Monday, February 24, 2014
We had transfers this last week! I am staying in Vienna and Sister Clark went to Salzburg as a sister training leader. I am working with Sister Haley Green and Sister Natalie Motto (went to high school with Sister Motto!). We've all three already lived together the past two transfers and so combining schedules really wasn't difficult at all. I love these two with ALL my heart. There are a lot of laughs and we make decisions fluidly. I'm excited and grateful to learn from this next transfer with them. We work over two wards together in a threesome, the International ward Vienna 4th and the Vienna 1st. We were wondering how this new arrangement would work at first, but there are many benefits already. Now, both english and german speaking people can be taught by all three of us. How cool is that??! It was sort of an emergency plan of action that they took putting us over these two wards. But we're excited for the challenge and ready to continue forward in the work! Miracles are already manifesting themselves.
Speaking of miracles. A really neat one happened this week. A few weeks ago, I began talking with a man from Nigeria (working in an english-speaking international ward has taught me two things. One, I love africans, french, and phillipinos, and two, when contacting, look for anyone from africa or asia. No prejudices here, just using strategy.). His name is Zacheus. We gave him a Book of Mormon and scheduled to meet with him again. The next time we met, he brought two friends of his! We explained the book to them and when his friends didn't quite understand, he took the liberty to explain what it was. YOU tell me how many of your friends get to excited about that they turn around and pass it along. So sweet!! We met with him again this last week on Saturday. We met at the train station (which is really nice and part of a mall.) We began by asking him what he read in the Book of Mormon. He said he'd flipped to Alma 10 and began reading there. We were so excited!! The best was at the end when I asked him to pray. Yes, yes I KNOW you should set them up to pray in a time and place where they would be comfortable, but I couldn't help but see his faith. Yes, in public, I asked him to pray the closing prayer. He was hesitant and I told him he seemed to have such a good relationship with God. He consented. He said, ''Let us hold hands.'' So we did. In our little circle in the middle of public at a table in an eating court. We bowed our heads and he prayed. Songs of prayer were sung, a prayer was prayed, and the spirit was SO STRONG. I've never been so happy to hear a prayer (in public) in my life. No shame. We should add little songs in our prayers I decided. It added a nice touch :).
The work continues on and hope is strong. I love this work. I love the Lord. This is His work. He makes it possible. I love you family. Thank you for your prayers. I pray for you too. I feel them and cherrish them. Keep the faith!
Last Monday after emailing and shopping our ward mission leader took us to the Big Pit up in Blaenavon. It is an old coal mine at the top of our area. Welsh history is full of coal mining. Cwmbran itself was brought about because of a coal mine. We went down into the mines with hard-hats, head lamps, the works! It was pretty cool. We were guided by a miner who led us through all of the shafts and showed us how the mine worked.
Dad, you would like this. They showed us the old stables and harnesses for the horses they had in the mines. I wish I could have taken pictures but the man said we couldn't bring anything with a certain type of battery in it. I guess the cameras had that kind of battery. It was sweet though! The horses were taken care of more than the men and women in the mine. They even had the name tags of the horses that used to be there on the stables. The horses were allowed to work 8 hours a day, that's it. But the people in the mine had to work 12 hours a day. There were lots of cool facts about the mine, you should look it up online or something.
Haha we had an awesome experience with a drunk guy named stephen. One sign of success for missionaries is that funny things like this happen. If you work hard, the Lord blesses you with hilarious experiences that brighten your day and make for a good journal entry.
It was in the evening time so it was dark. We were on our bikes to go visit try by some potential investigators. This guy was walking down the street with headphones in. Elder Ferrell asked him "How is your evening going?". The man stopped and looked at him with a funny look. Elder Ferrell repeated the question assuming he hadn't heard him. The man stated "Well you're an inquisitive fellow aren't you."
He said his evening was alright and then he realized we were missionaries. He sort of burst out saying "oh would you like to have a chat? Maybe you could tell me what you guys believe."
Of course I freaked out inside. How perfect could this be! The Lord just placed this elect man in our path! I found out that the Lord placed him there for another reason.
We walked across the street to an empty car park. Stephen told us "Alright you've got 30 minutes. I'm yours."
"Golden!" I thought. Angels singing hallelujah in the background.
We began teaching. He listened for about 30seconds, then he questioned why we would believe that God was a male. We tried to explain. He cut us off again saying stuff like "take gender out of it!" We tried to use the term "Supreme Being" instead just so he would let us get another sentence out. After about five minutes it finally clicked (vertically?!-explosion) and I asked him "If you don't mind me asking, are you drunk?".
"I've had a beer, yes." And he kept right on asking us questions that he wouldn't let us answer. It was kind of hysterical how loud he was getting. We were getting pretty loud too. And laughing a bunch. I can't believe we were defending our case to that guy. Our 30 minute lesson lasted about 15.
One of the last things he said (And he was practically yelling this) was "You boys seem like really good lads. I would enjoy sitting down, watching a game and having a beer with you... You guys are so confused! Would you like to stop in for a beer and a coffee?" We told him we needed to go teach people. He shook our hands probably 6 times before he left. "a beer"? more like 10 beers. We laughed about that for the rest of the night.
We've got our first baptism here in Cwmbran happening on March 1st! It is actually happening! We asked our investigator what he thought about baptism. He said that he felt ready. When we first met him he told us that he had lost his faith. Yesterday he told us that we had helped him find it again. Thank you thank you thank you for all of your prayers on his behalf.
I can testify that the biggest reason that he felt ready for baptism was because he consistently read and prayed daily. The diligence that he has shown has truly brought to pass the promised blessings in the scriptures. God keeps his word! If we read and pray daily we WILL get the blessings associated with it. And he came to church every week since we met him. EVERY WEEK. If that isn't elect I don't know what is.
-Elder Jacob Packer
Monday, February 17, 2014
This week was so good! First, Destiny, our little new convert from Nigeria, gave his first talk today on prophets! He did such a good job! He told about how much he love President Thomas T. Monson :). He's a ninja and has THE strongest testimony. I don't see him EVER going inactive EVER. He's a rock with zero dependency toward us missionaries. It's so great. He really get's it.
Our bishop is SO amazing. We came together as a missionary team and are planning a ward activity that will seriously be the seed to activities I will do some day if ever put in the callings to plan them in home wards. I feel so blessed to be able to learn from his incredible marketing knowledge and planning skills. Bishops, when held up to their potential, will do work and be the source of Heaven's windows if honored in their callings and purposes!! I have a stronger testimony of that!
Transfers! I'm not getting transferred but actually being put in a drit with the other two sisters that we live with. Between the three of us, we'll be working with the Vienna 4th and Vienna 1st ward. Can you say emergency plan? But we're all so excited to learn and grow and combine our efforts :). Pray for us please :).
I love this work! Til next week!
Dear Family, Friends, and... Family,
First off HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO NATALIE AND ANDI!!! I NEED to see those pictures of Andi with the cake! Natalie I hope you went crazy with a cake too! Send me pictures of you eating your cake as well!
We did more service this week! A brother in the ward got a load of firewood for his wood-burning stove. He needed help moving it into his back garden (people don't really say back yard here). From not being able to do service at all for several months to doing every week is a good improvement.
We're helping two lads stop smoking. They are only 15 and 16yrs old. We have been teaching them pretty consistently and they are progressing! They both want to stop smoking really bad so we introduced the 15 step Stop Smoking Program. They are both doing better, one has basically quit cold turkey and the other is cutting down dramatically. They are awesome guys. Pray for them!
Ok, so the weather has been making life exciting this week. Because of the crazy wind we had on Wednesday everyone's rubbish bins were being blown over. Everyone puts out smaller bins as well for bottles and cans and things and those REALLY got blown all over the place. On the way to a member's home that morning we picked up a bunch of bins for people. People weren't walking around because of the rain and wind. If they didn't want to talk to us we could at least serve them.
The bins usually have the number of the house painted on the side. Some bins must have gotten blown really far because we found a bin with 98 on it. The houses around us were 12-16!? Some poor #98 is missing a bin.
Elder Ferrell even caught a bin as it was being blown across the street with his foot as he was riding his bike. Doing service with style. It was pretty funny.
Oh yeah, Happy Valentines Day to all of you couples out there! As you can imagine we didn't do anything for V-Day. But I hope all of you had a good one with your sweetheart (Just to be clear, Lydia, Jessie, Danielle and BreAnne: You should NOT have a sweetheart)!
Elder Jacob Packer
Food has been really good this week. I even made my rice/lettuce stuff look fancy. The lasagna was from a member in the ward. It was Brilliant! If you are wondering if you really see a chocolate smiley face on my baked potato, the answer is yes. Elder Ferrell did it when I wasn't looking.
Monday, February 10, 2014
New record this week of flat tires! Between Elder Ferrell and myself we got 5 flat tires this week! Yesterday I got one right before dinner so we rode home with a bunch of little pit stops along the way. It was a slow leak so I would pump it up as fast as I could then ride as far as I could. When the tire went down again I would stop. Elder Ferrell would come up behind and hand me the pump again. I would pump like mad(crazy), hand Elder Ferrell the pump and get myself hence! It only took 3 pit stops to get home. Even if I did just walk the bike for the last little bit.
After visiting one of our investigators yesterday evening Elder Ferrell got on his bike only to discover his tire was flat. He wasn't even riding it! We had a few more earlier in the week at random times. One of our theories is that this old lady came by and slashed Elder Ferrell's tire. We saw her from a distance and it was night time... suspicious? Very.
Today we need to buy more patches. Many more patches. On the bright side, we are getting really good at patching tires and doing it fast.
We did service finally! Because it is winter time nobody in the ward has any service for us to do. I guess they think the only service missionaries do is garden work. But luckily our ward mission leader had us help him tear out his old kitchen. It felt good to break some stuff, carry some stuff and to do it wearing non-proselyting clothes!
Other than that though, we had the usual wet, rainy days. Some hail in between and healthy scoop of gale force winds.
Oh and I had a good wreck on my bike! It was dark, we were headed up to Talywain. We were on the pavement(sidewalk) alongside a busy road. We were just starting to go down a pretty big hill, Elder Ferrell was already speeding down the hill when I started to gain speed. All of the sudden I flew over my handle bars into the road with my bike. I quickly got up and pulled myself and my bike onto the pavement because cars were coming.
I was so confused! It was as if I hit an invisible curb, I had no idea what I had hit. I looked for whatever it was. It turned out to be a little metal lid that was fully open on it's hinge. The lid was probably only 10" tall when standing up and from the side it was about 3/4" thick. I came at it from the side so I didn't see it at all. As far as I can tell the only damage I did was tear my trousers on the knee. My bike is making weird clanking noises now so I'm worried it damaged that too. And there was a lot of adrenaline when I was in the road. Phew.
Those are the main noteworthy events of the week... I made cous cous for the first time. I'm not really sure what you're supposed to eat it with, or if you eat it by itself. I ate a bowl of Mediterranean style giant-cous-cous this morning. Who does that? Anybody who knows stuff about cous cous let me know.
It may sound like it, but I'm not complaining about all this stuff. This stuff is what makes life memorable and exciting. The Lord is blessing us with so many things, and he throws in a bit of excitement every once and a while. I love Him for that!
Family and Friends!
This week was a miracle and story week. So, get ready for stories :). The Lord led us to those that were truly prepared while teaching me that when we're placed in deep water, we learn to swim.
The first set of miracles happened on our companion exchange. I went to the city of Graz and spend two nights there with Sister Regnier. Let me tell you first about the first night. We exchangedafternoon and traveled the train stations where we would take a 2 1/2 hour train ride to Graz. We got on our train and realized that we hadn't printed out our ticket (it was bought, we just needed to type in our ticket number and get a print out). The train was leaving in 5 minutes so we sprinted to the nearest electronic ticket booth. We typed in two different numbers that Sister Regnier thought it could be and neither worked. Haha we both panicked just a little knowing we'd run off the train with nothing but my coat and her cell phone. No money, no passports, no ticket to travel anywhere, nothing. We sprinted back to the train and as we were pushing the button, the train began to slide past Sister Regnier's fingers. Hahaha ooooooh, shoot, is what went through my mind. We could see the Elders through the windows who had blank looks that read, ''Haaa... oh, snap.'' The next stop was only a half hour away and two elders just came back with our stuff. But for the next hour we walked around, in our cute dirndls (the cute Austrian/German dresses that we sometimes wear for Zone Conferences). A guy out of no where came and talked to us. We talked about everything religion with him. It was actually pretty cool. Granted, he was a little drunk, but hopefully the card he got will go to use when he sobers up :). In the process, I was proposed to twice, and Sister Regnier was almost kissed, but by another guy that was reeeeaaally drunk. After saving her from him, the elders came. Hahahaaaaa.... oh the joys. PROMISE we did not try like niaeve little girls to convert drunk people. Note to self, walking around in dirndls attracts THE wrong crowds.
The next day, we were determined to take the craziness of last night and turn the day ahead of us into something pleasing to the Lord. We set a goal to find 4 potentials and place 4 Books of Mormon. After studies we went street contacting. Neither of us had done it in a while (we work a LOT through members) and were both a little nervous, but it's just like a work out. The first few minutes are just kinda warm up and you get your nerves out. Once we got going, the Lord led us to two AWESOME potentials that both expressed some interest. Haha there's nothing like a mission to teach you to appreciate all the members at home. Anyone who is even the slightest bit interested is pounced on by the starving-to-teach missionaries. If people don't say no because they straight up don't believe in God, they say no because sometimes missionaries freak out if you say yes. Haha I love being a missionary; finding joy in the little victories God gives us. Throughout the day, we talked to SO many people, all of which had had some sort of contact with the church before. We learned at Zone Conference from President and Sister Miles about being examples. They say it takes 7 times of contact before someone will investigate the church. If that's true, we added those to a lot of people's tally list, many of which were not the first! So cool! One thing I learned from this exchange was that every single one of our potentials found and Books of Mormon places were done as a companionship. Sometimes we innocently contact alone, and not that that doesn't work, but I learned that doing together as the Lord commands, IS the most effective and powerful! It's less stressful as well! I love being a missionary and applying everything my companion and I do to full time missionary work AND marriage. It was SO cool though on the way home. We needed one more potential and had 2 books left. We had just barely been dropped off by a member after teaching an investigator and had a 2 minute walk home. Sister Regnier, ''I don't know if it's gonna happen.'' Sister Packer: ''Anything can happen.'' Just as we say this, we're walking up a darker street and there are two guys walking towards us. ''Here they are,'' I thought. We stop them and talk. There names were Zack and Slamen. We talked for a while and it turned out that Zack was from Afghanistan and had worked as a translator for the US for 6 years. He loved Americans. He was paid well and had a house and car and 2 years of education behind him, but he knew he wasn't free. The Taliban threatened him with death if he didn't stop working for the US and start working for them. He refused and to save his life came to Austria where he speaks no German, lives in a tiny apartment, has little money, and his education isn't valid (I believe is what he explained). He wanted to be free. We told him we were American and appreciated what he did for the Americans. Then we offered free German classes in which he was VERY interested. We gave him a Book of Mormon and those sisters plan on giving Slamen one in his language too. I learned two things about being a missionary whether it's member OR full-time:
1. Being selfless and just asking people how they are doing is SO effective and my FAVORITE question. I ask people that and almost never get a bad response (the responses that are weird, I don't worry about because I was just being nice!). When I'm sincere and really want to know how they are, here, they've so often been suprised, but they smile and instantly feel my love. You don't have to start with ''Joseph Smith was a prophet...'', although that could work too. I'm just scared to begin with something that doesn't sound or feel natural :).
2. Listen. Just ask them about themselves, and LISTEN. Our job seriously is so easy. Order of Operation, just like we learned in math. And we thought we'd NEVER use math...
3. Connect to them and Testify. Pretty self explanitory. I tell you all any of this as if it's new.... Haha I know it's not. It's just so cool to learn and I'm open to sharing it. I love this work.
Lastly, we met a guy yesterday that in English asked us which church we belong to. I've almost NEVER heard that question from someone so I jumped out of my seat on our street tram to talk with him. I told him who we were, missionaries and taught people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I then asked who he was. He then responded and told us that he also did the work of the Lord and was a disciple of Christ, going around and healing people by the laying on of hands. .....cricket cricket.... Um, what? I asked him where he got his authority. He said all he needed was a good relationship with Christ. He kept just explaining to us what he does until he got off and I had no time to ask him something about the organization of the church which Christ created, or that we can't just give ourselves that authority. He was a happy guy and super nice, but no. I studies that this morning and did find it IN the Bible where it says we must be confirmed that authority by someone else. Exodus 40:15-16. Next time I meet someone like that, I'll whip that out. I was grateful for the opportunity to study that topic.
HOLY COW, that was a lot of writing. But it was such a cool week and I hope any of these stories made sense and that someone could take something away from it :). If you made it this far in my email, congrats. It was a long read.
But I want to testify that I love this work. It IS the work of the Lord. He IS our Redeemer and Savior and through Him, we have the principles and ordinances of the gospel which is first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second repentance, third baptism by emersion for the remission of sins, fourth laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I also know that a man must be called of God by prophesy and by the laying on of hands be ordained by someone who carries the proper Authority of God in order to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
p.s. Josh, Elder Hargraves? Did you ever serve with someone named that?
|this picture is of Trachten the traditional Ausrian and German clothing :)|
|Cool pic of a road up in the hills in Graz!|
Sister Clark and I at a well known restaurant that sells BOMB wienerschnitzel
|3 elders in our district at the restaurant. Right to left: Elders Lyons, Curtis, and Abbott (DL)|
|I got this hat after complementing a lady on a bus. She just handed it to me. She was an opera singer and so cool. You never know when paying a complement will grant you what you complemented!|
Monday, February 3, 2014
Thank you for your letters, ahem, I mean emails. I loved them! Yay you got the package!! I was a little worried because it took so long to get there! When did it finally get there? Court I LOVE THE WATCH. It was perfect and I realized after skype that you'd mentioned I'd get one. It's perfect and I love it. ALL the letters made me cry if I didn't tell you that before. Thanks again for it :).
So, I just have a lot that of things I learned that for whatever reason I feel like I should share. It's about all that's coming up instead other information. So here ya go :).
This week I learned about knowledge. I learned that knowledge is power. I was thinking about contacting people and how I could personally just contact differently, more effectively. I thought and thought, and then one morning, I learned about it in the book Jesus the Christ. It was only chapter two and my mind was blown. I read about the pre mortal life we lived and about the war in heaven. I realized that the war was not one of blood and carnage, but of words and ideas. Knowledge. The battle was one of knowing what was true, what was not, what was good and what was better. It was a battle of knowledge. Sometimes I read about the preearth life and my perspective is SO blown out into space that all doubts of anything are just squashed. I then read in Mosiah .
He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; forhe shall abear their iniquities.
I realized. Christ had to have the literal knowledge of what we each personally felt and would feel in this life including heartaches, sufferings, sorrows, trials, moans, groans, tantrums, flake outs, grief, weaknesses small and great, and finally death. He had to in a way ''go to school'' and learn what all of that really was. This Knowledge He gained was all apart of His ministry and mission. But it started back in the premortal life when Christ created the earth and from that, gained the knowledge of it and all of its elements. He had the knowledge of how we can attain glory like unto the Father and it was from doing the Father's Will. I feel like that's maybe why He was chosen over Lucifer, because His knowledge was sufficient to complete the mission.
I then thought about people. People listen to other people who know what they're talking about. People LIKE to know things. That's how people gain power in the first place. Hitler was a very smart man, in the fact that he knew a lot about leadership and how to save a country from poverty. People trusted that. I thought about how people really do want to know things and as a missionary, THAT'S why we spend the hours we do studying. We need the knowledge to be relyable sources to these people. Will we know all the answers? No. But will we be more effective? Absolutely!
So. That morning after learning and thinking about all that, I had an experience that confirmed this.
We went out to work that morning and I was determined to talk to more people. I felt like another layer of the veil had been peeled from my eyes and that I was one layer away from seeing the literal spirits on the other side. We got on the first tram and I was standing close to a woman in her 50's.
I asked her, ''Excuse me, what do you think the purpose of life is?'' She looked at my nametag and shook her head. She said, ''No, I know what you do.'' I looked at my nametag innocently and asked patiently, ''What does that mean to you?'' She said in broken English, ''You see the people without hope, and want to give them hope. In the Bible Jesus did not teach to have church. What you do is not what Jesus taught.'' Somewhere in there I said patiently, ''It was just a question.'' She proceeded to chew me out and then walked off the tram with all the confidence in the world that she was right. I felt like how the scriptures describe Christ who's led dumb as a lamb waiting to be sacrificed. I said not a word in response. The next thing I said outloud to myself and to my Father in Heaven was, ''Holy cow. Father, that was wrong in so many ways.'' I was tempted to be angry and almost wished I could have looked her in the eye and said, ''If you knew who Christ was at all, you would know that you don't know a thing in my heart. You don't know why I'm here.'' But, I pushed these feelings away. I remembered that behind every person's reaction was a reason for it. I don't know her background. I don't know all the heartache or trials she's endured. Instead, I was determined to keep going. I imagined myself looking Satan straight in the eye and giving him a good smirk. I sat down and saw a girl sitting close to me. After a moment, I turned to her and smiled. I said, ''Hello, how are you today?'' She looked a little surprised and said, ''Good. And... how are you?'' ''I'm doing so great.'' We talked for a moment, and then she asked what I was doing here. Honestly, I don't remember everything I told her. But at some point I mention something about God and that I was here to teach people about Him. She looked at me and said, ''I was just thinking about that. This is a crazy coincidence.'' ''It's not a coincidence,'' I said. ''I don't believe in those.'' I told her that I knew I was a child of God and that He loved me. I knew that she was His daughter and that He loves her too. I proceeded to tell her about the Book of Mormon and we exchanged numbers. She doesn't have time to meet until March, but she's found.
My perspective is not always so intense and deep, but it taught me that I know the people who are ready ARE out there and I also witnessed the reality of the battle that is raging all around us. People are searching and waiting to be found. I also know that we just need to be ourselves in this work! We are never asked to do anything without the ability to do it with God. What a promise! I'm so grateful for my Father in Heaven who loves me! I'm grateful for that knowledge! I'm grateful for knowledge!
Mom, Dad. Thanks for teaching me what you have. That girl, Shiva, may not realize, but I know I will be forever grateful that you toughed it out and taught me those lessons that probably took time and a LOT of patience to sit down and teach. But I'M HAPPY you did. The people here are benefitting from it. I know this work is the Lord's! I know He knows us! I know He has a plan specifically made for each of us! I know that anything we want to know, we can work and pray learn about if it's in line with God's Will and if we do all we can to obtain it! In the name of my Savior and Redeemer, Amen.
My testimony has grown about fasting. Fasting is one of those painfully awesome things that makes a huge difference. I noticed it the most when I was studying in the morning. What usually took me 10 minutes to read and take in only took me 5 minutes. I got so much more done and it was so much easier to feel the spirit.
I think I just eat too much in the mornings and it makes me sluggish. OR I simply focus a lot harder on studying because I don't want to think about my hunger. Either way, it opened me eyes to how studying should be. I don't plan on fasting every day but I'm sure I can do something differently with my diet.
Any suggestions Mama?
Big news! We had 3 investigators at Sacrament meeting yesterday! It was so great! What makes it even better was the fact that they enjoyed it! I was a bit surprised that they enjoyed it because two of our investigators were teenage boys. We avoided telling them how long it was until they showed up (It seemed like the right thing to do at the time). They will be there next week!
The third person we had at church was a relatively new investigator, we've only taught him twice. We'll call him Steve. He is one of the most logical thinkers I have met and is genuinely interested in the Gospel. He read through most of the Book of Mormon by the second time we taught him. He told us that he had been reading. We then asked him "how much have you read?"
He replied "I'm in the... Book of Mormon I think it's called" (Jaw-drop)
I haven't been more confident that someone will be baptized by their baptismal date than I am with him! Pray for him please!!! Pray that he will get his answer!!!
What amazes me even more is that when we talked to him on the street he was one of the least likely people I would expect to listen to us. Shame on me for judging. I've seen it several times now where the people who are the least likely (in my mind) to go anywhere with the gospel end up being our investigators.
We need to keep finding investigators. We have a good pool right now but in order to keep it at the size it is at we need to continually being finding new investigators. Pray that we can find some!
I love you all!
-Elder Jake Packer
P.S. Dad, that is way cool that you lead reindeer! So cool!