I have so much to tell you. First of all, Mom, I just got two packages from you! I haven't opened them yet, they came while we were emailing. We're here emailing in Elder and Sister Johnson's home, the Senior couples in the area, who go home in a few days. :( She came walking in with the packages and said, "Merry Christmas." I feel bad, my companion thinks I get packages all the time. I told her she brings good luck, because I really haven't received too many packages throughout my mission, besides Christmas (when we were comps in the MTC, and now, being Hump Day). I've made sure to share. I'd be fat if I didn't. You are so sweet to me.
On that note, the Target cardigans weren't the ones I wrote home about. It's okay though. Elder Johnson printed off the return label and I'm going to the post office today to mail them back to Target, so look for the reimbursement.
Friday we moved into the Johnson's home. We are living here with them for this week, and they are packing up to go back to Utah, and leaving us the HOUSE. It has a ginormous window view just feet away from the St. Lawrence river. Our desks are facing it. We run to the bridge to Canada every morning. I was pretending to sneak across the border this morning... I've never been to Canada! Sister Despain was laughing and screaming. Anyways, the Johnsons are from Price and are giving a homecoming the third Sunday in October, so I will get the address of the church and write home with that, in case you want to go. Elder Johnson spoke in church yesterday and told the branch members, "If I could leave one word of advice with you, it would be to take care of my two daughters here" and he looked down at us. Then he said, "President Bulloch has told me we have the two best missionaries in the mission. If you have any friends to share the gospel with, you need to get these Sisters over there to teach them." It was so so nice. He always says President Bulloch tells him we're the best he has, and it's so nice, I really don't think we are that good. Elder Johnson has been filling the role as branch president since the last one moved. We don't know what to do when the Johnsons move! They are what is holding up the little branch. There have always been Senior couples here and there won't be a Senior couple from the time the Johnsons leave up until January. President Bulloch was worried about it and on Friday came down to the house to visit with Sister Despain and I. We get to associate with the Bullochs weekly up here, since he presides over the District. It's so good to be around them. We don't have much priesthood here so he wanted to make sure we would be okay when the Johnsons leave. He kept asking us who we'd call for a blessing, and told us our safety is more important than the work. So he wants us to keep in touch with him often and if needed, he can transfer us Sisters out and put Elders in, next transfer. Time will tell. Especially with the Johnsons leaving. We need to have priesthood in the area.
The work is going great! Let me tell you about some people:
Dora: We have only met with twice and set her with a baptismal date last night. She wanted to pay her tithing at church, even though she's not a member yet, and did! She is living with someone (renting out a room to him) so the law of chastity is going to be a hurdle, but I know she'll live it. She's so dedicated and is addicted to the spirit! She loves the feeling at church and as she reads the Book of Mormon. Her baptism will be on October 30th. She is praying about the priesthood... she doesn't think it's fair women can't hold it. She said, "We're not supposed to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen day in and day out." It made us laugh. We bore our testimonies of the priveledge it is to recieve all the blessings of the priesthood, as women. Then she said, "Well times have changed." We shared a scripture that reads: "God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever" and talked about the prophets in the past, who have held the priesthood. She couldn't come to the Relief Society Broadcast, but we're excited for conference, because there are women leaders in the church she will hear from!
John Spicer: is hilarious! He is in his seventies and served in the Vietnam war. He started crying on Saturday when we met with him, and said, "This book is good, real good" and held up the book of mormon. He was almost to 2 Nephi and he only had the Book of Mormon one week! He had gone camping, 4 hours away and left the book on the campsite. He called us Saturday morning and said he was driving there to get it, but would be back for our appointment. He drove 8 hours to retrieve his book of mormon. I love the spirit in the Book of Mormon. He says it's like "cold jelly running down my back" He said it's been 50 years since he's picked up a Bible. His Mom called him and his daughter was over and said, "He's reading the 'mormon book' and can't come to the phone." He told us his mom said, "Good!" Saturday he thanked us for how he feels and we told him, "It's not us, it's God." He said, "Well, you're preaching His spirit here." And then he said, "I can't remember the last time I've felt this good." It was so neat. One thing I love about this work is feeling the spirit so much, especially with people who haven't felt it for so many years. It's a confirmation to us that this is exactly where we need to be, spending our time with this specific individual. It's like the scripture in D&C 50:22 that says something like, "..he who teacheth by the spirit and he who recieveth by the spirit, both are edified and rejoice together." We walked away from his lesson just so impressed to see the workings of the spirit through the Book of Mormon on him!
Well, time is up but I just want to share one other thing. President Bulloch was telling us that one day we'll bring back our kids and Ogdensburg branch will be a ward, and we'll be telling them, "When I was a missionary here, only ten members came." It made Sister Despain and I cry a little. Then he talked about faith and shared the scripture in Ether 12:19 that says, "And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld, with an eye of faith, and they were glad." He taught us that if we have an eye of faith, the thing in which we have faith in will occur. He said, "If you have faith that this branch will grow, it will grow." It helped me realize how important faith is to our Father in Heaven. It's like the scripture in Moroni 7 that says, "...you recieve no witness until after the trial of your faith." The Lord wants us to have more faith in him and in what he can do. That's how He works, his blessings are conditional upon our faith in him. Sister Despain and my faith in the less active members returning, and the hope to find a branch president is so important. We have to rely fully upon our faith in the Lord and his ability to lead us to those we need to spend time with, and one soul at a time we can build the kingdom here in the North Country. We're working on being positive and full of faith every day. I can feel the potential this little branch has. I know the Lord will lead us if we stay worthy of his spirit, and are obedient. We can always strengthen our faith and trust in the Lord. I'm working on it. :)
I LOVED the RS broadcast. I'll write home about what parts I liked. Mrs Jolley, especially. I caught myself singing really loud as she led, like I was in concert choir again, all into it! ha.
The leaves are starting to change! I'll take lots of pictures.
I love you! Have a good week!
P.s. I heard from the Ithaca sisters in a letter. They updated me on the people in little Ithaca! And Elder and Sister Wood are coming up here today. The Johnsons said, "They said it's to say goodbye to us, but we think they miss Sister Zwick." ha ha Whatever.
This area is going to be the test of my mission, I know it. It's been a trying week. I keep crying and apologizing to Sister Despain about it. She tells me she cried almost every day her first few Sundays especially in Ogdensburg, and to just let it out. ha ha. She got transferred here from Syracuse (her first area) in May.
If this work was was all about the scenery, I'd be super happy. It is BEAUTIFUL. We live on the waterfront of the St. Lawrence river. I'm going to attach some pictures. Barges and canoes are always passing through. And Canada is not 100 miles away, it's two miles away. We have a great view from the bridge to Canada from our kitchen.
Our area consists of Ogdensburg itself, and several of the surrounding towns and villages, Lisbon, Rensselaer Falls, Heuvelton, Hammond, Morristown, Hermon, Gouverneur, Canton; most of which are filled with Amish Farms. Oh my gosh, I LOVE AMISH CHILDREN! They are adorable in their little hats and bonnets. There are stands all through the country with food, aprons, and furniture for sale. There are as many buggies as there are cars in the country areas, and little signs that usually warn for deer crossing, but instead have a picture of an amish buggy and horse.
We are moving up the street in a few days, and are supposed to be packing today, but one of our investigators is getting a colonoscopy and asked us to sit with her for 6 hours today. Fun huh? We don't know when we'll have time to pack, so we may just be throwing things in our car each night after planning and taking it over little by little. I feel like I just did a move of apartments, in Ithaca! Oh well.
Leaving Ithaca was one of the saddest things I've ever had to do, but I know I'll be back. It's just sad leaving those from other countries we were teaching, because in a year they won't be in Ithaca, and it may be harder to visit them, but I had to keep promising myself I'd see them again and so the goodbye wasn't as hard.
Tuesday night packing I felt like I was loosing footing! I wanted to know the people in Ogdensburg and plan for them while the Ithaca sisters were planning for Wednesday in Ithaca. They are so cute, I miss those two. They kept saying things like, "Sister Zwick, you're the glue that holds us together." And "We're losing our personal tour guide and map." I know they're doing great things there. Probably even better without me, because I know I'm supposed to be here.
Wednesday morning I left Ithaca and drove to Utica with the Woods. They are the Senior couple in Ithaca and I call them my Ithaca parents. Elder Wood was crying and hugged me (against the white hand book :/ ) ha ha. They are from Bountiful and are the sweetest! I kept saying, "I can't imagine my mission without you guys!"
President Bulloch pulled Sister Despain and I into his office and told us about Ogdensburg. He presides over the District up here in the North Country. He said, "Realistically we should be closing the area and branch, but I attended church there on Sunday and sat in a counsel with the District President, and the feeling was mutual, we feel it needs to stay open. If things don't get better then at least we can look the Lord in the eye and say, 'we tried our best' " He was just crying. I have never seen him so passionate about an area before. He told Sister Despain and I that we are the best he has. I'm definitely not! He called a former institute teacher from Cedar City who is in his home stake. He knew he and his wife were looking to serve a mission Summer 2011. He told them he needs them sooner, and asked if they'd come serve in Ogensburg. So we'll be getting a Senior couple up here by January to help with the work, hopefully. He reminded us of the scripture in D&C 6 that says, "...where two or three are gathered together in my name,..there I will be in the midst of them." There were only ten people in the chapel on Sunday, including our investigators. We do have a couple solid investigators, but I don't want to baptize anyone unless they are so converted. The branch has 100+ members who are almost all less active. It has made me sooo sad to see so many luke warm members. President Bulloch advised us to spend the majority of our time strengthening the less actives. He promised us that we will find new investigators through them. We've already seen that promise being fulfilled this week. There are many part member families. We're going to work on reactivating the members by teaching them the lessons and at the same time, teaching it to those in the family who are not yet members.
It's a whole different world up here. It breaks my heart to see how lightly people treat covenants, but we love them anyways. I know I'm supposed to be here. Sister Despain has done tremendous work up here so far. We keep saying, "We need revelation!" We don't know what more to do to build up the branch. We basically have to save the branch right now. Ahhh. So we have a lot of work to do, but I have to keep trusting the Lord. If we do all we can, he'll bless this area and strengthen the people here. We just have to work smart and invite the spirit into these homes. Well, I love you so much. Pray for this area with us please. We are praying for priesthood holders, and families right now. I know the Lord hears our prayers. I'm excited to see what happens in the coming weeks. Thanks for all your support.
Today is my last full day as a missionary in Ithaca. It's really really sad. I haven't been able to fall asleep at night as quickly as I usually do because my thoughts about what's to come and leaving my friends here keep me awake.
The feeling is exactly like how I felt before entering the MTC. Not knowing what is ahead, but knowing by the feeling that it is where Heavenly Father needs me, despite the sad goodbyes. Yuck, I just don't like goodbyes. It's been a great weekend though. We've been able to go teach all our investigators one last time, and I got pictures with them. We were also able to meet with all the recent converts I was able to teach and those were good last lessons. I loved hearing their testimonies and prayers.
I will be serving with my MTC companion, Sister Despain, in Ogdensburg, New York. It's rated as one of the highest sex offenders cities, but don't worry mom. ha ha. Weird fact though huh? Sister Hacking served there about 7 months before she came to Ithaca and she absolutely loved it. She said the missionaries are everything to the branch there. It's going to be so different. It'll be a lot harder to find people to teach, but I know the Lord will bless that area if we do all we can. I'm just excited to get up there and tear it up with Sister Despain. I have such high hopes of building up the branch there, and I know I always set high expectations that sometimes are unattainable, but I just want to make a difference for the work there.
Sister Goettsche has a picture on her camera of Canada. She took it while standing in the Sister's apartment in Ogdensburg, while on exchange there, looking out their back window. So I looked at the picture and it's crazy! I guess I'll be living as North as you can get, while still being in New York. The St. Lawrence river will be in our backyard and you can see buildings just about 100 miles away that are over the border. It'll be one cold winter that's for sure.
I'm not there yet though, so back to beloved Ithaca! Saturday the Elders had a baptism and Kennedy and Adalena (our brazilian couple) came to see it. They liked it and we invited them to be baptized when they come to know that it is true. So we didn't set a date yet. They'll be baptized soon though. Kennedy was telling me that I could stay with their family in Brazil. He even went as far as to tell me the best months to come visit. I told him I'd have to bring my brother who speaks Portuguese. And then he asked how he knows Portuguese and I told him it's because he served a mission in Portugal, and he's like, "That's a different Portuguese." ha ha. Brazilian pride. He said there are a lot of English speakers there though.
Susan Byrd is still so solid. The sisters here are going to send me pictures of the baptism this weekend. Oh funny story... when we went over to visit her we rode the elevator up to her apartment and this woman maybe in her 70's said, "Who are you going to visit?" We said, "Susan." And right as she was getting out of the elevator she slapped me really hard three times in a row on my right shoulder as she said, "I know what you're doing. You're going to cohorse (spelling?) her into becoming a d*** mormon!" And then walked in her apartment and slammed the door! My arm still hurts. I was laughing though.
Dan came teaching with us to our Vietnamese investigator Nja. He was testifying to her in Vietnamese which was really good for him and her. There was a good spirit there. You'll see a couple pictures from that night.
Sunday was sad. It really is like home here. All the cute young women were like, "You're leaving?" and giving me hugs. Amanda wouldn't let go of my arm in sacrament meeting and kept thanking me for everything. She gave me this really pretty scarf from China to take with me. Last night she fed us and said, "Maybe I will fly to America for your wedding in the temple." That would be cool. I just keep promising myself I will see them all again, even if it means saving a lot of money.
I love those here in Ithaca that I've taught and it's probably because I can feel the Lord's love for them. It's hard to change but I know I'm going where I'm needed most. I will write you from the "North Country" next week. Oh yeah, and it's crazy I hit 9 months in two days. It's going too fast. Have a wonderful week!
I love you!
Love, Sister Zwick
p.s. Carliles, I got your package from Hawaii with all the yummy treats! THANK YOU! I LOVED Tricia's emails and keep reading them to my companions. Thank you so so much! Email my mom tricia's emails so she can forward them on to me please. Thank you! Mzwick9@gmail.com
The Lord is blessing our investigators with answers to their prayers! I love weeks like this. We've extended commitments and our investigators have been so so so willing, even grateful for the challenge!
Susan Byrd is golden golden golden. She's the woman who we OYMed and I had originally thought she was Sister Short. They look identical by the way. It's so funny to see them both at church. They are long lost twins. Anyways, Susan is so excited for her baptism on the 18th. If I am transferred I will miss it by 3 days! But that's just the nature of the work I guess. Some sow and others reap, and I've been blessed to be able to be in an area so long to reap the fruits of my efforts this far!
We taught Susan the word of wisdom and she was like, "I drink two cups of coffee every morning. I never knew it was wrong." As we testified about Joseph Smith and knowing the revelation was from God and that our bodies are temples etc. she was like, "I think God's been trying to tell me that all along. My stomach burns a lot. I should've stopped drinking it long ago. Oh you girls are so sweet to help me know what is right." Then she started thanking us and saying, "Had I never met you, I would be continuing to drink tea and coffee. Thank you girls so much." She went on about her health and said, "I've had a lot of surgeries because of acid reflex." And lifted up her shirt! ha ha. She wasn't wearing a bra, like most New Yorkers. It was a little shocking, in the middle of the lesson. But we committed her to live the word of wisdom. She said, "I'll give you all of it right now" and walked into her kitchen and we walked out of her apartment with a big container of coffee. We took pictures too that I'll be sending home. She was hugging us and just so happy to follow the commandment, cool huh? She's just amazing. She wants to do anything to follow God more fully. She's a strong woman and a good example to me.
Another answer to prayer, which I'm sure you know about. The church is making headway into China. Aw, what a blessing and answer to our prayers. Amanda is just sooooooo happy about it. The senior couple here had heard all the stories of our struggles while teaching all these chinese investigators and the heartbreak it has been saying goodbye to them as they have gone back there, after just loving attending church. So Sister Wood printed off the article and gave it to us during Branch PEC, and mouthed, 'read it'. OH MY GOSH! I couldn't wait to get out of the meeting because I could hardly contain myself. I was smiling so much and got all teary eyed in the meeting. Then when I showed my companions afterwards, I was jumping up and down and crying and hugging them. We brought it to Amanda a few days later and she already knew. She actually approached us about it first and said, "Do you know the good knews?" We took a picture with her and the Deseret News article. I've been missing Xun and Lu Dai too, and they never had the opportunity to be baptized. I know there aren't missionaries there yet, but by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass right?! I still won't forget Xun taking pictures of the pictures on the walls in the church his last Sunday. And I've promised Amanda that the church will eventually be there for her family so many times. I knew deep down while teaching these chinese people that they are going to be the strong members there when they return. They'll be the missionaries to those they know until there is proselyting there. Amanda bore her testimony all about it on Sunday. The ward was so impressed with her, as we missionaries have always been. She said, "This is not a big door, but it will get bigger." ha ha.
Our little Brazilian family is on fire! Kennedy and Adalena, the husband and wife, came to church with their kids and their book of mormons in hand. Adalena even bore her testimony in relief society, telling about how she turned missionaries away as they would knock at her door in Brazil but that her husband talked to the sisters here in Ithaca and he made her have us over, ha ha... and that now she knows that this church is Christ's church. Then she said, I don't know very much and my language is poor and ended. ha ha. If the spirit is right the next time we meet with them, we are planning on inviting them to be baptized. I love families and couples! It's all about that. The family is so central. I can see them getting sealed together in Brazil. Kennedy tears up when we talk about families living together forever. He is going to be a strong priesthood holder.
I'm just so impressed with the courage of those we're working with. They will do anything to live what we invite them to do. It's been a testimony to me how the Lord is preparing people every day for us missionaries to stumble upon. There is a quote in PMG where President Hinckley testifies about praying for the Lord to speak through you, and coming to know in a very real sense that we are His servants, speaking on his behalf. At the end he says, "...As they do so by the Spirit their investigators will respond under the influence of the same spirit." It's so true! When the spirit is present and guiding our words, our investigators are willing to do ANYTHING. It's kind of scary how willing they are. It's amazing to witness it all though. These are testimony building experiences that I am sooooo grateful Heavenly Father is letting me be a part of. They are feeling the spirit and seeing the positive impact living the commandments brings.
Everyone in the ward and branch keeps asking me when transfers are, with this little look in their eye like "are you ready?" We get the transfer call this coming Saturday. I don't know if I can do it! I always anticipate leaving and it never happens so I've stopped anticipating it, and now it probably will happen. I'm so unprepared to leave these people I love! Ah, I can't even think about it.
Well, I love you so much! I will be emailing on Tuesday next week.
"After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel." -Joseph Smith
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Sister Christina Zwick New York Utica Mission PO Box 149 Whitesboro, NY 13492-0149
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Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.
"Young men and women who serve missions are never the same. They return home with qualities and strengths that seem to come from no other experience. They know, as they never knew before, that this work is true and that it is the most important work on the face of the earth. They return home with a desire to continue to serve. They have established a foundation on which to grow in future responsibilities."--President Gordon B. Hinckley, Dec. 1986
“The Standard of Truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and dependent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, until the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah will say, ‘The work is done.”
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Thomas S. Monson- 16th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity." Margaret D. Nadauld (General Conference Address ~ October 7, 2000)