Wednesday, February 27, 2013

26th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Six Months!!!

Can you believe it's already been six months? Where did all the time go? Ever since the hurricane, time has just flown by. It's absolutely unbelievable. 

This last week has been an adventure, as with every week I'm out here. I have been working with Elder Hart to show him the ropes of missionary work. It's good for me because it makes me go back to the basics of missionary work. I think that's the best way to do it. Elder Hart has an awesome testimony and he loves to share it with people. He's a great missionary. All he needs is some experience in the field and some more Spanish practice and he'll be unstoppable. 

When it comes to Spanish, we are an interesting team. I can't understand what people are saying to me to save my life. But I can more or less say whatever I want to say. And Elder Hart can understand a lot more than I can, but he sometimes struggles with how to say things. So we tend to have to work together. It's good for us. 

This week was all about the big concert in Belle Harbor last night. We spent all the time we could going from house to house, telling people about the concert. We even brought the whole zone out here on Saturday to help advertise for it. It was a huge advertising campaign. We did some solid work. The concert was last night and we probably had about 80 people there. It was incredible. We taught the Restoration to 80 people via music and a really well-written script. I don't know that everybody exactly understood what we were telling them, but people seemed to enjoy it. And the musical numbers were all really good. I planned all of the music, so I was really happy when it was all over. I wish I could have recorded it to send you a copy, but it wouldn't have the same feeling on tape as it did in person. 

In other news, the zone leaders decided last night would be a good time to go driving on the sand. They managed to get their Toyota Corolla stuck and called us frantically at 9:30 at night. We drove over and tried to push it out, but the wheels had dug in and so the body of the car was resting on sand. They had no idea what to do. It was in a super awkward position for the car, so it wasn't going to be easy to call a tow truck or anything like that. So this morning, we borrowed some shovels from a member and we started digging the car out. We dug for about an hour and a half and weren't really having any success yet. Then Elder Mitchell (one of the ZL's) and I decided to try to rock the car out of the sand. We started the rocking and it started moving! We got all four elders rocking the car back and forth and we finally managed to push it out. It was a crazy way to start the morning. 

That's about all there is to report for now. Next week will hopefully be more normal, but we've got a couple of days of service planned and Elder Hart and I might be making refreshments for a small wedding this Friday, so it should be a fun week! Tonight we have an appointment with a new investigator in Spanish. It will be the first time I've ever taught a Spanish investigator. Sounds crazy right? Six months out and I've only taught English investigators so far. But there's a first for everything right? Love you all and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Erickson

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

25th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Hey Mom and Dad!

So I got the call last Wednesday that I was going to train this transfer and I met the new missionary at transfer meeting today. I'm happy to report that we're staying in Far Rockaway for probably the next three months at least. I've been here four already, bring on the next three. I'm loving it here still. My companion's name is Elder Hart, he's from Logan, Utah. He's a really awesome guy, I'm really excited to work with him. The best part is that he got baptized about 16 months ago, so he's really excited to work out here. It's going to be a great transfer, we're going to do some solid work here. 

Not much has really changed from last week. We're getting more organized to put on this concert this coming Sunday. It's going to be an awesome concert. This week is dedicated to spreading flyers for the concert. That's really our only goal at this point. Spread the word as much as possible to get as many people as we can at the concert. Then they'll hopefully feel the Spirit and want to learn more. 

Last Sunday was quite the day. Things got started in Sacrament Meeting. Scott Madden was going to be confirmed by his brother, David. When he got up to the front, he decided that he wanted me to do it. I was completely unprepared, but I got up and confirmed him a member of the church. It was actually a really cool experience. Then, right after Sacrament Meeting, we went in the Branch President's office and I got to give him the Aaronic Priesthood and ordain him as a priest. That was pretty cool too. He had already been interviewed and the Branch President presented him to the branch right after his confirmation. So Scott is really progressing a lot. We're hopefully going to get him to the temple soon to do baptisms for the dead. The only dilemma is that the temple is closed at the moment. So hopefully we can get him there soon. 

I got to teach seminary again after church, always an adventure. I got no preparation time, as usual, so I just winged it. It wasn't perfect, but it hopefully taught the kids something new. After seminary, we went right over to the chapel in Lynbrook for another baptism in the Rockaway Branch. We use the chapel in Lynbrook because it's the closest chapel with a baptismal font in it. It was a 17 year old girl named Aliyah that the AP's have been teaching. She's pretty cool because she has a friend in the branch her age named Sam who brought her to church one Sunday. The missionaries started meeting with her and she loved it and now she's baptized. She's got a really solid testimony. The baptism was really nice. Usually at baptisms, the complaint is that the water is too cold. The funny part about Aliyah's baptism was that the water was too hot. That literally never happens, so it was hilarious. They opened up the doors to the baptismal font and steam started pouring out. Elder Munday stepped in the water and said nope, this water is way too hot to baptize someone in. We started draining some water and pouring in cold water. Someone ran to the kitchen and brought in a bag of ice to throw in the water. After about ten minutes, it was cool enough to baptize her, though it was still pretty hot water. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience though. Aliyah joked that she must have prayed too hard for the water to be warm. 

We had a cool lesson with Lisa last week. I was on exchanges with one of the zone leaders, Elder Mitchell, and we pretty much taught her all the commandments of the church in one lesson. Usually those are split up between multiple lessons, but she was loving it so we kept teaching them. All she needs is to come to church and we can set a baptismal date with her. I'm really excited to keep working with her. Hopefully we can have a good lesson with her this week and get her to church this Sunday and definitely get her family to come to the concert too. That would be super cool. 

So I'm still working hard out here. I'm really excited to get this brand new missionary. Elder Hart is ready to work hard and from talking with him so far, he's going to make a really good missionary. This is going to be a great transfer. 

Love you guys!

Elder Erickson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

24th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway New York

First Baptism!      Writing Feb 11, 2013

We got the baptizing party in Far Rockaway started yesterday with the baptism of Scott Madden. It was a really nice service. His brother, David, got to baptize him and Elder Wolfe went in the font to help out. Scott has come a long way since we first met him and he is going to make a great member of this church. Hopefully this is the first of many baptisms to come here in Rockaway. 

   Baptism of Scott Madden Feb 2013

So let's see, this was kind of a slow week. We've been doing a lot of lookups in Belle Harbor and not having huge amounts of success. I think I'm expecting too much from it though. I can't expect everybody to welcome us in their homes and want us to teach them everything we know. We've had three people ask us to come back and teach them something, which I think is incredible. That in itself is a miracle because six months ago, none of these people would even open their doors for us, let alone invite us inside to talk with them. So we are making definite progress, it's just slower than I originally expected it to go. 

We had a cool lesson with Lisa and Terrance last week. We've been trying to meet with him for a while to teach him the restoration and he was there when we went by to say hello. He said that if we had some time, we should teach him whatever we had now. So Elder Pearce and I threw together a lesson really quickly. We decided not to teach the Restoration because it wasn't quite the best setting for it with their kids running around and whatnot. We decided to teach about the Atonement because that's always a good topic for a lesson. We showed them a talk that Jeffrey R. Holland gave called None Were With Him. I wasn't quite sure where to go after that, so I said a quick prayer, opened my mouth, and started talking. I really can't remember exactly what I said to them. It was something along the lines of a promise that the spirit that they can feel in the room with us is the same holy spirit that testifies of truth and it will be present whenever we talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and he will feel it when he attends our services on Sunday and by that spirit, he can know that we are testifying of truth. It was really helpful because he finally expressed to us his concerns that we're trying to convert him and he's happy where he is. We told him that was great and our only goal is to strengthen his faith in Christ. Lisa says that she doesn't feel fulfilled at their church though and that's why she wants to try out the Mormon church. So we invited her to come to our services on Sunday to experience it for herself. I think they're both going to progress in their own time, we just need to get them to church. She didn't come yesterday because the snow storm moved back a wedding shower to Sunday afternoon. 

It was the heartbreak of the week for me when she didn't come to church. But that's okay, life goes on. Through a series of last minute and sudden events, I ended up teaching the Gospel Doctrine class and seminary after church. It's a good thing my mother taught me a bit about teaching seminary. Two hours is a long time to keep these kids paying attention. But we pulled it off and headed straight to the baptism after that. 

LDS Temple in Manhatten, NY

Elder Kaleb Erickson at the NYC Temple

The baptism was really the crowning event of the week, not too much happened aside from that. The snow storm that apparently was supposed to be a big deal, really wasn't. We only got like 8 inches here. Since we couldn't go out and work that night, we had a party in the APs apartment with all the elders in Far Rock. It was a pretty fun night. 

I just keep thinking back to what I was doing a year ago and here I am now, a 19 year old in Far Rockaway, New York, teaching people about Jesus Christ, telling people twice my age that they need to get married, helping people give up addictive substances, trying to bring a message of hope to people who are really living tough, tough lives out here. It's amazing how different my circumstances are now than they were a year ago. Serving a mission is such an incredible experience. I don't even know where to begin in describing everything I've experienced and learned so far. I just know that I'm doing the Lord's work and I couldn't be happier to be doing it. 

Elder Erickson

Monday, February 4, 2013

23rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, New York

All About People Skillz.          Writing Feb 4, 2013

Far Rockaway is always an adventure. I feel like I say that all the time. But that's because it really is an adventure. Nothing really major happened this week, but hopefully this week, we're going to do some solid work out there. I'm feeling really good about it. 

So we have a list of all the people that received help from the Mormon Helping Hands after the hurricane. We have split up the names as a district and our job is to visit every single person on the list for three reasons. One, to ask how they're doing and make sure they're okay. Two, to see if they need anymore help that we can viably do. Three, to ask if they would like to have us return to share a special message about Jesus Christ. The list is huge and we've only scratched the surface of it, but people are always so happy to see us still in the area. And everyone is always very willing to listen to the message. We haven't returned to teach anyone yet, but we've got a couple appointments set up for this week. It's going to be a really cool week with all these new people to meet. It's always a tricky approach when you knock one of the doors on this list. My companion and I are pretty big guys. Wearing suits, we can be kind of intimidating. People are always super apprehensive at first, but you just have to keep the conversation going and people very quickly warm up to us. It's all about people skills out here. 

In other news, we have put together a baller Restoration Concert. I did all the music, with the help of my companion Elder Pearce. We just have to call missionaries now, to make sure they're good to perform it. I think it's going to be really good. Some people are going to think it's boring, but I also think that a lot of people are going to be touched by the message and be more willing to listen to us. I'm really excited to get things moving on that. 

Our investigator, Scott Madden, was supposed to get baptized yesterday, but unfortunately he came down with a cold, so we had to move it back to next week. Not too big a deal though, he'll still get baptized next week. He seems pretty excited about it, so we're happy that he's making this covenant with God. I just pray every day that he doesn't relapse with his pipe smoking and that he'll continue progressing and make it to the temple someday after his baptism. 

I forgot to mention last week, but we started teaching English classes. We put up a ton of flyers all over Far Rockaway that we're teaching English to Spanish speaking people. We hold them at the church, so that way people are comfortable with coming to the church and know where it is. We also share a spiritual message at the end of every class to get people comfortable with missionaries sharing spiritual messages. It's a really fun experience to teach English to all these Hispanic people. I find that I get better at Spanish when I teach the classes because we have to explain things in Spanish and answer questions, so that's always helpful. The most incredible part about the classes was that we had 31 people on the second day of the classes. That's unbelievable. The other missionaries here who have taught English classes in the past, had to do the classes for 4 or 5 weeks before they got even close to that many. And we pulled it off on the second day. Far Rockaway is doing pretty solid work. 

That's about it for the time being. Though I do have kind of a funny story about Spanish. Last week, I translated for a woman in the branch who had a meeting with the branch president. Our branch president only speaks English and this woman is from Guatemala, so I went in to translate. She actually speaks pretty good English, but brought me in, I think just in case she needed help and probably to help boost my confidence in Spanish. It all went pretty well until near the end. The president said, "You need to do your part, and I'll do my part." I don't really know the word for "part" in Spanish, so I guessed. I told her "Usted necesita hacer su parto." It seemed like a good guess to me. She looked shocked and really confused, then realized what I meant and told me the word is "parte." It doesn't seem like too big of a difference, I figured it just wasn't a real word in Spanish. A few days later, we were visiting her at her house and she informed me what parto means in Spanish. Apparently, the translation of what I said is "You need to go into labor." Hence the initial shock and confusion. We all had a good laugh at it though. And now I know for the future. I figure we all need a couple good Spanish mis-translation stories in our lives. And I think that one is hilarious. 

But we're still working hard out here. There are so many people to meet and just not enough time in the transfer. There's only two weeks left in the transfer and oh what I wouldn't give to stay here for another transfer. I won't know for another two weeks, but I'm really hoping they leave me here again. I've come to love this place too much for my own good. Well I hope everyone is doing well in Simi. I love you and miss you a lot! Hope you have a great week!

Elder Erickson