Monday, May 23, 2011

Prophecy Fail! (May 23, 2011)

Hey everybody!
I survived Judgment Day! Let me explain. There's this giant billboard up on Bell Rd. that says that judgment day was supposed to be on May 21. This may be hard to believe....... but it didn't happen. I know! I was surprised too! Some guy has been pushing this campaign since last summer about how the end of the world was in May 2011, the 21st to be exact. Well, Saturday turned out to actually be a gorgeous day. Not too hot, slight breeze, no judgment and I even got a letter in the mail! Not a bad day at all! All week we had random people ask us if we thought judgment was this weekend. It opened great doors to talk about the restored gospel. I attached a few other pictures too. One day we were driving home from a meeting and the clouds looked pretty cool. The last picture is of Elder Angelos with his 30 day countdown chain that Elder Custance made him.

Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to do an exchange with Elder Alvis, one of the new missionaries in the zone. He's only been out for a couple weeks and it reminded me a lot of training Elder Malmberg. Elder Alvis was pretty solid. He had lots of questions and talked to everybody he saw. He'll do very well, plus his trainer is a fantastic missionary. I took Elder Alvis into old Surprise to go tracting and we talked to a lot of people. We picked up three new investigators that night! After we finished tracting there we went to a potential investigator's home to see if she was there. Her husband answered the door and said he thought it was funny we stopped by. His sister in law has been investigating the church too. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he wants to go on a tour of the church building. In the two and a half hours we had to work on the evening of P-Day, we got a lot done. Elder Alvis and I had a great time working together.

On Wednesday we had a specialized training at one of the stake centers in Peoria North. The afternoon portion of the training was for me and Elder Angelos to put on a zone meeting. Three zones were there. Ours went into the Relief Society room and of the planned 2 hours, we only had about 1 hour 20 minutes. We were very rushed. It went ok I would say. We had a few great discussions about things we were trying to improve in the zone, a few good talks and a very helpful skills training. I even joined in (was dragged into) a special musical number with Elder Custance and Elder Cava. The three of us sang together and it honestly sounded terrible. Now I know why I don't sing in front of people. Ugh. Never again. The zone meeting was really pressed for time and everyone could tell. It wasn't anyone's fault, the morning session of the training just went over. I guess it was good that Elder Angelos and I overplanned, that way it was easier to remove parts of the meeting on the spot than having to fill time at a moment's notice like that.

We had a few great lessons this week too. We saw Bro. Masch again and he still has a great desire to be baptized. He had a few questions and we taught a lot about repentance. A lot of concerns were brought up and as we continue to meet with their family, I'm sure he'll be ready for baptism soon. Bishop Smith is probably the best fellowshipper for them. He may be a new bishop but he's sharp and to the point. He's one of those guys who tells it like it is, and expects the same in return. All in a loving way. We saw Amber, the mom of Zack and Gabriel, two boys who have been coming to church. We took her on a tour of the building with Sis. Beals and it went very well. The whole time Amber kept talking about how good she felt. As we taught about the Restoration, you could feel the Spirit so strong. Testimonies galore brought tears to Amber's eyes. She really wants to come to church but can't get Sundays off. We're promising miracles to her as she prays and reads that the way will be opened for her to come to church. I believe in a God of miracles, and she does too. We're eager to meet with her in the coming weeks to see what happens.

The best lessons we've had this week were with Victor. Victor is 15, and a really good friend of Sam Alger, one of the boys in the Copper Canyon Ward. Sam called us one day to say he had a friend who wanted to learn about the church. Victor has not only been going to church and mutual for the past three weeks, but early morning seminary too! We told Sam to set up a time and we'd be there. On Saturday we went to the Alger's home to teach Victor. Sam was there, along with Bro. and Sis. Alger and another friend of Sam and Victor's. The lesson went better than anyone could have planned. Everything we taught made sense to him. When we asked him questions to check his understanding, he practically taught the principles back to us. For a 15 year old, Victor gets it. He had a Book of Mormon already and was reading it. We left him with more chapters to read. He even said his mom is ok with him going to church and meeting with the missionaries. When the time was right we invited him to baptism and he said yes. We asked the Algers if it was ok to schedule another time to meet, and Sis. Alger said, "How about tomorrow?" We didn't think she was serious until she said, "Yeah! Come over after church for dinner and another lesson!"

So last night after church we went to the Alger's home again. All of their nine kids were there, along with some friends. It was pretty crazy. Sis. Alger made the best dinner I've had in months and I ate a ton of food. We went into the other room, and a lot of the younger kids went upstairs to play. We taught the plan of salvation to Victor and once again, it just clicked to him. He taught everything back to us along with expressing his desire to be baptized. I asked him what he felt like he needed to do to prepare to be baptized and he said, "Repent." Elder Angelos and I were blown away. Most adults whom we ask that question to don't even have an answer. After the lesson Elder Angelos said to me, "In the two years I've been on my mission, that's the best answer I've ever heard." Like I said, Victor gets it! He's been reading the Book of Mormon and he loves it. The Algers are like a second family to him so I'm not worried about support. On our way out, we scheduled another appointment. Victor said, "How about tomorrow? School's out, and we've got nothing to do." Sis. Alger said, "Tomorrow it is!" So tonight we're going back to teach Victor lesson three, and we may even dip well into lesson four. Victor, to me, is the definition of the scripture that says, "Mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts." He's ready. The Lord has been preparing him and he's ready.

There's lots of good things going on in Surprise. This morning Elder Angelos and I had our weekly call-in with President Beck to review the work in the zone for the past week. President couldn't believe it. He asked us if it were true if the zone really had ELEVEN baptisms scheduled for this coming weekend. It does. It was the most happy I've ever heard President Beck. The list of who's being baptized where, when and by whom was so big that we wouldn't have had time to explain it over the phone. We had to fax it to him. Cumulative baptismal dates are up and so are new investigators. I just hope we can hold onto it in the coming weeks.

I love you all and hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Oops! Still here on May 23!

The clouds look cool on Judgment Day!

Elder Angelos and his 30-day chain

Monday, May 16, 2011

Busy (May 16, 2011)

Hey everyone!
This past week has been pretty crazy. Elder Angelos and I have been really busy. It's been one of those weeks where you're running around at a million miles an hour but looking back on it you're not quite sure how much you actually got done. It just went by so fast is all. We had exchanges with a few missionaries, including two more this week. We had a district leader council with myself, Elder Angelos and the district leaders Elders Abel, Tripp and Custance. We've been meeting regularly because we have a plan to not only follow up with the three stakes' ward council trainings (roughly 20 wards), but to meet personally with each bishop to let them know of the zone's vision. Lately we've kind of noticed that the mission and the stakes aren't exactly on the same page, action-plan wise. We think meeting with each bishop for about 15 minutes as the zone leadership will set a good tone for the zone and for the goals we want to achieve. This week we'll be meeting with three bishops, and our goal is to meet with the rest of them by the end of this transfer cycle (June 12). It's going to be a huge project, especially with the zone being as large in area as it is. We'll be doing a bit of traveling over to Peoria North stake and up to Wickenburg and we really have to plan it out carefully so we don't miss anything in our own area.
Our busiest day was Saturday. We hardly had any time for proselyting. In the morning we did service for Patricia, a recent convert in the West Point ward. She had a tree in her back yard that had a limb that was snapped in a windstorm. She was afraid it would fall and break her window, so she asked us to trim it then cut it down. It felt just like helping grandma and grandpa with their trees in their back yard. Working from the ladder wasn't very effective, and I wasn't about to have a grandpa Goodey experience. Instead I pulled myself into the tree and did the job from up there. It was just very familiar! I felt like I had grandpa right there telling me what to do. I was using ropes, saws, makeshift levers and the problem was taken care of in under half an hour. The rest of the day was spent running errands and preparing for the stake meeting on Sunday morning. On Saturday evening, Ivan and Nicole invited us over for dinner. They're recent converts in the Copper Canyon ward and wanted to feed us before we helped them with service in their back yard...pouring concrete. Can't say I have any prior experience with that. It was definitely a learning experience for all of us. It was slow at first, but we found a rhythm and poured the first of 4 slabs they wanted. We'll be going back this Saturday to keep working. We came back to the house with concrete slop and powder all over our clothes and shoes (work clothes, mom, not missionary clothes). I slept pretty hard that night.
Last P-Day started off going pretty well, but crashed by the end of it. We had a great day playing basketball and whatnot. I even went to Best Buy to exchange my camera. They said they had to order a new one but it would be here in a week, which is today. Guess where I'm going after email? So yes, last week's P-Day seemed to be going great until we got out to work. We had an appointment with Jeff and Marcy, but that fell through. Without going into great detail, we found out that Jeff won't be baptized on the 21st like we had anticipated. Elder Angelos and I are pretty upset. The two of them are making such great progress! They were praying as a family and coming to church each week! Every lesson seemed to be a greater spiritual experience than the last. Like I said, we're not really sure what's going on and I can't really give details about the situation. If and when we hear from them again, I'll let you know. We have, however, had more opportunities placed in front of us.
When we experience trials or setbacks, we often tend to neglect the blessings that come in place. Yes, we won't be seeing Jeff for a while. But in the past week we've met 5 new investigators, including the husband of a part member family who wants to be baptized, and a referral from a youth in the ward whose friend has not only been attending sacrament meeting for the past three weeks but early morning seminary too. We didn't even know about them! I had the opportunity to go teach Bro. Masch, the past member husband on Wednesday with the newly called Bishop Smith of the Copper Canyon ward. Bro. Masch suddenly said that he wanted to be baptized! He had already had the lessons, but we wanted to teach them again to keep them fresh in his mind. His wife hasn't been active in years, maybe since her teens? We'll be teaching the two of them together to help them both. It almost seems like she will be the key in the conversion of that family, not him. They still have some things to work on but I see Bro. MaschMasch that there was an order to all things and that the missionaries were the ones who would be helping him prepare for baptism. Bishop told me after the lesson that he personally wanted to be the fellowshipper for the Masch family. I have no problems with that at all. We'll be meeting with Victor this week, the boy who has been attending seminary and church for the past few weeks. I met him yesterday at church and he's a pretty cool kid. He really wants to learn and I see good things coming there.
I hope things are going well at home for everyone! We're keeping busy down in here. This week we have a specialized training and a zone meeting, so we'll be making preparations for that and our meetings with bishops this week. I'm working hard, living my purpose and drinking lots of water! Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,Elder Eric James Turner

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Surprise Emails and Phone Calls (May 9, 2011)

Hey everyone!
It was so good to talk to the family yesterday! Glad to hear that everyone is doing well. That hour sure flies by pretty quick though. Then again, so did the five months since the last time we spoke. From now until Christmas, this will be the longest time that I've gone without speaking to my family. That's sure weird to think about. I know the time will go quickly. It always does. Dad I got your email and to answer a few questions, President Beck constantly reminds us about our deportment and demeanor. We're missionaries, not twenty-something college kids, but representatives of Jesus Christ. We need to maintain the highest standard of appearance. And for your question about the "levels," that's the result of a study guide that we do as missionaries. Once you finish it, or the sixth level, you have the opportunity to do a study session with President Beck and Elder Madsen, formerly a member of the mission presidency. I'm working on my level three right now. The different levels correlate to the new missionary training curriculum: "Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively." It's a great guide to studying, and you cover a lot of material.
This week has had its ups and downs, like most weeks do. Almost every day this week was over 100 degrees, which is a friendly reminder that the Arizona winter and spring have come to a close. No bueno. It helps that we're in a car, but that goes away once we step outside and hit the streets. Warm days a'comin'. We did however have a great Mother's Day Sunday. Between our two wards we had 13 investigators at church. 13!!!! Elder Angelos and I have never had that many investigators at church before. We'll hopefully be extending baptismal dates to some of them this week. There were even people who walked into Copper Canyon ward and asked the bishop how they could be baptized. Elder Angelos and I received a voicemail from on of our ward mission leaders saying, "Bro. ________ approached the bishop on Sunday and said that he wanted to be baptized...could you take care of that please?" We laughed when we heard that but we know that we'll have good things in store this week for us and the people we teach.
I apologize that this letter is so short this week. That and for not including any pictures. I had set my camera on my desk for a timer function photo and my desk got bumped. The camera fell to the ground and bent the lens, and now it doesn't work. No worries, I still have the receipt and I'm going to replace it after I send off this email. I just hope everyone knows how much I'm loving it down here. I say that every week but it's true. Even the days that aren't as glamorous are still wonderful learning experiences. My testimony grows day by day as I teach and live my purpose. Recently as a mission we've been magnifying our purpose by inviting everyone we meet to be baptized. Even at the door. You might think that would be kind of frightening to do, and it is at first, but you really feel the power and authority of your calling as you teach pure doctrine and invite everyone to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone who holds the Priesthood authority of God.
I love you all and hope to hear from you very soon! I know it's a few days away, but Mom, I'll wish you a happy birthday now! Let me know what you want. I'm still pushing for the idea of a saguaro across the yard from the ginko. Trust me Mom, it'll look great! Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nine Months? Slow Down!!! (May 2, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Mom and dad, thanks for the emails this week. It was so good to hear from you. Sounds like a lot has been happening back home. I knew Marlee would love track, but then again she's such a natural athlete I'm sure she'd enjoy anything she does. So Sis. Williams sent you a text message, huh? That's cool! The Williams are a family in the Villa de Paz ward. We had dinner with them a lot and they were always very kind to me, Elder Abel and Elder Malmberg. Sis. Williams is the mom/wife of the family. The Williams have a daughter named Dawn. Every time we go over for dinner, Bro. Williams always jokes with us and gives us a hard time. I love that family. Glad to hear that they're doing well too. I really miss a lot of the families in Avondale, but I'm really starting to connect with the families here in Surprise. I actually know names and faces now, and people remember my name without having to look at my nametag! Families like the Housari's, the Lake's, the Barajas', the Maughn's, McLaws', Del Vecchio's, all awesome. That's one thing I absolutely love about the church, is that wherever you go the people are so loving and kind. To answer your question dad, the reason why we don't have a lot of dinners with members here is because of the mission dinner policy. President Beck wants us to follow the missionary handbook instruction for dinner policy which says that members are encouraged to have investigators, less-active or part-member families in their home for dinner with missionaries. When I was in the Garden Lakes and Villa de Paz wards, they did the best they could with that rule and just had active members feed us the rest of the time. Out here in Surprise, Elder Angelos and I just coordinate dinners with the members. We let them know about the rule and they do the best they can to set it up. For instance, those two Mondays that we had dinner with Bishop McLaws and his family, Jacqueline was there one week and Jeff and Marcy the next. We do fine with making our own food. We have occasional dinners with members, and they're always great.
A lot has been going on this week. As I mentioned in last week's email, this past week was full of trainings and conferences. We had zone leader council on Tuesday, leadership training on Wednesday, two district meetings on Thursday and an all-mission specialized training on Friday. Then on Sunday we had Surprise Stake Ward Mission Leader Training at 6:30 am, I helped with a Surprise North Ward Council Training with President Beck and President Morris of the mission presidency at 10, then Elder Angelos did the same Ward Council Training all the way up in Wickenburg at 1. WHEW! It was a very busy week. When it came time for Elder Angelos and I to do weekly call in's with the district leaders, we were exhausted. We were given new forms and paperwork to fill out in our call in's and it's not harder, just more time consuming. We crashed into bed last night and slept hard. Elder Angelos forgot even to set the alarm, but Elder Johnson came in this morning at 6:30 to wake us up. Begin P-Day!
Transfers are tomorrow and the zone is pretty much staying the same. Nobody in the Surprise district (where I am) is being transferred, which makes everyone happy. That means that the house is still the same and Elder Angelos and I are going to be together next transfer! I'm killin' him off! He goes home at the end of the transfer and he wants to finish strong. I think he'll be fine. One of the district leaders in the zone goes home tomorrow, and his companion is being transferred. That area's being flushed so we're curious to see who comes in and who will be the new district leader. Elder Abel and Elder Custance are still district leaders here, they're not leaving yet. Only one other Elder and one Sister in the zone are being transferred.
I don't have any pictures this week but we had another amazing lesson with Jeff and Marcy this week! Elder Angelos and I had some slow days this week, so we were looking forward to this lesson. Jeff had already accepted the invitation to be baptized on May 21, and now we're meeting with him twice a week to teach him the lessons. On Friday night we went by and finished up the lesson we had started on the plan of salvation. We started working on a calender for Jeff to schedule all of the things he needed to do and the times we wanted to meet with him leading up to his baptism. Elder Angelos started to schedule a few dates and I noticed something was up with Marcy. She looked confused or something and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. I (lovingly) interrupted Elder AngelosAngelos and I both felt prompted to try and see Jeff and Marcy, because we had never met them before. We weren't aware of each other's prompting until we came to their street. It was that realization that prayers were heard and answered that filled the room with the Spirit and nobody could deny it. I'm sure I've said this before but I'll say it again. There are days when nothing goes right and you think to yourself, "How can I possibly do this for two years?" But when you have lessons and spiritual experiences that only last for an hour like that, I think "I can totally do this for two years." Jeff and Marcy came to church yesterday, stayed all three hours and loved it. Jeff's on track for baptism and we have another lesson with him tonight at 6:00.
Nothing new here, but I'm absolutely loving it here down in Arizona. Ask me that question again in about three's starting to get hot again. I'm sure I'll still love it. Mom and dad I'll try and figure out something for calling home next week. I don't know our Sunday schedule yet, if we have meetings or not. I might call in the morning just to say when I'll be calling in the evening. I'm not sure. Do you want grandma and grandpa to be there too? I'm not sure what you have planned. Whatever happens, I'll talk to you on Sunday! Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner