Monday, February 27, 2012

Surprise Adventures Continue (Feb. 27, 2012)

Hey everyone!
Transfer meeting this past week was certainly different. The leadership training meeting beforehand was very helpful to new leaders. Ten new district leaders (two of which are in Surprise) and three new zone leaders were called. Next month there will be at least two more new zone leaders. By next transfer (April 4th) the other two district leaders in Surprise will be going home. So in three transfers' time, over half of the zone leadership will change and all of Surprise's district leaders will change too. Oh boy. Lots of training to come. Elders Duke and Nelson were both transferred out of the house, and they both went to Cottonwood. They're not companions, but they'll both still be in the same zone. They will definitely be missed in the house. I got to see Elder Malmberg at transfers too! He was transferred out of Cottonwood and finally came back to the valley. He's out in Deer Valley/Glendale North zone, and we'll see what happens to him. Hopefully I'll get to see him more often. Replacing Duke and Nelson in the house is Elder Barker training his new companion Elder Knabe. It's fun to have a trainee in the house! We haven't had one since Elder Burden back in August (who by the way is also training right now, but out in Phoenix North). Like I said earlier, crazy transfers!
I think this week's picture adds a little comic relief to anybody's day. There's this house in Old Town Surprise that is half-above ground (or half-under ground for pessimists out there). We've always wanted to knock it and see what happens. Knocking is a little tough because as one can clearly see, I'm bent at nearly a 90 degree angle just to stand in the doorway. It was just way too funny! Nobody answered the door. We went around the side and into the back to see if there was a full size door. There was in the back, and nobody answered. The house was completely empty. Hey, why not snap a quick pic? I believe it was Jeremiah 16 that said, "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks...and half buried houses" Something like that!
Elder Wood was bit by a pit bull last night. It's not as bad as it sounds, but it scared the snot out of the both of us. We went to visit a family we've talked to a few times before, but never kept an appointment with. As we knocked on the door, Tim's (different Tim) pit bull Pete came barking so loud that you could feel it. Imagine if you will, a dog opening his mouth and the barrel of a 10 ga. shotgun is the sound coming out. Very frightening. It's happened a lot and we're pretty much used to it by now. He said he'll just put him on a leash so he could get used to us. He put both his dogs on leashes and came outside in the front yard to chat for a bit. Puma, the other pit, was very friendly. Both of the dogs were sitting down for a few minutes and were doing just fine. Out of nowhere (seriously, out of nowhere) Pete just snapped and latched on to Elder Wood's right shoe. Nothing sparked it or anything, we were just in the middle of conversation. Wood and I both jumped back and shouted, so did Tim. Tim got a hold of him and put him inside. He repeatedly apologized and we assured him that we were both ok. Elder Wood wasn't hurt or anything, more just surprised. There's a nice tooth mark in the hole of his right shoe, but it other than that nothing happened. Tim is pretty upset about it, but on the bright side, we set an appointment with him for this week! Wood's ok too, we're both laughing about it now.
Elder Wood and I got to teach in front of the whole Copper Canyon primary this week and it was a blast. For sharing time we did a lesson on what missionaries do. We had fun asking the kids questions and the adults were having fun with it too. We did a pretend missionary experience. We called one of the kids to come up and to put on Elder Wood's nametag. I gave him my backpack and my scriptures, and we pretended to be missionaries. So much fun! Mom you'll have to ask Sis. Alger how it went, she's the primary chorister (sound familiar?) and she was there to see it all.
Remember last week how I told you about Heather and the lesson at President Allen's house? Ready for some follow-up? We talked ot Elders Baldree and Beeston on Friday to see if they got in contact with her. They did. They said they had a great lesson with her. They invited her to be baptized and she said that she was praying about it and felt like it was something she needed to do. Saturday night we found out she accepted the invitation to be baptized on March 17th. She's got a date! Elder Wood and I were pumped! Last week was such a great lesson with her and we can see how prepared she is. You can guarantee that we'll be there to see her baptism. I'm so thankful that we had that experience last week and that Heather is progressing the way she is.
Little fun updates here and there to tide you over! I'll keep you all posted about things that are going on. I'm loving it out here. It's fun to testify to people why I made the choice to serve a mission. I hope everyone is doing well and staying happy. I look forward to hearing from you all. Write back soon, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Knock knock knock

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eleven Months in Surprise, and Now? (Feb. 21. 2012)

Hey everyone!
Transfer news came in and much to my surprise, I'm staying!!! Both Elder Wood and I will stay in Surprise for another six weeks. I couldn't believe it when I read the text. The only two in the zone that are being transferred are Elders Nelson and Duke, who are actually companions in the Surprise house. President discourages us from using the term "flushed." As Elder Allred used to say, they're being "team transferred" I thought for sure I'd be gone. I'm so excited! Tomorrow marks eleven months in Surprise and by the end of next transfer, I'll have been in Surprise for over a year--half of my mission. I'm so happy right now, but I've got to knuckle down and work hard this transfer. Elder Wood and I have six more weeks and too many investigators on the fence. It's game time.
This week was Elder Trussell's last week in the mission. On Tuesday (Valentine's Day) his companion Elder Jones got really sick. We split and Elder Wood stayed with Jones while I went to work with Elder Trussell. Tuesday was also Elder Trussell's birthday, so we had a little fun with it. When we went to their apartment to switch, Wood and I bought cinnamon roles and put candles in them. We walked into his room and sang to him. Yesterday we took him to the mission home and that was pretty hard for Elder Jones. The two of them got along really well and it was hard for Elder Jones to say goodbye. I snapped a picture with Elder Trussell just before he went inside. We went inside to see some of the other Elders, and my good Tongan friend Elder Tameilau was there to welcome us. I knew he was going home but it was really hard to say goodbye to him too. We laughed and told stories about our areas and when we were serving near each other. Before I left he gave me a big bear hug and told me that the last six months just fly, and told me to work hard. Like I said, game time.
Thursday night while driving home we called the assistants for something I can't remember. They asked if there was anything else we had questions about. So we asked, "Can we go to the temple on Saturday?" They talked about it for a while and said yes. Score! The reason why is because that was the day that Eric Blackham was going through the temple to receive his endowment. We wanted to go to support him but because we just went at Christmas, we weren't sure if we could (we can only go once every three months). When I heard we got the ok I was pretty pumped. We called the Buell's and asked if they would take us with them, and they said of course. We got to the temple and it was so cool to see others from the West Point ward there supporting Eric. He looked a little nervous and excited at the same time. The Celestial room was PACKED with lots of people. Saturday's are pretty busy there. Eric was so happy, and his mom was right there with him. When he saw me and Elder Wood he came over and said thank you for coming. The room started thinning out and it got quiet in a hurry. It might have been the most peaceful feeling I've ever felt in the temple. I stood with Elder Wood and we just watched what Eric was doing. His mom was at his side the whole time, just so proud of him. Eric's going to be such a stud missionary. On our way outside we saw a bunch of other people from the Copper Canyon ward coming in too. It was their ward temple trip! It was awesome! President and Sister Allen from the stake were there too. I thought to myself if ever I were to be transferred, it would be now because I'm in the most sacred place in the world with the people I've loved and served for the past eleven months. Looks like I get a little more time.
Sunday night we had a cool experience. At dinner we got a call from President Allen, personally inviting us to the cottage meeting at his house. We weren't going to go because we didn't have anyone to bring, and we had a 7 pm appointment. Elder Wood took the call and came back saying that he moved the appointment to later in the week do we could go to the Allen's. The whole drive over he was wondering to himself why he did that. When we got to the Allen's we found out. Earlier that day Sister Allen met a woman in sacrament meeting who was not a member of the church. She had gone in Goodyear, and was told she was in the wrong ward. She came in Surprise, and was still in the wrong ward. Sister Allen approached her and asked her to sit with her in Relief Society, and then invited her to her home that night (the cottage meeting). Her name is Heather and shortly after we arrived, she did too. She said she had always felt drawn to the church, but had a million questions. She began to explain her life story and all of the difficult and disappointing things that have happened. She asked what the church believed about certain points of doctrine from the scriptures. Elder Wood and were totally on the fly the whole night.
It's difficult to try and explain the conversation that we had. It lasted nearly an hour and a half. I won't go into detail about her questions or our responses for that matter. She asked what we thought and felt about a particular doctrine. We dove into the scriptures. Elder Wood started using a few, and she was starting to get it a little more. I felt prompted to go to a certain scripture in the Bible often argued by other denominations to refute anyone else's opinion. I kept reading it and wasn't sure why I was there. I read it over and over again but was just at a bit of a wall. When I read the verse after what I had turned too, it all made sense. In context, it changed the entire meaning of the verse I had turned to. I read it to her and she thought about it for a long time. She chuckled and said, "I've always used that one in the past but I've never read that next verse." It was a powerful experience for me and Elder Wood to be led by the Spirit in the things we were teaching. I looked back and noticed that all of the scriptures I had read were from my personal study the day before. Heather left saying that she wants to come to church again, and she wants to contact the missionaries in her ward as soon as possible. Thankfully those missionaries are in the zone, and we'll be able to follow up with them very soon. Yesterday as we were driving around, Wood and I were talking about that lesson. He said that when I had turned to that scripture I used, he was just waiting for me to finish reading it to see what she would think. I laughed and told him that I had never read that last verse before, that I just felt like I should go there. He chuckled and then got a little more serious as he looked at me and said, "Really? You've never read that one?" I told him no, and asked if he had. He said yes, and we both kind of sat there as we recognized that neither of us were the ones really teaching Heather on Sunday night. Last night we received this text from President Allen:  "Elders, Sister Allen just spoke with Heather this evening. She went home last night and read the chapters you gave her to read; went to bed peacefully and calm. She is waiting to speak with missionaries--maybe they should call her? Doctor told her no cancer. Heather was overwhelmed by the wise instruction of the both of you last night. Thanks Elders!"
Elder Wood and I are pretty eager to get to work this next transfer. I know my days are limited out here in Surprise but I'm grateful that I have the chance to be here for another six weeks. I testify of the reality of inspiration in teaching. I hope and pray the people we meet very soon are eager and prepared to receive the message of the Restoration. Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Happy Birthday Elder Trussell

An intense checkers game

Saying goodbye to Elder Trussell

Monday, February 13, 2012

But Elder Turnip's the Nice Missionary (Feb. 13, 2011)

Hey everyone!
The week started off well with me. After last week's email I drove Elder Hall out to Mesa for a doctor's appointment. On the way back, we got Slurpees. There's no 7-11's in Surprise! The nearest one that I know of is in my last area on 99th and Indian School. Circle K and QT are nice, but you need a good Slurpee here and there. On the way back to Surprise, we made a Slurpee run. My HAP-18 was last Saturday, but an error in communication prevented a HAP-18 cake to be made for me. On the 10th, the house made up for it. I was sitting at the table with Elder Mortensen wrapping up and exchange, and then the front door opens. Elders Nelson, Hall and Pugsley walk into the living room, and Elder Hall had a camera. I didn't think anything of it. They were distracting me when all of a sudden Elder Duke appeared in front of we with a cake that said HAP-18 PLUS 6 DAYS. Gosh I love the Surprise House! The next picture is of Elder Wood with some boxes. Elder Trussell goes home next week and asked us to pick up some boxes for him at the post office and take them to his apartment. We did, and we grabbed as many boxes as we could take (and we should have taken more!). We had a little fun with it and took all of the food in their house and put them in the boxes. All of the food in the fridge and all of their cupboards. We had a few extra boxes and boxed up their bedsheets, blankets and pillows too. That night we received a lovely phone call from Elder Trussell and Elder Jones, and I don't think Elder Wood and I have ever laughed so hard in all of our companionship. The last picture is of the older two of the Stringam's three kids. We have dinner with them every so often to talk about the missionary work in Copper Canyon. Their oldest son is 5, their daughter is 3 and there's a nine month old not in the picture. They love to put on our backpacks and pretend to be missionaries. The two older ones usually fight over which missionary gets to sit by them at dinner. This week it was me. Just being goofy, the kids call me Elder Turnip. The two of them were going back and forth about who gets to sit by Elder Turnip. Sister Stringam asked their son, "Well why don't you sit by Elder Wood?" Without missing a beat, their son said, "But Elder Turnip's the nice missionary!" Oh we all laughed pretty hard about that one. I think Elder Wood thought it was funnier than everyone. He's such a stud.
We weren't able to meet with Eric this week, nor did he come to church. I'm concerned. I hope we can make contact with him this week. We did get to see Tim, and he's doing very well. He's still struggling with quitting smoking. He committed himself to quit by a certain date, Feb 29th. He said he's going to pray hard about it and try to commit to quit sooner. I admire his dedication. It's leaps and bounds ahead of where he was just a few months ago.
The week was busy with zone conference and exchanges. Zone conference was held in Surprise for the first time...ever? To clarify, it was held at the Surprise North stake center. All zone conferences are combined with other zones, and we've always gone to Peoria or Glendale for 'em. President wanted smaller conferences in other places to share the love with the members. The Relief Society of some Surprise North wards made lunch for us. They decorated the tables for Valentine's day and had little Valentine's colored by the Willow Canyon ward primary. President paused during lunch to read some of the Valentine's out loud. They were pretty cute. We'd all laugh here and there at something a primary kid wrote and we exchanged lots of Valentines here and there. It was so much fun! President would keep reading through some of them and he paused when he turned a particular one over. He got a little quiet and tears ran down his face as he read it out loud, "To Elder Trussell and Elder Jones! Happy Valentine's Day! Thanks for serving a mission!" One thing that I love about President Taylor is that he takes time to teach. He pointed out how much we as the missionaries are adored by the people we serve. He said that if we don't believe it, that Valentine was proof that Elder Trussell and Elder Jones have had such a great impact on the Willow Canyon ward that the primary kids know them by name. President committed Elder Trussell and Elder Jones to go into the primary on Sunday and thank them personally for the Valentines.
I'm short on time again but I want you all to know that I'm happy and well. Next week is transfers...oh boy. I would like to think that I would be blessed with one more transfer in Surprise, but I just don't know. It's up in the air. Because of recent transfers and trainers in the zone, the major companionships susceptible to change are those in the Surprise House. I know that President is inspired as to what needs to happen. I have a testimony of the power of personal revelation. Neither this work nor this church could not function without it. Next week's email won't come until Tuesday but until then, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James "Turnip"
Missionaries and Slurpees. 'Nuff said.

Eric's HAP 18 (+ 6 days) cake

Anybody have any extra boxes?

"We love Elder Turnip!"

Monday, February 6, 2012

HAP - 18 (Feb. 6, 2012)

Hey everyone!
Three pictures for everyone this week.  (And three from Sister Taylor's mission blog.) The first one is of me and our awesome temple square sisters. Sister Lautiki and Sister Rohner left for temple square this week and they will certainly be missed. On Tuesday morning we went to pick up their car and send them off. Friday was our Zone Leader Council and it was the day before my 18 month mark. Before we left that morning we went to Walmart and bought a brownie cake and some icing for a HAP-18 cake for Elder Johnson. He didn't even see it coming. After the meeting was over, I asked someone to go get him for me. Johnson came around the corner only to see me jumping up and down, hooting and hollering the little song we sing at the Surprise House whenever we give someone a HAP cake. I told him he couldn't eat it until the 4th. A big grin shot across his face and he said, "Hey, it's yours too!" I heard Elder Bird (who also came out into the field with our group of missionaries) say that he wanted in too. The three of us got together for a quick picture before we all took off for home. I'm totally going to get Elder Johnson for his/our HAP-24. Not sure how yet, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. The last picture is of the end of my exchange with Elder Trussell. He's a pretty tall guy and his bike is pretty big too. I tried to ride and it my legs had to be completely extended to reach the peddles. Elder Wood laughed and said I looked like I belonged in the circus.
Tuesday was a slow day. Our kitchen faucet snapped. Elder Wood had a little experience helping his dad building homes, and I've been around our broken faucet back home enough times with dad to be able to replace a faucet on my own. Neither of us wanted to run the risk of ruining something in a house that wasn't ours. We called Elder Kiggins, our housing coordinator, and he said it couldn't be fixed, that a whole new faucet needed to be put in. No problem. Later that day our brick of a phone broke. We drove out to the mission office to replace it, and spent over an hour there trying to transfer all of our stuff to the new (same but better working) phone. The day was pretty much over after that. These days happen, but we keep positive and work hard. Now we have a better phone to keep up on helping the zone, and a better faucet to keep the house dishes nice and clean!
Lots of our appointments fell through, but we met a bunch of new people who are really interested. A woman named Amy expressed a great interest in coming to church. Unfortunately her son woke up Sunday morning with a temp of 101. She called us and repeatedly apologized for not coming to church because she was taking care of her son. He said it was fine, and offered her a church tour later in the week. She loves the idea of it and we'll be calling her tonight. We also had a lesson with Eric too. We taught a rather bold lesson on the Word of Wisdom. He agrees with it, but says he doesn't feel like he wants to quit smoking yet because it's his only stress reliever. Meanwhile his older daughter had great concerns with the term "sin." Every time she asked if something was a sin she immediately started beating herself up over it. The problem is she doesn't understand the principle of repentance. Sin is sin, yes, but the duration of the repentance process is different for various sins and mistakes, and she doesn't understand that. I hope she doesn't feel a sense of guilt in the gospel, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is supposed to be happy! There's great hope and reassurance in knowing that all of our short-comings can be cleared up through repentance and the Atonement of the Savior. We'll be going back to faith and repentance this week for her to make sure she understands it a little more.
Copper Canyon's fast and testimony meeting was awesome. Victor was there! The Alger's brought Victor to church with them. He always has a big smile on his face whenever I see him. I love that kid!!! Bro. Stringam said he spoke to a few people ahead of time and invited them to bear testimony about the missionary experiences they have had. The first person to bear his testimony was Victor. He stood up and Bishop Smith had a smile on his face. Victor introduced himself as a former member of the ward (because he's in the new ward), and bore his testimony about how the gospel has blessed him even though he is the only member of the church in his family. He was a little emotional as he expressed gratitude for friends who wear always good examples to him. He shared an experience about how he brought a friend to an activity the youth were having the other day. They were early, and went into the church. Victor showed him the chapel and his friend said that he felt very peaceful. The remainder of his testimony was about how we can be good examples to others and how our friends can feel what we feel, just like he did when he joined the church. My heart was so full. After that, many more testimonies followed about missionary work, including a 13 year old girl who said that she wants to invite her friend to church. It was a very spiritual meeting as the Copper Canyon ward started to catch a small fire of member missionary work.
Time is running out and I wish I could go on about what's happening. Last night we had an experience where I felt strongly that we were an answer to someone's prayers. She came to the door in tears and thanked us for stopping by. As I continue on through my mission I realize more and more that one of the greatest skills we can acquire in this life is the ability to recognize, record and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. That feeling is even sweeter when you learn that you were the answer to the prayer of someone in need. I don't know what will happen now with this particular situation, but my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father who knows our needs and hears our prayers is growing stronger each day.
Write back soon everyone, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
With Sisters Lautiki and Rohner

18 months in the field. 6 to go.

A tall person's bike!

Lunch at the zone leaders training

Lunch with the zone leaders

Celebrating 18 months with Elder Johnson