Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oct. 26, 2015 Transferred to Catawba, South Carolina with Elder B___

Hello all!

So transfers have come and I am back down to South Carolina! And for the first time ever I have a companion who has been out less time than I have. That doesn't discredit him, he is a superb missionary! His name is Elder B___, he is from Arizona, and he has been out 3 transfers. This is still his first area and I am only his second companion, so I am 'greenie breaking' him I guess. He is lots of fun, and is a super good teacher. He also plays the piano way better than me, so this District Meeting was the first time I didn't play the piano. We were comparing piano songs and he plays more classical/intense music than me, and I play more pop than him. We are having lots of fun, and it's pretty great. We get a car 2 out of 3 weeks.

So as far as the area, I am in Catawba, which includes the Catawba Indian Reservation, and it is pretty interesting. It is my most "country" area so far, which is fun! We cover 3-4 small towns, including the east side of Rock Hill, Catawba, Van Wyck, and everything in between. Our teaching pool is actually fairly large right now, which is probably the first time that has happened on my mission! (Hooray!) We are actually right next to the Rock Hill Ward where I served for 3 months, but in a different stake. It's funny though because there are tons of members who are related to members in Rock Hill, so it's like I know everyone's family already. The ward is super interesting, pretty much 90% of the people on the actual reservation are members. We have about 80-100 attending church, and there are 400+ members. It sounds like most of them are less active because they have been offended/hurt over different family issues, and this last week in Sacrament Meeting, the Bishop gave a talk on being humble, kind, and not getting offended. He likened it to the rameumptom. It was pretty intense.

So as far as bright spots for the week go, we were able to teach a lady named M___. She is super solid, and wants to be baptized eventually. On Saturday we had a powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ lesson and she committed to come to church. Then on Sunday she called and cancelled :( Apparently she had laid out all her clothes and everything the night before, but when she woke up on Sunday she couldn't get out of bed because of pain. She told us that later, when she was feeling some better, she got up and read the Book of Mormon for a couple hours and it gave her peace. So we are hoping to have her come to the church during the week for a church tour to help her get accustomed.  :D

We taught a man named M___ on Wednesday. He was a pastor for a non denominational church back in the day, and he has been pretty curious to learn about our beliefs, even though he is apparently pretty sure that everything is a "wind of doctrine". We shared the second half of the Plan of Salvation where we teach about the spirit world and the multiple kingdoms, and then they either flip out and drop us or get baptized. Well we told him about it, and to our surprise he actually liked it and said he agreed! Wildcard!! So we are going to get him a large print Book of Mormon, and pray that he reads it, becomes converted, and gets baptized. (Please pray for him.) :)

Anyways, that was our week pretty much. Well, that and having district meeting down in Lancaster. Lancaster is a branch, so their building actually used to be a Chinese restaurant that they converted into a church by putting a steeple on the top. It's pretty interesting. Their mini piano is cute looking.

This last week I was able to ponderize Mosiah 2:41 (And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell, with God in a state of never ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true.) 
I think my favorite part is just how true it seems to be. We taught a guy named B___ last night and shared this verse with him. He talked about how he agrees, and that every time he is with us he gets a "buzz" from the spirit. A common farewell here is "be blessed", or "have a blessed day", and it reminds me of this scripture. When we say "be blessed," what we are really saying is "remember who you are! Be good!" I think for this next week I am going to ponderize your one mom, Psalms 119: 165 and 167 (Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.) It could definitely help out!

Congrats for Joe!! That is so fun for them. Haha, met in the outdoor equipment area, that is perfect!!

Thanks for all you do! You guys are the greatest! I love you!

Have a blessed week!
Elder Branch


Monday, October 19, 2015

Oct. 19, 2016 in Greensboro, NC Transfer news....


Wow, this last week was crazy! We weren't able to meet with E___, but we made plans with the S___'s to have dinner with them and E___'s whole family in a couple weeks. We were also able to go and visit another family named the K___'s, and their son E___  who is pretty nice and we are hoping to teach him in the future.
On Tuesday we had a mission conference with Elder Kopishke of the 70 that was super legit and revelatory! He talked lots about receiving personal revelation and acting on promptings. He talked about how in Doctrine and Covenants 82: 3-4, it says that when we receive revelation, but then break or don't follow it, we are 'condemned'. To explain, he took a piece of paper and put it on the floor and asked how thick it was. Apparently, according to one Elder, it is 7 one thousandths of an inch thick (not very thick). He stood on that piece of paper and said  "if this is all the light we have, and we are condemned, we only fall 0.007 inches. But if we were standing on the podium, and were condemned, we would have a whole lot further to fall!" So then we talked about ways to use revelation and to avoid being condemned. It was good stuff!

My favorite quote came from Sister Alexander, who said "every little effort you make on your mission is counted, and is not wasted." Another plus of the meeting is that I got to hear about  J___ from some sisters who had served their recently! Man, I love that guy!

Our Relief Society President told us that there was a Sister they had been writing letters to, and just this last week she emailed back and said she would like to meet with the missionaries! It was a tender mercy because we had tried hard all week to see some good things, but lots of plans fell through. It strengthened my testimony of the things President and Sister Alexander talked about at mission tour. I know that when we do all we can, no small effort is wasted.

P___ loved church, and she came again this week! Later in the week, we got to go out with our Bishop on some visits to Brother R___ and to P___.  She said going to church had really helped her throughout the week.   :D   She is the best. I'll send a picture of her either today or next week. Brother R___ also is doing well. He just has it so rough. He says he is getting better slowly but surely, and he does eventually hope to get back to church, but he has never been to this building without his wife. I feel so deeply for him too, and I'm going to miss him.

Speaking of missing people, I am getting transferred this Tuesday. I will miss the people here.

Now, not to be nostalgic or sappy or anything, but I was thinking about missions last week, and I came up with this summation. Missions can be stupid-hard sometimes when nothing is going on, and they are way challenging, but it is so worth it whenever you are able to actually teach someone. You get all excited and happy and it's just the greatest feeling ever. Haha, and I can't wait to find more of that wherever I go next!

Thanks for all you do! You're the bestestest!

Elder TooBlessedToBeStressed Branch

SO I don't know if y'all heard about experiences of children seeing 2 angels holding up President Monson at conference, but there were 2 kids in our ward, both with autism, who saw them too! This is one of the pictures they drew the night of conference. Pretty neat!


A few of the awesome people I'll miss in Greensboro

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oct. 12, 2015 in Greensboro, NC


On Monday, after p-day, we tried to see T___. He didn't answer but then we went down the street and saw our classy 85 year-old Pentecostal friend D___, and he is doing well. He surprised me because his tool shed that we helped clean up was magically off of the sketchy trailer it had been on and actually looked pretty good! Mom, you need to forward this picture to Elder G___. His socks will be blown clean off!!!!:) Anyways, D___ was happy to see us, and his wife was too. We talked about his brother S___, who is having health issues and isn't "saved," so D___ wants us to help him. We offered service or teaching him, but when they asked S___ he turned it down, which was a bummer. Anyways, at the end of the lesson, D___ randomly started getting off his chair and onto his knees, and it looked like he was falling or something, only in slow motion. Turns out he just wanted to hold our hands, bless us with power, and pray, which was pretty nice of him!

After that adventure, we 'felt inspired' to go get smoothies from Smoothie King. It turned out it was real inspiration, because we talked to the guy who worked there and he was pretty neat. We gave him a Book of Mormon.

On Tuesday we taught the S___'s and E___ all about general conference, and reviewed our favorite parts. We committed E___ to go back and read/watch the talks once they were posted online.

Probably the 2 best parts of the week though were these. First we got to visit with Brother R___ on Friday morning, and we invited him to a ward cook off that night. Turns out, he came!! That was a pretty big step for him, because so far he has only really come to things if he was going to do service for someone, but this time he came just to have fun and get to know people! It was great!! As for the actual chili and international dishes Cook off, they had a whole competition and everything. People made lots of chili, and there were also a couple international dishes. Best part was... Elder J___ and I were two of the 3 judges! I have a whole new respect for the judges on Chopped and such, judging is really hard!! There were some mighty tasty things there. In the end, we decided that the egg roles were the best, and the Sister who made them was super touched and even cried a little bit :) It felt good.

With transfers coming up, I guess my main focus has been on working as if I am staying forever, while trying to leave things better than I found it. So for my letter this week, I would love to share a story about one of my favorite people I have been able to teach here. When Elder G___ and I were together, we met P___. She answered her door and asked us to pray that she would have confidence to meet with us. We prayed for her, and in 2 weeks, followed up. This time, she said she had to tell us something, and broke the news that she was actually a member but she hadn't been to church in 30+ years. We got to start teaching her, and it was a slow process. At first she didn't want her records transferred in. Slowly but surely, she started opening up. Just this last week, we were able to go over with a great couple and we invited her to church, and yesterday she was right there beside them, taking the sacrament for the first time in 30 years. It was a wonderful blessing to be able to see that, and I am so happy for her! This truly is a work of love.

Elder TooBlessedToBeStressed Branch

(Elder Branch has a friend serving a mission in Russia who sends pictures of Russian cats in his emails most every week. We can only suppose that this is Zac's response to his friend's Russian cat pictures, two North Carolina cats.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oct. 5, 2015 in Greensboro, NC

Hello friends!

Wow, I'm not quite sure what really happened this week, it just kind of disappeared in a flurry of inviting tons of people to conference, and lots and lots of gray skies, rain, no flooding here just a strange, pretty, weird kind of misty shower thing that happens 24/7. It's been really good for our hair though!

We didn't end up getting any one to the church, but we did have a couple different friends who watched it, and we are following up with other friends to see if they watched it on their own. Probably the funniest story was about P___.  She has been reading the Book of Mormon and working on coming back, but she is still nervous to attend with 60 bazillion members there she doesn't know . So we figured that general conference would be perfect because she will be in the church but without the scary crowds! We invited her and she said she would come Saturday morning if she was feeling good. So anyways, we show up, and no P___. So we were kind of bummed, but then Elder B___, a missionary in a different zone, called and asked if we had a P___ in our ward. Turns out she just went to the wrong building!

So conference was absolutely brilliant! I have too many notes and thoughts to share, so I will just share my main part. So I went in to conference with a specific question of "What should I specifically do to improve myself the most currently?" The answer I received during all of Saturday was, "pray and trust the answer you get by the Holy Ghost, it is personal and it is accurate." So I prayed and decided to work on virtue, and just keeping my thoughts totally centered on the work. I asked on Sunday, "What can I do to help direct my thoughts?" My answer came clear as day in talk all about "ponderizing." It was a great testimony of the inspiration and revelation that goes into general conference, and I am excited to start ponderizing all kinds of great thoughts and scriptures!

This week I choose Mosiah 4:30, which says "this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." Kind of intimidating, but I am excited for the revelation that is going to come! I also loved the testimonies of the 3 new apostles, and I loved how cheerful President Monson always was, despite his obvious health issues. Elder Bednar's talk was absolutely amazing! Elder Holland's was fantastic! And Dieter F. Uchtdorf was absolutely brilliant every single time he spoke (like all 26 of them, ok, maybe just 4).

I'm so glad y'all like the birthday gifts, I was excited for this one! I forgot to put the dog recorder in it, so just imagine me singing happy birthday to you both super, super fast :)

Elder Branch
Elder TooBlessedToBeStressed Branch