Monday, August 29, 2011

118 Degrees on One Too Many Days (Aug. 29, 2011)

Hey everyone!
It's been another pretty good week. We've still been busy with lots of stuff, and this week is going to pile on top of that. Tomorrow we have zone leader council all day, a leadership training meeting on Wednesday, and then combined district meetings on Thursday and Friday with the two respective districts in each stake of the zone. Bring it! Transfers are next week, so you won't get an email until Tuesday, which is when we receive transfer news. I have a good feeling I'll be staying, but we'll see how that goes. Let's review this week's pictures shall we? Elder Johnson gave us a friendly reminder that we need to be emptying the dryer lint from the dryer, as noted by the small sweater (for the Prescott missionaries, perhaps) we could knit from the collected lint. On Saturday I went on exchanges with Elder Stephens in the Sun Valley ward, which is one of the most spread out areas in the zone. It's all desert, and the houses are like a 200m to a quarter mile apart. Tracting was fun that day, you can see our bikes parked outside the fence of the property. The house that Elder Stephens and his companion live in is with members of the ward. They're an older couple, and their even older aunt needs a special chair to get up the stairs. If I remember right, Grandma and Grandpa Goodey have one right? Oh yeah, I rode it! The last picture is of me and Elder Burden playing ping pong in the Surprise House living room. We're having a ping pong tournament for a zone activity today, and we set up one of the tables we're borrowing in our living room. Needless to say companionship study was time well spent!
Dad, I haven't found out anything about an Arabic hymnbook. My guess is what you have on the distribution center's website is what you get. A brother in one of our wards helped with the translation of the Hmong Book of Mormon, which he said took ten years with all off the technology they had (and this was only a few years ago). They may or may not be working on an Arabic hymnbook, but it might take some time. Interesting that it took a bunch of professionals ten years to translate the Book of Mormon form English into Hmong given the resources they had, and in the 1820's it took Joseph Smith roughly 60 working days to translate the plates into what we now have as the Book of Mormon. Testimony builder, much?
It was another one of those weeks where the days seemed to drag on but now that the week is over, we wonder where the time went. We had three consecutive days of 118 degrees or higher, and we tracted in it. I was very well hydrated and we even found some new investigators. The funniest was Wednesday morning. We didn't have any meetings in the morning for the first time in about a month. We went tracting, and both had very high spirits about everything! As we were tracting, we were smiling and happy, and we both commented on the coll morning weather, which we later found out was 105 degrees with a light breeze. The day I went with Elder Stephens, I got to ride my bike again! I haven't ridden my bike since I was in Avondale back in March. Just a few weeks after being in Surprise, Elder Johnson rode my bike and the back tire exploded (yes, exploded) on him and sent tire slime everywhere. Since then the bike has been sitting in the back yard collecting dust. I didn't have any reason to fix it any time soon. This week I found where I could get a new tire and tubes for a good price, so I did it. The next day was the exchange. I was exhausted the whole day. It was a lot of bike riding on the dusty roads of Sun Valley ward. We had a good day together though, and it was good to ride my bike again. Elder Allred and I want to more utilize our bikes come fall time so we can talk to more people on the streets.
I'm sad to say that we dropped two investigators of ours this week. The first was Steve, who Elder Halligan and I were teaching a few months ago. He's made some choices that are influencing his decision to want to meet with us and come to church. I'm sad, but it needed to happen. The other was Scott. Appointments had fallen through, so we stopped by to see what was going on. I asked him up front if this was still something he wanted, to which he responded, "I think I just need some time." I understand that, and we've done everything we could do. Missionaries have been over there for years. We'll let the ward take over until he's ready again.
This week's letter is a little short and I apologize. We've been working really hard lately. It seems like recently we've been falling into an elevator mindset where we have spurts of action, then nothing, then another spurt. We need to be in the escalator mode where it's a continual thing, always finding and teaching. The zone did not set a  new record for baptisms in a month, but we came very close and President Taylor told us that we've been leading a great zone. It's such a special place down here. I had the opportunity to speak in Elder Mortensen's district meeting this week. I prepared very little, which made me a little nervous at first. It was about our purpose, how the gospel blesses families and why we need the Holy Ghost in our teaching. I turned it a little different way by helping missionaries see, as Elder Jospeh B. Wirthlin calls it, "Concern for the One," one of my favorite talks by him. We were all in the process of setting goals for September, while holding ourselves accountable for August. Long story short, we all felt something powerful as we reflected on the long term impact of one soul's mighty change of heart. I related it to what Dad told me last week in his email about his own conversion. It was a very spiritual experience in that district meeting. I only wish I had written it down.
Thank you all for your letters of love and support. I hope to hear from you all very soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
The attack of the dryer lint

Nice front yard....Arizona style!

On the chair lift

Ping pong in the Surprise House

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's Menudo? (Aug. 22, 2011)

Hey everyone!
This past week hasn't exactly been the best week for our work. Elder Allred and I have spent hours on end planning for meetings, trainings, conferences and our own area. We may have only taught one lesson the entire week, which wasn't what we were hoping for. We had two stake coordination meetings yesterday, Surprise at 7 am and Surprise North at 8:15 am. We were pretty rushed getting from the first meeting to the next, and we spent a lot of time this week trying to gather information to give to the stake presidencies. Our minds were pretty fried by the end of each day. The meetings went very well. It wasn't a bad week at all, just very very busy. The picture should be good for a few laughs. A family in Elder Nelson and Elder Cava's area owns some sort of vending machine business, and had a ton of leftover/"expired" (day old) bags of chips, candies and they gave them to us. Oh boy, not a good idea. Our entire kitchen table is full of snack bags, and we've packed them away into boxes and have set them on top of our cupboards. Mom, you'll be happy to know that I've been disciplining and limiting myself to my snack intake! Elder Allred and I have been running more often and it feels great. 
Snack Attack!!


As far as eating is concerned, I had my first sketchy mission meal this week! Anyone ever heard of menudo? It's basically tripe soup...yes, cow stomach. It was chopped cow stomach in a kind of broth with some corn and various other mix ins. It smelled terrible. It wasn't this woman's cooking, it was the menudo. I don't wish to offend anyone, but it honestly smelled like a bowl of horse droppings. We were with Elder Johnston until he got a new companion, and he covers the Spanish area. We had a dinner appointment and menudo was on the menu. I ate the whole thing! The meat itself was like chewing on a rubber hose. I put so much cilantro, lime and chili on it that it covered up the taste, plus I washed it down with several glasses of homemade lemonade. I told the other Spanish missionaries that I ate the whole thing and they said that some of them couldn't even do it. Elder Allred choked it down too. I appreciated this family's hospitality, but I never want to smell menudo again.

To answer some questions, yes mom and dad, I did get your package and I love it! The peanut butter pretzels, Cliff bars, and banana bread look awesome. I love the socks, and I'm saving the donut for a special occasion. I absolutely loved the posters from the JCs at camp. If any of the JCs are reading this, thank you so much. I hope to hear from you all very soon. Dad, you said something about another package from the primary kids? Haven't seen anything yet. I have no idea what's been going on with the mail service down here. You could always mail packages to the mission office before, so this is weird. There's nothing wrong with mailing my actual address, the only concern would be transfers. If you sent something to the house if and when I get transfers, I would have to wait a while to receive it. The next transfers are September 7th, and we'll find out the news on the 6th. I don't think I'll be getting transferred, so no worries!
We have a new district leader to take over for the missionary who went home. His name is Elder Mortensen. He was actually serving down in West Maricopa, my last area. The AP's told us to coordinate with their zone leaders for the emergency transfer, and we said we'd just meet them down there. We drove down to Avondale and picked up Elder Mortensen. Just before we left, I asked their zone leaders for permission to go into my old area and see Elder Tameilau before we went home. They said go for it! It was at night, so I knew they'd be home. I drove to my old apartment complex (which was a very strange feeling) and went to the door. I gave a quick knock and just walked inside. Elder Tameilau was sitting at the table with his backpack on, like he always does, and his eyed nearly popped out of his head. He jumped up and shouted, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??" He ran over and practically snapped my back with a big hug. For those of you who haven't been bear-hugged by a Tongan recently, it feels just like how it sounds. The joy masked the pain, but only a little. We couldn't stay long but it was so good to see him. No doubt he'll be getting transferred soon, he's been in Avondale for a long time.
This past week had its ups and downs. We finally got to see Joumana after having not seen her for a few weeks. We found out that she's moving, and both of our hearts just sank. We know she'll be taken care of out in Glendale, but we love her so much and just wish we could continue to meet with. She moves in a few weeks, so we'll most likely be able to put in a few more lessons with her family. It seems like recently when families have been doing so well and have been making so much progress, they move. Amber and Zack have been doing AMAZING. Zack's meeting with the bishop this week to talk about receiving the Aaronic Priesthood. We had a brief lesson with them last night and even Amber's husband Wes is starting to take interest in the Gospel. The whole family just seems happier! Why? Because the Gospel blesses families! The family is ordained of God! The Family: A Proclamation to the World says, "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." It's been a miracle to see this family grow closer together. Who knows what it will be like later on down the road, but I see good things to come.
I'm happy and healthy and I love this work. Why does the time pass so quickly? Each and every day I try to ponder what the Lord wanted me to learn that day, that week, and so on. The people who treat us poorly are becoming less and less of a burden on my mind. Elder Allred has been a huge help in teaching me the importance of patience and charity. Write back soon everyone! I hope to hear that things are well back home. Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Duty (Aug. 15, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I"ll start off by saying we had four wonderful baptisms this weekend! At noon on Saturday was Amber and Zack, and they had great ward support. One of Zack's friends in the Deacon's quorum was really nervous as he gave a talk on the Holy Ghost, but it was so sincere and powerful. Amber asked if I would be the one to baptize her, and Zack asked if Bro. Stevenson (one of his young men's leaders) would baptize him. Because the next day was stake conference, they were confirmed at the baptismal service. Amber was confirmed by Bro. Van Tienderen, one of their good friends in the ward, and Zack asked if I would confirm him. Amber went to the adult session of stake conference and felt very welcome as she met President Allen, the stake President, along with President and Sister Taylor from the mission. Just an hour after Amber and Zack's baptism, we had Angel and Tristan's baptism too! Let me step back and explain how this all happened. Tristan already knew he wanted to be baptized, and we had pushed back his date a week simply because we had more to teach him. Well this past Tuesday, his sister Angel said that she wanted to be baptized too! We told her that we didn't know for sure if the two of them would be baptized together, but we'd see what we could do. When it came time for Tristan's baptismal interview with one of our district leaders, Angel came too. They were both interviewed and they passed! We hustled to coordinate their baptismal service and it turned out SO perfect. Bishop McLaws has been such a huge help for their family, and he had great things to say. Tristan was baptized by Rizek Housari, Bro. Housari's son, and Angel asked if I would baptize her. Tristan and Angel were both confirmed at the baptismal service by Bishop McLaws. They're both moving out to Glendale very soon and I'm sad to see them go. Their mom is very close to being baptized too. When that time comes, you can bet I'll be out there to see it.
Amber and Zack's baptism

Tristan and Angel's baptism

As joyous as the past few days have been, we had a few hard days too. One of the missionaries in the zone got really sick and President asked if I would bring him to the mission office for a bit. I spent the afternoon with him there while Elder Allred stayed with this missionary's companion for the day. He and President Taylor talked about it for a bit, and came to the conclusion that he needed to go home to get the appropriate medical attention he needed. He knew it was what needed to happen, but he didn't want to go. It broke my heart to see him so upset. The three of us were the only ones in the mission office, and we all went into President Taylor's office to plan out how the next few days would go. At the end of it, this Elder asked President for a Priesthood blessing. Numerous tears were shed by all three of us as President Taylor gave him the counsel he needed to hear. He spent the rest of the night packing, and we were to await orders from President Taylor. Elder Allred and I spent the night with the two of them to help them make the necessary preparations. President called and said that we were to take him to the AP's house the next morning. We sent him off, and his companion spent the past two days with us in a tri-panionship. His new companion will be coming in tonight and everything will continue to move forward as it did. We'll sure miss him though.
Some things I have been thinking about. Lately I've been giving myself to much pondering about the things that are happening to me. Personal revelation has occurred on many occasions. This past week has been very busy but very fruitful. Elder Allred and I tried to think why we were being so blessed. We hadn't spent much time proselyting because we were so busy with other things. Then we both thought back to something a missionary who recently went home had told us. He said that if he were to be in leadership again, he wouldn't worry about his area. He said he would do everything in his power to help those he was serving to better their areas and missionary efforts, and that the Lord would take care of his own area. Elder Allred and I both had a powerful confirmation that that was true. I got to thinking about how that will help me for the rest of my life. President Beck told us that when the time comes, there will be two callings in which we will never be released: a husband and a father. I then thought of President David O. McKay's statement, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." Clearly I am not a husband or a father at this time, but I soon will be (of course, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it). I'm starting to think that by magnifying my calling as a zone leader, my area will take care of itself. Now I think that years from now if I magnify my calling as a husband and father, any other assignments or responsibilities that I may have will be taken care of by the Lord, so long as I am faithful to the great charge I will be given as the patriarch of the home. Who knows, it might actually work.

I hope everyone's doing well back home! Write back soon, take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, August 8, 2011

HAP-12 (Aug. 8, 2011)

Hey everyone!
It's been such a great week! I wish I had a lot of time to tell you about everything that happened, so I'll get as much in as I can. I've included a few pictures too. The first picture is of a weird storm we had a few days ago. All around us were clouds and wind, but off in the distance was a funnel of rain that hit Festival and whatever little towns were out there. It looked like a tornado, kinda'. On Thursday I hit my year mark, or as we in the house refer to it as my HAP-12. IT was Elder Johnson's HAP-12 too. I made him a cake during our dinner hour and hid it, and then brought it out at night before bed. As we were celebrating, Elder Nelson and Elder Cava came out with another cake for me, to celebrate a joint HAP-12. WAY too much cake for one night, but no complaints. The third picture is of Joumana's 4 year old son, Emmanuel. Recently he's been so excited when the missionaries come over to teach his mom. He rushes into his room, changes into a white shirt and tie and runs out to sit by us. We can't help but laugh! I gave him my name tag to put on his shirt, and then he held up the Arabic copy of the Book of Mormon. He looked just like a missionary! Who knows, maybe 15 years from now that might happen. Joumana's family speaks Arabic, but their native tongue is Assyrian. So we speak in English, Bro. Housari translates to Arabic, and then Joumana translates to Assyrian to speak to Emmanuel. Lessons are always a hoot with so many languages being thrown around. The last picture is of Elder Allred. I walked into the kitchen this morning and laughed when I saw what he was eating. He had a pop-tart, an Airhead and a glass of milk. I'm so happy we're going grocery shopping right after emails today. The two of us have a great time together, and we teach well together too. Once again, I'm so grateful that I've had such awesome companions on my mission.
Well let's see what's new this week, shall we? On Tuesday we had zone leader council for the first time with President Taylor and with the newly arranged zones. Return and Report was a little chaotic because none of the changes were made to the zones, so that took a lot longer than expected. We have great things in store for the month of August. Both the zone and the mission have the potential to set all-time records for baptisms in a single month. Elder Allred and I are pushing hard for baptismal date retention.
Last night we were low on gas, and we knew we wouldn't have enough to make it to the end of the day. So we biked. Oh my word. What an evening. We biked four miles to our first appointment (who cancelled on us when we got there), five miles to the appointment after that, three to the one after that, and then six miles home. We were sweaty and gross, but we had an awesome evening with appointments so we had no reason to complain. I've had the chance to work a little with Elder Johnson's new missionary, Elder Burden. We went on exchanges on Saturday and had a good time. For a new missionary, he's so prepared, far more prepared than when Johnson and I were at the beginning of our missions. He was teaching me more than I was teaching him! Lately he's been having back problems and hasn't been in the best shape for much, so today we're heading out to the chiropractor to get him checked out. A stake president out east is a chiropractor and works on missionaries for free, and he said he'd be able to see him today. P-Day will be a little short today, but we need Elder Burden happy and healthy. Not a great way to start a mission.
So remember what I said last week about Tristen wanting to be baptized? It didn't happen this weekend, only because we had a few more things to teach him. We pushed it to next weekend, the 13th, and will be helping him this week be prepared for it. Amber and her son Zack had their baptismal interview on Friday and they passed! Both of them were really nervous, especially Zack. While Amber was being interviewed, Elder Burden and I took Zack into the gym in the church and shot hoops for a bit. That helped him calm down and he had a fun time. He said that he thinks it would be cool to serve a mission someday, and we encouraged him to do it. President Morris of the mission presidency interviewed Zack and Amber, and when it was over he invited us in for a prayer together. It was a great experience, and now they're pumped for their baptism this weekend! We went to church yesterday and to my surprise, I saw Amber in sacrament meeting! She's been struggling trying to get time off of work to come to church, but she told me that she took a two hour lunch from work to come to sacrament meeting. She's so awesome. I can't wait for their baptism this weekend!
We had a cool experience after coordination meeting this week. Just as we finished we saw Tyler, a youth in the Cooper Canyon ward approach us with a friend. Her name was Kaitlin, and she simply asked if there was a time we could meet together and answer some of her questions. Of course! right after they were done with mutual and we were done with our appointments, we met at the church and had a lesson with Kaitlin, Tyler, and Tyler's sister. We set up a few chairs and taught her a little bit about the Restoration. It wasn't what we had originally planned on doing, but Elder Allred and I both had a strong impression to go with it. It ended up being a very spiritual experience that evening. She came to church yesterday, and we set up another appointment to mete with them again on Wednesday. I love how the youth down here catch the fire of sharing the Gospel with their friends. It started with Sam talking to Victor, now Tyler and Kaitlin, and just the other day a youth named Joey asked us if we had a spare Book of Mormon for him to give to his friend. It's been awesome bringing the youth to appointments with us, and they really get a taste of what it's like to be a missionary. Honestly, it's the best mission-prep class any youth could take.
Elder Allred and I were talking about this the other day, and there are so many good things happening to us right now. So many miracles. Our studies have been so focused on the needs of others that we hardly have time to learn the things we want to learn. And yet in some roundabout way, we end up receiving so much personal revelation that we weren't even worried about our personal wants. Elder Angelos often said that one of the hardest things as a missionary is to describe to someone what you are feeling. It's tough to put into words, but every little moment of every day is strengthening who we are. Just last night as we were biking home, a flood of memories rushed into my mind of me and Elder Abel riding around Avondale and contacting everyone we saw. I just smiled the whole way because of how much fun we had together and how much joy we brought into the homes of those we taught. Write back soon everyone. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
A rain funnel

Turner and Johnson celebrate their HAP-12 (one-year mark in the mission)

Emmanuel the little missionary

Allred's healthy breakfast

Elder Thatcher Allred (Aug. 1, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Big changes this past week with transfers. The reason why President transferred Elder Halligan is because a lot of the mission is getting a makeover. Instead of 9 zones, we now have 11. We lost Peoria North stake in our zone, and created the new Peoria/Peoria North zone. Elder Halligan was transferred in with the newly called zone leader Elder Freeman to open the zone. I couldn't think of any better missionary to open a new zone than Elder Halligan. The ward was pretty confused. Yesterday at church we heard a lot of "Wow, that was fast!" I also saw that Elder Malmberg was transferred up to Cottonwood and would be a district leader!! That made me pretty happy! As soon as I got to the transfer meeting, I knew who my companion would be. It was different than my hunch from last week, but as soon as we went into the leadership training meeting, I knew who it was: Elder Thatcher Allred, from Ogden, Utah! Elder Allred actually trained Elder Johnson, and lived in the house about 6 months ago. When he heard he was coming back to the house, he was pretty excited. I'm excited too. Elder Allred's a great missionary. He's been out for about 20 months, and goes home in November. He was just called to be a zone leader, so this past week has been lots of busy work trying to get him in the groove of being a zone leader. He's the man. His style of planning is a lot different that companions I've previously had, but it's been good. He's teaching me a lot and we're building one another up. I don't have a picture of him yet, sorry about that. The zone has been changed, big time. We lost Peoria North, and now we just have Surprise and Surprise North stakes. Each stake previously had one district each, and now both of those districts have been split into two districts. Now we cover four districts within two stakes, with two newly called district leaders, but this past week we've had to function as if we were still the Peoria North/Surprise zone. It's been pretty stressful because we have little to no structure to the two new districts and neither of the district leaders have any records of what have been done in the past. I've been having to compile everything from past records and it's been a mess. With zone leader council tomorrow, everything will be taken care of so we can get the ball rolling. Starting this week we'll function as the Surprise/Surprise North zone!
So yeah, this past week has been pretty nuts! My last night with Elder Halligan, we went to go say goodbye to the Housari's in the West Point ward. Bro. Housari brought out his Arab clothes and hookah and we had a photo shoot. We also brought out his Arabic scriptures and took pictures with Bro. Housari. I thought the picture of me and Halligan with the hookah would make a great Christmas card. If I'm still here at Christmas (which is very possible), I'll make it happen. The third picture is of Elder Johnson and his new missionary trainee, Elder Burden. Elder Burden is awesome. You'd swear he has been on his mission for a year. None of us believe that he just left the MTC. The other day during weekly planning, I snapped this picture. Elder Johnson left the room to go to the bathroom, and Elder Burden fell asleep in the chair. I couldn't help but laugh because I knew exactly how he felt. He's in a bike area and he's got to be exhausted this first week, so no wonder he fell asleep! I'm pretty sure that I did too my first week. Elder Johnson gave us a good thumbs up for training. Sorry it's blurry. The last picture is of the mega cockroach that Johnson and Burden found. No joke, this thing had to be 2-3 inches long. Monster.
We haven't had a whole lot of opportunities this week to teach because of transfers and getting new districts settled in. I know that's not an excuse, but it's been the bulk of our time recently. We've managed to go tracting and fill a few windows of heaven, which have been miracles in and of themselves. We had a cool experience on Saturday morning at a baptismal service. Joumana's mother in law, Elizabeth, was baptized. Because she and her family speak hardly any English, Bro. Housari translated the baptismal service. It was amazing to feel the Spirit across the language barrier! You could just feel the Spirit of the words and testimonies that were being shared. Joumana was there, and we're hoping that will be the spiritual boost that will help her commit to a baptismal date. Speaking of baptismal dates, another great thing happened to us at church yesterday. As we're standing outside of the chapel after sacrament meeting, Tristen approached us. We've been teaching Tristen, his sister Angel and their mom Andrea for a few months, and missionaries long before me have been teaching them too. We've been trying for a long time to help them commit to be baptized on a date, and none of them really felt ready. Tristen came up to us yesterday and asked if he could talk with us for a moment. We said yes, and he asked, "I want to be baptized. Can I be baptized this Saturday?" I was very surprised to hear that. I knew all along that he was ready, but to hear him say it himself was what threw me for a loop. Elder Allred's eyes got really big. He didn't know who Tristen was, and he must have been confused. I told Tristen that we'd have to meet with him a few times this week and it can happen. He had a smile on his face and said, "Ok, that works!" So now we'll be having a baptism this weekend! What a great way to start a transfer cycle and a new companionship!
This Thursday, the 4th, I hit my year mark. Has it really been a year already? I remember writing emails back in Avondale when I'd say that I couldn't believe that I had been out for three months, and now I'm at a year. I'm still figuring out how things work. There's still so much I'm trying to learn. It's very unreal to think that a year from now, I'll be home. I honestly try not to dwell on that. I'm so busy here, home is just one giant, "does not compute." I guess that's a good thing, though, isn't it? I'm not trying to get at anything deep our profound here, but it's hitting me that my blessing and opportunity to serve as a full-time consecrated servant of the Lord is a very limited time frame. At the leadership training meeting at transfers, I spoke about accountability and how we use the time that the Lord has given us. In preparing the talk, I received personal revelation about how to better use my time to serve as a missionary, how to find the lambs and how to feed the sheep. I hope all is well for everyone wherever you are. I love you and hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With Bro. Housari

Elder Burden fell asleep

That's a big bug!

A really big bug!