Thursday, December 26, 2013

69th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, Long Island

Christmas Adventures            written December 23, 2013

The musical whirlwind that is Christmas has begun! And it's only about
halfway over. The big event this week was the Christmas concert back
in Midwood. We also had our branch Christmas party this week where I
got to play the piano too. More on those later.

So I have always had this dream of coming to the island to serve.
Because I have always wanted to put this genius idea into action. It's
called Explore Your Area Day. Essentially, you set out a chunk of time
to explore your area and get to know it better. But there are some
other things involved too. Namely, start out with a map and mark out
specific areas you'd like to check out. Highlight potential
neighborhoods that would be good to knock and try to find small
communities that might have potential. Then, once you've mapped out
your path, go get a big drink and start exploring, while taking notes
about the areas and neighborhoods you drive through. The big drink is
crucial here. Arguably the most important part of the whole event.
This is what we did last Tuesday. It was awesome. We didn't quite find
hte communities we were hoping to find, but we found a pretty decent
area to start knocking in. We also admired a lot of really nice
looking houses along the way. Like dang. All in all, I'd say that
Explore Your Area Day was a huge success.

We taught English classes twice again this week. In all of my other
areas, we've always spread the days out a bit, but here we teach them
Tuesday and Wednesday, right in a row. It's nice to fill up those two
evenings like that, but they're over with so quickly, it always
surprises me. Those are going well though. Our investigator, Luis,
finally came back to the classes, (he hadn't come in two weeks) but he
was too busy, so we couldn't teach him. Hopefully we can get in touch
with him this week and talk with him. I tried to talk with another one
of the students to have him come early to meet with us, but he wasn't
able to make it. Shame, but there's always next week.

Thursday we got to knock some more doors with the English district. I
really like that activity. We split up so that every Spanish
missionary is temporary companions with an English missionary, then we
go knock doors. It's nice because when you talk to English people, you
don't have to explain that you are Spanish missionaries so some other
guys are going to come back. That always confuses people. And it's fun
to work with other missionaries to see what their approaches are and
to hear their thoughts on life. That night we also went out caroling
with some of the leaders in our branch. They picked out specific names
of less actives and others they wanted to visit. Then we all went out
and sang with them. It was a lot of fun. And it was nice to see the
leaders working hand in hand with the missionaries.

Friday was the big day of the concert. We had to leave early because
of traffic. It took us two hours to drive back to Midwood. We got
there and started setting things up. We didn't really have any
decorations, so we had to improvise a few things. We scoured the
church building to find any and all decorations laying about, then we
scattered them in the chapel to make things look festive. The concert
was scheduled to start at 7, but we knew nobody would be there in
time. So we mentally planned to start at 7:30 to allow time for people
to arrive. I had the all the musical numbers and performers ready by
7. The next task was getting the narration readers together. I had 8
parts to be read. I had already talked to the 8 people and had printed
out and numbered all the scripts for them. I just needed people to
show up. By 7:30, I had 6 of my 8 people there. But we couldn't keep
pushing the start back, so I just asked two different people to help
out. Thankfully, people were very willing to help, so it went well in
the end. Then we had refreshments afterwards for everyone. It went
really well. I was so happy for the turnout and for how the songs
went. It was a really nice event. We had two investigators there and
two non-members and a bunch of the ward members. Everybody seemed to
enjoy it. I don't know that any huge miracles will come from it. But I
got a text afterward from one of the members, Sister Viera. And she
told me that it was a beautiful concert and it helped her find the
spirit of Christmas. And that was a success to me. All of the
frustration and stress was worth it. It was my final goodbye to

I don't know if you guys remember an investigator in Midwood that I
helped teach on occasion. His name is Alberto and the other
missionaries were teaching him. I taught him three or so times on
exchanges. He was wavering on his decision to get baptized and things
were looking like he wasn't going to. But when I was there, I asked
how he was doing and Elder Fine told me that he has a solid baptismal
date for the 11th of January. That made me so happy. I didn't have all
that much to do in teaching him. But we found him through the English
classes. And if Alberto is the only thing that comes from those
classes, then I would say that they were a roaring success. He is so
great, I'm so happy that he's finally making this decision.

Saturday night was our branch party here in Patchogue. It was a sweet
event. They had a small musical program, dinner, and music and dancing
afterward. I was going to take this as a chance to go around and meet
all the members. But I met a non-member guy named Leonardo from
Columbia and we got to talking and I lost track of time. He was a way
cool guy. He had learned English really well and so we talked about
the difficulties of learning language and the different facets of
speaking Spanish and English. Then we moved on to talk about school.
He was going back to school to become a mechanical engineer and so we
chatted about that and physics and debated what I should do with my
life. He was super cool. I mean to move the discussion toward the
Gospel, but when we got up to get dessert, he disappeared. Shame, but
at least I made a new friend. I also met a less active named George.
Nice dude, 23 years old. He was just messing around on the piano, so I
went over and we talked music for a while. His mom is a really strong
member, but if guess he fell into a rough path. I'm hoping to start
working with him more to bring him back. It sounds like he could use
some support.

And that brings us to Sunday. Elder Mason woke up really sick, so we
ended up staying home from church. He had a sore throat and just
didn't feel well all day. So we pretty much just chilled at home. We
got out to do some more caroling in the evening. It was nice to get
out. People always love carolers, so it's my favorite activity. It's
just a shame we can't do it to much longer.

So I just have one more concert left for the Christmas season. We have
a Christmas mission conference tomorrow and I'm signed up to play some
7 songs at he event. It should be an adventure. Merry Christmas

Elder Erickson

68th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Merry Christmas from Long Island written Dec 16, 2013

After 7 1/2 months of serving in Midwood, I have finally been
transferred. I'm now serving in a place called Patchogue way out on
Long Island. It is so different from the city. Things are so much
calmer here. You don't see nearly as many pedestrians. Groceries are
way cheaper. And fast food restaurants offer free refills on drinks. I
haven't seen that in a long while. I really like it here. We drive a
car now, so we get around like it ain't no thang. I'm used to having
to plan out half hour long travel times to get to appointments. Now
you just hop in the car and you're practically there. Walking for so
long really makes you appreciate a car. Though I will certainly miss
walking. I had grown to love walking around the city in my time there.

Picture from Summer of 2013   Midwood, Brooklyn

So out here in Patchogue, we have a Spanish branch. It is very small,
only 6 active priesthood holders and maybe 40 active members total.
But they are all good people. The branch president is brand new, he's
been in for about three weeks. I asked him what he wants us to focus
on and he told me that we should focus everything on finding new
members. He said people have been trying with the few less actives
they have and it's not worth it. It's time to move on and find new
members. He said to let the members worry about the less actives and
the missionaries should focus on teaching new people. I'm excited. I
love it. Let's get to work.

We don't have much right now, but that will change soon. We are
teaching English classes here too. They are doing decently well. Ten
or so people at each class. We're teaching one guy from it already and
there are a couple of other people I'd like to talk to as well.
Hopefully those work out.

In other news, we are going to be doing a lot of door knocking here.
It should be good. We're planning to map out specific neighborhoods
where there might be Spanish people so we can pull off some solid
knocking blitzes. What we have been doing in the evenings is gathering
the Spanish and English districts and we go Christmas caroling from
door to door. It's a lot of fun. When people answer the door, they're
always kind of annoyed at first, then they hear the singing and they
always cheer up. People love it. Hopefully we can keep that going
until Christmas. It's a good way to utilize that awkward time from 8
to 9 PM.

The English ward had their Christmas party last Saturday. We went
because they did a reenactment of the nativity story, so we went to
play shepherds and wise man. I also got to play the piano while people
were eating. I was asked to play non-hymn book Christmas songs, but I
didn't have any music. So I decided to channel some of my father's
ability to play by ear. I have gotten a lot better since last year
when I tried. I need Dad to teach me some variations I can play with
the bass hand. I've still got our Christmas party next week, so I'll
give it another shot then.

Church was fun with the small branch. It's kind of nice because it's
easy to get to know everyone. I got to play the piano for sacrament
meeting and I went and played for primary too. The people are all very
nice. And our ward mission leader is amazing. His name is Julio. He
takes his calling seriously and he does a wonderful job with it. He
knows what's going on and he runs things well. It's very much a
blessing in my life.

So this week is more of trying to get to know the area and starting to
find people. I also have the Christmas concert in Midwood this Friday,
so hopefully that goes well. If people will come to it, it will be
good. We just need people to come. I'm sure they will, it will be
great. I'm just loving life out here. Patchogue is the best. Love you
guys! Until next week!

Elder Erickson

Monday, December 9, 2013

67th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Movin' On       written  December 9, 2013

Well this is it. After 7 1/2 months of Midwood, I'm finally moving on. Transfers are on Tuesday and I will be sent to a brand new area to start anew. It will be fun. I'm looking forward to taking the things I've learned and applying them in my new area.

In the meantime, I had one last week in Midwood. Monday evening we were called by our ward mission leader. He told us about a family in the ward who had a sick daughter and he asked if we would go give her a blessing. So we headed on over. He met us there and we went in to give the blessing. Apparently the little girl had been sick for some 4 days and wasn't getting any better. So we gave her a blessing. She's only 2, but she sat still for the whole thing. I was most impressed. Then the mother asked if we were hungry and wanted some dinner. Hispanics love it when you eat their food, so I told her we would love to have something to eat, but nothing too big because we were going to go visit people with the ward mission leader as soon as we were done. She said okay, then comes back with two bowls of soup. It looked like chicken soup with large chunks. I was excited about it. I scooped up a large spoonful of chicken and vegetables, only to discover that it was not chicken at all. It was fish. With all of the bones still in it. I asked what kind of fish it was, she told me she didn't know the name in English, but in Spanish it's called Sierra. Which as far as I understand is a mountain range. I've looked it up. I still have no idea what kind of fish we ate. But there was a lot of picking out bones. Ugh. I do not like fish. But I was proud of myself, I ate the whole bowl of soup. She also pulled out some chicken alfredo concoction too. It was an interesting meal. Regardless, we finished and finally got out the door with the ward mission leader. At which point we looked up several people to no avail. It was disappointing. But at least we had the fish soup. And we found out a few days later that the little girl had recovered almost completely by the next morning. So that was pretty cool. I love giving blessings to people.

Wednesday I had my last day of service in Prospect Park. It has been fun serving there every Wednesday. I love that park. This week was a cool experience. We got to go rake leaves in a Quaker cemetery in the park. It's normally closed off to the public, but we got to go in to rake leaves. It was a beautiful area. Apparently it even outdates the park itself. There were definitely some old graves there, so that doesn't surprise me too much. Later that evening, we headed over to visit the Luna family. I'm pretty sure I have talked about them before. I love that family so much. They are awesome. We went over for one more visit before I left. She cooked us the usual rice and meat and we had a hilarious discussion about the movie The Road to El Dorado. Then we started talking about conquistadors and how they took over so much of South and Central America. I'm still not entirely sure how we ended up on that topic, but I'm not even mad about it. We taught a nice lesson with them about enduring to the end and how we can't become complacent in this life. We have to keep trying to improve and keep trying it better ourselves every day. And even if we only make a tiny bit of progress every day, it will add up over time and be large progress. I really hope that Brother Luna starts coming back to church so they can get sealed in the temple. That will be such a great day.

In the meantime, Thursday was my last day to teach English classes. And I had a fun last day of it. We had some new people there, which is always fun. We broke into smaller groups and I worked with these two sisters who both have been in the United States for roughly a month. And for only being here a month, they actually speak pretty good English. At he end of the class, I taught other spiritual thought and invited everyone to stake conference. One guy was actually interested in it. I talked with him after class and he wasn't super keen on getting to this place in downtown Brooklyn (he doesn't have a metro card), but he could make it to church in our regular building. So I set up an appointment with him (he said he wanted to learn more about our church) and he said he wanted to come to church next week. Awesome, I love it. I'm sorry I won't be here for it, but I really hope things work out with him.

Friday we went to do more last visits for me. We went one more time to see the Castro family. I love them too. Rosie and Eddie are both recent converts and are struggling to make it through. Eddie still has work every Sunday and Rosie has been struggling with some other issues lately. But they're both trying. And I love visiting with them. It was a nice last lesson with them. Their son, Jeremiah, came out of his room afterwards. He has been working through some issues recently too. He asked me if I would give him a blessing to help him with learning to control his anger. This kid is only 10, but he is probably the most mature 10 year old I have ever met. It's ridiculous. So we gave him a blessing. He thanked me and told me that he already felt a little better from it. He's a good kid, I hope he turns out alright. Before we left, Eddie hooked us up with some bagels and cream cheese. He shared some of his favorite chive cream cheese. He layered it pretty heavily on there. I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of breath-altering foods I was about to consume. I think I can still taste some chive in my mouth every once and a while.

After the Castro's, we went to visit my dear friend Gabriel. He's the less active guy we found back in July, courtesy of a referral from his daughter in Mexico. I have visited him almost every week since then. This guy has gone through some trials recently too. But he always kept his faith. He always kept trying to get Sundays off and do everything he could to make it to church. And it seems like he's doing a lot better now. I saw him at stake conference, he was an usher, it welcome people in. And he had he biggest smile on his face. It was great. His daughter recently had to have surgery on something, so she had to go home from her mission for a stint. She's going to return as soon as she has recovered. But right now, she's just chilling at home. So Gabriel decided to call her because he wanted her to talk with one of the missionaries that found him. He put her on the phone with me. We chatted for a moment, and she thanked me for being a good missionary and for doing so much for her dad. I told her that I really didn't do that much except for visit him every week. She told me that it still meant a lot to her and she really appreciated it all. It was really nice to be hear that. To know that I had done some good here. That I had helped out this girl by helping her dad make it back to church every Sunday. That was really cool.

Saturday was a very busy day. I had been asked to play at another concert in Jamaica, Queens. It was a Christmas concert this time. I was going to play again for Elder Goates and Sister Franklin. I played two songs for Elder Goates and one for Sister Franklin. The concert started some 45 minutes late, but we still got through it all and it was really a lot of fun. People were loving it. There's nothing like some fun Christmas songs to get people excited about life. Elder Goates got recordings of all of our songs, so hopefully he puts those up on Facebook soon. After the concert, we headed over to downtown Brooklyn for the adult session of Stake Conference. It was all focused on hastening the work of salvation and working better as wards and with missionaries to bring people to a knowledge of the Gospel.

Sunday was the main session of Stake Conference and it was held in the Marriot Hotel in Brooklyn. My goodness. What a fancy building. It was something else. There was a solid turnout; all of the wards and branches in Brooklyn and Staten Island, translated into three languages. That was a cool meeting. Not too much to report there. Afterward, I was asked to help a Chinese branch with their choir practice. They have a choir that is going to sing on the Sunday before Christmas, but they don't have a piano player. They'd like me to play for the concert, but since we don't know where I'll be, they were willing to settle with just practice for now. So I get there, and they tell me that there's only one song. Okay, fair enough. Then they showed me the song. It's an epic, 31 page Christmas Cantada. My goodness. Complete with piano interludes and intermittent narration too. In Cantonese, nonetheless. Incredible. So I sightread this 31 page party, and I had so much fun. It was awesome. And I was surprised, the Chinos actually sang pretty well. The song gives an estimated running time of 24 minutes. When I played it, we managed to get through it in 20 minutes. I guess I play a little fast. Not the first time I've heard that. It was still a lot of fun though. The rest of the day was spent visiting members and saying goodbye.

So that's about it for Midwood. I've got some more people to say goodbye to this evening. It has been a good run here. I've learned a lot of things and now it's time to take all of those things and move on to a new place. And there will be more lessons to learn and more good things to do. It will be fun.

Love,     Elder Erickson

Monday, December 2, 2013

66th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brookly, New York

Happy Thanksgiving!        Thanksgiving Parties -  written December 2, 2013

I had another fun exchange with Elder Durkin last week. We didn't get to go party out in Belle Harbor, but we certainly had a party in Midwood. We couldn't do too much in the afternoon, but we got to distribute a bunch of English class flyers and we taught English classes together in the evening. It's fun because Elder Durkin started out as a Spanish missionary with us, but after 9 months working all English in Belle Harbor, he has since been switched to an English missionary. So he thinks it's fun to get chance to practice Spanish again. We taught a sweet English class and we had a number of new faces, so it was a good night.

Wednesday we were supposed to meet with the Quispe family, but when we showed up, he told us that he was just on his way out to work. At 7:30 at night? Fair enough Julio, we'll come back next week. Luckily, we were able to head over to a member's house nearby and we hooked it up with a nice dinner there. It's the one white guy in our ward, Brother Barton. He served his mission in Ecuador and he married a woman from Ecuador, so they come to the Spanish ward. He is from Pismo, so his area code is 805 too; it made us instant friends. But anyway, it was the first time I had ever been to there house. It was fun to have dinner and talk in English for a change. They also gave us some tips on this Christmas concert that we're putting together. Always nice to have the point of view of a Hispanic when you're planning a concert in Spanish.

Thursday was the big day. Pretty much the whole mission went out to Flushing, Queens in the morning for the annual Turkey Bowl. Our zone has been prepping for this for weeks now. They were convinced that we were the greatest team ever and that we would be unstoppable. We quickly came to find out that we were, contrary to popular belief, fallible, and lost our first two games. Elder Goates and I got bored after a while and hosted a trip to the local Burger King for any and all not interested in football. It was my favorite part of the adventure. We headed home afterwards and made it home in time to shower and head out to the Castro's house.

They had quite the party ready for Thanksgiving. All sorta of family and friends were there. I shared a scripture and a prayer before we got started. It was a very nice event. They had all the fixings you could ever want at a thanksgiving dinner. I got to chat with one of the Castro sisters who isn't a member. A very nice woman who lives out in Queens, but came to Brooklyn for the party. I asked her what she was thankful for this year and we inevitably got on the topic of God and the Bible. We chatted for a while and she told me that she puts a lot of faith in her dreams. And one time she had a dream that really impacted her about somebody making her a cheese sandwich. I was hooked. She went on to tell me that they made her this cheese sandwich, but they cut the center of the cheese out and only gave her the corners of the cheese. Hmm. Interesting. She said she's still trying to figure out what it means, but she gave me her theory. She thinks that the cheese sandwich is representative of her faith in God. And that the cheese is religion. She told me that all the religions she had looked at felt like they were missing a very important thing. But she can't figure out what it is. And in the dream, she's mad that they won't give her the middle of the cheese, so she won't eat the sandwich. Because of this, she keeps trying to find out what's missing through prayer and the Bible.

I couldn't ask for a better transition. I told her that I had a present for her and I pulled out a Book of Mormon. She told me that she once had promised somebody she would read this book, but lost her copy. I told her that she could have this one if she promised again to read it. She told me she would. I then gave her a quick rundown of the restoration of the Gospel and how I believe that the missing center of the cheese is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. She liked that answer and told me that she would read the book to find out if it was true. She also gave me her address so I could send missionaries to her home and help her learn more about the missing cheese. The food was good that night, but my conversation with Marjorie about the missing cheese was probably my favorite part of the night. It was just too good. The cheese sandwich dream. I really hope she finds the missing cheese she is looking for.

Well anyway, Saturday was our ward Thanksgiving party. That was also a good time. We helped set up for it and I'd say it was a successful event. I'm only sorry we didn't get to stay for the dancing. They decided to have plates of food delivered to people instead of a potluck event. So I got to deliver plates of food and fill up cups for half the night. It was actually really fun to go around and talk to everybody as I delivered food and whatnot. About five minutes before we left, the bishop came to me and asks if the missionaries would sing some hymns of Thanksgiving. Yeah alright. It was so unorganized, it was baller. We just got up and sang the two Thanksgiving hymns in the hymn book. Not much to it. I played the piano and the other five missionaries sang. Then the turned around and pumped the music so everybody could dance. I love Hispanic parties.

And yesterday was my last fast Sunday in Midwood. Next week is stake conference, so I made sure to get up and share one last testimony in the Midwood chapel. After church, this sweet older woman from Guatemala came up to talk to me. She's talked to me before, usually to tell me how she loves the way I play the piano and she hopes that I never leave this area. She was devastated at this news that I was leaving soon. She told me that I have to get married to a Hispanic woman so I can come back to this ward and play the piano. Then she apologized profusely that she didn't have any daughters or granddaughters to offer me. I told her it was okay and that I would do my best to make it back here to play again someday. It was a hilarious interaction. Hispanics are the best.

So there's only one week left in Midwood. I've got a number of things set up for the week that I'm excited about. I'd like to make a few last things happen before I leave. It should be a good week.

Elder Erickson

Friday, November 29, 2013

65th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Getting Colder     written  November 25, 2013

This weather is not for me. The wind is just so killer! At least I'm not right on the beach like I was last year. That was some cold weather. It's still cold, but I think it would be worse on the beach.

So it was a nice week again, here in Midwood, aside from the cold. Last Wednesday we got to visit with the Luna family. It's been a while since we have been to the Luna's house. After they were kind of solid in coming back to church, we switched with the sister missionaries to have them visit the Lunas for a while. They have two daughters ages 15 and 17, so the sisters go over to try to help the girls out. But I missed visiting the Lunas, so we went to visit them this week. And it was so much fun to be back there. Sister Luna made us this delicious Dominican dish called Asopao. It's nothing too complex, mostly just rice, beans, chicken, various vegetables, and sauces all mixed together in a big pot. And it is delicious. Served with avocado and some tostones on the side? You really can't go wrong. We chatted with them about Thanksgiving and about giving thanks for our blessings. It was a nice lesson and Brother Luna even came to church on Sunday. We haven't seen him in church with the rest of his family for a couple of months, so that was nice to see. Somehow the topic of cartoons came up and Brother Luna was so excited to show us a video on Youtube of a cartoon he used to watch when he was a kid. It's called "Sam el Rey de Judo!" Which translates to Sam, the King of Judo. It was this oldschool cartoon about this kid who was trying to avenge his father, who was murdered by a one-eyed man. This show was golden. I only wish we could have seen more than five minutes. Spanish cartoons are just too good.

Anyways, our English classes have been dwindling recently, so we had a big district advertizing blitz. It essentially entails everybody meeting and grabbing a bunch of flyers, then canvassing the whole neighborhood. We did that on Friday, so hopefully it brings some new faces to our class tomorrow evening.

Friday we got to visit with my old friend Gabriel Osorio. He has been struggling recently because the place he worked at got shut down. We worked with him for three months trying to get Sundays off and two weeks after he gets Sundays off, his work shuts down. Poor dude just can't win. He's pretty concerned about it, so we went with a message of hope for him to try to boost his spirits. The dude is a champ. You can tell how worried he is, but he is determined to stay strong in the Gospel, regardless of what happens. We gave him a blessing before we left. I made Elder Spencer do it, even though he didn't want to. It was his first blessing ever in Spanish. And he did an excellent job. I have never heard him speak Spanish so well, as he did during that blessing. It was a really cool moment. I hope that it helps Gabriel too.

Saturday we got to visit with another less active named Jose Membreno. He's an interesting dude because he's solid in the church, but he just doesn't come sometimes. It's like every two or three weeks he comes. But he likes everything. He's in the temple prep class working to get his temple recommend again. He tells us that he loves the church and that he has a good testimony. But then he doesn't come, I don't get it. He likes to visit with missionaries, so we go over there when we can. He decided that he wanted to give us a special treat so he cooked us up some meat and rice. That was a nice surprise from him. It was pretty tasty too. We had a great lesson with him and he told us that he was going to come to church for sure on Sunday. He didn't come, so apparently we need to get back over there and try again.

Sunday was a fun day because it was the primary program. Those are always the best days in sacrament meeting. I got to play the piano for the kids. It was so much fun. The rest of church was pretty uneventful, but we did have the most successful ward council I have even been to after church. It was incredible. It was only 40 minutes and we actually accomplished things without arguing. A miracle as far as I'm concerned.

And that's about it for the moment. Thanksgiving week should be a party. We have a number of dinners lined up, so we're excited to dine and chat with people this week. It will be a fun week and a great opportunity to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all the wonderful blessings he gives us.

Elder Erickson

Editor:  Kaleb is now active on Facebook and has posted some interesting pictures there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

64th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

The Adventures Continue written November 18, 2013

The adventures never end out here in Midwood. There's not as much to report because I emailed so late last week, but there are always tales to tell.

The afternoons are very interesting now since we're supposed to spend our afternoons inputting teaching record information into our iPads and trying to teach people on Facebook. You show up at the church at about 2 and you'll find 6 to 10 other missionaries there too, all using the wifi to do things on their iPads. It's hilarious. Never thought I'd see this day.

Friday was a really fun day. I had an exchange with Elder Fine. He's from the island of Tonga and grew up in Watts, Los Angeles. He has an incredible story. That guy is a hero. He is set to take over as district leader once I leave this area. We discussed it so that we can work together and try to make the leader transition a fluid one. It should go over well. A lot of our day was taken up because we had to travel to a different area in our zone for a big zone meeting. It was a good meeting though, they had some iPad training and talks by the zone leaders. I quite enjoyed it. After that, we headed back to Midwood and had a lesson with Elder Fine's investigator Alberto. I've taught him before, on my exchange last transfer with Elder Hellewell. He had a baptismal date at one point, but was unsure about it all, so our goal in this lesson was to help solidify a date. We met at a member's house and the member made us a wonderful dinner of rice, chicken, and beans. It was great. We all ate and discussed life, then we had a lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It went pretty well, though Alberto is still pretty hesitant. He likes everything, he's just afraid of committing too soon. I think he will get baptized eventually, it will just take some time. I'm not too worried. I asked him if he had ever prayed about baptism like I asked him to. He told me that he still hadn't. So I told him that maybe this was what he needed to do before he would know if he should get baptized. Then I told him about how I got my answer about the church. He liked it and told me that he was willing to do it this time. He is a good guy, I really like Alberto. I hope things work out for him.

Saturday was another really fun day. Elder Durkin is one of my zone leaders here now. He was in the MTC with me, then he was my district leader for one transfer in Far Rockaway, and now he is my zone leader here. But he needed to go back to Far Rockaway to help advertize for some activity they are doing out there. And his companion had something that they needed to do in Midwood, so he asked if I wanted to come back with him to Far Rock and help out. Of course I was down. So we headed out there on Saturday afternoon. We dropped by the chapel out there, which was fun to see. The weird thing was to find 10 missionaries there, all on their iPads. Odd. But we headed out to Belle Harbor pretty quickly after that. Elder Durkin had a list of some eight families that he wanted to get to that evening. Apparently these were the main families that he worked with in his time there. We didn't have a car or anything, so we just walked around and visited with these people. They are all very nice people. I had met some of them before and saw some people around that I knew from my time there. It was a lot of fun to see some old friends again and meet some new people.

The person that he was most excited for me to meet was a man named Steve Plunket. He was a very interesting person. When I first met him, I didn't know anything about him. And he was just a big, excited, fun loving dude. He gave me a nickname within two minutes of meeting me. He called me Big-E. I thought that was pretty cool. We went into his house to chat for a moment and he told us that he was going to be early tonight so he was headed out for steak right now and invited us to come. It was only like 5:30 at the time, so we agreed to go with him. He took us to the Belle Harbor Steak House. My goodness. We had driven by it before, but never considered stopping there because of prices. Steve knows the owner, so he was able to get us right in without a problem. Then we sat down and he told us not to even look at the numbers on the page, just get whatever we want. I wasn't quite sure what to do. He told me that I should get a good, New York steak. So I told him that I'd get whatever he recommended. Boy howdy. I ended up with a $36 t-bone steak in front of me with Portobello mushrooms to the side and steamed vegetables as well. Wow. It was arguably the most incredible thing I've eaten all year. Steve was loud and talkative the whole time. But you could tell that it was a strained thing. We had a good time and he took us back to his house afterwards and we said thanks and goodbye. Durkin later explains to me all of Steve's struggles in life. And he has quite a few. Then all his behavior made sense. He seemed so sad the whole time, even though he was doing his best to make it a good time for us all. I just feel so bad for this man. If ever there was someone who needed the Gospel in his life to bring him some joy, it is Steve Plunket. I really hope things work out for him. He deserves it.

It was a grand night. And it was fun to talk with Elder Durkin. He is a good friend of mine. And that brings us to Sunday. In the evening, we went to go look up a less active name that I've been seeing for some seven months now. Miguel Isidro Villalobos. I've looked him up before a number of times and never gotten in. I decided we should give it one more shot last night. It was interesting even getting in the apartment building, then we knocked on the door and nobody answered. But we could hear people inside, so we knocked again. After a bit, a frustrated woman came to the door and told us to leave because she wasn't interested. I told her that was fine because we were just looking Miguel. She did not see that coming. She apologized and went and got him for us. And out walks this tall white dude who spoke English. What? Where did this come from? That was him. Our man Miguel. From Costa Rica. He just happens to look white and speak perfect English and Spanish. Fair enough. He asked who sent us, we told him we had just seen his name and wanted to get to know him. He figured that was okay, but he was busy right now. So we set up an appointment for Tuesday to come back. He told us a bit about himself, he actually served a mission in Honduras and Guatemala. He said that he had only been to church about 4 times when he moved to Midwood and it has been about 4 years since then. I am really excited to start working with him. I want to find out his story and I want to see what he decides to do from here. Whether he will come back or decide to stay where he is. We will surely find out.

Life is grand here with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up. It is hopefully going to be a busy and fun holiday season. The church is true, I love you guys!

Elder Erickson

Thursday, November 14, 2013

63rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Changes in the World              written Nov 13, 2013 (pday delayed for I-pod training)

Oh my goodness. The world is changing around me so quickly, I don't even know what to do. First an age change, then Facebook, and now I have a mini iPad. What? I don't know what happened. And we're supposed to get iPhones in a few weeks. What is the world coming to?

Well so anyways. Life continues more or less the same in Midwood. We finally made contact again with an old less-active friend of ours, Julio Quispe. We had met with him and his wife before, but nothing really consistent. They told us that they were for sure coming to church one week and we told them we were going to come by and walk with them. They were all cool with that. Then when we came by, they weren't home and their phone was suddenly disconnected. So that was awesome. But we have since found Julio back at home, albeit without his wife.

We sat down with him and chatted for a bit. He is from Peru and he speaks so fast. It's crazy. I get most of it, but sometimes I'm pretty sure he's just muttering. I don't think he's actually speaking words. We had a small lesson prepared, so I asked him if he would give us the opening prayer. He told me that he wasn't really sure how to pray so it would be better if I said the prayer. I told him that I would be more than happy to teach him how to pray because I'm sure that Heavenly Father would love to hear him say a prayer. He thought that would be okay. So we taught Julio how to say a prayer. He was willing to say the prayer after that. Granted, he was very nervous about it and he mumbled most of it under his breath. But from what I heard, he said a fine prayer. After that, I decided that we should switch up the focus of our lesson here. We were originally going to discuss the Restoration, but I called an audible and we discussed prayer instead. I asked Julio if he prays very often. He told me that he prays every day. I kind of didn't believe him based on the response when I first asked him to pray. But whatever. We talked about why prayer is important and how prayer can help us. He was eating it up the whole time. He loved it. This is the most involved I've ever seen him in a lesson. At the end, I committed him to pray every night with his wife and that we were going to come back next Monday to make sure that he did it. He seemed very genuine about it, it was cool.

Following up with him the next week, he didn't quite make it to church, or to pray every night, but he told me that he and his wife did pray a number of times that week. We're going back next week to hold a family home evening with them. I'm very excited about it.

In other news, English classes continue with success. One of the people that is being taught from the classes is still progressing with the other elders. It looks like he is set to be baptized within the next three weeks or so. So that is very exciting as well. We also had some newcomers last week. I love when new people come. We met a very nice man from Venezuela who spoke really good English and a 19 year old girl from Mexico who had only been here for one week. Needless to say, she still has a long way to go in learning this language, but I'd say she's already better than some of the guys in there who have been in New York for like 10 years. I'm talking about you, Jose. You got a looong way to go buddy.

This wasn't a lesson or anything, but just a nice experience I had last Saturday. We had traveled out to a neighboring area in our zone to help out with a singing street sweep. It was a cold night and we were out there from 7 until 8. An odd choice, in my opinion, because it's dark and cold and people aren't exactly keen on stopping to chat in this weather, but hey, I'm not in charge. But we were out there singing and this woman stopped and looked at us. Nobody else moved, so I went over to chat with her. She was so impressed with so many young people all dressed up so nicely. I thanked her and asked her name. Her name is Karina. She told me that she was just on her way to a sober party and apologized for sounding boring. I told her that wasn't boring at all and that a sober party sounds like my kind of party. I explained a bit about our standards and she was very impressed. She told me that there needs to be more young people like us in the world. I asked where she was from and she told me that she used to live in Queens in a very Irish-Catholic area and moved to Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy and that she couldn't be happier. I guessed that she lived in Belle Harbor and she told me I was correct. We had a nice little connection to the Rockaways there. She thanked us for all the service we did out there. We chatted for a bit more about religion and then she said goodbye and headed out to her party. Nothing may come of it, but at least I made a new friend.

Things are good out here. I am happy and trying to adjust to all this new technology. Hope you guys are doing well. Love you!

Elder Erickson

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

62nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Another Transfer in Midwood written November 4, 2013

Well this was the first week of another transfer here in Midwood. As with most first weeks of the transfer, it was a pretty slow week. After the transfer meeting on Tuesday, we barely had enough time to get back to Midwood to teach English classes. We had a pretty solid turnout though and it was a fun time. My favorite thing to do with English class is to teach them slang words or to explain English idioms. Recently I explained "It's raining cats and dogs" and "I'm happy as a clam." I love it, English class is the best.

Wednesday we had our weekly service as Prospect Park in the morning. Then in the evening we had our first Wednesday evening without a Brazilian elder in a while. Unfortunately, it ended up being a really uneventful night. We had an appointment with a new investigator and we had some other names. The first guy juked us and nobody else was home. On the upside, we did some good walking and we had some nice conversation. And we tried McDonald's new dollar menu on the way home. I'll be honest, I'm kind of unimpressed with it. Though I think I would like the Buffalo McChicken more if I had it again. We'll find out. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday was Halloween! We were supposed to be in our apartments by 6 PM to keep us safe from whatever shenanigans might happen on Halloween in New York. People start trick or treating around here at like 3 in the afternoon and they mostly only go to stores instead of houses. It's funny how things are different here. We weren't able to accomplish too much in the afternoon and we had to cancel English classes because of the 6 PM rule. So Elder Spencer and I got ready to throw a party by ourselves in our apartment. And it sure was a good time. We bought some Dr Pepper and we got Little Caesar's pizza for dinner. Then we ate and we played chess while we listened to the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou for three hours. There were other soundtracks involved, but our Halloween mostly consisted of eating pizza, drinking Dr Pepper, and playing chess. We're getting pretty good by now.

Friday was largely uneventful except for our visit to our old friend Gabriel. He is still struggling to try to get Sundays off so he can come to church. He finally had them off at one point, then his work closed so he had to do a bunch of stuff and try to find a new job. Now he's back working again, but he doesn't have Sundays off yet. So we're back to the usual struggle. It's tough when you have to work ridiculous hours to just barely scrape by. He's a good guy and if he could, he would come to church. So we're just going to keep on visiting him so he can know that we care about him and keep trying to get Sundays off.

Saturday we had a bunch of sports activities. There's a group of members and missionaries that go play Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings. We decided to go check it out and see if it's any good so we can start inviting members from our ward to come play. It was a lot of fun, we just need to start working on inviting members to come play with us too. Later in the afternoon, we played soccer again with members and investigators. We've got some people that have been coming and there's a group of Hatians that are always there when we go. It's fun to see the Hispanics to play with the Hatians. They are all so dang good at soccer. I just try to stay out of their way. It seems to work out pretty well. After that, we had an awesome meeting with the bishop. We went over the ward list with him and we picked out all the people that neither of us knew. He asked us to make a list and start working with all of these people. So Elder Spencer and I are going to hit up the library tomorrow and compile it so we can start working on it. I think this is going to be really helpful for us here.

Sunday was a largely quiet day. The best part was that a member invited us to have burritos at her house for dinner. And she doesn't mess around when it comes to burrito. They were incredible. Best burritos I have had in a long while. Better than Chipotle, I would argue. And didn't cost me $10 a burrito. That's always a plus. We finished out the day by helping a woman in our ward who is trying to pass the GED. She struggles with the math part, so I go and help her out every once and a while. I miss doing math, so it is a lot of fun to help her.

And that's about it for now. We've got some stuff lined up for this week, so hopefully we can make some new things happen. It will be a fun time. Only five more weeks in Midwood, so I better make the most of it. Love you guys!

Elder Erickson

Thursday, October 31, 2013

61st Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

A Return Visit to the Rock written October 28, 2013

The week started off with another exchange. As district leader, I'm supposed to do an exchange with each member of my district every transfer. And I kept putting this one off until the last week for whatever reason. It wasn't too eventful of a day. I was with Elder Hellewell, Elder Goates' companion. He is from Linden, Utah, and he came out at the same time as Elder Spencer. He was actually in the same MTC district as him. He and I taught a lesson to their investigator, Alberto that night before English classes. It was a pretty cool lesson. We taught the Plan of Salvation and at the end, we committed him to be baptized on the 17th of November. He was kind of hesitant, so I told him that I wanted him to simply pray about that date and discuss the idea with his Heavenly Father. It didn't mean that he was committed to the date, but that he would discuss it with someone who knows exactly what he needs. And he liked that idea. He's going to report back on the prayer in their next meeting. Hopefully that goes well and we can make that happen in the next couple of weeks. 

Elder Kaleb Erickson at 5 Points in Queens

Wednesday was the most successful day of the week. We went out again with Elder Brodowski, one of the Brazilian missionaries. We didn't have any appointments, but we went out to try and look up some old names. We found a guy that we had met a while ago at some soccer fields. He told us we were welcome at his house any time, so we dropped by. His name is Oracio, he is a way cool guy. He had a copy of the Book of Mormon sitting underneath his coffee table. We chatted for a while and got to know him. We invited him to church and asked if he would meet with us again next week. He was hesitant about church, but told us we could come back for sure. Then he asked us if he could have a chapter to read in the Book of Mormon. Well of course! He didn't come to church, but hopefully the lesson next week goes well and we can start working with him and his wife. We also met with another family that night. I knew very little about them, but when we got there, we found out that the father is the nephew of a woman in our ward and they have met with missionaries before. They weren't too pumped about learning more, but we invited them to our ward party on Friday and they were really excited about that. Then they gave us hot chocolate and bread. Sounds like a success to me.

On Friday, we had the greatest ward party of all time. It's called Noche de Hispanidad. Which means Hispanic Night. And it is the best idea ever. Essentially, everyone shows up and brings a food specific to their country, then we have a giant potluck dinner. It's absolutely incredible. Granted, it started like an hour and a half late. But it was amazing. We ate so much. I'm going to make a bold decision and say that all-around, the best table was the Dominican table. They had the best stuff overall. Though each table definitely had their gems. It was just a fun night of food and good people. The missionaries decided to bring green jello as our contribution to the party. I thought it was rather fitting. They also had some native dances from Mexico and Ecuador and one member from El Salvador sang a song that he wrote. It was a really great night.

Sunday was the fun trip back to Far Rockaway. I guess to celebrate the one year mark since Hurricane Sandy, they wanted to do a big event where everyone gathers on the beach and holds hands in a big chain and they take a picture of it and have a small program to say hey we're the Rockaways and we're coming back after Sandy! Or something along those lines at least. We had to leave right as church got out to make it down there. And that was going to be a push to try to make it on time anyways. It's about an hour trip by bus from us to the Rockaway Peninsula. We made it there about 20 minutes late. Bummer. But I was there with my whole district and 4 of the 5 of them have never seen this area before. So I took them for a small tour of the best sights on Belle Harbor. Which essentially include the beach, the Manhattan skyline, and the sunset. And it was a great moment in all of our lives. It was beautiful out there. We were there for maybe 45 minutes, but it was a really nice visit. I even found a family that I helped a year ago. They don't remember me, but I talked with them for a bit and found out how they are doing. They said it's still a struggle, but they're not giving up. They keep fighting every day and they will get their house back to normal soon. That's the Belle Harbor spirit I remember. There are some great people out there.

So it was a good week. We found out on Saturday night, that I will be here for one more transfer. I'm staying for one more round with Elder Spencer. So we're going to make it a good run here. See if we can start making some good progress with the base of people that we've created. It should be a fun transfer.

Elder Erickson

Thursday, October 24, 2013

60th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

The Funky Week     written October 21, 2013

This week was funky. We had President's interviews last Monday, so that switched our p-day to Tuesday. Which in-turn just threw off the whole week. But it was still a good time.

We got to work with another Brazilian visa waiter on Wednesday. We had a number of people to visit and somehow it turned out that nobody was home. Not one of them. So we ended the day at Taco Bell. Not a bad substitute. Disappointing, but it happens. We gave out some English class advertisements along the way, so it went well.

Thursday was an interesting day because my companion had his temple trip. And Elder Goates' companion also had his temple trip. So Goates and I got to be companions for a day again. Those are always fun days. It was a pretty slow day, but we had a good time just chatting about life. The other missionaries taught English class that night while we went to an appointment. But that one cancelled as well, so we ended up coming back to help out for the last bit.

Friday I had an exchange with the zone leaders. Because I'm district leader, I have an exchange with them once a transfer. So I went over to their apartment and stayed the night while one of them came to our apartment and stayed there with Spencer. It might have been a more exciting event, except the zone leaders were prepping for a big less-active blitz the next day. And since I was in their area, I spent most of the day helping him put together these papers and assignments to hand out to people. Not a bad time, just not the most exciting. Somebody's got to do it, right? We had a correlation meeting that day with our ward mission leader. Those usually end poorly. But last Friday, we had the most successful correlation meeting I have ever seen in this area. It was a miracle. He wasn't angry with us, he didn't repeatedly tell us things to do better, he actually told us that we're good missionaries. And he bore this sweet testimony about how grateful he is for all the missionaries and how we're going to be blessed and our families as well. It was really cool.

Which then brings us to Saturday. All of the missionaries in Brooklyn came to our area for the epic less-active blitz again. We did it in the morning this time. We actually found people for a change, so that was exciting. Of the 6 houses we knocked, we found people at 5 of them. I call that a good day. The rest of the day involved playing soccer with some members and an investigator and visiting with a less active member.

Even though it wasn't the most exciting week, it was still a good one. I always enjoy my time with the people here. It is fun to work with people and see them progress over time. Life is good, hope all is well with you guys.

Love you!
Elder Erickson

Saturday, October 19, 2013

59th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

New Investigator Week      written October 15, 2013

I know. What a great title. It's been roughly four transfers since I had a new investigator at church. What up. It was a good week.

Things got started with a fun exchange with Elder Goates. He and I have been friends for a year now, ever since the MTC. And it's just fun to walk around Brooklyn with him. Not a whole lot happened that day, but we taught a bomb English class that night.

Wednesday involved doing service at Prospect Park and another round with a Brazilian elder. Those are always an adventure. It was a different elder this week. He was a bit more gung-ho about his Portuguese and the guy we visited really struggled to understand him. It was still a good time though. We also visited the Quispe family, a super-less active family we've been trying to get to for a while. He is from Peru and he speaks super fast Spanish. It was just to give this elder a taste of what it will be like when he gets to Brazil. These people will talk so freaking fast and good luck understanding them. He was chill about it though, it was another successful night with a Brazilian visa waiter.

Thursday was the big day. We had a huge meeting with all of the missionaries in Brooklyn and Staten Island. And the AP's introduced us to Facebook. It's weird. We're supposed to use it for proselyting here and among our non-member friends back home. But the purposes behind it were very vaguely explained. And a lot of the rules of it were poorly explained as well. So I feel like a lot of it will be experimenting and trying to figure things out as we go. It will certainly be an adventure.

That was also the day we first met with Samuel. He is a guy who has been coming to English classes. He asked me for a Spanish Bible. I was more than happy to hook him up. When I gave it to him, I asked if he would come meet with us to hear a special message about Jesus Christ. So we met with him on Thursday before English classes. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and explained how it works with the Bible to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. He seemed to like it and told us he was already planning to come to church that week. We were so pumped about it. He showed up to church about 15 minutes late, but he brought his cousin and he loved it. He thought the whole thing was great. He didn't stay for the full three hours, but I'll take what I can get. We've got another lesson with him tonight, so we're really excited. Hopefully things go well with him.

Friday we had a very interesting experience. We have been teaching the Castro family for a while. I'm pretty sure I mentioned them last week. We go over there every Friday to meet with Eddie and Rosie and sometimes with their son, Jeremiah. But we went overon Friday to meet with them and they told us how glad they were that we came. They hadn't really ever said that before, so we wondered what was up. It turns out that Rosie had recently lost her job and they were having some legal issues with their son because he's adopted. But because of all the stress and whatnot, Rosie was really having a tough time and she had gotten sick. So we listened to all of their woes and then we shared D&C 121 with her, my favorite when trials come around. Then we gave her a blessing. It was cool because after we finished she told us that she already felt better. It felt significant to me because I felt like I had actually helped somebody after we walked out of their house. I felt like I had made a difference in their lives that night, no matter how small. And even though it was probably more from the spirit and the blessing than anything, I was still there and helped Rosie and Eddie feel loved. Eddie then came to church this last Sunday. The first time he has come since February. If that's not a miracle, then I don't know what is.

Saturday was fun because we got to travel out to another area to help them out with a singing street sweep again. Singing on the streets of Brooklyn and talking to random people is always a good time. Then Sunday brought in the end of the week. It was so cool to see Samuel at church with his cousin and to see Eddie and Rosie together for the first time at church. It was just a great day overall. Even though ward council went long and accomplished nothing, it was okay in my book.

So life is just grand here. Every companionship in my district now has at least one investigator. We haven't seen this for like five or six transfers here now. This is incredible. And looking back, it's amazing to see how far we've come in just three transfers. From a less-active bishop and a bishopric that did nothing and wouldn't let us visit less-actives or teach English classes. We now have a great bishopric that runs ward council every other week. We teach English classes three times a week. And we even have less-actives coming back because of our efforts. We really have come a long way here. Even though we may not be baptizing anybody, these things had to be done before anybody could be baptized here. And I'm happy to have played a role in laying the foundation to make it possible in the future. Thanks for everything and I love you guys so much.

Elder Erickson

Monday, October 7, 2013

58th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Conference!                    Written October 7, 2013

Well it was another week of funky weather here in Brooklyn. Mother Nature needs to make up its mind already. Courtesy of climate change, I managed to come down with a cold last Tuesday. So that was super fun. Luckily we were just teaching English classes that night, so I was able to rest while Elder Spencer helped out with teaching.

I was feeling mostly better by Wednesday evening, which was important because we had a really cool lesson that night. In our mission, we just had a bunch of missionaries come in who are supposed to go to Brazil. But their visas haven't come through yet, so they were reassigned to serve here until they get their visas. We have two of these visa waiters in the English district in our area. They are both in trios, although one of them got put with an English companionship and the other got put with a companionship that teaches entirely in Haitian Creole. Not super convenient for somebody who's trying to learn Portuguese. I question why that was done. But no matter. I felt bad for this guy, Elder Miller, always struggling to understand what was going on in Creole. So I talked with their district leader and I got to take him out teaching with us on Wednesday night. The original plan involved Elder Spencer going with a member, so that Elder Miller could have a chance to not be in a trio. But that fell through, so we just went all three of us to the lesson. I had Elder Miller plan the whole lesson and teach it in Portuguese. It was really cool, the less-active member we taught understood probably 80% of everything he said. And the stuff he didn't understand I just translated into Spanish for him. It was awesome. And I can understand Portuguese too! That was cool, to hear a different language and yet I can just kind of pick out what he's saying. It was just a cool night altogether. Elder Miller was so happy because he understood what was going on for the first time since coming to the mission field. We have since made it a Wednesday night tradition. We're going to alternate with the other visa waiter too, but we're going to get these guys a chance to start teaching in their assigned language for a change. I think it will be a lot of fun.

Moving on from there, we also had a cool day on Friday. We have been working with the Castro family for a while now. The mother got baptized last January and the husband got baptized about a year ago. She still comes when she doesn't have to work, but he has since fallen back into working every Sunday. He hasn't come to church since like January. We have been going over there every Friday to visit with them. They are a really cool family and it's always nice to visit with them, but we had kind of run out of things to share. You can only tell a person that he needs to come to church so many times before it gets pretty old. So we decided to switch up our tactics and talk about conversion instead. That was last week's lesson. We got to eat dinner with them this week, which was way tasty. Brother Castro sure does know how to cook. Then we pulled a complete audible on our lesson. We had something completely different planned, and we ended up talking about how to feel the Spirit for an hour with them. It didn't feel like a lesson, so much as a friendly discussion. And Brother Castro has never participated so much in a lesson before. It was awesome. He actually engaged in conversation with us for a change instead of just us teaching. And at the end, he even asked us a question about how he can help a friend who is struggling. He has never once asked us a question or asked us for help. This was the greatest lesson ever. After months of visits, we have finally managed to gain his trust. I don't know what changed. But I am so glad that it did. Hopefully we'll be able to start making some real progress now with him.

Those are the fun stories from the week. The rest of Saturday and Sunday were pretty much all consumed by watching conference. Although what a great conference it was. I quite enjoyed it. Our ward threw a food party in between the two sessions on Sunday. It was epic. All the members brought a bunch of food and we had the English ward combine with us to have a sweet lunch. No better way to celebrate conference than epic amounts of food.

Things are going well out here. We're just chugging along. The transfer is only halfway over and I think we're still going to do a lot of good before the end of this six-week run. Love you guys and hope all is well!

Elder Erickson

Friday, October 4, 2013

57th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

The Week of Sukot written Sept 30th, 2013

It was a fun week here in Brooklyn. Granted, we really don't have much to do with the Jews and we didn't participate in the week of Sukkot in any way, shape, or form. But it was still fun to walk around and see all of the Sukkots in the street. I like to see when fast food places have them outside that way they can still have Jewish customers. Genius.

So the English ward in Midwood has a list of some 750 less active members that the Stake President is really concerned about. On Wednesday there was an epic less-active blitz organized with all of the missionaries in Brooklyn. We had 70 missionaries in this area, all looking up these names for the English ward. Everybody was split up so we all had new companions for four hours while we searched. It was a lot of fun. I got to be companions with an old friend of mine, Elder Hernandez, and we just went out and looked up addressed. We only found one person on our list, but she happened to be from Puerto Rico, so she spoke Spanish. We chatted for a bit, but she didn't want anything to do with our church. It may not have been a successful night for us, but other people had some pretty good success. I just had a fun time wandering around Brooklyn with Elder Hernandez.

On Friday we had a full night of teaching, it was great. We have kind of made it a tradition to go every Friday with a member in the ward. His name is Miguel Aparicio, a 25 year old return missionary from El Salvador. Way cool dude. I think I've written about him before, but I can't remember. He teaches us Spanish and we teach him English. It's a great deal. But we went out with him and we taught three lessons to less-active members. It was awesome. That's my kind of missionary night.

Saturday was interesting as well because Elder Goates and Elder Hellewell both got sick throughout the day. So the day started with me going with Elder Hellewell to find a referral way in the outskirts of our area. Then, by about 5, he had gotten sick too. So Elder Spencer and I took over their appointment for the night. We went and taught some kids who are members but their parents aren't. They go over every week to help keep the kids solid, so we got to visit for a change. And we got some good Dominican food. Can't go wrong there. After that, we had just enough time to hit up our other appointment with a less active member who is now taking the temple prep classes to return to the temple! I am so excited about that. I've been trying to get him to take these classes for a while, so I'm glad this is finally working out.

That's about it, currently. Not too much going on out here. We finally got our first new investigator from English classes. He was looking for a church to join and Elder Goates and Hellewell taught him the first lesson. It went well and he wants to meet with them again, so we're excited about that. Hopefully he is the first of many to come.

All is well here, hope you guys are doing well too. Thank you for your love and prayers!

Elder Erickson

Friday, September 27, 2013

56th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

New Companion written September 23, 2013
After four and a half months with Elder Rodgers, I finally have a new companion. His name is Elder Spencer. He's a way cool guy from Arizona. He's been out for almost five months, I'm his second companion in the mission field. He's been way out on the tip of Long Island for his mission, so he knows what it's like to have slow days and not much success. Which is good because that's the norm here in Brooklyn. Though we get the lovely addition of crazy people and subway performers. Those are the best.

Let it be known that last Tuesday we set a record for the area of Midwood Spanish. We had 15 people at English class, shattering any and all previous records of missionaries in this area. So we are definitely moving up in the world. We just need to start teaching people from it. If this keeps up, we will have no problems finding people in the future. My fingers are still crossed.

We got to meet with a less active family last week that haven't been to church in a long while. The wife was very excited to tell us that she had recently changed her work schedule so that she would be able to come to church now. We were pumped about it. We even told them we were going to come by Sunday morning so we could walk with them. So we show up on Sunday morning and nobody was home. We gave them a call and their phone is disconnected. So that's always good. Just another day in Brooklyn. Hopefully we can find them again.

We did, however, get to do some solid teaching with a member named Miguel. He is 25 years old, a return missionary from El Salvador. We help him learn English and he helps us learn Spanish. He doesn't do too much during the evenings, so we call him up if we ever need somebody to come teaching with us. It's great. He is the coolest guy ever. He helped us teach a few lessons and we invited him to come play soccer with us while we tried to do some sports finding. I'm not a big fan of sports finding, but my companion loves to play. So I figure it's worth a shot one more time. We met some cool people and got some decent exposure, but nothing too exciting.

There's still not a whole lot going on yet, but things are on the up, so I'm happy about it. The ward council met yesterday and things are finally starting to happen with them. So with just some more time and patience, we'll be flying in no time. And especially with this new companion. I'm so excited to work with Elder Spencer, he is great. I could not ask for a better companion.

Cool story for the week. Last week I was on an exchange with Elder Adams. He was thirsty at one point, so we went to Walgreens to get a drink. And these two people stopped us in the store, a boy and a girl. They looked to be 18 or 19 years old. And they asked us a lot of questions about Mormon beliefs. It was weird because they asked all of the Mormon bashing questions, but then they would never follow up after our answers. Normally people like to ask the question, then when we give an answer, they will try to tell us what we believe. It's great. But these people would just say oh I didn't know that. It was weird. But we talked for some twenty minutes and then they ran out of questions, so they said goodbye and left. We invited them to church, but they didn't seem too keen on coming. A week later, I was walking down the street with Elder Spencer and the same girl from before chased us down to talk with us. She had some girl with her, who looked about the same age, maybe a little older. The girl from before told us that her friend had some questions about Mormons. So I talked with her a bit and explained our beliefs. Then offered if she would be interested in sitting down with missionaries and she said that she would love to. So I gave her the phone number for the English sisters and she gave me her number to have them call her. It was just cool that a random encounter that I had a week before would end up with somebody meeting with missionaries. And that's the cool story for the week. 

Hope you're all doing well and best of luck out there!

Love,    Elder Erickson

Friday, September 20, 2013

55th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

I Saw Bill Murray.... Written September 16, 2013

For real, I did. Story to come later.

This week was great. We got it started with another round of English classes. And we had a bunch of new people there. We are finally picking up some steam here. I had an exchange with Elder Adams and we had the most successful day I've had in a while. We got in contact with the Quispe family, who I have been looking for almost a month now. They are super nice people. We got an appointment with them for this week and the wife told me that she has been wanting to come back to church for a while now. So this is great. We also looked up a former investigator. The outside of his apartment looked pretty sketchy but it was way nice when we got in. He hadn't talked with missionaries for a year and a half, but he was happy to see us and told us that we should come back next week. Those two interactions and getting to see the light from the freedom tower on September 11, made that day awesome.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but I was asked to play the piano for a concert in Queens. We had a practice for it on Thursday and I sight-read O Divine Redeemer. That was a party. The sister missionary I was playing for had never sung it with a piano before and I had never played it in this key before, so we had an adventure. It was actually pretty good. We did some practicing afterwards to improve things. 

Elder Kaleb Erickson with the Midwood Brooklyn District 9/16/2013
Left to right: Elder Adams, me, Sister Jorgensen, Sister Franklin, Elder Rodgers, Elder Goates

Friday I did splits with a member for the first time ever. It was a lot of fun. The bishop came with us and another member named Miguel. Elder Rodgers went with the bishop and I went with Miguel and we all hit up lessons in different areas of Brooklyn. It was awesome. Miguel is from El Salvador and is a return missionary, so he was loving the chance to get back in the game for a bit. He's a great guy. We taught some solid lessons that night.

Saturday was the big concert in Jamaica, Queens. It was at a food court near the church out there. It was on the way out that I met Bill Murray. We were on the F train and I noticed this guy standing on the train. And he looked exactly like Bill Murray. I told Elder Goates and Sister Franklin and they agreed but thought that it probably wasn't him. I wasn't willing to accept that. So after some deliberation, I went up and asked him. He told me that he gets it all the time, but that he isn't Bill Murray. I told him that he was still looking good. He got out on the next stop. That's such a Bill Murray thing to do. He wouldn't admit to me that it was him. I'm still convinced that it was Bill Murray, regardless of what Elder Goates and Sister Franklin say.

So we got to the concert. It went pretty well. We all had a fun time. The acoustics in the building were terrible. But it was still fun anyways. After the concert, we had quite the adventure. We were walking back to the train to go home. It was me and Elder Goates and two sisters from our area. And this Muslim guy stopped me and asked if I was Mormon. I told him I was and he asked me to explain what we believe. I was a little concerned that this guy was a basher, because I really didn't want to fight with anybody at that point. But he listened for a bit and asked another question. Then he said hold on, I work at a religious studies school and we have always wondered what Mormons believe. But we don't trust the internet, so we have always wanted to ask you guys. Would you mind stopping by our school and just having a religious discussion about what you guys believe?

This was too good of an opportunity to pass up! We all agreed to go and we followed this guy a couple of blocks to his school. He set up a meeting with the dean and we all sat down and discussed our respective religions. It was fascinating. It cleared up a number of misconceptions I had about Muslims. And it was very interesting to explain things to someone without a Christian background. There was no arguing, just explaining. It was awesome. We gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon and they gave us each a copy of the Quran. They were all very nice people. I would say that it was one of the coolest experiences on my mission. To sit in this school with three Muslims and discuss our religions. Their beliefs are similar to ours in so many ways, but so far apart in other ways. It was great. We ended up chatting with them for three hours. We had to take a five minute break for them to do their evening prayers. They are required to pray five times a day at specific hours. I was hoping to see them pray, but we didn't get the chance. It was still super cool though.

And yesterday was fun because we found this big street fair and we decided to wander around and hand out English class flyers. It was a party. Nothing like a party in Brooklyn. So much going on, so much noise and so many good smelling foods. I only wish it hadn't been on a Sunday.

Transfers are tomorrow. Elder Rodgers is leaving and I'll be getting a new companion. It's always nice to have some change in the world. Things are just picking up here, so it is a good time to come to Midwood. Things are finally cooling down here too, thank goodness for Fall. I am loving the cool weather.

Elder Erickson

Friday, September 13, 2013

54th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Finally -  written Sept 9, 2013

Well English classes are finally underway. It only took us four months of begging, pleading, and waiting. But we finally started. And boy howdy has it turned things around for everyone. They aren't even super successful yet, but just the knowledge that we are finally doing something tangible that we can all see and participate in is a huge help morale-wise. Our first class we had four people. Two members and two non-members. The next class we were down to three, two members and one non-member. And our third class we had nobody. But there was a ward bbq going on at the same time, so I'm not too worried about it.
Something about having the English classes every other day made this week seem so busy. It was great. On Wednesday I got to go to the temple for my year mark. My whole district from the MTC was there with us, it was a lot of fun. It was such a calm and peaceful day and it was much needed. Elder Goates and I got to travel to it together and we stayed on exchanges for the rest of the day, just wandering around and handing out English class fliers. It was an awesome day.
Friday was also awesome because we had a packed night. We had three appointments, every hour from 6 until 9. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, but this rarely happens in my life. It was a lot of fun to rush from one appointment to the next. The second one was cut short because he was sick. So we gave him a blessing and we had plenty of time to head out to the next appointment. The best of times on the mission are when you're busy and meeting with people. It's great.
Saturday we had an adventure because we all had to go get flu shots. So we went to Rite Aid and they hooked us up. Then we went to Taco Bell to celebrate getting flu shots. Then we headed out to the ward bbq. The last one the ward had was kind of lackluster, but this one was a bumping party. Everyone and their dog came to this one. We were playing baseball and frisbee, everyone was having a good time. It was a shame that we had to leave to go to English classes. Elder Goates and I just went with the hopes that maybe one person would show up. There wasn't anybody. But we enjoyed chatting until everyone came back from the bbq. At which point we headed out to an area called Bay Ridge, where we had our whole zone come and sing hymns on the street to try to catch people's attention. We call them singing street sweeps. It's always a good time.
But anyways, things are moving along here. Ward council yesterday was still an overly long, very boring meeting, but the bishop is making things happen. Something that this ward has needed for a long time. So hopefully with more time and faith, we will see Midwood Spanish start to blossom soon.

Elder Erickson

Sunday, September 8, 2013

53rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Another Week of Good Times!   Written September 3, 2013

I really don't have that much to report on this week. The most
exciting thing is that tonight will be our first day of English
classes. I could not be more excited about it. We are finally going to
start making things happen around here!

In other news, we had four less actives at church on Sunday. That was
awesome to see. It's so great when people you're working with come
back because then you can see that your efforts are actually having an
effect on someone. It was a good Sunday.

Fun facts you can share with your seminary class:  the Seven
Eleven in the jewish communities will sell Kosher slurpees. Didn't
even know that was a real thing. They taste exactly the same as non
Kosher slurpees. But you can tell your class that I've now had Kosher
slurpees. And they can be jealous of me. Hahahaha.

Yes, I do love the people of Brooklyn. You have to after living with
them for so long. They are a bit rough around the edges, but they're
really good people. I have seen some awesome interactions among people
here. People will always give up their seat in the subway for an
elderly person or a pregnant woman or a mother with small children.
It's really cool to see. They're just good people. Albeit a little
scary sometimes. I find that New York is really only scary late at
night. And we don't hang out late at night, so that's not an issue.

I wish I had a cool story or something. I think the best part of the
week was yesterday evening. All six of us missionaries got invited to
a family home evening at a member's home. She made us all dinner and
we taught a lesson and played a game. There were six youth there and
two mothers. It was an awesome night. We all had so much fun. We got
some legit Dominican food and one of the missionaries taught a lesson
on continually trying our best, even when we mess up. It was a fun
night for all.

Also in exciting news is that yesterday it was announced that we are
all going to get Facebook as missionaries. It won't be mission-wide
until October, but we are going to start using Facebook, Twitter,
blogs, and Skype to start proselyting. I have no idea how it's going
to work. It will be an adventure. We're also all getting mini-iPads by
December. Things are changing rapidly, it's crazy.

Here's to success with English classes, it is going to be a great week!

Elder Erickson

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

52nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

A Slow Start    written August 26, 2013

This was the first Sunday with our new bishop. Things aren't magically perfect, but the wheels of improvement are definitely in motion. Ward council still resulted in a lot of pointless arguing, but at least the bishop took control and gave out assignments. If people will actually do them, we will get things moving again. It will be great.
The party got started last Tuesday. I had an exchange with one of the zone leaders. Every transfer the district leaders have to go on an exchange with one of the zone leaders. I was with Elder McDonald. It was a pretty uneventful day. We did the usual missionary stuff. It was interesting because he is an English elder and I'm Spanish. So he would talk to English people and I would talk to Spanish. We only had one lesson that day, but I just taught it. It went pretty well. He tried to keep up with our conversation, but the guy we were teaching liked to talk really fast. I was struggling to keep up, so McDonald didn't have much of a chance. It still went well though. He gave us some deli sandwiches that were super tasty. It was a great day.
Wednesday we went to visit a family that we dropped from teaching a while back. We found out that the mother had recently had a stroke, so we made them cookies and went to see how she was doing. She was in bed, so we chatted with her husband for a bit. They were very grateful to us for the cookies, it was nice to take them over to show that we still care about them.
Thursday was my year mark! Hurray! There was a practice that day for a big musical event in Queens. Four people from my zone were asked to be in it, so we all traveled out to the practice. It's funny how long it takes to get from Brooklyn to Queens by train. It's ridiculous. But we went and practiced and we're going to perform at a food court in Queens in September. It should be fun.
Friday we finally had a much needed interview with Brother Cuevas, the now 1st counselor in the bishopric. He has been placed in charge of missionary work, so we met with him and discussed what we were going to do in the ward with missionary work. It was really helpful. That's where we finally finalized English classes to start on September 3rd.
Saturday we had the year mark celebration. There's another elder in my district, Elder Goates, who was in the MTC with me. So it was both of our year marks. And it was one of the sister's 6 month marks. So we all went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch. It was awesome. There is nothing like a party at Buffalo Wild Wings. The day continued when we had a meeting with the ward mission leader and he randomly decided to bring us a pizza for dinner. Such a great day.
So things are going well. Not immediately better, but definitely looking up. And what more can I really ask for?
Elder Erickson

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

51st Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

New Bishop    written August 19, 2013

Yesterday was a glorious day. We finally got a new bishop! Things are finally going to start moving in this ward! Now we just need to get English classes going and we would be unstoppable!
Not too much happened this week. We had a number of appointments and they managed to all cancel on us. Not entirely sure how that happened. But that's just mission life. We did manage to throw a semi-successful movie night on Friday though. We had a number of members come and brought a bunch of food. We watched Wreck-It Ralph. I only saw bits and pieces, but it looks like a very cute movie.
The coolest part of this week took place part on Saturday and part on Sunday. Elder Goates and Elder Adams had a baptism for a young man named Kevin they have been working with. He is only ten years old, but he is a sharp kid. His mother is a less active member who hasn't come to church in a number of months. Kevin had only been to church a couple of times, but he loved it and wanted nothing more than to get baptized. They had a neighbor who is an active member named Sister Bonilla. Every Sunday since the missionaries first met with Kevin, he has gone over to Sister Bonilla's house every Sunday morning to knock on her door and get a ride to church. He has been showing up an hour early every week because he is so excited to go to church.
So the elders taught him the lessons and prepared him for baptism. His mother also wanted him to get baptized. Although she still had not been to church yet. The baptism was on Saturday and the mother came with her sister and her sister's kids who are also less active members. The baptism went well, Kevin was excited, there was lots of food afterwards. On Sunday he was confirmed a member of the church. When I interviewed him for baptism, he asked me how to know if you are feeling the spirit. I told him that was a very good question. I discussed with him how every person feels it differently. It might come as a feeling in his heart or good thoughts to his mind, or he might just feel happy. He would have to figure it out on his own. After sacrament meeting, Kevin came up to me. He told me that after he got confirmed, he was praying to Heavenly Father. And he felt a warm feeling in his heart! He was so excited to tell me that he now knows how to feel the spirit and so now he'll be able to follow the gift of the Holy Ghost when it tried to tell him things. On top of that, Elder Goates talked with his mother, who came to church. She told him that she felt something at the baptism that she hasn't felt in a long time. And she has come to the conclusion that she needs to come back to church. She said that she knows this is where she needs to be. She even paid tithing for the first time in a year yesterday. 

It was just really cool to see things work out for this sweet family. I'm excited to see the two of them in church every week. And we even got an appointment to have dinner with the mother's less active sister this week, so hopefully we'll get her coming back to church soon too.
That's the inspiring story for the week. The church is true and the Gospel changes lives. That's the key to missionary work. It wouldn't work any other way.

Elder Erickson