Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Week Down

5th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson at the MTC - Provo, UT.      September 27, 2012    

Hello Family!      
Every day feels like a week and every week feels like a day here. I'm not even quite sure what time is anymore. We decided that it's because we do the exact same thing every day. It's hard to tell a week apart when you had the exact same schedule and were with the exact same people for 16 hours every day. It makes you look for ways to bring some excitement into the day. Like chilling with my new 330 pound Samoan friend. His name is Elder Silata. It can't be a bad day if you sat by Elder Silata at lunch.
Anyways, not much has changed since last week. We're still teaching Ezequiel and Jorge. Jorge seems to like the idea of the Gospel but doesn't understand why it's important to him. We teach him again tomorrow and we're hoping that we can apply the Plan of Salvation to his life. He has a family so I'm kind of banking on that lesson to hit home to him. Ezequiel is solid. His baptismal date is set for the 6th of October. I guess we're supposed to keep teaching him until we leave the MTC. I'd rather start with a new investigator, but I guess it's good practice to teach the post-baptismal lessons too. I like teaching Ezequiel because we hardly ever use our planned lesson. We always plan out a lesson to take to him so that we're prepared, but always listen to feel the spirit for where we should take the lesson. And I think with our last three lessons, we didn't use our plan at all. He would ask a question about something he didn't understand so I would scrap our prepared lesson and teach a new one on the fly. It's so baller to be able to pull out new Spanish that you weren't exactly prepared for.
We've also started teaching each other. It's helpful as a missionary to know how the investigator feels during the conversion process, so we have to pick somebody we know and pretend to be them while other missionaries in our district teach us. I really like playing the investigator because it helps me think of potential questions an investigator might have and how to answer them. And it lets me see the teaching techniques of other missionaries. Never a bad idea to steal what works for them.
I picked up my pocket sized book of Mormon last week and I am cruising along with my friend Elder Durkin. I just barely cleared the Isaiah sections in 2 Nephi, so things are definitely looking up. But we decided to focus on Obedience this readthrough. So every time somebody mentions obedience or gives an example of it, we highlight it in blue. Everytime God or Christ is mentioned, we highlight it in yellow. It's a lot of fun. I've never enjoyed reading the Book of Mormon so much before. I have learned a ton about obedience. It's the most important thing ever, I've decided. As long as you are willingly obedient to the Lord, you can't go wrong. I've also noticed that the more you study a specific attribute of Christ, the more you want to live that attribute. I've never wanted to be so obedient in my life before, it's crazy. Elder Durkin and I are striving for perfect obedience at the moment. It's difficult, but I feel like we can do it. One of my favorite verses so far is 1 Nephi 15:10. Nephi is talking to his brethren about their murmurring and he just says to them, "How could ye not obey the commandments of the Lord?" I just love it. Like he can't understand why they wouldn't want to be obedient. How could you not obey the commandments? That's my new policy about the mission rules. Not that I wasn't obedient before, I just have a whole new outlook on the purpose and my attitude behind it.
But that's pretty much it for the MTC at the moment. I try to learn something new in Spanish every day. It's tough, but I think I just need to speak Spanish more with people. I understand the rules of the language, I just need to put them into practice. I would write some in Spanish, but I find I'm better at speaking than writing. However that works.
That's about it for this week. I hope life is well in Simi! I miss you all and thanks for all of your wonderful love and support!
Elder Erickson

Friday, September 21, 2012

4th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson       September 20, 2012      

The Official One Month Mark

Hola Familia!
Yesterday marked the actual four week mark of my time here at the MTC. I got here on a Wednesday and they count that as the first week. So MTC weeks are a little different than actual weeks. In reality, I've been here four weeks and a day. But according to MTC time, this is halfway through my fifth week. It's always weird to ask people how long they've been here because you never know what form of time they're going to answer in.
But anyways, life here is pretty good. There are always new curve balls thrown at me, but I just keep on chugging. What else is there to do, right? The curveball for this week was teaching with one of the sisters in my district. We had three sisters all going to Guatemala on their missions. They were supposed to be here three weeks, then go to the MTC in Guatemala to finish up the last 9 weeks of their MTC stay. But one of them, Hermana Fusi, somehow managed to lose both her passport and her driver's license. Which are both kind of necessary to go to Guatemala. And since she lost her driver's license, we have to wait for that before she can get a new passport. Which is going to take forever. Literally. I'll be impressed if she ever leaves this place. Thankfully, she absolutely loves the MTC. But anyways, it's very different to teach with three people. I was just getting used to two people, then they decide to throw this at me. Normally, when one person is done talking, there's only your companion to talk next. He understands that he needs to be paying attention to carry on the next part of the lesson. But now there's two people. Who's supposed to talk now? Every lesson is an adventure. I'm still not used to it and it's really difficult to plan with three people, but I'm sure we'll get there eventually.
We are still teaching Ezequiel, he's golden. He was golden from the start. He agreed to baptism and we're just teaching him about the commandments and stuff now. Those lessons are a breeze because he just eats up the Gospel. Our other investigator was Matilda and she was just starting to come along, then we got a new teacher so we don't teach Matilda anymore. A little disappointing, but tomorrow we start teaching a new investigator. His name is Jorge and he's a father of two who works construction. That's all we know. On the upside, I've gotten way good at teaching the first lesson, so I'm excited to bust it out tomorrow. The only question will be how it goes with the addition of Hermana Fusi. I've never taught the first lesson with her before. I'll let you know next week.
My friend Elder Durkin and I have started a new goal. We found these tiny pocket sized Books of Mormon at the book store. We're going to buy them and read through, highlighting all the examples of Christlike attributes. I'm actually really excited to make it happen. I like the idea of reading the Book of Mormon with a specific goal in mind. Helps you focus your thoughts on applying the stories you read. Especially in those war chapters in Alma. You need something to make those applicable other than being awesome stories about Teancum wrecking people.
My Spanish is coming along really well. I am pretty good at understanding people. I get most of what our teachers say and what goes on in the lessons. I'm not quite as good at responding, but give me a moment to think and I'll usually say it correctly. Now I just need to speed up my response times and build my vocabulary. It's a process, but I'm getting there.
So that's pretty much my whole life here! Not much new to report. Lots of studying and teaching and the occasional Saturday night nacho party with Elder Van Mondfrans. What more could I ask for in life?
Hope all is well,
Elder Erickson

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Three Weeks In

                                      Elder Kaleb Erickson with Nicole, Aubree, Hailee & Ethan

                                                 Kaleb arriving at the MTC  8-22-12

September 13, 2012   3rd Epistle of Elder Kaleb Erickson

He aprendido muchas cosas en estos tres semanas! Learning Spanish is so crazy. I was talking to my companion last night and we were discussing how crazy it is that in three weeks here we are already teaching full lessons in Spanish and, given a moment to think, can pretty much say whatever we need to say in Spanish. But best of all, the whole conversation we had was in Spanish. I'm largely confident that we said a lot of things wrong, but we understood each other and most of it made sense, so I'm not overly concerned.
Well, in the last week I have had all sorts of adventures. We went to the Training Resource Center last Friday, where volunteers come in and we get to teach them a short lesson in Spanish. It was cool to talk to real people for a change. Even though they were all members already, it was still nice to talk to real people instead of fake investigators. I saw a girl from my tap dancing class in one of the rooms and said hello to her. Apparently her mom is from Chile and so she speaks very fluent Spanish. I could tell because I hardly understood what she was saying, she spoke so fast. But it was a fun time in the TRC, I'm excited we get to go back and teach again tomorrow.
As of two days ago, I have been released as District Leader. I have served my time and they put in a new guy. It's kind of nice not to have the responsibility anymore, but I'm so used to being in charge of everyone, sometimes I forget that I'm just a peon again. It was also fun to go get the mail for everybody. Because that's all the District Leader really is, a glorified mailman. But I will relinquish my job if I have to. It means less meetings on Sunday mornings, hurray!
We are still teaching our same two investigators, Ezequiel and Matilda. Ezequiel loves the Gospel and we committed him to baptism a few days ago. The problem with teaching here is that we only get 20 minutes for each lesson so there's hardly ever enough time to get everything done. But we do what we can and then finish up the lessons on the next visit. We've only taught Matilda once, but she is a tough one. She isn't really interested in the Gospel as far as we have noticed and I forgot to leave a commitment with her on our first lesson, so I have to make up for lost time on this next one. We teach her again tonight, it should be an adventure. Oh and it will be really exciting because there's a new factor involved. We had three sisters in our district going to Guatemala. They were supposed to leave after three weeks to go to the Guatemala MTC. Well two of them left. But the third doesn't have her passport ready yet. So she's still with us as a solo sister. Meaning that once she gets to class, we have to assign her to a companionship and they are her companions until the end of the day. It was annoying as district leader to always be in charge of that, but not my problem anymore. So anyways, she has nobody to teach with. Our teacher asked if I would be willing to take her and let her teach with us. I was still district leader at the time, so I was kind of the first choice. I agreed, but I'm a bit concerned about it. My companion and I had just barely gotten used to teaching together. We're pretty good now. But throwing a third person in the mix could potentially be rough. We don't know how well she can speak Spanish or how well she can keep up with what's going on. We also have to get used to the new dynamic of teaching with three people. It's going to be an adventure tonight.
On Tuesday my body thought it would be cool to get sick. I have had a pretty nasty cold the last few days. Which might not seem so bad, but you'd be surprised. I was talking about it with another elder in my district, Elder Durkin, about how when a girl gets a cold, it's no big deal. But when a man gets a cold, the world is over. A simple cold can destroy a man's soul to live. Not because we're complainers, but because colds afflict us worse. Thats what we decided at least. It was horrid. I could hardly focus on anything, I just wanted to sleep. First thing Wednesday morning we had to teach Ezequiel. Things were looking rough because we weren't really prepared, I was too busy blowing my nose to study) and we were dead tired in the morning. But we sucked it up, said a prayer, and headed in. It was really neat, the Lord helped us out a lot with that lesson. For the 25 minutes we taught, my nose was fine. We could remember the things we had barely looked over before going in and we were able to teach a pretty solid lesson on the Word of Wisdom and the beginning of the Plan of Salvation. Of course, my nose reverted right back to true form as soon as we left, but it was nice to not have to deal with it while we taught.
Oh and Mom, thank you so very much for the care package! I have literally never been so excited to get a package in the mail. Four bottles of Dr Pepper is more than I could have ever asked for in the world. I did a dance when I saw those bottles in there. I'm loving the trail mix and redvines too, thank you so much!
So anyways, that's pretty much most of my life here. I don't think I mentioned, but everybody and their dog has told me not to gain weight here from all the food. So far I've managed to lose 15 pounds, so I think I'm doing alright. If I keep this up, you won't even recognize me by the time I get to New York.
I hope all is well at home!
Elder Erickson

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sept 6, 2012  2nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson at the MTC

Hey Mom and Dad!  
So life at the MTC is really, really repetitive. I think we're supposed to learn a lot about obedience here. We have to follow this exact schedule and do everything a certain way, it's crazy. That's why P-days are the best, because we get like 9 hours of whatever. It's beautiful. My companion and I like to go hang out on the temple grounds and write letters. Best way to spend a few hours of the day.
Anyways, not much new has happened since last week. The three sisters in our district are flying out to the MTC in Guatemala this Tuesday. We'll miss them, but they're going to free up so much room in our classroom, it will be awesome. We're really cramped at the moment, so that will be a nice change. We are now teaching two investigators. One is named Ezequiel and the other is Matilda. Ezequiel is way nice and really interested in the Gospel. Matilda is only willing to meet with us because her husband is a member. She's pretty apathetic about everything. All we can really do is bear testimony and hope she feels the spirit, so that's our plan at the moment.
Our first lesson with Matilda was a really humbling experience for me. Usually when we teach, I do most of the talking because I can keep up with the Spanish and respond quickly. As a result, my companion doesn't say much until his teaching part and then he talks slow and relies on me to help him out with the investigator's responses. Which has been good to help him learn some of the insane amounts of Spanish that get thrown around in our lessons. But when we went in to teach Matilda, suddenly I forgot all my Spanish. It's like I lost the gift of tongues when we walked in. I couldn't say anything to save my life. I was worried we were going to crash and burn, then Elder Bush came in to the rescue. I've never heard him speak Spanish so well before, it was incredible. He did most of the pre-talking and then even finished up one of my teaching parts because I got lost while I was teaching. We didn't get very far because we only had 20 minutes to teach, but it was awesome to see Elder Bush suddenly rock at Spanish. I think it was the Lord teaching me to be humble about my Spanish abilities and to give Elder Bush an opportunity to take charge of the lesson for once. Hopefully I'll get back in the game though, we're finishing teaching her about the Restoration tonight.
Aside from the new investigators, nothing new has really happened. We don't really do all that much here. Just lots of studying. Tomorrow we start the Teaching Resource Center, where people from Provo come in and we're supposed to teach them in Spanish. That's definitely going to be an adventure. I'm not sure what to expect. Hopefully I can remember some stuff in Spanish though. It should be fun.
So that's my life here, hopefully I'll have a new fun story to tell you next week. Otherwise I guess I could just write about all the studying that I do. Have I mentioned that I study a lot? I really am enjoying it though. The MTC is a great place, regardless of how repetitive it is. I learn new things every day. We must be doing the Lord's work here or there's no way that I'd be able to learn and retain so much information over the last two weeks.
Hope all is well!
Elder Erickson
                                            Kaleb's friends from BYU now at the MTC.

                                  MTC Classroom: Elder Goates Elder Erickson, Elder Bush

                                                     Kaleb's District at the Provo Temple.

                                                     Best Looking Missionary at the MTC
                                                       Elder Erickson & Elder Finger

                                             Elder Erickson & Companion, Elder Bush