Monday, September 26, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Gratitude and Tender Mercies"

Dear family and friends, 

I can honestly say that this was the most spiritually uplifting week that I've had on my mission thus far. I sit here in awe and filled with gratitude for the tender mercies that I've experience this week. One thing that Elder Grant and I have been doing since we've become companions is list the tender mercies we saw from the Lord's hand throughout the day. It is something that we are going to begin to apply with the zone when we take reports from now on.
RJ and His New Companion Elder Grant
Late last week, during companionship study, Elder Grant showed me a talk titled "being purified" (I've enclosed a picture of it).  It basically talks about how a missionary receives counsel from his priesthood leader to take a day entering into an attitude of prayer and fasting, make a list of things that keep the Spirit from being a constant companion throughout the day, then begin a 40 day fast from these things. He counsels the missionary to plead the Lord each morning for strength to resist temptation, and each night, account to the Lord how well you did, and if you did something on the list, figure out why, promise to do better, then ask for more strength the next day. The purpose of the "Purification Fast" is to change our basic desires to align our will to the Lord's, to help our Spirit flourish, and to prepare a place for the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion. Elder Grant and I began our fast on Tuesday and I came up with a pretty lengthy list that continues to grow. Since we've begun, my prayers have become more earnest, heartfelt, and sincere. I've seen some of the blessings already. My thoughts have become more filtered and focused on others, my love for those whom I serve with has increased, I feel happier, the Spirit has guided us to prepared individuals, and the Spirit has assisted more in our lessons. Let me share a few of these experiences:

-On Friday, we had Zone Conference, which was an extremely powerful meeting no doubt attributed to the preparation of the Elders and Sisters. After, Elder Grant went with the K1 Elders to conduct a baptism interview while Elder Majawa and I taught a lesson way out in Narnia. 
After, Elder Grant and I went to teach lessons to two families. The first lesson was with a media referral who found the church online that we had taught twice before. We were planning on teaching the Plan of Salvation When we reached his home, we found his brother there as well because Jean Pierre invited him over to listen to us. The brother's name was Ephraim. We began teaching the Plan of Salvation as planned, hoping the things we were teaching would make sense to Ephraim as well. Mid-way through the lesson, everyone was understanding well aside from the occasional question from Ephraim. However, before we could continue, Elder Grant and I received a prompting to pause the current lesson and share a brief Restoration lesson. This prompted many questions from Ephraim, especially about baptism. He questioned the need to be baptized again, like most people do, but Elder Grant and I bore testimony on aligning our will with God's and doing things his way. Everyone in the room was listening intently and was visibly feeling the Spirit. Even Ephraim, determined to hold his position, couldn't stifle a smile. The Spirit confirmed that our words were true, even like it says in the Book of Mormon about Nephi teaching, "They could not disbelieve our words".
Zone Conference
 -The following lesson, we read the Book of Mormon with Edith and her son, Allen. As we discussed with them, the same Spirit entered the room as we committed them to pray about their baptism date on the 16th of October for confirmation. 

-This week, my love for the members' help in this work has increased. Elder Grant and I have been focused on using members capable of fellow shipping our investigators. I can think of 3 specific experiences where certain lessons would not have gone nearly as well without a member present. Joseph Omba was able to communicate with one of our potential investigators to find where he stays, jumping out of the car periodically to ask pedestrians on the road if we were heading in the right direction. Eric Habimana was able to translate a great lesson with his sister and brother in law. Heritier was able to offer a few powerful testimonies. President Collings has sent more missionaries here in Rwanda this transfer for the sole purpose of getting members more involved with missionary work. He promises to send more missionaries here and if they continue to step up like they have thus far.  President predicts that a stake will be established in Rwanda within the next 3 years which gives me chills.

I'm becoming a better missionary personally than ever before. However, I know that I am nothing, and as Ammon, I boast in the strength of my God who gives me power every time I plead with him that my tongue will be loosed that I will be able to bring just one soul to the knowledge of this Gospel.

I love you all
Elder Hazen
RJ finally got his hump day package, all Packagesgoto Uganda and
you have to wait till someone goes to Rwanda to get them!

RJ's Favorite Item from the box- Chocolate WonderBall
Other Favorite- Kipper Snacks!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Weekly Update~ "The Rwanda Zone is Growing!"

Dear Family and Friends, 

This week was extremely busy as transfer weeks usually are, but I first wanted to briefly express my gratitude for Elder Nambale being my companion these last 6 weeks. It was such a blessing to be able to work with him for a second transfer after a small break. His love for the people and others is unmatched, and in turn, the love people have for him is obvious. I'm going to miss him but, I know he is going to do a great job training and he will finish his last two transfers strong.
Elder Nambale and RJ
The Rwanda zone now has 12 missionaries including a sister missionary companionship. Each branch now has 2 companionships which has brought an increased excitement for missionary work among the members. We are all excited as well. On Saturday at K2, the branch planned an Open House that they organized and ran all by themselves. They pulled us 4 missionaries into the branch president's office and briefed us on what was going to happen, gave us an assignment to welcome people in at the front gate, and they went to work. I was so extremely proud of our members. The auxiliaries did a wonderful job organizing everything together and we had a simple but, sweet program followed by refreshments at the end. Multiple times throughout the activity, Elder Gillett came up to me just shocked and amazed at what was going on. This branch in K2 has come so far in so few months it is really exciting. 
K2 Branch Open House
Things are a lot less quiet in the apartment these days with four missionaries around. Elder Grant, Elder Moyes, Elder Packer and I are all different guys but, we have already had a ton of fun together. I'm already dreading transfers and the fact we might be separated. My new companion, Elder Grant, is from Bountiful, Utah and he's someone that I know is going to push me to become better.

This week was full of adjustment and getting our bearings again so there's not much to say this week, but I will share a scripture I really enjoyed this week found in 1 Peter 3:15: 15 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."
I feel like this scripture applies to both our purpose as missionaries, and our purpose as mission leaders. As missionaries, our purpose is to share the hope that the Plan of Salvation brings through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We never know when these opportunities to share the gospel will come, but we need to be ready when they do. As leaders, it's our job to lead our missionaries with Christlike love and motivate them to do hard things by pushing them with challenging goals. Elder Grant and I have decided to push our zone goal from 75 baptisms to 95 baptisms, knowing that the Lord will help us do hard things.

The rain is coming back to Rwanda, time continues to move, President Collings comes for Zone Conference next week, and things couldn't be better for me right now. 
Elders Caught in a Down Pour!

Now You See It...
Now You Don't!

I love you all,

Elder Hazen

Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekly Update~ "AMEN, HALLELUJAH!"

Dear Family and Friends, 

Nearly every Monday since the day I began living here in Africa, someone has asked me if I've seen lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, hippos, etc. I'm sorry to inform you but, I don't live in the bush where people walk around with nothing but loincloths, slay their own food with spears, and wrestle lions with their bare hands. Because of this, the most exotic wildlife I've seen so far on my mission are the pregnant goats that people throw rocks at when they get too close to their homes. However, today, after long anticipation and constant prodding from my mother, I was finally able to enjoy God's creations while on a zone activity to Akagerra National Park in Eastern Rwanda. We were able to see every animal imaginable in your wildest dreams except, lions and elephants. Still, unreal nonetheless.  I was able to drive 5 others with me in our Zone truck for the Safari. I was depended on for everyones safety hahaha. It was just a blast being around my zone for a last hurrah before transfers. 

Drivingh the Safari Truck

This week, Elder Nambale and I were super busy getting ready for transfers and making preparations for some of the changes that are happening in the zone. We received news that both Elder Nambale and Elder Koopmans are heading back to Uganda, and 6 new missionaries- 4 elders and 2 sisters will be coming, pushing our zone total up to 12 missionaries. My new companion is Elder Grant who went to Woods Cross High School. I am so excited to serve with him. I have met him a few times in passing and from what I have observed, he is a humble missionary who loves the work. I am excited to learn from him and continue building the foundation of the church here in Rwanda! These changes have made the zone even more powerful. and I'm looking forward to discussing how to set new goals to help us take the work here to the next level. Elder Nambale and I were up and down and all over town getting Elder Nambale's exit papers filled out, getting our truck serviced, purchasing new apartment accomodations for the new missionaries, and finishing our zone exchanges. I was able to bring Elder Shumway into my area and a few parts of the day were the hi-lights of my week. 

Every Tuesday I teach an English class to the family of two of our recent converts and a few of their neighbors. This week, Elder Shumway and I brought hymn books and we taught everyone how to sing "I am a Child of God". We had one of the neighbors, Joseph, who usually helps me translate during lessons, explain each word in Kinyarwanda. Elder Shumway, Elite, Philomene, and myself would then sing a line so everyone could hear the tune. Then we would all sing together. It took us about an hour to learn the first verse, but when we sang it all the way through, the Spirit was so strong in the room. Everyone then applauded when we finished. I'm extremely grateful for the hymns in the church and the way they invite the Spirit, no matter what activity is taking place. It makes such a difference in the day, even listening to a Mo-Tab CD driving to an appointment. 

That afternoon, we got bounced from an appointment, so we decided to do some finding near that individual's home. About 10 minutes into knocking doors and walking around, we walked by an open gate and open door and heard a lady call out, "hello!" Thinking she spoke English, we turned around and talked to her. Her English was somehow broken, but she could understand us and we had a member with us, so we decided to go inside and share a short message before she left for work. We intended to share a short Restoration lesson with her, but when we told her the message we share blesses families, she lit up and pointed to a picture of her husband on the wall who passed away some time back. She told us through our member that she misses him terribly. Shumway and I called an audible and we shared the Plan of Salvation briefly in 20 minutes. When we bore testimony that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, her and her husband will be resurrected and they will see each other again, she raised her hands above her head and exclaimed, "AMEN HALLELUJAH!" Haha it was a quick lesson and who knows if she will come to church, but it was a testimony to me that everyone is searching for the comfort our message brings and that Heavenly Father is preparing his children for us. We just need to give sufficient time to finding them. We had a great ZDM this week and set a bold goal as a zone that each companionship would baptize a family per transfer. Like Ether 12:12 says,  12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

I know that faith is the absence of fear and as we continue to set goals to make us stretch and diligently work, through grace and the Atonement, we can accomplish things we wouldn't be able to do alone. 

I love you all,

Elder Hazen

Monday, September 5, 2016

Weekly Update~ "Miracles with Fasting"

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfers, months, weeks, and days continue to run at an exponentially increasing pace. I am now 13 months out, wondering where the time has gone, but continuing to make the most of what I have left.

Today, as I write this, my heart is full of gratitude to our Father in Heaven for how much he loves us, his children, so much so that he sends the Spirit to whisper revelation in his still small voice to guide our lives. I'm especially thankful that as a missionary, I've been able to be more sensitive to spiritual promptings due to the lack of noise from the world fighting for my attention. I can't count how many times these clear, impressive thoughts have helped me and changed the course of an entire day. Such an experience occurred a week and a half ago during our weekly planning session. As I blankly stared at the half sheet of paper full of our plans for the upcoming week, my thoughts were wandering to our dwindling teaching pool. I knew that in order to build it up again, it was going to come from help from on high, so I thought "Why not petition for the Lord's help, and call down the powers of heaven through fasting?" Elder Nambale and I decided to consecrate our entire day Tuesday in the upcoming week to finding and opening with a fast before beginning. We prayerfully planned our day the night previous, set a goal to find two new families, and with the knowledge that we had the Spirit with us, we went to work. We talked to many promising individuals and set many return appointments, but at around 5:30 that evening, we still had not taught a lesson. We then knocked on a gate in Kiyovu, a neighborhood near President Kagame's home. We saw two people seated on the porch, with a clear view of the gate, but no one made an effort to move to come talk to us which we found to be strange. When someone finally answered, we went to the porch and introduced ourselves as servants of Jesus Christ, and before we could say more, one man got up and gave Elder Nambale his chair, and gestured me to sit at another chair at the table they were seated at. The owner of the home introduced himself as Jules, and called each of his children to come greet us, all of whom spoke perfect English. He then began explaining his story. He is married with four children, is a retired engineer and is currently building his dream home that he plans to rent out certain floors to tenants. He has also battled Parkinson's disease for 7 years. We sat and listened as he told us about his difficulties and struggles, but then said something profound: "Even though I have this disease, I don't curse God. I know he is there and that he loves me. I am truly happy. I have my family and we are fine. I praise God every day I continue my life." I immediately said a prayer of gratitude in my heart that we were led to Jules and his family. This is a man that has true faith and accepts the will of God for him. I know that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what he needs to give him strength to press forward. He invited us to his home again on Friday to share food with him and his family and we introduced the Book of Mormon to him. He graciously accepted it, he wrote in the back, "a gift from Nambale and Hazen", and told us he would read it deeply. 

On Wednesday at MLC, President Collings' closing remarks were focused on the principle that miracles do exist, especially in missionary work when we set the bar of expectations high for ourselves, do what we're supposed too, and follow revelation received. On Sunday at church, one of the guys we invited to church while street contacting on Tuesday came to church with his 3 kids. I know that Jules and his family, and Innocent and his family were miracles and the Lord's hand was in helping us accomplish the goal we set in faith to find two families. I testify that this is the Lord's work and this is his church and I'm reminded of this daily. He lives and loves all his children. I testify that faith is a principle of power that causes things to happen that need to happen like the spreading of the Gospel to all of Rwanda and the entire continent of Africa. 
P-Day Basketball Game



I love you all,
Elder Hazen