Sunday, June 30, 2013

43rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Broooklyn, NY

Alive and well in Brooklyn, NY.          Written June 24, 2013

Things are going well out here. The announcements yesterday at the missionary conference were crazy. Facebook for missionaries? Hanging out at the church all day to give tours? Things are getting crazy here. Of all the times to be made a leader. It will definitely be an adventure and there will be stories to tell.

Also, I got the call the be a district leader here in Midwood, starting tomorrow. I'm not super excited about it, but I guess I might as well step up and try to make something happen. I would much rather stay as a regular missionary, responsibility is not a fun time. But I can't really turn down a calling, so I'm just going to do my best.

This week went by fast and nothing really exciting happened. I had these two Restoration concerts that I was asked to play for. I ended up with 9 songs that I was supposed to play. One concert was in Brooklyn in an area called Dyker Heights and the other was on Staten Island. The one in Brooklyn, I was the pianist for all eight of their songs. The one in Staten, I was supposed to play two songs. The problem I have with playing songs for concerts like this is that I have to go find people to practice with and set up times that work for them. Learning the songs myself isn't so much a difficulty as finding a good time and place to meet with these other people. So all of last Tuesday was dedicated to practicing with people. I was on exchanges with the district leader that day, and we spent all day at the Dyker Heights chapel practicing with people. We left at two in the afternoon and didn't get back until nine. Wednesday we had a dress rehearsal for the Staten Island concert. Luckily, I was able to meet one of the people for the Dyker Heights concert there and practice with them at the same time. Thursday was the dress rehearsal for the concert in Dyker Heights, so I finally met with the last few people I needed to practice with there.

Friday was the first day of the big concerts. We got a ride out to Staten Island in the afternoon. Elder Rodger's aunt lives out there and she is very less active, so President Calderwood asked him to go visit her. He got the chance to go with another missionary and have dinner with her and her family while I stayed and played for the concert. It went pretty well, they had maybe forty people show up. That's a solid turn out for an all Spanish concert. Saturday was the concert in Dyker Heights. It was also all in Spanish. I was the pianist of the night there, it was a good time. They had about the same turnout, it was a very nice concert.
Saturday morning at about 7:15 in the morning, I got a call from the Zone Leaders telling me that I needed to be at the Bushwick Chapel by 9 for an interview with President. That threw all of our morning plans out the window. We headed over and that's when I got the call to be a District Leader for the Spanish Midwood district. I get started on that tomorrow after transfer meetings. The biggest downside to being district leader is that I have to go to a lot of  boring meetings and that I'm responsible for a lot more now. It's not a super big deal, but it would be a lot easier to just stay as a regular missionary. It will be especially crazy with the announcements made yesterday. I have no idea how the use of internet and the tours of chapels will go. Especially when our chapel is hidden in a largely Jewish community. But I can't dog on an idea until I try it. Hopefully President Calderwood has some guidelines for us on how these things are supposed to work. Apparently our mission is one of the go-to missions to try new things because we're in such a diverse area. So I'll let you guys know how things turn out.
I'll hopefully have some investigator stories for you guys next week now that we're back to regular missionary work. Until next time!
Elder Erickson

Sunday, June 23, 2013

42nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Update: Simi Valley Father's day       written June 17, 2013

Just to tell you a little bit about Brooklyn.  Besides the five boroughs, all of New York City is divided up by smaller subsections that nobody really knows about unless you have visited the area. Like I'm currently in Midwood, which is an area within Brooklyn. We also work a lot in Flatbush. I've been to Bushwick before. It's not too far from where I am, but it's in a different zone, so I don't really go there ever.  I know that they have FHE at the Bushwick Chapel for the single adult ward every Monday.

Dad commented about the roadshow from 2011 and my famous line about Congressman Weiner.  I see things about Congressman Weiner all the time out here. I actually saw him in Far Rockaway during the hurricane cleanup. He was walking by and we didn't recognize him at first, but someone in our group was like hey that was Anthony Weiner! We looked back and sure enough, it was him. I didn't talk to him or anything, but I walked past him. That's pretty cool, right? I'm pretty sure he's running for Mayor of NYC, but I could be mistaken on that one. 

Happy Father's Day! Sorry I missed getting a card to you in time, but there's one on the way. Mom wondered what our ward did for Father's Day. The Relief Society threw a dinner for the fathers, since our ward ends at 3:30. They had sandwiches and cookies for everybody. Fathers got to eat first, but they let everybody eat. One of the women came up to me and said "Elder seras padre algun dia, puedes comer con los padres." It was a nice event, the primary kids sang a song for the fathers and I played the piano for them.

I heard that dad took Zeke and Ben to ride over at the old Von's building. I wonder what they're going to do with that Vons place? I hope they put in something cool for when I get back. That would be awesome.

Well I got signed up to play at two more Restoration concerts this week. This means that I will be practicing all week long. They called me on Friday and gave me nine songs. Ridiculous. It's not learning the songs that I'm frustrated with, but the fact that I now have to find all these people and practice with them within the next week. I finally got all the practices set up by yesterday. This week is pretty much shot for proselyting, so I can only hope that some good comes out of one of these concerts. One will be in Brooklyn and the other will be on Staten Island. Both are in Spanish. It should definitely be an adventure.

Hope you guys are doing well! I only have ten minutes left on the computer and there is a huge line to use computers today, so I don't know that I'll be able to get back on again after this email. but I'm doing well out here. I really enjoy serving the people of Brooklyn. They are not always the nicest when you try to talk to them on the streets, but they are great people. I miss you guys and hope you are all doing well!

Elder Erickson

Sunday, June 16, 2013

41st Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Teaching with Authority               written June 10, 2013

This was a cool week. It starts with some back-story. There is a guy here named Efrain. He is an investigator, but his brother lives here and the brother is a member. He's actually the ward correlator. But Efrain has been investigating the church for some two years now. He goes to another church too and feels a connection with that church. Elder Kitchen and his companion had been working with Efrain, but weren't getting anywhere, so they decided to take a break from teaching him. The ward had a party for Mother's Day about two weeks ago and they invited Efrain to come and play the guitar for the talent show. He came and he had a blast playing for the ward.
Last Sunday, fast Sunday, he decided to get up and bare his testimony. He said that he felt something different while he was playing the guitar and has decided that he wants to learn more about the scriptures. This is great news. Elder Kitchen felt that Elder Rodgers and I should take over teaching him this time. So we talked to him and set up a time to meet. We met with him on Wednesday and he was really having a rough day. He had lost his job recently and was struggling to find motivation to keep going in life. But for some reason he really felt like he needed to talk with us that day. I told him that the spirit was guiding him to us because we had something that could help him in his life. And that something was the Gospel of Christ. If he began to live the Gospel of Christ, he would find the happiness and the motivation that he's looking for. He wasn't quite convinced, but I told him that he would never know if it works unless he tried it. He agreed to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and to pray about whether he should continue with us or not. He said that if he gets an answer, then he will continue learning, but if he doesn't get an answer, he's going to stop meeting with us. We really put this one in the Lord's hands.
Fast forward to Sunday. We get a call that he is going to be at the church in 15 minutes and wants to talk with us. So we head on over and happened to find a member who was willing to meet with Efrain with us. We sat down and I asked him how it went. He said that he read the chapter and that he really felt good about it. So he decided to read it again. He still felt good, but he was worried about whether the feelings were from God or from the devil. So he decided to pray about it. Because God wouldn't lie in a prayer. And the good feeling stayed. As a result of this experience, he told us that he is willing to start doing more to progress and is willing to work towards baptism. He still had a few doubts, but hopefully we'll be able to answer those questions as we continue to meet with him. It was still an awesome experience. At the end of that lesson, he told us that he is impressed by the authority that we teach with. I've never had an investigator say that I teach with authority before, so that was a cool moment. The member started telling him about how missionaries are called of God and given specific authority to teach just like that. I feel hopeful about Efrain. I think that he is on his way to improving his life and if he can just learn to walk by faith instead of sight, he will definitely get baptized and make a great member of this church.
In other events from the week, we had our movie night on Friday. Unfortunately that was also a night of a giant tropical storm. So it wasn't super well attended. We talked to a few members and they said they weren't coming because they were afraid to leave their house. Two families still came though and it was fun to watch Tangled in Spanish. I still think that movies are funnier in Spanish. We're planning to watch Finding Nemo next, so hopefully the weather will work with us next time.
Also in surprising news, our Bishop decided to move randomly. He hadn't been to church in two weeks and we hadn't been able to get in contact with him, so we were worried about him. But it turns out he is now living on Long Island. Commence speculation on the new bishop and changes in the ward. It should be an interesting next couple of weeks.
Hope you're all doing well! Love you!
Elder Erickson

Sunday, June 9, 2013

40th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Humility is not my friend!          written June 3, 2013

Well this has been a fun, blazing hot week in Brooklyn. The temperature really hasn't even been that high, but the humidity makes you feel like you're dying. And we decided to do a bunch of street sweeps and outside activities this week, so I have had my fair share of fun times in the sun.
As for investigators, we currently don't really have any. This week is dedicated to finding someone new, and we have a couple of potentials to look into. Last Tuesday we were going to go to a park nearby and play games in the park to meet new families. But it was pouring rain, so we decided to move it and play games in the train station. That was a fun time. We brought chess and dominoes, set up a table in the train station and just started inviting people to play with us as they wait for the train. The idea is to then talk with them while you're playing and the question of why you're wearing a shirt and tie inevitably comes up, so you can then introduce the fact that you're a missionary and that you share the Gospel of Christ. We had four missionaries playing the games and me and another missionary would walk up and down the station talking to people and inviting them to come play or to come to church. That was a fun activity.
We had a couple appointments this week and we brought the ward correlator along with us. His name is Hermano Venedicto, he is freaking awesome. He speaks just enough English to get by, but he mostly speaks Spanish. And he knows a ton of people. The appointment we had with him fell through, but we decided to walk with him for a bit. We passed by a laundromat and there was a Hispanic guy out in front. Venedicto apparently knew the guy so he said hello. Then he started to talk about how we're missionaries and stuff, but for some reason he couldn't figure out how to word it all. So I told the guy about what we do and invited him to meet with us. He said he had talked with missionaries before and he was willing to meet and learn more. We chatted for a bit and I got his info so we could meet with him another time. As we walked away, I asked Venedicto how he knew that guy. He told me that they go to the same restaurant all the time, so they have seen each other before. I thought that was hilarious.
Missionary work is a lot more difficult in the city mostly because of transportation. Since we have to walk everywhere, it takes us a while to get places and it's often difficult to find members who are nearby where we are teaching. And the members that are nearby are usually not available for whatever reason. It's not impossible, but it definitely makes things more difficult.
I'm absolutely loving it here though. The members are great, the people you meet in the street are awesome, Spanish is such a fun language to speak. If only I could get used to this humidity, then I would really be living the dream.

Love you guys!
Elder Erickson

39th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Happy Memorial Day!    written Tuesday May 28, 2013

The adventures never stop out here. Working in the city without a car is waay harder. Far Rockaway had its challenges, but transportation was never an issue. Midwood has a lot of those issues, but now with a transportation wrench thrown in the mix. We have two trains nearby that we use and maybe two main buses that we use. Which are helpful (if the buses are ever around), except we want to work close to the chapel, so we don't want to get to far away via train or bus. And whenever we want to bring a member to help us teach a lesson, it seems like they're forever away from where the lesson is and they're not always keen on taking public transportation. Not impossible to work around, but it definitely makes work here interesting. 

So the chapel in Brooklyn is way freaking cool. It used to be a Catholic church I think and we bought it and turned it into an LDS chapel. The area around it is full of Jews, so yes, it is super nice. Go about two blocks to the north, east, or west, and you'll find the Brooklyn that you usually think of. I'm not sure if the bell tower in the church is functioning, I'm still trying to get to know everything. It's way different to work in a branch than in a ward. 

My companion is interesting. He is a good guy and we get along fine. He just isn't very talkative.  I convinced him to try his first Big Mac ever last Saturday. He didn't like it. I didn't know that was possible. It was buy one get one free Big Macs all weekend (I don't know if you knew), so we definitely partook of that. 

The area around the church doesn't have a large center of Hispanics. We have to travel a ways away before we find any large groupings of Hispanics and we hesitate to go all the way out there because it will be less likely that they are willing to travel that far to go to church every week. I don't think these are unsolvable problems, but they are definitely problems that we need to figure out.

In the meantime, we have been having some awesome community activities to find families. Last week we had a games in the park day. We took a bunch of board games and played them in the park and invited people to come play with us. The sister missionaries were the real heroes there when they had a group of some 10 little kids playing various games with them. Then we were able to give the kids flyers to our movie night for that Friday. Two of the families ended up coming to that. We're doing games in the park again today and we're planning on bringing some chalk and some bubbles to get more people to notice us.
The movie night was an awesome success. We set it up in the basement of the church and watched Up in Spanish. We had four nonmember families and one member family. I think it's hilarious that more nonmembers come than members, but I'm happy with anybody coming to these events. And it was cool that I could understand a lot of the movie in Spanish. Everyone who came to that party, we invited to the ward party the next day. They were having a late Mother's Day party for the ward. One of the families from the movie night came to that too, so they got to meet some members. Which is always a plus. They didn't come to church on Sunday, but they gave us their number so we could call them about the next movie night. I'll take that as a start.
Our main investigator asked us to take a break for a month because she's really busy. So as of now, we don't really have any investigators. So this will be a fun week of finding new people to teach.
 That means meeting lots of new people and speaking lots of Spanish. It should be an awesome week.
I'm out of time, but I love you and I'll let you know how the finding goes next week!

Elder Erickson

38th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Chillin in Brooklyn, NY      written May 20, 2013

I thought this day would never come. I finally made it to my second area in my mission! I am now serving in an area in Brooklyn called Midwood. It covers a couple of different areas in Brooklyn, but the chapel is in Midwood, so that's why they call it that. Working here is a completely different world than in Far Rockaway. There are so many different types of people! It's unbelievable. You walk down the street and you'll run into people from five or six different countries. And that's just on a normal day. Back in Far Rockaway, we did most of our work in English, so we didn't focus too much on Spanish. But here, I'm actually in a Spanish ward, so we only work in Spanish. As a result, I have already gotten better with the language. It's so sweet. Just hanging out with Hispanics all day really helps you learn Spanish.
We have a really young district here. There are six of us, and four of the missionaries are in their third transfer or less. I'm in my sixth and the district leader is in his eighth. His name is Elder Kitchen, or Elder Cocina if you want to speak Spanish. He and I are really the only ones in our district who are confident in our Spanish yet, so we help out a lot when it comes to ward correlation and meetings with the bishop. We have two sister missionaries, me and my companion, and then the district leader and his companion. It's nice that we're all relatively young in the mission though because it means nobody is burnt out or has bias against certain ideas yet. So we're trying all sorts of fun finding ideas out here. We did a free shoe shine on the street last week to meet people, we have a sports day where we go play soccer at the park, and this Saturday we're having a Spanish movie night. We're going to watch Up in Spanish, so we've been distributing flyers everywhere for it.
My companion's name is Elder Rodgers. He is a nice guy from Bountiful, Utah. He's not incredible at Spanish yet, but he has no fear of talking to Hispanics in the street. It's awesome when he goes up to invite people to church. He is a champion.
Since we're in the city, we don't have a car or anything. We have our feet and an unlimited Metro card. But we're trying to work close to the church, so there's not too much of a need for the Metro. We take the bus if it's already nearby, otherwise we generally just walk. And the subway is best for when you have a long ways to go, but that's pretty much only to visit members who live a ways away. I enjoy the walk in the city though, and I'm already losing weight after only five days. I'm going to need a new belt if this keeps up much longer.
I'm still getting to know the area, so I don't have too many stories yet. But this week we have some plans to make some awesome lessons happen. So look out for the tales from Brooklyn in the future!

Love you!
Elder Erickson

P.S. Never fear, Brooklyn is here!