Mother!This week kicked my butt. But first, some news! Hurricane Sandy is about to hit us. It shouldn't be too bad. The east side of the mission is going to get hammered though. We might get some flooding. I'll be fine. President has advised us not to go out and work if the winds are super high and it's raining really hard. We've got plenty of water and food. We don't have flashlights though... maybe we should get on that. Also, we just found out that we will be going from 144 missionaries (not counting Senior Couples) to 250 by the end of January. It's going to be awesome. EVERYONE will be training. We're not quite sure how that'll work out.Alright. My week.
Monday evening we went to the Whiting's home for dinner. Elders Jones and Rivas came with us and it was pretty much a party. I love them. They're so fun. The Whitings made us pumpkin pancakes with apple cider syrup and bacon. It was delicious and you need to get the recipe. I'll have Sister Whiting facebook you. We dropped off the elders and did reports the whole rest of the night. We also had to plan out our next day because Elders Mackintosh and Lubbers were coming in for an exchange. I was going with Elder Lubbers, so we had to plan out a full day of work for us and Elder Gerratt had to plan out a full day of work for them. So pretty much our week had 9 days worth of work in it. haha. We were super tired.On Tuesday morning Elder Lubbers and I tracted for 2 hours and got rejected by pretty much everyone. No, I take that back. Absolutely everyone! We met this one guy, Mr. Lee, who said, "Sorry guys. I'm home from work with the stomach flu and I can't talk right now. Gotta go." He looked like he was about to throw up and he shut the door on us. So, drawing on past experiences of my mission where I've gone out of my way to serve people, we decided to serve him. We went to the store and got him saltine crackers, 7up, Tums, Chicken Noodle Soup, and some Motrin. We went back and knocked and he opened the door and said, "You didn't have to do that!" he was angry with us. Then he said, "But OKAY FINE!" and took it and slammed the door. SUPER FUNNY. We came home and had lunch and I got to know Elder Lubbers a lot better. He's way cool. He's a cancer survivor. He had it when he was a kid and has had some pretty serious health problems throughout his life because of the radiation, but he decided to come out anyway. That takes true courage.I was really proud of myself on Tuesday even though I did something really stupid! There was a dog tied up outside of a house we were going to try. It was barking at us pretty heavily. Elder Lubbers said, "Maybe we should try the next one?" But inside I thought, "I need to be an example. HAVE FAITH!" So I had faith. And I stepped on to the property and the dog came at me. But I dug my feet in and lunged at it and held out my Book of Mormon and it stopped about 6 inches from me and didn't know what to do, so it circled back around, growling at me the whole time. I kept staring at it as I made my way to the porch. Every time it came at me I would hold my Book of Mormon out to it and it would get scared and back away. When I turned around to knock on the door, the owner opened the door to see what all the commotion had been about. As soon as I shook her hand the dog stopped freaking out. She said, "Wow... I admire your courage and your dedication. That was really impressive. But I'm not interested." DEFEAT! haha oh well. It was awesome. Elder Lubbers just stayed on the sidewalk. He said, "Elder. That was epic." My heart didn't stop beating for half an hour.We got rejected for two more hours until we had a lesson with Sue. She's doing so well. She's a visiting teacher, she has family history compiled, and she's prepping to go to the temple in December with the youth. They're going to Columbus, Ohio. She's really excited. We taught about temple work and how it related to the plan of salvation. She's such a sweetheart. She had boxes of printer paper left over from when her massage business closed and she said, "I'm not using this so I figured the church could. Could you give it to someone at the mission office?" It was a TON of paper. She is so charitable and kind.We had a lesson with Nick and Jess after. Nick and Jess are doing great. Nick's feeling better. Jess is still happy as ever. They're just vibrant people now, and you get a great feeling when you're with them. We had a lesson on overcoming temptation from the David O. McKay lesson manual and the Gospel Principles Manual, which were based off of Jesus's 40 day fast on the mount of temptation. It was a cool lesson and we all got a lot out of it. After that we met up with Elders Gerratt, Mackintosh, Rivas, and Jones at Primanti Bros and went to dinner with Nick and Jess. It was delicious and we had a good time. Nick wanted me to write a note in his scriptures so he could remember me. As I was writing, the waitress spilled water on me and on the scriptures! luckily we were able to save it and only the first 3 pages got wrinkled. She felt sooo bad! So we all left her generous tips to make her feel better.Elder Lubbers and I delivered cookies to some less actives and shared some spiritual thoughts with them. We visited Mrs. Roeper, the Whiting's neighbor. She is such a sweetheart. Just a wonderful old lady I think she thought we were going to invite her to take the lessons because she immediately said, "Boys it's so great to see you but I'm really busy," and we just said, "That's okay. We just wanted to bring you cookies because we promised we'd make you some when we first met you." She just looked at us and tears welled up in her eyes. She said, "Thank you boys. I just love you people. I had such a great time in church. I felt something. Everybody there is just so giving, and I can't get it out of my mind. Thank you." We told her we loved her and wished her a good day and turned around and left. She shut the door with tears running down her cheeks. It was a great feeling doing that for her. She lives alone and I don't think family comes by much.We also stopped by and saw Brother Datillo because he's awesome. We had an opportunity to talk with his handyman about the gospel. We also talked with Rick Bonner and his friend Ali down the street. Rick has nothing but nice things to say about the church. It was cool until I set my arm in wet paint. Doh!Justin was having a difficult day and so he called us and asked us to come over and give him a blessing and have a lesson with him. We talked about a lot of different things, but mostly the opposition that always comes before making a covenant or taking an important step forward in the gospel. He said he got a break for like a week after his baptism but soon temptations started coming back. We helped him see that he was preparing for the Aaronic Priesthood, and that was another covenant. He said, "Oh. Yeah, Satan doesn't want me to get authority for sure. What a jerk." It was funny. Justin's so awesome.Wednesday we got our oil changed and did some work on our area book. Then we tracted Grant Street and met a cool guy named Michael. Everyone else shut us down. haha. We then went over to the Eve's house and helped Brother Eve hang some screen lining around his porch (which is like Grandma and Grandpa Doty's) so that leaves and bugs wouldn't get in there. They fed us dinner. Sister Eve said she looked me up on itunes and liked my music! That's cool that I don't suck. That's always good news.Elder Deaton and Elder Nelson taught the Book of Mormon class that night. Lots of people came. Justin and Jess and Sister Carter and Bill, a man that referred himself on mormon.org to the other elders. He's so excited. He lets everyone know that he's getting baptized November 14th! He's way cool. He's got 2 kids who have graduated college and he's a retired marine. Such an insightful man. He knew members of the church growing up and in the military, and was always really impressed. So he decided to become a member. Example goes a long way. It was a good class. Bill made some really insightful comments about Alma 32. Elder Deaton and Elder Nelson had 3 of their recent converts there as well.
Wednesday night Elders Bartlett and Curl came over for another exchange. Even though it was tough planning so much, it was nice having people come work our area instead of us leaving our area empty for a change. haha. Elder Harrison trained Elder Curl. Elder Curl is way cool. He served in England for 3 months but had to come home for medical things and then President Topham asked him personally to come to Pittsburgh. Now he's a zone leader here and he's doing great things. He's really cool. We are very similar and we had a blast all day. We had some really clear promptings during the day. One of which was as we were driving. I felt like I needed to stop the car and try a specific house on this street. Turns out, it was a part member family! The wife said, "Elders, how's it going?" And we were really confused on why she knew us. She said, "Are you here for Everett?" I was like, "Who the heck is Everett?" but I didn't say anything. Then Elder Curl worked his magic and figured out the situation. She's not a member, but her husband's from Arizona. She was very kind and said we could come over the next week. We got her information and then went back to the car. I looked them up in the area book and sure enough, the husband has been trying to come back to church but hadn't been back since February. He just works a lot. It was a strange experience, but I definitely know that we were inspired to go there. We're seeing them this week.
Later, Elder Curl and I were tracting again (it was SUPER hot out. We were sweating a ton. On a street called Diablo Drive. Go figure.) and we finished the street and then moved on to another one. We felt impressed to offer to rake leaves for this lady. Her name was Gokul, and she's from India. She had a lot of questions for us and was really interested in the Book of Mormon. She said, "Does your faith have temples?" We said, "Actually, we do!" And showed her pictures. She was fascinated. She gave us a book to read about Hindus and we gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and she asked us, "Can I give you my phone number? I want you to come back and talk with me and my husband about this book! Where can I attend your services?" It was AWESOME. We hooked her up with all the details.
All of our set plans fell through, so we tracted some more until it was time to go to the church for another lesson with Nick and Jess. We met some neat people as we were out and about. This one guy pulled over on his tractor to talk with us. He was really nice. Also, this other family that had formerly rejected us were out on a walk and the wife said, "Hey boys. Could we give you some water bottles?" It was great. They told us to come back to their home and we got to know them better. Their hearts had softened and while we didn't get to share any of the gospel with them, they said that if we were ever in the area we could stop by and say hello. Their names are Terry and Dan. Great people.At the church, we had an object lesson with Nick and Jess using cups. It's my favorite to teach. It talks about the importance of gospel principles, the role of Jesus Christ, how to receive revelation, and how all of the commandments tie in and the attached blessings. It was great. Plus Jess hooked us up with a ton of bagels and kiwi that she got from work. We had a good time.Elder Gerratt and Elder Bartlett met up with us at the church and then Elder Curl and Elder Bartlett drove home.On Friday we did weekly planning. I wasn't feeling very good but I got over it. We had a lesson with Sister Etzi, a returning sister who was baptized in California in the late 90's. She's really cool. We're going to start reading the Book of Mormon with her to help her gain a depth of knowledge about gospel principles. She wants to get more consistent in her prayers and help her and her daughter have a stronger relationship. "Need help being more consistent in your prayers and strengthening your family? ASK THE MISSIONARIES! They can help you!" haha! I love Elder Nelson.Elder Gerratt had a crazy time tracting for the next 5 hours. We prayed about where we needed to go and decided to return to a street we'd tried a month before. The first door we tried we met Devin. He was a little shy at first (naturally,) but as we let him know who we were and what our purpose was, he said, "Yeah. You can talk to me." We asked if we could share a lesson right there with him on his porch and he said he had a few minutes. He's our age. He said, "You guys won't believe this, but it's true. I've been an atheist for a long time since I had a rough childhood, but over the last few months I've been having some epiphanies and stuff, and I've been talking with my buddy across the street who's been going through a lot in his life, and we've come to find that God does exist. I'm more spiritual than anything right now. I don't believe there's a religion out there that believes what I do, but I was praying last night and I asked God to send me somebody to teach me more about him and if there was a true religion. Then you guys show up. It's weird. So I'm definitely interested." We taught him for about an hour all about the nature of God, the role of the Spirit, the role of Jesus Christ, and the message of the restoration. At the end he said, "This is a lot to take in, but give me two weeks and a copy of that book and you can come back." Of course, we gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. That's what we do. It was a powerful lesson.I've said it before and I'll say it again. Be careful what you pray for. The Mormons might show up to help you.The next 4 hours sucked. People yelled at us, cussed us out, rejected us, and all of our plans fell through. It was nice. The only thing that didn't fall through was our dinner with Brother Caligueri. His daughter died two weeks ago, so we took him out to dinner. We ate at Burger King and had a nice night. I met a guy from Uniontown in line and we had a good talk. It was cool.After dinner we still had an hour of tracting in the dark to do, so we prayed about a street and went there. We met 2 really cool people right in a row that asked us to come back. Then we had a mini-miracle. Our neighbor in our apartment complex across the hall from us just moved out 2 weeks ago. She's an older lady who loved missionaries and we didn't get to say goodbye. Well, apparently she's been living with her older sister until she moved to california. Friday night was her last night in PA. We knocked on her sister's door and her sister said, "Are you the missionaries that live in the apartment complex across from Al's Cafe and have a picture of Jesus on your door?" We were a little creeped out that she knew all about our home, but we said yes. She said, "Hey, Mary. Come here! Your boys are at the door!" It was so funny. Then she came to the door and we got to say goodbye. It was nice.Saturday we helped Brother Soenen move in. He's the stake high councilman over missionary work. It's going to be good having him in our ward. He's a cool guy. Brother Dougherty, a recent convert, had us come over to answer some scriptural questions he had but he figured it out before we got there, so he just talked about his conversion story and how true the church is. It was nice. He's been a member for 9 years and has an incredible story. I'll tell it to you sometime.After that we had a dinner appointment. This lady named Susan talked to us on the street a few weeks ago. We gave her our phone number and she called us. She invited us over for a lesson and for dinner. We were excited. We even bought a cheesecake for the event. Her husband, Tom, was a pastor at another church. We had hopes that it'd be a friendly conversation and an honest lesson, but we knew better. We went in as sincere as could be, regardless. They fixed us a great pot roast. We had great dinner conversation. They were really polite. And then after dinner they said, "Alright. Could you share your message with us? We'd like to hear what you have to say." So we taught the message of the restoration. It went well for the most part up until the end. He asked a few leading questions throughout the lesson but he let us finish. When we did, Tom said, "Hold on, let me go get something." He came back with his bible concordance and with a packet of papers with scriptures on it and some other things and we knew exactly what he was about to do, so we called him on it. He was taken aback. Before he could bash us we bore testimony of the authority we held as servants of Jesus Christ. We declared how we knew the things we did and asked him if he had ever even intended to read the Book of Mormon and act on our message when they invited us over. He told us no. We told him that was dishonest, and even though he had righteous intentions of "saving us," the way he was about to try it was not in accordance with the Holy Spirit and the only way he could know whether or not our message was true or false was to read the Book of Mormon, which he refused to do. He proceeded to try and bash with us.We withstood him politely. He tried to bring up arguments against the church but we would complete the typical anti argument he was about to move on to before he could say it. Then we would answer it with scripture from the bible and pure testimony. He tried to compare the Book of Mormon to the Quran, but he didn't know I had read the Quran extensively. After I explained the Quran, then he admitted he had never read it because it was an "unholy book, too." With that we thanked them for dinner, told them we appreciated what they were trying to do, but that we needed to go. We knelt and said a prayer with them and thanked them. Susan grabbed me by the arm and said, gently, "Even though we don't agree with your doctrine, I want you two to know that you are some of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. I think you're probably saved, but God is the judge. But you boys keep doing what you are doing. Thank you for coming tonight." It was a good ending to a potentially disastrous meeting. We were proud that the spirit hadn't left the entire time, but we were still hurt because we had been dealt with deceitfully. It's no fun when somebody pretends to be nice and secretly hates everything about you and what you believe. Luckily I had some quality experience with that before I came out on my mission. It's tough.
It was a rough night. But Jose had us over and he had read from the Book of Mormon and told us he had learned a lot on his own. "I normally hate reading, but once I started I couldn't put it down." We honestly didn't teach much during his lesson. But we read Alma 32 and the spirit taught him. "I know the seed is good. Now I need to make sure I don't neglect the tree." He said he wanted to be baptized. It was a blessing.
On the car ride home though one of our investigators dropped us and it put a damper on things again. But I can just let you know that I have a strong knowledge of the Holy Ghost as a comforter. I prayed for solace that night before I went to bed, and I felt overwhelming peace, like nothing else mattered. I knew my family loved me, I knew I had done my best, I knew the path I was on was correct, that God loved me, and as I slept I dreamt about all the best things that had ever happened to me in my life. It was a beautiful thing. A direct manifestation of comfort.Sunday was great. We had church, sang in the choir, studied, and then went tracting again, only this time we were let in by some people that you'll be hearing about next week. They're fantastic.We had a great lesson with Guille, Jose, and Estella, getting them ready for Guille and Estella's baptism this Saturday. Bishop Bushman came with us tonight and he was able to speak in Spanish even though he's been home from his mission for 25 years. It was incredible. He hasn't studied in forever. It all just came back to him.
President had us over last night and he filled us in on the happenings of the mission - about how we're getting a TON more missionaries. It was exciting.
This week was rough, but its highlights were great. I'm learning to be patient and what it really means to have charity. I'm also learning that my favorite scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants is "After much tribulation cometh the blessings." Ain't that the truth.
I love the gospel. It's amazing. I hope you guys have a good week. Enjoy the rain. I am! haha!Love,Zach
Some more good news. I found out recently that a guy named Darl who is 23 years old and lives in the Brookville ward is getting baptized in 2 weeks. Why is that significant? Because Elder Vaioleti and I gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon last year and then never heard from him again. Best news of my life.