Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm Coming Home!

It is still surreal that it is near the end... yesterday we had my last fun day of actual proselyting, today is P-day, and I have 3 hours left of proselyting this evening.  The last thing I we have is an appointment with the Brittons.  Then tomorrow morning I need to be in Utica by 9:30 because the missionary I am getting a ride from is training.  Then we receive our final training from President Bulloch and the next day we have to be to the airport at 5 am, (then hours of flying, and I assume layovers)

This past week we picked up a new investigator named Nelson who is now living with some members.  He is a good guy, and is open to learning.  They will have a second meeting with him on Wednesday.

We also had a lesson with the Brittons and then had a church tour with them on Sunday (did not come to church).  They are so hesitant about it, and we are having a hard time getting members to work with us... :(

I have been reflecting on the past two years, and I hope I have changed!  lol.  I hear it is more noticeable once you get back, especially as you apply what you have learned.
I'm excited to be on the other-side of missionary work, and help out the missionaries from the member's side of things.

I am excited to see you all, and excited for what is ahead.  I know I have made many mistakes on my mission, but I hope what I have done is acceptable to the Lord.

I love you all, and I will see you (or a lot of you) Thursday night!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, May 28, 2012



This last week was good.  The family we are teaching is doing well.  They are beginning to make small changes in their lives to live in greater harmony with what they know to be true.

We also had a BBQ Monday we were invited to and got a sweet member referral what we will begin teaching hopefully this week.

Palmyra was amazing!  Monday night I picked up Elder Shrader in Herkimer and then got to the mission home around 9.  There are only 6 of of left in our group, and we were going to pick up one of them in the morning.  We got to bed then woke up at 4:45 in the morning, then got out the door around 6.

The weather was all over...

We got to Palmyra and went first to the temple.  It was crazy being there again.  We took some pictures, then went inside.  The weather was good.  We sat down in the baptistry and had a 45 minute Q&A with the temple president.  Talk about an amazing experience! Both mission and temple president later said that it was probably one of the best q&a's they have had.

We then went through an endowment session.  AMAZING!  It is literally one of the best feelings in the world (or I should say out of the world).  For the rest of the day, as we visited the other sites, we made reference to the covenants we make in the temple.

Afterwards, we had dinner with the temple president and his wife, who lives next door, because it was the Bullochs last trip.  As we said prayer a huge storm came in.  It did not last long and cleared up as we left.

Then we stopped by the Book of Mormon print shop.  Right when we stepped in the storm took off again, only this time with heavy winds.  It has not changed much since we last went.  But it was cool to listen and watch how the sisters taught as they gave the tour.  Different teaching techniques.  The weather calmed down as we were leaving the shop and bookstore. 

Then we went to Alvin's grave only for a few minutes (it was raining a bit then).  After that we stopped by Martin Whitmer's farm.  Then went to the Hill Cumorah.  We went down to the basement and had a sweet training from President Bulloch about Joseph Smith and Moroni and the training he went through, and how it applies to us.

Then we went up the the hill, took a few pictures, and ran to the grove... and the grove was closed!  (because of the storm they had it closed.)  So we had a prayer, took the tour of the log home and Alvin's home and the other buildings, hoping that it would open before we left.  President even called the other mission president to see if he could pull any strings.  But they made some arrangements while we were on tour and they let us in.  They soon after opened it again.

We had a chance to walk around by ourselves for an hour (no companion), and enjoy the grove.  It was such a powerful experience to be back and to think about what has changed since the first time.  There is a special spirit with both temples so close together, and being in both. 

Then we had McD's and went back to the Utica.  I left this morning, and got back for my last district meeting, and am now just getting back to Greenville.  Today we are going to help one of our new investigators we picked up this last week (Mary) in her yard.

All and all, it was a great trip.  For sure, it was a powerful experience.  This last week is going to be surreal and fast and crazy.  I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

The Home Bound Elders
The Sacred Grove

This is where Joseph Smith hid the Gold Plates for safekeeping.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Got a Date!


We have had two lessons this week with the Brittons, but they were a no show at church! :(  We NEED to get members at the lessons, but that has proven to be difficult for them.  Nevertheless, the lessons have been going good.  We set the husband with a date for baptism, but were not able to with the wife solely because she had to help the kids go to bed.  This week though...

I was hoping they would come, especially since I told them I was going to be speaking in Sacrament meeting.  The other speaker was a High Councilman, so I thought that was funny that I will be doing the same thing in about a month.  It was probably a good thing that they did not come to church though, because after 2nd hour, the branch president canceled the last hour because the sewage system was backed up, and apparently you can't have church without a working toilet?

On Saturday and Sunday the temperatures were in the 80's and it was super humid.  I definitely don't have the enthusiasm I once had two summers ago in Syracuse to ride hours on a bike up and down hills drenched in sweat.  On Saturday, we went to Coxsockie to only find everyone in town all downtown at a beer festival.  We didn't have too much success in town that night.  But we did meet a nice man who is helping keep his church up and running, who said to stop by sometime.

Tuesday we worked in Albany downtown, because Elder Bowles sprained his ankle, so he stayed in with Elder King as I went out with Elder Gasetoto.  It was fun to be in the capital.

We also did a lot of service.  We moved wood for a member.  We helped plant a garden for a less-active member, and we put up insulation for a non-member.  I love being able to help out with stuff like that (except breathing in fiberglass).

On Friday the first councilor's dog got into some rat poison, but they were able to get help, and the dog is now doing better.  Note to self: rat poison = bad stuff.


Elder Shurtz

PS: Next week is Memorial Day, and the library will be closed, then on Tuesday I go to the temple, so if I am able to email, it probably won't be until Wednesday.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Family Proclamation - Amazing!

Hello!  The weather here has been amazing!  This weekend it was in the 80's.

Tuesday we had zone conference!  It was amazing.  President gave some training that I remember from my first zone conference which I thought it was fitting seeing that this was my last.

We also visited the New York State Museum on Monday before a meeting that night.  It was amazing to see.  Lots of stuff.  And it was free!  I will include some pictures.

On Friday we had a good lesson with the Brittons (the family we have been teaching).  We went through the Plan of Salvation.  They loved it and asked about families, so we shared the Proclamation to the World.  We first asked if they had any questions, and the wife said that if they were going to join our church they would like to know more about it (SWEET).  Then We asked if there is anything that we can do for them, and the husband answered 'just keep coming back' (AWESOME).  They have 4 children, 1 over the age of 8 (she is a teenager) whom we have not met yet.

Sunday they did not come to church, however :(  They feel a little hesitant with 4 kids. 

Mothers day was awesome.  We had great dinners with members.  And of course, talking on the phone with family is always a treat!

Well, Love you all and hope you have a great one!

Monday, May 7, 2012

5 Hours of Biking, While Fasting = Not a Good Idea

Hello Family!

It has been a slow week all together.  But some good things are ahead, I believe.  This transfer we have set a mission goal to find 500 new investigators (about 2 per area).  We had a mission-wide fast this past weekend to help us reach our goal.

Yesterday we had an awesome lesson with a family we picked up last week.  They are planning on coming to church this Sunday!  It was a good lesson, where the spirit was felt and 'minds enlightened.'  We took our mission leader Bro. Kosorek.
We also talked to the branch about doing a fellowship activity, and on June 1st, we will be doing some form of a game night.  It will be a good experience for us all.

Friday I went on exchange in Albany with the Zone Leaders (one of those apartment buildings hold more people than we have in our entire area).  They live right above a member's dental office so it brought back memories as I smelt the area of a dental office.  It was fun being in a zone leader area again.  Many of the Zone Leaders liked the posters, so we are looking into making more of them.  We found a good deal with one printer in the Albany area.  We will see if the mission will be willing to fund it. 

We have also done a lot of biking (note: 5 hours of biking, while fasting = not a good idea).  We have 1200 miles, but it seems so little with a trip to Albany every week, and with everyone being so spread out.  We might be looking into moving so we can be closer to Coxsockie, which is the closest to a town I think we get.  The problem is, it is in the farthest east part of our area.

The branch president has given us some names of less-actives to try, but so far only a handful have been receptive.  (We already were given a list by the branch of members who will pull a gun out on us if we stop by).  I truly believe the most growth is going to happen if we can get into Coxsockie more often.

Ernie, who was the guy that was a little contentious with us at the door last Sunday, we went back and visited.  It wasn't a good time, but he had lots of questions, and even took a Book of Mormon this time!  It will be exciting to continue our visits with him.

Today we are headed to Albany for a district leader training, and interviews with president (and a temple recommend interview for me) then tomorrow we have zone conference!  It will be president's (and mine) last zone conference.  How sad!  I am excited to go to the temple while he is still here.  (I think we are going on the 29th of May).  I believe we are going to be the last group to go with him.

On Mother's Day I am planning on calling around 9pm our time (6pm back home).  We have horrible cell coverage in our area, so we are the only missionaries with a landline.  So I will call the house with the cell phone (because it is the only number I remember) and then you will have to call the landline with your cell phone.  (landline #: 518-966-4047)

I love you all, and hope you have an amazing week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, April 30, 2012

On the Move...Greenville, Here I Come!

Hello from the wonderful Greenville.  Yes, it is very green (and that's
what everyone says when I ask about the area).

So last Tuesday, while I was still in Elmira, we got some posters
printed off, and started hanging them up in Elmira.  Elder Duffin
showed them at ZLC meeting Friday, and I think all the zone leaders
took copies of them.  I do miss Elmira, it is a good area.  Wednesday
Elder Duffin and I traveled to Greene, where we met other
missionaries.  Elder Erdman (my replacement) went back with Elder
Duffin, and I went with Elder Robertson who was going home.  Talk
about a trunky car ride!

So Greeneville is my 7th area.  Elder King is my 14th companion.  The
longest area I have been in was Oneida for 22 weeks.  The shortest is
going to be Greenville, with Elmira and Saratoga Springs tying at 12
weeks.  Wednesday was also my 10th time going to Utica for transfers out
of my 16 transfers (a lot!).  I guess I was born to move around - a

Greenville is small (a phase I building).  It is smaller than Onieda's chapel. We have
about 20 active people.  I helped bless the sacrament, said the
closing prayer in sacrament meeting and priesthood, conducted music in
priesthood, was asked by the branch presidency to gave a member (that I
just met) a blessing, and I am sure I'm going to get a call this week
to give a talk.  Yep, it is surely a branch. :)

I'm trying to not let it out that I am gone in six weeks, but the past
elder let some people know, so I'm telling them to hush up.

They had zero investigators when I got here.  And looking at past
numbers, it has been a rough time finding and teaching not finding
more than one maybe every other week.  Luckily, the Lord has blessed
us with four new investigators since Wednesday, and we have been able
to sit down with the branch president and mission leader to start helping
with reactivation.

Yesterday we were out tracting, and we talked to a man who studied
religion for 12 years, preparing to become a minister, and concluded
that God was not there because he 'felt nothing'.  He was a little
contentious with raising his voice.  But, we felt the spirit to
testify and teach him (and I might have raised my voice too :).  As I
told him about the priesthood lost, then restored through Peter,
James, and John, he felt the spirit (he said 'something changed in
him').  We asked if we could come back, and he said we could.  It was
an amazing experience (and of course, it made us late for a dinner

Dinner appointments are scarce (might help me lose the 10 pounds I
gained).  And we do a bit of tracting (I'm trying my best to avoid
it).  I forgot what it is like serving with a missionary who is more
shy, quiet, and reserved than I am.  Elder King has been out 4
transfers.  So I need to learn how to hush up, and him to speak up!

All-in-all, it has been a good week.  It is stressful trying to learn
everything, and keep focused, and try to help both the area,
companion, and district, but I am at least glad we are working hard.

I love you all-
Elder Shurtz

Meacham Family


Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunburn, Snow and Surprise!

With getting a sunburn on Monday playing golf, to 4 inches of snow this morning, being hampered with a cold and a never ending cough, and bug bites, it has been a good week.  Then, to top it off, it is transfer week.  I thought I would be staying in Elmira for my last transfer, but NOPE!  I'm going to a small town called Greenville, which is just south of Albany. (not to get confused with Greene or Greenwich).

President called Friday night and we talked for about 20 minutes about some of the needs for the upcoming transfer.  He felt prompted to explore the idea of me being released as Zone Leader and see what I could do to spark Greenville my last transfer.  We even talked the next morning for about 10 minutes and he felt prompted it do it.  He has done a similar thing with past Zone Leaders, and it seems to really give the areas a boost.

I love being a Zone Leader, working with everyone, and especially ZLC.  But, this is going to be a great last transfer!  The district is going to be awesome (I was called to be the district leader).  It is going to be with The Albany Zone Leaders, Albany downtown elders, and Hudson Elders.  Elder Bowles was also released as a Zone Leader and is going to downtown Albany to serve with Elder Gnesatoto, who is from Samoa, and is the only missionary in the mission learning English as a second language.  My companion is going to be Elder King, who came out with Elder Simmonds (last Elder I trained in Carthage).

President Bulloch likes the posters we have made, and will even look into financing them if we need to.  I hope to get them going in Greenville.  With investigators in Elmira it has been going slow.  We had none at church yesterday. :(  but, Elder Duffin and Elder Erdman will whip the area into shape.

To answer Renae's question: Chocolate is an awesome black guy who converted to the gospel a few years ago.  He lives in the Ghetto of Elmira, but everyone knows him and that he is a Mormon, and they love him.  He is kind of the heart for all those who live in a bad situation.

We had an awesome lesson with the Meachams on Tuesday with our ward mission leader, Brother Scott.  We had the kids teach us the Plan of Salvation.  What a stellar family!  I am going to miss them!

We also went on an exchange in Trumansburg, which is mainly dirt roads (Greenville is smaller).  I worked with Elder Burton, who is a new missionary.  We had a good time, and got a lot of work done.  He was a little discouraged, but I hope he will continue to keep working.  He has a lot of potential.

Well, I better pack and get going.  Love you all, and hope you have a
great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, April 16, 2012

Time Flies When You are in the Service of the Lord!

Hello Family!

The weeks go by so fast!  Last Monday we started teaching a lady named Mary.
She is a home nurse who we met while she was on the job.  We came
back Monday night, and she let us right in and we taught her about the
Restoration.  She said 'I think I will just have to come and try it
out!'  She is going to try and come this Sunday.  It will be

We also stopped by Jen's house.  She is a lady who is going through some hard
times in her family.  She is Jewish, but never was sure what to believe in
life.  She knew a little about Jesus Christ.  We came back Thursday
and had a good lesson with her.  She really liked understanding what
the sacrament and baptism are all about; especially how it relates to
Jewish ceremonies in the Old Testament.

Tuesday we had a good lesson with Daniel, talking about the Plan of
Salvation.  He knows a lot about religion, thus he can get
confused with what everyone says.  But he likes the Book of Mormon,
and believes it is of God.  We also watched with him the "Prophet of
the Restoration" video, which he really liked.

After district meeting on Tuesday we went on a two night blitz with
Endicott and Binghamton elders.  It was a blast.  They have some good
things going on.  We went tracting Wednesday morning, and a lady answered
and let us right in.  She knew some Mormons in Utah, and she is
Catholic, but has a hard time with faith and some of the commandments.
 It was funny because she is a book editor, so we was correcting my
bad grammar the whole time we were talking ;).  She is going to let
them come back.

Friday we went to the Food Bank and did some service, packing over one
ton of donated candy from Valentine's Day and Easter.  It was CRAZY.  But
afterwards the Lions Club members invited us for lunch at
Friendlies.  It was a good lunch!  No one was too
interested in hearing the gospel, even though most of them knew some Mormons.

We also met with Chocolate's grandkids again, and we are hoping they
will be ready for baptism by next month.

Yesterday we had 3 investigators at church.  Awesome!  Then we also
had a lesson with Jim Mallory.  He heard that we don't drink or
smoke, so he doesn't like that too much, but we are still slowly
making progress with him.

Today we are going to go golfing!  It is going to be great!  I hope to
include pictures next time.

Also we are working on a poster for  I will send a copy,
even though we still haven't gotten approval yet. We don't know if it breaks any
copyright laws.  So don 't be sending it to people!

Love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, April 9, 2012

He is Risen!


Happy Easter!

It has been a good week.  A little cold and windy, but spring is for sure here. 

Tuesday we had President Bulloch give training on studying the scriptures.  It is amazing how much you can learn, especially with the aid of the Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, and other LDS resources!

We had Stake Correlation at President Beck's home.  I am still amazed at his leadership skills.  He goes forward with optimism, even when others are telling him "good luck!"  No wonder he is one of the main executives for Corning.

I also went on exchange with Elder Richins in Elmira.  He is a good missionary, who likes to have a good time while doing the work.  Wednesday morning, we helped a lady transplant some tulips (did not work too well).

Yesterday for Easter we went to the Rodriquez family for dinner.  It was good stuff!  We also had two investigators show up for church. YAY!

Sounds like Grandma's funural was great!  I'm excited to hear it.

Sorry it is so short!  Don't have too much time.  I love you all, and hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, April 2, 2012

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice!

Conference was amazing!  We had 3 non-members come and watch one session each.  It was a good experience for most.

Tuesday we went to Binghamton for District Meeting, then ran back to Elmira for another district meeting.  In both, we trained on how to use Preach My Gospel more effectively in our studies.  We also had a lesson with Mazie which went pretty well, we hope to be getting her to church within the next two weeks.

Wednesday we went to Ithaca to give our final district meeting training then I went on exchange with Elder Cutler in Ithaca.  He is a very smart Elder.  He will also be back at BYU this Fall.

Thursday we had a lot meetings and planning sessions, and good dinner (steak!), and a great lesson with some recent converts.  I was so tired by the end of it.

Friday we had a good lesson with Steve and Daniel.  We taught about the restoration.

In between conference sessions we worked on stake reports for a coordination meeting this Wednesday at the stake president's house.  We did not find too many people this week, but it is one of our goals for this coming week!

This morning Brother Cleary took us to Watkins Glenns.  Great scenery and waterfalls and rivers right at the bottom of one of the finger lakes.  What a great morning!

This week I have really been enjoying studying the last week (Passion Week) of the Savior.  It is amazing the things he taught, and the things he did.  I was watching the Lamb of God video and thought about what it would be like to sit on the hillside and listen to him teach.  I Love the Scriptures!

Love you all.  Tell the family I say hi.  I'm sorry I can't be there at Grandma's funeral.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, March 26, 2012

What's the Catch?

It has been a busy week, but yet I do not have too many stories to tell.  The weather has been wonderful until today when it dropped back down to the 30's.

Monday we started teaching a former investigator, Steve.

Tuesday we went on blitz with the Assistant to the Presidents after district meeting.  Elder Williams and I taught an awesome lady from Jamaica, Mazie.

We had a great lesson with a lady who has been investigating the church for the past 9 years, but has not been baptized because her husband won't let her.  She has read the Book of Mormon 3 times.  She has read the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants, and is now reading the Old Testament.  We had Brother Duke come with us from the bishopric, and he was able to introduce himself to the husband who was just getting in as we were leaving.

We also had a good talk with Jim, who we picked up last week.  He is a good guy.

Thursday we had a lesson with Yolanda on the Atonement.  You could tell she really felt the spirit there.

Friday got a phone call from a lady we gave our number to about Christmas time.  She needed some help with some yard work, and her health would not allow her do it.  So we went over and did some work for her.  We are going back next week as well.  It is interesting when she called, because she made sure to say she does not want 'any long sermons,' but when we went over we had a nice conversation about our beliefs with her.  She kept asking us 'whats the catch' no one just comes and does service for free.  She has seen a lot of hypocrisy in the past, and lots of fake people and churches, so that led her away from religion, but I think she is curious about ours.  It will be fun to see what happens there.

We also read Jacob 5-6 with Brother and Sister Cleary.  They loved the allegory of the olive tree (being the teachers they are).

Saturday we had 5 appointments lined up, and all of them fell through!  Frustrating day.  Sunday we had 2 investigators at church.

This morning, Brother Cleary (who is not a member) took us out to see some of the historical sites around town.  We went to the national cemetery, which is the only place in the northern states, where the south did not come remove their soldiers' bodies back south because they feel they were properly buried.  We also went to Mark Twain's grave.  Brother Cleary is a great guy.  He has learned a lot through his studies.  He has a hard time though with believing in Jesus Christ.  But both Elder Duffin and I love to talk with him, and the ward members love him as well.

This week will be busy, and I am so excited for General Confrence.  Tomorrow we have two district meetings to train in.  Then on Wednesday we have one more.  Then after that, we are going on exchange. WOOT!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, March 19, 2012

Men in Black

It has been a good week.  The weather has been in the 60-70's about all week!  It has even hit 80!  This week, I hear, is supposed to do the same.

Monday we went to dinner with Bro Meacham (the girls were sick, Sister Meacham stayed home with them).  Tuesday we picked up a new investigator, Jim.  He is an awesome older gentleman.  Humble, and kind.  We are seeing him again on Wednesday.

Thursday we taught Brother Chocolate's grandkids again.  They have a hard time staying focused, but they do know a lot.

Thursday night we drove up to Auburn and spent the night with them.  Because they were in a threesome it made it 5 elders in the apartment.  We had to get up at 5:20 so we could all shower and get to Utica on time at 9 am for Zone Leader Conference.

ZLC was great!  President is feeling his time is short, and has a lot to share.  It is amazing to listen to Him teach from the scriptures, and to feel the spirit radiate from him.  I know President Bulloch is one of the reasons why I came to this mission.

After ZLC we stopped in Ithaca for the night, because we had an interview to do there on Saturday morning.  We went tracting since the other elders were in a lesson.  Apparently we scared a little girl who does not answer the door very often.  She was so frightened that she called the police!  As we were at the church the next day, the mother called to see if it was us (I left a card at the door).  Luckily the mother was very nice about it.  Her daughter described us as guys with trench coats on.  What a frightful imagination she has to assume we meant her harm!

Saturday we had an awesome lesson with Sister Cleary and her non-member husband on Jabob 1-4.  They both really liked it, and was probably one of the best lessons we have had with Brother Cleary.  Sister Cleary is a great lady, and Brother Cleary is easy to talk to.

Yesterday was Stake Conference.  It was probably one of the best ones I have been to!  Both President and Sister Bulloch spoke (probably since it was the last stake conference before they go home).  The whole stake conference was on 'let your light shine forth.'
We did not have any investigators come though.  grrrrrr...

Well, I love you all and hope you have a great week!  Tomorrow we go on a blitz with the APs and we need to get next week's training ready for when we go visit all the districts.  I'm going to enjoy the weather!

Elder Shurtz

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Birthday and a Baptism

It has been a busy one!
Monday we went to the Corning Museum of Glass.  It was awesome.  We saw somebody make a glass plate straight from the melting pot.

I then brought Elder Tollefson back to Elmira to work with me.  This is his first transfer, and he is an amazing missionary.  He will do a lot.  After district meeting I then worked with Elder Wilkins who is working in Owego.  He is enthused about the gospel, and is very polite.  He is going to be training this next transfer (Transfer day is on Wednesday.)

Elder Duffin and I then had fun working together again on Wednesday evening, visiting the Meachams, finalizing plans for the baptism.  They shared a story with us on how they realized one of the families who use to babysit for them were Mormons, and they did not find out till this past week.  It is fun to see them recognize how the Lord has been preparing them for their baptism.

Thursday morning I went to Ithaca to work with Elder Stratton. We had fun.  We taught a lady from China who is going to Ithaca for college.  We focused on recognizing the spirit, since she has never had a religion in her life before.  I hope to see her progress.  We had the lesson with the Branch President and his wife in Ithaca.  It just so happens to be Heather Merrill's in-laws.  So that was a nice surprise.

Friday, we made cookies for an investigator they have been having a hard time getting into, and we got in!  Had a small lesson, then went our way to meet up with the other missionaries at the church.  Elder Duffin and I had a second transfer training for Sister Smith, one of the sister missionaries in Ithaca.  The sisters always have a great spirit [they even made me a cake for my birthday!].  Then we met up with the Elders and went got some wings. YUMMM!  Elder Duffin and I then went home, did some weekly planning, and then worked the rest of the day (lunch was too much for us to eat any dinner).

Saturday was awesome!  The baptism was great!  Well attended.  Besides the little boy hitting his head on the pew, and bleeding quite a bit, it went well.  (He is fine now).  The stake president give a talk on baptism, and his niece did a wonderful musical number.  Then Elder Duffin and I were given the privilege of baptizing them.  Elder Duffin baptized Brother Meacham and Grace (9), while I baptized Sister Meacham and Georgia (11).  The spirit was strong.

That night Elder Duffin took me out to Chili's, in celebration of my birthday.  Just by chance, our ward mission leader was their with his family, and bought us dessert.  (Such a good guy).

We also had transfer calls Saturday night!  Elder Duffin and I are staying together.  Both of my sons (elders I trained), Elder Simmonds, and Elder Hall are going to be training this transfer.

Sunday the Meachams were confirmed.  They are glowing.  Tonight, we have dinner with them.

We also stopped by a less-active member who lives in the middle of nowhere.  At first he was very friendly, but then he went into a rampage of why the church is not true, and all this anti-stuff.  It is scary how dark someone can get when they once had so much light.

This week we are excited for Zone Leader Council!  I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Shurtz


Monday, March 5, 2012

Marching On!

Hello Family!

Can you believe it is already March?  The weather has been off and on all week (nothing new there), but it is way better than last year!

Tuesday at district meeting we had a lady who does the addiction recovery program come and share with us the program, so we could figure out how to best help investigators who are struggling.  One thing she mentioned, which is sad, that most people who are in the program had some sort of sexual abuse in their life which attributed a lot to their addictions.  Smoking seems to be one of the hardest things for people to quit here in New York.

We had an investigator last week drop us, after coming to church a few times, receiving awesome lessons, and reading from the Book of Mormon.  We feel she was anti-ed, but she is ignoring us, and wont even come to the door when we try her house.  It is sad when that happens.  But, Saturday we found some awesome potentials we are excited to start teaching.

Wednesday we taught mutual.  I forgot how difficult it is to keep youth involved and attentive!  I know I do not want to be a teacher when I grow up!  But, Thursday we had dinner with the Stake President, then had our Stake Missionary Coordination Meeting.  His son goes to a Catholic high school, and said one of his friends is seriously interested in learning more.  The friend came to church with him this last week.  He lives in another area, so we wont be teaching him, but he is an awesome kid.

We also started doing service at a food bank this last week.  Mainly we are filtering and sorting food that is donated, and then the food goes out to the different food pantries in the area.  It looks like it is going to be a good opportunity to talk to some good people.

Friday afternoon I went to my first Catholic mass.  This guy we do service with at the food pantry, invited us, so we accepted. (We have given him a Book of Mormon, and he said he would read it the week earlier.) An experience for sure, but it has made me ever more grateful for the restored gospel.  It was just so obvious how much was lost, distorted, and confused through the ages and how much did have to be restored from on high.

Saturday we went back to the Stake President's house for a birthday party Luau for their niece who was turning 16.  They had some non-member friends there and it was a great opportunity to get to know some of them.  They actually cooked a whole pig for it!  (Poor Wilbur.)

Yesterday we had 7 investigators at church!  It was exciting to see them all get there.  One family, Lasean and James, are going through a hard time, but they still came to church, which was awesome!

This week we have 3 exchanges we are going on.  CRAZY!  This afternoon we are headed to Corning, to check out the Museum of Glass (3rd most visited spot in New York.  Niagara Falls, and Statue of Liberty are the others) On my birthday I will be working with Elder Stratton who was my companion on my last birthday.  Fun stuff!  I think we will be going to Wings over Ithaca (These are amazing wings!  They only have them in some areas like Syracuse, Saratoga, and Ithaca) for lunch to celebrate when we switch back.  We also have the sisters in Ithaca we need to do second transfer training with.

The Meachams are super excited for their baptism this Saturday!  It will be a great week!

Elder Shurtz

PS - I found this picture at one of the missionary apartments.  I don't think it is from our mission though.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Taking Upon Ourselves the Name of Christ

Fun week!  Some days we woke up with snow on the ground, but only to have it disappear before noon.

Tuesday we had Zone Conference. (AMAZING)  It is strange to think I only have one more Zone Conference in May.  President Bulloch is feeling kind of the same since he is going to be replaced at the beginning of July.

After Zone Conference, president had a chance to meet the Meacham family.  After they left, President said that he is impressed with them.  They are an awesome family!  They [the parents and the 2 eligible girls (they also have a 7 year old girl)] are going to be getting baptized on March 10th.  The ward is super excited.  So are we!

At Zone Conference we were given a card with our name on it that coordinates with TiWi (the black box they installed in our cars).  Now we log in with this card by holding the card to the box and then if we speed or don't have our seat belts on or 'drive aggressively' it creates a report on how safe of a driver we are.  It takes a little to get use to, having a box talk to you as you are driving.

We went on an exchange with the APs after Zone Conference.  Both Elder Christensen and Elder McCleve I have served with (MTC and 2nd companion), and was fun to work with them again. 

Yesterday we had a crazy (yet typical for New York) Sacrament Meeting.  We also got doubled stacked with dinners, and we were hurting as we were leaving.  The members sure love to feed us.

Lately I have been so grateful for the temple and the promises we make there.  There is so much power behind it.  I was reading in Mosiah 5 this week about taking upon ourselves the name of Christ.  It made me reflect upon how we do that at baptism, sacrament, but even more deeply in the temple.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day!

Happy Presidents Day!  I love having a Family History Center, and a key to get in!  It makes e-mailing a lot easier on holidays that fall on Monday.

We had a lesson with Debbie on Monday.  Talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Great lady.  Very easy going, and likes what she is learning.  We talked about baptism, and said that is something she wants to do.  We are looking at sometime in March or April.

Tuesday we had dinner and met with the Meachams.  Such a great family.  I hope to build a good relationship with them so I can keep in contact when I get transferred.

Tuesday night we drove to Endicott and worked with them for most of the day.  They just opened the area about a week ago.  I worked with the awesome Elder Bergman.  He was in my last district, two transfers ago.  It is fun to see the growth in missionaries that occurs in such little time.  We went to dinner that night at a china buffet.  It was soooo good!  I had lots of crab meat, and spicy chicken of various assortments.  My stomach was not too happy afterwards.

Then we drove to Greene to work with a new missionary, Elder Lewis, for his second transfer training.  Elder Lewis is a great missionary, who is learning a lot from his trainer, and is a hard worker.

We drove back Thursday afternoon, completely drained (how do APs and President and Sister Bulloch do it?)  It was nice to be back in our own area to work the rest of the night.

Friday we had dinner with an awesome couple who invited a recent convert and her non-member husband over for dinner.  It was such a positive experience, I don't think Elder Duffin and I had to say more than a few words.  We have awesome people in this ward!

Tomorrow is Zone Conference!  We are so stoked!  It is going to be on chapter 10 of PMG, and Elder Duffin and I are trying to get our training clear and precise.  We will be talking about listening and helping people resolve concerns.

Tonight we are going to have our interviews with President and the APs are coming to spend the night, then they will be working with us after Zone conference.  We just found out that Brother Joseph B. Wirthlin Jr. [Son of the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] and his wife Kathy W. Wirthlin have been called to serve as the President of the New York Utica Mission beginning July 1, 2012.  It will happen a few weeks after I go home, which makes my group the last one president sends home.

Time goes by fast!  Hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Busy Week...

It is  sometimes hard to remember all that has happened during the week.
Tuesday we went to Binghamton for district meeting, and presented our training there.  We talked about teaching principles and applying that teaching commandments and helping people keep commitments.  We also had another lesson with Yolanda.  The house was busy busy busy, with many grand kids around.  We weren't able to teach very well, but she had a lot of questions we helped her out with.  We also met with the awesome Meacham family.  The parents are getting ready to be baptized in March.  They are the 'golden' family, with three little girls (2 baptismal age), and they have been enjoying church for a few months now.  They are such an awesome family.

Wednesday we went to the Ithica district meeting, and taught the same stuff.  We ran out of time, so it wasn't as great.  We also found out that president is splitting that district, and now we are covering three districts.  Elder Becerrill (who is training a 2nd missionary in a row) was called to be the new DL.  He is a smart, hard worker, and will do good as a district leader.

Thursday we taught a sweet investigator named Debbie, who came to church for the 2nd time yesterday.  She has questions (good thing), and the ward is doing a great job in making her feel welcome.

Saturday morning we helped this non-denominational church clean up and setup their pews after they have done some extensive repair to the old church building.  We met them as we were meeting up with a potential.  We saw they were doing some work, and offered to come back and help out.  And after some persistence, they told us to come back Saturday.  It was an awesome service opportunity.  They offered to help with anything our church needed help with.  So we might be working with the ward to come up with a service activity we could invite that congregation to.

We also got 3 new tires for the van, two were balding and one had a screw in it, that made a slow leak, and it was too close to the rim of the tire for them to fix.

Church was awesome.  It was nice to be in a Ward Council with an agenda, and looking back at the last minutes and following up with assignments.  Especially after the World Wide Leadership Training broadcast, it was a very effective meeting.  As my last ward was very army oriented, this ward is very business oriented.  Church was great with Debbie and the Meachams there.

A member of the high council who is preparing a talk on temples, showed us a book that he said is the only other required read (besides the scriptures and temple handbooks) for temple presidents.  It is Temple Worship by Andrew C Skinner.  That is a book I want to get when I get back home.  Some good insights in there.

This next week is going to be busy.  With getting things started for a baptism, going on two blitzes with Elders Endicott and Greene, doing an interview for baptism in Ithica, plus getting our training ready for Zone Conference the following week (on the 21st).  I love staying busy.

I love you all, and hope you have a great week.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, February 6, 2012


It has been crazy!  My suitcase and stuff are still sprawled all over the floor!

Wednesday I was picked up by Elder Nielson who was a past District Leader and was heading home.  Elder Buttler (another Zone Leader) worked with Elder Simmonds for the day.  Transfers were crazy.  We had a dozen new missionaries last transfer, and another dozen this transfer.  There wasn't even enough pizza to go around!  I was handed the keys to our 2010 Dodge Caravan (not my favorite year on mini-vans :), and drove to Ithica with Elder Cutler and Elder Gamble (both in my zone [Owego Zone]).  Then, I met Elder Duffin, and we drove to Elmira.  Elder Duffin is from Idaho.  He is actually a few transfers younger than me.  He loves football, basketball, and golf.  Tall (Katie!).  Great guy.

Thursday we tried to contact a few people, but spent a lot of time planning and preparing for the transfer.  That night we had dinner at a member's home, then drove to Auburn [Syracuse Zone Leaders] to spend the night (1.5 hr drive).  Then early Friday morning we headed to Utica for Zone Leader Council.  ZLC was amazing!  We have 10 zone leaders, so it was us and President and the Assistants to the President.  We talked about some of the challenges of the mission, what we want to train on for District Meetings and Zone Conference.  It was sweet to be in council with some awesome missionaries and president, working together to and receiving revelation on the correct path we should take.  Zone Leader Conference lasted from 9am to about 4pm.  At 5 pm we sat with the president in his office for a stake correlation meeting via phone conference.  The stake president and other leaders here are amazing!  Many are very successful business men, and know how to get things done in a timely fashion.  The ward is super missionary minded, and awesome at fellowshipping.

We are teaching an awesome family who are close to setting a baptismal date.  If you didn't know they were not members, you would assume they have been life-time!  Sweet family, with 3 kids.

Saturday we picked up a former investigator (Yolonda).  A great lady, who tries to do what is right.  We will be seeing her again on Tuesday.

We are also teaching some other people, but have not yet met them.

Today we have a huge to-do list (last of all is unpacking).  I'm going to get some more white shirts.  We have the nicest lady in the ward who washes and irons a few white shirts for us every week.  Yesterday she told me mine were brown not white :(.  lol.

Tomorrow and Wednesday we have to travel to our two districts (Owego East and West districts) to give training.  With the two districts, we have 4 areas each (8 in total, excluding us) and 20 missionaries (including us and senior couple in Ithica).

I think we have an exchange, training, blitz, zone conference, or something planned every week of the transfer.  Lots of time traveling (1800 miles or so a month).

I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February, Already?

We have not met with the Mennonites since our first meeting.  Maybe this week.  We are taking a break from Luke since his dad was not too happy about his baptism, and the family who is fellowshipping him will probably move in a few months.

Last Monday, President gave me a call.  Apparently there are 2 kids (over the age of 8) who want to be baptized in the Lowville area (which was closed this transfer) and 2-3 others who are 8 years old getting ready for baptism.  This Friday we will go down and meet with everyone, and see if we will work with them to help them get baptized.

Tuesday at district meeting I trained on using our time wisely.  It felt like there was a lot of silence, but it was a good discussion over all.  We also went tracting (in the middle of nowhere, on a street called Mylady Rd (Not to get confused with the adjacent street Milady Rd) and found an Emu!

Wednesday we had a lesson with Katrina (10 year old, with a date for the 18th).  It is going well.  We also met with them after church on Sunday.  She is a good reader, and can remember quite a bit.  The father is getting ready to baptize her.  YAY!

Thursday we picked up an old investigator named, Jack.  He is an older gentleman, who loves to think things through and figure it out.  We got him to pray for the first time with missionaries and read from the Book of Mormon.  We are excited to see him progress.

Saturday we saw Ginger and her family.  It is really hard for them to come to church because they work night shifts.  But they are coming along.  We took Timothy with us.  He did a great job in sharing his testimony.  I'm sad because his wife leaves tomorrow for basic training, and he leaves at the end of the week.  I saw him for the last time yesterday, and we both had to hold back tears.

Also something interesting that happened on Saturday, we had a lightning and thunder that shook the house as it was snowing!  The flash was super bright.  We were on base, and many of the army people freaked out a bit because it brought back memories of war. (Note to self: don't freak out army people!)

Our fifth Sunday Priesthood/Relief Society lesson was on the ward mission plan.  I think only a few people actually paid attention, and the rest fell asleep (I was leaning on the sleeping side).  Our ward mission leader is not a recruiting officer, that is for sure.  But hopefully as the leadership gets better, we will still be doing our job as missionaries.

Transfer calls were Saturday.  Elder Hale is coming up here to Carthage (it is his last transfer).  I am going down to Elmira (by the Pennsylvania border).  It is the farthest South I will have gone in the mission.  Syracuse was the 2nd farthest South, and it was in the central part of the mission.  I will be serving as a Zone Leader with Elder Duffin, who has been out one more transfer than I have (I have three left).

It will be sad leaving Carthage.  It is really a great area, with great people.

I love you all, and hope you have a great week!

Elder Shurtz

Brrrr!  It's cold in the sticks!

Emu!  How about you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mennonites Know Their Stuff!

Another Monday.  How fast the week goes!  Last Monday night we talked with three Mennonites at the church.  They know their scripture!  Answering several of their concerns, it turned out to be a good discussion,  with an emphasis on the importance of the Book of Mormon.  We had an appointment with them Saturday, but they canceled on us.  Hope to see them again this week.

Also went on a blitz with the Zone Leaders (both companionship working in the same area).  Elder Stanton (last companion) worked with Elder Simmonds, and I was with Elder Bowles.  I enjoyed learning and working with them.

Wednesday night we visited a less-active family and had a short lesson with them.  They said they would come to church, and they did! (except the mom - she was not feeling well).  That is always exciting.

We met with Luetta.  She had some questions about the temple, which is awesome.  We need to get a temple trip organized for the recent converts.  Lateasa has been having some great questions about it too, and is so excited.  She and some other recent converts are taking a how-to-teach-the-gospel course, and will be (hopefully) receiving a calling after that.
Saturday we had a lesson with an investigator, Carrie.  She has shown very little interest in the past, but is now a little more interested.  This Saturday we are going to have Timothy come with us.

We also taught a part-member family, specifically their 10 year-old daughter who wants to be baptized.  She has a date for February 18th.

Yesterday we met with Timothy and Michelle.  We talked about the Temple and how the home is the second most sacred place on earth, and how we have to make it that way (ways to invite the spirit, FHE, pray, scriptures, dinner, etc.).  It was awesome.  Michelle leaves on the 31st for basic training, and Timothy leaves on the 7th of February, for Fort Lee (Virginia).
We have a lot of new investigators we are working with, but it is hard to make and keep appointments with them.  But the weather has been good.  Today it is in the 30's.

Hope you all have a great week!

-Elder Shurtz

Monday, January 16, 2012


The long-dreaded Winter has finally struck Carthage, New York.  It had rained a day or two, but Friday morning we woke up to rain that turned into a huge snow storm.  We had to cancel an awesome day up in the northern towns and work in Carthage.  We couldn't see as we walked around all day, but it was relatively warm despite the wind creating snow drifts that went up to our waist.  But, we found a young family to teach.  The husband's father is a southern Methodist minister, but is open to what we have to share, and is looking for a church in Carthage.

The next day was freezing, and Sunday was even colder.  Our car almost did not start Sunday morning in the -14 degree weather, and our odometer took a bit of time to work.  Luckily we had a good day planned.

Tuesday we had President Bulloch present the training.  Everyone was at the Carthage building (except the president and his wife).  With five minutes to go, I get a phone call from him saying they were in Watertown!  So we packed up and drove to them (25 minutes away) and started the district meeting a little late.  The focus this transfer is planning goal setting.  He talked about all of it.  Good stuff, hope to get it all down before I die. 

Wednesday we taught Luke (11 year-old).  Then we went to his house to talk to his father about baptism.  Was not too willing to talk about steps Luke could do so he could be baptized.  He wants Luke to be perfect, because he wants to be baptized.  So we don't know what to do other than to keep teaching him.

Thursday we met with Luetta.  She is doing awesome! She has lots of questions about the temple, and is curious about it, so we need to get our recent converts to the temple!  But, it seems to be little effort from ward leaders to get it organized.

Saturday we met with Mackenzie (9 year-old).  She is doing good.  Just need to get the family to church!  The mother normally has to work on Sundays, but tomorrow might be getting a promotion that will allow her to make her own schedule.

We also saw Ginger and her family (Olivia, Cody, & Sidney).  We watched the Restoration DVD, which I think helped them understand and visualize it better, and answer some questions.  Two of them work night-shifts, but we hope they will come to church this Sunday.

We had no one show up for church yesterday :( second week in a row.  But, we had the recently called Gospel Principles teacher teach on Sunday.  She was a little nervous, but did a great job.  I think she connected well with the women in the room (way better than I could ever do!)

We just learned that in March tons of people in the army are leaving for a month of training in Louisiana.  The whole bishopric, and many other ward leaders (almost all the priesthood) will be gone.  Can you imagine that?

There are some good potential investigators we will be seeing this week that we hope to start teaching.  Tonight we meet with a guy named Nathaniel at the church.  Good inquisitive guy, who is remodeling his house and seems to be just a good person.  We met him on Christmas Eve.

Things keep on going.  I am thankful for the opportunity to work.  Have a great week!  Love you all!

Elder Shurtz

Monday, January 9, 2012

Enjoy the Time the Lord has Given Us!

It has been a good week.  With it reaching just below zero on Tuesday, the rest of the week has been fairly warm, with little snow, and a lot of green.

Wednesday we had a great training by the AP's on planning.  The Elders in Watertown said it has helped them change how they plan and set goals.  Tomorrow we have President Bulloch coming to our district meeting.

I also went on exchange with Elder Rymer in Watertown on Wednesday and Thursday morning.  We ended up helping this lady in her attic move everything out so they could spray insulation in the attic.  So, I was like dad in my suit moving stuff for a hour or two, half of it was squatting down so I don't stick myself with a nail sticking out of the low slanted ceiling.

Thursday I got back for a lesson with Lateasa.  She had some questions about Isaiah (who doesn't?) so we spent some time talking about that.  She is doing so well.  A great change has come over her!

Saturday we did our morning program at the church because the bishop asked us to fill up a font for a kid's baptism.  The mother went all out, and the food looked great!  I was drooling a little as we left before the baptism started, so we could get out and work.  We found 3 good potentials.  One just got back from Utah, and one of the first things she said as she opened to door 'they sent you didn't they!'  Apparently she was taking the lessons in Utah.  She said we could come back.  Then one of their neighbors was super friendly and said they would read the Book of Mormon.  We will check up on them in a few days.

Saturday night we met with Ginger and Olivia (found them last week) and started teaching two more family members in the household.  We set Ginger with a baptismal date for February.  Also, we might start teaching a ten year-old who wants to be baptized in February.

None of our investigators came to church yesterday :( but, we hope to have Ginger and a few others next Sunday.  Larena was in DC for training, and I'm not sure about Luke.  We also just got two Gospel Principle teachers!  That is going to be good.  Lateasa and some other recent converts are taking the Teacher Development class (I forgot what it is called).

Today it is nice and sunny with a few snow flakes.  I am not complaining.

Have a great week!  Enjoy the time the Lord has given us.

Elder Shurtz

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year!

We rang in the new year drinking sparkling cider as we planned for the following day, and going to bed at 10:30.  It was great!  :)

This week we found 6 new investigators through our tracting and contacting efforts.  It was a better week than I thought for the one right after the Christmas and before New Years.  One couple just had a their first baby a few days ago. 

Timothy gave the closing prayer for Sacrament yesterday!  Also, I hear we are finally getting a gospel principle teacher so we dont have to teach it anymore!  It will be good for people to listen to other people besides the missionaries in their home and at church.

We continue to meet with Luke.  His parents are not too ready to let him be baptized, but time should tell.  We talked about Captain Moroni and the title of Liberty.

We are still teaching Lorena and she is still working towards baptism. 

I cant believe I only have 5 months left.  It goes by fast!  I am excited for the good times ahead as we work here in Carthage.  It is amazing to see what the Lord has helped me do!

One theme for the new year I have been focusing on comes from Elder Holland talking about not living in the past, but to live for the future.  Don't vainly yearn for yester-years!

I love you all, hope you all have had a great few days in the year 2012!

Love, Elder Shurtz