Not sure where to start…it’s been an incredible couple of days.
We had exchanges with the Assistants on Friday, Elder Young came to us and we had a blast. He’s got so much energy and optimism. I love it. He brought a car, which made us late to our own zone meeting. We had to get the Assistants somewhere, so we couldn’t make up for starting late so I didn’t speak (I suppose that’s what I get for getting carried away for 45 minutes last time during my workshop). Overall it was a decent meeting, and Elder Young had some much appreciated words for us during the exchange follow up and said that he sensed our zone trusted us. It truly has been such a blessing to have worked with a zone that stayed basically the same for a few transfers and seeing our growth together.
After that, we went straight into one of our District Leader exchanges. Elder Cottle went to Elder Harris and I took Elder Cahoun, who has been out 3 weeks. After exchanging, the second largest snow storm in NYC’s recorded history hit and over the next night and day it dumped 29 inches of snow. NYC completely shut down. At 12:30 our landlord called us and asked if we had heard the news. Of course we hadn’t. Missionaries don’t watch the news. She informed us that the buses had been commanded to stop running at noon, trains would shut down at 4:00, and anybody driving on the highways would be arrested. We informed the Zone, and then called the Asssitants, who also had no idea. Had our landlord not called, we may have had a lot of stranded city missionaries. As it was, our Spanish Elders only just caught the last M train going back to Knickerbocker.
During all this, Elder Cahoun and I had a great experience together. He is really struggling with the adjustment. He’s from a small, western town and, like me, has found it difficult to deal with the claustrophobia, noise, and people. He’s extremely shy and has been thrown in with a zone and a companion that really emphasize talking with everyone. It’s tough. And he and Elder Harris do not get along. Oh Elder Harris. I love him so much. Last time we were together, our pillow talk lasted three hours (oops). Elder Harris is my kind of guy, but very few people get along with him as a companion. He’s so ambitious and straight talking that most missionaries think working with him feels a bit like standing before the judgement bar, and he makes Elder Cahoun feel like a child. He has amazing leadership qualities, but has an inability to go to the level other missionaries are at in order to lift.
Poor Elder Cahoun. Poor Elder Harris. Makes me chuckle. I see myself in both of their shoes…
Anyways, after a good two hour discussion with Elder Cahoun, I discovered why God had me spend a week preparing myself for that workshop I never gave in zone training meeting. That exchange was such a blessing. Could not have asked for more, the right words just kept filling my mouth and the Lord touched Elder Calhoun’s heart.
As for our day, all our lessons cancelled, but we still taught as we grabbed our shovels and wacked through 2½ feet of snow digging out cars and walkways. It was amazing what a time of crisis like that did to the people of NY. They were different. They were kind. They actually accepted our help. It was just so different. It was the first time I experienced for myself a large scale disaster like we read about in the Book of Mormon softening the hearts of the people. This storm hurt NYC bad, and it hurt people. Yet, like all the acts of God, it was a blessing. Not in any temporal way, but in a remarkable miracle, NYC felt the Spirit. This storm instantly humbled an exceedingly arrogant and self-centered people. As the city was brought to its knees, I felt the collective faith and humility of the people to whom I am called to serve. I really did, it was tangible.
At about 8:40 pm, we spotted an older couple trying to carry suitcases and bags through the snow. We offered to help and learned that they had been stranded by the failing trains, and didn’t even know how to get home from where they were. We called Elder Harris and my companion – they were in the apartment so had the WIFI to give us directions. The luggage was heavy – and even after taking the load from them, they barely made the hour trek to their home wading through the snow.
We made it back to our apartment by 10:20, exhausted. It had been a day of trudging, shoveling, praying, shoveling, pushing, and teaching. It reminded me of a long day of snowmobiling. Poor Elder Cahoun just about collapsed on our front porch.
We obviously couldn’t exchange back, so we stayed together until Sunday. Church was cancelled. It was a blessed exchange.
Letter sent January 25th:
So today the city is back up and running fairly smoothly although a lot of buses are still down. Apparently, with nearly 29 inches of snow in a day, that was one tenth of an inch off from being the biggest snow storm in New York city's history!
Another interesting occurrence is that, for the first time in history, NYC reached out to the church and asked for help. In New York, you have to have the walkways on all your property cleared off within something like four hours after the last snowflake falls. So those who are incapable of doing so call the city in the event of a storm with more than six inches and the city has to find a way to take care of it. So they reached out to the North Mission and the South Mission, and the zone leaders are coordinating with the church public affairs
representatives to mobilize missionaries to respond to these calls. We will be doing this the whole winter.
This is fruit from many hours of community service over the years, including Hurricane Sandy, and is a huge step forward for public relations in a powerful state that is currently a big source of opposition to the church.
God works in mysterious ways, as they say! I love being a missionary and being able to see that at a very broad level and at a very personal level. My testimony is that God hears and answers every single sincere prayer we utter. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.