Utica, NY

Monday, January 27, 2014

Deus se deleita possuir e te abencoar

we are strong

Please forgive me that this email is a tad late. We spent most of our day helping a family move. They are taking a long trek to the Holy Land, Salt Lake City Utah tomorrow. Pray that they make it there safe and without contention. I remember sometimes I would get grumpy on trips to Utah when Jacob or Josh would lay their toes on my face or when I couldn't have a snack.
What a week!
Since I'm so excited to tell you about the Johnson family, I think I'll write about them first. I believe I informed you a bit about them in my last email, they are a referral from a recent convert in our Branch. We were finally able to get a hold of them early this week and begin teaching them things that would bring them eternal joy. It turns out Eileen Johnson, a young single mother, has five children. Their names are I'jalief (14), Robert (13), Sarahji (11), Za'mainya (9), and Ei'jere (6). Poor ol' Robert does quite have a true black name. This family is the GREATEST. They are all soaking up the gospel like a sponge and will be getting baptized on March 29th. Eileen has a smoking issue, but she is extremely determined to quit. They all want so badly to join the church. It's so funny. We met with them twice this week and both times the kids complained about how they have to wait so long to be baptized. In our last lesson with them, we read 3 Nephi 11 with them. At the end, I bore a simple testimony of the truthfulness of the doctrines taught in the chapter, and Eileen shouted "The whole book is true!"
We also met up with a former investogator named Tamesha Boyd who we are now meeting with weekly. She has committed to baptism on the 22nd of March. She comes from a baptist background so when Elder Hougaard or I say prayers with her, she randomly shouts strange things, and it's hard to contain laughter. She too is determined to recieve a remission of her sins.
Remember Hyrum Ruiz, the Ecuadorian/Ecuadorite (however you say it) who is visiting Albany for a couple months and speaks Portuguese? It turns out he is an incredible member missionary who seeks for opportunities to share the gospel with everyone! He and his wife are staying with a part-member inactive family who he wants us to teach, and we are way stoked about that. He also wants to meet with us once a week at a different time to do language study to prepare me for Brazil. I am able to do an hour of language study on most days, but as dad would say, it's like pulling teeth to get myself to study Portuguese since I rarely use Portuguese. Having brother Ruiz in the Branch has been a HUGE tender mercy. God is preparing me to preach the gospel in a new tongue!
Before I head off I wanted to share with you that last night we had a Stake Priesthood meeting. The topic was the Work of Salvation, my favorite. Since The Book of Mormon show is coming to Schenechtady in March, the stake is preparing for a lot of negativity regarding our church. I'm not sure if it will be much different than it has been, but I believe that any publicity is good publicity. There are things that can be laughed at regarding our church. We're pretty weird, but when things get out of hand it's amazing to see how a simple testimony can keep people with anti feelings silent.
Friends, Family, in case you weren't able to Google translate the subject of this email or if I typed it out correctly (I tend to do that) I thought of the lyrics to the song, "Dearest Children God is Near You" at random this morning in my study I thought of the words, "..and delights to own and bless you." If we are willing to give ourselves completely to God, withholding nothing, we can become what he wants us to become. We can feel his love more in our lives. I know that "He will bless you if you put your trust in him." I have felt so much on the short time that I've been on my mission that when I walk with faith, submit myself completely, hoping for nothing but his Spirit to be with, I can feel his love always. You can do the same.
Eu amo voces com todo minha coracao!
Elder Kunzler

home of the brave

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Feliz Feriado!

Oi Familia!

Have you enjoyed your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? I know mine was a lot better spent than the past ones I've had in my life. Today I got to see mummies for free at the Albany Art and History Museum! Rad!

Yesterday at church a man and his wife from Ecuador came to our little Branch. After seeing that my nametag is written in a language not of this land, he began speaking to me in Portuguese. It was the greatest thing, because NOT one soul could understand him but me, and he commented that I could speak well. Slow, but well. Turns out this man, Hyrum Ruiz, is living in Albany for a couple months for his wife to give birth to her firstborn at AlbanyMed Hospital. He has been a member his whole life, and even served a brasileiro mission. He is currently living with a part-member inactive family, and wants us to come by and bring more souls closer to Christ. He even said he would like to do language study with me and take a picture of me to send to his sister living in Curitiba. Ternas Misercodias do Senhor!

We had a very spiritually uplifting Zone Conference this week. The trainings prepared were incredible, probably the best ones I've been part of here in Albany. The Zone Leaders spoke about Aspiring to what God wants for us, the Assistants talked about the Atonement and using it to become Preach my Gospel missionaries, and President Wirthlin trained on the Doctrine of Christ. I felt like I left that meeting a better person, partly because I got to witness my companion singing a solo at the end of the Conference!

Probably the greatest thing I am excited about this transfer is that we are now teaching the Johnson family, an African American family of many children. I say many because I don't know exactly how many because they are in and out, but I've seen 3 children meandering through the corridors of their casa. They want to join the church as a family! Perhaps my first baptism on the mission will be a family!

I love the lord and I love his work! I love knowing that I am a clean vessel to carry the spirit of Christ with me and share it with Brasil and New York. I know that we can become cleansed through the atonement. I know that I don't completely understand the atonement and that this is an overstatement, but I know it works.

Tem um otimo semana e lembro que Eu amo voces muito!

Elder James Kunzler

Jolly Ol' Doug Plante and his Transformation

Monday, January 20, 2014

my mission

I am still here in Downtown Albany New York for a reason. The work is moving forward at an intense rate. The blessings are numerous and I am part of it all.
First of all, I am getting stronger every day, literally. Once a tiny tim, I will one day turn into the Incredible Hulk. Since we got sisters in our branch, Elder Gouhaard (Formerly known as Elder Hougaard) and I had the priviledge of taking their Workout station and begun our journey of getting buff. This is very unimportant information, but I felt the nerve to share it because my arms are swelling and it's rather difficult to type this email.
We picked up another pesquisadora this week! At a dinner appointment with Jeff Ramos, he surprised us with someone anxious to hear the word of the lord. Her is Katrina, she is 19, and has lived a pretty rough life and has been been humbled by it because of some poor choices she has made that she is in recovery for. She was very interested to learn that as missionaries we place our lives on hold for 18 months to 2 years and pay for it. She said, "Then what you say must be true!" Kinda neat. She wants us to teach her and her boyfriend, and bless their lives for eternity.
I mentioned earlier that we picked up the Finkell family whom we found while shoveling snow, a huge blessing for Elder Hougaard and I. Just recently, a family member very close to them passed away and they have really been struggling with this huge trial and have even expressed that they may want to put out meetings on hold for a while. Please, Please, Please pray for them. PLEASE. I am so worried about them. I know God gave them this trial to prepare them for the restored gospel that allows us to be families for eternity, but they do not know that. Trials are difficult, but when treated in a healthy way, make us such stronger people. As cliche as that sounds, it is true.
On a happier note, Devon, the investigator we found outside our apartment door is progressing well. He is going to be baptized and is keeping his commitments! He's going to unintoxicate his body with nicotine through the cleansing power of the atonement! We are extremely excited to sit by him at church for the first time this upcoming Sunday. Pray for him as well.
Thank you all for allowing me to be away these 2 years to help others know and feel the blessings of the gospel we have been blessed with all of our lives. I am amazed at how broad my knowledge has become and the spirit I have felt from being part of this work. I cannot express what it is like to be a missionary. It is just incredible. It has increased my testimony that will God will make us into what he wants if we are humble. When I find myself trapped in my pride, progression stops.
I love you all in ways I cannot express. Have the best week of your young lives.
Elder Kunzler

Monday, January 6, 2014

5 Miracles

Hello Family,
Your birthday wishes give me a cozy feeling inside and sheer joy! I never would have thought that Birthdays as a missionary were so awesome. This morning Elder Hougaard sang me "Happy Birthday" in an opera voice he used to act as one of the opera house keepers from his High school performance of "The Phantom of the Opera." He also gave me a shirt with tye dye and a picture of a lion with dreadlocks on it, as well as a pink heart keychain made in a machine at walmart that says, "I'm gonna take you down the path that rocks" as quoted from the Emperor's groove. He already knows me too well.
I did not end up getting my visa, which means I will be here for at least another 6 semanas. It was a bit of a shocker, but I am glad I have some more time to focus on becoming a better missionary without worrying about learning a new language. Plus, after seeing some of the miracles that took place this past week, I didn't feel like my time had come to enter into the great land of Brazil. They made me want to be part of the success that is about to erupt in Albany.
This week was cold. -3 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. When the clouds are away and the day looks sunny, I look forward to a day where I can wear 3 layers of clothing instead of 4. But this is false. Days with clear skies means that there is nothing to shield the cold away. Today I finally bought a nice covering for my face that will keep it from turning blue. The amazing thing is that the weather will not stop the work from moving forward.
The other two elders serving in our branch are leaving and being replaced by sisters. It was very sad/funny on Sunday when they bore their testimonies. They announced the changes that would be made regarding missionary work expecting that people would be sad, but the branch was too excited to have sisters. The branch could really use a womanly touch to missionary work. We have many single sisters in our Branch.
I told you that there were some miracles that took place this last week. It would have been creative to call this email "17 Miracles," but I would have to think of 12 more.
1. Remember that family Elder Hougaard and I found on the 15th while shoveling? We prayed for inspiration to be lead to people that could use the gospel at a crossroads and decided to take the right turn to find them. While we were shoveling for him a couple weeks ago he said he would call us to set up a time to come back, but never did. Well, Elder Hougaard felt inspired to visit them a couple days ago, so we followed the spirit. They happened to be two firm believers in Jesus Christ searching for the truth. Their names are Courtnie and Erik (yes, with a k) Finkell. They invited us in and shared gratitude in coming back because the holidays were so stressful that they had forgotten about us. They knew that we were sent by God to teach them the gospel. They wanted to come to church and read the Book of Mormon before we asked them to. As I was bearing my testimony at the end, Courtnie began tearing up, which led me to begin tearing up. Afterwards, Courtnie asked if she could "be a Mormon AND a Catholic." The Courtnie and Erik Finkell family will be entering the waters of baptism here shortly. Yes, dreams do come true. Even in upstate New York.
2. On New Years Day in the morning before going out and proselyting, Elder Hougaard said in our companionship prayer specifically that the lord would place someone in our path to share the gospel with. RIGHT when we opened the door, there was an African American 23 year old man who was smoking. He asked who we were, what we did, and even expressed that he wanted to quit smoking. In awe, we both ran back into the apartment to grab a Book of Mormon to give him. We met with him two days ago and he committed to getting baptized.
3. I believe I have told you about Jenaro, the Hispanic man who loves missionaries. He feeds us all the mexican food we can get in New York. I love this guy to death. He is not very good at speaking english so many people take advantage of him, yet he keeps a happy smile and a positive attitude. His only family in the States is his Nephew. Mid week we recieved word that he was sent to the E.R. I was so scared since he has HIV and almost died a year ago. We rushed to the hospital and he didn't look so good and asked me to give him a blessing. I don't remember everything I said, but I do remember saying that I promised that he would be okay because he has help to the rod tightly and always does what's right. The next day he was at his home, walking around being his normal, happy self.
4. We finally started teaching a less active family from Manila Philippines (Matt) whom I've been trying to reach for 3 months, the Cortez family. They are feeding us Philipino Food on Thursday, they came to church on sunday, and are even bringing a family member who wants to learn more about our church.
5. We finally got into the home of another less active family, the Muse Family, whom we met on the same day as the Cortez family. They even had a friend over who wants to start taking the discussions. AMAZING.
This transfer is going to be amazing.
I love God. Please serve him by serving your fellow men. Please SINCERELY pray to him ALWAYS. I love you all so so much, this may seem cliche, but I think about how much I am blessed to have you all part of my life.
Stay strong,
Elder Kunzler

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy almost 2014!

It was a beautiful sight to hear your voices and see your faces that haven't quite aged 4 months. It was also quite a pleasure to be able to see my long lost brother, who has got to be the classiest missionary east of the atlantic ocean, Elder Joshua Kunzler. It feels a bit strange being the one the family skypes, being the third missionary in the family.
On Tuesday, Elder Hougaard and I presented a training in our district on study and how to make it more effective. It was a very successful and great learning experience for me, being the first time I've done a training before. Afterwards, the Relief Society of our Branch gave us each giant stockings filled with packages, boxes, and bags. How exciting!
On christmas after skyping you, we ate dinner at the McGreevy's home and delivered missionarymade cookies to people we teach and less active members. I don;t think I'll ever eat another sugar cookie as long as I live. I got a little bit sick, and Elder Hougaard got really sick. I felt a bit guilty for giving them out to so many people, like I was spreading poison. I'm not 100% that it was the cookies that got Elder Hougaard sick the 2 days after christmas, but I was about 86% certain.
Elder Hougaard slept in bed all day on the 26th and 27th. I served him with a hot towel on his forehead, a thermometer in his mouth, small spoonfuls of homemade alphabet soup, and lullabies. Just kidding, I spent the days studying talks and scriptures about the sons of Mosiah, shining shoes, and cleaning/organizing the apartment, just so it didn't feel like the time was wasted THAT much. I studied "How to Become a Preach my Gospel Missionary" by Bednar, "Desire" by Oaks and "Mountains to Climb" by Eyring. All were incredible talks. All of Elder Bednars talks remind me of my favorite talk of all time, "Character of Christ" by Bednar, which was only played in the MTC and cannot be found ANYWHERE on the church sites. If any of you can find it, PLEASE send me an attachment! Just from reading those talks and about the sons of mosiah, I learned exactly what kind of missionary I long to become. That made it successful for me.
We were able to meet with our 19 yr. old investigator Justin at week's end. He hasn't had much of a desire to read the scriptures, but he has finally started reading them and is on course for developing a testimony! We are really excited about his progress. His prayer are becoming a lot more from the heart and sincere.
This week will be the final week of the transfer, and I have a strong feeling it will be my last week of New York. I won't know for sure until saturday morning, but this is a scary thought, just because there is so much more to do here, but I know the lord wants me in Brazil on his schedule. This upcoming week will be my best in Albany. Every night as I write in my journal, I think about what I have learned here in New York and why I was sent here before entering Brazil. I realized that God is merciful and wanted me to learn a few things first. He wanted me to not worry about learning any language other than the language of the spirit. He wants me to listen to my heart, and not my head. He wanted me to develop an optimistic outlook on the work, even though it can get really hard. He wanted me to deepen my faith and learn how to become a "Preach my Gospel" missionary and more like my Redeemer. I love my father in heaven. I love that I can rely opon his jurisdiction. He knows what's best for me. With him, I can be anyone who I want to be. I don't have to be perfect, I just need to give myself completely to him these 2 years and let him make of me what he wants, by his will.
I love you all so so so much. I cannot express this enough. I thank god every single day for things I don't even deserve. He has blessed me with this gospel, remarkable examples and leaders to look up to. I love you guys more than I can express. Have the greatest week of your lives. Deepen your faith in Jesus Christ, it will change your life. You all know how to do that.
Elder James Kunzler