Saturday, March 30, 2013

30th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Hey Mom and Dad!      Written March 25, 2013

The work continues here in Far Rockaway!  
We finally met with Osiris, the Hispanic woman who got an answer about the Book of Mormon. She had met with missionaries before in El Salvador, but didn't know too much. So we taught her the story of the Restoration. She enjoyed it and when we invited her to be baptized, she said she's open to it but she wants to learn a little bit more before she agrees to a date. So we're very excited about that.
We also got a new investigator in Belle Harbor last week. We may have unknowingly also broken the Word of Wisdom at that same meeting. It was a super nice woman that we met when we were advertising the Restoration Concert. We came back to visit with her. She always offers us a warm drink when we come by, usually coffee or tea. We always tell her no and settle for a cup of water. When we visited her this week, it was a pretty cold day and she insisted on a warm drink. I asked if she had some hot chocolate and she said she did. She came back with a couple of flavor choices. Elder Hart and I both decided on chocolate carmel. Sounds like a good choice to me. She brought out two big cups of the stuff, lots of whipped cream on top. That's what's up. We drank them and talked with her for a while. It was not very good tasting hot chocolate. Pretty watered down. The meeting went well, we talked about faith in Jesus Christ and why that is important, then we introduced the Book of Mormon. She was very open to it and agreed to read and pray about the section we left with her. It was a really good lesson. We walked outside and Elder Hart turns to me and asks how the hot chocolate tasted. I said I thought it was pretty crappy hot chocolate. He said that it tasted bad because it was not hot chocolate, but a capuccino. He realized what it was just as he was finishing it. He recognized the taste because he used to drink a lot of coffee before his baptism. We had a pretty good laugh at that one. We'll probably have to explain the Word of Wisdom on our next visit.
Saturday was an awesome day because we got to go to the temple to do Baptisms for the Dead with Scott Madden. I think the most exciting part of the adventure was that we took the train all the way there. Usually we'd just take the A train all the way from Far Rockaway to Manhattan. But the A train is down in Far Rock due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. So instead we had to take a shuttle bus from Rockaway to JFK Airport where we then hooked up with the A train to take us into Manhattan. But then another part of the A train was down, so we had to go on the F train and reconnect with the A train. It was pretty crazy, but we made it in the end. And baptisms went really well. They needed more priesthood to help out, so we got to do a lot of work that day. We took the train and shuttle back and made it just in time to teach English classes at the chapel.
Yesterday was a really cool day because Elder L. Tom Perry from the Quorum of the Twelve came to speak in Long Island at a stake conference. It wasn't our stake, but we got invited to come. At the conference, President Calderwood spoke, the area seventy spoke, and then L. Tom spoke. It was a really nice conference. I wish we could have gotten some of our investigators there, but such is life. I'm sorry they missed out on such a great opportunity to hear an apostle of the Lord speak. He is quite the charismatic guy at 90 years old. I think that was the best part, that he was so happy during the whole talk.
So we're just going to have to keep doing our best and invite people to come unto Christ. We've got a lot of work to do still and we can't do any of it without the Lord to help us out. Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Elder Erickson

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

29th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Worshipping Pagan Saints....  written March 18, 2013

Hey Mom and Dad!
Quite the title, I know. It refers to a story that happened yesterday, I'll get to it in a moment.
So this was another fun week in the Rockaways! I guess it's always a fun week in the Rockaways though. We tried doing a bit of normal missionary door knocking in a non-Belle Harbor area last Tuesday. We had a day full of rejection. We went from place to place trying to find anyone willing to listen and we just got dominated everywhere. It was pouring rain at one point when we happened to be knocking some doors outside. After that we decided it was time to go dry off. We headed over to a grocery store nearby and used the blowdryer in the bathroom to dry off our suits. I like to call that a missionary moment. For the rest of the day, more knocking, more lookups, nothing but rejection. At the end of the day, it was like 8:40 and we had still gotten nothing that day. It was too late to really knock any more doors and we had to head home soon. So we just walked to the beach and enjoyed the crashing waves for five minutes. Another glorious missionary moment. It was a really disappointing day, but it was still a good day because we tried our best and we did all we could.
Friday we tried to get involved in a community event. It was described as a movie night for survivors and volunteers of Hurricane Sandy. Well that's us. So we thought we'd go and try to meet families to possibly teach. On the way there we saw a car stuck on the side of the road so we stopped and helped some people who had a flat tire. Good thing my companion is a genius with cars. Because I would have taken a very long time to change that tire and probably screwed it up in the end. It turned out the people were going to the same event as us. They were super excited that the Mormon Helping Hands had helped them change their flat tire. Crowning event of the night for them. At the actual event, it wasn't a very good turn out. There were maybe twenty people there. They pretty much all knew each other and we didn't know anybody beforehand. We talked with a lot of people, but nobody was interested. Met some very nice people though.
Saturday was exciting, we had a baptism in the branch. He's a really nice guy named Mario. He's from Italy, and he speaks Spanish, English, and Italian. I think that's amazing right there. His mother came to see the baptism. She only speaks Italian. It was interesting because she could understand us for the most part when we spoke Spanish, but we couldn't understand a thing she was saying. It was a very nice baptism. Now we just need to get his wife and two kids baptized. That's the next step there. I think they'll come along with time.
I think the most exciting part of the week was yesterday. Elder Hart and I were all decked out in St. Patrick's Day adornments. Green ties, the shamrock pins that you sent us, and big smiles on our faces. We were going to go out to Belle Harbor and just talk to everyone we could. It's a super Irish community, so we figured we were a shoe-in at every door. So we picked a street and the plan was to knock one side of the street all the way down and the other side back up. It was going well. We met a few very nice people. Nobody was interested, but everybody recognized who we were and thanked us for the help after the hurricane. One guy invited us in to chat for a bit. It turns out some other missionaries had met with them and so they talked with us for a bit. We kept on knocking and this woman opens the door and tells us to come on in. It sounded like there was a bunch of people in the house and they were all pretty excited that some brothers were here. Then they said wait, you're not brothers. Who are you? I told her we are Mormons and she told us that we could leave. I said fair enough. But as we walked out she said unless you'd like to stay and get taught. We're also having dinner if you'd like to join us. I told her that we'd love to stay and discuss our religions with them and that we'd be happy to join them for dinner. At which point she asked us if we were hungry. I asked if she meant hungry for the word of God or for actual food. She said actual food.
So we went in the dining room, there were six people sitting around the table. We found out that they were all Jehovah's Witnesses. We sat down and enjoyed some wonderful pasta and meatballs with some sparkling water. It was a really nice dinner. They began by pointing out the shamrocks on our suits and how that clearly meant that we worship pagan saints. They didn't give us a chance to explain why we were wearing green, but made sure to tell us that we worship pagan saints. Then they started asking us some questions about what we teach and what our purpose is as missionaries. It was quite the interesting experience. They dove into their schpeal about Jehovah and the Bible. We listened to everything and asked questions about things explained unclearly or potential flaws in their interpretation. They were very good at ignoring our questions and moving on, or simply telling us that the King James version of the Bible isn't as accurate as their New Interpreted version. My favorite line was when one woman said, "You must be quaking in your boots right now to hear a woman preach to you about the Bible." We told them that we weren't really concerned. They taught us all about the Bible for 45 minutes, at which point I asked them if I could have a few minutes to explain our beliefs to them now. They said that would be okay. But as soon as I started talking they would interrupt me with arguments and talking. Eventually I just kept talking over them and did the best I could to explain the restoration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a few sentences. I don't know that they got anything out of it, but I had to try. In the end, we all agreed that nobody was going to convince anybody. We all have faith in God, whatever you want to call him by, and we're all doing our best in this life. It was quite the adventure though. I don't think that happens very often. Two Mormon missionaries sitting down to dinner with six Jehovah's Witnesses.
I guess if I learned anything from the whole event, it's that I'm really grateful for my testimony of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it really helped strengthen my testimony that Jesus Christ is the son of God. And that it is only through faith in him and obedience to the commandments of God that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father again after this life. That we have a loving Heavenly Father that knows each of us personally. And that He wants the best for us. And that even though we mess up all the time, He will always love us and forgive us of our mistakes through our faith in His son and his Atonement.
I'm doing well out here, just trying my best to help others come unto Christ. Thanks for all the love and support, I miss you guys a lot! Hope you have a great week!
Elder Erickson

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

28th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway NY

All About Spanish   written March 11, 2013

Hey Mom and Dad!
This week was a really cool week for Spanish. It all got started last Monday. We've been teaching these English classes for like 8 weeks. We always share a spiritual thought at the end of the classes and we try to talk to people to ask if we can share a message with them. It was going well, but not like we had originally hoped. So we decided to go big or go home. For the spiritual thought on Monday we passed out a copy of the Book of Mormon in Spanish to everybody there. I volunteered to teach the lesson on it. So here I am, standing in front of 40-some Hispanics, just testifying of the Book of Mormon. It was awesome. I explained how it can help us strenghten our faith in Jesus Christ and we read some of the introduction. Then we read Moroni 10:3-5 and I explained the promise that they can know for themselves if the book is true. Then I asked them all to read chapter 10 of Moroni and pray about it. It lasted about twenty minutes of me testifying to these people in Spanish. I've never felt so cool in my entire life.
We saw the first fruits of it, two days later. On Wednesday, we were on the way to the classes, when Elder Mitchell texted us. He said there was a woman waiting for us at the church. We showed up and asked her what she needed. We had never talked to this woman before. I had no idea who she was. She told us she was waiting for the classes. I said great, the classes start at 7, then I went to go set up. Elder Mitchell talked to her a bit and she told him that she was waiting for me and my companion. He came over to me and said look, this woman is here to talk to you, go teach her now. I don't know why she's here, but this is God's hand at work. I said great, we're on it.
We sat down with her and two other people waiting for classes joined us. I really had no idea what to do with this lesson here. Elder Hart started talking about the Book of Mormon and the woman pulled out a copy of it. I asked her where she got it. Turns out she was in the class on Monday when we passed them out. I asked if she had read any of it and she said that she read the chapter I asked them to. I asked if she had prayed about it. She told us that she knelt and prayed and after the prayer she waited ten minutes and didn't get an answer. Then as she was about to get up, she felt this warmth and she said that she gained faith that this book is true. I looked at Elder Hart and we were both blown away. This was a miracle as far as I'm concerned. We talked with her about what she needs to do now and that we wanted to meet with her to talk more about the Book of Mormon. She said I don't have time this week, but I want to come to church on Sunday. We got her phone number and were super excited about it all. The sad ending to this awesome story is that she didn't come to church yesterday. But hopefully she'll come to the classes tonight and we'll be able to talk to her about it. It was a testimony to me that God really has prepared people to hear our message.
Last week my companion got pretty sick, so we had to take it easy for a few days. We didn't quite get to teach as much as usual, but we had another miracle yesterday when Lisa came to church. I have never been so happy on a Sunday. For almost five months I've been trying to get her to church and it finally happened. I was so nervous that it wasn't going to go well. It was dangerous because the sacrament meeting topic was geneology and it was going to be all in Spanish. We have headphones that the English speakers wear and a live translator as the speaker is going. So it works, but it's not the same. But all my fears and worries were for naught. At the end of the meeting, she told us she enjoyed it all and she is actually interested in geneology work. Her only question was about the coming of Elijah, which we'll have to explain some other time. She is going to be out of town next week, but asked us to find a chapel in the area she's going to be in so she can take her husband and kids there next week. I am so excited about it all, I can't even describe.
There's not too much else going on. We did some service last week, that's always good. We cleaned up a house that had yet to be touched since the hurricane. It was pretty gross. In other news, I read today that tomorrow is the beginning of the law that restricts beverage sizes. It's the end of the world as far as I can tell. I'm not excited about it. But that's life I guess. I hope you guys are doing well! I'm really excited to be working more in Spanish! I am getting a lot better at the language. I'll be fluent someday, I just need to get better at understanding people and I'll be there. I know this is the Lord's work because I can feel his hand guiding us every day!
Elder Erickson

Thursday, March 7, 2013

27th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY


Hey Mom and Dad!

This was a very eventful week. It started off kind of slow, but definitely picked up by the end of the week. 

Things got started on Wednesday. We talked to a guy from English classes and asked if we could share a message about Jesus Christ with him. He accepted, so we asked him to come a half hour early to the next class. We called up a member and asked him to come to the lesson with us. We were all set, then the guy didn't show up on time. He got there about five minutes before class started. But that didn't stop us. We switched up our approach a bit and taught him a Bible based lesson in five minutes about Jesus Christ being our Savior and how through faith in him we can strengthen our lives and our families. At the end we told him we wanted to help him strengthen his faith and invited him to meet with us again. Then he started telling us about how he had read up a bit on Mormons before and he was interested in learning more about our religion and about how we have a modern prophet to guide us. It was awesome. It was the first new investigator we had gotten in weeks and I couldn't have been more excited. Then, after teaching the English classes that day, one of the students asked us if we would tell him more about our church. So we're super excited about English classes and the opportunities they're bringing to us. 

Thursday was a big day as well. There is a woman in the branch who was getting married and she didn't want it to be a big deal. She just wanted a really small ceremony in her house and nothing else. She was going to cook food for the eight people who were invited. I told her that she wasn't allowed to cook for her own wedding and that we would make something for her. She reluctantly agreed. I thought about what I'm good at making. I realized that the best I would be able to do was either make sandwiches or bake cookies. I opted for the latter. Me and Betty Crocker did some good work that afternoon. My first batch turned out kind of funky, so I covered them in chocolate frosting to redeem them. The next batch came out beautifully. I brought two plates of cookies and some drinks, the ceremony lasted about ten minutes, then we enjoyed cookies and beverages. I believe I'm now an official wedding caterer. Throwing that on my resume. 

Kaleb with Elder Hart and Elder Wolfe

Friday was a fun day for me because we were booked all day. It was absolutely beautiful. I think that's how every day should be in the mission. Just full of appointments. The problem being that people are always working during the day, so most appointments are set between 6 and 9. But we were full from 4 to 9. With appointments at every hour, on the hour. It was a really fun day. 

Saturday was a once in a lifetime experience. Belle Harbor, the community where we're focusing on and where a large portion of the Hurricane Sandy relief was sent, is a largely Irish community. And every year, they throw a giant Saint Patrick's Day Parade. It's the second largest St. Paddy's Day Parade in New York City. We had some connections and they invited the Mormons to march in the parade. The call went out and we had some 200 missionaries, all wearing suits or dresses with yellow Helping Hands vests on top, showing up in Belle Harbor to march in the parade. We were like a sea of yellow, walking down the street. The Far Rockaway District was chosen to carry the banner at the front of the parade. It said in large letters "Mormon Helping Hands love the Rockaways!" The six of us marched along with an army of yellow behind us and we received some of the loudest cheers of anyone in the parade. The only group that could compete with us was NY Sanitation. They did such an incredible job after the storm. People in Belle Harbor claim that the only reason they're still there is because of Sanitation and the Mormons. The parade lasted a mile and we walked for most of it. A few of us had to leave early to go teach English classes, but it was still the most amazing experience to march in this forest of yellow vests and see such gratitude from the people. 

Kaleb with the ZL car stuck in the sand... See Epistle 26 for the story

Sunday wasn't quite as exciting. It really wasn't that great of a day until about 8:15 at night. We hadn't had too much success until then and we were going to go try some last chance lookups before turning in for the night. Then we got a call from some other elders, asking if we were available to give a blessing to a woman in the branch. We happened to be driving by her street at the time, so we flipped around and headed over. I was anxious about giving the blessing in Spanish, so before we started, I asked the woman to forgive any mistakes we might make and if we accidentally say something funny, it wasn't on purpose. We didn't exactly know what was wrong, just that she had some pain in her chest. I had no idea what to say, so I just followed the spirit. I can't remember exactly what I said, but when I finished the blessing, I asked her daughter if I had said anything incorrectly. She told me it was all very good Spanish. That is a miracle in and of itself. After the blessing, she thanked us and told us that she felt calmer now. It only took about ten minutes total, but it was a really cool spiritual experience and it salvaged the whole day for us. You've always got to be on your toes in the Rockaways. 

And that brings us to today. Life is going well, we're working with good people, and hopefully we're going to start breaking the shell of Belle Harbor soon. These people need the Gospel in their lives, they just don't know how it can bless them yet. Though we may not see huge success right now, hopefully we can plant some seeds and Belle Harbor will one day flourish in the Restored Gospel. I love you guys and I hope everything is well in California!
Elder Erickson