Monday, March 12, 2018

Prayer for the truck... and fireflies

Subject: Weeks recording
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2018 22:12:57 -0500
From: Brett Hogg 

I did get the package!! You should have gotten pictures with lots of hands. They're a hit. Also, I love the socks!!!!! You should get pictures with them soon. Also all the elders are very thankful for the nuttela.

Elder Mears seems particularly fond of the hands.. haha

Apparently they found an air hose... ~Mom

Elder Hogg showing off those twice-in-braces. Hahaha

Elder Nelson

Elder Mears

Monday, March 5, 2018

🌮🥞🌯 Tacos, Pancakes, Flautas...

From: Brett Hogg 
Date: 3/5/18 2:38 PM (GMT-06:00)
Subject: 🌮🥞🌯

Hey Fam,

Not a very eventful week. On Thursday we taught a drunk guy! We contacted him several weeks ago, and he just straight up told us he was a drunk, but he was willing to listen (he was pretty sober at the time, he was on a bike, so). Well it turns out his address is the same as a former investigator, which coincidently a couple days later, our Branch Mission Leader told us to go by!  So we went back and the former investigator answered and let us in. She is the sister of the first guy, And a pentecostal preacher! I guess she talked to missionaries a couple years ago, and was really interested because she was getting her degree in theology. She seems to really like the missionaries, but didn't seem particularly interested in our message anymore. 

So we kind of went on, but a couple weeks later, Elder Nelson and I thought we would stop by. Well, her cousin answered and we talked with her on her porch a bit, also Pentecostal, about The Bible and The Book of Mormon, she seemed cool and said we could come by again one day. Then, as we were leaving the drunk guy gets dropped off, so we chat with him for a sec, but he's drunk, so we plan to stop by another time. 

The second lady invited us to their Bible study thing they have at their house this past Thursday, but when we showed up it was cancelled 😕. But we did get another chance to talk to the drunk guy again, and he was drunk. We tried talking to him a tiny bit about the Book of Mormon, but it wasn't a very productive meeting, so we scheduled another time to come by and he promised to be sober. 

Well when we came by again, he wasn't there, but we got to talk to the preacher lady again. We just kind of compared beliefs and then we talked a bit about the Book of Mormon again, and she said she was willing to give it another shot. So we will see how that goes. Coincidentally she goes to the same church as 2 of our other investigator couples. Never have I found so many Pentecostal Hispanics, must be big here in Lufkin. 

We are a little confused though, because the preacher's sister and one of those couples that we're talking to, believe in the trinity, but the preacher lady, and the other couple didn't? So I'm not sure what Pentecostals/this church believes but there seems to be some confusion about the trinity. 

Also several instances of Hispanics spontaneously feeding us. The first was on Wednesday I was on exchanges with one of the English elders, and we stopped by an old Book of Mormon referral we haven't been able to get in contact with. They had a long drive way, and it was at night, so we parked outside their fence and walked up awkwardly, and there's a group of guys out drinkin' and grillin' and blasting mexican music from their car speakers, as Mexicans are want to do. And I walk up and ask for our guy, and he's not there but I chat with them a little bit, throw in a couple jokes give them all cards, and then they offer us some tacos! They've got some fajita and some pollo goin' on the grill, and they hand us some tortillas and insist on us having a couple tacos, so we do! They were delicious, and now they like missionaries. Elder Mears was a little taken aback, and in a daze, because we just walked up and took over a classic after-work mexican fiesta, ate their food and left, and he didn't understand much of what was going on.. lol. 

Then we had an appointment with an investigator, on Saturday, that has been taught for a long while, and it was for the morning. We show up and she made pancakes for her brother-in-law and some kids she's watching, and she insists we sit and eat her pancakes. A couple interesting things: 1) In Spanish, honey and syrup are the same thing, 2) the Spanish word for jam/jelly/preserves seems to just be the word for marmalade, 3) she put cream cheese on her pancakes, like, A LOT. Like a pad of butter, but like that covers her pancake, then a layer of jam then the other pancake then syrup. I tried a piece like that and it was awesome. She said when she was pregnant she would get a brick of cream cheese for herself and one for everyone

Then on  Sunday, we had an appointment with this really inactive lady and her son. And when we pulled up they were all outside eating dinner, flautas! Man, flautas with crema, queso fresco, some salsa verda, maaan it's the best. Well they just kind of pulled up chairs and started getting us some. We ate with them then they let us teach them The Restoration. This is the same lady who gave us a big thing of enchiladas last time we stopped by. 

The way to a Hispanics heart is by eating their food. And eating seconds.

Also! The 14 year old neighbor of the member that has a son on a mission, he came to church! By himself! He's awesome! No other significant updates at the moment on investigators. 

Otherwise, I love the work, I love the people, this is the life.

Elder Hogg

Elder Mears and I trying to take cool pictures with the truck. And "stancing" it. Also a good ol' Texas sunset.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Stuck in the Mud

Subject: Stuck in the mud
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2018 14:14:03 -0600
From: Brett Hogg 

Hola Fam!

It's been a good week!

Monday night we got a couple new investigators. A couple days before we contacted a couple old Salvadorian lady's, and they said we could come back, so we did and wound up not only teaching one of them, but also her husband and her grandson and her daughter! 

When we got there they were eating dinner, and they invited us to eat, so we sat with them and they had pork and espagetti, and talked it was a good time. Then we sat and shared the Book of Mormon with them, and they had good questions and stuff, it was awesome.

Wednesday was eventful! It started with going to Sam's Club for lunch after a meeting (the English Elders had a hankerin' for churros). Well as we are eating there, a guy comes up and starts talking to us about religions and stuff and starts to kind of bible bash a little (bible bashing is not effective by the way, because even if you win (which missionaries are good at) you still lose)? 

Well he had some neighbors that were Mormon and stuff and it was all nice and stuff, a little "anti" but still friendly, and he tells us he moved here partially because of a cult. So there's a church close here in Wells, TX, called the Church of Wells. And missionaries always talk about how it's a cult and stuff and there's legends about it, how they ran missionaries out of town in the middle of night, forever ago, etc. The English Elders lived with the bishop for a week when they were moving, and the bishop lives in Wells, and they said they would always get really weird stares from people at gas stations and stuff. 

Anyway, he tells us that he helps people get out of this Cult and stuff, and I was a little floored because he was really serious about it and looking over his shoulder and stuff. I always thought that was just missionaries being dramatic, but it kind of sounds like a legit cult. Apparently that story all over the news a couple years back about the baby who died because they wanted to pray it back alive instead of taking it to the hospital, was them! He said on the weekends you can hear them howling and carrying on, and when you walk by they mutter curses under their breath. You should google it, it sounds crazy.

From Mom: I Googled it.. and while I don't condone speaking against other churches.. I have a problem when they cut themselves off from family members. Family is central to our church (members or not) and I can't imagine Christ would want it any other way.  I don't know of the other precepts of their beliefs, but I remember the baby from the news and I thought, "God helps those who help themselves" holds true over faith-based-only healing.

Then later that day we had an adventure. The ground is like mostly clay apparently, so when it gets rainy here, pretty much every inch of ground turns into a squishy, muddy mess. Well, we went to go by a young guy that lives pretty much in the center of Lufkin, so like city basically. Across from his house was an empty lot that his dad owns, that the neighborhood uses to park in. 

Well we park there, and after our lesson, we go to leave. Well if you didn't know, it's a rule that when missionaries are driving and have to back out, another missionary has to be standing outside the car guiding them back, for a y-turn, backing out of a parking spot, out a drive way, you name it. SO, because of this missionaries will go out of their way to find pull-through parking. 

Well on this lot we have in the past, we've just done a U-turn, and drove off the lot. So this day, when go to leave, we pull a really big u-turn (to avoid some flooded grass in the center of the lot (and I have it in 4-wheel drive just in case), and the truck just sinks right into the ground. 

Well I pop it into 4LO, and rock it a bunch. This isn't the first time we've gotten stuck in the mud here in Lufkin, so usually just putting it in 4 wheel drive and rocking it once or twice gets us out. Well this time it only seemed to make it worse. We start grabbing branches and random wood that's lying around and putting it under our tires and such, keep rocking it and nothing. By this point all the tires are sunk in the mud and the front right tire is almost to the top in mud. 

A good Samaritan, (a young hispanic guy of course) pulls over and asks if we need help, and we say yes! So he backs his F350, doully (not sure how to spell it, but it had double tires in the back), up and takes out a couple sketchy, short old towing straps and links em together aaand, it wasn't long enough. So he says he'll go get his dad, that has a tire shop down the road. They leave and come back with a different F350 doully, and more short and sketchy tow straps to tie together. 

Well we get it all rigged up and pull... and the straps snap apart. Some of the straps had a weird flat metal hook that wasn't very conducive to connecting to other straps, and we tried it a couple times and they kept snapping back and it was actually pretty dangerous, because the metal part kept slingshotting back, and one may have snapped back and dented our truck a little 🤔. Well we call someone else from the english ward that owns some kind of mechanic shop deal, and he says he can come. 

So the first guys leave and our member comes and he's got a Silverado, with only one set of wheels and was definitely a smaller truck (still like a truck though, not a small truck by any means, just not a 350). So we're a little nervous because we're not sure this is going to help anymore than the last guy. 

Oh yea, and at some point during the first people it started downpouring, so we were already all muddy but now we're all wet too! He gets out his really nice, long, tow strap, and pins it into our hitch thing. Well he gives it a go, and nothing. But we try again, giving both trucks everything they got and it starts to move, then a third go and it pops and swerves right out!! It was actually really cool to watch. A couple neighbors are even outside watching at this point, it was kind of a sight to behold. 

(More Pictures below)

Not sure if this fuels any Ford vs. Chevy debate, or is a testament to how important it is to have a good tow strap. There's probably a good metaphor to the Gospel in there somewhere. Anyway, afterwards we went home showered and changed and got on with the night. The Relief Society President  made us Posole that night! Perfect for a cold rainy day, It definitely hit the spot.

Posole is a traditional Mexican stew/soup. I guess I need to learn how to make that!

One of the coolest parts of the whole thing was that the First guy's dad that came and helped us was actually a guy we've been talking to about the Gospel! We haven't been formally teaching him but we've stopped into his tire shop a couple times and we go back and forth and what we each believe. 

He's a real nice guy, Pentecostal, and his Spanish is a little different, not sure how, can't quite put my figure on it, but he's a little harder to understand sometimes. It's good practice for Elder Nelson and I though.

We also volunteered at an animal shelter. We were looking for more service stuff to do and we signed up over there and it turns out you just go play with the dogs and cats and stuff. You don't even need to clean up after them or anything. So that was cool.

(More Pictures below)

We found some good people that we started teaching this week, nine new investigators. They're all awesome and want to come closer to Christ, or at least hear us out haha. I'll let you know how they're doing after we teach them little bit more.

Anyway, love the work here, love the people. All is well here on the front lines!

Elder Hogg

P.S. I got the (birthday) card (from Miss Diane - our Neighbor)! I was so surprised!! $50 in the mission is like $1000 in normal life. And I got the package!! It was awesome! Elder Nelson was really surprised about the stuff for him. And between us and the English elders the candy didn't last long. It's pretty much all gone now haha. 

You guys are the best❤❤❤

(Sorry if my email has a ton typos and is hard to follow sometimes, I usually write it in parts)

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Hand (Plus Zone Conference & The Umbrella)

Subject: The Hand
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 14:05:35 -0600
From: Brett Hogg 

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!

How's it going guys! Not really a whole lot this week. The work has been slow lately, not a whole lot of updates. Church attendance is back to about 20-25 right now. The Branch is blessed to have Elder Nelson as he knows how to play piano/organ. The Branch president's wife is learning piano so that she can play, but if she's not there or something, the branch was putting a phone up to the microphone haha. The Branch had a "Dia de San Valentin" fiesta, a small affair, but there were a lot of non-members (all friends or family of members *cough*)! It was fun, higher turnout than for church on Sunday! We also had to talk on Sunday. They asked us Friday night, and Elder Nelson wrote and gave his first talk in Spanish, it was really good! When I got up I had 30 min, but I've gotten really good at taking up time in sacrament meeting.

Other than that, as you saw, we had Zone Conference! It was really good, President Dalton is definitely inspired!
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor
Zone Conference Picture: Elder Hogg is in the back - far right.
Also, another story I forgot to mention. We have been walking a lot recently, trying to save miles. Well all four of us were walking together one morning, and it started really raining (it's been raining a lot here lately), and only Elder Nelson brought an umbrella. Well 2.5 of us were getting rained on, but oh well. Then a lady driving by stops and pulls over to the middle (the roads here have a middle turn lane thing, it's kind of weird) ahead a little bit with her hazards on, and we thought we were going to help he'd push her car or something. Well a hispanic lady gets out and goes to her trunk and gives us an umbrella, says she doesn't need it back, then just drives off! We stopped her just long enough to give her a card. It was a neat little miracle.

ALSO! We found that hand you sent a little bit ago, and we have been having a lot of fun with it lol (see pics).  Other pics: We did more hay this week. and a cat with a very stubby tail.

From Mom: We got these tiny hands from American Science & Surplus. And we sent one to Brett in his box. Well - you see the results. We went and bought a bunch more for the next box. LOL.

Anyway, love yall!
Elder Hogg

Monday, February 12, 2018

Elder Nelson! (New Trainee!) and Softening a hard heart...

Subject: Elder Nelson!
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2018 17:51:22 -0600
From: Brett Hogg 

Hello Family!

It's been a fun week! My new companion/son is Elder Nelson! He's from Holladay, Utah. He went to Utah State for a little bit before the mission. He's really committed to learning Spanish. I didn't realize how much Spanish I actually knew, before trying to help someone else learn spanish. I also learned how much I don't know! Anyway, he's cool.

The work here is going well! Nothing monumental yet but we've had pretty good luck just finding people who are at least willing to listen. We also saw The Lord soften someone's heart right before of our eyes! We went to go stop by this name we didn't recognize on the Branch directory. When we couldn't see any addresses because it was way out in the middle of nowhere, Elder Nelson suggested we park on the street and walk down a bit. When we knock on the door a lady answers and she starts kind of going off about how we shouldn't be coming by and when missionaries taught her son, they would meet at parks and stuff because her husband didn't like us, and how last time the missionaries came they parked in the driveway, and talking really fast, and all. 

Then her husband pulls up and  gets in front of her and leans on the door trying to be all intimidating, and says we shouldn't be knocking on people's doors after dark, and trying to give us a hard time and how last time missionaries came they drive into his driveway and broke his water meter or something, and in general just being a pain. Anyway, we're just cool and keep talking to him and say things like "well we do this full time, all the way up until 9pm!" and "well we parked in the road!" 

Turns out the guy on the records was his wife's son, and he's like 12 (the wife is an inactive member too). So we tell him we can come by at another time, and ask for his number so we can call and set up another time to come by. Well he gives it to us! Then we talk a tiny bit more and eventually he asks if we want to come in! So we come in and he starts talking about religion and stuff and we ask if maybe one day we can come share something with him, he said he was hungry and his wife was making dinner and stuff, but then he invited us to eat with them! 

Now mind you, we just got back from dinner, and that day we got a big lunch (a member gave us some money for dinner earlier in the week, but we didn't get a chance to use it that night), but if you want Hispanics to like you, you eat their food. Dinner has a two plate rule. Even if you don't ask for seconds. So we eat, I eat seconds (Elder Nelson hasn't learned yet, but believe me, I warned him), and we're joking around with him and he lets us share a scripture! We share 2 Nephi 25:26 and he lets us give him a Restoration Pamphlet. He was really cool with us by the end and seemed open to us coming back! I think his wife was surprised as well. 

Image result for 2 Nephi 25:26

Note from Mom: My favorite scripture! 

Other than that, just finding really nice Hispanics who are willing to listen, nothing major yet, but the works feels good right now!

Love y'all!
Elder Hogg

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hola y'all! Last week with Companion, Elder Johnson!

Subject: Hola y'all!
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2018 14:56:37 -0600
From: Brett Hogg 

Not a whole lot new this week. We did teach a young man this week and he was really cool. He actually has a neighbor on mission right now! We didn't know him because he's in the English ward, but we are teaching this young man because his mom is puro español. Anyway, last time we saw him we gave him a Restoration pamphlet, and we we came by this time and asked him if he read it he said "yea but I didn't answer the questions in the back." And we were like, oh! Because usually people, especially 14 year olds, don't read the pamphlet, and if they do they don't get beyond the first page. So that was that was cool.

Then we have this other investigator who is best friends with a member, and the member was in Houston on Saturday, and he usually just tags along with them to church. Well he showed up on his own! We were floored. He's a very quiet guy and you never know what he's thinking, or if he likes or dislikes something, so when he showed some initiative we were excited. He's a neat guy, he's young, and he's here by himself from Mexico. He was pretty much adopted by the member family. Anyway, they showed up to but later on in sacrament meeting. 

Then after church, we decided to go knocking. Our branch mission leader drove us around and was excited to show us where all the Hispanics live so we could go knock them. So we went knocking and just kind of street contacted along the way. We didn't realise it was super bowl Sunday, and we were wondering why everyone was outside grilling and drinking. We did meet a couple cool people. One guy specifically was really interesting (and drunk). He got really close to Elder Johnson and started going off about how he's looking for a church, but one that doesn't judge him for having tattoos, or a piercing. Not even in like a confrontational way, but in an unnecessarily serious way. The best part was that he spake Spanish, but he sounded Russian! Like imagine a Russian speaking Spanish. And his hand movements and everything where all kind of Slavic as well (like a mob boss telling a story). I wish I had a video of it. At the same time another, even more drunk guy, was telling me all about the virgin Mary. These are the experiences you only get in the mission haha.

From Mom: Just a note about the following statement.. In the mission, becoming a "Dad" means you are training a new missionary who has just arrived from the Missionary Training Center.. it's his first area. So becoming a "big brother" is that your trainer is training another one!  This can be a weird fun thing... and then there are grandparents - when your trainee becomes a trainer.  So confusing - but funny!

Other than that, the big news is that Elder Rodriguez is getting a baby brother! I'm training again! I'm excited, and nervous, because I've never had a companion with worse Spanish than me, so I've never had to learn like REALLY good Spanish, so i'm nervous about being the only Spanish speaker in the companionship. 

Anyway, that's about it!
Love ya!
 Elder Hogg

Monday, January 29, 2018

Hola Famsquad! Baptism back in Oak Cliff

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Hola Famsquad!
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2018 15:17:44 -0600
From: Brett Hogg 

This week was pretty neat. The Hermanas back up in my district in Oak Cliff had an investigator that wanted me to baptize him! I guess when they asked him he said "el hermano Sinaloa," Sometimes when I meet Hispanics I tell them I'm from Sinaloa (north west part of Mexico, a drug capital of the world, and birthplace of Elder Flores), and they think it's hilarious.

Anyway, they explained that I really wouldn't be able to make, being 3 hours away. There's a rule that says if a baptism or recent convert going to the Temple and you're more than 45 min away you can't go (for the sake of time, miles, and resources).

Also a little while later they asked who else is coming to his baptism from his family and he said no one, they don't like it, which made them super sad. So I guess they prayed about it and called President, and asked if I could come baptize Angel.  He told them to ask if there was anyone else he would like to do it, so they did, and he said if not me than just kind of whoever. After reporting this back to President, he called me, explained it all, and said that he said that he felt impressed to call and run it by me, more or less saying that I could go if I could find a ride, and have it not be burden on the members.

Luckily we got it figured out, thanks to some amazing members, and we were able to go! It was awesome to see him and some of the old district. I didn't even mess up the prayer or anything, so he only had to be dunked once! At the baptism, the front row where he sat was empty except for him and I, so that was neat that I got to be there. Afterwords He got up and shared his testimony basically about how awesome the hermanas are. He loves baseball too, so we got him a baseball and all the missionaries signed it.  Great day, you can definitely feel a little slice of heaven at baptisms.

Then Sunday. Sunday was awesome. We had invited several people to church including 2 inactive families, and 2 less active families. Almost everyone came, and sacrament meeting attendance nearly doubled. It was a great feeling. We help set up sacrament, and even put extra cups in the trays (usually they only use 2 rows, and they don't even get all used), and afterwords they were nearly all gone. It was high council Sunday, which is always kind of weird, because then someone has to translate during sacrament meeting, but they were good talks. We had 2 investigators there as well, it was awesome. 

Note from Mom: Missionaries often invite people to church (which makes sense) - but not often do they all come!  This is very cool news!

Our solid investigators right now are mostly unbaptized youth, which are cool because they come with families that want to come back to church. Otherwise we have some others that we are slowly teaching. It's always exciting when you find a hispanic who wants to listen, because there aren't as many here. 

By the way nearly everyone in the Branch is from Coahuila? And mostly from Piedras Negras (the city I went to with Grandpa and Grandma Debbie for a couple days that one year), or Eagle Pass (the border town, state-side side of Piedra Negras). 

I don't know why, nor does anyone else, they all say that they think it was jobs, but how did those jobs attract people from only like one city lol?? Also all the key priesthood holders of the branch work at or own tire shops? 

Anyway, I love the Branch here, they're super awesome people, who love the Gospel, and they make the best food. Which reminds me, I don't know if people are feeding the the missionaries back home, but there is no reason their calendar should have any empty dinner spaces. If a very humble branch of like 20 active members can proudly feed the missionaries every day, then a big english ward can, no problem.

Also there was like 3 days in a row that members made us burgers. What do Mexican cheeseburgers have on them? Well patty, cheese and bun of course, but also a ton of guacamole (just smashed avocado with some salt, nothing else), ham (or bologna), mustard, mayonnaise and lettuce. Then ketchup, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos (strongly encouraged) on the table if you really want 'em. Now, in Oak Cliff we tried Hamburguesas Norteñas from a taqueria, and they were really good as well. They're similar except that they have trompo (pork cooked on a vertical spit, like the Mediterranean equivalent shwarma) on them as well. Also, there's a restaurant in Oak Cliff called Burgüesa, excellent burgers, they have a tostadas and refried beans and a chipotlé sauce. Definitely more TexMex though. But I digress. Homemade Mexican burgers are amazing. 

Also one of the people who came to church was a Spaniard! She's the sister of one of the inactives, they're actually Honduran, but when they left, one came to Texas, one in Washington and the rest Spain. So we got to hear her weird Spainish lisp, and her use vosotros form! Spain is a weird place. The brother told us about when they were in Honduras their branch was like 5 or 6 people, and they met in their house. His dad was inactive and wouldn't come to church, so he would be in the bedroom, and be like 5 feet away from church!

Anyway, we also stacked hay again, but other than all that, that's about it from the front lines,

Love you guys!
Elder Hogg