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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, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012

Hello Mom!
First off, crazy news about Elder Cook! haha! I guess he's back to "Tyson" now. =D We had heard rumors that things were getting pretty serious with him and Rachel, so we figured it was just a matter of time. I'm emailing at President's house right now and he and sister Topham freaked out. They are so excited and happy for him. Make sure he sends them a wedding announcement! They have a binder with sheet protectors in it and they save all of the wedding invites that the returned missionaries send to them. It's pretty cool. Everyone I knew last year is getting married! It's cool, but it kind of sucks at the same time. haha.

This week was good. We are safe and sound. We just got some heavy rain from hurricane sandy. Nothing too serious. We were advised to take it easy Monday night, so we just went to one appointment and then came home and did some paper work. We met with the Miller family. They recently moved in from Provo. Brother Miller is such a stud. He was a middle linebacker for Alabama and joined the church when he moved to Provo for a job. His wife was raised in the church but they stopped going for a time - they just got out of the habit. Their daughter, Tori, is 12 and she and her dad started going back to church faithfully before they moved out here because he got a better job. The day they moved in to their new house, he lost the job. It was a bad situation for the family but the Lord has blessed them and he got an even better one. But because of their faith, the whole family has come back. They've asked us to teach Tori and their 14 year old son TJ the gospel. Tori really wants to be baptized and she has such a light about her. She's a great little girl. TJ is really shy but he's a cool kid. He reminds me a lot of Sammy. He wrestles and plays football. We had a great time talking with them and teaching the message of the Restoration.

Tuesday was great. We had to prepare our lesson for Zone Leader Council about finding with faith and developing real growth in the church and strengthening stakes. President asked us to listen to 2 talks from this summer's seminar for new mission presidents on the subjects. We studied hard and it was some intense preparation. We then went and visited Guille and Esthela to get them ready for baptism. We had a great lesson on the Power of the Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how each play a part in conversion. Jose was there, too. He's such a cool guy. The Spirit is really working on him and he's making a lot of changes to be more like his mom and sister. We then went to Nick and Jessica's house and read the story of Captain Moroni fighting Zarahemna and his army. Nick loved it because it was action packed. There's so many parallels between how Captain Moroni fights the battle and how we should fight our battles against sin and temptation in our own lives. It was great.

We tracted for hours after that, trying to put emphasis on speaking by the power of the Spirit instead of going through the motions. We had some incredible experiences where people were about to slam the door but didn't. One older man said, "I'm not interested in hearing what you have to say! I'm BUSY!" He got ready to shut the door but his wife said, "Calm down. Go into the other room. I want to hear the boys speak." I guess her niece just joined the church and married a member out in Utah. She flew out for the reception a few weeks ago and it was in the governor's home (FYI, the governor of Utah served in the Pittsburgh 5th ward and baptized a lady here who is still active. Sister Maloney. She spoke last Sunday). She said he was the warmest, friendliest man she'd ever met. She said all the people were wonderful and kind and she felt something on temple square and wanted to learn more about the Mormons. Her prior husband (he passed away and she remarried) had met with missionaries and knew the Book of Mormon was true, but he didn't get baptized at her request. Since he passed away it has been weighing on her mind. "Why had there been such a positive change in his life after meeting with the Elders?" She asked us some questions and got the questions she needed. She then said, "Unfortunately, my current husband is very against the church. But I will study more on my own and call you when I can. I'll be busy for a few weeks since he is having open heart surgery tomorrow, but please come back at a later time." It was a tender moment. She was a beautiful person - she could probably rank as one of the top 10 best grandmas in the world. haha. Such a nice, warm person.

Later on we met an elderly gentleman named Ed. He let us in out of the cold and we talked for about 45 minutes. He is really troubled by the disintegration of the family in society and wanted to know why that was happening and how we could fix it. We taught him the commandments of God and talked to him about his life and his love for his family. He asked us to come back and talk to him again. We gave him our phone number but then he told us to hold still so he could write down our names and spell them properly from looking at our tags. It's not very often somebody cares about your name out here.

We had a cool experience after that. A Jewish family let us in. I love Jews. They are so full of love and tradition and reverence and dedication and commitment and success. They really are the covenant people of the Lord. Our faith really has strong Jewish ties and I love that. They didn't want to talk about religion but they gave us orange juice and let us use their restroom. Their home reminded me a lot of Dan's home and his family. I miss them so much and I can't wait to go and visit them. They're like family to me. Is there any way you can get Dan's address for me? I need to write him a letter and tell him how awesome he is personally.

We picked up Elders Jones and Rivas after that. They are the funniest companionship ever. We are all becoming really close friends. It has been cool having 2 sets of elders in a ward. You work really closely together all the time. We had correlation meeting at Brother Hemmert's house and got the program ready for Guille and Esthela's baptism. Funny story. We pulled the car over to the side of the road to go into his house. I opened the door, put my foot out, and on my first step I walked right into a pile of dog crud. Classic.

Wednesday we had an appointment at 10 AM and were scrambling to find a member to go with us because it was with a single lady, and we can't teach single women alone if there's not another responsible priesthood holder with us. So we got Elder Bowcut, one of the senior missionaries from the office, to go with us. We were rushing to get to the appointment on time.... only to find out we got stood up. Right on. So we tracted in the rain because Elder Bowcut wanted the experience.

After some language study we visited Sister Etzi. She's way cool. We went over Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and discussed how it relates to the principles of Faith, Repentance, making and keeping Covenants, receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. She is starting to gain a more solid foundation of gospel knowledge. That will be helpful for her as a single mom. She is an incredible lady and is doing her best to cope with life and to provide for her and her daughter. I have gained appreciation for the family and for the ward family as well. There is wisdom in God in having a systematized, structured, efficient organization on the earth that provides for the physical and spiritual needs of its members.

Anyway, we went tracting some more. It was a difficult day. But we had the night off at 6 because it's not efficient to be knocking doors on Halloween (you can imagine why.) I really enjoyed the package you sent! Thank you! We went with the Pitt 2nd Elders, Elder Allred and Elder Love Joy, over to the Bowcut's apartment for their Halloween party. We wore the vampire teeth you sent. All the senior couples got a kick out of that. Sister Bowcut made honey butter and scones. They were absolutely fantastic. She is an amazing cook. The Tophams, the Warnocks (the fleet coordinator and mission secretary), the Neals (the Pitt CES institute directors), and the Gherings (the mental health specialists) were all there. It was good to see the Gherings. Brother Ghering recently had a stroke and lost his mother the same week. He has decided to stay out on his mission. What a stud. I admire him so much. He's such a gentle, unassuming guy. After the party we went back to our apartment with the Pitt 2nd Elders and lifted weights and then I wrote some letters. It was a much needed P-Day since we don't get them often.

Thursday morning we had district meeting in the office and President interviewed us. It's funny how interviews with president aren't that big of a deal anymore since I see him all the time! haha my life is a Mission President's interview 24/7. Elder Glover and Elder Reese drove in from Jamestown (a 4.5 hour drive) to help us in our area and so we could train them on finding. They are the Jamestown Zone Leaders. I flew out with Elder Reese. Elder Glover spent the day with me. He's from Kent Washington and had an incredible series of events lead to his reactivation in the singles ward up at Washington State. He'd been inactive for 4 or 5 years. He's 24 and such a stud. We had a great time together. We met at the Greentree chapel and helped Esthela and Guille pick out dresses for their baptism. Luis also came to watch his wife and daughter. He's so excited for them. Then Elder Gerratt taught Luis and Guille a lesson in Spanish while me, Elder Reese, Elder Glover, and Esthela read the story of Nephi on the garden tower prophesying the murder of Zarahemla's chief judge. She thought it was awesome because it was like a murder mystery. We had fun reading it and making it interesting. It's a story that illustrates just how important it is to follow a living prophet.

Elder Glover and I took off together after that and prayed for the ability to see people that we needed to talk to. We tried a potential and they weren't home. As we were walking away, we noticed a guy just barely walking into his house with some groceries. We were both tempted to brush him aside, say he was busy, and move on without talking to him. But we felt strongly impressed to go back. We knocked on his door and he talked to us for about fifteen minutes. His name is Nick, he graduated from West Virginia, and has been seeking for true religion but hasn't come to it yet. He's a salesman and he said he felt for us, going door to door in the cold. It was funny. He was a really cool guy, accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon, and said we could come back in a few weeks. Goes to show that you fail at every opportunity you don't take, and trying greatly increases your chances of success. Also, you should listen to the Lord when he gives you the commandment to talk with everyone.

We went and visited Melissa for a second and she let us come in out of the cold. We set up an appointment for Saturday.

We prayed about where to go next and felt like we should go see Beth and Walter, a couple that had been referred to us by some other missionaries. We drove to their house and saw through the window that they had just started dinner. We felt bad, but we knocked on the door anyway. Beth answered it. We apologized for interrupting dinner but she said it was okay and let us in. We made some small talk and found out they were Christians from Idaho who weren't active in a church but had a ton of member friends. She gave us her phone number and invited us to come back in a few weeks. Their two sons are really cool as well. Great family.

The Furgeson family had us over for dinner. They fed 6 missionaries. Can you believe that?! Me, Elder Gerratt, Elder Reese, Elder Glover, Elder Jones, and Elder Rivas. They also invited the Brother and Sister Mosey over. Quite the feat. We had a fantastic time. Right after dinner, the other 4 missionaries took off and Elder Glover and I stayed to teach a lesson on Preach My Gospel to their son. He's a cool kid. He's a Junior in high school and he's planning on serving a mission right after graduation. He's been asking to be able to get more involved in missionary work and spend more time with us, so we've decided to help him learn how to use Preach My Gospel better. We watched a clip from The District on how people felt as they were taught the gospel. It was powerful. Elder Glover and I taught about how the Savior takes our imperfect selves, much like the loaves and fishes, and uses us to serve thousands. Brother Mosey served in Harrison's mission 2 years before Harrison did so they barely missed each other. But he was there when Preach My Gospel was first implemented and he bore a powerful testimony of the validity and importance of using that book. Everyone testified and taught a principle by the power of the Spirit. There was a lot of love and closeness in the room, and I was grateful for that tender opportunity.

During dinner, Melissa called and said, "Boys, I've been learning so much from you. Remember how I told you last week on Cash Cab they asked what Mormon leader was shot and killed by an angry mob in the 1800's and I answered it right by saying Joseph Smith? Well today, on Jeopardy they had this problem: Gambling is legal in all 50 states except for Hawaii and this state. And I said: Well. It has to be where the Mormons are from since they're so nice and don't gamble. So I said Utah. And I got it right!" I laughed and said, "Melissa, you could be a Jeopardy champion!" And she said, "Or the Boss of the Mormons if they'd let me!" It was hilarious. She said she just wanted to let us know and thank us for stopping by. She's so sweet.

We went and visited Alan and CJ, two young men from the ward. They are Jonny and Sammy's age and I treat them like my little brothers. Their mom isn't a member, but she let us come over and teach them more about Preach My Gospel. We had a similar experience and it was interesting to see how touched their mom was as we talked about developing Christlike attributes and serving our fellowmen.

Elder Harrison, Elder Davidson, Elder Richards, Elder Rasband, Elder Reese, and Elder Glover all stayed the night for Zone Leader Council in the morning. We had a blast. Elder Harrison has been teaching a man and his wife that we found together in Altoona. They are getting baptized next Saturday and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for that knowledge. The Bowcuts made us breakfast in the morning. They feed us every Zone Leader Council. They are such tenderhearted people. Their mission is almost over - they go home in a month and I'm really going to miss them.

Our training went great that day. After the council, Elder Nelson and Elder Gerratt went to Guille's home to interview her and Esthela for baptism. Elder Nelson is our zone leader and he's a Spanish speaking elder as well, so he had to do it. I went with Elder Deaton and we taught their recent convert Russ. He's such a cool guy. He has overcome a ton in his life - smoking, alcoholism, and a ton of other things - to become a member of the church. He started crying at the end of the lesson and he said, "Guys, I'm so thankful for what you do. Now, I'm not afraid to die anymore. I know I'm forgiven, that I have the Holy Spirit with me, that Jesus loves me, and I'm on the good path. I notice that there's a lot of things I ain't done right as a father, and things I needa fix in my family. But I hope it'll all be made right. I know it will if I'm an example." It's so good to see that kind of conversion in people. The gospel is the most powerful motivating force on the face of the earth. Russ lives in McKees Rocks, right on a cliff. Elder Deaton and I got a sweet view of Pittsburgh from the cliff. I was bummed that my camera was out of batteries. If I could've taken a picture right there, I would have. It was a beautiful sight. We met up with Elders Gerratt and Nelson after that and switched back.

Nick, Jess, and Justin met us, Elders Jones and Rivas, and the Tophams to Pizza Hut for dinner. We all ordered, and it took an hour for half of us to get our food. President Topham paid for all of us, even though he and sister Topham and Elders Jones and Rivas never got their order. Luckily they got a discount for the poor service, but still, it was a big bummer. But we all had a good time.

Justin met with us in the chapel after that. He's been having a rough week. A lot of temptation, a few mistakes, a lot of guilt. It's a natural process and comes to all of us in our journey through life. We just sat in the pews and chatted for about an hour and a half. He had a lot of questions, needed advice, and we all felt that we were supposed to be there at that moment in time. I've had several unique and important experiences and feelings in my life and even on my mission that were brought back to me and explained by direct inspiration during that hour. Elder Gerratt and Justin had the same. We are coming to the conclusion that we were foreordained to find each other and to be friends. Justin said, "This wouldn't have worked had it been any other way. You two are like the perfect fit for me. You understand and get where I'm coming from. It's weird." We all laughed. Justin agreed to meet with the bishop and get on track to get the priesthood and attend the temple in December. That night was a memorable one.

Guille and Esthela's baptism the next morning was the best thing ever. All the youth came to see Esthela be baptized. The service was in Spanish, except for one talk and one prayer by two of the young women. So many people attended, and Jess made this incredible banana pudding and nilla wafer desert for after the baptism! Everyone was freaking out about how good it was and she just slipped quietly into the back ground without taking any credit. She's so awesome. Everyone was guessing and trying to figure out who brought that dessert, and when the young women found out the next day that it was her (since she was carrying the pan), they pointed and yelled, "IT WAS YOU! YOU'RE THE BANANA PUDDING GIRL! WE LOVE YOU!" Jess blushed and they all came up and told her how awesome she was. haha it was really cool.

Anyway, back to the baptism. I can't adequately express my feelings as I stood on one wing of the font and Esthela stood at the other. I can't convey the love that we felt as we watched Elder Gerratt baptize Guille and saw her come up out of the water clean and smiling. Esthela jumped and put her hands over her mouth and laughed and cried. Guille was so bright and happy. Elder Gerratt and Guille stood in the wings as Esthela and I stepped into the water to meet each other. She said, "I'm so nervous!" We laughed. I reminded her to plug her nose and bend her knees and she said okay, and then with priesthood authority I raised my arm to the square and baptized her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. My heart quakes and is full to bursting as I contemplate with gratitude the mercy of God for letting me, one so imperfect, perform a saving ordinance on behalf of one so humble and repentant and full of faith. Esthela was beaming when she came out of the water and her and her mom cried and hugged. Elder Rivas and Elder Jones just nodded at us and smiled, and I met Elder Gerratt in the changing room. We stood there in silence for a moment, and then Elder Gerratt said, "Elder Collier. Hug me. This is the best day of my life." And so we hugged. It was a sacred day.

After the baptism, Jose, Esthela's brother, told us he wanted to start preparing more seriously for his own baptism. We took him on a tour of the church and then he asked us to come over that night for a lesson. We agreed.

After the baptism we found out that Sister Merida had to move back to Guatemala. It was a short notice thing - her mom had a stroke and she had to return to her country. So we got 6 elders together and met up with a high councilman (Bro Connor), Bishop Bushman, and the Sunday School President (Brother Daugherty) to help her pack and get her off to the airport. It was crazy.

After that we met up with Jose and had a lesson on the Ten Commandments, Keeping the Sabbath Holy, and on the Law of Chastity. It was great. He said he would commit to live all those commandments and that all of his questions had been answered. He's so cool. I'm so privileged to know him and his family. They have become dear friends to me and I love them with all my heart. Guille was so happy when we came over. Elder Rivas gave her brand new leather bound scriptures in Spanish. Guille loves them.

The Eves were set to feed us dinner that night but because Halloween got rescheduled (we found out it was because of Hurricane Sandy) they couldn't. So we just stopped by for a little bit and brother Eve showed us the table they had just finished building together. I love the Eves. They're awesome.

We had weekly planning that night. By the time we were done we were so exhausted we almost went right to bed. But Justin called to ask some questions about the scriptures and we talked for a good while. We still ended up going to bed early. I'm glad daylight savings time changed that day. I needed the extra hour of sleep.

The confirmations on Sunday were just beautiful. Guille skipped work so she could be confirmed at the same time as her daughter. Elder Gerratt's spanish was greatly enhanced by the power of the Spirit as he confirmed Guille, and everyone complimented Elder Rivas for doing the confirmation after the meeting. Elder Gerratt said, "I guess I'll take that as a compliment!" haha. His Spanish was so incredible everyone assumed it was the native speaker, Elder Rivas. I confirmed Esthela, and it was a powerful blessing. That family is special. Luis was there, too, and he looked so proud of his wife and daughter.

The testimonies were incredible. Some of them were in Spanish so Guille and Luis could understand. After the meeting, Jess gave Guille and Esthela flowers. The young women came up to me and Elder Gerratt and asked if we could send them extra pictures of the baptism and write our testimonies on these fancy pieces of paper because they were getting everyone to write nice things about Esthela so they could make her a scrap book. The love in this ward is beautiful to see. I am continually impressed by the faith and charity of the saints here in this ward.

Brother Miracle taught a super memorable Elders' Quorum lesson. He said, "Elders, I want you all to learn 4 things to day. 1) Read your Scriptures. 2) Say meaningful prayers. 3) Love your wife. 4) Love your children." He then showed a mormon message or CES talk on each principle, then asked for someone to bear testimony or share an experience, then he expounded the doctrine, and concluded by bearing his own testimony. He is an incredible man. I learned a lot from the lesson. I want to follow his example of service if I am ever called to be an Elders' Quorum president. He gets it, and his quorum is high functioning. There is a spirit of love and unity and strength there that I haven't seen anywhere else, and I wish it was common throughout all the stakes of Zion.

After church we studied Spanish at the Dormont Elders' apartment. Then Elder Gerratt and I got rejected in the cold for 3 hours. But then the Ellsworth family had us over and we had a blast. They have 3 boys, and I taught them what Jonny used to do with his tortillas - how he'd fold them in half and bite patterns out of them like a snowflake. It was really funny, but I don't think the parents were too happy for me teaching their boys that game.... I blame Jonny. haha! Nah, it was fun. The Ellsworths are fantastic people. They are from Arizona. Sister Ellsworth teaches piano and violin lessons in her home and their house and family reminds me a lot of ours.

Brother Miracle had us and Nick and Jess over after that for a lesson on Priesthood Keys and Church Organization. Sister Miracle made us cookies. We had a fun time. Brother Miracle then went with us to Melissa's house for a lesson. She's been having a rough time taking care of her mom. It's tough emotionally and financially. Her mom needs full time care because of her alzheimers. She said, "Boys, I need prayer. Things are not going right in my life." She had recently read Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and she said, "Okay, what's up with this white glowy fruit? I know this is supposed to relate to me somehow, and I feel like the Rod of Iron is important, but I don't quite understand." We were able to explain the symbolism and teach her about relying on the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a powerful meeting. She made us cookies as well. I love Melissa. She is so humble and giving and full of faith. She plays Yahtzee with her mom every night and bathes her and feeds her. More people in the world need to honor their parents like Melissa does. On top of that she grows squash and tomatoes in her back yard and finds time to give them to her neighbors. She's awesome. She said, "I wish you boys could come over more often. I look forward to our visits. I'll have to make more time. Please come back soon." Brother Miracle was really able to relate with her. It was an awesome way to end the week.

I love my life, and I love your lives as well. I'm glad everyone's doing okay. Dad sent me one of his photoshop jobs... the one with Nicolas Cage hiding under Jenni's wedding dress train haha. SO CREEPY. I need to make sure to find a girl who can put up with that! =D

Well, it's November. I'll be hearing your voices in a month or so! Have a great week!


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