Monday, December 27, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole for the Win (Dec. 27, 2010)

Hey everyone!
First off let me thank my darling mother for giving Sis. Price the recipe for sweet potato casserole. So good. I walked into their house on Christmas for dinner, and she was still cooking stuff and whatnot. I saw her making sweet potatoes, nothing out of the ordinary for me. When she started putting the pecan and sugar glaze on the top  I knew something was up. "Hey, I've seen that before," I said out loud. Sis. Price said, "Good, it's your mom's recipe!" Mom, you'll be happy to know that it turned out fantastic and tasted just like yours.
Ok, pictures this week. The one of me in the chair is just when we got home from roaming around on Christmas Eve. I was pretty wiped because we did a lot of biking. For being 50 degrees outside, I was sweating pretty hard. I crashed in front of the tree. The other two of the tree is our setup for Christmas Eve--one of myself and Elder Abel in front of said tree before opening presents. Notice the stockings hung under the sink with care. The last one is of me holding a chicken at the Prices' on Christmas. They have a few chickens in their back yard for the kids to play with, and soon they'll be taking eggs from 'em. Of course, I needed a picture. Mom is very proud. I'll be sending home the full memory card sometime next week so you can get all the pictures I've taken since September.
Well, today started off with a bang. Elder Abel's being transfered. In fact he's opening a whole new area, PLUS he's training again. Straight up flush training. He's pretty sad to be leaving this area since he's been here for a year after all. I'll still be here, but I also got a friendly call from President Beck this morning with some interesting news...guess who else is training? Yup, me. Tomorrow we get a whole bunch of new missionaries fresh from the MTC, and I'll be training one of them. 
I'll be honest, I'm pretty nervous. I'm still trying to figure out what's going on and whatnot. But I also think to myself that if the Lord inspired President Beck to have me train a new missionary, then the Lord will qualify me to do it. I'll send info and pics next week after I meet my greenie tomorrow.
This week was very simple, but very fun. Not a lot of people were home for the holidays, and not a lot of people were on the streets either. Lots of neighborhoods were relatively empty from people being gone. On Thursday we decided to take a shortcut through a dirt field to get to a certain neighborhood quicker. As soon as we popped out on the other side, an older gentleman named Mike with his grandaughter was passing by us. He recognized us. Turns out he lives in the apartment complex that the Elders lived in over a year ago, and wanted to know if we still lived there. We told him no, that we moved to another apartment complex. He said he always enjoyed talking to the Elders who lived near him. He said he had a friend who was LDS, Greg Parsons. As soon as he said that I lit up. Greg Parsons is in the Stake Presidency here, plus he lives in the Villa de Paz ward! We said that we knew him very well, and that he was a good friend to have. Mike told us about how the Parsons family really helped him out a little while ago with food after he lost his job. It didn't surprise me at all, the Parsons are an incredible family. Mike said he wanted to get his grandaughter coming to Church, and said that he himself had a lot of questions about religion in general. We'll hopefully be teaching him this week, and we're definitely going to try and have Pres. Parsons go with us.
On Christmas Eve we biked around giving little Christmas cards to some ward members and investigators. There were three in particular that stood out to me, Ray, Roger, and Joanne. None of them are even investigators, just nice people we know. All three of them seemed to know that we would be stopping by. Ray was very grateful to see us, and Roger was nearly speechless. Both of them have been out of work for a while, and always appreciate us checking up on them. Joanne is a Catholic woman who lives around the corner from a recent convert. She said she has no intention of coming to church, but each time we stop by the visits are friendlier and friendlier. We stopped by, and she was happy to see us. She doesn't have any family, but a few friends were at her home for the holiday. We said we wanted to give her a card, and a little something from the both of us. We gave her the card, and a DVD of  "Mr. Kreuger's Christmas." She opened up her screen door and we could see tears in her eyes. She reached up and gave us each a big hug and thanked us repeatedly for thinking of her. She said she had been thinking about us and wondered if we had forgotten about her. How could we have forgotten her? Is not every soul precious in the eyes of our Father in Heaven? She was busy at the moment, but begged us to come back soon to see her Christmas decorations in her home. My heart goes out to this sweet sister. We're going to try and stop by tonight and see her. I keep thinking to myself a quote I had heard that said, "If they will not accept our religion, then they will accept our hospitality." Sometimes that's all somebody needs.
Yes, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. No, not everyone is ready to recieve the message of the Restored Gosel. But everyone is most certainly in need of the pure love of Christ, especially when hands hang down and knees are feeble. This has been one of the simplest Christmases I have experienced, but quite possibly one of the best. I hope you all are doing well. To my family, it was wonderful to speak with you. Thank you for your constant love and support. Write back soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Email from 12/13/10

(NOTE: Sorry I forgot to post this one when it came.  Hence the reason why it's out of order. ~TT)
Hey everyone!
Glad to hear things are going well at home. I'm curious to see how the upstairs project will turn out. Hopefully it looks nice. Sorry about the whole Bomber girls basketball fiasco. I'm even more sorry about grandpa. Broken rib? Are you serious? Lotta' pain, nothin' to worry about as he always says. I hope he and grandma are doing well too. Is Marlee doing basketball for middle school? How's everything been going with her?
Things in Arizona are going pretty well. It's such great weather. This past week was in the 70's and 80's, and dipped into the 60's at night. The pictures this week are snippets from the ward christmas parties we covered. In the Garden Lakes party, they did a 12 Days of Christmas "Arizona Style" I thought was pretty funny. Day 8 is my favorite. At the Villa de Paz Party, they did a live nativity skit, and one of the ward members let the youth use one of his goats. I had to laugh when the narrator said that the shepherds made haste. The kids playing the shepherds walked across the yard trying to drag the goat with them, but the goat wouldn't budge. It planted its butt down and pulled its neck back. It looked a lot like trying to get Edgar to go inside the house through the side door, he wouldn't move at all. It took a good two or three minutes to move the goat. One of the kids tried poking it with his staff, and the goat just bit the staff. Everyone was laughing. I had to get a picture with the goat because it reminded me of one of my faovrite Saturday Night Live sketches, "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals."
This past week had its ups and downs with teaching. We dropped Bro. Webster, the husband of one of the members of the garden lakes primary presidency. He's stuck with his baptist church and has no intention of joining the LDS church, but he says he always enjoys us coming by to hang out...but that's not why we're here. We found out that Stephanie has now gone two weeks without smoking, and she's very excited to tell us about her progress. We're trying to meet with her to extend a date for baptism, but her work schedule keeps us from meeting regularly with her. I taught Scott a few times this week, a guy who was tracted into way back when Elder Hill was in the area, last March or so. We finally got to meet with him. This week we met with him twice, both of which were exchanges with ward members. We taught him the first two lessons, and he said he's willing to be baptized after he reads and prays. We tried extending a date, but he said he wants to study a bit more, which is going to be ok. He's very eager to learn, and already knows the doctrine pretty well. He's getting baptized, it's just a matter of when.
Elder Abel and I did a lot of tracting this week. Because our teaching pool fluctuates so regularly, we hit the streets and just start knocking on doors. This week was a little slow when we tracted, but I really got to have some fun conversations with Elder Abel. We told stories about stuff we did at home. For instance I told him about Baker, he told me about playing water polo. It was pretty fun and really helped soften the blow from all the grumps who yelled at us. On Friday I think we put in the most miles on bike in one day up to this point on my mission, at least 30. We rode from the bottom to the top of or area and bike probably twice? All of our appointments cancelled, and one of them moved! To Missouri!
Ok so mom and dad you asked about Christmas day. Yes, I will be able to call home on Christmas, and it doesn't really matter what time. We call from our mission cell phone, and Elder Abel and I don't have to call at the same time either. I'm fine with whatever, if morning works best then we can do morning. I'm an hour ahead of Washington time, so if you wanted to talk at 9am I'd call at 10. Whatever works best for you guys, just let me know.
I love you all and hope you're having a good Christmas season. I'm amazed at how fast time is going. We in the apartment are doing things to make our Christmas away from home as awesome as we can. We have three mini-trees, lights, stockings, and today I'm buying candy. Elder Abel even got a homemade recipie for eggnog which I want to try and make. The members here take good care of us and also want to make sure that we're doing well. No worries mom, we're all doing great. I miss you all and can't wait to hear from you. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, December 20, 2010

Email from 12/20

Merry Christmas to All!!

Hey everyone!
Merry Christmas! It's been a great week down here in Arizona. The weather has been pretty interesting lately. Every morning it's dark and cloudy, then the clouds disappear and the sun comes out and it's in the 70's and 80's. On Thursday we had a zone meeting that lasted all day, and it poured rain the whole time (hence the picture with the umbrella). Elder Browning hit a pigeon in the car on the way there, that was pretty weird. Anywho, the other pictures. One is of these really ridiculously tight pants that Elder Abel bought at Savers and thought would fit him. They don't. They don't fit me. They don't fit anyone. I tried 'em on and looked like a goof. I put on Elder Abel's shoes and Elder Bush's glasses. Mom, you've raised a fine lookin' son. Spitting image of his father, if I don't say so myself. Sis, sorry you're related to him, but I know you miss him. He certainly misses you. The last picture was the result of a long day of tracting in lower Garden Lakes. We found a kitten. He sat at the door with us while we tracted. Fun day.
This week really has been pretty good. We're still trying to meet with Stephanie, but she's so hard to get a hold of. I did, however, have two great teaching opportunities I'd like to share. The first is the Kramer family. The Kramers are way less active, in fact they're totally inactive. Their daughter, Elli, is 9 and wants to go to church and be baptized. Mom wants nothing to do with church, but is ok with her going to church. We go to their house to teach Elli, but Elli wasn't there this week when we stopped by. It was me and a member of the ward on splits, so we taught Sis. Kramer. Her husband is always out of town for work, and he's not a huge fan of church either. 

We taught Sis. Kramer what I like to call the primary answers, prayer, scripture study and church. We focused mostly on prayer and church. At the beginning of the lesson, her 6 yr. old daughter wanted to pray to open the lesson, but wanted her mom's help. Mom said, "No, have the missionary help you." It broke my heart. What mother doesn't want to help her child with prayer? So I helped her with the prayer, and I was determined to invite Sis. Kramer to pray by the end of the lesson. During the lesson, we uncovered the iceberg of why she's uncomfortable with prayer and church. She doesn't feel worthy. She doesn't want to be judged by the ward. She doesn't feel worthy to pray just because of her past. She wants to learn the things that will help her become a better parent, but is afraid of going to church. After a long, powerful lesson of my personal testimony and a few scriptures, I invited her to pray. She laughed and said no. At this point her daughter was asleep in her lap. I thought for a moment, and reminded her of what she told me. I said, "Sis. Kramer, you told me that you wanted to learn things that will help you better raise your children. Your daughter told you she wanted to pray, and you didn't want to help her. She's learning that prayer is important and can help her in her life. You need to show her that it is." She was a little shocked at what I said, looked at her daughter in her lap, and said to me, "He won't hear my prayer, I sound like a child when I pray." I looked at her again and asked, "Do you think that your Father in Heaven hears your daughters prayers?" She said of course. I promised her that hers could be heard too. It could be the same vocabulary but as long as you were sincere, He will hear and answer your prayers. I reminded her that when she was baptized as a child all those years back, she was given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and was promised that it would be with her at all times if she merely asked. I asked her one more time to pray. She paused for a while. It was kind of a long silence, but that's when the Spirit is the strongest, and is carrying the words into her heart. She said ok, and gave a simple, wonderful prayer. When I told Elder Abel and Bishop Johnson about that, they both were very happy to hear that. She hasn't prayed in a long time. We're going to try and see them again this week.

The second teaching experience I enjoyed this week was Scott. We met Scott a while back and have finally been able to teach him. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and The Gospel of Jesus Christ lessons this week. One was even in the church. He really enjoyed the church tour and was eager to come to church. Bro. Call, the greatest member missionary ever, drove him to church yesterday. Scott even had a suit! He was welcomed by the ward, and a lot of people introduced themselves. He feels pretty welcomed. He loved Sunday School and Elder's Quorum, and even participated in the various lessons. He's continuing reading the Book of Mormon and loves coming to church. Like I'm telling Elder Abel, he's getting's just a matter of when.

I hope you all have a great Christmas. Please keep in mind its true meaning. We hear this all the time but it's so true. It's the time when we focus our hearts and minds on the birth of Him who came into this world and performed that great Atonement so that we may be able to return to our Father in Heaven as a forever family. I'm ever thankful for this knowledge and for the sacrifice which He made. I love you all and can't wait to hear from you. Mom, dad and sis, I'll talk to you on Saturday at noon your time!

Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, December 6, 2010

Email from 12/6/10

Hey everyone!
As you can see by the pictures, we went to the temple this week! On Friday the 3rd, we had a huge Christmas zone conference. I'd say that probably half of the mission was there. President and Sister Beck shared a few thoughts on the holiday season, and there were lots of musical numbers. That took up most of the morning. We had lunch, watched a slideshow of the past year and then got the news of our mission Christmas gift: we got to go to the Mesa Temple! We all drove over and walked around the grounds for a bit. We went inside and did a session with President and Sister Beck. It was incredible. Sitting in the celestial room with nearly a hundred missionaries around you is a very powerful experience, one that's difficult to put into words. Sister Beck was nearly in tears when she saw all of us together. President and Sister Beck were right there to greet us individually as we entered the celestial room. When we finished, we went outside to look at all of the lights. The grounds are decorated like Temple Square in Salt Lake City, tons of lights! I took a few pictures of myself and Elder Abel, and hopefully soon I'll come up with a Christmas card-worthy photo of sending to everyone.
We went to a few baptisms this week. I hadn't taught any of them, but Elder Abel had and so did the other Elders in our district. We went to support them. The first was on Saturday morning, the Thomas family's eight year old son, Jarett. The Thomas' are a less active family in the Garden Lakes ward slowly returning to activity. We had taught them a few lessons for family home evening a couple months ago. Sister Thomas called us earlier this week and asked if we would come to Jarett's baptism, and also if we would stand in on his confirmation. I was pretty honored; I didn't know they appreciated us that much for coming by to teach them. The second baptism was Saturday evening, the Arias family. Missionaries have been teaching them for three years! They know it's true, but they just never made the effort to progress. Elders Egan and Tameilau kept working with them but they kept falling through with commitments. A month ago they started coming to church, and finally expressed a desire to be baptized. Elder Abel taught them when he covered their ward, and so we went to support Monica, Johnathon and Julian. It was pretty cool to see, and they were very excited.

Stephanie still has a desire to come to church. Her son Jared does too. We're still working with her older son Johnathon. Jared loves reading the scriptures and always calls us to ask who's picking him up for church on Sunday and then for scouts on Wednesday. Stephanie was pretty proud to show us this week that she's been using nicotine patches to help her quit smoking! When we saw her she said she hadn't smoked in three days, and that was this past Tuesday. You can tell she's very serious about quitting. She knows it's what she has to do. She called us the other day to say that she wouldn't be at church because she was sick, but had also said that the promise we made her was actually happening. When we started teaching her back in October we promised her that the Gospel blesses families, that her life would make a change for the better and that she would feel comfort as she lives the teachings of the Savior. She called to tell us that it was all happening, and that she's very thankful for us teaching her. It's true though, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of happiness.
For Christmas we were also given a crisp, clean copy of the Book of Mormon. As a mission, we're taking the challenge to read it in thirty days. As we read it, we're focusing primarily on the Savior Himself. We're going to highlight every reference to His name, His ministry, His Atonement, everything He said and did. I'm pretty excited for the challenge. I know it will strengthen my testimony of the Book of Mormon and its testimony of our Savior.
Things are great in Arizona. I really can't complain. I say that a lot, yeah, but it's true. I love what I'm doing. Hopefully everyone back home is doing well despite the cold and the snow (which I miss). Strange enough, last week was cold! At night it dipped into the thirties and I was freezing! I actually broke down and bought a sweater to wear under my suit. It's leveled out right now into the sixties, and it's great. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner