Thanks for the emails! It's such a highlight of my week to come and read how you're all doing.
That's really sad about Kristina's mom. I'm sure it was good for her to have Steph and their roommates fly down for the funeral. It's so good Steph could get work off. What a blessing it is to know what we know when trials come you know? I'll keep her family in my prayers.
So it sounds like you were doing the move all weekend. Fun, fun! I can totally picture little Parker riding in the cab of the moving truck looking down and waving to the other cars. He's so cute! There is always a plan of who is driving what car and where each car is driving to. I can just picture all of you talking it all through. And oh man, the storage unit. I didn't know we still had the storage unit, since you're back in the Alpine house, but good thing we do, it's coming in handy! Every time I think of the storage unit, I think of Jeff acting out putting boxes in it and holding them in while trying to shut the garage! Ha ha! I love when you do that, Jeff! Em, keep me updated on the houses you're looking at and stuff.
We've been dumped with snow this week and it's supposed to keep coming! Elder and Sister Esplin said a big storm is coming in Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm not sick of the snow yet. But usually by the end of February I am. It's pretty here because the flakes that fall are HUGE! I was so surprised by that last winter. It's cool when a big one lands on my coat because I can see the little details of the flake! The St. Lawrence is now frozen all the way across, so Sister Woodmansee and I can now run away to Canada for a vacation ;) In the Fall when it was beginning to freeze I always told Sister Despain I wanted to go ice skating in our shoes on the ice. So Sister Woodmansee always says, "We've gotta get you down there, Sister Zwick!" Ice fishers are out there and we even saw a car drive on the river, so the ice must be thick enough to stand on. No worries, we'll be wise.
Mormon.org has redone its website and it's very very cool! There is information about it in the January 2011 Ensign. Last week at District Meeting we were told that we are supposed to spend an hour on Mormon.org each week on a day other than Pday and get acquainted with the website so then we can share it with others. Isn't that crazy? When they told us that I couldn't believe it. One of the Elders said, "This is like an Amish turning Mennonite." Ha ha. I guess technology is improving quick and so the church is using it to do missionary work. The Rochester New York missionaries are even trying out Iphones that have internet and their area book is all recorded on these little phones instead of paper! That hasn't happened to every missionyet though. Worldwide, missionaries are now encouraged to spend one hour a week on Mormon.org. At first I didn't understand how our one hour on mormon.org will help the work progress in our area. But our Zone Leaders took us to the site and let us watch some of the testimonies of Mormons on the site and the videos totally invite the Spirit! During the hour spent on Mormon.org, we are to be thinking of our investigators and then find someone who they are like and then tell our investigator to watch the video. It's perfect for this area. We don't have very many members who can relate to those we're teaching but on Mormon.org we've already found a few! It's the coolest site. You should all go to it and click, "Our People" and watch Rochelle, Paris, and Jarem. Those are my favorites. The videos are so touching!
Something amazing happened. Friday we were here at the library doing our one hour of Mormon.org :) and our phone started vibrating. It was Allen. Allen is my all time favorite investigator!!!!! Seriously. He is the investigator we met on Thanksgiving. We've been teaching him weekly since then and he is progressing so well. He's had a rough past with alcohol but now recovered, he is finally figuring out who he is and we are helping him see the potential that Heavenly Father sees in him. What a blessing it has been in my life to teach him. Because of my addiction in High School, without even having to tell him about it, I knew how he was feeling, and that he needed to know the love God has for him and the healing that can come from the Atonement. The Savior just has this perfect ability to rescue us from our pains and self doubt. So we've been teaching him that relief can come through living the principles of the gospel. He's changed more and more every time we meet with him. He's been saying things like, "You can give me more than one chapter to read." And "I've decided I'm just going to start living the Word of Wisdom now, and not wait until that date I chose." The spirit has been working on him and he's listening. One time his friend was there when we were teaching him and he said, "What these Sisters have helped me with is to develop a relationship with God. I feel like he knows me and I know him on this level that I've never felt before and it's come through praying." And last week we were teaching him at Wayne and Patty's (former investigators) and Wayne was asking all these questions. Allen was answering them right and left! He was bearing his testimony and it almost made me cry because I was soooo happy to hear him express his gratitude for helping him come to know God. He is so willing to submit to the will of the Lord and has kept every commitment we've extended to him. He's been praying to know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet. And he said like a month ago, that when he receives a witness he wants to be baptized. So he's been praying and praying, and reading and reading, and no witness has come. Or at least he didn't think so. Tuesday when we met we read some scriptures about the spirit feeling like a "burning in the bosom" and that it brings feelings of "peace, joy, love" and if it's of god it "inviteth and enticeth to do good." We were trying to help him recognize the feelings of the Spirit and that these feelings are in fact witnessing truth. Well, luckily we had Elder Esplin there because he bore a powerful testimony of the gift of agency and he read the scripture from D&C 9 (revelation given to Oliver Cowdery when wanting to know if the plates were true) that says, "Study it out in your mind, then you must ask me if it be right." He told Allen that after studying things out in our mind, the Lord often wants us to make a tentative decision and then ask Him for a confirmation of that decision. I learned a lot just sitting there listening to Elder Esplin teach. Sister Woodmansee and I both love taking the Esplins teaching because they are sooooo good with their scriptures and relating them to the people here!
So back to the phone. It was vibrating, and it was Allen. By the time I got the phone out it was on like the 3rd ring and I had to just pick it up right there in the quiet library. I was like, "Hello, it's Sister Zwick." and he's like, "I'm gonna do it. I've decided I want to do it." I almost fell off the chair I was so excited. I knew what he meant (BAPTISM) but I had to make sure. My voice was shaking and I was like, "You want to be baptized!?" All loud in the middle of the library! oops. He's like, "Yes." So I got up and walked to a little corner where I could talk and I asked him what made him make his decision. He said, "I was praying about being baptized and went for a walk. Then, I had a moment of complete clarity and peace come over me. I know this sounds so practical but the thought came, 'Why wouldn't you do it.'" I told him that I know God is pleased with his decision. I bore my testimony and he said, "Now when is your six weeks up? I want to be baptized before you leave the area." So he's choosing a date this week. It'll be at the end of February. He was so nice and said that there is this special spirit about me and he's very grateful I opened up to him on Thanksgiving and shared the gospel with him. It was a phone call I'll remember for the rest of my life. It strengthened my testimony of revelation. President Bulloch knew I needed to be up here and I never really knew why. But in the past few weeks hearing Allen bear testimony and seeing him embrace the gospel and change has helped me see how the Lord uses us with our past experiences, to relate with others and help them feel the joy we feel from living the gospel. I know I was supposed to come on my mission to meet Allen and help him find the path back to Heavenly Father. I'm so happy for him. He's going to be so good in the Branch. He's so smart, humble, obedient, and sensitive to the promptings of the spirit. We love him.
We ran over to the Esplins that night after we got home and shared the exciting news. Then like an hour later they brought us ice cream to celebrate. Elder Esplin said Allen will make a great Elders Quorum President. Ha ha. He would! Elder Esplin just got called as the first counselor in the Branch Presidency. Sister Woodmansee and I feel so blessed to be up here with Elder Esplin because he's teaches us soooo much. I feel like I'm with a general authority every time I'm around him. His stories and knowledge has helped our testimonies grow. Every time I'm around him I feel like reaching for my planner and taking notes! They're so wonderful and had us over for dinner last night. It was way nice of them.
So we're building the kingdom one soul at a time. I cannot wait to see Allen enter the waters of baptism and start this new life. He's searched for years for truth and even went Atheist for a time because of all the confusion in religions. But I'll always remember what he said on Thanksgiving, "The older I get the more I'm realizing things just don't happen by coincidence." And how he explained how he felt like someone was really helping him feel of his potential through recovering from alcoholism. God never leaves our side, does he? I want to find more people searching like Allen was.
Well, I better get going. Off to another week of teaching, spreading Mormon.org, and gathering the elect! The church is true! I love you!
Love, Sister Zwick
P.s. Yesterday there were 27 people at church! It was a record! Elder and Sister Esplin and Sister Woodmansee were just loving it and smiling so big and talking to everyone. There was a great feeling there. It was wonderful. I am so impressed with these people we are meeting and teaching. They are changing habits in their lives all because of faith. It's exciting.
I thought I'd reply to your emails first and then tell you about the awesome week we've had! The Lord is blessing this area so much!
Emily and Chad--I am soooooo sooooo excited that you are moving to Utah! I can't wait to be close to you and your boys. It'll be so much fun!
It sounds like BYU basketball is on fire! One of the players is actually from Glens Falls (a Sister's area) in the mission and Sisters in the mission who have served there have met him and even taken him teaching with them when he's been home for Summer, Christmas Break etc. I don't know his name, but I guess he's the really good one with brown hair. Something with a J? Since I've never served in that area, :( I've only seen pictures. ha ha. Some sisters have pictures with him and of him that he's signed. Funny huh? Only in Utah would the ward change the mutual activity so it doesn't interfere with the game. Geez. "...their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world..." It brings that scripture to mind! It sounds like New Beginnings is going to be amazing, Mom. I didn't know you were this creative. See, you can do so much without me there. You and Kristen are surprising yourselves, I'm sure. You're perfect for Young Women. My friends and I loved when you and Liz Morris taught us in Beehives and still talk about the lessons to this day!
Anyways, Dad, I'm so happy you're back with CNS. Thanks for your wonderful email this week. I love all your words of encouragement, updates, and testimony, THANK YOU. I'm writing Matty today. It sounds like he's following in Steph's footsteps with the good grades. Is Brother Ulrich still the Sunday School teacher for the 15-16 year olds? He was good.
Is everyone going to Vegas for President's Day or just you, Mom? I know what you mean, it'd be so nice to get out of cold weather for awhile. I don't really have the option. But I would totally take a trip down there if I were you. Andrea will love it.
Ash, Thank you so much for the Smartcookie cookies! We loved them and ate them all in two days. I know, sick. Thank you so much for thinking of us though! You're the best! I love you!
K so life here. Brrrr. It's been so cold here, but I believe we've been blessed even more for enduring it. Heavenly Father has poured out blessings on us this past week. I have never found ten new investigators in one week. We're soooo excited about the people He's led us to!
Today we woke up to our thermometer reading -25 degrees outside. With the wind chill factor it supposedly feels even 20 below what the temperature is! The wind coming off the St. Lawrence is enough to kill you. So with it feeling close to -50, school was canceled for the kids in the area. We are trying to stay warm. No matter how many layers though, it just goes right through! We have still been going out in it and trying to stay diligent, but it's trying. Thanks for your prayers for a short winter, Mom! It's weird, all the things we have to do in the severe temperatures. Things I've never even heard of like, scraping the inside of our car (yes, there is ice inside!), running the water through the night so the it won't freeze in the pipes, and starting the car ten minutes before driving it so it doesn't break. And the sensation of nose hairs freezing feels so disgusting, I hate it. Ha ha.
We do our laundry at Elder and Sister Esplins, and Tuesday afternoon when we went to get it out of the dryer, Elder Esplin was talking to us about the Branch. He said, "If we don't get families in this branch, it won't be here in ten or twenty years." (Most of our active members are 60-70 years old and single). Ha ha. It almost made me cry to think about that, the branch not being here. Then he told us some statistic about the church growing 10% with each generation of members. And that is why the church is so strong in Utah. It's because of the ripple effect of parents teaching their children. Well, without families sustaining the branch, the kingdom will have a hard time growing here. That night we went through all the former investigator records, and potential investigator information in the area book and compiled a list of families we need to make contact with, families that are the future of this branch. We also pulled some part member families from the ward list who are less active and made a lot of phone calls to get set appointments and let them know, "We need you in the branch." We're continuing to add to the "Family list" and working on contacting them. We had a lot of success this past week doing that. We got a set appointment with a less active mother and taught her children (non members) and were able to pick them up as investigators. We also got in contact with a family who were former investigators, and investigated for years, but never joined. We asked if we could do a family home evening with them tonight. They agreed. Sister Woodmansee and I and Elder and Sister Esplin are going over to meet them and hopefully discover their concerns and then re-teach them the lessons.
The two families we found as new investigators were found by tracting. Earlier Sister Despain and I tracted into two families that said we could come back. We've called them in the past and set appointments, but they fell through, and both said to try back after the holidays. Well, Sister Woodmansee and I checked back with them about two weeks ago and set appointments to see them last week.
One couple, Ryan and Angie live here in the Burg. They have two sons, a 4 year old and a 14 month old. They were raised Catholic and still attend church when they can. They brought up that they were getting their baby baptized into the Catholic church on the 29th. We talked about baptism and asked them why their son needs to be baptized. They didn't really know, but just that it's a tradition. It was neat to teach them a little about the significance of being baptized, the promises made, and the priesthood authority. We didn't get into it too in depth. I wanted to pull out Moroni 8 about children being born without sin, but it probably would've been too much. They are like spiritual babies right now! ha ha And so precious and golden to us so we didn't want to give them more than they can handle. I know the Mom felt that what we were saying was true. She started talking about having to pay for his little baptism too. Sad huh? I held back my feelings of how ridiculous that is. Ha ha. We told her no one is paid in the church we are members of and she loved that. After all of that small talk we started with a hymn and prayer and taught them the message of the restoration. I love teaching people these truths for the first time. How lucky we are as missionaries to testify to people that God has called a prophet again and restored his priesthood power to bind their family together forever! The spirit was very strong. We're meeting with them again this week. We committed them to read 3 Nephi 17 when the Savior blesses the children. We were able to testify of God's love for their children and how He wants them to live with him again as an eternal family.
Then Kelly and her daughters were another great teaching experience. The children were so well behaved! Kelly lives with her boyfriend, he didn't sit in. She says she was raised Catholic but hasn't been to church for years. We are finding that a lot. People are saying they are Catholic, but when we ask them if they attend currently, they say no. That's always nice to find. I know the spirit witnessed to her that Joseph Smith really did see God the Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove. We were able to ask one of the girls what her favorite candy bar is and explain the apostasy and emergence of churches using that. "No one could create that Twix bar like it was supposed to be created. They kept coming up with Snickers, Reeses..." They were giggling and we talked about many churches formed after Christ died. And that foundation of a prophet and twelve apostles holding the priesthood (perfect twix recipe) and the correct way to follow Jesus Christ was missing and needed to be restored. It was so cute to see their little faces light up when we talked about Primary, and what it's done for us. Kelly said she wants to meet a time or two more before coming to the church. That little family is prepared.
Oh my, they would both be great families for the branch. It's just sad because we don't have a primary, young women, or young mens, but the Lord knows who will be okay with that and those are who He is leading us to. I have to just keep reminding myself, it has to start somewhere!
Man, I just have so much to say! I don't have any more time though, so I won't go off on each investigator. I love helping people feel the spirit. It's just the best. The District President was in our Branch yesterday and talked to Sister Woodmansee and I afterwards for asking about our investigators there. He was soooo pleased with Don (one in priesthood) and asking how he's progressing and told us how much the Branch could use him. It was neat to see his excitement for the work here because at one point (just a few months ago) he was suggesting for the branch to close. President Bulloch felt not to, and great things have been happening. The branch is growing. We had a big missionary meeting after church, us sisters, Elder and Sister Esplin, both of the Palmyra missionary couples, the Branch President, and President McKnight (the District President). Since President McKnight had been a former Branch President he had some added insight on what families to focus on reactivating, and let us know why they stopped coming, etc. We were able to coordinate all of our efforts and divide up amongst all the missionaries what people to work with. It's alleviated so much stress having more missionaries here. They're working on reactivating and Sister Woodmansee and I can focus on fulfilling our purpose in finding and baptizing. So things are looking up!
Oh and a less active we've been visiting weekly called us an hour before church and said, "I want to come today!" She and her husband are great! He didn't come yesterday, but she did! She said she'll come next week too! Another reactivation on it's way!
Well, I'm still smiling and loving sharing the gospel, even in the cold. :) I hope you have a good week. Thank you for your emails and prayers! You're the best family in the world! Stay warm too! I love you!
Love, Sister Zwick
P.s. Funny story: Saturday afternoon we were tracting a little and I felt like I had something in my boot. So I was like, "Hold on, I have something in my boot. It feels big too." So I took off my boot and shook it. Nothing came out. Then I looked at the bottom of my sock and there was a blue M&M stuck to my sock! ha ha. I had taken my boots off during lunch in the car and we were eating dark chocolate M&Ms. Ha ha. Sister Woodmansee caught it on camera.
I hope everyone is doing good! Thanks for the pictures from Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love them! The Christmas Eve program looked like a hit this year. I wish I had heard Jeff's Brooklyn New York accent!
The quote holds true that I've heard from a lot of other missionaries in the mission, "Once you go North, you don't come back." And being "Stuck in the North Country" is another phrase used a lot. Ha ha. Neither Sister Woodmansee or I got transferred. It's nice not having to deal with any changes! I must need to learn more up here. I was kind of hoping to be moved because I'm awfully colder here than I ever was in Ithaca last winter, but with the "Little Hotties" (hand and feet warmers) we are pressing on!
No one in our Zone is getting transferred either. Our Zone of missionaries has stayed pretty much the same for a few months, which is rare! Changes within this Zone has been like one missionary moving to another area in the Zone, so not going too far. I am sooooo happy about that. I love all our Zone of missionaries so much. We've all gotten pretty close, and they're great Elders. Elder Miller is still one of my Zone Leaders, along with Elder Maxfield. Elder Maxfield has served in Potsdam since sometime in the Spring I think! Sister Woodmansee and I are the only sisters in the North Country and Potsdam Zone. It really feels like a different mission in the North. We never hear about what is going on down South in the bigger cities like Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca. But it's such a great place and a wonderful experience serving in small branches and feeling the love God has for country folk! President Bulloch has a tender place in his heart for the North Country branches and people. He grew up on a farm and just loves the country. I'm totally a city girl, but the longer I'm here the more I like it. There is nothing better than seeing a little branch grow. I am very grateful for this experience.
Well, a sad thing happened this week. Jimmy called on Wednesday (the one with a date) and asked us not to come over anymore. Actually, his girlfriend called on his behalf. I guess he told her to. I know he's just confused from attending all these different churches. He is friends with several pastors. He's always been reluctant to read the Book of Mormon because of the verse in Revelations 22 (we get this all the time) saying to "not add to these things". He also had been reading anti-mormon sites as we were teaching him. The adversary works really hard on people who are so close to making that leap of faith towards baptism. But we are continuing to pray for him.
Delores, a progressing investigator came to church yesterday for the second week in a row. She LOVES it. She fits right in too. She was making comments in Relief Society and smiling so big as she sang the hymns in sacrament meeting. Her friend is a member, and so she has that immediate support system President Hinckley talks about. She knows the Book of Mormon is true and gets all excited telling us about the chapters she reads. She flat out says, "I want to be baptized soo bad." But unfortunately is living with her boyfriend. They've been together 12 years. She wants to get married, but he doesn't want to. He is worried that by being married, the money he has to pay for child support will start being deducted from her too. And he's "protecting her financially" by not being married. Hmmm. He's hard core baptist and will not even stay in the house when we teach her. However, Saturday he came in to get some coffee and we were about to say the closing prayer. I started saying it while he was in the kitchen. I knew he was listening, so I prayed for him to be blessed in anything he stands in need of. I know he can feel the spirit when we are there. We're praying for his heart to be softened.
Allen is doing sooooo good! He loves the book of mormon. We committed him to be baptized when he knows the things we teach are true, he agreed to it. So he's been praying about everything. We taught him the word of wisdom and he picked a date to start living it. He said he couldn't commit then but that he'd pick a date to quit smoking. He decided on February 1st that he'll quit.
So our investigators are coming along, just slowly. It's okay though. Quick isn't always good. I want them to truly be converted to the gospel.
When President Bulloch came to our District Meeting he trained on Chapter 10 of Preach My Gospel titled, Teaching Skills. He talked about the difference between improving teaching verses improving teaching skills. He said, "I improve my teaching as I teach by the power of the Holy Ghost. I improve my teaching skills through practice." So we went over teaching skills like asking questions, and teaching to people's needs. He said, "If you prepare yourself, the Lord will prepare the people." It's been so hard in this area to find people to teach. It was so easy in Ithaca. He knows that and took us to a quote in PMG under Finding that says, "Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach." It's true. I feel like my teaching skills have gone down the drain because we spend most of our time finding, not teaching. Then he brought up the members' role: to find. And he said, "I want to expand your vision on who you teach. Why am I talking about this? Because we are called to teach. You are called to teach everybody, members included." We've been focusing a lot on teaching members the third model, which is Listening. It stems from a talk called, "How You Can Fire Up Your Friends to Hear the Gospel" and a quote from Elder Holland that says: "Perhaps even more important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children on God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missin in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more." President Bulloch told us our job is to help members conquer their fear of sharing the gospel and how easy listening can be. We've been trying to help our members see that they are doing missionary work any time they engage in conversation with a nonmember. Not even gospel conversations, just ANY conversation. There is power in listening. We are learning how listening is an essential part of trust and we are trying to get our members to do the same.
We have about 7 active members other than the missionaries and branch president and his wife (from Madrid). Most are older and keep to themselves, so getting them to share the gospel is a task. I love the 3rd model though because listening can be simple but is so important to gain the trust of their neighbors and others who they can then share the gospel with. So that's one thing we're trying to do--help our members share the gospel, as well as getting the open house organized.
The open house is going to be February 26th. Elder and Sister Esplin are sooooo excited about it. They are so great, you guys. We hand a little gathering with them Sunday night and talked about those on the ward list, who we're focusing on reactivating etc. Elder Esplin said their goal is to make the branch strong enough that the church doesn't have to send another Senior couple here after them. So they're going around trying to meet members and do reactivating, focusing mostly on families and part member families. Elder Esplin said, "I can hear myself sing in sacrament meeting. That's a bad sign. We need more critical mass." They are so nice and helpful. They're coming teaching with us to some we feel they'll connect with this week too.
It's getting colder but we're doing well! Yesterday we called the weather at 9:46 a.m. before we left the apartment and it said it was 11 below 0. I was soooo scared to go out. I had never heard the weather lady say a temperature that low! It was a cold one yesterday but today it's back up to the 20s. Many are cold but few are frozen! I love that quote.
I am so happy Elder Wallace got his visa and he's off to Guadalajara. He will love sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with prepared people there. It's so amazing to help our brothers and sisters realize that they can use the Atonement in their lives. It was the purpose of His sacrifice, so that we will use it by coming unto Him through repentance to receive the joy and blessings he has to offer us. He loves us so much. I can feel the love he has for every one in this area.
Dad, thanks for your email about being a representative of Christ. There is so much more I can do. I'm sure He is wanting me to represent Him even better. But it's so wonderful to show others His love for them and try to help them as He would. It's a great work!
I better get going. I'll be sending another email with a few pictures. I sure do love you guys!
It was so great to hear you're all well, and that Matt is a ladies man! ha ha. GO BUD! You're going to have to give me some tips when I get home. ;) Congrats to Lizzie on her engagement! I want to see a picture of she and her fiance, so someone please send me one off of facebook or something.
Right now we are sore and tired. All morning we were moving. AGAIN. This is the third time on my mission I've had to go through old missionarys' junk. I swear President Bulloch puts me in an area to do the move because I've been asking the other sisters and no one else has had to, even once. I've always kind of liked organizing and throwing things away so it's kind of fun, just a lot of work. I wanted to just throw everything away! We have so many garbage bags that we need to drive to the church dumpster. We're happy we're moving because that means, a senior couple is coming into the area! The down side is, they get the house we are in. We knew we'd only be in it temporarily, but it wasn't too hard to get used to living in a house, just the two of us! Each night this week, after planning, we'd box up a room. Last night we got the last of everything packed and carried next door to the "little cottage". It's sooooo cute, right on the bank of the St. Lawrence river. I'll have to take some pictures to attach next week. It's bright red and has a little deck off the back. We got so much exercise walking back and forth from the house to the cottage, and it is finally all done! This morning we spent a few hours cleaning the house. It looks really good for Elder and Sister Esplin. They arrive on Friday. They are from Cedar City and are President and Sister Bulloch's best friends! Elder Esplin taught at SUU (institute) with President Bulloch. It will be so nice with them to come teaching with us and be like our "member support." It's different up here because the missionaries are the members' support instead of the members being the missionarys' support. We are literally keeping everything going. There is no other area in the mission like it though. I am learning soooo much and relying on the Lord more for help. It's my hardest area for a lot of reasons but I think it will be my favorite.
Things are really starting to move forward here. President Bulloch came to our District Meeting on Thursday and was really pleased with what has happened in Ogdensburg. But it's all because of faith, diligence, and prayer. Because of those three things, the work is moving forward quickly. I have learned so much about those three principles. I know with out a doubt that God is in charge of this work. It's His, and I just feel so blessed to be able to be here for him to work through. My companion and I just have to have the faith that He's preparing people, work hard, and pray to be led to them. When I first got here it felt like I was rolling a boulder up a mountain. We couldn't find very many interested. But we found John and that was a huge blessing and motivator. We kept pushing and praying and now it's like the boulder is rolling down the mountain, and we can barely keep up with it all. We have 18 investigators! It went from 8 to 18 in 4 weeks. One third of the branch yesterday was investigators! And 8 of our investigators are potential priesthood holders, something we've been praying for. Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, on his timing. I was tearing up just seeing those we're teaching in the pews yesterday. Four investigators were at church. It's really a far drive for some so it was so wonderful to see them all there. Two have committed to come back next Sunday as well as 3 others who were not able to come this past Sunday.
We also set an investigator with a baptismal date: February 12th! Jimmy! He said he wants to be baptized! FINALLY! I was losing patience with him. He's sooooo funny, you guys. One of my very favorite investigators. He loves the Lord soooo much. I imitate his voice daily so hopefully I can still do it in a few months and you'll feel like you know him a little. ha ha. He voluntarily goes to half way houses to preach. He has a strong belief in the Bible but says he's "non-denominational" He's been taught by missionaries for over 7 months and had a problem with understanding that the priesthood has been restored because he felt that prophets only needed to be here to point us to Christ's birth but after that, there is no need. We always testify about prophet's preparing us for the second coming, and he even came to General Conference in October, and loved it. We have taught him the Restoration I think a million times and told him that it's either true or it's not, and that he has to read the BOM to know. He hasn't been reading though :( He's been praying about it. He made a new year's resolution that he wanted to come closer to Christ. We took that and ran with it and committed him to follow the Savior's example and to be baptized by someone holding the proper authority. I worry though because he hasn't come to church because of the distance. He's planning on coming this Sunday. He'll feel the spirit, and hopefully it'll be worth the drive EVERY Sunday. He's also living with his girlfriend... but he's been taught all the commandments and if he follows the Spirit, he'll be ready on the 12th. They're both coming Sunday.
I wish I had the time to tell you about each investigator! I'll just share a couple more short stories...
We met Janet last week in the Burg. We were walking to follow up with a potential and she was walking home from Wal Mart. We approached her and talked for a few minutes. She immediately told us how much she loves the Savior. We asked her how she feels His love, and she told us a story about her daughter telling her "Mom, God doesn't want you to smoke anymore." And that when she heard her daughter say that, she knew it was from God and she stopped smoking. I was just in awe like, "THIS LADY IS LIVING THE WORD OF WISDOM ALREADY!" She let us set up a time to come by Wednesday night. Wednesday we went and taught her the Restoration. The spirit was very strong. She said the closing prayer and called us her friends and then said, "I don't have very many friends. But these two girls are my best friends." It made me cry. She was punched in her temple as a child and is a little slower, but very bright and retains what we teach her. We did a few "check for understanding questions" just to make sure. It's amazing the love God has for every one, and lets us feel it for them too. We committed her to church, got her a ride, and she was there. She got emotional in Relief Society. Afterwards Sister Woodmansee asked if she was okay and she said, "I am. I feel close to the Savior here." Cool huh? Also, in sacrament meeting President Champaigne spoke on reverence and talked about how being reverent in the chapel prepares us for the reverence in the temple. Janet said, "Temple?" Sister Woodmansee was sitting by her because I was by Don (a really smart investigator--in his 80's) and pulled out a pass along card with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. Janet frantically grabbed her purse and rummaged through it then said, "I lost it." I guess she was looking for the pass along card we gave her the first time we met her. She was devastated. Sister Woodmansee gave her another one and it like made her day! ha ha. Just a little pass along card! Cute huh?
We've been working on getting anyone and everyone we meet to church. The spirit is incredible there. It's helped me understand how true the gospel is. It doesn't need full functioning auxiliaries, just the priesthood and the spirit. I love this little branch soooo much!
Friday and Saturday I went to Watertown. We exchanged with the Sister missionaries there. I got to work with Sister Palmer. She came out the transfer before me. I don't really like exchanges, because I don't like leaving those we're working with here and just being in an area where I feel like I don't have stewardship. It was a good exchange though. I learned some things from her to bring back here. The best part was A MEMBER MEAL APPOINTMENT! We don't have those up here. It was fun to talk to some members and hear their conversion stories. Saturday night when I got back and we planned for Sunday, as I was flipping through our teaching records I realized how much I love these people. I missed them all night Friday night and Saturday I was thinking of all the appointments Sister Woodmansee and Sister Cox got to go to. I missed this area! It felt soooo nice to be home! And the day was so good yesterday, seeing some of them at church.
President Bulloch called this morning and let us know that Elder and Sister Esplin (the Senior couple) are on their way, just started driving from Utah to New York! It will take them 5 days. Then he asked me if I needed a change (transfers calls are this weekend). I told him I can serve another transfer up here, but I'll go wherever he needs me to. I got to talk to him about the greater satisfaction that comes serving in a small branch, and seeing it grow compared to a ward. It's still exciting in a ward, but not as exciting as it has been serving up here feeling the potential this branch has and seeing the benches become less empty! I love it. I don't think I'll be transferred unless he really needs me somewhere else. So we'll see. He also asked me if I thought Sister Woodmansee would be ready to train. She could for sure train! One new sister is coming out this transfer, then 3 new sisters the next transfer! Yay for girls who aren't getting married young! There is soooo much more to life! Lol. Anyways, since it is transfer week next week, Pday will be on Tuesday. So don't expect an email Monday, but Tuesday.
Well, I have to go but never forget how much I love you! Talk to you next week!
Love, Sister Zwick
p.s. Ash, congrats on smart cookie job! mmmm (hint hint) ha ha jk. Do you have to wear a uniform?
How is everyone!? I look forward to Monday every week because I get to read Mom and Dad's emails and hear about all of you! One of my favorite parts is Mom's email subject ha ha and what was made for Sunday dinners! I miss those! Sorry that Christmas Break is over and you're all back to school and work. It's always nice in a way though, to get back on a routine.
Things are well here! Yesterday John passed the sacrament AND bore his testimony! Wahoo!!!! It's so neat to see him participate just as a normal member now! He's always been very sensitive to the spirit and got emotional bearing his testimony. I loved it! He talked about his health issues (diabetes and COPD) and that ever since he's been living the principles of the gospel, the Lord has taken care of his health. He said his sugar levels used to be in the 300's and now read 98-115. Then he shared his weight with everyone and how that has dropped. Lol. The things shared over the pulpit sometimes! Fast and testimony meeting is so funny! And the spirit was felt too, that's what counts.
Before sacrament meeting Sister Woodmansee was deciding on Hymns with President Champaigne and putting up the little number cards. I was playing some prelude (yes, I'm getting better at the piano :)) and Brother B. walks in and I overhear him say "Police" to President Champaigne. I was like, Oh no. Sister Woodmansee looks over at me and I give her this questioned look. Then President Champaigne and Brother Barber were talking in the little glassed in alcove area between the exterior and interior doors to the entrance of the church. After awhile, they both came back in and sacrament meeting started, a little late. So after church Sister Woodmansee's like, "How about Brother B. being in trouble with the law?" I was like, "Oh my, YES! What was that all about?" She's like, "He came up to President Champaigne and was like, 'Can I talk to you?' And President Champaigne said, 'I'm busy for a few more minutes but then I'll meet with you.' And Brother B. said, 'It involves the police and really can't wait.'" Ha ha. Of course other members were walking in the little glassed area where they were talking, trying to get in on it. Every one knows everything about each other in these little towns. It's like the branch is a little family. People fight and stuff, like siblings. We never found out what the problem was. We try to stay out of the gossip. I wonder about it for a few days and it's only a matter of time until we hear from someone what happened. So I'm sure we'll know the whole story soon.
Sorry that was random. ha ha. I just wanted to give you a little taste of life serving in a branch. One of our investigators came to church yesterday, which was exciting. We have great investigators who just have problems coming to church, work, spouse, distance. Just the common barriers. We always provide solutions but one excuse or another seems to hold them back. But one came yesterday! And afterwards he said, "I think I might be back." We're taking that as, "I will be back." He's a very hard nut to crack. He's met with missionaries off and on since 1930 or something like that! His name is John, too! We seem to have luck with that name, or it's just very common :) He is a slow cooker... He has a lot of "why" questions for God because 6 of his relatives (2 being his children) all died in the same month. Sister Despain and I taught him for a bit but we weren't getting anywhere because he wasn't willing to read or come to church. He's finally progressing now. We've had President Champaigne and his wife come teaching with us and President Champaigne shared his conversion story and that he still doesn't have answers to some of his "whys" and he's just going to have to ask God when he sees him again. ha ha. But that the Gospel has answered other questions he's had and given him a hope. Just this last time we taught John, the Champaignes couldn't come. We asked John what his questions for God are. And he said, "I don't even know. I'm just confused and feel like I don't even know if God is there." So we're starting simple. I told him, "If you read the book of Mormon every day, pray morning and night, and come to church, you will know that God is there. Are you willing to try it?" He agreed. So he was there Sunday and he's been reading and praying. We also asked him to write down his questions he has for God and if he's willing to share them, we'd like to help him find answers. We left him with those commitments, and by Thursday, when we meet with him again, we are going to hopefully be able to address some of his concerns. By writing them out, he'll then be able to find answers by asking Heavenly Father, us, and searching the scriptures with his questions. He's had all the lessons multiple times and something didn't work. So we're trying this route and if he's willing to act on the things we ask him to do. At church Sunday he walked up to Sister Woodmansee and I and said, "I like you two." It was funny. Then he gave us a very very old Bible left by two Elders (the first ones he met). It's so cool, it even has their names in it.
Anyways, I have found with those we teach, John, especially that we HAVE to teach to peoples' needs. It's a hard balance to find, teaching the doctrine from Preach My Gospel (the necessities) but being flexible and saying what the Holy Ghost impresses us to. There are so many important skills to develop when teaching the gospel. I have so much to work on, but I think I'm improving each day, just trying to evaluate what went well, what went wrong. Elder Holland says something like, "Stop teaching a sleep inducing, rote presentation" in one of his talks to missionaries. It was really cool to feel the spirit work through us that night telling John to write down his questions. I never even thought about that before I went in there. We haven't asked any investigator to do it. I love what the spirit can teach us as we teach others!
Something sad happened. Tammy and Eric, the couple with the little girl we were excited about going to teach last Monday night, they called us and left a voice mail saying, "We aren't interested in converting to Mormonism, and would like to cancel our meeting tonight and would ask you to not come by in the future." It broke my heart. It breaks my heart to see families walk away from the truth, especially after feeling the spirit. We called them back and bore testimony and then told them to call us if they need anything, and we'd love to serve them in any way possible. Then we let them know they're always welcome to church. Sad huh?
On the, "What can we do for you?" note, I have a FUNNY story! I'm not putting the last names in here, just in case this goes on the blog. Sister Woodmansee and I went to visit a less active, Sister S. She is in her 70's and drives a motor wheel chair EVERYWHERE. It's always really funny to see her cruising around the streets in the Burg. So after we shared a spiritual thought and talked for awhile I said, "Is there anything we can do for you?" And she said, "Yes, will you soak and scrub my feet and cut my toenails?" I have never had a response like that! I found myself saying, "Yes!" and pulling out my planner, looking for an open time to come back. Then she took her foot out of her black leather velcros (wearing no socks) to show us her feet. I was about to pee my pants. We could not do it then. We were not prepared. So we scheduled it for Friday night, New Years Eve. After we left and were walking back to our apartment for lunch I was like, "Sister Woodmansee, I can't." We started laughing and I was like, "Why did we tell her we could do it?!" She's like, "Sister Zwick, you told her we could." I was like, "I'll pay you. I can't." She's like, "We told her we would because we're representatives of Jesus Christ and can't tell her no! Is it offensive to wear gloves?" Then I was like, "Is it offensive to take pictures?" Woodmansee was soooooo great and said she'd do it! I didn't even have to pay her! I owe her soooooo BIG! We returned Friday night and I read the talk, "Charity Never Faileth" by President Monson to them as Sister Woodmansee was scrubbing away! Then Sister S. said, "Try to get the black sock out from under my toes." It wasn't sock! That'd be nice if she wore socks, but it was the fuzz from the interior of her shoes! I was laughing a little and we all were. Sister Woodmansee called it, "Defeating the black fuzz." My companion went above and beyond and even asked Sister S. if she had lotion and lotioned her feet and made them all soft and good. Sister S. was soooo happy to have clean feet. We prayed before we went in and could barely make it through the prayer without laughing. We were trying to think of sad things to stop laughing before we went in there. I couldn't even look at Sister Woodmansee as she was doing it because I know I'd start geeking out. Sister Woodmansee said she had to keep thinking, "I'm doing something for her, she can't do herself." Isn't that so cute? Afterwards Sister S. grabbed her black sneakers, before we could even leave and PUT THEM BACK ON her good clean feet! I was like, OH NO! What's she doing!? Getting them all soiled up again before next scrubbing sesh. ha ha. We're thinking about bringing her some socks or flip flops.
We ran into our mailman Tuesday. He said, "I see you're already wasting the stamps I gave you." ha ha. We wrote a few letters last Pday. We told him we're grateful for the Christmas gift. He said, "That's the least I can do. You probably pay my salary with all the letters you write." Ha ha.
Well, Mom, Thank you so much for the pictures from Stacey's wedding. She looked so cute! It's so weird to think she's married! I'm writing Liz today (we write sister to sister :)) and I think I'll enclose one of the pictures for her to see.
Ash might appreciate this from Tricia's email (my old roommate serving on temple square): P.S. We saw David Archuletta this week! Him and his girlfriend came to see a movie at Temple Square! He was wearing a suit and had his scriptures in his hand.
Who would want to be famous, right? You couldn't serve a mission! ;)
I hope you had a Happy New Year! 2011 BABY! We didn't do anything special for the New Year, but I did write out my goals and predictions for 2011. I'll send them home today with a letter. A year ago this week I flew into snowy Syracuse, NY. It's weird it's been a year already! Well, I pray for each of you every night! I'm missing you but I love sharing the most important message with the people of New York. It's the best. Have a great week and stay warm!
Love, Sister Zwick
p.s. We were given the turkey feet of two turkeys, one of which was the one that was butchered which we ate on Thanksgiving. They are still all soft and so they're drying out in our garage but they aren't drying really well. They keep freezing, then thawing out and becoming all squishy. They'll dry better once it gets warmer. They make good back scratchers, people say! Ha ha. (With some sealant on it of course). Taxidermy (kind of). It'll be an awesome souvenir. Mine is the big one (in the picture). I'm still getting used to the country lifestyle.
"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
Packages can be sent to: Sister Christina Zwick New York Utica Mission 8539 Clark Mills Rd Whitesboro, NY 13492
"We have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work" Alma 26:3
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Blessed to open this last dispensation
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)