Thursday, July 25, 2013

47th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

20 Years of Good Times    written July 22, 2013

Another week down here in Midwood. This was a pretty uneventful week, except for turning 20 of course on July 18th. That was a good day.
You asked about my experience learning Spanish in Brooklyn....In some ways it's harder to learn Spanish with English all around, but it's also better in other ways. It makes it a little slower to happen, but I find that it embeds it better in your mind. Because I have to use both languages so much, it all cements it easier. 

Spanish has been a real struggle in our district because our missionaries are so young here. Elder Goates and I are the only ones who are confidently fluent. The other four are all pretty new and still struggling. So I decided to hold district language studies every day for an hour. Everybody meets at the church at like 11:30 and then Elder Goates or I teach a lesson on Spanish. It has been really helpful, we have come a long way in this transfer alone. And it helps me learn more because to teach something well, you have to really understand it. It has been a cool experience.

So the week got started with another exchange last Tuesday. This time I was with Elder Adams. We did a bunch of lookups and had zero success. Just like most normal days in Midwood. We did have a good district meeting that day where we provided cookies and drinks though. That was a definite success.
Wednesday we got started with service in Prospect Park. Then we moved on to have a lesson with a less active that I had never met before. It was the 20 year old son of an active member. He got baptized a year or so ago. Then he put on a lot of weight. Like a lot. He moved to Columbia for a year and got involved in this huge weight loss program. He lost something like 250 pounds over that year. He is doing much better now, although he still has a lot of issues with the excess skin. It would be great to have him come back to church, but he has a father who isn't exactly keen on the LDS church. It's a shame, but we're going to keep working with him.
Thursday was a way fun day. The sisters in my district threw a district birthday party for me and they made a chocolate cake. We partied for a bit and then headed out to do an elliptical activity. We gave out compliments again. It's one of my favorite activities because we just get to help people smile for an hour. Help them feel God's love for them. It's great.
On Friday, we had our movie night. Although it turned out to be a fiasco this time. The ward wanted to combine it with a homecoming party for a return missionary in another ward. A guy who doesn't really speak Spanish. They thought it would be a good idea to combine with the movie night. So I had a bunch of different members lined up to bring food and the movie. And nobody showed up on time. We even moved the time back this week to help people show up on time. Nothing. The food was an hour late. On the upside, nobody actually came for the movie night. I guess that's an upside. It's kind of a downside. Everyone there was members there for the party. So that worked out. We didn't even end up watching the movie, we just ate the food and chatted with the missionary.
Saturday we had a singing street sweep in a different area in our zone. They asked us to come out and help them. The coolest part was that they rolled out a piano into the street for me to play on. I took ample advantage of the opportunity to play all sorts of songs. Including the hymns that they asked me to play. It was a really fun activity and it sounds like it was really successful for them.

Sunday was pretty uneventful. We're doing really well out here. Things are slow, but I think things are still improving here in Midwood. Thanks for all the birthday wishes and for all your love and support!

Elder Erickson

Monday, July 15, 2013

46th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Progress - written July 15, 2013

It was a slow week, but I think we're finally getting somewhere here in Midwood. Things got started last week with an exchange with Elder Goates. That was a fun day. It was the first time in a while that I've been companions with a missionary who was confident in their Spanish and who I didn't need to worry about. We had a lot of fun that day.
Wednesday we had service in the morning and we got caught in a downpour of rain. And of course, it only rains while we're outside. As soon as we get inside somewhere, the rain stops completely. Great. Thanks mother nature. That night we also taught our investigator, Efrain. That was a disappointing lesson because he kind of told us that he never had any real desire to get baptized, he just wanted to learn more. So our next lesson we're going to tell him that we're not going to continue to meet with him unless he is willing to start setting goals and making progress. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, we really need to find some new investigators.
Thursday was 7/11! Of course we all went to get free slurpees! We also had a really cool elliptical activity that day. One of the sisters in my district came up with it. We made a bunch of signs and we went out to a busy street and just told people to have a nice day and put a smile on. We called it Compliment Hour. The idea is that we don't try to get people's information during this time, we just show them that we are nice people and that we care about them. It was a really fun activity and people responded really well to us. I'm hoping we can keep doing that and maybe find an area with more people.
Friday we also did an interesting activity. We made a bunch of giant cardboard dice. Then on each side of one, we wrote a different addiction (smoking, alcohol, drugs, coffee, swearing) and on another dice, we put different periods of time (1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, 1 week, 2 weeks). Then we took to the streets to get people to roll the dice and try to beat their addictions. One of the sides also said "free candy" so there was a chance to win a sweet and beat addiction. The idea is to get people to try to start giving something up and then get their information to try to follow up with them and help them use the Atonement to overcome their addictions. It actually went really well. I was a little skeptical at first, but I think the draw is that people like rolling giant cardboard dice. And the free candy was nice as well.
Saturday we went out to the park to give out free lemonade and to advertise for our movie night. That was one of our most successful activities ever. People flocked for the lemonade and most of them were Hispanic. The kids were freaking pumped about movie night. We're planning to do it again this week to really get a good turnout this week. Saturday we also had a baptism in the ward! It wasn't a convert baptism, it was the eight year old son of a member. But it was still a really nice event. They asked me to play the piano and for Elder Goates to sing. The best part was that we got a less active family there and they enjoyed it as well. And they served lunch afterward, we were really happy about that. 

We're still struggling with trying to get the ward to function over here. We went to ward council yesterday. It started pretty well and eventually fell apart to arguing and fighting. Love Hispanic people. The huge dilemma is that we're not allowed to pass around a calendar for people so sign up to feed the missionaries anymore. Instead, the ward council is supposed to think of people who need help or support from the missionaries in the ward and the ward mission leader should call them and ask them if they can feed the missionaries at some point this week. Not a super complex concept here. But nobody can seem to grasp this concept. I made copies of the pages from the mission president's handbook to try to make it as simple as possible. But that apparently didn't do anything for us. I don't understand what they finally agreed to do because it didn't make any sense to me. I told them to try it and I'd see how it went and ask the mission president if it's okay. It was the most ridiculous ward council ever.
The other companionships here are doing really well also, so we are all excited about the work here. It's still slow and I think it might stay that way for a while, but we are definitely making progress. It is a great time to be serving the Lord.

Love you!
Elder Erickson

Sunday, July 14, 2013

45th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Week of Parties and Miracles     written July 8, 2013

Parties and miracles are definitely the two words to describe this week. The week started with the usual grind. Trying to put together activities for the elliptical, putting our movie night together, I had an exchange with the zone leaders. Nothing super exciting. On Wednesday we had President's interviews and I was able to get some advice on the difficulties we face in this area. Namely the fact that a number of ward leaders don't really trust missionaries and aren't particularly keen to work with us. This came because of missionaries in the past who haven't always done the things they should or treated the leaders as they should be treated. It's been an issue here for a long time apparently. And things really don't go anywhere if you don't have the support of ward leaders. So President Calderwood encouraged me to try to do everything I could to gain their trust and support.
The first miracle happened Wednesday evening. We randomly met the 2nd counselor in the bishopric at the church. He is kind of in charge at the moment since the Bishop isn't always there. We have had some struggles with him in the past because he likes to be in control of things. So we sat down and chatted with him about the ward and about missionary work. Our meeting ended up lasting two hours and by the end of it, we were all on the same page. He explained his frustrations with past missionaries and we told him we would try to fix those things. He told us he would encourage the ward members to support our activities and be more willing to teach with us. It was a really helpful meeting, one that we've needed for a long time now.
Thursday was our P-day and the 4th of July! We all went down to Coney Island to see the world's largest hotdog eating contest. Oh my goodness. It was the greatest thing ever. I've never been so pumped to see a guy eat hotdogs. The reigning champ is named Joey Chestnut. He has won like six years in a row. He had the world record at eating 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes. The whole event lasted a couple hours, they had entertainment beforehand and there was a women's competition too. We got there early enough to be let into the main crowd area. The women's event was intense because the winner at 36 and 3/4 hotdogs while second place at 36 hotdogs. So crazy. The men's competition was the main event though. And wow was it incredible. These guys can eat hotdogs. Joey managed to beat his previous world record by eating 69 hotdogs in 10 minutes. And I watched it happen. So amazing. I also loved that ESPN covered the whole event. That's hilarious. The rest of the day involved going to a BBQ at a less active's house and having correlation later that day. We ended the day with ice cream and watching fireworks as we walked home. Great P-day.
The miracles got back to work on Saturday. Saturday we did hurricane service all day. In another area of Brooklyn, there's a community group that is rebuilding houses. So we went out to help with that all day. It was nice to get back to hurricane service. On the way home, I got a text from the zone leaders. They told us that President got a message about a less active in our area who has a daughter serving a mission in Oaxaca, Mexico. She requested that we visit her dad because he was leaving on Monday.
We gave him a call and headed over on Saturday night. He was a way cool guy, he was so excited to see us. It turns out that he actually has two kids serving missions right now, his daughter, who is 19, and his son, who is 21. He has been living in Brooklyn for 5 years and has never once had a Sunday off of work. This week he is on vacation, his first vacation in 5 years. He really wanted to go to church, but he didn't know where the chapel was. He had been praying for the missionaries to come by, and then that night he got the call from us. I told him that it was a miracle because we don't have him on any of our records or anything. We were able to chat with him for a while and then we came back the next day to pick him up and walk to church with him. He was so pumped to go to church again. He took a picture with every missionary he saw so he could send them to his kids.
On top of that miracle, we had a less active family come back to church yesterday. We have been working with them for a month now. They haven't been to church since last year. I was so happy to see that whole family sitting in the middle row. And to make things even better, we found our investigator, Efrain, again. He had disappeared for a week, but then he showed up at church, so we were able to teach him a lesson and get him back on track towards setting a baptismal date. It was the best Sunday we've had in Midwood for a long time.
Today we're planning to ride the Staten Island ferry so we can see the Statue of Liberty. The work here is finally taking off. It's still slow and it probably will be for a while, but we're getting somewhere. And I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful work. Thanks for everything, happy 4th of July, and stay cool out there!
Elder Erickson

Friday, July 5, 2013

44th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, NY

Changes and Frustration:     Written July 1, 2013

Those are the two words I would use to describe the week. It all got started last Tuesday when they swapped out most of the English district. The only change in the Spanish district was that Elder Kitchen left and we got Elder Goates. I'm really excited to have him here. He was in the MTC with me, so we're already good friends. He can sing like an angel, so hopefully we'll be able to throw together some cool songs for sacrament meeting.
With so many new missionaries, I was in charge of running the elliptical activities we do every day to find new people. The English district leader is also new, so I took over to help him get used to his area before he had to start running huge finding activities. The first activity of the week was on Thursday. We drew a big tree on a poster and wrote the question, "What do you love about your family?" Then we had a bunch of leaves cut out and we ask people walking by to write what they love about their family on the leaf and tape it to our tree. It was way successful the first time we did it. People like to stop by and see the tree we have and add a leaf. Then we get to talk to them about eternal families and invite them to church. Things got a bit chaotic at first because we had so many missionaries who had never done this before, but it ended up working out pretty well.
On Friday we tried having a free lemonade stand. Set up for it was really frustrating because of other people not doing their part. It just meant that we had to pick up the slack for the English district. But it was still an awesome idea that we are for sure going to be doing in the future.  It was a pretty hot day and people loved stopping by for a cup of free lemonade. Then when we hand them the cup, we give them a pass along card and invite them to church. It was probably one of the best activities we have done so far. We also tried doing more shoe shining at that event, but it started raining which put a damper on that event. It was funny though because even in the rain, people still wanted free lemonade. The power of free is not to be messed with.
Saturday we tried an activity that I'm not sure I like very much. We wrote on big poster paper "What would you like to ask God?" Then we went to a busy area and asked people to write down the questions they would ask God with the intent of explaining to them that they can get answers to these questions through prayer and scripture study and invite them to meet with us. But people are people and so they like to give us crap or claim that there's no way we could answer for God. I think we may need to fine-tune that activity a lot. I'm tired of crazy people coming to us all the time.
We also helped a new family move in on Saturday, that was a good time. It's a husband and wife moving in from another area in Brooklyn. They have a son on a mission right now. We're really excited to have some new faces in the ward.
We met with Efrain again this last week. He's still doing well and tells us that he wants to progress, but he's afraid of committing to baptism entirely. We're trying to help him through his fears and I asked him to pray about a baptismal date that he would like to set and bring it to church. It was a good idea and he said he would do it, but he didn't come to church yesterday and didn't answer the phone when I called him. So hopefully we can get back into contact with him soon.
On a lighter note, our ward correlator got us a list of former investigators and less actives to look up. This is the first time this has happened here in a while, so we're excited to have the ward involved in helping us reactivate people. And at ward council yesterday, we had a guy from the stake there, helping guide the ward leaders in how they can help the missionaries and what they need to do to run the ward effectively. It was awesome. That dude is a hero. Also, one of the missionaries from my district in the MTC, Elder Goates, is in my district now. I could not be happier about that. He is great.

So everything is going well for the most part. Just trying to work with ward leaders who apparently don't like missionaries very much. And trying to work with an English district who never comes through for me. Those are the frustrations of the week. On the upside, Coney Island for the fourth of July and movie night this Friday! Hopefully we can make some new things happen here!

Love you guys!
Elder Erickson