We are so tired from all the activities we have done during the past two weeks, but it is a good tired. Six weeks after the new missionaries arrive, they return to the Mission Office to participate in a "Return & Report" day. This particular group was the last of our big arrivals, so we had about 65 missionaries with their companions attend. When they arrived, you could see in their eyes the excitement, fear, confusion and wonderment of starting their mission in the field. When they return for this special meeting, they are changed - excited, more confident and so pleased to see their MTC companions again and hear about their experiences. It's like seeing the transformation of a moth in a cocoon struggling to break free and turn into a beautiful butterfly. Some of the new missionaries had their wings fully extended and some were still trying to adapt to this new world of missionary work. It's wonderful to see the transformation and of course, that transformation continues throughout their mission.
This month, we only had to find 5 new apartments but two were in opposite areas of the mission. Most of the new apartments were found fairly quickly, but one new area in downtown Utica was proving to be somewhat difficult. This will be for walking Elders, so it had to be near bus transportation. This area is also a low-income area, so apartments were hard to find that were suitable. The AP's were assigned to help locate the right place, but every time we viewed their pick, we turned it down. It just didn't feel right. The AP's were so busy, we decided to enlist the help of the Zone Leaders. On the first day of looking, the Zone Leaders were walking down the street in an area they felt would be a good location. On one particular street, a gentlemen saw them walking by and wondered what they were doing. He called them to his house and asked what was going on. They told him they were looking for a suitable apartment for missionaries who would be assigned to this area. He then told them he had an apartment and asked if they wanted to see it. It turned out to be just the right spot and a good clean apartment. However, the story goes on. Apparently, this landlord was praying that morning for help in finding a good clean Christian tenant. The Elders were also praying to find a good apartment and a good landlord. And then the Lord brought them together. The Elders immediately called us. We were out of the office in Herkimer delivering some furniture, but when they called, we said we could be back in 30 minutes to see the apartment. We did and we met with the landlord and viewed the apartment and then signed a lease on the spot. This was another tender mercy for us. Never doubt that the Lord is watching over the missionary work.
Because the other office couple were attending Zone Conferences, Sis. Cutler and I have had to deliver new apartment furnishings to different areas of the mission. On Monday, the 15th, we drove to Hudson Falls which is right next to Glens Falls (Jimmer's home town). Glens Falls is a beautiful town. This apartment is a nice one, and little did the Zone Leader know that he would be a trainer and then live in the apartment. Good thing he liked the apartment! We then traveled back to see the renovation of the apartment owned by a ward mission leader in Greenwich. We were pleasantly surprised to see how well the renovation was turning out.
That same day, we also traveled to a Sister's apartment to inspect some damage. The mission has been renting this apartment for a number of years, but it certainly needed some immediate work. The front door was broken and wouldn't lock, broken tiles in the shower, bathroom sink was leaking, blinds were broken and the medicine cabinet was missing. So we spent some time talking with the manager and demanded that things get repaired ASAP or we would move.
Last Friday, Sis. Cutler and I drove the mission van and trailer (full of furnishings) 3 1/2 hours north to the town of Massena to set up a new apartment. Massena is on the northern most boundary of the mission right along the St Lawrence River.
We then traveled to the town of Odgensburg to drop off a couch to a Senior Couple's home which sits right on the St. Lawrence River and has a beautiful view. They are the branch leaders in a newly opened branch. We took their old couch to the Elders in Ogdensburg but it would not fit into the apartment. The Elders put it on the curb and said someone would pick it up. I talked to them later and the couch (Hide-a-bed) was gone before they could clean up and get out to an appointment. It is funny how those things work around here. People just load up their junk on the sidewalk and if someone does not take it the trash people carry it away. Then we headed south to try and visit with some more missionaries who were having problems with their apartments. We didn't realize how much time it took to travel from spot to spot and by the time we arrived, it was too late. So we traveled on to Syracuse and arrived at out hotel about 9:30 pm---a twelve hour day of deliveries and travel. We were exhausted. And we had not had dinner!!!
The next day, Saturday, we went out of our mission to travel to Palmyra to attend a temple sealing for a couple from our branch who were baptized 1 year ago. It was a beautiful sealing along with the sealing of twin boys who had died shortly after birth.
Then we stayed around Palmyra that day so we could attend the Hill Cumorah Pageant that night. We met some wonderful people that day who were either serving like ourselves or were on a two week mission just for the pageant.
The pageant itself was wonderful in its presentation of the Book of Mormon. The appearance of Christ from the top of the hill descending was inspiring. There must have been close to 800 cast members who all mingled with the crowd before the performance dressed in their costumes.
In the audience, we met a sister who knew Mike Staffieri's parents, our tour guide who led us to Oberamergau, Germany and a couple from our stake in Washington City. The pageant started at 9:00 and ended at 10:15 pm. We finally got back to our hotel in Syracuse well after midnight. But it was a wonderful day.
We attended Church the next day in Liverpool and then traveled back to our apartment that afternoon.
Monday was spent in paying rents for 91 apartments and catching up on utility bills and missionary packets for the new missionaries arriving the next day. Tuesday night was training the new missionaries on what the office staff does. Wednesday was transfer day. It was interesting that with only 10 new missionaries arriving, the President made 80 companionship changes, so we had over 110 people for lunch on Transfer day. That night we had dinner at the Presidents home for those missionaries who were going home. It is always a special night to see them complete their mission with the anticipation of going home. We all get a chance to bear our testimonies, and the missionaries have grown so in their 18 month.
So now, we are completely done in and are walking around the office like zombies. But we are loving the experience and the wonderful spirit of the mission and the missionaries. Thank you for your prayers, support and love. We need the prayers for our strength and ability to do the work that is assigned to us.
Saturday morning we spent with the Assistants gathering things for their new apartment, and then later in the afternoon went to a branch picnic. By the time we arrived back at our apartment we were ready to kick back and look at the ceiling.....
We love you all, miss each one, and look forward to emails, messages, ANYTHING from family and friends. Take care of yourselves. We especially thank our neighbors, the Croasdale's, who are looking after our house.
Grammy, Papa, Mom and Dad, Elder & Sister Cutler, Friend