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.
Elder Eric James Turner