Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A White Arizona Christmas (Dec. 27, 2011)

Hey everyone!
I hope everyone back home had a Merry Christmas! The holiday weekend here in the APM was pretty fun. Christmas Eve was pretty busy. We had three scheduled appointments that day, to of which fell through. The first one was with a new family of investigators, seven in all! Their home is the same apartment complex as the Spanish Elders. The Spanish Elders fit comfortably the two of them in their place, but seven is WAY too packed. We were all crammed around a little table in the kitchen and barely had time to share a scripture because of how loud they all were at the same time. It worked though, and hopefully we should be seeing them more regularly now. Later in the afternoon, President and Sister Taylor met us at the Surprise Stake center to give us all of the mail and packages for the zone. We spent the rest of the afternoon delivering mail to everyone, including a whirlwind trip to meet the Wickenburg Elders. We were invited by the Cuthbertsons to go caroling with their family, but had to be in by 6pm. We asked President and Sister Taylor about it. No longer than about two seconds went by before Sister Taylor poked President on the arm and said, "Oh please let them go!!" President gave us the ok. Sister Taylor rocks :) We met the rest of the house at about 6:30 and sped over to the Cuthbertsons. Their entire family was there, maybe 50-60 people? We all went caroling around the housing development and went back to their house for cookies, cocoa and fun. Bro. Cuthberston let us come out into their back yard to sit around the fire pit, eat cookies and kick back. It was a fun night! We dropped the other Elders back at the house, finished delivering the mail, and made it home for bed.
On to Christmas morning. SANTA CAME! Everyone got a stocking filled with candy and trinkets, including 12-month calenders for 2012 and their very own 1998 Nagano Olympics drinking glass. It was a Christmas miracle! We all got up at 6:30 to open our packages and presents. I absolutely LOVED the M&M machine, and I plan to use it. I already stole all of Elder Wood's M&M's to use it. Owned. I've attached a couple pics of Christmas morning. Church that day was so well done. Copper Canyon ward was one of the most spiritually uplifting sacrament meetings I've been to my whole mission. There was only one short talk, a few musical numbers, and a small message from the Bishop. The Russell's eight year old daughter sang "What Child is This" with Sis. Russell on the piano. Absolutely beautiful. The Bishop gave a little Christmas thought about something he read in the newspaper that morning and it was just the little Christmas message we needed to hear.
For dinner on Christmas we went to the Stringam's. It was a very laid back evening and we had a lot of fun. Their son got Legos for Christmas and we helped him put together the plane and truck while Bro. Stringam was finishing dinner--steak, shrimp and potatoes. I took my time to enjoy the steak and potatoes but needless to say, I pounded the shrimp. Best dinner ever. We all had fun telling stories from missions and throwing out jokes here and there. I'm so excited to get working more with Bro. Stringam as our ward mission leader.
West Point ward was a little different. I wish I could have been there for all of it. We left halfway through it because of the baptism. Wes and Amber's family is complete! We went back into the room with the font and saw their family come in, along with a lot of the Gateway Park ward. Wes baptized Gabriel. He came up to me, gave me a hug and asked, "So what do I say again?" It was still pretty unreal the see it all happen. Like I said, this wasn't the same family we began teaching back in May. Wes takes his priesthood seriously and wanted to make sure it was done right. I attached the picture of the whole family just before the baptism. The two littlest still have a few more years before they're baptized, but now begins the countdown to the temple.
It was great to be able to talk to you guys on the phone, it just went so fast. It's ok, Mother's Day is only, what, five months away? No big deal! I'm keeping plenty busy and I love the work. I'm grateful that my final mission Christmas was the way it was. I got to spend it with missionaries I love, in a place I love, doing things I love, and seeing the completion of a family I've come to love so much over the past few months. I hope everyone is doing well and I hope to hear from you all very soon. Take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Eric on Christmas morning

Eric's companion Elder Wood

Wes and Amber's family

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bonus Christmas Photos (Dec. 2011)

Outside the Mesa Temple with Elder Wood and two sister missionaries

With Santa at the mission Christmas conference
These photos are from Sister Taylor's mission blog.
Practicing their TV weatherman hands

With Braden Taylor, the mission president's son.

With President and Sister Taylor

Not sure......

I Love to See the Temple (Dec. 19, 2011)

Hey everyone!
We had our fantastic Christmas zone conference this week! The morning was spent in the Glendale stake center with half the mission, the Surprise, Phoenix, Phoenix South, Glendale, Goodyear and West Maricopa zones--115 of us in total! Most of the zone conference was special Christmas talks, musical numbers and Christmas hymns. Elder Brame played one of the most amazing pieces of "O Holy Night" on the piano that I think I've ever heard. Sister Taylor was nearly speechless after it was over. All of us filled into mission vehicles and drove to the Mesa Temple. I snapped a picture outside with Elder Wood just before the endowment session. I think it may be my Christmas card photo I'm doing this year for members and missionaries. The session was just awesome. There were exactly enough seats for all of us, including President and Sister Taylor and a few of the office couples. It was very powerful to see President and Sister Taylor as the witness couple, and I felt the Spirit very strongly as I sat around missionaries I knew quite well. I sat near Elders Wood, Burden, Cava, Pugsley, Nelson, Johnson, Ward, Duke, Bush, Jones, all of those guys and just felt happy the whole time. While we were waiting to go into the celestial room, we all just looked around at each other and kept smiling. At the entrance to the celestial room were President and Sister Taylor to give us each a hug. It was an army of missionaries in there, very powerful. I was one of the last dozen or so missionaries to come in, and it was cool to see a hundred plus missionaries standing there. They all seemed to make a semi-circle toward the back of the room. I wish I could put into words how powerful of a sight it was. I loved seeing all of the missionaries in there. Sister Turville was there too! I couldn't help but give her a big hug as soon as I saw her. Outside of the temple were the Christmas lights. I snapped a quick picture with President and Sister Taylor, and took a bunch of other pictures with other missionaries too. I included the picture of our district, the Surprise East district. From right to left it's Sister Falke, Sister Rohner, Elder Whipple, Elder Mortensen (district leader), then Elder Turner and Elder Wood (the zone leaders).
I had been waiting all week for the temple. My attitude was just excited the whole time. I was eager to get to work in everything I did. With the West Point ward's new ward mission plan in place, Wood and I got to work. This week we found three new investigators!!! That was a breath of fresh air from the slump we've been in. I also went with Eric Blackham to make some visits to prospective elders, and now we're meeting with a new family every Tuesday night. This week we've just been blessed and my heart has been full of gratitude.
I don't think I mentioned last week but Bro. Lake, our Copper Canyon ward mission leader was released. I was pretty sad to hear the news. He and his wife were called to assist in humanitarian efforts with the stake, and they're perfect for the job. Nobody was sustained as a new ward mission leader last week, so naturally we were a little on edge. Of course, speculation flew like crazy. One night while Elder Wood and I were talking, we both agreed on who we felt like our new ward mission leader would be. We were right. Yesterday Bro. Stringam was sustained as our new Copper Canyon ward mission leader. I'm beyond excited! Seriously, one of the most missionary minded men in the stake. He came up to us after sacrament meeting and said, "Elders, I'm a blank slate. What do I need to do?" He's so ready and willing to learn. He has a bunch of ideas that he's waiting to try. We had dinner with them last night to talk about it more, and we'll be helping him a lot this week. Both he and his wife served missions and I feel like we're going to have a power team to help with the work in the ward.
Last night was our cottage meeting with President Allen of the Surprise stake. We talked a lot about the Christmas season and bore testimony about the Savior. It was there that I suddenly remembered my family and one of the greatest Christmas seasons we had. It was ten short years ago, the first week of December 2001 when we went to the temple to have Marlee sealed to us. I couldn't believe that it had already been ten years! It just came to me there in his home and I bore my testimony about how special of an experience that was. I'm grateful for the joy I feel at the Christmas season, especially after we went through the temple as a mission and I was reminded of the joy our family felt just ten years ago. I felt a renewed sense of urgency to get to work. I'm excited to talk to the family this Sunday morning. Mom and Dad, I don't know what time exactly I'll be calling. I'll most likely call first thing in the morning to see what your day is like. Our day may be a little busy, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to call. I'll only have 30-40 minutes to talk, so come prepared with questions! Sis, I wanna hear from you too! Write down anything you want to know or anything you want to talk about. I need a few minutes of quality sis time. I love you all and can't wait to hear from you soon. Take care and be good, and I'll talk to you on Christmas!
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With Elder Wood outside the Mesa Temple

With President and Sister Taylor outside the Mesa Temple

With the members of the district at the temple

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Zone Conference This Week (Dec. 12, 2011)

Hey everyone!
News from the front--it's cold. I think winter has hit the valley. Right now it's in the mid-40's and raining. At nights it gets into the low-30's and here and there it can get below freezing. In the day it'll sit in the mid/low-60's, which is just perfect. Come sundown we bust out the sweaters and get to work. Things with Elder Wood are awesome. We do everything together, such as shopping for septic tanks and old-fashioned Christmas photos (as seen in this week's photos). Really though, I love the man. The two of us have said that we want to completely eliminate tracting for our work. We spent the whole week working with the members of the ward. Subsequently, we reported straight 0's in our call-in, except the one lesson we had with a less active family. It may look discouraging on paper, but we hit the wards hard. We've set a few more family mission plans this week, and Bishop McLaws even showed us in PEC the new ward mission plan for 2012. I. Love. It. It's beautiful. Bishop came up to us at the start of sacrament meeting and said with a smile on his face, "Is that a ward mission plan, or what?" It's so specific with names, goals, everything. By the end of 2012, I'd love to see where the West Point ward will be.
A few things have hit our teaching pool this week. Remember Tom? Tom was the man who we spoke to that has the autistic son that we met just before Halloween. For weeks, Tom was telling Bishop Smith about how he was going to come to church, and he came once. He also kept asking how he could get involved with volunteering in the ward, and he helped with the stake youth service day. We tried setting appointments. Nothing. Rumor was going around that he and his wife were having arguments about the church. We heard it from Bishop, but the story didn't match up with what we were told by his wife. The week before, his wife let us into the home, gave us food and water, and even gave us Tom's cell phone number to get a hold of him. Just the other day we went to their fellowshippers' home and asked what was going on. They told us the same story as Bishop, that he wasn't going to help anymore, and that he'd repay anything the church had done to help his family. I was crushed. We're not giving up though. Tonight we're going over and we're going to try and get the honest truth. I love them too much to just quit, I have to hear it from them.
The other night Elder Wood and I had a little extra time before we had to be home. It was that awkward time at night where nobody wants their door knocked on because it's dark, but we still have time to work--"the bewitching hour" as I jokingly call it. It's just confusing to know what to do in that time when your appointments fall through, and tracting just irritates people. We parked the truck in Old Surprise/El Mirage (remember what happened Easter night?) and we walked the streets. There weren't as many people outside because it was pretty cold. At one of the last houses on a road before it turned into fields was a woman named Alicia. She was carrying groceries inside and we offered to help. She was a little weirded out that we were out "so late." We began to speak with her about what we do as missionaries. We offered her a copy of the Book of Mormon, and she hesitated. She asked, "How much?" We said it was free, her gift from us. She smiled and said that she never has a Bible growing up, so she was very grateful. We explained the difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon and we'll be going by this weekend to give her a Bible too. Alicia was pretty excited and she told us she was going to go inside and start reading right away. It may not be the greatest story in the world, but it was a good experience for all of us on that cold Saturday night.
Mom and dad thank you so much for the little Christmas box. I love the music and the pictures. I look through them frequently and I show them to the Elders in the house. I laughed so hard when I saw that picture of Ed laying on the blanket I was trying to make. There were two pictures of the front yard and the street, and I put them side by side to make it a mini-panorama. It made me so happy to see the ginko, the house, dad's truck, Fetrow's, Joe's and even down on to the 300-block of Delafield. I love it so much. 
With the few things I had been asking for for Christmas, there's one more thing I would like. It's a little bit different, but please try it. I want mom dad and sis to go to the temple to do baptisms together as a family. Go some early morning before school or some afternoon, whenever, just some time before Christmas is all I ask. After you're done, take a piece of paper and right down your thoughts and feelings about what you did. Write about how the day was. How did you feel before, and how did you feel after going to the temple? Before you go home, please take a picture the three of you outside the temple with the temple in the background, church clothes and everything, and email it all to me. The mission is going to the Mesa Temple this week and I couldn't be more excited. I want this Christmas to be a time where it'll be fun to call home, but even more joyous to be able to remember covenants and to be able to feel the Spirit in the House of the Lord. I hope this isn't too much more to ask this year for Christmas, but it would mean a lot to me. I know it will mean a lot for you too. I'll follow-up with you when I call home on Christmas day. I love you all, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Companionship Christmas Pic

The joy of Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Elder Derek Wood (Dec. 5, 2011)

Hey everyone!
Everyone's dying to know just as much as I'm dying to say who my new companion is. Ladies and gentleman, I introduce to you, Elder Derek Wood of Beaverton, Oregon! I failed to get a picture of the two of us, sorry about that. Next week. The next day after emails last week was weird without Elder Allred. I was missing my better half. The next morning at transfers I went into the leadership training meeting and sat right in front of Elder Wood. I leaned over to him and whispered "You're coming to Surprise." He laughed and we continued with our meeting. We move into the chapel and lo and behold, my new companion. Other than that, not a whole lot of changes to the zone. Elder Trussell's companion Elder Fluckiger moved across the hall of their apartment to be with Elder Robinson, and Elder Jones came down from Sedona to be with Elder Trussell. I'm pumped for this next transfer. Missionaries have been working hard, and already there were four baptisms in the zone this past weekend alone, but more to come on that.
Elder Wood is a stud. He's been out for 13 months, and is my first companion from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When people ask if we live close to each other, we have to explain that we live on other ends of the states. He's a huge Ducks fan, which is good considering how well I hear they're doing. We pretty much laugh the whole time we're driving around, throwing jokes out here and there. Our first night together, I saw what kind of teacher he was: awesome. He knows the scriptures so well, and he uses them. We had another lesson with Sarah and her family and it went really well. That morning we were in a district meeting and talked about the importance of our investigators praying. We both agreed that it needed to happen that night with Sarah and her family. In the actual lesson, we invited Sarah to say the closing prayer. She was a little hesitant, but then said she'd do it...but she didn't know what to say what she was feeling. I always love it when people pray for the first time. It's often some of the most sincere prayers I've ever heard. It was the same case here. She prayed and it was great. She gave thanks for her family and for their health. She thanked her Heavenly Father for being able to work doing what she loves. Toward the end of her prayer, she asked specifically to know if baptism was what she needed to do. After it was over, she commented on how she felt a little bit better. Nothing overly exciting, but better. It was great to see how Elder Wood and I had a goal for the lesson and how we worked toward it.
This past weekend was full of very spiritually rewarding experiences involving baptisms. We attended four baptismal services. The first one was the stake baptisms. An eight year old boy named Xander was baptized by his father. You might know him. It was Wes! I baptized Wes just over a month ago. He received the priesthood and he baptized his son on Saturday. I snapped a picture with the family (Amber wasn't able to make it because of work). Elder Wood and I stood as witnesses. You could tell how nervous Wes was and I don't blame him! I've been a member of the church for my whole life and didn't personally baptize anyone until I was twenty years old. He's been a baptized member of the church for a month and now he was baptizing his son! It was a great feeling to stand at waters' edge and see this happen. In a month their ten year old Gabriel will be baptized too, completing the family. Their two youngest kinds will be baptized when they turn eight.
We went back into Peoria, Elder Wood's last area, for the baptism of an investigator he had taught. It was a father returning to activity baptizing his son. We came back to Surprise for the baptism of a family in the Estrella branch for the Spanish Elders. It was the family where I ate menudo a few months ago. I had helped them paint the walls of one of their rooms a few weeks ago, and I immediately loved that family. Mom and dad and their eight year old son were all baptized. Their 15 year old daughter chose not to be baptized with them, but she came to support them. The whole time she was in tears. I know the Spirit touched her heart. I firmly believe that she could be baptized by the end of the month. Their family just seemed to have a glow about them when they came up out of the water. I loved the service because it was all in Spanish. We sang the hymns in Spanish, I didn't understand a word of any of the talks but I just sat back and felt the Spirit the whole time.
An hour after the Spanish baptismal service was a baptism for our sisters. They've been teaching a man named Rocky and he was so excited to be baptized. He only has one leg, his right leg. He's in wheelchair but is one of the funniest people I've met in a while. He had just had surgery on his other foot, and had it covered in a plastic bag for his baptism. To ensure safety, the sisters asked if we would dress in white and be in the font to assist the man who was baptizing Rocky. We said we'd be glad to. The service itself was one of the most humble I've ever attended. There couldn't have been more than ten or twelve people there. The talks were short and sweet, and Sis Falke played a musical number on the violin that was so beautiful to listen to. She played an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, "Lead, Kindly Light," with "O My Father." It nearly brought me to tears. The time came when we were to help Rocky be baptized. The four of us in the font was a tight fit, but it worked. I stood to his right, Wood behind him, and the brother from their ward to his left. He was baptized and he was so happy. The easy part was over, now we had to get him out. He tried stepping up the steps, but the plastic bag on his foot kept slipping. He sat on the steps, and tried scooting himself up. One of us at the top tried to lift him, but we needed another person. His brother came to help us, and he was eventually lifted into his wheelchair. Altogether it probably took about four or five minutes to get out of the font and Rocky was chuckling for most of it.
I had a great week. With a new companion and with all of these baptisms plus more to come, it's looking to be a great holiday season. Already the work seems to be turning around in the area. Elder Wood is the man and I'm eager to see what's in store for us. I hope everyone's doing well and I can't wait to hear from you. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Xander's baptism