Monday, July 30, 2012

Whatever I Was Before, I'm Different Now (July 30, 2012)

Hey everyone!

This will be my last email home as a full-time missionary. People seem
to keep reminding me that I go home next week, which is ok I guess.
They wish nothing but the best. In all honesty, the thought doesn't
really compute within me. I don't feel like next week will be any
different. I feel like Sunday night will be call-ins, Monday will be a
normal work day, Tuesday P-Day due to transfers, back to work on
Wednesday through the rest of the week, Thursday weekly planning,
Friday district meeting, Sunday ward council and PEC meetings, church,
dinners with families in the ward, and so on. It has become a part of
who I am now. But thinking that Monday I will enter the mission home
and that Tuesday I'll board a plane? I fully recognize that the
transition home is going to be a difficult one, but I embrace it.
Being transferred was tough, but I grew and became more dependent on
heaven as a result.

I plan on making this last week no different than any other week, if
not better. Why slack? The work is still work, and I cannot leave
Phoenix satisfied without feeling that I've left my area better than I
found it. I anticipate Elder Nield to train, and he needs to be ready
if that is the case. I feel that he will be. We had a great lesson
this week teaching the youth in church. By the end of it, we received
over 15 names of their friends who they want to invite to church,
mutual, family dinner or some other activity. Most of the week will be
contacting the youth and their friends. I couldn't think of a better
way to end than to set the stage for the youth to invite their friends
to learn more. Elder Nield is going to be busy, that's for sure!

On Wednesday we were able to see Dave. Dave is a larger black man who
we had met a few months ago when we offered to pray with him. He
gladly welcomes us into his home to speak with him. The other day he
had a lot of questions about us and why we do what we do. He had no
idea that neither of us were from Phoenix. As we explained why we
served missions, he was amazed. He had said that when he first met us,
he was hesitant to let two "white boys" into his home to pray with
him. But when we felt that all we wanted to do was serve him, he
wanted us to come back. By the end of the conversation, he was filled
with emotion as he said, "Just thinking that you came all this way,
that you sacrificed so much all just to save souls and find someone
like means so much to me. Brothers, you are always welcome in
my home." He then proceeded to say that he wants us to come back in a
few days to meet his girlfriend and teach them both more of what we
have to say. We did.

Friday was the best lesson that Elder Nield and I had together. Dave
loved every minute of it. This large man knelt to the floor and
offered a simple prayer asking if what we had taught was true. His
girlfriend was a little skeptical, which is not a problem at all. In
fact I prefer it. It's a proving ground for faith. While still on our
knees, Dave admitted that, "I need to wait for my answer...but it
feels good so far."

I sure love being a missionary. The time has flown, but I've sure
enjoyed every minute of it. Over 24 months I've probably grown an inch
or so, and maybe five to ten pounds? I've walked and biked who knows
how many thousands of miles. I've helped fixed flat tires and
testimonies. I've promised blessings and received more. I've taught,
testified, baptized, sweat, struggled, trained, exchanged, led,
counseled, planned, laughed, bawled, and even ripped a shirt from time
to time. As for what lies in store after the mantle is removed, we
shall see. A missionary once told me that "You are called of God.
Whatever you were before, you are different now." I sure believe it.
My heart stirs with gratitude as I close the last week of my mission.
I testify of the enabling power of the Atonement of the Savior,
because I know that I received nothing less than divine help over the
course of the last two years.

Thank you again to everyone for your love and support. Until next
week, take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not the Trunky Papers! (July 23, 2012)

Hey everyone!

Two pictures this week. The first is of my flight itinerary, which
came in on Thursday. They call 'em trunky papers out here. Funny story
about that. They were sent to the wrong address. They were sent to the
address where the La Pradera Park missionaries lived over a year ago
before moving in with the Cathcart's. I got a call on Thursday saying,
"Is this Elder Turner? We have a letter for you that looks pretty
important. Sorry to tell ya', but you're going home!" They were
jokingly saying that I was going home, but they didn't know that in
actually it was my flight go home! The family was actually
the daughter and son-in-law of the brother whom the missionaries
previously lived with. He's out of town for the summer, and is letting
them stay in his home. This family moved from the West Point ward, my
last area! I didn't know them all that well because they were slightly
less-active. I do remember being in their neighborhood about a week
before I was transferred on conference weekend. We had knocked on
their door and she let us in. He was sick, and we gave him a blessing.
He thanked us and went back to bed. Fast forward to the other night
when I picked up my trunky papers. This brother commented on how
familiar I looked. When I told him about the blessing I had given him,
he laughed. Long story, but he had lost his job at the time and was at
the lowest point in his life when we had come by the weekend. The
blessing really helped him more than just overcoming a sickness. He's
now working a new, better job and coming back to church. He repeatedly
thanked us for coming into his home. It's funny how something like
sending flight plans to the wrong address can lift your spirits with
an experience like that.

The second picture is the softer side of my fearless, rugged, BYU
football-playing companion. Bunnies. The Cathcart's Easter bunnies
have grown, and Elder Nield has grown quite attached to the brown one.

Update on Cesar and Paul. Paul's still flaking on keeping
appointments, and Cesar texted us and said he doesn't want to be
baptized anymore. You know, that happens. We've been talking to more
people and have been building up our potential investigator list.
Carlos, the man we prayed with and his girlfriend found a job, says
more and more things have been happening to him that have lead him to
wanting to speak with us. To quote him from last night, "I can't even
explain it, but I've quit smoking and recently stopped drinking. I'm
trying to make some changes." How powerful is that? He's committing
himself to pray more, to repent and yet he doesn't know why other than
the fact that it feels right to him! We should be showing him and his
girlfriend around the church this week, which he says he won't do
unless she's there because it should be for both of them.

John, our less-active friend from a few months ago, is doing fantastic.
He's been to church every week for the past month. Last week he even
wore a white shirt, tie, and brought his scriptures! He had an
interview with the bishop, and the bishop told us that he's on the
right path. Our Relief Society President and her husband invited him
and us over to their home for dinner on Saturday night. What a fun
night that was! John's been meeting more and more people and is
fitting right back into the ward family. I told John when we started
working with him that I'd be there at the temple with him when he's
ready to go back.

During interviews we watched the movie "17 Miracles," about the Willie
handcart company of the Mormon pioneers. If you haven't seen it, please
do. What a powerful movie. I may or may not have been in tears the
whole time. I thought a lot about my experiences in our stake's trek
just before my senior year of high school. That was hard. I also
remember President Beck telling me at the beginning of my mission
that, "You can do hard things." Certainly our struggles are different
today, but the universal principle of the enabling power of the
Atonement helps us do hard things. I had a great conversation with
President Taylor about that during my interview. It's definitely
helping me set goals and make plans for the rest of my life.

Next week will be last last email home. Thank you all for your prayers
of support. Write back soon, take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Elder Turner with his travel plans for coming home

Elder Nield....and a bunny.

Elder Turner sharing his departing testimony at zone meeting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Caught Being Reverent (July 16, 2012)

Hey everyone!
We did a lesson in Primary this week. Mom, you'll be proud to hear that I was caught being reverent. I got to be the singing time helper and while we sang, I got to pick someone else who was being reverent too. And yes, Elder Nield was very jealous!
Quick follow up on Cesar and Paul. The dinner with Cesar last week was great. We brought Shane from the ward too. Two days later Cesar went to mutual with the other priests and seemed to enjoy it. Cesar didn't come to church yesterday, and wasn't home when we went by to check up on him. Paul wasn't home the day after we met him. We went by a few days later and someone said he doesn't live there? Huh? A day or two after that we went back, and he was there. He said he's been waiting for us to come back. We said another prayer with him because we didn't have time to have a sit-down lesson. He asked us to come by the next morning at 9. Since we had something else going on, we asked if 10 would work. The next morning rolls around, and he wasn't home. That's what's going on there.
Three weeks to go and I'm working hard. I wish I could say that we are finding people left and right who are ready and prepared, but that truth is we're not. In fact, this week may have been one of the slowest weeks of my mission. Not to mention the freak-humidity we've been having too. We spend so much time biking and trying to contact people we've met, but nobody is interested or home.
We have had great experiences praying with people. About two weeks ago we met a man named Carlos. He asked us to pray for his family, and that his girlfriend would find work. We saw him again a few days ago and this is what he said: "Can you explain to me how after months of looking for work, my girlfriend happens to find a job the day after you guys prayed with me?" He continued, "I want to come to your guys' church this Sunday." We prayed with another man named Anthony a few days ago for his brother, who has been addicted to hard drugs and needs help. The next day his brother went into rehab, and Anthony thanked us by saying, "I feel like that prayer helped." On Saturday night, we were walking through an apartment complex when a door opened and a woman poked her head outside. Elder Nield quickly asked if there was anything we could do for her, such as a prayer. She said yes, and asked to come over right then for a prayer. After a brief prayer for this woman Connie, Elder Nield asked what the both of us were thinking, "Why did you open the door?" Her response was that she doesn't feel safe. She's a single mom of two kids and feels like she needs to get all of them out of there. We asked if we could come by to share more about families and about how to find peace. She said she would appreciate that.
These prayers have been helping me get through the rough days. It's been very hard. It's tempting to think to yourself, "Wow, 23 and a half months into my mission, and we're not teaching anyone. Am I rusty? Under-utilized? Wasted and worn out? Put out to pasture?" You don't need to worry mom. We've been busy praying and serving so those thoughts don't linger. Lots of service, just little to no teaching appointments. Then again, perhaps our service is the best teaching appointment. We helped an older German woman clean her yard and she was beyond thankful. She asked for President Taylor's contact info so she could thank him personally for our service. Another woman was very distraught over her teenage son's poor choices. She wept on the doorstep as she explained how she just wants him to think like she thinks, and feel how hard it is for a parent to see her child making these choices. She thanked me and Elder Nield for listening to our parents. She asked us to tell you thank you, mom and dad, for what you've taught me about faith.
Elder Nield and I did a serious evaluation of our obedience and set some goals. The past two weeks we've shown a great amount of discipline with smallest things. We've been happier and worked longer days. We're exhausted, but the service is easier because of the added strength that comes from obedience to little details. This Thursday we have zone interviews with President Taylor. I feel confident that I can look him in the eyes and say that I may not have taught more than three or four lessons in a week, but I am an obedient missionary.
The work moves forward. Until next week, take care and be good.
Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner
Guess who got caught being reverent?

Monday, July 9, 2012

At Least It's a Dry Heat (July 9, 2012)

Hey everyone!

The "dry heat" subject this week is given with a tad bit of sarcasm.
When the heat is mentioned down here, people always respond with "Well
at least it's a dry heat!" It's been nearly double the standard
humidity lately and it's quite...sticky. Whenever we walk into a home
or the church, there's a lovely glow of sweat on our already
sunkissed skin. Or in simpler terms, it's just plain hot. Dad tells me
that home has been touching the triple digits. Sounds nice!

No pictures this week, not even any from the 4th of July. The day was
a little odd. It rained all morning, then I had to be at a district
leader council. Elder Nield took the corner a little too sharp and ate
it on the wet parking lot of the stake center. He's ok but there was a
nasty black streak on the right shoulder of his shirt. After the
meeting we were biking home when I heard a gunshot from behind me. It
sounded like a gunshot, or a firework or something but it was loud.
Turns out it wasn't either of those...Elder Nield's bike tire popped!
We couldn't help but just laugh. Bro Hess came to pick us up and then
took us to his place for a BBQ with a few other families from the
ward. We were in by 6 pm, and Elder Nield and I had the house to
ourselves. The Cathcarts have been at the lake all week and just got
home last night. It was an empty house, but we had fun together and
with the Cathcart's dogs.

Saturday night we were walking to Bro. Bluhm's house to review some
things from the week. It was a nice night and since the Cathcart's
live just around the corner, we walked to Bro. Bluhm's instead of riding the
bikes. Across the street from the Bluhm's are a set of apartments. We
heard someone call out to us and saw a hand waving from over a 6 foot
fence. We went over and a man opened his gate to speak with us. His
name is Paul. Big guy. Tattoos all over his face and body, very
muscular and very intimidating. He let us into his back yard, sat in a
chair and said, "Ok guys, teach me." He may have had a beer or two, but
we figured we'd try anyways because come on, how people just flag us
down and ask to be taught. He had a few questions which we clarified,
and then he told us about his beliefs. He's certainly been humbled by
some of the choices he's made. He asked us to pray with him. I offered
the prayer and towards the end of it, he began to pray. I just kind of
stopped and let him go. He began to ask for forgiveness and for help
with some things he's working on. He kept promising how he would
change. It sounded very sincere.

After the prayer he asked what he needed to do next. Elder Nield
barely mentioned the word baptism and Paul interrupted him, put his
hands out to the side and said, "Baptize me." We explained that he had
to learn more, and he put his head down and said he figured as much.
By this time his 13-year old son came out and sat by his dad. Elder
Nield invited them both to be baptized, and they said they would. They
asked us to come back and teach them more, and we said we would. We
left the yard and both felt pretty good about the situation, but also
a little confused, almost a "Did that really just happen?" kind of
mindset. We went by the next morning at 9 am, just like we told
them...not there. Ok, maybe it was just early. There's got to be
something going on here. We've told ourselves that we're not going to
give up. We've heard too many experiences from other missionaries
where people have been pretty humbled and even under some sort of
substance influence, but that these people recognized the missionaries
as someone who could help. Many of these people were baptized. These
things are real, and we're eager to see what happens.

We saw Cesar again this week! He was the 16 year old we brought to the
cottage meeting last month. Monday night we were able to take him to
the church and give him a tour. He seemed to like it. He was kind of
quiet the whole time. He knelt and prayed and was really nervous about
it. We could tell how sincere he was as he explained how he didn't
want to mess anything up, or even really touch anything in the church
for fear of doing something wrong. After he prayed, Elder Nield
suggested that we just sit in the shapel for a bit. It was totally
silent. We could see Cesar over on one of the benches and he was in
tears. He was sitting toward the back, and his eyes were just focused
on something in front of him. It was a great experience for him and he
said to come back the next day.

So Tuesday we go back to Cesar's...he wasn't there. I began to think
to myself, "Are you serious? Why is this happening?" We spoke with his
dad and he had said how much Cesar liked the church tour. He talked
about how Cesar even mentioned being baptized to his parents, and
they're ok with it! We were shocked! His dad said that he may even
come with Cesar to church just to check it out. So...maybe things are
actually going better than we thought! With a friendly morning wake-up
visit on Sunday, Cesar got ready for church. His dad drove him, and
everyone was so nice to welcome him. The young men's president is
having us over for dinner tonight, and invited Cesar to come too. It
was nice to see the immediate support from the ward. Tonight is the
dinner and we're hoping and praying that Cesar will be home when we
pick him up, and that the lesson in this family's home will go well

About an hour ago I had a neat experience. As I was waiting for a
computer in the library, a thin blonde woman about my age approached
me. She said, "Hey!" I didn't know who this was, we talk to so many
people every day and it's hard to keep track of who I've met. She
said, "I've met you before, you spoke to me outside my aunt's house a
little while ago." I immediately remembered who she was. I remember
everything. Her name was Andy, and we met her just after she had been
completed rehab. She was staying with her aunt until she could get on
her feet. Back when I was with Elder Kamissoko, we met her one evening
when she was helping bring in some groceries from the car. The sun was
setting, the weather was cool. We took the chance to pray with her on
the sidewalk and she really appreciated it. We prayed that she could
work to get her daughter back. She had been attending a friend's
church and started to turn her life around. Today she told me, "Thanks
again for that. You guys are great. I really admire what you do." We
had a little conversation about we as the missionaries do, and I
invited her to the YSA activities. She left with a thank you, and that
was it. Of all the missionaries in the Glendale/Phoenix area, she
stopped and recognized me and said thanks...for a prayer from about
three months ago? My heart just melted for her because of that little
experience. I hope to hear that she's doing well. I'd love to run into
her again sometime and talk with her more. Maybe those little prayers
with people on the street have a longer lasting influence than I

The ripple effects this week have been fun to see. It makes it easier
on those days when nobody is home and you maybe talk to a couple two
or three people on the street. I sure do love this work. I'll be sure
to let everyone know how things go with Cesar, Paul and everyone else
we're working with. Time is short but we're working hard. I love you
all, take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dust (July 2, 2012)

Hey everyone!

No, flight plans have not come in. They won't for another three weeks
or so, and I'll let you know. Yes, it's hot. Good heavens it's hot.
The past week have been in the low 1-teens, but it's been pretty humid
a few of those days. Lots of sweat. Lots of water. I'm sucking down
two to three Camelbacks a day, which is anywhere between 6-9 liters.
The fact of the matter is if you're not hydrated and you hit the
streets, you will not survive. President and Sister Taylor
continuously remind us to be hydrated. Anytime people we tract into
offer us water, I take it. A) They need the blessings and B) I need
the water. If we have more water than we can carry, we give it to
people we talk to on the streets, which they appreciate.

Fun pictures this week. Remember last year's dust storm, or "haboob"
as they're called? We had another one this week. It wasn't quite as
powerful as last year's, but there was quite a bit of dust. Elder
Nield and I had just come home from splits, and we still had a good
amount of daylight. We wanted to walk the neighborhood before dark. We
put the bikes in the Cathcart's garage and by the time we came to the
front yard, we saw what you see in the picture. A massive wall of dust
headed or way. Our plans quickly changed when about 6 minutes later,
it hit us. The first two pictures are of me and Nield with the dust in
the background. The third is about 15 minutes later when we went out
on 45th and looked down the road. It's like fog, except it gets in
your eyes and isn't too fun to breathe. The dust last year (July 5th)
came the day before one of our current investigator's birthday. We
texted her the other night and said, "Your birthday storm came early
this year, sorry to ruin the surprise!" She liked that.

Well with transfers this past week, we lost Sister Jeanfreau. A few
hours after I had emailed you all, the AP's called to say Elder
Zeledon was being transferred too. Seriously? That was a crushing blow
to the whole zone.  Elder Zeledon was probably the most humble,
fun-spirited Elder we had. Sister Graves and Elder Lemon came into the
district, and already they're doing great work. The district went
from zero to seven baptismal dates over the course of 4 days. Oh yeah,
transfers ain't slowin' us down a bit! Sister Graves and Elder Lemon
are fantastic missionaries and are already working wonders in the

This past week has been tough in that nobody is keeping appointments.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: these weeks happen! Within
the past 12 weeks we may have found at least two dozen people with
whom we a powerful first lesson. When we schedule the return
appointment (usually no further than two days away), we lose them.
Just...gone. No phone call, never home, nothing. Remember Kevin, the
investigator whom Elder Nield brought Shane to see and set a date?
That was over three weeks ago, and Kevin hasn't been home or returned
a single phone call since then. What is going on?

Yesterday was a breath of fresh air. An older brother from the ward
asked us to come to his home to see his daughter who still lived with
him. She had been inactive most of her adult life. We went over and
met Crystal. She recently had foot surgery and has been in bed for a
while. We went over, prayed with her, chatted for a bit, and we want
to try and meet with them regularly to help her come back. When we
scheduled a return appointment she said, pointing to her foot, "Well
it's not like I'm going anywhere anytime soon, so come on by!" While
we were talking with her, she brought up the temple. I asked if she'd
ever been inside. She said she had been inside for open-houses. I
asked if she'd ever done baptisms for the dead, and she said no. I
asked, "Would you like to?" She thought for a moment and said she'd
never had the thought cross her mind, but it would be something nice
to do someday. Elder Nield and I left that home with a goal to help
her to go to the temple with her father by the end of the year.

Lately my studies have been in Alma 31-33. It's taken me several weeks
to get through these chapters. With our relentless mission focus on
the Doctrine of Christ, I've given a lot of study to these chapters
with my investigators in mind. Honestly, I can't get through more than
two or three verses a day. I'm cross-referencing so many scriptures,
writing so many thoughts, and finding so many talks that it's tough to
get through at the rate that I want to! I find it almost comical that
my studies have been so much on faith, and this sentence appears in
chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel:

"Seek to strengthen your faith that God is preparing His children to
receive the message of the Restoration."

With all of our return appointments falling through, it's no wonder I
find myself in this study of faith. I don't feel discouraged at all
(though maybe a little frustrated), and I feel it's as if my faith is
the only thing keeping me moving forward with this little dry-spell
we're in. No effort is wasted, seeds are being planted. I love you all
and hope you know how much I love being a missionary. I hope to hear
from you soon. Take care and be good.

Much love,
Elder Eric James Turner

Dust storm on its way!

Bring on the dust!

15 minutes the dust storm