Monday, August 30, 2010

E-mail from 8/30/10

Hey Everyone!
Hello from Phoenix Arizona! To clear up everyone's questions and concerns, yes, it's hot. It's so good to finally be in the field. On Tuesday the 24th, we were up at 3 am to get ready to leave. We had to be at our travel office in the MTC by 5. Woo! We were packed and lined up along the curb. A few busses came up, and we got all of our luggage packed into another truck. We loaded on our bus, and made it to the airport by about 6:30. We laughed because on the drive, we kept joking about how there was actually a world outside of the MTC. Who knew? We made it to the airport, got through security, said our goodbyes to the other elders in our district going to california, and headed to the gate. Since we had time before the flight, we all called families. I had a chance to talk to mom and dad before I flew, and I know they appreciated it. We boarded the flight and took off for Phoenix. We were pretty easy to spot, there were 18 missionaries on the flight. The flight was quick and smooth. At one point I think we flew over the Grand Canyon, but I'm not quite sure? Still, it was pretty cool to see from above. We eventually landed and got off the plane. We stuck out. Walking through the airport people were looking at us with puzzled looks on their faces. I think it was about that time when I realized that I wasn't in the MTC anymore. On the other side of security, President and Sister Beck greeted us with smiles and pictures all around! President and Sister Beck are amazing. They were so helpful in getting all of the new missionaries to where they needed to go.

Outside, a few Assistants to the President (AP's) had big vans waiting to take us to the mission home. The drive there was hilarious. We were all exhausted and barely talked. We asked Elder Bingham, our driver, about how often he drove the van. He said not very often, but he has a perfect driving record so we shouldn't worry. He couldn't even finish the sentence before a trooper's lights went on behind us to pull us over. The reason? We were doing 62 in a 65. Sounds kind of dumb to me, but it gets better! The proof of insurance card had expired. This didn't make our tropper friend very happy. He said that if we promised to get it fixed and never drive that way again, that he wouldn't write Elder Bingham a thousand dollar ticket. Oh boy did Elder Bingham promise! So when we showed up late to the mission home, we had a fun story to tell Sister Beck.

We spent a few hours at the mission home with orientation and whatnot. There was a big lunch of pulled pork sandwiches waiting for us, and plenty of Elders and Sisters to get to know. We had a few lessons about the mission and a spiritual thought here and there. Each new missionary had a welcome interview with President Beck. Like I said before, President Beck is a great man. He's very smart and very bold. One of the first things he told me was that by reading about some of the things I've done prior to the mission, he knows that I'm very able and capable of doing hard things. He has total confidence in me and the whole group of new missionaries. I love him. Sister Beck is a sweetheart. She made us a huge lunch, talked to us individually and took a bunch of pictures. Mom and dad you should be getting a picture of me, President and Sister Beck sometime.

After all of the interviews, we had about an hour or so to lounge around before the transfer meeting. Sister Beck encouraged that we nap, because it may be the last nap we have for two years. Elders Johnson, Bennett, Buttars and I found pillows and slept on the living room floor for about half an hour.

We were driven to the transfer building where I would meet my trainer and get my first area. All of the new Elders were taken into a room where all of the trainers greeted us. The assistants read off of a clipboard who would me training who. My first companion and trainer in the Arizona Phoenix Mission is.........ELDER ABEL. He's so cool! He's a little taller than I am, from Palm Desert California, and has been out in the field for about ten months. He and I get along great. He's very obedient and loves the work. That and he's a goof. We get along just perfect. In the chapel, all of the new missionaries and trainers introduced themselves. All of the other missionaries being transferred just sat in the congregation and waited for President Beck to announce their assignments. When the meeting was over, we packed up and headed to our apartment.

Elder Abel and I are in a city called Avondale. We serve in the Garden Lakes and Villa de Paz wards in the West Maricopa Stake! He and I are on bikes, but the other Elders in our apartment have a car. It's SO HOT riding bikes, but as long as the Camelbacks are full of water we're good to go. We get right to work. We knock doors, talk to everyone, visit investigators and work til we drop. Every night I come home exhausted, sweaty and happy knowing I worked hard. I say this a lot but it's so hot. I carry a washcloth in my backpack pocket just to wipe the sweat off my head and neck while we're tracting. When we come back to the apartment I swear I could wring out my shirt of all the sweat. It took me all of about a day to realize that it's impossible to avoid, so I just embrace it.

I had a few requests if that's ok? Would it be possible to get a jar of grandma's pear jam and maybe some strawberry jam too? Elder Nuttall, an Elder in my apartment, got a jar of homemade jam in a package and we're all trying to sneak some when he's not looking. Also, send letters! I really want to hear how people are doing! The address in the mission home in Glendale, and it's all forwarded. 18001 N. 79th Ave Ste C50, that address. It should still be on faceook I think. But yes, I really really want to hear from family and friends!

We've been working really hard. Already have had dozens of people yell at me with the occasional finger of the middle type being raised in my general direction. And yet I smile and wave back, wishing them a good day. Strange, huh? I love it here. Elder Abel and I have so much fun with the work. As for individuals, we're working with a man named Robert. He's maybe in his mid 20's and in the military. Both of his parents recently passed away and he's looking for some answers. I have faith in him. We're meeting with him again on Wednesday.

I love it here. It's hot, hard work but I love it. I hope everyone is doing well at home. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. As I've said before, I'm in good hands. I hope to hear from you all!

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

E-mail from 8/23/2010

Hey all!
Today's my last day in the MTC! I leave tomorrow morning at 5 am for the airport, and our flgiht is at 8:30 for Phoenix. I'm so excited. I love this place but I'm so eager to get to Arizona and get to work. This past week has been pretty good. Lots of people are getting sick which isn't all that good. I've been sniffly, sneezy and had kind of a sore throat the past few days but it's been getting better with the help of medicine, good food and sleep. It's been a week of lasts. We had our last gym on friday where we played volleyball as a district, our last sacrament meeting and today is my last Pday in the MTC. I've really enjoyed my district and zone here. Every week we get new Elders. It's funny ebcause even though I've only been here two weeks longer than them, they look at me and my companion like we're the most experienced Elders in the world. I laugh because I thought the same thing about the Elders who were here when I arrived. I had the opportunity to host the new missionaries this past week. On Wednesday, I stood out on the curb just like when I was dropped off. Families pulled up, luggage unloaded and lots of tears. It reminded me a lot of when I was dropped at the curb. Many of the new missionaries were excited to be here, as was I at the time. It was pretty cool to see the fire in those missionaries' eyes.
Thank you mom, dad and sis for the DearElders. Mom, I took care of your favor. My thoughts and prayers are with our dear friends. Give them a big hug for me. Marlee I want to tell everyone something you told me in your letter. You had said that your friends thought being a misisonary was "macho" and I couldn't agree more. I hate to boast, but being a missionary is quite possibly the manliest thing I could be doing right now. If you don't believe me, look in Doctrine and Covenants 35:13-14. Look it up now. Trust me, it's cool. Mom and dad, thanks for the calling card and I hope you'll be up bright and early tomorrow morning. We've been told that there is no rule about whether or not we can call our families in the airport (HINT HINT!!!!). I'll just say that my flight is at 7:30 Washington time, and I should be arriving at the airport at about 6 am (still Washington time). I'll do the best I can to stop and call.
I had another experience this week that I would like to share. Elder Langi, who is in the district below mine, walked out of the classroom building one night before daily planning. We followed him for a ways and he just broke down. Elder Buttars and I had no idea what was going on, but we just kept staying by his side. By the time his companion and two other Elders caught up, we were sitting at a table outside of one of the buildings. He kept crying. It was so hard to watch this wonderful Elder break down like he was. We asked if he would like a blessing, and he barely squeeked out a yes. We found an empty classroom, and he asked if I would do it. I still had no idea what the problem was. I felt impressed to bless him with the comfort and knowledge that his family loves and supports him and that they will be blessed and cared for while he was away. Immediately after I said this the tears continued even more than before, and I feel like I knew why he was hurting. After the blessing was given, another companionship pulled me aside and told me that he hadn't heard from his family at all in the week that he had been in the MTC. As we left, I kept a constant prayer in my heart for this Elder. Ok, now fast forward about half an hour or so. I'm back in my dorm and my door is open. I saw someone walk by. It was Brother Adams, the first counselor in our branch presidency. I ran out in the hall and he greeted me with a smile. I asked what was going on, and he simply said that he was checking up on the Elders in the zone. I told him about the situation with Elder Langi. His eyes filled with tears and he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Well I'm glad that I chose to come by tonight. Thank you, Elder." He went into Elder Langi's room and spoke with him for a few minutes. He came outside, told us all goodnight, gave us a hug and told us to keep up the good work. The next morning Elder Langi chose to fast. He still seemed a bit down, which I completely understood. We invited him to join us in volleyball during gym. He said thanks but he'd rather not. By the time we got startedwith the game, we saw him join us. We could tell he had a good time. It got better. That afternoon, he got a package. It was from his family and there were tons of letters included in it. This all happened just a day or two after my last email a week ago. Since then he's been totally happy. He's been like an older brother to the new Elders and I'm so happy to see it. I know that our Father in Heaven is always mindful of his children and will always provide a way for them to be comforted in their time of need.
I love you all and the next time you'll hear from me, I'll be in sunny Phoenix Arizona!
Until then,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, August 16, 2010

Email from Elder Turner 8/16/10

Hello everyone!
First of all I need to say that the other day we got our travel plans for leaving to Phoenix! We leave next Tuesday, the 24th, and 8:33 am. As excited as I am to get out into the field, we haev to be at our travel office by 5 am. I can't wait though! I've been taking lots of pictures. I'm going to print some out and put in my little photo album and I'll send my memory card home just before I leave the MTC. 
Things are going great in the MTC. Dad I have been getting all of the letters and they are so so great to read. It's a really helpful program, Elders get the letters the day they are typed. The other day Elder Buttars got 10 DearElders. Crazy. 
We've been studying a lot, go figure, and I'm learning so much. Last week Elder Buttars and I did what are called Teaching Appointments, or TA's. We prepare a 45 minute lesson and teach a volunteer pretending to be an investigator. Our first TA with an elderly woman named June went so well. We knew she was already a member, but she played the part of an investigator pretty good. Our second one on Friday was with a man named James. It went ok, not as good as we were hoping. The only thing we struggled with was just putting everything into words, we were a little tongue-tied. On Saturday when we went into our evening class with Brother Thacker, anotherteacher ran into our room saying that they needed another district ASAP for TAs because they had too many volunteers. On the spot, Elder Buttars and I taught the Restoration. It was as close to a real-life teaching appointment as it gets. It was as if we were out in the field and had knocked on this man's door. I'm pretty proud of Elder Buttars, he was so nervous but we pulled it off.
Every Sunday afternoon the missionaries are allowed to walk on the temple grounds, take pictures and see other missionaries. That's when I see so many friends of mine. Yesterday I saw Travis Tingey, a friend who went to Kamiakin. Last week I got a picture with Elder Brown, the Sintay's nephew. We met at BYU and were actually on the same flight home for Christmas break last December. Monday morning for PDay we actually go inside to the temple. I really enjoy that. Sitting with the other missionaries brings in a peace that I can't quite describe.
Last Wednesday we got new Elders! We weren't the youngins anymore! And this Wednesday we get even more. It seems like yesterday that we were the ones wandering around the campus without a clue as to where we had to go. All of the older Elders in our zone are leaving. I've become really good friends with Elder Cathcart, who's actually from Arizona! He says he lives just few minutes from the mission home in Glendale. He says President Beck is an incredible man. I can't wait to meet him. He says that Sister Beck will be your mom away from home, that when she tells you to do something, YOU DO IT. Sounds like a mom to me! I can't wait to meet them. My branch president, President Myers, says that I will come to love the realtionship that I develop with my mission president.
This week I've been doing the best I could to make sure that everyone was doing ok. My biggest concern was mail. Not everyone was getting mail, and it was pretty obvious how these particular missionaries felt. One of them was a sister in my district. Her companion gets tons of mail, but she hadn't had one in the week and a half we'd been here. I took my companion and went to the bookstore. We bought eight candy bars, two for each of the sisters, and put them on the sisters' desks when they were out of the room, saying that they were form all of the elders and that we really loved and appreciated the work they were doing. All of these sisters took this very well. the next day as I was handing out mail, this particular sister once again did not have anything for her. As I handed the last letter to her companion, she kind of hung her head and reached into her backpack. She pulled out one of the candy bars, broke off a piece and ate it. It both broke and warmed my heart at the same time. I kept praying for opportunities to serve her and make her feel loved. The next day, she got a letter. And another the next. She was so happy, and I was happy to see her happy. I told this story to one of the members of my branch presidency, and he said that he appreciated me and how hard I was trying to follow the example of the Savior. 
I love this place. I find myself singing more frequently. I may have said that before, but it's true. The Spirit is much stronger when we sing. Every night before bed, the Elders in my district get together in one of our rooms, sing, and kneel in prayer together. In our District Meeting yesterday I taught a lesson about charity and Christlike love. We finished the lesson by singing all 7 verses of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." Needless to say, the Spirit of the lesson remained in our minds and hearts for the rest of the day.
 I love you all and thank you for your love, prayers and support. Please continue to send letters, I love hearing about how all of you are doing. Mom, I miss your cooking. I'm expecting a small book of your recipes  :)
Much love,
Elder Turner

Monday, August 9, 2010

Email from Elder Turner 8/9/10

Hey everyone!

Before I get started, I apologize for any mistakes in the email. There's a very ominous red timer in the corner of my screen, and I only have half an hour to send my email.

The MTC is amazing. From the very start I knew that I was in the right place. After I was dropped off, I was shown into a large room where I was given an envelope with all of my info in it, including two name badges. I was taken to the bookstore where I was given the books, pamphlets and everything else I was needed. I went to my room, dropped off my stuff and went to my classroom where I met my first companion: Elder Buttars.

Elder Buttars is the best. From the start he and I totally clicked. He's from Logan, UT, and did a year at Utah State before reporting. He's going to Phoenix too and hopefully he and I will get to see each other in the field. Our classroom is like "Base." Our district meets there every time we have class. There are eight Elders and four Sisters in our district. Four Elders are all going to Phoenix (Buttars, Johnson, Bennett and myself) and we room together in the dorms. The other four Elders (Zarate, Hart, Owens and La' Follette) are going to Carlsbad California. Three Sisters (Decker, Ashby and Thurston) are going to LA, and will be at the visitors center there. The last Sister, Sister Lyman, is going to Cleveland and will be at the Kirtland visitors center. Small world, Sister Lyman was actually my TA for my Book of Mormon class my first semester at BYU! Our district is the only one in our zone to have Sisters, and they're pretty awesome.

After our first day as a district, we met with our Branch Presidency, particularly President Myers. We were all interviewed and given callings. Only two days into the mission and I've been called as District Leader. It's a lot like the time I was called as Elders Quorum President. I had only been and Elder for a week and was extended the call. Now I've only been a full time missionary for four days and was called as a District Leader. I enjoy it a lot. Some things I do include leading district meetings, conducting class, getting mail and general leadership. Thankfully Elders Vogt and Cathcart, the other DL's in the zone, have a few more weeks experience than I do and help me a lot. Our zone leaders are Elders Simpson and Eddington, both going to Cape Town, South Afirca. They are great leaders and I'm lucky to have them.

There are three districts in our zone. You'll never guess who is also in my zone...ELDER AVERY TAGG! (For my non-Richland friends, Avery and I grew up together and have know each other since we were little guys.) He came by to greet the new Elders and when we saw each other, joy ensued. It's so good to see him every day. He leaves either tomorrow or Wednesday for Canada, and he's excited. Halifax is lucky to have him. I've really enjoyed seeing the sea of white shirts, ties and nametags. I've also been really surprised to run into people from BYU. I see someone I know every day. I've seen Casey Hare a few times, Braden Nelson, Sam Swenson, the Johnson twins, Chris Holdaway, and the list goes on. I was happy that I got to see Jeffrey Young. I saw him at dinner on my first night. The next day he left for the Dominican Republic. He's excited to go and I'm excited for him.

The days here are so busy, and I love every minute of it. I'm more tired than I've ever been, but I always remember that I've been called to serve with all of "my heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2) and that makes it so much better. I'm always doing something, which is great. Every day I'm up at 6:30 am, and hop in line for the showers. I've yet to have a hot shower since I've been here because all of the hot water is gone by the time I get in line. Needless to say my showers are kept short so I can get right to work! We hve breakfast, and then we head to class. Classes are with either Brother Losee or Brother Thacker, both wonderful teachers. We focus a lot on getting to know individuals and building lessons tailored around their needs. We have many opportunities to practice teaching and I love it. It's very difficult but it's necessary experience. One day, Elder Buttars and I taught Sister Smith, a teacher down the hall pretending to be an investigator. Our lesson was on the Plan of Salvation, and we ended up getting kind of twist-turned around in the lesson at times. At the end, she asked about her family, what would happen to them. Elder Buttars and I kind of looked at each other, smiled, and bore powerful testimonies that families can be together forever. The Spirit was so strong in the room, and we left with smiles on our faces. It's not about how well you speak, your profound knowledge of doctrine or whatever else. The key to teaching is inviting the Spirit to bear witness to the person being taught that what we are presenting is true. I'm really learning to follow the promptings of the Spirit and I absolutely love it.

Last night was had a fireside with a member of the MTC District presidency speaking. The prelude was actually the missionaries singing. We sang "Onward Christian Soldiers," which was very powerful. The actual hymns we sang during the fireside were total power hymns: "We'll Bring the World His Truth" and "Hope of Israel." When the closing hymn ended, I heard one Elder behind me say, "That was legit." It was.

Today is Preparation Day, and I'm starting to run out of time on my email!!!! This morning we went to the Temple as a zone. Sitting in the Celestial Room was wonderful as I looked around at the missionaries in my zone. The only day we are allowed to write letters in the MTC is today. Don't know why, but that's the rule. It should be different in the field but I don't know. We can write emails, do laundry, write letters, and study. We have an hour every day (not sunday) of gym time, and we usually spend it across the street playing volleyball on the sand courts. So much fun. GAHHHH there's so much to say! I'll see what I can do about putting more in a letter.. Oh man, the timer is blinking. Gotta hurry.

I want you all to know that this is where I belong. There is nothing else in the world I can, or even want to do right now. I belong here. I introduce myself as Elder Turner. I love that. I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, a defender of the faith. I am in great hands, and nobody should worry. I love you all and will send more info next week.

Much love,

Elder Eric Turner

P.S. Send letters!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hey Cow!!!

It's a simple game. Drive down the freeway, see a herd of cows, yell "Hey Cow" at them as loud as you can, see how many of the cows look at you.

This is Eric playing "Hey Cow" somewhere in Oregon on the way to the MTC.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reporting to the MTC

The sign says it all
One of the interesting things about our trip to Provo had to do with some of the people we met along the way. On the night before Eric was to report to the MTC we were in SLC, walking around Temple Square. A short walk from there is the Beehive House, formerly the home and office of Brigham Young. We've been before but thought it might be fun to visit again.

When we walked in, we met a couple who is serving a mission on Temple Square. They inquired about Eric serving a mission and where we're from. We said Richland and they said they had a good friend who used to be the mission president in Kennewick. His name is Dennis Connor and they wanted to know if we ever met him. Eric explained that he knew Pres. Connor and his son Seth is a good friend. The man then called over two sister missionaries to give us the tour of the house. As they introduced themselves, they inquired about Eric's mission. When he said he was going to Phoenix, one of the sisters got a big smile and said she was from the Phoenix/Mesa area. She raved to Eric about how awesome the area is. We also found out that she served 6 months in the Meadow Springs Ward. We then ran through the list of all the families we know in that ward. Turns out that Marlee's piano/violin teacher who is the mom of Eric's friend Jeffrey Young is married to the ward mission leader of Meadow Springs ward. That sister missionary spent lots of time at the Youngs' house. Kind of a small world.

The next morning before going to the MTC we walked around the BYU campus, bought some stuff at the bookstore and went to the Wilkinson Center for lunch. In line at Taco Bell, Eric struck up a conversation with another kid obviously getting ready for the MTC. When Eric asked where the kid is assigned to serve, the kid said the Arizona Phoenix mission. Eric laughed and they introduced themselves. Pretty cool. Hundreds of people in the food court, dozens of young men in missionary attire assigned to missions around the world and we meet a kid going to the exact same mission Eric is going to. Kind of a small world.

After lunch it was time to go to the MTC. We had a few minutes to spare so we drove around the Provo Temple, which is just up the street from the MTC. Along the road there were many families parked, taking pictures in front of the temple and saying their goodbyes. I pulled into a parking spot and we made our way onto the sidewalk to do the same. We wanted a picture with our whole family so we asked the mom of the family next to us if she would take our photo. She agreed if we would return the favor. Once both families pics were done, Eric asked the missionary in that family what mission he's going to. The kid looked at him and said, "Arizona Phoenix." Another person going to Phoenix. The moms then took a photo of the two boys who were called to the same mission. Hundreds of people around the temple and the MTC, dozens--maybe hundreds--of young men reporting that day and we parked right next to the family of a kid going to the exact same mission Eric is going to. Kind of a small world.

After we dropped Eric off at the MTC, we headed to Park City to have some fun and spend the night. As we were walking along the shopping district, we came upon a Family History Center run by the Church. There was an older gentleman standing outside greeting people. We struck up a conversation with him. He said he and his wife were serving their mission in Temple Square in SLC and were on a 6-week rotation in Park City. We told him we just dropped off our son at the MTC that morning. He asked where Eric was called to serve. Shannon said the Arizona Phoenix mission. The man smiled and said that he and his wife lived in Phoenix. He told us all about the area and how great the Church members are there and how they take good care of the missionaries with dinners and other necessities. 

So, in 24 hours we met 2 people from Phoenix and 2 young men going to Phoenix to serve. Is that just a bizarre coincidence? One person....maybe so. Two...probably. But four? What does that mean? I don't know, but I can't help thinking that maybe it's the Lord's way of letting us know that things are going to be OK. Eric is going where there are good people who will help him and valiant young men who will serve beside him. Kind of a small world.