Here we are again at our local emergency room. One of our duties is the care and feeding of the young missionaries. Sometimes this has us taking them to be seen at urgent care or the ER. We don’t mind being surrogate parents for these young people. It is one of the privileges of senior missionary service. And while at the ER we get to meet a variety of interesting characters. In any metropolitan area the ER can resemble a microcosm of society. There is an older woman moaning in pain. A young feverish toddler being comforted by his mother. Another mother comforts her crying infant. A man storms out of the ER cursing at the staff for denying him painkillers. The staff take it all in stride competently plying their healer’s art.
As I thought about this I couldn’t help but think of how this life is like an ER waiting room and we are all waiting to be called into the examining room to see the Master Physician. Some are patient and some are angry and others demand that their pain be taken away by any means possible. And yet though we may demand our cure, our pain numbing narcotic to take away life’s pains, only the touch of the Master can heal our hearts and souls from mortalities vexing infirmities. He heals and only He can heal. In the picture above of Christ at the Pool of Bethsaida he heals the man who cannot get himself to the water. As has been said, "Christ does not make up the difference in our lives, He is the difference." I wrote a poem recently about how Christ heals us. You might be tired of my attempts at poetry, but I include it here in hopes it can help someone.
Broken Bits of Me
by Michael S Zollinger
I see life’s cruelty in the mirror of time
How do I change this life of mine?
You healed the sick; the blind to see
Please take this pain away from me!
Savior can’t you help me please
with all the broken bits of me?
Heal my heart and soul and mind;
a cleansing breeze through life’s wind chime
And in the stillness of the night
blackness fades replaced by light.
In my heart at last I see
how the Master mends broken men like me.
Morning breaks; my heart feels peace
With thankfulness I’m on my knees
I am reborn; Christ sets me free!
No more broken bits of me!
We continue assisting in the English classes that are held each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at the Lowell chapel. The attendance has increased in recent weeks and there is an average of 15 to 17 Spanish and Portuguese native speakers there at any given class. The young missionaries do an excellent job facilitating this class. The students are dedicated learners. In one class I helped them learn phrases that would help in the job interviews and searches. One young man approached me a couple of classes and excitedly told me that he successfully gotten a job as a mechanic! We had practiced how to say "I have five years of experience as a mechanic," in English. It is rewarding to be able to help people. Here is a picture of a recent class.
Our winter has been fairly mild but we have had some snow in the past few weeks. A family who had responsibility for snow removal made some entertaining snowmen for everyone's enjoyment.
We had a recent zone conference for the Nashua, Worchester, and Exeter Zones. Our inspired mission president, Stephen Hayden, gave a day long workshop to the missionaries on how to give and receive feedback. You can tell he was corporate trainer for Apple computer in his previous life. He did a masterful job that will help these young people on their mission, but also for the rest of their working and married lives.
Lastly, it has been almost one year since we entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on February 14, 2022. And yet that amount of time has passed. Here is a picture of us with our district in the MTC. It does not seem possible that amount of time as passed, and yet it has.
This time of year has led me to reflect on the significance of the Christmas Star that led the Wisemen to find the promised Messiah. The star led them on their journey to find the savior of all mankind and they brought him gifts that were suitable for a king. Although born in humble circumstances they recognized his greatness. I realized that in this day and age that if such a thing occurred it would have been difficult to start on such a journey to follow a "star" that would lead to the birthplace of a reputed king. The public ridicule would be intense. Would I have had the faith to follow the signs? And yet we all have the benefit of a Christmas Star in our lives through the holy scriptures and the words of the prophets, and even more importantly the influences of the spirit in our lives. The admonition to "follow that star" still rings true if we can recognize that it has never vanished from the heavens as long as we hold it in our heart.
On December 14 two anniversaries were celebrated. First, it has been 44 years since I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) to begin my mission to the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. It has been so long ago that it seems it was in another lifetime. Second, it has now been 10 months since we started this mission to the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. That doesn’t seem possible either, yet here are almost one year into our 23-month mission. On December 19th we celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. That also doesn’t seem possible. Here we are eight children and eighteen grandchildren later.
We’ve grown to love the members of our Spanish group in the Lowell First Ward. One of those families we have been able to get to know is the Nerio family. Their daughter Elisabeth turned eight earlier this month and asked me to baptize and confirm her on December 21st. This I gladly did. She is a cute little girl with a big smile, and I couldn’t very well say no to her. It was a sweet experience since it has been many years since I’ve baptized anyone in Spanish.
On Christmas Day and we enjoyed a beautiful Christmas program in the Lowell First Ward. The Portuguese Branch and Young Single Adult Ward joined with our ward with the English, Spanish and Khmer groups for a memorable sacrament meeting. Readings of the scriptures of the Christmas story were done in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Khmer (Cambodian) accompanied by beautiful performed musical numbers. It was a meeting to honor the Lord’s birth that perfectly framed the diversity of the Lowell congregations. We were invited to enjoy a Christmas dinner with Paul and Reta Brown and had a great time with their family. We’ve had a wonderful Christmas season that started with delivering Christmas gifts two days ago to some members of the congregation as a token of love from the ward family. We were invited on Christmas Eve to celebrate Noche Buena with members of the Spanish group. It was a fun night of visiting and games and food from Columbia, and Guatemala. Very tasty cooking and even better company.
We enjoyed a Christmas Zone Conference in December The missionaries continue to amaze us with their dedication and knowledge. They got to enjoy some Christmas spirit and festivity which helps to make their separation from family more bearable. Here is the latest zone picture:
And here is our district after our white elephant gift exchange on December 26, 2022:
Another senior missionary couple joined us in December. Elder and Sister Dixon have been assigned to the Lowell 1st Ward to work with the Cambodian Group. They don't speak Khmer but will work with those that do. We are glad to have another set of hands in the ward. We also had the opportunity to take the Phommaa Family to see the temple grounds at the Boston Temple. Shawn and his wife Dasani and their daughter Anna were baptized on December 30th and are the newest members of the Lowell 1st Ward. Here they are at the temple:
Another sweet experience occurred in December when Todd Baker, a member of the Temple Preparation Class we teach, was able to attend the Boston Temple and make sacred covenants in the company of friends from the ward. Here is a picture of us on that day.
We hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas season will enjoy a very happy New Year!
It is Thanksgiving weekend, and we have much to be grateful for in this blog posting. First, we are grateful to be on this mission and to enjoy good health (except for minor illnesses and body aches). Our family is healthy and safe, and all are well. Secondly, our good friends were married and baptized this past weekend. Ramon and Cynthia live here in Lowell. We’ve known them for several months now as they began attending our Spanish group and being taught by the young missionaries. On Saturday, November 19 they were married in a ceremony conducted by our bishop. It was a lovely wedding that the members of the Spanish group decorated for and made very special for them. They are from Peru, so it was arranged for their family to view the ceremony via Zoom from Peru. Elder Zollinger was asked to escort Cynthia down the aisle, that was reminiscent of our daughter Vika’s wedding. We were able to talk to Ramon’s parents and sister via Zoom and congratulate them on their son’s wedding. Ramon’s parents have been receiving the missionaries in Cuzco and have been attending church there.
The next day on Sunday, November 20, 2022, Ramon and Cynthia were baptized and confirmed members of the church in a very special service. The couple have two young sons, David (4), and Josue (3). The whole experience was special for the Spanish group as they have become beloved members of the group over the past few months. Now they will work towards making temple covenants in the future as they grow and progress in the church.
Reflecting on these events and what it means to follow the word of God, I wrote a poem that reflects my thoughts and feelings: