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!


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