Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oct. 28, 2014 Huntersville, NC

So Dad, Joel who worked with you took this picture! I remembered his face from meeting him at your work, but actually a brother that knew Elder S from a previous area was talking to us at Stake Conference and told me both Joel and Jared who worked with you were in the stake so I started looking. Joel was in the stake choir so I went and said "Hi"   :)
He is actually in one of 2 or 3 South Carolina areas in the mission :)

Do you remember the H Family from Concord? She is from here and her friends and in-laws live here. We are actually having dinner with them tonight! They are Brother and Sister W and are originally from North Carolina.

Elder K and L live in the same apartment with us. Elder K is a really nice guy and his testimony rocks! He gave a talk in sacrament mtg this last week in the new ward because a speaker couldn't come. Elder L is also really funny, and has wild stories! He reminds me a lot of Scout staff guys and one of my favorite things about him is that he can ride wheelies on his bicycle in his shirt and tie really well, and often gets honked at and waved at. 

Elder S and I are working on getting it down too. It's a great proselyting tool as well, because it breaks up the missionary stereotype, and people will talk with you.

So Huntersville is on a tri-share with the cars so we get a car for 2 weeks and bike for 1. We have been low on miles though so we often do extra bike days. The ward is small, but that actually makes us ride more because we figure it's not too far. We have had some 20-30 mile days here! It's been intense!

We got cookies from Elder S's mom today, and they are good!!! That was super nice of her to include me. :)

We working on finding people to teach and we have ideas we're going to implement to try to meet more people. 
First: "we aren't striving for perfection, we're striving for progression." We can't be perfect in this life, but we can work to be better each day. 
Second: Pray like Alma!
Third: we're going to work on how we find. We're going to talk to 10 new people each day and we're going to find new neighborhoods to meet people.
We're hoping and praying that this will increase our finding. I feel a bit like Alma in Alma chapter 8 right now. He just left Mulek and was preaching in Ammonihah, when they kicked him out. He "wrestled much in mighty prayer", and I have been doing the same. It's definitely hard, but even if all we do is plant seeds, at least we are doing something. 

I think it basically comes down to our sanctification. One of the things I noticed about the Charlotte Central Sister Training Leaders is that wherever they went, they walked with purpose, they didn't just stand around and talk, and they really focused on the work. I want that same kind of energy to be present with me. I do have faith that as we continue to set goals and find people, we will begin to see miracles. 
Well, I love yall lots!!! Thanks for the letters and packages and support!

Love, Elder Branch

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oct. 20, 2014 New area, Huntersville, NC

A little more about Concord...yeah, Elder Z was a great example to me. He showed me how to serve, how to contact (which I'm still working on, but more about that later), how to work with the ward, and how to be exactly obedient. Elder B also taught me lots, especially about love and enduring trials. They were some pretty fine chaps :)

So for transferring our bikes, what ended up happening was Sister H from Concord drove the Sisters and she has a bike rack, so she picked up my bike from the W's the night before. Then the day of transfers we took the wheels off of Elder B's bike and it was able to fit in the trunk of her minivan along with our suitcases. The W's also wrote Elder B and I goodbye cards and they were way nice! Concord was a good ward with great families.

So yes, my new area is Huntersville and I am with Elder S who lives in Layton Utah!!! So that was super funny and is probably the top question we get after where I'm from: "did you know each other before coming out?!" The answer is no, and we don't even have any mutual friends, but we did play against each other's soccer teams when I was with Coach Cloward :) He goes home after this transfer (5 weeks from now!) and I will likely be taking over the area so I'm trying to learn it quick!

Also in the area is Elder L (who was Elder Z's companion for 2 transfers up in Boone), and Elder K from Kannapolis!!! Haha it was pretty funny, because we used to be in the same district but different areas, now we're in different districts but the same area!

Our district includes the Mooresville Elders and Sisters (one of the Mooresville sisters came in this transfer and is getting trained), while Elder K's (who's their district leader) includes the Lake Norman Elders and Sisters. The lake Norman Elders include Elder G, who came out with me and was in my MTC district :) We do live together though and that is fun :)

This ward is fantastic! We have met lots of the members and they are all super nice!!! Elder S says it's very similar to a Utah ward as the members are young families with kids and moved here from out west. Our ward mission leader is Brother K and he is so funny! He reminds me of Andrea ;)  He gives all the missionaries nick names. Elder K's is "Elder K-nibb" (pronounces the K). Elder L's is Prince Williams. Elder S's is Elder Simon (like the lion kings Simon and Pumba). Mine is Mini-muff because he said I look like I'm 10, but I'm a stud muffin :) 

So as far as Huntersville itself, it's been a very hard week! Huntersville is the smallest (or close to the smallest) area in the mission, and it's also quite well to do. Also, Huntersville has been very slow recently and the teaching pool is very small.

Elder S is great and because he has one transfer left, we resolved to do like another companionship did, where the Senior companion taught the other companion all about the area and then "handed off the reins" to the younger. So we're going to try that out. 

All of this means I'm going to have to really start getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I'm going to take the lead in contacting, planning, goal setting, and pretty much everything else. We also want to work on obedience because there were some times this last week where we could have done better and been more purpose driven. I've been feeling pretty down because of that. I really have room to improve. Like Elder Klebingat said in conference "Selective obedience brings selective blessings." This experience has taught me the power of prayer and forgiveness though and I think it will help me throughout the rest of my mission, starting today. I talked with the Zone leaders yesterday on the phone and they encouraged me to work through these trials and to work to get Huntersville back on its feet. So it's rough, but like the scriptures and the prophets promise, "We fear no man, for God is with us."

I'm so sorry to hear about Dad! Food poisoning sounds rough! Speaking of food poisoning, I have a great story! Last night us 4 elders visited a super nice couple from Napoli who love the church and the missionaries. Elder K and I hadn't met them yet so we visited. One of the things we did there was eat what's called a "black egg." It's a delicacy in their culture! The pictures tell it best:

(There was a short video that shows the actually eating of the delicacy but no one wants to watch it, 
believe me.     -Zac's mom)
Thanks so much for all your support! Life is good here in North Carolina, and it should be getting much better with faith and work ;) Love you lots!

Elder Zac Branch :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oct. 13, 2014 Being transferred from Concord to ???

Hey Yall,

 (The giving, thoughtful, and totally fantastic Sister Watson from the Concord Ward helped with transfers and sent this pic to me this morning. Bless her! She said Elder Branch went to a city called Huntersville.   -zac's mom)

I'm getting transferred from Concord tomorrow! This is bitter sweet because the Concord ward is fantastic and I love the members here so much!! They are all so great! Elder B is also leaving and Elder Z is staying...

 (short break in writing the email to wrestle Elder Z, only to have him pick me up and spin in circles after I tackle him... Yeah, we do this a bit) ;)

... Woah, that was intense... Um so anyways Elder Z will be staying and get 2 new companions. Elder B and I don't know where we're going yet, we find out tomorrow at the transfer mtg. So I will have to let you know where I'm headed :) I'll miss Concord and the people, I definitely want to visit here again someday! It's also a bummer because Concords missionary work is just getting better and better! It's been a miracle just getting to meet so many kind people out here who believe in Christ. I'm excited to meet even more people in my next area, wherever that is ;)

S couldn't come to church this week but she is still looking forward to being baptized. We also have an investigator named E who is really solid and just wants to find an answer for herself. Finally, probably our #1 miracle story this week came when we were at the library on Saturday loading lessons on the iPads with the wifi. The library closes early on Saturdays so lots of people show up when it's closed. Anyways, this one lady showed up and we talked with her about the library being closed. She told us she just wanted to drop off some books and she really needed the bathroom. Elder Z hopped up to help her put her books in the book drop thing and they talked a bit while Elder B and I loaded lessons. She saw Elder Z name tag and asked if he was Christian. He said yes and she said " I'd like to know about y'all's church." We told her we could help with that! She went to the bathroom at a store down the street and then came back and talked to us a bit more. She said that she has always been so hard core Baptist that she never learned much about other churches. Then she gave us her info and told us thanks so much, God works in mysterious ways, God is good, and to make sure not to forget. We told her we definitely would remember and then she went to catch a bus. It was so wonderful! God really is good and definitely works miracles in our lives!

This week was just full of miracles. I absolutely loved our Zone meeting to start it off! There was a talk from President Uchtdorf that was so fantastic! I'm looking forward to getting a copy. I believe it literally will change my mission. I have such a desire to be like Elder Strong from the story. I just wanted to talk to every single person I saw after that talk! And so we did. That was probably the most amazing part of the week, was teaching while finding. We talked to every person we saw, and rather than just giving a brief hello or a pass along card, we really worked on setting up follow up appointments. As a result we found a couple new investigators. And the contacts that we haven't set up appointments with we are going to be contacting to make sure everyone has a chance to hear of the restored gospel. It was amazing this week, because probably 80% of the people we talked to gave us a phone number or address where we could contact them. It was a testimony to me that the work is hastening and that "many people are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it." It is with mixed feelings that I approach this transfer meeting, because I've grown to absolutely love Concord, both the ward and the people in general. But I am excited to go wherever the Lord wants me to for this next transfer. I'm really beginning to find the joy in missionary work and it excites me. The church is true! Thanks for all you do!!

Love Yall so much!! You're the greatest! The church is true! 
Love, Elder Branch

ps. I did get the package from the Dixons! They are so great! I haven't got to write them back yet, I'm super far behind on letters :/  I'm sure grateful for the mail! It's been great!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Oct. 6, 2014 Concord, NC

So as far as your question about biking, we're biking every Saturday and every other week. We probably bike 5-10 ish miles a day, unless members drive us. On car days we usually use the car to the best of our ability ;) My bike is working great! I'm really beginning to enjoy biking, especially down hill.   ;)

I'm super excited about Meet the Mormons!! We get to watch it in a special screening! Between that, General Conference, Zone Conference, and still teaching lots of people last week, it's been the epitome of fantastic!! 

At Zone Conference we talked about "Careful vs Casual" which is essentially rules or standards of the mission to help us keep focused. Our companionship haven't had haircuts in about 6 weeks and we needed them bad! Haha, But most of the standards we were following fairly well, we just had to change little things. As we work to be exactly obedient however, we are promised that we will see more miracles. For example, when President C had an interview with me, he asked me if I was getting up at 6:30, and I told him it was usually around 6:40. He asked me kindly to repent and be obedient, and left it at that. Since that interview, the weeks where I've gotten up exactly at 6:30 each day have been the weeks where we have had 18-20 lessons, which is the standard of excellence for the mission!! And the greatest part is that they have really been people oriented lessons! If we were only concerned about the number, we could get 20 lessons each week, but we have been able to find a nice balance where we're teaching lots of people, not just lots of lessons. As our area improves, we are going to see even more miracles in people's lives!!

I loved general conference! Wasn't this conference great!!!!! I really felt the Spirit during each talk, and was so sad it was over so quickly! The talks really were great though, it's kinda like having a super bowl twice a year for the missionaries :) I loved how they prayed for the families of the missionaries. I pray for yall too :) We tried our best to have investigators come but none were able to. I am looking forward to studying the talks more and being able to use them with our investigators though! We already shared the story of the ointment from Elder Bednar's talk with an investigator, T, and that actually went really well! We were visiting him Sunday night and in the middle of the lesson, we felt inspired to share that story from conference. He has a 3 year old himself and it was just what he needed to relate. He talked about how he had always physically and emotionally "doctored" everyone, and that he was able to help them. We bore testimony that we want to help him and to give him spiritual "doctoring" through his studying of the scriptures. Elder B shared about how we study in the mornings and T said that that would probably work for him because he was up around 4 anyways with nothing to do. It was a really Spirit filled lesson and we are praying for him.

I was wondering if you could email me the words to the "Honoring Leaders" video from the century of honor celebration. It should be on one of my school reports. We've been talking about Scouting a bit in the companionship recently, and I'm so grateful for what I was able to earn. Even more than myself though, I'm grateful for your love and encouragement of scouting and for letting me work at Scout camp. And I'm so grateful for the leaders and boys in our ward, and up at Kiesel for their help with my Scouting. It's practically second, only to the church in teaching me the values that I'm still working on increasing. As President C told Elder Z once: the closer you are to the tree of life, the farther away you feel. Luckily we have the chance to always grow our testimony tree, like was mentioned in this last conference ;)

Well, I love you all!! Thanks for all your support and prayers!! The church is true!

Love, Elder Zac Branch