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

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