Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A White Arizona Christmas (Dec. 27, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I hope everyone back home had a Merry Christmas! The holiday weekend here in the APM was pretty fun. Christmas Eve was pretty busy. We had three scheduled appointments that day, to of which fell through. The first one was with a new family of investigators, seven in all! Their home is the same apartment complex as the Spanish Elders. The Spanish Elders fit comfortably the two of them in their place, but seven is WAY too packed. We were all crammed around a little table in the kitchen and barely had time to share a scripture because of how loud they all were at the same time. It worked though, and hopefully we should be seeing them more regularly now. Later in the afternoon, President and Sister Taylor met us at the Surprise Stake center to give us all of the mail and packages for the zone. We spent the rest of the afternoon delivering mail to everyone, including a whirlwind trip to meet the Wickenburg Elders. We were invited by the Cuthbertsons to go caroling with their family, but had to be in by 6pm. We asked President and Sister Taylor about it. No longer than about two seconds went by before Sister Taylor poked President on the arm and said, "Oh please let them go!!" President gave us the ok. Sister Taylor rocks :) We met the rest of the house at about 6:30 and sped over to the Cuthbertsons. Their entire family was there, maybe 50-60 people? We all went caroling around the housing development and went back to their house for cookies, cocoa and fun. Bro. Cuthberston let us come out into their back yard to sit around the fire pit, eat cookies and kick back. It was a fun night! We dropped the other Elders back at the house, finished delivering the mail, and made it home for bed.
On to Christmas morning. SANTA CAME! Everyone got a stocking filled with candy and trinkets, including 12-month calenders for 2012 and their very own 1998 Nagano Olympics drinking glass. It was a Christmas miracle! We all got up at 6:30 to open our packages and presents. I absolutely LOVED the M&M machine, and I plan to use it. I already stole all of Elder Wood's M&M's to use it. Owned. I've attached a couple pics of Christmas morning. Church that day was so well done. Copper Canyon ward was one of the most spiritually uplifting sacrament meetings I've been to my whole mission. There was only one short talk, a few musical numbers, and a small message from the Bishop. The Russell's eight year old daughter sang "What Child is This" with Sis. Russell on the piano. Absolutely beautiful. The Bishop gave a little Christmas thought about something he read in the newspaper that morning and it was just the little Christmas message we needed to hear.
For dinner on Christmas we went to the Stringam's. It was a very laid back evening and we had a lot of fun. Their son got Legos for Christmas and we helped him put together the plane and truck while Bro. Stringam was finishing dinner--steak, shrimp and potatoes. I took my time to enjoy the steak and potatoes but needless to say, I pounded the shrimp. Best dinner ever. We all had fun telling stories from missions and throwing out jokes here and there. I'm so excited to get working more with Bro. Stringam as our ward mission leader.
West Point ward was a little different. I wish I could have been there for all of it. We left halfway through it because of the baptism. Wes and Amber's family is complete! We went back into the room with the font and saw their family come in, along with a lot of the Gateway Park ward. Wes baptized Gabriel. He came up to me, gave me a hug and asked, "So what do I say again?" It was still pretty unreal the see it all happen. Like I said, this wasn't the same family we began teaching back in May. Wes takes his priesthood seriously and wanted to make sure it was done right. I attached the picture of the whole family just before the baptism. The two littlest still have a few more years before they're baptized, but now begins the countdown to the temple.
It was great to be able to talk to you guys on the phone, it just went so fast. It's ok, Mother's Day is only, what, five months away? No big deal! I'm keeping plenty busy and I love the work. I'm grateful that my final mission Christmas was the way it was. I got to spend it with missionaries I love, in a place I love, doing things I love, and seeing the completion of a family I've come to love so much over the past few months. I hope everyone is doing well and I hope to hear from you all very soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Eric on Christmas morning

Eric's companion Elder Wood

Wes and Amber's family

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bonus Christmas Photos (Dec. 2011)

Outside the Mesa Temple with Elder Wood and two sister missionaries

With Santa at the mission Christmas conference
These photos are from Sister Taylor's mission blog.
Practicing their TV weatherman hands

With Braden Taylor, the mission president's son.

With President and Sister Taylor

Not sure......

I Love to See the Temple (Dec. 19, 2011)

Hey everyone!
We had our fantastic Christmas zone conference this week! The morning was spent in the Glendale stake center with half the mission, the Surprise, Phoenix, Phoenix South, Glendale, Goodyear and West Maricopa zones--115 of us in total! Most of the zone conference was special Christmas talks, musical numbers and Christmas hymns. Elder Brame played one of the most amazing pieces of "O Holy Night" on the piano that I think I've ever heard. Sister Taylor was nearly speechless after it was over. All of us filled into mission vehicles and drove to the Mesa Temple. I snapped a picture outside with Elder Wood just before the endowment session. I think it may be my Christmas card photo I'm doing this year for members and missionaries. The session was just awesome. There were exactly enough seats for all of us, including President and Sister Taylor and a few of the office couples. It was very powerful to see President and Sister Taylor as the witness couple, and I felt the Spirit very strongly as I sat around missionaries I knew quite well. I sat near Elders Wood, Burden, Cava, Pugsley, Nelson, Johnson, Ward, Duke, Bush, Jones, all of those guys and just felt happy the whole time. While we were waiting to go into the celestial room, we all just looked around at each other and kept smiling. At the entrance to the celestial room were President and Sister Taylor to give us each a hug. It was an army of missionaries in there, very powerful. I was one of the last dozen or so missionaries to come in, and it was cool to see a hundred plus missionaries standing there. They all seemed to make a semi-circle toward the back of the room. I wish I could put into words how powerful of a sight it was. I loved seeing all of the missionaries in there. Sister Turville was there too! I couldn't help but give her a big hug as soon as I saw her. Outside of the temple were the Christmas lights. I snapped a quick picture with President and Sister Taylor, and took a bunch of other pictures with other missionaries too. I included the picture of our district, the Surprise East district. From right to left it's Sister Falke, Sister Rohner, Elder Whipple, Elder Mortensen (district leader), then Elder Turner and Elder Wood (the zone leaders).
I had been waiting all week for the temple. My attitude was just excited the whole time. I was eager to get to work in everything I did. With the West Point ward's new ward mission plan in place, Wood and I got to work. This week we found three new investigators!!! That was a breath of fresh air from the slump we've been in. I also went with Eric Blackham to make some visits to prospective elders, and now we're meeting with a new family every Tuesday night. This week we've just been blessed and my heart has been full of gratitude.
I don't think I mentioned last week but Bro. Lake, our Copper Canyon ward mission leader was released. I was pretty sad to hear the news. He and his wife were called to assist in humanitarian efforts with the stake, and they're perfect for the job. Nobody was sustained as a new ward mission leader last week, so naturally we were a little on edge. Of course, speculation flew like crazy. One night while Elder Wood and I were talking, we both agreed on who we felt like our new ward mission leader would be. We were right. Yesterday Bro. Stringam was sustained as our new Copper Canyon ward mission leader. I'm beyond excited! Seriously, one of the most missionary minded men in the stake. He came up to us after sacrament meeting and said, "Elders, I'm a blank slate. What do I need to do?" He's so ready and willing to learn. He has a bunch of ideas that he's waiting to try. We had dinner with them last night to talk about it more, and we'll be helping him a lot this week. Both he and his wife served missions and I feel like we're going to have a power team to help with the work in the ward.
Last night was our cottage meeting with President Allen of the Surprise stake. We talked a lot about the Christmas season and bore testimony about the Savior. It was there that I suddenly remembered my family and one of the greatest Christmas seasons we had. It was ten short years ago, the first week of December 2001 when we went to the temple to have Marlee sealed to us. I couldn't believe that it had already been ten years! It just came to me there in his home and I bore my testimony about how special of an experience that was. I'm grateful for the joy I feel at the Christmas season, especially after we went through the temple as a mission and I was reminded of the joy our family felt just ten years ago. I felt a renewed sense of urgency to get to work. I'm excited to talk to the family this Sunday morning. Mom and Dad, I don't know what time exactly I'll be calling. I'll most likely call first thing in the morning to see what your day is like. Our day may be a little busy, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to call. I'll only have 30-40 minutes to talk, so come prepared with questions! Sis, I wanna hear from you too! Write down anything you want to know or anything you want to talk about. I need a few minutes of quality sis time. I love you all and can't wait to hear from you soon. Take care and be good, and I'll talk to you on Christmas!
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With Elder Wood outside the Mesa Temple

With President and Sister Taylor outside the Mesa Temple

With the members of the district at the temple

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Zone Conference This Week (Dec. 12, 2011)

Hey everyone!
News from the front--it's cold. I think winter has hit the valley. Right now it's in the mid-40's and raining. At nights it gets into the low-30's and here and there it can get below freezing. In the day it'll sit in the mid/low-60's, which is just perfect. Come sundown we bust out the sweaters and get to work. Things with Elder Wood are awesome. We do everything together, such as shopping for septic tanks and old-fashioned Christmas photos (as seen in this week's photos). Really though, I love the man. The two of us have said that we want to completely eliminate tracting for our work. We spent the whole week working with the members of the ward. Subsequently, we reported straight 0's in our call-in, except the one lesson we had with a less active family. It may look discouraging on paper, but we hit the wards hard. We've set a few more family mission plans this week, and Bishop McLaws even showed us in PEC the new ward mission plan for 2012. I. Love. It. It's beautiful. Bishop came up to us at the start of sacrament meeting and said with a smile on his face, "Is that a ward mission plan, or what?" It's so specific with names, goals, everything. By the end of 2012, I'd love to see where the West Point ward will be.
A few things have hit our teaching pool this week. Remember Tom? Tom was the man who we spoke to that has the autistic son that we met just before Halloween. For weeks, Tom was telling Bishop Smith about how he was going to come to church, and he came once. He also kept asking how he could get involved with volunteering in the ward, and he helped with the stake youth service day. We tried setting appointments. Nothing. Rumor was going around that he and his wife were having arguments about the church. We heard it from Bishop, but the story didn't match up with what we were told by his wife. The week before, his wife let us into the home, gave us food and water, and even gave us Tom's cell phone number to get a hold of him. Just the other day we went to their fellowshippers' home and asked what was going on. They told us the same story as Bishop, that he wasn't going to help anymore, and that he'd repay anything the church had done to help his family. I was crushed. We're not giving up though. Tonight we're going over and we're going to try and get the honest truth. I love them too much to just quit, I have to hear it from them.
The other night Elder Wood and I had a little extra time before we had to be home. It was that awkward time at night where nobody wants their door knocked on because it's dark, but we still have time to work--"the bewitching hour" as I jokingly call it. It's just confusing to know what to do in that time when your appointments fall through, and tracting just irritates people. We parked the truck in Old Surprise/El Mirage (remember what happened Easter night?) and we walked the streets. There weren't as many people outside because it was pretty cold. At one of the last houses on a road before it turned into fields was a woman named Alicia. She was carrying groceries inside and we offered to help. She was a little weirded out that we were out "so late." We began to speak with her about what we do as missionaries. We offered her a copy of the Book of Mormon, and she hesitated. She asked, "How much?" We said it was free, her gift from us. She smiled and said that she never has a Bible growing up, so she was very grateful. We explained the difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon and we'll be going by this weekend to give her a Bible too. Alicia was pretty excited and she told us she was going to go inside and start reading right away. It may not be the greatest story in the world, but it was a good experience for all of us on that cold Saturday night.
Mom and dad thank you so much for the little Christmas box. I love the music and the pictures. I look through them frequently and I show them to the Elders in the house. I laughed so hard when I saw that picture of Ed laying on the blanket I was trying to make. There were two pictures of the front yard and the street, and I put them side by side to make it a mini-panorama. It made me so happy to see the ginko, the house, dad's truck, Fetrow's, Joe's and even down on to the 300-block of Delafield. I love it so much. 
With the few things I had been asking for for Christmas, there's one more thing I would like. It's a little bit different, but please try it. I want mom dad and sis to go to the temple to do baptisms together as a family. Go some early morning before school or some afternoon, whenever, just some time before Christmas is all I ask. After you're done, take a piece of paper and right down your thoughts and feelings about what you did. Write about how the day was. How did you feel before, and how did you feel after going to the temple? Before you go home, please take a picture the three of you outside the temple with the temple in the background, church clothes and everything, and email it all to me. The mission is going to the Mesa Temple this week and I couldn't be more excited. I want this Christmas to be a time where it'll be fun to call home, but even more joyous to be able to remember covenants and to be able to feel the Spirit in the House of the Lord. I hope this isn't too much more to ask this year for Christmas, but it would mean a lot to me. I know it will mean a lot for you too. I'll follow-up with you when I call home on Christmas day. I love you all, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Companionship Christmas Pic

The joy of Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Elder Derek Wood (Dec. 5, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Everyone's dying to know just as much as I'm dying to say who my new companion is. Ladies and gentleman, I introduce to you, Elder Derek Wood of Beaverton, Oregon! I failed to get a picture of the two of us, sorry about that. Next week. The next day after emails last week was weird without Elder Allred. I was missing my better half. The next morning at transfers I went into the leadership training meeting and sat right in front of Elder Wood. I leaned over to him and whispered "You're coming to Surprise." He laughed and we continued with our meeting. We move into the chapel and lo and behold, my new companion. Other than that, not a whole lot of changes to the zone. Elder Trussell's companion Elder Fluckiger moved across the hall of their apartment to be with Elder Robinson, and Elder Jones came down from Sedona to be with Elder Trussell. I'm pumped for this next transfer. Missionaries have been working hard, and already there were four baptisms in the zone this past weekend alone, but more to come on that.
Elder Wood is a stud. He's been out for 13 months, and is my first companion from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When people ask if we live close to each other, we have to explain that we live on other ends of the states. He's a huge Ducks fan, which is good considering how well I hear they're doing. We pretty much laugh the whole time we're driving around, throwing jokes out here and there. Our first night together, I saw what kind of teacher he was: awesome. He knows the scriptures so well, and he uses them. We had another lesson with Sarah and her family and it went really well. That morning we were in a district meeting and talked about the importance of our investigators praying. We both agreed that it needed to happen that night with Sarah and her family. In the actual lesson, we invited Sarah to say the closing prayer. She was a little hesitant, but then said she'd do it...but she didn't know what to say what she was feeling. I always love it when people pray for the first time. It's often some of the most sincere prayers I've ever heard. It was the same case here. She prayed and it was great. She gave thanks for her family and for their health. She thanked her Heavenly Father for being able to work doing what she loves. Toward the end of her prayer, she asked specifically to know if baptism was what she needed to do. After it was over, she commented on how she felt a little bit better. Nothing overly exciting, but better. It was great to see how Elder Wood and I had a goal for the lesson and how we worked toward it.
This past weekend was full of very spiritually rewarding experiences involving baptisms. We attended four baptismal services. The first one was the stake baptisms. An eight year old boy named Xander was baptized by his father. You might know him. It was Wes! I baptized Wes just over a month ago. He received the priesthood and he baptized his son on Saturday. I snapped a picture with the family (Amber wasn't able to make it because of work). Elder Wood and I stood as witnesses. You could tell how nervous Wes was and I don't blame him! I've been a member of the church for my whole life and didn't personally baptize anyone until I was twenty years old. He's been a baptized member of the church for a month and now he was baptizing his son! It was a great feeling to stand at waters' edge and see this happen. In a month their ten year old Gabriel will be baptized too, completing the family. Their two youngest kinds will be baptized when they turn eight.
We went back into Peoria, Elder Wood's last area, for the baptism of an investigator he had taught. It was a father returning to activity baptizing his son. We came back to Surprise for the baptism of a family in the Estrella branch for the Spanish Elders. It was the family where I ate menudo a few months ago. I had helped them paint the walls of one of their rooms a few weeks ago, and I immediately loved that family. Mom and dad and their eight year old son were all baptized. Their 15 year old daughter chose not to be baptized with them, but she came to support them. The whole time she was in tears. I know the Spirit touched her heart. I firmly believe that she could be baptized by the end of the month. Their family just seemed to have a glow about them when they came up out of the water. I loved the service because it was all in Spanish. We sang the hymns in Spanish, I didn't understand a word of any of the talks but I just sat back and felt the Spirit the whole time.
An hour after the Spanish baptismal service was a baptism for our sisters. They've been teaching a man named Rocky and he was so excited to be baptized. He only has one leg, his right leg. He's in wheelchair but is one of the funniest people I've met in a while. He had just had surgery on his other foot, and had it covered in a plastic bag for his baptism. To ensure safety, the sisters asked if we would dress in white and be in the font to assist the man who was baptizing Rocky. We said we'd be glad to. The service itself was one of the most humble I've ever attended. There couldn't have been more than ten or twelve people there. The talks were short and sweet, and Sis Falke played a musical number on the violin that was so beautiful to listen to. She played an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, "Lead, Kindly Light," with "O My Father." It nearly brought me to tears. The time came when we were to help Rocky be baptized. The four of us in the font was a tight fit, but it worked. I stood to his right, Wood behind him, and the brother from their ward to his left. He was baptized and he was so happy. The easy part was over, now we had to get him out. He tried stepping up the steps, but the plastic bag on his foot kept slipping. He sat on the steps, and tried scooting himself up. One of us at the top tried to lift him, but we needed another person. His brother came to help us, and he was eventually lifted into his wheelchair. Altogether it probably took about four or five minutes to get out of the font and Rocky was chuckling for most of it.
I had a great week. With a new companion and with all of these baptisms plus more to come, it's looking to be a great holiday season. Already the work seems to be turning around in the area. Elder Wood is the man and I'm eager to see what's in store for us. I hope everyone's doing well and I can't wait to hear from you. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Xander's baptism

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good Luck Elder Allred (Nov. 29, 2011)

Hey everyone!
It's been a pretty crazy last week for Elder Allred. Thanksgiving Day was fun, we went to the Masanai'i's in Surprise 2nd ward. They were actually in Garden Lakes ward back when I served in Avondale, and they just moved up here! They invited us over, and we went for a good meal. Bro. Reupena was there too, and he helped us out a lot when Elder Malmberg and I were together. After that dinner we went to the Snyder's in Copper Canyon ward. Another Avondale connection, Sis Snyder is Bro. Price's sister! We had another dinner with them, and Bro. Price even came up to Surprise to say hi. That really meant a lot to me.
So you heard that I met the Homers huh? It's true! Up in Wickenburg I was on an exchange with one of our district leaders (which was one of the best exchanges I ever did). There was a family pizza dinner at the Hancock's, and they invited the missionaries. When I told them I was from the Tri-Cities, they said, "Oh that's where Hugh and Bev are from!" I met them and they said I might know their daughter and son in law, Debbie and Dana Anderson. As a matter of fact I do!! Pretty small world, huh? On that day, I also snapped a picture with Elder Juchau at the cemetery of Henry Wickenburg, the founder of the booming metropolis of Wickenburg, Arizona.
Other pictures from this week: Elder Allred and I did the Blazin' Buffalo Wild Wings Challenge. 12 of their hottest wings in 6 minutes. Can you see the pain in our eyes? The challenge itself wasn't terrible, but afterwards was. In all reality, I didn't actually complete "the challenge." I had all of the bones picked clean with 15 seconds left, but didn't actually swallow it all until about 6 mins 2 seconds. Pretty crazy though. the last two pictures are of the Surprise House and Elder Allred's last day before he went into the mission home. His last day was pretty intenese. He spent the morning packing, and with about two hours before he went into the mission home, we went tracting. We kept working until the last minute. We talked to some really nice people, and even filled a window of heaven. We drove him to the mission home, and said our goobyes. As I'm typing this, he's already on the plane and heading home to Ogden. I miss him like crazy. As far as transfers are concerned, I'm staying, and so is most of the zone. Elders Carter and Fluckiger are the only ones in the zone being transferred. Tomorrow morning I'll be receiving a new companion and I don't have the slightest clue or hunch as to who it could be...so you'll just have to wait until next week to find out!
In one of our district meetings this week, I had a very strong spiritual impression come into my heart. I bore my testimony about how the Lord expects me and Elder Allred to do something great that night--invite Sarah to be baptized. Sarah has been coming to church for a while with her husband (who is already a member of the church). She's been so prepared for so long and the Spirit was telling both me and Elder Allred what we had to do. It was why we were meeting with them that night for the first time in months. We visited their family, and set some expectations with all of them. By the end of it, we invited the whole family to act in some way. We invited the boys to lead in family prayer, the father to come to church more frequently and Sarah to be baptized. She paused for a long time and simply responded, "I don't know yet." I was perfectly ok with that response. Not the best ending to a story, I know. Elder Allred and I both knew what we needed to do to be a successful missionary: represent the Lord and invite her to act. We did it. It was Elder Allred's last lesson with an investigator, and we left with high spirits because we did what we needed to do.
The work is still a little slow but that doesn't mean we're down. I just love it here. Lots of changes are being made with quorum and auxiliary organization, so we'll hav the chance to get some fresh ideas how to strengthen the wards. Bishops want us to be working with more less active families, which is becoming more and more of an adventure every week. I love you all and hope to hear from you very soon. More Surprises next week, including a new companion. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Wickenburg Cemetery

Visiting old friend for Thanksgiving

The Buffalo Hot Wings Challenge

Allred's last night at the Surprise House

Saying goodbye to Allred at the Mission Home

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bring on the Turkey! (Nov. 21, 2011)

Hey everyone!
After this past week, I'm pretty exhausted. We've been running around at a million miles an hour trying to get ready for the two stake coordination meetings we had yesterday. Saturday was one of the busiest, if not most stressful days we've had in a while. After trying to get all of the information typed up, we realized we still needed progress records from the whole zone. We drove around getting all those, made copies of all the packets and whatnot, and made it home at about 10:30, and weren't in bed until about 11:15. The worst part was just planning the next morning. We had to be up by 5:45, at the coordination meetings before 9, at a ward council training at 11, our own sacrament meetings at 11 and 1, and a baptismal interview in Wickenburg (an hour away) at 12:30. It couldn't be done. There was no way we could have done it all. We called Elder Juchau, our district leader in Wickenburg and asked if we could push the baptismal interview back an hour or so, he told us that it was actually next Sunday. Right then I let out the biggest sigh of relief. The trip to Wickenburg was going to be the hardest, and now we didn't have to do it. The day was still pretty crazy, but it all worked out. I'm starting to understand what Elder Duncan of the Seventy meant when he said that there's never enough time in a day to plan.
Just one picture this week: Elder Allred's trunky papers. About a week before every missionary goes home, the mission mails him or her their flight plans for going home. The look on his face says enough, but he wasn't too thrilled to get the letter. With all the craziness this week, we needed a boost. We got it on Friday and Saturday night. Remember those baptismal interviews I told you about last week? Their baptisms were this weekend. Autumn was on Friday and she had a ton of ward support. The Spirit was strong as close friends bore testimonies in the baptismal service. Saturday night was Gary, the man whom I interviewed that took over and hour and a half. His service was really simple, but with nearly a hundred people there. After he was baptized, he bore his testimony. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. It was so powerful as he bore testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel. His wife was in tears when he talked about their plans to go to the temple to be sealed for eternity. He pointed to the font and was in tears as he the only thing he wants now is to bring his daughters and son into the font when they're old enough. He praised the missionaries. He bore testimony that we were young, inexperienced, but called and qualified by God. It was the spiritual boost we all needed for the week, the powerful reminder of why we do this work.
I'm out of time, lots of other things going on. Mom and dad, I read your emails and I'll be sure to let you know about everything in next week's email home. We have a few places to go for Thanksgiving, and I'm going to make sure Elder Allred has a good last week in the field. With next week's transfers, the email will be coming on Tuesday. Until next week, I love you all, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Elder Allred with his travel papers for going home

Monday, November 14, 2011

Get Ripped (Nov. 14, 2011)

Hey everybody!
It's been a really good week down in the APM! I hope this week's picture shows just how hard we've been working. A few of my shirts have been getting a little rip just on the side, not sure why or how. At first I could always hide the rip under my belt line if I just tucked in my shirt, or like when I'm in a meeting and I'm just wearing my jacket the whole time. As I've worn them more, the rips have grown. This was a bit much, two of my shirts have completely ripped across the back and up the side, as we can clearly see in the picture. No worries, my other shirts are ok, plus I found a box in the garage of some white shirts that a missionary had left that were too small for him...but just perfect for me! I picked out two of them to replace the ones I ripped. It all works out, I broke even!
I had the chance to conduct three baptismal interviews this week, all of which were very good experiences. My favorite was Gary. Gary showed no interest a few months ago, but over time has softened his heart to the church. As he read the scriptures and prayed in his family, he wanted that feeling more. His interview on Saturday was pretty incredible. He was so humble and so eager to continue to learn. I appreciated how he had a testimony that baptism wasn't the end, but the beginning to learning more. His interview was over an hour and a half, the longest I've ever conducted. His testimony was so strong. I'll admit that he clarified principles of the gospel I had been taught, but kind of took for granted. It was a humbling experience for me to be the one to interview him for baptism.
A good friend in one of our wards, Eric (rockin' name, eh?) just got his mission call. He's been waiting for a little while to put in his papers, and his call came this past week. He's going to the Philippines Angeles Mission, speaking Tagalog. He's pretty pumped! It was funny how he was called there, because of some stuff we had in our apartment. Before Elder Cava was transferred, he left a bunch of Tagalog study materials, including a Bible, leather-bound triple combination, Preach My Gospel, English-Tagalog dictionary and the MTC missionary lesson book...all in Tagalog! Elder Cava was given it in the MTC by accident, and he just carried it with him. The night we heard Eric got his call to the Philippines, we immediately wrapped up all of the materials and put them in a box to give to him. We were over at his house the next day talking to them about something, then we had to leave. We drove around the block, left the box on his porch, rang the doorbell and hid in the most obvious places possible. Elder Allred was "behind" a tree about as big around as my wrist and I crouched behind a rose bush not much taller than a foot or so. Eric came outside, saw the box, and looked around for a minute. He seriously couldn't see us! We poked our heads out and he made eye contact with us--he saw us, but played off like he couldn't. We giggled like goofballs, and Eric shouted, "THANK YOU TO WHOEVER DID THIS!" Aren't we silly?
The week was a little slow for, well, everything. We spent most of our time making contact with prospective elders and setting family mission plans. I've really been enjoying setting these family mission plans. Mom and Dad, I'll have to send one to you to tell me what you think. The bishops in our areas love them, and so do the families! It's safe to say that many families have a desire to share the gospel, but sometimes don't know how. And that's ok! That's where we come in and help. Our purpose isn't to guilt members of the ward into missionary work but with these family mission plans, we give them the opportunity to set their own goals and let us know how we can help them. We set probably four or five this past week, and we're looking to probably double that this next week.
Our finding approach is quickly changing to less-active and part-member work. Elder Duncan last week drew something out on the board. On the left side he drew a baptism, and on the right side a temple, with a line connecting the two. He carefully taught that within that time is when true conversion takes place. Some personal revelation hit me shortly thereafter. I thought of stories that people like to hear about from the mission. The stories that end in baptism are pretty cool, aren't they? It's the stories that end in conversion that brig more joy to the soul, stories after baptism. Stories like Victor wanting to serve a mission and not missing a Sunday since his baptism in May. Stories like Amber working in Primary now and Wes receiving the Priesthood. We're changing our work to helping more people in their own conversions.
Not a whole lot of exciting news from the front, but I thought you'd like to hear some of the fun stories about everyday missionary life. What else would everyone like to hear? Once we pick back up in our teaching pool, I'll be sure to let everyone know how that goes. We've been working hard and enjoying every minute of it. Until next week, take care and be good!
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Apparently white dress shirts aren't designed to be worn EVERY day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Starting to Get Cold Again (Nov. 8, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I hope everyone had a great Halloween! The first picture of me and Elder Burden explains our night pretty accurately. Mtn. Dew. Lots of it. We had to be in by 5, so we bought some soda to stay active. We got a call from the AP's telling us that we were going to be housing the Prescott zone leaders, Elders Anderson and Nelson, who were coming to the valley to stay the night for zone leader council. So at about 8:30 pm on Halloween, we drove to Glendale to pick 'em up at the transfer building. I wanted to make a pit stop on the way back, so I drove to the mission home to trick-or-treat President and Sister Taylor! The four of us rang the doorbell and hid. Sister Taylor opened the door and sounded a little confused. We jumped out and said "Trick or treat," and she got a kick out of that. She invited us inside for some candy. Slow night at the mission home. They only had 5 kids knock on their door the whole night. President and Sister Taylor had a bunch of snacks and food on the table, including two whole pizzas. We gladly finished those off for her. We spent the next hour or so chatting with them about the mission, stories, successes, questions, all that fun stuff. It was so much fun, probably one of my most memorable Halloween nights. I wish I had taken some pictures. I love that we can have those experiences with our mission president. We made it back home by about 10:30.
The next morning, Tuesday, we had to be up at 5:30 for zone leader council. We did another hike up Sunrise Mtn., just like my first ZLC back in March with Elder Angelos. I enjoyed this one a lot because I knew more of the zone leaders. Elders Johnson and Buttars were there too, which made it a blast. We took a few pictures from the top, one of me and Elder Allred with Surprise about 10 miles behind us. Everything at the foot of White Tank Mtns is Surprise. The last picture is of me, Elder Anderson, Elder Nelson (Prescott ZL's) and half of Elder Buttars' face. The zone leader council itself was great, and definitely set the stage for the mission leadership training the next day. At the training, President played a talk from the new mission president's seminar in the MTC called "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary," by Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve. It as amazing. We set so many goals as a zone, and the talk alone shaped the structure for our zone meeting this Friday. It might be one of the least planned zone meetings, but we feel like it will be one of the most effective. If it's anything like the combined Surprise district meeting we had this week, it will be great.  Elder Allred and I led a skills training about the importance of the progress record, a form we use when presenting information to the ward and stake. We wanted everyone to understand just how important it is. A huge discussion began about how we use it, information we need to present and accountability. At the end of it we drew a mock-progress record on the board and had everyone fill it out with the information of one of their investigators. By the end of it, it was beautiful. Nobody really said anything because we were so proud of it. I think this is going to help the missionaries in Surprise stake build the trust of the stake presidency just that much more.
Yesterday was our mission tour by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy. It's broken up over the course of three days, kind of like a zone conference. Yesterday was our zone, Peoria/Peoria N. and Goodyear/Buckeye. In the morning, he did a special training with the district and zone leaders in the zones, about 15 of us total. What a great experience. It's difficult for me to recall all of the things he said because I was too busy writing down personal revelation in my notes (which he told us to do). In the meeting with the rest of the zones, he spoke a lot about what is referred to as "My Doctrine" in the scriptures and how that helps with goal setting and planning. I loved it! My mind was a little blown by all of it but definitely a spiritually uplifting experience. Once again, hard to describe, but take a look at my notes!
I'm sure everyone's wondering about what happened with Bonnie. We met with her on Thursday night. The first thing she said was that she apologized for the way she reacted last week when we informed her that her baptism should be pushed back. We talked a little bit more, and really helped her understand the principle of repentance. She seems to understand it a little bit more, but I fear that she may actually have to go through it to fully grasp its meaning--"learning it the hard way" so to speak. She understands why her baptism had to be pushed back. She's still upset, but at least she understands. We asked if this was something she still wanted to pursue, and she said yes. However, it won't be happening here. She told us that she'd been doing a lot of thinking and praying, and will be moving back to Florida. She said that's where her dad is, and she wants to be closer to him. Plus, she knows the area, she can get all the medical attention she needs and can even get around on foot. It's just better for her there. She'll be leaving this weekend. We're sad to see her go, but like I said, it's in her best interests. She asked if we could help her get in touch with the missionaries in the area, and we can. I think that night I felt more love for her in that one lesson than in any other lesson prior to that.
With Bonnie leaving, we're back to where we started at the beginning of the month. We're not discouraged at all, because we know great things are going to happen. Elder Allred goes home in three weeks and I want to help him see a baptism before he leaves. High bar? Probably, but the Lord will provide. We've been working hard and changing our finding efforts to working with families, and we feel that's how we can best live our purpose as missionaries. Let's get to work! Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Mt. Dew on Halloween with Elder Burden

On Sunrise Mountain overlooking Surprise, AZ with Elder Allred

With Elders Nelson, Anderson, and Buttars on Sunrise Mountain

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! (Oct. 31, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I'm not sure where to begin this week. How about pictures? Elder Allred's birthday was on Friday, the big 21. The Del Vecchio's had us over for dinner and surprised Elder Allred with a new tie, and some large wine glasses and a few bottles of Mtn. Dew. It was a pretty awesome night. From past experiences with messy eating habits, the Del Vecchio's brought out their daughter's bibs for me and Elder Allred. Gotta keep them white shirts clean. The second picture is of us and the Lakes at the Copper Canyon trunk or treat. I almost didn't recognize Bro. Lake at first. Both of the wards' parties were a lot of fun. We met a few new people too, including a few friends that people brought (more to come about them in future emails!!).
I'll get the worst news out of the way first. Bonnie did not get baptized this weekend. We were told that she had smoked here and there, and we went over on Friday to talk with her about her baptism scheduled for Saturday. She told us how excited she was. She also mentioned how she had smoked a cigarette the night before, but now she's done for good...I've heard that once or twice out here. Elder Allred and I had planned on pushing her date back a few weeks to make sure she was really ready and that she was really repentant enough for this covenant. When she had told us herself, that made it easier to bring up the concern. We talked to her about it, and said it would be in her best interest if we pushed the date back. She said, "I was afraid of that." She broke down and started crying, and ran inside the house. Oh boy. We talked with Barbera, her friend and roommate, about the situation. We all knew it was the right thing to do. Bonnie came outside and was pretty hysterical, hyperventilating and basically throwing a tantrum. She kept saying how when she was growing up she was taught never to tell the truth because she'd get in trouble, and now she knows shy, how God doesn't want her because she's not perfect. It was terrible. Nothing she was saying was true, and she didn't understand. There was no getting through to her. She ran back into the house and continued to be upset. We eventually left, pretty disappointed in her reaction. Saturday afternoon we got a call from Barbera saying that Bonnie has made the decision to continue smoking. She wasn't at church yesterday, and has been pretty bitter to a few people who have tried to make contact with her. No we know that she for sure just was not ready for baptism. We'll let some dust settle and let her blow off some steam, and we'll try to pick back up again. Yeah it's no fun, but we know that we did everything we needed to do. We did our part. She used her agency and is now coming to grips that we are accountable for the choices we make. It really is best that she wasn't baptized only to continue smoking again, with no sincerity of repentance, and then have to work through the bishop to make things right again. This really was the best thing to do. I sure hope we can see her again soon.
With that out of the way, let's move on with the rest of the week. With our teaching pool as shallow as it us, we've been using every method of finding we can think of. Lately we've been working in the area book, trying to make contact with past investigators and potentials that have been recorded by past missionaries. That's how we met Tom and Donna. They were being taught by missionaries in the past, but Tom had an accident that completely wiped his memory of everything before said accident. He had to relearn who his family was, who he was, his interests, basic motor skills, everything. He's ok now, but there's still a lot for him to learn. He says mostly pictures will bring things to surface. When we knocked on the door, they let us right inside. I have never before felt such an immediate love for a family. They were so kind they have three sons, ages 2 to 13. Tom said that he loves the welcome feeling he gets when he comes to church and church activities. Plus his chili was probably my favorite at the trunk or treat party! Their middle son has a form of autism and Donna is easily the most patient woman I have ever met. She was in the other room doing something, and Elder Allred was talking to Tom. I got down on the ground and started talking to their son with autism. He had these wax sticks that could be bent and twisted, and he was making Halloween shapes. I asked him if I could make some shapes with him and he was really excited. I asked him which sticks I could use and what shapes I could make. He was calm and cool the whole time, and we made a lot of fun Halloween shapes like ghosts, pumpkins and bats. Tom and Donna were pretty amazed at what they saw. They said that their son hasn't ever made a connection with anyone that fast. I had always enjoyed working with kids in high school who had learning and mental disabilities, and I really enjoyed making these shapes with their son. They had expressed that they'd like to have us come over every so often to start teaching again. It may be a long process, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing this family more often.
The best part of the week happened yesterday after church. We had to be on the other end of Surprise for an appointment. On they way, we stopped at the other church building. We turned the corner, and saw a couple of Wes and Amber's kids turning the corner at the same time as us! I looked down the hall, and saw Wes and Amber walking the the rest of their kids out of the bishop's office and down the hall towards us. It's difficult to explain, but they looked different. Their countenances had changed. This was not the same family we began teaching back in May. Amber looked like she had been a member of the church her whole life. She was recently called to the Primary, and came up to us with a bag of candy she had brought for her class. She was just different! Wes was wearing a white shirt and a tie. His piercings were out, and told us he had just been received the Aaronic Priesthood. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He was tired from the hours he had been working, but the whole family just looked happy. Like I said before, this was not the same family we were teaching back in May. Isn't it amazing what the gospel does to families?
I know my emails aren't exactly saturated with principles of doctrine laced with scriptures and cross-references--trust me, I'm in the scriptures every chance I get. I just finished the Book of Mormon again this week! My understanding of the doctrine grows every day. What I'm trying to convey in my emails are the joys and emotions I've been feeling in applying what I've learned to those I'm teaching. It's difficult to do, but I feel that a simple testimony of how the gospel blesses families is more powerful than something I share from my personal study that morning. It's all in the application. I hope and pray that the Holy Ghost speaks to your hearts and confirms the truth of the experiences that have so greatly blessed my mission and my life up until this point, and in the experiences to come. Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Elders with bibs

At the ward Halloween party

Monday, October 24, 2011

Avondale Surprises (Oct. 24, 2011)

Hey everyone!
With transfers this past week, a lot has happened. Two of our four district leaders were transferred, one of whom was elder Johnson who was called to be a zone leader in Glendale with Elder Wilson. He'll do great, and I'll be seeing him at zone leader councils. In his place is Elder Pugsley with Elder Burden. That was the only change to the house. Elder Tameilau is training out in Phoenix North zone, and I'm pretty happy for him. I wonder what his trainee thought when he saw a massive Tongan walking towards him as his companion. The two new district leaders are Elder Nelson (who lives with us in the house) and Elder Juchau. Elder Nelson had a fantastic district meeting this week. For his first meeting, I was very impressed. My district meetings were always terrible, and it's good to see that new district leaders suddenly get it, you know? Elder Juchau was released as a zone leader from Prescott, and is now training and a district leader in the newly created Wickenburg district. He's just what that district needs. He's a solid leader.
The first picture I've attached this week is of me and Elder Brame. He was at transfers, and I had to send home a picture of a little Tri-Town pride. The next picture is of the MTC gang, Elders Johnson, Buttars, Turner and Bennett. I think this is the first picture of the four of us for the first time since the MTC 13 months ago. It's been so long since the four of us were together, so this transfer was a fun reunion. The third picture is of Wes' baptism this weekend. With the boundary realignments, the Sisters had been teaching him and preparing him for his baptism. He asked if I would baptize him. The picture is of me and Elder Allred, Wes and the kids, and Sisters Falke and Rohner. Amber showed up just before the baptism started, but we didn't get picture with all of us. The baptism had a huge turnout, with people from the old ward and his new ward. Amber and Wes looked so happy together after the baptism, it was definitely one of the highlights of my week. The last picture was a long time in the making. Back when I was in Avondale, I taught a woman named Michele. She had a baptismal date at one point in time, but it never went through. Eventually, her son Zac came home, and we started teaching him. Eventually he was passed to the YSA to be taught, and then I was transferred. Here we are at his baptism, Michele, Zac and me. I got permission to go back to Avondale to see his baptism on Saturday, and then permission to go back to Avondale on Sunday to confirm him in sacrament meeting. I couldn't believe it when I saw both Zac and Michele together. The both of them have really made changes for the better.
Bonnie's been having her ups and downs. Tuesday night she had a seizure in the middle of the lesson. Elder Allred and I knew how to handle the situation until the ambulance arrived, but I'm sure our member who was present at the lesson was freaking out the whole time. We called 911 and they showed up really quick and took her away. We're starting to get to know the paramedics by name, seeing as this was the second time we've had to call them...would you believe me if I told you that we had a third? Friday night she had her baptismal interview with Pres. Morris of the mission presidency. It was a good experience for the both of them. Bonnie loved the conversation with Pres. Morris, and he's always good at making people feel comfortable and eager for their baptism. After an hour of interview, Pres. Morris stepped outside and asked if we would grab her roommate Barbera (from the ward) and join us for a few last minute post-interview things. We all went in and sat down. Pres. Morris said that Bonnie was having headaches (which we now identify as the red flag for seizures) and wanted us there in case she had another seizure. Pres. Morris said that we (me and Allred) would give her a blessing. As Elder Allred was starting the blessing, she went down. She hit the floor and began to seize again. We both got down and started holding her, moving the table out of the way and then Elder Allred called 911. They showed up and took her away again. We met them out front and on their way inside I said, "Good to see you guys again!" A few of them chuckled at that. She wasn't at church yesterday but we saw her last night. She still wants to be baptized. We're both amazed at her faith. We talked with the Bishop and discussed what to do on the day of the baptism. We certainly don't want to risk a seizure in the font. We'll be seeing how she's feeling during the day, and if she still feels well, we'll have the baptism be very small, only a few families and we'll have our PA and RN in the ward there just in case. This whole situation is so crazy and confusing, but Bonnie's faith seems to trump all of ours. She's a pretty awesome lady.
Time is short but I want everyone to know that all is well down here. My heart was full as I saw Wes and Amber together at Wes' baptism this past weekend. Wes looked so tired from work but so relieved to have made it as far as he has in the Gospel. The rest kids are planning on being baptized soon, too. They are aware of the temple, and I told them that when they go it doesn't matter where I am, I'd walk back to Phoenix to see it happen. I'll admit that when we started teaching their family, I didn't think this day would have come. But now they have so much more in store for their family. I love it here.
Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Elders Turner and Brame. Two Richland boys doing work in Arizona!

MTC buddies, reunited after 13 months. Johnson, Buttars, Turner, and Bennett

At the baptism for Wes. He asked Eric to baptize him.

At Zac's confirmation. He asked Eric to perform the confirmation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Marlee!! (Oct. 18, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Right now it's about 10:30 am and we're in the library writing emails home. Transfer news still hasn't come in yet, and the suspense is killing everyone. All of the zone keeps asking us if we've heard anything and we haven't. The only news we know is who the new Assistant to the President is, Elder Henrie. We all saw it coming, and we're so happy for him. He's a fantastic missionary and he'll do a great job. News might come in by the end of this email, so I'll mention it when it comes. For a fun picture, Elder Allred and I had wings on Wednesday night. Pizza Hut has a deal on Wednesdays for 50 cent wings. Brenton bought us the hottest wings they had (not bad at all) and we chowed down.
This week has definitely been busy. We had two stake coordination meetings back to back on Sunday morning, and we spent the week typing information to take to the stake Presidents. Surprise Stake meets at 7 am and Surprise North at 8. It's too tough to have those meetings back to back. Last month we split for it, and this month we were together. Elder Allred and I both agreed that being together is much more effective when taking information and requests for help to the stakes. Bonnie came to church on Sunday and stayed for all three hours! She didn't have a seizure! Instead of sitting in the chapel, we went with her into the foyer, along with the Del Vecchio's and just walked around and looked at pictures for the time being. It was a good way to relieve some stress and just get her mind on other things besides her past two seizures she had in church. She still has a strong desire to be baptized, but it's going to be crunch time teaching her everything before her interview. I know it will work, she's so prepared. Halfway through whatever principle we teach, she teaches the rest to herself because, as she says, it makes sense. I believe she'll be ready for her interview...remember Victor? Also, speaking of church, Bro. Housari was released as our Ward Mission Leader. We were pretty shocked to hear it. He was called to serve in the high priests' group leadership. And as for our new Ward Mission Leader? Bro. Del Vecchio!!!! Elder Allred and I are downright pumped to be working with him more often. We've been meeting with them a lot already because they go to a lot of lessons with us as ward missionaries, and now this. We're definitely going to miss working with Bro. Housari. He's been such a HUGE help to the missionary efforts in the ward. A big thank you is in order.
Friday and Saturday were full of strange experiences. Highest of highest and most annoying of annoyings--we'll start with the latter. Elder Allred and I tracted on probably one of the most sufficiently hard-hearted streets of all of Surprise. One side of the street hardly anyone was home. The other side had many people home, but none of whom were either interested or polite about it. The first door was a man named Bill. He tried to be all nice to us at first before he tore into us with all of the lies and misinformation he had heard about us as missionaries, about the Book of Mormon and about the church as a whole. He claimed to have read the Book of Mormon and started bringing up "things he read" that we all knew just flat-out were not true. We had to be a little bold. I told him he had not read the Book of Mormon. Elder Allred told him the things he had heard were not true. He yelled at us. A lot. Was I a little frustrated with him and the situation? Of course. Yet we both knew his argument was wholly invalid because he had not heard the message from a reliable source, most certainly not representatives of Jesus Christ. I'm sorry he felt that way. Isn't it sad how misinformation and ignorance leads some to such foolish actions? The same statement is directed to the man at the other end of the street who called the police and kindly left us with a few derogatory statements which will not be repeated in this email. Tough crowd.
Contrast that with Briana. Briana is a woman we received a referral for who knows many members of the church, and even worked with one. She liked how he carried himself, how he had a positive outlook on family and relationships with others and the abundant amount of hope he seemed to have. She wanted to meet with us. A little while ago she was diagnosed with cancer, and so has her five month old daughter. Things have been tough for her family, to say the least. She's always had a belief in God, but she and her husband felt the need to reevaluate their lives because of their current struggle. They want to go to church. They want to teach their children correct principles. The first thing she asked us was if she could have a Book of Mormon. Our visit was brief but very worth-while. She was very kind to us. We bore testimony of the Savior. We bore testimony that families can be together forever, despite the challenges of this short span of mortality. She has a sense of respect and a level of open-mindedness and understanding that I don't think I have ever seen up until this point of my mission. We should be seeing her again this week.
Agency is a funny thing. I've been giving it a lot of thought lately. Elder D. Todd Christofferson last October quoted Elder Richard L. Evans saying:
“Life offers you two precious gifts—one is time, the other freedom of choice, the freedom to buy with your time what you will. You are free to exchange your allotment of time for thrills. You may trade it for base desires. You may invest it in greed. Yours is the freedom to choose. But these are no bargains, for in them you find no lasting satisfaction.
“Every day, every hour, every minute of your span of mortal years must sometime be accounted for. And it is in this life that you walk by faith and prove yourself able to choose good over evil, right over wrong, enduring happiness over mere amusement. And your eternal reward will be according to your choosing.
“A prophet of God has said: ‘Men are that they might have joy’—a joy that includes a fullness of life, a life dedicated to service, to love and harmony in the home, and the fruits of honest toil—an acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—of its requirements and commandments.
“Only in these will you find true happiness, the happiness which doesn’t fade with the lights and the music and the crowds.”
I've been trying to use my time by making correct choices. Ten months left of my two years may seem like a long time, but the mission goes fast. I'm learning to love those who despitefully use me, and to be the better person. Recently I've been put in great situations where I had to make a correct choice. I think about Bill and Briana. Both Bill and Briana used their agency in a way that put me and Elder Allred in a position to act or respond. Option A) Bill's foolish choice put me in a position to choose whether or not to make the right choice in response. Trust me, the choice to respond is always difficult in Option A.     Option B) Briana showed quite the opposite emotion towards us. Humility. Her righteous choice put me in a position that not only made my response an easy choice, but nearly conditional. It would be foolish not to feel a great love for someone such as her. Light cleaveth unto light.
Transfer news just came in. Elder Allred and I are staying and I'm so relieved. We're going to finish his mission stronger than ever. However, Elder Johnson is leaving...I'm crushed. My friend from the MTC and the past 7 months of the Surprise house will be transferred. I think he's going to be a new zone leader, so I'll be able to see him still! That call may or may not come for another hour or so. More to come next week. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Hot wings at the Pizza Hut!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up (Oct. 11, 2011)

Hey everyone!
You would not believe the week we have had. It's certainly been worth recording in journals and emails, so I'll do the best I can to get in everything that happened. Libraries were closed yesterday for Columus Day, so that's why emails are on Tuesday this week. They'll be on Tuesday next week too, seeing as next week is transfers.
Let's review pictures, shall we? The first is of the day I went on a Tri-panionship exchange with Elder Trussell and Elder Fluckiger in their area. The outskirts of their area are in the middle of nowhere and this sign of a "lost tortoise" was posted. Couldn't have gone far, could he? Pretty funny though. Elder Allred hurt his ankle pretty bad last week in basketball, and it's been swelling and bruising. The past few days have been better, but we're still playing it safe. The next two pictures were taken at the dinner appointment that we went to on that day I was on the exchange, the Bobo family. I asked where they were orginally from, and they responded Washington state. I asked where and they responded, "A little town named Richland." I nearly spat out my water! Richland, Washington?! You've got to be kidding me! One of them grew up on Stevens, the other on Johnston, and when they were married they lived on Mahan. I said I knew exactly where all of those streets were! The whole dinner was spent talking about Richland. We talked about Zips, Uptown, Spudnut Shop, the site, government houses, golf courses, the Jadwin building, and good old Richland High School (or Col-Hi for them, graduating class of 1956). By the end of the dinner, Jim Bobo said he had something to show me. He went into his closet and pulled out his letterman jacket/sweater from the 50's. It has a big R and "Columbia High" embroidered on the side. He bought it in the 50's at Dawson Richards, which he was happy to hear was still there. Grandma and Grandpa, Sis. Darvis Bobo's maiden name is Darvis Bergam, and her parents' names are Paul and Emily. Do Paul and Emily Bergam ring a bell? She says she thinks that her parents knew the two of you. The pictures are me in the jacket with Bro. Bobo and with Elder Fluckiger (left) and Elder Trussell (right). Talk about small world. Go Bombers!
Elder Allred and I didn't knock a single door this week. Absolutely zero tracting. We've been busy with district meetings and exchanges, and it's been going pretty well. We received a new sister from temple square who will be proselyting here until February, and we ran a few errands to get things for her so she'd be situated in the field. On Tuesday we decided to bike it so Elder Johnson and Elder Burden could use our truck. We came outside and the weather was nice and cool, and pretty cloudy. About two minutes after we started biking, we hit Greenway and the hit came. By the time we got to Reems (quarter mile down the road) it started to drizzle. President Taylor put out a text message to the mission that said, "To APM, Caution, National Weather Service issues severe storm warning for now (5:45 to 6:30 pm) for Maricopa County. Thunderstorms and winds up to 60 mph. Careful!!" When we crossed Reems, the rain slammed us. We were soaked form head to toe, and still on bike. We had another three miles to go, there was no fighting the fact that we'd get drenched. Boy was it a wet one out there. The one day we decide to let Johnson and Burden use the truck, epic rain.
So last week I mentioned how we met Bonnie. Pretty incredible, huh? We met with her almost every day this week. She's so prepared and absolutely wants to be baptized. Elder Allred invited her to be baptized on Oct. 29, and she thought about it for a minute. She said she thinks she could do it. He gave her a solid invitation after that, "Bonnie, will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?" She responded with a firm, "Yes." She said she had a gut feeling that it was something she needed to do. On Thursday we did a church tour and set a baptismal calender right next to the baptismal font (West Point ward now meets at the stake center, and having the font in our building is very helpful). She's SO excited to be baptized. She attended a baptism on Saturday and asked all sorts of questions about what will happen at her baptism. She came to church on Sunday and was eager to mete as many people as she could. She sat in the chairs in the back of the chapel, but on the front row so she could talk to people as they walked by. It was just perfect.
We get through the opening hymn, announcements and all that stuff. Just as the sacrament was being finished, Bro. Harbertson, who was sitting behind me, stood up and walked over to Bonnie. We were sitting to her left aobut 6 or 7 chairs because she had so many ward members sitting by her. Bro. VanTienderen gets up to go to her too. I look to my right and I couldn't believe what I saw. Bonnie's head was back, jaw open and fists clenched--she was having a seizure. While still trying to keep the chapel reverent, a few of the men in the ward picked her up and brought her into the foyer to lay her on the couch. She continued to seize and I called 911. The paramedics came, fixed her up and took her to the hospital. This was definitely a first. I was busy trying to talk to 911, but others were making sure she was ok. This was so weird, because this wasn't a first for her. Two weeks ago, she came to church and we hadn't known who she was yet. After the sacrament back then, she went to the restroom and had a seizure in the hall. That's twice now she's had a seizure within five minutes of the sacrament at church. Two nights ago we went with the Del Vecchio's to see her in the ER. She seemed to be doing ok, but it was just so hard to see her like that. We spoke for a bit, and she expressed that she still wants to meet with us and be baptized. We continued the conversation, and then somehow we were talking about food. Bonnie suddenly slumped back in her bed, rolled on her side and slipped into another seizure, just like that. A nurse was right outside the door and ran inside to take care of her. After a few more minutes, Bonnie was sleeping and we left.
Why is all of this happening? I know one thing, she's sure in the right place when it happens. What if she was home alone when she had her seizure this Sunday? What if she was dismissed from the hospital that night like she requested, and had another seizure ten minutes after she was released? She couldn't have had her seizure in a better place than she did on Sunday. In the chapel alone were over five med students at Midwestern, an RN and a Physicians Assistant (both of whom are in the Elders Quorum Presidency). Everyone was there to help her until the ambulance arrived. The PA, our Elders Quorum President, made some calls so that she'd be in good hands once she got to Del Webb Hospital. When Bonnie came to at the church, the first thing she recognized was the painting of the Savior appearing to the Americas, one of her favorites from when she was on the tour of the church building. It's funny, that's where I am in my personal study in the Book of Mormon. I believe in a God of miracles.
More to come next week. I love you all, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
How far could he go?

Go Bombers! Eric Turner (2009) and  Jim Bobo (1956)

With Elders Fluckiger and Trussel

Allred's sprained ankle

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our Leap of Faith (Oct. 3, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I've had a lot of things to review in my emails this week, I'm short on time so I'll blaze through this email as quick as possible. Conference these past few days was incredible. My BYU roommate Elder Mike Henderson (England London South) put it best when he said that "Missionaries look at general conference like most people look at Christmas and birthdays." Conference this weekend was incredible. I always get excited for conference. I honestly have a hard time pinpointing my favorite talks, because I loved almost all of them! Elder Holland spiritually smacked everyone in the face again, which he needed to do. Step up, young men. I loved President Packer's poem of the old and young crow, and his direction to the youth. I hope Marlee gets to read that one. Push through his raspy voice and it's actually a pretty amazing talk. Lots of 70's were released, which was interesting to hear. 70's like Elder Hinckley, Elder Costa, and even Elder Samuelson. Not Cecil! So does BYU have a new university president now? I think all of the 70's who spoke stepped it up too. Elder Yamashita's talk about the missionaries in Japan really gave me some personal revelation I had been seeking for as a missionary in Arizona. Elder Cook of the 70 spoke about how "It's better to look up" and I loved it. I thought Elder Cook of the 12 talk had a different approach than he normally takes. His talks are normally so upbeat and positive, but this talk dwelt on why bad things happen to good people. I was curious to see how the Spirit would direct his thoughts and words, and it answered a lot of questions that people have asked me on my mission. I loved it. I think President Eyring was my favorite overall speaker this General conference, and his talk in the Priesthood session about Priesthood preparation meant the most to me. Like Elder Cook's talk, it gave me the perspective of how I was prepared to be where I am right now, why I'm here, and how I'm being prepared for my future as a Priesthood holder. The phrase that stood out the most was, "I need your help," probably the most powerful invitation anyone could receive to prepare to become a better Priesthood holder.
I'll admit, the week was tough. We're still being hit by the boundary realignments. We lost everyone in our teaching pool in one ward, and we dropped our last investigator in the other. I know what you're thinking, "Why would you do that? Now you don't have anyone to teach!" Trust me, it wasn't my idea. Let me explain. Thursday night we went to Randy's house for another lesson. On our way, Elder Allred brought up the concern that we're kind of wasting our time over there, which I agreed with. The family knows the doctrine, knows what they need to do, but because of their agency and other complexities we can't be tied into, it's not efficient for us to be over there anymore. Neither of us wanted to drop him. We pulled around the corner and talked about for 15 minutes. I offered to pray about it, so I said a prayer, asking if we needed to drop him. We thought about it, and it felt somewhat ok. Just to be sure, Elder Allred offered another prayer. Halfway through that prayer the Spirit hit us so hard that we absolutely knew we had to drop him. We didn't want to, but we were comfortable with doing it. We went inside, told them about what we felt, and they were ok with it. Then we left, all within about 3 minutes. We left wondering what in the world we had done, but we both had the reassurance that the because of that great leap of faith, the Lord would prepare someone else for us...but who?
We found her.
Two nights ago we were planning our Sunday evening. We wanted to get right down to some good old fashioned tracting. We established a window of heaven from 4:30-4:45, so the Lord could put someone in our path. A girl named Lauren answered the door, and we ended up giving her a Book of Mormon, and we'll be stopping by again in a week. We thought, hey, maybe that was our window! At the next house, at 4:29, we approached the door and knocked. Nothing. Rang the doorbell, nothing. We turned around and a car pulled into the driveway. The woman who stepped out of the car was a sister from the West Point ward! We had no idea she lived there. She said to us,"Elders, good to see you! Come on inside, my friend Bonnie is here and she wants to meet with the missionaries." Our jaws nearly hit the floor. She had a friend renting a room from her and she wanted to meet with the missionaries. This sister had been meaning to contact us for a few weeks, but had been so busy she just forgot. We went inside, met Bonnie and it was a great little experience. Time was short because we had to be to an appointment, but she told us that we were an answer to her prayers. We told her about the window of heaven we set and she began to cry. We have a return appointment with her tomorrow night.
All of the amazing stories we hear from General Conference are real. They are very real, because I'm experiencing them every day. I hope we can all carefully study the words of our prophets and apostles and apply them into our lives. I can't wait for the Ensign! I love you all and hope you're all doing well. It's fun to hear about your adventures back home. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner