Monday, December 26, 2016

Weekly Update~ "MVPs of Christmas"

Dear Family and Friends,

Straight up, this Christmas and Christmas Eve were some of the best days on my mission. There are a few select people who helped make it wonderful. This email will be devoted to expressing my gratitude to each of these individuals~

Whiting Family: The Whiting family is a family from our branch. They are from the States, and Juan is serving as the second counselor and has done a wonderful job. He and his wife Jen, just had a baby and they got back from the States this week. They invited the whole zone over for breakfast on Christmas Eve and we enjoyed some killer french toast together.

Cedric: Cedric was baptized last week and confirmed this Sunday. He was taught by Elder Moyes and Elder Phiri and has one of the purest hearts. He is getting over a battle with a few past demons so he told us yesterday that he wasn't planning on leaving the house because he didn't want to be tempted. When we visited yesterday, we brought him a plate of food and he was so grateful and happy. We think he ended up giving some of it to his neighbors because that's the type of person he is. Such a good man.

Other Cedric: This week, we were planning on having Cedric, one of our investigators baptized. He is a referral from Frank, the branch presidents' brother. When we were going over baptism interview questions on Friday, we decided to postpone his baptism until next week. He was so disappointed because he was looking forward to it but he told us that he knows without a doubt that the church is true and that he'd be willing to postpone his baptism even 6 months if he had too. We felt the Spirit so strong with him and when he showed up to church on Sunday. he had a light and it was wonderful to see.

Grace: Sister Grace is one of Elder Grant and my favorite people in the branch. She is wonderful and was nice enough to help me out with some Christmas gifts to my family I was able to send back to the States with someone earlier this month. Her contributions to our Christmas joy were numerous. First, she and many other R.S sisters woke up early on Saturday morning to cook for the branch Christmas Party. Her and many other individuals were unable to eat the food they worked tirelessly on but had a great attitude about it. On Christmas, while the rest of her family went to the village, she stayed in Kigali to spend Christmas at the church because it was her first as a member. Afterward, she invited us and a few other extended family members over for lunch.
Youth of the K2 Branch: All of them worked tirelessly to plan the Christmas party and like I said with the R.S. Sisters, many of them were unable to eat as well. However, I was so impressed as many of them stayed to help clean up. Elder Grant and I spent 2 1/2 hours with them cleaning up the church and preparing it for the meetings the next day. Honestly, that experience alone made it so worth being a missionary and being able to serve alongside the youth was better than any party or any morsel of food we ate.
Grace made purses for my sisters, a tie for my dad and a
table runner and pot holders for my mom for Christmas
Cleaning up after the Christmas Party
Branch Christmas Party
Ndarra Family: Ndarra's family was one of the families we decided to visit yesterday. On Sunday morning, our district made 3 loaves of banana bread that we split in half and took to families we visited. We stopped at their home briefly because it was the last visit before we called home, but Vivianne of course had to feed us before we went which we were extremely grateful for despite our full bellies. We decided to have a testimony meeting with them and the Spirit was so strong. Ndarra and Vivianne each bore testimony expressing gratitude for the gospel and for us and I was so moved. Their relationship is one I will cherish for the eternities.

Claudia and Family: A return missionary and her family had us over for a lunch. They made unreal food and we shared many laughs together.

Elder Phiri and Elder Moyes: They are the other two members of our district. They bought Elder Grant and I candy bars and ties and left it outside our door Christmas morning. I can't describe the quality of people these two Elders are. To summarize, I have never learned more from a group of people than my current district. I am truly blessed.

Elder Grant: I can go on and on about him but he is my brother and I am so grateful for him.
RJ and Elder Grant
Elder and Sister Gillette: They had all 14 missionaries over for Christmas dinner and allowed us to use their gadgets and gizmos to call home. They were patient enough to let all the missionaries use their computers before calling their own family. They are such amazing examples of Christians built upon principles Christ taught. Even though we made noise all night, they were so kind to us. Sister Gillette made a killer meal of Chicken Cordon Blu.
Skyping with my Family
My Family: Even though it's been 7 months since I've talked to them last, things haven't changed and they're still the people I love. I love them more than words can express.
Christmas Day Skype

Advent Calendar
Opening some gifts from my Family, New Warriors Shirt!

It's bittersweet this is my last Christmas in Africa but I am so thankful to all those who made it wonderful. Merry Christmas!

Elder Hazen

Monday, December 19, 2016

Weekly Update~ "We All Are Shepards"

Dear Family and Friends,

We continue to see tender mercies here in Rwanda. Aside from the wasted time going back and forth to the Immigration to figure out visas for Elders and Sisters, it was a solid week and the Lord consecrated our time despite the shorter time spent in the area. 
Edith's son, Ally was baptized on Sunday and it was a neat experience. If you remember, he came home from school for a few weeks at the end of September because he was sick with ulcers. The timing at which he came home was interesting because Edith was struggling in keeping commitments before, but when he came home, she had the extra motivation to read the Book of Mormon and a buddy to come to church with. We progressed both of them to baptism in November, but Ally had to go back to school the day before their baptism date. We moved forward with Edith's baptism and told Ally he would be baptized upon his return home. At the end of November, both he and his sister, Honoline, returned from school the same weekend and we began teaching them together hoping to baptize them both on Christmas. However, they told us that they were planning to go to the village so we went forward with Ally's baptism because Honoline wasn't ready. It was cool to observe them together yesterday at church, as they seemed happier than usual and it was the most comfortable I've seen Honoline at church. It was a nice service, the other Elders had a baptism as well, and we got members to perform both. Evangele, our homeboy who helps the missionaries out like every day, performed Ally's baptism which was his first one. He did great and we felt the Spirit.

Sometimes, you get called to Rwanda, and baptize a couple of fiancees, and they invite you to their wedding 6 months in advance, and you say yes even though you know there's no chance you'll stick around for that long, then you do, and they ask you to be one of the best men in the wedding and you dress up in traditional Rwandese wedding attire. Basically the coolest thing I've ever done on my mission. Bosco and Joanna, my recent converts from K1 got married this weekend and they were kind enough to allow Elder Shumway and I participate in the wedding. I was able to ride in the Land Cruiser with Bosco on our way to the branch building from his house, and even though I couldn't understand a word of the ceremony, the joyous atmosphere was satisfying to me and I also downed like 5 bottles of soda throughout the day. I am so excited for them for when the duration of their marriage isn't for only their mortal lives, but for the eternities. 

Yesterday evening, I was able to visit Brother Jackson, one of the members I have a close relationship with here in Rwanda from K1. I haven't seen him in about 6 months so it was a sweet experience. Last year in October, he lost his second born son. As we listened to him explain his experience in the past year, I felt an overwhelming love for him and his family. He then introduced us to his newborn son which I held for a few seconds. His son's name is "consolation from God" in Hebrew and he is a handsome, strong, little guy.

As we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Savior this Sunday, I want us to consider how we are like the shepherds we read about in Luke chapter 2. I was able to write down a few thoughts of my own. The shepherds were simple men who knew one thing all their lives. All they knew were their sheep. But when the angel came to them declaring glad tidings of great joy, they made haste in spreading the joyous news and in following the star to the newborn Savior. It reminds me of myself, an imperfect high-school kid who only knew baseball leaving what I knew and coming and serving the Lord in a foreign land. Even like Peter and Andrew, who straightway left their nets, their lives were never the same as they heeded the call of the Good Shepherd. On my mission I've changed like Peter and Andrew through the power of the Atonement as I've strived to share the glad tidings that we can repent and change and become better as we take up our cross, and follow the path of discipleship. The biggest thing that stood out to me about the shepherds was their immediate and full obedience to the angel's call to action. They didn't say, "wait, let me take our sheep home" or "maybe tomorrow, I'm tired". They immediately obeyed and reaped the blessings. This Christmas season, may we heed to the call of action from the Savior to love our neighbor. Elder Grant always reminds me that nothing good can possibly come from thinking of ourselves. Whenever we are the least happy, it is when we are more focused on ourselves. As we turn outward, and follow the example of the characters of Christ, we can more fully enjoy this Christmas Season. 

I love you all and Merry Christmas.
Elder Hazen

Monday, December 12, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Power To Do The Expedient"

Dear Family and Friends, 

This week, there were many more lessons learned. I feel like I become better at following the Spirit each passing week and in turn, becoming a better missionary.

This weekend on Saturday, President and Sis. Collings came and visited for the Rwanda Zone Christmas party. Before we started our Christmas extravaganza, President began the meeting with some opening remarks. We had a discussion about Moroni 7:20-33 about Faith and our Standards of Excellence and replaced "every good thing" with "standards of excellence" in that sequence of scriptures. Basically, what I learned is that because the Standards of Excellence are good things and they represent living souls, and they were prayerfully put in place, it means that the Lord expects us to find 7 new investigators, have 3 people attend sacrament meeting each week, and teach 4 lessons a day. It also means that he will assist us in doing so and will put people in our path and if we have faith in him, we "shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me". It's a simple principle, but I understood better how these things increase faith and help in missionary work. Yesterday evening, Elder Grant and I found ourselves needing 6 more new investigators to accomplish our weekly goal. After dropping President and Sister Collings off at the airport, we got into our area at about 5:30 and worked diligently the rest of the evening. It was funny because though unlikely, I had a sincere belief that we'd be able to accomplish it because of what I learned from President. Unfortunately, we were only able to teach one man and set a return appointment, but I felt peaceful at the way Elder Grant and I worked and felt that if we approached every time we set aside for finding the way we did, there would be absolutely no problem in the future.

My testimony of the Atonement increased this week as I studied Elder Renlund's talk, "Repentance: A Joyful Choice". I testify that burdens are truly lifted as we make that effort to Repent. It is a choice and is not forced upon us. None of the Gospel is. But I know that the possibility of gaining a remission of sins and having guilt swept away IS the good news of this gospel. I also know that Repentance doesn't come without sacrifice. It's no wonder, because the act of suffering in Gethsemane for the Savior wasn't an easy or comfortable thing for him either. However, I know that token of sacrifice is absolutely, positively worth it. If any of you reading this right now have any sort of reason to repent, please take the opportunity. The Savior is waiting with his arms of mercy stretched out always and will embrace you and will take you as you are and mold you to become a little more like him.

On Thursday, Elder Grant and I were sharing with Sister Grace, one of our recent converts, and the topic of her deceased husband came up. When I got set apart as a full-time missionary, my Stake President told me that I would have Guardian Angels helping me in my missionary work. When Sister Grace began talking about her husband who passed away about 20 years ago, I just felt a distinct prompting that Grandpa Melendez knows Grace's husband in the Spirit World and that Grandpa has been teaching him. It was a tender mercy for me for sure. I have been thinking about him a lot lately and I felt so much gratitude for that thought. I shared it with Sister Grace and her feelings were mutual. I truly know that the veil is thin when it comes to the Lord's work and I feel privileged to be doing the same work my Grandfather is doing on the other side. God's plan is perfect.

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

P.s. For our zone Christmas party, we did a white elephant gift exchange. Melendez family, you'd be pleased to know that a green dress was one of the gifts up for grabs.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weekly Update~ "The Fresh Prince of Rwanda"

Dear Family and Friends,

Today we got transfer news...well, the mission got transfer news...because there are no changes to the Rwanda zone and I couldn't be more excited. I will be spending one more transfer in the promised land with Elder Grant.
I don't have a whole lot of time this week, I love you all, enjoy Elder Grant's email that he sent home this week to hear about whats been going on with us. 

Elder Hazen

President Collings (our mission President) has taught us so much about how to follow the promptings of the spirit and how to understand and apply Grace! i know that this principle is so True. Grace Truly is receiving divine help after all that you can do! we have had many examples of this throughout this week. i know that is how miracles happen. as we are faithful and do our very best even until the last moments, that is when we receive divine help.  

First example: we were driving home Friday night and we were a few minutes early and it could have been so easy to just go home a few minutes early to prepare for the phone call and reports that the Assistant do every Friday night. but we decided just do some street contacting. we just pulled over to the side of the road. it was like 8:45 at this time and we just got out and within a few minutes this man cam up to us and asked us in French, how are you? we told him that we don't know french. (lots of people here speak french) but then he started to speak English, and he spoke really well almost like someone who had lived in the U.S. which was very surprising that he spoke such good English. we introduced ourselves and the Book of Mormon. he took the book and asked where he could get a copy for himself. we told him we could come and visit him and bring him a copy and we set up an appointment for next Tuesday morning. then we told him he had seen the Church before and had been very curious! This is such a great miracle because we are searching for future leaders of the church. it is a blessing to find those who are educated and not prideful! it only came at the last moment on Friday night! 

This one did not happen to me directly but happened in the zone. the Elder's in k3, told called us on Friday night after we were home and told us that one of their investigators that was almost going to be baptized last month, then suddenly rejected, came to church the previous Sunday and desired to be baptized. we were able to go and do the interview the next day and all was great. Sunday morning just before church started, we were caled by them and they didn't have any water for the baptism. so during third hour we picked them up in the truck with some members and brought them to our branch and there was a powerful baptism service. three people were baptized.  

so the last tender mercy we have seen was Elder Hazen and I had. so i think like 2 weeks ago we finished a lesson, walked out the gate and then started talking to this man. he was just going for exercise, which is very uncommon, here, meaning he was just going for a walk. he gave us his number and wanted us to call him in like a week and a half and he said he would be back in Kigali. so we called him and he met us at the church. we taught him the Restoration and he accepted a baptism date. he told us to come and teach his family. so on Saturday night we went to his home and visited. he has a wonderful family of six children. the youngest is like 4 and the oldest like 18 or so 5 of them are over 8. so we taught them and it went great. the next day he came to church with his wife and his oldest daughter, in their car! which is incredible. he is a self employed civil engineer. and is one of the most humble people i have ever met in my life!!! when we first walked in his home the spirit was so strong and there was just peace there. His Children are well behaved and smart! Incredible family and definitely a tender mercies because they can be baptized before the end of the year. 

There are so many powerful miracles that we have seen this week and every week. i know that by small simple things the lord brings to pass great miracles! i know that as we Prove to God that we are Faithful in the opportunities that we are given we will give us More!!! i know that there is no greater satisfaction or Joy that you can feel than Helping God fulfill his purpose in Moses 1:39 For Behold this is my work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.     if anything is distracting us from this purpose, as my mission president says. we just need to simply Repent and Change! I know that our Savior lives and loves each one of us and that we can do even more to remember him and the covenants that we have made with him this Christmas season. have a great week!!! 

On another note~
Happy Birthday Grandma I love you so much! I miss you tons and think about you all the time! I can't wait to see you in 8 short months! Thanks for being such a wonderful mother and grandmother. I am eternally grateful for you!
Elder Hazen

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Surprise Email From Elder Hamilton

Dear Hazen and Grant families,

I had the privilege of being with your sons today in a zone conference in Kigali Rwanda. They are very fine young missionaries and you should be very proud of them. They are healthy and happy and taking part in a great work in Rwanda. Thank you for raising such exemplary sons.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton

Monday, November 28, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Help Thou Mine Unbelief"

Dear Family and Friends,

I'd like to start off my quoting a poem by Meade goes as follows:

“Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then he pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.”
And the word he spoke, it was not stern; …
“Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.

This week, Elder Grant and I were jacked up on a spiritual high after participating in Mission Leader Conference on Wednesday, and the Zone Conference with Elder Hamilton on Saturday. However, before then, we needed to do a bit of repenting. Going into the beginning of the week, Elder Grant and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves and about the success we've been having. We may have even crossed the line to being a bit prideful. On Tuesday, in the afternoon, maybe out of a spiritual prompting, we received a random call from one of the AP's, Elder Manquele. On the phone, he asked me to take a guess on how many new investigators we were finding on average a week. In the Uganda Kampala Mission, the standard of excellence for this key indicator is 7, and Elder Grant and I were falling a bit short of that the previous weeks. Elder Manquele asked if we could align our average with the mission standard of excellence and I accepted. To be honest, I don't know why he called, but after I hung up and told Elder Grant, we were both feeling a bit frustrated and dejected. Our thought process was something along the lines of, "Don't they understand what we're doing here? We're doing a great job. Why don't our leaders recognize that?" 

The next day at Mission Leader Conference, the biggest thing I took away from the meeting was that we need to sustain our leaders and the Priesthood keys they have. President Collings talked so much about that and about how we as leaders need to convey the messages we receive from President exactly, "nothing varying" He and the AP's also talked about the importance of constant finding so we as a mission are able to accomplish the goal for baptisms we set together.
We have 495 baptisms for the rest of the year. 495 baptisms in one month. 

However, as President and the Assistants spoke with boldness and confidence, I understood that their words were inspired from God. I understood why they called Elder Grant and I and invited us to repent and improve. I was astonished at their words, and I felt a desire to help the missionaries of our zone catch that same fire. 

Later in the week, Elder Hamilton visited Rwanda Saturday Morning to begin his mission tour. Before the main conference, he pulled all the leaders into a room together and we had a discussion for 45 minutes. The main theme of this discussion was to talk about how leadership in the church is different from leadership in the world and discussed principles of leadership in D&C 121. He talked about how we are no better than anyone else and how leadership in the church isn't a hierarchy. I think because we are young and imperfect, we as missionaries get caught in the trap of aspiring for leadership or recognition. As I was reading from the beginning of the Book of Mosiah, I read about how we are all the same in God's eyes and about how meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Yet, I'm thankful for a God who, even though we are meaningless, is mindful of the one and puts him or her in exactly the right situations that are crucial to their ultimate progression to become like our Father in Heaven. There is one final quote that I loved from Elder Hamilton. He said, "Heavenly Father doesn't have some A-Team waiting in the wings to carry on or finish our work. We aren't the JV team. We are all he has and he's going to work with us to bring about many mighty miracles" I'm extremely humbled at that opportunity.

BTW, Ask me if I was asked to drive Elder and Sister Hamilton to the airport.  Yep, coolest thing ever!

I love you all,
Elder Hazen


Car Trouble