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!
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|