Tuesday, April 30, 2013

35th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Piano Adventures          written April 29, 2013

More adventures out here in New York. Never a dull day. We didn't have too much success this week with finding or teaching people, but I did play the piano for some exciting events. I was asked to accompany a missionary octet in singing at a Christian choir festival. Sounds pretty sweet, right? I guess there is this organization called the Queens Federation of Christians and they threw together this choir festival for anyone who wanted to sign up and sing. Some missionary signed us up and we headed out to go sing. There was one sister missionary who organized us and she picked an arrangement of I Believe In Christ from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for us to sing. Unfortunately, it was an organ accompaniment and I didn't have an organ to practice on, so I had another missionary come and play the bass line on the piano for me. It worked out pretty well.
So on Saturday afternoon, we headed out to Jamaica, Queens to sing at this festival. It was in this big Catholic cathedral, which was pretty cool. The other choirs were a lot of fun. They were all singing songs you'd expect from heart of the city black Gospel choirs. It was glorious. Then we got up there and changed the whole mood with our calm hymn. I think people could feel a difference in the room after we sang. The next group promptly got rid of that spirit with the clapping and yelling, but hopefully we helped some people in the audience feel the spirit.
We also sang on Sunday at a chapel dedication in Mineola out on Long Island. That was a pretty sweet event. I had never been to a chapel dedication before, but this one was way cool. One of the counselors in the mission presidency was listening to me play the prelude music and he told me a story about one time when he was at a funeral and he was listening to the pianist play prelude. Then the guy got bored and transitioned from hymns to playing a nice arrangement of Hey Jude. He told me the story to try to explain how even though it was a nice arrangement, it still took his thoughts away from the spirit and how music is so powerful. All I took from it was that I need to start incorporating arrangements of Beetle's songs in my prelude music. It's my new challenge to work on. Can't be that hard. I feel like Dad would support me in this endeavor.
In other news, we did some more community service last Wednesday and we pretty much destroyed an entire house. It was awesome. One day there was a house standing there. The next day it was gone. Through sheer man power and good looks. 6 missionaries can get a lot of work done in one day.
And to finish off the week, we had a sweet baptism yesterday. The zone leaders had been working with this woman and her 8 year old son for about a month and a half and they both got baptized yesterday. She was so excited to put her past behind her and start dedicating her life to the Lord. It was a really nice baptismal service. I just hope that I can help more people feel the same joy and peace that this woman felt yesterday after she was baptized. Hope you all have a great week!
Elder Erickson

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

34th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Miracles are Coming!

Hey Mom and Dad!     Written April 22, 2013
This was a very exciting week. On Tuesday, we decided to dedicate our area. Pretty much what this entails is all the missionaries in our area get together and we say a special prayer and set apart our areas for furthering the work of the Lord and we ask for a special blessing on the work. Elder Hart and I scouted out a cool spot to do the dedication. It was on this little grassy island where you can see almost all of our areas. The dilemma with finding a good spot is that our area is so spread out, it's like 15 miles across. But it was a really cool spot and we could pretty much see everything. There are 8 elders in our district and we had fasted all day to prepare for the dedication. Elder Durkin, our district leader, asked me to say the prayer for it. So I studied the Book of Mormon to try to find ideas from prayers said by Alma and the sons of Mosiah and stuff. I took their ideas, then changed their words so that it applied better to our situation and got some good ideas for the prayer. It was a really cool experience. Eight missionaries kneeling on this grassy island, dedicating these areas for furthering the work of the Lord. I was sure an angel was going to come visit us or something. Unfortunately we didn't have a grand visitation, but it was a really cool spiritual experience nonetheless.
We've already seen three miracles come from the dedication of our areas. First happened on Saturday afternoon. Elder Hart and I were at the church setting up for English classes when an older woman and a young girl walked in. She was Hispanic and spoke Spanish, so I assumed she was here for the English classes. But instead, she asked us about when church started. We gladly told her the schedule and asked how she found out about our church. She told us that a friend in Florida recommended us and so she looked us up online and that led her here. She's from the Dominican Republic and the girl with her was her 11 year old granddaughter. She told us she would be there the next day and she was. She really enjoyed the services and by the time we got to talk to her after sacrament meeting, another member had already set up a family home evening with her. Elder Hart and I are so excited. If this isn't the Lord's hand at work, then I don't know what is.
Second miracle also happened Saturday afternoon. There's an investigator here who has been looking into the church for almost 2 years now. He likes it all and seemingly wants to get baptized, but he needs to move to a new apartment because he's living with a woman that he's not married to. We haven't been able to get in touch with him for almost 10 weeks now. We've tried calling, going over there at different times; nothing ever works. Elder Hart had the phone in his pocket and managed to accidentally call this guy somehow. We had no idea until he called us later in the day to ask why we called. Elder Hart was on top of his game and said that we called so we could see if we could come visit him. He said sure and we went over that night. He's doing well and is working to find a new place to move. It was a miracle to me because I had tried everything I knew for 10 weeks to get ahold of this guy and we finally meet with him because of a pocket dial. Incredible.
Miracle number three was at church on Sunday. Not only did we have the woman from Saturday at church with her granddaughter, but we had three less active families come that haven't been to church in months. Like they haven't been to church since before I got here in October. And when I asked them why they came, they said that they just felt like they needed to get back to church. Oh my goodness. Again, the Lord is performing miracles here every day. Yesterday was an unprecedented day in the Far Rockaway Branch.
Aside from the three miracles of the dedication, we also marched in another parade on Saturday. Not anything even close to the one from March, but a parade nonetheless. It was one of the areas where we did a lot of service, it's called Broad Channel. Pretty small, tight knit community again. It's in our area to proselyte in, the only problem is that there's a toll bridge between us and Broad Channel. And we're not super excited to pay the one way $3.75 toll to get across. Either that, or a 30 minute drive around Queens to get to it. So we're working to get over there more often. It wasn't really so much a big parade, as it was the opening of t-ball season and so they had a parade for all the teams and for some reason invited us to come along. We only brought our zone this time, instead of the whole mission. That was good because we would have tripled the number of people in the parade with that many missionaries. But whatever, it was nice to get to Broad Channel to show them that we're still in the area and that we still care about them. The best part was the free hotdogs at the end. Can't go wrong there.
But anyways, life is grand here. The weather is warming up, the Lord is performing miracles, and we're happy to be serving here. Love you guys!
Elder Erickson

Friday, April 19, 2013

33rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Spring?        Written April 15, 2013

Hey Mom and Dad!
I'm not entirely sure if it's supposed to be Spring yet or what. It will be 80 degrees one day and the next it's pouring rain and freezing cold. I can't figure out how to dress in the morning anymore. Do I wear a suit, do I go for short sleeves, should I bring a jacket with me? It's April, I shouldn't have to ask myself these questions anymore. Where is California weather when I need it?
But anyways, it has been a good week for us out here. Elder Hart and I are doing some good work. Our district has gotten back into doing a lot more service than we have been. So many mornings we'll head out on the peninsula and do service all morning, then return, shower, study, and proselyte. There's no better way to start a day than by serving your fellow being.
I don't know if you heard the talk in the priesthood session of General Conference about ministering unto people, but Elder Hart and I were big fans of that talk. We decided that we should set apart one day from the week to minister unto the sick and afflicted here in the Far Rockaway branch. So we picked Tuesday as our day, and we call it our Sick and Afflicted Day, or S and A for short. That was a cool day, just visiting people, sharing a scripture and a prayer with them, helping them feel the spirit and God's love for them. We're going to make it a tradition here. Tuesdays are going to become the best day of the week.
Saturday was a cool day. We had a lesson with our investigator, Osiris, on Monday and she agreed to fast with us that Saturday in order to help her get the day off of work to be able to come to church. I remember when I set that up with her, I had no idea that the day after that was Fast Sunday. So that was a little disappointing. Then, on Saturday afternoon, our district leader decided that we should set apart our area and so we should fast on Tuesday in order to do it. My goodness. We're so sick of fasting over here. We're just going to eat all that we can today so that we can be prepared for tomorrow. I think it will be good though, it will be nice to set our area apart for helping bring people unto salvation.
So that's about it for the time being. We found a potential who asked us to come back today to share our message with them. I'm really excited about it, hopefully it goes well tonight. The work is picking up here. Short funny story before I sign off, we went yesterday to visit a less active family in the branch. We hadn't seen them in a while, so we decided to just randomly stop by. They were there and the youngest daughter, she's 4 years old, was feeling sick. I guess she had been complaining about her stomach hurting and had been throwing up for three days now. The mother asked if we would give her a blessing. Elder Hart did the anointing and I gave the blessing. Mid-blessing, this poor little girl threw up and it landed right on my shoe. Bummer. I finished the blessing and checked out the damage. It wasn't too bad at all, at least it didn't get on my pants or anything else. They gave me some paper towels and I wiped it off. Then I made a joke about how my shoes are finally polished. That was a blessing I won't forget giving anytime soon. Hopefully it helps her feel better soon.
Thank you so much for all the love and support! The church is true and the Atonement is real if we just have faith in Christ! Love you!
Elder Erickson

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

32nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Hey Mom and Dad!                                 Written April 8, 2013
There's nothing like a good General Conference weekend. Just posting up at the Far Rockaway chapel, listening to the Prophet and Apostles speak the word of God. That's a good time if I've ever heard of one. This has been a week of catching up. We had a lot of changes at transfers last week. The district leader and his companion were both taken out, so we have two brand new elders here in the Rockaways. They're both great elders, one of them was in the MTC with me, Elder Durkin. He is training and his companion was in the MTC at the same time as my companion and his name is Elder Lavelle. They're good missionaries and hopefully they'll bring some new ideas to missionary work here in the Rockaways.
It's always nice to get new faces around, the only problem being that since they're both new, they don't know the area at all. So we spent a good portion of the week helping them out with learning the area and meeting people. It's funny to think that about 6 months ago, I didn't even know this place existed, and now I know it like the back of my hand. We cover about 4 different villages of Queens and I can get you to and around all of them without much trouble. So I'm just glad that I can use this knowledge to help others out.
English classes are cruising along. We had a conflict because the afternoon session of General Conference on Saturday is the exact same time as our English class on Saturday. We tried to tell people about it at the class before, but some people weren't there at the end of the class to hear it. People were showing up for the classes, so I would wait at the door and tell them that we were having a conference where prophets and apostles talk to us and help us come closer to Christ. Pretty much everybody bounced once they found out we weren't having the classes. But one woman stayed and watched and she enjoyed it too. I wish more had stayed, but I'm glad that one person took the time and hopefully it sparked an interest in her.
General Conference was a nice break from the usual and now that we've been spiritually edified, it's time to get back to work. Love you guys!
Elder Erickson

Saturday, April 6, 2013

31st Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Far Rockaway, NY

Spring?               Written April 1, 2013

Hey Mom and Dad!
Well it's been another fun week here in the Rockaways! I think it's been an especially cool week because of Easter. It was nice to focus more on the Savior this year instead of on the Easter Bunny and coloring eggs and such. Although that stuff is always fun.
We had exchanges with the Zone Leaders last week. I went with Elder Lebaron and had one of the most fun days of my mission. We started with an awesome lesson that helped me learn more about just how important a testimony of the Book of Mormon is. Once you have that, everything else falls into place. The Book of Mormon is key to a testimony of Jesus Christ, to a testimony of the restored church of Christ, and along with that, the restored authority of the Priesthood. The rest of the day wasn't really very successful, but we had a good time just talking to everybody that we met. It didn't matter whether they spoke Spanish or English, we just talked to everybody we could. Even though we didn't specifically teach very much, I felt like a successful missionary because I came into contact with so many people.
We're still teaching English classes twice a week and still having some good success from them. We've met up with Osiris again a couple of times and she seems to really like the church. The only problem now is that she has to work on Sundays. We just need to get her to church and everything else will fall into place. We're also working with another guy named Carlos. He has only been here for like three months, but he's picking up English really fast. He finally came to church for the first time yesterday, it was great. He enjoyed it, although he had to leave a little early to go celebrate Easter with his family.
Kaleb in Colombus Circle NY City

I think probably my favorite part of the week was yesterday. There's a city not too far away from Far Rockaway called Freeport. It's part of our zone and the missionaries there were putting together an Easter Concert to help get investigators to their church building. They asked me to play a few numbers. I was a little sad that we didn't get to go out and work on Easter evening, but once we got there, it was a really nice concert. I really enjoyed playing and hearing the other numbers and hearing the testimonies about Jesus Christ. I was supposed to play an arrangement of Christ the Lord is Risen Today, so I went online to try to find a cool arrangement or something. There was nothing very good, so I just decided to use the hymnbook and make up my own. That was a lot of fun. It wasn't very long, but I thought it sounded pretty good. Afterwards, one of the members came up to me and started analyzing all of the classical influences he heard in my arrangement. I had no idea that I was being influenced by Bach, I usually just give credit to listening to my Dad play hymns for prelude. So thanks for teaching me how to arrange a solid hymn, Dad!
Most interesting part of the week was also yesterday. We had Easter dinner at a member's house before the concert. All eight of the elders in our district were invited to come, it was a solid group. It's a super nice woman from El Salvador who loves to feed the missionaries. She always cooks well, so we're never worried about what we're going to get over there. The meal yesterday was quite the adventure. She fed us taco de lengua de vaca. Or in English, cow tongue tacos. They were actually really tasty. If she hadn't told us what it was, we would never have known what it was. We kept joking about how we all had the gift of tongues now that we had eaten these tacos. It was a fun Easter dinner.
The weather is warming up; here comes Spring! It's exciting because it means that more people will be outside and there will be more opportunities to meet and talk with new people. Thanks for everything, love you guys!
Elder Erickson