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. (

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

                                                        Crystal's Baptism Day!
From March 31, 2014: "I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee"

Dorogaya Semya!

As a mission we had 45 baptisms this month! We're finding more and more investigators every week as well. Crystal is going through quite a bit. 

We're doing well together as a tri-panionship. We're saddened to see Elder Ballard go home because of depression issues, but we're moving forward in our sweet 2014 Chevy Cruze.

Crystal had a miracle, her landlord is now going to let her stay despite her conversion to the Church, which really was miraculous, since she kicked her own sister out because of the same decision. I've attached a photo from Crystal's baptism, her friend came with her.

Kevin is experiencing a lot of opposition from his family right now, which is disappointing, but we will have a dinner this Sunday with his family and the Fry's and Steele's.

Vladimir is still super interested in the Church and should have time to meet this week with us and his general contractor Bro Givens.

Aaron M. is a protestant minister in the 5th ward that dropped us yesterday, but I wrote him a letter that will exhort him to simply pray about it (Proverbs 3:5). 

I consider myself one of the luckiest men to be serving here in the Idaho Boise Mission, we truly have an incredible Mission President and mission leaders. Please pray for Crystal and Kevin, I have such a strong testimony of prayer. Thank you for all your prayers in my behalf, I've felt buoyed through the stormy trials that have come and gone. The Gospel has been restored! We know much more about the God's Plan of Salvation because of the Restoration and our brothers and sisters need to know these truths. I'm so thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ, that He took upon not only our sins, transgressions and their awful consequences, but also our pains and our trials. He has done so much for us, and we truly owe him all of our thanks and devotion,

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another— 21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
From President Monson's last conference talk, "Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain, and our suffering. He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity. He alone touches our tortured souls with His comforting words: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, He is with us. He has promised that this will never change." 

It is my testimony that all of our burdens will work out for our good, from the pioneers, it is a privilege to pay the price to come to know God. He will not forsake us! He knows the end from the beginning and designs to grant us His richest blessings in His own time and way, leading to a fullness of joy in this life, and immortality and eternal life in His Eternal Presence with our families.

"May we ever strive to be close to our Heavenly Father. To do so, we must pray to Him and listen to Him every day. We truly need Him every hour, whether they be hours of sunshine or of rain. May His promise ever be our watchword: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (President Thomas S. Monson, "I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee", GC October 2013)

Much much love!
Elder Szendre
From March 24, 2014: "Let Us All Press On"

What a weekend, we had the baptism of Crystal, to which many members and Kevin K. (our other progressing investigator) came. It was quite the experience as she fought to get into the waters, be baptized and climb back up to the stairs with the help of Bro. Jamison - - she has a broken foot. The service went well and many members came. I was able to perform the confirmation on Sunday and we'll see her again tonight.
We have a very small district, just 3 companionships, 2 sets of Elders and one of Sisters. An Elder and one Sister went home this week due to emotional/mental/medical problems. The stresses of a mission was just too much for them. I remember Uncle Scott's counsel about handling a mission, that if you could handle it you could overcome anything.
Missions are hard, I have had times when I struggled greatly due to a number of factors. I've learned to memorize hymns and scriptures to help me through the tough times of the day. You just can't cope with the stress the ways you did before. You're continually out of your comfort zone, moving sometimes often, you are with a companion you most likely annoys you to some degree, and you really learn to love the people you work with, and desire their happiness. The three most stressful things in life are according to some study -- I wish I had the source -- was marriage, children and moving.
We may not even like each other, depending on the companion, and unlike most marriages we're arranged without any choice on our part. We still have to work together effectively, make compromises and really listen to each other's concerns and opinions to stay unified in this endeavor. 24/7
We pray for these people constantly, we teach, listen and help them find their way in this very very difficult world. We serve them, and sacrifice time and energy
When we're transferred we completely change every person in our daily lives and our living quarters.
Why do we do this? When else can we dedicate all of our time, talents and interests to assist God in his "work and [his] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)
He promised His ancient apostles the Comforter, which would teach them all things (John 14:26) and bless us with comfort in our deepest trials. In a moment this last week when I was suffering almost beyond what I could bear the symptom of stress went away as I felt the voice of the Holy Ghost whisper to me, "Peace, be still." As I've wisely striven to feed His sheep (see John 21:15-18), amidst my own difficulties I've ultimately had my own needs met, through the Holy Ghost or others, and the joy of selfless service truly is great.
The joy of the work greatly greatly compensates the pain and sorrows. At Crystal's baptism, the Spirit was poured out so strongly, and the joy of bringing just one soul unto Christ was overwhelming. (Jacob 5:71, D&C 18:15)
The joy of temple worship has been one of the greatest privileges of my mission. Go to the temple, strive to keep those covenants and enjoy the blessings of them. They truly are incredible. We can only go every three months, and I can't wait to go in 3-5 weeks.
God promises us so many spiritual blessings, which can only be realized on the principle of obedience to the Gospel. A mission can provide the rich soil to plant the seeds of sacrifice and effort in the Lord's vineyard which will reap incredible happiness. Ammon's joy was full when he met Alma after a successfully completed mission
17 Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth. 18 Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness. (Alma 26:17-18)
We have to strive to stay on the path of obedient and diligent service, repenting when we fall short in obedience or diligence, and increase in devoted discipleship. If we aren't actively improving through repentance and obedience chances are we're distancing ourselves from God, since humbling oneself before God must continue throughout one's life.
I can't imagine more happiness, more joy than laboring in the Lord's Vineyard to bring souls to him. I really love my mission, I will have a very hard time taking it off. Even so, I know that the blessings of the Gospel will continue and that I will have joy in my family.
9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. 10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen. (D&C 110:9-10)
It's my testimony that the Gospel has been restored, and that the Priesthood functions on the earth has been sent to bless every one of Heavenly Father's children here on the earth. I bear testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's Kingdom on the earth and that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's Prophet directing and gathering God's covenant children in the last days. Let us all press on!
Much much love,
Elder Szendre