Monday, January 30, 2012

What's This "Snow" I've Been Hearing So Much About? (Jan 30, 2012)

Hey everyone!
The work has really been picking up this week. We had lots of lessons and exchanges with other Elders in the zone. We had our interviews with President Taylor and that was a good time. The picture you saw, mom and dad, of me and Elder Wood with the certificates is for our cleanest car award. At every interviews our vehicle coordinator, Elder Skonnard, inspects the cars and awards the cleanest car in every district. If you tally up three awards, you get a hundred extra miles for the month! Woo! The rest of the week was just busy. On Saturday I went with Elder Nelson on an exchange in his area. While biking back to the house to change for the adult session of stake conference, we cut through a field behind the Cactus Rd. church building. Elder Nelson was behind me and I heard a "*Slush*....dang it!!!" I looked back and Elder Nelson's bike was laying in a pool of mud he didn't see. He had to step in it to get his bike out. Thankfully he didn't fall in, otherwise I flat out would have made fun of him. I attached a picture of the scene, not much to look at but pretty funny. Elder Wood had a little spill too. At a roundabout I heard behind me a "*Clank*....'aw crud'...*crash*" followed by Elder Wood laughing. I looked back and Elder Wood was lying in the middle of the roundabout on his back and he was just laughing. His pass along cards were scattered in front of him on the ground and about two or three cars stopped to see what happened. He flagged 'em on and he got back up to keep riding. It was pretty funny! Thankfully I've yet to crash on my bike since I've been out here, knock on Wood.
Not a whole lot of other stuff to report this week, we're just keeping busy. We had interviews this week, zone leader council on Friday and zone conference in Surprise North stake next week. Tomorrow is a bishopric training in Surprise North, and this Sunday are back-to-back-to-back ward council trainings for West Point, Surprise 1st and Surprise 2nd Wards. The hardest part of the week is going to be losing our Sisters. Sisters Rohner and Lautiki are from the temple square mission and have been here since October. I love 'em so much, they work so hard and have made a huge contribution to the Arizona Phoenix Mission. They go back to Salt Lake City this week and we're sad to see them go. We'll be moving in two Sisters from the Phoenix South zone on Wednesday. I know one of them, and I trust that the area will be in good hands. It's still hard to see our wonderful temple square sisters go.
Tim's not going to be baptized on the 11th. He doesn't feel like he can quit smoking in time. He also said he feels like there are some people he wants to forgive before he can be baptized. Our lesson this week was on agency and the choices we make. He seems to understand everything we teach, even to the point of teaching it right back to us. The application is the hardest for him. When he comes to church though, he feels great. Unfortunately back pain keeps him from staying the whole block. Our lessons are still regular and we just found out that their family has new home teachers, home teachers I know and trust to take care of their family.
We had a fun week with Eric and his daughters. On Monday we went to the Smith's, his neighbor, for a Family Home Evening. It was really simple (little kids, short attention spans) but fun. We all sat around and Eric wasn't sure what to think at first. We sang "I Am A Child of God" for the opening song and Eric seemed to like that. He had on a little smile while we were singing. We shared a thought from the scriptures and closed with "Popcorn Popping" for a closing song. Eric loved it. He had the goofiest grin on his face while we were singing and doing that hand motions and everything. It was a really fun experience and I recommend that every family have a Family Home Evening with their neighbor. A few days later we had a lesson with Eric at the Smith's. We got there a little early and said that our plan was to teach faith and repentance, and then teach the Word of Wisdom. Eric loved the lesson. He said that he feels like his faith has significantly grown over the past month alone. He especially loved repentance. I think he described it as "beautiful." I had invited him to write down some things he felt like he wanted to change and repent of, and he said he already did. When he was reading the chapter of the boom of Mormon we had left him, he felt like he needed to write down some stuff that he wanted to work on. He felt the Spirit, and he followed it! I was very impressed. About halfway through our lesson I felt prompted not to teach the Word of Wisdom. I hoped Elder Wood felt the same thing because I sure wasn't going to bring it up. He didn't either. When we got back into the truck we both talked about the feeling we had not to bring up the Word of Wisdom quite yet. It's cool when you and your companion acknowledge that you received the same prompting of the Spirit at the same time.
I'm thankful for the chance I have to be here on a mission. Time is flying--I hit 18 months this weekend--and I'm making the most of it. I love writing in my journal all of the experiences I am having and all of the things I am learning. I hope all is well with everyone back home and I hope to hear from you all soon. Send pictures! I'd love to see how everyone is doing. Until next week, take care and be good. 
Much love, 
Elder Eric James Turner

With Elder Wood
Elder Nelson in the mud
Clean Car Certificate mean extra miles!!
Elder Turner teaching the zone members

Monday, January 23, 2012

Surprise Baptism Last Weekend (Jan. 23, 2012)

Hey everyone!
Pretty great week, if I don't say so myself. We've taught more lessons this week than we have in several transfers. We've been busy! We had a great lesson with Eric and his daughters again. We finished the plan of salvation, and they all seemed to understand and accept it. His fifteen year old continued to surprise us with her questions and thoughts of the gospel. This family is so prepared! Unfortunately they didn't come to church! Ugh that was frustrating, and we had the one gospel principles lesson that Eric needed to hear! After Bro. Stringam's great gospel principles lesson, we both felt sad that Eric wasn't able to hear that for himself. We'll be having a family home evening with Eric tonight at his neighbor's house and I'm really excited for that.
I had a really great experience on Thursday afternoon. We had a gap of time with absolutely nothing going on in our area. Bummer. So, we decided to help some companionships in the zone with the work in their area--a blitz, as we call it. We talked with Elder Nelson and Elder Duke to see if we could help them in their area. We set aside about three hours to just get to work and see what we could do. Wood went with Duke and I went with Elder Nelson. I asked what we'd be doing, and he said we'd be tracting. I'll admit that I was hesitant because the area we were going to was one of the wealthier parts of Surprise, if not the wealthiest. The first whole street was nothing but rejections or slammed doors. Woo. We cut through a park and found another street.
Along the way we had a great discussion about how to fire up wards to be better member missionaries. We came to the new street and knocked on the first door. A woman, probably mid 20's, answered the door. We introduced ourselves, and she introduced herself. Her name was Amanda and she said that she had a lot of friends from high school who were members of the church. Elder Nelson asked her if she had ever read the Book of Mormon, and she said no. She continued on by saying, "It's funny how you say that because recently I was just thinking about your church and how I'd like to actually read the Book of Mormon for myself." Just then she had to run inside to check something. Elder Nelson and I just looked at each other like, "Did she just say that?" While she was inside I picked out a card and began to write down our phone number and location of the church. I was thinking about which video portrait she would like the best. For some reason the profile of a woman named Shawni came to my mind. She's a mom, photographer, blogger, I thought it would work. Before I could write anything down, Amanda came back outside. The conversation somehow switched to football, no idea how. Probably because she's a huge Packers fan and seeing as they just know where I'm going with this. I changed my mind and wrote down the link to one of the former NFL players, Rob. It's a cool story about football and his family, and I thought she'd like that one instead. She saw the card and said, "Hey I've seen those commercials! I saw one the other day about a woman who talked about her kids and photography. I liked that one because I like photography and I wanted to learn more about her." It was Shawni's profile. Of the three dozen differnet commercials, she saw Shanwi's. I asked her if she wanted to see that one too, and she said that she'd love that. I wrote down the link, and felt slightly guilty that I hadn't followed that prompting the first time. I know something like a name isn't worth making a big deal about, but wow. We were so led by the Spirit that afternoon. I don't doubt that we were being guided every step of the way that day, even just to talk with Amanda about the Book of Mormon and a woman named Shawni.
Saturday night was quite the night, one that I didn't expect to see for a very long time. Scott was baptized. We were teaching Scott back in the former Copper Canyon ward way back when Angelos was here and we had lessons twice a week with them. Part-member family, Scott was not a baptized member of the church. Missionaries had been working with them for years. We had a few instances where Scott accepted the invitation to be baptized, but for one reason or another, he wasn't ready. It was kind of frustrating at the time, I cared about him, but I think my pride was saying, "Come on and get baptized already, you know it's true!!!" We lost them with the split of the wards, and they became part of the Sisters' area. A couple months or so after the split, the Sisters started working with them again. At transfers last week, Sisters Falke and Rohner leaned over to me and said, "You know Scott's getting baptized next weekend right?" I freaked. I immediately put that in my planner so I wouldn't forget it. Saturday night was so great when I walked into the church and saw Bishop Pottle and Scott standing next to each other dressed in white. Their whole family was excited for them. Scott came over to me, gave me a hug and said, "It's sure good to see you here!" It was a different Scott. Bishop Pottle and Bro. Tanner (formerly in the Copper Canyon ward but have now become quite good friends of mine) told me that his wife just stopped pushing. If he wanted to do it, it was his choice. It took him some time but after reading and some serious praying, he was ready. It was a wonderful feeling to sit in the church and hear the bishop bear testimony about the temple and eternal families.
Write back soon everyone, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Eric with Scott and his family

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some Day I'll E-mail Home on P-Day (Jan. 17, 2012)

Hey everyone!
Transfers were pretty huge last week. I'd say half of the companonships at least were changed. Three zone leaders were released to train, two went home. Five new zone leaders were called, along with about a dozen or so new district leaders. Big changes a comin'. Elder Halligan was one of those released to train, and he's going to do just awesome. The new zone leaders are Elders Alvis, Bush, Cannon, Hampton and Condie (Spanish). The leadership training meeting was one of the best we've had in a long time. I wrote down a lot of things that I wanted to work on in the coming transfers. Elder Burden was transferred to Phoenix North to kill off Elder Tameilau, lucky! That's probably one of the most compatible companionships I've ever seen. Elder Hall took his place in the Surprise House and in the past week he's quickly become one of my favorite people I've met on my mission. He's been out about 7 months, from southern Alabama (turns out he's actually a Florida fan, who knew?). He's got a little twang in his voice and he's always just so darn happy! You can't help but feel that you're day is just that much better when you're around him. We also just got a phone call this morning from President Taylor saying that there was an emergency transfer that needed to take place today. After I finish up this email, we'll be switching Elder Whipple with the a new missionary, Elder Mack out in West Maricopa. I'm sad to see Elder Whipple go, he's become such a good friend of mine too, especially since we were just on exchanges a few days ago. The photo included is of Elder Whipple at the end of our afternoon together, and I think it paints the picture of how Elder Whipple was feeling most of the time. Needless to say, he enjoyed the stop.
This weekend was kind of a long one. All day Thursday and Friday my throat was feeling sore. Saturday morning I woke up and started coughing out lovely blobs of "brown" in the shower. I kept hacking all day, and was congested the whole time. We had to finish our stake reports for both of the coordination meetings and I wasn't feelin' it at all. We did our brief afternoon exchange with the Spanish Elders like I previously mentioned, and I met back up with Elder Wood at about 6 pm. We had a few people we wanted to stop by and check up on, but as we were riding our bikes I just felt like I needed to stop. I didn't want to quit, but I also didn't want to be stupid and not listen to my body. I was strugglin'. We made it back to the house and I just crashed on the couch. I made a quick bite to eat, drank some Nyquil and was asleep by 8:30. The next morning was fun with our stake coordination meetings. I just sat back in Surprise and let Wood do most of the work. Come time for Surprise North, Wood had to go to a ward council training with President Morris while I went with President Taylor to Surprise North. I was pretty much alone there. Neither of our district leaders were there, and I knew one of them was perfectly aware of and capable of attending the meeting...not sure why he didn't though. The meeting still went well and we got our point across to the stake presidents.
In preparing for the stake meetings, we met with our stake high councilman over missionary work. We tried to figure out what we need to do to inspire our members to be better missionaries. We read through the handbook to try and figure out where it needs to happen and we concluded that it was with the bishops and stake presidents. I had an idea that we should give each of the stake presidencies a copy of the Book of Mormon, a Family Proclamation, and a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and invite each of them to attempt to place one by next month's stake meeting. Elder Wood took it a step further and said that we're going to invite all of our bishops to to it too. Once they do, they'll take every opportunity in group settings to bear testimony of those experiences to the members of the wards. Bro. Haught, our stake high councilman in Surprise LOVED the idea. All day we kept talking about how cool it will be. Come stake meetings, the stake presidents didn't hesitate to accept the invitation. Pres. Rolfe in Surprise North said, "Great idea Elders, I already know who I'm giving to to!" That's how we fire up a group of people, we start with the top. The rest of this week will be devoted to helping our missionaries get in touch with their bishoprics to do the same thing.
Following up with last week's people, we've only been in touch with Eric. That concerns me that we haven't been able to contact Tim, especially since he has a baptismal date. If this goes any longer, I fear he won't be ready for Feb 11. Eric on the other hand, is doing pretty well. On splits this week, Elder Wood taught him about the Atonement, which he really needed to hear. He was invited to be baptized in February and he gave it some serious thought. He didn't accept it right away, but he didn't decline it. He wants t pray about it more and talk to his daughters about it. I'm happy that he'll be praying about it more, and I have a feeling that if he prays about it in the lesson, he'll receive a very powerful feeling of the Spirit in his home right there.
I'll wrap up by sharing our Sunday night experience. We called Ron, a man we met while trying to fill a window of heaven in Citrus Point (WAY out in the outskirts of West Point ward) about a month ago. He invited us back, and we went over on Sunday night. The lesson was very brief, just talking about the Book of Mormon. His girlfriend Holly was there too, and the two of them had very good questions that opened the door to a great conversation about the church and the Book of Mormon. We both bore testimony and you could see that each of them wanted to know a little more. Ron accepted the invitation to a church tour this next week, and ended by saying, "You know, I've got to hand it to you gentleman. The two of you are very professional in the way you present yourselves and the way you present your message. I can tell this means a lot to you. I'm honored that you're in my home and I would tell your parents that they did an excellent job of raising their children." Elder Wood and I were very grateful for his comments. I would go as far as to say that it was probably the most sincere compliment I have ever received over these past 17 months. It was a good opportunity for me to feel the Spirit confirm that it wasn't something my parents (or Elder Wood's parents) did on their own. I don't doubt that it took a great deal of patience for our families to try and teach us correct principles, and I bet it took a great load of faith to send us into the world in hopes we wouldn't ruin the family name. I think that was the reassurance that I needed that I'm doing ok out here. I'm representing the Savior and others are starting to recognize that, even if they want nothing to do with us.
I love your letters of support, and I pray everyone back home is doing well. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Think I'm Starting To Get It (Jan. 10, 2012)

Hey everyone!
I'm sitting here at the library typing my email and transfer news has yet to come through. Most likely it will be here by the end of emails, so sit tight and we'll see what happens in the next few minutes. Plus, the SHIFT key is a little jammed today, so I apologize for any typos.
It's been another really good week, especially with our investigators. We'll start with Tim. Tim is still set to try and be baptized on Feb 11. He's nervous because he feels like he doesn't usually reach the goals that he sets. We wanted to have a lesson this week on the Word of Wisdom to address the smoking concern early in his progression. When we got to the church for the lesson, he came in and sat down. We asked if he had anything on his mind, and he did. He said, "I've decided that I want to quit smoking, and that's my new year's resolution." We asked why he felt that way, and he said that the lesson in the church last week made him feel like he needed to change. Elder Wood and I couldn't believe what we were hearing. Here's a man who has been smoking since he was 14, and one spiritual prompting in the church last week confirmed to him that he needed to quit smoking. All of this happened before we even told him about the Word of Wisdom at all. I believe in a God of miracles. The lesson went so smoothly as we bore testimony about the Word of Wisdom and the blessings that come from obeying it. He said he's still trying to talk to his boss about getting time off to come to church on Sunday. Fast forward to Saturday night, when his wife calls us to ask what time church started in the morning, because Tim got time off to come to church this week. Like I said, I believe in a God of miracles. Tim came to church, felt very welcome and even enjoyed himself.
We had another lesson with Eric this week, and this time both of his daughters were there. We began a lesson on the Plan of Salvation, and invited both of the girls to join us. They did, and I'm glad they did. We asked where they thought that they came from before this life. Eric didn't have a clue. His 15 year old said she thinks we lived with God. We all snapped our necks as we turned to hear her say that. None of us really thought she was particularly interested, let alone listening and searching her soul for what she thought to be true. She was like this the rest of the lesson. As we continued principle by principle, she asked questions and said what she thought was true, which went right along side everything we were teaching. She loved learning about the purpose of life, that we're here to learn and to do the best we can to return to live with God again. I was amazed at the lesson that night. It wasn't particularly long or deep, it was simple and full of testimony. The three of them couldn't wait to come to church. Unfortunately, Eric got sick and nobody came. He apologized and said he's looking forward to next week's lesson.
The highlight of my week goes to the sisters of the Copper Canyon ward. We had an appointment with Kristen, a woman we helped move in to her new house just before Christmas. She has seven kids, so the house is always a party. We met with her this week and asked Sis. Alger to go with us. She herself has nine kids, and we felt like they would get along just great because of their fun personalities. We get to Kristen's, and Sis. Alger is nowhere to be found. We went inside, and then the doorbell rings. Everyone looks confused, and it's Sis. Alger! She said that we invited her, and we told Kristen that we wanted to introduce her to people in the congregation. She came inside and Kristen and Sis. Alger instantly hit it off. They became such good friends. We didn't really teach anything, we kind of just sat back and let everyone get to know each other. The two of them exchanged contact information. Sis. Alger invited Kristen to church, but Kristen said that none of her kids had church clothes. Kristen came from a family that understood "Sunday best" and she wanted her kids to learn that too. Sis. Alger with a smile on her face held out the paper that they had exchanged contact info with and said, "Here! Write down all of your kids' sizes and genders and I'll take care of it." Kristen had a pretty puzzled look on her face, but pulled out a pencil and wrote it all down. The two of them gave each other a hug, and then we left. Outside I thanked Sis. Alger so much for everything. She smiled again and said, "No problem Elders, happy to help!" My heart was just full the rest of the night. Everyone and everything was just happier after that. Sis. Mortensen, the Relief Society president, called us the next night and said that they have four bags of stuff to take to Kristen. Sis. Alger came up to us at church and told us that she and Kristen have been chatting during the week. I knew they'd become fast friends. She's in good hands. Thank you to the wonderful sisters all around me who are the examples of the charitable disciple of Christ I am trying to become.
Transfers news just came in--Elder Wood and I are both staying! By the end of this next transfer cycle (Feb. 21), I will have been in Surprise for exactly 11 months. I love this place!
Thanks for all of your support everyone, I love you all and look forward to hearing from you every week. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Already? (Jan. 4, 2012)

Hey everyone!
I apologize for the email coming so late this week. All of the libraries were closed for the New Year, and Tuesday was zone leader council from 10-4, then we had appointments the rest of the night. All this morning we had meetings, and now we finally have time to email home. Dad, I got your email and transfers are actually next week. Jan 11 is the actual the day of transfers, which means next week's email won't come until Tuesday the 10th. Sorry folks, emails are crazy lately! 
Everyone gets to wait another week to find out if I stay or go. It's weird, when I left Avondale I thought that I'd never have that great of a love for any place else. Boy was I wrong. I'm not saying that I love Surprise more than Avondale; they're completely different areas with different people. But I've met more people and witnessed more miracles here than anywhere else. I love Surprise. It's such a special place.
So let's review the New Year, eh? No pictures this week, sorry about that too. New Year's Eve was honestly one of longest, most drawn-out days of my mission. Every one of our appointments fell through. We were out of miles for the month on our truck, so we just walked. We walked and walked and (" children sang was they walked and walked and walked..."). There wasn't much singing going on though. We recently obtained a geo-coded map of the ward to make member missionary work a little easier. We still had to walk quite a ways. Nobody was outside. Not a soul. To pass the time we played scripture baseball, which is essentially naming the references of scriptures being read out loud. We had fun with that, and had a few good laughs here and there too. By the time we made it back to the truck to drive back, it was only 5:15 and we had to be in by 6. We were dead. It was a long day. Time just seemed to pass slowly, and nobody really wanted anything to do with us. We eventually made it back to the house, and we hung out the six of us. Elder Pugsley had a deck of cards, so we all sat around in the living room playing "scum" for 2 hours. It was actually a lot of fun. Outside started to sound like a war zone in little spurts. I'm pretty sure that the fireworks were illegal, but that didn't stop them. New Year's Day was much nicer. Church was very well done, and with the time changes we'll be having full Sundays of church. West Point ward meets from 9-12 now, and Copper Canyon from 1-4. Elder's Quorum in West Point was one of the best I've ever been to. Bro. Nelson, the new Elders Quorum President, gave a very good lesson on what it means to be men of the priesthood.
Yesterday's zone leader council was also very well done. The focus was on the culture of the mission. There have been more and more cases of disobedience here and there, and we talked a lot about it. Elder Henrie gave a great talk about what it means to sanctify one's self. President then led a discussion on what we need to do, and how we as the zone leaders are essentially that first line of defense when it comes to correcting misbehavior within our stewardship. The next few months are going to be interesting with two transfer meetings, interviews and a zone conference. I'm thankful that we have an obedient zone.
The work has really been picking up in our area. We had an awesome lesson last week with Eric, who was referred to us by his neighbor Steve, a member of the Copper Canyon ward. We went and had a lesson with him and his nine year-old daughter on Wednesday, and it was great experience. As we taught about the Restoration, we began talking about the Apostasy. As we explained that there were so many different churches who interpret the Bible so differently. If they would teach the Bible the same way, they would be the same church. It clicked for him. He said, "Exactly, and what I want to know is which one of them is the right one?" I told him that was the best question to ask. Eric set the stage perfectly to bear testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He loved it. He came to church for the second time and really liked it, just like he did the week before Christmas when he came. At the lesson last week, he said he felt very comfortable and very welcome at church, something he said he hadn't felt anywhere else or had even felt in a very long time. We'll be seeing him again tonight and I've been looking forward to it all week.
We also set a baptismal date with an investigator named Tim (yes, we're teaching an Eric and a Tim, and no, I'm not making this up, dad!) He has a great desire to make changes in his life. His family sure needs it. We had a lesson at the church building last week and Bro. Nelson joined us. He was a huge help. Tim had questions about baptism, and seemed to feel more at ease when we showed him the baptismal font and explained the covenant to him. In the chapel, we invited him to be baptized on Feb 11. He said maybe. He doesn't like to set goals because he said that he often doesn't reach them. We promised him that we would help him, but it would take great effort on his part. He accepted it, and said that this Sunday would be the last Sunday he wouldn't be at church, because he would finally talk to his boss about getting Sundays off work to come to church. Good man. Now comes the next hurdle--smoking. I'm confident that he can beat it. If he shows as much desire to quit smoking as he does to come to church, he'll be ready. Tim's a really good guy and I'm happy to see him make such great changes in his life.
I'm running out of time and I wish I could tell everyone everything about what's going on. It's such a great time to be in Surprise. The back of my planner is getting full with the personal revelation that I've been recording. We have such great support from the wards and stakes, and our Bishops and Stake Presidents are totally on board to help us. I'm thankful for your love and support. I'm grateful for the little notes of encouragement and I keep you all in my prayers. Until next Tuesday, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner