On March 4, 2023 it marked one year ago that we arrived in Lowell, Massachusetts and began our service in the Lowell First Ward. There is one constant truth in being a missionary, time passes more quickly than you realize. It seems impossible that that we have now served for over a year of our mission.
We were able to travel to the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial this past week and drove two missionaries, Sisters Cattani and Evans, and their friend Jordan Lucas who is getting baptized on March 26. As we drove, we were able to hear the sisters teach about Joseph Smith and the restoration and feel the enthusiasm of Jordan as he shared his thoughts on the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel. South Royalton, Vermont is 126 miles from Lowell. We had good weather and only a little bit of snow on the journey. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground at the memorial. We enjoyed the tour given by senior missionary couple serving there. We were surprised to learn that this couple from Pocatello, ID lived in the same ward as we did in 1984 when I was training as a reactor operator in the United States Navy. We didn’t know each other then but shared the common bond that members of the church have by living in the same congregation.
Here are a few pictures from that experience:
Joseph Smith’s life was one of great spiritual highs and revelatory moments, and also one of unsurpassed trials and tribulations. The truths restored through his prophetic ministry are life changing. For some these truths collide with worldly values and trends. But they remain there to lift us. I wrote a poem about truths and the fabric and structure they give to my life like stone fences in my wife’s native England and that are found here in New England as well.
by Michael S Zollinger
Stone fences across the landscape wind;
each one a masterpiece passing the test of time
The master mason built each fence with stones of every size
Fitted in place to fill the gaps measured by the master’s eye
If a stone doesn’t fit a gap it is carefully set aside
And waits it’s turn to take its place within the master’s design
So like this fence we build our faith in God’s eternal plan
We choose each stone in our “fence of faith” from building blocks of truths
At times these truths don’t fit the gaps and aren’t of immediate use
Like the master we set them aside and continue with our task
We select another that fits the gap and the fence is finished at last
When our stone fence of truths is finished we marvel as we see;
that truths once thought not to fit are a masterpiece that shapes eternity
We continue to enjoy serving with our young missionaries here in the Lowell District in the Nashua Zone. Two of our missionaries are now in the last transfer of their mission and will return home on April 7. Sister Cattani from Queen Creek, AZ and Elder Apolonio from Brazil. We have enjoyed serving with them as well as the other missionaries who have served in Lowell. Sister Cattani lives one mile from our house in Arizona and before her mission, was the babysitter for our niece Tiffany Taylor. It is a small world in the church! We also have a new sister missionary (hermana), Sister Cahoon, serving in the ward and we have enjoyed getting to know her. Two of our favorite missionaries, Hermana Fife, will also head home on April 7th and is finishing her mission. She and Hermana Smedshammer (who just returned home this week) were the first Spanish speaking missionaries we served with here in Lowell. Parents of missionaries, I think you might think that you are seeing the growth in your sons and daughters from afar, but I have to tell you that I don’t think you will really comprehend it until they are home again and you see the change a mission has made in their lives.
The Lowell Ward recently had a Chili and Chocolate cook off that was well attended. Sister Zollinger decided to compete in the chocolate competition (imagine that). We were very happy when our little Spanish Group took top honors in the dessert category. Here are pictures from that event and you can judge for yourself on the cake she made.