Monday, August 29, 2016

Weekly Update~ "A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain"

Dear Family and Friends,

Sorry, I don't have time for a long discourse of my week, but here's a few thoughts and events from this week.

On Tuesday, we celebrated Elder Nambale's birthday as a zone by going to the Ethiopian restaurant in Elder Packer and Shumway's area. It cured some of his yearning for the homeland where he spent 9 brutal months of his mission. Here's a few pictures of us enjoying the "soggy rag" known as njera and other authentic Ethiopian food, eaten without utensils of course!

Elder Robinson gave Elder Nambale and I a challenge to contact and visit 5 members during the week. The purpose for this was to begin to bridge the gap between us as missionaries and the members of the branch. Sometimes as missionaries we fall into the mindset that we have to get all the work done and baptize the entire country, but the Lord has provided a better way in his wisdom. There is a reason why Branch Presidents are the one who hold the keys of missionary work in their particular branch. Elder Nambale and I made a specific goal to go visit President William in his home to share the Restoration and discuss about his role in the work and ours and how we can better work together moving forward. We shared the Restoration briefly to invite the Spirit, asking him to share his testimony on specific things like the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I was very pleased with how strong President's testimony is of the Gospel and as I heard him testify, the Spirit was in the room. We continued our conversation and reminded him of our support for him as missionaries serving in his branch and offered our help with anything he needed. He then told us of the struggles Rwanda has faced over these past years, especially in dealing with poverty, and he voiced his concern that the members don't understand the blessings tithing brings. He told us that if people understood the power our Father in Heaven has and increased their faith, he would lift them in their trials and would begin to support them so much so that their worries concerning money and other worldly things would disappear altogether. I was thankful for the love that President William obviously has towards the members of this branch and we committed to make tithing a focal point for the lessons we share with the members moving forward. I know that if the missionaries and the members develop a missionary work oriented attitude, then the work will begin to progress and it will accelerate like the stone cut out of the mountain and this Gospel will fill Rwanda like Elder Bednar prophesied. 
During weekly planning this week, Elder Nambale and I decided to consecrate our day tomorrow and dedicate it completely to finding new families. Please keep us in your prayers this evening.

I love you all,

Elder Hazen

Monday, August 22, 2016

Weekly Update~ "The Lord Chastises Those He Loves"

Dear Family and Friends,

There was nothing out of the ordinary accompanying this week of missionary work in Rwanda other than a few rather strange events that happened to Elder Nambale and I this week.
  • On Tuesday, Elder Nambale and I were driving with one of our members, Heritzier, to drop a suitcase off at K3 that they forgot after spending the night at our apartment Sunday night. On our way there, there was heavy traffic and we were stopped completely for a few minutes. We noticed that there was some commotion up ahead and saw that groups were gathering and people in the bus up ahead drawn to something in front of them. Just then, we saw the police load a woman and her child who were stark naked into a detainees van and traffic continued as usual.
  • Elder Nambale and I were tracting on Saturday morning and we knocked on a certain house. As we were waiting for someone to answer the gate, I looked down and saw a fat chameleon climbing up my leg and it scared the crap out of me. Haha I jumped around a bit and shook it off, then Elder Nambale and I watched it climb up a tree and it blend colors.
  • Enjoy these pictures of two overloaded trucks: something that we see daily here in Rwanda and Uganda. I hope it paints a picture of what driving is like here.

  • On Sunday, we were invited to Kato's home, who was confirmed on Sunday. He had us over for a confirmation celebration and he destroyed us with food. After we ate and shared a spiritual thought, Elder Nambale was outside with his kids and was grabbing something from the truck and while the keys were inside, Elder Nambale turned his back for a second and the kid slammed the door shut...

Okay...these experiences weren't even that bizarre or interesting, But I had to write about something.

This week, during my studies on Thursday, I was going through old conference issues of the Liahona and I found a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson that I was drawn to about how the Lord chastises those whom he loves. There were a few thoughts that hit me hard. First was about correcting others. For me, I have never been one to correct other missionaries when their behavior isn't aligned with mission rules. My point of view has always been that everyone has agency and every missionary knows what they're supposed to be doing since we have it beaten into us from day 1 in the MTC that we need to be obedient. If missionaries aren't going to obey, they know what the consequences are and they're going to reap what they sow so there's no point in wasting time in correcting others and potentially damaging a relationship. But, President Boyd K. Packer said, that if the situation arises in which you need to correct another's behavior and align them back on the straight and narrow, but don't take that opportunity, it is selfishness and pride on your part. Now I'm not saying I'm going to go out of my way to correct other missionaries in my zone, but if necessary, I need to have the love for the missionary and say something. There is a right way to do everything and it talks about how to correct others with love in D&C 121. 

In addition, I also learned about self-correction. I will always be someone who supports the point of view that the lessons learned in sports carry over directly to life. I'm thankful for the times I spent pestering my coaches after a start or outing in a baseball game and asking what I could've done better. I realize that we need to be just as concerned about our performance in the mission field and in life. We need to constantly be evaluating and re-evaluating and repenting and applying the enabling power of the Atonement in our lives. Correction is directly correlated to our salvation and as Elder Christofferson says, "no one who denies correction or chastisement is worthy of the celestial kingdom." I'm thankful that the Lord chastises those he loves and that he sometimes does it through others.

 When I came to Rwanda, I was having success, but not as much as I could've been because I wasn't being EXACTLY obedient. I remember one of our first few weeks, Elder Packer gave a training on accountability and though I wasn't doing anything awful, I felt sincere godly sorrow and I kept having the re-occurring thought that I didn't want to go home and in years to come have my children ask me about my mission and have feelings of regret that I didn't do everything the Lord expected me to accomplish in my two years of service. From that day, I repented, and I feel like my mission has changed for the better and has made me the missionary I am today, nearly 6 months later. 

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

Monday, August 15, 2016

Weekly Update~ "The Sabbath Day is a Delight!"

Dear Family and Friends,

Another Monday, another great week of missionary work come and gone here in Rwanda. This week wasn't too eventful compared to last week, but there are some highlights to mention, of course.
RJ Playing Ball with Some Local Kids
On Tuesday, I was able to go on exchanges for the first time as a Zone Leader and was able to work with Elder Pearson, who's fresh from Uganda, in K3. I was super excited to have the opportunity to work in K3 because I've heard nothing but good things about it. The Elders there have enjoyed great success there in the past few months but are in the process of building up their teaching pool so, we didn't have a whole lot of confirmed appointments. This made me nervous because here I was, in an area I was unfamiliar with, with a missionary who is learning the area as well. We prayed earnestly and set a goal in faith that we would have at least 4 new investigators, and while we were finding, we would get let into 3 houses to teach families the message of the Restoration. We were able to see a multitude of tender mercies throughout the day and were able to see many soften their heart towards us and let us inside their homes. We were even referred to a new family by a man who attended church at their branch this last week. Long story short, we were able to accomplish our goals and I was just overwhelmed with gratitude as I was reminded once again that the Lord blesses his missionaries, especially those who need his help in this work which is more often than naught.

Elder Pearson and RJ
The week I got into K2, Elder Nambale and I visited a family he and Elder Brogan found and taught the Restoration. I believe I talked about them last week in my email. We visited them again this week, Ndarra, his sons, Joshua and Justice, and his daughter, Benedict. Elder Nambale and I have been working on refining our lesson plans regarding the Plan of Salvation and have been trying to focus on teaching the Atonement more in depth. We tried to put it into practice with the lesson with them and we were pleased with the results. We had a great discussion, with the whole family involved and asking questions, and they are genuinely interested and have been keeping their commitments regarding the Book of Mormon. All 4 of them came to church yesterday and I was ecstatic! I'm looking forward to continuing to teach them. They have been such a tender mercy this transfer.

We had wonderful church meetings again yesterday.  We had 13 investigators at church! Haha I had the privelage to give a talk in Sacrament on missionary work and teach Elder's quorum as well...oh, the life of a missionary:) Speaking of sacrament, I was focusing on making Sacrament Meeting more meaningful for myself this week and focused my thoughts on the Savior and what his Atonement enables me to do. I'm thankful for his sacrifice that allows me to overcome the consequences of sin and to repent and become better and for his resurrection that I will one day live with a perfect body with my family in heaven with my Savior, Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father. The feelings I had as I was partaking of the Sacrament was a tender mercy as well. My feelings of gratitude never cease for the possibility of these wonderful blessings. We also had a baptism of Joseph, one of the people Elder Brogan and Nambale have been teaching. Apparently I made some kind of impact on him in the short 10 seconds I met him at church last week, because he asked me to baptize him...haha I was confused, but agreed, of course.
Joseph's Baptism
You may have seen the common theme of me talking about a few tender mercies I was able to experience this week. This is inspired by a lesson I had with one of our investigators last night. We went over to Edith's home with the plan in mind to review the Restoration, but after she explained some concerns she had about understanding the content of the Book of Mormon, we decided to read 1 Nephi Ch 1 with her so she would have a better understanding of the story. We moved slowly, discussing each verse one by one, until we reached verse 20. In this verse, Nephi describes that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all his children that he will give them power unto their deliverance. After reading this, I felt inspired to explain what tender mercies are, and asked Elder Nambale and Heritzier, the member who was present for the lesson, what tender mercies they saw throughout their days. We then asked Edith, and she told us she was grateful for the kind members of the church who helped her understand more about Joseph Smith earlier that day at church. I felt the Spirit enter the room as she said that and I knew that as she expressed her gratitude for the little blessings the Lord put in her life, she would continue to be watched over and feel the love God has for her. In that moment I was able to see Edith in our Father in Heaven's eyes and was able to imagine the great love he has for that sweet old lady. 

Here's a challenge for all you reading. Send me a short email within the next week describing a tender mercy you had recently. I know the Lord will bless you as you recognize the blessings he's given you and it will uplift me as well.

Elder Nambale and I are enjoying missionary work and our companionship is thriving. We are becoming better friends each day. It's truly a tender mercy the Lord allowed us to serve together again. I'm thankful to be a missionary here in Rwanda at this time. 
Elder Namable and RJ

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Update~ "I Haven't Kissed a Girl in a Year!"


Dear Family and Friends,

Well, this week was the fastest, slowest, busiest, fun, stressful weeks of my mission so far. Forgive me for the oxymoron but, if you've been on mission, you'd understand. I've come to the conclusion that by the end of this upcoming year, I'm going to have gray hairs driving in Kigali with all the hills, Moto-bikes, and people crossing and stopping in the middle of the road like deer in headlights. I'm also going to lose my mind listening to the same Mo-Tab CD's over and over...I think I've listened to "Called to Serve" at least a dozen and a half times in the last week. We have had so many errands to run in the last week between driving missionaries different places to get their visa stuff taken care of, moving things from building to building in preparation for Elder Bednar, and picking and dropping people off at the airport. But, though Elder Nambale are busy, like President Collings told me in my interviews on Friday, I know the Lord will consecrate our efforts for our welfare and the Lord is taking care of us and giving us strength so we will have the energy to work the area as well. Transfer weeks are always busy so I'll give a day to day summary, then share my thoughts about Elder Bednar visiting at the end.

Tuesday- Elder Mumba and I spent the day visiting recent converts and investigators and saying good-bye because he left to Entebbe in Uganda on Wednesday. We went and saw Mpenzi, Diamour, Ignatius, Issa, Bosco, Joanna, Nancy, etc. It was super bitter-sweet even though I'l be right up the road from them. Mumba and I spent the rest of the day packing. 

Wednesday-We woke up at 4 in the morning to get Mumba ready for the airport. Elder Nambale and Elder Brogan came and picked us up at around 4:45 and we drove and dropped Elder Brogan and Mumba off, then Elder Nambale and I drove back to K1, slept for about 30 minutes, then got up for the day. We studied, then drove to K3 for a meeting in preparation for Elder Bednar, got lunch, then I went into my old area with Elder Koopmans who is white-washing us with Elder Phiri. I drove him around, went and showed him where our recent converts and progressing investigators stay. We then got to go tracting for a bit, then ended the evening by teaching a new family the Restoration, and visiting Ignatius again. I'm really excited for Elder Koopmans to be in the area, I know he's going to do a great job and it was a privilege to be able to work with him for the day.

Thursday- Elder Bednar. We got to K1 at 9 and spent all morning preparing by running things up to Lemigo Hotel, driving people places they need to be, etc. Elder Bednar arrived at 12 and upon his arrival, he went up to each missionary, shook his hand, and asked where he is from. Seriously one of the coolest experiences ever. We had a Priesthood Meeting at K1 at 1 while the Sisters had a meeting at Lemigo Hotel up the street. We then all came together at 3:30 and had a general meeting that was open to everyone. Now this provided some challenges because there were many investigators who had no contact with the church previously attend and I'll talk about this more later. At the end of the meeting, we helped clean up and went home.
RJ with Elder Bednar
Meeting with Elder Bednar
Friday- We had interviews with President Collings. Even though it's my second time meeting President, I already feel like I've known him forever. My interview with him was just as spiritually powerful as Zone Conference last month. I love how he follows the Spirit and uses it to conduct his meetings. He has a way of making people think and help them use the Spirit in their lives as well. I was able to go into the area for the first time today and I love it already. Oh and I hit a year on mission. That was cool.
Rwanda Zone with Pres. and Sis Collings
Saturday- Went into the area with Elder Nambale again and visited a potential family and taught about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. Wonderful lesson. The mother was still confused about the Book of Mormon but, her 15 year old son, Joshua, explained it perfectly just as any missionary would've explained it. The Spirit was so strong.

Sunday- Was able to go to church and I love the branch already. Joshua and his Father, Ndarra came to church and there were at least 4 members who introduced themselves and talked to them to help them feel comfortable. We got to help with the Young Men's class as well. We have a great group of youth. I already got assigned to give a talk...great:)

Elder Bednar
Oh my goodness, hearing Elder Bednar speak was one of the most powerful experiences on my mission. It was a really interesting environment in the Priesthood meeting. Elder Hamilton, the Africa SouthEast Area President first got up and made everyone stand one by one and introduce themseves and state their calling. Elder Bednar then got up, took off his suit coat, and began conducting a Question-Answer session. He began by explaining what the role of an apostle is, and told us that if he could teach us one thing in our short time together, it would be about Priesthood power and Priesthood keys. I'll share some of the thoughts I wrote in bullet points
  • I love the way Elder Bednar views the Atonement because it's similar to the way I view it. He really emphasized the enabling power and using it to become better men today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we were today.
  • One brother asked how we know if the priesthood is working through us. Elder Bednar told us that if we continue to ask ourselves that question, we are in good shape. If we are constantly looking for ways to see the Priesthood work through us, that is a sign of humility and understanding our power comes from on high.
  • Elder Bednar began explaining the different Priesthood Keys and as he did, he pointed out that through the Branch presidents, President Okott and President Collings, and himself, all the Priesthood keys were in the same room together.
  • In between asking questions, he told us that just as in the time of Joseph Smith telling the brethren that they didn't know anymore about the growth of the church than a babe on his mother's lap, that the same thing applied to the members in Africa: They have no idea about the extent and rate at which the church will grow in this continent any more than a babe on his mother's lap. And he added that everyone in the room will live to see it. Unbelievable.
  • In the main meeting, he began and told us that he knew that there were many people in the room who had not heard about the church before. He then proceeded and basically shared the entire Restoration as we would in an investigators home. That was really profound for me because it helped me realize that if an Apostle of the Lord was teaching with simplicity, that we as missionaries don't need to be any more extravagant or flashy than he was. He simply stated how things are and told the audience that if they didn't believe, pray and ask God. There were many people who asked Elder Bednar about his authority and what made him special and he merely bore testimony.
I know that Apostles are special witnesses of Jesus Christ and it was beautiful to hear him testify of the Savior in simplicity. He didn't draw any attention to himself or his calling, he gave all the recognition to the Savior and bore witness that this is his church. I add my witness to Elder Bednar's that I know that with out a doubt this church is true. I'm extremely grateful for this experience I had to rub shoulders with an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

RJ's New Apartment

Monday, August 1, 2016

Weekly Update~ "First Half of My Mission Has Come to a Close"

Dear Family and Friends,

Another transfer in the books…like I said last week, time continues to fly faster and faster for me, especially because Elder Mumba and I were so busy last week. Last week, I was able to go on a few last minute exchanges with Elder Nambale and Elder Shumway so I’ll first start by talking about those.
Figgs and Makka
On Monday evening, Elder Nambale came over to spend the night at K1 and Elder Mumba spend the night at K2 so Elder Brogan didn’t have to drive down from town in the morning. On Sunday, one of the former Elders in the Uganda Kampala Mission, Elder Hoffheins, and his friend Makka  got into town and came to church. He was here in Rwanda back in 2013 and he baptized President Ronald so, he has been staying with him for about the past week and a half. After services, Shumway, Packer, Mumba, and I stayed at the building to talk story with both of them for about an hour. Before they left, they told us that if any of us needed a member present lesson or two throughout the week to feel free to give them a call and they’d come help us. I took them up on their offer on Tuesday and had one of the most fun, spiritual days on my mission. Elder Hoffheins, or “Figgs” as we call him, has been at BYU for a few years and played on the line for the football team last year. He’s a big boy…haha standing by him is one of the few times I have felt small in my life. He is deciding between Rugby and Football this upcoming year. Makka is from Hawaii and used to play football as well but played Rugby for BYU this past year. They met up with Elder Nambale and I at around 3 and they worked with us until about 7:30. They went with us to teach two lessons and we got to split up and go tracting for about an hour as well. Makka and I were let into the home of a family with two of the kids present so we taught them the Restoration.  The Spirit was present as we both bore simple testimony about the Restoration. Though Makka hasn’t served a mission yet, with his knowledge of the gospel, it was like teaching with a missionary who has been out for about as long as I have. I was grateful to spend the day with them because they kept reminding me how lucky I was to be out at this time serving a mission in this beautiful, wonderful place with these amazing people. Seeing Figgs back in the field and seeing how much he loved these people made me want to push myself that much harder to work in sharing the Gospel. He helped me realize the type of person that I want to be as a Returned Missionary. I want to keep the same values and morals and habits that I’m building on mission and take them with me through the rest of my life, especially during these next few years of college. Living the Gospel is cool and it’s the only intelligent thing to do. 

The last appointment of the evening, we met Rosemary, one of Elder Nambale and my former investigators. She returned back from Nigeria after securing a new work visa. She told us about how she told her mom about us when she went back and brought the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets. Her mom LOVED everything and would have been baptized if the church was closer to her home. There is a chance that Rosemary is bringing her mother here to live when she saves more money, so I have my fingers crossed. Rosemary is still wishy-washy about the gospel and feels it’s true, but still struggles with the commitment side of things including coming to church. I know that it’s only a matter of time that she is baptized, it’s all about taking baby steps with her. This experience taught me that you never know what kind of seeds you are planting when it comes to dropped investigators and though they are dropped for now, you don’t know what kind of impact you could have made for the future elders or sisters who will be teaching them. 

On Thursday, I was able to go on an exchange with Elder Shumway. He came on mission when I was first getting to Rwanda. Nowadays, he’s almost 6 months. Even though he’s never been my companion and I’m not his trainer, I feel like he’s one of my mission sons because I’ve been around him since the beginning. Haha we always joke that I’m his “Spuncle” (super uncle). This last transfer, he was moved into my apartment to be with Elder Packer and I was stoked because we have become even better friends over this time. He’s become one of my best mission friends. It’s been neat to see his growth over these past 5 months.  I remember at the end of his first transfer, we were able to be together on a split and go tracting and I was impressed by his boldness for someone so young on mission. Since then, he has become a better teacher, and all around better missionary and it showed when I was able to spend the day with him on Thursday. (If you’re reading this, Sister Shumway, your son is doing a great job.)
Elder Shumway
This morning, we received transfer news and I found out that Elder Mumba has been transferred to Entebbe in Uganda, and I have been transferred to K2 to be the new Zone Leader with Elder Nambale, my former companion before Elder Mumba. I’m extremely grateful for the time I was able to spend with Elder Mumba. People always say that mission prepares you for the real world. Haha I’m not gonna lie, I feel like my companionship with Elder Mumba has best prepared me to understand what marriage is going to be like. Though Elder Mumba will go down as one of my favorite companions, and I love him to death, we didn’t get along all of the time which is how it will be like in marriage sometimes. But, amidst our differences or struggles, we’re still on the same team. I’m nervous to be a Zone Leader but, I’m excited to begin this new chapter on my mission. Pray for me that I’ll remember how to drive manual and that I won’t stall too hard on the hills of Rwanda. 

This week, Issa, Jean Diamour, and Egide were all baptized. Enjoy the pictures of my Sumo suit (baptism suit). 

This week I’ve also been thinking about my mission so far and the things that I’ve learned on the first year on my mission so far as the first half comes to a close. I’ve been thinking about how I still have a lot to learn and how I still need to develop charity and love because it is the driving force of missionary work. I find that sometimes I act selfishly and think about myself before I think about others. At times I feel like Nephi, exclaiming, “Oh wretched man am I!” How can I be a missionary for a year, but still put myself before others? How can I still fall to temptations when I have the influence of the Holy Ghost and other righteous examples all around me? It’s at these times that I’m most grateful for the Atonement because this is it’s exact purpose: to make those who are trying their best become better. This year, I’m giving it all to my Father in Heaven. This is his work. I’m striving to be more mindful of others and reaching out to the “one” who need my service. This is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I love this Gospel and I love being a missionary. Here’s to another year!
Proof for his Mama that he is still taking his Malaria Pills

Happy he can find his Favorite Dr Pepper in Africa

Elder Hazen