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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

October is gone -- Halloween flew by!


It has been over a month since we have posted in our blog.  That time has gone by so fast!  We thoroughly enjoyed Conference, and then the next weekend was our stake conference.  "Hastening the Work" seemed to be the theme for both, and I am so grateful to be part of the missionary force that is throughout the world.  The time is moving so fast now, and I hope that when the last day of our mission arrives that I will have no regrets in not doing enough. 

On the 12th of October -- Saturday -- we took off about noon and went to Cooperstown.  We went to the Baseball Hall of Fame and had fun going down Memory Lane as far as baseball is concerned.  It was a beautiful fall day, and the ride to Cooperstown was beautiful, with the fall colors so beautiful and in their glory.  Cooperstown is a charming small town, and there is a lot to be found about baseball.
Fall colors in their glory!!!
Babe Ruth and a fan
Edgar Martinez, a Mariner favorite
San Francisco Giants Memorabilia
This is one of the Assistants, Elder Tanner, with the famous frog.  At transfers the Assistants do a role-play demo on the Fable of the Frog -- If you put a frog into boiling water he will jump out, but if the frog is in the water and it gradually heats up it will just cook.  Well, the assistants do this training to let the missionaries know how to handle difficult "relationship" issues, whether it be their companion, a member of the ward, etc.  If there are feelings developing and all, either the companion or the missionary just has to call the president and say he/she has a frog problem, and the president goes right to the missionary, and handles a rapid transfer to another part of the mission.  This is the quick fix of a possible problem, and if there are more issues they are taken care of quickly.  The skits have been hilarious, with the assistants knowing of missionaries having girlfriends at home and using their names in the skit -- all in good fun -- lots of laughs and yet getting the point across quickly.
We were able to go to the Palmyra Temple on the 19th of October and spent the day at the temple doing a session and then sealings.  We were gone for 11 hours, so we were very tired.  We did not see any of the historical sites this time.  On the 20th we taught Primary, I conducted R.S., and then we went to a rest home in Herkimer with the Primary to sing some songs and hand out homemade cards.  One of our girls wanted to see the sister from our branch who lives there.  For some reason she was not brought out when the children were singing.  She is a very frail lady (three years younger than I!), used to be outspoken and spicy.  She has had several strokes and is in a wheelchair and cannot talk.  We took Azizza into her room along with the missionaries and sang I Am A Child of God.  The sister had tears running down her cheeks and mouthed the words to the song.  It was such a precious experience.  She is brought to church every Sunday in a wheelchair.
We spoke in church the 27th of October.  The branch president called us on Wednesday night in need of speakers for Sunday, and so we willingly(?) said we would do it.  I spoke on service and Papa spoke on obedience. 
We were very saddened at the sudden and tragic death of the father of our assistant (Elder Tanner) to President Wirthlin.  His dad was in a horrible airplane crash taking off from the Fairbanks, Alaska airport.  The plane lost all power and they crashed right after the ending of the runway.  Elder Tanner's younger brother was also in the accident and had both legs broken in a couple of places.  Elder Tanner went home for a week to help his mother get through the nightmare.  So many unanswered questions.
We had mini-zone conferences the last week of October with a General Authority doing a mission tour.  They covered about 1,300 miles in 2 1/2 days!.  Usually the zone conferences are between 9 and 3, but this time there were half-day conferences with a lot of traveling in between and after.  Elder Bruce R. Porter of the First Council of the Seventy was the visiting authority.  His message was entirely on the Plan of Salvation, the role of the Savior and the atonement.  His talks were outstanding.
Just have to add a couple of pictures that made my week -- so fun to have pictures of everyone!!!


Kara with our friends, Elder Ed and Sister Joyce Collins -- friends from our newly married days at BYU 50 years ago!!!!!  They are CES missionaries in the same mission as our Sister Trammell. 
Kara and her companion
Lizzy and Lyla
Maisie Lou making a scary face.....
On Halloween our office partners, the Barlows, always have liver, bacon and onions for dinner.  They had their children eat this dinner before going out on Halloween night.  We went to a diner with the Wirthlins and Barlows on Halloween night so we could witness the dinner.  I took the picture of them and they emailed it to their six children asking if they had had their liver and onions that night  -- they had six responses to their email within one minute!!!  That was the quite a record, and NO -- no one had liver and onions.  
So much for the month of October.  Our days go by quickly and we continue to love the associations and work with the missionaries.  We are blessed to work in the branch, and we are learning so much from the humility and willingness to serve that we see there.  It is not easy to run a branch with such long distances, people with no cars and no money to buy gas to drive 40 miles.  We have learned a lot from this experience with them.  We love the Lord, are grateful for His atoning sacrifice, and we feel it a blessing in our lives to be here.  Bye for now!
Grammy & Papa, Mom & Dad, Herb & Sharon, Friend

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It is going too fast!!!


Nine months ago, we spent Sunday with our dear friends, Sue and JD Field, as we both started our missions.  They had checked into their training the Friday before, and we were reporting to the MTC that Sunday afternoon.  That time has flown by, full of wonderful, sad, frustrating, joyful and awesome experiences.  It is hard to believe that this week will be a half-way point in our missionary service in this exciting mission.  We have never had time pass so quickly.  But I guess that is good since we are serving at such an exciting time for missionaries.  We love each day and love to see the excitement of the missionaries.

(Dad) My latest surgery was much harder to recover from than the last.  It has now been nearly 4 weeks since the surgery.  I still feel discomfort, so I am trying to take it slowly. I have now been working at the mission office full time, but am very tired when the day ends.  We have been able to continue finding new apartments, replacing old ones and have had surprise inspection visits.  One such surprise inspection was great fun.  We told the missionaries that we would be at their apartment in 30 minutes.  Well, apparently the apartment was so dirty, the missionaries worked themselves into a sweat cleaning it before we got there.  It looked good, except for the shower door and the carpet. This was also the apartment that former missionaries had started to build an archway of old pizza boxes.  When we got there, it was nearly completed with the Book of Mormon placed as the top "Keystone" to hold everything in place. Quite a feat!


We later found out that the elders had stashed 5-6 large garbage bags in an outside garage so we wouldn't see them. Sneaky! Now we have a new way to make sure apartments are clean....just call the missionaries and tell them we will be having an inspection in 30 minutes and then call them 45 minutes later and tell them that we had a change of plans.

While we were going from one apartment in Auburn to another in Corning, we took a little side trip to see a couple of the Finger Lakes. 

We had a delightful hour  here in this quaint area.  I would like to go back to Skaneateles.  Lake Skaneateles is one of the smallest of the Finger Lakes.  Beautiful.  The red door church was on the shore of the lake.  Beautiful, and pictures only bring back great memories.  They do not really do justice to what we saw.

Letters from family and friends are like receiving a box of candy. We had a box for an Elder waiting for him in the office from his grandmother. When you shook the box, it rattled like candy. We had him open it, so he could share with the staff (kidding). When he looked in the box, it was full of vitamins. We all had a good laugh. On the other hand, we have one Samoan missionary who hasn't received any mail from his family for 5 months. Being in the mission office, we see and hear some heart breaking stories new Elder arrived several weeks ago who looked so downtrodden. He had no self confidence and could hardly look you in the eye. The President assigned him to the best loving companion in the mission. When the trainer asked him what was the best part of his MTC experience, he responded by saying..."sleeping in a bed". This young man hasn't seen his mother in 10 years, previously abused by his father and the only family was his grandparents. He never knew where to call his home. Somehow, he had courage to submit his mission papers from his grandparent ward, but after doing that, the stake president was released and the bishop was changed. The President was so concerned about this Elder, that he called the stake president and bishop, but they didn't even know the young man. Then Sister Cutler got a phone call from his Dad who wanted a message to get to his son that his Granddad had died. Our hearts went out to this young man. So Sister Cutler, Sister Barlow and the mission president's wife started a letter tree so the Elder can know that someone is interested in him.  What a challenge the trainer has with this tender soul. But we are happy now to report that he is doing much better.  He was at his first "Return and Report" last week and he had a small smile.  We could see that his trainer was doing a marvelous job of training him and loving him. The calling of Trainer is one of the most important in the mission, as the first companion can set the tone for a missionary's mission. 

Last week, the President told us that a senior couple couldn't finish their mission in Vladivostok, Russia and was being transferred to our mission.  So another new apartment was needed quickly.  We have the process of finding new apartments down pretty well and one was found in two days in Malone, NY (way upstate).  We also delivered some kitchen equipment to a new apartment in the Lake Placid area.  We spent two days delivering and sightseeing.  The fall colors were beautiful in the Adirondack Park.

This will be the residence of the senior couple coming from Vladivostok.  The Zone Leaders found this, and the missionaries will be living here on the first floor.  The apartment is very charming, wood inlaid floors, a fireplace and mantle that are beyond words, high ceilings, etc.  We are hoping that this couple will like it, as there are several other missionary couples lined up to move to Malone, New York, for the opportunity to live in this house that is listed in the Historic Register of the town.
Lake Saranac is beautiful!!!  The fall colors were there in all their glory, and we feel so blessed to have seen this area during the fall.  We were given an afternoon tour of Lake Saranac and Lake Placid by another senior couple.  Their mission is entirely different than ours, and they spend 24 hours a week doing community service at the hospital, library, a soup kitchen -- being very visible.  They are finding  less active members, teaching and  doing an incredible service in the Lake Placid Branch.  All different kinds of missions for senior couples.



One of Dad's responsibilities is to find, lease and furnish new apartments.  He now has the Zone Leaders help to find apartments, and we had a good laugh thinking about this being a great find.

(Mom) One of the huge problems in this area is bed bugs.  It is one huge job to get rid of these nasty critters, and we have one apartment that is going to get $400 worth of professional treatments to get rid of these pests.  One of the  problems is that the missionaries pick up the bed bugs from homes they visit.  These missionaries are now spraying their clothing and car before they go into their apartment.  Now these missionaries do not even go into their apartment without taking off their clothes and putting them into the wash, and they do not dress in their bedroom!!!  They had to get rid of their dresser because it was infested.   To say it is funny is fighting words to these two sisters!!!  Lots of time and money into debugging, washing clothing and bedding.  It is a huge chore.

We do our laundry downstairs sometimes, but the dungeon is a drawback, to say it
lightly.  I have to gear up myself to go downstairs, and yet it is a lot cheaper.
The Laundromat is a real temptation most of the time.  It is dark and scary downstairs. 

We are enjoying conference this weekend.  We are able to watch all sessions in the comfort of our apartment.  We are so blessed to be alive in this day when the Lord is hastening his work, and we pray daily that our family will be valiant in keeping the commandments and living as we have been commanded to live.  We are in awe of the missionaries and feel very blessed to be part of this mission.  I (Mom) had a unique opportunity yesterday at Pier 1 Imports of all places.  I was helped by this beautiful young woman.  As I was checking out she asked me if I knew the Zvirzdin's.  (She noticed my badge)  Catherine Z is the new Relief Society President in Herkimer where we serve.  This young woman had been in their home all during her high school years, and in fact dated one of her sons.  I asked her if she was a member of the church and she said no.  I emailed Sister Z and she was so overwhelmed -- young woman lives in our branch, was baptized at one time but has fallen away, much more I could say, but nevertheless I feel so humbled to have found someone the Z family had loved so.  I was only in the store 10 minutes! I know that we are doing the Lord's work, and it is a privilege to wear the missionary badge.  Conference has been wonderful, to say the least.
Song written by a good friend of mine from the Mt. View Ward.  The second verse was very touching!!


We love each of you and pray daily for your protection and wellbeing. 
Grammy, Papa, Elder and Sister Cutler, Mom and Dad, Friend


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Month Gone - Another Month Begins

This is Elder Cutler: I must be getting older because I keep on loosing days and now weeks. For some reason my brain cells  are working over-time or not sparking at the same time. Monday starts and the next thing It's Friday - whoa, what happened to the rest of the week. Mom is much better than I, but I will try to bring you up to date.

Actually, quite a few things have happened...Mom was involved in an accident a week and a half ago when she was hit from injuries but she was shook up. Rear left fender & back bumper need to be replaced - $2,700 to be paid by Allstate. And, of course, I was traveling up north.

Then, I found out that I need another hernia operation - last one on April 25th didn't hold. New surgery scheduled for Sept 11th. Bummer!

No new apartments needed until next month, but we have inspected some older units and have asked for some improvements.  The Sisters are usually pretty good at keeping their apartments clean, but some Elders are another matter. I guess if they were not trained at home, it is hard to train them here, but we try.  One companionship left their air conditioner going 24/7 at 68 degrees and when I got the utility bill, I nearly fell off my chair..$453. Needless to say we corrected that more air conditioning.

On Sept 3rd new missionaries arrived. That is always a great experience.  Some are really ready to go to work and others are not quite sure what to expect.  We had two sisters stay with us Tuesday night, which is always fun.  They were not new, but they were involved with the transfer.  One is a VISA Waiter and is leaving on Monday for Brazil.  The next day we had another 80 transfers and the new missionaries met their new trainers and were assigned to an area. Another order for 75 pizzas which were all consumed.  Then we had a short testimony meeting with the missionaries leaving and then the new missionaries standing to tell where they were assigned and which trainer they were assigned. It was pretty intimidating for them to stand before all the missionaries...several couldn't even remember who they were assigned to or which area they would be working.  Then the departing missionaries stood and bore their testimony.  What a difference...confident with strong testimonies and the love for their Savior and their mission.

That evening, we were blessed with the invitation to have dinner at the mission home with those departing.  What a wonderful evening...full of laughter about various experiences during their missions, tearful spiritual memories and discussions about what they were going to do when they got home.  Each six weeks we get to experience this event and we love it. It is really the highlight of the transfer week.  It is one of our favorite experiences -- love the missionaries!!!

So, during the last 8 months, we have experienced freezing cold, intestinal flu, food poisoning (6 weeks to fully recover), Claire's passing, mail merge frustrations, finding 40 new apartments and furnishing them, forgetting to pay rent, causing damage to two mission vehicles, getting our own car damaged, one hernia repair operation, which didn't hold, and now preparing for another hernia repair operation on Sept 11th.  Through it all, we have never thought about going home...we are called to serve and serve we will.  We love it and love the missionaries.

One of the father's of the missionaries has a hobby of carving Styrofoam pumpkins for Halloween.  He has an incredible collection.  He asked for a logo for the mission, and this is what he sent, complete with a light inside.  We have it on a table in the office, and it is really a fun addition until after Halloween. 

Today we went to Clinton to see the Hamilton campus, founded in 1787.  We were supposed to go to the gardens, but it was raining so the best we could get was a picture of this church built in the 1700's.  The campus is beautiful, and most of the buildings are stone.  
Now Mom typing:  I was called last Sunday to be a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency in the Branch.   It is going to be interesting -- continuing to teach Primary with Dad, leading the singing in Sacrament Meeting, conducting and teaching every third week.  I don't know when I will be able to do the visiting teaching and general visiting of the sisters.  I thought I was busy, but I am going to be REALLY BUSY!  It will be fun, though, getting to know the sisters better and being involved with a fantastic president. 
Thanks for all your support and prayers.   We love each one and pray for you individually and collectively -- included is our friends as well.
Elder & Sister Cutler, Herb & Sharon, Grammy & Papa, Friend