Monday, October 25, 2010

Email from 10/25/10

Hey everyone!
Things have been pretty good this week. We haven't taught too many lessons because we've had quite a few meetings. The whole exchanges every night thing is getting better. It's still a little tough trying to balance which appointments are in which wards, but we're getting there. Last night was sure fun. Brother Smyth (Villa de Paz Ward Mission Leader) and I went out and tried to see some potential investigators. We saw a few people and even set up a few return appointments for later in the week. We went to the last house on my list, Brent, and knocked. He's really hard to reach, but we tried anyways. After knocking a second time he opened the door and was about ready to attack me with a cattle prod! He held it over his head and was half way through swinging it when we both kind of screamed a little bit. He apologized and said he was afraid of who was at the door because a few houses down the road was broken into the other night. I apologized, introduced myself and told him we were missionaries. We eventually left after a conversation on the porch, and Brother Smyth just laughed at me on the way back to the church. I was laughing too. I've heard of missionaries getting guns pulled on them, but never a cattle prod. That's certainly a first.

Michele had her baptismal interview this week and she's all set for baptism. It was originally going to be the 26th (tomorrow), but nobody from the ward would be able to make it. Instead, Michele asked if we could do it on Nov 13th, so that way more people from the ward could go, she could tell her friends, and she could read more from the scriptures to better prepare herself. I'm happy for her and she's pretty happy too. We're still seeing her on a regular basis to help her get ready. She's been cleaning her house a lot lately. The furniture is all clean, she's taken out the trash, cleaned the carpet and kicked all the animals outside. I didn't recognize the house the last time I went to see her. I say it a lot but she's really turning her life around.

On Saturday the city of Tolleson (about a mile down the road from our apartment) had a city pride day where youth all contributed to cleaning up the city. Youth from the church, schools, and all over the city got together to paint houses, clean streets and take care of litter. All of the Elders in our district (eight of us) met up there to help too. A couple of the Spanish Elders were there as well. It was funny because we were all in jeans and t-shirts, and a few of the youth in our wards thought it was a little weird not to see us in shirts and ties. The group I was in with Elder Abel and the Spanish Elders painted a house. In our group of about thirty youth/us, we painted a single story house with two coats in about 3 hours. It looked pretty good and we worked hard. I was exhausted by the time it was over. We came back to the apartment, showered and crashed for about an hour before we got back out to work.

We had an interesting experience on Tuesday this week. We were in the apartment cleaning during lunch, and we heard a knock at the door. It was a guy named Jesse, probably late 20's, who I've never met before. He lived in the apartment complex and told us he'd seen us around. He was a member of the church, very innactive, but was having a rough time with life. He was going through a divorce and nothing was really going well with him. He wanted to know how he could come back to church and how to have the Holy Ghost back in his life. We gave him the information for the bishop of the Crystal Gardens ward and he said thank you. We saw him at the service project on saturday, and again in the singles ward yesterday at church. He looked very happy and thanked us for helping him out. It amde me think of a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance." When talking about that guidance of the Spirit in ones life, Elder Scott says:
"Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance. I bear witness that the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, can speak to your mind and heart. Sometimes the impressions are just general feelings. Sometimes the direction comes so clearly and so unmistakably that it can be written down like spiritual dictation.

I bear solemn witness that as you pray with all the fervor of your soul with humility and gratitude, you can learn to be consistently guided by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life. I have confirmed the truthfulness of that principle in the crucible of my own life. I testify that you can personally learn to master the principles of being guided by the Spirit. That way, the Savior can guide you to resolve challenges of life and enjoy great peace and happiness."

I love how simple it is. Elder David A. Bednar says something along the same lines. If we are being good and keeping the commandments, we'll be ok.

I hope everyone back home is doing well. Things are great in Arizona. Things are even better now that the heat has died off. It's been in the 80's and 70's every day this week, and it's supposed to get cooler. I love it. I miss you all and hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, October 18, 2010

Email from 10/18/10

Hey everyone!
It's good to hear from you all. First, I need to wish Marlee the happiest of happy birthdays. I hope she liked the card I sent. Dad, thank you for sharing your experience about you and the missionaries last night. [She] had that same excited look on her face when the Elders and I saw her a month or so before I reported. Take care of her and maybe invite her over to grandma and grandpa's too, I think she'd really enjoy that.
This week has been interesting and tough. Not emotionally tough or anything, just a lot of work. Because the stake president has asked that the wards go on exchanges with the missionaries every night, we've been trying to find people to visit. We alternate between Garden Lakes ward and Villa de Paz ward. We've been busy trying to coordinate who's going where and who's teaching who. This has only been the first week and I'm sure it will get better. Now that we actually know which wards are on which nights, we can coordinate our appointments more easily.
We have such awesome wards here. Bishop Johnson and his family in the Garden Lakes ward really take care of us. Sister Johnson is basically our mom. She saw that there was a rip in the pants that another Elder gave me and told me that was unacceptable for a representative of the Lord. She told me she'd fix them. When she said they couldn't be fixed, she went out and bought me and Elder Abel new pants from Deseret Industries, clean, pressed and ready to go. When we went to pick them up she had dinner and fresh baked cookies waiting for us. She wouldn't take no for an answer. She says that she has three sons who are preparing to go on missions in the next few years and it's only right that she takes care the missionaries so that someday someone else will take care of hers (must be a universal "mom" thing). Such a neat family. The Andrus family in Villa de Paz ward is awesome too. He used to be the bishop of the ward. Their oldest son, Zach, is on a mission up in Spokane. Sister Andrus has the same feeling towards taking care of the missionaries. Bishop Andrus called us up the other day and said "My wife wants to know if you have dinner tonight," and we didn't. She had dinner waiting for us the minute we walked into their home. He takes us wherever we need to go and he has a truck, which is great whenever our bikes go flat. I just had to take a moment there and give my thanks for the wonderful wards and families who take care of me. Elder Abel and I both survived this past transfer so we get to continue working here.
We've been working a lot with Michele, getting her ready for her baptism. It's planned for Tuesday the 26th, but it may or may not be pushed back a few days to the weekend so more people from the ward can support her. We've seen her almost every night this week so we can teach her. I've been the one seeing her most of the time while Elder Abel is on exchanges seeing families he's been working with for a while. Anywho, Michele is doing great. I went into the past few lessons with her never having taught them before and it went so well. She was very receptive and she's been reading the Book of Mormon on her own. One night we had to sit down with her and read. I had a lesson planned, but because she didn't read I threw the lesson out the window and we read. That really helped because she was reading much more after that. The Smyths went by to pick her up for church yesterday but she wasn't ready. They went to church, and we saw Michele walk into the chapel with about 15 minutes left in sacrament meeting. She took the time to get ready on her own, brought her scriptures and found a way to church. We thought she walked, which scared us because it's about a mile walk in the heat. She went and asked her neighbor for a ride. Her neighbor had no idea what the church was or why Michele wanted to go so badly, but they brought her. It was pretty cool to see. She loves the Gospel Principles class and the Relief Society. She's made such huge improvements from that first day we met her. She bought clothes that she feels are more modest and self-respectful, went to the grocery store for the first time in months and bought good food, and now she says she has tithing she wants to pay the minute she steps out of the baptismal font next week. I'm speechless. This all coming from a woman who was contemplating suicide the day we came into contact with her. She's amazing.
This past week doesn't have many interesting stories or experiences, mostly busy work. I'm just excited to see Michele so prepared for her baptism. She's telling her friends about it and a lot of them say they want to come. A lot of the ward members say they want to come too. I'll be sure to keep you posted on Michele and how her baptism goes. I love you all and hope you're doing well. Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, October 11, 2010

Email from 10/11/10

Hey everyone!
Dad and sis, thanks for the DearElders this week. I'm glad to hear that Marlee is enjoying volleyball. Sounds like she's doing well too. Mom, thanks for the email, it's great to hear from you. The yard looks AWESOME! I still can't believe there's grass! If and when a fence goes up, you should let the dogs run crazy in the yard. Remember when Joey was running around grandma and grandpa's back yard? So funny. The pictures I attached today happened last Tuesday. We left the apartment and saw tons of clouds. It was maybe in the low 70's and it felt great. There was a breeze in the air, which really felt like autumn. We were biking along in upper Villa de Paz when we felt a little rain. We went to a park with a gazebo and ate the lunches we had packed while an intense thunderstorm was going on around us.

In the middle of the rain I ran outside to embrace it (the kid from Washington, who would've guessed?). The rain was so refreshing. It cleared up after a bit and we went back to work. When we left the porch of a certain house the rain started again, only much harder. It rained harder than any other rain I've ever seen, a straight up monsoon. We had to be across town for an appointment and so we biked in it. We got to the appointment, it fell through, and we were soaked. Literally soaked. It was as if I had jumped in a pool in full proselyting clothes. I took off my shoes and poured a small pool out of each of them. I wrung out my socks, pants, shirt and tie. We went to the church to dry off, and I put my socks in the oven. Yes, the oven. I hate having wet socks and I couldn't think of a better solution! It must have been a last minute summer shower, because last Monday was rainy too. We played football in the rain for PDay. It was just like the rain I had explained beforehand. Soaked. So yeah, freak rainstorms this week were pretty awesome.

The week's been going well, not a whole lot of craziness. We're still working with Michele, it's going slowly but surely. She came to church yesterday, and even had a dress! She left after Sunday School because she wasn't feeling well. Edgar's been sick too so we haven't been able to see him much either. On Tuesday, however, we met a woman named Stephanie while she was walking to work. We told her about the church and she said that she passes the building on a regular basis, and that it "calls to her" for some reason. She invited us over to share a lesson with her family. She has a boyfriend, Paul, and two sons, John (13) and Jared (10?). Each of them have had spiritual experiences in their lives, and certainly believe in something, they just don't know what. Paul has had multiple forms of cancer in his life. He says he feels God's love for him every day despite his illnesses. Both of his brothers are ministers in separate churches, and he's being baptized into one of them next month. Even though he's choosing to join a local baptist church, he was VERY into the lesson. He asked great questions, didn't bash, and agreed with everything we taught. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and he began reading it immediately. We left them with two copies. Jared grabbed the other and wanted to read it together as a family the minute we left. So. Much. Potential!

We've had a lot of people telling us to be safe. I heard that  a lot from home, but I hear it more out here. Not just from members, but random people on the street too. We tracted into a guy in upper Villa de Paz the other night who thought we were crazy for being outside after dark. This guy flat out told us he had recently come home from prison, read up about the church and totally respected what we were doing. He just told us to be safe out there and that he doesn't want us getting hurt. We may not be seeing him again, but I appreciated his respect. He's got a point though. Upper Villa de Paz after dark is sketchy. I don't like staying there long, but it's hard when we have appointments. The stake president just said that he wants members going on exchanges every night with the missionaries, which Elder Abel and I aren't too thrilled about. We don't have much success at night. But I think that I was just typing that I realized that it's probably to keep us safe with members in a car rather than being so vulnerable on a bike? Who knows. Mom, don't worry, we'll be ok. We're making smart choices. Multiple times we've left areas because of mutual bad feelings about the situation.

We had a zone meeting this week. Oh! Remember the Elder I met at Taco Bell at BYU the day I reported? His name is Elder Cheadle and he's here now! He was learning Spanish in the MTC so he was there a little longer than I was (9 weeks total for him). He's in my zone and I see him every once in a while. We saw each other a lot in the MTC and it's cool to see him out here too. Anywho, back to what I was saying. After the meeting was over, we went to lunch at a sandwich shop called WhichWich (new favorite). While we were there, Elder Abel said we had a new voicemail...from President Beck. I didn't believe him until I heard it. He said he wanted to call us and tell us how much he loved us. Apparently Bishop Johnson of the Garden Lakes ward called him espousing the wonderful virtues and talents of the Elder Abel and Elder Turner companionship in his ward. President Beck called to tell us that's what he likes to hear and to keep up the good work. We felt pretty good about that, but didn't believe it so we could stay humble (Elder Rodriguez always tells us that with a smile: "You're a great missionary. But don't believe it.").

I love you all and thank you for your support. I love hearing from you and hope you're doing well. Until next week, take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, October 4, 2010

Email from 10/4/10

Hey all!
First of all, mom, dad and sis, I sure hope you get a kick out of my email subject and its source. When President Uchtdorf said that in General Conference on Saturday I nearly fell out of my seat I was laughing so hard. So yes, I thought you'd enjoy that. (To those outside of our family...Eric does a spot-on impression of Pres. Uchtdorf, complete with the German accent. He makes us laugh all the time with it. ~ Tim)
Dad, thanks for the DearElder this week. Glad to hear that Bomber football is doing so well. As for BYU football, hey it happens. Mom, I hope your New York trip went well! I'm curious to hear about it. Sis I'm glad you're enjoying school and volleyball. I know your birthday is coming up soon, what do you want? I'll try and send you something as close to the 15th as I can. I can't believe you're turning 13, I still remember that night when I met you in the airport. I miss you like crazy sis, and hope you're doing well. Please write as soon as you can, I want to hear how you're doing.
This week has been pretty good. The work has been a bit slow, but that happens. Elder Abel and I contacted like crazy. There's not that many people outside during the day because it's so blazing hot. This past week though, there's been a ton of people outside, which was odd because yesterday it was 105. It's starting to cool off a bit. I attached a picture of what I think best reminds me of a Tri-City sunset.
 We've met a lot of nice people. We're still working with Edgar, slowly but surely. He really wants to come to church and mutual with the youth. Michele is doing great, we see her twice a week. Her husband Bob even enjoys the lessons. Bob gave us the nicest compluiment I think I've ever heard from anyone thus far on the mission. Bob has had a series of medical issues, including open heart surgery. His circulation is poor, and causes him to be in a lot of pain. He doesn't enjoy being around people very much because of how much pain he is always feeling. Bob says that throughout his life, he's been to various congregations of other churches, but a lot of the people let him down. He doesn't like how people teach one thing but don't live it. He can't stand hyopcrites. He says that the first few lessons we taught Michele, he was in the other room, but he was still listening.  He liked the things we were saying, and he especially liked how Michele was receiving it. Finally he decided to sit in on the lessons. He likes how we live what we teach. He told us up front, "I like what you teach. I trust you. You're good men." I was shocked. Michele was shocked, and let out a flattered, "WOW." Bob has now expressed interest in going to church with Michele starting this coming Sunday. Incredible.
Tomorrow's transfers. Transfers are every six weeks, and I'm kind of on my toes. I'm not worried, I have a feeling that Elder Abel and I will be together through the next transfer. Who knows though, he's been here for the past 7 transfers or something like that. Elder Kear has been here for a year now. Since the mission boundaries were split back in July, missionaries are more condensed and from what I hear, aren't transfered as often as they were before. The boundary before went all the way up to the Utah border, but is now cut off just south of Flagstaff. The mission is roughly half the size of what it was, but President Beck says that the work is exploding. Doctrine and Covenants 133:29 is our mission scripture. It says:
 " 29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. "
I laughed when I first read it in the MTC, but it really is powerful. I'm curious to see where the others in the district will end up.
I really enjoyed General Conference this weekend. Every conference just gets better and better. I liked President Uchtdorf's talk on humility in the Priesthood session, and President Monson's Sunday morning talk on gratitude, especially where he said, "To live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven." Beautiful. I also liked Elder Holland's talk about how everyone in the church contributes in some way, shape or form. I loved his story about his family's support while he was on his mission. To everyone, I can't thank you enough for what you do to support me and the thousands of other missionaries around the world. I feel somewhat guilty about the days where I'm not trying as hard as I should be. I apologize and will get back to work. I don't want to let anyone down, not my family, not my friends and especially not my Father in Heaven. If He trusts me to serve His children in Arizona then I'd better get to it.
I can't wait to hear from you. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner