Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From June 16, 2014: "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"

Hello family! It's been an incredible week full of miracles. Elder M.'s been having a tough time with something, I'm not sure what it is.

Sydney and Ashley's family had been coming to Church for about a month before I got to the area, then every Sunday they've had family stuff going on since. We keep meeting with them on Thursday nights, and their friend Dakota has been coming to the lessons. Bro Barber invited them to his house this thursday for a lesson and so we're hoping that his two young girls will be able to help Sydney and Ashley.

Dakota has gained a lot of interest in the Church since her father came back from prison. He grew up LDS but fell away when he went into the armed forces. We met him and his parents who had been raising Dakota in his absence. They're a super cool family and we're hoping to introduce the bishop to him, he said that he would come to Church if he didn't like the one his parents go to.

Sharon has been on a lot of pain pills lately with her back. She's hoping to get a shot directly in her spine to get a more long term solution that won't impact her sleep so much. She's been going through a lot. Sister K. is going to invite her over to her home. 

We contacted those Eastern European referrals from the Schulteiss family, it turned out to be a Hungarian family and a Ukrainian family.

The Ukrainian family was outside and the Grandfather started talking with us in Russian (he was visiting for the week). He was starkly not interested and slightly antagonistic about the Church, but started discussing the Church and it's missionary program. He's read the Book of Mormon but didn't take up the challenge to pray to know of it's truth. That's such a huge problem, where people will read the Book of Mormon because it's an interesting read, or to be able to argue with LDS people. There's no way God would give them an answer when they would just turn around and not follow it. As he carried on the conversation we promised him that if he would pray about it he would receive an answer. We went our way on a good note and his daughter said we could come back. 

It was kind of cool to see two native Hungarians for the first time. Grandpa Szendre certainly has some in him!! When we contacted him (we heard he was Romanian) he asked us why we were there, and we explained that we had a message for him and his family. He said he had no interest in religion and that he used to believe in the Bible. He explained to us his beliefs and began to be pretty antagonistic with the Church. I tried to find a subject he would be more interested in talking about, and so we talked about Russian, Russia, Budapest, Hungarian, the origins of it (people aren't really sure), and then about how he thought the universe was created. He said he had an experience where God showed him how the universe was created (it was very interesting), we ran with it and said that it was revelation and that's why we were here, so we invited him to take a pamphlet and he said, "I'm interested in learning everything." It's incredible to see how the Spirit works with people, when they start talking about their thoughts and opinions they see how they could do what we invite them to do and then they accept the invitation. We'll follow up with him on Wednesday.

I'm so thankful for the gospel, and for the chance I have to serve a mission. There is so many good things happening here in this area. I could never have imagined the opportunity to have such great effects on the people here. In my last area Kevin talked on Mother's Day and bore powerful testimony of the restored gospel, which was stunning to everyone there. What an impact it must have had on the youth.

My relationship with the Savior has grown so much. He is my absolute hero, the "messenger of Salvation."

8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men. 
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him. (D&C 93:8-10)

I know the Gospel has been restored. I'm so incredibly thankful for the opportunities I've been given, faithful service in the Lord's Kingdom truly brings great blessings.

"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life."  (President Ezra Taft Benson, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/12/jesus-christ-gifts-and-expectations?lang=eng)

The Church has a marvelous future in store, I pray we'll follow carefully Jesus Christ and keep our lives clean and pure. He lives!

Much love!
Elder Szendre
From June 9, 2014 "An Awesome Week"

So this last week we had many opportunities to find less actives, and people to teach of American and Eastern European descent.

Dakota is learning about the Restored Gospel with Ashley and Sydney, two children that we're teaching. We asked her in the lesson if she would support Ashley throughout this process of learning the Gospel (she had just went through it when she moved in with her grandparents who took her to Church). She said she'd be there with Ashely through this whole process. When Dakota at the end prayed we asked her to ask God if the Book of Mormon was true and both her and Ashley said that they felt it was true. Sydney has ADHD bad and was watching the Second Hobbit. A family that has two children near their ages (Sydney 12 and Ashley and Dakota 8) said they would invite them to their home. Hopefully Sydney and everyone there will feel more support and friendship from the ward, because they haven't been coming out to Church.

We continue to see Sharon, an older woman who is investigating the Church.

Unfortunately Dante was kicked out of the Dutton's home and is moving out of state. 

So we had to eat some hard counsel from President. He doesn't want us teaching people that don't speak English anymore, unless they are progressing and even then we need a translator there. I guess Elder M. was starting to feel boxed in or whatever, since many of our opportunities have been from Russian/Bosnian families and individuals that don't speak very good English.

We had some Bosnian referrals in another ward that we contacted. We asked if we could share a message and she said we could come back the next day at around 6, they were preparing dinner and we heard. We won't pursue it further or the other Bosnian referral (they almost certainly don't speak English). I can teach the Restoration in Serbo-Croatian, and learning it more and more every day. We just have to teach them in English. 

So there you have it, we're using the members to invite friends and neighbors, half of whom are coming from Eastern Europeans, because it's a lot easier when you have a missionary that speaks their language, because then if they don't have a relationship with that friend or neighbor where they'd feel comfortable to invite them to meet with us, they can rather talk about me in conversation and then invite them to dinner to meet and talk with me in their language, but the teaching would be done in English. So far not much has panned out in terms of people that we can teach, but we're finding many members that know these people.

We continue to teach Ludmila, who we're so confident has been prepared. She had a headache and didn't want to talk with us on Saturday (we brought a translator that lives in an adjacent ward), but he has some neighbors that are Russian Orthodox and are very open to discussing religion, and he said he'd invite them to meet me in their home. (They speak English).

We're hoping to teach Zayna sometime, who's been coming to Church despite the language barrier. A friend of his will invite him to come to his home to meet me and to talk about the Gospel. We will need to find a translator.

Those are our only two people we're trying to teach right now that don't speak English.

I've lost count, I try to keep them written down, of all the different opportunities to share the gospel through members with Russians, Ukrainians and Bosnians. As we go about the work here in these two wards, among investigators, less actives and active members these opportunities just open up. People have been prepared. For instance a young man has a friend named Vitaly who's Ukrainian and speaks English. He's said he would invite him to meet with us. His sister has an American friend she said she will invite.

There's a woman in Meridian South Stake, who wants to hear the gospel in Russian. I wish I could teach her, but I'll send the necessary supplies and a list of translators that will help those missionaries over there teach her.

We have a neighborhood in our area that has several families of Eastern European descent. We're going to go tract it tonight and hopefully we'll find some people we can teach in English. Although I would still share a pamphlet and possibly a Book of Mormon with those that don't speak English.

I know the Lord is hastening His work here in Boise. When the Spirit of God rests upon you you know it doesn't matter what you suffer or what you sacrifice, that the Lord is deeply grateful for your service. The difficulties of this life are an essential part of God's plan for our eternal progression and will purify us if we rely on the Lord to overcome them. I know the Savior lives, I love Him with all of my heart and testify that He will help you in your deepest sorrows and pains. I pray the Lord's blessings upon you.

Much Love!!
Elder Szendre
From May 26, 2014: "Russkis!"

Hello fam! This has been an incredible week in what is actually Boise (turns out that the Meridian Amity Stake covers some of Boise).

We've been blessed with 3 investigators and 2 new ones in the last week.

It would have been 3 new ones, except that a woman that we taught a first lesson to actually doesn't live in our area.

I don't have much time, but let me just say that this area has a fair amount of Russians. The first night I got into Boise, we went over to Brother Ludlow the Elders Quorum President, and he told us of a Russian family that had met with the missionaries before, but couldn't understand them. The Spirit overwhelmed me with joy, and I knew they had been prepared for the restored gospel.

The next night we went over to Ludmila's and she let us in, we had a short converstation about the Gospel and we had to go since she was short on time. We hope to back in soon.

3 sets of missionaries in our zone have Russians they're working with right now. We hope to go over with them soon.

We served a man last Saturday that works for Andy Propst, who was one of the missionaries in The Seratov Approach. Not only does this man know a bunch of Russian tile setters, but he talked with Andy and he said that he has some Russians that he thinks could be taught the discussions in Russian.

We just received some referrals to visit some other Russians and some Bosnian people, we hope that goes well.

There's so much work besides Russians in these wards, we met with Sister Smith and it was incredible how many families need some support right now. We're working through those. It's kind of disappointing because most of those Russians live out of our area, and we're working through one to two middle men to set up appointments with them. One of them lives in the Boise Central Stake, which is by the Temple, probably 10 miles away.

Hopefully we'll be able to get in with Ludmila soon and teach her family, as well as the many other opportunities to teach.

I love you all!
Elder Szendre

Friday, May 23, 2014

From May 19, 2014: "Amity"

I'm now serving in the Meridian South Amity Stake. It's quite a difference from Eagle, at least what I've seen of it so far. It will certainly differ economically and socially. I hear Elder Blackburn has some Russians for me, and this is where Galyena and Yuri live, so hopefully there will be higher densities of Slavic and other nationalities. I'm still confused as to why the Russian Bear survived for so long in Eagle, where there were no Russians nearby.

I'm covering two wards now, and we have 4 investigators: Dante, 2 unbaptized children (cut me some slack I just got here) and I think Sherrie.

Leaving Eagle was one of the emotionally hardest things I've done. I absolutely came to love the people there, and they loved me so much. We spent the last Sunday in Sunday School and Priesthood with the youth and it was so good to have had an influence on them for good. Elder Hunt my MTC companion is moving in and I'm sure he'll work hard and realize a lot of success that I laid the foundations for.

I got to say goodbye to Kevin at Church. He participated in Come Unto Christ, which the youth sang in sacrament. I'll email him when he goes off to USU to see how things are going. He'll be attending the Young Single Adult ward in Eagle for the summer. I don't know why his parents are so unsupportive, they didn't attend his talk last week, which is unfortunate. We know he has a really strong testimony, just walking by Mutual when they were singing High On a Mountain Top which he was attending the Spirit was so strong and we felt so much joy. He described it in his talk like the big hole that he felt like wasn't being filled with any of the religions he was studying was filled.

Crystal is in Kuna right now. Despite the bishop's and Brother Nielsen's efforts she didn't get a ride to Church her first week there 3 weeks ago. So she went to the same congregation that helped her learn about Jesus Christ. It's kind of scary since she's living with the mother of the woman that was instrumental in helping her convert to Christianity. However she started meeting with the bishop and got rides and has been keeping her baptismal covenants faithfully. Hopefully she can find some source of income whether it's babysitting or online. Getting a job will be hard at the moment with her daughter. Tithing was the most difficult part, since the money she was getting from disability only barely covered rent and diapers and one other expense, leaving her $40 to her name every month. We're hoping that the ward members wrap their arms around her and she improves her circumstances.

Anna S. who lives in the Kingswood ward is getting baptized on the 31st! Her brothers were baptized, but her father had enough influence over her to lose interest while we were teaching her. I'm not sure what changed, that family has come a long way in the last 10 months.

I called Vladimir and he said to call me back this Sunday. Hopefully he'll stay interested and read the Book of Mormon, since if he got a testimony of it he would readily accept it. He was a minister in Ukraine spreading evangelical Christianity under the Soviet Union. He's a work-a-holic and a family man, so the mere fact that he continues to be interested is incredible. He's seen nothing but good examples in his employer and fellow employees about the Church. He describes them as people that know God, because of their good lives. It's almost like Moroni, 

3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. 
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men. (Moroni 7:3-4, italics added)

Never discount the power of example. Truth and time are on our side.

I'm so thankful for this opportunity to prepare the way for the Meridian Temple, it's a truly unique place to serve, not so dense and impersonal as Utah, but still with several members living on almost every street. Our last investigator that we found in Eagle had two faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearby and one couple will come with Elder Swann and Hunt to teach her on Saturday.

I love being a missionary so much. It's honestly the most difficult thing I've ever done, but my trust and faith in the Lord has grown exponentially. Truly, enduring our deepest trials can become catalysts to us receiving the deepest spiritual blessings. It will be 10 times harder to lose the privilege to represent the Lord to these people, it's truly a different experience being a missionary, being yoked with the Lord to bring to pass His purposes.

The Everlasting Gospel has been restored through a modern prophet, and it's ancient fullness has brightly illuminated our lives, no matter where we are on our path of discipleship. The clarion call has come to each of us to live true to it, and participate in the small ways we can to help those friends and associates around us to learn about it. I love the Lord, He truly has incredible purposes for the Idaho Boise Mission and for the world collectively.

7 ¶How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 
8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. 
9 ¶Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 
10 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Much love!!
Elder Szendre

From May 12, 2014: "Чудова зустріча"

Thank you so much for the prayers. I was truly healed to a great degree that morning thanks to your prayers. I was literally planning on sleeping that P-day if things didn't begin to look better. I'm finally back to 100% capacity now in every aspect. It's truly a miracle. My testimony has been strengthened so much this week. This is really His work.
"Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift." (Grateful in Any Circumstances, President Utchdorf, GC April 2014)
This was one of the greatest trials of my faith. About half the time at least early in the week two weeks ago I wanted to go home. I struggled between my desires to serve God and the impending likelihood of going home honorably for some period of time. That may seem strange due to the great desires I've had for years and throughout my mission, but it happened.
The central question was do I trust God that he is in full control of this situation? I knew he had total and complete power to deliver me from the impending situation if I did all I could and turn it over to him. At the same time I had to learn trust Him enough that if it was His will that I went back to BYU. I had felt promptings that whatever happened would be His will.
I had been feeling that way for two days when I wrote two weeks ago, missionaries do need our prayers in times of distress or apparent success. I cannot begin to describe how much I was supported last week.
The promise in D&C 84:88 is true, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." You can count on tremendous help when serving or preparing for a mission.
The principle question now is whether or not I will learn what I needed to learn. The principle of deliverance is crucial in our lives.
"But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." (1 Nephi 1:20)
According to the repentance of the Nephites, they were delivered from very very desperate circumstances. When surrounded by their enemies, "And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper." (Helaman 4:15) See also the battle of the Nephites with the Gadianton Robbers that infested the land, 3 Nephi 4.
The danger now is whether I will keep in remembrance the tremendous goodness of God in delivering me from that awful state of suffering and great uncertainty to the tremendous return to previous levels of well being if not greater.
"Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity." (Helaman 12:2)
It is my testimony that the Savior lives and perfectly knows how to conduct us through this veil of sorrow and tears and every suffering imaginable.
"And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." (1 Nephi 17:13, see also Joshua 1:5)
May we all consider the direction in our lives, and heed the voice of the Good Shephard, he is not far from any one of us.
"The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding." (Proverbs 15:31-32)

Let us remember Him always, giving Him thanks in all things (see Alma 37:37). I know that the Everlasting Gospel has been restored to the Earth in the same manner that it has been every time God has called a prophet. God's plan for us and our lives is perfect, and a full and certain faith may be placed in it, our Heavenly Father who created it and the Savior that fulfilled it. I love you all and pray for you daily.\

Much love!!

Elder Szendre 

From May 5, 2014: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee"

This has probably been one of the toughest 2 weeks of my life. I'm trying my best to push through it all without letting discouragement or self-pity abide. I'm aware of those dangers. Please pray for me at this time though. For much of my mission I've been able to wake up at 6:30, work out, shower, eat breakfast while studying, hit studies hard, go to work, end lunch early to do more work, and work hard until 9, plan for 30-40 minutes, and then go to bed and do it over again. I took no thought for myself. I've learned in the last 3 months that you just can't do that, you'll get burned out.

About three months ago I'd do that and about every three weeks, I'd turn into a sack of potatoes and just nap for about three hours in the middle of the day. It became more frequent, and I'm just feeling pretty burned out right now. This week will hopefully be better than last. We had a miracle in that Elder Swann sprained his ankle and stayed in all week long except for splits. Splits and Church went very well though despite the struggles I've been having. It doesn't help to just push through them, they only get worse. So hopefully I'm able to proselyte this week, and build myself back up to full productivity.

I remember Aunt Jan telling me to take care of myself, if only I had done that more haha. I can almost perfectly see now why I wasn't sent to Russia. The last 10 missionaries that had gotten their minors in Russian before they left had been sent out there. I was just completely go go go and oh how I would have worked to establish the Church out there. To no end I would have sacrificed for them and the work. Not only that, but it's harder when a Russian isn't interested or when a Russian investigator won't keep commitments than for Americans. I would have burned out, only with much greater consequences, due to the different culture and lack of ways to cope and resources to help.

I've learned that some trials aren't meant to be overcome, at least in the way that I'd prefer, teaching 20 lessons a week. I need to keep my physical well being, faith and commitment to serve God alive and well, not preach the gospel for 10 hours a day at this time. My mission leaders think we're slacking, and visited us last night to help set our sights higher. Time and time again I've seen the need for understanding when it comes to others' actions, that we don't know the contents of their heart or the reasons or why they're doing what they do.

The Prophet Joseph was always trying to teach his people that he was not perfect, but he was still called of God to be a Prophet. "You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself."

The Prophet was burned out at one point and wanted to die, to pass the reins of the Savior's Restored Church to the Apostles. But by the end of his life, he expressed the desires of his heart were to remain and to spend the rest of his life continuing to build up the Kingdom of God. What a glorious concept, that after 14 years of experiencing earth and hell's combined influences, he would desire to finish what he started. I have struggled greatly this last week in wanting to continue to serve a mission, and it's only been through the Atonement that I've put off that part of me that just wants to give up, complain to President and LDS Family Services and go home honorably. I don't want to serve in this condition, but I do want to serve.

From General Conference, "Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges." (President Utchdorf, April 2014)

I hate to think this way, but it has been a very good 10 months on my mission. 5 people have been solidly converted to the Restored Gospel. Many many people have been taught the Restored Gospel and invited to live according to it. Less actives have returned to Church with their families. The other night as I reflected on why 6 months in Eagle, I felt such incredible gratitude that I'd been able to help 2 people come to Christ, and felt the reality of this scripture,
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18:15-16)
Much more than that actually, I felt the Spirit so strongly that much more good would come out of my mission than just that. President Monson in a new mission president seminar said,
"President Monson told the mission leaders, “You may sometimes be tempted to say, ‘Will my influence make any difference? I am just one. Will my service affect the work that dramatically?’ I testify to you that it will. You will never be able to measure your influence for good." (https://www.lds.org/church/news/prophet-apostles-speak-at-mtc-mission-presidents-seminar?lang=eng)

Please know however, that no matter how deep the trials have been lately, I've had some of the greatest joys I've yet had on my mission through the Spirit. I have learned how to be happy amid all of these things, "Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;" (Alma 36:25) The talk on gratitude was truly a life changing talk, "Why does God command us to be grateful? All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness." (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances)

Please pray that I'll bounce back this week and get some really good advice as to how I can get out of this hole I've dug myself into from the Psychologist

Much much love,
Elder Szendre

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elder Szendre and Elder Swann
From April 28, 2014: "Almost To the Peak"

I begin my letter that way because of the journey that it takes to realize the promised blessings. I think of climbing Mount Everest, and the days/month it takes to reach that height. The days/months of putting in faithful/diligent service amidst opposition.

I have a word to say about opposition. He has overcome it all. There is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness that the Savior did not go through first (Alma 7:11-12, 2 Nephi 9:21-22, Isaiah 54). "His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o'er earth and heav'n. The keys of death and hell To Christ the Lord are giv'n." (from the hymn "Rejoice The Lord is King".)

Not only did Christ suffer the punishment which is affixed for breaking God's commandments (Alma 42:14-16), but the guilt, shame, emptiness and pain that comes from disobeying God's commandments. Only He can reach us in the various conditions we mortals are subject to: sin, temptation, mortality.

From General Conference, "In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light." (Elder David A. Bednar, April 2014, "Bear up their burdens with ease.")

This is the understanding the Savior has over life and death, which he gained as he, "partook and finished [his] preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:19), fulfilling His purpose, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) - He sits, "enthroned, with gloryhonor, power, majesty, might, dominion, truth, justice, judgment, mercy, and an infinity of fulness, from everlasting to everlasting." (D&C 109:77)

We'll be exposed to increasing degrees of opposition as we progress in our journey to the Salvation of our souls and the souls of family members, friends and those within our stewardships and responsibilities. But all the while we have the priceless and essential influence of the Holy Ghost, which can make the journey even during the hardest times a blessing. So while we may not have the power to change the various circumstances we find ourselves in, at least will find joy in the journey. I will not endeavor to expound that process, but I know that General Conference holds many of the keys to obtaining joy amidst its necessary opposite.

This area is really trying us, we've found fewer people to teach than what I've seen in Eagle (12 investigators in the first 12 weeks), but we've been happy with the success we've had. A Catholic woman this week accepted Elder Swann's invitation to read the Book of Mormon after he bore powerful testimony of the Atonement from Alma 7:11-12. We've been serving her for a while, and actually in the pioneer days her great grandmother was in a family that had some devastating illness which caused their home to be quarantined - - only the Mormon Pioneers would deliver food to the house, which was miles out of peoples' way. All of her relatives have been telling her to "let the Mormons in." hahaha

I wish I knew more stories of my ancestors enduring unfathomable trials. There was actually a study that compared the relationship between (I think it was) youth's ability to endure the problems of life with the treatment of learning about similar instances in family history, a good breakfast, and family time. The overwhelming conclusion was that they were bolstered, upheld, and supported much more through knowing about ancestors who went before. (Sorry, I really really wish I had the reference to that, look in NY).

Thanks for the packages! They've really helped us get through the stuff we've waded through recently, Elder Swann's still adjusting to Eagle, where instead of investigators it seems we mostly have service opportunities now. Maybe it's because everyone's spending time camping/cleaning and working during the weekends now that it's spring and not bumming their days inside.

Crystal, our miracle investigator, has had to move now to Kuna. It's unfortunate, because her landlord (or the person who's renting the house to rent to other people) told her she had to get out by Friday. It was a pretty difficult situation, and we hope her future arrangements will better fit the needs of her and her 2 year old daughter. We know she's ready for whatever's coming, she's earnestly converted to the Lord and His Restored and Everlasting Gospel. I had an incredible spiritual experience where I felt that she would be able to endure to the end. 

This life is worth it, the Savior has promised that He would be with us throughout this mortal experience, whether or not we can discern His sustaining influence, and that promise will always remain. I am so thankful for all of the prayers and for your support. Take care!

Much much love!
Elder Szendre

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hola mi familia! This last week has been a very good week, pretty slow, but we're continuing to work effectively, give service and talk with people whenever possible.

It's almost like football, where it lasts for 3 hours with only 11 minutes of execution time. That's Church and teaching appointments which is around the same ratio. We've got time for preparation, study and planning and all that for those times when you're face to face with an investigator and you've got to teach with power and authority by the Spirit and invite them to live the gospel.

We had a very good Easter. There was an Easter concert on Saturday that was very well put on and thought out, the Spirit was so strong there. Sunday services were incredible, there was so much there. We spent the day riding around trying to talk with referrals and people on the street, with little success. Ultimately we were able to talk with a part member family, share messages with members and cheer up an older single man that doesn't have a whole lot going for him in his life right now.

It was incredible to me to ponder the Atonement at this time, because I've realized how much it's blessed my life. I'm only the person I am today because of it, it would not be possible for me to repent and make the decisions I've made without it (Alma 34:9). My doc tried increasing some medications again (only half as much as before) when I was pretty much ok to begin with and had terrible trials for about a week. (There's been research that has supported that dosage) 0I felt like a "broken vessel" (see Elder Holland, General Conference October 2013) But now I've experienced the "renewing of [my body]" that has been promised, as a shadow of the Resurrection. Not only that but to see the growth that came from that painful experience spiritually, physically and mentally. Through His grace I've been able to put off the natural man that much more and receive tremendous blessings because of it (D&C 130:20-21). There's no way I could qualify for those blessings without His grace, no matter how hard I try, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23, particularly Bible Dictionary, grace).

We had an incredible leadership training about goals from President Winder. It was great because that was one of the questions that I had going into conference, was how to better set goals and accomplish them. I had all of my questions answered by conference. Evidently only around 3% of the population sets goals, which is really a shame because a study at BYU (I wish I had the source) cited that people write down goals they make more money and are happier.

"I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

I added two goals recently
1. To be a good steward over the gifts I've been given.
-Over my agency
-Over my area
-Over my relationship with God
-Over my family relationships that I have
-Over the testimony I've been given (Alma 32:41)
-Over friendships
-Over the physical possessions I have to enable me to complete my mission. 

2. To magnify my talents
-Skill as a missionary
-My familiarity with the scriptures
-Language as my Mission President allows

I made some progress on the organ in college, learning to play hymns and bach preludes. I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked, but I still volunteered to play Christ Lag in Todesbanden ("In death's grasp the Savior Lay", BWV 629?) and practiced on P-day. It went super well! And not only that, but I felt like I could sing out super well for all the songs that the congregation participated in. It was night and day with my normal singing voice. Because I had magnified and not hid my talent, I received more. (Matthew 25:14-30) It's like Solomon, if we ask for the right gift we get the rest. (1 Kings 6 I think)

Also the other day I thought about how many times we're commanded to ask for the blessings that we stand in need of, I set a goal one day to apply my heart to understanding, "Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise" (Mosiah 12:27) I felt God's love and compassion for others almost the whole day, and received other blessings that weren't even essential to my progression.

Thanks for all your support, living the Gospel is worth it even while in this life. May we all rely on the Savior to get us through these last days and to become the Sons and Daughters of God that we were and will yet be through our "faith and repentance" (Alma 13:10, describing those who receive the blessings of the Priesthood). The Gospel's been restored! I'll see many of you this Mother's day!

Much love!
Elder Szendre

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From April 14, 2014: "Week 39"

Shalom! I think that's hello or goodbye in Jewish, maybe not.. Our first week in Eagle has gone very well, we've met most of the members and have been doing a lot of service.

Dang, there has been some serious trials this last week. I spent 2 days in the wringer for some reason, the cumulative effects of stress just snuck up on me and after District Meeting I conked out on the couch in the Stake Center. Luckily our zone leaders were still in the building and I got one of the most beautiful blessings I've ever received in my life. Through faith I received the strength to move on. 

It's incredible to see the growth and clarity that has come into my life since that experience when it seemed like life was coming apart at the seams. It was pretty bad for about 2 days. The principle of deliverance is incredible (1 Nephi 1:20)
And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 38:5)
The Lord reaches out in love to our busy lives with complex problems by giving us trials, callings, weaknesses (Ether 12:27) or whatever else. The trials I experienced can be likened to the load of Elder Bednar's recent talk that will allow me to gain the traction to continue on my journey. (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/bear-up-their-burdens-with-ease?lang=eng)

We got to finally go to Rendezvous, a Russian restaurant here in Eagle (who would have thought). Some members wanted to feed us but had to cancel and so we asked them if they could pay for us to go there. I got some $16 of pelmeni's (ridiculous isn't it?), dumplings with decent sized chunks of beef in them served in soup and dipped in sour cream (or perhaps some other kind of sauce). We had a very interesting conversation with a man that unfortunately was slightly drunk, he came up to us and asked how I knew Russian, and that moved on to a conversation about Ukraine and Russia. He evidently spent a few months in Ukraine about a year ago, and was robbed on his third day there. He's supporting so many people there, since the corruption is so bad and it can be impossible. 

They're evacuating Donetsk right now, there happens to be 40000 Russian troops on the eastern border, and I heard from a missionary in Dnepropretrovsk that that mission will soon be evacuated as well. It looks like war, but I cannot. I was so confused when I was called to Boise, since I had had several times when the Spirit was poured out when I thought of the Kiev temple and of the work of Salvation in that land. They're still baptizing though, and they'll hate to be evacuated.

We have someone working with Vladimir, he'll give him a pamphlet of the Joseph Smith account in Russian and will stay close on him. He's still super interested but super super busy. We have several other Russians that we know of in Eagle that we'll be contacting here shortly.

The work is going well here in the 4th ward, it truly is hastening, through service and the youth. We're going to start playing basketball on Tuesday's and Thursday's, and will invite active Priests to come. They're down with inviting their friends, so we'll see how that goes.

Thanks for all the support and prayers, I've felt such an incredible help to get through difficult times because of them. Take care, I'll see you shortly via skype!

Much love,
Elder Szendre

Thursday, April 10, 2014

From April 7, 2014: "Another Six Weeks!"

So we got transfer calls between Conferences on Saturday, and I'm staying in Eagle while Elder Nelson's shipping off for Boise Central, which is right by the temple. Elder Swann's now here and I'm really really excited for these next 6 weeks, it presents such an incredible opportunity. It took about 4.5 months to hasten the work in a previous area, the results of our finding efforts often take so long to achieve, for instance much of our baptizing success in March (45) came from our efforts in December, when we had a massive push to find 500 investigators, we tripled the averages for finding and are striving to keep it up there. We're at about double that as a mission right now.

It is so exhilarating to see Crystal and Kevin doing so well. Granted, each has their own "whirlwinds" as Elder Anderson would put it: Amira, Crystal's two year old, just went in for surgery today and was just released, there were complications but ultimately she's stable now.

Kevin watched every single session of General Conference last weekend, we haven't been able to meet with him for a while, but he's converted and is showing it. It's going to be a hard road to get his family's blessings for his baptism. He remarked that he almost wish he could go back to the way things were, life's so much more difficult now that he's found the Church.

We're hoping to get another appointment with Vladimir at the Cowley's home. It's incredible to speak with Ukrainians, they have the most incredible history with the Soviet Union. He was an evangelical minister during the era of the Soviet Union and had to preach under secrecy for fear of the communist regime. Sound familiar? (Mosiah 18)

I'm so excited for these next 6 weeks, the work is really taking off, and we're going to be challenging members to set a date when we will come back.

Conference was amazing, there were so many incredible talks. May we read and ponder, and set goals to make real change in our lives. The only protection we have as members of the Church is to follow the counsel of the Prophet and the Apostles. (Howard W. Hunter, "Unity") May we strive to strengthen our testimony and conversion, and repent of our sins. Jesus Christ lives, I know it and pray that we'll be sustained through whatever comes.

Much love!
Elder Szendre