Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Thrust In Your Sickle WHILE the Day Lasts"

Dear Family and Friends,

   The work in the Kigali 1st Branch is definitely picking up. Elder Namable and I find ourselves running from appointment to appointment in attempt to keep time and meet with all the families we have lessons planned with. We come every evening extremely tired but, I wouldn't have it any other way. This week, President Chatfield and the AP's were in town for the Rwanda Zone Conference as well as exchanges.

Elder Afrifa, Ruell and Wilson with Elder Hazen
   On Wednesday morning, Elder Afrifa, Elder Ruell, and Elder Wilson got into town in time for DDM. After enjoying a nice lunch at one of my new favorite buffets, Elder Afrifa went on exchanges with Elder Nambale and I.  Every time I've been on exchanges with Zone Leaders or AP's, we've always had bad luck with getting bounced by our investigators we had planned to teach for the day, but this time we were able to meet every person we had planned! It was a great experience because I was able to ask a lot of questions that had been on my mind concerning investigators and getting them to come to church.  I was also able to learn from the way Elder Afrifa taught. It was a joy being around him because he has a contagious laugh and smile and loves the work so much. 

   On Thursday morning, we had Zone Conference. Even though I think I say it every time, this was probably my favorite of my mission. Everything I learned was exactly what I needed at this point in time. I'm grateful for the inspiration President receives on behalf of the missionaries in each of the respective areas they work in. Elder Ruell was telling me that he has been to 7 different conferences this transfer and President has had different counsel for each zone. Sister Chatfield began the conference by talking about tender mercies and how big of a role they play especially in missionary work. My whole mission I've always tried to be mindful of tender mercies no matter how big or small. I consider every opportunity I have to share a bit of this Gospel and bear testimony as a tender mercy. If I've learned one thing on my mission, it's that we need to plant as many seeds in the hearts of people as possible, even though we may not be the ones reaping the harvest. President then gave his opening remarks and told us a story about when he was in college and was rushing to finish school and made an agreement with his professors to give him pass fail tests so, he could graduate in as little time as possible. He told us about an English paper he delayed to write until about a week before the deadline. In a time of desperate measures, he asked his older sister to give him one of her papers from her time in college, having graduated with an English major. She gave him her BEST paper she had written throughout her college career, one that she turned in as her final college thesis. It received an A+ and her professor told her it was the best paper he had ever read. After making a few adjustments, President took it and turned it in to his professor. When he received the  paper, his professor told him it was the WORST paper she had ever read and that she was giving him a D+ so she didn't ever have to deal with him again. He told us that while he was elated that he had passed, he told us that if he had just begun the paper and worked on it little by little, he wouldn't have ever had to turn in a paper titled "Why Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare." He compared this to our missions and that we should be doing exactly what we are supposed to with the little time we have to serve so, we don't have to turn in a paper to the Lord that isn't our best at the end of our two years. As always, President also talked about increasing our faith. He told us that if we want to teach more and find more families, then we need to increase our faith, ask for the Lord to be apart of the work, live worthily, forget yourself, and trust that our Heavenly Father knows exactly where the elite and educated people who will build the branch are and trust him to guide us to them. This had a huge impact on me. I felt the Spirit so strongly and I felt at that moment that I couldn't go wrong in this work because I felt of the power of our Heavenly Father. He already has all the answers and keys to success. It's just as simple as asking him and having the faith to follow the Spirit. He also gave us a Mission President promise and told us that if we ALWAYS follow our priesthood leaders for the rest of our lives, we will never fall away because they truly receive revelation from God on our behalf. The moment we stray from our priesthood leaders, is the moment we stray from God's will for us. He concluded with a quote I really enjoyed. 
"Pray, then work like everything depended on you, then pray like everything depended on God."

   Since Zone Conference I have felt like I have lost myself in the work even more. I am always constantly thinking about these people and praying in their behalf and every time I study or read something, I often find my mind wandering to my investigators and think about how the things I learn can benefit them.
RJ Drinking Kivuguto
On another note,  Elder Nambale and I have a new obsession. Nearly every night, before we go home, we stop at a little cafe and drink a mug of "kivuguto". Haha it is fermented milk so it tastes like yogurt without sugar but when you put brown sugar in it, it's unreal. 
Birthday Party
   Last night, the whole zone was invited over to Jimmy's home for his daughter's birthday party. We got destroyed with food, laughed, exchanged kind words, and just had a great time. Rwandese know how to throw a good birthday party. 

I love you all,

Elder Hazen

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Weekly Update~ "Snacks, Chocolates, and Burgers"

RJ's New Apartment in Rwanda


Bedroom with Mosquito Nets

Dear Family and Friends,

    This week, our district was sitting around our living room and talking and I asked Elder Nambale and Elder Nyambita what they think of when they think of America. Elder Nambale replied, "Snacks, Chocolates, and Burgers. I have never been around an American who doesn't like eating snacks or chocolates, and I know all you eat in America is burgers and McDonald's and chicken nuggets." Haha I couldn't disagree!

    This week, Elder Nambale and I were able to get back to the normal schedule and we had a really nice week with some strong lessons. At church, we watched the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference which was nice because Pecos, Jackie, and Jean De Mo were all there and they all enjoyed hearing President Monson speak after teaching them about living prophets on Earth today. Pecos has a wife named Eunice and 2 little boys and they are both planning on being baptized in 2 weeks. He is a guy who loves the Savior Jesus Christ and loves reading and learning in our lessons we have with him.  We may have him baptized a week before his wife because Eunice missed church due to her having a responsibility in the choir at her other services. Jackie and Emable are another couple we found and they love everything we've been teaching them so far. The only problem is that Emable works weird hours during the night and doesn't get home until the morning so he sleeps like all day making it difficult for him to come to church.  His schedule changes this week though so, he promises he will be at church this week so they can continue to progress as a family! Jean De Mo is just a stud YSA who has been coming to church for over a year but, hasn't been baptized yet. Every time we teach him, he already knows everything so, it's more of a review for him. We hope to have Pecos and Jean baptized on the First of May. It was nice to see that session of Conference again and enjoy President Uchtdorf's talk.

    We had the opportunity to go to 2 different members' homes this week. Joel fed us posho and mukenne which was a nice throw back to the food I had in Uganda that I was missing. Andrew fed us pasta with potatoes, beans, and avocados. We had a great time at both homes and I'm grateful for the relationships I'm building with these people!

    This week was also Elder Brogan's birthday. He chose to eat at a Chinese restaurant near the church and it was super good. Elder Nyambita made him a cake so after feasting, we made our way back to the apartment and sang to Elder Brogan "Happy ZL Birthday".

    On Saturday, Elder Nambale and I were expecting a lot of solid appointments,but when we called to confirm, everyone bounced us and told us they were unable to meet. We decided to stop by at a couple's home for a surprise visit. Adolf and Zawadi had been taught by Elder Myers and Nambale before but, had never been to church. We decided to re-teach them the Restoration and emphasize to them praying and asking if the message is true for themselves. When we began talking about prayer, we had a great discussion and I really feel like they understood that God answers their prayers.   And that if they ask in faith, they will receive an answer. We decided to pray with them together. After Nambale said a beautiful prayer and I felt the Spirit so strong. I felt a confirmation for myself that we taught that lesson with power and authority and I know that if they act on what we asked them to do, they will receive confirmation that what we taught them is true. 

    Later in the evening, we had the opportunity to go to the K3 branch and watch Meet the Mormons. It was a great evening and it reminded me of when I watched it a week before I left with all my family the night of my mission farewell. It brought back such sweet memories.
Meet The Mormons

    This week I noticed how much people look at Elder Nambale and I when we walk on the street. Whether it be waiting for a bus, or moving to an appointment, I always feel eyes are focused on me. I got to thinking about it and I realized how important it is that I am always mindful of my calling as a servant of Jesus Christ so these people can recognize me as one. I'm very grateful to be serving these people of Rwanda. Today I went through the Genocide Memorial.  All I can say is it was just plain brutal…they didn't leave anything out they just told it how it was…so many innocent lives lost, it's sickening.  I thought about how much these people have gone through in these past years. Literally everyone has been impacted in some way by it.  But, I gained such an appreciation for these people and I feel so lucky to share with them the Gospel.  I'm grateful to carry a message of hope and peace that can bless these families so they can know for themselves they will be with their families again.
Genocide Memorial

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:38"

New Investigators

Tiniest Investigator

Dear Family and Friends,

    Due to the Genocide Week in Rwanda, we were only allowed to proselyte in the morning from 9 and had to be back home by 3 o'clock. All shops closed for the day by 2 which created some difficulties but, it wasn't anything that a 3 kg sack of rice and beans couldn't solve. Given the circumstances, the Elders of the Rwanda zone met over at the senior couple's home and thanks to their kindness, we were able to borrow their computer and projector and watch all sessions of General Conference which was a very uplifting and spiritual experience for us all. Like last time, I will share a few thoughts I had throughout watching our inspired church leaders. I'd just like to bear my testimony that the revelation Joseph Smith received recorded in D&C 1:38
 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."
Is very true and that this Church is headed by Jesus Christ who uses Prophets and Apostles called of God as instruments in his hands. But first, I'd like to update on a few other things that happened this week.

    For the first part of the week, I continued to work with Elder Packer and Elder Nyambita in a 3 some. One of their Recent Converts is a guy named Jimmy. He was confirmed the week I got here and was being taught with his wife, Isabel. Their baptism dates were set for the 1st of May but Jimmy called the Elders from K1B and asked if he could be baptized earlier because of how bad he wanted it. He was more than ready, so they agreed. On his baptism date, he invited his whole family, some came from Uganda to attend. Long story short, he's just a really cool guy who loves the Gospel. Tuesday evening, we visited him and got to read from the Book of Mormon with him and he told us he was going to begin reading every single night which is a commitment I fully believe he will keep. 

    On Wednesday, we went with two members of the Branch Presidency, Jonah and Jackson, to an investigator's home. Verena stays super far out of town but has come to church 5 weeks in a row and is planning on shifting closer so we decided to begin teaching her. When we got there, we began sharing the Restoration and we had an awesome experience. When we got to the First Vision, I quoted it word for word, and bore testimony and she began to get emotional. She explained about how in 1997, when things were still recovering in Rwanda, there were people still accusing people of being involved in the events that happened and the punishment for that was almost always death. She told us about how one day, she was called to a captain in the Military's Office. The captain requesting her was called Captain Jimmy and he had a reputation among the people that whoever was called by Jimmy, never came back. Naturally, Verena was scared and began praying with all the energy of her heart that she would be saved. When she got to Jimmy's office, he told her that someone had accused her of being involved with the genocide but the man accusing her had been put in prison for lying so she was free to go. She thanked the Lord for this great blessing he'd given her. When Verena came to church for the first time, it was the same day as Jimmy's baptism. After the baptism, she went up to him and asked if he remembered her from 19 years earlier. He said he did and expressed his gratitude that the Lord allowed them to meet again in this particular setting. Verena then expressed to us how grateful she was that we had come to share with her the Restoration and told us that if Jimmy, the infamous military captain was being baptized, she knew that this church and the messages it teaches were true as well. I testify that the Lord works in mysterious ways and I'm grateful to have been able to be apart of that lesson.

   On Thursday, Elder Nambale flew back into town and I was able to begin working with him. I have enjoyed my time serving with him so far. He is a funny dude who gets along well with the members and loves to have a good time so I relate well to him. Haha one day he started sprinting up a hill (Rwanda has TONS of hills) because there was a truck driving behind us that was picking up a lot of dust so I of course had to sprint after him. He loves to sing and dance around the apartment, he is hilarious. I can already tell this transfer is going to be a fun one, he's going to be one of my favorite companions.
RJ's New Companion Elder Nambale
    Yesterday evening, Elder Nambale and I were invited to a birthday party at a member's house. Haha it was one of the most spiritually uplifting birthday parties I've ever been too. An old session of General Conference was playing in the background, a ton of members were over sitting on the couches just talking, and the food was unreal. It was so much fun I love the members of this branch already!
This session of General Conference was one of my favorites so far. Of course, I have a biased opinion because I'm a missionary and I live on this kind of stuff, but here's a few thoughts I had.
The common themes I noticed that the Brethren seemed to be focusing on was:
  • The fact we are living in a darkening world with many distractions and things to drag us down. Often times, these things distract us and make us forget our divine identity that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. This is one of the most important things we can know and this knowledge should guide and direct our choices as we try and please our Heavenly parents.
  • How crucial it is that we build up our families by observing the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy, attending the temple, and make time to spend together without the distraction of technology as Elder Ballard said in his talk about family counsels.
  • How important it is that we understand how important the covenants we make are, especially the ones we made at baptism and how essential it is that as we partake of the sacrament weekly and have a desire to improve that we can be forgiven of our sins through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • As a Priesthood Holder, I need to understand the potential of the power of the Priesthood I bear. I love how in the Priesthood session, Elder Nelson described how as a bearer of the Priesthood, I need to be doing all I can to be increasing my power. I may have the authority to use this power, but the extent of how much I'm able to use it to bless others and my future family is dependent on how I live my life. 
  • Prayer- deep, sincere, prayer is a tool of power. As we pray, we invite the Holy Ghost and are more aware that through the enabling power of the Atonement, we are able to improve ourselves. As Elder Holland said in his talk, God blesses our efforts even as we have just a desire to become better. It doesn't matter where we start, we can always improve. Elder Hales also bore powerful testimony of the Holy Ghost.
  • No matter what you've done, you can always be forgiven and restored which is possible through the Atonement. I loved all the messages concerning the Atonement and how it can bless those who have trials, those who have sinned, and those who have a desire to improve. I really enjoyed Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Holland's talk on these subjects. 
    How RJ watched Conference
    I gave a talk this week on the atonement. I talked about my mama and how she was an example to me on using the enabling power of the atonement to give her strength during the time she was dealing with my grandpa's death and helping grandma through this hard time. I of course got emotional haha. I feel like it was a good talk though. I am grateful for loving parents who have been examples and have always taught me to set my focuses on the temple. I love my family dearly and I can't wait to continue building on the unity we have that will continue on into eternity because I KNOW as Sis. Oscarson was explaining, that families can be together forever.

 I love you all!

Elder Hazen

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekly Update~ "The Promised Land"

Dear Family and Friends,

   Greetings from Rwanda! Let me first testify that this place truly is the Promised Land spoken of by missionaries around the Uganda Kampala Mission. It is a whole different world than Uganda. It is a lot cleaner, it has a more mild climate, it is easier to get around town because they have a cheap, quick, bus system that runs through our area, the food is amazing, the people are as kind and humble as they are in Uganda, and the list goes on and on. I got into town Friday but, there is a lot happened before I landed here as well. Let me summarize for you the rest of my week.
Flying to Rwanda


Monday- I forgot to mention it last week, but on Monday morning, we took a taxi to Jinja and met Elders Robinson, Dlamini, Langford, and Dabb from Mukono at The Keep for lunch. From there, we drove down to the Nile River to take some cute pics and because it'll be Elder Robinson's and my last time seeing it for awhile. We had a great time. 
Nile River

Tuesday- Elder Ward and I spent the day saying our last goodbyes to a few people in our areas. I went and saw Eron, Sunday Toko, Christine, Resty, David Hadson and Reegan, and we had one last dinner with our friends from Help International which was as good as ever. I spent the rest of the night packing. During that process, I found that a rat had climbed into my small carry-on suitcase and died because of the rat poison it had probably consumed. It had probably been dead for about two weeks because when I opened it to begin putting a few things inside, it absolutely reeked, and it was rotting and being eaten by maggots and things. But, I had Steven deep clean it with soap and water on Wednesday so everything was good to go.
Friends from Help International

David, Hadson and Reegan

Wednesday- Wednesday morning, Elders Robinson and Dlamini picked us up at around 9:30. We said good-bye to Andrew, Steven, Bro. Ochitti, Elder Ray and Elder Tesch. I'm going to miss those guys a lot there's not much more I can say. When we got to the Ntinda apartment, Elder Ward and I hopped in the truck with Elder Dlamini and Robinson and met a bunch of ZL's from the mission at Little Donkey in Nsambya. Little Donkey is probably the best Mexican food place in Uganda. I got a fat plate of nachos and a quesadilla. I was a happy little Mexican boy. :) After that, we drove back to Ntinda and people started to leave. I spent the rest of the night hanging out with Elder Owen and Chifamba because they spent the night at Ntinda as well. We had a nice game of Scum going with about 12 missionaries in the AP flat at the end of the night. It reminded me of the glory days of the Cedar Hills 14th ward playing scum Sunday nights. Also... When I woke up that morning, I felt like my neck was sun burnt or something. Thinking it was a spider-bite or something, I asked Elder Ray if he saw anything but, he didn't. As I went through the rest of the day, it started hurting worse. It was super irritating because my shirt collar kept rubbing against it. That night, Elder Chabra took a look at it and by that time, a rash had begun to form. Elder Chabra told me I had shingles and put me on medicine to cut down the cycle of the virus. So, instead of suffering 10-14 days, I would only have to deal with it for 7-10. Haha I've had to take 2 pills 5 times a day and it hasn't been fun at all. But, all trials are from God and they bring us closer to him as we rely on him:) I should be on the down-hill for this by now, I'm crossing my fingers!
Andrew the Compound Guard and Close Friend

Elders Ray, Ward and Tesch

Hard to Say Goodbye

Start of the Shingles Virus

Thursday- We began the morning by doing personal study and a 10 person companion study in the Ntinda flat. The rest of the day, Elders Hatch, Carter, Shumway, Mugwagwa and I all went out into the DL side of Ntinda and worked. It was a fun time because this is both Elder Carter and Shumway's first week on mission so, it was cool to be able to experience that first full day with them. We spent most of the day tracting, but in the evening, while Carter, Shumway, and Hatch went to teach a scheduled appointment, Elder Mugwagwa and I split off to go follow up with a Mom we tracted into that day. On our way there, we saw a few guys with a basketball walking up the hill past us. When we got to the home, we got bounced so in order to pass the time until we had to meet up again, we decided to go find those guys with the basketball and see if they wanted to play a pick-up game with some missionaries. We found them a few minutes later and asked if they wanted to play and they reluctantly accepted...Little did they know, they were beginning a game with a member from the Zimbabwe national basketball team.  They weren't prepared for what happened next. Elder Mugwagwa and I went on an 18-0 run against them and Mugwagwa humbled a few kids by absolutely posterized them on a few dunks. One of the funnest days I've had on my mission. I spent the rest of the night hanging out with Elder Mugwagwa talking basketball and packing. He left the next day with us for Ethiopia. I hope I get the opportunity to serve with him soon.
Elder Mugwagwa

Friday- We left for the airport early in the morning. We were a bit late so, Brother Godfrey hauled butt haha, it was an impressive feat of driving. We landed in Rwanda earlier than we departed because there is an hour difference. We got picked up by Elder Brogan, got dropped off at the apartment, and went finding allll day. Haha it was a good first day in Rwanda.
Airplane that flew to Rwanda

Saturday/Sunday-In the morning we had ZDM then went to a restaurant after. Had lunch at an unreal restaurant and had a cheeseburger that tasted like home. Went to a primary activity after then taught a lesson in the evening. On Sunday, I was impressed with how organized the branch is. We had a great testimony meeting. In the evening, we taught a family and it was a great lesson!
I just wanted to leave a last thought from my study this week. In Mosiah 2:20-22, King Benjamin talks about how if we work our entire lives dedicated to God, and don't make a single mistake or anything, we would still be unprofitable servants to God. I'm just grateful for the power and strength God gives me each week to work as hard as I can because I know I would be nothing as a missionary if I didn't have his assistance.

I hope you all enjoyed conference. I may get to watch it this week! I'll share some thoughts next week. Also, keep the Rwandan people in mind this next week. It is Genocide remembrance week.

 I love you all,

Elder Hazen