I loved reading about all the grandkids there. It's hard to believe you have 5, Mom and Dad. I love all the stories and funny things they say. The best is that Ellie got Blake out of his crib and he walked around thanking her! Ha ha. So cute.
First let me update you on the BED BUGS. Yep, we have bed bugs. We keep our apartment really clean and so we think we brought one in from a home we visited. We're in some really un-kept places sometimes.
Last Monday night we went to the Dinkle's home for dinner. We started talking about the bug bites and Brother Dinkle grabbed his laptop and looked up bed bugs and sure enough they looked just like my bites did. He also read that dawn is their prime biting time. Sister Stacey and I were up at like 3, 4, and 5 am and I kept hearing her walk into the bathroom to check herself. It was soooo scary. We didn't see any though. The next morning we checked our beds and found 2 dead ones. I tried to convince Sister Stacey that they are dead and gone BUT then I found one crawling right by me as I was studying Tuesday morning. So I called Sister Bulloch. She said, "Go wash all your clothes and sheets, and spray your WHOLE apartment with permetherin. Cancel your appointments. You shouldn't be losing sleep and need to get this solved." So we called Sister Maughan. She's like our second mom and loves to help us because she has a daughter on a mission! She said, "Get over here, the laundry room is all yours." Long story short, we washed everything from our clothes to our shoes and backpacks. And even slept at the Maughans that night. For some reason we had mattresses in the apartment and got permission from the Bullochs to throw two away. We called our landlord and he did a extermination thing. After all this we thought they'd be gone and brought all our clean clothes back and were so excited to have a good night's sleep and as we were getting ready for bed we found 3 MORE living! One in the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom! And the next day saw 4 others! So now they're everywhere! It was really funny at first but now it's annoying because it's interferring with the work and our sleep. We're so tired because we get home from teaching and are up itching and having nightmares about them. I feel like I'm camping and you know how much I like that ;) I've been wearing bug spray every night and haven't gotten bit for about a week. Sister Maughan is so sweet. She bought us mattress covers and keeps calling us, offering us a place to sleep, and seeing what more she can do to help us. We don't really know what else to do. We have Zone Conference tomorrow and there we'll talk to President and Sister Bulloch. I DO NOT want to move again. Plus I feel like the bugs are in our stuff so if we move, they'll come with us. This has been one of the only things that has made me want to come home, bed bugs. My bites are recovering but now turning into bruises.
Wednesday night we had a dinner appointment with the Forschmidts. Brother Forschmidt converted to Mormonism from Judaism and being Passover, we had a Passover dinner. The sedar ceremony (which we did before eating) consists of some readings from Exodus about the plagues on the Egyptians. I had to read Exodus chapter 8 all about the frogs and lice. When I got to verse 3 I read: "And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people..." And I just started laughing. I couldn't hold it in. It was so bad because the ceremony was supposed to be serious. And then Sister Stacey started laughing. So the whole chapter she was looking at me because she wanted me to laugh again and I was like kicking her under the table so she'd stop. It was just too ironic after all the bed bugs.
The work here is going so good and I'm sad to leave it eventually. Last night we had an amazing lesson with Mike and his family. When we got there his wife (who is like our best friend) told us to come back to the kitchen and get a dessert. The rest of the family was in the family room. She got kind of emotional and thanked us for serving missions. It was really sweet. She said her husband has never been this receptive. It strengthened my testimony that Heavenly Father knows his children. We went in and his returned missionary son showed the "None were with Him" talk by Elder Holland from a couple conferences ago. It is about the power of the Atonement. We all went around and shared our thoughts and testimonies of the Savior. Mike even shared. The Spirit was so thick, you could cut through it. The atonement really applies when we do all we can do (live the gospel) though to obtain the Lord's mercy. I nonchalantly said that because Mike needs to see that he needs to live those steps, faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end to really utilize the fullness of the gift of the atonement. We love Mike because we can joke around with him (he's super funny) but also be serious. We set a return appointment with him and he's always very busy. I've been using a pen instead of a pencil in my planner and he noticed that I was using a pen and my companion was using a pencil. He's like, "Sister Stacey, do you want a pen?" And handed her a casino one. It was funny that happened to be the one he grabbed. She's like, "No I like using pencil." Then I said, "I'm using a pen so you can't change the appointment." Then his wife's like, "The difference between a new missionary and one that's about to go home." And then we went into a whole conversation about how I'll hand down the pen to Sister Stacey when I leave. The handing down of the pen. ha ha. I really just have used a pen because I can't find my pencil and need to buy more today. On our drive home we got a text message from Mike's returned missionary son. He said, "My dad has progressed more with you two sisters than any previous missionaries. You're doing a great job. Keep it up. The effort you are making is helping." It made our Easter. I love bringing people unto the Savior and helping them feel the Spirit.
Palm Springs sounded like fun! You are all probably soooo tan! That's so fun Ellie and Spenny rode back with you, Mom! I miss them so much. Will you tell them and give them a love for me? Spen should think it's cool I'll be on an airplane in a few weeks. Andrea, are you so excited to be with the family for Easter? Too bad I don't get to call this Sunday! Before I forget, I hope you have a HAPPY EASTER and make time to reflect on the atonement.
I feel like I've learned a lot about the Atonement on my mission and how that event is central to why we're here and how we can live in happiness now and for eternity. Before we start teaching people we recite (not word for word) some points from Preach My Gospel, in the Teaching Skills section, under "How to Begin Teaching" and one of them says something like, "Any pain or guilt you feel can be removed because of the Savior's Atonement and you'll feel that as you apply these principles to your life." I almost start crying every time I say that because we all feel those feelings and how true it is that He is just waiting for us to come unto him and partake of his forgiveness and realize we need to change and be given the power to do it because of His help. I am so grateful for the Atonement. Christ just loves us so much and I just want everyone I meet here to feel that. In a scripture I read today it said, "He has all power, all wisdom, all understanding, he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name." That's how Ammon describes him. The Savior really does know how we feel and he went through the pain so he can give us comfort. Sorry I went off on that. It's just amazing to think that someone knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us unconditionally. It's beautiful :)
A lot has happened this week. It's been one of those weeks full of funny and sad stories. So I'll take you on a little emotional roller coaster ride...
Last Monday evening I noticed 3 little bumps on my right arm. They were red and itchy and looked like mesquito bites. Then Tuesday morning I noticed 3 more on my upper thigh. The redness kept getting bigger around them all even when I wasn't itching them. By Wednesday they started looking like rashes and nothing like a mesquito bite. We were near a member's home (who is a doctor) after visting an investigator Wednesday afternoon and called him. He said he wanted to take a look at them. So we went inside and he and his wife and two little girls were there. He's like, "Let's see your arm." So I showed him my arm. Then he's like, "Do you have any more?" I said, "Yes, on my leg." He's like, "Let me take a look at those." I'm like, "Well, they're kind of high. ha ha." And he's like, "It's still your leg." So I had to lift my gs in front of him and his family. He said something about them affecting my tissue? He gave me some steroid cream and said to put it on twice a day. From Wednesday to Saturday I got 5 more. At church on Sunday he looked at them on my lower leg and arm and was kind of confused because he doesn't know what they are and said it's not bug season. I think they're spider bites because our apartment is old. AND we don't have curtains and this gross blanket is hanging in front of the window (to act as a curtain) that my bed backs too. Saturday during lunch I was so fed up by my itchiness and got a big black garbage sack and took the blanket hanging from the window, and threw it away. Then we moved our beds and vacuumed all around them. We wash our sheets every other week during laundry, so I'm pretty sure it's not bed bugs. But just in case we stripped our beds and propped up all the mattresses and sprayed permetherin on them. We had to wait 24 hours to go into our room because the permetherin has toxins that we can't breathe in. We slept out on the couches Saturday night. Today the bites or whatever they are don't itch and look a little better. If they don't improve, by the end of the week I'll go to the doctor. I think they'll go away though.
We had two investigators at church yesterday!! Mike came!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He sat with his wife. He has not been to church since his son's mission homecoming in December. We want him to gain a testimony so badly. He loves Sister Stacey and I, which is so great. I know we were placed in this area together to help him. We've had awesome lessons at their home and his wife has said some very bold things to him. I mean very boldly. She's just put in a hard situation being so active, with very active children and a non member husband. We got the feeling she doesn't talk about these things to him until we are there because it's a touchy subject. On Tuesday night when we were there she said things like, "If in the future you're not here and I have the opportunity to be sealed to someone..." You can just feel her frustration with him. But yet she loves him and is just waiting for him to have a greater desire to know if these things are true. We asked him if he wants to know. He said, "I guess." And I said, "Do you want to live with your family forever?" And he said, "Yes." And I said, "Well then, you want to know, because that is a blessing that comes from knowing." We read a lot out of Alma 32 with him and talked about desire and faith. We promised him the Lord hears his prayers but that the witness will come after the trial of his faith and committed him to act in faith and come to church. Then his wife said, "I would love to sit by you in church. And the kids have told me in private they wish their dad was at church." AND HE CAME TO CHURCH! He even brought a separate car (we think to leave). But our awesome members got him to stay for Sunday school and Priesthood! Sunday school was the most spirit filled lesson that I've had my whole mission. It was on sacrifice and just so perfect for those who were in attendance. We had 2 less actives that don't usually come in class as well as Melanie and Mike (investigators).
We received a referral from the San Diego Visitor's Center, that a 9 year old in this area wanted a BOM. So we went to meet the Gilbert family and the Mom answered and was soooo cute and nice. She said her daughter was asleep and so we told her a little bit about ourselves and told her what we do and that we'd love to come back and explain more about the book of mormon and our basic beliefs. She was all for it and said, "I think we'd all like to learn, not just my daughter." We were so happy! Right as we walked away I was like, "Sister Madsen and her 10 year old daughter, fellowshippers!" The next day we called Sister Madsen to see if she and her daughter could come to the appointment, and they couldn't but she told us of all the other women in the ward with 9 or 10 year old daughters. We made some calls and got a member and her daughter all excited to come. Then we called another family in the ward to borrow a children's book of mormon (until the one arrives that we ordered from the mission office) because we thought that would be easier for the 9 year old to read. So Friday it was like one of our only set appointments and we were looking forward to it all day. We taught the family from Trinidad (who are doing awesome by the way) and got back to the car to a voice mail. It was the Gilbert mom. She's like, "I just wanted to call and cancel our appointment for this evening. I don't think my daughter knew what she was signing up for when we were visiting in San Diego. We're happy with our religion and aren't looking to change." It was a HUGE bummer. We had to call the members and tell them not to come anymore and bring the children's BOM back to the family at church yesterday who lended it to us. It makes me so sad when families walk away from this. If they only knew the blessings that flow from it.
We had a lot of those situations this week. Investigators and potentials not being home for their appointment and cancellations right and left. But I know the Lord will take care of them. It's not the end yet.
On a happier note, remember Precious? The cute Mom we met outside Val's house? She and her little black boys were walking to a barber shop. Well come to find out, the barber shop was closed! She told us that Saturday after a really great lesson with her whole family. She said she now knows why they had to go to the barber shop. She reminds me of Tyesha in Ithaca. She's already loving everything she's learning. She, her fiance, and 3 sons are all committed to coming to church this Sunday! Please pray for them with us that they'll use their agency righteously and come! We have their ride all set up. Her boys are adorable, Andrew, Donny, and Emmanuel. They were all participating in the lesson, answering questions, and reading! This is a golden family. So we're really hoping they come on Sunday.
About a month ago Sister Stacey and I created profiles at Mormon.org. You should all do one! It would be so fun if we all had one on their. I felt like I was on facebook or something, choosing my profile picture and stuff! It was fun! It took like a month for someone to review and approve it before becoming visible online but now it's there! So here are the links to both mine and Sister Stacey's:
Also GUESS WHO GOT BAPTIZED IN OGDENSBURG!?! DOLORES!!!!!! Remember her? I sent some pictures home with her and I. I worked with her the entire 6 months I was up there and she had the strongest desire to be baptized. I knew she'd make it. She finally broke up with her bf and is living the LOC!!!! She got baptized Saturday and confirmed Sunday. Sister Woodmansee wrote me this last week and let me know the exciting news. I wish I could've seen it but that's just the nature of the work. You plant seeds, teach, and work an area as if you'll be there forever, but your not and you leave and get to hear how the work keeps moving forward. She also said Don received the Priesthood last Sunday!
Jeff, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Saturday! Look for a card in the mail.
Dad, don't worry I'm missing out on the warmth of sunny California too, if it makes you feel any better. Ha ha I love that Matty said it's the first time he's had a bed there. Remember he used to not like Palm Springs? It starts becoming nice around high school age because it's super relaxing. Thank you for both of your emails, Mom and Dad. And Chad your email made me the happiest! I'll write ya today!
Saturday night we got our transfer call and both Sister Stacey and I are staying in Glenville for 6 more weeks!! We were SO HAPPY to hear that. We were both pretty certain that we'd be here together. It's the best place to end my mission. I love those we're teaching and have the best companion. We're best of friends. She went on exchange while I was in Palmyra and was all scared this week for the call because she doesn't want to be companions with anyone else. Isn't that nice? I told her she better stop being so nice because President puts reject companions with the nice sisters. ha ha.
Tuesday morning, three elders, three sisters, President and Sister Bulloch and I traveled to Palmyra! I feel soooo blessed to be in this mission, so close to where the Restoration took place. The day began with a session in the Palmyra temple. Right when I walked in I was greeted by Elder and Sister Sherwood. They were a couple assigned to help Sister Despain and I in the Ogdensburg Branch during the time we didn't have a Branch President. They were in white and gave me a hug. It was soooo great to see them! I had written them a couple weeks ago to let them know I'm coming to the temple on the 5th, because I knew they worked there a few times a week. They as well as Elder and Sister Guthrie (another Palmyra couple that helped us in the Burg) found me in the temple and it was a good reunion. Before the session the temple president sat with us and we had the opportunity to ask him any question about anything! I swear I was the only one asking questions. President Bulloch and him had the answers and were so informative. I was sitting there just thinking how sad it would've been to not have all of these experiences. Even just that one, sitting in the baptistry room getting questions answered by a temple president! And the day got even better! The endowment was wonderful as always. It was cool to see President and Sister Bulloch in their temple clothes. I was thinking about my mission a lot and it was amazing to see that the covenants in the temple relate to the things I've been trying to develop as a missionary. I told that to President afterwards and he said, "There is nothing like a mission to give us a better perspective of our temple covenants." I will never go to the temple without being grateful for what I've learned on my mission. It's prepared me to be a better member of the church, member missionary, wife, mother, and teacher. I just hope I can remember the important lessons I've learned about obedience and sacrifice and in my future be more willing to do what the Lord wants me to do when he asks.
After the temple we went to the Grandin Building and got taught by President Bulloch and a Sister missionary about the long process it was to make the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. It made me especially grateful for mine and the sacrifices made by Martin Harris and John H. Gilbert and other men who worked hard to getting the first books published.
I learned a lot about Martin Harris. We all remember him for losing the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript, but in fact he mortgaged his farm to pay E.B. Grandin to print the Book of Mormon! I didn't know this. President Bulloch drove us to the farmland he mortgaged and taught us more about coveting from D&C 19 with the background story of Martin Harris not wanting to give up his farm, but did because the Lord asked him to. President said "We remember Martin Harris for the wrong stuff. He paid for the printing of the Book of Mormon and was a great blessing to the Kingdom." Then we learned he didn't only lose his farm but his wife left him because of all he was giving for the spreading forth of the gospel! Sad huh?
We also went to Alvin's (Joseph's brother) grave. Sister Bulloch is so cute and puts flowers there every time. We learned about his influence on Joseph and how he told him to stay true to what he knew in spite of the persecution. Joseph looked up to Alvin and always remembered that and continued to hold true to what he saw.
On Hill Cumorah we studied about Joseph's instruction from Moroni. President Bulloch told us Moroni is known as "Joseph's tutor" and was actual visited by him 22 times from the time he first appeared to him and throughout the translation process.
We also got a tour through Joseph Smith's log cabin and the frame house right by the Sacred Grove. It was so funny, President Bulloch would get antsy when the missionaries would be giving us a tour because it was so simple and he'd say, "Can I interrupt and take a few minutes with them." Then he'd go all in depth and have us open our scriptures and tell us what else happened in the room. I LOVE PRESIDENT BULLOCH!
When we got to the Sacred Grove he said, "This is the first time I'll let you be alone." We got to separate one from another and be in the grove for an hour. You can feel the sacredness of the ground just walking in.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God. I am so grateful for his faith to go into the grove of trees and pray with a sincere heart. I know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him there and answered his prayer. I also know that through him the Priesthood was restored and all the saving ordinances can be preformed because of one boy's simple prayer. It's real. It's a real place and you can feel the Holy Ghost bear witness of Joseph Smith at every site in Palmyra.
The day was perfect. President Bulloch made wonderful connections between the temple, the sites, and our mission experience. I feel so grateful to be in this mission right where it all started and to have President Bulloch as my mission President. He's helped me grow in my testimony and has taught me what it really means to be a disciple of Christ.
I'll attach pictures in another email you can forward out, Mom.
It's been a great weekend. We had two investigators at conference and it seemed like the sessions they came to were the perfect talks for them. This mother of 8 children from Trinidad came to the Saturday morning session and was deeply touched by Elder Cook's talk on women and motherhood. I also was so grateful when President Eyring looked right into the camera and said, "You can know as I know that Joseph Smith was a chosen prophet of God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." She was nodding and it felt as though he was saying that right to her. Just like Elder Holland said, "If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit some one of us will send a little epistle just to you." I know Leslie Ann felt that and I did too, as many of my questions were answered and concerns were settled. So yeah, I loved loved loved General Conference. Especially Elder Holland's talk. He's exactly right, we need to ponder upon the unique phenomenon general conference is! Saturday morning we were in Schenectady to teach a women named Val before conference and this massive church's parking lot was filled with cars. I thought, how sad that is that they have no idea prophets are speaking to the world today! Val ended up not forgetting our appointment and wasn't home but the Lord always puts us in the right place at the right time. On Val's street this mom was walking with her two sons and we approached them and asked them how their day is and then asked her if she believes in God. She was like, "I do. I'm Christian. I've been looking for a church to go to." Downtown Schenectady is full of ginormous beautiful catholic churches, so it's funny she's "looking". We knew her search couldn't have been for a church building only, but for truth restored. Experiences like that just make me so so happy. We were led to Val that day to find Precious and her sons. We're teaching them this week.
We were also led by the Spirit this week to a former investigator's home. Her name is Aimee. We had penciled her in as a back up for Tuesday morning but since our appointment with a less active went through we didn't end up checking on Aimee. That afternoon we had planned to work in Schenectady but Sister Stacey just wasn't feeling it. She was like, "I really feel like we should stay in Glenville. We've worked Schenectady the past few days." So we said a prayer and told Heavenly Father we are not going to Schenectady but we're going to work in Glenville and to help us readjust our plans to be led to someone in need of our message." We decided to check on a less active and on our drive there, we came across construction that caused us to have to take a detour. We took the detour and we led right down Aimee's street. I said, "Let's stop at Aimee's and maybe she'll be home and we'll be able to meet her." We got out of the car, knocked on Aimee's door and she came. At first she was confused because she knew the other two sisters well. We introduced ourselves and she let us in. Over eight times she said, "I was just having one of those really sad afternoons, and then I heard a knock and it was you." She even called her husband at work and said, "You know how I was having a sad day? The sisters just showed up and we've been talking and I feel a lot better." Cool huh!? We had the best time with her, and everything that came out of her mouth told us how prepared she is for the gospel. Her father in law just passed away, she and her husband have had a hard time with that, they just moved into the area, they haven't found a church yet, and are living the word of wisdom! After we got to know her a bit her husband got home from work. They are newlyweds and she was telling us about her wedding and how she wished they had gotten married in a church. I wanted to be like, "It's not too late! Temple blessings are available to you." But we don't teach the temple on the first lesson. ha ha. That morning our dinner appointment canceled and ironically Mark and Aimee were like, "Will you join us for dinner or do you have somewhere you need to be?" We joined them for dinner! Strangers that felt like longtime members. We are soooooo excited about them and they definitely felt the spirit when we testified about life after death. The coolest part of the story is that when we left, the detour was gone!! There wasn't even evidence of any construction. Cool huh? Had we not taken the detour, we wouldn't have stopped there and helped Aimee have a better day.
Something Elder Bednar said that I loved was, "In many times we receive revelation without recognizing how and when we are receiving revelation." I told Sister Stacey I was so grateful to have her as a companion. Because she was in tune, we were able to be effective instruments in the Lord's hands that afternoon and help Aimee and Mark feel the Spirit.
Mom, thank you for sending my temple clothing! I was soooooo happy to get it! You would've laughed how excited I was. I immediately put on my temple dress to soak up the spirit of the temple that is in it from before my mission! It fits perfectly still, surprisingly! Tonight we are driving to Utica and from there I will be going to the temple with some other departing missionaries. We also get to go to the Grandin Building Printing Press where the first Books of Mormons were printed, as well as Hill Cumorah, and the Sacred Grove. I cannot wait! On Friday we were at a meeting and saw President and Sister Bulloch. I was talking to Sister Bulloch and was like, "I'm not allowed to jump up and down in the temple, but it's been sooooo long I don't know how I'll contain my excitement for being within the walls of the temple again!" It'll be a wonderful day. I've heard President Bulloch has so many added stories from teaching and studying for institute classes that he shares with us about Joseph Smith at the individual sights and that he teaches us so much. It'll be a very uplifting and inspiring day. I can't wait!
I love you. Please pray for our investigators this week, we're extending two baptismal invitations!
p.s. Sister Stacey has this dumb fake hamster pet (Zhu Zhu) that she and her MTC district had as a "classroom pet" they're sending it around to each other with pictures. That explains the pictures. We took them on Saturday.
"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)