Friday, September 27, 2013

56th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

New Companion written September 23, 2013
After four and a half months with Elder Rodgers, I finally have a new companion. His name is Elder Spencer. He's a way cool guy from Arizona. He's been out for almost five months, I'm his second companion in the mission field. He's been way out on the tip of Long Island for his mission, so he knows what it's like to have slow days and not much success. Which is good because that's the norm here in Brooklyn. Though we get the lovely addition of crazy people and subway performers. Those are the best.

Let it be known that last Tuesday we set a record for the area of Midwood Spanish. We had 15 people at English class, shattering any and all previous records of missionaries in this area. So we are definitely moving up in the world. We just need to start teaching people from it. If this keeps up, we will have no problems finding people in the future. My fingers are still crossed.

We got to meet with a less active family last week that haven't been to church in a long while. The wife was very excited to tell us that she had recently changed her work schedule so that she would be able to come to church now. We were pumped about it. We even told them we were going to come by Sunday morning so we could walk with them. So we show up on Sunday morning and nobody was home. We gave them a call and their phone is disconnected. So that's always good. Just another day in Brooklyn. Hopefully we can find them again.

We did, however, get to do some solid teaching with a member named Miguel. He is 25 years old, a return missionary from El Salvador. We help him learn English and he helps us learn Spanish. He doesn't do too much during the evenings, so we call him up if we ever need somebody to come teaching with us. It's great. He is the coolest guy ever. He helped us teach a few lessons and we invited him to come play soccer with us while we tried to do some sports finding. I'm not a big fan of sports finding, but my companion loves to play. So I figure it's worth a shot one more time. We met some cool people and got some decent exposure, but nothing too exciting.

There's still not a whole lot going on yet, but things are on the up, so I'm happy about it. The ward council met yesterday and things are finally starting to happen with them. So with just some more time and patience, we'll be flying in no time. And especially with this new companion. I'm so excited to work with Elder Spencer, he is great. I could not ask for a better companion.

Cool story for the week. Last week I was on an exchange with Elder Adams. He was thirsty at one point, so we went to Walgreens to get a drink. And these two people stopped us in the store, a boy and a girl. They looked to be 18 or 19 years old. And they asked us a lot of questions about Mormon beliefs. It was weird because they asked all of the Mormon bashing questions, but then they would never follow up after our answers. Normally people like to ask the question, then when we give an answer, they will try to tell us what we believe. It's great. But these people would just say oh I didn't know that. It was weird. But we talked for some twenty minutes and then they ran out of questions, so they said goodbye and left. We invited them to church, but they didn't seem too keen on coming. A week later, I was walking down the street with Elder Spencer and the same girl from before chased us down to talk with us. She had some girl with her, who looked about the same age, maybe a little older. The girl from before told us that her friend had some questions about Mormons. So I talked with her a bit and explained our beliefs. Then offered if she would be interested in sitting down with missionaries and she said that she would love to. So I gave her the phone number for the English sisters and she gave me her number to have them call her. It was just cool that a random encounter that I had a week before would end up with somebody meeting with missionaries. And that's the cool story for the week. 

Hope you're all doing well and best of luck out there!

Love,    Elder Erickson

Friday, September 20, 2013

55th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

I Saw Bill Murray.... Written September 16, 2013

For real, I did. Story to come later.

This week was great. We got it started with another round of English classes. And we had a bunch of new people there. We are finally picking up some steam here. I had an exchange with Elder Adams and we had the most successful day I've had in a while. We got in contact with the Quispe family, who I have been looking for almost a month now. They are super nice people. We got an appointment with them for this week and the wife told me that she has been wanting to come back to church for a while now. So this is great. We also looked up a former investigator. The outside of his apartment looked pretty sketchy but it was way nice when we got in. He hadn't talked with missionaries for a year and a half, but he was happy to see us and told us that we should come back next week. Those two interactions and getting to see the light from the freedom tower on September 11, made that day awesome.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but I was asked to play the piano for a concert in Queens. We had a practice for it on Thursday and I sight-read O Divine Redeemer. That was a party. The sister missionary I was playing for had never sung it with a piano before and I had never played it in this key before, so we had an adventure. It was actually pretty good. We did some practicing afterwards to improve things. 

Elder Kaleb Erickson with the Midwood Brooklyn District 9/16/2013
Left to right: Elder Adams, me, Sister Jorgensen, Sister Franklin, Elder Rodgers, Elder Goates

Friday I did splits with a member for the first time ever. It was a lot of fun. The bishop came with us and another member named Miguel. Elder Rodgers went with the bishop and I went with Miguel and we all hit up lessons in different areas of Brooklyn. It was awesome. Miguel is from El Salvador and is a return missionary, so he was loving the chance to get back in the game for a bit. He's a great guy. We taught some solid lessons that night.

Saturday was the big concert in Jamaica, Queens. It was at a food court near the church out there. It was on the way out that I met Bill Murray. We were on the F train and I noticed this guy standing on the train. And he looked exactly like Bill Murray. I told Elder Goates and Sister Franklin and they agreed but thought that it probably wasn't him. I wasn't willing to accept that. So after some deliberation, I went up and asked him. He told me that he gets it all the time, but that he isn't Bill Murray. I told him that he was still looking good. He got out on the next stop. That's such a Bill Murray thing to do. He wouldn't admit to me that it was him. I'm still convinced that it was Bill Murray, regardless of what Elder Goates and Sister Franklin say.

So we got to the concert. It went pretty well. We all had a fun time. The acoustics in the building were terrible. But it was still fun anyways. After the concert, we had quite the adventure. We were walking back to the train to go home. It was me and Elder Goates and two sisters from our area. And this Muslim guy stopped me and asked if I was Mormon. I told him I was and he asked me to explain what we believe. I was a little concerned that this guy was a basher, because I really didn't want to fight with anybody at that point. But he listened for a bit and asked another question. Then he said hold on, I work at a religious studies school and we have always wondered what Mormons believe. But we don't trust the internet, so we have always wanted to ask you guys. Would you mind stopping by our school and just having a religious discussion about what you guys believe?

This was too good of an opportunity to pass up! We all agreed to go and we followed this guy a couple of blocks to his school. He set up a meeting with the dean and we all sat down and discussed our respective religions. It was fascinating. It cleared up a number of misconceptions I had about Muslims. And it was very interesting to explain things to someone without a Christian background. There was no arguing, just explaining. It was awesome. We gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon and they gave us each a copy of the Quran. They were all very nice people. I would say that it was one of the coolest experiences on my mission. To sit in this school with three Muslims and discuss our religions. Their beliefs are similar to ours in so many ways, but so far apart in other ways. It was great. We ended up chatting with them for three hours. We had to take a five minute break for them to do their evening prayers. They are required to pray five times a day at specific hours. I was hoping to see them pray, but we didn't get the chance. It was still super cool though.

And yesterday was fun because we found this big street fair and we decided to wander around and hand out English class flyers. It was a party. Nothing like a party in Brooklyn. So much going on, so much noise and so many good smelling foods. I only wish it hadn't been on a Sunday.

Transfers are tomorrow. Elder Rodgers is leaving and I'll be getting a new companion. It's always nice to have some change in the world. Things are just picking up here, so it is a good time to come to Midwood. Things are finally cooling down here too, thank goodness for Fall. I am loving the cool weather.

Elder Erickson

Friday, September 13, 2013

54th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Finally -  written Sept 9, 2013

Well English classes are finally underway. It only took us four months of begging, pleading, and waiting. But we finally started. And boy howdy has it turned things around for everyone. They aren't even super successful yet, but just the knowledge that we are finally doing something tangible that we can all see and participate in is a huge help morale-wise. Our first class we had four people. Two members and two non-members. The next class we were down to three, two members and one non-member. And our third class we had nobody. But there was a ward bbq going on at the same time, so I'm not too worried about it.
Something about having the English classes every other day made this week seem so busy. It was great. On Wednesday I got to go to the temple for my year mark. My whole district from the MTC was there with us, it was a lot of fun. It was such a calm and peaceful day and it was much needed. Elder Goates and I got to travel to it together and we stayed on exchanges for the rest of the day, just wandering around and handing out English class fliers. It was an awesome day.
Friday was also awesome because we had a packed night. We had three appointments, every hour from 6 until 9. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, but this rarely happens in my life. It was a lot of fun to rush from one appointment to the next. The second one was cut short because he was sick. So we gave him a blessing and we had plenty of time to head out to the next appointment. The best of times on the mission are when you're busy and meeting with people. It's great.
Saturday we had an adventure because we all had to go get flu shots. So we went to Rite Aid and they hooked us up. Then we went to Taco Bell to celebrate getting flu shots. Then we headed out to the ward bbq. The last one the ward had was kind of lackluster, but this one was a bumping party. Everyone and their dog came to this one. We were playing baseball and frisbee, everyone was having a good time. It was a shame that we had to leave to go to English classes. Elder Goates and I just went with the hopes that maybe one person would show up. There wasn't anybody. But we enjoyed chatting until everyone came back from the bbq. At which point we headed out to an area called Bay Ridge, where we had our whole zone come and sing hymns on the street to try to catch people's attention. We call them singing street sweeps. It's always a good time.
But anyways, things are moving along here. Ward council yesterday was still an overly long, very boring meeting, but the bishop is making things happen. Something that this ward has needed for a long time. So hopefully with more time and faith, we will see Midwood Spanish start to blossom soon.

Elder Erickson

Sunday, September 8, 2013

53rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Another Week of Good Times!   Written September 3, 2013

I really don't have that much to report on this week. The most
exciting thing is that tonight will be our first day of English
classes. I could not be more excited about it. We are finally going to
start making things happen around here!

In other news, we had four less actives at church on Sunday. That was
awesome to see. It's so great when people you're working with come
back because then you can see that your efforts are actually having an
effect on someone. It was a good Sunday.

Fun facts you can share with your seminary class:  the Seven
Eleven in the jewish communities will sell Kosher slurpees. Didn't
even know that was a real thing. They taste exactly the same as non
Kosher slurpees. But you can tell your class that I've now had Kosher
slurpees. And they can be jealous of me. Hahahaha.

Yes, I do love the people of Brooklyn. You have to after living with
them for so long. They are a bit rough around the edges, but they're
really good people. I have seen some awesome interactions among people
here. People will always give up their seat in the subway for an
elderly person or a pregnant woman or a mother with small children.
It's really cool to see. They're just good people. Albeit a little
scary sometimes. I find that New York is really only scary late at
night. And we don't hang out late at night, so that's not an issue.

I wish I had a cool story or something. I think the best part of the
week was yesterday evening. All six of us missionaries got invited to
a family home evening at a member's home. She made us all dinner and
we taught a lesson and played a game. There were six youth there and
two mothers. It was an awesome night. We all had so much fun. We got
some legit Dominican food and one of the missionaries taught a lesson
on continually trying our best, even when we mess up. It was a fun
night for all.

Also in exciting news is that yesterday it was announced that we are
all going to get Facebook as missionaries. It won't be mission-wide
until October, but we are going to start using Facebook, Twitter,
blogs, and Skype to start proselyting. I have no idea how it's going
to work. It will be an adventure. We're also all getting mini-iPads by
December. Things are changing rapidly, it's crazy.

Here's to success with English classes, it is going to be a great week!

Elder Erickson