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.
"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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"We have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work" Alma 26:3
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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)