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.
Elder Eric James Turner