Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth..." -2 Nephi 2:8

Hey family!

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!

Love, Sister Zwick

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