February 23, 2020 - The Elders met Niyezimana last night (Saturday) while out knocking doors at 8:50 pm. A man answered the door that spoke Swahili and even though the missionaries speak some Swahili, they were having a difficult time communicating with him, so they called Sabina who helps translate for them. The Elders were trying to make an appointment to come teach him next week. Niyezimana told Sabina that he wanted to come to church on Sunday. So, they told him that someone would pick him up for church. The Elders sent us a text asking us if we could add him to the list of those needing rides.

When we got to his house Sunday morning, I went to the door and saw his name was on the mailbox – how many Niyezimanas could there be? So, I knew that I was in the right place.  (I know that sounds like a simple thing, but most people don’t have their names on the mailbox and most live in older two or three story houses that have been split up into several apartments, none of which have apartment numbers or tenant names on them and their apartments are usually behind a locked entry door – so it’s nearly impossible to make contact with the person that you are looking for.)

I knocked and a man came to the door that was around 40 years old or so – I’m not sure if he is the right guy because I don’t know what he looks like nor how old he is – I’ve never met him. And he doesn’t speak English, I asked for Niyezimana (Of course I butchered the name and you would have too!). I got a blank stare. I pointed to the mailbox and asked if he lives here. The man said yes, and I thought he was going to go get him because he turned and went back into the house leaving the door open. (I figured that was a good sign since he didn't slam the door.)  I waited and waited and waited and finally a young man about 18 came to the door. He spoke a little English so I asked him if Niyezimana was there. It took a little work, but I finally realized that he was saying the man that answered the door was his dad and the person that I was looking for.

I asked this young man if his dad wanted to come to church. He said yes. The young man went back inside – presumably to get his dad so we could to church. So, I waited and waited and waited again. Finally, Niyezimana came and we got in the car to pick up one more group of people. We got to church 15 minutes late, but we made it with everyone that was supposed to come.

In Elders Quorum Niyezimana participated and seemed to really enjoy the discussion, although it was a little challenging because we have 3 people that can usually help translate (one member and two nonmembers) and none of them were to church this week. I taught the lesson using Elder Peter Johnson’s General Conference talk from October 2019. I printed several copies in English and Swahili, so we were able to read sections and have some discussion. Elder McOmber (one of the young missionaries) is getting better and better with the language and was able to help.

When the discussion ended, I felt that I should ask Niyezimana if he would be willing to pray. After a little discussion with our Group Leader Amos, he agreed and then he proceeded to kneel down. We all followed his example. I didn’t understand a word he said, but I knew we had just talked with God. There was such a powerful spirit in the room. Tears flowed down Niyezimana’s cheeks.

As we were about to leave the room, he asked the missionaries if we would pick him up again next week for church! Wow! What a tender mercy from the Lord – by staying out and working at 8:50pm, the missionaries showed the Lord that they could be trusted with the Lord’s elect and the Lord led them to someone who was prepared with a humble heart and a desire to learn more about his Savior Jesus Christ. It was so awesome! (And you may have wondered why we would leave our home and serve a mission...now you know.)

Baptism in Amherst District - Soona - She is from Iran and her native language is Farsi.
Soona, her husband and two sons along with Elders Taylor & Schultz from the Amherst District
Buffalo Street Art is creating new murals all over the city. There are massive celebrations of color, geometry and abstraction alongside comic book-style renderings, photo-realistic stencils, op-art, graffiti art and homages to rock stars dead and alive. World famous street artists share Buffalo’s walls with talented newcomers and commercial artists exploring a new medium. It’s an exciting time to walk Buffalo’s streets not knowing what visual treat lies around the next corner.
Vets Center
Welcome to South Buffalo

Chazia: When we start to get to know God and see how great He is, it will be just awesome, awesome.

We couldn’t go with the Elders to meet with Chazia this week because of another commitment, but the Elders gave us a recap of their visit:

We had another awesome visit with Chazia again. When we asked about her reading this week, she opened up to a very highlighted 2 Nephi 31! She loved the part that said that Jesus "is the only way and name by which we are saved".

She enjoyed church, she says that she feels like herself there…sometimes you get invited to church and you just can't see yourself there, but this church is different.

We read Alma 32 and she enjoyed it. After finishing the chapter, she said, "It comes slowly, like the seed growing, I feel like it was saying that when we start to get to know God and see how great he is it will be just awesome, awesome."

Igor, the Ward Mission Leader who went with the Elders, changed the last verse (Alma 32:43), as follows:
Then, Chazia Kayi, you shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

Chazia is so awesome. She said as she reads, and comes to church, and meets with us it is like filling her cup. She didn’t feel like it was full, but now it is being filled.

Our Miracle Minivan

Our Miracle Minivan: When our car window was broken on Sunday Feb 16th, we knew that we would be helping with transfers in just three days.  We had a 2 day “free” car rental given to us from Enterprise when we rented our last car and so we took whatever car they would give us for “free”.  It was a Toyota Camry.  We knew that by Wednesday if our car was not fixed, we would need to rent something bigger to get missionaries and luggage delivered during transfers.  

However, on Tuesday afternoon when we called the Collision and Glass shop about how the repairs to the broken window in our Toyota were doing, they told us our car would be ready for pickup before they closed at 6:00 pm.  Perfect! Or so we thought.

When we called at a little after 5:00pm they told us that a part that was needed to finish the repair had not come in.  We started calling car rental places right away to try and rent a bigger car.  We called all the major rental places and they all said the same thing, “no van or suburbans”.  Enterprise told us we would probably have to go the airport to find one because they have a bigger supply of cars.  So, at 6:30 at night, away we went to the Buffalo Airport.  Mark went to the place where all the car rental companies were located in the same area (while I parked illegally in the load and unload area).  NONE of the car rental companies had bigger cars.  

As we drove home, we talked of other solutions.  We could rent a second car, and drive two cars to Syracuse, but we didn’t like that solution.  So finally, we decided that Mark would go alone.  We knew we were transferring two Elders, so I could not go alone.  

But we would get up early and try the Enterprise Rental Company that was less than a mile from our house and see if they had a bigger car with a bigger trunk that might work.  So, we were at the rental car company before they opened and after a few minutes the assistant manager walks into the lot to open up.  We told him our dilemma.  He said that actually someone had unexpectedly dropped a van off the night before and we could have it!  MIRACLE #1!  We’ll take it!  

He told us it was too dirty, and he would have to clean it first.  We told him that wouldn’t be necessary, but he said, “oh no! it is really trashed” (think of Jon and Michelle’s rental after their spring break last year).  We thought it would take too long to clean, but within 20 minutes, the car was washed, cleaned out and ready to go and we were on our way.   MIRACLE #2!    

Of course, we wrote a nice review and we took cupcakes the next day to Tim at Enterprise.  MIRACLE #3, customer service is not dead!

There are so many awesome older churches in Buffalo.
Historical Church
Screen shot of our BYU PathwayConnect Gathering - what an awesome program - check it out if you're trying to get back into college or if you've never been...it's a great start.
Elders McOmber & Nielsen saying goodby to their north side apartment. We found them an apartment closer to downtown Buffalo where most of the Swahili people that they work with are living.
What are the benefits of one-way streets? One-way streets can improve the flow of motor vehicle traffic throughout an urban area. We often see one-way streets used in denser urban areas where there isn't enough room to accommodate a major two-way street - that would describe Buffalo. The thing that puzzles me: if you look closely at the two one-way signs, one on the left and one on the right – they point in opposite directions. What if we sent this signal when we teach about the gospel...is there one-way to return to Heavenly Father or are there two opposite ways? The beauty of sharing the gospel is that we can show people the ONE true way, no confusion, no conflicting messages - just one straight and narrow way (path)!
I took my sweetheart out for a treat to this super chocolate and ice cream store.
Looks a lot like a 1950's ice cream shoppe.
King Condtrell's ice cream and candy shoppe.
Math Tutoring for members of the Swahili Community. We let them use our building for Saturday morning tutoring. Amos our Swahili Group Leader is teaching.
Placid is teaching this group.
Dan has been asked to monitor the front door and halls during the Math Tutoring. Our building is located in a challenging area and they don't leave the door open, so when we have an activity going on, someone has to be by the door to help people come into church.
Ney was recently baptized and is from Venezuela. He was helping clean the building.
Feeding the Spanish Elders. Elder Asay and Sylva. Elder Asay just got transferred to the Buffalo Ward, Spanish speaking - he doesn't speak Spanish, so he's in for a treat!
And who makes these yummy meals? Was there any doubt?
Kathleen (our granddaughter) was in her first play - Xanadu and made her decision to attend BYU got college.
Brandon (our Grandson) got his drivers license and made the Mountain View baseball team in Meridian.
Cody (our grandson) got braces and an expander and also figured out how to get his dog to snuggle.
Katie (our granddaughter) turns 16. Her aunt Michelle made her an awesome poster made out of pictures of Katie growing up.
Turning 16 means you get your driver's license!
Katie and her mom (Emily) celebrating her birthday.
Elder's McOmber & Nielsen came to the church during Math Tutoring to get with Kasimu who helps with the program. Unfortunately, he was sick and didn't come. Oh, the life of a missionary.
Unloading the truck from the Bishop's Store house that came from Palmyra.
Check in for Food Orders.
Food Orders are spread out for easy pick up.
Picking Food Orders up and getting photo bombed by Elder McOmber
Karen & Elder Sonnefeld stacking the bins the held the food orders.

After All We Can Do

Don’t Miss This – Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler had a great discussion on grace in their Come Follow Me Lesson for 2 Nephi 11-25. (If you haven’t listed to their video podcast, you are missing out.)

After quoting 2 Nephi 25:23 – After All We Can Do – they got into a great discussion about grace, which led them to read from Elder Uchtdorf’s April 2015 General Conference talk - The Gift of Grace.

Elder Uchtdorf:
The prophet Nephi made an important contribution to our understanding of God’s grace when he declared, “We labor diligently … to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase “after all we can do.” We must understand that “after” does not equal “because.”

We are not saved “because” of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?

I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin.  This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren to believe in Christ…

Emily & David continued:
What does it look like to believe then, because maybe that becomes the most important thing? Those moments when we feel undone, those moments when we feel not worthy, those moments when we’re just not enough for what is going on – those are the moments when we have to believe in Christ and in his promises and that he told us he would show up and he would bring an enabling strength that was going help us get through.

The discussion of grace is one of relief and one of strength and one of hope and renewal.

So, what does it look like to choose to believe? One of the best examples is in a story that was told about something that happened many years ago. There was a man named Charles Blondin that is such a good example of what Nephi was talking about.

Charles Blondin carry Harry Colcord on his back while crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

Here’s Blondin’s background:
Charles was a really good tightrope walker. He decided he was going to try and walk from Canada to the United States on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls. He stretched a rope 1100 feet across and 160 feet off the water. No one thought he would be able to make it – the rope would be wet from the mist and the wind gusted constantly.

On the morning of June 30, 1859, about 25,000 thrill-seekers arrived by train and steamer and dispersed on the American or Canadian side of the falls to watch Blondin fall to his death.

About a third of the way across, Blondin shocked the crowd by sitting down on his cable and calling for the Maid of the Mist, the famed tourist vessel, to anchor momentarily beneath him. He cast down a line and hauled up a bottle of wine. He drank and started off again, breaking into a run.

After 20 minutes of rest Blondin began the journey to the other side, this time with a Daguerreotype camera strapped to his back. He advanced 200 feet, affixed his balancing pole to the cable, untied his load, adjusted it in front of him and snapped a likeness of the crowd along the American side. Then he hoisted the camera back into place and continued on his way.

Blondin announced subsequent crossings, promising that each would be more daring than the last. On July 15, with President Millard Fillmore in attendance, Blondin walked backward to Canada and returned to the U.S. pushing a wheelbarrow. Two weeks later, he somersaulted and backflipped his way across, occasionally pausing to dangle from the cable by one hand.

Shortly after that he made another crossing, and, after a brief rest, appeared on the Canadian end of the cable with Harry Colcord (his business manager) clinging to his back. Blondin gave his manager the following instructions: Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do, we will both go to our death. Your job is just to cling to me with all of your might and mind.

Blondin carried a small stove and stopped and cooked an omelette while crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

By the time he gave his final performance, in 1896, it was estimated that Blondin had crossed Niagara Falls 300 times and walked more than 10,000 miles on his rope.

Emily Belle Freeman:
Every time that I read this story it reminds me of grace for this reason: Who did the work of the crossing? Who was in charge of saving Harry? Harry’s feet never even touched the tightrope, not once. It was Blondin who did all the work. He carried Harry all the way across the tightrope. He took Harry to a place he could not get to on his own. Harry was not capable of getting there on his own. It was Harry’s job to believe that Blondin could do it. And to cling to Blondin and balance and sway where he swayed with all of his might and mind.

That is what belief looks like. When you are talking about what it means to believe, it means to cling to someone with all of your might, mind and strength and know that they can get you to a place that you would never be able to get to on your own. That’s what Jesus promises – that he can do that. He promises us salvation. All He asks of us is to believe on His name.

Greek word for grace is Charis.

First part of the definition: Jesus will come touch your heart.
Second part of the definition: We will reflect that in our life. Once we have experienced His grace, that transforming power, that enabling power, that strengthening power; we are going to reflect that and it’s going to look like obedience and covenant keeping and serving others and the love that we manifest through keeping his commandments.

That’s what receiving grace looks like, it transforms us. It’s like Paul saying, once I was touched by that red-hot love, once I experienced that; Paul said, send me, I want to go. He wasn’t saying I will on a mission and earn salvation. But he was saying, once I felt salvation, then I wanted to go out and preach. Charity is a reflection of what we know about grace.

Harry had seen Blondin walk across the tightrope dozens of time, Harry trusted Blondin, he knew he could do it. Harry’s experience with Blondin in the past, led him to hold tighter.

So, what does it look like to believe? We might ask, what does it look like to hold tightly to Christ. It might be a daily devotional in the scriptures – that helps me cling to Him. It helps me know Him; it helps me feel closer to Him. It helps me balance. (Think tightrope)

You can see how this is such a difference: I don’t go to the Temple to earn grace; I go to the Temple to hold closer to Him. What kind of things do you do to pull yourself closer to the Savior?

The transforming power of grace is what happens in our ordinary everyday life. It’s those moments when you feel undone, it’s those moments when you feel unclean, it’s those moments when you are not enough for the situation you have gotten yourself into. Sometimes it’s when you are having an argument with a child or sometimes when you are trying to figure out something with your spouse or sometimes when you are extended a calling that you think you are not capable of doing.

That’s when we experience grace in our life because in those moments is when you will pray and say I need Christ’s grace right now in my life. I need it to transform me into the best mom I can be for this child in this moment, I need it to transform me into the best wife, into the best leader, into the best teacher. Christ has the ability to bring us enabling strength, to increase our capacity, to magnify us through His grace to become exactly who He needs us to be. Grace is what allows us to go through that process of becoming.

It is not receiving at the very end but living in it along the way. Even after any or all that we do, we are still saved by grace. Jesus Christ meets us where we are, as we are, but He doesn’t intend to leave us there, He plans to take us to places that we could never get to on our own

This is just a small part of the discussion for this week – check it out.

Amherst District Activity - Lunch at Applebees. Karen, Sisters Melton, Tolman & Joos & Elders Taylor & Schultz. We have been helping with their District because their Senior Couple went back home to Taiwan.
Amherst District - Happy Bowlers (Notice that I didn't say GOOD bowlers!)
The serious look.
A selfie of the whole bunch of us.
Transfer photos: Sister Black, Sisters Penrod & Potts, Sister Black & Sister Olesen.

Watch video of Elder Fretz being assigned to serve with Elder Miller. They were assigned to be a new companionship to serve in Buffalo with us. We now have 3 young missionary companionships, a Temple Senior Missionary Couple, a Church Service Missionary Couple and us!

Whetstones & Spears, New Missionaries, Luggage, "Old" Missionaries.
New missionaries are assigned companions, our AP's Elder Francis & Lunt, Sister Mayer (from our Buffalo District) was assigned to serve with Sister Potts in Massena, Sister Black and other Sisters
Sister Whetstone, Karen, Sister Penrod and her new companion

Another busy week in our NEW Paradise. Non-pictured activities:
• Missionary visits: Esterina
• Member visits: Lucy Berent, Suzette Bich, Irene Canaan, Mary Kenny & son Donny, JaniceLee Stebbins, Robert (Suzette Noble’s husband)
• Missionary Coordination Meeting
• BYU PathwayConnect Gatherings
• YWYM Rides: Eunice, Bahati, Seh, Elisha, Rama
• Rides to church
• Fed the Swahili Elders
• Fed the Spanish Elders
• Follow up call with Elder & Sister Purcell – Senior Missionary Couple assigned to Massena
• Moved furniture into Swahili Elder’s new apartment
• Yummy lunch with Brother & Sister Kay at their home
• Lesson with Amanda Weir and her 3 children – introduced new English Elders to her
• Meeting with Bishop Desrosiers & Elder Sonnefeld to coordinate activities and plans with Swahili Group