Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Substance and Style (July 26, 2011)

Hey everyone,
It's a bit of a sad day at the house right now. We just got transfer news. Nelson and Cava are staying. Ward's getting transferred and Johnson's training a new missionary. I'm staying, but Elder Halligan is getting transferred. I was pretty crushed when I heard it. Halligan's upset too. He just barely got here! One transfer? That's the shortest time I've ever had with one companion. You're probably wondering why the email's on Tuesday this week. President Taylor moved transfer meeting to Wednesday instead of Tuesday, and P-Day the week of transfers will be on Tuesday instead of Monday. So now every six weeks you'll receive an email on Tuesday instead of Monday. Yeah, I'm pretty sad that Elder Halligan is getting transferred. The two of us were really starting to make things happen in our area. The wards love him too. I know he'll be going somewhere good. I have my hunches as to who I think my new companion will be, but aren't transfers always full of guesses? I'm mostly wrong, but we'll see how tomorrow plays out.
I've attached a few pictures this week. Last Monday we had a mini dust storm, quickly followed by heavy rain. The dust picture was taken out of the back window in the truck. We were walking around the church and then the rain hit. We were drenched. We went back to the church to dry off and do some planning for things that were happening this past week. Halligan and I both sat by the doors, soaked, and you can probably see the rain outside. The other night we had a really cool lightning storm. Every four or five seconds was a lightning strike. I set up my camera and managed to snap a few strikes. Not the best quality, but still pretty cool. Elder Tripp went home yesterday, and we got a few pictures with him before he left too. The last picture is of Halligan, Brenton, Steve and myself. Brenton is a guy in the Cooper Canyon ward who helps us out a lot with lessons, and Steve is one of our investigators. We got a quick picture with them last night after our lesson at the church. Steve has a baptismal date and we're trying to help him be ready for that. The only problem is that he might be moving to Minnesota soon. Hey, there's missionaries there too!
We had a zone meeting last Tuesday that went very well. President Taylor brought Braden and I think they enjoyed it. Knowing that it was Baker week, I used an ice breaker from Baker and taught a lesson with it. I used the Play-Doh ice breaker dad always uses. I chose this for two purposes. First, to get the zone to know each other a little more. I don't think the zone really knows everyone else, especially since we have three districts so far away from one another. The second purpose was the gospel principle behind it. Our huge focus for the month has been living our purpose as missionary by inviting everyone to be baptized. I tied it back to being moldable, the Isaiah 64 reference about being clay in the potter's hands. When the Savior speaks, we listen. We obey. I think it sounded ok. Lots of people seemed to enjoy it. President Taylor came up to me after the meeting and said, "Elder Play-Doh, good meeting!" I really do think the whole meeting went well. We had great talks and a great skills training. The Play-Doh thing threw everyone off a little bit, seeing as it hasn't ever been done before. At least they'll remember it!
Thursday was a crazy day. We had to be up at 5 am for our Peoria North Stake coordination meeting. From 10:00-12:00 we had a district meeting, and another one from 1:00-3:00. Then we had weekly planning, which took up a chunk of time too. The only time we had to proselyte was from 6-6:30. Halligan and I both knew that our time was limited, but we prayed for a miracle. The night before we established a window of heaven in that half-hour time frame on the street that runs by the church building. We didn't even know the name of the street, but we prayed that at that time, the Lord would provide someone for us to talk to. So we get there just a few minutes before 6, say a prayer, and start walking. Nobody. There isn't a soul on this road. We get to the end of the road, and across the street we see a man working in the yard. He wasn't interested. We tried to cross back to get walking back to the church, but there were a ton of cars. We couldn't cross, so we waited for a bit. Just then a bus stopped. I looked and noticed that we were standing by a bus stop. Elder Halligan nudged me and said, "Elder, look!" A bunch of people were getting off the bus. Elder Halligan talked to the first man and he wasn't interested. A group of about 5 middle-aged women came to the crosswalk. I approached one of them and offered her a pass-along card for a free copy of the Book of Mormon. She kind of said thank you, and started walking across the street...so I went with her! Elder Halligan eventually caught up to me but I was explaining to this woman what the Book of Mormon was and how it could bless her in her life. It must have looked kind of funny to see me walking across the street with her while talking about the Gospel. We got to the other side of the street and she stopped to speak with us some more. Her name is Mary and she was actually looking for a church to attend. We pointed to the nearby church building and invited her to come sometime. She asked if they allowed black people like her, to which we said yes. She laughed and said she'd be interested. Elder Halligan took the opportunity to bear testimony to her that we specifically prayed to be at that spot at that time to talk with someone. It wasn't a coincidence that we were speaking with her. The cars driving by were pretty loud, and there were lots of sounds all around us, but in that moment you couldn't really hear any of it. The Spirit bore witness to her that what we were saying was true. She paused for a moment, looked us in the eyes and said, "I believe you. Something feels right about this." Mary said she'd like to come to church very soon.
We found out that she doesn't live within our ward boundaries, in fact she doesn't live within our stake boundaries. That doesn't matter to me. Elder Halligan and I both walked back to the church and couldn't believe what had happened. We went out on a limb to set a window of heaven for that VERY brief amount of time...and it was fulfilled. It was a powerful realization that we are not alone in this work.
Little miracles like this are happening every day. I wish I could tell you that I'm making things up but I'm not. I'm learning so much about everything. When I originally planned on serving a mission, my thoughts were that my "building up the church" would be by baptizing new members. It's turning into so much more than that. Because I have these opportunities to work with ward councils, bishops, high councils, stake presidents, mission presidents and so on, I'm learning about how the church truly functions. My missionary service will be so much longer lasting because I'm learning the order of how things work in the church. The things I'm learning as a missionary are preparing me to continue building the church even after my full-time service. I know my words were a little jumbled right there, but it just made sense to me. That little bit of revelation came to me as we were driving home from Peoria on Thursday morning. I'm grateful for these opportunities I've had to train and to lead, even at such early points of my mission. It's a great opportunity to grow.
I love you all and hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Another dust storm

Drying off after the cloudburst

Lightning strike

With Elder Tripp before he left for home

Halligan, Brenton, Steve, Turner

Now, What Do We Hear (July 18, 2011)

Hey everyone!

I hope everyone's been having a good week! Last Monday after I emailed home, we had a zone activity where we had a badminton tournament. Elder Halligan and I made it to the semi finals...then lost. Bummer. Lots of fun though! I only included one picture this week, and it's of me and Elder Johnson. If I haven't explained it before, it's the Elder Johnson we met outside the temple in Provo just about 20 minutes before I reported to the MTC. We were in the MTC together, and we've been in the Surprise House together for the past 4 months. I absolutely love him. He was called as a district leader this past transfer and has been doing an awesome job. Yesterday was his birthday, and we made him a cake. We've made so many cakes for birthdays and HAP days, I'm surprised I haven't gained so much weight lately. In the middle of his weekly call-in with other missionaries in the district, we burst in the room, surrounded him and sang happy birthday. He loved it, and I had to get a picture with him.
Elder Johnson's Birthday
This past week has been pretty good for the most part. Lots of fun stories in our work. I went on exchanges with Elder Alvis in Surprise North, and the bike I borrowed broke. I was riding along Bell Rd. and the entire left crank and pedal fell off. Oops. Thankfully we were near the Surprise House, so I had one foot on the bike pedal and I scooted off the street with the other. Longest half-mile of my life. I switched out bikes with Elder Nelson's bike and was good to go for the rest of the day. Elder Halligan and I met a 70 year old black woman named Dorothy who holds church in her own house. We taught her on Saturday morning and it was quite an experience. While teaching the Restoration, she agreed with everything until we got to Joseph Smith, because she said that she was a prophet. After that she wasn't too happy. She went on to say that she had authority and said she'd use it to cast the demons out of us, which sounded a lot like threat more than a statement of her divine investiture of authority. Although she said she'd read the Book of Mormon, so that's a start.

We had a great experience on Friday with Mike and Becky. I think I may have mentioned Mike in a past email. He was referred by a member of the Surprise 1st ward, and we had a lesson with him a few weeks ago. He came to church last week, and stayed all three hours. We saw him again on Saturday and we invited Bro. Burrup, our Elders Quorum President, to go with us. Bro. Burrup said he'd be bringing his wife, which was a great idea because Mike's wife Becky was going to be there too. It went so well. We met the Burrups at Mike and Becky's place and we went to the door. For just a brief moment after Elder Halligan knocked on the door, I saw something that really made me feel good about the coming lesson. The Burrups were standing behind us, and they were holding hands. It was a very brief gesture of affection, but it was something that strengthened my testimony of how the Gospel blesses families, and how much Mike and Becky could benefit from the knowledge of eternal families. Becky answered the door and invited us right inside. Mike, Becky and the Burrups are all in the mid-late 20's and they hit it off so well. Mike told us dinner was almost ready, and we were a little caught off guard. We had no idea they were making dinner for us, they had no idea we were bringing extra people, yet for some reason Mike felt like he should put a few more burgers on the grill. It worked out! We didn't really have a lesson because Mike was in and out of the room getting dinner ready. We all got to know each other a little better, and then we went to the table for dinner. Becky said she had LDS friends growing up, and she loved their family values and high morals. Same thing with Mike, in fact he used to work down the street from the Mesa Temple as a teenager. Mike had a question about why nobody in the church was paid. We spent the next little bit talking about callings and why we serve within the church. That transitioned into a discussion about what kinds of things happen at church on Sunday. It was a gret conversation, and then Becky asked about temples. I took the opportunity to bear my testimony about temples and forever families. Becky had a look on her face that very much seemed to say, "I want that." Bro. Burrup stepped up and invited them over to their house next weekend for dinner and a lesson. Thank you Burrup family!

I know that back home, this is the week of Baker (leadership camp). Dad, my guess is that you're reading this up at camp, either in Sasquatch or the library would be my best guess. Send everyone my love. Give Marty and Andy a hug for me. If you have the chance to see the JC's or SC's together, tell them I love them, I miss them and to work hard. I hope they understand why I made the choice to serve a mission and the joy I feel in my service. Tell them to write! I know the week is busy but I want to hear how everyone is doing!

Time is short once again but I send everyone my love. The Gospel has been restored and families are forever. This is not the cliche of the missionary who says what he wants people to hear, rather it is the testimony of a never-deviating representative of Jesus Christ. It is truth.

"Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy." (Doctrine and Covenants 128:19).
Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, July 11, 2011

In Arizona We Don't Have Fog, We Have Dust! (July 11, 2011)

Hey everyone!
So I guess this past week's dust storm was kind of a big deal? It wasn't here long, but it was still pretty cool. That Tuesday I was on exchanges with Elder Ward (who lives in the house with us). The day itself was brutal. We were on bikes since they cover a bike area. It was the first time I had really been on a bike since Avondale back in March. The biking itself wasn't the hard part, it was the heat and the humidity. I think it may have hit about 116, and it wasn't deep south or Washington DC humid, but still too humid for Arizona. We've hit monsoon season, my friends! I'll admit that there were parts of the day where I wanted to just stop. The only things that were keeping me going were the cold water in my Camelback and my singing of various hymns and primary songs to keep myself motivated. We ended up having a really good day. We taught a few good lessons and then we went on exchanges in the Surprise 1st ward. The ward member with whom I was on exchanges had received a phone call saying a dust storm was on the way. Even when we got back to the church to end the ward exchange, the air was still clear. We went back outside after ten minutes and BOOM! Dust. I took a picture with flash on and you can really see how thick it was. I snapped a picture of Elder Ward with the church about 60-70 meters behind him, and myself in the middle of Sarival with Grenway, a major road behind me. The picture of me in the road was taken when the storm was clearing up. We rode our bikes home and we pretty much inhaled the dust the whole way there. Then cue then rain. The rain/dust combo could only be described as "raining mud." We were only in the rain for about 2 minutes and then we were home. A pretty cool thunderstorm started right after that. The second picture I included was of myself and one of the sisters in our district, Sister Kolo. We both wore purple to District Meeting and I thought mom would appreciate a purple power picture.
Interviews with President Taylor were great this week. It was a little more casual in how we ran the meeting. It reminded me very much of Baker. The whole zone (28 missionaries) sat in a circle and we did introductions of everyone. Each missionary stood and introduced themselves, then their companion said something about them, then their respective district leader, then us as the zone leaders. It was like this for every missionary and it was so fun. President Taylor used it as a way to get people excited to learn about one another, but also to understand the importance in following the chain of Priesthood authority from their district leaders, to zone leaders and so on. Elder Halligan and I had fun saying things about everyone. It also really helped me and Elder Halligan realize the importance of individually knowing our sheep. Sister Taylor is such a sweetie. Everyone loves her. She always has a big, bright smile on her face and just loves to talk and tell stories. She's going to be a great mission mom. When we had a little bit of down-time, Sister Taylor had what she called, "Sister Taylor Story Time," where we could ask her any question and she would answer it so we could better get to know them. My interview with President Taylor was brief but went very well. We set a few goals and talked about some plans that we have for the zone. Like I said, I'm REALLY looking forward to working with the Taylors.
This week I went on an exchange with Elder Perkins, one of the AP's. He looks exactly like a Goodey, like he'd fit right in with Ben, Sam, Josh and Jacob. He came into our area and we just worked hard. We had a lesson with Joumana, the Arabic speaking woman and her husband Johny. We had Bro. Housari come and translate for us. It was fun for me, because I've done it before. I think Elder Perkins was kind of out of it at first, but he caught on really quick. We taught very simply and powerfully, and we taught Joumana how to pray. Later on we went tracting in the neighborhood where Elder Halligan and I fulfilled our window of heaven last week. After two hours of nobody being home, interested or even polite, we were exhausted. At the very last house on the street was a man washing his car in his front yard. He had a Colorado license plate, which is where Elder Perkins is from. Turns out they're from the same town! His name was Scott, and he asked if Elder Perkins knew someone from a certain ward. He said "ward," and I asked if he had met with missionaries before (thinking to myself he was already a member of the church). He said no, but they had been meeting with missionaries back in Colorado, and were even considering being baptized but didn't go through with it because they knew they were moving to Arizona. My jaw nearly hit the pavement. He said we could come by on Wednesday and get to know them a bit more. Why is it always the last house on the street?! Elder Perkins and I just had to laugh because seriously, what are the odds? We know it's not the odds, and we're especially grateful for being diligent in our efforts that day.
Amulek, Ammon and Aaron. What patient, humble missionaries! I'm losing myself in my studies and in my work and it's starting to show for itself. President Taylor and I had a good chat about it in my interview, and it's something I will be focusing on for the coming weeks.
Once again I'm running out of time. There's so much more I wish I could share, but it will have to wait for another time. Write back soon, I hope to hear from you all. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
In the massive duststorm, taken in the late afternoon
The dust caused the streetlights to come on
Cue the rain
With Sister Kolo, sporting the purple power

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy 4th and Welcome President Taylor

Hey everyone!

A lot of change has happened this past week. Last Tuesday was our last Zone Leader Council with President Beck. The meeting was very simple, and President and Sister Beck had some departing words of wisdom for us before President Taylor arrived. I snapped a quick picture with President and Sister Beck before they left, and a quick picture with Sister Turville too. President Beck is now home and released from his calling. The day after he got home, he baptized a good friend of his. This isn't a surprise to any of us, the fact that our mission president may be released but he's still baptizing.

President Talyor arrived this past week and we were all anxious to meet him. The AP's kept calling us for little stuff, and always added how awesome President Taylor was. He called me and Elder Halligan on Sunday night to say hi and to get a feel for how call-ins with the zone leaders will be going. We had our Monday morning call in with President Taylor and he had some great things to say about the work within the zone. I'm definitely looking forward to meetings and trainings with him. Yesterday morning we had an unofficial zone activity, and President Taylor came too! We played basketball and volleyball a the stake center, and President brought his 16 year old son, Braden, with him. President walked in and identified each of the 22 Elders in the gym by name, even though none of them were wearing their name tags. He greeted them by name, with a smile and a hug. That sure was a great first impression for me. Braden's a nice kid, and we wanted to make him feel welcome especially during this big change for him, moving to Arizona and whatnot. Braden joined on of our teams and played volleyball and basketball with us. President Taylor took off his shoes and joined us in volleyball. The first thing he asked was, "We trash-talk here, right?" We all just laughed because immediately after that question, Braden served a ball out of bounds and President said, "Well son, at least you kept it in the gym this time." President Taylor's going to be an awesome mission president. We have our personal interviews with him this Friday and I can't wait.

Yesterday was a great 4th of July! I hope everyone back home had a good time. We had our sport stuff this morning, then the house went on a Goodwill run. Nothing really all that great, except I think I may have found the most missionary find: a rotating tie-rack. You attach it to the clothes hanger bar, and hang the times. Flip the switch, and it rotates. There's definitely some tie-envy in the house (which shows exactly how exciting our life in the house is right now). We bought some IBC root beer to celebrate the 4th and just relaxed in the house. For safety reasons, all missionaries had to be inside their living quarters after 6 pm. We still had an hour before that time, so we went back to the stake center to play more basketball until 6. I was exhausted by the end of the day. We came home, relaxed, made dinner, played a few games, took some celebratory America pictures and then sat in the back yard and watched the fireworks that were being launched from down the road.

We've been having great experiences lately with prayer and windows of heaven. We set a window of heaven on Sunday night in our tracting efforts. We picked the area on our map, and said we'd be there at 6 pm. We get there at 5:45 and noticed that of the one of the two streets we had picked to tract had no houses on it. Uh oh. We went to the second street and it only had about ten houses, with few cars in their driveways. Hardly anybody was home. We remembered we made a promise to be there at the right time, and that the Lord would put someone in our path. As soon as we step out of the truck, and dust storm picks up and winds are really strong. I kept getting dust in my eyes and the wind was a hot, humid wind. We started knocking doors until we made it to the end of one side of the street--nothing. Not one single person answered the door. Across the street we see a 20-something man step out of his house and rush to his car. We walk across the street and talk to him, and he says his family are members. We asked if he was too, he said, "No, not yet." We noticed the "yet" and started talking with him. He says he wants to be baptized sometime, he just doesn't know when. We have a return appointment with him this week. I couldn't believe what had just happened! I didn't think anyone was home on this street. The next house we knocked, a native-American woman answered the door. She was very nice to us, and was very interested when we told her about the Book of Mormon. We'll hopefully be seeing her next week too! It was a very cool experience, and similar window of heaven have been happening every day this week! We've boosted our finding efforts and we're slowly starting to see the fruits.

Elder Halligan and I have been doing very well. The work is moving forward and the mission is headed in a great direction with President Taylor. If my figuring is right, Spencer Brame enters the MTC this week and will be joining us out here in three short weeks. We're looking forward to seeing you, Elder Brame! I hope everyone back home is doing well and I hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With President and Sister Beck at their last conference before being released.

With Sister Turville

4th of July Human Pyramid!!