Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baptisms and a new companion

Hey guys!

Saturday was busy busy, but the baptisms all were so awesome! The 4 of them also got confirmed yesterday in church. If I have time after I type this email I will send a picture. I didn't know how much we have to do to prepare for a baptism. It all went so beautifully though. The spirit was so strong. I love this. It was so neat to see them enter the water. I especially loved watching Tyesha watch her children Daveon and Ahnya enter. Her hands were over her mouth and she was crying. It was really cute. Tracey's boys were right up with their hands on the glass when she went in. Some funny things occurred. We had told them all to wear white underwear. They all got some (with help from the ward). I LOVE RELIEF SOCIETY WOMEN! But Tracey forgot a white bra! She asked if she could just wear her blue one and I had to tell her no and that she can't wear a bra. I just pretended like it was no big deal to not wear a bra... even though in my head I knew how see through it would be! Tracey is kind of bigger, and she wanted this little guy to baptize her. I knew it could be a problem! When she entered the water (she was the last of the four) she went under and all of a sudden she couldn't get back up. I was praying so hard for him to lift her! No one knew what to do. She opened her eyes under the water and had a frantic look on her face. She also has bad knees and had gone to a knee surgeon the day before because they hurt so bad, she thought she might need surgery. Because of her knees and the lack of strength from Brother Garcia, I looked at Sister Hacking and looked at Brother Lowe, the ward mission leader, and we were all just praying in our hearts. Ha ha. He got her up and then the witnesses said she didn't go all the way under! So she's standing there with a transparent dress, almost had drowned, and had to do it AGAIN. I was just hoping her knees didn't hurt too bad and so she could remember this as an enjoyable experience. They baptized her again and it was the same thing all over again! But she eventually got up and out and a big relief came over me. It's like Satan tries all he can... even when they're in the water. I hate it. But nothing can stop the work from progressing. The baptisms were all completed rightly with the authority. After the baptisms, Sister Hacking and I taught a mini lesson (The Gospel of Jesus Christ) while we were waiting for them to change. When I was talking about Repentance, and how it means "turn" in Hebrew and "change" in greek, Tracey and Tyesha walked back in the room in their clothes. I invited them up and put my arms around them and bore my testimony about change and how they have changed habits to become a member of the church and how I know and can feel that God is so proud of them. They looked beautiful. They were crying too and just so happy. It was such a spirit filled day. After that we had worked on the primary song, "Baptism" with Tracey and Tyesha's kids. So they all came to the front and sang it. It was soooooo cute! I felt like the Primary chorister. I wish I could've recorded the whole baptism. It was just so wonderful. I got a lot of pictures for Sister Stewart. The confirmations were great too. They were done by their home teachers. I took note so that I can write it out for them to remember. Speaking do you have my setting apart blessing notes? I'd like those if you can find them.

Tyesha called me Sunday morning and asked if she could bear her testimony in Relief Society. I talked to the RS Pres and she said it wouldn't be a problem. Tyesha got up there (holding Taleek because he doesn't like nursery) and bore a beautiful testimony. The ward is amazed with her and so am I. I was sitting there thinking, "We did not teach her well enough for her to bear such a strong testimony." It really reaffirmed to me that this is the Lord's work. When people find his gospel, He changes them and helps them reach their fullest potential.

Tracey's boys, 11 and 9 are now preparing for baptism. We are going to push back their date so that we have time to focus on some progressing branch members as well as them.

Feng (a man from China) has been coming to church with his friend William Shum (who baptized Dan). We set up two appointments for this week and I think he's gaining a testimony. I can't wait to meet with him and see where he is at on his spiritual journey. I love when the branch members do their missionary work!

Well, I have to go! I love you all so much!

P.s. yes I have a new comp and she loves Ithaca!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Lord loves Ithaca!

Hey Family!

I just briefly skimmed the emails but I saw that Uncle Dirk and Aunt Laurie received their mission call!!!!!!!!! Or should I say, President and Sister Jergensen? That is so neat! Des Moines, Iowa! I remember meeting people in the MTC with that mission call. If I had only known what they have to look forward to, such a loving mission president and wife, I would have told them! Those missionaries are so lucky! I know Rochester has an opening and I was hoping they’d be called there and then allow us Utica missionaries to go to Pageant. Ha ha. The Lord has marvelous things in store for you Dirk and Laurie. I just can’t wait for you to see it. It is so real. I heard people say, “You’ll find that the Lord is preparing people for your message before you even meet them” all the time, but I thought it was just a common saying. I’ve now have a testimony of it. My mission president always says, “There is nothing more important that you could be doing right now than to be here. Nothing.” You are going to be so wonderful. The missionaries there in Iowa are in for a treat. There is nothing more fulfilling than missionary work. Congratulations. I will write you a letter because my mission president’s wife keeps talking about you. It’s so funny. She pulled out some magazine and said, “Is this your Aunt and Uncle?” Ha ha. President and Sister Bulloch are excited for you too.

Well, it has been such a great week! I don’t even know where to start. I feel so grateful because I am finally seeing what a mission is all about, helping people find happiness through Jesus Christ’s gospel. The people we are teaching are eating it up and there is a definite change in their countenance. Tyesha is getting baptized on Saturday. We are trying to really instill endure to the end to our investigators who are getting baptized this week so that they know that life still has it’s ups and downs after baptism. Yesterday we were teaching Tyesha and she just gets it so well. She was like, “I feel like I’m on a boat sailing towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and I’m getting closer and closer, but the closer I get, the bigger Satan’s waves become and he’s trying to knock me off course. He won’t do it though. I’m gonna keep on fightin!” Ha ha. She loves church and how there are classes for all her children. She says, “It’s like Mcdonalds, I’m lovin’ it.” At the end of our lesson she just went off for 20 minutes bearing her testimony. She calls us her guardian angels. Her father is a pastor and we have fasted for her to come out and say, “This is the only true church.” We know she likes it, and she has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but to say this is the only true church was a step since her Father is a baptist pastor. But she did it. Yesterday she bore us the most powerful testimony I’ve ever heard an investigator bear. Me, Sister Stewart and Tyesha were all in tears. She was just expressing her gratitude to God for sending us to her at the time she was looking for a church. Our fast and prayers were answered. She was able to gain a testimony that this is the only true church. She also has been struggling with the decision on moving back to Virginia where her family all is. It won’t happen until the Summer, but she couldn’t seem to get an answer. We taught her about fasting and she fasted about it. The next day we visited her and she said, “Sisters, I GOT MY VISION!” ha ha. She said she had a little vision of her kids with all their stuff and a moving truck outside her apartment. Ha ha. I love seeing investigators develop a testimony of what we teach them. She said she won’t move until the Summer. She expressed to us yesterday that she is going to find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints there and pull her family in one by one. It’s just a big chain effect! The women in Relief Society have reached out to her amazingly. They pick her and her two year old up for playgroup weekly. They also pick up her daughter for Achievement Days and her son for Young Mens. The Ithaca Ward is awesome.

Tracey is great too and all set for baptism. We worked through the abuse thing and she was interviewed by our mission president. He actually spoke in our ward on Sunday. It was combined ward and branch because there was a huge YSA conference held here. Singles from the East coast came. I saw Nate Wright and Briana Haynie from your BYU ward dad! We talked.

We are teaching 2 families right now and they are all coming to the baptism. The baptism of Tracey, Tyesha, and Tyesha’s two kids are this Saturday at 2. We also set two more people for baptism that I’ll tell you about next time!

Also, Sister Stewart is getting transferred! I’m getting a new comp. I feel good about it but it’s sad to see my trainer go.

Thanks for the Vday packages. I’m so spoiled! The church is true! I love you all so much!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!

Hey everyone!

Thanks for the emails. I'm printing a lot of them out so I'll have longer to read them.

We just got back from Cornell campus. As a district we set up an appointment at Cornell Library to see a first edition book of mormon. The man who brought it out (in gloves) hardly knew anything about it. I just wanted to give him one from my back pack and say, "Your presentation can be a lot better if you read the book and pray to know of it's truthfulness." Ha ha. But, I didn't. We aren't allowed to proselyte on campus. It was neat though. He said the pages are made out of cloth. I got pictures I'll send soon.

On Friday we had "Return and Report" at the mission home. This is where the new missionaries (me and the 5 others I came out with) go to the mission home for a training. It was really cool to see my MTC district again and talk about our areas. Sister Despain is serving in Syracuse. I didn't realize how great of a companion she was until I saw her again! I've missed her!

President came to Ithaca on Wednesday and interviewed us. He said, "If I take Sister Stewart out of Ithaca and put another Sister there with you who hasn't served in Ithaca, would you feel comfortable?" I said, "I would if I knew it was inspired." I have a feeling Sister Stewart might be getting transfered. Who knows! We find out about transfers this coming Saturday, so I'll know next time I email. I LOVE ITHACA and the people I'm working with here. I don't think I'll be transfered. It's in the Lord's hands though.

One of the greatest things about Zone Conference that I wrote about last week was President Bulloch's Book of Mormon challenge. It's given me a greater appreciation for the Savior. So if you're wanting to add more to your book of mormon studying, you can do it too. All the missionaries in the NYUM are doing it. This is it...
1. Carefully and prayerfully read and study a new, unmarked copy of the Book of Mormon.
2. Underline or otherwise highlight each reference to Jesus Christ (any of His names or pronouns, prophecies about, or references to Him or His Atonement).
3. In another color, highlight any reference to His qualities or attributes.

I've loved it. Sometimes we introduce ourselves as "representatives of Jesus Christ". I feel so inadequate when I do though! So I've really enjoyed finding Christ throughout the Book of Mormon. Particularly his attributes and I'm seeing how I fall short of acquiring them, but recognizing them gives me more to strive to become. I love wearing a nametag with His name over my heart. I love being a missionary.

I feel so lucky to have this experience! This week has been great! Dan recieved the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday. He's preparing to serve a mission too! We are studying with him from Preach my gospel with him for our recent convert lessons.

I have sad news. We had 5 set for baptism, and now it's down to 4. Satan really does work on those who are so close to making this covenant. I hate seeing it. Kris Santos (11 years old) told us he believes in Greek Gods and doesn't know if there is one God. He told us that on Tuesday and his baptism was set for Saturday (the 6th). He also said he's drinking tea. His mom got baptized in July and his sister Megan did that first weekend I was here. He'll come around soon and we'll set him with a new date.

We have Tracey set for February 18th. She is a single mom of 3 boys. She's been coming to church for months and is finally obeying the Word of Wisdom, but her son came home from scouts a couple weeks ago and had learned about abuse. He told the ward his mom was abusing him. :/ She's felt really ashamed and embarrassed to come to church. She missed one Sunday but came yesterday. Abuse is not a baptismal interview question, but is a crime, and that is a question. We're talking to her about repentance this week. I just hope she really understands that this gospel is about changing bad habits and recieving forgiveness through the Atonement. I'm not sure if she's fully internalized that. Pray for her. We fasted for her yesterday.

Tyesha is amazing! She is 26 (also a single mom) of 5 kids! She and her two oldest are getting baptized on the 20th.

There was a "Great to be 8" thing last night at the ward for all children who are turning 8 this year. We got permission for some of our investigators to attend (even though they're older).

I have so much more to tell you about who we are teaching but my time is up. Until next week!

I love you!

Monday, February 1, 2010

February already?

Hey Mom!
Thank you so much for the package! I feel so supported out here with prayers, letters, and even packages. Thank you! Ash, I loved the Sadies pictures! Oh my, you are on Matt Boarden’s back! Oooo la la. Are you dating!? Catch your sister up!
Mom, your MBA stuff sounds so hard. That’s way awesome you are working to get that though. Don’t worry about sending me packages and letters. Your emails are good enough. That way you will have more time to do your school stuff. I have thought about school since we associate with many students around here. I really want to get my Masters too. And I’ve been thinking about doing Psychology or Social Work instead of El Ed. But I will decide that later on. The reason I brought it up was because sometimes as a missionary I feel like a social worker and I love it. It’s hard but so rewarding to help people.
I LOVE THE COMFORTER! Ralph Lauren? Mom! You are too good to me. Thank you so much. It’s really soft. So yes, I finally got it. I was planning on getting it at Zone Conference and the night before while Sister Stewart and I were planning we got a call from the A.P.’s. They’re like, “Sister Zwick, we have a surprise for you, come outside.” We ran out and they were holding the comforter. It finally was found. They said, “We were going to just give it to you tomorrow at Zone Conferences but wanted you to sleep soundly tonight.” I sleep soundly every night, but it was really nice of them to bring it by. Thanks mom. I love it.
Dad, Thanks for your email. I just love hearing from you guys. I didn’t hear about the Elders in Romania! That is so sad. What were those names? I’m not allowed to read the article you emailed, mom, so email me their names. I may know the one from LP.
I’m so happy you invited Andrew to dinner! I remember that one night he came to eat Sunday dinner and everyone was arguing about that girl I let stay with us. Ha ha. I’m glad it went better than that time. It’s probably because I wasn’t there to bring the drama. I’m glad he showed you the picture of my companion and I. I had only printed off one. Sorry. I’m getting more today and I’ll mail them to you!
Tell everyone in the family they can email me because that’s probably easier than writing a handwritten letter. Even if it’s a long email, it’s okay because we can print them off here at the library. Then I can take it home and give a handwritten response. I haven’t heard one word from Annie, not that she needs to write me, but is she okay? I think about her a TON and love and miss her and her kids. Have her email me a line or two if she has time.
The work is still going great! I just love missionary work. I feel soooooo lucky to be here and see the gospel change lives, mine and theirs. I’ll tell you a little bit about this week…
Zone Conference was on Wednesday. It was so fun to be around other missionaries! Elder West is in my Zone, so tell Sam. We got a picture together I’ll send soon. My district had to sing a musical number. We sang “Come thou fount.” We even broke it down to solos and stuff. It was really pretty. The two Ithaca Elders and Sister Stewart and I also sang it in Sacrament meeting yesterday in both the ward and branch. The focus of Zone Conference was the Book of Mormon. President said, “Before we’re done there will be so much evidence that this book is true that only an idiot can deny it.” Ha ha. I LOVE PRESIDENT! He went into the semetic language…comparing it to the Bible proving that it was written by ancient prophets, not Joseph Smith. He also talked about a wordprint study which is a statistical study done on writing styles and that it has proven that Joseph Smith could not have written it. He also pointed out D&C 17:6. It’s where the Lord bears testimony of the BOM. He said, “It’s the only book on the face of the planet that the Lord bears testimony of. YOU ARE ON SOLID GROUND. THE BOOK IS TRUE.” He said as missionaries, we will take flack for being representatives of Jesus Christ, just count on it. Everyone who has ever born witness of the Savior has taken flack for it, but we are called and set apart to do it and the Lord is on our side. I have so much more to write but my time is up! I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know it with all my heart. I want to flood Ithaca with it. We are giving them out like crazy and our investigators are gaining testimonies of it being another testament of Jesus Christ. We have a loving Savior. He is with us as we share his message.
Our 5 who are working for baptism are still set! February is a great month for missionary work here! I’m doing great. It’s cold. Back to single digit mornings and at night but the work is going forward. I love you fam!

P.s. Happy birthday Stace! And TRISH, YOU ARE GOING ON A MISSION TOO!!!??? I LOVED YOUR LETTER! You will love this!