You can write him at:

You can write to Zach at:

Elder Zachary Collier
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission
2600 Boyce Plaza Ste. 101
Upper St. Clair, PA 15241


Elder Zachary Collier
235 West Chestnut Street, Apt. 301
Washington, PA 15301

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013... Zach's LAST e-mail!!!!

Hey mom,

I go to the mission home Tuesday night, fly home Tuesday morning. I think I'm leaving at 6:30 AM to the airport. It'll all work out. haha. I'm guessing you got a copy of my flight plans, so I'm just going to expect to meet you at the airport. It'll work out!

Alrighty, now for this letter. We're doing this for my posterity!

MONDAY: I had a lot to get done last Monday - stuff to send home (did you get any of my packages I've been sending home? I guess I'll find out soon enough), things to pack, etc. We went to Wal-Mart to purchase some things and we got stopped by a man named Dominic. He was a Vietnam Veteran. At first he thought we worked there and we helped him find some folders for his daughter's school work, but then he read our tags and was excited to find out we were Mormons! Most of the time, people just run away from us. But he used to live in Salt Lake and served with a lot of Mormons in the military. We talked for probably about 30 minutes. He had a lot of questions for us and then he encouraged us to get involved in our communities and stay involved after our missions. He was a very good man. 

Elder Harrison informed me that Brother Koch, a man who wasn't active when I was in Altoona last summer, is now active. Elder Harrison and I felt prompted to go visit him. When we showed up his wife answered the door. She wasn't interested and informed us that he hadn't been to church in probably 10 -15 years. We said that was okay and we just wanted to give him some information. We left our phone number and the address of the church with meeting times on a temple card and asked her to give it to him. She did. He was shocked to find it when he got home. His previous wife had passed on and it had shaken his faith. He was from somewhere out west and thought the nearest chapel was in Huningdon Pennsylvania, almost 2 hours away. He had been attending that branch probably once a year for the last few years and had a desire to come back. Turns out, 3 months after I was transferred, he showed up to fast and testimony meeting and bore his testimony and told everyone he wanted to become active again. Well, he is currently serving as a counselor in the Young Men's Presidency along side Brother Latieri, a man who got baptized after Elder Harrison and I found him in a rainstorm. The Young Men's President is Brother Cross, who used to be our ward mission leader and helped with the reactivation and the baptism of these two brethren. What a miracle! That's the gospel at work, folks.

We went to return two metal bowls to Sis Lehman, a less active member of our ward. We knocked on the door and it immediately flew open and a very large, shirtless man came barreling out at us. I jumped back - it scared me, and Elder Walker cocked his fist and pulled back and almost punched him right in the face. But he was smiling and said, "Whatsup, Elders! Good to see ya!" We took another look at him and realized it was just her son, who is a very nice guy. He was wearing his Avengers pajamas. I guess he had just gotten up and was standing right by the door when we knocked. He was excited to see us and came right out. I'm so glad Elder Walker didn't punch him! He wasn't dangerous.... just very enthusiastic. It was funny.

Monday night the Longs had us and the sisters over to their place for a movie night. Thomesina, Laura, Sara, Isaiah, and Li'l Isaiah (ZayZay) came over and we popped popcorn and watched Prophet of the Restoration. Laura had an amazing question after the movie. She asked, "If God loved Joseph Smith so much, why did he let such bad things happen to him?" Everyone was quiet for a few seconds. I felt the words to say come into my mind and heart. Before I could say them, Sister Cohen said exactly what I had been prompted to share. "What do you think, Laura?" Laura is really shy, but you could tell she was thinking. Finally she said, "I don't know." We asked her what Jesus did for us. She said he died for us. I said "Yes, he died for us. He also suffered for every sin and bad thing that has happened to us. He has felt all of our sadness and our sickness and our pains. He did a lot for us, huh?" She nodded. Then Brother Long said, "Joseph Smith died for the church, to seal his testimony and to prove that what he did was true. He didn't suffer for our sins or die so that we could live. He is nowhere close to being what the Savior was and is to us. But the Savior was teaching him how to sacrifice, how to love other people, and just how much He gave so that we could be happy. Now Joseph Smith understands." Laura liked that answer and smiled. She is such an intelligent little girl.

Little Isaiah absolutely loves me. We wrestled with a giant stuffed bear and took turns fighting him. ZayZay is 3. We went for a walk with him and Isaiah after the movie was over. Everybody complimented me and told me I was good with kids. Thomesina keeps telling me that I need to become a teacher because I am good at helping children understand things that even adults have a hard time with.

TUESDAY: This was one of those days where everything was just off. Nothing quite worked out. We went and helped out at the Salvation Army. We found a polaroid camera that still had 3 picture thingys in it! We took pictures. Only Elder Walker's developed. We had to leave from Salvation Army early in order to go pick up Brother Haines to take him to our lesson with this lady named Sandy. When we got to Sandy's, we were told that she wasn't home but to try back around 3 because she was planning on meeting with us but something came up. We agreed and Brother Haines said he was free so we dropped him off and went and took lunch. Then we had to go visit Brother Milan who needed help finding some things in his apartment. Remember how we spent all day cleaning a few months ago? Yeah. His aids DESTROYED the place. We were so upset. Everything was organized by subject, put in separate drawers, etc. When we walked in, drawers were scattered everywhere, stuff was on the floor. It was almost back to how we found it. I was livid. Anyway, because it was in such disarray it took us quite a while to find his stuff. He wanted to have a lesson, but we only had a few minutes to do so because we had to go see Sandy. We started in on his lesson, and then one of the aids came in to complain about his pay or something like that and it ruined the lesson. They talked for about 15 minutes and there were no signs of the conversation stopping so we had to bail. We went and picked up Brother Haines and went to Sandy's. She wasn't there for a second time, so we went and dropped Brother Haines off again. It was now almost 4 o'clock and we had accomplished nothing all day. What a bummer. Here I was trying to endure to the end and the end wasn't enduring my efforts! haha!

Brother Britten had us over for dinner one last time. He showed us around his house, which was like a museum. He is like a quarter Jewish, he is president of every society in Washington County, he is part of the Knights of Columbus, he is a Master Mason, he knits the Altar Cloths for the DC and Columbus Temples, he's a scholar, he worked for Duquesne University, and he also has ties to the White House and is in charge of some very big Archaeological and Genealogical projects. Because of some Genealogical work he has done, he got a personal letter of thanks from the Queen of England. It was pretty cool. My mind was blown as he showed us everything that he's done.

We had a very good time at dinner with him. He's very intuitive and can read people very well. I've been told that I'm hard to read, so I asked him to point out things about me. He pointed out some interesting things:
1. You are a chameleon. You blend in very well with social groups, and sometimes you condescend to people because of your intellect. But you always use this talent to help other people instead of to manipulate them.
2. There is Zach Collier (he drew a circle in the air) and then there is Zach Collier (he drew a smaller circle inside of that circle). Very few people have actually gotten close to you, and that is because there are some things about yourself that you cannot share, because they are between you and God. [This one was especially freaky because I've never told him my first name. And everything he said was true. haha!]
3. You know that there are no accidents with God. He made you the way you are. You are here for a very specific purpose, and because of that, the only one that can judge you for your actions is the one who made you. You know what and who you are, and one day you'll fully understand.

My mind was blown. We said a closing prayer and he thanked us for being such good missionaries and doing our best. I was in a very reflective mood that evening, which was good because he had pointed out the very things I had been thinking about for the last few weeks. It was a very spiritual and enlightening experience. It was a good mindset to take into the Addiction Recovery Program. There were quite a few people who attended that night and we had a very good lesson on making a fearless and searching moral inventory of yourself. Brother Britten had pretty much done it for me! haha! But honestly, it was a very good class and was highly beneficial for me.

Afterwards we went and visited this man named Jim. He lived down the street from the church. Elder Walker had found him last week on exchange. Elder Walker was really excited because apparently this guy was really interested in the church! What he didn't know, however, was that this man had been in an accident and had short term memory loss. Probably the funniest hour long conversation with a stranger I've ever had. He told us about his accident, and then told us about it again a few minutes later, and then talked about his yard and about his dog, and then kept talking for like an hour straight. Finally Elder Walker said goodbye. Jim thanked us for coming, and then he forgot about that and told us about his yard again. When the opportunity presented itself, I said goodbye again. He thanked us for coming, and then he told us about his dog again. Finally, Elder Walker said, "Jim, we really need to go." He said, "Oh! Wait, I have some music to give you!" He walked us to his car, where he had a stack of 250 CDS with banjo music on it. He gave us both a copy. "Enjoy!" So that's how we finished the night - listening to strange banjo music on the way home. What a weird day.

WEDNESDAY: We had a very powerful district meeting about Enduring to the End of our lives and our missions. I taught the doctrine, we talked about how it applies to those we teach, the world at large, and the Savior. Then every missionary had prepared something before hand to share a principle they had learned the last transfer and about how they would use it to endure to the end of their missions and their lives in faith. It was very powerful and a lot of love was felt. After the meeting we went and had lunch at Lavern's. 

The sisters came with us to the old folks home that afternoon. I juggled for Delores and Thelma. They loved it! Delores also asked me to show her pictures of my family. "You agreed to bring pictures the last time! You forgot, didn't ya?!" I said no way! And then I showed them pictures of my family and friends. They loved it. We all sang "Nearer My God to Thee" and I played it on the piano. they clapped for us. Delores was very sad to hear it was my last time visiting. She said, "We had good conversations. You knew how to relate to me. Whoever you marry is going to be a very lucky woman. God bless you!" Then she hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. It was sad leaving there.

We went to go have our lesson with Darrell at our scheduled time. He didn't answer the door. So we went tracting. We got a call from Darrell. "Were you guys at my door?!" We said yeah. He said, "I saw yinz out the window. I didn't hear ya knockin'! I was cleanin' upstairs. Ya'll should come back." We were happy to. On the way back we had an incredible experience.

We heard a voice, very faint, on the wind. "Mormons..." it said. "Mormons... Hey.... mormons.... Those are mormons...." We looked around us and didn't know where it was coming from. Then suddenly we heard very clearly, "HEY! STOP!" We turned around and a girl came running out into the street, waving her arms. She said, "MORMONS! YEAH! I'M TALKING TO YOU! GET OVER HERE!" Elder Walker said, "Oh, great. I hope this isn't a joke or something." We laughed and headed over to talk to this girl.

When we got to her, she looked scared. She was wide-eyed and short of breath. She looked at us and said, "I don't know why, but I'm lost and searching for the truth. I've been praying and I've been wanting to change my life. I was sitting here with Michelle," she motioned to an older, handicapped lady on the porch. "When she saw yinz walking down the street. She said you were Mormons and I felt something warm in my heart. I had to talk to you guys. I don't know why but I need to hear what you have to say. Can you sit with me on the porch and talk for a little bit?" 

We were stunned. We agreed and went and sat with her. It didn't take long for us to discover Michelle's very unique disability. She had been in an accident after a hard life of drug and alcohol abuse. She was in a car wreck and was in a coma for a few years. The combination of circumstance, of exposure, and of the chemicals in her body seriously messed with her brain, and because of that she has ZERO filter. haha! It's really funny. She swears so much and has such a dirty mouth that it makes you blush. I've never had that happen to me before. It's really bad. But she means well! Anyway, Elder Walker sat down next to her on the porch swing (the girl had helped her onto the porch swing. Most of the time she's in her wheel chair) and talked with her while I talked to Brooke, the girl.

Brooke is Harrison's age. She had been searching for the true church. She wanted happiness in her life. "I'm happy sometimes. But it never stays." I asked her what brought her true happiness and she said, "I'm happiest mostly when I'm at work. I'm Michelle's caretaker. She told me that I was an angel because she's never had a caretaker really love her and be her friend before. But I think she's my angel because she's helped me learn how to be happy. I'm happiest when I help other people." She paused and then said, "Wow....... I don't think I ever realized that until just now. Do you think that's possible? Do you think Michelle was my angel?" 

I shared with her the quote from Spencer W. Kimball: "God hears and answers every sincere prayer. But it is usually through other people that he meets our needs." She said, "Huh. That makes so much sense. We answered each others' prayers! Wow!" She smiled. Then she said, "So, I'm learning a lot from you and things are making sense and I feel really warm inside. Tell me more. What's up with this Mormon Book thing? And is it true you guys can have like 7 wives?"

What ensued was probably the most powerful first lesson I've ever taught. Brooke accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon, we exchanged numbers, she thanked me for answering her questions, and then asked if we could come back and teach her more. We agreed and set up a time. Michelle told us to get a room. We laughed. Then we said goodbye and went to Darrell's.

We bore powerful testimony to Darrell. We taught him the Plan of Salvation. He liked it a lot. He enjoys us coming over. We taught him about prayer and without us even asking him, he said the closing prayer! It was like King Lamoni and King Lamoni's father! Darrell is such a boss. I love that man.

We took dinner after that. Then we had to drive out to West Alexander to meet with DJ and Julie. I really enjoy helping DJ. She was rebellious when she was in her teenage years and she has been repenting and changing her life. She recently started coming back to church and hasn't missed a Sunday for months. Her understanding of the gospel, however, is very limited. We taught her the message of the Restoration using cups and also explained the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lately, she has been setting reminders on her phone so that she can remember to read scriptures. She's been praying every morning and going to church every week. Even though she gets frustrated trying to understand, she still does it because they are commandments. We were able to inform her that she was living the first two principles of the gospel: Faith and Repentance. She told us that she had repented to a point where she could start taking the Sacrament again. We told her that was the 3rd principle of the gospel: making and keeping covenants. We asked her how she felt when she was able to start doing that again. She said she felt so good. Really warm inside. At peace. Happy. She also talked about how church changes her entire week when she goes. We explained to her that she was experiencing the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We said, "Congratulations, DJ. You are living the Doctrine of Christ. You are doing great. Keep it up!" She started crying because she didn't think she was measuring up. She didn't think she knew the gospel. She especially didn't think she was living it. She was just doing her best. But at that moment she finally understood the gospel principles and she cried with joy. The Spirit was felt in rich abundance and her sister Julie was beaming. It was a wonderful lesson. DJ said the closing prayer. We had brownies after the prayer. It was a good way to end the night.

THURSDAY: We met up with the sisters and updated the digital area book in preparation for the Lost Sheep Committee Meeting that Brother Philips was having that Saturday. We got a lot done. Things are moving in the right direction in Washington Ward! They're getting really focused on reactivation and retention.

We went and visited Mr. McKnight after that. Our lesson went so well. Mostly, we just listened. He has discovered that the church is true. He is just nervous because he's not sure if he has enough faith at 81 years old to change religions after being a baptist his whole life. He read half of the Book of Mormon in a week and a half. He's in Alma. He told us he is waiting on a confirmation from God to start attending our church, but he firmly believed he would do so in the near future. He taught most of the lesson. It was a great discussion. In the end he said, "At the very least, boys, you have gotten me to start thinking critically again. I think very deeply about things now. And I've missed that. The Mormons have a depth of intelligent thinking that is clearly lacking in most other faiths. That is something that I am very attracted to with all this. I look at you boys like my sons. Thank you for changing my life." We prayed, and before we left he hugged us. I love him!

We drove to David's and had an awesome lesson with him. He had gotten Anti'd that week. He was trying to find and instead he got hooked up with a billion anti-mormon videos. I asked him if he had any questions. He said, "No. Those arguments really disturbed me. But that's the thing - they disturbed me. They gave me zero answers, zero peace, zero alternative. Just a lot of anger and doubt and questions. The Book of Mormon, however, has changed my life. I'm sticking with the Book of Mormon." WHAT FAITH! DAVID IS SO COOL! We talked about the 5 principles of the gospel and taught him how to remember them with his fingers. I traced my hand on a piece of paper and he wrote them out on each finger. Then he pinned it to the fridge. haha. It was great to have dinner and a lesson with him.

FRIDAY: Weekly planning! It was crazy because it was my last weekly planning session, and I was planning for a week that didn't exist for me. I wouldn't be participating in it in any way, shape or form. I was completely out of the picture. I spent the time juggling. I'm getting really good and I'm learning new tricks. Elder Walker planned out a solid week.

After that the Conklins picked us up and drove us to Harriet's house. She had invited two more of her friends over to hear the gospel. We taught the Plan of Salvation. Her friends, Albert and Isabelle, were apprehensive at first. But when we started teaching them about the pre-earth life and how God blesses us according to our faith and obedience, they started crying. They believed it all. We had a beautiful lesson. I said goodbye to Harriet and thanked her for letting me teach her. We took pictures. We invited them to Aja's baptism the next morning and they said they would try to make it, but it was hard for them to travel because of their age. They are all in their 80's. 

The Conklins drove us home afterwards. Sister Conklin got a phone call from Harriet that rocked our world: apparently, after we left, they all got to talking and realized none of them had ever been baptized. So they asked if they could get baptized and what they needed to do! WOW! The power of the Spirit!

When we got home, the Conklins drove away. We went inside to grab a pineapple so we could take it to our dinner appointment at DJ's mom's house. We left the apartment and were stopped by our upstairs neighbor, Jesse. He had a big black eye. I asked him how he was doing, and he said, "Good." I said really? He said, "No, man. I'm just getting home." He started crying. Jesse is just a few years older than us. "I dunno of James told you, but I have a drinking problem. I got another DUI last night and I'm probably going to prison for 6 months. I'm really scared. I was thinking... you missionaries have lived below me for months and months now. You guys are always so positive and I've enjoyed getting to know you all, but you've never taught me. I need God right now. I need to change my life. Could I give you my phone number and we can set up a time for you to come teach me? I would really like that." We exchanged phone numbers. As we were doing so, some guy walked by and noticed the pineapple on the ground. He said, "Hey. Nice Pineapple" and gave me a head nod and a thumbs up. It was pretty darn funny. We all laughed. Jesse explained more of his circumstances and said that if things worked out, he'd be able to meet up with us the next week. We said goodbye and he went inside the apartment.

Walking away, Elder Walker asked, "WHAT IS HAPPENING THIS WEEK?! People are coming out of nowhere and stopping us! This is awesome!" It feels really good when you are doing all you can, you get nowhere, and suddenly God opens the floodgates.

We had dinner with DJ's family. It was great. After dinner we watched a Mormon Message from Elder Holland called "Good Things to Come." DJ loved it.

Brother Anderson came with us to visit Thomesina. The lesson went so well! She really needed it after a rough week. Two days before she was on her way to go teach her first lesson with the sisters when she got a flat tire! She called her husband, but he was working and couldn't come help her. So she set her phone down to try and fix it herself. Lo and behold, a car drives by and runs over her cell phone. So there she is, without a phone and without a car, stranded on the side of the road. She waited for like 2 hours before someone pulled over and offered to help. She felt so bad for missing her lesson with the sisters! We told her it was more than okay. haha. She said the week had just been really rough. I love her willingness to help others. She's so cheerful even when things get bad.

We read Alma 32 about growing and nurturing our faith. She loved it! Her reading skills have improved exponentially since we first started teaching her 3 months ago. Brother Anderson asked her something about the scriptures and she went off on this beautiful explanation about how the scriptures have changed her. "I love the scriptures. When I read them, I cry. I laugh. I feel joy. Mostly, I grow and I feel the Spirit. Because of the Gospel and because of what yinz have taught me, I don't feel alone anymore. I mean, I had my companion - my husband. I had my kids. But I just felt this big loneliness. Now there's someone who always understands me and knows what I'm going through and how to bless me. I feel connected with God again. I'm grateful for what I'm learning. You can't stop watering your tree. You have to keep growing it. You don't know everything, and you can't know things unless you read and pray." 'Nuff said. Thomesina is probably one of the most well-put-together, thoughtful, kindhearted, cheerful, sincere women on the face of this earth. I'M GOING TO MISS HER!

SATURDAY: Aja's baptism! The past elders were teaching Aja, but then she was handed over to the Sisters when the other elders got transferred because she was a single sister. One of the Elders in our district, Elder Colvin, was one of the Elders who started teaching her. He was able to come up and baptize her! So cool! The service went really well. Aja was glowing. Her mom came to the baptism and loved it. She felt very welcomed.

We met with Brother Philips afterwards for a lost sheep meeting. We got the ball rolling and focused on some key people who were willing to come back and who didn't currently have home teachers or weren't being visited. He had been diligently studying the copy of our digital area book that we sent him and had a ton of notes and ideas. It was cool. We talked for about an hour and a half and made plans.

Taco Bell was our next stop. The whole district went out to eat. A woman came up to us as we were eating and told us about how she used to have a mormon friend in South Carolina. She was up in PA visiting her son and wanted to tell us that she loved us and that we were great. That was nice of her. After lunch we took a picture by the giant Washington & Jefferson statue down town. It was fun.

We went and visited Michelle afterwards to make sure she was okay. Brooke was supposed to be there, but she was at home. Michelle wanted to talk to us, so we texted Brooke and asked if we could come over to her place a few minutes later. She agreed. Michelle pretty much poured her soul out to us. You got used to the profanity after a few minutes and learned to look past it. She asked me how old I was and I told her 21. She said, "Okay, just because you're going home from your mission and you're 21 doesn't mean you can drink and do drugs and all that. Look at what it did to me. I wish I could tell the whole world what happened to me. It ruined my life, I lost my kids, I lost my mind, I can't walk. It screwed me up. You do the right thing." It was a touching conversation. We asked if we could get pictures with her and she said yes, only if she got copies. I took a picture with her. We're both smiling. Then Elder Walker said we should take one more just in case. I bent over to get next to Michelle again (she was in her wheel chair on the porch) and she threw her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek! hahahaha! I was so shocked! She laughed and laughed. What a prankster. It was funny. It's a pretty priceless picture.

After we said goodbye, we went and visited Brooke. We sat with her on her porch and started talking. Let me tell you, I've never seen so much opposition working on someone before in my life. The second we started the lesson, her phone started ringing off the hook. Person after person kept calling her. They were all angry, they were yelling at her, they were complaining. The poor girl started to cry. When she'd get off the phone with these people they'd call back a few minutes later. Finally, she said to one of the people, "You know, I can't deal with this right now. I've got Mormons here right now trying to teach my about Jesus. Yes. Mormons. No, I'm not crazy. I believe what they say. Yes, REAL MORMONS. No, they only have one wife. No, I'm not crazy. I'm hanging up now. I need to change my life." Click. She hung up, shut off her phone, and we went on with the lesson. She had questions about everything: the atonement, plan of salvation, restoration, how she could know for herself, etc. Half way through her friend Kenny showed up. He's a stud! He sat in on the lesson and had very sincere questions! He reads the bible every day and has been searching for the truth as well. The lesson went very, very well. Brooke said the closing prayer and invited Elder Walker and "whoever your new partner is" to come over and keep teaching her. It was a great lesson. A very hard lesson because of the initial opposition, but we got past it and the Spirit touched her heart.

We had a lesson with Sister Stroop after that. She finally opened up to us and told us her real concerns and we were able to testify boldly and help her out. It was very good.

We had to run to Wal Mart after that before 9 PM so Elder Walker could buy a thumb drive. He needed to get the digital area book from me so he could keep using it and updating it. Anyway, while there, a man named Chuck stopped me and asked where the nearest Stake Center was. I hooked him up with the Assistants' phone number and the chapel address. Apparently, when he was living near Mt. Shasta in California, he used to run deliveries for the Bishop's Storehouse there and wanted to start getting affiliated with the Church again. He wasn't a member but wanted to start looking into it. He was down in Washington visiting family but lived in Bethel Park. We were in the right place at the right time!

SUNDAY: Church was fantastic! We spoke in church and everyone loved it. I got to confirm Aja. She asked me to do it. I was honored. We were a little bummed because every single one of our appointments fell through and it was the first week in 12 weeks that we didn't have a single person we were teaching come. But, it was father's day. And David and Heather technically did go to church. Just up in the Erie ward. haha. So we were cool with it. We got stood up at 4 o'clock and waited at the church for about 20 minutes. But it was okay. The rest of the day turned out well! We had dinner with the smiths and then had one last visit with Mohi! It was a great last week!

Well, thus ends my mission. The church is true!


June 10, 2013

Hey mom,

So, next Monday will probably be my last email. haha. Mostly I'll just be writing for myself because this is my own public personal journal and I need to get my life recorded somehow. There's just not enough time on a mission to chronicle everything you do, and you do so much. I will be supremely grateful for my emails home years from now when I can look back at all of these faith-filled days and use it to gage my progress and recommit myself to the Lord I love so much.

I'm feeling fine about things. Missionaries keep asking me if I feel weird or sad or anxious. Not really. I know that I've done my best and my offering is acceptable to the Lord. I have understood full well what was required of me, and I know what is required of me in the future, so now it is time to go do that. I will be leaving without the feeling of not fulfilling my calling. I did it. It's just like getting transferred - it'll be overwhelming at first and I won't know what to do, but I'll quickly get the hang of it and it'll work together for my good. I'm optimistic about the future. I'm also realistic though - I have no preconceived notions or hopes about who I am going to marry, I'm not dead-set on a career, I've planned some practical things for me to do when I get home to fill my time while still fully realizing that I'll be part of a family again and will have familial responsibilities (like working in the yard, buying groceries, and driving people around), and I have thankfully received news from friends as of late that has painted a realistic picture of what to expect when I go home. I'm coming home with a blank slate, and I'll rebuild from there. I'm going to be different from what everyone remembers me as - a little more serious, a lot more punctual, and a lot more driven. It'll be fun to see how I react to my old environment as a new me.

I go to the mission home next Tuesday night. I'll spend half of the day there with the Elders that I came out with and then stay the night. My flight is at like 8 in the morning, so I'll leave probably around 6:30 AM. I'm flying to Atlanta and have a half hour layover there, and then I'll be flying directly to Portland. Please be aware that I'm going to have a SERIOUS case of jet-lag when I get back. A sleepless night, plus a 6 hour flight, plus a 3 hour time difference = a very tired Elder Collier.

So, I'm gonna give you a run down of my week for journal purposes. Read it if you have a spare hour and a half!

Monday night: I went and did a baptismal interview at the church for Aja, one of the sisters' investigators. It was amazing! Aja is so cool. As I was talking with her, I asked her what the gospel meant to her. She said, "I'm so grateful that the missionaries have been so patient with me. Before I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon I was an atheist. But instead of just turning their backs on me they answered my questions and I got answers. And I prayed. Now I'm not bitter or angry. I am a happy person, and I have the Book of Mormon and my Savior Jesus Christ to thank for that." WOW! She's so awesome!

We went out to the Bob Evans restaurant for dinner after that and had a fantastic evening with Aja and her 3 year old daughter Adriana. Adriana is the cutest little girl. She ate owl pancakes. She started getting antsy half way through dinner and really enjoyed me pretending that my hand was a person and having it walk all over the table and do push ups and breakdance. Cool story: our waitress used to live in California and was best friends with a woman named Liahona. She moved to PA to take care of her dying mother and said it was such a blessing to see Mormon missionaries in her restaurant. She gravitated to our table all night and in the end asked for our numbers and the address of the chapel. Pretty cool.

TUESDAY: We went and vacuumed the chapel for the Salvation Army. I washed their walls. All of the paintings in their church are done by either Arnold Friberg or Simon Dewey, both Mormon artists. I thought that was funny. Anyways, we went home and had lunch afterwards and then waited for the Conklins to pick us up. They drove us all the way out to Prosperity, a half hour drive, so we could visit an elderly lady named Harriet. She's such a pleasant woman! She is really interested in the church because all of her neighbors, one by one, have joined. They were all good friends and the families just started sharing the gospel with each other. She wasn't very interested until recently  when her twin brother passed away, leaving her completely alone without any family left. She loved the concept of eternal families and temples. She also loves the missionaries. They've done service for her before. We got to share the message of the restoration with her and answer a lot of her questions. She invited us over for the next week and said she was going to invite her neighbors over so they could hear the lessons too. It was a great experience.

When we finally made it back home, we had dinner and then went to the addiction recovery program. They went over the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, which is this:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

That struck me. After a rough previous week, I was feeling pretty glum. A lot was on my mind and on my plate and I was feeling overwhelmed. So during the class I made a list for myself. It looked like this:

What I can do: Invite people to repent and hear the gospel.
What I can't do: Force them to do it.

What I can do: Improve myself so I am ready to be a good husband and father.
What I can't do: Date, get married, find a wife, or in any other way act upon all the things I've been stressing about.

What I can do: Work really hard.
What I can't do: Not feel tired all the time.

What I can do: Go to my appointments, complete my goals, go tracting.
What I can't do: Make time go faster.

I read them to Elder Walker during the drive home and he laughed. He got a kick out of that.

That night we went and visited Mohi with the Sisters. He had requested that we come by. He had to go to the hospital for a week or so, and we didn't know where he was so we couldn't get in contact with him. We left him a message and he called us back once he got home, saying: "My Mormon! My Saint! I request that you come and visit with me! I have missed your presence. Please bring your beloved sainthood into my home!" So we set up a time to see him. The sisters heard we were going and wanted to come with us because they love him so much.

He was really excited that women were coming to visit. He looked like a champion, wheeling around the room and showing them his artwork and all the books he's written. He asked me to "fetch them some icy cream." So I did. We all had peach cobbler "icy" cream which was delicious. At the end of the visit, Mohi turned to the sisters and said, "Are any of you looking for marriage? These fine elders are smart, skillful, and hardworking. Not to mention they are quite handsome! Stick around. Or, if you are leaving, enter into correspondence with them. They would make good husbands. I would recommend them to anybody. Elder Collier. You are quite the communicator. And you have such a good sense of humor! Bless you and your ideals, my dear, and remember the adjectives I have told you. They will help you to lead others to sainthood. You will be a good leader. World power, my dear. Elder Walker! You are three S's... Sober... Sincere... and - uh..... uh.... oh dear.... I have forgotten.... it is another adjective that begins with S. Sober, sincere..... and..... SERIOUS! Serious. You are quite serious. Bless you my boy. I love you." Then he gave us all hugs. I love him so much.

WEDNESDAY: Had an exchange with Waynesburg. We met at our apartment, then ate subway, and then split up. I went to Waynesburg with Cooper. Corrington and Colvin went to Washington with Walker. Waynesburg has been struggling. The area is full of small towns that have had the same families living in them for hundreds of years and most people are bitter anti-mormons. Quite sad. So Elder Cooper didn't have a whole lot of expectations for the exchange. The hardship has been taxing their companionship and the last few weeks Elder Colvin had given up on tracting and Elder Cooper was having to push everyone to work. I went on exchange with him and said, "So, what're the plans for today?" He said, "Tracting. Just like every day." I said, "Okay. Perfect. I wanted to work hard today so I don't die and lose my momentum. Let's go have some miracles." He said, "Sure we will. Sure..." haha. He wasn't very optimistic.

But we did. We found a ton of people who were interested, including one guy (I can't remember his name) who straight up asked us to come back and teach us more about the Book of Mormon. They went back yesterday and it went stellar. Later, we were able to go give a lady a blessing because Elder Cooper felt like we should stop by. She had been praying for God to send her someone to help her. She couldn't get out of bed and it was hard for her to take care of her kids. Her kids have cool names. I liked her daughters' names: Celestiana and Justice. Pretty cool. haha!

We met with this guy named Jeff that afternoon. They met him the week before and he asked them to come back. He pretty much just ranted for an hour about how he had finally determined that no churches held any authority, that there had been an apostasy, that God needed to do something about it, that he needed to ask him personally and be able to get an answer by the power of god, pastors shouldn't be paid, etc etc etc. At the end we gave him a 5 minute rundown of the restoration and told him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and get an answer. He was dumbfounded. He agreed to do so. It was pretty cool. I like that guy! He's a thinker and a genius. He just needs to not talk for an hour straight. =D

That evening we ate with the Butcher family and the Williams. It was fun because the Butchers are Bro. Williams' in laws and they were visiting. The williams are in the Washington ward and fed us the week before, so it was the second time I'd eaten with them. Brother Williams and I had a good talk. I'm thinking about getting a job with Consol energy next summer and coming out here to work in the drilling industry as an intern for the summer. I can make 30,000 dollars in 3 months. That would get life off to a great start. He said he'd hook me up with a job. I gotta pray about that one.

Then we went out walking in the woods and tracted Greene Township. All 6 houses. We found a lady named Sherry. She just recently divorced and developed a seizure disorder which put her out of work. She was very lonely and had a lot of questions of the soul. What was the purpose of life? Why did this happen to me? And, most importantly, how do I fix it? We talked with her and she was willing to come sit on the porch swing with us and hear us teach her the Gospel - the 5 principles of happy living. She loved it and asked us to come back! We prayed with her and the Spirit was felt abundantly. As we walked away Elder Cooper said, "You have no idea how amazing that was. I haven't had that happen to me in 3 months." It was exciting.

THURSDAY: We met back up. The other Elders met us in Waynesburg. We drove home which took like 45 minutes. Then we went and had a great lesson with Isaiah about the afterlife. We explained more fully the 3 degrees of glory. He was amazed and he loved it. He's doing so well. Two of his buddies, DJ and Billy, asked us to come back that afternoon to teach them. 

We visited Thomasina and had a great lesson about the 10 Commandments. She hasn't smoked for a whole week! We're proud of her. =)

We went back to visit Billy and DJ after that. We got things off to a good start by talking to them about our love for Zelda. Billy has the Owl and the Triforce tattoo'd on his neck. haha. They're huge fans too. Anyway, they had overheard our lesson with Isaiah and wanted to have the same lesson. They had so many questions! They were all good. DJ surprised me. He said, "Ya know, I believe that God is the God of many worlds. He has children just like us everywhere. And I'd like to think that after this life, if we're good, we can help him in the work of creation." BOOM. Needless to say, he loved the plan of salvation. After we taught them, I turned to Billy and asked, "Crazy, huh?" He smiled and nodded. Then I said, "But you like it, huh?" He smiled and nodded and said, "Oh yeah. Awesome." It was cool.

Then Lisa and George had us over for dinner. We love their family. She probably will never join the church, but she loves the blessings she gets from feeding us. She tells us so every time we come over. She calls us and asks to feed us. It's pretty funny. Her grandson told us that when he grows up he wants to be an Elder. Pretty cute.

After that we visited Danielle, a returning member of the ward. She's our age. I was talking to her last Sunday and she said she wants to learn church doctrine more. She doesn't know anything because she'd been away for so long but she wants to become converted so she can raise her son in the gospel. So we went over and shared a lesson with her, her mom, and her sister (both of whom are way active). It was great. We answered a lot of her questions about the plan of salvation.

Then David had us over. We had a great lesson about reading the scriptures. He had questions about prophets, ancient and modern, and wanted brief biographies of each. It was fun. Then we read 2nd Nephi 31: 20 and he loved it! For the first time a scripture really resonated with him and he understood it. He's been reading every night but the thees and thous and ye's and thus's confuse him. I helped him understand them by putting them in terms he understands.

"Thy favorite Hockey team is the Penguins."
"Thous has watched the Penguins lose in the playoffs."
"Thine Penguin t-shirts are cool."
"Ye are awesome."

He laughed and laughed. He really liked that. He told us about a high school friend inviting him out for coffee. He said, "I'll go with you, but I won't be having any coffee." He's so great.

FRIDAY: Weekly planning. Then Elders Brady and Rasmussen drove to our place and we took off in the van for McKeesport. Then we picked up Elders Macintosh and Sheffer and drove to York, PA. I got to see Elder Mouritsen. I miss that guy! We stayed the night with Elder Lubbers and Elder Rudd. Elder Rudd and I had a fantastic conversation - one of the most important and spiritual of my mission. But a more detailed account of that is in my personal journal.

SATURDAY: Went to the Harrisburg chapel where the whole mission - all 240 of us - was gathered. Elder Bednar, Elder Rasband, Elder Smith, and Elder Hamilton addressed us. It was incredible. The way Elder Bednar teaches is divinely inspired. He gave me some personal instruction about my future career. At the end of the meeting I got to shake his hand. It felt good to be able to look an Apostle in the eye and know that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and I was okay. A more detailed account of this event is in my personal journal.

We had a boss road trip after that. Went to a pizza buffet called infinitos. On the way home I had several requests to hear my epic story about my dating life freshman year of BYU. It has become famous around the mission. When we got back Elder Brady and Elder Rasmussen went with us to go visit Thomasina because she requested that Elder Brady come and visit her. While we were talking, Laura told us that when she grows up she wants to be a sister missionary. How cute is that!?

SUNDAY: Church. It was great. After church Elder Walker and I got into a pretty bad argument. Why? We don't know, other than we were both really tired and grumpy haha. We worked it out and it brought us closer together. It was over in like 20 minutes, which was good. I'm grateful for the gospel, because without its teachings it would be very hard to forgive other people in this life.

After that we got picked up by the sisters and went to Thomasina's BBQ. Loved it. We pushed all the kids on the merry-go round. Laura and Sarah were actually talking with us! Normally they are dead quiet, but this time they were carrying conversations! They finally have gotten used to us. Laura asked me, "So......... what's your favorite food?" I said lasagna. She said, "That's mine too." I asked if she liked it with meat or without meat. She said, "With meat." I said good, because without meat it's not lasagna, it's just noodles and sauce. Then she said, "Mmhm." And ran away. =)

We had a lesson with James at the church. We found him a few weeks back. He's been calling and texting us off and on for answers to scripture questions but he has been too busy to meet with us. He started by telling us about his journey through life and his search for spiritual truth. He has had the Spirit guide him from denomination to denomination, and everywhere he went he found what he needed but couldn't find everything. And the Spirit kept telling him, "no, not this one." He's been baptist, catholic, everything. The whole time he questioned, "What's up with this trinity doctrine? And where are the prophets and apostles." HE LOVED THE MESSAGE OF THE RESTORATION. He met the sisters after his church tour and sister  cohen said that the church wasn't very fancy but it was nice. He said, "The true church isn't the building. It's what's inside." WHAT A BOSS.

It was a great week. Running out of time on this computer. I got in a boxing match with a 7 year old at a dinner appointment and he beat me.

Then we spent the night at Mohis with the sisters and we took pictures with him. I love that man so much. He told me about his "majestic mansion," or the things he loves so much about this life that he hopes will be there in the next. He has a table set up in his home that represents what would be in his majestic mansion. It has his favorite items on it that make him happy: sparkling cider, Chocer chocolate, the book he wrote, a fancy napkin, an American flag, a stack of books on the sciences, and on top of those books a copy of the Book of Mormon. That touched my heart. 

It was a fantastic week! Full of incredible experiences. 

Can't wait to see you guys next week! Wow. Kinda weird saying that.

Soon to be Zach

June 3, 2013

Hey mom!

Alrighty, so this week was okay. Tuesday was pretty much second p-day. After we were done emailing we went out to the Williams' to eat dinner with them and the sisters. At first Brother Williams wasn't home so we, the elders, had to wait outside until he got home from work. He was running way late though It was delicious. I like Brother Williams. He sang in the top choir at BYU-I. They were like the BYU Singers but for Idaho. He's got a great voice. We talked about choir tours and stuff. Their dog is awesome and reminds me of Dakota. He would keep putting his paw out for you to shake and didn't like it if you weren't holding his hand. haha! After dinner we went to the Washington Ward's Addiction Recovery Program. It is really cool to be involved in that. They asked us to start attending and participating so that we'd know how to help investigators and so we'd be able to invite them and get them involved. It was good. Deeply spiritual. Sister Pitzer, one of the facilitators, said this: "The strength that we get from the Lord is the strength of inner peace. That peace allows you to endure trials without having to turn to artificial substances. You won't need anything else, because you are enough for God, and he is enough for you." Great thought. After that it was time to go home and that was our day. 

Wednesday: We woke up and made a cake for Sister Cohen. It was her birthday! We were out of vegetable oil so we had to run to Shop 'n Save (across the street) to buy some. When we came back we realized we had vegetable oil. Oh well! Anyway, we took the cake to district meeting. We had a beautiful district meeting that was definitely inspired. I had planned to teach something else, and I started in and taught the first half, and then half way through someone asked a vital question and the Holy Ghost gave me the words to say. We got into a very deep discussion about the 3 pillars of the Restoration (Christ's Church, the Apostasy, and Restoration), the 3 pillars of the Plan of Salvation (Creation, Fall, Atonement), and the 3 Pillars of the Atonement of Christ (Garden, Cross, and Tomb) and how one's faith cannot be made perfect unless they understand those things fully. Then we finished with the planned material. It was like there was fire in my bones. Because I'm going home, I feel such an earnestness to communicate my knowledge and the desires of my heart to the other missionaries so they can improve and grow. I was very passionate about the subject matter. It went really well and the other missionaries thanked me for it afterwards.

We had cake afterwards. We didn't have enough candles so Sister Cohen's cake only said "Happy Birth." The Day candles were missing. It was funny. We said goodbye to the Waynesburg Elders. Then we drove back to our apartment and we dropped the sisters off. Dan met us an the apartment complex and we drove with him to the Evergreen Personal Care Home where we sang and played hymns for the old people and then had a spiritual thought. We talked about the ways that God shows his love for us. Then we went around and spent time talking with every single one of the residents. Dan really enjoyed it. It was good for him to get out and serve. He just recently got the priesthood and he's been anxious to be out and doing good things. We had a great conversation with him on the ride home about the need for members of the church to set good examples for the world. He's such a strong convert. He's going to do great things for the world and for the church.

After that we had a lesson with Amy and Nathan. Nathan is a sharp kid. He wants to get involved in scouts. He is 12 and he loves the outdoors. We had a lesson on Dispensations and Prophets. Brother Long met us there. He is so awesome. He magnifies his calling like a boss. He's a great ward mission leader.

At 6:30 PM we left for Venetia, PA. It's 30 minutes from our apartment. We were excited because David finally agreed to let us come teach him a lesson without his friend Heather being there! He wants to get baptized and said he wanted to start doing it on his own and for himself. He had us over for dinner. He made us 6 pounds of London Broil Steak. It was delicious. We only ate 3 pounds, and he packed up the other 3 to send home with us. Then he started asking us questions. We had a lesson planned but we never got to it, and we didn't mind. He asked, "So, what exactly do I need to do to be baptized? Do I need to memorize things? Do I need to quit smoking? Is there an interview? What's up?" So we walked him through the whole process. We went through the baptismal interview questions and it was probably the funniest and most touching interview I've ever done. David is the epitome of humility and faith. He really has a desire and he wants to do it for himself. That day he had friends from high school come out of the woodwork and criticize him for meeting with missionaries. He was disappointed by that, but he stood up to them and said, "You don' know what you're talking about. The missionaries are genuine, they are normal 19 year old guys, and they are changing my life and teaching me about Jesus Christ. It is nothing but good. Don't knock what you don't know." Half way through our lesson, his niece and sister in law showed up. They were laughing because they never expected to see mormon missionaries over. He said, "Well, I am serious about it. It's not just a joke." Then he told his niece to take a picture of him with us with her phone and to post it on facebook so that everybody would know. He's such a cool guy. We had a great lesson. At the end of the lesson, David asked me to baptize him. He asked for a blessing and we gave him one, and then he knelt and said the prayer. There are no holier knees than those that belong to him who prays.

Thursday: Thursday was a rough day. I wasn't feeling good. I haven't been sleeping well lately and my allergies have been killing me during the day. So I was feeling especially sour. We had a lesson with Isaiah. We watched Man's Search for Happiness. He liked it. Then we took lunch. I slept. Then we walked to Thomasina's and had a lesson about the Word of Wisdom and receiving a calling in the church. She is so cool! We told her, "God always hears and answers our prayers, but it is normally through another person that he meets our needs. Have you ever had someone come into your life who was an answer to prayer?" She said, "Yes!" We said, "Oh really? Who?!" And she said, "YINZ!" And smiled really big. I LOVE HER!

We spent the rest of the evening looking for lost sheep. 75% of all the people we tried no longer lived there. So now they're REALLY lost. We gotta track them down. It was interesting tracking them down and driving all over town. A car definitely helps speed up the process.

We also got a text message from a girl in the ward. Her mom, sister Schumacher, was in the hospital. So we had the privilege of going and giving her a blessing. She was very happy to see us and we had a good visit. She was discharged the next day.

Friday: We did weekly planning. It was actually a really good planning session. We're meeting most of our goals for the transfer. After that we made cookies for a lady we tracted into weeks before. She said that she wasn't interested, and I said, "Would you be more interested if we made you cookies?" She laughed and said no. We made her cookies anyways. It was nice. Then we visited a ton of people. No one was home. We tracted. Everyone was mean. We practiced our spanish. It was great. Friday pretty much sucked.

Saturday: Saturday was much better. I wasn't feeling good at all, but I hung in there. I slept during lunch, trying to get myself feeling better. Then we went out into the 95 degree heat. We had a short lesson with Darrell. I love that guy. We watched a mormon message about the purpose and content of the book of mormon. As we were leaving, he said, "You guys coming back next week?!" I said yes. He said, "Alright, good!" Then we went and visited the Klenzing family and tracted around in their neighborhood. After that we went and had a great lesson with Isaiah on Ether chapter 12/Faith. Isaiah really liked Ether 12:11. "Wherefore, by faith was the Law of Moses given. But in the gift of His Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled." Isaiah said, "Ya know, it was by the faith of men that Jesus Christ was sent and the plan of Salvation, you know, the plan of God, even took place." Deep thought from Isaiah! I love that guy. We watched him beat his friend Jim in chess. Jim was killing him and it looked like he was going to win, but then Isaiah put him in check mate with two moves and two pieces. It was awesome!

After that we had dinner and then we drove to Bishop Young's home and talked to him about the lesson we'd be sharing with David. Then we went to David's house. Heather was there too. We had a wonderful lesson about the Plan of Salvation. Bishop Young and David have had very similar experiences in their lives. Both lost their fathers. Bishop Young's dad wasn't a member of the church. He lost his dad when he was a few months into his mission. Bishop Young said, "My plan was to go home and to share the gospel with my dad and baptize him. But God's plan was to take him home. I was in an interview with my mission president when he broke the news to me. The first words out of my mouth were: do you think my dad can see me now? My mission president said yes. And within hours, instead of mourning, I was out testifying of the Plan of Salvation and finding people to baptize. Because I knew that every time I bore my testimony, my dad could see that. And I have full faith that he has since accepted the gospel in the Spirit World." David said, "That's where I went wrong. I didn't know the gospel, so instead of turning to Christ I turned to drinking. But now I have hope, and now I'm changing." It was a great lesson. We got half way through the plan of salvation and ended by testifying of the atonement of Christ. David and Heather had made us pies and they sent them with us as we left. Bishop Young told us on the way back to his house that he was very impressed with our teaching ability as missionaries.

Sunday: Church was great! David and Heather and Isaiah came. We had a great lesson in gospel principles on the Spirit World, which David loved. We are meeting with him tonight. After church we went and studied, and then the Prices had us over for dinner. They made pizza on the grill! Best pizza ever! You guys should learn how to make that. Afterwards we went and administered the sacrament to Sister Klenzing. She's in the hospital. We also gave her a blessing. Then we had a lesson with Sister Stroop. She has had some terrible things happen the last few years and has lost faith in god and hasn't been active. We've been working with her. The Spirit was there as we answered her questions and boldly invited her to receive personal revelation like Enos did. "That's the only way you can know, Michelle." So true. You can only come to know God through revelation.

That was my week. Mostly I was just sick or getting rejected. haha! Nothing too special this week but there were miracles along the way. Hopefully my last two weeks are better!


May 28, 2013

Hey Mom,
You were right. It was memorial day so I couldn't email. So I'm sending it off today. Please tell the Litchfords to stick around until I get back! I need to say what's up to my homie, Brotha Litchford! I love that guy. I realized the other day that he taught me the gospel in some form or the other every week since I was 14. He changed my life. What a good guy. It sounds like Jonny is quite the lady killer! Make sure he stays out of trouble! He's gotta serve a mission! I'm sure he will. He's a good boy. I can't wait to meet Jordan. He sounds like such a stud. He will make a fantastic missionary.
Alrighty. What you're about to read is probably one of the best weeks of my mission. Let's go! 

MONDAY: I was stoked. I finally got a haircut. I've been looking like the Shaggy Dog for 6 or 7 weeks now and I got to go to Sports Clips and get a decent haircut. We got a great deal - apparently your first time at that place they give you a shampoo, face massage, and a back massage! It was epic. The girl that cut my hair was my age, and I got to talk to her quite a bit about being a missionary. She said, "You guys are crazy! You haven't watched TV in 2 years?! That's impressive!" We had a really good conversation.

After that we got Rita's with the Sisters. Rita's is that incredible frozen custard and shaved ice place that we went to in Hanover. Elder Brady almost died. He loved it. The sisters did too. I can't believe I went a year and a half of my mission without ever tasting Rita's. I love it.

After that we went and got changed and then headed over to the Burgess family's home. They live WAY at the bottom of the county, so it took us about 45 minutes to get there. We had incredible burgers and had a really good time in their home. Their little boy is so cool. He is 6. I shared the spiritual thought after dinner and I asked a general question: what is agency? He said, "It is the power to make choices that god gave us. Sometimes Satan tells me to do bad things, but the Holy Ghost always tells me to do good things." His mom asked him if he ever listened to Satan. He said, "Well.... sometimes." His mom said, WHAT?! And he laughed and said, "Well it's true! That's why I go to my room sometimes! But then the Holy Ghost tells me to Repent and I listen to him and Jesus Helps me to be a good person." What a deep and well thought out answer from this little boy!
After dinner we got lost in the woods and so we were late getting back to Washington. We were supposed to have a lesson with Isaiah but we didn't show up and we didn't have reception to send him a text or call him to give him a heads up so he got tired of waiting and took off somewhere else. Luckily we were able to get a hold of him that night to apologize. Isaiah is so awesome. He was cool with it. He said, "It's chill ya'll. I was just worried that somethin' happened to ya."
TUESDAY: We worked at the Salvation Army in the morning. Elder Walker can do a perfect Scooby Doo impersonation. He can also do Shaggy. These two little girls were at the Salvation Army playing while their mom was in a meeting. Daisy is 4, Coral is 7. Elder Walker did the Scooby and Shaggy voices for Daisy and she went nuts! She loves Scooby Doo. We were supposed to be sweeping and vacuuming everything, but eventually it just turned into those two girls yelling, "SCOOBY DOO! WHERE ARE YOU?! SCOOBY DOOBY DOO!" And chasing us around. It was a blast.
After that I finished packing up during lunch. Then Elders Parker and McDowell showed up for our exchange. I went with Elder Parker to the Pittsburgh 6th ward. We had a good day of contacting people. One interesting thing about missionary work is we have been given a commandment, whenever a media referral is sent to us, to try the neighbors because God has prepared someone in that area, whether or not it's the person who requested the missionaries. This proves true every time. That's how Nick and Jess were found. Their neighbors requested missionaries and then changed their minds and so Elder Hatch and Elder Christensen tried next door and found Nick.

Anyway, we had a situation happen where the person who ordered us had moved out of the apartment where he was staying with friends. So we tried next door and found this incredible lady. I can't remember her name, but at first she wasn't too fond of us because she thought we were from a different church, but once she found out we were Mormons she opened up and had a lot of questions. She even invited us back! "You boys can come back and we can sit on the porch and chat. You're nice boys and I loved talking to you. It made my day!" It was a good experience.
After that we had a cool experience where Elder Parker told me that we were going to visit a particular family. I did a double take and said "wait, what?!" He said their name again and explained that he had never been able to contact this family before but felt like he should try them today. I told him that I had already been there the year before with Elder Deaton. They hadn't been home, but their son, Staphen, had been. We talked to him for a good half hour. Great kid. He said, "NO WAY!" We went and visited them. Sure enough, for the first time, they were home and Elder Parker and I got to meet the whole family. Staphen remembered me and it was a good connection. The mom wasn't super interested in coming back right away but we explained our purpose and were able to soften her heart. On top of that, Staphen was just graduating from high school and was even more receptive to having us come back. He said he was interested in having more purpose in his life. He also asked if we would help him help his neighbor with her yard. Her husband had just recently died. We agreed and he gave us his phone number. It was fantastic! Walking away, Elder Parker said, "What're the odds that I felt prompted to go try them one more time and you knew them!? And had gotten in with them a year before!? Missionaries haven't seen them in months! And they were home?! Holy cow." It was amazing. It's good to know that God is mindful of me sometimes.
We had dinner with a member named Art. He is in his late 20's and served his mission in Germany. He took us to this delicious Korean place. He's a funny guy. He went to BYU but transferred out 2 years in. He said, "BYU is a great school - for some people. I'm not one of them." It was funny.
Afterwards we went and visited Russ and Lisa. I've been able to see Russ and Lisa at every step of their conversion. I went on exchange with Elder Deaton when he first started teaching Russ and he was trying to quit smoking. Then I went on exchange again when he had a date set for baptism. I came to Pittsburgh a month and a half later and was able to go to his baptism. Then I went on exchange when they were teaching his wife and she was trying to quit smoking. Then I interviewed Lisa for baptism. Then I was at her baptism. Then, a month and a half later, I was able to go visit them. I wish you could see the change in them like I've been able to see it. You feel the spirit in their home. Pictures and statues of Christ and the temple are tastefully placed. It's warm and inviting and clean. Their faces glow. They are happy and they compliment each other instead of being sarcastic. Russ knows a TON about the scriptures now. He was teaching us. He listens to several chapters of the Book of Mormon every day. Their reading skills have improved exponentially. They haven't had problems with smoking at all. They look healthier and have more energy. His health problems have gone away. There's been such a change in them. And that's saying something, since Russ used to be in a Biker Gang and has been smoking since he was a teenager and he's sixty now. You would never be able to guess his past if you were to see him at church. I love them so much. And they remembered me! They were sad when I told them this would be the last time I'd see them for a while. we got pictures. It was an amazing night. Deeply fulfilling.
I had a good talk with Elder Parker that night. He says I'm trunky. I don't think so. I think he's trunky for me.
WEDNESDAY: We drove to Washington in the morning for district meeting. I made Elder Parker stop by Chik-fil-a so I could get one of their cookies and cream milkshakes. They are THE BEST. We had a great district meeting that morning. I taught about "Seeking Learning by Faith." Our exercise was based off of a series of talks by Elder Bednar that Pres. Topham has asked us to study because Elder Bednar is visiting us on June 8th and he asked us to study them as a mission. I wanted to give us an opportunity to seek learning by faith. So I thought, "How can we all learn together? What is something that requires faith to learn and to understand? What do you REALLY need the Spirit in order to read?" BOOM. Isaiah chapters! I chose 2nd Nephi 25: 1-8 and had us analyze that so we would know how to understand Isaiah (because Nephi tells us how). Then I had every missionary look something different up in the bible dictionary or across the standard works. One looked up what a Teil Tree was. Another read about the scattering of Israel. Another read D&C 13 about the restoration of the Priesthood of Aaron. Another looked up Seraphim. Nobody knew why they were looking that up but they were asked to study it deeply, memorize it if they could, and take it to heart because they would need it. That took faith. So they were obedient and did it. Then we all read 2nd Nephi 16 together, which is just Isaiah chapter 4. Everyone read it and then slowly applied what they had studied in order to understand it. It was like puzzle pieces coming together until the big picture was revealed and BOOM! They all started saying, "OHHH! NOW I GET IT!" And they all got really excited and started high fiving because they understood Isaiah for once. Everyone came away deeply fulfilled. I committed them all to study by faith and to do so more regularly.
Afterwards the Lewis family had us over for lunch. They made us a Thanksgiving dinner - in May! Brother Lewis was a missionary here way back when. He baptized his wife. Crazy story. His wife did not like him one bit. She thought he was too pushy as a missionary. As she was getting confirmed after her baptism, she had a vision of her going through the Temple with him and being sealed. It freaked her right out and she called the mission president and asked for him to be transferred. He was. He was confused because he hadn't done anything wrong and didn't know why she freaked out at him. 9 months later they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple and she already knew her way around the temple, even though she'd never been to Utah in her life. Crazy, huh!? It was fun.
The rest of the day was really difficult. Everything fell through. It was super hot. It was one of those days where you walk miles and miles and sweat gallons largely so the Lord can test your faith. I was feeling pretty grumpy. I didn't handle it well. Luckily my companions were studs. Even Steve, the 102 year old man, fell through! We showed up to visit him and he yelled at me specifically and told me to go away because I had moved his chair the last time we were over. I wasn't aware of this. Oh well. I dunno what's up with Old People getting mad at me lately.
We were feeling pretty discouraged during dinner. Not gonna lie, we were all feeling tempted to just call it a night and go to bed early. But we didn't! We went out at 6 PM like we were supposed to. We weren't expecting much. Then on the way we passed two people that we always pass. They've always been friendly and always waved back. We waved at them and smiled. Then after we passed them, Elder Walker froze and said, "We need to go back. No, really. We need to talk to them right now." So we went in faith. He led the way. What a stud! We went and met Frank and Georgianna. We introduced ourselves and Georgianna explained that she had just gotten off the phone finding out that her mother-in-law was in the hospital dying. She had said a prayer that God would send someone to comfort her. Immediately we walked by and waved. She got her hopes up because she used to have missionaries over for lessons. Then we kept walking and we were crushed. Then we turned around and came back and Elder Walker told her that God had told us to turn around and come back and she knew her prayer had been answered. What are the odds!? We have this joke in our companionship where we say, "Good guess, Elder!" When really we know that it wasn't us guessing at all. It was a miracle. haha. Good guess Elder Walker!
We ended up talking to them for about an hour. She is interested in us coming back. Her father, Frank, told us a cool story about a time when he was in dire financial circumstances and he needed to make his house look really nice for really cheap or he'd lose it. So he prayed really hard and that night he had a vision. Jesus Christ came to him and taught him how to make artificial stone. He woke up and went to work and made it - got the plaster and put the stone pieces up over his brick, etc. He invented artificial stone through revelation. He said it was crazy because he did it before it became the thing to do - he'd never seen it before, and neither had his neighbors, and it took him a few months to accomplish. He never marketed the idea because of the special circumstances in which he learned how to do it. Then someone else discovered it independently from him and marketed it and made a killing on the technique. He said he didn't care - god answered his prayer in an incredible way and it not only saved him and his family, but he knew of a certainty that Christ was real. I had just finished reading the story of the Brother of Jared building the barges that morning, so this story was extra poignant. A living witness to events described in the Book of Mormon. pretty cool.

Afterwards we went to Isaiah's house. he let us in. His friends DJ and Emily were there. We had an incredible lesson. DJ had a lot of questions for us. Emily, apparently, was a member but hadn't been active since she was 12. She said, "I told God I was going to take a break for a while. So I decided to start breaking the commandments. Let me tell you. My life sucks and I want to change." Isaiah invited them to sit in on our lesson. They agreed. We talked about the purpose of life, the hope of Jesus Christ's atonement, and taught all of these principles using scriptures from the Book of Mormon. Isaiah testified like a boss! He's not baptized yet, but he was flipping through his bible. At one point he said, "DJ, lemme tell you something Jesus Christ said." Then he read matthew 16:24-25:"24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Then he said, "DJ, I want to change my life. That's why I keep meeting with the Elders. I am not the happiest I can be, but life is getting better. It's always better when I live the commandments. I want you guys to change with me. I can promise you that it'll help." DJ said he wanted to start meeting with us. He said that he had met other Elders before and they had talked with him, but initially he was nervous to open up to us because we were different guys. He said his fear quickly vanished away when we started teaching. "I feel exactly the same. You guys have a feeling about you that is identical to the other guys. That amazes me because you don't know them and you're all different ages and from different parts of the world. There's something to this."
It was an incredible lesson. We all knelt and Isaiah said the closing prayer. He is such a good missionary!
After that we ran into the Smith family on our way home. All 9 of the kids came outside and demanded magic tricks and dance moves. Me, Elder Walker, and Elder Brady all pretended to be robots and had a robot battle. The kids and their parents were dying laughing. All the neighbors also came out and watched and laughed and their kids wanted to play with us. I love having charity in your heart for little children. It softens the hearts of others. Now I understand why Jesus Christ suffered the little children to come unto him and forbade them not. It was a great end to a rough day.
THURSDAY: Thursday was even harder than the day before. It was hotter, more people weren't home, and some people were downright nasty to us. On top of that, I was feeling miserable beforehand without any real cause. I was being a jerk to my companions and I didn't know why and I kept praying and trying to figure out how to snap out of it. We had a decent lesson with Thomasina. We talked about the Tree of Life and Lehi's vision. She loved it, but I struggled in my teaching. We planned things for Laura's baptism. After that we walked home in a thunderstorm.

That night we had a lesson with Sister Neel. She was in a TERRIBLE mood. She had truly had a horrible, no good, very bad day. As we talked to her it clicked that SHE was why I had been having this struggle to be happy all day. I needed to understand what she was going through and how she was feeling inside so I could get to her and we could help each other repent. Nothing tragic had happened in her life - she was just having a bad day and was angry. I asked my companions if I could hijack the lesson and they consented. I then talked to her about Moroni 7 and praying with all the energy of heart for charity. I also shared from 2nd nephi about how we are free to choose liberty and eternal life or choose to be miserable like Satan is miserable. I explained my rough day and my true feelings, and we really connected. Then I asked her if she would cheer up with me. We pinky promised that we'd stop being sour. Then she told my companions: "You're the witnesses! If he breaks his promise, you do me a favor and pick him up and throw him in the crick!" We all laughed. My mood changed dramatically.

After that Taylor, a pre-missionary who is leaving for Brazil this August, came out on a team up with us. We met up with him at Subway. We were supposed to have a lesson with someone but that fell through. They cancelled. Instead he helped us stop by and visit a few other people to set up appointments. Then we got to go visit John and Tiffany. If you remember, John was the guy who breeds pythons. I got to feed a dead rat to a pithon with a pair of pliers! Those things strike fast and then roll and coil right around those things in a matter of seconds. Super cool. John is really receptive to the gospel. We will see where that goes! Taylor really enjoyed coming out with us. He said it was an adventure. He can't wait to serve a mission.
Reflecting that night, I realized that we were having a baptism on Sunday. I connected the dots and realized that every other time, the week before a baptism, I've had a rough week. It was nothing new. It was just Satan pathetically trying to discourage me. Once I remembered that I vowed to have a kick-butt rest of my week.
FRIDAY: We had our weekly planning. Then we went to visit Romain. She was sick and asked us to call her later to set up a time for next week. So instead we went and saw Darrell. He let us in! He said he had time for us to teach him. So we taught him a great first lesson. he had grown up with missionaries in Pittsburgh stopping by his home to help his parents through service and to play with him and his brothers. Then he had friends in Pittsburgh who would have missionaries over all the time. He had never heard anything that we teach! But all the service of those past missionaries led to him having a soft heart and being ready for the gospel. He really liked the message of the restoration. He agreed to read and pray about the book of Mormon. Then he invited us to come back! He's a great guy. He has 4 little boys. They're awesome. They reminded me of my brothers. They were rolling around on their roller blades in the house, getting ready to go outside. I thought of me and Harrison.
We ahd a lesson with Amy that night! We talked about temples and what heaven is like. She loved it. She had a few questions and we were able to answer them. Her son, Nathan, is taking the lessons to be baptized. he met with Walker and Brady while I was on exchange. Things are going well there!
SATURDAY: David and Heather and her daughter Lauren (who is 11) picked us up at 12:00 that morning and drove us to David's place. We helped them prepare hot wings and pasta and Heather put on "The Other Side of Heaven" while we prepped. What a good movie. We technically aren't allowed to watch that, but it was just on in the background. haha! We had an amazing lesson with David. he asked us what he had to do to be baptized. he said he's been trying hard to live the word of wisdom. We haven't even taught him that yet! He said, "Seriously. If I didn't believe this stuff, I wouldn't have been to church 7 times!" We told him that he had to start meeting with us more regularly. He agreed to have us over at least once a week. We told him that he didn't have to feed us every time. He laughed and said okay. David is the man. He said the closing prayer and the Spirit was super strong. He's really making great changes in his life. He also loaded us up with TONS of food. Which was great because we're all out of money and our fridge and cupboards were empty. He sent us home with watermelons, cokes, sausages, and jello, plus the rest of the hot wings. What a man!
That night we walked all the way to the other end of our area to try some people. We had a great lesson with a Sister named Gretchen. She told us of a miraculous dream her son Jetadiah had. He is 6. She said, "Jet, tell the Elders how you stopped having nightmares?" He had been having problems sleeping. He looked at us and said, "I prayed and so Jesus came and held me in his arms." She said he hadn't had nightmares since that happened. Instead he had been having incredible dreams. Out of the mouth of babes, right?
Afterwards Bishop Young picked us up. We went to the church and Thomasina helped Laura try on baptism dresses. Then we went into the empty font and practiced the baptism because she was nervous. We had a little lesson on the covenant of baptism. Laura actually smiled! AND SHE SAID THE CLOSING PRAYER! She never speaks! haha it was weird to actually hear her voice. She's adorable. Then we vacuumed out the baptismal font.
SUNDAY: IT WAS AMAZING! David and Heather came to church. The Sisters spoke on prayer. It was exactly what he needed to hear. Heather needed it too and she cried. The spirit was deeply felt. Isaiah, Thomasina, and Amy were all there. Laura was excited to be baptized. Sarah was there too. After church we had the baptism. It was only the 2nd time I had actually gotten to perform the ordinance on my mission and it was deeply moving for me. The whole ward came to the baptism. So did David and Heather and Lauren. Aja, one of the sisters' investigators who is getting baptized in 2 weeks, also came. So did Laura's dad Michael! He loved it! Elder Walker gave a great talk on the Holy Ghost. Elder Brady said the prayer. David and Heather bought Laura a stuffed animal as a gift for her baptism. The Primary went all out and brought cakes and cookies and stuff. And her primary teacher bought her a quad! I love this ward! Laura was beaming when she came up out of the water. She was so nervous walking into the font. She didn't want to mess up and have to get dunked again! haha! She was so happy and proud of herself. It was awesome.
I'm running out of time on the computer. Long story short: We got a new car. 2013 corolla. So we're not walking anymore! Praise the Lord! haha! I'm such a wimp. It was great to be able to fly down the road instead of walking! After church we went home to drop off our stuff. Then we got a sad call from President Topham. An elder had to go home and so Elder Brady was getting emergency transferred to Wheeling, West Virginia! He took it pretty hard. So did we. Everything was just starting to click with us. It was sad. But we decided to go out and have the best day ever, and we did! We went to a Baptist church and we sang our hearts out. No joke. We were invited by this old lady named Loretta. People loved us there but there were some obvious jabs made at us during the service. No big though. They offered us hot dogs at the end!  Then we went to a bbq/party - Blair invited us. Everyone was drunk except for him. When we pulled in he said, "UH OH! MORMON DRIVIN'!" It was funny. There was a lot of loud, vulgar rap music. We were keeping the Sabbath Day Holy like bosses! haha. Nah, we felt like we suddenly understood more about the Savior. When he went to eat with Publicans and Sinners, he loved them for who they were, but didn't participate in any of their behaviors. Nor did he stay very long. When we felt constrained, we left. But it softened the hearts of Blair's parents and his neighbor. They thought it was cool that we dropped in.
Then we visited Sister Southern in the hospital. Then we had a great lesson with Isaiah and DJ on temples. Then we had a great lesson with Roy McKnight. He's been reading a ton and had a lot of deep doctrinal questions. He's sincerely searching for truth. He's just a HIGHLY intelligent man. He was a psychologist for many years. It was fun talking to him. We wanted to drop in and say goodbye because Elder Brady loved him. He was sad Elder Brady was leaving but was happy we were staying. He said, "You need to answer my questions if I am to make a mental jump between two differing paradigms of belief! I have to be converted logically and spiritually for it to work!" I love that guy.
MONDAY: We went to the Ward Picnic. Played incredible amounts of Ultimate Frisbee with the District and with Isaiah! Isaiah dove for a frisbee and skinned his elbows, hands, and knees, on an asphalt hiking trail. He was bleeding a ton and, as he was laying on the ground, he said, "DANG IT! I knew I shouldn't have played with the mormons! Ya'll play rough!" It was funny. We had a great game of softball that afternoon as well. Thomasina and Michael and Laura and Sarah came. It was just a great day. Perfect last day with Elder Brady. The Sisters took us to Ritas. At 5:30 PM Bartlett and Moulton came and picked up Elder Brady, and just as quickly as he came, he was gone. =( The rest of the night was really quiet. Elder Walker and I were sad. But we had some good experiences. One was this: as we were walking to another destination, I felt impressed to knock a door. A lady answered and told us missionaries had been there a few months before and she had accepted a Book of Mormon! She wasn't interested in actively learning but said she enjoyed the book. She was very friendly. Mrs. McCarthey was her name. She said she loved us boys. We talked to her for about 15 minutes. Great lady. As we were walking away Elder Walker said, "Good guess, Elder Collier. Good guess." haha! I love the Spirit. Works every time.
So, crazy week! Lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. I gotta go!
Love you!
Elder Collier

My flight plans came today. I'm flying down to Georgia apparently. Then flying to Portland. This whole coming home thing suddenly got real!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 20, 2013

Hey mom!

It was great to see pictures of Jonny and Jordan at his baptism. I am so proud of the both of them. That's what the gospel is all about! They're a great looking group of kids. I'm so happy for them and can't wait to see them. Kind of crazy that Elder Boswell knows elder Gerratt! Isn't it cool that I'm connected to a missionary that changed your lives back home through one mutual friend? Pretty cool. Also, do you remember Sister Plater? She was reading my mission blog before she came out and you told me to look for her and I picked her group up from the airport? Well, at Zone Training this last Wednesday she said, "Hey, Elder Collier. I got a letter this week from Kennedy Rushing and she says to tell you hi. She and I were great friends at BYU." How nuts is that?! I love being Mormon. Like I told our investigator Isaiah this week: "Being Mormon is like being in the Mafia - only you've got better connections, nicer associates, and you do good things instead of bad things." We all laughed. It was great.

That's also good to hear about Cory. I love that guy. He and i were starting to get pretty close before I left for my mission. We had some good talks about the church. He told me the week before I left that he was going to help "unawkward me" when I got back by locking me in his car and blasting heavy metal music. =D I greatly prefer him coming to my homecoming talk and then getting some food with me after. =) He's a great guy.

Alrighty, well I'm about to tell you about my week. I'll be honest, it's really hard for me every week to type these thigns out. It's like a big brain drain every monday. haha. Only 4 more letters after this one. I can do it! Mind you, if half way through this letter  it looks like this:


I fell asleep on the keyboard and my forehead is pressing the keys.

Here we go!

MONDAY: We went and had a good lesson with Dan at Subway. He's doing okay. It's just a tough change for people who join the church. When you first hear the gospel, it's the greatest thing ever! It's new, it's exciting. But then after baptism you realize that now you've gotta live it. And sometimes that can be difficult. But the good thing is that it's always worth it. Always. We read Elder Bednar's talk with Dan about Testimony and Conversion. He really liked it. We also bought a dozen Subway cookies and ate them. They were tasty. I like Dan. He's doing a good job despite the difficult change. He'll make it.

After that we walked to the hospital to give a man a blessing. It was Brother Hixon. The Waynesburg Elders texted us and asked us to go and visit him since he was from their branch. Let me tell ya: awesome guy. He joined the church in the 60's and has been active ever since. It was cool talking to him and hearing him explain how much the church has grown out here over the last 50 years. He said it is truly miraculous to see. He knew lots of people I knew because he used to be in Uniontown Branch. It was cool to be able to relate to him. We gave him a blessing and then said goodbye. Elder Brady and Elder Walker are getting the hang of the missionary thing. I love it! On our way out, in the hallway, we were stopped by one of the doctors. He said, "Elders, how ya doing?!" We were taken aback. Turns out, he's a member of the bishopric in the Monongahela ward. It was cool to be able to meet him.

We walked home. It was dark. On the way back we saw that Blair's front door was open and he was inside with his family. We waved. He ran outside and said, "Hey! Family! Look! It's my Mormon friends! Get in here guys!" He introduced us to his family. He said, "They didn't believe me that I had Mormon friends! Talk to them. Tell 'em you guys are cool." We had a great interaction with his family. At first they were nervous but then they lightened up. It was funny. Then Blair gave us each Mountain Dews. His mother in law said, "Wow, Blair. You must really like them! You never give out your mountain dew!" It was really cool. He said we were welcome in his home any time. They have a wonderful family.

TUESDAY: Tuesday Morning we walked to the salvation army, where we helped them with their big yard sale fundraiser. Nancy kept digging through the clothes and finding me all these high end, fancy, brand new clothes. She gave me 5 nice, pressed, designer dress shirts. She said, "I know you can't wear them on your mission, but you go home soon! Wear them on dates!" Then she gave me a really nice pair of dress shoes. Then she paid for them. What a wondrous lady! She's a legend. I love Nancy. We helped them clean everything up once the sale was done and put the tables away. It was nice. 

After that we went and bought flowers. There was a lady we tracted into a few weeks back who was pretty antagonistic at first until we found out we were Mormons and not another denomination. Then she was really nice. She just explained she wasn't feeling well. We had a great conversation with her and let her go back to bed. We came back the next week to see if she was feeling better but she wasn't - it was actually more serious than she thought and she had to have surgery! She had actually just gotten back from the hospital. So we've been praying for her all week and we decided to go drop off flowers because mothers' day probably wasn't the best for her this year. We opened the door and gave her the flowers and she cried. She said it was very kind of us. We said you're welcome and told her we hoped she would get feeling well soon. We felt good walking away.

We went and had a lesson with Sister Neel about how to have a happier family and how to invite the Spirit into her home more abundantly. It was pretty good. After that we started walking back home to meet up with the Sisters, but they decided to throw us a bone and come to us, which was nice of them. So they picked us up out in the West End. Sister Romero was driving - she was with Sister Thatcher and Sister Butler for the day. It's funny because there's now enough Sisters for them to go on exchanges! Sister Romero is currently serving in Oakland (Down town Pittsburgh). I was her Zone Leader when I was in Altoona and I've served around her quite a bit. We go home together. So it was fun for her to be on exchange with our gang, which is already really fun. 

We drove out to the Hansen's home for dinner. Thomasina and her two daughters were also invited over for dinner as well as the Philips, who are Sister Hansen's parents. Sister Hansen made us all individual pizzas out of home made dough and allowed us to make our pizzas however we wanted. They were excellent! Thomasina's kids loved it and thought it was fun. The Hansens have 2 little girls as well, and Laura and Sarah made friends. One of the Hansen girls came up to Sarah - who initially was feeling out of place - and said, "Sarah, come swing with me!" Then she just grabbed her hand and took her to the swing set and Sarah was beaming. It was adorable. We had a lesson after dinner on the Savior's visit to the Nephites. We watched the clip from The Testaments where Christ heals Helam. Then we talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon and how the Savior is proud of us when we make good choices. Everyone loved it. It was a really great evening and was very beneficial for Laura, who is getting ready to be baptized.

WEDNESDAY: We woke up and got ready, and then the Sisters came and picked us up and drove us to Pittsburgh. We had Zone Training. President Topham trained us on setting goals and making plans and reaffirmed His vision of the mission: Finding the Way the Lord Wants us to Find, Teaching in the Savior's Way, and Rescuing Souls by Helping Them Endure. It was awesome. Then Elder Parker and Elder McDowell trained us on using our planners more effectively and using time wisely. It was good. I got to see Elder Bartlett. He filled me in on some things that were going on in the 5th ward. Apparently Brother Trout has been active still since I left! I love that man! I sent him a picture of he and I and Elder Bartlett says it's on his fridge. Also, a miracle happened. Brother Trout was really having a hard time paying his tithing. We promised him that if he just did the best he could, and really made the sacrifice and effort, God would bless him. So he'd been doing that. Guess what? Something turned around in his life and through some crazy "coincidental/lucky" events, he is now making much more than he was before. Like, MUCH more. He said, "THE ELDERS WERE RIGHT! I'm paying my tithing forevermore!" I'm so proud of him. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

It was a good meeting, though I was feeling really sick. I had had a headache since Monday night and by Wednesday I was having severe stomach pain as well. Not fun. After the meeting we went to the office and got some materials (book of mormons, bibles, pamphlets, childrens books). Then we made the drive all the way back to washington. We got in around 4:30 PM and that's precisely when Brother Baker picked us up to take us to their place for dinner. They live out in the country. It was a nice drive. We had a pleasant dinner with them.

Afterwards, he dropped us off at 6:30 PM which was precisely when Brother Long picked us up to go to Thomasina's house for a lesson! So we were just hopping from car to car. It was crazy. So we went to Thomasina's and had a lesson with Laura on baptism using her story time version of the standard works. We took stories from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants that all showed baptism and its importance. Then we taught her the process and symbolism and how God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, no matter where you live in the world. She loved it. It was also a good lesson for her Dad, Michael, who isn't a member. He sat in for the first time and loved it. He accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon after the lesson. 

We had an awkward thing happen after the lesson. So, something happened to Thomasina's records. Whether they weren't inputted after her baptism or they were shipped somewhere they weren't supposed to go, we're not sure. All we knew is that we'd been working with the Membership Clerk for 3 months trying to find her membership records and we couldn't find them and Salt Lake couldn't either. But everyone in the ward knew she was a member because they remembered being at her baptism. Anyway, after talking with the Bishop and Pres. Topham, we decided it would be best to invite her to be rebaptized. So we pulled her aside after the lesson and explained the situation and informed her she'd have to get rebaptized. She was REALLY excited! She was so happy and said it was a miracle! She took the news really well. We invited her to be baptized the same day Laura would be baptized. So the situation got cleared up and we headed home.

No joke. Seconds. Seconds after we walked through our apartment door, Brother Altman, the membership clerk, called us and told us they found her records and Salt Lake sent them in. hahaha! Worst. Timing. Ever! So we had to call Thomasina back up and explain. It was pretty embarrassing but she was cool about it and thought it was funny. =D

THURSDAY: I was feeling terrible. Really sick. I went out and worked anyway. Brother Philips picked us up and took us to Romain's house. We had a lesson with her outside on her front porch. The weather was really nice. The lesson went okay. Brother Philips is so awesome. He has such a strong testimony. We just weren't as unified in teaching as we could have been and the lesson was pretty scattered. We don't think Romain really understood it. She wanted to meet with us again though, which is a good sign. Walking away from that lesson we promised to all prepare better next time. We also got called out in the car. Brother Philips said, "Ya know, Elders, just a suggestion because I've seen it work when I was bishop. Always make sure you ask people for referrals after you teach them." OUCH! haha! We had set a goal the last week to be better about that and we'd done nothing. Then Brother Philips, pretty much the coolest guy ever, called us out on it. Boom! God is awesome at holding you accountable, isn't he? =D
After that we walked all the way over to the Old Folks home and played some rousing renditions of hymns for the old people. We spent time with each one individually and got to know them. Mary, Ella, Rita, Kati, Lois, and Thelma. What a crew. =D The workers there are really softening their hearts towards us. Also, there's a less-active member of the ward there and she talked to me for quite a while. She said, just like all the other members of the ward say, that I look like Elder Griffiths. I hope that's a good thing! it sounds like it. He was the Elder that baptized Sister Seibert, this employee at the old folks' home.
We had a good experience with Blair that afternoon. He pulled over as we were walking and said, "Yo! I be pullin' ova fo my Mormons!" He invited us to stop by his house in fifteen minutes. So we did. He's pretty defensive when it comes to talking about religion so mostly we just hung out with him and got to know his wife and his daughter (who is hilarious! she's the most fiery 1st grader I've ever met!). It was cool though because as defensive as he is, he agreed to let us have family prayer with them before we left. They never do that! Baby steps. =) He's such a cool guy.
We went home and took dinner after that. Then we walked to Subway and had a great lesson with Isaiah. Isaiah has been trying so hard to change but he's running into difficulty. He didn't have a very good upbringing and he's trying to change his friends and his job and everything so he can be a better dad for his son. He's such a cool guy. Elder Walker led out in the lesson. He had a great lesson plan. We went through the life of king david and talked about how he took down Goliath and how if you are obedient, God will protect you and remove large obstacles in your life. Isaiah loved it. After Elder Walker finished, I said, "but wait, that's not all!" I then compared Isaiah making it to baptism was like taking goliath down. But after that, his life was just going to get better and better, like David's life did when he became king. Elder Brady nodded in satisfaction. Then Elder Walker, who totally missed the point of me adding that, kept going on with the story: "Yeah, David's life was great as king. Until one night, he went out onto his balcony..." and he started in on the Bathsheba story and the fall of David. Definitely NOT something we wanted to share with Isaiah in a pep talk. haha! Elder Brady shot me a mortified look and I said, "....and he looked at the stars and felt grateful for all God had given him. Great story, huh?" Isaiah said, "yeah! Great story!" It was hilarious. Then we compared heaven and all God will give us to that part in Lion king where Simba is on Pride Rock and is told that all the sun touches was his. Isaiah said, "funny you bring that up. Lion king is MY MOVIE! I LOVE THAT MOVIE!" He rolled up his sleeve and showed us his tattoo on his arm. He has a tattoo of Simba! The little lion drawing Rafiki makes on the tree! haha how funny is that!? It was a great lesson. Isaiah is awesome.
FRIDAY: I felt even worse. We had weekly planning. After we were supposed to go out, but I couldn't do it. I was so nauseous. I slept for 3 hours instead. Straight through. Then the hemmis family had us over for dinner. Then we went and visited Sister Myers' neighbor, Steve, who is 102 years old and has a second wrist bone growing out of his wrist. It was interesting.
SATURDAY: Incredible lesson with Roy McKnight! He loved it and said that once he knows the Book of Mormon is true for sure, he'd get baptized! We taught in perfect unity and it was exciting. He disappeared after the lesson into his back room and came out and gave us each a 70 year old glass chalice that was made by the Washington Glass company which no longer exists. He said, "Here are some heirlooms. It's the least I can do." WHAT A COOL GUY! I love that man.
After that we walked home and Brother Whoolery picked us up. He recently had a stroke and needed help around his yard. We invited Astrop, our Muslim investigator, to come with us to help because he wanted to go do missionary work with us sometime. So he came with us. I worked with Astrop in the front yard. Mostly he bashed the concept of Jesus Christ at me for 2 hours, but we had a really spiritual moment together at the end. He asked me, "How can you believe that?" and I said, "Because sometimes, God tells you things that are true. I can't explain logically why I consider you a friend and why my heart is full of love for you, and why I enjoy our conversations Astrop, but I do. And no matter what, I consider you a friend and I'm grateful for you." I didn't know what to say except, "Thank you. You are my friend too." And then things got better from there on out. Love is the answer!
After that we had dinner. Then we went and visited Mohi. We met his new girlfriend. She has a beard. It was interesting. We helped him out around his place. On the way home for the night we were stopped by a man in our apartment complex. His name was Jay. He said, "You guys live around here?" We said yes. He said, "Awesome. Good to see missionaries." We said thanks and asked if he was a member. He said, "Yep. Born in the covenant. Served a mission in Argentina. I've been battling intense periods of inactivity. Maybe you should text me sometime and try to get me to come to church and in return I'll take you to lunch." It was hilarious. We swapped information and are planning on seeing him sometime this week. He recently moved here from texas to work the oil rigs.
SUNDAY: Church was great! Isaiah came, Thomasina and Laura and Sarah came. It was great. Laura is getting baptized next Sunday and everyone is gearing up for it! really exciting! After church everything fell through, so we went to visit Sister Stroop, a less active member. Ended up helping her Brother In Law move for 2 hours. That was awesome because he has always been pretty antagonistic towards the church, but we helped him move anyway without any payment and without preaching at him like he always assumed we would. It was positive.
The Smiths had us over for dinner that night - us and the sisters. It was delicious. Then we came home and had personal and companionship study.
Great week! Miracles still happen! I'm really tired but I love everything about my life. I'm feeling better - my comps gave me a blessing and I was fine after that. The Priesthood is real!

Love you,