Monday, September 26, 2011

I Need a Drink....of Water (Sept. 26, 2011)

Hey everyone!
As I mentioned last week, the Surprise Stake is undergoing ward boundary realignments, and we all received the news last night. At an all-adult evening session at the stake center last night, all of the boundaries and new wards were announced. The place was packed, the chapel and the cultural hall were filled. The first thing President Allen said was, "It's amazing what a rumor will do to get a meeting together," (laughter) "...Brothers and sisters, welcome to stake conference." Everybody laughed, but then he said, "Now if we could get this many people to the adult session of stake conference in January." After an opening prayer and a few announcements, President Allen stood up and said, "Now let's get to business...I need a drink." Everyone laughed as he pulled out a water bottle and boldly clarified, "It's water, people!" More laughter. It was a fun way to start such a tense meeting. There was a projector in both the chapel and cultural hall. As the new ward boundaries were announced, so were the new bishoprics, and they were projected on the wall for all to see. Several bishops in the stake stayed the same, including Bishop Smith and Bishop McLaws. As far as the boundary realignments are concerned, Elder Allred and I are pretty sad. We sustain it. but it's still sad. West Point ward was hardly changed at all. We lost the less-active family we've been working with for the past few months. The reason why we're really sad is because we lost nearly half of the Copper Canyon ward to the creation of the new ward, the Gateway Park ward. There's a square mile of what was formerly Copper Canyon that is now Gateway Park, with newly called Bishop Poddle, who I absolutely love. We lost a ton of families. The hardest part for me to accept is that Copper Canyon lost Victor. On top of that, Amber and Wes and all their kids. I know they're in good hands and I trust Bishop Poddle, but it's still hard to accept. We've been in contact with President Taylor, and it's most likely that the sisters in the stake will be covering Gateway Park ward now along with their current ward. We lost nearly all of our teaching pool except one or two investigators. We may or may not pick up a few from some of the former Cactus Lane ward (now part of Copper Canyon), but we're not too sure yet. Wow was it a crazy meeting. One new ward was created and four new bishops were called. Change is good though, the work is moving forward.

On that note, let's talk about the week. I've attached two pictures this week. The first is of me outside of the Surprise Stadium, were the Rangers and the Royals have their spring training games. We happened to be in the area, so I snapped a picture. The stadium is actually used year round for all kinds of events, it's pretty cool. The second picture is of Elder Allred just a few nights ago. We had a really long day and he crashed on the couch just after we did our daily planning. He was out pretty hard, and I don't blame him. He goes home in two months, and I put a little dream cloud around his head. He's not trunky at all, thank goodness, but I couldn't resist. The house got a kick out of it. Elder Allred doesn't know I took the picture, so it's our little secret!

Elder Allred and I had the pleasure of doing a tri-panionship exchange with Elder Perkins, one of the Assistants. He joined us on Friday night to Saturday afternoon and he was a huge help. We had a great church tour with Tanya, the sister whom we gave a blessing to about a month ago. Her schedule's been slowing down and we finally had a lesson with her. The Moore's joined us and we're so thankful they did. The church tour went extremely well, Tanya loved that we focus so much on the family. She was very curious about Relief Society, and Sister Moore did a great job at explaining it to her and inviting her to attend. When we got to the chapel, the Spirit was the strongest. We went to the sacrament table and she started to get a little emotional. She told us that the story of the last supper was very special to her, and that she felt very comfortable in the church building. We know she's feeling the Spirit, but it's so difficult for her to act upon those feelings because of how chaotic her life is right now. Hopefully she can see some conference this weekend.

The best part of the week was Friday night when we met with Wes and Amber. A family in the Copper Canyon ward took the three oldest kids to the ward camp out with them, so it was just Wes, Amber and the two youngest kids. We taught a lot about how the gospel blesses families, to which they both agreed. Wes told us that despite his ability to trust others, he's definitely seen the hand of God in his life since he and Amber have been going to church together each week. He started praying regularly about a week ago, and since then he's had two job offers. Their family has been happier. Wes told us that he needed to start being a better example to his family. When the Spirit was the strongest, we invited him to be baptized on October 22nd. Without any hesitation at all, he said yes, it's something he needs to do. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Two months ago he wanted nothing to so with church or missionary lessons, and now he has a baptismal date. He's still very hesitant to pray with the whole family together, and that was our end goal for the lesson. We invited him as the head of the home to pray. Amber was VERY supportive. Wes thought for a minute and said he didn't think he could. He promised him he could. He told us he wouldn't be able to finish it and that he preferred is Amber would do it, and asked if that could happen. The Spirit kept telling me to ask Wes to do it, and I told him that I knew he should do it. For the next two minutes we sat in silence as Wes was thinking. Honestly, it was probably the most intense two minutes of my whole mission. The Spirit was so strong it was practically smacking us in the face. There was absolutely no way Elder Allred, Elder Perkins, Amber or I would say anything to disturb it. It was all on him. With a choke in his voice he said he couldn't do it. Our hearts all sank because we all knew that it wouldn't be good to invite him any more than we had. Amber said the prayer, and we left, but we left with smiles on our faces because we know that he felt it, and that he has the desire to be baptized.

I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't say that I'm not the slightest bit disappointed about the boundary changes, but I have a testimony that our church leaders are inspired! I'll definitely miss seeing Amber and Wes and their kids on a weekly basis. I'll miss seeing Victor and Zack passing the sacrament on Sundays, and I'll miss the great families who are now in the new ward. President Allen pulled me aside and told me personally that they weren't changes made by their own opinions and logic. It took them months and months of careful prayer and fasting to know if the changes were right. This is the Lord's work, and He knows where He wants His wards and stakes to flourish. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will all work out.

I love you all, please write back soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
In front of the Surprise baseball stadium

Elder Allred dreaming of home

Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Ward? (Sept. 19, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Whew this last week has been busy, and pretty disappointing from what I heard about the BYU/Utah game. It was talked about a lot yesterday in the various wards. Bro. Haught, one of the stake high councilors, said, "It was like watching a puppy get kicked. I mean yeah, everyone likes to see a puppy get kicked but not for three hours!!" When I asked Bro. Evans (a brother in one of our wards who attended Utah) about some of the stats, his response was, "There's only one that matters, Elder!" Cold. One brother who was speaking in the Copper Canyon ward said, "I thought that the scripture of the month was section 54:10, but turns out it was actually the score of the game last night." Hey, it happens.
In all reality, the week has been pretty good. We had a training on the media campaign, "I'm a Mormon." Bro Watson, the director of proselyting from the missionary department, came to train all of the missionaries in the mission. What was funny about it was that the building we met in had little to no power. The morning session of the training was in a dimly lit chapel with no air conditioning (which was as pleasant as it sounds...). President Taylor invited everybody to spread out in the chapel, and to take off their suit coats. That made a huge difference. It wasn't that bad after that, plus the training was great. The church will be making a huge media push the next few months in a few major metro areas of the country, Phoenix being one of them. There will be billboards, commercials, ads, all featuring the tag, "I'm a Mormon." The media campaign serves three purposes: 1) To clear up misconceptions and rumors about the church. 2) To make very clear that we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. 3) Invite others to learn more about the church. It's going to be a great! The missionaries are all in the process of training the members of the wards how to make a profile and appropriately share it with and invite their friends to learn more. To help member training take off more, President Taylor has spoken with stake presidents and will be stepping back on the dinner policy for 45 days, that way we can get into members' homes and more fully train them on how to use the site for proselyting purposes.
We had a great meeting with Wes the other night. He really opened up and we peeled back a lot of layers of the onion, so to speak. By the end of the lesson, we found a concern about prayer. He knew how, but didn't feel comfortable because it had been so long. He almost felt unworthy, but Elder Allred helped him understand that we should never feel that way. The little discussion we had set the stage for great lessons in the future.
The Surprise Stake president announced yesterday that there will be a new ward created in the stake, which will be revealed this Sunday night. In addition to a new ward, several other wards' boundaries will be realigned. We found this out yesterday morning in the stake coordination meeting, and he told us that he would be in contact with President Taylor very soon about missionaries' assignments to wards. Naturally, speculation is wild in the stake and among the missionaries. We may or may not be losing one of our wards, which is sad to think about. We know it will work out, it always does. President Taylor is inspired. We're keeping positive and trusting that the Lord will put his missionaries where He wants them. I'll be sure to let you know what happens in next week's email.
I can't wait to hear back from you very soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bodies Are Tired....But the Human Soul is Refreshed (Sept. 12, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Let me start by thanking everyone for the birthday wishes. Mom and dad, I loved the package. Grandma and Grandpa, thank you for the great card. As grandma would always say, it's the right color! I loved the little noted from the primary kids, too. Thank you Sister Brown!
It's been another great week, especially since the heat is starting to die off each day! Saturday dipped below a hundred and it was awesome! The whole day was about 97, and the evening about 95. Elder Allred and I both laughed at how comfortable it was. Transfers were last Wednesday and here's the breakdown. Elder Cava was transferred to South Phoenix, a pretty rough area which he's going to LOVE. In his place is the one and only Elder Dallon Duke, the newest member of the Surprise House. Elder Duke was in the zone back when he was in Peoria North, so we all knew him really well. When the zone was split, we were sad to see him go, but now he's back! He and Elder Nelson are going to be great together.
The first two pictures were taken immediately after transfers. The first is with me, Elder Anderson (zone leader in Prescott) and Elder Allred. The second is with Elder Tameilau who finally got transferred. He was in his last area for 16 months! Now he's in Phoenix North zone and he's going to do very well over there. The third picture is of me in the weekly addition to our snack pile. These members in the Cactus Lane ward keep giving us snacks, and we don't know what to do with them! We sorted them out by snacks, and threw away the ones we wouldn't keep. The next picture I absolutely love. You know how every missionary wants to have at least one "epic picture" on their mission? I think we found one. Thie other day it finished raining and the sun looked really cool behind the clouds. We saw a dirt pile, and I pulled out my camera and mini tripod. No fancy camera functions, nothin'. Pretty cool, huh? The last picture is of the night of my birthday. The whole day we were working and when we came home, the rest of the house was behind the front door with a cake and candles to surprise me! It was a great birthday, and Elder Johnson made a pretty delicious cake.
By far the best part of the week was yesterday in sacrament meeting in the Copper Canyon ward. Why? Primary program. I always love the primary program. Of course there's always the kid who yells into the microphone, the others who wave to their families, and the sunbeams (3 year olds) who start to cry because they have to sit away from their families. Like I said, I love the primary program! What made this one so special was that both Amber and her husband Wes were there to see it. I don't think either of them have ever seen a primary program before, and not many recent converts or investigators (respectively) do! We've been setting up regular appointments with the rest of her family too, including her husband Wes. The reason why I loved it so much was because all of Amber's family was there, including her kids. They have five kids, four of which are all in primary. They all were in the program! I can't even put into words who great it was to see them singing the songs and speaking their little parts. I was filled with joy the whole time, and when I asked Wes what he thought, he had a big grin on his face and with a chuckle said that he loved it. Who wouldn't?
So four of their five were in the program, but who and where was the fifth? The fifth was Zack, who was baptized with Amber. He is 13 years old and is therefore too old for primary. Before the primary program, Bishop Smith invited Zack to come up front for a moment. Bishop Smith had interviewed Zack this past week and found him worthy to be given the Aaronic Priesthood and ordained to the office of a Deacon. Bishop paused for a moment and said, "Brothers and Sisters, I want you to know what a great experience it was to interview Zack. He's an exceptional young man and I would recommend him to any of you." Needless to say, my heart was full.
That's just a brief update on the great things that have been happening this week. Another Elder doesn't have a library card to email home, so I'm going to let him use mine for the remainder of our email session. I love you all and hope to hear from you very soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With Elders Anderson and Allred

Former roommate Elder Tameilau

Birthday Cake

More snacks!

Epic missionary picture!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

13 Months, 21 Years and Another 6 Weeks (Sept. 6, 2011)

Hey everyone!
It's been another great week. So many events will have taken place within just a week's time. Two days ago I hit my thirteen month mark, in two more days will be my 21st birthday, and we just received transfers news saying that Elder Allred and I will be staying together in Surprise for another transfer! Neither of us were surprised with our transfer news, we both knew we'd be together. The news that was hard to take was everyone else who is being transferred. Elder Cava, who's been in the house since Christmas, is getting transferred. Nobody's happy about that. He's the life of the house, our little Fijian friend. We also found out that Elder Alvis in Surprise North is getting transferred, along with Elder Johnston, one of the Spanish missionaries in the Estrella branch. Transfers should be interesting tomorrow, I'll be sure to let you know who the new addition to the house will be.

Let's go over this week pictures, shall we? The first is of me and Elder Farnsworth, one of the zone leaders in the Cottonwood zone. We had zone leader council this week and just before lunch, Sister Taylor brought out little dishes with individual cakes in them for all the zone leaders with September birthdays. There were about six of us total, and everyone sang to us. It was a lot of fun. The second picture is of me and Elder Malmberg. Right now he's a district leader up in Cottonwood, Camp Verde area and the day after ZLC was a leadership training meeting for all district and zone leaders in the mission. It was the first time I really got to sit and talk with him for a good length of time since March when we were companions. I miss him like crazy and I'm happy to see that he is doing well up north. The last two pictures are of Elder Allred and myself with what we thought was a tumbleweed. We got a little closer to it and realized it was actually a bush, and a very heavy one at that (note the struggle in my face as I tried to lift it).

It was good to hear about the BYU / Ole Miss game. Braden, President Taylor's son said he'd keep me posted about it, but I quickly heard the news from Bro. Thomas the next day in Ward Council. And yes, I did know Spencer Hadley from camp! We had bunks right next to each other and he told me he had plans to play there after his mission. Sawyer Powell, too? Yeah, I know the Powells! That's so cool! Dad you'll have to keep me updated on college football, I felt a sort of empty feeling inside as I heard some guys in the ward talking about the games. Is it true that Utah St. nearly upset Auburn?

Our teaching pool has been a little shallow these past few days, so Elder Allred and I have been making changes to our finding efforts. We've been on our bikes more often, which has been great for talking to people on the streets. Last night we had the first of our dinners with members where we are creating Family Mission Plans. Bro. Blackmore approached me a few weeks ago and asked what his family could to to help the missionaries. A lot of the members of the wards want to feed us, and the guidelines are that investigators, less-actives and part member families need to be there too. It's not a "we can't eat" kind of rule, but rather a "we are called to teach" thing. We love associating with the ward, but our purpose as missionaries is to teach. We came up with the idea that we can have dinners with the ward, and for our dinner thought we would work with them to create a family mission plan. Last night we ate with the Blackmores and made our first family mission plan. It went extremely well. The family sat together and set goals on ho to better prepare for, invite and follow up on missionary experiences. Since that went so well, we're in the process of contacting other members of the ward to implement these plans into their families. It may take a while to see the fruits, but Elder Allred and I both have very good feelings about it. We have two more dinners scheduled with families this week.

Church this past Sunday was a very good experience. There is a brother in the ward who hasn't been active in quite some time. His home teacher made contact with him a few months ago, and so did the bishop. They asked if we'd try and see him sometime too. We've had a few lessons with him and he's a great guy. About a month or so ago, he came to church. He missed the next week, but then hasn't missed a week since. He wanted to meet with the bishop regularly so he could prepare to bless his granddaughter in sacrament meeting on September 4th. We called him on Saturday to set up an appointment to meet with him, and he was ecstatic to tell us that he was going to bless his granddaughter like he planned! He even asked if we would stand in the blessing, to which we said yes. He was really nervous at first, but as soon as he opened his mouth to give the blessing, the Spirit filled the room with such force that nobody could deny it. Talk about a powerful experience. I've never had the opportunity to stand in on a baby blessing, and for just a moment I received a small glimpse of what it must be like to be a father blessing his child. What a great feeling it was to participate in this Priesthood ordinance!

Shortly after that, I sat back in my seat and couldn't help but notice something a few rows ahead of me. I was looking at a family in the ward who recently had a baby. He's maybe five or six weeks old and was sitting in his little car seat carrier on the floor. He was looking around like most babies do, and he looked up at his mom. His mom instinctively knew when he looked at her. When they looked at each other, the baby's eyes lit up and he had the biggest smile on his face. Mom had a smile on her face too that seemed to say, "I'm so proud of you." The tears streamed down my face (don't worry, nobody saw, I was in the back row) as I thought to myself how proud our parents, earthly and eternally, are of us. His mother was so proud of his righteous little spirit that has so greatly blessed her life, even for just these past six weeks. You could see the happiness in her eyes as she thought of all the great things he would do as he grew. I thought of an atoning Savior who made possible eternal life for all. I thought of His teachings, bidding us all to become as a little child, submissive, meek and humble. I thought of a perfect Heavenly Father who knows when we look to him and who, in return, seems to say, "I'm so proud of you."

I love you all, please write back soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Farnsworth and Turner....the birthday boys!

With Elder Malmberg

Allred and the tumbleweed

Behold the power of the tumbleweed!