Utica, NY

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry CHRISTmas!

Hello family!
This email will be kept short since I would like to catch up on sending personal emails to you, since I feel extremely guilty for not responding in weeks!
I would like to tell you about a tender mercy that I was blessed to witness this semana.
This week, I was a bit discouraged since many of our teaching appointments were cancelled. I enjoy talking to people in the streets, but I LOVE teaching appointments, just because I am madly in love with the spirit I feel while teaching people. After feeling rather upset about what wasn't going on in my week, I thought of Ether 12:6, the scripture about "receiving no witness until after the trial of your faith." So, during my nightly prayers, I pleaded for an increase of faith and that I would recieve some witness after that trial of my faith that I would have some kind of experience that would rekindle my faith in the work here in Albany. Friday night we had the opportunity to teach the Yarleque family, the family from Peru. Maritza, the Matriarch of the home has a baptismal date, but her husband, Christian is still struggling to know what the spirit feels like, and feels he hasn't recieved an answer that this is God's path for him. They come to church regularly and they both believe the Book of Mormon is true, but Christian doesn't believe that there is one true church. At the beginning of the lesson, we were prepared to share the story of christmas with them and watch the good 'ol Joy to the World DVD, but ended up spending over half of the time answering Christian's questions about the Book of Mormon, more specifically, Lehi's vision of the tree of life. I LOVE it when investigators ask questions they have about the Book of Mormon because it shows that they are reading and really want to gain a testimony of it. When the time was right, Elder Hougaard asked if Christian believed the Book of Mormon was the word of God. Christian said yes, and that it almost replaces the Bible because the "the Bible is so outdated." I laughed, and explained to him how the Bible and Book of Mormon support each other, that both are the word of God, and that God will always give us new doctrine, whether it be by his prophets or by books. Then I felt spiritually prompted to share the scripture about God being the same yesterday, today, and forever, but couldn't remember the exact reference. I ended up opening my scripture quad DIRECTLY to 1 Nephi 10:18-19. I was absolutely amazed. It was no coincidence that God would show me that he cared that I shared this scripture. I may be exaggerating, but I found this to be a miracle and an answer to my prayers.
I have no doubt in my mind that Christian will choose to accept baptism. Not because I was somewhat experiencing a spiritual "high" at the time, but because he said he thought he felt the spirit in that meeting with him. He really is diving into the Book of Mormon now that his semester at the University at Albany has ended. I'm so excited for the day to come when I get to see the Yarleque family in white.
The mission isn't easy. There are many discouragements, but the miracles outweigh the discouraging times. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the lord's work. I feel honored to wear our lord's name over my heart these two years, and to help people to find out the true meaning of christmas and the beauty behind it. I know that there is a light at the end of every tunnel we feel trapped in. Always. In the words of morrisey, "There is a light and it never goes out."
As Jeff Ramos, my favorite Dominican, always says, "Love, Peace, Chicken Grease"
Elder James Kunzler

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ternas Misericordias do Senhor

Ola outra vez Familia!
Today was an eventful week of Christmas joy and snowy white pleasure. I'd like to share with you a few of the tender mercies that I was able to witness this week.
First of all, we had Zone Training Meeting this past thursday where we were informed by the Zone Leaders and President Wirthlin on how to proselyte more effectively this holiday season. It was very interesting to hear of the many unique ways that the NY Utica mission utilizes the Christmastime to teach families about Christ. I can't believe the transfer is already halfway over! It still seems like I just met Elder Hougaard.
We finally had a lesson with a guy named Shawn Steele who I've been trying to have a lesson with for months! He is ready for baptism and even said he listens to the Book of Mormon on audio every night! The only thing keeping him from baptism is that he isn't married to the woman he has been living with for 10+ years, and doesn't want to. He is afraid that she will change once they are legally wedded. Please pray that he he will recognize that legal marriage is ordained of God.
These past three days were a bit tough. Nearly all of our appointements were cancelled on us, right when the snowstorms started coming. This left us with our backup plans, which was to basically walk around and contact people while visiting former and potential investigators' homes. It's times like these when I walk around in snowstorms when I think of the memories that serving New York will give me. I will never experience the same things in Brazil. It really is crazy how different my two missions are.
Elder Hougaard and I both realized that the reason we didn't have any appointments the last three days was because the lord wanted us to give him our best. He wanted us to work hard, even in the harsh and cold weather. So, Elder Hougaard and I went back to our apartment, put on basically every article of clothing we had, said a prayer that the lord would help us find one person to share a christmas message with, and started working. We were successful, and found a couple of people that the lord had prepared for us to come back to their home and share a brief message with.
Yesterday, we had about 15 members show up to church because the snowstorm left many people's vehicles lost in the depths of snow. It was CRAZY! I wish I could've taken a couple of pictures but my camera broke.. (I'm sending it home today, there is a warranty on it!) After sacrament meeting and sunday school, we went to the apartment to get some snow shovels and help people dig their cars out. We did this the whole day, since our appointments were cancelled. At nighttime, we came at a crossroads with our shovels in hand. Elder Hougaard and I said a quick prayer to know which way to go. We both felt like we should turn right, so we did. The streets were dark, and we felt like we had made the wrong choice after walking a couple of blocks, until we found a lone man shoveling out his driveway. We approached him and asked if we could help, but he said he would be okay. Walking away a bit discouraged, he yelled back at us, "Nevermind, if you both help, I'll give you 5 bucks each." I replied, "Can we do it for free?" Turns out, this guy knows our branch president and wants us to come back to share a christmas message with him and his family. Prayer is real!
I love you all and wish you a happy week of Nice, school, work, etc. Happy Holidays!
Elder Ja. Kunzler
P.S. If Josh skypes at 8:30 Pacific time on Christmas, then I'll try to schedule my session at the same time. Hopefully that'll work out. I'll give you more details next week. The rule in this mission is 30 minutes skype and a 1 hour phone call. Strange, I know.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Miracles

Family, friends, loved ones-
I feel the true christmas spirit, and I haven't even pulled out the library of Christmas CD's, decorated a christmas tree, watched 'A Christmas Story', or been christmas shopping. The true christmas spirit comes from remembering our savior, and serving him. I've been able to feel this way because of a few christmas miracles that happened this week atop the killer 1st presidency christmas devotional that was given last night. That was killer.
We spent the beginning of the week organizing a giant map with pins of where all of our active and inactive members, potential investigators, former investigators, and investigators are located. It took a lot of our time, but was worth it to make it a lot easier to know which people we should contact depending on the area we are in.
We went about a normal week in the Albany downtown area until friday, when we received a DOWNPOUR of blessings. On friday, we went outside, and nearly everyone we contacted invited us to come back to share a christmas message. Not only this, but we picked up 3 BRAND NEW investigators that day, all of which are very interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was spectacular. I'd like to tell you about one of these New Investigators-Shawn Gladdin. We passed by Shawn on the street twice before we contacted him on tuesday. Twice showing that the lord intended to have us talk to the guy. We talked to him and he said he had just moved from North Carolina and wanted us to return because he said he was at a time in his life where he has questions about which church and book is correct. In Albany, there are a lot of Jehovah's witnesses, so their bible is pretty well known. We returned on Friday and he invited us in. He asked us basically all the questions a young greenie missionary like myself would want to answer. We informed him about what we are going to be doing in our lessons with him and read the introduction to the Book of mormon together and bore testimony of it. He is going to read it! This is probably the greatest miracle I've experienced thus far on my mission.
At the end of Friday, Elder Hougaard and I tried to figure out what we did differently to have so much success that day. We realized it was nothing we did. God intented those people to hear the gospel. All a missionary is a vessel of the spirit that carries glad tidings of great joy to the world. We have an organized map, some solid investigators, some great great goals, and we are ready to attack this transfer! The lord provided us the needs to have a successful transfer.
I have been reading a lot about the Nephi in 3rd Nephi. I challenge you all this week to read 3 Nephi chapters 1-8 to see what happens in the americas in the time that Jesus come to the earth in Jerusalem, and how the Nephites prepare for his coming in 3 Nephi 11.
I love you all muito. Always remember the true meaning of CHRISTmas!
Elder Kunzler

Christmas Spirit

My favorite human

Friday, December 6, 2013

'Tis the season to be Jolly

My loving family,
What does it mean to be Jolly?
Another incredible week has swifted by. It's scary how fast the mission is flying by. Luckily I'll have another 21 months to create lifelong memories.
Elder Menlove has safely arrive at his home in Arizona. I said goodbye to him on Wednesday. He was a great missionary and I have learned a lot from him. I embraced my new companion Elder Hougaard for the first time on our staircase on Wednesday morning after having a successful language study session of teaching my investigator Tiago, a character I drew on my white board. It was quite dramatic.
I LOVE ELDER HOUGAARD. Not just because he looks EXACTLY like Buzz Lightyear, but because he is an incredible missionary. He works really hard and is really obedient and always finds the good in others. He helps me to aspire to become the kind of missionary I want to be. Since this is the first time he hasn't been a Zone Leader in 9 months, I was worried that he wouldn't enjoy having no leadership responsibilities, but this just simply isn't the case. We teach very well together. In most cases, trainers often do most of the talking in lessons, but Elder Hougaard and I are able to trust each other enough to split the time evenly. We work mighty miracles together.
We will have an amazing transfer together. I'm so excited about what lies ahead this transfer. We have had a great start with some great referrals who want to attend church this next Sunday. Boy, that will make my day.
Thanksgiving was a hoot! We ate a large American Thanksgiving meal with many of the members of the branch. I almost forgot how much Thanksgiving makes me tired! It was tough to remain alert the rest of the day!
A couple of days ago while Elder Hougaard was applying for his library card here at the Albany Public Library, I decided to go talk to a woman since I had nothing to do. Turns out this woman was reading a book about Mitt Romney and studies our religion quite a bit. Knowing that she was an avid reader and was interested in our religion, I gave her a Book of Mormon with my testimony written inside. Now, while she is currently sitting across from me telling me that she loves the book. I am SO glad I came prepared with a Book of Mormon!
I love the Book of Mormon. This is something I have realized on my mission. Every time I read it with a new purpose, I gain new insights about the things I am searching for. We can never read it enough. It testifies of Christ, it proves that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that there is a true prophet today. As I find new flecks of gold in the Book of Mormon, I learn how to be a better disciple of Christ. May we all study and treasure this important Book that has been brought forth by many ancient prophets who knew we needed it to restore chirst's true church on the earth. It is meant to be shared with the entire world. Share it with your friends. Do not be afraid. It only can make one happy.
I love you all! Eat a lot of pumpkin pie and cheese balls for me!
Com muito amor,
Elder Kunzler
NY Utica Mission

Feliz O Dia de Acao de Gracas!


As my title with incorrect Portuguese grammar indicates, Happy Thanksgiving.

I have had yet another lovely week in the Northeast. There is snow here! The other night walking home from a lesson at the church there was a bit of a snow storm. I had never felt so cold in my entire life. I thought I was well covered up, but the small part of my body that wasn't covered, my face skin, about turned into a sheet of ice. I love that I get to serve in two distinct places that have COMPLETELY different weather patterns. Lots of memories shall be created.

I spend most of this week outside of Albany. Since Elder Menlove goes home on Wednesday, he went with the departing missionaries to Palmyra, which is a tradition at the end of everyone's missions here. I spent those three days in Schenectady with Elder Johnson. That was SO much fun. Elder Johnson and I are good friends. He and I figured out we have the same taste in music, so we found ourselves humming the lyrics to some of our favorite Arctic Monkeys songs. Schenectady is a sweet city. It is home to Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer, General Electric headquarters, and Thomas Edison. Dad, remember when we read Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury together before I entered High School, because I didn't know how to read? If I end up going into engineering, I may be coming back to upstate New York. This is like engineering capital of the world. I spend my week on two other exchanges in Watervliet and Delmar, both small suburbs of Albany. I had a great time traveling this beautiful area this week.

So I didn't get my permission to enter the country of Brazil this transfer, but that's okay. I have not yet accomplished the thing which the Lord commanded me, which is to have at least one baptism before I leave. It's coming, I can feel it. My new companion's name is Elder Hougaard. I have not yet met him, but I hear great things! He has been a Zone Leader most of his mission kind of like Josh. This will be his first training transfer in 9 months. I'm SO excited to work with him. We are going to work really well together. I have really been blessed here in the Utica mission. I can't believe that even though I am a mere visa waiting missionary, the lord, giving inspiration to President Wirthlin, is giving me one of his best missionaries to complete my training.

When I arrived back in Albany on Saturday we were able to meet with Justin. We taught him the Plan of Salvation. He was really interested and had a lot of really good questions. He loves meeting with the missionaries and going to church, but he is still deciding if he wants to commit to being baptized. Please pray for him. Pray that the spirit will give him the desire to read the Book of Mormon as well.

Many of you are wondering what my plans are for Thanksgiving. Elder and Sister Helser, the senior couple serving in our branch, is making a delicious Thanksgiving meal for the missionaries and some of the members of our Branch who can't afford thanksgiving this year. It will be a good opportunity for Elder Hougaard and I to meet some more members!

Well I need to get off, but I wish you all a happy week! Keep reading the scriptures and praying! Those two simple things truly create a such strong relationship between God and man.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Eu amo voces,

Elder Kunzler