Monday, May 29, 2017

Weekly Update~ "The First of Many Lasts On My Mission"

Dear Family and Friends,

Last week, during a conference call, President Collings shared an experience from the life of Brother David Whitmer. The account goes something like this:

In efforts to increase the faith of the missionaries and to draw down the powers of heaven more abundantly, President Collings christened this transfer the "David Whitmer Transfer". For the whole transfer, President challenged us to apply all the things we've been learning in the transfers previous to teach repentance and baptism in EVERY single teaching situation. We have also been asked to get back to reading Preach My Gospel every day and to role-play every companionship study. Every week, we will be having a conference call to spend about a half hour or so sharing experiences and miracles as we see the Lord magnify our efforts in doing the best we can. In the past, I've seen that whenever President counsels us to do something, no matter what, do it, because inevitably blessings do come. 

This week was week 1 of the "David Whitmer Transfer" here in the UKM and the Kampala Central Zone kicked it off with a bang. Early in the week, Elder Moyes received a clear prompting about the sisters coming into our zone. In speaking with Elder Grant in the week previous, he shared with me some concerns all the sisters in the whole mission were having about struggling to find new investigators to teach. We decided to share this with the district leaders in Mengo and Makindye where the sisters will be going and encouraged them to begin doing some finding for both themselves and the sisters so they'd at least have a few people to teach when they got there. When we received a report from them yesterday, both companionships of sisters had at least one investigator at church which was a real tender mercy. 

Also, with it being transfer week, as a zone leader and district leader where there are new missionaries coming, sacrificing time in your area is expected. But, as we took time to drive missionaries to their new areas and running errands to transport forgotten belongings we knew the Lord would bless us. He blessed not only us, but Elder Khoriyo and Elder Dlamini in Mengo by helping us accomplish standards of excellence. On Thursday morning, Elder Moyes and I taught a referral from Bishop Omuya to a lady who works at a mobile money stand across the street from a church named Prossy. She is a sweet lady with a 5 year old daughter named Michelle who cracks us up whenever we walk by. While teaching the restoration to her, we noticed mid-way through the lesson another woman seated close-by to Prossy who was also listening while acting occupied with a magazine on her lap. When we talked about how Christ established his church on the Earth, she couldn't contain her curiosity and closed the magazine. We felt prompted to invite her to participate in the rest of the lesson and the Spirit was present. The Spirit was powerful at the climax of the lesson, as we talked about the first vision. Both were glued, and we extended a baptism date to both. We came to find out that the other woman, Sylvia, obviously one of God's elect, has been visited by missionaries a few times before but, has the most motivation to learn about the Book of Mormon than ever before. Super cool. 

The Gym RJ Works Out In

On Friday, I attended my last MLC of my mission and bore my first of many departing testimonies. The reality of going home finally threw it's first punch. The meeting was extremely uplifting and I wanted to share something I got out of it. Elder Farnsworth talked about how Repentance and Baptism are tightly knit as is the rest of the gospel of Jesus Christ but, he then took time what it means to have a remission of sins. When you put the word remission in the context of cancer, it means the cancer is still in your body, but it is dormant and the effects of the cancer can't be felt temporarily. Same with our spirits when we go through the repentance process. Sin is the cancer of our spirits and when remitted, like cancer, has a chance of coming back. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the cure to spiritual cancer. In this church, the full and everlasting gospel is taught with all the necessary ordinances. No one else can cure this cancer. This is simply because no one has the Priesthood authority. I testify that through the restored gospel, we can be clean and fully healed of the cancer of the soul and return to live with our father in heaven. I'm thankful for the time I have left to share this cure with as many as possible. 
RJ's Favorite Meal

I love you all,
Elder Hazen

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekly Update~ "Last Transfer of My Mission"

Dear Family and Friends,
Transfer news has arrived and I will be finishing my Mission in Nsambya with Elder Moyes. Did I ever imagine I'd be finishing in this wonderful place when I got on a plane to Uganda from Rwanda 6 months ago? Not a chance. But am I satisfied? Extremely.
As a Mission, we continue to focus on coordinating our missionary efforts with the ward and stake leadership. This week, President Collings, President Kamya, the Assistants, Elder Beck and Anderson from Kampala South Zone and Elder Moyes and myself from Kampala Central Zone, had another wonderful coordination meeting. Once again, revelation flowed and we set some ambitious goals and created strong plans with the upcoming Stake Missionary Fireside. We did a live announcement via Facebook and got a lot of positive feedback. We are all looking forward to the activity. 

We had a baptism this Sunday for brother Francis Oringa, Brother Joshua for the Nsambya DL side, then brother S. I had the opportunity to interview him for baptism and he brought such a strong spirit into the room as he testified of things he knew to be true as he answered baptism questions. After his baptism and confirmation, he hugged everyone in sight, including the brethren of the priesthood who had just assisted in his confirmation ordinance. I looked at him a few rows back and at that moment, he got up from his chair, went a few seats down the row, and gave sister R big hug. As I witnessed that precious scene, with tears in my eyes, I remembered how amazing it is when people make the changes and steps in their lives to bring themselves more in line with God's will. I am so blessed to be apart of this wonderful work.

I love you all,
Elder Hazen
RJ's Apartment

Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekly Update~ "Enduring to the End"

Dear Family and Friends, 

I hope everyone enjoyed their Mother's Day and talking to their missionaries. After a few visits to Africell, a few calls to Customer Service, and much unnecessary stress, I was finally able to speak to my own mother and it was worth the wait. I love her and my family so much and it's ludicrous I'll be seeing them in the flesh in a few weeks. 
Talking to Each Other on Mother's Day!
This week I went on an exchange with Elder Grant. It was the first time proselyting together since Rwanda. Truly he's a friend for the eternities. The Spirit was present in all lessons, but it was expected working with a powerhouse like him. 

The work continues to progress and we are continuing to see the blessings working with members. The Alpha Stella and Sarah family as well as the Brother Jeff continue to progress nicely and we're looking forward to their baptisms next transfer. 

As my thoughts continue to wander to the Savior, one thing Elder Grant and I discussed was about how difficult it is to endure to the end, but one thing that helps greatly in that process is understanding one's purpose. The Savior was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be our Savior. He has been prepared for his role for eternities. He came to the world, and descended below all, and though blinded by a veil, understood his purpose from a very young age. The Savior knew the whole picture, and it influenced his every action because he knew the salvation of all of God's children depended on it. It gave him the perspective he needed, though bleeding from every pore and pleading that the cup would pass, to suffer an infinite Atonement. I testify with gratitude, that because of the Savior understanding his purpose, he endured to the end so we may have a chance to endure to our end of mortal life and one day be exalted in God's kingdom with our families. 

Elder Hazen

Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekly Update~ "Looking for a White Shirt, Not Cream"

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I spent my preparation day in downtown Kampala looking for a new long-sleeved white shirt and  popping tags in the market looking for sweet second hand clothes. As we were walking down the street on the lookout, a gentleman stopped us outside his store and showed us his wide selection of dress shirts. He asked us what color of dress shirt we were looking for and I told him the same color of the shirt that I was wearing. He looked at me, puzzled, and asked ''You're looking for a cream shirt?'' Confused, I then looked down at my shirt, then the white shirt he was holding in his hand and noticed the stark difference between the colors.  I guess I've been working too hard. Haha just kidding.

This week was another good one in Nsambya. We continue to receive a steady flow of referrals from the members and we are seeing the blessings of becoming more unified with them in our work. Nearly every day this week we have had a brother and sister from the ward moving to our appointments with us in the afternoons which has been wonderful for both the fellowshipper and fellowshipee. Sarah and her children, Alpha and Stella are continuing to progress. Stella and Alpha went to Gulu this week for a 4-day data entry course so, Sarah was at home all week alone. Elder Moyes and I took the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon with her a few times throughout the week and she ended up coming to church alone which was neat to see. It's funny because her and one of the members we brought with us to teach, Simon Peter, made a bet to see who could get to church first. Sarah won but, we were happy to see both present for the passing of the sacrament. 

The other family we are teaching, Jeff and his daughters, are all progressing as well. Jeff introduced us to his two first born daughters this week and we got to teach them all the restoration together. I think Jeff was relieved that his family is willing to learn the gospel with him because he was worried that if he continued in the discussions alone, he would cause disunity. As we testified how much this gospel blesses families, the spirit was there. Jeff, two of his daughters, and his young son all attended church yesterday and we were pleased to see them. 

I can't really express my gratitude for how much the Lord has blessed us with our current teaching pool. These people are the coolest people ever to make things even more fun. For example, Jeff is a free-lance artist who has been in the craft business for over 25 years. He has been running a craft-shop himself for the past 10 years in Kampala but recently turned over the business to his oldest daughter, Joanne. He also owns real-estate and travels out of the country to sell his art. It's neat to see how business-oriented he is and it's a pleasure to have gotten to know him. 

 Things just continue to happen for us and as we continue to do our best to help those whom we have been given stewardship over, both investigators and missionaries. We had exchanges with Elder Pearson, Dowdle, Ray, and Ellsworth from Kabowa and also attended their Star Wars themed DDM for May the 4th. It was a blast getting to work with both Elder Dowdle and Pearson reminiscing on old times from Lugazi and Rwanda. 

Happy Mother's Day to every motherly figure in my life, but most of all to my own mother. To quote Elder Holland, ''To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, say, “Thank you." Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.” To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth, and to Mother in Heaven, say, “Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.” To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.''

I am eternally grateful to my Father in Heaven that it was part of his divine plan to for my mother to raise me. I love her and my earthly family more than anything.

 I love you all,
Elder Hazen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Weekly Update~ "Blessings Come When We Seek For The Savior's Power as Bad as We Want to Breathe"

Dear family and friends,
RJ and His New Companion Elder Moyes
 One of the oft-referred to stories of this recent General Conference was the woman who suffered from the debilitating blood condition for 12 years. I loved this story in context to President Nelson's talk on Drawing the power of Jesus Christ into our lives. Like the woman who stretched physically and spiritually in order to grasp the Savior's power into her life. There are a few experiences where I witnessed others and myself stretch this week. 

We are teaching a man right now who has gone through a lot. I have seen him bring forth many fruits signifying his repentance and becoming a new man. However, he just seems to be one of those people who can't seem to catch a break. For about the past 3 years, he has been bounced around from home to home, trying to look for a job and making ends meet. He expressed to us that after he met the missionaries, he found a new found hope in life and things began to work out for him. He found a job about a month and a half ago at a casino running slot machines and began a training without pay soon thereafter. However because of the difficulty of circumstances before, along the way he got both his national I.D. and passport stolen, which has now arisen to become a big problem. Last week, his employers requested everyone to display some sort of identification before the training ends this week. In his desperation, he came to us, asking us to spot him 40k UGX for a new passport. I felt awful for him and was really stressed about what to do. After I got off the phone with him last Friday morning, Elder Moyes and I decided to pray about it. When we finished, a story I heard from MLC a few months back came to mind. In Mexico, there was a mission president faced with a dilemma of government marriage being an obstacle to many couples' being baptized. They simply couldn't afford to pay to get it done so they continued to co-habitate. However, the leaders of the church came up with a program to cut the price of marriage. When this plan was presented to this mission president, it didn't feel right for him to approve it. He thought about it all the way to an interview with a young couple preparing to be baptized. In this interview, he discovered that the couple went three days without eating in order to have enough money for their marriage, leading to their baptism into the church. With this experience, the mission president felt inspired to reject the plan and give these investigators the opportunity to exercise faith and let the Lord provide a way. We came to a similar conclusion with this man. When we went to his home to explain why we were not giving him the money by sharing with him the scripture in Luke 8 about the woman with the blood disease, he was completely understanding and the Spirit filled the room. We followed up with him this week and he told us as he prayed for direction on how to find the money to pay for a new passport, he felt inspired he needed to sell his phone and use the money that would be coming from his job to first pay rent so he could keep the spot in the home he is currently staying in, then buy a new phone in a few months. He felt confident it came from the Lord and we were grateful to witness this man stretch himself and seek God's will.

On Tuesday, I went on an exchange with Elder Seibert. The whole day was relatively good, but we hadn't had any really faith building experiences and hadn't seemed to learn much from each other. As we were discussing these feelings on our way to our last appointment which happened to be a member whom we would be teaching the restoration in 15 minutes too, we made a goal with each other that we'd make it the most powerful lesson of the day. But, to our dismay, he bounced us. It was 8:30 PM. Usually, it's time to prepare to go home if your lesson falls through at that time. However, I felt like there was more to be done in the day. We decided to pray and ask the Lord whom he would have us visit to share the message of the Restoration too to conclude the day. We sat and waited for revelation to come. Elder Seibert, having served in Nsambya before, suggested we visit a less-active member. We called him, and he told us he was home, so we put the truck in gear and sped off to his home 15 minutes away. We testified simply of the truths of the restoration, and finished. We were overcome at the Spirit that was present. We felt inspired to ask for a referral and he immediately listed off a name from the top of his head and told us to call him in the morning to find out when we could go together to meet with him. When we got to the car, we offered a simple prayer of gratitude thanking the Lord for using us as tools to share with someone who needed that message and for helping us stretch ourselves. Truly, I know blessings come when we seek for the Savior's power as bad as we want to breathe. 

I love you all,
Elder Hazen