Monday, January 27, 2014

Brandi A.'s baptism, and Michael and Tyler's baptism. Happy, happy day!
From January 21

Wow this work is really hastening. We started off with 2 or three lessons per week, we've been up to 5 lessons for the last 3 weeks. And then yesterday to kick it all off we had  two member present lessons. We felt prompted during weekly planning to set a goal to get 5 member present lessons this week, an all time high (the most we've had is two) and we had no idea where they'd come from. However with two yesterday and at least one more that we know of, we know there will be a way, "And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness." (1 Nephi 17:3) We've officially got 4 investigators right now, and at least 5 more people that are fairly close to becoming such.

We're teaching members a short version of the Restoration, helping them feel the Spirit when we read the First Vision to them and then scheduling an appointment three weeks out, and simply letting the Lord put people in their path and letting them invite them. We've taught three people now by this method. It really will be the most fruitful method of finding we've got so far.

Summer was taught at the Yeakley's home when her high school friend Pierce invited her to come to our appointment with their family. I might've wrote this last week, but when we read to her the First Vision we asked her how she felt, she said emotional, we asked her to describe those feelings and she said she couldn't because she would start crying. There was nothing special about my voice, the way I pronounced those words in a semi-boring monotone voice, but yet she felt the Comforter or the Holy Ghost. "Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth." (D&C 50:13-14)

We're now teaching three Ukrainians. We met Valentina yesterday, who cleans the house of the Kofoeds in the ward. We got talking about life in the former Soviet Union and how horrendously difficult it is, and after a long discussion we scheduled a time to come back to the Kofoed's next monday and teach her about God's plan for our happiness. Our lesson with Galyena and Yuri in Meridian was incredible, it was truly like being transported into a different world for an hour and a half, an unusually long lesson, but they are so passionate about religion.

Michael is still very desirous to be baptized, or at least heavily anticipating it. He served in Somalia and can't get over the fact that he took a man's life. In the last lesson a week ago we taught the Law of Chastity and that he and Brianna would have to be married or move out to be baptized. Two days later she was moved out. We just found this out, he was absent for the last two Sundays and seems to need space he's suffering so badly spiritually from his wartime service in Somalia. Perhaps he needs counseling and has PTSD, but he's felt spiritually drained ever since. 

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my cname, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:18, 26-27.

No pain lasts forever, and we're hoping with him being confirmed and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost his intense thirst for comfort will be satisfied.

Nicole is a woman that doesn't come to Church that we've been seeing for over a month. She was super interested at first, and when she couldn't meet she would say, "I'm really not trying to ignore you." We got an appointment and taught her the restoration and she brought her nonmember boyfriend, and it went super well, one of the greatest lessons we've had until now. They didn't seem too interested in another appointment afterwards, but we continued to be super friendly and we stopped by and shoveled their walk. Then we baked them a cake (the one grandma sent) and asked if we could bring it over, she said yes and we brought it over, had a super super friendly visit and scheduled a time to come by and teach them again. Anyways they didn't come to the appointment. Everything we did was us reaching out to them to serve them and they never said no, then this morning we got a text saying that closeness was an issue and she requested to not have anymore visits from us. It's so sad, but I take comfort in that Gideon was among the Nephites that rejected Abinadi when he came and established God's Church among them, eventually repented and was one of the most stalwart men in the Church, so much so that a valley was named after him.

This work is true, God really does speak and guide his Church. And not only in the Ecclesiastical leaders but also the missionaries are led and the windows of heaven have been opened and God's working so many miracles everyday. We are saddened when people won't repent, but no effort is ever wasted! May we always be true and faithful.

Much Love,
Elder Szendre

P.S. sorry for not sending the baptismal pictures last week.

Monday, January 20, 2014

From January 13, 2014

Wow this has been quite a week. We had Brandi A.'s baptism this last Saturday, which has been really tough since I haven't been allowed to contact her or her family since I left. It's one of the most difficult things to have gotten so close to someone and then totally end all communication with them. But it is super important to follow our leaders, I've prayed about it and it is going to be alright for the A. family. I felt such intense joy at that baptism, all there really felt it.

I met with Galyena and Yuri and was able to teach them in Russian the whole time. It was so
cool to finally teach in Russian. However it just felt like a regular lesson, which was kind of disappointing because I guess I had an image of Russian lessons being super special. The Spirit's the same in no matter what language you're speaking, and so is the challenge to hear and follow the Spirit's promptings. It was pretty hard to teach and think in Russian, since I've placed them so far apart in my learning. It was really good though. I felt the Spirit strongly afterwards, and at Church I realized that I might've just taught members of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and the Spirit confirmed it strongly.

We met with all the ward missionaries and we're implementing a plan given by Elder Martino of the Seventy, where we as a ward mission pick 10 less active names to go and visit and then continue to visit. In Acts Peter heals a man that has never walked before and then helps him walk. As good as ward council visits are, they're spread pretty thin between all the less actives in the ward. This will be a powerful force for good in our work, as the testimony of members of how the know the Book of Mormon to be true has a greater effect than missionary testimonies do, since that's kind of expected from missionaries. (Alma 10:12)

I love the Lord, He is there for us and loves us more than we can imagine. There was a family that we visited yesterday who isn't coming out to Church. They work crazy hours and have been feeling like they're done for because they're too lazy to come to Church. They don't understand grace. We can't do this alone, no matter our talents and abilities. "The Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit, you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability” (Ezra Taft Benson, seminar for new mission presidents, 25 June 1986). 

We can't do this alone, in a lesson last night with the family that fed us dinner, my mind was unlocked as I gave a discourse about the work of salvation hastening for both the living and the dead and the great importance that member missionary work has on generations of our dead and those yet to come. 

A young woman a few years ago invited a friend of hers to hear the missionaries, he accepted, was baptized and then served a mission himself. Not only can we not succeed in our callings, but just to get through this life. We have not even "come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Nephi 31:19) That's just entering into the straight and narrow gate of baptism, much less enduring to the end. We cannot return to "the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise."

Lorenzo Snow taught that the requirements that this gospel makes on us to further this work of salvation requires divine strength and help. We truly can't do this alone. Like the pioneers in the Willie and Martin handcart companies, we know that the force behind us is greater than the trials and tasks that lay ahead. This is a chosen day for this Kingdom, one where soon the Rock cut out without hands, the Kingdom advanced without the sword, prophesied by Daniel and Joseph Smith will fill the whole earth.

This work is true and is going forth nobly, boldly and independent as far as we are inspired and work obediently and diligently. Surely "Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God qualify [us] for [our labors]." (D&C 4:6) "Shall we not go on in so great a cause?" (D&C 121:22). Thanks for all the love and support, I hope to get all the letters and thank you letters out today.

Much love,
Elder Szendre
Grateful, hungry Elders and Sisters at the District Lunch. From Brother Kevan Kjar, Eagle Stake High Council

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From January 6, 2014:

Life is good! Thanks so much for your prayers, I've been greatly helped this past week. I was swimming in pretty deep water last Monday, as seems to be our common lot during this time on earth. However when it came to an end I realized how short that trial actually was, and how much help I had in getting through it.

I've been trying to learn patience lately, there's a lot there to learn. I turn to Mosiah 24:9-16 for guidance with trials when we seem to be doing everything right. Here's that scripture:
"For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.
And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage."
Elder Holland has noted that the commandment to be of good cheer might be the most broken commandment. As we are among God's covenant people scattered throughout the earth, God will hear our prayers when we petition Him for comfort. He must make our trials bearable, there were spiritual blessings that were given that could not have been given any other way. Alma 31 also has a tremendous example of prayer when we face a task that seems insurmountable.

We had my first two baptisms in my previous area! Michael and Tyler entered the waters of baptism on Saturday and Brandi A. is scheduled for this next Saturday, pictures to come.

We found a Russian babushka and her muzh (husband) to teach! And immediately after I had a pretty big disapointment about some Russians that ended up being snowbirds and will return in April. There may be no others in my area, but some Sister Missionaries found her and found out that she doesn't speak English and so they referred them to us. She was so surprised that I spoke Russian that we had a good half hour conversation in Russian on the doorstep and set a return appointment for Saturday at 7:30. It's in Meridian so we'll have to commute but a Russian investigator's a Russian investigator!

As much as I wanted to be called Russian speaking, I treasure this opportunity to serve in Eagle. Despite the wealth, I can't imagine a better more faithful ward in all the Church. Our fast as a mission yesterday was to hasten the work of Salvation in 2014 and the Spirit was poured out upon all who were in the fast and testimony meeting. Many people came up to us afterwards and many remarked of it in subsequent testimonies.

President Winder knew something that we didn't when he sent us here. When we got here there was no work in the 4th ward, in fact it had kind of been one of the wards in which missionaries seemed to slack. Surprisingly it was chosen to be one of the wards that now has its own set of missionaries, despite the dearth of work. Now we've got several part member families that we're on good terms with, though not teaching, plus two couples who are not yet married. The members are beginning to understand their pivotal role in sharing the gospel with their friends and neighbors. We could tract every door in this area within a month, and that includes having to go back once or twice at a different time of day to really catch everyone. There's only so many less-actives in the ward to work with. We're running out of things to do besides work with members and have them introduce us to their friends.

We are a small part of the House of Israel that the Church is. So many of God's covenant people are out there in our own communities, nations and throughout the earth. I had one experience in Russia where I spent a half hour talking to this Russian who simply had a hard life and was drinking away the pain. When he asked about my career aspirations and I told him about BYU and the tremendous opportunity it was to go there, he asked how he could go. The prospects are so dim and lonely for that man, and the Restored Gospel would help him to improve the quality of his life and help him deal with challenges. A member of the Seventy came and spoke to Priesthood leaders in this area and collectively we're not ready for India and China to seriously open up, and that we need to be praying for foreign countries to open up, and that was true 40 years ago. We are on the crest of this wave that is here, sweeping throughout the earth, the promised seed of Abraham that would "bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations". That day is here. This is us, our responsibility as parents and soon-to-be missionaries is to prepare for the great and marvelous opportunities that the Lord is about to open up unto us. Both sides of my family represent a powerful force of goodness and we need to be ready for the tremendous opportunities that await us. I had no idea what I was getting myself into by being called to Boise. There's such an incredible missionary Spirit here and power to convert thousands. We're all collectively trying our best and need the help of the members. The harvest is good but will be much greater as everyone opens their mouth to share the gospel.

I love you all, there is so much to be enjoyed in this life! Yes our trials are here but they shall be "just a moment." (D&C 121) I wish you understood the depth of your potential as missionaries and fathers and mothers in Zion. This Gospel has a very steep learning curve no matter where we're at, and so let's learn and apply it together and lift where we stand. "Shall we not go on in so great a cause?" I love the Lord and His work, there's so much to do and the blessings and associations we make in this life are truly of eternal weight. There's nothing like the joy that overwhelms us in this great and marvelous work.

Much love,
Elder Szendre
From December 30, 2013:

It was so good to see you guys on Christmas! Words can't describe how awesome it was, dinner was a little hard, but it was still a great day. We had Christmas with the district, it was pretty cool. 

We had two miracles this week, both with less active families. The first was a recent convert of about two years ago that in the last few months hasn't been coming back to Church. We were in their neighborhood and had to use the restroom and so we rode up to their house and right as we did the garage door opened, and we met him and was able to visit them that day.

Yesterday at the home of a few unbaptized children, the mother drove in right as we got a flat tire in front of her driveway. We visited with her and talked about her family, she told us straight up what was going on and we had a really good visit with her.

Both of our appointments with Michael and Brianna and Billy and Nicole fell through. 

This work is hastening. We're trying to get three new investigators this week for each companionship as a mission and we know that it can happen. 

Keep moving! This has been one of the hardest moments on my mission, and I'm just getting through it one step at a time. "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail." (D&C 6:34) I've had some really really special spiritual experiences though, and I can tell you that this gospel is worth it while yet in this life, and so anything after is just extra.

The Savior lives, I know it with all my soul. Take care, I'm praying for you every day.

Elder Szendre

Christmas District Party, Elder Szendre, John, and Elder Nelson; Elders Szendre, Morgan and Ballard; and Christmas Morning in the Boise Mission.