We have spent a little over a week in our new home in Lowell, MA. We live in a two bedroom apartment on the third floor of an apartment building. For my wife and I, it is a return to apartment living for the first time in almost 40 years!
We are grateful for our living space and now we almost enjoy the stair climb to our cozy apartment. We do have a dishwasher which at first we were told we not have. In fact it took me three days to realize that we DID have one. Lynn is concerned about my mental faculties at times. It is an object lesson that we don't see something if our brain has been told something else. I'm glad I could share that lesson with you. I'm sure I could create a good TED talk out of that.
Our building is made up of a very diverse population with many languages being spoken. In addition to that , we get to smell the international blend of food aromas at each meal time. Most of the time it is a savory mouth watering blend. From time to time the clash of aromas is noticeable.
Our bedroom window faces the boulevard that we live it. The apartment is of old construction, which as you can imagine, does not include a great deal of insulation. The sounds of the street penetrate easily, including sirens, garbage trucks, car horns, and honking geese. Fortunately I learned to sleep with ear plugs in while in the Navy a million years ago. My wife envies my blissful slumber.
We are assigned to work in the Spanish group in the Lowell 1st Ward. The ward (congregation) also has a Cambodian Group. In the same church building their is a Portuguese Branch (small congregation), and a Young Single Adult (YSA) Ward. Right now our week is not fully subscribed. But, we help teach free English classes three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 pm. These classes can have upwards of 20 to 30 people in attendance. Lowell Massachusetts has a very large Brazilian population. The popular grocery store chain, Market Basket, has nearly an entire aisle dedicated to Brazilian food. So, our classes have a majority of native Portuguese speakers. We've enjoyed these classes and helping out the young sister missionaries who are in charge of it. The number of attendees at the Spanish group meetings are small, about 15 people, but they are friendly and welcoming to us. The numbers grows and ebbs at times. We have also gone and taught a gospel lessons with young elders (male) missionaries. We are part of a district of missionaries that includes ourselves, two Spanish speaking sister missionaries, two Portuguese speaking sister missionaries, three English speaking sisters assigned to work with the young single adults, and two English speaking elders. Every Friday we have a district council meeting with them. They all live in our apartment complex and we are only about a half a mile from the church house. We enjoy these 18-20 year-olds and their vitality and enthusiasm. Our preparation days (p-days) are on Mondays. Yesterday our district enjoyed volleyball with a neighboring district of missionaries.
We enjoyed a zoom meeting mission conference this past Wednesday, as well as zoom meeting devotional with Elder Neil Anderson as his wife Kathy this past Saturday as a mission. The amount of technology being used in the missionary effort is astounding, as well as the manner in which the young missionaries use it to teach and inspire. A far cry from my days in Argentina where we used cassette recorders and filmstrip projectors. We had one precious 16 mm movie projector in the whole mission! We live not in the downtown sector, but are surrounded by shops of every description. Here are some back street views with more pictures coming next week.
On Sunday evening we had a nice surprise. Nathan and Maggie Wittwer Mason brought their children to see us. They live south of us in the Boston Mission, but brought us a zucchini bread loaf with chocolate chips to welcome us to New England. We are friends with Nathan's parents, Richard and Kaye Mason of Los Alamos, and also Maggie's parents Julie and Robert Wittwer, who now live in Corpus Christi. What a beautiful family, and how nice to be welcomed in that way. Apologies if I spelled any names wrong!
With that we will end this blog entry for this week.
We finished our training at the MTC on Friday, February 25, 2022. The second week of our experience was geared specifically for member and leader support (MLS) training. We received training from the Seminary and Institute department where we learned effective teaching principles. We also received more in-depth training in family history/genealogy tools that we can share with those with whom we will work in Lowell, Massachusetts. We really enjoyed this part of the training. Family history is my wife, Lynn’s passion, and she is very good at it and showing others how to do it. Our training emphasized the modern technology tools, such as the FamilyTree smartphone app, and the Memories app. Both are published by FamilySearch.org and are free to the public. It is inspiring to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides so many free resources to the world to allow you to connect to your ancestors. The gospel principle of eternal families is one that I believe in with all my heart. One of the buildings on the campus has beautiful murals that depict important events in the scriptures and the history of the restoration. I’ve included some for your enjoyment.
On February 23, 2022 , it was Sister Zollinger’s birthday. We were able to spend it with some wonderful friends from our Los Alamos, NM days, Ken and Rita Spencer, and their son, Michael. Rita is from Bradford, England, the same town Lynn is from. We were joined at dinner at their house by our daughter, Victoria (she will always be Vicka to me), her husband Randy (Cord to me), and their children Brooklyn and Damian. It was a great meal with great conversation. The Spencer’s are great people and we respect them a great deal.
During our training we became good friends with Elder and Sister Nielson from California, who are headed to the Colorado Colorado Springs Mission. We enjoyed visiting with them and discovered many things that we have in common. We hope to continue that friendship. Also, Elder and Sister Borchardt who are now in Argentina. We found out that they are from Mesa, Arizona and we will be a continue our friendship when we return home. Elder Borchardt and I served in the same mission as young men, in the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission at the same time. We had a companion in common and served in at least one of the same areas. It is a small world in the church. Other senior couples we got to know well were Elder and Sister Probst who are now in Romania and doubtless will be working with the Ukrainian refugees and the Elder and Sister Aldous who are now in Ghana Accra.
On Friday the 25th we packed up our bags and headed to Lehi, Utah to spend one last night near our daughter, Victoria. We enjoyed a nice dinner and then tried to get some sleep.
Saturday February 26, we started our long journey to Lowell, MA. We drove to Cheyenne, WY. It was very cold along that drive, but we had clear roads and clear skies. It was windy, like it always is in Wyoming. I thought I would die freezing filling the car with gasoline in Rawlins.
Sunday morning, we left for Lincoln, Nebraska. It was another uneventful drive. I’ve driven this stretch before. We noted the world headquarters for Cabelas, in Sydney, Nebraska. We stopped in Lincoln for the night and were able to meet with Mike and Cheryl Davis, and their daughter, Kari, also from our Los Alamos days. It was good to catch up with then and reminisce about the days when their children were young. They are doing well in Lincoln Nebraska.
Monday morning, we made the drive from Lincoln, Nebraska to Joliet, Illinois. I-80 is a long, straight, drive. Everything blends together. On Tuesday we arrived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. We are worn out by the driving and welcomed our hotel each night.
Wednesday morning we began our drive to Syracuse New York. We noted that we could make a short detour in Buffalo New York and see Niagara Falls. The day was cold but the weather was clear. Seeing Niagara Falls is on the bucket list, and we enjoyed the beauty of the water and the majesty of the falls. It was worth the short detour. We also noted that Palmyra New York was also enroute to Syracuse. The cradle of the restoration of the gospel and the boyhood home of Joseph Smith and site of the Hill Cumorah where he received the ancient record now known as the Book of Mormon. I was able to walk the short trail to the monument at the top of the hill. It was an icy walk and treacherous. I fell once coming down but it was worth the slippery walk.
We spent the night in Syracuse New York and then set out for Lowell Massachusetts the next day. This was the easiest drive of the entire journey. We continued our week long association with tollways trusting that the bill would somehow make it to us when all was said and done. New York and Massachusetts had no toll booths, just electronic billing. Soon we arrived at our apartment and found sister missionaries and two young elders ready to move our boxes into our two bedroom apartment. Their help was greatly appreciated. There is a companionship of sisters working with the Spanish group, the same group we will be working with in the Lowell First Ward, another companionship of three sisters working with the Portuguese Branch that meets in the same building. Another companionship of three sisters working with the Heritage Park Young Single Adult ward in the same building, and a pair of English speaking elders working in the Lowell First Ward. The Lowell First Ward also has a Cambodian group that is affiliated with the ward. Lowell is a diverse community, and we plan to get to know the history of the area. We went to a local Boston Market for lunch and a silver haired manager there gave a us a friendly rundown of the area. There is a very popular folk festival in the summer as well as a seafood festival that attracts a lot of visitors. We look forward to it. Our journey was nearly 3400 miles from Arizona to Lowell Massachusetts! We look forward to our time here as we settle in!