It's been another great week in the APM! We've got a few extra pictures in this week's email. The first is of myself and Elder Angelos with some epic planning. On Wednesday we had a zone conference and took a lot of pictures of the ride there, so that's the whole house in the truck. At zone conference we got to see Elder Bennett, and Elder Johnson and I had to get a picture with him. It's Johnson, me and Bennett in that picture from left to right. If we had Elder Buttars there too that would have been the whole MTC gang together. We haven't been together as the four of us since September when we had an all mission conference. The pictures of the cake were something special for Elder Custance. He hit his 18-month mark of his mission this week, so Elder Angelos and I made him a cake with the words "Hap 18" and "CTR" underneath it. He had no idea that we all knew his month mark and it made for a pretty good surprise party at the end of the day. The last picture is of a Batman I found tracting while I was back in Avondale. I got a little creative in my personal study one morning and made him a title of liberty. So yup, those are the pics for the week!
We've had another one of those "work really hard but the numbers don't show for it" kind of weeks. Elder Angelos and I have been working our tails off, but we still seem to come up a little short. Jacqueline's still struggling with smoking and a lot of other things that are hitting her family. It's been really hard for her. We've been trying to get her to come to church but she hasn't been putting forth the effort. We still meet with her twice a week and we have another appointment on Tuesday with her. Last night we stopped by Tom, a gentleman we met last week and to whom we gave a Book of Mormon. He said he had heard stuff about the church but wanted to read it himself. Last night when we followed up with him, he had read something like thirty pages and was very interested in what he had read. He wanted to keep reading and said that he appreciates it when we stop by, so we're keeping track of him and his reading. John wasn't home, and we found out his mother passed away. We were planning on teaching the Plan of Salvation anyways, so we'll give him some time and we'll try again. The toughest lesson this week was with the Para's. Their 14 year old son loves meeting with us and loves church, and so the mom wanted to sit in on the lesson. On Wednesday night I went on splits with one of the priests in the ward to go teach her...oh boy was it rough. As soon as we sat down she started tearing into us about the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Long story short, she thinks we worship prophets and don't worship Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth. I lovingly corrected her and tried to teach her pure doctrine but she just wouldn't listen. She kept asking the same questions over and over again and when I gave her the answer, it wasn't good enough for her. She wanted me to say that I was wrong. I wasn't about to let that happen. She just. wouldn't. listen. It was so frustrating! She wouldn't accept the Book of Mormon because her "research" tells her that it's only a story of the Prophet Joseph Smith's life. We did the best we could to help her understand that she had to read for herself. She kept yelling at me saying that we, quote, worshipped a sinner more than Christ. Her son totally stepped it up and said, "Mom, you're wrong, and you haven't even read the Book of Mormon." Best timing ever. After another half hour of going around in circles of her ignorant comments and misconceptions, she finally committed to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon to know for herself. It was just very frustrating. What made it even worse was that Elder Angelos told me that missionaries in the past have taught her that same principle three times already. We'll be following up this week, I just hope she actually read and prayed. Gotta have faith.
Despite the experience I had with Sis. Para, we had another incredible lesson on Saturday night. Last week we received a referral from Elders over in South Phoenix. A family over there wanted missionaries to check up on their daughter and husband who recently moved into the West Point Ward. Marcy and Jeff are there names, and Jeff really wanted to meet with the missionaries. We went by on Saturday night to go introduce ourselves. Marcy answered the door and looked shocked. She invited us inside and sat us down. The reason why she was so shocked was that she hadn't been to church in years, but when we knocked on the door she had just sat down the reading the Book of Mormon. Jeff eventually came out in the room to meet us and we all hit it off great. Marcy fell away from the church in her teenage years and wanted to come back. Jeff wanted to meet missionaries and to learn more about the church. We asked him what he wanted to learn. His response was, "Everything. Start at the beginning." As we started with the Restoration you could feel the Spirit grow stronger and stronger in the room. Everything made sense to him. Marcy left the room here and there to take care of their daughter, but you could tell she was still listening intently. Before we could even invite Jeff to pray at the end of the lesson, he asked us how to pray! We took the time to teach him how to pray and he said he'd try it. Marcy came back into the room for the closing prayer and I asked if we could kneel. We did, and Jeff looked really nervous trying to pray. He started a simple prayer, but you could feel the Spirit so strongly in the room as he poured out his soul, asking to know if what we were teaching was true. You could see the tears in his eyes, and Marcy's too, as we stood up to wrap up our lesson with them. As we left, we set up another appointment for Tuesday night with them. While shaking my hand Jeff told us, "You guys are welcome in our home at any time." It was such a great lesson. What made it better was that last night we went to go see Bishop McLaws of the West Point ward to tell him about the lesson. Come to find out that Sis. McLaws is family friends with Marcy's family! Almost instantly Bishop McLaws said, "Let's have 'em over for dinner and Family Home Evening tomorrow night! Elders, what's their number?" We gave him Jeff's phone number and he called them on the spot to invite them. You could hear Jeff on the other end with an excited tone in his voice as he said, "That would be great!" It just makes me so happy to see how this will all unfold. Not only do we have dinner tonight, but they volunteered to invite Jeff and Marcy over too. It's just so perfect. Tonight is going to be great and I can't wait. I will definitely keep you posted on that in next week's email.
You know, we have all of these bummer things that happen, appointments falling through and whatnot, but it's just the little things that make the mission experience worthwhile. Spending an hour inside the home of a young family may not seem that glamorous to many people. But with the Spirit as strong as it was, it's safe to say that it was the best hour of my week. I love you all and pray for your well-being. Keep in touch and write back soon, I love hearing from everyone. Until next week, take care and be good.
Elder Eric James Turner
|With Elder Angelos, hard at work planning|
|A truckload of missionaries headed to zone conference|
|Mini-reunion from the MTC|
|I'll pass on the cake.....|
|Batman....and the Title of Liberty|