March 1, 2020 - Last Saturday, we had the privilege of going to the Palyma Temple with Danielle. We first met Danielle when we served in Massena, NY. When we first met, Danielle hadn't been attending church. As we got to know her, the ember of her testimony was rekindled and she made the choice to join with us again...and she jumped in with both feet. It was so exciting to see the changes in her life and just after we were transferred to Buffalo, Danielle was called to be the Branch Relief Society President. We have heard of the many good works that she has accomplished since we left.

And then we heard she was going to go to the Temple to receive her endowment. You can only image how excited we were for her.

Just a quick explanation of the Temple Endowment:

The endowment is a religious ceremony administered in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is available to adult Church members who are prepared for this sacred experience.

The endowment provides instruction, covenants, and promised blessings that offer power, purpose, and protection in daily life. It teaches about the Creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, and our own journey back to the presence of God. The endowment helps those who receive it to follow the Savior as they strive for “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:19). Honoring the covenants of the endowment qualifies Church members to enter the covenant of eternal marriage, leading to the precious gift of eternal life.

Exciting day with Danielle, Carrie, Karen and Mark at the Palmyra Temple
Danielle & Karen at the EB Grandin Book Store - Book of Mormon was first published here
Karen, Danielle & Mark at EB Grandin Book Store
Dinner with Carrie, Danielle and Karen
Preparation Day Excursion - We went with Elder's McOmber & Nielsen to see Buffalo City Hall - a beautiful landmark in Buffalo. Unknown to us, they were going to film a movie using this building the next day. (See later post in this blog) Elder McOmber and Karen are pointing to where they live on the map.
Beautiful views of downtown Buffalo.
More views of Buffalo.
The Google Map shows a man made inlet that services the Buffalo area - if you look closely it is in the shape of a buffalo!!

Boys will be boys! A great end to our City Hall Tour:

Chazia: YES! Definitely!!! YES! Definitely!!! YES!!!

Elder McOmber started our discussion with Chazia describing the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington:
605 feet high with an underground foundation of 30 feet of concrete to give the structure stability
Built to withstand 200 mph winds and a 9.1 earthquake

Elder Niesen then compared the Space Needle to when Helaman spoke to his sons Nephi and Lehi in the Book of Mormon and told them how they could have a strong foundation.
Helaman 5:12
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

What stuck out to you in that verse?
Chazia: All of it! Isn’t it wonderful how we can have trust in God? We can have a lot of struggles and we can have the strength and the faith to help us.

Elder McOmber started singing the song: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man and we all joined in. He then told Chazia, when we build our foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ, no matter what happens in life, we can stay strong, we can stay in the truth.

Chazia shared: I was struggling at work and on the way to work I listened to this song where God promises us things as long as we would stand up straight. God doesn’t lie, He doesn’t change, He stays the same. I listened to the song 3 times.

Elder Nielsen:
We want to focus on how we can build our faith and testimony of Jesus Christ through:

  1. Prayer
  2. Reading the Scriptures
  3. Going to Church

Elder McOmber asked: Why is it important to pray?
Chazia: That is the way we communicate with God. He knows what we are thinking, but he says to us, you have to say it, so He can know if you want to have what you are looking for. You have to put our heart out there and just talk to Him.

Elder Nielsen: We should read the scriptures, every day, every day.
Elder McOmber: As we read the scriptures, we learn how we can live with God again one day. And we can follow His gospel. We can receive blessings and we can find happiness.

Bro Vrooman: I find my day goes better when I focus on the scriptures and put priority on it – and try to read first thing instead of putting it off. I find peace and I find happiness. And when you make that commitment you will feel that peace and happiness too.

Chazia: I love studying the scriptures. Two weeks ago, I was listening to a YouTube Bible Study and a young man was saying when we go to God, we just tell Him what we need but we’re not listening to God.
It’s okay if you tell God what you need, but you have to have a time of meditation and just stay quiet and listen to Him so He can speak to you and tell you what to do.

I was taking notes in my journal during Bible Study when they were speaking – sometimes I do that a lot.
Chazia showed us her journal and shared some thoughts she wrote to God in her journal: Thy will be done, whatever you ask of me, I will say YES!! I trust you.

Going to church.
Elder McOmber: Church is the time to take the sacrament, where we remember Jesus Christ and commit to follow Him.
Chazia: I remember how my mom used to push me to go to church. And she would give us money to put in the collection and I just wanted to go to the store and buy candy with the money. My mom would ask my aunt if I put the money in the collection! When I got in the door, my mom would ask, what did you learn in church today?

Sister Vrooman talked about taking the sacrament and the strength that comes from it.

Chazia: There was a time that I wasn’t going to church even though I was praying every single day and would wake up and feel nothing of the spirit in me. I’m not going to church and I’m thinking something is missing. When we go to church, we are praising God. I went to a bunch of churches, but I thought, not here and I kept looking and I just took my time…hopefully I’ve found it. When I came to your church, I was just feeling positive. Let me hang in there a little bit to see how it’s going to go.

Elder McOmber: Will you continue to do these 3 things: Pray, Read the Scriptures and Pray?
Chazia: YES! Definitely!!! YES! Definitely!!! YES!!!

On Thursday, the next day, she called us to express gratitude for having us all over. She had been having a kind of hard day, but when we all came over it made her day end well, "learning about God and being close to him – my day was almost a waste, but that changed it"

Chazia came to church again on Sunday.

Where will you be sitting in Eternity? Smoking or Nonsmoking?
There are personal injury attorney advertisements all over the place.
I can't believe that I've been in New York for over a year and just had my first New York bagel - YUM, I've been missing out.
A little history on bagels. And if you are ever in Buffalo, give Bagel Jays a try - they have great bagels!
Cece arrived early with a smile for her baptism. She attends the YSA Williamsville Branch. We are pinch hitting and attending the District Council Meeting each week because their Senior Couple went home and we don't have a replacement yet.

Sisters Joos, Melton & Hermana Steiner practicing a musical number for the baptism. Logan (the accompanist) wrote a 3rd verse to the Primary Song: "When I Am Baptized" for Cece's baptism.

Hermana Steiner and Sister Melton, Cece & Sister Joos
Oh yes! This is a happy day! Way to go Cece.
Baptismal Program
Of course, only the Sisters would decorate the baptismal dressing room.
Way to show the love Sisters!

The Richardson Olmsted Complex

Widely considered to be one of Buffalo’s most important and beautiful buildings, construction on the 145-year-old Richardson Olmsted Campus began in 1872 and opened in 1880 as the state-of-the-art Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. Originally built on 200 acres with over 500,000 square feet.

Today, the Richardson Olmsted Campus is being brought back to life by the Richardson Center Corporation. The first phase of renewal consists of development of the site as a hotel and conference center intertwined with an architecture center in a third of the building space.

Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center is an innovative 88 room full-service hotel and conference center with modern purpose, designed to fuse with the architectural legacy of the National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus. Hotel Henry’s Urban Resort is distinctive from the type of “resort” that most travelers expect. Instead, the surrounding city of Buffalo – its galleries and cultural institutions, architecture, nearby parks… are the treasures to be enjoyed. The Urban Resort is the design-rich city of Buffalo itself. Situated on 42 acres within the City of Buffalo’s museum district and cultural corridor, the Urban Resort Conference Center is surrounded by parks, lakes, museums and connected to the fun and vibrant Elmwood Village. Throughout the building, Hotel Henry’s uncommon spaces invite guests to explore, gather and tuck away in the unique character of Richardson’s masterpiece. Interior and exterior spaces invite guests to find their own corner and make their own experience.

We fell in love with this building because it makes us think of Hogwarts from Harry Potter.
Come visit us in Buffalo and stay at "Hogwarts" - it's a Hotel Resort
More Buffalo street art - that's a BIG "Canvass"!

Ash Wednesday

Have you ever noticed how once a year, usually in February or March, there are a lot of people walking around with an ash cross on their foreheads? You probably knew it had something to do with Lent, but you weren’t sure why the ash cross was significant.

Frankly, I didn't really have much knowledge about Ash Wednesday, but as I read a little, I could see that while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't formally celebrate Ash Wednesday in the traditional sense that many religions do, we certainly embrace the purpose and ideals that are included in this tradition.

Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.

The ashes of this holiday symbolize two main things: death and repentance. “Ashes are equivalent to dust, and human flesh is composed of dust or clay (Genesis 2:7), and when a human corpse decomposes, it returns to dust or ash.”

“When we come forward to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our faults, purify our hearts, control our desires and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy”

With this focus on our own mortality and sinfulness, Christians can enter into the Lent season solemnly, while also looking forward in greater anticipation and joy of the message of Easter and Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.

Important days of the Easter Season:

Ash Wednesday – The beginning of Lent, a day of reflection and repentance from sin
Palm Sunday – Celebrates Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem
Holy Week – The week leading up to Easter
Maundy Thursday – Commemorates the foot washing and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles
Good Friday – Commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary
Easter Sunday – Celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his victory over sin and death.

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday:
Lord, Holy One, have mercy on us. We confess our sins to you. We have fallen short of your glory and without your mercy and grace, we would be dust. We repent now. Lord, as we enter into this Lenten season, be near to us. Help us, by your Holy Spirit, to feel right conviction and repentance for our sin. Help us, by your Spirit, to have the strength to overcome the enemy.
Thank you, Lord, that Easter is coming! Death has no sting, no victory, because of Jesus! Glory and honor and praise to His name! Thank you for rescuing us. Help us keep both the weight and the joy of this season in our hearts and we move through the next several weeks. Help us bear the good fruit of your Spirit.
Thank you that the ashes on our forehead do not symbolize our ultimate reality. From dust we might have been formed, but our bodies, our spirits, ourselves, await beautiful redemption and the restoration of all things. Help us long and look forward to that day, and let it come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

What a beautiful prayer full of hope and anticipation and faith - may we all focus on our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, this Easter Season.

Ash Wednesday - For some more information:

Ash Wednesday notice that believers can receive their ashes at this church.

Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is also known as Fat Tuesday, the last day to eat King's Cake before Lent begins.
Mardi Gras season begins on January 6, of each year and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. One of the wonderful traditions of Mardi Gras, and probably the most delicious, is the King Cake.
On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. This day, January 6, is known by several names, including "Epiphany", "Twelfth Night", or "Kings Day". The celebration of this event has evolved over the centuries, with each culture adding its own unique rituals. The New Orleans tradition, borrowing heavily from European influences, is believed to have begun in the 1870's. As part of this celebration, it is now traditional to bake a cake in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. King Cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors - purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake.
In New Orleans, King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout the city, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the Biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who "finds" the baby will be rewarded with "good luck", that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.

Elder McOmber and his dad have this thing for Mardi Gras. Elder McOmber's dad searched and found a local bakery that made Mardi Gras King Cakes and ordered. We picked it and delivered it to Elder McOmber.
Elders Nielsen & McOmber enjoying their dessert of Mardi Gras King Cake. Look closely at the piece of cake and you can see the baby's feet. I was the lucky one who got the baby in my piece of cake!!!
Sister Olesen's new companion: Hermana Pettit - she hopes to be assigned to a Spanish Branch.
Sister Joos in the Amherst District shared her notes on how to teach people by using Search, Analyze and Apply Questions. Thank you Sister Joos, you are totally awesome.

Movie Filmed in Buffalo
Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has begun work in Buffalo on his latest project, Nightmare Alley, a film based on the 1940s novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham.
Nightmare Alley, as del Toro explained, is about truth and lies and set in the secretive world of 1930s traveling carnival culture.
"It's about a man that pretends to speak with the dead, and the choices he makes coming from a carnival and rising through society by using his 'gift,'"
Rooney Mara, who is co-starring along with Cooper, is also said to be in town.
Nightmare Alley has no release date as of yet and also stars Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Ron Perlman, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany and Jim Beaver.
“In Nightmare Alley, an ambitious young carny (Cooper) with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist (Blanchett) who is even more dangerous than he is. The carnival cast includes carnival worker Molly (Mara), head barker Clem (Dafoe), and Ron Perlman as Bruno the Strongman. Richard Jenkins is part of the high society crowd as wealthy industrialist Ezra Grindle.

Who would worry about there being snow on the ground in Buffalo in February? The production crew layed white plastic (see bottom left) and white polyester quilt batting (in the middle picture.) See right picture with the finished product. Notice that the movie was being shot in the Buffalo City Hall where we had just toured a couple of days before.
Upper left picture is shows a layer of real snot that fell on the plastic & polyester batting. Top middle shows what it looks like after more snow fell. The Keys Kiosk was a movie prop. I happen to be walking by the parking garage when this guy was bringing his car to be used in the movie. When went up and parked my car, I saw a whole slew of old cars to be used in the movie.
Awesome old cars for the movie - I love the old taxi.

Another busy week in our NEW Paradise. Non-pictured activities:
• Member visits: Jean M & her adult daughter Debbie, Bonnie & Albert Z, Amos – Gave Amos the General Conference Talk that he is supposed to teach in Elders Quorum this coming Sunday, Apolina & Veronica – took to dentist, Tony & Mary D, Sabina – gave ride from baptism in Amherst, Hillary’s daughter Kaycee, Donna Pigeon, took soup to Kiza’s family – they have been sick
• Missionary Coordination Meeting
• BYU PathwayConnect Gatherings
• Rides to church
• Fed the Swahili Elders
• Fed the Spanish Elders