 21, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." I really was pretty selfish growing up, doing things that I wanted to do, following after my desires. Jesus pointed to the fish the apostles and asked, "Peter, lovest thou me more than these?" I can see him pointing to all the good things and desires in my life and asking me if I will set these aside for his will. It's difficult when the pain of unfulfilled desire weighs heavy, but the work must go on, "boldly, nobly and independent, till the purposes of God are accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." (The Standard of Truth) 

Today I met two Russian women in Winco and had solid conversations with them. I'm still kicking myself for not having a Russian Book of Mormon on me.

We got a text from an investigator that had dropped us maybe a month ago asking if we could come help her move. We came and discovered that she had been awake since midnight and had still much more to clean, organize, pack and move to a storage facility while she finds housing in Boise. We served her for half the working day and then a few more hours the next day. With the Spirit I was so motivated to enthusiastic service. She was moved to tears and she told us that she sleeps now with the Book of Mormon on her bedstand to remember us. We're going to teach her tomorrow at the Library.

Thomas is doing pretty well, he's back and willing to take lessons, this time with his foster family, at least two of his foster brothers and his foster parents. There is so much potential in that house for souls coming unto Christ. Annette the foster mother has deep wounds from a tragic accident leading to the death of her one year old baby. It's something I can't begin to comprehend but I know that the Savior can heal her wounded heart. Ron has read the Book of Mormon halfway and loves it, and so it's really become a matter of helping them ask God and really petition him for an answer to their prayers.

I may have told you about Jeff last week. His wife is not active but is a very good woman who just hasn't felt like she has a testimony. We gave the Message of the Restoration on friday and it was very successful. Halfway through the lesson the conversation shifted to how members' relationships with God are the most precious part of their lives. We asked him to say a prayer to God to ask if He is there and to ask Him that he might know Him. His prayer was very similar to the one that King Lamoni's father gave, "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead." We hadn't taught repentance yet, but he had tears in his eyes when he came back. The Spirit in the room was strongly felt. His close friend bore powerful testimony of the Restoration and the truths that it restored.

I love how much the members support us! Literally whatever we need they're at our beck and call, or they'll find someone who is. Investigator needing help moving, Brother Whipple (who already is lending me his bike temporarily and had just participated in a miserable Rake Up Boise event in the snow) came with us for 2 hours and helped Connie move. Bro Crockett today drove us wherever we needed to go for P-day donating much of his time to us, he of course fit us into his day, but it was no small sacrifice how much he helped us. It's going to be difficult when I have to cook for myself again...

Again, it's going forward so quickly, the Spirit of this work is unbelievably powerful, it propels me forward in it. Spirituality grows when members help in missionary work, I love it! Read in the Book of Mormon every day, it and the words of Christ have the power to lead us from our sins to a "far better land of promise." (Alma 37:45).

I love and pray for you, take care, stay true and be happy!
Elder Szendre

Monday, November 18, 2013

                                           Elder Szendre's investigator family; 11/15/2013
I love this work, it's the purest expression of love for God that I've yet found. My diligence increases as my love for the Lord has.

The greatest lesson that I relearned this week is to be honest in every minute detail. Our integrity was tested last Sunday, when we contacted this nonmember husband of an active woman. On our way in one of us scratched the car with our bike. We resolved to tell them about it, but forgot in the conversation. I realized that we had and then we went back and told him about the mistake. He remarked that the last person to scratch his wife's car had paid $500 to get it fixed. He went on to describe the incident, how someone had done it and then drove off. She got the driver from a camera and then the insurance companies fought between each other and it was just a mess. We have yet to get a call from Sister Lester about it but we're glad we did, he would have had a very very bad opinion of missionaries had we given in to the fear of apologizing for the injury we had caused. Instead he now knows that he can trust missionaries, because no matter how good of friends a member is with someone we teach, they must learn to trust us.

Things I appreciate about my mission:
-My relationship with Jesus Christ, as far as I'm willing to sacrifice in this great work he's willing to bless me. 
-Consecrated service brings spiritual experiences that you can't speak of.
-The ability to put on the name tag every day. "By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ." We are inspired often as we talk with and teach nonmembers, what to say often just comes.
-The Book of Mormon, I'm able to witness it's truth every day. I see patterns in the people that are frequently depicted in the Book of Mormon. People who are compelled to be humbled are generally more willing to listen to the unique message that we have to offer the world.
-The Gift of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing more sweet than to be filled with the Spirit throughout the day. Before my mission my obedience and desire to enjoy the gifts of the Spirit was there but much weaker. There is so much to enjoy on your mission, the triumph and joy in faithful service is so much greater than the minor losses and sorrows that life can bring.

"The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth
The visions and blessings of old are expanding,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst.
We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!"
(The Spirit of God, hymn number 2)

The blessings of my mission have been incredible. Nevertheless it is just the smallest scratch of the temple blessings that have yet to come in my mission, life and in eternity.
I am forever thankful to the Lord for this opportunity to serve the Lord in this marvelous capacity. There's so much to learn about what Jesus Christ would do if he were serving in my shoes, so don't think I've nearly got this all down yet.  
My Commission, by Elder Bruce R. McConkie
"I am called of God. My authority is above that of the Kings of the earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my master, and He has chosen me to represent him, stand in his place, to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally was ministering to the very people to whom he has sent me. My words are his words, my acts are his acts, my words are his words and my acts are his acts. My commission is to do what he wants done, to say what he wants said, to be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work."
The work is true! God speaks in our day. I know it, and literally anyone that reads the Book of Mormon honestly and prays about it will know it too. It may take time like Lehi after he prayed to be delivered from the darkness that surrounded him, for he only partook of the fruit of the tree of life after he prayed and strove to reach the tree clinging to the iron rod, or word of God. My knowledge of the Atonement has grown and my desire to share the Everlasting Gospel with everyone has grown with it. God's blessings are coming, I promise you that. If you feel that God's covered now, move on, repent of the sins and transgressions we're prone to and hold on! I love the Lord and pray for you daily.
Much Love,
Elder Szendre

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Week 17

This has been a very fulfilling week, a light has metaphorically turned on in my mission and I'm much more focused and aware of how to go about this work better, I absolutely love it.

In two days two Christian investigators dropped us, I knew it was coming, but it just showed so strongly the principle that we need to go through members to teach and establish the truth of the Gospel.

"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" D&C 123:12

They simply were not willing to act on our message and read the Book of Mormon with our testimonies alone. If only they would look, they would see the truth of our cause!

Michael just recently made bail with a miracle, that a different judge came in right before the bond hearing and reduced his bail to $5000, making it affordable. I wrote him a letter while he was there, and related the effects of sin to the confinement he was experiencing, "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and call things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." (2 Nephi 2:25) It was really fulfilling to hear him thank me and tell me how meaningful it was to him, he shared it with one of the inmates there who found great meaning in it. It was an incredible lesson that we should do many good things of our own free will,

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward." (D&C 58:26-28)

It reminds me of Our Search for Happiness, Elder Ballard wrote that he would respond to anyone's letters and gave his home address. We ran into a guy who wrote many times with Elder Ballard and that was the reason why he was active after going through the military. I've learned to look for things that need to be done and then do it.

We had an incredible miracle yesterday. A mom married to a Catholic ran out of sacrament meeting with a panic attack, she's been so stressed. We used to do family home evenings with their family every Sunday until 6 weeks ago she and her husband became very busy with work. We had planned to come check in on her family yesterday, and a few minutes after they decided to do family home evening we knocked on their door. It was a very good family home evening, and at the end we asked if there was anything we could do for their family. She asked for a priesthood blessing. It was given, and a deeply spiritual experience followed. We both felt like we weren't alone that during that blessing.

Our one investigator, Thomas is doing well, I think he felt pressured to be baptized earlier and it just wasn't right for him. We're teaching him and his family now. His father has already read half of the Book of Mormon. The mother went through a very difficult loss of a one year old baby and has not been able to be reconciled with God since. We're not quite sure what she needs to hear yet, but the fact that she gathered her husband and children for the lesson and then attended it was quite a miracle.

I'll leave you with this, "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." I've felt the Spirit so incredibly strongly while pondering this, it's true and will be fulfilled. I love you all, this work is true and is hastening.

Stay true!
Elder Szendre

Monday, November 4, 2013

Things are going very well here in Boise. We've gotten good results here this last week, there's three unbaptized children that we set a date with for this Saturday. It probably won't happen, there's too much to do before then.

A recently reactivated man came to Church last Sunday with his nonmember wife and kids. She committed to baptism, but wouldn't set a date last Tuesday. We were able to come just at the right moment, the day he lost his job before it started. They were under such an incredible strain from the fear and impending loss of their house. He just wasn't himself for a while. We taught them the principle of fasting and committed them to living it last Sunday. I felt such incredible joy come over me when I saw them in Church. The Spirit taught me then that it was because of my efforts they came. Truly temple worship and mission service is the "manner of happiness" that the Nephites found. (2 Nephi 5)

We succeed when we invite. It's really important now for all of us to love and serve those around us, inviting them to learn more of the restored gospel. We can do it through family history, the importance of the family, simply referring to the Church in conversation, or through the plan of salvation when they're experiencing difficult problems in their life or when they've had a recent birth in the family. There is so many blessings that await us for our service in this great effort. Our bishop slams his fist (well almost slams) on the pulpit and exclaims, "We do missionary work!" I love it.

In one of the talks a high councilor in one of our wards came up and shared a dream where he was hacking through this dense forest with a machete with all of his might, all the while the Savior was standing behind him on a pulpit watching what was coming his way, ensuring that nothing too tough for him came his way. I've encountered some pretty tough adversity this last week, but in my toughest moments I could feel his love and strength. He won't leave us alone! 

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5, see also Alma 7:11-12, Mosiah 3)

If you really want a good read, I'd try 2 Nephi 6-11, what's going to happen when Jews believe in Jesus Christ? You can really see the power of the Book of Mormon in convincing the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, although the New Testament should have done it already... I was able to give a Book of Mormon to a Jewish woman last month, it was a pretty cool experience and I felt the Spirit to an incredible degree.

I love you all, thanks for the letters and support. This work is true! I would be a friend to every man and woman and seek their welfare and happiness, inviting in word and deed to learn more of why we are so happy. Granted, life is extremely difficult, with the power of the Atonement powering us forward by worthily partaking of the sacrament, repenting of our daily shortcomings, and setting goals to progress I promise you that will be able to overcome, or bear everything put before you. Things are good! Only once before has man had better news than now, we are not spiritual orphans. It is my testimony that God has restored his Church through a modern prophet, gotta go, but with all my love,

Elder Szendre

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Magandang Hapon! We got transfer calls this weekend, and I'm excited to stay with Elder Sumrall for another six weeks. We're moving today into a house with a 30 year old ex-MTC teacher who taught Tagalog (that's where I learned magandang hapon...). It's such an incredible bachelor pad, we've got 500 square feet of space all to ourselves, a bedroom, bathroom and study room. Add dinners on top of that and all the food we get from members and you get a mission where everything's pretty much taken care of for you and you can devote all attention to the work. I love it.

We've realized now that at least in Idaho, we cannot be nearly as productive with the work as when we work with members. Right now we're scheduling as many appointments with members as we can and keeping a record of who we talk about and the plans we make to help them come to Christ. Most people here just don't trust us, and so we're trying to rely on members to add another witness to establish the truth of our message. A member took us with him to meet some of his neighbors and the man who answered the door had tears in his eyes and thanked him for bringing us.

We got in our temple day this transfer on Friday, I absolutely loved it. The Spirit you feel there and the learning is so incredible that I'm mentally spent about 2/3 of the way through it. For so long, people have felt a "famine... of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." We spoke with a Christian woman on Sunday, and she feels the Holy Ghost just through feelings of love for others, which agrees with the Bible, but the gift of the Holy Ghost only available in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ is truly one of God's greatest gifts he can give us in this life.

One of our investigators is now going to jail. I was stunned when I heard, because he's one of the nicest people with one of the biggest hearts I've ever known. Struggling with his aunt's death he went and got inebriated, wrecked his mom's car and got arrested for a DUI. It's his second within 10 years so it's not looking good. We'll write letters to him and help him through this. His is the greatest friendship I've developed so far on my mission.

My ride's leaving early, there's so much work left to do, and it's up to us to best position our lives to build up the Church. I know God lives, He's manifest it to me by the Holy Ghost, and similarly I know that Joseph Smith was His Prophet of the Restoration and that President Monson is his authorized successor. Thank you so much for all the support, I love you all.

With all my heart,
Elder Szendre

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Working in this part of the vineyard has been frustrating.

Abraham Lincoln once said that if you want to unite someone with your cause you need to be their friend. For instance Willie has been making progress towards praying, coming to Church and reading the Book of Mormon. It's just taking time and friendship. He's such an incredible person though, and riding rugby wheelchairs have been pretty fun. Another investigator we've just been really good friends with, he's been pretty humbled by his father's suicide. He now reads the Book of Mormon every day. It's harder though as a missionary because you want to spend so much time just enjoying the moment and then you have to teach the gospel at the same time. It's little wonder why they're asking members to extend friendship to all. Be yourself, but adjust your actions and personality to be able to be a true friend to all.

The work is true and Jesus Christ lives.

I pray for you daily,
Elder Szendre

Monday, October 7, 2013

Conference was incredible. We spent some of the time with investigators watching it but it was sad seeing how many people weren't listening to it, and the difficulties that could be avoided. It's frustrating because technically none of our investigators are progressing right now, meaning keeping commitments. It's hard enough to get appointments with them, let alone get them to do what you ask. It's heart-breaking to drop them, though. With the new Amulek training we've been relying on members to do the work, and they've come through, inviting their friends to dinners, etc. It's been exciting.

About that miracle we were asking for, I had incredible outpourings of the Spirit while going there, but to my astonishment she didn't want to hear more. Her beliefs on eternal families had changed, however, and she does believe it. We'll give it another week, pray for another miracle and come back. The work must go on.

We ran into the father of our Yugoslavian investigator. It was straight out of Alma 20, his Greek Orthodox father told us not to bother him, that he didn't need new religion. He's an immigrant and has not had it easy here in America at all. It's too bad he didn't speak Russian. I tried sharing the message of the Restoration, told him that his son is my friend and to take the matter up with him. He saw the reason behind that, but we'll definitely be sensitive to his family situation.

I can't remember but did I mention that Elder Sumrall's name is Hyrum? Pretty cool, eh? Things run so much smoother when we're charitable. Moroni 7 is so applicable in our relationships with others, "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." In college we were able to just distance ourselves from each other, but here we have no choice. It's so important to watch our behavior and take a moment to distance ourselves from the situation when we're frustrated.

Our investigator on probation had a really good court date, but no changes about his baptismal date yet.

I've come across so much sorrow and pain. It's terrible, people telling us the same sad stories every time we visit with them. Jesus Christ lives and understands us perfectly, and it was repeated twice in Conference that he suffered what he did so that he would be able to heal us from our wounds (Alma 7:11-12). The gospel's true, and holds the answer for so many of the world's problems. I believed it, but I know now the truth of it. There's just so much evidence, the Book of Mormon and "the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things" (John 14:26, see also Moroni 10:3-5). The Holy Ghost truly is the greatest gift God can give us in this life, not yet being able to enjoy Eternal Life.

Elder Szendre

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I love being a missionary! This is such an incredible experience, and one that I am eternally grateful for. Me and Elder Sumrall - we have apostle names (Joseph and Hyrum)! 

We've got three member present lessons today, all of them on the Restoration. Can't wait. We're being very productive, and will invite our investigators, potential investigators and less actives that we've seen recently to watch General Conference and get members to have them in with them.

Devoting all my time and energy to the work has it's effects. One morning my companion woke up to me sleep talking. I said, "How can we help you members of the Ward Council?"

If you could pray for our investigator on Probation, he has a court date today and will find out if he has to wait 5 months or 5 years to get off probation. If he fails the lie detector he'll return to juvenile detention. He has such an incredible hatred for the crime he committed, and hopefully he'll not have to suffer too much more to be freed legally and spiritually. However, there's still hope because the First Presidency grants 200 exceptions to baptism every year for investigators on probation. Still, though, we'd rather have him get off sooner rather than later. I've reflected on this, and it's incredible that God doesn't deal with us with justice alone. As the scripture says, "And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son." (Alma 33:11) I'm so grateful that all the stupid things I do each day can be forgiven and with the Savior's help, my weaknesses can become strengths (Ether 12:27).

We had a miracle recently that we will see the fruits of tonight. There has been this Russian family in our area that just doesn't want to see missionaries. They won't let their kids play in the house of a nearby member because they have pictures of temples and signs that families can be together forever. I recently found this out, and so we spent this Fast Sunday fasting that their daughter who died from leukemia would appear to them in a dream last night and let them know that families can be together forever. It was something that we only had small manifestations of the Holy Ghost that it would happen by faith. "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." We had the faith that it would happen, and then this morning I was wondering if I would get a confirmation that it happened, because we had the faith that if it wasn't His will that would be all right, too. After personal study today, it came very strongly, that their daughter appeared to them last night. We're going by tonight and can't wait to see them with the member there and a message about how families can be forever. Notice that it was needed, in order to further the work for this family. This is a rare opportunity to hear the gospel preached to them in their own language. 

Pray for miracles when they're needed in church, family or with others. There's no other way for this work to go forward at the pace that's needed. Get a vision of your endeavors. We weren't called to maintain what has been done before, but to energetically and fervently go forward. Pray and fast for miracles when needed. I promise they'll come. Our mission is anticipating 200 baptisms a month, two per ward per month.

I know the work is true, every day my knowledge grows that Jesus Christ lives. I haven't seen him with my own eyes, but the depth of spirituality, answers to prayer and experiences with the Holy Ghost are real. We keep journals so we record when things we believe become things we know to be true. "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:5. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, his divinity and mission is especially manifest in the Book of Mormon and He did actually call Joseph Smith to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness back to the earth. I love the Lord, He's there and wants to hear from each of us in prayer. May we always be true and faithful.

With all my love,
Elder Szendre

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This has been a sweet week. 

We had a general authority come by, Elder Martino from the second quorum of the seventy. We got some really valuable instruction from him and President Winder about member missionary work.

We were taught the Amulek principle. It stems from Alma 8-10. Alma goes to Melek, baptizes thousands, and then tries the same approach at Ammonihah. They get very angry and reject him. An angel appears to Alma, and tells him to go back. Amulek goes back and he finds someone who has been prepared to accept him. The person is a less-active member of the Church (see Alma 10:6). Alma prepares the member to bear testimony of the things that he will teach (Alma 8:27). Returning to teach the people, they are astonished when Amulek bears testimony of the things that he knows to be true.

I've seen this, as a missionary there's some people that it doesn't matter how I phrase what I know to be true, they just don't trust me and won't act on what we say. It was the same way with Alma, that although he taught with power and authority, they would not accept his testimony. We're going to be looking for Amuleks now, for all of our investigators: people who can get through to them so that they will act on our invitations.

It's so exciting to be here in this mission. Elder Martino has told us that 200 baptisms a month for our mission is within our potential. We have an incredible opportunity to work with members, and even though there will be one set of missionaries per ward, many hands make light work.

Elder Martino mentioned that the most pain you will probably ever see in your life is on your mission. He said that most of Christianity doesn't understand that Christ suffered very personally all of our pains and sicknesses in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11-12).

I know this to be true, in some of my most difficult moments I've felt His comfort and hand outstretched. I was able to share this with a older woman and her son who is still enduring grief from a very tragic event in their home over a year ago. I hope they will follow our invitation to them to seek God in prayer and use the power of His Atonement to find healing.

I met a family where the father is American and the mother Ukrainian. It was the coolest thing to speak Russian with their kids, because I guess I never spoke with children in Russia. I continue to meet more and more Russians every week.

This work is true! "No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing." (Standard of truth), however we can stop the work from progressing in our own spheres of responsibility. Diligence is needed, not just obedience. I'm out of time, but please stay true and continue to read the scriptures.

Elder Szendre