It seems to take me a long time to update this blog. Part of it is my constant procrastination, and part of it is due to a nagging injury to my right elbow that makes typing a chore and painful at times. I have been diagnosed with a forearm strain (tennis elbow) and so I limit my time at the keyboard. If only I had really injured it playing tennis! Instead, it was just from hauling luggage last year on our trip back from England. Since the last blog entry, we have had a Zone Conference and we are heading into transfers again next week. Here is a picture of our last zone conference gathering.
I have reflected a great deal on the symbolism of water in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the water in the baptismal font that symbolically washes away our sins when we are baptized. It is the water that symbolically represents the grave when we rise up out of the font to be born again. We drink the water in the sacrament to represent the living water from the atonement of Jesus Christ and his blood spilt for us. Christ walked on the water to represent the power of faith to his disciples. Peter attempted to walk on water to emulate the Savior and was successful briefly before he began to sink below the waves before Christ strode to him and took him by the hand to raise him up out of the waves. I wrote a poem about water and what it means to me.
by Michael S Zollinger
One drop of water by itself can hardly be felt at all
But in a storm the drops unite and wash and cleanse where they fall
Living waters fresh and pure restore the harrowed soul
Christ our Lord walked on water to save each drowning man
If we have faith we too can walk on waves when we don’t think we can
Fear not for water nourishes life; we drink to fill our souls
And from the shore His Lighthouse shines to guide us ‘round the shoals
Like Peter of old we walk the waves and grasp his saving hand
He leads us on to clear pools of life and tread the safe dry land
Blessedly each sabbath we pause and water drink in memory of His gift
Those precious drops of blood were spilt for man to ever upward lift
I love being on the water, in particular on the ocean. We recently spent a day in Portland, Maine and were able to take a short boat ride to see a few lighthouses in Casco Bay. It was a gorgeous day to be out there. Here are a few pictures.
We continue with our normal activities that we have talked about before. We finished another round of temple preparation classes with three class members this time. We will be happy to go with them to the temple when the time comes. We love the members of the Lowell First Ward! It is a wonderful diverse set of people who care about each other. The ward has a tradition of having a “Linger Longer” during the summer months after the block of meetings on Sundays. Here are some pictures from the most recent gathering.
A few weeks ago, we met a wonderful family from Guatemala who are members of the church. We were able to visit them in their home and get to know them a little better. Part of the challenge for the Lowell First Ward is that they have approximately 1400 members on their records. It is a deluge to keep up with and keep accurate. This particular family was not on the records, so we are helping to get the records transferred here. In all my years of church service I have never served as a clerk of any kind.
We continue to enjoy the English classes three nights a week. The attendance goes up and down, but in my reckoning since we have been here, there have never been fewer than about ten students in attendance. I think it is safe to say that these are the most successful English classes in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. My wife teaches an advanced student, and he never misses a class. I am proud of his work ethic. I am usually taking care of administrative functions during the class, but occasionally I participate in conversations. One night, a student asked our advice on how to tell her clients that she needed to raise her rates for her cleaning services due to inflation. It was fun to give some coaching on how to approach the problem. The next time she came to class she reported that it went well, and the client agreed to pay more. She had not raised her rates in almost ten years!
Recently we had a missionary celebrate a birthday. Here we are in our apartment with most of our district celebrating Sister Nickel's birthday:
Our preparation days usually find us out exploring New England. I had read that Littleton, New Hampshire had one of the longest covered wooden pedestrian bridges in the USA. So, we decided to check it out. The drive as about two hours into the heart of the White Mountains. My readers may remember my failed attempt to drive up Mount Washington. Fortunately, my PTSD did not stop us from driving into the Mount Washington region again! Littleton is built along the banks of the Ammonoosuc River which the 350-foot-long wooden bridge straddles. What we didn’t know until we got there was the Littleton, NH is the birthplace of the writer Eleanor H. Porter, the author of Pollyanna. The town has a statue of Pollyanna in front of the public library on Main Street in her honor. There are testaments to the spirit of Pollyanna along main street with phrases like, “be glad!” and others. On Main Street we found pianos at regular intervals on the sidewalk for tourists to play as they desired. We enjoyed this small town and the homage to the innocence of Pollyanna and a bygone era, where life was simpler and seemingly more beautiful. Here are some pictures of that journey.
We’ve also found more time to visit more lakes which we found to be a peaceful way to spend our time. Here are pictures of Lake Pawtuckaway.
The Young Single Adult (YSA) ward sister missionaries had a baptismal service not long ago. A young man was baptized and warmly welcomed into the ward by the young people. These YSA ward members are comprised by mainly college age single members. In speaking with some of them they travel long distances to be together. I sometimes marvel at their dedication in traveling long distances just to be together for an hour or two.
And finally I end with a picture of some sister missionaries who were formerly in the Lowell District that we ran into in our travels to Worchester. It was great to see them again. Also, we have transfers next week, so here is one last picture of the Lowell District before changes are made next Thursday.
We love New England! Even more so since the weather is starting to cool and the leaves will start to turn soon!
The month of August is the anniversary of my parents wedding in the Logan Utah Temple. They were married for time and all eternity on August 11, 1950, in that beautiful sacred building. In my early childhood I could look out my bedroom window and see the temple lit up at night. I knew that the temple was a sacred place and that someday, I would also enter that building and make sacred covenants. What is the significance of the temple for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
It is a place where members of our faith make sacred covenants with God. The covenant of baptism and the covenants we make in the temple comprise what we are taught today as the "covenant path." In the temple is where we receive greater knowledge of the eternal nature of mankind and the nature of God and his son Jesus Christ. That gift of knowledge is referred to as the temple endowment. It is where couples are married in a sealing ordinance by the priesthood of God for not just this life, but for all eternity. Children are also sealed to their parents for eternity. And all these ordinances are not just performed for the living, but for our dead ancestors, by proxy, as well. In this way, the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children and the children’s hearts to the fathers. The great work of family history unites families together for generation upon generation.
This work is part of the gathering of Israel. President Russell M Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints taught, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that”
My wife and I have the great blessing of teaching the Temple Preparation Class for the Lowell First Ward on our mission. Our first class had two participants. Both have now gone to the temple to receive temple ordinances. We are now in the middle of another class with three participants. This is one of our ways of gathering Israel.
Two weeks ago, we attended missionary lesson taught by the Portuguese speaking young sister missionaries, as they taught a young man, member of the English classes and from Brazil, as evening came in a park alongside the Merrimack River. My wife did not understand a word of what was being said. I have been studying Portuguese to complement my Spanish. I could understand more than I thought I would be able to understand. This young man suddenly declared, “I want to be baptized!” He had been taught the lessons for a few months off and on. Even though my wife did not speak Portuguese she could feel the spirit of the moment. He not only wanted to be baptized he wanted to be baptized in just four days from then. These young sister missionaries had the great honor of seeing him baptized and confirmed a member of the church. So, in just a few weeks of time, we have seen baptismal and temple covenants made along the covenant path that will bless these individuals for the rest of their lives and for that matter eternity.
I wrote a poem recently about the first step of the journey on the covenant path.
My Covenant Path
by Michael S Zollinger
My covenant path began today
I’ve set my sail the Savior’s way
Reborn of water and the spirit; I’m in the race to win; to finish
Bitter with dregs he drank the cup
to set me free and lift me up
Though thorny my path in life might be
I know the Savior has ransomed me
Here are some pictures of recent experiences with those who have gone to the temple to make more covenants along the covenant path. What a beautiful experience it was to help them make this journey and to see the support from their ward family as they went.
I also wrote a poem recently about temple covenants and how I feel about them:
by Michael S Zollinger
Temple covenants help me see
my path that crests eternity
Each step I take along this path remind me that He wants me back
Loved ones passed, and those still here
help me weave life's tapestry
The threads we weave of brightest hue
reflect our path; the life we choose
Those sacred covenants midst chambers blessed
inspire me to live; to pass the test
And when life’s journey ends at last
He welcomes me home with God to rest.
We had transfers a few weeks ago and our Lowell District changed dramatically. The Spanish speaking young sister missionaries were transferred out and young Spanish speaking elders (men) were transferred in. Additionally, two brand new trainees were transferred in, one a Portuguese speaking sister, and one a new young elder. Also, a new sister training leader (STL) was transferred in. Hermana Fife (Spanish speaker) expected to be transferred as she had been in Lowell her entire mission (almost 10 months), but we were taken by surprise when Hermana Woolner was also transferred. We recognize the wisdom in the changes, but it was still traumatic to lose Hermana Fife who we’ve served the closest with since we got here. We don’t mind saying that tears were shed. These young people become like our children to us. Below are some pictures of the before and after of the Lowell District.
New district after transfers. Front row left to right; Sister Nickel (STL), Elder Murdock (spanish), Sister Knudsen (STL). Back row left to right; Elder Dennis (trainee), Elder Heath (DL), Elder Manwaring (Spanish), Elder Zollinger, Sister Zollinger, Sister White (Portuguese), Sister Dennis (Portuguese). Important to note that Elder and Sister Dennis are not related.
We were able to visit nearby Walden Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau on a preparation day. What a beautiful place, although I think Thoreau would be disappointed by the large number of people who have invaded his place of solitude.
I will end this blog entry with the an observation. It has been warm here and everyone who knows me will understand just how much I love "humidity." It keeps me humble. Instead of a motto of "steadfast and immovable," my motto is "sweat drenched and irritable."
This past week brought us good experiences in our regular activities of teaching English, Temple Preparation Class, and helping members with family history research. We are loving New England and the people here, and the many beautiful sights to see. We sat in a few lessons with friends and enjoyed meeting the people that the young missionaries are teaching. This week I gave a friend from Guinea a ride to church. He was a very polite young man of the Muslim faith. I was able to introduce him to a few members of the Lowell First Ward who speak French. He has happy to be able to speak French with them, although his English is quite good for someone who has been in the country for just a few years. I was able to help him look for new work and training opportunities this week and he was grateful for the assistance. In the past week I was also able to assist in giving a blessing of health to a young four-year-old boy of a family that the Hermanas are teaching. It was a great experience to be able to explain about the priesthood to them. We hope that they will be baptized soon. They have been to church every week for the past two months. They are from Peru.
On preparation day we drove to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to see Mount Washington, a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. When we arrived at the ticket booth to make the drive up, Sister Zollinger, who was already a little concerned over the road we would travel, heeded the warnings on the signs and from the booth attendant, that “if you are afraid of heights, you should not travel up the mountain,” and told me I would have to drive alone. So, I dropped her off at the gift shop, paid my admission fee of $39.00, and began my ascent. At first it was a beautiful experience. It is about a 7-mile drive to the summit. The road is narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other in most places. It is well maintained for a mountain road. Mount Washington, according to Wikipedia, “is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather.” I scoffed to myself that it is only 6,288.2 feet in elevation. Los Alamos, NM is at about 7500 feet. What could be so scary about driving to the top of this mountain when I was used to driving the main hill road in Los Alamos? Now people who know me well know that I do not like heights very much. In fact, when we visited the Grand Canyon, I yelled at our boys constantly about playing too close to the edge. My wife told me to go sit in the car so I would stop embarrassing the family. I did and had to stop looking at them to calm my anxious heart.
So as the car climbed higher through the trees I reveled in the wonders of nature. The signs on the road warned you to keep the car in drive on the ascent and in low gear on the descent. There were pull out parking areas so you could stop and allow your brakes to cool when drove back down the hill. I thought to myself, “this road must get really steep, but how bad could it be?” At the bottom you are warned that there are no guardrails. “But I am driving so I will be in control and there are no other passengers to distract me and make me worry.” I thought the warnings were a bit overblown. “I can handle this,” I declared firmly to no one.
Then, I left the cover of the trees and found myself on narrow steep road with a sheer drop off to one side. No comforting guardrail as a safety net. I decided that I needed to sing some comforting primary songs to keep my attention focused straight ahead. Soon I was singing “I am a Child of God,” and then “Teach Me to Walk,” and then “Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam.” I kept my focus riveted straight ahead. Now I was driving on steep switchbacks. The view would have been stunning if I could have calmed down my anxious heart. “Why had I not heeded the warning signs like my incredibly smart wife?” Now with my pulse pounding and my palms began to sweat. I began to sing full blown hymns like, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Jesus Savior Pilot Me.” I wondered out loud, “do they ever have to come rescue someone who is too frightened to continue?”
As my pulse began to pound, I realized that for the first time in my life I might have been experiencing a panic attack. Could there really be a transporter beam from the starship Enterprise that could beam me off that mountain? Now hymns were not sufficient. It was full blown prayer and bargaining with God to somehow keep me safe and alive to get back down the mountain. At about 5500 feet in elevation, or about a mile from the summit a parking area magically appeared on my side of the road. Gratefully I pulled off and parked, making sure to fully set the parking brake. I sighed in relief and got out of the car. It was not the summit. Rain clouds had moved in, and it was starting to rain. It was supposed to rain heavily that day at the summit. A clear impression came to mind that said, “this is far enough for you.” I don’t disregard promptings anymore. I enjoyed the view for a few minutes and took a few pictures. Without any hesitation I started back down the mountain. This time, I heeded the warning although slightly chagrined for the embarrassment. It was still somewhat frightening to drive down the mountain, but I knew that my wife was waiting, that we would laugh about the experience. When I started the drive I was given a bumper sticker that says, "This car drove to the top of Mount Washington." Lynn altered it at my suggestion to say, "This car almost drove to the top of Mount Washington." How like life, I thought, when we don’t heed the warnings we receive from God about the danger ahead of us. Many people travel up that mountain every day without any problems. But some people like me and others don’t handle heights well. God knows each of us and our abilities and he can make us capable of doing much more than we think. But he also knows our limits and will warn us when we are exceeding them. Could I have made it to the top? Probably. But I know that it was “far enough” and felt warned to turn back. In the Doctrine and Covenants 1: 4 it reads, “And the voice of warning shall be to all people, by the mouths of disciples, who I have chosen these last days.” Those warning signs and admonishments by the park rangers should have been enough for me if I had examined my inner heart fully. Lesson learned. I had a teacher in 7th grade who taught us, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” I guess I forgot that lesson.
As we drove back to Lowell, we passed by a beautiful, covered bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire. Here are some pictures. Out west you don’t see covered bridges like you see here in New England. This bridge was covered bridge number 51 in New Hampshire. Here are some pictures.
On Thursday night, we were at the chapel when the fire alarms went off in the building. We had just finished teaching the temple preparation class and evacuated along with the college age institute class that was there. The fire department arrived with five full fire engines no less. There was no smoke and after investigating it determined to be a water leak in the attic that had caused a smoke detector to fail.
Finally, here is a picture of the missionaries in the Lowell District. Two of them are finishing their missions in the next few days, Sister Wilkins and Sister Taylor. There will be transfers this week and others will probably be moved to new areas. After five months we get attached to these young people and it will be a bittersweet moment saying goodbye.
Lowell Massachusetts was established in 1826 and used to be East Chelmsford. It was renamed for an early industrialist, Francis Cabot Lowell, who sought to imitate the success of England in the textile industry. We learned all this from a visit to the Lowell National Historic Park a few days ago on our preparation day. Lowell Massachusetts is the first planned factory city in the United States, and used water powered textile machinery to create the first factories in the USA to take in raw product, cotton, and produce finished dyed cotton fabric. This process was very innovative, and the manpower at the beginning was woman power. The original workers were the daughters of New England farmers, who became the “mill girls.” Later, the immigrant population replaced the mill girls, and now the city of Lowell, continues to have vibrant and diverse population. We enjoyed a morning of touring and learning about the textile industry and the innovative approach to manufacturing undertaken here. Our niece, Rachel Scott, visited us and we toured the museum on that occasion and earlier with the two Spanish speaking sister missionaries, with whom we enjoyed a canal boat tour of the Lowell canals. The resulting cloth is a tightly woven and durable fabric, useful for all types of clothing. Here are some pictures from the our museum and boat tour.
We were able to see a demonstration on machinery from the early 1900’s as it used weaving machines to create the versatile cotton textiles that were the product of the mills. As I thought about the process of weaving and how important it is to have the right type and color of thread to create fabrics and cloths, I thought of how important it is to have the right thread and colors in our lives to create a durable and lasting tapestries. We were able to visit the Boston Massachusetts Temple yesterday. In that holy house we make covenants with God to follow him and be a disciple. One of our callings here is to teach the Temple Preparation Class. One of our students was able to go for the first time and make these sacred covenants. Her tapestry of life is now starting to be woven with threads of rich colors that will over the years endure for eternity. Her weaving will be tightly woven and able to endure trials and tribulations that will come, and despite these trials will remain vibrant and distinctive. We are all “woven” tightly to the Savior as we live like him and seek to help others to do the same and make and keep sacred covenants.
Here are some pictures from these experiences of the past few weeks as we continue our mission here. We have now served five months of our mission. Time seems to flow quickly now. On the 4th of July we sponsored the sisters and elders in our district in the 2-mile Chelmsford 4th of July Race. They enjoyed it and we enjoyed that they enjoyed it.
We are working primarily with the Spanish group in the Lowell First Ward. Recently we had a group barbecue and it was well attended. They know how to grill very well these folks, especially our group leader who is from Uruguay. It was all very tasty and we had a group picture afterward.
Lastly, we received new mission leaders at the end of June. We had a meet and greet with them for our Nashua Zone. President and Sister Hayden are from California and we know that they will do a terrific job here in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. Here is our zone and they are on the far left.
And so the work continues. We are starting to help more people with family history. Sister Zollinger gave an outstanding youth fireside on the subject and it was a great success. One adult leader said that it was the best fireside he had ever attended on the subject. If you know Sister Zollinger, you know that it is her passion. In my very biased opinion it was outstanding. The youth were engaged and participative. As always, thank you for your prayers. I felt it keenly in the temple when prayer was offered for all the missionaries world-wide. This time it was personal.
In the Old Testament in Malachi 4: 6 it reads:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
This past week we celebrated Father’s Day and so naturally my thoughts turn to my father, Don Zollinger. My dad passed on several years ago, but his influence will always be there in my life. He, along with my mother, taught me to work, and they taught me the value of education. My father returned to the university at age 38 and earned his undergraduate degree at the age of 40. In so doing, it changed our family completely when we moved from rural Utah to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Our family’s future and fortune changed on that decision. My mother who graduated from high school never had an opportunity to attend college, but she is the smartest person I know. A self-taught computer programmer, she blazed the path for several of us to get into the “family business.” Information technology has served the Zollinger family well.
What has this to do with our mission? I know you are asking this question. Let me explain my thinking. This past week we were able to visit Topsfield, Massachusetts, the ancestral home for several generations of the Joseph Smith, Jr family. Robert Smith was the first of Joseph Smith, Jr’s ancestors to come to America. After serving as an indentured servant in Boston, he purchased a farming homestead in Topsfield. His children and grandchildren were born there, including Joseph Smith, Sr the father of Joseph Smith, Jr, the American Prophet. His father, grandfather, great-grandfathers were farmers. Recently a monument was dedicated by President Russell M Ballard to the Smith Family Ancestors in the small cemetery in Topsfield. This is now standing next to an original monument from 1873 in the same location. Sister Zollinger and I traveled to see this monument. Here are a few pictures:
We also took a short trip to Portland, Maine, about two hours from where we are and visited the cost. There is no other adjective to describe Maine other than spectacular! It is simply beautiful to see. We enjoyed seeing a few lighthouses, which remind me of my favorite hymn, "Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy." Here are those lyrics and then some pictures to put them into perspective:
We all have a need for a "lighthouse" in our life to show us the way past danger, and to light the right way to go. Many have provided that for me in my life, parents, teachers, church leaders, co-workers, managers, etc. And even now I have great examples for me in the way of the young missionaries of our Lowell District. I will close with a picture of them.
These has been an eventful few days since our last entry.
First, we’ve been able to continue teaching our Temple Preparation Class that will soon be drawing to a close with two members of that class. Both are eager to attend the temple and make sacred covenants there. We are also eager for them to be able to attend and hope to go with them. We also had the opportunity to attend the stake conference of the Nashua New Hampshire Stake this past weekend. Nashua is only about ten miles from Lowell. We were able attend with a member of our temple prep class and her young son. She also had the good fortune to receive her patriarchal blessing that same day and it was a choice thing to help her receive it.
Secondly, we hosted our first family history workshop and had a friend of the young sister missionaries attend. This young man was very happy to see that in FamilySearch there were records of his grandparents and great-grandparents. He later reported that he stayed up until 2 AM viewing what he could of his ancestors. The next day he was able to show them to his father, who was amazed at the records that were available. The spirit of Elijah is very strong with respect to genealogy work, and it is a great service that church performs in making these records available for free to anyone who wants to be able to see them.
Lastly, we were able to visit one of the great historical sites of the American Revolution in Concord, Massachusetts. The Minuteman Historical Park is just a short drive from us. The park is beautiful with trees and the river. Near Lexington, is the site where the British forces fired the first shots at colonial militiamen. Five miles north at the North Bridge at Concord, is where the “shot heard round the world” was fired when the colonial minutemen first fired at the British Army on April 19, 1775.Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1837 poem "Concord Hymn" says in the opening stanza:
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”
At the visitor center we met member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Heber, Utah. They are friends of some of our fellow senior missionaries serving in Romania that we came to know in the missionary training center. It is a very small world in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We meet people that we connect to in someway all around the world.
The American Revolution is a watershed moment in the history of the world, and we are blessed to be serving our mission in a place of such historical significance. It is also not lost on me that Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration was born in Sharon, Vermont just 30 years after the “shot heard round the world.” His life was just as revolutionary in terms of Christian doctrine as the early patriots of the American Revolution were in terms of democracy. Those revolutionary teachings included the nature of the godhead, the principle of ongoing modern revelation, the restoration of the priesthood, the translation of “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, the need for temples and the restoration of temple covenants, and the doctrine of eternal families. These are just a few examples of the revolutionary teachings of Joseph Smith. There must be something in the soil and air of New England that produces such extraordinary men and women.
Here are some pictures from that day:
We ended this week with our district preparation day. We love spoiling these young missionaries! We had a BBQ in a park in Nashua. They ate and then finished the day with pickle ball. These young people have become our adopted grandchildren to some degree.
The past two weeks have brought many experiences that have been rich in meaning and significance. In addition to our normal labors of teaching English and visiting members in the Lowell First Ward, we’ve taught a youth fireside discussion, taught our temple preparation class, and Elder Zollinger gave a talk in the Spanish group. They were all great experiences. We enjoyed teaching the youth (age 11 – 18) regarding entertainment and media and internet safety. It was an engaged group of young men and young women. We will do the same next month on the topic of Family History.
We also visited the New England Quilt Museum in downtown Lowell, MA. Quilts are an interesting study and truly an art form of creative tapestry. Most often they were created from spare bits of material as early American societies made do from nothing and wasted nothing. The result are creative patterns from the smallest pieces of material that intricate and often breath taking. Here are a few pictures from that experience to illustrate the creativity.
Those quilts remind me of my mother who has made quilts for almost everyone of her descendants over the years, including her great-grandchildren. On May 15th she celebrated her 90th birthday and 67 of her descendants and close friends gathered in Chandler, AZ to help her celebrate. All her six children and their spouses were in attendance, in addition to almost all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Elder and Sister Zollinger received permission to travel to Arizona and attend this reunion. All our eight children were able to attend and all but two our grandchildren. Members of my mother's book club and work mate were also able to attend. It was a terrific experience to honor the great Matriarch of the Zollinger Clan on this occasion. Quilts remind me of Forever Families. We are stitched together with love and care just like these quilts. Each of us is a different shape and sometimes a little worn around the edges, but the resulting family despite some of its blemishes and weaknesses provides incredible warmth and is beautiful to behold. The tapestry of our lives all joined together is worthy of the most prestigious art galleries in the world. I am grateful for the doctrine of eternal families and the knowledge I have that my family is a "Forever Family." Here are some pictures:
My siblings and their spouses and our mother. Seated left to right: Kevin Don (eldest child), Kirsten (number 2), and my mother Marilyn. Standing left to right, Kathy (spouse of Kevin), Christopher Lee (number 5), Jill (spouse of Christopher), Erik Rand (number 6), Carolyn (spouse of Erik), Michael Shawn (number 3), Lynn (spouse of Michael), Laurie Anne Grant (number 4), Kenneth Grant (spouse of Laurie).
The family of Michael and Lynn Zollinger. Front row left to right: Jace (son of Mark and Bonnie), Quinn, Riley, and Logan (children of Tyler and Lahni), Kaylee and Isabella (daughters of Tanya), Damian and Brooklyn (children of Victoria and Randy Reid), Abigail, Jack, (seated on Julie's lap (children of Ian and Julie, Julie, Alex (son of Todd an Danielle, Lynn and Henry (son of Todd and Danielle), Mike and Benjamin (son of Todd and Danielle, Marilyn Zollinger (Matriarch), Anna her son Kobe, standing backrow, Jamie, Ian holding their son Percy, Danielle and Todd , Tanya , Mark, Lahni and Tyler, Randy and Victoria.
Last Thursday we held another Zone Conference, this time in Manchester, NH with five zones all meeting together for instruction, and to edify each other. These young missionaries continue to amaze us.
Here we are in May already and time is moving on swiftly. The weather here is still chilly in the mornings. I am sure that the temperature will start rising soon. We continue to help wherever we can in whatever way that we can. We continue to teach lessons with the young missionaries when needed and enjoy those opportunities.
This past week brought transfers amongst the young missionaries. Every six weeks there are transfers in the mission. Young men and young women that we’ve worked with are moved to different parts of the mission. For us as senior missionaries there are no transfers to different areas unless the mission president sees a need for that to happen. We expect to remain in Lowell for the duration of our mission. But for the younger missionaries it presents the opportunity to experience different locations, companions, and working conditions. It is not always easy for them to be transferred as they grow to love the people in one area, and it isn’t easy for their friends they leave behind either. We’ve been in Lowell since March 4th, and this is the second transfer we’ve experienced. There is now only one young missionary remaining that was here before we got here. She is Sister Fife from Colorado and assigned to work with Spanish speakers. We have 5 new missionaries in our district and the same number have left. It is interesting and faith provoking to me to see how even with the changes, the work goes on.
We still teach English three times a week and continue to visit the members in the Lowell First Ward. Sister Zollinger and I teach the Temple Preparation Class in the ward, and we are enjoying that. Since I am not as busy during the English class, I have been trying to learn Portuguese using the Duolingo app on my phone. There are so many Portuguese speakers here in addition to Spanish that I am trying to broaden my capability.
We had to opportunity to visit Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea this past preparation day and enjoyed a beautiful drive on the coast. We were able to have a nice seafood lunch with very fresh dishes, including my first New England Clam Chowder in New England. It was very tasty! Here are pictures of the places we visited, including the site of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. I will end the blog this week with them. Tchau!
Cambodian New Year began on Thursday, April 14, 2022, and ended on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Lowell Massachusetts has a sizable Cambodian population and there are several Cambodians who are members of the Lowell 1St Ward. On Saturday the 16th we experienced a baptism of a friend in the ward, and our first Cambodian New Year. Preparations began in earnest on Tuesday night when the Young Women of the ward made egg rolls under the tutelage of those who knew how to make them. On Saturday night we were treated to the Young Women and Cambodian members of the ward dressed in traditional Cambodian clothing, Cambodian traditional dances, and lots of tasty food. It was an enjoyable evening that again highlights the diversity of the community and Lowell 1st Ward.
On a Friday night we were treated to a visit from Richard and Kaye Mason from Los Alamos, NM. We’ve known the Mason’s for about 20 years now. Richard and I served in a stake presidency together. It was great to enjoy a dinner out with them and catch up on family news.
Sunday the 17th was Easter, and we held our Sacrament meeting celebrating the Atonement of the Savior. Elder Zollinger was asked to speak during the meeting along with a youth speaker and a counselor in the bishopric.
We also delivered donations of toys collected by the Young Women and delivered them to the Stake Center where donated items were being collected for Ukrainian refugees. Sister Zollinger had told the young women that we had learned that when refugees arrive by train in Romania parents had been very grateful when their children had been given toys after losing everything when they fled the country. The YW in the Lowell Ward took that to heart and we helped find a way to donate them. That afternoon we were invited by a couple in the ward to enjoy an Easter meal with their family. We had an enjoyable afternoon getting to know them, their son and daughter-in-law and her parents, and most importantly two surrogate granddaughters. We do miss our grandchildren!
On Monday the 18th we traveled about 50 miles to visit Portsmouth, NH. Portsmouth is home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyards, and important part of our nations defense. A number of submarines have been built there over the years. We were able to tour the USS Albacore submarine museum and tour this experimental sub that was built and launched in the early 60’s. We are amazed at how small it is, but how efficiently it was designed. Since Elder Zollinger served in the US Navy surface fleet this was like Disneyland for him! He only bumped his head once. Here are some pictures:
We continue to support the English classes. This past week we had high attendance at some of our classes. Here is a picture of the classes being held on one evening when we had 26 people in attendance:
On Saturday, April 23rd we participated in a Stake Day of Service using the BillionGraves app to take photos in the Lowell Cemetery. This is beautifully maintained cemetery with paths used for walking and jogging. We enjoyed taking 200 photos between us for this important family history activity.
We have been on teaching visits with the young elders and sisters and continue to enjoy those experiences. Elder Zollinger also gives a ride to friends of the church most Sundays. This past week he gave a ride a gentleman from the Congo who speaks little English. Despite that he had an enjoyable experience and learned a great deal about his family. We have enjoyed very much the interactions we have with people from all over the world.
This past preparation day we celebrated with the members of our district and zone leadership at a park in Nashua, NH. We provided a BBQ and enjoyed the day watching the young missionaries play pickleball. To end this blog entry here is a picture of us all on that day.
April 15, 2022
We have now been here in Lowell, MA for over a month and I’ve not been very good at keeping this blog updated. I will try to do better. As the title says, Spring is coming. Trees are beginning to bud and bloom. It rains nearly every other day. We are settling into a routine of our duties. One of our fellow senior missionary couples who we trained with back in the Missionary Training Center said in an email, that "senior missionaries need to kill their own meat everyday." Which means we are largely responsible for finding our own work. Some of our work we have decided is seeing to the welfare and comfort of the young missionaries, most of whom are away from home on their own for the first time. We try to pamper them a little bit, and in truth, we enjoy that a great deal. We have the English classes three times a week, and we really enjoy that. We both tutor some of the more advanced students. Lynn teaches a young man from Ecuador, who is very motivated and works very hard on his lessons. I usually tutor a young mother and daughter from Brazil. It always amazes me how much I do not know about English, or about the many rules of English. I am always saying something like, “English is very complicated…” The thing that strikes me about these students is just how driven they are to learn the language of this country.
We have been cleaning up the records of the ward by trying to verify addresses of people and phone numbers. Clerical work needs to be done somehow. This led to a great visit with a young woman from Cape Verde. It is always inspiring to me to learn how people came to arrive in this country. The immigrant ethic is incredible and illustrates too well how we Americans take our life for granted.
We also teach Gospel lessons with the young missionaries from time to time and those are enjoyable experiences as well. These young sisters and elders are excellent at what they do. We are there just as a support and to lend our experiences from time to time. So far, we’ve helped teach lessons to people from Nigeria, Kenya, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.
The highlight from last week was to be able to travel to Sharon, Vermont to the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial. As we drove the 126 miles from Lowell we enjoyed the beautiful countryside, and we can imagine how even more beautiful it will be as the leaves return to the trees and what it must be like when the fall colors are in full swing.
Here are some pictures of the memorial site:
This week we were able to attend our first Zone Conference in Nashua, NH. This was a great day to be able to see the amazing way these young people are instructed and help each other. We were able to meet another senior couple who are in Pittsfield, MA, a couple of hours from us. We also were able to spend some time with the senior missionaries who work in the Mission Office in Manchester. There are some subtle differences in the construction of Latter-day Saint chapels through out the world, and in New England, that is true as well. Here is an indoor chapel picture of the Nashua Stake Center that shows the high pew benches in the old New England style. Different than what you will see out west.
That is all for now and I promise (fingers crossed) to do better at updating our activities.