Monday, September 27, 2010

Email from 9/27/10

Hey everyone!
It's been great hearing from you all. Dad, thank you for the DearElder. I'm glad you got to hear from Bro. Peck, he's a pretty incredible guy. Did you meet him at all? Mom, I got your email this morning. Yes I can print out emails at the library, but it costs 50 cents per page. Plus I'd have to wait until Monday to check email anyways. You can most certainly email, but sending letters and DearElders works just fine too (plus it's exciting to see mail on my desk when I get home at night!). You can do whatever, I'm not picky, I just want to hear from my family is all.
I've attached a few new pictures. One is a leaning cactus, and I tried the whole "Tower of Pisa" thing where it looks like you're pushing it up. It was funny when Elder Abel and I tried taking the picture. The other is the side of a building with the huge mural thing on the side of it. It's across from Pete's so we went and took the picture after lunch one day.

This week has been pretty interesting. I must have been a tad bold in my last email because I sure got what I asked for. That night as Elder Abel and I were walking to an appointment when we saw two older men talking with each other. We politely asked if we could give them a pass along card and the bashing commenced. Turns out they were both ministers at different churches. For the next half hour they yelled at us, mocked us and tried to rip us to shreds. It didn't get anywhere. We couldn't say anything without them throwing false doctrine at us. It really makes me sad when people do that, when they tell us what we believe (or rather, what they think we believe). It happens though. Elder Abel and I weren't shaken in the slightest bit. Unfortunately it was a half hour that we could have used enlightening them or even just leaving and talking to other people. Once again, it happens. You shake it off and keep going. The worst, however, was Joe. We met Joe a while back and he had questions, ones that we could easily answer. However, the answers we gave weren't the ones he wanted. We asked if we could set up a time to go back and maybe clarify things. We went by on Saturday afternoon. He's a nice guy and welcomed us into his home. But just like our friends on the street from the other night, we couldn't say a word without him bashing and arguing. It was pointless. He threw out misinterpretations of scripture, false doctrine and contradicted everything we said. It was an hour wasted. He had no interest at all in anything we had to say, he just wanted to break us. It really made me sad how much he twisted the plain and precious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ to fit what he believed. We left with a testimony and nothing else. We could have easily fought back, but it would have been pointless. It would have only led to more arguing. We are not here to bash. We are missionaries, and we are here to teach.
Enough with the contention. Michele is doing fantastic. She's smiling now. Originally the bishop told us that he didn't want us teaching in her home anymore because it could possibly be hazardous to our health. Michele took mild offense to this and immediately began cleaning her house. The dishes were cleaned, the furniture was organized and the floor was even vacuumed. We went by and said that it was safe for us to come in. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and it all made sense to her. She's been praying and reading the Book of Mormon and knows it's true. She straight up told us, "I know it's true and it makes me happy. I want to join the church. Tell me what I have to do." Elder Abel and I were kind of caught of guard. We invited her to be baptized and she gladly accepted. It's scheduled for the last week of October! It's really amazing to see the Spirit work in this woman. She's great. She wants her husband and kids to hear it too. Bob, her husband, even sat in on part of the lesson. Her daughter is somewhat interested but wasn't home when we stopped by. Michele loves coming to church and looks forward to it every week. She said she even bought a skirt. She wasn't at church yesterday because she was sick, but the ward made an effort to go get her and see if she was doing ok. Way to go Villa de Paz ward!
We're still working with Edgar. Things are getting difficult because his parents are arguing with him about his desire to go to church. His dad is very nice to us, but Edgar says his mom is being hard to get along with. We've yet to meet her, but we're happy to answer any questions she has. The main thing we want to say is that the message we share blesses families. Our Father in Heaven blesses us with families. The world is trying so hard to tear families apart, and a home based on the gospel can be a safe place for families to learn and grow. Edgar knows this and wants to tell her. Thankfully Ross is still being a good friend to Edgar.
That's mostly what's been going on this week! I'm really looking forward to general conference this weekend. We are so blessed to have the technology to make it possible so that we can hear from a modern day prophet and apostles. I love conference. Twice a year we get to hear from these incredible witnesses of Jesus Christ. I've found that whenever I go into conference weekend with specific questions, I always get specific answers. I encourage everyone to listen to some of conference, even if you're not a member of the church! It streams live from on saturday and sunday morning from 9-11 am and then in the afternoon from 1-3 pm. Four wonderful sessions of conference! Here, I've included the link to one of my favorite talks (hopefully it works!). It was given last October. Click the link, and go to "What Have I Done for Someone Today" by President Thomas S. Monson under the Sunday Morning Session. I hope you enjoy it!
The things we hear during general conference are true and applicable to everyone, and I know you and your families will be strengthened. I love you all and can't wait to hear from you. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, September 20, 2010

Email from 9/20

Hello everyone!
It's been a crazy week and I can't wait to tell you about it. I finally bought a card reader so hopefully I'll be sending more pictures in future emails. Dad, it may not hurt to put some of these on the blog, facebook, or whatever. Do as you wish! Speaking of memory cards, do you still have the one I sent home a little while back? The first picture is of me on my birthday trying to fix my flat tire. The second is a member's truck with two hilarious bumper stickers. The third is one of Brother Baggiore's cows. They have a few cows they're raising and will later be slaughtered for meat. I couldn't resist taking a picture with one of them. I immediately shouted HEY COW when I saw it. For those fo you who don't know what "Hey Cow" is, it's a game you play in the car. When you see a bunch of cows, you roll down the window and scream HEY COW as loud as you can. Whoever can get the most cows to look at them wins. I play it with my family, and it's always good for a laugh. I'm sure my family will appreciate that photo more than anyone.

Mom, thank you so much for the letters. I'm glad things are going well with the yard. Any grass yet? Even when it happens, I still won't believe it until I see it. I'm having a hard time rembembering grass, everyone's yards here are either sagebrush or rock. Any "grass" I see is yellow and burned. Grass doesn't survive well here. Dad, thank you for the letters too. How's everything going with school? Sis, how about you? I'm sorry I haven't been writing as much as I have. I promise I'll get you a letter or two sometime soon. I really want to hear how you are enjoying volleyball, school and soccer. I know you're busy, but if you have time I'd love to hear from you. I even got a letter from grandma and grandpa! I laughed so hard because grandpa told me he doesn't usually write letters. I could barely read his writing but I got through it. On the other side grandma told me I should feel honored because grandpa NEVER writes letters. I certainly do feel honored!

It's P-Day once again, and I'll explain how that works. Preparation Day, or P-Day, is kind of like our day off. We still have morning study schedule, but from 10am-6pm we do what we want/need to do. At 10 we go to the Avondale library and use the computers to send emails. After that we go to Fry's Grocery and buy food for the week. After that we do whatever we agree on as a district. We usually go to the stake center and play sports or something. Sometimes basketball, maybe football, ultimate, whatever we feel like playing. Today we're going there and playing Deathball, which I've never heard of but I guess is really fun. It's Elder Nuttall's birthday and he requested that. We have a dinner appointment in the evening and then at 6pm it's back to mission schedule. We tract, teach lessons, contact on the streets just like we do every other day of the week. P-Days are also the only time I'm allowed to write letters. Anyone who writes a letter, I promise I'll write back as soon as I can, I just have to wait until Monday.

Edgar hasn't been progressing. He still shows an interest in being baptized, but hasn't come to church for two weeks in a row now. We're still working with him, because we can see he wants to move forward. It just takes a little bit of work and patience. Robert is keeping commitments, and is no longer under our stewardship because he's technically considered a young single adult. We passed him along to the YSA Elders and hopefully they'll work well with him. John still wants to meet with us, but hasn't been answering the phone. We haven't been able to contact Crystal for three weeks now, but week keep trying.

We met a woman early this week named Michele. She was walking on the street and we talked with her. She doesn't look healthy at all. She looks like the result of a lifetime of drug abuse and poor choices. She's maybe 40, but looks in her 60's. She's skin and bones. She invited us over to teach her. We brought Bro. Smyth, the Villa de Paz ward mission leader with us. Her house is a pit, and that's putting it kindly. The carpet is stained, furniture is destroyed, dirty dishes all over the kitchen and we're welcomed by the lingering smell of her husband Bob's cigarette smoke. She hasn't had running water for three weeks. Neither she nor her husband work and she lives off of disability. They are literally starving in their own home. Bob doesn't love her at all. She is miserable, lonely and lost, and fights through tears every time we talk with her. She even said there have been times when she's considered suicide. Every time we leave I can't help but want to sit and cry. She loves having the missionaries over and loves the message we bring. We invited her to church on Sunday and she accepted. She was a little apprehensive because she hasn't showered in a while and didn't have good clothes. The Smyths offered to help.

Fast forward to church yesterday. I'm walking around and see her walk in with the Smyth's. She had a blue flowered blouse, jeans and her daughter's shoes on. Her hair was combed and pulled up. She was happy to be there, and I was straight up ecstatic to see her there with a smile on her face. I started talking to her about what would happen at church when I was politely interrupted by numerous members introducing themselves and saying hi to her. You can tell she loved that. I didn't mind, I just kept smiling. I was explaining more about church and she asked me, "Do you ever get angry?" I couldn't help but laugh. I was just so happy to see her happy for once. I sat with her and the Smyths, and she eagerly listened to everything that was going on. She even sang the hymns! One of Andrus' daughters in front of us said that she liked Michele's singing voice. The bishop came over and introduced himself. We went into his office and he asked her a few questions. Hopefully the ward is going to be able to help her get a plan to get her life back in order. We went to gospel principles and Relief Society with Sister Smyth (who happens to be the Relief Society President). Mom, you would love Sister Smyth. What an awesome lady. We went to see Michele after church was over, and she was helping put away chairs with a gospel principles book under her arm. We could barely talk to her because of the other sisters in the ward who were introducing themselves to her. It's amazing what a little fellowshiping can do. I can tell she had a good time. The Smyths took her home and she left church with a huge smile on her face. We're seeing her again on Tuesday.

I really can't complain. Things are going great. The work may be slow at times, but that doesn't mean it's not going well. I'm seeing what a little bit of our Father in Heaven's love can do for one of his daughters who can't find the strength to go on. It really is a miracle. I think of all of the hate we get and brush off from the masses of people every day. I hear their completely ignorant, asinine, foolish and downright pathetic assumptions about the missionaries, the Church, me, and worst of all, my family. Yet for some reason I seem to have forgotten all of that when I sat by Michele yesterday in church. No one person can stand nose to nose with me, look me in the eye and tell me that what I'm doing is wrong. I dare anyone to try it.

I love you all and hope you're doing well. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, September 13, 2010

Email from 9/13

Hey everyone!
Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes! I loved the letters. Family, I got the package this morning. It actually showed up on Saturday, but had to wait until this morning when the office opened up again to get it. I love the ties, I'm wearing one right now! Thank you for all of the pictures too. I had hardly any pictures of us as a family and none of the dogs. I laughed when I saw the ones of Joey playing Scrabble, Jack doing DevilDog and Edgar with the Reindeer antlers. I really appreciate the picture of Barth too! I don't know why, I just really like it. It really reminds me of home. My guess is it's getting to be about fall time at home. Let me know when the ginko gives up the ghost. I'm happy to hear that Marlee is enjoying volleyball! It's no surprise to me that she made A, she's a natural. I'm also glad to hear Richland football is doing well too. I hope the leadership kids are working hard and working what they've learned from Baker into what they're doing. So the BYU rumor is true and they actually left the Mountain West? Interesting. Sister Turville, a lady here who supports the missionaries and helps us with everything, called me on Saturday night to tell me that BYU got crushed by Air Force. We also heard that the Seahawks were playing the 49'ers this week too. Elder Tameilau from San Jose and I made a friendly bet. The losing Elder's team has to buy the winning Elder's team a carton of ice cream. He called us yesterday after church and said, "Tell Elder Turner I owe him some ice cream. He'll know why."
Sorry if I haven't been answering a lot of your questions. Dad, I live in an apartment with Elder Abel and two other Elders, Kear and Nuttall. Elders Egan and Tameilau live in the building behind us in the same complex, and they come over every night to visit. It's four to an apartment, but pretty much six because Elders Egan and Tameilau practically live there too. The members feed us dinner every night and it's always good. Yes mom, I'm eating well. You'd be proud, I destroyed a plate of green beans and cauliflower (and went back for more) last week, and a plate of broccoli last night. I'm eating just fine.
So, review this week. I had a birthday! The day started with a phone call from President and Sister Beck singing happy birthday to me. Sister Beck told me to tell Elder Abel that his stewardship was to make sure I had the best day ever. It was a great day. We had lots of appointments and just worked hard. On Tuesday the 7th, we met this kid named Edgar Ortiz on the street while he was walking home from school. We left him a card to call for a free Book of Mormon. He said he was going to call it right when he got home. Instead, I just gave him a copy that I had. We set up a time to go back on the next day, my birthday, to teach him. We brought a priest from the ward named Ross, who has a few classes with Edgar. The lesson went SO well. He said that he's had opther people talk to him about church, and it's just interesting to him. But when we taught him, he felt good inside. We invited him to pray at the end of the lesson, and he disagreed. I taught him a quick lesson on prayer and bore my testimony about its power, then invited him again. He said he would try. His prayer began as if though he were sort of lost which I completely understood and even expected. But as we waited, I noticed something. It was as if I were reading about Enos' experience. I could tell that Edgar's soul truly hungered to know that his Father in Heaven was listening to him. He began to ask for the safety of his family, and asking for help with things that were clearly troubling him at the time. He focused a lot on his family, which I know is important to him. He finished praying and the Spirit was so strong in the room. We set up our next appointment for a few days later to give him a tour of the church so it would be a little more familiar when he came to church on Sunday.
So now it's Friday and we're in the church. Ross came with Edgar again for the fellowshipping that Edgar needed. As soon as Edgar walked into the building he stopped and said, "Whoah." I asked him what was wrong. He said, "Nothing, it's just really peaceful in here." We showed him the classrooms and finished in the chapel. He kept commenting on how much he liked the peace and quiet of the building. We taught a short lesson in the chapel, and asked if he prayed about what we had taught him before. He said yes and he felt really good about it. Then I extended to him the invitation to be baptized. He said yes. Now, my heart was racing because I had never extended an invitation to be baptized. He on the other hand, was really calm and happy. We're planning on his baptism at the end of the month. We stopped by his house the night before church and saw his dad in the yard. What a nice guy. He was very supportive of us. We told him about his son's desire to be baptized and invited him to support his son at the baptism. He thought for a second and said, "Yeah that sounds good." We're trying to find a time that his dad will be in town to be at the baptism, because he's gone a lot for his work. Yesterday at church, however, Edgar never showed up. Neither did John Villa, another high school boy we're teaching. We don't know what happened, but we're going to see them soon. Perhaps they didn't have rides. That thought never crossed my mind. Come on, Elder Turner, think Maslow! Basic needs! We're really working hard with Edgar and John, I'll be sure to let you know how they are doing.
The rest of my birthday was great too. Sister Turville made a german chocolate cake and brought it to our district meeting. I love her so much, she's the best. It was Elder Kear's birthday too! After the meeting we went to Pete's, like we always do. Oh man, time out. Pete's Fish and Chips. So good. It's a lot like Dick's in Spokane. Think sketchy little walk-up counter and disgusting picnic tables. But the food is SO GOOD. I always get a triple monsterburger and a 44 oz horchata. Pete's is famous for their sauce, this ketchup and tobasco mix that's really good on their burgers. So yes, Pete's. Good stuff. Did I tell you the wonderful gift that the state of Arizona gave me?? A flat tire! Yeah, we got out of the appointment with Edgar and my tire was as dead as could be. We pumped it enough to get me down the road to the Ross' home where he said I could have some slime for my tire. When I put the slime in and started pumping it up, the stem of the tube broke. So, now I need new tubes. We're going to get some today so no worries.
I read an interesting scripture the other day which I am sure is often overlooked. It's in the Book of Mormon, Omni 1:9. One of Omni's sons, Chemish, is speaking. He says:
9 Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the arecords, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.
What I think is intersting about this is that this is the only verse in all of the Book of Mormon that Chemish writes. Pretty pointless, right? I don't think so. Think of the thousands of verses in the Book of Mormon, and this one is another testament to its truthfulness. It's a witness that what is being written is true. When I liken this to myself, I think of the thousands of missionaries around the world. Does it matter that I give my time to say what I know is true and what 50,000+ missionaries are saying what they know to be true as well? It most certainly matters. Like Chemish, I give my testimony that this record is true and that this work is the best thing I could be doing right now. I love this work, I love Arizona and I love these people. We're working hard and I'm being kept safe. Thank you everyone for your love and support, I can't wait to hear from you. Take care and be good!
Elder Eric James Turner

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Email from 9/7/10

Hey everyone!
This week has been pretty good. It's still hot, in case you were wondering. On Saturday it got up to 115. While we were tracting, a family invited us in for water and a few minutes in an air conditioned house. President Beck wasn't joking when he told us that the Arizona sun would be relentless. I have to fill my Camelback about two or three times a day (3 liters each). I'm very hydrated and very motivated to get to work!
Dad, thank you for the DearElder this week. I'm glad to hear that things are going well with school starting up again. Send Comfort, Q, Deatherage and everyone else my love. Marlee, how's volleyball? Mom, how's work? Thank you for the little extra money in my account, I finally bought a bike and I love it. The owner of the shop gives missionaries a good deal on everything, and free tune ups whenever it's needed. I plan on putting a lot of miles on my bike. All those long bike rides I did at home were good practice for being in the field. Dad to answer some of your questions, money is not an issue here. We are given funds at the beginning of the month on a card, and we use it for grocieries and that stuff. It's perfectly budgeted so there's no need to worry. My personal account from home is fine the way it is, and I don't need money any time soon.
I'll be completely honest, the work this week has been slow. Elder Abel and I have been going to see potential investigators, and they either turn us away or aren't even there. Every day we have appointments with someone but they always cancel on us. We call, visit and do all we can, but nothing happens. We keep trying. We talk to everyone we see on the streets and share brief messages with them Even if we don't have an appointment go through, we feel good knowing that we put forth the effort. However, I'm excited for the next few days and weeks. We have an appointment tonight with a man named Roger. We tracted into him last week and he invited us back. We called him this morning to confirm our appointment and he's eager to have us come visit. I really hope that goes well. Tonight we have exchanges with the Garden Lakes ward, and we're going to try and see Crystal. She's maybe 17, and Elder Abel tracted into her a little while ago. She's been really busy but has been looking for a church to go to. We should be meeting with her tonight too. We had an appointment with Robert on Saturday, but he called a half hour before and had to cancel. We tried stopping by again and he wasn't home. We saw him last night and we set another appointment for tomorrow evening.
I had a cool experience this week. We tracted into a family that only speaks Arabic. The father likes talking about Jesus, but can't speak English. We said we'd try and find Arabic materials. The next day, I was on a companion exhcange with Elder McCarty, and he had an Arabic copy of the Book of Mormon!! I couldn't believe it! He said I could have it and I spent an hour or so trying to find scriptures and write the references in Arabic. I can identify numbers and can write them too. Thank goodness for a table of contents, chapter and verse numbers. I wrote the references on post it notes and put them in the book as bookmarks. We took it to the family and they invited us in. The oldest daughter, Howra, translated for us. They're a Muslim family but were curious about what we believed, as were we about them. We spent the next half hour or so sharing doctrines and principles about each others' faiths. It wasn't bashing or derrogatory in any way. It was really fun to learn, and I know they felt the same way. When we gave the dad the Book of Mormon, he showed us his copy of the Koran. He kissed it and touched it to his forehead. He pointed to the Arabic copy of the Book of Mormon, said, "Jesus," kissed it, touched it to his forehead and we all laughed. We asked if we could leave witha  prayer, and that dad allowed us to pray. When we left, he shook our hands and said "Thank you." We won't be teaching them the lessons because they are very faithful in attending mosque, but it's ok, I'm not disappointed at all. I really enjoyed the experience and got to learn a little about an unfamiliar culture.
Tomorrow's my birthday and I've been reflecting a lot on home. Not in a homesick way, but more in thanksgiving. Mom, Dad and Marlee, I want to thank you for everything you have done. I'm so blessed to have been born and raised in a family that is centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for a home that could be a safehaven and a refuge to me when I needed it the most. We aren't pefect, but that provides us with the oportunities to learn from one another and to grow in righteousness. I know that our Father in Heaven loves families so much that He allows them to be together in this life and throughout all eternity.
I've been asked what I wanted for my birthday, but the truth is that all of my needs are being taken care of. I would like to echo the words of President Thomas S. Monson when asked what he wanted for his birthday: "Find someone who's having a hard time, and do something for them." The other day, Elder Abel and I visited an elderly lady in the ward who's lived alone for the past 37 years. She's turning 88 on Friday. She always prepares snack bags for the Elders in the ward, and she wanted us to come get them this week. We spent the next hour and a half talking and sharing stories with her. I know that she enjoys the company. Elder Abel and I said that we want to try and do something nice for her each week as a thank you for what she does for us. I know that by serving one another, therein lies true joy (Mosiah 2:17).
Thank you all for everything. The work may be slow at the moment, but it is most cetainly moving forward. I hope to hear from you all sometime soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner