Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Last Month & End of Mission

June to July 5, 2014
Well, this is the last month of our mission.  This month we prepared for our last arrival of new missionaries (20), last transfer day and training of new mission office couples to take over our responsibilities.  Since we started our mission, we will have seen 210 new missionaries enter our mission.  Each missionary has been excited to arrive, but arrive with "deer in the headlight" looks.  We have marveled at the changes which take place during their first 5 weeks because we see them for "Return and Report" day.  They start their mission timidly and return with more confidence.  It takes 12 weeks for them to receive all their training and we always ask them how the training is going.  Their trainer is so important because if it is done right, then the rest of their mission will be successful.  We have seen miracles happen when Pres. Wirthlin seeks the Lord's help in assigning the right trainer.

We have been putting together our own training books for our replacements.  We didn't have extensive in-office training when we arrived, so we have prepared our own training books.  At the first of the month, we were informed only one senior couple was assigned to replace two couples. So we were concerned.  But Pres. Wirthlin decided to reassign a senior couple who was serving in the Lake Placid area to serve in the office.  So the week of new missionaries and transfers, we started our training for the new office couples...very busy week. The  new couples were overwhelmed at first, but by the end of the week they think it will be OK. The office couple who served with us left on Saturday the 28th and we will leave on July 5th.

Right now, we plan on going to Cleveland, Indianapolis, Chicago, Madison, Prince Rupert, Omaha, Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower, Custer's last stand, Martin's Cove, SLC, Provo and home.  We should arrive home about the 13th or 14h.  But then we travel to No. Cal for my Mom's 96th birthday.

Our last Sunday in the Herkimer Branch was very sweet and tender.  The primary children presented us with home made leis with pictures of each child.  Then at the linger-longer they presented us with a large cake.  We will miss the Branch and it has been a pleasure to have served there.

We have had many challenges while on this mission which tempted us to give it up..severe  flu our first day of training, overwhelming flood of new missionaries, finding housing for 45 new areas and furnishing the units, getting food  poisoning from eating possum which lasted for 6 weeks, delivering sooo much furniture to new apartments caused the need for a hernia surgery repair, then our grandaughter who had been sick for 8 years passed away which was a heartache, then another hernia surgery to repair the first one which didn't hold, I damaged the rear door panel of the mission van ($2000), damaged another new mission car which had just arrived and our own car was hit from behind with $2300 damage, we suffered vertigo and shingles also and to top it off, we experienced the coldest and worst winter in 100 years.  But throughout it all, we determined never to give in or go  home.  We were called to serve and serve we would - no matter what was thrown in our way.  We have endured and have been blessed for it.

As a closing thought, we want to bear our testimony of the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is true that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son, the translation of the Book of Mormon was a miracle and is the Word of God, we have a living prophet today, Pres. Thomas S. Monson, and the Lord directs this church through his prophets. We are blessed with the restoration of the Priesthood which allows us to be instruments in the hands of The Lord to bless others.  As Nephi said. "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ...". We have learned to "Trust in The Lord with all our heart, mind and strength. And in the end all we can do is what Pres. Hinckley said. "If life gets too hard to stand, Kneel".

We hope our service to The Lord in our mission has been acceptable to Him.  We leave with a clear conscience that we have done all we could and we feel blessed.  Our family has been blessed beyond measure and we appreciate all their support.

Elder & Sister Cutler

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring is Peaking Around the Corner

March 2014:

The weeks and months seem to run together with much the same to report. March continued to be very cold--historic cold weather.  Heard a report that the great lakes are now about 97 percent frozen over which is a 100 year record.  The wind chill here is what does one in because it seeps right through you.  Luckily we are not out in the cold like most of the missionaries. Sister Cutler bought tights and wears them almost every day due to the cold.  Even so, the wind would blow right up her skirt and freezes her backside!!!  The lady at the store asked her why she didn't wear pants -- well.
We thought that spring was right around the corner, and we woke up to another snow day!!!

We decided that if there were snow outside we would bring spring indoors.
No new missionaries arrived in March, so it has been somewhat of a quiet month in the office.  Zone Training took place throughout the mission at which Pres. Wirthlin interviews each missionary.  We only go to the one ZT which is held in the Stake Center where the office is located.  Always a busy day when missionaries are coming and going through the office.  We did move missionaries into three new apartments during the month.

We did go to the breakfast at the Ben and Judy Sugarhouse (Maple Syrup) place.  It was a delicious breakfast and of course maple syrup will always be our syrup of choice after eating the "real stuff".  Unfortunately, it has been so cold that the maple syrup was not running.  Latest in 10 years.

Our branch had a record of three baptisms the 29th of March.  It was an exciting time for our small branch!!  About 60 people attended.  Both of the missionaries were 18, and one has been the District Leader for a couple of transfers.  It is so true that "whom the Lord calls He qualifies".  These missionaries (all of them, really) are amazing and grow up so much on their missions.  When they teach through the spirit miracles happen.  We can see the change in the missionaries from the day that they come until their training (Return and Report) after they have been in the mission field for 4-6 weeks.  It is truly amazing.  However, they are still young and have some interesting times.

Still young!!!  This was a frustrating mishap for them, but.......
April 2014:

Brownies (Brown-eees) anyone.  April Fools from sister missionaries!!
April started off with a bang.  New missionaries arrived on April 1st, transfers on the 2nd, departing missionaries on the 3rd and Mission Leader Council on the 4th.( 8 new missionaries including 2 Temple Square Sisters plus two senior couples & transfers involving over 80 missionaries).  By the end of the week we were worn out.  Elder Barlow, who handles vehicles, commented that when this happens, we get all pumped up with the enthusiasm of the missionaries, but when it is all over and they leave, the enthusiasm gets sucked right out of us and we are left limp.  Great description of how we feel on weeks like this.

However, we were anxious to leave on Friday afternoon (April 4th) to drive to Scott's for conference weekend.  It only took us 3 1/2 hours probably because we were so glad to be on our way.  Scott's family always treats us like royalty with pampering, tons of great food and wonderful smiles.  Even Pepper was glad to see us.  She has taken to Sister Cutler.  We went to Jack's play at school to see him perform between sessions.  Scott, Jack & dad went to General Priesthood meeting at the chapel (starts at 8:00 pm).  After the session, they went with about 30-40 priesthood brethren to the Shake Shack and didn't get home until after 11:30 pm.  So naturally, Sunday morning was a sleep in until about 9:00 am.  We had a wonderful breakfast and then Scott, Jack and Dad went on a bike ride (electric bikes) of about 15 miles.  Dad was impressed with the electric bikes and would like to have one.  Sure makes it easy going up hills.

 We were impressed with Scott's kids in the way they enjoyed conference.  After the morning session (12:00-2:00 EST), Mathew commented that "this was the best conference" and starting talking about the different talks.  It was a special time for us.  We did feel a tremendous spirit from the words spoken, and we look forward to reading the talks soon.  We know these leaders are also called of God and their words are very important for each of us to incorporate into our lives.  Audrey wrote a letter in Mandarin to one of the Chinese Temple Square sister missionaries  for us to deliver.

The rest of the month will be busy with Zone Conferences scheduled for the third and fourth weeks.  This will be our last opportunity to attend Zone Conferences in different parts of the mission, so we will be going to most of them.  Pres. Wirthlin still has not received confirmation of our replacements and is starting to get concerned.  He says the missionary department has indicated that the pool of new senior missionary couples has dried up.  He was also very surprised that nothing was said about that during conference.  The other office couple also has no replacements yet.

That about sums up events since our last blog.  The time is flying by, and we can't believe how fast our mission has gone by.  We are truly blessed, and we have had so many tender mercies shown to us during our time here.  We know that the Lord is in charge of this work, as we have said before.  It has been a privilege to serve.  We hope that we are better.  The Lord has been good to us and we so love Him and appreciate the great atoning sacrifice he made for each of us.

We love one and all,

Grammy, Papa, Mom and Dad, Herb & Sharon, Elder & Sister Cutler, Friend

Trammell's visiting Elder and Sister Field at the Family History Mission.
Debbie, Braden & Sam visiting BYU Idaho where Braden will be going to school in the fall.  They are also having a "Celebrating Claire Week".  

Julie with her "second parents", Elder & Sister Field.

 Love to all!   Elder & Sister Cutler

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Halfway Through February Already!!!

January 2014

We started off the new year with new arrivals and a transfer on the 7 & 8 of the month.  We have two Mandarin speaking sisters from Temple Square here in the mission for three transfers.  What an incredible experience OUR sisters are having with these sisters.  The one set is working in Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University.  They started with a "Get to Know You" evening and had about 9 Chinese students come.  Their next activity there were 25 people who came to learn about the Church.  It has been an incredible experience for the missionaries.  The Chinese students were so excited to know that there is a God -- these students, if baptized, will bring the gospel into China.  The two missionaries from our mission have Chinese name tags and one is trying to learn Mandarin.  Along with transfers, we have our farewell dinner for the departing missionaries, which is always somewhat difficult.  We do love the missionaries and don't like to see them leave.

Favorite is the shrimp cocktail!!
Elders Tollofson & Houston. 
    We are now in the middle of winter.  The weather has been unbelievably cold -- -25' with wind chill for a few days/nights.  That is cold.  I had to go out and get some tights to wear, as the cold just went right through me.  Scarves, gloves, turtle neck sweaters and my wool coat were not enough to stay outside longer than go from car to office, and then I had to have the heater on most of the morning to get warm.  One of the days we had to get the mail, and the car never did get warm going down to the post office and then back up to the office.  I have never been in such cold.....

The end of January was zone conferences, and the other office couple had presentations to make at the five conferences.  We did the mail those days, and all went fine.  I kind of like doing the mail anyway -- a change in routine is always welcome.  When the Utica Zone Conference was held I really wanted to go to the meetings this time.  So often there are office duties that need to be done, but this time I was able to go to almost all of the meetings.  Our assistants gave such wonderful talks, and I am amazed as to what they are able to do as they are so young.  I know that the spirit qualifies those who have been called, and their reliance on that same spirit was so inspiring.  I can't even write down all that I learned -- I would be accused of being SO preachy, but I just want to remember a few things.  I know that faith in Jesus Christ is the sure foundation for a lasting testimony.  We know that there is opposition in all things, but our faith in Christ will help us overcome the problems of a fallen world.  Christ has suffered all for us, and we need to come unto him. (Ether 12:27...)

The other assistant gave a simple idea.  "Instruction flees.  But experiences will stay with us."  He spoke about what we have to do to become converted?  What sacrifices will I make to be truly converted and become a representative of Jesus Christ?  (Sacrifice, experiences, lasting change).  Is it MY will or GOD's will?  we need to do righteous things and then become righteous.  (D&C 18:15)  Elder Holland said that if we bring only one soul unto Him, let's make sure that we are the one.  Others great, but we must be converted ourselves.

That, in a nutshell, is what the AP's spoke about, and President Wirthlin spoke about The Doctrine of Christ and Real Growth.  He said that we need to have absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father.  Faith is not so much something we believe -- it is something we live.  A couple of missionaries sang -- p. 112, "Savior Redeemer of My Soul" -- beautiful melody and awesome message.

On Friday morning Dad woke up with vertigo -- he was totally tipsy and could not walk in a straight line.  He was in bed all day Friday, Saturday and also Sunday.  I fell on a patch of black ice on Friday morning and gave myself a good surprise landing.  I landed on my knees and bruised and scraped both, plus gave my neck and shoulders a jolt.  Old people are not supposed to fall!  It has taken a while to get over the aches and pains, which is very frustrating.

The last Friday in January was Mission Leadership Council.  I was so impressed with the missionaries.  One of the Zone leaders shared an experience he had with an exchange.  He was working with a new missionary from another part of the zone.  They were going to an appointment and noticed a gentleman trying to move a TV and having difficulty with the job.  They called out to him several times and he did not respond.  In frustration they went over to the man and found out that he was deaf.  This new missionary started signing with him and the gentleman was so amazed and then started asking them questions about what they were doing and why they were in New York.  He wanted to know more about it all.  The missionaries were blown away -- what are the chances that an exchange would bring an elder to the right place at the right time to be able to communicate with this deaf man.  The missionaries were so touched by this experience, and stated that they knew it was no coincidence -- the Lord is in charge of His work.

February 2014

On Dad's birthday it was fun talking to many of our family and friends.  We had a relaxing day at home cleaning, doing laundry and resting.  We enjoy our Saturdays.  We had dinner at the Wirthlin's with the AP's, other office couple, President & Sister Wirthlin, and Elder Perkins of the Seventy.  We had a wonderful evening.  It is not often that one gets to have dinner with a General Authority and speak about what he is doing, what he has done, etc.

Valentines Day brought lots of mail again -- treats, cards, packages -- fun time for the missionaries to get their mail.  We have fun watching the missionaries open their packages.

We have had another round of snow and cold, and the only way I can describe it is COLD!!!  I continue to be so very grateful for the boots that were found somewhere in the office that I was able to inherit.  They have saved me!!!  I am not complaining, as we never have to go out very far in the cold, but this week the snow was over my boots, and my shoes would just not have worked for me.

The next picture shows how beautiful the icicles can be -- go all the way to the ground. 

This week is Transfer Week, so we have been getting office materials ready for the new missionaries and the trainers.  We have three VISA Waiters coming and one Temple Square Sister plus twelve other missionaries coming.  It is going to be difficult saying goodbye to some of the departing missionaries, that is for sure.   We do get attached.

I continue to marvel at how the work moves forward and the tender mercies that we experience.  We do know that the Lord does want this work to be done, and He makes ways possible for His will to be done.  We have to have faith, and He does open the way.  We have loved this experience of being missionaries, and as I have said before -- we see miracles with our work in the office, and we are glad to be part of the Lord's army.  We love our friends and family -- we miss you and think of you often and remember you in our prayers. 

Much love,

Grammy and Papa, Mom and Dad, Herb & Sharon, Friend -- however you fit into our circle of love!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beginning 2014

It's hard to believe that Christmas/New Years has come and gone since our last post. But when you're busy, that's what happens. December was a blur for us because we can hardly remember what happened.  Sometime we have to go back and see our Instragram posts or photos to jog the memory.
Fortunately, we didn't have new missionaries or departing missionaries during December.

One fun day our Assistants invited us to join them with a pizza party in the office.  At all of the meetings, everyone is given bottled water.  The assistants collect the water bottles, and when they have a couple of huge garbage bags, they turn in the bottles at a recycling center and provide pizza for the office.  It is really fun.  The one missionary in the yellow shirt was gagging on anchovies in his pizza, and the other missionary was sticking out his stomach to show how full he was.  It has been such fun having them in the office. 

While everyone was buying gifts, wrapping, stressing out, making Merry, we, of course, we being deligent missionaries, working in the office and spreading good cheer.  We were worried about what we were going to do with all the anticipated Christmas mail, but as long as we stayed on top of picking it up at the PO, having a system of putting new addresses on the letters and packages and then taking it back to the PO early, we survived.  Some days, there was so much mail that we could hardly get it into our car.  We did have some mail that didn't arrive in time, but most missionaries got at least one package.

We were pleasantly surprised when Pres. Wirthlin said we didn't have to be in the office on Christmas day.  We did prepare a Christmas Eve dinner for the other office couple, two sister missionaries and Pres. & Sis Writhlin.  Our small apartment was decorated as best we could.  The meal and evening was a success.  Christmas morning and early afternoon was spent talking with all the family and even spending a few moments saying Hi to Sister Trammell, who is serving in Fiji. And of course, we woke up to new snow.  New Year's eve was a bed by 9:30 pm and sleeping in until 9:00 am absolutely wonderful way to start the new year.  We caught up on our laundry, cleaned the apartment, and just relaxed.  We oldsters need those days once in a while.

January 2014 started out with extremely cold weather.  On the 2nd of January, we had a Mission Leader Council for all the mission leaders.  Elder Barlow and Elder Cutler had to clear the sidewalks as best we could, but it was soooo cold....wind chill of -26 degrees...even with gloves on fingers were almost frozen.  During the training session, one of the most humble missionaries led a discussion about discovering the promptings of the Holy Ghost...he said "most of the time the Spirit only comes when requested, but living close to the Spirit through righteous living puts you so close to the Spirit that you can almost feel the presence of the Holy Ghost right next to you" and then he gave several examples of this principle from his own mission experiences.  He was talking to all the mission leaders including the mission president.  You could have heard a pin drop during his presentation.  After the meeting, Elder Cutler put his arm around this wonderful missionary and said to him.."I will now call you our mission "Ammon".  What a great experience we are having.  We will miss having him close by, as he was transferred to the Syracuse Zone this last Wednesday.

Another group of new missionaries arrived on the 7th and some wonderful missionaries departed.  We so hate to see them leave, but know that they have served well and are now headed for another part of their life's journey.  We had two missionaries who had lost luggage, so when the luggage was found, we were assigned to deliver it to them.  We had to travel to the Watertown area.  The day before all the roads were shut down because of the heavy amount of snow that fell.  It was clear weather when we arrived, but what a storm as you can see by the pictures (4-5 feet of snow).

The weather has been one of the coldest years according to long-time residents.  The wife of one of the mission presidency has lived here her whole life...but now she can't wait to move to a warmer climate.  This week, however, the temperature is around 35-40 degrees, so we will be  having a heat wave.

The next two weeks will be zone conferences, so Elder Cutler and I will be holding down the fort at the office as everyone else is participating at the zone conferences.  We will be doing the mail on the days that our office friends are gone, but that will be kind of fun for a change -- at least it should not be like it was before Christmas!

We had the privilege of having President and Sister Wirthlin attend the Branch today.  Last time they made a surprise visit we were speaking -- today I was just leading the singing in Sacrament Meeting.  The funny thing, though, is that the person who chose the hymns chose songs that no one knew.  By the closing song, I could only handle one verse and we stopped the song.  Kind of too bad, one of the few times we have someone who plays the organ was in attendance today and we just could not match his talent on the organ. 

Happy New Year to all!!!  We love you and are continuing to love our service here.  We have learned so much and our testimonies of the restoration continue to grow.  Our appreciation of the Savior and of the atonement is very dear to us.

Grammy & Papa, Elder & Sister Cutler, Mom & Dad, Friend

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thanksgiving & Christmas Update

We know we say this every time, but time is flying by at the speed of light.  We were amazed at the date of our last post.  Sorry, Sorry, Sorry! 

The weekend after Halloween we went to a Farmer's Market in a little town called Ilion.  We didn't think much of the merchandise there, but the barns were beautiful and dated back into the 1700's.  I did buy a handmade basket made by some Amish people, and of course the snickerdoodles could not be ignored.

 The president has a saying, when he is displeased with a missionary, that he will have to take him/her behind the woodshed to take care of the problem.  It is a standing joke in the mission that one does not want to go with the president "behind the woodshed! The AP's made this "woodshed" for President Wirthlin.  We get a kick out of President Wirthlin's sense of humor about the woodshed and wonder if he had experiences there when a child!!!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving being at Scott's house in Conneticut where Lizzy and her family were also visiting.  It was fun being with members of the family again.  We couldn't leave for Scott's until Thanksgiving morning because of missionary transfers and new missionaries arriving, so we made it just in time for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

Scott, Jack and Dad actually went pheasant hunting where Jack shot the most beautiful and largest bird and Dad shot the smallest,  but Dad did hit it on his first shot.  His aim was so good that he shot its head right off!!

Can't leave Thanksgiving weekend without posting some family pictures.....  We love getting pictures from everyone, so feel free to send us pictures and we will post them.  (Instagram pictures are not as good as one sent by email or text message.)

Our work in the mission office feels like groundhog day many times.  However, the last week has been very busy picking up hundreds of boxes, re-addressing both letters and boxes and then taking the mail back to the post office.  One day we had two cars full of mail.

Finding, inspecting and leasing apartment continues to be a big job.  We have had missionaries calling about empty fuel tanks for heat when the temperature was near zero.  It took 4 days to have fuel delivered. One apartment having so much condensation from the heater that the walls and ceiling were dripping like an underground cave. So we are moving to another apartment. We were having another difficult time finding an apartment for a new senior couple assigned to a small branch in the southeast corner of the mission.  Every apartment we wanted fell through.  Finally, we were told about an apartment just as were were leaving Scott's house, so we stopped at the place on our way back to our apartment.  We were pleased with the apartment and signed the lease as quick as we could.  The next morning in our staff meeting with the mission president, the president asked in his prayer for help in finding a place.  So when he finished praying, we told him his prayer was answered because we signed the lease the day before.  He was overwhelmed with the news.

On December 14th our branch Christmas party was a live nativity.  The temperature that day was -5' wind chill, and I have never been so cold.  We have been asked why it wasn't moved indoors -- well, it would not do to have a donkey and goats indoors.

Because it was snowing and so cold, these pictures do not do justice as to how sweet this live nativity really was.  The children were shivering and so cold, but they would not stop until everything was all said and done.  Precious time.

We do have fun times in the office, and we decided to take a picture of the office couples in Santa's hats and calling ourselves the NYUtica Mission Office Elves.  We had fun setting it up, and we sent it to all of the missionaries along with a short Christmas message.

We can't believe that in two weeks we will have served for one year.  So we expect the next six months will go fast.  This picture of our backyard reminds us that it is possible to have cold, cold weather at home as well as in New York!

Mission work continues to be hastening along.  Julie sent us an article about the adopted brother of a missionary who was just released from our mission.  We didn't know anything about this adopted brother but the story was very touching ( It shows that the Lord is totally in charge and is aware of all.  We hope you can read the article.

Want to include some recent pictures taken of Sister Trammell with our college friends.  (These are different pictures than the ones we posted before!)  She enjoys seeing the Collins', and they are enjoying seeing her and giving her missionary hugs!!

We want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  We love each and every one, and we pray for you all.  Remember the words of Elder Nelson spoken at the Christmas devotional: "...As we follow Jesus Christ, He will lead us to live with Him and our Heavenly Father, with our families. Through our many challenges of mortality, if we remain faithful to covenants made, if we endure to the end, we will qualify for that greatest of all the gifts of God, Eternal Life. In His holy presence, our families can be together forever."

We testify that no truer words were spoken.  We love you all, miss you all and know we will be together again in this life and in the life to come.

Love to each one -- we think of friends and family often!!!

Mom & Dad, Grammy & Papa, Herb & Sharon, Elder & Sister Cutler, Friend