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, December 3, 2012

December 3, 2012

Hey mom!

First off, I'm so proud of Jonny and Sammy. It sounds like they have a ton of drive and motivation - a lot more than I had when I was their age. I can barely get myself to work out in the morning, and Jonny's running 5 miles a day! That's ridiculous. Tell him to stop. He's making his big brother look bad. haha! I have improved with my weight lifting though. I can bench 40 pounds more than when I started 3 months ago. I haven't even been trying that hard. I bet if I tried harder I'd be lightyears ahead, but whatever. Jonny and Sammy are like my inspiration. I always think, "Well if they can run a billion miles and pin people, I can do 50 push ups." haha! I love them. Even when they don't know how to put up Christmas lights.

This week was crazy. It was really sad saying goodbye to Elder Gerratt, but we had a good last day. We picked up Elder Rivas and Elder Jones and went to Eat'n Park - a place similar to Denny's or Ihop. It was a lot of fun. I love Elder Jones. He's just a goofball. I found out that he has a sheep farm back home in Cedar city. "I HATE SHEEP!" is what he says all the time. haha. Then we got some really good pictures in front of this sign. It says, "Transfers are easy... one call to us is all it takes!" I've attached the picture. It was in the window of the neighborhood pharmacy. Perfect for me and Elder Gerratt. .....You'll notice he has band-aids on his elbows and rug burns on his head. He wrestled Elder Lovejoy in the primary room the P-Day before and incurred some serious damage to his limbs. haha. Still healing! Poor guy.

Right after breakfast we had to drop the elders off and then go pick up the new missionaries. I did just fine driving the trailer to and from the airport. I was proud of myself. I even backed it in to president's driveway! We had a great day. Had a good lesson with the new missionaries and Sis Topham made pulled pork sandwiches. Really good. We didn't get done until about 6 PM. Elder Christensen and Elder Bladh (who were serving in Brookville) came in at 6:30. We took off with them. Elder Christensen used to be an AP here - I took his spot. He was going home on Wednesday so President gave him the permission to come say goodbye to Nick and Jess and Guille and Luis's family and Sue. We met up with all of them respectively. Jose and Esthela freaked out when Elder Christensen walked in. They said, "OH MY GOSH! ELDER CHRISTENSEN'S BACK!" Jose was so proud to tell him that he was a priest now and thanked him for knocking on the door and changing the life of their family. We laughed and all reminisced. It was very nice.

Sue was very emotional when we came and visited her. Elder Gerratt was having everyone bear their testimony and share their experience with meeting with missionaries on his video camera. Sue said some very profound things. I hope I can get a hold of that video from Elder G some day. It was beautiful. She said she has found happiness, and she won't ever go back.

Nick and Jess were a hoot. We sat in the lobby of the chapel and just told stories. It was great. Nick and Jess shared their testimony as well. Nick was having a really rough time - his face was twitching and stuff because he was having a reaction to his medication. It was pretty bad. But he came anyway because he loved Elder Gerratt and Elder Christensen and wanted to say goodbye. That takes a lot of strength and courage. I love Nick and Jess. It was a good night.

Tuesday was absolutely crazy with transfers. I was pretty much in charge of everything. We had a good training in the morning with the new elders. We had an interesting experience pairing up the trainers with the new elders. We assigned Elder Waddoups with Elder Jones because we prayed about it and felt that'd be right. Turns out - they went to high school and graduated together. They were so pumped! We had NO idea. 

Transfer meeting was crazy. Elder Jamieson pretty much freaked out with happiness when he found out he was assigned to go serve with Elder Vaioleti. They've been having a blast together. I asked Elder Vaioleti how he liked serving with Elder Jamieson. True to form, Elder Vaioleti gave a goofball response: "He sucks! He's lazy. He flirts with every young girl he sees. He won't help with updating the area book and hates tracting and street contacting. He doesn't want to do anything I want to do, like go swimming or attend high school parties and go to the movie theatre to watch new movies in HD. We're just sooo different and have nothing in common!" SO FUNNY. I was laughing really hard. I miss them both. They're having a ton of fun serving with each other. And they're tracting and street contacting - not going to high school parties! =D

I had to take the old missionaries back to the mission home. I got nervous and forgot how to back the trailer, so Elder Huber just drove. We went to the office to let them say goodbye and then went to president's home for dinner. After that I had to do the weekly report on my own and I was able to do it! And I didn't stress out! I just buckled down and got it done. I felt like a pro. Elder Bartlett is doing a great job. Week 1 of being an assistant is really tough. It's like getting trained all over again. After we got that done we had a correlation meeting with Brother Hemmert, our Ward Mission Leader and then came home.

We were so exhausted, so we went right to bed. We had to wake up at 5 in the morning the next morning to get to President's home by 6 to take the elders to the airport. I went to bed super nervous that I wouldn't hear the alarm in the morning and would screw everything up. I woke from a dead sleep to a phone call from President Topham. My immediate thought was "OH NO. I SCREWED IT UP!" I leapt out of bed and grabbed the phone and answered it. The alarm hadn't gone off! I said, "Hello?" Then Elder Huber said, "Hey. Sorry to wake you up, but a thought just occurred to us. Sister Franklin's flight is at 6 AM. They've gotta wake up and leave in 3 hours, but the trailer is blocking the drive way and you have the keys to the van." I looked at my watch. It was 1:30 AM. I hadn't screwed it up! haha. So I had to wake up Elder Bartlett and we had to go move the van so president would be able to get his car out of the drive way to take Sister Franklin to the airport for her flight. Elder Huber and Elder Brady had been up late playing ping pong. Good thing, otherwise that would've caused a whole mess of problems. haha.

We did end up waking up on time. I had to take Elder Christensen, Elder Neeley, Elder Huber, Elder Kunes, Elder Brutinel, Elder Brady, and Elder Robbins to the airport. Such a legendary group. It was really tough to say goodbye. Elder Bartlett was trained by Elder Brady and served with Elder Huber as a Zone Leader. Elder Huber was the first missionary I met in the field other than Elder Nilsen and Elder Deaton. Elder Brutinel was my Zone Leader for 4 1/2 months. Elder Neeley was my district leader for 3. Elder Christensen was like my idol. Elder Robbins served with Elder Vaioleti and those two would call me all the time when I was in Uniontown. Elder Kunes would accompany me every time I would sing for zone conference. It was really tough. But we managed.

Then we had studies and lunch and returned the trailer and met with president. We got to go home and get some sleep after that. I had a crazy important dream - just got some advice from the Lord about the type of person I needed to be after the mission. Very special. Right after I woke up we threw our shoes on and went out to work. Right as we knelt down to pray, Nick called us. He said, "Elders, what're you doing right now?" I said we were just about to go tracting. He said, "Can you come over? I have a long story to tell you. I'm done with pills. I'm done with cigarettes. I'm done with everything. It's time for me to change." My eyes got really wide and my heart filled with joy and I said, "OK! BE RIGHT OVER!" So we prayed and drove to Nick's. Turns out, all that week, he'd been having a really rough time. He said he pretty much hit rock bottom. He had an Alma the Younger experience. He said he was sitting in the car and felt completely useless. "It's like I suddenly saw myself for who I was. I didn't want to look at myself in the mirror. I was so disappointed and I felt like I'd been letting everyone down for the last ten years." He was smoking a cigarette and he said he felt God tell him he needed to stop. "Don't do it." Then he'd take a drag. "Don't do it. It's really time to stop." Then he did it again. This happened 3 times. Finally, he said, "Okay, God." Then he looked at his cigarette, rolled down the window, and said, "Screw you, Satan." And he threw it out the window and rolled it up. He's completely changed.

I wish I could describe to you how different Nick has been. He still smokes one a day, but he's almost completely free. He doesn't swear. He's polite. He has a spring in his step. He's still WAY hilarious. He has energy. He's sleeping better. And they got the apartment they'd been praying for! Everything is coming together. Jess said, "In the 10 years we've been together, I've NEVER heard him tell me he was quitting smoking. This is a miracle." I'm so proud of him.

After the lesson with Nick we taught Jamal. He's SO cool. He told us all of his ideas he'd been having: about opposition in all things, the nature of the Godhead, the purpose of life, the eternal nature of the Spirit, eternal duration of elements, progression and experience, pre earth life, EVERYTHING. He laid it on us. So we gave him a brief overview of the Plan of Salvation and he was impressed. He committed to read the Book of Mormon.

Brother Stott had us over for dinner that night. It was good. He's way cool. He builds robots in his house. He's a mechanical engineer and is working on some crazy replicating machinery. He's improving the design of 3d printers. It's way cool.

Elder Jones taught Book of Mormon class that night. He did a good job. We had a lot of people come out to the class.

Thursday we had district meeting. President trained on The Rescue. It's kind of the theme of our mission right now. I'll explain more on what's going on next week. There are BIG things happening in the church. It's going to change the way we do everything. I'm very excited. The Prophet is just that - a prophet. I love that man. He is inspired of Jesus Christ. After the meeting we got free Chipotle because Elder Nelson's mom sent him some sweet gift cards that she got from her company. So he paid for all of us. Way cool.

We did service after that with the dormont elders. I talked to a drunk person. That was cool. I got a hug. Then the Eves had us over for dinner. Then we had a lesson with Nick and Jess at the church and watched some videos about the temple and talked about how to prepare. Nick said some profound things. Elder Bartlett asked, "Why do you think God would need a house on the earth? Why would he set apart holy places?" Nick said, "Well, it's like a battle field. You need a base. You need some place where you can go for safety and plan and communicate effectively. Satan's first tactic is to take out all means of communication. You can communicate with God in the temple." Holy cow.

Friday a ton of stuff came up and we pretty much ended up planning all day - for the upcoming transfer, for our exchanges, answering calls from missionaries, doing some office work, etc. etc. It was nuts. I was literally on the phone for 4 hours. Elder Bartlett and I wanted to kill ourselves. Not really, but it was pretty miserable. Luckily Nick and Jess surprised us with an invite to Chinese food. We got "Super Happy Amazing Wok." It was pretty good. Nick and Jess asked us if they could come teaching with us that night. Nick is quitting smoking, and so he's trying to keep himself as busy as possible. We asked Michelle and Justin if they could come over and they said that was perfect, so we all went over and read the talk, "Desire" by Dallin H Oaks. Michelle loved it. She thought it was fantastic. She perked up in the middle of the lesson and said, "Do you ever have 'aha!' moments where the Holy Ghost just teaches you something and it sticks way down deep in your heart? Yeah. I just had one." She's amazing! Justin was less receptive. He's really been struggling with things. He called me after and was very down on himself and depressed - very unlike him. The last 4 days of the week were pretty dramatic. I didn't sleep hardly at all because I was up at night thinking about Justin. I was worried about him.

Brother Bud, a career serviceman in the army and a member of our ward, came with us to visit Jose and to talk to him about being a member of the church in the military, since Jose is leaving to the Marines in January. It was a great lesson. They mostly just talked the whole time, but we examined the life of captain moroni and assigned him the talk "Dare to Stand Alone" by President Monson. After we left, Jose and Brother Bud kept talking. It was an inspired move.

Saturday Guille, Luis, and Esthela went to the temple. Jess was going to go as well, but her grandpa had a stroke that night. She had promised to take Luis and them to the meeting place for the trip, so she got up at 5 AM anyway and picked them up and dropped them off. She's an inspiration. I don't think I've ever met a more beautiful, helpful, sincere person. Even when she wasn't going to be able to go and just had something bad happen in her family, she still took time to fulfill her duty to serve. God will bless her. Please keep her and her grandpa in your prayers.

We taught the restoration lesson to Jamal that day. After we taught about the death of the apostles he said, "So we're in an apostasy now, huh?" Elder Bartlett said, "Well, not really. That's why we're here..." He said, "WAIT. You mean to tell me the priesthood is back?! And it'll never again be taken from the earth?!" We were like, "WHOA. Easy now. You're teaching the lesson for us again!" Haha. It was a great lesson. Jamal is solid.

Mason had us over after that. Brother Eve came with us. Mason has been reading the Book of Mormon every morning and then exercising right after. He said, "I feel like the Lord wants me to take care of my body, and my spirit. I feel like that's a true principle." Mason is being taught by the Holy Ghost. He has questions for us - deep questions that show that he's applying what he's learning. He's in 1st Nephi 11. We went over Alma 34 - about the atonement, about repentance, about not procrastinating. He was very impressed and enjoyed it. The Eves fed us again after that. They got us Chik-fil-a and we helped brother eve put up the rest of his screening around his porch. We've been helping him with it off and on for the last 3 months. He's trying to get it done before the winter.

I got a text from Justin while we were tracting. He said, "My mom just told me that you remind her of Jesus." SO FUNNY. I said, "But I don't have a beard and I can't swim!" Michelle said, "Jesus didn't swim. He walked on water. You're not exactly like Jesus. You're just like, mini-jesus." It was an endearing sentiment.

Tori and TJ's family had us over for dinner at 6. They made us pizza. Caroline came over again and joined us. She was so happy because she had gone to the temple. She was able to share her light with them. We read scriptures and they committed to all start reading as a family! it was just a great experience. Their dad is such a stud. He lost his first wife and son when he was a lot younger. He was deeply distressed, but then he found the missionaries and joined the church. Even though life hasn't been easy since then, he said, "But look at what I have now. The gospel has given me a family. I have the missionaries and the Book of Mormon to thank for that." I had no idea. Such a powerful example of endurance.

Church was wonderful. We had a beautiful experience in fast and testimony meeting. A lady, who had been pretty antagonistic towards the church for the last 5 or 6 years, stood up in sacrament meeting and bore her testimony about her life journey, her struggles, and ultimately her return. "I'd been searching. There was an emptiness inside of me. I couldn't fill it. No matter where I went or where I turned to, I felt empty inside. So I came back to where I had always felt the Spirit, and where people had loved me even though it was hard to do so. I'm back. If you don't like it, I don't care. Because I'm staying, and I love you." I want to cry just thinking about it. Her son served in the Vegas West Mission. He's married in the temple and has a cute son. He's been praying for his mom for a long time. It was great to see.

Michelle and Justin had us over after church. Someone from church had given them a 12 days of Christmas basket with one gift for each day. They were touched. Michelle made us ice cream floats with sprite and funfetti birthday cake ice cream. Delicious combo. Brother Hoyt, their home teacher, was already over there teaching Justin how to do family history on family search. It was funny because they accidentally added Justin's grandpa as his dad and they couldn't figure out how to undo it. Justin was like, "Great! Now my grandpa is my dad!" It was way funny. We had a lesson on obedience, on prayer, and on scripture study. Michelle asked, "So, what is a testimony? Is it something that I have to write out that's the same every time? Or do I just say it? How do I get one?" We explained it to her and she said, "Oh, that's easy!" We watched some mormon messages and throughout the lesson she'd say, "I know that prayer works. I feel closer to God every time I do it. I know from experience that he's answered me." or "I know the Book of Mormon is true just because of the way I feel when I read it. It happens consistently. Every time. Every time I pick it up I come away more peaceful, more strong, more serene, more happy. I can't describe it. I just know it works." We told her she was sharing her testimony with us. She said "YAY! I have a testimony! That's so exciting!" haha she cracks me up.

We watched that one mormon message about obedience - the one where the kid got stung by that scorpion. That one stood out to Justin. We talked about how obedience is a choice, and I shared an experience when I was 13 where I was riding in the car with you, mom. You looked me in the eye and made me promise to live the law of chastity and live the word of wisdom. You said if I decided then, when the trials came, I would make the right decision. So I promised you, and you were right. The trials did come, and I made the right decision. Obedience is a choice. Elder Bartlett shared John 14:15. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I felt impressed to add, "Note how it doesn't say, 'If you want me to love you, keep my commandments.' He's going to love us regardless, even when we go astray. He'll try to win us back. But if we love him, then we will keep his commandments." That had never hit me that way before then.

Michelle said the closing prayer and she prayed that she "could be a latter day saint, not just a mormon." I'm so impressed with her!

Elder Bartlett and I prepared our training for Zone Leader council after that. Then President and Sister Topham had us, Sue, Nick, Jess, and Elders Jones and Rivas over for dinner and a lesson. It was beautiful. We talked about Luke 15 - the parables Christ gives about serving others and seeking after those who may be lost or distressed. We all committed to find people who were struggling or lost or down and give them service or the gospel if we could. It was great.

Jess sent me this text after the lesson: "So the people in our ward are amazing and I love this church. I don't think we have ever felt more cared for and loved than the past few months. We just got a basket dropped off to us and also got a letter this week from a lady and a child from the church. It's 'super duper!'" Sue said something very similar. They love the Tophams. As do I. They are wonderful people.

Elder Bartlett and I went and visited a guy named Mike after. He got "blowed" up last year. He had just put down an acid based tile remover on the floor of his garage. He opened the doors and windows and was sweeping when suddenly his hot water heater turned on and it caught all the fumes on fire and blew up his house. He got thrown up against the wall and lit on fire. He had to have extensive surgery and has skin grafts on his entire body. He was in the hospital for 7 months. The primary kids came and sang to him and he had priesthood blessings and faithful home teachers. He's been able to come back to church for a while, but he just hasn't. He said he was grateful for everything but just didn't want to come back. He gave a lot of excuses, and talked for a long time about those excuses. Then it was given to us by the Spirit what to say. We said, "Mike, are you afraid of letting down those you love who have given you so much?" He got quiet and he said, "Yes, Elders. That's exactly it. I love everyone there so much. And I know what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm just not doing it. So you two have to be patient with me, ok?" We said okay, and that he had to be patient with us. He said, "I promise I will. I love you guys. Please come back." Mike's a great guy. I have high hopes for him.

I had a great talk with Justin last night. He had a really rough week. But he said that when I said God will love us conditionally, regardless of if we keep the commandments or not, he said it was the first time he'd felt the Spirit all week. He knew it was true, because the whole week he'd been miserable thinking the opposite. He said, "Elder Collier, I'm really glad you're still around. I feel like every time I need answers or insight, I can come to you. I'm going to need you and Elder Bartlett. I've got a lot of work to do to prepare for the Priesthood, but I know I can do it. I think I'm eventually going to move to Utah. If pioneers can walk there, I can fly there!" it was really funny and really touching. Justin's like a brother to me. I love him and his mom with all my heart.

Speaking of Justin's mom, she sent us a text: "Today, I'm choosing to be obedient."
Elder Bartlett said: "Michelle, why are you so cool!"
She said: "'cuz I'm going to be a saint and live in the celestial kingdom. Going for the gold!"

How beautiful is that? I love my life. Well, that was my week. Everything ended well, and big things are coming this week! Zone Leader Council this week, then Zone Conferences all next week, then exchanges week 4, and then I talk to you tuesday of week 5. Time is going to go by very quickly for me. I'll be talking to you guys in no time. We'll have to skype again. I think I'll be able to skype at President's house.

before I go, I have some news. Because they are changing the transfer dates in March to accommodate the influx of new missionaries, my mission has been shortened a week.



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